Stepan Arkadyevitch moved in those circles in Moscow in which that expression had come into use, was regarded there as an honest man, and so had more right to this appointment than others.
The appointment yielded an income of from seven to ten thousand a year, and Oblonsky could fill it without giving up his government position. It was in the hands of two ministers, one lady, and two Jews, and all these people, though the way had been paved already with them, Stepan Arkadyevitch had to see in Petersburg. Besides this business, Stepan Arkadyevitch had promised his sister Anna to obtain from Karenin a definite answer on the question of divorce. And begging fifty roubles from Dolly, he set off for Petersburg.
Stepan Arkadyevitch sat in Karenin’s study listening to his report on the causes of the unsatisfactory position of Russian finance, and only waiting for the moment when he would finish to speak about his own business or about Anna.
“Yes, that’s very true,” he said, when Alexey Alexandrovitch took off the pince-nez, without which he could not read now, and looked inquiringly at his former brother-in-law, “that’s very true in particular cases, but still the principle of our day is freedom.”
“Yes, but I lay down another principle, embracing the principle of freedom,” said Alexey Alexandrovitch, with emphasis on the word “embracing,” and he put on his pince-nez again, so as to read the passage in which this statement was made. And turning over the beautifully written, wide-margined manuscript, Alexey Alexandrovitch read aloud over again the conclusive passage.
“I don’t advocate protection for the sake of private interests, but for the public weal, and for the lower and upper classes equally,” he said, looking over his pince-nez at Oblonsky. “But they cannot grasp that, they are taken up now with personal interests, and carried away by phrases.”
Stepan Arkadyevitch knew that when Karenin began to talk of what they were doing and thinking, the persons who would not accept his report and were the cause of everything wrong in Russia, that it was coming near the end. And so now he eagerly abandoned the principle of free-trade, and fully agreed. Alexey Alexandrovitch paused, thoughtfully turning over the pages of his manuscript.
“Oh, by the way,” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, “I wanted to ask you, some time when you see Pomorsky, to drop him a hint that I should be very glad to get that new appointment of secretary of the committee of the amalgamated agency of the southern railways and banking companies.” Stepan Arkadyevitch was familiar by now with the title of the post he coveted, and he brought it out rapidly without mistake.
Alexey Alexandrovitch questioned him as to the duties of this new committee, and pondered. He was considering whether the new committee would not be acting in some way contrary to the views he had been advocating. But as the influence of the new committee was of a very complex nature, and his views were of very wide application, he could not decide this straight off, and taking off his pince-nez, he said: