This timidity touched Konstantin.
“If you want to hear my confession of faith on the subject, I tell you that in your quarrel with Sergey Ivanovitch I take neither side. You’re both wrong. You’re more wrong externally, and he inwardly.”
“Ah, ah! You see that, you see that!” Nikolay shouted joyfully.
“But I personally value friendly relations with you more because...”
Konstantin could not say that he valued it more because Nikolay was unhappy, and needed affection. But Nikolay knew that this was just what he meant to say, and scowling he took up the vodka again.
“Enough, Nikolay Dmitrievitch!” said Marya Nikolaevna, stretching out her plump, bare arm towards the decanter.
“Let it be! Don’t insist! I’ll beat you!” he shouted.
Marya Nikolaevna smiled a sweet and good-humored smile, which was at once reflected on Nikolay’s face, and she took the bottle.
“And do you suppose she understands nothing?” said Nikolay. “She understands it all better than any of us. Isn’t it true there’s something good and sweet in her?”
“Were you never before in Moscow?” Konstantin said to her, for the sake of saying something.
“Only you mustn’t be polite and stiff with her. It frightens her. No one ever spoke to her so but the justices of the peace who tried her for trying to get out of a house of ill-fame. Mercy on us, the senselessness in the world!” he cried suddenly. “These new institutions, these justices of the peace, rural councils, what hideousness it all is!”
And he began to enlarge on his encounters with the new institutions.
Konstantin Levin heard him, and the disbelief in the sense of all public institutions, which he shared with him, and often expressed, was distasteful to him now from his brother’s lips.
“In another world we shall understand it all,” he said lightly.
“In another world! Ah, I don’t like that other world! I don’t like it,” he said, letting his scared eyes rest on his brother’s eyes. “Here one would think that to get out of all the baseness and the mess, one’s own and other people’s, would be a good thing, and yet I’m afraid of death, awfully afraid of death.” He shuddered. “But do drink something. Would you like some champagne? Or shall we go somewhere? Let’s go to the Gypsies! Do you know I have got so fond of the Gypsies and Russian songs.”
His speech had begun to falter, and he passed abruptly from one subject to another. Konstantin with the help of Masha persuaded him not to go out anywhere, and got him to bed hopelessly drunk.
Masha promised to write to Konstantin in case of need, and to persuade Nikolay Levin to go and stay with his brother.