Chapter 26

Sviiazhsky was the marshal of his district. He was five years older than Levin, and had long been married. His sister-in-law, a young girl Levin liked very much, lived in his house; and Levin knew that Sviiazhsky and his wife would have greatly liked to marry the girl to him. He knew this with certainty, as so-called eligible young men always know it, though he could never have brought himself to speak of it to anyone; and he also knew that, although he wanted to get married, and although by every token this very attractive girl would make an excellent wife, he could no more have married her, even if he had not been in love with Kitty Shcherbatskaia, than he could have flown up to the sky. And this knowledge poisoned the pleasure he had hoped to find in the visit to Sviiazhsky.

On getting Sviiazhsky's letter with the invitation for shooting, Levin had immediately thought of this; but, in spite of it, he had made up his mind that Sviiazhsky's having such views for him was simply his own groundless supposition, and so he would go, notwithstanding. Besides, at the bottom of his heart, he had a desire to try himself, to put himself to the test in regard to this girl. The Sviiazhskys' home life was exceedingly pleasant, and Sviiazhsky himself, the best type of Zemstvo man that Levin knew, was very interesting to him.

Sviiazhsky was one of those people, always a source of wonder to Levin, whose convictions, very logical though never original, go one way by themselves, while their life, exceedingly definite and firm in its course, goes its way quite apart and almost always in direct contradiction to their convictions. Sviiazhsky was an extremely advanced man. He despised the nobility, and believed the mass of the nobility to be secretly in favor of serfdom, and only concealing their views out of cowardice. He regarded Russia as a ruined country, rather after the style of Turkey, and the government of Russia as so bad that he never permitted himself to criticize its doings seriously, and yet he was a functionary of that government, and a model marshal of nobility, and when he drove about he always wore his cap with the cockade and red band. He considered human life only tolerable abroad, and went abroad to stay at every opportunity, and at the same time he carried on a complex and improved system of agriculture in Russia, and with extreme interest followed everything and knew everything that was being done in Russia. He considered the Russian peasant as occupying a stage of development intermediate between the ape and the man, and at the same time in the days of Zemstvo election no one was readier to shake hands with the peasants and listen to their opinion. He believed neither in God nor the devil, but was much concerned about the question of the improvement of the clergy and the maintenance of their revenues, and took special trouble to keep up the church in his village.

On the woman question he was on the side of the extreme advocates of complete liberty for women, and especially their right to labor. But he lived with his wife on such terms that their affectionate, childless home life was the admiration of everyone, and arranged his wife's life so that she did nothing and could do nothing but share her husband's preoccupations in spending their time as happily and as agreeably as possible.

If it had not been a characteristic of Levin to put the most favorable interpretation on people, Sviiazhsky's character would have presented no doubt or difficulty to him: he would have said to himself, `a fool or a knave,' and everything would have seemed clear. But he could not say a fool, because Sviiazhsky was unmistakably clever, and, moreover, a highly cultivated man, who was exceptionally modest over his culture. There was not a subject he knew nothing of. But he did not display his knowledge except when he was compelled to do so. Still less could Levin say that he was a knave, as Sviiazhsky was unmistakably an honest, goodhearted, sensible man, who worked good-humoredly, keenly, and perseveringly at his work, which was held in high honor by everyone about him, and certainly he had never consciously done, and was indeed incapable of doing, anything base.

Levin tried to understand him, and could not understand him, and looked at him and his life as at a living enigma.

Levin and he were very friendly, and so Levin used to venture to sound Sviiazhsky, to try to get at the very foundation of his view of life; but it was always in vain. Every time Levin tried to penetrate beyond

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