ON the way home Levin asked all details of Kittys illness and the Shtcherbatskys plans, and though he would have been ashamed to admit it, he was pleased at what he heard. He was pleased that there was still hope, and still more pleased that she should be suffering who had made him suffer so much. But when Stepan Arkadyevitch began to speak of the causes of Kittys illness, and mentioned Vronskys name, Levin cut him short.
Oh, these farmers! said Stepan Arkadyevitch playfully. Your tone of contempt for us poor townsfolk! But when it comes to business, we do it better than any one. I assure you I have reckoned it all out, he said, and the forest is fetching a very good priceso much so that Im afraid of this fellows crying off, in fact. You know its not timber, said Stepan Arkadyevitch, hoping by this distinction to convince Levin completely of the unfairness of his doubts. And it wont run to more than twenty-five yards of fagots per acre, and hes giving me at the rate of seventy roubles the acre.
Levin smiled contemptuously. I know, he thought, that fashion not only in him, but in all city people, who, after being twice in ten years in the country, pick up two or three phrases and use them in season and out of season, firmly persuaded that they know all about it. Timber, run to so many yards the acre. He says those words without understanding them himself.
I wouldnt attempt to teach you what you write about in your office, said he, and if need arose, I should come to you to ask about it. But youre so positive you know all the lore of the forest. Its difficult. Have you counted the trees?
Oh, well, the higher power of Ryabinin can. Not a single merchant ever buys a forest without counting the trees, unless they get it given them for nothing, as youre doing now. I know your forest. I go there every year shooting, and your forests worth a hundred and fifty roubles an acre paid down, while hes giving you sixty by instalments. So that in fact youre making him a present of thirty thousand.
Why, because he has an understanding with the merchants; hes bought them off. Ive had to do with all of them; I know them. Theyre not merchants, you know; theyre speculators. He wouldnt look at a bargain that gave him ten, fifteen per cent. profit, but holds back to buy a roubles worth for twenty copecks.
At the steps there stood a trap tightly covered with iron and leather, with a sleek horse tightly harnessed with broad collar-straps. In the trap sat the chubby, tightly belted clerk who served Ryabinin as coachman. Ryabinin himself was already in the house, and met the friends in the hall. Ryabinin was a tall, thinnish, middle-aged man, with moustache and a projecting clean-shaven chin, and prominent muddy-looking eyes. He was dressed in a long-skirted blue coat, with buttons below the waist at the back, and wore high boots wrinkled over the ankles and straight over the calf, with big goloshes drawn over them. He rubbed his face with his handkerchief, and wrapping round him his coat, which sat extremely well as it was, he greeted them with a smile, holding out his hand to Stepan Arkadyevitch, as though he wanted to catch something.
I did not venture to disregard your excellencys commands, though the road was extremely bad. I positively walked the whole way, but I am here at my time. Konstantin Dmitritch, my respects; he turned to Levin, trying to seize his hand too. But Levin scowling, made as though he did not notice his hand, and took out the snipe. Your honours have been diverting yourselves with the chase? What kind of bird may it be, pray? added Ryabinin, looking contemptuously at the snipe: a great delicacy, I suppose. And he shook his head disapprovingly, as though he had grave doubts whether this game were worth the candle.
Quite so, where you please, said Ryabinin with contemptuous dignity, as though wishing to make it felt that others might be in difficulties as to how to behave, but that he could never be in any difficulty about anything.
On entering the study Ryabinin looked about, as his habit was, as though seeking the holy picture, but when he had found it, he did not cross himself. He scanned the bookcases and bookshelves, and with the same dubious air with which he had regarded the snipe, he smiled contemptuously and shook his head disapprovingly, as though by no means willing to allow that this game were worth the candle.
I dont mind if I do, said Ryabinin, sitting down and leaning his elbows on the back of his chair in a position of the intensest discomfort to himself. You must knock it down a bit, prince. It would be too bad. The money is ready conclusively to the last farthing. As to paying the money down, therell be no hitch there.
Very close about money is Konstantin Dmitritch, he said with a smile, turning to Stepan Arkadyevitch: theres positively no dealing with him. I was bargaining for some wheat of him, and a pretty price I offered too.
Mercy on us! nowadays theres no chance at all of stealing. With the open courts and everything done in style, nowadays theres no question of stealing. We are just talking things over like gentlemen. His excellencys asking too much for the forest. I cant make both ends meet over it. I must ask for a little concession.
The smile vanished at once from Ryabinins face. A hawklike, greedy, cruel expression was left upon it. With rapid, bony fingers he unbuttoned his coat, revealing a shirt, bronze waistcoat buttons, and a watch-chain, and quickly pulled out a fat old pocket-book.
Here you are, the forest is mine, he said, crossing himself quickly, and holding out his hand. Take the money; its my forest. Thats Ryabinins way of doing business; he doesnt haggle over every halfpenny, he added, scowling and waving the pocket-book.
Its all youthfulnesspositively nothing but boyishness. Why, Im buying it, upon my honour, simply, believe me, for the glory of it, that Ryabinin, and no one else, should have bought the copse of Oblonsky. And as to the profits, why, I must make what God gives. In Gods name. If you would kindly sign the title-deed