As he rode up to the house in the happiest frame of mind, Levin heard the bell ring at the side of the principal entrance of the house.
`Yes, that's someone from the railway station,' he thought, `just the time to be here from the Moscow train.... Who could it be? What if it's brother Nikolai? He did say: ``I may go to the waters, or I may come down to you.'' He felt dismayed and vexed for the first minute that his brother Nikolai's presence should come to his happy mood of spring. But he felt ashamed of the feeling, and at once he opened, as it were, the arms of his soul, and with a softened feeling of joy and expectation, he now hoped with all his heart that it was his brother. He spurred on his horse, and as he rode out from behind the acacias, he saw a hired troika from the railway station, and a gentleman in a fur coat. It was not his brother. `Oh, if it were only some pleasant person one could talk to a little!' he thought.
`Ah,' cried Levin joyfully, flinging up both his hands. `Here's a delightful visitor! Ah, how glad I am to see you!' he shouted, recognizing Stepan Arkadyevich.
`I shall find out for certain whether she's married, or when she's going to be married,' he thought.
And on that delicious spring day he felt that the thought of her did not hurt him at all.
`Didn't expect me, did you?' said Stepan Arkadyevich, getting out of the sleigh, splashed with mud on the bridge of his nose, on his cheek, and on his eyebrows, but radiant with health and good spirits. `I've come primarily to see you,' he said, embracing and kissing him, `secondly, to have some stand shooting, and thirdly, to sell the forest at Ergushovo.'
`Delightful! What a spring we're having! How ever did you get along in a sleigh?'
`In a wagon it would have been worse still, Konstantin Dmitrievich,' answered the driver, who knew him.
`Well, I'm very, very glad to see you,' said Levin, with a genuine smile of childlike delight.
Levin led his friend to the guest room, where Stepan Arkadyevich's things were also carried - a bag, a gun in a case, a satchel for cigars. Leaving him there to wash and change his clothes, Levin went off to the countinghouse to speak about the plowing and the clover. Agathya Mikhailovna, always very anxious for the credit of the house, met him in the hall with inquiries about dinner.
`Do just as you like, only let it be as soon as possible,' he said, and went to the bailiff.
When he came back, Stepan Arkadyevich, washed and combed, came out of his room with a beaming smile, and they went upstairs together.
`Well, I am glad I managed to get away to you! Now I shall understand what the mysterious business is that you are always absorbed in here. No, really, I envy you. What a house, how splendid it all is! So bright, so cheerful!' said Stepan Arkadyevich, forgetting that it was not always spring and fine weather as on this day. `And your old nurse is simply charming! A pretty maid in an apron might be even more agreeable, perhaps; but for your severe monastic style it does very well.'
Stepan Arkadyevich imparted to him many interesting bits of news; especially interesting to Levin was the news that his brother, Sergei Ivanovich, was intending to spend the summer with him in the country.
Not one word did Stepan Arkadyevich say in reference to Kitty and the Shcherbatskys; he merely gave him greetings from his wife. Levin was grateful to him for his delicacy, and rejoiced exceedingly over his guest. As always happened with him during his solitude, a mass of ideas and feelings had been accumulating within him, which he could not communicate to those about him. And now he poured out upon Stepan Arkadyevich his poetic joy over the spring, and his failures and plans for the land, and his thoughts and criticisms on the books he had been reading, and the idea of his own book, the basis of which really was, though he was unaware of it himself, a criticism of all the old books on agriculture. Stepan Arkadyevich, always charming, understanding everything at the slightest reference, was particularly charming on this visit, and Levin noticed in him a special tenderness, as it were, and a new tone of respect that flattered him.
The efforts of Agathya Mikhailovna and the cook to have the dinner particularly good, only ended in the two famished friends attacking the preliminary course, eating a great deal of bread and butter, salt goose and salted mushrooms, and in Levin's finally ordering the soup to be served without the accompaniment of little patties, with which the cook had particularly meant to impress their visitor. But though Stepan Arkadyevich was accustomed to very different dinners, he thought everything excellent: the herb brandy, and the bread, and the butter, and, above all, the salt goose and the mushrooms, and the nettle soup, and the chicken in white sauce, and the white Crimean wine - everything was excellent and marvelous.
`Splendid, splendid!' he said, lighting a fat cigar after the roast. `I feel as if, coming to you, I had landed on a peaceful shore after the noise and jolting of a steamer. And so you maintain that the laborer himself is an element to be studied, and to regulate the choice of methods in agriculture. Of course, I'm an ignorant outsider; but I should fancy theory and its application will have its influence on the laborer too.'
`Yes, but wait a bit. I'm not talking of political economy - I'm talking of the science of agriculture. It ought to be like the natural sciences, and to observe given phenomena and the laborer in his economic, ethnographical...'
At that instant Agathya Mikhailovna came in with jam.
`Oh, Agathya Fiodorovna,' said Stepan Arkadyevich, kissing the tips of his plump fingers, `what salt goose, what herb brandy!... What do you think, isn't it time to start, Kostia?' he added.
Levin looked out of the window at the sun sinking behind the bare treetops of the forest.
`Yes, it's time,' he said. `Kouzma, get ready the wide droshky,' and he ran downstairs.
Stepan Arkadyevich, going down, carefully took the canvas cover off his varnished gun case with his own hands, and opening it, began to get ready his expensive, new-fashioned gun. Kouzma, who already scented a big tip, never left Stepan Arkadyevich's side, and put on him both his stockings and boots, a task which Stepan Arkadyevich readily left to him.
`Kostia, give orders that if the merchant Riabinin comes - I told him to come today - he's to be shown in and asked to wait for me...'
`Why, do you mean to say you're selling the forest to Riabinin?'
`Yes. Do you know him?'
`To be sure I do. I have had to do business with him, ``positively and definitively.''
Stepan Arkadyevich laughed. ``Positively and definitively'' were the merchant's favorite words.
`Yes, it's wonderfully funny the way he talks. She knows where her master's going!' he added, patting Laska, who hung about Levin, whining and licking his hands, his boots, and his gun.
The droshky was already at the steps when they went out.
`I told them to bring the droshky round, though it's not far to go; or would you rather walk?'
`No, we'd better drive,' said Stepan Arkadyevich, getting into the droshky. He sat down, tucked the tiger-striped rug round him, and lighted a cigar. `How is it you don't smoke? A cigar is a sort of thing, not exactly a pleasure, but the crown and outward sign of pleasure. Come, this is life! How splendid it is! This is how I should like to live!'
`Why, who prevents you?' said Levin, smiling.
`No, you're a lucky man! You've got everything you like. You like horses - and you have them; dogs - you have them; shooting - you have it; farming - you have it.'
`Perhaps because I rejoice in what I have, and don't fret for what I haven't,' said Levin, thinking of Kitty.
Stepan Arkadyevich comprehended, looked at him, but said nothing.
Levin was grateful to Oblonsky, for noticing, with his never-failing tact, that he dreaded conversation about the Shcherbatskys, and so saying nothing about them. But now Levin was longing to find out about that which was tormenting him so, yet had not the courage to begin.
`Come, tell me how things are going with you,' said Levin, bethinking himself that it was not good of him to think only of himself.
Stepan Arkadyevich's eyes sparkled merrily.
`You don't admit, I know, that one can be fond of new rolls when one has had one's ration of bread - to your mind it's a crime; but I don't count life as life without love,' he said, taking Levin's question in his own way. `What am I to do? I'm made that way. And really, one does so little harm to anyone, and gives oneself so much pleasure...'
`What! is there something new, then?' queried Levin.
`Yes, my boy, there is! There, do you see, you know the type of Ossian's women... women, such as one sees in dreams... Well, these women are sometimes to be met with in reality.... And these women are terrible. Woman, don't you know, is such a subject that no matter how much you study it, it's always perfectly new.'
`Well, then, it would be better not to study it.'
`No. Some mathematician has said that enjoyment lies in the search for truth, not in the finding of it.'
Levin listened in silence, and, in spite of all the efforts he made, he could not in the least enter into the feelings of his friend and understand his sentiments and the charm of studying such women.