On the way home Levin asked all the details of Kitty's illness and of the Shcherbatskys' 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, who had made him suffer, should be suffering so much. But when Stepan Arkadyevich began to speak of the causes of Kitty's illness, and mentioned Vronsky's name, Levin cut him short.
`I have no right whatever to know family matters, and, to tell the truth, no interest in them either.'
Stepan Arkadyevich smiled a barely perceptible smile, catching the instantaneous change he knew so well in Levin's face, which had become as gloomy as it had been bright a minute before.
`Have you quite settled about the forest with Riabinin?' asked Levin.
`Yes, it's all settled. The price is magnificent - thirty-eight thousand. Eight straightaway, and the rest in six years. I've been bothering about it for ever so long. No one would give more.'
`Then you've as good as given away your forest for nothing,' said Levin gloomily.
`How do you mean - for nothing?' said Stepan Arkadyevich with a good-humored smile, knowing that nothing would be right in Levin's eyes now.
`Because the forest is worth at least five hundred roubles the dessiatina,' answered Levin.
`Oh, these farmers!' said Stepan Arkadyevich playfully. `Your tone of contempt for us poor townsfolk!... But when it comes to business, we are better at it than anyone. I assure you I have reckoned it all out,' he said, `and the forest is fetching a very good price - so much so that I'm afraid of this fellow's crying off, in fact. You know it's not ``timber forest,'' said Stepan Arkadyevich, hoping by this distinction to convince Levin completely of the unfairness of his doubts, `but for the most part firewood. And it won't run to more than thirty sazhenes of wood per dessiatina, and he's paying me at the rate of two hundred roubles the dessiatina.'
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 thirty sazhenes the dessiatina.'' He says those words without understanding them himself.'
`I wouldn't 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 you're so positive you know all the lore of the forest. It's difficult. Have you counted the trees?'
`How count the trees?' said Stepan Arkadyevich, laughing, still trying to draw his friend out of his ill temper. `Count sands of seas, and rays of stars, though could some higher power...'
`Oh, well, the higher power of Riabinin can. Not a single merchant ever buys a forest without counting the trees, unless they get it given them for nothing, as you're doing now. I know your forest. I go there every year shooting, and your forest's worth five hundred a dessiatina paid down, while he's giving you two hundred by installments. So that in fact you're making him a present of thirty thousand.'
`Come, don't let your imagination run away with you,' said Stepan Arkadyevich piteously. `Why was it none would give it, then?'
`Why, because he has an understanding with the merchants; he's bought them off. I've had to do with all of them; I know them. They're not merchants, you know; they're speculators. He wouldn't look at a bargain that gave him ten, fifteen per cent profit, but holds back to buy a rouble's worth for twenty kopecks.'
`Well, enough of it! You're out of temper.'
`Not in the least,' said Levin gloomily, as they drove up to the house.
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 overseer who served Riabinin as coachman. Riabinin himself was already in the house, and met the friends in the hall. Riabinin was a tall, thinnish, middle-aged man, with mustache 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 galoshes drawn over them. He mopped his face with his handkerchief, and, wrapping himself in his coat, which sat extremely well as it was, he greeted them with a smile, holding out his hand to Stepan Arkadyevich, as though he wanted to catch something.
`So, here you are,' said Stepan Arkadyevich, giving him his hand. `That's capital.'
`I did not venture to disregard Your Excellency's commands, though the road was extremely bad. I positively covered the whole way at a walk, but I am here on time. Konstantin Dmitrich, 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 woodcocks. `Your honors have been diverting yourselves with the chase? What kind of bird may it be, pray?' added Riabinin, looking contemptuously at the woodcocks: `a great delicacy, I suppose.' And he shook his head disapprovingly, as though he had grave doubts whether this game were worth the candle.
`Would you like to go into my study?' Levin said in French to Stepan Arkadyevich, scowling morosely. `Go into my study; you can talk there.'
`Quite so, wherever you please,' said Riabinin with supercilious 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 Riabinin looked about, as it was a habit of his, as though seeking a holy image, 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 woodcocks, he smiled superciliously and shook his head disapprovingly, as though by no means willing to allow that this game, either, were worth the candle.
`Well, have you brought the money?' asked Oblonsky. `Sit down.'
`Oh, don't trouble about the money. I've come to see you to talk it over.'
`What is there to talk over? But do sit down.'
`I don't mind if I do,' said Riabinin, sitting down and leaning his elbows on the back of his armchair in a position of the intensest discomfort to himself. `You must knock it down a bit, Prince. It would be a sin otherwise. As for the money, it is ready definitively, to the last kopeck. As for money down, there'll be no hitch there.'
Levin, who had meanwhile been putting his gun away in the cupboard, was just going out of the door, but catching the merchant's words, he stopped.
`Why, you've got the forest for nothing as it is,' he said. `He came to me too late, or I'd have fixed the price for him.'
Riabinin got up, and in silence, with a smile, he looked up at Levin.
`Konstantin Dmitrievich is very close,' he said with a smile, turning to Stepan Arkadyevich; `there's definitively no dealing with him. I was bargaining for some wheat of him, and a pretty price I offered too.'
`Why should I give you what's mine for nothing? I didn't pick it up off the ground, nor did I steal it, either.'
`Mercy on us! Nowadays there's positively no chance at all of stealing. With the definitively open courts, and everything done in style, nowadays there's no question of stealing. We are just talking things over like gentlemen. His Excellency's asking too much for the forest. I can't make both ends meet over it. I must ask for a little concession.'
`But is the thing settled between you or isn't it? If it's settled, it's useless haggling; but if it isn't,' said Levin, `I'll buy the forest.'
The smile vanished at once from Riabinin's face. A hawklike, greedy, cruel expression was left upon it. With rapid, bony fingers he unbuttoned his coat, revealing a large shirt, bronze waistcoat buttons, and a watch chain, and quickly pulled out a fat old pocketbook.
`Here you are, the forest is mine,' he said, crossing himself quickly, and holding out his hand. `Take the money; it's my forest. That's Riabinin's way of doing business; he doesn't haggle over every copper,' he added, scowling and waving the pocketbook.
`I wouldn't be in a hurry if I were you,' said Levin.
`Come, really,' said Oblonsky in surprise, `I've given my word, you know.'
Levin went out of the room, slamming the door. Riabinin looked toward the door and shook his head with a smile.
`It's all youthfulness - definitively nothing but childishness. Why, I'm buying it, upon my honor, simply, believe me, for the glory of it, that Riabinin, and no one else, should have bought the copse of Oblonsky. And as to the profits, why, I must make what God gives. God's my witness. If you would kindly sign the title deed...'
Within an hour the merchant, carefully stroking his wrapper down, and hooking up his coat, with the agreement in his pocket, seated himself in his tightly covered trap, and drove homeward.
`Ugh, these gentlefolk!' he said to the overseer. `They are all made alike! they're a fine lot!'
`That's so,' responded the overseer, handing him the reins and buttoning the leather apron. `But can I congratulate you on the purchase, Mikhail Ignatich?'