Anna Karenina By Leo Tolstoy

Russian Literature – Children Books – Russian Poetry – Leo Tolstoy – Anna Karenina – Contents

< < < Chapters 24
Chapters 26 > > >

Part 1

Chapter 25

“So you see,” pursued Nikolai Levin, painfully wrinkling his forehead and twitching.

It was obviously difficult for him to think of what to say and do.

“Here, do you see?… He pointed to some sort of short iron bars, fastened together with twine, lying in a corner of the room. “Do you see that? That’s the beginning of a new enterprise we’re going into. This enterprise will be an industrial association….”

Konstantin scarcely heard him. He looked into his sickly, consumptive face, and he was more and more sorry for him, and he could not force himself to listen to what his brother was telling him about the association. He saw that this association was a mere anchor to save him from self-contempt. Nikolai Levin went on talking:

“You know that capital oppresses the worker. Our workers, the mouzhiks, bear all the burden of labor, and are so placed that, no matter how much they work, they can’t escape from their position of beasts of burden. All the profits of labor, on which they might improve their position, and gain leisure for themselves, and after that education- all the surplus values, are taken from them by the capitalists. And society is so constituted that the harder they work, the greater the profit of the merchants and landowners, while they stay beasts of burden to the end. And that state of things must be changed,” he finished up, and looked questioningly at his brother.

“Yes, of course,” said Konstantin, looking at the patch of red that had come out on his brother’s projecting cheekbones.

“And so we’re founding a locksmiths’ association, where all the production and profit, and the chief instruments of production- everything- will be in common.”

“Where is the association to be?” asked Konstantin Levin.

“In the village of Vozdrem, government of Kazan.”

“But why in a village? In the villages, I think, there is plenty of work as it is. Why a locksmiths’ association in a village?”

“Why? Because the peasants are just as much slaves as they ever were, and that’s why you and Sergei Ivanovich don’t like people to try and get them out of their slavery,” said Nikolai Levin, exasperated by the objection.

Konstantin Levin sighed, looking meanwhile about the cheerless and dirty room. This sigh seemed to exasperate Nikolai still more.

“I know Sergei Ivanovich’s, and your, aristocratic views. I know that he applies all the power of his intellect to justify existing evils.”

“I say, why do you talk of Sergei Ivanovich?” Levin let drop, smiling.

“Sergei Ivanovich? I’ll tell you why!” Nikolai Levin shrieked suddenly at the name of Sergei Ivanovich. “I’ll tell you why… But what’s the use of talking? There’s only one thing… What did you come to me for? You look down on all this; very well, then; but go away, in God’s name- go away!” he shrieked, getting up from his chair. “Go away- go away!”

“I don’t look down on it at all,” said Konstantin Levin timidly. “I don’t even dispute it.”

At that instant Marya Nikolaevna came back. Nikolai Levin looked round angrily at her. She went quickly to him, and whispered something.

“I’m not well; I’ve grown irritable,” said Nikolai Levin, getting calmer and breathing painfully; “and then you talk to me of Sergei Ivanovich and his essay. It’s such rubbish, such lying, such self-deception! What can a man write about justice who knows nothing of it? Have you read his essay?” he turned to Kritsky, sitting down again at the table, and clearing a space for himself by pushing back some half-made cigarettes.

“I haven’t,” Kritsky responded gloomily, obviously not desiring to enter into the conversation.

“Why not?” said Nikolai Levin, now turning with exasperation upon Kritsky.

“Because I didn’t see the use of wasting my time over it.”

“Oh, if you please- how did you know it would be wasting your time? That essay’s too deep for many people- that is to say, it’s over their heads. But it’s different with me, I see through his ideas, and I know wherein the essay’s weakness lies.”

They all fell silent. Kritsky got up sluggishly and reached for his cap.

“Won’t you have supper? All right, good-by! Come round tomorrow with the locksmith.”

Kritsky had hardly gone out when Nikolai Levin smiled and winked.

“He, too, is poor stuff,” he said. “For I can see…”

But at that instant Kritsky, at the door, called him.

“What do you want now?” he said, and went out to him in the passage. Left alone with Marya Nikolaevna, Levin turned to her.

“Have you been long with my brother?” he said to her.

“Yes, more than a year. His health has become very poor. He drinks a great deal,” she said.

“Just how?”

“He drinks vodka, and it’s bad for him.”

“And a great deal?” whispered Levin.

“Yes,” she said, looking timidly toward the doorway, where Nikolai Levin had reappeared.

“What were you talking about?” he said, knitting his brows, and turning his scared eyes from one to the other. “What was it?”

“Oh, nothing,” Konstantin answered in confusion.

“Oh, if you don’t want to say, don’t. Only it’s no good your talking to her. She’s a wench, and you’re a gentleman,” he said, with a jerk of the neck. “You understand everything, I see, and have taken stock of everything, and look with commiseration on my transgressions,” he began again, raising his voice.

“Nikolai Dmitrich, Nikolai Dmitrich,” whispered Marya Nikolaevna, again going up to him.

“Oh, very well, very well!… But where’s the supper? Ah, here it is,” he said, seeing a waiter with a tray. “Here, set it here,” he added angrily, and promptly seizing the vodka, he poured out a pony and drank it greedily. “Like a drink?” he turned to his brother, and at once became better-humored. “Well, enough of Sergei Ivanovich. I’m glad to see you, anyway. After all’s said and done, we’re not strangers. Come, have a drink. Tell me what you’re doing,” he went on, greedily munching a piece of bread, and pouring out another pony. “How are things with you?”

“I live alone in the country, as I always have. I’m busy looking after the land,” answered Konstantin, watching with horror the greediness with which his brother ate and drank, and trying to conceal that he noticed it.

“Why don’t you get married?”

“No opportunity has presented itself,” Konstantin answered, reddening.

“Why not? For me now, everything’s at an end! I’ve made a mess of my life. But this I’ve said, and I say still, that if my share had been given me when I needed it, my whole life would have been different.”

Konstantin made haste to change the conversation.

“Do you know your little Vania’s with me- a clerk in the countinghouse at Pokrovskoe?”

Nikolai jerked his neck, and sank into thought.

“Yes, tell me what’s going on at Pokrovskoe. Is the house still standing, and the birch trees, and our schoolroom? And Philip the gardener- is he living? How I remember the summerhouse and the sofa! Now mind and don’t alter anything in the house, but make haste and get married, and make everything as it used to be again. Then I’ll come and see you, if your wife is a fine woman.”

“Why, come to me now,” said Levin. “How snugly we could settle down!”

“I’d come and see you if I were sure I shouldn’t find Sergei Ivanovich.”

“You wouldn’t find him there. I live quite independently of him.”

“Yes, but say what you like, you have to choose between me and him,” he said, looking timidly into his brother’s face.

This timidity touched Konstantin.

“If you want to hear my confession of faith on the subject, I tell you that in your quarrel with Sergei Ivanovich I take neither side. You’re both wrong. You’re rather wrong outwardly, and he, rather inwardly.”

“Ah, ah! You see that, you see that!” Nikolai shouted joyfully.

“But I personally value friendly relations with you more because…”

“Why, why?”

Konstantin could not say that he valued it more because Nikolai was unhappy, and needed affection. But Nikolai knew that this was just what he meant to say, and scowling he took to the vodka again.

“Enough, Nikolai Dmitrich!” said Marya Nikolaevna, stretching out her plump, bare arm toward the decanter.

“Let it be! Don’t annoy me! I’ll beat you!” he shouted.

Marya Nikolaevna smiled a sweet and good-humored smile, which was at once reflected on Nikolai’s face, and whisked the decanter off.

“And do you suppose she understands nothing?” said Nikolai. “She understands everything better than all of us. Tell the truth- isn’t there something good and sweet about her?”

“Were you never before in Moscow?” Konstantin said to her, for the sake of saying something.

“Only you mustn’t be formal with her. It frightens her. No one ever spoke to her so but the justice of the peace who tried her for trying to get out of a house of ill fame. My God, what senselessness there is in this world!” he cried suddenly. “These new institutions, these justices of the peace, these Zemstvo- what hideousness it all is!”

And he began to enlarge on his encounters with the new institutions.

Konstantin Levin listened to him, and that disbelief in the sense of all public institutions, which he shared with him, and often expressed, was now distasteful to him, coming from his brother’s lips.

“In the other world we shall understand it all,” he said lightly.

“In the other world? Ah, I don’t like that other world! I don’t like it,” he said, letting his scared wild eyes rest on his brother’s face. “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’ve gotten very fond of the gypsies, and of Russian songs.”

His speech had begun to falter, and he skipped at random 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 Nikolai to go and stay with his brother.

< < < Chapters 24
Chapters 26 > > >

Russian Literature – Children Books – Russian Poetry – Leo Tolstoy – Anna Karenina – Contents

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