Anna Karenina By Leo Tolstoy

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

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Chapters 25 > > >

Part 3

Chapter 24

The night spent by Levin on the haycock did not pass without an effect upon him. The way in which he had been managing his land revolted him and lost all attraction for him. In spite of the magnificent harvest, never had there been (or, at least, it had never seemed so to him) so many hindrances and so many quarrels between him and the peasants as that year, and the origin of these failures and this hostility was now perfectly comprehensible to him. The delight he had experienced in the work itself, and the consequent greater intimacy with the peasants, the envy he felt of them, of their life, the desire to adopt that life, which had been to him that night not a dream but an intention, the execution of which he had thought out in detail- all this had so transformed his view of the farming of the land as he had managed it, that he could not take his former interest in it, and could not help seeing that unpleasant relation between him and the workpeople which was the foundation of it all. The herd of improved cows such as Pava, the whole land plowed over and enriched, the nine level fields surrounded with willow fences, the ninety dessiatinas heavily manured, drill plows, and all the rest of it- it was all splendid, if only the work had been done by himself, or by himself and his comrades, by people in sympathy with him. But he saw clearly now (his work on a book of agriculture, in which the chief element in husbandry was to have been the laborer, greatly assisted him in this) that the sort of farming he was carrying on was nothing but a cruel and stubborn struggle between him and the laborers, in which there was on one side- his side- a continual intense effort to change everything to a pattern he considered better; on the other side, the natural order of things. And in this struggle he saw that, with immense expenditure of force on his side, and with no effort or even intention on the other side, the sole attainment was that the work did not go to the liking of either side, and that splendid tools, splendid cattle and land were spoiled with no good to anyone. Worst of all, the energy expended on this work was not merely wasted. He could not help feeling now, since the meaning of his system had become clear to him, that the aim of his energy was a most unworthy one. In reality, what was the struggle about? He was struggling for every groat (and he could not help it, for he had only to relax his efforts, and he would not have had the money to pay his laborers’ wages), while they were only struggling to be able to do their work easily and agreeably- that is to say, as they were used to doing it. It was for his interests that every laborer should work as hard as possible, and that while doing so he should keep his wits about him, so as to try not to break the winnowing machines, the horse rakes, the threshing machines, that he should attend to what he was doing. What the laborer wanted was to work as pleasantly as possible, with rests, and, above all, carelessly and heedlessly, without thinking. That summer Levin saw this at every step. He sent the men to mow some clover for hay, picking out the worst patches where the clover was overgrown with grass and weeds and of no use for seed; again and again they mowed his best dessiatinas of seed clover, justifying themselves by the pretext that the bailiff had told them to, and trying to pacify him with the assurance that it would make splendid hay; but he knew that it was because those dessiatinas were so much easier to mow. He sent out a hay machine for pitching the hay- it was broken at the first row because it was dull work for a peasant to sit on the seat in front with the great wings waving above him. And he was told: “Don’t trouble- sure, the womenfolks will pitch it quick enough.” The plows were practically useless, because it never occurred to the laborer to raise the colter when he turned the plow, and in forcing it round, he tortured the horse and spoiled the ground- and then begged Levin not to mind it. The horses were allowed to stray into the wheat because not a single laborer wanted to be night watchman, and, in spite of orders to the contrary, the laborers insisted on taking turns for night duty about the horses; and when Vanka, after working all day long, fell asleep, he would say, very penitent for his fault: “Do what you will to me.”

Three of the best heifers were allowed to overeat themselves to death, by letting them into the clover aftermath without care as to drenching them, and nothing would make the men believe that they had been blown out by the clover, but they told Levin, by way of consolation, that one of his neighbors had lost a hundred and twelve head of cattle in three days. All this happened, not because anyone felt ill will to Levin or to his farming; on the contrary, he knew that they liked him, thinking him a simple gentleman (their highest praise); but it happened simply because all they wanted was to work merrily and carelessly, and his interests were not only remote and incomprehensible to them, but fatally opposed to their most just claims. Long before, Levin had felt dissatisfaction with his own position in regard to the land. He saw that his boat leaked, but he did not look for the leak, perhaps purposely deceiving himself. But now he could deceive himself no longer. The farming of the land, as he was managing it, had become not merely unattractive but revolting to him, and he could take no further interest in it.

To this now was joined the presence, only thirty verstas off, of Kitty Shcherbatskaia, whom he longed to see and could not. Darya Alexandrovna Oblonskaia had invited him, when he was over there, to come; to come with the object of renewing his proposal to her sister, who would, so she gave him to understand, accept it now. Levin himself had felt on seeing Kitty Shcherbatskaia that he had never ceased to love her; but he could not go over to the Oblonskys’, knowing she was there. The fact that he had proposed to her, and that she had refused him, had placed an insuperable barrier between her and him. “I can’t ask her to be my wife merely because she can’t be the wife of the man she wanted to marry,” he said to himself. The thought of this made him cold and hostile to her. “I should not be able to speak to her without a feeling of reproach; I could not look at her without resentment; and she will only hate me all the more, as she’s bound to. And besides, how can I now, after what Darya Alexandrovna told me, go to see them? Can I help showing that I know what she told me? And I shall come to forgive her magnanimously, and take pity on her! And go through a performance before her of forgiving, and deigning to bestow my love on her!… Why did Darya Alexandrovna tell me that? I might have seen her by chance- then everything would have happened of itself; but, as it is, it’s out of the question- out of the question!”

Darya Alexandrovna sent him a letter, asking him for a sidesaddle for Kitty’s use. “I’m told you have a sidesaddle,” she wrote to him; “I hope you will bring it over yourself.”

This was more than he could stand. How could a woman of any intelligence, of any delicacy, put her sister in such a humiliating position! He wrote ten notes, and tore them all up, and then sent the saddle without any reply. To write that he would come was impossible, because he could not come; to write that he could not come because something prevented him, or that he would be away, would be still worse. He sent the saddle without any answer; and with a sense of having done something shameful, he handed over all the now revolting business of the estate to his bailiff, and set off next day to a remote district to see his friend Sviiazhsky, who had splendid marshes for double snipes in his neighborhood, and had lately written, asking him to keep a long-standing promise to visit him. The snipe marsh, in the Surovsky district, had long tempted Levin, but he had continually put off this visit on account of his work on the estate. Now he was glad to get away from the neighborhood of the Shcherbatskys, and still more from his farmwork, especially on a shooting expedition, which always served as the best consolation in trouble.

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Chapters 25 > > >

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

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