FictionForest

PART EIGHT : Chapter 10

Leo TolstoyAug 26, 2016'Command+D' Bookmark this page

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When Levin thought what he was and
what he was living for, he could find no answer to
the questions and was reduced to despair, but he left
off questioning himself about it.  It seemed as
though he knew both what he was and for what he was
living, for he acted and lived resolutely and without
hesitation.  Indeed, in these latter days he
was far more decided and unhesitating in life than
he had ever been.

When he went back to the country at
the beginning of June, he went back also to his usual
pursuits.  The management of the estate, his
relations with the peasants and the neighbors, the
care of his household, the management of his sister’s
and brother’s property, of which he had the
direction, his relations with his wife and kindred,
the care of his child, and the new bee-keeping hobby
he had taken up that spring, filled all his time.

These things occupied him now, not
because he justified them to himself by any sort of
general principles, as he had done in former days;
on the contrary, disappointed by the failure of his
former efforts for the general welfare, and too much
occupied with his own thought and the mass of business
with which he was burdened from all sides, he had
completely given up thinking of the general good,
and he busied himself with all this work simply because
it seemed to him that he must do what he was doing ­that
he could not do otherwise.  In former days ­almost
from childhood, and increasingly up to full manhood ­when
he had tried to do anything that would be good for
all, for humanity, for Russia, for the whole village,
he had noticed that the idea of it had been pleasant,
but the work itself had always been incoherent, that
then he had never had a full conviction of its absolute
necessity, and that the work that had begun by seeming
so great, had grown less and less, till it vanished
into nothing.  But now, since his marriage, when
he had begun to confine himself more and more to living
for himself, though he experienced no delight at all
at the thought of the work he was doing, he felt a
complete conviction of its necessity, saw that it succeeded
far better than in old days, and that it kept on growing
more and more.

Now, involuntarily it seemed, he cut
more and more deeply into the soil like a plough,
so that he could not be drawn out without turning
aside the furrow.

To live the same family life as his
father and forefathers ­that is, in the
same condition of culture ­and to bring up
his children in the same, was incontestably necessary. 
It was as necessary as dining when one was hungry. 
And to do this, just as it was necessary to cook
dinner, it was necessary to keep the mechanism of
agriculture at Pokrovskoe going so as to yield an
income.  Just as incontestably as it was necessary
to repay a debt was it necessary to keep the property
in such a condition that his son, when he received
it as a heritage, would say “thank you”
to his father as Levin had said “thank you”
to his grandfather for all he built and planted. 
And to do this it was necessary to look after the
land himself, not to let it, and to breed cattle,
manure the fields, and plant timber.

It was impossible not to look after
the affairs of Sergey Ivanovitch, of his sister, of
the peasants who came to him for advice and were accustomed
to do so ­as impossible as to fling down
a child one is carrying in one’s arms. 
It was necessary to look after the comfort of his
sister-in-law and her children, and of his wife and
baby, and it was impossible not to spend with them
at least a short time each day.

And all this, together with shooting
and his new bee-keeping, filled up the whole of Levin’s
life, which had no meaning at all for him, when he
began to think.

But besides knowing thoroughly what
he had to do, Levin knew in just the same way how
he had to do it all, and what was more important than
the rest.

He knew he must hire laborers as cheaply
as possible; but to hire men under bond, paying them
in advance at less than the current rate of wages,
was what he must not do, even though it was very profitable. 
Selling straw to the peasants in times of scarcity
of provender was what he might do, even though he felt
sorry for them; but the tavern and the pothouse must
be put down, though they were a source of income. 
Felling timber must be punished as severely as possible,
but he could not exact forfeits for cattle being driven
onto his fields; and though it annoyed the keeper
and made the peasants not afraid to graze their cattle
on his land, he could not keep their cattle as a punishment.

To Pyotr, who was paying a money-lender
10 per cent. a month, he must lend a sum of money
to set him free.  But he could not let off peasants
who did not pay their rent, nor let them fall into
arrears.  It was impossible to overlook the bailiff’s
not having mown the meadows and letting the hay spoil;
and it was equally impossible to mow those acres where
a young copse had been planted.  It was impossible
to excuse a laborer who had gone home in the busy
season because his father was dying, however sorry
he might feel for him, and he must subtract from his
pay those costly months of idleness.  But it
was impossible not to allow monthly rations to the
old servants who were of no use for anything.

Levin knew that when he got home he
must first of all go to his wife, who was unwell,
and that the peasants who had been waiting for three
hours to see him could wait a little longer. 
He knew too that, regardless of all the pleasure he
felt in taking a swarm, he must forego that pleasure,
and leave the old man to see to the bees alone, while
he talked to the peasants who had come after him to
the bee-house.

Whether he were acting rightly or
wrongly he did not know, and far from trying to prove
that he was, nowadays he avoided all thought or talk
about it.

Reasoning had brought him to doubt,
and prevented him from seeing what he ought to do
and what he ought not.  When he did not think,
but simply lived, he was continually aware of the presence
of an infallible judge in his soul, determining which
of two possible courses of action was the better and
which was the worse, and as soon as he did not act
rightly, he was at once aware of it.

So he lived, not knowing and not seeing
any chance of knowing what he was and what he was
living for, and harassed at this lack of knowledge
to such a point that he was afraid of suicide, and
yet firmly laying down his own individual definite
path in life.

 

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