FictionForest

PART EIGHT : Chapter 15

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

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“Do you know, Kostya, with whom
Sergey Ivanovitch traveled on his way here?”
said Dolly, doling out cucumbers and honey to the
children; “with Vronsky!  He’s going
to Servia.”

“And not alone; he’s taking
a squadron out with him at his own expense,”
said Katavasov.

“That’s the right thing
for him,” said Levin.  “Are volunteers
still going out then?” he added, glancing at
Sergey Ivanovitch.

Sergey Ivanovitch did not answer. 
He was carefully with a blunt knife getting a live
bee covered with sticky honey out of a cup full of
white honeycomb.

“I should think so!  You
should have seen what was going on at the station
yesterday!” said Katavasov, biting with a juicy
sound into a cucumber.

“Well, what is one to make of
it?  For mercy’s sake, do explain to me,
Sergey Ivanovitch, where are all those volunteers going,
whom are they fighting with?” asked the old prince,
unmistakably taking up a conversation that had sprung
up in Levin’s absence.

“With the Turks,” Sergey
Ivanovitch answered, smiling serenely, as he extricated
the bee, dark with honey and helplessly kicking, and
put it with the knife on a stout aspen leaf.

“But who has declared war on
the Turks? ­Ivan Ivanovitch Ragozov and
Countess Lidia Ivanovna, assisted by Madame Stahl?”

“No one has declared war, but
people sympathize with their neighbors’ sufferings
and are eager to help them,” said Sergey Ivanovitch.

“But the prince is not speaking
of help,” said Levin, coming to the assistance
of his father-in-law, “but of war.  The
prince says that private persons cannot take part
in war without the permission of the government.”

“Kostya, mind, that’s
a bee!  Really, they’ll sting us!”
said Dolly, waving away a wasp.

“But that’s not a bee, it’s a wasp,”
said Levin.

“Well now, well, what’s
your own theory?” Katavasov said to Levin with
a smile, distinctly challenging him to a discussion. 
“Why have not private persons the right to
do so?”

“Oh, my theory’s this: 
war is on one side such a beastly, cruel, and awful
thing, that no one man, not to speak of a Christian,
can individually take upon himself the responsibility
of beginning wars; that can only be done by a government,
which is called upon to do this, and is driven inevitably
into war.  On the other hand, both political
science and common sense teach us that in matters
of state, and especially in the matter of war, private
citizens must forego their personal individual will.”

Sergey Ivanovitch and Katavasov had
their replies ready, and both began speaking at the
same time.

“But the point is, my dear fellow,
that there may be cases when the government does not
carry out the will of the citizens and then the public
asserts its will,” said Katavasov.

But evidently Sergey Ivanovitch did
not approve of this answer.  His brows contracted
at Katavasov’s words and he said something else.

“You don’t put the matter
in its true light.  There is no question here
of a declaration of war, but simply the expression
of a human Christian feeling.  Our brothers, one
with us in religion and in race, are being massacred. 
Even supposing they were not our brothers nor fellow-Christians,
but simply children, women, old people, feeling is
aroused and Russians go eagerly to help in stopping
these atrocities.  Fancy, if you were going along
the street and saw drunken men beating a woman or a
child ­I imagine you would not stop to inquire
whether war had been declared on the men, but would
throw yourself on them, and protect the victim.”

“But I should not kill them,” said Levin.

“Yes, you would kill them.”

“I don’t know.  If
I saw that, I might give way to my impulse of the
moment, but I can’t say beforehand.  And
such a momentary impulse there is not, and there cannot
be, in the case of the oppression of the Slavonic
peoples.”

“Possibly for you there is not;
but for others there is,” said Sergey Ivanovitch,
frowning with displeasure.  “There are
traditions still extant among the people of Slavs of
the true faith suffering under the yoke of the ‘unclean
sons of Hagar.’  The people have heard of
the sufferings of their brethren and have spoken.”

“Perhaps so,” said Levin
evasively; “but I don’t see it.  I’m
one of the people myself, and I don’t feel it.”

“Here am I too,” said
the old prince.  “I’ve been staying
abroad and reading the papers, and I must own, up
to the time of the Bulgarian atrocities, I couldn’t
make out why it was all the Russians were all of a
sudden so fond of their Slavonic brethren, while I
didn’t feel the slightest affection for them. 
I was very much upset, thought I was a monster, or
that it was the influence of Carlsbad on me. 
But since I have been here, my mind’s been
set at rest.  I see that there are people besides
me who’re only interested in Russia, and not
in their Slavonic brethren.  Here’s Konstantin
too.”

“Personal opinions mean nothing
in such a case,” said Sergey Ivanovitch; “it’s
not a matter of personal opinions when all Russia ­the
whole people ­has expressed its will.”

“But excuse me, I don’t
see that.  The people don’t know anything
about it, if you come to that,” said the old
prince.

“Oh, papa!…how can you say
that?  And last Sunday in church?” said
Dolly, listening to the conversation.  “Please
give me a cloth,” she said to the old man, who
was looking at the children with a smile.  “Why,
it’s not possible that all…”

“But what was it in church on
Sunday?  The priest had been told to read that. 
He read it.  They didn’t understand a word
of it.  Then they were told that there was to
be a collection for a pious object in church; well,
they pulled out their halfpence and gave them, but
what for they couldn’t say.”

“The people cannot help knowing;
the sense of their own destinies is always in the
people, and at such moments as the present that sense
finds utterance,” said Sergey Ivanovitch with
conviction, glancing at the old bee-keeper.

The handsome old man, with black grizzled
beard and thick silvery hair, stood motionless, holding
a cup of honey, looking down from the height of his
tall figure with friendly serenity at the gentlefolk,
obviously understanding nothing of their conversation
and not caring to understand it.

“That’s so, no doubt,”
he said, with a significant shake of his head at Sergey
Ivanovitch’s words.

“Here, then, ask him. 
He knows nothing about it and thinks nothing,”
said Levin.  “Have you heard about the war,
Mihalitch?” he said, turning to him.  “What
they read in the church?  What do you think about
it?  Ought we to fight for the Christians?”

“What should we think? 
Alexander Nikolaevitch our Emperor has thought for
us; he thinks for us indeed in all things.  It’s
clearer for him to see.  Shall I bring a bit more
bread?  Give the little lad some more?”
he said addressing Darya Alexandrovna and pointing
to Grisha, who had finished his crust.

“I don’t need to ask,”
said Sergey Ivanovitch, “we have seen and are
seeing hundreds and hundreds of people who give up
everything to serve a just cause, come from every
part of Russia, and directly and clearly express their
thought and aim.  They bring their halfpence
or go themselves and say directly what for.  What
does it mean?”

“It means, to my thinking,”
said Levin, who was beginning to get warm, “that
among eighty millions of people there can always be
found not hundreds, as now, but tens of thousands of
people who have lost caste, ne’er-do-wells,
who are always ready to go anywhere ­to
Pogatchev’s bands, to Khiva, to Serbia…”

“I tell you that it’s
not a case of hundreds or of ne’er-do-wells,
but the best representatives of the people!”
said Sergey Ivanovitch, with as much irritation as
if he were defending the last penny of his fortune. 
“And what of the subscriptions?  In this
case it is a whole people directly expressing their
will.”

“That word ‘people’
is so vague,” said Levin.  “Parish
clerks, teachers, and one in a thousand of the peasants,
maybe, know what it’s all about.  The rest
of the eighty millions, like Mihalitch, far from expressing
their will, haven’t the faintest idea what there
is for them to express their will about.  What
right have we to say that this is the people’s
will?”

 

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