FictionForest

PART ONE : Chapter 25

Leo TolstoyAug 21, 2016'Command+D' Bookmark this page

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“So you see,” pursued
Nikolay 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 iron bars, fastened together
with strings, lying in a corner of the room. 
“Do you see that?  That’s the beginning
of a new thing we’re going into.  It’s
a productive 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. 
Nikolay Levin went on talking: 

“You know that capital oppresses
the laborer.  The laborers with us, the peasants,
bear all the burden of labor, and are so placed that
however 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’s
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 he 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 cheek bones.

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

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

“In the village of Vozdrem, Kazan government.”

“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 Sergey Ivanovitch don’t like people
to try and get them out of their slavery,” said
Nikolay Levin, exasperated by the objection.

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

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

“No; and what do you talk of
Sergey Ivanovitch for?” said Levin, smiling.

“Sergey Ivanovitch?  I’ll
tell you what for!” Nikolay Levin shrieked
suddenly at the name of Sergey Ivanovitch.  “I’ll
tell you what for….  But what’s the use
of talking?  There’s only one thing…. 
What did you come to me for?  You look down on
this, and you’re welcome to, ­and
go away, in God’s name go away!” he shrieked,
getting up from his chair.  “And go away,
and 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.  Nikolay Levin looked round angrily at
her.  She went quickly to him, and whispered
something.

“I’m not well; I’ve
grown irritable,” said Nikolay Levin, getting
calmer and breathing painfully; “and then you
talk to me of Sergey Ivanovitch and his article. 
It’s such rubbish, such lying, such self-deception. 
What can a man write of justice who knows nothing
of it?  Have you read his article?” he
asked Kritsky, sitting down again at the table, and
moving back off half of it the scattered cigarettes,
so as to clear a space.

“I’ve not read it,”
Kritsky responded gloomily, obviously not desiring
to enter into the conversation.

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

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

“Oh, but excuse me, how did
you know it would be wasting your time?  That
article’s too deep for many people ­that’s
to say it’s over their heads.  But with
me, it’s another thing; I see through his ideas,
and I know where its weakness lies.”

Everyone was mute.  Kritsky got
up deliberately and reached his cap.

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

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

“He’s no good either,”
he said.  “I see, of course…”

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. 
Nikolay Dmitrievitch’s health has become very
poor.  Nikolay Dmitrievitch drinks a great deal,”
she said.

“That is…how does he drink?”

“Drinks vodka, and it’s bad for him.”

“And a great deal?” whispered Levin.

“Yes,” she said, looking
timidly towards the doorway, where Nikolay 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 shortcomings,” he began
again, raising his voice.

“Nikolay Dmitrievitch, Nikolay
Dmitrievitch,” 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 glassful and drank
it greedily.  “Like a drink?” he
turned to his brother, and at once became better humored.

“Well, enough of Sergey Ivanovitch. 
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 glassful.  “How are
you living?”

“I live alone in the country,
as I used to.  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?”

“It hasn’t happened so,” Konstantin
answered, reddening a little.

“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 Vanya’s
with me, a clerk in the countinghouse at Pokrovskoe.”

Nikolay jerked his neck, and sank into thought.

“Yes, tell me what’s going
on at Pokrovskoe.  Is the house standing still,
and the birch trees, and our schoolroom?  And
Philip the gardener, is he living?  How I remember
the arbor and the seat!  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
nice.”

“But come to me now,”
said Levin.  “How nicely we would arrange
it!”

“I’d come and see you
if I were sure I should not find Sergey Ivanovitch.”

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

“Yes, but say what you like,
you will 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 Sergey Ivanovitch I take neither side. 
You’re both wrong.  You’re more wrong
externally, and he inwardly.”

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

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

“Why, why?”

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

“Enough, Nikolay Dmitrievitch!”
said Marya Nikolaevna, stretching out her plump, bare
arm towards the decanter.

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

Marya Nikolaevna smiled a sweet and
good-humored smile, which was at once reflected on
Nikolay’s face, and she took the bottle.

“And do you suppose she understands
nothing?” said Nikolay.  “She understands
it all better than any of us.  Isn’t it
true there’s something good and sweet in her?”

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

“Only you mustn’t be polite
and stiff with her.  It frightens her. 
No one ever spoke to her so but the justices of the
peace who tried her for trying to get out of a house
of ill-fame.  Mercy on us, the senselessness in
the world!” he cried suddenly.  “These
new institutions, these justices of the peace, rural
councils, what hideousness it all is!”

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

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

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

“In another world!  Ah,
I don’t like that other world!  I don’t
like it,” he said, letting his scared eyes rest
on his brother’s eyes.  “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
have got so fond of the Gypsies and Russian songs.”

His speech had begun to falter, and
he passed abruptly 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 Nikolay Levin to
go and stay with his brother.

 

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