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PART THREE : Chapter 24

Leo TolstoyAug 23, 2016'Command+D' Bookmark this page

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The night spent by Levin on the haycock
did not pass without result for him.  The way
in which he had been managing his land revolted him
and had lost all attraction for him.  In spite
of the magnificent harvest, never had there been,
or, at least, never it seemed to him, had there been
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
ploughed over and enriched, the nine level fields
surrounded with hedges, the two hundred and forty
acres heavily manured, the seed sown in drills, and
all the rest of it ­it was all splendid if
only the work had been done for themselves, or for
themselves and comrades ­people in sympathy
with them.  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, all that was attained 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 simply wasted.  He could
not help feeling now, since the meaning of this 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
farthing of his share (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 thrashing 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 the best acres of
clover, justifying themselves by the pretense that
the bailiff had told them to, and trying to pacify
him with the assurance that it would be splendid hay;
but he knew that it was owing to those acres being
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, your honor, sure, the womenfolks will pitch
it quick enough.”  The ploughs were practically
useless, because it never occurred to the laborer
to raise the share when he turned the plough, and
forcing it round, he strained the horses and tore
up the ground, and Levin was begged not to mind about
it.  The horses were allowed to stray into the
wheat because not a single laborer would consent to
be night-watchman, and in spite of orders to the contrary,
the laborers insisted on taking turns for night duty,
and Ivan, after working all day long, fell asleep,
and was very penitent for his fault, saying, “Do
what you will to me, your honor.”

They killed three of the best calves
by letting them into the clover aftermath without
care as to their drinking, and nothing would make
the men believe that they had been blown out by the
clover, but they told him, 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 his farm;
on the contrary, he knew that they liked him, thought
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 where
his boat leaked, but he did not look for the leak,
perhaps purposely deceiving himself. (Nothing would
be left him if he lost faith in it.) 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 twenty-five miles off, of Kitty Shtcherbatskaya,
whom he longed to see and could not see.  Darya
Alexandrovna Oblonskaya had invited him, when he was
over there, to come; to come with the object of renewing
his offer to her sister, who would, so she gave him
to understand, accept him now.  Levin himself
had felt on seeing Kitty Shtcherbatskaya 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 made her an offer, and 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 me to go magnanimously
to forgive her, and have pity on her!  Me go
through a performance before her of forgiving, and
deigning to bestow my love on her!…  What induced
Darya Alexandrovna to tell me that?  By chance
I might have seen her, 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 side-saddle for Kitty’s use. 
“I’m told you have a side-saddle,”
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 sent
the saddle without any reply.  To write that he
would go was impossible, because he could not go;
to write that he could not come because something
prevented him, or that he would be away, that was
still worse.  He sent the saddle without an answer,
and with a sense of having done something shameful;
he handed over all the now revolting business of the
estate to the bailiff, and set off next day to a remote
district to see his friend Sviazhsky, who had splendid
marshes for grouse in his neighborhood, and had lately
written to ask him to keep a long-standing promise
to stay with him.  The grouse-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 Shtcherbatskys, and still more from his farm
work, especially on a shooting expedition, which always
in trouble served as the best consolation.

 

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