FictionForest

PART THREE : Chapter 30

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

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At the end of September the timber
had been carted for building the cattleyard on the
land that had been allotted to the association of
peasants, and the butter from the cows was sold and
the profits divided.  In practice the system worked
capitally, or, at least, so it seemed to Levin. 
In order to work out the whole subject theoretically
and to complete his book, which, in Levin’s
daydreams, was not merely to effect a revolution in
political economy, but to annihilate that science
entirely and to lay the foundation of a new science
of the relation of the people to the soil, all that
was left to do was to make a tour abroad, and to study
on the spot all that had been done in the same direction,
and to collect conclusive evidence that all that had
been done there was not what was wanted.  Levin
was only waiting for the delivery of his wheat to receive
the money for it and go abroad.  But the rains
began, preventing the harvesting of the corn and potatoes
left in the fields, and putting a stop to all work,
even to the delivery of the wheat.

The mud was impassable along the roads;
two mills were carried away, and the weather got worse
and worse.

On the 30th of September the sun came
out in the morning, and hoping for fine weather, Levin
began making final preparations for his journey. 
He gave orders for the wheat to be delivered, sent
the bailiff to the merchant to get the money owing
him, and went out himself to give some final directions
on the estate before setting off.

Having finished all his business,
soaked through with the streams of water which kept
running down the leather behind his neck and his gaiters,
but in the keenest and most confident temper, Levin
returned homewards in the evening.  The weather
had become worse than ever towards evening; the hail
lashed the drenched mare so cruelly that she went
along sideways, shaking her head and ears; but Levin
was all right under his hood, and he looked cheerfully
about him at the muddy streams running under the wheels,
at the drops hanging on every bare twig, at the whiteness
of the patch of unmelted hailstones on the planks
of the bridge, at the thick layer of still juicy,
fleshy leaves that lay heaped up about the stripped
elm-tree.  In spite of the gloominess of nature
around him, he felt peculiarly eager.  The talks
he had been having with the peasants in the further
village had shown that they were beginning to get
used to their new position.  The old servant to
whose hut he had gone to get dry evidently approved
of Levin’s plan, and of his own accord proposed
to enter the partnership by the purchase of cattle.

“I have only to go stubbornly
on towards my aim, and I shall attain my end,”
thought Levin; “and it’s something to work
and take trouble for.  This is not a matter of
myself individually; the question of the public welfare
comes into it.  The whole system of culture,
the chief element in the condition of the people,
must be completely transformed.  Instead of poverty,
general prosperity and content; instead of hostility,
harmony and unity of interests.  In short, a
bloodless revolution, but a revolution of the greatest
magnitude, beginning in the little circle of our district,
then the province, then Russia, the whole world. 
Because a just idea cannot but be fruitful. 
Yes, it’s an aim worth working for.  And
its being me, Kostya Levin, who went to a ball in
a black tie, and was refused by the Shtcherbatskaya
girl, and who was intrinsically such a pitiful, worthless
creature ­that proves nothing; I feel sure
Franklin felt just as worthless, and he too had no
faith in himself, thinking of himself as a whole. 
That means nothing.  And he too, most likely,
had an Agafea Mihalovna to whom he confided his secrets.”

Musing on such thoughts Levin reached
home in the darkness.

The bailiff, who had been to the merchant,
had come back and brought part of the money for the
wheat.  An agreement had been made with the old
servant, and on the road the bailiff had learned that
everywhere the corn was still standing in the fields,
so that his one hundred and sixty shocks that had not
been carried were nothing in comparison with the losses
of others.

After dinner Levin was sitting, as
he usually did, in an easy chair with a book, and
as he read he went on thinking of the journey before
him in connection with his book.  Today all the
significance of his book rose before him with special
distinctness, and whole periods ranged themselves in
his mind in illustration of his theories.  “I
must write that down,” he thought.  “That
ought to form a brief introduction, which I thought
unnecessary before.”  He got up to go to
his writing table, and Laska, lying at his feet, got
up too, stretching and looking at him as though to
inquire where to go.  But he had not time to
write it down, for the head peasants had come round,
and Levin went out into the hall to them.

After his levee, that is to say, giving
directions about the labors of the next day, and seeing
all the peasants who had business with him, Levin
went back to his study and sat down to work.

Laska lay under the table; Agafea
Mihalovna settled herself in her place with her stocking.

After writing for a little while,
Levin suddenly thought with exceptional vividness
of Kitty, her refusal, and their last meeting. 
He got up and began walking about the room.

“What’s the use of being
dreary?” said Agafea Mihalovna.  “Come,
why do you stay on at home?  You ought to go to
some warm springs, especially now you’re ready
for the journey.”

“Well, I am going away the day
after tomorrow, Agafea Mihalovna; I must finish my
work.”

“There, there, your work, you
say!  As if you hadn’t done enough for
the peasants!  Why, as ’tis, they’re
saying, ’Your master will be getting some honor
from the Tsar for it.’  Indeed and it is
a strange thing; why need you worry about the peasants?”

“I’m not worrying about
them; I’m doing it for my own good.”

Agafea Mihalovna knew every detail
of Levin’s plans for his land.  Levin often
put his views before her in all their complexity, and
not uncommonly he argued with her and did not agree
with her comments.  But on this occasion she
entirely misinterpreted what he had said.

“Of one’s soul’s
salvation we all know and must think before all else,”
she said with a sigh.  “Parfen Denisitch
now, for all he was no scholar, he died a death that
God grant every one of us the like,” she said,
referring to a servant who had died recently. 
“Took the sacrament and all.”

“That’s not what I mean,”
said he.  “I mean that I’m acting
for my own advantage.  It’s all the better
for me if the peasants do their work better.”

“Well, whatever you do, if he’s
a lazy good-for-nought, everything’ll be at
sixes and sevens.  If he has a conscience, he’ll
work, and if not, there’s no doing anything.”

“Oh, come, you say yourself
Ivan has begun looking after the cattle better.”

“All I say is,” answered
Agafea Mihalovna, evidently not speaking at random,
but in strict sequence of idea, “that you ought
to get married, that’s what I say.”

Agafea Mihalovna’s allusion
to the very subject he had only just been thinking
about, hurt and stung him.  Levin scowled, and
without answering her, he sat down again to his work,
repeating to himself all that he had been thinking
of the real significance of that work.  Only
at intervals he listened in the stillness to the click
of Agafea Mihalovna’s needles, and recollecting
what he did not want to remember, he frowned again.

At nine o’clock they heard the
bell and the faint vibration of a carriage over the
mud.

“Well, here’s visitors
come to us, and you won’t be dull,” said
Agafea Mihalovna, getting up and going to the door. 
But Levin overtook her.  His work was not going
well now, and he was glad of a visitor, whoever it
might be.

 

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