FictionForest

PART THREE : Chapter 1

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

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Sergey Ivanovitch Koznishev wanted
a rest from mental work, and instead of going abroad
as he usually did, he came towards the end of May
to stay in the country with his brother.  In his
judgment the best sort of life was a country life. 
He had come now to enjoy such a life at his brother’s. 
Konstantin Levin was very glad to have him, especially
as he did not expect his brother Nikolay that summer. 
But in spite of his affection and respect for Sergey
Ivanovitch, Konstantin Levin was uncomfortable with
his brother in the country.  It made him uncomfortable,
and it positively annoyed him to see his brother’s
attitude to the country.  To Konstantin Levin
the country was the background of life, that is of
pleasures, endeavors, labor.  To Sergey Ivanovitch
the country meant on one hand rest from work, on the
other a valuable antidote to the corrupt influences
of town, which he took with satisfaction and a sense
of its utility.  To Konstantin Levin the country
was good first because it afforded a field for labor,
of the usefulness of which there could be no doubt. 
To Sergey Ivanovitch the country was particularly
good, because there it was possible and fitting to
do nothing.  Moreover, Sergey Ivanovitch’s
attitude to the peasants rather piqued Konstantin. 
Sergey Ivanovitch used to say that he knew and liked
the peasantry, and he often talked to the peasants,
which he knew how to do without affectation or condescension,
and from every such conversation he would deduce general
conclusions in favor of the peasantry and in confirmation
of his knowing them.  Konstantin Levin did not
like such an attitude to the peasants.  To Konstantin
the peasant was simply the chief partner in their
common labor, and in spite of all the respect and the
love, almost like that of kinship, he had for the peasant ­
sucked in probably, as he said himself, with the milk
of his peasant nurse ­still as a fellow-worker
with him, while sometimes enthusiastic over the vigor,
gentleness, and justice of these men, he was very
often, when their common labors called for other qualities,
exasperated with the peasant for his carelessness,
lack of method, drunkenness, and lying.  If he
had been asked whether he liked or didn’t like
the peasants, Konstantin Levin would have been absolutely
at a loss what to reply.  He liked and did not
like the peasants, just as he liked and did not like
men in general.  Of course, being a good-hearted
man, he liked men rather than he disliked them, and
so too with the peasants.  But like or dislike
“the people” as something apart he could
not, not only because he lived with “the people,”
and all his interests were bound up with theirs, but
also because he regarded himself as a part of “the
people,” did not see any special qualities or
failings distinguishing himself and “the people,”
and could not contrast himself with them.  Moreover,
although he had lived so long in the closest relations
with the peasants, as farmer and arbitrator, and what
was more, as adviser (the peasants trusted him, and
for thirty miles round they would come to ask his
advice), he had no definite views of “the people,”
and would have been as much at a loss to answer the
question whether he knew “the people” as
the question whether he liked them.  For him
to say he knew the peasantry would have been the same
as to say he knew men.  He was continually watching
and getting to know people of all sorts, and among
them peasants, whom he regarded as good and interesting
people, and he was continually observing new points
in them, altering his former views of them and forming
new ones.  With Sergey Ivanovitch it was quite
the contrary.  Just as he liked and praised a
country life in comparison with the life he did not
like, so too he liked the peasantry in contradistinction
to the class of men he did not like, and so too he
knew the peasantry as something distinct from and
opposed to men generally.  In his methodical brain
there were distinctly formulated certain aspects of
peasant life, deduced partly from that life itself,
but chiefly from contrast with other modes of life. 
He never changed his opinion of the peasantry and
his sympathetic attitude towards them.

In the discussions that arose between
the brothers on their views of the peasantry, Sergey
Ivanovitch always got the better of his brother, precisely
because Sergey Ivanovitch had definite ideas about
the peasant ­his character, his qualities,
and his tastes.  Konstantin Levin had no definite
and unalterable idea on the subject, and so in their
arguments Konstantin was readily convicted of contradicting
himself.

In Sergey Ivanovitch’s eyes
his younger brother was a capital fellow, with
his heart in the right place
(as he expressed it
in French), but with a mind which, though fairly quick,
was too much influenced by the impressions of the
moment, and consequently filled with contradictions. 
With all the condescension of an elder brother he
sometimes explained to him the true import of things,
but he derived little satisfaction from arguing with
him because he got the better of him too easily.

Konstantin Levin regarded his brother
as a man of immense intellect and culture, as generous
in the highest sense of the word, and possessed of
a special faculty for working for the public good. 
But in the depths of his heart, the older he became,
and the more intimately he knew his brother, the more
and more frequently the thought struck him that this
faculty of working for the public good, of which he
felt himself utterly devoid, was possibly not so much
a quality as a lack of something ­not a
lack of good, honest, noble desires and tastes, but
a lack of vital force, of what is called heart, of
that impulse which drives a man to choose someone
out of the innumerable paths of life, and to care
only for that one.  The better he knew his brother,
the more he noticed that Sergey Ivanovitch, and many
other people who worked for the public welfare, were
not led by an impulse of the heart to care for the
public good, but reasoned from intellectual considerations
that it was a right thing to take interest in public
affairs, and consequently took interest in them. 
Levin was confirmed in this generalization by observing
that his brother did not take questions affecting the
public welfare or the question of the immortality
of the soul a bit more to heart than he did chess
problems, or the ingenious construction of a new machine.

Besides this, Konstantin Levin was
not at his ease with his brother, because in summer
in the country Levin was continually busy with work
on the land, and the long summer day was not long
enough for him to get through all he had to do, while
Sergey Ivanovitch was taking a holiday.  But
though he was taking a holiday now, that is to say,
he was doing no writing, he was so used to intellectual
activity that he liked to put into concise and eloquent
shape the ideas that occurred to him, and liked to
have someone to listen to him.  His most usual
and natural listener was his brother.  And so
in spite of the friendliness and directness of their
relations, Konstantin felt an awkwardness in leaving
him alone.  Sergey Ivanovitch liked to stretch
himself on the grass in the sun, and to lie so, basking
and chatting lazily.

“You wouldn’t believe,”
he would say to his brother, “what a pleasure
this rural laziness is to me.  Not an idea in
one’s brain, as empty as a drum!”

But Konstantin Levin found it dull
sitting and listening to him, especially when he knew
that while he was away they would be carting dung
onto the fields not ploughed ready for it, and heaping
it all up anyhow; and would not screw the shares in
the ploughs, but would let them come off and then
say that the new ploughs were a silly invention, and
there was nothing like the old Andreevna plough, and
so on.

“Come, you’ve done enough
trudging about in the heat,” Sergey Ivanovitch
would say to him.

“No, I must just run round to
the counting-house for a minute,” Levin would
answer, and he would run off to the fields.

 

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