FictionForest

PART THREE : Chapter 2

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

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Early in June it happened that Agafea
Mihalovna, the old nurse and housekeeper, in carrying
to the cellar a jar of mushrooms she had just pickled,
slipped, fell, and sprained her wrist.  The district
doctor, a talkative young medical student, who had
just finished his studies, came to see her. 
He examined the wrist, said it was not broken, was
delighted at a chance of talking to the celebrated
Sergey Ivanovitch Koznishev, and to show his advanced
views of things told him all the scandal of the district,
complaining of the poor state into which the district
council had fallen.  Sergey Ivanovitch listened
attentively, asked him questions, and, roused by a
new listener, he talked fluently, uttered a few keen
and weighty observations, respectfully appreciated
by the young doctor, and was soon in that eager frame
of mind his brother knew so well, which always, with
him, followed a brilliant and eager conversation. 
After the departure of the doctor, he wanted to go
with a fishing rod to the river.  Sergey Ivanovitch
was fond of angling, and was, it seemed, proud of
being able to care for such a stupid occupation.

Konstantin Levin, whose presence was
needed in the plough land and meadows, had come to
take his brother in the trap.

It was that time of the year, the
turning-point of summer, when the crops of the present
year are a certainty, when one begins to think of
the sowing for next year, and the mowing is at hand;
when the rye is all in ear, though its ears are still
light, not yet full, and it waves in gray-green billows
in the wind; when the green oats, with tufts of yellow
grass scattered here and there among it, droop irregularly
over the late-sown fields; when the early buckwheat
is already out and hiding the ground; when the fallow
lands, trodden hard as stone by the cattle, are half
ploughed over, with paths left untouched by the plough;
when from the dry dung-heaps carted onto the fields
there comes at sunset a smell of manure mixed with
meadow-sweet, and on the low-lying lands the riverside
meadows are a thick sea of grass waiting for the mowing,
with blackened heaps of the stalks of sorrel among
it.

It was the time when there comes a
brief pause in the toil of the fields before the beginning
of the labors of harvest ­every year recurring,
every year straining every nerve of the peasants. 
The crop was a splendid one, and bright, hot summer
days had set in with short, dewy nights.

The brothers had to drive through
the woods to reach the meadows.  Sergey Ivanovitch
was all the while admiring the beauty of the woods,
which were a tangled mass of leaves, pointing out to
his brother now an old lime tree on the point of flowering,
dark on the shady side, and brightly spotted with
yellow stipules, now the young shoots of this year’s
saplings brilliant with emerald.  Konstantin Levin
did not like talking and hearing about the beauty
of nature.  Words for him took away the beauty
of what he saw.  He assented to what his brother
said, but he could not help beginning to think of
other things.  When they came out of the woods,
all his attention was engrossed by the view of the
fallow land on the upland, in parts yellow with grass,
in parts trampled and checkered with furrows, in parts
dotted with ridges of dung, and in parts even ploughed. 
A string of carts was moving across it.  Levin
counted the carts, and was pleased that all that were
wanted had been brought, and at the sight of the meadows
his thoughts passed to the mowing.  He always
felt something special moving him to the quick at
the hay-making.  On reaching the meadow Levin
stopped the horse.

The morning dew was still lying on
the thick undergrowth of the grass, and that he might
not get his feet wet, Sergey Ivanovitch asked his
brother to drive him in the trap up to the willow tree
from which the carp was caught.  Sorry as Konstantin
Levin was to crush down his mowing grass, he drove
him into the meadow.  The high grass softly turned
about the wheels and the horse’s legs, leaving
its seeds clinging to the wet axles and spokes of the
wheels.  His brother seated himself under a bush,
arranging his tackle, while Levin led the horse away,
fastened him up, and walked into the vast gray-green
sea of grass unstirred by the wind.  The silky
grass with its ripe seeds came almost to his waist
in the dampest spots.

Crossing the meadow, Konstantin Levin
came out onto the road, and met an old man with a
swollen eye, carrying a skep on his shoulder.

“What? taken a stray swarm, Fomitch?”
he asked.

“No, indeed, Konstantin Dmitrich! 
All we can do to keep our own!  This is the second
swarm that has flown away….  Luckily the lads
caught them.  They were ploughing your field. 
They unyoked the horses and galloped after them.”

“Well, what do you say, Fomitch ­start
mowing or wait a bit?”

“Eh, well.  Our way’s
to wait till St. Peter’s Day.  But you
always mow sooner.  Well, to be sure, please God,
the hay’s good.  There’ll be plenty
for the beasts.”

“What do you think about the weather?”

“That’s in God’s hands.  Maybe
it will be fine.”

Levin went up to his brother.

Sergey Ivanovitch had caught nothing,
but he was not bored, and seemed in the most cheerful
frame of mind.  Levin saw that, stimulated by
his conversation with the doctor, he wanted to talk. 
Levin, on the other hand, would have liked to get
home as soon as possible to give orders about getting
together the mowers for next day, and to set at rest
his doubts about the mowing, which greatly absorbed
him.

“Well, let’s be going,” he said.

“Why be in such a hurry? 
Let’s stay a little.  But how wet you
are!  Even though one catches nothing, it’s
nice.  That’s the best thing about every
part of sport, that one has to do with nature. 
How exquisite this steely water is!” said Sergey
Ivanovitch.  “These riverside banks always
remind me of the riddle ­do you know it? 
’The grass says to the water:  we quiver
and we quiver.’”

“I don’t know the riddle,” answered
Levin wearily.

 

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