Anna Karenina, v3 by Leo Tolstoy
translated by Constance Garnett
Sergei Ivanovich Koznishev wanted a rest from mental work, and
instead of going abroad as he usually did, he came toward 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 Nikolai that summer. But
in spite of his affection and respect for Sergei Ivanovich, Konstantin
Levin was uncomfortable with his brother in the country. It made him
uncomfortable, and it even 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 Sergei Ivanovich the
country meant on one hand rest from work, on the other a valuable
antidote to laxness——an antidote which he took with satisfaction and a
sense of its salutariness. To Konstantin Levin the country was good
because it afforded a field for labor, of the usefulness of which
there could be no doubt; to Sergei Ivanovich the country was
particularly good, because there it was possible and fitting to do
nothing. Moreover, Sergei Ivanovich's attitude toward "the people"
rather piqued Konstantin. Sergei Ivanovich used to say that he knew
and liked "the people," 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
people" and in confirmation of his knowing them. Konstantin Levin did
not like such an attitude toward "the people." To Konstantin "the
people" was simply the chief partner in the 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), Konstantin as a fellow worker with them, while
sometimes enthusiastic over the vigor, gentleness, and justice of
these men, was very often, when their common labors called for other
qualities, exasperated with the peasant for his carelessness,
slovenliness, drunkenness and lying. If he had been asked whether he
liked or didn't like "the people," Konstantin Levin would have been
absolutely at a loss what to reply. He liked and did not like "the
people," just as he liked and did not like men in general. Of course,
being a goodhearted man, he liked men more than he disliked them, and
so too with "the people." But like or dislike "the people" as
something peculiar 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
peculiar qualities or failings distinguishing himself from "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 forty verstas 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
people" 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 Sergei Ivanovich 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 people" in contradistinction to the class
of men he did not like, and so too he knew "the people" as something
distinct from, and opposed to, men in general. 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 people" and
his sympathetic attitude toward them.
In the discussions that arose between the brothers on their views
of "the people," Sergei Ivanovich always got the better of his
brother, precisely because Sergei Ivanovich 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
In Sergei Ivanovich'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 some one 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 Sergei Ivanovich,
and many other people who worked for the public welfare, were not led
by any impulse of the heart to care for the public good, but reasoned
from intellectual considerations that it was a right thing to take an
interest in public affairs, and consequently took an interest in them.
Levin was confirmed in this conjecture 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 the country, especially in summertime, 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 Sergei
Ivanovich was merely 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 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. Sergei
Ivanovich 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 manure would be carted
into fields not plowed ready for it, and heaped up God knows how; and
the shares in the plows would not be screwed in, so that they would
come off, and then his men would say the new plows were a silly
invention, and there was nothing like the old wooden plow, and so on.
"Come, you've done enough trudging about in the heat," Sergei
Ivanovich would say to him.
"No, I must just run round to the countinghouse for a minute,"
Levin would answer, and would run off to the fields.
Early in June Agathya Mikhailovna, the old nurse and housekeeper,
in carrying to the cellar a jar of mushrooms she had just pickled,
happened to slip, fall and sprain her wrist. The district doctor, a
talkative young medico who had just finished his studies, came to see
her. He examined the wrist, said it was not luxated, bandaged it, and
being asked to dinner evidently was delighted at a chance of talking
to the celebrated Sergei Ivanovich 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 Zemstvo affairs had fallen. Sergei
Ivanovich 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 animated frame of mind his brother knew so well, which
always, with him, followed a brilliant and animated conversation.
After the departure of the doctor, he wanted to go with a fishing rod
to the river. Sergei Ivanovich 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 plowland and
the meadows, had come to take his brother in the cabriolet.
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-plowed over, with paths left
untouched by the plow; when the odor from the dry manure heaps carted
into the fields mingles at sunset with the smell of meadowsweet, and
on the low-lying lands the preserved meadows are a thick sea of grass
waiting for the mowing, with blackened heaps of sorrel stalks among
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 claiming all the peasant's thews. The crop was a
splendid one, and bright, hot summer days had set in with short, dewy
The brothers had to drive through the woods to reach the meadows.
Sergei Ivanovich 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 could not help thinking 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
manure, and in parts even plowed. A string of telegas was moving
across it. Levin counted the telegas, 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 peculiar
moving him to the quick at haymaking. 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, Sergei Ivanovich asked
his brother to drive him in the cabriolet up to the willow tree from
which the perch were 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, tied 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 riverside spots.
Crossing the meadow, Konstantin Levin came out on the road, and
met an old man with a swollen eye, carrying a swarming basket with
"What? Taken a stray swarm, Fomich?" he asked.
"No, indeed, Konstantin Mitrich! All we can do to keep our own!
This is the second new swarm that has flown away.... Luckily the lads
caught them. They were plowing your field. They unyoked the horses and
galloped after them."
"Well, what do you say, Fomich——start mowing or wait a bit?"
"Well, now! 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 even the weather will favor us."
Levin walked up to his brother.
Sergei Ivanovich 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 fine. That's the best thing
about every part of sport, that one has to do with nature. How
exquisite this steely water is!" said Sergei Ivanovich. "These
riverside banks always remind me of the riddle——do you know it? 'The
grass says to the river: we quiver and we quiver.'"
"I don't know the riddle," answered Levin cheerlessly.
"Do you know I've been thinking about you," said Sergei Ivanovich.
"It's beyond everything what's being done in the district, according
to what this doctor tells me. He's a very intelligent fellow. And as
I've told you before, I tell you again: it's not right for you not to
go to the meetings, and to keep out of the Zemstvo affairs entirely.
If decent people won't go into it, of course it's bound to go all
wrong. We pay the money, and it all goes in salaries, and there are no
schools, nor district dressers, nor midwives, nor pharmacies——
"Well, I did try, you know," Levin said gently and unwillingly. "I
can't! And so there's no help for it."
"But why can't you? I must own I can't make it out. Indifference,
incapacity——I won't admit; surely it's not simply laziness?"
"None of those things. I've tried, and I see I can do nothing,"
He had hardly grasped what his brother was saying. Looking toward
the plowland across the river, he made out something black, but he
could not distinguish whether it was a horse or the bailiff on
"Why is it you can do nothing? You made an attempt and didn't
succeed, as you think, and you give in. How can you have so little
"Ambition!" said Levin, stung to the quick by his brother's words;
"I don't understand. If they'd told me at college that other people
understood the integral calculus, and I didn't, then ambition would
have come in. But in this case one wants first to be convinced that
one has certain abilities for this sort of business, and especially
that all this business is of great importance."
"What! Do you mean to say it's not of importance?" said Sergei
Ivanovich, stung to the quick in his turn by his brother's considering
of no importance anything that interested him, and still more at his
obviously paying little attention to what he was saying.
"I don't think it important; it does not take hold of me——I can't
help it," answered Levin, making out that what he saw was the bailiff,
and that the bailiff seemed to be letting the peasants go off the
plowed land. They were turning the plow over. "Can they have finished
plowing?" he wondered.
"Come, really though," said the elder brother, with a frown on his
handsome, clever face, "there's a limit to everything. It's very well
to be original and genuine, and to dislike everything hypocritical——I
know all about that; but really, what you're saying either has no
meaning, or it has a very wrong meaning. How can you think it a matter
of no importance whether 'the people,' whom you love as you assert..."
"I never did assert it," thought Konstantin Levin.
"...die without help? The ignorant peasant women starve the
children, and the people stagnate in darkness, and are helpless in the
hands of every village clerk, while you have at your disposal a means
of helping them, and don't help them because to your mind it's of no
And Sergei Ivanovich put before him the dilemma: Either you are so
undeveloped that you can't see all that you can do, or you won't
sacrifice your ease, your vanity, or whatever it is, to do it.
Konstantin Levin felt that there was no course open to him but to
submit, or to confess to a lack of zeal for the public good. And this
mortified him and hurt his feelings.
"It's both," he said resolutely; "I don't see that it is
"What! Is it impossible, if the money were properly laid out, to
provide medical aid?"
"Impossible, as it seems to me.... For the four thousand square
verstas of our district, what with our undersnow waters, and the
storms, and the work in the fields, I don't see how it is possible to
provide medical aid all over. And besides, I don't believe in
"Oh, well, that's unfair.... I can quote to you thousands of
instances.... But the schools, at least?"
"Why have schools?"
"What do you mean? Can there be two opinions of the advantage of
education? If it's a good thing for you, it's a good thing for
Konstantin Levin felt himself morally pinned against a wall, and
so he became heated, and unconsciously blurted out the chief cause of
his indifference to public business.
"Perhaps it may all be very good; but why should I worry myself
about establishing dispensaries which I shall never make use of, and
schools to which I shall never send my children, to which even the
peasants don't want to send their children, and to which I've no very
firm faith that they ought to send them?" said he.
Sergei Ivanovich was for a minute surprised at this unexpected
view of the subject; but he promptly made a new plan of attack.
He was silent for a little, drew out a hook, threw it in again,
and turned to his brother smiling.
"Come, now.... In the first place, the dispensary is needed. We
ourselves sent for the district doctor for Agathya Mikhailovna."
"Oh, well, but I fancy her wrist will never be straight again."
"That remains to be proved.... Next, the peasant who can read and
write is as a workman of more use and value to you."
"No; you can ask anyone you like," Konstantin Levin answered with
decision, "the man that can read and write is much inferior as a
workman. And mending the highroads is an impossibility; and as soon as
they put up bridges they're stolen."
"Still, that's not the point," said Sergei Ivanovich, frowning. He
disliked contradiction, and still more, arguments that were
continually skipping from one thing to another, introducing new and
disconnected points, so that there was no knowing to which to reply.
"Let me say. Do you admit that education is a benefit for the people?"
"Yes, I admit it," said Levin without thinking, and he was
conscious immediately that he had said what he did not think. He felt
that if he admitted that, it would be proved that he had been talking
meaningless rubbish. How it would be proved he could not tell, but he
knew that this would inevitably be logically proved to him, and he
awaited the proofs.
The argument turned out to be far simpler than Konstantin Levin
"If you admit that it is a benefit," said Sergei Ivanovich, "then,
as an honest man, you cannot help caring about it and sympathizing
with the movement, and so wishing to work for it."
"But I still do not admit this movement to be good," said
Konstantin Levin, reddening.
"What! But you just said now..."
"That's to say, I don't admit it's being either good or possible."
"That you can't tell without making the trial."
"Well, supposing that is so," said Levin, though he did not
suppose so at all, "supposing that is so, still I don't see, all the
same, why I should worry myself about it."
"No; since we are talking, explain it to me from the philosophical
point of view," said Levin.
"I can't see where philosophy comes in," said Sergei Ivanovich, in
a tone, Levin fancied, as though he did not admit his brother's right
to talk about philosophy. And that irritated Levin.
"I'll tell you, then," he said with heat, "I imagine the
mainspring of all our actions is, after all, self-interest. Now in the
Zemstvo institutions I, as a nobleman, see nothing that could conduce
to my prosperity. The roads are not better and could not be better; my
horses carry me well enough over bad ones. Doctors and dispensaries
are of no use to me. A justice of the peace is of no use to me——I
never appeal to him, and never shall appeal to him. The schools are of
no good to me, but positively harmful, as I told you. For me the
Zemstvo institutions simply mean the liability of paying eighteen
kopecks for every dessiatina, of driving into the town, sleeping with
bedbugs, and listening to all sorts of idiocy and blather, and
self-interest offers me no inducement."
"Excuse me," Sergei Ivanovich interposed with a smile,
"self-interest did not induce us to work for the emancipation of the
serfs, yet we did work for it."
"No!" Konstantin Levin broke in with still greater heat; "the
emancipation of the serfs was a different matter. There self-interest
did come in. One longed to throw off that yoke that crushed us——all
the decent people among us. But to be a member of the Zemstvo and
discuss how many street cleaners are needed, and how sewers shall be
constructed in the town in which I don't live——to serve on a jury and
try a peasant who has stolen a flitch of bacon, and listen for six
hours at a stretch to all sorts of jabber from the counsel for the
defense and the prosecution, and the president cross-examining my old
simpleton Alioshka: 'Do you admit, prisoner at the bar, the fact of
the removal of the bacon'——'Eh?'"
Konstantin Levin had warmed to his subject, and began mimicking
the president and the half-witted Alioshka: it seemed to him that it
was all to the point.
But Sergei Ivanovich shrugged his shoulders.
"Well, what do you mean to say, then?"
"I simply mean to say that those rights that touch me... my
interest, I shall always defend to the best of my ability; that when
raids were made on us students, and the police read our letters, I was
ready to defend those rights to the utmost, to defend my rights to
education and freedom. I can understand compulsory military service,
which affects my children, my brothers, and myself——I am ready to
deliberate on what concerns me; but deliberating on how to spend forty
thousand roubles of Zemstvo's money, or judging the half-witted
Alioshka——that I don't understand, and I can't do it."
Konstantin Levin spoke as though the floodgates of his speech had
burst open. Sergei Ivanovich smiled.
"But tomorrow it'll be your turn to be tried; would it have suited
your tastes better to be tried in the old criminal court?"
"I'm not going to be tried. I shan't murder anybody, and I've no
need of it. Well, I tell you what," he went on, flying off again to a
subject quite beside the point, "our district self-government and all
the rest of it——it's just like the birch saplings we stick in the
ground, as we would do it on Trinity Day, to look like a copse which
has grown up of itself in Europe, and I can't gush over these birch
saplings and believe in them."
Sergei Ivanovich merely shrugged his shoulders, as though to
express his wonder how the birch saplings had come into their argument
at that point, though he did really understand at once what his
"Excuse me, but you know one really can't argue in that way," he
But Konstantin Levin wanted to justify himself for the failing, of
which he was conscious, of a lack of zeal for the public welfare, and
he went on.
"I imagine," Konstantin said, "that no sort of activity is likely
to be lasting if it is not founded on self-interest——that's a
universal principle, a philosophical principle," he said, repeating
the word "philosophical" with determination, as though wishing to show
that he had as much right as anyone else to talk of philosophy.
Sergei Ivanovich smiled. "He too has a philosophy of his own at
the service of his natural tendencies," he thought.
"Come, you'd better let philosophy alone," he said. "The chief
problem of the philosophy of all ages consists precisely in finding
that indispensable connection which exists between individual and
social interests. But that's not to the point; what is to the point is
a correction I must make in your comparison. The birches are not
simply stuck in, but some are sown and some are planted, and one must
deal carefully with them. It's only those peoples that have an
intuitive sense of what's of importance and significance in their
institutions, and know how to value them, who have a future before
them——it's only those peoples that one can truly call historical."
And Sergei Ivanovich carried the subject into the regions of
philosophical history where Konstantin Levin could not follow him, and
showed him all the incorrectness of his outlook.
"As for your dislike of it——excuse my saying so——that's simply our
Russian sloth and old serfowners' ways, and I'm convinced that in you
it's a temporary error and will pass."
Konstantin was silent. He felt himself vanquished on all sides,
but he felt at the same time that what he wanted to say was
unintelligible to his brother. Only he could not make up his mind
whether it was unintelligible because he was not capable of expressing
his meaning clearly, or because his brother would not or could not
understand him. But he did not pursue the speculation, and, without
replying, he fell to musing on a quite different and personal matter.
Sergei Ivanovich wound up the last line, unhitched the horse, and
they drove off.
The personal matter that absorbed Levin during his conversation
with his brother was this. Once, the year previous, he had gone to
look at the mowing, and being made very angry by the bailiff he had
had recourse to his favorite means for regaining his temper——he had
taken a scythe from a peasant and begun mowing.
He liked the work so much that he had several times tried his hand
at mowing since. He had cut the whole of the meadow in front of his
house, and this year, ever since the early spring, he had cherished a
plan for mowing for whole days together with the peasants. Ever since
his brother's arrival he had been in doubt as to whether to mow or
not. He was loath to leave his brother alone all day long, and he was
afraid his brother would laugh at him about it. But as he drove into
the meadow, and recalled the sensations of mowing, he came near
deciding that he would go mowing. After the irritating discussion with
his brother, he pondered over this intention again.
"I must have physical exercise, or my temper'll certainly be
ruined," he thought, and he determined he would go mowing, however
awkward he might feel about it with his brother or the peasants.
Toward evening Konstantin Levin went to his countinghouse, gave
directions as to the work to be done, and sent about the village to
summon the mowers for the morrow, to cut the hay in Kalinov meadow,
the largest and best of his grasslands.
"And send my scythe, please, to Tit, for him to set it, and bring
it round tomorrow. I may do some mowing myself, too," he said, trying
not to be embarrassed.
The bailiff smiled and said:
At tea the same evening Levin said to his brother too.
"I fancy the fine weather will last," said he. "Tomorrow I shall
"I'm so fond of that form of field labor," said Sergei Ivanovich.
"I'm awfully fond of it. I sometimes mow myself with the peasants,
and tomorrow I want to try mowing the whole day."
Sergei Ivanovich lifted his head, and looked with curiosity at his
"How do you mean? Just like one of the peasants, all day long?"
"Yes, it's very pleasant," said Levin.
"It's splendid as exercise, only you'll hardly be able to stand
it," said Sergei Ivanovich, without a shade of irony.
"I've tried it. It's hard work at first, but you get into it. I
dare say I shall manage to keep it up...."
"Oh, so that's it! But tell me, how do the peasants look at it? I
suppose they laugh in their sleeves at their master's being such a
"No, I don't think so; but it's so delightful, and at the same
time such hard work, that one has no time to think about it."
"But how will you do about dining with them? To send you a bottle
of Lafitte and roast turkey out there would be a little awkward."
"No, I'll simply come home at the time of their noonday rest."
Next morning Konstantin Levin got up earlier than usual, but he
was detained giving directions on the farm, and when he reached the
mowing grass the mowers were already at their second swath.
From the uplands he could get a view of the shaded cut part of the
meadow below, with the grayish swaths and the black heaps of coats,
taken off by the mowers at the place from which they had started
Gradually, as he rode toward the meadow, the peasants came into
sight, some in coats, some in their shirts, mowing, one behind another
in a long string, each swinging his scythe in his own way. He counted
forty-two of them.
They were mowing slowly over the uneven, low-lying parts of the
meadow, where there had been an old dam. Levin recognized some of his
own men. Here was old Iermil in a very long white smock, bending
forward to swing a scythe; there was a young fellow, Vaska, who had
been a coachman of Levin's, taking every swath with a wide sweep.
Here, too, was Tit, Levin's preceptor in the art of mowing, a thin
little peasant. He went on ahead, and cut his wide swath without
bending, as though playing with his scythe.
Levin got off his mare, and fastening her up by the roadside went
to meet Tit, who took a second scythe out of a bush and gave it him.
"It's ready, sir; it's like a razor——it cuts of itself," said Tit,
taking off his cap with a smile and giving him the scythe.
Levin took the scythe, and began trying it. As they finished their
swaths, the mowers, hot and good-humored, came out into the road one
after another, and smirking, greeted the master. They all stared at
him, but no one made any remark, till a tall old man, with a wrinkled,
beardless face, wearing a short sheepskin jacket, came out into the
road and accosted him.
"Look'ee now, master, once take hold of the rope, there's no
letting go!" he said, and Levin heard smothered laughter among the
"I'll try not to let it go," he said, taking his stand behind Tit,
and waiting for the time to begin.
"Mind'ee," repeated the old man.
Tit made room, and Levin started behind him. The grass was short
close to the road, and Levin, who had not done any mowing for a long
while, and was disconcerted by the eyes fastened upon him, cut badly
for the first moments, though he swung his scythe vigorously. Behind
him he heard voices:
"It's not set right; handle's too high; see how he has to stoop to
it," said one.
"Press more on the heel of the scythe," said another.
"Never mind, he'll get on all right," the old man resumed. "See,
he's made a start.... You swing it too wide, you'll tire yourself
out.... The master, sure, does his best for himself! But see the grass
missed out! For such work us fellows would catch it!"
The grass became lusher, and Levin, listening without answering,
followed Tit, trying to do the best he could. They moved a hundred
paces. Tit kept moving on, without stopping, nor showing the slightest
weariness, but Levin was already beginning to fear he would not be
able to keep it up——so tired was he.
He felt as he swung his scythe that he was at the very end of his
strength, and was making up his mind to ask Tit to stop. But at that
very moment Tit stopped of his own accord, and, stooping down, picked
up some grass, rubbed his scythe, and began whetting it. Levin
straightened himself, and drawing a deep breath looked round. Behind
him came a peasant, and he too was evidently tired, for he stopped at
once without waiting to mow up to Levin, and began whetting his
scythe. Tit sharpened his scythe and Levin's, and they went on.
The next time it was just the same. Tit moved on with sweep after
sweep of his scythe, without stopping or showing signs of weariness.
Levin followed him, trying not to get left behind, and he found it
harder and harder: the moment came when he felt he had no strength
left, but at that very moment Tit stopped and whetted the scythes.
So they mowed the first row. And this long row seemed particularly
hard work to Levin; but when the end was reached, and Tit, shouldering
his scythe, began with deliberate stride returning on the tracks left
by his heels in the cut grass, and Levin walked back in the same way
over the space he had cut, in spite of the sweat that ran in streams
over his face and fell in drops down his nose, and drenched his back
as though he had been soaked in water, he felt very happy. What
delighted him particularly was that now he knew he would be able to
His pleasure was only disturbed by his swath not being well cut.
"I will swing less with my arm and more with my whole body," he
thought, comparing Tit's swath, which looked as if it had been cut
along a surveyor's cord, with his own scattered and irregularly lying
The first swath, as Levin noticed, Tit had mowed especially
quickly, probably wishing to put his master to the test, and the swath
happened to be a long one. The next swaths were easier, but still
Levin had to strain every nerve not to drop behind the peasants.
He thought of nothing, wished for nothing, save not to be left
behind the peasants, and to do his work as well as possible. He heard
nothing save the swish of scythes, and saw before him Tit's upright
figure mowing away, the crescent-shaped curve of the cut grass, the
grass and flowers slowly and rhythmically falling before the blade of
his scythe, and ahead of him the end of the swath, where would come
Suddenly, in the midst of his toil, without understanding what it
was or whence it came, he felt a pleasant sensation of chill on his
hot, moist shoulders. He glanced at the sky in the interval for
whetting the scythes. A heavy, lowering storm cloud had blown up, and
big raindrops were falling. Some of the peasants went to their coats
and put them on; others——just like Levin himself——merely shrugged
their shoulders, enjoying the pleasant coolness of it.
Another swath, and yet another swath followed——long swaths and
short swaths, with good grass and with poor grass. Levin lost all
sense of time, and could not have told whether it were late or early
now. A change began to come over his work, which gave him immense
satisfaction. In the midst of his toil there were moments during which
he forgot what he was doing, and it all came easy to him, and at those
same moments his swath was almost as smooth and well cut as Tit's. But
as soon as he recollected what he was doing, and began trying to do
better, he was at once conscious of all the difficulty of his task,
and the swath was badly mown.
On finishing yet another swath he would have gone back to the top
of the meadow again to begin the next, but Tit stopped, and going up
to the old man said something in a low voice to him. They both looked
at the sun. "What are they talking about, and why doesn't he go back?"
thought Levin, without guessing that the peasants had been mowing no
less than four hours without stopping, and that it was time for their
"Lunch, sir," said the old man.
"Is it really time? Lunch it is, then."
Levin gave his scythe to Tit, and, together with the peasants, who
were crossing the long stretch of mown grass, slightly sprinkled with
rain, to get their bread from the heap of coats, he went toward his
horse. Only then did he suddenly awake to the fact that he had been
wrong about the weather and that the rain was drenching his hay.
"The hay will be spoiled," he said.
"Not a bit of it, sir; mow in the rain, and you'll rake in fine
weather!" said the old man.
Levin untied his horse and rode home to his coffee.
Sergei Ivanovich was just getting up. When he had drunk his
coffee, Levin rode back again to the mowing before Sergei Ivanovich
had had time to dress and come down to the dining room.
After lunch Levin was not in the same place in the string of
mowers as before, but stood between the old man who had accosted him
jocosely, and now invited him to be his neighbor, and a young peasant,
who had only been married in the autumn, and who was mowing this
summer for the first time.
The old man, holding himself erect, moved in front, with his feet
turned out, taking long, regular strides, and with a precise and
regular action which seemed to cost him no more effort than swinging
one's arms in walking, as though it were in play, he laid down the
high, even swath of grass. It was as though it were not he but the
sharp scythe of itself swishing through the juicy grass.
Behind Levin came the lad Mishka. His comely, youthful face, with
a twist of fresh grass bound round his hair, was all working with
effort; but whenever anyone looked at him he smiled. He would clearly
have died sooner than own it was hard work for him.
Levin kept between them. In the very heat of the day the mowing
did not seem such hard work to him. The perspiration with which he was
drenched cooled him, while the sun, that burned his back, his head,
and his arms, bare to the elbow, gave a vigor and dogged energy to his
labor; and more and more often now came those moments of
unconsciousness, when it was possible not to think of what one was
doing. The scythe cut of itself. These were happy moments. Still more
delightful were the moments when they reached the stream where the
swaths ended, and the old man rubbed his scythe with the wet, thick
grass, rinsed its blade in the fresh water of the stream, ladled out a
little in a whetstone case, and offered Levin a drink.
"What do you say to my kvass, eh? Good, eh?" he would say, winking.
And truly Levin had never drunk any liquor as good as this warm
water with green bits floating in it, and a taste of rust from the tin
whetstone case. And immediately after this came the delicious, slow
saunter, with his hand on the scythe, during which he could wipe away
the streaming sweat, take deep breaths of air, and look about at the
long string of mowers, and at what was happening around in the forest
and the field.
The longer Levin mowed, the oftener he felt the moments of
unconsciousness in which it seemed that it was not his hands which
swung the scythe, but that the scythe was moving together with itself
a body full of life and consciousness of its own; and as though by
magic, without thinking of it, the work turned out regular and
well-finished of itself. These were the most blissful moments.
It was only hard work when he had to break off the motion, which
had become unconscious, and to think; when he had to mow round a
hummock or an unweeded tuft of sorrel. The old man did this easily.
When a hummock came he changed his action, and at one time with the
heel, and at another with the tip of his scythe, clipped the hummock
round both sides with short strokes. And while he did this he kept
looking about and watching what came into his view: at one moment he
picked a wild berry and ate it or offered it to Levin, then he flung
away a twig with the blade of the scythe, then he looked at a quail's
nest, from which the bird flew just under the scythe, or caught a
snake that crossed his path, and lifting it on the scythe as though on
a fork showed it to Levin and threw it away.
For both Levin and the young peasant behind him, such changes of
position were difficult. Both of them, repeating over and over again
the same strained movement, were in a perfect frenzy of toil, and were
incapable of shifting their position and at the same time watching
what was before them.
Levin did not notice how time was passing. If he had been asked
how long he had been working he would have said half an hour——yet it
was getting on to dinnertime. As they were walking back over the cut
grass, the old man called Levin's attention to the little girls and
boys who were coming from different directions, hardly visible through
the long grass, and along the road toward the mowers, carrying sacks
of bread that stretched their little arms, and lugging small pitchers
of kvass, stopped up with rags.
"Look'ee at the little doodlebugs crawling!" he said, pointing to
them, and he shaded his eyes with his hand to look at the sun.
They mowed two more swaths; the old man stopped.
"Come, master, dinnertime!" he said decidedly. And on reaching the
stream the mowers moved off across the swaths toward their pile of
coats, where the children who had brought their dinners were sitting
waiting for them. The peasants gathered——those who came from afar
under their telegas, those who lived near under a willow bush, covered
Levin sat down by them; he felt disinclined to go away.
All constraint with the master had disappeared long ago. The
peasants got ready for dinner. Some washed, the young lads bathed in
the stream, others made a place comfortable for a rest, untied their
sacks of bread, and uncovered the pitchers of kvass. The old man
crumbled up some bread in a cup, stirred it with the handle of a
spoon, poured water on it from his whetstone case, broke up some more
bread, and having seasoned it with salt, he turned to the east to say
"Come, master, taste my sop," said he, kneeling down before the
The sop was so good that Levin gave up the idea of going home for
dinner. He ate with the old man, and talked to him about his family
affairs, taking the keenest interest in them, and told him about his
own affairs and all the circumstances that could be of interest to the
old man. He felt much nearer to him than to his brother, and could not
help smiling at the affection he felt for this man. When the old man
got up again, said his prayer, and lay down under a bush, putting some
grass under his head for a pillow, Levin did the same, and, in spite
of the clinging flies that were so persistent in the sunshine, and the
midges that tickled his hot face and body, he fell asleep at once and
only waked when the sun had passed to the other side of the bush and
reached him. The old man had been awake a long while, and was sitting
up whetting the scythes of the younger lads.
Levin looked about him and hardly recognized the place, everything
was so changed. The immense stretch of meadow had been mown and was
sparkling with a peculiar fresh brilliance, with its lines of already
sweet-smelling grass in the slanting rays of the evening sun. And the
bushes about the river, mowed around, and the river itself, not
visible before, now gleaming, like steel in its bends, and the moving,
ascending peasants, and the sharp wall of grass of the unmown part of
the meadow, and the hawks hovering over the stripped meadow——all was
perfectly new. Raising himself, Levin began considering how much had
been cut and how much more could still be done that day.
The work done was exceptionally great for forty-two men. They had
cut the whole of the big meadow, which had, in the years of corvee,
taken thirty scythes two days to mow. Only the corners remained to do,
where the swaths were short. But Levin felt a longing to get as much
mowing done that day as possible, and was vexed with the sun sinking
so quickly in the sky. He felt no weariness; all he wanted was to get
his work done more and more quickly, and as much of it as possible.
"Could we cut the Mashkin Upland too?——what do you think?" he said
to the old man.
"As God wills——the sun's not high. A little vodka for the lads?"
At the afternoon rest, when they were sitting down again, and
those who smoked had lighted their pipes, the old man told the men
that "the Mashkin Upland's to be cut——there'll be vodka."
"Why not cut it? Come on, Tit! We'll look sharp! We can eat at
night. Come on!" voices cried out, and eating up their bread, the
mowers went back to work.
"Come, lads, keep it up!" said Tit, and ran on ahead almost at a
"Get along, get along!" said the old man, hurrying after him and
easily overtaking him, "I'll mow thee down, look out!"
And young and old mowed away, as though they were racing with one
another. But however fast they worked, they did not spoil the grass,
and the swaths were laid just as neatly and exactly. The little piece
left uncut in the corner was mown in five minutes. The last of the
mowers were just ending their swaths while the foremost snatched up
their coats onto their shoulders, and crossed the road toward the
The sun was already sinking among the trees when they went with
their jingling whetstone cases into the wooded ravine of the Mashkin
Upland. The grass was up to their waists in the middle of the hollow,
lush, tender, and feathery, spotted here and there among the trees
with wild heartsease.
After a brief consultation——whether to take the swaths lengthwise
or diagonally——Prokhor Iermilin, also a doughty mower, a huge,
black-haired peasant, went on ahead. He went up to the top, turned
back again and started mowing, and they all proceeded to form in line
behind him, going downhill through the hollow and uphill right up to
the edge of the forest. The sun sank behind the forest. The dew was
falling by now; the mowers were in the sun only on the hillside, but
below, where a mist was rising, and on the opposite side, they mowed
into the fresh, dewy shade. The work went rapidly.
The spicily fragrant grass cut with a succulent sound, was at once
laid in high swaths. The mowers from all sides, brought closer
together in the short swath, kept urging one another on to the sound
of jingling whetstone cases, and clanging scythes, and the hiss of the
whetstones sharpening them, and good-humored shouts.
Levin still kept between the young peasant and the old man. The
old man, who had put on his short sheepskin jacket, was just as
good-humored, jocose, and free in his movements. Among the trees they
were continually cutting with their scythes the so-called "birch
mushrooms," swollen fat in the succulent grass. But the old man bent
down every time he came across a mushroom, picked it up and put it in
his bosom. "Another present for my old woman," he would say as he did
Easy as it was to mow the wet, lush grass, it was hard work going
up and down the steep sides of the ravine. But this did not trouble
the old man. Swinging his scythe just as ever, and moving his feet in
their big, plaited bast sandals, with firm short steps, he climbed
slowly up the steep place, and though his breeches hanging out below
his smock, and his whole frame, trembled with effort, he did not miss
one blade of grass or one mushroom on his way, and kept making jokes
with the peasants and Levin. Levin walked after him and often thought
he must fall, as he climbed with a scythe up a steep hillock, where it
would have been hard work to clamber even without the scythe. But he
climbed up and did what he had to do. He felt as though some external
force were moving him.
The Mashkin Upland was mown, the last swaths finished, the
peasants had put on their coats and were gaily trudging home. Levin
got on his horse, and, parting regretfully from the peasants, rode
homeward. On the hillside he looked back; he could not see them in the
mist that had risen from the valley; he could only hear their rough,
good-humored voices, their laughter, and the sound of clanking
Sergei Ivanovich had long ago finished dinner, and was drinking
iced lemonade in his own room, looking through the reviews and papers
which he had just received by post, when Levin rushed into the room,
talking merrily, with his wet and matted hair sticking to his
forehead, and his back and chest grimed and moist.
"We mowed the whole meadow! Oh, it is fine, wonderful! And how
have you been getting on?" said Levin, completely forgetting the
disagreeable conversation of the previous day.
"Dear me! What you look like!" said Sergei Ivanovich, for the
first moment looking round with some dissatisfaction. "And the door——
do shut the door!" he cried. "You must have let in a dozen at least."
Sergei Ivanovich could not endure flies, and in his own room he
never opened the window except at night, and carefully kept the door
"Not one, on my honor. But if I have, I'll catch them. You
wouldn't believe what a pleasure mowing is! How have you spent the
"Very well. But have you really been mowing the whole day? I
expect you're as hungry as a wolf. Kouzma has got everything ready for
"No, I don't feel hungry even. I had something to eat there. But
I'll go and wash."
"Yes, go along, go along, and I'll come to you directly," said
Sergei Ivanovich, shaking his head as he looked at his brother. "Go
along, make haste," he added smiling, and, gathering up his books, he
prepared to go too. He, too, felt suddenly good-humored and
disinclined to leave his brother's side. "But what did you do while it
"Rain? Why, there was scarcely a drop. I'll come directly. So you
had a good day too? That's first-rate." And Levin went off to change
Five minutes later the brothers met in the dining room. Although
it seemed to Levin that he was not hungry, and he sat down to dinner
simply so as not to hurt Kouzma's feelings, yet when he began to eat
the dinner struck him as extraordinarily good. Sergei Ivanovich
watched him with a smile.
"Oh, by the way, there's a letter for you," said he. "Kouzma,
bring it from below, please. And mind you shut the doors."
The letter was from Oblonsky. Levin read it aloud. Oblonsky wrote
to him from Peterburg: "I have had a letter from Dolly; she's at
Ergushovo, and everything seems going wrong there. Do ride over and
see her, please; help her with advice; you know all about it. She will
be so glad to see you. She's quite alone, poor thing. My mother-in-law
and all of them are still abroad."
"That's capital! I will certainly ride over to her," said Levin.
"Or we'll go together. She's such a good woman, isn't she?"
"They're not far from here, then?"
"Thirty verstas. Or perhaps forty. But a capital road. It will be
a capital drive."
"I shall be delighted," said Sergei Ivanovich, still smiling.
The sight of his younger brother's appearance had immediately put
him in a good humor.
"Well, you have an appetite!" he said, looking at his dark-red,
sunburned face and neck bent over the plate.
"Splendid! You can't imagine what an effective remedy it is for
every sort of foolishness. I want to enrich medicine with a new word:
"Well, but you don't need it, I should fancy."
"No——but for all sorts of nervous invalids."
"Yes, it ought to be tried. I had meant to come to the mowing to
look at you, but it was so unbearably hot that I got no further than
the forest. I sat there a little, and went on by the forest to the
village, met your old nurse, and sounded her as to the peasant's view
of you. As far as I can make out, they don't approve of this. She
said: 'It's not a gentleman's work.' Altogether, I fancy that in the
people's ideas there are very clear and definite notions of certain,
as they call it, 'gentlemanly' lines of action. And they don't
sanction the gentlefolk's moving outside bounds clearly laid down in
"Maybe so; but anyway, it's a pleasure such as I have never known
in my life. And there's no harm in it, you know. Is there?" answered
Levin. "I can't help it if they don't like it. Though I do believe
it's all right. Eh?"
"Altogether," pursued Sergei Ivanovich, "you're satisfied with
"Quite satisfied. We cut the whole meadow. And I made friends with
such a splendid old man there! You can't fancy how delightful he was!"
"Well, so you're satisfied with your day. And so am I. First, I
solved two chess problems, and one a very pretty one——a pawn opening.
I'll show it to you. And then——I thought over our conversation of
"Eh! Our conversation of yesterday?" said Levin, blissfully
dropping his eyelids and drawing deep breaths after finishing his
dinner, and absolutely incapable of recalling what their conversation
of yesterday had been about.
"I think you are partly right. Our difference of opinion amounts
to this: that you make the mainspring self-interest, while I contend
that interest in the common weal is bound to exist in every man of a
certain degree of advancement. Possibly you are right too——that action
founded on material interest would be more desirable. You are
altogether, as the French say, too prime-sautiere a nature; you must
have intense, energetic action, or nothing."
Levin listened to his brother and did not understand a single
word, and did not want to understand. He was only afraid his brother
might ask him some question which would make it evident he had not
"So that's what I think it is, my dear boy," said Sergei
Ivanovich, touching him on the shoulder.
"Yes, of course. But, do you know? I won't stand up for my view,"
answered Levin, with a guilty, childlike smile. "Whatever was it I was
disputing about?" he wondered. "Of course, I'm right, and he's right,
and it's all first-rate. Only I must go round to the countinghouse and
see to things." He got up, stretching and smiling.
Sergei Ivanovich smiled too.
"If you want to go out, let's go together," he said, disinclined
to be parted from his brother, who seemed positively breathing out
freshness and energy. "Come, we'll go to the countinghouse, if you
have to go there."
"Oh, heavens!" shouted Levin, so loudly that Sergei Ivanovich was
"What, what is the matter?
"How's Agathya Mikhailovna's hand?" said Levin, slapping himself
on the head. "I'd positively forgotten her."
"It's much better."
"Well, anyway, I'll run down to her. Before you've time to get
your hat on, I'll be back."
And he ran downstairs, clattering with his heels like a spring
Stepan Arkadyevich had gone to Peterburg to perform the most
natural and essential official duty——so familiar to everyone in the
government service, though incomprehensible to outsiders——that duty
but for which one could hardly be in government service: of reminding
the ministry of his existence; and having, for the due performance of
this rite, taken all the available cash from home, was gaily and
agreeably spending his days at the races and in the summer villas.
Meanwhile Dolly and the children had moved into the country, to cut
down expenses as much as possible. She had gone to Ergushovo, the
estate that had been her dowry, and the one where in spring the forest
had been sold. It was nearly fifty verstas from Levin's Pokrovskoe.
The big old house at Ergushovo had been pulled down long ago, and
the old Prince had had the wing done up and added to. Twenty years
before, when Dolly was a child, the wing had been roomy and
comfortable, though, like all wings, it stood sideways to the entrance
avenue, and to the south. But by now this wing was old and
dilapidated. When Stepan Arkadyevich had gone down in the spring to
sell the forest, Dolly had begged him to look over the house and order
what repairs might be needed. Stepan Arkadyevich, like an unfaithful
husbands indeed, was very solicitous for his wife's comfort, and he
had himself looked over the house, and given instructions about
everything that he considered necessary. What he considered necessary
was to cover all the furniture with new cretonne, to put up curtains,
to weed the garden, to make a little bridge on the pond, and to plant
flowers. But he forgot many other essential matters, the want of which
greatly distressed Darya Alexandrovna later on.
In spite of Stepan Arkadyevich's efforts to be an attentive father
and husband, he never could keep in his mind that he had a wife and
children. He had bachelor tastes, and it was in accordance with them
that he shaped his life. On his return to Moscow he informed his wife
with pride that everything was ready, that the house would be a pretty
toy, and that he most certainly advised her to go. His wife's staying
away in the country was very agreeable to Stepan Arkadyevich from
every point of view: it did the children good, it decreased expenses,
and it left him more at liberty. Darya Alexandrovna regarded staying
in the country for the summer as essential for the children,
especially for the little girl, who had not succeeded in regaining her
strength after the scarlatina, and also as a means of escaping the
petty humiliations, the little bills owing to the wood merchant, the
fishmonger, the shoemaker, which made her miserable. Besides this, she
was pleased to go away to the country because she was dreaming of
getting her sister Kitty to stay with her there. Kitty was to be back
from abroad in the middle of the summer, and bathing had been
prescribed for her. Kitty wrote that no prospect was so alluring as to
spend the summer with Dolly at Ergushovo, full of childhood
associations for both of them.
The first days of her existence in the country were very hard for
Dolly. She used to stay in the country as a child, and the impression
she had retained of it was that the country was a refuge from all the
unpleasantness of the town, that life there, though not luxurious——
Dolly could easily make up her mind to that——was cheap and
comfortable; that there was plenty of everything, everything was
cheap, everything could be got, and children were happy. But now,
coming to the country as the head of a family, she perceived that it
was all utterly unlike what she had fancied.
The day after their arrival there was a heavy fall of rain and in
the night the water came through in the corridor and in the nursery,
so that the beds had to be carried into the drawing room. There was no
kitchenmaid to be found; of the nine cows, it appeared from the words
of the cowherd woman that some were about to calve, others had just
calved, others were old, and others again hard-uddered; there was
neither butter nor milk enough even for the children. There were no
eggs. They could get no fowls; old, purplish, stringy roosters were
all they had for roasting and boiling. Impossible to get women to
scrub the floors——all were potato hoeing. Driving was out of the
question, because one of the horses was restive, and bolted in the
shafts. There was no place where they could bathe; the whole of the
riverbank was trampled by the cattle and open to the road; even walks
were impossible, for the cattle strayed into the garden through a gap
in the hedge, and there was one terrible bull, who bellowed, and
therefore might be expected to gore somebody. There were no proper
cupboards for their clothes; what cupboards there were either would
not close at all, or flew open whenever anyone passed by them. There
were no pots and kettles; there was no boiler in the washhouse, nor
even an ironing board in the maids' room.
Finding instead of peace and rest all these, from her point of
view, fearful calamities, Darya Alexandrovna was at first in despair.
She exerted herself to the utmost, felt the hopelessness of the
position, and was every instant suppressing the tears that started
into her eyes. The bailiff, a retired quartermaster, whom Stepan
Arkadyevich had taken a fancy to and had appointed bailiff on account
of his handsome and respectful appearance as a hall porter, showed no
sympathy for Darya Alexandrovna's woes. He would say respectfully,
"Nothing can be done, the peasants are such a wretched lot," and did
nothing to help her.
The position seemed hopeless. But in the Oblonskys' household, as
in all families indeed, there was one inconspicuous but most valuable
and useful person——Matriona Philimonovna. She soothed her mistress,
assured her that everything would come round (it was her expression,
and Matvei had borrowed it from her), and without fuss or hurry
proceeded to set to work herself.
She had immediately made friends with the bailiff's wife, and on
the very first day she drank tea with her and the bailiff under the
acacias, and reviewed all the circumstances of the position. Very soon
Matriona Philimonovna had established her club, so to say, under the
acacias, and there it was, in this club, consisting of the bailiff's
wife, the village elder, and the countinghouse clerk, that the
difficulties of existence were gradually smoothed away, and in a
week's time everything actually had come round. The roof was mended, a
kitchenmaid was found——a crony of the village elder's——hens were
bought, the cows began giving milk, the garden hedge was stopped up
with stakes, the carpenter made a mangle, hooks were put in the
cupboards, and they ceased to fly open spontaneously and an ironing
board covered with army cloth was placed across from the arm of a
chair to the chest of drawers, and there was a smell of flatirons in
the maids' room.
"Just see, now, and you were quite in despair," said Matriona
Philimonovna, pointing to the ironing board.
They even rigged up a bathing shed of straw hurdles. Lily began to
bathe, and Darya Alexandrovna began to realize, if only in part, her
expectations, if not of a peaceful, at least of a comfortable, life in
the country. Peaceful with six children Darya Alexandrovna could not
be. One would fall ill, another might easily become so, a third would
be without something necessary, a fourth would show symptoms of a bad
disposition, and so on. Rare indeed were the brief periods of peace.
But these cares and anxieties were for Darya Alexandrovna the sole
happiness possible. Had it not been for them, she would have been left
alone to brood over her husband who did not love her. And besides,
hard though it was for the mother to bear the dread of illness, the
illnesses themselves, and the grief of seeing signs of evil
propensities in her children——the children themselves were even now
repaying her in small joys for her pains. Those joys were so small
that they passed unnoticed, like gold in sand, and at bad moments she
could see nothing but the pain, nothing but sand; but there were good
moments too when she saw nothing but the joy, nothing but gold.
Now, in the solitude of the country, she began to be more and more
frequently aware of those joys. Often, looking at them, she would make
every possible effort to persuade herself that she was mistaken, that
she as a mother was partial to her children. All the same, she could
not help saying to herself that she had charming children, all six of
them in different ways, but a set of children such as is not often to
be met with——and she was happy in them, and proud of them.
Toward the end of May, when everything had been more or less
satisfactorily arranged, she received her husband's answer to her
complaints of the disorganized state of things in the country. He
wrote begging her forgiveness for not having thought of everything
before, and promised to come down at the first chance. This chance did
not present itself, and till the beginning of June Darya Alexandrovna
stayed alone in the country.
On the Sunday in St. Peter's week Darya Alexandrovna drove to mass
to have all her children take the sacrament. Darya Alexandrovna in her
intimate, philosophical talks with her sister, her mother, and her
friends very often astonished them by the freedom of her views in
regard to religion. She had a strange religion, all her own, of the
transmigration of souls, in which she had firm faith, troubling
herself little about the dogmas of the Church. But in her family she
was strict in carrying out all that was required by the Church——and
not merely in order to set an example, but with all her heart. The
fact that the children had not been at the sacrament for nearly a year
worried her extremely, and with the full approval and sympathy of
Matriona Philimonovna she decided that this should take place now, in
For several days before Darya Alexandrovna was busily deliberating
on how to dress all the children. Frocks were made, or altered and
washed, seams and flounces were let out, buttons were sewn on and
ribbons got ready. One dress, Tania's, which the English governess had
undertaken, cost Darya Alexandrovna much loss of temper. The English
governess in altering it had made the seams in the wrong place, had
taken up the sleeves too much, and altogether spoiled the dress. It
was so narrow on Tania's shoulders that it was quite painful to look
at her. But Matriona Philimonovna had the happy thought of putting in
gussets, and adding a little shoulder-cape. The dress was set right,
but there was nearly a quarrel with the English governess. In the
morning, however, all was happily arranged, and about nine o'clock——
the time at which they had asked the priest to wait for them for the
mass——the children in their new dresses stood with beaming faces on
the step before the carriage, waiting for their mother.
In the carriage, instead of the restive Raven, they had harnessed,
thanks to the representations of Matriona Philimonovna, the bailiff's
horse, Brownie, and Darya Alexandrovna, delayed by anxiety over her
own attire, came out and got in, dressed in a white muslin gown.
Darya Alexandrovna had done her hair, and dressed with care and
excitement. In the old days she had dressed for her own sake, to look
pretty and be admired; later on, as she got older, dress became more
and more distasteful to her; she saw that she was losing her good
looks. But now she began to feel pleasure and interest in dress again.
Now she did not dress for her own sake, nor for the sake of her own
beauty, but simply that, as the mother of those exquisite creatures,
she might not spoil the general effect. And looking at herself for the
last time in the looking glass she was satisfied with herself. She
looked well. Not as well as she wished to look in the old days, at a
ball, but well for the object she now had in view.
In the church there was no one but the peasants, the servants, and
their womenfolk. But Darya Alexandrovna saw, or fancied she saw, the
sensation produced by her children and herself. The children were not
only beautiful to look at in their smart little dresses, but they were
charming in the way they behaved. Aliosha, it is true, did not stand
quite correctly; he kept turning round, trying to look at his little
jacket from behind; but all the same he was wonderfully sweet. Tania
behaved like a grown-up person, and looked after the little ones. And
the smallest, Lily, was bewitching in her naive astonishment at
everything, and it was difficult not to smile when, after taking the
sacrament, she said in English, "Please, some more."
On the way home the children felt that something solemn had
happened, and were very sedate.
Everything went happily at home too; but at lunch Grisha began
whistling, and, what was worse, was disobedient to the English
governess, and was forbidden to have any tart. Darya Alexandrovna
would not have let things go as far as the punishment on such a day
had she been present; but she had to support the English governess's
authority, and she upheld her decision that Grisha should have no
tart. This rather spoiled the general good humor.
Grisha cried, declaring that Nikolinka had whistled too, yet was
not punished, and that he wasn't crying for the tart——he didn't care——
but at being unjustly treated. This was really too tragic, and Darya
Alexandrovna made up her mind to persuade the English governess to
forgive Grisha, and she went to speak to her. But on her way, as she
passed the drawing room, she beheld a scene, filling her heart with
such pleasure that the tears came into her eyes, and she forgave the
The culprit was sitting at the window in the corner of the drawing
room; beside him was standing Tania with a plate. On the pretext of
wanting to give some dinner to her dolls, she had asked the
governess's permission to take her share of tart to the nursery, and
had taken it instead to her brother. While still weeping over the
injustice of his punishment, he was eating the tart, and kept saying
through his sobs, "Eat yourself; let's eat it together... together."
Tania had at first been under the influence of her pity for
Grisha, then of a sense of her noble action, and tears were standing
in her eyes too; but she did not refuse, and ate her share.
On catching sight of their mother they were dismayed, but, looking
into her face, they saw they were not doing wrong. They burst out
laughing, and, with their mouths full of tart, they began wiping their
smiling lips with their hands, and smearing their radiant faces all
over with tears and jam.
"Mercy! Your new white frock——Tania! Grisha!" said their mother,
trying to save the frock, but with tears in her eyes, smiling a
blissful, rapturous smile.
The new frocks were taken off, and orders were given for the
little girls to have their blouses put on, and the boys their old
jackets, and the wide droshky to be harnessed——with Brownie, to the
bailiff's annoyance, again in the shafts——to drive out for mushroom
picking and bathing. A roar of delighted shrieks arose in the nursery,
and never ceased till they had set off for the bathing place.
They gathered a whole basketful of mushrooms; even Lily found a
birch mushroom. It had always happened before that Miss Hoole found
them and pointed them out to her; but this time she found a big one
quite by herself, and there was a general scream of delight; "Lily has
found a mushroom!"
Then they reached the river, put the horses under the birch trees,
and went to the bathing place. The coachman, Terentii, hitched the
horses, who kept whisking away the horseflies, to a tree, and,
treading down the grass, lay down in the shade of a birch and smoked
his shag, while the never-ceasing shrieks of delight of the children
floated across to him from the bathing place.
Though it was hard work to look after all the children and
restrain their pranks, though it was difficult, too, to keep one's
head and not mix up all the stockings, little breeches, and shoes for
the different legs, and to undo and to do up again all the tapes and
buttons, Darya Alexandrovna, who had always liked bathing herself, and
believed it to be very good for the children, enjoyed nothing so much
as bathing with all the children. To go over all those fat little
legs, pulling on their stockings, to take in her arms and dip those
little naked bodies, and to hear their screams of delight and alarm,
to see the breathless faces with wide-open, scared, and happy eyes of
all her splashing cherubs, was a great pleasure to her.
When half the children had been dressed, some peasant women in
holiday dress, out picking herbs, came up to the bathing shed and
stopped shyly. Matriona Philimonovna called one of them and handed her
a sheet and a shirt that had dropped into the water for her to dry
them, and Darya Alexandrovna began to talk to the women. At first they
laughed behind their hands and did not understand her questions, but
soon they grew bolder and began to talk, winning Darya Alexandrovna's
heart at once by the genuine admiration of the children that they
"My, what a beauty! As white as sugar," said one, admiring
Tanechka, and shaking her head, "but thin...."
"Yes, she has been ill."
"Lookee, they've been bathing him too," said another, pointing to
the breast baby.
"No; he's only three months old," answered Darya Alexandrovna with
"And have you any children?"
"I've had four; I've two living——a boy and a girl. I weaned her
"How old is she?"
"Why, more than one year old."
"Why did you nurse her so long?"
"It's our custom; for three fasts...."
And the conversation became most interesting to Darya
Alexandrovna. What sort of time did she have? What was the matter with
the boy? Where was her husband? Did it often happen?
Darya Alexandrovna felt disinclined to leave the peasant women, so
interesting to her was their conversation, so completely identical
were all their interests. What pleased her most of all was that she
saw clearly what all the women admired more than anything was her
having so many children, and such fine ones. The peasant women even
made Darya Alexandrovna laugh, and offended the English governess,
because she was the cause of the laughter she did not understand. One
of the younger women kept staring at the Englishwoman, who was
dressing after all the rest, and when she put on her third petticoat
she could not refrain from the remark, "My, she keeps putting on and
putting on, and she'll never have done!" she said, and they all went
off into peals of laughter.
On the drive home, as Darya Alexandrovna, with all her children
round her, their heads still wet from their baths, and a kerchief tied
over her own head, was getting near the house, the coachman said:
"There's some gentleman coming: the master of Pokrovskoe, I do
Darya Alexandrovna peeped out in front, and was delighted when she
recognized in the gray hat and gray coat the familiar figure of Levin
walking to meet them. She was glad to see him at any time, but at this
moment she was specially glad he should see her in all her glory. No
one was better able to appreciate her grandeur than Levin.
Seeing her, he found himself face to face with one of the pictures
of his daydream of family life.
"You're like a hen with your brood, Darya Alexandrovna."
"Ah, how glad I am to see you!" she said, holding out her hand to
"Glad to see me——but you didn't let me know. My brother's staying
with me. I got a note from Stiva that you were here."
"From Stiva?" Darya Alexandrovna asked with surprise.
"Yes; he writes that you are here, and that he thinks you might
allow me to be of use to you," said Levin, and as he said it he became
suddenly embarrassed, and, stopping abruptly, he walked on in silence
by the droshky, snapping off the buds of the lime trees and nibbling
them. He was embarrassed through a sense that Darya Alexandrovna would
be annoyed by receiving from an outsider help that should by rights
have come from her own husband. Darya Alexandrovna certainly did not
like this little way of Stepan Arkadyevich's of foisting his domestic
duties on others. And she was at once aware that Levin was aware of
this. It was just for this fineness of perception, for this delicacy,
that Darya Alexandrovna liked Levin.
"I know, of course," said Levin, "that this simply means that you
would like to see me, and I'm exceedingly glad. Though I can fancy
that, used to town housekeeping as you are, you must feel you are in
the wilds here, and if there's anything wanted, I'm altogether at your
"Oh, no!" said Dolly. "At first things were rather uncomfortable,
but now we've settled everything capitally——thanks to my old nurse,"
she said, indicating Matriona Philimonovna, who, seeing that they were
speaking of her, smiled brightly and cordially to Levin. She knew him,
and knew that he would be a good match for her young lady, and was
very keen to see the matter settled.
"Won't you get in, sir, we'll make room on this side!" she said to
"No, I'll walk. Children, who'd like to race the horses with me?"
The children knew Levin very little, and could not remember when
they had seen him, but they experienced in regard to him none of that
strange feeling of shyness and hostility which children so often
experience toward hypocritical, grown-up people, and for which they
are so often and miserably punished. Hypocrisy in anything whatever
may deceive the cleverest and most penetrating man, but the least
wide-awake of children recognizes it, and is revolted by it, however
ingeniously it may be disguised. Whatever faults Levin had, there was
not a trace of hypocrisy in him, and so the children showed him the
same friendliness that they saw in their mother's face. On his
invitation, the two elder ones at once jumped out to him and ran with
him as simply as they would have done with their nurse, or Miss Hoole,
or their mother. Lily, too, began begging to go to him, and her mother
handed her over to him; he sat her on his shoulder and ran along with
"Don't be afraid, don't be afraid, Darya Alexandrovna!" he said,
smiling good-humoredly to the mother; "there's no chance of my hurting
or dropping her."
And, looking at his strong, agile, assiduously careful and
extremely strained movements, the mother felt her mind at rest, and
smiled gaily and approvingly as she watched him.
Here, in the country, with children, and with Darya Alexandrovna,
with whom he was in sympathy, Levin was in a mood not infrequent with
him, of childlike lightheartedness that she particularly liked in him.
As he ran with the children, he taught them gymnastic feats, set Miss
Hoole laughing with his queer English accent, and talked to Darya
Alexandrovna of his pursuits in the country.
After dinner, Darya Alexandrovna, sitting alone with him on the
balcony, began to speak of Kitty.
"You know, Kitty's coming here, and is going to spend the summer
"Really," he said, flushing; and at once, to change the
conversation, he said: "Then I'll send you two cows, shall I? If you
insist on a bill you shall pay me five roubles a month——if you aren't
"No, thank you. We can manage very well now."
"Oh, well, then, I'll have a look at your cows, and if you'll
allow me, I'll give directions about their food. Everything depends on
And Levin, to turn the conversation, explained to Darya
Alexandrovna the theory of cowkeeping, based on the principle that the
cow is simply a machine for the transformation of food into milk, and
He talked of this, and passionately longed to hear more of Kitty,
and, at the same time, was afraid of hearing it. He dreaded the
breaking up of the inward peace he had gained with such effort.
"Yes, but still all this has to be looked after, and who is there
to look after it?" Darya Alexandrovna responded reluctantly.
She had by now got her household matters so satisfactorily
arranged, thanks to Matriona Philimonovna, that she was disinclined to
make any change in them; besides, she had no faith in Levin's
knowledge of farming. General principles, as to the cow being a
machine for the production of milk, she looked on with suspicion. It
seemed to her that such principles could only be a hindrance in farm
management. It all seemed to her a far simpler matter: all that was
needed, as Matriona Philimonovna had explained, was to give Brindle
and Whitebreast more food and drink, and not to let the cook carry all
the kitchen slops to the laundrymaid's cow. That was clear. But
general propositions as to feeding on meal and on grass were doubtful
and obscure. And, what was most important, she wanted to talk about
"Kitty writes to me that there's nothing she longs for so much as
quiet and solitude," Dolly said after the silence that had followed.
"And how is she——better?" Levin asked in agitation.
"Thank God, she's quite well again. I never believed her lungs
"Oh, I'm very glad!" said Levin, and Dolly fancied she saw
something touching, helpless, in his face as he said this and looked
silently into her face.
"Let me ask you, Konstantin Dmitrievich," said Darya Alexandrovna,
smiling her kindly and rather mocking smile, "why are you angry with
"I? I'm not angry with her," said Levin.
"Yes, you are. Why was it you did not come to see us or them when
you were in Moscow?"
"Darya Alexandrovna," he said, blushing up to the roots of his
hair, "I wonder really that with your kind heart you don't feel this.
How it is you feel no pity for me, if nothing else, when you know..."
"What do I know?"
"You know that I proposed and was refused," said Levin, and all
the tenderness he had been feeling for Kitty a minute before was
replaced by a feeling of anger for the slight he had suffered.
"What makes you suppose I know?"
"Because everybody knows it...."
"That's just where you are mistaken; I did not know it, though I
had guessed it was so."
"Well, now you know it."
"All I knew was that something had happened that made her
dreadfully miserable, and that she begged me never to speak of it. And
if she would not tell me, she would certainly not speak of it to
anyone else. But what did pass between you? Tell me."
"I have told you."
"When was it?"
"When I was at their house the last time."
"Do you know," said Darya Alexandrovna, "I am awfully, awfully
sorry for her. You suffer only from pride...."
"Perhaps so," said Levin, "but..."
She interrupted him.
"But she, poor girl... I am awfully, awfully sorry for her. Now I
see it all."
"Well, Darya Alexandrovna, you must excuse me," he said, getting
up. "Good-by, Darya Alexandrovna, till we meet again."
"No, wait a minute," she said, clutching him by the sleeve. "Wait
a minute, sit down."
"Please, please, don't let us talk of this," he said, sitting
down, and at the same time feeling rise up and stir within his heart a
hope he had believed to be buried.
"If I did not like you," she said, and tears came into her eyes;
"if I did not know you, as I do know you..."
The feeling that had seemed dead revived more and more, rose up
and took possession of Levin's heart.
"Yes, I understand it all now," said Darya Alexandrovna. "You
can't understand it; for you men, who are free and make your own
choice, it's always clear whom you love. But a girl's in a position of
suspense, with all a woman's or maiden's modesty, a girl who sees you
men from afar, who takes everything on trust——a girl may have, and
often has, such a feeling that she cannot tell what to say."
"Yes, if the heart does not speak...."
"No, the heart does speak; but just consider: you men have views
about a girl, you come to the house, you make friends, you criticize,
you wait to see if you have found what you love, and then, when you
are sure you love her, you propose..."
"Well, that's not quite it."
"Anyway you propose, when your love is ripe, or when the balance
has completely turned between the two you are choosing from. But a
girl is not asked. She is expected to make her choice, and yet she
cannot choose——she can only answer 'yes' or 'no.'"
"Yes, to choose between me and Vronsky," thought Levin, and the
dead thing that had come to life within him died again, and only
weighed on his heart and set it aching.
"Darya Alexandrovna," he said, "that's how one chooses a new
dress, or some purchase or other——not love. The choice has been made,
and so much the better.... And there can be no repetition."
"Ah, pride, pride!" said Darya Alexandrovna, as though despising
him for the baseness of this feeling in comparison with that other
feeling which only women know. "At the time when you proposed to Kitty
she was just in a position in which she could not answer. She was in
doubt. Doubt between you and Vronsky. Him she was seeing every day,
and you she had not seen for a long while. Supposing she had been
older... I, for instance, in her place, could have felt no doubt. I
always disliked him, and my dislike proved to be justified."
Levin recalled Kitty's answer. She had said: "No, that cannot
"Darya Alexandrovna," he said dryly, "I appreciate your confidence
in me; I believe you are making a mistake. But whether I am right or
wrong, that pride you so despise makes any thought of Katerina
Alexandrovna out of the question for me; you understand——utterly out
of the question."
"I will only say one thing more: you know that I am speaking of my
sister, whom I love as I love my own children. I don't say she cared
for you; all I meant to say is that her refusal at that moment proves
"I don't know!" said Levin, jumping up. "you only knew how you are
hurting me. It's just as if a child of yours were dead, and they were
to say to you: He would have been like this and like that, and he
might have lived, and how happy you would have been in him. But he's
dead, dead, dead!..."
"How absurd you are!" said Darya Alexandrovna, looking with
mournful tenderness at Levin's excitement. "Yes, I see it all more and
more clearly," she went on musingly. "So you won't come to see us,
then, when Kitty's here?"
"No, I shan't come. Of course I won't avoid meeting Katerina
Alexandrovna; but, as far as I can, I will try to save her the
annoyance of my presence."
"You are very, very absurd," repeated Darya Alexandrovna, looking
with tenderness into his face. "Very well then, let it be as though we
had not spoken of this. What have you come for, Tania?" she said in
French to the little girl who had come in.
"Where's my spade, mamma?"
"I speak French, and you must too."
The little girl tried to say it in French, but could not remember
the French for spade; the mother prompted her, and then told her in
French where to look for the spade. And this made a disagreeable
impression on Levin.
Everything in Darya Alexandrovna's house and children struck him
now as by no means so charming as a little while before.
"And why does she talk French with the children?" he thought. "How
unnatural and false it is! And the children feel it so: Learning
French and unlearning sincerity," he thought to himself, unaware that
Darya Alexandrovna had thought all that over twenty times already, and
yet, even at the cost of some loss of sincerity, believed it necessary
to teach her children French in that way.
"But why are you going? Do stay a little."
Levin stayed to tea; but his good humor had vanished, and he felt
ill at ease.
After tea he went out into the hall to order his horses to be put
in, and, when he came back, he found Darya Alexandrovna greatly
disturbed, with a troubled face, and tears in her eyes. While Levin
had been outside, an incident had occurred which had all at once
shattered all the happiness she had been feeling that day, and her
pride in her children. Grisha and Tania had been fighting over a ball.
Darya Alexandrovna, hearing a scream in the nursery, ran in and saw a
terrible sight. Tania was pulling Grisha's hair, while he, with a face
hideous with rage, was beating her with his fists wherever he could
get at her. Something snapped in Darya Alexandrovna's heart when she
saw this. It was as if darkness had swooped down upon her life; she
felt that these children of hers, that she was so proud of, were not
merely most ordinary, but positively bad, ill-bred children, with
coarse, brutal propensities——wicked children.
She could not talk or think of anything else, and she could not
help speaking to Levin of her misery.
Levin saw she was unhappy and tried to comfort her, saying that it
showed nothing bad, that all children fight; but, even as he said it,
he was thinking in his heart: "No, I won't be artificial and talk
French with my children; but my children won't be like that. All one
has to do is not spoil children, not to distort their nature, and
they'll be delightful. No, my children won't be like that."
He said good-by and drove away, and she did not try to detain him.
In the middle of July the elder of the village on Levin's sister's
estate, about twenty verstas from Pokrovskoe, came to Levin to report
about the hay, and how things were going there. The chief source of
income on his sister's estate was from the water meadows. In former
years the hay had been bought by the peasants for twenty roubles the
dessiatina. When Levin took over the management of the estate, he
thought on examining the grasslands that they were worth more, and he
fixed the price at twenty-five roubles the dessiatina. The peasants
would not give that price, and, as Levin suspected, kept off other
purchasers. Then Levin had driven over himself, and arranged to have
the grass cut, partly by hired labor, partly at a payment of a certain
proportion of the crop. The peasants of this village put every
hindrance they could in the way of this new arrangement, but it was
carried out, and the first year the meadows had yielded a profit
almost double. Two years ago and the previous year the peasants had
maintained the same opposition to the arrangement, and the hay had
been cut on the same system. This year the peasants were doing all the
mowing for a third of the hay crop, and the village elder had come now
to announce that the hay had been cut, and that, fearing rain, he had
invited the countinghouse clerk over, had divided the crop in his
presence, and had raked together eleven stacks as the owner's share.
From the vague answers to his question how much hay had been cut on
the principal meadow, from the hurry of the village elder who had made
the division, without asking leave, from the whole tone of the
peasant, Levin perceived that there was something wrong in the
division of the hay, and made up his mind to drive over himself to
look into the matter.
Arriving by dinnertime at the village, and leaving his horse at
the cottage of an old friend of his, the husband of his brother's wet
nurse, Levin went to see the old man in his beehouse, wanting to find
out from him the truth about the hay. Parmenich, a talkative, comely
old man, gave Levin a very warm welcome, showed him all he was doing,
told him everything about his bees and the swarms of that year; but
gave vague and unwilling answers to Levin's inquiries about the
mowing. This confirmed Levin still more in his suspicions. He went to
the hayfields and examined the stacks. The haystacks could not
possibly contain fifty wagonloads each, and to convict the peasants
Levin ordered the wagons that had carried the hay to be brought up
directly, to lift one stack, and carry it into the barn. There turned
out to be only thirty-two loads in the stack. In spite of the village
elder's assertions about the compressibility of hay, and its having
settled down in the stacks, and his swearing that everything had been
done in fear of God, Levin stuck to his point that the hay had been
divided without his orders, and that, therefore, he would not accept
that hay as fifty loads to a stack. After a prolonged dispute the
matter was decided by the peasants taking, as their share, these
eleven stacks, reckoning them as fifty loads each, and apportioning
the owner's share anew. The arguments and the division of the haycocks
lasted the whole afternoon. When the last of the hay had been divided,
Levin, entrusting the superintendence of the rest to the countinghouse
clerk, sat down on a haycock marked off by a stake of willow, and
looked admiringly at the meadow swarming with peasants.
In front of him, in the bend of the river beyond the little marsh,
moved a bright-colored line of peasant women, merrily chattering with
their ringing voices, and the scattered hay was being rapidly formed
into gray winding rows over the pale green aftermath. After the women
came the men with pitchforks, and from the gray rows there were
growing up broad, high, soft haycocks. To the left telegas were
rumbling over the meadow that had been already cleared, and one after
another the haycocks vanished, flung up in huge forkfuls, and in their
place there were rising heavy cartloads of fragrant hay hanging over
the horses' hindquarters.
"What weather for haying! What hay it'll be!" said an old man,
squatting down beside Levin. "It's tea, not hay It's like scattering
grain to the ducks, the way they pick it up!" he added, pointing to
the growing haycocks. "Since dinnertime they've carried a good half of
"The last load, eh?" he shouted to a young peasant, who drove by,
standing in the front of an empty telega box, shaking the reins of
"The last, dad!" the lad shouted back, pulling in the horse, and,
smiling, he looked round at a bright, rosy-cheeked peasant girl who
sat in the telega box, smiling too, and drove on.
"Who's that? Your son?" asked Levin.
"My dear youngest," said the old man with a tender smile.
"What a fine fellow!"
"The lad's all right."
"Yes, it's two years last St. Philip's day."
"Children, indeed! Why, for over a year he was innocent as a babe
himself, and bashful too," answered the old man. "What hay this is!
It's tea indeed!" he repeated, wishing to change the subject.
Levin looked more attentively at Vanka Parmenov and his wife. They
were loading a haycock onto the wagon not far from him. Ivan Parmenov
was standing on the wagon, taking, laying in place, and stamping down
the huge bundles of hay, which his pretty young wife deftly handed up
to him, at first in armfuls, and then on the pitchfork. The young wife
worked easily, merrily, and deftly. The close-packed hay did not once
break away by her fork. First she tedded it, stuck the fork into it,
then with a rapid, supple movement leaned the whole weight of her body
on it, and at once with a bend of her back under the red belt she drew
herself up, and arching her full bosom under the long white apron,
with a deft turn swung the fork in her arms, and flung the bundle of
hay high onto the wagon. Ivan, obviously doing his best to save her
every minute of unnecessary labor, made haste, opening wide his arms
to clutch the bundle and lay it in the wagon. As she raked together
what was left of the hay, the young wife shook off the bits of hay
that had fallen on her neck, and, arranging the red kerchief that was
gone backward baring her white brow, not browned by the sun, she crept
under the wagon to tie up the load. Ivan directed her how to fasten
the cord to the crosspiece, and at something she said he laughed
aloud. In the expressions of both faces was to be seen vigorous,
young, freshly awakened love.
The load was tied on. Ivan jumped down and took the quiet, sleek
horse by the bridle. The young wife flung the rake up on the load;
with a bold step, swinging her arms, she went to join the women, who
were forming a ring for the haymakers' dance. Ivan drove off to the
road and fell into line with the other loaded wagons. The peasant
women, with their rakes on their shoulders, gay with bright flowers,
and chattering with ringing, merry voices, walked behind the hay
wagon. One wild untrained female voice broke into a song, and sang it
alone through a verse, and then the same verse was unanimously taken
up and repeated by half a hundred strong healthy voices, of all sorts,
coarse and fine.
The women, all singing, began to come close to Levin, and he felt
as though a storm were swooping down upon him with a thunder of
merriment. The storm swooped down, enveloped him and the haycock on
which he was lying, and the other haycocks, and wagonloads, and the
whole meadow and distant fields all seemed to be shaking and singing
to the measures of this wild merry song, with its shouts and whistles
and clapping. Levin felt envious of this health and mirthfulness; he
longed to take part in the expression of this joy of life. But he
could do nothing, and had to lie and look on and listen. When the
peasants, with their singing, had vanished out of sight and hearing, a
weary feeling of despondency at his own isolation, his physical
inactivity, his alienation from this world, came over Levin.
Some of the very peasants who had been most active in wrangling
with him over the hay, some whom he had treated with contumely, and
who had tried to cheat him——those very peasants had greeted him
good-humoredly, and evidently had not, were incapable of having, any
feeling of rancor against him, any regret, any recollection even of
having tried to deceive him. All that was drowned in a sea of merry
common labor. God gave the day, God gave the strength. And the day and
the strength were consecrated to labor, and that labor was its own
reward. For whom the labor? What would be its fruits? These were idle
considerations——beside the point.
Often Levin had admired this life, often he had a sense of envy of
the men who led this life; but today, for the first time, especially
under the influence of what he had seen in the attitude of Ivan
Parmenov to his young wife, the idea presented itself definitely to
his mind that it was in his power to exchange the dreary, artificial,
idle, and individualistic life he was leading for this laborious,
pure, and generally delightful life.
The old man who had been sitting beside him had long ago gone
home; the people had all gone their different ways. Those who lived
near had gone home, while those who came from afar were gathered into
a group for supper, and to spend the night in the meadow. Levin,
unobserved by the peasants, still lay on the haycock, and still looked
on, and listened, and mused. The peasants who remained for the night
in the meadow scarcely slept all the short summer night. At first
there was the sound of merry talk and general laughing over the
supper, then singing again, and laughter.
All the long day of toil had left no trace in them save lightness
of heart. Before the early dawn all was hushed. Nothing was to be
heard but the night sounds of the frogs that never ceased in the
marsh, and the horses snorting in the mist that rose over the meadow
before morning. Rousing himself, Levin got up from the haycock, and,
looking at the stars, he saw that the night was over.
"Well, what am I going to do? How am I to set about it?" he said
to himself, trying to express to himself all the thoughts and feelings
he had passed through in this brief night. All the thoughts and
feelings he had passed through fell into three separate trains of
thought. One was the renunciation of his old life, of his utterly
useless education. This renunciation gave him satisfaction, and was
easy and simple. Another series of thoughts and mental images related
to the life he longed to live now. The simplicity, the purity, the
sanity of this life he felt clearly, and he was convinced he would
find in it its content, its peace, and its dignity, of the lack of
which he was so miserably conscious. But a third series of ideas
turned upon the question of how to effect this transition from the old
life to the new. And there nothing took clear shape for him. "A wife.
Work and the necessity of work. Leave Pokrovskoe? Buy land? Become a
member of a peasant community? Marry a peasant girl? How am I to set
about it?" he asked himself again, and could not find an answer. "I
haven't slept all night, though, and I can't think it out clearly," he
said to himself. "I'll work it out later. One thing's certain——this
night has decided my fate. All my old dreams of home life were absurd,
not the real thing," he told himself. "It's all ever so much simpler
"How beautiful!" he thought, looking at the strange, as it were,
mother-of-pearl shell of white fleecy cloudlets resting right over his
head in the middle of the sky. "How exquisite it all is in this
exquisite night! And when was there time for that cloud shell to form?
Just now I looked at the sky, and there was nothing in it——only two
white streaks. Yes, and so imperceptibly, too, my views of life
He went out of the meadow and walked along the highroad toward the
village. A slight wind arose, and the sky looked gray and sullen. The
gloomy moment had come that usually precedes the dawn, the full
triumph of light over darkness.
Shrinking from the cold, Levin walked rapidly, looking at the
ground. "What's that? Someone coming," he thought, catching the tinkle
of bells, and lifting his head. Forty paces from him a carriage and
four with the luggage on its top was driving toward him along the
grassy highroad on which he was walking. The shaft horses were tilted
against the shafts by the ruts, but the dexterous driver sitting on
the box held the shaft over the ruts, so that the wheels ran on the
smooth part of the road.
This was all Levin noticed, and without wondering who it could be,
he gazed absently at the coach.
In the coach was an old lady dozing in one corner, and at the
window, evidently only just awake, sat a young girl holding in both
hands the ribbons of a white cap. With a face full of light and
thought, full of a subtle, complex inner life, that was remote from
Levin, she was gazing from the window at the glow of the sunrise.
At the very instant when this apparition was vanishing, the
truthful eyes glanced at him. She recognized him, and her face lighted
up with wondering delight.
He could not be mistaken. There were no other eyes like those in
all the world. There was only one creature in the world that could
concentrate for him all the brightness and meaning of life. It was
she. It was Kitty. He comprehended that she was driving to Ergushovo
from the railway station. And everything that had been stirring Levin
during this sleepless night, all the resolutions he had made, all
vanished at once. He recalled with horror his dreams of marrying a
peasant girl. There only, in this carriage that had crossed over to
the other side of the road, and was rapidly disappearing——there only
could he find the solution of the riddle of his life, which had
weighed so agonizingly upon him of late.
She did not look out again. The sound of the carriage springs was
no longer audible, the bells could scarcely be heard. The barking of
dogs showed the carriage had reached the village, and all that was
left was the empty fields all round, the village in front, and he
himself isolated and apart from it all, wandering lonely along the
He glanced at the sky, expecting to find there the cloud shell he
had been admiring and taking as the symbol of the ideas and feelings
of that night. There was nothing in the sky in the least like a shell.
There, in the remote heights above, a mysterious change had been
accomplished. There was no trace of a shell, and there was stretched
over fully half the sky an even cover of tiny, and ever tinier,
cloudlets. The sky had grown blue and bright; and with the same
softness, but with the same remoteness, it met his questioning gaze.
"No," he said to himself, "however good that life of simplicity
and toil may be, I cannot go back to it. I love her."
None but those who were most intimate with Alexei Alexandrovich
knew that, while on the surface the coldest and most rational of men,
he had one weakness quite opposed to the general trend of his
character. Alexei Alexandrovich could not hear or see a child or woman
crying without being moved. The sight of tears threw him into a state
of nervous agitation, and he utterly lost all power of reflection. The
head clerk of his board and the secretary were aware of this, and used
to warn women who came with petitions on no account to give way to
tears, if they did not want to ruin their chances. "He will get angry,
and will not listen to you," they used to say. And, as a fact, in such
cases the emotional disturbance set up in Alexei Alexandrovich by the
sight of tears found expression in hasty anger. "I can do nothing.
Kindly leave the room!" he would usually shout in such cases.
When, returning from the races, Anna had informed him of her
relations with Vronsky, and immediately afterward had burst into
tears, hiding her face in her hands, Alexei Alexandrovich, for all the
fury aroused in him against her, was aware at the same time of a rush
of that emotional disturbance always produced in him by tears.
Conscious of it, and conscious that any expression of his feelings at
that minute would be out of keeping with the situation, he tried to
suppress every manifestation of life in himself, and so neither
stirred nor looked at her. This was what had caused that strange
expression of deathlike rigidity in his face which had so impressed
When they reached the house he helped her to get out of the
carriage, and, making an effort to master himself, took leave of her
with his usual urbanity, and uttered that phrase that bound him to
nothing; he said that tomorrow he would let her know his decision.
His wife's words, confirming his worst suspicions, had sent a
cruel pang to the heart of Alexei Alexandrovich. That pang was
intensified by the strange feeling of physical pity for her engendered
by her tears. But when he was all alone in the carriage Alexei
Alexandrovich, to his surprise and delight, felt complete relief both
from this pity and from the doubts and agonies of jealousy.
He experienced the sensations of a man who has had a tooth out
after suffering long from toothache. After a fearful agony and a sense
of something huge, bigger than the head itself, being torn out of his
jaw, the sufferer, hardly able to believe in his own good luck, feels
all at once that what has so long envenomed his existence and
enchained his attention, exists no longer, and that he can live and
think again, and take an interest in other things besides his tooth.
This feeling Alexei Alexandrovich was experiencing. The agony had been
strange and terrible, but now it was over; he felt that he could live
again and think of something other than his wife.
"No honor, no heart, no religion; a corrupt woman. I always knew
it and always saw it, though I tried to deceive myself to spare her,"
he said to himself. And it actually seemed to him that he always had
seen it: he recalled incidents of their past life, in which he had
never seen anything wrong before——now these incidents proved clearly
that she had always been a corrupt woman. "I made a mistake in linking
my life to hers; but there was nothing wrong in my mistake, and so I
cannot be unhappy. It's not I who am to blame," he told himself, "but
she. But I have nothing to do with her. She does not exist for me."
All that would befall her and her son, toward whom his sentiments
were as much changed as toward her, ceased to interest him. The only
thing that interested him now was the question in what way he could
best, with most propriety and comfort for himself, and so with most
justice, shake clear the mud with which she had spattered him in her
fall, and then proceed along his path of active, honorable, and useful
"I cannot be made unhappy by the fact that a contemptible woman
has committed a crime. I have only to find the best way out of the
difficult position in which she has placed me. And I shall find it,"
he said to himself, frowning more and more. "I'm neither the first nor
the last." And to say nothing of historical instances dating from
Menelaus, recently revived in the memory of all by La Belle Helene, a
whole list of contemporary examples of husbands with unfaithful wives
in the highest society rose before Alexei Alexandrovich's imagination.
"Daryalov, Poltavsky, Prince Karibanov, Count Paskudin, Dram... Yes,
even Dram... such an honest, capable fellow... Semionov, Chagin,
Sigonin," Alexei Alexandrovich remembered. "Admitting that a certain
quite irrational ridicule falls to the lot of these men, yet I never
saw anything but a misfortune in it, and always felt sympathy for it,"
Alexei Alexandrovich said to himself, though indeed this was not the
fact, and he had never felt sympathy for misfortunes of that kind, but
the more often he had heard of instances of unfaithful wives betraying
their husbands, the more highly he had thought of himself. "It is a
misfortune which may befall anyone. And this misfortune has befallen
me. The only thing to be done is to make the best of the situation."
And he began passing in review the methods of proceeding of men who
had been in the same position that he was in.
"Daryalov fought a duel...."
The duel had particularly fascinated the thoughts of Alexei
Alexandrovich in his youth, just because he was physically a
fainthearted man, and was himself well aware of the fact. Alexei
Alexandrovich could not without horror contemplate the idea of a
pistol aimed at himself, and never made use of any weapon in his life.
This horror had in his youth set him often pondering on dueling, and
picturing himself in a position in which he would have to expose his
life to danger. Having attained success and an established position in
the world, he had long ago forgotten this feeling; but the habitual
bent of feeling reasserted itself, and dread of his own cowardice
proved even now so strong that Alexei Alexandrovich spent a long while
thinking over the question of dueling in all its aspects, and hugging
the idea of a duel, though he was fully aware beforehand that he would
never under any circumstances fight one.
"There's no doubt our society is still so barbarous (it's not the
same in England) that very many"——and among these were those whose
opinion Alexei Alexandrovich particularly valued——"look favorably on
the duel; but what result is attained by it? Suppose I call him out,"
Alexei Alexandrovich went on to himself, and vividly picturing the
night he would spend after the challenge, and the pistol aimed at him,
he shuddered, and knew that he never would do it——"suppose I call him
out. Suppose I am taught," he went on musing, "I am placed, I press
the trigger," he said to himself, closing his eyes, "and it turns out
I have killed him," Alexei Alexandrovich said to himself, and he shook
his head as though to dispel such silly ideas. "What sense is there in
murdering a man in order to define one's relation to a guilty wife and
son? I should still have to decide what I ought to do with her. But
what is more probable, and what would doubtlessly occur——I should be
killed or wounded. I, the innocent person, should be the victim——
killed or wounded. It's even more senseless. But, apart from that, a
challenge to fight would be an act hardly honest on my side. Don't I
know beforehand that my friends would never allow me to fight a duel——
would never allow the life of a statesman, needed by Russia, to be
exposed to danger? What would come of it? It would come of it that,
knowing beforehand that the matter would never come to real danger, it
would amount to my simply trying to gain a certain sham reputation by
such a challenge. That would be dishonest, that would be false, that
would be deceiving myself and others. A duel is quite impossible, and
no one expects it of me. My aim is simply to safeguard my reputation,
which is essential for the uninterrupted pursuit of my public duties."
Official duties, which had always been of great consequence in Alexei
Alexandrovich's eyes, seemed of special importance to his mind at this
Considering and rejecting the duel, Alexei Alexandrovich turned to
divorce——another solution selected by several of the husbands he
remembered. Passing in mental review all the instances he knew of
divorces (there were plenty of them in the very highest society with
which he was very familiar), Alexei Alexandrovich could not find a
single example in which the object of divorce was that which he had in
view. In all these instances the husband had practically ceded or sold
his unfaithful wife, and the very party who, being in fault, had not
the right to contract a marriage, had formed counterfeit,
pseudo-matrimonial ties with a new husband. In his own case, Alexei
Alexandrovich saw that a legal divorce, that is to say, one in which
only the guilty wife would be repudiated, was impossible of
attainment. He saw that the complex conditions of the life they led
made the coarse proofs of his wife's guilt, required by the law, out
of the question; he saw that a certain refinement in that life would
not admit of such proofs being brought forward, even if he had them,
and that to bring forward such proofs would damage him in the public
estimation more than it would her.
An attempt at divorce could lead to nothing but a public scandal,
which would be a perfect godsend to his enemies for calumny and
attacks on his high position in society. His chief object, to define
the position with the least amount of disturbance possible, would not
be attained by divorce either. Moreover, in the event of divorce, or
even of an attempt to obtain a divorce, it was obvious that the wife
broke off all relations with the husband and threw in her lot with the
lover. And, in spite of the complete, as he supposed, contempt and
indifference he now felt for his wife, at the bottom of his heart
Alexei Alexandrovich still had one feeling left in regard to her——a
disinclination to see her free to throw in her lot with Vronsky, so
that her crime would be to her advantage. The mere notion of this so
exasperated Alexei Alexandrovich, that directly it rose to his mind he
groaned with inward agony, and got up and changed his place in the
carriage, and for a long while after he sat with scowling brows,
wrapping his numbed and bony legs in the fleecy rug.
"Apart from formal divorce, one might still do as Karibanov,
Paskudin, and that good fellow Dram did——that is, separate from one's
wife," he went on thinking, when he had regained his composure. But
this step too presented the same drawback of public scandal as a
divorce, and, what was more, a separation, quite as much as a regular
divorce, flung his wife into the arms of Vronsky. "No, it's out of the
question, out of the question!" he said aloud, twisting his rug about
him again. "I cannot be unhappy, but neither she nor he ought to be
The feeling of jealousy, which had tortured him during the period
of uncertainty, had passed away at the instant when, with agony, the
tooth had been extracted by his wife's words. But that feeling had
been replaced by another——the desire, not merely that she should not
triumph, but that she should get due punishment for her crime. He did
not acknowledge this feeling, but at the bottom of his heart he longed
for her to suffer for having destroyed his peace of mind, and having
dishonored him. And once again going over the conditions inseparable
from a duel, a divorce, a separation, and once again rejecting them,
Alexei Alexandrovich felt convinced that there was only one solution——
to keep her with him, concealing what had happened from the world, and
using every measure in his power to break off the intrigue, and still
more——though this he did not admit to himself——to punish her. "I must
communicate to her my decision; that, thinking over the terrible
position in which she has placed her family, all other solutions will
be worse for both sides than an external status quo, and that such I
agree to retain, on the strict condition of obedience on her part to
my wishes——that is to say, cessation of all intercourse with her
lover." When this decision had been finally adopted, another weighty
consideration occurred to Alexei Alexandrovich in support of it. "By
such a course only shall I be acting in accordance with the dictates
of religion," he told himself. "In adopting this course, I am not
casting off a guilty wife, but giving her a chance of amendment; and,
indeed, difficult as the task will be to me, I shall devote part of my
energies to her reformation and salvation." Though Alexei
Alexandrovich was perfectly aware that he could not exert any moral
influence over his wife, that such an attempt at reformation could
lead to nothing but falsity; though in passing through these difficult
moments he had not once thought of seeking guidance in religion; yet
now, when his conclusion corresponded, as it seemed to him, with the
requirements of religion, this religious sanction to his decision gave
him complete satisfaction, and to some extent restored his peace of
mind. He was pleased to think that, even in such an important crisis
in life, no one would be able to say that he had not acted in
accordance with the principles of that religion whose banner he had
always held aloft amid the general coolness and indifference. As he
pondered over subsequent developments, Alexei Alexandrovich did not
see, indeed, why his relations with his wife should not remain
practically the same as before. No doubt, she could never regain his
esteem, but there was not, and there could not be, any sort of reason
why his existence should be troubled, and why he should suffer because
she was a bad and faithless wife. "Yes, time will pass—— time, which
arranges all things; and the old relations will be reestablished,"
Alexei Alexandrovich told himself; so far reestablished, that is, that
I shall not be sensible of a break in the continuity of my life. She
is bound to be unhappy, but I am not to blame, and so I cannot be
As he neared Peterburg, Alexei Alexandrovich not only adhered
entirely to his decision, but was even composing in his head the
letter he would write to his wife. Going into the hall Alexei
Alexandrovich glanced at the letters and papers brought from his
Ministry and directed that they should be brought to him in his study.
"The horses can be taken out, and I will see no one," he said in
answer to the porter, with a certain pleasure, indicative of his
agreeable frame of mind, emphasizing the words, "see no one."
In his study Alexei Alexandrovich walked up and down twice, and
stopped at an immense writing table, on which six candles had already
been lighted by the valet who had preceded him. He cracked his
knuckles, and sat down, sorting out his writing appurtenances. Putting
his elbows on the table, he bent his head on one side, thought a
minute, and began to write, without pausing for a second. He wrote
without using any form of address to her, and wrote in French, making
use of the plural "vous," which has not the same note of coldness as
the corresponding Russian form.
"At our last conversation, I notified you of my intention of
communicating to you my decision in regard to the subject of that
conversation. Having carefully considered everything, I am writing now
with the object of fulfilling that promise. My decision is as follows.
Whatever your conduct may have been, I do not consider myself
justified in breaking the ties in which we are bound by a Higher
Power. The family cannot be broken up by a whim, a caprice, or even by
the sin of one of the partners in the marriage, and our life must go
on as it has done in the past. This is essential for me, for you, and
for our son. I am fully persuaded that you have repented, and do
repent, of what has called forth the present letter, and that you will
co-operate with me in eradicating the cause of our estrangement, and
forgetting the past. In the contrary event, you can conjecture what
awaits you and your son. All this I hope to discuss more in detail in
a personal interview. As the season is drawing to a close, I would beg
you to return to Peterburg as quickly as possible——not later than
Tuesday. All necessary preparations shall be made for your arrival
here. I beg you to note that I attach particular significance to
compliance with this request.
"P.S.——I enclose the money which may be needed for your expenses."
He read the letter through and felt pleased with it, and
especially because he had remembered to enclose money: there was not a
harsh word, not a reproach in it, nor was there undue indulgence. Most
of all, it was a golden bridge for a return. Folding the letter and
smoothing it with a massive ivory knife, and putting it in an envelope
with the money, he rang the bell with the gratification it always
afforded him to use the well-arranged appointments of his writing
"Give this to a messenger to be delivered to Anna Arkadyevna
tomorrow, at the summer villa," he said, getting up.
"Certainly, Your Excellency; is tea to be served in the study?"
Alexei Alexandrovich ordered tea to be brought to the study, and
playing with the massive paper knife, he moved to his easy chair, near
which there had been placed ready for him a lamp and the French work
on les tables Eugubines that he had begun. Over the easy chair there
hung in a gold frame an oval portrait of Anna, a fine painting by a
celebrated artist. Alexei Alexandrovich glanced at it. The
unfathomable eyes gazed ironically and insolently at him, as they did
that night of their last explanation. Insufferably insolent and
challenging was the effect in Alexei Alexandrovich's eyes of the black
lace about the head, admirably touched in by the painter, the black
hair and handsome white hand the fourth finger of which was covered
with rings. After looking at the portrait for a minute, Alexei
Alexandrovich shuddered so that his lips quivered and produced "brrr,"
and turned away. He made haste to sit down in his easy chair and
opened the book. He tried to read, but he could not revive the very
vivid interest he had felt before in Eugubine inscriptions. He looked
at the book and thought of something else. He thought not of his wife,
but of a complication that had arisen in his official life, which at
the time constituted the chief interest of it. He felt that he had
penetrated more deeply than ever before into this intricate affair,
and that he had originated a leading idea——he could say it without
self-flattery——calculated to clear up the whole business, to
strengthen him in his official career, to discomfit his enemies, and
thereby to be of the greatest benefit to the State. Directly the
servant had set the tea and left the room, Alexei Alexandrovich got up
and went to the writing table. Moving into the middle of the table a
portfolio of current papers, with a scarcely perceptible smile of
self-satisfaction, he took a pencil from a rack and plunged into the
perusal of a complex report relating to the present complication. The
complication was of this nature: Alexei Alexandrovich's characteristic
quality as a politician, that special individual qualification that
every rising functionary possesses, the qualification that with his
unflagging ambition, his reserve, his honesty, and his self-confidence
had made his career, was his contempt for red tape, his cutting down
of correspondence, his direct contact, wherever possible, with the
living fact, and his economy. It happened that the famous Commission
of the 2nd of June had set on foot an inquiry into the irrigation of
lands in the Zaraisky province, which fell under Alexei
Alexandrovich's department, and was a glaring example of fruitless
expenditure and paper reforms. Alexei Alexandrovich was aware of the
truth of this. The irrigation of these lands in the Zaraisky province
had been initiated by the predecessor of Alexei Alexandrovich's
predecessor. And vast sums of money had actually been spent, and were
still being spent, on this business, and utterly unproductively, and
the whole business could obviously lead to nothing whatever. Alexei
Alexandrovich had perceived this at once on entering office, and would
have liked to lay hands on the business. But at first, when he did not
yet feel secure in his position, he knew it would affect too many
interests, and would be imprudent; later on he had been engrossed in
other questions, and had simply forgotten this case. It went of
itself, like all such cases, by the mere force of inertia. (Many
people gained their livelihood by this business, especially one highly
conscientious and musical family: all the daughters played on stringed
instruments, and Alexei Alexandrovich knew the family and had stood
godfather to one of the elder daughters.) The raising of this question
by a hostile Ministry was in Alexei Alexandrovich's opinion a
dishonorable proceeding, seeing that in every Ministry there were
things similar and worse, which no one inquired into, for well-known
reasons of official etiquette. However, now that the gauntlet had been
thrown down to him, he had boldly picked it up and demanded the
appointment of a special commission to investigate and verify the
working of the Commission of Irrigation of the lands in the Zaraisky
province; but in compensation he gave no quarter to the enemy either.
He demanded also the appointment of another special commission to
inquire into the question of the Native Tribes Organization. The
question of the Native Tribes had been brought up incidentally in the
Committee of the 2nd of June, and had been pressed forward actively by
Alexei Alexandrovich, as one admitting of no delay on account of the
deplorable condition of the native tribes. In the Committee this
question had been a ground of contention between several Ministries.
The Ministry hostile to Alexei Alexandrovich proved that the condition
of the native tribes was exceedingly flourishing, that the proposed
reconstruction might be the ruin of their prosperity, and that if
there were anything wrong, it arose mainly from the failure on the
part of Alexei Alexandrovich's Ministry to carry out the measures
prescribed by law. Now Alexei Alexandrovich intended to demand: First,
that a new commission should be formed which should be empowered to
investigate the condition of the native tribes on the spot; secondly,
if it should appear that the condition of the native tribes actually
was such as it appeared to be from the official data in the hands of
the Committee, that another new scientific commission should be
appointed to investigate the deplorable condition of the native tribes
from the—— (a) political, (b) administrative, (c) economic, (d)
ethnographical, (e) material, and (f) religious points of view;
thirdly, that evidence should be required from the rival Ministry of
the measures that had been taken during the last ten years by that
Ministry for averting the disastrous conditions in which the native
tribes were now placed; and, fourthly and finally, that that Ministry
be asked to explain why it had, as appeared from the reports submitted
before the Committee, under Nos. 17,015 and 18,308, dated December 5,
1863, and June 7, 1864 respectively, acted in direct contravention of
the intention of the basic and organic law, T... Statute 18, and the
note to Statute 36. A flush of eagerness suffused the face of Alexei
Alexandrovich as he rapidly wrote out a synopsis of these ideas for
his own benefit. Having filled a sheet of paper, he got up, rang, and
sent a note to the head clerk to look up certain necessary facts for
him. Getting up and walking about the room, he glanced again at the
portrait, frowned, and smiled contemptuously. After reading a little
more of the book on Eugubine inscriptions, and renewing his interest
in it, Alexei Alexandrovich went to bed at eleven o'clock, and
recollecting as he lay in bed the incident with his wife, he saw it
now in by no means so gloomy a light.
Though Anna had obstinately and with exasperation contradicted
Vronsky——when he told her their position was impossible, and persuaded
her to lay open everything to her husband——at the bottom of her heart
she regarded her own position as false and dishonorable, and she
longed with her whole soul to change it. On the way home from the
races she had told her husband the truth in a moment of excitement,
and in spite of the agony she had suffered in doing so, she was glad
of it. After her husband had left her, she told herself that she was
glad, that now everything was made clear, and at least there would be
no more lying and deception. It seemed to her beyond doubt that her
position was now made clear forever. It might be bad, this new
position, but it would be clear; there would be no indefiniteness or
falsehood about it. The pain she had caused herself and her husband in
uttering those words would be rewarded now by everything being made
clear, she thought. That evening she saw Vronsky, but she did not tell
him of what had passed between her and her husband, though, to make
the position clear, it was necessary to tell him.
When she woke up next morning the first thing that rose to her
mind was what she had said to her husband, and those words seemed to
her so awful that she could not conceive now how she could have
brought herself to utter those strange, coarse words, and could not
imagine what would come of it. But the words were spoken, and Alexei
Alexandrovich had gone away without saying anything. "I saw Vronsky
and did not tell him. At the very instant he was going away I would
have turned him back and told him, but I changed my mind, because it
was strange that I had not told him the first minute. Why was it I
wanted to tell him and didn't?" And in answer to this question a
burning blush of shame spread over her face. She knew what had kept
her from it, she knew that she had been ashamed. Her position, which
had seemed to her simplified the night before, suddenly struck her now
as not only not simple, but as absolutely hopeless. She felt terrified
at the disgrace, of which she had not even thought before. Directly
she thought of what her husband would do, the most terrible ideas came
to her mind. She had a vision of being turned out of the house, of her
shame being proclaimed to all the world. She asked herself where she
should go when she was turned out of the house, and she could not find
When she thought of Vronsky, it seemed to her that he did not love
her, that he was already beginning to be tired of her, that she could
not offer herself to him, and she felt bitter against him for it. It
seemed to her that the words that she had spoken to her husband, and
had continually repeated in her imagination, she had said to everyone,
and everyone had heard them. She could not bring herself to look those
of her own household in the face. She could not bring herself to call
her maid, and still less go downstairs and see her son and his
The maid, who had been listening at her door for a long while,
came into her room of her own accord. Anna glanced inquiringly into
her face, and blushed with a scared look. The maid begged her pardon
for coming in, saying that she had fancied the bell rang. She brought
her clothes and a note. The note was from Betsy. Betsy reminded her
that Liza Merkalova and Baroness Stoltz were coming to play croquet
with her that morning with their adorers, Kaluzhsky and old Stremov.
"Come, if only as a study in characters. I shall expect you," she
Anna read the note and heaved a deep sigh.
"Nothing——I need nothing," she said to Annushka, who was
rearranging the bottles and brushes on the dressing table. "You may
go. I'll dress at once and come down. I need nothing, nothing."
Annushka went out, but Anna did not begin dressing, and sat in the
same position, her head and hands hanging listlessly, and every now
and then she shivered all over, was apparently about to make some
gesture, utter some word, and sank back into lifelessness again. She
repeated continually, "My God! my God!" But neither "God" nor "my" had
any meaning to her. The idea of seeking help in her difficulty in
religion was as remote from her as seeking help from Alexei
Alexandrovich himself, although she had never had doubts of the faith
in which she had been brought up. She knew that the support of
religion was possible only upon condition of renouncing what made up
for her the whole meaning of life. She was not simply miserable, she
began to feel alarm at the new spiritual condition, never experienced
before, in which she found herself. She felt as though everything were
beginning to be double in her soul, just as objects sometimes appear
double to overtired eyes. She hardly knew at times what it was she
feared, and what she hoped for. Whether she feared or desired what had
happened, or what was going to happen, and exactly what she longed
for, she could not have said.
"Ah, what am I doing!" she said to herself, feeling a sudden
thrill of pain in both sides of her head. When she came to herself,
she saw that she was holding her hair in both hands, each side of her
temples, and she was pressing them. She jumped up, and began walking
"The coffee is ready, and mademoiselle and Seriozha are waiting,"
said Annushka, coming back again and finding Anna in the same
"Seriozha? What about Seriozha?" Anna asked, with sudden
eagerness, recollecting her son's existence for the first time that
"He's been naughty, I think," answered Annushka with a smile.
"In what way?"
"Some peaches were lying on the table in the corner room. I think
he ate one of them on the sly."
The recollection of her son suddenly roused Anna from the helpless
condition in which she found herself. She recalled the partly sincere,
though greatly exaggerated, role of the mother living for her child,
which she had taken up of late years, and she felt with joy that in
the plight in which she found herself she had a dominion independent
of any position she would be placed in by her relations to her husband
or to Vronsky. This dominion was her son. In whatever position she
might be placed, she could not abandon her son. Her husband might put
her to shame and turn her out, Vronsky might grow cold to her and go
on living his own life apart (she thought of him again with bitterness
and reproach); she could not leave her son. She had an aim in life.
And she must act; act to secure the position of her son, so that he
might not be taken from her. Quickly indeed, as quickly as possible,
she must take action before he was taken from her. She must take her
son and go away. Here was the one thing she had to do now. She must be
calm, and get out of this insufferable position. The thought of
immediate action binding her to her son, of going away somewhere with
him, gave her this calming.
She dressed quickly, went downstairs, and with resolute steps
walked into the drawing room, where she found, as usual, waiting for
her, the coffee, Seriozha, and his governess. Seriozha, all in white,
with his back and head bent, was standing at a table under a looking
glass, and with an expression of intense concentration which she knew
well, and in which he resembled his father, he was doing something to
the flowers he carried.
The governess had a particularly severe expression. Seriozha
screamed shrilly, as he often did, "Ah, mamma!" and stopped,
hesitating whether to go to greet his mother and put down the flowers,
or to finish making the wreath and go with the flowers.
The governess, after saying good morning, began a long and
detailed account of Seriozha's naughtiness, but Anna did not hear her;
she was considering whether she would take her with her or not. "No, I
won't take her," she decided. "I'll go alone with my son."
"Yes, it's very wrong," said Anna, and taking her son by the
shoulder she looked at him, not severely, but with a timid glance that
bewildered and delighted the boy, and she kissed him. "Leave him to
me," she said to the astonished governess, and without letting go of
her son, she sat down at the table, where coffee was set ready for
"Mamma! I... I didn't..." he said, trying to make out from her
expression what was in store for him in regard to the peaches.
"Seriozha," she said, as soon as the governess had left the room,
"that was wrong, but you'll never do it again, will you?... You love
She felt that the tears were coming into her eyes. "Can I help
loving him?" she said to herself, looking deeply into his scared and
at the same time delighted eyes. "And can he ever join his father in
punishing me? Is it possible he will not feel for me?" Tears were
already flowing down her face, and to hide them she got up abruptly
and almost ran out on the terrace.
After the thundershowers of the last few days, cold, bright
weather had set in. The air was cold in the bright sun that filtered
through the freshly washed leaves.
She shivered, both from the cold and from the inward horror which
had clutched her with fresh force in the open air.
"Run along, run along to Mariette," she said to Seriozha, who had
followed her out, and she began walking up and down on the straw
matting of the terrace. "Can it be that they won't forgive me, won't
understand how it all could not have been otherwise?" she said to
Standing still, and looking at the tops of the aspen trees waving
in the wind, with their freshly washed, brightly shining leaves in the
cold sunshine, she knew that they would not forgive her, that everyone
and everything would be merciless to her now as was that sky, that
green. And again she felt that everything was doubling in her soul. "I
mustn't, mustn't think," she said to herself. "I must get ready. To go
where? When? Whom to take with me? Yes——to Moscow, by the evening
train. Annushka and Seriozha, and only the most necessary things. But
first I must write to them both." She went quickly indoors into her
boudoir, sat down at the table, and wrote to her husband:
"After what has happened I cannot remain any longer in your house.
I am going away, and taking my son with me. I don't know the law; and
so I don't know with which of the parents the son should remain; but I
take him with me because I cannot live without him. Be generous, leave
him to me."
Up to this point she wrote rapidly and naturally, but the appeal
to his generosity, a quality she did not recognize in him, and the
necessity of winding up the letter with something touching, pulled her
"Of my fault and my remorse I cannot speak, because..."
She stopped again, finding no connection in her ideas. "No," she
said to herself, "there's no need of anything," and tearing up the
letter, she wrote it again, leaving out the allusion to generosity,
and sealed it up.
Another letter had to be written to Vronsky. "I have told my
husband," she wrote, and she sat a long while unable to write more. It
was so coarse, so unfeminine. "And what more am I to write him?" she
said to herself. Again a flush of shame spread over her face; she
recalled his composure, and a feeling of anger against him impelled
her to tear the sheet with the phrase she had written into tiny bits.
"No need of anything," she said to herself, and closing her blotting
case she went upstairs, told the governess and the servants that she
was going that day to Moscow, and at once set to work to pack up her
All the rooms of the summer villa were full of porters, gardeners,
and footmen, going to and fro carrying out things. Cupboards and
chests were open; twice they had to run to a store for cord; pieces of
newspaper were cluttering the floor. Two trunks, some bags and
strapped-up plaids had been carried down into the hall. The carriage
and two hired cabs were waiting at the steps. Anna, forgetting her
inward agitation in the work of packing, was standing at a table in
her boudoir, packing her traveling bag, when Annushka called her
attention to the clatter of some carriage driving up. Anna looked out
of the window and saw Alexei Alexandrovich's messenger on the steps,
ringing at the front doorbell.
"Run and find out what it is," she said, and, with a calm sense of
being prepared for anything, she sat down in a low chair, folding her
hands on her knees. A footman brought in a thick packet directed in
Alexei Alexandrovich's hand.
"The messenger has orders to wait for an answer," he said.
"Very well," she said, and as soon as he had left the room she
tore open the letter with trembling fingers. A packet of unfolded
banknotes done up with a band fell out of it. She extricated the
letter and began reading it from the end. "Preparations shall be made
for your arrival here... I attach particular significance to
compliance...." she read. She ran through it backward, read it all
through, and once more read the letter all through again, from the
beginning. When she had finished, she felt that she was cold all over,
and that a fearful calamity, such as she had not expected, had burst
In the morning she had regretted that she had spoken to her
husband, and wished for nothing so much as that those words might be
unspoken. And here this letter regarded them as unspoken, and gave her
what she had wanted. But now this letter seemed to her more awful than
anything she had been able to conceive.
"He's right!" she said. "Of course, he's always right; he's a
Christian, he's generous! Yes, vile, base creature! And no one
understands it except me, and no one ever will; and I can't explain
it. They say he's so religious, so high-principled, so upright, so
clever; but they don't see what I've seen. They don't know how he has
crushed my life for eight years, crushed everything that was living in
me——he has not once even thought that I'm a live woman who must have
love. They don't know how at every step he's humiliated me, and been
just as pleased with himself. Haven't I striven—— striven with all my
strength——to find something to give meaning to my life? Haven't I
struggled to love him, to love my son when I could not love my
husband? But the time came when I knew that I couldn't cheat myself
any longer, that I was alive, that I was not to blame, that God has
made me so that I must love and live. And now what does he do? If he'd
killed me, if he'd killed him, I could have borne anything, I could
have forgiven anything; but, no, he..."
"How was it I didn't guess what he would do? He's doing just
what's natural to his mean character. He'll keep himself in the right,
while he'll drive me, in my ruin, still lower, still to worse ruin..."
"'You can conjecture what awaits you and your son,'" she recalled
a part of his letter. "That's a threat to take away my child, and most
likely according to their stupid law he can. But I know very well why
he says it. He doesn't believe even in my love for my child, or he
despises it (just as he always used to ridicule it). He despises that
feeling in me, but he knows that I won't abandon my child, that I
can't abandon my child, that there could be no life for me without my
child, even with him whom I love; but that if I abandoned my child and
ran away from him, I should be acting like the most infamous, basest
of women. He knows that, and knows that I am incapable of doing that."
"Our life must go on as it has done in the past," she recalled
another sentence in his letter. "That life was miserable enough in the
old days; it has been awful of late. What will it be now? And he knows
all that; he knows that I can't repent breathing, repent loving; he
knows that it can lead to nothing but lying and deceit; but he wants
to go on torturing me. I know him; I know that he's at home and is
happy in deceit, like a fish swimming in the water. No, I won't give
him that happiness. I'll break through the spider's web of lies in
which he wants to catch me, come what may. Anything's better than
lying and deceit."
"But how? My God! my God! Was ever a woman so miserable as I
"No; I will break through it, I will break through it!" she cried,
jumping up and keeping back her tears. And she went to the writing
table to write him another letter. But at the bottom of her heart she
felt that she was not strong enough to break through anything, that
she was not strong enough to get out of her old position, however
false and dishonorable it might be.
She sat down at the writing table, but instead of writing she
clasped her hands on the table, and, laying her head on them, burst
into tears, with sobs and heaving breast, like a child crying. She was
weeping because her dream of her position being made clear and
definite had been annihilated forever. She knew beforehand that
everything would go on in the old way, and far worse, indeed, than in
the old way. She felt that her position in the world she enjoyed, and
which had seemed to her of so little consequence in the morning, was
now precious to her, that she would not have the strength to exchange
it for the shameful position of a woman who has abandoned husband and
child to join her lover; that however much she might struggle, she
could not be stronger than herself. She would never know freedom in
love, but would remain forever a guilty wife, with the menace of
detection hanging over her at every instant; deceiving her husband for
the sake of a shameful connection with a man living apart and away
from her, whose life she could never share. She knew that this was how
it would be, and at the same time it was so awful that she could not
even conceive what it would end in. And she cried without restraint,
as children cry when they are punished.
The sound of a footman's steps forced her to rouse herself, and,
hiding her face from him, she pretended to be writing.
"The messenger asks if there's any answer," the footman informed
"Any answer? Yes," said Anna. "Let him wait. I'll ring."
"What can I write?" she thought. "What can I decide upon alone?
What do I know? What do I want? What is there I care for?" Again she
felt that her soul was beginning to double. She was terrified again at
this feeling, and clutched at the first pretext for doing something
which might divert her thoughts from herself. "I ought to see Alexei"
(so she called Vronsky in her thoughts); "no one but he can tell me
what I ought to do. I'll go to Betsy's, perhaps I shall see him
there," she said to herself, completely forgetting that, when she had
told him the day before that she was not going to Princess Tverskaia's
he had said that in that case he should not go either. She went up to
the table, wrote to her husband: "I have received your letter.——A.";
and, ringing the bell, gave it to the footman.
"We are not going," she said to Annushka, as she came in.
"Not going at all?"
"No; don't unpack till tomorrow, and let the carriage wait. I'm
going to the Princess."
"Which dress am I to get ready?"
The croquet party to which the Princess Tverskaia had invited Anna
was to consist of two ladies and their adorers. These two ladies were
the chief representatives of a select new Peterburg circle, nicknamed,
in imitation of some imitation, les sept merveilles du monde. These
ladies belonged to a circle which, though of the highest society, was
utterly hostile to that in which Anna moved. Moreover, old Stremov,
one of the most influential people in Peterburg, and the admirer of
Liza Merkalova, was Alexei Alexandrovich's enemy in the political
world. From all these considerations Anna had not meant to go, and the
hints in Princess Tverskaia's note referred to her refusal. But now
Anna was eager to go, in the hope of seeing Vronsky.
Anna arrived at Princess Tverskaia's earlier than the other guests.
At the very moment of her entry, Vronsky's footman, with his side
whiskers combed out, and looking like a Kammerjunker, went in too. He
stopped at the door, and, taking off his cap, let her pass. Anna
recognized him, and only then recalled that Vronsky had told her the
day before that he would not come. Most likely he was sending a note
to say so.
As she took off her outer garment in the hall, she heard the
footman say, rolling his r's even like a Kammerjunker: "From the Count
for the Princess," as he handed over the note.
She longed to question him as to where his master was. She longed
to turn back and send him a letter to come and see her, or to go
herself to see him. But none of the three courses was possible.
Already she heard bells ringing ahead of her to announce her arrival,
and Princess Tverskaia's footman was standing at the open door waiting
for her to pass into the inner rooms.
"The Princess is in the garden; she will be informed immediately.
Would you be pleased to walk into the garden?" announced another
footman in another room.
The position of uncertainty, of indecision, was still the same as
at home——worse, in fact, since it was impossible to take any step,
impossible to see Vronsky, and she had to remain here among outsiders,
in company so uncongenial to her present mood. But she was wearing a
dress that she knew suited her. She was not alone; all around was that
luxurious setting of idleness that she was used to, and she felt less
wretched than at home. She was not forced to think what she had to do.
Everything would be done of itself. On meeting Betsy coming toward her
in a white gown that struck her by its elegance, Anna smiled to her
just as she always did. Princess Tverskaia was walking with Tushkevich
and a young lady, a relation, who, to the great joy of her parents in
the provinces, was spending the summer with the fashionable Princess.
There was probably something unusual about Anna, for Betsy noticed
it at once.
"I slept badly," answered Anna, looking intently at the footman
who came to meet them, and, as she supposed, brought Vronsky's note.
"How glad I am you've come!" said Betsy. "I'm tired, and was just
longing to have some tea before they come. You might go," she turned
to Tushkevich, "with Masha, and try the croquet ground over there,
where they've been clipping it. We shall have time to talk a little
over tea, we'll have a cozy chat, eh?" she said in English to Anna,
with a smile, pressing the hand which held a parasol.
"Yes, especially as I can't stay very long with you. I'm forced to
go on to old Madame Vrede. I've been promising to go for a century,"
said Anna, to whom lying, alien as it was to her nature, had become
not merely simple and natural in society, but a positive source of
satisfaction. Why she said this, which she had not thought of a second
before, she could not have explained. She had said it simply from the
reflection that as Vronsky would not be here, she had better secure
her own freedom, and try to see him somehow. But why she had spoken of
old Hoffraulein Vrede, whom she had to go and see, as she had to see
many other people, she could not have explained; and yet, as it
afterward turned out, had she cudgeled her brains for the most cunning
subterfuge to meet Vronsky, she could have thought of nothing better.
"No. I'm not going to let you go for anything," answered Betsy,
looking intently into Anna's face. "Really, if I were not fond of you,
I should feel offended. One would think you were afraid my society
would compromise you.——Tea in the small dining room, please," she
said, half closing her eyes, as she always did when addressing the
Taking the note from him, she read it.
"Alexei is playing us false," she said in French; "he writes that
he can't come," she added, in a tone as simple and natural as though
it could never enter her head that Vronsky could mean anything more to
Anna than a game of croquet. Anna knew that Betsy knew everything,
but, hearing how she spoke of Vronsky before her, she almost felt
persuaded for a minute that she knew nothing.
"Ah!" said Anna indifferently, as though not greatly interested in
the matter; and she went on, smiling: "How can you or your friends
This playing with words, this hiding of a secret, had a great
fascination for Anna, as, indeed, it has for all women. And it was not
the necessity of concealment, not the purpose for which the
concealment was contrived, but the process of concealment itself which
"I can't be more catholic than the Pope," she said. "Stremov and
Liza Merkalova——why, they're the cream of the cream of society.
Besides, they're received everywhere, and I"——she laid special stress
on the I——"have never been strict and intolerant. It's simply that I
haven't the time."
"No; you don't care, perhaps, to meet Stremov? Let him and Alexei
Alexandrovich tilt at each other in the Committee——that's no affair of
ours. But, in society, he's the most amiable man I know, and an ardent
croquet player. You shall see. And, in spite of his absurd position as
Liza's lovesick swain at his age, you ought to see how he carries off
the absurd position. He's very nice. Don't you know Sappho Stoltz? Oh,
that's a new type——quite new!"
Betsy went on with all this chatter, yet, at the same time, from
her good-humored, shrewd glance, Anna felt that she partly guessed her
plight, and was hatching something for her benefit. They were in the
"I must write to Alexei, though," and Betsy sat down to the table,
scribbled a few lines, and put the note in an envelope. "I'm telling
him to come to dinner. I've one lady extra to dinner with me, and no
man to take her in. Look what I've said——will that persuade him?
Excuse me, I must leave you for a minute. Would you seal it up,
please, and send it off? she said from the door; "I have to give some
Without a moment's hesitation, Anna sat down to the table with
Betsy's letter, and, without reading it, wrote below: "It's essential
for me to see you. Come to the Vrede garden. I shall be there at six
o'clock." She sealed it up, and, Betsy coming back, in her presence
handed the note for transmittal.
At tea, which was brought them on a little tea table in the cool
little drawing room, a cozy chat promised by Princess Tverskaia before
the arrival of her visitors really did come off between the two women.
They criticized the people they were expecting, and the conversation
fell upon Liza Merkalova.
"She's very sweet, and I always liked her," said Anna.
"You ought to like her. She raves about you. Yesterday she came up
to me after the races and was in despair at not finding you. She says
you're a real heroine of romance, and that if she were a man she would
do all sorts of mad things for your sake. Stremov says she does that
as it is."
"But do tell me, please——I never could make it out," said Anna,
after being silent for some time, speaking in a tone that showed she
was not asking an idle question, but that what she was asking was of
greater importance to her than it should have been, "do tell me,
please: what are her relations with Prince Kaluzhsky——Mishka, as he's
called? I've met them so little. What does it mean?"
Betsy smiled with her eyes, and looked intently at Anna.
"It's a new mode," she said. "They've all adopted that mode.
They've flung their caps over the windmills. But there are ways and
ways of flinging them."
"Yes, but precisely what are her relations with Kaluzhsky?"
Betsy broke into unexpectedly mirthful and irrepressible laughter,
a thing which rarely happened with her.
"You're encroaching on Princess Miaghkaia's special domain now.
That's the question of an enfant terrible," and Betsy obviously tried
to restrain herself, but could not, and went off into peals of that
infectious laughter peculiar to people who do not laugh often. "You'd
better ask them," she brought out, between tears of laughter.
"No; you laugh," said Anna, laughing too, in spite of herself,
"but I never could understand it. I can't understand the husband's
role in it."
"The husband? Liza Merkalova's husband carries her shawl, and is
always ready to be of use. But no one cares to inquire about what is
really going on. You know, in decent society one doesn't talk or think
even of certain details of the toilet. That's how it is in this case."
"Will you be at Madame Rolandaky's fete?" asked Anna, to change
"I don't think so," answered Betsy, and, without looking at her
friend, she began filling the little transparent cups with fragrant
tea. Putting a cup before Anna, she took out a thin cigarette, and,
fitting it into a silver holder, she lighted it. "It's like this, you
see: I'm in a fortunate position," she began, quite serious now, as
she took up her cup. "I understand you, and I understand Liza. Liza
now is one of those naive natures that, like children, don't know
what's good and what's bad. Anyway, she didn't comprehend it when she
was very young. And now she's aware that the lack of comprehension
suits her. Now, perhaps, she doesn't know on purpose," said Betsy,
with a subtle smile. "But, anyway, it suits her. The very same thing,
don't you see, may be looked at tragically, and turned into misery, or
it may be looked at simply, and even humorously. Possibly you are
inclined to look at things too tragically."
"How I should like to know other people just as I know myself!"
said Anna, seriously and dreamily. "Am I worse than other people, or
better? I think I'm worse."
"Enfant terrible, enfant terrible!" repeated Betsy. "But here they
They heard the sound of steps and a man's voice, then a woman's
voice and laughter, and immediately thereafter there walked in the
expected guests: Sappho Stoltz, and a young man beaming with excess of
health, the so-called Vaska. It was evident that ample supplies of
beefsteak, truffles, and Burgundy were profitable for his health.
Vaska bowed to the two ladies, and glanced at them, but only for one
second. He walked after Sappho into the drawing room, and followed her
about as though he were chained to her, keeping his sparkling eyes
fixed on her as though he wanted to eat her. Sappho Stoltz was a
blonde beauty with black eyes. She walked with smart little steps in
high-heeled shoes, and shook hands with the ladies vigorously, like a
Anna had never met this new star of fashion, and was struck by her
beauty, the exaggerated extreme to which her dress was carried, and
the boldness of her manners. On her head there was such an echafaudage
of soft, golden hair——her own and false mixed——that her head was equal
in size to the elegantly rounded bust, of which so much was exposed in
front. The impulsive abruptness of her movements was such that at
every step the lines of her knees and the upper part of her legs were
distinctly marked under her dress, and the question involuntarily rose
in one's mind where in the undulating, piled-up mountain of material
at the back the real body of the woman, so small and slender, so naked
in front, and so hidden behind and below, really came to an end.
Betsy made haste to introduce her to Anna.
"Only fancy, we all but ran over two soldiers," she began telling
them at once, using her eyes, smiling and twitching away her train,
which she at first threw too much to one side. "I drove here with
Vaska... Ah, to be sure, you don't know each other." And, mentioning
his surname, she introduced the young man, and, reddening, broke into
a ringing laugh at her mistake——that is, at her having called him
Vaska before a stranger. Vaska bowed once more to Anna, but he said
nothing to her. He addressed Sappho: "You've lost your bet. We got
here first. Pay up," said he, smiling.
Sappho laughed still more festively.
"Not just now," said she.
"It's all one, I'll have it later."
"Very well, very well. Oh, yes," she turned suddenly to Princess
Betsy: "I am a nice person... I positively forgot it.... I've brought
you a visitor. And here he comes."
The unexpected young visitor, whom Sappho had brought with her,
and whom she had forgotten, was, however, a personage of such
consequence that, in spite of his youth, both the ladies rose on his
He was a new admirer of Sappho's. Like Vaska, he now dogged her
Soon after Prince Kaluzhsky arrived, and Liza Merkalova with
Stremov. Liza Merkalova was a thin brunette, with an Oriental, languid
type of face, and charming——as everyone used to say——ineffable eyes.
The tone of her dark dress (Anna immediately observed and appreciated
the fact) was in perfect harmony with her style of beauty. Liza was as
soft and loose as Sappho was tight and shackled.
But to Anna's taste Liza was far more attractive. Betsy had said
to Anna that she had adopted the pose of an unsophisticated child, but
when Anna saw her she felt this was not the truth. She really was
unsophisticated, spoiled, yet a sweet and irresponsible woman. It is
true that her tone was the same as Sappho's; that, like Sappho, she
had two men, one young and one old, tacked on to her, and devouring
her with their eyes. But there was something in her higher than her
surroundings. There was in her the glow of the real diamond among
paste. This glow shone out in her charming, truly ineffable eyes. The
weary, and at the same time passionate, glance of those eyes,
encircled by dark rings, impressed one by its perfect sincerity.
Everyone looking into those eyes fancied he knew her wholly, and,
knowing her, could not but love her. At the sight of Anna, her whole
face lighted up at once with a smile of delight.
"Ah, how glad I am to see you!" she said, going up to her.
"Yesterday, at the races, I wanted just to get to you, but you'd gone
away. I did so want to see you, especially yesterday. Wasn't it
awful?" she said, looking at Anna with eyes that seemed to lay bare
all her soul.
"Yes; I had no idea it would be so thrilling," said Anna, blushing.
The company got up at this moment to go into the garden.
"I'm not going," said Liza, smiling and settling herself close to
Anna. "You won't go either, will you? Who wants to play croquet?"
"Oh, I like it," said Anna.
"There, how do you manage never to be bored by things? One has but
to look at you, to be joyful. You're alive, but I'm bored."
"How can you be bored? Why, you live among the merriest people in
Peterburg," said Anna.
"Possibly the people who are not of our set are even more bored;
but we are not amused ourselves——I certainly am not, but awfully,
Sappho, smoking a cigarette, went off into the garden with the two
young men. Betsy and Stremov remained at the tea table.
"You bored?" said Betsy. "Sappho says they enjoyed themselves
tremendously at your house last night."
"Ah, how dreary it all was!" said Liza Merkalova. "We all drove
back to my place after the races. And always the same people, always
the same. Always the same thing. We lounged about on sofas all the
evening. What's enjoyable about that? No; do tell me how you manage
never to be bored?" she said, addressing Anna again. "One has but to
look at you and one sees a woman who may be happy or unhappy, but who
isn't bored. Tell me——how do you do it?"
"I do nothing," answered Anna, blushing at these searching
"That's the best way," Stremov put in.
Stremov was a man of fifty, partly gray, but still vigorous in
appearance, very ugly, but with a characteristic and intelligent face.
Liza Merkalova was his wife's niece, and he spent all his leisure
hours with her. On meeting Anna Karenina, since he was Alexei
Alexandrovich's enemy in the government, he tried, like a shrewd man
and a man of the world, to be particularly cordial with her, the wife
of his enemy.
"Nothing," he put in with a subtle smile, "that's the very best
way. I told you long ago," he said, turning to Liza Merkalova, "that,
in order not to be bored, you mustn't think you're going to be bored.
Just as you mustn't be afraid of not being able to fall asleep, if
you're afraid of sleeplessness. That's precisely what Anna Arkadyevna
has just said."
"I should be very glad if I had said it, for it's not only clever
but true," said Anna, smiling.
"No, do tell me why it is one can't go to sleep, and one can't
help being bored?"
"To sleep well one should work, and to enjoy oneself one should
"What am I to work for when my work is of no use to anybody? And I
can't, and won't, knowingly make a pretense at it."
"You're incorrigible," said Stremov, without looking at her, and
he spoke again to Anna.
As he rarely met Anna, he could say nothing but banalities to her,
but he said those banalities, when was she returning to Peterburg, and
how fond Countess Lidia Ivanovna was of her——with an expression which
suggested that he longed with his whole soul to please her, and show
his regard for her——and even more than that.
Tushkevich came in, announcing that the party were awaiting the
other players to begin croquet.
"No, don't go away, please don't," pleaded Liza Merkalova, hearing
that Anna was going. Stremov joined in her entreaties.
"It's too violent a transition," he said, "to go from such company
to old Madame Vrede. And, besides, you will only give her a chance for
talking scandal, while here you will arouse other feelings, of the
finest and directly opposed to scandal," he said to her.
Anna pondered for an instant in uncertainty. This shrewd man's
flattering words, the naive, childlike affection shown her by Liza
Merkalova, and all the worldly atmosphere she was used to——it was all
so easy, while that which was in store for her was so difficult, that
she was for a minute in uncertainty: should she remain, should she put
off a little longer the painful moment of explanation? But,
remembering what was in store for her when she would be alone at home,
if she did not come to some decision; remembering that gesture——
terrible even in memory——when she had clutched her hair in both hands,
she said good-by and went away.
In spite of Vronsky's apparently frivolous life in society, he was
a man who hated disorder. In early youth, in the Corps of Pages, he
had experienced the humiliation of a refusal, when he had tried, being
in difficulties, to borrow money, and since then he had never once put
himself in the same position again.
In order to keep his affairs in some sort of order, he was wont,
about five times a year (more or less frequently, according to
circumstances), to shut himself up alone and put all his affairs into
definite shape. This he would call his day of washing up or faire la
On waking up late in the morning after the races, Vronsky put on a
white linen coat, and, without shaving or taking his bath, he
distributed about the table money, bills, and letters, and set to
work. Petritsky, who knew he was ill-tempered on such occasions, on
waking up and seeing his comrade at the writing table, quietly dressed
and went out without getting in his way.
Every man who knows to the minutest details all the complexity of
the conditions surrounding him, cannot help imagining that the
complexity of these conditions, and the difficulty of making them
clear, is something exceptional and personal, peculiar to himself, and
never supposes that others are surrounded by just as complicated an
array of personal affairs as he is. So indeed it seemed to Vronsky.
And not without inward pride, and not without reason, he thought that
any other man would long ago have been in difficulties, and would have
been forced to some dishonorable course, if he had found himself in
such a difficult position. But Vronsky felt that now especially it was
essential for him to clear up and define his position if he were to
avoid getting into difficulties.
What Vronsky attacked first, as being the easiest, was his
pecuniary position. Writing out on note paper in his minute
handwriting all that he owed, he added up the amount and found that
his debts amounted to seventeen thousand and some odd hundreds, which
he left out for the sake of clearness. Reckoning up his cash and the
balance in his bankbook, he found that he had left one thousand eight
hundred roubles, and nothing coming in before the New Year. Reckoning
over again his list of debts, Vronsky copied it, dividing it into
three classes. In the first class he put the debts which he would have
to pay at once, or for which he must in any case have the money ready
so that on demand for payment there would not be a moment's delay in
paying. Such debts amounted to about four thousand: one thousand five
hundred for a horse, and two thousand five hundred as surety for a
young comrade, Venevsky, who had lost that sum to a cardsharper in
Vronsky's presence. Vronsky had wanted to pay the money at the time
(he had that amount then), but Venevsky and Iashvin had insisted that
they would pay and not Vronsky, who had not played. So far, so good;
but Vronsky knew that in this dirty business, though his only share in
it was undertaking by word of mouth to be surety for Venevsky, it was
absolutely necessary for him to have the two thousand five hundred
roubles, so as to be able to fling it at the cheat, and have no more
words with him. And so, for this first and most important division, he
must have four thousand roubles. The second class—— eight thousand
roubles——consisted of less important debts. These were principally
accounts owing in connection with his race horses, to the purveyor of
oats and hay, the Englishman, the saddler, and so on. He would have to
pay some two thousand roubles on these debts too, in order to be quite
free from anxiety. The last class of debts——to shops, to hotels, to
his tailor——were such as need not be considered. So that he needed at
least six thousand roubles, and he only had one thousand eight hundred
for current expenses. For a man with one hundred thousand roubles of
revenue, which was what everyone fixed as Vronsky's income, such
debts, one would suppose, could hardly be embarrassing; but the fact
was that he was far from having one hundred thousand. His father's
immense property, which alone yielded a yearly income of two hundred
thousand, was left undivided between the brothers. At the time when
the elder brother, with a mass of debts, had married Princess Varia
Chirkova, the daughter of a Dekabrist without any fortune whatever,
Alexei had given up to his elder brother almost the whole income from
his father's estate, reserving for himself only twenty-five thousand a
year from it. Alexei had said at the time to his brother that the sum
would be sufficient for him until he married, which he would probably
never do. And his brother, who was in command of one of the most
expensive regiments, and was only just married, could not decline the
gift. His mother, who had her own separate property, had allowed
Alexei every year twenty thousand in addition to the twenty-five
thousand he had reserved, and Alexei had spent it all. Of late his
mother, incensed with him on account of his love affair and his
leaving Moscow, had given up sending him the money. And, in
consequence of this, Vronsky, who had been in the habit of living on
the scale of forty-five thousand a year, having only received twenty
thousand that year, now found himself in difficulties. To get out of
these difficulties, he could not apply to his mother for money. Her
last letter, which he had received the day before, had particularly
exasperated him by the hints it contained that she was quite ready to
help him to succeed in the world and in the army, but not to lead a
life which scandalized all good society. His mother's attempt to buy
him stung him to the quick and made him feel colder than ever toward
her. But he could not draw back from the generous word when it was
once uttered, even though he felt now, vaguely foreseeing certain
eventualities in his liaison with Madame Karenina, that his generous
word had been spoken thoughtlessly, and that, even though he were not
married, he might need all the hundred thousand of income. But it was
impossible to draw back. He had only to recall his brother's wife, to
remember how that sweet, delightful Varia sought, at every convenient
opportunity, to remind him that she remembered his generosity and
appreciated it, to grasp the impossibility of taking back his gift. It
was as impossible as beating a woman, or stealing, or lying. One thing
only could and ought to be done, and Vronsky determined upon it
without an instant's hesitation: to borrow money from a moneylender,
ten thousand roubles, a proceeding which presented no difficulty; to
cut down his expenses generally, and to sell his race horses.
Resolving on this, he promptly wrote a note to Rolandaky, who had more
than once sent to him with offers to buy horses from him. Then he sent
for the Englishman and the moneylender, and divided what money he had
according to the accounts he intended to pay. Having finished this
business, he wrote a cold and cutting answer to his mother. Then he
took out of his notebook three notes of Anna's, read them again,
burned them, and, remembering their conversation on the previous day,
he sank into deep thought.
Vronsky's life was particularly happy in that he had a code of
principles, which defined with unfailing certitude what he ought and
what he ought not to do. This code of principles covered only a very
small circle of contingencies, but then the principles were never
doubtful, and Vronsky, as he never went outside that circle, had never
had a moment's hesitation about doing what he ought to do. These
principles laid down as invariable rules: that one must pay a
cardsharper, but need not pay a tailor; that one must never tell a lie
to a man, but one may to a woman; that one must never cheat anyone,
but one may a husband; that one must never pardon an insult, but one
may give one and so on. These principles were possibly not reasonable
and not good, but they were of unfailing certainty, and, so long as he
adhered to them, Vronsky felt that his heart was at peace and he could
hold his head up. But of late, in regard to his relations with Anna,
Vronsky had begun to feel that his code of principles did not fully
cover all possible contingencies, and to foresee in the future
difficulties and perplexities for which he could find no guiding clue.
His present relation to Anna and to her husband was to his mind
clear and simple. It was clearly and precisely defined in the code of
principles by which he was guided.
She was an honorable woman who had bestowed her love upon him, and
he loved her, and therefore she was in his eyes a woman who had a
right to the same respect, or even more, than a lawful wife. He would
have had his hand chopped off before he would have allowed himself by
a word, by a hint, to humiliate her, or even to fall short of the
fullest respect a woman could look for.
His attitude toward society, too, was clear. Everyone might know,
might suspect it, but no one might dare to speak of it. If any did
speak, he was ready to force all who might do so to be silent and to
respect the nonexistent honor of the woman he loved.
His attitude to the husband was the clearest of all. From the
moment that Anna loved Vronsky, he had regarded his own right over her
as the one thing unassailable. Her husband was simply a superfluous
and tiresome person. No doubt he was in a pitiable position, but how
could that be helped? The one thing the husband had a right to was to
demand satisfaction with a weapon in his hand, and Vronsky was
prepared for this at any minute.
But of late new inner relations had arisen between her and him,
which frightened Vronsky by their indefiniteness. Only the day before
she had told him that she was with child. And he felt that this fact,
and what she expected of him, called for something not fully defined
in that code of principles by which he had hitherto steered his course
in life. And he had been indeed caught unawares, and, at the first
moment when she spoke to him of her position, his heart had prompted
him to beg her to leave her husband. He had said that, but now,
thinking things over he saw clearly that it would be better to manage
avoiding that; and at the same time, as he told himself this, he was
afraid whether such an avoidance were not wrong.
"If I told her to leave her husband, it would mean uniting her
life with mine; am I prepared for that? How can I take her away now,
when I have no money? Supposing I could arrange... But how can I take
her away while I'm in the service? If I say it, I ought to be prepared
to do it; that is, I ought to have the money and to retire from the
And he grew thoughtful. The question whether to retire from the
service or not brought him to the other, and perhaps the chief though
hidden, interest of his life, of which none knew but he.
Ambition was the old dream of his youth and childhood, a dream
which he did not confess even to himself, though it was so strong that
now this passion was even doing battle with his love. His first steps
in the world and in the service had been successful, but two years
before he had made a great mistake. Anxious to show his independence,
and for the sake of advancement, he had refused a post that had been
offered him, hoping that this refusal would heighten his value; but it
turned out that he had been too bold, and he was passed over. And
having, whether he liked or not, taken up for himself the position of
an independent man, he carried it off with great tact and good sense,
behaving as though he bore no grudge against anyone, nor regarding
himself as injured in any way, and caring for nothing but to be left
alone since he was enjoying himself. In reality he had ceased to enjoy
himself as long ago as the year before, when he had gone to Moscow. He
felt that this independent attitude of a man who might have done
anything, but cared to do nothing, was already beginning to pall, that
many people were beginning to fancy that he was not really capable of
anything but being a straightforward, good-natured fellow. His
connection with Madame Karenina, by creating so much sensation and
attracting general attention, had given him a fresh distinction, which
had soothed his gnawing worm of ambition for a while; but a week ago
that worm had been roused up again with fresh force. The friend of his
childhood, a man of the same set, of the same coterie, his comrade in
the Corps of Pages, Serpukhovskoy, who had left school with him, and
had been his rival in class, in gymnastics, in their scrapes and their
dreams of glory, had come back a few days before from Central Asia,
where he had gained two steps up in rank, and an order rarely bestowed
upon generals so young.
As soon as he arrived in Peterburg, people began to talk about him
as a newly risen star of the first magnitude. A schoolfellow of
Vronsky's and of the same age, he was a general and was expecting a
command which might have influence on the course of political events;
while Vronsky, though he was independent and brilliant, and beloved by
a charming woman, was simply a cavalry captain who was readily allowed
to be as independent as ever he liked. "Of course, I don't envy
Serpukhovskoy and never could envy him; but his advancement shows me
that one has only to watch one's opportunity, and the career of a man
like me may be very rapidly made. Three years ago he was in just the
same position as I am. If I retire, I burn my ships. If I remain in
the army, I lose nothing. She said herself she did not wish to change
her position. And with her love I cannot feel envious of
Serpukhovskoy." And, slowly twirling his mustaches, he got up from the
table and walked about the room. His eyes shone particularly brightly,
and he felt in that firm, calm, and happy frame of mind which always
came after he had thoroughly faced his position. Everything was
straight and clear, just as after former days of striking balances. He
shaved, took a cold bath, dressed, and went out.
"I've come to fetch you. Your lessive lasted a good time today,"
said Petritsky. "Well, is it over?"
"It's over," answered Vronsky, smiling with his eyes only, and
twirling the tips of his mustaches as circumspectly as though after
the perfect order into which his affairs had been brought any overbold
or rapid movement might disturb it.
"You're always just as if you'd come out of a bath after it," said
Petritsky. "I've come from Gritzka" (that was what they called the
colonel);——"you're expected there."
Vronsky, without answering, looked at his comrade, thinking of
"Yes; is that music at his place?" he said, listening to the
familiar bass sounds of trumpets, of polkas and waltzes, floating
across to him. "What's the fete?"
"Aha!" said Vronsky. "Why, I didn't know."
The smile in his eyes gleamed more brightly than ever.
Having once made up his mind that he was happy in his love, that
he sacrificed his ambition to it——at any rate, having taken up this
role——Vronsky was incapable of feeling either envious of
Serpukhovskoy, or vexed at him for not having come to him first upon
coming to the regiment. Serpukhovskoy was a good friend, and he was
delighted he had come.
"Ah, I'm very glad!"
The colonel, Demin, had taken a large country house. The whole
party was on the wide lower balcony. In the courtyard the first
objects that met Vronsky's eyes were a band of singers in short white
linen jackets, standing near a barrel of vodka, and the robust,
good-humored figure of the colonel surrounded by officers. He had gone
out as far as the first step of the balcony and was loudly shouting to
drown out the band playing an Offenbach quadrille, waving his arms and
giving some orders to a few soldiers standing on one side. A group of
soldiers, a quartermaster, and several subalterns came up to the
balcony with Vronsky. The colonel returned to the table, went out
again on the steps with a tumbler in his hand, and proposed the toast,
"To the health of our former comrade, the gallant general, Prince
The colonel was followed by Serpukhovskoy, who came out on the
steps smiling, with a glass in his hand.
"You always get younger, Bondarenko," he said to the rosy-cheeked,
smart-looking sergeant standing just before him, still
youngish-looking though doing his second term of service.
It was three years since Vronsky had seen Serpukhovskoy. He looked
more robust, had let his whiskers grow, but was still the same
graceful creature, whose face and figure were even more striking from
their fineness and nobility than their beauty. The only change Vronsky
detected in him was that subdued, continual beaming which settles on
the faces of men who are successful and are sure of the recognition of
their success by everyone. Vronsky knew that radiant air, and
immediately observed it in Serpukhovskoy.
As Serpukhovskoy came down the steps he saw Vronsky. A smile of
pleasure lighted up his face. He tossed his head upward and waved the
glass in his hand, greeting Vronsky, and showing him by the gesture
that he could not come to him before kissing the sergeant who stood
craning forward his lips ready to be kissed.
"Here he is!" shouted the colonel. "Iashvin told me you were in
one of your gloomy tempers."
Serpukhovskoy kissed the moist, fresh lips of the brave sergeant,
and, wiping his mouth with his handkerchief, walked up to Vronsky.
"How glad I am!" he said, squeezing his hand and drawing him to
"You look after him," the colonel shouted to Iashvin, pointing to
Vronsky; and he went down below to the soldiers.
"Why weren't you at the races yesterday? I expected to see you
there," said Vronsky, scrutinizing Serpukhovskoy.
"I did go, but late. I beg your pardon," he added, and turned to
the adjutant: "Please have this distributed from me, each man as much
as it comes to."
And he hurriedly took three notes for a hundred roubles each from
his pocketbook, and blushed.
"Vronsky! Have a bite or a drink?" asked Iashvin. "Hi, something
for the Count to eat! There——drink that."
The spree at the colonel's lasted a long while.
There was a great deal of drinking. They swung Serpukhovskoy and
tossed him in the air. Then they did the same to the colonel. Then, to
the accompaniment of the band, the colonel himself danced with
Petritsky. Then the colonel, who began to show signs of weakening, sat
down on a bench in the courtyard and began demonstrating to Iashvin
the superiority of Russia over Prussia, especially in cavalry attack,
and there was a lull in the revelry for a moment. Serpukhovskoy went
into the house to the bathroom to wash his hands and found Vronsky
there——Vronsky was sousing his head with water. He had taken off his
coat and put his red hairy neck under the tap, and was rubbing it and
his head with his hands. When he had finished, Vronsky sat down by
Serpukhovskoy. They both sat down in the bathroom on a lounge, and a
conversation began which was very interesting to both of them.
"I've always been hearing about you through my wife," said
Serpukhovskoy. "I'm glad you've been seeing her pretty often."
"She's friendly with Varia, and they're the only women in
Peterburg I care about seeing," answered Vronsky, smiling. He smiled
because he foresaw the topic the conversation would turn to, and he
was glad of it.
"The only ones?" Serpukhovskoy queried, smiling.
"Yes; and I heard news of you, but not only through your wife,"
said Vronsky, checking Serpukhovskoy's hint by assuming a stern
expression. "I was greatly delighted to hear of your success, but not
a bit surprised. I expected even more."
Serpukhovskoy smiled. Such an opinion of him was obviously
agreeable to him, and he did not think it necessary to conceal it.
"Well, I, on the contrary, expected less——I'll own up frankly. But
I'm glad, very glad. I'm ambitious——that's my weakness, and I confess
"Perhaps you wouldn't confess to it if you hadn't been
successful," said Vronsky.
"I don't suppose so," said Serpukhovskoy, smiling again. "I won't
say life wouldn't be worth living without it, but it would be dull. Of
course I may be mistaken, but I fancy I have a certain capacity for
the line I've chosen, and that if there is to be power of any sort in
my hands, it will be better than in the hands of a good many people I
know," said Serpukhovskoy, with beaming consciousness of success; "and
so the nearer I get to it, the better pleased I am."
"Perhaps that is true for you, but not for everyone. I used to
think so too, but now I see and think life worth living not only for
"There it comes! there it comes!" said Serpukhovskoy laughing.
"Ever since I heard about you, about your refusal, I began... Of
course, I approved of what you did. But there are ways of doing
everything. And I think your action was good in itself, but you didn't
do it in quite the way you should have done."
"What's done can't be undone, and you know I never go back on what
I've done. And, besides, I'm very well off."
"Very well off——for the time. But you're not satisfied with that.
I wouldn't say this to your brother. He's a charming child, like our
host here. There he goes!" he added, listening to the roar of a
"hurrah!"——"and he's happy; that does not satisfy you."
"I didn't say it did."
"Yes, but that's not the only thing. Such men as you are wanted."
"By whom? By society, by Russia. Russia needs men, she needs a
party, or else everything goes and will go to the dogs."
"How do you mean? Bertenev's party against the Russian communists?"
"No," said Serpukhovskoy, frowning with vexation at being
suspected of such an absurdity. "Tout ca est une blague. That has
always been, and always will be. There are no communists. But
intriguing people have to invent a noxious, dangerous party. It's an
old trick. No, what's wanted is a powerful party of independent men,
like you and me."
"But why so?" Vronsky mentioned a few men who were in power. "Why
aren't they independent men?"
"Simply because they have not, or have not had from birth, an
independent fortune, they've not had a name, they weren't born close
to the sun as we were. They can be bought either by money or by favor.
And they have to find a support for themselves in inventing a trend.
And they bring forward some notion, some trend that they don't believe
in, that does harm; and the whole policy is really only a means to a
house at the expense of the crown and so much income. Cela n'est pas
plus fin que ca, when you get a peep at their cards. I may be inferior
to them, more stupid perhaps, though I don't see why I should be
inferior to them. But you and I have one important, certain advantage
over them, in being more difficult to buy. And such men are more
needed than ever."
Vronsky listened attentively, but he was not so much interested by
the meaning of the words as by the attitude of Serpukhovskoy, who was
already contemplating a struggle with the existing powers, and already
had his likes and dislikes in that world, while his own interest in
his service did not go beyond the interests of his squadron. Vronsky
felt, too, how powerful Serpukhovskoy might become through his
unmistakable faculty for thinking things out and for taking things in,
through his intelligence and gift of eloquence, so rarely met with in
the world in which he moved. And, ashamed as he was of the feeling, he
"Still I haven't the one thing of paramount importance for that,"
he answered; "I haven't the desire for power. I had it once, but it's
"Excuse me, that's not true," said Serpukhovskoy smiling.
"Yes, it's true, it's true——now to be truthful!" Vronsky added.
"Yes, it's true now, that's another thing; but that now won't last
"Perhaps," answered Vronsky.
"You say perhaps," Serpukhovskoy went on, as though guessing his
thoughts, "but I say for certain. And that's what I wanted to see you
for. Your action was just what it should have been. I see that, but
you ought not to persevere in it. I only ask you to give me carte
blanche. I'm not going to offer you my protection.... Though, indeed,
why shouldn't I protect you?——you've protected me often enough! I
should hope our friendship rises above all that sort of thing. Yes,"
he said, smiling to him as tenderly as a woman, "give me carte
blanche, retire from the regiment, and I'll get you in imperceptibly."
"But you must understand that I want nothing," said Vronsky,
"except to leave things just as they were."
Serpukhovskoy got up and stood facing him.
"You said, leave things just as they were. I understand what that
means. But listen: we're the same age, you've known a greater number
of women perhaps than I have." Serpukhovskoy's smile and gestures told
Vronsky that he mustn't be afraid, that he would be tender and careful
in touching the sore place. "But I'm married, and believe me, in
getting to know one's wife thoroughly, if one loves her, as someone
has said, one gets to know all women better than if one knew thousands
"We're coming directly!" Vronsky shouted to an officer, who looked
into the room and called them to the colonel.
Vronsky was longing now to hear Serpukhovskoy to the end, and know
what he would say to him.
"And here's my opinion for you. Women are the chief stumbling
block in a man's career. It's hard to love a woman and do anything.
There's only one way of having love conveniently without its being a
hindrance——that's marriage. Now, how am I to tell you what I mean?"
said Serpukhovskoy, who liked similes. "Wait, wait a minute! Yes, just
as you can only carry a fardeau yet do something with your hands when
the fardeau is tied on your back——and that's marriage. And that's what
I felt when I was married. My hands were suddenly set free. But if you
drag that fardeau about with you without marriage, your hands will
always be so full that you can do nothing. Look at Mazankov, at
Krupov. They've ruined their careers for the sake of women."
"What women!" said Vronsky, recalling the Frenchwoman and the
actress with whom the two men he had mentioned were connected.
"The firmer the woman's footing in society, the worse it is.
That's much the same as not merely carrying the fardeau in your arms,
but tearing it away from someone else."
"You have never loved," Vronsky said softly, looking straight
before him and thinking of Anna.
"Perhaps. But you remember what I've said to you. And another
thing—— women are all more materialistic than men. We make something
immense out of love, but they are always terre-a-terre."
"Directly, directly!" he cried to a footman who came in. But the
footman had not come to call them again, as he supposed. The footman
brought Vronsky a note.
"A man brought it from Princess Tverskaia."
Vronsky opened the letter, and flushed crimson.
"My head's begun to ache; I'm going home," he said to
"Oh, good-by then. You give me carte blanche!"
"We'll talk about it later on; I'll look you up in Peterburg."
It was six o'clock already, and so, in order to be there quickly,
and at the same time not to drive with his own horses, known to
everyone, Vronsky got into Iashvin's hackney coach and told the
coachman to drive as quickly as possible. It was a roomy,
old-fashioned coach, with seats for four. He sat in one corner,
stretched his legs out on the front seat, and sank into deep thought.
A vague sense of the clearness to which his affairs had been
brought, a vague recollection of the friendliness and flattery of
Serpukhovskoy, who had considered him a man who was needed, and, most
of all, the anticipation of the meeting before him——all blended into a
general, joyous sense of life. This feeling was so strong that he
could not help smiling. He dropped his legs, crossed one leg over the
other knee, and, taking it in his hand, felt the springy muscle of the
calf, where it had been grazed the day before by his fall, and,
leaning back he drew several deep breaths.
"I'm happy, very happy!" he said to himself. He had often before
had this sense of physical joy in his own body, but he had never felt
so fond of himself, of his own body, as at that moment. He enjoyed the
slight ache in his strong leg, he enjoyed the muscular sensation of
movement in his chest as he breathed. The bright, cold August day,
which had made Anna feel so hopeless, seemed to him keenly
stimulating, and refreshed his face and neck that still tingled from
the cold water. The scent of brilliantine on his mustaches struck him
as particularly pleasant in the fresh air. Everything he saw from the
carriage window, everything in that cold pure air, in the pale light
of the sunset, was as fresh, and gay, and strong as he was himself:
the roofs of the houses shining in the rays of the setting sun, the
sharp outlines of fences and angles of buildings, the figures of
passers-by and carriages that met him now and then, the motionless
green of the trees and grass, the fields with evenly drawn furrows of
potatoes, and the slanting shadows that fell from the houses, and
trees, and bushes, and even from the rows of potatoes—— everything was
bright like a pretty landscape freshly painted and varnished.
"Get on, get on!" he said to the driver, putting his head out of
the window, and pulling a three-rouble note out of his pocket he
handed it to the man as he looked round. The driver's hand fumbled
with something at the lamp, the whip cracked, and the coach rolled
rapidly along the smooth highroad.
"I want nothing, nothing but this happiness," he thought, staring
at the bone button of the bell in the space between the windows, and
picturing to himself Anna just as he had seen her last time. "And as I
go on, I love her more and more. Here's the garden of the Vrede's
crown villa. Whereabouts will she be? Where? How? Why did she fix on
this place to meet me, and why does she write in Betsy's letter?" he
thought, now for the first time wondering at it. But there was now no
time for wonder. He called to the driver to stop before reaching the
avenue, and opening the door, jumped out of the carriage as it was
moving, and went up the avenue that led to the house. There was no one
in the avenue; but, looking round to the right, he caught sight of
her. Her face was hidden by a veil, but he drank in with glad eyes the
special movement in walking, peculiar to her alone, the slope of her
shoulders, and the setting of her head, and at once a sort of electric
shock ran all over him. With fresh force he felt conscious of himself,
from the springy movements of his legs to the movements of his lungs
as he breathed, and something set his lips twitching.
Joining him, she pressed his hand tightly.
"You're not angry because I sent for you? I absolutely had to see
you," she said; and the serious and set line of her lips, which he saw
under the veil, transformed his mood at once.
"I angry? But how have you come——where?"
"Never mind," she said, laying her hand on his arm, "come along, I
must talk to you."
He saw that something had happened, and that the interview would
not be a joyous one. In her presence he had no will of his own:
without knowing the grounds of her distress, he already felt the same
distress unconsciously passing over him.
"What is it? What?" he asked her, squeezing her hand with his
elbow, and trying to read her thoughts in her face.
She walked on a few steps in silence, gathering up her courage;
then suddenly she stopped.
"I did not tell you yesterday," she began, breathing quickly and
painfully, "that coming home with Alexei Alexandrovich I told him
everything... told him I could not be his wife, that... and told him
He heard her, unconsciously bending his whole figure down to her
as though hoping in this way to soften the hardness of her position
for her. But directly she had said this he suddenly drew himself up,
and a proud and hard expression came over his face.
"Yes, yes, that's better, a thousand times better! I know how
painful it was," he said. But she was not listening to his words—— she
was reading his thoughts from the expression of his face. She could
not guess that that arose from the first idea that presented itself to
Vronsky——that a duel was now inevitable. The idea of a duel had never
crossed her mind, and so she put a different interpretation on this
passing expression of hardness.
When she got her husband's letter, she knew then at the bottom of
her heart that everything would go on in the old way, that she would
not have the strength of will to forego her position, to abandon her
son, and to join her lover. The morning spent at Princess Tverskaia's
had confirmed her still more in this. But this interview was still of
the utmost gravity for her. She hoped that this interview would
transform her position, and save her. If on hearing this news he were
to say to her resolutely, passionately, without an instant's wavering:
"Throw up everything and come with me! she would give up her son and
go away with him. But this news had not produced on him the effect she
had expected; he simply seemed resentful of some affront.
"It was not in the least painful for me. It happened of itself,"
she said irritably, "and see..." She pulled her husband's letter out
of her glove.
"I understand, I understand," he interrupted her, taking the
letter, but not reading it, and trying to soothe her. "The one thing I
longed for, the one thing I prayed for, was to cut short this
position, so as to devote my life to your happiness."
"Why do you tell me that?" she said. "Do you suppose I can doubt
it? If I doubted..."
"Who's that coming?" said Vronsky suddenly, pointing to two ladies
walking toward them. "Perhaps they know us!" and he hurriedly turned
off, drawing her after him into a side path.
"Oh, I don't care!" she said. Her lips were quivering. And he
fancied that her eyes looked with strange fury at him from under her
veil. "I tell you that's not the point——I can't doubt that; but see
what he writes me. Read it." She stood still again.
Again, just as at the first moment of hearing of her rupture with
her husband, Vronsky, on reading the letter, was unconsciously carried
away by the natural sensation aroused in him by his own relation to
the injured husband. Now, while he held his letter in his hands, he
could not help picturing the challenge, which he would most likely
find at home today or tomorrow, and the duel itself, in which, with
the same cold and haughty expression that his face was assuming at
this moment, he would await the injured husband's shot, after having
himself fired into the air. And at that instant there flashed across
his mind the thought of what Serpukhovskoy had just said to him, and
what he had himself been thinking in the morning——that it was better
not to bind himself; and he knew that he could not tell her this
Having read the letter, he raised his eyes to her, and there was
no firmness in them. She saw at once that he had been thinking about
it before by himself. She knew that whatever he might say to her, he
would not say all he thought. And she knew that her last hope had
failed her. This was not what she had been looking for.
"You see the sort of man he is," she said, with a shaking voice;
"Forgive me, but I rejoice at it," Vronsky interrupted. "For God's
sake, let me finish!" he added, his eyes imploring her to give him
time to explain his words. "I rejoice, because things cannot, cannot
possibly remain as he supposes."
"Why can't they?" Anna said, restraining her tears, and obviously
attaching no sort of consequence to what he said. She felt that her
fate was sealed.
Vronsky meant that after the duel——inevitable, he thought——things
could not go on as before, but he said something different.
"It can't go on. I hope that now you will leave him. I hope"——he
was confused, and reddened——"that you will let me arrange and plan our
life. Tomorrow..." he was beginning.
She did not let him go on.
"But my child!" she shrieked. "You see what he writes! I should
have to leave him, and I can't and won't do that."
"But, for God's sake, which is better? To leave your child, or
keep up this degrading situation?"
"To whom is it degrading?"
"To all, and most of all to you."
"You say degrading... Don't say that. These words have no meaning
for me," she said in a shaking voice. She did not want him now to say
what was untrue. She had nothing left her but his love, and she wanted
to love him. "Don't you understand that from the day I loved you
everything has changed for me? For me there is one thing, and one
thing only——your love. If that's mine, I feel so exalted, so strong,
that nothing can be degrading to me. I am proud of my position,
because... proud of being... proud..." She could not say what she was
proud of. Tears of shame and despair choked her utterance. She stood
still and sobbed.
He felt, too, something swelling in his throat and twitching in
his nose, and for the first time in his life he felt on the point of
weeping. He could not have said exactly what it was touched him so; he
felt sorry for her, and he felt he could not help her, and with that
he knew that he was to blame for her wretchedness, and that he had
done something wrong.
"Isn't a divorce possible?" he said feebly. She shook her head,
without answering. "Couldn't you take your son, and still leave him?
"Yes; but it all depends on him. Now I must go to him," she said
shortly. Her presentiment that all would again go on in the old way
had not deceived her.
"On Tuesday I shall be in Peterburg, and everything can be
"Yes," she said. "But don't let us talk any more of it."
Anna's carriage, which she had sent away, and ordered to come back
to the little gate of the Vrede garden, drove up. Anna said good-by to
Vronsky, and drove home.
On Monday there was the usual session of the Commission of the 2nd
of June. Alexei Alexandrovich walked into the hall where the session
was held, greeted the members and the president, as usual, and sat
down in his place, putting his hand on the papers laid ready before
him. Among those papers lay the necessary evidence and a rough outline
of the speech he intended to make. But he did not really need these
documents. He remembered every point, and did not think it necessary
to go over in his memory what he would say. He knew that when the time
came, and when he saw his enemy facing him, and studiously endeavoring
to assume an expression of indifference, his speech would flow of
itself better than he could prepare it now. He felt that the import of
his speech was of such magnitude that every word of it would have
weight. Meantime, as he listened to the usual report, he had the most
innocent and inoffensive air. No one, looking at his white hands, with
their swollen veins and long fingers, so softly stroking the edges of
the white paper that lay before him, and at the air of weariness with
which his head drooped on one side, would have suspected that in a few
minutes a torrent of words would flow from his lips that would arouse
a fearful storm, set the members shouting and attacking one another,
and force the president to call for order. When the report was over,
Alexei Alexandrovich announced in his subdued, delicate voice that he
had several points to bring before the meeting in regard to the
organization of the native tribes. All attention was turned upon him.
Alexei Alexandrovich cleared his throat, and, without looking at his
opponent, but selecting, as he always did while he was delivering his
speeches, the first person sitting opposite him, an inoffensive little
old man, who never had an opinion of any sort in the Commission, began
to expound his views. When he reached the point about the basic and
organic law, his opponent jumped up and began to protest. Stremov, who
was also a member of the Commission, and was also stung to the quick,
began defending himself, and an altogether stormy session followed;
but Alexei Alexandrovich triumphed, and his motion was carried, three
new commissions were appointed, and the next day, in a certain
Peterburg circle, nothing else was talked of but this session. Alexei
Alexandrovich's success had been even greater than he had anticipated.
Next morning, Tuesday, Alexei Alexandrovich, on awaking,
recollected with pleasure his triumph of the previous day, and he
could not help smiling, though he tried to appear indifferent, when
the head clerk, anxious to flatter him, informed him of the rumors
that had reached him concerning what had happened in the Commission.
Absorbed in business with the head clerk, Alexei Alexandrovich had
completely forgotten that it was Tuesday, the day fixed by him for the
return of Anna Arkadyevna, and he was surprised and received a shock
of annoyance when a servant came in to inform him of her arrival.
Anna had arrived in Peterburg early in the morning; the carriage
had been sent to meet her in accordance with her telegram, and so
Alexei Alexandrovich might have known of her arrival. But, when she
arrived, he did not meet her. She was told that he had not yet gone
out, but was busy with the head clerk. She sent word to her husband
that she had come, went to her own room, and occupied herself in
sorting out her things, expecting he would come to her. But an hour
passed; he did not come. She went into the dining room on the pretext
of giving some directions, and spoke loudly on purpose, expecting him
to come out there; but he did not come, though she heard him go to the
door of his study as he parted from the head clerk. She knew that he
should before long go out to his office as usual, and she wanted to
see him before that, so that their attitude to one another might be
She walked across the drawing room and went resolutely to him.
When she went into his study he was in official uniform, obviously
ready to go out, sitting at a little table on which he rested his
elbows, looking dejectedly before him. She saw him before he saw her,
and she knew that he was thinking of her.
On seeing her, he would have risen, but changed his mind, then his
face flushed hotly——a thing Anna had never seen before, and he got up
quickly and went to meet her, looking not at her eyes, but above them,
at her forehead and hair. He went up to her, took her by the hand, and
asked her to sit down.
"I am very glad you have come," he said, sitting down beside her,
and, obviously wishing to say something, he stuttered. Several times
he attempted to speak, but stopped. In spite of the fact, that in
preparing herself for meeting him, she had schooled herself to despise
and accuse him, she did not know what to say to him, and she felt pity
for him. And so the silence lasted rather long: "Is Seriozha quite
well?" he said, and, without waiting for an answer, he added: "I
shan't be dining at home today, and I must go out directly."
"I had thought of going to Moscow," she said.
"No, you did quite, quite right to come," he said, and was silent
Seeing that he was powerless to begin the conversation, she began
"Alexei Alexandrovich," she said, looking at him and without
dropping her eyes under his persistent gaze at her hair, "I'm a guilty
woman, I'm a bad woman, yet I am the same as I was, as I told you
then, and I have come to tell you that I can change nothing."
"I haven't asked you about that," he said, all at once, resolutely
and with hatred looking her straight in the face; "that was as I had
supposed." Under the influence of anger he apparently regained
complete possession of all his faculties. "But as I told you then, and
have written to you," he said in a thin, shrill voice, "I repeat now,
that I am not bound to know this. I ignore it. Not all wives are so
kind as you, to be in such a hurry to communicate such agreeable news
to their husbands." He laid special emphasis on the word "agreeable."
"I shall ignore it so long as the world knows nothing of it, so long
as my name is not disgraced. And so I simply inform you that our
relations must be just as they have always been, and that only in the
event of your compromising yourself I shall be obliged to take steps
to secure my honor."
"But our relations cannot be the same as always," Anna began in a
timid voice, looking at him with dismay.
When she saw once more those composed gestures, heard that shrill,
childlike and sarcastic voice, her aversion for him extinguished her
pity for him, and she felt only afraid; but at all costs she wanted to
make clear her position.
"I cannot be your wife while I..." she began.
He laughed a cold and malignant laugh.
"The manner of life you have chosen is reflected, I suppose, in
your ideas. I have so much of both respect and contempt——I respect
your past and despise your present——that I was far from the
interpretation you put on my words."
Anna sighed and bowed her head.
"Though indeed I fail to comprehend how, with the independence you
show," he went on, getting hot, "announcing your infidelity to your
husband and seeing nothing reprehensible in it, apparently, you can
see anything reprehensible in performing a wife's duties in relation
to your husband."
"Alexei Alexandrovich! What is it you want of me?"
"I want never to meet that man here, and I want you to conduct
yourself so that neither society, nor the servants, could possibly
reproach you.... I want you not to see him. That's not much, I think.
And in return you will enjoy all the privileges of a faithful wife
without fulfilling her duties. That's all I have to say to you. Now
it's time for me to go. I'm not dining at home." He got up and moved
toward the door.
Anna got up too. Bowing in silence, he let her pass before him.
The night spent by Levin on the haycock did not pass without an
effect upon him. The way in which he had been managing his land
revolted him and lost all attraction for him. In spite of the
magnificent harvest, never had there been (or, at least, it had never
seemed so to him) 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 plowed over and enriched,
the nine level fields surrounded with willow fences, the ninety
dessiatinas heavily manured, drill plows, and all the rest of it——it
was all splendid, if only the work had been done by himself, or by
himself and his comrades, by people in sympathy with him. 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, the sole attainment 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 merely wasted. He could
not help feeling now, since the meaning of his 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
groat (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 threshing
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 his
best dessiatinas of seed clover, justifying themselves by the pretext
that the bailiff had told them to, and trying to pacify him with the
assurance that it would make splendid hay; but he knew that it was
because those dessiatinas were 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——sure, the womenfolks will pitch it quick enough." The plows
were practically useless, because it never occurred to the laborer to
raise the colter when he turned the plow, and in forcing it round, he
tortured the horse and spoiled the ground——and then begged Levin not
to mind it. The horses were allowed to stray into the wheat because
not a single laborer wanted to be night watchman, and, in spite of
orders to the contrary, the laborers insisted on taking turns for
night duty about the horses; and when Vanka, after working all day
long, fell asleep, he would say, very penitent for his fault: "Do what
you will to me."
Three of the best heifers were allowed to overeat themselves to
death, by letting them into the clover aftermath without care as to
drenching them, and nothing would make the men believe that they had
been blown out by the clover, but they told Levin, 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 to his farming; on the contrary, he knew
that they liked him, thinking 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 that his boat leaked, but he
did not look for the leak, perhaps purposely deceiving himself. 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 thirty verstas off, of
Kitty Shcherbatskaia, whom he longed to see and could not. Darya
Alexandrovna Oblonskaia had invited him, when he was over there, to
come; to come with the object of renewing his proposal to her sister,
who would, so she gave him to understand, accept it now. Levin himself
had felt on seeing Kitty Shcherbatskaia 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 proposed to her, and that 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 I shall come to
forgive her magnanimously, and take pity on her! And go through a
performance before her of forgiving, and deigning to bestow my love on
her!... Why did Darya Alexandrovna tell me that? I might have seen her
by chance——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 sidesaddle
for Kitty's use. "I'm told you have a sidesaddle," 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 then sent the
saddle without any reply. To write that he would come was impossible,
because he could not come; to write that he could not come because
something prevented him, or that he would be away, would be still
worse. He sent the saddle without any answer; and with a sense of
having done something shameful, he handed over all the now revolting
business of the estate to his bailiff, and set off next day to a
remote district to see his friend Sviiazhsky, who had splendid marshes
for double snipes in his neighborhood, and had lately written, asking
him to keep a long-standing promise to visit him. The snipe 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 Shcherbatskys, and still
more from his farmwork, especially on a shooting expedition, which
always served as the best consolation in trouble.
In the Surovsky district there was neither railway nor mail coach,
and Levin drove there with his own horses in his tarantass.
He stopped halfway at a well-to-do peasant's to feed his horses. A
bald, well-preserved old man, with a broad, red beard, grizzled on his
cheeks, opened the gate, squeezing against the gatepost to let the
troika pass. Directing the coachman to a place under the shed in the
big, clean, tidy new yard, with charred, wooden plows in it, the old
man asked Levin to come into the room. A cleanly dressed young
housewife, with clogs on her bare feet, was scrubbing the floor in the
new outer room. She was frightened by the dog that ran in after Levin,
and uttered a shriek, but began laughing at her own fright at once
when she was told the dog would not hurt her. Pointing out to Levin
with her bare arm the door into the room, she bent down again, hiding
her handsome face, and went on scrubbing.
"Would you like a samovar?" she asked.
The room was a big one, with a tile stove, and a partition
dividing it into two. Under the icons stood a table painted in
patterns, a bench and two chairs. Near the entrance was a dresser full
of crockery. The shutters were closed, there were few flies, and it
was so clean that Levin was anxious that Laska, who had been running
along the road and bathing in puddles, should not muddy the floor, and
ordered her to a place in the corner by the door. After looking round
the room, Levin went out in the back yard. The comely young housewife
in clogs, swinging the empty pails on the yoke, ran on before him to
the well for water.
"Look sharp, my girl!" the old man shouted after her,
good-humoredly, and he walked up to Levin. "Well, sir, are you going
to Nikolai Ivanovich Sviiazhsky? He comes to us too," he began
chatting, leaning his elbows on the railing of the steps. In the
middle of the old man's account of his acquaintance with Sviiazhsky,
the gates creaked again, and laborers came into the yard from the
fields, with wooden plows and harrows. The horses harnessed to the
plows and harrows were sleek and fat. The laborers were obviously of
the household: two were young men in cotton-print shirts and caps, the
two others were hired laborers in homespun shirts, one an old man, the
other a young fellow.
Moving off from the steps, the old man went up to the horses and
began unharnessing them.
"What have they been plowing?" asked Levin.
"Plowing up the potatoes. We rent a bit of land too. Fedot, don't
let out the gelding, but take it to the trough, and we'll put another
"Oh, father, about the plowshares I ordered——has he brought them
along?" asked the big, robust fellow, obviously the old man's son.
"There... in the sledge," answered the old man, rolling up the
reins he had taken off, and flinging them on the ground. "You can put
them right, while they have dinner."
The comely young housewife came into the outer room with the full
pails dragging at her shoulders. More women came on the scene from
somewhere, young and handsome, middle-aged, old and ugly, with
children and without children.
The samovar was beginning to sing; the laborers and the family,
having disposed of the horses, came in to dinner. Levin, getting his
provisions out of his carriage, invited the old man to take tea with
"Well, I have had some today already," said the old man, obviously
accepting the invitation with pleasure. "Well, be it so, for company."
Over their tea Levin heard all about the old man's farming. Ten
years before the old man had rented a hundred and twenty dessiatinas
from the lady who owned them, and a year ago he had bought them and
rented another three hundred from a neighboring landowner. A small
part of the land——the worst part——he let out for rent, while some
forty dessiatinas of arable land he cultivated himself, with his
family and two hired laborers. The old man complained that things were
going badly. But Levin saw that he simply did so from a feeling of
propriety, and that his farm was in a flourishing condition. If it had
been unsuccessful he would not have bought land at a hundred and five
roubles the dessiatina, he would not have married off his three sons
and a nephew, he would not have rebuilt twice after fires, and each
time on a larger scale. In spite of the old man's complaints, it was
evident that he was proud, and justly proud, of his prosperity, proud
of his sons, his nephew, his sons' wives, his horses, and his cows,
and especially of the fact that he was keeping all this farming going.
From his conversation with the old man, Levin realized he was not
averse to new methods either. He had planted a great many potatoes,
and his potatoes, as Levin had seen driving past, were already past
flowering and beginning to ripen, whereas Levin's were only just
coming into flower. He plowed the ground for his potatoes with a
modern plow borrowed from a neighboring landowner. He sowed wheat. The
trifling fact that, thinning out his rye, the old man used the rye he
thinned out for his horses, struck Levin especially. How many times
had Levin seen this splendid fodder wasted, and tried to get it saved;
but always it had turned out to be impossible. This peasant had done
so, and he could not say enough in praise of it as food for the
"What have the wenches to do? They carry it out in bundles to the
roadside, and the cart brings it away."
"Well, we landowners can't manage well with our laborers," said
Levin, handing him a glass of tea.
"Thanks," said the old man, and he took the glass, but refused
sugar, pointing to a bit he had left. "There's no getting along with
them," said he. "They're simple waste. Look at Sviiazhsky, for
instance. We know what the land's like——first-rate; yet there's not
much of a crop to boast of. It's not looked after enough——that's all
"But you work your land with hired laborers?"
"We're all peasants together. We go into everything ourselves. If
a man's no use, he can go, and we can manage by ourselves."
"Father Finogen wants some tar," said the young woman in the
clogs, coming in.
"Yes, yes, that's how it is, sir!" said the old man, getting up,
and, crossing himself lingeringly, he thanked Levin and went out.
When Levin went in the kitchen to call his coachman he saw the
whole family of men at dinner. The women were standing up waiting on
them. The young, robust son was telling something funny, with his
mouth full of buckwheat porridge, and they were all laughing——the
woman in the clogs, who was pouring cabbage soup into a bowl, laughing
most merrily of all.
Very probably the comely face of the young woman in the clogs had
a good deal to do with the impression of well-being this peasant
household made upon Levin, but the impression was so strong that Levin
could never get rid of it. And all the way from the old peasant's to
Sviiazhsky's he kept recalling this peasant farm as though there were
something in this impression demanding his special attention.
Sviiazhsky was the marshal of his district. He was five years
older than Levin, and had long been married. His sister-in-law, a
young girl Levin liked very much, lived in his house; and Levin knew
that Sviiazhsky and his wife would have greatly liked to marry the
girl to him. He knew this with certainty, as so-called eligible young
men always know it, though he could never have brought himself to
speak of it to anyone; and he also knew that, although he wanted to
get married, and although by every token this very attractive girl
would make an excellent wife, he could no more have married her, even
if he had not been in love with Kitty Shcherbatskaia, than he could
have flown up to the sky. And this knowledge poisoned the pleasure he
had hoped to find in the visit to Sviiazhsky.
On getting Sviiazhsky's letter with the invitation for shooting,
Levin had immediately thought of this; but, in spite of it, he had
made up his mind that Sviiazhsky's having such views for him was
simply his own groundless supposition, and so he would go,
notwithstanding. Besides, at the bottom of his heart, he had a desire
to try himself, to put himself to the test in regard to this girl. The
Sviiazhskys' home life was exceedingly pleasant, and Sviiazhsky
himself, the best type of Zemstvo man that Levin knew, was very
interesting to him.
Sviiazhsky was one of those people, always a source of wonder to
Levin, whose convictions, very logical though never original, go one
way by themselves, while their life, exceedingly definite and firm in
its course, goes its way quite apart and almost always in direct
contradiction to their convictions. Sviiazhsky was an extremely
advanced man. He despised the nobility, and believed the mass of the
nobility to be secretly in favor of serfdom, and only concealing their
views out of cowardice. He regarded Russia as a ruined country, rather
after the style of Turkey, and the government of Russia as so bad that
he never permitted himself to criticize its doings seriously, and yet
he was a functionary of that government, and a model marshal of
nobility, and when he drove about he always wore his cap with the
cockade and red band. He considered human life only tolerable abroad,
and went abroad to stay at every opportunity, and at the same time he
carried on a complex and improved system of agriculture in Russia, and
with extreme interest followed everything and knew everything that was
being done in Russia. He considered the Russian peasant as occupying a
stage of development intermediate between the ape and the man, and at
the same time in the days of Zemstvo election no one was readier to
shake hands with the peasants and listen to their opinion. He believed
neither in God nor the devil, but was much concerned about the
question of the improvement of the clergy and the maintenance of their
revenues, and took special trouble to keep up the church in his
On the woman question he was on the side of the extreme advocates
of complete liberty for women, and especially their right to labor.
But he lived with his wife on such terms that their affectionate,
childless home life was the admiration of everyone, and arranged his
wife's life so that she did nothing and could do nothing but share her
husband's preoccupations in spending their time as happily and as
agreeably as possible.
If it had not been a characteristic of Levin to put the most
favorable interpretation on people, Sviiazhsky's character would have
presented no doubt or difficulty to him: he would have said to
himself, "a fool or a knave," and everything would have seemed clear.
But he could not say a fool, because Sviiazhsky was unmistakably
clever, and, moreover, a highly cultivated man, who was exceptionally
modest over his culture. There was not a subject he knew nothing of.
But he did not display his knowledge except when he was compelled to
do so. Still less could Levin say that he was a knave, as Sviiazhsky
was unmistakably an honest, goodhearted, sensible man, who worked
good-humoredly, keenly, and perseveringly at his work, which was held
in high honor by everyone about him, and certainly he had never
consciously done, and was indeed incapable of doing, anything base.
Levin tried to understand him, and could not understand him, and
looked at him and his life as at a living enigma.
Levin and he were very friendly, and so Levin used to venture to
sound Sviiazhsky, to try to get at the very foundation of his view of
life; but it was always in vain. Every time Levin tried to penetrate
beyond the outer chambers of Sviiazhsky's mind, which were hospitably
open to all, he noticed that Sviiazhsky was slightly disconcerted;
faint signs of alarm were visible in his eyes, as though he were
afraid Levin would understand him, and he would give him a kindly,
Just now, since his disenchantment with farming, Levin was
particularly glad to stay with Sviiazhsky. Apart from the fact that
the sight of this happy and affectionate couple, so pleased with
themselves and everyone else, and their well-ordered home, had always
a cheering effect on Levin, he felt a longing, now that he was so
dissatisfied with his own life, to get at that secret in Sviiazhsky
which gave him such clarity, definiteness, and good courage in life.
Moreover, Levin knew that at Sviiazhsky's he would meet the landowners
of the neighborhood, and it was particularly interesting for him just
now to hear and take part in those rural conversations concerning
crops, laborers' wages, and so on, which, Levin was aware, are
conventionally regarded as something very low, but which seemed to him
just now to constitute the one subject of importance. "It was not,
perhaps, of importance in the days of serfdom, and it may not be of
importance in England. In both cases the conditions of agriculture are
firmly established; but among us now, when everything has been turned
topsy-turvy, and is only just taking shape, the question what form
these conditions will take is the one question of importance in
Russia," thought Levin.
The shooting turned out to be poorer than Levin expected. The
marsh was dry and there were no snipe at all. He walked about the
whole day and only brought back three birds, but to make up for that
he brought back, as he always did from shooting, an excellent
appetite, excellent spirits, and that keen, intellectual mood which
with him always accompanied violent physical exertion. And while out
shooting, when he seemed to be thinking of nothing at all, the old man
and his family would time and again come to mind, and the impression
of them seemed to claim not merely his attention, but the solution of
some question connected with them.
In the evening, at tea, two landowners who had come about some
business connected with a wardship were of the party, and the
interesting conversation Levin had been looking forward to sprang up.
Levin was sitting beside his hostess at the tea table, and was
obliged to keep up a conversation with her and her sister, who was
sitting opposite him. Madame Sviiazhsky was a round-faced,
fair-haired, rather short woman, all smiles and dimples. Levin tried
through her to get at a solution of the weighty enigma her husband
presented to his mind; but he had not complete freedom of ideas,
because he was in an agony of embarrassment. This agony of
embarrassment was due to the fact that the sister-in-law was sitting
opposite to him, in a dress, specially put on, as he fancied, for his
benefit, cut particularly open, in the shape of a trapeze, at her
white bosom. This quadrangular opening, in spite of the bosom's being
very white, or just because it was very white, deprived Levin of the
full use of his faculties. He imagined, probably mistakenly, that this
low-necked bodice had been made on his account, and felt that he had
no right to look at it, and tried not to look at it; but he felt that
he was to blame for the very fact of the low-necked bodice having been
made. It seemed to Levin that he had imposed upon someone, that he
ought to explain something, but that to explain it was impossible, and
for that reason he was continually blushing, was ill at ease and
awkward. His awkwardness infected the pretty sister-in-law too. But
their hostess appeared not to observe this, and kept purposely drawing
her into the conversation.
"You say," she said, pursuing the subject that had been started,
"that my husband cannot be interested in what's Russian. It's quite
the contrary; he is in cheerful spirits abroad, but never in such as
he is here. Here he feels in his proper place. He has so much to do,
and he has the faculty of interesting himself in everything. Oh,
you've not been to see our school, have you?"
"I've seen it.... The little house covered with ivy, isn't it?"
"Yes; that's Nastia's work," she said, indicating her sister.
"You teach in it yourself?" asked Levin, trying to look above the
open neck, but feeling that no matter where he looked in that
direction he should see it.
"Yes; I used to teach in it myself, and do teach still, but we
have a first-rate schoolmistress now. And we've started gymnastic
"No, thank you, I won't have any more tea," said Levin, and
conscious of doing a rude thing, but incapable of continuing the
conversation, he got up, blushing. "I hear a very interesting
conversation," he added, and walked to the other end of the table,
where Sviiazhsky was sitting with the two gentlemen of the
neighborhood. Sviiazhsky was sitting sideways, with one elbow on the
table, and a cup in one hand, while with the other hand he gathered up
his beard, held it to his nose and let it drop again, as though he
were smelling it. His brilliant black eyes were looking directly at
the excited country gentleman with gray mustaches, and apparently he
derived amusement from his remarks. The gentleman was complaining of
the peasants. It was evident to Levin that Sviiazhsky knew the answer
to this gentleman's complaints, which would at once demolish his whole
contention, but that in his position he could not give utterance to
this answer, and listened, not without pleasure, to the landowner's
The gentleman with the gray mustaches was obviously an inveterate
adherent of serfdom and a devoted agriculturist, who had lived all his
life in the country. Levin saw proofs of this in his dress, in his
old-fashioned threadbare coat, obviously not his everyday attire, in
his shrewd, deep-set eyes, in his coherent Russian, in the imperious
tone that had become habitual from long use, and in the resolute
gestures of his large, beautiful sunburned hands, with a single old
wedding ring on his fourth finger.
"If I'd only the heart to throw up what's been set going... such a
lot of trouble wasted... I'd turn my back on the whole business, sell
out, go off like Nikolai Ivanovich... to hear La Belle Helene," said
the landowner, a pleasant smile lighting up his shrewd old face.
"But, you see, you don't throw it up," said Nikolai Ivanovich
Sviiazhsky, "so there must be something gained."
"The only gain is that I live in my own house, neither bought nor
hired. Besides, one keeps hoping the people will learn sense. Though,
instead of that, believe it or not, there is such drunkenness, such
immorality!... They keep making partition of their bits of land; there
isn't a horse or a cow. The peasant's dying of hunger, but just go and
take him on as a laborer——he'll do his best to do you a mischief, and
then bring you up before the justice of the peace."
"But then, you make complaints to the justice too," said
"I lodge complaints? Not for anything in the world There's so much
talk springs up that one is sorry ever to have complained. At the
works, for instance, they pocketed the advance money and made off.
What did the justice do? Why, acquitted them. Nothing keeps them in
order but their own communal court and their village elder. He'll flog
them in the good old style! But for that there'd be nothing for it but
to give it all up and run away."
Obviously the landowner was chaffing Sviiazhsky, who, far from
resenting it, was apparently amused by it.
"But, you see, we manage our land without such extreme measures,"
said he, smiling: "Levin, and I, and this gentleman."
He indicated the other landowner.
"Yes, the thing's done at Mikhail Petrovich's, but ask him how
it's done. Do you call that a rational system?" said the landowner,
obviously rather proud of the word "rational".
"My system's very simple," said Mikhail Petrovich, "thank God. All
my management rests on getting the money ready for the autumn
taxes.... The peasants come to me, 'Father, master, help us!' Well,
the peasants are all one's neighbors; one feels for them. So one
advances them a third, but one says: 'Remember, lads, I have helped
you, and you must help me when I need it——whether it's the sowing of
the oats, or the hay cutting, or the harvest'; and well, one agrees,
so much for each taxpayer——though there are dishonest ones among them
too, it's true."
Levin, who had long been familiar with these patriarchal methods,
exchanged glances with Sviiazhsky and interrupted Mikhail Petrovich,
turning again to the gentleman with the gray mustaches.
"Well, what do you think?" he asked. "What system is one to adopt
"Why, manage like Mikhail Petrovich, or let the land for half the
crop or for rent to the peasants; one can do that——only that's just
how the general prosperity of the country is being ruined. Where the
land with serf labor and good management gave a yield of nine to one,
on the metayage system it yields three to one. Russia has been ruined
by the emancipation!"
Sviiazhsky looked with smiling eyes at Levin, and even made a
faint gesture of irony to him; but Levin did not think the landowner's
words absurd; he understood them better than he did Sviiazhsky. A
great deal more of what the landowner said to show in what way Russia
was ruined by the emancipation struck him indeed as very true, new to
him, and quite incontestable. The landowner unmistakably spoke his own
individual thought——a thing that rarely happens——and a thought to
which he had been brought not by a desire of finding some exercise for
an idle brain, but a thought which had grown up out of the conditions
of his life, which he had brooded over in the solitude of his village,
and had considered in every aspect.
"The point is, don't you see, that progress of every sort is only
made by the use of authority," he said, evidently wishing to show he
was not without culture. "Take the reforms of Peter, of Catherine, of
Alexander. Take European history. And progress in agriculture more
than anything else——the potato, for instance, that was introduced
among us by force. The wooden plow, too, wasn't always used. It was
introduced in the days of appanaged princes, perhaps, but it was
probably brought in by force. Now, in our own day, we landowners in
the serf times used various improvements in our husbandry: drying
machines and threshing machines, and carting manure, and all the
modern implements——all these we brought into use by our authority, and
the peasants opposed it at first, and ended by imitating us. Now, by
the abolition of serfdom, we have been deprived of our authority; and
so our husbandry, where it had been raised to a high level, is bound
to sink to the most savage, primitive condition. That's how I see it."
"But why so? If it's rational, you'll be able to keep up the same
system with hired labor," said Sviiazhsky.
"We've no power over them. With whom am I going to work the
system, allow me to ask?"
"There it is——the labor force——the chief element in agriculture,"
"The laborers won't work well, and won't work with good
implements. Our laborer can do nothing but get drunk, like a swine,
and then ruin everything you give him. He spoils the horses by
watering unseasonably, he cuts good harness, barters the tires of the
wheels for drink, drops bits of iron into the threshing machine, so as
to break it. He loathes the sight of anything that's not after his
fashion. And that's how the whole level of husbandry has fallen. Lands
gone out of cultivation, overgrown with weeds, or divided among the
peasants, and where millions of chetverts were raised you get a
hundred thousand; the wealth of the country has decreased. If the same
thing had been done, but with consideration for..."
And he proceeded to unfold his own scheme of emancipation by means
of which these drawbacks might have been avoided.
This did not interest Levin, but, when he had finished, Levin went
back to his first position, and, addressing Sviiazhsky, and trying to
draw him into expressing his serious opinion, said:
"It's perfectly true that the standard of culture is falling, and
that with our present relations to the peasants there is no
possibility of farming on a rational system to yield a profit," said
"I don't believe it," Sviiazhsky replied quite seriously; "all I
see is that we don't know how to cultivate the land, and that our
system of agriculture in the serf days was by no means too high, but
too low. We have no machines, no good stock, no efficient supervision;
we don't even know how to keep accounts. Ask any landowner; he won't
be able to tell you which crop's profitable, and which isn't."
"Italian bookkeeping," said the landowner ironically. "You may
keep your books as you like, but if they spoil everything for you,
there won't be any profit."
"Why do they spoil things? A poor threshing machine, or your
Russian presser, they will break, but my steam press they don't break.
A wretched Russian nag they'll ruin, but keep good percherons or the
Russian wagon horses——they won't ruin them. And so it is all round. We
must raise our farming to a higher level."
"Oh, if one only had the means to do it, Nikolai Ivanovich! It's
all very well for you; but for me, with a son to keep at the
university, lads to be educated at the high school——how am I going to
buy these percherons?"
"Well, that's what the banks are for."
"To get whatever I have left sold by auction? No, thank you."
"I don't agree that it's necessary or possible to raise the level
of agriculture still higher," said Levin. "I devote myself to it, and
I have means, but I can do nothing. As to the banks, I don't know to
whom they're any good. For my part, anyway, whatever I've spent money
on in the way of husbandry has been a loss: stock——a loss, machinery——
"That's true enough," the gentleman with the gray mustaches chimed
in, even laughing with satisfaction.
"And I'm not the only one," pursued Levin. "I mix with all the
neighboring landowners, who are cultivating their land on a rational
system; they all, with rare exceptions, are doing so at a loss. Come,
tell us how does your land do——does it pay?" said Levin, and at once
in Sviiazhsky's eyes he detected that fleeting expression of alarm
which he had noticed whenever he had tried to penetrate beyond the
outer chambers of Sviiazhsky's mind.
Moreover, this question on Levin's part was not quite in good
faith. Madame Sviiazhsky had just told him at tea that they had that
summer invited a German expert accountant from Moscow, who for a
consideration of five hundred roubles had investigated the management
of their property, and found that it was costing them a loss of three
thousand odd roubles. She did not remember the precise sum, but it
appeared that the German had worked it out to the fraction of a
The landowner smiled at the mention of the profits of Sviiazhsky's
farming, obviously aware how much gain his neighbor and marshal was
likely to be making.
"Possibly it does not pay," answered Sviiazhsky. "That merely
proves that either I'm a bad manager, or that I've sunk my capital for
the increase of my rents."
"Oh, rent!" Levin cried with horror. "Rent there may be in Europe,
where land has been improved by the labor put into it; but with us all
the land is deteriorating from the labor put into it——in other words,
they're working it out; so there's no question of rent."
"How——no rent? It's a law."
"Then we're outside the law; rent explains nothing for us, but
simply muddles us. No, tell me how there can be a theory of rent?..."
"Will you have some curded milk? Masha, pass us some curded milk
or raspberries." He turned to his wife. "The raspberries are lasting
extraordinarily late this year."
And in the happiest frame of mind Sviiazhsky got up and walked
off, apparently supposing the conversation to have ended at the very
point when to Levin it seemed that it was only just beginning.
Having lost his antagonist, Levin continued the conversation with
the landowner, trying to prove to him that all the difficulty arises
from the fact that we don't find out the peculiarities and habits of
our laborer; but the landowner, like all men who think independently
and in isolation, was slow in taking in any other person's thought,
and particularly partial to his own. He stuck to it that the Russian
peasant is a swine and likes swinishness, and that to get him out of
his swinishness one must have authority, and there is none; one must
have the stick, and we have become so liberal that we have all of a
sudden replaced the stick, that served us for a thousand years, with
lawyers and model prisons, where the worthless, stinking peasant is
fed on good soup and has a fixed allowance of cubic feet of air.
"What makes you think," said Levin, trying to get back to the
question, "that it's impossible to find some relation to the laborer
in which the labor would become productive?"
"That never could be so with the Russian people; we've no
authority," answered the landowner.
"How can new conditions be found?" said Sviiazhsky. Having eaten
some curded milk and lighted a cigarette, he came back to the
discussion. "All possible relations to the labor force have been
defined and studied," he said. "The relic of barbarism, the primitive
commune with a guarantee for all, will disappear of itself; serfdom
has been abolished——there remains nothing but free labor, and its
forms are fixed and ready made, and must be adopted. Permanent hands,
day laborers, farmers——you can't get out of those forms."
"But Europe is dissatisfied with these forms."
"Dissatisfied, and seeking new ones. And will find them, in all
"That's just what I meant," answered Levin. "Why shouldn't we seek
them for ourselves?"
"Because it would be just like inventing afresh the means for
constructing railways. They are ready, invented."
"But if they don't suit us, if they're stupid?" said Levin.
And again he detected the expression of alarm in the eyes of
"Oh, yes; we'll bury the world under our caps! We've found the
secret Europe was seeking for! I've heard all that; but, excuse me, do
you know all that's been done in Europe on the question of the
organization of labor?"
"No, very little."
"That question is now absorbing the best minds in Europe. The
Schulze-Delitsch movement.... And then, all this enormous literature
of the labor question, the most liberal Lassalle movement.... The
Mulhausen experiment? That's a fact by now, as you're probably aware."
"I have some idea of it, but very vague."
"No, you only say that; no doubt you know all about it as well as
I do. I'm no professor of sociology, of course, but it interested me,
and really, if it interests you, you ought to study it."
"But what conclusion have they come to?"
The two neighbors had risen, and Sviiazhsky, once more checking
Levin in his inconvenient habit of peeping into what was beyond the
outer chambers of his mind, went to see his guests out.
Levin was insufferably bored that evening with the ladies; he was
stirred as he had never been before by the idea that the
dissatisfaction he was feeling with his system of managing his land
was not an exceptional case, but the general condition of things in
Russia; that the evolving of some relation of the laborers to the soil
which they would work, as with the peasant he had met halfway to the
Sviiazhskys', was not a dream, but a problem which must be solved. And
it seemed to him that the problem could be solved, and that he ought
to try to solve it.
After saying good night to the ladies, and promising to stay the
whole of the next day, so as to make an expedition on horseback with
them to see an interesting gap in the crown forest, Levin went, before
going to bed, into his host's study to get the books on the labor
question that Sviiazhsky had offered him. Sviiazhsky's study was a
huge room, by bookcases and with two tables in it——one a massive
writing table, standing in the middle of the room, and the other a
round table, covered with recent numbers of reviews and journals in
different languages, ranged like the rays of a star round a lamp. On
the writing table was a stand of drawers marked with gold labels, and
full of papers of various sorts.
Sviiazhsky took out the books, and sat down in a rocking chair.
"What are you looking at there?" he said to Levin, who was
standing at the round table looking through the reviews. "Oh, yes,
there's a very interesting article here," said Sviiazhsky, pointing to
the review Levin was holding in his hand. "It appears," he went on,
with eager interest, "that Friedrich was not, after all, the person
chiefly responsible for the partition of Poland. It is proved..."
And, with his characteristic clearness, he summed up those new,
very important, and interesting revelations. Although Levin was
engrossed at the moment by his ideas about the problem of the land, he
wondered, as he heard Sviiazhsky: "What is there inside of him? And
why, why is he interested in the partition of Poland?" When Sviiazhsky
had finished, Levin could not help asking: "Well, and what then?" But
there was nothing to follow. It was simply interesting that such and
such had been "proved." But Sviiazhsky did not explain, and saw no
need of explaining, why it was interesting to him.
"Yes, but I was very much interested by your irritable neighbor,"
said Levin, sighing. "He's a clever fellow, and said a lot that was
"Oh, get along with you! An inveterate supporter of serfdom at
heart, like all of them!" said Sviiazhsky.
"Whose marshal you are."
"Yes, only I marshal them in the other direction," said
"I'll tell you what interests me very much," said Levin. "He's
right that our system, that is to say, of rational farming, doesn't
answer; that the only thing that answers is the moneylender system,
like that meek-looking gentleman's, or else the very simplest. Whose
fault is it?"
"Our own, of course. Besides, it's not true that it doesn't
answer. It answers with Vassilchikov."
"But I really don't know what it is you are surprised at. The
people are at such a low stage of material and moral development, that
obviously they're bound to oppose everything that's necessary to them.
In Europe, a rational system answers because the people are educated;
it follows that we must educate the people——that's all."
"But how are we to educate the people?"
"To educate the people three things are needed: schools, and
schools, and schools."
"But you said yourself the people are at such a low stage of
material development: what help are schools for that?"
"Do you know, you remind me of the story of the advice given to
the sick man.——You should try purgative medicine. Taken it: worse. Try
leeches. Tried them: worse. Well, then, there's nothing left but to
pray to God. Tried it: worse. That's just how it is with us. I say
political economy; you say——worse. I say socialism——worse. Education——
"But how do schools help matters?"
"They give the peasant fresh wants."
"Well, that's a thing I've never understood," Levin replied with
heat. "In what way are schools going to help the people to improve
their material position? You say schools, education, will give them
fresh wants. So much the worse, since they won't be capable of
satisfying them. And in what way a knowledge of addition and
subtraction and the catechism is going to improve their material
condition, I never could make out. The day before yesterday I met a
peasant woman in the evening with a little baby, and asked her where
she was going. She said she was going to the wisewoman; her boy had
screaming fits, so she was taking him to be doctored. I asked, 'Why,
how does the wisewoman cure screaming fits?' 'She puts the child on
the hen roost and repeats some charm....'"
"Well, you're saying it yourself! What's wanted to prevent her
taking her child to the hen roost to cure it of screaming fits is
just..." Sviiazhsky said, smiling good-humoredly.
"Oh, no!" said Levin with annoyance; "that method of doctoring I
merely meant as a simile for doctoring the people with schools. The
people are poor and ignorant——that we see as surely as the peasant
woman sees the baby has fits because it screams. But in what way this
trouble of poverty and ignorance is to be cured by schools is as
incomprehensible as how the hen roost affects the screaming. What has
to be cured is what makes him poor."
"Well, in that, at least, you're in agreement with Spencer, whom
you dislike so much. He says, too, that education may be the
consequence of greater prosperity and comfort, of more frequent
washing, as he says, but not of being able to read and write...."
"Well, then, I'm very glad——or the contrary, very sorry——that I'm
in agreement with Spencer; only I've known it a long while. Schools
can do no good; what will do good is an economic organization in which
the people will become richer, will have more leisure——and then there
will be schools."
"Still, all over Europe now schools are obligatory."
"And how far do you agree with Spencer yourself about it?" asked
But there was a gleam of alarm in Sviiazhsky's eyes, and he said
"No; that screaming story is positively capital! Did you really
hear it yourself?"
Levin saw that he was not to discover the connection between this
man's life and his thoughts. Obviously he did not care in the least
what his reasoning led him to; all he wanted was the process of
reasoning. And he did not like it when the process of reasoning
brought him into a blind alley. That was the only thing he disliked,
and avoided by changing the conversation to something agreeable and
All the impressions of the day, beginning with the impression made
by the old peasant, which served, as it were, as the thorough bass of
all the conceptions and ideas of the day, threw Levin into violent
excitement. This dear good Sviiazhsky, keeping a stock of ideas simply
for public purposes, and obviously having some other principles hidden
from Levin, while with the crowd, whose name is legion, he guided
public opinion by ideas he did not share; that irascible country
gentleman, perfectly correct in the conclusions that he had been
worried into by life, but wrong in his exasperation against a whole
class, and that the best class in Russia; his own dissatisfaction with
the work he had been doing, and the vague hope of finding a remedy for
all this——all was blended in a sense of inward turmoil, and the
anticipation of some solution near at hand.
Left alone in the room assigned him, lying on a spring mattress,
that yielded unexpectedly at every movement of his arm or his leg,
Levin did not fall asleep for a long while. Not one conversation with
Sviiazhsky, though he had said a great deal that was clever, had
interested Levin; but the conclusions of the irascible landowner
required consideration. Levin could not help recalling every word he
had said, and in imagination amending his own replies.
"Yes, I ought to have said to him: You say that our husbandry does
not answer because the peasant hates improvements, and that they must
be forced on him by authority. If no system of husbandry answered at
all without these improvements, you would be quite right. But the only
system that does answer is when the laborer is working in accordance
with his habits, just as on the old peasant's land halfway here. Your
and our general dissatisfaction with the system shows that either we
are to blame or the laborers. We have gone our way——the European way——
a long while, without asking ourselves about the qualities of our
labor force. Let us try to look upon the labor force not as an
abstract force but as the Russian mouzhik with his instincts, and let
us arrange our system of agriculture in accordance with that. Imagine,
I ought to have said to him, that you have the same system as the old
peasant has, that you have found means of making your laborers take an
interest in the success of the work, and have found the happy mean in
the way of improvements which they will admit, and you will, without
exhausting the soil, get twice or three times the yield you got
before. Divide it in halves, give half as the share of labor, the
surplus left you will be greater, and labor's share will be greater
too. And to do this one must lower the standard of husbandry and
interest the laborers in its success. How to do this?——that's a matter
of detail; but undoubtedly it can be done."
This idea threw Levin into a great excitement. He did not sleep
half the night, thinking over in detail the putting of his idea into
practice. He had not intended to go away next day, but he now
determined to go home early in the morning. Besides, the sister-in-law
with her low-necked bodice aroused in him a feeling akin to shame and
remorse for some utterly base action. Most important of all——he must
get back without delay: he would have to make haste to put his new
project to the peasants before the sowing of the winter wheat, so that
the sowing might be undertaken on a new basis. He had made up his mind
to revolutionize his whole system.
The carrying out of Levin's plan presented many difficulties; but
he struggled on, doing his utmost, and attained a result which, though
not what he desired, was enough to enable him, without self-deception,
to believe that the attempt was worth the trouble. One of the chief
difficulties was that the process of cultivating the land was in full
swing, that it was impossible to stop everything and begin it all
again from the beginning, and the machine had to be mended while in
When on the evening of his arrival home he informed the bailiff of
his plans, the latter with visible pleasure agreed with what he said,
so long as he was pointing out that all that had been done up to that
time was stupid and useless. The bailiff said that he had said so a
long while ago, but no heed had been paid him. But as for the proposal
made by Levin——to take a part as shareholder with his laborers in each
agricultural undertaking——at this the bailiff simply expressed a
profound despondency, and offered no definite opinion, but began
immediately talking of the urgent necessity of carrying the remaining
sheaves of rye the next day, and of sending the men out for the second
plowing, so that Levin felt that this was not the time for discussing
On beginning to talk to the peasants about it, and making a
proposition to cede them the land on new terms, he came into collision
with the same great difficulty——that they were so much absorbed by the
current work of the day that they had not time to consider the
advantages and disadvantages of the proposed scheme.
The simplehearted Ivan, the cowherd, seemed to grasp Levin's
proposal fully——that he should with his family take a share of the
profits of the cattle yard——and he was in complete sympathy with the
plan. But when Levin hinted at the future advantages, Ivan's face
expressed alarm and regret that he could not hear all he had to say,
and he made haste to find himself some task that would admit of no
delay: he either snatched up the fork to pitch the hay out of the
pens, or ran to get water or to clear out the manure.
Another difficulty lay in the invincible disbelief of the peasants
that a landowner's object could be anything else than a desire to
squeeze all he could out of them. They were firmly convinced that his
real aim (whatever he might say to them) would always be in what he
did not say to them. And they themselves, in giving their opinion,
said a great deal but never said what was their real object. Moreover
(Levin felt that the irascible landowner had been right) the peasants
made their first and unalterable condition of any agreement whatsoever
that they should not be forced to any new methods of tillage of any
kind, nor to use new implements. They agreed that the modern plow
plowed better, that the scarifier did the work more quickly, but they
found thousands of reasons that made it out of the question for them
to use either of them; and though he had accepted the conviction that
he would have to lower the standard of cultivation, he felt sorry to
give up improved methods, the advantages of which were so obvious. But
in spite of all these difficulties he got his way, and by autumn the
system was working, or at least so it seemed to him.
At first Levin had thought of giving up the whole farming of the
land just as it was to the peasants, the laborers, and the bailiff, on
new conditions of partnership; but he was very soon convinced that
this was impossible, and determined to divide it up. The cattle yard,
the garden, hayfields, and arable land, divided into several parts,
had to be made into separate lots. The simplehearted cowherd, Ivan,
who, Levin fancied, understood the matter better than any of them,
collecting together a gang of workers to help him, principally of his
own family, became a partner in the cattle yard. A distant part of the
estate, a tract of wasteland that had lain fallow for eight years, was
with the help of the clever carpenter, Fiodor Rezunov, taken by six
families of peasants on new conditions of partnership and the peasant
Shuraev took the management of all the vegetable gardens on the same
terms. The remainder of the land was still worked on the old system,
but these three items were the first step to a new organization of the
whole, and they completely engrossed Levin.
It is true that in the cattle yard things went no better than
before, and Ivan strenuously opposed warm housing for the cows and
butter made of fresh cream, affirming that cows require less food if
kept cold, and that butter is more profitable made from sour cream,
and he asked for wages just as under the old system, and took not the
slightest interest in the fact that the money he received was not
wages but an advance out of his future share in the profits.
It is true that Fiodor Rezunov's company did not plow over the
ground twice before sowing, as had been agreed, justifying themselves
on the plea that the time was too short. It is true that the peasants
of the same company, though they had agreed to work the land on new
conditions, always spoke of the land, not as held in partnership, but
as rented for half the crop, and more than once the peasants and
Rezunov himself said to Levin: "If you would take a rent for the land,
it would save you trouble, and we should be more free." Moreover, the
same peasants kept putting off, on various excuses, the building of a
cattle yard and threshing barn on the land as agreed upon, and delayed
doing it till the winter.
It is true that Shuraev would have liked to let out the kitchen
gardens he had undertaken in small lots to the peasants. He evidently
quite misunderstood, and apparently intentionally misunderstood, the
conditions upon which the land had been given to him.
Often, too, talking to the peasants and explaining to them all the
advantages of the plan, Levin felt that the peasants heard nothing but
the sound of his voice, and were firmly resolved, whatever he might
say, not to let themselves be taken in. He felt this especially when
he talked to the cleverest of the peasants, Rezunov, and detected that
gleam in Rezunov's eyes which showed so plainly both ironical
amusement at Levin, and the firm conviction that, if anyone were to be
taken in, it would not be he, Rezunov.
But in spite of all this Levin thought the system worked, and that
by keeping accounts strictly, and insisting on his own way, he would
prove to them in the future the advantages of the arrangement, and
then the system would go of itself.
These matters, together with the management of the land still left
on his hands, and the indoor work over his book, so engrossed Levin
the whole summer that he scarcely ever went out shooting. At the end
of August he heard that the Oblonskys had gone away to Moscow——from
their servant, who brought back the sidesaddle. He felt that in not
answering Darya Alexandrovna's letter he had by his rudeness, of which
he could not think without a flush of shame, burned his ships, and
that he would never go to see them again. He had been just as rude
with the Sviiazhskys, leaving them without saying good-by. But he
would never go to see them again either. He did not care about that
now. The business of reorganizing the farming of his land absorbed him
as completely as though there would never be anything else in his
life. He read the books lent him by Sviiazhsky, and ordering from
Moscow what he had not had, he read both the economic and socialistic
books on the subject, but, as he had anticipated, found nothing
bearing on the scheme he had undertaken. In the books on political
economy——in Mill, for instance——whom he studied first with great
ardor, hoping every minute to find an answer to the questions that
were engrossing him, he found laws deduced from the condition of land
culture in Europe; but he did not see why these laws, which did not
apply in Russia, must be general. He saw just the same thing in the
socialistic books: either they were the beautiful but impracticable
fantasies which had fascinated him when he was a student, or they were
attempts at improving, at rectifying the economic position in which
Europe was placed, with which the system of land tenure in Russia had
nothing in common. Political economy told him that the laws by which
the wealth of Europe had been developed, and was developing, were
universal and unvarying. Socialism told him that development along
these lines leads to ruin. And neither of them gave an answer, or even
a hint, in reply to the question as to what he, Levin, and all the
Russian peasants and landowners, were to do with their millions of
hands and millions of dessiatinas, to make them as productive as
possible for the common weal.
Having once taken the subject up, he read conscientiously
everything bearing on it, and intended in the autumn to go abroad to
study land systems on the spot, in order that he might not on this
question be confronted with what so often met him on various subjects.
Often, just as he was beginning to understand the idea in the mind of
anyone he was talking to, and was beginning to explain his own, he
would suddenly be told: "But Kauffmann, but Jones, but Dubois, but
Michelli? You haven't read them: do read, they've thrashed that
question out thoroughly."
He saw now distinctly that Kauffmann and Michelli had nothing to
tell him. He knew what he wanted. He saw that Russia had splendid
land, splendid laborers, and that in certain cases, as at the
peasant's on the way to Sviiazhsky's, the produce raised by the
laborers and the land is great——in the majority of cases when capital
is applied in the European way the produce is small, and that this
simply arises from the fact that the laborers want to work and work
well only in their own peculiar way, and that this antagonism is not
incidental but invariable, and has its roots in the national spirit.
He thought that the Russian people whose task it was to colonize and
cultivate vast tracts of unoccupied land, consciously adhered, till
all their land was occupied, to the methods suitable to their purpose,
and that their methods were by no means so bad as was generally
supposed. And he wanted to prove this theoretically in his book and
practically on his land.
At the end of September the timber had been carted for building
the cattle yard 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 by the spate, and the weather got worse and
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
Having finished all his business, soaked through with the streams
of water which kept running into his leather coat and down his neck
and his boot tops, but in the keenest and most confident temper, Levin
turned homeward in the evening. The weather had become worse than ever
toward 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 succulent, 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 farther village had shown
that they were beginning to get used to their new position. The
innkeeper, an old man, to whose inn he had gone to get dry evidently
approved of Levin's plan, and of his own accord proposed to enter the
partnership for purchasing of cattle.
"I have only to go on stubbornly toward 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 agriculture, 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, and the whole world. Because a just idea cannot but be
fruitful. Yes, it's an aim worth working for. And the fact that it is
I, Kostia Levin, who went to a ball in a black tie, and was refused by
the Shcherbatsky girl, and who is intrinsically such a pitiful,
worthless creature to himself——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 Agathya Mikhailovna 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 innkeeper, 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 overseers had come for
receiving orders, and Levin went out into the hall to meet them.
After giving orders, that is to say, 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; Agathya Mikhailovna settled herself in her place with
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 downhearted?" said Agathya Mikhailovna.
"Come, why do you stay on at home? You ought to go to some warm
springs, especially now that you're ready for the journey."
"Well, I am going away the day after tomorrow, Agathya
Mikhailovna; 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 Czar for it.' Indeed, 'tis a strange
thing: why need you worry about the peasants?"
"I'm not worrying about them; I'm doing it for my own good."
Agathya Mikhailovna 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
"Of one's soul's salvation we all know and must think before all
else," she said with a sigh. "Parfion Denissich now, for all he was no
scholar, died a death whose like may God grant to every one of us,"
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
"Well, whatever you do, if he's a lazy good-for-naught,
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
"All I say is," answered Agathya Mikhailovna, evidently not
speaking at random, but in strict sequence of ideas, "that you ought
to get married——that's what I say."
Agathya Mikhailovna'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
Agathya Mikhailovna's needles, and, recollecting what he did not want
to remember, he would frown 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
Agathya Mikhailovna, 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.
Running halfway down the staircase, Levin caught a sound he knew,
a familiar cough in the hall. But he heard it indistinctly through the
sound of his own footsteps, and hoped he was mistaken. Then he caught
sight of a long, bony, familiar figure, and now it seemed there was no
possibility of mistake; and yet he still went on hoping that this tall
man taking off his fur cloak and coughing was not his brother Nikolai.
Levin loved his brother, but being with him was always a torture.
Just now, when Levin, under the influence of the thoughts that had
come to him, and Agathya Mikhailovna's hint, was in a troubled and
uncertain humor, this meeting with his brother which he had to face
seemed particularly difficult. Instead of a lively, healthy visitor,
some outsider who would, he hoped, cheer him up in his uncertain
humor, he had to see his brother, who knew him through and through,
who would call forth all the thoughts nearest his heart, would force
him to show himself fully. And that he was not disposed to do.
Angry with himself for so base a feeling, Levin ran into the hall;
as soon as he had seen his brother close, this feeling of selfish
disappointment vanished instantly and was replaced by pity. Terrible
as his brother Nikolai had been before in his emaciation and
sickliness, now he looked still more emaciated, still more wasted. He
was a skeleton covered by skin.
He stood in the hall, jerking his long thin neck, and pulling the
scarf off it, and smiled a strange and pitiful smile. When he saw that
smile, submissive and humble, Levin felt something clutching at his
"You see, I've come to you," said Nikolai in a thick voice, never
for one second taking his eyes off his brother's face. "I've been
meaning to a long while, but I've been constantly unwell. Now I'm ever
so much better," he said, rubbing his beard with his big thin hands.
"Yes, yes!" answered Levin. And he felt still more frightened
when, kissing him, he felt with his lips the dryness of his brother's
skin and saw close to him his big eyes, full of a strange light.
A few weeks before, Konstantin Levin had written to his brother
that through the sale of the small part of the property that had
remained undivided, there was a sum of about two thousand roubles to
come to him as his share.
Nikolai said that he had come now to take his money and, what was
more important, to stay a while in the old nest, to get in touch with
the earth, so as to renew his strength like the heroes of old for the
work that lay before him. In spite of his exaggerated stoop, and the
emaciation that was so striking from his height, his movements were as
rapid and abrupt as ever. Levin led him into his study.
His brother dressed with particular care——a thing he never used to
do——combed his scanty, lank hair, and, smiling, went upstairs.
He was in the most affectionate and good-humored mood, just as
Levin often remembered him in childhood. He even referred to Sergei
Ivanovich without rancor. When he saw Agathya Mikhailovna, he joked
with her and asked after the old servants. The news of the death of
Parfion Denissich made a painful impression on him. A look of fear
crossed his face, but he regained his serenity immediately.
"Of course he was quite old," he said, and changed the subject.
"Well, I'll spend a month or two with you, and then I'm off to Moscow.
Do you know, Miaghkov has promised me a place there, and I'm going
into the service. Now I'm going to arrange my life quite differently,"
he went on. "You know I got rid of that woman."
"Marya Nikolaevna? Why, what for?"
"Oh, she was a horrid woman! She caused me all sorts of
annoyances." But he did not say what the annoyances were. He could not
say that he had driven off Marya Nikolaevna because the tea was weak,
and, above all, because she would look after him as though he were an
invalid. "Besides, I want to turn over a new leaf completely now. I've
done silly things, of course, like everyone else, but money's the last
consideration; I don't regret it. So long as there's health——and my
health, thank God, is quite restored."
Levin listened and racked his brains, but could think of nothing
to say. Nikolai probably felt the same; he began questioning his
brother about his affairs; and Levin was glad to talk about himself,
because then he could speak without hypocrisy. He told his brother of
his plans and his doings.
His brother listened, but evidently he was not interested.
These two men were so akin, so near each other, that the slightest
gesture, the tone of voice, told both more than could be said in
Both of them now had only one thought——the illness of Nikolai and
the nearness of his death——which stifled all else. But neither of them
dared speak of it, and so, whatever they said——without uttering the
one thought that filled their minds——was all falsehood. Never had
Levin been so glad when the evening was over and it was time to go to
bed. Never with any outside person, never on any official visit, had
he been so unnatural and false as he was that evening. And the
consciousness of this unnaturalness, and the remorse he felt at it,
made him even more unnatural. He wanted to weep over his dying, dearly
loved brother, and he had to listen and keep on talking of how he
meant to live.
As the house was damp, and only the one bedroom had been kept
heated, Levin put his brother to sleep in his own bedroom, behind a
His brother got into bed, and whether he slept or did not sleep,
tossed about like a sick man, coughed, and when he could not get his
throat clear, mumbled something. Sometimes when his breathing was
painful, he said, "Oh, my God!" Sometimes when he was choking he
muttered angrily, "Ah, the devil!" Levin could not sleep for a long
while, hearing him. His thoughts were of the most various kinds, but
the end of all his thoughts was the same——death.
Death, the inevitable end of all, for the first time presented
itself to him with irresistible force. And death, which was here in
this loved brother, groaning half-asleep and from habit calling
without distinction on God and the devil, was not so remote as it had
hitherto seemed to him. It was in himself, too, that he felt this. If
not today, tomorrow; if not tomorrow, in thirty years——wasn't it all
the same? And what was this inevitable death——he did not know, had
never thought about it, and, what was more, had not the power, had not
the courage to think about it.
"I work, I want to do something, but I had forgotten it must all
end; I had forgotten——death."
He sat on his bed in the darkness, crouched up, hugging his knees,
and, holding his breath from the strain of thought, he pondered. But
the more intensely he thought, the clearer it became to him that it
was indubitably so, that, in reality, looking upon life, he had
forgotten one little fact——that death will come, and all ends; that
nothing was even worth beginning, and that there was no helping it
anyway. Yes, it was awful, but it was so.
"But I am alive still. What's to be done now——what's to be done?"
he asked in despair. He lighted a candle, got up cautiously, went to
the looking glass, and began looking at his face and hair. Yes, there
were gray hairs about his temples. He opened his mouth. His back teeth
were beginning to decay. He bared his muscular arms. Yes, there was
strength in them. But Nikolenka, who lay there breathing with what was
left of his lungs, had had a strong, healthy body too. And suddenly he
recalled how they used to go to bed together as children, and how they
only waited till Fiodor Bogdanich was out of the room to fling pillows
at each other and laugh, laugh irrepressibly, so that even their awe
of Fiodor Bogdanich could not check the effervescing, overbrimming
sense of life and happiness. "And now that warped, hollow chest... And
I, not knowing what will become of me, or wherefore...."
"K-ha! K-ha! Damnation! Why do you keep fidgeting——why don't you
go to sleep?" his brother's voice called to him.
"Oh, I don't know; I'm not sleepy."
"I have had a good sleep, I'm not in a sweat now. Just see, feel
my shirt——there's no sweat, is there?"
Levin felt it, withdrew behind the partition, and put out the
candle, but for a long while he could not sleep. The question how to
live had hardly begun to grow a little clearer to him, when a new,
insolvable question presented itself——death.
"Why, he's dying——yes, he'll die in the spring; and how is one to
help him? What can I say to him? What do I know about it? I'd even
forgotten the very fact of it."
Levin had long before made the observation that when one is
uncomfortable with people from their being excessively amenable and
meek, one is apt very soon after to find things intolerable from their
pretensions and irritability. He felt that this was how it would be
with his brother. And his brother Nikolai's gentleness did not, in
fact, last out for long. The very next morning he began to be
irritable, and seemed doing his best to find fault with his brother,
attacking him on his tenderest points.
Levin felt himself to blame, and could not set things right. He
felt that if they had both not kept up appearances, but had spoken, as
it is called, from the heart——that is to say, had said only just what
they were thinking and feeling——they would simply have looked into
each other's faces, and Konstantin could only have said: "You're
dying, you're dying," and Nikolai could only have answered: "I know
I'm dying, but I'm afraid, I'm afraid, I'm afraid!" And they could
have said nothing more, if they had said only what was in their
hearts. But life like that was impossible, and so Konstantin tried to
do what he had been trying to do all his life, and never could learn
to do, though, as far as he could observe, many people knew so well
how to do it, and without it there was no living at all. He tried to
say what he was not thinking, but he felt continually that it had a
ring of falsehood, that his brother detected him in it, and was
exasperated at it.
The third day Nikolai induced his brother to explain his plan to
him again, and began not merely attacking it, but intentionally
confounding it with communism.
"You've simply borrowed an idea that's not your own, but you've
distorted it, and are trying to apply it where it's not applicable."
"But I tell you there's nothing in common. They deny the justice
of property, of capital, of inheritance, while I do not deny this
chief stimulus." (Levin felt disgusted himself at using such
expressions, but ever since he had been engrossed by his work, he had
unconsciously come more and more frequently to use non-Russian words.)
"All I want is to regulate labor."
"Which means, you've borrowed an idea, stripped it of all that
gave it its force, and want to make believe that it's something new,"
said Nikolai, angrily tugging at his necktie.
"But my idea has nothing in common..."
"The other, at any rate," said Nikolai Levin, with an ironical
smile, his eyes flashing malignantly, "has the charm of——what's one to
call it?——geometrical symmetry, of clearness, of definiteness. It may
be a Utopia. If one once allows the possibility of making all the past
a tabula rasa——no property, no family——then labor would organize
itself. But you have nothing..."
"Why do you mix things up? I've never been a communist."
"But I have, and I consider it's premature, but rational, and it
has a future, just like Christianity in its first ages."
"All that I maintain is that the labor force ought to be
investigated from the point of view of natural science; that is to
say, it ought to be studied, its qualities ascertained..."
"But that's an utter waste of time. That force finds a certain
form of activity of itself, according to the stage of its development.
There have been slaves first, everywhere; then metayers; and we have
the metayage system, rent, and day laborers. What are you trying to
Levin suddenly lost his temper at these words, because at the
bottom of his heart he was afraid that it was true——true that he was
trying to hold the balance even between communism and the familiar
forms, and that this was hardly possible.
"I am trying to find means of working productively for myself and
for the laborers. I want to organize..." he answered hotly.
"You don't want to organize anything; it's simply the same as
you've been all your life——you want to be original, to pose as not
simply exploiting the peasants, but with some idea in view."
"Oh, all right, that's what you think——and let me alone!" answered
Levin, feeling the muscles of his left cheek twitching uncontrollably.
"You've never had, and never have, convictions; all you want is to
please your vanity."
"Oh, very well; let me alone then!"
"And I will let you alone! And it's high time I did, and go to the
devil with you! And I'm very sorry I ever came!"
In spite of all Levin's efforts to soothe his brother afterward,
Nikolai would listen to nothing he said, declaring that it was better
to part, and Konstantin saw that it was simply a case of life being
unbearable to him.
Nikolai was just getting ready to go, when Konstantin went in to
him again and begged him, rather unnaturally, to forgive him if he had
hurt his feelings in any way.
"Ah, generosity!" said Nikolai, and he smiled. "If you want to be
right, I can give you that satisfaction. You're in the right; but I'm
going all the same."
It was only just at parting that Nikolai kissed him, and said,
looking with sudden strangeness and seriousness at his brother:
"Anyway, don't remember evil against me, Kostia!" and his voice
These were the only words that had been spoken sincerely between
them. Levin knew that those words meant, "You see, and you know, that
I'm in a bad way, and maybe we shall never see each other again."
Levin knew this, and the tears gushed from his eyes. He kissed his
brother once more, but he could not speak, and knew not what to say.
Two days after his brother's departure, Levin too set off for his
foreign tour. Happening to meet Shcherbatsky, Kitty's cousin, in the
railway train, Levin greatly astonished him by his depression.
"What's the matter with you?" Shcherbatsky asked him.
"Oh, nothing; there's not much happiness in life."
"Not much? You come with me to Paris instead of to Mulhouse. You
shall see how to be happy."
"No, I've done with it all. It's time I was dead."
"Well, that's a good one!" said Shcherbatsky, laughing, "why, I'm
only just getting ready to begin."
"Yes, I thought the same not long ago, but now I know I shall soon
Levin said what he had genuinely been thinking of late. He saw
nothing but death, or an approach to death in everything. But his
cherished scheme only engrossed him the more. Life had to be got
through somehow, till death did come. Darkness had fallen upon
everything for him; but just because of this darkness he felt that the
one guiding clue in the darkness was his work, and he clutched it, and
clung to it with all his strength.