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Chapter 10

When Levin thought what he was and what he was living for, he
could find no answer to the questions and was reduced to despair,
but he left off questioning himself about it. It seemed as
though he knew both what he was and for what he was living, for
he acted and lived resolutely and without hesitation. Indeed, in
these latter days he was far more decided and unhesitating in
life than he had ever been.

When he went back to the country at the beginning of June, he
went back also to his usual pursuits. The management of the
estate, his relations with the peasants and the neighbors, the
care of his household, the management of his sister's and
brother's property, of which he had the direction, his relations
with his wife and kindred, the care of his child, and the new
bee-keeping hobby he had taken up that spring, filled all his

These things occupied him now, not because he justified them to
himself by any sort of general principles, as he had done in
former days; on the contrary, disappointed by the failure of his
former efforts for the general welfare, and too much occupied
with his own thought and the mass of business with which he was
burdened from all sides, he had completely given up thinking of
the general good, and he busied himself with all this work simply
because it seemed to him that he must do what he was doing--that
he could not do otherwise. In former days--almost from
childhood, and increasingly up to full manhood--when he had tried
to do anything that would be good for all, for humanity, for
Russia, for the whole village, he had noticed that the idea of it
had been pleasant, but the work itself had always been
incoherent, that then he had never had a full conviction of its
absolute necessity, and that the work that had begun by seeming
so great, had grown less and less, till it vanished into nothing.
But now, since his marriage, when he had begun to confine himself
more and more to living for himself, though he experienced no
delight at all at the thought of the work he was doing, he felt a
complete conviction of its necessity, saw that it succeeded far
better than in old days, and that it kept on growing more and

Now, involuntarily it seemed, he cut more and more deeply into
the soil like a plough, so that he could not be drawn out without
turning aside the furrow.

To live the same family life as his father and forefathers--that
is, in the same condition of culture--and to bring up his
children in the same, was incontestably necessary. It was as
necessary as dining when one was hungry. And to do this, just as
it was necessary to cook dinner, it was necessary to keep the
mechanism of agriculture at Pokrovskoe going so as to yield an
income. Just as incontestably as it was necessary to repay a
debt was it necessary to keep the property in such a condition
that his son, when he received it as a heritage, would say "thank
you" to his father as Levin had said "thank you" to his
grandfather for all he built and planted. And to do this it was
necessary to look after the land himself, not to let it, and to
breed cattle, manure the fields, and plant timber.

It was impossible not to look after the affairs of Sergey
Ivanovitch, of his sister, of the peasants who came to him for
advice and were accustomed to do so--as impossible as to fling
down a child one is carrying in one's arms. It was necessary to
look after the comfort of his sister-in-law and her children, and
of his wife and baby, and it was impossible not to spend with
them at least a short time each day.

And all this, together with shooting and his new bee-keeping,
filled up the whole of Levin's life, which had no meaning at all
for him, when he began to think.

But besides knowing thoroughly what he had to do, Levin knew in
just the same way HOW he had to do it all, and what was more
important than the rest.

He knew he must hire laborers as cheaply as possible; but to hire
men under bond, paying them in advance at less than the current
rate of wages, was what he must not do, even though it was very
profitable. Selling straw to the peasants in times of scarcity
of provender was what he might do, even though he felt sorry for
them; but the tavern and the pothouse must be put down, though
they were a source of income. Felling timber must be punished as
severely as possible, but he could not exact forfeits for cattle
being driven onto his fields; and though it annoyed the keeper
and made the peasants not afraid to graze their cattle on his
land, he could not keep their cattle as a punishment.

To Pyotr, who was paying a money-lender 10 per cent a month, he
must lend a sum of money to set him free. But he could not let
off peasants who did not pay their rent, nor let them fall into
arrears. It was impossible to overlook the bailiff's not having
mown the meadows and letting the hay spoil; and it was equally
impossible to mow those acres where a young copse had been
planted. It was impossible to excuse a laborer who had gone home
in the busy season because his father was dying, however sorry he
might feel for him, and he must subtract from his pay those
costly months of idleness. But it was impossible not to allow
monthly rations to the old servants who were of no use for

Levin knew that when he got home he must first of all go to his
wife, who was unwell, and that the peasants who had been waiting
for three hours to see him could wait a little longer. He knew
too that, regardless of all the pleasure he felt in taking a
swarm, he must forego that pleasure, and leave the old man to see
to the bees alone, while he talked to the peasants who had come
after him to the bee-house.

Whether he were acting rightly or wrongly he did not know, and
far from trying to prove that he was, nowadays he avoided all
thought or talk about it.

Reasoning had brought him to doubt, and prevented him from seeing
what he ought to do and what he ought not. When he did not
think, but simply lived, he was continually aware of the presence
of an infallible judge in his soul, determining which of two
possible courses of action was the better and which was the
worse, and as soon as he did not act rightly, he was at once
aware of it.

So he lived, not knowing and not seeing any chance of knowing
what he was and what he was living for, and harassed at this lack
of knowledge to such a point that he was afraid of suicide, and
yet firmly laying down his own individual definite path in life.

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Fiction - Russian literature
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