eBooks Cube
Chapter 13

Levin put on his big boots, and, for the first time, a cloth
jacket, instead of his fur cloak, and went out to look after his
farm, stepping over streams of water that flashed in the sunshine
and dazzled his eyes, and treading one minute on ice and the next
into sticky mud.

Spring is the time of plans and projects. And, as he came out
into the farmyard, Levin, like a tree in spring that knows not
what form will be taken by the young shoots and twigs imprisoned
in its swelling buds, hardly knew what undertakings he was going
to begin upon now in the farm work that was so dear to him. But
he felt that he was full of the most splendid plans and projects.
First of all he went to the cattle. The cows had been let out
into their paddock, and their smooth sides were already shining
with their new, sleek, spring coats; they basked in the sunshine
and lowed to go to the meadow. Levin gazed admiringly at the
cows he knew so intimately to the minutest detail of their
condition, and gave orders for them to be driven out into the
meadow, and the calves to be let into the paddock. The herdsman
ran gaily to get ready for the meadow. The cowherd girls,
picking up their petticoats, ran splashing through the mud with
bare legs, still white, not yet brown from the sun, waving brush
wood in their hands, chasing the calves that frolicked in the
mirth of spring.

After admiring the young ones of that year, who were particularly
fine--the early calves were the size of a peasant's cow, and
Pava's daughter, at three months old, was a big as a yearling--
Levin gave orders for a trough to be brought out and for them to
be fed in the paddock. But it appeared that as the paddock had
not been used during the winter, the hurdles made in the autumn
for it were broken. He sent for the carpenter, who, according to
his orders, ought to have been at work at the thrashing machine.
But it appeared that the carpenter was repairing the harrows,
which ought to have been repaired before Lent. This was very
annoying to Levin. It was annoying to come upon that everlasting
slovenliness in the farm work against which he had been striving
with all his might for so many years. The hurdles, as he
ascertained, being not wanted in winter, had been carried to
the cart-horses' stable; and there broken, as they were of light
construction, only meant for folding calves. Moreover, it was
apparent also that the harrows and all the agricultural
implements, which he had directed to be looked over and repaired
in the winter, for which very purpose he had hired three
carpenters, had not been put into repair, and the harrows were
being repaired when they ought to have been harrowing the field.
Levin sent for his bailiff, but immediately went off himself to
look for him. The bailiff, beaming all over, like everyone that
day, in a sheepskin bordered with astrachan, came out of the
barn, twisting a bit of straw in his hands.

"Why isn't the carpenter at the thrashing machine?"

"Oh, I meant to tell you yesterday, the harrows want repairing.
Here it's time they got to work in the fields."

"But what were they doing in the winter, then?"

"But what did you want the carpenter for?"

"Where are the hurdles for the calves' paddock?"

"I ordered them to be got ready. What would you have with those
peasants!" said the bailiff, with a wave of his hand.

"It's not those peasants but this bailiff!" said Levin, getting
angry. "Why, what do I keep you for?" he cried. But, bethinking
himself that this would not help matters, he stopped short in the
middle of a sentence, and merely sighed. "Well, what do you say?
Can sowing begin?" he asked, after a pause.

"Behind Turkin tomorrow or the next day they might begin."

"And the clover?"

"I've sent Vassily and Mishka; they're sowing. Only I don't know
if they'll manage to get through; it's so slushy."

"How many acres?"

"About fifteen."

"Why not sow all?" cried Levin.

That they were only sowing the clover on fifteen acres, not on
all the forty-five, was still more annoying to him. Clover, as
he knew, both from books and from his own experience, never did
well except when it was sown as early as possible, almost in the
snow. And yet Levin could never get this done.

"There's no one to send. What would you have with such a set of
peasants? Three haven't turned up. And there's Semyon..."

"Well, you should have taken some men from the thatching."

"And so I have, as it is."

"Where are the peasants, then?"

"Five are making compote (which meant compost), "four are
shifting the oats for fear of a touch of mildew, Konstantin

Levin knew very well that "a touch of mildew" meant that his
English seed oats were already ruined. Again they had not done
as he had ordered.

"Why, but I told you during Lent to put in pipes," he cried.

"Don't put yourself out; we shall get it all done in time."

Levin waved his hand angrily, went into the granary to glance at
the oats, and then to the stable. The oats were not yet spoiled.
But the peasants were carrying the oats in spaces when they might
simply let the slide down into the lower granary; and arranging
for this to be done, and taking two workmen from there for sowing
clover, Levin got over his vexation with the bailiff. Indeed, it
was such a lovely day that one could not be angry.

"Ignat!" he called to the coachman, who, with his sleeves tucked
up, was washing the carriage wheels, "saddle me..."

"Which, sir?"

"Well, let it be Kolpik."

"Yes, sir."

While they were saddling his horse, Levin again called up the
bailiff, who was handing about in sight, to make it up with him,
and began talking to him about the spring operations before them,
and his plans for the farm.

The wagons were to begin carting manure earlier, so as to get all
done before the early mowing. And the ploughing of the further
land to go on without a break so as to let it ripen lying fallow.
And the mowing to be all done by hired labor, not on
half-profits. The bailiff listened attentively, and obviously
made an effort to approve of his employer's projects. But still
he had that look Levin knew so well that always irritated him, a
look of hopelessness and despondency. That look said: "That's
all very well, but as God wills."

Nothing mortified Levin so much as that tone. But it was the
tone common to all the bailiffs he had ever had. They had all
taken up that attitude to his plans, and so now he was not
angered by it, but mortified, and felt all the more roused to
struggle against this, as it seemed, elemental force continually
ranged against him, for which he could find no other expression
than "as God wills."

"If we can manage it, Konstantin Dmitrievitch," said the bailiff.

"Why ever shouldn't you manage it?"

"We positively must have another fifteen laborers. And they
don't turn up. There were some here today asking seventy roubles
for the summer."

Levin was silent. Again he was brought face to face with that
opposing force. He knew that however much they tried, they could
not hire more than forty--thirty-seven perhaps or thirty-eight--
laborers for a reasonable sum. Some forty had been taken on, and
there were no more. But still he could not help struggling
against it.

"Send to Sury, to Tchefirovka; if they don't come we must look
for them."

"Oh, I'll send, to be sure," said Vassily Fedorovitch
despondently. "But there are the horses, too, they're not good
for much."

"We'll get some more. I know, of course," Levin added laughing,
"you always want to do with as little and as poor quality as
possible; but this year I'm not going to let you have things your
own way. I'll see to everything myself."

"Why, I don't think you take much rest as it is. It cheers us up
to work under the master's eye..."

"So they're sowing clover behind the Birch Dale? I'll go and
have a look at them," he said, getting on to the little bay cob,
Kolpik, who was let up by the coachman.

"You can't get across the streams, Konstantin Dmitrievitch," the
coachman shouted.

"All right, I'll go by the forest."

And Levin rode through the slush of the farmyard to the gate and
out into the open country, his good little horse, after his long
inactivity, stepping out gallantly, snorting over the pools, and
asking, as it were, for guidance. If Levin had felt happy before
in the cattle pens and farmyard, he felt happier yet in the open
country. Swaying rhythmically with the ambling paces of his good
little cob, drinking in the warm yet fresh scent of the snow and
the air, as he rode through his forest over the crumbling, wasted
snow, still left in parts, and covered with dissolving tracks, he
rejoiced over every tree, with the moss reviving on its bark and
the buds swelling on its shoots. When he came out of the forest,
in the immense plain before him, his grass fields stretched in an
unbroken carpet of green, without one bare place or swamp, only
spotted here and there in the hollows with patches of melting
snow. He was not put out of temper even by the sight of the
peasants' horses and colts trampling down his young grass (he
told a peasant he met to drive them out), nor by the sarcastic
and stupid reply of the peasant Ipat, whom he met on the way, and
asked, "Well, Ipat, shall we soon be sowing?" "We must get the
ploughing done first, Konstantin Dmitrievitch," answered Ipat.
The further he rode, the happier he became, and plans for the
land rose to his mind each better than the last; to plant all his
fields with hedges along the southern borders, so that the snow
should not lie under them; to divide them up into six fields of
arable and three of pasture and hay; to build a cattle yard at
the further end of the estate, and to dig a pond and to construct
movable pens for the cattle as a means of manuring the land. And
then eight hundred acres of wheat, three hundred of potatoes, and
four hundred of clover, and not one acre exhausted.

Absorbed in such dreams, carefully keeping his horse by the
hedges, so as not to trample his young crops, he rode up to the
laborers who had been sent to sow clover. A cart with the seed
in it was standing, not at the edge, but in the middle of the
crop, and the winter corn had been torn up by the wheels and
trampled by the horse. Both the laborers were sitting in the
hedge, probably smoking a pipe together. The earth in the cart,
with which the seed was mixed, was not crushed to powder, but
crusted together or adhering in clods. Seeing the master, the
laborer, Vassily, went towards the cart, while Mishka set to work
sowing. This was not as it should be, but with the laborers
Levin seldom lost his temper. When Vassily came up, Levin told
him to lead the horse to the hedge.

"It's all right, sir, it'll spring up again," responded Vassily.

"Please don't argue," said Levin, "but do as you're told."

"Yes, sir," answered Vassily, and he took the horse's head.
"What a sowing, Konstantin Dmitrievitch," he said, hesitating;
"first rate. Only it's a work to get about! You drag a ton of
earth on your shoes."

"Why is it you have earth that's not sifted?" said Levin.

"Well, we crumble it up," answered Vassily, taking up some seed
and rolling the earth in his palms.

Vassily was not to blame for their having filled up his cart with
unsifted earth, but still it was annoying.

Levin had more than once already tried a way he knew for stifling
his anger, and turning all that seemed dark right again, and he
tried that way now. He watched how Mishka strode along, swinging
the huge clods of earth that clung to each foot; and getting off
his horse, he took the sieve from Vassily and started sowing

"Where did you stop?"

Vassily pointed to the mark with his foot, and Levin went forward
as best he could, scattering the seed on the land. Walking was a
difficult as on a bog, and by the time Levin had ended the row he
was in a great heat, and he stopped and gave up the sieve to

"Well, master, when summer's here, mind you don't scold me for
these rows," said Vassily.

"Eh?" said Levin cheerily, already feeling the effect of his

"Why, you'll see in the summer time. It'll look different. Look
you where I sowed last spring. How I did work at it! I do my
best, Konstantin Dmitrievitch, d'ye see, as I would for my own
father. I don't like bad work myself, nor would I let another
man do it. What's good for the master's good for us too. To
look out yonder now," said Vassily, pointing, "it does one's
heart good."

"It's a lovely spring, Vassily."

"Why, it's a spring such as the old men don't remember the like
of. I was up home; an old man up there has sown wheat too, about
an acre of it. He was saying you wouldn't know it from rye."

"Have yo been sowing wheat long?"

"Why, sir, it was you taught us the year before last. You gave
me two measures. We sold about eight bushels and sowed a rood."

"Well, mind you crumble up the clods," said Levin, going towards
his horse, "and keep an eye on Mishka. And if there's a good
crop you shall have half a rouble for every acre."

"Humbly thankful. We are very well content, sir, as it is."

Levin got on his horse and rode towards the field where was last
year's clover, and the one which was ploughed ready for the
spring corn.

The crop of clover coming up in the stubble was magnificent. It
had survived everything, and stood up vividly green through the
broken stalks of last year's wheat. The horse sank in up to
the pasterns, and he drew each hoof with a sucking sound out of
the half-thawed ground. Over the ploughland riding was utterly
impossible; the horse could only keep a foothold where there was
ice, and in the thawing furrows he sank deep in at each step.
The ploughland was in splendid condition; in a couple of days it
would be fit for harrowing and sowing. Everything was capital,
everything was cheering. Levin rode back across the streams,
hoping the water would have gone down. And he did in fact get
across, and startled two ducks. "There must be snipe too," he
thought, and just as he reached the turning homewards he met the
forest keeper, who confirmed his theory about the snipe.

Levin went home at a trot, so as to have time to eat his dinner
and get his gun ready for the evening.

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Fiction - Russian literature
Nabou.com: the big site