Early in June it happened that Agafea Mihalovna, the old nurse
and housekeeper, in carrying to the cellar a jar of mushrooms she
had just pickled, slipped, fell, and sprained her wrist. The
district doctor, a talkative young medical student, who had just
finished his studies, came to see her. He examined the wrist,
said it was not broken, was delighted at a chance of talking to
the celebrated Sergey Ivanovitch Koznishev, and to show his
advanced views of things told him all the scandal of the
district, complaining of the poor state into which the district
council had fallen. Sergey Ivanovitch listened attentively,
asked him questions, and, roused by a new listener, he talked
fluently, uttered a few keen and weighty observations,
respectfully appreciated by the young doctor, and was soon in
that eager frame of mind his brother knew so well, which always,
with him, followed a brilliant and eager conversation. After the
departure of the doctor, he wanted to go with a fishing rod to
the river. Sergey Ivanovitch was fond of angling, and was, it
seemed, proud of being able to care for such a stupid occupation.
Konstantin Levin, whose presence was needed in the plough land
and meadows, had come to take his brother in the trap.
It was that time of the year, the turning-point of summer, when
the crops of the present year are a certainty, when one begins to
think of the sowing for next year, and the mowing is at hand;
when the rye is all in ear, though its ears are still light, not
yet full, and it waves in gray-green billows in the wind; when
the green oats, with tufts of yellow grass scattered here and
there among it, droop irregularly over the late-sown fields; when
the early buckwheat is already out and hiding the ground; when
the fallow lands, trodden hard as stone by the cattle, are
half ploughed over, with paths left untouched by the plough; when
from the dry dung-heaps carted onto the fields there comes at
sunset a smell of manure mixed with meadow-sweet, and on the
low-lying lands the riverside meadows are a thick sea of grass
waiting for the mowing, with blackened heaps of the stalks of
sorrel among it.
It was the time when there comes a brief pause in the toil of the
fields before the beginning of the labors of harvest--every year
recurring, every year straining every nerve of the peasants. The
crop was a splendid one, and bright, hot summer days had set in
with short, dewy nights.
The brothers had to drive through the woods to reach the meadows.
Sergey Ivanovitch was all the while admiring the beauty of the
woods, which were a tangled mass of leaves, pointing out to his
brother now an old lime tree on the point of flowering, dark on
the shady side, and brightly spotted with yellow stipules, now
the young shoots of this year's saplings brilliant with emerald.
Konstantin Levin did not like talking and hearing about the
beauty of nature. Words for him took away the beauty of what he
saw. He assented to what his brother said, but he could not help
beginning to think of other things. When they came out of the
woods, all his attention was engrossed by the view of the
fallow land on the upland, in parts yellow with grass, in parts
trampled and checkered with furrows, in parts dotted with ridges
of dung, and in parts even ploughed. A string of carts was
moving across it. Levin counted the carts, and was pleased that
all that were wanted had been brought, and at the sight of the
meadows his thoughts passed to the mowing. He always felt
something special moving him to the quick at the hay-making. On
reaching the meadow Levin stopped the horse.
The morning dew was still lying on the thick undergrowth of the
grass, and that he might not get his feet wet, Sergey Ivanovitch
asked his brother to drive him in the trap up to the willow tree
from which the carp was caught. Sorry as Konstantin Levin was to
crush down his mowing grass, he drove him into the meadow. The
high grass softly turned about the wheels and the horse's legs,
leaving its seeds clinging to the wet axles and spokes of the
wheels. His brother seated himself under a bush, arranging his
tackle, while Levin led the horse away, fastened him up, and
walked into the vast gray-green sea of grass unstirred by the
wind. The silky grass with its ripe seeds came almost to his
waist in the dampest spots.
Crossing the meadow, Konstantin Levin came out onto the road, and
met an old man with a swollen eye, carrying a skep on his
"What? taken a stray swarm, Fomitch?" he asked.
"No, indeed, Konstantin Mitritch! All we can do to keep our own!
This is the second swarm that has flown away.... Luckily the
lads caught them. They were ploughing your field. They unyoked
the horses and galloped after them."
"Well, what do you say, Fomitch--start mowing or wait a bit?"
"Eh, well. Our way's to wait till St. Peter's Day. But you
always mow sooner. Well, to be sure, please God, the hay's good.
There'll be plenty for the beasts."
"What do you think about the weather?"
"That's in God's hands. Maybe it will be fine."
Levin went up to his brother.
Sergey Ivanovitch had caught nothing, but he was not bored, and
seemed in the most cheerful frame of mind. Levin saw that,
stimulated by his conversation with the doctor, he wanted to
talk. Levin, on the other hand, would have liked to get home as
soon as possible to give orders about getting together the mowers
for next day, and to set at rest his doubts about the mowing,
which greatly absorbed him.
"Well, let's be going," he said.
"Why be in such a hurry? Let's stay a little. But how wet you
are! Even though one catches nothing, it's nice. That's the
best thing about every part of sport, that one has to do with
nature. How exquisite this steely water is!" said Sergey
Ivanovitch. "These riverside banks always remind me of the
riddle--do you know it? 'The grass says to the water: we
quiver and we quiver.'"
"I don't know the riddle," answered Levin wearily.