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Chapter 24


The night spent by Levin on the haycock did not pass without
result for him. The way in which he had been managing his land
revolted him and had lost all attraction for him. In spite of
the magnificent harvest, never had there been, or, at least,
never it seemed to him, had there been 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 workspeople which was the foundation of it all. The
herd of improved cows such as Pava, the whole land ploughed over
and enriched, the nine level fields surrounded with hedges, the
two hundred and forty acres heavily manured, the seed sown in
drills, and all the rest of it--it was all splendid if only the
work had been done for themselves, or for themselves and comrades
--people in sympathy with them. 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 the struggle he saw
that with immense expenditure of force on his side, and with no
effort or even intention on the other side, all that was attained
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 simply wasted. He could not help feeling now, since
the meaning of this 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 farthing of his
share (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 thrashing 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 the
best acres of clover, justifying themselves by the pretense that
the bailiff had told them to, and trying to pacify him with the
assurance that it would be splendid hay; but he knew that it was
owing to those acres being 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, your honor, sure, the womenfolks will pitch it
quick enough." The ploughs were practically useless, because it
never occurred to the laborer to raise the share when he turned
the plough, and forcing it round, he strained the horses and tore
up the ground, and Levin was begged not to mind about it. The
horses were allowed to stray into the wheat because not a single
laborer would consent to be night-watchman, and in spite of
orders to the contrary, the laborers insisted on taking turns for
night duty, and Ivan, after working all day long, fell asleep,
and was very penitent for his fault, saying, "Do what you will to
me, your honor."

They killed three of the best calves by letting them into the
clover aftermath without care as to their drinking, and nothing
would make the men believe that they had been blown out by the
clover, but they told him, 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 his farm; on the contrary, he knew that they liked him,
thought 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 where his boat leaked,
but he did not look for the leak, perhaps purposely deceiving
himself. (Nothing would be left him if he lost faith in it.) 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 twenty-five miles off,
of Kitty Shtcherbatskaya, whom he longed to see and could not
see. Darya Alexandrovna Oblonskaya had invited him, when he was
over there, to come; to come with the object of renewing his
offer to her sister, who would, so she gave him to understand,
accept him now. Levin himself had felt on seeing Kitty
Shtcherbatskaya 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 made her an offer, and 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 me to go magnanimously to forgive
her, and have pity on her! Me go through a performance before
her of forgiving, and deigning to bestow my love on her!... What
induced Darya Alexandrovna to tell me that? By chance I might
have seen her, 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
side-saddle for Kitty's use. "I'm told you have a side-saddle,"
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 sent the saddle without any reply. To write that he would go
was impossible, because he could not go; to write that he could
not come because something prevented him, or that he would be
away, that was still worse. He sent the saddle without an
answer, and with a sense of having done something shameful; he
handed over all the now revolting business of the estate to the
bailiff, and set off next day to a remote district to see his
friend Sviazhsky, who had splendid marshes for grouse in his
neighborhood, and had lately written to ask him to keep a
long-standing promise to stay with him. The grouse-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 Shtcherbatskys,
and still more from his farm work, especially on a shooting
expedition, which always in trouble served as the best
consolation.



Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Category:
Fiction - Russian literature
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