Anna karenina, p.230
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       Anna Karenina, p.230

           graf Leo Tolstoy
 

  Chapter 10

  When Levin thought what he was and what he was living for, he could findno answer to the questions and was reduced to despair, but he left offquestioning himself about it. It seemed as though he knew both what hewas and for what he was living, for he acted and lived resolutely andwithout hesitation. Indeed, in these latter days he was far more decidedand unhesitating in life than he had ever been.

  When he went back to the country at the beginning of June, he went backalso to his usual pursuits. The management of the estate, his relationswith the peasants and the neighbors, the care of his household, themanagement of his sister's and brother's property, of which he had thedirection, his relations with his wife and kindred, the care of hischild, and the new bee-keeping hobby he had taken up that spring, filledall his time.

  These things occupied him now, not because he justified them to himselfby any sort of general principles, as he had done in former days; on thecontrary, disappointed by the failure of his former efforts for thegeneral welfare, and too much occupied with his own thought and the massof business with which he was burdened from all sides, he had completelygiven up thinking of the general good, and he busied himself with allthis work simply because it seemed to him that he must do what he wasdoing--that he could not do otherwise. In former days--almost fromchildhood, and increasingly up to full manhood--when he had tried to doanything that would be good for all, for humanity, for Russia, for thewhole village, he had noticed that the idea of it had been pleasant, butthe work itself had always been incoherent, that then he had never had afull conviction of its absolute necessity, and that the work that hadbegun by seeming so great, had grown less and less, till it vanishedinto nothing. But now, since his marriage, when he had begun to confinehimself more and more to living for himself, though he experienced nodelight at all at the thought of the work he was doing, he felt acomplete conviction of its necessity, saw that it succeeded far betterthan in old days, and that it kept on growing more and more.

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

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

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

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

  But besides knowing thoroughly what he had to do, Levin knew in just thesame way _how_ he had to do it all, and what was more important than therest.

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

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

  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 threehours 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 foregothat pleasure, and leave the old man to see to the bees alone, while hetalked 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 fromtrying to prove that he was, nowadays he avoided all thought or talkabout it.

  Reasoning had brought him to doubt, and prevented him from seeing whathe ought to do and what he ought not. When he did not think, but simplylived, he was continually aware of the presence of an infallible judgein his soul, determining which of two possible courses of action was thebetter 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 hewas and what he was living for, and harassed at this lack of knowledgeto such a point that he was afraid of suicide, and yet firmly layingdown his own individual definite path in life.

 
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