Anna karenina, p.235
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       Anna Karenina, p.235

           graf Leo Tolstoy
 

  Chapter 15

  "Do you know, Kostya, with whom Sergey Ivanovitch traveled on his wayhere?" said Dolly, doling out cucumbers and honey to the children; "withVronsky! He's going to Servia."

  "And not alone; he's taking a squadron out with him at his own expense,"said Katavasov.

  "That's the right thing for him," said Levin. "Are volunteers stillgoing out then?" he added, glancing at Sergey Ivanovitch.

  Sergey Ivanovitch did not answer. He was carefully with a blunt knifegetting a live bee covered with sticky honey out of a cup full of whitehoneycomb.

  "I should think so! You should have seen what was going on at thestation yesterday!" said Katavasov, biting with a juicy sound into acucumber.

  "Well, what is one to make of it? For mercy's sake, do explain to me,Sergey Ivanovitch, where are all those volunteers going, whom are theyfighting with?" asked the old prince, unmistakably taking up aconversation that had sprung up in Levin's absence.

  "With the Turks," Sergey Ivanovitch answered, smiling serenely, as heextricated the bee, dark with honey and helplessly kicking, and put itwith the knife on a stout aspen leaf.

  "But who has declared war on the Turks?--Ivan Ivanovitch Ragozov andCountess Lidia Ivanovna, assisted by Madame Stahl?"

  "No one has declared war, but people sympathize with their neighbors'sufferings and are eager to help them," said Sergey Ivanovitch.

  "But the prince is not speaking of help," said Levin, coming to theassistance of his father-in-law, "but of war. The prince says thatprivate persons cannot take part in war without the permission of thegovernment."

  "Kostya, mind, that's a bee! Really, they'll sting us!" said Dolly,waving away a wasp.

  "But that's not a bee, it's a wasp," said Levin.

  "Well now, well, what's your own theory?" Katavasov said to Levin with asmile, distinctly challenging him to a discussion. "Why have not privatepersons the right to do so?"

  "Oh, my theory's this: war is on one side such a beastly, cruel, andawful thing, that no one man, not to speak of a Christian, canindividually take upon himself the responsibility of beginning wars;that can only be done by a government, which is called upon to do this,and is driven inevitably into war. On the other hand, both politicalscience and common sense teach us that in matters of state, andespecially in the matter of war, private citizens must forego theirpersonal individual will."

  Sergey Ivanovitch and Katavasov had their replies ready, and both beganspeaking at the same time.

  "But the point is, my dear fellow, that there may be cases when thegovernment does not carry out the will of the citizens and then thepublic asserts its will," said Katavasov.

  But evidently Sergey Ivanovitch did not approve of this answer. Hisbrows contracted at Katavasov's words and he said something else.

  "You don't put the matter in its true light. There is no question hereof a declaration of war, but simply the expression of a human Christianfeeling. Our brothers, one with us in religion and in race, are beingmassacred. Even supposing they were not our brothers norfellow-Christians, but simply children, women, old people, feeling isaroused and Russians go eagerly to help in stopping these atrocities.Fancy, if you were going along the street and saw drunken men beating awoman or a child--I imagine you would not stop to inquire whether warhad been declared on the men, but would throw yourself on them, andprotect the victim."

  "But I should not kill them," said Levin.

  "Yes, you would kill them."

  "I don't know. If I saw that, I might give way to my impulse of themoment, but I can't say beforehand. And such a momentary impulse thereis not, and there cannot be, in the case of the oppression of theSlavonic peoples."

  "Possibly for you there is not; but for others there is," said SergeyIvanovitch, frowning with displeasure. "There are traditions stillextant among the people of Slavs of the true faith suffering under theyoke of the 'unclean sons of Hagar.' The people have heard of thesufferings of their brethren and have spoken."

  "Perhaps so," said Levin evasively; "but I don't see it. I'm one of thepeople myself, and I don't feel it."

  "Here am I too," said the old prince. "I've been staying abroad andreading the papers, and I must own, up to the time of the Bulgarianatrocities, I couldn't make out why it was all the Russians were all ofa sudden so fond of their Slavonic brethren, while I didn't feel theslightest affection for them. I was very much upset, thought I was amonster, or that it was the influence of Carlsbad on me. But since Ihave been here, my mind's been set at rest. I see that there are peoplebesides me who're only interested in Russia, and not in their Slavonicbrethren. Here's Konstantin too."

  "Personal opinions mean nothing in such a case," said Sergey Ivanovitch;"it's not a matter of personal opinions when all Russia--the wholepeople--has expressed its will."

  "But excuse me, I don't see that. The people don't know anything aboutit, if you come to that," said the old prince.

  "Oh, papa!... how can you say that? And last Sunday in church?" saidDolly, listening to the conversation. "Please give me a cloth," she saidto the old man, who was looking at the children with a smile. "Why, it'snot possible that all..."

  "But what was it in church on Sunday? The priest had been told to readthat. He read it. They didn't understand a word of it. Then they weretold that there was to be a collection for a pious object in church;well, they pulled out their halfpence and gave them, but what for theycouldn't say."

  "The people cannot help knowing; the sense of their own destinies isalways in the people, and at such moments as the present that sensefinds utterance," said Sergey Ivanovitch with conviction, glancing atthe old bee-keeper.

  The handsome old man, with black grizzled beard and thick silvery hair,stood motionless, holding a cup of honey, looking down from the heightof his tall figure with friendly serenity at the gentlefolk, obviouslyunderstanding nothing of their conversation and not caring to understandit.

  "That's so, no doubt," he said, with a significant shake of his head atSergey Ivanovitch's words.

  "Here, then, ask him. He knows nothing about it and thinks nothing,"said Levin. "Have you heard about the war, Mihalitch?" he said, turningto him. "What they read in the church? What do you think about it? Oughtwe to fight for the Christians?"

  "What should we think? Alexander Nikolaevitch our Emperor has thoughtfor us; he thinks for us indeed in all things. It's clearer for him tosee. Shall I bring a bit more bread? Give the little lad some more?" hesaid addressing Darya Alexandrovna and pointing to Grisha, who hadfinished his crust.

  "I don't need to ask," said Sergey Ivanovitch, "we have seen and areseeing hundreds and hundreds of people who give up everything to serve ajust cause, come from every part of Russia, and directly and clearlyexpress their thought and aim. They bring their halfpence or gothemselves and say directly what for. What does it mean?"

  "It means, to my thinking," said Levin, who was beginning to get warm,"that among eighty millions of people there can always be found nothundreds, as now, but tens of thousands of people who have lost caste,ne'er-do-wells, who are always ready to go anywhere--to Pogatchev'sbands, to Khiva, to Serbia..."

  "I tell you that it's not a case of hundreds or of ne'er-do-wells, butthe best representatives of the people!" said Sergey Ivanovitch, with asmuch irritation as if he were defending the last penny of his fortune."And what of the subscriptions? In this case it is a whole peopledirectly expressing their will."

  "That word 'people' is so vague," said Levin. "Parish clerks, teachers,and one in a thousand of the peasants, maybe, know what it's all about.The rest of the eighty millions, like Mihalitch, far from expressingtheir will, haven't the faintest idea what there is for them to expresstheir will about. What right have we to say that this is the people'swill?"

 
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