Anna karenina, p.236
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       Anna Karenina, p.236

           graf Leo Tolstoy
 

  Chapter 16

  Sergey Ivanovitch, being practiced in argument, did not reply, but atonce turned the conversation to another aspect of the subject.

  "Oh, if you want to learn the spirit of the people by arithmeticalcomputation, of course it's very difficult to arrive at it. And votinghas not been introduced among us and cannot be introduced, for it doesnot express the will of the people; but there are other ways of reachingthat. It is felt in the air, it is felt by the heart. I won't speak ofthose deep currents which are astir in the still ocean of the people,and which are evident to every unprejudiced man; let us look at societyin the narrow sense. All the most diverse sections of the educatedpublic, hostile before, are merged in one. Every division is at an end,all the public organs say the same thing over and over again, all feelthe mighty torrent that has overtaken them and is carrying them in onedirection."

  "Yes, all the newspapers do say the same thing," said the prince."That's true. But so it is the same thing that all the frogs croakbefore a storm. One can hear nothing for them."

  "Frogs or no frogs, I'm not the editor of a paper and I don't want todefend them; but I am speaking of the unanimity in the intellectualworld," said Sergey Ivanovitch, addressing his brother. Levin would haveanswered, but the old prince interrupted him.

  "Well, about that unanimity, that's another thing, one may say," saidthe prince. "There's my son-in-law, Stepan Arkadyevitch, you know him.He's got a place now on the committee of a commission and something orother, I don't remember. Only there's nothing to do in it--why, Dolly,it's no secret!--and a salary of eight thousand. You try asking himwhether his post is of use, he'll prove to you that it's most necessary.And he's a truthful man too, but there's no refusing to believe in theutility of eight thousand roubles."

  "Yes, he asked me to give a message to Darya Alexandrovna about thepost," said Sergey Ivanovitch reluctantly, feeling the prince's remarkto be ill-timed.

  "So it is with the unanimity of the press. That's been explained to me:as soon as there's war their incomes are doubled. How can they helpbelieving in the destinies of the people and the Slavonic races ... andall that?"

  "I don't care for many of the papers, but that's unjust," said SergeyIvanovitch.

  "I would only make one condition," pursued the old prince. "AlphonseKarr said a capital thing before the war with Prussia: 'You consider warto be inevitable? Very good. Let everyone who advocates war be enrolledin a special regiment of advance-guards, for the front of every storm,of every attack, to lead them all!'"

  "A nice lot the editors would make!" said Katavasov, with a loud roar,as he pictured the editors he knew in this picked legion.

  "But they'd run," said Dolly, "they'd only be in the way."

  "Oh, if they ran away, then we'd have grape-shot or Cossacks with whipsbehind them," said the prince.

  "But that's a joke, and a poor one too, if you'll excuse my saying so,prince," said Sergey Ivanovitch.

  "I don't see that it was a joke, that..." Levin was beginning, butSergey Ivanovitch interrupted him.

  "Every member of society is called upon to do his own special work,"said he. "And men of thought are doing their work when they expresspublic opinion. And the single-hearted and full expression of publicopinion is the service of the press and a phenomenon to rejoice us atthe same time. Twenty years ago we should have been silent, but now wehave heard the voice of the Russian people, which is ready to rise asone man and ready to sacrifice itself for its oppressed brethren; thatis a great step and a proof of strength."

  "But it's not only making a sacrifice, but killing Turks," said Levintimidly. "The people make sacrifices and are ready to make sacrificesfor their soul, but not for murder," he added, instinctively connectingthe conversation with the ideas that had been absorbing his mind.

  "For their soul? That's a most puzzling expression for a natural scienceman, do you understand? What sort of thing is the soul?" said Katavasov,smiling.

  "Oh, you know!"

  "No, by God, I haven't the faintest idea!" said Katavasov with a loudroar of laughter.

  "'I bring not peace, but a sword,' says Christ," Sergey Ivanovitchrejoined for his part, quoting as simply as though it were the easiestthing to understand the very passage that had always puzzled Levin most.

  "That's so, no doubt," the old man repeated again. He was standing nearthem and responded to a chance glance turned in his direction.

  "Ah, my dear fellow, you're defeated, utterly defeated!" cried Katavasovgood-humoredly.

  Levin reddened with vexation, not at being defeated, but at havingfailed to control himself and being drawn into argument.

  "No, I can't argue with them," he thought; "they wear impenetrablearmor, while I'm naked."

  He saw that it was impossible to convince his brother and Katavasov, andhe saw even less possibility of himself agreeing with them. What theyadvocated was the very pride of intellect that had almost been his ruin.He could not admit that some dozens of men, among them his brother, hadthe right, on the ground of what they were told by some hundreds of glibvolunteers swarming to the capital, to say that they and the newspaperswere expressing the will and feeling of the people, and a feeling whichwas expressed in vengeance and murder. He could not admit this, becausehe neither saw the expression of such feelings in the people among whomhe was living, nor found them in himself (and he could not but considerhimself one of the persons making up the Russian people), and most ofall because he, like the people, did not know and could not know what isfor the general good, though he knew beyond a doubt that this generalgood could be attained only by the strict observance of that law ofright and wrong which has been revealed to every man, and therefore hecould not wish for war or advocate war for any general objects whatever.He said as Mihalitch did and the people, who had expressed their feelingin the traditional invitations of the Varyagi: "Be princes and rule overus. Gladly we promise complete submission. All the labor, allhumiliations, all sacrifices we take upon ourselves; but we will notjudge and decide." And now, according to Sergey Ivanovitch's account,the people had foregone this privilege they had bought at such a costlyprice.

  He wanted to say too that if public opinion were an infallible guide,then why were not revolutions and the commune as lawful as the movementin favor of the Slavonic peoples? But these were merely thoughts thatcould settle nothing. One thing could be seen beyond doubt--that wasthat at the actual moment the discussion was irritating SergeyIvanovitch, and so it was wrong to continue it. And Levin ceasedspeaking and then called the attention of his guests to the fact thatthe storm clouds were gathering, and that they had better be going homebefore it rained.

 

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