Anna karenina, p.25
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       Anna Karenina, p.25

           graf Leo Tolstoy
 

  Chapter 25

  "So you see," pursued Nikolay Levin, painfully wrinkling his foreheadand twitching.

  It was obviously difficult for him to think of what to say and do.

  "Here, do you see?"... He pointed to some sort of iron bars, fastenedtogether with strings, lying in a corner of the room. "Do you see that?That's the beginning of a new thing we're going into. It's a productiveassociation..."

  Konstantin scarcely heard him. He looked into his sickly, consumptiveface, and he was more and more sorry for him, and he could not forcehimself to listen to what his brother was telling him about theassociation. He saw that this association was a mere anchor to save himfrom self-contempt. Nikolay Levin went on talking:

  "You know that capital oppresses the laborer. The laborers with us, thepeasants, bear all the burden of labor, and are so placed that howevermuch they work they can't escape from their position of beasts ofburden. All the profits of labor, on which they might improve theirposition, and gain leisure for themselves, and after that education, allthe surplus values are taken from them by the capitalists. And society'sso constituted that the harder they work, the greater the profit of themerchants and landowners, while they stay beasts of burden to the end.And that state of things must be changed," he finished up, and he lookedquestioningly at his brother.

  "Yes, of course," said Konstantin, looking at the patch of red that hadcome out on his brother's projecting cheek bones.

  "And so we're founding a locksmiths' association, where all theproduction and profit and the chief instruments of production will be incommon."

  "Where is the association to be?" asked Konstantin Levin.

  "In the village of Vozdrem, Kazan government."

  "But why in a village? In the villages, I think, there is plenty of workas it is. Why a locksmiths' association in a village?"

  "Why? Because the peasants are just as much slaves as they ever were,and that's why you and Sergey Ivanovitch don't like people to try andget them out of their slavery," said Nikolay Levin, exasperated by theobjection.

  Konstantin Levin sighed, looking meanwhile about the cheerless and dirtyroom. This sigh seemed to exasperate Nikolay still more.

  "I know your and Sergey Ivanovitch's aristocratic views. I know that heapplies all the power of his intellect to justify existing evils."

  "No; and what do you talk of Sergey Ivanovitch for?" said Levin,smiling.

  "Sergey Ivanovitch? I'll tell you what for!" Nikolay Levin shriekedsuddenly at the name of Sergey Ivanovitch. "I'll tell you what for....But what's the use of talking? There's only one thing.... What did youcome to me for? You look down on this, and you're welcome to,--and goaway, in God's name go away!" he shrieked, getting up from his chair."And go away, and go away!"

  "I don't look down on it at all," said Konstantin Levin timidly. "Idon't even dispute it."

  At that instant Marya Nikolaevna came back. Nikolay Levin looked roundangrily at her. She went quickly to him, and whispered something.

  "I'm not well; I've grown irritable," said Nikolay Levin, getting calmerand breathing painfully; "and then you talk to me of Sergey Ivanovitchand his article. It's such rubbish, such lying, such self-deception.What can a man write of justice who knows nothing of it? Have you readhis article?" he asked Kritsky, sitting down again at the table, andmoving back off half of it the scattered cigarettes, so as to clear aspace.

  "I've not read it," Kritsky responded gloomily, obviously not desiringto enter into the conversation.

  "Why not?" said Nikolay Levin, now turning with exasperation uponKritsky.

  "Because I didn't see the use of wasting my time over it."

  "Oh, but excuse me, how did you know it would be wasting your time? Thatarticle's too deep for many people--that's to say it's over their heads.But with me, it's another thing; I see through his ideas, and I knowwhere its weakness lies."

  Everyone was mute. Kritsky got up deliberately and reached his cap.

  "Won't you have supper? All right, good-bye! Come round tomorrow withthe locksmith."

  Kritsky had hardly gone out when Nikolay Levin smiled and winked.

  "He's no good either," he said. "I see, of course..."

  But at that instant Kritsky, at the door, called him...

  "What do you want now?" he said, and went out to him in the passage.Left alone with Marya Nikolaevna, Levin turned to her.

  "Have you been long with my brother?" he said to her.

  "Yes, more than a year. Nikolay Dmitrievitch's health has become verypoor. Nikolay Dmitrievitch drinks a great deal," she said.

  "That is ... how does he drink?"

  "Drinks vodka, and it's bad for him."

  "And a great deal?" whispered Levin.

  "Yes," she said, looking timidly towards the doorway, where NikolayLevin had reappeared.

  "What were you talking about?" he said, knitting his brows, and turninghis scared eyes from one to the other. "What was it?"

  "Oh, nothing," Konstantin answered in confusion.

  "Oh, if you don't want to say, don't. Only it's no good your talking toher. She's a wench, and you're a gentleman," he said with a jerk of theneck. "You understand everything, I see, and have taken stock ofeverything, and look with commiseration on my shortcomings," he beganagain, raising his voice.

  "Nikolay Dmitrievitch, Nikolay Dmitrievitch," whispered MaryaNikolaevna, again going up to him.

  "Oh, very well, very well!... But where's the supper? Ah, here it is,"he said, seeing a waiter with a tray. "Here, set it here," he addedangrily, and promptly seizing the vodka, he poured out a glassful anddrank it greedily. "Like a drink?" he turned to his brother, and at oncebecame better humored.

  "Well, enough of Sergey Ivanovitch. I'm glad to see you, anyway. Afterall's said and done, we're not strangers. Come, have a drink. Tell mewhat you're doing," he went on, greedily munching a piece of bread, andpouring out another glassful. "How are you living?"

  "I live alone in the country, as I used to. I'm busy looking after theland," answered Konstantin, watching with horror the greediness withwhich his brother ate and drank, and trying to conceal that he noticedit.

  "Why don't you get married?"

  "It hasn't happened so," Konstantin answered, reddening a little.

  "Why not? For me now ... everything's at an end! I've made a mess of mylife. But this I've said, and I say still, that if my share had beengiven me when I needed it, my whole life would have been different."

  Konstantin made haste to change the conversation.

  "Do you know your little Vanya's with me, a clerk in the countinghouseat Pokrovskoe."

  Nikolay jerked his neck, and sank into thought.

  "Yes, tell me what's going on at Pokrovskoe. Is the house standingstill, and the birch trees, and our schoolroom? And Philip the gardener,is he living? How I remember the arbor and the seat! Now mind and don'talter anything in the house, but make haste and get married, and makeeverything as it used to be again. Then I'll come and see you, if yourwife is nice."

  "But come to me now," said Levin. "How nicely we would arrange it!"

  "I'd come and see you if I were sure I should not find SergeyIvanovitch."

  "You wouldn't find him there. I live quite independently of him."

  "Yes, but say what you like, you will have to choose between me andhim," he said, looking timidly into his brother's face.

  This timidity touched Konstantin.

  "If you want to hear my confession of faith on the subject, I tell youthat in your quarrel with Sergey Ivanovitch I take neither side. You'reboth wrong. You're more wrong externally, and he inwardly."

  "Ah, ah! You see that, you see that!" Nikolay shouted joyfully.

  "But I personally value friendly relations with you more because..."

  "Why, why?"

  Konstantin could not say that he valued it more because Nikolay wasunhappy, and needed affection. But Nikolay knew that this was just whathe meant to say, and scowling he took up the vodka again.

  "
Enough, Nikolay Dmitrievitch!" said Marya Nikolaevna, stretching outher plump, bare arm towards the decanter.

  "Let it be! Don't insist! I'll beat you!" he shouted.

  Marya Nikolaevna smiled a sweet and good-humored smile, which was atonce reflected on Nikolay's face, and she took the bottle.

  "And do you suppose she understands nothing?" said Nikolay. "Sheunderstands it all better than any of us. Isn't it true there'ssomething good and sweet in her?"

  "Were you never before in Moscow?" Konstantin said to her, for the sakeof saying something.

  "Only you mustn't be polite and stiff with her. It frightens her. No oneever spoke to her so but the justices of the peace who tried her fortrying to get out of a house of ill-fame. Mercy on us, the senselessnessin the world!" he cried suddenly. "These new institutions, thesejustices of the peace, rural councils, what hideousness it all is!"

  And he began to enlarge on his encounters with the new institutions.

  Konstantin Levin heard him, and the disbelief in the sense of all publicinstitutions, which he shared with him, and often expressed, wasdistasteful to him now from his brother's lips.

  "In another world we shall understand it all," he said lightly.

  "In another world! Ah, I don't like that other world! I don't like it,"he said, letting his scared eyes rest on his brother's eyes. "Here onewould think that to get out of all the baseness and the mess, one's ownand other people's, would be a good thing, and yet I'm afraid of death,awfully afraid of death." He shuddered. "But do drink something. Wouldyou like some champagne? Or shall we go somewhere? Let's go to theGypsies! Do you know I have got so fond of the Gypsies and Russiansongs."

  His speech had begun to falter, and he passed abruptly from one subjectto another. Konstantin with the help of Masha persuaded him not to goout anywhere, and got him to bed hopelessly drunk.

  Masha promised to write to Konstantin in case of need, and to persuadeNikolay Levin to go and stay with his brother.

 
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