Anna karenina, p.47
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       Anna Karenina, p.47

           graf Leo Tolstoy

  Chapter 13

  Levin put on his big boots, and, for the first time, a cloth jacket,instead of his fur cloak, and went out to look after his farm, steppingover streams of water that flashed in the sunshine and dazzled his eyes,and treading one minute on ice and the next into sticky mud.

  Spring is the time of plans and projects. And, as he came out into thefarmyard, Levin, like a tree in spring that knows not what form will betaken by the young shoots and twigs imprisoned in its swelling buds,hardly knew what undertakings he was going to begin upon now in the farmwork that was so dear to him. But he felt that he was full of the mostsplendid plans and projects. First of all he went to the cattle. Thecows had been let out into their paddock, and their smooth sides werealready shining with their new, sleek, spring coats; they basked in thesunshine and lowed to go to the meadow. Levin gazed admiringly at thecows he knew so intimately to the minutest detail of their condition,and gave orders for them to be driven out into the meadow, and thecalves to be let into the paddock. The herdsman ran gaily to get readyfor the meadow. The cowherd girls, picking up their petticoats, ransplashing through the mud with bare legs, still white, not yet brownfrom the sun, waving brush wood in their hands, chasing the calves thatfrolicked in the mirth of spring.

  After admiring the young ones of that year, who were particularlyfine--the early calves were the size of a peasant's cow, and Pava'sdaughter, at three months old, was as big as a yearling--Levin gaveorders for a trough to be brought out and for them to be fed in thepaddock. But it appeared that as the paddock had not been used duringthe winter, the hurdles made in the autumn for it were broken. He sentfor the carpenter, who, according to his orders, ought to have been atwork at the thrashing machine. But it appeared that the carpenter wasrepairing the harrows, which ought to have been repaired before Lent.This was very annoying to Levin. It was annoying to come upon thateverlasting slovenliness in the farm work against which he had beenstriving with all his might for so many years. The hurdles, as heascertained, being not wanted in winter, had been carried to thecart-horses' stable; and there broken, as they were of lightconstruction, only meant for feeding calves. Moreover, it was apparentalso that the harrows and all the agricultural implements, which he haddirected to be looked over and repaired in the winter, for which verypurpose he had hired three carpenters, had not been put into repair, andthe harrows were being repaired when they ought to have been harrowingthe field. Levin sent for his bailiff, but immediately went off himselfto look for him. The bailiff, beaming all over, like everyone that day,in a sheepskin bordered with astrachan, came out of the barn, twisting abit of straw in his hands.

  "Why isn't the carpenter at the thrashing machine?"

  "Oh, I meant to tell you yesterday, the harrows want repairing. Hereit's time they got to work in the fields."

  "But what were they doing in the winter, then?"

  "But what did you want the carpenter for?"

  "Where are the hurdles for the calves' paddock?"

  "I ordered them to be got ready. What would you have with thosepeasants!" said the bailiff, with a wave of his hand.

  "It's not those peasants but this bailiff!" said Levin, getting angry."Why, what do I keep you for?" he cried. But, bethinking himself thatthis would not help matters, he stopped short in the middle of asentence, and merely sighed. "Well, what do you say? Can sowing begin?"he asked, after a pause.

  "Behind Turkin tomorrow or the next day they might begin."

  "And the clover?"

  "I've sent Vassily and Mishka; they're sowing. Only I don't know ifthey'll manage to get through; it's so slushy."

  "How many acres?"

  "About fifteen."

  "Why not sow all?" cried Levin.

  That they were only sowing the clover on fifteen acres, not on all theforty-five, was still more annoying to him. Clover, as he knew, bothfrom books and from his own experience, never did well except when itwas sown as early as possible, almost in the snow. And yet Levin couldnever get this done.

  "There's no one to send. What would you have with such a set ofpeasants? Three haven't turned up. And there's Semyon..."

  "Well, you should have taken some men from the thatching."

  "And so I have, as it is."

  "Where are the peasants, then?"

  "Five are making compote" (which meant compost), "four are shifting theoats for fear of a touch of mildew, Konstantin Dmitrievitch."

  Levin knew very well that "a touch of mildew" meant that his Englishseed oats were already ruined. Again they had not done as he hadordered.

  "Why, but I told you during Lent to put in pipes," he cried.

  "Don't put yourself out; we shall get it all done in time."

  Levin waved his hand angrily, went into the granary to glance at theoats, and then to the stable. The oats were not yet spoiled. But thepeasants were carrying the oats in spades when they might simply letthem slide down into the lower granary; and arranging for this to bedone, and taking two workmen from there for sowing clover, Levin gotover his vexation with the bailiff. Indeed, it was such a lovely daythat one could not be angry.

  "Ignat!" he called to the coachman, who, with his sleeves tucked up, waswashing the carriage wheels, "saddle me..."

  "Which, sir?"

  "Well, let it be Kolpik."

  "Yes, sir."

  While they were saddling his horse, Levin again called up the bailiff,who was hanging about in sight, to make it up with him, and begantalking to him about the spring operations before them, and his plansfor the farm.

  The wagons were to begin carting manure earlier, so as to get all donebefore the early mowing. And the ploughing of the further land to go onwithout a break so as to let it ripen lying fallow. And the mowing to beall done by hired labor, not on half-profits. The bailiff listenedattentively, and obviously made an effort to approve of his employer'sprojects. But still he had that look Levin knew so well that alwaysirritated him, a look of hopelessness and despondency. That look said:"That's all very well, but as God wills."

  Nothing mortified Levin so much as that tone. But it was the tone commonto all the bailiffs he had ever had. They had all taken up that attitudeto his plans, and so now he was not angered by it, but mortified, andfelt all the more roused to struggle against this, as it seemed,elemental force continually ranged against him, for which he could findno other expression than "as God wills."

  "If we can manage it, Konstantin Dmitrievitch," said the bailiff.

  "Why ever shouldn't you manage it?"

  "We positively must have another fifteen laborers. And they don't turnup. There were some here today asking seventy roubles for the summer."

  Levin was silent. Again he was brought face to face with that opposingforce. He knew that however much they tried, they could not hire morethan forty--thirty-seven perhaps or thirty-eight--laborers for areasonable sum. Some forty had been taken on, and there were no more.But still he could not help struggling against it.

  "Send to Sury, to Tchefirovka; if they don't come we must look forthem."

  "Oh, I'll send, to be sure," said Vassily Fedorovitch despondently. "Butthere are the horses, too, they're not good for much."

  "We'll get some more. I know, of course," Levin added laughing, "youalways want to do with as little and as poor quality as possible; butthis year I'm not going to let you have things your own way. I'll see toeverything myself."

  "Why, I don't think you take much rest as it is. It cheers us up to workunder the master's eye..."

  "So they're sowing clover behind the Birch Dale? I'll go and have a lookat them," he said, getting on to the little bay cob, Kolpik, who was ledup by the coachman.

  "You can't get across the streams, Konstantin Dmitrievitch," thecoachman shouted.

  "All right, I'll go by the forest."

  And Levin rode through the slush of the farmyard to the gate and outinto the open country, his good little horse, after his long inactivity,stepping out gallantly, snorting over the pools, and asking, as it were,for
guidance. If Levin had felt happy before in the cattle pens andfarmyard, he felt happier yet in the open country. Swaying rhythmicallywith the ambling paces of his good little cob, drinking in the warm yetfresh scent of the snow and the air, as he rode through his forest overthe crumbling, wasted snow, still left in parts, and covered withdissolving tracks, he rejoiced over every tree, with the moss revivingon its bark and the buds swelling on its shoots. When he came out of theforest, in the immense plain before him, his grass fields stretched inan unbroken carpet of green, without one bare place or swamp, onlyspotted here and there in the hollows with patches of melting snow. Hewas not put out of temper even by the sight of the peasants' horses andcolts trampling down his young grass (he told a peasant he met to drivethem out), nor by the sarcastic and stupid reply of the peasant Ipat,whom he met on the way, and asked, "Well, Ipat, shall we soon besowing?" "We must get the ploughing done first, KonstantinDmitrievitch," answered Ipat. The further he rode, the happier hebecame, and plans for the land rose to his mind each better than thelast; to plant all his fields with hedges along the southern borders, sothat the snow should not lie under them; to divide them up into sixfields of arable and three of pasture and hay; to build a cattle yard atthe further end of the estate, and to dig a pond and to constructmovable pens for the cattle as a means of manuring the land. And theneight hundred acres of wheat, three hundred of potatoes, and fourhundred of clover, and not one acre exhausted.

  Absorbed in such dreams, carefully keeping his horse by the hedges, soas not to trample his young crops, he rode up to the laborers who hadbeen sent to sow clover. A cart with the seed in it was standing, not atthe edge, but in the middle of the crop, and the winter corn had beentorn up by the wheels and trampled by the horse. Both the laborers weresitting in the hedge, probably smoking a pipe together. The earth in thecart, with which the seed was mixed, was not crushed to powder, butcrusted together or adhering in clods. Seeing the master, the laborer,Vassily, went towards the cart, while Mishka set to work sowing. Thiswas not as it should be, but with the laborers Levin seldom lost histemper. When Vassily came up, Levin told him to lead the horse to thehedge.

  "It's all right, sir, it'll spring up again," responded Vassily.

  "Please don't argue," said Levin, "but do as you're told."

  "Yes, sir," answered Vassily, and he took the horse's head. "What asowing, Konstantin Dmitrievitch," he said, hesitating; "first rate. Onlyit's a work to get about! You drag a ton of earth on your shoes."

  "Why is it you have earth that's not sifted?" said Levin.

  "Well, we crumble it up," answered Vassily, taking up some seed androlling the earth in his palms.

  Vassily was not to blame for their having filled up his cart withunsifted earth, but still it was annoying.

  Levin had more than once already tried a way he knew for stifling hisanger, and turning all that seemed dark right again, and he tried thatway now. He watched how Mishka strode along, swinging the huge clods ofearth that clung to each foot; and getting off his horse, he took thesieve from Vassily and started sowing himself.

  "Where did you stop?"

  Vassily pointed to the mark with his foot, and Levin went forward asbest he could, scattering the seed on the land. Walking was as difficultas on a bog, and by the time Levin had ended the row he was in a greatheat, and he stopped and gave up the sieve to Vassily.

  "Well, master, when summer's here, mind you don't scold me for theserows," said Vassily.

  "Eh?" said Levin cheerily, already feeling the effect of his method.

  "Why, you'll see in the summer time. It'll look different. Look youwhere I sowed last spring. How I did work at it! I do my best,Konstantin Dmitrievitch, d'ye see, as I would for my own father. I don'tlike bad work myself, nor would I let another man do it. What's good forthe master's good for us too. To look out yonder now," said Vassily,pointing, "it does one's heart good."

  "It's a lovely spring, Vassily."

  "Why, it's a spring such as the old men don't remember the like of. Iwas up home; an old man up there has sown wheat too, about an acre ofit. He was saying you wouldn't know it from rye."

  "Have you been sowing wheat long?"

  "Why, sir, it was you taught us the year before last. You gave me twomeasures. We sold about eight bushels and sowed a rood."

  "Well, mind you crumble up the clods," said Levin, going towards hishorse, "and keep an eye on Mishka. And if there's a good crop you shallhave half a rouble for every acre."

  "Humbly thankful. We are very well content, sir, as it is."

  Levin got on his horse and rode towards the field where was last year'sclover, and the one which was ploughed ready for the spring corn.

  The crop of clover coming up in the stubble was magnificent. It hadsurvived everything, and stood up vividly green through the brokenstalks of last year's wheat. The horse sank in up to the pasterns, andhe drew each hoof with a sucking sound out of the half-thawed ground.Over the ploughland riding was utterly impossible; the horse could onlykeep a foothold where there was ice, and in the thawing furrows he sankdeep in at each step. The ploughland was in splendid condition; in acouple of days it would be fit for harrowing and sowing. Everything wascapital, everything was cheering. Levin rode back across the streams,hoping the water would have gone down. And he did in fact get across,and startled two ducks. "There must be snipe too," he thought, and justas he reached the turning homewards he met the forest keeper, whoconfirmed his theory about the snipe.

  Levin went home at a trot, so as to have time to eat his dinner and gethis gun ready for the evening.

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