Anna karenina, p.80
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       Anna Karenina, p.80

           graf Leo Tolstoy
 

  Chapter 11

  In the middle of July the elder of the village on Levin's sister'sestate, about fifteen miles from Pokrovskoe, came to Levin to report onhow things were going there and on the hay. The chief source of incomeon his sister's estate was from the riverside meadows. In former yearsthe hay had been bought by the peasants for twenty roubles the threeacres. When Levin took over the management of the estate, he thought onexamining the grasslands that they were worth more, and he fixed theprice at twenty-five roubles the three acres. The peasants would notgive that price, and, as Levin suspected, kept off other purchasers.Then Levin had driven over himself, and arranged to have the grass cut,partly by hired labor, partly at a payment of a certain proportion ofthe crop. His own peasants put every hindrance they could in the way ofthis new arrangement, but it was carried out, and the first year themeadows had yielded a profit almost double. The previous year--which wasthe third year--the peasants had maintained the same opposition to thearrangement, and the hay had been cut on the same system. This year thepeasants were doing all the mowing for a third of the hay crop, and thevillage elder had come now to announce that the hay had been cut, andthat, fearing rain, they had invited the counting-house clerk over, haddivided the crop in his presence, and had raked together eleven stacksas the owner's share. From the vague answers to his question how muchhay had been cut on the principal meadow, from the hurry of the villageelder who had made the division, not asking leave, from the whole toneof the peasant, Levin perceived that there was something wrong in thedivision of the hay, and made up his mind to drive over himself to lookinto the matter.

  Arriving for dinner at the village, and leaving his horse at the cottageof an old friend of his, the husband of his brother's wet-nurse, Levinwent to see the old man in his bee-house, wanting to find out from himthe truth about the hay. Parmenitch, a talkative, comely old man, gaveLevin a very warm welcome, showed him all he was doing, told himeverything about his bees and the swarms of that year; but gave vagueand unwilling answers to Levin's inquiries about the mowing. Thisconfirmed Levin still more in his suspicions. He went to the hay fieldsand examined the stacks. The haystacks could not possibly contain fiftywagon-loads each, and to convict the peasants Levin ordered the wagonsthat had carried the hay to be brought up directly, to lift one stack,and carry it into the barn. There turned out to be only thirty-two loadsin the stack. In spite of the village elder's assertions about thecompressibility of hay, and its having settled down in the stacks, andhis swearing that everything had been done in the fear of God, Levinstuck to his point that the hay had been divided without his orders, andthat, therefore, he would not accept that hay as fifty loads to a stack.After a prolonged dispute the matter was decided by the peasants takingthese eleven stacks, reckoning them as fifty loads each. The argumentsand the division of the haycocks lasted the whole afternoon. When thelast of the hay had been divided, Levin, intrusting the superintendenceof the rest to the counting-house clerk, sat down on a haycock markedoff by a stake of willow, and looked admiringly at the meadow swarmingwith peasants.

  In front of him, in the bend of the river beyond the marsh, moved abright-colored line of peasant women, and the scattered hay was beingrapidly formed into gray winding rows over the pale green stubble. Afterthe women came the men with pitchforks, and from the gray rows therewere growing up broad, high, soft haycocks. To the left, carts wererumbling over the meadow that had been already cleared, and one afteranother the haycocks vanished, flung up in huge forkfuls, and in theirplace there were rising heavy cartloads of fragrant hay hanging over thehorses' hind-quarters.

  "What weather for haying! What hay it'll be!" said an old man, squattingdown beside Levin. "It's tea, not hay! It's like scattering grain to theducks, the way they pick it up!" he added, pointing to the growinghaycocks. "Since dinnertime they've carried a good half of it."

  "The last load, eh?" he shouted to a young peasant, who drove by,standing in the front of an empty cart, shaking the cord reins.

  "The last, dad!" the lad shouted back, pulling in the horse, and,smiling, he looked round at a bright, rosy-checked peasant girl who satin the cart smiling too, and drove on.

  "Who's that? Your son?" asked Levin.

  "My baby," said the old man with a tender smile.

  "What a fine fellow!"

  "The lad's all right."

  "Married already?"

  "Yes, it's two years last St. Philip's day."

  "Any children?"

  "Children indeed! Why, for over a year he was innocent as a babehimself, and bashful too," answered the old man. "Well, the hay! It's asfragrant as tea!" he repeated, wishing to change the subject.

  Levin looked more attentively at Ivan Parmenov and his wife. They wereloading a haycock onto the cart not far from him. Ivan Parmenov wasstanding on the cart, taking, laying in place, and stamping down thehuge bundles of hay, which his pretty young wife deftly handed up tohim, at first in armfuls, and then on the pitchfork. The young wifeworked easily, merrily, and dexterously. The close-packed hay did notonce break away off her fork. First she gathered it together, stuck thefork into it, then with a rapid, supple movement leaned the whole weightof her body on it, and at once with a bend of her back under the redbelt she drew herself up, and arching her full bosom under the whitesmock, with a smart turn swung the fork in her arms, and flung thebundle of hay high onto the cart. Ivan, obviously doing his best to saveher every minute of unnecessary labor, made haste, opening his arms toclutch the bundle and lay it in the cart. As she raked together what wasleft of the hay, the young wife shook off the bits of hay that hadfallen on her neck, and straightening the red kerchief that had droppedforward over her white brow, not browned like her face by the sun, shecrept under the cart to tie up the load. Ivan directed her how to fastenthe cord to the cross-piece, and at something she said he laughed aloud.In the expressions of both faces was to be seen vigorous, young, freshlyawakened love.

 

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