Anna karenina, p.94
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       Anna Karenina, p.94

           graf Leo Tolstoy
 

  Chapter 25

  In the Surovsky district there was no railway nor service of posthorses, and Levin drove there with his own horses in his big,old-fashioned carriage.

  He stopped halfway at a well-to-do peasant's to feed his horses. A bald,well-preserved old man, with a broad, red beard, gray on his cheeks,opened the gate, squeezing against the gatepost to let the three horsespass. Directing the coachman to a place under the shed in the big,clean, tidy yard, with charred, old-fashioned ploughs in it, the old manasked Levin to come into the parlor. A cleanly dressed young woman, withclogs on her bare feet, was scrubbing the floor in the new outer room.She was frightened of the dog, that ran in after Levin, and uttered ashriek, but began laughing at her own fright at once when she was toldthe dog would not hurt her. Pointing Levin with her bare arm to the doorinto the parlor, she bent down again, hiding her handsome face, and wenton scrubbing.

  "Would you like the samovar?" she asked.

  "Yes, please."

  The parlor was a big room, with a Dutch stove, and a screen dividing itinto two. Under the holy pictures stood a table painted in patterns, abench, and two chairs. Near the entrance was a dresser full of crockery.The shutters were closed, there were few flies, and it was so clean thatLevin was anxious that Laska, who had been running along the road andbathing in puddles, should not muddy the floor, and ordered her to aplace in the corner by the door. After looking round the parlor, Levinwent out in the back yard. The good-looking young woman in clogs,swinging the empty pails on the yoke, ran on before him to the well forwater.

  "Look sharp, my girl!" the old man shouted after her, good-humoredly,and he went up to Levin. "Well, sir, are you going to Nikolay IvanovitchSviazhsky? His honor comes to us too," he began, chatting, leaning hiselbows on the railing of the steps. In the middle of the old man'saccount of his acquaintance with Sviazhsky, the gates creaked again, andlaborers came into the yard from the fields, with wooden ploughs andharrows. The horses harnessed to the ploughs and harrows were sleek andfat. The laborers were obviously of the household: two were young men incotton shirts and caps, the two others were hired laborers in homespunshirts, one an old man, the other a young fellow. Moving off from thesteps, the old man went up to the horses and began unharnessing them.

  "What have they been ploughing?" asked Levin.

  "Ploughing up the potatoes. We rent a bit of land too. Fedot, don't letout the gelding, but take it to the trough, and we'll put the other inharness."

  "Oh, father, the ploughshares I ordered, has he brought them along?"asked the big, healthy-looking fellow, obviously the old man's son.

  "There ... in the outer room," answered the old man, bundling togetherthe harness he had taken off, and flinging it on the ground. "You canput them on, while they have dinner."

  The good-looking young woman came into the outer room with the fullpails dragging at her shoulders. More women came on the scene fromsomewhere, young and handsome, middle-aged, old and ugly, with childrenand without children.

  The samovar was beginning to sing; the laborers and the family, havingdisposed of the horses, came in to dinner. Levin, getting his provisionsout of his carriage, invited the old man to take tea with him.

  "Well, I have had some today already," said the old man, obviouslyaccepting the invitation with pleasure. "But just a glass for company."

  Over their tea Levin heard all about the old man's farming. Ten yearsbefore, the old man had rented three hundred acres from the lady whoowned them, and a year ago he had bought them and rented another threehundred from a neighboring landowner. A small part of the land--theworst part--he let out for rent, while a hundred acres of arable land hecultivated himself with his family and two hired laborers. The old mancomplained that things were doing badly. But Levin saw that he simplydid so from a feeling of propriety, and that his farm was in aflourishing condition. If it had been unsuccessful he would not havebought land at thirty-five roubles the acre, he would not have marriedhis three sons and a nephew, he would not have rebuilt twice afterfires, and each time on a larger scale. In spite of the old man'scomplaints, it was evident that he was proud, and justly proud, of hisprosperity, proud of his sons, his nephew, his sons' wives, his horsesand his cows, and especially of the fact that he was keeping all thisfarming going. From his conversation with the old man, Levin thought hewas not averse to new methods either. He had planted a great manypotatoes, and his potatoes, as Levin had seen driving past, were alreadypast flowering and beginning to die down, while Levin's were only justcoming into flower. He earthed up his potatoes with a modern ploughborrowed from a neighboring landowner. He sowed wheat. The trifling factthat, thinning out his rye, the old man used the rye he thinned out forhis horses, specially struck Levin. How many times had Levin seen thissplendid fodder wasted, and tried to get it saved; but always it hadturned out to be impossible. The peasant got this done, and he could notsay enough in praise of it as food for the beasts.

  "What have the wenches to do? They carry it out in bundles to theroadside, and the cart brings it away."

  "Well, we landowners can't manage well with our laborers," said Levin,handing him a glass of tea.

  "Thank you," said the old man, and he took the glass, but refused sugar,pointing to a lump he had left. "They're simple destruction," said he."Look at Sviazhsky's, for instance. We know what the land'slike--first-rate, yet there's not much of a crop to boast of. It's notlooked after enough--that's all it is!"

  "But you work your land with hired laborers?"

  "We're all peasants together. We go into everything ourselves. If aman's no use, he can go, and we can manage by ourselves."

  "Father, Finogen wants some tar," said the young woman in the clogs,coming in.

  "Yes, yes, that's how it is, sir!" said the old man, getting up, andcrossing himself deliberately, he thanked Levin and went out.

  When Levin went into the kitchen to call his coachman he saw the wholefamily at dinner. The women were standing up waiting on them. The young,sturdy-looking son was telling something funny with his mouth full ofpudding, and they were all laughing, the woman in the clogs, who waspouring cabbage soup into a bowl, laughing most merrily of all.

  Very probably the good-looking face of the young woman in the clogs hada good deal to do with the impression of well-being this peasanthousehold made upon Levin, but the impression was so strong that Levincould never get rid of it. And all the way from the old peasant's toSviazhsky's he kept recalling this peasant farm as though there weresomething in this impression that demanded his special attention.

 
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