Anna karenina, p.98
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       Anna Karenina, p.98

           graf Leo Tolstoy

  Chapter 29

  The carrying out of Levin's plan presented many difficulties; but hestruggled on, doing his utmost, and attained a result which, though notwhat he desired, was enough to enable him, without self-deception, tobelieve that the attempt was worth the trouble. One of the chiefdifficulties was that the process of cultivating the land was in fullswing, that it was impossible to stop everything and begin it all againfrom the beginning, and the machine had to be mended while in motion.

  When on the evening that he arrived home he informed the bailiff of hisplans, the latter with visible pleasure agreed with what he said so longas he was pointing out that all that had been done up to that time wasstupid and useless. The bailiff said that he had said so a long whileago, but no heed had been paid him. But as for the proposal made byLevin--to take a part as shareholder with his laborers in eachagricultural undertaking--at this the bailiff simply expressed aprofound despondency, and offered no definite opinion, but beganimmediately talking of the urgent necessity of carrying the remainingsheaves of rye the next day, and of sending the men out for the secondploughing, so that Levin felt that this was not the time for discussingit.

  On beginning to talk to the peasants about it, and making a propositionto cede them the land on new terms, he came into collision with the samegreat difficulty that they were so much absorbed by the current work ofthe day, that they had not time to consider the advantages anddisadvantages of the proposed scheme.

  The simple-hearted Ivan, the cowherd, seemed completely to grasp Levin'sproposal--that he should with his family take a share of the profits ofthe cattle-yard--and he was in complete sympathy with the plan. But whenLevin hinted at the future advantages, Ivan's face expressed alarm andregret that he could not hear all he had to say, and he made haste tofind himself some task that would admit of no delay: he either snatchedup the fork to pitch the hay out of the pens, or ran to get water or toclear out the dung.

  Another difficulty lay in the invincible disbelief of the peasant that alandowner's object could be anything else than a desire to squeeze allhe could out of them. They were firmly convinced that his real aim(whatever he might say to them) would always be in what he did not sayto them. And they themselves, in giving their opinion, said a great dealbut never said what was their real object. Moreover (Levin felt that theirascible landowner had been right) the peasants made their first andunalterable condition of any agreement whatever that they should not beforced to any new methods of tillage of any kind, nor to use newimplements. They agreed that the modern plough ploughed better, that thescarifier did the work more quickly, but they found thousands of reasonsthat made it out of the question for them to use either of them; andthough he had accepted the conviction that he would have to lower thestandard of cultivation, he felt sorry to give up improved methods, theadvantages of which were so obvious. But in spite of all thesedifficulties he got his way, and by autumn the system was working, or atleast so it seemed to him.

  At first Levin had thought of giving up the whole farming of the landjust as it was to the peasants, the laborers, and the bailiff on newconditions of partnership; but he was very soon convinced that this wasimpossible, and determined to divide it up. The cattle-yard, the garden,hay fields, and arable land, divided into several parts, had to be madeinto separate lots. The simple-hearted cowherd, Ivan, who, Levinfancied, understood the matter better than any of them, collectingtogether a gang of workers to help him, principally of his own family,became a partner in the cattle-yard. A distant part of the estate, atract of waste land that had lain fallow for eight years, was with thehelp of the clever carpenter, Fyodor Ryezunov, taken by six families ofpeasants on new conditions of partnership, and the peasant Shuraev tookthe management of all the vegetable gardens on the same terms. Theremainder of the land was still worked on the old system, but thesethree associated partnerships were the first step to a new organizationof the whole, and they completely took up Levin's time.

  It is true that in the cattle-yard things went no better than before,and Ivan strenuously opposed warm housing for the cows and butter madeof fresh cream, affirming that cows require less food if kept cold, andthat butter is more profitable made from sour cream, and he asked forwages just as under the old system, and took not the slightest interestin the fact that the money he received was not wages but an advance outof his future share in the profits.

  It is true that Fyodor Ryezunov's company did not plough over the groundtwice before sowing, as had been agreed, justifying themselves on theplea that the time was too short. It is true that the peasants of thesame company, though they had agreed to work the land on new conditions,always spoke of the land, not as held in partnership, but as rented forhalf the crop, and more than once the peasants and Ryezunov himself saidto Levin, "If you would take a rent for the land, it would save youtrouble, and we should be more free." Moreover the same peasants keptputting off, on various excuses, the building of a cattleyard and barnon the land as agreed upon, and delayed doing it till the winter.

  It is true that Shuraev would have liked to let out the kitchen gardenshe had undertaken in small lots to the peasants. He evidently quitemisunderstood, and apparently intentionally misunderstood, theconditions upon which the land had been given to him.

  Often, too, talking to the peasants and explaining to them all theadvantages of the plan, Levin felt that the peasants heard nothing butthe sound of his voice, and were firmly resolved, whatever he might say,not to let themselves be taken in. He felt this especially when hetalked to the cleverest of the peasants, Ryezunov, and detected thegleam in Ryezunov's eyes which showed so plainly both ironical amusementat Levin, and the firm conviction that, if any one were to be taken in,it would not be he, Ryezunov. But in spite of all this Levin thought thesystem worked, and that by keeping accounts strictly and insisting onhis own way, he would prove to them in the future the advantages of thearrangement, and then the system would go of itself.

  These matters, together with the management of the land still left onhis hands, and the indoor work over his book, so engrossed Levin thewhole summer that he scarcely ever went out shooting. At the end ofAugust he heard that the Oblonskys had gone away to Moscow, from theirservant who brought back the side-saddle. He felt that in not answeringDarya Alexandrovna's letter he had by his rudeness, of which he couldnot think without a flush of shame, burned his ships, and that he wouldnever go and see them again. He had been just as rude with theSviazhskys, leaving them without saying good-bye. But he would never goto see them again either. He did not care about that now. The businessof reorganizing the farming of his land absorbed him as completely asthough there would never be anything else in his life. He read the bookslent him by Sviazhsky, and copying out what he had not got, he read boththe economic and socialistic books on the subject, but, as he hadanticipated, found nothing bearing on the scheme he had undertaken. Inthe books on political economy--in Mill, for instance, whom he studiedfirst with great ardor, hoping every minute to find an answer to thequestions that were engrossing him--he found laws deduced from thecondition of land culture in Europe; but he did not see why these laws,which did not apply in Russia, must be general. He saw just the samething in the socialistic books: either they were the beautiful butimpracticable fantasies which had fascinated him when he was a student,or they were attempts at improving, rectifying the economic position inwhich Europe was placed, with which the system of land tenure in Russiahad nothing in common. Political economy told him that the laws by whichthe wealth of Europe had been developed, and was developing, wereuniversal and unvarying. Socialism told him that development along theselines leads to ruin. And neither of them gave an answer, or even a hint,in reply to the question what he, Levin, and all the Russian peasantsand landowners, were to do with their millions of hands and millions ofacres, to make them as productive as possible for the common weal.

  Having once taken the subject up, he read conscientiously everythingbearing on it, and intended in the autumn to go abroad to study landsystems
on the spot, in order that he might not on this question beconfronted with what so often met him on various subjects. Often, justas he was beginning to understand the idea in the mind of anyone he wastalking to, and was beginning to explain his own, he would suddenly betold: "But Kauffmann, but Jones, but Dubois, but Michelli? You haven'tread them: they've thrashed that question out thoroughly."

  He saw now distinctly that Kauffmann and Michelli had nothing to tellhim. He knew what he wanted. He saw that Russia has splendid land,splendid laborers, and that in certain cases, as at the peasant's on theway to Sviazhsky's, the produce raised by the laborers and the land isgreat--in the majority of cases when capital is applied in the Europeanway the produce is small, and that this simply arises from the fact thatthe laborers want to work and work well only in their own peculiar way,and that this antagonism is not incidental but invariable, and has itsroots in the national spirit. He thought that the Russian people whosetask it was to colonize and cultivate vast tracts of unoccupied land,consciously adhered, till all their land was occupied, to the methodssuitable to their purpose, and that their methods were by no means sobad as was generally supposed. And he wanted to prove this theoreticallyin his book and practically on his land.

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