Almost two months had passed. The hot summer was half over, but Sergey Ivanovitch was only just preparing to leave Moscow.
Sergey Ivanovitch’s life had not been uneventful during this time. A year ago he had finished his book, the fruit of six years’ labor, “Sketch of a Survey of the Principles and Forms of Government in Europe and Russia.” Several sections of this book and its introduction had appeared in periodical publications, and other parts had been read by Sergey Ivanovitch to persons of his circle, so that the leading ideas of the work could not be completely novel to the public. But still Sergey Ivanovitch had expected that on its appearance his book would be sure to make a serious impression on society, and if it did not cause a revolution in social science it would, at any rate, make a great stir in the scientific world.
After the most conscientious revision the book had last year been published, and had been distributed among the booksellers.
Though he asked no one about it, reluctantly and with feigned indifference answered his friends’ inquiries as to how the book was going, and did not even inquire of the booksellers how the book was selling, Sergey Ivanovitch was all on the alert, with strained attention, watching for the first impression his book would make in the world and in literature.
But a week passed, a second, a third, and in society no impression whatever could be detected. His friends who were specialists and savants, occasionally—unmistakably from politeness—alluded to it. The rest of his acquaintances, not interested in a book on a learned subject, did not talk of it at all. And society generally—just now especially absorbed in other things—was absolutely indifferent. In the press, too, for a whole month there was not a word about his book.
Sergey Ivanovitch had calculated to a nicety the time necessary for writing a review, but a month passed, and a second, and still there was silence.
Only in the Northern Beetle, in a comic article on the singer Drabanti, who had lost his voice, there was a contemptuous allusion to Koznishev’s book, suggesting that the book had been long ago seen through by everyone, and was a subject of general ridicule.
At last in the third month a critical article appeared in a serious review. Sergey Ivanovitch knew the author of the article. He had met him once at Golubtsov’s.
The author of the article was a young man, an invalid, very bold as a writer, but extremely deficient in breeding and shy in personal relations.
In spite of his absolute contempt for the author, it was with complete respect that Sergey Ivanovitch set about reading the article. The article was awful.
The critic had undoubtedly put an interpretation upon the book which could not possibly be put on it. But he had selected quotations so adroitly that for people who had not read the book (and obviously scarcely anyone had read it) it seemed absolutely clear that the whole book was nothing but a medley of high-flown phrases, not even—as suggested by marks of interrogation—used appropriately, and that the author of the book was a person absolutely without knowledge of the subject. And all this was so wittily done that Sergey Ivanovitch would not have disowned such wit himself. But that was just what was so awful.
In spite of the scrupulous conscientiousness with which Sergey Ivanovitch verified the correctness of the critic’s arguments, he did not for a minute stop to ponder over the faults and mistakes which were ridiculed; but unconsciously he began immediately trying to recall every detail of his meeting and conversation with the author of the article.
“Didn’t I offend him in some way?” Sergey Ivanovitch wondered.
And remembering that when they met he had corrected the young man about something he had said that betrayed ignorance, Sergey Ivanovitch found the clue to explain the article.
This article was followed by a deadly silence about the book both in the press and in conversation, and Sergey Ivanovitch saw that his six years’ task, toiled at with such love and labor, had gone, leaving no trace.
Sergey Ivanovitch’s position was still more difficult from the fact that, since he had finished his book, he had had no more literary work to do, such as had hitherto occupied the greater part of his time.
Sergey Ivanovitch was clever, cultivated, healthy, and energetic, and he did not know what use to make of his energy. Conversations in drawing-rooms, in meetings, assemblies, and committees—everywhere where talk was possible—took up part of his time. But being used for years to town life, he did not waste all his energies in talk, as his less experienced younger brother did, when he was in Moscow. He had a great deal of leisure and intellectual energy still to dispose of.
Fortunately for him, at this period so difficult for him from the failure of his book, the various public questions of the dissenting sects, of the American alliance, of the Samara famine, of exhibitions, and of spiritualism, were definitely replaced in public interest by the Slavonic question, which had hitherto rather languidly interested society, and Sergey Ivanovitch, who had been one of the first to raise this subject, threw himself into it heart and soul.
In the circle to which Sergey Ivanovitch belonged, nothing was talked of or written about just now but the Servian War. Everything that the idle crowd usually does to kill time was done now for the benefit of the Slavonic States. Balls, concerts, dinners, matchboxes, ladies’ dresses, beer, restaurants—everything testified to sympathy with the Slavonic peoples.
From much of what was spoken and written on the subject, Sergey Ivanovitch differed on various points. He saw that the Slavonic question had become one of those fashionable distractions which succeed one another in providing society with an object and an occupation. He saw, too, that a great many people were taking up the subject from motives of self-interest and self-advertisement. He recognized that the newspapers published a great deal that was superfluous and exaggerated, with the sole aim of attracting attention and outbidding one another. He saw that in this general movement those who thrust themselves most forward and shouted the loudest were men who had failed and were smarting under a sense of injury—generals without armies, ministers not in the ministry, journalists not on any paper, party leaders without followers. He saw that there was a great deal in it that was frivolous and absurd. But he saw and recognized an unmistakable growing enthusiasm, uniting all classes, with which it was impossible not to sympathize. The massacre of men who were fellow Christians, and of the same Slavonic race, excited sympathy for the sufferers and indignation against the oppressors. And the heroism of the Servians and Montenegrins struggling for a great cause begot in the whole people a longing to help their brothers not in word but in deed.
But in this there was another aspect that rejoiced Sergey Ivanovitch. That was the manifestation of public opinion. The public had definitely expressed its desire. The soul of the people had, as Sergey Ivanovitch said, found expression. And the more he worked in this cause, the more incontestable it seemed to him that it was a cause destined to assume vast dimensions, to create an epoch.
He threw himself heart and soul into the service of this great cause, and forgot to think about his book. His whole time now was engrossed by it, so that he could scarcely manage to answer all the letters and appeals addressed to him. He worked the whole spring and part of the summer, and it was only in July that he prepared to go away to his brother’s in the country.
He was going both to rest for a fortnight, and in the very heart of the people, in the farthest wilds of the country, to enjoy the sight of that uplifting of the spirit of the people, of which, like all residents in the capital and big towns, he was fully persuaded. Katavasov had long been meaning to carry out his promise to stay with Levin, and so he was going with him.
Sergey Ivanovitch and Katavasov had only just reached the station of the Kursk line, which was particularly busy and full of people that day, when, looking round for the groom who was following with their things, they saw a party of volunteers driving up in four cabs. Ladies met them with bouquets of flowers, and followed by the rushing crowd they went into the station.
One of the ladies, who had met the volunteers, came out of the hall and addressed Sergey Ivanovitch.
“You too come to see them off?” she asked in French.
“No, I’m going away myself, princess. To my brother’s for a holiday. Do you always see them off?” said Sergey Ivanovitch with a hardly perceptible smile.
“Oh, that would be impossible!” answered the princess. “Is it true that eight hundred have been sent from us already? Malvinsky wouldn’t believe me.”
“More than eight hundred. If you reckon those who have been sent not directly from Moscow, over a thousand,” answered Sergey Ivanovitch.
“There! That’s just what I said!” exclaimed the lady. “And it’s true too, I suppose, that more than a million has been subscribed?”
“What do you say to today’s telegram? Beaten the Turks again.”
“Yes, so I saw,” answered Sergey Ivanovitch. They were speaking of the last telegram stating that the Turks had been for three days in succession beaten at all points and put to flight, and that tomorrow a decisive engagement was expected.
“Ah, by the way, a splendid young fellow has asked leave to go, and they’ve made some difficulty, I don’t know why. I meant to ask you; I know him; please write a note about his case. He’s being sent by Countess Lidia Ivanovna.”
Sergey Ivanovitch asked for all the details the princess knew about the young man, and going into the first-class waiting-room, wrote a note to the person on whom the granting of leave of absence depended, and handed it to the princess.
“You know Count Vronsky, the notorious one ... is going by this train?” said the princess with a smile full of triumph and meaning, when he found her again and gave her the letter.
“I had heard he was going, but I did not know when. By this train?”
“I’ve seen him. He’s here: there’s only his mother seeing him off. It’s the best thing, anyway, that he could do.”
“Oh, yes, of course.”
While they were talking the crowd streamed by them into the dining-room. They went forward too, and heard a gentleman with a glass in his hand delivering a loud discourse to the volunteers. “In the service of religion, humanity, and our brothers,” the gentleman said, his voice growing louder and louder; “to this great cause mother Moscow dedicates you with her blessing. Jivio!” he concluded, loudly and tearfully.
Everyone shouted Jivio! and a fresh crowd dashed into the hall, almost carrying the princess off her legs.
“Ah, princess! that was something like!” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, suddenly appearing in the middle of the crowd and beaming upon them with a delighted smile. “Capitally, warmly said, wasn’t it? Bravo! And Sergey Ivanovitch! Why, you ought to have said something—just a few words, you know, to encourage them; you do that so well,” he added with a soft, respectful, and discreet smile, moving Sergey Ivanovitch forward a little by the arm.
“No, I’m just off.”
“To the country, to my brother’s,” answered Sergey Ivanovitch.
“Then you’ll see my wife. I’ve written to her, but you’ll see her first. Please tell her that they’ve seen me and that it’s ‘all right,’ as the English say. She’ll understand. Oh, and be so good as to tell her I’m appointed secretary of the committee.... But she’ll understand! You know, les petites misères de la vie humaine,” he said, as it were apologizing to the princess. “And Princess Myakaya—not Liza, but Bibish—is sending a thousand guns and twelve nurses. Did I tell you?”
“Yes, I heard so,” answered Koznishev indifferently.
“It’s a pity you’re going away,” said Stepan Arkadyevitch. “Tomorrow we’re giving a dinner to two who’re setting off—Dimer-Bartnyansky from Petersburg and our Veslovsky, Grisha. They’re both going. Veslovsky’s only lately married. There’s a fine fellow for you! Eh, princess?” he turned to the lady.
The princess looked at Koznishev without replying. But the fact that Sergey Ivanovitch and the princess seemed anxious to get rid of him did not in the least disconcert Stepan Arkadyevitch. Smiling, he stared at the feather in the princess’s hat, and then about him as though he were going to pick something up. Seeing a lady approaching with a collecting box, he beckoned her up and put in a five-rouble note.
“I can never see these collecting boxes unmoved while I’ve money in my pocket,” he said. “And how about today’s telegram? Fine chaps those Montenegrins!”
“You don’t say so!” he cried, when the princess told him that Vronsky was going by this train. For an instant Stepan Arkadyevitch’s face looked sad, but a minute later, when, stroking his mustaches and swinging as he walked, he went into the hall where Vronsky was, he had completely forgotten his own despairing sobs over his sister’s corpse, and he saw in Vronsky only a hero and an old friend.
“With all his faults one can’t refuse to do him justice,” said the princess to Sergey Ivanovitch as soon as Stepan Arkadyevitch had left them. “What a typically Russian, Slav nature! Only, I’m afraid it won’t be pleasant for Vronsky to see him. Say what you will, I’m touched by that man’s fate. Do talk to him a little on the way,” said the princess.
“Yes, perhaps, if it happens so.”
“I never liked him. But this atones for a great deal. He’s not merely going himself, he’s taking a squadron at his own expense.”
“Yes, so I heard.”
A bell sounded. Everyone crowded to the doors. “Here he is!” said the princess, indicating Vronsky, who with his mother on his arm walked by, wearing a long overcoat and wide-brimmed black hat. Oblonsky was walking beside him, talking eagerly of something.
Vronsky was frowning and looking straight before him, as though he did not hear what Stepan Arkadyevitch was saying.
Probably on Oblonsky’s pointing them out, he looked round in the direction where the princess and Sergey Ivanovitch were standing, and without speaking lifted his hat. His face, aged and worn by suffering, looked stony.
Going onto the platform, Vronsky left his mother and disappeared into a compartment.
On the platform there rang out “God save the Tsar,” then shouts of “hurrah!” and “jivio!” One of the volunteers, a tall, very young man with a hollow chest, was particularly conspicuous, bowing and waving his felt hat and a nosegay over his head. Then two officers emerged, bowing too, and a stout man with a big beard, wearing a greasy forage cap.
Saying good-bye to the princess, Sergey Ivanovitch was joined by Katavasov; together they got into a carriage full to overflowing, and the train started.
At Tsaritsino station the train was met by a chorus of young men singing “Hail to Thee!” Again the volunteers bowed and poked their heads out, but Sergey Ivanovitch paid no attention to them. He had had so much to do with the volunteers that the type was familiar to him and did not interest him. Katavasov, whose scientific work had prevented his having a chance of observing them hitherto, was very much interested in them and questioned Sergey Ivanovitch.
Sergey Ivanovitch advised him to go into the second-class and talk to them himself. At the next station Katavasov acted on this suggestion.
At the first stop he moved into the second-class and made the acquaintance of the volunteers. They were sitting in a corner of the carriage, talking loudly and obviously aware that the attention of the passengers and Katavasov as he got in was concentrated upon them. More loudly than all talked the tall, hollow-chested young man. He was unmistakably tipsy, and was relating some story that had occurred at his school. Facing him sat a middle-aged officer in the Austrian military jacket of the Guards uniform. He was listening with a smile to the hollow-chested youth, and occasionally pulling him up. The third, in an artillery uniform, was sitting on a box beside them. A fourth was asleep.
Entering into conversation with the youth, Katavasov learned that he was a wealthy Moscow merchant who had run through a large fortune before he was two-and-twenty. Katavasov did not like him, because he was unmanly and effeminate and sickly. He was obviously convinced, especially now after drinking, that he was performing a heroic action, and he bragged of it in the most unpleasant way.
The second, the retired officer, made an unpleasant impression too upon Katavasov. He was, it seemed, a man who had tried everything. He had been on a railway, had been a land-steward, and had started factories, and he talked, quite without necessity, of all he had done, and used learned expressions quite inappropriately.
The third, the artilleryman, on the contrary, struck Katavasov very favorably. He was a quiet, modest fellow, unmistakably impressed by the knowledge of the officer and the heroic self-sacrifice of the merchant and saying nothing about himself. When Katavasov asked him what had impelled him to go to Servia, he answered modestly:
“Oh, well, everyone’s going. The Servians want help, too. I’m sorry for them.”
“Yes, you artillerymen especially are scarce there,” said Katavasov.
“Oh, I wasn’t long in the artillery, maybe they’ll put me into the infantry or the cavalry.”
“Into the infantry when they need artillery more than anything?” said Katavasov, fancying from the artilleryman’s apparent age that he must have reached a fairly high grade.
“I wasn’t long in the artillery; I’m a cadet retired,” he said, and he began to explain how he had failed in his examination.
All of this together made a disagreeable impression on Katavasov, and when the volunteers got out at a station for a drink, Katavasov would have liked to compare his unfavorable impression in conversation with someone. There was an old man in the carriage, wearing a military overcoat, who had been listening all the while to Katavasov’s conversation with the volunteers. When they were left alone, Katavasov addressed him.
“What different positions they come from, all those fellows who are going off there,” Katavasov said vaguely, not wishing to express his own opinion, and at the same time anxious to find out the old man’s views.
The old man was an officer who had served on two campaigns. He knew what makes a soldier, and judging by the appearance and the talk of those persons, by the swagger with which they had recourse to the bottle on the journey, he considered them poor soldiers. Moreover, he lived in a district town, and he was longing to tell how one soldier had volunteered from his town, a drunkard and a thief whom no one would employ as a laborer. But knowing by experience that in the present condition of the public temper it was dangerous to express an opinion opposed to the general one, and especially to criticize the volunteers unfavorably, he too watched Katavasov without committing himself.
“Well, men are wanted there,” he said, laughing with his eyes. And they fell to talking of the last war news, and each concealed from the other his perplexity as to the engagement expected next day, since the Turks had been beaten, according to the latest news, at all points. And so they parted, neither giving expression to his opinion.
Katavasov went back to his own carriage, and with reluctant hypocrisy reported to Sergey Ivanovitch his observations of the volunteers, from which it would appear that they were capital fellows.
At a big station at a town the volunteers were again greeted with shouts and singing, again men and women with collecting boxes appeared, and provincial ladies brought bouquets to the volunteers and followed them into the refreshment room; but all this was on a much smaller and feebler scale than in Moscow.
While the train was stopping at the provincial town, Sergey Ivanovitch did not go to the refreshment room, but walked up and down the platform.
The first time he passed Vronsky’s compartment he noticed that the curtain was drawn over the window; but as he passed it the second time he saw the old countess at the window. She beckoned to Koznishev.
“I’m going, you see, taking him as far as Kursk,” she said.
“Yes, so I heard,” said Sergey Ivanovitch, standing at her window and peeping in. “What a noble act on his part!” he added, noticing that Vronsky was not in the compartment.
“Yes, after his misfortune, what was there for him to do?”
“What a terrible thing it was!” said Sergey Ivanovitch.
“Ah, what I have been through! But do get in.... Ah, what I have been through!” she repeated, when Sergey Ivanovitch had got in and sat down beside her. “You can’t conceive it! For six weeks he did not speak to anyone, and would not touch food except when I implored him. And not for one minute could we leave him alone. We took away everything he could have used against himself. We lived on the ground floor, but there was no reckoning on anything. You know, of course, that he had shot himself once already on her account,” she said, and the old lady’s eyelashes twitched at the recollection. “Yes, hers was the fitting end for such a woman. Even the death she chose was low and vulgar.”
“It’s not for us to judge, countess,” said Sergey Ivanovitch; “but I can understand that it has been very hard for you.”
“Ah, don’t speak of it! I was staying on my estate, and he was with me. A note was brought him. He wrote an answer and sent it off. We hadn’t an idea that she was close by at the station. In the evening I had only just gone to my room, when my Mary told me a lady had thrown herself under the train. Something seemed to strike me at once. I knew it was she. The first thing I said was, he was not to be told. But they’d told him already. His coachman was there and saw it all. When I ran into his room, he was beside himself—it was fearful to see him. He didn’t say a word, but galloped off there. I don’t know to this day what happened there, but he was brought back at death’s door. I shouldn’t have known him. Prostration complète, the doctor said. And that was followed almost by madness. Oh, why talk of it!” said the countess with a wave of her hand. “It was an awful time! No, say what you will, she was a bad woman. Why, what is the meaning of such desperate passions? It was all to show herself something out of the way. Well, and that she did do. She brought herself to ruin and two good men—her husband and my unhappy son.”
“And what did her husband do?” asked Sergey Ivanovitch.
“He has taken her daughter. Alexey was ready to agree to anything at first. Now it worries him terribly that he should have given his own child away to another man. But he can’t take back his word. Karenin came to the funeral. But we tried to prevent his meeting Alexey. For him, for her husband, it was easier, anyway. She had set him free. But my poor son was utterly given up to her. He had thrown up everything, his career, me, and even then she had no mercy on him, but of set purpose she made his ruin complete. No, say what you will, her very death was the death of a vile woman, of no religious feeling. God forgive me, but I can’t help hating the memory of her, when I look at my son’s misery!”
“But how is he now?”
“It was a blessing from Providence for us—this Servian war. I’m old, and I don’t understand the rights and wrongs of it, but it’s come as a providential blessing to him. Of course for me, as his mother, it’s terrible; and what’s worse, they say, ce n’est pas très bien vu à Pétersbourg. But it can’t be helped! It was the one thing that could rouse him. Yashvin—a friend of his—he had lost all he had at cards and he was going to Servia. He came to see him and persuaded him to go. Now it’s an interest for him. Do please talk to him a little. I want to distract his mind. He’s so low-spirited. And as bad luck would have it, he has toothache too. But he’ll be delighted to see you. Please do talk to him; he’s walking up and down on that side.”
Sergey Ivanovitch said he would be very glad to, and crossed over to the other side of the station.
In the slanting evening shadows cast by the baggage piled up on the platform, Vronsky in his long overcoat and slouch hat, with his hands in his pockets, strode up and down, like a wild beast in a cage, turning sharply after twenty paces. Sergey Ivanovitch fancied, as he approached him, that Vronsky saw him but was pretending not to see. This did not affect Sergey Ivanovitch in the slightest. He was above all personal considerations with Vronsky.
At that moment Sergey Ivanovitch looked upon Vronsky as a man taking an important part in a great cause, and Koznishev thought it his duty to encourage him and express his approval. He went up to him.
Vronsky stood still, looked intently at him, recognized him, and going a few steps forward to meet him, shook hands with him very warmly.
“Possibly you didn’t wish to see me,” said Sergey Ivanovitch, “but couldn’t I be of use to you?”
“There’s no one I should less dislike seeing than you,” said Vronsky. “Excuse me; and there’s nothing in life for me to like.”
“I quite understand, and I merely meant to offer you my services,” said Sergey Ivanovitch, scanning Vronsky’s face, full of unmistakable suffering. “Wouldn’t it be of use to you to have a letter to Ristitch—to Milan?”
“Oh, no!” Vronsky said, seeming to understand him with difficulty. “If you don’t mind, let’s walk on. It’s so stuffy among the carriages. A letter? No, thank you; to meet death one needs no letters of introduction. Nor for the Turks....” he said, with a smile that was merely of the lips. His eyes still kept their look of angry suffering.
“Yes; but you might find it easier to get into relations, which are after all essential, with anyone prepared to see you. But that’s as you like. I was very glad to hear of your intention. There have been so many attacks made on the volunteers, and a man like you raises them in public estimation.”
“My use as a man,” said Vronsky, “is that life’s worth nothing to me. And that I’ve enough bodily energy to cut my way into their ranks, and to trample on them or fall—I know that. I’m glad there’s something to give my life for, for it’s not simply useless but loathsome to me. Anyone’s welcome to it.” And his jaw twitched impatiently from the incessant gnawing toothache, that prevented him from even speaking with a natural expression.
“You will become another man, I predict,” said Sergey Ivanovitch, feeling touched. “To deliver one’s brother-men from bondage is an aim worth death and life. God grant you success outwardly—and inwardly peace,” he added, and he held out his hand. Vronsky warmly pressed his outstretched hand.
“Yes, as a weapon I may be of some use. But as a man, I’m a wreck,” he jerked out.
He could hardly speak for the throbbing ache in his strong teeth, that were like rows of ivory in his mouth. He was silent, and his eyes rested on the wheels of the tender, slowly and smoothly rolling along the rails.
And all at once a different pain, not an ache, but an inner trouble, that set his whole being in anguish, made him for an instant forget his toothache. As he glanced at the tender and the rails, under the influence of the conversation with a friend he had not met since his misfortune, he suddenly recalled her—that is, what was left of her when he had run like one distraught into the cloak room of the railway station—on the table, shamelessly sprawling out among strangers, the bloodstained body so lately full of life; the head unhurt dropping back with its weight of hair, and the curling tresses about the temples, and the exquisite face, with red, half-opened mouth, the strange, fixed expression, piteous on the lips and awful in the still open eyes, that seemed to utter that fearful phrase—that he would be sorry for it—that she had said when they were quarreling.
And he tried to think of her as she was when he met her the first time, at a railway station too, mysterious, exquisite, loving, seeking and giving happiness, and not cruelly revengeful as he remembered her on that last moment. He tried to recall his best moments with her, but those moments were poisoned forever. He could only think of her as triumphant, successful in her menace of a wholly useless remorse never to be effaced. He lost all consciousness of toothache, and his face worked with sobs.
Passing twice up and down beside the baggage in silence and regaining his self-possession, he addressed Sergey Ivanovitch calmly:
“You have had no telegrams since yesterday’s? Yes, driven back for a third time, but a decisive engagement expected for tomorrow.”
And after talking a little more of King Milan’s proclamation, and the immense effect it might have, they parted, going to their carriages on hearing the second bell.
Sergey Ivanovitch had not telegraphed to his brother to send to meet him, as he did not know when he should be able to leave Moscow. Levin was not at home when Katavasov and Sergey Ivanovitch in a fly hired at the station drove up to the steps of the Pokrovskoe house, as black as Moors from the dust of the road. Kitty, sitting on the balcony with her father and sister, recognized her brother-in-law, and ran down to meet him.
“What a shame not to have let us know,” she said, giving her hand to Sergey Ivanovitch, and putting her forehead up for him to kiss.
“We drove here capitally, and have not put you out,” answered Sergey Ivanovitch. “I’m so dirty. I’m afraid to touch you. I’ve been so busy, I didn’t know when I should be able to tear myself away. And so you’re still as ever enjoying your peaceful, quiet happiness,” he said, smiling, “out of the reach of the current in your peaceful backwater. Here’s our friend Fyodor Vassilievitch who has succeeded in getting here at last.”
“But I’m not a negro, I shall look like a human being when I wash,” said Katavasov in his jesting fashion, and he shook hands and smiled, his teeth flashing white in his black face.
“Kostya will be delighted. He has gone to his settlement. It’s time he should be home.”
“Busy as ever with his farming. It really is a peaceful backwater,” said Katavasov; “while we in town think of nothing but the Servian war. Well, how does our friend look at it? He’s sure not to think like other people.”
“Oh, I don’t know, like everybody else,” Kitty answered, a little embarrassed, looking round at Sergey Ivanovitch. “I’ll send to fetch him. Papa’s staying with us. He’s only just come home from abroad.”
And making arrangements to send for Levin and for the guests to wash, one in his room and the other in what had been Dolly’s, and giving orders for their luncheon, Kitty ran out onto the balcony, enjoying the freedom, and rapidity of movement, of which she had been deprived during the months of her pregnancy.
“It’s Sergey Ivanovitch and Katavasov, a professor,” she said.
“Oh, that’s a bore in this heat,” said the prince.
“No, papa, he’s very nice, and Kostya’s very fond of him,” Kitty said, with a deprecating smile, noticing the irony on her father’s face.
“Oh, I didn’t say anything.”
“You go to them, darling,” said Kitty to her sister, “and entertain them. They saw Stiva at the station; he was quite well. And I must run to Mitya. As ill-luck would have it, I haven’t fed him since tea. He’s awake now, and sure to be screaming.” And feeling a rush of milk, she hurried to the nursery.
This was not a mere guess; her connection with the child was still so close, that she could gauge by the flow of her milk his need of food, and knew for certain he was hungry.
She knew he was crying before she reached the nursery. And he was indeed crying. She heard him and hastened. But the faster she went, the louder he screamed. It was a fine healthy scream, hungry and impatient.
“Has he been screaming long, nurse, very long?” said Kitty hurriedly, seating herself on a chair, and preparing to give the baby the breast. “But give me him quickly. Oh, nurse, how tiresome you are! There, tie the cap afterwards, do!”
The baby’s greedy scream was passing into sobs.
“But you can’t manage so, ma’am,” said Agafea Mihalovna, who was almost always to be found in the nursery. “He must be put straight. A-oo! a-oo!” she chanted over him, paying no attention to the mother.
The nurse brought the baby to his mother. Agafea Mihalovna followed him with a face dissolving with tenderness.
“He knows me, he knows me. In God’s faith, Katerina Alexandrovna, ma’am, he knew me!” Agafea Mihalovna cried above the baby’s screams.
But Kitty did not hear her words. Her impatience kept growing, like the baby’s.
Their impatience hindered things for a while. The baby could not get hold of the breast right, and was furious.
At last, after despairing, breathless screaming, and vain sucking, things went right, and mother and child felt simultaneously soothed, and both subsided into calm.
“But poor darling, he’s all in perspiration!” said Kitty in a whisper, touching the baby.
“What makes you think he knows you?” she added, with a sidelong glance at the baby’s eyes, that peered roguishly, as she fancied, from under his cap, at his rhythmically puffing cheeks, and the little red-palmed hand he was waving.
“Impossible! If he knew anyone, he would have known me,” said Kitty, in response to Agafea Mihalovna’s statement, and she smiled.
She smiled because, though she said he could not know her, in her heart she was sure that he knew not merely Agafea Mihalovna, but that he knew and understood everything, and knew and understood a great deal too that no one else knew, and that she, his mother, had learned and come to understand only through him. To Agafea Mihalovna, to the nurse, to his grandfather, to his father even, Mitya was a living being, requiring only material care, but for his mother he had long been a mortal being, with whom there had been a whole series of spiritual relations already.
“When he wakes up, please God, you shall see for yourself. Then when I do like this, he simply beams on me, the darling! Simply beams like a sunny day!” said Agafea Mihalovna.
“Well, well; then we shall see,” whispered Kitty. “But now go away, he’s going to sleep.”
Agafea Mihalovna went out on tiptoe; the nurse let down the blind, chased a fly out from under the muslin canopy of the crib, and a bumblebee struggling on the window-frame, and sat down waving a faded branch of birch over the mother and the baby.
“How hot it is! if God would send a drop of rain,” she said.
“Yes, yes, sh—sh—sh——” was all Kitty answered, rocking a little, and tenderly squeezing the plump little arm, with rolls of fat at the wrist, which Mitya still waved feebly as he opened and shut his eyes. That hand worried Kitty; she longed to kiss the little hand, but was afraid to for fear of waking the baby. At last the little hand ceased waving, and the eyes closed. Only from time to time, as he went on sucking, the baby raised his long, curly eyelashes and peeped at his mother with wet eyes, that looked black in the twilight. The nurse had left off fanning, and was dozing. From above came the peals of the old prince’s voice, and the chuckle of Katavasov.
“They have got into talk without me,” thought Kitty, “but still it’s vexing that Kostya’s out. He’s sure to have gone to the bee-house again. Though it’s a pity he’s there so often, still I’m glad. It distracts his mind. He’s become altogether happier and better now than in the spring. He used to be so gloomy and worried that I felt frightened for him. And how absurd he is!” she whispered, smiling.
She knew what worried her husband. It was his unbelief. Although, if she had been asked whether she supposed that in the future life, if he did not believe, he would be damned, she would have had to admit that he would be damned, his unbelief did not cause her unhappiness. And she, confessing that for an unbeliever there can be no salvation, and loving her husband’s soul more than anything in the world, thought with a smile of his unbelief, and told herself that he was absurd.
“What does he keep reading philosophy of some sort for all this year?” she wondered. “If it’s all written in those books, he can understand them. If it’s all wrong, why does he read them? He says himself that he would like to believe. Then why is it he doesn’t believe? Surely from his thinking so much? And he thinks so much from being solitary. He’s always alone, alone. He can’t talk about it all to us. I fancy he’ll be glad of these visitors, especially Katavasov. He likes discussions with them,” she thought, and passed instantly to the consideration of where it would be more convenient to put Katavasov, to sleep alone or to share Sergey Ivanovitch’s room. And then an idea suddenly struck her, which made her shudder and even disturb Mitya, who glanced severely at her. “I do believe the laundress hasn’t sent the washing yet, and all the best sheets are in use. If I don’t see to it, Agafea Mihalovna will give Sergey Ivanovitch the wrong sheets,” and at the very idea of this the blood rushed to Kitty’s face.
“Yes, I will arrange it,” she decided, and going back to her former thoughts, she remembered that some spiritual question of importance had been interrupted, and she began to recall what. “Yes, Kostya, an unbeliever,” she thought again with a smile.
“Well, an unbeliever then! Better let him always be one than like Madame Stahl, or what I tried to be in those days abroad. No, he won’t ever sham anything.”
And a recent instance of his goodness rose vividly to her mind. A fortnight ago a penitent letter had come from Stepan Arkadyevitch to Dolly. He besought her to save his honor, to sell her estate to pay his debts. Dolly was in despair, she detested her husband, despised him, pitied him, resolved on a separation, resolved to refuse, but ended by agreeing to sell part of her property. After that, with an irrepressible smile of tenderness, Kitty recalled her husband’s shamefaced embarrassment, his repeated awkward efforts to approach the subject, and how at last, having thought of the one means of helping Dolly without wounding her pride, he had suggested to Kitty—what had not occurred to her before—that she should give up her share of the property.
“He an unbeliever indeed! With his heart, his dread of offending anyone, even a child! Everything for others, nothing for himself. Sergey Ivanovitch simply considers it as Kostya’s duty to be his steward. And it’s the same with his sister. Now Dolly and her children are under his guardianship; all these peasants who come to him every day, as though he were bound to be at their service.”
“Yes, only be like your father, only like him,” she said, handing Mitya over to the nurse, and putting her lips to his cheek.
Ever since, by his beloved brother’s deathbed, Levin had first glanced into the questions of life and death in the light of these new convictions, as he called them, which had during the period from his twentieth to his thirty-fourth year imperceptibly replaced his childish and youthful beliefs—he had been stricken with horror, not so much of death, as of life, without any knowledge of whence, and why, and how, and what it was. The physical organization, its decay, the indestructibility of matter, the law of the conservation of energy, evolution, were the words which usurped the place of his old belief. These words and the ideas associated with them were very well for intellectual purposes. But for life they yielded nothing, and Levin felt suddenly like a man who has changed his warm fur cloak for a muslin garment, and going for the first time into the frost is immediately convinced, not by reason, but by his whole nature that he is as good as naked, and that he must infallibly perish miserably.
From that moment, though he did not distinctly face it, and still went on living as before, Levin had never lost this sense of terror at his lack of knowledge.
He vaguely felt, too, that what he called his new convictions were not merely lack of knowledge, but that they were part of a whole order of ideas, in which no knowledge of what he needed was possible.
At first, marriage, with the new joys and duties bound up with it, had completely crowded out these thoughts. But of late, while he was staying in Moscow after his wife’s confinement, with nothing to do, the question that clamored for solution had more and more often, more and more insistently, haunted Levin’s mind.
The question was summed up for him thus: “If I do not accept the answers Christianity gives to the problems of my life, what answers do I accept?” And in the whole arsenal of his convictions, so far from finding any satisfactory answers, he was utterly unable to find anything at all like an answer.
He was in the position of a man seeking food in toy shops and tool shops.
Instinctively, unconsciously, with every book, with every conversation, with every man he met, he was on the lookout for light on these questions and their solution.
What puzzled and distracted him above everything was that the majority of men of his age and circle had, like him, exchanged their old beliefs for the same new convictions, and yet saw nothing to lament in this, and were perfectly satisfied and serene. So that, apart from the principal question, Levin was tortured by other questions too. Were these people sincere? he asked himself, or were they playing a part? or was it that they understood the answers science gave to these problems in some different, clearer sense than he did? And he assiduously studied both these men’s opinions and the books which treated of these scientific explanations.
One fact he had found out since these questions had engrossed his mind, was that he had been quite wrong in supposing from the recollections of the circle of his young days at college, that religion had outlived its day, and that it was now practically non-existent. All the people nearest to him who were good in their lives were believers. The old prince, and Lvov, whom he liked so much, and Sergey Ivanovitch, and all the women believed, and his wife believed as simply as he had believed in his earliest childhood, and ninety-nine hundredths of the Russian people, all the working people for whose life he felt the deepest respect, believed.
Another fact of which he became convinced, after reading many scientific books, was that the men who shared his views had no other construction to put on them, and that they gave no explanation of the questions which he felt he could not live without answering, but simply ignored their existence and attempted to explain other questions of no possible interest to him, such as the evolution of organisms, the materialistic theory of consciousness, and so forth.
Moreover, during his wife’s confinement, something had happened that seemed extraordinary to him. He, an unbeliever, had fallen into praying, and at the moment he prayed, he believed. But that moment had passed, and he could not make his state of mind at that moment fit into the rest of his life.
He could not admit that at that moment he knew the truth, and that now he was wrong; for as soon as he began thinking calmly about it, it all fell to pieces. He could not admit that he was mistaken then, for his spiritual condition then was precious to him, and to admit that it was a proof of weakness would have been to desecrate those moments. He was miserably divided against himself, and strained all his spiritual forces to the utmost to escape from this condition.
These doubts fretted and harassed him, growing weaker or stronger from time to time, but never leaving him. He read and thought, and the more he read and the more he thought, the further he felt from the aim he was pursuing.
Of late in Moscow and in the country, since he had become convinced that he would find no solution in the materialists, he had read and re-read thoroughly Plato, Spinoza, Kant, Schelling, Hegel, and Schopenhauer, the philosophers who gave a non-materialistic explanation of life.
Their ideas seemed to him fruitful when he was reading or was himself seeking arguments to refute other theories, especially those of the materialists; but as soon as he began to read or sought for himself a solution of problems, the same thing always happened. As long as he followed the fixed definition of obscure words such as spirit, will, freedom, essence, purposely letting himself go into the snare of words the philosophers set for him, he seemed to comprehend something. But he had only to forget the artificial train of reasoning, and to turn from life itself to what had satisfied him while thinking in accordance with the fixed definitions, and all this artificial edifice fell to pieces at once like a house of cards, and it became clear that the edifice had been built up out of those transposed words, apart from anything in life more important than reason.
At one time, reading Schopenhauer, he put in place of his will the word love, and for a couple of days this new philosophy charmed him, till he removed a little away from it. But then, when he turned from life itself to glance at it again, it fell away too, and proved to be the same muslin garment with no warmth in it.
His brother Sergey Ivanovitch advised him to read the theological works of Homiakov. Levin read the second volume of Homiakov’s works, and in spite of the elegant, epigrammatic, argumentative style which at first repelled him, he was impressed by the doctrine of the church he found in them. He was struck at first by the idea that the apprehension of divine truths had not been vouchsafed to man, but to a corporation of men bound together by love—to the church. What delighted him was the thought how much easier it was to believe in a still existing living church, embracing all the beliefs of men, and having God at its head, and therefore holy and infallible, and from it to accept the faith in God, in the creation, the fall, the redemption, than to begin with God, a mysterious, far-away God, the creation, etc. But afterwards, on reading a Catholic writer’s history of the church, and then a Greek orthodox writer’s history of the church, and seeing that the two churches, in their very conception infallible, each deny the authority of the other, Homiakov’s doctrine of the church lost all its charm for him, and this edifice crumbled into dust like the philosophers’ edifices.
All that spring he was not himself, and went through fearful moments of horror.
“Without knowing what I am and why I am here, life’s impossible; and that I can’t know, and so I can’t live,” Levin said to himself.
“In infinite time, in infinite matter, in infinite space, is formed a bubble-organism, and that bubble lasts a while and bursts, and that bubble is Me.”
It was an agonizing error, but it was the sole logical result of ages of human thought in that direction.
This was the ultimate belief on which all the systems elaborated by human thought in almost all their ramifications rested. It was the prevalent conviction, and of all other explanations Levin had unconsciously, not knowing when or how, chosen it, as anyway the clearest, and made it his own.
But it was not merely a falsehood, it was the cruel jeer of some wicked power, some evil, hateful power, to whom one could not submit.
He must escape from this power. And the means of escape every man had in his own hands. He had but to cut short this dependence on evil. And there was one means—death.
And Levin, a happy father and husband, in perfect health, was several times so near suicide that he hid the cord that he might not be tempted to hang himself, and was afraid to go out with his gun for fear of shooting himself.
But Levin did not shoot himself, and did not hang himself; he went on living.
When Levin thought what he was and what he was living for, he could find no answer to the questions and was reduced to despair, but he left off questioning himself about it. It seemed as though he knew both what he was and for what he was living, for he acted and lived resolutely and without hesitation. Indeed, in these latter days he was far more decided and unhesitating in life than he had ever been.
When he went back to the country at the beginning of June, he went back also to his usual pursuits. The management of the estate, his relations with the peasants and the neighbors, the care of his household, the management of his sister’s and brother’s property, of which he had the direction, his relations with his wife and kindred, the care of his child, and the new bee-keeping hobby he had taken up that spring, filled all his time.
These things occupied him now, not because he justified them to himself by any sort of general principles, as he had done in former days; on the contrary, disappointed by the failure of his former efforts for the general welfare, and too much occupied with his own thought and the mass of business with which he was burdened from all sides, he had completely given up thinking of the general good, and he busied himself with all this work simply because it seemed to him that he must do what he was doing—that he could not do otherwise. In former days—almost from childhood, and increasingly up to full manhood—when he had tried to do anything that would be good for all, for humanity, for Russia, for the whole village, he had noticed that the idea of it had been pleasant, but the work itself had always been incoherent, that then he had never had a full conviction of its absolute necessity, and that the work that had begun by seeming so great, had grown less and less, till it vanished into nothing. But now, since his marriage, when he had begun to confine himself more and more to living for himself, though he experienced no delight at all at the thought of the work he was doing, he felt a complete conviction of its necessity, saw that it succeeded far better than in old days, and that it kept on growing more and more.
Now, involuntarily it seemed, he cut more and more deeply into the soil like a plough, so that he could not be drawn out without turning aside the furrow.
To live the same family life as his father and forefathers—that is, in the same condition of culture—and to bring up his children in the same, was incontestably necessary. It was as necessary as dining when one was hungry. And to do this, just as it was necessary to cook dinner, it was necessary to keep the mechanism of agriculture at Pokrovskoe going so as to yield an income. Just as incontestably as it was necessary to repay a debt was it necessary to keep the property in such a condition that his son, when he received it as a heritage, would say “thank you” to his father as Levin had said “thank you” to his grandfather for all he built and planted. And to do this it was necessary to look after the land himself, not to let it, and to breed cattle, manure the fields, and plant timber.
It was impossible not to look after the affairs of Sergey Ivanovitch, of his sister, of the peasants who came to him for advice and were accustomed to do so—as impossible as to fling down a child one is carrying in one’s arms. It was necessary to look after the comfort of his sister-in-law and her children, and of his wife and baby, and it was impossible not to spend with them at least a short time each day.
And all this, together with shooting and his new bee-keeping, filled up the whole of Levin’s life, which had no meaning at all for him, when he began to think.
But besides knowing thoroughly what he had to do, Levin knew in just the same way how he had to do it all, and what was more important than the rest.
He knew he must hire laborers as cheaply as possible; but to hire men under bond, paying them in advance at less than the current rate of wages, was what he must not do, even though it was very profitable. Selling straw to the peasants in times of scarcity of provender was what he might do, even though he felt sorry for them; but the tavern and the pothouse must be put down, though they were a source of income. Felling timber must be punished as severely as possible, but he could not exact forfeits for cattle being driven onto his fields; and though it annoyed the keeper and made the peasants not afraid to graze their cattle on his land, he could not keep their cattle as a punishment.
To Pyotr, who was paying a money-lender ten per cent. a month, he must lend a sum of money to set him free. But he could not let off peasants who did not pay their rent, nor let them fall into arrears. It was impossible to overlook the bailiff’s not having mown the meadows and letting the hay spoil; and it was equally impossible to mow those acres where a young copse had been planted. It was impossible to excuse a laborer who had gone home in the busy season because his father was dying, however sorry he might feel for him, and he must subtract from his pay those costly months of idleness. But it was impossible not to allow monthly rations to the old servants who were of no use for anything.
Levin knew that when he got home he must first of all go to his wife, who was unwell, and that the peasants who had been waiting for three hours to see him could wait a little longer. He knew too that, regardless of all the pleasure he felt in taking a swarm, he must forego that pleasure, and leave the old man to see to the bees alone, while he talked to the peasants who had come after him to the bee-house.
Whether he were acting rightly or wrongly he did not know, and far from trying to prove that he was, nowadays he avoided all thought or talk about it.
Reasoning had brought him to doubt, and prevented him from seeing what he ought to do and what he ought not. When he did not think, but simply lived, he was continually aware of the presence of an infallible judge in his soul, determining which of two possible courses of action was the better and which was the worse, and as soon as he did not act rightly, he was at once aware of it.
So he lived, not knowing and not seeing any chance of knowing what he was and what he was living for, and harassed at this lack of knowledge to such a point that he was afraid of suicide, and yet firmly laying down his own individual definite path in life.