The day on which Sergey Ivanovitch came to Pokrovskoe was one of Levin’s most painful days. It was the very busiest working time, when all the peasantry show an extraordinary intensity of self-sacrifice in labor, such as is never shown in any other conditions of life, and would be highly esteemed if the men who showed these qualities themselves thought highly of them, and if it were not repeated every year, and if the results of this intense labor were not so simple.
To reap and bind the rye and oats and to carry it, to mow the meadows, turn over the fallows, thrash the seed and sow the winter corn—all this seems so simple and ordinary; but to succeed in getting through it all everyone in the village, from the old man to the young child, must toil incessantly for three or four weeks, three times as hard as usual, living on rye-beer, onions, and black bread, thrashing and carrying the sheaves at night, and not giving more than two or three hours in the twenty-four to sleep. And every year this is done all over Russia.
Having lived the greater part of his life in the country and in the closest relations with the peasants, Levin always felt in this busy time that he was infected by this general quickening of energy in the people.
In the early morning he rode over to the first sowing of the rye, and to the oats, which were being carried to the stacks, and returning home at the time his wife and sister-in-law were getting up, he drank coffee with them and walked to the farm, where a new thrashing machine was to be set working to get ready the seed-corn.
He was standing in the cool granary, still fragrant with the leaves of the hazel branches interlaced on the freshly peeled aspen beams of the new thatch roof. He gazed through the open door in which the dry bitter dust of the thrashing whirled and played, at the grass of the thrashing floor in the sunlight and the fresh straw that had been brought in from the barn, then at the speckly-headed, white-breasted swallows that flew chirping in under the roof and, fluttering their wings, settled in the crevices of the doorway, then at the peasants bustling in the dark, dusty barn, and he thought strange thoughts.
“Why is it all being done?” he thought. “Why am I standing here, making them work? What are they all so busy for, trying to show their zeal before me? What is that old Matrona, my old friend, toiling for? (I doctored her, when the beam fell on her in the fire)” he thought, looking at a thin old woman who was raking up the grain, moving painfully with her bare, sun-blackened feet over the uneven, rough floor. “Then she recovered, but today or tomorrow or in ten years she won’t; they’ll bury her, and nothing will be left either of her or of that smart girl in the red jacket, who with that skillful, soft action shakes the ears out of their husks. They’ll bury her and this piebald horse, and very soon too,” he thought, gazing at the heavily moving, panting horse that kept walking up the wheel that turned under him. “And they will bury her and Fyodor the thrasher with his curly beard full of chaff and his shirt torn on his white shoulders—they will bury him. He’s untying the sheaves, and giving orders, and shouting to the women, and quickly setting straight the strap on the moving wheel. And what’s more, it’s not them alone—me they’ll bury too, and nothing will be left. What for?”
He thought this, and at the same time looked at his watch to reckon how much they thrashed in an hour. He wanted to know this so as to judge by it the task to set for the day.
“It’ll soon be one, and they’re only beginning the third sheaf,” thought Levin. He went up to the man that was feeding the machine, and shouting over the roar of the machine he told him to put it in more slowly. “You put in too much at a time, Fyodor. Do you see—it gets choked, that’s why it isn’t getting on. Do it evenly.”
Fyodor, black with the dust that clung to his moist face, shouted something in response, but still went on doing it as Levin did not want him to.
Levin, going up to the machine, moved Fyodor aside, and began feeding the corn in himself. Working on till the peasants’ dinner hour, which was not long in coming, he went out of the barn with Fyodor and fell into talk with him, stopping beside a neat yellow sheaf of rye laid on the thrashing floor for seed.
Fyodor came from a village at some distance from the one in which Levin had once allotted land to his cooperative association. Now it had been let to a former house porter.
Levin talked to Fyodor about this land and asked whether Platon, a well-to-do peasant of good character belonging to the same village, would not take the land for the coming year.
“It’s a high rent; it wouldn’t pay Platon, Konstantin Dmitrievitch,” answered the peasant, picking the ears off his sweat-drenched shirt.
“But how does Kirillov make it pay?”
“Mituh!” (so the peasant called the house porter, in a tone of contempt), “you may be sure he’ll make it pay, Konstantin Dmitrievitch! He’ll get his share, however he has to squeeze to get it! He’s no mercy on a Christian. But Uncle Fokanitch” (so he called the old peasant Platon), “do you suppose he’d flay the skin off a man? Where there’s debt, he’ll let anyone off. And he’ll not wring the last penny out. He’s a man too.”
“But why will he let anyone off?”
“Oh, well, of course, folks are different. One man lives for his own wants and nothing else, like Mituh, he only thinks of filling his belly, but Fokanitch is a righteous man. He lives for his soul. He does not forget God.”
“How thinks of God? How does he live for his soul?” Levin almost shouted.
“Why, to be sure, in truth, in God’s way. Folks are different. Take you now, you wouldn’t wrong a man....”
“Yes, yes, good-bye!” said Levin, breathless with excitement, and turning round he took his stick and walked quickly away towards home. At the peasant’s words that Fokanitch lived for his soul, in truth, in God’s way, undefined but significant ideas seemed to burst out as though they had been locked up, and all striving towards one goal, they thronged whirling through his head, blinding him with their light.
Levin strode along the highroad, absorbed not so much in his thoughts (he could not yet disentangle them) as in his spiritual condition, unlike anything he had experienced before.
The words uttered by the peasant had acted on his soul like an electric shock, suddenly transforming and combining into a single whole the whole swarm of disjointed, impotent, separate thoughts that incessantly occupied his mind. These thoughts had unconsciously been in his mind even when he was talking about the land.
He was aware of something new in his soul, and joyfully tested this new thing, not yet knowing what it was.
“Not living for his own wants, but for God? For what God? And could one say anything more senseless than what he said? He said that one must not live for one’s own wants, that is, that one must not live for what we understand, what we are attracted by, what we desire, but must live for something incomprehensible, for God, whom no one can understand nor even define. What of it? Didn’t I understand those senseless words of Fyodor’s? And understanding them, did I doubt of their truth? Did I think them stupid, obscure, inexact? No, I understood him, and exactly as he understands the words. I understood them more fully and clearly than I understand anything in life, and never in my life have I doubted nor can I doubt about it. And not only I, but everyone, the whole world understands nothing fully but this, and about this only they have no doubt and are always agreed.
“And I looked out for miracles, complained that I did not see a miracle which would convince me. A material miracle would have persuaded me. And here is a miracle, the sole miracle possible, continually existing, surrounding me on all sides, and I never noticed it!
“Fyodor says that Kirillov lives for his belly. That’s comprehensible and rational. All of us as rational beings can’t do anything else but live for our belly. And all of a sudden the same Fyodor says that one mustn’t live for one’s belly, but must live for truth, for God, and at a hint I understand him! And I and millions of men, men who lived ages ago and men living now—peasants, the poor in spirit and the learned, who have thought and written about it, in their obscure words saying the same thing—we are all agreed about this one thing: what we must live for and what is good. I and all men have only one firm, incontestable, clear knowledge, and that knowledge cannot be explained by the reason—it is outside it, and has no causes and can have no effects.
“If goodness has causes, it is not goodness; if it has effects, a reward, it is not goodness either. So goodness is outside the chain of cause and effect.
“And yet I know it, and we all know it.
“What could be a greater miracle than that?
“Can I have found the solution of it all? can my sufferings be over?” thought Levin, striding along the dusty road, not noticing the heat nor his weariness, and experiencing a sense of relief from prolonged suffering. This feeling was so delicious that it seemed to him incredible. He was breathless with emotion and incapable of going farther; he turned off the road into the forest and lay down in the shade of an aspen on the uncut grass. He took his hat off his hot head and lay propped on his elbow in the lush, feathery, woodland grass.
“Yes, I must make it clear to myself and understand,” he thought, looking intently at the untrampled grass before him, and following the movements of a green beetle, advancing along a blade of couch-grass and lifting up in its progress a leaf of goat-weed. “What have I discovered?” he asked himself, bending aside the leaf of goat-weed out of the beetle’s way and twisting another blade of grass above for the beetle to cross over onto it. “What is it makes me glad? What have I discovered?
“I have discovered nothing. I have only found out what I knew. I understand the force that in the past gave me life, and now too gives me life. I have been set free from falsity, I have found the Master.
“Of old I used to say that in my body, that in the body of this grass and of this beetle (there, she didn’t care for the grass, she’s opened her wings and flown away), there was going on a transformation of matter in accordance with physical, chemical, and physiological laws. And in all of us, as well as in the aspens and the clouds and the misty patches, there was a process of evolution. Evolution from what? into what?—Eternal evolution and struggle.... As though there could be any sort of tendency and struggle in the eternal! And I was astonished that in spite of the utmost effort of thought along that road I could not discover the meaning of life, the meaning of my impulses and yearnings. Now I say that I know the meaning of my life: ‘To live for God, for my soul.’ And this meaning, in spite of its clearness, is mysterious and marvelous. Such, indeed, is the meaning of everything existing. Yes, pride,” he said to himself, turning over on his stomach and beginning to tie a noose of blades of grass, trying not to break them.
“And not merely pride of intellect, but dulness of intellect. And most of all, the deceitfulness; yes, the deceitfulness of intellect. The cheating knavishness of intellect, that’s it,” he said to himself.
And he briefly went through, mentally, the whole course of his ideas during the last two years, the beginning of which was the clear confronting of death at the sight of his dear brother hopelessly ill.
Then, for the first time, grasping that for every man, and himself too, there was nothing in store but suffering, death, and forgetfulness, he had made up his mind that life was impossible like that, and that he must either interpret life so that it would not present itself to him as the evil jest of some devil, or shoot himself.
But he had not done either, but had gone on living, thinking, and feeling, and had even at that very time married, and had had many joys and had been happy, when he was not thinking of the meaning of his life.
What did this mean? It meant that he had been living rightly, but thinking wrongly.
He had lived (without being aware of it) on those spiritual truths that he had sucked in with his mother’s milk, but he had thought, not merely without recognition of these truths, but studiously ignoring them.
Now it was clear to him that he could only live by virtue of the beliefs in which he had been brought up.
“What should I have been, and how should I have spent my life, if I had not had these beliefs, if I had not known that I must live for God and not for my own desires? I should have robbed and lied and killed. Nothing of what makes the chief happiness of my life would have existed for me.” And with the utmost stretch of imagination he could not conceive the brutal creature he would have been himself, if he had not known what he was living for.
“I looked for an answer to my question. And thought could not give an answer to my question—it is incommensurable with my question. The answer has been given me by life itself, in my knowledge of what is right and what is wrong. And that knowledge I did not arrive at in any way, it was given to me as to all men, given, because I could not have got it from anywhere.
“Where could I have got it? By reason could I have arrived at knowing that I must love my neighbor and not oppress him? I was told that in my childhood, and I believed it gladly, for they told me what was already in my soul. But who discovered it? Not reason. Reason discovered the struggle for existence, and the law that requires us to oppress all who hinder the satisfaction of our desires. That is the deduction of reason. But loving one’s neighbor reason could never discover, because it’s irrational.”
And Levin remembered a scene he had lately witnessed between Dolly and her children. The children, left to themselves, had begun cooking raspberries over the candles and squirting milk into each other’s mouths with a syringe. Their mother, catching them at these pranks, began reminding them in Levin’s presence of the trouble their mischief gave to the grown-up people, and that this trouble was all for their sake, and that if they smashed the cups they would have nothing to drink their tea out of, and that if they wasted the milk, they would have nothing to eat, and die of hunger.
And Levin had been struck by the passive, weary incredulity with which the children heard what their mother said to them. They were simply annoyed that their amusing play had been interrupted, and did not believe a word of what their mother was saying. They could not believe it indeed, for they could not take in the immensity of all they habitually enjoyed, and so could not conceive that what they were destroying was the very thing they lived by.
“That all comes of itself,” they thought, “and there’s nothing interesting or important about it because it has always been so, and always will be so. And it’s all always the same. We’ve no need to think about that, it’s all ready. But we want to invent something of our own, and new. So we thought of putting raspberries in a cup, and cooking them over a candle, and squirting milk straight into each other’s mouths. That’s fun, and something new, and not a bit worse than drinking out of cups.”
“Isn’t it just the same that we do, that I did, searching by the aid of reason for the significance of the forces of nature and the meaning of the life of man?” he thought.
“And don’t all the theories of philosophy do the same, trying by the path of thought, which is strange and not natural to man, to bring him to a knowledge of what he has known long ago, and knows so certainly that he could not live at all without it? Isn’t it distinctly to be seen in the development of each philosopher’s theory, that he knows what is the chief significance of life beforehand, just as positively as the peasant Fyodor, and not a bit more clearly than he, and is simply trying by a dubious intellectual path to come back to what everyone knows?
“Now then, leave the children to themselves to get things alone and make their crockery, get the milk from the cows, and so on. Would they be naughty then? Why, they’d die of hunger! Well, then, leave us with our passions and thoughts, without any idea of the one God, of the Creator, or without any idea of what is right, without any idea of moral evil.
“Just try and build up anything without those ideas!
“We only try to destroy them, because we’re spiritually provided for. Exactly like the children!
“Whence have I that joyful knowledge, shared with the peasant, that alone gives peace to my soul? Whence did I get it?
“Brought up with an idea of God, a Christian, my whole life filled with the spiritual blessings Christianity has given me, full of them, and living on those blessings, like the children I did not understand them, and destroy, that is try to destroy, what I live by. And as soon as an important moment of life comes, like the children when they are cold and hungry, I turn to Him, and even less than the children when their mother scolds them for their childish mischief, do I feel that my childish efforts at wanton madness are reckoned against me.
“Yes, what I know, I know not by reason, but it has been given to me, revealed to me, and I know it with my heart, by faith in the chief thing taught by the church.
“The church! the church!” Levin repeated to himself. He turned over on the other side, and leaning on his elbow, fell to gazing into the distance at a herd of cattle crossing over to the river.
“But can I believe in all the church teaches?” he thought, trying himself, and thinking of everything that could destroy his present peace of mind. Intentionally he recalled all those doctrines of the church which had always seemed most strange and had always been a stumbling block to him.
“The Creation? But how did I explain existence? By existence? By nothing? The devil and sin. But how do I explain evil?... The atonement?...
“But I know nothing, nothing, and I can know nothing but what has been told to me and all men.”
And it seemed to him that there was not a single article of faith of the church which could destroy the chief thing—faith in God, in goodness, as the one goal of man’s destiny.
Under every article of faith of the church could be put the faith in the service of truth instead of one’s desires. And each doctrine did not simply leave that faith unshaken, each doctrine seemed essential to complete that great miracle, continually manifest upon earth, that made it possible for each man and millions of different sorts of men, wise men and imbeciles, old men and children—all men, peasants, Lvov, Kitty, beggars and kings to understand perfectly the same one thing, and to build up thereby that life of the soul which alone is worth living, and which alone is precious to us.
Lying on his back, he gazed up now into the high, cloudless sky. “Do I not know that that is infinite space, and that it is not a round arch? But, however I screw up my eyes and strain my sight, I cannot see it not round and not bounded, and in spite of my knowing about infinite space, I am incontestably right when I see a solid blue dome, and more right than when I strain my eyes to see beyond it.”
Levin ceased thinking, and only, as it were, listened to mysterious voices that seemed talking joyfully and earnestly within him.
“Can this be faith?” he thought, afraid to believe in his happiness. “My God, I thank Thee!” he said, gulping down his sobs, and with both hands brushing away the tears that filled his eyes.
Levin looked before him and saw a herd of cattle, then he caught sight of his trap with Raven in the shafts, and the coachman, who, driving up to the herd, said something to the herdsman. Then he heard the rattle of the wheels and the snort of the sleek horse close by him. But he was so buried in his thoughts that he did not even wonder why the coachman had come for him.
He only thought of that when the coachman had driven quite up to him and shouted to him. “The mistress sent me. Your brother has come, and some gentleman with him.”
Levin got into the trap and took the reins. As though just roused out of sleep, for a long while Levin could not collect his faculties. He stared at the sleek horse flecked with lather between his haunches and on his neck, where the harness rubbed, stared at Ivan the coachman sitting beside him, and remembered that he was expecting his brother, thought that his wife was most likely uneasy at his long absence, and tried to guess who was the visitor who had come with his brother. And his brother and his wife and the unknown guest seemed to him now quite different from before. He fancied that now his relations with all men would be different.
“With my brother there will be none of that aloofness there always used to be between us, there will be no disputes; with Kitty there shall never be quarrels; with the visitor, whoever he may be, I will be friendly and nice; with the servants, with Ivan, it will all be different.”
Pulling the stiff rein and holding in the good horse that snorted with impatience and seemed begging to be let go, Levin looked round at Ivan sitting beside him, not knowing what to do with his unoccupied hand, continually pressing down his shirt as it puffed out, and he tried to find something to start a conversation about with him. He would have said that Ivan had pulled the saddle-girth up too high, but that was like blame, and he longed for friendly, warm talk. Nothing else occurred to him.
“Your honor must keep to the right and mind that stump,” said the coachman, pulling the rein Levin held.
“Please don’t touch and don’t teach me!” said Levin, angered by this interference. Now, as always, interference made him angry, and he felt sorrowfully at once how mistaken had been his supposition that his spiritual condition could immediately change him in contact with reality.
He was not a quarter of a mile from home when he saw Grisha and Tanya running to meet him.
“Uncle Kostya! mamma’s coming, and grandfather, and Sergey Ivanovitch, and someone else,” they said, clambering up into the trap.
“Who is he?”
“An awfully terrible person! And he does like this with his arms,” said Tanya, getting up in the trap and mimicking Katavasov.
“Old or young?” asked Levin, laughing, reminded of someone, he did not know whom, by Tanya’s performance.
“Oh, I hope it’s not a tiresome person!” thought Levin.
As soon as he turned, at a bend in the road, and saw the party coming, Levin recognized Katavasov in a straw hat, walking along swinging his arms just as Tanya had shown him. Katavasov was very fond of discussing metaphysics, having derived his notions from natural science writers who had never studied metaphysics, and in Moscow Levin had had many arguments with him of late.
And one of these arguments, in which Katavasov had obviously considered that he came off victorious, was the first thing Levin thought of as he recognized him.
“No, whatever I do, I won’t argue and give utterance to my ideas lightly,” he thought.
Getting out of the trap and greeting his brother and Katavasov, Levin asked about his wife.
“She has taken Mitya to Kolok” (a copse near the house). “She meant to have him out there because it’s so hot indoors,” said Dolly. Levin had always advised his wife not to take the baby to the wood, thinking it unsafe, and he was not pleased to hear this.
“She rushes about from place to place with him,” said the prince, smiling. “I advised her to try putting him in the ice cellar.”
“She meant to come to the bee-house. She thought you would be there. We are going there,” said Dolly.
“Well, and what are you doing?” said Sergey Ivanovitch, falling back from the rest and walking beside him.
“Oh, nothing special. Busy as usual with the land,” answered Levin. “Well, and what about you? Come for long? We have been expecting you for such a long time.”
“Only for a fortnight. I’ve a great deal to do in Moscow.”
At these words the brothers’ eyes met, and Levin, in spite of the desire he always had, stronger than ever just now, to be on affectionate and still more open terms with his brother, felt an awkwardness in looking at him. He dropped his eyes and did not know what to say.
Casting over the subjects of conversation that would be pleasant to Sergey Ivanovitch, and would keep him off the subject of the Servian war and the Slavonic question, at which he had hinted by the allusion to what he had to do in Moscow, Levin began to talk of Sergey Ivanovitch’s book.
“Well, have there been reviews of your book?” he asked.
Sergey Ivanovitch smiled at the intentional character of the question.
“No one is interested in that now, and I less than anyone,” he said. “Just look, Darya Alexandrovna, we shall have a shower,” he added, pointing with a sunshade at the white rain clouds that showed above the aspen tree-tops.
And these words were enough to re-establish again between the brothers that tone—hardly hostile, but chilly—which Levin had been so longing to avoid.
Levin went up to Katavasov.
“It was jolly of you to make up your mind to come,” he said to him.
“I’ve been meaning to a long while. Now we shall have some discussion, we’ll see to that. Have you been reading Spencer?”
“No, I’ve not finished reading him,” said Levin. “But I don’t need him now.”
“How’s that? that’s interesting. Why so?”
“I mean that I’m fully convinced that the solution of the problems that interest me I shall never find in him and his like. Now....”
But Katavasov’s serene and good-humored expression suddenly struck him, and he felt such tenderness for his own happy mood, which he was unmistakably disturbing by this conversation, that he remembered his resolution and stopped short.
“But we’ll talk later on,” he added. “If we’re going to the bee-house, it’s this way, along this little path,” he said, addressing them all.
Going along the narrow path to a little uncut meadow covered on one side with thick clumps of brilliant heart’s-ease among which stood up here and there tall, dark green tufts of hellebore, Levin settled his guests in the dense, cool shade of the young aspens on a bench and some stumps purposely put there for visitors to the bee-house who might be afraid of the bees, and he went off himself to the hut to get bread, cucumbers, and fresh honey, to regale them with.
Trying to make his movements as deliberate as possible, and listening to the bees that buzzed more and more frequently past him, he walked along the little path to the hut. In the very entry one bee hummed angrily, caught in his beard, but he carefully extricated it. Going into the shady outer room, he took down from the wall his veil, that hung on a peg, and putting it on, and thrusting his hands into his pockets, he went into the fenced-in bee-garden, where there stood in the midst of a closely mown space in regular rows, fastened with bast on posts, all the hives he knew so well, the old stocks, each with its own history, and along the fences the younger swarms hived that year. In front of the openings of the hives, it made his eyes giddy to watch the bees and drones whirling round and round about the same spot, while among them the working bees flew in and out with spoils or in search of them, always in the same direction into the wood to the flowering lime trees and back to the hives.
His ears were filled with the incessant hum in various notes, now the busy hum of the working bee flying quickly off, then the blaring of the lazy drone, and the excited buzz of the bees on guard protecting their property from the enemy and preparing to sting. On the farther side of the fence the old bee-keeper was shaving a hoop for a tub, and he did not see Levin. Levin stood still in the midst of the beehives and did not call him.
He was glad of a chance to be alone to recover from the influence of ordinary actual life, which had already depressed his happy mood. He thought that he had already had time to lose his temper with Ivan, to show coolness to his brother, and to talk flippantly with Katavasov.
“Can it have been only a momentary mood, and will it pass and leave no trace?” he thought. But the same instant, going back to his mood, he felt with delight that something new and important had happened to him. Real life had only for a time overcast the spiritual peace he had found, but it was still untouched within him.
Just as the bees, whirling round him, now menacing him and distracting his attention, prevented him from enjoying complete physical peace, forced him to restrain his movements to avoid them, so had the petty cares that had swarmed about him from the moment he got into the trap restricted his spiritual freedom; but that lasted only so long as he was among them. Just as his bodily strength was still unaffected, in spite of the bees, so too was the spiritual strength that he had just become aware of.
“Do you know, Kostya, with whom Sergey Ivanovitch traveled on his way here?” said Dolly, doling out cucumbers and honey to the children; “with Vronsky! He’s going to Servia.”
“And not alone; he’s taking a squadron out with him at his own expense,” said Katavasov.
“That’s the right thing for him,” said Levin. “Are volunteers still going out then?” he added, glancing at Sergey Ivanovitch.
Sergey Ivanovitch did not answer. He was carefully with a blunt knife getting a live bee covered with sticky honey out of a cup full of white honeycomb.
“I should think so! You should have seen what was going on at the station yesterday!” said Katavasov, biting with a juicy sound into a cucumber.
“Well, what is one to make of it? For mercy’s sake, do explain to me, Sergey Ivanovitch, where are all those volunteers going, whom are they fighting with?” asked the old prince, unmistakably taking up a conversation that had sprung up in Levin’s absence.
“With the Turks,” Sergey Ivanovitch answered, smiling serenely, as he extricated the bee, dark with honey and helplessly kicking, and put it with the knife on a stout aspen leaf.
“But who has declared war on the Turks?—Ivan Ivanovitch Ragozov and Countess Lidia Ivanovna, assisted by Madame Stahl?”
“No one has declared war, but people sympathize with their neighbors’ sufferings and are eager to help them,” said Sergey Ivanovitch.
“But the prince is not speaking of help,” said Levin, coming to the assistance of his father-in-law, “but of war. The prince says that private persons cannot take part in war without the permission of the government.”
“Kostya, mind, that’s a bee! Really, they’ll sting us!” said Dolly, waving away a wasp.
“But that’s not a bee, it’s a wasp,” said Levin.
“Well now, well, what’s your own theory?” Katavasov said to Levin with a smile, distinctly challenging him to a discussion. “Why have not private persons the right to do so?”
“Oh, my theory’s this: war is on one side such a beastly, cruel, and awful thing, that no one man, not to speak of a Christian, can individually take upon himself the responsibility of beginning wars; that can only be done by a government, which is called upon to do this, and is driven inevitably into war. On the other hand, both political science and common sense teach us that in matters of state, and especially in the matter of war, private citizens must forego their personal individual will.”
Sergey Ivanovitch and Katavasov had their replies ready, and both began speaking at the same time.
“But the point is, my dear fellow, that there may be cases when the government does not carry out the will of the citizens and then the public asserts its will,” said Katavasov.
But evidently Sergey Ivanovitch did not approve of this answer. His brows contracted at Katavasov’s words and he said something else.
“You don’t put the matter in its true light. There is no question here of a declaration of war, but simply the expression of a human Christian feeling. Our brothers, one with us in religion and in race, are being massacred. Even supposing they were not our brothers nor fellow-Christians, but simply children, women, old people, feeling is aroused and Russians go eagerly to help in stopping these atrocities. Fancy, if you were going along the street and saw drunken men beating a woman or a child—I imagine you would not stop to inquire whether war had been declared on the men, but would throw yourself on them, and protect the victim.”
“But I should not kill them,” said Levin.
“Yes, you would kill them.”
“I don’t know. If I saw that, I might give way to my impulse of the moment, but I can’t say beforehand. And such a momentary impulse there is not, and there cannot be, in the case of the oppression of the Slavonic peoples.”
“Possibly for you there is not; but for others there is,” said Sergey Ivanovitch, frowning with displeasure. “There are traditions still extant among the people of Slavs of the true faith suffering under the yoke of the ‘unclean sons of Hagar.’ The people have heard of the sufferings of their brethren and have spoken.”
“Perhaps so,” said Levin evasively; “but I don’t see it. I’m one of the people myself, and I don’t feel it.”
“Here am I too,” said the old prince. “I’ve been staying abroad and reading the papers, and I must own, up to the time of the Bulgarian atrocities, I couldn’t make out why it was all the Russians were all of a sudden so fond of their Slavonic brethren, while I didn’t feel the slightest affection for them. I was very much upset, thought I was a monster, or that it was the influence of Carlsbad on me. But since I have been here, my mind’s been set at rest. I see that there are people besides me who’re only interested in Russia, and not in their Slavonic brethren. Here’s Konstantin too.”
“Personal opinions mean nothing in such a case,” said Sergey Ivanovitch; “it’s not a matter of personal opinions when all Russia—the whole people—has expressed its will.”
“But excuse me, I don’t see that. The people don’t know anything about it, if you come to that,” said the old prince.
“Oh, papa!... how can you say that? And last Sunday in church?” said Dolly, listening to the conversation. “Please give me a cloth,” she said to the old man, who was looking at the children with a smile. “Why, it’s not possible that all....”
“But what was it in church on Sunday? The priest had been told to read that. He read it. They didn’t understand a word of it. Then they were told that there was to be a collection for a pious object in church; well, they pulled out their halfpence and gave them, but what for they couldn’t say.”
“The people cannot help knowing; the sense of their own destinies is always in the people, and at such moments as the present that sense finds utterance,” said Sergey Ivanovitch with conviction, glancing at the old bee-keeper.
The handsome old man, with black grizzled beard and thick silvery hair, stood motionless, holding a cup of honey, looking down from the height of his tall figure with friendly serenity at the gentlefolk, obviously understanding nothing of their conversation and not caring to understand it.
“That’s so, no doubt,” he said, with a significant shake of his head at Sergey Ivanovitch’s words.
“Here, then, ask him. He knows nothing about it and thinks nothing,” said Levin. “Have you heard about the war, Mihalitch?” he said, turning to him. “What they read in the church? What do you think about it? Ought we to fight for the Christians?”
“What should we think? Alexander Nikolaevitch our Emperor has thought for us; he thinks for us indeed in all things. It’s clearer for him to see. Shall I bring a bit more bread? Give the little lad some more?” he said addressing Darya Alexandrovna and pointing to Grisha, who had finished his crust.
“I don’t need to ask,” said Sergey Ivanovitch, “we have seen and are seeing hundreds and hundreds of people who give up everything to serve a just cause, come from every part of Russia, and directly and clearly express their thought and aim. They bring their halfpence or go themselves and say directly what for. What does it mean?”
“It means, to my thinking,” said Levin, who was beginning to get warm, “that among eighty millions of people there can always be found not hundreds, as now, but tens of thousands of people who have lost caste, ne’er-do-wells, who are always ready to go anywhere—to Pogatchev’s bands, to Khiva, to Servia....”
“I tell you that it’s not a case of hundreds or of ne’er-do-wells, but the best representatives of the people!” said Sergey Ivanovitch, with as much irritation as if he were defending the last penny of his fortune. “And what of the subscriptions? In this case it is a whole people directly expressing their will.”
“That word ‘people’ is so vague,” said Levin. “Parish clerks, teachers, and one in a thousand of the peasants, maybe, know what it’s all about. The rest of the eighty millions, like Mihalitch, far from expressing their will, haven’t the faintest idea what there is for them to express their will about. What right have we to say that this is the people’s will?”
Sergey Ivanovitch, being practiced in argument, did not reply, but at once turned the conversation to another aspect of the subject.
“Oh, if you want to learn the spirit of the people by arithmetical computation, of course it’s very difficult to arrive at it. And voting has not been introduced among us and cannot be introduced, for it does not express the will of the people; but there are other ways of reaching that. It is felt in the air, it is felt by the heart. I won’t speak of those deep currents which are astir in the still ocean of the people, and which are evident to every unprejudiced man; let us look at society in the narrow sense. All the most diverse sections of the educated public, hostile before, are merged in one. Every division is at an end, all the public organs say the same thing over and over again, all feel the mighty torrent that has overtaken them and is carrying them in one direction.”
“Yes, all the newspapers do say the same thing,” said the prince. “That’s true. But so it is the same thing that all the frogs croak before a storm. One can hear nothing for them.”
“Frogs or no frogs, I’m not the editor of a paper and I don’t want to defend them; but I am speaking of the unanimity in the intellectual world,” said Sergey Ivanovitch, addressing his brother. Levin would have answered, but the old prince interrupted him.
“Well, about that unanimity, that’s another thing, one may say,” said the prince. “There’s my son-in-law, Stepan Arkadyevitch, you know him. He’s got a place now on the committee of a commission and something or other, I don’t remember. Only there’s nothing to do in it—why, Dolly, it’s no secret!—and a salary of eight thousand. You try asking him whether his post is of use, he’ll prove to you that it’s most necessary. And he’s a truthful man too, but there’s no refusing to believe in the utility of eight thousand roubles.”
“Yes, he asked me to give a message to Darya Alexandrovna about the post,” said Sergey Ivanovitch reluctantly, feeling the prince’s remark to be ill-timed.
“So it is with the unanimity of the press. That’s been explained to me: as soon as there’s war their incomes are doubled. How can they help believing in the destinies of the people and the Slavonic races ... and all that?”
“I don’t care for many of the papers, but that’s unjust,” said Sergey Ivanovitch.
“I would only make one condition,” pursued the old prince. “Alphonse Karr said a capital thing before the war with Prussia: ‘You consider war to be inevitable? Very good. Let everyone who advocates war be enrolled in a special regiment of advance-guards, for the front of every storm, of every attack, to lead them all!’”
“A nice lot the editors would make!” said Katavasov, with a loud roar, as he pictured the editors he knew in this picked legion.
“But they’d run,” said Dolly, “they’d only be in the way.”
“Oh, if they ran away, then we’d have grape-shot or Cossacks with whips behind them,” said the prince.
“But that’s a joke, and a poor one too, if you’ll excuse my saying so, prince,” said Sergey Ivanovitch.
“I don’t see that it was a joke, that....” Levin was beginning, but Sergey Ivanovitch interrupted him.
“Every member of society is called upon to do his own special work,” said he. “And men of thought are doing their work when they express public opinion. And the single-hearted and full expression of public opinion is the service of the press and a phenomenon to rejoice us at the same time. Twenty years ago we should have been silent, but now we have heard the voice of the Russian people, which is ready to rise as one man and ready to sacrifice itself for its oppressed brethren; that is a great step and a proof of strength.”
“But it’s not only making a sacrifice, but killing Turks,” said Levin timidly. “The people make sacrifices and are ready to make sacrifices for their soul, but not for murder,” he added, instinctively connecting the conversation with the ideas that had been absorbing his mind.
“For their soul? That’s a most puzzling expression for a natural science man, do you understand? What sort of thing is the soul?” said Katavasov, smiling.
“Oh, you know!”
“No, by God, I haven’t the faintest idea!” said Katavasov with a loud roar of laughter.
“‘I bring not peace, but a sword,’ says Christ,” Sergey Ivanovitch rejoined for his part, quoting as simply as though it were the easiest thing to understand the very passage that had always puzzled Levin most.
“That’s so, no doubt,” the old man repeated again. He was standing near them and responded to a chance glance turned in his direction.
“Ah, my dear fellow, you’re defeated, utterly defeated!” cried Katavasov good-humoredly.
Levin reddened with vexation, not at being defeated, but at having failed to control himself and being drawn into argument.
“No, I can’t argue with them,” he thought; “they wear impenetrable armor, while I’m naked.”
He saw that it was impossible to convince his brother and Katavasov, and he saw even less possibility of himself agreeing with them. What they advocated was the very pride of intellect that had almost been his ruin. He could not admit that some dozens of men, among them his brother, had the right, on the ground of what they were told by some hundreds of glib volunteers swarming to the capital, to say that they and the newspapers were expressing the will and feeling of the people, and a feeling which was expressed in vengeance and murder. He could not admit this, because he neither saw the expression of such feelings in the people among whom he was living, nor found them in himself (and he could not but consider himself one of the persons making up the Russian people), and most of all because he, like the people, did not know and could not know what is for the general good, though he knew beyond a doubt that this general good could be attained only by the strict observance of that law of right and wrong which has been revealed to every man, and therefore he could not wish for war or advocate war for any general objects whatever. He said as Mihalitch did and the people, who had expressed their feeling in the traditional invitations of the Varyagi: “Be princes and rule over us. Gladly we promise complete submission. All the labor, all humiliations, all sacrifices we take upon ourselves; but we will not judge and decide.” And now, according to Sergey Ivanovitch’s account, the people had foregone this privilege they had bought at such a costly price.
He wanted to say too that if public opinion were an infallible guide, then why were not revolutions and the commune as lawful as the movement in favor of the Slavonic peoples? But these were merely thoughts that could settle nothing. One thing could be seen beyond doubt—that was that at the actual moment the discussion was irritating Sergey Ivanovitch, and so it was wrong to continue it. And Levin ceased speaking and then called the attention of his guests to the fact that the storm clouds were gathering, and that they had better be going home before it rained.
The old prince and Sergey Ivanovitch got into the trap and drove off; the rest of the party hastened homewards on foot.
But the storm-clouds, turning white and then black, moved down so quickly that they had to quicken their pace to get home before the rain. The foremost clouds, lowering and black as soot-laden smoke, rushed with extraordinary swiftness over the sky. They were still two hundred paces from home and a gust of wind had already blown up, and every second the downpour might be looked for.
The children ran ahead with frightened and gleeful shrieks. Darya Alexandrovna, struggling painfully with her skirts that clung round her legs, was not walking, but running, her eyes fixed on the children. The men of the party, holding their hats on, strode with long steps beside her. They were just at the steps when a big drop fell splashing on the edge of the iron guttering. The children and their elders after them ran into the shelter of the house, talking merrily.
“Katerina Alexandrovna?” Levin asked of Agafea Mihalovna, who met them with kerchiefs and rugs in the hall.
“We thought she was with you,” she said.
“In the copse, he must be, and the nurse with him.”
Levin snatched up the rugs and ran towards the copse.
In that brief interval of time the storm clouds had moved on, covering the sun so completely that it was dark as an eclipse. Stubbornly, as though insisting on its rights, the wind stopped Levin, and tearing the leaves and flowers off the lime trees and stripping the white birch branches into strange unseemly nakedness, it twisted everything on one side—acacias, flowers, burdocks, long grass, and tall tree-tops. The peasant girls working in the garden ran shrieking into shelter in the servants’ quarters. The streaming rain had already flung its white veil over all the distant forest and half the fields close by, and was rapidly swooping down upon the copse. The wet of the rain spurting up in tiny drops could be smelt in the air.
Holding his head bent down before him, and struggling with the wind that strove to tear the wraps away from him, Levin was moving up to the copse and had just caught sight of something white behind the oak tree, when there was a sudden flash, the whole earth seemed on fire, and the vault of heaven seemed crashing overhead. Opening his blinded eyes, Levin gazed through the thick veil of rain that separated him now from the copse, and to his horror the first thing he saw was the green crest of the familiar oak-tree in the middle of the copse uncannily changing its position. “Can it have been struck?” Levin hardly had time to think when, moving more and more rapidly, the oak tree vanished behind the other trees, and he heard the crash of the great tree falling upon the others.
The flash of lightning, the crash of thunder, and the instantaneous chill that ran through him were all merged for Levin in one sense of terror.
“My God! my God! not on them!” he said.
And though he thought at once how senseless was his prayer that they should not have been killed by the oak which had fallen now, he repeated it, knowing that he could do nothing better than utter this senseless prayer.
Running up to the place where they usually went, he did not find them there.
They were at the other end of the copse under an old lime-tree; they were calling him. Two figures in dark dresses (they had been light summer dresses when they started out) were standing bending over something. It was Kitty with the nurse. The rain was already ceasing, and it was beginning to get light when Levin reached them. The nurse was not wet on the lower part of her dress, but Kitty was drenched through, and her soaked clothes clung to her. Though the rain was over, they still stood in the same position in which they had been standing when the storm broke. Both stood bending over a perambulator with a green umbrella.
“Alive? Unhurt? Thank God!” he said, splashing with his soaked boots through the standing water and running up to them.
Kitty’s rosy wet face was turned towards him, and she smiled timidly under her shapeless sopped hat.
“Aren’t you ashamed of yourself? I can’t think how you can be so reckless!” he said angrily to his wife.
“It wasn’t my fault, really. We were just meaning to go, when he made such a to-do that we had to change him. We were just....” Kitty began defending herself.
Mitya was unharmed, dry, and still fast asleep.
“Well, thank God! I don’t know what I’m saying!”
They gathered up the baby’s wet belongings; the nurse picked up the baby and carried it. Levin walked beside his wife, and, penitent for having been angry, he squeezed her hand when the nurse was not looking.
During the whole of that day, in the extremely different conversations in which he took part, only as it were with the top layer of his mind, in spite of the disappointment of not finding the change he expected in himself, Levin had been all the while joyfully conscious of the fulness of his heart.
After the rain it was too wet to go for a walk; besides, the storm clouds still hung about the horizon, and gathered here and there, black and thundery, on the rim of the sky. The whole party spent the rest of the day in the house.
No more discussions sprang up; on the contrary, after dinner everyone was in the most amiable frame of mind.
At first Katavasov amused the ladies by his original jokes, which always pleased people on their first acquaintance with him. Then Sergey Ivanovitch induced him to tell them about the very interesting observations he had made on the habits and characteristics of common houseflies, and their life. Sergey Ivanovitch, too, was in good spirits, and at tea his brother drew him on to explain his views of the future of the Eastern question, and he spoke so simply and so well, that everyone listened eagerly.
Kitty was the only one who did not hear it all—she was summoned to give Mitya his bath.
A few minutes after Kitty had left the room she sent for Levin to come to the nursery.
Leaving his tea, and regretfully interrupting the interesting conversation, and at the same time uneasily wondering why he had been sent for, as this only happened on important occasions, Levin went to the nursery.
Although he had been much interested by Sergey Ivanovitch’s views of the new epoch in history that would be created by the emancipation of forty millions of men of Slavonic race acting with Russia, a conception quite new to him, and although he was disturbed by uneasy wonder at being sent for by Kitty, as soon as he came out of the drawing-room and was alone, his mind reverted at once to the thoughts of the morning. And all the theories of the significance of the Slav element in the history of the world seemed to him so trivial compared with what was passing in his own soul, that he instantly forgot it all and dropped back into the same frame of mind that he had been in that morning.
He did not, as he had done at other times, recall the whole train of thought—that he did not need. He fell back at once into the feeling which had guided him, which was connected with those thoughts, and he found that feeling in his soul even stronger and more definite than before. He did not, as he had had to do with previous attempts to find comforting arguments, need to revive a whole chain of thought to find the feeling. Now, on the contrary, the feeling of joy and peace was keener than ever, and thought could not keep pace with feeling.
He walked across the terrace and looked at two stars that had come out in the darkening sky, and suddenly he remembered. “Yes, looking at the sky, I thought that the dome that I see is not a deception, and then I thought something, I shirked facing something,” he mused. “But whatever it was, there can be no disproving it! I have but to think, and all will come clear!”
Just as he was going into the nursery he remembered what it was he had shirked facing. It was that if the chief proof of the Divinity was His revelation of what is right, how is it this revelation is confined to the Christian church alone? What relation to this revelation have the beliefs of the Buddhists, Mohammedans, who preached and did good too?
It seemed to him that he had an answer to this question; but he had not time to formulate it to himself before he went into the nursery.
Kitty was standing with her sleeves tucked up over the baby in the bath. Hearing her husband’s footstep, she turned towards him, summoning him to her with her smile. With one hand she was supporting the fat baby that lay floating and sprawling on its back, while with the other she squeezed the sponge over him.
“Come, look, look!” she said, when her husband came up to her. “Agafea Mihalovna’s right. He knows us!”
Mitya had on that day given unmistakable, incontestable signs of recognizing all his friends.
As soon as Levin approached the bath, the experiment was tried, and it was completely successful. The cook, sent for with this object, bent over the baby. He frowned and shook his head disapprovingly. Kitty bent down to him, he gave her a beaming smile, propped his little hands on the sponge and chirruped, making such a queer little contented sound with his lips, that Kitty and the nurse were not alone in their admiration. Levin, too, was surprised and delighted.
The baby was taken out of the bath, drenched with water, wrapped in towels, dried, and after a piercing scream, handed to his mother.
“Well, I am glad you are beginning to love him,” said Kitty to her husband, when she had settled herself comfortably in her usual place, with the baby at her breast. “I am so glad! It had begun to distress me. You said you had no feeling for him.”
“No; did I say that? I only said I was disappointed.”
“What! disappointed in him?”
“Not disappointed in him, but in my own feeling; I had expected more. I had expected a rush of new delightful emotion to come as a surprise. And then instead of that—disgust, pity....”
She listened attentively, looking at him over the baby, while she put back on her slender fingers the rings she had taken off while giving Mitya his bath.
“And most of all, at there being far more apprehension and pity than pleasure. Today, after that fright during the storm, I understand how I love him.”
Kitty’s smile was radiant.
“Were you very much frightened?” she said. “So was I too, but I feel it more now that it’s over. I’m going to look at the oak. How nice Katavasov is! And what a happy day we’ve had altogether. And you’re so nice with Sergey Ivanovitch, when you care to be.... Well, go back to them. It’s always so hot and steamy here after the bath.”
Going out of the nursery and being again alone, Levin went back at once to the thought, in which there was something not clear.
Instead of going into the drawing-room, where he heard voices, he stopped on the terrace, and leaning his elbows on the parapet, he gazed up at the sky.
It was quite dark now, and in the south, where he was looking, there were no clouds. The storm had drifted on to the opposite side of the sky, and there were flashes of lightning and distant thunder from that quarter. Levin listened to the monotonous drip from the lime trees in the garden, and looked at the triangle of stars he knew so well, and the Milky Way with its branches that ran through its midst. At each flash of lightning the Milky Way, and even the bright stars, vanished, but as soon as the lightning died away, they reappeared in their places as though some hand had flung them back with careful aim.
“Well, what is it perplexes me?” Levin said to himself, feeling beforehand that the solution of his difficulties was ready in his soul, though he did not know it yet. “Yes, the one unmistakable, incontestable manifestation of the Divinity is the law of right and wrong, which has come into the world by revelation, and which I feel in myself, and in the recognition of which—I don’t make myself, but whether I will or not—I am made one with other men in one body of believers, which is called the church. Well, but the Jews, the Mohammedans, the Confucians, the Buddhists—what of them?” he put to himself the question he had feared to face. “Can these hundreds of millions of men be deprived of that highest blessing without which life has no meaning?” He pondered a moment, but immediately corrected himself. “But what am I questioning?” he said to himself. “I am questioning the relation to Divinity of all the different religions of all mankind. I am questioning the universal manifestation of God to all the world with all those misty blurs. What am I about? To me individually, to my heart has been revealed a knowledge beyond all doubt, and unattainable by reason, and here I am obstinately trying to express that knowledge in reason and words.
“Don’t I know that the stars don’t move?” he asked himself, gazing at the bright planet which had shifted its position up to the topmost twig of the birch-tree. “But looking at the movements of the stars, I can’t picture to myself the rotation of the earth, and I’m right in saying that the stars move.
“And could the astronomers have understood and calculated anything, if they had taken into account all the complicated and varied motions of the earth? All the marvelous conclusions they have reached about the distances, weights, movements, and deflections of the heavenly bodies are only founded on the apparent motions of the heavenly bodies about a stationary earth, on that very motion I see before me now, which has been so for millions of men during long ages, and was and will be always alike, and can always be trusted. And just as the conclusions of the astronomers would have been vain and uncertain if not founded on observations of the seen heavens, in relation to a single meridian and a single horizon, so would my conclusions be vain and uncertain if not founded on that conception of right, which has been and will be always alike for all men, which has been revealed to me as a Christian, and which can always be trusted in my soul. The question of other religions and their relations to Divinity I have no right to decide, and no possibility of deciding.”
“Oh, you haven’t gone in then?” he heard Kitty’s voice all at once, as she came by the same way to the drawing-room.
“What is it? you’re not worried about anything?” she said, looking intently at his face in the starlight.
But she could not have seen his face if a flash of lightning had not hidden the stars and revealed it. In that flash she saw his face distinctly, and seeing him calm and happy, she smiled at him.
“She understands,” he thought; “she knows what I’m thinking about. Shall I tell her or not? Yes, I’ll tell her.” But at the moment he was about to speak, she began speaking.
“Kostya! do something for me,” she said; “go into the corner room and see if they’ve made it all right for Sergey Ivanovitch. I can’t very well. See if they’ve put the new wash stand in it.”
“Very well, I’ll go directly,” said Levin, standing up and kissing her.
“No, I’d better not speak of it,” he thought, when she had gone in before him. “It is a secret for me alone, of vital importance for me, and not to be put into words.
“This new feeling has not changed me, has not made me happy and enlightened all of a sudden, as I had dreamed, just like the feeling for my child. There was no surprise in this either. Faith—or not faith—I don’t know what it is—but this feeling has come just as imperceptibly through suffering, and has taken firm root in my soul.
“I shall go on in the same way, losing my temper with Ivan the coachman, falling into angry discussions, expressing my opinions tactlessly; there will be still the same wall between the holy of holies of my soul and other people, even my wife; I shall still go on scolding her for my own terror, and being remorseful for it; I shall still be as unable to understand with my reason why I pray, and I shall still go on praying; but my life now, my whole life apart from anything that can happen to me, every minute of it is no more meaningless, as it was before, but it has the positive meaning of goodness, which I have the power to put into it.”