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.
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 Serbia...."
"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."