At the end of September the timber had been carted for building the cattleyard on the land that had been allotted to the association of peasants, and the butter from the cows was sold and the profits divided. In practice the system worked capitally, or, at least, so it seemed to Levin. In order to work out the whole subject theoretically and to complete his book, which, in Levin’s daydreams, was not merely to effect a revolution in political economy, but to annihilate that science entirely and to lay the foundation of a new science of the relation of the people to the soil, all that was left to do was to make a tour abroad, and to study on the spot all that had been done in the same direction, and to collect conclusive evidence that all that had been done there was not what was wanted. Levin was only waiting for the delivery of his wheat to receive the money for it and go abroad. But the rains began, preventing the harvesting of the corn and potatoes left in the fields, and putting a stop to all work, even to the delivery of the wheat.
The mud was impassable along the roads; two mills were carried away, and the weather got worse and worse.
On the 30th of September the sun came out in the morning, and hoping for fine weather, Levin began making final preparations for his journey. He gave orders for the wheat to be delivered, sent the bailiff to the merchant to get the money owing him, and went out himself to give some final directions on the estate before setting off.
Having finished all his business, soaked through with the streams of water which kept running down the leather behind his neck and his gaiters, but in the keenest and most confident temper, Levin returned homewards in the evening. The weather had become worse than ever towards evening; the hail lashed the drenched mare so cruelly that she went along sideways, shaking her head and ears; but Levin was all right under his hood, and he looked cheerfully about him at the muddy streams running under the wheels, at the drops hanging on every bare twig, at the whiteness of the patch of unmelted hailstones on the planks of the bridge, at the thick layer of still juicy, fleshy leaves that lay heaped up about the stripped elm-tree. In spite of the gloominess of nature around him, he felt peculiarly eager. The talks he had been having with the peasants in the further village had shown that they were beginning to get used to their new position. The old servant to whose hut he had gone to get dry evidently approved of Levin’s plan, and of his own accord proposed to enter the partnership by the purchase of cattle.
“I have only to go stubbornly on towards my aim, and I shall attain my end,” thought Levin; “and it’s something to work and take trouble for. This is not a matter of myself individually; the question of the public welfare comes into it. The whole system of culture, the chief element in the condition of the people, must be completely transformed. Instead of poverty, general prosperity and content; instead of hostility, harmony and unity of interests. In short, a bloodless revolution, but a revolution of the greatest magnitude, beginning in the little circle of our district, then the province, then Russia, the whole world. Because a just idea cannot but be fruitful. Yes, it’s an aim worth working for. And its being me, Kostya Levin, who went to a ball in a black tie, and was refused by the Shtcherbatskaya girl, and who was intrinsically such a pitiful, worthless creature—that proves nothing; I feel sure Franklin felt just as worthless, and he too had no faith in himself, thinking of himself as a whole. That means nothing. And he too, most likely, had an Agafea Mihalovna to whom he confided his secrets.”
Musing on such thoughts Levin reached home in the darkness.
The bailiff, who had been to the merchant, had come back and brought part of the money for the wheat. An agreement had been made with the old servant, and on the road the bailiff had learned that everywhere the corn was still standing in the fields, so that his one hundred and sixty shocks that had not been carried were nothing in comparison with the losses of others.
After dinner Levin was sitting, as he usually did, in an easy chair with a book, and as he read he went on thinking of the journey before him in connection with his book. Today all the significance of his book rose before him with special distinctness, and whole periods ranged themselves in his mind in illustration of his theories. “I must write that down,” he thought. “That ought to form a brief introduction, which I thought unnecessary before.” He got up to go to his writing-table, and Laska, lying at his feet, got up too, stretching and looking at him as though to inquire where to go. But he had not time to write it down, for the head peasants had come round, and Levin went out into the hall to them.
After his levee, that is to say, giving directions about the labors of the next day, and seeing all the peasants who had business with him, Levin went back to his study and sat down to work.
Laska lay under the table; Agafea Mihalovna settled herself in her place with her stocking.
After writing for a little while, Levin suddenly thought with exceptional vividness of Kitty, her refusal, and their last meeting. He got up and began walking about the room.
“What’s the use of being dreary?” said Agafea Mihalovna. “Come, why do you stay on at home? You ought to go to some warm springs, especially now you’re ready for the journey.”
“Well, I am going away the day after tomorrow, Agafea Mihalovna; I must finish my work.”
“There, there, your work, you say! As if you hadn’t done enough for the peasants! Why, as ’tis, they’re saying, ‘Your master will be getting some honor from the Tsar for it.’ Indeed and it is a strange thing; why need you worry about the peasants?”
“I’m not worrying about them; I’m doing it for my own good.”
Agafea Mihalovna knew every detail of Levin’s plans for his land. Levin often put his views before her in all their complexity, and not uncommonly he argued with her and did not agree with her comments. But on this occasion she entirely misinterpreted what he had said.
“Of one’s soul’s salvation we all know and must think before all else,” she said with a sigh. “Parfen Denisitch now, for all he was no scholar, he died a death that God grant everyone of us the like,” she said, referring to a servant who had died recently. “Took the sacrament and all.”
“That’s not what I mean,” said he. “I mean that I’m acting for my own advantage. It’s all the better for me if the peasants do their work better.”
“Well, whatever you do, if he’s a lazy good-for-nought, everything’ll be at sixes and sevens. If he has a conscience, he’ll work, and if not, there’s no doing anything.”
“Oh, come, you say yourself Ivan has begun looking after the cattle better.”
“All I say is,” answered Agafea Mihalovna, evidently not speaking at random, but in strict sequence of idea, “that you ought to get married, that’s what I say.”
Agafea Mihalovna’s allusion to the very subject he had only just been thinking about, hurt and stung him. Levin scowled, and without answering her, he sat down again to his work, repeating to himself all that he had been thinking of the real significance of that work. Only at intervals he listened in the stillness to the click of Agafea Mihalovna’s needles, and recollecting what he did not want to remember, he frowned again.
At nine o’clock they heard the bell and the faint vibration of a carriage over the mud.
“Well, here’s visitors come to us, and you won’t be dull,” said Agafea Mihalovna, getting up and going to the door. But Levin overtook her. His work was not going well now, and he was glad of a visitor, whoever it might be.