Chapter 3

`Do you know I've been thinking about you,' said Sergei Ivanovich. `It's beyond everything what's being done in the district, according to what this doctor tells me. He's a very intelligent fellow. And as I've told you before, I tell you again: it's not right for you not to go to the meetings, and to keep out of the Zemstvo affairs entirely. If decent people won't go into it, of course it's bound to go all wrong. We pay the money, and it all goes in salaries, and there are no schools, nor district dressers, nor midwives, nor pharmacies - nothing.'

`Well, I did try, you know,' Levin said gently and unwillingly. `I can't! And so there's no help for it.'

`But why can't you? I must own I can't make it out. Indifference, incapacity - I won't admit; surely it's not simply laziness?'

`None of those things. I've tried, and I see I can do nothing,' said Levin.

He had hardly grasped what his brother was saying. Looking toward the plowland across the river, he made out something black, but he could not distinguish whether it was a horse or the bailiff on horseback.

`Why is it you can do nothing? You made an attempt and didn't succeed, as you think, and you give in. How can you have so little ambition?'

`Ambition!' said Levin, stung to the quick by his brother's words; `I don't understand. If they'd told me at college that other people understood the integral calculus, and I didn't, then ambition would have come in. But in this case one wants first to be convinced that one has certain abilities for this sort of business, and especially that all this business is of great importance.'

`What! Do you mean to say it's not of importance?' said Sergei Ivanovich, stung to the quick in his turn by his brother's considering of no importance anything that interested him, and still more at his obviously paying little attention to what he was saying.

`I don't think it important; it does not take hold of me - I can't help it,' answered Levin, making out that what he saw was the bailiff, and that the bailiff seemed to be letting the peasants go off the plowed land. They were turning the plow over. `Can they have finished plowing?' he wondered.

`Come, really though,' said the elder brother, with a frown on his handsome, clever face, `there's a limit to everything. It's very well to be original and genuine, and to dislike everything hypocritical - I know all about that; but really, what you're saying either has no meaning, or it has a very wrong meaning. How can you think it a matter of no importance whether ``the people,' whom you love as you assert...'

`I never did assert it,' thought Konstantin Levin.

`...die without help? The ignorant peasant women starve the children, and the people stagnate in darkness, and are helpless in the hands of every village clerk, while you have at your disposal a means of helping them, and don't help them because to your mind it's of no importance!'

And Sergei Ivanovich put before him the dilemma: Either you are so undeveloped that you can't see all that you can do, or you won't sacrifice your ease, your vanity, or whatever it is, to do it.

Konstantin Levin felt that there was no course open to him but to submit, or to confess to a lack of zeal for the public good. And this mortified him and hurt his feelings.

`It's both,' he said resolutely; `I don't see that it is possible...'

`What! Is it impossible, if the money were properly laid out, to provide medical aid?'

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