Chapter 27

`If I'd only the heart to throw up what's been set going... such a lot of trouble wasted... I'd turn my back on the whole business, sell out, go off like Nikolai Ivanovich... to hear La Belle Hélène,' said the landowner, a pleasant smile lighting up his shrewd old face.

`But, you see, you don't throw it up,' said Nikolai Ivanovich Sviiazhsky, `so there must be something gained.'

`The only gain is that I live in my own house, neither bought nor hired. Besides, one keeps hoping the people will learn sense. Though, instead of that, believe it or not, there is such drunkenness, such immorality!... They keep making partition of their bits of land; there isn't a horse or a cow. The peasant's dying of hunger, but just go and take him on as a laborer - he'll do his best to do you a mischief, and then bring you up before the justice of the peace.'

`But then, you make complaints to the justice too,' said Sviiazhsky.

`I lodge complaints? Not for anything in the world There's so much talk springs up that one is sorry ever to have complained. At the works, for instance, they pocketed the advance money and made off. What did the justice do? Why, acquitted them. Nothing keeps them in order but their own communal court and their village elder. He'll flog them in the good old style! But for that there'd be nothing for it but to give it all up and run away.'

Obviously the landowner was chaffing Sviiazhsky, who, far from resenting it, was apparently amused by it.

`But, you see, we manage our land without such extreme measures,' said he, smiling: `Levin, and I, and this gentleman.'

He indicated the other landowner.

`Yes, the thing's done at Mikhail Petrovich's, but ask him how it's done. Do you call that a rational system?' said the landowner, obviously rather proud of the word `rational'.

`My system's very simple,' said Mikhail Petrovich, `thank God. All my management rests on getting the money ready for the autumn taxes.... The peasants come to me, ``Father, master, help us!' Well, the peasants are all one's neighbors; one feels for them. So one advances them a third, but one says: ``Remember, lads, I have helped you, and you must help me when I need it - whether it's the sowing of the oats, or the hay cutting, or the harvest'; and well, one agrees, so much for each taxpayer - though there are dishonest ones among them too, it's true.'

Levin, who had long been familiar with these patriarchal methods, exchanged glances with Sviiazhsky and interrupted Mikhail Petrovich, turning again to the gentleman with the gray mustaches.

`Well, what do you think?' he asked. `What system is one to adopt nowadays?'

`Why, manage like Mikhail Petrovich, or let the land for half the crop or for rent to the peasants; one can do that - only that's just how the general prosperity of the country is being ruined. Where the land with serf labor and good management gave a yield of nine to one, on the metayage system it yields three to one. Russia has been ruined by the emancipation!'

Sviiazhsky looked with smiling eyes at Levin, and even made a faint gesture of irony to him; but Levin did not think the landowner's words absurd; he understood them better than he did Sviiazhsky. A great deal more of what the landowner said to show in what way Russia was ruined by the emancipation struck him indeed as very true, new to him, and quite incontestable. The landowner unmistakably spoke his own individual thought - a thing that rarely happens - and a thought to which he had been brought not by a desire of finding some exercise for an idle brain, but a thought which had grown up out of the conditions of his life, which he had brooded over in the solitude of his village, and had considered in every aspect.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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