Levin was standing with a peasant from Tver in the middle of the room, measuring a fresh bearskin, when Stepan Arkadyevich came in.
`What! You killed him?' cried Stepan Arkadyevich. `Well done! A she-bear? How are you, Arkhip!'
He shook hands with the peasant and sat down on a chair, without taking off his coat and hat.
`Come, take off your coat and stay a little,' said Levin, taking his hat.
`No, I haven't time; I've only looked in for just a second,' answered Stepan Arkadyevich. He threw open his fur coat, but afterward did take it off, and sat on for a whole hour, talking to Levin about hunting and the most intimate subjects. `Come, tell me, please, what you did abroad. Where have you been?' said Stepan Arkadyevich, when the peasant had gone.
`Oh, I stayed in Germany, in Prussia, in France, and in England - not in the capitals, but in the manufacturing towns - and saw a great deal that was new to me. And I'm glad I went.'
`Yes, I knew your idea of the solution of the labor question.'
`Not a bit: in Russia there can be no labor question. In Russia the question is that of the relation of the working people to the land; though the question exists there too - but there it's a matter of repairing what's been ruined, while with us...'
Stepan Arkadyevich listened attentively to Levin.
`Yes, yes!' he said. `It's very possible you're right. But I'm glad you're in good spirits, and are hunting bears, and working, and interested. Shcherbatsky told me another story - he met you: that you were in such a depressed state, talking of nothing but death...'
`Well, what of it? I've not given up thinking of death,' said Levin. `It's true that it's high time I was dead; and that all this is nonsense. It's the truth I'm telling you. I do value my idea and my work awfully; but really, do consider this: all this world of ours is nothing but a speck of mildew, which has grown up on a tiny planet. And yet we think that something great is possible to us - ideas, work! Grains of sand - that's all they are.'
`But all that's as old as the hills, my boy!'
`It is old; but, do you know, when you grasp this fully, then somehow everything becomes of no consequence. When you understand that you will die tomorrow, if not today, and nothing will be left, then everything is so unimportant! And I consider my idea very important, but it turns out really to be just as unimportant, even if it were carried out, as outwitting that she-bear. So one goes on living, amusing oneself with hunting, with work - anything, so as not to think of death!'
Stepan Arkadyevich smiled a subtle and affectionate smile as he listened to Levin.
`Well, of course! Here you've come round to my point. Do you remember you attacked me for seeking enjoyment in life?
``Don't be, O moralist, severe...''
`No; all the same, what's fine in life is...' Levin hesitated. `Oh! I don't know. All I know is that we shall soon be dead.'
`Why so soon?'
`And I know there's less charm in life, when one thinks of death - but there's more peace.'
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