Chapter 3

Levin had on this visit to town seen a great deal of his old friend at the university, Professor Katavassov, whom he had not seen since his marriage. He liked in Katavassov the clearness and simplicity of his conception of life. Levin thought that the clearness of Katavassov's conception of life was due to the poverty of his nature; Katavassov thought that the disconnectedness of Levin's ideas was due to his lack of intellectual discipline; but Levin enjoyed Katavassov's clearness, and Katavassov enjoyed the abundance of Levin's untrained ideas, and they liked to meet and to dispute.

Levin had read to Katavassov some parts of his book, and he had liked them. On the previous day Katavassov had met Levin at a public lecture and told him that the celebrated Metrov, whose article Levin had so much liked, was in Moscow, that he had been much interested by what Katavassov had told him about Levin's work, and that he was coming to see him tomorrow at eleven, and would be very glad to make Levin's acquaintance.

`You're positively a reformed character, my dear, I'm glad to see,' said Katavassov, meeting Levin in the little drawing room. `I heard the bell and thought: Impossible! It can't be he at the exact time!... Well, what do you say to the Montenegrins now? They're a race of warriors.'

`Why, what's happened?' asked Levin.

Katavassov in a few words told him the last piece of news from the war, and, going into his study, introduced Levin to a short, thickset man of pleasant appearance. This was Metrov. The conversation touched for a brief space on politics and on how recent events were looked at in the higher spheres in Peterburg. Metrov repeated a saying that had reached him through a most trustworthy source, reported as having been uttered on this subject by the Czar and one of the ministers. Katavassov had heard also on excellent authority that the Czar had said something quite different. Levin tried to imagine circumstances in which both sayings might have been uttered, and the conversation on that topic dropped.

`Yes, here he's practically written a book on the natural conditions of the laborer in relation to the land,' said Katavassov; `I'm not a specialist, but I, as a student of natural science, was pleased at his not taking mankind as something outside biological laws; but, on the contrary, perceiving his dependence on his surroundings, and in that dependence seeking the laws of his development.'

`That's very interesting,' said Metrov.

`To tell the truth, I began to write a book on agriculture; but, studying the chief instrument of agriculture, the laborer,' said Levin, reddening, `I could not help coming to quite unexpected results.'

And Levin began carefully, as though feeling his ground, to expound his views. He knew Metrov had written an article against the generally accepted theory of political economy, but to what extent he could reckon on his sympathy with his own new views he did not know and could not guess from the clever and serene face of the savant.

`But in what do you see the special characteristics of the Russian laborer?' said Metrov; `in his biological characteristics, so to speak, or in the condition in which he is placed?'

Levin saw that there was an idea underlying this question with which he did not agree. But he went on explaining his own idea that the Russian laborer has a quite special view of the land, different from that of other people; and to support this proposition he made haste to add that in his opinion this attitude of the Russian peasant was due to the consciousness of his vocation to settle vast unoccupied expanses in the East.

`One may easily be led into error in basing any conclusion on the general vocation of a people,' said Metrov, interrupting Levin. `The condition of the laborer will always depend on his relation to the land and to capital.'

  By PanEris using Melati.

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