DO you know, Ive been thinking about you, said Sergey Ivanovitch. Its beyond everything whats being done in the district, according to what this doctor tells me. Hes a very intelligent fellow. And as Ive told you before, I tell you again: its not right for you not to go to the meetings, and altogether to keep out of the district business. If decent people wont go into it, of course its bound to go all wrong. We pay the money, and it all goes in salaries, and there are no schools, nor district nurses, nor midwives, nor drug-storesnothing.
He had hardly grasped what his brother was saying. Looking towards the plough-land across the river, he made out something black, but he could not distinguish whether it was a horse or the bailiff on horseback.
Self-respect! said Levin, stung to the quick by his brothers words; I dont understand. If theyd told me at college that other people understood the integral calculus, and I didnt, then pride would have come in. But in this case one wants first to be convinced that one has certain qualifications for this sort of business, and especially that all this business is of great importance.
What! do you mean to say its not of importance? said Sergey Ivanovitch, stung to the quick too at his brothers considering anything of no importance that interested him, and still more at his obviously paying little attention to what he was saying.
I dont think it important; it does not take hold of me, I cant 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 ploughed land. They were turning the plough over. Can they have finished ploughing? he wondered.
Come, really though, said the elder brother, with a frown on his handsome, clever face, theres a limit to everything. Its very well to be original and genuine, and to dislike everything conventionalI know all about that; but really, what youre saying either has no meaning, or it has a very wrong meaning. How can you think it a matter of no importance whether the peasant, whom you love as you assert,
I never did assert it, thought Konstantin Levin.dies 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 dont help them because to your mind its of no importance.
Impossible, as it seems to me. For the three thousand square miles of our district, what with our thaws, and the storms, and the work in the fields, I dont see how it is possible to provide medical aid all over. And besides, I dont believe in medicine.
Perhaps it may all be very good; but why should I worry myself about establishing dispensaries which I shall never make use of, and schools to which I shall never send my children, to which even the peasants dont want to send their children, and to which Ive no very firm faith that they ought to send them? said he.
Sergey Ivanovitch was for a minute surprised at this unexpected view of the subject; but he promptly made a new plan of attack. He was silent for a little, drew out a hook, threw it in again, and turned to his brother smiling.
No; you can ask any one you like, Konstantin Levin answered with decision, the man that can read and write is much inferior as a workman. And mending the high-roads is an impossibility; and as soon as they put up bridges theyre stolen.
Still, thats not the point, said Sergey Ivanovitch, frowning. He disliked contradiction, and still more, arguments that were continually skipping from one thing to another, introducing new and disconnected points, so that there was no knowing to which to reply. Do you admit that education is a benefit for the people?
Yes, I admit it, said Levin without thinking, and he was conscious immediately that he had said what he did not think. He felt that if he admitted that it would be proved that he had been talking meaningless rubbish. How it would be proved he could not tell, but he knew that this would inevitably be logically proved to him, and he awaited the proofs. The argument turned out to be far simpler than he had expected.
Ill tell you, then, he said with heat, I imagine the mainspring of all our actions is, after all, self-interest. Now in the local institutions I, as a nobleman, see nothing that could conduce to my prosperity, and the roads are not better and could not be better; my horses carry me well enough over bad ones. Doctors and dispensaries are no use to me. An arbitrator of disputes is no use to me. I never appeal to him, and never shall appeal to him. The schools are no good to me, but positively harmful, as I told you. For me the district institutions simply mean the liability to pay fourpence halfpenny for every three acres, to drive into the town, sleep with bugs, and listen to all sorts of idiocy and loathsomeness, and self-interest offers me no inducement.
No! Konstantin Levin broke in with still greater heat; the emancipation of the serfs was a different matter. There self-interest did come in. One longed to throw off that yoke that crushed us, all decent people among us. But to be a town-councillor and discuss how many dustmen are needed, and how chimneys shall be constructed in the town in which I dont liveto serve on a jury and try a peasant whos stolen a flitch of bacon, and listen for six hours at a stretch to all sorts of jabber from the counsel for the defence and the prosecution, and the president cross-examining my old half-witted Alioshka:
I simply mean to say that those rights that touch me my interest, I shall always defend to the best of my ability; that when they made raids on us students, and the police read our letters, I was ready to defend those rights to the utmost, to defend my rights to education and freedom. I can understand compulsory military service, which affects my children, my brothers, and myself, I am ready to deliberate on what concerns me; but deliberating on how to spend forty thousand roubles of district council money, or judging the half-witted AlioshkaI dont understand, and I cant do it.
Im not going to be tried. I shant murder anybody, and Ive no need of it. Well, I tell you what, he went on, flying off again to a subject quite beside the point, our district self-government and all the rest of itits just like the birch-branches we stick in the ground on Trinity Day, for instance, to look like a copse which has grown up of itself in Europe, and I cant gush over these birch-branches and believe in them.
Sergey Ivanovitch merely shrugged his shoulders, as though to express his wonder how the birch branches had come into their argument at that point, though he did really understand at once what his brother meant.
I imagine, he said, that no sort of activity is likely to be lasting if it is not founded on self-interest, thats a universal principle, a philosophical principle, he said, repeating the word philosophical with determination, as though wishing to show that he had as much right as any one else to talk of philosophy.
Come, youd better let philosophy alone, he said. The chief problem of the philosophy of all ages consists just in finding the indispensable connection which exists between individual and social interests. But thats not to the point; what is to the point is a correction I must make in your comparison. The birches are not simply stuck in, but some are sown and some are planted, and one must deal carefully with them. Its only those peoples that have an intuitive sense of whats of importance and significance in their institutions, and know how to value them, that have a future before themits only those peoples that one can truly call historical.
Konstantin was silent. He felt himself vanquished on all sides, but he felt at the same time that what he wanted to say was unintelligible to his brother. Only he could not make up his mind whether it was unintelligible because he was not capable of expressing his meaning clearly, or because his brother would not or could not understand him. But he did not pursue the speculation, and without replying, he fell to musing on a quite different and personal matter.