Oh, if you want to learn the spirit of the people by arithmetical computation, of course its very difficult to arrive at it. And voting has not been introduced among us and cannot be introduced, for it does not express the will of the people; but there are other ways of reaching that. It is felt in the air, it is felt by the heart. I wont speak of those deep currents which are astir in the still ocean of the people, and which are evident to every unprejudiced man; let us look at society in the narrow sense. All the most diverse sections of the educated public, hostile before, are merged in one. Every division is at an end, all the public organs say the same thing over and over again, all feel the mighty torrent that has overtaken them and is carrying them in one direction.
Frogs or no frogs, Im not the editor of a paper and I dont want to defend them; but I am speaking of the unanimity in the intellectual world, said Sergey Ivanovitch, addressing his brother. Levin would have answered, but the old prince interrupted him.
Well, about that unanimity, thats another thing, one may say, said the prince. Theres my son-in-law, Stepan Arkadyevitch, you know him. Hes got a place now on the committee of a commission and something or other, I dont remember. Only theres nothing to do in itwhy, Dolly, its no secret!and a salary of eight thousand. You try asking him whether his post is of use, hell prove to you that its most necessary. And hes a truthful man too, but theres no refusing to believe in the utility of eight thousand roubles.
So it is with the unanimity of the press. Thats been explained to me: as soon as theres war their incomes are doubled. How can they help believing in the destinies of the people and the Slavonic races and all that?
I would only make one condition, pursued the old prince. Alphonse Karr said a capital thing before the war with Prussia: You consider war to be inevitable? Very good. Let every one who advocates war be enrolled in a special regiment of advance-guards, for the front of every storm, of every attack, to lead them all!
Every member of society is called upon to do his own special work, said he. And men of thought are doing their work when they express public opinion. And the single-hearted and full expression of public opinion is the service of the press and a phenomenon to rejoice us at the same time. Twenty years ago we should have been silent, but now we have heard the voice of the Russian people, which is ready to rise as one man and ready to sacrifice itself for its oppressed brethren; that is a great step and a proof of strength.
But its not only making a sacrifice, but killing Turks, said Levin timidly. The people make sacrifices and are ready to make sacrifices for their soul, but not for murder, he added, instinctively connecting the conversation with the ideas that had been absorbing his mind.
I bring not peace, but a sword, says Christ, Sergey Ivanovitch rejoined for his part, quoting as simply as though it were the easiest thing to understand the very passage that had always puzzled Levin most.
He saw that it was impossible to convince his brother and Katavasov, and he saw even less possibility of himself agreeing with them. What they advocated was the very pride of intellect that had almost been his ruin. He could not admit that some dozens of men, among them his brother, had the right, on the ground of what they were told by some hundreds of glib volunteers swarming to the capital, to say that they and the newspapers were expressing the will and feeling of the people, and a feeling which was expressed in vengeance and murder. He could not admit this, because he neither saw the expression of such feelings in the people among whom he was living, nor found them in himself (and he could not but consider himself one of the persons making up the Russian people), and most of all because he, like the people, did not know and could not know what is for the general good, though he knew beyond a doubt that this general good could be attained only by the strict observance of that law of right and wrong which has been revealed to every man, and therefore he could not wish for war or advocate war for any general objects whatever. He said as Mihalitch did and the people, who had expressed their feeling in the traditional invitations of the Varyagi: Be princes and rule over us. Gladly we promise complete submission. All the labour, all humiliations, all sacrifices, we take upon ourselves; but we will not judge and decide. And now, according to Sergey Ivanovitchs account, the people had foregone this privilege they had bought at such a costly price.
He wanted to say too that if public opinion were an infallible guide, then why were not revolutions and the commune as lawful as the movement in favour of the Slavonic peoples? But these were merely thoughts that could settle nothing. One thing could be seen beyond doubtthat was that at the actual moment the discussion was irritating Sergey Ivanovitch, and so it was wrong to continue it. And Levin ceased speaking and then called the attention of his guests to the fact that the storm-clouds were gathering, and that they had better be going home before it rained.