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BOOK II.

CHAPTER I.


PROPERTY IN LAND.

It was possible for Maslova's case to come before the Senate in a fortnight, at which time Nekhludoff meant to go to Petersburg, and, if need be, to appeal to the Emperor (as the advocate who had drawn up the petition advised) should the appeal be disregarded (and, according to the advocate, it was best to be prepared for that, since the causes for appeal were so slight). The party of convicts, among whom was Maslova, would very likely leave in the beginning of June. In order to be able to follow her to Siberia, as Nekhludoff was firmly resolved to do, he was now obliged to visit his estates, and settle matters there. Nekhludoff first went to the nearest, Kousminski, a large estate that lay in the black earth district, and from which he derived the greatest part of his income.

He had lived on that estate in his childhood and youth, and had been there twice since, and once, at his mother's request, he had taken a German steward there, and had with him verified the accounts. The state of things there and the peasants' relations to the management, i.e., the landlord, had therefore been long known to him. The relations of the peasants to the administration were those of utter dependence on that management. Nekhludoff knew all this when still a university student, he had confessed and preached Henry Georgeism, and, on the basis of that teaching, had given the land inherited from his father to the peasants. It is true that after entering the army, when he got into the habit of spending 20,000 roubles a year, those former occupations ceased to be regarded as a duty, and were forgotten, and he not only left off asking himself where the money his mother allowed him came from, but even avoided thinking about it. But his mother's death, the coming into the property, and the necessity of managing it, again raised the question as to what his position in reference to private property in land was. A month before Nekhludoff would have answered that he had not the strength to alter the existing order of things; that it was not he who was administering the estate; and would one way or another have eased his conscience, continuing to live far from his estates, and having the money sent him. But now he decided that he could not leave things to go on as they were, but would have to alter them in a way unprofitable to himself, even though he had all these complicated and difficult relations with the prison world which made money necessary, as well as a probable journey to Siberia before him. Therefore he decided not to farm the land, but to let it to the peasants at a low rent, to enable them to cultivate it without depending on a landlord. More than once, when comparing the position of a landowner with that of an owner of serfs, Nekhludoff had compared the renting of land to the peasants instead of cultivating it with hired labour, to the old system by which serf proprietors used to exact a money payment from their serfs in place of labour. It was not a solution of the problem, and yet a step towards the solution; it was a movement towards a less rude form of slavery. And it was in this way he meant to act.

Nekhludoff reached Kousminski about noon. Trying to simplify his life in every way, he did not telegraph, but hired a cart and pair at the station. The driver was a young fellow in a nankeen coat, with a belt below his long waist. He was glad to talk to the gentleman, especially because while they were talking his broken-winded white horse and the emaciated spavined one could go at a foot-pace, which they always liked to do.

The driver spoke about the steward at Kousminski without knowing that he was driving "the master." Nekhludoff had purposely not told him who he was.

"That ostentatious German," said the driver (who had been to town and read novels) as he sat sideways on the box, passing his hand from the top to the bottom of his long whip, and trying to show off his accomplishments--"that ostentatious German has procured three light bays, and when he drives out with his lady---oh, my! At Christmas he had a Christmas-tree in the big house. I drove some of the visitors there. It had 'lectric lights; you could not see the like of it in the whole of the government. What's it to him, he has cribbed a heap of money. I heard say he has bought an estate."

Nekhludoff had imagined that he was quite indifferent to the way the steward managed his estate, and what advantages the steward derived from it. The words of the long-waisted driver, however, were not pleasant to hear.

A dark cloud now and then covered the sun; the larks were soaring above the fields of winter corn; the forests were already covered with fresh young green; the meadows speckled with grazing cattle and horses. The fields were being ploughed, and Nekhludoff enjoyed the lovely day. But every now and then he had an unpleasant feeling, and, when he asked himself what it was caused by, he remembered what the driver had told him about the way the German was managing Kousminski. When he got to his estate and set to work this unpleasant feeling vanished.

Looking over the books in the office, and a talk with the foreman, who naively pointed out the advantages to be derived from the facts that the peasants had very little land of their own and that it lay in the midst of the landlord's fields, made Nekhludoff more than ever determined to leave off farming and to let his land to the peasants.

From the office books and his talk with the foreman, Nekhludoff found that two-thirds of the best of the cultivated land was still being tilled with improved machinery by labourers receiving fixed wages, while the other third was tilled by the peasants at the rate of five roubles per desiatin [about two and three-quarter acres]. So that the peasants had to plough each desiatin three times, harrow it three times, sow and mow the corn, make it into sheaves, and deliver it on the threshing ground for five roubles, while the same amount of work done by wage labour came to at least 10 roubles. Everything the peasants got from the office they paid for in labour at a very high price. They paid in labour for the use of the meadows, for wood, for potato-stalks, and were nearly all of them in debt to the office. Thus, for the land that lay beyond the cultivated fields, which the peasants hired, four times the price that its value would bring in if invested at five per cent was taken from the peasants.

Nekhludoff had known all this before, but he now saw it in a new light, and wondered how he and others in his position could help seeing how abnormal such conditions are. The steward's arguments that if the land were let to the peasants the agricultural implements would fetch next to nothing, as it would be impossible to get even a quarter of their value for them, and that the peasants would spoil the land, and how great a loser Nekhludoff would be, only strengthened Nekhludoff in the opinion that he was doing a good action in letting the land to the peasants and thus depriving himself of a large part of his income. He decided to settle this business now, at once, while he was there. The reaping and selling of the corn he left for the steward to manage in due season, and also the selling of the agricultural implements and useless buildings. But he asked his steward to call the peasants of the three neighbouring villages that lay in the midst of his estate (Kousminski) to a meeting, at which he would tell them of his intentions and arrange about the price at which they were to rent the land.

With the pleasant sense of the firmness he had shown in the face of the steward's arguments, and his readiness to make a sacrifice, Nekhludoff left the office, thinking over the business before him, and strolled round the house, through the neglected flower-garden--this year the flowers were planted in front of the steward's house--over the tennis ground, now overgrown with dandelions, and along the lime-tree walk, where he used to smoke his cigar, and where he had flirted with the pretty Kirimova, his mother's visitor. Having briefly prepared in his mind the speech he was going to make to the peasants, he again went in to the steward, and, after tea, having once more arranged his thoughts, he went into the room prepared for him in the big house, which used to be a spare bedroom.

In this clean little room, with pictures of Venice on the walls, and a mirror between the two windows, there stood a clean bed with a spring mattress, and by the side of it a small table, with a decanter of water, matches, and an extinguisher. On a table by the looking-glass lay his open portmanteau, with his dressing-case and some books in it; a Russian book, The Investigation of the Laws of Criminality, and a German and an English book on the same subject, which he meant to read while travelling in the country. But it was too late to begin to-day, and he began preparing to go to bed.

An old-fashioned inlaid mahogany arm-chair stood in the corner of the room, and this chair, which Nekhludoff remembered standing in his mother's bedroom, suddenly raised a perfectly unexpected sensation in his soul. He was suddenly filled with regret at the thought of the house that would tumble to ruin, and the garden that would run wild, and the forest that would be cut down, and all these farmyards, stables, sheds, machines, horses, cows which he knew had cost so much effort, though not to himself, to acquire and to keep. It had seemed easy to give up all this, but now it was hard, not only to give this, but even to let the land and lose half his income. And at once a consideration, which proved that it was unreasonable to let the land to the peasants, and thus to destroy his property, came to his service. "I must not hold property in land. If I possess no property in land, I cannot keep up the house and farm. And, besides, I am going to Siberia, and shall not need either the house or the estate," said one voice. "All this is so," said another voice, "but you are not going to spend all your life in Siberia. You may marry, and have children, and must hand the estate on to them in as good a condition as you received it. There is a duty to the land, too. To give up, to destroy everything is very easy; to acquire it very difficult. Above all, you must consider your future life, and what you will do with yourself, and you must dispose of your property accordingly. And are you really firm in your resolve? And then, are you really acting according to your conscience, or are you acting in order to be admired of men?" Nekhludoff asked himself all this, and had to acknowledge that he was influenced by the thought of what people would say about him. And the more he thought about it the more questions arose, and the more unsolvable they seemed.

In hopes of ridding himself of these thoughts by failing asleep, and solving them in the morning when his head would be fresh, he lay down on his clean bed. But it was long before he could sleep. Together with the fresh air and the moonlight, the croaking of the frogs entered the room, mingling with the trills of a couple of nightingales in the park and one close to the window in a bush of lilacs in bloom. Listening to the nightingales and the frogs, Nekhludoff remembered the inspector's daughter, and her music, and the inspector; that reminded him of Maslova, and how her lips trembled, like the croaking of the frogs, when she said, "You must just leave it." Then the German steward began going down to the frogs, and had to be held back, but he not only went down but turned into Maslova, who began reproaching Nekhludoff, saying, "You are a prince, and I am a convict." "No, I must not give in," thought Nekhludoff, waking up, and again asking himself, "Is what I am doing right? I do not know, and no matter, no matter, I must only fall asleep now." And he began himself to descend where he had seen the inspector and Maslova climbing down to, and there it all ended.

BOOK II.

CHAPTER II.


EFFORTS AT LAND RESTORATION.

The next day Nekhludoff awoke at nine o'clock. The young office clerk who attended on "the master" brought him his boots, shining as they had never shone before, and some cold, beautifully clear spring water, and informed him that the peasants were already assembling.

Nekhludoff jumped out of bed, and collected his thoughts. Not a trace of yesterday's regret at giving up and thus destroying his property remained now. He remembered this feeling of regret with surprise; he was now looking forward with joy to the task before him, and could not help being proud of it. He could see from the window the old tennis ground, overgrown with dandelions, on which the peasants were beginning to assemble. The frogs had not croaked in vain the night before; the day was dull. There was no wind; a soft warm rain had begun falling in the morning, and hung in drops on leaves, twigs, and grass. Besides the smell of the fresh vegetation, the smell of damp earth, asking for more rain, entered in at the window. While dressing, Nekhludoff several times looked out at the peasants gathered on the tennis ground. One by one they came, took off their hats or caps to one another, and took their places in a circle, leaning on their sticks. The steward, a stout, muscular, strong young man, dressed in a short pea-jacket, with a green stand-up collar, and enormous buttons, came to say that all had assembled, but that they might wait until Nekhludoff had finished his breakfast--tea and coffee, whichever he pleased; both were ready.

"No, I think I had better go and see them at once," said Nekhludoff, with an unexpected feeling of shyness and shame at the thought of the conversation he was going to have with the peasants. He was going to fulfil a wish of the peasants, the fulfilment of which they did not even dare to hope for--to let the land to them at a low price, i.e., to confer a great boon; and yet he felt ashamed of something. When Nekhludoff came up to the peasants, and the fair, the curly, the bald, the grey heads were bared before him, he felt so confused that he could say nothing. The rain continued to come down in small drops, that remained on the hair, the beards, and the fluff of the men's rough coats. The peasants looked at "the master," waiting for him to speak, and he was so abashed that he could not speak. This confused silence was broken by the sedate, self-assured German steward, who considered himself a good judge of the Russian peasant, and who spoke Russian remarkably well. This strong, over-fed man, and Nekhludoff himself, presented a striking contrast to the peasants, with their thin, wrinkled faces and the shoulder blades protruding beneath their coarse coats.

"Here's the Prince wanting to do you a favor, and to let the land to you; only you are not worthy of it," said the steward.

"How are we not worthy of it, Vasili Karlovitch? Don't we work for you? We were well satisfied with the deceased lady--God have mercy on her soul--and the young Prince will not desert us now. Our thanks to him," said a redhaired, talkative peasant.

"Yes, that's why I have called you together. I should like to let you have all the land, if you wish it."

The peasants said nothing, as if they did not understand or did not believe it.

"Let's see. Let us have the land? What do you mean?" asked a middle-aged man.

"To let it to you, that you might have the use of it, at a low rent."

"A very agreeable thing," said an old man.

"If only the pay is such as we can afford," said another.

"There's no reason why we should not rent the land."

"We are accustomed to live by tilling the ground."

"And it's quieter for you, too, that way. You'll have to do nothing but receive the rent. Only think of all the sin and worry now!" several voices were heard saying.

"The sin is all on your side," the German remarked. "If only you did your work, and were orderly."

"That's impossible for the likes of us," said a sharp-nosed old man. "You say, 'Why do you let the horse get into the corn?' just as if I let it in. Why, I was swinging my scythe, or something of the kind, the livelong day, till the day seemed as long as a year, and so I fell asleep while watching the herd of horses at night, and it got into your oats, and now you're skinning me."

"And you should keep order."

"It's easy for you to talk about order, but it's more than our strength will bear," answered a tall, dark, hairy middleaged man.

"Didn't I tell you to put up a fence?"

"You give us the wood to make it of," said a short, plain- looking peasant. "I was going to put up a fence last year, and you put me to feed vermin in prison for three months. That was the end of that fence."

"What is it he is saying?" asked Nekhludoff, turning to the steward.

"Der ersto Dieb im Dorfe, [The greatest thief in the village] answered the steward in German. "He is caught stealing wood from the forest every year." Then turning to the peasant, he added, "You must learn to respect other people's property."

"Why, don't we respect you?" said an old man. "We are obliged to respect you. Why, you could twist us into a rope; we are in your hands."

"Eh, my friend, it's impossible to do you. It's you who are ever ready to do us," said the steward.

"Do you, indeed. Didn't you smash my jaw for me, and I got nothing for it? No good going to law with the rich, it seems."

"You should keep to the law."

A tournament of words was apparently going on without those who took part in it knowing exactly what it was all about; but it was noticeable that there was bitterness on one side, restricted by fear, and on the other a consciousness of importance and power. It was very trying to Nekhludoff to listen to all this, so he returned to the question. of arranging the amount and the terms of the rent.

"Well, then, how about the land? Do you wish to take it, and what price will you pay if I let you have the whole of it?"

"The property is yours: it is for you to fix the price." Nekhludoff named the price. Though it was far below that paid in the neighbourhood, the peasants declared it too high, and began bargaining, as is customary among them. Nekhludoff thought his offer would be accepted with pleasure, but no signs of pleasure were visible.

One thing only showed Nekhludoff that his offer was a profitable one to the peasants. The question as to who would rent the land, the whole commune or a special society, was put, and a violent dispute arose among those peasants who were in favour of excluding the weak and those not likely to pay the rent regularly, and the peasants who would have to be excluded on that score. At last, thanks to the steward, the amount and the terms of the rent were fixed, and the peasants went down the hill towards their villages, talking noisily, while Nekhludoff and the steward went into the office to make up the agreement. Everything was settled in the way Nekhludoff wished and expected it to be. The peasants had their land 30 per cent. cheaper than they could have got it anywhere in the district, the revenue from the land was diminished by half, but was more than sufficient for Nekhludoff, especially as there would be money coming in for a forest he sold, as well as for the agricultural implements, which would be sold, too. Everything seemed excellently arranged, yet he felt ashamed of something. He could see that the peasants, though they spoke words of thanks, were not satisfied, and had expected something greater. So it turned out that he had deprived himself of a great deal, and yet not done what the peasants had expected.

The next day the agreement was signed, and accompanied by several old peasants, who had been chosen as deputies, Nekhludoff went out, got into the steward's elegant equipage (as the driver from the station had called it), said "good-bye" to the peasants, who stood shaking their heads in a dissatisfied and disappointed manner, and drove off to the station. Nekhludoff was dissatisfied with himself without knowing why, but all the time he felt sad and ashamed of something.

BOOK II.

CHAPTER III.


OLD ASSOCIATIONS.

From Kousminski Nekhludoff went to the estate he had inherited from his aunts, the same where he first met Katusha. He meant to arrange about the land there in the way he had done in Kousminski. Besides this, he wished to find out all he could about Katusha and her baby, and when and how it had died. He got to Panovo early one morning, and the first thing that struck him when he drove up was the look of decay and dilapidation that all the buildings bore, especially the house itself. The iron roofs, which had once been painted green, looked red with rust, and a few sheets of iron were bent back, probably by a storm. Some of the planks which covered the house from outside were torn away in several places; these were easier to get by breaking the rusty nails that held them. Both porches, but especially the side porch he remembered so well, were rotten and broken; only the banister remained. Some of the windows were boarded up, and the building in which the foreman lived, the kitchen, the stables--all were grey and decaying. Only the garden had not decayed, but had grown, and was in full bloom; from over the fence the cherry, apple, and plum trees looked like white clouds. The lilac bushes that formed the hedge were in full bloom, as they had been when, 14 years ago, Nekhludoff had played gorelki with the 15-year-old Katusha, and had fallen and got his hand stung by the nettles behind one of those lilac bushes. The larch that his aunt Sophia had planted near the house, which then was only a short stick, had grown into a tree, the trunk of which would have made a beam, and its branches were covered with soft yellow green needles as with down. The river, now within its banks, rushed noisily over the mill dam. The meadow the other side of the river was dotted over by the peasants' mixed herds. The foreman, a student, who had left the seminary without finishing the course, met Nekhludoff in the yard, with a smile on his face, and, still smiling, asked him to come into the office, and, as if promising something exceptionally good by this smile, he went behind a partition. For a moment some whispering was heard behind the partition. The isvostchik who had driven Nekhludoff from the station, drove away after receiving a tip, and all was silent. Then a barefooted girl passed the window; she had on an embroidered peasant blouse, and long earrings in her ears; then a man walked past, clattering with his nailed boots on the trodden path.

Nekhludoff sat down by the little casement, and looked out into the garden and listened. A soft, fresh spring breeze, smelling of newly-dug earth, streamed in through the window, playing with the hair on his damp forehead and the papers that lay on the window-sill, which was all cut about with a knife.

"Tra-pa-trop, tra-pa-trop," comes a sound from the river, as the women who were washing clothes there slapped them in regular measure with their wooden bats, and the sound spread over the glittering surface of the mill pond while the rhythmical sound of the falling water came from the mill, and a frightened fly suddenly flew loudly buzzing past his ear.

And all at once Nekhludoff remembered how, long ago, when he was young and innocent, he had heard the women's wooden bats slapping the wet clothes above the rhythmical sound from the mill, and in the same way the spring breeze had blown about the hair on his wet forehead and the papers on the window-sill, which was all cut about with a knife, and just in the same way a fly had buzzed loudly past his car.

It was not exactly that he remembered himself as a lad of 15, but he seemed to feel himself the same as he was then, with the same freshness and purity, and full of the same grand possibilities for the future, and at the same time, as it happens in a dream, he knew that all this could be no more, and he felt terribly sad. "At what time would you like something to eat?" asked the foreman, with a smile.

"When you like; I am not hungry. I shall go for a walk through the village."

"Would you not like to come into the house? Everything is in order there. Have the goodness to look in. If the outside---"

"Not now; later on. Tell me, please, have you got a woman here called Matrona Kharina?" (This was Katusha's aunt, the village midwife.)

"Oh, yes; in the village she keeps a secret pot-house. I know she does, and I accuse her of it and scold her; but as to taking her up, it would be a pity. An old woman, you know; she has grandchildren," said the foreman, continuing to smile in the same manner, partly wishing to be pleasant to the master, and partly because he was convinced that Nekhludoff understood all these matters just as well as he did himself.

"Where does she live? I shall go across and see her."

"At the end of the village; the further side, the third from the end. To the left there is a brick cottage, and her hut is beyond that. But I'd better see you there," the foreman said with a graceful smile.

"No, thanks, I shall find it; and you be so good as to call a meeting of the peasants, and tell them that I want to speak to them about the land," said Nekhludoff, with the intention of coming to the same agreement with the peasants here as he had done in Kousminski, and, if possible, that same evening.

BOOK II.

CHAPTER IV.


THE PEASANTS' LOT.

When Nekhludoff came out of the gate he met the girl with the long earrings on the well-trodden path that lay across the pasture ground, overgrown with dock and plantain leaves. She had a long, brightly-coloured apron on, and was quickly swinging her left arm in front of herself as she stepped briskly with her fat, bare feet. With her right arm she was pressing a fowl to her stomach. The fowl, with red comb shaking, seemed perfectly calm; he only rolled up his eyes and stretched out and drew in one black leg, clawing the girl's apron. When the girl came nearer to "the master," she began moving more slowly, and her run changed into a walk. When she came up to him she stopped, and, after a backward jerk with her head, bowed to him; and only when he had passed did she recommence to run homeward with the cock. As he went down towards the well, he met an old woman, who had a coarse dirty blouse on, carrying two pails full of water, that hung on a yoke across her bent back. The old woman carefully put down the pails and bowed, with the same backward jerk of her head.

After passing the well Nekhludoff entered the village. It was a bright, hot day, and oppressive, though only ten o'clock. At intervals the sun was hidden by the gathering clouds. An unpleasant, sharp smell of manure filled the air in the street. It came from carts going up the hillside, but chiefly from the disturbed manure heaps in the yards of the huts, by the open gates of which Nekhludoff had to pass. The peasants, barefooted, their shirts and trousers soiled with manure, turned to look at the tall, stout gentleman with the glossy silk ribbon on his grey hat who was walking up the village street, touching the ground every other step with a shiny, bright-knobbed walking-stick. The peasants returning from the fields at a trot and jotting in their empty carts, took off their hats, and, in their surprise, followed with their eyes the extraordinary man who was walking up their street. The women came out of the gates or stood in the porches of their huts, pointing him out to each other and gazing at him as he passed.

When Nekhludoff was passing the fourth gate, he was stopped by a cart that was coming out, its wheels creaking, loaded high with manure, which was pressed down, and was covered with a mat to sit on. A six-year-old boy, excited by the prospect of a drive, followed the cart. A young peasant, with shoes plaited out of bark on his feet, led the horse out of the yard. A long-legged colt jumped out of the gate; but, seeing Nekhludoff, pressed close to the cart, and scraping its legs against the wheels, jumped forward, past its excited, gently-neighing mother, as she was dragging the heavy load through the gateway. The next horse was led out by a barefooted old man, with protruding shoulder-blades, in a dirty shirt and striped trousers.

When the horses got out on to the hard road, strewn over with bits of dry, grey manure, the old man returned to the gate, and bowed to Nekhludoff.

"You are our ladies' nephew, aren't you?

"Yes, I am their nephew."

"You've kindly come to look us up, eh?" said the garrulous old man.

"Yes, I have. Well, how are you getting on?

"How do we get on? We get on very badly," the old man drawled, as if it gave him pleasure.

"Why so badly?" Nekhludoff asked, stepping inside the gate.

"What is our life but the very worst life?" said the old man, following Nekhludoff into that part of the yard which was roofed over.

Nekhludoff stopped under the roof.

"I have got 12 of them there," continued the old man, pointing to two women on the remainder of the manure heap, who stood perspiring with forks in their hands, the kerchiefs tumbling off their heads, with their skirts tucked up, showing the calves of their dirty, bare legs. "Not a month passes but I have to buy six poods [a pood is 36 English pounds] of corn, and where's the money to come from?"

"Have you not got enough corn of your own?

"My own?" repeated the old man, with a smile of contempt; "why I have only got land for three, and last year we had not enough to last till Christmas."

"What do you do then?"

"What do we do? Why, I hire out as a labourer; and then I borrowed some money from your honour. We spent it all before Lent, and the tax is not paid yet."

"And how much is the tax?"

"Why, it's 17 roubles for my household. Oh, Lord, such a life! One hardly knows one's self how one manages to live it."

"May I go into your hut?" asked Nekhludoff, stepping across the yard over the yellow-brown layers of manure that had been raked up by the forks, and were giving off a strong smell.

"Why not? Come in," said the old man, and stepping quickly with his bare feet over the manure, the liquid oozing between his toes, he passed Nekhludoff and opened the door of the hut.

The women arranged the kerchiefs on their heads and let down their skirts, and stood looking with surprise at the clean gentleman with gold studs to his sleeves who was entering their house. Two little girls, with nothing on but coarse chemises, rushed out of the hut. Nekhludoff took off his hat, and, stooping to get through the low door, entered, through a passage into the dirty, narrow hut, that smelt of sour food, and where much space was taken up by two weaving looms. In the but an old woman was standing by the stove, with the sleeves rolled up over her thin, sinewy brown arms.

"Here is our master come to see us," said the old man.

"I'm sure he's very welcome," said the old woman, kindly.

"I would like to see how you live."

"Well, you see how we live. The hut is coming down, and might kill one any day; but my old man he says it's good enough, and so we live like kings," said the brisk old woman, nervously jerking her head. "I'm getting the dinner; going to feed the workers."

"And what are you going to have for dinner?"

"Our food is very good. First course, bread and kvas; [kvas is a kind of sour, non-intoxicant beer made of rye] second course, kvas and bread," said the old woman, showing her teeth, which were half worn away.

"No," seriously; "let me see what you are going to eat."

"To eat?" said the old man, laughing. "Ours is not a very cunning meal. You just show him, wife."

"Want to see our peasant food? Well, you are an inquisitive gentleman, now I come to look at you. He wants to know everything. Did I not tell you bread and kvas and then we'll have soup. A woman brought us some fish, and that's what the soup is made of, and after that, potatoes."

"Nothing more?

"What more do you want? We'll also have a little milk," said the old woman, looking towards the door. The door stood open, and the passage outside was full of people--boys, girls, women with babies--thronged together to look at the strange gentleman who wanted to see the peasants' food. The old woman seemed to pride herself on the way she behaved with a gentleman.

"Yes, it's a miserable life, ours; that goes without saying, sir," said the old man. "What are you doing there?" he shouted to those in the passage. "Well, good-bye," said Nekhludoff, feeling ashamed and uneasy, though unable to account for the feeling.

"Thank you kindly for having looked us up," said the old man.

The people in the passage pressed closer together to let Nekhludoff pass, and he went out and continued his way up the street.

Two barefooted boys followed him out of the passage the elder in a shirt that had once been white, the other in a worn and faded pink one. Nekhludoff looked back at them.

"And where are you going now?" asked the boy with the white shirt. Nekhludoff answered: "To Matrona Kharina. Do you know her?" The boy with the pink shirt began laughing at something; but the elder asked, seriously:

"What Matrona is that? Is she old?"

"Yes, she is old."

"Oh--oh," he drawled; "that one; she's at the other end of the village; we'll show you. Yes, Fedka, we'll go with him. Shall we?"

"Yes, but the horses?"

"They'll be all right, I dare say."

Fedka agreed, and all three went up the street.

BOOK II.

CHAPTER V.


MASLOVA'S AUNT.

Nekhludoff felt more at case with the boys than with the grown-up people, and he began talking to them as they went along. The little one with the pink shirt stopped laughing, and spoke as sensibly and as exactly as the elder one.

"Can you tell me who are the poorest people you have got here?" asked Nekhludoff.

"The poorest? Michael is poor, Simon Makhroff, and Martha, she is very poor."

"And Anisia, she is still poorer; she's not even got a cow. They go begging," said little Fedka.

"She's not got a cow, but they are only three persons, and Martha's family are five," objected the elder boy.

"But the other's a widow," the pink boy said, standing up for Anisia.

"You say Anisia is a widow, and Martha is no better than a widow," said the elder boy; "she's also no husband."

"And where is her husband?" Nekhludoff asked.

"Feeding vermin in prison," said the elder boy, using this expression, common among the peasants.

"A year ago he cut down two birch trees in the land-lord's forest," the little pink boy hurried to say, "so he was locked up; now he's sitting the sixth month there, and the wife goes begging. There are three children and a sick grandmother," he went on with his detailed account.

"And where does she live?" Nekhludoff asked.

"In this very house," answered the boy, pointing to a hut, in front of which, on the footpath along which Nekhludoff was walking, a tiny, flaxen-headed infant stood balancing himself with difficulty on his rickety legs.

"Vaska! Where's the little scamp got to?" shouted a woman, with a dirty grey blouse, and a frightened look, as she ran out of the house, and, rushing forward, seized the baby before Nekhludoff came up to it, and carried it in, just as if she were afraid that Nekhludoff would hurt her child.

This was the woman whose husband was imprisoned for Nekhludoff's birch trees.

"Well, and this Matrona, is she also poor?" Nekhludoff asked, as they came up to Matrona's house.

"She poor? No. Why, she sells spirits," the thin, pink little boy answered decidedly.

When they reached the house Nekhludoff left the boys outside and went through the passage into the hut. The hut was 14 feet long. The bed that stood behind the big stove was not long enough for a tall person to stretch out on. "And on this very bed," Nekhludoff thought, "Katusha bore her baby and lay ill afterwards." The greater part of the hut was taken up by a loom, on which the old woman and her eldest granddaughter were arranging the warp when Nekhludoff came in, striking his forehead against the low doorway. Two other grandchildren came rushing in after Nekhludoff, and stopped, holding on to the lintels of the door.

"Whom do you want?" asked the old woman, crossly. She was in a bad temper because she could not manage to get the warp right, and, besides, carrying on an illicit trade in spirits, she was always afraid when any stranger came in.

"I am--the owner of the neighbouring estates, and should like to speak to you."

"Dear me; why, it's you, my honey; and I, fool, thought it was just some passer-by. Dear me, you--it's you, my precious," said the old woman, with simulated tenderness in her voice.

"I should like to speak to you alone," said Nekhludoff, with a glance towards the door, where the children were standing, and behind them a woman holding a wasted, pale baby, with a sickly smile on its face, who had a little cap made of different bits of stuff on its head.

"What are you staring at? I'll give it you. Just hand me my crutch," the old woman shouted to those at the door.

"Shut the door, will you!" The children went away, and the woman closed the door.

"And I was thinking, who's that? And it's 'the master' himself. My jewel, my treasure. Just think," said the old woman, "where he has deigned to come. Sit down here, your honour," she said, wiping the seat with her apron. "And I was thinking what devil is it coming in, and it's your honour, ' the master' himself, the good gentleman, our benefactor. Forgive me, old fool that I am; I'm getting blind."

Nekhludoff sat down, and the old woman stood in front of him, leaning her cheek on her right hand, while the left held up the sharp elbow of her right arm.

"Dear me, you have grown old, your honour; and you used to be as fresh as a daisy. And now! Cares also, I expect?"

"This is what I have come about: Do you remember Katusha Maslova?"

"Katerina? I should think so. Why, she is my niece. How could I help remembering; and the tears I have shed because of her. Why, I know all about it. Eh, sir, who has not sinned before God? who has not offended against the Tsar? We know what youth is. You used to be drinking tea and coffee, so the devil got hold of you. He is strong at times. What's to be done? Now, if you had chucked her; but no, just see how you rewarded her, gave her a hundred roubles. And she? What has she done? Had she but listened to me she might have lived all right. I must say the truth, though she is my niece: that girl's no good. What a good place I found her! She would not submit, but abused her master. Is it for the likes of us to scold gentlefolk? Well, she was sent away. And then at the forester's. She might have lived there; but no, she would not."

"I want to know about the child. She was confined at your house, was she not? Where's the child?"

"As to the child, I considered that well at the time. She was so bad I never thought she would get up again. Well, so I christened the baby quite properly, and we sent it to the Foundlings'. Why should one let an innocent soul languish when the mother is dying? Others do like this. they just leave the baby, don't feed it, and it wastes away. But, thinks I, no; I'd rather take some trouble, and send it to the Foundlings'. There was money enough, so I sent it off."

"Did you not get its registration number from the Foundlings' Hospital?"

"Yes, there was a number, but the baby died," she said. "It died as soon as she brought it there."

"Who is she?"

"That same woman who used to live in Skorodno. She made a business of it. Her name was Malania. She's dead now. She was a wise woman. What do you think she used to do? They'd bring her a baby, and she'd keep it and feed it; and she'd feed it until she had enough of them to take to the Foundlings'. When she had three or four, she'd take them all at once. She had such a clever arrangement, a sort of big cradle--a double one she could put them in one way or the other. It had a handle. So she'd put four of them in, feet to feet and the heads apart, so that they should not knock against each other. And so she took four at once. She'd put some pap in a rag into their mouths to keep 'em silent, the pets."

"Well, go on."

"Well, she took Katerina's baby in the same way, after keeping it a fortnight, I believe. It was in her house it began to sicken."

"And was it a fine baby?" Nekhludoff asked.

"Such a baby, that if you wanted a finer you could not find one. Your very image," the old woman added, with a wink.

"Why did it sicken? Was the food bad?"

"Eh, what food? Only just a pretence of food. Naturally, when it's not one's own child. Only enough to get it there alive. She said she just managed to get it to Moscow, and there it died. She brought a certificate--all in order. She was such a wise woman."

That was all Nekhludoff could find out concerning his child.

BOOK II.

CHAPTER VI.


REFLECTIONS OF A LANDLORD.

Again striking his head against both doors, Nekhludoff went out into the street, where the pink and the white boys were waiting for him. A few newcomers were standing with them. Among the women, of whom several had babies in their arms, was the thin woman with the baby who had the patchwork cap on its head. She held lightly in her arms the bloodless infant, who kept strangely smiling all over its wizened little face, and continually moving its crooked thumbs.

Nekhludoff knew the smile to be one of suffering. He asked who the woman was.

"It is that very Anisia I told you about," said the elder boy.

Nekhludoff turned to Anisia.

"How do you live?" he asked. "By what means do you gain your livelihood?"

"How do I live? I go begging," said Anisia, and began to cry.

Nekhludoff took out his pocket-book, and gave the woman a 10-rouble note. He had not had time to take two steps before another woman with a baby caught him up, then an old woman, then another young one. All of them spoke of their poverty, and asked for help. Nekhludoff gave them the 60 roubles--all in small notes--which he had with him, and, terribly sad at heart, turned home, i.e., to the foreman's house.

The foreman met Nekhludoff with a smile, and informed him that the peasants would come to the meeting in the evening. Nekhludoff thanked him, and went straight into the garden to stroll along the paths strewn over with the petals of apple-blossom and overgrown with weeds, and to think over all he had seen.

At first all was quiet, but soon Nekhludoff heard from behind the foreman's house two angry women's voices interrupting each other, and now and then the voice of the ever-smiling foreman. Nekhludoff listened.

"My strength's at an end. What are you about, dragging the very cross [those baptized in the Russo-Greek Church always wear a cross round their necks] off my neck," said an angry woman's voice.

"But she only got in for a moment," said another voice. "Give it her back, I tell you. Why do you torment the beast, and the children, too, who want their milk?"

"Pay, then, or work it off," said the foreman's voice.

Nekhludoff left the garden and entered the porch, near which stood two dishevelled women--one of them pregnant and evidently near her time. On one of the steps of the porch, with his hands in the pockets of his holland coat, stood the foreman. When they saw the master, the women were silent, and began arranging the kerchiefs on their heads, and the foreman took his hands out of his pockets and began to smile.

This is what had happened. From the foreman's words, it seemed that the peasants were in the habit of letting their calves and even their cows into the meadow belonging to the estate. Two cows belonging to the families of these two women were found in the meadow, and driven into the yard. The foreman demanded from the women 30 copecks for each cow or two days' work. The women, however, maintained that the cows had got into the meadow of their own accord; that they had no money, and asked that the cows, which had stood in the blazing sun since morning without food, piteously lowing, should he returned to them, even if it had to be on the understanding that the price should be worked off later on.

"How often have I not begged of you," said the smiling foreman, looking back at Nekhludoff as if calling upon him to be a witness, "if you drive your cattle home at noon, that you should have an eye on them?"

"I only ran to my little one for a bit, and they got away."

"Don't run away when you have undertaken to watch the cows."

"And who's to feed the little one? You'd not give him the breast, I suppose?" said the other woman. "Now, if they had really damaged the meadow, one would not take it so much to heart; but they only strayed in a moment."

"All the meadows are damaged," the foreman said, turning to Nekhludoff. "If I exact no penalty there will be no hay."

"There, now, don't go sinning like that; my cows have never been caught there before," shouted the pregnant woman."

"Now that one has been caught, pay up or work it off."

"All right, I'll work it off; only let me have the cow now, don't torture her with hunger," she cried, angrily. "As it is, I have no rest day or night. Mother-in-law is ill, husband taken to drink; I'm all alone to do all the work, and my strength's at an end. I wish you'd choke, you and your working it off."

Nekhludoff asked the foreman to let the women take the cows, and went back into the garden to go on thinking out his problem, but there was nothing more to think about.

Everything seemed so clear to him now that he could not stop wondering how it was that everybody did not see it, and that he himself had for such a long while not seen what was so clearly evident. The people were dying out, and had got used to the dying-out process, and had formed habits of life adapted to this process: there was the great mortality among the children, the over-working of the women, the under-feeding, especially of the aged. And so gradually had the people come to this condition that they did not realise the full horrors of it, and did not complain. Therefore, we consider their condition natural and as it should be. Now it seemed as clear as daylight that the chief cause of the people's great want was one that they themselves knew and always pointed out, i.e., that the land which alone could feed them had been taken from them by the landlords.

And how evident it was that the children and the aged died because they had no milk, and they had no milk because there was no pasture land, and no land to grow corn or make hay on. It was quite evident that all the misery of the people or, at least by far the greater part of it, was caused by the fact that the land which should feed them was not in their hands, but in the hands of those who, profiting by their rights to the land, live by the work of these people. The land so much needed by men was tilled by these people, who were on the verge of starvation, so that the corn might be sold abroad and the owners of the land might buy themselves hats and canes, and carriages and bronzes, etc. He understood this as clearly as he understood that horses when they have eaten all the grass in the inclosure where they are kept will have to grow thin and starve unless they are put where they can get food off other land.

This was terrible, and must not go on. Means must be found to alter it, or at least not to take part in it. "And I will find them," he thought, as he walked up and down the path under the birch trees.

In scientific circles, Government institutions, and in the papers we talk about the causes of the poverty among the people and the means of ameliorating their condition; but we do not talk of the only sure means which would certainly lighten their condition, i.e., giving back to them the land they need so much.

Henry George's fundamental position recurred vividly to his mind and how he had once been carried away by it, and he was surprised that he could have forgotten it. The earth cannot be any one's property; it cannot be bought or sold any more than water, air, or sunshine. All have an equal right to the advantages it gives to men. And now he knew why he had felt ashamed to remember the transaction at Kousminski. He had been deceiving himself. He knew that no man could have a right to own land, yet he had accepted this right as his, and had given the peasants something which, in the depth of his heart, he knew he had no right to. Now he would not act in this way, and would alter the arrangement in Kousminski also. And he formed a project in his mind to let the land to the peasants, and to acknowledge the rent they paid for it to be their property, to be kept to pay the taxes and for communal uses. This was, of course, not the single-tax system, still it was as near an approach to it as could be had under existing circumstances. His chief consideration, however, was that in this way he would no longer profit by the possession of landed property.

When he returned to the house the foreman, with a specially pleasant smile, asked him if he would not have his dinner now, expressing the fear that the feast his wife was preparing, with the help of the girl with the earrings, might be overdone.

The table was covered with a coarse, unbleached cloth and an embroidered towel was laid on it in lieu of a napkin. A vieux-saxe soup tureen with a broken handle stood on the table, full of potato soup, the stock made of the fowl that had put out and drawn in his black leg, and was now cut, or rather chopped, in pieces, which were here and there covered with hairs. After the soup more of the same fowl with the hairs was served roasted, and then curd pasties, very greasy, and with a great deal of sugar. Little appetising as all this was, Nekhludoff hardly noticed what he was eating; he was occupied with the thought which had in a moment dispersed the sadness with which he had returned from the village.

The foreman's wife kept looking in at the door, whilst the frightened maid with the earrings brought in the dishes; and the foreman smiled more and more joyfully, priding himself on his wife's culinary skill. After dinner, Nekhludoff succeeded, with some trouble, in making the foreman sit down. In order to revise his own thoughts, and to express them to some one, he explained his project of letting the land to the peasants, and asked the foreman for his opinion. The foreman, smiling as if he had thought all this himself long ago, and was very pleased to hear it, did not really understand it at all. This was not because Nekhludoff did not express himself clearly, but because according to this project it turned out that Nekhludoff was giving up his own profit for the profit of others, and the thought that every one is only concerned about his own profit, to the harm of others, was so deeply rooted in the foreman's conceptions that he imagined he did not understand something when Nekhludoff said that all the income from the land must be placed to form the communal capital of the peasants.

"Oh, I see; then you, of course, will receive the percentages from that capital," said the foreman, brightening up.

"Dear me! no. Don't you see, I am giving up the land altogether."

"But then you will not get any income," said the foreman, smiling no longer.

"Yes, I am going to give it up."

The foreman sighed heavily, and then began smiling again. Now he understood. He understood that Nekhludoff was not quite normal, and at once began to consider how he himself could profit by Nekhludoff's project of giving up the land, and tried to see this project in such a way that he might reap some advantage from it. But when he saw that this was impossible he grew sorrowful, and the project ceased to interest him, and he continued to smile only in order to please the master.

Seeing that the foreman did not understand him, Nekhludoff let him go and sat down by the window-sill, that was all cut about and inked over, and began to put his project down on paper.

The sun went down behind the limes, that were covered with fresh green, and the mosquitoes swarmed in, stinging Nekhludoff. Just as he finished his notes, he heard the lowing of cattle and the creaking of opening gates from the village, and the voices of the peasants gathering together for the meeting. He told the foreman not to call the peasants up to the office, as he meant to go into the village himself and meet the men where they would assemble. Having hurriedly drank a cup of tea offered him by the foreman, Nekhludoff went to the village.

BOOK II.

 CHAPTER VII.


THE DISINHERITED.

From the crowd assembled in front of the house of the village elder came the sound of voices; but as soon as Nekhludoff came up the talking ceased, and all the peasants took off their caps, just as those in Kousminski had done. The peasants here were of a much poorer class than those in Kousminski. The men wore shoes made of bark and homespun shirts and coats. Some had come straight from their work in their shirts and with bare feet.

Nekhludoff made an effort, and began his speech by telling the peasants of his intention to give up his land to them altogether. The peasants were silent, and the expression on their faces did not undergo any change.

"Because I hold," said Nekhludoff, "and believe that every one has a right to the use of the land."

"That's certain. That's so, exactly," said several voices.

Nekhludoff went on to say that the revenue from the land ought to be divided among all, and that he would therefore suggest that they should rent the land at a price fixed by themselves, the rent to form a communal fund for their own use. Words of approval and agreement were still to be heard, but the serious faces of the peasants grew still more serious, and the eyes that had been fixed on the gentleman dropped, as if they were unwilling to put him to shame by letting him see that every one had understood his trick, and that no one would be deceived by him.

Nekhludoff spoke clearly, and the peasants were intelligent, but they did not and could not understand him, for the same reason that the foreman had so long been unable to understand him.

They were fully convinced that it is natural for every man to consider his own interest. The experience of many generations had proved to them that the landlords always considered their own interest to the detriment of the peasants. Therefore, if a landlord called them to a meeting and made them some kind of a new offer, it could evidently only be in order to swindle them more cunningly than before.

"Well, then, what are you willing to rent the land at? asked Nekhludoff.

"How can we fix a price? We cannot do it. The land is yours, and the power is in your hands," answered some voices from among the crowd.

"Oh, not at all. You will yourselves have the use of the money for communal purposes."

"We cannot do it; the commune is one thing, and this is another."

"Don't you understand?" said the foreman, with a smile (he had followed Nekhludoff to the meeting), "the Prince is letting the land to you for money, and is giving you the money back to form a capital for the commune."

"We understand very well," said a cross, toothless old man, without raising his eyes. "Something like a bank; we should have to pay at a fixed time. We do not wish it; it is hard enough as it is, and that would ruin us completely."

"That's no go. We prefer to go on the old way," began several dissatisfied, and even rude, voices.

The refusals grew very vehement when Nekhludoff mentioned that he would draw up an agreement which would have to be signed by him and by them.

"Why sign? We shall go on working as we have done hitherto. What is all this for? We are ignorant men."

"We can't agree, because this sort of thing is not what we have been used to. As it was, so let it continue to be. Only the seeds we should like to withdraw."

This meant that under the present arrangement the seeds had to be provided by the peasants, and they wanted the landlord to provide them.

"Then am I to understand that you refuse to accept the land?" Nekhludoff asked, addressing a middle-aged, barefooted peasant, with a tattered coat, and a bright look on his face, who was holding his worn cap with his left hand, in a peculiarly straight position, in the same way soldiers hold theirs when commanded to take them off.

"Just so," said this peasant, who had evidently not yet rid himself of the military hypnotism he had been subjected to while serving his time.

"It means that you have sufficient land," said Nekhludoff.

"No, sir, we have not," said the ex-soldier, with an artificially pleased look, carefully holding his tattered cap in front of him, as if offering it to any one who liked to make use of it.

"Well, anyhow, you'd better think over what I have said." Nekhludoff spoke with surprise, and again repeated his offer.

"We have no need to think about it; as we have said, so it will be," angrily muttered the morose, toothless old man.

"I shall remain here another day, and if you change your minds, send to let me know."

The peasants gave no answer.

So Nekhludoff did not succeed in arriving at any result from this interview.

"If I might make a remark, Prince," said the foreman, when they got home, "you will never come to any agreement with them; they are so obstinate. At a meeting these people just stick in one place, and there is no moving them. It is because they are frightened of everything. Why, these very peasants--say that white-haired one, or the dark one, who were refusing, are intelligent peasants. When one of them comes to the office and one makes him sit down to cup of tea it's like in the Palace of Wisdom--he is quite diplomatist," said the foreman, smiling; "he will consider everything rightly. At a meeting it's a different man--he keeps repeating one and the same . . ."

"Well, could not some of the more intelligent men he asked to come here?" said Nekhludoff. "I would carefully explain it to them."

"That can he done," said the smiling foreman.

"Well, then, would you mind calling them here to-morrow?"

"Oh, certainly I will," said the foreman, and smiled still more joyfully. "I shall call them to-morrow."

"Just hear him; he's not artful, not he," said a blackhaired peasant, with an unkempt beard, as he sat jolting from side to side on a well-fed mare, addressing an old man in a torn coat who rode by his side. The two men were driving a herd of the peasants' horses to graze in the night, alongside the highroad and secretly, in the landlord's forest.

"Give you the land for nothing--you need only sign--have they not done the likes of us often enough? No, my friend, none of your humbug. Nowadays we have a little sense," he added, and began shouting at a colt that had strayed.

He stopped his horse and looked round, but the colt had not remained behind; it had gone into the meadow by the roadside. "Bother that son of a Turk; he's taken to getting into the landowner's meadows," said the dark peasant with the unkempt beard, hearing the cracking of the sorrel stalks that the neighing colt was galloping over as he came running back from the scented meadow.

"Do you hear the cracking? We'll have to send the women folk to weed the meadow when there's a holiday," said the thin peasant with the torn coat, "or else we'll blunt our scythes."

"Sign," he says. The unkempt man continued giving his opinion of the landlord's speech. "'Sign,' indeed, and let him swallow you up."

"That's certain," answered the old man. And then they were silent, and the tramping of the horses' feet along the highroad was the only sound to be heard.

BOOK II.

CHAPTER VIII.


GOD'S PEACE IN THE HEART.

When Nekhludoff returned he found that the office had been arranged as a bedroom for him. A high bedstead, with a feather bed and two large pillows, had been placed in the room. The bed was covered with a dark red doublebedded silk quilt, which was elaborately and finely quilted, and very stiff. It evidently belonged to the trousseau of the foreman's wife. The foreman offered Nekhludoff the remains of the dinner, which the latter refused, and, excusing himself for the poorness of the fare and the accommodation, he left Nekhludoff alone.

The peasants' refusal did not at all bother Nekhludoff. On the contrary, though at Kousminski his offer had been accepted and he had even been thanked for it, and here he was met with suspicion and even enmity, he felt contented and joyful.

It was close and dirty in the office. Nekhludoff went out into the yard, and was going into the garden, but he remembered: that night, the window of the maid-servant's room, the side porch, and he felt uncomfortable, and did not like to pass the spot desecrated by guilty memories. He sat down on the doorstep, and breathing in the warm air, balmy with the strong scent of fresh birch leaves, he sat for a long time looking into the dark garden and listening to the mill, the nightingales, and some other bird that whistled monotonously in the bush close by. The light disappeared from the foreman's window; in the cast, behind the barn, appeared the light of the rising moon, and sheet lightning began to light up the dilapidated house, and the blooming, over-grown garden more and more frequently. It began to thunder in the distance, and a black cloud spread over one-third of the sky. The nightingales and the other birds were silent. Above the murmur of the water from the mill came the cackling of geese, and then in the village and in the foreman's yard the first cocks began to crow earlier than usual, as they do on warm, thundery nights. There is a saying that if the cocks crow early the night will be a merry one. For Nekhludoff the night was more than merry; it was a happy, joyful night. Imagination renewed the impressions of that happy summer which he had spent here as an innocent lad, and he felt himself as he had been not only at that but at all the best moments of his life. He not only remembered but felt as he had felt when, at the age of 14, he prayed that God would show him the truth; or when as a child he had wept on his mother's lap, when parting from her, and promising to be always good, and never give her pain; he felt as he did when he and Nikolenka Irtenieff resolved always to support each other in living a good life and to try to make everybody happy.

He remembered how he had been tempted in Kousminski, so that he had begun to regret the house and the forest and the farm and the land, and he asked himself if he regretted them now, and it even seemed strange to think that he could regret them. He remembered all he had seen to-day; the woman with the children, and without her husband, who was in prison for having cut down trees in his (Nekhludoff's) forest, and the terrible Matrona, who considered, or at least talked as if she considered, that women of her position must give themselves to the gentlefolk; he remembered her relation to the babies, the way in which they were taken to the Foundlings' Hospital, and the unfortunate, smiling, wizened baby with the patchwork cap, dying of starvation. And then he suddenly remembered the prison, the shaved heads, the cells, the disgusting smells, the chains, and, by the side of it all, the madly lavish city lift of the rich, himself included.

The bright moon, now almost full, rose above the barn. Dark shadows fell across the yard, and the iron roof of the ruined house shone bright. As if unwilling to waste this light, the nightingales again began their trills.

Nekhludoff called to mind how he had begun to consider his life in the garden of Kousminski when deciding what he was going to do, and remembered how confused he had become, how he could not arrive at any decision, how many difficulties each question had presented. He asked himself these questions now, and was surprised how simple it all was. It was simple because he was not thinking now of what would be the results for himself, but only thought of what he had to do. And, strange to say, what he had to do for himself he could not decide, but what he had to do for others he knew without any doubt. He had no doubt that he must not leave Katusha, but go on helping her. He had no doubt that he must study, investigate, clear up, understand all this business concerning judgment and punishment, which he felt he saw differently to other people. What would result from it all he did not know, but he knew for certain that he must do it. And this firm assurance gave him joy.

The black cloud had spread all over the sky; the lightning flashed vividly across the yard and the old house with its tumble-down porches, the thunder growled overhead. All the birds were silent, but the leaves rustled and the wind reached the step where Nekhludoff stood and played with his hair. One drop came down, then another; then they came drumming on the dock leaves and on the iron of the roof, and all the air was filled by a bright flash, and before Nekhludoff could count three a fearful crash sounded over head and spread pealing all over the sky.

Nekhludoff went in.

"Yes, yes," he thought. "The work that our life accomplishes, the whole of this work, the meaning of it is not, nor can be, intelligible to me. What were my aunts for? Why did Nikolenka Irtenieff die? Why am I living? What was Katusha for? And my madness? Why that war? Why my subsequent lawless life? To understand it, to understand the whole of the Master's will is not in my power. But to do His will, that is written down in my conscience, is in my power; that I know for certain. And when I am fulfilling it I have sureness and peace."

The rain came down in torrents and rushed from the roof into a tub beneath; the lightning lit up the house and yard less frequently. Nekhludoff went into his room, undressed, and lay down, not without fear of the bugs, whose presence the dirty, torn wall-papers made him suspect.

"Yes, to feel one's self not the master but a servant," he thought, and rejoiced at the thought. His fears were not vain. Hardly had he put out his candle when the vermin attacked and stung him. "To give up the land and go to Siberia. Fleas, bugs, dirt! Ah, well; if it must be borne, I shall bear it." But, in spite of the best of intentions, he could not bear it, and sat down by the open window and gazed with admiration at the retreating clouds and the reappearing moon.

BOOK II.

CHAPTER IX.


THE LAND SETTLEMENT.

It was morning before Nekhludoff could fall asleep, and therefore he woke up late. At noon seven men, chosen from among the peasants at the foreman's invitation, came into the orchard, where the foreman had arranged a table and benches by digging posts into the ground, and fixing boards on the top, under the apple trees. It took some time before the peasants could be persuaded to put on their caps and to sit down on the benches. Especially firm was the ex-soldier, who to-day had bark shoes on. He stood erect, holding his cap as they do at funerals, according to military regulation. When one of them, a respectable-looking, broad-shouldered old man, with a curly, grizzly beard like that of Michael Angelo's "Moses," and grey hair that curled round the brown, bald forehead, put on his big cap, and, wrapping his coat round him, got in behind the table and sat down, the rest followed his example. When all had taken their places Nekhludoff sat down opposite them, and leaning on the table over the paper on which he had drawn up his project, he began explaining it.

Whether it was that there were fewer present, or that he was occupied with the business in hand and not with himself, anyhow, this time Nekhludoff felt no confusion. He involuntarily addressed the broad-shouldered old man with white ringlets in his grizzly beard, expecting approbation or objections from him. But Nekhludoff's conjecture was wrong. The respectable-looking old patriarch, though he nodded his handsome head approvingly or shook it, and frowned when the others raised an objection, evidently understood with great difficulty, and only when the others repeated what Nekhludoff had said in their own words. A little, almost beardless old fellow, blind in one eye, who sat by the side of the patriarch, and had a patched nankeen coat and old boots on, and, as Nekhludoff found out later, was an oven-builder, understood much better. This man moved his brows quickly, attending to Nekhludoff's words with an effort, and at once repeated them in his own way. An old, thick-set man with a white beard and intelligent eyes understood as quickly, and took every opportunity to put in an ironical joke, clearly wishing to show off. The ex-soldier seemed also to understand matters, but got mixed, being used to senseless soldiers' talk. A tall man with a small beard, a long nose, and a bass voice, who wore clean, home-made clothes and new bark-plaited shoes, seemed to be the one most seriously interested. This man spoke only when there was need of it. The two other old men, the same toothless one who had shouted a distinct refusal at the meeting the day before to every proposal of Nekhludoff's, and a tall, white lame old man with a kind face, his thin legs tightly wrapped round with strips of linen, said little, though they listened attentively. First of all Nekhludoff explained his views in regard to personal property in land. "The land, according to my idea, can neither he bought nor sold, because if it could be, he who has got the money could buy it all, and exact anything he liked for the use of the land from those who have none."

"That's true," said the long-nosed man, in a deep bass.

"Just so," said the ex-soldier.

"A woman gathers a little grass for her cow; she's caught and imprisoned," said the white-bearded old man.

"Our own land is five versts away, and as to renting any it's impossible; the price is raised so high that it won't pay," added the cross, toothless old man. "They twist us into ropes, worse than during serfdom."

"I think as you do, and I count it a sin to possess land, so I wish to give it away," said Nekhludoff.

"Well, that's a good thing," said the old man, with curls like Angelo's "Moses," evidently thinking that Nekhludoff meant to let the land.

"I have come here because I no longer wish to possess any land, and now we must consider the best way of dividing it."

"Just give it to the peasants, that's all," said the cross, toothless old man.

Nekhludoff was abashed for a moment, feeling a suspicion of his not being honest in these words, but he instantly recovered, and made use of the remark, in order to express what was in his mind, in reply.

"I should be glad to give it them," he said, "but to whom, and how? To which of the peasants? Why, to your commune, and not to that of Deminsk." (That was the name of a neighbouring village with very little land.) All were silent. Then the ex-soldier said, "Just so."

"Now, then, tell me how would you divide the land among the peasants if you had to do it?" said Nekhludoff.

"We should divide it up equally, so much for every man," said the oven-builder, quickly raising and lowering his brows.

"How else? Of course, so much per man," said the good natured lame man with the white strips of linen round his legs.

Every one confirmed this statement, considering it satisfactory.

"So much per man? Then are the servants attached to the house also to have a share?" Nekhludoff asked.

"Oh, no," said the ex-soldier, trying to appear bold and merry. But the tall, reasonable man would not agree with him.

"If one is to divide, all must share alike," he said, in his deep bass, after a little consideration.

"It can't be done," said Nekhludoff, who had already prepared his reply. "If all are to share alike, then those who do not work themselves--do not plough--will sell their shares to the rich. The rich will again get at the land. Those who live by working the land will multiply, and land will again be scarce. Then the rich will again get those who need land into their power."

"Just so," quickly said the ex-soldier.

"Forbid to sell the land; let only him who ploughs it have it," angrily interrupted the oven-builder.

To this Nekhludoff replied that it was impossible to know who was ploughing for himself and who for another.

The tall, reasonable man proposed that an arrangement be made so that they should all plough communally, and those who ploughed should get the produce and those who did not should get nothing.

To this communistic project Nekhludoff had also an answer ready. He said that for such an arrangement it would be necessary that all should have ploughs, and that all the horses should be alike, so that none should be left behind, and that ploughs and horses and all the implements would have to be communal property, and that in order to get that, all the people would have to agree.

"Our people could not be made to agree in a lifetime," said the cross old man.

"We should have regular fights," said the white-bearded old man with the laughing eyes. "So that the thing is not as simple as it looks," said Nekhludoff, "and this is a thing not only we but many have been considering. There is an American, Henry George. This is what he has thought out, and I agree with him."

"Why, you are the master, and you give it as you like. What's it to you? The power is yours," said the cross old man.

This confused Nekhludoff, but he was pleased to see that not he alone was dissatisfied with this interruption.

You wait a bit, Uncle Simon; let him tell us about it," said the reasonable man, in his imposing bass.

This emboldened Nekhludoff, and he began to explain Henry George's single-tax system "The earth is no man's; it is God's," he began.

"Just so; that it is," several voices replied.

"The land is common to all. All have the same right to it, but there is good land and bad land, and every one would like to take the good land. How is one to do in order to get it justly divided? In this way: he that will use the good land must pay those who have got no land the value of the land he uses," Nekhludoff went on, answering his own question. "As it would be difficult to say who should pay whom, and money is needed for communal use, it should be arranged that he who uses the good land should pay the amount of the value of his land to the commune for its needs. Then every one would share equally. If you want to use land pay for it--more for the good, less for the bad land. If you do not wish to use land, don't pay anything, and those who use the land will pay the taxes and the communal expenses for you."

"Well, he had a head, this George," said the oven-builder, moving his brows. "He who has good land must pay more."

"If only the payment is according to our strength," said the tall man with the bass voice, evidently foreseeing how the matter would end.

"The payment should be not too high and not too low. If it is too high it will not get paid, and there will be a loss; and if it is too low it will be bought and sold. There would be a trading in land. This is what I wished to arrange among you here."

"That is just, that is right; yes, that would do," said the peasants.

"He has a head, this George," said the broad-shouldered old man with the curls. "See what he has invented."

"Well, then, how would it be if I wished to take some land?" asked the smiling foreman.

"If there is an allotment to spare, take it and work it," said Nekhludoff.

"What do you want it for? You have sufficient as it is," said the old man with the laughing eyes.

With this the conference ended.

Nekhludoff repeated his offer, and advised the men to talk it over with the rest of the commune and to return with the answer.

The peasants said they would talk it over and bring an answer, and left in a state of excitement. Their loud talk was audible as they went along the road, and up to late in the night the sound of voices came along the river from the village.

The next day the peasants did not go to work, but spent it in considering the landlord's offer. The commune was divided into two parties--one which regarded the offer as a profitable one to themselves and saw no danger in agreeing with it, and another which suspected and feared the offer it did not understand. On the third day, however, all agreed, and some were sent to Nekhludoff to accept his offer. They were influenced in their decision by the explanation some of the old men gave of the landlord's conduct, which did away with all fear of deceit. They thought the gentleman had begun to consider his soul, and was acting as he did for its salvation. The alms which Nekhludoff had given away while in Panovo made his explanation seem likely. The fact that Nekhludoff had never before been face to face with such great poverty and so bare a life as the peasants had come to in this place, and was so appalled by it, made him give away money in charity, though he knew that this was not reasonable. He could not help giving the money, of which he now had a great deal, having received a large sum for the forest he had sold the year before, and also the hand money for the implements and stock in Kousminski. As soon as it was known that the master was giving money in charity, crowds of people, chiefly women, began to come to ask him for help. He did not in the least know how to deal with them, how to decide, how much, and whom to give to. He felt that to refuse to give money, of which he had a great deal, to poor people was impossible, yet to give casually to those who asked was not wise. The last day he spent in Panovo, Nekhludoff looked over the things left in his aunts' house, and in the bottom drawer of the mahogany wardrobe, with the brass lions' heads with rings through them, he found many letters, and amongst them a photograph of a group, consisting of his aunts, Sophia Ivanovna and Mary Ivanovna, a student, and Katusha. Of all the things in the house he took only the letters and the photograph. The rest he left to the miller who, at the smiling foreman's recommendation, had bought the house and all it contained, to be taken down and carried away, at one-tenth of the real value.

Recalling the feeling of regret at the loss of his property which he had felt in Kousminski, Nekhludoff was surprised how he could have felt this regret. Now he felt nothing but unceasing joy at the deliverance, and a sensation of newness something like that which a traveller must experience when discovering new countries.

BOOK II.

CHAPTER X.


NEKHLUDOFF RETURNS TO TOWN.

The town struck Nekhludoff in a new and peculiar light on his return. He came back in the evening, when the gas was lit, and drove from the railway station to his house, where the rooms still smelt of naphthaline. Agraphena Petrovna and Corney were both feeling tired and dissatisfied, and had even had a quarrel over those things that seemed made only to be aired and packed away. Nekhludoff's room was empty, but not in order, and the way to it was blocked up with boxes, so that his arrival evidently hindered the business which, owing to a curious kind of inertia, was going on in this house. The evident folly of these proceedings, in which he had once taken part, was so distasteful to Nekhludoff after the impressions the misery of the life of the peasants had made on him, that he decided to go to a hotel the next day, leaving Agraphena Petrovna to put away the things as she thought fit until his sister should come and finally dispose of everything in the house.

Nekhludoff left home early and chose a couple of rooms in a very modest and not particularly clean lodging-house within easy reach of the prison, and, having given orders that some of his things should be sent there, he went to see the advocate. It was cold out of doors. After some rainy and stormy weather it had turned out cold, as it often does in spring. It was so cold that Nekhludoff felt quite chilly in his light overcoat, and walked fast hoping to get warmer. His mind was filled with thoughts of the peasants, the women, children, old men, and all the poverty and weariness which he seemed to have seen for the first time, especially the smiling, old-faced infant writhing with his calfless little legs, and he could not help contrasting what was going on in the town. Passing by the butchers', fishmongers', and clothiers' shops, he was struck, as if he saw them for the first time, by the appearance of the clean, well-fed shopkeepers, like whom you could not find one peasant in the country. These men were apparently convinced that the pains they took to deceive the people who did not know much about their goods was not a useless but rather an important business. The coachmen with their broad hips and rows of buttons down their sides, and the door-keepers with gold cords on their caps, the servant-girls with their aprons and curly fringes, and especially the smart isvostchiks with the nape of their necks clean shaved, as they sat lolling back in their traps, and examined the passers-by with dissolute and contemptuous air, looked well fed. In all these people Nekhludoff could not now help seeing some of these very peasants who had been driven into the town by lack of land. Some of the peasants driven to the town had found means of profiting by the conditions of town life and had become like the gentlefolk and were pleased with their position; others were in a worse position than they had been in the country and were more to be pitied than the country people.

Such seemed the bootmakers Nekhludoff saw in the cellar, the pale, dishevelled washerwomen with their thin, bare, arms ironing at an open window, out of which streamed soapy steam; such the two house-painters with their aprons, stockingless feet, all bespattered and smeared with paint, whom Nekhludoff met--their weak, brown arms bared to above the elbows--carrying a pailful of paint, and quarrelling with each other. Their faces looked haggard and cross. The dark faces of the carters jolting along in their carts bore the same expression, and so did the faces of the tattered men and women who stood begging at the street corners. The same kind of faces were to be seen at the open, windows of the eating-houses which Nekhludoff passed. By the dirty tables on which stood tea things and bottles, and between which waiters dressed in white shirts were rushing hither and thither, sat shouting and singing red, perspiring men with stupefied faces. One sat by the window with lifted brows and pouting lips and fixed eyes as if trying to remember something.

"And why are they all gathered here?" Nekhludoff thought, breathing in together with the dust which the cold wind blew towards him the air filled with the smell of rank oil and fresh paint.

In one street he met a row of carts loaded with something made of iron, that rattled so on the uneven pavement that it made his ears and head ache. He started walking still faster in order to pass the row of carts, when he heard himself called by name. He stopped and saw an officer with sharp pointed moustaches and shining face who sat in the trap of a swell isvostchik and waved his hand in a friendly manner, his smile disclosing unusually long, white teeth.

"Nekhludoff! Can it be you?"

Nekhludoff's first feeling was one of pleasure. "Ah, Schonbock!" he exclaimed joyfully; but he knew the next moment that there was nothing to be joyful about.

This was that Schonbock who had been in the house of Nekhludoff's aunts that day, and whom Nekhludoff had quite lost out of sight, but about whom he had heard that in spite of his debts he had somehow managed to remain in the cavalry, and by some means or other still kept his place among the rich. His gay, contented appearance corroborated this report.

"What a good thing that I have caught you. There is no one in town. Ah, old fellow; you have grown old," he said, getting out of the trap and moving his shoulders about. "I only knew you by your walk. Look here, we must dine together. Is there any place where they feed one decently?"

"I don't think I can spare the time," Nekhludoff answered, thinking only of how he could best get rid of his companion without hurting him.

"And what has brought you here?" he asked.

"Business, old fellow. Guardianship business. I am a guardian now. I am managing Samanoff's affairs--the millionaire, you know. He has softening of the brain, and he's got fifty-four thousand desiatins of land," he said, with peculiar pride, as if he had himself made all these desiatins. "The affairs were terribly neglected. All the land was let to the peasants. They did not pay anything. There were more than eighty thousand roubles debts. I changed it all in one year, and have got 70 per cent. more out of it. What do you think of that?" he asked proudly.

Nekhludoff remembered having heard that this Schonbock, just because, he had spent all he had, had attained by some special influence the post of guardian to a rich old man who was squandering his property--and was now evidently living by this guardianship.

"How am I to get rid of him without offending him?" thought Nekhludoff, looking at this full, shiny face with the stiffened moustache and listening to his friendly, good-humoured chatter about where one gets fed best, and his bragging about his doings as a guardian.

"Well, then, where do we dine?"

"Really, I have no time to spare," said Nekhludoff, glancing at his watch.

"Then, look here. To-night, at the races--will you be there?"

"No, I shall not be there."

"Do come. I have none of my own now, but I back Grisha's horses. You remember; he has a fine stud. You'll come, won't you? And we'll have some supper together."

"No, I cannot have supper with you either," said Nekhludoff with a smile.

"Well, that's too bad! And where are you off to now? Shall I give you a lift?"

"I am going to see an advocate, close to here round the corner."

"Oh, yes, of course. You have got something to do with the prisons--have turned into a prisoners' mediator, I hear," said Schonbock, laughing. "The Korchagins told me. They have left town already. What does it all mean? Tell me."

"Yes, yes, it is quite true," Nekhludoff answered; "but I cannot tell you about it in the street."

"Of course; you always were a crank. But you will come to the races?"

"No. I neither can nor wish to come. Please do not be angry with me."

"Angry? Dear me, no. Where do you live?" And suddenly his face became serious, his eyes fixed, and he drew up his brows. He seemed to be trying to remember something, and Nekhludoff noticed the same dull expression as that of the man with the raised brows and pouting lips whom he had seen at the window of the eating-house.

"How cold it is! Is it not? Have you got the parcels?" said Schonbock, turning to the isvostchik.

"All right. Good-bye. I am very glad indeed to have met you," and warmly pressing Nekhludoff's hand, he jumped into the trap and waved his white-gloved hand in front of his shiny face, with his usual smile, showing his exceptionally white teeth.

"Can I have also been like that?" Nekhludoff thought, as he continued his way to the advocate's. "Yes, I wished to be like that, though I was not quite like it. And I thought of living my life in that way."


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