“Why is it you can do nothing? You made an attempt and didn’t succeed, as you think, and you give in. How can you have so little self-respect?”
“Self-respect!” said Levin, stung to the quick by his brother’s words; “I don’t understand. If they’d told me at college that other people understood the integral calculus, and I didn’t, then pride would have come in. But in this case one wants first to be convinced that one has certain qualifications for this sort of business, and especially that all this business is of great importance.”
“What! do you mean to say it’s not of importance?” said Sergey Ivanovitch, stung to the quick too at his brother’s considering anything of no importance that interested him, and still more at his obviously paying little attention to what he was saying.
“I don’t think it important; it does not take hold of me, I can’t help it,” answered Levin, making out that what he saw was the bailiff, and that the bailiff seemed to be letting the peasants go off the ploughed land. They were turning the plough over. “Can they have finished ploughing?” he wondered.
“Come, really though,” said the elder brother, with a frown on his handsome, clever face, “there’s a limit to everything. It’s very well to be original and genuine, and to dislike everything conventional—I know all about that; but really, what you’re saying either has no meaning, or it has a very wrong meaning. How can you think it a matter of no importance whether the peasant, whom you love as you assert...”
“I never did assert it,” thought Konstantin Levin.
“...dies without help? The ignorant peasant-women starve the children, and the people stagnate in darkness, and are helpless in the hands of every village clerk, while you have at your disposal a means of helping them, and don’t help them because to your mind it’s of no importance.”
And Sergey Ivanovitch put before him the alternative: either you are so undeveloped that you can’t see all that you can do, or you won’t sacrifice your ease, your vanity, or whatever it is, to do it.
Konstantin Levin felt that there was no course open to him but to submit, or to confess to a lack of zeal for the public good. And this mortified him and hurt his feelings.
“It’s both,” he said resolutely: “I don’t see that it was possible...”
“What! was it impossible, if the money were properly laid out, to provide medical aid?”
“Impossible, as it seems to me.... For the three thousand square miles of our district, what with our thaws, and the storms, and the work in the fields, I don’t see how it is possible to provide medical aid all over. And besides, I don’t believe in medicine.”
“Oh, well, that’s unfair...I can quote to you thousands of instances.... But the schools, anyway.”
“Why have schools?”
“What do you mean? Can there be two opinions of the advantage of education? If it’s a good thing for you, it’s a good thing for everyone.”