Gradually, as he rode towards the meadow, the peasants came into sight, some in coats, some in their shirts mowing, one behind another in a long string, swinging their scythes differently. He counted forty-two of them.
They were mowing slowly over the uneven, low-lying parts of the meadow, where there had been an old dam. Levin recognized some of his own men. Here was old Yermil in a very long white smock, bending forward to swing a scythe; there was a young fellow, Vaska, who had been a coachman of Levin’s, taking every row with a wide sweep. Here, too, was Tit, Levin’s preceptor in the art of mowing, a thin little peasant. He was in front of all, and cut his wide row without bending, as though playing with the scythe.
Levin got off his mare, and fastening her up by the roadside went to meet Tit, who took a second scythe out of a bush and gave it to him.
“It’s ready, sir; it’s like a razor, cuts of itself,” said Tit, taking off his cap with a smile and giving him the scythe.
Levin took the scythe, and began trying it. As they finished their rows, the mowers, hot and good-humored, came out into the road one after another, and, laughing a little, greeted the master. They all stared at him, but no one made any remark, till a tall old man, with a wrinkled, beardless face, wearing a short sheepskin jacket, came out into the road and accosted him.
“Look’ee now, master, once take hold of the rope there’s no letting it go!” he said, and Levin heard smothered laughter among the mowers.
“I’ll try not to let it go,” he said, taking his stand behind Tit, and waiting for the time to begin.
“Mind’ee,” repeated the old man.
Tit made room, and Levin started behind him. The grass was short close to the road, and Levin, who had not done any mowing for a long while, and was disconcerted by the eyes fastened upon him, cut badly for the first moments, though he swung his scythe vigorously. Behind him he heard voices:
“It’s not set right; handle’s too high; see how he has to stoop to it,” said one.
“Press more on the heel,” said another.
“Never mind, he’ll get on all right,” the old man resumed.
“He’s made a start.... You swing it too wide, you’ll tire yourself out.... The master, sure, does his best for himself! But see the grass missed out! For such work us fellows would catch it!”
The grass became softer, and Levin, listening without answering, followed Tit, trying to do the best he could. They moved a hundred paces. Tit kept moving on, without stopping, not showing the slightest weariness, but Levin was already beginning to be afraid he would not be able to keep it up: he was so tired.