When on the evening that he arrived home he informed the bailiff of his plans, the latter with visible pleasure agreed with what he said so long as he was pointing out that all that had been done up to that time was stupid and useless. The bailiff said that he had said so a long while ago, but no heed had been paid him. But as for the proposal made by Levin—to take a part as shareholder with his laborers in each agricultural undertaking— at this the bailiff simply expressed a profound despondency, and offered no definite opinion, but began immediately talking of the urgent necessity of carrying the remaining sheaves of rye the next day, and of sending the men out for the second ploughing, so that Levin felt that this was not the time for discussing it.
On beginning to talk to the peasants about it, and making a proposition to cede them the land on new terms, he came into collision with the same great difficulty that they were so much absorbed by the current work of the day, that they had not time to consider the advantages and disadvantages of the proposed scheme.
The simple-hearted Ivan, the cowherd, seemed completely to grasp Levin’s proposal—that he should with his family take a share of the profits of the cattle-yard—and he was in complete sympathy with the plan. But when Levin hinted at the future advantages, Ivan’s face expressed alarm and regret that he could not hear all he had to say, and he made haste to find himself some task that would admit of no delay: he either snatched up the fork to pitch the hay out of the pens, or ran to get water or to clear out the dung.
Another difficulty lay in the invincible disbelief of the peasant that a landowner’s object could be anything else than a desire to squeeze all he could out of them. They were firmly convinced that his real aim (whatever he might say to them) would always be in what he did not say to them. And they themselves, in giving their opinion, said a great deal but never said what was their real object. Moreover (Levin felt that the irascible landowner had been right) the peasants made their first and unalterable condition of any agreement whatever that they should not be forced to any new methods of tillage of any kind, nor to use new implements. They agreed that the modern plough ploughed better, that the scarifier did the work more quickly, but they found thousands of reasons that made it out of the question for them to use either of them; and though he had accepted the conviction that he would have to lower the standard of cultivation, he felt sorry to give up improved methods, the advantages of which were so obvious. But in spite of all these difficulties he got his way, and by autumn the system was working, or at least so it seemed to him.