“Good-day, Vassily,” he said, walking into the corridor with his hat cocked on one side, and addressing a footman he knew; “why, you’ve let your whiskers grow! Levin, number seven, eh? Take me up, please. And find out whether Count Anitchkin” (this was the new head) “is receiving.”
“Yes, sir,” Vassily responded, smiling. “You’ve not been to see us for a long while.”
“I was here yesterday, but at the other entrance. Is this number seven?”
Levin was standing with a peasant from Tver in the middle of the room, measuring a fresh bearskin, when Stepan Arkadyevitch went in.
“What! you killed him?” cried Stepan Arkadyevitch. “Well done! A she-bear? How are you, Arhip!”
He shook hands with the peasant and sat down on the edge of a chair, without taking off his coat and hat.
“Come, take off your coat and stay a little,” said Levin, taking his hat.
“No, I haven’t time; I’ve only looked in for a tiny second,” answered Stepan Arkadyevitch. He threw open his coat, but afterwards did take it off, and sat on for a whole hour, talking to Levin about hunting and the most intimate subjects.
“Come, tell me, please, what you did abroad? Where have you been?” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, when the peasant had gone.
“Oh, I stayed in Germany, in Prussia, in France, and in England— not in the capitals, but in the manufacturing towns, and saw a great deal that was new to me. And I’m glad I went.”
“Yes, I knew your idea of the solution of the labor question.”
“Not a bit: in Russia there can be no labor question. In Russia the question is that of the relation of the working people to the land; though the question exists there too—but there it’s a matter of repairing what’s been ruined, while with us...”
Stepan Arkadyevitch listened attentively to Levin.
“Yes, yes!” he said, “it’s very possible you’re right. But I’m glad you’re in good spirits, and are hunting bears, and working, and interested. Shtcherbatsky told me another story—he met you—that you were in such a depressed state, talking of nothing but death....”
“Well, what of it? I’ve not given up thinking of death,” said Levin. “It’s true that it’s high time I was dead; and that all this is nonsense. It’s the truth I’m telling you. I do value my idea and my work awfully; but in reality only consider this: all this world of ours is nothing but a speck of mildew, which has grown up on a tiny planet. And for us to suppose we can have something great—ideas, work—it’s all dust and ashes.”
“But all that’s as old as the hills, my boy!”
“It is old; but do you know, when you grasp this fully, then somehow everything becomes of no consequence. When you understand that you will die tomorrow, if not today, and nothing will be left, then everything is so unimportant! And I consider my idea very important, but it turns out really to be as unimportant too, even if it were carried out, as doing for that bear. So one goes on living, amusing oneself with hunting, with work—anything so as not to think of death!”