“Yes, that may all be very true and clever.... Lie down, Krak!” Stepan Arkadyevitch called to his dog, who was scratching and turning over all the hay. He was obviously convinced of the correctness of his position, and so talked serenely and without haste. “But you have not drawn the line between honest and dishonest work. That I receive a bigger salary than my chief clerk, though he knows more about the work than I do—that’s dishonest, I suppose?”
“I can’t say.”
“Well, but I can tell you: your receiving some five thousand, let’s say, for your work on the land, while our host, the peasant here, however hard he works, can never get more than fifty roubles, is just as dishonest as my earning more than my chief clerk, and Malthus getting more than a station-master. No, quite the contrary; I see that society takes up a sort of antagonistic attitude to these people, which is utterly baseless, and I fancy there’s envy at the bottom of it....”
“No, that’s unfair,” said Veslovsky; “how could envy come in? There is something not nice about that sort of business.”
“You say,” Levin went on, “that it’s unjust for me to receive five thousand, while the peasant has fifty; that’s true. It is unfair, and I feel it, but...”
“It really is. Why is it we spend our time riding, drinking, shooting, doing nothing, while they are forever at work?” said Vassenka Veslovsky, obviously for the first time in his life reflecting on the question, and consequently considering it with perfect sincerity.
“Yes, you feel it, but you don’t give him your property,” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, intentionally, as it seemed, provoking Levin.
There had arisen of late something like a secret antagonism between the two brothers-in-law; as though, since they had married sisters, a kind of rivalry had sprung up between them as to which was ordering his life best, and now this hostility showed itself in the conversation, as it began to take a personal note.
“I don’t give it away, because no one demands that from me, and if I wanted to, I could not give it away,” answered Levin, “and have no one to give it to.”
“Give it to this peasant, he would not refuse it.”
“Yes, but how am I to give it up? Am I to go to him and make a deed of conveyance?”
“I don’t know; but if you are convinced that you have no right...”
“I’m not at all convinced. On the contrary, I feel I have no right to give it up, that I have duties both to the land and to my family.”
“No, excuse me, but if you consider this inequality is unjust, why is it you don’t act accordingly?...”
“Well, I do act negatively on that idea, so far as not trying to increase the difference of position existing between him and me.”
“No, excuse me, that’s a paradox.”
“Yes, there’s something of a sophistry about that,” Veslovsky agreed. “Ah! our host; so you’re not asleep yet?” he said to the peasant who came into the barn, opening the creaking door. “How is it you’re not asleep?”