Anna Karenina eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 1,311 pages of information about Anna Karenina.

“That’s the new generation of nobility.”

“New it may be, but nobility it isn’t.  They’re proprietors of a sort, but we’re the landowners.  As noblemen, they’re cutting their own throats.”

“But you say it’s an institution that’s served its time.”

“That it may be, but still it ought to be treated a little more respectfully.  Snetkov, now...We may be of use, or we may not, but we’re the growth of a thousand years.  If we’re laying out a garden, planning one before the house, you know, and there you’ve a tree that’s stood for centuries in the very spot....  Old and gnarled it may be, and yet you don’t cut down the old fellow to make room for the flowerbeds, but lay out your beds so as to take advantage of the tree.  You won’t grow him again in a year,” he said cautiously, and he immediately changed the conversation.  “Well, and how is your land doing?”

“Oh, not very well.  I make five per cent.”

“Yes, but you don’t reckon your own work.  Aren’t you worth something too?  I’ll tell you my own case.  Before I took to seeing after the land, I had a salary of three hundred pounds from the service.  Now I do more work than I did in the service, and like you I get five per cent. on the land, and thank God for that.  But one’s work is thrown in for nothing.”

“Then why do you do it, if it’s a clear loss?”

“Oh, well, one does it!  What would you have?  It’s habit, and one knows it’s how it should be.  And what’s more,” the landowner went on, leaning his elbows on the window and chatting on, “my son, I must tell you, has no taste for it.  There’s no doubt he’ll be a scientific man.  So there’ll be no one to keep it up.  And yet one does it.  Here this year I’ve planted an orchard.”

“Yes, yes,” said Levin, “that’s perfectly true.  I always feel there’s no real balance of gain in my work on the land, and yet one does it....  It’s a sort of duty one feels to the land.”

“But I tell you what,” the landowner pursued; “a neighbor of mine, a merchant, was at my place.  We walked about the fields and the garden.  ‘No,’ said he, ’Stepan Vassilievitch, everything’s well looked after, but your garden’s neglected.’  But, as a fact, it’s well kept up.  ’To my thinking, I’d cut down that lime-tree.  Here you’ve thousands of limes, and each would make two good bundles of bark.  And nowadays that bark’s worth something.  I’d cut down the lot.’”

“And with what he made he’d increase his stock, or buy some land for a trifle, and let it out in lots to the peasants,” Levin added, smiling.  He had evidently more than once come across those commercial calculations.  “And he’d make his fortune.  But you and I must thank God if we keep what we’ve got and leave it to our children.”

“You’re married, I’ve heard?” said the landowner.

“Yes,” Levin answered, with proud satisfaction.  “Yes, it’s rather strange,” he went on.  “So we live without making anything, as though we were ancient vestals set to keep in a fire.”

Project Gutenberg
Anna Karenina from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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