Levin had read Katavasov some parts of his book, and he had liked them. On the previous day Katavasov had met Levin at a public lecture and told him that the celebrated Metrov, whose article Levin had so much liked, was in Moscow, that he had been much interested by what Katavasov had told him about Levin’s work, and that he was coming to see him tomorrow at eleven, and would be very glad to make Levin’s acquaintance.
“You’re positively a reformed character, I’m glad to see,” said Katavasov, meeting Levin in the little drawing room. “I heard the bell and thought: Impossible that it can be he at the exact time!... Well, what do you say to the Montenegrins now? They’re a race of warriors.”
“Why, what’s happened?” asked Levin.
Katavasov in a few words told him the last piece of news from the war, and going into his study, introduced Levin to a short, thick-set man of pleasant appearance. This was Metrov. The conversation touched for a brief space on politics and on how recent events were looked at in the higher spheres in Petersburg. Metrov repeated a saying that had reached him through a most trustworthy source, reported as having been uttered on this subject by the Tsar and one of the ministers. Katavasov had heard also on excellent authority that the Tsar had said something quite different. Levin tried to imagine circumstances in which both sayings might have been uttered, and the conversation on that topic dropped.
“Yes, here he’s written almost a book on the natural conditions of the laborer in relation to the land,” said Katavasov; “I’m not a specialist, but I, as a natural science man, was pleased at his not taking mankind as something outside biological laws; but, on the contrary, seeing his dependence on his surroundings, and in that dependence seeking the laws of his development.”
“That’s very interesting,” said Metrov.
“What I began precisely was to write a book on agriculture; but studying the chief instrument of agriculture, the laborer,” said Levin, reddening, “I could not help coming to quite unexpected results.”
And Levin began carefully, as it were, feeling his ground, to expound his views. He knew Metrov had written an article against the generally accepted theory of political economy, but to what extent he could reckon on his sympathy with his own new views he did not know and could not guess from the clever and serene face of the learned man.
“But in what do you see the special characteristics of the Russian laborer?” said Metrov; “in his biological characteristics, so to speak, or in the condition in which he is placed?”
Levin saw that there was an idea underlying this question with which he did not agree. But he went on explaining his own idea that the Russian laborer has a quite special view of the land, different from that of other people; and to support this proposition he made haste to add that in his opinion this attitude of the Russian peasant was due to the consciousness of his vocation to people vast unoccupied expanses in the East.