Sergey Ivanovitch did not answer. He was carefully with a blunt knife getting a live bee covered with sticky honey out of a cup full of white honeycomb.
“I should think so! You should have seen what was going on at the station yesterday!” said Katavasov, biting with a juicy sound into a cucumber.
“Well, what is one to make of it? For mercy’s sake, do explain to me, Sergey Ivanovitch, where are all those volunteers going, whom are they fighting with?” asked the old prince, unmistakably taking up a conversation that had sprung up in Levin’s absence.
“With the Turks,” Sergey Ivanovitch answered, smiling serenely, as he extricated the bee, dark with honey and helplessly kicking, and put it with the knife on a stout aspen leaf.
“But who has declared war on the Turks?—Ivan Ivanovitch Ragozov and Countess Lidia Ivanovna, assisted by Madame Stahl?”
“No one has declared war, but people sympathize with their neighbors’ sufferings and are eager to help them,” said Sergey Ivanovitch.
“But the prince is not speaking of help,” said Levin, coming to the assistance of his father-in-law, “but of war. The prince says that private persons cannot take part in war without the permission of the government.”
“Kostya, mind, that’s a bee! Really, they’ll sting us!” said Dolly, waving away a wasp.
“But that’s not a bee, it’s a wasp,” said Levin.
“Well now, well, what’s your own theory?” Katavasov said to Levin with a smile, distinctly challenging him to a discussion. “Why have not private persons the right to do so?”
“Oh, my theory’s this: war is on one side such a beastly, cruel, and awful thing, that no one man, not to speak of a Christian, can individually take upon himself the responsibility of beginning wars; that can only be done by a government, which is called upon to do this, and is driven inevitably into war. On the other hand, both political science and common sense teach us that in matters of state, and especially in the matter of war, private citizens must forego their personal individual will.”
Sergey Ivanovitch and Katavasov had their replies ready, and both began speaking at the same time.
“But the point is, my dear fellow, that there may be cases when the government does not carry out the will of the citizens and then the public asserts its will,” said Katavasov.
But evidently Sergey Ivanovitch did not approve of this answer. His brows contracted at Katavasov’s words and he said something else.
“You don’t put the matter in its true light. There is no question here of a declaration of war, but simply the expression of a human Christian feeling. Our brothers, one with us in religion and in race, are being massacred. Even supposing they were not our brothers nor fellow-Christians, but simply children, women, old people, feeling is aroused and Russians go eagerly to help in stopping these atrocities. Fancy, if you were going along the street and saw drunken men beating a woman or a child—I imagine you would not stop to inquire whether war had been declared on the men, but would throw yourself on them, and protect the victim.”