“‘I bring not peace, but a sword,’ says Christ,” Sergey Ivanovitch rejoined for his part, quoting as simply as though it were the easiest thing to understand the very passage that had always puzzled Levin most.
“That’s so, no doubt,” the old man repeated again. He was standing near them and responded to a chance glance turned in his direction.
“Ah, my dear fellow, you’re defeated, utterly defeated!” cried Katavasov good-humoredly.
Levin reddened with vexation, not at being defeated, but at having failed to control himself and being drawn into argument.
“No, I can’t argue with them,” he thought; “they wear impenetrable armor, while I’m naked.”
He saw that it was impossible to convince his brother and Katavasov, and he saw even less possibility of himself agreeing with them. What they advocated was the very pride of intellect that had almost been his ruin. He could not admit that some dozens of men, among them his brother, had the right, on the ground of what they were told by some hundreds of glib volunteers swarming to the capital, to say that they and the newspapers were expressing the will and feeling of the people, and a feeling which was expressed in vengeance and murder. He could not admit this, because he neither saw the expression of such feelings in the people among whom he was living, nor found them in himself (and he could not but consider himself one of the persons making up the Russian people), and most of all because he, like the people, did not know and could not know what is for the general good, though he knew beyond a doubt that this general good could be attained only by the strict observance of that law of right and wrong which has been revealed to every man, and therefore he could not wish for war or advocate war for any general objects whatever. He said as Mihalitch did and the people, who had expressed their feeling in the traditional invitations of the Varyagi: “Be princes and rule over us. Gladly we promise complete submission. All the labor, all humiliations, all sacrifices we take upon ourselves; but we will not judge and decide.” And now, according to Sergey Ivanovitch’s account, the people had foregone this privilege they had bought at such a costly price.
He wanted to say too that if public opinion were an infallible guide, then why were not revolutions and the commune as lawful as the movement in favor of the Slavonic peoples? But these were merely thoughts that could settle nothing. One thing could be seen beyond doubt—that was that at the actual moment the discussion was irritating Sergey Ivanovitch, and so it was wrong to continue it. And Levin ceased speaking and then called the attention of his guests to the fact that the storm clouds were gathering, and that they had better be going home before it rained.
The old prince and Sergey Ivanovitch got into the trap and drove off; the rest of the party hastened homewards on foot.