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Anna Karenina 139


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attention to what he was saying. "I dont think it important; it does not take hold of me, I cant help it," answered Levin, making out that what he saw was the bailiff, and that the bailiff seemed to be letting the peasants go off the ploughed land. They were turning the plough over. "Can they have finished ploughing?" he wondered. "Come, really though," said the elder brother, with a frown on his handsome, clever face, "theres a limit to everything. Its very well to be original and genuine, and to dislike everything conventional--I know all about that; but really, what youre saying either has no meaning, or it has a very wrong meaning. How can you think it a matter of no importance whether the peasant, whom you love as you assert..." "I never did assert it," thought Konstantin Levin. "...dies without help? The ignorant peasant-women starve the children, and the people stagnate in darkness, and are helpless in the hands of every village clerk, while you have at your disposal a means of helping them, and dont help them because to your mind its of no importance." And Sergey Ivanovitch put before him the alternative: either you are so undeveloped that you cant see all that you can do, or you wont sacrifice your ease, your vanity, or whatever it is, to do it. Konstantin Levin felt that there was no course open to him but to submit, or to confess to a lack of zeal for the public good. And this mortified him and hurt his feelings. "Its both," he said resolutely: "I dont see that it was possible..." "What! was it impossible, if the money were properly laid out, to provide medical aid?" "Impossible, as it seems to me.... For the three thousand square miles of our district, what with our thaws, and the storms, and the work in the fields, I dont see how it is possible to provide medical aid all over. And besides, I dont believe in medicine." "Oh, well, thats unfair...I can quote to you thousands of instances.... But the schools, anyway." "Why have schools?" "What do you mean? Can there be two opinions of the advantage of education? If its a good thing for you, its a good thing for everyone." Konstantin Levin felt himself morally pinned against a wall, and so he got hot, and unconsciously blurted out the chief cause of his indifference to public business. "Perhaps it may all be very good; but why should I worry myself about establishing dispensaries which I shall never make use of, and schools to which I shall never send my children, to which even the peasants dont want to send their children, and to which Ive no very firm faith that they ought to send them?" said he. Sergey Ivanovitch was for a minute surprised at this unexpected view of the subject; but he promptly made a new plan of attack. He was silent for a little, drew out a hook, threw it in again, and turned to his brother smiling. "Come, now.... In the first place, the dispensary is needed. We ourselves sent for the district doctor for Agafea Mihalovna." "Oh, well, but I fancy her wrist will never be straight again." "That remains to be proved.... Next, the peasant who can read and write is as a workman of more use and value to you." "No, you can ask anyone you like," Konstantin Levin answered with decision, "the man that can read and write is much inferior as a workman. And mending the highroads is an impossibility; and as soon as they put up bridges theyre stolen." "Still, thats not the point," said Sergey Ivanovitch, frowning. He disliked contradiction, and still more, arguments that were continually skipping from one thing to another, introducing new and disconnected points, so that there was no knowing to which to reply. "Do you admit that education is a benefit for the people?" "Yes, I admit it," said Levin without thinking, and he was conscious immediately that he had said what he did not think. He felt that if he admitted that, it would be proved that he had been talking meaningless rubbish. How it would be proved he could not tell, but he knew that this would inevitably be logically proved to him, and he awaited the proofs. The argument turned out to be far simpler than he had expected. "If you admit that it is a benefit," said Sergey Ivanovitch, "then, as an honest man, you cannot help caring about it and sympathizing

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