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Anna Karenina 193


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system with hired labor," said Sviazhsky. "Weve no power over them. With whom am I going to work the system, allow me to ask?" "There it is--the labor force--the chief element in agriculture," thought Levin. "With laborers." "The laborers wont work well, and wont work with good implements. Our laborer can do nothing but get drunk like a pig, and when hes drunk he ruins everything you give him. He makes the horses ill with too much water, cuts good harness, barters the tires of the wheels for drink, drops bits of iron into the thrashing machine, so as to break it. He loathes the sight of anything thats not after his fashion. And thats how it is the whole level of husbandry has fallen. Lands gone out of cultivation, overgrown with weeds, or divided among the peasants, and where millions of bushels were raised you get a hundred thousand; the wealth of the country has decreased. If the same thing had been done, but with care that..." And he proceeded to unfold his own scheme of emancipation by means of which these drawbacks might have been avoided. This did not interest Levin, but when he had finished, Levin went back to his first position, and, addressing Sviazhsky, and trying to draw him into expressing his serious opinion:-- "That the standard of culture is falling, and that with our present relations to the peasants there is no possibility of farming on a rational system to yield a profit--thats perfectly true," said he. "I dont believe it," Sviazhsky replied quite seriously; "all I see is that we dont know how to cultivate the land, and that our system of agriculture in the serf days was by no means too high, but too low. We have no machines, no good stock, no efficient supervision; we dont even know how to keep accounts. Ask any landowner; he wont be able to tell you what crops profitable, and whats not." "Italian bookkeeping," said the gentleman of the gray whiskers ironically. "You may keep your books as you like, but if they spoil everything for you, there wont be any profit." "Why do they spoil things? A poor thrashing machine, or your Russian presser, they will break, but my steam press they dont break. A wretched Russian nag theyll ruin, but keep good dray-horses--they wont ruin them. And so it is all round. We must raise our farming to a higher level." "Oh, if one only had the means to do it, Nikolay Ivanovitch! Its all very well for you; but for me, with a son to keep at the university, lads to be educated at the high school--how am I going to buy these dray-horses?" "Well, thats what the land banks are for." "To get whats left me sold by auction? No, thank you." "I dont agree that its necessary or possible to raise the level of agriculture still higher," said Levin. "I devote myself to it, and I have means, but I can do nothing. As to the banks, I dont know to whom theyre any good. For my part, anyway, whatever Ive spent money on in the way of husbandry, it has been a loss: stock--a loss, machinery--a loss." "Thats true enough," the gentleman with the gray whiskers chimed in, positively laughing with satisfaction. "And Im not the only one," pursued Levin. "I mix with all the neighboring landowners, who are cultivating their land on a rational system; they all, with rare exceptions, are doing so at a loss. Come, tell us how does your land do--does it pay?" said Levin, and at once in Sviazhskys eyes he detected that fleeting expression of alarm which he had noticed whenever he had tried to penetrate beyond the outer chambers of Sviazhskys mind. Moreover, this question on Levins part was not quite in good faith. Madame Sviazhskaya had just told him at tea that they had that summer invited a German expert in bookkeeping from Moscow, who for a consideration of five hundred roubles had investigated the management of their property, and found that it was costing them a loss of three thousand odd roubles. She did not remember the precise sum, but it appeared that the German had worked it out to the fraction of a farthing. The gray-whiskered landowner smiled at the mention of the profits of Sviazhskys famling, obviously aware how much gain his neighbor and marshal was likely to be making. "Possibly it does not pay," answered Sviazhsky. "That merely proves either

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