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Part 2 Chapter 1

PROPERTY IN LAND.

It was possible for Maslova's case to come before the Senate in a fortnight, at which time Nekhludoff meant to go to Petersburg, and, if need be, to appeal to the Emperor (as the advocate who had drawn up the petition advised) should the appeal be disregarded (and, according to the advocate, it was best to be prepared for that, since the causes for appeal were so slight). The party of convicts, among whom was Maslova, would very likely leave in the beginning of June. In order to be able to follow her to Siberia, as Nekhludoff was firmly resolved to do, he was now obliged to visit his estates, and settle matters there. Nekhludoff first went to the nearest, Kousminski, a large estate that lay in the black earth district, and from which he derived the greatest part of his income.

He had lived on that estate in his childhood and youth, and had been there twice since, and once, at his mother's request, he had taken a German steward there, and had with him verified the accounts. The state of things there and the peasants' relations to the management, i.e., the landlord, had therefore been long known to him. The relations of the peasants to the administration were those of utter dependence on that management. Nekhludoff knew all this when still a university student, he had confessed and preached Henry Georgeism, and, on the basis of that teaching, had given the land inherited from his father to the peasants. It is true that after entering the army, when he got into the habit of spending 20,000 roubles a year, those former occupations ceased to be regarded as a duty, and were forgotten, and he not only left off asking himself where the money his mother allowed him came from, but even avoided thinking about it. But his mother's death, the coming into the property, and the necessity of managing it, again raised the question as to what his position in reference to private property in land was. A month before Nekhludoff would have answered that he had not the strength to alter the existing order of things; that it was not he who was administering the estate; and would one way or another have eased his conscience, continuing to live far from his estates, and having the money sent him. But now he decided that he could not leave things to go on as they were, but would have to alter them in a way unprofitable to himself, even though he had all these complicated and difficult relations with the prison world which made money necessary, as well as a probable journey to Siberia before him. Therefore he decided not to farm the land, but to let it to the peasants at a low rent, to enable them to cultivate it without depending on a landlord. More than once, when comparing the position of a landowner with that of an owner of serfs, Nekhludoff had compared the renting of land to the peasants instead of cultivating it with hired labour, to the old system by which serf proprietors used to exact a money payment from their serfs in place of labour. It was not a solution of the problem, and yet a step towards the solution; it was a movement towards a less rude form of slavery. And it was in this way he meant to act.

Nekhludoff reached Kousminski about noon. Trying to simplify his life in every way, he did not telegraph, but hired a cart and pair at the station. The driver was a young fellow in a nankeen coat, with a belt below his long waist. He was glad to talk to the gentleman, especially because while they were talking his broken-winded white horse and the emaciated spavined one could go at a foot-pace, which they always liked to do.

The driver spoke about the steward at Kousminski without knowing that he was driving "the master." Nekhludoff had purposely not told him who he was.

"That ostentatious German," said the driver (who had been to town and read novels) as he sat sideways on the box, passing his hand from the top to the bottom of his long whip, and trying to show off his accomplishments--"that ostentatious German has procured three light bays, and when he drives out with his lady---oh, my! At Christmas he had a Christmas-tree in the big house. I drove some of the visitors there. It had 'lectric lights; you could not see the like of it in the whole of the government. What's it to him, he has cribbed a heap of money. I heard say he has bought an estate."

Nekhludoff had imagined that he was quite indifferent to the way the steward managed his estate, and what advantages the steward derived from it. The words of the long-waisted driver, however, were not pleasant to hear.

A dark cloud now and then covered the sun; the larks were soaring above the fields of winter corn; the forests were already covered with fresh young green; the meadows speckled with grazing cattle and horses. The fields were being ploughed, and Nekhludoff enjoyed the lovely day. But every now and then he had an unpleasant feeling, and, when he asked himself what it was caused by, he remembered what the driver had told him about the way the German was managing Kousminski. When he got to his estate and set to work this unpleasant feeling vanished.

Looking over the books in the office, and a talk with the foreman, who naively pointed out the advantages to be derived from the facts that the peasants had very little land of their own and that it lay in the midst of the landlord's fields, made Nekhludoff more than ever determined to leave off farming and to let his land to the peasants.

From the office books and his talk with the foreman, Nekhludoff found that two-thirds of the best of the cultivated land was still being tilled with improved machinery by labourers receiving fixed wages, while the other third was tilled by the peasants at the rate of five roubles per desiatin [about two and three-quarter acres]. So that the peasants had to plough each desiatin three times, harrow it three times, sow and mow the corn, make it into sheaves, and deliver it on the threshing ground for five roubles, while the same amount of work done by wage labour came to at least 10 roubles. Everything the peasants got from the office they paid for in labour at a very high price. They paid in labour for the use of the meadows, for wood, for potato-stalks, and were nearly all of them in debt to the office. Thus, for the land that lay beyond the cultivated fields, which the peasants hired, four times the price that its value would bring in if invested at five per cent was taken from the peasants.

Nekhludoff had known all this before, but he now saw it in a new light, and wondered how he and others in his position could help seeing how abnormal such conditions are. The steward's arguments that if the land were let to the peasants the agricultural implements would fetch next to nothing, as it would be impossible to get even a quarter of their value for them, and that the peasants would spoil the land, and how great a loser Nekhludoff would be, only strengthened Nekhludoff in the opinion that he was doing a good action in letting the land to the peasants and thus depriving himself of a large part of his income. He decided to settle this business now, at once, while he was there. The reaping and selling of the corn he left for the steward to manage in due season, and also the selling of the agricultural implements and useless buildings. But he asked his steward to call the peasants of the three neighbouring villages that lay in the midst of his estate (Kousminski) to a meeting, at which he would tell them of his intentions and arrange about the price at which they were to rent the land.

With the pleasant sense of the firmness he had shown in the face of the steward's arguments, and his readiness to make a sacrifice, Nekhludoff left the office, thinking over the business before him, and strolled round the house, through the neglected flower-garden--this year the flowers were planted in front of the steward's house--over the tennis ground, now overgrown with dandelions, and along the lime-tree walk, where he used to smoke his cigar, and where he had flirted with the pretty Kirimova, his mother's visitor. Having briefly prepared in his mind the speech he was going to make to the peasants, he again went in to the steward, and, after tea, having once more arranged his thoughts, he went into the room prepared for him in the big house, which used to be a spare bedroom.

In this clean little room, with pictures of Venice on the walls, and a mirror between the two windows, there stood a clean bed with a spring mattress, and by the side of it a small table, with a decanter of water, matches, and an extinguisher. On a table by the looking-glass lay his open portmanteau, with his dressing-case and some books in it; a Russian book, The Investigation of the Laws of Criminality, and a German and an English book on the same subject, which he meant to read while travelling in the country. But it was too late to begin to-day, and he began preparing to go to bed.

An old-fashioned inlaid mahogany arm-chair stood in the corner of the room, and this chair, which Nekhludoff remembered standing in his mother's bedroom, suddenly raised a perfectly unexpected sensation in his soul. He was suddenly filled with regret at the thought of the house that would tumble to ruin, and the garden that would run wild, and the forest that would be cut down, and all these farmyards, stables, sheds, machines, horses, cows which he knew had cost so much effort, though not to himself, to acquire and to keep. It had seemed easy to give up all this, but now it was hard, not only to give this, but even to let the land and lose half his income. And at once a consideration, which proved that it was unreasonable to let the land to the peasants, and thus to destroy his property, came to his service. "I must not hold property in land. If I possess no property in land, I cannot keep up the house and farm. And, besides, I am going to Siberia, and shall not need either the house or the estate," said one voice. "All this is so," said another voice, "but you are not going to spend all your life in Siberia. You may marry, and have children, and must hand the estate on to them in as good a condition as you received it. There is a duty to the land, too. To give up, to destroy everything is very easy; to acquire it very difficult. Above all, you must consider your future life, and what you will do with yourself, and you must dispose of your property accordingly. And are you really firm in your resolve? And then, are you really acting according to your conscience, or are you acting in order to be admired of men?" Nekhludoff asked himself all this, and had to acknowledge that he was influenced by the thought of what people would say about him. And the more he thought about it the more questions arose, and the more unsolvable they seemed.

In hopes of ridding himself of these thoughts by failing asleep, and solving them in the morning when his head would be fresh, he lay down on his clean bed. But it was long before he could sleep. Together with the fresh air and the moonlight, the croaking of the frogs entered the room, mingling with the trills of a couple of nightingales in the park and one close to the window in a bush of lilacs in bloom. Listening to the nightingales and the frogs, Nekhludoff remembered the inspector's daughter, and her music, and the inspector; that reminded him of Maslova, and how her lips trembled, like the croaking of the frogs, when she said, "You must just leave it." Then the German steward began going down to the frogs, and had to be held back, but he not only went down but turned into Maslova, who began reproaching Nekhludoff, saying, "You are a prince, and I am a convict." "No, I must not give in," thought Nekhludoff, waking up, and again asking himself, "Is what I am doing right? I do not know, and no matter, no matter, I must only fall asleep now." And he began himself to descend where he had seen the inspector and Maslova climbing down to, and there it all ended.

玛丝洛娃的案子可能过两星期后由枢密院审理。这以前,聂赫留朵夫打算先上彼得堡,万一在枢密院败诉,那就听从写状子律师的主意,去告御状。那个律师认为,这次上诉可能毫无结果,必须有所准备,因为上诉理由不够充足。这样,玛丝洛娃就可能随同一批苦役犯在六月初旬出发。聂赫留朵夫既已决定跟随玛丝洛娃去西伯利亚,在出发以前得做好准备,现在就需要先下乡一次,把那里的事情安排妥当。

聂赫留朵夫首先乘火车到最近的库兹明斯科耶去,他在那里拥有一大片黑土的地产,那是他收入的主要来源。他在那里度过童年和少年,成年后又去过两次。有一次他奉母命把德籍管家带到那里,同他一起检查农庄经营情况,因此他早就熟悉地产的位置,熟悉农民同帐房的关系,也就是农民同地主的关系。农民同地主的关系,说得客气些,是农民完全依赖帐房,说得直率些,是农民受帐房奴役。这不是一八六一年废止的那种明目张胆的奴役,也就是一些人受一个主人的奴役,而是一切无地或少地的农民受大地主们的共同奴役,有时还受到生活在农民中间的某些人的奴役。这一点聂赫留朵夫知道,也不可能不知道,因为农庄经营就是以这种奴役为基础,而他又亲自过问过这种经营方式。不过,聂赫留朵夫不仅知道这一点,他还知道这种经营方式是不公平的,残酷无情的。早在学生时代,他就信奉亨利·乔治的学说并热心加以宣扬。当时他就知道这个问题。根据这个学说,他把父亲留给他的土地分赠给农民,认为今天拥有土地同五十年前拥有农奴一样都是罪孽。不错,他在军队生活,养成了每年挥霍近两万卢布的习惯。复员回来后,原先信奉的学说已被置诸脑后,对他的生活不再有约束力。他非但不再思考他对财产应抱什么态度,母亲给他的钱是从哪儿来的,而且竭力回避这些问题。不过,母亲去世后,他继承了遗产,开始管理财产,也就是管理土地,这些事又使他想到土地私有制的问题。要是在一个月以前,聂赫留朵夫会安慰自己说,要改变现行制度,他无能为力,庄园也不是他在管理。这样,他生活在远离庄园的地方,收取从那里汇来的钱,多少还能心安理得。但现在他已毅然作出决定:虽然他不久就将去西伯利亚,而且为了处理监狱里的各种麻烦问题,都需要花钱,他却不能再维持现状,而一定要加以改变,宁可自己吃亏。因此他决定自己不再经营土地,而是以低廉的租金出租给农民,使他们完全不必依赖地主。聂赫留朵夫反复拿地主同农奴主的地位进行比较,觉得地主不雇工种地而把土地租给农民,无异于农奴主把农民的徭役制改为代役租制。这样并不解决问题,但向解决问题迈出了一步,也就是压迫从比较粗暴的形式过渡到不太粗暴的形式。他就打算这样做。

聂赫留朵夫在中午时分到达库兹明斯科耶。他在生活上力求简朴,事先没有打电报回家,而在火车站雇了一辆双驾四轮马车。车夫是个小伙子,身穿黄土布长外套,腰身细长,腰身以下打褶裥的地方束着一根皮带。他照一般马车夫的习惯侧坐在驭座上,很高兴同车上的老爷攀谈。他们这样一攀谈,那匹衰老而又瘸腿的白色辕马和害气肿病的瘦骖马就可以一步一步慢慢走,那是它们求之不得的。

车夫讲起库兹明斯科耶的那个管家。他不知道车上坐的就是庄园主人。聂赫留朵夫有意不告诉他。

“好一个阔气的德国佬,”这个在城里住过、读过小说的马车夫说。他坐在驭座上,侧身对着车上的乘客,忽而握着长鞭的柄,忽而握着长鞭的梢,显然想说些文雅的话来炫耀他的知识,“他买了一辆大马车,配上三匹草黄大马,带着太太一起兜风,嘿,好不威风!”他继续说。“冬天过圣诞节,他那所大房子里摆着一棵很大的圣诞树,我送客人到他家去看见的,还有电光灯呢。全省都找不到第二家!捞的钱真是多得吓死人!他有什么事办不到,大权都在他手里嘛。据说他还买了一份好田产。”

聂赫留朵夫想,不管那德国人怎样管理他的庄园,怎样揩他的油,他都毫不在乎。但那个腰身细长的马车夫讲的话,却使他不快。他欣赏这美好的春光,眺望空中不时遮住太阳的浓云,看到春播作物的田野上到处都有农民在翻耕燕麦地,看到浓绿的草木上空飞翔着百灵鸟。树林里除了晚发的麻栎外都已盖上翠绿的萌芽,草地上散布着一群群牛马,田野上看得见耕作的农民。他看着看着,不禁心里又闷闷不乐起来。他问自己,究竟什么事使他烦恼?于是他想到车夫讲的那个德国人怎样在库兹明斯科耶主宰一切,为所欲为。

聂赫留朵夫抵达库兹明斯科耶后,着手处理事务,才克服了这种不愉快的情绪。

聂赫留朵夫查阅过帐目,同管家谈了话。那管家直率地说,亏得农民缺少土地,他们的地又夹在地主的领地当中,因此地主占了很多便宜。聂赫留朵夫听了他的话,更打定主意,不再经营农庄,而把全部土地分给农民。通过查帐和同管家谈话,他知道情况同过去一样,三分之二的好耕地是他的雇工直接用改良农具耕种的,其余三分之一土地雇农民耕种,每俄亩付五卢布,也就是说农民为了这五卢布,每俄亩土地就得犁三遍,耙三遍,播下种子,再要收割,打捆,或者把谷子送到打谷场。如果雇廉价的自由工人来做这些农活,每俄亩至少也得付十卢布工钱。农民从帐房那儿取得必需的东西,都要按最贵价格折成工役来支付。他们使用牧场、树林和土豆茎叶,都得付工役,因此农民几乎个个都欠帐房的债。这样,耕地以外的土地由雇来的农民耕种,地主所得的利益就比用五分利计算的地租收入还多四倍。

这些事聂赫留朵夫尽管早就知道,但现在听来却又觉得很新鲜。他感到惊奇的是,他们这些拥有土地的老爷怎么会看不到这种不合理的事。总管提出种种理由,认为把土地交给农民会损失全部农具,连四分之一的本钱都收不回来,又说农民会糟蹋土地,聂赫留朵夫交出土地会吃大亏。但这些理由反而使聂赫留朵夫坚定了自己的信念,即把土地交给农民,使自己丧失大部分收入,正是做了一件好事。他决定趁这次回乡机会,把这件事办好。收获和出售已种下的粮食,把农具和不必要的房屋卖掉,这些事他让总管在他走后处理。现在他要总管如集库兹明斯科耶周围三村农民第二天来开会,向他们宣布自己的计划,并跟农民商定出租土地的租金。

聂赫留朵夫想到自己坚决抵制总管的意见,准备为农民作出牺牲,感到很愉快。他从帐房出来,一面考虑当前要办的事,一面绕过正房,穿过如今荒芜的花圃(总管住宅前却新辟了一个花圃),走过蒲公英丛生的草地网球场,来到菩提树夹峙的小径。以前他常在这里散步,吸雪茄,三年前漂亮的基里莫娃到他母亲家来作客,还在这里同他调过情。聂赫留朵夫考虑了一下明天对农民大致要讲些什么话,然后去找总管,同他一面喝茶,一面商量清理全部田产的问题。他在这些事上定了心,才走到这座大宅邸里平时用作客房、这次为他收拾好的房间里。

这个房间不大,但很干净,墙上挂着威尼斯风景画,两个窗子中间挂着一面镜子。房间里放着一张清洁的弹簧床,一张小桌,桌上放着一个玻璃水瓶、一盒火柴和一个灭烛器。镜子旁边有一张大桌子,桌上放着他那只盖子打开的皮箱,箱子里露出他的化妆用品盒和随身带着的几本书:一本是研究刑法的俄文书,还有一本德文书和英文书,都是同一类内容。这次下乡,他想偷空阅读这几本书,但今天已经没有时间了。他要上床睡觉,明天早点起来,准备向农民说明他的计划。

房间的一角放着一把古色古香的红木镶花圈椅。聂赫留朵夫记得这把椅子原来放在母亲卧室里,如今一看到,不禁产生一种奇特的感情。他忽然很舍不得这座快要倒塌的房子,舍不得这个荒芜的花园,这片将被砍伐的树林,以及那些畜栏、马厩、工棚、机器和牛马。那些产业虽不是他置办的,但他知道都来之不易,而且好容易才保存到今天。以前他觉得放弃那一切轻而易举,如今却又很舍不得,舍不得他的土地,舍不得他的一半收入——今后他很可能需要这些钱。于是立刻就有一种理论来支持这种感情,认为他把土地分给农民,毁掉他的庄园是愚蠢的,荒唐的。

“我不应该占有土地。我失去土地,就不能维持这个庄园。不过,如今我要到西伯利亚去,因此房子也好,庄园也好,都用不着了,”他心里有一个声音说。“这话固然不错,”他心里另一个声音说,“但是,第一,你不会在西伯利亚待一辈子。你要是结婚,就会有孩子。你完整无缺地接受这个庄园,以后你也得完整无缺地把它传给后代。你对土地负有责任。把土地交出去,把庄园毁掉,这都很容易,但重新创立这点产业可就难了。你首先得考虑你的生活,决定今后怎么过,据此再来处理你的财产。你的决心究竟有多大?再有,你现在这样做是不是真的出于良心?还是只做给人家看看,好在他们面前炫耀自己的德行?”聂赫留朵夫这样问自己。他不能不承认,人家对他的行为说长道短,会影响他的决定。他越想,问题越多,越不容易解决。为了摆脱这些思想,他在干净的床上躺下来,想好好睡一觉,到明天头脑清醒了,再来解决这些目前搅得他心烦意乱的问题。但他好久都睡不着觉,从打开的窗子里涌进清凉的空气,泻下溶溶的月光,传来一片蛙鸣,还夹杂着夜莺的鸣啭和啁啾——有几只在远处花园里,有一只就在窗下盛开的丁香花丛中。聂赫留朵夫听着夜莺的鸣啭和青蛙的聒噪,不禁想起了典狱长女儿的琴声。一想起典狱长,也就想起了玛丝洛娃,想起她说“您还是死了这条心吧”时,嘴唇不断地哆嗦,简直象鸡叫时的青蛙一般。于是那个德籍总管走下坡去捉青蛙。得把他拦住,但他不仅一个劲儿地走下坡去,而且变成了玛丝洛娃,还责备他说:“我是苦役犯,您是公爵。”“不,我不能让步,”聂赫留朵夫想着,惊醒过来,自问道:“我究竟做得对不对?我不知道,反正我也无所谓。无所谓。但该睡觉了。”他也顺着总管和玛丝洛娃走过的路往下滑,于是一切都消失了。



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