The personal matter that absorbed Levin during his conversation with

his brother was this. Once, the year previous, he had gone to look

at the mowing, and being made very angry by the bailiff he had had

recourse to his favorite means for regaining his temper- he had

taken a scythe from a peasant and begun mowing.

  He liked the work so much that he had several times tried his hand

at mowing since. He had cut the whole of the meadow in front of his

house, and this year, ever since the early spring, he had cherished

a plan for mowing for whole days together with the peasants. Ever

since his brother's arrival he had been in doubt as to whether to

mow or not. He was loath to leave his brother alone all day long,

and he was afraid his brother would laugh at him about it. But as he

drove into the meadow, and recalled the sensations of mowing, he

came near deciding that he would go mowing. After the irritating

discussion with his brother, he pondered over this intention again.

  "I must have physical exercise, or my temper'll certainly be

ruined," he thought, and he determined he would go mowing, however

awkward he might feel about it with his brother or the peasants.

  Toward evening Konstantin Levin went to his countinghouse, gave

directions as to the work to be done, and sent about the village to

summon the mowers for the morrow, to cut the hay in Kalinov meadow,

the largest and best of his grasslands.

  "And send my scythe, please, to Tit, for him to set it, and bring it

round tomorrow. I may do some mowing myself, too," he said, trying not

to be embarrassed.

  The bailiff smiled and said:

  "Yes, sir."

  At tea the same evening Levin said to his brother too.

  "I fancy the fine weather will last," said he. "Tomorrow I shall

start mowing."

  "I'm so fond of that form of field labor," said Sergei Ivanovich.

  "I'm awfully fond of it. I sometimes mow myself with the peasants,

and tomorrow I want to try mowing the whole day."

  Sergei Ivanovich lifted his head, and looked with curiosity at his


  "How do you mean? Just like one of the peasants, all day long?"

  "Yes, it's very pleasant," said Levin.

  "It's splendid as exercise, only you'll hardly be able to stand it,"

said Sergei Ivanovich, without a shade of irony.

  "I've tried it. It's hard work at first, but you get into it. I dare

say I shall manage to keep it up...."

  "Oh, so that's it! But tell me, how do the peasants look at it? I

suppose they laugh in their sleeves at their master's being such a

queer fish?"

  "No, I don't think so; but it's so delightful, and at the same

time such hard work, that one has no time to think about it."

  "But how will you do about dining with them? To send you a bottle of

Lafitte and roast turkey out there would be a little awkward."

  "No, I'll simply come home at the time of their noonday rest."

  Next morning Konstantin Levin got up earlier than usual, but he

was detained giving directions on the farm, and when he reached the

mowing grass the mowers were already at their second swath.

  From the uplands he could get a view of the shaded cut part of the

meadow below, with the grayish swaths and the black heaps of coats,

taken off by the mowers at the place from which they had started


  Gradually, as he rode toward the meadow, the peasants came into

sight, some in coats, some in their shirts, mowing, one behind another

in a long string, each swinging his scythe in his own way. He

counted forty-two of them.

  They were mowing slowly over the uneven, low-lying parts of the

meadow, where there had been an old dam. Levin recognized some of

his own men. Here was old Iermil in a very long white smock, bending

forward to swing a scythe; there was a young fellow, Vaska, who had

been a coachman of Levin's, taking every swath with a wide sweep.

Here, too, was Tit, Levin's preceptor in the art of mowing, a thin

little peasant. He went on ahead, and cut his wide swath without

bending, as though playing with his scythe.

  Levin got off his mare, and fastening her up by the roadside went to

meet Tit, who took a second scythe out of a bush and gave it him.

  "It's ready, sir; it's like a razor- it cuts of itself," said Tit,

taking off his cap with a smile and giving him the scythe.

  Levin took the scythe, and began trying it. As they finished their

swaths, the mowers, hot and good-humored, came out into the road one

after another, and smirking, greeted the master. They all stared at

him, but no one made any remark, till a tall old man, with a wrinkled,

beardless face, wearing a short sheepskin jacket, came out into the

road and accosted him.

  "Look'ee now, master, once take hold of the rope, there's no letting

go!" he said, and Levin heard smothered laughter among the mowers.

  "I'll try not to let it go," he said, taking his stand behind Tit,

and waiting for the time to begin.

  "Mind'ee," repeated the old man.

  Tit made room, and Levin started behind him. The grass was short

close to the road, and Levin, who had not done any mowing for a long

while, and was disconcerted by the eyes fastened upon him, cut badly

for the first moments, though he swung his scythe vigorously. Behind

him he heard voices:

  "It's not set right; handle's too high; see how he has to stoop to

it," said one.

  "Press more on the heel of the scythe," said another.

  "Never mind, he'll get on all right," the old man resumed. "See,

he's made a start.... You swing it too wide, you'll tire yourself

out.... The master, sure, does his best for himself! But see the grass

missed out! For such work us fellows would catch it!"

  The grass became lusher, and Levin, listening without answering,

followed Tit, trying to do the best he could. They moved a hundred

paces. Tit kept moving on, without stopping, nor showing the slightest

weariness, but Levin was already beginning to fear he would not be

able to keep it up- so tired was he.

  He felt as he swung his scythe that he was at the very end of his

strength, and was making up his mind to ask Tit to stop. But at that

very moment Tit stopped of his own accord, and, stooping down,

picked up some grass, rubbed his scythe, and began whetting it.

Levin straightened himself, and drawing a deep breath looked round.

Behind him came a peasant, and he too was evidently tired, for he

stopped at once without waiting to mow up to Levin, and began whetting

his scythe. Tit sharpened his scythe and Levin's, and they went on.

  The next time it was just the same. Tit moved on with sweep after

sweep of his scythe, without stopping or showing signs of weariness.

Levin followed him, trying not to get left behind, and he found it

harder and harder: the moment came when he felt he had no strength

left, but at that very moment Tit stopped and whetted the scythes.

  So they mowed the first row. And this long row seemed particularly

hard work to Levin; but when the end was reached, and Tit, shouldering

his scythe, began with deliberate stride returning on the tracks

left by his heels in the cut grass, and Levin walked back in the

same way over the space he had cut, in spite of the sweat that ran

in streams over his face and fell in drops down his nose, and drenched

his back as though he had been soaked in water, he felt very happy.

What delighted him particularly was that now he knew he would be

able to hold out.

  His pleasure was only disturbed by his swath not being well cut.

"I will swing less with my arm and more with my whole body," he

thought, comparing Tit's swath, which looked as if it had been cut

along a surveyor's cord, with his own scattered and irregularly

lying grass.

  The first swath, as Levin noticed, Tit had mowed especially quickly,

probably wishing to put his master to the test, and the swath happened

to be a long one. The next swaths were easier, but still Levin had

to strain every nerve not to drop behind the peasants.

  He thought of nothing, wished for nothing, save not to be left

behind the peasants, and to do his work as well as possible. He

heard nothing save the swish of scythes, and saw before him Tit's

upright figure mowing away, the crescent-shaped curve of the cut

grass, the grass and flowers slowly and rhythmically falling before

the blade of his scythe, and ahead of him the end of the swath,

where would come the rest.

  Suddenly, in the midst of his toil, without understanding what it

was or whence it came, he felt a pleasant sensation of chill on his

hot, moist shoulders. He glanced at the sky in the interval for

whetting the scythes. A heavy, lowering storm cloud had blown up,

and big raindrops were falling. Some of the peasants went to their

coats and put them on; others- just like Levin himself- merely

shrugged their shoulders, enjoying the pleasant coolness of it.

  Another swath, and yet another swath followed- long swaths and short

swaths, with good grass and with poor grass. Levin lost all sense of

time, and could not have told whether it were late or early now. A

change began to come over his work, which gave him immense

satisfaction. In the midst of his toil there were moments during which

he forgot what he was doing, and it all came easy to him, and at those

same moments his swath was almost as smooth and well cut as Tit's. But

as soon as he recollected what he was doing, and began trying to do

better, he was at once conscious of all the difficulty of his task,

and the swath was badly mown.

  On finishing yet another swath he would have gone back to the top of

the meadow again to begin the next, but Tit stopped, and going up to

the old man said something in a low voice to him. They both looked

at the sun. "What are they talking about, and why doesn't he go back?"

thought Levin, without guessing that the peasants had been mowing no

less than four hours without stopping, and that it was time for

their lunch.

  "Lunch, sir," said the old man.

  "Is it really time? Lunch it is, then."

  Levin gave his scythe to Tit, and, together with the peasants, who

were crossing the long stretch of mown grass, slightly sprinkled

with rain, to get their bread from the heap of coats, he went toward

his horse. Only then did he suddenly awake to the fact that he had

been wrong about the weather and that the rain was drenching his hay.

  "The hay will be spoiled," he said.

  "Not a bit of it, sir; mow in the rain, and you'll rake in fine

weather!" said the old man.

  Levin untied his horse and rode home to his coffee.

  Sergei Ivanovich was just getting up. When he had drunk his

coffee, Levin rode back again to the mowing before Sergei Ivanovich

had had time to dress and come down to the dining room.


After lunch Levin was not in the same place in the string of

mowers as before, but stood between the old man who had accosted him

jocosely, and now invited him to be his neighbor, and a young peasant,

who had only been married in the autumn, and who was mowing this

summer for the first time.

  The old man, holding himself erect, moved in front, with his feet

turned out, taking long, regular strides, and with a precise and

regular action which seemed to cost him no more effort than swinging

one's arms in walking, as though it were in play, he laid down the

high, even swath of grass. It was as though it were not he but the

sharp scythe of itself swishing through the juicy grass.

  Behind Levin came the lad Mishka. His comely, youthful face, with

a twist of fresh grass bound round his hair, was all working with

effort; but whenever anyone looked at him he smiled. He would

clearly have died sooner than own it was hard work for him.

  Levin kept between them. In the very heat of the day the mowing

did not seem such hard work to him. The perspiration with which he was

drenched cooled him, while the sun, that burned his back, his head,

and his arms, bare to the elbow, gave a vigor and dogged energy to his

labor; and more and more often now came those moments of

unconsciousness, when it was possible not to think of what one was

doing. The scythe cut of itself. These were happy moments. Still

more delightful were the moments when they reached the stream where

the swaths ended, and the old man rubbed his scythe with the wet,

thick grass, rinsed its blade in the fresh water of the stream, ladled

out a little in a whetstone case, and offered Levin a drink.

  "What do you say to my kvass, eh? Good, eh?" he would say, winking.

  And truly Levin had never drunk any liquor as good as this warm

water with green bits floating in it, and a taste of rust from the tin

whetstone case. And immediately after this came the delicious, slow

saunter, with his hand on the scythe, during which he could wipe

away the streaming sweat, take deep breaths of air, and look about

at the long string of mowers, and at what was happening around in

the forest and the field.

  The longer Levin mowed, the oftener he felt the moments of

unconsciousness in which it seemed that it was not his hands which

swung the scythe, but that the scythe was moving together with

itself a body full of life and consciousness of its own; and as though

by magic, without thinking of it, the work turned out regular and

well-finished of itself. These were the most blissful moments.

  It was only hard work when he had to break off the motion, which had

become unconscious, and to think; when he had to mow round a hummock

or an unweeded tuft of sorrel. The old man did this easily. When a

hummock came he changed his action, and at one time with the heel, and

at another with the tip of his scythe, clipped the hummock round

both sides with short strokes. And while he did this he kept looking

about and watching what came into his view: at one moment he picked

a wild berry and ate it or offered it to Levin, then he flung away a

twig with the blade of the scythe, then he looked at a quail's nest,

from which the bird flew just under the scythe, or caught a snake that

crossed his path, and lifting it on the scythe as though on a fork

showed it to Levin and threw it away.

  For both Levin and the young peasant behind him, such changes of

position were difficult. Both of them, repeating over and over again

the same strained movement, were in a perfect frenzy of toil, and were

incapable of shifting their position and at the same time watching

what was before them.

  Levin did not notice how time was passing. If he had been asked

how long he had been working he would have said half an hour- yet it

was getting on to dinnertime. As they were walking back over the cut

grass, the old man called Levin's attention to the little girls and

boys who were coming from different directions, hardly visible through

the long grass, and along the road toward the mowers, carrying sacks

of bread that stretched their little arms, and lugging small

pitchers of kvass, stopped up with rags.

  "Look'ee at the little doodlebugs crawling!" he said, pointing to

them, and he shaded his eyes with his hand to look at the sun.

  They mowed two more swaths; the old man stopped.

  "Come, master, dinnertime!" he said decidedly. And on reaching the

stream the mowers moved off across the swaths toward their pile of

coats, where the children who had brought their dinners were sitting

waiting for them. The peasants gathered- those who came from afar

under their telegas, those who lived near under a willow bush, covered

with grass.

  Levin sat down by them; he felt disinclined to go away.

  All constraint with the master had disappeared long ago. The

peasants got ready for dinner. Some washed, the young lads bathed in

the stream, others made a place comfortable for a rest, untied their

sacks of bread, and uncovered the pitchers of kvass. The old man

crumbled up some bread in a cup, stirred it with the handle of a

spoon, poured water on it from his whetstone case, broke up some

more bread, and having seasoned it with salt, he turned to the east to

say his prayer.

  "Come, master, taste my sop," said he, kneeling down before the cup.

  The sop was so good that Levin gave up the idea of going home for

dinner. He ate with the old man, and talked to him about his family

affairs, taking the keenest interest in them, and told him about his

own affairs and all the circumstances that could be of interest to the

old man. He felt much nearer to him than to his brother, and could not

help smiling at the affection he felt for this man. When the old man

got up again, said his prayer, and lay down under a bush, putting some

grass under his head for a pillow, Levin did the same, and, in spite

of the clinging flies that were so persistent in the sunshine, and the

midges that tickled his hot face and body, he fell asleep at once

and only waked when the sun had passed to the other side of the bush

and reached him. The old man had been awake a long while, and was

sitting up whetting the scythes of the younger lads.

  Levin looked about him and hardly recognized the place, everything

was so changed. The immense stretch of meadow had been mown and was

sparkling with a peculiar fresh brilliance, with its lines of

already sweet-smelling grass in the slanting rays of the evening

sun. And the bushes about the river, mowed around, and the river

itself, not visible before, now gleaming, like steel in its bends, and

the moving, ascending peasants, and the sharp wall of grass of the

unmown part of the meadow, and the hawks hovering over the stripped

meadow- all was perfectly new. Raising himself, Levin began

considering how much had been cut and how much more could still be

done that day.

  The work done was exceptionally great for forty-two men. They had

cut the whole of the big meadow, which had, in the years of corvee,

taken thirty scythes two days to mow. Only the corners remained to do,

where the swaths were short. But Levin felt a longing to get as much

mowing done that day as possible, and was vexed with the sun sinking

so quickly in the sky. He felt no weariness; all he wanted was to

get his work done more and more quickly, and as much of it as


  "Could we cut the Mashkin Upland too?- what do you think?" he said

to the old man.

  "As God wills- the sun's not high. A little vodka for the lads?"

  At the afternoon rest, when they were sitting down again, and

those who smoked had lighted their pipes, the old man told the men

that "the Mashkin Upland's to be cut- there'll be vodka."

  "Why not cut it? Come on, Tit! We'll look sharp! We can eat at

night. Come on!" voices cried out, and eating up their bread, the

mowers went back to work.

  "Come, lads, keep it up!" said Tit, and ran on ahead almost at a


  "Get along, get along!" said the old man, hurrying after him and

easily overtaking him, "I'll mow thee down, look out!"

  And young and old mowed away, as though they were racing with one

another. But however fast they worked, they did not spoil the grass,

and the swaths were laid just as neatly and exactly. The little

piece left uncut in the corner was mown in five minutes. The last of

the mowers were just ending their swaths while the foremost snatched

up their coats onto their shoulders, and crossed the road toward the

Mashkin Upland.

  The sun was already sinking among the trees when they went with

their jingling whetstone cases into the wooded ravine of the Mashkin

Upland. The grass was up to their waists in the middle of the

hollow, lush, tender, and feathery, spotted here and there among the

trees with wild heartsease.

  After a brief consultation- whether to take the swaths lengthwise or

diagonally- Prokhor Iermilin, also a doughty mower, a huge,

black-haired peasant, went on ahead. He went up to the top, turned

back again and started mowing, and they all proceeded to form in

line behind him, going downhill through the hollow and uphill right up

to the edge of the forest. The sun sank behind the forest. The dew was

falling by now; the mowers were in the sun only on the hillside, but

below, where a mist was rising, and on the opposite side, they mowed

into the fresh, dewy shade. The work went rapidly.

  The spicily fragrant grass cut with a succulent sound, was at once

laid in high swaths. The mowers from all sides, brought closer

together in the short swath, kept urging one another on to the sound

of jingling whetstone cases, and clanging scythes, and the hiss of the

whetstones sharpening them, and good-humored shouts.

  Levin still kept between the young peasant and the old man. The

old man, who had put on his short sheepskin jacket, was just as

good-humored, jocose, and free in his movements. Among the trees

they were continually cutting with their scythes the so-called

"birch mushrooms," swollen fat in the succulent grass. But the old man

bent down every time he came across a mushroom, picked it up and put

it in his bosom. "Another present for my old woman," he would say as

he did so.

  Easy as it was to mow the wet, lush grass, it was hard work going up

and down the steep sides of the ravine. But this did not trouble the

old man. Swinging his scythe just as ever, and moving his feet in

their big, plaited bast sandals, with firm short steps, he climbed

slowly up the steep place, and though his breeches hanging out below

his smock, and his whole frame, trembled with effort, he did not

miss one blade of grass or one mushroom on his way, and kept making

jokes with the peasants and Levin. Levin walked after him and often

thought he must fall, as he climbed with a scythe up a steep

hillock, where it would have been hard work to clamber even without

the scythe. But he climbed up and did what he had to do. He felt as

though some external force were moving him.


The Mashkin Upland was mown, the last swaths finished, the

peasants had put on their coats and were gaily trudging home. Levin

got on his horse, and, parting regretfully from the peasants, rode

homeward. On the hillside he looked back; he could not see them in the

mist that had risen from the valley; he could only hear their rough,

good-humored voices, their laughter, and the sound of clanking


  Sergei Ivanovich had long ago finished dinner, and was drinking iced

lemonade in his own room, looking through the reviews and papers which

he had just received by post, when Levin rushed into the room, talking

merrily, with his wet and matted hair sticking to his forehead, and

his back and chest grimed and moist.

  "We mowed the whole meadow! Oh, it is fine, wonderful! And how

have you been getting on?" said Levin, completely forgetting the

disagreeable conversation of the previous day.

  "Dear me! What you look like!" said Sergei Ivanovich, for the

first moment looking round with some dissatisfaction. "And the door-

do shut the door!" he cried. "You must have let in a dozen at least."

  Sergei Ivanovich could not endure flies, and in his own room he

never opened the window except at night, and carefully kept the door


  "Not one, on my honor. But if I have, I'll catch them. You

wouldn't believe what a pleasure mowing is! How have you spent the


  "Very well. But have you really been mowing the whole day? I

expect you're as hungry as a wolf. Kouzma has got everything ready for


  "No, I don't feel hungry even. I had something to eat there. But

I'll go and wash."

  "Yes, go along, go along, and I'll come to you directly," said

Sergei Ivanovich, shaking his head as he looked at his brother. "Go

along, make haste," he added smiling, and, gathering up his books,

he prepared to go too. He, too, felt suddenly good-humored and

disinclined to leave his brother's side. "But what did you do while it

was raining?"

  "Rain? Why, there was scarcely a drop. I'll come directly. So you

had a good day too? That's first-rate." And Levin went off to change

his clothes.

  Five minutes later the brothers met in the dining room. Although

it seemed to Levin that he was not hungry, and he sat down to dinner

simply so as not to hurt Kouzma's feelings, yet when he began to eat

the dinner struck him as extraordinarily good. Sergei Ivanovich

watched him with a smile.

  "Oh, by the way, there's a letter for you," said he. "Kouzma,

bring it from below, please. And mind you shut the doors."

  The letter was from Oblonsky. Levin read it aloud. Oblonsky wrote to

him from Peterburg: "I have had a letter from Dolly; she's at

Ergushovo, and everything seems going wrong there. Do ride over and

see her, please; help her with advice; you know all about it. She will

be so glad to see you. She's quite alone, poor thing. My mother-in-law

and all of them are still abroad."

  "That's capital! I will certainly ride over to her," said Levin. "Or

we'll go together. She's such a good woman, isn't she?"

  "They're not far from here, then?"

  "Thirty verstas. Or perhaps forty. But a capital road. It will be

a capital drive."

  "I shall be delighted," said Sergei Ivanovich, still smiling.

  The sight of his younger brother's appearance had immediately put

him in a good humor.

  "Well, you have an appetite!" he said, looking at his dark-red,

sunburned face and neck bent over the plate.

  "Splendid! You can't imagine what an effective remedy it is for

every sort of foolishness. I want to enrich medicine with a new

word: Arbeitskur."

  "Well, but you don't need it, I should fancy."

  "No- but for all sorts of nervous invalids."

  "Yes, it ought to be tried. I had meant to come to the mowing to

look at you, but it was so unbearably hot that I got no further than

the forest. I sat there a little, and went on by the forest to the

village, met your old nurse, and sounded her as to the peasant's

view of you. As far as I can make out, they don't approve of this. She

said: 'It's not a gentleman's work.' Altogether, I fancy that in the

people's ideas there are very clear and definite notions of certain,

as they call it, 'gentlemanly' lines of action. And they don't

sanction the gentlefolk's moving outside bounds clearly laid down in

their ideas."

  "Maybe so; but anyway, it's a pleasure such as I have never known in

my life. And there's no harm in it, you know. Is there?" answered

Levin. "I can't help it if they don't like it. Though I do believe

it's all right. Eh?"

  "Altogether," pursued Sergei Ivanovich, "you're satisfied with

your day?"

  "Quite satisfied. We cut the whole meadow. And I made friends with

such a splendid old man there! You can't fancy how delightful he was!"