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
famling on a rational system to yield a profit--that's perfectly
true," said he.
"I don't believe it," Sviazhsky replied quite seriously; "all I
see is that we don't 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 don't even know how to keep accounts. Ask any
landowner; he won't be able to tell you what crop's profitable,
and what's 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 won't be any profit."
"Why do they spoil things? A poor thrashing machine, or your
Russian presser, they will break, but my steam press they don't
break. A wretched Russian nag they'll ruin, but keep good
dray-horses--they won't 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!
It's 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, that's what the land banks are for."
"To get what's left me sold by auction? No, thank you."