He struggled to get every penny he could, and had to do so or he would not have been able to pay his labourers their wages, and they struggled to be allowed to work quietly, pleasantly, and just as they were used to work. It was to his interest that every labourer should get through as much work as possible and at the same time give his mind to it, not injuring the winnowing machine, the horse-rake, or the threshing machine, but working intelligently. The labourer wished to work in the pleasantest way possible, with intervals of rest, and especially to think unconcernedly about other things without having to reason. During that summer Levin noticed this continually.
He gave orders to mow the clover for hay, choosing the inferior fields overgrown with grass and hemlock and not fit for seed; and they cut down all the best seed clover, defended themselves by saying that the foreman ordered them to do it, and comforted him with the assurance that he would get splendid hay; while he knew that they had done it simply because the clover was easiest to mow. He sent out the horse-rake to turn the hay and it got broken while tossing the first few rows, because the peasant found it dull to have to sit in the seat under the rotating wings; and Levin was told: ‘Don’t worry, sir! The women will toss it all in no time!’
The English plows turned out useless, because it never entered the peasant’s head to lower the upturned plowshare, and as he forced it through at the turning he spoiled the ground and strained the horses; and Levin was told not to worry! The horses were allowed to stray into the wheat-field because not one of the peasants wanted to be watchman, and in spite of its having been forbidden the labourers took turns to watch the horses at night; so Vanka, who had been at work all day, fell asleep, and confessed his guilt, saying, ‘I am in your hands, sir!’
This reminds me so much of what it was like to manage the staff at my old job.