A Russian Proprietor, and Other Stories : Part 05, Chapter 02
(1828 - 1910) ~ Father of Christian Anarchism : In 1861, during the second of his European tours, Tolstoy met with Proudhon, with whom he exchanged ideas. Inspired by the encounter, Tolstoy returned to Yasnaya Polyana to found thirteen schools that were the first attempt to implement a practical model of libertarian education. (From : Anarchy Archives.)
• "Only by recognizing the land as just such an article of common possession as the sun and air will you be able, without bias and justly, to establish the ownership of land among all men, according to any of the existing projects or according to some new project composed or chosen by you in common." (From : "To the Working People," by Leo Tolstoy, Yasnaya P....)
• "It usually happens that when an idea which has been useful and even necessary in the past becomes superfluous, that idea, after a more or less prolonged struggle, yields its place to a new idea which was till then an ideal, but which thus becomes a present idea." (From : "Patriotism and Government," by Leo Tolstoy, May 1....)
• "It is necessary that men should understand things as they are, should call them by their right names, and should know that an army is an instrument for killing, and that the enrollment and management of an army -- the very things which Kings, Emperors, and Presidents occupy themselves with so self-confidently -- is a preparation for murder." (From : "'Thou Shalt Not Kill'," by Leo Tolstoy, August 8,....)
Part 05, Chapter 02
Ilyin, the cornet of uhlans, had not long been awake. The evening before, he had sat down at the gambling-table at eight o'clock, and lost for fifteen consecutive hours, till eleven o'clock that day. He had lost a great amount, but exactly how much he did not know, because he had had three thousand rubles of his money, and fifteen thousand belonging to the treasury, which he had long ago mixed up with his own, and he did not dare to settle his accounts lest his anticipations that he had made too great inroads on the public money should be confirmed.
He went to sleep about noon, and slept that heavy, dreamless sleep, peculiar to very young men who have been losing heavily. Waking at six, about the time that Count Turbin had arrived at the hotel, and seeing cards and chalk and soiled tables scattered around him in confusion in the room, he remembered with horror the evening's games, and the last card, a knave, which had lost him five hundred rubles; but, still scarcely believing in the reality, he drew out from under his pillow his money, and began to count it. He recognized a few notes which, with corners turned down and endorsements, had gone from hand to hand around the table; he remembered all the particulars. He had lost his own three thousand rubles, and twenty-five hundred belonging to the treasury had disappeared.
The uhlan had been playing for four nights in succession.
He had come from Moscow, where the public money had been entrusted to him. At K. the post-superintendent had detained him under the pretext that there were no post-horses, but in reality in accordance with his agreement with the hotel-keeper to detain all visitors for a day.
The uhlan, who was a gay young fellow, and had just received from his parent three thousand rubles for his military equipment, was glad to spend a few days in the city of K. during the elections, and counted on having a good time.
He knew a landed proprietor whose family lived there, and he was preparing to call upon him and pay his addresses to his daughter, when the cavalryman appeared, and made his acquaintance. That very evening, without malice prepense, he took him down into the parlor, and introduced him to his friends, Lukhnof and several other gamblers. From that time, the uhlan had kept steadily at gaming, and not only had not called on the proprietor, but had not thought of inquiring further for horses, and for four days had not left his room.
After he had dressed, and taken his tea, he went to the window. He felt an inclination to go out so as to dispel the importunate recollections of the game. He put on his cloak, and went into the street.
The sun had just sunk behind the white houses with their red roofs. It was already twilight. It was warm. The snow was softly falling in big, damp flakes, in the muddy streets. His mind suddenly became filled with unendurable melancholy at the thought that he had spent all that day in sleep, and now the day was done.
"This day which has gone, will never come back again," he said to himself.
"I have wasted my youth," he suddenly exclaimed, not because he really felt that he had wasted his youth,—he did not think about it at all,—but simply this phrase came into his head.
"What shall I do now?" he reasoned; "borrow of some one, and go away?"
A lady was passing along the sidewalk.
"What a stupid woman!" he said to himself for some reason.
"There's no one I can borrow of. I have wasted my youth."
He came to a block of stores. A merchant in a fox-skin shuba was standing at the door of his shop, and inviting custom.
"If I hadn't taken the eight, I should have won."
A little old beggar-woman followed him, sniveling.
"I have no one to borrow of."
A gentleman in a bear-skin shuba passed him. A policeman was standing on the corner.
"What can I do that will make sensation? Fire a pistol at them? No! That would be stupid. I have wasted my youth. Akh! what a splendid harness that is hanging in that shop! I should like to be riding behind a troïka!... Ekh! you fine fellows! I am going back. Lukhnof will be there pretty soon, and we'll have a game."
He returned to the hotel, and once more counted his money. No, he was not mistaken the first time; twenty-five hundred rubles of public money were missing, just as before.
"I will put up twenty-five rubles first; the next time, a quarter stake; then on seven, on fifteen, on thirty, and on sixty ... three thousand. I will buy that harness, and start. He won't give me any odds, the villain! I have wasted my youth!"
This was what was passing through the uhlan's mind just as Lukhnof himself came into the room.
"Well, have you been up long, Mikháïlo Vasílyitch?" inquired Lukhnof, deliberately removing from his thin nose his gold eye-glasses, and carefully wiping them with a red silk handkerchief.
"No, only just this minute. I had a splendid sleep!"
"A new hussar has just come. He is staying with Zavalshevsky. Had you heard about it?"
"No, I hadn't. Well, no one seems to be here yet. I believe they have gone to call on Priakhin. They'll be here very soon."
In fact, in a short time there came into the room an officer of the garrison, who was always hovering round Lukhnof; a Greek merchant with a huge hooked nose, cinnamon complexion, and deep-set black eyes; a stout, puffy proprietor, a brandy-distiller who gambled all night long, and always made his stakes on the basis of half a ruble. All of these wished to begin playing as promptly as possible, but the more daring players said nothing about it; Lukhnof, in particular, with perfect equanimity, told stories of rascality in Moscow.
"Just think of it," said he, "Moscow, the metropolis, the capital; and there they go out at night with crooks, dressed like demons; and they scare the stupid people, and rob pedestrians, and that is the end of it. Do the police notice it? No! It is astonishing!"
The uhlan listened attentively to the tales of these highwaymen, but finally got up and unobtrusively ordered cards to be brought. The stout proprietor was the first to notice it.
"Well, gentlemen, we are wasting golden moments. To work, let us to work!"
"Yes, you won by the half-ruble last evening, and so you like it," exclaimed the Greek.
"It's a good time to begin," said the garrison officer.
Ilyin looked at Lukhnof. Lukhnof, returning his gaze, went on calmly with his story of the robbers who dressed themselves up like devils. "Will you start the bank?" asked the uhlan.
"Isn't it rather early?"
"Byélof!" cried the uhlan, reddening for some reason or other; "bring me something to eat.... I haven't had any dinner to-day, gentlemen. Bring some champagne, and distribute the cards."
A this moment, the count and Zavalshevsky entered. It proved that Turbin and Ilyin were in the same division. They immediately struck up an acquaintance, drank a glass of champagne, clinking their glasses together, and in five minutes were calling each other "thou."
It was evident that Ilyin made a very pleasant impression on the count. The count smiled whenever he looked at him, and was amused at his freshness.
"What a fine young uhlan!" he said, "what a mustache! what a splendid mustache!"
Ilyin's upper lip bore the first down of a mustache, that was as yet almost white.
"You were preparing to play, were you not?" asked the count. "Well, I should like to win from you, Ilyin. I think that you must be a master," he added smiling.
"Yes, we were just starting in," replied Lukhnof, opening a pack of cards.... "Aren't you going to join us, count?"
"No, I won't to-night. If I did there wouldn't be any thing left of any of you! When I take a hand I always break the bank. But I haven't any money just now. I lost at Volotchok, at the station-house. It was by some sort of infantry-man who wore rings; what a cheat he was! and he cleaned me out completely."
"Were you long there at the station?" asked Ilyin.
"I staid there twenty-two hours. I shall not forget that station, curse it! and the superintendent won't forget it either."
"I got there, you see; the superintendent comes out, rascally face, the liar! 'There are no horses,' said he. Well, now I must tell you, I have made a rule in such cases: when there are no horses, I keep on my shuba, and go straight to the superintendent's room,—not the waiting-room, mind you, but the superintendent's own room,—and I have all the windows and doors opened, as though it were stifling. Well, that's what I did here. Cold! you remember how cold it has been this last month; twenty degrees below. The superintendent began to remonstrate. I knock his teeth in for him. There was some old woman there; and some young girls and peasant-women set up a piping, were going to seize their pots and fly to the village.... I go to the door, and say, 'Let me have horses, and I'll go away: if you don't, I won't let you out, I'll freeze you all to death.'"
"What an admirable way!" said the puffy proprietor, bursting out into a laugh. "That's the way one would freeze out cockroaches."
"But I wasn't sufficiently on my guard: the superintendent and all his women managed to get out and run away. Only the old woman remained on the oven as my hostage. She kept sniffing, and offering prayers to God. Then we entered into negotiations. The superintendent came back, and, standing at a distance, tried to persuade me to let the old woman go. But I set Blücher on him: Blücher is a magnificent dog to take care of superintendents. Even then the rascal did not let me have horses till the next morning. And then came along that footpad! I went into the next room, and began to play. Have you seen Blücher?—Blücher! Fiu!" Blücher came running in. The players received him with flattering attention, although it was evident that they were anxious to get to work at entirely different matters.
"By the way, gentlemen, why don't you begin your game? I beg of you, don't let me interfere with you. You see I am a chatterbox," said Turbin. "Whether you love or not, 'tis an excellent thing."
From : Gutenberg.org
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