A Russian Proprietor, and Other Stories : Part 05, Chapter 13

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1887

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(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.)
• "You are surprised that soldiers are taught that it is right to kill people in certain cases and in war, while in the books admitted to be holy by those who so teach, there is nothing like such a permission..." (From : "Letter to a Non-Commissioned Officer," by Leo Tol....)
• "...the dissemination of the truth in a society based on coercion was always hindered in one and the same manner, namely, those in power, feeling that the recognition of this truth would undermine their position, consciously or sometimes unconsciously perverted it by explanations and additions quite foreign to it, and also opposed it by open violence." (From : "A Letter to a Hindu: The Subjection of India- Its....)
• "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....)

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Part 05, Chapter 13

XIII.

After tea, the old lady invited her guests into the other room, and again sat down in her usual place. "But perhaps you would like to rest, count?" she asked. "Well, then, what would you like to amuse yourselves with, my dear guests?" she proceeded to ask after she had been assured to the contrary. "You play cards, do you not, count?—Here, brother, you might take a hand in some game or other."...

"Why, you yourself can play préférence," replied the cavalryman. "You had better take a hand, then. The count will play, will he not? And you?"

The officers were agreeable to every thing that might satisfy their amiable hosts.

Liza brought from her room her old cards which she used for divining whether her mother would speedily recover of a cold, or whether her uncle would return on such and such a day from the city if he chanced to have gone there, or whether her neighbor would be in during the day, and other like things. These cards, though they had been in use for two months, were less soiled than those which Anna Fedorovna used for the same purpose.

"Perhaps you are not accustomed to playing for small stakes," suggested the uncle. "Anna Fedorovna and I play for half-kopecks, and then she always gets the better of all of us."

"Ah! make your own arrangements. I shall be perfectly satisfied," said the count.[267]

"Well, then, be it in paper kopecks for the sake of our dear guests; only let me gain, as I am old," said Anna Fedorovna, settling herself in her chair, and adjusting her mantilla. "Maybe I shall win a ruble of them," thought Anna Fedorovna, who in her old age felt a little passion for cards.

"If you would like, I will teach you to play with tablets," said the count, "and with the miséries. It is very jolly."

Everybody was delighted with this new Petersburg fashion. The uncle went so far as to assert that he knew it, and that it was just the same thing as boston, but that he had forgotten somewhat about it.

Anna Fedorovna did not comprehend it at all; and it took her so long to get into it, that she felt under the necessity of smiling and nodding her head assuringly, to give the impression that she now understood, and that now it was all perfectly clear to her. But there was no little amusement created when in the midst of the game Anna Fedorovna, with ace and king blank, called "misérie," and remained with the six. She even began to grow confused, smiled timidly, and hastened to assure them that she had not as yet become accustomed to the new way.

Nevertheless they put down the points against her, and many of them too; the more because the count, through his practice of playing on large stakes, played carefully, led very prudently, and never at all understood what the cornet meant by sundry raps with his foot under the table, or why he made such stupid blunders in playing.

Liza brought in more jelly-cakes, three kinds of preserves, and apples cooked in some manner with port-wine; and then, standing behind her mother's chair,[268] she looked on at the game, and occasionally watched the officers, and especially the count's white hands with their delicate long finger-nails, as he with such skill, assurance, and grace, threw the cards, and took the tricks.

Once more Anna Fedorovna, with some show of temper going beyond the others, bid as high as seven, and lost three points; and when, at her brother's instigation, she tried to make some calculation, she found herself utterly confused and off the track.

"It's nothing, mamasha; you'll win it back again," said Liza, with a smile, anxious to rescue her mother from her ridiculous position. "Some time you'll put a fine on uncle: then he will be caught."

"But you might help me, Lízotchka," cried Anna Fedorovna, looking with an expression of dismay at her daughter; "I don't know how this"....

"But I don't know how to play this either," rejoined Liza, carefully calculating her mother's losses. "But if you go on at this rate, mamasha, you will lose a good deal, and Pímotchka will not have her new dress," she added in jest.

"Yes, in this way it is quite possible to lose ten silver rubles," said the cornet, looking at Liza, and anxious to draw her into conversation.

"Aren't we playing for paper money?" asked Anna Fedorovna, gazing round at the rest.

"I don't know, I am sure," replied the count. "But I don't know how to reckon in bank-notes. What are they? what do you mean by bank-notes?"[84]

"Why, no one nowadays reckons in bank-notes," explained the cavalryman, who was playing like a hero and was on the winning side.

[269]

The old lady ordered some sparkling wine, drank two glasses herself, grew quite flushed, and seemed to abandon all hope. One braid of her gray hair escaped from under her cap, and she did not even put it up. It was evident that she thought herself losing millions, and that she was entirely ruined. The cornet kept nudging the count's leg more and more emphatically. The count was noting down the old lady's losses.

At last the game came to an end. In spite of Anna Fedorovna's efforts to bring her reckoning higher than it should be, and to pretend that she had been cheated in her account, and that it could not be correct, in spite of her dismay at the magnitude of her losses, at last the account was made out, and she was found to have lost nine hundred and twenty points.

"Isn't that equal to nine paper rubles?" she asked again and again; and she did not begin to realize how great her forfeit was, until her brother, to her horror, explained that she was "out" thirty-two and a half paper rubles, and that it was absolutely necessary for her to pay it.

The count did not even sum up his gains, but, as soon as the game was over, arose and went over to the window where Liza was arranging the lunch, and putting potted mushrooms on a plate. There he did with perfect calmness and naturalness what the cornet had been anxious and yet unable to effect all the evening,—he engaged her in conversation about the weather.

The cornet at this time was brought into a thoroughly unpleasant predicament. Anna Fedorovna, in the absence of the count and Liza, who had managed to keep her in a jovial frame of mind, became really angry.[270]

"Indeed, it is too bad that we have caused you to lose so heavily," said Polózof, in order to say something. "It is simply shameful."

"I should think these tablets and miséries were something of your own invention. I don't know any thing about them. How many paper rubles does the whole amount to?" she demanded.

"Thirty-two rubles, thirty-two and a half," insisted the cavalryman, who, from the effect of having been on the winning side, was in a very waggish frame of mind. "Give him the money, sister.... Give it to him."

"I will give all I owe, only you must not ask for any more. No, I shall never win it back in my life."

And Anna Fedorovna went to her room, all in excitement, hurried back, and brought nine paper rubles. Only on the old man's strenuous insistence she was induced to pay the whole sum. Polózof had some fear that the old lady would pour out on him the vials of her wrath if he entered into conversation with her. He silently, without attracting attention, turned away, and rejoined the count and Liza, who were talking at the open window.

On the table, which was now spread for the supper, stood two tallow candles, whose flame occasionally flickered in the gentle breeze of the mild May night. Through the window opening into the garden came a very different light from that which filled the room. The moon, almost at its full, already beginning to lose its golden radiance, was pouring over the tops of the lofty lindens, and making brighter and brighter the delicate fleecy clouds that occasionally overcast it.

From the pond, the surface of which, silvered in one[271] place by the moon, could be seen through the trees, came the voices of the frogs. In the sweet-scented lilac-bush under the very window, which from time to time slowly shook its heavy-laden blossoms, birds were darting and fluttering.

"What marvelous weather!" said the count, as he joined Liza, and sat down in the low window-seat. "I suppose you go to walk a good deal, don't you?"

"Yes," rejoined Liza, not experiencing the slightest embarrassment in the count's company. "Every morning, at seven o'clock, I make the tour of the estate, and sometimes I take a walk with Pímotchka,—mama's protégée."

"It's pleasant living in the country," cried the count, putting his monocle to his eye, and gazing first at the garden, and then at Liza. "But don't you like to take a walk on moonlight nights?"

"No. Three years ago my uncle and I used to go out walking every moonlight night. He had some sort of strange illness,—insomnia. Whenever there was a full moon, he could not sleep. His room like this opens into the garden, and the window is low. The moon shines right into it."

"Strange," remarked the count. "Then this is your room."

"No, I only sleep there for this one night. You occupy my room."

"Is it possible? ... oh, good heavens![85] I shall never in the world forgive myself for the trouble that I have caused," said the count, casting the monocle from his eye as a sign of sincerity.... "If I had only known that I was going to"....

"How much trouble was it? On the contrary, I am [272]very glad. My uncle's room is so nice and jolly: there's a low window there. I shall sit down in it before I go to bed, or perhaps I shall go down, out into the garden, and take a little walk."

"What a glorious girl!" said the count to himself, replacing the monocle, and staring at her, and while pretending to change his seat in the window, trying to touch her foot with his. "And how shrewdly she gave me to understand that I might meet her in the garden at the window, if I would come down!"

Liza even lost in the count's eyes a large share of her charm, so easy did the conquest of her seem to him.

"And how blissful it must be," said the count dreamily, gazing into the shadow-haunted alley, "to spend such a night in the garden with the object of one's love!"

Liza was somewhat abashed by these words, and by a second evidently deliberate pressure upon her foot. Before she thought, she made some reply for the sake of dissimulating her embarrassment.

She said, "Yes, it is splendid to walk in the moonlight."

There was something disagreeable about the whole conversation. She put the cover on the jar from which she had been taking the mushrooms, and was just turning from the window, when the cornet came toward her, and she felt a curiosity to know what kind of a man he was.

"What a lovely night!" said he.

"They can only talk about the weather," thought Liza.

"What a wonderful view!" continued the cornet, "only I should think it would be tiresome," he added through a strange propensity, peculiar to him, of saying[273] things sure to offend the people who pleased him very much.

"Why should you think so? Always the same cooking and always the same dress might become tiresome; but a lovely garden can never be tiresome when you enjoy walking, and especially when there's a moon rising higher and higher. From my uncle's room you can see the whole pond. I shall see it from there to-night."

"And you haven't any nightingales at all, have you?" asked the count, greatly put out, because Polózof had come and prevented him from learning the exact conditions of the rendezvous.

"Oh, yes, we always have them; last year the hunters caught one; and last week there was one that sang beautifully, but the district inspector[86] came along with his bells, and scared him away.... Three years ago my uncle and I used to sit out in the covered alley, and listen to one for two hours at a time."

"What is this chatterbox telling you about?" inquired the old uncle, joining the trio. "Aren't you ready for something to eat?"

At supper, the count by his reiterated praise of the viands, and his appetite, succeeded somewhat in pacifying Anna Fedorovna's unhappy state of mind. Afterwards the officers made their adieux, and went to their room. The count shook hands with the old cavalier, and, to Anna Fedorovna's surprise, with her, without offering to kiss her hand; and he also squeezed Liza's hand, at the same time looking straight into her eyes, and craftily smiling his pleasing smile. This glance again somewhat disconcerted the maiden. "He is very handsome," she said to herself, "only he is quite too conceited."

[274]

From : Gutenberg.org

Chronology

December 05, 1887 :
Part 05, Chapter 13 -- Publication.

February 18, 2017 19:26:51 :
Part 05, Chapter 13 -- Added to http://www.RevoltLib.com.

March 20, 2019 08:00:24 :
Part 05, Chapter 13 -- Last Updated on http://www.RevoltLib.com.

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