A Russian Proprietor, and Other Stories : Part 05, Chapter 14

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1887

People

(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.)
• "If, in former times, Governments were necessary to defend their people from other people's attacks, now, on the contrary, Governments artificially disturb the peace that exists between the nations, and provoke enmity among them." (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,....)
• "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 14

XIV.

"Well, now, aren't you ashamed?" exclaimed Polózof, when the two officers had reached the privacy of their chamber. "I tried to lose, and I kept nudging you under the table. Now aren't you really ashamed? The poor old lady was quite beside herself."

The count burst into a terrible fit of laughter.

"A most amusing dame! How abused she felt!"

And again he began to laugh so heartily that even Johann, who was standing in front of him, cast down his eyes to conceal a smile. "And here is the son of an old family friend! Ha, ha, ha!" continued the count in a gale of laughter.

"No, indeed, it is not right. I felt really sorry for her," said the cornet.

"What rubbish! How young you are! What! did you think that I was going to lose? Why should I lose? I only lose when I don't know any better. Ten rubles, brother, will come in handy. You must look on life in a practical way, or else you will always be a fool."

Polózof made no answer: in the first place, he wanted to think by himself about Liza, who seemed to him to be an extraordinarily pure and beautiful creature.

He undressed, and lay down on the clean soft bed which had been made ready for him.

"How absurd all these honors and the glory of[275] war!" he thought to himself, gazing at the window shaded by the shawl, through the interstices of which crept the pale rays of the moon. "Here is happiness—to live in a quiet nook, with a gentle, bright, simple-hearted wife; that is enduring, true happiness."

But somehow he did not communicate these imaginations to his friend; and he did not even speak of the rustic maiden, though he felt sure that the count was also thinking about her.

"Why don't you undress?" he demanded of the count, who was walking up and down the room.

"Oh, I don't feel like sleeping! Put out the candle if you like," said he. "I can undress in the dark."

And he continued to walk up and down.

"He does not feel sleepy," repeated Polózof, who after the evening's experiences felt more than ever dissatisfied with the count's influence upon him, and disposed to revolt against it. "I imagine," he reasoned, mentally addressing Turbin, "what thoughts are now trooping through that well-combed head of yours. And I saw how she pleased you. But you are not the kind to appreciate that simple-hearted, pure-minded creature. Mina is the one for you, you want the epaulets of a colonel.—Indeed, I have a mind to ask him how he liked her."

And Polózof was about to address him, but he deliberated: he felt that not only he was not in the right frame of mind to discuss with him if the count's glance at Liza was what he interpreted it to be, but that he should not have the force of mind necessary for him to disagree with him, so accustomed was he to submit to an influence which for him grew each day more burdensome and unrighteous.

"Where are you going?" he asked, as the count took his cap and went to the door.[276]

"I am going to the stable; I wish to see if every thing is all right."

"Strange!" thought the cornet; but he blew out the candle, and, trying to dispel the absurdly jealous and hostile thoughts that arose against his former friend, he turned over on the other side.

Anna Fedorovna meantime, having crossed herself, and kissed her brother, her daughter, and her protégée, as affectionately as usual, also retired to her room.

Long had it been since the old lady had experienced in a single day so many powerful sensations. She could not even say her prayers in tranquility; all the melancholy but vivid remembrances of the late count, and of this young dandy who had so ruthlessly taken advantage of her, kept coming up in her mind.

Nevertheless she undressed as usual, and drank a half glass of kvas which stood ready on the little table near the bed, and lay down. Her beloved cat came softly into the room. Anna Fedorovna called her, and began to stroke her fur, and listen to her purring; but still she could not go to sleep.

"It is the cat that disturbs me," she said to herself, and pushed her away. The cat fell to the floor softly, and, slowly waving her bushy tail, got upon the oven;[87] and then the maid, who slept in the room on the floor, brought her felt, and put out the candle, after lighting the night-lamp.

At last the maid began to snore; but sleep still refused to come to Anna Fedorovna, and calm her excited imagination. The face of the hussar constantly arose before her mental vision, when she shut her eyes; and it seemed to her that it appeared in various strange guises in her room, when she opened her eyes and [277]looked at the commode, at the table, and her white raiment hanging up in the feeble light of the night-lamp. Then it seemed hot to her in the feather-bed, and the ticking of the watch on the table seemed unendurable; exasperating to the last degree, the snoring of the maid. She wakened her, and bade her cease snoring.

Again the thoughts of the old count and of the young count, and of the game of préférence, became strangely mixed in her mind. Now she seemed to see herself waltzing with the former count; she saw her own round white shoulders, she felt on them some one's kisses, and then she saw her daughter in the young count's embrace.

Once more Ustiushka began to snore....

"No, it's somehow different now, the men aren't the same. He was ready to fling himself into the fire for my sake. Yes, I was worth doing it for! But this one, have no fear, is sound asleep like a goose, instead of wooing. How his father fell on his knees, and said, 'Whatever you desire I will do, I could kill myself in a moment; what do you desire?' And he would have killed himself, if I had bade him!"...

Suddenly the sound of bare feet was heard in the corridor; and Liza with a shawl thrown over her came in pale and trembling, and almost fell on her mother's bed....

After saying good-night to her mother, Liza had gone alone to the room that had been her uncle's. Putting on a white jacket, throwing a handkerchief round her thick long braids, she put out the light, opened the window, and curled up in a chair, turning her dreamy eyes to the pond which was now all shining with silver brilliancy.

All her ordinary occupations and interests came up[278] before her now in an entirely different light. Her capricious old mother, unreasoning love for whom had become a part of her very soul, her feeble but amiable old uncle, the domestics, the peasants who worshiped their young mistress, the milch cows and the calves; all this nature which was forever the same in its continual death and resurrection, amid which she had grown up, with love for others, and with the love of others for her,—all this that gave her that gentle, agreeable peace of mind,—suddenly seemed to her something different; it all seemed to her dismal, superfluous.

It was as though some one said to her, "Fool, fool! For twenty years you have been occupied in trivialities, you have been serving others without reason, and you have not known what life, what happiness, were!"

This was what she thought now as she gazed down into the depths of the motionless moonlit garden, and the thought came over her with vastly more force than ever before. And what was it that induced this train of thought? It was not in the least a sudden love for the count, as might easily be supposed. On the contrary, he did not please her. It might rather have been the cornet of whom she was thinking; but he was homely, poor, and taciturn.

"No, it isn't that," she said to herself.

Her ideal was so charming! It was an ideal which might have been loved in the midst of this night, in the midst of this nature, without infringing its supernal beauty; an ideal not in the least circumscribed by the necessity of reducing it to coarse reality.

In days gone by, her lonely situation, and the absence of people who might have attracted her, caused that all the strength of the love which Providence has implanted impartially in the hearts of each one of us,[279] was still intact and potential in her soul. But now she had been living too long with the pathetic happiness of feeling that she possessed in her heart this something, and occasionally opening the mysterious chalice of her heart, of rejoicing in the contemplation of its riches, ready to pour out without stint on some one all that it contained.

God grant that she may not have to take this melancholy delight with her to the tomb! But who knows if there be any better and more powerful delight, or if it is not the only true and possible one?

"O Father in heaven," she thought, "is it possible that I have lost my youth and my happiness, and that they will never return?... Will they never return again? is it really true?"

She gazed in the direction of the moon at the bright far-off sky, studded with white wavy clouds, which, as they swept on toward the moon, blotted out the little stars.

"If the moon should seize that little cloud above it, then it means that it is true," she thought. A thin smoke-like strip of cloud passed over the lower half of the brilliant orb, and gradually the light grew fainter on the turf, on the linden tops, on the pond: the black shadows of the trees grew less distinct. And as though to harmonize with the gloomy shade which was enveloping nature, a gentle breeze stirred through the leaves, and brought to the window the dewy fragrance of the leaves, the moist earth, and the blooming lilacs.

"No, it is not true!" she said, trying to console herself; "but if the nightingale should sing this night, then I should take it to mean that all my forebodings are nonsense, and that there is no need of losing hope."

And long she sat in silence, as though expecting[280] some one, while once more all grew bright and full of life; and then again and again the clouds passed over the moon, and all became somber.

She was even beginning to grow drowsy, as she sat there by the window, when she was aroused by the nightingale's melodious trills clearly echoing across the pond. The rustic maiden opened her eyes. Once more, with a new enjoyment, her whole soul was dedicated to that mysterious union with the nature which so calmly and serenely spread out before her.

She leaned on both elbows. A certain haunting sensation of gentle melancholy oppressed her heart; and tears of pure, deep love, burning for satisfaction, good consoling tears, sprang to her eyes.

She leaned her arms on the window-sill, and rested her head upon them. Her favorite prayer seemed of its own accord to arise in her soul, and thus she fell asleep with moist eyes.

The pressure of some one's hand awakened her. She started up. But the touch was gentle and pleasant. The hand squeezed hers with a stronger pressure.

Suddenly she realized the true state of things, screamed, tore herself away; and trying to make herself believe that it was not the count who, bathed in the brilliant moonlight, was standing in front of her window, she hastened from the room.[281]

From : Gutenberg.org

Chronology

December 05, 1887 :
Part 05, Chapter 14 -- Publication.

February 18, 2017 19:27:14 :
Part 05, Chapter 14 -- Added to http://www.RevoltLib.com.

March 19, 2019 14:47:34 :
Part 05, Chapter 14 -- Last Updated on http://www.RevoltLib.com.

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