The Invaders, and Other Stories : Part 3, Chapter 1 : Polikushka: A Story

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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.)
• "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,....)
• "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....)
• "There are people (we ourselves are such) who realize that our Government is very bad, and who struggle against it." (From : "A Letter to Russian Liberals," by Leo Tolstoy, Au....)

(? - 1935)
Nathan Haskell Dole (August 31, 1852 – May 9, 1935) was an American editor, translator, and author. He attended Phillips Academy, Andover, and graduated from Harvard University in 1874. He was a writer and journalist in Philadelphia, New York, and Boston. He translated many works of Leo Tolstoy, and books of other Russians; novels of the Spaniard Armando Palacio Valdés (1886–90); a variety of works from the French and Italian. Nathan Haskell Dole was born August 31, 1852, in Chelsea, Massachusetts. He was the second son of his father Reverend Nathan Dole (1811–1855) and mother Caroline (Fletcher) Dole. Dole grew up in the Fletcher homestead, a strict Puritan home, in Norridgewock, Maine, where his grandmother lived and where his mother moved with her two boys after his father died of tuberculosis. Sophie May wrote her Prudy Books in Norridgewock, which probably showed the sort of life Nathan and his older brother Charles Fletcher Dol... (From : Wikipedia.org.)

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Part 3, Chapter 1

"As you may please to order, madame. But it would be too bad to send any of the Dutlofs. They are all, without exception, good boys; but if you don't take one of the house-servants[1] you will have to send one of them without fail," said the overseer; "and now all point to them. However, as you wish."

And he placed his right hand on his left, holding them both over his stomach, tipped his head on one side, sucked in his thin lips, almost smacking them, turned away his eyes, and held his peace, with the evident intention of holding it long, and of listening* without reply to all the nonsense which the mistress might say to him in this regard.

The overseer had formerly been one of the household servants, and now, this autumn evening, he was holding conference with his mistress, and was standing before her, clean-shaven, in his long coat, the special dress of the overseer. The conference as the mistress understood it was to be devoted to reckoning the profits and losses of the past season, and in making arrangements for the one to come. As Yégor Mikhaïlovitch the overseer understood it, the conference consisted of the rite of standing in a corner firmly on his two feet, set wide apart, with his face turned to the sofa, listening to all the good lady's unending and aimless babble, and leading her by various expedients to the point of saying hastily and impatiently, "Very good, very good," to all his suggestions.

The point at issue just at present was the conscription. Three soldiers had to be sent from Pokrovskoé. Two were unquestionably named by Providence itself, with a due regard for family, moral, and economical conditions. Concerning them there could be neither hesitation nor quarrel on the part of the Commune,[2] or the lady of the manor, or the people in general.

The third was harder to decide upon. The overseer wanted to avoid sending any of the three Dutlofs, and proposed Polikushka, a servant who had a family and a very bad reputation, having more than once been convicted of stealing corn, reins, and hay; but the mistress, who had often caressed Polikushka's ragged children, and by means of evangelical teachings had improved his morals, did not wish to let him go. At the same time she had no ill-will against the Dutlofs,* whom she did not know and had never seen. And so she could not come to any decision at all, and the overseer hadn't the courage to explain to her explicitly that if Polikushka did not go Dutlof would have to go.

"Well, I don't wish to cause the Dutlofs any unhappiness," she said with feeling.

"If you don't want them to go, then pay three hundred rubles for a substitute," was the reply that he should have made her; but his diplomacy was not equal to such an emergency.

And so Yégor Mikhaïlovitch straightened himself up calmly, even leaned slightly on the door-post, and with a certain obsequiousness in his face watched how his mistress moved her lips, and how the shadow of the ruching on her head-dress moved up and down on the wall under the picture. But he did not find it necessary to penetrate the meaning of her words. She spoke long and rapidly. His ears were moved by the convulsion of a yawn, but he adroitly changed it into a cough, which he hid with his hand, making a hypocritical noise.

Not long ago I saw Lord Palmerston sitting with his hat on at the time when he was a member of the opposition, and destroyed the ministry, and, suddenly rising, replied in a three-hours' speech to all the points of his opponent. I saw that, and was not filled with amazement, because something not unlike it I had seen a thousand times in the dealings of Yégor Mikhaïlovitch with his mistress. Either because he was afraid of going to sleep, or because it seemed to him that she had already gone to great lengths, he shifted the weight of his body from his left leg to his right, and began with the sacramental introduction as he always began:—

*

"As you please, my lady—only—only—the Commune is to meet at my office, and it must be decided. In the requisition it says that Pokrovskoé must send a recruit to the city. And out of all the serfs, they point to the Dutlofs, and to no one else. But the Commune doesn't care for your interests; it's all the same to them if we ruin the Dutlofs.... You see, I know how they have been struggling to get along. Since I have had charge, they have been in the depths of poverty. Now that the old man is just about to have his young nephew's help, we've got to ruin them. But I, you will please take notice, am working as much for your interest as my own. 'Tis too bad, my lady, that you should set your mind on it so. They are no kith or kin of mine, and I have had nothing from them." ...

"Oh, I didn't think, Yégor," interrupted the lady, and immediately she felt convinced that he had been bribed by the Dutlofs.

"And they've got the best farm in all Pokrovskoé; God-fearing, work-loving muzhíks. The old man has been an elder in the church[3] for thirty years. He doesn't drink wine, nor use bad language, and he's a church-goer. [The overseer knew how to be plausible.] And chief of all, I will tell you, he has only two sons, and the other one's a nephew. The Commune make the decree; but, according to the existing rule, it would be necessary for a man with two to have a special vote. Others who have had three sons have given them farms of their own, and come to wretchedness; but these people are acting right, and this is the way their virtue is rewarded."

*

The lady did not understand this at all,—did not understand what he meant by "special vote," and "virtue." She heard only sounds, and she looked at the nankeen buttons on the overseer's coat: the upper button he rarely fastened, so that it was on tight; but the strain had come upon the middle one, and it hung by a thread, so that it would soon need to be sewed on again. But, as everybody knows, it is absolutely unnecessary in a business conversation for you to understand what is said, but it is necessary only to bear in mind what you yourself wish to say. And the lady acted on this principle.

"Why aren't you willing to understand, Yégor Mikhailovïtch?" said she. "I am sure I don't wish any of the Dutlofs to go as a soldier. I should think, that, as well as you know me, you might feel assured that I would do every thing to help my people, and that I do not wish them to be unhappy. You know that I am ready to sacrifice every thing to avoid this wretched necessity, and keep both of the men from going. [I know not whether it came into the overseer's head, that the avoidance of the wretched necessity did not require the sacrifice of every thing, but merely three hundred rubles; but this thought might have easily occurred to him.] One thing I assure you, and that is, we will not let Polikéï go. When, after that affair of the clock, he confessed to me, and wept, and vowed that he would reform, I had a long talk with him; and I saw that he was touched, and that he really repented. ["Well, she's in for it," thought Yégor Mikhaïlovitch, and began to gaze at the jam which stood in a glass of water by her side. "Is it orange, or lemon? I think it must taste bitter," he said to himself.] Since that time seven months have passed, and he has not been* once drunk, and he has behaved admirably. His wife told me that he had become another man. And now, why do you wish me to punish him, when he has reformed? Yes; and wouldn't it be inhumane, to send a man who has five children, and no one to help him? No, you had better not speak about that, Yégor."... And the lady took a sip from the glass.

Yégor Mikhaïlovitch watched the water disappearing down her throat, and consequently his answer was short and dry:—

"Then you order one of the Dutlofs to be sent?"

The lady clasped her hands.

"Why can't you understand me? Do I wish to make Dutlof unhappy? Have I any thing against him? God is my witness how ready I am to do every thing for them. [She glanced at the picture in the corner, but remembered that it was not a holy picture. "Well, it's all the same, that's not the point at all," she thought. Again it was strange that it did not occur to her to offer the three hundred rubles!] But what can I do about it? Do I know the ways and means? I have no way of knowing. Well, I depend upon you; you know my wishes. Do what you can to satisfy everybody; but have it legal. What's to be done? They are not the only ones. Troublous times come to all. Only, Polikéï must not be sent. You must know that that would be terrible for me."

She would have gone on speaking,—she was so excited,—but just then a chambermaid came into the room.

"Is that you, Duniasha?"

"A muzhík is here, and asks for Yégor Mikhaïluitch; they are waiting for him at the meeting," said Duniasha, and looked angrily at Yégor Mikhaïlovitch.

*

"What an overseer he is!" she said to herself, "stirring up my mistress. Now she won't get to sleep till two o'clock again."

"Now go, Yégor," said the lady. "Do the best you can."

"I obey. [He now said nothing at all about Dutlof.] But shall I send to the gardener for the money?"

"Hasn't Petrushka got back from town."

"Not yet."

"But can't Nikolaï go?"

"Papa has the lumbago," said Duniasha.

"Won't you have me go to-morrow?" asked the overseer.

"No, you are needed here, Yégor." The lady paused to consider. "How much money?"

"Four hundred and sixty-two rubles."

"Send Polikéï to me," said the lady, looking resolutely into Yégor's face.

The overseer not opening his teeth stretched his lips into a sort of smile, but did not alter his expression.

"Very well."

"Send him to me."

"Very well." And Yégor Mikhaïlovitch went to his office.

[1] Most of the serfs in Russia were attached to the land, and could not be sold apart from It. Others, called dvoróvui, constituted the class of domestic servants, and plied various trades. Their owners gave them monthly rations or a small allowance for rations. Often they were allowed to go to the large cities on obrok, a sort of leave of absence, for which they paid their masters out of their earnings. The bárin or báruin'ya—that is, the lord or lady of the estate—had the right to excuse any one from the conscription; but unless a substitute were sent, a sum of money was required. Other things being equal, the draft was made first on families where there were three or more grown-up men besides the head of the house, the troïniki; next, on the dvoïniki, families where there were two grown-up sons or nephews; and last of all, where there was only one. Families where several generations, and even with collateral branches, lived under one roof, were apt to be more prosperous than when the sous scattered, and took separate farms.

[2] mir

[3] stárosta tserkovnui, a small office, giving the man the privilege of selling candles, etc.

(Source: Published by Thomas Y. Crowell & Co., New York, 13 Astor Place, 1887.)

From : Gutenberg.org

Chronology

November 30, 1886 :
Part 3, Chapter 1 -- Publication.

June 09, 2021 17:59:37 :
Part 3, Chapter 1 -- Added to https://www.RevoltLib.com.

June 09, 2021 18:54:41 :
Part 3, Chapter 1 -- Last Updated on https://www.RevoltLib.com.

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