A Russian Proprietor By Count Leo N. Tolstoy

Russian Literature – Children Books – Russian Poetry – Leo Tolstoy – A Russian Proprietor – contents
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Chapter XIII

“That’s the way I’ll do,” said Nekhliudof to himself with a pleasant self-consciousness; and then, recollecting that he had still to go to the rich peasant Dutlof, he directed his steps toward a lofty and ample establishment, with two chimneys, standing in the midst of the village.

As he passed a neighboring hut on his way thither, he stopped to speak with a tall, disorderly-looking peasant-woman of forty summers, who came to meet him.

“A pleasant holiday, father,”[42] she said, with some show of assurance, stopping at a little distance from him with a pleased smile and a low obeisance.

“Good-morning, my nurse. How are you? I was just going to see your neighbor.”

“Pretty well, your excellency, my father. It’s a good idea. But won’t you come in? I beg you to. My old man would be very pleased.”

“Well, I’ll come; and we’ll have a little talk with you, nurse. Is this your house?”

“It is, sir.”[42]

And the nurse led the way into the hut. Nekhliudof followed her into the entry, and sat down on a tub, and began to smoke a cigarette.

“It’s hot inside. It’s better to sit down here, and have our talk,” he said in reply to the woman’s invitation to go into the hut.


The nurse was a well-preserved and handsome woman. In the features of her countenance, and especially in her big black eyes, there was a strong resemblance to the prince himself. She folded her hands under her apron, and looking fearlessly at him, and incessantly moving her head, began to talk with him.

“Why is it, father? why do you wish to visit Dutlof?”

“Oh, I am anxious for him to take thirty desiatins[43] of land of me, and enlarge his domain; and moreover I want him to buy some wood from me also. You see, he has money, so why should it be idle? What do you think about it, nurse?”

“Well, what can I say? The Dutlofs are strong people: he’s the leading peasant in the whole estate,” replied the nurse, shaking her head. “Last summer he built another building out of his own lumber. He did not call upon the estate at all. He has horses, and yearling colts besides, at least six troïkas, and cattle, cows, and sheep; so that it is a sight worth seeing when they are driven along the street from pasture, and the women of the house come out to get them into the yard. There is such a crush of animals at the gate that they can scarcely get through, so many of them there are. And two hundred bee-hives at the very least. He is a strong peasant, and must have money.”

“But what do you think,—has he much money?” asked the prince.

“Men say, out of spite of course, that the old man has no little money. But he does not go round talking about it, and he does not tell even his sons, [58]but he must have. Why shouldn’t he take hold of the woodland? Perhaps he is afraid of getting the reputation for money. Five years ago he went into a small business with Shkalik the porter. They got some meadow-land; and this Shkalik, some way or other, cheated him, so that the old man was three hundred rubles out of pocket. And from that time he has sworn off. How can he help being forehanded, your excellency, father?” continued the nurse. “He has three farms, a big family, all workers; and besides, the old man—it is hard to say it—is a capital manager. He is lucky in every thing; it is surprising,—in his grain and in his horses and in his cattle and in his bees, and he’s lucky in his children. Now he has got them all married off. He has found husbands for his daughters; and he has just married Ilyushka, and given him his freedom. He himself bought the letter of enfranchisement. And so a fine woman has come into his house.”

“Well, do they live harmoniously?” asked the prince.

“As long as there’s the right sort of a head to the house, they get along. Yet even the Dutlofs—but of course that’s among the women. The daughters-in-law bark at each other a little behind the oven, but the old man generally holds them in hand; and the sons live harmoniously.”

The nurse was silent for a little.

“Now, the old man, we hear, wants to leave his eldest son, Karp, as master of the house. ‘I am getting old,’ says he. ‘It’s my business to attend to the bees.’ Well, Karp is a good peasant, a careful peasant; but he doesn’t manage to please the old man in the least. There’s no sense in it.”[59]

“Well, perhaps Karp wants to speculate in land and wood. What do you think about it?”, pursued the prince, wishing to learn from the woman all that she knew about her neighbors.

“Scarcely, sir,”[44] continued the nurse. “The old man hasn’t disclosed his money to his son. As long as he lives, of course, the money in the house will be under the old man’s control; and it will increase all the time too.”

“But isn’t the old man willing?”

“He is afraid.”

“What is he afraid of?”

“How is it possible, sir, for a seignorial peasant to make a noise about his money? And it’s a hard question to decide what to do with money anyway. Here he went into business with the porter, and was cheated. Where was he to get redress? And so he lost his money. But with the proprietor he would have any loss made good immediately, of course.”

“Yes, hence,”…. said Nekhliudof, reddening. “But good-by, nurse.”

“Good-by, sir, your excellency. Greatly obliged to you.”


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Chapter XIV > > >

Russian Literature – Children Books – Russian Poetry – Leo Tolstoy – A Russian Proprietor – contents

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