A Russian Proprietor By Count Leo N. Tolstoy

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

Chapter XIV

“Hadn’t I better go home?” mused Nekhliudof, as he strode along toward the Dutlof enclosure, and felt a boundless melancholy and moral weariness.

But at this moment the new deal gates were thrown open before him with a creaking sound; and a handsome, ruddy fellow of eighteen in wagoner’s attire appeared, leading a troïka of powerful-limbed and still sweaty horses. He hastily brushed back his blonde hair, and bowed to the prince.

“Well, is your father at home, Ilya?” asked Nekhliudof.

“At the bee-house, back of the yard,” replied the youth, driving the horses, one after the other, through the half-opened gates.

“I will not give it up. I will make the proposal. I will do the best I can,” reflected Nekhliudof; and, after waiting till the horses had passed out, he entered Dutlof’s spacious yard.

It was plain to see that the manure had only recently been carried away. The ground was still black and damp; and in places, particularly in the hollows, were left red fibrous clots.

In the yard and under the high sheds, many carts stood in orderly rows, together with ploughs, sledges, harrows, barrels, and all sorts of farming implements. Doves were flitting about, cooing in the shadows under[61] the broad solid rafters. There was an odor of manure and tar.

In one corner Karp and Ignát were fitting a new cross-bar to a large iron-mounted, three-horse cart.

All three of Dutlof’s sons bore a strong family resemblance. The youngest, Ilya, who had met Nekhliudof at the gate, was beardless, of smaller stature, ruddier complexion, and more neatly dressed, than the others. The second, Ignát, was rather taller and darker. He had a wedge-shaped beard; and though he wore boots, a driver’s shirt, and a lamb’s-skin cap, he had not such a festive, holiday appearance as his brother had.

The eldest, Karp, was still taller. He wore clogs, a gray kaftan, and a shirt without gussets. He had a reddish beard, trimmed; and his expression was serious, even to severity.

“Do you wish my father sent for, your excellency?” he asked, coming to meet the prince, and bowing slightly and awkwardly.

“No, I will go to him at the hives: I wish to see what he’s building there. But I should like a talk with you,” said Nekhliudof, drawing him to the other side of the yard, so that Ignát might not overhear what he was about to talk about with Karp.

The self-confidence and degree of pride noticeable in the deportment of the two peasants, and what the nurse had told the young prince, so troubled him, that it was difficult for him to make up his mind to speak with them about the matter proposed.

He had a sort of guilty feeling, and it seemed to him easier to speak with one brother out of the hearing of the other. Karp seemed surprised that the prince took him to one side, but he followed him.[62]

“Well, now,” began Nekhliudof awkwardly,—”I wished to inquire of you if you had many horses.”

“We have about five troïkas, also some colts,” replied Karp in a free-and-easy manner, scratching his back.

“Well, are your brothers going to take out relays of horses for the post?”

“We shall send out three troïkas to carry the mail. And there’s Ilyushka, he has been off with his team; but he’s just come back.”

“Well, is that profitable for you? How much do you earn that way?”

“What do you mean by profit, your excellency? We at least get enough to live on and bait our horses, thank God for that!”

“Then, why don’t you take hold of something else? You see, you might buy wood, or take more land.”

“Of course, your excellency: we might rent some land if there were any convenient.”

“I wish to make a proposition to you. Since you only make enough out of your teaming to live on, you had better take thirty desiatins of land from me. All that strip behind Sapof I will let you have, and you can carry on your farming better.”

And Nekhliudof, carried away by his plan for a peasant farm, which more than once he had proposed to himself, and deliberated about, began fluently to explain to the peasant his proposition about it.

Karp listened attentively to the prince’s words.

“We are very grateful for your kindness,” said he, when Nekhliudof stopped, and looked at him in expectation of his answer. “Of course here there’s nothing very bad. To occupy himself with farming is[63] better for a peasant than to go off as a whip. He goes among strangers; he sees all sorts of men; he gets wild. It’s the very best thing for a peasant, to occupy himself with land.”

“You think so, do you?”

“As long as my father is alive, how can I think, your excellency? It’s as he wills.”

“Take me to the bee-hives. I will talk with him.”

“Come with me this way,” said Karp, slowly directing himself to the barn back of the house. He opened a low gate which led to the apiary, and after letting the prince pass through, he shut it, and returned to Ignát, and silently took up his interrupted labors.[64]

< < < Chapter XIII
Chapter XV > > >

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

© 2022 Akirill.com

Copyright holders –  Public Domain Book

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s