A Russian Proprietor By Count Leo N. Tolstoy

Russian Literature – Children Books – Russian Poetry – Leo Tolstoy – A Russian Proprietor – contents
< < < Chapter XVII
Chapter XIX > > >

Chapter XVIII

“My God! my God!” was Nekhliudof’s mental exclamation, as with long strides he hastened home through the shady alleys of his weed-grown garden, and, absent-mindedly, snapped off the leaves and branches which fell in his way.

“Is it possible that my dreams about the ends and duties of my life are all idle nonsense? Why is it hard for me, and mournful, as though I were dissatisfied with myself because I imagined that having once begun this course I should constantly experience the fulness of the morally pleasant feeling which I had when, for the first time, these thoughts came to me?”

And with extraordinary vividness and distinctness he saw in his imagination that happy moment which he had experienced a year before.

He had arisen very early, before every one else in the house, and feeling painfully those secret, indescribable impulses of youth, he had gone aimlessly out into the garden, and from there into the woods; and, amid the energetic but tranquil nature pulsing with the new life of Maytime, he had wandered long alone, without thought, and suffering from the exuberance of some feeling, and not finding any expression for it.

Then, with all the allurement of what is unknown, his youthful imagination brought up before him the voluptuous form of a woman; and it seemed to him that was the object of his indescribable longing. But[75] another, deeper sentiment said, Not that, and impelled him to search and be disturbed in mind.

Without thought or desire, as always happens after extra activity, he lay on his back under a tree, and looked at the diaphanous morning-clouds drifting over him across the deep, endless sky.

Suddenly, without any reason, the tears sprang to his eyes, and God knows in what way the thought came to him with perfect clearness, filling all his soul and giving him intense delight,—the thought that love and righteousness are the same as truth and enjoyment, and that there is only one truth, and only one possible happiness, in the world.

The deeper feeling this time did not say, Not that. He sat up, and began to verify this thought.

“That is it, that is it,” said he to himself, in a sort of ecstasy, measuring all his former convictions, all the phenomena of his life, by the truth just discovered to him, and as it seemed to him absolutely new.

“What stupidity! All that I knew, all that I believed in, all that I loved,” he had said to himself. “Love is self-denying; this is the only true happiness independent of chance,” he had said over and over again, smiling and waving his hands.

Applying this thought on every side to life, and finding in it confirmation both of life and that inner voice which told him that this was it, he had experienced a new feeling of pleasant agitation and enthusiasm.

“And so I ought to do good if I would be happy,” he thought; and all his future vividly came up before him, not as an abstraction, but in images in the form of the life of a proprietor.

He saw before him a huge field, conterminous with[76] his whole life, which he was to consecrate to the good, and in which really he should find happiness. There was no need for him to search for a sphere of activity; it was all ready. He had one out-and-out obligation: he had his serfs….

And what comfortable and beneficent labor lay before him! “To work for this simple, impressionable, incorruptible class of people; to lift them from poverty; to give them pleasure; to give them education which, fortunately, I will turn to use in correcting their faults, which arise from ignorance and superstition; to develop their morals; to induce them to love the right…. What a brilliant, happy future! And besides all this, I, who am going to do this for my own happiness, shall take delight in their appreciation, shall see how every day I shall go farther and farther toward my predestined end. A wonderful future! Why could I not have seen this before?

“And besides,” so he had thought at the same time, “who will hinder me from being happy in love for a woman, in enjoyment of family?”

And his youthful imagination portrayed before him a still more bewitching future.

“I and my wife, whom I shall love as no one ever loved a wife before in the world, we shall always live amid this restful, poetical, rural nature, with our children, maybe, and with my old aunt. We have our love for each other, our love for our children; and we shall both know that our aim is the right. We shall help each other in pressing on to this goal. I shall make general arrangements; I shall give general aid when it is right; I shall carry on the farm, the savings bank, the workshop. And she, with her dear little head, and dressed in a simple white dress, which she[77] lifts above her dainty ankle as she steps through the mud, will go to the peasants’ school, to the hospital, to some unfortunate peasant who in truth does not deserve help, and everywhere carry comfort and aid…. Children, old men, women, will wait for her, and look on her as on some angel, as on Providence. Then she will return, and hide from me the fact that she has been to see the unfortunate peasant, and given him money; but I shall know all, and give her a hearty hug, and rain kisses thick and fast on her lovely eyes, her modestly-blushing cheeks, and her smiling, rosy lips.”[78]

< < < Chapter XVII
Chapter XIX > > >

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

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