7 2 3 4
Edition de Luxe
Lyof N. Tolstoi
A RUSSIAN PROPRIETOR
THE DEATH OF IVAN ILYITCH
AND OTHER STORIES
The Wheeler Publishing Co.
Edition De Luxe
Limited to looo copies
A RUSSIAN PROPRIETOR
AND OTHER STORIES
By THOMAS Y. CROWELL & CO.
SIX of the narratives included in the present volume
are representative of Count Tolstoi's literary activ-
ity in the years 1856, 1857, and 1859; the first, which
gives the volume its name, is of earlier date, having been
written in 1852, the same year as " Childhood, Boyhood,
elseif (getClientWidth() > 430)
and Youth." Literally translated, the title, Utro Poniye-
sJichika, means "A Proprietor's Morning," and was prob-
ably intended as a part of a projected novel ; but it is
complete in itself, representing the experiences of a con-
scientious young Russian in dealing with his serfs, en-
deavoring to lift them from their degradation, and finding
their ingrained obstinacy and conservatism too powerful
to overcome. ». One cannot help feeling that it is autobio-
graphical, or at least founded on similar experiences,
Count Tolstoi', it will be remembered, having suddenly
quitted the University of Kazan, in spite of the en-
treaties of his friends, and retired to his paternal estate
of Yasnaya Polyana near Tula. The aunt, whose letter
is cited in the first chapter, must have been Tolstoif's aunt
mentioned in the second chapter of " My Confession."
The " Recollections of a Billiard-marker " and " Two
Hussars " are both evidently reminiscent of Count Tol-
stoi's gambling days. Both must have been suggested
by some such terrible experience as that told of his
gambling debt in the Caucasus. The style of the first
is pecuHarly rugged and staccato, with a quite wonder-
ful skill in reproducing the slang of the billiard-saloon.
The other is a powerful delineation of the contrast be-
tween the dissipated, high-handed, bold hussar of the
early days, with his freaks of generosity, with his nobility
and gallantry, and his son, no less dissipated, but mean,
contemptible, and narrow.
** Lucerne " and " Albert " are likewise evidently tran-
scripts from the author's own experiences. The Quixotic
benefactor, the autobiographic Prince Nekhliudof, who
in the one case patronizes the strolhng Swiss singer and
in the other tries to rescue the drunken violinist from
himself, is Count Tolstoi.
" Family Happiness" is a romance complete in itself.
It is the autobiography of a young, passionate, and sus-
ceptible woman, who, being thrown into the society of
her guardian, marries him, and too late discovers that
the love which she has to bestow is met by a philosophic
liking so cold as thoroughly to disenchant her. She
narrowly escapes shipwreck, not through any inherent
badness, but by the force of inertia, which lets her drift
with the stream toward the chasm of illicit passion.
She wins a certain serenity, and happiness returns in
her acceptance of the inevitable and in her devotion to
duty. It is a wonderful study of a woman's soul, and is
the most poetic of Count Tolstoi's works ; it is shot
through and through wdth the music of nightingales.
In interesting contrast to these characteristic stories
is the little gem entitled Kavkazsky Plyennik, or " A
Prisoner in the Caucasus." It is founded on a personal
experience thus related by Count Tolstoi's brother-in-
law, C. H. Behrs, in his " Recollections " : —
"A certain Sodo, of the tribe of the Tchetchenians, and
with whom the count was on friendly terms, had bought
a young horse, and one day proposed to him to take a
ride into the country surrounding the fortress, where the
detachment of the Russian army in which he then served
was posted. Two other officers of the artillery joined
the party. Though all such excursions had been strictly
forbidden by the military authorities in consequence of
the serious dangers with which they were accompanied,
not one of them, except Sodo, was furnished with any
other weapon than the ordinary Circassian saber. Hav-
ing tried his own horse, Sodo begged his friend to mount
it, and himself leaped on the count's trotter, which, of
course, was no good at a fast gallop. They were already
about five versts from the fortress when suddenly they
saw close before them a band of Tchetchenians, some
twenty in number. The Tchetchenians began to pull
their guns from their covers, and divided themselves into
two parties. One-half of them set off in chase of the
two officers, who were already making what speed they
could back to the fortress, and soon overtook them.
One of the officers was pulled from his horse and hacked
to pieces ; the other was taken prisoner. Sodo, followed
by Lyof Nikolayevitch, pushed off in another direction
toward a Cossack picket that was posted at about a verst
distant. Their pursuers were close upon them, and there
was nothing before them but death or captivity, with its
usual accompaniment, to be put into a pit neck high and
left there to starve, for the mountaineers were noted for
their cruel treatment of the unlucky wretches who fell
into their hands. It was possible for Lyof Nikolayevitch
to escape on his friend's swift-footed steed, but he would
not abandon him. Sodo, like a true mountaineer, had
not failed to bring his gun with him, but unfortunately
it was unloaded. He none the less aimed at his pursu-
ers, and with a wild cry of defiance made as if he were
on the point of firing. To judge from what followed,
we may presume it was their intention to take them both
prisoners, in order that they might better revenge them-
selves on Sodo. At any rate they none of them fired.
It was this alone that saved their lives. They managed
to get within sight of the picket, whence the sharp-eyed
sentry had from a distance seen the danger they were
in, and instantly gave the alarm. The Cossacks soon
turned out, and before long compelled the Tchetche-
nians to cease their pursuit."
The style is perfectly simple and lucid ; the pictures
of life in the Tartar aul among the mountains are in-
tensely vivid, painted with strong masterly touches ; the
heroism of the young officer in standing by his friend
and fellow-captain is most affecting, and the reader will
not soon forget the little black-eyed laughing maiden
Dina, with the rubles jingling in her braided hair. She
stands forth as one of the most fascinating of the author's
creations, as the story itself is one that well deserves to
be called classic.
A Russian Proprietor i
Recollections of a Billiard-marker .... 96
Two Hussars 151
Family Happiness 227
A Prisoner in the Caucasus 331
A RUSSIAN PROPRIETOR
PRINCE NEKHLIUDOF was nineteen years of
age when, at the end of his third term at the uni-
versity, he came to spend his summer vacation on his
estate, and was alone there all summer.
In the autumn he wrote, in his unformed boyish hand,
a letter to his aunt, the Countess Bieloretsky, who,
according to his notion, was his best friend, and the
most talented woman in the world. The letter was in
French, and was to the following effect : —
Dear Aunt, — I have adopted a resolution on which must
depend the fate of my whole existence. I have left the uni-
versity in order to devote myself to a country life, because I
feel that I was born for it. For God's sake, dear aunt, don't
make sport of me. You say that I am young. Perhaps I am
still almost a child ; but this does not prevent me from feeling
sure of my vocation, from wishing to accomplish it successfully,
and from loving it.
As I have already written you, I found our affairs in inde-
scribable confusion. Wishing to bring order out of chaos, I
made an investigation, and discovered that the principal trouble
was due to the most wretched, miserable condition of the peas-
ants, and that this trouble could be remedied only by work and
If you could only see two of my peasants, David and Ivan,
and the way they and their femilies live, I am convinced that
one glance at these two unfortunates would do more to persuade
you than all I can tell you in justification of my resolve. Is not
my obligation sacred and clear, to labor for the welfare of these
seven hundred human beings for whom I must be responsible to
God? Would it not be a sin to leave them to the mercy of
2 A RUSSIAN PROPRIETOR
harsh elders and overseers, so as to carry out plans of enjoyment
or ambition ? And why should I seek in any other sphere the
opportunity of being useful, and doing good, when such a
noble, brilliant, and paramount duty lies right at hand?
I feel that I am capable of being a good manager ^ and in
order to make myself such a one as I understand the word to
mean, I do not need my diploma as " candidate " or the rank
which you so expect of me. Dear aunt, do not make ambitious
plans for me ; accustom yourself to the thought that I am
going on an absolutely pecuHar path, but one that is good, and,
I think, will bring me to happiness. I have thought and
thought about my future duties, have written out some rules of
conduct, and, if God only gives me health and strength, I shall
succeed in my undertaking.
Do not show this letter to my brother Vasya ; I am afraid
of his ridicule. He generally dictates to me, and I am accus-
tomed to give way to him. Whilst Vanya may not approve of
my resolve, at least he will understand it.
The countess replied to her nephev^r in the following
letter, also w^ritten in French : —
Your letter, dear Dmitri, showed nothing else to me than
that you have a warm heart ; and I have never had reason to
doubt that. But, my dear, our good qualities do us more harm
in life than our bad ones. I will not tell you that you are com-
mitting a folly, that your behavior annoys me ; but I will do my
best to make one argument have an effect on you. Let us rea-
son together, my dear.
You say you feel that your vocation is for a country life ;
that you wish to make your serfs happy, and that you hope to be
a good manager.
In the first place, I must tell you that we feel sure of our
vocation only when we have once made a mistake in one ; sec-
ondly, that it is easier to win happiness for ourselves than for
others ; and thirdly, that, in order to be a good master, it is
necessary to be a cold and austere man, which you will never in
this world succeed in being, even though you strive to make
believe that you are.
You even consider your arguments irresistible, and go so far
as to adopt them as rules for the conduct of life; but at my age,
my dear, people don't care for arguments and rules, but only
A RUSSIAN PROPRIETOR 3
for experience. Now, experience tells me that your plans are
I am now in my fiftieth year, and I have known many fine
men ; but I have never heard of a young man of good family
and ability burying himself in the country under the pretext of
You have always wished to appear original, but your origi-
naUty is nothing else than morbidly developed egotism. And,
my dear, choose some better-trodden path. It will lead you to
success ; and success, if it is not necessary for you as success,
is at least indispensable in giving you the possibility of doing
good which you desire. The poverty of a few serfs is an un-
avoidable evil, or, rather, an evil which cannot be remedied by
forgetting all your obligations to society, to your relatives, and
With your intellect, with your kind heart, and your love for
virtue, no career would fail to bring you success ; but at all
events choose one which would be worth your while, and bring
I believe that you are sincere, when you say that you are
free from ambition ; but you are deceiving yourself. Ambition
is a virtue at your age, and with your means ; it becomes a fault
and an absurdity when a man is no longer in the condition to
satisfy this passion.
And you will experience this if you do not change your in-
tention. Good-by, dear Mitya. It seems to me that I have
all the more love for you on account of your foolish but still
noble and magnanimous plan. Do as you please, but I fore-
warn you that I shall not be able to sympathize with you.
The young man read this letter, considered it long
and seriously, and finally, having decided that his genial
aunt might be mistaken, sent in his petition for dis-
missal from the university, and took up his residence on
The young proprietor had, as he wrote his aunt, de-
vised a plan of action in the management of his estate ;
and his whole life and activity were measured by hours,
days, and months.
4 A RUSSIAN PROPRIETOR
Sunday was reserved for the reception of petitioners,
domestic servants, and peasants, for the visitation of the
poor serfs belonging to the estate, and the distribution
of assistance with the approval of the Commune, which
met every Sunday evening, and was obliged to decide
who should have help, and what amount should be
In such employments more than a year passed, and
the young man was now no longer a novice either in the
practical or theoretical knowledge of estate manage-
It was a clear June Sunday when Nekhliudof, having
finished his coffee and run through a chapter of " Mai-
son Rustique," put his note-book and a packet of bank-
notes into the -pocket of his light overcoat, and started
out of doors. It was a great country house with colon-
nades and terraces where he lived, but he occupied only
one small room on the ground floor. He made his way
over the neglected, weed-grown paths of the old Eng-
lish garden, toward the village, which was distributed
along both sides of the highway.
Nekhliudof was a tall, slender young man, with long,
thick, wavy auburn hair, with a bright gleam in his dark
eyes, and a clear complexion, and rosy lips where the
first down of young manhood was now beginning to
In all his motions and gait could be seen strength,
energy, and the good-natured self-satisfaction of youth.
The serfs, in variegated groups, were returning from
church : old men, maidens, children, mothers with babies
in their arms, dressed in their Sunday best, were scat-
tering to their homes ; and as they met the barin they
bowed low and made room for him to pass.
After Nekhliudof had walked some distance along the
street, he stopped, and drew from his pocket his note-
book, on the last page of which, inscribed in his own
boyish hand, were several names of his serfs with memo-
randa. He read, " Ivan Chnrisenok^ asks for aid ; " and
1 Diminutive of Churis ; the e on which falls the stress is pronounced
A RUSSIAN PROPRIETOR 5
then, proceeding still farther along the street, entered
the gate of the second izba, or cottage, on the right.
Churisenok's domicile consisted of a half-decayed
structure, with musty " corners," as the rooms are
called ; the sides were rickety. It was so buried in the
ground, that the banking, made of earth and dung, al-
most hid the two windows. The one on the front had
a broken sash, and the shutters were half torn away ;
the other was small and low, and was stuffed with flax.
A boarded entry with rotting sills and low door, another
small building still older and still lower-studded than the
entry, a gate, and a wattled closet were clustered about
the principal izba.
All this had once been covered by one irregular roof ;
but now only over the eaves hung the thick straw, black
and decaying. Above, in places, could be seen the frame-
work and rafters.
In front of the yard were a well with rotten curb,
the remains of a post, and the wheel, and a mud-
puddle stirred up by the cattle, where some ducks
Near the well stood two old willows, split and broken,
with their whitish green foHage. They were witnesses
to the fact that some one, sometime, had taken interest
in beautifying this place. Under one of them sat a fair-
haired girl of seven summers, watching another httle girl
of two, who was creeping at her feet. The watch-dog,
gamboling about them, as soon as he saw the barin,
flew headlong under the gate, and there set up a qua-
vering yelp expressive of panic.
" Is Ivan at home .? " asked Nekhliudof.
The little girl seemed stupefied at this question, and
kept opening her eyes wider and wider, but made no
reply. The baby opened her mouth and set up a
A little old woman, in a torn checkered skirt, belted
low with an old red girdle, peered out of the door, and
also said nothing. Nekhliudof approached the entry,
and repeated his inquiry.
" Yes, he 's at home, benefactor," replied the little old
6 A RUSSIAN PROPRIETOR
woman, in a harsh voice, bowing low, and growing more
and more scared and agitated.
After Nekhliudof had asked after her health, and
passed through the entry into the narrow yard, the old
woman, resting her chin in her hand, went to the door,
and, without taking her eyes off the barin, began gently
to shake her head.
The yard was in a wretched condition, with heaps of
old blackened manure that had not been carried away;
on the manure were thrown in confusion a rotting block,
pitchforks, and two harrows.
There were penthouses around the yard, under one
side of which stood a sokha, or peasants' wooden plow,
a cart without wheels, and a pile of empty good-for-noth-
ing beehives thrown upon one another. The roof was
in disrepair ; and one side had fallen in so that the cov-
ering in front rested, not on the supports, but on the
Churisenok, with the edge and head of an ax, was
breaking off the wattles that strengthened the roof.
Ivan Churis was a peasant, fifty years of age, of less
than the ordinary stature. The features of his tanned
oval face, framed in a dark auburn beard and hair where
a trace of gray was beginning to appear, were handsome
and expressive. His dark blue eyes gleamed with intel-
ligence and lazy good-nature, from under half-shut lids.
His small, regular mouth, sharply defined under his
sandy, thin mustache when he smiled, betrayed a calm
self-confidence, and a certain bantering indifference
toward all around him.
By the roughness of his skin, by his deep wrinkles,
by the veins that stood out prominently on his neck,
face, and hands, by his unnatural stoop and the crooked
position of his legs, it was evident that all his life had
been spent in hard work, far beyond his strength.
His garb consisted of white hempen drawers, with
blue patches on the knees, and a dirty shirt of the same
material, which kept hitching up his back and arms.
The shirt was belted low in the waist by a girdle, from
which hung a brass key.
A.RUSSIAN PROPRIETOR 7
"Good-day,"^ said the barin, as he stepped into the
Churisenok glanced around, and kept on with his
work ; making energetic motions, he finished clearing
away the wattles from under the shed, and then only,
having struck the ax into the block, he came out into
the middle of the yard.
" A pleasant holiday, your excellency ! " said he, bow-
ing low and smoothing his hair.
" Thanks, my friend. I came to see how your affairs^
were progressing," said Nekhliudof, with boyish friendli-
ness and timidity, glancing at the peasant's garb. " Just
show me what you need in the way of supports that you
asked me about at the last meeting."
" Supports, of course, sir, your excellency, sir.^ I
should like it fixed a little here, sir, if you will have the
goodness to cast your eye on it; here this corner has
given way, sir, and only by the mercy of God the cattle
didn't happen to be there. It barely hangs at all," said
Churis, gazing with an expressive look at his broken-
down, ramshackly, and ruined sheds. " Now the girders
and the supports and the rafters are nothing but rot ; you
won't see a sound timber. But where can we get lum-
ber nowadays, I should like to know ? "
" Well, what do you want with the five supports when
the one shed has fallen in ? The others will be soon fall-
ing in too, won't they .'' You need to have everything
made new, rafters and girders and posts ; but you don't
want supports," said the barin, evidently priding himself
on his comprehension of the case.
Churis made no reply.
" Of course you need lumber, but not supports. You
ought to have told me so."
" Surely I do, but there 's nowhere to get it. Not all
of us can come to the manor-house. If we all should
get into the habit of coming to the manor-house and
asking your excellency for everything we wanted, what
kind of serfs should we be ? But if your kindness went
1 Bog pomoshcK ; literally, God our help.
* Khozyaistvo. ^ Batyushka vashe siyatelstvo.
8 A RUSSIAN PROPRIETOR
so far as to let me have some of the oak saplings that
are lying idle over by the threshing-floor," said the
peasant, making a low bow and scraping with his foot,
" then, maybe, I might exchange some, and piece out
others, so that the old would last some time longer."
"What is the good of the old? Why, you just told
me that it was all old and rotten. This part has fallen
in to-day ; to-morrow that one will ; the day after, a
third. So, if anything is to be done, it must be all
made new, so that the work may not be wasted. Now
tell me what you think about it. Can your premises *
last out this winter, or not .'' "
" Who can tell ? "
" No, but what do you think ? Will they fall in, or
Churis meditated for a moment.
"Can't help falling in," said he, suddenly.
" Well, now you see you should have said that at the
meeting, that you needed to rebuild your whole place,^
instead of a few props. You see I should be glad to
" Many thanks for your kindness," replied Churis, in
an incredulous tone and not looking at the barin. " If
you would give me four joists and some props, then,
perhaps, I might fix things up myself ; but if any one is
hunting after good-for-nothing timbers, then he 'd find
them in the joists of the hut."
" Why, is your hut so wretched as all that ? "
" My old woman and I are expecting it to fall in on
us any day," replied Churis, indifferently. " A day or
two ago a girder fell from the ceiling and struck my old
"What! struck her?"
" Yes, struck her, your excellency ; hit her on the
back, so that she lay half dead all night."
" Well, did she get over it ? "
" Pretty much, but she 's been ailing ever since ; but
then she 's always ailing."
" What, are you sick ? " asked Nekhliudof of the ol^
A RUSSIAN PROPRIETOR 9
woman, who had been standing all the time at the
door, and had begun to groan as soon as her husband
" It bothers me here more and more, especially on
Sundays," she replied, pointing to her dirty, lean bosom.
" Again .'' " asked the young master, in a tone of vexa-
tion, shrugging his shoulders. " Why, if you are so
sick, don't you come and get advice at the dispensary ?
That is what the dispensary was built for. Hav^e n't
you been told about it ? "
" Certainly we have, benefactor, but I have not had
any time to spare ; have had to work in the field, and
at home, and look after the children, and no one to help
me; if I weren't all alone...."
Nekhliudof went into the hut. The uneven smoke-
begrimed walls of the dwelling were hung with various
rags and clothes, and, in the living-room, were literally
covered with reddish cockroaches clustering around the
holy images and benches.
In the middle of this dark, fetid apartment, not four-
teen feet square, was a huge crack in the ceiling ; and,
in spite of the fact that it was braced up in two places,
the ceihng hung down so that it threatened to fall from
moment to moment.
"Yes, the hut is very miserable," said the barin, look-
ing into the face of Churisenok, who, it seems, had not
cared to speak first about this state of things.
" It will crush us to death ; it will crush the children,"
said the woman, in a tearful voice, attending to the stove
which stood under the loft.
" Hold your tongue," cried Churis, sternly ; and
with a subtle, almost imperceptible smile playing un-
der his quivering mustaches, he turned to the master.
•' And I haven't the wit to know what's to be done with
it, your excellency, — with this hut and props and planks.
There's nothing to be done with them."
lo A RUSSIAN PROPRIETOR
" How can we live through the winter here ? Okh^
okh ! — Oh, oh ! " groaned the old woman.