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War And Peace

had a world apart, which he loved passionately and which had laws she had not fathomed. Sometimes when, trying to understand him, she spoke of the good work he was doing for his serfs, he would be vexed and reply: "Not in the least; it never entered my head and I wouldnt do that for their good! Thats all poetry and old wives talk--all that doing good to ones neighbor! What I want is that our children should not have to go begging. I must put our affairs in order while I am alive, thats all. And to do that, order and strictness are essential.... Thats all about it!" said he, clenching his vigorous fist. "And fairness, of course," he added, "for if the peasant is naked and hungry and has only one miserable horse, he can do no good either for himself or for me." And all Nicholas did was fruitful--probably just because he refused to allow himself to think that he was doing good to others for virtues sake. His means increased rapidly; serfs from neighboring estates came to beg him to buy them, and long after his death the memory of his administration was devoutly preserved among the serfs. "He was a master... the peasants affairs first and then his own. Of course he was not to be trifled with either--in a word, he was a real master!" CHAPTER VIII One matter connected with his management sometimes worried Nicholas, and that was his quick temper together with his old hussar habit of making free use of his fists. At first he saw nothing reprehensible in this, but in the second year of his marriage his view of that form of punishment suddenly changed. Once in summer he had sent for the village elder from Bogucharovo, a man who had succeeded to the post when Dron died and who was accused of dishonesty and various irregularities. Nicholas went out into the porch to question him, and immediately after the elder had given a few replies the sound of cries and blows were heard. On returning to lunch Nicholas went up to his wife, who sat with her head bent low over her embroidery frame, and as usual began to tell her what he had been doing that morning. Among other things he spoke of the Bogucharovo elder. Countess Mary turned red and then pale, but continued to sit with head bowed and lips compressed and gave her husband no reply. "Such an insolent scoundrel!" he cried, growing hot again at the mere recollection of him. "If he had told me he was drunk and did not see... But what is the matter with you, Mary?" he suddenly asked. Countess Mary raised her head and tried to speak, but hastily looked down again and her lips puckered. "Why, whatever is the matter, my dearest?" The looks of the plain Countess Mary always improved when she was in tears. She never cried from pain or vexation, but always from sorrow or pity, and when she wept her radiant eyes acquired an irresistible charm. The moment Nicholas took her hand she could no longer restrain herself and began to cry. "Nicholas, I saw it... he was to blame, but why do you... Nicholas!" and she covered her face with her hands. Nicholas said nothing. He flushed crimson, left her side, and paced up and down the room. He understood what she was weeping about, but could not in his heart at once agree with her that what he had regarded from childhood as quite an everyday event was wrong. "Is it just sentimentality, old wives tales, or is she right?" he asked himself. Before he had solved that point he glanced again at her face filled with love and pain, and he suddenly realized that she was right and that he had long been sinning against himself. "Mary," he said softly, going up to her, "it will never happen again; I give you my word. Never," he repeated in a trembling voice like a boy asking for forgiveness. The tears flowed faster still from the countess eyes. She took his hand and kissed it. "Nicholas, when did you break your cameo?" she asked to change the subject, looking at his finger on which he wore a ring with a cameo of Laocoons head. "Today--it was the same affair. Oh, Mary, dont remind me of it!" and again he flushed. "I give you my word of honor it shant occur again, and let this always be a reminder to me," and he pointed to the broken ring. After that, when in discussions with his

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