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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesWar And Peace - First Epilogue: 1813 - 20 - Chapter 7
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War And Peace - First Epilogue: 1813 - 20 - Chapter 7 Post by :lilyg Category :Long Stories Author :Leo Tolstoy Date :December 2010 Read :1523

Click below to download : War And Peace - First Epilogue: 1813 - 20 - Chapter 7 (Format : PDF)

War And Peace - First Epilogue: 1813 - 20 - Chapter 7

In the winter of 1813 Nicholas married Princess Mary and moved to
Bald Hills with his wife, his mother, and Sonya.

Within four years he had paid off all his remaining debts without
selling any of his wife's property, and having received a small
inheritance on the death of a cousin he paid his debt to Pierre as
well.

In another three years, by 1820, he had so managed his affairs
that he was able to buy a small estate adjoining Bald Hills and was
negotiating to buy back Otradnoe- that being his pet dream.

Having started farming from necessity, he soon grew so devoted to it
that it became his favorite and almost his sole occupation. Nicholas
was a plain farmer: he did not like innovations, especially the
English ones then coming into vogue. He laughed at theoretical
treatises on estate management, disliked factories, the raising of
expensive products, and the buying of expensive seed corn, and did not
make a hobby of any particular part of the work on his estate. He
always had before his mind's eye the estate as a whole and not any
particular part of it. The chief thing in his eyes was not the
nitrogen in the soil, nor the oxygen in the air, nor manures, nor
special plows, but that most important agent by which nitrogen,
oxygen, manure, and plow were made effective- the peasant laborer.
When Nicholas first began farming and began to understand its
different branches, it was the serf who especially attracted his
attention. The peasant seemed to him not merely a tool, but also a
judge of farming and an end in himself. At first he watched the serfs,
trying to understand their aims and what they considered good and bad,
and only pretended to direct them and give orders while in reality
learning from them their methods, their manner of speech, and their
judgment of what was good and bad. Only when he had understood the
peasants' tastes and aspirations, had learned to talk their
language, to grasp the hidden meaning of their words, and felt akin to
them did he begin boldly to manage his serfs, that is, to perform
toward them the duties demanded of him. And Nicholas' management
produced very brilliant results.

Guided by some gift of insight, on taking up the management of the
estates he at once unerringly appointed as bailiff, village elder, and
delegate, the very men the serfs would themselves have chosen had they
had the right to choose, and these posts never changed hands. Before
analyzing the properties of manure, before entering into the debit and
credit (as he ironically called it), he found out how many cattle
the peasants had and increased the number by all possible means. He
kept the peasant families together in the largest groups possible, not
allowing the family groups to divide into separate households. He
was hard alike on the lazy, the depraved, and the weak, and tried to
get them expelled from the commune.

He was as careful of the sowing and reaping of the peasants' hay and
corn as of his own, and few landowners had their crops sown and
harvested so early and so well, or got so good a return, as did
Nicholas.

He disliked having anything to do with the domestic serfs- the
"drones" as he called them- and everyone said he spoiled them by his
laxity. When a decision had to be taken regarding a domestic serf,
especially if one had to be punished, he always felt undecided and
consulted everybody in the house; but when it was possible to have a
domestic serf conscripted instead of a land worker he did so without
the least hesitation. He never felt any hesitation in dealing with the
peasants. He knew that his every decision would be approved by them
all with very few exceptions.

He did not allow himself either to be hard on or punish a man, or to
make things easy for or reward anyone, merely because he felt inclined
to do so. He could not have said by what standard he judged what he
should or should not do, but the standard was quite firm and
definite in his own mind.

Often, speaking with vexation of some failure or irregularity, he
would say: "What can one do with our Russian peasants?" and imagined
that he could not bear them.

Yet he loved "our Russian peasants" and their way of life with his
whole soul, and for that very reason had understood and assimilated
the one way and manner of farming which produced good results.

Countess Mary was jealous of this passion of her husband's and
regretted that she could not share it; but she could not understand
the joys and vexations he derived from that world, to her so remote
and alien. She could not understand why he was so particularly
animated and happy when, after getting up at daybreak and spending the
whole morning in the fields or on the threshing floor, he returned
from the sowing or mowing or reaping to have tea with her. She did not
understand why he spoke with such admiration and delight of the
farming of the thrifty and well-to-do peasant Matthew Ermishin, who
with his family had carted corn all night; or of the fact that his
(Nicholas') sheaves were already stacked before anyone else had his
harvest in. She did not understand why he stepped out from the
window to the veranda and smiled under his mustache and winked so
joyfully, when warm steady rain began to fall on the dry and thirsty
shoots of the young oats, or why when the wind carried away a
threatening cloud during the hay harvest he would return from the
barn, flushed, sunburned, and perspiring, with a smell of wormwood and
gentian in his hair and, gleefully rubbing his hands, would say:
"Well, one more day and my grain and the peasants' will all be under
cover."

Still less did she understand why he, kindhearted and always ready
to anticipate her wishes, should become almost desperate when she
brought him a petition from some peasant men or women who had appealed
to her to be excused some work; why he, that kind Nicholas, should
obstinately refuse her, angrily asking her not to interfere in what
was not her business. She felt he 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 wouldn't do that for their good!
That's all poetry and old wives' talk- all that doing good to one's
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, that's all.
And to do that, order and strictness are essential.... That's 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
virtue's 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!"

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War And Peace - First Epilogue: 1813 - 20 - Chapter 8
One matter connected with his management sometimes worried Nicholas,and that was his quick temper together with his old hussar habit ofmaking free use of his fists. At first he saw nothing reprehensible inthis, but in the second year of his marriage his view of that formof punishment suddenly changed.Once in summer he had sent for the village elder from Bogucharovo, aman who had succeeded to the post when Dron died and who was accusedof dishonesty and various irregularities. Nicholas went out into theporch to question him, and immediately after the elder had given a fewreplies the sound of cries and blows
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At the beginning of winter Princess Mary came to Moscow. Fromreports current in town she learned how the Rostovs were situated, andhow "the son has sacrificed himself for his mother," as people weresaying."I never expected anything else of him," said Princess Mary toherself, feeling a joyous sense of her love for him. Remembering herfriendly relations with all the Rostovs which had made her almost amember of the family, she thought it her duty to go to see them. Butremembering her relations with Nicholas in Voronezh she was shyabout doing so. Making a great effort she did however go to call onthem
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