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14
A MORNING OF A LANDED PROPRIETOR

it might do, as long as it stands and holds together," he concluded, evidently satisfied with his argument. Nekhlyúdov was annoyed and pained because Churís had come to such a state without having asked his aid before, whereas he had not once since his arrival refused the peasants anything, and had requested that everybody should come to him directly if they needed anything. He was even vexed at the peasant, angrily shrugged his shoulders, and frowned; but the sight of wretchedness about him, and Churís's calm and self-satisfied countenance amidst this wretchedness, changed his vexation into a melancholy, hopeless feeling.

"Now, Iván, why did you not tell me before?" he remarked reproachfully, sitting down on a dirty, crooked bench.

"I did not dare to, your Grace," answered Churís, with the same scarcely perceptible smile, shuffling his black, bare feet on the uneven dirt floor; but he said it so boldly and quietly that it was hard to believe that he had been afraid to approach the master.

"We are peasants: how dare we — " began the woman, sobbing.

"Stop your prattling," Churís again turned to her.

"You cannot live in this hut, that is impossible!" said Nekhlyúdov, after a moment's silence. "This is what we will do, my friend —"

"I am listening, sir," Churís interrupted him.

"Have you seen the stone huts, with the hollow walls, that I have had built in the new hamlet?"

"Of course I have, sir," replied Churís, showing his good white teeth in his smile. "We marvelled a great deal as they were building them, — wonderful huts! The boys made sport of them, saying that the hollow walls were storehouses, to keep rats away. Fine huts!" he concluded, with an expression of sarcastic incredulity, shaking his head. "Regular jails!"