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Page:Complete Works of Count Tolstoy - 02.djvu/37

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The young proprietor evidently wanted to ask the peasant people something else; he did not rise from the bench, and with indecision looked now at Churis, and now into the empty, cold oven.

"Have you had your dinner?" he finally asked them.

Under Churis's moustache played a sarcastic smile, as though it amused him to hear the master ask such foolish questions; he did not answer.

"What dinner, benefactor?" said the old woman, with a deep sigh. "We have eaten some bread. That was our dinner. There was no time to-day to go for some sorrel, and so there was nothing to make soup with, and what kvas there was I gave to the children."

"To-day we have a hunger fast, your Grace," Churis chimed in, glossing his wife's words. "Bread and onions, — such is our peasant food. Thank the Lord I have some little bread; by your favour it has lasted until now; but the rest of our peasants have not even that. The onions are a failure this year. We sent a few days ago to Mikhaylo the gardener, but he asks a penny a bunch, and we are too poor for that. We have not been to church since Easter, and we have no money with which to buy a candle for St. Nicholas."

Nekhlyiidov had long known, not by hearsay, nor trusting the words of others, but by experience, all the extreme wretchedness of his peasants; but all that reality was so incompatible with his education, his turn of mind, and manner of life, that he involuntarily forgot the