Chapter 15

AT SUPPER no more was said of politics and societies, but a conversation turned on the subject most agreeable to Nikolay—reminiscences of 1812. Denisov started the talk, and Pierre was particularly cordial and amusing. And the party broke up on the friendliest terms. Nikolay, after undressing in his study, and giving instructions to his steward, who was awaiting him, went in his dressing-gown to his bedroom, and found his wife still at her writing-table: she was writing something.

‘‘What are you writing, Marie?’’ asked Nikolay. Countess Marya flushed. She was afraid that what she was writing would not be understood and approved by her husband.

She would have liked to conceal what she was writing from him, and at the same time, she was glad he had caught her, and she had to tell him.

‘‘It’s my diary, Nikolay,’’ she said, handing him a blue note-book, filled with her firm, bold handwriting.

‘‘A diary!’’ … said Nikolay with a shade of mockery, and he took the note-book. He saw written in French:

‘‘December 4.—Andryusha’’ (their elder boy) ‘‘would not be dressed when he waked up this morning, and Mademoiselle Louise sent for me. He was naughty and obstinate. I tried threatening him, but he only got more ill-tempered. Then I undertook to manage him, left him, and helped nurse get the other children up, and told him I did not love him. For a long while he was quiet, as though he were surprised. Then he rushed out to me in his night-shirt, and sobbed so that I could not soothe him for a long while. It was clear that what distressed him most was having grieved me. Then, when I gave him his report in the evening, he cried piteously again as he kissed me. One can do anything with him by tenderness.’’

‘‘What is his report?’’ asked Nikolay.

‘‘I have begun giving the elder ones little marks in the evening of how they have behaved.’’

Nikolay glanced at the luminous eyes watching him, and went on turning over, and read the diary. Everything in the children’s lives was noted down in it that seemed to the mother of interest as showing the character of the children, or leading to general conclusions as to methods of bringing them up. It consisted mostly of the most trifling details; but they did not seem so either to the mother or the father, as he now, for the first time, read this record of his children’s lives. On the 5th of December there was the note:

‘‘Mitya was naughty at table. Papa said he should have no pudding. He had none; but he looked so miserably and greedily at the others while they were eating. I believe that punishing them by depriving them of sweet things only develops greediness. Must tell Nikolay.’’

Nikolay put the book down and looked at his wife. The luminous eyes looked at him doubtfully, to see whether he approved or not. There could be no doubt of Nikolay’s approval, of his enthusiastic admiration of his wife.

Perhaps there was no need to do it so pedantically; perhaps there was no need of it all, thought Nikolay; but this untiring, perpetual spiritual effort, directed only at the children’s moral welfare, enchanted him. If Nikolay could have analysed his feelings, he would have found that the very groundwork of his steady and tender love and pride in his wife was always this feeling of awe at her spirituality, at that elevated moral world that he could hardly enter, in which his wife always lived.

He was proud that she was so clever and so good, recognising his own insignificance beside her in the spiritual world, and he rejoiced the more that she, with her soul, not only belonged to him, but was a part of his very self.

‘‘I quite, quite approve, my darling!’’ he said, with a significant air. ‘‘And,’’ after a brief pause, he added, ‘‘And I have behaved badly to-day. You were not in the study. Pierre and I were arguing, and I lost my

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