Text - "War and Peace" Leo Tolstoy

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He used to say that there are only two sources of human vice - idleness and
superstition, and only two virtues - activity and intelligence. He
himself undertook his daughter's education, and to develop these two
cardinal virtues in her gave her lessons in algebra and geometry
till she was twenty, and arranged her life so that her whole time was
occupied. He was himself always occupied: writing his memoirs, solving
problems in higher mathematics, turning snuffboxes on a lathe, working
in the garden, or superintending the building that was always going on
at his estate. As regularity is a prime condition facilitating activity,
regularity in his household was carried to the highest point of
exactitude. He always came to table under precisely the same conditions,
and not only at the same hour but at the same minute. With those about
him, from his daughter to his serfs, the prince was sharp and invariably
exacting, so that without being a hardhearted man he inspired such fear
and respect as few hardhearted men would have aroused. Although he was
in retirement and had now no influence in political affairs, every high
official appointed to the province in which the prince's estate lay
considered it his duty to visit him and waited in the lofty antechamber
just as the architect, gardener, or Princess Mary did, till the prince
appeared punctually to the appointed hour. Everyone sitting in this
antechamber experienced the same feeling of respect and even fear when
the enormously high study door opened and showed the figure of a rather
small old man, with powdered wig, small withered hands, and bushy gray
eyebrows which, when he frowned, sometimes hid the gleam of his shrewd,
youthfully glittering eyes.

On the morning of the day that the young couple were to arrive, Princess
Mary entered the antechamber as usual at the time appointed for the
morning greeting, crossing herself with trepidation and repeating a
silent prayer. Every morning she came in like that, and every morning
prayed that the daily interview might pass off well.

An old powdered manservant who was sitting in the antechamber rose
quietly and said in a whisper: "Please walk in."

Through the door came the regular hum of a lathe. The princess timidly
opened the door which moved noiselessly and easily. She paused at the
entrance. The prince was working at the lathe and after glancing round
continued his work.

The enormous study was full of things evidently in constant use.
The large table covered with books and plans, the tall glass-fronted
bookcases with keys in the locks, the high desk for writing while
standing up, on which lay an open exercise book, and the lathe with
tools laid ready to hand and shavings scattered around - all indicated
continuous, varied, and orderly activity. The motion of the small foot
shod in a Tartar boot embroidered with silver, and the firm pressure
of the lean sinewy hand, showed that the prince still possessed the
tenacious endurance and vigor of hardy old age. After a few more turns
of the lathe he removed his foot from the pedal, wiped his chisel,
dropped it into a leather pouch attached to the lathe, and, approaching
the table, summoned his daughter. He never gave his children a blessing,
so he simply held out his bristly cheek (as yet unshaven) and, regarding
her tenderly and attentively, said severely:

"Quite well? All right then, sit down." He took the exercise book
containing lessons in geometry written by himself and drew up a chair
with his foot.

"For tomorrow!" said he, quickly finding the page and making a
scratch from one paragraph to another with his hard nail.

The princess bent over the exercise book on the table.

"Wait a bit, here's a letter for you," said the old man suddenly,
taking a letter addressed in a woman's hand from a bag hanging above
the table, onto which he threw it.

At the sight of the letter red patches showed themselves on the
princess' face. She took it quickly and bent her head over it.

"From Hélo?se?" asked the prince with a cold smile that showed his
still sound, yellowish teeth.

"Yes, it's from Julie," replied the princess with a timid glance
and a timid smile.

"I'll let two more letters pass, but the third I'll read," said
the prince sternly; "I'm afraid you write much nonsense. I'll read
the third!"

"Read this if you like, Father," said the princess, blushing still
more and holding out the letter.

"The third, I said the third!" cried the prince abruptly, pushing
the letter away, and leaning his elbows on the table he drew toward him
the exercise book containing geometrical figures.

"Well, madam," he began, stooping over the book close to his
daughter and placing an arm on the back of the chair on which she sat,
so that she felt herself surrounded on all sides by the acrid scent of
old age and tobacco, which she had known so long. "Now, madam, these
triangles are equal; please note that the angle ABC..."

The princess looked in a scared way at her father's eyes glittering
close to her; the red patches on her face came and went, and it was
plain that she understood nothing and was so frightened that her
fear would prevent her understanding any of her father's further
explanations, however clear they might be. Whether it was the
teacher's fault or the pupil's, this same thing happened every day:
the princess' eyes grew dim, she could not see and could not hear
anything, but was only conscious of her stern father's withered face
close to her, of his breath and the smell of him, and could think only
of how to get away quickly to her own room to make out the problem in
peace. The old man was beside himself: moved the chair on which he was
sitting noisily backward and forward, made efforts to control himself
and not become vehement, but almost always did become vehement, scolded,
and sometimes flung the exercise book away.

The princess gave a wrong answer.

"Well now, isn't she a fool!" shouted the prince, pushing the book
aside and turning sharply away; but rising immediately, he paced up and
down, lightly touched his daughter's hair and sat down again.

He drew up his chair, and continued to explain.

"This won't do, Princess; it won't do," said he, when Princess
Mary, having taken and closed the exercise book with the next day's
lesson, was about to leave: "Mathematics are most important, madam!
I don't want to have you like our silly ladies. Get used to it and
you'll like it," and he patted her cheek. "It will drive all the
nonsense out of your head."

She turned to go, but he stopped her with a gesture and took an uncut
book from the high desk.

"Here is some sort of Key to the Mysteries that your Hélo?se has
sent you. Religious! I don't interfere with anyone's belief... I
have looked at it. Take it. Well, now go. Go."

He patted her on the shoulder and himself closed the door after her.

Princess Mary went back to her room with the sad, scared expression that
rarely left her and which made her plain, sickly face yet plainer. She
sat down at her writing table, on which stood miniature portraits and
which was littered with books and papers. The princess was as untidy as
her father was tidy. She put down the geometry book and eagerly broke
the seal of her letter. It was from her most intimate friend from
childhood; that same Julie Karágina who had been at the Rostóvs'
name-day party.