IN THE EARLY PART of his time at home Nikolay was serious and even dull. He was worried by the necessity of meddling in the stupid business matters which his mother had sent for him to look after. To be rid of this burden as soon as possible, on the third day after his return, he marched angrily off, making no reply to inquiries where he was going, with scowling brows entered Mitenka's lodge, and demanded from him an account in full. What he meant by an account in full, Nikolay knew even less than the panic-stricken and bewildered Mitenka. The conversation and Mitenka's accounts did not last long. The village elder, the deputy, and the village clerk, waiting in the entry of the lodge, heard with awe and delight at first the booming and snapping of the young count's voice in a constantly ascending scale, then terrible words of abuse, flung one after another.
“Robber! Ungrateful brute!…I'll thrash the dog!…not papa to deal with…plundering us…” and so on.
Then, with no less awe and delight, these persons saw the young count, with a red face and bloodshot eyes, dragging Mitenka out by the collar, kicking him with great dexterity at every appropriate moment between his words, and shouting:
“Away with you! Never let me set eyes on you, blackguard!”
Mitenka flew head first down six steps and ran to the shrubbery. This shrubbery was well known as a haven of refuge for delinquents at Otradnoe. Mitenka had, on coming home drunk from the town, himself hidden in the shrubbery, and many of the residents of Otradnoe had been indebted to the saving power of the shrubbery when anxious to conceal themselves from Mitenka.
Mitenka's wife and sister-in-law, with frightened faces, peeped into the passage from the door of their room, where was a bright samovar boiling, and the bailiff's high bedstead stood under a quilted patchwork coverlet.
The young count walked by, treading resolutely and breathing hard, taking no notice of them, and went into the house.
The countess heard at once through her maids of what had been happening in the lodge, and on one side was comforted by the reflection that now their position would be sure to improve, though on the other hand she was uneasy as to the effect of the scene on her son. She went several times on tiptoe to his door, and listened as he lighted one pipe after another.
The next day the old count drew his son on one side, and, with a timid smile, said to him, “But you know, my dear boy, you had no reason to be so angry. Mitenka has told me all about it.”
“I knew,” thought Nikolay, “that I should never make head or tail of anything in this crazy world.”
“You were angry at his not having put down these seven hundred and eight roubles. But you see they were carried forward by double entry, and you didn't look at the next page.”
“Papa, he's a blackguard and a thief, I am certain. And what I have done, I have done. But if you don't wish it, I will say nothing to him.”
“No, my dear boy!” (The old count was confused. He was conscious that he had mismanaged his wife's estate and had wronged his children, but he had no notion how to rectify the position.) “No, I beg you to go into things. I am old. I…”
“No, papa, forgive me if I have done what you dislike. I know less about it than you do.”
“Damn them all, these peasants, and money matters and double entries,” he thought. “I used once to understand scoring at cards, but bookkeeping by the double entry is quite beyond me,” he said to himself, and from that time he did not meddle further with the management of the family affairs. But one day the countess called her son into her room, told him that she had a promissory note from Anna Mihalovna for two thousand roubles, and asked Nikolay what he thought it best to do about it.
“Well,” answered Nikolay, “you say that it rests with me. I don't like Anna Mihalovna, and I don't like Boris, but they were our friends, and they were poor. So that's what I would do!” and he tore up the note and by so doing made the countess sob with tears of joy. After this, young Rostov took no further part in business of any sort, but devoted himself with passionate interest to everything to do with the chase, which was kept up on a great scale on the old count's estate.