Old Efim’s Sufferance

Day 242 of A Year of War and Peace


Iago, that motiveless malignity, cloaks his deceptions in the garb of good sense and sound advice. So while he is eager to set into motion his scheme against Othello, he counsels wise patience to Roderigo, a pawn in his plan. “How poor are they that have not patience!” Iago cries. “What wound did ever heal but by degrees? Thou know’st we work by wit and not by witchcraft, and wit depends on dilatory time.”

This is counsel we all, the Rostov family in particular, would do well to accept. Things are looking pretty bad for the Rostovs at the moment. They’re in the middle of a devastating evacuation. Emotions are running high. The Countess, true to character, is a confused mess. When Sonya brings her news that Prince Andrei is among the dying wounded in their cart caravan she becomes a worried, confused mess. Natasha, for her part, is some combination of nervous and joyful excitement. She’s at once invigorated by the sense of adventure born of the evacuation and also the positive role she has played in persuading her family to help the wounded soldiers. Who knows what direction her notoriously mercurial mood will yank her once she learns that her beloved Prince Andrei is among the wounded, dying soldiers.

She’d do well to emulate Efim, the old Rostov coachman. Having learned from years of experience to be patient when dealing with the Rostovs, he remains calm in the face of their perpetual tardiness and disorder. The man doesn’t even glance behind him to see what is causing today’s delay. He merely sits high up in the carriage’s box and, with noble forbearance, awaits the order to start the drive out of Moscow.

So the next time you find yourself in a troubling circumstance just remember old Efim and his indifference to and acceptance of situations he has no control over.


Come now, haven’t you been endowed with faculties that enable you to bear whatever may come about? Haven’t you been endowed with greatness of soul? And with courage? And with endurance? If only I have greatness of soul, what reason is left for me to be worried about anything that may come to pass? What can disconcert or trouble me, or seem in any way distressing? Shall I fail to apply my capacities to the end for which I have received them, but instead groan and lament about things that come about?
Epictetus, The Discourses

This is the two hundred and forty second installment in a daily, yearlong, chapter-by-chapter reading devotional and meditation on Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace. For more information on this project please read the introduction to the series here.

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