Half way through Sergei Aksakov's memoir of his childhood in Russia at the end of the 18th century, I find these words of welcome (and forthright account of what is expected of guests) from his great Aunt (his father's aunt) to his mother and her family.
"I receive you thus in my bedroom, because it's the first time. I am no great lover of children, especially children in arms: I can't endure their screaming, and they are seldom sweet. Bring the children to me when I send for them. Serezha, of course, is older, and he may be shown to visitors. The children will have all their meal in their own rooms; they have the dining room as well, to play and run about in. It's a mistake to mix up children and grown up people. And now, my dear Sofya Nikolaevna, live in my house as if it were your own. State your wishes, give your orders - they shall be obeyed. When you want to see me, you are welcome here: if you don't want to see me, sit all day in your room: I shan't be offended; I can't endure tiresome people myself. I love you as if you were of my own blood, but I don't intend to put any constraint on myself on your account. All guests in this house are in that position. I don't make myself troublesome to anyone, and I expect others not to make themselves troublesome to me".
A rust coloured dog of uncertain breed, walks straight across the Grove from one side to the other. He looks neither to right nor left and stops neither to sniff nor pee. He is entirely in his own. I have seen him before and noted his independence. He hesitates only once when he passes a bull terrier on a lead, but only slows down and alters his course by a few inches so as not to collide, franternise or quarrel.
It's a pleasure to watch the parent blackbirds plunge into the hedge head first to feed their young, like ducks looking for treasure at the bottom of a pond.
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