Boyhood, by Leo Tolstoy

IV. In Moscow

From the time of our arrival in Moscow, the change in my conception of objects, of persons, and of my connection with them became increasingly perceptible. When at my first meeting with Grandmamma, I saw her thin, wrinkled face and faded eyes, the mingled respect and fear with which she had hitherto inspired me gave place to compassion, and when, laying her cheek against Lubotshka’s head, she sobbed as though she saw before her the corpse of her beloved daughter, my compassion grew to love.

I felt deeply sorry to see her grief at our meeting, even though I knew that in ourselves we represented nothing in her eyes, but were dear to her only as reminders of our mother — that every kiss which she imprinted upon my cheeks expressed the one thought, “She is no more — she is dead, and I shall never see her again.”

Papa, who took little notice of us here in Moscow, and whose face was perpetually preoccupied on the rare occasions when he came in his black dress-coat to take formal dinner with us, lost much in my eyes at this period, in spite of his turned-up ruffles, robes de chambre, overseers, bailiffs, expeditions to the estate, and hunting exploits.

Karl Ivanitch — whom Grandmamma always called “Uncle,” and who (Heaven knows why!) had taken it into his head to adorn the bald pate of my childhood’s days with a red wig parted in the middle — now looked to me so strange and ridiculous that I wondered how I could ever have failed to observe the fact before. Even between the girls and ourselves there seemed to have sprung up an invisible barrier. They, too, began to have secrets among themselves, as well as to evince a desire to show off their ever- lengthening skirts even as we boys did our trousers and ankle- straps. As for Mimi, she appeared at luncheon, the first Sunday, in such a gorgeous dress and with so many ribbons in her cap that it was clear that we were no longer en campagne, and that everything was now going to be different.

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Last updated Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 20:04