Leo Tolstoy by Ernest Joseph Simmons

By Ernest Joseph Simmons

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As a special treat she would allow the Tolstoy youngsters to feel this growth in her neck. The deep-voiced, genial Nikolai, brother of Tatyana Filippovna, who always had about him the pleasant smell of the stables, was the family coachman. The children loved him and were much in awe of his skill with horses. The kindly butler Vasili Trubetskoi used to carry Lyovochka up and down the pantry on his tray, and the boy also sought to keep in the good graces of the footman, Tikhon, a former flutist in the serf orchestra of grandfather Volkonski and a comedian of some ability, and of the two handsome brothers, Petrushka and Matyushka, strong and skilful huntsmen.

Another shaving incident lacked any rationale. While the horses were being changed on a journey, he disappeared from the carriage. When all was in readiness, they called for him. He stuck his head out of the station window and shouted that he would be right along. To his aunt's astonishment and chagrin, his head was half shaved. Lyovochka's most striking bid for attention, however, almost ended fatally for him. While members of the family in the diningroom below were wondering what kept him from dinner, he was poised on the window sill of the study room upstairs.

1 No less was he stirred by the sound of the galloping fire engines. He desired to dash out of the house and save someone heroically, and thus elevate himself in the eyes of all and change his whole life. Some of Lyovochka's bizarre boyhood actions were no doubt a form of compensatory exhibitionism, for oddities of behaviour often find their inspiration in an imaginary heroic existence. Original he certainly was, but when he entered a drawing-room and carefully made his bow backwards, saluting each of the company in turn, we have the kind of originality that is prompted by the desire to centre attention upon one's self.

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