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Ch. 7: The Night of Tolstoy's Going Away

It happened very simply. On the night of the 27th October, at a time when it was supposed that Leo Nikolaevitch was asleep, as he lay in bed he heard and saw through a crack in his door Sofya Andreyevna steal softly into his study and search among the papers on his writing-table. Then as she was going away, noticing the light in his room, she went in and began with an anxious face inquiring how he was. This cold hypocrisy on her part apparently destroyed the last illusion of Leo Nikolaevitch. Only a few days before he had been touched by the solicitude with which Sofya Andreyevna, coming into his bedroom in the same way at night, had climbed on to a chair and had set right the movable frame which had been insecurely fastened. Now he remembered that he had heard a rustle the night before too, and the real value of Sofya Andreyevna's care of him was suddenly revealed to him. Chance had unmasked the awful, systematic comedy which was being played from day to day around him, and in which he had unconsciously to play the central part.

In his diary he describes what he endured that night as follows:—


"I went to bed at half-past eleven, slept till three o'clock. Woke again. As on previous nights, the opening of doors and footsteps. On the previous nights I did not look towards my door; this time I glanced towards it and saw through the crack a bright light in the study and heard rustling. It was Sofya Andreyevna looking for something, probably reading something. On the evening before she begged and insisted that I should not lock the doors. Both her doors were opened so that she could hear my slightest movement. Both by day and by night all my movements and my words must be known to her and be under her control. Again footsteps, a cautious opening of the door and she goes out. I don't know why that aroused in me an irrepressible repulsion and indignation. I tried to go to sleep. I could not; I turned from side to side for about an hour, lighted a candle and sat up. The door opens and Sofya Andreyevna walks in, asking after my health and wondering at the light which she has seen in my room. Repulsion and indignation grow. I am breathless; I count my pulse seventy-seven. I cannot lie still, and suddenly take a final resolution to go away. I write her a letter; I begin packing what is most necessary, only to get away. I wake Dushan, then Sasha; they help me to pack."


As Alexandra Lvovna described, she and her companion Varvara Mihailovna (the amanuensis) were awake that night. She kept fancying that someone was walking about and talking overhead. She was afraid that discussions were taking place between her father and mother. They fell asleep towards morning, but soon heard a knock at the door. Alexandra Lvovna went to the door and opened it.

"Who is it?" she asked.

"It is I, Leo Nikolaevitch.... I am going away at once ... for good.... Come and help me pack."

Alexandra Lvovna said afterwards that she would never forget his figure in the doorway, in a blouse, with a candle in his hand and a bright face resolute and beautiful.

In haste to get away, Leo Nikolaevitch dreaded one thing only: that Sofya Andreyevna might come upon him before he succeeded in getting off, and the calm realisation of his unalterable decision might thereby be troubled.

"I tremble at the thought that she will hear, will come out—a scene, hysterics, and no getting away in the future without a scene. By six o'clock everything has been packed after a fashion. I go to the stable to order the horses; Sasha and Varya finish the packing.... It is night, pitch dark. I get off the path to the lodge, fall into the bushes, get scratched, knock against trees, fall down, lose my cap, cannot find it; with difficulty make my way out, go home, take a cap, and with a lantern make my way to the stable and order the horses to be harnessed. Sasha, Dushan, Varya come. I tremble, expecting pursuit. But at last we get off. At Shtchekino we wait an hour, and every minute I expect her to appear. But at last we are in the railway carriage and set off. Alarm passes, and pity for her rises, but no doubt as to whether I have done what I ought. Perhaps I am mistaken in justifying myself but it seems to me that I have saved myself not as Leo Nikolaevitch, but have saved what at times at least to some small degree there is in me."


Leo Tolstoy

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