A DARK AND A ROVING EYE

I looked through my books by Leo Tolstoy for tales of temptation and harrowing vanity. This is from Hadji Murad:
“Czar Nicholas sat at the table in a black coat with shoulder-straps but no epaulets. His enormous body – with his overgrown stomach tightly laced in – was thrown back, and he gazed at the newcomers with fixed, lifeless eyes. His long pale face, with its enormous receding forehead between the tufts of hair that were brushed forward and skillfully joined to the wig that covered his bald patch, was particularly cold and stony that day. His eyes, always dim, looked duller than usual. The compressed lips under his upturned moustaches, the high collar that supported his chin, and his fat freshly shaven cheeks on which symmetrical sausage-shaped bits of whiskers had been left, gave his face a dissatisfied and even irate expression. His dark mood was caused by fatigue, due to his having been to a masquerade the night before and, while walking about in his Horse Guards’ uniform with a bird on the helmet among the crowd that timidly made way for his enormous self-assured figure, he had again met the masked woman who at the last masquerade had aroused his senile sensuality by her whiteness, her beautiful figure and her tender voice. At that masquerade she had disappeared after promising to meet him at the next one.
At yesterday’s masquerade she had come up to him, and this time he had not let her go, but led her to the box kept ready for that purpose, where he could be alone with her. Arriving in silence at the door of the box, Nicholas looked round for the attendant, but he was not there. He frowned and pushed the door open himself , letting the young woman enter first.
“Someone’s here!” said the masked young woman.
And the box actually was occupied. On the small velvet-covered sofa, close together, sat an army officer and a pretty, curly-haired young woman who had taken off her mask. On seeing the angry figure of Nicholas drawn up to its full height, she quickly replaced her mask, but the army officer, rigid with fear, stared fixedly at Nicholas without getting up from the sofa.
Accustomed as he was to the terror he inspired in others, that terror never ceased to please Nicholas.  Occasionally, he liked to astound those plunged in terror by addressing kindly words to them. He did so now.
“Well, friend!” he said to the terrified army officer. “You are younger than I and might give up your place to me.”
The officer leaped to his feet and, growing first pale and then red and bending almost double, he followed his masked partner silently out of the box, leaving Nicholas alone with his lady.
When he returned to his room that night and lay on the hard narrow bed about which he prided himself, it took him a long time to fall asleep. He thought of the frightened and elated expression on the masked young woman’s beautiful face, and he thought of the full powerful shoulders of his long-time mistress, Nelidova; and he compared the two. That profligacy in a married man was a bad thing did not once enter his head. Yet some kind of unpleasant after-taste remained and to stifle that feeling he dwelt on the thought that always tranquilized him – the thought of his own greatness.”

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About judyjablow123

In my youth I was a world class tournament golfer. I earned an MA in history at NYU, after which I knew I had had enough of academia. I have remained a student of history. I have a strongly personal - almost entirely negative- take on the contemporary pharmaceutical and mental health industries. That was the impetus for my Bluepolar blog, which will also include stuff on sports, history and anything else that strikes my interest.
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