THE LIFE OF TOLSTOY
perfection of art. On another occasion he made me recite Pushkin's poems, 'To the Sea,' and 'To Napoleon,' which I liked very much and had learned by heart. Evidently he was struck by the pathos of my recitation, and, listening until the end, exchanged a significant look with Yazykoff. I understood that he saw something good in my recitation, and I was very happy."
Nicolas Tolstoy, at the age of sixteen, had entered the army, and took part in the campaigns of 1813 and 1814. Having been sent somewhere in Germany as a courier, he was taken prisoner by the French and was not liberated until 1815, when the Russian army entered Paris. The war over, he retired from military service. Shortly after, his father, Leo Tolstoy's grandfather, died, and Nicolas was left with a ruined estate and a spoilt mother, who was accustomed to luxury and of extravagant habits. His relatives arranged his marriage with the rich Princess Marie Volkonsky.
Princess Marie was a remarkable woman in every respect. Leo was only eighteen months old when she died, so that he had no recollection of her, but from what his aunts and other intimates told him, he created a very tender, loving, and beautiful image of his mother. In his memoirs he gives some of her characteristics: