Page:The life of Tolstoy.djvu/126

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this struggle, and when he triumphed, like a newborn child he scarcely could conceive the greatness of the existence he was entering upon. All the stages of this process are told with inimitable sincerity in his "Confession." The state of mind of a man who has lost all interest in a worldly life, but has not yet found anything to replace it, is described by Tolstoy in the images of an Oriental tale:

"To save himself from a wild beast, a traveller jumps into a dry well, but perceives at the bottom a dragon with open jaws, ready to devour him. Not daring to climb out of the well and in order not to be devoured by the dragon, the man catches hold of the branches of a wild shrub growing in a crack in the wall of the well. But his arms grow tired, and he feels that he must soon succumb to one or other of the menacing dangers. He holds on, however, when he sees two mice, one white and one black, at the foot of the shrub, steadily running around it and gnawing it through. He sees that at any moment the shrub may topple over, and he must drop into the jaws of the dragon. The traveller feels that he is inevitably lost; he gazes around and discovers a few drops of honey on the shrub. He can reach them with his tongue, and licks them up. Thus do I cling to the branches of