Andrei Nikolaevitch had married, when he was no longer in his first youth, a poor young noblewoman of the neighbourhood, a very nervous and sickly person, who had been reared in one of the government institutes for gentlewomen. She played far from badly on the piano; she spoke French in boarding-school fashion; she was given to enthusiasm, and still more addicted to melancholy, and even to tears.... In a word, she was of an uneasy character. As she considered that her life had been ruined, she could not love her husband, who, “as a matter of course,” did not understand her; but she respected, she tolerated him; and as she was a thoroughly honest and perfectly cold being, she never once so much as thought of any other “object.” Moreover, she was constantly engrossed by anxieties: in the first place, over her really feeble health; in the second place, over the health of her husband, whose fits always inspired her with something akin to superstitious terror; and, in conclusion, over her only son, Misha, whom she reared herself with great zeal. Andrei Nikolaevitch did not prevent his wife’s busying herself with Misha—but on one condition: she was never, under any circumstances, to depart from the limits, which had been defined once for all, wherein everything in his house must revolve! Thus, for example: during the Christmas holidays and Vasily’s evening preceding the New Year, Misha was not only permitted to dress up in costume along with the other “lads,”—doing so was even imposed upon him as an obligation.... On the other hand, God forbid that he should do it at any other time! And so forth, and so forth.
I remember this Misha at the age of thirteen. He was a very comely lad with rosy little cheeks and soft little lips (and altogether he was soft and plump), with somewhat prominent, humid eyes; carefully brushed and coifed—a regular little girl!—There was only one thing about him which displeased me: he laughed rarely; but when he did laugh his teeth, which were large, white, and pointed like those of a wild animal, displayed themselves unpleasantly; his very laugh had a sharp and even fierce—almost brutal—ring to it; and evil flashes darted athwart his eyes. His mother always boasted of his being so obedient and polite, and that he was not fond of consorting with naughty boys, but always was more inclined to feminine society.