Leo Tolstoy: His Life and Work/Chapter 13
After his return from abroad, Tolstoy passed through St. Petersburg. In the beginning of May , he was in Moscow, and soon afterward in Yasnaya Polyana.
Russian was then celebrating the coming of a new era, the liberation of the peasantry from serfdom.
All those who were honest, educated, and of progressive opinions turned their energy in the direction of social reform. One of the first among them was Lev Tolstoy.
With the beginning of social work his life became so many- sided that one must turn away from the strict chronology of the story and give a parallel description of his principal kinds of contemporary activity. Every direction that his labors took was connected with facts of his personal and family life.
At the beginning of the 1860s, the social activity of Tolstoy manifested itself chiefly in two spheres: in the administrative as a peace mediator, and in the educational as a teacher, organizer of peasant schools, and educational writer.
We intend to give a description of both branches of activity, but before that it is necessary to narrate some facts of Tolstoy's personal life.
On his return home, he hastened to call on his good neighbors, Fet and Turgenev. A correspondence ensued between them. Turgenev wrote to Fet from Spasskoye:
[Turgenev writes to Fet} Fetti carissime! I send you a note from Tolstoy, to whom I wrote today asking him to come at the beginning of next week without fail, so that we might together invade you in hour Stepanovka while the nightingales are still singing and the spring smiles "bright, beatific--impartial." Expect me at the end of next week in any case, and till then be quite well, don't worry, and throw, if only a one-eyed glance, at your orphan muse.
The letter contained the following note from Tolstoy:
I embrace you from all my heart, dear friend, for your letter and your friendship, and for your being Fet. Turgenev I would like to see, but you ten times more. It is so long since we have seen each other, and so much has happened to both of us since. I am very glad about your farming operations when I hear and think of them, and I am a little proud that I have, in at least a small measure, contributed toward them. We both of us are in a position to understand the advantage. A friend is a good thing to have; yet he may die, may for one reason or other go away, or one may be unable to keep up with him. But nature is still better...she is cold and difficult to deal with, and important and exacting, but then she is such a friend! One cannot lose her untiil death, and when one dies, one is absorbed in her. I now, however, associate less with this friend, I have other interests which engage me; and yet, without the consciousness that this friend is here at hand, and that were one to stumble one could catch hold of her -- life would be a sad thing ....
[Fet writes in his "Reminiscences"] In spite of these kind promises, a carriage appearing at the coppice and turning from the crossing to our porch was a surprise to us, and we were delighted to embrace Turgenev and Tolstoy. The few buildings on our estate at the time made Turgenev exclaim in wonder, spreading out his large hands: "We look and look, where is Stepanovka, but in reality we see a greasy pancake and on it a lump, and this is Stepanovka."
When the visitors had rested a little from their journey, and the hostess had made use of the two hours before dinner to give it a more substantial and cheering appearance, we plunged into a most lively conversation, such as can be held only among men not wearied by life. 
During this visit, an unfortunate event occurred -- the quarrel between Turgenev and Tolstoy. It is very fully described by Fet, from whom we borrow the greater part of the description, adding a few corrections and filling some gaps, in accordance with new materials at our disposal.
[Fet writes] In the morning at the usual time, i.e., about eight o'clock, our visitors came down to the dining room in which my wife was sitting at the samovar at one end of the table and I at the other, waiting for my coffee, Turgenev at the right and Tolstoy at the left of the hostess.
Being aware of the importance which Turgenev attached to his daughter's education, my wife inquired whether he was pleased with his English governess.
Turgenev showered praises on the governess and among other things related that the governess, with truly English practicality, asked Turgenev to fix a sum of money which his daughter could use for charitable purposes. "Now," said Turgenev, "the governess requests my daughter to take the old clothes of the poor and after mending them herself, to return them to the owners."
"And do you consider this right?" asked Tolstoy.
"Of course I do; it brings the charitable person nearer to real want."
"And I think that a richly dressed girl who manipulates dirty, ill-smelling rags is acting a false and theatrical farce."
"I beg you not to say this," exclaimed Turgenev, his nostrils dilating.
"Why should not I say what I am convinced of?" answered Tolstoy.
Turgenev said: "Then you think that I do not bring up my daughter properly?"
Tolstoy's answer to this was that he thought what he said, and without venturing upon personalities, expressed his thoughts. [Memoirs of Countess S. A. Tolstaya]
Fet had not time to cry out to Turgenev to desist when, pale with wrath the latter said: "If you persist in speaking in this way, I will box your ears." With these words he left the table, and, catching hold of his head in great excitement, stepped into the next room. He came back a second after and said, turning to Fet's wife: "For God's sake, forgive my hasty action, which I deeply repent."
He then left the room again. After this, the visitors took their leave.
At the first halting place from Novoselkiy, the property of P. N. Borisov, Tolstoy sent a letter to Turgenev with a demand for satisfaction. then he went on further to Boguslav, the halting place half way between Bet's estate and his own estate Nikolskoye. He sent for pistols and bullets to Nikolskoye and without waiting for an answer to his first letter, sent a second one with a challenge.
In this letter to Turgenev, he said that he did not care to fight in a vulgar manner, that is to say, when two authors come with a third one, with pistols, and the duel ends in champagne- drinking -- he wanted to fight in real earnest, and he asked Turgenev to come to the frontier with pistols.
Tolstoy spent a sleepless night waiting for an answer.
At last came a letter -- Turgenev's answer to the first letter. Turgenev wrote:
[Turgenev writes] L.N. Tolstoy. Dear Sir -- In answer to yours, I can only repeat what I considered it my duty to declar at Fet's house. being carried away by a feeling of animosity which I could not help, and the causes of which it is useless to enter into, I offended you without any positive provocation on your part, and I asked pardon for it. What happened this morning shows clearly that all attempts at rapprochement between such different natures as mine and yours will lead to no good, and I do my duty to you the more willingly as this letter will probably be the last sign of any relations between us. With all my heart I trust it will satisfy you, and I give my consent before hand to any use you may care to make of it.
With my respects, I have the honor to remain your faithful servant, Iv. Turgenev. Spasskoye, May 27, 1861.
A postscript followed the same day.
[Turgenev writes] 10 o'clock p.m. Ivan Petrovich has just brought me back my letter, which my servant sent by mistake to Novoselkiy instead of forwarding it to Boguslav. I earnestly beg you to forgive this unexpected and disagreeable misadventure. I hope my messenger will still find you in Boguslav.
Tolstoy wrote to Fet, probably on the same day:
[Tolstoy writes] I could not refrain from opening yet another letter from Turgenev in answer to mine. I wish you all that is good in your relations with this man, but I despise him. I have written to him and how have nothing more to do with him, except so far as, should he desire it, to give him satisfaction. Notwithstanding all my apparent indifference, I did not feel at my ease, and I felt that I ought to demand from Turgenev a more positive apology, which I did in my letter from Novoselkiy. Here is his answer, which I accepted as satisfactory, merely answering that the grounds upon which I excuse him are not opposite features in our characters, but -- such as he can himself understand.
Besides this, owing to his delay, I have sent another letter in rather harsher terms and with a challenge: to this I have received no answer, but, if I do receive one, I will send it to you unopened. So this is the end of an unfortunate business; if it gets beyond the threshold of your house, please let it pass with this accompaniment.
Meanwhile, Turgenev thus answered his challenge:
[Turgenev writes] Your servant says that you desire to receive an answer to your letter, but I don't see what I can add to what I have sais already. Maybe when I acknowledge your right to deman satisfaction by arms, you will prefer to be satisfied with my expressed and repeated apology. As to that, it is for you to choose. I can without affectation that I would willingly face your fire in order to wipe out the effect of my really insane words. The fact of my saying what I did is so foreign to the habits of all my life that I can ascribe it to nothing but the irritation caused by the extreme and constant antagonism of our views. This is not an apology, I mean, not justification, but an explanation. Such incidents being ineffaceable and irreparable, I consider it my duty, in parting from you forever, to repeat once more that in this affair you were right and I was wrong. Let me add, that it is no question of my willingness or unwillingness to show myself a brave man simply, but whether I acknowledge your right to challenge me to a duel -- according to usual formalities, of course, i.e., with seconds -- as well as to forgive me. You have chosen what you prefer, and to me remains to abide by your decision.
Again, allow me to assure you of my respect. Iv. Turgenev.
In his desire to reconcile his friends, Fet very likely attempted something of the kind, judging by the following extract from his memoirs:
[Fet writes] L. Tolstoy has sent me the following note:
Turgenev...which I beg you to transmit to him as accurately as you transmit to me his nice utterances, notwithstanding my repeated requests not to speak of him. Count L. Tolstoy
And I beg you yourlesf not to write to me any more, as I will not open your letters, any more than those of Turgenev.
I need not say [remarks Fet] that I did my best to bring the affair, which unfortunately occurred in my house, to a clear issue. For this purpose I went to Spasskoye.
I remember the indesbribably sarcastic mood of the immortal Turgenev. "What an unheard-of idea," he exclaimed, "to demand that all shall be of our opinion, and, if that cannot be, to demand a formal apology and conclude the matter with pistols." So said the uncle to me, but what he said to Ivan Sergeyich I don't know. As to my efforts to patch up the affair, then ended, as one sees, in a formal rupture with Tolstoy, and at the present moment I cannot remember how our friendly relations were renewed. 
Some time elapsed, says the Countess S. A. Tolstaya, and while in Moscow, Tolstoy was one day in one of those charming moods which sometimes came over him, full of humility and love, and wishing and striving for the good and great. While in this mood he could not bear to have an enemy. Therefore he wrote a letter to Turgenev on September 25th , in which he expressed his regret that their relations were hostile. "If I offended you," he wrote, "forgive me; I am very unhappy to know I have an enemy."
This letter was sent to the bookseller Davidov, who had business transactions with Turgenev. For some reason it was not delivered to Turgenev in time, and meanwhile he was alarmed by certain silly rumors, which he thus related to Fed in his letter of November 8th  from Paris:
[Turgenev writes to Fet] Byb the by, one more tale the last one, concerning the unfortunate affair with Tolstoy. On my way through St. Petersburg, I heard from "reliable people" (Oh, those reliable people!) that copies of the last letter of Tolstoy to me, the one in which he "despises" me are circulating all over Moscow, and that these copies are spread about by Tolstoy himself. This made me very angry, and I have sent him a challenge from here for the time of my return to Russia. Tolstoy replied that the circulation of copies is a sheer fiction, and at the same time enclosed a letter in which he asked forgiveness and renounced his challenge. Of courst this must put an end to the affair, and I only ask you to inform him (for he writes that my address to him on my part he would consider an offence) that I renounce my challenge and so on, and I hope that all this is buried forever. His letter (the apologetic one) I destroyed, but the other one, which according to him had been sent through the bookseller Davidov, I have not received at all. And now to all this affair de profundis. 
We find the following note in Tolstoy's diary about this letter from Turgenev to Tolstoy:
[Tolstoy writes in his diary] October. Yesterday I received a letter from Turgenev in which he accuses me of telling peole that he is a coward, and he says that I distribute copies of my letter. I wrote to him that this was nonsense, and I also sent him a letter saying "You call my action dishonorable, and you desire to give me a regular slap in the face, but I regard myself as to blame, I beg your pardon and retract my challenge.
[Countess Tolstaya writes in her memoirs] This letter was written under the impulse of the idea that if Turgenev is devoid of the sense of personal honor and needs honor before the public, he may use this letter; but that he (Tolstoy) is above it and despises public opinion. Turgenev was weak enough to agree to it, and he replied that he considered himself satisfied.
In another letter to Fet of January 7, 1862, Turgenev writes about the same:
[Turgenev writes to Fet] and now, to ask a plain question: have you seen Tolstoy? Only today have I got the letter he sent me in September through the bookstores of Davidov (the punctuality of Russian tradesmen is remarkable indeed!). In this letter he speaks of his intention to offend me, apologizes, etc. But almost at the same time, in consequence of different gossip, of which, I believe, I informed you, I had sent him my chellenge, etc. All this drives one to the conclusion that our constellations move discordantly in the ether, and it would be best for us, as he proposes, not to meet. But you may write or tell him (when you see him) that without phrases and witticisms, I like him very much at a distance, I respect him and watch his career with sympathy, but when we come together everything takes a different aspect. It cannot be helped! We must go on living as if we existed on different planets or in different ages. [A. Fet, "My Reminiscences" p384]
Probably Fet said something to Tolstoy in the way of a message from Turgenev and again caused irritation against himself, of which he informed Turgenev, for the latter wrote to him, among other things, the following:
[Turgenev writes to Fet] Paris, January 14, 1862. Dearest Afanasiy Afanasyevich -- In the first place I feel it necessary to apologize to you for the utterly unexpected tile (Tuile, as the French have it) which fell on your head because of my letter. It is a slight consolation to me that I could not foresee such a sally from Tolstoy, but intended it all for the best. It proves, however, that it is a wound not to be touched at all. Once more please forgive my involuntary sin. 
With this we may wind up the narrative of a deplorable incident, which like a clap of thunder discharged the tension of the atmosphere between the two great men and perhaps helped afterward to bring them together on a more sincere and sounder basis.
We must add that the description of this matter in Garshin's "Reminiscences of Turgenev," printed in the "Historical Review" for November 1883, is full of misstatements as to place and time and was probably not gathered from first-hand sources.
In 1861 and 1862 Tolstoy occupied the post of a Peace Mediator of the fourth section of the Krapivenskiy District. His employment in this capacity is hardly known in literature -- fortunately its memory is still green among some contemporaries, who were at that time intimate with him. Their remarks are undoubtedly of great interest.
The reputation which Tolstoy won as a manager of his own estate on new principles, i.e., those of one who does not oppress and sweat his peasants, had almost proved an obstacle to his getting the above-mentioned appointment. Correspondence passed and information was given in a sense unfavorable to him in reference to the post. We give here the more important extracts from the material in our possession concerning this affair. The Marshal of Nobility of the province, V. P. Minin, wrote to the Minister of the Interior, Valuyev, complaining of the Governor of Tula province Lunskoy for having appointed Tolstoy Peace Mediator. These were his words:
[Marshal of Nobility writes to Minister of the Interior] Being aware of a hostile attitude to him on the part of the Krapivenskiy Nobility, due to his management of his own estate, the Marshal is afraid lest, with the Count's appointment to the post, some unpleasant conflicts may take place, which may hinder the peaceful settlement of such an important matter.
Then the Marshal pointed out the transgression by the Governor of certain formalities as regards the appointment, hoping that these might serve to annul it.
The Minister of the Interior replied to the Marshal of Nobility that there must be some misunderstanding, and he would write about it to the Governor.
In reply to the Minister's inquiry, the Governor sent the following interesting confidential report, which shows that at the time the high official spheres marched in advance of Russian society, which had not yet awakened to the situation:
[Governor of Tula province writes to the Minister of the Interior] (Confidential) To this I have the honor to add, that what gave rise to the present correspondence may be the appointment of Count L. Tolstoy as a Peace Mediator of the Krapivenskiy district, contrary to the opinion of the Marshals of Nobility, both of the province and the district, who object to his election on the alleged ground that he is disliked by the local nobility.
Being acquainted with Count Tolstoy, and knowing him for a well-educated man and one in great sympathy with the present reform, and taking also into consideration the expressed desire of some landowners of the Krapivenskiy district to have him as their Peace Mediator, I cannot replace hiim by another person quite unknown to me. The more so as Count Tolstoy was pointed out to me by your Excellency's predecessor [Lanskoy], among other persons, as one enjoying the best reputation. Lieutenant-General Darogan.
After this followed the confirmation of the appointment as Peace Mediator by the Senate.
Interesting papers have lately appeared relating to Tolstoy's activity as Peace Mediator.
These materials throw a new light on his personal character, as in all the suits of which records are produced he appears as a true champion of the peasants against the harsh tyranny of the landowners and police officers, and one may easily believe that the fears of the Marshal of the Nobility were not without foundation.
Out of the fifteen suits quoted in those papers, we will choose the most characteristic.
In one case, the landowner, one Mme. Artyukhova, complained of her late house servant, Makr Grigoryev, that he had left her, considering himself a "free man".
On this Tolstoy wrote:
[Tolstoy, as Peace Mediator, writes] Makr can go away immediately with his wife wherever he likes, in virtue of my orders. I beg you (1) to compensate him for the three months and a half he has worked for you illegally since the announcement of the Act, and (2) to compensate his wife for the assault upon her, which was still more illegal. If you are dissatisfied with my resolution, you have a right to lodge a complaint with the Assembly of the Justices of the Peace and with the Council of the Province. I can give you no further explanations. With my best respects, I remain, yours faithfully, Count L. Tolstoy.
Mme. Artyukhova lodged a complaint before the Assembly of Peace Mediators. As the Assembly consisted of Peace Mediators who disapproved of Tolstoy's proceedings, they set aside his decision in this case, as in many others, and they forwarded the case to the Provincial Court. Fortunately, his course was there viewed wity sympathy, and his decision in this case, as in many others, was confirmed.
So Mark Grigoryev was set free and his wife was compensated for the assault committed by Mme. Artyukhova.
An interesting affair is the case of the damage done by peasants to a field belonging to one Mikhailovskiy.
The peasants tilled the landowner's field, and during their rest allowed the horses to graze in the meadow of a neighboring landowner. The latter complained to Tolstoy. Tolstoy first asked the landowner to forgive the peasants this trespass, hoping probably thus to improve the relations between the landowner and the peasants, who had cause to complain of him. The landowner refused to overlook the damage done, and he requested an assessment of it to be made and the fine to be paid to him, claiming that it should be eighty rubles.
A long correspondence arose out of this case. The landowner Mikhailovskiy, in complaining to the Assembly of Peace Mediators, described Tolstoy's action in this way:
[Landowner Mikhailovskiy writes] Hereupon Count Tolstoy arrived at the village Panino, invited three peasants of the nearest village, Borodino, as referees, and they went together to the damaged meadow. The referees to whom he proposed to assess the damages due for the meadow declared that about three desyatins [a desyatin is about three acres] of the meadow had been damaged, and the fine they considered right would be ten rubles per desyatin. To this Count Tolstoy did not agree and proposed to them to make it only five rubles. The referees did not contradict Count Tolstoy, and so the case of the Panino peasants damaging the landowner's meadows was settled by Tolstoy in this way, that the peasants had to pay the landowner Mikhailovskiy for the three desyatins five rubles each.
Considering this and other proceedings of Count Tolstoy to be illegal, Mikhailovskiy said:
I am firmly convinced that a just Government, in its solicitude for the improvement of the stauts of the peasants, would not allow that such improvement and enrichment of the peasants should be carried out in this manner put in practice by the Peace Mediator, Count Tolstoy.
The District Assembly of the Justices, in view of Mikhailovskiy's petition, requested an explanation from tolstoy, but in a paper under No. 323, of September 16, 1861, he replied that "he did not think it necessary to give any information as regards the petition of Mikhailovskiy, in virtue of paragraphs 29, 31, and 32 of the regulation Act in connection with the courts of peasants' affairs. The resolution passed in this case by the District Assembly, and presented to the Provincial Assembly, was dismissed by the latter without any written report, with the following remark: "To be added to the case."
Another case, slight as it is, shows us clearly how far Tolstoy was from having selfish aims in all these proceedings, and how ready he was to acknowledge a mistake of his own, being guided in his actions only by a sincere wish for justice.
A certain Mme. Zaslonina, a landowner, complained of Tolstoy to the Assembly for having issued a leave-of-absence passport to her house serf. Tolstoy was present at the examination into the affair, and he owned that he committed a blunder and offered to cimpensate the lady for the loss she had suffered.
However, these affairs did not all end in such a satisfactory manner for Tolstoy, as, in making himself the champion of the people's right, he had to face a whole party of serfowners who firmly stuck to their old customs and privileges. Thus the landowner Ossipovich and his former serfs had a dispute as follows: Part of the village had been burned and the landowner would not allow the peasants to build on the same spot but requested them to move their homesteads, refusing at the same time to give them proper allowance for new buildings and to free them from obligatory work and give them the time necessary for restoring their ruined homes.
Toldtoy could see that on the one hand, the demands of the peasants were reasonable, but on the other he knew the pitiful situation of the ruined small landowner, and he did not think him able to satisfy the demands of the peasants. He appealed therefore to the nobles of the district to help their colleague to extricate his needy peasants out of the difficulty or simply to help the peasants directly. Both his proposals were dismissed, and the peasants were urged to comply with all the demands of their landowner.
The suit dragged on for some time, going from one court of justice to another. Tolstoy saw that the case would be decided against the peasants and that his opinion would be disregarded. He then protested again, and when during the hearing of the case before the Assembly he saw that the members of the tribunal intentionally misrepresented the affair, he left the Assembly without signing the resolutions relating to cases which had been heard in his presence, being determined to exhaust all means to procure a decision in the peasants' favor. The Assembly lodged a complaint against him with the Provincial Assembly, but this complaint met with no attention.
Again we see how Kostomarov got possession of the peasants holdings by declaring them to be his house servants; that is to say, to belong to a section of the peasants whom the new law did not provide with land. Tolstoy took their part, and after many trials he succeeded in securing their holdings for them.
The poorer landowners resorted to all sorts of subterfuges in order to give to the peasants the smaller allotments of land, and that of the worst quality. As soon as Tolstoy noticed this tendency, he refused to confirm the charters regulating the mutual relations of landowners and peasants, and he tried his best to annul them.
We need hardly say that Tolstoy's sympathy for the peasants was exceedingly distasteful to the landowners. They proclaimed that Tolstoy had thrown a seed of discord between the landowners and the peasantry, and had finally destroyed the patriarchal relations between them; that he was provoking rebellion among the peasants, who were encouraged by him to commit many unlawful acts; that even the officials of the peasants' administrations, in order to ingratiate themselves with Tolstoy, did not perform the duties imposed upon them by the law, so that the result was perfect anarchy in the villages and innumerable irregularities such as staling, lawlessness, and so forth.
Of course, Tolstoy's proceedings as Peace Mediator made the peasants put implicit confidence in him, and this annoyed the landowners still more, so that he was faced with growing difficulties in his task, and had soon to cease his efforts in the hard struggle.
He felt, in fact, very much dissatisfied. As early as July 1861 he wrote in his diary:
[Tolstoy writes] The post of arbitrator has given me little material for observation and has definitely spoiled my relations with the landowners, besides upsetting my health.
On February 12, 1862, Tolstoy wrote to the provincial Court of Justice on peasant affairs:
[Tolstoy writes] As the appeals against my decisions which have been made to the Provincial Court have no valid ground, and yet these cases and many others have been and are still being decided against my opinion, so that almost every judgment pronounced in the district under my charge is set aside and even the Starshinas [elected peasant officials over groups of villages] are removed by the Court of Arbitrators, under such circumstances, giving rise to a want of confidence in the arbitrator on the part of both peasants and landowners, it becomes not only useless but impossible for the arbitrator to continue to act. I respectfully request the Provincial Court to have the above-mentioned appeals investigated by one of its members, and at the same time I find myself obliged to inform the provincial Court that until such investigation takes place, I do not think it convenient to carry on my duties and have therefore transferred them to a deputy.
It was on March 9th that Tolstoy had accepted the office of Peace Mediator, but he only performed his duties up to April 30th, when under the pretext of illness, he handed them over to the eldest candidate for that post in the 4th Division. The Senate at last informed the Governor of Tula on May 26th, in a document No. 24,124, that a resolution had been passed to discharge the artillery lieutenant, Count Lev Tolstoy, on the grounds of ill health, from the duties of Peace Mediator of the Krapivenskiy District and that this had been confirmed by the Imperial Senate. 
The following story, taken from the biography of Loewenfeld, shows how groundless were the assertions of the landowners as to Tolstoy's favoritism toward the peasants. One can see from it that Tolstoy had defended the demands of the landowners with equal fairness when he considered them just.
[From Lowenfeld's biography of Tolstoy] A witness of Tolstoy's proceedings as a Peace Mediator, a German from the Baltic Provinces and bailiff of a landowner in the Tuls Province, had occasion to call upon him on a matter of business at Yasnaya Polyana on his patron's belhaf. What gave occasion to the visit was a disagreement on certain points relating to peasant allotments. This could only be settled on the spot, and the Peace Mediator therefore went in April to the estate of his neighbor, accompanied by a peasant boy of twelve years of age -- his little land surveyor, as the Count jokingly called him, because he always carried with him the measuring chain. Tolstoy received a peasant deputation, consisting of two elders and one member of the village council, who came to see him to talk over the matter.
"Well, friends, what do you want?" said Tolstoy.
The delegates stated the request of the village. Instead of the pasture ground appointed to them, they wanted another piece of land so as to increase their allotment.
"I am very sorry, but I cannot do as you wish," said the Count. "If I did so, I should cause a great loss to your landlord," and he proceeded to explain quietly the position of the matter.
"Well, arrange it somehow, little father," said one of the delegates.
"No, I can do nothing," repeated the Count.
The peasants exchanged glances, scratched their heads, and persisted, saying: "Do it somehow, little father."
"If you only would, little father," continued the spokesman, "you are sure to be able to manage it."
The other two delegates nodded their heads approvingly.
The Count crossed himself and said: "In the name of holy God, I swear that I cannot help you."
But even after this the peasants still repeated, "Do it somehow, little father, be so kind," the count turned in vexation to the bailiff and said: "One may be an Amphion and move mountains and forests sooner than convince these peasants.
During the whole interview, which lasted about an hour, says our authority, the Count was the personification of patience and friendliness. The obstinacy of the peasants did not draw a harsh word from him. 
The memoirs of a friend and relative of Tolstoy, Prince Dmitriy Dmitriyevich Obolenskiy, refer to the same period:
[Obolenskiy writes] "In 1861, new elections took place in Tula, and there was to be a dinner in honor of those Peace Mediators who took part in the elections. In the very same reception hall where Volotskiy and Prince Cherkasskiy had quarrelled and were on the point of fighting a duel about something connected with the peasant question, Volotskiy first expressed his sympathy with Cherkasskiy as his colleague, also a Peace Mediator ... this dinner was memorable to me. My uncle, T. A. Rayevskiy, as the oldest man present, was chairman. Some of the landowners subscribed to the dinner, and, of course, I was one of the company. I had to sit next to Count L. N. Tolstoy, a Peace Mediator at the time, whom I then knew very well.
The first toast was naturally to the Tsar-Liberator, and it was received with great enthusiasm.
"I drink to it with particular pleasure," said Count Tolstoy to me. "No other toasts are needed, for in truth it is to the Emperor only that we owe the emancipation."
However, other toasts followed. Especially successful was the toast proposed by P. F. Samarin to the Russian people -- a very awkward subject at the time. But Petr Fedorovich had cleverly pointed out in his speech that almost everywhere in the Tula Province the relations with the peasants were on a very good foothin, because the landowners, having used their power moderately, the relations in question always had been good and at present were still better than before. And this was true: the reform went off peacefully in our province, as compared with others.
In the year of the abolition of serfdom, Count Tolstoy started his school in Yasnaya Polyana, in which I took great interest. I was in the habit of visiting the Count pretty often, and sometimes in the winter I would go out hunting with him, stopping for rest in places a long way off. I have had delightful times with him. Who would recognize in the present venerable philosopher the reckless sportsman who used to leap ditches and ravines with great agility and to spend days at a distance? It is difficult to imagine a better companion. But I believe the Count was a poor Peace Mediator, because of his absence of mind. I very well remember the first charger of regulations coming from him. It had been subscribed in this way:
"At the request of So-and-so, because of their illiteracy, the house serf So-and-so signed the charger of regulations. No name was added. Just as the Count dictated: "Write, I have signed for So-and-so," the house-serf had written word for word, not mentioning the name either of the peasant or his owner. And the Count, without reading what the house serf had written, sent off the charter, duly sealed, to the Provincial Court. My stepfather, who was then a member of the Court, and at whose house I lived, received this charter. He only shrugged his shoulders over such a document. [Prince Obolenskiy, "Reminiscences," "The Russian Archive," 1894.]
Tolstoy proved incapable in chancellor's office work, but his heart and brain worked well as Peace Mediator, and he has left kind memories of his activity in this direction. But he had greater success, though he met with no fewer obstacles, in the matter of education, which we treat in the following chapters.
- A. Fet, "My Reminiscences, Part I" p368
- A. Fet, "My Reminiscences, Vol. I" p368
- A. Fet, "My Reminiscences, Vol. I" p368
- A. Fet, "My Reminiscences" p384
- D.T. Uspenskiy, "Archive Materials for the Biography of Count L. N. Tolstoy", "Russian Thought", 1903, vol. ix.
- G. Lowenfeld, Count Tolstoy, his Life and Works, p228