Page:The life of Tolstoy.djvu/169

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THE YEARS OF FAMINE

125

themselves with the purpose, as he wrote, "to do what God orders—to feed, and distribute whatever there is." The place was one of the worst in the famine region. After a week he wrote:

"Everybody is busy at some good work—soup kitchens for the poorest. The girls have opened a school, and they try to help everybody in all ways. I am delighted with them. The time is critical; the conditions are strained and dangerous."

Thus modestly Tolstoy started to give assistance with his family, but rumours about his work soon spread. Besides the material aid, he published an article, "How to Help the Starving Population," in which he showed the inefficiency of the Government's method of distributing flour and grain among the poor. He set out the needs of the situation in the following way:

"Help to the starving population can be twofold: first by the upkeep of the peasants' homesteads; second, by saving them from the danger of illness and even death by the lack, or bad quality, of food."

He drew the following conclusions as to the best means of satisfying these two needs:

"In order to prevent the partial or total ruin