It was in 1856 that Tolstoi quitted the capital for the repose and seclusion of Yasnaya Polyana, dividing his time between agricultural pursuits (ploughing and sowing his own fields and labouring hard to better the condition of his serfs) and literature. To this period belong the novels and romances, "Yunost" ("Youth"), "Vstryecha v Otryadye" ("The Encounter in the Battalion"), "Metel'" ("The Snowstorm"), "Zapiski Markera" ("The Memories of a Marker"), and "Dva Husara" ("Two Hussars").
In 1857 Tolstoi went abroad for the first time, and was away for two years visiting Germany, in which he was very much interested, and France. At Paris he again encountered Turgenev, but the meeting was anything but felicitous. Writing to a friend as to his experiences on this occasion, Turgenev remarks: "I cannot get on with Tolstoi anyhow, our views are so utterly different." Twelve months later Tolstoi went abroad again, but between his first and second foreign tour occurred what he always regarded as the tragedy of his life — the death of his elder brother Nicholas, to whom he was devotedly attached, and who is said to have been the one really intimate friend, except his wife, he ever possessed. Turgenev describes the elder Tolstoi as "a talented talker and story-teller, who always lived by himself either in the country or in quite impossible quarters at Moscow, sharing everything with the poor." The effect of this bereavement upon Lev was crushing. "Nothing in all my life," he tells us, "made such an impression upon me. Why worry and suffer any more, I thought to myself, when nought remains of