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Ch. 4: Rest

INTERVALS OF REST—IN OTHER PEOPLE'S HOUSES

The only intervals of freedom and rest which Leo Nikolaevitch could enjoy from the indescribably painful conditions of life at Yasnaya Polyana at that period were afforded him by the rare occasions when he succeeded in getting away for a week or two to stay with some one of his more intimate friends. Thus during the last year of his life he stayed on two occasions with his daughter Tatyana Lvovna, in the Mtsensk district, and with me (I was in exile from the Tula province), the first time at Kryokshino in the Zvenigorodsky district near Moscow, and afterwards at Meshtcherskoe in the Serpuhovsky district. But he very rarely succeeded in arranging these visits, and only did so with great trouble, since Sofya Andreyevna opposed them in every way; and if, in spite of her opposition, he did make up his mind to go away, it would sometimes happen that at the last minute she would decide to go with him, which, of course, spoilt the chief object of the excursion.

I remember on both occasions when he came to us how extremely shattered, worn out and ill Leo Nikolaevitch looked, and how perceptibly before our eyes he improved physically and revived spiritually. Even on the second or third day of a calm life, and in a circle of friends of the same way of thinking, who guarded his spiritual peace and fully respected his independence, he was completely changed. It was as though some crushing, agonising burden had fallen off him; his face was brighter in expression, his movements became vigorous, in the morning he worked with concentration for many hours on end at his writings, amazing us all by the number of written pages which he afterwards gave us to copy out. During his daily walks he went so rapidly and so far that it was difficult for people much younger to keep up with him. With the visitors of the most varied kind, of whom numbers were always flocking to see him, and from whom no one in our house shut him off as at home, he carried on lively conversations in his free time, in that way coming into direct contact with the surrounding world. In conversation with his friends no one interrupted him or contradicted him at every turn, an annoyance to which he was continually subjected at home, and therefore communion with those surrounding him here afforded him joyous spiritual relief. Everything showed what vast stores of energy were still preserved in him; it was clear that under favourable conditions he might for many years to come lead an active life to the joy and profit of humanity.

His inner spiritual revival was shown very conspicuously in the fact that every day he became more and more drawn to artistic creation. At first he noted down characteristic meetings and conversations which took place during his walks. And each time before he went away he told me with confident eagerness that great, purely artistic works were stirring within him and taking shape in his soul, and that he hoped now to set to work upon them. But these plans were not destined to be realised, since on his return to Yasnaya Polyana the painful conditions which have been indicated already were renewed, and calm creative work was inconsistent with them.

Altogether the difference between his condition, both physical and spiritual, when he arrived and when he left us was striking. I remember how I met him in the garden at the end of his last stay with us at Meshtcherskoe, where he had arrived almost in a state of collapse. He walked quickly and he looked remarkably vigorous and many years younger. With an air of lively surprise he greeted me with the words: "I don't understand what it is in your diet, but whenever I stay with you my digestion seems to become perfect." It is well known that the best conditions for a man suffering from defective digestion are simple, not elaborately prepared, food adapted to his requirements, and above all an even, untroubled spiritual atmosphere in all his home life. But Leo Nikolaevitch expected so little by way of attention from others to his needs and tastes, he attached so little significance for himself to the influence of external surroundings, that it seemed as though it did not enter his head to connect the state of his health with the conditions surrounding him.

Leo Tolstoy

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