The complexities of love in youth.

from The Meek One by Fyodor Dostoevsky fiction ~3 min read

So she had already begun to be fully at peace, to believe fully that I would just let her stay like that. "I thought you'd just let me stay like that"—that's what she had said then on Tuesday! Oh, a ten-year-old girl's thought! And she believed, she did believe that everything would in fact stay like that: she at her table, I at mine, and both of us like that till we're sixty years old. And suddenly—here I come, a husband, and a husband in need of love! Oh, incomprehension, oh, my blindness!

It was also a mistake that I looked at her with rapture; I should have restrained myself, because rapture is frightening. But, after all, I did restrain myself, I didn't kiss her feet anymore. I never once showed that . . . well, that I was a husband—oh, it never even entered my mind, I only worshipped! But it was impossible to be quite silent, it was impossible not to speak at all! I suddenly said to her that I delighted in her conversation and that I considered her incomparably, incomparably better educated and developed than myself. She turned bright red and said abashedly that I was exaggerating. Here, like a fool, unable to help myself, I told her how enraptured I had been when, standing behind the door, I had listened to her combat, the combat of innocence with that creature, and how I had delighted in her intelligence, her sparkling wit, together with such childlike simple-heartedness. She shuddered all over, as it were, tried to murmur again that I was exaggerating, but suddenly her whole face darkened, she covered it with her hands and began to sob . . . Here I, too, couldn't stand it: I fell down before her again, again started kissing her feet, and again it ended with a fit, the same as on Tuesday. That was last evening, but in the morning . . .


Oh, believe me, I understand; but what she died for—is still a question. She got frightened of my love, asked herself seriously: to accept or not to accept, and couldn't bear the question, and preferred to die. I know, I know, there's no point racking one's brain: she made too many promises, got frightened that she couldn't keep them—it's clear. Here there are several quite terrible circumstances.

Because what did she die for? the question still stands. The question throbs, it's throbbing in my brain. I would even have let her stay like that, if she'd wanted it to stay like that. She didn't believe it, that's what! No—no, I'm lying, that's not it at all. Simply because with me it had to be honest; if it's love, it must be total love, and not like the love of some merchant. And since she was too chaste, too pure to consent to the kind of love a merchant needs, she didn't want to deceive me. Didn't want to deceive me with half love, under the guise of love, or with quarter love. Too honest she was, that's what, sirs! I wanted to implant breadth of heart in her, remember? A strange thought.


You'd tell me things as you would a friend—and we'd be joyful, and we'd laugh joyfully looking into each other's eyes. And so we'd live. And even if you came to love someone else—well, let it be, let it be! You'd walk with him and laugh, and I'd watch from the other side of the street . . . Oh, let it all be, only let her open her eyes at least once! For one moment, only one! she'd look at me as she did just now, when she stood in front of me and swore to be my faithful wife! Oh, in one look she'd understand everything.

—Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Meek One, p. Chapter II