My love, instead of growing, had come to a standstill, and a new sensation of restlessness gradually invaded my spirit. Loving was not enough for me after the happiness I had known falling in love. I longed for activity, instead of an even flow of existence. I wanted excitement and danger and the chance to renounce self for the sake of my love. I was conscious of a superabundance of energy which found no outlet in our quiet life. I had bouts of depression, which I tried to hide, as something to be ashamed of, and transports of violent affection and gaiety which alarmed him. He notice my state of mind before I did, and proposed a visit to Petersburg; but I begged him to give this idea up, not to change our mode of life, not to spoil our happiness. And I really was happy, but it tormented me that this happiness cost me no effort and sacrifice consumed me. I loved him and saw that I was all to him; but I wanted everyone to see our love and put obstacles in its way, so that I could love him in spite of everything. My mind, and even my senses, were occupied, but there was another feeling — the feeling of youth and a craving for activity — which found no scope in our quiet life. Why had he told me we could move to town whenever I wanted to? If he had not said that, I might have realized that the feeling which oppressed me was pernicious nonsense, for which I was to blame; that the very sacrifice I sought lay right in front of me — in the suppression of that feeling. The idea that escape from my depression could be found merely by moving to town haunted me, yet at the same time it seemed a shame and a pity for selfish motives to drag him away from all he cared for. So time went by, the snow piled higher and higher around the house, and there we remained together, always and for ever alone and just the same in each other’s eyes; while somewhere far away amidst glitter and noise multitudes of people thrilled, suffered and rejoiced, without one thought of us and our existence which was ebbing away. Worst of all, I felt that every day that past riveted another link to the chain of habit which was binding our life into a fixed shape, that our emotions, ceasing to be spontaneous, were being subordinated to the even, passionless flow of time. In the morning we were bright and cheerful, at dinner polite, in the evening affectionate. ‘It’s all very well . . .’ I thought, ‘it’s all very well to do good and lead upright lives, as he says, but we’ll have plenty of time for that later, and there are other things for which the time is now or never.’ I wanted, not what I had got, but a life of challenge; I wanted feeling to guide us in life, and not life to be the guide of feeling. If only I could go with him to the edge of a precipice and say, ‘One more step, and I shall be over; one more movement and I die!’, and then, pale with fear, he would catch me in his strong arms and hold me over the edge till my blood froze, and carry me off whither he pleased.
My state of mind affected my health, and I began to suffer from nerves.
I fancied he did not want to talk because he thought me a child who could not understand his preoccupations.
But no, he must needs suppose I shouldn’t understand, must needs humiliate me by his lofty composure and always be in the right against me.
I eventually said to him, ‘Why do you suppose I can never help you with anything?’
‘Not help me?’ he said, throwing down his pen. ‘Why, I believe that without you I couldn’t live. You not only help me in everything I do — everything — you do it yourself! However could you get such an idea! he exclaimed with a laugh. ‘You are my life. All’s well with the world simply because you are here, because I need you. . .’
‘Yes, I know all that: I’m a delightful child who must be humoured and kept quiet,’ I said in a tone which made him look up in surprise as if he were seeing something for the first time. ‘I don’t want quiet — there’s enough of that and to spare with you,’ I added.
I was now finding it very pleasant to disturb his equanimity. It annoyed me that he should be all serene and calm, whereas I was full of vexation and a feeling akin to remorse.
Happily Ever After
Leo Tolstoy 1859