`I'll tell you. Suppose you're married; you love your wife, but are fascinated by another woman...'
`Excuse me, but I'm absolutely unable to comprehend how just as I can't comprehend how I could now, after my dinner, go straight to a baker's shop and steal a loaf.'
Stepan Arkadyevich's eyes sparkled more than usual.
`Why not? A loaf will sometimes smell so good that one can't resist it.
`Himmlisch ist's wenn ich bezwungenAs he said this, Stepan Arkadyevich smiled subtly. Levin, too, could not help smiling.
`Yes, but joking apart,' resumed Oblonsky, `you must understand that the woman, a sweet, gentle, loving creature, poor and lonely, has sacrificed everything. Now, when the thing's done, don't you see, can one possibly cast her off? Even supposing one parts from her, so as not to break up one's family life, still, can one help feeling for her, setting her on her feet, lightening her lot?'
`Well, you must excuse me there. You know to me all women are divided into two classes.... Well, no... it would be truer to say: there are women, and there are... I've never seen charming fallen beings, and I never shall see them, but such creatures as that painted Frenchwoman at the counter with the ringlets are vermin to my mind, and all fallen women are like her.'
`But the Magdalen?'
`Ah, drop that! Christ would never have said those words if He had known how they would be abused. Of all the Gospel those words are the only ones remembered. However, I'm not saying so much what I think, as what I feel. I have a loathing for fallen women. You're afraid of spiders, and I of these vermin. Most likely you've not made a study of spiders and don't know their character; and so it is with me.'
`It's very well for you to talk like that; it's very much like that gentleman in Dickens who used to fling all difficult questions over his right shoulder with his left hand. But denying the facts is no answer. What's to be done - you tell me that; what's to be done? Your wife gets older, while you're full of life. Before you've time to look round, you feel that you can't love your wife with love, however much you may esteem her. And then all at once love turns up - and you're done for; you're done for,' Stepan Arkadyevich said with weary despair.
Levin smiled slightly.
`Yes, you're done for,' resumed Oblonsky. `But what's to be done?'
`Don't steal loaves.'
Stepan Arkadyevich laughed outright.
`Oh, moralist! But you must understand, there are two women; one insists only on her rights, and those rights are your love, which you can't give her; while the other sacrifices everything for you and asks for nothing. What are you to do? How are you to act? There's a fearful tragedy in it.'
`If you care for my profession of faith as regards that, I'll tell you that I don't believe there was any tragedy about it. And this is why. To my mind, love... both sorts of love, which you remember Plato defines in his Banquet, serve as the touchstone of men. Some men only understand one sort, and some only the other. And those who only know the nonplatonic love talk in vain of tragedy. In such love there can be no sort of tragedy. ``I'm much obliged for the gratification, my humble respects,'' - that's all the tragedy. And in platonic love there can be no tragedy, because in that love all is clear and pure, because...'
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