Before the letter was posted she had a mental vision of her husband reading these lines, his kind, frank eyes saddened by their ironical tone; and she re-opened the letter, in an impulse of affection:
"Quite suddenly I saw you so clearly, and I felt such a rush of tenderness for you! There is something in you so wise, so naive, so persevering, and it is all lit up by the radiance of goodness, and that look of yours which goes straight to the soul. . . . It is something that belongs to you alone."
In this manner these two creatures who loved also tormented one another and were straightway stricken with wretchedness because of the pain they had the power to inflict but not the power to avoid. A situation with no escape, which lasted for nearly thirty years; which was to be terminated only by the flight across the steppes, in a moment of aberration, of the ancient Lear, with death already upon him.
Critics have not sufficiently remarked the moving appeal to women which terminates What shall we do? Tolstoy had no sympathy for modern feminism. But of the type whom he calls "the mother-woman," the woman who knows the real meaning of life, he speaks in terms of pious admiration; he pronounces a magnificent eulogy of her pains and her
joys, of pregnancy and maternity, of the terrible
- "The so-called right of women is merely the desire to participate in the imaginary labours of the wealthy classes, with a view to enjoying the fruit of the labour of others and to live a life that satisfies the sensual appetites. No genuine labourer's wife demands the right to share her husband's work in the mines or in the fields."