Anna Karenina ( Part 5 – Chapter 16-20)
When Levin went upstairs, his wife was sitting near the new silver samovar behind the new tea service, and, having settled old Agafea Mihalovna at a little table with a full cup of tea, was reading a letter from Dolly, with whom they were in continual and frequent correspondence.
“You see, your good lady’s settled me here, told me to sit a bit with her,” said Agafea Mihalovna, smiling affectionately at Kitty.
In these words of Agafea Mihalovna, Levin read the final act of the drama which had been enacted of late between her and Kitty. He saw that, in spite of Agafea Mihalovna’s feelings being hurt by a new mistress taking the reins of government out of her hands, Kitty had yet conquered her and made her love her.
“Here, I opened your letter too,” said Kitty, handing him an illiterate letter. “It’s from that woman, I think, your brother’s…” she said. “I did not read it through. This is from my people and from Dolly. Fancy! Dolly took Tanya and Grisha to a children’s ball at the Sarmatskys’: Tanya was a French marquise.”
But Levin did not hear her. Flushing, he took the letter from Marya Nikolaevna, his brother’s former mistress, and began to read it. This was the second letter he had received from Marya Nikolaevna. In the first letter, Marya Nikolaevna wrote that his brother had sent her away for no fault of hers, and, with touching simplicity, added that though she was in want again, she asked for nothing, and wished for nothing, but was only tormented by the thought that Nikolay Dmitrievitch would come to grief without her, owing to the weak state of his health, and begged his brother to look after him. Now she wrote quite differently. She had found Nikolay Dmitrievitch, had again made it up with him in Moscow, and had moved with him to a provincial town, where he had received a post in the government service. But that he had quarreled with the head official, and was on his way back to Moscow, only he had been taken so ill on the road that it was doubtful if he would ever leave his bed again, she wrote. “It’s always of you he has talked, and, besides, he has no more money left.”
“Read this; Dolly writes about you,” Kitty was beginning, with a smile; but she stopped suddenly, noticing the changed expression on her husband’s face.
“What is it? What’s the matter?”
“she writes to me that Nikolay, my brother, is at death’s door. I shall go to him.”
Kitty’s face changed at once. Thoughts of Tanya as a marquise, of Dolly, all had vanished.
“When are you going?” she said.
“And I will go with you, can I?” she said.
“Kitty! What are you thinking of?” he said reproachfully.
“How do you mean?” offended that he should seem to take her suggestion unwillingly and with vexation. “Why shouldn’t I go? I shan’t be in your way. I…”
“I’m going because my brother is dying,” said Levin. “Why should you…”
“Why? For the same reason as you.”
“And, at a moment of such gravity for me, she only thinks of her being dull by herself,” thought Levin. And this lack of candor in a matter of such gravity infuriated him.
“It’s out of the question,” he said sternly.
Agafea Mihalovna, seeing that it was coming to a quarrel, gently put down her cup and withdrew. Kitty did not even notice her. The tone in which her husband had said the last words wounded her, especially because he evidently did not believe what she had said.
“I tell you, that if you go, I shall come with you; I shall certainly come,” she said hastily and wrathfully. “Why out of the question? Why do you say it’s out of the question?”
“Because it’ll be going God knows where, by all sorts of roads and to all sorts of hotels. You would be a hindrance to me,” said Levin, trying to be cool.
“Not at all. I don’t want anything. Where you can go, I can….”
“Well, for one thing then, because this woman’s there whom you can’t meet.”
“I don’t know and don’t care to know who’s there and what. I know that my husband’s brother is dying and my husband is going to him, and I go with my husband too….”
“Kitty! Don’t get angry. But just think a little: this is a matter of such importance that I can’t bear to think that you should bring in a feeling of weakness, of dislike to being left alone. Come, you’ll be dull alone, so go and stay at Moscow a little.”
“There, you always ascribe base, vile motives to me,” she said with tears of wounded pride and fury. “I didn’t mean, it wasn’t weakness, it wasn’t…I feel that it’s my duty to be with my husband when he’s in trouble, but you try on purpose to hurt me, you try on purpose not to understand….”
“No; this is awful! To be such a slave!” cried Levin, getting up, and unable to restrain his anger any longer. But at the same second he felt that he was beating himself.
“Then why did you marry? You could have been free. Why did you, if you regret it?” she said, getting up and running away into the drawing room.
When he went to her, she was sobbing.
He began to speak, trying to find words not to dissuade but simply to soothe her. But she did not heed him, and would not agree to anything. He bent down to her and took her hand, which resisted him. He kissed her hand, kissed her hair, kissed her hand again–still she was silent. But when he took her face in both his hands and said “Kitty!” she suddenly recovered herself, and began to cry, and they were reconciled.
It was decided that they should go together the next day. Levin told his wife that he believed she wanted to go simply in order to be of use, agreed that Marya Nikolaevna’s being with his brother did not make her going improper, but he set off at the bottom of his heart dissatisfied both with her and with himself. He was dissatisfied with her for being unable to make up her mind to let him go when it was necessary (and how strange it was for him to think that he, so lately hardly daring to believe in such happiness as that she could love him–now was unhappy because she loved him too much!), and he was dissatisfied with himself for not showing more strength of will. Even greater was the feeling of disagreement at the bottom of his heart as to her not needing to consider the woman who was with his brother, and he thought with horror of all the contingencies they might meet with. The mere idea of his wife, his Kitty, being in the same room with a common wench, set him shuddering with horror and loathing.
The hotel of the provincial town where Nikolay Levin was lying ill was one of those provincial hotels which are constructed on the newest model of modern improvements, with the best intentions of cleanliness, comfort, and even elegance, but owing to the public that patronizes them, are with astounding rapidity transformed into filthy taverns with a pretension of modern improvement that only makes them worse than the old-fashioned, honestly filthy hotels. This hotel had already reached that stage, and the soldier in a filthy uniform smoking in the entry, supposed to stand for a hall-porter, and the cast-iron, slippery, dark, and disagreeable staircase, and the free and easy waiter in a filthy frock coat, and the common dining room with a dusty bouquet of wax flowers adorning the table, and filth, dust, and disorder everywhere, and at the same time the sort of modern up-to-date self-complacent railway uneasiness of this hotel, aroused a most painful feeling in Levin after their fresh young life, especially because the impression of falsity made by the hotel was so out of keeping with what awaited them.
As is invariably the case, after they had been asked at what price they wanted rooms, it appeared that there was not one decent room for them; one decent room had been taken by the inspector of railroads, another by a lawyer from Moscow, a third by Princess Astafieva from the country. There remained only one filthy room, next to which they promised that another should be empty by the evening. Feeling angry with his wife because what he had expected had come to pass, which was that at the moment of arrival, when his heart throbbed with emotion and anxiety to know how his brother was getting on, he should have to be seeing after her, instead of rushing straight to his brother, Levin conducted her to the room assigned them.
“Go, do go!” she said, looking at him with timid and guilty eyes.
He went out of the door without a word, and at once stumbled over Marya Nikolaevna, who had heard of his arrival and had not dared to go in to see him. She was just the same as when he saw her in Moscow; the same woolen gown, and bare arms and neck, and the same good-naturedly stupid, pockmarked face, only a little plumper.
“Well, how is he? how is he?”
“Very bad. He can’t get up. He has kept expecting you. He…. Are you…with your wife?”
Levin did not for the first moment understand what it was confused her, but she immediately enlightened him.
“I’ll go away. I’ll go down to the kitchen,” she brought out. “Nikolay Dmitrievitch will be delighted. He heard about it, and knows your lady, and remembers her abroad.”
Levin realized that she meant his wife, and did not know what answer to make.
“Come along, come along to him!” he said.
But as soon as he moved, the door of his room opened and Kitty peeped out. Levin crimsoned both from shame and anger with his wife, who had put herself and him in such a difficult position; but Marya Nikolaevna crimsoned still more. She positively shrank together and flushed to the point of tears, and clutching the ends of her apron in both hands, twisted them in her red fingers without knowing what to say and what to do.
For the first instant Levin saw an expression of eager curiosity in the eyes with which Kitty looked at this awful woman, so incomprehensible to her; but it lasted only a single instant.
“Well! how is he?” she turned to her husband and then to her.
“But one can’t go on talking in the passage like this!” Levin said, looking angrily at a gentleman who walked jauntily at that instant across the corridor, as though about his affairs.
“Well then, come in,” said Kitty, turning to Marya Nikolaevna, who had recovered herself, but noticing her husband’s face of dismay, “or go on; go, and then come for me,” she said, and went back into the room.
Levin went to his brother’s room. He had not in the least expected what he saw and felt in his brother’s room. He had expected to find him in the same state of self-deception which he had heard was so frequent with the consumptive, and which had struck him so much during his brother’s visit in the autumn. He had expected to find the physical signs of the approach of death more marked–greater weakness, greater emaciation, but still almost the same condition of things. He had expected himself to feel the same distress at the loss of the brother he loved and the same horror in face of death as he had felt then, only in a greater degree. And he had prepared himself for this; but he found something utterly different.
In a little dirty room with the painted panels of its walls filthy with spittle, and conversation audible through the thin partition from the next room, in a stifling atmosphere saturated with impurities, on a bedstead moved away from the wall, there lay covered with a quilt, a body. One arm of this body was above the quilt, and the wrist, huge as a rake-handle, was attached, inconceivably it seemed, to the thin, long bone of the arm smooth from the beginning to the middle. The head lay sideways on the pillow. Levin could see the scanty locks wet with sweat on the temples and tense, transparent-looking forehead.
“It cannot be that that fearful body was my brother Nikolay?” thought Levin. But he went closer, saw the face, and doubt became impossible. In spite of the terrible change in the face, Levin had only to glance at those eager eyes raised at his approach, only to catch the faint movement of the mouth under the sticky mustache, to realize the terrible truth that this death-like body was his living brother.
The glittering eyes looked sternly and reproachfully at his brother as he drew near. And immediately this glance established a living relationship between living men. Levin immediately felt the reproach in the eyes fixed on him, and felt remorse at his own happiness.
When Konstantin took him by the hand, Nikolay smiled. The smile was faint, scarcely perceptible, and in spite of the smile the stern expression of the eyes was unchanged.
“You did not expect to find me like this,” he articulated with effort.
“Yes…no,” said Levin, hesitating over his words. “How was it you didn’t let me know before, that is, at the time of my wedding? I made inquiries in all directions.”
He had to talk so as not to be silent, and he did not know what to say, especially as his brother made no reply, and simply stared without dropping his eyes, and evidently penetrated to the inner meaning of each word. Levin told his brother that his wife had come with him. Nikolay expressed pleasure, but said he was afraid of frightening her by his condition. A silence followed. Suddenly Nikolay stirred, and began to say something. Levin expected something of peculiar gravity and importance from the expression of his face, but Nikolay began speaking of his health. He found fault with the doctor, regretting he had not a celebrated Moscow doctor. Levin saw that he still hoped.
Seizing the first moment of silence, Levin got up, anxious to escape, if only for an instant, from his agonizing emotion, and said that he would go and fetch his wife.
“Very well, and I’ll tell her to tidy up here. It’s dirty and stinking here, I expect. Marya! clear up the room,” the sick man said with effort. “Oh, and when you’ve cleared up, go away yourself,” he added, looking inquiringly at his brother.
Levin made no answer. Going out into the corridor, he stopped short. He had said he would fetch his wife, but now, taking stock of the emotion he was feeling, he decided that he would try on the contrary to persuade her not to go in to the sick man. “Why should she suffer as I am suffering?” he thought.
“Well, how is he?” Kitty asked with a frightened face.
“Oh, it’s awful, it’s awful! What did you come for?” said Levin.
Kitty was silent for a few seconds, looking timidly and ruefully at her husband; then she went up and took him by the elbow with both hands.
“Kostya! take me to him; it will be easier for us to bear it together. You only take me, take me to him, please, and go away,” she said. “You must understand that for me to see you, and not to see him, is far more painful. There I might be a help to you and to him. Please, let me!” she besought her husband, as though the happiness of her life depended on it.
Levin was obliged to agree, and regaining his composure, and completely forgetting about Marya Nikolaevna by now, he went again in to his brother with Kitty.
Stepping lightly, and continually glancing at her husband, showing him a valorous and sympathetic face, Kitty went into the sick-room, and, turning without haste, noiselessly closed the door. With inaudible steps she went quickly to the sick man’s bedside, and going up so that he had not to turn his head, she immediately clasped in her fresh young hand the skeleton of his huge hand, pressed it, and began speaking with that soft eagerness, sympathetic and not jarring, which is peculiar to women.
“We have met, though we were not acquainted, at Soden,” she said. “You never thought I was to be your sister?”
“You would not have recognized me?” he said, with a radiant smile at her entrance.
“Yes, I should. What a good thing you let us know! Not a day has passed that Kostya has not mentioned you, and been anxious.”
But the sick man’s interest did not last long.
Before she had finished speaking, there had come back into his face the stern, reproachful expression of the dying man’s envy of the living.
“I am afraid you are not quite comfortable here,” she said, turning away from his fixed stare, and looking about the room. “We must ask about another room,” she said to her husband, “so that we might be nearer.”
Levin could not look calmly at his brother; he could not himself be natural and calm in his presence. When he went in to the sick man, his eyes and his attention were unconsciously dimmed, and he did not see and did not distinguish the details of his brother’s position. He smelt the awful odor, saw the dirt, disorder, and miserable condition, and heard the groans, and felt that nothing could be done to help. It never entered his head to analyze the details of the sick man’s situation, to consider how that body was lying under the quilt, how those emaciated legs and thighs and spine were lying huddled up, and whether they could not be made more comfortable, whether anything could not be done to make things, if not better, at least less bad. It made his blood run cold when he began to think of all these details. He was absolutely convinced that nothing could be done to prolong his brother’s life or to relieve his suffering. But a sense of his regarding all aid as out of the question was felt by the sick man, and exasperated him. And this made it still more painful for Levin. To be in the sick-room was agony to him, not to be there still worse. And he was continually, on various pretexts, going out of the room, and coming in again, because he was unable to remain alone.
But Kitty thought, and felt, and acted quite differently. On seeing the sick man, she pitied him. And pity in her womanly heart did not arouse at all that feeling of horror and loathing that it aroused in her husband, but a desire to act, to find out all the details of his state, and to remedy them. And since she had not the slightest doubt that it was her duty to help him, she had no doubt either that it was possible, and immediately set to work. The very details, the mere thought of which reduced her husband to terror, immediately engaged her attention. She sent for the doctor, sent to the chemist’s, set the maid who had come with her and Marya Nikolaevna to sweep and dust and scrub; she herself washed up something, washed out something else, laid something under the quilt. Something was by her directions brought into the sick-room, something else was carried out. She herself went several times to her room, regardless of the men she met in the corridor, got out and brought in sheets, pillow cases, towels, and shirts.
The waiter who was busy with a party of engineers dining in the dining hall, came several times with an irate countenance in answer to her summons, and could not avoid carrying out her orders, as she gave them with such gracious insistence that there was no evading her. Levin did not approve of all this; he did not believe it would be of any good to the patient. Above all, he feared the patient would be angry at it. But the sick man, though he seemed and was indifferent about it, was not angry, but only abashed, and on the whole as it were interested in what she was doing with him. Coming back from the doctor to whom Kitty had sent him, Levin, on opening the door, came upon the sick man at the instant when, by Kitty’s directions, they were changing his linen. The long white ridge of his spine, with the huge, prominent shoulder blades and jutting ribs and vertebrae, was bare, and Marya Nikolaevna and the waiter were struggling with the sleeve of the night shirt, and could not get the long, limp arm into it. Kitty, hurriedly closing the door after Levin, was not looking that way; but the sick man groaned, and she moved rapidly towards him.
“Make haste,” she said.
“Oh, don’t you come,” said the sick man angrily. “I’ll do it my myself….”
“What say?” queried Marya Nikolaevna. But Kitty heard and saw he was ashamed and uncomfortable at being naked before her.
“I’m not looking, I’m not looking!” she said, putting the arm in. “Marya Nikolaevna, you come this side, you do it,” she added.
“Please go for me, there’s a little bottle in my small bag,” she said, turning to her husband, “you know, in the side pocket; bring it, please, and meanwhile they’ll finish clearing up here.”
Returning with the bottle, Levin found the sick man settled comfortably and everything about him completely changed. The heavy smell was replaced by the smell of aromatic vinegar, which Kitty with pouting lips and puffed-out, rosy cheeks was squirting through a little pipe. There was no dust visible anywhere, a rug was laid by the bedside. On the table stood medicine bottles and decanters tidily arranged, and the linen needed was folded up there, and Kitty’s broderie anglaise. On the other table by the patient’s bed there were candles and drink and powders. The sick man himself, washed and combed, lay in clean sheets on high raised pillows, in a clean night-shirt with a white collar about his astoundingly thin neck, and with a new expression of hope looked fixedly at Kitty.
The doctor brought by Levin, and found by him at the club, was not the one who had been attending Nikolay Levin, as the patient was dissatisfied with him. The new doctor took up a stethoscope and sounded the patient, shook his head, prescribed medicine, and with extreme minuteness explained first how to take the medicine and then what diet was to be kept to. He advised eggs, raw or hardly cooked, and seltzer water, with warm milk at a certain temperature. When the doctor had gone away the sick man said something to his brother, of which Levin could distinguish only the last words: “Your Katya.” By the expression with which he gazed at her, Levin saw that he was praising her. He called indeed to Katya, as he called her.
“I’m much better already,” he said. “Why, with you I should have got well long ago. How nice it is!” he took her hand and drew it towards his lips, but as though afraid she would dislike it he changed his mind, let it go, and only stroked it. Kitty took his hand in both hers and pressed it.
“Now turn me over on the left side and go to bed,” he said.
No one could make out what he said but Kitty; she alone understood. She understood because she was all the while mentally keeping watch on what he needed.
“On the other side,” she said to her husband, “he always sleeps on that side. Turn him over, it’s so disagreeable calling the servants. I’m not strong enough. Can you?” she said to Marya Nikolaevna.
“I’m afraid not,” answered Marya Nikolaevna.
Terrible as it was to Levin to put his arms round that terrible body, to take hold of that under the quilt, of which he preferred to know nothing, under his wife’s influence he made his resolute face that she knew so well, and putting his arms into the bed took hold of the body, but in spite of his own strength he was struck by the strange heaviness of those powerless limbs. While he was turning him over, conscious of the huge emaciated arm about his neck, Kitty swiftly and noiselessly turned the pillow, beat it up and settled in it the sick man’s head, smoothing back his hair, which was sticking again to his moist brow.
The sick man kept his brother’s hand in his own. Levin felt that he meant to do something with his hand and was pulling it somewhere. Levin yielded with a sinking heart: yes, he drew it to his mouth and kissed it. Levin, shaking with sobs and unable to articulate a word, went out of the room.
“Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.” So Levin thought about his wife as he talked to her that evening.
Levin thought of the text, not because he considered himself “wise and prudent.” He did not so consider himself, but he could not help knowing that he had more intellect than his wife and Agafea Mihalovna, and he could not help knowing that when he thought of death, he thought with all the force of his intellect. He knew too that the brains of many great men, whose thoughts he had read, had brooded over death and yet knew not a hundredth part of what his wife and Agafea Mihalovna knew about it. Different as those two women were, Agafea Mihalovna and Katya, as his brother Nikolay had called her, and as Levin particularly liked to call her now, they were quite alike in this. Both knew, without a shade of doubt, what sort of thing life was and what was death, and though neither of them could have answered, and would even not have understood the questions that presented themselves to Levin, both had no doubt of the significance of this event, and were precisely alike in their way of looking at it, which they shared with millions of people. The proof that they knew for a certainty the nature of death lay in the fact that they knew without a second of hesitation how to deal with the dying, and were not frightened of them. Levin and other men like him, though they could have said a great deal about death, obviously did not know this since they were afraid of death, and were absolutely at a loss what to do when people were dying. If Levin had been alone now with his brother Nikolay, he would have looked at him with terror, and with still greater terror waited, and would not have known what else to do.
More than that, he did not know what to say, how to look, how to move. To talk of outside things seemed to him shocking, impossible, to talk of death and depressing subjects–also impossible. To be silent, also impossible. “If I look at him he will think I am studying him, I am afraid; if I don’t look at him, he’ll think I’m thinking of other things. If I walk on tiptoe, he will be vexed; to tread firmly, I’m ashamed.” Kitty evidently did not think of herself, and had no time to think about herself: she was thinking about him because she knew something, and all went well. She told him about herself even and about her wedding, and smiled and sympathized with him and petted him, and talked of cases of recovery and all went well; so then she must know. The proof that her behavior and Agafea Mihalovna’s was not instinctive, animal, irrational, was that apart from the physical treatment, the relief of suffering, both Agafea Mihalovna and Kitty required for the dying man something else more important than the physical treatment, and something which had nothing in common with physical conditions. Agafea Mihalovna, speaking of the man just dead, had said: “Well, thank God, he took the sacrament and received absolution; God grant each one of us such a death.” Katya in just the same way, besides all her care about linen, bedsores, drink, found time the very first day to persuade the sick man of the necessity of taking the sacrament and receiving absolution.
On getting back from the sick-room to their own two rooms for the night, Levin sat with hanging head not knowing what to do. Not to speak of supper, of preparing for bed, of considering what they were going to do, he could not even talk to his wife; he was ashamed to. Kitty, on the contrary, was more active than usual. She was even livelier than usual. She ordered supper to be brought, herself unpacked their things, and herself helped to make the beds, and did not even forget to sprinkle them with Persian powder. She showed that alertness, that swiftness of reflection comes out in men before a battle, in conflict, in the dangerous and decisive moments of life–those moments when a man shows once and for all his value, and that all his past has not been wasted but has been a preparation for these moments.
Everything went rapidly in her hands, and before it was twelve o’clock all their things were arranged cleanly and tidily in her rooms, in such a way that the hotel rooms seemed like home: the beds were made, brushes, combs, looking-glasses were put out, table napkins were spread.
Levin felt that it was unpardonable to eat, to sleep, to talk even now, and it seemed to him that every movement he made was unseemly. She arranged the brushes, but she did it all so that there was nothing shocking in it.
They could neither of them eat, however, and for a long while they could not sleep, and did not even go to bed.
“I am very glad I persuaded him to receive extreme unction tomorrow,” she said, sitting in her dressing jacket before her folding looking glass, combing her soft, fragrant hair with a fine comb. “I have never seen it, but I know, mamma has told me, there are prayers said for recovery.”
“Do you suppose he can possibly recover?” said Levin, watching a slender tress at the back of her round little head that was continually hidden when she passed the comb through the front.
“I asked the doctor; he said he couldn’t live more than three days. But can they be sure? I’m very glad, anyway, that I persuaded him,” she said, looking askance at her husband through her hair. “Anything is possible,” she added with that peculiar, rather sly expression that was always in her face when she spoke of religion.
Since their conversation about religion when they were engaged neither of them had ever started a discussion of the subject, but she performed all the ceremonies of going to church, saying her prayers, and so on, always with the unvarying conviction that this ought to be so. In spite of his assertion to the contrary, she was firmly persuaded that he was as much a Christian as she, and indeed a far better one; and all that he said about it was simply one of his absurd masculine freaks, just as he would say about her broderie anglaise that good people patch holes, but that she cut them on purpose, and so on.
“Yes, you see this woman, Marya Nikolaevna, did not know how to manage all this,” said Levin. “And…I must own I’m very, very glad you came. You are such purity that….” He took her hand and did not kiss it (to kiss her hand in such closeness to death seemed to him improper); he merely squeezed it with a penitent air, looking at her brightening eyes.
“It would have been miserable for you to be alone,” she said, and lifting her hands which hid her cheeks flushing with pleasure, twisted her coil of hair on the nape of her neck and pinned it there. “No,” she went on, “she did not know how…. Luckily, I learned a lot at Soden.”
“Surely there are not people there so ill?”
“What’s so awful to me is that I can’t see him as he was when he was young. You would not believe how charming he was as a youth, but I did not understand him then.”
“I can quite, quite believe it. How I feel that we might have been friends!” she said; and, distressed at what she had said, she looked round at her husband, and tears came into her eyes.
“Yes, MIGHT HAVE BEEN,” he said mournfully. “He’s just one of those people of whom they say they’re not for this world.”
“But we have many days before us; we must go to bed,” said Kitty, glancing at her tiny watch.
The next day the sick man received the sacrament and extreme unction. During the ceremony Nikolay Levin prayed fervently. His great eyes, fastened on the holy image that was set out on a card table covered with a colored napkin, expressed such passionate prayer and hope that it was awful to Levin to see it. Levin knew that this passionate prayer and hope would only make him feel more bitterly parting from the life he so loved. Levin knew his brother and the workings of his intellect: he knew that his unbelief came not from life being easier for him without faith, but had grown up because step by step the contemporary scientific interpretation of natural phenomena crushed out the possibility of faith; and so he knew that his present return was not a legitimate one, brought about by way of the same working of his intellect, but simply a temporary, interested return to faith in a desperate hope of recovery. Levin knew too that Kitty had strengthened his hope by accounts of the marvelous recoveries she had heard of. Levin knew all this; and it was agonizingly painful to him to behold the supplicating, hopeful eyes and the emaciated wrist, lifted with difficulty, making the sign of the cross on the tense brow, and the prominent shoulders and hollow, gasping chest, which one could not feel consistent with the life the sick man was praying for. During the sacrament Levin did what he, an unbeliever, had done a thousand times. He said, addressing God, “If Thou dost exist, make this man to recover” (of course this same thing has been repeated many times), “and Thou wilt save him and me.”
After extreme unction the sick man became suddenly much better. He did not cough once in the course of an hour, smiled, kissed Kitty’s hand, thanking her with tears, and said he was comfortable, free from pain, and that he felt strong and had an appetite. He even raised himself when his soup was brought, and asked for a cutlet as well. Hopelessly ill as he was, obvious as it was at the first glance that he could not recover, Levin and Kitty were for that hour both in the same state of excitement, happy, though fearful of being mistaken.
“Is he better?”
“There’s nothing wonderful in it.”
“Anyway, he’s better,” they said in a whisper, smiling to one another.
This self-deception was not of long duration. The sick man fell into a quiet sleep, but he was waked up half an hour later by his cough. And all at once every hope vanished in those about him and in himself. The reality of his suffering crushed all hopes in Levin and Kitty and in the sick man himself, leaving no doubt, no memory even of past hopes.
Without referring to what he had believed in half an hour before, as though ashamed even to recall it, he asked for iodine to inhale in a bottle covered with perforated paper. Levin gave him the bottle, and the same look of passionate hope with which he had taken the sacrament was now fastened on his brother, demanding from him the confirmation of the doctor’s words that inhaling iodine worked wonders.
“Is Katya not here?” he gasped, looking round while Levin reluctantly assented to the doctor’s words. “No; so I can say it…. It was for her sake I went through that farce. She’s so sweet; but you and I can’t deceive ourselves. This is what I believe in,” he said, and, squeezing the bottle in his bony hand, he began breathing over it.
At eight o’clock in the evening Levin and his wife were drinking tea in their room when Marya Nikolaevna ran in to them breathlessly. She was pale, and her lips were quivering. “He is dying!” she whispered. “I’m afraid will die this minute.”
Both of them ran to him. He was sitting raised up with one elbow on the bed, his long back bent, and his head hanging low.
“How do you feel?” Levin asked in a whisper, after a silence.
“I feel I’m setting off,” Nikolay said with difficulty, but with extreme distinctness, screwing the words out of himself. He did not raise his head, but simply turned his eyes upwards, without their reaching his brother’s face. “Katya, go away!” he added.
Levin jumped up, and with a peremptory whisper made her go out.
“I’m setting off,” he said again.
“Why do you think so?” said Levin, so as to say something.
“Because I’m setting off,” he repeated, as though he had a liking for the phrase. “It’s the end.”
Marya Nikolaevna went up to him.
“You had better lie down; you’d be easier,” she said.
“I shall lie down soon enough,” he pronounced slowly, “when I’m dead,” he said sarcastically, wrathfully. “Well, you can lay me down if you like.”
Levin laid his brother on his back, sat down beside him, and gazed at his face, holding his breath. The dying man lay with closed eyes, but the muscles twitched from time to time on his forehead, as with one thinking deeply and intensely. Levin involuntarily thought with him of what it was that was happening to him now, but in spite of all his mental efforts to go along with him he saw by the expression of that calm, stern face that for the dying man all was growing clearer and clearer that was still as dark as ever for Levin.
“Yes, yes, so,” the dying man articulated slowly at intervals. “Wait a little.” He was silent. “Right!” he pronounced all at once reassuringly, as though all were solved for him. “O Lord!” he murmured, and sighed deeply.
Marya Nikolaevna felt his feet. “They’re getting cold,” she whispered.
For a long while, a very long while it seemed to Levin, the sick man lay motionless. But he was still alive, and from time to time he sighed. Levin by now was exhausted from mental strain. He felt that, with no mental effort, could he understand what it was that was right. He could not even think of the problem of death itself, but with no will of his own thoughts kept coming to him of what he had to do next; closing the dead man’s eyes, dressing him, ordering the coffin. And, strange to say, he felt utterly cold, and was not conscious of sorrow nor of loss, less still of pity for his brother. If he had any feeling for his brother at that moment, it was envy for the knowledge the dying man had now that he could not have.
A long time more he sat over him so, continually expecting the end. But the end did not come. The door opened and Kitty appeared. Levin got up to stop her. But at the moment he was getting up, he caught the sound of the dying man stirring.
“Don’t go away,” said Nikolay and held out his hand. Levin gave him his, and angrily waved to his wife to go away.
With the dying man’s hand in his hand, he sat for half an hour, an hour, another hour. He did not think of death at all now. He wondered what Kitty was doing; who lived in the next room; whether the doctor lived in a house of his own. He longed for food and for sleep. He cautiously drew away his hand and felt the feet. The feet were cold, but the sick man was still breathing. Levin tried again to move away on tiptoe, but the sick man stirred again and said: “Don’t go.”
The dawn came; the sick man’s condition was unchanged. Levin stealthily withdrew his hand, and without looking at the dying man, went off to his own room and went to sleep. When he woke up, instead of news of his brother’s death which he expected, he learned that the sick man had returned to his earlier condition. He had begun sitting up again, coughing, had begun eating again, talking again, and again had ceased to talk of death, again had begun to express hope of his recovery, and had become more irritable and more gloomy than ever. No one, neither his brother nor Kitty, could soothe him. He was angry with everyone, and said nasty things to everyone, reproached everyone for his sufferings, and insisted that they should get him a celebrated doctor from Moscow. To all inquiries made him as to how he felt, he made the same answer with an expression of vindictive reproachfulness, “I’m suffering horribly, intolerably!”
The sick man was suffering more and more, especially from bedsores, which it was impossible now to remedy, and grew more and more angry with everyone about him, blaming them for everything, and especially for not having brought him a doctor from Moscow. Kitty tried in every possible way to relieve him, to soothe him; but it was all in vain, and Levin saw that she herself was exhausted both physically and morally, though she would not admit it. The sense of death, which had been evoked in all by his taking leave of life on the night when he had sent for his brother, was broken up. Everyone knew that he must inevitably die soon, that he was half dead already. Everyone wished for nothing but that he should die as soon as possible, and everyone, concealing this, gave him medicines, tried to find remedies and doctors, and deceived him and themselves and each other. All this was falsehood, disgusting, irreverent deceit. And owing to the bent of his character, and because he loved the dying man more than anyone else did, Levin was most painfully conscious of this deceit.
Levin, who had long been possessed by the idea of reconciling his brothers, at least in face of death, had written to his brother, Sergey Ivanovitch, and having received an answer from him, he read this letter to the sick man. Sergey Ivanovitch wrote that he could not come himself, and in touching terms he begged his brother’s forgiveness.
The sick man said nothing.
“What am I to write to him?” said Levin. “I hope you are not angry with him?”
“No, not the least!” Nikolay answered, vexed at the question. “Tell him to send me a doctor.”
Three more days of agony followed; the sick man was still in the same condition. The sense of longing for his death was felt by everyone now at the mere sight of him, by the waiters and the hotel-keeper and all the people staying in the hotel, and the doctor and Marya Nikolaevna and Levin and Kitty. The sick man alone did not express this feeling, but on the contrary was furious at their not getting him doctors, and went on taking medicine and talking of life. Only at rare moments, when the opium gave him an instant’s relief from the never-ceasing pain, he would sometimes, half asleep, utter what was ever more intense in his heart than in all the others: “Oh, if it were only the end!” or: “When will it be over?”
His sufferings, steadily growing more intense, did their work and prepared him for death. There was no position in which he was not in pain, there was not a minute in which he was unconscious of it, not a limb, not a part of his body that did not ache and cause him agony. Even the memories, the impressions, the thoughts of this body awakened in him now the same aversion as the body itself. The sight of other people, their remarks, his own reminiscences, everything was for him a source of agony. Those about him felt this, and instinctively did not allow themselves to move freely, to talk, to express their wishes before him. All his life was merged in the one feeling of suffering and desire to be rid of it.
There was evidently coming over him that revulsion that would make him look upon death as the goal of his desires, as happiness. Hitherto each individual desire, aroused by suffering or privation, such as hunger, fatigue, thirst, had been satisfied by some bodily function giving pleasure. But now no physical craving or suffering received relief, and the effort to relieve them only caused fresh suffering. And so all desires were merged in one–the desire to be rid of all his sufferings and their source, the body. But he had no words to express this desire of deliverance, and so he did not speak of it, and from habit asked for the satisfaction of desires which could not now be satisfied. “Turn me over on the other side,” he would say, and immediately after he would ask to be turned back again as before. “Give me some broth. Take away the broth. Talk of something: why are you silent?” And directly they began to talk ho would close his eyes, and would show weariness, indifference, and loathing.
On the tenth day from their arrival at the town, Kitty was unwell. She suffered from headache and sickness, and she could not get up all the morning.
The doctor opined that the indisposition arose from fatigue and excitement, and prescribed rest.
After dinner, however, Kitty got up and went as usual with her work to the sick man. He looked at her sternly when she came in, and smiled contemptuously when she said she had been unwell. That day he was continually blowing his nose, and groaning piteously.
“How do you feel?” she asked him.
“Worse,” he articulated with difficulty. “In pain!”
“In pain, where?”
“It will be over today, you will see,” said Marya Nikolaevna. Though it was said in a whisper, the sick man, whose hearing Levin had noticed was very keen, must have heard. Levin said hush to her, and looked round at the sick man. Nikolay had heard; but these words produced no effect on him. His eyes had still the same intense, reproachful look.
“Why do you think so?” Levin asked her, when she had followed him into the corridor.
“He has begun picking at himself,” said Marya Nikolaevna.
“How do you mean?”
“Like this,” she said, tugging at the folds of her woolen skirt. Levin noticed, indeed, that all that day the patient pulled at himself, as it were, trying to snatch something away.
Marya Nikolaevna’s prediction came true. Towards night the sick man was not able to lift his hands, and could only gaze before him with the same intensely concentrated expression in his eyes. Even when his brother or Kitty bent over him, so that he could see them, he looked just the same. Kitty sent for the priest to read the prayer for the dying.
While the priest was reading it, the dying man did not show any sign of life; his eyes were closed. Levin, Kitty, and Marya Nikolaevna stood at the bedside. The priest had not quite finished reading the prayer when the dying man stretched, sighed, and opened his eyes. The priest, on finishing the prayer, put the cross to the cold forehead, then slowly returned it to the stand, and after standing for two minutes more in silence, he touched the huge, bloodless hand that was turning cold.
“He is gone,” said the priest, and would have moved away; but suddenly there was a faint stir in the mustaches of the dead man that seemed glued together, and quite distinctly in the hush they heard from the bottom of the chest the sharply defined sounds:
And a minute later the face brightened, a smile came out under the mustaches, and the women who had gathered round began carefully laying out the corpse.
The sight of his brother, and the nearness of death, revived in Levin that sense of horror in face of the insoluble enigma, together with the nearness and inevitability of death, that had come upon him that autumn evening when his brother had come to him. This feeling was now even stronger than before; even less than before did he feel capable of apprehending the meaning of death, and its inevitability rose up before him more terrible than ever. But now, thanks to his wife’s presence, that feeling did not reduce him to despair. In spite of death, he felt the need of life and love. He felt that love saved him from despair, and that this love, under the menace of despair, had become still stronger and purer. The one mystery of death, still unsolved, had scarcely passed before his eyes, when another mystery had arisen, as insoluble, urging him to love and to life.
The doctor confirmed his suppositions in regard to Kitty. Her indisposition was a symptom that she was with child.