Anna Karenina (Part 7 – Chapter 11-15)
“What a marvelous, sweet and unhappy woman!” he was thinking, as he stepped out into the frosty air with Stepan Arkadyevitch.
“Well, didn’t I tell you?” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, seeing that Levin had been completely won over.
“Yes,” said Levin dreamily, “an extraordinary woman! It’s not her cleverness, but she has such wonderful depth of feeling. I’m awfully sorry for her!”
“Now, please God everything will soon be settled. Well, well, don’t be hard on people in future,” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, opening the carriage door. “Good-bye; we don’t go the same way.”
Still thinking of Anna, of everything, even the simplest phrase in their conversation with her, and recalling the minutest changes in her expression, entering more and more into her position, and feeling sympathy for her, Levin reached home.
At home Kouzma told Levin that Katerina Alexandrovna was quite well, and that her sisters had not long been gone, and he handed him two letters. Levin read them at once in the hall, that he might not over look them later. One was from Sokolov, his bailiff. Sokolov wrote that the corn could not be sold, that it was fetching only five and a half roubles, and that more than that could not be got for it. The other letter was from his sister. She scolded him for her business being still unsettled.
“Well, we must sell it at five and a half if we can’t get more,” Levin decided the first question, which had always before seemed such a weighty one, with extraordinary facility on the spot. “It’s extraordinary how all one’s time is taken up here,” he thought, considering the second letter. He felt himself to blame for not having got done what his sister had asked him to do for her. “Today, again, I’ve not been to the court, but today I’ve certainly not had time.” And resolving that he would not fail to do it next day, he went up to his wife. As he went in, Levin rapidly ran through mentally the day he had spent. All the events of the day were conversations, conversations he had heard and taken part in. All the conversations were upon subjects which, if he had been alone at home, he would never have taken up, but here they were very interesting. And all these conversations were right enough, only in two places there was something not quite right. One was what he had said about the carp, the other was something not “quite the thing” in the tender sympathy he was feeling for Anna.
Levin found his wife low-spirited and dull. The dinner of the three sisters had gone off very well, but then they had waited and waited for him, all of them had felt dull, the sisters had departed, and she had been left alone.
“Well, and what have you been doing?” she asked him, looking straight into his eyes, which shone with rather a suspicious brightness. But that she might not prevent his telling her everything, she concealed her close scrutiny of him, and with an approving smile listened to his account of how he had spent the evening.
“Well, I’m very glad I met Vronsky. I felt quite at ease and natural with him. You understand, I shall try not to see him, but I’m glad that this awkwardness is all over,” he said, and remembering that by way of trying not to see him, he had immediately gone to call on Anna, he blushed. “We talk about the peasants drinking; I don’t know which drinks most, the peasantry or our own class; the peasants do on holidays, but…”
But Kitty took not the slightest interest in discussing the drinking habits of the peasants. She saw that he blushed, and she wanted to know why.
“Well, and then where did you go?”
“Stiva urged me awfully to go and see Anna Arkadyevna.”
And as he said this, Levin blushed even more, and his doubts as to whether he had done right in going to see Anna were settled once for all. He knew now that he ought not to have done so.
Kitty’s eyes opened in a curious way and gleamed at Anna’s name, but controlling herself with an effort, she concealed her emotion and deceived him.
“Oh!” was all she said.
“I’m sure you won’t be angry at my going. Stiva begged me to, and Dolly wished it,” Levin went on.
“Oh, no!” she said, but he saw in her eyes a constraint that boded him no good.
“She is a very sweet, very, very unhappy, good woman,” he said, telling her about Anna, her occupations, and what she had told him to say to her.
“Yes, of course, she is very much to be pitied,” said Kitty, when he had finished. “Whom was your letter from?”
He told her, and believing in her calm tone, he went to change his coat.
Coming back, he found Kitty in the same easy chair. When he went up to her, she glanced at him and broke into sobs.
“What? what is it?” he asked, knowing beforehand what.
“You’re in love with that hateful woman; she has bewitched you! I saw it in your eyes. Yes, yes! What can it all lead to? You were drinking at the club, drinking and gambling, and then you went…to her of all people! No, we must go away…. I shall go away tomorrow.”
It was a long while before Levin could soothe his wife. At last he succeeded in calming her, only by confessing that a feeling of pity, in conjunction with the wine he had drunk, had been too much for him, that he had succumbed to Anna’s artful influence, and that he would avoid her. One thing he did with more sincerity confess to was that living so long in Moscow, a life of nothing but conversation, eating and drinking, he was degenerating. They talked till three o’clock in the morning. Only at three o’clock were they sufficiently reconciled to be able to go to sleep.
After taking leave of her guests, Anna did not sit down, but began walking up and down the room. She had unconsciously the whole evening done her utmost to arouse in Levin a feeling of love–as of late she had fallen into doing with all young men– and she knew she had attained her aim, as far as was possible in one evening, with a married and conscientious man. She liked him indeed extremely, and, in spite of the striking difference, from the masculine point of view, between Vronsky and Levin, as a woman she saw something they had in common, which had made Kitty able to love both. Yet as soon as he was out of the room, she ceased to think of him.
One thought, and one only, pursued her in different forms, and refused to be shaken off. “If I have so much effect on others, on this man, who loves his home and his wife, why is it he is so cold to me?…not cold exactly, he loves me, I know that! But something new is drawing us apart now. Why wasn’t he here all the evening? He told Stiva to say he could not leave Yashvin, and must watch over his play. Is Yashvin a child? But supposing it’s true. He never tells a lie. But there’s something else in it if it’s true. He is glad of an opportunity of showing me that he has other duties; I know that, I submit to that. But why prove that to me? He wants to show me that his love for me is not to interfere with his freedom. But I need no proofs, I need love. He ought to understand all the bitterness of this life for me here in Moscow. Is this life? I am not living, but waiting for an event, which is continually put off and put off. No answer again! And Stiva says he cannot go to Alexey Alexandrovitch. And I can’t write again. I can do nothing, can begin nothing, can alter nothing; I hold myself in, I wait, inventing amusements for myself–the English family, writing, reading–but it’s all nothing but a sham, it’s all the same as morphine. He ought to feel for me,” she said, feeling tears of self-pity coming into her eyes.
She heard Vronsky’s abrupt ring and hurriedly dried her tears– not only dried her tears, but sat down by a lamp and opened a book, affecting composure. She wanted to show him that she was displeased that he had not come home as he had promised– displeased only, and not on any account to let him see her distress, and least of all, her self-pity. She might pity herself, but he must not pity her. She did not want strife, she blamed him for wanting to quarrel, but unconsciously put herself into an attitude of antagonism.
“Well, you’ve not been dull?” he said, eagerly and good-humoredly, going up to her. “What a terrible passion it is–gambling!”
“No, I’ve not been dull; I’ve learned long ago not to be dull. Stiva has been here and Levin.”
“Yes, they meant to come and see you. Well, how did you like Levin?” he said, sitting down beside her.
“Very much. They have not long been gone. What was Yashvin doing?”
“He was winning–seventeen thousand. I got him away. He had really started home, but he went back again, and now he’s losing.”
“Then what did you stay for?” she asked, suddenly lifting her eyes to him. The expression of her face was cold and ungracious. “You told Stiva you were staying on to get Yashvin away. And you have left him there.”
The same expression of cold readiness for the conflict appeared on his face too.
“In the first place, I did not ask him to give you any message; and secondly, I never tell lies. But what’s the chief point, I wanted to stay, and I stayed,” he said, frowning. “Anna, what is it for, why will you?” he said after a moment’s silence, bending over towards her, and he opened his hand, hoping she would lay hers in it.
She was glad of this appeal for tenderness. But some strange force of evil would not let her give herself up to her feelings, as though the rules of warfare would not permit her to surrender.
“Of course you wanted to stay, and you stayed. You do everything you want to. But what do you tell me that for? With what object?” she said, getting more and more excited. “Does anyone contest your rights? But you want to be right, and you’re welcome to be right.”
His hand closed, he turned away, and his face wore a still more obstinate expression.
“For you it’s a matter of obstinacy,” she said, watching him intently and suddenly finding the right word for that expression that irritated her, “simply obstinacy. For you it’s a question of whether you keep the upper hand of me, while for me….” Again she felt sorry for herself, and she almost burst into tears. “If you knew what it is for me! When I feel as I do now that you are hostile, yes, hostile to me, if you knew what this means for me! If you knew how I feel on the brink of calamity at this instant, how afraid I am of myself!” And she turned away, hiding her sobs.
“But what are you talking about?” he said, horrified at her expression of despair, and again bending over her, he took her hand and kissed it. “What is it for? Do I seek amusements outside our home? Don’t I avoid the society of women?”
“Well, yes! If that were all!” she said.
“Come, tell me what I ought to do to give you peace of mind? I am ready to do anything to make you happy,” he said, touched by her expression of despair; “what wouldn’t I do to save you from distress of any sort, as now, Anna!” he said.
“It’s nothing, nothing!” she said. “I don’t know myself whether it’s the solitary life, my nerves…. Come, don’t let us talk of it. What about the race? You haven’t told me!” she inquired, trying to conceal her triumph at the victory, which had anyway been on her side.
He asked for supper, and began telling her about the races; but in his tone, in his eyes, which became more and more cold, she saw that he did not forgive her for her victory, that the feeling of obstinacy with which she had been struggling had asserted itself again in him. He was colder to her than before, as though he were regretting his surrender. And she, remembering the words that had given her the victory, “how I feel on the brink of calamity, how afraid I am of myself,” saw that this weapon was a dangerous one, and that it could not be used a second time. And she felt that beside the love that bound them together there had grown up between them some evil spirit of strife, which she could not exorcise from his, and still less from her own heart.
There are no conditions to which a man cannot become used, especially if he sees that all around him are living in the same way. Levin could not have believed three months before that he could have gone quietly to sleep in the condition in which he was that day, that leading an aimless irrational life, living too beyond his means, after drinking to excess (he could not call what happened at the club anything else), forming inappropriately friendly relations with a man with whom his wife had once been in love, and a still more inappropriate call upon a woman who could only be called a lost woman, after being fascinated by that woman and causing his wife distress–he could still go quietly to sleep. But under the influence of fatigue, a sleepless night, and the wine he had drunk, his sleep was sound and untroubled.
At five o’clock the creak of a door opening waked him. He jumped up and looked round. Kitty was not in bed beside him. But there was a light moving behind the screen, and he heard her steps.
“What is it?…what is it?” he said, half-asleep. “Kitty! What is it?”
“Nothing,” she said, coming from behind the screen with a candle in her hand. “I felt unwell,” she said, smiling a particularly sweet and meaning smile.
“What? has it begun?” he said in terror. “We ought to send…” and hurriedly he reached after his clothes.
“No, no,” she said, smiling and holding his hand. “It’s sure to be nothing. I was rather unwell, only a little. It’s all over now.”
And getting into bed, she blew out the candle, lay down and was still. Though he thought her stillness suspicious, as though she were holding her breath, and still more suspicious the expression of peculiar tenderness and excitement with which, as she came from behind the screen, she said “nothing,” he was so sleepy that he fell asleep at once. Only later he remembered the stillness of her breathing, and understood all that must have been passing in her sweet, precious heart while she lay beside him, not stirring, in anticipation of the greatest event in a woman’s life. At seven o’clock he was waked by the touch of her hand on his shoulder, and a gentle whisper. She seemed struggling between regret at waking him, and the desire to talk to him.
“Kostya, don’t be frightened. It’s all right. But I fancy…. We ought to send for Lizaveta Petrovna.”
The candle was lighted again. She was sitting up in bed, holding some knitting, which she had been busy upon during the last few days.
“Please, don’t be frightened, it’s all right. I’m not a bit afraid,” she said, seeing his scared face, and she pressed his hand to her bosom and then to her lips.
He hurriedly jumped up, hardly awake, and kept his eyes fixed on her, as he put on his dressing gown; then he stopped, still looking at her. He had to go, but he could not tear himself from her eyes. He thought he loved her face, knew her expression, her eyes, but never had he seen it like this. How hateful and horrible he seemed to himself, thinking of the distress he had caused her yesterday. Her flushed face, fringed with soft curling hair under her night cap, was radiant with joy and courage.
Though there was so little that was complex or artificial in Kitty’s character in general, Levin was struck by what was revealed now, when suddenly all disguises were thrown off and the very kernel of her soul shone in her eyes. And in this simplicity and nakedness of her soul, she, the very woman he loved in her, was more manifest than ever. She looked at him, smiling; but all at once her brows twitched, she threw up her head, and going quickly up to him, clutched his hand and pressed close up to him, breathing her hot breath upon him. She was in pain and was, as it were, complaining to him of her suffering. And for the first minute, from habit, it seemed to him that he was to blame. But in her eyes there was a tenderness that told him that she was far from reproaching him, that she loved him for her sufferings. “If not I, who is to blame for it?” he thought unconsciously, seeking someone responsible for this suffering for him to punish; but there was no one responsible. She was suffering, complaining, and triumphing in her sufferings, and rejoicing in them, and loving them. He saw that something sublime was being accomplished in her soul, but what? He could not make it out. It was beyond his understanding.
“I have sent to mamma. You go quickly to fetch Lizaveta Petrovna …Kostya!… Nothing, it’s over.”
She moved away from him and rang the bell.
“Well, go now; Pasha’s coming. I am all right.”
And Levin saw with astonishment that she had taken up the knitting she had brought in in the night and begun working at it again.
As Levin was going out of one door, he heard the maid-servant come in at the other. He stood at the door and heard Kitty giving exact directions to the maid, and beginning to help her move the bedstead.
He dressed, and while they were putting in his horses, as a hired sledge was not to be seen yet, he ran again up to the bedroom, not on tiptoe, it seemed to him, but on wings. Two maid-servants were carefully moving something in the bedroom.
Kitty was walking about knitting rapidly and giving directions.
“I’m going for the doctor. They have sent for Lizaveta Petrovna, but I’ll go on there too. Isn’t there anything wanted? Yes, shall I go to Dolly’s?”
She looked at him, obviously not hearing what he was saying.
“Yes, yes. Do go,” she said quickly, frowning and waving her hand to him.
He had just gone into the drawing room, when suddenly a plaintive moan sounded from the bedroom, smothered instantly. He stood still, and for a long while he could not understand.
“Yes, that is she,” he said to himself, and clutching at his head he ran downstairs.
“Lord have mercy on us! pardon us! aid us!” he repeated the words that for some reason came suddenly to his lips. And he, an unbeliever, repeated these words not with his lips only. At that instant he knew that all his doubts, even the impossibility of believing with his reason, of which he was aware in himself, did not in the least hinder his turning to God. All of that now floated out of his soul like dust. To whom was he to turn if not to Him in whose hands he felt himself, his soul, and his love?
The horse was not yet ready, but feeling a peculiar concentration of his physical forces and his intellect on what he had to do, he started off on foot without waiting for the horse, and told Kouzma to overtake him.
At the corner he met a night cabman driving hurriedly. In the little sledge, wrapped in a velvet cloak, sat Lizaveta Petrovna with a kerchief round her head. “Thank God! thank God!” he said, overjoyed to recognize her little fair face which wore a peculiarly serious, even stern expression. Telling the driver not to stop, he ran along beside her.
“For two hours, then? Not more?” she inquired. “You should let Pyotr Dmitrievitch know, but don’t hurry him. And get some opium at the chemist’s.”
“So you think that it may go on well? Lord have mercy on us and help us!” Levin said, seeing his own horse driving out of the gate. Jumping into the sledge beside Konzma, he told him to drive to the doctor’s.
The doctor was not yet up, and the footman said that “he had been up late, and had given orders not to be waked, but would get up soon.” The footman was cleaning the lamp-chimneys, and seemed very busy about them. This concentration of the footman upon his lamps, and his indifference to what was passing in Levin, at first astounded him, but immediately on considering the question he realized that no one knew or was bound to know his feelings, and that it was all the more necessary to act calmly, sensibly, and resolutely to get through this wall of indifference and attain his aim.
“Don’t be in a hurry or let anything slip,” Levin said to himself, feeling a greater and greater flow of physical energy and attention to all that lay before him to do.
Having ascertained that the doctor was not getting up, Levin considered various plans, and decided on the following one: that Konzma should go for another doctor, while he himself should go to the chemist’s for opium, and if when he came back the doctor had not yet begun to get up, he would either by tipping the footman, or by force, wake the doctor at all hazards.
At the chemist’s the lank shopman sealed up a packet of powders for a coachman who stood waiting, and refused him opium with the same callousness with which the doctor’s footman had cleaned his lamp chimneys. Trying not to get flurried or out of temper, Levin mentioned the names of the doctor and midwife, and explaining what the opium was needed for, tried to persuade him. The assistant inquired in German whether he should give it, and receiving an affirmative reply from behind the partition, he took out a bottle and a funnel, deliberately poured the opium from a bigger bottle into a little one, stuck on a label, sealed it up, in spite of Levin’s request that he would not do so, and was about to wrap it up too. This was more than Levin could stand; he took the bottle firmly out of his hands, and ran to the big glass doors. The doctor was not even now getting up, and the footman, busy now in putting down the rugs, refused to wake him. Levin deliberately took out a ten rouble note, and, careful to speak slowly, though losing no time over the business, he handed him the note, and explained that Pyotr Dmitrievitch (what a great and important personage he seemed to Levin now, this Pyotr Dmitrievitch, who had been of so little consequence in his eyes before!) had promised to come at any time; that he would certainly not be angry! and that he must therefore wake him at once.
The footman agreed, and went upstairs, taking Levin into the waiting room.
Levin could hear through the door the doctor coughing, moving about, washing, and saying something. Three minutes passed; it seemed to Levin that more than an hour had gone by. He could not wait any longer.
“Pyotr Dmitrievitch, Pyotr Dmitrievitch!” he said in an imploring voice at the open door. “For God’s sake, forgive me! See me as you are. It’s been going on more than two hours already.”
“I a minute; in a minute!” answered a voice, and to his amazement Levin heard that the doctor was smiling as he spoke.
“For one instant.”
“In a minute.”
Two minutes more passed while the doctor was putting on his boots, and two minutes more while the doctor put on his coat and combed his hair.
“Pyotr Dmitrievitch!” Levin was beginning again in a plaintive voice, just as the doctor came in dressed and ready. “These people have no conscience,” thought Levin. “Combing his hair, while we’re dying!”
“Good morning!” the doctor said to him, shaking hands, and, as it were, teasing him with his composure. “There’s no hurry. Well now?”
Trying to be as accurate as possible Levin began to tell him every unnecessary detail of his wife’s condition, interrupting his account repeatedly with entreaties that the doctor would come with him at once.
“Oh, you needn’t be in any hurry. You don’t understand, you know. I’m certain I’m not wanted, still I’ve promised, and if you like, I’ll come. But there’s no hurry. Please sit down; won’t you have some coffee?”
Levin stared at him with eyes that asked whether he was laughing at him; but the doctor had no notion of making fun of him.
“I know, I know,” the doctor said, smiling; “I’m a married man myself; and at these moments we husbands are very much to be pitied. I’ve a patient whose husband always takes refuge in the stables on such occasions.”
“But what do you think, Pyotr Dmitrievitch? Do you suppose it may go all right?”
“Everything points to a favorable issue.”
“So you’ll come immediately?” said Levin, looking wrathfully at the servant who was bringing in the coffee.
“In an hour’s time.”
“Oh, for mercy’s sake!”
“Well, let me drink my coffee, anyway.”
The doctor started upon his coffee. Both were silent.
“The Turks are really getting beaten, though. Did you read yesterday’s telegrams?” said the doctor, munching some roll.
“No, I can’t stand it!” said Levin, jumping up. “So you’ll be with us in a quarter of an hour.”
“In half an hour.”
“On your honor?”
When Levin got home, he drove up at the same time as the princess, and they went up to the bedroom door together. The princess had tears in her eyes, and her hands were shaking. Seeing Levin, she embraced him, and burst into tears.
“Well, my dear Lizaveta Petrovna?” she queried, clasping the hand of the midwife, who came out to meet them with a beaming and anxious face.
“She’s going on well,” she said; “persuade her to lie down. She will be easier so.”
From the moment when he had waked up and understood what was going on, Levin had prepared his mind to bear resolutely what was before him, and without considering or anticipating anything, to avoid upsetting his wife, and on the contrary to soothe her and keep up her courage. Without allowing himself even to think of what was to come, of how it would end, judging from his inquiries as to the usual duration of these ordeals, Levin had in his imagination braced himself to bear up and to keep a tight rein on his feelings for five hours, and it had seemed to him he could do this. But when he came back from the doctor’s and saw her sufferings again, he fell to repeating more and more frequently: “Lord, have mercy on us, and succor us!” He sighed, and flung his head up, and began to feel afraid he could not bear it, that he would burst into tears or run away. Such agony it was to him. And only one hour had passed.
But after that hour there passed another hour, two hours, three, the full five hours he had fixed as the furthest limit of his sufferings, and the position was still unchanged; and he was still bearing it because there was nothing to be done but bear it; every instant feeling that he had reached the utmost limits of his endurance, and that his heart would break with sympathy and pain.
But still the minutes passed by and the hours, and still hours more, and his misery and horror grew and were more and more intense.
All the ordinary conditions of life, without which one can form no conception of anything, had ceased to exist for Levin. He lost all sense of time. Minutes–those minutes when she sent for him and he held her moist hand, that would squeeze his hand with extraordinary violence and then push it away–seemed to him hours, and hours seemed to him minutes. He was surprised when Lizaveta Petrovna asked him to light a candle behind a screen, and he found that it was five o’clock in the afternoon. If he had been told it was only ten o’clock in the morning he would not have been more surprised. Where he was all this time, he knew as little as the time of anything. He saw her swollen face, sometimes bewildered and in agony, sometimes smiling and trying to reassure him. He saw the old princess too, flushed and overwrought, with her gray curls in disorder, forcing herself to gulp down her tears, biting her lips; he saw Dolly too and the doctor, smoking fat cigarettes, and Lizaveta Petrovna with a firm, resolute, reassuring face, and the old prince walking up and down the hall with a frowning face. But why they came in and went out, where they were, he did not know. The princess was with the doctor in the bedroom, then in the study, where a table set for dinner suddenly appeared; then she was not there, but Dolly was. Then Levin remembered he had been sent somewhere. Once he had been sent to move a table and sofa. He had done this eagerly, thinking it had to be done for her sake, and only later on he found it was his own bed he had been getting ready. Then he had been sent to the study to ask the doctor something. The doctor had answered and then had said something about the irregularities in the municipal council. Then he had been sent to the bedroom to help the old princess to move the holy picture in its silver and gold setting, and with the princess’s old waiting maid he had clambered on a shelf to reach it and had broken the little lamp, and the old servant had tried to reassure him about the lamp and about his wife, and he carried the holy picture and set it at Kitty’s head, carefully tucking it in behind the pillow. But where, when, and why all this had happened, he could not tell. He did not understand why the old princess took his hand, and looking compassionately at him, begged him not to worry himself, and Dolly persuaded him to eat something and led him out of the room, and even the doctor looked seriously and with commiseration at him and offered him a drop of something.
All he knew and felt was that what was happening was what had happened nearly a year before in the hotel of the country town at the deathbed of his brother Nikolay. But that had been grief– this was joy. Yet that grief and this joy were alike outside all the ordinary conditions of life; they were loopholes, as it were, in that ordinary life through which there came glimpses of something sublime. And in the contemplation of this sublime something the soul was exalted to inconceivable heights of which it had before had no conception, while reason lagged behind, unable to keep up with it.
“Lord, have mercy on us, and succor us!” he repeated to himself incessantly, feeling, in spite of his long and, as it seemed, complete alienation from religion, that he turned to God just as trustfully and simply as he had in his childhood and first youth.
All this time he had two distinct spiritual conditions. One was away from her, with the doctor, who kept smoking one fat cigarette after another and extinguishing them on the edge of a full ash tray, with Dolly, and with the old prince, where there was talk about dinner, about politics, about Marya Petrovna’s illness, and where Levin suddenly forgot for a minute what was happening, and felt as though he had waked up from sleep; the other was in her presence, at her pillow, where his heart seemed breaking and still did not break from sympathetic suffering, and he prayed to God without ceasing. And every time he was brought back from a moment of oblivion by a scream reaching him from the bedroom, he fell into the same strange terror that had come upon him the first minute. Every time he heard a shriek, he jumped up, ran to justify himself, remembered on the way that he was not to blame, and he longed to defend her, to help her. But as he looked at her, he saw again that help was impossible, and he was filled with terror and prayed: “Lord, have mercy on us, and help us!” And as time went on, both these conditions became more intense; the calmer he became away from her, completely forgetting her, the more agonizing became both her sufferings and his feeling of helplessness before them. He jumped up, would have liked to run away, but ran to her.
Sometimes, when again and again she called upon him, he blamed her; but seeing her patient, smiling face, and hearing the words, “I am worrying you,” he threw the blame on God; but thinking of God, at once he fell to beseeching God to forgive him and have mercy.
He did not know whether it was late or early. The candles had all burned out. Dolly had just been in the study and had suggested to the doctor that he should lie down. Levin sat listening to the doctor’s stories of a quack mesmerizer and looking at the ashes of his cigarette. There had been a period of repose, and he had sunk into oblivion. He had completely forgotten what was going on now. He heard the doctor’s chat and understood it. Suddenly there came an unearthly shriek. The shriek was so awful that Levin did not even jump up, but holding his breath, gazed in terrified inquiry at the doctor. The doctor put his head on one side, listened, and smiled approvingly. Everything was so extraordinary that nothing could strike Levin as strange. “I suppose it must be so,” he thought, and still sat where he was. Whose scream was this? He jumped up, ran on tiptoe to the bedroom, edged round Lizaveta Petrovna and the princess, and took up his position at Kitty’s pillow. The scream had subsided, but there was some change now. What it was he did not see and did not comprehend, and he had no wish to see or comprehend. But he saw it by the face of Lizaveta Petrovna. Lizaveta Petrovna’s face was stern and pale, and still as resolute, though her jaws were twitching, and her eyes were fixed intently on Kitty. Kitty’s swollen and agonized face, a tress of hair clinging to her moist brow, was turned to him and sought his eyes. Her lifted hands asked for his hands. Clutching his chill hands in her moist ones, she began squeezing them to her face.
“Don’t go, don’t go! I’m not afraid, I’m not afraid!” she said rapidly. “Mamma, take my earrings. They bother me. You’re not afraid? Quick, quick, Lizaveta Petrovna…”
She spoke quickly, very quickly, and tried to smile. But suddenly her face was drawn, she pushed him away.
“Oh, this is awful! I’m dying, I’m dying! Go away!” she shrieked, and again he heard that unearthly scream.
Levin clutched at his head and ran out of the room.
“It’s nothing, it’s nothing, it’s all right,” Dolly called after him.
But they might say what they liked, he knew now that all was over. He stood in the next room, his head leaning against the door post, and heard shrieks, howls such as he had never heard before, and he knew that what had been Kitty was uttering these shrieks. He had long ago ceased to wish for the child. By now he loathed this child. He did not even wish for her life now, all he longed for was the end of this awful anguish.
“Doctor! what is it? What is it? By God!” he said, snatching at the doctor’s hand as he came up.
“It’s the end,” said the doctor. And the doctor’s face was so grave as he said it that Levin took THE END as meaning her death.
Beside himself, he ran into the bedroom. The first thing he saw was the face of Lizaveta Petrovna. It was even more frowning and stern. Kitty’s face he did not know. In the place where it had been was something that was fearful in its strained distortion and in the sounds that came from it. He fell down with his head on the wooden framework of the bed, feeling that his heart was bursting. The awful scream never paused, it became still more awful, and as though it had reached the utmost limit of terror, suddenly it ceased. Levin could not believe his ears, but there could be no doubt; the scream had ceased and he heard a subdued stir and bustle, and hurried breathing, and her voice, gasping, alive, tender, and blissful, uttered softly, “It’s over!”
He lifted his head. With her hands hanging exhausted on the quilt, looking extraordinarily lovely and serene, she looked at him in silence and tried to smile, and could not.
And suddenly, from the mysterious and awful far-away world in which he had been living for the last twenty-two hours, Levin felt himself all in an instant borne back to the old every-day world, glorified though now, by such a radiance of happiness that he could not bear it. The strained chords snapped, sobs and tears of joy which he had never foreseen rose up with such violence that his whole body shook, that for long they prevented him from speaking.
Falling on his knees before the bed, he held his wife’s hand before his lips and kissed it, and the hand, with a weak movement of the fingers, responded to his kiss. And meanwhile, there at the foot of the bed, in the deft hands of Lizaveta Petrovna, like a flickering light in a lamp, lay the life of a human creature, which had never existed before, and which would now with the same right, with the same importance to itself, live and create in its own image.
“Alive! alive! And a boy too! Set your mind at rest!” Levin heard Lizaveta Petrovna saying, as she slapped the baby’s back with a shaking hand.
“Mamma, is it true?” said Kitty’s voice.
The princess’s sobs were all the answers she could make. And in the midst of the silence there came in unmistakable reply to the mother’s question, a voice quite unlike the subdued voices speaking in the room. It was the bold, clamorous, self-assertive squall of the new human being, who had so incomprehensibly appeared.
If Levin had been told before that Kitty was dead, and that he had died with her, and that their children were angels, and that God was standing before him, he would have been surprised at nothing. But now, coming back to the world of reality, he had to make great mental efforts to take in that she was alive and well, and that the creature squalling so desperately was his son. Kitty was alive, her agony was over. And he was unutterably happy. That he understood; he was completely happy in it. But the baby? Whence, why, who was he?… He could not get used to the idea. It seemed to him something extraneous, superfluous, to which he could not accustom himself.