Anna karenina, p.141
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       Anna Karenina, p.141

           graf Leo Tolstoy
 

  Chapter 17

  The hotel of the provincial town where Nikolay Levin was lying ill wasone of those provincial hotels which are constructed on the newest modelof modern improvements, with the best intentions of cleanliness,comfort, and even elegance, but owing to the public that patronizesthem, are with astounding rapidity transformed into filthy taverns witha pretension of modern improvement that only makes them worse than theold-fashioned, honestly filthy hotels. This hotel had already reachedthat 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 filthyfrock coat, and the common dining room with a dusty bouquet of waxflowers adorning the table, and filth, dust, and disorder everywhere,and at the same time the sort of modern up-to-date self-complacentrailway uneasiness of this hotel, aroused a most painful feeling inLevin after their fresh young life, especially because the impression offalsity 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 theywanted rooms, it appeared that there was not one decent room for them;one decent room had been taken by the inspector of railroads, another bya lawyer from Moscow, a third by Princess Astafieva from the country.There remained only one filthy room, next to which they promised thatanother should be empty by the evening. Feeling angry with his wifebecause what he had expected had come to pass, which was that at themoment of arrival, when his heart throbbed with emotion and anxiety toknow how his brother was getting on, he should have to be seeing afterher, instead of rushing straight to his brother, Levin conducted her tothe 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 MaryaNikolaevna, who had heard of his arrival and had not dared to go in tosee him. She was just the same as when he saw her in Moscow; the samewoolen 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. "NikolayDmitrievitch 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 tomake.

  "Come along, come along to him!" he said.

  But as soon as he moved, the door of his room opened and Kitty peepedout. Levin crimsoned both from shame and anger with his wife, who hadput herself and him in such a difficult position; but Marya Nikolaevnacrimsoned still more. She positively shrank together and flushed to thepoint 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 todo.

  For the first instant Levin saw an expression of eager curiosity in theeyes with which Kitty looked at this awful woman, so incomprehensible toher; 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 instantacross the corridor, as though about his affairs.

  "Well then, come in," said Kitty, turning to Marya Nikolaevna, who hadrecovered 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 whathe saw and felt in his brother's room. He had expected to find him inthe same state of self-deception which he had heard was so frequent withthe consumptive, and which had struck him so much during his brother'svisit in the autumn. He had expected to find the physical signs of theapproach of death more marked--greater weakness, greater emaciation, butstill almost the same condition of things. He had expected himself tofeel the same distress at the loss of the brother he loved and the samehorror 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 utterlydifferent.

  In a little dirty room with the painted panels of its walls filthy withspittle, and conversation audible through the thin partition from thenext room, in a stifling atmosphere saturated with impurities, on abedstead moved away from the wall, there lay covered with a quilt, abody. One arm of this body was above the quilt, and the wrist, huge as arake-handle, was attached, inconceivably it seemed, to the thin, longbone of the arm smooth from the beginning to the middle. The head laysideways on the pillow. Levin could see the scanty locks wet with sweaton the temples and tense, transparent-looking forehead.

  "It cannot be that that fearful body was my brother Nikolay?" thoughtLevin. But he went closer, saw the face, and doubt became impossible. Inspite of the terrible change in the face, Levin had only to glance atthose eager eyes raised at his approach, only to catch the faintmovement of the mouth under the sticky mustache, to realize the terribletruth that this death-like body was his living brother.

  The glittering eyes looked sternly and reproachfully at his brother ashe drew near. And immediately this glance established a livingrelationship between living men. Levin immediately felt the reproach inthe eyes fixed on him, and felt remorse at his own happiness.

  When Konstantin took him by the hand, Nikolay smiled. The smile wasfaint, scarcely perceptible, and in spite of the smile the sternexpression 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 youdidn't let me know before, that is, at the time of my wedding? I madeinquiries 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 withoutdropping his eyes, and evidently penetrated to the inner meaning of eachword. Levin told his brother that his wife had come with him. Nikolayexpressed pleasure, but said he was afraid of frightening her by hiscondition. A silence followed. Suddenly Nikolay stirred, and began tosay something. Levin expected something of peculiar gravity andimportance from the expression of his face, but Nikolay began speakingof his health. He found fault with the doctor, regretting he had not acelebrated Moscow doctor. Levin saw that he still hoped.

  Seizing the first moment of silence, Levin got up, anxious to escape, ifonly for an instant, from his agonizing emotion, and said that he wouldgo and fetch his wife.

  "Very well, and I'll tell her to tidy up here. It's dirty and stinkinghere, I expect. Marya! clear up the room," the sick man said witheffort. "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. Hehad said he would fetch his wife, but now, taking stock of the emotionhe was feeling, he decided that he would try on the contrary to persuadeher not to go in to the sick man. "Why should she suffer as I amsuffering?" 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 herhusband; 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. "Youmust understand that for me to see you, and not to see him, is far morepainful. There I might be a help to you and to him. Please, let me!" shebesought her husband, as though the happiness of her life depended onit.

  Levin was obliged to agree, and regaining his composure, and completelyforgetting about Marya Nikolaevna by now, he went again in to hisbrother with Kitty.

  Stepping lightly, and c
ontinually glancing at her husband, showing him avalorous and sympathetic face, Kitty went into the sick-room, and,turning without haste, noiselessly closed the door. With inaudible stepsshe went quickly to the sick man's bedside, and going up so that he hadnot to turn his head, she immediately clasped in her fresh young handthe skeleton of his huge hand, pressed it, and began speaking with thatsoft eagerness, sympathetic and not jarring, which is peculiar to women.

  "We have met, though we were not acquainted, at Soden," she said. "Younever thought I was to be your sister?"

  "You would not have recognized me?" he said, with a radiant smile at herentrance.

  "Yes, I should. What a good thing you let us know! Not a day has passedthat 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 thestern, reproachful expression of the dying man's envy of the living.

  "I am afraid you are not quite comfortable here," she said, turning awayfrom his fixed stare, and looking about the room. "We must ask aboutanother room," she said to her husband, "so that we might be nearer."

 
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