Anna karenina, p.143
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       Anna Karenina, p.143

           graf Leo Tolstoy
 

  Chapter 19

  "Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealedthem unto babes." So Levin thought about his wife as he talked to herthat evening.

  Levin thought of the text, not because he considered himself "wise andprudent." He did not so consider himself, but he could not help knowingthat he had more intellect than his wife and Agafea Mihalovna, and hecould not help knowing that when he thought of death, he thought withall the force of his intellect. He knew too that the brains of manygreat men, whose thoughts he had read, had brooded over death and yetknew not a hundredth part of what his wife and Agafea Mihalovna knewabout it. Different as those two women were, Agafea Mihalovna and Katya,as his brother Nikolay had called her, and as Levin particularly likedto call her now, they were quite alike in this. Both knew, without ashade of doubt, what sort of thing life was and what was death, andthough neither of them could have answered, and would even not haveunderstood the questions that presented themselves to Levin, both had nodoubt of the significance of this event, and were precisely alike intheir 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 thefact that they knew without a second of hesitation how to deal with thedying, and were not frightened of them. Levin and other men like him,though they could have said a great deal about death, obviously did notknow this since they were afraid of death, and were absolutely at a losswhat to do when people were dying. If Levin had been alone now with hisbrother Nikolay, he would have looked at him with terror, and with stillgreater 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 ofdeath and depressing subjects--also impossible. To be silent, alsoimpossible. "If I look at him he will think I am studying him, I amafraid; if I don't look at him, he'll think I'm thinking of otherthings. If I walk on tiptoe, he will be vexed; to tread firmly, I'mashamed." Kitty evidently did not think of herself, and had no time tothink about herself: she was thinking about him because she knewsomething, and all went well. She told him about herself even and abouther wedding, and smiled and sympathized with him and petted him, andtalked 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, therelief of suffering, both Agafea Mihalovna and Kitty required for thedying man something else more important than the physical treatment, andsomething which had nothing in common with physical conditions. AgafeaMihalovna, speaking of the man just dead, had said: "Well, thank God, hetook the sacrament and received absolution; God grant each one of ussuch a death." Katya in just the same way, besides all her care aboutlinen, bedsores, drink, found time the very first day to persuade thesick man of the necessity of taking the sacrament and receivingabsolution.

  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 ofsupper, 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 thecontrary, was more active than usual. She was even livelier than usual.She ordered supper to be brought, herself unpacked their things, andherself helped to make the beds, and did not even forget to sprinklethem with Persian powder. She showed that alertness, that swiftness ofreflection comes out in men before a battle, in conflict, in thedangerous and decisive moments of life--those moments when a man showsonce and for all his value, and that all his past has not been wastedbut has been a preparation for these moments.

  Everything went rapidly in her hands, and before it was twelve o'clockall their things were arranged cleanly and tidily in her rooms, in sucha 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. Shearranged the brushes, but she did it all so that there was nothingshocking in it.

  They could neither of them eat, however, and for a long while they couldnot 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 lookingglass, combing her soft, fragrant hair with a fine comb. "I have neverseen it, but I know, mamma has told me, there are prayers said forrecovery."

  "Do you suppose he can possibly recover?" said Levin, watching a slendertress at the back of her round little head that was continually hiddenwhen she passed the comb through the front.

  "I asked the doctor; he said he couldn't live more than three days. Butcan they be sure? I'm very glad, anyway, that I persuaded him," shesaid, looking askance at her husband through her hair. "Anything ispossible," she added with that peculiar, rather sly expression that wasalways in her face when she spoke of religion.

  Since their conversation about religion when they were engaged neitherof them had ever started a discussion of the subject, but she performedall the ceremonies of going to church, saying her prayers, and so on,always with the unvarying conviction that this ought to be so. In spiteof his assertion to the contrary, she was firmly persuaded that he wasas much a Christian as she, and indeed a far better one; and all that hesaid about it was simply one of his absurd masculine freaks, just as hewould 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 manageall 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 (tokiss her hand in such closeness to death seemed to him improper); hemerely squeezed it with a penitent air, looking at her brightening eyes.

  "It would have been miserable for you to be alone," she said, andlifting her hands which hid her cheeks flushing with pleasure, twistedher coil of hair on the nape of her neck and pinned it there. "No," shewent on, "she did not know how.... Luckily, I learned a lot at Soden."

  "Surely there are not people there so ill?"

  "Worse."

  "What's so awful to me is that I can't see him as he was when he wasyoung. You would not believe how charming he was as a youth, but I didnot understand him then."

  "I can quite, quite believe it. How I feel that we might have beenfriends!" she said; and, distressed at what she had said, she lookedround at her husband, and tears came into her eyes.

  "Yes, _might have been_," he said mournfully. "He's just one of thosepeople 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.

 
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