Anna karenina, p.203
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       Anna Karenina, p.203

           graf Leo Tolstoy
 

  Chapter 14

  The doctor was not yet up, and the footman said that "he had been uplate, and had given orders not to be waked, but would get up soon." Thefootman was cleaning the lamp-chimneys, and seemed very busy about them.This concentration of the footman upon his lamps, and his indifferenceto what was passing in Levin, at first astounded him, but immediately onconsidering the question he realized that no one knew or was bound toknow his feelings, and that it was all the more necessary to act calmly,sensibly, and resolutely to get through this wall of indifference andattain 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 toall that lay before him to do.

  Having ascertained that the doctor was not getting up, Levin consideredvarious plans, and decided on the following one: that Kouzma should gofor another doctor, while he himself should go to the chemist's foropium, 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 atall hazards.

  At the chemist's the lank shopman sealed up a packet of powders for acoachman who stood waiting, and refused him opium with the samecallousness with which the doctor's footman had cleaned his lampchimneys. Trying not to get flurried or out of temper, Levin mentionedthe names of the doctor and midwife, and explaining what the opium wasneeded for, tried to persuade him. The assistant inquired in Germanwhether he should give it, and receiving an affirmative reply frombehind the partition, he took out a bottle and a funnel, deliberatelypoured the opium from a bigger bottle into a little one, stuck on alabel, sealed it up, in spite of Levin's request that he would not doso, and was about to wrap it up too. This was more than Levin couldstand; he took the bottle firmly out of his hands, and ran to the bigglass doors. The doctor was not even now getting up, and the footman,busy now in putting down the rugs, refused to wake him. Levindeliberately took out a ten rouble note, and, careful to speak slowly,though losing no time over the business, he handed him the note, andexplained that Pyotr Dmitrievitch (what a great and important personagehe seemed to Levin now, this Pyotr Dmitrievitch, who had been of solittle consequence in his eyes before!) had promised to come at anytime; that he would certainly not be angry! and that he must thereforewake him at once.

  The footman agreed, and went upstairs, taking Levin into the waitingroom.

  Levin could hear through the door the doctor coughing, moving about,washing, and saying something. Three minutes passed; it seemed to Levinthat more than an hour had gone by. He could not wait any longer.

  "Pyotr Dmitrievitch, Pyotr Dmitrievitch!" he said in an imploring voiceat the open door. "For God's sake, forgive me! See me as you are. It'sbeen going on more than two hours already."

  "In a minute; in a minute!" answered a voice, and to his amazement Levinheard 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, andtwo 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 noconscience," 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 everyunnecessary detail of his wife's condition, interrupting his accountrepeatedly 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'mcertain 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 apatient whose husband always takes refuge in the stables on suchoccasions."

  "But what do you think, Pyotr Dmitrievitch? Do you suppose it may go allright?"

  "Everything points to a favorable issue."

  "So you'll come immediately?" said Levin, looking wrathfully at theservant 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'stelegrams?" said the doctor, munching some roll.

  "No, I can't stand it!" said Levin, jumping up. "So you'll be with us ina 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, andthey went up to the bedroom door together. The princess had tears in hereyes, and her hands were shaking. Seeing Levin, she embraced him, andburst into tears.

  "Well, my dear Lizaveta Petrovna?" she queried, clasping the hand of themidwife, 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 beeasier 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, andwithout considering or anticipating anything, to avoid upsetting hiswife, and on the contrary to soothe her and keep up her courage. Withoutallowing 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 atight rein on his feelings for five hours, and it had seemed to him hecould do this. But when he came back from the doctor's and saw hersufferings again, he fell to repeating more and more frequently: "Lord,have mercy on us, and succor us!" He sighed, and flung his head up, andbegan to feel afraid he could not bear it, that he would burst intotears or run away. Such agony it was to him. And only one hour hadpassed.

  But after that hour there passed another hour, two hours, three, thefull five hours he had fixed as the furthest limit of his sufferings,and the position was still unchanged; and he was still bearing itbecause there was nothing to be done but bear it; every instant feelingthat he had reached the utmost limits of his endurance, and that hisheart would break with sympathy and pain.

  But still the minutes passed by and the hours, and still hours more, andhis misery and horror grew and were more and more intense.

  All the ordinary conditions of life, without which one can form noconception of anything, had ceased to exist for Levin. He lost all senseof time. Minutes--those minutes when she sent for him and he held hermoist hand, that would squeeze his hand with extraordinary violence andthen push it away--seemed to him hours, and hours seemed to him minutes.He was surprised when Lizaveta Petrovna asked him to light a candlebehind 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 nothave been more surprised. Where he was all this time, he knew as littleas the time of anything. He saw her swollen face, sometimes bewilderedand in agony, sometimes smiling and trying to reassure him. He saw theold princess too, flushed and overwrought, with her gray curls indisorder, forcing herself to gulp down her tears, biting her lips; hesaw Dolly too and the doctor, smoking fat cigarettes, and LizavetaPetrovna with a firm, resolute, reassuring face, and the old princewalking up and down the hall with a frowning face. But why they came inand went out, where they were, he did not know. The princess was withthe doctor in the bedroom, then in the study, where a table set fordinner suddenly appeared; then she was not there, but Dolly was. ThenLevin remembered he had been sent somewhere. Once he had been sent tomove a table and sofa. He had done this eagerly, thinking it had to bedone for her sake, and only lat
er on he found it was his own bed he hadbeen getting ready. Then he had been sent to the study to ask the doctorsomething. The doctor had answered and then had said something about theirregularities in the municipal council. Then he had been sent to thebedroom to help the old princess to move the holy picture in its silverand gold setting, and with the princess's old waiting maid he hadclambered on a shelf to reach it and had broken the little lamp, and theold 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, carefullytucking it in behind the pillow. But where, when, and why all this hadhappened, he could not tell. He did not understand why the old princesstook his hand, and looking compassionately at him, begged him not toworry himself, and Dolly persuaded him to eat something and led him outof the room, and even the doctor looked seriously and with commiserationat him and offered him a drop of something.

  All he knew and felt was that what was happening was what had happenednearly a year before in the hotel of the country town at the deathbed ofhis brother Nikolay. But that had been grief--this was joy. Yet thatgrief and this joy were alike outside all the ordinary conditions oflife; they were loop-holes, as it were, in that ordinary life throughwhich there came glimpses of something sublime. And in the contemplationof this sublime something the soul was exalted to inconceivable heightsof 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 himselfincessantly, feeling, in spite of his long and, as it seemed, completealienation from religion, that he turned to God just as trustfully andsimply as he had in his childhood and first youth.

  All this time he had two distinct spiritual conditions. One was awayfrom her, with the doctor, who kept smoking one fat cigarette afteranother and extinguishing them on the edge of a full ash tray, withDolly, and with the old prince, where there was talk about dinner, aboutpolitics, about Marya Petrovna's illness, and where Levin suddenlyforgot for a minute what was happening, and felt as though he had wakedup from sleep; the other was in her presence, at her pillow, where hisheart seemed breaking and still did not break from sympatheticsuffering, and he prayed to God without ceasing. And every time he wasbrought back from a moment of oblivion by a scream reaching him from thebedroom, he fell into the same strange terror that had come upon him thefirst minute. Every time he heard a shriek, he jumped up, ran to justifyhimself, remembered on the way that he was not to blame, and he longedto defend her, to help her. But as he looked at her, he saw again thathelp was impossible, and he was filled with terror and prayed: "Lord,have mercy on us, and help us!" And as time went on, both theseconditions became more intense; the calmer he became away from her,completely forgetting her, the more agonizing became both her sufferingsand his feeling of helplessness before them. He jumped up, would haveliked to run away, but ran to her.

  Sometimes, when again and again she called upon him, he blamed her; butseeing her patient, smiling face, and hearing the words, "I am worryingyou," he threw the blame on God; but thinking of God, at once he fell tobeseeching God to forgive him and have mercy.

 

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