Anna karenina, p.204
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       Anna Karenina, p.204

           graf Leo Tolstoy
 

  Chapter 15

  He did not know whether it was late or early. The candles had all burnedout. Dolly had just been in the study and had suggested to the doctorthat he should lie down. Levin sat listening to the doctor's stories ofa quack mesmerizer and looking at the ashes of his cigarette. There hadbeen a period of repose, and he had sunk into oblivion. He hadcompletely forgotten what was going on now. He heard the doctor's chatand understood it. Suddenly there came an unearthly shriek. The shriekwas 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 oneside, listened, and smiled approvingly. Everything was so extraordinarythat 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 jumpedup, ran on tiptoe to the bedroom, edged round Lizaveta Petrovna and theprincess, and took up his position at Kitty's pillow. The scream hadsubsided, but there was some change now. What it was he did not see anddid not comprehend, and he had no wish to see or comprehend. But he sawit by the face of Lizaveta Petrovna. Lizaveta Petrovna's face was sternand pale, and still as resolute, though her jaws were twitching, and hereyes were fixed intently on Kitty. Kitty's swollen and agonized face, atress of hair clinging to her moist brow, was turned to him and soughthis eyes. Her lifted hands asked for his hands. Clutching his chillhands 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 herface was drawn, she pushed him away.

  "Oh, this is awful! I'm dying, I'm dying! Go away!" she shrieked, andagain 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. Hestood in the next room, his head leaning against the door post, andheard shrieks, howls such as he had never heard before, and he knew thatwhat had been Kitty was uttering these shrieks. He had long ago ceasedto wish for the child. By now he loathed this child. He did not evenwish for her life now, all he longed for was the end of this awfulanguish.

  "Doctor! What is it? What is it? By God!" he said, snatching at thedoctor's hand as he came up.

  "It's the end," said the doctor. And the doctor's face was so grave ashe said it that Levin took _the end_ as meaning her death.

  Beside himself, he ran into the bedroom. The first thing he saw was theface of Lizaveta Petrovna. It was even more frowning and stern. Kitty'sface he did not know. In the place where it had been was something thatwas fearful in its strained distortion and in the sounds that came fromit. He fell down with his head on the wooden framework of the bed,feeling that his heart was bursting. The awful scream never paused, itbecame still more awful, and as though it had reached the utmost limitof terror, suddenly it ceased. Levin could not believe his ears, butthere could be no doubt; the scream had ceased and he heard a subduedstir 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 silenceand tried to smile, and could not.

  And suddenly, from the mysterious and awful far-away world in which hehad been living for the last twenty-two hours, Levin felt himself all inan 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 strainedchords snapped, sobs and tears of joy which he had never foreseen roseup with such violence that his whole body shook, that for long theyprevented him from speaking.

  Falling on his knees before the bed, he held his wife's hand before hislips 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, inthe deft hands of Lizaveta Petrovna, like a flickering light in a lamp,lay the life of a human creature, which had never existed before, andwhich 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 heardLizaveta Petrovna saying, as she slapped the baby's back with a shakinghand.

  "Mamma, is it true?" said Kitty's voice.

  The princess's sobs were all the answers she could make. And in themidst of the silence there came in unmistakable reply to the mother'squestion, a voice quite unlike the subdued voices speaking in the room.It was the bold, clamorous, self-assertive squall of the new humanbeing, who had so incomprehensibly appeared.

  If Levin had been told before that Kitty was dead, and that he had diedwith her, and that their children were angels, and that God was standingbefore him, he would have been surprised at nothing. But now, comingback to the world of reality, he had to make great mental efforts totake in that she was alive and well, and that the creature squalling sodesperately was his son. Kitty was alive, her agony was over. And he wasunutterably happy. That he understood; he was completely happy in it.But the baby? Whence, why, who was he?... He could not get used to theidea. It seemed to him something extraneous, superfluous, to which hecould not accustom himself.

 
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