Anna karenina, p.24
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       Anna Karenina, p.24

           graf Leo Tolstoy
 

  Chapter 24

  "Yes, there is something in me hateful, repulsive," thought Levin, as hecame away from the Shtcherbatskys', and walked in the direction of hisbrother's lodgings. "And I don't get on with other people. Pride, theysay. No, I have no pride. If I had any pride, I should not have putmyself in such a position." And he pictured to himself Vronsky, happy,good-natured, clever, and self-possessed, certainly never placed in theawful position in which he had been that evening. "Yes, she was bound tochoose him. So it had to be, and I cannot complain of anyone oranything. I am myself to blame. What right had I to imagine she wouldcare to join her life to mine? Who am I and what am I? A nobody, notwanted by any one, nor of use to anybody." And he recalled his brotherNikolay, and dwelt with pleasure on the thought of him. "Isn't he rightthat everything in the world is base and loathsome? And are we fair inour judgment of brother Nikolay? Of course, from the point of view ofProkofy, seeing him in a torn cloak and tipsy, he's a despicable person.But I know him differently. I know his soul, and know that we are likehim. And I, instead of going to seek him out, went out to dinner, andcame here." Levin walked up to a lamppost, read his brother's address,which was in his pocketbook, and called a sledge. All the long way tohis brother's, Levin vividly recalled all the facts familiar to him ofhis brother Nikolay's life. He remembered how his brother, while at theuniversity, and for a year afterwards, had, in spite of the jeers of hiscompanions, lived like a monk, strictly observing all religious rites,services, and fasts, and avoiding every sort of pleasure, especiallywomen. And afterwards, how he had all at once broken out: he hadassociated with the most horrible people, and rushed into the mostsenseless debauchery. He remembered later the scandal over a boy, whomhe had taken from the country to bring up, and, in a fit of rage, had soviolently beaten that proceedings were brought against him forunlawfully wounding. Then he recalled the scandal with a sharper, towhom he had lost money, and given a promissory note, and against whom hehad himself lodged a complaint, asserting that he had cheated him. (Thiswas the money Sergey Ivanovitch had paid.) Then he remembered how he hadspent a night in the lockup for disorderly conduct in the street. Heremembered the shameful proceedings he had tried to get up against hisbrother Sergey Ivanovitch, accusing him of not having paid him his shareof his mother's fortune, and the last scandal, when he had gone to awestern province in an official capacity, and there had got into troublefor assaulting a village elder.... It was all horribly disgusting, yetto Levin it appeared not at all in the same disgusting light as itinevitably would to those who did not know Nikolay, did not know all hisstory, did not know his heart.

  Levin remembered that when Nikolay had been in the devout stage, theperiod of fasts and monks and church services, when he was seeking inreligion a support and a curb for his passionate temperament, everyone,far from encouraging him, had jeered at him, and he, too, with theothers. They had teased him, called him Noah and Monk; and, when he hadbroken out, no one had helped him, but everyone had turned away from himwith horror and disgust.

  Levin felt that, in spite of all the ugliness of his life, his brotherNikolay, in his soul, in the very depths of his soul, was no more in thewrong than the people who despised him. He was not to blame for havingbeen born with his unbridled temperament and his somehow limitedintelligence. But he had always wanted to be good. "I will tell himeverything, without reserve, and I will make him speak without reserve,too, and I'll show him that I love him, and so understand him," Levinresolved to himself, as, towards eleven o'clock, he reached the hotel ofwhich he had the address.

  "At the top, 12 and 13," the porter answered Levin's inquiry.

  "At home?"

  "Sure to be at home."

  The door of No. 12 was half open, and there came out into the streak oflight thick fumes of cheap, poor tobacco, and the sound of a voice,unknown to Levin; but he knew at once that his brother was there; heheard his cough.

  As he went in the door, the unknown voice was saying:

  "It all depends with how much judgment and knowledge the thing's done."

  Konstantin Levin looked in at the door, and saw that the speaker was ayoung man with an immense shock of hair, wearing a Russian jerkin, andthat a pockmarked woman in a woolen gown, without collar or cuffs, wassitting on the sofa. His brother was not to be seen. Konstantin felt asharp pang at his heart at the thought of the strange company in whichhis brother spent his life. No one had heard him, and Konstantin, takingoff his galoshes, listened to what the gentleman in the jerkin wassaying. He was speaking of some enterprise.

  "Well, the devil flay them, the privileged classes," his brother's voiceresponded, with a cough. "Masha! get us some supper and some wine ifthere's any left; or else go and get some."

  The woman rose, came out from behind the screen, and saw Konstantin.

  "There's some gentleman, Nikolay Dmitrievitch," she said.

  "Whom do you want?" said the voice of Nikolay Levin, angrily.

  "It's I," answered Konstantin Levin, coming forward into the light.

  "Who's _I_?" Nikolay's voice said again, still more angrily. He could beheard getting up hurriedly, stumbling against something, and Levin saw,facing him in the doorway, the big, scared eyes, and the huge, thin,stooping figure of his brother, so familiar, and yet astonishing in itsweirdness and sickliness.

  He was even thinner than three years before, when Konstantin Levin hadseen him last. He was wearing a short coat, and his hands and big bonesseemed huger than ever. His hair had grown thinner, the same straightmustaches hid his lips, the same eyes gazed strangely and naively at hisvisitor.

  "Ah, Kostya!" he exclaimed suddenly, recognizing his brother, and hiseyes lit up with joy. But the same second he looked round at the youngman, and gave the nervous jerk of his head and neck that Konstantin knewso well, as if his neckband hurt him; and a quite different expression,wild, suffering, and cruel, rested on his emaciated face.

  "I wrote to you and Sergey Ivanovitch both that I don't know you anddon't want to know you. What is it you want?"

  He was not at all the same as Konstantin had been fancying him. Theworst and most tiresome part of his character, what made all relationswith him so difficult, had been forgotten by Konstantin Levin when hethought of him, and now, when he saw his face, and especially thatnervous twitching of his head, he remembered it all.

  "I didn't want to see you for anything," he answered timidly. "I'vesimply come to see you."

  His brother's timidity obviously softened Nikolay. His lips twitched.

  "Oh, so that's it?" he said. "Well, come in; sit down. Like some supper?Masha, bring supper for three. No, stop a minute. Do you know who thisis?" he said, addressing his brother, and indicating the gentleman inthe jerkin: "This is Mr. Kritsky, my friend from Kiev, a very remarkableman. He's persecuted by the police, of course, because he's not ascoundrel."

  And he looked round in the way he always did at everyone in the room.Seeing that the woman standing in the doorway was moving to go, heshouted to her, "Wait a minute, I said." And with the inability toexpress himself, the incoherence that Konstantin knew so well, he began,with another look round at everyone, to tell his brother Kritsky'sstory: how he had been expelled from the university for starting abenefit society for the poor students and Sunday schools; and how he hadafterwards been a teacher in a peasant school, and how he had beendriven out of that too, and had afterwards been condemned for something.

  "You're of the Kiev university?" said Konstantin Levin to Kritsky, tobreak the awkward silence that followed.

  "Yes, I was of Kiev," Kritsky replied angrily, his face darkening.

  "And this woman," Nikolay Levin interrupted him, pointing to her, "isthe partner of my life, Marya Nikolaevna. I took her out of a badhouse," and he jerked his neck saying this; "but I love her and respecther, and any one who wants to know me," he added, raising his voice andknitting his brows, "I beg to love her and respect her. She's just thesame as my wife, just the same. So now you know whom you've to do with.And if you think you're lo
wering yourself, well, here's the floor,there's the door."

  And again his eyes traveled inquiringly over all of them.

  "Why I should be lowering myself, I don't understand."

  "Then, Masha, tell them to bring supper; three portions, spirits andwine.... No, wait a minute.... No, it doesn't matter.... Go along."

 

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