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Chapter 18


Levin could not look calmly at his brother; he could not himself
be natural and calm in his presence. When he went in to the sick
man, his eyes and his attention were unconsciously dimmed, and he
did not see and did not distinguish the details of his brother's
position. He smelt the awful odor, saw the dirt, disorder, and
miserable condition, and heard the groans, and felt that nothing
could be done to help. It never entered his head to analyze the
details of the sick man's situation, to consider how that body
was lying under the quilt, how those emaciated legs and thighs
and spine were lying huddled up, and whether they could not be
made more comfortable, whether anything could not be done to make
things, if not better, at least less bad. It made his blood run
cold when he began to think of all these details. He was
absolutely convinced that nothing could be done to prolong his
brother's life or to relieve his suffering. But a sense of his
regarding all aid as out of the question was felt by the sick
man, and exasperated him. And this made it still more painful
for Levin. To be in the sick-room was agony to him, not to be
there still worse. And he was continually, on various pretexts,
going out of the room, and coming in again, because he was unable
to remain alone.

But Kitty thought, and felt, and acted quite differently. On
seeing the sick man, she pitied him. And pity in her womanly
heart did not arouse at all that feeling of horror and loathing
that it aroused in her husband, but a desire to act, to find out
all the details of his state, and to remedy them. And since she
had not the slightest doubt that it was her duty to help him, she
had no doubt either that it was possible, and immediately set to
work. The very details, the mere thought of which reduced her
husband to terror, immediately engaged her attention. She sent
for the doctor, sent to the chemist's, set the maid who had come
with her and Marya Nikolaevna to sweep and dust and scrub; she
herself washed up something, washed out something else, laid
something under the quilt. Something was by her directions
brought into the sick-room, something else was carried out. She
herself went several times to her room, regardless of the men she
met in the corridor, got out and brought in sheets, pillow cases,
towels, and shirts.

The waiter who was busy with a party of engineers dining in the
dining hall, came several times with an irate countenance in
answer to her summons, and could not avoid carrying out her
orders, as she gave them with such gracious insistence that there
was no evading her. Levin did not approve of all this; he did
not believe it would be of any good to the patient. Above all,
he feared the patient would be angry at it. But the sick man,
though he seemed and was indifferent about it, was not angry, but
only abashed, and on the whole as it were interested in what she
was doing with him. Coming back from the doctor to whom Kitty
had sent him, Levin, on opening the door, came upon the sick man
at the instant when, by Kitty's directions, they were changing
his linen. The long white ridge of his spine, with the huge,
prominent shoulder blades and jutting ribs and vertebrae, was
bare, and Marya Nikolaevna and the waiter were struggling with
the sleeve of the night shirt, and could not get the long, limp
arm into it. Kitty, hurriedly closing the door after Levin, was
not looking that way; but the sick man groaned, and she moved
rapidly towards him.

"Make haste," she said.

"Oh, don't you come," said the sick man angrily. "I'll do it my
myself...."

"What say?" queried Marya Nikolaevna. But Kitty heard and saw he
was ashamed and uncomfortable at being naked before her.

"I'm not looking, I'm not looking!" she said, putting the arm in.
"Marya Nikolaevna, you come this side, you do it," she added.

"Please go for me, there's a little bottle in my small bag," she
said, turning to her husband, "you know, in the side pocket;
bring it, please, and meanwhile they'll finish clearing up here."

Returning with the bottle, Levin found the sick man settled
comfortably and everything about him completely changed. The
heavy smell was replaced by the smell of aromatic vinegar, which
Kitty with pouting lips and puffed-out, rosy cheeks was squirting
through a little pipe. There was no dust visible anywhere, a rug
was laid by the bedside. On the table stood medicine bottles and
decanters tidily arranged, and the linen needed was folded up
there, and Kitty's broderie anglaise. On the other table by the
patient's bed there were candles and drink and powders. The sick
man himself, washed and combed, lay in clean sheets on high
raised pillows, in a clean night-shirt with a white collar about
his astoundingly thin neck, and with a new expression of hope
looked fixedly at Kitty.

The doctor brought by Levin, and found by him at the club, was
not the one who had been attending Nikolay Levin, as the patient
was dissatisfied with him. The new doctor took up a stethoscope
and sounded the patient, shook his head, prescribed medicine, and
with extreme minuteness explained first how to take the medicine
and then what diet was to be kept to. He advised eggs, raw or
hardly cooked, and seltzer water, with warm milk at a certain
temperature. When the doctor had gone away the sick man said
something to his brother, of which Levin could distinguish only
the last words: "Your Katya." By the expression with which he
gazed at her, Levin saw that he was praising her. He called
indeed to Katya, as he called her.

"I'm much better already," he said. "Why, with you I should have
got well long ago. How nice it is!" he took her hand and drew it
towards his lips, but as though afraid she would dislike it he
changed his mind, let it go, and only stroked it. Kitty took his
hand in both hers and pressed it.

"Now turn me over on the left side and go to bed," he said.

No one could make out what he said but Kitty; she alone
understood. She understood because she was all the while
mentally keeping watch on what he needed.

"On the other side," she said to her husband, "he always sleeps
on that side. Turn him over, it's so disagreeable calling the
servants. I'm not strong enough. Can you?" she said to Marya
Nikolaevna.

"I'm afraid not," answered Marya Nikolaevna.

Terrible as it was to Levin to put his arms round that terrible
body, to take hold of that under the quilt, of which he preferred
to know nothing, under his wife's influence he made his resolute
face that she knew so well, and putting his arms into the bed
took hold of the body, but in spite of his own strength he was
struck by the strange heaviness of those powerless limbs. While
he was turning him over, conscious of the huge emaciated arm
about his neck, Kitty swiftly and noiselessly turned the pillow,
beat it up and settled in it the sick man's head, smoothing back
his hair, which was sticking again to his moist brow.

The sick man kept his brother's hand in his own. Levin felt that
he meant to do something with his hand and was pulling it
somewhere. Levin yielded with a sinking heart: yes, he drew it
to his mouth and kissed it. Levin, shaking with sobs and unable
to articulate a word, went out of the room.



Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Category:
Fiction - Russian literature
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