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Chapter 14


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

Having ascertained that the doctor was not getting up, Levin
considered various plans, and decided on the following one: that
Konzma should go for another doctor, while he himself should go
to the chemist's for opium, 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 at all hazards.

At the chemist's the lank shopman sealed up a packet of powders
for a coachman who stood waiting, and refused him opium with the
same callousness with which the doctor's footman had cleaned his
lamp chimneys. Trying not to get flurried or out of temper,
Levin mentioned the names of the doctor and midwife, and
explaining what the opium was needed for, tried to persuade him.
The assistant inquired in German whether he should give it, and
receiving an affirmative reply from behind the partition, he took
out a bottle and a funnel, deliberately poured the opium from a
bigger bottle into a little one, stuck on a label, sealed it up,
in spite of Levin's request that he would not do so, and was
about to wrap it up too. This was more than Levin could stand;
he took the bottle firmly out of his hands, and ran to the big
glass doors. The doctor was not even now getting up, and the
footman, busy now in putting down the rugs, refused to wake him.
Levin deliberately took out a ten rouble note, and, careful to
speak slowly, though losing no time over the business, he handed
him the note, and explained that Pyotr Dmitrievitch (what a great
and important personage he seemed to Levin now, this Pyotr
Dmitrievitch, who had been of so little consequence in his eyes
before!) had promised to come at any time; that he would
certainly not be angry! and that he must therefore wake him at
once.

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

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

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

"I a minute; in a minute!" answered a voice, and to his
amazement Levin heard 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, and two 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 no conscience," 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
every unnecessary detail of his wife's condition, interrupting
his account repeatedly 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'm certain 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 a patient whose husband always takes refuge in the
stables on such occasions."

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

"Everything points to a favorable issue."

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

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

"Well, my dear Lizaveta Petrovna?" she queried, clasping the hand
of the midwife, 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 be easier 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, and without considering or anticipating anything, to
avoid upsetting his wife, and on the contrary to soothe her and
keep up her courage. Without allowing 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 a tight rein on
his feelings for five hours, and it had seemed to him he could do
this. But when he came back from the doctor's and saw her
sufferings again, he fell to repeating more and more frequently:
"Lord, have mercy on us, and succor us!" He sighed, and flung his
head up, and began to feel afraid he could not bear it, that he
would burst into tears or run away. Such agony it was to him.
And only one hour had passed.

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

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

All the ordinary conditions of life, without which one can form
no conception of anything, had ceased to exist for Levin. He
lost all sense of time. Minutes--those minutes when she sent for
him and he held her moist hand, that would squeeze his hand with
extraordinary violence and then push it away--seemed to him
hours, and hours seemed to him minutes. He was surprised when
Lizaveta Petrovna asked him to light a candle behind 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 not
have been more surprised. Where he was all this time, he knew as
little as the time of anything. He saw her swollen face,
sometimes bewildered and in agony, sometimes smiling and trying
to reassure him. He saw the old princess too, flushed and
overwrought, with her gray curls in disorder, forcing herself to
gulp down her tears, biting her lips; he saw Dolly too and the
doctor, smoking fat cigarettes, and Lizaveta Petrovna with a
firm, resolute, reassuring face, and the old prince walking up
and down the hall with a frowning face. But why they came in and
went out, where they were, he did not know. The princess was
with the doctor in the bedroom, then in the study, where a table
set for dinner suddenly appeared; then she was not there, but
Dolly was. Then Levin remembered he had been sent somewhere.
Once he had been sent to move a table and sofa. He had done this
eagerly, thinking it had to be done for her sake, and only later
on he found it was his own bed he had been getting ready. Then
he had been sent to the study to ask the doctor something. The
doctor had answered and then had said something about the
irregularities in the municipal council. Then he had been sent
to the bedroom to help the old princess to move the holy picture
in its silver and gold setting, and with the princess's old
waiting maid he had clambered on a shelf to reach it and had
broken the little lamp, and the old 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, carefully tucking it in
behind the pillow. But where, when, and why all this had
happened, he could not tell. He did not understand why the old
princess took his hand, and looking compassionately at him,
begged him not to worry himself, and Dolly persuaded him to eat
something and led him out of the room, and even the doctor looked
seriously and with commiseration at him and offered him a drop of
something.

All he knew and felt was that what was happening was what had
happened nearly a year before in the hotel of the country town at
the deathbed of his brother Nikolay. But that had been grief--
this was joy. Yet that grief and this joy were alike outside all
the ordinary conditions of life; they were loopholes, as it were,
in that ordinary life through which there came glimpses of
something sublime. And in the contemplation of this sublime
something the soul was exalted to inconceivable heights of 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 himself
incessantly, feeling, in spite of his long and, as it seemed,
complete alienation from religion, that he turned to God just as
trustfully and simply as he had in his childhood and first youth.

All this time he had two distinct spiritual conditions. One was
away from her, with the doctor, who kept smoking one fat
cigarette after another and extinguishing them on the edge of a
full ash tray, with Dolly, and with the old prince, where there
was talk about dinner, about politics, about Marya Petrovna's
illness, and where Levin suddenly forgot for a minute what was
happening, and felt as though he had waked up from sleep; the
other was in her presence, at her pillow, where his heart seemed
breaking and still did not break from sympathetic suffering, and
he prayed to God without ceasing. And every time he was brought
back from a moment of oblivion by a scream reaching him from the
bedroom, he fell into the same strange terror that had come upon
him the first minute. Every time he heard a shriek, he jumped
up, ran to justify himself, remembered on the way that he was not
to blame, and he longed to defend her, to help her. But as he
looked at her, he saw again that help was impossible, and he was
filled with terror and prayed: "Lord, have mercy on us, and help
us!" And as time went on, both these conditions became more
intense; the calmer he became away from her, completely
forgetting her, the more agonizing became both her sufferings and
his feeling of helplessness before them. He jumped up, would
have liked to run away, but ran to her.

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



Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Category:
Fiction - Russian literature
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