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Chapter 16


At ten o'clock the old prince, Sergey Ivanovitch, and Stepan
Arkadyevitch were sitting at Levin's. Having inquired after
Kitty, they had dropped into conversation upon other subjects.
Levin heard them, and unconsciously, as they talked, going over
the past, over what had been up to that morning, he thought of
himself as he had been yesterday till that point. It was as
though a hundred years had passed since then. He felt himself
exalted to unattainable heights, from which he studiously lowered
himself so as not to wound the people he was talking to. He
talked, and was all the time thinking of his wife, of her
condition now, of his son, in whose existence he tried to school
himself into believing. The whole world of woman, which had
taken for him since his marriage a new value he had never
suspected before, was now so exalted that he could not take it in
in his imagination. He heard them talk of yesterday's dinner at
the club, and thought: "What is happening with her now? Is she
asleep? How is she? What is she thinking of? Is he crying, my
son Dmitri?" And in the middle of the conversation, in the
middle of a sentence, he jumped up and went out of the room.

"Send me word if I can see her," said the prince.

"Very well, in a minute," answered Levin, and without stopping,
he went to her room.

She was not asleep, she was talking gently with her mother,
making plans about the christening.

Carefully set to rights, with hair well-brushed, in a smart
little cap with some blue in it, her arms out on the quilt, she
was lying on her back. Meeting his eyes, her eyes drew him to
her. Her face, bright before, brightened still more as he drew
near her. There was the same change in it from earthly to
unearthly that is seen in the face of the dead. But then it
means farewell, here it meant welcome. Again a rush of emotion,
such as he had felt at the moment of the child's birth, flooded
his heart. She took his hand and asked him if he had slept. He
could not answer, and turned away, struggling with his weakness.

"I have had a nap, Kostya!" she said to him; "and I am so
comfortable now."

She looked at him, but suddenly her expression changed.

"Give him to me," she said, hearing the baby's cry. "Give him to
me, Lizaveta Petrovna, and he shall look at him."

"To be sure, his papa shall look at him," said Lizaveta Petrovna,
getting up and bringing something red, and queer, and wriggling.
"Wait a minute, we'll make him tidy first," and Lizaveta
Petrovna laid the red wobbling thing on the bed, began untrussing
and trussing up the baby, lifting it up and turning it over with
one finger and powdering it with something.

Levin, looking at the tiny, pitiful creature, made strenuous
efforts to discover in his heart some traces of fatherly feeling
for it. He felt nothing towards it but disgust. But when it was
undressed and he caught a glimpse of wee, wee, little hands,
little feet, saffron-colored, with little toes, too, and
positively with a little big toe different from the rest, and
when he saw Lizaveta Petrovna closing the wide-open little hands,
as though they were soft springs, and putting them into linen
garments, such pity for the little creature came upon him, and
such terror that she would hurt it, that he held her hand back.

Lizaveta Petrovna laughed.

"Don't be frightened, don't be frightened!"

When the baby had been put to rights and transformed into a firm
doll, Lizaveta Petrovna dandled it as though proud of her
handiwork, and stood a little away so that Levin might see his
son in all his glory.

Kitty looked sideways in the same direction, never taking her
eyes off the baby. "Give him to me! give him to me!" she said,
and even made as though she would sit up.

"What are you thinking of, Katerina Alexandrovna, you mustn't
move like that! Wait a minute. I'll give him to you. Here
we're showing papa what a fine fellow we are!"

And Lizaveta Petrovna, with one hand supporting the wobbling
head, lifted up on the other arm the strange, limp, red creature,
whose head was lost in its swaddling clothes. But it had a nose,
too, and slanting eyes and smacking lips.

"A splendid baby!" said Lizaveta Petrovna.

Levin sighed with mortification. This splendid baby excited in
him no feeling but disgust and compassion. It was not at all the
feeling he had looked forward to.

He turned away while Lizaveta Petrovna put the baby to the
unaccustomed breast.

Suddenly laughter made him look round. The baby had taken the
breast.

"Come, that's enough, that's enough!" said Lizaveta Petrovna, but
Kitty would not let the baby go. He fell asleep in her arms.

"Look, now," said Kitty, turning the baby so that he could see
it. The aged-looking little face suddenly puckered up still more
and the baby sneezed.

Smiling, hardly able to restrain his tears, Levin kissed his wife
and went out of the dark room. What he felt towards this little
creature was utterly unlike what he had expected. There was
nothing cheerful and joyous in the feeling; on the contrary, it
was a new torture of apprehension. It was the consciousness of a
new sphere of liability to pain. And this sense was so painful
at first, the apprehension lest this helpless creature should
suffer was so intense, that it prevented him from noticing the
strange thrill of senseless joy and even pride that he had felt
when the baby sneezed.



Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Category:
Fiction - Russian literature
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