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Chapter 24


"Yes, there is something in be hatful, repulsive," thought Levin,
as he came away from the Shtcherbatskys', and walked in the
direction of his brother's lodgings. "And I don't get on with
other people. Pride, they say. No, I have no pride. If I had
any pride, I should not have put myself in such a position." And
he pictured to himself Vronsky, happy, good-natured, clever, and
self-possessed, certainly never placed in the awful position in
which he had been that evening. "Yes, she was bound to choose
him. So it had to be, and I cannot complain of anyone or
anything. I am myself to blame. What right had I to imagine she
would care to join her life to mine? Whom am I and what am I? A
nobody, not wanted by any one, nor of use to anybody." And he
recalled his brother Nikolay, and dwelt with pleasure on the
thought of him. "Isn't he right that everything in the world is
base and loathsome? And are we fair in our judgment of brother
Nikolay? Of course, from the point of view of Prokofy, 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 like
him. And I, instead of going to seek him out, went out to
dinner, and came 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 to his brother's, Levin vividly
recalled all the facts familiar to him of his brother Nikolay's
life. He remembered how his brother, while at the university,
and for a year afterwards, had, in spite of the jeers of his
companions, lived like a monk, strictly observing all religious
rites, services, and fasts, and avoiding every sort of pleasure,
especially women. And afterwards, how he had all at once broken
out: he had associated with the most horrible people, and rushed
into the most senseless debauchery. He remembered later the
scandal over a boy, whom he had taken from the country to bring
up, and, in a fit of rage, had so violently beaten that
proceedings were brought against him for unlawfully wounding.
Then he recalled the scandal with a sharper, to whom he had lost
money, and given a promissory note, and against whom he had
himself lodged a complaint, asserting that he had cheated him.
(This was the money Sergey Ivanovitch had paid.) Then he
remembered how he had spent a night in the lockup for disorderly
conduct in the street. He remembered the shameful proceedings he
had tried to get up against his brother Sergey Ivanovitch,
accusing him of not having paid him his share of his mother's
fortune, and the last scandal, when he had gone to a western
province in an official capacity, and there had got into trouble
for assaulting a village elder.... It was all horribly
disgusting, yet to Levin it appeared not at all in the same
disgusting light as it inevitably would to those who did not know
Nikolay, did not know all his story, did not know his heart.

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

Levin felt that, in spite of all the ugliness of his life, his
brother Nikolay, in his soul, in the very depths of his soul, was
no more in the wrong than the people who despised him. He was
not to blame for having been born with his unbridled temperament
and his somehow limited intelligence. But he had always wanted
to be good. "I will tell him everything, without reserve, and I
will make him speak without reserve, too, and I'll show him that
I love him, and so understand him," Levin resolved to himself,
as, towards eleven o'clock, he reached the hotel of which 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 of light 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; he heard 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 a young man with an immense shock of hair, wearing a Russian
jerkin, and that a pockmarked woman in a woolen gown, without
collar or cuffs, was sitting on the sofa. His brother was not to
be seen. Konstantin felt a sharp pang at his heart at the
thought of the strange company in which his brother spent his
life. No one had heard him, and Konstantin, taking off his
galoshes, listened to what the gentleman in the jerkin was
saying. He was speaking of some enterprise.

"Well, the devil flay them, the privileged classes," his
brother's voice responded, with a cough. "Masha! get us some
supper and some wine if there'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 be heard 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 it weirdness and sickliness.

He was even thinner than three years before, when Konstantin
Levin had seen him last. He was wearing a short coat, and his
hands and big bones seemed huger than ever. His hair had grown
thinner, the same straight mustaches hid his lips, the same eyes
gazed strangely and naively at his visitor.

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

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

He was not at all the same as Konstantin had been fancying him.
The worst and most tiresome part of his character, what made all
relations with him so difficult, had been forgotten by Konstantin
Levin when he thought of him, and now, when he saw his face, and
especially that nervous twitching of his head, he remembered it
all.

"I didn't want to see you for anything," he answered timidly.
"I've simply 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 this is?" he said, addressing his brother, and
indicating the gentleman in the jerkin: "This is Mr. Kritsky, my
friend from Kiev, a very remarkable man. He's persecuted by the
police, of course, because he's not a scoundrel."

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, he shouted to her, "Wait a minute, I said." And with the
inability to express himself, the incoherence that Konstantin
knew so well, he began, with another look round at everyone, to
tell his brother Kritsky's story: how he had been expelled from
the university for starting a benefit society for the poor
students and Sunday schools; and how he had afterwards been a
teacher in a peasant school, and how he had been driven out of
that too, and had afterwards been condemned for something.

"You're of the Kiev university?" said Konstantin Levin to
Kritsky, to break 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,
"is the partner of my life, Marya Nikolaevna. I took her out of
a bad house," and he jerked his neck saying this; "but I love her
and respect her, and any one who wants to know me," he added,
raising his voice and knitting his brows, "I beg to love her and
respect her. She's just the same as my wife, just the same. So
now you know whom you've to do with. And if you think you're
lowering 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
and wine.... No, wait a minute.... No, it doesn't matter....
Go along."



Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Category:
Fiction - Russian literature
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