FictionForest

PART SEVEN : Chapter 14

Leo TolstoyAug 25, 2016'Command+D' Bookmark this page

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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 Kouzma
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.”

“In 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 loop-holes, 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.

 

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