FictionForest

PART SEVEN : Chapter 15

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

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He did not know whether it was late
or early.  The candles had all burned out. 
Dolly had just been in the study and had suggested
to the doctor that he should lie down.  Levin
sat listening to the doctor’s stories of a quack
mesmerizer and looking at the ashes of his cigarette. 
There had been a period of repose, and he had sunk
into oblivion.  He had completely forgotten what
was going on now.  He heard the doctor’s
chat and understood it.  Suddenly there came
an unearthly shriek.  The shriek was so awful
that Levin did not even jump up, but holding his breath,
gazed in terrified inquiry at the doctor.  The
doctor put his head on one side, listened, and smiled
approvingly.  Everything was so extraordinary
that nothing could strike Levin as strange. 
“I suppose it must be so,” he thought,
and still sat where he was.  Whose scream was
this?  He jumped up, ran on tiptoe to the bedroom,
edged round Lizaveta Petrovna and the princess, and
took up his position at Kitty’s pillow. 
The scream had subsided, but there was some change
now.  What it was he did not see and did not
comprehend, and he had no wish to see or comprehend. 
But he saw it by the face of Lizaveta Petrovna. 
Lizaveta Petrovna’s face was stern and pale,
and still as resolute, though her jaws were twitching,
and her eyes were fixed intently on Kitty.  Kitty’s
swollen and agonized face, a tress of hair clinging
to her moist brow, was turned to him and sought his
eyes.  Her lifted hands asked for his hands. 
Clutching his chill hands in her moist ones, she
began squeezing them to her face.

“Don’t go, don’t
go!  I’m not afraid, I’m not afraid!”
she said rapidly.  “Mamma, take my earrings. 
They bother me.  You’re not afraid? 
Quick, quick, Lizaveta Petrovna…”

She spoke quickly, very quickly, and
tried to smile.  But suddenly her face was drawn,
she pushed him away.

“Oh, this is awful!  I’m
dying, I’m dying!  Go away!” she
shrieked, and again he heard that unearthly scream.

Levin clutched at his head and ran out of the room.

“It’s nothing, it’s
nothing, it’s all right,” Dolly called
after him.

But they might say what they liked,
he knew now that all was over.  He stood in the
next room, his head leaning against the door post,
and heard shrieks, howls such as he had never heard
before, and he knew that what had been Kitty was uttering
these shrieks.  He had long ago ceased to wish
for the child.  By now he loathed this child. 
He did not even wish for her life now, all he longed
for was the end of this awful anguish.

“Doctor!  What is it? 
What is it?  By God!” he said, snatching
at the doctor’s hand as he came up.

“It’s the end,”
said the doctor.  And the doctor’s face
was so grave as he said it that Levin took the
end
as meaning her death.

Beside himself, he ran into the bedroom. 
The first thing he saw was the face of Lizaveta Petrovna. 
It was even more frowning and stern.  Kitty’s
face he did not know.  In the place where it had
been was something that was fearful in its strained
distortion and in the sounds that came from it. 
He fell down with his head on the wooden framework
of the bed, feeling that his heart was bursting. 
The awful scream never paused, it became still more
awful, and as though it had reached the utmost limit
of terror, suddenly it ceased.  Levin could not
believe his ears, but there could be no doubt; the
scream had ceased and he heard a subdued stir and
bustle, and hurried breathing, and her voice, gasping,
alive, tender, and blissful, uttered softly, “It’s
over!”

He lifted his head.  With her
hands hanging exhausted on the quilt, looking extraordinarily
lovely and serene, she looked at him in silence and
tried to smile, and could not.

And suddenly, from the mysterious
and awful far-away world in which he had been living
for the last twenty-two hours, Levin felt himself
all in an instant borne back to the old every-day
world, glorified though now, by such a radiance of
happiness that he could not bear it.  The strained
chords snapped, sobs and tears of joy which he had
never foreseen rose up with such violence that his
whole body shook, that for long they prevented him
from speaking.

Falling on his knees before the bed,
he held his wife’s hand before his lips and
kissed it, and the hand, with a weak movement of the
fingers, responded to his kiss.  And meanwhile,
there at the foot of the bed, in the deft hands of
Lizaveta Petrovna, like a flickering light in a lamp,
lay the life of a human creature, which had never
existed before, and which would now with the same
right, with the same importance to itself, live and
create in its own image.

“Alive! alive!  And a boy
too!  Set your mind at rest!” Levin heard
Lizaveta Petrovna saying, as she slapped the baby’s
back with a shaking hand.

“Mamma, is it true?” said Kitty’s
voice.

The princess’s sobs were all
the answers she could make.  And in the midst
of the silence there came in unmistakable reply to
the mother’s question, a voice quite unlike
the subdued voices speaking in the room.  It
was the bold, clamorous, self-assertive squall of
the new human being, who had so incomprehensibly appeared.

If Levin had been told before that
Kitty was dead, and that he had died with her, and
that their children were angels, and that God was
standing before him, he would have been surprised at
nothing.  But now, coming back to the world of
reality, he had to make great mental efforts to take
in that she was alive and well, and that the creature
squalling so desperately was his son.  Kitty was
alive, her agony was over.  And he was unutterably
happy.  That he understood; he was completely
happy in it.  But the baby?  Whence, why,
who was he?…  He could not get used to the
idea.  It seemed to him something extraneous,
superfluous, to which he could not accustom himself.

 

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