FictionForest

PART ONE : Chapter 24

Leo TolstoyAug 21, 2016'Command+D' Bookmark this page

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“Yes, there is something in
me hateful, 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?  Who
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 its 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
face.

“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.”

 

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