FictionForest

PART FIVE : Chapter 18

Leo TolstoyAug 24, 2016'Command+D' Bookmark this page

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Levin could not look calmly at his
brother; he could not himself be natural and calm
in his presence.  When he went in to the sick
man, his eyes and his attention were unconsciously
dimmed, and he did not see and did not distinguish
the details of his brother’s position. 
He smelt the awful odor, saw the dirt, disorder, and
miserable condition, and heard the groans, and felt
that nothing could be done to help.  It never
entered his head to analyze the details of the sick
man’s situation, to consider how that body was
lying under the quilt, how those emaciated legs and
thighs and spine were lying huddled up, and whether
they could not be made more comfortable, whether anything
could not be done to make things, if not better, at
least less bad.  It made his blood run cold when
he began to think of all these details.  He was
absolutely convinced that nothing could be done to
prolong his brother’s life or to relieve his
suffering.  But a sense of his regarding all
aid as out of the question was felt by the sick man,
and exasperated him.  And this made it still more
painful for Levin.  To be in the sick-room was
agony to him, not to be there still worse.  And
he was continually, on various pretexts, going out
of the room, and coming in again, because he was unable
to remain alone.

But Kitty thought, and felt, and acted
quite differently.  On seeing the sick man, she
pitied him.  And pity in her womanly heart did
not arouse at all that feeling of horror and loathing
that it aroused in her husband, but a desire to act,
to find out all the details of his state, and to remedy
them.  And since she had not the slightest doubt
that it was her duty to help him, she had no doubt
either that it was possible, and immediately set to
work.  The very details, the mere thought of which
reduced her husband to terror, immediately engaged
her attention.  She sent for the doctor, sent
to the chemist’s, set the maid who had come
with her and Marya Nikolaevna to sweep and dust and
scrub; she herself washed up something, washed out
something else, laid something under the quilt. 
Something was by her directions brought into the
sick-room, something else was carried out.  She
herself went several times to her room, regardless
of the men she met in the corridor, got out and brought
in sheets, pillow cases, towels, and shirts.

The waiter, who was busy with a party
of engineers dining in the dining hall, came several
times with an irate countenance in answer to her summons,
and could not avoid carrying out her orders, as she
gave them with such gracious insistence that there
was no evading her.  Levin did not approve of
all this; he did not believe it would be of any good
to the patient.  Above all, he feared the patient
would be angry at it.  But the sick man, though
he seemed and was indifferent about it, was not angry,
but only abashed, and on the whole as it were interested
in what she was doing with him.  Coming back
from the doctor to whom Kitty had sent him, Levin,
on opening the door, came upon the sick man at the
instant when, by Kitty’s directions, they were
changing his linen.  The long white ridge of
his spine, with the huge, prominent shoulder blades
and jutting ribs and vertebrae, was bare, and Marya
Nikolaevna and the waiter were struggling with the
sleeve of the night shirt, and could not get the long,
limp arm into it.  Kitty, hurriedly closing the
door after Levin, was not looking that way; but the
sick man groaned, and she moved rapidly towards him.

“Make haste,” she said.

“Oh, don’t you come,”
said the sick man angrily.  “I’ll
do it my myself….”

“What say?” queried Marya
Nikolaevna.  But Kitty heard and saw he was ashamed
and uncomfortable at being naked before her.

“I’m not looking, I’m
not looking!” she said, putting the arm in. 
“Marya Nikolaevna, you come this side, you do
it,” she added.

“Please go for me, there’s
a little bottle in my small bag,” she said,
turning to her husband, “you know, in the side
pocket; bring it, please, and meanwhile they’ll
finish clearing up here.”

Returning with the bottle, Levin found
the sick man settled comfortably and everything about
him completely changed.  The heavy smell was
replaced by the smell of aromatic vinegar, which Kitty
with pouting lips and puffed-out, rosy cheeks was squirting
through a little pipe.  There was no dust visible
anywhere, a rug was laid by the bedside.  On
the table stood medicine bottles and decanters tidily
arranged, and the linen needed was folded up there,
and Kitty’s broderie anglaise.  On
the other table by the patient’s bed there were
candles and drink and powders.  The sick man
himself, washed and combed, lay in clean sheets on
high raised pillows, in a clean night-shirt with a
white collar about his astoundingly thin neck, and
with a new expression of hope looked fixedly at Kitty.

The doctor brought by Levin, and found
by him at the club, was not the one who had been attending
Nikolay Levin, as the patient was dissatisfied with
him.  The new doctor took up a stethoscope and
sounded the patient, shook his head, prescribed medicine,
and with extreme minuteness explained first how to
take the medicine and then what diet was to be kept
to.  He advised eggs, raw or hardly cooked, and
seltzer water, with warm milk at a certain temperature. 
When the doctor had gone away the sick man said something
to his brother, of which Levin could distinguish only
the last words:  “Your Katya.” 
By the expression with which he gazed at her, Levin
saw that he was praising her.  He called indeed
to Katya, as he called her.

“I’m much better already,”
he said.  “Why, with you I should have
got well long ago.  How nice it is!” he
took her hand and drew it towards his lips, but as
though afraid she would dislike it he changed his
mind, let it go, and only stroked it.  Kitty took
his hand in both hers and pressed it.

“Now turn me over on the left
side and go to bed,” he said.

No one could make out what he said
but Kitty; she alone understood.  She understood
because she was all the while mentally keeping watch
on what he needed.

“On the other side,” she
said to her husband, “he always sleeps on that
side.  Turn him over, it’s so disagreeable
calling the servants.  I’m not strong enough. 
Can you?” she said to Marya Nikolaevna.

“I’m afraid not,” answered Marya
Nikolaevna.

Terrible as it was to Levin to put
his arms round that terrible body, to take hold of
that under the quilt, of which he preferred to know
nothing, under his wife’s influence he made his
resolute face that she knew so well, and putting his
arms into the bed took hold of the body, but in spite
of his own strength he was struck by the strange heaviness
of those powerless limbs.  While he was turning
him over, conscious of the huge emaciated arm about
his neck, Kitty swiftly and noiselessly turned the
pillow, beat it up and settled in it the sick man’s
head, smoothing back his hair, which was sticking
again to his moist brow.

The sick man kept his brother’s
hand in his own.  Levin felt that he meant to
do something with his hand and was pulling it somewhere. 
Levin yielded with a sinking heart:  yes, he drew
it to his mouth and kissed it.  Levin, shaking
with sobs and unable to articulate a word, went out
of the room.

 

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