Part 14 out of 22
The hotel of the provincial town where Nikolay Levin was lying
ill was one of those provincial hotels which are constructed on
the newest model of modern improvements, with the best intentions
of cleanliness, comfort, and even elegance, but owing to the
public that patronizes them, are with astounding rapidity
transformed into filthy taverns with a pretension of modern
improvement that only makes them worse than the old-fashioned,
honestly filthy hotels. This hotel had already reached that
stage, and the soldier in a filthy uniform smoking in the entry,
supposed to stand for a hall-porter, and the cast-iron, slippery,
dark, and disagreeable staircase, and the free and easy waiter in
a filthy frock coat, and the common dining room with a dusty
bouquet of wax flowers adorning the table, and filth, dust, and
disorder everywhere, and at the same time the sort of modern
up-to-date self-complacent railway uneasiness of this hotel,
aroused a most painful feeling in Levin after their fresh young
life, especially because the impression of falsity made by the
hotel was so out of keeping with what awaited them.
As is invariably the case, after they had been asked at what
price they wanted rooms, it appeared that there was not one
decent room for them; one decent room had been taken by the
inspector of railroads, another by a lawyer from Moscow, a third
by Princess Astafieva from the country. There remained only one
filthy room, next to which they promised that another should be
empty by the evening. Feeling angry with his wife because what
he had expected had come to pass, which was that at the moment of
arrival, when his heart throbbed with emotion and anxiety to know
how his brother was getting on, he should have to be seeing after
her, instead of rushing straight to his brother, Levin conducted
her to the room assigned them.
"Go, do go!" she said, looking at him with timid and guilty eyes.
He went out of the door without a word, and at once stumbled over
Marya Nikolaevna, who had heard of his arrival and had not dared
to go in to see him. She was just the same as when he saw her in
Moscow; the same woolen gown, and bare arms and neck, and the
same good-naturedly stupid, pockmarked face, only a little
"Well, how is he? how is he?"
"Very bad. He can't get up. He has kept expecting you. He....
Are you...with your wife?"
Levin did not for the first moment understand what it was
confused her, but she immediately enlightened him.
"I'll go away. I'll go down to the kitchen," she brought out.
"Nikolay Dmitrievitch will be delighted. He heard about it, and
knows your lady, and remembers her abroad."
Levin realized that she meant his wife, and did not know what
answer to make.
"Come along, come along to him!" he said.
But as soon as he moved, the door of his room opened and Kitty
peeped out. Levin crimsoned both from shame and anger with his
wife, who had put herself and him in such a difficult position;
but Marya Nikolaevna crimsoned still more. She positively shrank
together and flushed to the point of tears, and clutching the
ends of her apron in both hands, twisted them in her red fingers
without knowing what to say and what to do.
For the first instant Levin saw an expression of eager curiosity
in the eyes with which Kitty looked at this awful woman, so
incomprehensible to her; but it lasted only a single instant.
"Well! how is he?" she turned to her husband and then to her.
"But one can't go on talking in the passage like this!" Levin
said, looking angrily at a gentleman who walked jauntily at that
instant across the corridor, as though about his affairs.
"Well then, come in," said Kitty, turning to Marya Nikolaevna,
who had recovered herself, but noticing her husband's face of
dismay, "or go on; go, and then come for me," she said, and went
back into the room.
Levin went to his brother's room. He had not in the least
expected what he saw and felt in his brother's room. He had
expected to find him in the same state of self-deception which he
had heard was so frequent with the consumptive, and which had
struck him so much during his brother's visit in the autumn. He
had expected to find the physical signs of the approach of death
more marked--greater weakness, greater emaciation, but still
almost the same condition of things. He had expected himself to
feel the same distress at the loss of the brother he loved and
the same horror in face of death as he had felt then, only in a
greater degree. And he had prepared himself for this; but he
found something utterly different.
In a little dirty room with the painted panels of its walls
filthy with spittle, and conversation audible through the thin
partition from the next room, in a stifling atmosphere saturated
with impurities, on a bedstead moved away from the wall, there
lay covered with a quilt, a body. One arm of this body was above
the quilt, and the wrist, huge as a rake-handle, was attached,
inconceivably it seemed, to the thin, long bone of the arm smooth
from the beginning to the middle. The head lay sideways on the
pillow. Levin could see the scanty locks wet with sweat on the
temples and tense, transparent-looking forehead.
"It cannot be that that fearful body was my brother Nikolay?"
thought Levin. But he went closer, saw the face, and doubt
became impossible. In spite of the terrible change in the face,
Levin had only to glance at those eager eyes raised at his
approach, only to catch the faint movement of the mouth under the
sticky mustache, to realize the terrible truth that this
death-like body was his living brother.
The glittering eyes looked sternly and reproachfully at his
brother as he drew near. And immediately this glance established
a living relationship between living men. Levin immediately felt
the reproach in the eyes fixed on him, and felt remorse at his
When Konstantin took him by the hand, Nikolay smiled. The smile
was faint, scarcely perceptible, and in spite of the smile the
stern expression of the eyes was unchanged.
"You did not expect to find me like this," he articulated with
"Yes...no," said Levin, hesitating over his words. "How was
it you didn't let me know before, that is, at the time of my
wedding? I made inquiries in all directions."
He had to talk so as not to be silent, and he did not know what
to say, especially as his brother made no reply, and simply
stared without dropping his eyes, and evidently penetrated to the
inner meaning of each word. Levin told his brother that his wife
had come with him. Nikolay expressed pleasure, but said he was
afraid of frightening her by his condition. A silence followed.
Suddenly Nikolay stirred, and began to say something. Levin
expected something of peculiar gravity and importance from the
expression of his face, but Nikolay began speaking of his health.
He found fault with the doctor, regretting he had not a
celebrated Moscow doctor. Levin saw that he still hoped.
Seizing the first moment of silence, Levin got up, anxious to
escape, if only for an instant, from his agonizing emotion, and
said that he would go and fetch his wife.
"Very well, and I'll tell her to tidy up here. It's dirty and
stinking here, I expect. Marya! clear up the room," the sick
man said with effort. "Oh, and when you've cleared up, go away
yourself," he added, looking inquiringly at his brother.
Levin made no answer. Going out into the corridor, he stopped
short. He had said he would fetch his wife, but now, taking
stock of the emotion he was feeling, he decided that he would try
on the contrary to persuade her not to go in to the sick man.
"Why should she suffer as I am suffering?" he thought.
"Well, how is he?" Kitty asked with a frightened face.
"Oh, it's awful, it's awful! What did you come for?" said Levin.
Kitty was silent for a few seconds, looking timidly and ruefully
at her husband; then she went up and took him by the elbow with
"Kostya! take me to him; it will be easier for us to bear it
together. You only take me, take me to him, please, and go
away," she said. "You must understand that for me to see you,
and not to see him, is far more painful. There I might be a help
to you and to him. Please, let me!" she besought her husband, as
though the happiness of her life depended on it.
Levin was obliged to agree, and regaining his composure, and
completely forgetting about Marya Nikolaevna by now, he went
again in to his brother with Kitty.
Stepping lightly, and continually glancing at her husband,
showing him a valorous and sympathetic face, Kitty went into the
sick-room, and, turning without haste, noiselessly closed the
door. With inaudible steps she went quickly to the sick man's
bedside, and going up so that he had not to turn his head, she
immediately clasped in her fresh young hand the skeleton of his
huge hand, pressed it, and began speaking with that soft
eagerness, sympathetic and not jarring, which is peculiar to
"We have met, though we were not acquainted, at Soden," she said.
"You never thought I was to be your sister?"
"You would not have recognized me?" he said, with a radiant smile
at her entrance.
"Yes, I should. What a good thing you let us know! Not a day
has passed that Kostya has not mentioned you, and been anxious."
But the sick man's interest did not last long.
Before she had finished speaking, there had come back into his
face the stern, reproachful expression of the dying man's envy of
"I am afraid you are not quite comfortable here," she said,
turning away from his fixed stare, and looking about the room.
"We must ask about another room," she said to her husband, "so
that we might be nearer."
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
"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
"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.
"Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast
revealed them unto babes." So Levin thought about his wife as he
talked to her that evening.
Levin thought of the text, not because he considered himself
"wise and prudent." He did not so consider himself, but he could
not help knowing that he had more intellect than his wife and
Agafea Mihalovna, and he could not help knowing that when he
thought of death, he thought with all the force of his intellect.
He knew too that the brains of many great men, whose thoughts he
had read, had brooded over death and yet knew not a hundredth
part of what his wife and Agafea Mihalovna knew about it.
Different as those two women were, Agafea Mihalovna and Katya, as
his brother Nikolay had called her, and as Levin particularly
liked to call her now, they were quite alike in this. Both knew,
without a shade of doubt, what sort of thing life was and what
was death, and though neither of them could have answered, and
would even not have understood the questions that presented
themselves to Levin, both had no doubt of the significance of
this event, and were precisely alike in their way of looking at
it, which they shared with millions of people. The proof that
they knew for a certainty the nature of death lay in the fact
that they knew without a second of hesitation how to deal with
the dying, and were not frightened of them. Levin and other men
like him, though they could have said a great deal about death,
obviously did not know this since they were afraid of death, and
were absolutely at a loss what to do when people were dying. If
Levin had been alone now with his brother Nikolay, he would have
looked at him with terror, and with still greater terror waited,
and would not have known what else to do.
More than that, he did not know what to say, how to look, how to
move. To talk of outside things seemed to him shocking,
impossible, to talk of death and depressing subjects--also
impossible. To be silent, also impossible. "If I look at him he
will think I am studying him, I am afraid; if I don't look at
him, he'll think I'm thinking of other things. If I walk on
tiptoe, he will be vexed; to tread firmly, I'm ashamed." Kitty
evidently did not think of herself, and had no time to think
about herself: she was thinking about him because she knew
something, and all went well. She told him about herself even
and about her wedding, and smiled and sympathized with him and
petted him, and talked of cases of recovery and all went well; so
then she must know. The proof that her behavior and Agafea
Mihalovna's was not instinctive, animal, irrational, was that
apart from the physical treatment, the relief of suffering, both
Agafea Mihalovna and Kitty required for the dying man something
else more important than the physical treatment, and something
which had nothing in common with physical conditions. Agafea
Mihalovna, speaking of the man just dead, had said: "Well, thank
God, he took the sacrament and received absolution; God grant
each one of us such a death." Katya in just the same way,
besides all her care about linen, bedsores, drink, found time the
very first day to persuade the sick man of the necessity of
taking the sacrament and receiving absolution.
On getting back from the sick-room to their own two rooms for the
night, Levin sat with hanging head not knowing what to do. Not
to speak of supper, of preparing for bed, of considering what
they were going to do, he could not even talk to his wife; he was
ashamed to. Kitty, on the contrary, was more active than usual.
She was even livelier than usual. She ordered supper to be
brought, herself unpacked their things, and herself helped to
make the beds, and did not even forget to sprinkle them with
Persian powder. She showed that alertness, that swiftness of
reflection comes out in men before a battle, in conflict, in the
dangerous and decisive moments of life--those moments when a man
shows once and for all his value, and that all his past has not
been wasted but has been a preparation for these moments.
Everything went rapidly in her hands, and before it was twelve
o'clock all their things were arranged cleanly and tidily in her
rooms, in such a way that the hotel rooms seemed like home: the
beds were made, brushes, combs, looking-glasses were put out,
table napkins were spread.
Levin felt that it was unpardonable to eat, to sleep, to talk
even now, and it seemed to him that every movement he made was
unseemly. She arranged the brushes, but she did it all so that
there was nothing shocking in it.
They could neither of them eat, however, and for a long while
they could not sleep, and did not even go to bed.
"I am very glad I persuaded him to receive extreme unction
tomorrow," she said, sitting in her dressing jacket before her
folding looking glass, combing her soft, fragrant hair with a
fine comb. "I have never seen it, but I know, mamma has told me,
there are prayers said for recovery."
"Do you suppose he can possibly recover?" said Levin, watching a
slender tress at the back of her round little head that was
continually hidden when she passed the comb through the front.
"I asked the doctor; he said he couldn't live more than three
days. But can they be sure? I'm very glad, anyway, that I
persuaded him," she said, looking askance at her husband through
her hair. "Anything is possible," she added with that peculiar,
rather sly expression that was always in her face when she spoke
Since their conversation about religion when they were engaged
neither of them had ever started a discussion of the subject, but
she performed all the ceremonies of going to church, saying her
prayers, and so on, always with the unvarying conviction that
this ought to be so. In spite of his assertion to the contrary,
she was firmly persuaded that he was as much a Christian as she,
and indeed a far better one; and all that he said about it was
simply one of his absurd masculine freaks, just as he would say
about her broderie anglaise that good people patch holes, but
that she cut them on purpose, and so on.
"Yes, you see this woman, Marya Nikolaevna, did not know how to
manage all this," said Levin. "And...I must own I'm very,
very glad you came. You are such purity that...." He took her
hand and did not kiss it (to kiss her hand in such closeness to
death seemed to him improper); he merely squeezed it with a
penitent air, looking at her brightening eyes.
"It would have been miserable for you to be alone," she said, and
lifting her hands which hid her cheeks flushing with pleasure,
twisted her coil of hair on the nape of her neck and pinned it
there. "No," she went on, "she did not know how.... Luckily, I
learned a lot at Soden."
"Surely there are not people there so ill?"
"What's so awful to me is that I can't see him as he was when he
was young. You would not believe how charming he was as a youth,
but I did not understand him then."
"I can quite, quite believe it. How I feel that we might have
been friends!" she said; and, distressed at what she had said,
she looked round at her husband, and tears came into her eyes.
"Yes, MIGHT HAVE BEEN," he said mournfully. "He's just one of
those people of whom they say they're not for this world."
"But we have many days before us; we must go to bed," said Kitty,
glancing at her tiny watch.
The next day the sick man received the sacrament and extreme
unction. During the ceremony Nikolay Levin prayed fervently.
His great eyes, fastened on the holy image that was set out on a
card table covered with a colored napkin, expressed such
passionate prayer and hope that it was awful to Levin to see it.
Levin knew that this passionate prayer and hope would only make
him feel more bitterly parting from the life he so loved. Levin
knew his brother and the workings of his intellect: he knew that
his unbelief came not from life being easier for him without
faith, but had grown up because step by step the contemporary
scientific interpretation of natural phenomena crushed out the
possibility of faith; and so he knew that his present return was
not a legitimate one, brought about by way of the same working of
his intellect, but simply a temporary, interested return to faith
in a desperate hope of recovery. Levin knew too that Kitty had
strengthened his hope by accounts of the marvelous recoveries she
had heard of. Levin knew all this; and it was agonizingly
painful to him to behold the supplicating, hopeful eyes and the
emaciated wrist, lifted with difficulty, making the sign of the
cross on the tense brow, and the prominent shoulders and hollow,
gasping chest, which one could not feel consistent with the life
the sick man was praying for. During the sacrament Levin did
what he, an unbeliever, had done a thousand times. He said,
addressing God, "If Thou dost exist, make this man to recover"
(of course this same thing has been repeated many times), "and
Thou wilt save him and me."
After extreme unction the sick man became suddenly much better.
He did not cough once in the course of an hour, smiled, kissed
Kitty's hand, thanking her with tears, and said he was
comfortable, free from pain, and that he felt strong and had an
appetite. He even raised himself when his soup was brought, and
asked for a cutlet as well. Hopelessly ill as he was, obvious as
it was at the first glance that he could not recover, Levin and
Kitty were for that hour both in the same state of excitement,
happy, though fearful of being mistaken.
"Is he better?"
"There's nothing wonderful in it."
"Anyway, he's better," they said in a whisper, smiling to one
This self-deception was not of long duration. The sick man fell
into a quiet sleep, but he was waked up half an hour later by his
cough. And all at once every hope vanished in those about him
and in himself. The reality of his suffering crushed all hopes
in Levin and Kitty and in the sick man himself, leaving no doubt,
no memory even of past hopes.
Without referring to what he had believed in half an hour before,
as though ashamed even to recall it, he asked for iodine to
inhale in a bottle covered with perforated paper. Levin gave him
the bottle, and the same look of passionate hope with which he
had taken the sacrament was now fastened on his brother,
demanding from him the confirmation of the doctor's words that
inhaling iodine worked wonders.
"Is Katya not here?" he gasped, looking round while Levin
reluctantly assented to the doctor's words. "No; so I can say
it.... It was for her sake I went through that farce. She's so
sweet; but you and I can't deceive ourselves. This is what I
believe in," he said, and, squeezing the bottle in his bony hand,
he began breathing over it.
At eight o'clock in the evening Levin and his wife were drinking
tea in their room when Marya Nikolaevna ran in to them
breathlessly. She was pale, and her lips were quivering. "He is
dying!" she whispered. "I'm afraid will die this minute."
Both of them ran to him. He was sitting raised up with one elbow
on the bed, his long back bent, and his head hanging low.
"How do you feel?" Levin asked in a whisper, after a silence.
"I feel I'm setting off," Nikolay said with difficulty, but with
extreme distinctness, screwing the words out of himself. He did
not raise his head, but simply turned his eyes upwards, without
their reaching his brother's face. "Katya, go away!" he added.
Levin jumped up, and with a peremptory whisper made her go out.
"I'm setting off," he said again.
"Why do you think so?" said Levin, so as to say something.
"Because I'm setting off," he repeated, as though he had a liking
for the phrase. "It's the end."
Marya Nikolaevna went up to him.
"You had better lie down; you'd be easier," she said.
"I shall lie down soon enough," he pronounced slowly, "when I'm
dead," he said sarcastically, wrathfully. "Well, you can lay me
down if you like."
Levin laid his brother on his back, sat down beside him, and
gazed at his face, holding his breath. The dying man lay with
closed eyes, but the muscles twitched from time to time on his
forehead, as with one thinking deeply and intensely. Levin
involuntarily thought with him of what it was that was happening
to him now, but in spite of all his mental efforts to go along
with him he saw by the expression of that calm, stern face that
for the dying man all was growing clearer and clearer that was
still as dark as ever for Levin.
"Yes, yes, so," the dying man articulated slowly at intervals.
"Wait a little." He was silent. "Right!" he pronounced all at
once reassuringly, as though all were solved for him. "O Lord!"
he murmured, and sighed deeply.
Marya Nikolaevna felt his feet. "They're getting cold," she
For a long while, a very long while it seemed to Levin, the sick
man lay motionless. But he was still alive, and from time to
time he sighed. Levin by now was exhausted from mental strain.
He felt that, with no mental effort, could he understand what it
was that was right. He could not even think of the problem of
death itself, but with no will of his own thoughts kept coming to
him of what he had to do next; closing the dead man's eyes,
dressing him, ordering the coffin. And, strange to say, he felt
utterly cold, and was not conscious of sorrow nor of loss, less
still of pity for his brother. If he had any feeling for his
brother at that moment, it was envy for the knowledge the dying
man had now that he could not have.
A long time more he sat over him so, continually expecting the
end. But the end did not come. The door opened and Kitty
appeared. Levin got up to stop her. But at the moment he was
getting up, he caught the sound of the dying man stirring.
"Don't go away," said Nikolay and held out his hand. Levin gave
him his, and angrily waved to his wife to go away.
With the dying man's hand in his hand, he sat for half an hour,
an hour, another hour. He did not think of death at all now. He
wondered what Kitty was doing; who lived in the next room;
whether the doctor lived in a house of his own. He longed for
food and for sleep. He cautiously drew away his hand and felt
the feet. The feet were cold, but the sick man was still
breathing. Levin tried again to move away on tiptoe, but the
sick man stirred again and said: "Don't go."
* * * * * * * *
The dawn came; the sick man's condition was unchanged. Levin
stealthily withdrew his hand, and without looking at the dying
man, went off to his own room and went to sleep. When he woke
up, instead of news of his brother's death which he expected, he
learned that the sick man had returned to his earlier condition.
He had begun sitting up again, coughing, had begun eating again,
talking again, and again had ceased to talk of death, again had
begun to express hope of his recovery, and had become more
irritable and more gloomy than ever. No one, neither his brother
nor Kitty, could soothe him. He was angry with everyone, and
said nasty things to everyone, reproached everyone for his
sufferings, and insisted that they should get him a celebrated
doctor from Moscow. To all inquiries made him as to how he felt,
he made the same answer with an expression of vindictive
reproachfulness, "I'm suffering horribly, intolerably!"
The sick man was suffering more and more, especially from
bedsores, which it was impossible now to remedy, and grew more
and more angry with everyone about him, blaming them for
everything, and especially for not having brought him a doctor
from Moscow. Kitty tried in every possible way to relieve him,
to soothe him; but it was all in vain, and Levin saw that she
herself was exhausted both physically and morally, though she
would not admit it. The sense of death, which had been evoked in
all by his taking leave of life on the night when he had sent for
his brother, was broken up. Everyone knew that he must
inevitably die soon, that he was half dead already. Everyone
wished for nothing but that he should die as soon as possible,
and everyone, concealing this, gave him medicines, tried to find
remedies and doctors, and deceived him and themselves and each
other. All this was falsehood, disgusting, irreverent deceit.
And owing to the bent of his character, and because he loved the
dying man more than anyone else did, Levin was most painfully
conscious of this deceit.
Levin, who had long been possessed by the idea of reconciling his
brothers, at least in face of death, had written to his brother,
Sergey Ivanovitch, and having received an answer from him, he
read this letter to the sick man. Sergey Ivanovitch wrote that
he could not come himself, and in touching terms he begged his
The sick man said nothing.
"What am I to write to him?" said Levin. "I hope you are not
angry with him?"
"No, not the least!" Nikolay answered, vexed at the question.
"Tell him to send me a doctor."
Three more days of agony followed; the sick man was still in the
same condition. The sense of longing for his death was felt by
everyone now at the mere sight of him, by the waiters and the
hotel-keeper and all the people staying in the hotel, and the
doctor and Marya Nikolaevna and Levin and Kitty. The sick man
alone did not express this feeling, but on the contrary was
furious at their not getting him doctors, and went on taking
medicine and talking of life. Only at rare moments, when the
opium gave him an instant's relief from the never-ceasing pain,
he would sometimes, half asleep, utter what was ever more intense
in his heart than in all the others: "Oh, if it were only the
end!" or: "When will it be over?"
His sufferings, steadily growing more intense, did their work and
prepared him for death. There was no position in which he was
not in pain, there was not a minute in which he was unconscious
of it, not a limb, not a part of his body that did not ache and
cause him agony. Even the memories, the impressions, the
thoughts of this body awakened in him now the same aversion as
the body itself. The sight of other people, their remarks, his
own reminiscences, everything was for him a source of agony.
Those about him felt this, and instinctively did not allow
themselves to move freely, to talk, to express their wishes
before him. All his life was merged in the one feeling of
suffering and desire to be rid of it.
There was evidently coming over him that revulsion that would
make him look upon death as the goal of his desires, as
happiness. Hitherto each individual desire, aroused by suffering
or privation, such as hunger, fatigue, thirst, had been satisfied
by some bodily function giving pleasure. But now no physical
craving or suffering received relief, and the effort to relieve
them only caused fresh suffering. And so all desires were merged
in one--the desire to be rid of all his sufferings and their
source, the body. But he had no words to express this desire of
deliverance, and so he did not speak of it, and from habit asked
for the satisfaction of desires which could not now be satisfied.
"Turn me over on the other side," he would say, and immediately
after he would ask to be turned back again as before. "Give me
some broth. Take away the broth. Talk of something: why are you
silent?" And directly they began to talk he would close his eyes,
and would show weariness, indifference, and loathing.
On the tenth day from their arrival at the town, Kitty was
unwell. She suffered from headache and sickness, and she could
not get up all the morning.
The doctor opined that the indisposition arose from fatigue and
excitement, and prescribed rest.
After dinner, however, Kitty got up and went as usual with her
work to the sick man. He looked at her sternly when she came in,
and smiled contemptuously when she said she had been unwell.
That day he was continually blowing his nose, and groaning
"How do you feel?" she asked him.
"Worse," he articulated with difficulty. "In pain!"
"In pain, where?"
"It will be over today, you will see," said Marya Nikolaevna.
Though it was said in a whisper, the sick man, whose hearing
Levin had noticed was very keen, must have heard. Levin said
hush to her, and looked round at the sick man. Nikolay had
heard; but these words produced no effect on him. His eyes had
still the same intense, reproachful look.
"Why do you think so?" Levin asked her, when she had followed him
into the corridor.
"He has begun picking at himself," said Marya Nikolaevna.
"How do you mean?"
"Like this," she said, tugging at the folds of her woolen skirt.
Levin noticed, indeed, that all that day the patient pulled at
himself, as it were, trying to snatch something away.
Marya Nikolaevna's prediction came true. Towards night the sick
man was not able to lift his hands, and could only gaze before
him with the same intensely concentrated expression in his eyes.
Even when his brother or Kitty bent over him, so that he could
see them, he looked just the same. Kitty sent for the priest to
read the prayer for the dying.
While the priest was reading it, the dying man did not show any
sign of life; his eyes were closed. Levin, Kitty, and Marya
Nikolaevna stood at the bedside. The priest had not quite
finished reading the prayer when the dying man stretched, sighed,
and opened his eyes. The priest, on finishing the prayer, put
the cross to the cold forehead, then slowly returned it to the
stand, and after standing for two minutes more in silence, he
touched the huge, bloodless hand that was turning cold.
"He is gone," said the priest, and would have moved away; but
suddenly there was a faint stir in the mustaches of the dead man
that seemed glued together, and quite distinctly in the hush they
heard from the bottom of the chest the sharply defined sounds:
And a minute later the face brightened, a smile came out under
the mustaches, and the women who had gathered round began
carefully laying out the corpse.
The sight of his brother, and the nearness of death, revived in
Levin that sense of horror in face of the insoluble enigma,
together with the nearness and inevitability of death, that had
come upon him that autumn evening when his brother had come to
him. This feeling was now even stronger than before; even less
than before did he feel capable of apprehending the meaning of
death, and its inevitability rose up before him more terrible
than ever. But now, thanks to his wife's presence, that feeling
did not reduce him to despair. In spite of death, he felt the
need of life and love. He felt that love saved him from despair,
and that this love, under the menace of despair, had become still
stronger and purer. The one mystery of death, still unsolved,
had scarcely passed before his eyes, when another mystery had
arisen, as insoluble, urging him to love and to life.
The doctor confirmed his suppositions in regard to Kitty. Her
indisposition was a symptom that she was with child.
From the moment when Alexey Alexandrovitch understood from his
interviews with Betsy and with Stepan Arkadyevitch that all that
was expected of him was to leave his wife in peace, without
burdening her with his presence, and that his wife herself
desired this, he felt so distraught that he could come to no
decision of himself; he did not know himself what he wanted now,
and putting himself in the hands of those who were so pleased to
interest themselves in his affairs, he met everything with
unqualified assent. It was only when Anna had left his house,
and the English governess sent to ask him whether she should dine
with him or separately, that for the first time he clearly
comprehended his position, and was appalled by it. Most
difficult of all in this position was the fact that he could not
in any way connect and reconcile his past with what was now. It
was not the past when he had lived happily with his wife that
troubled him. The transition from that past to a knowledge of
his wife's unfaithfulness he had lived through miserably already;
that state was painful, but he could understand it. If his wife
had then, on declaring to him her unfaithfulness, left him, he
would have been wounded, unhappy, but he would not have been in
the hopeless position--incomprehensible to himself--in which he
felt himself now. He could not now reconcile his immediate past,
his tenderness, his love for his sick wife, and for the other
man's child with what was now the case, that is with the fact
that, as it were, in return for all this he now found himself
alone, put to shame, a laughing-stock, needed by no one, and
despised by everyone.
For the first two days after his wife's departure Alexey
Alexandrovitch received applicants for assistance and his chief
secretary, drove to the committee, and went down to dinner in the
dining room as usual. Without giving himself a reason for what
he was doing, he strained every nerve of his being for those two
days, simply to preserve an appearance of composure, and even of
indifference. Answering inquiries about the disposition of Anna
Arkadyevna's rooms and belongings, he had exercised immense
self-control to appear like a man in whose eyes what had occurred
was not unforeseen nor out of the ordinary course of events, and
he attained his aim: no one could have detected in him signs of
despair. But on the second day after her departure, when Korney
gave him a bill from a fashionable draper's shop, which Anna had
forgotten to pay, and announced that the clerk from the shop was
waiting, Alexey Alexandrovitch told him to show the clerk up.
"Excuse me, your excellency, for venturing to trouble you. But
if you direct us to apply to her excellency, would you graciously
oblige us with her address?"
Alexey Alexandrovitch pondered, as it seemed to the clerk, and
all at once, turning round, he sat down at the table. Letting
his head sink into his hands, he sat for a long while in that
position, several times attempted to speak and stopped short.
Korney, perceiving his master's emotion, asked the clerk to call
another time. Left alone, Alexey Alexandrovitch recognized that
he had not the strength to keep up the line of firmness and
composure any longer. He gave orders for the carriage that was
awaiting him to be taken back, and for no one to be admitted, and
he did not go down to dinner.
He felt that he could not endure the weight of universal contempt
and exasperation, which he had distinctly seen in the face of the
clerk and of Korney, and of everyone, without exception, whom he
had met during those two days. He felt that he could not turn
aside from himself the hatred of men, because that hatred did not
come from his being bad (in that case he could have tried to be
better), but from his being shamefully and repulsively unhappy.
He knew that for this, for the very fact that his heart was torn
with grief, they would be merciless to him. He felt that men
would crush him as dogs strangle a torn dog yelping with pain.
He knew that his sole means of security against people was to
hide his wounds from them, and instinctively he tried to do this
for two days, but now he felt incapable of keeping up the unequal
His despair was even intensified by the consciousness that he was
utterly alone in his sorrow. In all Petersburg there was not a
human being to whom he could express what he was feeling, who
would feel for him, not as a high official, not as a member of
society, but simply as a suffering man; indeed he had not such a
one in the whole world.
Alexey Alexandrovitch grew up an orphan. There were two
brothers. They did not remember their father, and their mother
died when Alexey Alexandrovitch was ten years old. The property
was a small one. Their uncle, Karenin, a government official of
high standing, at one time a favorite of the late Tsar, had
brought them up.
On completing his high school and university courses with medals,
Alexey Alexandrovitch had, with his uncle's aid, immediately
started in a prominent position in the service, and from that
time forward he had devoted himself exclusively to political
ambition. In the high school and the university, and afterwards
in the service, Alexey Alexandrovitch had never formed a close
friendship with anyone. His brother had been the person nearest
to his heart, but he had a post in the Ministry of Foreign
Affairs, and was always abroad, where he had died shortly after
Alexey Alexandrovitch's marriage.
While he was governor of a province, Anna's aunt, a wealthy
provincial lady, had thrown him--middle-aged as he was, though
young for a governor--with her niece, and had succeeded in
putting him in such a position that he had either to declare
himself or to leave the town. Alexey Alexandrovitch was not long
in hesitation. There were at the time as many reasons for the
step as against it, and there was no overbalancing consideration
to outweigh his invariable rule of abstaining when in doubt. But
Anna's aunt had through a common acquaintance insinuated that he
had already compromised the girl, and that he was in honor bound
to make her an offer. He made the offer, and concentrated on his
betrothed and his wife all the feeling of which he was capable.
The attachment he felt to Anna precluded in his heart every need
of intimate relations with others. And now among all his
acquaintances he had not one friend. He had plenty of so-called
connections, but no friendships. Alexey Alexandrovitch had
plenty of people whom he could invite to dinner, to whose
sympathy he could appeal in any public affair he was concerned
about, whose interest he could reckon upon for anyone he wished
to help, with whom he could candidly discuss other people's
business and affairs of state. But his relations with these
people were confined to one clearly defined channel, and had a
certain routine from which it was impossible to depart. There
was one man, a comrade of his at the university, with whom he had
made friends later, and with whom he could have spoken of a
personal sorrow; but this friend had a post in the Department of
Education in a remote part of Russia. Of the people in
Petersburg the most intimate and most possible were his chief
secretary and his doctor.
Mihail Vassilievitch Sludin, the chief secretary, was a
straightforward, intelligent, good-hearted, and conscientious
man, and Alexey Alexandrovitch was aware of his personal
goodwill. But their five years of official work together seemed
to have put a barrier between them that cut off warmer relations.
After signing the papers brought him, Alexey Alexandrovitch had
sat for a long while in silence, glancing at Mihail
Vassilievitch, and several times he attempted to speak, but could
not. He had already prepared the phrase: "You have heard of my
trouble?" But he ended by saying, as usual: "So you'll get this
ready for me?" and with that dismissed him.
The other person was the doctor, who had also a kindly feeling
for him; but there had long existed a taciturn understanding
between them that both were weighed down by work, and always in a
Of his women friends, foremost amongst them Countess Lidia
Ivanovna, Alexey Alexandrovitch never thought. All women, simply
as women, were terrible and distasteful to him.
Alexey Alexandrovitch had forgotten the Countess Lidia Ivanovna,
but she had not forgotten him. At the bitterest moment of his
lonely despair she came to him, and without waiting to be
announced, walked straight into his study. She found him as he
was sitting with his head in both hands.
"J'ai force la consigne," she said, walking in with rapid steps
and breathing hard with excitement and rapid exercise. "I have
heard all! Alexey Alexandrovitch! Dear friend!" she went on,
warmly squeezing his hand in both of hers and gazing with her
fine pensive eyes into his.
Alexey Alexandrovitch, frowning, got up, and disengaging his
hand, moved her a chair.
"Won't you sit down, countess? I'm seeing no one because I'm
unwell, countess," he said, and his lips twitched.
"Dear friend!" repeated Countess Lidia Ivanovna, never taking her
eyes off his, and suddenly her eyebrows rose at the inner
corners, describing a triangle on her forehead, her ugly yellow
face became still uglier, but Alexey Alexandrovitch felt that she
was sorry for him and was preparing to cry. And he too was
softened; he snatched her plump hand and proceeded to kiss it.
"Dear friend!" she said in a voice breaking with emotion. "You
ought not to give way to grief. Your sorrow is a great one, but
you ought to find consolation."
"I am crushed, I am annihilated, I am no longer a man!" said
Alexey Alexandrovitch, letting go her hand, but still gazing into
her brimming eyes. "My position is so awful because I can find
nowhere, I cannot find within me strength to support me."
"You will find support; seek it--not in me, though I beseech you
to believe in my friendship," she said, with a sigh. "Our
support is love, that love that He has vouchsafed us. His burden
is light," she said, with the look of ecstasy Alexey
Alexandrovitch knew so well. "He will be your support and your
Although there was in these words a flavor of that sentimental
emotion at her own lofty feelings, and that new mystical fervor
which had lately gained ground in Petersburg, and which seemed to
Alexey Alexandrovitch disproportionate, still it was pleasant to
him to hear this now.
"I am weak. I am crushed. I foresaw nothing, and now I
"Dear friend," repeated Lidia Ivanovna.
"It's not the loss of what I have not now, it's not that!"
pursued Alexey Alexandrovitch. "I do not grieve for that. But
I cannot help feeling humiliated before other people for the
position I am placed in. It is wrong, but I can't help it, I
can't help it."
"Not you it was performed that noble act of forgiveness, at which
I was moved to ecstasy, and everyone else too, but He, working
within your heart," said Countess Lidia Ivanovna, raising her
eyes rapturously, "and so you cannot be ashamed of your act."
Alexey Alexandrovitch knitted his brows, and crooking his hands,
he cracked his fingers.
"One must know all the facts," he said in his thin voice. "A
man's strength has its limits, countess, and I have reached my
limits. The whole day I have had to be making arrangements,
arrangements about household matters arising" (he emphasized the
word arising) "from my new, solitary position. The servants, the
governess, the accounts.... These pinpricks have stabbed me to
the heart, and I have not the strength to bear it. At dinner...
yesterday, I was almost getting up from the dinner table. I
could not bear the way my son looked at me. He did not ask me
the meaning of it all, but he wanted to ask, and I could not bear
the look in his eyes. He was afraid to look at me, but that is
not all...." Alexey Alexandrovitch would have referred to the
bill that had been brought him, but his voice shook, and he
stopped. That bill on blue paper, for a hat and ribbons, he
could not recall without a rush of self-pity.
"I understand, dear friend," said Lidia Ivanovna. "I understand
it all. Succor and comfort you will find not in me, though I
have come only to aid you if I can. If I could take from off you
all these petty, humiliating cares...I understand that a woman's
word, a woman's superintendence is needed. You will intrust it
Silently and gratefully Alexey Alexandrovitch pressed her hand.
"Together we will take care of Seryozha. Practical affairs are
not my strong point. But I will set to work. I will be your
housekeeper. Don't thank me. I do it not from myself..."
"I cannot help thanking you."
"But, dear friend, do not give way to the feeling of which you
spoke--being ashamed of what is the Christian's highest glory:
*he who humbles himself shall be exalted*. And you cannot thank
me. You must thank Him, and pray to Him for succor. In Him
alone we find peace, consolation, salvation, and love," she said,
and turning her eyes heavenwards, she began praying, as Alexey
Alexandrovitch gathered from her silence.
Alexey Alexandrovitch listened to her now, and those expressions
which had seemed to him, if not distasteful, at least
exaggerated, now seemed to him natural and consolatory. Alexey
Alexandrovitch had disliked this new enthusiastic fervor. He was
a believer, who was interested in religion primarily in its
political aspect, and the new doctrine which ventured upon
several new interpretations, just because it paved the way to
discussion and analysis, was in principle disagreeable to him.
He had hitherto taken up a cold and even antagonistic attitude to
this new doctrine, and with Countess Lidia Ivanovna, who had been
carried away by it, he had never argued, but by silence had
assiduously parried her attempts to provoke him into argument.
Now for the first time he heard her words with pleasure, and did
not inwardly oppose them.
"I am very, very grateful to you, both for your deeds and for
your words," he said, when she had finished praying.
Countess Lidia Ivanovna once more pressed both her friend's
"Now I will enter upon my duties," she said with a smile after a
pause, as she wiped away the traces of tears. "I am going to
Seryozha. Only in the last extremity shall I apply to you." And
she got up and went out.
Countess Lidia Ivanovna went into Seryozha's part of the house,
and dropping tears on the scared child's cheeks, she told him
that his father was a saint and his mother was dead.
Countess Lidia Ivanovna kept her promise. She did actually take
upon herself the care of the organization and management of
Alexey Alexandrovitch's household. But she had not overstated
the case when saying that practical affairs were not her strong
point. All her arrangements had to be modified because they
could not be carried out, and they were modified by Korney,
Alexey Alexandrovitch's valet, who, though no one was aware of
the fact, now managed Karenin's household, and quietly and
discreetly reported to his master while he was dressing all it
was necessary for him to know. But Lidia Ivanovna's help was
none the less real; she gave Alexey Alexandrovitch moral support
in the consciousness of her love and respect for him, and still
more, as it was soothing to her to believe, in that she almost
turned him to Christianity--that is, from an indifferent and
apathetic believer she turned him into an ardent and steadfast
adherent of the new interpretation of Christian doctrine, which
had been gaining ground of late in Petersburg. It was easy for
Alexey Alexandrovitch to believe in this teaching. Alexey
Alexandrovitch, like Lidia Ivanovna indeed, and others who shared
their views, was completely devoid of vividness of imagination,
that spiritual faculty in virtue of which the conceptions evoked
by the imagination become so vivid that they must needs be in
harmony with other conceptions, and with actual fact. He saw
nothing impossible and inconceivable in the idea that death,
though existing for unbelievers, did not exist for him, and that,
as he was possessed of the most perfect faith, of the measure of
which he was himself the judge, therefore there was no sin in his
soul, and he was experiencing complete salvation here on earth.
It is true that the erroneousness and shallowness of this
conception of his faith was dimly perceptible to Alexey
Alexandrovitch, and he knew that when, without the slightest idea
that his forgiveness was the action of a higher power, he had
surrendered directly to the feeling of forgiveness, he had felt
more happiness than now when he was thinking every instant that
Christ was in his heart, and that in signing official papers he
was doing His will. But for Alexey Alexandrovitch it was a
necessity to think in that way; it was such a necessity for him
in his humiliation to have some elevated standpoint, however
imaginary, from which, looked down upon by all, he could look
down on others, that he clung, as to his one salvation, to his
delusion of salvation.
The Countess Lidia Ivanovna had, as a very young and sentimental
girl, been married to a wealthy man of high rank, an extremely
good-natured, jovial, and extremely dissipated rake. Two months
after marriage her husband abandoned her, and her impassioned
protestations of affection he met with a sarcasm and even
hostility that people knowing the count's good heart, and seeing
no defects in the sentimental Lidia, were at loss to explain.
Though they were divorced and lived apart, yet whenever the
husband met the wife, he invariably behaved to her with the same
malignant irony, the cause of which was incomprehensible.
Countess Lidia Ivanovna had long given up being in love with her
husband, but from that time she had never given up being in love
with someone. She was in love with several people at once, both
men and women; she had been in love with almost everyone who had
been particularly distinguished in any way. She was in love with
all the new princes and princesses who married into the imperial
family; she had been in love with a high dignitary of the Church,
a vicar, and a parish priest; she had been in love with a
journalist, three Slavophiles, with Komissarov, with a minister,
a doctor, an English missionary and Karenin. All these passions
constantly waning or growing more ardent, did not prevent her
from keeping up the most extended and complicated relations with
the court and fashionable society. But from the time that after
Karenin's trouble she took him under her special protection, from
the time that she set to work in Karenin's household looking
after his welfare, she felt that all her other attachments were
not the real thing, and that she was now genuinely in love, and
with no one but Karenin. The feeling she now experienced for him
seemed to her stronger than any of her former feelings.
Analyzing her feeling, and comparing it with former passions, she
distinctly perceived that she would not have been in love with
Komissarov if he had not saved the life of the Tsar, that she
would not have been in love with Ristitch-Kudzhitsky if there had
been no Slavonic question, but that she loved Karenin for
himself, for his lofty, uncomprehended soul, for the sweet--to
her--high notes of his voice, for his drawling intonation, his
weary eyes, his character, and his soft white hands with their
swollen veins. She was not simply overjoyed at meeting him, but
she sought in his face signs of the impression she was making on
him. She tried to please him, not by her words only, but in her
whole person. For his sake it was that she now lavished more
care on her dress than before. She caught herself in reveries on
what might have been, if she had not been married and he had been
free. She blushed with emotion when he came into the room, she
could not repress a smile of rapture when he said anything
amiable to her.
For several days now Countess Lidia Ivanovna had been in a state
of intense excitement. She had learned that Anna and Vronsky
were in Petersburg. Alexey Alexandrovitch must be saved from
seeing her, he must be saved even from the torturing knowledge
that that awful woman was in the same town with him, and that he
might meet her any minute.
Lidia Ivanovna made inquiries through her friends as to what
those infamous people, as she called Anna and Vronsky, intended
doing, and she endeavored so to guide every movement of her
friend during those days that he could not come across them. The
young adjutant, an acquaintance of Vronsky, through whom she
obtained her information, and who hoped through Countess Lidia
Ivanovna to obtain a concession, told her that they had finished
their business and were going away next day. Lidia Ivanovna had
already begun to calm down, when the next morning a note was
brought her, the handwriting of which she recognized with horror.
It was the handwriting of Anna Karenina. The envelope was of
paper as thick as bark; on the oblong yellow paper there was a
huge monogram, and the letter smelt of agreeable scent.
"Who brought it?"
"A commissionaire from the hotel."
It was some time before Countess Lidia Ivanovna could sit down to
read the letter. Her excitement brought on an attack of asthma,
to which she was subject. When she had recovered her composure,
she read the following letter in French:
"Madame la Comtesse,
"The Christian feelings with which your heart is filled give me
the, I feel, unpardonable boldness to write to you. I am
miserable at being separated from my son. I entreat permission
to see him once before my departure. Forgive me for recalling
myself to your memory. I apply to you and not to Alexey
Alexandrovitch, simply because I do not wish to cause that
generous man to suffer in remembering me. Knowing your
friendship for him, I know you will understand me. Could you
send Seryozha to me, or should I come to the house at some fixed
hour, or will you let me know when and where I could see him away
from home? I do not anticipate a refusal, knowing the
magnanimity of him with whom it rests. You cannot conceive the
craving I have to see him, and so cannot conceive the gratitude
your help will arouse in me.
Everything in this letter exasperated Countess Lidia Ivanovna:
its contents and the allusion to magnanimity, and especially its
free and easy--as she considered--tone.
"Say that there is no answer," said Countess Lidia Ivanovna, and
immediately opening her blotting-book, she wrote to Alexey
Alexandrovitch that she hoped to see him at one o'clock at the
"I must talk with you of a grave and painful subject. There we
will arrange where to meet. Best of all at my house, where I
will order tea as you like it. Urgent. He lays the cross, but
He gives the strength to bear it," she added, so as to give him
some slight preparation. Countess Lidia Ivanovna usually wrote
some two or three letters a day to Alexey Alexandrovitch. She
enjoyed that form of communication, which gave opportunity for a
refinement and air of mystery not afforded by their personal
The levee was drawing to a close. People met as they were going
away, and gossiped of the latest news, of the newly bestowed
honors and the changes in the positions of the higher
"If only Countess Marya Borissovna were Minister of War, and
Princess Vatkovskaya were Commander-in-Chief," said a
gray-headed, little old man in a gold-embroidered uniform,
addressing a tall, handsome maid of honor who had questioned him
about the new appointments.
"And me among the adjutants," said the maid of honor, smiling.
"You have an appointment already. You're over the ecclesiastical
department. And your assistant's Karenin."
"Good-day, prince!" said the little old man to a man who came up
"What were you saying of Karenin?" said the prince.
"He and Putyatov have received the Alexander Nevsky."
"I thought he had it already."
"No. Just look at him," said the little old man, pointing with
his embroidered hat to Karenin in a court uniform with the new
red ribbon across his shoulders, standing in the doorway of the
hall with an influential member of the Imperial Council.
"Pleased and happy as a brass farthing," he added, stopping to
shake hands with a handsome gentleman of the bedchamber of
"No; he's looking older," said the gentleman of the bedchamber.
"From overwork. He's always drawing up projects nowadays. He
won't let a poor devil go nowadays till he's explained it all to
him under heads."
"Looking older, did you say? Il fait des passions. I believe
Countess Lidia Ivanovna's jealous now of his wife."
"Oh, come now, please don't say any harm of Countess Lidia
"Why, is there any harm in her being in love with Karenin?"
"But is it true Madame Karenina's here?"
"Well, not here in the palace, but in Petersburg. I met her
yesterday with Alexey Vronsky, bras dessous, bras dessous, in the
"C'est un homme qui n'a pas..." the gentleman of the bedchamber
was beginning, but he stopped to make room, bowing, for a member
of the Imperial family to pass.
Thus people talked incessantly of Alexey Alexandrovitch, finding
fault with him and laughing at him, while he, blocking up the way
of the member of the Imperial Council he had captured, was
explaining to him point by point his new financial project, never
interrupting his discourse for an instant for fear he should
Almost at the same time that his wife left Alexey Alexandrovitch
there had come to him that bitterest moment in the life of an
official--the moment when his upward career comes to a full stop.
This full stop had arrived and everyone perceived it, but Alexey
Alexandrovitch himself was not yet aware that his career was
over. Whether it was due to his feud with Stremov, or his
misfortune with his wife, or simply that Alexey Alexandrovitch
had reached his destined limits, it had become evident to
everyone in the course of that year that his career was at an
end. He still filled a position of consequence, he sat on many
commissions and committees, but he was a man whose day was over,
and from whom nothing was expected. Whatever he said, whatever
he proposed, was heard as though it were something long familiar,
and the very thing that was not needed. But Alexey
Alexandrovitch was not aware of this, and, on the contrary, being
cut off from direct participation in governmental activity, he
saw more clearly than ever the errors and defects in the action
of others, and thought it his duty to point out means for their
correction. Shortly after his separation from his wife, he began
writing his first note on the new judicial procedure, the first
of the endless series of notes he was destined to write in the
Alexey Alexandrovitch did not merely fail to observe his hopeless
position in the official world, he was not merely free from
anxiety on this head, he was positively more satisfied than ever
with his own activity.
"He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the
Lord, how he may please the Lord: But he that is married careth
for the things that are of the world, how he may please his
wife," says the Apostle Paul, and Alexey Alexandrovitch, who was
now guided in every action by Scripture, often recalled this
text. It seemed to him that ever since he had been left without
a wife, he had in these very projects of reform been serving the
Lord more zealously than before.
The unmistakable impatience of the member of the Council trying
to get away from him did not trouble Alexey Alexandrovitch; he
gave up his exposition only when the member of the Council,
seizing his chance when one of the Imperial family was passing,
slipped away from him.
Left alone, Alexey Alexandrovitch looked down, collecting his
thoughts, then looked casually about him and walked towards the
door, where he hoped to meet Countess Lidia Ivanovna.
"And how strong they all are, how sound physically," thought
Alexey Alexandrovitch, looking at the powerfully built gentleman
of the bedchamber with his well-combed, perfumed whiskers, and at
the red neck of the prince, pinched by his tight uniform. He had
to pass them on his way. "Truly is it said that all the world is
evil," he thought, with another sidelong glance at the calves of
the gentleman of the bedchamber.
Moving forward deliberately, Alexey Alexandrovitch bowed with his
customary air of weariness and dignity to the gentleman who had
been talking about him, and looking towards the door, his eyes
sought Countess Lidia Ivanovna.
"Ah! Alexey Alexandrovitch!" said the little old man, with a
malicious light in his eyes, at the moment when Karenin was on a
level with them, and was nodding with a frigid gesture, "I
haven't congratulated you yet," said the old man, pointing to his
newly received ribbon.
"Thank you," answered Alexey Alexandrovitch. "What an EXQUISITE
day to-day," he added, laying emphasis in his peculiar way on the
That they laughed at him he was well aware, but he did not expect
anything but hostility from them; he was used to that by now.
Catching sight of the yellow shoulders of Lidia Ivanovna jutting
out above her corset, and her fine pensive eyes bidding him to
her, Alexey Alexandrovitch smiled, revealing untarnished white
teeth, and went towards her.
Lidia Ivanovna's dress had cost her great pains, as indeed all
her dresses had done of late. Her aim in dress was now quite the
reverse of that she had pursued thirty years before. Then her
desire had been to adorn herself with something, and the more
adorned the better. Now, on the contrary, she was perforce
decked out in a way so inconsistent with her age and her figure,
that her one anxiety was to contrive that the contrast between
these adornments and her own exterior should not be too
appalling. And as far as Alexey Alexandrovitch was concerned she
succeeded, and was in his eyes attractive. For him she was the
one island not only of goodwill to him, but of love in the midst
of the sea of hostility and jeering that surrounded him.
Passing through rows of ironical eyes, he was drawn as naturally
to her loving glance as a plant to the sun.
"I congratulate you," she said to him, her eyes on his ribbon.
Suppressing a smile of pleasure, he shrugged his shoulders,
closing his eyes, as though to say that that could not be a
source of joy to him. Countess Lidia Ivanovna was very well
aware that it was one of his chief sources of satisfaction,
though he never admitted it.
"How is our angel?" said Countess Lidia Ivanovna, meaning
"I can't say I was quite pleased with him," said Alexey
Alexandrovitch, raising his eyebrows and opening his eyes. "And
Sitnikov is not satisfied with him." (Sitnikov was the tutor to
whom Seryozha's secular education had been intrusted.) "As I
have mentioned to you, there's a sort of coldness in him towards
the most important questions which ought to touch the heart of
every man and every child...." Alexey Alexandrovitch began
expounding his views on the sole question that interested him
besides the service--the education of his son.
When Alexey Alexandrovitch with Lidia Ivanovna's help had been
brought back anew to life and activity, he felt it his duty to
undertake the education of the son left on his hands. Having
never before taken any interest in educational questions, Alexey
Alexandrovitch devoted some time to the theoretical study of the
subject. After reading several books on anthropology, education,
and didactics, Alexey Alexandrovitch drew up a plan of education,
and engaging the best tutor in Petersburg to superintend it, he
set to work, and the subject continually absorbed him.
"Yes, but the heart. I see in him his father's heart, and with
such a heart a child cannot go far wrong," said Lidia Ivanovna
"Yes, perhaps.... As for me, I do my duty. It's all I can
"You're coming to me," said Countess Lidia Ivanovna, after a
pause; "we have to speak of a subject painful for you. I would
give anything to have spared you certain memories, but others are
not of the same mind. I have received a letter from HER. SHE
is here in Petersburg."
Alexey Alexandrovitch shuddered at the allusion to his wife, but
immediately his face assumed the deathlike rigidity which
expressed utter helplessness in the matter.
"I was expecting it," he said.
Countess Lidia Ivanovna looked at him ecstatically, and tears of
rapture at the greatness of his soul came into her eyes.
When Alexey Alexandrovitch came into the Countess Lidia
Ivanovna's snug little boudoir, decorated with old china and hung
with portraits, the lady herself had not yet made her appearance.
She was changing her dress.
A cloth was laid on a round table, and on it stood a china
tea service and a silver spirit-lamp and tea kettle. Alexey
Alexandrovitch looked idly about at the endless familiar
portraits which adorned the room, and sitting down to the table,
he opened a New Testament lying upon it. The rustle of the
countess's silk skirt drew his attention off.
"Well now, we can sit quietly," said Countess Lidia Ivanovna,
slipping hurriedly with an agitated smile between the table and
the sofa, "and talk over our tea."
After some words of preparation, Countess Lidia Ivanovna,
breathing hard and flushing crimson, gave into Alexey
Alexandrovitch's hands the letter she had received.
After reading the letter, he sat a long while in silence.
"I don't think I have the right to refuse her," he said,
timidly lifting his eyes.
"Dear friend, you never see evil in anyone!"
"On the contrary, I see that all is evil. But whether it is
His face showed irresolution, and a seeking for counsel, support,
and guidance in a matter he did not understand.
"No," Countess Lidia Ivanovna interrupted him; "there are limits
to everything. I can understand immorality," she said, not
quite truthfully, since she never could understand that which
leads women to immorality; "but I don't understand cruelty: to
whom? to you! How can she stay in the town where you are? No,
the longer one lives the more one learns. And I'm learning to
understand your loftiness and her baseness."
"Who is to throw a stone?" said Alexey Alexandrovitch,
unmistakably pleased with the part he had to play. "I have
forgiven all, and so I cannot deprive her of what is exacted by
love in her--by her love for her son...."
"But is that love, my friend? Is it sincere? Admitting that you
have forgiven--that you forgive--have we the right to work on the
feelings of that angel? He looks on her as dead. He prays for
her, and beseeches God to have mercy on her sins. And it is
better so. But now what will he think?"
"I had not thought of that," said Alexey Alexandrovitch,
Countess Lidia Ivanovna hid her face in her hands and was silent.
she was praying.
"If you ask my advice," she said, having finished her prayer and
uncovered her face, "I do not advise you to do this. Do you
suppose I don't see how you are suffering, how this has torn open
your wounds? But supposing that, as always, you don't think of
yourself, what can it lead to?--to fresh suffering for you, to
torture for the child. If there were a trace of humanity left in
her, she ought not to wish for it herself. No, I have no
hesitation in saying I advise not, and if you will intrust it to
me, I will write to her."
And Alexey Alexandrovitch consented, and Countess Lidia Ivanovna
sent the following letter in French:
"To be reminded of you might have results for your son in leading
to questions on his part which could not be answered without
implanting in the child's soul a spirit of censure towards what
should be for him sacred, and therefore I beg you to interpret
your husband's refusal in the spirit of Christian love. I pray
to Almighty God to have mercy on you.
This letter attained the secret object which Countess Lidia
Ivanovna had concealed from herself. It wounded Anna to the
For his part, Alexey Alexandrovitch, on returning home from Lidia
Ivanovna's, could not all that day concentrate himself on his
usual pursuits, and find that spiritual peace of one saved and
believing which he had felt of late.
The thought of his wife, who had so greatly sinned against him,
and towards whom he had been so saintly, as Countess Lidia
Ivanovna had so justly told him, ought not to have troubled him;
but he was not easy; he could not understand the book he was
reading; he could not drive away harassing recollections of his
relations with her, of the mistake which, as it now seemed, he
had made in regard to her. The memory of how he had received her
confession of infidelity on their way home from the races
(especially that he had insisted only on the observance of
external decorum, and had not sent a challenge) tortured him like
a remorse. He was tortured too by the thought of the letter he
had written her; and most of all, his forgiveness, which nobody
wanted, and his care of the other man's child made his heart burn
with shame and remorse.
And just the same feeling of shame and regret he felt now, as he
reviewed all his past with her, recalling the awkward words in
which, after long wavering, he had made her an offer.
"But how have I been to blame?" he said to himself. And this
question always excited another question in him--whether they
felt differently, did their loving and marrying differently,
these Vronskys and Oblonskys...these gentlemen of the
bedchamber, with their fine calves. And there passed before his
mind a whole series of these mettlesome, vigorous, self-
confident men, who always and everywhere drew his inquisitive
attention in spite of himself. He tried to dispel these
thoughts, he tried to persuade himself that he was not living for
this transient life, but for the life of eternity, and that there
was peace and love in his heart.
But the fact that he had in this transient, trivial life made, as
it seemed to him, a few trivial mistakes tortured him as though
the eternal salvation in which he believed had no existence. But
this temptation did not last long, and soon there was
reestablished once more in Alexey Alexandrovitch's soul the peace
and the elevation by virtue of which he could forget what he did
not want to remember.
"Well, Kapitonitch?" said Seryozha, coming back rosy and good-
humored from his walk the day before his birthday, and giving his
overcoat to the tall old hall porter, who smiled down at the
little person from the height of his long figure. "Well, has the
bandaged clerk been here today? Did papa see him?"
"He saw him. The minute the chief secretary came out, I
announced him," said the hall porter with a good-humored wink.
"Here, I'll take it off."
"Seryozha!" said the tutor, stopping in the doorway leading to
the inner rooms. "Take it off yourself." But Seryozha, though
he heard his tutor's feeble voice, did not pay attention to it.
He stood keeping hold of the hall porter's belt, and gazing into
"Well, and did papa do what he wanted for him?"
The hall porter nodded his head affirmatively. The clerk with
his face tied up, who had already been seven times to ask some
favor of Alexey Alexandrovitch, interested both Seryozha and the
hall porter. Seryozha had come upon him in the hall, and had
heard him plaintively beg the hall porter to announce him, saying
that he and his children had death staring them in the face.
Since then Seryozha, having met him a second time in the hall,
took great interest in him.
"Well, was he very glad?" he asked.
"Glad? I should think so! Almost dancing as he walked away."
"And has anything been left?" asked Seryozha, after a pause.
"Come, sir," said the hall-porter; then with a shake of his head
he whispered, "Something from the countess."
Seryozha understood at once that what the hall porter was
speaking of was a present from Countess Lidia Ivanovna for his
"What do you say? Where?"
"Korney took it to your papa. A fine plaything it must be too!"
"How big? Like this?"
"Rather small, but a fine thing."
"No, a thing. Run along, run along, Vassily Lukitch is calling
you," said the porter, hearing the tutor's steps approaching, and
carefully taking away from his belt the little hand in the glove
half pulled off, he signed with his head towards the tutor.
"Vassily Lukitch, in a tiny minute!" answered Seryozha with that
gay and loving smile which always won over the conscientious
Seryozha was too happy, everything was too delightful for him to
be able to help sharing with his friend the porter the family
good fortune of which he had heard during his walk in the public
gardens from Lidia Ivanovna's niece. This piece of good news
seemed to him particularly important from its coming at the same
time with the gladness of the bandaged clerk and his own gladness
at toys having come for him. It seemed to Seryozha that this was
a day on which everyone ought to be glad and happy.
"You know papa's received the Alexander Nevsky today?"
"To be sure I do! People have been already to congratulate him."
"And is he glad?"
"Glad at the Tsar's gracious favor! I should think so! It's a
proof he's deserved it," said the porter severely and seriously.
Seryozha fell to dreaming, gazing up at the face of the porter,
which he had thoroughly studied in every detail, especially the
chin that hung down between the gray whiskers, never seen by
anyone but Seryozha, who saw him only from below.
"Well, and has your daughter been to see you lately?"
The porter's daughter was a ballet dancer.
"When is she to come on week-days? They've their lessons to
learn too. And you've your lesson, sir; run along."
On coming into the room, Seryozha, instead of sitting down to his
lessons, told his tutor of his supposition that what had been
brought him must be a machine. "What do you think?" he inquired.
But Vassily Lukitch was thinking of nothing but the necessity of
learning the grammar lesson for the teacher, who was coming at
"No, do just tell me, Vassily Lukitch," he asked suddenly, when
he was seated at their work table with the book in his hands,
"what is greater than the Alexander Nevsky? You know papa's
received the Alexander Nevsky?"
Vassily Lukitch replied that the Vladimir was greater than the
"And higher still?"
"Well, highest of all is the Andrey Pervozvanny."
"And higher than the Andrey?"
"I don't know."
"What, you don't know?" and Seryozha, leaning on his elbows, sank
into deep meditation.
His meditations were of the most complex and diverse character.
He imagined his father's having suddenly been presented with both
the Vladimir and the Andrey today, and in consequence being much
better tempered at his lesson, and dreamed how, when he was grown
up, he would himself receive all the orders, and what they might
invent higher than the Andrey. Directly any higher order were
invented, he would win it. They would make a higher one still,
and he would immediately win that too.
The time passed in such meditations, and when the teacher came,
the lesson about the adverbs of place and time and manner of
action was not ready, and the teacher was not only displeased,
but hurt. This touched Seryozha. He felt he was not to blame
for not having learned the lesson; however much he tried, he was
utterly unable to do that. As long as the teacher was explaining
to him, he believed him and seemed to comprehend, but as soon as
he was left alone, he was positively unable to recollect and to
understand that the short and familiar word "suddenly" is an
adverb of manner of action. Still he was sorry that he had
disappointed the teacher.
He chose a moment when the teacher was looking in silence at the
"Mihail Ivanitch, when is your birthday?" he asked all, of a
"You'd much better be thinking about your work. Birthdays are of
no importance to a rational being. It's a day like any other on
which one has to do one's work."
Seryozha looked intently at the teacher, at his scanty beard, at
his spectacles, which had slipped down below the ridge on his
nose, and fell into so deep a reverie that he heard nothing of
what the teacher was explaining to him. He knew that the teacher
did not think what he said; he felt it from the tone in which it
was said. "But why have they all agreed to speak just in the
same manner always the dreariest and most useless stuff? Why
does he keep me off; why doesn't he love me?" he asked himself
mournfully, and could not think of an answer.
After the lesson with the grammar teacher came his father's
lesson. While waiting for his father, Seryozha sat at the table
playing with a penknife, and fell to dreaming. Among Seryozha's
favorite occupations was searching for his mother during his
walks. He did not believe in death generally, and in her death
in particular, in spite of what Lidia Ivanovna had told him and
his father had confirmed, and it was just because of that, and
after he had been told she was dead, that he had begun looking
for her when out for a walk. Every woman of full, graceful
figure with dark hair was his mother. At the sight of such a
woman such a feeling of tenderness was stirred within him that
his breath failed him, and tears came into his eyes. And he was
on the tiptoe of expectation that she would come up to him, would
lift her veil. All her face would be visible, she would smile,
she would hug him, he would sniff her fragrance, feel the
softness of her arms, and cry with happiness, just as he had one
evening lain on her lap while she tickled him, and he laughed and
bit her white, ring-covered fingers. Later, when he accidentally
learned from his old nurse that his mother was not dead, and his
father and Lidia Ivanovna had explained to him that she was dead
to him because she was wicked (which he could not possibly
believe, because he loved her), he went on seeking her and
expecting her in the same way. That day in the public gardens
there had been a lady in a lilac veil, whom he had watched with a
throbbing heart, believing it to be she as she came towards them
along the path. The lady had not come up to them, but had
disappeared somewhere. That day, more intensely than ever,
Seryozha felt a rush of love for her, and now, waiting for his
father, he forgot everything, and cut all round the edge of the
table with his penknife, staring straight before him with
sparkling eyes and dreaming of her.
"Here is your papa!" said Vassily Lukitch, rousing him.
Seryozha jumped up and went up to his father, and kissing his
hand, looked at him intently, trying to discover signs of his joy
at receiving the Alexander Nevsky.
"Did you have a nice walk?" said Alexey Alexandrovitch, sitting
down in his easy chair, pulling the volume of the Old Testament
to him and opening it. Although Alexey Alexandrovitch had more
than once told Seryozha that every Christian ought to know
Scripture history thoroughly, he often referred to the Bible
himself during the lesson, and Seryozha observed this.
"Yes, it was very nice indeed, papa," said Seryozha, sitting
sideways on his chair and rocking it, which was forbidden. "I
saw Nadinka" (Nadinka was a niece of Lidia Ivanovna's who was
being brought up in her house). "She told me you'd been given a
new star. Are you glad, papa?"
"First of all, don't rock your chair, please," said Alexey
Alexandrovitch. "And secondly, it's not the reward that's
precious, but the work itself. And I could have wished you
understood that. If you now are going to work, to study in order
to win a reward, then the work will seem hard to you; but when
you work" (Alexey Alexandrovitch, as he spoke, thought of how he
had been sustained by a sense of duty through the wearisome labor
of the morning, consisting of signing one hundred and eighty
papers), "loving your work, you will find your reward in it."
Seryozha's eyes, that had been shining with gaiety and
tenderness, grew dull and dropped before his father's gaze. This
was the same long-familiar tone his father always took with him,
and Seryozha had learned by now to fall in with it. His father
always talked to him--so Seryozha felt--as though he were
addressing some boy of his own imagination, one of those boys
that exist in books, utterly unlike himself. And Seryozha always
tried with his father to act being the story-book boy.
"You understand that, I hope?" said his father.
"Yes, papa," answered Seryozha, acting the part of the imaginary
The lesson consisted of learning by heart several verses out of
the Gospel and the repetition of the beginning of the Old
Testament. The verses from the Gospel Seryozha knew fairly well,
but at the moment when he was saying them he became so absorbed
in watching the sharply protruding, bony knobbiness of his
father's forehead, that he lost the thread, and he transposed the
end of one verse and the beginning of another. So it was evident
to Alexey Alexandrovitch that he did not understand what he was
saying, and that irritated him.
He frowned, and began explaining what Seryozha had heard many
times before and never could remember, because he understood it
too well, just as that "suddenly" is an adverb of manner of
action. Seryozha looked with scared eyes at his father, and
could think of nothing but whether his father would make him
repeat what he had said, as he sometimes did. And this thought
so alarmed Seryozha that he now understood nothing. But his
father did not make him repeat it, and passed on to the lesson
out of the Old Testament. Seryozha recounted the events
themselves well enough, but when he had to answer questions as to
what certain events prefigured, he knew nothing, though he had
already been punished over this lesson. The passage at which he
was utterly unable to say anything, and began fidgeting and
cutting the table and swinging his chair, was where he had to
repeat the patriarchs before the Flood. He did not know one of
them, except Enoch, who had been taken up alive to heaven. Last
time he had remembered their names, but now he had forgotten them
utterly, chiefly because Enoch was the personage he liked best in
the whole of the Old Testament, and Enoch's translation to heaven
was connected in his mind with a whole long train of thought, in
which he became absorbed now while he gazed with fascinated eyes
at his father's watch-chain and a half-unbuttoned button on his
In death, of which they talked to him so often, Seryozha
disbelieved entirely. He did not believe that those he loved
could die, above all that he himself would die. That was to him
something utterly inconceivable and impossible. But he had been
told that all men die; he had asked people, indeed, whom he
trusted, and they too, had confirmed it; his old nurse, too, said
the same, though reluctantly. But Enoch had not died, and so it
followed that everyone did not die. "And why cannot anyone else
so serve God and be taken alive to heaven?" thought Seryozha.
Bad people, that is those Seryozha did not like, they might die,
but the good might all be like Enoch.
"Well, what are the names of the patriarchs?"
"But you have said that already. This is bad, Seryozha, very
bad. If you don't try to learn what is more necessary than
anything for a Christian," said his father, getting up, "whatever
can interest you? I am displeased with you, and Piotr Ignatitch"
(this was the most important of his teachers) "is displeased with
you.... I shall have to punish you."
His father and his teacher were both displeased with Seryozha,
and he certainly did learn his lessons very badly. But still it
could not be said he was a stupid boy. On the contrary, he was
far cleverer than the boys his teacher held up as examples to
Seryozha. In his father's opinion, he did not want to learn what
he was taught. In reality he could not learn that. He could
not, because the claims of his own soul were more binding on him
than those claims his father and his teacher made upon him.
Those claims were in opposition, and he was in direct conflict
with his education. He was nine years old; he was a child; but
he knew his own soul, it was precious to him, he guarded it as
the eyelid guards the eye, and without the key of love he let no
one into his soul. His teachers complained that he would not
learn, while his soul was brimming over with thirst for
knowledge. And he learned from Kapitonitch, from his nurse, from
Nadinka, from Vassily Lukitch, but not from his teachers. The
spring his father and his teachers reckoned upon to turn their
mill-wheels had long dried up at the source, but its waters did
their work in another channel.
His father punished Seryozha by not letting him go to see
Nadinka, Lidia Ivanovna's niece; but this punishment turned out
happily for Seryozha. Vassily Lukitch was in a good humor, and
showed him how to make windmills. The whole evening passed over
this work and in dreaming how to make a windmill on which he
could turn himself--clutching at the sails or tying himself on
and whirling round. Of his mother Seryozha did not think all the
evening, but when he had gone to bed, he suddenly remembered her,
and prayed in his own words that his mother tomorrow for his
birthday might leave off hiding herself and come to him.
"Vassily Lukitch, do you know what I prayed for tonight extra
besides the regular things?"
"That you might learn your lessons better?"
"No. You'll never guess. A splendid thing; but it's a secret!
When it comes to pass I'll tell you. Can't you guess!"
"No, I can't guess. You tell me," said Vassily Lukitch with a
smile, which was rare with him. "Come, lie down, I'm putting out
"Without the candle I can see better what I see and what I prayed
for. There! I was almost telling the secret!" said Seryozha,
When the candle was taken away, Seryozha heard and felt his
mother. She stood over him, and with loving eyes caressed him.
But then came windmills, a knife, everything began to be mixed
up, and he fell asleep.