Anna Karenina/Part Five/Chapter 18
Levin could not look calmly at his brother; he could not himself be natural and calm in his presence. When he went in to the sick man, his eyes and his attention were unconsciously dimmed, and he did not see and did not distinguish the details of his brother's position. He smelt the awful odor, saw the dirt, disorder, and miserable condition, and heard the groans, and felt that nothing could be done to help. It never entered his head to analyze the details of the sick man's situation, to consider how that body was lying under the quilt, how those emaciated legs and thighs and spine were lying huddled up, and whether they could not be made more comfortable, whether anything could not be done to make things, if not better, at least less bad. It made his blood run cold when he began to think of all these details. He was absolutely convinced that nothing could be done to prolong his brother's life or to relieve his suffering. But a sense of his regarding all aid as out of the question was felt by the sick man, and exasperated him. And this made it still more painful for Levin. To be in the sick-room was agony to him, not to be there still worse. And he was continually, on various pretexts, going out of the room, and coming in again, because he was unable to remain alone.
But Kitty thought, and felt, and acted quite differently. On seeing the sick man, she pitied him. And pity in her womanly heart did not arouse at all that feeling of horror and loathing that it aroused in her husband, but a desire to act, to find out all the details of his state, and to remedy them. And since she had not the slightest doubt that it was her duty to help him, she had no doubt either that it was possible, and immediately set to work. The very details, the mere thought of which reduced her husband to terror, immediately engaged her attention. She sent for the doctor, sent to the chemist's, set the maid who had come with her and Marya Nikolaevna to sweep and dust and scrub; she herself washed up something, washed out something else, laid something under the quilt. Something was by her directions brought into the sick-room, something else was carried out. She herself went several times to her room, regardless of the men she met in the corridor, got out and brought in sheets, pillow cases, towels, and shirts.
The waiter, who was busy with a party of engineers dining in the dining hall, came several times with an irate countenance in answer to her summons, and could not avoid carrying out her orders, as she gave them with such gracious insistence that there was no evading her. Levin did not approve of all this; he did not believe it would be of any good to the patient. Above all, he feared the patient would be angry at it. But the sick man, though he seemed and was indifferent about it, was not angry, but only abashed, and on the whole as it were interested in what she was doing with him. Coming back from the doctor to whom Kitty had sent him, Levin, on opening the door, came upon the sick man at the instant when, by Kitty's directions, they were changing his linen. The long white ridge of his spine, with the huge, prominent shoulder blades and jutting ribs and vertebrae, was bare, and Marya Nikolaevna and the waiter were struggling with the sleeve of the night shirt, and could not get the long, limp arm into it. Kitty, hurriedly closing the door after Levin, was not looking that way; but the sick man groaned, and she moved rapidly towards him.
"Make haste," she said.
"Oh, don't you come," said the sick man angrily. "I'll do it my myself...."
"What say?" queried Marya Nikolaevna. But Kitty heard and saw he was ashamed and uncomfortable at being naked before her.
"I'm not looking, I'm not looking!" she said, putting the arm in. "Marya Nikolaevna, you come this side, you do it," she added.
"Please go for me, there's a little bottle in my small bag," she said, turning to her husband, "you know, in the side pocket; bring it, please, and meanwhile they'll finish clearing up here."
Returning with the bottle, Levin found the sick man settled comfortably and everything about him completely changed. The heavy smell was replaced by the smell of aromatic vinegar, which Kitty with pouting lips and puffed-out, rosy cheeks was squirting through a little pipe. There was no dust visible anywhere, a rug was laid by the bedside. On the table stood medicine bottles and decanters tidily arranged, and the linen needed was folded up there, and Kitty's broderie anglaise. On the other table by the patient's bed there were candles and drink and powders. The sick man himself, washed and combed, lay in clean sheets on high raised pillows, in a clean night-shirt with a white collar about his astoundingly thin neck, and with a new expression of hope looked fixedly at Kitty.
The doctor brought by Levin, and found by him at the club, was not the one who had been attending Nikolay Levin, as the patient was dissatisfied with him. The new doctor took up a stethoscope and sounded the patient, shook his head, prescribed medicine, and with extreme minuteness explained first how to take the medicine and then what diet was to be kept to. He advised eggs, raw or hardly cooked, and seltzer water, with warm milk at a certain temperature. When the doctor had gone away the sick man said something to his brother, of which Levin could distinguish only the last words: "Your Katya." By the expression with which he gazed at her, Levin saw that he was praising her. He called indeed to Katya, as he called her.
"I'm much better already," he said. "Why, with you I should have got well long ago. How nice it is!" he took her hand and drew it towards his lips, but as though afraid she would dislike it he changed his mind, let it go, and only stroked it. Kitty took his hand in both hers and pressed it.
"Now turn me over on the left side and go to bed," he said.
No one could make out what he said but Kitty; she alone understood. She understood because she was all the while mentally keeping watch on what he needed.
"On the other side," she said to her husband, "he always sleeps on that side. Turn him over, it's so disagreeable calling the servants. I'm not strong enough. Can you?" she said to Marya Nikolaevna.
"I'm afraid not," answered Marya Nikolaevna.
Terrible as it was to Levin to put his arms round that terrible body, to take hold of that under the quilt, of which he preferred to know nothing, under his wife's influence he made his resolute face that she knew so well, and putting his arms into the bed took hold of the body, but in spite of his own strength he was struck by the strange heaviness of those powerless limbs. While he was turning him over, conscious of the huge emaciated arm about his neck, Kitty swiftly and noiselessly turned the pillow, beat it up and settled in it the sick man's head, smoothing back his hair, which was sticking again to his moist brow.
The sick man kept his brother's hand in his own. Levin felt that he meant to do something with his hand and was pulling it somewhere. Levin yielded with a sinking heart: yes, he drew it to his mouth and kissed it. Levin, shaking with sobs and unable to articulate a word, went out of the room.