"Yes, there must be something disgusting, repulsive about me," reflected Levin, as he left the Shcherbatskys', and set out on foot for his brother's lodgings. "And I don't get on with other people. Pride, they say. No, I haven't even pride. If I had any pride, I should not have put myself in such a position." And he pictured to himself Vronsky, happy, good-natured, clever and calm- certainly never placed in the awful position in which he had been that evening. "Yes, she was bound to choose him. It must be so, and I cannot complain of anyone or anything. I am myself to blame. What right had I to imagine she would care to join her life to mine? Who am I, and what am I? A nobody, not wanted by anyone, nor of use to anybody." And he recalled his brother Nikolai, and dwelt with pleasure on the thought of him. "Isn't he right in saying that everything in the world is bad and vile? And are we fair in our judgment, present and past, of brother Nikolai? Of course, from the point of view of Procophii, seeing him in a torn cloak and tipsy, he's a despicable person. But I know him differently. I know his soul, and know that we are alike. And I, instead of going to seek him out, went out to dinner, and then came here." Levin walked up to a lamppost, read his brother's address, which was in his pocketbook, and called a cabby. All the long way to his brother's Levin vividly recalled all the facts, familiar to him, of his brother Nikolai's life. He remembered how his brother, while at the university, and for a year afterward, had, in spite of the jeers of his companions, lived like a monk, strictly observing all religious rites, services and fasts, and avoiding every sort of pleasure- especially women. And now, afterward, he had all at once broken out: had associated with the most horrible people, and rushed into the most senseless debauchery. He remembered later the scandal over a boy, whom he had taken from the country to bring up, and, in a fit of rage, had so violently beaten that proceedings were brought against him for personal injury. Then he remembered the scandal with a sharper, to whom he had lost money, and given a promissory note, and against whom he had himself lodged a complaint, asserting that he had cheated him. (This was the money Sergei Ivanovich had paid.) Then he remembered how he had spent a night in a police station for disorderly conduct in the street. He remembered the shameful proceedings he had instituted against his brother Sergei Ivanovich, accusing him of not having paid him, apparently, his share of his mother's estate; and the last scandal, when he had gone to a Western province in an official capacity, and there had got into trouble for assaulting a village elder.... It was all horribly vile, yet to Levin it appeared not at all as vile as it inevitably would to those who did not know Nikolai, did not know all his story, did not know his heart.
Levin remembered that when Nikolai had been in the devout stage, the period of fasts and monks and church services, when he was seeking in religion a support and a curb for his passionate temperament, everyone, far from encouraging him, had jeered at him- and Levin had, too, with the others. They had teased him, calling him Noah and Monk; yet, when he had broken out, no one had helped him, but had all turned away from him, with horror and loathing.
Levin felt that brother Nikolai, in spite of all the ugliness of his life, in his soul, in the very depths of his soul, was no more in the wrong than the people who despised him. He was not to blame for having been born with his unbridled character and some pressure upon his intellect. For he had always wanted to be good. "I will tell him everything, without reserve, and I will make him speak without reserve, too, and I'll show him that I love him, and therefore understand him," Levin resolved to himself, as, toward eleven o'clock, he reached the hotel of which he had the address.
"At the top, twelve and thirteen," the porter answered Levin's inquiry.
"Probably he is at home."
The door of No. 12 was half open, and, together with a streak of light, there issued thick fumes of cheap, poor tobacco, and the sound of a voice, unknown to Levin; but he knew at once that his brother was there: he recognized his cough.
As he went in at the door, the unknown voice was saying:
"It all depends with how much judgment and knowledge the thing's done."
Konstantin Levin looked in at the door, and saw that the speaker was a young man with an immense shock of hair, wearing a Russian coat, and that a pock-marked young woman in a woolen gown, without collar or cuffs, was sitting on the sofa. His brother was not to be seen. Konstantin felt a sharp pang at his heart at the thought of the strange company in which his brother spent his life. No one had heard him, and Konstantin, taking off his galoshes, listened to what the gentleman in the Russian coat was saying. He was speaking of some enterprise.
"Well, the devil flay them, these privileged classes," his brother's voice responded, with a cough. "Masha! get us some supper, and serve up some wine, if there's any left; or else send for some."
The woman rose, came out from behind the partition, and saw Konstantin.
"There's some gentleman here, Nikolai Dmitrievich," she said.
"Whom do you want?" said the voice of Nikolai Levin, angrily.
"It's I," answered Konstantin Levin, coming forward into the light.
"Who's I?" Nikolai's voice said again, still more angrily. He could be heard getting up hurriedly, stumbling against something, and Levin saw, facing him in the doorway, the big scared eyes, and the huge, gaunt, stooping figure of his brother, so familiar, and yet astonishing in its oddity and sickliness.
He was even thinner than three years before, when Konstantin Levin had seen him last. He was wearing a short coat, and his hands and big bones seemed huger than ever. His hair had grown thinner, the same straight mustache hid his lips, the same eyes gazed strangely and naively at his visitor.
"Ah, Kostia!" he exclaimed suddenly, recognizing his brother, and his eyes lighted up with joy. But the same second he looked round at the young man, and gave the nervous jerk of his head and neck that Konstantin knew so well, as if his cravat were choking him; and a quite different expression- wild, suffering and cruel- rested on his emaciated face.
"I wrote to you and Sergei Ivanovich both that I don't know you, and don't want to know you. What is it you want?"
He was not at all the same as Konstantin had been fancying him. The worst and most oppressive part of his character, which made all relations with him so difficult, had been forgotten by Konstantin Levin when he thought of him; and now, when he saw his face, and especially that nervous twitching of his head, he remembered it all.
"I didn't want to see you for anything," he answered timidly. "I've simply come to see you."
His brother's timidity obviously softened Nikolai. His lips twitched.
"Oh, so that's it?" he said. "Well, come in; sit down. Like some supper? Masha, bring supper for three. No, stop a minute. Do you know who this is?" he said, addressing his brother, and indicating the gentleman in the Russian coat: "This is Mr. Kritsky, a friend of my Kiev days- a very remarkable man. He's persecuted by the police, of course, since he's not a scoundrel."
And he surveyed, as it was a habit of his, everyone in the room. Seeing that the woman standing in the doorway was starting to go, he shouted to her. "Wait a minute, I said." And with that inability to express himself, the incoherence that Konstantin knew so well, he began, with another look round at everyone, to tell Kritsky's story to his brother: how he had been expelled from the university for starting a benevolent society for the poor students, and classes on Sunday, and how he had afterward been a teacher in a rural school, and had been driven out of that, too; and had afterward been on trial for something or other.
"You're of the Kiev University?" said Konstantin Levin to Kritsky, to break the awkward silence that followed.
"Yes- I was in Kiev," Kritsky replied angrily, his face darkening.
"And this woman," Nikolai Levin interrupted him, pointing to her, "is my lifemate, Marya Nikolaevna. I took her out of a dive, and he jerked his neck as he said it. "But I love her and respect her, and anyone who wants to know me," he added, raising his voice and knitting his brows, "is requested to love her and respect her. She's precisely the same as a wife to me- precisely. So now you know whom you've got to do with. And if you think you're lowering yourself- well, there's the door, and God speed thee!"
And again his eyes traveled inquiringly over all of them.
"But how will I lower myself? I don't understand."
"Then, Masha, tell them to bring supper; three portions, and vodka and wine... No, wait a minute... No, it doesn't matter... Go ahead."