Running halfway down the staircase, Levin caught a sound he
knew, a familiar cough in the hall. But he heard it indistinctly
through the sound of his own footsteps, and hoped he was
mistaken. Then he caught sight of a long, bony, familiar figure,
and now it seemed there was no possibility of mistake; and yet he
still went on hoping that this tall man taking off his fur cloak
and coughing was not his brother Nikolay.
Levin loved his brother, but being with him was always a torture.
Just now, when Levin, under the influence of the thoughts that
had come to him, and Agafea Mihalovna's hint, was in a troubled
and uncertain humor, the meeting with his brother that he had to
face seemed particularly difficult. Instead of a lively, healthy
visitor, some outsider who would, he hoped, cheer him up in his
uncertain humor, he had to see his brother, who knew him through
and through, who would call forth all the thoughts nearest his
heart, would force him to show himself fully. And that he was
not disposed to do.
Angry with himself for so base a feeling, Levin ran into the
hall; as soon as he had seen his brother close, this feeling of
selfish disappointment vanished instantly and was replaced by
pity. Terrible as his brother Nikolay had been before in his
emaciation and sickliness, now he looked still more emaciated,
still more wasted. He was a skeleton covered with skin.
He stood in the hall, jerking his long thin neck, and pulling the
scarf off it, and smiled a strange and pitiful smile. When he
saw that smile, submissive and humble, Levin felt something
clutching at his throat.
"You see, I've come to you," said Nikolay in a thick voice, never
for one second taking his eyes off his brother's face. "I've
been meaning to a long while, but I've been unwell all the time.
Now I'm ever so much better," he said, rubbing his beard with his
big thin hands.
"Yes, yes!" answered Levin. And he felt still more frightened
when, kissing him, he felt with his lips the dryness of his
brother's skin and saw close to him his big eyes, full of a