Chapter 17

The hotel of the provincial town where Nikolai 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 and made by the very pretension 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, perforated, somber and disagreeable staircase, and the free and easy waiter in a filthy dress 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 just arrived 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 - 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 had seen her in Moscow; the same woolen gown, and bare arms and neck, and the same good-naturedly stupid, pock- marked face, only a little plumper.

`Well, how is he? How is he?'

`Very bad. He can't get up. He has been expecting you all this while. He... Are you... with your wife?'

Levin did not for the first moment understand what confused her, but she immediately enlightened him.

`I'll go away. I'll go down to the kitchen,' she brought out. `Nikolai Dmitrievich will be delighted. He heard about it, and knows her, 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 at 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 shawl 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 incomprehensible to her, awful woman; 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.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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