He was in the most affectionate and good-humored mood, just as Levin often remembered him in childhood. He even referred to Sergey Ivanovitch without rancor. When he saw Agafea Mihalovna, he made jokes with her and asked after the old servants. The news of the death of Parfen Denisitch made a painful impression on him. A look of fear crossed his face, but he regained his serenity immediately.
“Of course he was quite old,” he said, and changed the subject. “Well, I’ll spend a month or two with you, and then I’m off to Moscow. Do you know, Myakov has promised me a place there, and I’m going into the service. Now I’m going to arrange my life quite differently,” he went on. “You know I got rid of that woman.”
“Marya Nikolaevna? Why, what for?”
“Oh, she was a horrid woman! She caused me all sorts of worries.” But he did not say what the annoyances were. He could not say that he had cast off Marya Nikolaevna because the tea was weak, and, above all, because she would look after him, as though he were an invalid.
“Besides, I want to turn over a new leaf completely now. I’ve done silly things, of course, like everyone else, but money’s the last consideration; I don’t regret it. So long as there’s health, and my health, thank God, is quite restored.”
Levin listened and racked his brains, but could think of nothing to say. Nikolay probably felt the same; he began questioning his brother about his affairs; and Levin was glad to talk about himself, because then he could speak without hypocrisy. He told his brother of his plans and his doings.
His brother listened, but evidently he was not interested by it.
These two men were so akin, so near each other, that the slightest gesture, the tone of voice, told both more than could be said in words.
Both of them now had only one thought—the illness of Nikolay and the nearness of his death—which stifled all else. But neither of them dared to speak of it, and so whatever they said— not uttering the one thought that filled their minds—was all falsehood. Never had Levin been so glad when the evening was over and it was time to go to bed. Never with any outside person, never on any official visit had he been so unnatural and false as he was that evening. And the consciousness of this unnaturalness, and the remorse he felt at it, made him even more unnatural. He wanted to weep over his dying, dearly loved brother, and he had to listen and keep on talking of how he meant to live.
As the house was damp, and only one bedroom had been kept heated, Levin put his brother to sleep in his own bedroom behind a screen.