The next day the sick man received the sacrament and extreme
unction. During the ceremony Nikolay Levin prayed fervently.
His great eyes, fastened on the holy image that was set out on a
card table covered with a colored napkin, expressed such
passionate prayer and hope that it was awful to Levin to see it.
Levin knew that this passionate prayer and hope would only make
him feel more bitterly parting from the life he so loved. Levin
knew his brother and the workings of his intellect: he knew that
his unbelief came not from life being easier for him without
faith, but had grown up because step by step the contemporary
scientific interpretation of natural phenomena crushed out the
possibility of faith; and so he knew that his present return was
not a legitimate one, brought about by way of the same working of
his intellect, but simply a temporary, interested return to faith
in a desperate hope of recovery. Levin knew too that Kitty had
strengthened his hope by accounts of the marvelous recoveries she
had heard of. Levin knew all this; and it was agonizingly
painful to him to behold the supplicating, hopeful eyes and the
emaciated wrist, lifted with difficulty, making the sign of the
cross on the tense brow, and the prominent shoulders and hollow,
gasping chest, which one could not feel consistent with the life
the sick man was praying for. During the sacrament Levin did
what he, an unbeliever, had done a thousand times. He said,
addressing God, "If Thou dost exist, make this man to recover"
(of course this same thing has been repeated many times), "and
Thou wilt save him and me."
After extreme unction the sick man became suddenly much better.
He did not cough once in the course of an hour, smiled, kissed
Kitty's hand, thanking her with tears, and said he was
comfortable, free from pain, and that he felt strong and had an
appetite. He even raised himself when his soup was brought, and
asked for a cutlet as well. Hopelessly ill as he was, obvious as
it was at the first glance that he could not recover, Levin and
Kitty were for that hour both in the same state of excitement,
happy, though fearful of being mistaken.
"Is he better?"