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On his way downstairs, Levin hears coughing. He really hopes he misheard and that it's not his brother Nicholas.
Levin is disappointed—this is not the kind of visitor he wants.
When Levin sees Nicholas up close, however, disappointment turns into compassion. Nicholas is skinnier and weaker than the last time Levin saw him.
Nicolas says that his health has been much improved.
That night, Nicholas is in a cheerful mood. He's no longer with Masha.
Levin tells Nicholas about the farm improvements.
The two brothers are actually so close to each other that just being in the same room speaks volumes. They understand each other perfectly from gestures and tone of voice. What's unsaid between them is the obvious fact that Nicholas is dying.
Levin has never spent such a false evening.
That night, Levin can't sleep as Nicholas is coughing painfully.
Levin's mind is filled with thoughts of the inevitability of death. He doesn't know how to help his brother.