Anna Karenina (Part 5 – Chapter 1-5)
Princess Shtcherbatskaya considered that it was out of the question for the wedding to take place before Lent, just five weeks off, since not half the trousseau could possibly be ready by that time. But she could not but agree with Levin that to fix it for after Lent would be putting it off too late, as an old aunt of Prince Shtcherbatsky’s was seriously ill and might die, and then the mourning would delay the wedding still longer. And therefore, deciding to divide the trousseau into two parts–a larger and smaller trousseau–the princess consented to have the wedding before Lent. She determined that she would get the smaller part of the trousseau all ready now, and the larger part should be made later, and she was much vexed with Levin because he was incapable of giving her a serious answer to the question whether he agreed to this arrangement or not. The arrangement was the more suitable as, immediately after the wedding, the young people were to go to the country, where the more important part of the trousseau would not be wanted.
Levin still continued in the same delirious condition in which it seemed to him that he and his happiness constituted the chief and sole aim of all existence, and that he need not now think or care about anything, that everything was being done and would be done for him by others. He had not even plans and aims for the future, he left its arrangement to others, knowing that everything would be delightful. His brother Sergey Ivanovitch, Stepan Arkadyevitch, and the princess guided him in doing what he had to do. All he did was to agree entirely with everything suggested to him. His brother raised money for him, the princess advised him to leave Moscow after the wedding. Stepan Arkadyevitch advised him to go abroad. He agreed to everything. “Do what you choose, if it amuses you. I’m happy, and my happiness can be no greater and no less for anything you do,” he thought. When he told Kitty of Stepan Arkadyevitch’s advice that they should go abroad, he was much surprised that she did not agree to this, and had some definite requirements of her own in regard to their future. She knew Levin had work he loved in the country. She did not, as he saw, understand this work, she did not even care to understand it. But that did not prevent her from regarding it as a matter of great importance. And then she knew their home would be in the country, and she wanted to go, not abroad where she was not going to live, but to the place where their home would be. This definitely expressed purpose astonished Levin. But since he did not care either way, he immediately asked Stepan Arkadyevitch, as though it were his duty, to go down to the country and to arrange everything there to the best of his ability with the taste of which he had so much.
“But I say,” Stepan Arkadyevitch said to him one day after he had come back from the country, where he had got everything ready for the young people’s arrival, “have you a certificate of having been at confession?”
“No. But what of it?”
“You can’t be married without it.”
“Aie, aie, aie!” cried Levin. “Why, I believe it’s nine years since I’ve taken the sacrament! I never thought of it.”
“You’re a pretty fellow!” said Stepan Arkadyevitch laughing, “and you call me a Nihilist! But this won’t do, you know. You must take the sacrament.”
“When? There are four days left now.”
Stepan Arkadyevitch arranged this also, and Levin had to go to confession. To Levin, as to any unbeliever who respects the beliefs of others, it was exceedingly disagreeable to be present at and take part in church ceremonies. At this moment, in his present softened state of feeling, sensitive to everything, this inevitable act of hypocrisy was not merely painful to Levin, it seemed to him utterly impossible. Now, in the heyday of his highest glory, his fullest flower, he would have to be a liar or a scoffer. He felt incapable of being either. But though he repeatedly plied Stepan Arkadyevitch with questions as to the possibility of obtaining a certificate without actually communicating, Stepan Arkadyevitch maintained that it was out of the question.
“Besides, what is it to you–two days? And he’s an awfully nice clever old fellow. He’ll pull the tooth out for you so gently, you won’t notice it.”
Standing at the first litany, Levin attempted to revive in himself his youthful recollections of the intense religious emotion he had passed through between the ages of sixteen and seventeen.
But he was at once convinced that it was utterly impossible to him. He attempted to look at it all as an empty custom, having no sort of meaning, like the custom of paying calls. But he felt that he could not do that either. Levin found himself, like the majority of his contemporaries, in the vaguest position in regard to religion. Believe he could not, and at the same time he had no firm conviction that it was all wrong. And consequently, not being able to believe in the significance of what he was doing nor to regard it with indifference as an empty formality, during the whole period of preparing for the sacrament he was conscious of a feeling of discomfort and shame at doing what he did not himself understand, and what, as an inner voice told him, was therefore false and wrong.
During the service he would first listen to the prayers, trying to attach some meaning to them not discordant with his own views; then feeling that he could not understand and must condemn them, he tried not to listen to them, but to attend to the thoughts, observations, and memories which floated through his brain with extreme vividness during this idle time of standing in church.
He had stood through the litany, the evening service and the midnight service, and the next day he got up earlier than usual, and without having tea went at eight o’clock in the morning to the church for the morning service and the confession.
There was no one in the church but a beggar soldier, two old women, and the church officials. A young deacon, whose long back showed in two distinct halves through his thin undercassock, met him, and at once going to a little table at the wall read the exhortation. During the reading, especially at the frequent and rapid repetition of the same words, “Lord, have mercy on us!” which resounded with an echo, Levin felt that thought was shut and sealed up, and that it must not be touched or stirred now or confusion would be the result; and so standing behind the deacon he went on thinking of his own affairs, neither listening nor examining what was said. “It’s wonderful what expression there is in her hand,” he thought, remembering how they had been sitting the day before at a corner table. They had nothing to talk about, as was almost always the case at this time, and laying her hand on the table she kept opening and shutting it, and laughed herself as she watched her action. He remembered how he had kissed it and then had examined the lines on the pink palm. “Have mercy on us again!” thought Levin, crossing himself, bowing, and looking at the supple spring of the deacon’s back bowing before him. “She took my hand then and examined the lines ‘You’ve got a splendid hand,’ she said.” And he looked at his own hand and the short hand of the deacon. “Yes, now it will soon be over,” he thought. “No, it seems to be beginning again,” he thought, listening to the prayers. “No, it’s just ending: there he is bowing down to the ground. That’s always at the end.”
The deacon’s hand in a plush cuff accepted a three-rouble note unobtrusively, and the deacon said he would put it down in the register, and his new boots creaking jauntily over the flagstones of the empty church, he went to the altar. A moment later he peeped out thence and beckoned to Levin. Thought, till then locked up, began to stir in Levin’s head, but he made haste to drive it away. “It will come right somehow,” he thought, and went towards the altar-rails. He went up the steps, and turning to the right saw the priest. The priest, a little old man with a scanty grizzled beard and weary, good-natured eyes, was standing at the altar-rails, turning over the pages of a missal. With a slight bow to Levin he began immediately reading prayers in the official voice. When he had finished them he bowed down to the ground and turned, facing Levin.
“Christ is present here unseen, receiving your confession,” he said, pointing to the crucifix. “Do you believe in all the doctrines of the Holy Apostolic Church?” the priest went on, turning his eyes away from Levin’s face and folding his hands under his stole.
“I have doubted, I doubt everything,” said Levin in a voice that jarred on himself, and he ceased speaking.
The priest waited a few seconds to see if he would not say more, and closing his eyes he said quickly, with a broad, Vladimirsky accent:
“Doubt is natural to the weakness of mankind, but we must pray that God in His mercy will strengthen us. What are your special sins?” he added, without the slightest interval, as though anxious not to waste time.
“My chief sin is doubt. I have doubts of everything, and for the most part I am in doubt.”
“Doubt is natural to the weakness of mankind,” the priest repeated the same words. “What do you doubt about principally?”
“I doubt of everything. I sometimes even have doubts of the existence of God,” Levin could not help saying, and he was horrified at the impropriety of what he was saying. But Levin’s words did not, it seemed, make much impression on the priest.
“What sort of doubt can there be of the existence of God?” he said hurriedly, with a just perceptible smile.
Levin did not speak.
“What doubt can you have of the Creator when you behold His creation?” the priest went on in the rapid customary jargon. “Who has decked the heavenly firmament with its lights? Who has clothed the earth in its beauty? How explain it without the Creator?” he said, looking inquiringly at Levin.
Levin felt that it would be improper to enter upon a metaphysical discussion with the priest, and so he said in reply merely what was a direct answer to the question.
“I don’t know,” he said.
“You don’t know! Then how can you doubt that God created all?” the priest said, with good-humored perplexity.
“I don’t understand it at all,” said Levin, blushing, and feeling that his words were stupid, and that they could not be anything but stupid n such a position.
“Pray to God and beseech Him. Even the holy fathers had doubts, and prayed to God to strengthen their faith. The devil has great power, and we must resist him. Pray to God, beseech Him. Pray to God,” he repeated hurriedly.
The priest paused for some time, as though meditating.
“You’re about, I hear, to marry the daughter of my parishioner and son in the spirit, Prince Shtcherbatsky?” he resumed, with a smile. “An excellent young lady.”
“Yes,” answered Levin, blushing for the priest. “What does he want to ask me about this at confession for?” he thought.
And, as though answering his thought, the priest said to him:
“You are about to enter into holy matrimony, and God may bless you with offspring. Well, what sort of bringing-up can you give your babes if you do not overcome the temptation of the devil, enticing you to infidelity?” he said, with gentle reproachfulness. “If you love your child as a good father, you will not desire only wealth, luxury, honor for your infant; you will be anxious for his salvation, his spiritual enlightenment with the light of truth. Eh? What answer will you make him when the innocent babe asks you: ‘Papa! who made all that enchants me in this world–the earth; the waters, the sun, the flowers, the grass?’ Can you say to him: ‘I don’t know’? You cannot but know, since the Lord God in His infinite mercy has revealed it to us. Or your child will ask you: ‘What awaits me in the life beyond the tomb?’ What will you say to him when you know nothing? How will you answer him? Will you leave him to the allurements of the world and the devil? That’s not right,” he said, and he stopped, putting his head on one side and looking at Levin with his kindly, gentle eyes.
Levin made no answer this time, not because he did not want to enter upon a discussion with the priest, but because, so far, no one had ever asked him such questions, and when his babes did ask him those questions, it would be time enough to think about answering them.
“You are entering upon a time of life,” pursued the priest, “when you must choose your path and keep to it. Pray to God that He may in His mercy aid you and have mercy on you!” he concluded. “Our Lord and God, Jesus Christ, in the abundance and riches of His lovingkindness, forgives this child…” and, finishing the prayer of absolution, the priest blessed him and dismissed him.
On getting home that day, Levin had a delightful sense of relief at the awkward position being over and having been got through without his having to tell a lie. Apart from this, there remained a vague memory that what the kind, nice old fellow had said had not been at all so stupid as he had fancied at first, and that there was something in it that must be cleared up.
“Of course, not now,” thought Levin, “but some day later on.” Levin felt more than ever now that there was something not clear and not clean in his soul, and that, in regard to religion, he was in the same position which he perceived so clearly and disliked in others, and for which he blamed his friend Sviazhsky.
Levin spent that evening with his betrothed at Dolly’s, and was in very high spirits. To explain to Stepan Arkadyevitch the state of excitement in which he found himself, he said that he was happy like a dog being trained to jump through a hoop, who, having at last caught the idea, and done what was required of him, whines and wags its tail, and jumps up to the table and the windows in its delight.
On the day of the wedding, according to the Russian custom (the princess and Darya Alexandrovna insisted on strictly keeping all the customs), Levin did not see his betrothed, and dined at his hotel with three bachelor friends, casually brought together at his rooms. These were Sergey Ivanovitch, Katavasov, a university friend, now professor of natural science, whom Levin had met in the street and insisted on taking home with him, and Tchirikov, his best man, a Moscow conciliation-board judge, Levin’s companion in his bear-hunts. The dinner was a very merry one: Sergey Ivanovitch was in his happiest mood, and was much amused by Katavasov’s originality. Katavasov, feeling his originality was appreciated and understood, made the most of it. Tchirikov always gave a lively and good-humored support to conversation of any sort.
“See, now,” said Katavasov, drawling his words from a habit acquired in the lecture-room, “what a capable fellow was our friend Konstantin Dmitrievitch. I’m not speaking of present company, for he’s absent. At the time he left the university he was fond of science, took an interest in humanity; now one-half of his abilities is devoted to deceiving himself, and the other to justifying the deceit.”
“A more determined enemy of matrimony than you I never saw,” said Sergey Ivanovitch.
“Oh, no, I’m not an enemy of matrimony. I’m in favor of division of labor. People who can do nothing else ought to rear people while the rest work for their happiness and enlightenment. That’s how I look at it. To muddle up two trades is the error of the amateur; I’m not one of their number.”
“How happy I shall be when I hear that you’re in love!” said Levin. “Please invite me to the wedding.”
“I’m in love now.”
“Yes, with a cuttlefish! You know,” Levin turned to his brother, “Mihail Semyonovitch is writing a work on the digestive organs of the…”
“Now, make a muddle of it! It doesn’t matter what about. And the fact is, I certainly do love cuttlefish.”
“But that’s no hindrance to your loving your wife.”
“The cuttlefish is no hindrance. The wife is the hindrance.”
“Oh, you’ll see! You care about farming, hunting,–well, you’d better look out!”
“Arhip was here today; he said there were a lot of elks in Prudno, and two bears,” said Tchirikov.
“Well, you must go and get them without me.”
“Ah, that’s the truth,” said Sergey Ivanovitch. “And you may say good-bye to bear-hunting for the future–your wife won’t allow it!”
Levin smiled. The picture of his wife not letting him go was so pleasant that he was ready to renounce the delights of looking upon bears forever.
“Still, it’s a pity they should get those two bears without you. Do you remember last time at Hapilovo? That was a delightful hunt!” said Tchirikov.
Levin had not the heart to disillusion him of the notion that there could be something delightful apart from her, and so said nothing.
“There’s some sense in this custom of saying good-bye to bachelor life,” said Sergey Ivanovitch. “However happy you may be, you must regret your freedom.”
“And confess there is a feeling that you want to jump out of the window, like Gogol’s bridegroom?”
“Of course there is, but it isn’t confessed,” said Katavasov, and he broke into loud laughter.
“Oh, well, the window’s open. Let’s start off this instant to Tver! There’s a big she-bear; one can go right up to the lair. Seriously, let’s go by the five o’clock! And here let them do what they like,” said Tchirikov, smiling.
“Well, now, on my honor,” said Levin, smiling, “I can’t find in my heart that feeling of regret for my freedom.”
“Yes, there’s such a chaos in your heart just now that you can’t find anything there,” said Katavasov. “Wait a bit, when you set it to rights a little, you’ll find it!”
“No; if so, I should have felt a little, apart from my feeling” (he could not say love before them) “and happiness, a certain regret at losing my freedom…. On the contrary, I am glad at the very loss of my freedom.”
“Awful! It’s a hopeless case!” said Katavasov. “Well, let’s drink to his recovery, or wish that a hundredth part of his dreams may be realized–and that would be happiness such as never has been seen on earth!”
Soon after dinner the guests went away to be in time to be dressed for the wedding.
When he was left alone, and recalled the conversation of these bachelor friends, Levin asked himself: had he in his heart that regret for his freedom of which they had spoken? He smiled at the question. “Freedom! What is freedom for? Happiness is only in loving and wishing her wishes, thinking her thoughts, that is to say, not freedom at all–that’s happiness!”
“But do I know her ideas, her wishes, her feelings?” some voice suddenly whispered to him. The smile died away from his face, and he grew thoughtful. And suddenly a strange feeling came upon him. There came over him a dread and doubt–doubt of everything.
“What if she does not love me? What if she’s marrying me simply to be married? What if she doesn’t see herself what she’s doing?” he asked himself. “She may come to her senses, and only when she is being married realize that she does not and cannot love me.” And strange, most evil thoughts of her began to come to him. He was jealous of Vronsky, as he had been a year ago, as though the evening he had seen her with Vronsky had been yesterday. He suspected she had not told him everything.
He jumped up quickly. “No, this can’t go on!” he said to himself in despair. “I’ll go to her; I’ll ask her; I’ll say for the last time: we are free, and hadn’t we better stay so? Anything’s better than endless misery, disgrace, unfaithfulness!” With despair in his heart and bitter anger against all men, against himself, against her, he went out of the hotel and drove to her house.
He found her in one of the back rooms. She was sitting on a chest and making some arrangements with her maid, sorting over heaps of dresses of different colors, spread on the backs of chairs and on the floor.
“Ah!” she cried, seeing him, and beaming with delight. “Kostya! Konstantin Dmitrievitch!” (These latter days she used these names almost alternately.) “I didn’t expect you! I’m going through my wardrobe to see what’s for whom…”
“Oh! that’s very nice!” he said gloomily, looking at the maid.
“You can go, Dunyasha, I’ll call you presently,” said Kitty. “Kostya, what’s the matter?” she asked, definitely adopting this familiar name as soon as the maid had gone out. She noticed his strange face, agitated and gloomy, and a panic came over her.
“Kitty! I’m in torture. I can’t suffer alone,” he said with despair in his voice, standing before her and looking imploringly into her eyes. He saw already from her loving, truthful face, that nothing could come of what he had meant to say, but yet he wanted her to reassure him herself. “I’ve come to say that there’s still time. This can all be stopped and set right.”
“What? I don’t understand. What is the matter?”
“What I have said a thousand times over, and can’t help thinking …that I’m not worthy of you. You couldn’t consent to marry me. Think a little. You’ve made a mistake. Think it over thoroughly. You can’t love me…. If…better say so,” he said, not looking at her. “I shall be wretched. Let people say what they like; anything’s better than misery…. Far better now while there’s still time….”
“I don’t understand,” she answered, panic-stricken; “you mean you want to give it up…don’t want it?”
“Yes, if you don’t love me.”
“You’re out of your mind!” she cried, turning crimson with vexation. But his face was so piteous, that she restrained her vexation, and flinging some clothes off an arm-chair, she sat down beside him. “What are you thinking? tell me all.”
“I am thinking you can’t love me. What can you love me for?”
“My God! what can I do?…” she said, and burst into tears.
“Oh! what have I done?” he cried, and kneeling before her, he fell to kissing her hands.
When the princess came into the room five minutes later, she found them completely reconciled. Kitty had not simply assured him that she loved him, but had gone so far–in answer to his question, what she loved him for–as to explain what for. She told him that she loved him because she understood him completely, because she knew what he would like, and because everything he liked was good. And this seemed to him perfectly clear. When the princess came to them, they were sitting side by side on the chest, sorting the dresses and disputing over Kitty’s wanting to give Dunyasha the brown dress she had been wearing when Levin proposed to her, while he insisted that that dress must never be given away, but Dunyasha must have the blue one.
“How is it you don’t see? She’s a brunette, and it won’t suit her…. I’ve worked it all out.”
Hearing why he had come, the princess was half humorously, half seriously angry with him, and sent him home to dress and not to hinder Kitty’s hair-dressing, as Charles the hair-dresser was just coming.
“As it is, she’s been eating nothing lately and is losing her looks, and then you must come and upset her with your nonsense,” she said to him. “Get along with you, my dear!”
Levin, guilty and shamefaced, but pacified, went back to his hotel. His brother, Darya Alexandrovna, and Stepan Arkadyevitch, all in full dress, were waiting for him to bless him with the holy picture. There was no time to lose. Darya Alexandrovna had to drive home again to fetch her curled and pomaded son, who was to carry the holy pictures after the bride. Then a carriage had to be sent for the best man, and another that would take Sergey Ivanovitch away would have to be sent back…. Altogether there were a great many most complicated matters to be considered and arranged. One thing was unmistakable, that there must be no delay, as it was already half-past six.
Nothing special happened at the ceremony of benediction with the holy picture. Stepan Arkadyevitch stood in a comically solemn pose beside his wife, took the holy picture, and telling Levin to bow down to the ground, he blessed him with his kindly, ironical smile, and kissed him three times; Darya Alexandrovna did the same, and immediately vas in a hurry to get off, and again plunged into the intricate question of the destinations of the various carriages.
“Come, I’ll tell you how we’ll manage: you drive in our carriage to fetch him, and Sergey Ivanovitch, if he’ll be so good, will drive there and then send his carriage.”
“Of course; I shall be delighted.”
“We’ll come on directly with him. Are your things sent off?” said Stepan Arkadyevitch.
“Yes,” answered Levin, and he told Kouzma to put out his clothes for him to dress.
A crowd of people, principally women, was thronging round the church lighted up for the wedding. Those who had not succeeded in getting into the main entrance were crowding about the windows, pushing, wrangling, and peeping through the gratings.
More than twenty carriages had already been drawn up in ranks along the street by the police. A police officer, regardless of the frost, stood at the entrance, gorgeous in his uniform. More carriages were continually driving up, and ladies wearing flowers and carrying their trains, and men taking off their helmets or black hats kept walking into the church. Iside the church both lusters were already lighted, and all the candles before the holy pictures. The gilt on the red ground of the holy picture-stand, and the gilt relief on the pictures, and the silver of the lusters and candlesticks, and the stones of the floor, and the rugs, and the banners above in the choir, and the steps of the altar, and the old blackened books, and the cassocks and surplices–all were flooded with light. On the right side of the warm church, in the crowd of frock coats and white ties, uniforms and broadcloth, velvet, satin, hair and flowers, bare shoulders and arms and long gloves, there was discreet but lively conversation that echoed strangely in the high cupola. Every time there was heard the creak of the opened door the conversation in the crowd died away, and everybody looked round expecting to see the bride and bridegroom come in. But the door had opened more than ten times, and each time it was either a belated guest or guests, who joined the circle of the invited on the right, or a spectator, who had eluded or softened the police officer, and went to join the crowd of outsiders on the left. Both the guests and the outside public had by now passed through all the phases of anticipation.
At first they imagined that the bride and bridegroom would arrive immediately, and attached no importance at all to their being late. Then they began to look more and more often towards the door, and to talk of whether anything could have happened. Then the long delay began to be positively discomforting, and relations and guests tried to look as if they were not thinking of the bridegroom but were engrossed in conversation.
The head deacon, as though to remind them of the value of his time, coughed impatiently, making the window-panes quiver in their frames. In the choir the bored choristers could be heard trying their voices and blowing their noses. The priest was continually sending first the beadle and then the deacon to find out whether the bridegroom had not come, more and more often he went himself, in a lilac vestment and an embroidered sash, to the side door, expecting to see the bridegroom. At last one of the ladies, glancing at her watch, said, “It really is strange, though!” and all the guests became uneasy and began loudly expressing their wonder and dissatisfaction. One of the bridegroom’s best men went to find out what had happened. Kitty meanwhile had long ago been quite ready, and in her white dress and long veil and wreath of orange blossoms she was standing in the drawing-room of the Shtcherbatskys’ house with her sister, Madame Lvova, who was her bridal-mother. She was looking out of the window, and had been for over half an hour anxiously expecting to hear from her best man that her bridegroom was at the church.
Levin meanwhile, in his trousers, but without his coat and waistcoat, was walking to and fro in his room at the hotel, continually putting his head out of the door and looking up and down the corridor. But in the corridor there was no sign of the person he was looking for and he came back in despair, and frantically waving his hands addressed Stepan Arkadyevitch, who was smoking serenely.
“Was ever a man in such a fearful fool’s position?” he said.
“Yes, it is stupid,” Stepan Arkadyevitch asserted, smiling soothingly. “But don’t worry, it’ll be brought directly.”
“No, what is to be done!” said Levin, with smothered fury. “And these fools of open waistcoats! Out of the question!” he said, looking at the crumpled front of his shirt. “And what if the things have been taken on to the railway station!” he roared in desperation.
“Then you must put on mine.”
“I ought to have done so long ago, if at all.”
“It’s not nice to look ridiculous…. Wait a bit! it will come round.”
The point was that when Levin asked for his evening suit, Kouzma, his old servant, had brought him the coat, waistcoat, and everything that was wanted.
“But the shirt!” cried Levin.
“You’ve got a shirt on,” Konzma answered, with a placid smile.
Kouzma had not thought of leaving out a clean shirt, and on receiving instructions to pack up everything and send it round to the Shtcherbatskys’ house, from which the young people were to set out the same evening, he had done so, packing everything but the dress suit. The shirt worn since the morning was crumpled and out of the question with the fashionable open waistcoat. It was a long way to send to the Shtcherbatskys’. They sent out to buy a shirt. The servant came back; everything was shut up–it was Sunday. They sent to Stepan Arkadyevitch’s and brought a shirt–it was impossibly wide and short. They sent finally to the Shtcherbatskys’ to unpack the things. The bridegroom was expected at the church while he was pacing up and down his room like a wild beast in a cage, peeping out into the corridor, and with horror and despair recalling what absurd things he had said to Kitty and what she might be thinking now.
At last the guilty Kouzma flew panting into the room with the shirt.
“Only just in time. They were just lifting it into the van,” said Kouzma.
Three minutes later Levin ran full speed into the corridor, not looking at his watch for fear of aggravating his sufferings.
“You won’t help matters like this,” said Stepan Arkadyevitch with a smile, hurrying with more deliberation after him. “It will come round, it will come round…I tell you.”
“They’ve come!” “Here he is!” “Which one?” “Rather young, eh?” “Why, my dear soul, she looks more dead than alive!” were the comments in the crowd, when Levin, meeting his bride in the entrance, walked with her into the church.
Stepan Arkadyevitch told his wife the cause of the delay, and the guests were whispering it with smiles to one another. Levin saw nothing and no one; he did not take his eyes off his bride.
Everyone said she had lost her looks dreadfully of late, and was not nearly so pretty on her wedding day as usual; but Levin did not think so. He looked at her hair done up high, with the long white veil and white flowers and the high, stand-up, scalloped collar, that in such a maidenly fashion hid her long neck at the sides and only showed it in front, her strikingly slender figure, and it seemed to him that she looked better than ever–not because these flowers, this veil, this gown from Paris added anything to her beauty; but because, in spite of the elaborate sumptuousness of her attire, the expression of her sweet face, of her eyes, of her lips was still her own characteristic expression of guileless truthfulness.
“I was beginning to think you meant to run away,” she said, and smiled to him.
“It’s so stupid, what happened to me, I’m ashamed to speak of it!” he said, reddening, and he was obliged to turn to Sergey Ivanovitch, who came up to him.
“This is a pretty story of yours about the shirt!” said Sergey Ivanovitch, shaking his head and smiling.
“Yes, yes!” answered Levin, without an idea of what they were talking about.
“Now, Kostya, you have to decide,” said Stepan Arkadyevitch with an air of mock dismay, “a weighty question. You are at this moment just in the humor to appreciate all its gravity. They ask me, are they to light the candles that have been lighted before or candles that have never been lighted? It’s a matter of ten roubles,” he added, relaxing his lips into a smile. “I have decided, but I was afraid you might not agree.”
Levin saw it was a joke, but he could not smile.
“Well, how’s it to be then?–unlighted or lighted candles? that’s the question.”
“Yes, yes, unlighted.”
“Oh, I’m very glad. The question’s decided!” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, smiling. “How silly men are, though, in this position,” he said to Tchirikov, when Levin, after looking absently at him, had moved back to his bride.
“Kitty, mind you’re the first to step on the carpet,” said Countess Nordston, coming up. “You’re a nice person!” she said to Levin.
“Aren’t you frightened, eh?” said Marya Dmitrievna, an old aunt.
“Are you cold? You’re pale. Stop a minute, stoop down,” said Kitty’s sister, Madame Lvova, and with her plump, handsome arms she smilingly set straight the flowers on her head.
Dolly came up, tried to say something, but could not speak, cried and then laughed unnaturally.
Kitty looked at all of them with the same absent eyes as Levin.
Meanwhile the officiating clergy had got into their vestments, and the priest and deacon came out to the lectern, which stood in the forepart of the church. The priest turned to Levin saying something. Levin did not hear what the priest said.
“Take the bride’s hand and lead her up,” the best man said to Levin.
It was a long while before Levin could make out what was expected of him. For a long time they tried to set him right and made him begin again–because he kept taking Kitty by the wrong arm or with the wrong arm–till he understood at last that what he had to do was, without changing his position, to take her right hand in his right hand. When at last he had taken the bride’s hand in the correct way, the priest walked a few paces in front of them and stopped at the lectern. The crowd of friends and relations moved after them, with a buzz of talk and a rustle of skirts. Someone stooped down and pulled out the bride’s train. The church became so still that the drops of wax could be heard falling from the candles.
The little old priest in his ecclesiastical cap, with his long silvery-gray locks of hair parted behind his ears, was fumbling with something at the lectern, putting out his little old hands from under the heavy silver vestment with the gold cross on the back of it.
Stepan Arkadyevitch approached him cautiously, whispered something, and making a sign to Levin, walked back again.
The priest lighted two candles, wreathed with flowers, and holding them sideways so that the wax dropped slowly from them he turned, facing the bridal pair. The priest was the same old man that had confessed Levin. He looked with weary and melancholy eyes at the bride and bridegroom, sighed, and putting his right hand out from his vestment, blessed the bridegroom with it, and also with a shade of solicitous tenderness laid the crossed fingers on the bowed head of Kitty. Then he gave them the candles, and taking the censer, moved slowly away from them.
“Can it be true?” thought Levin, and he looked round at his bride. Looking down at her he saw her face in profile, and from the scarcely perceptible quiver of her lips and eyelashes he knew she was aware of his eyes upon her. She did not look round, but the high scalloped collar, that reached her little pink ear, trembled faintly. He saw that a sigh was held back in her throat, and the little hand in the long glove shook as it held the candle.
All the fuss of the shirt, of being late, all the talk of friends and relations, their annoyance, his ludicrous position–all suddenly passed way and he was filled with joy and dread.
The handsome, stately head-deacon wearing a silver robe and his curly locks standing out at each side of his head, stepped smartly forward, and lifting his stole on two fingers, stood opposite the priest.
“Blessed be the name of the Lord,” the solemn syllables rang out slowly one after another, setting the air quivering with waves of sound.
“Blessed is the name of our God, from the beginning, is now, and ever shall be,” the little old priest answered in a submissive, piping voice, still fingering something at the lectern. And the full chorus of the unseen choir rose up, filling the whole church, from the windows to the vaulted roof, with broad waves of melody. It grew stronger, rested for an instant, and slowly died away.
They prayed, as they always do, for peace from on high and for salvation, for the Holy Synod, and for the Tsar; they prayed, too, for the servants of God, Konstantin and Ekaterina, now plighting their troth.
“Vouchsafe to them love made perfect, peace and help, O Lord, we beseech Thee,” the whole church seemed to breathe with the voice of the head deacon.
Levin heard the words, and they impressed him. “How did they guess that it is help, just help that one wants?” he thought, recalling all his fears and doubts of late. “What do I know? what can I do in this fearful business,” he thought, “without help? Yes, it is help I want now.”
When the deacon had finished the prayer for the Imperial family, the priest turned to the bridal pair with a book: “Eternal God, that joinest together in love them that were separate,” he read in a gentle, piping voice: “who hast ordained the union of holy wedlock that cannot be set asunder, Thou who didst bless Isaac and Rebecca and their descendants, according to Thy Holy Covenant; bless Thy servants, Konstantin and Ekaterina, leading them in the path of all good works. For gracious and merciful art Thou, our Lord, and glory be to Thee, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, now and ever shall be.”
“Amen!” the unseen choir sent rolling again upon the air.
” ‘Joinest together in love them that were separate.’ What deep meaning in those words, and how they correspond with what one feels at this moment,” thought Levin. “Is she feeling the same as I?”
And looking round, he met her eyes, and from their expression he concluded that she was understanding it just as he was. But this was a mistake; she almost completely missed the meaning of the words of the service; she had not heard them, in fact. She could not listen to them and take them in, so strong was the one feeling that filled her breast and grew stronger and stronger. That feeling was joy at the completion of the process that for the last month and a half had been going on in her soul, and had during those six weeks been a joy and a torture to her. On the day when in the drawing room of the house in Arbaty Street she had gone up to him in her brown dress, and given herself to him without a word–on that day, at that hour, there took place in her heart a complete severance from all her old life, and a quite different, new, utterly strange life had begun for her, while the old life was actually going on as before. Those six weeks had for her been a time of the utmost bliss and the utmost misery. All her life, all her desires and hopes were concentrated on this one man, still uncomprehended by her, to whom she was bound by a feeling of alternate attraction and repulsion, even less comprehended than the man himself, and all the while she was going on living in the outward conditions of her old life. Living the old life, she was horrified at herself, at her utter insurmountable callousness to all her own past, to things, to habits, to the people she had loved, who loved her–to her mother, who was wounded by her indifference, to her kind, tender father, till then dearer than all the world. At one moment she was horrified at this indifference, at another she rejoiced at what had brought her to this indifference. She could not frame a thought, not a wish apart from life with this man; but this new life was not yet, and she could not even picture it clearly to herself. There was only anticipation, the dread and joy of the new and the unknown. And now behold–anticipation and uncertainty and remorse at the abandonment of the old life–all was ending, and the new was beginning. This new life could not but have terrors for her inexperience; but, terrible or not, the change had been wrought six weeks before in her soul, and this was merely the final sanction of what had long been completed in her heart.
Turning again to the lectern, the priest with some difficulty took Kitty’s little ring, and asking Levin for his hand, put it on the first joint of his finger. “The servant of God, Konstantin, plights his troth to the servant of God, Ekaterina.” And putting his big ring on Kitty’s touchingly weak, pink little finger, the priest said the same thing.
And the bridal pair tried several times to understand what they had to do, and each time made some mistake and were corrected by the priest in a whisper. At last, having duly performed the ceremony, having signed the rings with the cross, the priest handed Kitty the big ring, and Levin the little one. Again they were puzzled and passed the rings from hand to hand, still without doing what was expected.
Dolly, Tchirikov, and Stepan Arkadyevitch stepped forward to set them right. There was an interval of hesitation, whispering, and smiles; but the expression of solemn emotion on the faces of the betrothed pair did not change: on the contrary, in their perplexity over their hands they looked more grave and deeply moved than before, and the smile with which Stepan Arkadyevitch whispered to them that now they would each put on their own ring died away on his lips. He had a feeling that any smile would jar on them.
“Thou who didst from the beginning create male and female,” the priest read after the exchange of rings, “from Thee woman was given to man to be a helpmeet to him, and for the procreation of children. O Lord, our God, who hast poured down the blessings of Thy Truth according to Thy Holy Covenant upon Thy chosen servants, our fathers, from generation to generation, bless Thy servants Konstantin and Ekaterina, and make their troth fast in faith, and union of hearts, and truth, and love….”
Levin felt more and more that all his ideas of marriage, all his dreams of how he would order his life, were mere childishness, and that it was something he had not understood hitherto, and now understood less than ever, though it was being performed upon him. The lump in his throat rose higher and higher, tears that would not be checked came into his eyes.
In the church there was all Moscow, all the friends and relations; and during the ceremony of plighting troth, in the brilliantly lighted church, there was an incessant flow of discreetly subdued talk in the circle of gaily dressed women and girls, and men in white ties, frockcoats, and uniforms. The talk was principally kept up by the men, while the women were absorbed in watching every detail of the ceremony, which always means so much to them.
In the little group nearest to the bride were her two sisters: Dolly, and the other one, the self-possessed beauty, Madame Lvova, who had just arrived from abroad.
“Why is it Marie’s in lilac, as bad as black, at a wedding?” said Madame Korsunskaya.
“With her complexion, it’s the one salvation,” responded Madame Trubetskaya. “I wonder why they had the wedding in the evening? It’s like shop-people…”
“So much prettier. I was married in the evening too…” answered Madame Korsunskaya, and she sighed, remembering how charming she had been that day, and how absurdly in love her husband was, and how different it all was now.
“They say if anyone’s best man more than ten times, he’ll never be married. I wanted to be for the tenth time, but the post was taken,” said Count Siniavin to the pretty Princess Tcharskaya, who had designs on him.
Princess Tcharskaya only answered with a smile. She looked at Kitty, thinking how and when she would stand with Count Siniavin in Kitty’s place, and how she would remind him then of his joke today.
Shtcherbatsky told the old maid of honor, Madame Nikolaeva, that he meant to put the crown on Kitty’s chignon for luck.
“She ought not to have worn a chignon,” answered Madame Nikolaeva, who had long ago made up her mind that if the elderly widower she was angling for married her, the wedding should be of the simplest. “I don’t like such grandeur.”
Sergey Ivanovitch was talking to Darya Dmitrievna, jestingly assuring her that the custom of going away after the wedding was becoming common because newly married people always felt a little ashamed of themselves.
“Your brother may feel proud of himself. She’s a marvel of sweetness. I believe you’re envious.”
“Oh, I’ve got over that, Darya Dmitrievna,” he answered, and a melancholy and serious expression suddenly came over his face.
Stepan Arkadyevitch was telling his sister-in-law his joke about divorce.
“The wreath wants setting straight,” she answered, not hearing him.
“What a pity she’s lost her looks so,” Countess Nordston said to Madame Lvova. “Still he’s not worth her little finger, is he?”
“Oh, I like him so–not because he’s my future beau-frere,” answered Madame Lvova. “And how well he’s behaving! It’s so difficult, too, to look well in such a position, not to be ridiculous. And he’s not ridiculous, and not affected; one can see he’s moved.”
“You expected it, I suppose?”
“Almost. She always cared for him.”
“Well, we shall see which of them will step on the rug first. I warned Kitty.”
“It will make no difference,” said Madame Lvova; “we’re all obedient wives; it’s in our family.”
“Oh, I stepped on the rug before Vassily on purpose. And you, Dolly?”
Dolly stood beside them; she heard them, but she did not answer. She was deeply moved. The tears stood in her eyes, and she could not have spoken without crying. She was rejoicing over Kitty and Levin; going back in thought to her own wedding, she glanced at the radiant figure of Stepan Arkadyevitch, forgot all the present, and remembered only her own innocent love. She recalled not herself only, but all her women-friends and acquaintances. She thought of them on the one day of their triumph, when they had stood like Kitty under the wedding crown, with love and hope and dread in their hearts, renouncing the past, and stepping forward into the mysterious future. Among the brides that came back to her memory, she thought too of her darling Anna, of whose proposed divorce she had just been hearing. And she had stood just as innocent in orange flowers and bridal veil. And now? “It’s terribly strange,” she said to herself. It was not merely the sisters, the women-friends and female relations of the bride who were following every detail of the ceremony. Women who were quite strangers, mere spectators, were watching it excitedly, holding their breath, in fear of losing a single movement or expression of the bride and bridegroom, and angrily not answering, often not hearing, the remarks of the callous men, who kept making joking or irrelevant observations.
“Why has she been crying? Is she being married against her will?”
“Against her will to a fine fellow like that? A prince, isn’t he?”
“Is that her sister in the white satin? Just listen how the deacon booms out, ‘And fearing her husband.'”
“Are the choristers from Tchudovo?”
“No, from the Synod.”
“I asked the footman. He says he’s going to take her home to his country place at once. Awfully rich, they say. That’s why she’s being married to him.”
“No, they’re a well-matched pair.”
“I say, Marya Vassilievna, you were making out those fly-away crinolines were not being worn. Just look at her in the puce dress–an ambassador’s wife they say she is–how her skirt bounces out from side to sides”
“What a pretty dear the bride is–like a lamb decked with flowers! Well, say what you will, we women feel for our sister.”
Such were the comments in the crowd of gazing women who had succeeded in slipping in at the church doors.