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Chapter 16


The princess sat in her armchair, silent and smiling; the prince
sat down beside her. Kitty stood by her father's chair, still
holding his hand. All were silent.

The princess was the first to put everything into words, and to
translate all thoughts and feelings into practical questions.
And all equally felt this strange and painful for the first
minute.

"When is it to be? We must have the benediction and
announcement. And when's the wedding to be? What do you think,
Alexander?"

"Here he is," said the old prince, pointing to Levin--"he's the
principal person in the matter."

"When?" said Levin blushing. "Tomorrow; If you ask me, I should
say, the benediction today and the wedding tomorrow."

"Come, mon cher, that's nonsense!"

"Well, in a week."

"He's quite mad."

"No, why so?"

"Well, upon my word!" said the mother, smiling, delighted at this
haste. "How about the trousseau?"

"Will there really be a trousseau and all that?" Levin thought
with horror. "But can the trousseau and the benediction and all
that--can it spoil my happiness? Nothing can spoil it!" He
glanced at Kitty, and noticed that she was not in the least, not
in the very least, disturbed by the idea of the trousseau. "Then
it must be all right," he thought.

"Oh, I know nothing about it; I only said what I should like,"
he said apologetically.

"We'll talk it over, then. The benediction and announcement can
take place now. That's very well."

The princess went up to her husband, kissed him, and would have
gone away, but he kept her, embraced her, and tenderly as a young
lover, kissed her several times, smiling. The old people were
obviously muddled for a moment, and did not quite know whether it
was they who were in love again or their daughter. When the
prince and the princess had gone, Levin went up to his betrothed
and took her hand. He was self-possessed now and could speak,
and he had a great deal he wanted to tell her. But he said not
at all what he had to say.

"How I knew it would be so! I never hoped for it; and yet in my
heart I was always sure," he said. "I believe that it was
ordained."

"And I!" she said. "Even when...." She stopped and went on
again, looking at him resolutely with her truthful eyes, "Even
when I thrust from me my happiness. I always loved you alone,
but I was carried away. I ought to tell you.... Can you forgive
that?"

"Perhaps it was for the best. You will have to forgive me so
much. I ought to tell you..."

This was one of the things he had meant to speak about. He had
resolved from the first to tell her two things--that he was not
chaste as she was, and that he was not a believer. It was
agonizing, but he considered he ought to tell her both these
facts.

"No, not now, later!" he said.

"Very well, later, but you must certainly tell me. I'm not
afraid of anything. I want to know everything. Now it is
settled."

He added: "Settled that you'll take me whatever I may be--you
won't give me up? Yes?"

"Yes, yes."

Their conversation was interrupted by Mademoiselle Linon, who
with an affected but tender smile came to congratulate her
favorite pupil. Before she had gone, the servants came in with
their congratulations. Then relations arrived, and there began
that state of blissful absurdity from which Levin did not emerge
till the day after his wedding. Levin was in a continual state
of awkwardness and discomfort, but the intensity of his happiness
went on all the while increasing. He felt continually that a
great deal was being expected of him--what, he did not know; and
he did everything he was told, and it all gave him happiness. He
had thought his engagement would have nothing about it like
others, that the ordinary conditions of engaged couples would
spoil his special happiness; but it ended in his doing exactly as
other people did, and his happiness being only increased thereby
and becoming more and more special, more and more unlike anything
that had ever happened.

"Now we shall have sweetmeats to eat," said Mademoiselle Linon--
and Levin drove off to buy sweetmeats.

"Well, I'm very glad," said Sviazhsky. "I advise you to get the
bouquets from Fomin's."

"Oh, are they wanted?" And he drove to Fomin's.

His brother offered to lend him money, as he would have so many
expenses, presents to give....

"Oh, are presents wanted?" And he galloped to Foulde's.

And at the confectioner's, and at Fomin's, and at Foulde's he saw
that he was expected; that they were pleased to see him, and
prided themselves on his happiness, just as every one whom he had
to do with during those days. What was extraordinary was that
everyone not only liked him, but even people previously
unsympathetic, cold, and callous, were enthusiastic over him,
gave way to him in everything, treated his feeling with
tenderness and delicacy, and shared his conviction that he was
the happiest man in the world because his betrothed was beyond
perfection. Kitty too felt the same thing. When Countess
Nordston ventured to hint that she had hoped for something
better, Kitty was so angry and proved so conclusively that
nothing in the world could be better than Levin, that Countess
Nordston had to admit it, and in Kitty's presence never met Levin
without a smile of ecstatic admiration.

The confession he had promised was the one painful incident of
this time. He consulted the old prince, and with his sanction
gave Kitty his diary, in which there was written the confession
that tortured him. He had written this diary at the time with a
view to his future wife. Two things caused him anguish: his lack
of purity and his lack of faith. His confession of unbelief
passed unnoticed. She was religious, had never doubted the
truths of religion, but his external unbelief did not affect her
in the least. Through love she knew all his soul, and in his
soul she saw what she wanted, and that such a state of soul
should be called unbelieving was to her a matter of no account.
The other confession set her weeping bitterly.

Levin, not without an inner struggle, handed her his diary. He
knew that between him and her there could not be, and should not
be, secrets, and so he had decided that so it must be. But he
had not realized what an effect it would have on her, he had not
put himself in her place. It was only when the same evening he
came to their house before the theater, went into her room and
saw her tear-stained, pitiful, sweet face, miserable with
suffering he had caused and nothing could undo, he felt the abyss
that separated his shameful past from her dovelike purity, and
was appalled at what he had done.

"Take them, take these dreadful books!" she said, pushing away
the notebooks lying before her on the table. "Why did you give
them me? No, it was better anyway," she added, touched by his
despairing face. "But it's awful, awful!"

His head sank, and he was silent. He could say nothing.

"You can't forgive me," he whispered.

"Yes, I forgive you; but it's terrible!"

But his happiness was so immense that this confession did not
shatter it, it only added another shade to it. She forgave him;
but from that time more than ever he considered himself unworthy
of her, morally bowed down lower than ever before her, and prized
more highly than ever his undeserved happiness.



Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Category:
Fiction - Russian literature
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