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PART FIVE - Chapter 1


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.



Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Category:
Fiction - Russian literature
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