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Chapter 3


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."



Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Category:
Fiction - Russian literature
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