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Chapter 4


"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.



Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Category:
Fiction - Russian literature
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