Anna karenina, p.128
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       Anna Karenina, p.128

           graf Leo Tolstoy

  Chapter 4

  "They've come!" "Here he is!" "Which one?" "Rather young, eh?" "Why, mydear soul, she looks more dead than alive!" were the comments in thecrowd, when Levin, meeting his bride in the entrance, walked with herinto the church.

  Stepan Arkadyevitch told his wife the cause of the delay, and the guestswere whispering it with smiles to one another. Levin saw nothing and noone; he did not take his eyes off his bride.

  Everyone said she had lost her looks dreadfully of late, and was notnearly so pretty on her wedding day as usual; but Levin did not thinkso. He looked at her hair done up high, with the long white veil andwhite flowers and the high, stand-up, scalloped collar, that in such amaidenly fashion hid her long neck at the sides and only showed it infront, her strikingly slender figure, and it seemed to him that shelooked better than ever--not because these flowers, this veil, this gownfrom Paris added anything to her beauty; but because, in spite of theelaborate sumptuousness of her attire, the expression of her sweet face,of her eyes, of her lips was still her own characteristic expression ofguileless truthfulness.

  "I was beginning to think you meant to run away," she said, and smiledto him.

  "It's so stupid, what happened to me, I'm ashamed to speak of it!" hesaid, reddening, and he was obliged to turn to Sergey Ivanovitch, whocame up to him.

  "This is a pretty story of yours about the shirt!" said SergeyIvanovitch, shaking his head and smiling.

  "Yes, yes!" answered Levin, without an idea of what they were talkingabout.

  "Now, Kostya, you have to decide," said Stepan Arkadyevitch with an airof mock dismay, "a weighty question. You are at this moment just in thehumor to appreciate all its gravity. They ask me, are they to light thecandles that have been lighted before or candles that have never beenlighted? It's a matter of ten roubles," he added, relaxing his lips intoa 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 thequestion."

  "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 toTchirikov, when Levin, after looking absently at him, had moved back tohis bride.

  "Kitty, mind you're the first to step on the carpet," said CountessNordston, 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'ssister, Madame Lvova, and with her plump, handsome arms she smilinglyset straight the flowers on her head.

  Dolly came up, tried to say something, but could not speak, cried, andthen 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 thepriest and deacon came out to the lectern, which stood in the forepartof the church. The priest turned to Levin saying something. Levin didnot 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 ofhim. For a long time they tried to set him right and made him beginagain--because he kept taking Kitty by the wrong arm or with the wrongarm--till he understood at last that what he had to do was, withoutchanging his position, to take her right hand in his right hand. When atlast he had taken the bride's hand in the correct way, the priest walkeda few paces in front of them and stopped at the lectern. The crowd offriends and relations moved after them, with a buzz of talk and a rustleof skirts. Someone stooped down and pulled out the bride's train. Thechurch became so still that the drops of wax could be heard falling fromthe candles.

  The little old priest in his ecclesiastical cap, with his longsilvery-gray locks of hair parted behind his ears, was fumbling withsomething at the lectern, putting out his little old hands from underthe heavy silver vestment with the gold cross on the back of it.

  Stepan Arkadyevitch approached him cautiously, whispered something, andmaking a sign to Levin, walked back again.

  The priest lighted two candles, wreathed with flowers, and holding themsideways so that the wax dropped slowly from them he turned, facing thebridal 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 thebridegroom with it, and also with a shade of solicitous tenderness laidthe crossed fingers on the bowed head of Kitty. Then he gave them thecandles, 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 scarcelyperceptible quiver of her lips and eyelashes he knew she was aware ofhis eyes upon her. She did not look round, but the high scallopedcollar, that reached her little pink ear, trembled faintly. He saw thata sigh was held back in her throat, and the little hand in the longglove shook as it held the candle.

  All the fuss of the shirt, of being late, all the talk of friends andrelations, their annoyance, his ludicrous position--all suddenly passedaway and he was filled with joy and dread.

  The handsome, stately head-deacon wearing a silver robe and his curlylocks 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 slowlyone after another, setting the air quivering with waves of sound.

  "Blessed is the name of our God, from the beginning, is now, and evershall be," the little old priest answered in a submissive, piping voice,still fingering something at the lectern. And the full chorus of theunseen choir rose up, filling the whole church, from the windows to thevaulted roof, with broad waves of melody. It grew stronger, rested foran instant, and slowly died away.

  They prayed, as they always do, for peace from on high and forsalvation, for the Holy Synod, and for the Tsar; they prayed, too, forthe servants of God, Konstantin and Ekaterina, now plighting theirtroth.

  "Vouchsafe to them love made perfect, peace and help, O Lord, we beseechThee," the whole church seemed to breathe with the voice of the headdeacon.

  Levin heard the words, and they impressed him. "How did they guess thatit is help, just help that one wants?" he thought, recalling all hisfears and doubts of late. "What do I know? what can I do in this fearfulbusiness," he thought, "without help? Yes, it is help I want now."

  When the deacon had finished the prayer for the Imperial family, thepriest turned to the bridal pair with a book: "Eternal God, that joinesttogether in love them that were separate," he read in a gentle, pipingvoice: "who hast ordained the union of holy wedlock that cannot be setasunder, Thou who didst bless Isaac and Rebecca and their descendants,according to Thy Holy Covenant; bless Thy servants, Konstantin andEkaterina, leading them in the path of all good works. For gracious andmerciful 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 meaningin those words, and how they correspond with what one feels at thismoment," thought Levin. "Is she feeling the same as I?"

  And looking round, he met her eyes, and from their expression heconcluded that she was understanding it just as he was. But this was amistake; she almost completely missed the meaning of the words of theservice; she had not heard them, in fact. She could not listen to themand take them in, so strong was the one feeling that filled her breastand grew stronger and stronger. That feeling was joy at the completionof the process that for the last month and a half had been going on inher soul, and had during those six weeks been a joy and a torture toher. On the day when in the drawing room of the house in Arbaty Streetshe had gone up to him in her brown dr
ess, and given herself to himwithout a word--on that day, at that hour, there took place in her hearta complete severance from all her old life, and a quite different, new,utterly strange life had begun for her, while the old life was actuallygoing on as before. Those six weeks had for her been a time of theutmost bliss and the utmost misery. All her life, all her desires andhopes were concentrated on this one man, still uncomprehended by her, towhom she was bound by a feeling of alternate attraction and repulsion,even less comprehended than the man himself, and all the while she wasgoing on living in the outward conditions of her old life. Living theold life, she was horrified at herself, at her utter insurmountablecallousness to all her own past, to things, to habits, to the people shehad loved, who loved her--to her mother, who was wounded by herindifference, to her kind, tender father, till then dearer than all theworld. At one moment she was horrified at this indifference, at anothershe rejoiced at what had brought her to this indifference. She could notframe a thought, not a wish apart from life with this man; but this newlife 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 theunknown. And now behold--anticipation and uncertainty and remorse at theabandonment 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 hersoul, and this was merely the final sanction of what had long beencompleted in her heart.

  Turning again to the lectern, the priest with some difficulty tookKitty's little ring, and asking Levin for his hand, put it on the firstjoint of his finger. "The servant of God, Konstantin, plights his trothto the servant of God, Ekaterina." And putting his big ring on Kitty'stouchingly weak, pink little finger, the priest said the same thing.

  And the bridal pair tried several times to understand what they had todo, and each time made some mistake and were corrected by the priest ina whisper. At last, having duly performed the ceremony, having signedthe rings with the cross, the priest handed Kitty the big ring, andLevin the little one. Again they were puzzled, and passed the rings fromhand to hand, still without doing what was expected.

  Dolly, Tchirikov, and Stepan Arkadyevitch stepped forward to set themright. There was an interval of hesitation, whispering, and smiles; butthe expression of solemn emotion on the faces of the betrothed pair didnot change: on the contrary, in their perplexity over their hands theylooked more grave and deeply moved than before, and the smile with whichStepan Arkadyevitch whispered to them that now they would each put ontheir own ring died away on his lips. He had a feeling that any smilewould jar on them.

  "Thou who didst from the beginning create male and female," the priestread after the exchange of rings, "from Thee woman was given to man tobe a helpmeet to him, and for the procreation of children. O Lord, ourGod, who hast poured down the blessings of Thy Truth according to ThyHoly Covenant upon Thy chosen servants, our fathers, from generation togeneration, bless Thy servants Konstantin and Ekaterina, and make theirtroth fast in faith, and union of hearts, and truth, and love...."

  Levin felt more and more that all his ideas of marriage, all his dreamsof how he would order his life, were mere childishness, and that it wassomething he had not understood hitherto, and now understood less thanever, though it was being performed upon him. The lump in his throatrose higher and higher, tears that would not be checked came into hiseyes.

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