FictionForest

PART FIVE : Chapter 3

Leo TolstoyAug 24, 2016'Command+D' Bookmark this page

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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.  Inside 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
the 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 assented, 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,” Kouzma
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.”

 

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