In the church there was all Moscow,
all the friends and relations; and during the ceremony
of plighting troth, in the brilliantly lighted church,
there was an incessant flow of discreetly subdued
talk in the circle of gaily dressed women and girls,
and men in white ties, frockcoats, and uniforms.
The talk was principally kept up by the men, while
the women were absorbed in watching every detail of
the ceremony, which always means so much to them.
In the little group nearest to the
bride were her two sisters: Dolly, and the other
one, the self-possessed beauty, Madame Lvova, who
had just arrived from abroad.
“Why is it Marie’s in
lilac, as bad as black, at a wedding?” said
“With her complexion, it’s
the one salvation,” responded Madame Trubetskaya.
“I wonder why they had the wedding in the evening?
It’s like shop-people…”
“So much prettier. I was
married in the evening too…” answered Madame
Korsunskaya, and she sighed, remembering how charming
she had been that day, and how absurdly in love her
husband was, and how different it all was now.
“They say if anyone’s
best man more than ten times, he’ll never be
married. I wanted to be for the tenth time, but
the post was taken,” said Count Siniavin to
the pretty Princess Tcharskaya, who had designs on
Princess Tcharskaya only answered
with a smile. She looked at Kitty, thinking
how and when she would stand with Count Siniavin in
Kitty’s place, and how she would remind him then
of his joke today.
Shtcherbatsky told the old maid of
honor, Madame Nikolaeva, that he meant to put the
crown on Kitty’s chignon for luck.
“She ought not to have worn
a chignon,” answered Madame Nikolaeva, who had
long ago made up her mind that if the elderly widower
she was angling for married her, the wedding should
be of the simplest. “I don’t like
Sergey Ivanovitch was talking to Darya
Dmitrievna, jestingly assuring her that the custom
of going away after the wedding was becoming common
because newly married people always felt a little
ashamed of themselves.
“Your brother may feel proud
of himself. She’s a marvel of sweetness.
I believe you’re envious.”
“Oh, I’ve got over that,
Darya Dmitrievna,” he answered, and a melancholy
and serious expression suddenly came over his face.
Stepan Arkadyevitch was telling his
sister-in-law his joke about divorce.
“The wreath wants setting straight,”
she answered, not hearing him.
“What a pity she’s lost
her looks so,” Countess Nordston said to Madame
Lvova. “Still he’s not worth her
little finger, is he?”
“Oh, I like him so not
because he’s my future beau-frère,”
answered Madame Lvova. “And how well he’s
behaving! It’s so difficult, too, to look
well in such a position, not to be ridiculous.
And he’s not ridiculous, and not affected; one
can see he’s moved.”
“You expected it, I suppose?”
“Almost. She always cared for him.”
“Well, we shall see which of
them will step on the rug first. I warned Kitty.”
“It will make no difference,”
said Madame Lvova; “we’re all obedient
wives; it’s in our family.”
“Oh, I stepped on the rug before
Vassily on purpose. And you, Dolly?”
Dolly stood beside them; she heard
them, but she did not answer. She was deeply
moved. The tears stood in her eyes, and she could
not have spoken without crying. She was rejoicing
over Kitty and Levin; going back in thought to her
own wedding, she glanced at the radiant figure of
Stepan Arkadyevitch, forgot all the present, and remembered
only her own innocent love. She recalled not
herself only, but all her women-friends and acquaintances.
She thought of them on the one day of their triumph,
when they had stood like Kitty under the wedding crown,
with love and hope and dread in their hearts, renouncing
the past, and stepping forward into the mysterious
future. Among the brides that came back to her
memory, she thought too of her darling Anna, of whose
proposed divorce she had just been hearing. And
she had stood just as innocent in orange flowers and
bridal veil. And now? “It’s
terribly strange,” she said to herself.
It was not merely the sisters, the women-friends
and female relations of the bride who were following
every detail of the ceremony. Women who were
quite strangers, mere spectators, were watching it
excitedly, holding their breath, in fear of losing
a single movement or expression of the bride and bridegroom,
and angrily not answering, often not hearing, the
remarks of the callous men, who kept making joking
or irrelevant observations.
“Why has she been crying?
Is she being married against her will?”
“Against her will to a fine
fellow like that? A prince, isn’t he?”
“Is that her sister in the white
satin? Just listen how the deacon booms out,
‘And fearing her husband.’”
“Are the choristers from Tchudovo?”
“No, from the Synod.”
“I asked the footman.
He says he’s going to take her home to his country
place at once. Awfully rich, they say.
That’s why she’s being married to him.”
“No, they’re a well-matched pair.”
“I say, Marya Vassilievna, you
were making out those fly-away crinolines were
not being worn. Just look at her in the puce
dress an ambassador’s wife they say
she is how her skirt bounces out from side
“What a pretty dear the bride
is like a lamb decked with flowers!
Well, say what you will, we women feel for our sister.”
Such were the comments in the crowd
of gazing women who had succeeded in slipping in at
the church doors.