FictionForest

PART FOUR : Chapter 16

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

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The princess sat in her armchair,
silent and smiling; the prince sat down beside her. 
Kitty stood by her father’s chair, still holding
his hand.  All were silent.

The princess was the first to put
everything into words, and to translate all thoughts
and feelings into practical questions.  And all
equally felt this strange and painful for the first
minute.

“When is it to be?  We
must have the benediction and announcement. 
And when’s the wedding to be?  What do you
think, Alexander?”

“Here he is,” said the
old prince, pointing to Levin ­“he’s
the principal person in the matter.”

“When?” said Levin blushing. 
“Tomorrow; If you ask me, I should say, the
benediction today and the wedding tomorrow.”

“Come, mon cher, that’s nonsense!”

“Well, in a week.”

“He’s quite mad.”

“No, why so?”

“Well, upon my word!”
said the mother, smiling, delighted at this haste. 
“How about the trousseau?”

“Will there really be a trousseau
and all that?” Levin thought with horror. 
“But can the trousseau and the benediction and
all that ­can it spoil my happiness? 
Nothing can spoil it!” He glanced at Kitty,
and noticed that she was not in the least, not in
the very least, disturbed by the idea of the trousseau. 
“Then it must be all right,” he thought.

“Oh, I know nothing about it;
I only said what I should like,” he said apologetically.

“We’ll talk it over, then. 
The benediction and announcement can take place now. 
That’s very well.”

The princess went up to her husband,
kissed him, and would have gone away, but he kept
her, embraced her, and, tenderly as a young lover,
kissed her several times, smiling.  The old people
were obviously muddled for a moment, and did not quite
know whether it was they who were in love again or
their daughter.  When the prince and the princess
had gone, Levin went up to his betrothed and took
her hand.  He was self-possessed now and could
speak, and he had a great deal he wanted to tell her. 
But he said not at all what he had to say.

“How I knew it would be so! 
I never hoped for it; and yet in my heart I was always
sure,” he said.  “I believe that it
was ordained.”

“And I!” she said. 
“Even when….”  She stopped and
went on again, looking at him resolutely with her
truthful eyes, “Even when I thrust from me my
happiness.  I always loved you alone, but I was
carried away.  I ought to tell you….  Can
you forgive that?”

“Perhaps it was for the best. 
You will have to forgive me so much.  I ought
to tell you…”

This was one of the things he had
meant to speak about.  He had resolved from the
first to tell her two things ­that he was
not chaste as she was, and that he was not a believer. 
It was agonizing, but he considered he ought to tell
her both these facts.

“No, not now, later!” he said.

“Very well, later, but you must
certainly tell me.  I’m not afraid of anything. 
I want to know everything.  Now it is settled.”

He added:  “Settled that
you’ll take me whatever I may be ­you
won’t give me up?  Yes?”

“Yes, yes.”

Their conversation was interrupted
by Mademoiselle Linon, who with an affected but tender
smile came to congratulate her favorite pupil. 
Before she had gone, the servants came in with their
congratulations.  Then relations arrived, and
there began that state of blissful absurdity from
which Levin did not emerge till the day after his
wedding.  Levin was in a continual state of awkwardness
and discomfort, but the intensity of his happiness
went on all the while increasing.  He felt continually
that a great deal was being expected of him ­what,
he did not know; and he did everything he was told,
and it all gave him happiness.  He had thought
his engagement would have nothing about it like others,
that the ordinary conditions of engaged couples would
spoil his special happiness; but it ended in his doing
exactly as other people did, and his happiness being
only increased thereby and becoming more and more
special, more and more unlike anything that had ever
happened.

“Now we shall have sweetmeats
to eat,” said Mademoiselle Linon ­
and Levin drove off to buy sweetmeats.

“Well, I’m very glad,”
said Sviazhsky.  “I advise you to get the
bouquets from Fomin’s.”

“Oh, are they wanted?” And he drove to
Fomin’s.

His brother offered to lend him money,
as he would have so many expenses, presents to give….

“Oh, are presents wanted?”
And he galloped to Foulde’s.

And at the confectioner’s, and
at Fomin’s, and at Foulde’s he saw that
he was expected; that they were pleased to see him,
and prided themselves on his happiness, just as every
one whom he had to do with during those days. 
What was extraordinary was that everyone not only
liked him, but even people previously unsympathetic,
cold, and callous, were enthusiastic over him, gave
way to him in everything, treated his feeling with
tenderness and delicacy, and shared his conviction
that he was the happiest man in the world because
his betrothed was beyond perfection.  Kitty too
felt the same thing.  When Countess Nordston
ventured to hint that she had hoped for something
better, Kitty was so angry and proved so conclusively
that nothing in the world could be better than Levin,
that Countess Nordston had to admit it, and in Kitty’s
presence never met Levin without a smile of ecstatic
admiration.

The confession he had promised was
the one painful incident of this time.  He consulted
the old prince, and with his sanction gave Kitty his
diary, in which there was written the confession that
tortured him.  He had written this diary at the
time with a view to his future wife.  Two things
caused him anguish:  his lack of purity and his
lack of faith.  His confession of unbelief passed
unnoticed.  She was religious, had never doubted
the truths of religion, but his external unbelief
did not affect her in the least.  Through love
she knew all his soul, and in his soul she saw what
she wanted, and that such a state of soul should be
called unbelieving was to her a matter of no account. 
The other confession set her weeping bitterly.

Levin, not without an inner struggle,
handed her his diary.  He knew that between him
and her there could not be, and should not be, secrets,
and so he had decided that so it must be.  But
he had not realized what an effect it would have on
her, he had not put himself in her place.  It
was only when the same evening he came to their house
before the theater, went into her room and saw her
tear-stained, pitiful, sweet face, miserable with
suffering he had caused and nothing could undo, he
felt the abyss that separated his shameful past from
her dovelike purity, and was appalled at what he had
done.

“Take them, take these dreadful
books!” she said, pushing away the notebooks
lying before her on the table.  “Why did
you give them me?  No, it was better anyway,”
she added, touched by his despairing face.  “But
it’s awful, awful!”

His head sank, and he was silent. 
He could say nothing.

“You can’t forgive me,” he whispered.

“Yes, I forgive you; but it’s terrible!”

But his happiness was so immense that
this confession did not shatter it, it only added
another shade to it.  She forgave him; but from
that time more than ever he considered himself unworthy
of her, morally bowed down lower than ever before her,
and prized more highly than ever his undeserved happiness.

 

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