FictionForest

PART FIVE : Chapter 2

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

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On the day of the wedding, according
to the Russian custom (the princess and Darya Alexandrovna
insisted on strictly keeping all the customs), Levin
did not see his betrothed, and dined at his hotel
with three bachelor friends, casually brought together
at his rooms.  These were Sergey Ivanovitch,
Katavasov, a university friend, now professor of natural
science, whom Levin had met in the street and insisted
on taking home with him, and Tchirikov, his best man,
a Moscow conciliation-board judge, Levin’s companion
in his bear-hunts.  The dinner was a very merry
one:  Sergey Ivanovitch was in his happiest mood,
and was much amused by Katavasov’s originality. 
Katavasov, feeling his originality was appreciated
and understood, made the most of it.  Tchirikov
always gave a lively and good-humored support to conversation
of any sort.

“See, now,” said Katavasov,
drawling his words from a habit acquired in the lecture-room,
“what a capable fellow was our friend Konstantin
Dmitrievitch.  I’m not speaking of present
company, for he’s absent.  At the time he
left the university he was fond of science, took an
interest in humanity; now one-half of his abilities
is devoted to deceiving himself, and the other to
justifying the deceit.”

“A more determined enemy of
matrimony than you I never saw,” said Sergey
Ivanovitch.

“Oh, no, I’m not an enemy
of matrimony.  I’m in favor of division
of labor.  People who can do nothing else ought
to rear people while the rest work for their happiness
and enlightenment.  That’s how I look at
it.  To muddle up two trades is the error of
the amateur; I’m not one of their number.”

“How happy I shall be when I
hear that you’re in love!” said Levin. 
“Please invite me to the wedding.”

“I’m in love now.”

“Yes, with a cuttlefish! 
You know,” Levin turned to his brother, “Mihail
Semyonovitch is writing a work on the digestive organs
of the…”

“Now, make a muddle of it! 
It doesn’t matter what about.  And the
fact is, I certainly do love cuttlefish.”

“But that’s no hindrance to your loving
your wife.”

“The cuttlefish is no hindrance.  The wife
is the hindrance.”

“Why so?”

“Oh, you’ll see! 
You care about farming, hunting, ­well,
you’d better look out!”

“Arhip was here today; he said
there were a lot of elks in Prudno, and two bears,”
said Tchirikov.

“Well, you must go and get them without me.”

“Ah, that’s the truth,”
said Sergey Ivanovitch.  “And you may say
good-bye to bear-hunting for the future ­your
wife won’t allow it!”

Levin smiled.  The picture of
his wife not letting him go was so pleasant that he
was ready to renounce the delights of looking upon
bears forever.

“Still, it’s a pity they
should get those two bears without you.  Do you
remember last time at Hapilovo?  That was a delightful
hunt!” said Tchirikov.

Levin had not the heart to disillusion
him of the notion that there could be something delightful
apart from her, and so said nothing.

“There’s some sense in
this custom of saying good-bye to bachelor life,”
said Sergey Ivanovitch.  “However happy
you may be, you must regret your freedom.”

“And confess there is a feeling
that you want to jump out of the window, like Gogol’s
bridegroom?”

“Of course there is, but it
isn’t confessed,” said Katavasov, and
he broke into loud laughter.

“Oh, well, the window’s
open.  Let’s start off this instant to
Tver!  There’s a big she-bear; one can go
right up to the lair.  Seriously, let’s
go by the five o’clock!  And here let them
do what they like,” said Tchirikov, smiling.

“Well, now, on my honor,”
said Levin, smiling, “I can’t find in
my heart that feeling of regret for my freedom.”

“Yes, there’s such a chaos
in your heart just now that you can’t find anything
there,” said Katavasov.  “Wait a bit,
when you set it to rights a little, you’ll find
it!”

“No; if so, I should have felt
a little, apart from my feeling” (he could not
say love before them) “and happiness, a certain
regret at losing my freedom….  On the contrary,
I am glad at the very loss of my freedom.”

“Awful!  It’s a hopeless
case!” said Katavasov.  “Well, let’s
drink to his recovery, or wish that a hundredth part
of his dreams may be realized ­and that
would be happiness such as never has been seen on
earth!”

Soon after dinner the guests went
away to be in time to be dressed for the wedding.

When he was left alone, and recalled
the conversation of these bachelor friends, Levin
asked himself:  had he in his heart that regret
for his freedom of which they had spoken?  He
smiled at the question.  “Freedom! 
What is freedom for?  Happiness is only in loving
and wishing her wishes, thinking her thoughts, that
is to say, not freedom at all ­that’s
happiness!”

“But do I know her ideas, her
wishes, her feelings?” some voice suddenly whispered
to him.  The smile died away from his face, and
he grew thoughtful.  And suddenly a strange feeling
came upon him.  There came over him a dread and
doubt ­doubt of everything.

“What if she does not love me? 
What if she’s marrying me simply to be married? 
What if she doesn’t see herself what she’s
doing?” he asked himself.  “She may
come to her senses, and only when she is being married
realize that she does not and cannot love me.” 
And strange, most evil thoughts of her began to come
to him.  He was jealous of Vronsky, as he had
been a year ago, as though the evening he had seen
her with Vronsky had been yesterday.  He suspected
she had not told him everything.

He jumped up quickly.  “No,
this can’t go on!” he said to himself
in despair.  “I’ll go to her; I’ll
ask her; I’ll say for the last time:  we
are free, and hadn’t we better stay so? 
Anything’s better than endless misery, disgrace,
unfaithfulness!” With despair in his heart and
bitter anger against all men, against himself, against
her, he went out of the hotel and drove to her house.

He found her in one of the back rooms. 
She was sitting on a chest and making some arrangements
with her maid, sorting over heaps of dresses of different
colors, spread on the backs of chairs and on the floor.

“Ah!” she cried, seeing
him, and beaming with delight.  “Kostya! 
Konstantin Dmitrievitch!” (These latter days
she used these names almost alternately.) “I
didn’t expect you!  I’m going through
my wardrobe to see what’s for whom…”

“Oh! that’s very nice!”
he said gloomily, looking at the maid.

“You can go, Dunyasha, I’ll
call you presently,” said Kitty.  “Kostya,
what’s the matter?” she asked, definitely
adopting this familiar name as soon as the maid had
gone out.  She noticed his strange face, agitated
and gloomy, and a panic came over her.

“Kitty!  I’m in torture. 
I can’t suffer alone,” he said with despair
in his voice, standing before her and looking imploringly
into her eyes.  He saw already from her loving,
truthful face, that nothing could come of what he
had meant to say, but yet he wanted her to reassure
him herself.  “I’ve come to say that
there’s still time.  This can all be stopped
and set right.”

“What?  I don’t understand. 
What is the matter?”

“What I have said a thousand
times over, and can’t help thinking …that
I’m not worthy of you.  You couldn’t
consent to marry me.  Think a little.  You’ve
made a mistake.  Think it over thoroughly. 
You can’t love me….  If…better say
so,” he said, not looking at her.  “I
shall be wretched.  Let people say what they
like; anything’s better than misery…. 
Far better now while there’s still time….”

“I don’t understand,”
she answered, panic-stricken; “you mean you
want to give it up…don’t want it?”

“Yes, if you don’t love me.”

“You’re out of your mind!”
she cried, turning crimson with vexation.  But
his face was so piteous, that she restrained her vexation,
and flinging some clothes off an arm-chair, she sat
down beside him.  “What are you thinking?
tell me all.”

“I am thinking you can’t
love me.  What can you love me for?”

“My God! what can I do?…”
she said, and burst into tears.

“Oh! what have I done?”
he cried, and kneeling before her, he fell to kissing
her hands.

When the princess came into the room
five minutes later, she found them completely reconciled. 
Kitty had not simply assured him that she loved him,
but had gone so far ­in answer to his question,
what she loved him for ­as to explain what
for.  She told him that she loved him because
she understood him completely, because she knew what
he would like, and because everything he liked was
good.  And this seemed to him perfectly clear. 
When the princess came to them, they were sitting
side by side on the chest, sorting the dresses and
disputing over Kitty’s wanting to give Dunyasha
the brown dress she had been wearing when Levin proposed
to her, while he insisted that that dress must never
be given away, but Dunyasha must have the blue one.

“How is it you don’t see? 
She’s a brunette, and it won’t suit her…. 
I’ve worked it all out.”

Hearing why he had come, the princess
was half humorously, half seriously angry with him,
and sent him home to dress and not to hinder Kitty’s
hair-dressing, as Charles the hair-dresser was just
coming.

“As it is, she’s been
eating nothing lately and is losing her looks, and
then you must come and upset her with your nonsense,”
she said to him.  “Get along with you, my
dear!”

Levin, guilty and shamefaced, but
pacified, went back to his hotel.  His brother,
Darya Alexandrovna, and Stepan Arkadyevitch, all in
full dress, were waiting for him to bless him with
the holy picture.  There was no time to lose. 
Darya Alexandrovna had to drive home again to fetch
her curled and pomaded son, who was to carry the holy
pictures after the bride.  Then a carriage had
to be sent for the best man, and another that would
take Sergey Ivanovitch away would have to be sent
back….  Altogether there were a great many
most complicated matters to be considered and arranged. 
One thing was unmistakable, that there must be no
delay, as it was already half-past six.

Nothing special happened at the ceremony
of benediction with the holy picture.  Stepan
Arkadyevitch stood in a comically solemn pose beside
his wife, took the holy picture, and telling Levin
to bow down to the ground, he blessed him with his
kindly, ironical smile, and kissed him three times;
Darya Alexandrovna did the same, and immediately was
in a hurry to get off, and again plunged into the
intricate question of the destinations of the various
carriages.

“Come, I’ll tell you how
we’ll manage:  you drive in our carriage
to fetch him, and Sergey Ivanovitch, if he’ll
be so good, will drive there and then send his carriage.”

“Of course; I shall be delighted.”

“We’ll come on directly
with him.  Are your things sent off?” said
Stepan Arkadyevitch.

“Yes,” answered Levin,
and he told Kouzma to put out his clothes for him
to dress.

 

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