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 Madame Korsunskaya.
“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 him.
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 such grandeur.”
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 to 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.