THE PRINCESS sat in her armchair, silent and smiling; the prince sat down beside her. Kitty stood by her fathers 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.
Will there really be a trousseau and all that? Levin thought with horror. But can the trousseau and the benediction and all thatcan 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.
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.
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 it?
This was one of the things he had meant to speak about. He had resolved from the first to tell her two thingsthat he was not chaste as she was, and that he was not a believer. It was agonising, but he considered he ought to tell her both these facts.
Their conversation was interrupted by Mademoiselle Linon, who with an affected but tender smile came to congratulate her favourite 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 himwhat, 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.
Oh, are presents wanted? And he galloped to Fouldes. And at the confectioners, and at Fomins, and at Fouldes 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 every one 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 Kittys 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 realised 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 theatre, went into her room and saw her tearstained, 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 its awful, awful!
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.