Chapter 16

The Princess was sitting 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 felt equally 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, Alexandre?

`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 held her back, 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 did not say 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 my happiness from me. I always loved you only, but I was carried away. I ought to tell you... Can you forgive it?'

`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.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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