Anna karenina, p.65
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       Anna Karenina, p.65

           graf Leo Tolstoy
 

  Chapter 31

  It was a wet day; it had been raining all the morning, and the invalids,with their parasols, had flocked into the arcades.

  Kitty was walking there with her mother and the Moscow colonel, smartand jaunty in his European coat, bought ready-made at Frankfort. Theywere walking on one side of the arcade, trying to avoid Levin, who waswalking on the other side. Varenka, in her dark dress, in a black hatwith a turn-down brim, was walking up and down the whole length of thearcade with a blind Frenchwoman, and, every time she met Kitty, theyexchanged friendly glances.

  "Mamma, couldn't I speak to her?" said Kitty, watching her unknownfriend, and noticing that she was going up to the spring, and that theymight come there together.

  "Oh, if you want to so much, I'll find out about her first and make heracquaintance myself," answered her mother. "What do you see in her outof the way? A companion, she must be. If you like, I'll makeacquaintance with Madame Stahl; I used to know her _belle-soeur_," addedthe princess, lifting her head haughtily.

  Kitty knew that the princess was offended that Madame Stahl had seemedto avoid making her acquaintance. Kitty did not insist.

  "How wonderfully sweet she is!" she said, gazing at Varenka just as shehanded a glass to the Frenchwoman. "Look how natural and sweet it allis."

  "It's so funny to see your _engouements_," said the princess. "No, we'dbetter go back," she added, noticing Levin coming towards them with hiscompanion and a German doctor, to whom he was talking very noisily andangrily.

  They turned to go back, when suddenly they heard, not noisy talk, butshouting. Levin, stopping short, was shouting at the doctor, and thedoctor, too, was excited. A crowd gathered about them. The princess andKitty beat a hasty retreat, while the colonel joined the crowd to findout what was the matter.

  A few minutes later the colonel overtook them.

  "What was it?" inquired the princess.

  "Scandalous and disgraceful!" answered the colonel. "The one thing to bedreaded is meeting Russians abroad. That tall gentleman was abusing thedoctor, flinging all sorts of insults at him because he wasn't treatinghim quite as he liked, and he began waving his stick at him. It's simplya scandal!"

  "Oh, how unpleasant!" said the princess. "Well, and how did it end?"

  "Luckily at that point that ... the one in the mushroom hat ...intervened. A Russian lady, I think she is," said the colonel.

  "Mademoiselle Varenka?" asked Kitty.

  "Yes, yes. She came to the rescue before anyone; she took the man by thearm and led him away."

  "There, mamma," said Kitty; "you wonder that I'm enthusiastic abouther."

  The next day, as she watched her unknown friend, Kitty noticed thatMademoiselle Varenka was already on the same terms with Levin and hiscompanion as with her other _proteges_. She went up to them, enteredinto conversation with them, and served as interpreter for the woman,who could not speak any foreign language.

  Kitty began to entreat her mother still more urgently to let her makefriends with Varenka. And, disagreeable as it was to the princess toseem to take the first step in wishing to make the acquaintance ofMadame Stahl, who thought fit to give herself airs, she made inquiriesabout Varenka, and, having ascertained particulars about her tending toprove that there could be no harm though little good in theacquaintance, she herself approached Varenka and made acquaintance withher.

  Choosing a time when her daughter had gone to the spring, while Varenkahad stopped outside the baker's, the princess went up to her.

  "Allow me to make your acquaintance," she said, with her dignifiedsmile. "My daughter has lost her heart to you," she said. "Possibly youdo not know me. I am..."

  "That feeling is more than reciprocal, princess," Varenka answeredhurriedly.

  "What a good deed you did yesterday to our poor compatriot!" said theprincess.

  Varenka flushed a little. "I don't remember. I don't think I didanything," she said.

  "Why, you saved that Levin from disagreeable consequences."

  "Yes, _sa compagne_ called me, and I tried to pacify him, he's very ill,and was dissatisfied with the doctor. I'm used to looking after suchinvalids."

  "Yes, I've heard you live at Mentone with your aunt--I think--MadameStahl: I used to know her _belle-soeur_."

  "No, she's not my aunt. I call her mamma, but I am not related to her; Iwas brought up by her," answered Varenka, flushing a little again.

  This was so simply said, and so sweet was the truthful and candidexpression of her face, that the princess saw why Kitty had taken such afancy to Varenka.

  "Well, and what's this Levin going to do?" asked the princess.

  "He's going away," answered Varenka.

  At that instant Kitty came up from the spring beaming with delight thather mother had become acquainted with her unknown friend.

  "Well, see, Kitty, your intense desire to make friends withMademoiselle. . ."

  "Varenka," Varenka put in smiling, "that's what everyone calls me."

  Kitty blushed with pleasure, and slowly, without speaking, pressed hernew friend's hand, which did not respond to her pressure, but laymotionless in her hand. The hand did not respond to her pressure, butthe face of Mademoiselle Varenka glowed with a soft, glad, though rathermournful smile, that showed large but handsome teeth.

  "I have long wished for this too," she said.

  "But you are so busy."

  "Oh, no, I'm not at all busy," answered Varenka, but at that moment shehad to leave her new friends because two little Russian girls, childrenof an invalid, ran up to her.

  "Varenka, mamma's calling!" they cried.

  And Varenka went after them.

 
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