FictionForest

PART TWO : Chapter 31

Leo TolstoyAug 22, 2016'Command+D' Bookmark this page

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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, smart and jaunty in his European
coat, bought ready-made at Frankfort.  They were
walking on one side of the arcade, trying to avoid
Levin, who was walking on the other side.  Varenka,
in her dark dress, in a black hat with a turn-down
brim, was walking up and down the whole length of
the arcade with a blind Frenchwoman, and, every time
she met Kitty, they exchanged friendly glances.

“Mamma, couldn’t I speak
to her?” said Kitty, watching her unknown friend,
and noticing that she was going up to the spring,
and that they might come there together.

“Oh, if you want to so much,
I’ll find out about her first and make her acquaintance
myself,” answered her mother.  “What
do you see in her out of the way?  A companion,
she must be.  If you like, I’ll make acquaintance
with Madame Stahl; I used to know her belle-soeur,”
added the princess, lifting her head haughtily.

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

“How wonderfully sweet she is!”
she said, gazing at Varenka just as she handed a glass
to the Frenchwoman.  “Look how natural and
sweet it all is.”

“It’s so funny to see
your engouements,” said the princess. 
“No, we’d better go back,” she added,
noticing Levin coming towards them with his companion
and a German doctor, to whom he was talking very noisily
and angrily.

They turned to go back, when suddenly
they heard, not noisy talk, but shouting.  Levin,
stopping short, was shouting at the doctor, and the
doctor, too, was excited.  A crowd gathered about
them.  The princess and Kitty beat a hasty retreat,
while the colonel joined the crowd to find out 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
be dreaded is meeting Russians abroad.  That tall
gentleman was abusing the doctor, flinging all sorts
of insults at him because he wasn’t treating
him quite as he liked, and he began waving his stick
at him.  It’s simply a 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 the
arm and led him away.”

“There, mamma,” said Kitty;
“you wonder that I’m enthusiastic about
her.”

The next day, as she watched her unknown
friend, Kitty noticed that Mademoiselle Varenka was
already on the same terms with Levin and his companion
as with her other proteges.  She went up
to them, entered into 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 make friends with Varenka. 
And, disagreeable as it was to the princess to seem
to take the first step in wishing to make the acquaintance
of Madame Stahl, who thought fit to give herself airs,
she made inquiries about Varenka, and, having ascertained
particulars about her tending to prove that there could
be no harm though little good in the acquaintance,
she herself approached Varenka and made acquaintance
with her.

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

“Allow me to make your acquaintance,”
she said, with her dignified smile.  “My
daughter has lost her heart to you,” she said. 
“Possibly you do not know me.  I am…”

“That feeling is more than reciprocal,
princess,” Varenka answered hurriedly.

“What a good deed you did yesterday
to our poor compatriot!” said the princess.

Varenka flushed a little.  “I
don’t remember.  I don’t think I
did anything,” 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 such invalids.”

“Yes, I’ve heard you live
at Mentone with your aunt ­I think ­
Madame Stahl:  I used to know her belle-soeur.”

“No, she’s not my aunt. 
I call her mamma, but I am not related to her; I
was brought up by her,” answered Varenka, flushing
a little again.

This was so simply said, and so sweet
was the truthful and candid expression of her face,
that the princess saw why Kitty had taken such a fancy
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 that her mother had
become acquainted with her unknown friend.

“Well, see, Kitty, your intense
desire to make friends with Mademoiselle. . .”

“Varenka,” Varenka put
in smiling, “that’s what everyone calls
me.”

Kitty blushed with pleasure, and slowly,
without speaking, pressed her new friend’s hand,
which did not respond to her pressure, but lay motionless
in her hand.  The hand did not respond to her
pressure, but the face of Mademoiselle Varenka glowed
with a soft, glad, though rather mournful 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
she had to leave her new friends because two little
Russian girls, children of an invalid, ran up to her.

“Varenka, mamma’s calling!” they
cried.

And Varenka went after them.

 

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