Chapter 31

It was a foul 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 turndown 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, most probably. 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 because Madame Stahl had apparently avoided 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 toward 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 merely noisy talk, but actual 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 up.

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 scandalous!'

`Oh, how unpleasant!' said the Princess. `Well, and how did it end?'

`Luckily at that point that miss... the one in the mushroom hat... intervened. She is a Russian lady, I think,' said the colonel.

`Mademoiselle Varenka?' Kitty asked joyously.

`Yes, yes. She came to the rescue before anyone else; she took the man by the arm and led him away.'

`There, mamma,' said Kitty, `yet you wonder why 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.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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