Anna karenina, p.165
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       Anna Karenina, p.165

           graf Leo Tolstoy
 

  Chapter 8

  Next day, before the ladies were up, the wagonette and a trap for theshooting party were at the door, and Laska, aware since early morningthat they were going shooting, after much whining and darting to andfro, had sat herself down in the wagonette beside the coachman, and,disapproving of the delay, was excitedly watching the door from whichthe sportsmen still did not come out. The first to come out was VassenkaVeslovsky, in new high boots that reached half-way up his thick thighs,in a green blouse, with a new Russian leather cartridge-belt, and in hisScotch cap with ribbons, with a brand-new English gun without a sling.Laska flew up to him, welcomed him, and jumping up, asked him in her ownway whether the others were coming soon, but getting no answer from him,she returned to her post of observation and sank into repose again, herhead on one side, and one ear pricked up to listen. At last the dooropened with a creak, and Stepan Arkadyevitch's spot-and-tan pointer Krakflew out, running round and round and turning over in the air. StepanArkadyevitch himself followed with a gun in his hand and a cigar in hismouth.

  "Good dog, good dog, Krak!" he cried encouragingly to the dog, who puthis paws up on his chest, catching at his game bag. Stepan Arkadyevitchwas dressed in rough leggings and spats, in torn trousers and a shortcoat. On his head there was a wreck of a hat of indefinite form, but hisgun of a new patent was a perfect gem, and his game bag and cartridgebelt, though worn, were of the very best quality.

  Vassenka Veslovsky had had no notion before that it was truly _chic_ fora sportsman to be in tatters, but to have his shooting outfit of thebest quality. He saw it now as he looked at Stepan Arkadyevitch, radiantin his rags, graceful, well-fed, and joyous, a typical Russian nobleman.And he made up his mind that next time he went shooting he wouldcertainly adopt the same get-up.

  "Well, and what about our host?" he asked.

  "A young wife," said Stepan Arkadyevitch, smiling.

  "Yes, and such a charming one!"

  "He came down dressed. No doubt he's run up to her again."

  Stepan Arkadyevitch guessed right. Levin had run up again to his wife toask her once more if she forgave him for his idiocy yesterday, and,moreover, to beg her for Christ's sake to be more careful. The greatthing was for her to keep away from the children--they might any minutepush against her. Then he had once more to hear her declare that she wasnot angry with him for going away for two days, and to beg her to besure to send him a note next morning by a servant on horseback, to writehim, if it were but two words only, to let him know that all was wellwith her.

  Kitty was distressed, as she always was, at parting for a couple of daysfrom her husband, but when she saw his eager figure, looking big andstrong in his shooting-boots and his white blouse, and a sort ofsportsman elation and excitement incomprehensible to her, she forgot herown chagrin for the sake of his pleasure, and said good-bye to himcheerfully.

  "Pardon, gentlemen!" he said, running out onto the steps. "Have you putthe lunch in? Why is the chestnut on the right? Well, it doesn't matter.Laska, down; go and lie down!"

  "Put it with the herd of oxen," he said to the herdsman, who was waitingfor him at the steps with some question. "Excuse me, here comes anothervillain."

  Levin jumped out of the wagonette, in which he had already taken hisseat, to meet the carpenter, who came towards the steps with a rule inhis hand.

  "You didn't come to the counting house yesterday, and now you'redetaining me. Well, what is it?"

  "Would your honor let me make another turning? It's only three steps toadd. And we make it just fit at the same time. It will be much moreconvenient."

  "You should have listened to me," Levin answered with annoyance. "Isaid: Put the lines and then fit in the steps. Now there's no setting itright. Do as I told you, and make a new staircase."

  The point was that in the lodge that was being built the carpenter hadspoiled the staircase, fitting it together without calculating the spaceit was to fill, so that the steps were all sloping when it was put inplace. Now the carpenter wanted, keeping the same staircase, to addthree steps.

  "It will be much better."

  "But where's your staircase coming out with its three steps?"

  "Why, upon my word, sir," the carpenter said with a contemptuous smile."It comes out right at the very spot. It starts, so to speak," he said,with a persuasive gesture; "it comes down, and comes down, and comesout."

  "But three steps will add to the length too ... where is it to comeout?"

  "Why, to be sure, it'll start from the bottom and go up and go up, andcome out so," the carpenter said obstinately and convincingly.

  "It'll reach the ceiling and the wall."

  "Upon my word! Why, it'll go up, and up, and come out like this."

  Levin took out a ramrod and began sketching him the staircase in thedust.

  "There, do you see?"

  "As your honor likes," said the carpenter, with a sudden gleam in hiseyes, obviously understanding the thing at last. "It seems it'll be bestto make a new one."

  "Well, then, do it as you're told," Levin shouted, seating himself inthe wagonette. "Down! Hold the dogs, Philip!"

  Levin felt now at leaving behind all his family and household cares suchan eager sense of joy in life and expectation that he was not disposedto talk. Besides that, he had that feeling of concentrated excitementthat every sportsman experiences as he approaches the scene of action.If he had anything on his mind at that moment, it was only the doubtwhether they would start anything in the Kolpensky marsh, whether Laskawould show to advantage in comparison with Krak, and whether he wouldshoot well that day himself. Not to disgrace himself before a newspectator--not to be outdone by Oblonsky--that too was a thought thatcrossed his brain.

  Oblonsky was feeling the same, and he too was not talkative. VassenkaVeslovsky kept up alone a ceaseless flow of cheerful chatter. As helistened to him now, Levin felt ashamed to think how unfair he had beento him the day before. Vassenka was really a nice fellow, simple,good-hearted, and very good-humored. If Levin had met him before he wasmarried, he would have made friends with him. Levin rather disliked hisholiday attitude to life and a sort of free and easy assumption ofelegance. It was as though he assumed a high degree of importance inhimself that could not be disputed, because he had long nails and astylish cap, and everything else to correspond; but this could beforgiven for the sake of his good nature and good breeding. Levin likedhim for his good education, for speaking French and English with such anexcellent accent, and for being a man of his world.

  Vassenka was extremely delighted with the left horse, a horse of the DonSteppes. He kept praising him enthusiastically. "How fine it must begalloping over the steppes on a steppe horse! Eh? isn't it?" he said. Hehad imagined riding on a steppe horse as something wild and romantic,and it turned out nothing of the sort. But his simplicity, particularlyin conjunction with his good looks, his amiable smile, and the grace ofhis movements, was very attractive. Either because his nature wassympathetic to Levin, or because Levin was trying to atone for his sinsof the previous evening by seeing nothing but what was good in him,anyway he liked his society.

  After they had driven over two miles from home, Veslovsky all at oncefelt for a cigar and his pocketbook, and did not know whether he hadlost them or left them on the table. In the pocketbook there werethirty-seven pounds, and so the matter could not be left in uncertainty.

  "Do you know what, Levin, I'll gallop home on that left trace-horse.That will be splendid. Eh?" he said, preparing to get out.

  "No, why should you?" answered Levin, calculating that Vassenka couldhardly weigh less than seventeen stone. "I'll send the coachman."

  The coachman rode back on the trace-horse, and Levin himself drove theremaining pair.

 

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