Anna karenina, p.166
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       Anna Karenina, p.166

           graf Leo Tolstoy

  Chapter 9

  "Well, now what's our plan of campaign? Tell us all about it," saidStepan Arkadyevitch.

  "Our plan is this. Now we're driving to Gvozdyov. In Gvozdyov there's agrouse marsh on this side, and beyond Gvozdyov come some magnificentsnipe marshes where there are grouse too. It's hot now, and we'll getthere--it's fifteen miles or so--towards evening and have some eveningshooting; we'll spend the night there and go on tomorrow to the biggermoors."

  "And is there nothing on the way?"

  "Yes; but we'll reserve ourselves; besides it's hot. There are two nicelittle places, but I doubt there being anything to shoot."

  Levin would himself have liked to go into these little places, but theywere near home; he could shoot them over any time, and they were onlylittle places--there would hardly be room for three to shoot. And so,with some insincerity, he said that he doubted there being anything toshoot. When they reached a little marsh Levin would have driven by, butStepan Arkadyevitch, with the experienced eye of a sportsman, at oncedetected reeds visible from the road.

  "Shan't we try that?" he said, pointing to the little marsh.

  "Levin, do, please! how delightful!" Vassenka Veslovsky began begging,and Levin could but consent.

  Before they had time to stop, the dogs had flown one before the otherinto the marsh.

  "Krak! Laska!..."

  The dogs came back.

  "There won't be room for three. I'll stay here," said Levin, hoping theywould find nothing but peewits, who had been startled by the dogs, andturning over in their flight, were plaintively wailing over the marsh.

  "No! Come along, Levin, let's go together!" Veslovsky called.

  "Really, there's not room. Laska, back, Laska! You won't want anotherdog, will you?"

  Levin remained with the wagonette, and looked enviously at thesportsmen. They walked right across the marsh. Except little birds andpeewits, of which Vassenka killed one, there was nothing in the marsh.

  "Come, you see now that it was not that I grudged the marsh," saidLevin, "only it's wasting time."

  "Oh, no, it was jolly all the same. Did you see us?" said VassenkaVeslovsky, clambering awkwardly into the wagonette with his gun and hispeewit in his hands. "How splendidly I shot this bird! Didn't I? Well,shall we soon be getting to the real place?"

  The horses started off suddenly, Levin knocked his head against thestock of someone's gun, and there was the report of a shot. The gun didactually go off first, but that was how it seemed to Levin. It appearedthat Vassenka Veslovsky had pulled only one trigger, and had left theother hammer still cocked. The charge flew into the ground without doingharm to anyone. Stepan Arkadyevitch shook his head and laughedreprovingly at Veslovsky. But Levin had not the heart to reprove him. Inthe first place, any reproach would have seemed to be called forth bythe danger he had incurred and the bump that had come up on Levin'sforehead. And besides, Veslovsky was at first so naively distressed, andthen laughed so good-humoredly and infectiously at their general dismay,that one could not but laugh with him.

  When they reached the second marsh, which was fairly large, and wouldinevitably take some time to shoot over, Levin tried to persuade them topass it by. But Veslovsky again overpersuaded him. Again, as the marshwas narrow, Levin, like a good host, remained with the carriage.

  Krak made straight for some clumps of sedge. Vassenka Veslovsky was thefirst to run after the dog. Before Stepan Arkadyevitch had time to comeup, a grouse flew out. Veslovsky missed it and it flew into an unmownmeadow. This grouse was left for Veslovsky to follow up. Krak found itagain and pointed, and Veslovsky shot it and went back to the carriage."Now you go and I'll stay with the horses," he said.

  Levin had begun to feel the pangs of a sportsman's envy. He handed thereins to Veslovsky and walked into the marsh.

  Laska, who had been plaintively whining and fretting against theinjustice of her treatment, flew straight ahead to a hopeful place thatLevin knew well, and that Krak had not yet come upon.

  "Why don't you stop her?" shouted Stepan Arkadyevitch.

  "She won't scare them," answered Levin, sympathizing with his bitch'spleasure and hurrying after her.

  As she came nearer and nearer to the familiar breeding places there wasmore and more earnestness in Laska's exploration. A little marsh birddid not divert her attention for more than an instant. She made onecircuit round the clump of reeds, was beginning a second, and suddenlyquivered with excitement and became motionless.

  "Come, come, Stiva!" shouted Levin, feeling his heart beginning to beatmore violently; and all of a sudden, as though some sort of shutter hadbeen drawn back from his straining ears, all sounds, confused but loud,began to beat on his hearing, losing all sense of distance. He heard thesteps of Stepan Arkadyevitch, mistaking them for the tramp of the horsesin the distance; he heard the brittle sound of the twigs on which he hadtrodden, taking this sound for the flying of a grouse. He heard too, notfar behind him, a splashing in the water, which he could not explain tohimself.

  Picking his steps, he moved up to the dog.

  "Fetch it!"

  Not a grouse but a snipe flew up from beside the dog. Levin had liftedhis gun, but at the very instant when he was taking aim, the sound ofsplashing grew louder, came closer, and was joined with the sound ofVeslovsky's voice, shouting something with strange loudness. Levin sawhe had his gun pointed behind the snipe, but still he fired.

  When he had made sure he had missed, Levin looked round and saw thehorses and the wagonette not on the road but in the marsh.

  Veslovsky, eager to see the shooting, had driven into the marsh, and gotthe horses stuck in the mud.

  "Damn the fellow!" Levin said to himself, as he went back to thecarriage that had sunk in the mire. "What did you drive in for?" he saidto him dryly, and calling the coachman, he began pulling the horses out.

  Levin was vexed both at being hindered from shooting and at his horsesgetting stuck in the mud, and still more at the fact that neither StepanArkadyevitch nor Veslovsky helped him and the coachman to unharness thehorses and get them out, since neither of them had the slightest notionof harnessing. Without vouchsafing a syllable in reply to Vassenka'sprotestations that it had been quite dry there, Levin worked in silencewith the coachman at extricating the horses. But then, as he got warm atthe work and saw how assiduously Veslovsky was tugging at the wagonetteby one of the mud-guards, so that he broke it indeed, Levin blamedhimself for having under the influence of yesterday's feelings been toocold to Veslovsky, and tried to be particularly genial so as to smoothover his chilliness. When everything had been put right, and thecarriage had been brought back to the road, Levin had the lunch served.

  "_Bon appetit--bonne conscience! Ce poulet va tomber jusqu'au fond demes bottes_," Vassenka, who had recovered his spirits, quoted the Frenchsaying as he finished his second chicken. "Well, now our troubles areover, now everything's going to go well. Only, to atone for my sins, I'mbound to sit on the box. That's so? eh? No, no! I'll be your Automedon.You shall see how I'll get you along," he answered, not letting go therein, when Levin begged him to let the coachman drive. "No, I must atonefor my sins, and I'm very comfortable on the box." And he drove.

  Levin was a little afraid he would exhaust the horses, especially thechestnut, whom he did not know how to hold in; but unconsciously he fellunder the influence of his gaiety and listened to the songs he sang allthe way on the box, or the descriptions and representations he gave ofdriving in the English fashion, four-in-hand; and it was in the verybest of spirits that after lunch they drove to the Gvozdyov marsh.

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