Anna karenina, p.169
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       Anna Karenina, p.169

           graf Leo Tolstoy

  Chapter 12

  Waking up at earliest dawn, Levin tried to wake his companions.Vassenka, lying on his stomach, with one leg in a stocking thrust out,was sleeping so soundly that he could elicit no response. Oblonsky, halfasleep, declined to get up so early. Even Laska, who was asleep, curledup in the hay, got up unwillingly, and lazily stretched out andstraightened her hind legs one after the other. Getting on his boots andstockings, taking his gun, and carefully opening the creaking door ofthe barn, Levin went out into the road. The coachmen were sleeping intheir carriages, the horses were dozing. Only one was lazily eatingoats, dipping its nose into the manger. It was still gray out-of-doors.

  "Why are you up so early, my dear?" the old woman, their hostess, said,coming out of the hut and addressing him affectionately as an oldfriend.

  "Going shooting, granny. Do I go this way to the marsh?"

  "Straight out at the back; by our threshing floor, my dear, and hemppatches; there's a little footpath." Stepping carefully with hersunburnt, bare feet, the old woman conducted Levin, and moved back thefence for him by the threshing floor.

  "Straight on and you'll come to the marsh. Our lads drove the cattlethere yesterday evening."

  Laska ran eagerly forward along the little path. Levin followed her witha light, rapid step, continually looking at the sky. He hoped the sunwould not be up before he reached the marsh. But the sun did not delay.The moon, which had been bright when he went out, by now shone only likea crescent of quicksilver. The pink flush of dawn, which one could nothelp seeing before, now had to be sought to be discerned at all. Whatwere before undefined, vague blurs in the distant countryside could nowbe distinctly seen. They were sheaves of rye. The dew, not visible tillthe sun was up, wetted Levin's legs and his blouse above his belt in thehigh growing, fragrant hemp patch, from which the pollen had alreadyfallen out. In the transparent stillness of morning the smallest soundswere audible. A bee flew by Levin's ear with the whizzing sound of abullet. He looked carefully, and saw a second and a third. They were allflying from the beehives behind the hedge, and they disappeared over thehemp patch in the direction of the marsh. The path led straight to themarsh. The marsh could be recognized by the mist which rose from it,thicker in one place and thinner in another, so that the reeds andwillow bushes swayed like islands in this mist. At the edge of the marshand the road, peasant boys and men, who had been herding for the night,were lying, and in the dawn all were asleep under their coats. Not farfrom them were three hobbled horses. One of them clanked a chain. Laskawalked beside her master, pressing a little forward and looking round.Passing the sleeping peasants and reaching the first reeds, Levinexamined his pistols and let his dog off. One of the horses, a sleek,dark-brown three-year-old, seeing the dog, started away, switched itstail and snorted. The other horses too were frightened, and splashingthrough the water with their hobbled legs, and drawing their hoofs outof the thick mud with a squelching sound, they bounded out of the marsh.Laska stopped, looking ironically at the horses and inquiringly atLevin. Levin patted Laska, and whistled as a sign that she might begin.

  Laska ran joyfully and anxiously through the slush that swayed underher.

  Running into the marsh among the familiar scents of roots, marsh plants,and slime, and the extraneous smell of horse dung, Laska detected atonce a smell that pervaded the whole marsh, the scent of thatstrong-smelling bird that always excited her more than any other. Hereand there among the moss and marsh plants this scent was very strong,but it was impossible to determine in which direction it grew strongeror fainter. To find the direction, she had to go farther away from thewind. Not feeling the motion of her legs, Laska bounded with a stiffgallop, so that at each bound she could stop short, to the right, awayfrom the wind that blew from the east before sunrise, and turned facingthe wind. Sniffing in the air with dilated nostrils, she felt at oncethat not their tracks only but they themselves were here before her, andnot one, but many. Laska slackened her speed. They were here, but whereprecisely she could not yet determine. To find the very spot, she beganto make a circle, when suddenly her master's voice drew her off. "Laska!here?" he asked, pointing her to a different direction. She stopped,asking him if she had better not go on doing as she had begun. But herepeated his command in an angry voice, pointing to a spot covered withwater, where there could not be anything. She obeyed him, pretending shewas looking, so as to please him, went round it, and went back to herformer position, and was at once aware of the scent again. Now when hewas not hindering her, she knew what to do, and without looking at whatwas under her feet, and to her vexation stumbling over a high stump intothe water, but righting herself with her strong, supple legs, she beganmaking the circle which was to make all clear to her. The scent of themreached her, stronger and stronger, and more and more defined, and allat once it became perfectly clear to her that one of them was here,behind this tuft of reeds, five paces in front of her; she stopped, andher whole body was still and rigid. On her short legs she could seenothing in front of her, but by the scent she knew it was sitting notmore than five paces off. She stood still, feeling more and moreconscious of it, and enjoying it in anticipation. Her tail was stretchedstraight and tense, and only wagging at the extreme end. Her mouth wasslightly open, her ears raised. One ear had been turned wrong side outas she ran up, and she breathed heavily but warily, and still morewarily looked round, but more with her eyes than her head, to hermaster. He was coming along with the face she knew so well, though theeyes were always terrible to her. He stumbled over the stump as he came,and moved, as she thought, extraordinarily slowly. She thought he cameslowly, but he was running.

  Noticing Laska's special attitude as she crouched on the ground, as itwere, scratching big prints with her hind paws, and with her mouthslightly open, Levin knew she was pointing at grouse, and with an inwardprayer for luck, especially with the first bird, he ran up to her.Coming quite close up to her, he could from his height look beyond her,and he saw with his eyes what she was seeing with her nose. In a spacebetween two little thickets, at a couple of yards' distance, he couldsee a grouse. Turning its head, it was listening. Then lightly preeningand folding its wings, it disappeared round a corner with a clumsy wagof its tail.

  "Fetch it, fetch it!" shouted Levin, giving Laska a shove from behind.

  "But I can't go," thought Laska. "Where am I to go? From here I feelthem, but if I move forward I shall know nothing of where they are orwho they are." But then he shoved her with his knee, and in an excitedwhisper said, "Fetch it, Laska."

  "Well, if that's what he wishes, I'll do it, but I can't answer formyself now," she thought, and darted forward as fast as her legs wouldcarry her between the thick bushes. She scented nothing now; she couldonly see and hear, without understanding anything.

  Ten paces from her former place a grouse rose with a guttural cry andthe peculiar round sound of its wings. And immediately after the shot itsplashed heavily with its white breast on the wet mire. Another bird didnot linger, but rose behind Levin without the dog. When Levin turnedtowards it, it was already some way off. But his shot caught it. Flyingtwenty paces further, the second grouse rose upwards, and whirling roundlike a ball, dropped heavily on a dry place.

  "Come, this is going to be some good!" thought Levin, packing the warmand fat grouse into his game bag. "Eh, Laska, will it be good?"

  When Levin, after loading his gun, moved on, the sun had fully risen,though unseen behind the storm-clouds. The moon had lost all of itsluster, and was like a white cloud in the sky. Not a single star couldbe seen. The sedge, silvery with dew before, now shone like gold. Thestagnant pools were all like amber. The blue of the grass had changed toyellow-green. The marsh birds twittered and swarmed about the brook andupon the bushes that glittered with dew and cast long shadows. A hawkwoke up and settled on a haycock, turning its head from side to side andlooking discontentedly at the marsh. Crows were flying about the field,and a bare-legged boy was driving the horses to an old man, who had gotup from under his long coat and was comb
ing his hair. The smoke from thegun was white as milk over the green of the grass.

  One of the boys ran up to Levin.

  "Uncle, there were ducks here yesterday!" he shouted to him, and hewalked a little way off behind him.

  And Levin was doubly pleased, in sight of the boy, who expressed hisapproval, at killing three snipe, one after another, straight off.

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