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Chapter 8


Next day, before the ladies were up, the wagonette and a trap for
the shooting party were at the door, and Laska, aware since early
morning that they were going shooting, after much whining and
darting to and fro, had sat herself down in the wagonette beside
the coachman, and, disapproving of the delay, was excitedly
watching the door from which the sportsmen still did not come
out. The first to come out was Vassenka Veslovsky, 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 his
Scotch 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 own way whether the others were coming soon, but
getting no answer from him, she returned to her post of
observation and sank into repose again, her head on one side, and
one ear pricked up to listen. At last the door opened with a
creak, and Stepan Arkadyevitch's spot-and-tan pointer Krak flew
out, running round and round and turning over in the air. Stepan
Arkadyevitch himself followed with a gun in his hand and a cigar
in his mouth.

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

Vassenka Veslovsky had had no notion before that it was truly
chic for a sportsman to be in tatters, but to have his shooting
outfit of the best quality. He saw it now as he looked at Stepan
Arkadyevitch, radiant in his rags, graceful, well-fed, and
joyous, a typical Russian nobleman. And he made up his mind that
next time he went shooting he would certainly 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 to ask 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 great thing was for her to keep away from the
children--they might any minute push against her. Then he had
once more to hear her declare that she was not angry with him for
going away for two days, and to beg her to be sure to send him a
note next morning by a servant on horseback, to write him, if it
were but two words only, to let him know that all was well with
her.

Kitty was distressed, as she always was, at parting for a couple
of days from her husband, but when she saw his eager figure,
looking big and strong in his shooting-boots and his white
blouse, and a sort of sportsman elation and excitement
incomprehensible to her, she forgot her own chagrin for the sake
of his pleasure, and said good-bye to him cheerfully.

"Pardon, gentlemen!" he said, running out onto the steps. "Have
you put the 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
waiting for him at the steps with some question. "Excuse me,
here comes another villain."

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

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

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

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

The point was that in the lodge that was being built the
carpenter had spoiled the staircase, fitting it together without
calculating the space it was to fill, so that the steps were all
sloping when it was put in place. Now the carpenter wanted,
keeping the same staircase, to add three 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 comes out."

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

"Why, to be sure, it'll start from the bottom and go up and go
up, and come 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
the dust.

"There, do you see?"

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

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

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

Oblonsky was feeling the same, and he too was not talkative.
Vassenka Veslovsky kept up alone a ceaseless flow of cheerful
chatter. As he listened to him now, Levin felt ashamed to think
how unfair he had been to him the day before. Vassenka was
really a nice fellow, simple, good-hearted, and very
good-humored. If Levin had met him before he was married, he
would have made friends with him. Levin rather disliked his
holiday attitude to life and a sort of free and easy assumption
of elegance. It was as though he assumed a high degree of
importance in himself that could not be disputed, because he had
long nails and a stylish cap, and everything else to correspond;
but this could be forgiven for the sake of his good nature and
good breeding. Levin liked him for his good education, for
speaking French and English with such an excellent accent, and
for being a man of his world.

Vassenka was extremely delighted with the left horse, a horse of
the Don Steppes. He kept praising him enthusiastically. "How
fine it must be galloping over the steppes on a steppe horse!
Eh? isn't it?" he said. He had imagined riding on a steppe horse
as something wild and romantic, and it turned out nothing of the
sort. But his simplicity, particularly in conjunction with his
good looks, his amiable smile, and the grace of his movements,
was very attractive. Either because his nature was sympathetic
to Levin, or because Levin was trying to atone for his sins of
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
once felt for a cigar and his pocketbook, and did not know
whether he had lost them or left them on the table. In the
pocketbook there were thirty-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
could hardly weigh less than seventeen stone. "I'll send the
coachman."

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



Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Category:
Fiction - Russian literature
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