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Chapter 9


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

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

"And is there nothing on the way?"

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

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

"Krak! Laska!..."

The dogs came back.

"There won't be room for three. I'll stay here," said Levin,
hoping they would find nothing but peewits, who had been startled
by the dogs, and turning 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
another dog, will you?"

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

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

"Oh, no, it was jolly all the same. Did you see us?" said
Vassenka Veslovsky, clambering awkwardly into the wagonette with
his gun and his peewit 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
the stock of someone's gun, and there was the report of a shot.
The gun did actually go off first, but that was how it seemed to
Levin. It appeared that Vassenka Veslovsky had pulled only one
trigger, and had left the other hammer still cocked. The charge
flew into the ground without doing harm to anyone. Stepan
Arkadyevitch shook his head and laughed reprovingly at Veslovsky.
But Levin had not the heart to reprove him. In the first place,
any reproach would have seemed to be called forth by the danger
he had incurred and the bump that had come up on Levin's
forehead. And besides, Veslovsky was at first so naively
distressed, and then 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
would inevitably take some time to shoot over, Levin tried to
persuade them to pass it by. But Veslovsky again overpersuaded
him. Again, as the marsh was narrow, Levin, like a good host,
remained with the carriage.

Krak made straight for some clumps of sedge. Vassenka Veslovsky
was the first to run after the dog. Before Stepan Arkadyevitch
had time to come up, a grouse flew out. Veslovsky missed it and
it flew into an unmown meadow. This grouse was left for
Veslovsky to follow up. Krak found it again 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 the reins to Veslovsky and walked into the marsh.

Laska, who had been plaintively whining and fretting against the
injustice of her treatment, flew straight ahead to a hopeful
place that Levin 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's pleasure and hurrying after her.

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

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

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
lifted his gun, but at the very instant when he was taking aim,
the sound of splashing grew louder, came closer, and was joined
with the sound of Veslovsky's voice, shouting something with
strange loudness. Levin saw he had his gun pointed behind the
snipe, but still he fired.

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

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

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

Levin was vexed both at being hindered from shooting and at his
horses getting stuck in the mud, and still more at the fact that
neither Stepan Arkadyevitch nor Veslovsky helped him and the
coachman to unharness the horses and get them out, since neither
of them had the slightest notion of harnessing. Without
vouchsafing a syllable in reply to Vassenka's protestations that
it had been quite dry there, Levin worked in silence with the
coachman at extricating the horses. But then, as he got warm at
the work and saw how assiduously Veslovsky was tugging at the
wagonette by one of the mud-guards, so that he broke it indeed,
Levin blamed himself for having under the influence of
yesterday's feelings been too cold to Veslovsky, and tried to be
particularly genial so as to smooth over his chilliness. When
everything had been put right, and the carriage had been brought
back to the road, Levin had the lunch served.

"Bon appetit--bonne conscience! Ce poulet va tomber jusqu'au
fond de mes bottes," Vassenka, who had recovered his spirits,
quoted the French saying as he finished his second chicken.
"Well, now our troubles are over, now everything's going to go
well. Only, to atone for my sins, I'm bound 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 the rein,
when Levin begged him to let the coachman drive. "No, I must
atone for my sins, and I'm very comfortable on the box." And he
drove.

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



Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Category:
Fiction - Russian literature
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