FictionForest

PART SIX : Chapter 8

Leo TolstoyAug 24, 2016'Command+D' Bookmark this page

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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.

 

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