FictionForest

PART SIX : Chapter 9

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

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“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 appétit ­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 Automédon.  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.

 

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