Anna Karenina, Lev Tolstoy, hunting scene


The pass was not far away, above the river, in a grove of shakes. Having reached the grove, Levin accompanied Oblonsky to the corner of a clearing covered with moss and mud, already cleared of snow. He himself went back to the other end, to a double birch tree, and, leaning his rifle on the fork of the dry lower branch, took off his pastern, put on his belt and tested the fluency of his arm movements. Lanka who was walking behind him step by step, gray and old, crouched guardedly in front of him, and strained her ears. The sun was descending behind the big forest, and in the dusk light the young birch trees scattered among the trembling trees drew sharply with their pendulous branches from the swollen buds, ready to burst. From the dense forest, where snow still remained, barely perceptible water flowed in narrow, winding rivulets. Small birds chirped and occasionally rustled from tree to tree. In the intervals of complete calm, the crackling of the previous year’s leaves could be heard, stirred by the thawing of the earth and the sprouting of grasses. “What a wonder! You can hear and see how the grass grows!” said Levin to himself, noticing a wet leaf of trembling slate color moving beside a blade of new grass. He stood, listening, looking now at the damp mossy earth, now at Laska all ears, now at the sea of bare treetops stretching before him at the foot of the mountain, now at the sky discoloring veiled by white layers of clouds. One hawk, beating its wings slowly, flew high over the distant forest; a second, with equal motion, flew in the same direction and disappeared. The birds took to chirping even more loudly and insistently in the dense forest. Not far away shrieked an owl, and Laska, shuddering, took a few shrewd steps and, bending his head to one side, listened. Across the river the cuckoo was heard. Twice he let out the usual cry, then he arched, barked, barbled.-What a beauty! already the cuckoo! – said Stepan Arkad’ic coming out from behind a bush. – Already, I heard – Levin replied, regretting to break the silence of the forest with his own voice, unwelcome to himself. – Here they come! The figure of Stepan Arkad’ic passed behind the bush again and Levin saw only the living flame of a match followed soon after by the red fire of a cigarette and a small turquoise smoke. Cik! cik!, snapped the rifle dogs raised by Stepan Arkad’ic. – What is it that is screeching? – Oblonsky asked, drawing Levin’s attention to a prolonged squeal, as of a foal that, tumbling, whinnied in a high-pitched voice. – Ah, don’t you know? It’s a hare, a male. But let’s be quiet! Do you hear?…they pass by! – cried almost Levin, raising the rifle’s hounds. A distant whistle was heard and, just at the regular two-second interval so familiar to the hunter, a second, a third whistle, and, after the third, the zirlio was already perceptible. Levin turned his eyes left and right, and behold, before him, in the somber blue sky, above the tender, swollen shoots of the tremblers, appeared the bird in flight. It flew straight toward him: the now near zirlium, similar to the ripping at regular intervals of a thick cloth, resounded just above his ear; the bird’s long beak and neck were already visible, but at the moment when Levin took aim, from behind the bush where Oblonsky was, a red flash darted; the bird, like an arrow, ducked and soared up again. Another flash of lightning darted and a thump was heard, and flapping its wings, almost trying to hold itself up in the air, the bird stopped, hovered for a moment, and fell heavily to the muddy ground. – Could it possibly have made a frying pan? – cried Stepan Arkad’ic, who could not see because of the smoke.-There it is! – said Levin, pointing to Laska who, with one ear raised and waving the tip of her woolly tail, with slow steps, as if smiling and wanting to prolong her pleasure, carried the killed bird to her master. – Away, I’m glad it succeeded you – Levin said, while feeling a certain sense of envy that he was not the one who killed the woodcock. – An ugly frying pan from the right barrel – replied Stepan Arkad’ic, reloading his rifle. – Sst…. pass…. Indeed, sharp whistles were heard following one another, rapid. Two woodcocks, playing chase and whistling only, without zirping, flew over the heads of the hunters. Four shots resounded, but the woodcocks, almost swallows, made a swift volley and disappeared from sight. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The pitch was excellent. Stepan Arkad’ic killed two birds and Levin two, one of which could not be found. It was beginning to dusk. Below, beyond the birch trees, Venus with her dim light shone clear silver; while above, to the east, the coruscating Arcturus was already shedding his reddish light. Just above his head, Levin now glimpsed, now lost the stars of Ursa. The woodcocks had already ceased their flight; but Levin decided to wait until Venus, whom he saw below a small birch branch, passed above, and the stars of Ursa appeared clear at every point. But Venus had already passed over the branch, the chariot of Ursa with its helm was already all clear in the deep blue sky, and Levin was still waiting. – Is it not time? – Stepan Arkad’ic asked. It was already quiet in the forest, and not even the smallest bird moved. – Let’s stay still – answered Levin. – As you wish. Now they stood, fifteen paces from each other.- Stiva! – said suddenly, unexpectedly, Levin – how come you don’t tell me if your sister-in-law got married or is about to get married? He felt so confident and serene that he felt that no answer could upset him. But he really did not expect what Stepan Arkad’ic answered. – She has not thought about it, nor is she thinking about getting married; but she is very ill, and the doctors have sent her abroad. They even fear for her life. – What are you talking about? – Levin shouted. – Very ill? And what on earth has happened to her? How is…. As they said this, Laska, pricking up her ears, looked up at the sky and then at them with a scolding air. “There, they picked just the right time to chat … and she meanwhile flies away…. There she is, that’s right. They’re going to let her get away…” thought Laska. But at that same moment they both suddenly heard a piercing whistle whip past their ears, and they both slinged their rifles and two shots rang out at the same instant. The woodcock, flying overhead, folded its wings and fell into the thick of a bush curving its slender shoots. – There, perfect! Together! – cried Levin and ran with Laska into the bush to find the woodcock. “Ah, yes, but what was it that made me sorry? – he went remembering. – Yeah, Kitty, who is sick. But there’s nothing to be done; it’s a great pity,” he thought. – Ah, you found her. There, the smart one! – she said, taking the still-warm cock from Laska’s mouth and placing it in the almost-full meat box. – I found her, Stiva! – she shouted.

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