Chapter 21

The temporary stable, a wooden booth, had been put up close to the racecourse, and there his mare was to have been taken the previous day. He had not yet seen her there. During the last few days he had not ridden her out for exercise himself, but had put her in the charge of the trainer, and so now he absolutely did not know in what condition his mare had arrived yesterday or was in today. He had scarcely got out of his carriage when his stableboy (groom), recognizing the carriage some way off, called the trainer. A dry-looking Englishman, in high boots and a short jacket, clean-shaven, except for a tuft below his chin, came to meet him walking with the uncouth gait of a jockey, turning his elbows out and swaying from side to side.

`Well, how's Frou-Frou?' Vronsky asked in English.

`All right, sir,' the Englishman's voice responded somewhere far down in his throat. `Better not go in,' he added, touching his hat. `I've put a muzzle on her, and the mare's fidgety. Better not go in, it'll excite the mare.'

`No, I'm going in. I want to look at her.'

`Come along, then,' said the Englishman, frowning, and speaking with his mouth shut, and, with swinging elbows, he went on in front with his disjointed gait.

They went into the little yard in front of the shed. The stableboy on duty, spruce and smart in his holiday attire, met them with a broom in his hand, and followed them. In the shed there were five horses in their separate stalls, and Vronsky knew that his chief rival, Makhotin's Gladiator, a very tall chestnut horse, had been brought there, and must be standing among them. Even more than his mare, Vronsky longed to see Gladiator, whom he had never seen, but Vronsky knew that by the etiquette of the racecourse it was not merely impossible for him to see the horse, but improper even to ask questions about him. just as he was passing along the passage, the boy opened the door into the second horsebox on the left, and Vronsky caught a glimpse of a big chestnut horse with white legs. He knew that this was Gladiator, but, with the feeling of a man turning away from the sight of another man's open letter, he turned round and went into Frou-Frou's stall.

`The stall belonging to Ma-k... Mak... I never can say the name - is here,' said the Englishman over his shoulder, pointing his dirty-nailed thumb toward Gladiator's stall.

`Makhotin? Yes, he's my most serious rival,' said Vronsky.

`If you were riding him,' said the Englishman, `I'd bet on you.

`Frou-Frou's more nervous, while the other is more powerful,' said Vronsky, smiling at the compliment to his riding.

`In a steeplechase it all depends on riding and on pluck,' said the Englishman.

Of pluck - that is, energy and courage - Vronsky did not merely feel that he had enough; what was of far more importance, he was firmly convinced that no one in the world could have more of this pluck than he had.

`Don't you think I want more sweating down?'

`Oh, no,' answered the Englishman. `Please, don't speak loud. The mare's fidgety,' he added, nodding toward the horse box, before which they were standing, and from which came the sound of restless stamping in the straw.

He opened the door, and Vronsky went into the horse box, dimly lighted by one little window. In the horse box stood a dark bay mare, with a muzzle on, shifting her feet on the fresh straw. Looking round him in the twilight of the horse box, Vronsky unconsciously took in once more in a comprehensive glance

  By PanEris using Melati.

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