Chapter 10

Vassenka drove the horses so fast that they reached the marsh too early, while it was still hot.

As they drew near this more important marsh, the chief aim of their expedition, Levin could not help considering how he could get rid of Vassenka and be free in his movements. Stepan Arkadyevich evidently had the same desire, and on his face Levin saw the look of anxiety always present in a true sportsman when beginning shooting, together with a certain good-humored slyness peculiar to him.

`How shall we go? It's a splendid marsh, I see, and there are hawks,' said Stepan Arkadyevich, pointing to two great birds hovering over the sedge. `Where there are hawks, there is sure to be game.'

`Now, gentlemen,' said Levin, pulling up his boots and examining the lock of his gun with a somewhat somber expression, `do you see that sedge?' He pointed to an oasis of blackish green in the huge half- mown wet meadow that stretched along the right bank of the river. `The marsh begins here, straight in front of us, do you see - where it is greener? From here it runs to the right where the horses are; there are hummocks there, and double snipe, and all round that sedge as far as that alder tree, and right up to the mill. Over there, do you see, where the creek is? That's the best place. There I once shot seventeen jacksnipe. We'll separate with the dogs and go in different directions, and then meet over there at the mill.'

`Well, who'll go left, and who to the right?' asked Stepan Arkadyevich. `It's wider to the right; you two go that way and I'll take the left,' he said with apparent carelessness.

`Capital! We'll make the bigger bag! Yes, come along, come along!' Vassenka exclaimed.

Levin could do nothing but agree, and they divided.

As soon as they entered the marsh, the two dogs began hunting about together and made toward the rust-colored spot. Levin knew Laska's method, wary and indefinite; he knew the place too, and expected a whole covey of snipe.

`Veslovsky, walk beside me - beside me!' he said in a faint voice to his companion splashing in the water behind him. Levin could not help feeling an interest in the direction his gun was pointed, after that casual shot near the Kolpensky marsh.

`Oh, I won't get in your way, don't trouble about me.'

But Levin could not help troubling, and recalled Kitty's words at parting: `Mind you don't shoot one another.' The dogs came nearer and nearer, passed each other, each pursuing its own scent. The expectation of snipe was so intense that to Levin the smacking sound of his own heel, as he drew it up out of the rusty mire, seemed to be the call of a snipe, and he clutched and pressed the butt of his gun.

Bang! bang! sounded almost in his ear. Vassenka had fired at a flock of ducks which was hovering over the marsh and flying at that moment toward the sportsmen, far out of range. Before Levin had time to look round, there was the whir of one snipe, another, a third, and some eight more rose one after another.

Stepan Arkadyevich hit one at the very moment when it was beginning its zigzag movements, and the snipe fell as a clod into the quagmire. Oblonsky aimed deliberately at another, still flying low toward the sedge, and together with the report of the shot, that snipe too fell, and it could be seen fluttering out where the sedge had been cut, its unhurt wing showing white beneath.

Levin was not so lucky: he aimed at his first bird too low, and missed; he aimed at it again, just as it was rising, but at that instant another snipe flew up at his very feet, distracting him so that he missed again.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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