While they were reloading their guns, another snipe rose, and Veslovsky, who had had time to reload again, sent two charges of small shot into the water. Stepan Arkadyevich picked up his snipe, and with sparkling eyes looked at Levin.

`Well, now let us separate,' said Stepan Arkadyevich, and limping on his left foot, holding his gun in readiness and whistling to his dog, he walked off in one direction. Levin and Veslovsky walked off in the other.

It always happened with Levin that when his first shots were a failure he got heated and out of temper, and shot badly the whole day. So was it that day. The snipe showed themselves in numbers. They kept flying up from just under the dogs, from under the sportsmen's legs, and Levin might have retrieved his ill luck. But the more he shot, the more he felt disgraced in the eyes of Veslovsky, who kept popping away merrily and indiscriminately, killing nothing, and not in the slightest abashed by his ill success. Levin, in feverish haste, could not restrain himself, got more and more out of temper, and ended by shooting almost without a hope of hitting. Laska, indeed, seemed to understand this. She began searching more listlessly, and gazed back at the sportsmen with apparent perplexity or reproach in her eyes. Shots followed shots in rapid succession. The smoke of the powder hung about the sportsmen, while in the great roomy net of the gamebag there were only three light, small snipe. And of these one had been killed by Veslovsky alone, and one by both of them together. Meanwhile, from the other side of the marsh, came the sound of Stepan Arkadyevich's shots, not frequent, but, as Levin fancied, well directed, for almost after each they heard `Krak, Krak, apporte!'

This excited Levin still more. The snipe were floating continually in the air over the sedge. Their whirring wings close to the earth, and their harsh cries high in the air, could be heard on all sides; the snipe that had risen first and flown up into the air, settled again before the sportsmen. Instead of two hawks there were now dozens of them hovering with shrill cries over the marsh.

After walking through the larger half of the marsh, Levin and Veslovsky reached the place where the peasants' mowing grass was divided into long strips reaching to the sedge, marked off in one place by the trampled grass, in another by a path mown through it. Half of these strips had already been mown.

Though there was not so much hope of finding birds in the uncut part as the cut part, Levin had promised Stepan Arkadyevich to meet him, and so he walked on with his companion through the cut and uncut patches.

`Hi, hunters!' shouted one of a group of peasants, sitting on an unharnessed telega: `Come and have some lunch with us! Have a drop of wine!'

Levin looked round.

`Come along, it's all right!' shouted a good-humored-looking bearded peasant with a red face, showing his white teeth in a grin, and holding up a greenish bottle that flashed in the sunlight.

`Qu'est-ce qu'ils disent?' asked Veslovsky.

`They invite you to have some vodka. Most likely they've been dividing the meadow into lots. I should have some,' said Levin, not without some guile, hoping Veslovsky would be tempted by the vodka, and would go off to them.

`Why do they offer it?'

`Oh, they're merrymaking. Really, you should join them. You would be interested.'

`Allons, c'est curieux.'

  By PanEris using Melati.

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