Chapter 5

NIKOLAY ROSTOV was standing meanwhile at his post waiting for the wolf. He was aware of what must be taking place within the copse from the rush of the pack coming closer and going further away, from the cries of the dogs, whose notes were familiar to him, from the nearness, and then greater remoteness, and sudden raising of the voices of the huntsmen. He knew that there were both young and also old wolves in the enclosure. He knew the hounds had divided into two packs, that in one place they were close on the wolf, and that something had gone wrong. Every second he expected the wolf on his side. He made a thousand different suppositions of how and at what spot the wolf would run out, and how he would set upon it. Hope was succeeded by despair. Several times he prayed to God that the wolf would rush out upon him. He prayed with that feeling of passion and compunction with which men pray in moments of intense emotion due to trivial causes. “Why, what is it to Thee,” he said to God, “to do this for me? I know Thou art great and that it’s a sin to pray to Thee about this, but for God’s sake do make the old wolf come out upon me, and make Karay fix his teeth in his throat and finish him before the eyes of ‘uncle,’ who is looking this way.” A thousand times over in that half-hour, with intent, strained, and uneasy eyes Rostov scanned the thickets at the edge of the copse with two scraggy oaks standing up above the undergrowth of aspen, and the ravine with its overhanging bank, and “uncle’s” cap peering out from behind a bush on the right. “No, that happiness is not to be,” thought Rostov, “yet what would it cost Him! It’s not to be! I’m always unlucky, at cards, in war, and everything.” Austerlitz and Dolohov flashed in distinct but rapid succession through his imagination. “Only once in my life to kill an old wolf; I ask for nothing beyond!” he thought, straining eyes and ears, looking from left to right, and back again, and listening to the slightest fluctuations in the sounds of the dogs. He looked again to the right and saw something running across the open ground towards him. “No, it can’t be!” thought Rostov, taking a deep breath, as a man does at the coming of what he has long been hoping for. The greatest piece of luck had come to him, and so simply, without noise, or flourish, or display to signalise it. Rostov could not believe his eyes, and this uncertainty lasted more than a second. The wolf was running forward; he leaped clumsily over a rut that lay across his path.

It was an old wolf with a grey back and full, reddish belly. He was running without haste, plainly feeling secure of being unseen. Rostov held his breath and looked round at the dogs. They were lying and standing about, not seeing the wolf and quite unaware of him. Old Karay had his head turned round, and was angrily searching for a flea, snapping his yellow teeth on his haunches. “Loo! loo! loo!” Rostov whispered, pouting out his lips. The dogs leaped up, jingling the iron rings of the leashes, and pricked up their ears. Karay scratched his hind-leg and got up, pricking up his ears and wagging his tail, on which there were hanging matted locks of his coat.

“Loose them? or not loose them?” Nikolay said to himself as the wolf moved away from the copse towards him. All at once the whole physiognomy of the wolf was transformed. He started, seeing—probably for the first time—human eyes fixed upon him; and, turning his head a little towards Rostov, stood still, in doubt whether to go back or forward. “Ay! Never mind, forward!…” the wolf seemed to be saying to himself, and he pushed on ahead, without looking round, softly and not rapidly, with an easy but resolute movement. “Loo! loo!…” Nikolay cried in a voice not his own, and of its own accord his gallant horse galloped at break-neck pace downhill, and leaped over the watercourse to cut off the wolf’s retreat; the hounds dashed on even more swiftly, overtaking it.

Nikolay did not hear his own cry; he had no consciousness of galloping; he saw neither the dogs nor the ground over which he galloped. He saw nothing but the wolf, which, quickening its pace, was bounding in the same direction across the glade. Foremost of the hounds was the black and tan, broad-backed bitch, Milka, and she was getting close upon him. But the wolf turned a sidelong glance upon her, and instead of flying at him, as she always had done, Milka suddenly stopped short, her fore-legs held stiffly before her and her tail in the air.

“Loo! loo! loo!” shouted Nikolay.

The red hound, Lyubima, darted forward from behind Milka, dashed headlong at the wolf, and got hold of him by the hind-leg, but in the same second bounded away on the other side in terror. The wolf crouched,

  By PanEris using Melati.

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