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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Cossacks - Chapter 20
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The Cossacks - Chapter 20 Post by :walter1970 Category :Long Stories Author :Leo Tolstoy Date :December 2010 Read :2222

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The Cossacks - Chapter 20

The next day Olenin went alone to the spot where he and the old
man startled the stag. Instead of passing round through the gate
he climbed over the prickly hedge, as everybody else did, and
before he had had time to pull out the thorns that had caught in
his coat, his dog, which had run on in front, started two
pheasants. He had hardly stepped among the briers when the
pheasants began to rise at every step (the old man had not shown
him that place the day before as he meant to keep it for shooting
from behind the screen). Olenin fired twelve times and killed five
pheasants, but clambering after them through the briers he got so
fatigued that he was drenched with perspiration. He called off his
dog, uncocked his gun, put in a bullet above the small shot, and
brushing away the mosquitoes with the wide sleeve of his
Circassian coat he went slowly to the spot where they had been the
day before. It was however impossible to keep back the dog, who
found trails on the very path, and Olenin killed two more
pheasants, so that after being detained by this it was getting
towards noon before he began to find the place he was looking for.

The day was perfectly clear, calm, and hot. The morning moisture
had dried up even in the forest, and myriads of mosquitoes
literally covered his face, his back, and his arms. His dog had
turned from black to grey, its back being covered with mosquitoes,
and so had Olenin's coat through which the insects thrust their
stings. Olenin was ready to run away from them and it seemed to
him that it was impossible to live in this country in the summer.
He was about to go home, but remembering that other people managed
to endure such pain he resolved to bear it and gave himself up to
be devoured. And strange to say, by noontime the feeling became
actually pleasant. He even felt that without this mosquito-filled
atmosphere around him, and that mosquito-paste mingled with
perspiration which his hand smeared over his face, and that
unceasing irritation all over his body, the forest would lose for
him some of its character and charm. These myriads of insects were
so well suited to that monstrously lavish wild vegetation, these
multitudes of birds and beasts which filled the forest, this dark
foliage, this hot scented air, these runlets filled with turbid
water which everywhere soaked through from the Terek and gurgled
here and there under the overhanging leaves, that the very thing
which had at first seemed to him dreadful and intolerable now
seemed pleasant. After going round the place where yesterday they
had found the animal and not finding anything, he felt inclined to
rest. The sun stood right above the forest and poured its
perpendicular rays down on his back and head whenever he came out
into a glade or onto the road. The seven heavy pheasants dragged
painfully at his waist. Having found the traces of yesterday's
stag he crept under a bush into the thicket just where the stag
had lain, and lay down in its lair. He examined the dark foliage
around him, the place marked by the stag's perspiration and
yesterday's dung, the imprint of the stag's knees, the bit of
black earth it had kicked up, and his own footprints of the day
before. He felt cool and comfortable and did not think of or wish
for anything. And suddenly he was overcome by such a strange
feeling of causeless joy and of love for everything, that from an
old habit of his childhood he began crossing himself and thanking
someone. Suddenly, with extraordinary clearness, he thought: 'Here
am I, Dmitri Olenin, a being quite distinct from every other
being, now lying all alone Heaven only knows where--where a stag
used to live--an old stag, a beautiful stag who perhaps had never
seen a man, and in a place where no human being has ever sat or
thought these thoughts. Here I sit, and around me stand old and
young trees, one of them festooned with wild grape vines, and
pheasants are fluttering, driving one another about and perhaps
scenting their murdered brothers.' He felt his pheasants, examined
them, and wiped the warm blood off his hand onto his coat.
'Perhaps the jackals scent them and with dissatisfied faces go off
in another direction: above me, flying in among the leaves which
to them seem enormous islands, mosquitoes hang in the air and
buzz: one, two, three, four, a hundred, a thousand, a million
mosquitoes, and all of them buzz something or other and each one
of them is separate from all else and is just such a separate
Dmitri Olenin as I am myself.' He vividly imagined what the
mosquitoes buzzed: 'This way, this way, lads! Here's some one we
can eat!' They buzzed and stuck to him. And it was clear to him
that he was not a Russian nobleman, a member of Moscow society,
the friend and relation of so-and-so and so-and-so, but just such
a mosquito, or pheasant, or deer, as those that were now living
all around him. 'Just as they, just as Daddy Eroshka, I shall live
awhile and die, and as he says truly:

"grass will grow and nothing more".

'But what though the grass does grow?' he continued thinking.
'Still I must live and be happy, because happiness is all I
desire. Never mind what I am--an animal like all the rest, above
whom the grass will grow and nothing more; or a frame in which a
bit of the one God has been set,--still I must live in the very
best way. How then must I live to be happy, and why was I not
happy before?' And he began to recall his former life and he felt
disgusted with himself. He appeared to himself to have been
terribly exacting and selfish, though he now saw that all the
while he really needed nothing for himself. And he looked round at
the foliage with the light shining through it, at the setting sun
and the clear sky, and he felt just as happy as before. 'Why am I
happy, and what used I to live for?' thought he. 'How much I
exacted for myself; how I schemed and did not manage to gain
anything but shame and sorrow! and, there now, I require nothing
to be happy;' and suddenly a new light seemed to reveal itself to
him. 'Happiness is this!' he said to himself. 'Happiness lies in
living for others. That is evident. The desire for happiness is
innate in every man; therefore it is legitimate. When trying to
satisfy it selfishly--that is, by seeking for oneself riches,
fame, comforts, or love--it may happen that circumstances arise
which make it impossible to satisfy these desires. It follows that
it is these desires that are illegitimate, but not the need for
happiness. But what desires can always be satisfied despite
external circumstances? What are they? Love, self-sacrifice.' He
was so glad and excited when he had discovered this, as it seemed
to him, new truth, that he jumped up and began impatiently seeking
some one to sacrifice himself for, to do good to and to love.
'Since one wants nothing for oneself,' he kept thinking, 'why not
live for others?' He took up his gun with the intention of
returning home quickly to think this out and to find an
opportunity of doing good. He made his way out of the thicket.
When he had come out into the glade he looked around him; the sun
was no longer visible above the tree-tops. It had grown cooler and
the place seemed to him quite strange and not like the country
round the village. Everything seemed changed--the weather and the
character of the forest; the sky was wrapped in clouds, the wind
was rustling in the tree-tops, and all around nothing was visible
but reeds and dying broken-down trees. He called to his dog who
had run away to follow some animal, and his voice came back as in
a desert. And suddenly he was seized with a terrible sense of
weirdness. He grew frightened. He remembered the abreks and the
murders he had been told about, and he expected every moment that
an abrek would spring from behind every bush and he would have to
defend his life and die, or be a coward. He thought of God and of
the future life as for long he had not thought about them. And all
around was that same gloomy stern wild nature. 'And is it worth
while living for oneself,' thought he, 'when at any moment you may
die, and die without having done any good, and so that no one will
know of it?' He went in the direction where he fancied the village
lay. Of his shooting he had no further thought; but he felt tired
to death and peered round at every bush and tree with particular
attention and almost with terror, expecting every moment to be
called to account for his life. After having wandered about for a
considerable time he came upon a ditch down which was flowing cold
sandy water from the Terek, and, not to go astray any longer, he
decided to follow it. He went on without knowing where the ditch
would lead him. Suddenly the reeds behind him crackled. He
shuddered and seized his gun, and then felt ashamed of himself:
the over-excited dog, panting hard, had thrown itself into the
cold water of the ditch and was lapping it!

He too had a drink, and then followed the dog in the direction it
wished to go, thinking it would lead him to the village. But
despite the dog's company everything around him seemed still more
dreary. The forest grew darker and the wind grew stronger and
stronger in the tops of the broken old trees. Some large birds
circled screeching round their nests in those trees. The
vegetation grew poorer and he came oftener and oftener upon
rustling reeds and bare sandy spaces covered with animal
footprints. To the howling of the wind was added another kind of
cheerless monotonous roar. Altogether his spirits became gloomy.
Putting his hand behind him he felt his pheasants, and found one
missing. It had broken off and was lost, and only the bleeding
head and beak remained sticking in his belt. He felt more
frightened than he had ever done before. He began to pray to God,
and feared above all that he might die without having done
anything good or kind; and he so wanted to live, and to live so as
to perform a feat of self-sacrifice.

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The Cossacks - Chapter 21 The Cossacks - Chapter 21

The Cossacks - Chapter 21
Suddenly it was as though the sun had shone into his soul. Heheard Russian being spoken, and also heard the rapid smooth flowof the Terek, and a few steps farther in front of him saw thebrown moving surface of the river, with the dim-coloured wet sandof its banks and shallows, the distant steppe, the cordon watch-tower outlined above the water, a saddled and hobbled horse amongthe brambles, and then the mountains opening out before him. Thered sun appeared for an instant from under a cloud and its lastrays glittered brightly along the river over the reeds, on thewatch-tower, and on a

The Cossacks - Chapter 19 The Cossacks - Chapter 19

The Cossacks - Chapter 19
The mist had partly lifted, showing the wet reed thatches, and wasnow turning into dew that moistened the road and the grass besidethe fence. Smoke rose everywhere in clouds from the chimneys. Thepeople were going out of the village, some to their work, some tothe river, and some to the cordon. The hunters walked togetheralong the damp, grass-grown path. The dogs, wagging their tailsand looking at their masters, ran on both sides of them. Myriadsof gnats hovered in the air and pursued the hunters, coveringtheir backs, eyes, and hands. The air was fragrant with the grassand with the dampness of the