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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Cossacks - Chapter 3
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The Cossacks - Chapter 3 Post by :aWebPro Category :Long Stories Author :Leo Tolstoy Date :December 2010 Read :1630

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The Cossacks - Chapter 3

The farther Olenin travelled from Central Russia the farther he
left his memories behind, and the nearer he drew to the Caucasus
the lighter his heart became. "I'll stay away for good and never
return to show myself in society," was a thought that sometimes
occurred to him. "These people whom I see here are NOT people.
None of them know me and none of them can ever enter the Moscow
society I was in or find out about my past. And no one in that
society will ever know what I am doing, living among these
people." And quite a new feeling of freedom from his whole past
came over him among the rough beings he met on the road whom he
did not consider to be PEOPLE in the sense that his Moscow
acquaintances were. The rougher the people and the fewer the signs
of civilization the freer he felt. Stavropol, through which he had
to pass, irked him. The signboards, some of them even in French,
ladies in carriages, cabs in the marketplace, and a gentleman
wearing a fur cloak and tall hat who was walking along the
boulevard and staring at the passersby, quite upset him. "Perhaps
these people know some of my acquaintances," he thought; and the
club, his tailor, cards, society ... came back to his mind. But
after Stavropol everything was satisfactory--wild and also
beautiful and warlike, and Olenin felt happier and happier. All
the Cossacks, post-boys, and post-station masters seemed to him
simple folk with whom he could jest and converse simply, without
having to consider to what class they belonged. They all belonged
to the human race which, without his thinking about it, all
appeared dear to Olenin, and they all treated him in a friendly

Already in the province of the Don Cossacks his sledge had been
exchanged for a cart, and beyond Stavropol it became so warm that
Olenin travelled without wearing his fur coat. It was already
spring--an unexpected joyous spring for Olenin. At night he was no
longer allowed to leave the Cossack villages, and they said it was
dangerous to travel in the evening. Vanyusha began to be uneasy,
and they carried a loaded gun in the cart. Olenin became still
happier. At one of the post-stations the post-master told of a
terrible murder that had been committed recently on the high road.
They began to meet armed men. "So this is where it begins!"
thought Olenin, and kept expecting to see the snowy mountains of
which mention was so often made. Once, towards evening, the Nogay
driver pointed with his whip to the mountains shrouded in clouds.
Olenin looked eagerly, but it was dull and the mountains were
almost hidden by the clouds. Olenin made out something grey and
white and fleecy, but try as he would he could find nothing
beautiful in the mountains of which he had so often read and
heard. The mountains and the clouds appeared to him quite alike,
and he thought the special beauty of the snow peaks, of which he
had so often been told, was as much an invention as Bach's music
and the love of women, in which he did not believe. So he gave up
looking forward to seeing the mountains. But early next morning,
being awakened in his cart by the freshness of the air, he glanced
carelessly to the right. The morning was perfectly clear. Suddenly
he saw, about twenty paces away as it seemed to him at first
glance, pure white gigantic masses with delicate contours, the
distinct fantastic outlines of their summits showing sharply
against the far-off sky. When he had realized the distance between
himself and them and the sky and the whole immensity of the
mountains, and felt the infinitude of all that beauty, he became
afraid that it was but a phantasm or a dream. He gave himself a
shake to rouse himself, but the mountains were still the same.

"What's that! What is it?" he said to the driver.

"Why, the mountains," answered the Nogay driver with indifference.

"And I too have been looking at them for a long while," said
Vanyusha. "Aren't they fine? They won't believe it at home."

The quick progress of the three-horsed cart along the smooth road
caused the mountains to appear to be running along the horizon,
while their rosy crests glittered in the light of the rising sun.
At first Olenin was only astonished at the sight, then gladdened
by it; but later on, gazing more and more intently at that snow-
peaked chain that seemed to rise not from among other black
mountains, but straight out of the plain, and to glide away into
the distance, he began by slow degrees to be penetrated by their
beauty and at length to FEEL the mountains. From that moment all
he saw, all he thought, and all he felt, acquired for him a new
character, sternly majestic like the mountains! All his Moscow
reminiscences, shame, and repentance, and his trivial dreams about
the Caucasus, vanished and did not return. 'Now it has begun,' a
solemn voice seemed to say to him. The road and the Terek, just
becoming visible in the distance, and the Cossack villages and the
people, all no longer appeared to him as a joke. He looked at
himself or Vanyusha, and again thought of the mountains. ... Two
Cossacks ride by, their guns in their cases swinging rhythmically
behind their backs, the white and bay legs of their horses
mingling confusedly ... and the mountains! Beyond the Terek rises
the smoke from a Tartar village... and the mountains! The sun has
risen and glitters on the Terek, now visible beyond the reeds ...
and the mountains! From the village comes a Tartar wagon, and
women, beautiful young women, pass by... and the mountains!
'Abreks canter about the plain, and here am I driving along and do
not fear them! I have a gun, and strength, and youth... and the

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That whole part of the Terek line (about fifty miles) along whichlie the villages of the Grebensk Cossacks is uniform in characterboth as to country and inhabitants. The Terek, which separates theCossacks from the mountaineers, still flows turbid and rapidthough already broad and smooth, always depositing greyish sand onits low reedy right bank and washing away the steep, though nothigh, left bank, with its roots of century-old oaks, its rottingplane trees, and young brushwood. On the right bank lie thevillages of pro-Russian, though still somewhat restless, Tartars.Along the left bank, back half a mile from the river and standingfive or six

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'I'm fond of them, very fond! ... First-rate fellows! ... Fine!'he kept repeating, and felt ready to cry. But why he wanted tocry, who were the first-rate fellows he was so fond of--was morethan he quite knew. Now and then he looked round at some house andwondered why it was so curiously built; sometimes he beganwondering why the post-boy and Vanyusha, who were so differentfrom himself, sat so near, and together with him were being jerkedabout and swayed by the tugs the side-horses gave at the frozentraces, and again he repeated: 'First rate ... very fond!' andonce he even said: 'And