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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Cossacks - Chapter 31
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The Cossacks - Chapter 31 Post by :Seeker Category :Long Stories Author :Leo Tolstoy Date :December 2010 Read :2324

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The Cossacks - Chapter 31

The sun had come out from behind the pear-tree that had shaded the
wagon, and even through the branches that Ustenka had fixed up it
scorched the faces of the sleeping girls. Maryanka woke up and
began arranging the kerchief on her head. Looking about her,
beyond the pear-tree she noticed their lodger, who with his gun on
his shoulder stood talking to her father. She nudged Ustenka and
smilingly pointed him out to her.

'I went yesterday and didn't find a single one,' Olenin was saying
as he looked about uneasily, not seeing Maryanka through the
branches.

'Ah, you should go out there in that direction, go right as by
compasses, there in a disused vineyard denominated as the Waste,
hares are always to be found,' said the cornet, having at once
changed his manner of speech.

'A fine thing to go looking for hares in these busy times! You had
better come and help us, and do some work with the girls,' the old
woman said merrily. 'Now then, girls, up with you!' she cried.

Maryanka and Ustenka under the cart were whispering and could
hardly restrain their laughter.

Since it had become known that Olenin had given a horse worth
fifty rubles to Lukashka, his hosts had become more amiable and
the cornet in particular saw with pleasure his daughter's growing
intimacy with Olenin. 'But I don't know how to do the work,'
replied Olenin, trying not to look through the green branches
under the wagon where he had now noticed Maryanka's blue smock and
red kerchief.

'Come, I'll give you some peaches,' said the old woman.

'It's only according to the ancient Cossack hospitality. It's her
old woman's silliness,' said the cornet, explaining and apparently
correcting his wife's words. 'In Russia, I expect, it's not so
much peaches as pineapple jam and preserves you have been
accustomed to eat at your pleasure.'

'So you say hares are to be found in the disused vineyard?' asked
Olenin. 'I will go there,' and throwing a hasty glance through the
green branches he raised his cap and disappeared between the
regular rows of green vines.

The sun had already sunk behind the fence of the vineyards, and
its broken rays glittered through the translucent leaves when
Olenin returned to his host's vineyard. The wind was falling and a
cool freshness was beginning to spread around. By some instinct
Olenin recognized from afar Maryanka's blue smock among the rows
of vine, and, picking grapes on his way, he approached her. His
highly excited dog also now and then seized a low-hanging cluster
of grapes in his slobbering mouth. Maryanka, her face flushed, her
sleeves rolled up, and her kerchief down below her chin, was
rapidly cutting the heavy clusters and laying them in a basket.
Without letting go of the vine she had hold of, she stopped to
smile pleasantly at him and resumed her work. Olenin drew near and
threw his gun behind his back to have his hands free. 'Where are
your people? May God aid you! Are you alone?' he meant to say but
did not say, and only raised his cap in silence.

He was ill at ease alone with Maryanka, but as if purposely to
torment himself he went up to her.

'You'll be shooting the women with your gun like that,' said
Maryanka.

'No, I shan't shoot them.'

They were both silent.

Then after a pause she said: 'You should help me.'

He took out his knife and began silently to cut off the clusters.
He reached from under the leaves low down a thick bunch weighing
about three pounds, the grapes of which grew so close that they
flattened each other for want of space. He showed it to Maryanka.

'Must they all be cut? Isn't this one too green?'

'Give it here.'

Their hands touched. Olenin took her hand, and she looked at him
smiling.

'Are you going to be married soon?' he asked.

She did not answer, but turned away with a stern look.

'Do you love Lukashka?'

'What's that to you?'

'I envy him!'

'Very likely!' 'No really. You are so beautiful!'

And he suddenly felt terribly ashamed of having said it, so
commonplace did the words seem to him. He flushed, lost control of
himself, and seized both her hands.

'Whatever I am, I'm not for you. Why do you make fun of me?'
replied Maryanka, but her look showed how certainly she knew he
was not making fun.

'Making fun? If you only knew how I--'

The words sounded still more commonplace, they accorded still less
with what he felt, but yet he continued, 'I don't know what I
would not do for you--'

'Leave me alone, you pitch!'

But her face, her shining eyes, her swelling bosom, her shapely
legs, said something quite different. It seemed to him that she
understood how petty were all things he had said, but that she was
superior to such considerations. It seemed to him she had long
known all he wished and was not able to tell her, but wanted to
hear how he would say it. 'And how can she help knowing,' he
thought, 'since I only want to tell her all that she herself is?
But she does not wish to under-stand, does not wish to reply.'

'Hallo!' suddenly came Ustenka's high voice from behind the vine
at no great distance, followed by her shrill laugh. 'Come and help
me, Dmitri Andreich. I am all alone,' she cried, thrusting her
round, naive little face through the vines.

Olenin did not answer nor move from his place.

Maryanka went on cutting and continually looked up at Olenin. He
was about to say something, but stopped, shrugged his shoulders
and, having jerked up his gun, walked out of the vineyard with
rapid strides.

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He stopped once or twice, listening to the ringing laughter ofMaryanka and Ustenka who, having come together, were shoutingsomething. Olenin spent the whole evening hunting in the forestand returned home at dusk without having killed anything. Whencrossing the road he noticed her open the door of the outhouse,and her blue smock showed through it. He called to Vanyusha veryloud so as to let her know that he was back, and then sat down inthe porch in his usual place. His hosts now returned from thevineyard; they came out of the outhouse and into their hut, butdid not ask of the latch
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Although there was no escape from the heat and the mosquitoesswarmed in the cool shadow of the wagons, and her little brothertossing about beside her kept pushing her, Maryanka having drawnher kerchief over her head was just falling asleep, when suddenlytheir neighbour Ustenka came running towards her and, diving underthe wagon, lay down beside her.'Sleep, girls, sleep!' said Ustenka, making herself comfortableunder the wagon. 'Wait a bit,' she exclaimed, 'this won't do!'She jumped up, plucked some green branches, and stuck them throughthe wheels on both sides of the wagon and hung her beshmet overthem.'Let me in,' she shouted to the little
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