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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Cossacks - Chapter 7
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The Cossacks - Chapter 7 Post by :webtraffic1 Category :Long Stories Author :Leo Tolstoy Date :December 2010 Read :1231

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The Cossacks - Chapter 7

The sun had already set and the shades of night were rapidly
spreading from the edge of the wood. The Cossacks finished their
task round the cordon and gathered in the hut for supper. Only the
old man still stayed under the plane tree watching for the vulture
and pulling the string tied to the falcon's leg, but though a
vulture was really perching on the plane tree it declined to swoop
down on the lure. Lukashka, singing one song after another, was
leisurely placing nets among the very thickest brambles to trap
pheasants. In spite of his tall stature and big hands every kind
of work, both rough and delicate, prospered under Lukashka's

'Hallo, Luke!' came Nazarka's shrill, sharp voice calling him from
the thicket close by. 'The Cossacks have gone in to supper.'

Nazarka, with a live pheasant under his arm, forced his way
through the brambles and emerged on the footpath.

'Oh!' said Lukashka, breaking off in his song, 'where did you get
that cock pheasant? I suppose it was in my trap?'

Nazarka was of the same age as Lukashka and had also only been at
the front since the previous spring.

He was plain, thin and puny, with a shrill voice that rang in
one's ears. They were neighbours and comrades. Lukashka was
sitting on the grass crosslegged like a Tartar, adjusting his

'I don't know whose it was--yours, I expect.'

'Was it beyond the pit by the plane tree? Then it is mine! I set
the nets last night.'

Lukashka rose and examined the captured pheasant. After stroking
the dark burnished head of the bird, which rolled its eyes and
stretched out its neck in terror, Lukashka took the pheasant in
his hands.

'We'll have it in a pilau tonight. You go and kill and pluck it.'

'And shall we eat it ourselves or give it to the corporal?'

'He has plenty!'

'I don't like killing them,' said Nazarka.

'Give it here!'

Lukashka drew a little knife from under his dagger and gave it a
swift jerk. The bird fluttered, but before it could spread its
wings the bleeding head bent and quivered.

'That's how one should do it!' said Lukashka, throwing down the
pheasant. 'It will make a fat pilau.'

Nazarka shuddered as he looked at the bird.

'I say, Lukashka, that fiend will be sending us to the ambush
again tonight,' he said, taking up the bird. (He was alluding to
the corporal.) 'He has sent Fomushkin to get wine, and it ought to
be his turn. He always puts it on us.'

Lukashka went whistling along the cordon.

'Take the string with you,' he shouted.

Nazirka obeyed.

'I'll give him a bit of my mind today, I really will,' continued
Nazarka. 'Let's say we won't go; we're tired out and there's an
end of it! No, really, you tell him, he'll listen to you. It's too

'Get along with you! What a thing to make a fuss about!' said
Lukashka, evidently thinking of something else. 'What bosh! If he
made us turn out of the village at night now, that would be
annoying: there one can have some fun, but here what is there?
It's all one whether we're in the cordon or in ambush. What a
fellow you are!'

'And are you going to the village?'

'I'll go for the holidays.'

'Gurka says your Dunayka is carrying on with Fomushkin,' said
Nazarka suddenly.

'Well, let her go to the devil,' said Lukashka, showing his
regular white teeth, though he did not laugh. 'As if I couldn't
find another!'

'Gurka says he went to her house. Her husband was out and there
was Fomushkin sitting and eating pie. Gurka stopped awhile and
then went away, and passing by the window he heard her say, "He's
gone, the fiend.... Why don't you eat your pie, my own? You
needn't go home for the night," she says. And Gurka under the
window says to himself, "That's fine!"'

'You're making it up.'

'No, quite true, by Heaven!'

'Well, if she's found another let her go to the devil,' said
Lukashka, after a pause. 'There's no lack of girls and I was sick
of her anyway.'

'Well, see what a devil you are!' said Nazarka. 'You should make
up to the cornet's girl, Maryanka. Why doesn't she walk out with
any one?'

Lukashka frowned. 'What of Maryanka? They're all alike,' said he.

'Well, you just try... '

'What do you think? Are girls so scarce in the village?'

And Lukashka recommenced whistling, and went along the cordon
pulling leaves and branches from the bushes as he went. Suddenly,
catching sight of a smooth sapling, he drew the knife from the
handle of his dagger and cut it down. 'What a ramrod it will
make,' he said, swinging the sapling till it whistled through the

The Cossacks were sitting round a low Tartar table on the earthen
floor of the clay-plastered outer room of the hut, when the
question of whose turn it was to lie in ambush was raised. 'Who is
to go tonight?' shouted one of the Cossacks through the open door
to the corporal in the next room.

'Who is to go?' the corporal shouted back. 'Uncle Burlak has been
and Fomushkin too,' said he, not quite confidently. 'You two had
better go, you and Nazarka,' he went on, addressing Lukashka. 'And
Ergushov must go too; surely he has slept it off?'

'You don't sleep it off yourself so why should he?' said Nazarka
in a subdued voice.

The Cossacks laughed.

Ergushov was the Cossack who had been lying drunk and asleep near
the hut. He had only that moment staggered into the room rubbing
his eyes.

Lukashka had already risen and was getting his gun ready.

'Be quick and go! Finish your supper and go!' said the corporal;
and without waiting for an expression of consent he shut the door,
evidently not expecting the Cossack to obey. 'Of course,' thought
he, 'if I hadn't been ordered to I wouldn't send anyone, but an
officer might turn up at any moment. As it is, they say eight
abreks have crossed over.'

'Well, I suppose I must go,' remarked Ergushov, 'it's the
regulation. Can't be helped! The times are such. I say, we must

Meanwhile Lukashka, holding a big piece of pheasant to his mouth
with both hands and glancing now at Nazarka, now at Ergushov,
seemed quite indifferent to what passed and only laughed at them
both. Before the Cossacks were ready to go into ambush. Uncle
Eroshka, who had been vainly waiting under the plane tree till
night fell, entered the dark outer room.

'Well, lads,' his loud bass resounded through the low-roofed room
drowning all the other voices, 'I'm going with you. You'll watch
for Chechens and I for boars!'

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It was quite dark when Uncle Eroshka and the three Cossacks, intheir cloaks and shouldering their guns, left the cordon and wenttowards the place on the Terek where they were to lie in ambush.Nazarka did not want to go at all, but Lukashka shouted at him andthey soon started. After they had gone a few steps in silence theCossacks turned aside from the ditch and went along a path almosthidden by reeds till they reached the river. On its bank lay athick black log cast up by the water. The reeds around it had beenrecently beaten down.'Shall we lie here?' asked

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The male population of the village spend their time on militaryexpeditions and in the cordon--or 'at their posts', as theCossacks say. Towards evening, that same Lukashka the Snatcher,about whom the old women had been talking, was standing on awatch-tower of the Nizhni-Prototsk post situated on the very banksof the Terek. Leaning on the railing of the tower and screwing uphis eyes, he looked now far into the distance beyond the Terek,now down at his fellow Cossacks, and occasionally he addressed thelatter. The sun was already approaching the snowy range thatgleamed white above the fleecy clouds. The clouds undulating atthe base of