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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesWar And Peace - Book Seven: 1810-11 - Chapter 6
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War And Peace - Book Seven: 1810-11 - Chapter 6 Post by :wisebiz Category :Long Stories Author :Leo Tolstoy Date :December 2010 Read :1799

Click below to download : War And Peace - Book Seven: 1810-11 - Chapter 6 (Format : PDF)

War And Peace - Book Seven: 1810-11 - Chapter 6

The old count went home, and Natasha and Petya promised to return
very soon, but as it was still early the hunt went farther. At
midday they put the hounds into a ravine thickly overgrown with
young trees. Nicholas standing in a fallow field could see all his
whips.

Facing him lay a field of winter rye, there his own huntsman stood
alone in a hollow behind a hazel bush. The hounds had scarcely been
loosed before Nicholas heard one he knew, Voltorn, giving tongue at
intervals; other hounds joined in, now pausing and now again giving
tongue. A moment later he heard a cry from the wooded ravine that a
fox had been found, and the whole pack, joining together, rushed along
the ravine toward the ryefield and away from Nicholas.

He saw the whips in their red caps galloping along the edge of the
ravine, he even saw the hounds, and was expecting a fox to show itself
at any moment on the ryefield opposite.

The huntsman standing in the hollow moved and loosed his borzois,
and Nicholas saw a queer, short-legged red fox with a fine brush going
hard across the field. The borzois bore down on it.... Now they drew
close to the fox which began to dodge between the field in sharper and
sharper curves, trailing its brush, when suddenly a strange white
borzoi dashed in followed by a black one, and everything was in
confusion; the borzois formed a star-shaped figure, scarcely swaying
their bodies and with tails turned away from the center of the
group. Two huntsmen galloped up to the dogs; one in a red cap, the
other, a stranger, in a green coat.

"What's this?" thought Nicholas. "Where's that huntsman from? He
is not 'Uncle's' man."

The huntsmen got the fox, but stayed there a long time without
strapping it to the saddle. Their horses, bridled and with high
saddles, stood near them and there too the dogs were lying. The
huntsmen waved their arms and did something to the fox. Then from that
spot came the sound of a horn, with the signal agreed on in case of
a fight.

"That's Ilagin's huntsman having a row with our Ivan," said
Nicholas' groom.

Nicholas sent the man to call Natasha and Petya to him, and rode
at a footpace to the place where the whips were getting the hounds
together. Several of the field galloped to the spot where the fight
was going on.

Nicholas dismounted, and with Natasha and Petya, who had ridden
up, stopped near the hounds, waiting to see how the matter would
end. Out of the bushes came the huntsman who had been fighting and
rode toward his young master, with the fox tied to his crupper.
While still at a distance he took off his cap and tried to speak
respectfully, but he was pale and breathless and his face was angry.
One of his eyes was black, but he probably was not even aware of it.

"What has happened?" asked Nicholas.

"A likely thing, killing a fox our dogs had hunted! And it was my
gray bitch that caught it! Go to law, indeed!... He snatches at the
fox! I gave him one with the fox. Here it is on my saddle! Do you want
a taste of this?..." said the huntsman, pointing to his dagger and
probably imagining himself still speaking to his foe.

Nicholas, not stopping to talk to the man, asked his sister and
Petya to wait for him and rode to the spot where the enemy's,
Ilagin's, hunting party was.

The victorious huntsman rode off to join the field, and there,
surrounded by inquiring sympathizers, recounted his exploits.

The facts were that Ilagin, with whom the Rostovs had a quarrel
and were at law, hunted over places that belonged by custom to the
Rostovs, and had now, as if purposely, sent his men to the very
woods the Rostovs were hunting and let his man snatch a fox their dogs
had chased.

Nicholas, though he had never seen Ilagin, with his usual absence of
moderation in judgment, hated him cordially from reports of his
arbitrariness and violence, and regarded him as his bitterest foe.
He rode in angry agitation toward him, firmly grasping his whip and
fully prepared to take the most resolute and desperate steps to punish
his enemy.

Hardly had he passed an angle of the wood before a stout gentleman
in a beaver cap came riding toward him on a handsome raven-black
horse, accompanied by two hunt servants.

Instead of an enemy, Nicholas found in Ilagin a stately and
courteous gentleman who was particularly anxious to make the young
count's acquaintance. Having ridden up to Nicholas, Ilagin raised
his beaver cap and said he much regretted what had occurred and
would have the man punished who had allowed himself to seize a fox
hunted by someone else's borzois. He hoped to become better acquainted
with the count and invited him to draw his covert.

Natasha, afraid that her brother would do something dreadful, had
followed him in some excitement. Seeing the enemies exchanging
friendly greetings, she rode up to them. Ilagin lifted his beaver
cap still higher to Natasha and said, with a pleasant smile, that
the young countess resembled Diana in her passion for the chase as
well as in her beauty, of which he had heard much.

To expiate his huntsman's offense, Ilagin pressed the Rostovs to
come to an upland of his about a mile away which he usually kept for
himself and which, he said, swarmed with hares. Nicholas agreed, and
the hunt, now doubled, moved on.

The way to Iligin's upland was across the fields. The hunt
servants fell into line. The masters rode together. "Uncle," Rostov,
and Ilagin kept stealthily glancing at one another's dogs, trying
not to be observed by their companions and searching uneasily for
rivals to their own borzois.

Rostov was particularly struck by the beauty of a small,
pure-bred, red-spotted bitch on Ilagin's leash, slender but with
muscles like steel, a delicate muzzle, and prominent black eyes. He
had heard of the swiftness of Ilagin's borzois, and in that
beautiful bitch saw a rival to his own Milka.

In the middle of a sober conversation begun by Ilagin about the
year's harvest, Nicholas pointed to the red-spotted bitch.

"A fine little bitch, that!" said he in a careless tone. "Is she
swift?"

"That one? Yes, she's a good dog, gets what she's after," answered
Ilagin indifferently, of the red-spotted bitch Erza, for which, a year
before, he had given a neighbor three families of house serfs. "So
in your parts, too, the harvest is nothing to boast of, Count?" he
went on, continuing the conversation they had begun. And considering
it polite to return the young count's compliment, Ilagin looked at his
borzois and picked out Milka who attracted his attention by her
breadth. "That black-spotted one of yours is fine- well shaped!"
said he.

"Yes, she's fast enough," replied Nicholas, and thought: "If only
a full-grown hare would cross the field now I'd show you what sort
of borzoi she is," and turning to his groom, he said he would give a
ruble to anyone who found a hare.

"I don't understand," continued Ilagin, "how some sportsmen can be
so jealous about game and dogs. For myself, I can tell you, Count, I
enjoy riding in company such as this... what could be better?" (he
again raised his cap to Natasha) "but as for counting skins and what
one takes, I don't care about that."

"Of course not!"

"Or being upset because someone else's borzoi and not mine catches
something. All I care about is to enjoy seeing the chase, is it not
so, Count? For I consider that..."

"A-tu!" came the long-drawn cry of one of the borzoi whippers-in,
who had halted. He stood on a knoll in the stubble, holding his whip
aloft, and again repeated his long-drawn cry, "A-tu!" (This call and
the uplifted whip meant that he saw a sitting hare.)

"Ah, he has found one, I think," said Ilagin carelessly. "Yes, we
must ride up.... Shall we both course it?" answered Nicholas, seeing
in Erza and "Uncle's" red Rugay two rivals he had never yet had a
chance of pitting against his own borzois. "And suppose they outdo
my Milka at once!" he thought as he rode with "Uncle" and Ilagin
toward the hare.

"A full-grown one?" asked Ilagin as he approached the whip who had
sighted the hare- and not without agitation he looked round and
whistled to Erza.

"And you, Michael Nikanorovich?" he said, addressing "Uncle."

The latter was riding with a sullen expression on his face.

"How can I join in? Why, you've given a village for each of your
borzois! That's it, come on! Yours are worth thousands. Try yours
against one another, you two, and I'll look on!"

"Rugay, hey, hey!" he shouted. "Rugayushka!" he added, involuntarily
by this diminutive expressing his affection and the hopes he placed on
this red borzoi. Natasha saw and felt the agitation the two elderly
men and her brother were trying to conceal, and was herself excited by
it.

The huntsman stood halfway up the knoll holding up his whip and
the gentlefolk rode up to him at a footpace; the hounds that were
far off on the horizon turned away from the hare, and the whips, but
not the gentlefolk, also moved away. All were moving slowly and
sedately.

"How is it pointing?" asked Nicholas, riding a hundred paces
toward the whip who had sighted the hare.

But before the whip could reply, the hare, scenting the frost coming
next morning, was unable to rest and leaped up. The pack on leash
rushed downhill in full cry after the hare, and from all sides the
borzois that were not on leash darted after the hounds and the hare.
All the hunt, who had been moving slowly, shouted, "Stop!" calling
in the hounds, while the borzoi whips, with a cry of "A-tu!"galloped
across the field setting the borzois on the hare. The tranquil Ilagin,
Nicholas, Natasha, and "Uncle" flew, reckless of where and how they
went, seeing only the borzois and the hare and fearing only to lose
sight even for an instant of the chase. The hare they had started
was a strong and swift one. When he jumped up he did not run at
once, but pricked his ears listening to the shouting and trampling
that resounded from all sides at once. He took a dozen bounds, not
very quickly, letting the borzois gain on him, and, finally having
chosen his direction and realized his danger, laid back his ears and
rushed off headlong. He had been lying in the stubble, but in front of
him was the autumn sowing where the ground was soft. The two borzois
of the huntsman who had sighted him, having been the nearest, were the
first to see and pursue him, but they had not gone far before Ilagin's
red-spotted Erza passed them, got within a length, flew at the hare
with terrible swiftness aiming at his scut, and, thinking she had
seized him, rolled over like a ball. The hare arched his back and
bounded off yet more swiftly. From behind Erza rushed the
broad-haunched, black-spotted Milka and began rapidly gaining on the
hare.

"Milashka, dear!" rose Nicholas' triumphant cry. It looked as if
Milka would immediately pounce on the hare, but she overtook him and
flew past. The hare had squatted. Again the beautiful Erza reached
him, but when close to the hare's scut paused as if measuring the
distance, so as not to make a mistake this time but seize his hind
leg.

"Erza, darling! Ilagin wailed in a voice unlike his own. Erza did
not hearken to his appeal. At the very moment when she would have
seized her prey, the hare moved and darted along the balk between
the winter rye and the stubble. Again Erza and Milka were abreast,
running like a pair of carriage horses, and began to overtake the
hare, but it was easier for the hare to run on the balk and the
borzois did not overtake him so quickly.

"Rugay, Rugayushka! That's it, come on!" came a third voice just
then, and "Uncle's" red borzoi, straining and curving its back, caught
up with the two foremost borzois, pushed ahead of them regardless of
the terrible strain, put on speed close to the hare, knocked it off
the balk onto the ryefield, again put on speed still more viciously,
sinking to his knees in the muddy field, and all one could see was
how, muddying his back, he rolled over with the hare. A ring of
borzois surrounded him. A moment later everyone had drawn up round the
crowd of dogs. Only the delighted "Uncle" dismounted, and cut off a
pad, shaking the hare for the blood to drip off, and anxiously
glancing round with restless eyes while his arms and legs twitched. He
spoke without himself knowing whom to or what about. "That's it,
come on! That's a dog!... There, it has beaten them all, the
thousand-ruble as well as the one-ruble borzois. That's it, come
on!" said he, panting and looking wrathfully around as if he were
abusing someone, as if they were all his enemies and had insulted him,
and only now had he at last succeeded in justifying himself. "There
are your thousand-ruble ones.... That's it, come on!..."

"Rugay, here's a pad for you!" he said, throwing down the hare's
muddy pad. "You've deserved it, that's it, come on!"

"She'd tired herself out, she'd run it down three times by herself,"
said Nicholas, also not listening to anyone and regardless of
whether he were heard or not.

"But what is there in running across it like that?" said Ilagin's
groom.

"Once she had missed it and turned it away, any mongrel could take
it," Ilagin was saying at the same time, breathless from his gallop
and his excitement. At the same moment Natasha, without drawing
breath, screamed joyously, ecstatically, and so piercingly that it set
everyone's ear tingling. By that shriek she expressed what the
others expressed by all talking at once, and it was so strange that
she must herself have been ashamed of so wild a cry and everyone
else would have been amazed at it at any other time. "Uncle" himself
twisted up the hare, threw it neatly and smartly across his horse's
back as if by that gesture he meant to rebuke everybody, and, with
an air of not wishing to speak to anyone, mounted his bay and rode
off. The others all followed, dispirited and shamefaced, and only much
later were they able to regain their former affectation of
indifference. For a long time they continued to look at red Rugay who,
his arched back spattered with mud and clanking the ring of his leash,
walked along just behind "Uncle's" horse with the serene air of a
conqueror.

"Well, I am like any other dog as long as it's not a question of
coursing. But when it is, then look out!" his appearance seem to
Nicholas to be saying.

When, much later, "Uncle" rode up to Nicholas and began talking to
him, he felt flattered that, after what had happened, "Uncle"
deigned to speak to him.

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War And Peace - Book Seven: 1810-11 - Chapter 7 War And Peace - Book Seven: 1810-11 - Chapter 7

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Toward evening Ilagin took leave of Nicholas, who found that theywere so far from home that he accepted "Uncle's" offer that thehunting party should spend the night in his little village ofMikhaylovna."And if you put up at my house that will be better still. That's it,come on!" said "Uncle." "You see it's damp weather, and you couldrest, and the little countess could be driven home in a trap.""Uncle's" offer was accepted. A huntsman was sent to Otradnoe fora trap, while Nicholas rode with Natasha and Petya to "Uncle's" house.Some five male domestic serfs, big and little, rushed out to thefront porch
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Nicholas Rostov meanwhile remained at his post, waiting for thewolf. By the way the hunt approached and receded, by the cries ofthe dogs whose notes were familiar to him, by the way the voices ofthe huntsmen approached, receded, and rose, he realized what washappening at the copse. He knew that young and old wolves werethere, that the hounds had separated into two packs, that somewherea wolf was being chased, and that something had gone wrong. Heexpected the wolf to come his way any moment. He made thousands ofdifferent conjectures as to where and from what side the beast wouldcome and how
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