The old count, who had always kept up an enormous hunting establishment bu_ad now handed it all completely over to his son's care, being in very goo_pirits on this fifteenth of September, prepared to go out with the others.
In an hour's time the whole hunting party was at the porch. Nicholas, with _tern and serious air which showed that now was no time for attending t_rifles, went past Natasha and Petya who were trying to tell him something. H_ad a look at all the details of the hunt, sent a pack of hounds and huntsme_n ahead to find the quarry, mounted his chestnut Donets, and whistling to hi_wn leash of borzois, set off across the threshing ground to a field leadin_o the Otradnoe wood. The old count's horse, a sorrel gelding calle_iflyanka, was led by the groom in attendance on him, while the count himsel_as to drive in a small trap straight to a spot reserved for him.
They were taking fifty-four hounds, with six hunt attendants and whippers-in.
Besides the family, there were eight borzoi kennelmen and more than fort_orzois, so that, with the borzois on the leash belonging to members of th_amily, there were about a hundred and thirty dogs and twenty horsemen.
Each dog knew its master and its call. Each man in the hunt knew his business, his place, what he had to do. As soon as they had passed the fence they al_pread out evenly and quietly, without noise or talk, along the road and fiel_eading to the Otradnoe covert.
The horses stepped over the field as over a thick carpet, now and the_plashing into puddles as they crossed a road. The misty sky still seemed t_escend evenly and imperceptibly toward the earth, the air was still, warm, and silent. Occasionally the whistle of a huntsman, the snort of a horse, th_rack of a whip, or the whine of a straggling hound could be heard.
When they had gone a little less than a mile, five more riders with dog_ppeared out of the mist, approaching the Rostovs. In front rode a fresh- looking, handsome old man with a large gray mustache.
"Good morning, Uncle!" said Nicholas, when the old man drew near.
"That's it. Come on!… I was sure of it," began "Uncle." (He was a distan_elative of the Rostovs', a man of small means, and their neighbor.) "I kne_ou wouldn't be able to resist it and it's a good thing you're going. That'_t! Come on! (This was "Uncle's" favorite expression.) "Take the covert a_nce, for my Girchik says the Ilagins are at Korniki with their hounds. That'_t. Come on!… They'll take the cubs from under your very nose."
"That's where I'm going. Shall we join up our packs?" asked Nicholas.
The hounds were joined into one pack, and "Uncle" and Nicholas rode on side b_ide. Natasha, muffled up in shawls which did not hide her eager face an_hining eyes, galloped up to them. She was followed by Petya who always kep_lose to her, by Michael, a huntsman, and by a groom appointed to look afte_er. Petya, who was laughing, whipped and pulled at his horse. Natasha sa_asily and confidently on her black Arabchik and reined him in without effor_ith a firm hand.
"Uncle" looked round disapprovingly at Petya and Natasha. He did not like t_ombine frivolity with the serious business of hunting.
"Good morning, Uncle! We are going too!" shouted Petya.
"Good morning, good morning! But don't go overriding the hounds," said "Uncle"
"Nicholas, what a fine dog Trunila is! He knew me," said Natasha, referring t_er favorite hound.
"In the first place, Trunila is not a 'dog,' but a harrier," thought Nicholas, and looked sternly at his sister, trying to make her feel the distance tha_ught to separate them at that moment. Natasha understood it.
"You mustn't think we'll be in anyone's way, Uncle," she said. "We'll go t_ur places and won't budge."
"A good thing too, little countess," said "Uncle," "only mind you don't fal_ff your horse," he added, "because—that's it, come on!- you've nothing t_old on to."
The oasis of the Otradnoe covert came in sight a few hundred yards off, th_untsmen were already nearing it. Rostov, having finally settled with "Uncle"
where they should set on the hounds, and having shown Natasha where she was t_tand—a spot where nothing could possibly run out—went round above the ravine.
"Well, nephew, you're going for a big wolf," said "Uncle." "Mind and don't le_er slip!"
"That's as may happen," answered Rostov. "Karay, here!" he shouted, answering
"Uncle's" remark by this call to his borzoi. Karay was a shaggy old dog with _anging jowl, famous for having tackled a big wolf unaided. They all took u_heir places.
The old count, knowing his son's ardor in the hunt, hurried so as not to b_ate, and the huntsmen had not yet reached their places when Count Ily_ostov, cheerful, flushed, and with quivering cheeks, drove up with his blac_orses over the winter rye to the place reserved for him, where a wolf migh_ome out. Having straightened his coat and fastened on his hunting knives an_orn, he mounted his good, sleek, well-fed, and comfortable horse, Viflyanka, which was turning gray, like himself. His horses and trap were sent home.
Count Ilya Rostov, though not at heart a keen sportsman, knew the rules of th_unt well, and rode to the bushy edge of the road where he was to stand, arranged his reins, settled himself in the saddle, and, feeling that he wa_eady, looked about with a smile.
Beside him was Simon Chekmar, his personal attendant, an old horseman no_omewhat stiff in the saddle. Chekmar held in leash three formidabl_olfhounds, who had, however, grown fat like their master and his horse. Tw_ise old dogs lay down unleashed. Some hundred paces farther along the edge o_he wood stood Mitka, the count's other groom, a daring horseman and kee_ider to hounds. Before the hunt, by old custom, the count had drunk a silve_upful of mulled brandy, taken a snack, and washed it down with half a bottl_f his favorite Bordeaux.
He was somewhat flushed with the wine and the drive. His eyes were rathe_oist and glittered more than usual, and as he sat in his saddle, wrapped u_n his fur coat, he looked like a child taken out for an outing.
The thin, hollow-cheeked Chekmar, having got everything ready, kept glancin_t his master with whom he had lived on the best of terms for thirty years, and understanding the mood he was in expected a pleasant chat. A third perso_ode up circumspectly through the wood (it was plain that he had had a lesson) and stopped behind the count. This person was a gray-bearded old man in _oman's cloak, with a tall peaked cap on his head. He was the buffoon, wh_ent by a woman's name, Nastasya Ivanovna.
"Well, Nastasya Ivanovna!" whispered the count, winking at him. "If you scar_way the beast, Daniel'll give it you!"
"I know a thing or two myself!" said Nastasya Ivanovna.
"Hush!" whispered the count and turned to Simon. "Have you seen the youn_ountess?" he asked. "Where is she?"
"With young Count Peter, by the Zharov rank grass," answered Simon, smiling.
"Though she's a lady, she's very fond of hunting."
"And you're surprised at the way she rides, Simon, eh?" said the count. "She'_s good as many a man!"
"Of course! It's marvelous. So bold, so easy!"
"And Nicholas? Where is he? By the Lyadov upland, isn't he?"
"Yes, sir. He knows where to stand. He understands the matter so well tha_aniel and I are often quite astounded," said Simon, well knowing what woul_lease his master.
"Rides well, eh? And how well he looks on his horse, eh?"
"A perfect picture! How he chased a fox out of the rank grass by th_avarzinsk thicket the other day! Leaped a fearful place; what a sight whe_hey rushed from the covert… the horse worth a thousand rubles and the ride_eyond all price! Yes, one would have to search far to find another as smart."
"To search far… " repeated the count, evidently sorry Simon had not said more.
"To search far," he said, turning back the skirt of his coat to get at hi_nuffbox.
"The other day when he came out from Mass in full uniform, Michael Sidorych… "
Simon did not finish, for on the still air he had distinctly caught the musi_f the hunt with only two or three hounds giving tongue. He bent down his hea_nd listened, shaking a warning finger at his master. "They are on the scen_f the cubs… " he whispered, "straight to the Lyadov uplands."
The count, forgetting to smooth out the smile on his face, looked into th_istance straight before him, down the narrow open space, holding the snuffbo_n his hand but not taking any. After the cry of the hounds came the dee_ones of the wolf call from Daniel's hunting horn; the pack joined the firs_hree hounds and they could be heard in full cry, with that peculiar lift i_he note that indicates that they are after a wolf. The whippers-in no longe_et on the hounds, but changed to the cry of ulyulyu, and above the other_ose Daniel's voice, now a deep bass, now piercingly shrill. His voice seeme_o fill the whole wood and carried far beyond out into the open field.
After listening a few moments in silence, the count and his attendan_onvinced themselves that the hounds had separated into two packs: the soun_f the larger pack, eagerly giving tongue, began to die away in the distance, the other pack rushed by the wood past the count, and it was with this tha_aniel's voice was heard calling ulyulyu. The sounds of both packs mingled an_roke apart again, but both were becoming more distant.
Simon sighed and stooped to straighten the leash a young borzoi had entangled; the count too sighed and, noticing the snuffbox in his hand, opened it an_ook a pinch. "Back!" cried Simon to a borzoi that was pushing forward out o_he wood. The count started and dropped the snuffbox. Nastasya Ivanovn_ismounted to pick it up. The count and Simon were looking at him.
Then, unexpectedly, as often happens, the sound of the hunt suddenl_pproached, as if the hounds in full cry and Daniel ulyulyuing were just i_ront of them.
The count turned and saw on his right Mitka staring at him with eyes startin_ut of his head, raising his cap and pointing before him to the other side.
"Look out!" he shouted, in a voice plainly showing that he had long fretted t_tter that word, and letting the borzois slip he galloped toward the count.
The count and Simon galloped out of the wood and saw on their left a wol_hich, softly swaying from side to side, was coming at a quiet lope farther t_he left to the very place where they were standing. The angry borzois whine_nd getting free of the leash rushed past the horses' feet at the wolf.
The wolf paused, turned its heavy forehead toward the dogs awkwardly, like _an suffering from the quinsy, and, still slightly swaying from side to side, gave a couple of leaps and with a swish of its tail disappeared into the skir_f the wood. At the same instant, with a cry like a wail, first one hound, then another, and then another, sprang helter-skelter from the wood opposit_nd the whole pack rushed across the field toward the very spot where the wol_ad disappeared. The hazel bushes parted behind the hounds and Daniel'_hestnut horse appeared, dark with sweat. On its long back sat Daniel, hunche_orward, capless, his disheveled gray hair hanging over his flushed, perspiring face.
"Ulyulyulyu! ulyulyu!… " he cried. When he caught sight of the count his eye_lashed lightning.
"Blast you!" he shouted, holding up his whip threateningly at the count.
"You've let the wolf go!… What sportsmen!" and as if scorning to say more t_he frightened and shamefaced count, he lashed the heaving flanks of hi_weating chestnut gelding with all the anger the count had aroused and fle_ff after the hounds. The count, like a punished schoolboy, looked round, trying by a smile to win Simon's sympathy for his plight. But Simon was n_onger there. He was galloping round by the bushes while the field was comin_p on both sides, all trying to head the wolf, but it vanished into the woo_efore they could do so.