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 hound_nto a ravine thickly overgrown with young trees. Nicholas standing in _allow field could see all his whips.
Facing him lay a field of winter rye, there his own huntsman stood alone in _ollow behind a hazel bush. The hounds had scarcely been loosed befor_icholas heard one he knew, Voltorn, giving tongue at intervals; other hound_oined in, now pausing and now again giving tongue. A moment later he heard _ry 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 fro_icholas.
He saw the whips in their red caps galloping along the edge of the ravine, h_ven saw the hounds, and was expecting a fox to show itself at any moment o_he ryefield opposite.
The huntsman standing in the hollow moved and loosed his borzois, and Nichola_aw a queer, short-legged red fox with a fine brush going hard across th_ield. The borzois bore down on it… . Now they drew close to the fox whic_egan to dodge between the field in sharper and sharper curves, trailing it_rush, 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 o_he 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
The huntsmen got the fox, but stayed there a long time without strapping it t_he saddle. Their horses, bridled and with high saddles, stood near them an_here too the dogs were lying. The huntsmen waved their arms and did somethin_o the fox. Then from that spot came the sound of a horn, with the signa_greed 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 footpac_o the place where the whips were getting the hounds together. Several of th_ield galloped to the spot where the fight was going on.
Nicholas dismounted, and with Natasha and Petya, who had ridden up, stoppe_ear the hounds, waiting to see how the matter would end. Out of the bushe_ame the huntsman who had been fighting and rode toward his young master, wit_he fox tied to his crupper. While still at a distance he took off his cap an_ried to speak respectfully, but he was pale and breathless and his face wa_ngry. 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 bitc_hat caught it! Go to law, indeed!… He snatches at the fox! I gave him on_ith the fox. Here it is on my saddle! Do you want a taste of this?… " sai_he huntsman, pointing to his dagger and probably imagining himself stil_peaking to his foe.
Nicholas, not stopping to talk to the man, asked his sister and Petya to wai_or 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 b_nquiring sympathizers, recounted his exploits.
The facts were that Ilagin, with whom the Rostovs had a quarrel and were a_aw, 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 an_et his man snatch a fox their dogs had chased.
Nicholas, though he had never seen Ilagin, with his usual absence o_oderation in judgment, hated him cordially from reports of his arbitrarines_nd violence, and regarded him as his bitterest foe. He rode in angr_gitation toward him, firmly grasping his whip and fully prepared to take th_ost resolute and desperate steps to punish his enemy.
Hardly had he passed an angle of the wood before a stout gentleman in a beave_ap came riding toward him on a handsome raven-black horse, accompanied by tw_unt servants.
Instead of an enemy, Nicholas found in Ilagin a stately and courteou_entleman who was particularly anxious to make the young count's acquaintance.
Having ridden up to Nicholas, Ilagin raised his beaver cap and said he muc_egretted what had occurred and would have the man punished who had allowe_imself to seize a fox hunted by someone else's borzois. He hoped to becom_etter acquainted with the count and invited him to draw his covert.
Natasha, afraid that her brother would do something dreadful, had followed hi_n some excitement. Seeing the enemies exchanging friendly greetings, she rod_p 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 passio_or 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 a_pland 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, move_n.
The way to Iligin's upland was across the fields. The hunt servants fell int_ine. The masters rode together. "Uncle," Rostov, and Ilagin kept stealthil_lancing at one another's dogs, trying not to be observed by their companion_nd 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, _elicate muzzle, and prominent black eyes. He had heard of the swiftness o_lagin'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'_arvest, 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 Ilagi_ndifferently, of the red-spotted bitch Erza, for which, a year before, he ha_iven a neighbor three families of house serfs. "So in your parts, too, th_arvest is nothing to boast of, Count?" he went on, continuing th_onversation they had begun. And considering it polite to return the youn_ount's compliment, Ilagin looked at his borzois and picked out Milka wh_ttracted his attention by her breadth. "That black-spotted one of yours i_ine—well shaped!" said he.
"Yes, she's fast enough," replied Nicholas, and thought: "If only a full-grow_are would cross the field now I'd show you what sort of borzoi she is," an_urning to his groom, he said he would give a ruble to anyone who found _are.
"I don't understand," continued Ilagin, "how some sportsmen can be so jealou_bout game and dogs. For myself, I can tell you, Count, I enjoy riding i_ompany such as this… what could be better?" (he again raised his cap t_atasha) "but as for counting skins and what one takes, I don't care abou_hat."
"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 _onsider that… "
"A-tu!" came the long-drawn cry of one of the borzoi whippers-in, who ha_alted. He stood on a knoll in the stubble, holding his whip aloft, and agai_epeated his long-drawn cry, "A-tu!" (This call and the uplifted whip mean_hat he saw a sitting hare.)
"Ah, he has found one, I think," said Ilagin carelessly. "Yes, we must rid_p… . 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 pittin_gainst his own borzois. "And suppose they outdo my Milka at once!" he though_s he rode with "Uncle" and Ilagin toward the hare.
"A full-grown one?" asked Ilagin as he approached the whip who had sighted th_are—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 thi_ed borzoi. Natasha saw and felt the agitation the two elderly men and he_rother were trying to conceal, and was herself excited by it.
The huntsman stood halfway up the knoll holding up his whip and the gentlefol_ode up to him at a footpace; the hounds that were far off on the horizo_urned away from the hare, and the whips, but not the gentlefolk, also move_way. All were moving slowly and sedately.
"How is it pointing?" asked Nicholas, riding a hundred paces toward the whi_ho had sighted the hare.
But before the whip could reply, the hare, scenting the frost coming nex_orning, was unable to rest and leaped up. The pack on leash rushed downhil_n full cry after the hare, and from all sides the borzois that were not o_eash darted after the hounds and the hare. All the hunt, who had been movin_lowly, shouted, "Stop!" calling in the hounds, while the borzoi whips, with _ry of "A-tu!" galloped across the field setting the borzois on the hare. Th_ranquil Ilagin, Nicholas, Natasha, and "Uncle" flew, reckless of where an_ow they went, seeing only the borzois and the hare and fearing only to los_ight even for an instant of the chase. The hare they had started was a stron_nd swift one. When he jumped up he did not run at once, but pricked his ear_istening 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 bac_is ears and rushed off headlong. He had been lying in the stubble, but i_ront of him was the autumn sowing where the ground was soft. The two borzoi_f the huntsman who had sighted him, having been the nearest, were the firs_o see and pursue him, but they had not gone far before Ilagin's red-spotte_rza passed them, got within a length, flew at the hare with terribl_wiftness aiming at his scut, and, thinking she had seized him, rolled ove_ike a ball. The hare arched his back and bounded off yet more swiftly. Fro_ehind Erza rushed the broad-haunched, black-spotted Milka and began rapidl_aining on the hare.
"Milashka, dear!" rose Nicholas' triumphant cry. It looked as if Milka woul_mmediately pounce on the hare, but she overtook him and flew past. The har_ad squatted. Again the beautiful Erza reached him, but when close to th_are's scut paused as if measuring the distance, so as not to make a mistak_his time but seize his hind leg.
"Erza, darling!" Ilagin wailed in a voice unlike his own. Erza did not hearke_o his appeal. At the very moment when she would have seized her prey, th_are 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, an_egan to overtake the hare, but it was easier for the hare to run on the bal_nd 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 tw_oremost borzois, pushed ahead of them regardless of the terrible strain, pu_n speed close to the hare, knocked it off the balk onto the ryefield, agai_ut 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 th_are. A ring of borzois surrounded him. A moment later everyone had drawn u_ound the crowd of dogs. Only the delighted "Uncle" dismounted, and cut off _ad, shaking the hare for the blood to drip off, and anxiously glancing roun_ith restless eyes while his arms and legs twitched. He spoke without himsel_nowing whom to or what about. "That's it, come on! That's a dog!… There, i_as 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 h_ere 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 you_housand-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," sai_icholas, also not listening to anyone and regardless of whether he were hear_r 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," Ilagi_as saying at the same time, breathless from his gallop and his excitement. A_he same moment Natasha, without drawing breath, screamed joyously, ecstatically, and so piercingly that it set everyone's ear tingling. By tha_hriek she expressed what the others expressed by all talking at once, and i_as so strange that she must herself have been ashamed of so wild a cry an_veryone else would have been amazed at it at any other time. "Uncle" himsel_wisted up the hare, threw it neatly and smartly across his horse's back as i_y that gesture he meant to rebuke everybody, and, with an air of not wishin_o 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 thei_ormer affectation of indifference. For a long time they continued to look a_ed Rugay who, his arched back spattered with mud and clanking the ring of hi_eash, walked along just behind "Uncle's" horse with the serene air of _onqueror.
"Well, I am like any other dog as long as it's not a question of coursing. Bu_hen it is, then look out!" his appearance seemed to Nicholas to be saying.
When, much later, "Uncle" rode up to Nicholas and began talking to him, h_elt flattered that, after what had happened, "Uncle" deigned to speak to him.