From the thickest parts of the copse, where the snow still remained, came the faint sound of narrow winding threads of water running away. Tiny birds twittered, and now and then fluttered from tree to tree.
In the pauses of complete stillness there came the rustle of last year’s leaves, stirred by the thawing of the earth and the growth of the grass.
“Imagine! One can hear and see the grass growing!” Levin said to himself, noticing a wet, slate-colored aspen leaf moving beside a blade of young grass. He stood, listened, and gazed sometimes down at the wet mossy ground, sometimes at Laska listening all alert, sometimes at the sea of bare tree tops that stretched on the slope below him, sometimes at the darkening sky, covered with white streaks of cloud.
A hawk flew high over a forest far away with slow sweep of its wings; another flew with exactly the same motion in the same direction and vanished. The birds twittered more and more loudly and busily in the thicket. An owl hooted not far off, and Laska, starting, stepped cautiously a few steps forward, and putting her head on one side, began to listen intently. Beyond the stream was heard the cuckoo. Twice she uttered her usual cuckoo call, and then gave a hoarse, hurried call and broke down.
“Imagine! the cuckoo already!” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, coming out from behind a bush.
“Yes, I hear it,” answered Levin, reluctantly breaking the stillness with his voice, which sounded disagreeable to himself. “Now it’s coming!”
Stepan Arkadyevitch’s figure again went behind the bush, and Levin saw nothing but the bright flash of a match, followed by the red glow and blue smoke of a cigarette.
“Tchk! tchk!” came the snapping sound of Stepan Arkadyevitch cocking his gun.
“What’s that cry?” asked Oblonsky, drawing Levin’s attention to a prolonged cry, as though a colt were whinnying in a high voice, in play.
“Oh, don’t you know it? That’s the hare. But enough talking! Listen, it’s flying!” almost shrieked Levin, cocking his gun.
They heard a shrill whistle in the distance, and in the exact time, so well known to the sportsman, two seconds later— another, a third, and after the third whistle the hoarse, guttural cry could be heard.
Levin looked about him to right and to left, and there, just facing him against the dusky blue sky above the confused mass of tender shoots of the aspens, he saw the flying bird. It was flying straight towards him; the guttural cry, like the even tearing of some strong stuff, sounded close to his ear; the long beak and neck of the bird could be seen, and at the very instant when Levin was taking aim, behind the bush where Oblonsky stood, there was a flash of red lightning: the bird dropped like an arrow, and darted upwards again. Again came the red flash and the sound of a blow, and fluttering its wings as though trying to keep up in the air, the bird halted, stopped still an instant, and fell with a heavy splash on the slushy ground.