In front of him, in the bend of the river beyond the marsh, moved a bright-colored line of peasant women, and the scattered hay was being rapidly formed into gray winding rows over the pale green stubble. After the women came the men with pitchforks, and from the gray rows there were growing up broad, high, soft haycocks. To the left, carts were rumbling over the meadow that had been already cleared, and one after another the haycocks vanished, flung up in huge forkfuls, and in their place there were rising heavy cartloads of fragrant hay hanging over the horses’ hind-quarters.
“What weather for haying! What hay it’ll be!” said an old man, squatting down beside Levin. “It’s tea, not hay! It’s like scattering grain to the ducks, the way they pick it up!” he added, pointing to the growing haycocks. “Since dinnertime they’ve carried a good half of it.”
“The last load, eh?” he shouted to a young peasant, who drove by, standing in the front of an empty cart, shaking the cord reins.
“The last, dad!” the lad shouted back, pulling in the horse, and, smiling, he looked round at a bright, rosy-checked peasant girl who sat in the cart smiling too, and drove on.
“Who’s that? Your son?” asked Levin.
“My baby,” said the old man with a tender smile.
“What a fine fellow!”
“The lad’s all right.”
“Yes, it’s two years last St. Philip’s day.”
“Children indeed! Why, for over a year he was innocent as a babe himself, and bashful too,” answered the old man. “Well, the hay! It’s as fragrant as tea!” he repeated, wishing to change the subject.
Levin looked more attentively at Ivan Parmenov and his wife. They were loading a haycock onto the cart not far from him. Ivan Parmenov was standing on the cart, taking, laying in place, and stamping down the huge bundles of hay, which his pretty young wife deftly handed up to him, at first in armfuls, and then on the pitchfork. The young wife worked easily, merrily, and dexterously. The close-packed hay did not once break away off her fork. First she gathered it together, stuck the fork into it, then with a rapid, supple movement leaned the whole weight of her body on it, and at once with a bend of her back under the red belt she drew herself up, and arching her full bosom under the white smock, with a smart turn swung the fork in her arms, and flung the bundle of hay high onto the cart. Ivan, obviously doing his best to save her every minute of unnecessary labor, made haste, opening his arms to clutch the bundle and lay it in the cart. As she raked together what was left of the hay, the young wife shook off the bits of hay that had fallen on her neck, and straightening the red kerchief that had dropped forward over her white brow, not browned like her face by the sun, she crept under the cart to tie up the load. Ivan directed her how to fasten the cord to the cross-piece, and at something she said he laughed aloud. In the expressions of both faces was to be seen vigorous, young, freshly awakened love.