The horses started off suddenly, Levin knocked his head against the stock of someone’s gun, and there was the report of a shot. The gun did actually go off first, but that was how it seemed to Levin. It appeared that Vassenka Veslovsky had pulled only one trigger, and had left the other hammer still cocked. The charge flew into the ground without doing harm to anyone. Stepan Arkadyevitch shook his head and laughed reprovingly at Veslovsky. But Levin had not the heart to reprove him. In the first place, any reproach would have seemed to be called forth by the danger he had incurred and the bump that had come up on Levin’s forehead. And besides, Veslovsky was at first so naively distressed, and then laughed so good-humoredly and infectiously at their general dismay, that one could not but laugh with him.
When they reached the second marsh, which was fairly large, and would inevitably take some time to shoot over, Levin tried to persuade them to pass it by. But Veslovsky again overpersuaded him. Again, as the marsh was narrow, Levin, like a good host, remained with the carriage.
Krak made straight for some clumps of sedge. Vassenka Veslovsky was the first to run after the dog. Before Stepan Arkadyevitch had time to come up, a grouse flew out. Veslovsky missed it and it flew into an unmown meadow. This grouse was left for Veslovsky to follow up. Krak found it again and pointed, and Veslovsky shot it and went back to the carriage. “Now you go and I’ll stay with the horses,” he said.
Levin had begun to feel the pangs of a sportsman’s envy. He handed the reins to Veslovsky and walked into the marsh.
Laska, who had been plaintively whining and fretting against the injustice of her treatment, flew straight ahead to a hopeful place that Levin knew well, and that Krak had not yet come upon.
“Why don’t you stop her?” shouted Stepan Arkadyevitch.
“She won’t scare them,” answered Levin, sympathizing with his bitch’s pleasure and hurrying after her.
As she came nearer and nearer to the familiar breeding places there was more and more earnestness in Laska’s exploration. A little marsh bird did not divert her attention for more than an instant. She made one circuit round the clump of reeds, was beginning a second, and suddenly quivered with excitement and became motionless.
“Come, come, Stiva!” shouted Levin, feeling his heart beginning to beat more violently; and all of a sudden, as though some sort of shutter had been drawn back from his straining ears, all sounds, confused but loud, began to beat on his hearing, losing all sense of distance. He heard the steps of Stepan Arkadyevitch, mistaking them for the tramp of the horses in the distance; he heard the brittle sound of the twigs on which he had trodden, taking this sound for the flying of a grouse. He heard too, not far behind him, a splashing in the water, which he could not explain to himself.