Though there was not so much hope of finding birds in the uncut part as the cut part, Levin had promised Stepan Arkadyevitch to meet him, and so he walked on with his companion through the cut and uncut patches.
“Hi, sportsmen!” shouted one of a group of peasants, sitting on an unharnessed cart; “come and have some lunch with us! Have a drop of wine!”
Levin looked round.
“Come along, it’s all right!” shouted a good-humored-looking bearded peasant with a red face, showing his white teeth in a grin, and holding up a greenish bottle that flashed in the sunlight.
“Qu’est-ce qu’ils disent?” asked Veslovsky.
“They invite you to have some vodka. Most likely they’ve been dividing the meadow into lots. I should have some,” said Levin, not without some guile, hoping Veslovsky would be tempted by the vodka, and would go away to them.
“Why do they offer it?”
“Oh, they’re merry-making. Really, you should join them. You would be interested.”
“Allons, c’est curieux.”
“You go, you go, you’ll find the way to the mill!” cried Levin, and looking round he perceived with satisfaction that Veslovsky, bent and stumbling with weariness, holding his gun out at arm’s length, was making his way out of the marsh towards the peasants.
“You come too!” the peasants shouted to Levin. “Never fear! You taste our cake!”
Levin felt a strong inclination to drink a little vodka and to eat some bread. He was exhausted, and felt it a great effort to drag his staggering legs out of the mire, and for a minute he hesitated. But Laska was setting. And immediately all his weariness vanished, and he walked lightly through the swamp towards the dog. A snipe flew up at his feet; he fired and killed it. Laska still pointed.—“Fetch it!” Another bird flew up close to the dog. Levin fired. But it was an unlucky day for him; he missed it, and when he went to look for the one he had shot, he could not find that either. He wandered all about the reeds, but Laska did not believe he had shot it, and when he sent her to find it, she pretended to hunt for it, but did not really. And in the absence of Vassenka, on whom Levin threw the blame of his failure, things went no better. There were plenty of snipe still, but Levin made one miss after another.
The slanting rays of the sun were still hot; his clothes, soaked through with perspiration, stuck to his body; his left boot full of water weighed heavily on his leg and squeaked at every step; the sweat ran in drops down his powder-grimed face, his mouth was full of the bitter taste, his nose of the smell of powder and stagnant water, his ears were ringing with the incessant whir of the snipe; he could not touch the stock of his gun, it was so hot; his heart beat with short, rapid throbs; his hands shook with excitement, and his weary legs stumbled and staggered over the hillocks and in the swamp, but still he walked on and still he shot. At last, after a disgraceful miss, he flung his gun and his hat on the ground.