“No, I must control myself,” he said to himself. Picking up his gun and his hat, he called Laska, and went out of the swamp. When he got on to dry ground he sat down, pulled off his boot and emptied it, then walked to the marsh, drank some stagnant-tasting water, moistened his burning hot gun, and washed his face and hands. Feeling refreshed, he went back to the spot where a snipe had settled, firmly resolved to keep cool.
He tried to be calm, but it was the same again. His finger pressed the cock before he had taken a good aim at the bird. It got worse and worse.
He had only five birds in his game-bag when he walked out of the marsh towards the alders where he was to rejoin Stepan Arkadyevitch.
Before he caught sight of Stepan Arkadyevitch he saw his dog. Krak darted out from behind the twisted root of an alder, black all over with the stinking mire of the marsh, and with the air of a conqueror sniffed at Laska. Behind Krak there came into view in the shade of the alder tree the shapely figure of Stepan Arkadyevitch. He came to meet him, red and perspiring, with unbuttoned neckband, still limping in the same way.
“Well? You have been popping away!” he said, smiling good-humoredly.
“How have you got on?” queried Levin. But there was no need to ask, for he had already seen the full game bag.
“Oh, pretty fair.”
He had fourteen birds.
“A splendid marsh! I’ve no doubt Veslovsky got in your way. It’s awkward too, shooting with one dog,” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, to soften his triumph.
When Levin and Stepan Arkadyevitch reached the peasant’s hut where Levin always used to stay, Veslovsky was already there. He was sitting in the middle of the hut, clinging with both hands to the bench from which he was being pulled by a soldier, the brother of the peasant’s wife, who was helping him off with his miry boots. Veslovsky was laughing his infectious, good-humored laugh.
“I’ve only just come. Ils ont ete charmants. Just fancy, they gave me drink, fed me! Such bread, it was exquisite! Delicieux! And the vodka, I never tasted any better. And they would not take a penny for anything. And they kept saying: ’Excuse our homely ways.’”
“What should they take anything for? They were entertaining you, to be sure. Do you suppose they keep vodka for sale?” said the soldier, succeeding at last in pulling the soaked boot off the blackened stocking.
In spite of the dirtiness of the hut, which was all muddied by their boots and the filthy dogs licking themselves clean, and the smell of marsh mud and powder that filled the room, and the absence of knives and forks, the party drank their tea and ate their supper with a relish only known to sportsmen. Washed and clean, they went into a hay-barn swept ready for them, where the coachman had been making up beds for the gentlemen.