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Page:Complete Works of Count Tolstoy - 02.djvu/135

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THE COSSACKS

the low bank. The keen eyes of the Cossack who stood on the tower watched, through the evening smoke of the peaceful village, the flitting figures of the Chechén women who moved in the distance, in their blue and red dresses.

Although the Cossacks expected that the abréks would cross over from the Tartar side and attack them at any time, but especially in May, when the forest along the Térek is so dense that a man on foot can hardly make his way through it, and when the river is so shallow that it can be forded on foot in some places; and although two days before a Cossack had galloped up from the commander of the regiment with a circular letter in which it said that, according to the information given by spies, a party of eight men intended to cross the Térek, and that, therefore, especial precautions were to be observed,—no special precautions were taken in the cordon. The Cossacks acted as though they were at home, and they walked about without their guns, and their horses were not saddled; some were engaged in fishing, some in carousing, and others in hunting. Only the horse of the officer of the day was saddled, and walked with three feet hobbled on the greensward along the forest, and only the Cossack on guard wore his mantle, musket, and sabre.

The under-officer, a tall, haggard Cossack, with an unusually long back and short legs and arms, in nothing but an unbuttoned half-coat, was sitting on the mound of the hut, and, with an expression of official laziness and ennui, closed his eyes, and rolled his head from one hand to the other. An old Cossack, with a broad, black beard, streaked with gray, in nothing but his shirt girded with a black strap, was lying near the water, and lazily watching the monotonously roaring water of the meandering Térek. The others, who were also tormented by the heat, were half-dressed; one was washing his linen in the Térek; another was plaiting a fishing-line; another was lying on the ground, in the hot sand of the bank, and mumbling a