Open main menu

Page:Complete Works of Count Tolstoy - 02.djvu/137

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
115
THE COSSACKS

Nazárka, who was lying below, immediately raised his head and said:

"They must be going for water."

"I ought to fire a shot to frighten them," said Lukáshka, laughing. "How they would squirm!"

"You can't shoot so far!"

"Indeed? Mine will shoot beyond them. Just give me a chance! When their holiday comes, I will visit Giréykhan, and will drink their millet beer," said Lukáshka, angrily warding off the gnats that pestered him.

A rustling in the forest attracted the attention of the Cossacks. A spotted mongrel pointer, scenting a trail, and excitedly wagging his hairless tail, ran up to the cordon. Lukáshka recognized the hunting-dog of his neighbour, Uncle Eróshka, and soon after he made out in the thicket the moving form of the hunter himself.

Uncle Eróshka was a Cossack of enormous stature, with a broad, snow-white beard, and such broad shoulders and chest that in the forest, where there was nobody with whom he could be compared, he appeared, on account of the excellent proportion of all his strong limbs, rather undersized. He wore a ragged, tucked-up coat, buckskin shoes tied with twine to his rag socks, and a rumpled white cap. On his back he carried, over one shoulder, a snare for pheasants, and a bag with a chicken and a falcon for alluring hawks; over the other shoulder he carried a dead wildcat attached to a leather strap; he also carried on his back, stuck behind his belt, a pouch with bullets, powder, and bread, a horsetail with which to switch off the gnats, a large dagger in a torn, blood-stained sheath, and a brace of dead pheasants. When he saw the cordon he stopped.

"O Lyam!" he shouted to his dog in such a sonorous bass that the echo was repeated far in the woods; he shifted on his shoulder the huge percussion-gun, which the Cossacks call "flinta," and raised his cap.