Book Seven: 1810 --11 - Chapter V
Nicholas Rostov meanwhile remained at his post, waiting for the wolf. By the way the hunt approached and receded, by the cries of the dogs whose notes were familiar to him, by the way the voices of the huntsmen approached, receded, and rose, he realized what was happening at the copse. He knew that young and old wolves were there, that the hounds had separated into two packs, that somewhere a wolf was being chased, and that something had gone wrong. He expected the wolf to come his way any moment. He made thousands of different conjectures as to where and from what side the beast would come and how he would set upon it. Hope alternated with despair. Several times he addressed a prayer to God that the wolf should come his way. He prayed with that passionate and shame-faced feeling with which men pray at moments of great excitement arising from trivial causes. "What would it be to Thee to do this for me?" he said to God. "I know Thou art great, and that it is a sin to ask this of Thee, but for God's sake do let the old wolf come my way and let Karay spring at it--in sight of 'Uncle' who is watching from over there--and seize it by the throat in a death grip!" A thousand times during that half-hour Rostov cast eager and restless glances over the edge of the wood, with the two scraggy oaks rising above the aspen undergrowth and the gully with its water-worn side and "Uncle's" cap just visible above the bush on his right.
"No, I shan't have such luck," thought Rostov, "yet what wouldn't it be worth! It is not to be! Everywhere, at cards and in war, I am always unlucky." Memories of Austerlitz and of Dolokhov flashed rapidly and clearly through his mind. "Only once in my life to get an old wolf, I want only that!" thought he, straining eyes and ears and looking to the left and then to the right and listening to the slightest variation of note in the cries of the dogs.
Again he looked to the right and saw something running toward him across the deserted field. "No, it can't be!" thought Rostov, taking a deep breath, as a man does at the coming of something long hoped for. The height of happiness was reached--and so simply, without warning, or noise, or display, that Rostov could not believe his eyes and remained in doubt for over a second. The wolf ran forward and jumped heavily over a gully that lay in her path. She was an old animal with a gray back and big reddish belly. She ran without hurry, evidently feeling sure that no one saw her. Rostov, holding his breath, looked round at the borzois. They stood or lay not seeing the wolf or understanding the situation. Old Karay had turned his head and was angrily searching for fleas, baring his yellow teeth and snapping at his hind legs.
"Ulyulyulyu!" whispered Rostov, pouting his lips. The borzois jumped up, jerking the rings of the leashes and pricking their ears. Karay finished scratching his hindquarters and, cocking his ears, got up with quivering tail from which tufts of matted hair hung down.
"Shall I loose them or not?" Nicholas asked himself as the wolf approached him coming from the copse. Suddenly the wolf's whole physiognomy changed: she shuddered, seeing what she had probably never seen before--human eyes fixed upon her--and turning her head a little toward Rostov, she paused.
"Back or forward? Eh, no matter, forward..." the wolf seemed to say to herself, and she moved forward without again looking round and with a quiet, long, easy yet resolute lope.
"Ulyulyu!" cried Nicholas, in a voice not his own, and of its own accord his good horse darted headlong downhill, leaping over gullies to head off the wolf, and the borzois passed it, running faster still. Nicholas did not hear his own cry nor feel that he was galloping, nor see the borzois, nor the ground over which he went: he saw only the wolf, who, increasing her speed, bounded on in the same direction along the hollow. The first to come into view was Milka, with her black markings and powerful quarters, gaining upon the wolf. Nearer and nearer... now she was ahead of it; but the wolf turned its head to face her, and instead of putting on speed as she usually did Milka suddenly raised her tail and stiffened her forelegs.
"Ulyulyulyulyu!" shouted Nicholas.
The reddish Lyubim rushed forward from behind Milka, sprang impetuously at the wolf, and seized it by its hindquarters, but immediately jumped aside in terror. The wolf crouched, gnashed her teeth, and again rose and bounded forward, followed at the distance of a couple of feet by all the borzois, who did not get any closer to her.
"She'll get away! No, it's impossible!" thought Nicholas, still shouting with a hoarse voice.
"Karay, ulyulyu!..." he shouted, looking round for the old borzoi who was now his only hope. Karay, with all the strength age had left him, stretched himself to the utmost and, watching the wolf, galloped heavily aside to intercept it. But the quickness of the wolf's lope and the borzoi's slower pace made it plain that Karay had miscalculated. Nicholas could already see not far in front of him the wood where the wolf would certainly escape should she reach it. But, coming toward him, he saw hounds and a huntsman galloping almost straight at the wolf. There was still hope. A long, yellowish young borzoi, one Nicholas did not know, from another leash, rushed impetuously at the wolf from in front and almost knocked her over. But the wolf jumped up more quickly than anyone could have expected and, gnashing her teeth, flew at the yellowish borzoi, which, with a piercing yelp, fell with its head on the ground, bleeding from a gash in its side.
"Karay? Old fellow!..." wailed Nicholas.
Thanks to the delay caused by this crossing of the wolf's path, the old dog with its felted hair hanging from its thigh was within five paces of it. As if aware of her danger, the wolf turned her eyes on Karay, tucked her tail yet further between her legs, and increased her speed. But here Nicholas only saw that something happened to Karay--the borzoi was suddenly on the wolf, and they rolled together down into a gully just in front of them.
That instant, when Nicholas saw the wolf struggling in the gully with the dogs, while from under them could be seen her gray hair and outstretched hind leg and her frightened choking head, with her ears laid back (Karay was pinning her by the throat), was the happiest moment of his life. With his hand on his saddlebow, he was ready to dismount and stab the wolf, when she suddenly thrust her head up from among that mass of dogs, and then her forepaws were on the edge of the gully. She clicked her teeth (Karay no longer had her by the throat), leaped with a movement of her hind legs out of the gully, and having disengaged herself from the dogs, with tail tucked in again, went forward. Karay, his hair bristling, and probably bruised or wounded, climbed with difficulty out of the gully.
"Oh my God! Why?" Nicholas cried in despair.
"Uncle's" huntsman was galloping from the other side across the wolf's path and his borzois once more stopped the animal's advance. She was again hemmed in.
Nicholas and his attendant, with "Uncle" and his huntsman, were all riding round the wolf, crying "ulyulyu!" shouting and preparing to dismount each moment that the wolf crouched back, and starting forward again every time she shook herself and moved toward the wood where she would be safe.
Already, at the beginning of this chase, Daniel, hearing the ulyulyuing, had rushed out from the wood. He saw Karay seize the wolf, and checked his horse, supposing the affair to be over. But when he saw that the horsemen did not dismount and that the wolf shook herself and ran for safety, Daniel set his chestnut galloping, not at the wolf but straight toward the wood, just as Karay had run to cut the animal off. As a result of this, he galloped up to the wolf just when she had been stopped a second time by "Uncle's" borzois.
Daniel galloped up silently, holding a naked dagger in his left hand and thrashing the laboring sides of his chestnut horse with his whip as if it were a flail.
Nicholas neither saw nor heard Daniel until the chestnut, breathing heavily, panted past him, and he heard the fall of a body and saw Daniel lying on the wolf's back among the dogs, trying to seize her by the ears. It was evident to the dogs, the hunters, and to the wolf herself that all was now over. The terrified wolf pressed back her ears and tried to rise, but the borzois stuck to her. Daniel rose a little, took a step, and with his whole weight, as if lying down to rest, fell on the wolf, seizing her by the ears. Nicholas was about to stab her, but Daniel whispered, "Don't! We'll gag her!" and, changing his position, set his foot on the wolf's neck. A stick was thrust between her jaws and she was fastened with a leash, as if bridled, her legs were bound together, and Daniel rolled her over once or twice from side to side.
With happy, exhausted faces, they laid the old wolf, alive, on a shying and snorting horse and, accompanied by the dogs yelping at her, took her to the place where they were all to meet. The hounds had killed two of the cubs and the borzois three. The huntsmen assembled with their booty and their stories, and all came to look at the wolf, which, with her broad-browed head hanging down and the bitten stick between her jaws, gazed with great glassy eyes at this crowd of dogs and men surrounding her. When she was touched, she jerked her bound legs and looked wildly yet simply at everybody. Old Count Rostov also rode up and touched the wolf.
"Oh, what a formidable one!" said he. "A formidable one, eh?" he asked Daniel, who was standing near.
"Yes, your excellency," answered Daniel, quickly doffing his cap.
The count remembered the wolf he had let slip and his encounter with Daniel.
"Ah, but you are a crusty fellow, friend!" said the count.
For sole reply Daniel gave him a shy, childlike, meek, and amiable smile.