The place fixed on for the stand-shooting was not far above a
stream in a little aspen copse. On reaching the copse, Levin got
out of the trap and led Oblonsky to a corner of a mossy, swampy
glade, already quite free from snow. He went back himself to a
double birch tree on the other side, and leaning his gun on the
fork of a dead lower branch, he took off his full overcoat,
fastened his belt again, and worked his arms to see if they were
Gray old Laska, who had followed them, sat down warily opposite
him and pricked up her ears. The sun was setting behind a thick
forest, and in the glow of sunset the birch trees, dotted about
in the aspen copse, stood out clearly with their hanging twigs,
and their buds swollen almost to bursting.
From the thickest parts of the copse, where the snow still
remained, came the faint sound of narrow winding threads of water
running away. Tiny birds twittered, and now and then fluttered
from tree to tree.
In the pauses of complete stillness there came the rustle of last
year's leaves, stirred by the thawing of the earth and the growth
of the grass.
"Imagine! One can hear and see the grass growing!" Levin said
to himself, noticing a wet, slate-colored aspen leaf moving
beside a blade of young grass. He stood, listened, and gazed
sometimes down at the wet mossy ground, sometimes at Laska
listening all alert, sometimes at the sea of bare tree tops that
stretched on the slope below him, sometimes at the darkening sky,
covered with white streaks of cloud.
A hawk flew high over a forest far away with slow sweep of its
wings; another flew with exactly the same motion in the same
direction and vanished. The birds twittered more and more loudly
and busily in the thicket. An owl hooted not far off, and Laska,
starting, stepped cautiously a few steps forward, and putting her
head on one side, began to listen intently. Beyond the stream
was heard the cuckoo. Twice she uttered her usual cuckoo call,
and then gave a hoarse, hurried call and broke down.
"Imagine! the cuckoo already!" said Stepan Arkadyevitch, coming
out from behind a bush.