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Count Rostov goes home, but the hunt continues. Hey, it’s still early, maybe they can torture another couple of wolves before the day is out.
The dogs get on the trail of a weird-looking fox. (That sounds like that’s a clue or symbol or something, but it goes nowhere. It’s just weird-looking and that’s that.) They bring the fox down, when all of a sudden another hunter comes out of nowhere and goes over to the dog pack.
The new hunter and one of Nikolai’s guys get into it a little bit, because this is bad hunting etiquette apparently.
Turns out the new guy is with Ilagin, a neighbor of the Rostovs who they aren’t on good terms with. In fact, they’re suing each other.
Nikolai is all, uh-oh, but it turns out that Ilagin is a decent guy. He rides up and invites Nikolai onto his own lands to make up for the hunting faux pas.
They ride together and chitchat about their harvest and their dogs.
Both are trying to play it cool, tossing offhand compliments about each other’s dogs, but the dogs are clearly a big deal to both of them. Have you ever seen those old-timey portraits of rich aristocrats that always, always have a dog or a horse in them? It was really a big thing to have excellent hunting animals. Maybe a little bit like having a cool car or the latest high-tech gadget these days.
The hunting helpers sound the horn – seems they’ve found a hare the dogs can chase.
Nikolai, Ilagin, and Nikolai’s distant relative kind of sidle into deciding to race their dogs against each other, though they are all still pretending they don’t really care.
It’s a mad race of the fastest dogs, and the winner is...the dog of Nikolai’s relative. Oh. That’s kind of a letdown. The winning “uncle” cuts off the hare’s foot and gives it to his dog as a treat. (OK, we’ll wait here while your stomach settles.)
Natasha, who’s been watching all of this, lets out a shriek of delight. It’s wild and strange, but for some reason, entirely appropriate to this situation.