Vronsky looked round for the last time at his rivals. He knew
that he would not see them during the race. Two were already
riding forward to the point from which they were to start.
Galtsin, a friend of Vronsky's and one of his more formidable
rivals, was moving round a bay horse that would not let him
mount. A little light hussar in tight riding breeches rode off
at a gallop, crouched up like a cat on the saddle, in imitation
of English jockeys. Prince Kuzovlev sat with a white face on his
thoroughbred mare from the Grabovsky stud, while an English groom
led her by the bridle. Vronsky and all his comrades knew
Kuzovlev and his peculiarity of "weak nerves" and terrible
vanity. They knew that he was afraid of everything, afraid of
riding a spirited horse. But now, just because it was terrible,
because people broke their necks, and there was a doctor standing
at each obstacle, and an ambulance with a cross on it, and a
sister of mercy, he had made up his mind to take part in the
race. Their eyes met, and Vronsky gave him a friendly and
encouraging nod. Only one he did not see, his chief rival,
Mahotin on Gladiator.
"Don't be in a hurry," said Cord to Vronsky, "and remember one
thing: don't hold her in at the fences, and don't urge her on;
let her go as she likes."
"All right, all right," said Vronsky, taking the reins.
"If you can, lead the race; but don't lose heart till the last
minute, even if you're behind."
Before the mare had time to move, Vronsky stepped with an agile,
vigorous movement into the steel-toothed stirrup, and lightly and
firmly seated himself on the creaking leather of the saddle.
Getting his right foot in the stirrup, he smoothed the double
reins, as he always did, between his fingers, and Cord let go.
As though she did not know which foot to put first, Frou-Frou
started, dragging at the reins with her long neck, and as though
she were on springs, shaking her rider from side to side. Cord
quickened his step, following him. The excited mare, trying to
shake off her rider first on one side and then the other, pulled
at the reins, and Vronsky tried in vain with voice and hand to