A blizzard iscovering the roads with a thick coating of snow. The horses are up to theirfetlocks in it. The dark-green firs bend beneath its weight, and what hasmelted in the midday sun already hangs from the slender branches of theundergrowth in thick masses of icicles; and as the wind sweeps through theforest the ice-covered leaves and branches ring and jingle like fairybells.
Ever and anon the moon shines out fromamid the fast-flying clouds; then, as though it has seen enough, hides itselfagain under the ghostly mist. The sighing of the wind through the forest islike the trembling of fever-stricken nature. In the stillness of night,through the pathless forest, rides a troop of horsemen. Their littlelong-maned horses sniff their way with low, sunk necks; by the shaggy furcaps of their riders, and their long lances hanging far back at their sides,they are to be recognized as a party of Don Cossacks.
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