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|Creatures That Once Were Men||Maxim Gorky|
Twenty-Six Men And A Girl
|Page 8 of 12||
He raised his white hairy hands, and slapped them down on his knees. And his eyes seem to reflect such frank astonishment, as if he were himself quite surprised at his good luck with women. His fat, red face glistened with delight and self satisfaction, and he licked his lips more than ever.
Our baker scraped the shovel violently and angrily along the oven floor, and all at once he said sarcastically:
"There's no great strength needed to pull up fir saplings, but try a real pine-tree."
"Why-what do you mean by saying that to me?" asked the soldier.
"Oh, well. . . ."
"What is it?"
"Nothing-it slipped out!"
"No, wait a minute! What's the point? What pinetree?"
Our baker did not answer, working rapidly away with the shovel at the oven; flinging into it the half-cooked kringels, taking out those that were done, and noisily throwing them on the floor to the boys who were stringing them on bast. He seemed to have forgotten the soldier and his conversation with him. But the soldier had all at once dropped into a sort of uneasiness. He got up on to his feet, and went to the oven, at the risk of knocking against the handle of the shovel, which was waving spasmodically in the air.
"No, tell me, do--who is it? You've insulted me. I? There's not one could withstand me, n-no! And you say such insulting things to me?"
He really seemed genuinely hurt. He must have had nothing else to pride himself on except his gift for seducing women; maybe, except for that, there was nothing living in him, and it was only that by which he could feel himself a living man.
There are men to whom the most precious and best thing in their lives appears to be some disease of their soul or body. They spend their whole life in relation to it, and only living by it, suffering from it, they sustain themselves on it, they complain of it to others, and so draw the attention of their fellows to themselves.
For that they extract sympathy from people, and apart from it they have nothing at all. Take from them that disease, cure them, and they will be miserable, because they have lost their one resource in life--they are left empty then. Sometimes a man's life is so poor, that he is driven instinctively to prize his vice and to live by it; one may say for a fact that often men are vicious from boredom.
The soldier was offended, he went up to our baker and roared:
"No, tell me do-who?"
"Tell you?" the baker turned suddenly to him.
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