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Chelkash Maxim Gorky

Chapter II

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"Come, ready?" Chelkash asked in a low voice of Gavrilo, who was busy doing something to the oars.

"In a minute! The rowlock here's unsteady, can I just knock it in with the oar?"

"No--no! Not a sound! Push it down harder with your hand, it'll go in of itself."

They were both quietly getting out a boat, which was tied to the stern of one of a whole flotilla of oakladen barges, and big Turkish feluccas, half unloaded, hall still full of palm-oil, sandal wood, and thick trunks of cypress.

The night was dark, thick strata of ragged clouds were moving across the sky, and the sea was quiet, black, and thick as oil. It wafted a damp and salt aroma, and splashed caressingly on the sides of the vessels and the banks, setting Chelkash's boat lightly rocking. There were boats all round them. At a long distance from the shore rose from the sea the dark outlines of vessels, thrusting up into the dark sky their pointed masts with various colored lights at their tops. The sea reflected the lights, and was spotted with masses of yellow, quivering patches. This was very beautiful on the velvety bosom of the soft, dull black water, so rhythmically, mightily breathing. The sea slept the sound, healthy sleep of a workman, wearied out by his day's toil.

"We're off!" said Gavrilo, dropping the oars into the water.

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"Yes!" With a vigorous turn of the rudder Chelkash drove the boat into a strip of water between two barks, and they darted rapidly over the smooth surface, that kindled into bluish phosphorescent light under the strokes of the oars. Behind the boat's stern lay a winding ribbon of this phosphorescence, broad and quivering.

"Well, how's your head, aching?" asked Chelkash, smiling.

"Awfully! Like iron ringing. I'll wet it with some water in a minute."

"Why? You'd better wet your inside, that may get rid of it. You can do that at once." He held out a bottle to Gavrilo.

"Eh? Lord bless you!"

There was a faint sound of swallowing.

"Aye! aye! like it? Enough!" Chelkash stopped him.

The boat darted on again, noiselessly and lightly threading its way among the vessels. All at once, they emerged from the labyrinth of ships, and the sea, boundless, mute, shining and rhythmically breathing, lay open before them, stretching far into the distance, where there rose out of its waters masses of storm clouds, some lilac-blue with fluffy yellow edges, and some greenish like the color of the seawater, or those dismal, leaden-colored clouds that cast such heavy, dreary shadows, oppressing mind and soul. They crawled slowly after one another, one melting into another, one overtaking another, and there was something weird in this slow procession of soulless masses.

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Creatures That Once Were Men
Maxim Gorky

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