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Chelkash Maxim Gorky

Chapter II

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It seemed as though there, at the sea's rim, they were a countless multitude, that they would forever crawl thus sluggishly over the sky, striving with dull malignance to hinder it from peeping at the sleeping sea with its millions of golden eyes, the various colored, vivid stars, that shine so dreamily and stir high hopes in all who love their pure, holy light. Over the sea hovered the vague, soft sound of its drowsy breathing.

"The sea's fine, eh?" asked Chelkash.

"It's all right! Only I feel scared on it," answered Gavrilo, pressing the oars vigorously and evenly through the water. The water faintly gurgled and splashed under the strokes of his long oars, splashed glittering with the warm, bluish, phosphorescent light.

"Scared! What a fool!" Chelkash muttered, discontentedly.

He, the thief and cynic, loved the sea. His effervescent, nervous nature, greedy after impressions, was never weary of gazing at that dark expanse, boundless, free, and mighty. And it hurt him to hear such an answer to his question about the beauty of what he loved. Sitting in the stern, he cleft the water with his oar, and looked on ahead quietly, filled with desire to glide far on this velvety surface, not soon to quit it.

On the sea there always rose up in him a broad, warm feeling, that took possession of his whole soul, and somewhat purified it from the sordidness of daily life. He valued this, and loved to feel himself better out here in the midst of the water and the air, where the cares of life, and life itself, always lose, the former their keenness, the latter its value.

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"But where's the tackle? Eh?" Gavrilo asked suspiciously all at once, peering into the boat.

Chelkash started.

"Tackle? I've got it in the stern."

"Why, what sort of tackle is it?" Gavrilo inquired again with surprised suspicion in his tone.

"What sort? lines and--" But Chelkash felt ashamed to lie to this boy, to conceal his real plans, and he was sorry to lose what this peasant-lad had destroyed in his heart by this question. He flew into a rage. That scalding bitterness he knew so well rose in his breast and his throat, and impressively, cruelly, and malignantly he said to Gavrilo:

"You're sitting here--and I tell you, you'd better sit quiet. And not poke your nose into what's not your business. You've been hired to row, and you'd better row. But if you can't keep your tongue from wagging, it will be a bad lookout for you. D'ye see?"

For a minute the boat quivered and stopped. The oars rested in the water, setting it foaming, and Gavrilo moved uneasily on his seat.


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Creatures That Once Were Men
Maxim Gorky

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