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Chelkash Maxim Gorky

Chapter I

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Chelkash spat contemptuously, and turning away from the youth, dropped the conversation.

"Here's my case now," the latter began, with sudden animation. "As my father's dead, my bit of land's small, my mother's old, all the land's sucked dry, what am I to do? I must live. And how? There's no telling.

"Am I to marry into some well-to-do house? I'd be glad to, if only they'd let their daughter have her share apart.

"Not a bit of it, the devil of a father-in-law won't consent to that. And so I shall have to slave for him--for ever so long--for years. A nice state of things, you know!

"But if I could earn a hundred or a hundred and fifty roubles, I could stand on my own feet, and look askance at old Antip, and tell him straight out! Will you give Marfa her share apart? No? all right, then! Thank God, she's not the only girl in the village. And I should be, I mean, quite free and independent.

"Ah, yes!" the young man sighed. "But as 'tis, there's nothing for it, but to marry and live at my father-in-law's. I was thinking I'd go, d'ye see, to Kuban, and make some two hundred roubles-straight off! Be a gentleman! But there, it was no go! It didn't come off. Well, I suppose I'll have to work for my father-in-law! Be a day-laborer. For I'll never manage on my own bit--not anyhow. Heigh-ho!"

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The lad extremely disliked the idea of bondage to his future father-in-law. His face positively darkened and looked gloomy. He shifted clumsily on the ground and drew Chelkash out of the reverie into which he had sunk during his speech.

Chelkash felt that he had no inclination now to talk to him, yet he asked him another question: "Where are you going now?"

"Why, where should I go? Home, to be sure."

"Well, mate, I couldn't be sure of that, you might be on your way to Turkey."

"To Th-urkey!" drawled the youth. "Why, what good Christian ever goes there! Well I never!"

"Oh, you fool!" sighed Chelkash, and again he turned away from his companion, conscious this time of a positive disinclination to waste another word on him. This stalwart village lad roused some feeling in him. It was a vague feeling of annoyance, that grew instinctively, stirred deep down in his heart, and hindered him from concentrating himself on the consideration of all that he had to do that night.

The lad he had thus reviled muttered something, casting occasionally a dubious glance at Chelkash. His cheeks were comically puffed out, his lips parted, and his eyes were screwed up and blinking with extreme rapidity. He had obviously not expected so rapid and insulting a termination to his conversation with this long-whiskered ragamuffin. The ragamuffin took no further notice of him. He whistled dreamily, sitting on the stone post, and beating time on it with his bare, dirty heel.

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Creatures That Once Were Men
Maxim Gorky

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