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Creatures That Once Were Men Maxim Gorky

Part II

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"You lie! He will give it . . . Use your brains . . . What else can he do? But look here, Egorka, mind you, don't go in for doing it on the cheap. They are sure to fry to buy you off. Don't sell yourself cheap. They will probably use threats, but rely upon us. . . ."

The Captain's eyes were alight with happiness, and his face with excitement. He worked upon Vaviloff's greed, and urging upon him the importance of immediate action in the matter, went away in a very joyful and happy frame of mind.

* * * * * * * * * *

In the evening everyone was told of the Captain's discovery, and they all began to discuss Petunikoff's future predicament, painting in vivid colors his excitement and astonishment on the day the court messenger handed him the copy of the summons. The Captain felt himself quite a hero. He was happy and all his friends highly pleased. The heap of dark and tattered figures that lay in the courtyard made noisy demonstrations of pleasure. They all knew the merchant, Petunikoff, who passed them very often, contemptuously turning up his eyes and giving them no more attention than he bestowed on the other heaps of rubbish lying on the ground. He was well fed, and that exasperated them still more; and now how splendid it was that one of themselves had struck a hard blow at the selfish merchant's purse! It gave them all the greatest pleasure. The Captain's discovery was a powerful instrument in their hands. Every one of them felt keen animosity toward all those who were well fed and well dressed, but in some of them this feeling was only beginning to develop. Burning interest was felt by those "creatures that once were men" in the prospective fight between Kuvalda and Petunikoff, which they already saw in imagination.

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For a fortnight the inhabitants of the dosshouse awaited the further development of events, but Petunikoff never once visited the building. It was known that he was not in town, and that the copy of the petition had not yet been handed to him. Kuvalda raged at the delays of the civil court. It is improbable that anyone had ever awaited the merchant with such impatience as did this bare-footed brigade.

"He isn't even thinking of coming, the wretch! . . ."

"That means that he does not love me!" sang Deacon Taras, leaning his chin on his hand and casting a humorous glance toward the mountain.

At last Petunikoff appeared. He came in a respectable cart with his son playing the role of groom. The latter was a red-cheeked, nice-looking youngster, in a long square-cut overcoat. He wore smoked eyeglasses. They tied the horse to an adjoining tree, the son took the measuring instrument out of his pocket and gave it to his father, and they began to measure the ground. Both were silent and worried.

"Aha!" shouted the Captain gleefully.

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Creatures That Once Were Men
Maxim Gorky

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