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Creatures That Once Were Men Maxim Gorky

Part II

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All those who were in the dosshouse at the moment came out to look at them and expressed themselves loudly and freely in reference to the matter.

"What does the habit of thieving mean? A man may sometimes make a big mistake when he steals, standing to lose more than he gets," said the Captain, causing much laughter among his staff and eliciting various murmurs of assent.

"Take care, you devil!" shouted Petunikoff, "lest I have you in the police court for your words!"

"You can do nothing to me without witnesses . . . Your son cannot give evidence on your side" . . . the Captain warned him.

"Look out all the same, you old wretch, you may be found guilty too!" And Petunikoff shook his fist at him. His son, deeply engrossed in his calculations, took no notice of the dark group of men, who were taking such a wicked delight in adding to his father's discomfiture. He did not even once look in their direction.

"The young spider has himself well in hand," remarked Abyedok, watching young Petunikoff's every movement and action. Having taken all the measurements he desired, Ivan Andreyevitch knit his brows, got into the cart, and drove away. His son went with a firm step into Vaviloff's eating-house, and disappeared behind the door.

"Ho, ho! That's a determined young thief! . . . What will happen next, I wonder . . .?" asked Kuvalda.

"Next? Young Petunikoff will buy out Egor Vaviloff," said Abyedok with conviction, and smacked his lips as if the idea gave him great pleasure.

"And you are glad of that?" Kuvalda asked him gravely.

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"I am always pleased to see human calculations miscarry," explained Abyedok, rolling his eyes and rubbing his hands with delight. The Captain spat angrily on the ground and was silent. They all stood in front of the tumble-down building, and silently watched the doors of the eating-house. More than an hour passed thus.

Then the doors opened and Petunikoff came out as silently as he had entered. He stopped for a moment, coughed, turned up the collar of his coat, glanced at the men, who were following all his movements with their eyes, and then went up the street toward the town.

The Captain watched him for a moment, and turning to Abyedok said smilingly:

"Probably you were right after all, you son of a scorpion and a wood-louse! You nose out every evil thing. Yes, the face of that young swindler shows that be has got what he wanted. . . I wonder how much Egorka has got out of them. He has evidently taken something . . . He is just the same sort of rogue that they are . . . they are all tarred with the same brush. He has got some money, and I'm damned if I did not arrange the whole thing for him! It is best to own my folly . . . Yes, life is against us all, brothers . . . and even when you spit upon those nearest to you, the spittle rebounds and hits your own face."

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Creatures That Once Were Men
Maxim Gorky

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