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Creatures That Once Were Men Maxim Gorky

Part II

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Having satisfied himself with this reflection, the worthy Captain looked round upon his staff. Every one of them was disappointed, because they all knew that something they did not expect had taken place between Petunikoff and Vaviloff, and they all felt that they had been insulted. The feeling that one is unable to injure anyone is worse than the feeling that one is unable to do good, because to do harm is far easier and simpler.

"Well, why are we loitering here? We have nothing more to wait for . . . except the reward that I shall get out--out of Egorka, . . ." said the Captain, looking angrily at the eating-house. "So our peaceful life under the roof of Judas has come to an end.

Judas will now turn us out . . . So do not say that I have not warned you."

Kanets smiled sadly.

"What are you laughing at, jailer?" Kuvalda asked.

"Where shall I go then?"

"That, my soul, is a question that fate will settle for you, so do not worry," said the Captain thoughtfully, entering the dosshouse. "The creatures that once were men" followed him.

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"We can do nothing but await the critical moment," said the Captain, walking about among them. "When they turn us out we shall seek a new place for ourselves, but at present there is no use spoiling our life by thinking of it . . . In times of crisis one becomes energetic . . . and if life were fuller of them and every moment of it so arranged that we were compelled to tremble for our lives all the time . . . By God! life would be livelier and even fuller of interest and energy than it is!"

"That means that people would all go about cutting one another's throats," explained Abyedok smilingly.

"Well, what about it?" asked the Captain angrily. He did not like to hear his thoughts illustrated.

"Oh! Nothing! When a person wants to get anywhere quickly he whips up the horses, but of course it needs fire to make engines go. . . ."

"Well, let everything go to the Devil as quickly as possible. I'm sure I should be pleased if the earth suddenly opened up or was burned or destroyed somehow . . . only I were left to the last in order to see the others consumed. . . ."

"Ferocious creature!" smiled Abyedok.

"Well, what of that? I . . . I was once a man . . . now I am an outcast . . . that means I have no obligations. It means that I am free to spit on everyone. The nature of my present life means the rejection of my past . . . giving up all relations toward men who are well fed and well dressed, and who look upon me with contempt because I am inferior to them in the matter of feeding or dressing. I must develop something new within myself, do you understand? Something that will make Judas Petunikoff and his kind tremble and perspire before me!"

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Creatures That Once Were Men
Maxim Gorky

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