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My Fellow-Traveller Maxim Gorky

Chapter IV

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I argued with him, and tried to convince him of the shamefulness of such a course of action. He only sneered.

"I cannot work," was all he would reply.

He did not get much by his begging.

My health at that time began to give way. Every day the journey seemed to grow more trying. Every day our relations toward each other grew more strained. Shakro, now, had begun shamelessly to insist that I should provide him with food.

"It was you," he would say, "who brought me out here, all this way; so you must look after me. I never walked so far in my life before. I should never have undertaken such a journey on foot. It may kill me! You are tormenting me; you are crushing the life out of me! Think what it would be if I were to die! My mother would weep; my father would weep; all my friends would weep! Just think of all the tears that would be shed!"

I listened to such speeches, but was not angered by them. A strange thought began to stir in my mind, a thought that made me bear with him patiently. Many a time as be lay asleep by my side I would watch his calm, quiet face, and think to myself, as though groping after some idea:

"He is my fellow-traveller--my fellow-traveller."

At times, a dim thought would strike me, that after all Shakro was only right in claiming so freely, and with so much assurance, my help and my care. It proved that he possessed a strong will.

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He was enslaving me, and I submitted, and studied his character; following each quivering movement of the muscles of his face, trying to foresee when and at what point he would stop in this process of exploiting another person's individuality.

Shakro was in excellent spirits; he sang, and slept, and jeered at me, when he felt so disposed. Sometimes we separated for two or three days. I would leave him some bread and some money (if we had any), and would tell him where to meet me again. At parting, he would follow me with a suspicious, angry look in his eyes. But when we met again he welcomed me with gleeful triumph. He always said, laughing: "I thought you had run off alone, and left me! ha! ha! ha!" I brought him food, and told him of the beautiful places I had seen; and once even, speaking of Bakhtchesarai, I told him about our Russian poet Pushkin, and recited some of his verses. But this produced no effect on him.

"Oh, indeed; that is poetry, is it? Well, songs are better than poetry, I knew a Georgian once! He was the man to sing! He sang so loud--so loud--he would have thought his throat was being cut? He finished by murdering an inn-keeper, and was banished to Siberia."

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Creatures That Once Were Men
Maxim Gorky

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