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My Fellow-Traveller Maxim Gorky

Chapter IV

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Every time I returned, I sank lower and lower in the opinion of Shakro, until he could not conceal his contempt for me. Our position was anything but pleasant. I was seldom lucky enough to earn more than a rouble or a rouble and a-half a week, and I need not say that was not nearly sufficient to feed us both.

The few bits of money that Shakro gained by begging made but little difference in the state of our affairs, for his belly was a bottomless pit, which swallowed everything that fell in its way; grapes, melons, salt fish, bread, or dried fruit; and as time went on he seemed to need ever more and more food.

Shakro began to urge me to hasten our departure from the Crimea, not unreasonably pointing out that autumn would soon be here and we had a long way still to go. I agreed with this view, and, besides, I had by then seen all that part of the Crimea. So we pushed on again toward Feodosia, hoping to earn something there. Once more our diet was reduced to fruit, and to hopes for the future.

Poor future! Such a load of hopes is cast on it by men, that it loses almost all its charms by the time it becomes the present!

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When within some twenty versts of Aloushta we stopped, as usual, for our night's rest. I had persuaded Shakro to keep to the sea coast; it was a longer way round, but I longed to breathe the fresh sea breezes. We made a fire, and lay down beside it. The night was a glorious one. The dark green sea splashed against the rocks below; above us spread the majestic calm of the blue heavens, and around us sweet-scented trees and bushes rustled softly. The moon was rising, and the delicate tracery of the shadows, thrown by the tall, green plane trees, crept over the stones. Somewhere near a bird sang; its note was clear and bold. Its silvery trill seemed to melt into the air that was full of the soft, caressing splash of the waves. The silence that followed was broken by the nervous chirp of a cricket

The fire burned bright, and its flames looked like a large bunch of red and yellow flowers. Flickering shadows danced gaily around us, as if exulting in their power of movement, in contrast with the creeping advance of the moon shadows. From time to time strange sounds floated through the air. The broad expanse of sea horizon seemed lost in immensity. In the sky overhead not a cloud was visible. I felt as if I were lying on the earth's extreme edge, gazing into infinite space, that riddle that haunts the soul. The majestic beauty of the night intoxicated me, while my whole being seemed absorbed in the harmony of its colors, its sounds, and its scents.

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Creatures That Once Were Men
Maxim Gorky

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