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Chapter IX

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And I longed to take part in it, and to express, in some way or other, the rapture that filled my heart to overflowing, in the presence of the mysterious force which scatters gloom, and gathering clouds. The blue light which lit up the sky seemed to gleam in my soul too; and how was I to express my passion and my ecstasy at the grandeur of nature? I sang aloud, at the top of my voice. The thunder roared, the lightning flashed, the grass whispered, while I sang and felt myself in close kinship with nature's music. I was delirious, and it was pardonable, for it harmed no one but myself. I was filled with the desire to absorb, as much as possible, the mighty, living beauty and force that was raging on the steppe; and to get closer to it. A tempest at sea, and a thunderstorm on the steppes! I know nothing grander in nature. And so I shouted to my heart's content, in the absolute belief that I troubled no one, nor placed any one in a position to criticize my action. But suddenly, I felt my legs seized, and I fell helpless into a pool of water.

Shakro was looking into my face with serious and wrathful eyes.

"Are you mad? Aren't you? No? Well, then, be quiet! Don't shout! I'll cut your throat! Do you understand?"

I was amazed, and I asked him first what harm I was doing him?

"Why, you're frightening me! It's thundering; God is speaking, and you bawl. What are you thinking about?"

I replied that I had a right to sing whenever I chose. Just as he had.

"But I don't want to!" he said.

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"Well, don't sing then!" I assented.

"And don't you sing!" insisted Shakro.

"Yes, I mean to sing!"

"Stop! What are you thinking about?" he went on angrily. "Who are you? You have neither home nor father, nor mother; you have no relations, no land! Who are you? Are you anybody, do you suppose? It's I am somebody in the world! I have everything!"

He slapped his chest vehemently.

"I'm a prince, and you--you're nobody--nothing! You say-- you're this and that! Who else says so? All Koutais and Tiflies know me! You shall not contradict me! Do you hear? Are you not my servant? I'll pay ten times over for all you have done for me. You shall obey me! You said yourself that God taught us to serve each other without seeking for a reward; but I'll reward you.

"Why will you annoy me, preaching to me, and frightening me? Do you want me to be like you? That's too bad! You can't make me like yourself! Foo! Foo!"

He talked, smacked his lips, snuffled, and sighed. I stood staring at him, open-mouthed with astonishment. He was evidently pouring out now all the discontent, displeasure and disgust, which had been gathering up during the whole of our journey. To convince me more thoroughly, he poked me in the chest from time to time with his forefinger, and shook me by the shoulder. During the most impressive parts of his speech he pushed up against me with his whole massive body. The rain was pouring down on us, the thunder never ceased its muttering, and to make me hear, Shakro shouted at the top of his voice. The tragic comedy of my position struck me more vividly than ever, and I burst into a wild fit of laughter. Shakro turned away and spat.

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Creatures That Once Were Men
Maxim Gorky

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