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0105_001E My Fellow-Traveller Maxim Gorky

Chapter VII

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"He! He'! That's right! He'! He'!"

The light fell full on Shakro, showing the variety of his movements, as at one moment he would coil himself up like a snake, and the next would dance round on one leg; then would plunge into a succession of rapid steps, difficult to follow with the eye. His naked body shone in the fire light, while the large beads of sweat, as they rolled off it, looked, in the red light of the fire, like drops of blood..

By now, all three of the shepherds were clapping their hands; while I, shivering with cold, dried myself by the fire, and thought that our adventures would gratify the taste of admirers of Cooper or of Jules Vernes; there was shipwreck, then came hospitable aborigines, and a savage dance round the fire. And while I reflected thus, I felt very uneasy as to the chief point in every adventure--the end of it.

When Shakro had finished dancing, he also sat down by the fire, wrapped up in the overcoat. He was already eating, while he stared at me with his black eyes, which had a gleam in them of something I did not like. His clothes, stretched on sticks, driven into the ground, were drying before the fire. The shepherds had given me, also, some bread and bacon.

Michael returned, and sat down without a word beside the old man, who remarked in an inquiring voice: "Well?"

"I have found the boat," was the brief reply.

"It won't be washed away?"


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The shepherds were silent, once more scrutinizing us.

"Well," said Michael, at last, addressing no one in particular. "Shall we take them to the ataman, or straight to the custom house officers?"

"So that's to be the end!" I thought to myself.

Nobody replied to Michael's question. Shakro went on quietly with his eating, and said nothing.

"We could take them to the ataman--or we could take them to the custom house. One plan's as good as the other," remarked the old man, after a short silence.

"They have stolen the custom house boat, so they ought to be taught a lesson for the future."

"Wait a bit, old man," I began.

"Certainly, they ought not to have stolen the boat. If they are not punished now, they will probably do something worse next time." The old man interrupted me, without paying any heed to my protestations.

The old man spoke with revolting indifference. When he had finished speaking, his comrades nodded their heads in token of assent.

"Yes, if a man steals, he has to bear the consequences, when he's caught---- Michael! what about the boat? Is it there?"

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Creatures That Once Were Men
Maxim Gorky

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