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My Fellow-Traveller Maxim Gorky

Chapter VII

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"Oh, it's there all right!"

"Are you sure the waves won't wash it away?"

"Quite sure."

"Well, that's all right. Then let it stay there. Tomorrow the boatmen will be going over to Kertch, and they can take it with them. They will not mind taking an empty boat along with them, will they? Well--so you mean to say you were not frightened, you vagabonds? Weren't you indeed? La! la! la!

Half a mile farther out, and you would have been by this time at the bottom of the sea! What would you have done if the waves had cast you back into the sea? Ay, sure enough, you would have sunk to the bottom like a couple of axes. And that would have been the end of you both!"

As the old man finished speaking, he looked at me with an ironical smile on his lips.

"Well, why don't you speak, lad?" he inquired.

I was vexed by his reflections, which I misinterpreted as sneering at us. So I only answered rather sharply:

"I was listening to you."

"Well-and what do you say?" inquired the old man.


"Why are you rude to me? Is it the right thing to be rude to a man older than yourself?"

I was silent, acknowledging in my heart that it really was not the right thing.

"Won't you have something more to eat?" continued the old shepherd.

"No, I can't eat any more."

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"Well, don't have any, if you don't want it. Perhaps you'll take a bit of bread with you to eat on the road?"

I trembled with joy, but would not betray my feelings.

"Oh, yes. I should like to take some with me for the road," I answered, quietly.

"I say, lads! give these fellows some bread and a piece of bacon each. If you can find something else, give it to them too."

"Are we to let them go, then?" asked Michael.

The other two shepherds looked up at the old man.

"What can they do here?"

"Did we not intend to take them either to the ataman or to the custom house?" asked Michael, in a disappointed tone.

Shakro stirred uneasily in his seat near the fire, and poked out his head inquiringly from beneath the overcoat. He was quite serene.

"What would they do at the ataman's? I should think there is nothing to do there just now. Perhaps later on they might like to go there?"

"But how about the boat?" insisted Michael.

"What about the boat?" inquired the old man again. "Did you not say the boat was all right where it was?"

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Creatures That Once Were Men
Maxim Gorky

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