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My Fellow-Traveller Maxim Gorky

Chapter X

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"Well, come along," he said; when, after a short rest, we had once more grown quiet and friendly.

So we trudged on. Each day made him grow more gloomy, and he looked at me strangely, from under his brows.

As we walked over the Darial Pass, he remarked: "Another day or two will bring us to Tiflis. Tse'! Tse'!"

He clicked his tongue, and his face beamed with delight.

"When I get home, they will ask me where I have been? I shall tell them I have been travelling. The first thing I shall do will be to take a nice bath. I shall eat a lot. Oh! what a lot. I have only to tell my mother 'I am hungry!' My father will forgive when I tell him how much trouble and sorrow I have undergone. Tramps are a good sort of people! Whenever I meet a tramp, I shall always give him a rouble, and take him to the beer-house, and treat him to some wine. I shall tell him I was a tramp myself once. I shall tell my father all about you. I shall say: 'This man--he was like an elder brother to me. He lectured me, and beat me, the dog! He fed me, and now, I shall say, you must feed him.' I shall tell him to feed you for a whole year. Do you hear that, Maxime?"

I liked to hear him talk in this strain; at those times he seemed so simple, so child-like. His words were all the more pleasant because I had not a single friend in all Tiflis. Winter was approaching. We had already been caught in a snowstorm in the Goudaour hills. I reckoned somewhat on Shakro's promises. We walked on rapidly till we reached Mesket, the ancient capital of Iberia. The next day we hoped to be in Tiflis.

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I caught sight of the capital of the Caucasus in the distance, as it lay some five versts farther on, nestling between two high hills. The end of our journey was fast approaching! I was rejoicing, but Shakro was indifferent. With a vacant look he fixed his eyes on the distance, and began spitting on one side; while he kept rubbing his stomach with a grimace of pain. The pain in his stomach was caused by his having eaten too many raw carrots, which he had pulled up by the wayside.

"Do you think I, a nobleman of Georgia, will show myself in my native town, torn and dirty as I am now? No, indeed, that I never could! We must wait outside till night. Let us rest here."

We twisted up a couple of cigarettes from our last bit of tobacco, and, shivering with cold, we sat down under the walls of a deserted building to have a smoke. The piercing cold wind seemed to cut through our bodies. Shakro sat humming a melancholy song; while I fell to picturing to myself a warm room, and other advantages of a settled life over a wandering existence.

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Creatures That Once Were Men
Maxim Gorky

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