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On A Raft Maxim Gorky

Chapter I

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The whole river seems like a fathomless, hidden whirlpool, surrounded by immense mountains, rising toward heaven, and capped with shrouding mists.

The stillness suffocates, and the water seems spellbound with expectation, as it beats softly against the raft. A great sadness, and a timid questioning is heard in that faint sound --the only voice of the night--accentuating still more the silence. "We want a little wind now," says Sergei. "No it's not exactly wind we want that would bring rain," he replies to himself, as he begins to fill his pipe. A match strikes, and the bubbling sound of a pipe being lighted is heard. A red gleam appears, throwing a glow over the big face of Sergei; and then, as the light dies down he is lost in the darkness.

"Mitia!" he cries. His voice is now less brutal and more mocking.

"What is it?" replies Mitia, without moving his gaze from the distance, where be seems with his big sad eyes to be searching for something.

"How did it happen, mate? How did it happen?"

"What?" answers Mitia, displeased.

"How did you come to marry? What a queer set out! How was it? You brought your wife home!--and then? Ha! ha! ha!"

"What are you cackling about? Look out there!" came threateningly across the river.

"Damned beast!" ejaculates with delight Sergei; and returns to the theme that interests him. "Come, Mitia; tell me; tell me at once--why not?"

"Leave me alone, Sergei," Mitia murmurs entreatingly; "I told you once."

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But knowing by experience that Sergei will not leave him in peace, he begins hurriedly: "Well, I brought her home--and I told her: 'I can't be your husband, Marka; you are a strong girl, and I am a feeble, sick man. I didn't wish at all to marry you, but my father would force me to marry.' He was always saying to me, 'Get married! Get married!' I don't like women, I said: and you especially, you are too bold. Yes--and I can't have anything to do--with it. Do you understand? For me, it disgusts me, and it is a sin. And children--one is answerable to God for one's children."

"Disgusts," yells Sergei and laughs. "Well! and what did Marka reply? What?"

"She said, 'What shall I do now?' and then she began to cry. 'What have you got against me? Am I so dreadfully ugly?' She is shameless, Sergei, and wicked! 'With all this health and strength of mine, must I go to my father-in-law?' And I answered: 'If you like--go where you wish, but I can't act against my soul. If I had love for you, well and good; but being as it is, how is it possible? Father Ivan says it's the deadliest sin. We are not beasts, are we?' She went on crying: 'You have ruined my chances in life!' And I pitied her very much. 'It's nothing,' I said; 'things will come all right. Or,' I continued, 'you can go into a convent.' And she began to insult me. 'You are a stupid fool, Mitia! a coward!'"

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Creatures That Once Were Men
Maxim Gorky

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