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On A Raft Maxim Gorky

Chapter I

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"Come, come!" growled Sergei, anxiously watching his mate writhing on the deck, as if scorched with fire. "What a strange man! He ought to have told me if it was not--if it was not quite--"

"You've been torturing me all the way. Why? Am I your enemy?" Mitia sobbed again.

"You're a strange lad! a rum un!" murmured Sergei, confused and offended. "How could I know? I couldn't tell you'd take on like that!"

"Understand, then, that I want to forget! To forget for ever! My shame, my terrible torture. You're a cruel lot! I shall go away, and stay away for ever! I can't stand it any more!"

"Yes, be off with you!" cried Sergei across the raft, accentuating his exclamation with a loud and cynical curse. Then he seemed to shrink together, as if himself afraid of the terrible drama which was unfolding itself before him; drama, which he was now compelled to understand. . . .

"Hullo! There! I'm calling you! Are you deaf?" sounded up the river the voice of Silan. "What are you about there? What are you bawling about? Ahoy! Ahoy!"

It seemed as if Silan enjoyed shouting, and breaking the heavy silence of the river with his deep voice, full of strength and health. The cries succeeded each other, thrilling the warm, moist air, and seeming to crush down on Mitia's feeble form. He rose, and once more pressed his body against the steering pole. Sergei shouted in reply to the master with all his strength, and cursed him at the same time under his breath.

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The two voices broke through and filled the silence of the night. Then they seemed to meet in one deep note like the sound of a great horn. Once more rising to shrillness, they floated in the air, gradually sank away--and were lost.

Silence reigned once more.

Through the cleft clouds, on the dark water the yellow splashes of moonlight fell, and after glittering a moment disappeared, swept away in the moist gloom.

The raft continued on its way down stream amid silence and darkness.

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Creatures That Once Were Men
Maxim Gorky

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