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CHAPTER III






He was the first to wake, he looked round him uneasily, but at once regained his self-possession and stared at Gavrilo who was still asleep. He was sweetly snoring, and in his sleep smiled all over his childish, sun-burned healthy face. Chelkash sighed and climbed up the narrow rope-ladder. Through the port-hole he saw a leaden strip of sky. It was daylight, but a dreary autumn grayness.

Chelkash came back two hours later. His face was red, his mustaches were jauntily curled, a smile of good-humored gayety beamed on his lips. He was wearing a pair of stout high boots, a short jacket, and leather breeches, and he looked like a sportsman. His whole costume was worn, but strong and very becoming to him, making him look broader, covering up his angularity, and giving him a military air.

Hi, little calf, get up! He gave Gavrilo a kick.

Gavrilo started up, and, not recognizing him, stared at him in alarm with dull eyes. Chelkash chuckled.

Well, you do look Gavrilo brought out with a broad grin at last. Youre quite a gentleman!

We soon change. But, I say, youre easily scared! aye! How many times were you ready to die last night? eh? tell me!

Well, but just think, its the first time Ive ever been on such a job! Why one may lose ones soul for all ones life!

Well, would you go again? Eh?

Again? Wellthathow can I say? For what inducement? Thats the point!

Well, if it were for two rainbows?

Two hundred roubles, you mean? WellI might.

But I say! What about your soul?

Oh, wellmaybe one wouldnt lose it! Gavrilo smiled. One mightntand it would make a man of one for all ones life.

Chelkash laughed good-humoredly.

All right! thats enough joking. Lets row to land. Get ready!

Why, Ive nothing to do! Im ready.

And soon they were in the boat again, Chelkash at the rudder, Gavrilo at the oars. Above them the sky was gray, with clouds stretched evenly across it. The muddy green sea played with their boat, tossing it noisily on the waves that sportively flung bright salt drops into it. Far ahead from the boats prow could be seen the yellow streak of the sandy shore, while from the stern there stretched away into the distance the free, gambolling sea, all furrowed over with racing flocks of billows, decked here and there with a narrow fringe of foam.



Far away they could see numbers of vessels, rocking on the bosom of the sea, away on the left a whole forest of masts and the white fronts of the houses of the town. From that direction there floated across the sea a dull resounding roar, that mingled with the splash of the waves into a full rich music. And over all was flung a delicate veil of ash-colored mist, that made things seem far from one another.

Ah, therell be a pretty dance by evening! said Chelkash, nodding his head at the sea.

A storm? queried Gavrilo, working vigorously at the waves with his oars. He was already wet through from head to foot with the splashing the wind blew on him from the sea.

Aye, aye! Chelkash assented.

Gavrilo looked inquisitively at him, and his eyes expressed unmistakable expectation of something.

Well, how much did they give you? he asked, at last, seeing that Chelkash was not going to begin the conversation.

Look! said Chelkash, holding out to Gavrilo something he had pulled out of his pocket.

Gavrilo saw the rainbow-colored notes and everything danced in brilliant rainbow tints before his eyes.

I say! Why, I thought you were bragging! Thatshow much?

Five hundred and forty! A smart job!

Smart, yes! muttered Gavrilo, with greedy eyes, watching the five hundred and forty roubles as they were put back again in his pocket. Well, I never! What a lot of money! and he sighed dejectedly.

Well have a jolly good spree, my lad! Chelkash cried ecstatically. Eh, weve enough to. Never fear, mate, Ill give you your share. Ill give you forty, eh? Satisfied? If you like, Ill give it you now!



Ifyou dont mind. Well? I wouldnt say no!

Gavrilo was trembling all over with suspense and some other acute feeling that dragged at his heart.

Hahaha! Oh, you devils doll! Id not say no! Take it, mate, please! I beg you, indeed, take it! I dont know what to do with such a lot of money! You must help me out, take some, there!

Chelkash held out some red notes to Gavrilo. He took them with a shaking hand, let go the oars, and began stuffing them away in his bosom, greedily screwing up his eyes and drawing in his breath noisily, as though he had drunk something hot. Chelkash watched him with an ironical smile. Gavrilo took up the oars again and rowed nervously, hurriedly, keeping his eyes down as though he were afraid of something. His shoulders and his ears were twitching.

Youre greedy. Thats bad. But, of course, youre a peasant, Chelkash said musingly.

But see what one can do with money! cried Gavrilo, suddenly breaking into passionate excitement, and jerkily, hurriedly, as though chasing his thoughts and catching his words as they flew, he began to speak of life in the village with money and without money. Respect, plenty, independence gladness!

Chelkash heard him attentively, with a serious face and eyes filled with some dreamy thought. At times he smiled a smile of content. Here we are! Chelkash cried at last, interrupting Gavrilo.

A wave caught up the boat and neatly drove it onto the sand.

Come, mate, now its over. We must drag the boat up farther, so that it shouldnt get washed away. Theyll come and fetch it. Well, we must say good-bye! Its eight versts from here to the town. What are you going to do? Coming back to the town, eh?

Chelkashs face was radiant with a good-humoredly sly smile, and altogether he had the air of a man who had thought of something very pleasant for himself and a surprise to Gavrilo. Thrusting his hand into his pocket, he rustled the notes there.

NoI am not coming. I- Gavrilo gasped, and seemed choking with something. Within him there was raging a whole storm of desires, of words, of feelings, that swallowed up one another and scorched him as with fire.

Chelkash looked at him in perplexity.

Whats the matter with you? he asked.

Why But Gavrilos face flushed, then turned gray, and he moved irresolutely, as though he were half longing to throw himself on Chelkash, or half torn by some desire, the attainment of which was hard for him.

Chelkash felt ill at ease at the sight of such excitement in this lad. He wondered what form it would take.

Gavrilo began laughing strangely, a laugh that was like a sob. His head was downcast, the expression of his face Chelkash could not see; Gavrilos ears only were dimly visible, and they turned red and then pale.

Well, damn you! Chelkash waved his hand, Have you fallen in love with me, or what? One might think you were a girl! Or is parting from me so upsetting? Hey, suckling! Tell me, whats wrong? or else Im off!

Youre going! Gavrilo cried aloud.

The sandy waste of the shore seemed to start at his cry, and the yellow ridges of sand washed by the sea-waves seemed quivering. Chelkash started too. All at once Gavrilo tore himself from where he stood, flung himself at Chelkashs feet, threw his arms round them, and drew them toward him. Chelkash staggered; he sat heavily down on the sand, and grinding his teeth, brandished his long arm and clenched fist in the air. But before he had time to strike he was pulled up by Gavrilos shame-faced and supplicating whisper:

Friend! Give methat money! Give it me, for Christs sake! What is it to you? Why in one nightin only one night while it would take me a yearGive it meI will pray for you! Continuallyin three churchesfor the salvation of your soul! Why youd cast it to the windswhile Id put it into the land. O, give it me! Why, what does it mean to you? Did it cost you much? One nightand youre rich! Do a deed of mercy! Youre a lost man, you seeyou couldnt make your way while Ioh, give it to me!

Chelkash, dismayed, amazed, and wrathful, sat on the sand, thrown backward with his hands supporting him; he sat there in silence, rolling his eyes frightfully at the young peasant, who, ducking his head down at his knees, whispered his prayer to him in gasps. He shoved him away at last, jumped up to his feet, and thrusting his hands into his pockets, flung the rainbow notes at Gavrilo.

There, cur! Swallow them! he roared, shaking with excitement, with intense pity and hatred of this greedy slave. And as he flung him the money, he felt himself a hero. There was a reckless gleam in his eyes, an heroic air about his whole person.

Id meant to give you more, of myself. I felt sorry for you yesterday. I thought of the village. I thought: come, Ill help the lad. I was waiting to see what youd do, whether youd beg or not. While you!Ah, you rag! you beggar! To be able to torment oneself so for money! You fool. Greedy devils! Theyre beside themselves sell themselves for five kopecks! eh?

Dear friend! Christ have mercy on you! Why, what have I now! thousands!! Im a rich man! Gavrilo shrilled in ecstasy, all trembling, as he stowed away the notes in his bosom. Ah, you good man! Never will I forget you! Never! And my wife and my childrenIll bid them pray for you!

Chelkash listened to his shrieks and wails of ecstasy, looked at his radiant face that was contorted by greedy joy, and felt that he, thief and rake as he was, cast out from everything in life, would never be so covetous, so base, would never so forget himself. Never would he be like that! And this thought and feeling, filling him with a sense of his own independence and reckless daring, kept him beside Gavrilo on the desolate sea shore.

Youve made me happy! shrieked Gavrilo, and snatching Chelkashs hand, he pressed it to his face.

Chelkash did not speak; he grinned like a wolf. Gavrilo still went on pouring out his heart:

Do you know what I was thinking about? As we rowed here I sawthe moneythinks IIll give it himyouwith the oar one blow! the moneys mine, and into the sea with himyou, that iseh! Wholl miss him? said I. And if they do find him, they wont be inquisitive howand who it was killed him. Hes not a man, thinks I, that thered be much fuss about! Hes of no use in the world! Whod stand up for him? No, indeedeh?

Give the money here! growled Chelkash, clutching Gavrilo by the throat.

Gavrilo struggled away once, twice. Chelkashs other arm twisted like a snake about himthere was the sound of a shirt tearing and Gavrilo lay on the sand, with his eyes staring wildly, his fingers clutching at the air and his legs waving. Chelkash, erect, frigid, rapaciouslooking, grinned maliciously, laughed a broken, biting laugh, and his mustaches twitched nervously in his sharp, angular face.

Never in all his life had he been so cruelly wounded, and never had he felt so vindictive.

Well, are you happy now? he asked Gavrilo through his laughter, and turning his back on him he walked away in the direction of the town. But he had hardly taken two steps when Gavrilo, crouched like a cat on one knee, and with a wide sweep of his arm, flung a round stone at him, viciously, shouting:

Oone!

Chelkash uttered a cry, clapped his hands to the nape of his neck, staggered forward, turned round to Gavrilo, and fell on his face on the sand. Gavrilos heart failed him as he watched him. He saw him stir one leg, try to lift his head, and then stretch out, quivering like a bowstring. Then Gavrilo rushed fleeing away into the distance, where a shaggy black cloud hung over the foggy steppe, and it was dark. The waves whispered, racing up the sand, melting into it and racing back. The foam hissed and the spray floated in the air.

It began to rain, at first slightly, but soon a steady, heavy downpour was falling in streams from the sky, weaving a regular network of fine threads of water that at once hid the steppe and the sea. Gavrilo vanished behind it. For a long while nothing was to be seen but the rain and the long figure of the man stretched on the sand by the sea. But suddenly Gavrilo ran back out of the rain. Like a bird he flew up to Chelkash, dropped down beside him, and began to turn him over on the ground. His hand dipped into a warm, red stickiness. He shuddered and staggered back with a face pale and distraught.

Brother, get up! he whispered through the patter of the lain into Chelkashs ear.

Revived by the water on his face, Chelkash came to himself, and pushed Gavrilo away, saying hoarsely:

Getaway!

Brother! Forgive meit was the devil tempted me, Gavrilo whispered, faltering, as he kissed Chelkashs band.

Go along. Get away! he croaked.

Take the sin from off my soul! Brother! Forgive me!

Forgo away, do! Go to the devil! Chelkash screamed suddenly, and he sat up on the sand. His face was pale and angry, his eyes were glazed, and kept closing, as though he were very sleepy. What moredo you want? Youve doneyour joband go away! Be off! And he tried to kick Gavrilo away, as he knelt, overwhelmed, beside him, but he could not, and would have rolled over again if Gavrilo had not held him up, putting his arms round his shoulders. Chelkashs face was now on a level with Gavrilos. Both were pale, piteous, and terrible-looking.

Tfoo! Chelkash spat into the wide, open eyes of his companion.

Meekly Gavrilo wiped his face with his sleeve, and murmured:

Do as you will. I wont say a word. For Christs sake, forgive me!

Snivelling idiot! Even stealings more than you can do! Chelkash cried scornfully, tearing a piece of his shirt under his jacket, and without a word, clenching his teeth now and then, he began binding up his head. Did you take the notes? he filtered through his teeth.

I didnt touch them, brother! I didnt want them! theres ill-luck from them!

Chelkash thrust his hand into his jacket pocket, drew out a bundle of notes, put one rainbow-colored note back in his pocket, and handed all the rest to Gavrilo.

Take them and go!

I wont take them, brother. I cant! Forgive me!

T-take them, I say! bellowed Chelkash, glaring horribly.

Forgive me! Then Ill take them, said Gavrilo, timidly, and he fell at Chelkashs feet on the damp sand, that was being liberally drenched by the rain.

You lie, youll take them, sniveller! Chelkash said with conviction, and with an effort, pulling Gavrilos head up by the hair, he thrust the notes in his face.

Take them! take them! You didnt do your job for nothing, I suppose. Take it, dont be frightened! Dont be ashamed of having nearly killed a man! For people like me, no one will make much inquiry. Theyll say thank you, indeed, when they know of it. There, take it! No one will ever know what youve done, and it deserves a reward. Come, now!

Gavrilo saw that Chelkash was laughing, and he felt relieved. He crushed the notes up tight in his hand.

Brother! You forgive me? Wont you? Eh? he asked tearfully.

Brother of mine! Chelkash mimicked him as he got, reeling, on to his legs. What for? Theres nothing to forgive. To-day you do for me, to-morrow Ill do for you.

Oh, brother, brother! Gavrilo sighed mournfully, shaking his head.

Chelkash stood facing him, he smiled strangely, and the rag on his head, growing gradually redder, began to look like a Turkish fez.

The rain streamed in bucketsful. The sea moaned with a hollow sound, and the waves beat on the shore, lashing furiously and wrathfully against it.

The two men were silent.

Come, good-bye! Chelkash said, coldly and sarcastically.

He reeled, his legs shook, and he held his head queerly, as though he were afraid of losing it.

Forgive me, brother! Gavrilo besought him once more.

All right! Chelkash answered, coldly, setting off on his way.

He walked away, staggering, and still holding his head in his left hand, while he slowly tugged at his brown mustache with the right.

Gavrilo looked after him a long while, till the had disappeared in the rain, which still poured down in fine, countless streams, and wrapped everything in an impenetrable steel-gray mist.

Then Gavrilo took off his soaked cap, made the sign of the cross, looked at the notes crushed up in his hand, heaved a deep sigh of relief, thrust them into his bosom, and with long, firm strides went along the shore, in the opposite direction from that Chelkash had taken.

The sea howled, flinging heavy, breaking billows on the sand of the shore, and dashing them into spray, the rain lashed the water and the earth, the wind blustered. All the air was full of roaring, howling, moaning. Neither distance nor sky could be seen through the rain.

Soon the rain and the spray had washed away the red patch on the spot where Chelkash had lain, washed away the traces of Chelkash and the peasant lad on the sandy beach. And no trace was left on the seashore of the little drama that had been played out between two men.



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