Translated from the Russian by Leonard Stoklitsky
     Illustrated by Vitali Goryaev
     Валентин Катаев
     Original Russian title: Белеет парус одинокий
     На английском языке
     First printing 1954
     Printed in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics

     A Few Words About Myself
     1. The Farewell
     2. The Sea
     3. In the Steppe
     4. The Watering
     5. The Runaway
     6. The Turgenev
     7. The Photograph
     8. "Man Overboard!"
     9. Odessa by Night
     10. At Home
     11. Gavrik
     12. "Call That a Horse?"
     13. Madam Storozhenko
     14. "Lower Ranks"
     15. The Boat at Sea
     16. "Turret Gun, Shoot!"
     17. The Owner of the Shooting Gallery
     18. Questions and Answers
     19. A Pound and a Half of Rye Bread
     20. Morning
     21. Word of Honour
     22. Near Mills
     23. Uncle Gavrik
     24. Love
     25. "I Was Stolen"
     26. The Pursuit
     27. Grandpa
     28. Stubborn Auntie Tatyana
     29. The Alexandrovsky Police Station
     30. The Preparatory Class
     31. The Box on the Gun Carriage
     32. Fog
     33. Lugs
     34. In the Basement
     35. A Debt of Honour
     36. The Heavy Satchel
     37. The Bomb
     38. HQ of the Fighting Group
     39. The Pogrom
     40. The Officer's Uniform
     41. The Christmas Tree
     42. Kulikovo Field
     43. The Sail
     44. The May Day Outing
     45. A Fair Wind

     Looking  back  on my life, I  recall  to mind  some  episodes that were
instrumental in shaping my understanding of the writer's mission.
     The power of the  printed word was first really brought home to me when
I landed at  the front during  the First World War. I  mentally  crossed out
nearly  all  I  had written up  until  then and  resolved  that from  now on
everything I  write should benefit  the workers, peasants  and soldiers, and
all working people.
     In 1919,  when I  was  in the ranks of the  Red  Army and  was marching
shoulder  to  shoulder  with revolutionary  Red  Army men  against Denikin's
bands,  I vowed to myself that  I  would dedicate my pen to the cause of the
     Many Soviet  writers took  part in  the Civil War, and  their words and
their actions inspired the  fighting  men. Alexander Serafimovich was  a war
correspondent. Alexander  Fadeyev shared the privations  of the Far  Eastern
partisans. Dmitry Furmanov was the Commissar of Chapayev's division. Nikolai
Ostrovsky fought the interventionists in the Ukraine. Mikhail Sholokhov took
part in the fighting against Whiteguard  bands. Eduard Bagritsky went to the
front as  a member of a  travelling  propaganda team. More  than 400  Soviet
writers gave  their lives on the battlefronts of the Great Patriotic  War of
1941-45.  Their  names are inscribed  on  a  marble memorial  plaque in  the
Writers Club in Moscow.
     At the  time of  the Russian  revolution of 1905  I was just  a boy  of
eight, but  I clearly remember  the battleship Potemkin, a  red flag on  her
mast, sailing along the coast past Odessa. I witnessed  the fighting on  the
barricades, I saw overturned  horse-trams,  twisted and  torn  street wires,
revolvers, rifles, dead bodies.
     Many years later I  wrote A White Sail Gleams  (Written in 1936.-Ed.) a
novel  in which  I tried to convey  the  invigorating spirit  that  had been
infused into the life of Russia by her first revolution.
     A Son of the  Working People is a  reminiscence of the First World War,
in which I fought.
     When construction of  the Dnieper  hydroelectric power  station began I
went  there  together with  the  poet Demyan Bedny.  Afterwards  we  visited
collective farms in the Don and Volga areas and then set out for the Urals.
     I remember that when our train stopped at Mount Magnitnaya in the Urals
I was so impressed by what I saw that I decided  to leave the train at  once
and remain in the town of Magnitogorsk. I said good-bye to Demyan  Bedny and
jumped down from the carriage.
     "Good-bye and good luck!" he called  out. "If I were younger and didn't
have to get back to Moscow I'd stay here with pleasure."
     I was struck by  all I  saw in Magnitogorsk, by the great enthusiasm of
the  people building  for themselves. This was a revolution too. It inspired
my book Time, Forward! During the last war, as a correspondent at the front,
I saw a great deal, but for some reason  it was the youngsters that made the
biggest impression  on  me-the  homeless, destitute  boys who marched grimly
along the  war-torn roads.  I saw exhausted, grimy,  hungry Russian soldiers
pick  up  the  unfortunate children. This  was a manifestation of  the great
humanism of the  Soviet  man. Those soldiers  were fighting against fascism,
and therefore they, too, were beacons of the revolution. This prompted me to
write Son of the Regiment.
     When I look around today I see the fruits of the events of 1917, of our
technological  revolution, of the construction work at Magnitogorsk.  I  see
that my friends did not give their lives on the battlefronts in vain.
     What does being a Soviet writer mean? Here is how I got the answer.
     Returning  home one day,  a  long time  ago, I  found an envelope  with
foreign stamps on it  in my letter-box. Inside there was an  invitation from
the  Pen Club,  an international  literary association, to attend  its  next
conference, in  Vienna.  I  was  a  young  writer  then, and  I  was greatly
flattered. I told everyone I met about the remarkable  honour that  had been
accorded  me. When  I ran into Vladimir  Mayakovsky  in one of the editorial
offices  I showed him the  letter from abroad. He calmly produced an elegant
envelope exactly like mine from the pocket of his jacket.
     "Look," he said. "They invited  me too, but I'm not  boasting about it.
Because  they  did  not  invite  me,  of course,  as  Mayakovsky, but  as  a
representative  of  Soviet literature. The same applies to  you. Understand?
Reflect,  Kataich (as he called me when he was  in a good mood), on  what it
means to be a writer in the Land of Soviets."
     Mayakovsky's words made a lasting impression  on me. I realised that  I
owed by success  as  a  creative writer to the Soviet people, who had reared
me. I realised that being a  Soviet writer  means marching  in step with the
people, that it means being always on the crest of the revolutionary wave.
     In my short story The Flag, which is based  on a  wartime episode,  the
nazis  have surrounded a  group of Soviet fighting men and called on them to
give up.  But instead  of the white flag of  surrender they ran up a crimson
flag which they improvised from pieces of cloth of different shades of red.
     Similarly,  Soviet  literature  is  made up  of many works of different
shades  which,  taken  together,  shine  like  a  fiery-red  banner  of  the
     Once,  walking  round Shanghai  I  wandered into the  market  where the
so-called "Temple  of the City  Mayor"  stood. Here  they  sold  candles for
church-goers. An old Chinese woman was  standing at a table giving  out some
strange sticks from two vases. For ten yuans you were allowed to take one of
these sticks with hieroglyphics on  it. Then  the woman  would ask you  what
number page was marked on the stick, and turning  to her book for reference,
she would find the appropriate page, tear it out and  give it to  you. On my
piece  of paper was written: "The  Phoenix sings before the sun. The Empress
takes no notice. It is difficult to alter the will of the Empress,  but your
name will live for centuries."
     We haven't got an Empress,  and so that part of  the prophecy  does not
apply. It's highly  unlikely  that my name will  live for centuries, and  so
that part doesn't apply either.
     All that remains is  the phrase "The  Phoenix sings before  the sun". I
can agree with that since the sun is my homeland.

     Valentin Katayev


     The blast of the horn came from  the farmyard  at about five o'clock in
the morning.
     A  piercing,  penetrating sound  that  seemed  split  into  hundreds of
musical strands, it flew out through  the apricot orchard  into the deserted
steppe and towards the sea, where its rolling echo died mournfully along the
     That was the first signal for the departure of the coach.
     It was all over. The bitter hour of farewell had come.
     Strictly  speaking, there was no one to bid farewell to. The few summer
residents, frightened by recent events, had begun to leave in mid-season.
     The  only guests  now  remaining  at  the  farm were  Vasili  Petrovich
Batchei, an  Odessa schoolmaster, and  his two sons,  one  three  and a half
years old and  the  other eight and a half. The  elder was called Petya, and
the younger Pavlik. Today they too were leaving for home.
     It  was  for them the horn had been blown and the big black  horses led
out of the stable.
     Petya  woke  up  long  before  the  horn.  He  had slept  fitfully. The
twittering of the birds roused him, and he dressed and went outside.
     The  orchard,  the steppe, and the farmyard all lay in a  chill shadow.
The sun  was rising  out of  the sea, but the high  bluff still hid it  from
     Petya wore his city Sunday suit, which he had quite outgrown during the
summer: a navy-blue  woollen sailor  blouse with a white-edged collar, short
trousers, long lisle stockings, button-shoes, and a broad-brimmed straw hat.
     Shivering  from  the  cold,  he walked  slowly round  the farm,  saying
good-bye to the places where he had spent such a wonderful summer.
     All summer long Petya  had run about practically naked.  He  was now as
brown as  an Indian  and could walk barefoot over burrs  and thorns. He  had
gone swimming three times a day. At the beach he used to  smear himself from
head to  foot with the  red marine clay and  then scratch out designs on his
chest. That made him really look like a Red Indian, especially when he stuck
into his hair the  blue feathers of  those marvellously beautiful birds-real
fairy-tale birds-which built their  nests in the bluff.  And  now, after all
that wealth and  freedom, to  have to walk  about in a  tight woollen sailor
blouse, in prickly stockings, in shoes that pinched, and in a  big straw hat
with an elastic that rubbed against his ears and pressed into his neck!
     Petya  lifted his hat and pushed  it back so that  it  dangled  on  his
shoulders like a basket.
     Two fat ducks waddled past, quacking busily. They threw a look of scorn
at this foppish boy, as though he were a stranger, and then dived under  the
fence one after the other.
     Whether they had deliberately snubbed him or simply failed to recognise
him, Petya could  not  be  sure, yet  all  of  a sudden he felt  so  sad and
heavy-hearted that he wanted to cry.
     Straight  to his heart  cut the feeling that he was a complete stranger
in this cold and deserted world of early morning. Even the pit in the corner
of the  garden-the deep, wonderful pit  where  it was such  thrilling fun to
bake  potatoes  in  a  camp-fire-even  that  seemed   unbelievably  strange,
     The sun was rising higher.
     The farmyard and orchard  still lay in the shade, but the bright, cold,
early rays were already gilding the pink, yellow, and blue pumpkins set  out
on the reed roof of the clay hut where the watchman lived.
     The sleepy-eyed  cook, in a  homespun chequered skirt and  a  blouse of
unbleached linen  embroidered  in black and  red cross-stitch, with  an iron
comb in her dishevelled hair, was knocking yesterday's dead coals out of the
samovar, against the doorstep.
     Petya stood in  front of the cook watching  the string of beads jump up
and down on her old, wrinkled neck.
     "Going away?" she asked indifferently.
     "Yes," the boy replied. His voice shook.
     "Good luck to you."
     She went  over  to the water-barrel, wrapped the  hem of  her chequered
skirt round her hand, and pulled out the spigot.
     A thick stream  of water arched  out and  struck the  ground. Sparkling
round drops scattered, enveloping themselves in powdery grey dust.
     The  cook  set  the samovar under the stream. It moaned  as the  fresh,
heavy water poured into it.  No, not a  particle  of sympathy  from anybody!
There  was  the  same  unfriendly silence  and  the same  air of  desolation
everywhere-on the croquet square, in the meadow, in the arbour.
     Yet how gay and merry it had been here such a short while ago! How many
pretty girls and naughty  boys!  How  many  pranks, scenes,  games,  fights,
quarrels, peacemakings, kisses, friendships!
     What a wonderful party the  owner  of the farm,  Rudolf  Karlovich, had
given  for  the  summer  residents  on  the  birthday  of  his  wife,  Luiza
Frantsevna! Petya would never forget that celebration. In the morning a huge
table with bouquets of wild flowers on it  was set under the apricot  trees.
In the centre lay a cake as big as a bicycle wheel.
     Thirty-five lighted candles, by which one could tell Luiza Frantsevna's
age, had been stuck into that rich, thickly frosted cake.
     All the summer residents were  invited to morning tea under the apricot
     The  day continued as merrily as it  had begun. It ended in the evening
with a costume ball for the children, with music and fireworks.
     All  the children put on the fancy dress that  had been made for  them.
The  girls turned  into mermaids and Gipsies,  the  boys  into  Red Indians,
robbers, Chinese mandarins, sailors. They all wore splendid, bright-coloured
cotton or paper costumes.
     There  were  rustling  tissue-paper skirts and cloaks, artificial roses
swaying on wire stems, and tambourines with floating silk ribbons.
     Naturally-how could it be otherwise!-the very best costume was Petya's.
Father himself had spent two days  making it. His pince-nez kept falling off
his  nose while he worked; he was  nearsighted, and every time he  upset the
bottle of glue he muttered into his beard frightful curses at the people who
had arranged "this outrage" and generally  expressed his disgust with  "this
nonsensical idea".
     But of  course, he was  simply playing safe. He was afraid  the costume
might turn out a failure, he was afraid of disgracing himself. How he tried!
But then the costume-say what you will!-was a remarkable one.
     It was  a real  knight's  suit of  armour, made of  strips of gold  and
silver Christmas tree paper  cleverly pasted together  and stretched  over a
wire frame. The helmet was decorated with a flowing plume and looked exactly
like the helmet of a knight out of Sir Walter Scott. What is more, the visor
could be raised and lowered.
     In  short, it was so  magnificent that Petya  was placed beside Zoya to
make up the second couple. Zoya was the prettiest girl at  the farm, and she
wore the pink costume of a Good Fairy.
     Arm in arm they  walked round the  garden, which was hung  with Chinese
lanterns. Here and  there in the mysterious darkness loomed trees and bushes
unbelievably bright in the flare of red and green Bengal lights.
     In  the  arbour,  by  the  light  of candles  under glass  shades,  the
grown-ups had their supper. Moths flew to the light from all sides and fell,
singed, to the table-cloth.
     Four hissing rockets rose out of  the thick smoke  of the Bengal lights
and climbed slowly into the sky.
     There was  a moon,  too. Petya and Zoya discovered this fact only  when
they found themselves in the very farthest part of the  garden. Moonlight so
bright and magic shone through the leaves that even the whites of the girl's
eyes were a luminous blue-the same blue that danced in the tub of dark water
under the old apricot tree, in which a toy boat floated.
     Here, before  they knew it, the  boy and girl kissed. Then they were so
embarrassed that they dashed off headlong with wild shouts, and they ran and
ran until they landed in the backyard. There the farm labourers who had come
to congratulate the mistress were having their own party.
     On a pine table brought from the servants' kitchen stood a keg of beer,
two  jugs of vodka, a bowl  of fried fish, and a wheaten  loaf. The  drunken
cook,  in  a  new  print   blouse  with  frills,  was  angrily  serving  the
merry-makers  portions of fish  and filling their mugs. A concertina-player,
his coat unbuttoned and his knees  spread apart, swayed from side to side on
a  stool  as  his  fingers  rambled  over  the bass  keys  of  the  wheezing
     Two straight-backed  fellows with  impassive faces had taken each other
by the waist  and were  stamping out a polka, with  much  flourishing of the
heels. Several  women labourers in brand-new  kerchiefs and tight kid pumps,
their cheeks smeared with the juice of pickled tomatoes- for coquetry and to
soften the skin-stood with their arms round one another.
     Rudolf Karlovich and Luiza Frantsevna were backing away from one of the
     He was as drunk as  a lord.  Several  men  were  holding him  back.  He
strained to get free. Blood spurted from his nose on his Sunday shirt, which
was ripped down the middle. He was swearing furiously.
     Sobbing and choking over his frenzied words, and grinding his teeth the
way people do in their sleep, he shouted: "Three rubles and fifty kopeks for
two months  of slaving! Miser! Let me get at the bastard! Just let me get at
him! I'll choke  the life out of him!  Matches, somebody!  Let me get at the
straw! I'll give them  a birthday party! If only Grishka  Kotovsky was here,
you rat!"
     (Grigori Kotovsky (1887-1925) was  active in the agrarian  movement  in
Bessarabia  in  1905-1906; he  was  a leader  of the  Bessarabian  peasants'
partisan actions against the landowners. In 1918-1920 this son of the people
was an army leader and Civil War hero.-Tr.)
     The moonlight gleamed in his rolling eyes.
     "Now, now," muttered the master,  backing away. "You look out, Gavrila.
Don't go too far. You can be hanged nowadays for that sort of talk."
     "Go ahead, hang  me!" the labourer shouted, panting. "Why don't you? Go
ahead, bloodsucker!"
     This was so terrifying, so puzzling,  and, above all, so out of keeping
with  the  spirit of  the  wonderful  party, that  the  children  ran  back,
screaming that Gavrila wanted to cut Rudolf Karlovich's  throat and set fire
to the farm.
     The panic that broke out is difficult to imagine.
     The parents led the children to  their rooms. They locked all the doors
and  closed all  the  windows,  as though a  storm  were brewing. The  rural
prefect Chuvyakov, who had come to spend a few days with his family, marched
across the  croquet square,  kicking out  the hoops and scattering the balls
and mallets.
     He carried a double-barrelled gun at the ready.
     In  vain did  Rudolf Karlovich  plead with  the  summer residents to be
calm. In vain did he assure them that there was no danger,  that Gavrila was
now bound and locked up in the cellar, and that tomorrow the constable would
come for him.
     Once, in the night, a red glow lit up the  sky far over the steppe. The
next morning it was rumoured that a neighbouring farm had  been burned down.
Labourers had set it on fire, it was said.
     People coming from Odessa reported disturbances in the city. There were
rumours that the trestle bridge in the port was on fire.
     The constable arrived at dawn the next morning. He led Gavrila away. In
his sleep Petya heard the bells of the constable's troika.
     The summer residents began to leave for home.
     Soon the farm was deserted.
     Petya  lingered under the old apricot tree, beside the tub of such fond
memory, and struck the water  with  a twig. No, the tub wasn't the same, the
water wasn't the same, and even the old apricot tree was not the same!
     Everything, absolutely everything, had become different. Everything had
lost its magic. Everything looked at Petya as out of the remote past.
     Would the sea also be so cold and heartless to him this last time?
     Petya ran to the bluff.

     THE SEA

     The low sun beat blindingly into  his eyes. Below,  the entire sweep of
the sea was like burning magnesium. Here the steppe ended suddenly.
     Silvery bushes of wild olive quivered in the shimmering air at the edge
of the bluff.
     A steep path zigzagged  downwards. Petya was  used to running down  the
path barefoot. His shoes bothered him; the soles were slippery. His feet ran
of themselves. It was impossible to stop them.
     Until the first turn he still managed to resist the pull of gravity. He
dug in his  heels and clutched  at the dry roots hanging over  the path. But
the roots were rotten and they broke. The clay crumbled beneath his heels. A
cloud of dust as fine and brown as cocoa enveloped him.
     The dust got into his nose; it tickled his  throat. Petya very soon had
enough of that. Oh, he'd risk it!
     He cried out at the top of his  lungs,  and,  with a wave of his  arms,
plunged headlong.
     His hat filled  with air and bobbed up  and down behind him. His collar
fluttered  in the wind.  Burrs stuck to his stockings. After frightful leaps
down the huge steps of  the natural stairway, the boy  suddenly flew  out on
the dry sand of the shore. The sand felt cold; it had not yet been warmed by
the sun. This sand was amazingly white and fine. It  was  deep, soft, marked
all over with the shapeless holes of yesterday's footprints, and looked like
semolina of the very best quality.
     The  beach  slanted almost  imperceptibly towards  the  water. The last
strip of sand, lapped by broad tongues of snow-white  foam,  was damp, dark,
and smooth; it was firm, easy to walk on.
     This was the most wonderful beach in the world, stretching for about  a
hundred  miles  under the bluffs  from Karolino-Bugaz  to  the  mouth of the
Danube, then the border  of Rumania. At that  early hour it  seemed wild and
     The sensation of loneliness gripped Petya with new force. But this time
it was quite different; it was a proud and manly kind of  loneliness. He was
Robinson Crusoe on his desert island.
     The first  thing  Petya  did was to study the  footprints. He  had  the
experienced, penetrating eye of a seeker after adventures.
     He was surrounded by footprints. He read them as though he were reading
Mayne Reid.
     The black spot on the  face of the bluff and the grey ashes meant  that
natives had landed from a canoe the  night before and had cooked a meal over
a camp-fire. The fan-like tracks of gulls meant  a dead calm at sea and lots
of small fish near the shore.
     The  long cork with a French trademark and  the bleached slice of lemon
thrown  up  on  the sand by the waves left no doubt that a foreign ship  had
sailed by far out at sea several days before.
     Meanwhile  the  sun had climbed a bit higher above the horizon. Now the
sea no longer shone all over but only in two  places: in a long strip at the
very  horizon and  in  another near the shore, where  a dozen blinding stars
flashed  in the  mirror of the waves as they stretched themselves out neatly
on the sand.
     Over the rest of its vast expanse the sea shone in the August calm with
such  a  tender  and  such  a  melancholy blue  that  Petya  could  not help
     A white sail gleams, so far and lonely,
     Through the blue haze above the foam. . .

     although  there was no  sail  in -sight  and  the sea wasn't  the least
     He gazed spellbound at the sea.
     . . . No matter how long you look at the sea, you never tire of it. The
sea is always different, always new.
     It changes from hour to hour, before your very eyes.
     Now it is pale-blue and quiet, streaked here and there with the whitish
paths you  see during a calm. Or a vivid dark-blue, flaming and  glistening.
Or  covered with dancing  white horses. Or, if  the wind  is fresh, suddenly
dark indigo  and looking  like wool when you run  your hand against the nap.
When  a storm  breaks, it  changes threateningly.  The wind whips up a great
swell.  Screaming  gulls dart  across the  slate-coloured  sky. The churning
waves roll and toss the shiny carcass of a dead dolphin along the shore. The
sharp  green  of  the  horizon  stands out  like  a  jagged  wall  over  the
mud-coloured storm clouds. The malachite panels of the breakers, veined with
sweeping zigzag lines, crash against the shore  with  the thunder of cannon.
Amid the roar, the echoes reverberate with a brassy ring. The spray hangs in
a  fine  mist,  like a muslin  veil, all the way to the  top  of  the shaken
     But the supreme  spell of the sea lies in the eternal mystery hidden in
its expanses.
     Is not its phosphorescence  a mystery-when you  dip  your arm  into the
warm black water on a moonless July night and see it suddenly gleam all over
with  blue dots? Or  the  moving lights of unseen ships  and the slow  faint
flashes pf an unknown beacon? Or the grains of  sand, too many for the human
mind to grasp?
     . . . And  finally, was not the sight of  the  revolutionary battleship
which once appeared far out at sea, full of mystery?
     Its  appearance was preceded by a  fire in the port of Odessa. The glow
could  be seen forty miles  away. At once  rumours  spread  that the trestle
bridge was burning.
     Then the word Potemkin was spoken.

     (A  battleship of the Black Sea  Fleet whose  sailors mounted a  heroic
revolt in 1905  and  went  over to the side of the revolution. Warships were
dispatched to put  down the revolt, but the sailors of these vessels refused
to fire on the insurgents. However, the  red flag did not wave from the mast
of the Potemkin for long. The absence of a united leadership of the  revolt,
and the shortage of provisions and coal compelled the sailors to surrender.
     The  revolt  of  the  battleship  Potemkin  played  a  role of  immense
importance in the development of the Russian revolutionary movement.-Tr.)

     Several  times the  revolutionary battleship,  solitary and mysterious,
appeared on the horizon in sight of the Bessarabian shore.
     The farm labourers would  drop  their work and come out to the bluff to
catch a glimpse of the distant thread of smoke. Sometimes they  thought they
saw it. They would snatch off their caps and shirts and wave them furiously,
greeting the insurgents.
     But  Petya, to tell the truth, could not make out a thing in the desert
vastness of the sea, no matter how much he screwed up his eyes.
     Except once. Through a spyglass which he  had begged for a minute  from
another  boy, he made out  the light-green silhouette of the three-funnelled
battleship flying a red flag at its mast.
     The ship was speeding westward, in the direction of Rumania.
     The next day a  lowering cloud  of smoke  spread out along the horizon.
That was the whole of the Black Sea squadron in pursuit of the Potemkin.
     Fishermen who sailed  up in their big black boats from the mouth of the
Danube brought the rumour  that  the Potemkin had reached Constantsa,  where
she had to surrender to the  Rumanian  government. Her crew  went ashore and
scattered in all directions.
     At dawn one  morning, after several more days of alarm, a line of smoke
again covered the horizon.
     That was the Black Sea squadron returning from Constantsa to Sevastopol
with the captured insurgent in tow, as if on a lariat.
     Deserted, without  her crew, her  engines flooded, her  flag  of revolt
lowered, the Potemkin, surrounded by  a close  convoy of smoke, moved slowly
ahead,  dipping  ponderously in the swell.  It took the  ship a long time to
pass the  high  bluffs of Bessarabia,  where her  progress  was  followed in
silence by  the farmhands, border guards, fishermen. . . . They stood  there
looking until the entire squadron disappeared from view.
     Again  the  sea  became as  calm and gentle as though blue oil had been
poured over it.
     Meanwhile  details of mounted police had appeared on  the steppe roads.
They had  been  sent  to  the Rumanian border to capture the runaway sailors
from the Potemkin.
     . . . Petya decided to have a last quick swim.
     But no sooner had he  taken a  running  dive  into the sea and begun to
swim on his side, cleaving  the cool  water with  his smooth brown shoulder,
than he forgot everything in the world.
     First he swam across the deep spot near the shore to the sand-bank.
     There he stood up and  began to walk about knee-deep in the transparent
water, examining the sandy bottom with its distinct fish-scale pattern.
     At first glance the bottom  seemed uninhabited.  But a good close  look
revealed  living  things.  Moving  across  the  wrinkles  of  the sand,  now
appearing, now burying themselves, were  tiny hermit crabs. Petya picked one
up  from  the  bottom  and  skilfully  pulled  the  crab-it  even  had  tiny
nippers!-out of its shell.
     Girls  liked to string those  little  shells on twine. They  made  fine
necklaces. But men didn't go in for that sort of thing.
     Then Petya caught sight of a jellyfish and went after it. The jellyfish
hung  like a transparent  lamp-shade, with  a  fringe  of  tentacles just as
transparent.  It seemed to hang  motionless-but  that was not really so. The
thin blue gelatinous margin of the thick cupola was  breathing and rippling,
like the edge of a parachute. The tentacles stirred too. The jellyfish moved
slantwise towards the bottom, as though sensing danger.
     But  Petya caught up  with it.  Carefully,  so  as  not  to  touch  the
poisonous  edge which stung like nettles, he picked the jellyfish out of the
water with both hands,  by its cupola.  Then he flung its weighty but flimsy
body to the shore.
     The  jellyfish flew through the air, dropping some of  its tentacles on
the  way, and then slapped against the  wet sand. The sun immediately flared
up in its slime like a silver star.
     With a cry  of delight Petya plunged from the  sandbank  into the  deep
water and took to his favourite sport: swimming underwater with eyes open.
     What rapture!
     Before the boy's enchanted gaze there spread the wonderful world of the
submarine kingdom.  Clearly visible,  and  enlarged as  if  by  a magnifying
glass, were  pebbles of all colours.  They made a cobble stoned  road of the
sea bed.
     The stems of the sea plants were a fairy-tale forest shot  through with
the cloudy green rays of a sun now as pale as the moon.
     A  huge old  crab  was scampering along sidewise  among  the roots, his
terrifying claws spread out like horns. On his spider-like legs  he  carried
the bulging box that was his back; it was dotted with white stony warts.
     Petya wasn't the  least scared. He knew how to deal with crabs. You had
to pick them up boldly, by the back, with two  fingers.  Then  they couldn't
     But  he  was  not  interested  in the  crab.  Let  it  crawl  along  in
peace-crabs were no great rarity. The whole beach was strewn with their  dry
claws and red shells.
     Sea horses were much more interesting.
     Just then a small school of them appeared among the seaweed. With their
chiselled faces and chests they looked for all the world like chess knights,
except  that  they  had tails, curled  forward. They swam, standing upright,
straight  at Petya, spreading out  their webbed  fins  like tiny  underwater
     It was clear they had never expected to run into a hunter at that early
     Petya's  heart  leaped with  joy.  He  had  only  one sea  horse in his
collection, and a wrinkled old creature it was. These were big and handsome,
every single one of them.
     To let such a rare opportunity slip by would be sheer madness.
     Petya rose to the surface to fill his lungs and start the hunt at once.
But all of a sudden he caught sight of Father at the edge of the bluff.
     He was waving his straw hat and shouting.
     The bluff was so high  and  the voice made such a hollow  echo that all
Petya caught was a rolling ". . . ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh!. . ."
     But he understood  very well  what that  "ooh-ooh-ooh" meant. It meant:
"Where did you disappear  to, you rascal? I've been looking for you all over
the farm. The  coach is  waiting. Do you want us to miss the boat because of
you? Get out of the water at once, you good-for-nothing!"
     Father's voice brought back to Petya the bitter feeling of parting with
which  he had awakened  in  the  morning.  He  lifted  his  voice in  such a
desperate shout that it made his ears ring: "I'm coming! I'm coming!"
     ". . . ming-ming-ming!" the bluffs echoed.
     Petya pulled on  his suit right over  his  wet  body-very pleasant that
was, too, if the truth be told-and hurried up the bluff.


     The  coach  already stood in the road, in front of the gate. The driver
had climbed up on a wheel and was tying  to the roof the canvas camp beds of
the departing  summer  residents and also round  baskets of blue  egg-plants
which  the  farm  owner,  taking  advantage of the  occasion, was sending to
     Little  Pavlik, dressed  for  the  journey in a new blue pinafore and a
stiffly-starched  pique  hat that  looked  like a jelly-mould,  stood  at  a
prudent distance from the horses. He was making a deep and detailed study of
their harness.
     He  was amazed beyond words to find that this harness -the real harness
of real live horses-was totally unlike  the harness of his  beautiful papier
mache horse, Kudlatka. (Kudlatka, who had not been taken to the country, was
now awaiting her master in Odessa.)
     The shopkeeper who sold them Kudlatka had probably got something wrong!
     At any rate, he had to remember to ask Daddy as  soon as they came home
to cut out a pair of those lovely black things for the eyes and sew them on.
     At the thought  of Kudlatka, Pavlik felt  a twinge of anxiety. How  was
she getting along  in the  attic without him? Was Auntie  Tatyana giving her
hay and  oats? The mice  hadn't  chewed off her tail, had they? True,  there
wasn't much  of a  tail left-two or three hairs and an  upholstery nail, but
still. . . .
     Then, in a fit of impatience, Pavlik stuck his tongue out of the corner
of his mouth and ran off to the house to hurry Daddy and Petya.
     But worried though he was about the fate of Kudlatka, he did  not for a
moment forget about his  new travelling-bag, which hung  across his shoulder
on a strap. He held it tight with both his little hands.
     For in that bag, besides  a bar  of chocolate and a few Capitain  salty
biscuits, lay his chief treasure, a moneybox made out of an Ainem Cocoa tin.
Here Pavlik kept the money he was saving to buy a bicycle.
     He had put aside quite a sum already: about thirty-eight or thirty-nine
     Now Daddy and Petya were coming towards the coach after their breakfast
of grey wheaten bread and milk still warm from the cow.
     Under his arm Petya  carefully  carried his treasures: a jar of  needle
fish preserved in alcohol and a collection of butterflies,  beetles, shells,
and crabs.
     All three bid a warm farewell to their  hosts, who had come to the gate
to see them off. Then they climbed into the coach and set out.
     The road skirted the farm.
     Its water pail rattling, the coach rolled along  past the orchard, past
the  arbour,  and past the cattle  and poultry yards. Finally it reached the
garman, the  level, well-stamped platform where  the grain  is  threshed and
winnowed. In Central Russia this platform is called a tok, but in Bessarabia
it is a garman.
     The  straw  world   of  the  garman  began  just  beyond  the  roadside
embankment,  overgrown with bushes of grey, dusty scratch weed on which hung
thousands of tear-shaped yellowish-red berries.
     There was a whole town of  old and new  straw ricks as big as houses, a
town with real streets, lanes, and blind alleys. Here and  there, beside the
layered and  blackened walls of very old  straw, shoots of wheat broke their
way through the firm and seemingly cast-iron earth; they glowed like emerald
wicks, amazingly clear and bright.
     Thick opalescent smoke poured from the chimney of  the steam-engine. An
unseen thresher whined persistently. The small figures of peasant women with
pitchforks were walking knee-deep in wheat on top of a new rick.
     The wheat on the pitchforks cast  gliding shadows against the clouds of
chaff pierced by the slanting rays of the sun.
     Sacks, scales, and weights flashed by.
     Then  a  tall  mound of newly threshed wheat  covered with  a tarpaulin
floated past.
     After that the coach rolled out into the open steppe.
     In a word,  at first everything was the same as in the other years. The
flat,  deserted  fields of  stubble stretching on  all sides for  dozens  of
miles. The lone  burial mound. The lilac-coloured immortelles  gleaming like
mica. The marmot sitting beside his burrow. The piece of rope looking like a
crushed snake. . . .
     But suddenly  a  cloud  of  dust  appeared ahead. A  police detail  was
galloping down the road.
     The coach stopped.
     One of the horsemen rode up.
     Behind the  green shoulder  strap with a number on it  bobbed the short
barrel of a carbine. A dusty forage cap, worn at a slant, also bobbed up and
down. The saddle creaked and gave off a strong hot smell of leather.
     The snorting muzzle of the horse came  to a stop  at  a level with  the
open window.  Big  teeth  chewed  at  the white iron bit.  Grassy-green foam
dripped from the black rubbery lips. Out of the delicate pink nostrils a hot
steamy breath poured over the three passengers.
     The black lips stretched towards Petya's straw hat.
     "Who's that inside?" a rough military voice shouted somewhere overhead.
     "Summer residents.  I'm taking  them to  the boat."  The  driver  spoke
quickly,  in an unrecognisably  thin and  sugary  voice. "They're bound  for
Akkerman and then straight  to Odessa by boat. They've been living on a farm
out here all  summer. Ever since the beginning of June. Now they're on their
way home."
     "Well, let's have a look at 'em."
     With these  words a red face with yellow moustaches  and eyebrows and a
close-shaven chin, and above it a cap with  an oval badge on  a  green band,
appeared at the window.
     "Who are you?"
     "Holiday-makers," said Father, smiling.
     The soldier evidently  did not  like the  smile  or  that  breezy  word
"holiday-makers", which sounded to him like a jeer.
     "I  can see  you're holiday-makers," he  said  with  rough displeasure.
"That don't tell me anything. Just what kind of holiday-makers are you?"
     Father turned pale with indignation. His jaw began to  quiver, and  his
little beard quivered too. He buttoned  all the buttons of  his summer  coat
with trembling fingers and adjusted his pince-nez.
     "How  dare you  speak to me in that tone of voice?" he cried in a sharp
falsetto. "I am  Collegiate Counsellor Batchei,  a high  school teacher, and
these are my two children, Peter and Paul. Our destination is Odessa."
     Pink spots broke out on Father's forehead.
     "Excuse  me,  Your Honour,"  the soldier said  smartly,  his pale  eyes
popping out of his head. He saluted with his whip hand. "I didn't know."
     He  looked as if  he had been  frightened  to death by  the "Collegiate
Counsellor", a grim-sounding title he probably had never heard before.
     "To  the devil with him!" he thought. "He might land me in hot water. I
might get it in the neck."
     He put the spurs to his horse and galloped off.
     "What an idiot!"  Petya  remarked, when the soldiers  had ridden  off a
good distance.
     Father again lost his temper. "Hold your tongue! How many  times have I
told you you mustn't dare say that word! People  who regularly use  the word
'idiot' are usually themselves-er-none too clever. Remember that."
     At any other time, of course, Petya would have  argued, but now he kept
his peace.
     He knew Father's state of mind perfectly.
     Father, who always spoke of titles and medals with scornful irritation,
who never wore his formal uniform or his Order of St. Anna, Third Class, who
never recognised any social privileges and insisted that all the inhabitants
of  Russia were no more and no less than "citizens",  had suddenly, in a fit
of anger, said God knows what. And to whom! To an ordinary soldier.
     "High school teacher"  .. . "Collegiate Counsellor" . . . "How dare you
speak to me in that tone of voice". . . .
     "Ugh, what  nonsense!"  Petya  read in  Father's embarrassed face. "For
     Meanwhile, in the general excitement, the driver had lost the  thong of
his whip; this always happened  on long journeys. He  was now walking  along
the road  and  poking  with the  whip-handle  among  the  grey,  dust-coated
     At last he  found the thong. He tied  it  to the  handle and pulled the
knot with his teeth.
     "Damn their souls!" he exclaimed as he came up to the  coach. "All they
do is ride up and down the roads and scare people."
     "What do they want?" Father asked.
     "God only knows. Hunting after somebody, no doubt. Day before yesterday
somebody  set fire  to landlord Balabanov's farm, about thirty  versts  from
here. They  say it  was  a runaway sailor from the Potemkin did it.  And now
they're looking for that runaway sailor high and low. They say he's taken to
cover somewhere in the steppe hereabouts. What a business! Well, time to get
     With these  words he climbed to his high box and took up the reins. The
coach moved on.
     The morning was as fine as ever, but now everybody's mood was spoiled.
     In this  wonderful world  of the deep-blue sky  with its wild droves of
white-maned clouds, this  world of lilac shadows running in waves from mound
to mound over the steppe grasses, in  which a horse's  skull  or a bullock's
horns might  be sighted at any moment, a  world created, it would  seem, for
the sole purpose of man's joy and  happiness- in this world, obviously,  not
all was well.
     Such were the thoughts of Father, the driver, and Petya.
     Pavlik, however, was occupied with thoughts of his own.
     His  attentive brown eyes were fixed on a point beyond  the window, and
his round, cream-coloured little  forehead, with the neat bang sticking  out
from under his hat, was knitted.
     "Daddy," he  said  suddenly, without taking his eyes from  the  window.
"Daddy, what's the Tsar?"
     "What's the Tsar? I don't follow you."
     "Well, what is he?"
     "Hm. . . . A man."
     "No, not that. I know he's a man. Don't you see? I  mean not a man, but
what is he? Understand?"
     "No, I can't say that I do."
     "I mean, what is he?"
     "Ye Gods! What is he? Well, the crowned sovereign, if you like."
     "Crowned? What with?"
     Father gave Pavlik a severe look. "Wha-a-t?"
     "If he's crowned, then what with? Don't you see? What with?"
     "Stop talking nonsense!" Father said. He turned away angrily.


     At  about  ten  o'clock  in  the  morning  they  stopped   in  a  large
half-Moldavian, half-Ukrainian village to water the horses.
     Father took Pavlik by  the hand and  went off to buy some  cantaloupes.
Petya remained near the horses. He wanted to see them being watered.
     The  horses which had pulled the  big  lumbering coach were led  by the
driver to the well; it was the kind known as a "crane-well".
     The  driver stuck his whip into his boot-top and  took hold of the long
pole that hung vertically and had a heavy oak bucket attached  by a chain to
the end. Moving one hand over  the other up the pole, he  lowered the bucket
into the well.  The sweep creaked.  Its top end swung  down, as if trying to
peep into the well, while the other end,  which had a large porous rock tied
to it as a counterweight, glided upwards.
     Petya flattened himself against the  edge of the well  and looked  down
into it as if it were a telescope.
     The shaft was round,  and its stone lining was covered with  dark-brown
velvety mould. It  was very deep. In the cold  darkness  at the bottom there
gleamed a tiny circle  of  water in which  Petya saw his hat reflected  with
photographic distinctness.
     He  shouted.  The  well filled with a  resounding roar, the way a  clay
pitcher does.
     Down and down and down the bucket went. It became  altogether tiny, but
still it did not reach the water. Finally a faint splash sounded. The bucket
sank into the water, gurgled, and then began to rise.
     Heavy  drops slapped  down  into the water,  making  noises  like  caps
     The pole, polished by  countless hands to the smoothness of glass, took
a long time to rise. At last the wet chain appeared. The sweep  creaked  for
the last time. The driver seized the  heavy bucket with his strong hands and
emptied it into the stone trough.
     But first  he drank out of  the bucket himself. Then  Petya drank. That
was the most thrilling moment in the whole procedure of watering the horses.
     The  water was  as transparent  as could be, and as  cold as ice. Petya
dipped his nose and chin into it. The inside of the bucket was coated with a
beard  of  green slime.  The  bucket  and the  slime  had  an  almost  weird
fascination.  There  was  something very,  very  old  about them,  something
reminding him  of the forest, of the Russian  fairy-tale  about  the  wooden
mill,  the Miller who  was  a sorcerer, the deep  mill-pond,  and  the  Frog
     Petya's  forehead  immediately began to ache from the ice water. But it
was a hot day, and he knew that the ache would soon pass.
     He also knew for certain that about eight or ten buckets were needed to
water the horses. That would take at least half an  hour. Plenty of time for
a stroll.
     He  carefully picked his way  through the mud  near  the  trough-mud as
black as boot-polish and indented with hog tracks. Then he followed a gutter
across a meadow strewn with goose down.
     The gutter brought him to a bog overgrown with a  tall forest of reeds,
sedge and weeds.
     Here  cool  twilight  reigned even  when  the sun was  its highest  and
brightest. A rush of heady odours struck Petya's nostrils.
     The sharp odour of sedge mingled  with the sweet and nutty smell of the
headache shrubs, which actually did make your head ache.
     The shrubs were sharp-leafed and covered with blackish-green bolls with
fleshy  prickles and  long smelly  flowers that were remarkably delicate and
remarkably white. Beside  them grew nightshade,  henbane, and the mysterious
     On  the  path sat  a  big  frog, its eyes  closed  as  though  it  were
bewitched. Petya tried with all his might to keep from looking at  the frog:
he was afraid he might see a little golden crown on its head.
     For that matter, the  whole place seemed bewitched, like the forests in
     Surely somewhere  nearby wandered  the slender,  large-eyed Alyonushka,
weeping bitterly over her brother Ivanushka. . ..
     And if a little white  lamb had suddenly  run out from  the thicket and
bleated in a thin baby voice, Petya certainly would have been frightened out
of his wits.
     The boy  decided not  to think  about the  little lamb. But the more he
tried not to, the more he did. And the more he did, the more  he was  afraid
to be alone in the black greenness of this bewitched place.
     He  screwed up his eyes as tight as he could, to keep  from crying out,
and fled from the poisonous thicket. He did not stop running  until he found
himself at the backyard of a small farm.
     Behind the wattle fence, on the stakes of which hung a whole collection
of  clay  pitchers,  Petya saw  a  pleasant  little  garman, its small arena
covered  with wheat fresh  from the fields. In the middle of it stood a girl
of about eleven in a long gathered  skirt, a short print  blouse with puffed
sleeves, and a kerchief that came down to her eyes.
     She stood there shielding her eyes against the sun  with her  elbow and
shifting  her bare  feet  as she drove round the circle, by a long rope, two
horses harnessed one ahead of  the other. Scattering the  straw lightly with
their hoofs, the horses pulled a ribbed stone roller over the thick layer of
shining wheat. The roller bounced heavily but noiselessly.
     A  wide board, bent  upward in  front like  a  ski,  dragged behind the
     Petya knew that the bottom of the board was  fitted with a lot of sharp
yellow flints which  did an especially good job of knocking the grain out of
the ears.
     The board  slid  along quickly. On it stood a lad of Petya's age, in  a
faded shirt unbuttoned at the collar, and a cap with the  peak over one ear;
he had a hard time keeping his balance, but he did it with a dashing air, as
though he were sliding downhill standing up on a toboggan.
     At his feet a tiny fair-haired girl sat on her  haunches, like a mouse;
with  both her  hands she kept a  convulsive  grip  on  one of her brother's
     Round  the circle  ran an  old  man, stirring the wheat  with  a wooden
pitchfork and throwing it under the horses' feet. The circle  kept spreading
out, and an old woman was shaping it with a long paddle.
     A  short distance  away, near  the rick, a woman with a face black from
the sun  and with arms as veined as a man's was labouring away at the handle
of  the winnower, as if it were a  hurdy-gurdy.  Red blades flashed  in  the
round opening of the drum.
     The wind carried a shining cloud of chaff out of the winnowing machine.
Like light, airy muslin it settled on the ground  and on the tall  weeds; it
floated  to the  vegetable garden where  a scarecrow in a torn cap-it  was a
nobleman's cap, with a red band-spread its  rags over the dry leaves of ripe
yellow-red steppe tomatoes.
     It was clear that the whole peasant family, with the exception  of  its
head, was at work on  this small garman. The  head of the family, of course,
was at  the war  in Manchuria, and quite likely  at that very  moment he was
crouching in  a field of kaoliang while the Japanese were  firing shimose at
     The people here were  poor, and  their threshing was on  a small scale,
not at all like the rich, noisy,  busy threshing  Petya was accustomed to at
the other  farm. But he  found  this simple scene fascinating  too. He would
have  liked very much, for  one thing, to take a ride on the  board with the
flints, or, at least, to  turn the handle of the winnower. At any other time
he surely would have asked the boy to take  him  along on the board, but the
pity of it was that he had to hurry.
     He went back.
     Petya was never to forget the simple, touching details of that  picture
of peasant labour:  the glint  of the new straw; the neatly whitewashed back
wall  of the clay  hut, and  beside it the rag  dolls  and the little  dried
gourds called  tarakutski, the  only toys of  peasant  children; and on  the
ridge of the reed roof, a  stork  standing on one leg next to his large  and
carelessly built nest.
     Especially clear was the picture he carried away of the stork, with its
tight-fitting little  jacket and pique  vest, its red walking stick of a leg
(the  other leg was bent under and not  to be seen at all), and the long red
beak that made a wooden click, like a night watchman's rattle.
     In front  of  a  cottage  with  a  blue notice  board  reading  "Volost
Administration", three saddled  cavalry horses  were  hitched  to  the porch
     A soldier in  dusty  boots, with a sword between his  knees, sat on the
steps  in the shade  smoking a cigarette made  of  coarse  tobacco rolled in
     "I say there, what are you doing here?" Petya asked him.
     The soldier lazily surveyed  the city boy from head to foot and ejected
a long stream of yellow spittle through  his teeth. "Hunting down a sailor,"
he said indifferently.
     What kind  of mysterious and terrible man is this sailor who  is hiding
somewhere in the steppe nearby, who sets fire to farms and whom soldiers are
hunting?  Petya wondered as he walked down  the hot, deserted street back to
the well. What if that dreadful highwayman attacked coaches?
     Naturally, Petya did  not mention his fears  to  Father and Pavlik. Why
make them worry? But he himself, naturally, would keep a lookout. And  to be
on the safe side he shoved his collections farther back under the seat.
     As  soon  as  the coach started up the hill  he  glued his face  to the
window and  anxiously scanned  the roadside, expecting to see the highwayman
pop out at every turn.
     He was firmly resolved  to stick to his post  all the way to town, come
what may.
     Meanwhile Father and Pavlik, obviously unaware of the danger,  occupied
themselves with the cantaloupes.
     In  a  pillow-case   of  plain  linen  that  was  faded  from  numerous
launderings and had a little  bouquet of flowers embroidered in each corner,
lay  ten  cantaloupes,  bought  at  a kopeck each.  Father took  out a  firm
greyish-green one covered with  a close network of lines, and saying, "Well,
now we shall try these  famous cantaloupes", neatly sliced it lengthwise and
opened it like a book. A wonderful fragrance filled the coach.
     He cut round the soft insides  with  his penknife  and flipped them out
the  window. Then  he divided  the cantaloupe  into thin, appetising slices.
"Looks  quite toothsome," he remarked as he laid out  the slices on  a clean
     Pavlik, who had been fidgeting  impatiently  all the while, pounced  on
the biggest slice with both hands and sank into  it up to his  ears.  He ate
with gurgling sounds of delight; cloudy drops of juice hung from his chin.
     Father,  on the other hand, put a small slice into his mouth, tried it,
closed his eyes, and said, "Indeed an excellent cantaloupe."
     "Yum-yum," Pavlik confirmed.
     Here  Petya,  behind  whose back all these  unendurable things had been
taking place, could hold  out  no longer.  Forgetting  the danger, he  threw
himself upon the cantaloupe.


     About  ten miles from Akkerman  the vineyards began. The cantaloupe had
been  eaten long ago  and  the rind thrown out of  the window. The  trip was
growing tedious. It would soon be midday.
     The fresh morning  breeze, which had served  as a reminder that  autumn
really was in the offing, had subsided  completely. The  sun beat down as in
the middle of July; its rays were somehow even hotter, drier, broader.
     Sand  lay nearly all  of two  feet  deep in the  road, and  the  horses
laboured to pull  the heavy coach through it. The small front wheels sank in
the  sand up  to  the  hub.  The  large rear  wheels  wobbled along  slowly,
crunching the blue seashells in the sand.
     A  choking  cloud  of dust  as fine as flour enveloped the  travellers.
Their  eyebrows  and eye-lashes turned grey. The dust gritted  between their
teeth. Pavlik  goggled  his mirror-like,  light-chocolate  eyes  and sneezed
     The driver turned into a miller.
     All about them the vineyards stretched endlessly.
     The earth, dry  and grey from dust, was covered with the gnarled plaits
of old vines standing in strict  chessboard pattern. They  looked as if they
were  twisted by rheumatism.  Had not Nature bethought  herself to  decorate
them with those wonderful  leaves of  antique design they might  have looked
ugly, repulsive even.
     In  the rays of  the  midday sun  the leaves, with their jagged  edges,
their  raised  patternwork  of curving  veins  and their turquoise spots  of
copper sulphate, looked like fresh greenery.
     The  young  shoots of  the  vines wound sharply round  the tall stakes,
while the old ones were bent under the weight of clusters of grapes.
     It took  a keen  eye, though, to  spot the  clusters  hidden  among the
leaves.  A person without any experience might pass  through  several  acres
without noticing a single one, yet every vine was  hung with  them, and they
cried out,  "Why,  here we are, you strange creature, bushels and bushels of
us, all about you! Pick us and eat, simpleton that you are!" Then,  all of a
sudden, the  simpleton would  notice  a cluster  under  his  very nose, then
another, then a third-until, as if by magic, the entire vineyard glowed with
     Petya  was an expert  in these matters. His  eye caught the clusters at
once. More, he could even tell the different varieties  as they drove  past.
And there were  a  great  many varieties. The  large light-green  Chaus  had
cloudy pits  visible through  their  thick skin and hung  in long triangular
clusters  weighing  two  or three pounds. The experienced  eye  would  never
confuse them with, say, the Ladies' Fingers, which were also light-green but
longer and shinier. The tender medicinal Shashla might appear to be the twin
of the  Pink  Muscatel,  yet what  a world of a difference between them! The
round Shashla grapes, pressed  so tightly  together in their graceful little
clusters  that  they  lost  their  shape and  almost became cubes,  brightly
reflected the sun in their honey-pink bubbles. The Pink  Muscatels, however,
were covered with a dull purplish film and did not reflect the sun.
     All of  them-the  blue-black Isabella,  the Chaus, the Shashla  and the
Muscatel-were  so  wonderfully  ripe  and beautiful that  even  the critical
butterflies alighted on them as if they were flowers, and the feelers of the
butterflies intertwined with the green tendrils of the vines.
     From time to time a straw hut could be seen among the vines. Beside it,
in the lacy blue shade of an apple tree or apricot tree, always stood a  tub
of copper sulphate.
     Petya gazed with longing at those cosy little straw huts.
     Well  did he know the  delight of sitting on  the  hot dry straw inside
such a hut, in the sultry after-dinner shade.
     The  oppressive,  motionless  air would be  filled  with the  aroma  of
savoury and fennel. Pods of chick-peas would be drying with a faint crackle.
It was wonderful! What bliss!
     The grape-vines would tremble and ripple in the glassy waves of heat.
     And over it all would stretch the dusty, pale-blue sky of the steppe, a
sky nearly drained of colour by the heat.
     How wonderful!
     Suddenly   something   so   extraordinary  happened,   and   with  such
breath-taking swiftness,  that it was difficult  to say what came  first and
what after.
     At any rate, first a shot rang out. Not the familiar hollow shot from a
fowling-piece which  you so often heard in vineyards and inspired  no fears.
No. This was the ominous and terrifying crack of an army rifle.
     At that same instant a mounted policeman holding a  carbine appeared in
the road.
     He raised his carbine again and aimed  into the depths of the vineyard.
But then he changed his mind, lowered the carbine across his saddle, spurred
the horse, and, leaning forward, jumped over the roadside ditch and the high
embankment right into the vineyard. He  slapped down  his  cap and  galloped
straight ahead, trampling the vines. Soon he was lost from sight.
     The coach continued on its way.
     For a time not a soul was to be seen.
     All of a sudden there was a  stirring in the bushes  on  the embankment
behind them. A figure jumped into the ditch  and then clambered out into the
     Veiled in a thick cloud of dust, the figure raced after the coach.
     The  driver,  on his high seat, was probably the  first to  notice that
figure. But instead of pulling on the brakes he stood up and waved the  whip
furiously over his head. The horses broke into a gallop.
     But  the  stranger  had already jumped on the footboard.  He opened the
rear door and looked in.
     His breath came in painful gasps.
     He was a  stocky man with a young face pale from fright  and brown eyes
filled with what seemed either merriment or deadly fear.
     A shiny new cap with a button on it,  the kind  of cap workmen  wore on
holidays, sat awkwardly  on his large,  round, close-cropped head. Yet under
his tight jacket could  be seen an embroidered shirt such as farmhands wore,
so that he seemed to be a farm labourer too.
     However, his thick  trousers  of pilot-cloth,  which were velvety  with
dust, were neither a workman's nor a farm labourer's.
     One of the trouser-legs had pulled up, showing the rust-coloured top of
a rough, double-seamed navy boot.
     "The  sailor!" The  instant  this terrifying  thought  flashed  through
Petya's mind he clearly saw, to his horror,  a blue  anchor tattooed on  the
back of the hand clenched round the door-knob.
     The stranger was obviously just as  embarrassed by his sudden intrusion
as were the passengers themselves.
     At  sight of  the  dumbfounded  gentleman  in  pince-nez  and  the  two
frightened children, he  moved his lips soundlessly; he seemed to  be trying
to say hello, or else to apologise.
     But all that came of his efforts was a twisted, confused smile.
     Finally  he waved his hand and was  about to jump from the footboard to
the road, but a mounted detail suddenly appeared ahead. He peered cautiously
round the corner of the coach, and when he caught sight of the soldiers in a
cloud of dust he quickly jumped inside, slamming the door after him.
     He looked at the passengers with pleading  eyes. Then, without saying a
word, he dropped to all fours. To Petya's horror, he crawled under  the seat
where the collections were hidden.
     Petya   looked  in  despair   at  Father.  But  Father  sat  absolutely
motionless; his face was impassive and somewhat  pale, and his  beard jutted
forward determinedly. His hands were folded on his stomach; he was  twirling
his thumbs.
     His  entire appearance said: Nothing has happened. You must not ask any
questions. You must sit in your places and continue travelling as before.
     Petya, and  little  Pavlik  too,  understood Father at  once. Mum's the
word! Under the circumstances that was the simplest and best policy.
     As to the driver, he was no problem at all.  He was so busy whipping on
the horses that he never even glanced back.
     In a word, it was a most curious but unanimous conspiracy of silence.
     The mounted detail rode up to the coach.
     Soldiers' faces looked in at the window. But the sailor was already far
back under the seat. He was completely out of sight.
     The soldiers obviously found nothing suspicious in  that peaceful coach
with the children and the egg-plants. They rode on without stopping.
     For not less than half an  hour  after that all were silent. The sailor
lay under the seat without stirring. Tranquillity reigned.
     Finally a string  of little houses amidst green acacia trees came  into
view ahead. The outskirts of the town.
     Father  was the first  to break the silence. "Well, well, we've  almost
reached Akkerman," he remarked as if to himself, yet  in a deliberately loud
voice, as he  stood  gazing  nonchalantly out the  window. "It's  already in
sight. How frightfully hot it is! And not a soul in the road."
     Petya saw through his father's manoeuvre at once. "We're almost there!"
he shouted. "We're almost there!"
     He took Pavlik by the  shoulders and pushed him  to the window.  "Look,
Pavlik," he cried with feigned excitement, "look  at that  beautiful bird in
the sky!"
     "Where?" Pavlik asked with curiosity, sticking out his tongue.
     "Goodness gracious, what a stupid thing you are! Why, there it is."
     "I don't see it."
     "You must be blind."
     At that moment there was a rustle behind them, followed by the  banging
of the  door.  Petya  quickly  turned round. But everything was  the same as
before-only now there was no boot sticking out from under the seat.
     Petya  looked  in alarm under  the seat to see if  his collections were
safe. They were. Everything was in order.
     At  the window, Pavlik was  still moving  his  head this way and  that,
looking for the bird,
     "Where's the  bird?"  he asked querulously,  twisting his little mouth.
"Show me the bird. Pe-e-et-ya, where's the bird?"
     "Stop whining," Petya said in the tone of a grown-up. "The bird's gone.
It flew away. Don't bother me."
     Pavlik gave a  deep sigh: he saw  that  he had been tricked. He  looked
under the seat, but to his amazement no one was there.
     "Daddy," he said finally, in a shaking voice, "where's the man? Where's
he gone to?"
     "Stop chattering," Father said sternly.
     Pavlik  fell  into   a  sad  silence,  puzzling  over  the   mysterious
disappearance of the bird  and the no less mysterious disappearance  of  the
     The wheels  began to clatter over cobblestones. The coach drove into  a
shady street lined with acacias.
     The grey wobbly trunks of telephone poles flashed by,  and roofs of red
tile  and blue-painted iron;  for  a  minute the dull water of  the  estuary
appeared in the distance.
     An ice-cream  man in a raspberry-coloured shirt walked by in the shade,
carrying his tub on his head.
     Judging by the sun, it  was already past one  o'clock. The Turgenev was
to sail at two.
     Father told the driver to go directly to the wharf without  stopping at
a  hotel. At  the wharf, the steamer had just let out a very  long and  deep


     Even in  the  early years  of  this century the Turgenev was considered
quite out of date.
     With her gather long but narrow hull,  her  two paddle-wheels-their red
float-boards could be seen through the slits of the round paddle-box-and her
two funnels she looked more like a big launch than a small steamer.
     To Petya,  however,  the  Turgenev was  always one of  the miracles  of
shipbuilding, and the trip between Odessa and Akkerman seemed no less than a
voyage across the Atlantic Ocean.
     A  second-class ticket cost a goodly sum: one ruble and ten kopeks. Two
tickets were bought. Pavlik travelled free.
     Still,  travelling  by steamer was much cheaper,  and much  pleasanter,
besides, than bouncing  along in the dust  for thirty miles  in an Ovidiopol
carriage. This was a rattling  vehicle  with  a  Jewish driver in a tattered
gaberdine   belted   swaggeringly   with  a   coachman's   red   girdle;   a
despondent-looking fellow  with  red hair  and  with  eyes always  pink  and
ailing, who  tested the five-ruble piece with his teeth.  He would drag  the
very heart out of his passengers by stopping every two miles to feed oats to
his decrepit nags.
     No sooner  had they  settled  themselves in  a second-class cabin  than
Pavlik,  worn out by the heat and the drive, became drowsy. He had to be put
to bed at once on the black oilcloth bunk; the bunk was burning hot from the
sun beating through the rectangular windows.
     The  windows  were  framed  in  highly  polished  brass, true, but they
spoiled the fun all the same.
     Everyone knew that  a ship was supposed to  have round portholes  which
were screwed down when a storm blew up.
     In  this respect the third-class quarters in the bow of  the  ship were
much better,  for they had real portholes, even though instead of soft bunks
there were only plain wooden plank-benches, like in the horse-trams.
     Travelling third class, however, was looked upon as "improper", in just
the same degree as travelling first class was "exorbitant".
     By social standing, it was to the middle category of passengers, to the
second class, that the family of  the Odessa schoolmaster  Batchei belonged.
That was as pleasant and convenient in some cases as it was inconvenient and
humiliating in others. It all depended upon which class  their acquaintances
were travelling in.
     For  that reason Mr.  Batchei, so as  to avoid unnecessary indignities,
made  it a point never to depart from the summer  resort in  the company  of
wealthy neighbours.
     The tomato and grape season was then at its height. The loading went on
and on tediously.
     Several times Petya stepped out on deck  to see whether they would ever
be ready to cast off.  Each time it seemed to him that no progress was being
made. The stevedores were following one another up the gangway in an endless
file, carrying crates and baskets on their shoulders, and still the cargo on
the wharf did not diminish.
     The boy  walked over to the mate, who was in charge of the loading, and
hovered about beside him. He went  to the hatchway and looked down it to see
how wine barrels  were carefully lowered into the hold on  chains,  three or
four at a time, tied together.
     Every now and  then he  went so far as to  brush his elbow  against the
mate. "Accidentally on purpose", to attract attention to himself.
     "Don't get in the way, my lad," the mate said, annoyed but indifferent.
     Petya took no offence. The main  thing was  to strike up a conversation
by hook or by crook.
     "I say there, tell me please, are we starting soon?"
     "We are."
     "How soon?"
     "As soon as we're loaded we'll start."
     "But when will we be loaded?"
     "When we start."
     Petya gave a loud laugh, to flatter the mate.
     "But tell me really-when?"
     "Get out of the way, I said!"
     Petya  walked  off  with  a  lively,  independent  air,  as  though  no
unpleasantness had  occurred  between  them;  it  was simply  that  they had
chatted and then parted.
     He rested his chin on the  rail  and again looked at  the wharf. Now he
was bored to death by it.
     Besides the Turgenev, a great many barges were being loaded.
     The whole wharf was crowded with wagons of wheat.
     The wheat made a dry, silken rustle as it flowed down the wooden chutes
into the square hatchways of the holds.
     A fierce  white  sun reigned with  merciless monotony over  that  dusty
square which had not the slightest trace of beauty or poetry.
     Everything, absolutely everything, seemed dreary and ugly.
     Those  wonderful tomatoes which had such a warm  and delicious gleam in
the  shade  of  wilted  leaves  in  the vegetable gardens now lay packed  in
thousands of crates all alike.
     Those  tender-tender  grapes, each cluster  of which,  in the vineyard,
seemed a work of art, had been squeezed greedily  into coarse willow baskets
and hastily sewn  round with sacking; and  on each  basket there was a label
besmeared with paste.
     The wheat that had been grown and harvested  with such labour-the large
amber  wheat fragrant with all  the  odours of the hot fields-lay there on a
dirty tarpaulin, and men in boots walked over it.
     Among the  sacks,  crates and barrels strode an Akkerman policeman in a
white uniform jacket, with  an orange revolver-cord round his sunburned neck
and a long sword at his side.
     The motionless river heat, the dust, and the sluggish but  never-ending
noise of the tedious loading made Petya sleepy.
     On an off-chance, he went up  to the  mate  again to find  out if  they
would start soon, and again  he  received the answer  that  when  they  were
loaded they would start, and they would be loaded when they started.
     Yawning,  and  reflecting  sleepily  that  everything in  the world was
obviously  merchandise-the  tomatoes  were   merchandise,  the  barges  were
merchandise,  the  houses  on   the  earthen  shore  were  merchandise,  the
lemon-yellow  ricks next to those  houses were merchandise, and quite likely
the  stevedores were merchandise too-Petya staggered  to  the cabin  and lay
down beside Pavlik. He fell asleep before he knew it, and when he woke up he
found they were already moving.
     The cabin  had in some strange way changed its position. It had  become
much lighter. Across the  ceiling ran a  mirror-like reflection of  rippling
     The engine was working. The busy  flutter of the paddle-wheels could be
     Petya had  missed the most thrilling moment of the departure-missed the
third blast of the siren, the captain's command, the raising of the gangway,
the casting-off. . . .
     What  made it all the more horrible was that neither Father nor  Pavlik
was in the cabin. That meant they had seen it all.
     "Why didn't you wake  me?"  Petya  cried out. He felt as if he had been
robbed in his sleep.
     As  he rushed out of the cabin to the deck he  gave his leg a frightful
bang against the sharp  brass threshold. But he paid no attention  to such a
     "Drat them! Drat them!"
     Petya need not have been so excited, however.
     The boat had indeed cast off, but it had not yet set a straight course;
it was only turning about. That meant the most interesting events were still
to come.
     There would be "slow ahead", and "dead slow ahead", and "stop", and "go
astern", and "dead astern", and a host of other fascinating things which the
boy knew to perfection.
     The wharf moved back, grew smaller, circled about.
     The boat was suddenly full of passengers, all crowding  together at the
same side. They were still waving their handkerchiefs and hats, with as much
frenzy as if they were bound for the end of  the world, while as a matter of
fact they were travelling a  distance of  exactly thirty  miles  as the crow
     But  such  were  the  traditions  of  sea  travel,  and  such  the  hot
temperament of Southerners.
     Most of them were third-class  passengers and deck  passengers from the
lower  foredeck, near the hold.  They  were not allowed  on the  upper deck,
which  was  reserved  exclusively for the "clean" public  of  the first  and
second classes.
     Petya  caught  sight of  Father and  Pavlik on the top deck. They  were
waving their hats excitedly.
     Also on deck were the captain and the  entire  crew- the  mate  and two
barefoot deck-hands. The  only members  of  the  whole  crew who were  doing
anything really nautical were the captain and one of the hands. The mate and
the other hand  were selling tickets. With their coloured little paper rolls
and a green  wire cash-box of the kind usually seen  in bakeries, they  were
making the round  of the passengers  who had not had  time to buy tickets on
     The captain gave his commands striding back  and forth across the  deck
between the  bridges on  either side.  Meanwhile, right  before the admiring
eyes of the passengers,
     the deck-hand looked into the big brass pot of a compass and turned the
steering-wheel, helping  it  along  now and  then with his  bare  foot.  The
steering-wheel creaked incredibly and  the  rudder chains  clanged  as  they
crept  backwards and  forwards along the side, ready  at any  moment to tear
away the trains of careless ladies.
     The boat was backing and slowly turning.
     "Starboard helm!" cried the captain to the helmsman. He had the hoarse,
mustardy voice of a glutton and a bully. He paid not the slightest attention
to  the passengers who had gathered  in  a deferential knot  at the compass.
"Starboard helm! More! A little more! Another trifle more! Good! Steady!"
     The captain  went across to the  starboard  bridge, opened the speaking
tube, and pressed the pedal. In the depths of the boat a bell ting-a-linged.
The  passengers  lifted  their eyebrows  respectfully and  exchanged  silent
glances. They understood: the captain had just signalled to the engine-room.
     What should  he  do? Run  to  the bridge to watch the captain call down
into the speaking tube,  or remain near the helmsman  and the compass? Petya
was ready to tear himself in two.
     The speaking tube won.
     He  seized  Pavlik by  the hand and dragged  him to  the bridge. "Look,
Pavlik, look!"  he  shouted  excitedly,  not  without  the  secret  hope  of
astonishing  two  pretty little girls by his  knowledge  of things nautical.
"He's going to say 'Go ahead' into the speaking tube."
     "Slow astern!" said the captain into the speaking tube.
     Down below, the bell immediately  ting-a-linged. That meant the command
had been heard.


     Akkerman  had disappeared from sight, and so had the  ruins of  the old
Turkish fortress,  yet  the steamer was still  running  down the  enormously
broad   estuary  of  the  Dniester.  There  seemed  no   end  to  the  ugly,
coffee-coloured river, over which the sun had poured a leaden film.
     The water was  so muddy  that the boat's shadow seemed to be  lying  on
     The  passengers felt as though the trip had not yet really begun.  They
were all sick of the estuary and were waiting for the sea.
     Finally,  after about an hour and a  half, the steamer neared the mouth
of the estuary.
     Petya glued  himself to  the rail; he  did  not want to miss  even  the
slightest  detail of the great  moment. The water became noticeably lighter,
although it still was fairly muddy.
     The waves  now were broader and  higher. The buoys marking the  channel
jutted  out of the water like red sticks,  and  their pointed  mushroom caps
rocked unsteadily to and fro.
     At  times a buoy  floated so close to the ship's  side that Petya could
clearly see the iron  cage in the centre of the mushroom where a lantern was
placed at night.
     The Turgenev  overtook several black fishing  boats and two small boats
with taut dark sails.
     The boats, lifted and  then  dropped by  the steamer's  wave,  began to
     Off the hot sandy Cape of Karolino-Bugaz, with its border-post barracks
and mast, a broad fairway marked by two lines of buoys led out into the open
     Now  the captain himself looked  at the compass every  minute or so and
indicated the course to the helmsman.
     This was clearly no trifling matter.
     The  water became still lighter. Now it  was  obviously diluted  by the
pure blue of the sea.
     "Half-speed!" the captain called into the speaking tube.
     Ahead of them, sharply divided from the  yellow estuary, lay the shaggy
blue-black sea.
     From the sea came a fresh wind.
     "Dead slow!"
     The engine  almost stopped breathing. The float-boards  barely  slapped
the water. The flat shore stretched so near that wading across  to it seemed
the easiest thing in the world.
     The small, dazzling white lighthouse  at the border post; the high mast
with its gay garlands of  naval flags stiffened  by  the  wind;  the gunboat
sitting low among the reeds; the small figures of the  border guards washing
their  linen in  the crystal  shallow water-all these moved noiselessly past
the ship, their sunlit details as clear and distinct as transfer pictures.
     The nearness of the sea made the world clean and fresh again, as if all
the dust had suddenly been blown away from the ship and her passengers.
     A change  came  over  the  crates  and  baskets,  too.  What  had  been
insufferably dull merchandise gradually turned  into cargo,  and as the ship
approached the sea it began to creak, as real cargo should.
     The  border  post  lay  astern; it shifted about and drifted  into  the
distance. The ship was  surrounded by deep  water, clear and dark-green. The
moment  she entered it she  started to  roll; the wind  whipped spray on the
     "Full speed!"
     Murky clouds of soot poured out of  the hoarsely spluttering funnels. A
slanting shadow settled across the awning at the stern.
     Apparently that old lady, the  engine,  was not  finding  it so easy to
battle the strong waves of the open sea. She began to breathe hard.
     The ancient plating creaked rhythmically. The anchor under the bowsprit
bowed to the waves.
     The wind had already managed to carry off a straw hat; it floated away,
rocking in the broad foamy wake.
     Four blind Jews in blue spectacles climbed the ladder to the upper deck
in single file, holding down their bowler hats.
     They seated  themselves on a  bench  and  then went  at it  with  their
     "The  Hills  of Manchuria" march, played  in  a sickeningly false  key,
mingled with the heavy sighs of the engine.
     Up the same ladder ran one of the ship's two stewards, the tails of his
dress coat  waving in  the wind;  he  wore  white  cotton  gloves  that were
comparatively clean. As he ran he bore along, with the skill of a juggler, a
tray with a fizzing bottle of lemonade.
     That was how they entered the sea.
     Petya  had  already inspected the whole  ship.  He had discovered  that
there were no suitable  children aboard, hardly anyone with whom  a pleasant
acquaintance might be struck up.
     At first,  true, the two girls for whom he so unsuccessfully showed off
his nautical knowledge had looked promising.
     But not for long.
     To begin with, the girls were travelling first  class,  and by speaking
French with their governess  they gave him to understand right off that they
had nothing in common with a boy from the second class.
     Then, the minute they reached the sea one of the girls became sea-sick;
and-as Petya had seen through the open door-she now lay on a velvet divan in
the unattainable splendour of a  first-class cabin; moreover, she lay  there
sucking a lemon, which was downright disgusting.
     And  lastly,   though  she  was  undoubtedly  beautiful  and  elegantly
turned-out  (she  wore  a  short  coat  with  golden buttons decorated  with
anchors, and a  sailor hat with a red pompon,  French  style), the  girl who
remained on deck turned out to be singularly capricious, and a cry-baby. She
quarrelled endlessly with her father, a tall, extremely phlegmatic gentleman
with side-whiskers, who wore a flowing cape. He was  the very  image of Lord
Glenarvan from Captain Grant's Children.
     Father and daughter were carrying on the following conversation:
     "I'm thirsty, Daddy."
     "Never   mind,   you'll   get   over   it,"   Lord   Glenarvan  replied
phlegmatically, without taking his eyes from his binoculars.
     The girl stamped her foot. "I'm  thirsty," she  repeated,  raising  her
     "Never mind, you'll get over it," her father replied, calmer than ever.
     The  girl chanted with stubborn  fury, "Daddy, I'm  thirsty. Daddy, I'm
thirsty. Daddy, I'm thirsty."
     Bubbles frothed on her angry  lips. In a nagging drawl that would  have
tried  the   patience  of   an   angel,  she  continued,   "Da-aad-dy,   I'm
thir-ir-ir-sty. I'm thir-ir-ir-sty."
     To  which  Lord   Glenarvan  leisurely  replied,   with  even   greater
indifference and  without raising his voice,  "Never  mind, you'll get  over
     This strange duel between the two obstinate creatures had been going on
practically all the way since Akkerman.
     Naturally, striking up  an acquaintance  with  her was quite out of the
     Then Petya found a fascinating occupation: he followed in the footsteps
of one of the passengers. Everywhere the passenger went, Petya went too.
     That was really interesting,  especially since Petya  had  long noticed
something strange about the passenger's behaviour.
     Other   passengers,   perhaps,  had   not   noticed   one   astonishing
circumstance, but Petya had, and he was greatly struck by it.
     This man did not have a ticket, and the mate was very well aware of it.
     But for some reason he had said nothing to the strange passenger. More,
he had given him permission-not in  so many words,  of course-to go wherever
he wished, even into the first-class cabins.
     Petya clearly saw what had passed when the mate  approached the strange
passenger with his wire cash-box.
     "Your ticket?"
     The passenger whispered something in  the  mate's ear. The mate nodded.
"Right you are."
     After that, no one disturbed the strange passenger. He walked about the
whole ship, looking into every corner: into the cabins, the engine-room, the
refreshment bar, the lavatory, the hold.
     Now who could he be?
     A landowner? No. Landowners did not dress that way and did not act that
     A Bessarabian landowner always wore a heavy linen dust coat and a white
travelling  cap, and the visor  of  the  cap was covered with  finger marks.
Next,  he would have  a drooping corn-coloured moustache, and a small wicker
basket with a padlock on it. In the basket there were always a box of smoked
mackerel,  some  tomatoes and some Brinza cheese, and two or three quarts of
new white wine in a green bottle.
     Landowners  travelled  second  class,  for  economy's  sake; they  kept
together,  never came out  of their cabins, and were always either eating or
playing cards.
     Petya had not seen the strange passenger in their company.
     He wore a summer cap, true enough, but he had neither a dust coat nor a
wicker basket.
     No, decidedly, he was not a landowner.
     Then perhaps he was a postal official, or a schoolmaster?
     Although under his jacket he did wear a pongee shirt with a turned-down
collar, and  instead  of a  tie  a  cord with little pompons,  his curled-up
moustache which  was  as  black as boot-polish  and his  smooth-shaven  chin
obviously did not fit in with that.
     And as for the smoked  pince-nez-uncommonly large ones they were-on the
coarse fleshy nose  with hairy  nostrils,  they did not fit any category  of
passenger whatsoever.
     Besides, there  were those  pinstripe  trousers  and those sandals over
thick white socks.
     Yes, something was definitely fishy here.
     Petya shoved his hands in his  pockets (which, by the way, was strictly
forbidden)  and  strolled along with a  most  independent air, following the
strange passenger all over the ship.
     At  first  the passenger  stood  for a while in  the narrow passage-way
between the engine-room and the galley.
     The galley gave off the  sour, smoky reek of an eating-house, and  from
the open  ventilators of the engine-room there came a hot  wind smelling  of
superheated steam, iron, boiling water and oil.
     The engine-room  skylight was raised,  and Petya could  look down  into
it-which he did with delight.
     He knew the engine from A to Z, yet he went into  raptures each time he
saw it. He could stand there watching it for hours.
     As everybody knew, the  engine was outdated and good for nothing and so
on, but it was incredibly powerful and astonishing all the same.
     The steel connecting rods covered with thick green grease slid back and
forth with amazing ease, considering they weighed a ton.
     The pistons pumped furiously. The  cast-iron cranks twirled. The  brass
discs of the cams rubbed quickly and nervously against one another, exerting
a mysterious influence on the painstaking work  of the modest but  important
slide valves.
     And over all this swirling chaos reigned an immensely huge flywheel. At
first glance it seemed to be turning slowly, but when one took a closer look
one saw that it was going at a tremendous speed and was raising a steady hot
     It  was nerve-racking to watch the  mechanic as  he walked about  among
those inexorably moving joints and bent over to apply the long nozzle of his
oil can to them.
     But the most amazing  thing in the whole engine-room was the ship's one
and only electric lamp.
     It hung in a wire muzzle, under a tin plate. (And what a far cry it was
from the blindingly bright electric lamps of today!)
     Inside  its  blackened glass there was a  dimly  glowing red-hot little
loop of wire which quivered at every vibration of the ship.
     But  it  seemed  a  miracle. It  was associated  with  the  magic  word
"Edison", which in the  boy's  mind had long since lost meaning as a surname
and had  taken  on  mysterious  meaning as  a  phenomenon  of  Nature,  like
"magnetism", or "electricity".
     After that the strange man walked unhurriedly round the lower decks.
     Petya  had  the impression he  was  making  a secret but very attentive
study of the passengers who were sitting on their bundles and baskets at the
mast, near the rails, and beside the cargo.
     He was ready to bet (betting, by the  way, was also strictly forbidden)
that the man was secretly searching for someone.
     The  stranger  stepped unceremoniously  over  sleeping  Moldavians.  He
squeezed his  way  through  groups  of  Jews  who  were  eating  olives.  He
cautiously raised  the edges  of a  tarpaulin stretched over some crates  of
     Asleep  on the bare boards of the deck lay a man with his cap  over his
cheek and  his  head  nestling in  one of the rope fenders which are lowered
over the  side  to soften the ship's impact against the wharf. His arms were
spread out and his legs were drawn up, just as a child sleeps.
     Petya gave a casual glance at the man's legs and  then stood petrified:
the  trousers had pulled up,  and he saw the well-remembered navy boots with
the rust-coloured tops.
     There could be no doubt about it. They were the very same  boots he had
seen under the seat in the coach that morning.
     And even if that was a mere coincidence, there was something  else that
most  certainly  was  not.  On the sleeping  man's  hand, in  the  very same
place-the fleshy triangle beneath the thumb and forefinger-Petya clearly saw
a small blue anchor.
     He almost cried out in surprise.
     He  controlled  himself because he  noticed that the  sleeping man  had
attracted the attention of the moustached passenger too.
     Moustaches walked past  the sleeper several times, trying to peer under
the cap covering  his face. But he did not  succeed.  Then he walked by once
again and stepped on the sleeping man's hand, as if by accident.
     The  other gave  a start. He  sat up and  looked round  in fright  with
sleepy, uncomprehending eyes.
     "Eh? What's up? Where to?"  he muttered  disjointedly as  he rubbed the
coral imprint of the rope on his cheek.
     It was he, the very same sailor!
     Petya hid behind the hatchway and watched with bated breath to see what
would happen next.
     But nothing special happened. After excusing himself again,  Moustaches
went on his way, and the sailor turned over on his other side. He did not go
back to sleep, however, but kept looking round in alarm  and-so it seemed to
Petya-impatient annoyance.
     What should he do? Run to Father? Or tell the whole story to the mate?
     No, no!
     Petya clearly remembered Father's behaviour in the coach. Evidently the
whole business was something about which  he should neither speak to anybody
nor ask any questions, but simply hold his  tongue and make believe  he knew
     At this  point  he  decided to hunt up  Moustaches and  see what he was
     He found him on the  first-class  deck, which was practically deserted.
He was leaning against a life-boat with a canvas tightly roped over it.
     Under  the deck-house  the invisible  wheel was  pounding away at water
almost black and covered with a coarse lace of foam. It was  making the kind
of noise you heard at a watermill. The ship's shadow, now a rather long one,
slid quickly  over the bright  waves, which turned a darker and darker  blue
the farther away they were.
     At the stern waved the white,  blue  and  red merchant navy flag,  shot
through by the sun.
     Behind  her the  ship left a  broad  wake;  it  widened and  melted and
stretched  far  into  the  distance,  like   a  well-swept  sleigh  road  at
     On the left ran the high clay shore of Novorossia.
     As for Moustaches, he was furtively examining something  he held in his
     Petya stole up to him from behind, stood on tiptoe, and saw  it. It was
a small, passport-size photograph of a sailor  in  full uniform; his cap was
tilted at a swaggerish angle, and on its band was the inscription:

     That was the very same sailor, the one with the anchor on his hand.
     And  here Petya suddenly realised,  in  a  flash of  insight, what  was
strange  about  Moustaches'  appearance:  like  the  man  with  the  anchor,
Moustaches was in disguise.


     A fair wind was  blowing.  To help the engine along and to  make up for
the time lost during loading, the captain ordered a sail to be set.
     Not a single holiday  celebration,  not  a  single present, could  have
thrown Petya into such raptures as did that trifle.
     On second thought, a fine trifle!
     An engine and a sail at one and the same time on one and the same ship!
A packet-boat and frigate combined!
     I dare say that you, comrades, would also be delighted  if you suddenly
had the good fortune to make  a sea voyage on a real steamer  that was under
sail into the bargain.
     Even in those days  sails were set only on the oldest  steamers, and on
the rarest occasions at that. Nowadays it is never done at all.
     So you can easily imagine how Petya felt about it.
     Naturally, Moustaches and the  runaway flew out of his mind at once. He
stood  in the  bow,  gazing in a  trance at  the barefoot deck-hand  who was
pulling, rather lazily, a neatly folded sail out of the hatchway.
     Petya knew perfectly well that this was  a jib. All the same he went up
to the mate, who, because there were no other seamen, was helping to set the
     "I say there, tell me please, is that a jib?"
     "It is."
     The  mate's  tone  was  decidedly gruff, but  Petya  was not the  least
offended. He knew very well  that a  real  sea dog was bound to  be somewhat
gruff. Otherwise what kind of sea-faring man was he?
     Petya  looked at the  passengers with  a restrained  superior smile and
again addressed  the  mate,  casually, as man to man: "Now tell me,  please,
what other kinds of sails are there? How about the mainsail and foresail?"
     "Get out of the way," the mate said, with the expression of a man whose
tooth has suddenly begun to ache. "Run along to your Mama in the cabin."
     "My Mama's dead," Petya told  the  rude  fellow  with sad pride. "We're
travelling with Father."
     To that the mate made no reply, and the conversation ended.
     Finally the jib was set.
     The little ship ploughed on  faster than ever. Odessa  was now tangibly
near. The white spit of the Sukhoi Liman came into sight ahead.
     The shallow water of this estuary was such a dense and  dark blue  that
it gave off a reddish glow.
     Then the  slate  roofs of  Lustdorf, the German  quarter, and  the tall
rough-hewn church with the weather-vane on its spire appeared.
     And after that came  the villas, orchards, vegetable  gardens,  bathing
beaches, towers, lighthouses.
     First there was the famous Kovalevsky tower, a tower with a legend.
     A rich man by the name of Kovalevsky decided to build, at his own risk,
a water-supply system for  the city. It would  have brought him vast profit.
For every  drink of water they took, people would have to pay Mr. Kovalevsky
as much as he wanted. You see, the only source of  good drinking  water near
Odessa was on Mr.Kovalevsky's  land. But the water lay very deep, and to get
it a  tremendous water tower  had  to be built. That was a big  job for ∙  a
single man to handle. But  since Mr.  Kovalevsky did  not want to share  his
future profits with anyone, he began to build the tower on his own. The work
turned out to cost  much more  than  he had thought it would.  His relatives
pleaded with  him to give up  his mad idea,  but  he had already put so much
money into it that he would not back out. He went on with the work. When the
tower was three-quarters built he ran out  of money.  But by mortgaging  all
his  houses  and his lands, he managed to finish the  tower.  It was a  huge
thing,  and it  looked like a chessboard castle enlarged thousands of times.
On Sundays  whole families used to  come from Odessa to look at  the wonder.
But  the tower alone was not enough, of  course. Machines had  to be ordered
from abroad;  holes had to be drilled, mains had  to be laid. Mr. Kovalevsky
grew desperate. He ran to the merchants and bankers of Odessa for a loan. He
offered a fabulous rate of interest. He promised them dividends such as they
had never dreamed of. He begged, he went down on his knees, he wept. But the
rich merchants and bankers  would not forgive him for having refused to take
them in as partners from  the beginning. They were deaf to his  pleas. Not a
kopek did he get  from anybody. He  was completely ruined, broken,  crushed.
The water-main became an obsession with him.  All  day long he used to pace,
like  a madman,  round and round the  tower which had  swallowed  his  whole
fortune, racking  his brains for  a way to raise  money. Little by little he
went out  of  his mind. One fine  day  he climbed to  the very  top  of  the
accursed tower and jumped down. That had happened about fifty years earlier,
but the  tower, blackened with age,  still stood overlooking the sea not far
from the rich commercial city, as a  grim warning and a ghastly monument  to
insatiable human greed.
     Then the new white lighthouse appeared,  and after it  the old one, now
no longer in service.
     Lit  up  by  the pink sun  setting  into  the golden chain of  suburban
acacias, they  looked so  distinct, so near- and, above all, so  familiar-as
they towered over the bluffs, that  Petya was ready  to blow into the jib as
hard as he could, if only that would make the ship arrive sooner.
     From here on he knew  every inch  of the coast.  Bolshoi Fontan, Sredny
Fontan, Maly Fontan, the high, steep shore overgrown with scratch weed, wild
rose, lilac, and hawthorn.
     The big  rocks standing in the water in the shadow of the bluffs, rocks
green with slime halfway up their sides, and on  them  the swimmers and  the
anglers with their bamboo poles.
     And here was Arcadia, the restaurant on piles, with its band-stand-from
a distance so small,  no bigger than a prompter's  box-its brightly-coloured
sunshades, and the  table-cloths  across which  the cool wind was scurrying.
Each  new detail which  met the boy's eyes was  fresher and more interesting
than  the  one before.  They  had  not been  forgotten.  No! They  could  be
forgotten no more than he could forget his own name! They had somehow merely
slipped from his memory for a time. Now they were suddenly rushing back, the
way a boy rushes home after having gone out without permission.
     They  came  racing  back, more  and more  of  them all  the  time,  one
overtaking the other.
     They seemed to be shouting to him, in eager rivalry:
     "Greetings, Petya! So you're back at last! How  we've missed you!  Come
now, don't you recognise us?  Take  a good look: this is  me, your favourite
summer resort, Marazli. How  you loved to  walk  over  my splendidly clipped
emerald lawns, strictly forbidden though that was!  How you loved to examine
my   marble   statues,   over    which   big   snails   with   four   little
horns-'lavriks-pavliks',  you called them-used  to  crawl,  leaving behind a
slimy  trail!  Look  how  I've grown during the summer!  Look  how thick  my
chestnut trees have become! What gorgeous  dahlias and peonies  are in bloom
in my flower-beds!  What magnificent August butterflies you'll see alighting
in the dark shadows of my garden walks!"
     "And here am I, Otrada! Surely  you haven't forgotten my bathing beach,
my  shooting gallery, my skittle-alley!  Look  at me: while you were gone we
put up a  wonderful  merry-go-round, with boats and  horses. And  a  stone's
throw away lives your old friend Gavrik. He's counting  the hours until your
return. So hurry, hurry!"'
     "I'm here too, Petya! How do you do? Don't you recognise Langeron? Look
at all the flat-bottomed fishing boats pulled up on my beach, and at all the
fishing  nets drying on crossed oars! Wasn't it  here, in my sand, that last
year you found two kopeks and then  drank four whole glasses-it was  so much
you actually had to force it down -of  sour kvass,  and it tickled your nose
and nipped your tongue? Don't you recognise the kvass stand? Why, here it is
at the edge of the bluff, as large as life, amidst the weeds that have grown
so high during the summer! You don't even need binoculars to see it!"
     "And here am I! I'm here too! Hello, Petya! Ah, if you only knew what's
been going on here in Odessa while you were away! Hello! Hello!"
     As they approached the city the wind grew quieter and warmer.
     Now the sun had disappeared altogether. Only  the  top of the mast  and
the tiny red  peak of  the weather-vane still glowed in the absolutely clear
pink sky.
     The jib was taken in.
     The pounding of the ship's engine raised a loud echo  among the  bluffs
and crags of the shore. Up the mast crept the pale-yellow top lantern.
     In thought Petya was already ashore, in Odessa.
     Had anybody told him that only a short while before, that very morning,
in  fact,  he had almost  cried when bidding farewell to  the farm, he never
would have believed it.
     The farm? Which  farm? He had  already forgotten it. It  had  ceased to
exist for him-until the next summer.
     Quick, quick!  To the cabin, to  hurry  Daddy  and  to put their things
     Petya spun about, ready to run. But then he froze in horror. The sailor
with the anchor on his hand was sitting on the steps of  the bow-ladder, and
Moustaches was walking  directly towards him, hands in  pockets, without his
pince-nez, his sandals squeaking.
     He came up to the sailor, leaned over him, and said, in a voice neither
loud nor soft, "Zhukov?"
     "What about  Zhukov?"  the sailor  said in  a low,  strained  voice. He
turned visibly pale and stood up.
     "Sit down. Be quiet. Sit down, I tell you."
     The sailor  continued  to  stand. A faint smile  trembled on his  ashen
     Moustaches frowned. "From the  Potemkin? How  do you do, my dear  chap.
You might at least have changed  your boots. And us waiting for you all this
long time.  Well,  what  have  you to say for  yourself,  Rodion Zhukov? The
game's up, eh?"
     With these words Moustaches gripped the sailor by the sleeve.
     The sailor's face contorted.
     "Hands off!" he cried in a  terrible  voice. He shifted  his weight and
slammed his fist into Moustaches' chest with all his might. "Keep your hands
off a sick man!"
     The sleeve ripped.
     But it was too late.
     The sailor had torn himself free and was running down the deck, weaving
in and out among the baskets, crates,  and passengers. Moustaches  ran after
     An onlooker might have thought these two grown men were playing tag.
     They  dived, one  after  the other, into  the  passage-way next to  the
engine-room and  then bobbed up on the other  side. They  ran up the ladder,
their soles drumming and sliding on the slippery brass steps.
     "Stop! Grab him!" cried Moustaches, wheezing heavily.
     The sailor now carried  a  batten which he  had torn loose somewhere on
the way.
     "Grab him! Grab him!"
     The  passengers, frightened and curious,  gathered in a cluster  on the
deck. There was a piercing blast from a policeman's whistle.
     The sailor cleared a high hatchway in  one leap. He  dodged Moustaches,
who  had run round the hatchway,  jumped back over  it, and then hopped on a
bench. From the  bench he  sprang to the rail, grasped the ensign staff, and
struck Moustaches across the face  with the batten as hard as he could. Then
he jumped into the sea.
     Spray showered up over the stern.
     The passengers, every single one of them, reeled back  as if a gust  of
wind had caught them.
     Moustaches ran back and  forth in front of the rail. "Catch him!  He'll
get away!" he cried hoarsely, holding  his hands to his  face.  "Catch  him!
He'll get away!"
     The mate ran up the ladder three steps at a time with a life-belt.
     "Man overboard!"
     The  passengers reeled forward  towards  the rail,  as if now a gust of
wind had caught them from behind.
     Petya squeezed  through to the rail. Amid the whipped  egg-white of the
foam, the sailor's head bobbed  up and  down with the waves like a float. He
was already a good way off, and he was swimming.
     Not  towards the ship, but  away from it,  working his arms and legs as
fast as he could. After every three  or four strokes he turned back a tense,
angry face.
     The  mate saw that the  man who  was overboard  had  not the  slightest
desire to be "saved". On the contrary,  he was plainly trying to put as much
distance as possible  between himself and  his saviours. Besides, he was  an
excellent swimmer and the shore was relatively near.
     And so, everything was in order.
     There was no cause for worry.
     In  vain did Moustaches tug at the mate's sleeve, make fierce eyes, and
demand that the ship be stopped and a boat lowered.
     "He's a political criminal. You'll answer for this!"
     The  mate  shrugged his  shoulders  phlegmatically. "It's  none  of  my
business. I have no orders. Speak to the captain."
     The captain merely waved his hand.  "We're  late as it is.  It's out of
the question,  my good man. Why  should we? We'll be mooring in half an hour
and then you can go and catch your political chappie. This steamship line is
a  private  company.  It  doesn't  go  in  for  politics,  and  we  have  no
instructions on that score."
     Swearing  under his breath,  Moustaches, his face battered,  headed for
the place where the gangway would be set, forcing his  way through the crowd
of third-class passengers preparing to disembark.
     He roughly pushed aside the frightened people; he stepped on their feet
and kicked their baskets,  and  finally reached the rail  so  as to  get off
first, the moment the ship moored.
     By now the sailor's head  could barely be seen  in  the  waves amid the
markers swaying above the fishing nets.


     The  shore darkened quickly; it turned a light blue,  then a deep blue,
then purple. On land, evening had already come. At  sea it was still  light.
The glossy swell  reflected a  clear sky. But here,  too, evening was making
itself felt.
     The signal lanterns on the  paddle-boxes had been lit without the boy's
noticing it, and their bulging glass sides, in the daytime so dark and thick
one could never guess their colour, now gleamed green and red; they did  not
throw any light as yet, but they definitely glowed.
     All at once the dark-blue city, with its cupola-shaped theatre roof and
the colonnade of the Vorontsov Palace, loomed in front of them, shutting out
half the horizon.
     The watery  stars  of  the wharf  lamps  were palely  reflected  in the
light-coloured, absolutely  motionless lake of the  harbour. It was into the
harbour  that the Turgenev now  turned, closely skirting  the thick tower of
the  lighthouse-really not  a very  big one at  all-which  had a bell  and a
     Down in the engine-room  the captain's bell ting-a-linged for  the last
     The  narrow  little  steamer  slid  quickly  and  noiselessly past  the
three-storey bows of the ocean-going  ships of the Dobrovolny  Merchant Line
standing  in a row  inside the breakwater. Petya  had to  crane his  neck in
order to study their monstrous anchors.
     Those were ships!
     Without slowing down, carried along by  her  momentum, the Turgenev cut
obliquely  across the  harbour,  in complete silence; she  bore  down on the
wharf as if she would crash into it any minute.
     Two long creases stretched back from her sharp bow, making stripes like
a mackerel's in the water.
     Along the sides the water gurgled softly.
     Heat poured from the advancing city as from an oven.
     All of a  sudden Petya saw a funnel and  two masts sticking out of  the
mirror-like surface.  They floated by  as  close to the ship's side as could
be-black, frightful, dead.
     The passengers crowding at the rail gave a gasp.
     "They scuttled her," someone said in a low voice.
     "Who?" the  boy wanted to ask, horror-struck. But just  then  he saw an
even  more gruesome  sight: the  charred  iron skeleton  of  a  ship leaning
against a charred wharf.
     "They burned her," the same voice said, more softly than before.
     Now the wharf was upon them.
     The  paddle-wheels  began to clatter again,  revolving in  the opposite
direction. Little whirlpools scurried across the water.
     The  wharf  drifted  away  and somehow shifted about,  and  then,  very
slowly, it approached again, but from the other side.
     Over  the  heads of the  passengers shot a coiled rope, unwinding as it
     Petya felt a slight jolt; it had been softened by the rope fender.
     The gangway was shoved up from the wharf. The first to run down  it was
Moustaches. He immediately disappeared in the crowd.
     Our  travellers waited  their turn,  and  before  long they were slowly
walking down the gangway to the wharf.
     Petya was surprised  to see a policeman and  several civilians standing
at the foot  of the gangway. They  were looking  closely, very  closely,  at
everyone coming down. They looked at Father, who thrust forward a  quivering
beard and mechanically  buttoned his coat. He tightened his grip on Pavlik's
hand, and his face took on exactly  the same unpleasant expression as it had
in the coach that morning when he was talking to the soldier.
     They took a  cab.  Pavlik was put on the folding seat in  front,  while
Petya sat next to Father on the main seat, quite like a grown-up.
     As  they  drove  out  they  saw   a  sentry  with  a  rifle  and   with
cartridge-pouches at his  belt standing  by the  gate.  That  was  something
altogether new.
     "Why is a sentry standing there, Daddy?" Petya asked in a whisper.
     "For God's sake!" Father said irritably, with a jerk of  his neck. "All
you do is ask questions. How should I know? If he's standing  there it means
he's standing there. And you're to sit quiet."
     Petya  saw that  no questions were to be asked, and also that there was
no call to take offence at Father's irritability.
     But when, at the railway crossing, he saw the trestle bridge burned  to
the ground, the mounds of charred sleepers, the twisted rails hanging in the
air,  and the wheels of overturned railway  carriages-when he saw that scene
of frozen chaos  he cried out  breathlessly, "Oh, what's that?  Look! I  say
there, cabby, what's that?"
     "Set  fire to it, they did," the  cab-driver said mysteriously, shaking
his head  in the  firm beaver-cloth  hat,  but  whether  in condemnation  or
approval was not clear.
     They drove past the famous Odessa Stairway.
     Up at the top of its  triangle, in the space between the silhouettes of
the two  semi-circular  symmetrical palaces, the small figure of  the Due de
Richelieu stood  outlined against the light  evening sky, his  arm stretched
out in antique mode towards the sea.
     The  three-armed  street  lamps along  the  boulevard gleamed. From the
terrace of an open-air restaurant came the strains  of music. The first pale
star  trembled  in  the sky over the  chestnut trees  and the  gravel of the
     Somewhere up above, Petya knew, beyond the Nikolayev Boulevard, lay the
bright,  noisy, luring, unapproachable, intangible place which was  referred
to in the Batchei family circle with contemptuous respect as "the Centre".
     In  the Centre  lived "the  rich", those  special beings who  travelled
first  class, who could go  to the theatre every day, who for  some  strange
reason  had  their dinner  at seven o'clock in the  evening, who kept a chef
instead of  a cook  and a bonne instead of a nursemaid, and often even "kept
their own horses"-something indeed beyond human imagination.
     The Batcheis, of course, did not live in "the Centre".
     The droshky  rumbled over the cobblestones of  Karantinnaya Street  and
then, turning right, drove up the hill to the city proper.
     Petya was unaccustomed to the city after his summer's absence.
     He was deafened by the clang of horseshoes, which  drew sparks from the
cobbles, by the clatter of  wheels, by the jangle of the horse-trams, by the
squeaking of  shoes and the  firm tapping of walking sticks on the dark-blue
slabs of the pavement.
     The crisp sadness of autumn's tints had long ago  gilded the farm,  the
harvested fields, the  wide-open steppe. But here, in the city, summer still
reigned, rich and luxuriant.
     The  languid  heat  of evening  hung  in  the  breathless  air  of  the
acacia-lined streets.
     Through  the  open  doors of  grocers' shops Petya could see the little
yellow  tongues  of oil  lamps  throwing  their  light  on jars of  coloured
     Right  on   the  pavement,   under  the  acacias,   lay   mountains  of
water-melons-glossy greenish-black  Tumans with  waxy  bald  spots, and long
bright Monasteries with striped sides.
     Every now and then there appeared the gleaming vision of a corner fruit
shop. In the dazzling glare of the new incandescent  lamps,  a Persian could
be  seen   fanning  magnificent  Crimean   fruit  with  rustling  plumes  of
tissue-paper. There were large  purple plums covered with a turquoise bloom,
and those very expensive luscious brown Beurre Alexander pears.
     They drove  past mansions, and,  through  the  ironwork fences entwined
with wild vines,  Petya  could see, in the light pouring  from the  windows,
beds  of luxurious  dahlias,  begonias and  nasturtiums,  with  plump  moths
fluttering above them.
     From the railway station came the whistle of steam-engines.
     Then they passed the familiar chemist's shop.
     Behind  the large  plate-glass  window  with  its  gilded glass letters
gleamed two crystal pears, one full of a bright violet liquid and  the other
a green  liquid.  Petya was  convinced they were  poison.  It was  from this
chemist's the horrible oxygen pillows had been brought to Mummy when she was
dying.   What  a  frightful  snoring   sound  they  had  made  near  Mummy's
medicine-blackened lips!
     Pavlik  was fast asleep. Father  took him  in  his arms.  Pavlik's head
swayed and bobbed up and down.  His heavy little bare legs kept slipping off
Father's  lap. But his fingers  tightly gripped  the  bag with the treasured
     In that  state he was handed over into the arms of Dunya, the cook, who
was waiting in the street for her  masters when the cab finally pulled up at
the gate with the triangular little lantern in which the house number glowed
     "Welcome home! Welcome home!"
     Petya, still feeling the roll of  the deck under his feet, ran into the
     What a huge, deserted staircase!
     Bright and echoing. How many lamps! At every landing a paraffin lamp in
a cast-iron fixture, and  over each lamp a little hood  swaying  lazily in a
circle of light.
     Brightly polished brass plates on the doors. Coconut fibre  doormats. A
     Petya had  completely  forgotten  these  things, and they now  appeared
before his wondering eyes in all their original novelty.
     He would have to get used to them again.
     From somewhere above there came the  sharp resounding  click of  a key,
followed  by  the  slamming  of  a  door  and  then  by  quick voices.  Each
exclamation rang out like a pistol shot.
     The gay bravura notes of  a grand piano came, muffled, through  a wall.
With compelling chords, music was reminding the boy of its existence.
     And then-goodness me! Who was that?
     A forgotten  but  frightfully familiar  lady in  a dark-blue silk dress
with a lace collar and  lace cuffs came running out  through the  door.  Her
eyes  were  red from tears,  excited,  happy;  her  lips  were stretched  in
laughter.  Her chin  trembled, but  whether  from laughing or  crying  Petya
couldn't quite be sure.
     She tore him from the cook's arms.
     "Good gracious! How heavy you've become!"
     Pavlik opened eyes turned absolutely black  from sleep and remarked, in
surprise, but with profound indifference, "Ah, Auntie?"
     Then he fell asleep again.
     Why, of course, this was Auntie Tatyana! Dear, precious Auntie Tatyana,
whom he knew so well but who had simply slipped out of his memory. How could
he have failed to recognise her?
     "Petya? How huge you are!"
     "Do you  know  what  happened to  us,  Auntie?" Petya  began  at  once.
"Auntie, you don't know anything  about it! But Auntie, only listen  to what
happened  to us.  Why,  Auntie, you're  not  listening!  Auntie,  you're not
     "Very well, very well. Wait  a  minute. Go inside first. Where's Vasili
Petrovich?" "Here I am." Father was coming up the stairs.
     "Well, here we are. How do you do, Tatyana Ivanovna."
     "Welcome home, welcome home! Come in. Were you seasick?"
     "Not  a  bit. We had an excellent  trip. Have you any small change? The
driver can't change a three-ruble note."
     "I'll take care of that. Don't worry about it. Petya, don't trip me up.
You'll  tell  me later.  Dunya, be  a dear  and run down  and pay the cabby.
You'll find some money on my dressing-table."
     The hall into which Petya walked seemed spacious and dim and so strange
that at first he failed to recognise even the tall swarthy  boy in the straw
hat who had suddenly appeared, as if from  nowhere, inside  the walnut frame
of the  forgotten  but  familiar  pier-glass lit  up  by  the forgotten  but
familiar lamp.
     But Petya, of all  people, should  have recognised him  instantly,  for
that boy was himself.
     AT HOME
     On  the farm there had been a  little room with  whitewashed  walls and
three camp-beds covered with light cotton counterpanes.
     An iron washstand. A pine  table. A  chair.  A candle in a glass shade.
Green latticed shutters. Floorboards bare of paint from constant scrubbing.
     How  nice and  cool it had been, after  eating his fill of clotted milk
and  grey whole-meal bread, to fall  asleep in  that sad, empty room  to the
soothing noise of the sea! Here everything was different.
     Here  there was a big flat  with papered walls and rooms  crowded  with
furniture in loose-covers.
     The wallpaper was  old, and in each room it had a different design; the
furniture was different in each room too.
     The bouquets and lozenges on the wallpaper made the rooms seem smaller.
The furniture  here  was  called  "suites",  and  it  muffled  the sound  of
footsteps  and voices. Here, lamps  were  carried from room to  room. In the
parlour stood rubber plants with stiff, waxy leaves. Their  new shoots stuck
out like sharp little daggers sheathed in saffian covers.
     When  the  lamps  were  moved  their  light  passed from  one mirror to
another. The vase on top of the piano shook every time  a droshky drove down
the street. The clatter of the wheels connected the house with the city.
     Petya wanted to finish his tea as quickly as possible.  He was dying to
run out into the courtyard, for at least a minute, to see the boys and learn
the news.
     But  it was already very late-after nine.  All the  boys were  probably
asleep long ago.
     He was anxious  to tell Auntie  Tatyana,  or at least Dunya, about  the
runaway  sailor.  But they were  busy; they  were making the beds,  fluffing
pillows, taking heavy, slippery sheets out of the chest of drawers, carrying
lamps from room to room.
     Petya  followed  Auntie Tatyana  about.  "Why  won't you  listen to me,
Auntie?" he pleaded, stepping on her train. "Please listen."
     "You can see I'm busy."
     "But Auntie, it won't take long."
     "You'll tell me tomorrow."
     "Oh, Auntie, don't be so mean! Please let me tell you. Please, Auntie."
     "Don't get in my way, Petya. Go and tell it to Dunya."
     Petya  shambled off glumly to the kitchen, where green onions grew in a
wooden box on the windowsill.
     Dunya was hastily  pressing a  pillow-case on  an ironing-board covered
with a  strip  of coarse woollen cloth  from an army greatcoat. Thick  steam
rose from the iron.
     "Dunya,  listen to what  happened to us," Petya  began  in a  plaintive
voice, gazing at the taut glossy skin on Dunya's bare forearm.
     "Don't stand so  near, Master Petya. God knows I don't want to burn you
with this hot iron."
     "But all you have to do is listen."
     "Go and tell it to your aunt."
     "Auntie  doesn't  want  to  listen.  I'll  tell  you instead.  Du-unya,
     "Tell it to the Master."
     "Oh, how stupid you are! Father knows all about it."
     "Tomorrow, Master Petya, tomorrow."
     "But I want to tell you today."
     "Please get away from my  elbow. Aren't there enough rooms in the house
for you? Why do you have to poke your nose into the kitchen?"
     "I'll only  tell you about it, Dunya dear, and then I'll go right away.
Word of honour. By the true and holy Cross."
     "What a trial you are! Everything was so quiet until you came back!"
     Dunya  planked  the  iron  down  on  the  stove,  caught up  the ironed
pillow-case and ran into  the next room so impetuously that a  breeze passed
through the kitchen.
     Petya sadly rubbed  his eyes with his fists. Suddenly he was taken with
such  a fit of yawning that he barely  managed to drag  himself to  his bed,
where, powerless to unglue his eyes,  he pulled off his sailor blouse like a
blind man.
     The  instant his  hot  cheek  touched the pillow he dropped  off into a
sleep so sound that he did not feel Father's beard when  he came, as was his
custom, to kiss him goodnight.
     Pavlik, however, caused a good deal of bother.  He had fallen into such
a  deep  sleep in the  cab that  Father and  Auntie Tatyana had quite  a job
undressing him.
     But  the moment they  put the  child to  bed he opened eyes  that  were
absolutely fresh and looked round in astonishment.
     "Have we got there yet?"
     Auntie Tatyana kissed him tenderly on his hot crimson cheek.
     "Yes, my pet. Sleep."
     But Pavlik, it appeared, had had a good sleep, and now he was in a mood
for talking.
     "Is that you, Auntie?"
     "Yes, my chick. Go to sleep."
     Pavlik lay for a  long time with wide-open, attentive  eyes-eyes now as
dark as olives-listening to the unfamiliar noises of the city flat.
     "Auntie,  what's making that  noise?" he finally said in  a  frightened
     "Which noise?"
     "That snoring noise."
     "That's the water in the tap, my pet."
     "Is it blowing its nose?"
     "Yes. Now go to sleep."
     "What's making that whistle?"
     "That's a steam-engine."
     "Have you really forgotten? At the station just opposite. Go to sleep."
     "Why is there music?"
     "Someone is playing the piano upstairs.  Don't you remember how  people
play the piano?"
     Pavlik was silent for a long time.
     One  might have thought him to be  asleep, except that  his  eyes shone
distinctly in the greenish glow of the  night lamp on the  chest of drawers.
They  were following with horror the long rays moving back and forth  across
the ceiling.
     "What's that, Auntie?"
     "Those  are the lanterns  of  droshkies passing  by outside. Close your
     "And what's that?"
     A huge death's-head moth  fluttered with ominous  thumpings in a corner
near the ceiling.
     "That's a moth. Go to sleep."
     "Will it bite?"
     "No, it won't bite. Go to sleep."
     "I don't want to sleep. I'm afraid."
     "What  are  you  afraid of?  Stop imagining things. A big boy like you.
     Pavlik took  a deep,  luxurious, quivering  breath and caught  Auntie's
hand in his two hot little hands. "Did you see the Gipsy?" he whispered.
     "No, I didn't."
     "Did you see the Wolf?"
     "No. Go to sleep."
     "Did you see the Chimney-Sweep?"
     "No, I didn't. You  can  go  to sleep  without  worrying about a single
     Again the boy  took a deep, luxurious  breath, turned over on his other
cheek, and cupped his palm under it.
     "Auntie," he mumbled, closing his eyes, "give me the dummy."
     "What? I thought you stopped using a dummy long ago."
     The "dummy" was the  special little clean handkerchief which Pavlik was
accustomed to sucking in bed and without which he could not fall asleep.
     "Dum-m-m-my. . ." the boy whimpered capriciously.
     But Auntie Tatyana did not give him the handkerchief. He was a  big boy
now. High time he stopped that.
     Thereupon Pavlik, continuing to whine, stuffed a corner  of  the pillow
into  his mouth and  got  it all  wet;  he  smiled lazily as his  eyes glued
together. Suddenly, with a flash of horror, he thought of his moneybox: what
if robbers had stolen it? But he had no energy left for worrying.
     He fell into a peaceful sleep.


     That same day another boy, Gavrik-the one we mentioned while describing
the coast near Odessa- woke at dawn from the cold.
     He was  sleeping on the shore, near the boat, his head on a smooth  sea
stone and his face covered with his grandfather's old jacket. The jacket did
not reach to his feet.
     At night it was warm, but towards morning it turned cool. Gavrik's bare
feet  became chilled. In his sleep  he  pulled the jacket from his  head and
wound it round his feet. Then his head began to feel cold.
     He  started shivering but he  did  not  give in. He tried to fight  the
cold. He was unable to fall asleep again, however.
     Nothing for it but to get up!
     Reluctantly  Gavrik opened his eyes. He saw a glossy lemon sea and  the
glow of a murky cherry-coloured dawn in a cloudless grey sky. It  was  going
to be a  hot day. But  until the sun came up there was no  use even thinking
about warmth.  Of course, Gavrik could very well have slept in the hut, with
Grandpa.  There  it was warm and soft. But show me  the boy who will pass by
the delightful chance of sleeping on the seashore under the open sky!
     Every now  and then a wave laps the beach, so softly that it can barely
be heard. It breaks and then draws back, lazily dragging pebbles along  with
     The next wave waits a while and  then it laps  the shore too, and again
pebbles are dragged back.
     The silvery-black sky  is strewn with August stars. The split sleeve of
the Milky Way hangs overhead like a vision of a river in the sky.
     The sky is reflected in the sea so fully, so richly, that, when you lie
on the warm pebbles with your head thrown back, you simply cannot tell which
is up and which is down; it's as though you are suspended in the middle of a
starry abyss.
     Shooting stars streak across the sky in all directions.
     In the weeds, crickets chirp. On the bluffs, far, far away, dogs bark.
     At first the stars seem to be standing still. But they aren't. When you
look at them  a long  time you  can  see the whole vault of the sky turning.
Some  of the  stars drop behind the villas. Others, new ones, come up out of
the sea.
     The breeze changes from warm to cool.
     The  sky grows whiter, more transparent. The sea  darkens. The  morning
star is reflected in its dark surface like a little moon.
     At  the villas,  the  cocks  crow  sleepily for the third time. Day  is
     How can anybody sleep under a roof on a night like that!
     Gavrik rose, stretched himself with relish, rolled up his trousers and,
yawning, walked into the water up to his ankles.
     Had he  lost his mind? His  feet  were blue from the  cold, and here he
stepped into the  sea,  the  very  sight of which was enough to give one the
     But  the  boy  knew what  he was  doing. The  water  only  looked cold.
Actually  it was very warm, much warmer than the air.  He was simply warming
his feet.
     Then he washed  himself and blew  his  nose into the sea so loudly that
several big-headed fry sleeping peacefully near the shore scattered to right
and left and slithered away into deep water.
     Yawning and squinting against the rising sun. Gavrik took up the hem of
his shirt and  dried his face-a  mottled little face with  a lilac-pink nose
which was peeling like a new potato.
     "Urrmph,   urrmph,  urrmph,"  he  grunted,  exactly  like  a  grown-up.
Unhurriedly he made the sign of the cross over his mouth, in which two front
teeth were still missing, picked up the jacket, and started up the hill with
the rolling gait of an Odessa fisherman.
     He pushed his way through a thick growth  of  weeds. They sprinkled his
wet feet and his trousers with the yellow dust of their pollen.
     The hut stood about  thirty paces from the beach  on a hill of red clay
spotted with glistening crystals of shale.
     It was actually  nothing but a  shanty crudely knocked together out  of
various  old pieces  of wood-parts  of  painted  planks  from boats,  boxes,
plywood, and masts.
     The roof was flat and made of clay, and weeds and tomatoes grew on it.
     Grandma, when  she was still  alive, always used to whitewash  the  hut
twice a year, at Easter and Our Saviour's Day, in order somehow to hide  its
poverty from people. But then  Grandma died, and for three years now  no one
had whitewashed  the  hut. Its walls  had  peeled and  turned dark. Here and
there,  though,  there were still faint traces of whitewash in the old wood.
They constantly reminded  Gavrik of Grandma and  of  her  life, a life  less
lasting even than whitewash.
     Gavrik was an orphan. His  father  he did not  remember at all.  Of his
mother  he had  a hazy memory:  a steaming trough, red hands,  a Kiev signet
ring on a smooth swollen finger, and a mass of soap bubbles with rainbows in
them flying round the metal combs in her hair.
     Grandpa  was already  up. He was walking through the  tiny  weed-grown,
refuse-strewn  vegetable   patch,   where   a  few  late   pumpkin   flowers
gleamed-large orange-coloured fleshy and hairy  flowers with a sweet  liquid
at the bottom of their transparent cups.
     Grandpa was gathering tomatoes in his shirt; the shirt had been  washed
so often that it  had lost  all colour, but now,  in the glow of the  rising
sun, it was a delicate pink.
     Between the turned-up shirt and the baggy trousers there showed a strip
of lean brown stomach with the black dimple of the navel.
     Very few tomatoes  were left in the patch. They had eaten nearly all of
them. Grandpa managed  to find  eight  little  yellowish  ones. That was all
there were.
     The old  man  walked  along  with  his  grey head  bent and  his  chin,
smooth-shaven like a soldier's, against his chest. He turned aside the weeds
with his bare feet, hoping to find something there. But he found nothing.
     A pullet with a piece of rag round  her leg ran  after Grandpa, pecking
occasionally  at the ground  and  making  the little umbrellas of  fennel up
above tremble.  Grandfather and grandson did  not  greet each other or  wish
each  other good  morning. But that did not mean they had quarrelled. On the
contrary, they were great friends.
     It was simply that the  new  morning promised nothing but hard work and
cares. There was no use deceiving each other with empty wishes.
     "We've eaten  them all;  there's  none left," Grandpa muttered,  as  if
continuing a conversation left off the day before. "Just  think of it. Eight
tomatoes-call that food? It's a joke!"
     Gavrik put his hand to his eyes and looked at the sun. "Are we going?"
     "We'll have to," said Grandpa. He came out of the vegetable patch.
     They went into the hut and slowly drank some water from a bucket neatly
covered with a clean board.
     The  old  man gave a  grunt,  and Gavrik grunted too.  The  grandfather
tightened his belt another notch, and the grandson did likewise.
     Grandpa  took  a chunk of yesterday's bread from the shelf and tied it,
together with the tomatoes, in a cotton kerchief with black polka dots.
     Then, with a small flat keg of  water under his  arm,  he walked out of
the hut and hung a padlock on the door.
     This was  an unnecessary precaution. In  the  first  place,  there  was
nothing to steal, and in the second place, who would stoop so low  as to rob
     Gavrik took the oars from the roof and heaved them  up on his small but
sturdy shoulder.
     A busy day  lay  ahead  of grandfather and grandson. Two days before, a
storm had raged.  The waves had  torn the line.  The fish were keeping away.
They had had no catch. And there was not a kopek left.
     Yesterday the sea  had calmed  down  and they had set the line for  the
     Today they had to pull it out, get the fish to market in time, bait the
line, and in the evening  set it again without fail, so  as not to  miss the
good weather.
     They dragged the boat across  the pebbly beach and  carefully pushed it
into the sea.
     Gavrik,  standing  knee-deep  in   the  water,  put  the  fish   tank-a
boat-shaped box  with small  holes in it-in  the stern  and gave  the boat a
strong push. He ran along with it a few paces and then stretched himself out
prone  on  its  side;  he dangled his  feet  above  the  sliding water,  and
glistening drops fell from them.
     Only after the boat had moved out about  five yards did he crawl in and
sit down at the oar next to Grandpa.
     Each worked one  oar. That was  easy, and besides it was fun to see who
could outpull the other.  But they  both  wore indifferent frowns  on  their
faces and merely grunted from time to time.
     Gavrik felt a pleasant glow in the palms of his hands. When his oar was
in the transparent green of the sea it seemed broken. The narrow blade moved
tautly through the water, sending back little eddies.
     The  boat  went ahead in spurts, swerving  now to the right, now to the
left. First the grandfather leaned on his oar, and then the grandson.
     "Oo-oof!" grunted Grandpa, pulling with all his strength.
     The boat veered sharply to the left.
     Gavrik gave a louder "Oo-oof!" and the boat veered to the right.
     The grandfather braced a bare foot with a  gnarled  big toe against the
thwart and took short sharp  strokes. The  grandson did not  let  himself be
outdone. He braced both feet and bit his lip.
     "Bet you can't outpull me, Grandpa," Gavrik said through set teeth, the
sweat pouring from him.
     Grandpa grunted. He was breathing heavily.
     "Bet I can. "
     "Not on your life."
     "We'll see." 'We'll see."
     But though Grandpa  leaned on his oar as hard as he could, nothing came
of it. He wasn't the man he used  to be! Besides, his grandson had grown  to
be quite a  fellow. He was small, true enough, but as stubborn as they came!
Not afraid to challenge his own grandfather!
     Grandpa  gave  angry  frowns as he  glanced  sidewise  from  under  his
grizzled brows at the boy beside him.  But his old watery eyes twinkled with
merriment and wonder.
     And so, neither outdoing the  other, they  rowed  to the  place about a
mile from shore  where the faded little flags of their  line were bobbing up
and down on corks amid the waves.
     By this time the sea was covered with fishing boats out for the catch.
     The blue beauty Nadya and Vera, a new boat, passed  by under full sail,
her flat notched bottom rearing one-third out of the water and slapping down
hard against the waves.
     Sprawled carelessly in the stern,  with a black sunflower seed stuck to
his lip, lay Fedya, a fisherman from Maly Fontan whom Gavrik knew well.
     From  under the oilcloth peak of  his navy-blue cap with  anchor-design
buttons  there  lazily  looked  out  a  pair  of  fine, languid  eyes almost
completely covered by a spray-darkened forelock.
     Fedya lay with the weight of his back against the sharply turned tiller
and did not even deign a glance at Grandpa's pathetic little boat.
     But when Fedya's brother Vasya, who was wearing a short-sleeved striped
jersey, caught sight of Gavrik  he stopped unwinding the fishing  line  and,
shielding his eyes  against the  sun with his hand, cried out, "Ahoy, Gavrik
old man! Don't give in! Hold on to the water and you'll never drown!"
     The Nadya  and Vera sped by,  dousing  grandfather and grandson  with a
fountain of spray.
     Of course, no offence had been meant. It was a friendly practical joke.
Still, Grandpa pretended he had not heard a word; in his  heart of hearts he
was hurt.
     For  there was a time when  Grandpa, too, had  owned  an excellent boat
with  a  new, strong sail.  He used to fish for mackerel. And what  catches!
There were days  when Grandma, rest her  soul, took two or  three hundred to
     But now his  life  was over. All he had left was a  pauper's hut on the
shore and an old boat without a sail.
     The  sail had gone to pay the doctors during Grandma's illness. But all
for nothing: she had died anyway. Now  he would never be able to get a  sail
like that again.
     And  what  kind  of  fishing  was  this without a sail? It was  a joke!
Catching bullheads with a line. Ah, me!
     Gavrik guessed what Grandpa  was thinking  about,  but gave no sign. On
the contrary,  to divert  the  old  man  from his bitter thoughts  he busied
himself with the line. He began pulling up the first flag.
     The  grandfather at  once crawled over  the  seat to his grandson,  and
together they started to pull in the wet end of the line.
     Soon they came to the  hooks. But they found few bullheads on them, and
small ones at that.
     Gavrik  took the  big-headed  little  fishes  firmly by  their slippery
gills, deftly pulled  the hooks out  of  their rapacious jaws and threw them
into the tank, which had been lowered into the sea.
     But barely three  hooks  out  of ten  had a  real  catch. On the others
dangled small fry or crabs.
     "They don't go for shrimps," Grandpa muttered sadly. "Just think of it.
Nothing but small fry. Meat's the bait to use. They'd go for meat all right.
But  how  to get meat when  it's eleven kopeks a pound at the market! It's a
     Suddenly a tremendous hulk pouring forth brown smoke bore down on them.
Two slanting  shadows  flew  over the waves. The  sea  burst  into frightful
noise.  A steamer passed by close to the boat, her red float-boards  working
     The boat was thrown up, then let down, then thrown up again.
     The  flags  of   the  line   bobbed   frantically,  almost   under  the
paddle-wheels.  A  little  closer  and  they  would  have  been ground  into
     "Hi  there, on  the  Turgenev!"  Grandpa  shouted in an  unrecognisable
voice, spreading  out his arms as though trying to  stop  a galloping horse.
"Gone blind? Can't you see the line? Filthy pigs!"
     But the steamer had already passed by.
     She was noisily drawing away-with her tricolour flag at the stern, with
her  life-belts  and  life-boats,  with  her passengers, with her columns of
brown anthracite smoke- leaving behind  a broad, snow-white, lacy pattern on
the clear dark-green water.
     That meant it was seven o'clock in the morning.
     The Turgenev  served the fishermen as a  clock. At eight in the evening
she would pass on her way back to Odessa from Akkerman.
     To get the bullheads to market in time they would have to hurry.
     Grandfather and grandson made a hasty breakfast of tomatoes  and  bread
washed down with water  from the keg, which by now had turned warm and taken
on an oaky flavour. Then they quickly went back to their work on the line.


     At about nine o'clock  Gavrik was on his way to town, with the tank  of
bullheads on his  shoulder. He could have put them  in a basket, of  course,
but the tank made a better impression. It showed that  he was carrying live,
absolutely fresh fish straight out of the sea.
     Grandpa remained at home to mend the line.
     Although Gavrik was only nine, Grandpa had  no  qualms about entrusting
him with such an important mission as the sale of the fish. He relied on his
grandson fully. The lad had a head on his shoulders. He was not a baby.
     Whom else could the old man depend upon if not his own grandson?
     Gavrik was fully aware of the importance and responsibility of his job,
and it was with a businesslike and preoccupied air that he tramped along the
hot  path among  the  strong-smelling bushes, leaving in the  dust  distinct
imprints of his small feet with all their ten toes.
     His air of concentration and importance  as much as said:  "You may  do
what you like-swim in the  sea, lounge about on the sand, ride a bicycle, or
drink soda water at the stand. Me, I'm  a fisherman,  and my job is to catch
bullheads and sell them at the market. Nothing else concerns me."
     As  he passed the beach house, where over the cashier's  window  hung a
spotted black board  with the  figure "76╟" chalked on  it,  Gavrik  gave  a
scornful  and disgusted smile at what he saw: a chubby white-bodied man with
a handkerchief on  his bald head had stopped up his nose  and ears with  his
fingers and was  ducking himself in the clayey water near the shore, staying
close to the safety-rope, which was covered with a slimy green beard.
     There  were two ways of getting to the top  of the bluff: by  the  long
sloping  path  that  had  three  turns  in  it,  or  by  the  steep,  almost
perpendicular wooden stairway with rotting steps.
     Gavrik, it goes without saying, chose the stairway.
     Compressing  his  lips, he ran  quickly  to  the very top without  once
pausing for breath.
     A   dusty  but  shady  lane  brought  him   past  the  "Warm  Sea-Baths
Establishment" to the Military School.
     There he was practically in town.
     In  the  shade  of the dappled plane trees of French Boulevard an  open
horse-tram was lumbering along  towards Arcadia. The sunny side  of the tram
was  covered   with  an  awning.   A  sheaf  of  bamboo  fishing-rods,  with
red-and-blue floats,  jutted out from the rear  platform. Three  lively  old
mares clicked their  hoofs along the  fine gravel. The brakes screeched  and
moaned at the turns.
     But what really drew the boy's attention was the kvass stand.
     It was a big box-like  affair with a double-sloping roof that rested on
two posts. The outside was painted green and the inside  white-thick,  shiny
oil paint.
     As to the kvass man,  he was so  extraordinarily  elegant  and handsome
that every time Gavrik passed by that corner he stopped to marvel and envy.
     Gavrik never gave much thought to  what he  would be when  he grew  up.
There wasn't any particular choice. But if he did have a choice, it would be
a kvass man, of course.
     All the Odessa kvass vendors were as spruce and handsome as a  picture.
And this one especially. He was the dead spit of Vanka Klyuchnik."
     Yes, that was it. With his high merchant's cap of fine navy-blue serge,
his blond curls, and his shiny high boots. And the shirt! Lord, a shirt like
that was fit to be worn only on Easter Sunday: bright-red, with sleeves like
balloons,  and  long-all  the  way to the knees,  with  a hundred blue glass
     Over  the shirt  he  wore  a black waistcoat with a  silver watch-chain
fastened in a buttonhole with a little silver rod.
     One  look at  that flaming shirt was enough to make anybody pant  for a
drink of cold kvass.
     And the way he worked! Quickly, deftly, smoothly.
     "Give us a glass, laddie," a customer would say.
     "Which would  you like?  The  sour or the sweet? The sweet's a  kopek a
mug, and the sour's two for a kopek."
     "I'll have the sour."
     "Coming right up."
     In the twinkling of  an  eye one  hand  lifted  the  round cover of the
locker by the ring and dipped into the deep icy darkness for a bottle, while
the other wiped the white counter with a rag-it was dry anyway-rinsed a huge
mug  with a thick false  bottom  in a  pail of water, smartly turned the mug
over and set it down with a bang in front of the customer.
     The small corkscrew bit into the cork. The bottle, pressed between  the
boots, exploded. Out of its neck rose long ringlets of brown foam.
     The  handsome  fellow  turned  the bottle over  into  the  mug, filling
one-quarter with lemon-yellow kvass and three-quarters with foam.
     The  customer eagerly blew off the foam  and then drank  and  drank and
drank. Meanwhile Vanka Klyuchnik wiped the counter with a flourish and swept
the  wet  kopek  with the  eagle on it into a tin  box  which once had  held
Krakhmalnikov Bros, lozenges.
     There was a man! That was the life!
     Naturally, Gavrik was dying for a drink  of kvass, but he had no money.
Perhaps on  the way  back, although  that  was doubtful. The fact  was  that
though there  were  about two  hundred  bullheads in  the tank,  Grandpa was
heavily  in  debt to the fishwife with whom they dealt.  The week before, he
had borrowed three  rubles from her for corks and hooks for the line and had
returned only one ruble forty-five. That  left the debt at more than a ruble
and a half-a huge sum.
     If the fishwife agreed not to  hold back all the money everything would
be fine. But what if she kept all of it? In that case they would be lucky to
have enough to buy meat for bait and bread, let alone kvass.
     Gavrik spat,  exactly the way grown-up fishermen do  when burdened with
     He shifted  the tank to the  other shoulder  and  continued on his way,
carrying with him in  his mind's eye the handsome picture of Vanka Klyuchnik
and the fragrant coolness of the sour kvass he had not drunk.
     From here  on stretched  real  city streets, with tall  houses,  shops,
warehouses, gateways.
     Everything lay  in the mottled shade of acacias whose leaves shone like
long green grapes.
     A closed  wagon  clattered  down the street. The  patches of shade sped
downwards along the  horses in their high  German collars, along the driver,
and along the white sides with the sign: "Artificial-Ice Plant."
     Cooks carrying baskets walked by. The shade slipped across them too.
     Dogs with tongues hanging  out ran up to the water tins attached to the
trunks  of trees.  With  their tails curled up into a loop, they lapped  the
warm water, extremely pleased with the Odessa city council for seeing  to it
that they did not go mad from thirst.
     All this was familiar, humdrum.
     But here was something to marvel at-a little cart with a pony harnessed
to it. Gavrik had never  seen such a little horse in all his life. It was no
bigger than a calf but otherwise exactly like a real horse.
     A  tan, fat-bellied little  thing  with a chocolate-coloured mane and a
small but bushy  tail, in a straw hat with holes for  the ears,  with shaggy
eyelashes raised,  it  stood  quietly and modestly, like  a well-bred little
girl, in the shade of the acacias at the entrance to a house.
     A group of children had gathered round it.
     Gavrik walked over  and stood for a  long time  in silence. He did  not
know how  to react to this phenomenon. There was no doubt about it: he liked
the little horse, but at the same time it irritated him.
     He inspected it from all sides. Yes, it  was a horse: hoofs,  forelock,
teeth. But how disgustingly small!
     "Call that a horse?" he said with scorn, wrinkling his nose.
     "It's  not  a  horse, it's not a horse," chanted a little girl with two
pigtails, squatting  in glee and clapping  her hands. "It's  not a horse  at
all. It's only a pony."
     "It  is a horse,"  Gavrik said gloomily. The very  next instant  he was
annoyed and ashamed at  having let himself  be drawn into  conversation with
such a beribboned little creature.
     "It's a pony, it's a pony!"
     "From  the  circus,"  Gavrik  remarked  in a  hoarse  bass,  as  though
addressing no one in particular. "An ordinary one from the circus."
     "It's not from the circus,  it's not from the circus! It's a pony,  and
it's delivering Nobel paraffin. See the tins?"
     Yes, in the cart stood shiny paraffin tins.
     This  came as  a  complete surprise to Gavrik. Paraffin,  as  everybody
knew, was bought in a shop in one's own bottle at a kopek a quart.
     But for it to be delivered  to homes in a  cart, and a cart  drawn by a
fancy pony-that was a bit too much!
     "It's a plain horse!" Gavrik retorted angrily as he walked away.
     "It's a pony! It's  a pony! It's a pony!" the little girl  called after
him like a parrot, jumping up and down and clapping her hands.
     "You're a pony  yourself,"  thought Gavrik. But unfortunately he had no
time for a real argument.
     After skirting  the  public  garden, through whose iron fence  came the
hot, dry fragrance of myrtle and thuja with  its tart little cones, the  boy
stopped, threw  back his head and stared for a rather long time at the clock
on the railway station.
     He had learned to tell time  only recently, and now he could not pass a
clock without stopping to reckon.
     He  still counted on his fingers  those strange little  sticks of Roman
numerals which were so unlike the usual figures  in arithmetic. He knew only
that the  top figure was twelve and that it was from there you had  to start
     He set  the fish tank down at  his feet. His  lips began to move. "One,
two,  three,  four,"  he  whispered, crinkling his forehead  and bending his
fingers back firmly.
     The small hand pointed to nine and the big one to six.
     "Nine and a half," the boy said with a sigh of satisfaction, wiping the
sweat from his nose with the tail of his shirt.
     That was what it looked like, but it would do no harm to check.
     "What time is it?"
     A gentleman in  a pongee jacket and  a  tropical  helmet  put  a golden
pince-nez to  his Roman nose, tilted his short grey beard, threw a glance at
the clock, and said quickly, "Nine-thirty."
     Gavrik was dumbfounded.
     "But doesn't it say nine and a half?"
     "That means it's nine-thirty," the man said sternly, without looking at
the boy. Then he climbed into a cab and drove off, holding his ivory-handled
walking stick between his knees.
     Gavrik  stood there for a while, his mouth with its missing teeth open,
trying to decide whether the gentleman had been making fun of him or whether
it was really so.
     Finally he raised the tank to his shoulder, hitched up his trousers and
continued on  his  way, turning  his  head  from side  to  side  and smiling
     So nine and a half  was the same as nine-thirty! Queer. Very queer.  At
any rate, it wouldn't hurt to ask someone who knew.


     "Lobsters! Lobsters! Lobsters! Lobsters!"
     "Flat-fish! Flat-fish! Flat-fish!"
     "Live mackerel! Mackerel! Mackerel!"
     "Mullet! Mullet!"
     "Middies! Middies! Middies! Middies! Middies!"
     "Bullheads! Bullheads! Bullheads!"
     The loudest and shrillest  voices of all the  market women  belonged to
the fishwives: Fish Row was famous for that.
     You had to have the calm courage of Odessa housewives and cooks to walk
at a leisurely pace along that lane of tables, baskets and  vats piled  with
fish and lobsters and other shellfish.
     Under sheds and huge canvas sun-shades  the quivering,  gleaming riches
of the Black Sea lay spread out for all to behold.
     What a variety of shapes, colours and sizes!
     Nature  had done all she could to safeguard her wonderful creations and
protect them from destruction, to  make them as unnoticeable as  possible to
the human eye. She had camouflaged them in all the tints of the sea.
     Take that noble and expensive fish, the  mackerel, queen  of  the Black
Sea. Her taut body, as straight and smooth as a spindle, was coloured in the
most delicate moire shades ranging from sky-blue to deep-blue.
     This, Gavrik knew, was the colour of the sea  far from  shore, and just
where shoals of mackerel usually passed.
     A crafty creature, the mackerel!
     Although Gavrik saw mackerel every  day and could  spot  a shoal half a
mile away, he never failed to marvel at how beautiful and clever they were.
     Or take bullheads. Their haunt was the rocks near  the shore,  and also
the  sandy  bottom.  That  was  why they  were  brownish like  the rocks  or
yellowish like the sand.
     Just think of it!
     Then there were the big  flat-fish, which preferred the slimy bottom of
quiet   little  bays.   The  striking  thing   about  these  fish   was  the
greenish-black colour of their thick skin, covered with flat bony bumps like
seashells.  Flat-fish  had  both  their eyes  on the  upper  side,  and they
reminded you  of the charcoal drawings  children make  on fences:  a head in
profile, but with two eyes.
     True,  flat-fish  had  wax-coloured bellies, like a  sucking-pig's, but
they never showed them; they always lay at the bottom, hugging the sand.
     The boy marvelled at the craftiness of the flat-fish too.
     There was  also the mullet, a humpbacked little red-and-black fish with
big scales that looked blood-stained.
     Large pink seashells exactly like  them glittered at the bottom  of the
clearest bays.
     As  to silversides, these  swarmed  at the surface of the  sea near the
shore, where they  could  not be  told apart from the  silvery Hashes of the
morning sun.
     Yes,  Nature was crafty. But man, Gavrik knew, was  craftier. He placed
his nets, he cast his invisible fishing lines, he flashed his spoon-bait and
flies-and then these  fish, which  you could never notice in the sea, showed
all the splendour of their magic colours in the baskets and on the stalls of
the marketplace.
     Money for good tackle-that was the main thing!
     Looking for his  fishwife, the boy walked  past baskets  swarming  with
light-green lobsters.  They made  a rustling sound as they  reached  upwards
with nippers spread apart convulsively, like scissors.
     The silversides were glistening heaps of silver coins.
     Under  their wet netting the springy shrimps  made a clicking noise and
shot out salt in all directions.
     Shiny scales stuck to the boy's bare feet. His heels slid on fish guts.
     Scrawny  market  cats, their  eyes  insane,  with  pupils  narrowed  to
vertical  slits,  crept along  the ground in search of prey,  ears flattened
back and shoulder-blades jutting up rapaciously.
     Housewives  carrying  string  bags with  carrots  sticking out  of them
weighed thick slices of flat-fish in their hands.
     The sun was burning hot. The fish were dying.
     The market-woman Gavrik was looking for  sat on a child's bench under a
canvas sun-shade big enough for a giant, surrounded by baskets of fish.
     The  huge woman was dressed, despite the heat, in a winter  jacket with
puffed sleeves, and she had a sand-coloured shawl wrapped crosswise over her
bosom; across one shoulder hung a heavy money-bag.
     Gavrik stopped respectfully at a  distance  to wait until  she finished
bargaining with a customer.
     He  knew  very well that he and  Grandpa were completely dependent upon
this  woman,  and that  meant  he had  to be  as  polite  and  unassuming as
possible. If he had worn a hat he would have removed it. But he wore no hat,
and so he did the best he  could: he set the fish tank gently on the ground,
let  his arms hang at his  sides, and looked down at his bare shuffling feet
with their grey suede socks of dust reaching to the ankles.
     The customer was buying only two  dozen bullheads  but  the  bargaining
went on a frightfully long time.
     She walked away  ten times, and ten times she  came back. Ten times the
fishwife  picked up  the  brass pans of her  balance all  covered with  fish
scales, and ten times she threw them back into the basket of flat-fish.
     The fishwife gesticulated rapidly with her fleshy hands in their  black
knitted  mitts, not forgetting to hold her  little finger out at an  elegant
     She  ran her sleeve across  her  shiny purplish-red face with its black
moustache and grey ringlets  of hair  on the chin. She nervously  pushed big
iron hairpins back into place in her greasy jet-black hair.
     "Just  look  at  them,  madam,"  she cried hoarsely.  "You  won't  find
bullheads like these  anywhere else.  I  tell you, these bullheads are worth
their weight in gold!"
     "They're tiny," the  customer said, walking away in disdain. "Not  even
worth frying."
     "Come back,  madam! You say they're not worth frying? Where'll you find
bigger  ones?  Maybe from the Jews! Then go to 'em! You know  me. I'd  never
palm off small fry on a steady customer!"
     "Ten  kopeks a  dozen for these bullheads? Never! Not a kopek more than
     "Two dozen for nineteen."
     "For that money I'd rather go somewhere else and buy salmon."
     "My last  price is eighteen, madam. Take it or leave it. Where are  you
going, madam?"
     At  last the  deal  took  place. The  fishwife  gave  the  customer the
bullheads and threw the coins into her moneybag.
     Gavrik waited patiently until the fishwife took notice of him. She knew
he was there, but she pretended for a long time not to see him.
     Such was the custom of the market-place.  If you needed  money, you had
to wait. Nothing terrible about it. A person wouldn't die if he stood  there
a while.
     "Fresh fish!  Live  bullheads!  Flat-fish!  Flat-fish!  Flatfish!"  The
fishwife  paused  for  breath  and then suddenly  said, without  looking  at
Gavrik, "Well, show it here!"
     The boy opened the fish tank and moved it over to her.
     "Bullheads," he said respectfully.
     She dipped her paw into the tank and pulled some out with  a  practised
hand. She gave them a quick glance and then stared at Gavrik, her round eyes
as blue-black as Isabella grapes.
     "Well? Where's the bullheads?"
     Gavrik was silent.
     "Where's the bullheads, I ask you?"
     The boy sadly shifted his feet and gave a modest  smile, trying to turn
the unpleasant conversation into a joke.
     "Why, there they are, ma'am. You're holding them. Can't you see?"
     "Where's the bullheads?" the fishwife suddenly screamed, turning red as
a beet with rage. "Where are they?  Where? Show me. I don't see  'em.  D'you
mean to say what  I'm holding  in my  hand? These  ain't  bullheads -they're
lice! Anything here  worth  frying? Not a  thing! All  you ever bring  me is
small fry! Take your small fry to the Jews!"
     Gavrik was silent.
     He couldn't call them big bullheads, of course, but still they  weren't
as tiny as the screaming  fishwife made them out to be. However, he was  not
in a position to argue.
     When  the   fishwife  finished  shouting  she  coolly  transferred  the
bullheads from the tank to her basket, deftly counting them off by tens.
     Her  hands moved  so quickly  that Gavrik  was unable to keep count. He
felt she was cheating him. But there was no way  of checking, for there were
other bullheads in her basket.
     Who could tell which was which?
     Gavrik was struck with horror. He broke into a sweat from excitement.
     "To make it a round number, two hundred and fifty," said  the fishwife,
covering the basket with  a  strip of sacking. "Take you tank, and good-bye.
Tell  your  grandfather  he  still  owes  me  eighty kopeks. Tell him not to
forget. And tell him not to send me any more teenies-I won't take 'em!"
     The boy  was  dumbfounded. He tried to  say  something  but his  throat
     The  fishwife was  not  paying  him  the  slightest  attention. She was
calling her wares again.
     "Flat-fish, flat-fish, flat-fish! Bullheads, bullheads, bullheads!"
     "Madam  Storozhenko,"  the  boy  finally  managed to  get  out,  "Madam
Storozhenko. . . ."
     She turned her head impatiently. "You still here? Well?"
     "Madam Storozhenko, how much are you paying me for a hundred?"
     "Thirty kopeks a hundred, seventy-five for the lot. You owed me a ruble
fifty-five and now you owe  me eighty kopeks. Tell that to your grandfather.
     "Thirty kopeks a hundred!"
     Gavrik was so hurt and so angry he wanted to shout, to punch her in the
nose with all  his might, so that  blood flowed  from it.  Yes, so that  the
blood flowed. Or to bite her.
     But  instead he  gave  a quick, fawning  smile. "Madam Storozhenko," he
muttered, almost in tears, "but you always used to pay us forty-five."
     "You're lucky you're getting thirty for such trash. Now be off!"
     "But Madam Storozhenko, you're getting eighty for 'em. . . ."
     "Clear out and stop pestering me! It's my fish and  I set my own price.
I don't take no orders from you. Flatfish! Flat-fish! Flat-fish!"
     Gavrik looked at  Madam Storozhenko. She sat on her child's bench-huge,
unapproachable, stony.
     He could have told her  that Grandpa and he had no  money  at all, that
they  absolutely  had  to  buy bread,  and meat for bait, and that all  they
needed was fifteen or twenty kopeks. But was it worth humbling himself?
     The pride of fisherfolk spoke up in the boy.
     With his sleeve he wiped away the tears that  were  stinging his peeled
nose, blew  his nose into  the dust with two fingers, raised the  light fish
tank to his shoulder and walked off with  his rolling gait of the Black  Sea
     As he walked along he wondered where he could get some meat and bread.


     Although,  as we have seen, Gavrik had a life of toil  and cares, quite
like  a grown-up, we must not forget that he was, after  all, only a  boy of
     He had friends with whom he  liked to play, run, scrap, catch sparrows,
shoot with catapults and do everything else all Odessa boys of poor families
     He  belonged  to the category known as "street urchins",  and this gave
him a wide acquaintance.
     Nobody prevented him from  going into  any  courtyard or playing in any
     He was as free as a bird. The whole city was his.
     Even the  freest bird, however, has  its favourite haunts, and Gavrik's
were the seaside streets in the  Otrada  and Maly Fontan districts. There he
was  an  unchallenged  king  among  the  boys,  who  envied  and admired his
independent life.
     Gavrik had many friends, but only one real chum, Petya.
     The simplest thing  would be to go and see  Petya  and put their  heads
together about bread and meat.
     Naturally, Petya  didn't have any  money,  especially  a  big  sum like
fifteen kopeks. There was no  use even thinking about  that. But Petya could
take a chunk of meat from the kitchen and some bread from the cupboard.
     Gavrik had been inside Petya's house once, as his guest last Christmas,
and he knew  very well that they had a  cupboard piled with bread  and  that
nobody gave it any notice. It would be no bother at all to bring out as much
as half a loaf. Those people didn't pay any attention to things like bread.
     But the trouble was he didn't know whether Petya had come back from the
country. He ought to  be back by now, of  course.  Several  times during the
summer Gavrik had gone to Petya's yard to find out. But Petya had been still
     The  last time their cook, Dunya,  said they would  soon come. That was
about five days ago. Perhaps they were already there.
     From the  market Gavrik set out for  Petya's.  Luckily, it  was not far
away: Kulikovo Field and the corner of Kanatnaya, just opposite  the railway
station and next  to the Army Staff building. It was a big four-storey house
with  two front entrances.  And a  wonderful house it was; if you  wanted to
live like a lord, you couldn't find a better.
     In the first place, it was just the thing for street fights because  it
had two gateways: one leading out to Kulikovo Field, or simply Kulichki, and
the other  to  a marvellous vacant  lot with bushes, tarantula holes, and  a
rubbish-heap;  only a small  rubbish-heap,  true,  but an exceptionally rich
     If you dug  properly in it, you could  always collect a  mass of useful
things-from chemist's vials to dead rats.
     Petya was lucky. It wasn't every chap had  a refuse-heap like that next
to his house!
     In the second place, little suburban trains drawn by  a tiny engine ran
past the house, so that you  didn't  have to go very far  to put a  cap or a
stone under the wheels.
     In the third place, the Army Staff building was next door.
     Behind  its  high stone  wall facing the  field lay a  mysterious world
guarded  day  and  night  by  sentries. Behind  that  wall were the rumbling
machines  of the Army  Staff printing  plant. And what interesting scraps of
paper the wind carried over the wall: ribbons, strips, vermicelli!
     The  windows  of  the staff clerks' quarters faced  the  field  too. By
standing on a rock one could look through the grating and see how the clerks
lived, those extraordinarily handsome, important  and dashing  young  men in
the long trousers of officers but with the shoulder straps of privates.
     Gavrik had  learned  from reliable sources  that the clerks belonged to
the ordinary "lower ranks", that is to say, were plain soldiers.  But what a
world of difference between them and the soldiers!
     With the possible exception of the kvass vendors, the staff clerks were
the most elegant, best-dressed and handsomest fellows in town.
     When they saw a clerk the  chambermaids from  the nearby houses  turned
pale and began to tremble and looked as though they would  faint any minute.
They mercilessly scorched their hair  and temples  with  curling-irons, they
dabbed their  noses  with tooth powder  and they  rouged  their  cheeks with
toffee paper. But the clerks paid no attention to them.
     To any Odessa soldier  a chambermaid  was a superior and unapproachable
being, but to a staff clerk she was no  more than  "a dull peasant" and  not
worthy of a glance.
     In their rooms  behind  the  grating the staff clerks sat on  iron beds
softly  strumming guitars; they were sad and lonely. They  sat without their
jackets, in  long trousers  with a  broad red  stitched  belting, and  clean
shirts with black neckties such as officers wore.
     If a staff  clerk appeared in the street of a  Sunday  evening, it  was
always arm in arm with two seamstresses wearing their hair puffed up high in
     Staff  clerks were unbelievably rich. With his own eyes Gavrik once saw
one of them riding in a droshky.
     But strange as it  seemed, staff clerks  belonged to the "lower ranks".
At  the corner of Pirogovskaya  and Kulikovo Field Gavrik once saw, with his
own  eyes, a general  in silver shoulder straps striking a  clerk across the
mouth and shouting in a voice that sent shivers down Gavrik's back, "Is that
the way to stand, you dog? Is that the way?"
     The  clerk  stood  stiffly  at  attention  and  rolled  his  head,  his
light-blue  peasant  eyes bulging  like  a  common  soldier's.  "Sorry, Your
Excellency!" he muttered. "I'll never do it again!"
     It  was this  dual position that  made the staff  clerks, such strange,
wonderful and at the same time pathetic creatures, like fallen angels exiled
as punishment from heaven to earth.
     The life of the ordinary sentries, whose quarters were next door to the
staff clerks, was very interesting too.
     These soldiers also had two natures.
     One was when  they stood in  pairs, in full sentry uniform,  with their
cartridge belts, at the alabaster front entrance of the Army Staff building,
springing smartly  to attention  and presenting arms the  way sergeants did,
that is, shifting their well-greased bayonets slightly to the side  whenever
an officer came in or went out.
     The other was a plain, domestic, peasant nature, when they sat in their
barracks   sewing   on   buttons,   polishing   their   boots   or   playing
draughts-"dames", as they called it.
     Bowls  and  wooden spoons  were always drying on their windowsills, and
there were many left-over pieces of black army bread which they readily gave
to beggars.
     They readily talked to boys, too, but the questions they asked and  the
words they used made the boys blush to their ears and run away horrified.
     The two courtyards were asphalted and were just the place  for  playing
hopscotch. Fine squares  and  numbers  could be  drawn  on  the asphalt with
charcoal or chalk. The smooth sea pebbles slid across it wonderfully.
     If the  janitor lost his temper at the hullabaloo raised by the playing
children and  went  after them with his broom, there was nothing easier than
running into the next courtyard.
     Besides, the house had wonderful and mysterious cellars with woodbins.
     It  was simply marvellous to hide in those cellars  among the  firewood
and  various junk, in the dry, dusty darkness, while out in the yard  it was
bright daylight.
     In a word, the house where Petya lived was an excellent place  in every
     Gavrik entered the yard and stopped  under the windows of Petya's flat,
which was on the second storey.
     The  yard,  split  diagonally  by  the  distinct  midday   shadow,  was
absolutely empty. Not a boy in sight. Evidently they were all in the country
or at the seaside.
     Shuttered windows. The hot, lazy stillness of noon. Not a sound.
     But  from somewhere  far  away-perhaps even  as  far as  Botanicheskaya
Street-came  the  spluttering and  popping  noise of  a red-hot  frying pan.
Judging by the smell, it was grey mullet being fried in sunflower oil.
     "Petya!" Gavrik called, his hands cupped round his mouth.
     Closed shutters.
     The kitchen window opened and the white-kerchiefed head  of Dunya,  the
cook, looked out.
     "They haven't come yet." It was the usual reply, spoken quickly.
     "When will they?"
     "We expect them this evening."
     The boy spat on the ground and rubbed the spittle with his foot. He was
silent for a while.
     "Please, ma'am, as soon as he comes tell him Gavrik was here."
     "Yes, Your Honour."
     "Tell him I'll drop round tomorrow morning."
     "It'll be  quite all right  if you  don't. Our  Petya will be going  to
school this year. And that means good-bye to all your monkey-business."
     "Never mind," Gavrik muttered dourly. "Only don't  forget  to tell him.
Will you?"
     "I'll tell him, don't cry."
     "Good-bye, ma'am."
     "Good-bye, you beauty."
     Dunya, it seemed, was so fed up with doing nothing all summer long that
she had descended to an exchange of banter with a little ragamuffin.
     Gavrik hitched up his trousers and strolled out of the yard.
     A bad business! What next?
     He could,  of course, go to  his big brother Terenti at Near Mills. But
in the first place, Near Mills was  a long  way off, and  the walk there and
back  would take  a good four  hours. And in the  second  place,  after  the
disturbances he didn't know whether Terenti  would be at home  or not. Quite
likely he was in hiding somewhere or else had nothing to eat himself.
     What sense was there in wearing out his feet for nothing? They were his
own, weren't they?
     The  boy walked out on the field and  looked in at the barracks windows
as he passed by.
     The soldiers had just finished their midday meal and were rinsing their
spoons on the windowsill. A pile of leftover bread was drying  under the hot
     The bread was black  and  spongy, with  a  chestnut-coloured crust that
actually looked sour, and flies were crawling over it.
     Gavrik stopped near a window, entranced by the sight of such abundance.
     He  was silent for a while, and then to his own surprise he blurted out
roughly, "Give me some bread!"
     But he immediately remembered himself, picked  up his  tank  and walked
away. "I didn't  mean it,"  he  said, showing the soldiers  his  gap-toothed
smile. "I don't want any."
     The soldiers  crowded at the windowsill, calling  and whistling to  the
boy. "Hi there! Where you running to? Come back!"
     They stretched out pieces  of bread  to him through  the grating. "Take
it. Don't be afraid."
     He stopped in indecision.
     "Hold out your shirt."
     There was so much  good-natured gaiety in their shouts  and in the fuss
they were making that Gavrik saw there would be nothing humiliating about it
if he did take some bread from them. He walked back and held out his shirt.
     Chunks of bread flew into it.
     "Won't do you any harm to try our army bread and get used to it!"
     In addition to about five pounds of bread, the  soldiers  gave Gavrik a
good helping of yesterday's porridge.
     He stowed it all neatly into the fish tank, accompanied by earthy jokes
about the  effect  of army rations on the stomach, set out for home to  help
Grandpa mend the line.
     Late that afternoon they put out to sea again.


     When he saw that the steamer did not stop and did not lower a boat, but
continued  on her course, the sailor  calmed down a bit  and  began to think
     His first concern was to throw off some of his clothes; they interfered
with his swimming.
     The  jacket was  water-logged  and as heavy  as iron,  but it  came off
easiest of all. He did it in three movements, turning over several times and
spitting out the bitter, salty sea water.
     For a while the jacket floated along after him with its  sleeves spread
out, like a living thing; it did not want to part from  its master and tried
to wind itself round his legs.
     After the sailor had kicked  the jacket a few times it  fell behind and
slowly sank, swaying and dropping from layer to layer until it  was lost  in
the depths  to which the  cloudy shafts of the late afternoon light  faintly
     The boots gave him the most trouble of all. They stuck as though filled
with glue.
     He furiously scraped  one  foot against  the other to  throw off  those
coarse navy boots with the  rust-coloured  tops which  had given  him  away.
Paddling with  his  arms, he danced in  the water;  one minute his head went
under, the next his shoulders reared up over the surface.
     But the boots would not yield. He filled his lungs  with air  and then,
dropping his  head under the surface, tugged at the slippery  heel of one of
the  boots,  mentally letting out a string  of the vilest oaths  and cursing
everything under the sun.
     At last he pulled off that damned boot. The second came easier.
     However, the  relief Rodion felt  when he had got rid  of his boots and
trousers  was accompanied  by  an overpowering weariness. The  sea water, of
which he had swallowed a good deal despite all his  precautions, had set his
throat afire. Besides, he had smacked the  water painfully  hard in his dive
from the ship.
     The past two  days he had had hardly any  sleep, had walked about forty
or fifty miles, and had been under  great nervous strain. Now everything was
going dark before his eyes. Or was that because evening was falling fast?
     The water had lost its daytime colour. The surface had become a bright,
glossy heliotrope, while the depths were a frightening colour, almost black.
     From  where  he  was, the sailor could not see  the shore  at all.  The
horizon  had narrowed  almost  to nothingness. The edge of the cloudless sky
was  touched  with  a  transparent  green  afterglow, and  a  faint,  barely
perceptible star twinkled in it.
     That showed where the shore was and which way he had to swim.
     All  he now had on  was his  shirt and underdrawers,  and these were no
hindrance. But his head  whirled, and the joints of his arms and legs ached.
With every minute he found it harder to swim.
     At  times he felt  he was losing consciousness. At others he was on the
verge of vomiting.  Every  now  and then he  was seized  by  a brief, sudden
paroxysm of fear. His loneliness and the depth frightened him.
     Never before had he felt like that. He must be ill, he thought.
     His  short wet  hair  seemed dry and hot  and  so coarse that  he could
almost feel it pricking his head.
     There was not  a soul in sight. Overhead, in the empty darkening air, a
sturdy-winged gull with a body as plump as a cat's flew by. In its long bent
beak was a small fish.
     A new spasm of fear gripped the sailor. He felt that any minute now his
heart would burst and he would go to the bottom. He wanted to cry out but he
could not unclench his teeth.
     Suddenly he heard the  soft splash of oars. A few  moments later he saw
the black silhouette of a boat.
     He mustered all his strength  and struck out after the  boat, thrashing
his feet desperately. He caught up with it and succeeded in grabbing hold of
its high stern.
     Hand over hand he managed somehow to pull himself to  the  boat's side,
which was lower, and with an effort he looked in; the boat tilted.
     "Come now, none  of your tricks!" Gavrik shouted  in a threatening bass
when he saw the wet head sticking out over the gunwale.
     The boy was not at all surprised to see the head. Odessa was famous for
its swimmers.
     Some swam out  as far as  three  or four miles  from shore and returned
late in the evening. This was probably one of them.
     If  he was  such a hero he had no  business catching  hold of  people's
boats for a rest. He ought to keep right  on swimming. They'd put in  a good
day's work and were tired enough as it is, without dragging him!
     "Come  now, stop fooling! Push  off  or I'll let  you have it with this
     To give more weight to his words he bent over as if to take the oar out
of the rowlock, exactly the way Grandpa did on such occasions.
     "I'm-ill-" the head said, panting.
     Over  the  side stretched  a  trembling arm  to which  the sleeve of an
embroidered shirt was plastered.
     This, Gavrik saw at once, was not a swimmer: people didn't  go swimming
in the sea in embroidered shirts.
     "What's the matter-your boat sink?"
     The  sailor was  silent. His head and arms  hung lifelessly  inside the
boat while his legs, clad in drawers, dragged in the water. He had fainted.
     Gavrik and  Grandpa dropped  their oars and with difficulty  pulled the
limp but frightfully heavy body into the boat.
     "How hot he is!" said Grandpa, catching his breath.
     Although the sailor was wet and shivering, his whole body burned with a
dry, unhealthy heat.
     "Want a drink?" asked Gavrik.
     The  sailor did not reply. He merely rolled  his glazed,  unseeing eyes
and stirred his swollen lips.
     The  boy offered  him  the water-keg.  He  pushed it  aside weakly  and
swallowed his saliva in revulsion. A second later he vomited.
     His head fell and banged against the thwart.
     Then, like a blind  man, he reached  out  in the darkness for  the keg,
found it and, his teeth chattering  against the oaken side, managed to  gulp
down some water.
     Grandpa shook his head. "A bad business!"
     "Where are you from?" asked the boy.
     Again  the sailor swallowed his  saliva. He tried  to say something but
only managed to stretch out his arm and then dropped it lifelessly.
     "To the  devil with him!" he muttered indistinctly. "Don't  let anybody
see  me. I'm  a  sailor-hide me somewhere-or else they'll  hang  me-it's the
truth, so help me God-by the true and holy-"
     He  evidently wanted  to make the sign of the Cross  but couldn't raise
his hand.  He tried to smile at  his weakness but instead a film passed over
his eyes.
     Again he lost consciousness.
     Grandfather and grandson exchanged glances but neither said a word.
     Times were such that keeping mum was the best policy.
     They carefully  laid  the  sailor on  the  floor-slats,  through  which
unbailed  water splashed up,  placed the keg under his head and sat  down at
the oars.
     They  rowed slowly,  idling along  so  as to  reach shore  when it  was
altogether dark.  The darker  the better. Before landing  they circled about
for a while near the familiar crags.
     Fortunately, there was no one on the shore.
     It was a warm, dark night full of stars and crickets.
     Grandfather and grandson pulled the  boat up on the beach.  The pebbles
rustled mysteriously.
     While Grandpa remained behind to guard the sick man Gavrik ran ahead to
make certain the coast was clear.
     He soon  returned. From his soundless footsteps,  Grandpa gathered that
all was well.  With great difficulty, but gently, they pulled the sailor out
of the boat and stood him on his legs, propping him from both sides.
     The sailor put his arm round  Gavrik's neck and pressed him to his  now
dry and extraordinarily hot body. He did not realise, of course, how heavily
he was leaning on the boy.
     Gavrik  braced  his  legs  more firmly.  "Can you walk?" he  asked in a
     The sailor did not reply but took a  few swaying  steps forward, like a
     "Easy does it, easy does it," urged Grandpa, supporting the sailor from
     "It's not far. Only a couple of steps."
     They finally made their way up the little  hill. No one  saw them.  And
even if anyone had, he would hardly have paid any attention  to that reeling
white figure supported by an old man and a boy.
     It was a familiar enough scene: a drunken  fisherman was being led home
by his relatives, and if he wasn't swearing or bawling songs that was simply
because he had taken too much.
     The minute  they got the sailor into the hot and smelly darkness of the
hut he collapsed on the plank-bed.
     Grandpa covered  the tiny window with a piece of plywood from  a broken
box  and  closed the  door tightly.  Only  then  did  he  light  the  small,
chimneyless paraffin lamp, turning down the wick as low as possible.
     The lamp stood in the corner, on a shelf covered with an old newspaper.
     On the same shelf lay  the army bread wrapped in a damp rag  to keep it
fresh, a cup made out of a tin can, the soldiers' porridge  in a  tin  bowl,
two wooden spoons, and a big blue seashell with coarse grey salt in it-in  a
word, a poverty-stricken but neat household array.
     An  old smoke-blackened icon was nailed in the corner  above the shelf:
an  oblong  coffee-coloured stain that was  the face  of  St.  Nicholas  the
Miracle Worker-the protector of fishermen-looked  down  with glittering eyes
painted in the manner of the old Kiev school.
     A  wisp of smoke and the lamp-light  streamed  up the ancient face from
below. It seemed to be alive, to be breathing.
     For a long time now Grandpa had believed in neither  God nor the devil.
He had  not seen them bring either good or evil into his  life.  But in  St.
Nicholas the Miracle Worker he did believe.
     How could he not believe in this saint who helped him  in his difficult
and dangerous occupation? Especially since this occupation, fishing, was the
most Important thing in Grandpa's life.
     But lately, to tell the truth, the miracle worker had been falling down
on the job.
     When Grandpa was younger and  stronger, when he had had good tackle and
a sail, the miracle worker had been of some use.
     But the older Grandpa  became  the less help did he get from his patron
     Of course, when there was no  sail,  when  the old  man's  strength was
waning from day  to day, and when there was no money to buy  meat for  bait,
the fish  caught would  be  small  and  good  for nothing, be  he  the  most
miraculous miracle worker the world had ever seen. And so there was no sense
expecting anything of him.
     Yes, even the miracle worker was stumped when it came to offsetting old
age and poverty.
     For all that, there were times  when Grandpa felt bitter and hurt as he
looked at the stern but useless  saint.  True, he  was no  expense and  hung
there in his corner without disturbing anybody. Oh well, let him hang there:
perhaps he'd do a good turn some day. In time the old man had come to take a
patronising and even somewhat ironical attitude towards the miracle worker.
     Returning to the hut with a catch-and the catch  these  days was almost
always pitifully small-Grandpa would  grumble,  looking  at  the embarrassed
miracle worker out of the corner of his eye, "Well, you old codger, so we're
empty-handed again, eh? This is such trash  it  makes me blush to take it to
market. They're not bullheads but lice."
     Then, so as not to hurt  the saint's feelings too  much,  he would add,
"It's only  natural. Would a real big bullhead ever go for shrimps? A  real,
well-fed  bullhead's  ready  to spit  on a  shrimp.  What  a  real, well-fed
bullhead wants is meat. But where'll we get it, eh? You can't  buy meat with
a miracle, can you? So you see?"
     Now,  however,  the  miracle  worker was  farthest from the  old  man's
thoughts. He  was greatly worried about the sailor.  And not  so much by his
fever  and  unconsciousness as by his premonition of mortal danger from some
unnamed source.
     Naturally, Grandpa did  have  an idea of what it  was all about, but to
help the man he would have to know a little more.
     As  luck  would  have  it, however,  the  sailor  was  unconscious  and
feverish; he lay sprawled out on  the patchwork  quilt,  staring straight in
front of him with open but unseeing eyes.
     One of his hands hung down from the bed. On the other, which lay on his
chest, Grandpa saw a blue anchor.
     Every now and then the  sailor attempted to spring up; moaning, the hot
sweat pouring from him, unconscious, he would bite his hand as though trying
to bite out the anchor, as if once the  anchor were gone he  would instantly
feel better.
     Grandpa forced him to lie down again and wiped his forehead. "Lie down,
now," he urged. "Lie quiet, I tell you. And go to sleep, don't be afraid. Go
to sleep."
     Out in the  vegetable patch Gavrik was boiling  water in  a cauldron to
make the  sick man some  tea. Not real tea,  that is,  but  a  brew  of  the
fragrant  herb which Grandpa gathered  in the nearby hills in May, and  then
dried and used instead of tea.


     They passed a fitful night.
     The sailor tore at the shirt on his chest. He was suffocating.
     Grandpa put out the lamp and opened the door to let in fresh air.
     The sailor saw the starry sky but he could not understand what it  was.
The night breeze blew into the hut and cooled his head.
     Gavrik lay in the weeds near the door, his ears attuned to the faintest
rustle. He did not close an eye  until morning.  His  elbow turned numb from
lying on it.
     Grandpa made a bed for himself on the  earthen floor of  the hut but he
did not sleep either; he listened  to the  crickets, to the waves and to the
moans of the sick man, who from time to time sprang up excitedly and shouted
in a weak, colourless voice, "Turret gun, shoot! Koshuba! Turret, give it to
them!" and other such nonsense.
     Grandpa would take him firmly by  the shoulders,  shake him  gently and
whisper  straight into his hot, feverish mouth, "Lie quiet. For the sake  of
the Lord God himself, don't raise a row. Lie quiet. What a trial!"
     Little by little the sailor, grinding his teeth, would quieten down.
     Who was this strange patient?
     Rodion Zhukov  was  one  of  the seven hundred  men of  the  battleship
Potemkin who had gone ashore in Rumania.
     He in no way stood out among the other men of the mutinous ship.
     From the first  minute of the uprising,  from that very minute when the
commander of  the battleship  dropped  in horror  and despair  to his  knees
before the  crew, when the first rifle shots rang out and the dead bodies of
certain officers were  thrown  overboard, when  the sailor named Matyushenko
ripped off the door  of the Admiral's cabin, that very cabin past which they
still  could  not walk without  a feeling  of  fright-from  that very minute
Rodion Zhukov lived, thought, and acted as did most of the other sailors: in
a sort of haze, in a  state of feverish exaltation until the time  when they
had to surrender to the Rumanians and disembark at Constantsa.
     Rodion had never before set foot in a foreign land. And a foreign land,
like useless freedom, is broad and bitter.
     The Potemkin stood quite close to the pier.
     Among the  feluccas, freighters, yawls, yachts and cutters, and side by
side  with  an emaciated-looking  Rumanian cruiser, the grey three-funnelled
battleship was absurdly huge.
     The flag of St.  Andrew, like a white envelope crossed with blue lines,
still hung aloft, above the gun-turrets, boats and yards.
     But suddenly it quivered, fell limp, and slid down in short spurts.
     Rodion then took off his  sailor cap with  both hands and bowed so  low
that  the ends of the new ribbons of  St. George spread out gently over  the
dust, like those orange-and-black country flowers.
     "It's  a dirty  shame! Twelve-inch  guns,  enough  ammunition to last a
month,  and  crack  gunners, every mother's son of  them.  We ought  to have
listened to Dorofei Koshuba. He was right when he said we ought to throw the
lousy  petty officers  overboard, sink the  Georgi  Pobedonosets and land  a
force in Odessa. We would have  roused the whole  Odessa  garrison,  all the
workers, the whole Black Sea! Oh, Koshuba, Koshuba, if only we'd listened to
you! What a hell of a mess we're in!"
     Rodion bowed to his beloved ship for the last time.
     "Never mind," he said through his teeth, "never mind. We won't give in.
We'll rouse the whole of Russia all the same!"
     With his last money he bought a  civilian outfit, and a few days later,
at night, he reached Russian territory by crossing the estuary of the Danube
near Vilkovo.
     His plan was to make his way across the steppe to Akkerman, and then on
a  barge  or a boat to Odessa. From Odessa  it would be  simple to reach his
native village of Nerubaiskoye, and there he would decide his next move.
     He knew only one thing for certain: that all the roads to the past were
closed  to him, that  he was cut  off once and for all both from the servile
life of a sailor on the tsar's battleship, and from the hard peasant life at
home,  in  the  clay  hut  with  the  dark-blue  walls  and  the  light-blue
window-frames, standing among pink and yellow hollyhocks.
     Now  it  was either  the  gallows  or  going into  hiding, starting  an
uprising, setting fire to landowners' manors, reaching the city and locating
the revolutionary headquarters.
     He began to feel ill on  the road but stopping was out of the  question
and he continued on his way.
     And now.. . . What's the matter with him? Where is  he? Why  are  stars
rocking in the doorway? And are they really stars?
     Like a dark sea, night engulfs Rodion.
     The stars gather into clusters, flare up, and form  a low-lying row  of
Quarantine lights before his  eyes. The  city  breaks  into  commotion.  The
trestle  bridge  in  the port  bursts  into flames.  Running men  lose their
direction in the raging fire.  Rifle volleys smack  down on the roadway like
long steel rails.
     The night is a rocking  ship's deck. The bright circle of a searchlight
skims along the winding  shore, making  the corners of houses glow white-hot
and  windows  glare  dazzlingly; and  out  of the  darkness it snatches  the
figures  of  running   soldiers,   ragged  red   flags,   ammunition-wagons,
gun-carriages, overturned horse-trams.
     And then he sees himself in the gun-turret. The gunner glues his eye to
the range-finder. The turret revolves smoothly, bringing the empty, shining,
mirror-like, grooved barrel to bear on the city. Stop! Now it is directly on
a line  with  the blue  cupola of the  theatre where an imposing  general is
holding a war council against the insurgents.
     The turret telephone buzzes faintly and monotonously.
     Or can that be crickets in the  steppe? No,  it's the telephone. With a
slow clang the electric hoist brings up a shell from the magazine. It  sways
on the chains and comes straight into Rodion's hands.
     Or can that be a cool melon instead of a shell? Ah, what a joy  to bite
into a juicy melon! But no, it's a shell. "Turret, shoot!"
     That very same instant there is a ringing in his ears, as if some giant
hand outside has struck the armour of the turret like a tambourine. There is
a flash of fire. The smell of a burning celluloid comb pours over him.
     The entire breadth of the roadstead shudders. The boats  begin to rock.
A strip of iron comes down between the ship and the city. An "over".
     Rodion's hands  are flaming hot. Then again the  crickets meander in  a
crystal stream among the close-set stars and the weeds.
     Or can that  chirping be the telephone? Now the second shell crawls out
of the hoist  and into Rodion's  hands. Now we'll  finish  off that general!
"Turret, shoot!"
     "Lie down and stop your yelling. Want a drink? Lie quiet."
     A  second strip  crosses the bay.  Again an "over". But never mind, the
third time we won't miss. And there are plenty of shells. A magazine full of
     In his weary hands the third shell feels lighter than a feather and yet
heavier than a house.
     Fire it  as quickly  as possible, send smoke pouring  out of  that blue
cupola-and then things'll roll along!
     But  why has  the telephone  stopped  chirping, why  have  the crickets
stopped tinkling? Have they all dropped dead there overhead?
     Or is that the  dawn, so  quiet and so pink? Smoothly the turret  turns
back.  "Cease firing!" The  shell slips  out  of his  lowered hands  and  is
carried  back into the  magazine,  with  a rattle  of  the hoist chains. But
no-the cup has slipped from his fingers  and water  is trickling slowly from
the bed to the floor. And then all is quiet, oh, so quiet.
     "What's  this? They  betrayed freedom,  the  damned swine! They  turned
cowards! Once  you start fighting you've got  to fight to the end! To  leave
not a single stone standing!"
     "Shoot, turret gun, shoot!"
     "Oh, Lord, oh, St.  Nicholas, holy  miracle worker! Lie  down and drink
some more water. What a misfortune!"
     The pink quietness of dawn lays a tender and soothing hand on  Rodion's
inflamed cheek. Far away on the gilded bluff the cocks begin to crow.


     After talking things over, grandfather and grandson decided not to show
the sick man to anybody for the time  being, let alone  send him to the city
hospital, where they would most certainly ask to see his papers.
     In  Grandpa's  opinion the sailor had a plain, ordinary  fever,  and it
would soon pass. Then it would be up to him to think of what to do next.
     Meanwhile it had  grown completely light. It  was time to take the boat
out again. The sick man no longer slept.
     Weakened by his sweating during the  night,  he lay  motionless  on his
back, looking up with  conscious, attentive eyes at the  icon of the miracle
worker and the bunch of fresh cornflowers stuck behind its dark, time-warped
     "Your head clear?" asked Grandpa, coming up to the bed.
     The  patient moved  his lips as though  trying to  say "yes".  "Feeling
     He dropped his eyelids in sign of  affirmation.  Grandpa glanced at the
bread and porridge on  the shelf. "Like something to eat?" The sailor  shook
his head weakly.
     "Well, as you like.  Listen, son.  We have to go  out in  the boat  for
bullheads, understand? We'll leave you here by yourself  and lock the  door.
You can trust us. We're Black Sea folk, the same as you. Understand? You lie
here nice and quiet. If anybody knocks, don't say a word. Gavrik and I'll do
our work and then we'll come right back. I'm leaving you  a cup of water. If
you feel  thirsty  take  a drink, it  won't hurt you.  And don't worry about
anything at all. You can depend on us. Understand?"
     The  old  man said "Understand?" after every other word, talking to the
sailor as though he were a child.
     The sailor forced a smile to his eyes, and from time to time he dropped
his lids, as if to say, "Don't worry. I understand. Thanks."
     The  fishermen locked him  in  and went out in the  boat. They returned
four hours later to find everything in order. The patient was asleep.
     This time they had had luck.
     They had taken about three hundred and fifty fine big bullheads off the
line.  Grandpa gave the  miracle worker a pleased look, chewed  his wrinkled
lips,  and  remarked, "Not bad. Not at all bad today. They're big ones, even
though we did use shrimps. God bless you."
     But the miracle  worker,  fully conscious of his powers, looked down at
Grandpa sternly, haughtily even, as if he wanted to say,  "And  you  doubted
me, called me an old codger. You're the one who's an old codger."
     Grandpa  decided to take the bullheads  to market himself. It  was high
time  he had  it  out with Madam Storozhenko. After all, no matter how  much
fish he brought her he always remained in debt  and never saw any hard cash.
In that case what was the use of fishing?
     Today  was just  the day for that talk. With these select  bullheads he
could look her straight in the eye.
     Naturally Gavrik would have liked to go along with him to market. Then,
on the way back, he could see Petya and  finally get a drink of kvass at the
     But  leaving the sailor alone was risky  because this was Sunday and  a
crowd of people would probably come down to the beach from the city.
     Grandpa lifted  the wet  fish tank to his  shoulder and shuffled off to
market. Gavrik poured fresh  water into the  cup, covered the sailor's  feet
against the flies, hung the padlock on  the door, and went out for a stroll.
Not far away, on the  beach, were various places of  entertainment: a little
restaurant  with  a  garden  and  a  skittle-alley,  a  shooting gallery,  a
merry-go-round,   automatic  dynamometers,   stands  where  you  could   buy
soda-water and Turkish delight-in short, a small  fair-ground. The place was
a real feast for the boy's eyes.
     The  morning  service had not yet  ended. The pealing  of church  bells
floated above the bluffs.
     And every now  and  then a snow-white cloud as round and bright as that
sound of the bells was wafted across the sky by the breeze, although down at
the beach no wind could be felt at all.
     It  was  early for  the real  fun, but several well-dressed city people
were  hovering  about the merry-go-round waiting for the  canvas cover to be
taken off.
     From  the skittle-alley came the slow, cast-iron rumbling of the  heavy
ball as it rolled down the  narrow board. The ball  rolled  an awfully  long
time and its  noise  grew fainter and fainter until suddenly, after a  short
silence, the  soft musical clink of scattered  pins came  through the yellow
acacias growing by the fence.
     Every once in  a while a report  resounded from  the shooting  gallery.
Sometimes it would be followed by the crash of a broken bottle, or the whirr
of a moving target.
     The shooting gallery lured Gavrik irresistibly.
     He walked over to it and stopped near the door. Greedily he breathed in
the smell of gunpowder, a bluish-leaden smell like nothing else on earth. He
could even feel its peculiar sourish and choky taste on his tongue.
     And those guns, so tantalising in their special racks! The small butts,
expertly made out  of wood as heavy  as iron, with a  sharp network of lines
cut into  it  on the places where you held  it, so  that your hand would not
slip. The thick, long barrel of burnished blue steel with the small hole  of
the muzzle, no larger than  a pea. The blue steel sight, and the bolt handle
that moved up and down so smoothly and simply.
     Even the very richest  boys dreamed of owning a gun like  that, a Monte
Cristo.  This  was a word that made  your  heart  miss a  beat.  It  had  an
all-embracing  meaning: fabulous wealth, happiness, glory, manliness. Owning
a Monte Cristo was even more than having your own bicycle.
     A boy  who had  a Monte Cristo was known far beyond the street in which
he lived.  And he was referred to in this way:  "You  know, the Volodka from
Richelieu Street who has a Monte Cristo."
     Gavrik, of course, could never dream  of owning a Monte Cristo. Or even
of firing one, for that was terribly dear: five kopeks a shot. You had to be
awfully rich for that.
     Gavrik could dream only of aiming from the  wonderful gun. Occasionally
the owner of the shooting gallery gave him that pleasure.
     Now there was a visitor in the gallery,  so it was out of the question.
Perhaps when he left Gavrik would ask the owner, and then. . ..
     But  the visitor  was in no hurry  to leave. He  stood  there with  his
sandaled  feet planted wide apart and instead  of shooting  was talking with
the proprietor.
     When  the  proprietor happened  to  glance his way, Gavrik  greeted him
respectfully, "Many happy returns of the day."
     He acknowledged the greeting with a dignified nod, as became  the owner
of such  an unusual  place of amusement.  That was a lucky sign. It meant he
was in a good mood and might very well let you handle a Monte Cristo.
     Encouraged, Gavrik came closer, right into the doorway.
     With eager, admiring  eyes  he  examined the  pistols hanging above the
counter, the branched rifle-support, and the various mechanical targets, one
of which appealed to him especially.
     This was a Japanese battleship, with guns and a flag, riding the garish
green  waves of a  tin sea.  Out of the  sea jutted a rod topped by a little
metal circle, and if you hit that circle the battleship broke in  two with a
bang and went to the bottom, a fan-shaped tin geyser rising in its place.
     Naturally,  among the hares with  the drums,  the  ballet  dancers, the
anglers with  a shoe at the end  of their line, and the bottles moving along
one after  another on  an  endless belt,  the Japanese battleship held first
place both for the brilliance of its idea and its superb execution.
     Everybody knew that only a short while  ago  the Japanese had  sent the
whole  Russian  fleet to  the  bottom at  Tsushima,  and  there were  always
visitors who thirsted for revenge on the "Japs".
     The gallery had, besides, a real fountain. It was set going only when a
visitor asked  for  it.  A celluloid  ball  put on  top of  the jet  by  the
proprietor would be flung  up and turned round,  then  suddenly dropped  and
just as suddenly lifted. This was  a real  miracle, a mystery of  nature. To
hit that ball was one of the hardest things in the world.  Sometimes men got
so  excited they  shot  at it ten  or fifteen times, and almost always  they
     But whoever  did hit  the  ball was entitled to an  extra  shot free of
     "So  you  say  nothing unusual happened here  yesterday  evening?"  the
visitor  remarked,  continuing  the  conversation.  He  was  toying  with  a
beautiful gun; in his huge paws it seemed tiny.
     "Not as far as I know." "Hm."
     The man ran his eye over the targets.  He took off  his blue pince-nez,
which left two coral dents on his fleshy nose, and aimed at a hare holding a
drum. But then he changed his mind and lowered the gun.
     "Didn't any of the fishermen hereabouts mention anything?"
     "Not a thing."
     The visitor picked up the Monte Cristo, then lowered it again.
     "I heard, though, that a man fell  off the Turgenev yesterday  evening,
opposite the shore here. Heard anything about that?" "Not a thing."
     Gavrik  caught  his  breath  sharply.  He felt as  though a  bucket  of
ice-cold  water had been poured  over him. His heart contracted  so that  he
could no longer hear it. His legs grew limp. He was afraid to move.
     "I  heard that  a  man  jumped off the  steamer,  a man  the police are
looking for. Just opposite the shore here. Know anything about it?"
     "This is the first I've heard of it."
     The  owner  of the shooting gallery was clearly  bored to death by this
moustached gossip.
     His expression was courteous and dignified, but he was on the  verge of
yawning, and he twirled a little green box  of cartridges in his fingers. He
thought, and rightly so,  that if a man came to shoot he ought to shoot. And
if he wanted to have a chat, that was all right too-but  in between shots. A
chat  on some  interesting topic, naturally, like the races at the velodrome
or the Russo-Japanese war.
     Deathly  boredom  was written all over  his seedy face,  the face of  a
failure, racked by secret passions.
     Gavrik  felt sorry for him from  the bottom of his heart. Like  all the
other children, he  was for some reason very fond  of this man with slanting
side-whiskers, legs as bowed as a dachshund's, and a hairy, heavily tattooed
chest showing through his thin undershirt.
     Gavrik knew  that although the man made quite a  decent living he never
had  a  kopek  to his name. He  was  always in debt, was always very worried
about something. Rumour had it that he used to be a famous circus rider, and
that once he had struck  the  owner of  the circus across the face with  his
whip  for  having done  something  mean. He  was  sacked  and  black-listed.
Deprived  of his livelihood, he took to betting at the horse-races, and this
was his downfall.  Now he  played  at all games of  chance; even at pitching
coins with little boys.
     He was eternally in the grip of a frightful gambling fever.
     It was a  known fact that at times he gambled away the clothes he wore.
The shoes he had on, for example, did not belong to him. He had lost them at
the beginning of the summer playing  twenty-one,  and now when he closed his
place for the night he went home barefoot, carrying under his arm a box with
the  rifles  and pistols; afraid of  gambling  them away,  he  left them for
safekeeping until the morning with  a  janitor acquaintance of his in Malaya
Arnautskaya Street.
     Once, on the beach, Gavrik himself had  seen him bet  a gentleman fifty
kopeks  that he could  hit a sparrow  on  the fly  from  a Monte Cristo.  Of
course, he missed.
     What followed was so  pitiful  that Gavrik  felt like  crying.  With  a
shameful show  of surprise the man examined the  gun  for  a long time, then
shrugged his shoulders and reached inside his mended  jacket.  His face  was
pale. He brought out a fifty-kopek piece and handed it to the gentleman. The
gentleman  laughingly  protested that  it  had  all  been in  fun.  But  the
proprietor  of the shooting gallery suddenly looked at him with such insane,
pathetic and at the same  time ominously  bloodshot eyes that the  gentleman
quickly took the coin, and, embarrassed, put  it in the pocket of his pongee
     That day the shooting gallery did not close for dinner.
     "If I were  you, sir, I'd try a  shot at the ballet dancer and see  how
saucily she kicks up her legs," said the proprietor in his Polish accent. He
clearly wanted to put an end to the  boring conversation and get the visitor
to shoot.
     "It's strange, though, that no one knows anything about it," the latter
     Just then  he noticed Gavrik. He gave him a quick  glance from  head to
     "Do you live here, son?"
     "Yes," said the boy. His voice was unusually thin.
     "Your people fishermen?"
     "Why so shy? Come closer, don't be afraid."
     Gavrik looked  at  the  coarse, tightly-twirled  moustache which was as
black  as  boot-polish,  at  the long strip  of  adhesive plaster across the
cheek, and, terrified, approached  the man, mechanically putting one foot in
front of the other.


     "Your father and mother alive?" "No."
     "Then who do you live with?" "Grandpa." "Who's he?" "An old man."
     "Naturally-but what  does  he do  for  a living?" "He catches fish." "A
fisherman, eh?" "Yes, a fisher." "And what are you?" "A boy."
     "I can see you're a boy and not a girl. What I'm asking you is  what do
you do?"
     "Oh, nothing. I help Grandpa."
     "That means you go out fishing together, eh?"
     "I see. Well, then, how do you fish?"
     "Why, we just put out the line  for the  night, and the next morning we
pull out the bullheads."
     "That means you go out to sea in a boat, doesn't it?"
     "Every day?"
     "What's that?"
     "What  a little blockhead you are! What I'm  asking you is this: do you
go out in the boat every day?"
     " 'Course we do."
     "Morning and evening?"
     "How's that?"
     "Only mornings."
     "What about the evening?"
     "Well, evenings too."
     "Then why do you say only mornings when it's evenings too?"
     "No. Evenings we only  put out the line. We  pull out the bullheads  in
the morning."
     "I see. That means you go out evenings too."
     "No. Evenings we only put it out."
     "For  God's  sake! But  to put  it out don't you have to go out  to sea
     "Course we do. "
     "That means you go out evenings too, doesn't it?"
     "No, evenings we don't pull out. We only pull out mornings."
     "But in the evening you go out to put out the line, don't you?"
     " 'Course we do."
     "That means you go out evenings too, doesn't it?"
     "What a little blockhead you are! A man has to have a  good  meal under
his belt before he tries talking to you. What makes you so stupid?"
     "I'm only a kid."
     With an unconcealed sneer the moustached gentleman surveyed Gavrik from
top to toe and then gave him a fillip-quite a smart one-on the head.
     "A fine fisherman you are!"
     But the boy was by no means a blockhead.
     He had immediately sensed a sly  and dangerous enemy  in this  man with
the  moustaches.  There he was, wandering along  the  shore asking questions
about the sailor. He was only making believe he'd come in here to shoot. Who
could tell what he really was after? Most likely he was a detective. Why, he
might  even  find out  somehow that  the runaway  was hiding  in their  hut!
Perhaps-God forbid!- he had found it out already.
     Gavrik  had decided  at once to act  the fool. You couldn't learn  much
from a fool.
     He  twisted his  face into the stupid  expression he  thought a  little
half-wit  should wear; he goggled  his  eyes, shifted from foot to foot with
exaggerated embarrassment, and picked at a sore on his lip.
     When he saw he was dealing with a hopeless idiot, Moustaches thought it
best to make friends with him first and pump him afterwards.
     He reasoned, not without foundation,  that children were an inquisitive
and  observant lot and  knew  more than  grown-ups about  what was going  on
around them.
     "What's your name, sonny?"
     "Well, look here, Gavrik, would you like to shoot?"
     A warm flush coloured the boy's face to  the  very tips of his ears. He
instantly collected himself,  however.  "But I've no  money,"  he  said in a
thin, squeaky voice, playing the fool.
     "I know that, but it doesn't matter. You can take a shot. I'll pay."
     "You're not making fun of me?"
     "Don't trust me? Well, look."
     With  these  words Moustaches laid  a big brand-new five-kopek piece on
the counter.
     "Shoot away."
     Gavrik,   overcome  with   happiness,  looked  in  indecision  at   the
proprietor.  But  the  latter's face  had  taken on such  a  strictly formal
expression  that an  exchange of  friendly  winks was  obviously out of  the
     He looked at the boy as if he had never seen him  before, and,  leaning
respectfully  over the counter, said, "Which would  you prefer to use, young
man? A pistol or a rifle?"
     Gavrik was  so  bowled over by unexpected happiness that  he really did
feel like a half-wit now.
     "A Monte Cristo," he stammered, a silly grin on his face.
     With a flourish the proprietor loaded the gun and handed it to the boy.
     Breathing  heavily, he glued himself  to  the counter  and  aimed at  a
bottle. The Japanese battleship appealed to him much more, of course, but he
was afraid of missing. The bottle was a big one.
     He tried to prolong the pleasure of aiming as much as possible.
     After aiming at the bottle for a while he shifted  to  a hare, then  to
the battleship,  and  then back  to the bottle. He moved  the sight from one
bull's-eye to another, swallowing his saliva and thinking in horror that the
moment he fired, the bliss would come to an end.
     Finally he took a deep breath  and put the rifle down. "You know what,"
he  said to Moustaches, with a guilty look at  the  proprietor,  "I  think I
won't. I aimed, and that's almost as good. Treat  me  instead to a  drink of
soda water with syrup at the stand. Besides, it'll cost you less."
     Moustaches  had  no  objections. Making  an  effort  not to look at the
proprietor,  whose  expression  was  a  mixture  of   contempt   and  ironic
indifference, they set out for the stand.
     There Moustaches  displayed  such  generosity  that the  boy could only
gasp. Instead of water and syrup, which  cost two kopeks, he ordered nothing
less than a whole big bottle of Violet Soda, costing eight kopeks.
     Gavrik could not believe his eyes when the stand-keeper brought out the
white bottle with the violet label and unwound the thin wire round the cork.
     The bottle  popped. Not  in the  coarse way kvass bottles  popped,  but
gently, with  style. The clear  water immediately began to  foam, and out of
the mouth of  the  bottle there poured a gas which actually did give off the
delicate fragrance of real violets.
     Gavrik carefully picked up the cold bubbling glass with both  hands, as
if it were a treasure, and, squinting  against  the sun, began to drink.  He
could feel the sweet-smelling gas shooting up into his nose from his throat.
     As he swallowed this  magic nectar of  the  wealthy,  he  felt that the
whole universe was gazing upon him  in  this moment of triumph: the sun, the
clouds,  the  sea,  people,  dogs,   cyclists,  the  wooden  horses  of  the
merry-go-round,  the girl  who sold tickets at the municipal bathing  beach.
And they were all saying, "Look, look, that boy is drinking Violet Soda!"
     A little turquoise lizard had popped out of the weeds to warm its beady
back in the sun, and  as it clung to a rock with one  paw  it squinted up at
him  as if it, too, were saying, "Look, isn't he a lucky boy to  be drinking
Violet Soda!"
     While he  drank Gavrik pondered on how  to wriggle out  of  any further
questions Moustaches might ask him. He thought up a whole plan.
     "Well, Gavrik, like the Violet Soda?"
     "Thanks. Never tasted anything so good in all my life."
     "I  should  think  so. Now  tell  me,  did you go out to  sea yesterday
     "Did you see the Turgenev?"
     " 'Course! She almost ripped our line to pieces with her wheels."
     "A man didn't jump from the ship, did he?"
     Moustaches fixed  his bushy  black eyes on the  boy. Gavrik forced  his
mouth  into a grin.  "So help  me  God, a man did  jump off!"  he said  with
exaggerated excitement. "May I drop dead  on the spot! Bango!-right into the
water, and what a splash! And how he swam!"
     "Wait a minute.  Not  making anything up,  are you?  Which  way  did he
     "So help me God I'm not! By the true and holy Cross!"
     Although Gavrik knew it  was  a sin, he  quickly crossed  himself  four
     "And then he swam and swam-"
     The boy waved his arms to show how the sailor had swum.
     "Which way?"
     "That way." The boy waved his arm in the direction of the sea.
     "And what happened to him after that?"
     "After that a boat picked him up."
     "A boat? What kind?"
     "You know, a big one, a great big Ochakov boat with a sail."
     "From hereabouts?"
     "Then where from?"
     "From Bolshoi  Fontan. Or  maybe from  Lustdorf. All  painted blue, and
half  red. A great  big one. It  picked him  up and  after  that  it  headed
straight for Lustdorf. By the true and holy-"
     "Did you notice the boat's name?"
     " 'Course I did: Sonya."
     "Sonya, eh? That's fine. Not lying, are you?"
     "By the  true and holy Cross! May I never  be happy  in all my life! It
was Sonya, or else Vera."
     "Sonya or Vera?"
     "Either Sonya or Vera-or else Nadya."
     "If you're lying-"
     Instead of paying for  the drinks, Moustaches whispered  something into
the stand-keeper's ear, something that instantly made  his  expression  turn
sour.  Then  he nodded  to  the  boy  and  hurriedly set  out  for the hill,
obviously to take the suburban train to town.
     That was just what Gavrik had expected him to do.


     The sailor had to be warned immediately.
     But Gavrik was a smart  and cautious boy, and before returning home  he
followed Moustaches from a distance until with his own eyes he saw him climb
the hill and turn down the lane.
     Only then did he run back to the hut.
     The sailor was asleep, but at the click of the padlock he sprang to his
feet and  then  sat down on the  bed, looking  at  the door with glittering,
frightened eyes.
     "Don't be afraid, it's me. Lie down."
     The sick man lay down again.
     The boy pottered about a long time in the corner, pretending to examine
the hooks of the line, which was folded inside a round wicker basket. He did
not know how to begin so as not to excite the sick man too much.
     Finally he came  up to the bed and stood there  for a while, scratching
one foot with the other.
     "Feel better?"
     "Your head clear?"
     This  conversation,  brief  though  it  was, completely  exhausted  the
sailor. He shook his head and closed his eyes. The boy let him rest.
     After a while  he spoke again.  "Listen," he said affectionately, in  a
low but persistent voice, "was it you jumped from the Turgenev yesterday?"
     The sick  man  opened his  eyes and looked up at the boy very intently,
but made no reply.
     "Listen  to what I'm going  to say," Gavrik whispered, sitting  down on
the bed. "Only lie quiet and don't get excited."
     Then, as  circumspectly as  he could,  he  told the  sailor  about  his
acquaintance with the moustached man.
     Again the sailor sprang to his  feet and  sat down on the bed, gripping
the edge  of  it  to  hold himself erect. He  stared at  the boy with round,
motionless eyes. His forehead had become damp.  But  he did not say  a word.
Only  once did he  break  his silence.  That was  when Gavrik  mentioned the
adhesive plaster on Moustaches' cheek.
     At  this point  of the  story a  mischievous, devil-may-care  Ukrainian
twinkle flickered in the sick man's eyes, and he said hoarsely,  through his
teeth, "A cat must have scratched him."
     Suddenly  he began  to fidget, and then,  steadying himself against the
wall, he stood up on his shaky legs.
     "Come  on," he  muttered,  looking  round wildly.  "Come  on, let's  go
somewhere. For  Christ's sake!" "Get back in bed, uncle, you're sick." "Come
on . . . give me my kit. Where's my kit?" He had evidently forgotten that he
had thrown  off his  clothes  in  the sea. His thin hand fumbled  helplessly
about the bed. Unshaven, in a white undershirt and drawers, he looked like a
     His  appearance was so pathetic, but at the  same time so  ominous that
Gavrik nearly ran away in fright.
     He fought down his fear, however. He put his  arms round the sick man's
waist and tried to force him to lie down. "It's for your own good. Lie down,
it's for your own good," he said, almost crying.
     "Hands off. I'm going now."
     "But how can you go anywhere in your drawers?"
     "Give me my kit."
     "What  are you  talking  about?  What kit? You didn't have any. Now lie
     "Let me go."
     "If you only knew  what an awful nuisance  you are! You're  just like a
baby. Lie down, I tell you!" the boy suddenly cried out in anger, losing his
patience. "Stop acting like a baby!"
     The sailor  lay back submissively, and Gavrik saw a feverish glaze come
into his eyes again. The sailor began to moan softly,  screwing up  his face
and arching his back.
     "For Christ's sake!  Let somebody hide me.  Let me go to the Committee.
Can  you tell me  where  the Odessa Committee is? Don't shoot, damn  you, or
you'll spoil all the grapes-"
     He began to rave.
     "Things are in a bad way," thought Gavrik. Just then he heard footsteps
outside.  Someone  was  coming straight to  the hut,  noisily making his way
through the weeds.
     The  boy  hunched  his  shoulders,  not  daring to  breathe. A  host of
terrifying thoughts raced through his head.
     But then suddenly he heard a familiar cough. Grandpa entered the hut.
     From the way he dropped the empty fish tank near the door, from the way
he blew his nose and crossed himself long and  bitterly as he  looked at the
icon  of the  miracle worker, Gavrik  unerringly guessed that  he had had  a
     This was something Grandpa did only once in a blue moon, when something
out of the ordinary happened- whether good or bad.
     Judging by his attitude towards  St.  Nicholas, the occasion  this time
was sooner bad than good.
     "Well, Grandpa, buy meat for bait?"
     "Meat for bait?"
     The  old man gave the boy a guileless look and then held a figged thumb
under his nose.
     "Here's your  meat!  Bait it! And thank that old  codger  of  a miracle
worker for it. That's what I get for praying to that old fool, may he burst!
When it comes to  catching big-sized bullheads he's on the spot, but when it
comes to getting a decent price  for them  at the  market he's nowhere to be
found!  Can you  imagine,  gentlemen? Thirty kopeks a  hundred for bullheads
like that! It's unheard-of!"
     "Thirty kopeks a hundred!" the boy exclaimed.
     "Thirty kopeks,  may I drop dead on the  spot! Thirty  kopeks  for fish
like  this?'  I  says  to  her.  'Ain't  you  got  no  fear  of  God,  Madam
Storozhenko?' 'God's got nothing to do with market  prices,' she says to me.
'We've got our own prices and he's got  his. And if you don't  like my price
you can take your bullheads and sell them  to the  Jews.  Maybe they'll give
you a kopek more. Only first pay me back the eighty kopeks you owe me.' Ever
seen the like? Now tell me, shouldn't I have spit straight in her damned eye
for  that? Well,  gentlemen, that's just  what I  did. Right in front of the
whole market, too! So help me God, I filled her eye with spit!"
     Grandpa hurriedly crossed himself.
     But  he  was not telling the  truth. Naturally,  he  had  not  spat  in
anybody's eye. He had merely turned pale and begun  to  tremble from head to
foot, and  then he had pulled the  fish out of the tank and thrown them into
Madam  Storozhenko's basket,  muttering,  "Here, take  'em, and  I hope they
choke you!"
     As  for  Madam Storozhenko,  she  calmly  counted  the fish and  handed
Grandpa  twelve  kopeks  in  sticky  coppers.  "Now we're quits,"  she  said
     Grandpa took the money and, boiling with  futile rage, went straight to
a spirits shop where he bought himself a bottle of vodka. He scraped off the
red sealing-wax against the grater  nailed for the purpose to an acacia tree
near  the  shop,  and  then  with a shaking  hand  knocked  out  the  little
paper-wrapped cork.
     He poured the  vodka  down his throat  in  one go  and smashed the thin
bottle against the pavement, although he could have got a kopek for it.
     After that he set out for home. On the way he bought his grandson a red
lollipop in the shape of a cock for a kopek-he still imagined Gavrik to be a
little boy-and two very white and very sour rolls for the sick sailor.
     With the remaining money he bought a pound and a half of rye bread.
     His anger flared up  again and again  on the way home,  and he  stopped
about  a  dozen  times  to  spit  furiously this  way and  that,  absolutely
convinced that he was spitting in Madam Storozhenko's accursed eye.
     "So  help  me  God!"  he said,  breathing  the sweetish  odour of vodka
straight  into Gavrik's  face and putting  the lollipop cock into his  hand.
"Ask anybody you  like at the market-the  whole market saw me  spit into her
damned  eye!  And now, my child,  suck this lollipop. It's  just  as good as
     At this point the old man remembered the patient and began  to urge the
rolls on him.
     "Let him be, Grandpa. He just fell asleep. Let him rest."
     Grandpa carefully laid the rolls on the pillow beside the sailor's head
and said in a whisper, "Shh, shh. Let him rest now. And later, when he wakes
up, he'll eat. He can't eat the  rye bread because his stomach is very  weak
now, but the rolls are all right for him."
     The old man looked down affectionately at the rolls and at the patient,
then shook his head and remarked in  a gentle voice, "Look how peacefully he
sleeps. Ah, sailor, sailor, you're in a tight spot."
     Then he spread out his jacket in the corner and lay down to rest.
     Gavrik went outside, looked round, and  closed the  door  firmly  after
him. He had decided to  go, without wasting  a minute,  to Near Mills to see
his brother Terenti.
     This decision had come to him the moment he  heard the delirious sailor
pronounce the  word "Committee".  Gavrik did not know exactly what this word
meant, but he had once heard Terenti use it.


     When  Petya woke  up, he  was  amazed to find himself in his city room,
surrounded by furniture and wallpaper he had forgotten during the summer.
     A dry sunbeam  coming through a crack in the shutter  pierced the room.
It  cut  a  diagonal  swath  through the dusty air  from top to  bottom. The
sawdusty air-motes  of  dust  and tiny  threads and  hairs, moving  and  yet
motionless-was  brightly  lit by the  sunbeam and formed a  semi-transparent
     A big autumn fly blazed into colour as  it flew through this wall,  and
then it just as suddenly became drab again.
     There was neither the  quack of ducks nor the hysterics of a  hen  that
had just laid  an egg behind the house, neither the silly chatter of turkeys
nor the fresh chirp of a sparrow, swaying almost inside the window on a thin
mulberry branch bent in an arch under its weight.
     The  noises both inside and outside the flat were altogether different:
they were city noises.
     From  the dining-room  came the  faint clatter of  chairs  being moved.
There was a musical sound-the  singing of a glass as  it was washed  in  the
rinsing-bowl. Father's "bearded"  voice  rang out, with a  deep and  strange
city note to it.  The buzz of the electric bell filled  the hall. Doors were
slammed, now  the  front  door,  now the  kitchen door,  and suddenly  Petya
discovered that he could tell from the sound which one it was.
     Meanwhile  from  outside,  through a  room  with  a  window  facing the
yard-why, of course, that was Auntie Tatyana's room!-came the singing of the
hawkers. Not  for a minute did it cease, for they made their appearance  one
after  the  other,  those  roving  artists  of  the  courtyard  stage,  each
performing his brief aria.
     "Cha-a-arcoal! Cha-a-arcoal!" sang a distant Russian tenor, as if sadly
recalling the gay, carefree days of long ago.
     His place was taken by a comic basso-the grinder:
     "Sharpen  knives, scissors, razors! Sharpen  knives,  scissors, razors!
Knives, scissors, razors!"
     After  the grinder came  a tinker, filling  the  yard  with  the  manly
roulades of his velvety baritone:
     "Pots to mend! Kettles and pails to mend!"
     A  hucksteress with no gift for singing at  all ran  into the yard, and
the sultry morning air of the city resounded with her burring recitative:
     "Pears, apples, tomatoes! Pears, apples, tomatoes!"
     An old-clothes man poured out plaintive Jewish couplets:
     "I cash clothes! I cash . . . I cash. . .."
     Finally,  to crown  the  concert,  came a  lovely  Neapolitan  canzonet
performed  by  a brand-new  Nechada barrel-organ and  a shrill-voiced street

     The leaves in the wind softly sigh,
     Hark to the nightingale's trills!
     My love was once simple and shy,
     But today she parades in silk frills.
     Sing to me,
     O dove,
     Of my departed love....

     "Cha-a-arcoal!  Cha-a-arcoal!" sang the Russian  tenor  the minute  the
barrel-organ went away. The concert had begun all over again.
     Meanwhile the clatter of droshkies, the rumble of a suburban  train and
the blare of an army band came from the street proper.
     Into  that din  there suddenly  broke  a  frightfully familiar whirring
noise, a click and then  clear, springy sounds, coming distinctly one  after
the other, as though  counting something. What  could that be? Why, that was
the  clock!  The  very  same  dining-room  clock which,  according to family
legend, Daddy had won in a lottery when he was courting Mummy.
     And to think that  he  had forgotten it! Why, of course, that  was  the
clock! It was striking the hour. He lost count, but he gathered nevertheless
that it was very late-ten or eleven.
     Goodness! In the country he used to get up at seven!
     Petya sprang out of  bed,  threw  on  his clothes, washed himself-in  a
bathroom!-and walked  into the dining-room,  squinting against the sun which
lay on the parquet in hot bars.
     "You ought  to be ashamed of  yourself!" exclaimed Auntie, shaking  her
head and  at the same time smiling with  pleasure at the sight of  her tall,
sunburned nephew.  "It's  eleven o'clock.  We purposely didn't  wake  you-we
wanted to see how long you'd  lounge in bed, you country loafer. But  that's
all right,  after your  long journey. And  now sit down, don't  dawdle. With
milk or without? In a glass or in your own cup?"
     Why, naturally! How had he ever forgotten? His cup! Why, of course,  he
had his own cup,  a porcelain cup with forget-me-nots  and an inscription in
gold letters, "Happy Birthday"-last year's gift from Dunya.
     And  look-the  samovar! That, too, he had forgotten. And there were the
buns warming on  its handles. The pear-shaped sugar bowl of white metal. The
sugar tongs in the shape of a stork.
     Look-there was the acorn bell on a cord under the hanging lamp! And the
lamp itself,  with  the round  little counterweight, filled with shot, above
the white shade!
     And  look-what was  that in Father's hands? Why,  a  newspaper! And  to
think he'd forgotten such things  existed!  It was  the Odessky Listok, with
the  picture  of a  smoking locomotive above  the railway  timetable, and  a
smoking ship above  the boat  timetable. (And among  the ads,  a lady  in  a
corset!) And here  were the Niva and Zadushevnoye Slovo. How  many magazines
had piled up during the summer!
     In a  word, Petya found  himself  surrounded  by  such  a host  of  old
novelties that he didn't know where to look first.
     Pavlik, though, had got up at the crack of dawn and by now was fully at
home  in the new-old  surroundings. He had long since drunk his milk, and at
the moment was busy harnessing Kudlatka to a coach made up of chairs.
     Every now  and then he ran from room to room with a worried look on his
face, blowing his horn to summon the imaginary passengers.
     Petya jumped to his feet: he had remembered!
     "Oh, Auntie! Yesterday I didn't have time to tell you! You simply can't
imagine what happened. Now I'll tell you the story-only Pavlik,  you mustn't
     "But I know all about it."
     Petya turned pale.
     "About the coach?"
     "The boat too?"
     "And how he jumped straight into the sea?"
     "I know the whole story."
     "Who told you?"
     "Oh,  Daddy!" Petya cried  out in despair, stamping his feet.  "Why did
you tell  the story when  you  know I  can tell it much better than you! Now
you've spoiled it all!"
     Petya was almost crying. He  had completely forgotten that he was a big
boy now, and was to go to school the next day.
     He began to whine.  "Auntie  Tatyana, do let me  tell you the story all
over again. I'll tell it much better."
     But Auntie's nose  suddenly turned red  and tears came to her eyes. She
pressed her fingers  to her temples. "Oh please, please, don't," she said in
a suffering voice. "I simply can't bear to hear it again. How can people who
call themselves Christians have the heart to torture one another so?"
     She turned away, dabbing at her nose with a tiny lace handkerchief.
     Petya glanced  in  fright at  Father.  Father  sat very  grave and very
still, looking towards  the window.  Tears seemed to  be glistening  in  his
eyes, too.
     Petya couldn't make head or tail of  it. All he did know was that here,
at  least, he  would not have a  chance  to  tell the  story of  yesterday's
     He  gulped down his  tea  and went  out into the yard in  search of  an
     The janitor  listened  to the  story with  galling indifference! "Well,
what of it?" he remarked. "Worse things happen."
     There  was not another  soul to  whom he could tell  the  story.  Nusya
Kogan,  the  shopkeeper's boy,  who lived in the same house,  was away on  a
visit to his uncle  at Kuyalnitsky Bay.  Volodka Dibsky  had moved away. The
others had not yet returned from the country.
     Gavrik  had left a message with Dunya that  he would drop in today, but
there was no sign of him yet. Gavrik was the one to tell the story  to! What
if he went to the beach to look up Gavrik?
     Petya was not allowed to go to the beach by himself, but the temptation
was too great.
     He shoved his hands into his pockets, circled about nonchalantly  under
the  windows,  and  then  sauntered  out  into  the  street  with  the  same
nonchalance, so as not to arouse any suspicion. After walking up and down in
front  of the house for appearance's sake, he turned the  corner and set off
at a gallop for the beach.
     Halfway down  the street where the warm sea baths stood, he ran into  a
barefoot boy. There was something familiar about him. . . . Who could he be?
     It was Gavrik himself!


     It was  with  these  brief  exclamations  of surprise and  joy-and with
nothing more-that the bosom friends greeted each other.
     They  did not  hug  each other, or squeeze  each other's hands, or look
into each other's eyes, as girls undoubtedly would have done in their place.
     They did not ask about each other's health, or shout with glee, or make
a fuss about it.
     They  acted the  way men  should,  men of  the  Black  Sea coast:  they
expressed their feelings in  curt, restrained  exclamations and then at once
got down to essentials, as if they had parted only the day before.
     "Where to?"
     "To the beach. What about you?"
     "To Near Mills, to my brother's."
     "What for?"
     "I have to. Want to come along?"
     "Near Mills?"
     "Why not?"
     "Near Mills-"
     Petya  had  never been in Near  Mills. He knew only that it was awfully
far away, "at the other end of the world".
     In his imagination, Near Mills was a mournful place inhabited by widows
and  orphans. Its name always cropped  up in connection with some misfortune
or other.
     The  concept  "Near Mills" was associated most frequently of all with a
case  of  sudden  death.  People  would  say: "Have you heard  the sad news?
Angelika Ivanovna's husband died  suddenly  and left  her  without a  kopek.
She's given up  her place  in Marazlievskaya Street and gone to live in Near
     From Near  Mills there was no  return. And  if anybody ever did  return
from there, it was in the form of a shadow, and not for long-for an hour, no
     People would say: "Yesterday Angelika Ivanovna-you know, the one  whose
husband died suddenly last year- came from Near Mills to pay us a visit. She
stayed an hour, no more. You would hardly recognise her. A mere shadow-"
     Once  Petya had gone  with Father to the funeral of a schoolmaster  who
had died suddenly, and at  the grave the  priest said words which filled him
with  awe-about an "abode  of the  righteous, where they  will  repose",  or
something of the sort.
     There  could not be the slightest doubt, of course, that "abode of  the
righteous" stood  for  Near Mills, where  the relatives of the departed came
somehow or other to "repose".
     Petya had a vivid mental  picture of this sad  abode with its multitude
of windmills among which "reposed" the shadows of widows in black shawls and
orphans in patched frocks.
     Naturally, going to  Near Mills without permission was a dreadful thing
to do. It was much worse  than raiding the pantry for jam; worse, even, than
bringing home a dead rat inside his shirt. It was a real crime.
     Petya  was dying to  accompany  Gavrik to the  weird land  of  mournful
windmills and see the shadows of widows with his own eyes, but he could  not
make up his mind right off.
     The struggle with his conscience lasted about ten minutes.
     But  his  waverings, need it  be  said, in no  way  prevented  him from
walking along the street at Gavrik's side  and  breathlessly recounting  his
travel adventures.
     So that by the time Petya emerged victorious in the violent battle with
his conscience-now a thoroughly crushed conscience-he and Gavrik had covered
quite a distance.
     Among the  boys of the Black Sea coast, indifference towards everything
under  the sun  was considered  the height of good form. Petya was therefore
astonished to see his story make  a  tremendous impression upon Gavrik.  Not
once did Gavrik spit  contemptuously over his shoulder, not once did he say,
"Tell it to your  grandmother". Moreover, it seemed to Petya that Gavrik was
a bit frightened-which he at once put down to his talent as a story-teller.
     Enacting the terrifying scene, Petya turned red in the face.
     "Then this one  hauls off and slams him right in the mug  with a  stick
with  a nail in  it!" he  shouted at the top  of his lungs. "It's the honest
truth! And then  that  one yells 'Stop! Stop!' so loud you can  hear him all
over the Turgenev. You can spit in  my eye if I'm  lying. And then this  one
jumps on the rail and dives right into  the  sea- plunk!-and the spray flies
up as high as the fourth storey, may I  fall down dead if it doesn't! By the
true and holy Cross!"
     So  expressively  did  Petya  jump  about and swing  his arms  that  he
overturned a basket  of string-beans in front of  a  grocer's shop, and they
had  to run  two  streets with  their  tongues  hanging out  to  escape  the
     "What was the first one like?" asked Gavrik.  "Did he have an anchor on
his hand?"
     " 'Course he did!" Petya shouted excitedly, panting for breath.
     "Here?" Gavrik pointed to the place on his hand.
     " 'Course! But how do you know?"
     "As if  I've never  seen sailors!" muttered Gavrik,  and he spat on the
ground just like a grown-up.
     Petya looked at his friend with envy, and then he  spat too. But he did
not shoot out his spittle as  expertly as Gavrik.  Instead of flying  a long
way  it dropped limply on  his  knee, and  he had to wipe  it  off with  his
     Petya decided to polish up on his spitting there and then. He practised
so diligently all  the way  that the next  morning his lips were chapped and
eating melon was painful.
     "What about the other one?" Gavrik asked. "Was he in sandals and did de
wear glasses?"
     "Call 'em what you like."
     "But how do you know?"
     "As if I've never seen 'tecs!"
     When  he finished his story  Petya wetted his lips with his  tongue and
started it all  over again from the beginning  without pausing  to catch his
     Gavrik was going through  unimaginable torments. Compared  with what he
knew,  Petya's adventures weren't worth a fig! He'd just like to see Petya's
face  if  he  hinted that at this very moment  the mysterious  sailor was in
their hut.
     But he  had to keep silent and listen  to  Petya's blabber for a second
time. It was more than human flesh could bear.
     What if he did drop a hint? Just a teeny one. No, no, not for anything!
Petya would never keep it  to himself. But suppose he made him give his word
of  honour? No, he'd let it out  all the same. What  if  he made  him  cross
himself in  front of  a church? Yes, in that case he probably  wouldn't tell
     In a word, Gavrik was torn by doubts.
     The temptation was so great that every now and then he had to press his
lips together with his fingers to keep from talking.
     Nothing  helped, however.  He wanted more than ever to tell his secret.
In  the  meantime,  Petya  rattled  on,  showing  how  the  coach  had  been
travelling, how  the  frightful sailor had jumped out of  the  vineyard  and
attacked the coachman, how he, Petya, had yelled at him,  and how the sailor
had hidden under the seat.
     This was too much.
     "Give me your word of honour you won't tell anybody!"
     "Word of honour," said Petya quickly, without blinking an eye.
     "Swear it!"
     "So help me God, by the true and holy Cross! What is it?"
     "It's a secret."
     "You won't tell anybody?"
     "May I never move from this spot if I do!"
     "Swear by your happiness!"
     "May I never be happy in all my  life!" Petya said willingly. He was so
curious he swallowed his saliva in big gulps. "May my eyes drop out of their
sockets!" he added hurriedly, to give it more weight. "Well?"
     Gavrik walked  along  in  silence  for  a while, breathing  heavily and
spitting on the  ground.  The struggle  with  temptation  was still going on
inside him, and temptation was gaining the upper hand.
     "Petya," he said hoarsely, "make the sign of  the  Cross in front of  a
     Petya, burning with impatience, looked round for a church.
     The  boys were at that  moment  walking  past the limestone wall of Old
Christian Cemetery. Along the wall sat vendors of wreaths and memorials, and
over it could be  seen the tops of old  acacia trees and the marble wings of
sorrowing angels.
     (Near Mills  must indeed be  next door to death, if the road to  it ran
past a graveyard!)
     In the dusty, pale-lilac sky, beyond  the acacias  and the angels, hung
the blue cupola of the cemetery church, topped by a golden cross.
     Petya faced the church and crossed himself fervently.
     "By  the true  and  holy Cross,  I  won't tell a soul!"  he  said  with
conviction. "Well?"
     "Listen, Petya-"
     Gavrik bit his lips  and then began to chew the back of his hand. Tears
stood in his eyes.
     "Listen, Petya. Eat some earth to swear you won't tell!"
     Petya studied the ground. Near the wall  he saw  earth that was  fairly
clean and  looked suitable. He scratched some up with his fingernails. Then,
sticking out a tongue as fresh and pink as boiled sausage, he placed a pinch
of the earth on it. Eyes popping, he stared questioningly at Gavrik.
     "Eat it!" Gavrik said darkly.
     Petya closed his eyes tight and conscientiously chewed the earth.
     At that instant they heard a strange clinking noise in the road.
     Two  soldiers  with  black shoulder straps,  their  swords  bared, were
leading a convict in  chains. The third soldier of the escort detail  walked
behind,  carrying   a  revolver  and  a  thick   delivery  register  with  a
marbled-paper cover. The  convict wore  a skull cap of army cloth and a robe
of the same material, under which grey drawers  were visible. He walked with
his head bent.
     The rattling  leg-irons were covered by the drawers, but the long chain
of the  handcuffs  hung in  front and clinked as it beat  against the  man's
     From time to time he raised the  chain, with  the  gesture of a  priest
raising  the  hem  of his  robe as  he  crosses  a puddle. Clean-shaven  and
grey-faced, he looked somehow like a soldier or a sailor.
     You  could  see  he was very much ashamed at  having to walk  down  the
roadway in broad daylight in that condition. He kept his eyes on the ground.
     The  soldiers seemed ashamed too, but they angrily looked up instead of
down, so as not to meet the eyes of the passers-by.
     The boys stopped. They gaped at  the visorless caps the  soldiers  wore
tilted to one side, at their blue revolver cords, and at  the gleaming white
blades of the swords in their swinging hands. The sun made a  dazzling glare
on the tips of the swords.
     "Keep  moving,"  the soldier carrying the  register gruffly ordered the
boys, without looking at them. "Locking's not allowed."
     The convict was led past.
     Petya wiped his tongue on his sleeve. "Well?" he said.
     "Well what?"
     "Well, now tell me."
     Suddenly Gavrik glared  at  Petya. Then  he bent his arm  with a fierce
gesture and shoved  his patched  elbow under his friend's nose. "There, lick
that!" Petya couldn't believe his eyes.
     "But I ate earth!" he said, his lips trembling. He was nearly crying.
     A wild, crafty gleam came into Gavrik's eyes. He squatted down and span
round like a top, chanting in an insulting voice:

     Fooled you once,
     Fooled you twice.
     Tell your Mum
     I fooled you nice.

     Petya saw that he  had been tricked. Gavrik obviously had no secret  to
tell and had only wanted to poke fun at  him  by  making him eat earth. That
was insulting, of course, but bearable.
     Next time he'd play a  trick on Gavrik that would make  him sorry. He'd
     "Never mind, you skunk-I'll pay you back!" Petya remarked with dignity.
After that the two friends  continued  on  their way as though  nothing  had
happened-  except that every once  in a  while Gavrik would suddenly dance a
jig on his bare heels and chant:

     Fooled you once,
     Fooled you twice.
     Tell your Mum
     I fooled you nice.


     They had a lot of fun on the way, and they saw many interesting things.
     Petya had  never imagined the city  was so big.  The unfamiliar streets
gradually became  poorer and  poorer.  Occasionally they  passed  shops with
merchandise standing right on the  pavement, under the  acacias.  There were
cheap iron bedsteads, striped mattresses, kitchen stools, stacks of huge red
pillows, besoms made of  millet stalks, mops and  upholstery springs.  There
was  a great deal  of  everything,  and it  was all big, new,  and obviously
     Beyond the cemetery  stretched firewood yards. They gave  off a hot and
somewhat sourish smell of oak, a smell which was surprisingly pleasant.
     After that were fodder  shops-oats, hay and bran- with uncommonly large
scales on iron chains. The weights were huge-like those in the circus.
     Next came timberyards where planks were seasoning. Here, too, there was
a strong hot odour of sawn wood. This was pine, though, and instead of being
sourish the smell was dry and fragrant and turpentinish.
     It was easy to see  that the closer they came to Near Mills the coarser
and uglier everything round them was.
     Gone  were  the  elegant  "Artificial  Mineral  Water Bars" with  their
gleaming nickel-plated  whirligigs  and jars  of  coloured syrup standing in
rows. Their  place  was taken by food shops with  blue signs-a herring on  a
fork-and  taverns through  whose open doors could  be seen  white egg-shaped
tea-pots on  shelves; the tea-pots were  decorated with  crude flowers which
looked  more  like  vegetables. Instead of handsome droshkies, drays rumbled
over the uneven roadway littered with hay and bran.
     But as to finds, there were many  more in this part of the city than in
the familiar districts. Every  now and then the boys came upon  a horseshoe,
or a screw, or an empty cigarette packet in the dust.
     Whenever they  spotted  a find  they raced for it, jostling and pushing
each other as they ran.
     "Halves!" they screamed.
     Or, "Finding's keeping!"
     Depending  upon  what had  been  shouted  first the find was  regarded,
sacredly and inviolably, as either private property or held in common.
     There  were so many finds that at last they  stopped  picking  them up,
making an exception only in the case of cigarette packets.
     These  they  needed for the  game called  "pictures".  The packets  had
different values, depending  upon the picture printed on  the top. A picture
of  a  man  or woman  counted for five, an  animal for one, and a house  for
     Every Odessa boy was certain to have a deck of such  packet tops in his
     There was also  a game with sweets wrappers, but this was played mostly
by girls,  and  also by  boys who were still babies, that is, who were under
     Gavrik and  Petya, of course, had long looked upon sweets wrappers with
the greatest scorn. They played only with cigarette pasteboards.
     For some reason or other Gipsies and Swallows were the favourite brands
in the seaside districts.
     What the smokers of the seaside districts found in those cigarettes was
a  great puzzle. They were the worst cigarettes  imaginable.  Gipsies  had a
bright lacquered picture of a  dark-eyed Gipsy girl with a smoking cigarette
between her red lips and a rose in her  blue hair. It was worth a mere five,
and even that was stretching a point, for the Gipsy girl was shown only from
the waist up.
     Swallows had  a  picture of three miserable birds, and they  were worth
still less than Gipsies-only three.
     There were some fools who  even smoked Zephyrs, which had no picture at
all, but only letters. Nobody ever played for Zephyr tops. And the strangest
part of it all was that those cigarettes cost more than any others.
     One had  to be an absolute  idiot to  buy such trash. The boys spat  in
disgust whenever they came across a Zephyr packet.
     Petya and Gavrik burned with impatience  to  grow up and start smoking.
They  would  not make fools of themselves. They  would  buy only Kerches,  a
superior brand with a whole picture on the packet: a port town and a harbour
with a lot of ships in it.
     Even the  biggest experts did not know  exactly  how to  price Kerches.
There was a difference of opinion on the value of the ships. At any rate, in
round  numbers  Kerches  were quoted on  the street exchange at  about  five
     The boys were unusually lucky.
     One might have  thought all the smokers near the cemetery had specially
set out to make Petya and Gavrik rich, for they smoked Kerches exclusively.
     The boys  tumbled over each  other  picking  them  up.  At  first  they
couldn't believe  their eyes.  It was  just like a  dream where you found  a
three-ruble note at every other step.
     Soon  their pockets  were filled to  overflowing. They were now so rich
that wealth lost its joys. They were surfeited.
     Beside  a tall narrow  factory wall, on whose sooty bricks were painted
letters so huge it  was impossible  to  read them  at close range,  the boys
played several rounds of the  game, tossing  the pictures and waiting to see
which side came up.
     There was  no particular  zest to  it,  however. With so many pictures,
neither of them minded losing, and that took all the fun out of playing.
     As they strolled on  the city changed in appearance and character every
     For a time a cemetery and prison atmosphere predominated. That gave way
to a warehouse and tavern atmosphere. Then came the factories.
     Now the railway dominated the scene. Warehouses, block-signal stations,
semaphores.. . .  Finally, the road was barred  by a  striped level-crossing
that dropped right before their noses.
     A pointsman carrying a green flag came out of his signal box. A whistle
blew. A  cloud  of  white  steam  shot up  behind  the  trees,  and past the
entranced boys puffed a real engine, a big one, pushing a tender before it.
     Oh, what a sight it was!  That in itself was worth leaving home without
     How busily the connecting rods clicked along, how melodiously the rails
sang,  and  how irresistible  was  the  magnetism  of those  wheels flashing
dizzily past,  surrounded by a thick and yet almost transparent covering  of
     The soul was bewitched,  was seized with a mad urge, was drawn into the
inhuman, inexorable  movement  of the machine,  while the body resisted  the
temptation with all its might and drew back, petrified with horror, deserted
for an instant by its soul, which had already flung itself under the wheels!
     Pale,  tiny, the  boys stood with  shining  eyes,  their  little  fists
clenched and  their feet planted wide apart; they  could  feel their  scalps
turning cold.
     How terrifying, and at the same time how jolly!
     Gavrik,  true,   was  familiar  with  this  emotion,   but  Petya   was
experiencing it for the first time. He was so thrilled that at first he paid
no attention to the fact that in the driver's place at the oval window was a
soldier, in a visorless cap with  a red band, and that  on the tender  stood
another  soldier, belted with  cartridge pouches  and holding a  rifle.  The
minute the engine disappeared round the  turn the boys ran up the embankment
and pressed their ears against the hot, white-polished rails, which rang out
like a brass band.
     The joy of pressing his ear  against the rail over which  a real engine
had passed-and no more than an instant before-was that not worth having left
home  without  permission,  was  that  not  worth  suffering  any   possible
     "Why was  a soldier there instead of the driver?" asked  Petya as  they
continued on their way when they had  finished listening to the noise of the
rails and had gathered flints from the roadbed.
     "Looks  like  the  railwaymen  are  on strike  again,"  Gavrik  replied
     "On strike? What's that?"
     "A strike's  a  strike," said  Gavrik in a still  glummer  voice. "They
don't go to work. Soldiers run the trains instead."
     "Don't soldiers strike too?"
     "No.  They're  not allowed  to.  If they tried  it  they'd  land  in  a
punishment battalion in no time."
     "But otherwise they'd strike?"
     "What d'you think?"
     "Does your brother Terenti strike?"
     "Depends. . . ."
     "But why does he do it?"
     "Because. Stop pestering me. Look-there's the Odessa Goods Station. And
over there is Near Mills."
     Petya stretched his neck and looked this way and that, but not a single
mill could he see. There were neither windmills nor watermills.
     What  he did see  was: a water  tower,  the yellow fence of the  Odessa
Goods Station, red railway carriages, a hospital train with a Red Cross flag
painted on it, piles of goods covered with tarpaulin, sentries. . . .
     "But where's Near Mills?"
     "There it is, just behind the railway shops, you blockhead."
     Petya said nothing: he was afraid of being tricked again.
     He twisted his head for such  a long time that his collar rubbed a sore
spot on his neck, but still he did not see any windmills.
     Gavrik, though, was not the least surprised at their absence. He walked
briskly  down  a narrow  path, past a  long sooty  wall of huge windows with
little square panes, many of them broken.
     By this time Petya was rather tired. He dragged after Gavrik, shuffling
his shoes over the  grass, dark from the dust and soot.  Every now and  then
iron  shavings,  evidently  thrown  outside  through   the  window,  rustled
     Gavrik got up on his toes and looked into a window.
     "Look, Petya, the carriage shops. This is where Terenti works.  Did you
ever see the place? Come and look."
     Petya stood  on tiptoe next  to Gavrik and looked in through  a  broken
     He saw a vast stretch of dusty air and the tiny clouded  squares of the
windows opposite. Broad belts hung down; everywhere stood big, uninteresting
contraptions with little wheels. The  place  was strewn with metal shavings.
The sunlight coming through the dusty windows lay  in  pale slanting squares
all over the endless floor.
     And in all  that  huge and weird block of space there  was not a single
living soul.
     The  place  was  filled,  from top  to  bottom,  with such  a  deathly,
supernatural silence that Petya became frightened.
     "Nobody there," he said in a barely audible whisper.
     Gavrik,  infected  by Petya's mood, replied by moving  his  lips almost
soundlessly, "Probably on strike again."
     "Hey  there,  get  away  from those windows!" a  rough  voice  suddenly
shouted from somewhere above.
     They  turned  round with  a start. Beside them stood  a  sentry  with a
rolled greatcoat over his shoulder and a rifle in his hand.  He was so close
that Petya clearly smelt  the dreadful odours of army  cabbage soup and boot
     The soldier's  cartridge  pouches  of bright-yellow  leather  -  heavy,
creaking, and probably full  of real bullets-  were ominously close, and  in
general he was so tremendous that his two rows of brass buttons  ran upwards
to a dizzying height, right to the sky.
     "I'm  done for!" thought Petya in horror. He felt that at any moment he
might do that  shamefully unpleasant thing very  small children  usually  do
when overcome by fright.
     "Hook it!" cried Gavrik in a thin voice and darted past the soldier.
     Petya  dashed  headlong  after  his  friend.  He  thought  he heard the
soldier's boots stamping after him, and so he ran with every ounce of energy
he could muster. But the sound  of  the boots did not fall behind. His  eyes
saw nothing but the flashing brown soles of Gavrik's feet in front of him.
     His heart thumped  loud  and fast. The soldier was  still close behind.
The wind roared in his ears.
     Only after he had run not less than a mile did Petya realise that  what
he heard was not  the soldier's boots but his straw hat flapping against his
     The boys  gasped  for  breath. Hot sweat poured  down their temples and
dripped from their chins.
     But  a  quick change came over Gavrik and  Petya  the  minute they made
certain  the  soldier  was nowhere in sight.  With  an  expression of  total
indifference  they  carelessly  shoved  their  hands  in  their  pockets and
continued their way at a leisurely pace.
     By their entire manner they were telling each other that nothing at all
had happened-and even if something had happened it was a trifling matter not
worth talking about.
     For quite a while now they had been walking along a broad unpaved road.
Although the  fences and houses had lanterns  like those in  the  city, with
numbers on them, and there were the signs of shops and workshops, and even a
corner chemist's with coloured pitchers  and  a golden eagle, it looked more
like a village lane than a city street.
     "Well, where's that Near Mills of yours?" Petya asked in a sour voice.
     "This is it. Can't you see?"
     "What do you mean where? Here."
     "Of course.
     "But where are the mills?"
     "You're a funny bloke," said Gavrik patronisingly. "Ever see a fountain
at the Fontan? You're talking like  a baby. Asking questions without knowing
what you're asking!"
     Petya was  silenced.  Gavrik was absolutely right. Maly Fontan, Bolshoi
Fontan and  Sredny Fontan didn't have  any  fountains at all. It was just  a
case of "that's what it's called".
     This place was called Mills but actually it had no mills.
     The  mills, though,  were  only  a trifle. Where were  the  shadows  of
changed widows and  pale little orphan girls in patched frocks?  Where  were
the ghostly grey sky and the weeping willows?  Where was the weird, mournful
land from which there was no return?
     No use asking Gavrik!
     To  his  utter disillusionment Petya  saw neither widows,  nor  weeping
willows, nor a grey sky. The sky, as a matter of fact, was hot and windy and
the same bright colour as the blue the laundress used.
     In the yards  of  the  houses  stood  bright-green  mulberry trees  and
acacias. Belated pumpkin blossoms gleamed in the vegetable patches. Over the
curly grass walked geese, turning  their silly  heads to the right  and left
like the soldiers on Kulikovo Field.
     From a smithy came the clang of hammers and the swish of bellows.
     All this, of course, was very interesting in its own lights, but it was
difficult to give up the idea  of a shadowy  world where, in some mysterious
manner, "reposed" the relatives of men who had died suddenly.
     In the innermost recesses of Petya's mind, the struggle continued for a
long  time-between  the  shadowy picture  of  imaginary  mills  where people
"reposed", and  the  real,  brightly-coloured  picture of  the  railwaymen's
settlement known as Near Mills, where Gavrik's brother Terenti lived.


     "Here we are."
     Gavrik pushed open the wicket with his foot, and the two friends walked
into a parched-looking front garden bordered  with purple irises. A huge dog
with straw-coloured eyebrows immediately rushed at them.
     "Down, Rudko!" shouted Gavrik. "Didn't recognise me, eh?"
     The  dog sniffed, recognised the boy,  and gave a sad smile: he had got
excited for  nothing.  Then he rolled his  shaggy tail up into a loop, stuck
out his tongue and ran, panting, to the back of the yard. Behind him dragged
his clanging chain, fastened to a wire strung high overhead.
     A frightened woman peered from the wooden entrance-way of the clay hut.
     When she saw it was the boys, she turned and said, wiping her  hands on
her  print apron,  "Everything's all right.  It's your brother  come  to see
     Behind  her appeared a tall  man  in a  striped  sailor's  jersey,  the
sleeves  of  which were  cut  short  just  below  shoulders  as thick  as  a
     But  the shy look on his  face, pock-marked and  covered  all over with
tiny drops  of sweat,  did not in the least go with  his athletic build. His
figure was powerful, sort of frightening, even,  but his  face  was just the
opposite- gentle, and almost womanish.
     The man tightened his belt and walked up to the boys.
     "This is  Petya, from Kanatnaya and the corner of Kulikovo Field," said
Gavrik, indicating his friend with a casual nod. "A schoolmaster's kid. He's
all right."
     Terenti gave Petya a passing glance and then fixed his small, twinkling
eyes  on Gavrik. "Now where are those shoes I bought you at Easter? Why must
you walk about like a tramp from Duke's Gardens?"
     Gavrik gave a long sad whistle. "Ah, those shoes-"
     "You're a tramp, nothing but a little tramp!"
     Shaking  his  head,  Terenti  went to the back of  the house.  The boys
followed him.
     There, to his indescribable delight, Petya saw a whole  tinsmith's shop
set  up on an old kitchen table under a mulberry tree. It even had a hissing
blowlamp. A strong, clipped,  blue flame  burst from  its short muzzle, like
from a tiny cannon.
     Judging by  the  baby's zinc bath-tub  leaning upside  down against the
tree and by the soldering iron in Terenti's hand, he was busy at a job.
     "Repair  work?"  asked  Gavrik, spitting  on the ground exactly  like a
     "Nothing doing at the shops?"
     Ignoring the question, Terenti put the soldering iron into the flame of
the  blowlamp and attentively watched it grow  hot. "That's  all right,"  he
muttered. "Don't you worry on our account. I can always find enough work for
us to keep body and soul together."
     Gavrik sat down  on a stool, crossed his bare legs, which did not reach
to the  ground,  braced  his hands on his knee and, rocking slowly  back and
forth, began to "talk shop" with his big brother.
     Wrinkling his  peeling  nose and pulling together  his  eyebrows, which
were  completely bleached from the  sun and the  salt water, Gavrik conveyed
best  regards  from Grandpa, informed Terenti of  the  price  bullheads were
fetching, and waxed indignant about Madam Storozhenko, who was "such a bitch
and has us by the throat all the time and  never gives people  a  chance  to
breathe", and more in the same vein.
     Terenti nodded  agreement, in the meantime carefully passing the tip of
the hot iron across a strip of solder, which melted like butter.
     At first glance there might seem nothing unusual, let alone strange, in
the  fact  that one brother had paid  a visit to another and was telling him
about  his  affairs.  But  considering Gavrik's  worried  air, and also  the
distance he had had to  come  for  no  other  purpose than  to  talk to  his
brother, it  would not be  difficult to  guess  that Gavrik had an important
matter on his mind.
     Terenti looked at him questioningly several times, but Gavrik indicated
Petya with an unobtrusive wink and calmly talked on.
     As to Petya, he was so absorbed in the wonderful spectacle of soldering
that  he forgot everything in  the world. He watched  round-eyed as the huge
shears cut through the thick zinc like so much paper.
     One  of the most fascinating occupations  of  Odessa boys was to gather
round a  tinsmith in  the  middle of a courtyard and watch him practise  his
magic  art. But there they watched a stranger, a man who was here one minute
and gone the  next, something like a  sleight-of-hand artist  on  the stage.
Quickly and skilfully he would do  his work of soldering a  tea-kettle, then
roll up his  pieces of  tin into a tube, strap it over his shoulder, pick up
his brazier  and walk out of the  yard, calling, "Pots to  mend, kettles  to
     Here,  however,  Petya  was  watching  someone  he knew,  his  friend's
brother,  an artist who displayed his skill at home, to a chosen few. At any
moment he could ask, "I  say there, what's in that  little iron  box? Is  it
acid?" without getting a  rude answer like "Run along,  young 'un, you're in
the  way". No, this was quite,  quite  different. From sheer  delight  Petya
stuck out his tongue-which was not at all becoming  in such a big boy. It is
likely that he never would have left that table  under the mulberry tree had
he not suddenly noticed a girl with a baby in her arms approaching.
     With an effort she held up to Gavrik the plump one-year-old infant, who
had two shining white teeth in his little coral mouth.
     "Look who's  come,  goo-goo! Gavrik's come, goo-goo!  Now  say, 'Hello,
Uncle Gavrik.' Goo-goo!"
     With  an extraordinarily  grave expression  Gavrik  reached  inside his
shirt and, to Petya's boundless  amazement, produced a  red  lollipop in the
shape of a cock.
     To carry about such a treasure for three  hours without tasting it, and
what's more without showing it, was something only a person  with incredible
willpower could do!
     Gavrik held out the sweet to the child. "Here," he said.
     "Take it, Zhenechka," urged the girl, raising the child up close to the
lollipop.  "Take it with your little hand. See what a present Uncle Gavrik's
brought  you? Take the cock in  your hand. That's right, that's the way. And
now say, 'Thank you, dear Uncle.' Well, say it, 'Thank you, dear Uncle.' "
     The  child gripped  the bright red lollipop tight  in  his grimy chubby
little hand and blew big bubbles from his mouth.  His light-blue eyes stared
blankly at his uncle.
     "See?  That means he's saying, 'Thank you, Uncle',"  said the girl, her
eyes fixed enviously on  the  sweet. "But you mustn't  put it in  your mouth
right off. Play with it first. And then after your porridge you can have the
lollipop,"  she  continued  sensibly, casting  quick curious  glances at the
handsome young stranger in a straw hat and new shoes with buttons.
     "This  is  Petya,  from  Kanatnaya and  the  corner  of Kulikovo," said
Gavrik. "Why don't you go and play with him, Motya?"
     The girl became so excited that she turned pale.
     Hugging  the  child  close,   she   edged   away   backwards,   looking
distrustfully at Petya, until she bumped into her father's leg.
     Terenti patted  the girl on the shoulder and straightened the beruffled
white bonnet on her close-cropped head. "Play with the boy, Motya," he said.
"Show him  the Russo-Japanese pictures I bought you when you were lying sick
in bed. Play with him, my pet, and give Zhenechka to Mama." '
     Motya  rubbed her back against her  father's leg  and then  turned up a
face red with embarrassment. Her eyes were full of tears; her tiny turquoise
earrings were trembling.
     Earrings  such  as those,  Petya  had  noticed,  were usually  worn  by
     "Don't be afraid, my pet. He won't fight with you."
     Motya  obediently took the child into  the house. She returned  holding
herself as stiff  as  a  poker, with her cheeks drawn in  and her expression
frightfully grave.
     She stopped about four paces  away from Petya, took a deep breath, and,
stammering and looking  to the side, said  in an unnaturally thin voice, "If
you like, I'll show you my Russo-Japanese pictures."
     "Very well," said Petya in a hoarse, careless voice- the voice demanded
by  good  form  when  speaking  to  little  girls.  At  the  same   time  he
painstakingly, and rather successfully, spat over his shoulder.
     "Come along, then."
     Not without  a certain amount of  coquetry the  girl turned her back to
Petya and, moving her shoulders much more than was necessary, went, skipping
now and then, to the back of the yard. There, behind the cellar, she had her
doll household.
     Petya swaggered  along behind. As  he looked  at  the hollow in Motya's
thin  neck and the little triangle of hair above it, he grew so excited that
his knees wobbled.
     One could  not, of course, call  it passionate  love. But that it would
develop into a serious love affair was beyond all doubt.


     To tell  the truth,  Petya had been in love many times in the course of
his life.  First of all, that  little brunette- Verochka, wasn't it?-whom he
had  met at  a Christmas party last  year  in the  home of one  of  Father's
colleagues. He had been in  love with her  all evening; they had sat next to
each other at the table, and  then,  when  the  candles  were put out,  they
crawled  under the  Christmas  tree in the dark,  and the floor was slippery
from the fir needles.
     It was love at first sight. When, at half  past eight, they made  ready
to take  her  home, he was overwhelmed with  despair. So much so that at the
sight  of her  braids and ribbons vanishing under her hood  and fur  coat he
began to whimper and misbehave.
     Then  and there  he  vowed to  love  her to the  grave.  In  parting he
bestowed  upon her the cardboard mandolin given him from the Christmas tree,
and four nuts: three gold and one silver.
     But  two days passed, and  nothing remained of that love affair  except
bitter regret of having so foolishly lost the mandolin.
     Then, of course, in the country he  had fallen in  love with Zoya,  the
girl  who wore  the pink stockings of a  fairy;  he even kissed her, by  the
waterbutt under the apricot tree. But  falling  in love with Zoya turned out
to  be a mistake, for the  very next day she  cheated so brazenly at croquet
that he was  forced to  rap her over the shins with his mallet.  After that,
naturally, a love affair was out of the question.
     Then there had been  his  fleeting passion for  the lovely  girl on the
steamer,  the one who was travelling first class and  had argued all the way
with her father, Lord Glenarvan.
     But  all that  did not count. Who, after all, has not  experienced such
heedless attachments?
     Motya was another matter entirely. Besides being a girl, besides having
turquoise  earrings, besides turning so frightfully pale  and red and moving
her thin  little shoulder-blades so  adorably-besides all that, she  was the
sister  of  a  pal.  Actually,  of course,  not a sister  but a  niece.  But
considering Gavrik's age, she was the same as a sister. His friend's sister!
Can anything  make a girl more attractive and lovable than the fact that she
is a friend's sister? Does not this in itself contain the seed of inevitable
     Petya was  smitten. By the time they  reached the cellar,  he  was over
head and ears in love.
     However,  to  prevent  Motya  from  guessing it  he  assumed  a  nasty,
high-handed, indifferent manner.
     No sooner had  Motya  politely displayed  her dolls,  neatly tucked  in
their little beds, and the little stove with real pots and pans, only little
ones, which her  father had made from scraps of zinc, than Petya-though,  to
tell  the truth, he found them  awfully nice-spat contemptuously through his
teeth and, with an insulting snicker, asked, "I say, Motya, why is your hair
cut so short?"
     "I had typhus," Motya  replied in a thin, hurt voice, and she gave such
a deep sigh that a tiny peep, like a bird's, sounded in her  throat. "Do you
want to see my pictures?"
     Petya condescended.
     They sat  down  on the ground  side by side and began  to  look at  the
patriotic coloured lithographs, most of them depicting naval battles.
     A sticky, dark-blue  sky was criss-crossed  with thin searchlight rays.
Broken masts  topped  by Japanese  flags  were crashing  down.  Out  of  the
sharp-edged waves rose the white jets of explosions. Shells burst in the air
like stars.
     A  Japanese cruiser was sinking; its sharp nose was tilted, and it  was
enveloped in yellow-red flames. Little  yellow-faced men  were tumbling into
the sea.
     "Jappies!" breathed the enchanted girl as she crawled round the picture
on her knees.
     "Not Jappies but Japs," Petya corrected her sternly. He  knew what  was
what in politics.
     In another picture a dashing Cossack with red stripes down the sides of
his breeches and a high  black fur cap worn  at an angle had just sliced off
the nose of a Japanese who had stuck his head up from behind a hill.
     A thick  stream of blood gushed in an arc from the face of the Japanese
soldier. His stubby orange-coloured nose with its two black nostrils lay all
by itself on the hill, and this sent the children into peals of laughter.
     "Don't poke your nose where it doesn't belong!"  cried Petya,  laughing
and  beating  his  hands  against the warm dry earth spotted with  white hen
     "Don't poke your nose!" chanted Motya, looking over her shoulder at the
handsome  boy  and  wrinkling her  thin  sharp nose,  which was as motley as
     The  third picture showed  the same Cossack and  the  same hill, on the
other side of which the puttees  of a fleeing Japanese could now be seen. At
the bottom was this inscription:

     There was a Jap general Nogi, Ha-ha!
     And Ivan, he just knocked him groggy, la-la!

     "Don't poke  your  nose,  don't  poke your nose!" Motya sang  in  glee,
nestling trustfully against Petya. "Isn't that right? He shouldn't go poking
his nose in either, should he?"
     Petya,  frowning, turned a  deep  red  and did not reply. He was trying
hard to keep his  eyes from the girl's  thin  little  bare  arm with its two
shiny vaccination marks,  which were the same delicate flesh colour as paper
     But it was too late. He was already hopelessly in love.
     And when it turned out that  besides pictures of the Russo-Japanese War
Motya  had first-class  flints,  nuts with  which to play "king and prince",
sweets  wrappers, and  even  cigarette pictures,  Petya's  love reached  its
     Ah, what a day of rare and wonderful  happiness that was! Never in  his
life would Petya forget it.
     He  became curious as  to how the earrings held on, and the girl showed
him  the  holes,  which  had been pierced only a  short time before. He even
ventured  to  touch the lobe  of  her  ear; it was  soft, and still slightly
swollen, like a piece of tangerine.
     After that they  played pictures. Petya cleaned her out, but she looked
so  downcast  that he  took  pity on  her  and not  only  returned  all  the
pasteboards he had won  but made  her a present of all his. Let her know how
generous he was!
     Then they gathered dry weeds and kindling and lighted the doll's stove.
There was a great  deal of smoke but no fire. They gave this up and began to
play hide-and-seek.
     In  hiding  from  each  other  they  crawled  into  such  distant   and
out-of-the-way spots that it was a bit scarey to remain there alone.
     Yet  what  burning  joy  it was to  listen to the approach  of cautious
footsteps as you sat in  the hiding place, mouth and nose  covered with both
hands to keep from giggling!
     How furiously your heart pounded, how wildly your ears rang!
     All  at  once half of a  face  pale with excitement,  its lips  tightly
pressed together, slowly appears from behind a corner. The peeling nose, the
round eye, the pointed chin, the little white bonnet with the ruffles.
     Their eyes suddenly meet. Both are so startled that they feel  they are
about to  faint.  And  then  the  wild,  blood-curdling  cry of  triumph and
     "Petya, seen you!"
     And both dash  off for all  they  are worth to  reach the rapping stick
     "Seen you!"
     "Seen you!"
     Once the  girl hid  so  far away that the boy spent all of half an hour
looking for her, until finally  he thought of climbing  over  the back fence
and trying the pasture.
     There, in a pit overgrown  with weeds, sat Motya, her thin chin resting
on  her  scratched knees, and her eyes  fixed on  the  sky,  across which  a
late-afternoon cloud was floating.
     Around her crickets  were chirping and cows  were  grazing. It  was all
very frightening, and she was scared to death.
     Petya looked down into the pit. For  a long time they  gazed  into each
other's eyes, experiencing a strange, burning embarrassment which was not at
all like any of the feelings connected with the game.
     "Seen you, Motya!"  the boy wanted to shout, but he could not get out a
single  sound.  No,  decidedly,  this was  no longer  part  of the game  but
something altogether different.
     Motya  climbed carefully out of the pit and they  strolled back to  the
yard. They were embarrassed;  they  nudged each other with their  shoulders,
yet at the same time they discreetly refrained from holding hands.
     Over the  immortelles of  the pasture  glided the cool  shadow  of  the
     The minute they climbed the fence, however, Petya came to his senses.
     "Seen  you!" the sly boy cried wildly, and he raced for the stick so as
to rap the napping girl with it.
     In a word, it was all  so unusual and so engrossing that Petya at first
paid no  attention to  Gavrik  when he came up to them at the height of  the
     "Say,  Petya, what  was  that  sailor's  name?"  Gavrik  asked  with  a
preoccupied frown.
     "Which sailor?"
     "The one who jumped off the Turgenev."
     "I don't know."
     "But don't you remember you told me how that skunk with the moustaches,
the detective, called him by his name?"
     "Why, yes,  that's right! Zhukov. Rodion Zhukov. And  now don't  bother
us, we're playing."
     Gavrik left, wearing the same preoccupied frown. As to Petya, he was so
completely   absorbed  in  his  new   love  affair  that  this  conversation
immediately flew out of his mind.
     Soon after, Motya's mother called them to supper.
     "Motya,  invite  your gentleman friend to come in and  have some  gruel
with us," she said. "He must be hungry."
     Motya blushed furiously,  then turned pale and drew herself as erect as
a  stick,  the way she had before. "Would  you like  to have some gruel with
us?" she said in a choky voice.
     Only then did Petya realise that he was hungry.  Why, he hadn't had any
dinner that day!
     Never  in all his life had  he  eaten  such thick, delicious gruel with
hardish, smoke-flavoured potatoes and little cubes of pork.
     After that marvellous  supper in the open air, under the mulberry tree,
the boys set out for home.
     Terenti  accompanied  them back  to  town. He ran into the  house for a
moment and  came out wearing a short jacket and a lustrine cap with a button
on the top of  it. He carried a thin iron  rod from  an umbrella,  the  kind
Odessa  artisans usually  took with  them when  they went out walking  on  a
     "Don't go,  Terenti dear, it's  late,"  his wife pleaded as she saw him
off to the gate.
     The anxiety in her eyes made Petya feel somehow uneasy.
     "Stay at home instead. You can never tell what-"
     "I have things to do."
     "You know best," she said submissively.
     "Everything'll be all right," Terenti said with a gay wink.
     "Don't go past the goods station."
     "Never fear."
     "Good luck, then."
     "Same to you."
     Terenti and the boys set out for town.
     But the route  they took was altogether different from the one by which
the boys  had come. Terenti led them through vacant lots, backyard vegetable
patches and side streets. This route turned out to be much shorter, and they
met fewer people on the way.
     Quite unexpectedly they  came  out  on  familiar  Sennaya  Square. Here
Terenti said to Gavrik, "I'll drop in later this evening," and with a nod of
his head he disappeared in the crowd.
     The sun had already set. In some of the shops the lamps were being lit.
     "What will they say at home!" Petya thought in horror.
     His happiness was  over.  Now he would have to  pay for it. He tried to
keep his thoughts from dwelling on this, but he found it impossible.
     Lord,  what  his new shoes looked  like!  And his stockings!  Where had
those big round holes in the knees come from? They hadn't been there  in the
morning. His hands were a sight-as filthy as  a  cobbler's. And the spots of
tar on his cheeks. Good God!
     No doubt about it; there'd be a terrific row when he got home!
     If they'd only give him a whipping it wouldn't be so bad. But the whole
trouble was they would  never do  that. They  would groan and moan and wring
his heart with reproaches-and the worst of it was that the  reproaches would
all be just.
     Father might even grab him by the shoulders and shake him as hard as he
could, shouting, "Where have you been, you good-for-nothing! Do you  want to
drive me to my grave?" And that, as everybody knew, was ten times worse than
the worst possible whipping.
     These  and  similar  bitter  thoughts  put the boy  into  a  thoroughly
depressed  mood, aggravated by infinite regret at the burst of passion which
had moved him so foolishly to give away those  pictures to the first girl he


     No  power on earth, it seemed, could save  Petya  from an unprecedented
row. It was not for nothing, however, that the hair on Petya's crown grew in
two whorls instead of one, as it does on most boys, and this, as anyone will
tell  you, is the surest sign of luck. Providence  sent Petya an  unexpected
     He could have expected anything under the sun, but never this.
     Not far from Sennaya Square, in Staro-Portofrankovskaya  Street, he saw
Pavlik running along the pavement. He was all by himself.
     He stumbled as he ran,  and tears  streamed  down  his grimy  cheeks as
though  they were  being  squeezed out  of  a  rag.  His pink little  tongue
quivered ruefully in  the open square of his mouth.  From his nose  hung two
pearly drops.
     He was emitting  a steady  wail,  but since he  was running at the same
time what he  produced was not a smooth "Ahhhh" but a jerky and hiccupy "Ah!
Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah!"
     At  sight of his brother, Pavlik ran up to him as fast as he  could and
clutched his sailor blouse with both hands.
     "Petya! Petya!" he cried, trembling and panting. "Oh, Petya dear!"
     "What are you doing here, you bad boy?" Petya asked sternly.
     Instead of replying, Pavlik began to hiccup. He could not utter a word.
     "Answer me: what are you doing  here?  Well? Where  have  you been, you
good-for-nothing? I  see you want to drive me to my grave, eh? Say something
or else I'll have to slap some sense into you."
     Petya seized Pavlik by the  shoulders and  shook him until he cried out
through his hiccups, "I-hie!-I was- st-stolen!"
     Then again he gave way to tears.
     What had happened?
     Petya was not  the only one, it appeared, who had got the happy idea of
taking a  stroll  on his own the day  after  returning  to town.  Pavlik had
dreamt of the same thing a long time.
     He had not intended, of course,  to wander off as far as Petya did. His
plans  included a  visit to  the rubbish-heap, and, at the  outside, a  walk
round  the  corner to watch how the soldiers at  the entrance  to Army Staff
building presented arms.
     Unfortunately,  who   should  come   into   the  yard   just  then  but
Vanka-Rutyutyu, or Punch.
     Together  with  the  other  children,  Pavlik  watched  the  show  from
beginning to end. But  he found  it too short. A rumour spread, though, that
in the next yard a longer performance would be given.
     The children followed Vanka-Rutyutyu into the  next yard, but there the
show was still shorter. It came to an end at the part where Vanka-Rutyutyu-a
long-nosed puppet with the  stiff  neck of a paralytic,  wearing  a cap that
looked like  a  pod  of red pepper-killed  the  policeman with a blow of his
stick.  But  absolutely everybody  knew  that after that  there  must come a
horrible  monster- something  halfway  between a  furry  yellow  duck and  a
crocodile-and this monster would seize Vanka-Rutyutyu's head in its jaws and
drag him off to the nether regions.
     This part, however, was not shown.  Perhaps it  was because not  enough
coppers had been thrown from the windows. In the next yard, though, business
was certain to be better.
     Their  eyes  fixed  on  the  wicker  basket   where  the   puppets  lay
mysteriously hidden, the bewitched children moved from one courtyard  to the
next in the wake of the loudly-dressed woman with a street organ  slung over
her shoulder and the hatless man carrying a screen under his arm.
     Pavlik, devoured by curiosity, trudged  along beside the other children
on  his  sturdy  little  legs,  his  tongue  sticking   out  and  his  light
chocolate-coloured eyes, with their large black pupils, open wide. He forgot
everything -Daddy and Auntie Tatyana, and even Kudlatka whom he had not  had
time to put in the stable or give a good portion of oats and hay.
     The boy lost  all sense of time. When  he  came out  of  his  trance he
discovered with a start that night was falling and that he was following the
street organ along  totally unfamiliar streets. All  the other  children had
long since disappeared. He was quite alone.
     The loudly-dressed woman  and the  man  with the  screen  walked  along
quickly,  evidently in a  hurry to  get home. Pavlik  could scarcely keep up
with  them.  The streets  became more  and more strange and  suspicious.  It
seemed to Pavlik  that the  man  and woman  were whispering  something  in a
sinister manner.
     They  turned  a  corner and then suddenly  wheeled  round,  and  Pavlik
noticed in  alarm that  there was  a cigarette in  the woman's mouth. Terror
swept  over  him. He began to tremble  as he suddenly remembered. Absolutely
everybody knew  that organ-grinders  enticed little children away from home,
broke their arms and legs, and then sold them to the circus as acrobats.
     How, oh how could he have  forgotten that! It was as well  known as the
fact that sweets manufactured by "Krakhmalnikov Bros."  could poison you, or
that the ice-cream sold in the streets was made of milk in which sick people
had bathed.
     Here  there  could be  no doubt. Only Gipsy  women and other  women who
stole children smoked. In  another minute they would seize him,  stuff a rag
into his mouth, and  carry him off to Romanovka, where they  would twist his
arms and legs out of their sockets and turn him into an acrobat.
     With a  loud wail Pavlik turned and fled.  He ran as fast as  he could,
until suddenly he bumped into Petya.
     After  giving  his little  brother  a  good spanking Petya triumphantly
dragged him home  by  the  arm. At  home, panic reigned.  Dunya  was running
frantically  through the neighbouring courtyards, her  cheap taffeta  skirts
swishing. Auntie Tatyana  was  rubbing her temples  with a  migraine  stick.
Father was getting  into his summer coat to go down to the police station to
report his children missing.
     Upon seeing Pavlik safe  and  sound, Auntie rushed up to him, undecided
whether to laugh or to cry.
     She  did both at  the  same time. Then she  spanked  the little vagrant
soundly. Then she planted  kisses all over his smudgy little face. Then  she
spanked him again.
     Only after that did she turn a threatening face to Petya.
     "And what about you, my friend?"
     "Where were you gadding about, you bandit?" Father shouted, seizing the
boy by the shoulder.
     "I was looking for Pavlik," Petya replied modestly. "I ran all over the
city before I found him. You ought to  thank me. If not for me he would have
been stolen long ago."
     Then and there he launched into a magnificent tale of how he had chased
the organ-grinder, how the organ-grinder had  tried to escape him down  back
alleys, and  how he had finally seized the  organ-grinder by  the collar and
shouted for the police.  Then the organ-grinder became frightened, let go of
Pavlik, and ran away.
     "Otherwise I'd have had him put in jail, by the true and holy Cross!"
     Although Petya's story, contrary to  his expectations, aroused not  the
slightest admiration, and Father even wrinkled his nose in disgust and said,
"Aren't you ashamed to talk such nonsense?" there  was nothing  anyone could
do  about  it, for it was Petya, and Petya alone, who had  found the missing
Pavlik. Thanks to that Petya got off scot-free.
     That's what came of being a lucky boy with two whorls on his crown!
     Meanwhile Gavrik had returned to the hut to find Grandpa and the sailor
greatly  excited. A little while before, some officials had come to the hut,
supposedly from the city  council, to check  up on Grandpa's fishing permit.
The papers had been in order.
     "Who's that on the bed?" the gentleman with the brief case had suddenly
asked, noticing the sailor.
     Grandpa did not know what to say.
     "Is he ill? If so, then why don't you take him to the hospital?"
     "No,"  said Grandpa, putting on an air of  cheerful indifference. "He's
not ill; he's drunk."
     "Drunk, is he? Your son?"
     "A stranger?"
     "I tell you he's a drunk, Your Honour."
     "Yes, I understand. But where did he come from?"
     "Where?" Grandpa  repeated, pretending he  was a  half-witted old  man.
"He's a  drunk, I tell you. You know,  a drunk. He was  lying in  the weeds,
that's all."
     The gentleman looked closely at the sailor.
     "Was he lying in the weeds like that, in nothing but his underdrawers?"
     "That's how I found him."
     "Hey, you! Let me smell  your breath!"  the  gentleman shouted, putting
his face down close to the sailor's.
     Zhukov made believe he did not hear. He turned his face to the wall and
covered his head with a pillow.
     "Strange!  A  drunk  who  doesn't  smell  of  alcohol,"  the  gentleman
remarked. Then he added, regarding Grandpa severely, "You'd better look out,
     With that the officials departed.
     Gavrik did not like the looks of this at all.
     Passing by  the restaurant he  had seen the  district police inspector,
the nasty  one whom the local fishermen called "our boat snooper", seated at
a table.
     The  inspector had been  drinking beer, and  his  heavy mug stood on  a
thick  round piece of cardboard with the inscription "Sanzenbacher's  Beer".
He  had seemed less  interested in the beer, however, than in the time shown
by his silver watch.
     The sailor felt much better. Evidently the crisis had passed. He was no
longer feverish.
     He sat on the edge of the bed, rubbing his stubbly cheeks.
     "I'll have to get out of here at once," he said.
     "Where'll  you  go  without trousers?" Grandpa asked  sadly. "Stay here
until dark. No other way out. Hungry, Gavrik?"
     "I had supper at Terenti's."
     Grandpa raised his eyebrows. Think of it! His grandson had already been
at Terenti's. Quick work!
     "How are things there?"
     "He's planning to drop in today."
     The old  man  chewed his  lips  and  raised  his eyebrows still higher,
marvelling at how  quick-witted  his grandson was. Why,  he  grasped  things
better than many a grown man. And on top  of everything, he  was shrewd. Oh,
how shrewd he was!
     Although only  nine  and  a  half,  Gavrik  really  did  have a  better
understanding of some things than many adults. This  was not surprising, for
from his earliest years  he had lived among fishermen, and  the fishermen of
Odessa did  not  differ essentially  from  the  sailors,  stokers,  shipyard
workers   and  dockers,   that  is   to  say,  from  the  poorest  and  most
freedom-loving section of the city's population.
     They all had more than their  share of life's trials and  tribulations,
the children no less than the adults-and perhaps even more.
     This was the year 1905, the year of the first Russian revolution.
     The poor, the disinherited, the oppressed were rising to fight tsarism.
And not the last among them were the fishermen.
     It was a fierce struggle that had started, a struggle to the death. And
a struggle that taught them to be shrewd, cautious, vigilant, daring.
     All these qualities had gradually,  imperceptibly,  grown and developed
in our little fisherman.
     Gavrik's brother Terenti had also been a fisherman. After his marriage,
however, he had gone to  work  in the railway  shops. From many signs Gavrik
could not help guessing that his elder brother had something to do with what
in those times was vaguely and significantly called "the Movement".
     When he visited Terenti at Near Mills, Gavrik often heard him use words
like "committee", "faction", "password". Although  he did not know what they
meant, he sensed that they were connected with words like  "strike", "police
agent" and "leaflet", words everyone understood.
     Gavrik  knew especially well what  leaflets were, those sheets of rough
paper with small grey letters printed on them. Once Terenti had asked him to
distribute some  along the  shore, and he  had  put  them, at  night, in the
fishing boats, trying to do it so that no one saw him.
     Terenti had said,  "If anyone sees  you,  throw them into the water and
run. If they catch you, say you found them in the bushes."
     But everything had gone off all right.
     And so, that was  why Gavrik had decided to go straight  to his brother
about the sailor. He knew that  Terenti would  arrange  everything.  He also
understood, however, that his brother would  have to  consult  someone else,
and to go somewhere, perhaps even to that "Committee".
     That meant they must wait. But waiting was becoming dangerous.
     Several times the sailor opened the door a  crack and cautiously peeped
out.  It  was fairly dark by now, but not dark enough to risk  going out the
way he  was  without attracting attention, especially since there were still
many people on  the beach and  they could  hear singing from rowing-boats on
the water.
     The sailor returned to the bed. "The rats! The  damned bloodhounds!" he
said in a loud voice, no longer wary of the old man and Gavrik. "Just let me
get my hands on them! I'll-I don't know  what  I'd do  to them!  I'd risk my
head but I'd pay them back-" And  he quietly struck the bed with his massive


     Night had already fallen when  the door of the hut was suddenly  pushed
open, and  for an  instant  the  body of  a big man shut out the stars.  The
sailor sprang to his feet.
     "That's all right," Gavrik said. "It's our Terenti."
     The sailor sat down again, peering into the darkness at the newcomer.
     "Evening," came Terenti's voice. "It's so dark I can't see a soul.  Why
don't you light the lamp? What's up, out of paraffin?"
     "There's a few drops left." Grandpa rose with  a grunt and  lighted the
     "Hello, Grandpa, how are things going with you? I was in town today and
I thought, what about  looking  my  own folk up?  Why, I  see  you've got  a
visitor as it is. Hello, there."
     Terenti gave the stranger a quick, close glance in the flickering light
of the wick lamp.
     "He's  the one we fished out of the sea," Grandpa explained wryly, with
a good-natured grin.
     "So I hear."
     The sailor said nothing. He eyed Terenti with glum suspicion.
     "Rodion Zhukov, I take it?" Terenti said, a gay note in his voice.
     The  sailor gave a start but  instantly  controlled  himself. He braced
himself more firmly against the bed with his fists and narrowed his eyes.
     "What about it?"  he said with a defiant smile. "Why do  I have to tell
you? I answer only to the Committee."
     The grin faded from Terenti's pock-marked face.  Never had Gavrik  seen
his brother so grave.
     "You  may take me for  the Committee," Terenti replied after a moment's
reflection. He sat down on the bed beside the sailor.
     "Prove it," the sailor said stiffly, edging away.
     "First prove who you are."
     The sailor indicated his underdrawers with an angry glance. "Can't  you
see for yourself?"
     "That's not enough."
     Terenti walked over  to  the door,  opened it a crack and said in a low
voice, "Will you come in for a minute, Ilya Borisovich?"
     There  was a rustling in the bushes, and  then a short frail young  man
wearing pince-nez on a black ribbon looped behind one ear entered the hut. A
black sateen Russian  blouse belted with  a leather strap showed beneath his
old, unbuttoned jacket. Atop  his shock of hair perched  a  flat engineering
student's cap.
     The sailor felt that he had seen this "student" somewhere before.
     The young fellow turned  sidewise, adjusted his pince-nez and  squinted
at the sailor with one eye.
     "Well?" Terenti asked.
     "I saw this  comrade on the morning of  June the 15th at  the  Platonov
jetty guarding the body  of the sailor Vakulinchuk who was brutally murdered
by officers," the young fellow said quickly, without  stopping  for  breath.
"You were there, Comrade, weren't you?"
     "Right you are."
     "There. I knew I wasn't mistaken."
     Without  saying a word Terenti produced a bundle from under  his jacket
and laid it on the sailor's knees.
     "Trousers, a  belt  and a jacket, couldn't get  boots, sorry, so you'll
have to  go without until you  can buy some,  and now  get dressed and don't
lose any time about it, we'll turn  our backs," the young fellow said all in
one breath, adding, "I've an idea this place is being watched."
     Terenti gave a wink. "Get going, Gavrik."
     Gavrik understood at once and quietly slipped out of the  hut into  the
darkness. He  stopped and listened.  He thought he heard a rustle among  the
dry potato bushes in the vegetable patch.
     He  crouched and  tiptoed  forward.  Suddenly,  when  his  eyes  became
accustomed to the  darkness,  he clearly saw  two  motionless figures in the
middle of the patch.
     The boy caught his breath. His ears began to  ring so loudly that he no
longer heard the sea. Biting his lips savagely,  he made his  way  without a
single sound to the rear of the hut to see if there was anyone on the path.
     On the path stood two other men, one of them in a white jacket.
     Gavrik crawled towards the hill and there he saw several men. He  could
tell  at  once  they were  policemen by  their white jackets.  The  hut  was
     He was just about to  run  back when a big, hot hand firmly  seized him
from behind by the scruff of the neck. He broke away,  but the  next instant
he was tripped up and sent sprawling into the bushes.
     A  pair of  strong hands  gripped him.  He  twisted round, and, to  his
horror, found himself face to face with Moustaches;  he  was staring into an
open foul-breathed mouth and at a chin as rough as a pine board.
     "Plee-eease," Gavrik whined in a thin little voice.
     "Shut up, you dog!" hissed Moustaches.
     "Let me go, plee-eease, let me go!"
     "I'll teach you to shout, you little rat," Moustaches  muttered through
his teeth, seizing Gavrik's ear in fingers of steel.
     Gavrik shrank back and, turning his face to the hut, screamed in a wild
voice, "Hook it!"
     "Shut up or I'll kill you!"
     Moustaches yanked Gavrik's ear so savagely that it cracked. Gavrik felt
as though his head had split. It was stabbed by horrible, unimaginable pain.
At the  same time he was swept  by a wave  of  hatred  and anger that turned
everything black before his eyes.
     "Hook it!" he shouted again at  the  top of  his voice,  writhing  with
     Moustaches  threw  himself  on  Gavrik.  Continuing to  twist  his  ear
savagely, he used his other  hand to stop the boy's mouth. But Gavrik rolled
on the ground, biting  the sweaty, hateful, hairy hand. Weeping, he  shouted
frenziedly, "Hoo-ook it!"
     Moustaches  violently flung Gavrik aside and raced  towards  the hut. A
long police whistle sounded.
     Gavrik got to  his feet and saw at once that his shouts had been heard,
for  three figures-two tall and one short -dashed  out of the hut and across
the vegetable patch, stumbling as they ran.
     Two white  jackets barred their  way. The fugitives wheeled about, only
to find that they were surrounded.
     "Halt!" an unfamiliar voice cried out of the darkness.
     "Shoot, Ilya!" Gavrik heard Terenti yell in desperation.
     The next instant there were three flashes and three  revolver shots one
after the other, sounding like the cracking of a whip. The shouts and grunts
told Gavrik that a scrimmage was going on in the darkness.
     Would they be caught? So overcome with horror that he did not know what
he was doing, Gavrik dashed forward, as if he could help them in some way.
     He  had  not  run  more than  ten  paces  when  he saw  the  same three
figures-two  tall  and one  short-tear themselves away  from the tussle, run
towards the bluff and disappear in the darkness. "Stop them! Stop them!"
     There was a  flash of  red  light, followed  by  the loud report  of  a
policeman's Smith  &  Wesson.  Police  whistles shrilled at  the top  of the
bluff. It looked as if a cordon had been posted all along the shore.
     Gavrik listened with a sinking heart to the hue and cry of the pursuit.
It was beyond him why Terenti had  chosen  to run in that direction. Only  a
madman  would have climbed the bluff. Straight into a trap, where they would
all be caught. It would have been better to try to escape along the beach.
     He  ran on  a bit  farther. He thought he could  make out three figures
crawling up the sheer wall of the bluff. They were done for!
     "Oh, Terenti,  why did you go that way!" the  boy whispered in despair.
He bit his hand to keep from crying, but scalding tears tickled his nose and
stung his throat. Then all of a sudden Gavrik understood why they had chosen
the bluff. He'd  quite  forgotten. And  yet  it was so simple! The point was
     At  this very  moment Moustaches  flung  himself  at Gavrik, caught him
under the arms and dragged him backwards, tearing the boy's shirt. He pushed
him into the hut, near which two policemen  were now standing. Gavrik struck
his  cheek painfully against the  door and fell  on top of Grandpa, who  was
sitting on the floor in the corner, his legs crossed under him.
     "If  they  get away,  I'll have your heads!" Moustaches  yelled at  the
policemen, and ran out.
     Gavrik sat down beside Grandpa, crossing his legs under him in the same
way.  They sat in  silence,  listening  to the whistles and  cries gradually
dying away in the distance.
     At last all was silence.
     Only then did Gavrik  become  aware of his  ear. He  had  forgotten all
about  it,  but it  ached  terribly.  It  felt  as  if it were on fire. Even
touching it was painful.
     "That devil! Almost tore my ear right off!"  he  muttered,  trying  his
hardest to hold back the tears and to appear indifferent.
     Grandpa  glanced at him without turning  his head. The  old  man's eyes
were motionless and  horrifyingly blank. He softly chewed  his lips.  For  a
long time  he was  silent. At last he shook his head and said reproachfully,
"Who ever saw the likes of it? Tearing off a child's ear! Is that the way to
     He drew a heavy sigh and took to chewing his lips again. All at once he
bent  anxiously  over Gavrik, looked fearfully at the  door to  see  whether
anyone was  listening,  and whispered, "Did you hear anything? Did they  get
     "They went up the bluff," Gavrik said rapidly in an undertone. "Terenti
took them to  the catacombs. If  they're  not  shot down on the path they're
sure to get away."
     Grandpa turned his face to the icon of  the miracle  worker, closed his
eyes,  and  slowly crossed himself  with a sweeping  gesture,  pressing  his
folded fingers hard against his forehead, his stomach and both shoulders.
     A tear, so tiny that it  was almost invisible, crept down his cheek and
disappeared in a wrinkle.


     Many cities  of  the world have catacombs-Rome, Naples, Constantinople,
Alexandria, Paris, Odessa.
     Some  fifty  years  earlier,  Odessa's  catacombs  had  been  limestone
quarries.  To this day they run in a labyrinth beneath the entire city, with
several exits beyond its limits. Everyone  in Odessa knew, of  course,  that
the  catacombs  were  there, but few had ever gone down into them, and fewer
still had  any idea of their layout. The  catacombs were, in a way, Odessa's
mystery, its legend.
     Terenti,  however,  had  once  been a fisherman.  He  knew  the  Odessa
shoreline  perfectly, and had made an exact  study of all the catacomb exits
     One of these exits was located a hundred  paces behind the hut, halfway
up the  bluff. It was a narrow opening concealed  by growths  of sweet-brier
and spindle  tree.  A brook  trickled out of  the  opening and ran  down the
bluff, causing the creepers and weeds to tremble.
     After repulsing the first  attack of the  policemen and the detectives,
Terenti led his comrades straight to the opening in the bluff.
     Their  pursuers  knew  nothing  of  its  existence.  They  thought  the
fugitives  were trying to make their way to town through the villa district.
This played into their hands, for they  had the district surrounded and  the
fugitives would be trapped for certain.
     And so, after the first shots the  policemen were ordered to hold their
     When he had waited  below for about a quarter of  an hour, the chief of
the  Alexandrovsky police  station, who was directing  the  raid personally,
sent  the district  police  inspector to find  out if the criminals had been
     The inspector took  the easy but  roundabout  path  to the top  of  the
bluff, and another quarter of an hour passed  before he  returned to  report
that the fugitives had not been seen up there. It thus  turned out that they
were neither at  the  top nor at the  bottom.  Then where were they?  It was
utterly  impossible to  think  they  were  sitting in  the bushes  somewhere
halfway up the bluff, waiting to be caught.
     Nevertheless,  the chief ordered  his men to climb up  and search every
bush. Then,  no longer trusting "those fools",  he  himself  followed  them,
letting  out  strings  of oaths as his patent-leather  boots slipped on  the
grass and clay.
     They combed  the bluff from bottom to top but nothing did they find. It
seemed a  miracle. The fugitives couldn't  have been  swallowed  up  by  the
     "Your Honour!" a frightened voice suddenly cried from above. "Could you
please come here?"
     "What's the matter?"
     "It's the catacombs, Your Honour."
     The  chief of police reached up  and caught hold of  the  thorny bushes
with his white-gloved  hands. An instant later he was seized by strong hands
and pulled up to a small ledge.
     Moustaches struck  one  match  after  another, and by their light  they
could make out a long black crevice overgrown with bushes.
     The chief saw at once that he had  lost.  What a catch had escaped him!
He shook  with rage; he  stamped his  elegant boots; his white-gloved  fists
struck out right and left, hitting random noses, cheekbones and moustaches.
     "What are you standing  there for, you idiots!" he blustered in a voice
hoarse from shouting. "Forward, march! Search all the catacombs! Catch those
scoundrels  or else I'll tear your heads off! I'll smash your damned mugs to
a pulp! Forward, march!"
     But  he  knew that it was hopeless. To  search  all the catacombs would
take a fortnight at least. And it was  useless even to  start, for they  had
already lost  more  than half  an  hour and  the  fugitives had  undoubtedly
reached the other side of town long since.
     Several  policemen  unwillingly crawled  through the opening.  Lighting
matches  continually, they hovered not far from the entrance,  examining the
damp  limestone walls  of  the underground  passage  that  disappeared  into
sepulchral darkness.
     The chief  spat on the ground in  disgust and ran down the side  of the
bluff, his spurs jingling. He was choking with fury. He tore so violently at
the  over-starched collar of his white pique uniform jacket  that  the hooks
flew off.
     He strode  through  the crackling  bushes  to  the  hut,  and  savagely
wrenched open the door. The policemen  sprang to attention  in  fright.  The
chief stepped into the little room and halted, his feet  wide  apart and his
twitching  fingers  behind his  back. He  was followed through  the door  by
     "Your  Honour,"  Moustaches  whispered  mysteriously,  his  round  eyes
indicating Grandpa, "he's the owner of this undercover place  and that's his
     Without glancing at Moustaches the chief stretched out his arm, put the
flat of his white hand against the man's sweaty face, and pushed it  away in
furious disgust.
     "No one's asking you, you fool! I know that myself!"
     Gavrik  was  horror-stricken. He felt  something dreadful  was about to
happen. Small, pale, his ear red  and swollen, he stared unblinkingly at the
erect,   broad-shouldered  officer   in   the   blue  breeches   and   black
patent-leather shoulder belt.
     After standing like that fully a minute,  a minute that seemed an  hour
to the boy, the chief sat  down  on the edge of the bed. Without  taking his
eyes off  Grandpa  he  stretched  out a patent-leather boot, drew  a  silver
cigarette  case and  an  orange-coloured  matchbox from  his tight breeches'
pocket, and lit a yellow cigarette.
     "He smokes Asmolovs," Gavrik thought.
     The  chief  blew  the  smoke  through  his  nostrils,  drawling  out  a
"Ss-o-o-oo!" together with the smoke. Then he suddenly shouted at the top of
his  lungs, in a  voice so  loud that Gavrik's ears rang.  "Stand up in  the
presence of an officer, you scoundrel!"
     Grandpa nervously sprang to attention. Standing on his bent, bare black
legs and adjusting the shirt over his frail chest,  he stared  at  the chief
with dull, expressionless eyes.
     Gavrik could see Grandpa's taut neck trembling; the dry  skin, on which
there was an old scar, stretched like two reins.
     "So you're hiding outlaws, eh?" the chief said in an icy voice.
     "No, sir," Grandpa whispered.
     "Speak up, now. Who was just here?"
     "I don't know, sir."
     "You don't know, eh?" The chief  slowly rose  to his feet,  compressing
his lips. With a clipped, precise swing he gave  the old man  a blow in  the
ear that flung him against the wall.
     "Speak up! Who were they?"
     "I  don't  know,  sir," the old  man repeated firmly,  his jaw  muscles
     Again the fist in the white glove flashed through the air. Two trickles
of blood  began to flow from Grandpa's nostrils. He closed his eyes, hunched
his shoulders, and caught his breath with a sob.
     "What's this beating for, Your Honour?"
     Grandpa's voice was  low but  stern. He wiped his nose  and  showed the
chief his blood-stained hand.
     "None of your lip!" cried the chief, turning pale.
     The large velvety birth mark stood out black on his plaster-white face.
He glanced disgustedly at his spoilt glove.
     "Speak up! Who were they?"
     "I don't know."
     Grandpa had time to cover his face with his hands and turn to the wall.
The  blow  struck him  on the  head.  His trousers bagged  out at the knees.
Slowly he sank to the floor.
     "Don't hit him!  He's an old man!" cried Gavrik with tears  of despair,
flinging himself at the chief.
     But the chief was already striding out of the hut. "Take this scoundrel
into custody!" he shouted.
     The  policemen seized the old man and twisted his arms behind his back.
They dragged him out of the hut as though he were a  bundle of straw. Gavrik
dropped to the floor and, gnawing at his fists, burst into sobs of rage.
     For  some time he sat motionless, listening with one ear  to the noises
and stirrings of the night. His other ear was deaf.
     Every now and then  he deliberately put his finger in his good ear, and
a profound silence enveloped him. It was a terrifying silence, in which some
nameless danger seemed to lurk.
     He would then uncover his ear, as if hurrying to release the imprisoned
sounds. One ear, however, could not take in all  the different sounds at the
same time.
     First he  would hear the deep infrequent sighs of  the sea, and nothing
else. Then the tinkling music of the crickets would break  in, shutting  out
the sound of the sea.  A warm breeze, passing over the weeds, would fill the
night with rustling, and  leave no place either for the crickets or the sea.
Then there would be only the sputtering of the lamp, in  which  the paraffin
had burnt out.
     All  at  once a  realisation of his  loneliness swept  over the boy. He
sprang to his feet, blew out the lamp, and dashed off to look for Grandpa.
     A luxuriant August night enveloped the world.  The  twinkling black sky
showered its stars upon the running boy. The chirp  of the crickets streamed
as high as the Milky Way itself.
     But  what  did all that  indifferent beauty  matter  to  the  tortured,
outraged child since it had no power to make him happy!
     Gavrik ran as fast as he could.
     By the time he caught up with Grandpa  and the  two policemen they were
already in Staro-Portofrankovskaya Street, just outside the police  station.
They were riding in a  droshky, one  of the  policemen sitting and the other
standing.  Grandpa had  fallen off  the seat. He lay  on  the floor  at  the
policeman's  feet,  his  head bobbing helplessly against the step. The light
from the gas lamps flickered across his face, streaked with dust and blood.
     Gavrik made a dash forward but the droshky came to a  stop in  front of
the police station. The policemen dragged  the stumbling old man through the
     One of the policemen rapped Gavrik across the back of the neck with the
scabbard of his sword. The gate swung closed. The boy remained alone.


     Petya's moment of supreme happiness and triumph had come.
     By  one o'clock in the afternoon he had  already made the  round of all
his acquaintances in the 'house to show his new Gymnasium  cap  and  give an
excited account of the exam he had just passed.
     To be quite truthful, there was almost nothing  to tell. There had been
no actual  examination but  merely a simple  entrance test  lasting  fifteen
minutes.  It began  at half past  ten, and  by five minutes  past eleven the
bowing, smiling assistant in the shop next door to the Gymnasium was handing
the boy his old straw hat wrapped in paper.
     From  the moment he put it on before the shop  mirror and right through
until evening, Petya did not remove his new cap.
     "What a grand showing I made in that exam!" Petya declared excitedly as
he hurried down the street beside Auntie Tatyana.
     He kept looking in all the windows to catch glimpses of himself  in his
new cap.
     "Calm  yourself, my dear," Auntie Tatyana remarked, her chin  quivering
with suppressed laughter. "It wasn't an exam but only a test."
     "Why, Auntie Tatyana, how can you say  that!" Petya cried at the top of
his  voice. He turned red with  anger and  stamped his feet, ready  to burst
into tears. "You weren't there, yet you talk! It was a real examination. You
were waiting in the reception room, so you have no right to say it wasn't. I
tell you it was an exam!"
     "To be  sure. I'm the fool,  and  you're the clever one. It was  only a
     "It wasn't! It was an exam!"
     "You will insist that the beard was clipped."
     Auntie Tatyana  was  referring to  the  old  Ukrainian joke  about  the
stubborn fellow who argued  with his wife as to whether the  volost  clerk's
beard was  clipped or shaven. Despite  all evidence to  the contrary he kept
insisting  it  was  clipped.  Finally his infuriated wife picked him  up and
threw him into the river. He continued to shout "It was clipped!" and as his
head  went under the water he raised one hand and made clipping motions with
his fingers.
     But Petya did not take the hint.  In a tearful voice he kept repeating,
"It was an exam! It was an exam!"
     Auntie Tatyana was a kindhearted woman, and now she began to feel sorry
that she was depriving her nephew of the most  precious part of his triumph.
If the word "exam"  meant so much to the boy,  then let him  have his joy of
it. Why irritate him on this happy day?
     And  so, she made a bargain with  her conscience. "On second thought, I
probably was  mistaken,"  she  said  with a subtle smile,  "I do  believe it
really was an exam."
     Petya beamed. "And what an exam!"
     Yet deep down inside Petya was consumed by doubts. It had all been much
too quick and easy for an exam.
     True, the children had been lined up in  twos and led into a classroom.
Also, there had been a long table covered with a blue cloth. And behind that
table had  sat stern  examiners in blue uniforms with gold buttons,  wearing
gold-rimmed spectacles, medals, starched shirt-fronts  that  looked as stiff
as egg-shells, and  cuffs that crackled.  Among them had stood out  the silk
cassock and womanish curls of a priest.
     Petya had  felt his  stomach sink; his feet had turned  clammy;  an icy
sweat  had  broken  out on his temples. All the  symptoms known  since  time
immemorial had been there.
     But as to the exam itself- No, Petya now clearly saw that it was only a
test, after all.
     The minute the boys had  seated  themselves  at  the  desks one of  the
examiners  buried  his nose in a big sheet of paper on  the table and  said,
rolling out each word beautifully and distinctly, "Well, let us begin. These
boys  will  please step  forward:  Alexandrov, Boris;  Alexandrov,  Nikolai;
Batchei, Pyotr."
     When he  heard  his  name pronounced in  full,  sounding so strange and
forbidding in  that bare, echoing classroom,  Petya felt as if  someone  had
punched him in the  pit of the stomach. He had  never dreamt the  terrifying
moment would come so soon.
     Taken completely by surprise, he  turned a fiery red and almost fainted
as he walked across the slippery floor to the table.
     Each of the three boys was turned over to an examiner.
     Petya fell to the priest.
     "Well, now," drawled the huge old man, rolling back the wide sleeves of
his cassock.
     Then  he pressed against his narrow chest  the  dagger  of  a  crucifix
hanging from his neck on a silver chain. The  chain  was made of  flat links
with grooves like those in coffee beans.
     "Come closer, son. What is your name?"
     "Not Petya  but  Pyotr, my dear boy. You left Petya at home.  And  your
last name?"
     "The son of Vasili Petrovich who teaches in the trade school?"
     The priest leaned back  in his  chair in  the dreamy attitude  of a man
     He  squinted at  Petya with an ironical  smile that  the  boy  did  not
understand, and  said, "I know him, I should say  so. A gentleman of liberal
views. Well, now-" He pushed himself still farther back in the  little chair
until it swayed on its two hind legs.
     "Which prayers do you know? Do you know the Creed?"
     "Yes, I do."
     "Recite it."
     Petya  filled his  lungs with air and  began to  rattle  off  the Creed
without any punctuation stops, trying to get it all out in one breath:
     "I believe  in  God the  Father maker of Heaven  and Earth  and of  all
things visible and invisible and in one Lord Jesus Christ-"
     Here Petya ran out of breath and came to a stop.
     Hurrying lest  the  priest think  he  had forgotten the end, he  took a
fresh gulp of air with a sob, but the priest waved his hand in alarm.
     "That will do, that will do. Go to the next examiner."
     Now Petya stood in front of the mathematics examiner.
     "How high can you count up to?"
     "As high as  you like," Petya replied,  emboldened  by  his triumph  in
     "Excellent. Count up to a million."
     Petya  felt  as  if  he had fallen through a hole  in the ice.  Without
realising it, he made a choked, gasping  sound. He looked round  desperately
for help, but everybody was busy, and the mathematics examiner was gazing to
the  side  through  his  glasses,  in whose  curved lenses  were  distinctly
reflected the  two big classroom windows and  beyond them the  trees of  the
Gymnasium  garden, the blue cupolas of  the St. Panteleimon  Church and even
the watch  tower of the Alexandrovsky fire station, on which hung two  black
balls showing that there was a fire in the second precinct.
     Count up to a million!  Petya was lost.  Bravely he  began,  "One, two,
three,  four, five,  six, seven.  .  ." stealthily crooking  his fingers and
smiling sheepishly and sadly. "Eight, nine, ten, eleven. . . ."
     The mathematics examiner gazed impassively out of the window.
     "That will do," he said when the  dispirited  boy reached seventy-nine.
"Do you know the multiplication table?"
     "Once one makes one, once two makes two, once three makes three," Petya
began  in a loud,  quick  voice, afraid  of being stopped. But the  examiner
nodded his head. "That will do."
     "I know addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, too!"
     "That will do. Go to  the next  examiner." Why, they wouldn't  even let
you open your mouth! It wasn't fair.
     The next examiner  had a long, wispy beard through which  a shiny medal
could be seen. "Read from here."
     Petya reverentially took the book with the marbled-paper cover, staring
at the thick yellow fingernail that lay across the big letters of the title,
The Lion and the Dog.
     "The  Lion  and  the  Dog,"  Petya  began  at  a  smart pace,  although
stuttering  a bit from  excitement. "The Lion and the Dog.  There was once a
lion  who lived  in  a  menagerie.  He was very ferocious.  The keepers were
afraid of him. The lion ate a great deal of meat. The owner of the menagerie
did not know what to do-" "That's enough."
     Petya  almost  burst  into tears. How could  that be  "enough" when  he
hadn't even reached the dog! "Do you know any poems by heart?"
     This was the moment Petya secretly had been waiting for. It  would be a
triumph. Now he would shine in all his glory!
     "I know The Sail, by M. Y. Lermontov."
     "Recite it, please."
     "With expression?"
     "Very well."
     "Just a minute."
     Petya  quickly put one foot forward (this was absolutely necessary when
reciting with expression) and flung back his head.
     "The Sail, by M. Y. Lermontov!" he announced in a sing-song voice.

     A white sail gleams, so far and lonely,
     Through the blue haze above the foam.
     What does it seek in distant harbours'?
     What is it fleeing from at home?

     He quickly spread his arms in a gesture of surprise and puzzlement  and
then  continued,  hurrying to get  in as  much as  he  could  before he  was

     The billows run; the breezes play
     About the mast that dips and creaks;
     It is not joy the wand'rer flees from,
     Nor is it happiness he seeks.

     Petya hastily emphasised the words "It is not" with a gesture,  but the
examiner waved his hand in good time.
     "That's enough."
     "I'll finish  in  another moment. There's  only a little bit left," the
boy begged.

     ` Below, the sea is crystal azure. . . .

     "That's quite enough. You may go home."
     "Don't I have to recite anything else?  I know  A. S. Pushkin's The Lay
of Oleg the Wise"
     "No, nothing  more.  You may  tell  your  parents  that  you have  been
accepted. That is all."
     Petya was dumbfounded. For a minute or  two he stood  in  the middle of
the classroom not knowing what to do next.
     It seemed absolutely  unbelievable that this  mysterious and terrifying
event for  which  he had prepared  so anxiously all  summer long was already
     At last he gave a clumsy click of the  heels, stumbled, and ran out  of
the classroom. A second later he dashed back like a madman.
     "May  I  buy  my Gymnasium  cap now?" he asked, his voice breaking with
     "Certainly. You may go."
     Petya  burst  into the reception room  where Auntie  Tatyana, wearing a
summer hat with a  veil  and long  gloves,  sat  on a  gilt  chair beneath a
plaster-of-Paris bust of Lomonosov.
     "Auntie  Tatyana!"  he shouted in a voice that must have carried to the
coachmen  in the street. "Hurry  up!  They told me  to buy my  Gymnasium cap


     Oh, the bliss of buying that cap!
     First they  tried on cap after cap until the proper fit was found, then
they bargained, and after that they  chose the badge,  a  beautiful thing of
silver.  It consisted of  two  thorny branches, crossed, with "O. 5 G.", the
monogram of the Odessa Fifth Gymnasium, between them.
     The badge they chose was the  largest and the cheapest. It cost fifteen
     With an  awl the clerk punched two holes in the stiff blue beaver-cloth
band of the cap and attached the badge,  bending back the brass tabs  on the
     At  home the cap and badge  caused a furore. Everyone wanted to  handle
it,  but  this Petya would not allow. They could look  all  they wanted, but
hands off!
     Everyone-Father,  Dunya,  Pavlik-kept asking, "What did it cost?" As if
that was what mattered!
     "A  ruble  forty-five, and fifteen  kopeks  for  the  badge,"  he said,
fuming. "But that's nothing! You should have seen how I passed the exam!"
     Pavlik stared  at the cap with  envious eyes and snuffled, ready at any
moment to burst into tears.
     Then Petya ran downstairs to the shop to show his  cap to Nusya  Kogan.
But Nusya had again gone off to the bay on a visit. What luck!
     However,  Nusya's  father,  the  shopkeeper, nicknamed Izzy the  Dizzy,
showed great interest in the cap.
     He put on his spectacles and examined  it a long time from  all  sides,
saying ts-ts-ts all the while, until finally he came out with, "What did  it
     After making the round of all his acquaintances in the house Petya went
out into the field  and showed his cap to the  soldiers. They also asked how
much  it had cost. Now  not even half the day was over, and there was no one
else to show the cap to!
     Petya was in despair.
     All at once  he caught  sight of Gavrik walking past the  fence  of the
maternity  hospital.  He ran to him, filling the air with shouts and  waving
his cap.
     But  good  God! What had happened to Gavrik?  There  were brown circles
under his eyes-angry eyes in a thin, unwashed face. His shirt was in shreds.
One ear was swollen and purplish-red. It was the first thing that struck the
eye, and it looked so horrible and unreal that Petya felt frightened.
     "You should have seen me in the exam!" he wanted to shout but the words
died on his lips.
     Instead  he whispered, "Oh! You've been in a  fight? Who gave you  that
     Gavrik lowered his eyes and smiled grimly.
     "Let's see it," he said, stretching out his hand for the cap. "What did
it cost?"
     Although  the idea  of anyone handling the  cap  was  agonising,  Petya
(true, with a wrench of his heart) gave it to Gavrik.
     "But don't mess it up."
     "No fear."
     The boys sat down beside a bush near the rubbish-heap and proceeded  to
give the cap a thorough examination.
     Gavrik  at  once   discovered  that  it  had  dozens  of   secrets  and
possibilities which had escaped Petya's notice.
     In the  first  place,  it  appeared  that  the  thin steel  hoop  which
stretched  the  top  could  be  taken out.  The hoop  was  pasted  over with
rust-stained paper, and once pulled out of the cap it had independent value.
     It  would be the easiest thing in the world  to break the hoop  into  a
great number of little  pieces of steel which, if no good for anything else,
could  be put  on the rails in front  of a suburban train-simply to see what
would happen.
     In  the  second  place,  there  was a  black  sateen  lining  with  the
inscription "Guralnik Bros." stamped in gold. All one had to do was rip open
the edge, and then all kinds of things  could be  hidden inside where nobody
would ever find them.
     In the third place, the black varnish on the leather peak could be made
still  more shiny by a good rubbing  with the green  pods of what  was known
among boys as the "varnish-tree".
     As to the badge,  it immediately had  to be bent  back according to the
fashion, and its branches clipped a bit.
     The  boys set to work without losing  a moment's  time. They kept at it
industriously until they  had squeezed  out all the enjoyment  the  cap  was
capable of giving.
     This distracted Gavrik for a time.
     But  when the  cap no  longer resembled anything  under the sun and had
lost its attractions, Gavrik again grew glum.
     "Listen, Petya, fetch me some bread and a couple of lumps of sugar," he
said suddenly, making his voice gruff. "I'll take it to Grandpa."
     "But why? Where is he?"
     "In the police station."
     Petya stared at his friend with wide, uncomprehending eyes.
     Gavrik smiled grimly and spat on the ground.
     "Come on, what are  you gaping for?  Wasn't that clear enough for  you?
What are  you, a baby? They  took Grandpa to the  police station  yesterday.
I've got to bring him something to eat."
     Still Petya did not understand.
     He had heard that drunkards, brawlers,  thieves and tramps were  locked
up in the police station. But  Gavrik's Grandpa? That was more than he could
     Petya knew the old man very well, for he  had often visited  Gavrik  at
the beach.
     How many times  had Grandpa taken him out together with Gavrik to catch
bullheads!  How  many  times  had  he  treated  Petya to  his  very special,
fragrant,  smoky  tea,  always apologising, "But there's no sugar!" How many
times had he made  a sinker for Petya and shown him how  to attach it to his
fishing line!
     What funny  Ukrainian  proverbs he knew-proverbs  to fit every possible
occasion-how many stories about the Turkish war, how many soldiers' jokes!
     He would sit there with his legs crossed under him like a Turk, mending
his nets with a wooden needle especially whittled for that purpose, and tell
stories without  end. The  boys would  laugh so hard their insides ached. He
would  tell  the  story of  the  soldier who  boiled his  axe,  and  of  the
bombardier  who went to  heaven, and  of the orderly who so cleverly tricked
his drunken officer.
     Never in  his life had Petya  known such a delightful host, one who was
always glad to  tell a story but  who could listen to  others with  pleasure
     When Petya let his imagination run wild and, waving his arms, told such
a  tall story  that a person's ears began to tingle,  Grandpa never turned a
hair. He would sit there, nodding gravely, and  remark, "All quite possible.
Might very easily have happened."
     And a man like that had been locked up! It was unbelievable!
     "But why? What for?"
     Gavrik  gave a deep, grown-up sigh.  He was silent for a while. Then he
quickly leaned close to his friend. "Listen," he whispered mysteriously.
     He proceeded to tell Petya what had happened the night before.
     To be sure, he did not tell the whole story. He  said not a .word about
the sailor  or  Terenti. The  way  he told  it,  three  strange men who were
running away from the  police had come  into their hut at night to hide. The
rest of the story was the truth.
     "Then that snake grabbed me by the ear, and I'll say he twisted it!"
     "Oh, I'd have given it to him! I'd  have shown him!" Petya shouted, his
eyes flashing. "I'd have given him a good lesson!"
     "Oh, shut up!" Gavrik said glumly. He took  a  firm grip on the peak of
Petya's cap and yanked it down over his face so that his ears jutted out.
     This accomplished, Gavrik  went on  with his  story. Petya  listened in
     "But who were they?" he asked when Gavrik had finished. "Robbers?"
     " 'Course not. I told you they were just ordinary men. Committee men."
     "What kind you say?"
     "Might as  well talk to a post  as tell you something! Committee men, I
tell you. From the Committee."
     Gavrik leaned still closer and said  in a  whisper that brought a smell
of onions to Petya's nostrils:
     "The ones who make strikes. From the Party. See?"
     "But why did the policemen beat Grandpa and lock him up?"
     Gavrik smiled scornfully.
     "Because he  hid them, stupid! Where are your brains? They'd have taken
me too only they can't because I'm a kid. You know what  you  get for hiding
somebody? It's terrible! But-"
     Gavrik glanced  round  and  said in a  whisper so  low that Petya could
hardly make it out:
     "But  you wait  and  see-he won't  stay  there  more  than a week. Soon
they'll go through the whole city raiding the police stations. They'll throw
every single one of those snakes into the Black Sea. May I never see a happy
day in all my life! By the true and holy Cross!"
     Gavrik  again spat  on  the ground. "Well, how  about it?" he said in a
businesslike tone.
     Petya raced home. Two minutes later he returned with six lumps of sugar
in his pocket and half of a wheaten loaf inside his sailor blouse.
     "That'll do," Gavrik said, counting the lumps and weighing the bread in
his hand. "Coming to the police station with me?"
     The  police  station, it goes without  saying,  was definitely  out  of
bounds, near though it was. As luck would have it, Petya was suddenly filled
with such a desire  to go to the police station that to describe it would be
     Again there  was a fierce struggle with his conscience, a struggle that
lasted all the way to the police station.
     Conscience finally won  out,  but too late, for  the  boys were already
     When Petya was with  Gavrik, things  and conceptions always  lost their
usual  aspect and  revealed no end  of  qualities that previously  had  been
hidden from  him. Near Mills was transformed from  a sad abode of widows and
orphans into a workers' settlement with purple  irises in the front gardens;
a policeman became a snake; a cap turned out to have a steel hoop in it.
     And now the police station.
     What  had it  been  in  Petya's mind up  until  now?  A big  government
building  on  the  corner of Richelieu and Novorybnaya streets, opposite the
St. Panteleimon  Church. Many  was  the time he had  ridden past  it  on the
     The most important part of that building was its tall square tower with
the little fireman up at the top. Day  and night the fireman, in a sheepskin
coat, walked round the mast on the  small balcony, gazing out over the city.
Every time  Petya looked at the mast, which had a  crossbar, it reminded him
of a pair of scales or a  trapeze. There were always several ominous-looking
black balls hanging from it, and their number showed in which section of the
city there was a fire.  The city was so big that there  was certain to be  a
fire somewhere.
     At  the foot of the tower  stood  the headquarters of  the Odessa  fire
brigade. It consisted of a row of huge wrought -iron gates.
     To  the blare of  bugles,  teams of  four  wild dapple-greys  would fly
through  the gates  one after the  other, their  snow-white manes  and tails
     The red fire-engines, sinister and yet somehow toy-like, sped  down the
street  accompanied by  the steady jangle of the bell. They left behind them
in  the air  orange  tongues  of flame  from the  torches, whose  light  was
reflected in  the  firemen's brass  helmets. The spectre of misfortune would
rise to haunt the careless city.
     Apart from that, the police station was in no way remarkable in Petya's
     But  the  minute Gavrik came near, it  turned about,  as  though by the
touch of a magic wand, and showed the barred windows of a prison looking out
into an alley.
     The police station, it appeared, was simply a prison.
     "Wait here," said Gavrik.
     He ran across the damp pavement and slipped through the  gate unnoticed
by the policeman. Here, too, it appeared, Gavrik knew his way about.
     Petya remained alone in a small crowd  opposite the police station. The
people were relatives, and they  were talking across the street with the men
in the jail.
     Petya had never thought so many people  could be sitting  in  the jail.
There were at least a hundred of them.
     But they were hardly "sitting". Some stood on the windowsills, clinging
to the bars of the open windows; others looked out from behind  them, waving
their hands; still others jumped up  and down  trying to see the street over
the heads and the shoulders.
     To  Petya's amazement  there were  neither  thieves  nor  drunkards nor
tramps  among them. Just the opposite: plain, ordinary and quite respectable
people, like those to be seen every  day  near the station, in  Langeron, in
Alexandrovsky  Park, or riding in  the horse-tram.  There  were  even a  few
university students.  One  of them stood out especially because of the black
Caucasian felt cloak he  wore over a  white tunic with gold buttons. Cupping
his hands close to his haggard cheeks, he shouted to someone in the crowd in
a deafening, guttural  voice: "Tell the association that last night Comrades
Lordkipanidze, Krasikov, and Burevoi were summoned from their cells and told
to  take  their belongings with them.  Lordkipanidze, Krasikov, and Burevoi!
Last night! Organise a public protest! Regards to the comrades!"
     From another window a man  who reminded Petya of  Terenti, in a  jacket
and a Russian blouse with the collar unfastened, shouted: "Tell Seryozha  to
go to the office and collect my pay!"
     Other voices rang out, interrupting one another:
     "Don't trust Afanasyev! Do you hear? Don't trust Afanasyev!"
     "Kolka's in the Bulvarny jail!"
     "In a box behind the wardrobe at Pavel Ivanich's!"
     "Wednesday at the latest!"
     The relatives shouted too, raising  packages  and  children over  their
     One of the women held up a girl with earrings just like Motya's.
     "Don't worry about  us!" she cried. "People are helping us out! We have
enough to eat! See how healthy our Verochka looks."
     Now and then the policeman approached the crowd, gripping  the scabbard
of his sword with both hands.
     "Ladies and gentlemen, you are asked  not to stand opposite the windows
and not to talk to the prisoners."
     His  words  would  immediately  be  followed  by  deafening  cat-calls,
unbelievable  swearing  and  roars  from  the  windows.  Water-melon  rinds,
corn-cobs and cucumbers would fly at the policeman.
     "You snake!"
     "Go and fight the Japs!"
     With  his sword under his arm the  policeman  would stroll  unhurriedly
back to the gate, pretending that nothing out of the ordinary had occurred.
     No, things in  the world  were definitely not going as smoothly as they
might seem at first glance!
     Gavrik returned downcast and angry.
     "Did you see Grandpa?"
     Gavrik  did not reply.  The boys walked away. Near  the railway station
Gavrik halted.
     "They beat him every  day," he said in a hollow voice,  wiping his eyes
with his ragged sleeve. "See you later."
     He turned away.
     "Where are you going?"
     "To Near Mills."
     Petya  made  his way home across  Kulikovo  Field. The  wind whipped up
clouds of dry and dreary dust.
     The boy's heart  was so heavy that even the flattened cartridge-case he
found on the way brought him no joy.


     Autumn came.
     Petya  was  now  attending   the  Gymnasium.  The  school  uniform  had
transformed  him from a tall, sunburned, long-legged boy in  lisle stockings
into a small, crop-haired, lop-eared  preparatory  class  pupil-in Gymnasium
slang, a "greenie".
     The long trousers and  uniform jacket, bought  for thirty-six rubles at
Landesman's Clothing Establishment, were baggy and highly uncomfortable. The
coarse collar chafed his tender neck accustomed to  the freedom of a  sailor
     Even the belt, a real Gymnasium belt with a German silver buckle, which
had come after the cap  in  Petya's dreams,  fell  short of expectations. It
kept creeping up towards his  armpits,  the buckle slipped  to one side, and
the free end dangled like a tongue.
     The  belt did not give his  figure  the  manliness on  which he  had so
strongly counted. It was nothing more than a constant source of humiliation,
calling forth rude laughter from the grown-ups.
     On the other hand, a joy as great  as it was unexpected came during the
buying of the copybooks, textbooks and writing materials.
     What  a  difference  between  the  quiet, serious  book  shop  and  the
light-minded, silly shops in Richelieu Street or the Arcade! It was probably
an even more serious shop than the chemist's.  At any rate, it was much more
     The sign alone, a narrow, modest sign which said

     was enough to inspire the deepest respect.
     It  was on  a  dark autumn evening that Petya's father  took him to the
"Education" shop.
     They entered a drowsy realm of book-backs which in the light of the gas
jets  had  a greenish tinge and a sort of university flavour. On top of them
stood the  painted heads  of members of the four human races:  the Red,  the
Yellow, the Black, and the White.
     The first three heads conformed exactly to the races they were supposed
to represent. The Indian was as red  as could be. The Chinese as yellow as a
lemon. The Negro blacker than pitch.  The only one not entirely  true to his
name was  the specimen of the "master race": he was not white but a delicate
pink, with a long  blond beard. Petya stared enchanted  at  the  blue globes
with  their brass  meridians, the  black star  charts,  and the  terrifying,
startlingly bright anatomical charts.
     All the wisdom  of .the universe was concentrated in this  shop, and it
seemed to penetrate into  the very pores of the  customer.  Petya,  for one,
felt  remarkably  well educated  as he came home in the horse-tram, although
they  had spent no more than ten minutes in the  shop and  had  bought  five
little books in all, the thickest costing only forty-two kopeks.
     They had also bought a real satchel of calf-leather with the fur on the
outside and a small lunch basket.
     Then they had chosen a wonderful pencil-case with a transfer picture on
its sliding lacquered top. The top fit so tightly that when it was opened it
squeaked like a wooden peasant toybox. Petya put a  great  deal  of care and
taste  into filling all the sections  of  the case with the proper articles,
making a point of it that none remained empty.
     All  kinds of nibs went  into the  case: blue nibs  with three holes in
them, "Cossodo", "Rondo", "No. 86",  "Pushkin"  nibs with the curly  head of
the famous poet on them, and many others.
     Then there  was an india-rubber with an elephant drawn on it, a crayon,
two pencils, one for writing  and the  other for drawing, a penknife with  a
mother-of-pear] handle, an  expensive  penholder  (it cost 20  kopeks),  and
coloured pasting tabs, drawing pins, pins and pictures.
     And  all  these small, elegant implements  of study  were so absolutely
new, so shiny, and smelled so delightfully!
     The whole evening Petya  industriously covered his books  and copybooks
with special blue paper, pasting down the edges with tabs.
     He pasted lacy pictures in the corners of his blotters; glossy bouquets
and angels firmy held silk ribbons in place.
     On all the copybooks he neatly printed:

     This Copybook Is the Property
     of P. BATCHEI
     Preparatory Class Pupil, 0. 5 G.

     He could  hardly wait for morning to come. It was still almost dark and
the lamp was burning at home  when the boy ran off to the Gymnasium equipped
from head to foot as if off to the wars.
     Now not a  single department  of  learning  would be  able to withstand
Petya's onslaught! Three weeks of incredible patience, both at  home and  at
the Gymnasium, went into  improving his scholastic equipment. Time and again
he repasted  his pictures, replaced the  covers on his textbooks and changed
the  nibs  in  his  pencil-case,  striving  for  the  height  of beauty  and
     And when Auntie Tatyana remarked,  "Hadn't you better do your lessons?"
Petya would groan in despair, "Oh, Auntie Tatyana, don't talk such nonsense!
How can I study when nothing is properly ready?"
     In a word, things were going splendidly.
     There  was only one cloud to  darken the joy of learning:  not once had
Petya been called upon to  recite,  and there was not a  single mark in  his
report-book. Nearly all  the  boys  in the  class had been  marked, but  not
     Each Saturday he sorrowfully brought  home  his  unmarked  report-book,
sumptuously  wrapped in pink paper, pasted over  with gold and  silver stars
and  seals,  and decorated  with  coloured  book-marks.  But  then  came the
Saturday when Petya dashed into the dining-room, his coat still on, his face
aglow. He waved his handsome report-book  in the air, shouting at the top of
his  lungs, "Auntie Tatyana!  Pavlik! Dunya! Come quick! I've got marks! Oh,
what a pity Daddy's still at school!"
     Triumphantly he tossed his  report-book on  the table  and then stepped
away in modest pride, so as not to interfere with their contemplation of his
     "Well, well!"  exclaimed Auntie,  running into the  dining-room  with a
dress-pattern in her hand. "Let's see your marks."
     She picked up the report-book and quickly scanned it.
     "Religion-Poor;         Russian-Poor;        arithmetic-Unsatisfactory;
attention-Satisfactory; diligence-Fair," she read in surprise. She shook her
head  reproachfully.  "I  don't see what you're so happy about.  Nothing but
Poors here."
     Petya stamped his foot in annoyance.
     "I knew it!" he cried,  fairly  weeping from resentment. "Why can't you
understand, Auntie Tatyana?  The important thing is that  there  are  marks!
Marks, don't you see?
     But you simply don't want to understand! It's always that way!"
     Petya angrily snatched up his treasured report-book and ran outside  to
show his marks to the boys.
     With  this ended the first stage of Petya's studies-the festive period.
It was followed by cheerless, humdrum days of cramming.
     Gavrik stopped coming to  see  him, and Petya, busy  with his Gymnasium
studies, almost forgot his existence.
     For a time, Gavrik,  too,  forgot  Petya's existence.  He was living at
Near Mills now, with Terenti.
     Grandpa was still  in  prison. He  was kept part  of  the  time in  the
Alexandrovsky jail and the  other  part in the Secret  Police Department, to
which he was often driven at night by carriage. It was evident  that the old
man knew how to hold his tongue, for the police were not disturbing Terenti.
     Exactly where the sailor was Gavrik did not know, and  he did not think
it necessary  to ask  Terenti. Certain signs, however,  led him to  conclude
that the sailor was in safe hiding somewhere in the vicinity.
     For were there not  nooks and corners aplenty in Near Mills where a man
might lie low, might vanish  as  in thin air? And were there not numbers  of
men who were lying low for the time being in the Near Mills district?
     But Gavrik made it a rule never to stick  his nose into  other people's
affairs. Besides, he had enough troubles of his own.
     Terenti's family was having a hard time making ends  meet. The  railway
workers were on strike almost all the time. Terenti  made a  little money by
doing odd  locksmith's jobs  at home, but there  were not many of those jobs
and,  besides, a good deal of his time  was taken up by urgent matters which
were only hinted at in the family circle.
     Terenti did  not  seem to belong to himself. Men would  come for him in
the middle  of  the night, and without saying a  word he would  dress and go
off, sometimes for days.
     People were  always arriving at the house. The teakettle had to  be put
on  for  them and  gruel prepared. There were  always  muddy  tracks in  the
passage  those autumn days; the room was filled with clouds of cheap tobacco
     Gavrik's conscience would not allow  him to be a burden on his brother,
who had a family to provide for, and so he had to make his own living. After
all, he wasn't a child! Besides, he had  to  have food to take to Grandpa in
jail. Fishing,  of course, was  out of the  question without Grandpa.  Then,
too, the weather had turned bad, with storms blowing every other day.
     Gavrik went down to  the beach, hauled the boat over to  a neighbour's,
and hung the padlock on the door of the hut.
     From morning  to  night he now wandered about the city in Terenti's old
boots, looking for ways of  earning his daily bread. Begging would of course
have been  the easiest way out.  But Gavrik  was  ready to  die  rather than
stretch out  a  hand for alms. The very thought of  it  made his fisherman's
blood boil.
     No!  He  was  accustomed  to earning  his bread by  working. He carried
cooks' baskets home from the market for two kopeks. He helped the loaders at
the Odessa Goods Station. He would run to the spirits shop  to get vodka for
coachmen  who, under penalty  of  a fine,  were not allowed  to leave  their
     When he  was hungry and unable to find work of any kind, he would go to
the cemetery chapel and wait for a burial, in order to receive  in his cap a
handful of  kolevo, that funeral dish of cooked rice sprinkled with powdered
sugar and decorated with lilac-coloured sweets.
     The  distribution  of  kolevo  at funeral  was an old  custom, and  the
cemetery beggars took advantage of it. Some of them even grew fat on it. But
since kolevo was eaten not only by  the beggars but by all who  attended the
funeral,  Gavrik did  not  feel  it  beneath  him to  take  advantage  of so
convenient a custom.  The more so since the sweets he came by could be taken
to  Terenti's children  as  gifts-and without  gifts  Gavrik did not feel it
proper to return home for the night.
     Sometimes Terenti asked him to take a parcel  to an address that had to
be learned  by heart and  could under no circumstances be put down on paper.
Gavrik liked  these  errands very much, for they clearly had some connection
with the affairs that kept Terenti so busy.
     The parcel, usually a roll of papers, Gavrik would thrust  deep down in
his pocket and then press flat so  that  it did not show. He knew that if he
was caught he was to say he had found it.
     After finding the person for whom it was intended he had to be  sure to
say at first, "How  do you  do? Sophia Ivanovna sends you her regards."  The
person would reply,  "How  is Sophia Ivanovna's health?" Only then could  he
hand over  the parcel. Very often the person, after taking the parcel, would
give him a whole ten-kopek piece "for tram fare".
     How much terror and fun there was in those errands!
     Finally, Gavrik  earned  money by  playing  "lugs",  a  game  that  had
recently come into fashion not only among children but among adults as well.
Lugs  was  the name given  to the  buttons from  uniforms worn by government
employees, with the links bent in.
     In broad outline, the game went as follows: the players  put their lugs
on the  ground, wrong side  up, and  then, one after the other,  threw their
king-lug  at them,  the  object being  to make the lugs turn  right side up.
Every time a player managed to turn over a lug it became his.
     Lugs  was  neither more difficult nor more interesting  than any  other
street  game, but  it had a devilish  attraction  all its own: the lugs cost
money. They  could  always  be  bought and  sold, and  they  were quoted  at
definite rates on the street exchange.
     Gavrik  played  a  brilliant  game of  lugs.  His  throw  was firm  and
accurate, and his eye was keen. He soon became  famous as a champion player.
His pouch was always filled with superior, expensive lugs. When affairs took
an especially bad turn he would sell a part of his supply.
     But his pouch never remained empty. The very next day he would win even
more lugs than he had sold.
     What to others  was an amusement thus became, for Gavrik, a  profitable
trade. There was no other way out. One had to make a living somehow.


     Big events were  approaching. Seemingly at a snail's pace, but actually
with the terrifying speed of an express train.
     How well  did Gavrik, a resident  of Near Mills,  know that  feeling of
awaiting the flying express train!
     . . .The train is still far away, neither to be seen nor heard, but the
steady tinkling of the signal bell at the Odessa Goods Station announced its
approach.  The line is clear. The arm of the semaphore  is raised. The rails
are shiny and immobile. There is not a sound.  But everyone  now knows  that
the train is coming and that no power on earth can stop it.
     At the crossing, the barrier slowly drops. The  boys scramble up on the
station fence.  A  flock  of  birds takes off  from  the trees in alarm  and
circles above the water tower. From up there they can probably see the train
     Out of the distance  comes the  faint sound of a pointsman's  horn. And
now into the silence there  trickles the faintest of noises. No, not a noise
but  rather its presentiment, a delicate quivering of the rails as they fill
with inaudible sound. There  is this quivering, then  a  sound,  and  then a
     Now the train can clearly  be heard: it is  slowly breathing out steam,
and each breath is louder than the one before it.
     All the same, it is hard  to believe  that  the  express will be flying
past  in  another  minute.  But then  suddenly,  unexpectedly,  the  engine,
enveloped  in  a  cloud of steam, comes into  sight ahead. It  seems  to  be
standing still at the end of the avenue of green trees.
     Yes, it must have stopped.
     But if so, why is  it  growing so enormously bigger with each  instant?
However, now there is no longer time to answer the question.
     Belching steam sidewise, the express flies past in a dizzying whirlwind
of wheels, windows, doors, steps, couplings, buffers. . . .
     Gavrik, who spent his days roaming through the  city, could not  but be
aware  of  the  approach  of  events.  They  were  still  somewhere  on  the
way-halfway between St. Petersburg  and Odessa, perhaps-but into the silence
of  expectation there  was  already  trickling  the  sound  of  irresistible
movement, not so much heard as sensed.
     Swaying on their new crutches, the wounded, their  faces overgrown with
beards, hobbled along the streets. They wore shaggy Manchurian fur caps  and
the  St.  George Cross  was pinned  to  the  army  coats  slung  over  their
     Factory  workers who  arrived from Central  Russia brought rumours of a
general strike. In the crowds  near the police stations there  was  talk  of
violence. In  the crowds  near the  university and the women's college there
was talk  of freedom.  In the crowds near the Ghen factory there was talk of
an armed uprising.
     On a day in late  September  a big white ship steamed into the  harbour
carrying the  body  of  General Kondratenko, who  had been  killed  at  Port
     For almost a year the huge box, containing a leaden coffin and weighing
nearly a ton, had travelled foreign lands and seas before it finally reached
its homeland.
     In the port it was placed on a  gun carriage and driven along the broad
avenues of Odessa to the railway station.
     Gavrik watched the sombre  procession. The pale September  sun fell  on
the funeral vestments of the  priests, on the  cavalry, the police in  white
gloves, the crepe ribbons on the street gas lamps.
     Torch-bearers in black three-cornered hats  edged  with silver  carried
glass lanterns on poles, and the pale  flames  of the candles could scarcely
be seen in the daylight.
     Army bands  played uninterruptedly but  with  painful  slowness,  their
music mingling with the chanting of the cathedral choir.
     Harmonious  but so  insufferably  high  as  to  be  almost shrill,  the
melancholy children's voices floated up tremulously to the arches  of wilted
acacia trees. Pale  sunshine  filtered through  the lilac clouds of incense.
Slowly-oh, so slowly!-the gun carriage,  and the huge black box covered with
wreaths  and  ribbons high on top  of it, moved down  the middle of  Pushkin
Street between lines of soldiers towards the railway station.
     As the procession came  level with the garden in front of the station a
university student sprang up on the iron fence. Waving above his shaggy head
a  faded  student cap  with a band  that  had  once been blue,  he  shouted:
     In that vast silent crowd  his voice seemed weak, scarcely audible. But
the  word  he had shouted-"Comrades"-was  so incredible,  so  unfamiliar, so
challenging that it was  heard by all, and every  single head  turned in the
direction of the little figure clinging to the massive fence.
     "Comrades!  Remember  Port  Arthur!  Remember  Tsushima!  Remember  the
bloodshed of  January  the 9th. The Tsar  and  his underlings  have  brought
Russia to  unbelievable  shame, to unprecedented  ruin and poverty!  But the
great Russian people carry on  and will continue to  carry on! Down with the
     Policemen  had already laid hands on  the student but  he clung to  the
fence and, waving his cap, shouted quickly, frenziedly, determined to finish
his speech:
     "Down with the autocracy! Long live liberty! Long live the re-"
     Gavrik saw him dragged down and led away. The tolling  of bells floated
over the city. The hoofs of the cavalry horses clattered on the pavement.
     General  Kondratenko's  coffin  was placed in a funeral carriage of the
St. Petersburg train. The bands  crashed into  their  final notes. "Pre-sent
a-a-arms!" The train pulled out.
     Slowly the funeral carriage  sailed past the fence of gleaming bayonets
held at attention, carrying the black box with the cross on the lid past the
Odessa Goods Station,  past the suburbs  sprinkled with  motionless  crowds,
past  the silent  stations  and flag-stations-moving  across  the  whole  of
Russia, northwards to  St.  Petersburg. Together  with this train of sorrow,
the spectre of the lost war moved across Russia.
     During those few days it  seemed to Petya as  if there had been a death
in  the house. Everyone walked about softly.  No one spoke much. A  crumpled
handkerchief lay on Auntie  Tatyana's toilet table. Immediately after dinner
Father silently put a green shade over the lamp and sat correcting copybooks
until late at night, every now and then dropping his pince-nez and polishing
the lenses with the lining of his jacket.
     Petya became  a quiet  lad.  Instead of the circles and  cones  of  his
homework  he sketched in his drawing-book the  Battle of Turenchen  and  the
sharp-nosed cruiser Retvizan surrounded by fountains of water from exploding
Japanese mines. Pavlik alone was irrepressible. He would harness Kudlatka to
a chair  turned upside  down and,  blowing furiously on a painted  tin horn,
drag "Kondratenko's funeral" up and down the passage.
     As he was getting ready  for  bed one night, Petya heard  the voices of
Father and Auntie Tatyana from the dining-room.
     "Life  is  unbearable,  simply  unbearable!" Auntie Tatyana was  saying
through her nose, as  though she had a cold,  although Petya knew very  well
she didn't.
     He paused to listen.
     "It's literally impossible to breathe!"  Auntie Tatyana went on,  tears
in her voice. "Really,  don't  you feel it, Vasili Petrovich? In their place
I'd be ashamed  to look people in the face.  But they-my God!-they act as if
everything were as it should be. I was walking down the French Boulevard and
I  couldn't believe  my eyes. A  gorgeous turnout:  dapple-grey  trotters, a
landau driven by a soldier  wearing white gloves. All glitter and dazzle. In
the carriage sat  two ladies  in  white  nurses' caps with  red  crosses, in
velvet  and sable  cloaks, with  diamonds  this size on  their fingers,  and
lorgnettes, and painted eyebrows, and eyes shining from belladonna. Opposite
them  were two  elegant  adjutants,  their  swords  like  mirrors, and  with
cigarette holders between their glistening white teeth.  And oh how  gay and
merry! Now,  who do you think  they  were? Madam Caulbars  and her  daughter
driving out to  Arcadia  with their admirers,  while all Russia is literally
drenched  in  blood  and  tears! What do you  say  to  that?  Just  think of
it-diamonds  that size! And where did they get them? They  stole and robbed,
and stuffed their pockets! Ugh, how I hate all that-forgive my frankness-all
that  scum! While three-quarters  of the country are starving; while  entire
districts are dying out.
     I can't stand it any longer! I haven't the strength! Can't you see?"
     Petya heard passionate sobbing.
     "Calm yourself, Tatyana Ivanovna. But what can we do? What can we do?"
     "How should I know? Protest, demand, shout, go into the streets-"
     "I beg you-I understand-but tell me, what can we do?"
     "What can we  do?" Auntie Tatyana  exclaimed suddenly in  a high, clear
voice. "Everything! If we only want to  and aren't afraid. We can  tell  the
scoundrel to his face that he is  a scoundrel, the thief that he is a thief,
the coward that he is a coward. But instead we stay at home and keep silent.
My God,  my God, it's horrible to think of what unfortunate Russia  has come
to! Stupid generals, stupid ministers, a stupid Tsar."
     "Please, Tatyana Ivanovna, the children will hear!"
     "Splendid!  Let  them know the kind  of  country  they live in. They'll
thank  us  for  it  later.  Let  them know that  their Tsar  is a fool and a
drunkard,  who's  been  beaten  over the head with a bamboo cane, besides. A
degenerate!  And  the finest men in  the country, the  most honest, the most
educated, the cleverest, are rotting in prison, in penal servitude-"
     Father tiptoed into the nursery  to see if the  boys were asleep. Petya
closed his eyes and breathed deeply and evenly. Father bent over him, kissed
him on  the  cheek with trembling lips, and tiptoed out of the room, closing
the door tight behind him.
     But the voices filtered in from the dining-room for a long time.
     Petya could not fall asleep. Back and forth across  the  ceiling  moved
bars of light from the street. Hoofs clattered. The windows rattled faintly.
     It seemed to the boy that the  glittering landau of Madam Caulbars, the
woman who  had stolen so much money and so many diamonds from  the  treasury
(the treasury was a wrought-iron box on wheels),  was driving back and forth
beneath the window.


     That  evening,  many  things Petya  had  never  before  suspected  were
revealed to him.
     Before, there  had  been  certain  conceptions  so  well  known and  so
indisputable that there was never any reason to think about them.
     For  example,  Russia.  It  had  always   been  perfectly   clear   and
indisputable that Russia was the best, the strongest, and the most beautiful
country in the world. How, otherwise, could one  explain the  fact that they
lived in Russia?
     Or Father. Father was the cleverest, the  kindest, the  most manly, and
the most educated person in the world.
     Or the  Tsar. The  Tsar was  the  Tsar. It went without saying that the
Tsar was  the wisest, the richest,  and the most powerful man in  the world.
How, otherwise, could one explain the fact that Russia belonged to  him  and
not to some other tsar or king, say the French king?
     And then, of course, there was God. About him absolutely nothing had to
be said because everything was so clear.
     But  now?  It  suddenly turned  out that  Russia was  unfortunate, that
besides  Father there were others who were the finest men in the country and
were  rotting in penal servitude, that  the Tsar was a  fool and  a drunkard
and, besides,  had been  beaten over the head  with a bamboo cane. On top of
all that, the ministers were stupid, the generals were stupid, and it turned
out that  Russia  had not defeated Japan-although up until now there had not
been the slightest doubt that it had-but just the opposite.
     But  the  main thing was that it was  Father and Auntie Tatyana who had
been  talking about  all this. Lately, though, Petya had begun to  suspect a
thing or two himself.
     Decent, sober  folk were  put in jail. The police had even locked  up a
wonderful  old man like  Gavrik's  grandfather, and were beating him, what's
more.  The sailor  had jumped off the ship. Soldiers had stopped  the coach.
There were guards posted at  the port. The trestle  bridge had burnt down. A
battleship had shelled the city.
     No,  it  was quite obvious that life was not at all the gay,  pleasant,
carefree thing it had been just the very shortest while ago.
     Petya was dying to ask Auntie Tatyana who  had beaten the Tsar over the
head with a bamboo cane, and why. Especially, why with a bamboo cane? But he
already understood that there were  things better not spoken of, that it was
better  to keep silent and pretend to know nothing. The more so since Auntie
remained her good-natured, bantering,  competent self, in no way showing the
feelings she had so openly revealed on that one evening.
     October was approaching.
     The acacia trees were almost bare of leaves. Storms raged at sea.
     You had to have the lamp on when you got up and dressed.
     For weeks at a time fog lay over the city. In the fog, people and trees
looked like drawings on frosted glass.
     Lamps put out at nine in the morning were lighted again at  five in the
afternoon. It  drizzled. At times  the rain stopped, the wind blew  away the
fog, and then a red  dawn flamed  for a long time  in a sky as clear as ice,
beyond the  railway station,  beyond  the market, beyond the  spikes  of the
fences, beyond  the bare branches of the trees, thickly peppered with crows'
nests as big and black as Manchurian fur caps.
     Hands froze without  gloves. The earth hardened. A terrifying emptiness
and transparency hung over the garrets. In those brief hours silence reigned
everywhere from  earth  to sky. The city was cut off from  Kulikovo Field by
the  transparent wall of silence. It had moved infinitely far away, with its
alarming rumours, its  secrets, its  anticipation of events  to come. It was
clearly visible, in sharp focus; at  the same time it was dreadfully remote,
as though seen through the wrong end of the opera-glasses.
     But then the  weather changed, the sky grew dark, and  an  impenetrable
fog  moved in from  the sea. Nothing  was visible two paces away.  The dark,
weird evening was followed by a black night.
     A  raw  wind  blew  from  the  sea.  From   the  port  came  the  dark,
awe-inspiring  voice  of  the foghorn.  It  began with bass  notes  and then
suddenly rose in a  chromatic scale, at dizzying speed, to a penetrating but
smooth wail of inhuman pitch. It was as if  a death-dealing  projectile were
tearing through the murky sky with a blood-curdling wail.
     On such evenings Petya  could not overcome a feeling of horror whenever
he  approached  the  window,  opened the  shutters, and looked out  into the
     The vast, wild expanse of Kulikovo Field was pitch-dark. It merged with
the city in the foggy gloom, sharing its mysteries, mysteries that seemed to
be stealing silently from street lamp to street lamp, muffled in fog.
     The shadows of rare pedestrians glided past. Occasionally a policeman's
whistle sounded, faint and long drawn out. A double watch of sentries was on
duty at the  Army Staff building.  The heavy tread  of a patrol came through
the darkness.
     There might  be someone lying  in  wait at every  corner. At any moment
something might happen-something unforeseen and terrible.
     One evening something actually did happen.
     At about ten o'clock Dunya, who had gone to the shop for paraffin, came
running into the dining-room,  without  taking off her shawl  and said  that
five minutes ago a sentry had shot himself in  the vacant lot, near the wall
of the  Army Staff  building. She  related the gory details: the soldier had
taken off one of his boots, put the muzzle of his gun in his mouth, and then
pulled the  trigger with his  big toe. The back of  his head was blown  off.
Dunya  stood  there, pale  as death, with ashen  lips, nervously  tying  and
untying a knot in the fringe of her woolly shawl.
     "They say he didn't  even leave a note," she said after a long silence.
"That's awful. Probably he couldn't write."
     Auntie Tatyana pressed her knuckles against her temples as  hard as she
     "Oh, why talk of a note!" she exclaimed, tears of vexation in her eyes.
She laid  her head  on the table-cloth beside a saucer of  tea in  which the
swaying dining-room lamp with its white shade was reflected in every detail,
but in miniature. "Why talk of a note! The thing is clear enough as it is!"
     From the  kitchen  window, which looked  out  on the vacant lot,  Petya
watched the roaming lamps of an ambulance and the shadows of people.
     The boy  sat on the icy windowsill in the empty kitchen, trembling with
fear and cold, his face pressed to the rain-washed windowpane. He was unable
to  tear  his eyes away from the  darkness, which still seemed to  be filled
with the presence of death.
     That night Petya could not fall asleep  for a long time. He kept seeing
in his  imagination  the terrifying corpse of the barefoot  soldier in  full
sentry  kit, with  the  back  of his head  shattered  and  his face blue and
mysteriously immobile.
     But the  next morning,  despite the horror,  he  could  not  resist the
temptation of having a look at the terrible spot.
     An  inexplicable force drew  him to the  vacant lot. On his way  to the
Gymnasium  he turned  off in  that  direction and  cautiously,  as though in
church, tiptoed across the grass, wet and  rotting from the rain and fog, up
in the place where a few curious people were already standing.
     Near  the wall of the Army Staff building he saw, in the damp earth,  a
dent the size of a human head. It was full  of rain water  tinted pink.  The
dead soldier's head must have struck that spot.
     That was the only trace of what had happened the evening before.
     Petya raised the collar of his Gymnasium  overcoat. Shivering  from the
dampness in the air, he stood for some  time gazing at the dent. Suddenly he
noticed  a  small disc on  the ground  near his  feet. He picked  it up  and
trembled with  joy.  It was  a five-kopek piece, black  and  spotted, with a
turquoise mould covering the place where the eagle should have been.
     Naturally, the find was  accidental and had  no  bearing whatsoever  on
what had taken place. The coin  had probably lain there since summer. It may
have  been lost by factory workers playing  pitch-and-toss, or  it  may have
fallen out of the pocket  of  some beggar woman who spent the  night in  the
bushes. However,  the  coin  immediately  acquired  in  the  boy's  eyes  an
importance  bordering on the magic, and  this besides the fact that here was
wealth: an entire five kopeks!
     Petya's  father never  gave him money,  feeling that money might easily
corrupt him. So that finding the  five-kopek piece raised  Petya to  seventh
     That day, magically brightened by the find, was one P long  holiday for
the boy.
     In  class the coin passed from hand  to hand. Among  Petya's classmates
there were lads experienced in such matters, and they swore, turning towards
the cupola  of the St. Panteleimon Church and  crossing themselves,  that it
was  without any doubt a  magic  five-kopek  piece, a younger brother of the
magic  ruble  in the fairy-tale. It  should bring Petya unbelievable riches,
they said.
     One of the boys even  offered his lunch, together with his lunch basket
and a penknife  thrown  in, in  exchange  for the  talisman. Petya naturally
refused with a scornful laugh. Only a  total idiot would have agreed to such
an exchange!
     After school Petya raced home. He had  to show his  find to one and all
at home and in the yard as soon as possible.
     What was his joy when he saw Gavrik in the yard!
     Gavrik was on his  knees,  surrounded by a group of squatting children.
He was teaching them the popular game of lugs.
     Petya hardly had time to give his friend, whom he had not seen for such
a long time, a proper  greeting before he was caught up by the  game.  First
they played  a trial  game,  using Gavrik's lugs. This merely fanned Petya's
     "Gavrik, lend me ten of them,"  he  begged, stretching out a  hand that
trembled  with impatience. "As soon as I  win I'll pay you back, by the true
and holy Cross I will!"
     "Hands  off! I've heard that  tale  before," Gavrik replied  darkly. He
dropped  the lugs into his grey baize pouch and neatly  tied it with a piece
of string. "Lugs aren't pictures. They cost money. I can sell  you  some  if
you like."
     Petya did not take the slightest offence. He understood very well  that
friendship was one thing but that every game had its inviolable rules. Since
lugs cost money you had to pay money for them, and friendship had nothing to
do with the matter. Such was the iron law of the street.
     But what was he to do?
     He was dying to play. A storm of indecision shook him. For no more than
a minute he hesitated,  then reached into his pocket and held out the famous
five-kopek piece to Gavrik.
     Gavrik  gave the suspicious-looking  coin  a thorough  examination  and
shook his head.
     "Nobody'll take it."
     "They will too!"
     "No, they won't!"
     "You're a fool!"
     "You're another! Take it to the shop and change it!"
     "Go yourself."
     "Why should I! It's your money."
     "They're your lugs."
     "I don't care if you buy any or not."
     "Neither do I."
     Gavrik calmly put the bag  in  his pocket and spat indifferently far to
one side through his teeth. At that Petya ran to the shop  and asked to have
his five-kopek piece changed. While Izzy  the Dizzy held the suspicious coin
up  close  to  his  weak eyes  the  boy lived through a  score  of  the most
humiliating emotions, chief among them the  cowardly impatience of the thief
selling stolen goods.
     It wouldn't  have surprised Petya  at all  if at  that moment policemen
with swords had marched into the shop and dragged  him off to the  jail in a
carriage for being a party to some secret and shameful crime.
     At last Izzy the Dizzy threw  the coin into the cashbox and  carelessly
tossed  five one-kopek pieces on the scales. Petya rushed  back to the yard,
where Gavrik was now selling lugs to the other boys. Spending all his money,
Petya bought several lugs of different denominations.
     They began to play. Petya forgot everything in the world.
     By  the  time darkness fell, Petya was  left without a single lug. What
made  it  still more awful  was  the fact that at the beginning he  had  had
amazing luck-there had been no room in  his pockets for all the lugs he  had
     But now, alas, he had neither money nor lugs.
     Petya was close  to tears. He was in the depths of despair. Gavrik took
pity on  his  friend, and lent him two cheap  lugs with which to recoup  his
losses. But Petya was too reckless and impatient, and within five minutes he
had lost both. He was no match for Gavrik.
     Gavrik  carelessly dropped his fabulous winnings into his pouch and set
off for home, saying that he would come again the next day.


     How many of them there were!
     The  fat student  tens  with  superimposed eagles  riveted on them. The
golden  officers' fives  with the  eagles embossed. The brown buttons of the
commercial school with Mercury's wand entwined by snakes and with the cheeky
little  winged  cap.  The  light-coloured  mariners'  buttons  with  crossed
anchors. The post-and-telegraph ones  with  green  streaks  of lightning and
bugles. The artillery  men's buttons with guns on them. The lawyers' buttons
with columns of laws. The brass livery buttons as big as a fifty-kopek piece
and  decorated with lions. The fat threes from civil servants' uniforms. The
thin clerks' "lemons"  which  hummed  like  mosquitoes when they were struck
during the  game. The fat  ordinary  buttons  from  Gymnasium overcoats with
silver-plated hollows rubbed red in the middle.
     For one brief and happy moment all these fabulous treasures, the entire
heraldry of the Russian Empire, were concentrated in Petya's hands.
     His palms could still feel  the different shapes  of the lugs and their
solid leaden weight, but now he was completely bankrupt, ruined, cast to the
winds. Who had talked about a magic five-kopek piece?!
     Lugs, and nothing but lugs-that was all  Petya could think of now. They
were constantly before his eyes, like the dream vision of a  fortune. At the
dinner  table he gazed absently into his plate of soup, where at least three
hundred tiny lamp-shades were reflected in the globules of fat, but what  he
saw were three hundred sparkling lugs with golden eagles.
     He looked  in disgust at the buttons on his father's  jacket. They were
cloth-covered. Absolutely worthless.
     In fact,  today  he had discovered that he lived in a  poverty-stricken
family; there was not a single decent button in the whole flat.
     Auntie Tatyana immediately noticed her nephew's strange mood.
     "What's  the  matter  with  you  today?" she  asked,  examining Petya's
unusually excited face with a searching glance. "The boys in the yard didn't
go for you, by any chance?"
     Petya shook his head angrily.
     "Or is it poor marks in school again? If so, out with it, but don't sit
there suffering."
     "Leave me alone! I don't see why you all have to pick on me!"
     "You aren't ill by any chance, are you?"
     "Oh, lor'!"
     Petya began to whimper at all this questioning.
     "Very well. If you don't want to tell me you needn't. Suffer as much as
you like."
     Petya really was  suffering. He was racking his brains for a way to get
the money he needed  for next  day's  game. He slept badly, tormented by the
desire  to  recoup his  losses as  quickly as  possible. In  the  morning he
decided upon a subtle scheme.
     For a long time he hovered affectionately at his  father's side, poking
his head up under his  father's elbow and planting  kisses on his red porous
neck,  which had  a fresh, soapy smell. Father stroked the little  scholar's
stubbly head and pressed it to the jacket with the disgusting buttons.
     "What is it, Petya, what is it, my little man?"
     That  was just the  question Petya  had been waiting for,  that and the
gentle  tremor in  his father's  voice, telling him  that now  he could  get
whatever he wanted.
     "Daddy,"  he  said,  squirming  and adjusting  his  belt  with  feigned
shyness, "Daddy, I want five kopeks."
     "What for?" Even in  his gentlest moods Father never lost  sight of his
strict principles of upbringing.
     "I need it badly."
     "You must tell my why."
     "I need it, that's all."
     "But tell me why. I must know how you  plan to spend that sum of money.
If it's for  something  useful and necessary I shall  be glad to  give it to
you, but if  it's for something bad I shan't.  So tell  me now. What  do you
need the money for?"
     How could  Petya tell Father  that  he needed the money to gamble with?
That was quite out of the question.
     So  he  pulled the  frank expression  of a well-mannered boy  who wants
something for his sweet tooth.
     "I'll buy some chocolate," he mumbled.
     "Chocolate? Splendid! I could hardly object to that."
     Petya beamed.
     Father  rose and without a  word  walked over to the desk. He opened it
and handed the stunned boy a bar of chocolate with a picture on the wrapper.
The wrapper  was  sealed like  an envelope,  with five blobs of sealing  wax
printed on it.
     Petya took the chocolate, tears in his eyes.
     "Thank you, Daddy dear," he mumbled.
     He set off for the Gymnasium with a broken heart.
     Still, it was better than nothing. Perhaps he would be able to swap the
chocolate for some lugs.
     That day, however, Petya had no opportunity to play lugs.
     Hardly had  he passed Kulikovo Field and entered Novorybnaya Street, in
which  the  Gymnasium  stood,  when  he  noticed  that  some  very  special,
important, and extremely joyous event was taking place in the city.
     Despite the early  hour the streets were full  of people.  All of  them
looked very excited and alert,  although none seemed to be in a hurry to get
anywhere. Most of the  people were standing  in groups near the  gateways of
houses or had gathered round the book-stalls  on the street corners.  On all
sides Petya saw people unfolding newspapers which turned an even greyer grey
in the fine drizzle.
     The national flag of  white, blue, and red had been hung out on all the
houses. By  looking at the flags Petya could guess how rich the householders
were. Some flags were small and faded, with short staffs carelessly attached
to  the gateways.  Others  were huge  and  brand-new, and  had an  edging of
tricoloured cord with elaborate tricoloured tassels reaching all  the way to
the pavement.
     The wind had a hard time of  it to  stir those heavy flags,  which gave
off a distinct odour of dye.
     The Gymnasium was closed. Happy-faced schoolboys  were running down the
street in Petya's direction. The Gymnasium porter, in a white apron over his
winter coat with a  sheepskin collar,  was stringing a  thin  wire among the
trees in front  of  the building. That meant there would be illuminations in
the  evening! There were always illuminations  on holidays, for instance, on
the namedays of His Majesty the Emperor and the members of the royal family.
     In Petya's imagination the three magic words "illuminations", "holiday"
and "nameday" were like the  three facets  of a glass lustre  from a  church
chandelier. Such pendants  had a high value among  the boys of Odessa.  When
you put  the small prism to your eye, the whole world became bright with the
patriotic rainbow of the " Tsar's day .
     But was this a "Tsar's day"? No, it wasn't.  One  always knew when they
were coming by the calendar, and the number  on Father's  calendar today was
black, which meant neither illuminations nor a holiday nor a royal nameday.
     In that case, what was  it all about? Could another heir have been born
to the Tsar, like last year? No, that was impossible. He couldn't have a boy
every year, could he? So it must be something else. But what?
     "I say there, what's today?" Petya asked the porter.
     "Freedom," the porter replied in what to Petya seemed a jesting tone.
     "No, really."
     "Just what I said-freedom."
     "Freedom  to go home today because  there won't be any lessons. They're
     Petya's feelings were hurt.
     "Listen here, porter, I want a straight answer," he said sternly, doing
his best to uphold the dignity of a pupil of the Odessa Fifth Gymnasium.
     "That's just what I gave  you. And  now go home to your  loving parents
and stop bothering a man who has work to do."
     With a  scornful  shrug  of his shoulders Petya  nonchalantly sauntered
away from this porter who  had developed  the disgusting habit of addressing
pupils in the tone of a pedagogue.
     The  policeman to whom,  as a  representative of  the government, Petya
decided to  address his question, looked  the swarthy little boy up and down
and slowly stroked his long red moustaches.
     Then all of  a sudden  he screwed up  his  face  in a typically  Jewish
expression and said with an accent, "Frid'm!"
     Thoroughly crushed, Petya slowly made his way home.
     More and more people were  coming out into the streets. Here  and there
Petya  saw  student  caps, the astrakhan  muffs  of college  girls  and  the
broad-brimmed hats of free-thinkers. Several times again he heard the rather
hazy word "freedom".
     At the corner of Kanatnaya Street his attention was attracted by a knot
of people gathered round a sheet of paper pasted on the  wooden fence of the
firewood yard.
     He made his way forward, and this is what he read:

     We, Nikolai the Second,
     by the Grace of God Emperor
     and Autocrat of All the Russias,
     Tsar of Poland, Grand Duke of Finland,
     and so on and so forth.
     Riots and disturbances in the capital  cities and in many other  places
of Our Empire have filled Our heart  with great and heavy grief. The weal of
the Russian  Sovereign  is indivisible  from  the weal of  the  people;  the
people's grief  is His grief. The disturbances that have  now broken out may
lead to a profound dislocation of the nation and  may threaten the integrity
and unity of Our State.
     The great oath  of  Royal service  enjoins  Us to strive, with  all the
powers of  Our reason  and authority, for the  earliest  termination  of the
disturbances so dangerous to the State. . . .

     Petya  managed  to  get that  far, but not without  some difficulty; he
stumbled  over  such  strange  and  hazy  words  as  "weal",  "dislocation",
"enjoins" and "earliest termination", and also  the  large number of capital
letters; contrary to  all  rules of  spelling,  they stuck  up  in  the most
unexpected places, like charred stumps after a forest fire.
     The  only thing he could  make  out  of it all  was that the  Tsar  was
evidently in  trouble  and was  asking everyone  to  help him  in any way he
     To tell  the truth, deep down in his heart  Petya felt a bit  sorry for
the  poor Tsar, especially  when he remembered  that someone  had beaten him
over the head with a bamboo cane.
     But  why everybody should  be rejoicing and hanging  out  flags  was  a
mystery. Could  something more cheerful be written farther  on? However,  he
did not have the perseverance to read the Tsar's sad sheet to the end.
     Petya did notice, however, that almost  every person who came up to the
announcement looked first of all for a place in  the middle  which for  some
reason gave him special pleasure. It  was a place he was sure to read aloud,
and then, turning to the others,  he would exclaim  triumphantly: "Aha! It's
actually down in black and white: 'To grant inviolability of person, freedom
of conscience, speech, assembly, and association.' "
     After  this some of  the people, paying  no attention  to the fact that
they were in the street, would  shout "Hurrah!" and kiss those around  them,
just like at Easter.
     Here it was that  the  boy  witnessed a scene which stirred him  to the
depths of his heart.
     A  droshky drove  up  to the crowd, a  gentleman in  a bowler that  was
brand-new but already  crushed jumped lightly from it to  the ground,  put a
pair of crooked pince-nez  to  his nose, quickly  read the wonderful  place,
then kissed the  astounded driver three times on his copper-red beard, flung
himself  into the droshky, and, shouting  at the  top of his  voice, "Half a
ruble for vodka! Drive like hell,  you dog!" disappeared as  suddenly  as he
had appeared.
     In short, it was an extraordinary day in every respect.
     The  sky had cleared. The drizzle stopped. A mother-of-pearl sun  broke
     In the  yard,  Nusya Kogan was  striding up and down importantly in his
black school jacket that had hooks instead of buttons and in a cap without a
badge. He was  dreaming for how he would now be able to enter the Gymnasium,
since there was to be religious freedom, and of the handsome badge  he would
wear on his cap.
     Petya played hopscotch with him for a long time, pausing after each hop
to  describe the horrors of life at the  Gymnasium in an attempt to frighten
     "Then he calls your name and starts questioning you, and you don't know
a thing.  And then he says to you, 'Go to your seat. Sit down!' And then  he
puts a nought opposite your name. That's what it's like!"
     "But what if  I  prepare my lessons well?"  the  sensible Nusya replied
with a confident grin, shrugging his shoulders.
     "Makes no difference," Petya  insisted, hopping  on one leg and pushing
the stone  out of the "Heaven" square with his toe.  "Makes  no  difference!
He'll slap down a nought!"
     Then Petya  treated  Nusya  to a piece of chocolate, and Nusya ran into
the shop and brought out "a handful like that" of raisins.
     Then Petya  was called in to lunch. He invited Nusya to come along with
him. Father was already at home.
     "Ah!" he exclaimed gaily at sight  of Nusya. "So we shall soon have the
pleasure  of  seeing  you  a Gymnasium pupil, young)  man!  Congratulations,
     Nusya made a polite, dignified bow.
     "Why  not?" he said, dropping his eyes in shy pride and blushing a deep
pink with pleasure.
     Auntie Tatyana  beamed. Father beamed. Pavlik made  loud noises in  the
passage as he played  "freedom". For  a reason he alone knew he covered  the
overturned  chairs,  placed in  a  row,  with  a rug and  crawled under  it,
mercilessly tooting on his horn, without which, to everyone's annoyance, not
a single game was played.
     But  today no one stopped the lad, and  he  played  away to his heart's
     Dunya kept running in from the yard to report  the latest news in town.
That  at the railway station there was a crowd carrying a red  flag, a crowd
so  thick "you couldn't squeeze  through  it". That in  Richelieu Street the
crowd had  cheered a soldier and  had tossed  him up in the  air.  "The poor
thing  flew up  and down, up  and  down!" That  people were running from all
sides to the police  station  where, it  was said,  the prisoners were being
released. "A woman was  running  with a little girl in her arms, and she was
crying for all she  was worth!" That there was a guard of military cadets at
the Army Staff building, and they  weren't letting anyone through to see the
soldiers, and  were driving  people away from the windows.  But  one  daring
fellow did manage to get up  to a  window.  He stood on  a rock and shouted,
"Long  live  freedom!" And  the soldiers replied through the windows,  "Long
live freedom!"
     All this news was accepted joyfully, with eager questions :
     "What about the police?"
     "What did he do?"
     "What did she do?"
     "What did they do?"
     "What's happening in Greek Street?"
     Every once in a while they opened the balcony door and stepped  out, in
spite of the  cold, to see what was going  on  in the street. At  the end of
Kulikovo Field they could make out a dark mass of people and a red flag.
     That  evening  visitors  dropped in, which was something  that had  not
happened  for a long time. They were teachers who taught  in the same school
as Father and  college girls who were acquaintances  of Auntie Tatyana.  The
hall-stand was covered with black  overcoats, capes, broad-brimmed hats  and
little astrakhan caps.
     Petya sat in the kitchen watching the boiled sausage, the  choice  ham,
and the bread being sliced.
     As he dropped  to sleep after that tiring but happy day he could  hear,
from  the dining-room, the  rumble and laughter  of  strange  voices and the
tinkle of spoons.
     Together with the bright ray of light, blue  cigarette  smoke came into
the nursery  from the dining-room. It added to the fresh, warm air something
unusually manly and  free, something they did  not have in  the  house,  for
Father did not smoke.
     Outside  the window  it was much lighter than usual; jelly-like streaks
of light  from the different-coloured  lanterns  were mingled with  the weak
glow from the street lamps.
     Petya  knew  that  now, instead  of the  flags, six-sided lanterns with
panes that were  red-hot and smoky from the candles  burning inside had been
strung on wires between the trees, all over the city.
     Double lines of the same kind of lights stretched all  the way down the
long, straight  Odessa  streets. They beckoned one farther  and farther into
the  mysterious distance of the transformed city, from street to  street, as
though promising  that somewhere, perhaps very near, just  round the corner,
there  was  a  wonderful,  colourful  spectacle  of  remarkable  beauty  and
     But round the  corner there would  be the same long street and the same
rows of lanterns-monotonous, even though they were of different colours, and
just as tired of burning as man was tired of walking between them.
     Red, green, violet,  yellow,  and  blue bars of lights,  bending in the
fog, fell  on  the passers-by,  slid across the house fronts, and gave their
false promises of something new and much more beautiful round the corner.
     All this  wearisome  variety had  always  been called  "royal nameday",
"holiday", or  "Tsar's day",  but today it  was called by a  new word, which
also had a sound of many different colours-"constitution".
     The word "constitution" kept  coming  from the dining-room  amidst  the
rumble-of strange, deep voices and the silvery tinkle of tea spoons.
     Petya fell asleep  to the noise of the gathering, which lasted until an
unusually late hour, probably until nearly midnight.


     As soon  as the rumour  reached  Near Mills that prisoners  were  being
released, Gavrik set off for the police station.
     Terenti, who had  not  slept at home for the past week and had appeared
from  some unknown place  early  that  morning,  walked to the  corner  with
Gavrik. He was gloomy, and so tired that he could scarcely keep on his feet.
     "Go and meet the old man,  of course, Gavrik. Only for the  love of God
don't  bring him here. Because with  all this 'freedom',  may  it  be thrice
damned, there's probably  plenty of snoopers about. One of them will hang on
your tail and then that'll be the  end of  our meeting place,  and a  lot of
people will get into trouble. Clear?"
     Gavrik nodded. "Uh-huh."
     Since he  had come  to live  in  Near  Mills,  Gavrik  had  learned  to
understand a great deal and had found  out many  things.  It was no longer a
secret to him that the strike committee was meeting at Terenti's house.
     Many was the time he had had to sit on the bench beside the gate almost
till dawn, whistling softly whenever strangers came near the house.
     Several times he had seen  the sailor,  who appeared out of nowhere  at
dawn and then quickly disappeared. Now he was hardly recognisable. He wore a
good overcoat and an engineer's cap with the crossed hammers badge.  But the
main  thing was  his foppish little moustache and beard. They changed him so
much that the boy couldn't  believe he was the same  man  he and Grandpa had
pulled out of the sea.
     However, one  look into  those humorous  brown eyes,  at  that fleeting
smile, and at the anchor on his hand caused all doubts to vanish.
     In keeping with the unwritten but  firm  law of Near Mills never  to be
surprised at anything, never to recognise anyone, and to hold  one's tongue,
whenever Gavrik  met the sailor  he pretended he  had never seen him before.
The sailor behaved the same way towards Gavrik.
     Only  once,  when  leaving,  did  he  nod  to  the  boy  as  to an  old
acquaintance, giving  him a wink  and clapping him on the back as he would a
     "Weep no more, Marusya," he sang out, "you will yet be mine!"
     Then, bending  his  head  in the  low doorway, he stepped out into  the
     Gavrik sensed that of  all the people who came to see Terenti-from  the
Ghen  factory, from  the  Weinstein  flour-mill, from  the  docks, from  the
Brodsky factory,  and  a great many  other places-the sailor was the one the
authorities most feared and were most anxious to track down.
     He  undoubtedly  belonged to  that glorious  and  mysterious  "fighting
group" about which there was so much talk of late not only in Near Mills but
everywhere in town.
     "Uh-huh," said Gavrik. "Only it's damned cold, and if I don't bring the
old man to Near Mills where else can I take him?"
     Terenti thought  for a moment. "Listen," he said finally.  "First  take
him down to the beach, to the hut.  If anybody shadows you he won't  learn a
thing.  Wait in  the hut till  it's dark, and then carefully go  straight to
this address-only memorise  it: it's 15 Malaya Arnautskaya. Find the janitor
and ask him for Joseph Karlovich. When  you see Joseph Karlovich you say-now
remember this- 'How do you do, Joseph Karlovich? Sophia Petrovna  sent me to
ask if  you've received any letters from Nikolayev.' Then he'll say,  'No, I
haven't had a letter for two months.' Clear?"
     "Can you repeat it?"
     "Let's hear it."
     Gavrik  puckered his  forehead  and wrinkled his  nose.  "Well, it's 15
Malaya Arnautskaya," he said, concentrating  as though he were answering  at
an exam.  "I  ask the janitor for Joseph Karlovich,  and then I say, 'How do
you  do,  Joseph Karlovich? Sophia Petrovna sent me to ask  you  if a letter
came from Nikolayev.' And  then he  says, 'I haven't had a  letter  for  two
months.' "
     "Right. After that you needn't be afraid to tell him Terenti  sent you.
Tell biny-to let the old man live at his place for a while, and to feed him.
Later we'll see. I'll drop in. Clear?"
     "Well, good-bye."
     Terenti returned home, while Gavrik hurried off to the jail.
     He ran for all he was worth, squeezing his  way through the crowd which
became thicker and thicker as he approached the railway station.
     At  Sennaya Square he began to meet men who had been  released from the
jail.  Some were on foot and others rode in droshkies  surrounded by bundles
and baskets as though coming from the railway station; they were accompanied
by relatives and friends, and they waved their hats in the air.
     Crowds  ran  down the street beside the droshkies, chanting, "Long live
freedom! Long live freedom!"
     Near the Alexandrovsky jail, which was surrounded by reinforced details
of  mounted and foot  police, there  was such a huge,  dense crowd that even
Gavrik despaired of making his way through  it. In that crowd  he might very
easily miss Grandpa.
     The mere thought that if this happened Grandpa might bring some snooper
along with him to Near Mills sent the boy into a cold sweat.
     His heart pounding, he dashed down an alley  to bypass  the  crowd.  He
simply had to reach the jail and find Grandpa. Suddenly he saw him two paces
     But good  heavens, could that be Grandpa? Gavrik did not  recognise him
at first.
     Coming  towards him was  a  decrepit old man  with a  beard of  silvery
bristles,  with watery  blue eyes, and  a  sunken, toothless  mouth.  He was
keeping as close as he could to the walls of the houses. His legs were bent,
and they swayed as though  they  were made of cotton wool. He was  shuffling
along with  difficulty in his broken boots, stopping to rest at  every third
step. But for  the basket  that dangled from  the old  man's  trembling hand
Gavrik never would have recognised him.
     The  familiar  wicker  basket with the grimy  canvas cover  immediately
caught the boy's eye. It made his heart contract with pain.
     "Grandpa!" he shouted in a frightened voice. "Grandpa, is that you?"
     The old man did not even give  a  start. Slowly  he stopped  and turned
towards Gavrik a face that expressed neither joy nor excitement, nothing but
submissive resignation. He chewed  his lips  indifferently. His  watery eyes
stared at some point in the distance, and  they were so motionless that  one
might have thought he did not see his grandson.
     "Grandpa, where are  you going?"  Gavrik  asked,  raising  his voice as
though the old man were deaf.
     The old man chewed his lips for a long time before he replied.
     "To Near Mills," he announced in a quiet, normal voice.
     "You can't," Gavrik whispered, glancing  over  his  shoulder.  "Terenti
said for heaven's sake not to go to Near Mills."
     The old  man also glanced over his  shoulder,  but in a  sort  of slow,
indifferent, mechanical way.
     "Come, Grandpa, let's go home and then we'll see."
     Grandpa  obediently turned round, and without saying a word  started to
shuffle in the opposite direction, putting one foot before the other with an
     Gavrik gave Grandpa his shoulder, and the old man leaned heavily on it.
Slowly they made their way across the restless city  towards the sea, like a
blind man with his guide-the boy in front and the old man behind him.
     The old man stopped frequently to rest. It took them two hours to reach
the shore  from  the  police  station.  Alone,  Gavrik usually covered  that
distance in fifteen minutes.
     The padlock, broken and rusty, lay in the brown weeds near the hut. The
door hung crookedly on the upper hinge,  swaying and  creaking in  the wind.
The autumn rains  had  taken the last traces of Grandma's whitewash from the
blackened boards. The entire roof was covered with burdock stalks:  this was
obviously the work of bird-catchers,  who  had turned  the vacant hut into a
     Inside,  everything was topsy-turvy. The tattered quilt and the pillow,
damp and smeared with clay, lay in a corner. The little trunk,  however, had
net been touched  and stood  in  its usual place.  Unhurriedly  the old  man
entered his home. He  sat down on the edge of the bed, put the basket on his
knees, and stared impassively at the corner of the wall, paying no attention
whatsoever to the disorder.
     It was as though he had merely dropped in to take a rest,  to sit for a
minute or two and catch his breath, and then slowly to set out again.
     A  strong  cold wind laden with sea spray  blew  in through  the broken
window. A  storm was raging along the deserted coast. The wind carried white
tufts-seagulls and bits of foam-over the echoing cliffs. The  thunder of the
waves resounded in the caves along the shore.
     "Why don't you lie down, Grandpa?"
     Grandpa  obediently lay  down. Gavrik put  a pillow under  his head and
covered  him  with  the  quilt.  The  old  man  pulled up his  legs. He  was
     "Never mind,  Grandpa.  As soon as it's dark we'll go  somewhere  else.
Take a rest meanwhile."
     Grandpa  did  not answer.  His  entire  appearance  expressed  complete
indifference  and resignation. Suddenly he  looked at  Gavrik  with swollen,
watery eyes that  seemed  turned wrong side out and said, after chewing  his
sunken lips for a long time, "The boat. Is it safe?"
     Gavrik hastened to assure him  that the boat was in a safe place,  at a
neighbour's. The old man nodded in approval and again fell silent.
     After an hour he turned  over on  his other side  with a grunt. Then he
gave a moan.
     "Does something hurt, Grandpa?"
     "They beat me," the old man said with an apologetic smile,  showing his
pink, toothless gums. "They knocked the guts clean out of me."
     Gavrik hid his face.
     The old man did not say another word until evening. As soon as  it grew
dark the boy said, "Come, Grandpa."
     The  old  man rose, picked up his basket, and  they  set off,  past the
shuttered villas, past the  closed shooting gallery and  restaurant,  to  15
Malaya Arnautskaya Street.
     After asking  the janitor  Gavrik had  no  difficulty in finding Joseph
Karlovich's room in the dark basement. He knocked on a door padded with torn
     "Who's there?" came a voice that sounded familiar.
     "Does Joseph Karlovich live here?"
     "What do you want?"
     "Open the door, please. Sophia Petrovna sent me."
     The door  was  opened at once, and to his complete astonishment  Gavrik
saw on the threshold the owner of the  shooting gallery, holding a  paraffin
lamp. He looked calmly and somewhat haughtily at the boy.
     "I am Joseph Karlovich. What do you want?" he said, without moving from
the spot.
     "How do you do, Joseph Karlovich?" Gavrik said painstakingly, as though
reciting a well-learned lesson. "Sophia  Petrovna  sent  me to ask you if  a
letter came from Nikolayev."
     The owner of the shooting gallery surveyed the boy from head to foot in
amazement. This took him  all of two minutes,  even though Gavrik was only a
little chap.
     "There  hasn't  been a letter for two  months,"  he said  finally, in a
haughtier tone than before.
     He paused, then shook his head regretfully  and added, "As unpunctual a
lady as ever lived. Isn't it a shame?"
     And in  a  flash his  face assumed the gracious expression  of a Polish
count welcoming a Papal nuncio to his estate. It was  an expression that did
not fit in at all with his  bare feet and the  absence of  a shirt under his
     "I beg you humbly  to enter, young man. If I recall correctly, you have
visited my establishment on occasion. What  a pleasant coincidence! And this
old man, I believe, is your grandfather, isn't he? Please come in."
     Grandfather and grandson entered a  cubbyhole whose poverty amazed even
     Never had  Gavrik imagined that this most powerful  and richest of men,
who  owned a shooting  gallery and- just think  of it!-four  Monte  Cristos,
lived in such a place.
     He  stared in  wonder  at the bare walls,  covered with green mould. He
expected to see them hung with rifles and pistols, but he saw only one  nail
from which dangled a pair of incredibly shabby braces that  looked more like
reins than anything else.
     "But where are your rifles?" he exclaimed, almost with horror.
     Joseph  Karlovich  pretended  he had not  heard  the  question.  With a
sweeping gesture he invited them to be seated.
     "Is there something you wish  to tell me?" he asked in a low voice from
the corner.
     Gavrik said that his brother wanted him to take Grandpa in for a while.
     "Tell your brother that I shall  do  everything necessary  and that  he
needn't  have any misgivings,"  Joseph  Karlovich said rapidly. "I have some
connections  in town. I  believe  that  sooner or later  I shall  succeed in
finding him a place as night watchman."
     Gavrik left Grandpa  with Joseph Karlovich,  promising to look in  from
time to time, and went out.
     "Tell  Terenti," the  owner of  the shooting gallery  whispered at  the
door, "that Sophia Petrovna wants him to know that she has quite a supply of
nuts, only  she  regrets they  aren't  very  big  ones. Not walnuts. He will
understand. They aren't  walnuts.  Have  him arrange the transportation.  Is
that clear?"
     "Yes,"  said  Gavrik, who  was accustomed  to receiving such  messages.
"They're not walnuts, and have him send someone for them." "That's right."
     Joseph Karlovich rummaged  about in the lining  of his frightful jacket
and produced a ten-kopek piece.
     "Please take this  and buy yourself some sweets. I regret that I cannot
offer  you anything else. I  should, upon my honour, be glad to present  you
with  a Monte Cristo, but-" Joseph Karlovich sadly spread his hands, and his
passion-ravaged   face  gave  a  twitch-"but  unfortunately,   owing  to  my
regrettable character, I haven't a single one left."
     Gavrik solemnly accepted the ten-kopek piece, thanked him, and went out
into the street, which was lit up by the fitful glow of the illuminations.


     In  the  morning  Petya took  two pairs  of  leather sandals  from  the
storeroom and on the way to school sold them to an old-clothes man for  four
     When  Gavrik appeared in the afternoon the boys  immediately spread out
their lugs. Petya lost everything he had just bought even more  quickly than
the first time.
     It was easy to see why. The friends were too unevenly matched.
     In Gavrik's pouches lay almost all the lugs of the seaside district. He
could afford  big risks,  while  Petya had to treasure each deuce  and place
miserly bets, which, as everyone knows, always leads to quick losses.
     The next day Petya,  no longer able to control himself, stealthily took
sixteen kopeks from the sideboard, change put there by Dunya.
     This  time he decided to play  more wisely  and  cautiously.  The first
thing he needed in order to win was a good king-lug. "
     Petya's  king-lug was a big and remarkably handsome livery button  with
lions  and  a  count's  crown on  it, but  in  spite  of  its  beauty it was
worthless: it was too light. What he had to do  was make it heavier. He went
to the railway station, made his way over to the  sidings, and on a dead end
siding  beyond the engine-shed he stripped a lead  seal  from  a goods  van,
nearly dying from fright as he did so.
     At home he beat the lead into the bowl of  his king-lug  with a hammer.
Then he went across Kulikovo Field and put the lug on a rail. When he picked
it up after a suburban train had passed over it, the lug  was  hot and heavy
and wonderfully  flattened  out.  Now  it  was  as good as  any  of Gavrik's
     Gavrik came soon  after, and  they  began to  play. It was  a  long and
bitter contest.
     A good king-lug was not enough, it appeared. Skill was the thing! Petya
ended up by losing everything he had and falling into debt besides.
     Gavrik said he would come for the debt tomorrow.
     The period that now set in for Petya was like a nightmare.
     In  the evening, after dinner, Father said calmly,  "There was  sixteen
kopeks' change on the sideboard. You didn't by any chance take it, did you?"
     The blood rushed into Petya's heart and then out of it.
     "No," he said with all the indifference he could muster.
     "Come now, look me in the eye."
     Father took Petya by the chin and turned up his face.
     "On my word of honour," said Petya, trying his  hardest  to look Father
straight in the eye. "By the true and holy Cross."
     Turning cold with horror, Petya faced the icon and crossed himself.
     He expected a bolt  of lightning to come through  the ceiling and  fell
him the very next instant.
     Surely God would  not fail to punish him  at once for  such out-and-out
sacrilege. But nothing happened.
     "Very  strange," Father remarked coolly. "That  means a member  of  our
household has taken  to thieving. Your Aunt and I obviously have no  need to
take  money in secret  from  the sideboard.  Pavlik has  been  in  sight  of
grown-ups ^all day long, so he couldn't  have  taken it either. You've given
your word of honour. Therefore, we can only assume that the money was  taken
by Dunya, who has served us faithfully for five years."
     At the moment Dunya happened to be in the anteroom, filling a lamp.
     She  set the lamp-chimney and her rag  on the mirror-stand and appeared
in the doorway. Her  neck and even her arms,  which were bared to the elbow,
had  turned  red. Her big good-natured face had broken  out in splotches and
was screwed up in misery.
     "May I never see a happy day  for the rest of my life,"  she cried, "if
the young master didn't lose that change from the  market  playing lugs with
Gavrik!" Father looked at Petya.
     The boy  realised that  he had to make a lightning retort, that without
losing a second he had to say  something proud and noble and just, something
which would crush Dunya and instantly free him from all suspicion.
     A minute ago he still could have confessed. But now that the matter  of
lugs had been brought up-not for anything in the world!
     "You have no right to talk  like that!" he screamed hoarsely. A  bright
flush of false indignation suffused his face. "You're lying!"
     But even  that did  not seem  enough  to him. "You-you're  probably-the
thief yourself!" he blurted out, stamping his feet.
     While Dunya  bustled  about  in  the  kitchen  packing her  things  and
demanding that she be paid off, Petya ran into the  nursery and slammed  the
door so furiously that the enamelled image of the guardian angel on the back
of the bed began to rock.
     He flatly refused to ask  Dunya's forgiveness. He got into bed and made
believe he had fainted. They left him in peace.
     Father did not come in to kiss him good-night.
     Petya  heard Auntie  Tatyana  pleading  with  Dunya to  remain.  Dunya,
sobbing, finally consented.
     Many  times that night  he sprang awake, horrified at what he had done.
He was ready to run to the kitchen and kiss Dunya's feet to beg forgiveness.
But what upset him still more was  the thought of  Gavrik, who would  demand
settlement tomorrow.
     In  the morning Petya waited until Father led Pavlik to the bathroom to
wash. Then he went to the wardrobe and took out the old uniform dress coat.
     Family legend had it that Daddy had had the dress coat made when he was
graduating  from the university  and that  he had worn it  only once in  his
life, at the insistence of  Mummy's strait-laced relatives who demanded when
Daddy married Mummy that  everything  should  be  done the proper  way. Ever
since then it had hung in the wardrobe, forgotten by everybody.
     The dress coat had a great many  lugs but the pity of  it was that most
of them were too small to be of any use in the game.
     There  were   only  four  big  ones.  But  even  these  fell  short  of
expectations: they were cheap, thick white threes which had practically gone
out of circulation.
     The  Odessa tailor who  sewed on those  buttons sometime  in  the  last
century had done a conscientious job:  they did not yield to scissors. Petya
impatiently ripped them off, cloth and all, with his teeth.
     Need we say it? This time, too, Petya had miserable luck.
     He fell deeper in debt to Gavrik than ever.
     He was now hopelessly involved. Gavrik regarded him with a dour sort of
pity that boded no good.
     "Well, Petya, what do you say?" he asked sternly.
     There was no  misunderstanding  those words.  They meant  roughly this:
"Now look here, pal, if  you don't pay back those lugs I'll have to take  it
out of your hide.
     Friendship's got nothing to do with it. That's the law, and you know it
yourself.  Lugs  aren't cigarette pictures- they cost  money.  So  don't  be
     Petya  wasn't sore. He  knew  that  Gavrik was in the right. He  merely
heaved a deep sigh and asked for a little more time. Gavrik consented.
     All  that evening Petya was in torment. His ears became so hot from the
mental strain that they had a distinct ruby glow in the light of the lamp.
     He thought up a thousand and one  ways of getting rich  quick, but they
were all  either too  fantastic or  too criminal. Finally  a  wonderful  yet
surprisingly  simple idea came to him.  Hadn't his late Grandfather, Mummy's
Daddy, been a major? How could that ever have slipped his mind!
     Losing  no time, he  tore a sheet from his arithmetic copybook and  sat
down  to  write a  letter  to his  Grandmother, Mummy's Mummy,  who lived in
     He  showered her  with endearments, reported brilliant  progress at the
Gymnasium (to  tell the truth, a bit of an exaggeration) and then asked  her
to  send him-as quickly as possible-dear  Grandfather's major's uniform as a
     A  shrewd  boy,  Petya.  He  knew  just  the  right  approach  to  that
kindhearted old lady who treasured the memory  of Grandfather, a hero of the
Turkish war, no less ardently than she loved Petya, her eldest grandson.
     Further  he  told  her that  he had  made up his  mind to follow in his
heroic Grandfather's footsteps and become a hero too. He had decided upon an
army career and needed the uniform as a constant spur to his martial spirit.
     Petya  hoped  to get  a  pile of lugs  from the  major's  uniform-about
twenty,  if not  all  of  thirty,  excellent officers'  fives  with embossed
     That alone could clear his debt  and  perhaps even give him a chance to
win back his losses.
     The  parcel,  he calculated,  was sure to  reach him  in a week at  the
     Petya told Gavrik  the  whole story. Gavrik  said it  was  a good idea.
Together,  standing  on  tiptoe, the boys  dropped the  letter into the  big
yellow box with the picture of a registered letter with five seals on it and
two crossed postal bugles.
     Now all they had to do was sit back and wait.
     In  anticipation of rich pickings Gavrik let Petya draw upon  unlimited
credit, and Petya light-mindedly gambled away  the  future legacy  from  his


     A week passed, then another, and still no parcel from Grandmother.
     Although the Tsar  had  proclaimed "freedom" there  were more and  more
disturbances. The postal service worked  badly. Father stopped receiving the
Russkiye  Vedomosti  from Moscow, and  in  the  evenings he  sat  silent and
disturbed,  not knowing what was going on in the world or what view to  take
of things.
     The  preparatory class was  dismissed  for  an indefinite period. Petya
idled away his  days.  During this time he  lost so much to Gavrik on credit
that chills ran down his spine whenever he thought about it.
     One day Gavrik came and said with an ominous smile,  "You'd  better not
expect those  lugs of  yours  so soon. There's going  to be  a general  in a
couple of days."
     A month earlier Petya  would not have understood  this. But now  it was
perfectly clear: a "general" meant a strike.
     There was no reason to doubt Gavrik's words. Petya  had noted  long ago
that somehow or other everything  was known much earlier  in Near Mills than
in town.
     The news was a knife-thrust in the heart.
     "But couldn't it come before that?"
     "Not likely."
     Petya turned pale.
     "What about that debt?" Gavrik said firmly.
     Petya trembled with  impatience to start playing.  He hastily  gave his
word of honour and swore  by the  true and holy Cross that tomorrow,  in one
way or another, he would pay it all back without fail.
     "See  that you do!  Or  else-" Gavrik planted his legs in  their  broad
lilac-coloured corduroys wide apart, sailor fashion.
     That  evening Petya stole Pavlik's famous  moneybox, locked himself  in
the  bathroom,  and with a table-knife pried  out  its contents: forty-three
kopeks in coppers and silver.
     He performed this complicated  operation  with amazing skill  and speed
and then  filled  the box  with a collection of  rattling trash: nails, lead
seals, bone buttons and pieces of iron.
     This   was   absolutely   necessary,  for   twice   a  day-morning  and
evening-thrifty, methodical Pavlik  checked his  moneybox: he raised the tin
to his ear  and, sticking out his tongue,  rattled the kopeks, delighting in
the sound and the weight of his treasure. One  can imagine the howl he would
raise if he discovered the theft. But everything went off well.
     Before  going to sleep  Pavlik rattled his bank full of trash and found
it in perfect order.
     But  crime,  as we all  know,  never  pays. In  three  days Petya  lost
Pavlik's money to the last kopek.
     There was  no hope of Grandfather's uniform coming  soon. Again  Gavrik
began to press for payment.
     Every morning Petya sat on the windowsill waiting for Gavrik.
     He pictured  with  horror the day it all  came to  light: the lugs, the
sandals,  the dress  coat, Pavlik's moneybox. Inevitably,  sooner  or later,
that day would arrive. Horrors!
     But he  tried not  to think about that. He  tormented himself  with the
eternal  fruitless dream of the  bankrupt gambler-the dream of recouping his
     Walking the streets was dangerous, yet Gavrik  never failed to  appear.
He would come to the middle of the yard, put two  fingers in  his mouth, and
let out a magnificent  whistle. Petya would hastily nod to his chum from the
window and run down the back stairs. "The lugs come?"
     "Tomorrow, I  swear  it,  on my  word of honour.  By  the true and holy
Cross. This is the last time."
     One  fine  day Gavrik  announced  that he couldn't wait any  longer. In
other words, Petya, as a bankrupt debtor, now became Gavrik's slave until he
paid back in full.
     Such was the harsh but just law of the street.
     Gavrik  tapped  Petya on the shoulder, like a knight-errant  initiating
his servitor into squiredom.
     "Now  you'll  be  my  shadow,"  he  said  good-naturedly.  "Fetch  your
satchel," he added in a stern voice.
     "My satchel? What for?"
     "For the lugs, you bloke."
     A shrewd gleam flickered in Gavrik's eyes.
     To tell the truth, Petya was delighted at the prospect of  such a merry
form of  slavery.  He  had long wanted to  roam about town with  Gavrik  but
because  of what was  going on  he had been forbidden, in  the strictest  of
terms, to set foot outside the yard. Now his conscience could rest perfectly
at ease: he had nothing to do with  it-it was Gavrik's  will, and  he had to
obey Gavrik without  a word. He  didn't want to walk about  town, of course,
but he simply had to: that was the law.
     Petya ran upstairs and came down with his satchel.
     "Put it on."
     Petya  obeyed.  From all  sides  Gavrik inspected the  little Gymnasium
scholar in the  long  overcoat  reaching to  his  heels  and with  the empty
satchel on his back. What he saw evidently satisfied him.
     "Gymnasium card?"
     "Show it here."
     Petya produced his card. Gavrik  opened it and spelled out the words at
the top: "Valuing his honour, the  Gymnasium pupil cannot fail to  value the
honour of his school. . . ."
     "Right," he remarked, returning the  card. "Stow it away. Might come in
     Then Gavrik turned Petya round and filled  the satchel with  heavy bags
of lugs.
     "Now nobody'll stop us from going anywhere," Gavrik said, fastening the
straps of the satchel. He patted the calf-skin cover with satisfaction.
     Petya did  not quite get the meaning of  those words but following  the
general law of the  street-to ask less and to know more-he held  his tongue.
The boys cautiously left the yard.
     Thus began their wanderings together through the disordered city.
     With  each passing day  it  became more dangerous to walk  the streets.
Gavrik,  however, did  not give up his  thrilling and mysterious life  of  a
roaming  champion. On the contrary, the  more restless  and frightening  the
city became the more stubbornly did he make his way to the remotest and most
dangerous places. So much  so  that at times Petya began to  wonder  whether
there wasn't some inexplicable connection between Gavrik and the disorders.
     From morning  to evening  the two went in and  out  of backyards  where
Gavrik carried on  a  business  in lugs- buying, selling and exchanging-with
the  local  boys.  In  some of  the yards  he collected  debts. In others he
played. In  still  others  he had  strange dealings with  grown-ups who,  to
Petya's extreme astonishment, were just as keen about lugs as children were.
     Petya,  carrying the heavy  satchel on  his back,  obediently  followed
Gavrik everywhere. And again, in Gavrik's presence the city magically turned
itself   about  before   Petya's   wonder-struck   eyes,   showing  him  its
communicating courtyards, cellars, holes in fences,  sheds, firewood  yards,
glassed-in arcades, and all  its other secrets. Petya saw the horrifying and
at the same  time picturesque poverty of the Odessa slums; until then he had
never even known they existed.
     Hiding  in   gateways  when  there  was  shooting  and  passing  around
overturned horse-trams blocking the roadway, the boys roamed up and down the
city, going to the most outlying sections.
     Thanks to Petya's Gymnasium uniform they easily  entered districts that
were cordoned by troops and the police. Gavrik taught Petya to go  up to the
chief of the cordon detail and  say in a tearful voice, "Mr. Officer, please
let  me  and  my pal cross  over to the other side. We live in that big grey
house over there and I'm sure Mummy's worried why we've been away so long."
     The  boy looked so guileless and  respectable in his Gymnasium overcoat
and with the calf-skin satchel on his back that the officer, although he was
not  supposed to  let anyone pass  into the suspected zone,  usually made an
exception in the case of the two frightened kids.
     "Run for it, only  be careful. Keep close to the wall, and don't let me
see you again. Now be off."
     In this way the boys could  always reach districts that were completely
cut off to others.
     They went several times to an old Greek house in Malaya Arnautskaya. In
the courtyard  there  was a fountain-a pyramid  of spongy sea  rocks  with a
green  iron stork  on  top. Once upon  a time  water used to come out of its
     While  Petya waited  in the  yard Gavrik  ran down  into the  basement,
returning with  a lot of bags  of unusually heavy lugs. He stuffed them into
Petya's satchel  and then  they quickly ran out of the quiet  yard  with its
old, rickety galleries.
     Once  Petya saw Gavrik's  grandfather there. He  was  walking slowly on
bent legs across the yard to the refuse-bin.
     "Oh, Grandpa!"  he  cried.  "I say there,  what  are you doing  here? I
thought you were in jail."
     Grandpa looked at the boy but obviously did not recognise him.
     "I'm here now,"  he mumbled tonelessly,  shifting his pail to his other
hand. "I'm-a watchman-a night watchman now-"
     He continued slowly on his way.
     The boys went to the port, to Chumka, to Duke's Gardens, to Peresyp, to
the Ghen factory-everywhere but Near Mills. To Near Mills Gavrik went alone,
after his day of labours.
     Had Auntie Tatyana and Father had even an inkling of  the  places their
Petya visited during that time they surely would have lost their reason.


     Finally, however, this wonderful but weird life of wandering came to an
     On  that memorable  day  Gavrik appeared earlier than usual, and he and
Petya immediately set out.
     Gavrik's  face was grey and extraordinarily  grim.  His tightly-pressed
lips had turned  different  colours from  the cold. He  walked along  with a
quick, rolling gait, his hands deep in the pockets of his broad corduroys- a
small, hunched, determined figure. Every now and then a hard light came into
his  clear, fixed  eyes so like Grandpa's.  Petya barely managed to keep  up
with his  friend.  They  practically  ran  through the  streets, which  were
deserted like the streets in a dream.
     Tense expectation hung in the grey air. The boys' footsteps rang on the
paving stones. Occasionally the pane of ice covering  an empty  puddle broke
     All  of  a sudden a  faint rumble  sounded somewhere far  away,  in the
centre of town. It was as  if a pyramid  of empty  crates had crashed to the
roadway from a waggon.
     Gavrik stopped and listened to the feeble echo.
     "What's that?" Petya whispered. "Crates?"
     "A  bomb," Gavrik said dryly  and with assurance. "Somebody's been done
     Two  streets  farther  on  a  woman  with a  basket from which lumps of
charcoal and quinces were dropping turned the corner at a run.
     "Oh,  Lord!  Oh, Holy  Mother!" she said over and over again, trying to
straighten her  kerchief with a trembling hand. "Oh, Lord, it was awful! The
man was torn to pieces."
     "In Police Street. There I was, walking along, and  here he was,  in  a
carriage. And then it exploded. Tore him to bits. Lord forgive us! It killed
the horses and tore the carriage to bits-"
     "Who was it?"
     "The chief of police. From the Alexandrovsky  station. There I was, and
here he was. And that revolutionary stood just  opposite. And just  imagine,
he was carrying an ordinary little package, done up in newspaper-"
     "Did they catch him?"
     "The revolutionary? Never!  Everybody ran away and he did too. They say
he was a sailor in disguise."
     The  woman  ran  off. Despite his  grimness, Gavrik  took  Petya by the
shoulder and did a couple of jig steps.
     "That's the one  who punched Grandpa's face," he said in a quick, fiery
whisper. "That'll teach him to use his fists! Right?"
     "Right," said Petya, turning cold.
     That day the boys made two trips to the courtyard in Malaya Arnautskaya
with  the fountain and stork,  where they took  on "goods", as Gavrik called
     The first time that they set out with the "goods" for the Alexandrovsky
Prospect, which was cordoned  off by  troops, they were let  through without
any particular difficulty.
     After passing several houses  Gavrik led Petya through a gateway into a
big deserted yard with a  Cossack tethering post; the  ground there was hard
and  frozen and studded with empty cartridge clips and cartridge cases  that
had been pressed into it by soldiers' boots.
     They crossed the yard, went  down  into a cellar  and walked for a long
time in the damp darkness, past wood-bins, until  they came out into another
yard. From there they  followed  a narrow opening which led between two tall
and gloomy brick walls into still another yard.
     Gavrik  obviously  knew all the ins and outs  here.  The opening was so
narrow that Petya, making his way  behind Gavrik, found his satchel scraping
against the walls. Finally they reached  the other yard, which was as narrow
and high and dark as a cistern.
     Judging by the long distance they had come and the number of  turns and
zigzags, they were in the yard of a building that faced some other street.
     The whole yard was strewn with broken glass and plaster.
     The windows of the building were tightly shuttered.  There seemed to be
no one living in it.
     A hollow silence hung in the air.
     But beyond that silence, in the unknown street on the other side of the
building,  there  was the alarming noise  of some sort of  movement, a noise
more sensed than heard.
     Besides,  every  now  and then loud shots  barked from above, seemingly
from  the sky, and they  filled the yard with  the echoings of a well. Petya
pressed  his back  to the wall and, trembling, shut  his  eyes. But  not  so
     Without hurrying he put two fingers in his mouth and whistled.
     Somewhere up above a shutter banged. "Coming!" a voice called.
     A  minute later-to  Petya  it seemed an  hour-a  sweating red-faced man
without  an  overcoat, in a  jacket  smeared  with  chalk,  flung  open  the
backstairs door.
     Petya gasped. It was Terenti.
     "Let's have it-quick!" Terenti muttered,  wiping his wet  face  on  his
     Paying no attention  to Petya himself, Terenti  went  straight  to  the
     "Thanks! Just in time! We didn't have a damn thing left!"
     Breathing  heavily, he unfastened the straps with impatient fingers and
transferred the bags from the satchel to his pockets. "Tell Joseph Karlovich
to  send some  more right  away,"  he  called  out as  he  ran back.  "Bring
everything there is or else we won't hold out."
     "Right," said Gavrik.
     Just then a bullet struck the wall  near  the roof, and a spray of pink
brick dust came down on the boys.
     They quickly  retraced their  route to Malaya  Arnautskaya and took  on
another  load  of "goods". This  time the satchel  was  so  heavy that Petya
staggered under its weight.
     Now, of course, he knew very well what kind of lugs these  were. At any
other time he would have thrown  the whole thing up and run home. But  today
his entire being  was gripped by the thrill  of danger, by  a  feeling  more
powerful even than the gambling fever,  and  not for anything  in  the world
would he have deserted his pal. Besides, he would be able to  share Gavrik's
glory.  The very  thought that  he  might lose the  right to tell  about his
adventures made him instantly disregard all danger.
     Gavrik and  Petya set  out  on the return  trip.  But how the  city had
changed in the meantime! Now it was seething.
     One minute  the streets  would be  filled  with  people running in  all
directions, and the next they  would be swept clear  in a flash  by the iron
broom of a fusillade.
     As they approached  the  cordon  Gavrik  caught  Petya by the  arm  and
quickly pulled him into a gateway.
     Still  holding Petya's  arm  Gavrik  cautiously  peeped  out.  The next
instant he shrank back and pressed himself against the wall of the  gateway,
under the black board listing the tenants of that house.
     "Listen, Petya,  we're stuck.  I just saw that skunk who nearly tore my
ear off. Look, there he is."
     Petya tiptoed to  the edge of the gateway and looked out. At the cordon
post a gentleman in a heavy overcoat and an astrakhan cap was walking up and
down the roadway past the  stacked rifles and the torn-up  iron fence of the
public garden.  When  he turned, Petya saw a coarse clean-shaven  face and a
fleshy nose. There was something  very familiar about  that unfamiliar face.
He had  seen it  somewhere before.  But where? Something prevented him  from
remembering. Could it be that bluish upper lip? Then suddenly he remembered.
Of course, it  was Moustaches! The  man  from the Turgenev, only now without
the moustache. That face had impressed itself on Petya's memory for the rest
of his  life. He would  have recognised  it in a thousand,  moustache or  no
     "It's  Moustaches,"  whispered  Petya, taking his  place beside Gavrik,
with his  satchel pressed against the wall.  "The  one who was  chasing  the
sailor. Only now  he's without his moustache. Remember? I told you about him
and you laughed at me."
     "Shaved it off so nobody  would  know  him. But he knows me,  the rat,"
Gavrik said angrily. "We'll never get past."
     "But perhaps we can."
     "Not on your life."
     Gavrik peeped out. "He's walking up and down."
     He clenched  his fist  and  angrily began  to chew  his  knuckles. "And
they're sitting there waiting for us. The dirty snake!"
     There was a minute of deep and utter silence in the uprising, a silence
broken by scattered shots in the distance. They reverberated  over the roofs
of the city.
     "Listen,  Petya," Gavrik  said  all of a  sudden,  "do  you understand?
They're  sitting there waiting  all for nothing- without the goods.  They'll
all be shot as easy as anything. And I can't  go because  that skunk is sure
to follow me!"
     Gavrik's eyes filled with tears of anger.  He  gave a  loud sniff, blew
his nose on the ground, and then looked angrily into Petya's eyes.
     "Uh-huh," said Petya with his lips alone, turning pale under his chum's
angry, friendly, insistent and at the same time pleading look.
     "Can you get through by yourself? You won't let 'em down?"
     Petya's excitement was such that he could not get out a single word. He
swallowed hard and nodded his head. Gavrik, first  glancing round  furtively
and peeping out of the gateway, began to fill Petya's pockets with his bags.
     "Give them all  the goods, everything, you hear? What's in your satchel
and what's in your pockets too. If you're caught  shut up and say  you found
it in the street and don't know anything. Clear?"
     "When you hand it over come back here. I'll be waiting for you here  in
the gateway. Clear?"
     Petya, his pockets bulging, walked up to  the cordon.  He was so scared
and excited he hardly knew what he was doing.
     "Hey, where are you going? Are you  blind?" Moustaches shouted, running
up to him.
     "Please," Petya whimpered in the thin voice he had learned from Gavrik,
"please let me through.  I live  nearby, in the  Alexandrovsky Prospect,  in
that big grey house, and my Mummy's awfully worried. She probably thinks I'm
     Real  tears  poured out  of  his eyes  and rolled down  his plump grimy
cheeks. Moustaches gave the little preparatory class pupil a  disgusted look
and took him by the satchel.
     He led the boy to the edge of the roadway and gave him a light shove in
the behind with his knee.
     "Run along!"
     Beside himself with joy, Petya raced towards the house.


     Petya slipped through the gateway and started across the yard.
     When  he came  this way  an hour earlier, with Gavrik,  he had not been
troubled by anything in  particular. He knew he was under the  reliable wing
of a resourceful and experienced friend. He  was freed from the necessity of
thinking for himself; he was merely an obedient companion without  a will of
his own. Someone else, someone stronger than he, thought and acted for him.
     Now  he  was completely  alone. There was no  one but himself to depend
     Without Gavrik the world around Petya immediately  became  threatening,
huge, full of lurking dangers.
     Danger skulked  in the stone arches of  the inner galleries, among  the
ominous boxes  and the old broken  furniture. It stood waiting in the middle
of the yard, behind the mulberry tree whose trunk had been gnawed by horses.
It peered out of the black hole of the refuse-bin.
     Everything the boy saw took on an exaggerated size. Huge Cossack horses
pressed their smooth, golden, dancing cruppers against him.  Monstrous tails
swished across his satchel. Don Cossacks in blue breeches  with red  stripes
hopped on one foot while the other was in the stirrup.
     "From the  right,  by  threes!"  cried  the  hoarse voice  of a Cossack
     The mirror-like crescent of a drawn  sabre  hung in the air above the j
aunty forage caps.
     Petya went down into the cellar.
     He  walked a long time, feeling his way in the stuffy but cold darkness
and  breathing the dusty air of storage rooms. Every time  a  cobweb touched
his eyelashes he took it for a bat's wing, and horror gripped him.
     Finally he reached the second yard. It was deserted.
     Only now, in the  midst  of  this strange emptiness,  did Petya  become
really  aware  of  how terribly alone  he was. He  wanted  to  run  back-but
thousands  of miles and  thousands of fears separated him from  the  street,
from Gavrik.
     In the opening between the second and third yards  it was so unbearably
quiet  that he felt  like shouting with all his might; shouting desperately,
passionately, frenziedly-anything so as not to hear that silence.
     It was  the kind of silence that comes only in the interval between two
     Now he had to put two fingers in his mouth and whistle. But suddenly he
realised that  he  did  not  know how  to whistle with his  fingers. He  had
learned long  ago to spit  through his  teeth, but not to whistle. He hadn't
thought of it. It had slipped his mind.
     Clumsily he put his fingers in his mouth and blew, but no  whistle came
out.  In  desperation he  blew again,  as  hard  as he  could. Nothing. Only
spittle and a hiss.
     Then Petya mustered all his spiritual powers.
     "Hey!" he yelled, closing his eyes.
     His voice sounded very weak. Still, a booming echo instantly filled the
empty cistern of a yard.
     No one answered, however. The silence became more terrifying than ever.
     High  above  there  was a deafening crackle.  Down flew the joint  of a
drain-pipe, carrying with it pieces of brick, spikes, and mortar.
     "H-e-y! H-e-y! H-e-y!" Petya shouted at the top of his lungs.
     A shutter in the top storey opened and an unfamiliar face looked out.
     "What's all the shouting about? Bring it? Come up here! And be lively!"
     The face disappeared.
     Petya looked about in indecision. But he was all  alone, with no one to
advise him. There was another crackle overhead. A big chunk of plaster  flew
down and crashed into bits at Petya's feet.
     Bending  over, he  dashed to  the backstairs  door.  He  started up the
clanging  iron stairway, tripping on  the hem of  his overcoat; it had  been
bought several sizes too large, so that he could grow into it.
     "Faster! Faster!" an angry voice cried from above.
     The  heavy  satchel  banged  painfully  against his  back. The  bulging
pockets got in his  way. He suddenly felt hot. The inside of his cap  became
warm and wet. Sweat poured down on his eyebrows and eyes. His face flamed.
     Upstairs, the irritable, pleading voice kept shouting, "Faster! Faster,
damn you!"
     Petya breathed heavily, sticking out  his tongue from  the exertion. He
had barely reached the third-storey  landing when a man in an expensive  but
soiled overcoat with a lambskin collar grasped him by the shoulders.
     The man was hatless and his forehead was plastered with  strands of wet
hair. He had a foppish little moustache and beard which didn't at all fit in
with his ordinary, snub-nosed face, now red and powdered with plaster.
     His eyes,  under bushy brows white with plaster,  had a gay, dare-devil
gleam,  and at the same time a sort of alarmed  expression. He looked like a
man who had been torn away from a very difficult and urgent job and was in a
terrible hurry to get back to it.
     When Petya felt the  strong fingers  grip his shoulders he thought  the
man was going to shake  him, the  way Daddy did when he  was very angry. His
legs buckled under him from  fright.  But the man looked affectionately into
his eyes.
     "Bring it?"  he  asked  in a  hurried whisper. Without waiting  for  an
answer he pulled  the boy  into  the empty kitchen of a  flat where-as Petya
sensed  immediately-  something  tremendous  and  frightening  was going on,
something that usually never happened in flats.
     The man ran his eyes over Petya and without saying a word went straight
for his  bulging pockets.  He  hastily pulled the  heavy  little bags out of
them. Petya stood in front of him with his arms spread apart.
     There was something  very familiar  about  his unfamiliar face with the
little moustache and beard.
     Petya had surely seen it somewhere before. But when? Where?
     He searched the recesses of his memory, but  with no results. Something
kept putting him off. Could it be the moustache and beard?
     In the meantime the man  had deftly extracted  the four  bags  from the
boy's pockets.
     "Is that all?"
     "No, there's more in the satchel."
     "Good boy! Thanks! And just think-a Gymnasium pupil!"
     As a sign of his admiration  he gripped  Petya's cap by  the visor  and
pulled it down hard on top of his ears.
     And now  Petya  saw,  an inch from his nose,  a strong sooty hand which
gave off the sour smell of gunpowder. On it was a little blue anchor.
     "The sailor!" he exclaimed.
     But  that same instant something crashed in the other part of the flat.
There was a  blast  of air. A pot tumbled from a shelf. With soft,  cat-like
steps the sailor ran into the passage, shouting, "Wait here!"
     A minute  later six jerky shots resounded  somewhere  close  by.  Petya
threw off his satchel and began to unfasten it with trembling fingers.
     Just  then  Terenti  came into the kitchen  from  the  passage. He  was
swaying on  his feet. He was coatless,  in a shirt with only one sleeve. The
other sleeve  was wound about his  head. Blood trickled down his temple from
under the bandage. He held a revolver in his right hand.
     When he saw Petya he started to say  something but waved  his  hand and
first took a drink of water, putting his mouth to the tap.
     "Bring  it?" he asked,  pausing for air  between two gulps.  The  water
flowed noisily over his startingly white face. "Where's Gavrik? Alive?"
     But there was obviously no time for questions. Without stopping to wipe
his face Terenti took the bags out of the satchel.
     "All the same we won't hold  out," he muttered. He could scarcely stand
on  his  feet. "We'll get away across  the roofs.  They're setting up a gun.
You'd better clear out, kid, before  a  bullet gets you.  Clear  out  quick.
Thanks, and good luck!"
     He  sat  down  on a  stool but a moment  later got  up, and, wiping his
revolver on his knee, ran down the  passage to the room from  which came the
steady bark of shots and the crash of glass.
     Petya  picked up  his light  satchel and  ran  to the  door. Curiosity,
however, made him  pause for a minute and look down the passage. Through the
wide-open door he saw a room piled with broken furniture.
     In the middle of the wall, papered in  a  design of  brown bouquets, he
saw a yawning hole round which the lath framework was bared.
     Several  men  were leaning against  the  sills of  the smashed windows,
firing one shot after another down into the street from their revolvers.
     Petya saw Terenti's bandaged  head and the sailor's lambskin collar. He
also caught  a  glimpse of a shaggy  black Caucasian  cloak  and  a  college
student's cap.
     The room swam and surged in bluish threads of smoke.
     The sailor knelt at a windowsill on which stood a boudoir  night table.
He kept shoving out his arm, and it jerked as he fired shot after shot.
     "Shoot! Shoot! Shoot!" he yelled madly.
     In the midst of all that movement, chaos, commotion, and smoke only one
man was  completely calm-a man with a yellow, indifferent, waxen face, and a
small black hole above his closed eyes.
     He lay on the floor in the middle of the room, in an awkward pose, face
up, surrounded by empty cartridge clips and cartridge cases.
     His broken pince-nez, with the black cord  looped behind his firm white
ear,  lay  beside his  head on  the  plaster-sprinkled  parquet.  A very old
technological student's  cap  with  a cracked visor  also  lay neatly on the
     Petya looked at the man and suddenly realised that he  was looking at a
     He ran back. How  he got out of the house and reached the gateway where
Gavrik was waiting for him he did not remember.
     "Well? Deliver it?"
     "I did."
     Breathlessly  Petya  told  Gavrik   everything  he  had  seen  in  that
terrifying flat.
     "All the same they won't hold out. They'll get away across the  roofs,"
he whispered, breathing heavily. "They're putting up a cannon against them."
     Gavrik turned pale and made the sign  of the cross. Never  in his  life
had Petya seen his friend so scared.
     Nearby,  almost next  to them,  a gun roared. An iron echo rumbled over
the roofs.
     "Done for!" Gavrik cried in despair. "Hook it!"
     The boys rushed out into  the street and ran across the city, which had
changed for the third time that morning.
     Now  the Cossacks were complete masters of the  situation. The  streets
resounded with the clatter of hoofs.
     Squadrons of  Don  Cossacks that had been lying  low  in the courtyards
sped through the  gateways, lashing  out to the  right  and left with  their
     There was no hiding from them: all the house-entrances and gateways had
been locked tight and were  guarded by  army and police details. Every alley
was a trap.
     The  remnants  of  the dispersed demonstration scattered  this way  and
that, without any hope of  saving themselves. Cossacks overtook them and cut
them down one by one.
     In Malaya Arnautskaya a bow-legged  man without a hat or coat ran  down
the middle of the roadway past the boys. Under  his arm he held a stick with
a red  flag. It  was the owner of the shooting gallery.  He  ran limping and
dodging from side to side.
     At any other time this sight might have surprised  the boys, but now it
only filled them with horror.
     Every ten paces or  so  Joseph Karlovich turned back  a  terribly pale,
tormented face with wild eyes. Two  Don  Cossacks were bearing down upon him
at a fast trot.
     The horseshoes  rang loud  against the  granite cobbles, drawing sparks
that were pale in the daylight.
     A minute later Joseph Karlovich was between the two horses. He let them
pass, slipped aside, and then dashed up to a door and seized the handle.
     The door was locked. He tugged at it in desperation, kicked it with all
his might,  rammed  it with his  shoulder. It  did not  yield.  The Cossacks
turned their horses and rode up on the pavement.
     Joseph Karlovich hunched  himself over, bent his head  and pressed  the
flag  to his breast with both hands.  A sabre flashed. His  back jerked. His
jacket split open crosswise. With a convulsive movement he turned round.
     For  a second  his pain-distorted face with its short side-whiskers was
     "Scoundrels! Satraps!  Butchers!" he cried passionately, at the  top of
his voice. "Down with the autocracy!"
     But  at that  very instant two sabres  flashed through the air, sharply
and simultaneously. Joseph Karlovich  fell, still pressing the banner to his
open hairy chest with the blue tattooing.
     One of the Don Cossacks bent over him and did something.
     A  minute later the two Cossacks were galloping on,  dragging the man's
body behind them on a  rope. It left a long, red, astonishingly bright trail
on the deathly-grey cobbles.
     A crowd rushed out of a side street and separated the boys.


     Petya lost all sense of time that day.
     When  he finally  reached home  he had  the feeling that it was already
dusk, but actually it was not yet two o'clock.
     Near Kulikovo Field  and  the Army Staff  building all was  quiet.  The
events in  town reached  this district  as rumours  and  distant firing. But
everyone was long since used to rumours and firing.
     The sky was low  and almost black and gave off the sharp cold breath of
approaching  snow. On days like  that, evening began in  the morning. A  few
tiny snow-flakes had already flown by in the misty bluish air, but the  hard
earth was still a solid black, without a single fleck of grey.
     Petya  came  in  by the  back  door, dropped his empty  satchel  in the
kitchen  and tiptoed to the nursery. But it was too early for anyone to have
begun worrying about his absence.
     When he saw the quiet, peaceful rooms, when he heard the faint whirr of
the  sewing machine,  when  he smelled  the simmering  borshch,  he suddenly
wanted to throw his  arms round  Daddy's  neck, press his cheek against  his
jacket, burst into tears, and tell all.
     But only for an instant. That feeling immediately yielded, in the boy's
feverish  mind, to another, a new,  feeling: one of reserve, responsibility,
secrecy.  For  the  first time  in his life  the boy understood, simply  and
seriously, with all his heart, that there were things not to be told even to
one's  nearest and dearest, but kept to oneself,  no  matter how  painful it
might be.
     Father was rocking in the rocking-chair, with his hands behind his head
and his pince-nez dangling free. Petya walked in, sat down on a chair beside
him, and folded his hands sedately on his knees.
     "Bored  with being  idle, son? Don't  take it  to  heart.  Things  will
quieten  down  soon,  the  schools will  open again. You'll  go back  to the
Gymnasium, get your fill of Poors, and then you'll feel better."
     He smiled his lovable, nearsighted smile.
     Suddenly  the kitchen  door  banged  and swift footsteps sounded in the
passage.  Dunya  appeared  in  the  dining-room doorway.  She leaned  limply
against the door, clasping her hands to her breast.
     Oh, sir-
     She could not get out another word.
     She was  breathing  heavily, quickly, her half-open mouth swallowing in
air. Her kerchief was awry; a strand of hair with a pin hanging from it fell
on her ghostly-white face.
     Lately the  family had become used  to seeing her  burst in  like this.
Almost every day she came to  announce some piece of town news or other. But
this time  her  crazed  eyes,  her  convulsive  breathing  and  her  general
overwrought   appearance   predicted   something  extraordinary,   something
     She brought in  with  her  such a dark, such an ominous silence that it
seemed  as if the clock had begun  to tick ten times louder, and as  if grey
panes had been put into the windows. The whirr of the sewing machine stopped
instantly. Auntie  Tatyana  ran  in, pressing her  fingers to the  tiny blue
veins in her temples.
     "What is it? What's happened?"
     Dunya moved her lips but no sound came out.
     When she  did speak it was in a  voice that could barely be heard.  "In
Kanatnaya they're beating up the Jews. A pogrom-"
     "Impossible!"  Auntie Tatyana  clutched at  her heart and sank  into  a
     "May I drop dead  on the  spot!  They're smashing all the Jewish shops.
They threw a chest of drawers into the street from the first storey. They'll
be in our street in about ten minutes."
     Father jumped up. He was pale, his jaw quivered. He tried to put on his
pince-nez but his hand refused to obey him.
     "Good Lord! What does this mean?"
     He raised his eyes to the icon and crossed himself twice.
     Dunya, taking that for a sign, came to herself. She climbed on  a chair
and impetuously took down the icon.
     "Dunya, what are you doing?"
     But  Dunya made no reply. She was already in the other rooms collecting
the  icons.  She  quickly  set  them  on the windowsills facing  the street,
propping them up with piles of books, boxes,  tea-caddies, and anything else
she could lay hands on.
     Father followed her with a perplexed look.
     "I don't see- What's the point of all that?"
     "That's what to do,  sir," she mumbled in a frightened voice.  "They're
beating up the Jews but they don't touch Russians. Whoever has icons  in the
windows they leave them alone."
     "Don't you dare!" he screamed, his voice breaking. He pounded the table
with his fist as hard and as fast as he could. "Don't you dare! I forbid it!
Do  you  hear? Stop it this  very minute! That's  not what  icons  are  for!
It's-it's blasphemy! At once!"
     Father's round  starched  cuffs jumped out  of  his  sleeves.  His face
turned deathly pale. Pink spots broke out on his high chiselled forehead.
     Never  had  Petya seen Father like this:  his whole body shook, he  was
     Father  ran to the  window and seized an icon. But Dunya  pounced on it
and would not let go.
     "Oh, don't, sir!" she  cried  in despair.  "They're killing everybody!"
She turned to Auntie. "Tatyana Ivanovna! Dear Tatyana Ivanovna! They'll kill
us all! They won't think twice!"
     "Shut  up!"   yelled  Father.   The   veins  on  his  forehead  swelled
frighteningly. "Shut up! I'm the master here. It's my house and  I'll  never
permit that here! Let them come! Let them murder us all! The swine! You have
no right- you have no-"
     Auntie Tatyana wrung her hands.
     "Vasili Petrovich, I implore you, be calm!"
     But Father had already buried his  face in his hands and  stood leaning
against the wall.
     "They're coming!" Dunya cried.
     Silence fell.
     Faint, harmonious singing drifted in from the street. It sounded like a
religious procession or a funeral somewhere in the distance.
     Cautiously, Petya looked out of the window. There was not a soul in the
street. Over the  deserted  Kulikovo Field hung a sky the  colour of  slate,
darker and lower than before.
     In the wrinkles of  the naked earth lay a few long strands  of  snow as
light as swan's down, collected by the wind.
     The singing grew louder and louder. Now Petya clearly saw that  the low
dark cloud lying  on  the horizon in Kulikovo Field,  to  the  right of  the
railway station, was not a cloud at all but a slowly approaching mob.
     The windows in the house were slammed shut.
     From  the  kitchen  came  the  murmur  of  low,  restrained  voices,  a
shuffling,  and  the  rustle of  skirts. Then, altogether  unexpectedly,  an
elderly woman appeared in the passage holding by the hand a little girl with
bright ginger hair and a tear-stained face.
     The woman was dressed for paying a social call,  in a black silk skirt,
a mantilla, and lisle mitts. Somewhat askew on her head sat a small but high
black bonnet with  cock's  plumes. From behind her shoulders peered  Nusya's
pale, lustreless, round face and Izzy the Dizzy's bowler hat.
     This was Madam Kogan, with her whole family.
     Not daring  to enter the room, she stood  for a long time curtsying  in
the  doorway, raising the hem  of  her skirt with one  hand and pressing the
other to her heart. A honeyed, well-bred and at the same time frenzied smile
played on her wrinkled mobile little face.
     "Mr. Batchei!" she exclaimed  in a shrill, bird-like  voice, stretching
out  both her trembling gloved hands  towards Father. "Mr.  Batchei! Tatyana
Ivanovna! We have  always been good neighbours! Are people to blame  because
they have a different God?"
     All of a sudden she fell to her knees.
     "Save my children!" she wailed. "Let them smash everything but only let
them spare my children!"
     "Mama,  stop  lowering  yourself!" Nusya cried angrily.  He shoved  his
hands in his pockets and turned aside, showing the bluish shaven nape of his
     "Nusya, will you  shut up  at last?" hissed Izzy  the Dizzy. "Or do you
want  that  I should slap your cheeks? Your mother knows what she  is doing.
She knows  that  Mr. Batchei is an intellectual person and will not allow us
to be killed."
     Auntie Tatyana ran to the door and lifted the Jewess to her feet. "Why,
Madam Kogan, what ever are you doing? For shame!  Why, of course, of course!
Goodness me! Please come in, Mr. Kogan, Nusya, Dorochka- What a misfortune!"
     While Madam  Kogan wept  and gushed words of gratitude that made Father
and Auntie Tatyana  feel so ashamed they wished the earth would swallow them
up, and while  she hid  the children and her husband in the  back rooms, the
singing outside grew louder and nearer with every step.
     A  small  crowd  which indeed  looked like a  religious  procession was
coming across Kulikovo Field towards the house.
     In  front walked two grey-haired old men  in winter  coats but hatless,
carrying a portrait of the Tsar on an embroidered linen towel. Petya at once
recognised the  blue ribbon across the shoulder  and the acorn which was the
Tsar's face. Behind the portrait swayed  church banners, raised high  in the
cold, bluish, soapy air.
     Then  came  a  lot  of respectable-looking  men  and  women  in  winter
overcoats and galoshes, high  overshoes  and top boots. White  steam  poured
from their wide-open mouths. They sang:

     Save, O Lo-o-o-ord, Thy flo-o-ock, and bless Thy do-o-o-omains. . . .

     They looked so peaceable and dignified that for a  minute an indecisive
smile played on Father's face.
     "There,  you   see?"  he  said.  "They're  walking  along  quietly  and
peacefully without hurting a soul, and you-"
     Just then the  procession  came  to  a  stop  on the other side of  the
street, opposite the house. Out of the crowd  ran  a burly, moustached woman
with purplish-blue cheeks and  two shawls tied across her bosom. Her bulging
eyes, black as  Isabella  grapes, stared with ferocious determination at the
windows. She planted her  fat  legs in  their thick white  woollen stockings
wide apart, like a man, and shook her fist at the house.
     "Aha,  Jew-faces!" she cried  in  the shrill  voice of a  market woman.
"Hiding, eh? Never mind, we'll get you in a jiffy! Orthodox Christians, show
your icons!"
     With these words she raised  the hem of her skirt and  ran  across  the
street with a determined  air. On  the way  she  picked a cobblestone from a
pile that had been put there for mending the roadway.
     After her,  about twenty long-armed roughs with tri-coloured ribbons on
their overcoats  and  jackets  stepped  out  of the crowd. They  crossed the
street without hurrying, one ofter the other, and as each passed the pile of
cobbles he bent low and nimbly.
     When the last one passed, the place where  the pile of stones had stood
was absolutely smooth ground.
     A deathly silence set in. Each tick of the clock was now the crash of a
pistol-shot, and the panes  in the  windows were black. The  silence dragged
out so long that Father  had  time to say, "I don't understand. Where, after
all, are the police? Why don't they send men from the Army Staff?"
     "Oh, the police!" Auntie Tatyana cried hysterically.
     She stopped short.
     The silence became more terrifying than ever. Izzy the Dizzy sat on the
edge of a chair in the middle of the parlour,  his bowler hat pushed down on
his forehead. His sickly eyes were fixed on a spot in the corner.
     Nusya had been walking up  and down the  passage with his hands in  his
pockets. Now he stopped  to listen. His full lips were curved in a strained,
scornful smile.
     The silence lasted another unbearable instant and then burst. Somewhere
down below the first  rock slammed through a window.  Then a squall hit  the
house. Glass shattered to the  pavement. The iron sign-board was ripped  off
with a thunderous rattle. There  was the crash of breaking  doors and boxes.
Jars of lozenges, kegs, and tinned goods rolled out into the roadway.
     Whistling and  whooping, the brutalised mob  surrounded the  house. The
gold-framed portrait with the crown soared slantwise into the air, now here,
now there. It was as if an officer  in epaulets and a blue ribbon across his
shoulder,  with church banners on all sides of him, was rising up on  tiptoe
all the time to look over the heads.
     "Mr. Batchei! Do you see what they're doing?" whispered Kogan, wringing
his hands. "Two hundred rubles' worth of merchandise!"
     "Papa, keep  quiet! Stop lowering yourself!" shouted Nusya. "This isn't
a question of money!" The pogrom continued.
     "Sir! They're going through the flats  looking  for Jews!"  Madam Kogan
screamed. She began to flutter in  the dark passage like a chicken at  sight
of the  knife. "Dora! Nusya! My children!"  "They're  coming up the  stairs,
     From  the  stairs  sounded  the  rumble  of  coarse  voices  and boots,
amplified  tenfold by the box-like front  entrance.  With trembling fingers,
yet extraordinarily quickly, Father  buttoned all the buttons of his  jacket
and rushed  to the door,  tearing open with both hands the choking  starched
collar under his beard. Before Auntie Tatyana could open her mouth he was on
the stairs. "For goodness' sake, Vasili Petrovich!" "Don't sir, they'll kill
you!" "Daddy!" cried Petya, rushing after him. In his black jacket, straight
and agile, his face set, his cuffs rattling, Father quickly ran downstairs.
     Up the stairs towards  him clumped the woman in the thick white woollen
stockings. She wore cotton mitts, and in her right hand she gripped a  heavy
cobblestone. Now  her eyes were not black  but  a  bluish-white, and glazed,
like  the  eyes  of a  dead  bullock. Behind  her came  sweating  roughs  in
dark-blue caps, the kind grocers' assistants wore.
     "Gentlemen!"  Father  cried,  not  at  all  to  the  point, in his high
falsetto, his neck turning a deep red. "Who gave you the right to break into
other people's houses? This is robbery! I won't allow it!"
     "And who might you be? The house-owner?"
     The woman shifted  the  cobblestone  to  her  left  hand,  and, without
looking  at Father,  hit him  in the ear with her right fist as hard  as she
could. Father rocked on his heels, but the men prevented him from falling: a
red, freckled  hand grabbed him  by the silk lapel  of his jacket and jerked
him forward. The old cloth ripped.
     "Stop hitting him! He's  our  Daddy!"  Petya cried  in a voice  totally
unlike his own. "You have no right! Fools!"
     Somebody gave  a sharp, vicious pull,  with all his  might, at Father's
sleeve. The sleeve came off. The round  cuff with its cuff-link  rolled down
the stairs.  Petya  saw  a  bleeding  scratch  on  Father's  nose,  saw  his
nearsighted  eyes full  of tears-his pince-nez had been knocked off- and his
hair, long like a seminary student's, lying in two dishevelled parts.
     Stinging pain  filled  the  boy's heart.  He  was ready  to die at that
minute if only they would stop hurting Daddy.
     "Beasts!  Cattle!  Animals!"  Father moaned through set  teeth, backing
away from the pogrom-makers.
     Auntie Tatyana and Dunya came running down holding icons.
     "Gentlemen,  what  are you doing?  Have you no  fear  of  God?"  Auntie
Tatyana said over and over again, tears in her eyes.
     "Are you  mad?"  Dunya  cried in rage, lifting as high  as she could an
icon  of  the Saviour with  waxen orange-blossoms  under the glass.  "You're
beating  Orthodox Christians! Look what  you're  doing  before you begin. Go
back where you came from. There's no Jews here, not a one! Go away!"
     Police whistles sounded in the  street-as usual, exactly half  an  hour
after  the  start  of  a pogrom.  The  woman in  the white stockings put the
cobblestone on a step and carefully wiped her hand on the hem of her skirt.
     "Well, that'll do for here," she said with a nod of the head. "A little
of  a good thing goes a long  way.  Hear those policemen of ours blowing out
their  guts? Come  on, now let's get  that  Jew at  Malofontanskaya and  the
corner of Botanicheskaya!"
     She gathered her heavy skirts and, grunting, climbed downstairs.


     For  several days afterwards the pavement  in  front  of the house  was
strewn  with cobbles,  broken  glass, splintered  boxes,  crushed  balls  of
blueing, rice, rags, and various household articles.
     Among the bushes in the field one suddenly came across a picture album,
a bamboo book stand, a lamp, a flat-iron.
     Passers-by carefully avoided the  wreckage, as if mere  contact with it
would make a person a party to the pogrom and disgrace him for life.
     The children too. When, horror-struck  and curious, they went down into
the pillaged shop, they deliberately hid  their hands in their pockets so as
not to be tempted by a mint cake or a crushed  box of Kerch cigarettes lying
     Father paced  the floor from morning to  night, his chin tensely thrust
forward; he looked somehow younger, sterner, and was unusually brisk; he had
become  noticeably  grey  at  the  temples.  The jacket  had  been mended so
skilfully that there was scarcely any trace of the damage. Life was becoming
normal again.
     There was  no more firing in the streets.  Peaceful silence  reigned in
the city. The first tram-car since  the strike rolled past the house. It was
a clumsy, absurd contraption which looked like  a city coach, with huge rear
wheels and tiny front ones.
     An engine whistled at the railway station. The Russkiye Vedomosti,  the
Niva and the Zadushevnoye Slovo were delivered to the house.
     One day Petya looked  out of the window and saw a  yellow postal van at
the entrance.
     A warm wave flooded his heart, and it missed a beat. The postman opened
the door at the back of the van and took out a parcel.
     "It's from  Grandma!" Petya  cried, smacking  the  windowsill with  his
     Why, he had forgotten all about it! Now, at sight of the yellow van, he
instantly remembered: lugs, the dress coat he had turned into a  total mess,
the sandals he had  sold, Pavlik's moneybox-in a word, all his crimes, which
might come to light at any moment.
     The bell rang. Petya ran to the anteroom.
     "Don't you dare touch it! It's for me, for me!"
     And  so  it  was,  to  everybody's  amazement.  "Master Pyotr  Batchei.
Personal" was written in big letters in purple ink on the canvas top.
     The canvas was tightly sewn down with strong thread and Petya split his
fingernails as he tore it off. He did not have the patience to do a neat job
of removing the squeaking cover, which was held in place by long thin nails,
so he grabbed the kitchen chopper and hacked the box open; it was as fragile
as  a violin. Out of it he  took something carefully  wrapped in  a very old
copy of the Russky Invalid.
     It was an officer's jacket.
     "Grandfather's uniform!" Petya exclaimed triumphantly. "There!"
     Nothing else was in the parcel.
     "I-I don't see-" mumbled Auntie.
     "What  a  queer  idea,  sending  military relics  to a  child,"  Father
remarked dryly, with a shrug of the shoulders. "Highly unpedagogical."
     "Oh,  keep quiet! You  don't understand anything!  Grandma's a wonder!"
Petya shouted in delight. He ran to the nursery with the precious parcel.
     Gold buttons gleamed through their neat wrapping of tissue-paper. Petya
hastily undid the wrapping.
     My God! What was this? No eagles!
     The buttons were absolutely  smooth. They differed in  no way  from the
cheapest  lugs  on  the uniforms of  ordinary  privates.  True, Petya  found
sixteen of them.  But  the whole  batch  would bring him no more  than three
     What could have happened?
     Many  years later Petya  was  to learn  that in  the  time  of  Emperor
Alexander  II  officers'  buttons  were  without eagles. But who  could have
foreseen it? He felt completely crushed.
     Petya  sat on the  windowsill  with  the  useless uniform  in  his lap.
Outside,  snow-flakes  were  flying  past  the thermometer.  He watched them
indifferently, without a trace of the joy he usually felt at the first snow.
     One after  another there passed before his  mind's eye pictures of  the
events he had taken part in and witnessed only a  short time before. But now
it all  seemed as distant, as  hazy, and  as untrue as a dream. As if it all
had taken place in some other town; perhaps, even, in some other country.
     Yet Petya knew that it had not been  a dream. It had  taken  place over
there, not far away,  beyond Kulikovo Field, beyond the milky  smoke of snow
that whirled along between sky and earth.
     Where was Gavrik now?
     What had happened to Terenti and the sailor?
     Had they got away across the roofs?
     But there was no answer to these questions.
     The snow came down  thicker and thicker, covering  the black  earth  of
Kulikovo Field with the clean, bright sheet of winter, come at last.


     Christmas came.
     Pavlik  awoke before  dawn. For him Christmas Eve was a double holiday:
it was his birthday, too.
     You can easily imagine how impatiently the boy had  awaited this joyous
and at  the same time most  curious  day when  he suddenly became four years
     One day  he was  still three,  and the next he was four. When  did that
happen? Probably at night.
     Pavlik had decided long  ago  to  watch for the  mysterious moment when
children become a  year older. He woke  up in the  middle  of the night  and
opened his  eyes  wide,  but as  far  as he  could see nothing had  changed.
Everything was the same as usual: the chest of drawers,  the night-lamp, the
dry palm branch behind the icon.
     How old was he now: three, or four?
     He examined his  arms attentively and gave  a kick with his legs  under
the blanket. No, his arms and legs were the  same as when he had gone to bed
in the evening. But perhaps his head  had grown a bit? He carefully felt his
head-his cheeks, his nose, his ears. . . . They all seemed to be the same as
     Now wasn't that strange?
     It was  all the more  strange because in the morning he was sure  to be
four. That he knew for certain. Then how old was  he now? He  couldn't still
be three. But on the other hand it didn't look very much like four, either.
     It  would be a  good idea to wake Daddy. He was sure to know. But crawl
out from under the warm quilt and walk barefoot across the floor-no, thanks!
A better idea was to pretend to  be asleep and wait with closed eyes for the
transformation to take place.
     Pavlik shut his eyes,  but before  he  knew it he fell  asleep. When he
woke up he  saw at once that the night-lamp had gone out a long time ago and
that  the  dark,  bluish light of early-early  winter morning  was coming in
through the cracks in the shutters.
     Now there couldn't be the slightest doubt: he was four.
     The whole flat was still fast asleep; Dunya had not yet begun to bustle
about  in the  kitchen. Four-year-old Pavlik  sprang nimbly out  of  bed and
"dressed himself"  -that is,  he pulled  on his vest, with the cloth-covered
buttons, back to front and shoved his bare little feet into his shoes.
     Cautiously opening the heavy, squeaky door with both hands,  he set out
for the parlour. It was a little boy's big journey through a deserted  flat.
In the  middle of the darkness, filling the  entire  parlour with the strong
smell  of  fir  needles, stood something  huge  and  vague, with black  paws
reaching all the way to the floor and hung with dangling chains of paper.
     This,  Pavlik  already knew,  was  the Christmas  tree.  While his eyes
accustomed themselves  to the  gloom  he  cautiously walked round the  thick
velvety  tree  whose silver threads cast  the faintest possible flickers  of
     The tree  echoed the boy's every step with a papery stir, a tremble,  a
rustle of cardboard and of  Christmas  crackers, a delicate tinkle  of glass
     Now that he was accustomed to the darkness Pavlik saw, in the corner, a
table heaped with presents.  He  rushed  to  it, forgetting the  tree  for a
moment.  They  were  first-rate  presents, much  better  than  what  he  had
expected: a  bow  with  arrows in  a  velvet quiver,  a beautiful book  with
coloured pictures, Grandma Tatyana's Poultry Yard, a  real "grown-up"  lotto
game, and a horse which  was bigger,  handsomer, and, most important of all,
much  newer  than  Kudlatka.  Besides,  there  were  tins  of George  Borman
Lozenges, bars of chocolate with picture cards, and a cake in a round box.
     Pavlik had never  expected such riches. The table was laden  with  toys
and sweets-and all his very own.
     Still,  he felt that something was lacking.  He quietly dragged all his
old toys, including the tattered Kudlatka, into the parlour from the nursery
and added them to  the new ones.  Now there were as many toys as in  a shop.
But even this did not seem enough.
     He brought out the famous moneybox and put it on top of the drum in the
middle of the table, as the chief symbol of his wealth.
     After building this triumphal toy tower and feasting his eyes upon  it,
Pavlik returned to the Christmas  tree.  For a long  time now  a honey  cake
covered  with  pink  frosting, hanging not very high  at all,  by  a  yellow
worsted thread, had been disturbing him. It was shaped like a star and had a
hole in the middle, and  it was  so beautiful  that he felt an  overpowering
desire to eat it as quickly as possible.
     Deciding that it would be  no great harm  if there  were one honey cake
less on the tree, Pavlik untied it from the branch and put it in  his mouth.
He took a sizable bite, but to his amazement he discovered that the cake was
not at all as tasty as one might have thought. As a matter of fact, it was a
simply disgusting cake: it was stale,  it was  made of  rye flour, it wasn't
sweet, and it had a strong smell of treacle. And yet by the looks  of it, it
was the kind of cake the snow-white  Christmas  angels,  who sang so sweetly
high up in heaven, lived on.
     With a grimace Pavlik hung  the nibbled cake back on the  branch. There
was clearly some misunderstanding here. No doubt a spoiled cake had been put
in with the others by accident in the shop.
     At  this  point Pavlik noticed  another and  still more beautiful honey
cake, covered with blue  frosting. It hung quite high, and he had to pull up
a chair. This time  he did not untie the cake from the branch but simply bit
off a corner. It was so unpleasant that he spat it out at once.
     But it was hard to believe that all the other cakes were worthless too.
     Pavlik  decided  to  try every  single one. No  sooner said than  done.
Grunting, wheezing, his tongue  sticking  out,  he dragged the  heavy  chair
round the tree, climbed up on it, bit  off a  corner of a  cake, saw that it
was foul, and dragged the chair farther.
     Before long he had tasted all the honey cakes except  two near the very
ceiling and  far out of reach. For a long  time  he stood with his head bent
back,  thinking  about  them. They attracted  him  because  they were beyond
reach, and hence all the more beautiful and desirable.
     These cakes, he was certain, would  not trick him. He was planning  how
to put the  chair on top of the table and try to get them from there when he
heard the  fresh rustle  of a  holiday dress. Auntie Tatyana's beaming  face
looked into the parlour.
     "Aha, our little birthday-boy is up  before everybody else, I see. What
are you doing?"
     "Walking round the Christmas  twee," Pavlik replied modestly. He looked
up at Auntie  Tatyana  with the trusting,  truthful  eyes  of a well-behaved
     "Oh, my precious little tadpole! Twee! Not twee but tree. When will you
finally learn to say that word properly? Well, happy birthday!"
     The next  moment  the  boy  found himself  in  Auntie  Tatyana's  warm,
fragrant, tender embrace.
     Dunya,  her  face  flushed  with  embarrassment, hurried  in  from  the
kitchen, holding out a dainty sky-blue cup with "Happy  Birthday" written on
it in gold letters.
     So  began that happy  day which was destined to have such an absolutely
unexpected and frightful ending.
     In the evening, Pavlik had guests-little boys and  girls. They were all
such kids that Petya felt it beneath his dignity to talk  to them, let alone
play with them.
     Petya's heart was unutterably sad and heavy as he sat on the windowsill
in the dark nursery, looking at the decoratively frosted window on which the
golden nut of the street lamp glimmered among icy ferns.
     Ominous forebodings darkened his spirits.
     From  the parlour  streamed  the  hot, crackling light of the Christmas
tree-a  flaming  bonfire of  candles  and  golden rain.  He  could  hear the
enticing music of the piano. That was Father pounding  out a seminary polka,
the tails of  his dress coat spread apart and his starched cuffs rattling. A
great many children's sturdy little legs were stamping senselessly round the
Christmas tree.
     "Never mind, Petya,"  said  Auntie Tatyana as she passed by. " Don't be
envious. You'll have your day too."
     "Oh, Auntie, you don't understand  anything  at all," the boy said in a
piteous voice. "Leave me alone."
     At last came that long-awaited moment-the distribution of the nuts  and
cakes. The children surrounded the Christmas  tree  on tiptoe  and stretched
their hands towards the cakes, which shone like medals. The tree rocked. The
chains rustled.
     "Oh,   look,"   a  ringing,  frightened  little  voice  suddenly  said,
"somebody's bitten my cake!"
     "Mine too!"
     "I have two, and they're all bitten."
     "Huh," someone said in disappointment, "they're not new at all. They've
been eaten once already."
     Auntie Tatyana flushed to the roots of her hair  as nibbled cakes  were
stretched out to her from all sides.
     Finally her eyes came to rest  on Pavlik. "Did you do that, you naughty
     "Auntie  dear,  I only  wanted  a  teeny-weeny  taste,"  Pavlik  looked
innocently at his angered aunt with  wide-open eyes that were amber-coloured
from  the Christmas  tree lights. "I thought," he added with a  sigh,  "they
were good, but it turns out they're only for guests."
     "That's enough, you bad, bad boy!" Auntie Tatyana cried. With a gesture
of  despair she ran  to the sideboard. Luckily,  there  was still plenty  of
other  sweets.  Satisfaction  was immediately  given  to  all who  had  been
slighted. The scandal was hushed.
     Soon the sleepy guests were carried away to their homes.  The party was
over. Pavlik set about putting his treasures in order.
     Just then  Dunya  appeared  in  the  doorway  of  the  nursery  with  a
mysterious air and beckoned to Petya.
     "Young  master,  that  crazy  Gavrik  is waiting for  you in  the  back
stairway," she whispered, glancing round.
     Petya dashed into the kitchen.
     Gavrik was sitting on the high backstairs sill, leaning against the icy
window on which danced blue sparks from  the  moon. Under his hood glittered
small angry eyes. He was breathing heavily.
     Petya's first thought was that Gavrik had come to  collect his debt. He
was about to tell the sad story  of Grandfather's buttons and promise honour
bright to settle the debt  in two days,  at the  latest, when Gavrik quickly
reached inside his padded jacket and pulled out four familiar-looking bags.
     "Here,"  he said  in  a  low, firm voice, handing them to  Petya. "Hide
these and we'll call it quits. They're left over from Joseph Karlovich,  God
rest his soul."
     As  he said these  last  words Gavrik  fervently made  the  sign of the
     "Hide them and keep 'em until they're needed."
     "Right," whispered Petya.
     Gavrik said nothing  for a  long time. Finally  he wiped his  nose hard
with his fist and climbed down from the windowsill.
     "Well, Petya, so long."
     "Did-did they get away?"
     "They did. Across the roofs. Now they're looking for 'em high and low."
     Gavrik paused for  a moment,  considering whether  he  hadn't  said too
much. Then he leaned forward trustfully.
     "If you only knew how many were caught!" he whispered into Petya's ear.
"But they  won't  be caught!  Take my  word  for it. They're hiding  in  the
catacombs. Like all the revolutionaries. In the  spring they'll start again.
You know, the landlord's throwing Terenti's wife and the kids, Zhenechka and
Motya, out in the street. That's the way things are."
     Gavrik scratched his eyebrows with a worried air.
     "I don't know what to  do with 'em now. Looks as we'll all have to move
from Near  Mills to Grandpa's hut. Grandpa's in a  bad way. Looks as if he's
going to die soon. Why don't you drop in  some day, Petya? Only not so soon.
The  main  thing  is  to hide these bags  in a  good place.  'Weep  no more,
Marusya, you will yet be mine.' Shake, pal."
     Gavrik  shoved a flat hand into  Petya's and  then ran  off, beating  a
tattoo on the stairs with his broken boots.
     Petya went back  to the nursery and hid the bags under the books in his
     Just then the door flew open with an unearthly  bang and Father marched
into the room holding the mutilated dress coat.
     "What's the meaning of this?" he asked in such a quiet voice that Petya
nearly fainted.
     "By the true and holy Cross-" he muttered, but  he  could not gather up
the strength to cross himself.
     "What's the meaning of  this?" Father shouted, turning red and  shaking
from head to foot.
     That very second Pavlik let out a heart-rending howl in the parlour, as
though echoing Father's angry shout.
     The  little  boy ran in on legs wobbling from horror and threw his arms
round Father's knees. His mouth was such a wide-open square that his yelling
throat, with  its tiny, quivering  lobe at the back, could clearly  be seen.
The tears came in streams. In his trembling hand lay the open moneybox, full
of bits of tin and iron instead of money.
     "D-da-da-dy," babbled Pavlik, hiccuping. "Pe-etya- rob-hie-robbed me!"
     "On my word of hon-" began Petya, but Father already had a firm grip on
his shoulders.
     "You good-for-nothing!" he  roared. "You  scalawag! I  know everything!
You're a gambler, and a liar besides!"
     He began to  shake Petya-so furiously that it seemed he wanted to shake
the very life out  of  the boy. His jaw  bounced up and down, and so did his
pince-nez, which had slipped  from  his  perspiring  nose with its cork-like
pores, and dangled on the black cord.
     "Give  them to me  this very instant, those-what do  you call 'em-mugs,
     "Lugs,"  Petya said  with a crooked  smile,  hoping somehow to turn the
matter into a joke.
     But when Father heard the word "lugs"  from the lips of his son he flew
into a still greater rage.
     "Lugs, eh? Excellent! Where are they? Give  them here this very minute.
Where is that street filth? Where are  those germs? Into the fire with them!
Into the stove! I don't want to see a single trace of them!"
     He took in the room with a  swift glance and then made straight for the
     Father  walked  down  the passage  with long, quick,  nervous  strides,
carrying the bags squeamishly,  as  though they  were  dead kittens.  Petya,
sobbing, ran after him all the way to the kitchen.
     "Daddy! Daddy!" he shouted, tugging at his sleeves. "Daddy!"
     Father roughly pushed Petya aside, moved a clattering  pot and fiercely
shoved the bags into the flaming stove, getting soot on his cuffs.
     The boy froze in horror.
     "Hook it!" he screamed.
     But  at that  instant  shots resounded inside the stove, followed by  a
small explosion.
     A multicoloured flame shot through the stove ring. Noodles  flew up out
of the pot and plastered themselves  against the ceiling. The stove cracked.
Out  of  the  crack  poured acrid smoke,  filling the entire kitchen in  one
     They flooded  the stove. Later, when  they  raked out  the ashes,  they
found a pile of charred revolver cartridge cases.
     But Petya knew none of this. He had  fainted. They put  him to bed. His
whole body was on  fire. When they took his  temperature  it was one hundred
and three and five-tenths.


     No sooner had the scarlet fever passed when pneumonia set in.
     Petya was ill  all winter. Only in the middle  of  Lent did he begin to
walk about inside the house.
     Spring was on the way. First early spring-in  fact, early-early spring.
No longer winter but by no means real spring.
     The short-lived southern snow had long since  vanished, without  giving
Petya a taste of its delights. It was now the dry, grey Odessa March.
     On shaky legs, Petya  wandered idly through the rooms which had  become
small and very low the minute he climbed out  of bed. He stood  on tiptoe in
front of the  pier-glass in  the dark anteroom and  with a tug  of self-pity
examined  his  peaky  white  face with the shadows under  eyes  that  seemed
somehow startled and hard to recognise.
     The whole  first half of  the day he was all alone in the  flat. Father
was at school, and Auntie Tatyana took Pavlik out walking.
     The  noises of  the deserted rooms made Petya pleasantly  light-headed.
The  sharp  click  of  the  pendulum  came  with a  persistent,  frightening
inevitability. Petya went to the window. It was still sealed for the winter;
there was  a roll of yellowed cotton  wool  sprinkled with pieces of clipped
worsted between the two frames.
     He saw  the  mean, grey, dry roadway, the hard earth of Kulikovo Field,
and a  grey sky with  the faintest watery traces of blue.  From  the kitchen
window he could see the blue twigs of the lilacs in the  vacant lot. He knew
that if  you stripped  the bitter  bark with your teeth you would uncover  a
wonderfully green, pistachio-coloured stem.
     At long intervals the low, funereal  bass of the  Lenten bells quivered
in the air, bringing to the heart a feeling of emptiness and sadness.
     Yet latent in this bleak world were the powerful forces of spring. They
were merely awaiting their hour.  They could be felt in everything, and most
of all in the hyacinth bulbs.
     The indoor spring was still  hidden in the dark storeroom,  where, amid
the mousy odour  of household  odds  and  ends,  Auntie  Tatyana  had placed
shallow little  bowls along the  wall. The Dutch  bulbs,  Petya knew, needed
darkness  in  order  to  sprout.  And in the darkness of  the  storeroom the
mystery of growth was taking place.
     Pale but firm spears were cutting  their way through the silken, wasted
husks of the bulbs. He knew that just in time  for Easter, taut, bushy, pale
pink,  white and  purple hyacinth  flowers would  miraculously appear on the
thick stems.
     In the meantime,  Petya's  child's heart  was lonely and  numb  in this
grey, desolate world of the vernal equinox.
     The days were growing longer, Now he had nothing to fill the incredibly
dragging hours between  dinner and evening. How long they were, those dreary
hours  of  the  equinox! Even  longer  than the  deserted streets stretching
endlessly in the direction of Near Mills.
     Petya was now allowed to  stroll about near the house. He walked slowly
up and down the  dry pavement, squinting  at the sun  as it  set  beyond the
railway station.
     Only a  year  ago  he had looked upon the  station as  the end of town.
Beyond it  lay geography. But now he knew that the town continued beyond the
station,  that there were the long, dusty streets of the suburbs. He clearly
pictured them, reaching away to the west.
     In  the distance,  filling  the  broad  space between two dreary  brick
houses, hung a monstrous red sun from the times when the Earth was young; it
gave off no rays, yet its sharp, sullen light blinded you.
     Two weeks before Easter, wagon-loads of timber were brought to Kulikovo
Field. Carpenters, navvies, and  foremen appeared. Tape-lines were stretched
over the ground in all directions. Contractors with yellow folding footrules
in  their  outside pockets  paced off sections of land.  The construction of
booths for the Easter fair had begun.
     Petya's greatest pleasure  was to wander among  the boxes of big nails,
the axes, saws, logs and shavings, and to guess what would be built where in
Kulikovo Field. Each new row of posts, each new trench, each lot measured by
tape-line and marked off with pegs excited his imagination.
     His soaring fantasy drew pictures of amazingly beautiful booths full of
wonders  and mysteries, while levelheaded experience told him  that it would
all  be the same as last year. No better and no worse. But his fantasy could
not reconcile itself  to that; it  demanded  something new, something  never
seen before.
     He  loitered about near  the workers and  contractors  in  the  hope of
getting some information out of them.
     "I say there, could you tell me what this is going to be?"
     "A booth, naturally."
     "I know, but what kind?"
     "Wooden, naturally."
     Petya chuckled, to flatter the man.
     "I  know that  too.  You  do say  funny things! But what will there  be
inside? A circus?"
     "That's right."
     "But how? Doesn't a circus have to be round?"
     "Then it won't be a circus."
     "Will it be a waxworks?"
     "That's right."
     "Such a tiny booth?"
     "Then it won't be a waxworks."
     "But really. What will it be?"
     "A privy."
     Petya  blushed  but  then  chuckled all the  louder. He was willing  to
endure any humiliation as long as he found out at least something.
     "Ha-ha-ha! But really, what are you building here?"
     "Run  along,  kid,  this  ain't  no place for you.  You'll  be  late to
     "I don't go to school yet. I had scarlet fever, and pneumonia too."
     "Then go to bed instead of making a pest of yourself here."
     With  a forced grin Petya  sauntered off, racking his brains  over  the
insoluble problem.
     For it  was a known fact that before the booths were roofed with canvas
and hung with  pictures  nothing  could  be learned.  It  was impossible  to
tell-as impossible as trying to guess the  colour of the hyacinth that would
blossom out on the pale stem by Easter Sunday.
     On Holy Saturday, highly  mysterious  green crates  and trunks labelled
"Handle with Care" were brought  to  the fairgrounds.  Not  a single  boy in
Odessa knew what was in them.
     You  could  only make a rough shot: wax figures, magicians'  tables, or
flat, heavy snakes with filmy eyes and forked tongues.
     One of the trunks was known to contain a mermaid with a lady's bust and
a scaly tail instead of legs. But how did she get along without water? Could
there  be a bath-tub inside the trunk? Or was she packed in wet mud? All you
could do was guess.
     Petya was dying for the fair to open. It seemed to him that nothing was
ready,  that  the whole thing would fall through,  that this year  the  fair
would never open at all.
     But his fears proved groundless.  By  Easter Sunday  all was ready: the
pictures  hung,  the  flagpoles  whitewashed,  and  the  square   generously
sprinkled from long green barrels which had been carted between  the  booths
all  the previous day and  had darkened  the dry earth with their glistening
rakes of water.
     In a word, Easter came and blossomed exactly according to calendar.
     The bells pealed monotonously.  A fresh-looking  sun  raced along among
fluffy  clouds. Auntie Tatyana, in a white lace dress, sliced a ham, turning
back rind as thick and curved as the holster of a revolver.
     Sugar  lambs  covered the Easter cakes.  A pink Christ holding a  paper
church banner flew through the air on a wire, like a ballet  dancer. Round a
green hill of watercress lay coloured  eggs polished so  glossy  with butter
that they reflected the newly washed windows.
     Curly  hyacinths in bowls wound with  crinkly pink paper gave off their
stiflingly sweet and at the same time grave-yardish  odour;  a fragrance  so
heavy  that you could almost see  it  rising as smoky  lilac strands  in the
sunshine above the Easter table.
     But Easter Sunday, for Petya, was the longest and dreariest day of all,
because no public entertainment or merry-making whatsoever was allowed. That
day the police dedicated to  God. But at noon on the following  day-with the
permission of the authorities-the public began to make merry.
     At the stroke of twelve the police officer  on  duty blew  his whistle,
and  the  tricoloured flag  was run up on the tall whitewashed  pole  in the
middle of Kulikovo Field.
     The  next  instant everything broke loose.  The Turkish  drums  of  the
regimental bands  struck  up. The hurdy-gurdies  and  merry-go-round  organs
began  to  blare.  From  the whitewashed platforms  of the  booths came  the
shrill, baboon-like, guttural cries of the  red-headed clowns  and  jugglers
calling  to  the public.  The glass  beads  and carriages and  horses of the
merry-go-round began to whirl.
     The fragile little  swing-boats flew up into the dizzying  blue  of the
cloud-spotted  sky. From all sides came the insistent and unceasing clang of
brass bells and triangles.
     A vendor passed carrying on his head a gleaming pitcher of coloured icy
water in which swam a few slices of lemon, a piece of ice and a dusty silver
     A pock-marked  Port Arthur veteran in a shaggy black Caucasian  fur cap
had taken off his boots and was  climbing the  greased  pole for  the  prize
razor and shaving brush at the top.
     The dizzying carnival in Kulikovo Field thundered  away for  seven days
from noon  to sunset; it filled the Batchei home with the  din and hubbub of
merry-making crowds from the outlying working-class districts.
     Petya spent his  days, from morn to  dusk, in Kulikovo Field. For  some
reason  he felt  certain that  he would meet  Gavrik there. Many  a  time he
sighted in the crowd a pair of lilac-coloured corduroys and a naval cap with
anchor buttons-that was what  Gavrik had worn  the Easter before-and  ran in
that direction, threading his way through the crowd, but always in vain.
     It smacked somehow  of Near Mills, this carnival of  the  common people
where many  of  the men  carried thin iron  canes like Terenti's and a great
many of the girls wore blue earrings like Motya's.
     But  Petya's  hopes did not come true. The last day of the fair drew to
an end. The bands played the "Longing for Home" march for the last time. The
flag was  lowered. Police whistles trilled. The  ground emptied. It was  all
over until next Easter.
     A  sad and  sullen sunset glowed  long in  the  sky  beyond the garish,
startlingly  quiet  booths,  beyond  the  iron  wheels   of  the  motionless
tip-overs, beyond the bare flagpoles.
     The  unbearably mournful silence of  the  holiday just  over was broken
only now and then  by the lion's deep, blood-curdling  roar  and the hyena's
jerky laughter.
     In the morning wagons came, and two days later not  a trace of the fair
remained. Kulikovo Field was again a black, dreary square from which all day
long came the sing-song voices of sergeants drilling their men:
     "Right turn! One-two!"
     "Left turn! One-two!"
     "About turn! One-two!"
     The days kept growing longer, and more and more difficult to fill. Then
one day Petya went to the seashore to pay Gavrik a visit.


     Grandpa was dying.
     Gavrik knew this, and so  did Motya and  her mother, and so did  Petya,
who now spent his days on the shore.
     Grandpa knew it too.
     He lay  from  morning to  night on a sagging  iron  bed which had  been
carried out of the hut, into the warm April sunshine.
     When Petya  came up to say hello the first  time he was  embarrassed by
the white  transparency of Grandpa's face and its faint  bluish glow against
the red pillow.
     A clear, composed face, with a longish white beard, it had a beauty and
dignity that struck  Petya. But the most amazing and  most disturbing  thing
about  the  face was that  it seemed ageless, already  beyond the  limits of
     "Hello, Grandpa," said Petya.
     The old man turned his eyes with their bloodless violet lids and looked
long  at  the  boy   in  the  Gymnasium  uniform,  but   apparently  without
     "It's me, Petya, from Kanatnaya and the corner of Kulikovo."
     Grandpa gazed into the distance without stirring.
     "Don't you remember him, Grandpa? He's the one  you made  a lead sinker
for last year."
     A shadow of  remembrance, as distant as a  cloud, flickered  in the old
man's face. He smiled a clear, conscious smile, showing his gums.
     "A  sinker,"  he said softly, but without  any special effort.  "Yes. A
lead sinker."
     Chewing his lips, he gave Petya a fond look.
     "You've  sprung  up. That's  good. Go  play now,  my  child. Play  with
pebbles on the beach. Go play. Only be careful and don't fall in the water."
     He  evidently  took  Petya  for  a  little  child, something  like  his
great-grandson  Zhenechka who was  crawling about in  the  yellow dandelions
     From  time to time the old man lifted his head to take an admiring look
at his household.
     Since   the  arrival  of  Terenti's  family   the  place   had   become
unrecognisable. It was as  if they had brought  a corner of  Near Mills with
     Terenti's  wife  had  freshened  the  clay  floor  for  Easter  and had
whitewashed all the walls, inside and outside.
     The windows of the rejuvenated hut had been washed  and  bordered  with
blue, and they gleamed merrily in the sunshine.
     Round the hut grew green irises, now about to blossom. Among them Motya
had laid out her dolls, representing society ladies at their summer villas.
     Linen of different colours was  drying on  the lines. Motya,  her  hair
like  a  boy's,  was  watering  the  vegetable   patch,  pressing  the   big
watering-can to her stomach with both  hands. The dog Rudko, smiling sourly,
ran up  and down fastened to a wire between  two  posts.  Near the vegetable
patch, smoke was curling from a clay stove with a bottomless iron pot fitted
into it for a chimney. There was the delicious smoky smell of gruel.
     Motya's mother, in a gathered skirt, was  bent over a trough. All about
her soap bubbles floated in the air.
     Occasionally Grandpa had the feeling that time had turned  back, and he
was forty again. Grandma had just whitewashed the  hut. His grandson Terenti
was  crawling among the dandelions.  On  the  roof  lay a mast wrapped  in a
brand-new sail.
     Now  he would  heave the mast on his  shoulder,  take  the oars and the
red-leaded wooden rudder under his arm, and  go down to the shore to rig the
     But  the lapses of memory were short-lived. The old  man would suddenly
feel weighed down by household cares. He  would laboriously raise himself on
his elbow and call Gavrik.
     "What do you want, Grandpa?"
     The old  man  would chew his  lips  for a long time as he gathered  his
     "The boat-not carried  away, is it?" he would finally ask, his eyebrows
lifting sadly, like two little gable roofs.
     "It's safe,  Grandpa. You'd better lie down  again." - "It ought  to be
     "I'll tar it, Grandpa, don't you worry. Now lie back."
     Grandpa  would lie back obediently,  but a minute  later  he would call
     "What are you doing there, my child?"
     "Watering the potatoes."
     "Clever girl. Yes, give 'em plenty of water. The weeds- are you pulling
'em out?"
     "I am, Grandpa."
     "Or else they'll choke everything. Well, go, my  child.  Play with your
dolls for a while. Take a rest."
     Again Grandpa would fall back heavily.
     But then Rudko would start barking,  and the old  man would turn  angry
bushy  eyes  in the  dog's  direction.  "Down,  Rudko! Quiet, damn you!"  He
thought  he  was  calling  to the  playful dog in  a  commanding shout.  But
actually he spoke in a murmur.
     Most of the time  Grandpa  lay  motionless,  gazing into the  distance.
Between the two low hills on the shore he could see  a triangle of blue with
a  great many fishing sails. As he looked  at them the old man carried on  a
leisurely conversation with himself.
     "Yes,  that's  true. The wind  loves  a  sail. A  sail  makes  all  the
difference in  the world. A sail will take you wherever  you want to go. You
can go to Dofinovka, if you want, or you can go to Lustdorf. With a sail you
can go to Ochakov, and to  Kherson, and even  all the way to Eupatorium. But
if all you have is oars, and no sail-why, it's a joke! It'll take you a good
four hours  to row  to Bolshoi  Fontan. And another four hours back. Yes,  a
fisherman needs a sail. Without a sail it's no  use putting out to sea. It's
a disgrace. A boat without a sail is the same as a man without a soul."
     Grandpa thought about a sail all the time.
     That was since the night Terenti had dropped in for a minute to see the
family. He had brought the  children presents,  given his wife  three rubles
for  provisions, and said that he would try to  see about a  new  sail  in a
couple of days.
     From then on Grandpa became more cheerful.
     His  days were filled with dreams of the  new sail. He could  see it as
clearly as  if it  stood  before him: taut, strong, billowing  in the  fresh
     Worn out by his constant thoughts  of the sail, Grandpa would fall into
a state of semi-consciousness. He would no  longer know where he was or what
he was doing. Only his senses were alive.
     Little by little his awareness of what was himself and what not himself
would  begin to fade.  He merged, as it  were,  with the  world  about  him,
turning into odours, sounds, colours. . ..
     A cabbage  butterfly  with  lemon-coloured  veins  on its  ivory  wings
fluttered  by. He was the butterfly, and at the same time he was the  flight
of the butterfly.
     A wave broke over the pebbles.  He was its refreshing  noise.  His lips
became salty from spray carried over  by the  wind. He was  the wind and the
     A  child sat among  the dandelions.  He was that child, and he was also
those bright chicken-yellow flowers towards which the child's hands reached.
     He was the sail, the sun, the sea. .. . He was all.
     But he did not live to see the sail.
     When  Petya came to the shore one morning he did  not find Grandpa near
the hut. A bench had been set up where his bed usually stood, and a tall old
man with a Kiev cross hanging from his dark neck was planning a board.
     A long taut shaving twisted itself out of the plane.
     Nearby stood Motya  in tight  shoes and  a  brand-new  but unattractive
print dress.
     "Grandpa  died  today," she said,  coming up close  to the boy. "Do you
want to look?"
     She took Petya's hand in  her  own cold hand  and,  trying to keep  her
shoes from squeaking, led him into the hut.
     Grandpa lay on the  same sagging bed, his eyes closed  and bulging, his
chin tied with a handkerchief. His big hands were folded high on  his chest,
over the icon of St. Nicholas, and held  a  small yellow candle. A column of
such bright and hot  sunlight came  through the clean-washed window that the
candle flame was not seen at all. There was only a little hollow  of  melted
wax and the black hook of the  wick surrounded  by wavy air to show that the
candle was burning.
     Two days later Grandpa was buried.
     The night before the funeral Terenti came. He knew nothing of Grandpa's
death. On his shoulder he carried a huge, heavy package-the promised sail.
     He  dumped  it  in  the  corner and  stood for a while  looking down at
Grandpa in the  unpainted pine coffin.  Then,  without crossing  himself, he
firmly kissed the old man on his hard, icy lips and went out in silence.
     Gavrik  accompanied Terenti  along  the shore as  far  as Maly  Fontan.
Terenti gave  him some instructions about the funeral, which, of  course, he
would not be  able to attend,  then  shook  hands  and  disappeared into the
     ...Four blond-moustached fishermen carried Grandpa  on  their shoulders
in the light open coffin.
     In  front, next to the undertaker in a tattered dress-suit, who carried
a crude cross on his shoulder,  walked Gavrik, clean, washed, neatly combed.
On a towel he carried a huge clay bowl of kolevo.
     Behind  the coffin walked  Motya's mother with Zhenechka  in her  arms,
Motya, Petya, and a few neighbours,  fishermen,  in their Sunday best. There
were eight of them  in all. But as the procession approached the cemetery it
grew larger and larger.
     In some mysterious way news of the funeral of the old fisherman who had
been  beaten  up in  jail had spread all along  the  shore  from Langeron to
     Whole families and groups of fishermen-from Maly Fontan, Sredny Fontan,
Valtukh, Arcadia, and  Zolotoi Bereg-came  out  of seaside lanes to join the
     Now a crowd  of about three hundred marched  in deep silence behind the
pauper's coffin of Grandpa.
     It  was  the last  day of  April.  Rain  was  gathering. Sparrows  with
outspread  wings were bathing in the  soft dust of the lanes. A grey asphalt
sky hung  over the gardens.  Against it the  monotonous  young green  of the
trees, hanging limp in expectation of the rain, stood out sharply.
     Cocks  crowed sleepily in the  backyards. Not a single  ray of sunshine
came through the thick, muggy clouds.
     Near  the  cemetery  the procession  was  joined by  factory-hands  and
railwaymen from  Chumka, Sakhalinchik, the Odessa Goods Station, Moldavanka,
and  Near and Distant Mills. The policeman on duty at the cemetery looked in
alarmed surprise at the huge crowd streaming through the gates.
     Like the  city, the cemetery had  its  main street,  cathedral  square,
central  district,  boulevard,  and  poverty-stricken outskirts. Death, too,
seemed  helpless  before  the  power of wealth.  Even  after  he died  a man
remained either rich or poor.
     The crowd silently walked down the main street of the shady town of the
dead,  past  marble,  granite,  and  labradorite family  vaults-those small,
luxurious villas behind whose  wrought-iron fences haughty stone angels with
lowered wings stood amid the black greenery of cypress and myrtle.
     Each plot  of land  here  had  been bought at a  fabulous price and was
owned by dynasties of the rich.
     The crowd passed the  central section  and  turned down a  less wealthy
street which had no villas, no mausoleums. Behind the iron fences lay marble
slabs bordered by bushes of  lilac and yellow  acacia. The  rains had washed
the gilt from the carved  names; small cemetery  snails  covered  the marble
plaques, greyed by time.
     Then came wooden fences and mounds covered with sod.
     After that were tedious rows of barren soldiers' graves with crosses as
alike as rifles at the present.
     But  even this section  of the cemetery was too prosperous for Grandpa.
He was buried near the wall, in a narrow glade strewn with the purple shells
of Easter eggs. Behind  the wall the caps of mounted police could already be
seen. The  mourners  formed  a  close  circle around  the  grave. The  light
pauper's coffin was slowly let down with strips of linen.
     On every  side Petya saw lowered faces  and big black  hands  crumpling
workers' and fishermen's caps.
     The silence  was  so  complete and so sullen, and the  air so stifling,
that  the  boy felt  something dreadful would happen in  Nature-a tornado, a
hurricane, an earthquake -at the first sharp sound.
     But oppressive silence reigned.
     Motya was also depressed by the silence. With  one hand  she held on to
Petya's Gymnasium belt and with the other to  her mother's skirt.  She stood
motionless, watching the yellow mound of clay grow over the grave.
     At  last a  faint, almost noiseless  stir passed through the crowd. One
after another,  without  hurrying  or pushing, people  came up to  the fresh
grave,  crossed  themselves,  bowed  low, and offered  their  hand first  to
Motya's mother and then to Gavrik.
     Gavrik, who had given the bowl to Petya to hold, scooped up kolevo with
a new wooden spoon and poured it  into the cupped  hands or the outstretched
caps; he did it neatly, with a preoccupied frown, thriftily, giving a little
to each so that there should  be some for all. With tender  respect,  trying
not to drop a single grain, each mourner put the  kolevo into his mouth  and
walked away to give his place to another.
     This  was  all that Grandpa's family could offer  to  the  friends  and
acquaintances who shared their grief.
     To some of the fishermen who came up for kolevo Gavrik  bowed and said,
"Terenti sends you his regards. He asks you not to forget the May Day outing
at twelve o'clock tomorrow, in your own boats, opposite Arcadia."
     "We'll be there."
     Finally there were only four purple comfits left in the bowl.
     Gavrik made a dignified bow to  those  for whom nothing remained, said,
"Excuse us",  and distributed  the four  sweets among Zhenechka, Motya,  and
Petya, not forgetting himself, either.
     "It's not bad," he said  as he  handed Petya the sweet.  "Krakhmalnikov
Brothers. Eat it, in Grandpa's  memory. Will  you come to the May Day outing
with us tomorrow?"
     "I will," Petya said. He faced  the  grave  and bowed low, as everybody
else had.
     The crowd slowly dispersed. The cemetery became deserted.  Somewhere in
the distance, on the other side of the wall, a lone voice started to sing. A
chorus of voices joined in:

     Farewell, comrade, you honestly trod
     Your valorous, noble path. . . .

     But  a  police  whistle immediately resounded. The song stopped.  Petya
heard running feet on the other side of the wall. Then all was quiet.
     A few drops of rain fell on  the grave. But the rain was  only teasing;
it stopped before it had really started. It became muggier and gloomier than
     Motya,  her mother, Gavrik, and Petya crossed  themselves for  the last
time and set out for home.  Petya  said  good-bye to his friends at Kulikovo
     "So don't forget," said Gavrik significantly.
     "Naturally." Petya nodded with dignity.
     Then, with a show of nonchalance, he strolled up to Motya.
     "Say, Motya," he whispered quickly, blushing with humiliation at having
to ask a girl a question, "what's a May Day outing?"
     Motya's face took on a strict, somewhat solemn expression.
     "Workers' Easter," she replied.


     All night long a  warm, gentle rain had fallen. It had started in April
and ended in May; a little after eight o'clock the wind had carried away the
last drops.
     The sky had not yet cleared, and now it merged with the sea, from which
rose a steaming mist; there was no horizon. The  bathing huts seemed to hang
in  milky  air.  Glossy,  curving reflections  of  the  piles swayed in  the
bottle-green water.
     Not only  was the  water warm but  it actually looked warm. Gavrik  and
Petya rowed along with pleasure.
     At first they bore down hard, to  see who could  outpull the other. But
Petya was no match for Gavrik.  The little fisherman  easily got  the  upper
hand over the Gymnasium pupil, and the boat kept describing circles.
     "Stop your fooling, lads," Terenti called from  his  seat in the stern,
where he was toying with his iron cane. "You'll overturn us."
     The  boys stopped competing but they immediately thought up a new game:
who could row with the less splash?
     Up until then  they had not  splashed much at all. But  the moment they
tried  not to,  spray flew from their oars  as though on  purpose. The  boys
began to shoulder and elbow each other.
     "Get away, you tramp!" shouted Petya, doubling over with laughter.
     "You're  a  tramp  yourself!"  Gavrik retorted,  tightening  his  lips.
Suddenly,  quite by  accident, his oar threw up such a fountain that Terenti
barely managed to save himself by sliding to the floor of the boat.
     The two boys choked with  laughter. Petya laughed so  hard that bubbles
formed on his lips.
     "Why all the splashing, you little hellhound?"
     "None of your lip."
     Terenti nearly lost  his temper, but then he too was taken by a fit  of
irrepressible  boyish  merriment.  Making  a ferocious face, he  gripped the
gunwales and rocked the boat with all his might.
     The  boys rolled on top of each other and their heads knocked together.
They cried blue murder. Then they began to pound the water madly with  their
oars, drenching Terenti from both sides.
     Terenti did not let it go  at that:  he quickly bent over, turned aside
his screwed-up face and, working his  palms with lightning speed, shot water
at the boys. In  a minute all three were wet from head to foot. Laughing and
sputtering, they lay back on the thwarts and moaned in exhaustion.
     The wind was clearing away the  mist. The sun dazzled the eye  from the
water as if a mirror had suddenly been placed beside the boat.
     The shore emerged from the haze like a transfer picture.
     A bright  May day began to sparkle in  all its blue, violet, and  green
     "Well, we've had our fun,  and that's that," Terenti said sternly. With
his sleeve he wiped his wet  forehead, across which ran a satiny white scar.
"Let's be on our way."
     The boys grew serious and leaned upon their oars.
     Petya worked hard,  puffing  and sticking out his tongue. To  tell  the
truth, he felt a bit tired. But he would never admit it in front of Gavrik.
     Something else troubled him, too: he was  dying to know whether the May
Day outing had already  begun or not. But  he did not want to ask because he
was  afraid  of  making a fool of himself,  as he had that  time about  Near
     Motya had told him that a May Day outing was a  workers' Easter.  Well,
they had been rowing along the shore a good half-hour  now, but so far there
was no sign of any Easter cake, or ham, or Easter eggs. But perhaps that was
as it  should be. It wasn't an ordinary  Easter, after  all,  but a workers'
     Finally the boy could hold out no longer.
     "I say there," he asked Terenti, "has the May Day outing started yet?"
     "No, not yet."
     "When will it, then? Soon?"
     The  minute  the  words  were  out  of  his  mouth  Petya  prepared  an
exaggeratedly gay and flattering smile.
     From  his many  years of  experience in conversing  with adults he knew
what would follow. "It'll start when it  begins." "But when will it  begin?"
"When it starts."
     To Petya's surprise, however, Terenti answered him as if he were a real
     "First we'll pick someone up at Maly Fontan and then we'll begin."
     At  Maly  Fontan  they  really  did  pick up  a passenger: a  dandified
gentleman carrying a cane and a string  bag. In a single leap he  was in the
boat and sitting  beside Terenti. He threw a furtive glance at the shore and
said, "Turn to. Cast off."
     It was the sailor.
     But-my God! How elegant he was!
     The  boys gaped at  him, enraptured and at the same time crushed by his
unexpected splendour. They  had  never imagined a  human being could  be  so
     He wore  cream-coloured trousers, green socks and dazzling white canvas
shoes. But that was not all.
     A red silk handkerchief showed from the pocket of his navy-blue jacket,
and a sapphire horseshoe gleamed in his tie with the "peacock's eye" design.
But that was not all.
     He  wore a bulging  starched  shirt-front,  and a starched collar  with
wings turned down like a visiting  card propped his cheeks. But that was not
     A straw hat with a striped ribbon sat at a dashing angle on the back of
his head.
     But that was not all.
     A watch chain with a mass of trinkets on it dangled across his stomach,
and  on  his  hands, with  their  elegantly crooked fingers, were grey cloth
gloves. That was the finishing touch.
     While up  until now the  boys  had not definitely settled who were  the
grandest  beings on  earth-Army Staff  clerks  or kvass  vendors-now it  was
laughable even to consider the question.
     One could  boldly, sight unseen, give up all  the kvass vendors and all
the staff-clerks for the sailor's curly little moustache.
     The  boys were so busy looking at the dandy that  they forgot all about
     "Look, Petya!" Gavrik exclaimed. "Look-he's wearing gloves!"
     The sailor spat through his teeth, farther than the boys had ever  spat
in their dreams. "Why should  everybody be able to see my  anchor?" he said,
with an  angry glance at Gavrik. "I covered it up.  Come now,  lads,  that's
enough fooling."
     He suddenly assumed an important air, twirled his moustache, glared  at
Terenti,  who was bent double with laughter, and barked: "Ahoy there, you in
the cutter! Listen to my command! Oars ready! Give way together! 'Un,  'un!"
he sang out, acting the bosun. "Back starboard! Un, un!
     The boys leaned on their oars. The boat turned to the open sea, towards
the gleaming silver flame of midday.
     Ahead of them, half a mile from shore, a cluster of fishing boats could
be seen.
     A burning feeling  of  exultant fear  gripped Petya.  Exactly  the same
feeling he  had had in the  autumn the first  time he followed Gavrik into a
section of the city surrounded by the police.
     But then the  boys had  been  alone.  Now  they were with  powerful and
mysterious grown-ups,  who  gave not the  slightest  sign that they had ever
seen Petya before.
     Petya  knew, however, that they  remembered  him  very  well. Once  the
sailor even winked at him, as if to say, "Here we  are, brother, still alive
and kicking!"
     For his part, Petya also made believe he was seeing the sailor for  the
first time in his life.
     All  this  made  it  jolly, although  a bit upsetting. In general,  the
occupants of the boat were in a keyed-up and somehow over-joyous mood.
     Soon  the boat was among a host of other fishing craft bobbing  up  and
down in one place opposite Arcadia, as arranged.
     A  whole  flotilla of  boats painted in  different  colours  surrounded
Grandpa's old, weather-beaten tub.
     Gathered  there were all  the fishermen who the  day  before had walked
behind  Grandpa's coffin-fishermen from Maly Fontan, Sredny Fontan, Valtukh,
Arcadia,  and Zolotoi Bereg. There were some from farther off, from Lustdorf
and Dofinovka, and even one from Ochakov.
     They were all old friends and neighbours.
     Taking advantage of  the occasion, the fishermen were leaning  over the
sides of their boats and  talking. They were making so much noise it sounded
like a marketplace. Each  new boat was greeted  with shouts,  jets of spray,
and the splash of oars.
     No sooner had Grandpa's boat, bumping and scraping against other boats,
made its way into  the circle, where  a few empty Sanzenbacher  beer bottles
already floated, when cries came from all sides:
     "Hi, Terenti!"
     "Easy there! You'll sink our tubs with your iron-clad!"
     "Hey, you tramps, make way for the chief politico!"
     "Say, Terenti old boy,  where'd you pick up  that dandy  of yours?  The
Lord preserve us! Oo-la-la, oui-oui, par-ley-voo!"
     Terenti waved  his cap, puffed  out his cheeks  and bowed to all  sides
with a show of bashful self-importance.
     "Don't pounce  on  me  all  at once!" he piped.  "At least take  turns.
Greetings, Fedya! Greetings, Stepan!
     Greetings, Grandpa Vasili! Ah, Mitya? Still alive? I was sure  the Maly
Fontan bullheads had swallowed you up long ago!  Tell me-how  many of you to
the pound, dried? Sasha, swing round to the left!"
     Terenti  grinned  and  screwed up  his face as he bantered with his old
pals. He  looked about him with satisfaction, reading aloud the names of the
     "Sonya,  another Sonya, and another Sonya, and again Sonya,  and  Sonya
from  Lustdorf, and another three from  Langeron. Hah!  Eight Sonyas to  one
little me! Nadya, Vera, Lyuba, Shura,  Motya. . ..  Oh, mother of mine! What
sort of place is this? I want to go home!" he cried in mock horror, covering
his face with his cap.
     There were also about four Olgas, half a dozen Natashas, not  less than
a dozen Three Bishops, and a big Ochakov  boat with the intriguing name Good
Old Pushkin.
     When silence and order finally set in,  Terenti nudged the  sailor with
his elbow.
     "Begin, Rodion."
     The sailor unhurriedly removed  his hat, put it in  his lap, and combed
his  moustache with a tiny comb. Then he stood up and, placing his legs wide
apart for balance, said in a loud, clear voice, so that everybody could hear
him, "Hello, comrade fishermen of Odessa! May Day greetings to you all!"
     His face instantly became bony, snub-nosed, decisive.
     "From what I just heard, some of you folks would like to know who  I am
and how I  come  to  be  here-an elegant gentleman in gloves and a  starched
shirt, ooo-la-la, parley-voo, and all that. Well, I  can tell you that I'm a
member of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party, the Bolshevik faction,
and I was sent here to you by the Odessa Joint Committee. Also that I'm just
the  same kind  of worker and sailor as all of you  here.  And now about the
starched shirt and  the white trousers and the rest of it. I'll explain that
with  a question of  my  own. All  of you here are  Odessa fishermen and you
probably can tell me the answer. Why does the mackerel wear such a beautiful
sky-blue  skin  with dark-blue  stripes, like watered silk? You don't  know?
Then  I can tell you. So that it won't be seen in our blue Black Sea, and so
that it won't be so easy for  you to catch it  on your fishermen's hooks. Is
that clear?"
     There was laughter in the boats. The sailor winked, shook his head, and
said, "Well, I'm just  like that fish who specially puts on the kind of coat
you won't notice right off."
     Louder laughter came from the boats.
     "A whopper of a fish!"
     "A whole dolphin!"
     "Ain't you afraid of being hooked some day?"
     The sailor waited until the calls stopped, and then remarked, "Just try
and catch me. I'm slippery."
     Then he continued:
     "I  look round me, comrades, and I  can't help thinking of our  sea and
our land. The sun shines bright. The sea is chock-full of all kinds of fish.
The fields  are chock-full of wheat. In  the orchards there's  all  kinds of
fruit: there's apples and apricots and cherries and  pears.  There's grapes.
In the steppe there's  horses and oxen and cows and  sheep. Down underground
there's gold  and  silver  and  iron and everything  else. What  more  could
anybody want? There's plenty for everybody, or so it  would seem. Plenty, so
it would  seem, for everybody to  be  happy and  satisfied. But what do  you
think? No! Everywhere there's always the rich, who don't do a stroke of work
but take everything for  themselves.  And  everywhere there's the  poor, who
work day and night like the damned and don't have a damned thing to show for
it! How is that? I  can  tell you the  answer.  It's  very simple.  Take the
fisherman. What does he do? He fishes.  He pulls  in a catch and takes it to
market. And  how much do you think he gets at the market, say, for a hundred
bullheads? Thirty or forty kopeks!"
     The sailor paused and glanced round.
     "You're lucky  if  you get thirty,"  said  an  old man  who looked like
Grandpa  and  was lying in the bow of a clumsy boat named the Dolphin.  "Day
before yesterday I brought  in four hundred and  she  wouldn't give me  more
than twenty-five-take  it  or  leave  it!  And  the next minute  she started
selling 'em herself for eighty."
     All  the fishermen began to speak at once. The sailor had touched their
sorest  spot. Some complained that  it was a dog's life if  you had no sail.
Others shouted that the market had them by the throat.
     While the grown-ups were  making so much  noise the  boys did not  miss
their opportunity. Some of the fishermen had brought their children along on
the outing. In the boats sat well-mannered girls in a brand-new print frocks
and barefoot scowling boys  with  shiny patches  of  skin  on their  apricot
cheeks. They wore  sateen Russian blouses and fishermen's  caps  with anchor
buttons. All of them, naturally, were Gavrik's pals.
     And naturally, they started to make no less noise than the grown-ups.
     They immediately began to tease one another, and before two minutes had
passed a regular sea  battle was  on. Gavrik got it in the face  with a dead
bullhead, while Petya's cap fell into the water and nearly sank.
     There  was so much noise  and such splashing that Terenti yelled, "Shut
up, everybody, or else I'll have to tear all your ears off!"
     "So it comes out,"  the sailor continued, shouting above the din, "that
the bosses  rob  us of three-quarters of what we earn  by  the sweat  of our
brow. And what do we do about it? The minute we raise our heads they give it
to  us  over the  noggin  with a sword. Crack! They're  still thrashing  us,
comrades, and pretty hard, too. We raised  the red flag on the Potemkin  but
we  weren't  able to hold  out.  We started an  uprising, and the same thing
happened. It's awful to think  of how much of our  working-class  blood  has
been spilled all over Russia! How many of  our brothers have perished on the
scaffold, in  the tsarist torture  chambers, in  the dungeons  of the secret
police! I don't have to tell you. You  know it yourself. Only yesterday  you
buried a fine old man of yours, who  quietly and  modestly gave his  life so
that his  grandsons  and  great-grandsons  might  be  happy.  His noble  old
worker's  heart had  stopped beating. His soul,  so precious  to us all, has
flown away. Where is it now? It's gone, never to return. For  all we know it
may be flying above us now, like  a gull, and is happy to see that we aren't
giving up our cause but intend  to fight again  and again for our freedom-to
fight until we finally throw the hated government from our backs."
     The  sailor  fell silent. He  wiped  his perspiring forehead  with  his
handkerchief. The wind played with  the piece of  red  silk as  if it were a
small banner.
     Deep, complete silence reigned over the boats.
     On shore, police whistles  were already sounding the  alarm. The sailor
looked in that direction and winked.
     "Our friends are getting worried. Never  mind. Let the pigs squeal, for
all the good it'll do 'em!"
     He thumbed his nose fiercely  at the  shore,  which  was sprinkled with
elegant umbrellas and panamas.
     An instant later  the  handsome Fedya, lounging  in  the stern  of  his
magnificent boat, the Nadya and Vera, struck up the "Longing for Home" march
on his concertina.
     Coloured eggs, dried sea-roaches, bread, and  bottles  appeared  in all
the boats as if out of nowhere.
     The sailor  dug  into his string  bag and produced  some  refreshments,
which  he divided equally among everybody in the boat. Petya's share  was  a
wonderful dried sea-roach, two monastery rolls and a purple egg.
     The May Day outing really did prove to be a merry workers' Easter.
     Policemen  ran along the shore, whistling. The boats began to pull away
in different directions.
     From  the  other  side of  the horizon  rose plaster-of-Paris heads  of
     Fedya  turned his face up to the sky and  dropped his arm over the side
of  the boat. In a  clear, strong tenor he began to sing the famous sailor's

     The sea is broad and deep,
     And land is seen no more.
     Comrade, were sailing far-
     Far from our native shore.

     Oars flashed. The song floated on.

     "Comrade, I'm done for, I cannot go on,"
     The stoker then said to his mate. . . .

     Now  the song could  barely be heard. "Oars  ready!" the sailor ordered
the boys. "Give way together!"
     Clapping Terenti on the back, he sang out:

     A small white ship
     In the deep Black Sea.
     Soon my darling sailor
     Will come home to me.

     "Come  on,  you tramps! Why don't  you help?" Terenti and the  two boys
gaily chimed in:

     Weep no more, Marusya,
     You will yet be mine.
     Soon I will sail back to you
     Across the foamy brine.

     A white seagull glided noiselessly over the boat on outspread wings. It
was  as if the gull had caught the gay song in flight and  carried it off in
its coral beak like a fluttering silver fish.
     For  a long time the boys followed  the bird with their eyes, wondering
whether this could be Grandpa's snow-white soul come to look at his boat and
at his grandsons.
     The May Day outing was over.
     But they did not come in to the shore right away. They circled about in
the sea for another two hours or so, waiting for the right moment.
     First they dropped Terenti  off near  Zolotoi Bereg, and then they took
the sailor to Langeron.
     Before stepping ashore the sailor looked round for a long time. Finally
he waved his hand, said, "Well, here's trusting to luck", put his smart cane
with its  horse's head handle of German silver under his arm, and jumped out
of the boat.
     "Thanks, lads," he said hastily. "Till our next pleasant meeting."
     With these words he disappeared in the crowd of promenaders.
     Petya returned home  by dinner-time, with blisters  on  his palms and a
face burned a deep red in one day.


     A week passed.
     During this time Petya did not make a single visit to the shore. He was
busy getting ready to leave for the farm. He  went into town, sometimes with
Daddy, sometimes with Auntie Tatyana, to buy things.
     Real summer had already come.
     In Odessa, there is no difference at all between May and June. The city
was  sweltering. Striped awnings with curved  red  trimming had been lowered
over balconies and shop-fronts. On them lay the  clear-cut  shade of acacias
just beginning to bloom.
     Dogs  ran  along  with  their tongues hanging out,  looking  for water.
Between the  houses, a view of a flaming sea  would suddenly open up. In the
"Centre", money-changers and flower-girls sat  at little green  tables under
big canvas sunshades.
     Your heels sank into the  soft asphalt. Here and there and  everywhere,
tar was bubbling in hellish cauldrons.
     What fun it was to spend the whole day going  from one shop to another,
buying  holiday things  for  the  country:  a hoop, sandals, butterfly nets,
fishing rods, rubber balls, fireworks .. . and then to come home on the open
summer horse-tram with all those light odd-shaped packages!
     Petya's body was still languishing in the sultry city but his impatient
spirit had flown far ahead: it was already on the steamer,  it floated along
in the blue breeze of voyage.
     But  early  one  morning  a familiar whistle sounded. Petya  ran to the
window and saw Gavrik in the middle of the courtyard.
     A minute later  he was downstairs. Gavrik looked unusually worried. His
greyish face, his tightly  pressed lips and  the unnatural brightness in his
eyes meant that some misfortune had taken place.
     Petya's heart contracted.
     "What's up?"  he  asked, lowering  his voice to a whisper without being
aware of it.
     Gavrik frowned and turned aside.
     "Nothing. Want to go out with us in the boat?"
     "Now. Me, Motya, and you. Under sail."
     "You're lying."
     "Only dogs lie."
     ^Under sail?"
     "You can spit in my eye."
     "For a trip?"
     "Call it a trip. Coming?"
     "What a question!"
     "Then be snappy!"
     A trip in the boat, under sail!
     Naturally Petya did not bother  to  go back  for  his cap. Ten  minutes
later the boys were on the shore.
     The boat, with the mast in place and a furled sail on  it, lay half  in
the water, rocking gently.
     Motya,  barefooted,  stood  inside.  She  was  busy putting  the  oaken
water-keg and a big loaf of rye bread into the box at the stern.
     "Give us a  hand,  Petya,"  said Gavrik, putting  his shoulder  to  the
     The boys pushed off without any special difficulty and then jumped in.
     "We're off!"
     Gavrik skilfully  unfurled and set the new rectangular sail.  The light
breeze slowly filled it.  The boat  heeled.  Kneeling  in the  stern, Gavrik
attached the heavy rudder with an effort and fixed the tiller to it.
     The boat, yielding to the rudder, went straighter.
     "Look out!"
     Petya squatted and ducked just in time. The  boom, turned by the  wind,
swung  heavily  from  left to  right directly over his head, opening  up the
glistening sea and hiding from  sight the  clay shore where Motya's  mother,
shading her  eyes  with her  hand,  stood knee-deep  in the weeds  and  wild
     Gavrik  bore  down on  the tiller and put the weight of his back to it.
The  mast tipped. The  water along the side began to gurgle. Bouncing up and
slapping  the waves with its  flat bottom, the boat came out into open water
and then sailed along parallel with the shore. "Where to?" Petya asked,
     "You'll see."
     "You'll find out."
     That hard, tense light came into Gavrik's eyes again.
     Petya looked at Motya. She sat on  the prow with her bare  legs hanging
over  the  sides and stared straight in front of her. Her cheeks were pulled
in sternly; the wind ruffled her hair, not yet long enough to be braided.
     For some time all three were silent.
     Suddenly  Gavrik reached into his pocket and  pulled out a rather large
blue steel watch. He put it importantly to his ear, listened to its ticking,
and then,  not without  difficulty,  pried open the  cover with a fingernail
that had a mass of little white spots on it-a sure sign, as everybody knows,
of good luck.
     Had Gavrik  pulled out  a squirming adder  or  a  handful  of  precious
stones, Petya would have been less surprised.
     A pocket-watch  of his own!  Why, that was almost the same as  owning a
bicycle, or a Monte Cristo! Come to think of it, perhaps even more.
     Petya caught his breath. He could not believe his eyes. He was crushed.
     Meanwhile  Gavrik  was  intently   counting   the  numerals  with   his
     "One  o'clock, two,  three, four, five. . ."  he mumbled. "Nine  and  a
little bit more. That's all right. We'll make it on time."
     "Let's see it!" cried Petya, overcome with amazement.
     "Hands off, it's not for sale."
     "Is it yours?"
     Gavrik took  Petya  by the  sleeve and  pulled  him  close.  "It's  the
Committee's," he whispered mysteriously. "See?"
     "I see," Petya  replied, also in a whisper,  although he really did not
see a thing.
     "Now listen," Gavrik continued, glancing at Motya  out of the corner of
his eye. "Our sailor's caught. See? He's in jail. Been there five days. They
caught him in Langeron, right after the May Day  outing.  But his papers are
in a different  name, and so  far it's all right.  But  if those snakes ever
find out,  you  can say your prayers for him, because they'll hang him in  a
jiffy.  See? And  they  can  find  out  any minute. They can shave  off  his
moustache and find some  skunk who'll give him away. So  now you see  what a
fix it is?"
     "You're kidding!" Petya exclaimed in fright.
     "If I said it it means I know what I'm talking about. Now listen to me.
Before they find out who he is, the Committee's going to help him break out.
Today. At half past ten on the dot  he's  going  to break out of jail and go
straight to Bolshoi  Fontan.  From there  he'll  sail  in our  boat back  to
Rumania.  So now you know where we're going? To Bolshoi Fontan. We're taking
the boat there. Terenti brought me the watch from the Committee so we  won't
be late."
     Gavrik pulled out the watch again and examined it attentively.
     "Almost ten. We'll be just on time."
     "How will  he  break out?" Petya whispered.  "What about the guards and
the sentries?"
     "That's  nothing. At half past ten they let them out for a walk. In the
prison yard. All he has  to  do is run across  the vegetable patches  to the
Maly  Fontan road. Terenti'll be waiting  for him there in a  droshky.  Then
they'll come straight to the boat. See?"
     "Yes. But how'll he get over the prison wall? It's as high as anything.
It's like the second storey. He'll start climbing and they'll shoot him down
with their rifles."
     Gavrik made a wry face as if he had eaten something sour.
     "Naw! Listen. Why  should he  climb over the wall?  Terenti'll  blow it
     "What do you mean?"
     "You're a funny bloke. Just what I said:  blow it up. He'll blow a hole
in it.  Last night a man from the Committee put dymanite under it. Today, on
the  dot of  half  past ten,  just  when our  sailor's  let  out for a walk,
Terenti'll  light  the fuse on the other side and run to the  droshky. He'll
wait. And then the dymanite'll go bang."
     Petya gave Gavrik a stern look.
     "What'll go bang?"
     "The dymanite,"
     "The what?"
     "The dymanite," Gavrik repeated, but with much  less  confidence. "What
explodes. Why?"
     "Not dymanite but dynamite," Petya said, in the tone of a tutor.
     "Call it whatever you want, as long as it blows that wall down."
     Only  now  did the meaning  of  Gavrik's  words  sink  in.  Petya  felt
goose-flesh break out on his back.
     He looked at his friend with big dark eyes.
     "Swear it's true."
     "Honour bright."
     "Cross yourself."
     "By the true and holy Cross on the church."
     Gavrik faced  the monastery cupolas of Bolshoi Fontan and  quickly  and
fervently  crossed himself.  But Petya took his word for it without that. He
had made him cross himself just as a matter of form. Petya felt with all his
heart that it was the truth.
     Gavrik lowered the sail. The boat bumped  against a small landing stage
for rowing boats on a rugged and deserted shore.
     "Got a handkerchief?" Gavrik asked Petya.
     "Yes "
     "Show it here."
     Petya took  out a  handkerchief at  the  sight of which Auntie  Tatyana
surely would have fainted.
     Gavrik, however, was quite satisfied with it.
     "It'll come in handy," he said gravely, with an important nod. "Stow it
     Then he looked at the watch. It was "ten and just a teeny bit more".
     "I'll stay in the boat," Gavrik said, "and you and Motya run  up to the
top of the hill and stand in  the lane. To meet 'em. The minute you see  'em
wave your handkerchief and I'll put the sail. Understand, Petya?"
     "Uh-huh. But what if the sentry kills them?"
     "He'll miss," Gavrik  said confidently, with  a grim  smile.  "He comes
from  Dofinovka. He's  a  friend. Go up there now, Petya. As soon as you see
'em start waving. Can you do it?"
     "What a question!"
     Petya and Motya climbed out of the boat and ran up the hill.
     Here, as  everywhere along the shore  from Lustdorf  to  Langeron,  the
children knew every path. Making their way through the bushes of wild lilac,
the boy and the girl reached the top of the high bluff and stopped in a lane
between two villas.
     From there they could see both the road and the sea.
     Far below, a  little  boat was  bobbing  up and  down  next to an  even
smaller landing stage. Gavrik himself could barely be seen.
     "Now  listen, Motya," said Petya after he had sized  up  the situation.
"I'll climb this mulberry tree because I can see further from there, and you
keep a sharp eye out too. Let's see who sees 'em first."
     To tell the  truth, there was no need to climb the tree, for there  was
an excellent view from below. But Petya now  felt that he was in command. He
was eager to give orders and perform deeds.
     He took a run and clambered up the tree, grunting. Before he knew it he
had  torn his  trousers at the knees. But  that did not disturb  him. On the
contrary, it only made him grimmer and prouder.
     He straddled a branch and frowned.
     "Well, what are you standing still for? Walk up and down!"
     "Right away."
     The girl looked up at  Petya with frightened, devoted eyes, pulled  her
skirt  straight with both hands, and set  off sedately down the lane towards
the road.
     "Stop! Wait!"
     Motya stopped.
     "Now, listen. The minute  you see 'em, yell to me. And the minute I see
'em I'll yell to you. All right?"
     "All right," the girl said in a piping voice.
     "Well, go ahead."
     Motya  turned and walked  in the thick shade of greenish-milky  acacias
just about to bloom; in the dust she left imprints of her bare heels.
     She went to the corner, stood there a while, and then came back.
     "Not yet. How about your side?"
     "Not on my side either. Go further."
     The girl again went to the  corner  and again returned to say there was
no sight of them on her side.
     "The same here. Walk some more."
     At first Petya liked this game very much.
     It was uncommonly pleasant to sit high up in a tree and strain his eyes
for the sight of a speeding carriage at the end of the lane.
     How clearly he pictured it! The carriage flies up, drawn by a horse all
in lather, with the coachman waving his whistling whip overhead. Terenti and
the sailor jump out, revolvers in their hands. Prison guards run after them.
Terenti and the  sailor shoot it out with them. One after another the guards
drop dead. Petya waves  his handkerchief with all  his might,  jumps  nimbly
from  the tree  and speeds down the bluff, ahead of everybody else,  to help
put  up the sail. As to Motya,  she only  now realises that it was they  who
came. But that can't be helped: she's nothing but a girl. . . .
     But time passed, and no one drove up. It was becoming tedious.
     Petya was tired of looking at the blinding white road. All that came by
was a carriage with an English  coachman dressed  like Evgeni Onegin,  and a
thundering  ice-wagon.  After  the  ice-wagon, he  felt especially  hot  and
especially thirsty.
     He had long since made  a  thorough  examination of the nearby villa: a
bright-green  lawn, gravel on the walks, thuja trees, a statue  spotted with
purple blots of shadow, a vase  from which  long  sharp leaves of aloe  hung
down, and an artist painting a landscape.
     The  artist, who had a curly  little  moustache, a pointed  beard and a
velvet beret,  sat under an umbrella on a  little  folding chair with a duck
seat. He was leaning back  and poking at the canvas on the easel with a long
     He would take a poke and then a look, another poke and another look.
     Fitted on his outstretched left thumb was his palette, that  oval board
which was  much more  beautiful than the  picture itself;  there, in mad but
magic disorder, were mixed all the colours and shades of the sea, sky, clay,
lilacs, grass, clouds, the boat. . . .
     In the meantime the  dusty carriage  had long since arrived and two men
were coming slowly up the lane. Ahead of them  ran Motya, shouting, "They've
already come on my side. Wave your handkerchief! Wave it!"
     Petya nearly fell  off the  tree. He pulled  out  his  handkerchief and
waved it desperately over his head.
     The boat started to rock harder. Petya saw  that Gavrik was  jumping up
and down and waving his hands.
     Terenti and  the sailor passed  under the  mulberry tree in which Petya
sat. Sweat streamed down their fiery-red faces. Petya could hear their heavy
     The sailor  limped  badly.  He  was  without  a  hat,  and his  elegant
cream-coloured trousers-the same trousers in which Petya had  last seen  him
during the May Day outing-were torn and smeared with brick dust.
     His shirt-front was dirty and half-torn, showing a bulging chest  shiny
from sweat.
     The sailor's clenched fists looked as though they  were bound with  the
blue cords of his veins. His moustache drooped. His cheekbones jutted out of
his stubbly face. There was a hard sparkle in his eyes. His throat twitched.
     "Hello!" cried Petya.
     Terenti and the sailor looked up and grinned. Petya thought the  sailor
even winked at him.
     But now they were already  running down to the  sea, leaving a cloud of
dust behind them.
     "I saw them first!" said Motya.
     Petya climbed down from the tree. He made believe he had not heard.
     The boy and the girl stood side by side looking down at the boat, which
was setting sail.
     They saw the small figure of the sailor jump in. The sail billowed out.
The wind  carried it away  from shore  as though  it  were a petal. Now only
Terenti  and Gavrik  stood  on  the landing  stage. A  minute  later Terenti
     Gavrik  remained  alone.  He  waved  to  Petya  and Motya, then started
unhurriedly up the bluff.
     Bouncing  and cleaving the  waves,  the  boat quickly made for the open
sea, the bright-blue, heaving sea.
     "He's all by himself," said Petya.
     "That's all right. We put in some bread for him. A whole big  loaf. And
eight smoked sea-roaches."
     Soon Gavrik joined Petya and Motya.
     "Thank the Lord we got  him  off," he  said, crossing himself.  "It was
some job!"
     "What about the boat?" asked Petya. "Will it be lost?"
     "Yes, it's lost," Gavrik said glumly, scratching the top of his head.
     "How will you get along without a boat?"
     "Never fear. We'll manage somehow."
     There was nowhere to hurry to.
     The children climbed  over the fence and  stopped  quietly  behind  the
     The landscape was almost finished.  They held their breath,  spellbound
by the miraculous appearance of a whole world on a little piece of canvas; a
world altogether different from the real one yet  at  the same  time exactly
like it.
     "The sea's there, but not the boat," whispered Motya. She laid her hand
on Petya's shoulder, as though by accident, and tittered.
     Just then the artist picked  up a drop of white on a thin brush, and in
the  very middle of the canvas, in the lacquered blue of the sea he had just
painted, he put a small bulging comma.
     "The sail!" breathed Motya, enchanted.
     Now  the  painted sea  could  not  be  told  apart  from  the real one.
Everything was the same. Even the sail.
     Nudging one another,  the  children stood there for a long time looking
now at the painting, now at  the real and very  broad open sea, in the misty
blueness of  which the little sail of Grandpa's boat, as light and airy as a
seagull, was dissolving.

     Below, the sea is crystal azure,
     Above, the sun is gold aglow.
     But it is storm the rebel thirsts for,
     He will find peace in storm alone.

Популярность: 30, Last-modified: Tue, 16 Apr 2002 18:58:31 GMT