In the World, by Maksim Gorky

CHAPTER XVI

I WAS in a boat with my master, passing along the market-place between shops which were flooded to the height of the second story. I plied the oars, while my master sat in the stern. The paddle wheel, which was useless as a rudder, was deep in the water, and the boat veered about awkwardly, meandering from street to street on the quiet, muddily sleepy waters.

“Ekh! The water gets higher and higher. The devil take it! It is keeping the work back,” grumbled my master as he smoked a cigar, the smoke of which had an odor of burning cloth. “Gently!” he cried in alarm, “we are running into a lamp-post!” He steered the boat out of danger and scolded me: “They have given me a boat, the wretches!” He showed me the spot on which, after the water had subsided, the work of rebuilding would begin. With his face shaved to a bluish tint, his mustache clipped short, and a cigar in his mouth, he did not look like a contractor. He wore a leathern jacket, high boots to his knees, and a game-bag was slung over his shoulders. At his feet was an expensive two-barelled gun, manufactured by Lebed. From time to time he restlessly changed the position of his leathern cap, pulling it over his eyes, pouting his lips and looking cau — tiously around. He pushed the cap to the back of his head, looked younger, and smiled beneath his mustache, thinking of something pleasant. No one would have thought that he had a lot of work to do, and that the long time the water took in subsiding worried him. Evidently thoughts wholly unconnected with business were passing through his mind.

And I was overwhelmed by a feeling of quiet amazement; it seemed so strange to look upon that dead town, the straight rows of buildings with closed windows. The town was simply flooded with water, and seemed to be floating past our boat. The sky was gray. The sun had been lost in the clouds, but sometimes shone through them in large, silver, wintry patches.

The water also was gray and cold; its flow was unnoticeable; it seemed to be congealed, fixed to one place, like the empty houses beside the shops, which were painted a dirty yellow. When the pale sun looked through the clouds, all around grew slightly brighter. The water reflected the gray texture of the sky; our boat seemed to hang in the air between two skies; the stone buildings also lifted themselves up, and with a scarcely perceptible movement floated toward the Volga, or the Oka. Around the boat were broken casks, boxes, baskets, fragments of wood and straw; sometimes a rod or joist of wood floated like a dead snake on the surface.

Here and there windows were opened. On the roofs of the rows of galleries linen was drying, or felt boots stuck. out. A woman looked out of a window onto the gray waters. A boat was moored to the top of the cast-iron columns of a galley; her red deck made the reflection of the water look greasy and meat-like.

Nodding his head at these signs of life, my master explained to me:

“This is where the market watchman lives. He climbs out of the window onto the roof, gets into his boat, and goes out to see if there are any thieves about. And if there are none, he thieves on his own account.”

He spoke lazily, calmly, thinking of something else. All around was quiet, deserted, and unreal, as if it were part of a dream. The Volga and the Oka flowed into an enormous lake; in the distance on a rugged hillside the town was painted in motley colors. Gardens were still somberly clothed, but the buds were bursting on the trees, and foliage clad houses and churches in a warm, green mantle. Over the water crept the muffled sound of the Easter-tide bells. The murmur of the town was audible, while here it was just like a forgotten graveyard.

Our boat wended its way between two rows of black trees; we were on the high road to the old cathedral. The cigar was in my master’s way; its acrid smoke got into his eyes and caused him to run the nose of the boat into the trunks of the trees. Upon which he cried, irritably and in surprise:

“What a rotten boat this is!”

“But you are not steering it.”

“How can I?” he grumbled. “When there are two people in a boat, one always rows while the other steers. There — look! There’s the Chinese block.”

I knew the market through and through; I knew that comical-looking block of buildings with the ridiculous roofs on which sat, with crossed legs, figures of Chinamen in plaster of Paris. There had been a time when I and my playfellow had thrown stones at them, and some of the Chinamen had had their heads and hands broken off by me. But I no longer took any pride in that sort of thing.

“Rubbish!” said my master, pointing to the block. “If I had been allowed to build it — ”

He whistled and pushed his cap to the back of his head.

But somehow I thought that he would have built that town of stone just as dingily, on that low-lying ground which was flooded by the waters of two rivers every year. And he would even have invented the Chinese block.

Throwing his cigar over the side of the boat, he spat after it in disgust, saying:

“Life is very dull, Pyeshkov, very dull. There are no educated people — no one to talk to. If one wants to show off one’s gifts, who is there to be impressed? Not a soul! All the people here are carpenters, stone-masons, peasants — ”

He looked straight ahead at the white mosque which rose picturesquely out of the water on a small hill, and continued as. if he were recollecting something he had forgotten:

“I began to drink beer and smoke cigars when I was working under a German. The Germans, my brother, are a business-like race — such wild fowl! Drinking beer is a pleasant occupation, but I have never got used to smoking cigars. And when you ‘ve been smoking, your wife grumbles: ‘What is it that you smell of? It is like the smell at the harness-makers.’ Ah, brother, the longer we live, the more artful we grow. Well, well, true to oneself — ”

Placing the oar against the side of the boat, he took up his gun and shot at a Chinaman on a roof. No harm came to the latter; the shot buried itself in the roof and the wall, raising a dusty smoke.

“That was a miss,” he admitted without regret, and he again loaded his gun.

“How do you get on with the girls? Are you keen on them? No? Why, I was in love when I was only thirteen.”

He told me, as if he were telling a dream, the story of his first love for the housemaid of the architect to whom he had been apprenticed. Softly splashed the gray water, washing the corners of the buildings; beyond the cathedral dully gleamed a watery waste; black twigs rose here and there above it. In the icon-painter’s workshop they often sang the Seminarski song:

“O blue sea, Stormy sea . . .”

That blue sea must have been deadly dull.

“I never slept at nights,” went on my master. “Sometimes I got out of bed and stood at her door, shivering like a dog. It was a cold house! The master visited her at night. He might have discovered me, but I was not afraid, not 1 1”

He spoke thoughtfully, like a person looking at an old worn-out coat, and wondering if he could wear it once more.

“She noticed me, pitied me, unfastened her door, and called me: ‘Come in, you little fool.’ ”

I had heard many stories of this kind, and they bored me, although there was one pleasing feature about them — almost every one spoke of their “first love” without boasting, or obscenity, and often so gently and sadly that I understood that the story of their first love was the best in their lives.

Laughing and shaking his head, my master exclaimed wonderingly:

“But that’s the sort of thing you don’t tell your wife; no, no! Well, there’s no harm in it, but you never tell. That’s a story — ”

He was telling the story to himself, not to me. If he had been silent, I should have spoken. In that quietness and desolation one had to talk, or sing, or play on the harmonica, or one would fall into a heavy, eternal sleep in the midst of that dead town, drowned in gray, cold water.

“In the first place, don’t marry too soon,” he counseled me. “Marriage, brother, is a matter of the most

IN IHE WORLD 401 stupendous importance. You can live where you like and how you like, according to your will. You can live in Persia as a Mahommedan; in Moscow as a man about town. You can arrange your life as you choose. You can give everything a trial. But a wife, brother, is like the weather — you can never rule her! You can’t take a wife and throw her aside like an old boot.”

His face changed. He gazed into the gray water with knitted brows, rubbing his prominent nose with his fingers, and muttered:

“Yes, brother, look before you leap. Let us suppose that you are beset on all sides, and still continue to stand firm; even then there is a special trap laid for each one of us.”

We were now amongst the vegetation in the lake of Meshtcherski, which was fed by the Volga.

“Row softly,” whispered my master, pointing his gun into the bushes. After he had shot a few lean woodcocks, he suggested:

“Let us go to Kunavin Street. I will spend the evening there, and you can go home and say that I am detained by the contractors.”

Setting him down at one of the streets on the outskirts of the town, which was also flooded, I returned to the market-place on the Stravelka, moored the boat, and sitting in it, gazed at the confluence of the two rivers, at the town, the steamboats, the sky, which was just like the gorgeous wing of some gigantic bird, all white feathery clouds. The golden sun peeped through the blue gaps between the clouds, and with one glance at the earth transfigured everything thereon. Brisk, determined movement went on all around me: the swift current of the rivers lightly bore innumerable planks of wood; on these planks bearded peasants stood firmly, wielding long poles and shouting to one another, or to approaching steamers. A little steamer was pulling an empty barge against the stream. The river dragged at it, and_ shook it. It turned its nose round like a pike and panted, firmly setting its wheels against the water, which was rushing furiously to meet it. On a barge with their legs hanging over the side sat four peasants, shoulder to shoulder. One of them wore a red shirt, and sang a song the words of which I could not hear, but I knew it.

I felt that here on the living river I knew all, was in touch with all, and could understand all; and the town which lay flooded behind me was an evil dream, an imagination of my master’s, as difficult to understand as he was himself.

When I had satiated myself by gazing at all there was to see, I returned home, feeling that I was a grown man, capable of any kind of work. On the way I looked from the hill of the Kreml on to the Volga in the distance. From the hill, the earth appeared enormous, and promised all that one could possibly desire.

I had books at home. In the flat which Queen Margot had occupied there now lived a large family, — five young ladies, each one more beautiful than the others, and two schoolboys — and these people used to give me books. I read Turgenieff with avidity, amazed to find how intelligible, simple, and pellucid as autumn he was; how pure were his characters, and how — good everything was about which he succinctly dis coursed. I read Pomyalovski’s “Bourse” and was again amazed; it was so strangely like the life in the icon-painting workshop. I was so well acquainted with that desperate tedium which precipitated one into cruel pranks. I enjoyed reading Russian books. I always felt that there was something about them familiar and melancholy, as if there were hidden in their pages the frozen sound of the Lenten bell, which pealed forth softly as soon as one opened a book.

“Dead Souls” I read reluctantly; “Letters from the House of the Dead,” also. “Dead Souls,” “Dead Houses,” “Three Deaths,” “Living Relics”— these books with titles so much alike arrested my attention against my will, and aroused a lethargic repugnance for all such books. “Signs of the Times,” “Step by Step,” “WOiat to Do,” and “Chronicles of the Village of Smourin,” I did not care for, nor any other books of the same kind. But I was delighted with Dickens and Walter Scott. I read these authors with the greatest enjoyment, the same books over and over again. The works of Walter Scott reminded me of a high mass on a great feast day in rich churches — somewhat long and tedious, but always solemn. Dickens still remains to me as the author to whom I respectfully bow; he was a man who had a wonderful apprehension of that most difficult of arts — love of human nature.

In the evenings a large company of people used to gather on the roof: the brothers K. and their sisters, grown up; the snub-nosed schoolboy, Vyacheslav Semashko; and sometimes Miss Ptitzin, the daughter of an important official, appeared there, too. They talked of books and poetry. This was something which appealed to me, and which I could understand; I had read more than all of them together. But sometimes they talked about the high school, and com plained about the teachers. When I listened to these recitals, I felt that I had more liberty than my friends, and was amazed at their patience. And yet I envied them; they had opportunities of learning!

My comrades were older than I, but I felt that I was the elder. I was keener-witted, more experienced than they. This worried me somewhat; I wanted to feel more in touch with them. I used to get home late in the evening, dusty and dirty, steeped in impressions very different from theirs — in the main very monotonous. They talked a lot about young ladies, and of being in love with this one and that one, and they used to try their hands at writing poetry. They frequently solicited my help in this matter. I willingly applied myself to versification, and it was easy for me to find the rhymes, but for some reason or other my verses always took a humorous turn, and I never could help associating Miss Ptitzin, to whom the poetry was generally dedicated, with fruits and vegetables.

Semashko said to me:

“Do you call that poetry? It is as much like poetry as hobnails would be.”

Not wishing to be behind them in anything, I also fell in love with Miss Ptitzin. I do not remember how I declared my feelings, but I know that the affair ended badly. On the stagnant green water of the Zvyezdin Pond floated a plank, and I proposed to give the young lady a ride on it. She agreed. I brought the log to the bank; it held me alone quite well. But when the gorgeously dressed young lady, all ribbons and lace, graciously stepped on the other end, and I proudly pushed off with a stick, the accursed log rolled away from under us and my young lady went head over heels into the water.

I threw myself in knightly fashion after her, and swiftly brought her to shore. Fright and the green mire of the pond had quite destroyed her beauty I Shaking her wet fist at me threateningly, she cried:

“You threw me in the water on purpose!”

And refusing to believe in the sincerity of my protestations, from that time she treated me as an enemy.

On the whole, I did not find living in the town very interesting. My old mistress was as hostile as she had ever been; the young one regarded me with contempt; Victorushka more freckled than ever, snorted at every one, and was everlastingly aggrieved about something.

My master had many plans to draw. He could not get through all the work with his brother, and so he engaged my stepfather as assistant.

One day I came home from the market-place early, about five o’clock, and going into the dining-room, saw the man whose existence I had forgotten, at the table beside the master. He held his hand out to me.

“How do you do?”

I drew back at the unexpectedness of it. The fire of the past had been suddenly rekindled, and burned my heart.

My stepfather looked at me with a smile on his terribly emaciated face; his dark eyes were larger than ever. He looked altogether worn out and depressed. I placed my hand in his thin, hot fingers.

“Well, so we ‘ve met again,” he said, coughing.

I left them, feeling as weak as if I had been beaten.

Our manner to each other was cautious and restrained; he called me by my first name and my pa — tronymic, and spoke to me as an equal.

“When you go to the shops, please buy me a quarter of a pound of Lapherm’s tobacco, a hundred pack — ets of Vitcorson’s, and a pound of boiled sausage.”

The money which he gave me was always unpleasantly heated by his hot hands. It was plain that he was a consumptive, and not long to be an inhabitant of this earth. He knew this, and would say in a calm, deep voice, twisting his pointed black beard:

“My illness is almost incurable. However, if I take plenty of meat I may get better — I may get better.”

He ate an unbelievably large amount; he smoked cigarettes, which were only out of his lips when he was eating. Every day I bought him sausages, ham, sardines, but grandmother’s sister said with an air of certainty, and for some reason maliciously:

“It is no use to feed Death with dainties; you cannot deceive him.”

The mistress regarded my stepfather with an air of injury, reproachfully advised him to try this or that medicine, but made fun of him behind his back.

“A fine gentleman! The crumbs ought to be swept up more often in the dining-room, he says; crumbs cause the flies to multiply, he says.”

The young mistress said this, and the old mistress repeated after her:

“What do you mean — a fine gentleman! With his coat all worn and shiny, and he always scraping it with a clothes-brush. He is so faddy; there must not be a speck of dust on it!”

But the master spoke soothingly to them:

“Be patient, wild fowl, he will soon be dead!”

This senseless hostility of the middle class toward a man of good birth somehow drew me and my step-father closer together. The crimson agaric is an un wholesome fungus, yet it is so beautiful. Suffocated among these people, my stepfather was like a fish which had accidentally fallen into a fowl-run — an absurd comparison, as everything in that life was absurd.

I began to find in him resemblances to “Good Business” — a man whom I could never forget. I adorned him and my Queen with the best that I got out of books. I gave them all that was most pure in me, all the fantasies born of my reading. My stepfather was just such another man, aloof and unloved, as “Good Business.” He behaved alike to every one in the house, never spoke first, and answered questions put to him with a peculiar politeness and brevity. I was delighted when he taught my masters. Standing at the table, bent double, he would tap the thick paper with his dry nails, and suggest calmly:

“Here you will have to have a keystone. That will halve the force of the pressure; otherwise the pillar will crash through the walls.”

“That’s true, the devil take it,” muttered the master, and his wife said to him, when my stepfather had gone out:

“It is simply amazing to me that you can allow any one to teach you your business like that!”

For some reason she was always especially irritated when my stepfather cleaned his teeth and gargled after supper, protruding his harshly outlined Adam’s apple.

“In my opinion,” she would say in a sour voice, “it is injurious to you to bend your head back like that, Evgen Vassilvich!”

Smiling politely he asked:

“Why?”

“Because — I am sure it is.”

He began to clean his bluish nails with a tiny bone stick.

“He is cleaning his nails again; well, I never!” exclaimed the mistress. “He is dying — and there he

“Ekh!” sighed the master. “What a lot of stupidity has flourished in you, wild fowl!”

“Why do you say that?” asked his wife, confused. But the old mistress complained passionately to God at night:

“Lord, they have laid that rotten creature on my shoulders, and Victor is again pushed on one side.”

Victorushka began to mock the manners of my step-father, — his leisurely walk, the assured movements of his lordly hands, his skill in tying a cravat, and his dainty way of eating. He would ask coarsely: “Maximov, what’s the French for ‘knee’?” “I am called Evgen Vassilevich,” my stepfather reminded him calmly.

“All right. Well, what is ‘the chest’?” Victorushka would say to his mother at supper: “Ma mere, donnez moi encore du pickles!” “Oh, you Frenchman!” the old woman would say, much affected.

My stepfather, as unmoved as if he were deaf or dumb, chewed his meat without looking at any one. One day the elder brother said to the younger: “Now that you are learning French, Victor, you ought to have a mistress.”

This was the only time I remember seeing my step-father smile quietly.

But the young mistress let her spoon fall on the table in her agitation, and cried to her husband:

“Aren’t you ashamed to talk so disgustingly before me?”

Sometimes my stepfather came to me in the dark vestibule, where I slept under the stairs which led to fhe attic, and where, sitting on the stairs by the window, I used to read.

“Reading?” he would say, blowing out smoke. There came a hissing sound from his chest like the hissing of a fire-stick. “What is the book?”

I showed it to him.

“Ah,” he said, glancing at the title, “I think I have read it. Will you smoke?”

We smoked, looking out of the window onto the dirty yard. He said:

“It is a great pity that you cannot study; it seems to me that you have ability.”

“I am studying; I read.”

“That is not enough; you need a school; a system.”

I felt inclined to say to him:

“You had the advantages of both school and system, my fine fellow, and what is the result?”

But he added, as if he had read my thoughts:

“Given the proper disposition, a school is a good educator. Only very well educated people make any mark in life.”

But once he counseled me:

“You would be far better away from here. I see no sense or advantage to you in staying.”

“I like the work.”

“Ah — what do you find to like?”

“I find it interesting to work with them.”

“Perhaps you are right.”

But one day he said:

“What trash they are in the main, our employers — trash!”

When I remembered how and when my mother had uttered that word, I involuntarily drew back from him. He asked, smiling:

“Don’t you think so?”

“I don’t know.”

“Well, they are; I can see that.”

“But I like the master, anyhow.”

“Yes, you are right; he is a worthy man, but strange.”

I should have liked to talk with him about books, but it was plain that he did not care for them, and one day he advised me:

“Don’t be led away; everything is very much embellished in books, distorted one way or another. Most writers of books are people like our master, small people.”

Such judgments seemed very daring to me, and quite corrupted me.

On the same occasion he asked me:

“Have you read any of Goncharov’s works?”

“ The Frigate Palada.’ ”

“That’s a dull book. But really, Goncharov is the cleverest writer in Russia. I advise you to read his novel, ‘Oblomov.’ That is by far the truest and most daring book he wrote; in fact, it is the best book in Russian literature.”

Of Dickens’ works he said:

“They are rubbish, I assure you. But there is a most interesting thing running in the ‘Nova Vremya/ — The Temptation of St. Anthony.’ You read it? Apparently you like all that pertains to the church, and ‘The Temptation’ ought to be a profitable subject for you.”

He brought me a bundle of papers containing the serial, and I read Flaubert’s learned work. It reminded me of the innumerable lives of holy men, scraps of history told by the valuers, but it made no very deep impression on me. I much preferred the “Memoirs of Upilio Faimali, Tamer of Wild Beasts,” which was printed alongside of it.

When I acknowledged this fact to my stepfather, he remarked coolly:

“That means that you are still too young to read such things! However, don’t forget about that book.”

Sometimes he would sit with me for a long time without saying a word, just coughing and puffing out smoke continuously. His beautiful eyes burned painfully, and I looked at him furtively, and forgot that this man, who was dying so honestly and simply, without complaint, had once been so closely related to my mother, and had insulted her. I knew that he lived with some sort of seamstress, and thought of her with wonder and pity. How could she not shrink from embracing those lanky bones, from kissing that mouth which gave forth such an oppressive odor of putrescence? Just like “Good Business,” my stepfather often uttered peculiarly characteristic sayings:

“I love hounds; they are stupid, but I love them. They are very beautiful. Beautiful women arc often stupid, too.”

I thought, not without pride:

“Ah, if he had only known Queen Margotl”

“People who live for a long time in the same house all have the same kind of face,” was one of his sayings which I wrote down in my note-book.

I listened for these sayings of his, as if they had been treats. It was pleasant to hear unusual, literary words used in a house where every one spoke a colorless language, which had hardened into well-worn, un diversified forms. My stepfather never spoke to me of my mother; he never even uttered her name. This pleased me, and aroused in me a feeling of sympathetic consideration for him.

Once I asked him about God — I do not remember what brought up the subject. He looked at me, and said very calmly:

“I don’t know. I don’t believe in God.”

I remembered Sitanov, and told my stepfather about him. Having listened attentively to me, he observed, still calmly:

“He was in doubt; and those who are in doubt must believe in something. As for me, I simply do not believe!”

“But is that possible?”

“Why not? You can see for yourself I don’t believe.”

I saw nothing, except that he was dying. I hardly pitied him; my first feeling was one of keen and genuine interest in the nearness of a dying person, in the mystery of death.

Here was a man sitting close to me, his knee touching mine, warm, sensate, calmly regarding people in the light of their relations to himself; speaking about everything like a person who possessed power to judge and to settle affairs; in whom lay something necessary to me, or something good, blended with something unnecessary to me. This being of incomprehensible com plexity was the receptacle of continuous whirlwinds of thought. It was not as if I were merely brought in contact with him, but it seemed as if he were part of myself, that he lived somewhere within me. I thought about him continually, and the shadow of his soul lay across mine. And tomorrow he would disappear entirely, with all that was hidden in his head and his heart, with all that I seemed to read in his beautiful eyes. When he went, another of the living threads which bound me to life would be snapped. His memory would be left, but that would be something finite within me, forever limited, immutable. But that which is alive changes, progresses. But these were thoughts, and behind them lay those inexpressible words which give birth to and nourish them, which strike to the very roots of life, demanding an answer to the question, Why?

“I shall soon have to lie by, it seems to me,” said my stepfather one rainy day. “This stupid weakness! I don’t feel inclined to do anything.”

The next day, at the time of evening tea, he brushed the crumbs of bread from the table and from his knees with peculiar care, and brushed something invisible from his person. The old mistress, looking at him from under her brows, whispered to her daughter-in-law:

“Look at the way he is plucking at himself, and brushing himself.”

He did not come to work for two days, and then the old mistress put a large white envelope in my hand, saying:

“Here you are! A woman brought this yesterday about noon, and I forgot to give it to you. A pretty little woman she was, but what she wants with you I can’t imagine, and that’s the truth!”

On a slip of paper with a hospital stamp, inside the envelope, was written in large characters:

“When you have an hour to spare, come and see me. I am in the Martinovski Hospital. “E. M.”

The next morning I was sitting in a hospital ward on my stepfather’s bed. It was a long bed, and his feet, in gray, worn socks, stuck out through the rails. His beautiful eyes, dully wandering over the yellow walls, rested on my face and on the small hands of a young girl who sat on a bench at the head of the bed. Her hands rested on the pillow, and my stepfather rubbed his cheek against them, his mouth hanging open. She was a plump girl, wearing a shiny, dark frock. The tears flowed slowly over her oval face; her wet blue eyes never moved from my stepfather’s face, with its sharp bones, large, sharp-pointed nose, and dark mouth.

“The priest ought to be here,” she whispered, “but he forbids it — he does not understand.” And taking her hands from the pillow, she pressed them to her breast as if praying.

In a minute my stepfather came to himself, looked at the ceiling and frowned, as if he were trying to remember something. Then he stretched his lank hand toward me.

“You? Thank you. Here I am, you sec. I feel •o stupid.”

The effort tired him; he closed his eyes. I stroked his long cold fingers with the blue nails. The girl asked softly:

“Evgen Vassilvich, introduce us, please!”

“You must know each other,” he said, indicating her with his eyes. “A dear creature — ”

He stopped speaking, his mouth opened wider and wider, and he suddenly shrieked out hoarsely, like a raven. Throwing herself on the bed, clutching at the blanket, waving her bare arms about, the girl also screamed, burying her head in the tossed pillow.

My stepfather died quickly, and as soon as he was dead, he regained some of his good looks. I left the hospital with the girl on my arm. She staggered like a sick person, and cried. Her handkerchief was squeezed into a ball in her hand; she alternately applied it to her eyes, and rolling it tighter, gazed at it as if it were her last and most precious possession.

Suddenly she stood still, pressing close to me, and said:

“I shall not live till the winter. Oh Lord, Lord! What does it mean?”

Then holding out her hand, wet with tears, to me:

“Good-by. He thought a lot of you. He will be buried tomorrow.”

“Shall I see you home?’

She looked about her.

“What for? It is daytime, not night.”

From the corner of a side street I looked after her. She walked slowly, like a person who has nothing to hurry for. It was August. The leaves were already beginning to fall from the trees. I had no time to follow my stepfather to the graveyard, and I never saw the girl again.

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