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Part One Chapter 5

The Red forces were pressing down hard on "Chief Ataman" Petlyura's units, and Golub's regiment was called to the front. Only a small rearguard detachment and the Commandant's detail were left in the town.
The people stirred. The Jewish section of the population took advantage of the temporary lull to bury their dead, and life in the tiny huts of the Jewish quarter returned to normal.
On quiet evenings an indistinct rumble was carried from the distance; somewhere not too far off the fighting was in progress.
At the station, railwaymen were leaving their jobs to roam the countryside in search of work.
The Gymnasium was closed.
Martial law was declared in town.

It was a black, ugly night, one of those nights when the eyes, strain as they might, cannot pierce the gloom, and a man gropes about blindly expecting at any moment to fall into a ditch and break his neck.
The respectable citizen knows that at a time like this it is safer to sit at home in the dark; he will not light a lamp if he can help it, for light might attract unwelcome guests. Better the dark, much safer. There are of course those who are always restless—let them venture abroad if they wish,that's none of the respectable citizen's business. But he himself will not risk going out—not for anything.
It was one of those nights, yet there was a man abroad.
Making his way to the Korchagin house, he knocked cautiously at the window. There was no answer and he knocked again, louder and more insistently.
Pavel dreamed that a queer creature, anything but human, was aiming a machine gun at him; he wanted to flee, but there was nowhere to go, and the machine gun had broken into a terrifying chatter.
He woke up to find the window rattling. Someone was knocking.
Pavel jumped out of bed and went to the window to see who it was, but all he could make out was a vague dark shape.
He was all alone in the house. His mother had gone on a visit to his eldest sister, whose husband was a mechanic at the sugar refinery. And Artem was blacksmithing in a neighbouring village,wielding the sledge for his keep.
Yet it could only be Artem.
Pavel decided to open the window.
"Who's there?" he said into the darkness.
There was a movement outside the window and a muffled bass replied:
"It's me, Zhukhrai."

Two hands were laid on the windowsill and Fyodor's head came up until it was level with Pavel's face.
"I've come to spend the night with you. Any objections, mate?" Zhukhrai whispered.
"Of course not," Pavel replied warmly. "You know you're always welcome. Climb in."
Fyodor squeezed his great bulk through the opening.
He closed the window but did not move away from the window at once. He stood listening intently, and when the moon slipped out from behind a cloud and the road became visible he scanned it carefully. Then he turned to Pavel.
"We won't wake up your mother, will we?"
Pavel told him there was nobody home besides himself. The sailor felt more at ease and spoke in a louder voice.
"Those cutthroats are after my hide in earnest now, matey. They've got it in for me after what happened over at the station. If our fellows would stick together a bit more we could have given the greycoats a fine reception during the pogrom. But folks, as you see, aren't ready to plunge into the fire yet, and so nothing came of it. Now they're looking for me, twice they've had the dragnet out —today I got away by the skin of my teeth. I was going home, you see, by the back way of course, and had just stopped at the shed to look around, when I saw a bayonet sticking out from behind a tree trunk. I naturally cast off and headed for your place. If you've got nothing against it I'll drop anchor here for a few days. All right, mate? Good."
Zhukhrai, still breathing heavily, began pulling off his mud-splashed boots.
Pavel was glad he had come. The power plant had not been working latterly and Pavel felt lonely in the empty house.
They went to bed. Pavel fell asleep at once, but Fyodor lay awake for a long time smoking.
Presently he rose and, tiptoeing on bare feet to the window, stared out for a long time into the street. Finally, overcome by fatigue, he lay down and fell asleep, but his hand remained on the butt of the heavy Colt which he had tucked under the pillow.

Zhukhrai's unexpected arrival that night and the eight days spent in his company influenced the whole course of Pavel's life. From the sailor Pavel learned much that was new to him, and that stirred him to the depths of his being.
Driven into hiding, Zhukhrai made use of his enforced idleness to pass on to the eager Pavel all his passionate fury and burning hatred for the Ukrainian Nationalists who were throttling the area.
Zhukhrai spoke in language that was vivid, lucid and simple. He had no doubts, his path lay clearly before him, and Pavel came to see that all this tangle of political parties with high-sounding names—Socialist-Revolutionaries, Social-Democrats, Polish Socialists—was a collection of vicious enemies of the workers, and that the only revolutionary party which steadfastly fought against the rich was the Bolshevik Party.
Formerly Pavel had been hopelessly confused about all this.
And so this staunch, stout-hearted Baltic sailor weathered by sea squalls, a confirmed Bolshevik, who had been a member of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party (Bolsheviks) since 1915, taught Pavel the harsh truths of life, and the young stoker listened spellbound.
"I was something like you, matey, when I was young," he said. "Just didn't know what to do with my energy, a restless youngster always ready to kick over the traces. I was brought up in poverty.
And at times the very sight of those pampered, well-fed sons of the town gentry made me see red.
Often enough I beat them up badly, but all I got out of it was a proper trouncing-from my father.
You can't change things by carrying on a lone fight. You, Pavlusha, have all the makings of a good fighter in the workingman's cause, only you're still very young-and you don't know much about the class struggle. I'll put you on the right road, matey, because I know you'll make good. I can't stand the quiet, smug-sort. The whole world's afire now. The slaves have risen and the old life's got to be scuttled. But to do that we need stout fellows, not sissies, who'll go crawling into cracks like so many cockroaches when the fighting starts, but men with guts who'll hit out without mercy."
His fist crashed down on the table.
He got up, frowning1, and paced up and down the room with hands thrust deep in his pockets.
His inactivity depressed him. He bitterly regretted having-stayed behind in this town, and believing any further stay to be pointless, was firmly resolved to make his way through the front to meet the Red units.
A group of nine Party members would remain in town to carry on the work.
"They'll manage without me. I can't sit around any longer doing- nothing1. I've wasted ten months as it is," Zhukhrai thought irritably.
"What exactly are you, Fyodor?" Pavel had asked him once.
Zhukhrai got up and shoved his hands into his pockets. He did not grasp the meaning of the question at first.
"Don't you know?"
"I think you're a Bolshevik or a Communist," Pavel said in a low voice.
Zhukhrai burst out laughing, slapping his massive chest in its tight-fitting striped jersey.
"Right enough, matey! It's as much a fact as that Bolshevik and Communist are one and the same thing." Suddenly he grew serious. "But now that you've grasped that much, remember it's not to be mentioned to anyone or anywhere, if you don't want them to draw and quarter me. Understand?"
"I understand," Pavel replied firmly. Voices were heard from the yard and the door was pushed open without a preliminary knock. Zhukhrai's hand slipped into his pocket but emerged again when Sergei Bruzzhak, thin and pale, with a bandage on his head, entered the room, followed by Valya and Klimka.
"Hullo, old man," Sergei shook Pavel's hand and smiled. "Decided to pay you a visit, all three of us. Valya wouldn't let me go out alone, and Klimka is afraid to let her go by herself. He may be a redhead but he knows what he's about."
Valya playfully clapped her hand over his mouth. "Chatterbox," she laughed. "He won't give Klimka any peace today."
Klimka showed his white teeth in a good-natured grin. "What can you do with a sick fellow?
Brain pan's damaged, as you can see." They all laughed.
Sergei, who had not yet recovered from the effects of the sabre blow, settled on Pavel's bed and soon the young people were engaged in a lively conversation. As he told Zhukhrai the story of his encounter with the Petlyura bandit, Sergei, usually so gay and cheerful, was quiet and depressed.
Zhukhrai knew the three young people, for he had visited the Bruzzhaks on several occasions. He liked these youngsters; they had not yet found their place in the vortex of the struggle, but the aspirations of their class were clearly expressed in them. He listened with interest to the young people's account of how they had helped to shelter Jewish families in their homes to save them from the pogrom. That evening he told the young folk much about the Bolsheviks, about Lenin, helping them to understand what was happening.
It was quite late when Pavel's guests left. Zhukhrai went out every evening and returned late at night; before leaving town he had to discuss with the comrades who would remain in town the work they would have to do.
This particular night Zhukhrai did not come back, When Pavel woke up in the morning he saw at a glance that the sailor's bed had not been slept in.
Seized by some vague premonition, Pavel dressed hurriedly and left the house. Locking the door and putting the key in the usual place, he went to Klimka's house hoping that the latter would have some news of Fyodor. Klimka's mother, a stocky woman with a broad face pitted with pockmarks,
was doing the wash. To Pavel's question whether she knew where Fyodor was she replied curtly: "You'd think I'd nothing else to do but keep an eye on your Fyodor. It's all through him—the devil take him— that Zozulikha's house was turned upside down. What've you got to do with him? A queer lot, if you ask me. Klimka and you and the rest of them. . . ." She turned back in anger to her washtub.
Klimka's mother was an ill-tempered woman, with a biting tongue. . . .
From Klimka's house Pavel went to Sergei's where he voiced his fears.
"Why should you be so worried?" said Valya. "Perhaps he stayed over at some friend's place." But her words lacked confidence.
Pavel was too restless to stop at the Bruzzhaks for long, and although they tried to persuade him to stay for dinner he took his leave.
He headed back home in hopes of finding Zhukhrai there.
The door was locked. Pavel stood outside for a while with a heavy heart; he couldn't bear the thought of going into the deserted house.
For a few minutes he stood in the yard deep in thought, then, moved by an impulse, he went into the shed. He climbed up under the roof and brushing away the cobwebs reached into his secret hiding place and brought out the heavy Mannlicher wrapped in rags.

He left the shed and went down to the station, strangely elated by the feel of the revolver weighing down his pocket.
But there was no news of Zhukhrai at the station. On the way back his step slowed down as he drew alongside the now familiar garden of the forest warden. With a faint flicker of hope, he looked up at the windows of the house, but it was as lifeless as the garden. When he had passed the garden he turned back to glance at the paths now covered with a rusty crop of last year's leaves. The place seemed desolate and neglected—no industrious hand had laid a visible imprint here—and the dead stillness of the big old house made Pavel feel sadder still.
His last quarrel with Tonya had been the most serious they had had. It had all happened quite unexpectedly, nearly a month ago.
As he slowly walked back to town, his hands shoved deep into his pockets, Pavel recalled how it had come about.
They had met quite by chance on the road and Tonya had invited him over to her place.

"Dad and mother are going to a birthday party at the Bolshanskys, and I'll be all alone. Why don't you come over, Pavlusha? I have a very interesting book we could read—Leonid Andreyev's Sashka Zhigulyov. I've already finished it, but I'd like to reread it with you. I'm sure it would be a nice evening. Will you come?"
Her big, wide-open eyes looked at him expectantly from under the white bonnet she wore over her thick chestnut hair.
"I'll come."
At that they parted.
Pavel Hurried to his machines, and the very thought that he had a whole evening with Tonya to look forward to, made the flames in the firebox seem to burn more brightly and the burning logs to crackle more merrily than usual.
When he knocked at the wide front door that evening it was a slightly disconcerted Tonya who answered.
"I have visitors tonight. I didn't expect them, Pavlusha. But you must come in," she said.
Pavel wanted to go and turned to the door.
"Come in," she took him by the arm. "It'll do them good to know you." And putting her arm around his waist, she led him through the dining room into her own room.
As they entered she turned to the young people seated there and smiled.
"I want you to meet my friend Pavel Korchagin."
There were three people sitting around the small table in the middle of the room: Liza Sukharko, a pretty, dark-complexioned Gymnasium student with a pouting little mouth and a fetching coiffure,a lanky youth in a well-tailored black jacket, his sleek hair shining with hair-oil, and a vacant look in his grey eyes, and between them, in a foppish school jacket, Victor Leszczinski. It was him Pavel saw first when Tonya opened the door.
Leszczinski too recognised Korchagin at once and his fine arched eyebrows lifted in surprise.
For a few seconds Pavel stood silent at the door, eyeing Victor with frank hostility. Tonya hastened to break the awkward silence by asking Pavel to come in and turning to Liza to introduce her.
Liza Sukharko, who was inspecting the new arrival with interest, rose from her chair.
Pavel, however, turned sharply and strode out through the semidark dining room to the front door.
He was already on the porch when Tonya overtook him and seized him by the shoulders.
"Why are you running off? I especially wanted them to meet you."
Pavel removed her hands from his shoulders and replied sharply:
"I'm not going to be put on a show before that dummy. I don't belong to that crowd—you may like them, but I hate them. If I'd known they were your friends I'd never have come."
Tonya, suppressing her rising anger, interrupted him:
"What right have you to speak to me like that? I don't ask you who your friends are and who comes to see you."
"I don't care whom you see, only I'm not coming here any more," Pavel shot back at her as he went down the front steps. He ran to the garden gate.
He had not seen Tonya since then. During the pogrom, when he and the electrician had hidden several Jewish families at the power station, he had forgotten about the quarrel, and today he wanted to see her again.

Zhukhrai's disappearance and the knowledge that there was no one at home depressed Pavel. The grey stretch of road swung to the right ahead of him. The spring mud had not yet dried, and the road was pitted with holes filled with brown mire. Beyond a house whose shabby, peeling facade jutted out onto the edge of the pavement the road forked off.

Victor Leszczinski was saying good-bye to Liza at the street intersection opposite a wrecked stand with a splintered door and an inverted "Mineral Water" sign. He held her hand in his as he spoke, pleadingly gazing into her eyes.
"You will come? You won't deceive me?"
"Of course I shall come. You must wait for me," Liza replied coquettishly.
And as she left him she smiled at him with promise in her misty hazel eyes.
A few yards farther down the street Liza saw two men emerge from behind a corner onto the roadway. The first was a sturdy, broadchested man in worker's clothes, his unbuttoned jacket revealing a striped jersey underneath, a black cap pulled down over his forehead, and brown, low-topped boots on his feet. There was a blue-black bruise under his eye.
The man walked with a firm, slightly rolling gait.
Three paces behind, his bayonet almost touching the man's back, came a Petlyura soldier in a grey coat and two cartridge pouches at his belt. From under his shaggy sheepskin cap two small, wary eyes watched the back of his captive's head. Yellow, tobacco-stained moustaches bristled on either
side of his face.
Liza slackened her pace slightly and crossed over to the other side of the road. Just then Pavel emerged onto the highway behind her.
As he passed the old house and turned to the right at the bend in the road, he too saw the two men coming toward him.
Pavel stopped with a start and stood as if rooted to the ground. The arrested man was Zhukhrai.
"So that's why he didn't come back!"
Zhukhrai was coming nearer and nearer. Pavel's heart pounded as if it would burst. His thoughts raced madly as his mind sought vainly to grasp the situation. There was not enough time for deliberation. Only one thing was clear: Zhukhrai was caught.
Stunned and bewildered Pavel watched the two approach. What was to be done?
At the last moment he remembered the revolver in his pocket. As soon as they passed him he would shoot the man with the rifle in the back, and Fyodor would be free. With that decision reached on the spur of the moment his mind cleared. After all, it was only yesterday that Fyodor had told him: "For that we need stout fellows. . . ."
Pavel glanced quickly behind him. The street leading to town was deserted; there was not a soul in sight. Ahead a woman in a light coat was hurrying across the road. She would not interfere. The second street branching off at the intersection he could not see. Only far away on the road to the station some people were visible.
Pavel moved over to the edge of the road. Zhukhrai saw him when they were only a few paces apart.
Zhukhrai looked at him from the corner of his eye and his thick eyebrows quivered. The unexpectedness of the encounter made him slow down his step. The bayonet pricked him in the back.
"Lively, there, or you'll get a taste of this butt!" cried the escort in a screechy falsetto.
Zhukhrai quickened his pace. He wanted to speak to Pavel, but refrained; he only waved his hand as if in greeting.
Fearing to attract the attention of the yellow-moustached soldier, Pavel turned aside as Zhukhrai passed, as if completely indifferent to what was going on.
But in his head drilled the anxious thought: "What if I miss him and the bullet hits Zhukhrai. . . ."
But there was no time to think.
When the yellow-moustached soldier came abreast of him, Pavel made a sudden lunge at him and seizing hold of the rifle struck the barrel down.
The bayonet hit the pavement with a grating sound.
The attack caught the soldier unawares, and for a moment he was dumbfounded. Then he violently jerked the rifle toward himself. Throwing the full weight of his body on it, Pavel managed to retain his grip. A shot crashed out, the bullet striking a stone and ricocheting with a whine into the ditch.
Hearing the shot, Zhukhrai leapt aside and spun around. The soldier was wrenching at the rifle fiercely in an effort to tear it out of Pavel's hands. Pavel's arms were painfully twisted, but he did not release his hold. Then with a sharp lunge the enraged Petlyura man threw Pavel down on the ground, but still he could not wrench the rifle loose. Pavel went down, dragging the soldier down with him. Nothing could have made him relinquish the rifle at this crucial moment.
In two strides Zhukhrai was alongside the struggling pair. His iron fist swung through the air and descended on the soldier's head; a second later the Petlyura man had been wrenched off Pavel and,sagging under the impact of two smashing blows in the face, his limp body collapsed into the wayside ditch.
The same strong hands that had delivered those blows lifted Pavel from the ground and set him on his feet.

Victor, who by this time had gone a hundred paces or so from the intersection, walked on whistling La donna e mobile, his spirits soaring after his meeting with Liza and her promise to see him at the abandoned factory the next day.
Among the Gymnasium youths Liza Sukharko had the reputation of being rather daring in her love affairs. That arrogant braggart Semyon Zalivanov had once declared that Liza had surrendered to him, and although Victor did not quite believe Semyon, Liza nevertheless intrigued him. Tomorrow he would find out whether Zalivanov had spoken the truth or not.
"If she comes I shan't be bashful. After all, she lets you kiss her. And if Semyon is telling the truth. . . ." Here his thoughts were interrupted as he stepped aside to let two Petlyura soldiers pass.
One of them was astride a dock-tailed horse, swinging a canvas bucket—evidently on his way to water the animal. The other, in a short jacket and loose blue trousers, was walking alongside,resting his hand on the rider's knee and telling him a funny story.
Victor let them pass and was about to continue on his way when a rifle shot on the highway made him stop in his tracks. He turned and saw the mounted man spurring his horse toward the sound,while the other soldier ran behind, supporting his sabre with his hand.

Victor ran after them. When he had almost reached the highway another shot rang out, and from around the corner came the horseman galloping madly. He urged on the horse with his heels and the canvas bucket, and leaping to the ground at the first gateway shouted to the men in the yard:
"To arms! They've killed one of our men!"
A minute later several men dashed out of the yard, clicking the bolts of their rifles as they ran.
Victor was arrested.
Several people were now gathered on the road, among them Victor and Liza, who had been detained as a witness.
Liza had been rooted to the spot from fright, and hence had a good view of Zhukhrai and Korchagin when they ran past; much to her surprise she realised that the lad who had attacked the Petlyura soldier was the one Tonya had wanted to introduce to her.
The two had just vaulted over the fence into a garden when the horseman came galloping down the street. Noticing Zhukhrai running with a rifle in his hands and the stunned soldier struggling to get back on his feet, the rider spurred his horse towards the fence.
Zhukhrai, however, turned around, raised the rifle and fired at the pursuer, who swung around and beat a hasty retreat.
The soldier, barely able to speak through his torn lips, was now telling what had happened.
"You dunderhead, what do you mean by letting a prisoner get away from under your nose? Now you're in for twenty-five strokes for sure."
"Smart, aren't you?" the soldier snapped back angrily. "From under my nose, eh? How was I to know the other bastard would jump on me like a madman?"
Liza too was questioned. She told the same story as the escort, but she omitted to say that she knew the assailant. Nevertheless they were all taken to the Commandant's office, and were not released until evening.
The Commandant himself offered to see Liza home, but she refused. His breath smelled of vodka and the offer boded no good.
Victor escorted Liza home.
It was quite a distance to the station and as they walked along arm in arm Victor was grateful for the incident.
"You haven't any idea who it was that freed the prisoner?" Liza asked as they were approaching her home.
"No, I haven't. How can I?"
"Do you remember the evening Tonya wanted to introduce a certain young man to us?"
Victor halted.
"Pavel Korchagin?" he asked, surprised.
"Yes, I think his name was Korchagin. Remember how he walked out in such a funny way? Well,it was he."
Victor stood dumbfounded.
"Are you sure?" he asked Liza.
"Yes. I remember his face perfectly."
"Why didn't you tell the Commandant?"
Liza was indignant.
"Do you think I would do anything so vile?"

"Vile? You call it vile to tell who attacked the escort?"
"And do you consider it honourable? You seem to have forgotten what they've done. Have you any idea how many Jewish orphans there are at the Gymnasium, and yet you'd want me to tell them about Korchagin? I'm sorry, I didn't expect that of you."
Leszczinski was much surprised by Liza's reply. But since it did not fit in with his plans to quarrel with her, he tried to change the subject.
"Don't be angry, Liza, I was only joking. I didn't know you were so upright."
"The joke was in very bad taste," Liza retorted dryly.
As he was saying good-bye to her outside the Sukharko house, Victor asked:
"Will you come then, Liza?"
"I don't know," she replied vaguely.
Walking back to town, Victor turned the matter over in his mind. "Well, mademoiselle, you may think it vile, but I happen to think differently. Of course it's all the same to me who freed whom."
To him as a Leszczinski, the scion of an old Polish family, both sides were equally obnoxious. The only government he recognised was the government of the Polish gentry, the Rzecz Pospolita, and that would soon come with the Polish legions. But here was an opportunity to get rid of that scoundrel Korchagin. They'd twist his neck sure enough.
Victor was the only member of the family to have remained in town. He was staying with an aunt,who was married to the assistant director of the sugar refinery. His family had been living for some time in Warsaw, where his father Sigismund Leszczinski occupied a position of some importance.
Victor walked up to the Commandant's office and turned into the open door.
Shortly afterwards he was on his way to the Korchagin house accompanied by four Petlyura men.
"That's the place," he said quietly, pointing to a lighted window. "May I go now?" he asked the Khorunzhy.
"Of course. We'll manage ourselves. Thanks for the tip."
Victor hurried away.

The last blow in the back sent Pavel reeling into the dark room to which they had led him, and his outstretched arms collided with the opposite wall. Feeling around he found something like a bunk,and he sat down, bruised and aching in body and spirit.
The arrest had come as a complete surprise. How had the Petlyura crowd found out about him? He was sure no one had seen him. What would happen next? And where was Zhukhrai?
He had left the sailor at Klimka's place. From there he had gone to Sergei, while Zhukhrai remained to wait for the evening in order to slip out of town.
"Good thing I hid the revolver in the crow's nest," Pavel thought. "If they had found it, it would have been all up with me. But how did they find out?" There was no answer to the question that tormented him.
The Petlyura men had not got much out of the Korchagin house although they made a thorough search of its every corner. Artem had taken his best suit and the accordion to the village, and his mother had taken a trunk with her, so that there was little left for them to pick up.
The journey to the guardhouse, however, was something Pavel would never forget. The night was pitch black, the sky overcast with clouds, and he had blundered along, blindly and half-dazed,propelled by brutal kicks from all sides.
He could hear voices behind the door leading into the next room, which was occupied by the Commandant's guard. A bright strip of light showed under the door. Pavel got up and feeling his way along the wall walked around the room. Opposite the bunk he discovered a heavily barred window. He tried the bars with his hand— they were immovable. The place had obviously been a storeroom.
He made his way to the door and stood there for a moment listening. Then he pressed lightly on the handle. The door gave a sickening creak and Pavel swore violently under his breath.
Through the narrow slit that opened before him he saw a pair of calloused feet with crooked toes sticking out over the edge of a bunk. Another light push against the handle and the door protested louder still. A dishevelled figure with a sleep-swollen face now rose up in the bunk and fiercely scratching his lousy head with all five fingers burst into a long tirade. When the obscene flow of abuse ended, the creature reached out to the rifle standing at the head of the bunk and added phlegmatically:
"Shut that door and if I catch you looking in here once more I'll bash in your. . . ."
Pavel shut the door. There was a roar of laughter in the next room.
He thought a great deal that night. His initial attempt to take a hand in the fight had ended badly for him. The very first step had brought capture and now he was trapped like a mouse.
Still sitting up, he drifted into a restless half-sleep, and the image of his mother with her peaked, wrinkled features and the eyes he loved so well rose before him. And the thought: "It's a good thing she's away—that makes it less painful."
A grey square of light from the window appeared on the floor.
The darkness was .gradually retreating. Dawn was approaching.


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