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Part Two Chapter 6

Two men stood at the entrance to the hotel concert hall. The taller of the two wore pince-nez and a red armband marked "Commandant".
"Is the Ukrainian delegation meeting here?" Rita inquired.
"Yes," the tall man replied coldly. "Your business, Comrade?"
The tall man blocked the entrance and examined Rita from head to foot.
"Have you a delegate's mandate?"
Rita produced her card with the gilt-embossed words "Member of the Central Committee" and the man unbent at once.
"Pass in, Comrade," he said cordially. "You'll find some vacant seats over to the left."
Rita walked down the aisle, saw a vacant seat and sat down.
The meeting was evidently drawing to a close, for the chairman was summing up. His voice struck Rita as familiar.
"The council of the All-Russia Congress has now been elected. The Congress opens in two hours'time. In the meantime permit me to go over the list of delegates once more."

It was Akim! Rita listened with rapt attention as he hurriedly read out the list. As his name was called, each delegate raised his hand showing his red or white pass.
Suddenly Rita caught a familiar name: Pankratov.
She glanced round as a hand shot up but through the intervening rows she could not glimpse the stevedore's face. The names ran on, and again Rita heard one she knew — Okunev, and immediately after that another, Zharky.
Scanning the faces of the delegates she caught sight of Zharky. He was sitting not far away with Kis face half turned towards her. Yes, it was Vanya all right. She had almost forgotten that profile.
After all, she had not seen him for several years.
The roll-call continued. And then Akim read out a name that caused Rita to start violently:
Far away in one of the front rows a hand rose and fell, and, strange to say, Rita was seized with a painful longing to see the face of the man who bore the same name as her lost comrade. She could not tear her eyes away from the spot where the hand had risen, but all the heads in the rows before her seemed all alike. She got up and went down the aisle toward the front rows. At that moment Akim finished reading. Chairs were pushed back noisily and the hall was filled with the hum of voices and young laughter. Akim, trying to make himself heard above the din, shouted":
"Bolshoi Theatre ... seven o'clock. Don't be late!"
The delegates crowded to the single exit. Rita saw that she would never be able to find any of her old friends in this throng. She must try to catch Akim before he left; he would help her find the others. Just then a group of delegates passed her in the aisle on their way to the exit and she heard someone say:
"Well, Korchagin old man, we'd better be pushing off too!"
And a well-remembered voice replied: "Good, let's go."
Rita turned quickly. Before her stood a tall, dark-complexioned young man in a khaki tunic with a slender Caucasian belt, and blue riding breeches.
Rita stared at him. Then she felt his arms around her and heard his trembling voice say softly:
"Rita", and she knew that it was Pavel Korchagin. "So you're alive?"
These words told him all. She had not known that his reported death was a mistake.
The hall had emptied out long since, and the din and bustle of Tverskaya, that mighty artery of the city, poured through the open window. The clock struck six, but to both of them it seemed that they had met only a moment ago. But the clock summoned them to the Bolshoi Theatre. As they walked down the broad staircase to the exit she surveyed Pavel once more. He was a head taller than her now and more mature and self-possessed. But otherwise he was the Pavel she had always known.
"I haven't even asked you where you are working," she said.
"I am Secretary of the Regional Committee of the Komsomol, what Dubava would call a 'penpusher'," Pavel replied with a smile.
"Have you seen him?"
"Yes, and I have the most unpleasant memories of that meeting."
They stepped into the street. Automobiles hooted, noisy bustling througs filled the pavements.
They hardly exchanged a word on the way to the theatre, their minds full of the same thoughts.
They found the theatre besieged by a surging, tempestuous sea of people which tossed itself against the stone bulk of the theatre building in an effort to break through the line of Red Army men guarding the entrances. But the sentries gave admittance only to delegates, who passed through the cordon, their credentials proudly displayed.
It was a Komsomol sea that surrounded the theatre, a sea of young people who had been unable to obtain tickets to the opening of the Congress but who were determined to get in at all costs. Some of the more agile youngsters managed to work their way into the midst of groups of delegates and by presenting some slip of red paper sometimes contrived to get as far as the entrance.
A few even managed to slip through the doors only to be stopped by the Central Committee man on duty, or the commandant who directed the guests and delegates to their appointed places. And then, to the infinite satisfaction of all the rest of the "ticketless" fraternity, they were unceremoniously ejected.
The theatre could not hold a fraction of all who wished to be present.
Rita and Pavel pushed their way with difficulty to the entrance. The delegates continued to pour in, some arriving by tram, others by car. A large knot of them gathered at the entrance and the Red Army men, Komsomols themselves, were pressed back against the wall. At that moment a mighty shout arose from the crowd near the entrance:
"Bauman District, here goes!"
"Come on, lads, our side's winning!"
Through the doorway along with Pavel and Rita slipped a sharp-eyed youngster wearing a Komsomol badge, and eluding the commandant, made a beeline for the foyer. A moment later he was swallowed up by the crowd.
"Let's sit here," Rita said, indicating two seats in a corner at the back of the stalls.
"There is one question I must ask you," said Rita when they were seated. "It concerns bygone days, but I am sure you will not refuse to answer it. Why did you break off our studies and our friendship that time?"
And though Pavel had been expecting this question ever since they had met, it disconcerted him.
Their eyes met and Pavel saw that she knew.
"I think you know the answer yourself, Rita. That happened three years ago, and now I can only condemn Pavel for what he did. As a matter of fact Korchagin has committed many a blunder, big and small, in his life. That was one of them."
Rita smiled.
"An excellent preamble. Now for the answer!"
"It is not only I who was to blame," Pavel began in a low voice. "It was the Gadfly's fault too, that revolutionary romanticism of his. In those days I was very much influenced by books with vivid descriptions of staunch, courageous revolutionaries consecrated to our cause. Those men made a deep impression on me and I longed to be like them. I allowed The Gadfly to influence my feeling for you. It seems absurd to me now, and I regret it more than I can say."
"Then you have changed your mind about The Gadfly?"
"No, Rita, not fundamentally. I have only discarded the needless tragedy of that painful process of testing one's will. I still stand for what is most important in the Gadfly, for his courage, his supreme endurance, for the type of man who is capable of enduring suffering without exhibiting his pain to all and sundry. I stand for the type of revolutionary whose personal life is nothing as compared with the life of society as a whole."
"It is a pity, Pavel, that you did not tell me this three years ago," said Rita with a smile that showed her thoughts to be far away.
"A pity, you mean, because I have never been more to you than a comrade, Rita?"
"No, Pavel, you might have been more."
"But surely that can be remedied."
"No, Comrade Gadfly, it is too late for that. You see, I have a little daughter now," Rita smilingly explained. "I am very fond of her father. In general, the three of us are very good friends, and so far our trio is inseparable."
Her fingers brushed Pavel's hand. The gesture was prompted by anxiety for him, but she realised at once that it was unnecessary. Yes, he had matured in these three years, and not only physically.
She could tell by his eyes that he was deeply hurt by her confession, but all he said was:
"What I have left is still incomparably more than what I have just lost." And Rita knew that this was not merely an empty phrase, it was the simple truth.
It was time to take their places nearer to the stage. They got up and went forward to the row occupied by the Ukrainian delegation. The band struck up. Scarlet streamers flung across the hall were emblazoned with the words: "The Future Is Ours!" Thousands filled the stalls, the boxes and the tiers of the great theatre. These thousands merged here in one mighty organism throbbing with inexhaustible energy. The flower of the young guard of the country's great industrial brotherhood was gathered here. Thousands of pairs of eyes reflected the glow of those words traced in burning letters over the heavy curtain: "The Future Is Ours!" And still the human tide rolled in. Another few moments and the heavy velvet curtain would move aside, and the Secretary of the Central Committee of the Russian Young Communist League, overwhelmed for a moment by the solemnity of the occasion, would announce with a tremor in his voice: "I declare the Sixth Congress of the Russian Young Communist League open."
Never before had Pavel Korchagin been so profoundly, so stirringly conscious of the grandeur and might of the Revolution, and an indescribable surge of pride and joy swept over him at the thought that life had brought him, a fighter and builder, to this triumphant rally of the young guard to Bolshevism.
The Congress claimed all of his time from early morning until late at night, so that it was not until one of the final sessions that Pavel met Rita again. She was with a group of Ukrainians.
"I am leaving tomorrow as soon as the Congress closes," she told him. "I don't know whether we will have another chance for a talk, and so I have prepared two old notebooks of my diary for you, and a short note. Read them and send them back to me by post. They will tell you all that I have not told you."
He pressed her hand and gave her a long look as if committing her features to memory.
They met as agreed the following day at the main entrance and Rita handed him a package and a sealed letter. There were people all around and so their leave-taking was restrained, but in her slightly misted eyes Pavel read a deep tenderness tinged with sadness.
The next day their trains bore them away in different directions. The Ukrainian delegation occupied several carriages of the train in which Pavel travelled. He shared a compartment with some delegates from Kiev. In the evening, when the other passengers had retired and Okunev on the neighbouring berth was snoring peacefully, Pavel moved the lamp closer and opened the letter.

"Pavel, my darling! I might have told you all this when we were together, but it is better this way.
I wish only one thing: that what we spoke of before the Congress should leave no scar on your life. I know you are strong and I believe that you meant what you said. I do not take a formal attitude to life, I feel that one may make exceptions — though rarely — in one's personal relationships, provided they are founded on a genuine and deep attachment. For you I would have made that exception, but I rejected my impulse to pay tribute to our youth. I feel that there would be no true happiness in it for either of us. Still, you ought not to be so harsh to yourself, Pavel. Our life is not all struggle, there is room in it for the happiness that real love brings.

"As for the rest, the main purport of your life, I have no fears for you. I press your hand warmly."Rita."

Pavel tore up the letter reflectively; he thrust his hand out of the window and felt the wind tearingthe scraps of paper out of his hand.
By morning he had read both notebooks of Rita's diary, wrapped them up and tied them ready for posting. At Kharkov he left the train with Okunev and Pankratov and several other delegates.
Okunev was going to Kiev to fetch Talya, who was staying with Anna. Pankratov, who had been elected member of the Central Committee of the Ukrainian Komsomol, also had business in Kiev.
Pavel decided to go on with them to Kiev and pay a visit to Dubava and Anna. By the time he emerged from the post-office at the Kiev station after sending off the parcel to Rita, the others had gone, so he set off alone. The tram stopped outside the house where Anna and Dubava lived. Pavel climbed the stairs to the second floor and knocked at the door on the left,Anna's room. No one answered. It was too early for her to have gone to work. "She must be sleeping," he thought. The door of the neighbouring room opened and a sleepy-eyed Dubava came out on the landing. His face was ashen and there were dark circles under his eyes. He exuded a strong smell of onions and Pavel's sharp nose caught a whiff of alcohol. Through the half-open door he caught a glimpse of the fleshy leg and shoulders of some woman on the bed.
Dubava, noticing the direction of his glance, kicked the door shut.
"You've come to see Comrade Borhart, I suppose?" he inquired hoarsely, evading Pavel's eyes.
"She doesn't live here any more. Didn't you know that?"
Korchagin, his face stern, looked searchingly at Dubava.
"No, I didn't. Where has she gone?"
Dubava suddenly lost his temper.
"That's no concern of mine!" he shouted. He belched and added with suppressed malice: "Come to console her, eh? You're just in time to fill the vacancy. Here's your chance. Don't worry, she won't refuse you. She told me many a time how much she liked you ... or however those silly women put it. Go on, strike the iron while it's hot. It will be a true communion of soul and body."
Pavel felt the blood rushing to his cheeks. Restraining himself with difficulty, he said in a low voice:
"What are you doing to yourself, Mityai! I never thought you'd fall so low. You weren't a bad fellow once. Why are you letting yourself go to the dogs?"
Dubava leaned back against the wall. The cement floor evidently felt cold to his bare feet, for he shivered.
The door opened and a woman's face with swollen eyes and puffy cheeks appeared.
"Come back in, duckie, what're you standing out there for?"
Before she could say any more, Dubava slammed the door to and stood against it.
"A fine beginning," Pavel observed. "Look at the company you're keeping. Where will it all end?"
But Dubava would hear no more.
"Are you going to tell me who I should sleep with?" he shouted. "I've had enough of yourpreaching. Now get back where you came from! Run along and tell them all that Dubava has taken to drinking and whoring."
Pavel went up to him and said in a voice of suppressed emotion:
"Mityai, get rid of that woman. I want to talk to you, for the last time...."
Dubava's face darkened. He turned on his heel and went back into the room without another word.
"The swine!" Pavel muttered and walked slowly down the stairs.

Two years went by. Time counted off the days............

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