Search      Hot    Newest Novel
HOME > Inspiring Novel > How The Steel Was Tempered > Part Two Chapter 7
Font Size:【Large】【Middle】【Small】 Add Bookmark  
Part Two Chapter 7

The garden of the central poly clinic adjoined the grounds of the Central Committee Sanatorium.
The patients used it as a short cut on their way home from the beach. Pavel loved to rest here in the shade of a spreading plane tree which grew beside a high limestone wall. From this quiet nook he could watch the lively movement of the crowd strolling along the garden paths and listen to the music of the band in the evenings without being jostled by the gay throngs of the large health resort.
Today too he had sought his favourite retreat. Drowsy from the sunshine and the bath he had just taken, he stretched himself out luxuriously on the chaise-lounge and fell into a doze. His bath towel and the book he was reading, Furmanov's Insurrection, lay on the chair beside him. His first days in the sanatorium had brought no relief to his nerves and his headaches continued. His ailment had so far baffled the sanatorium doctors, who were still trying to get to the root of the trouble. Pavel was sick of the perpetual examinations. They wearied him and he did his best to avoid his ward doctor, a pleasant woman with the curious name of Yerusalimchik, who had a difficult time hunting for her unwilling patient and persuading him to let her take him to some specialist or other.
"I'm tired of the whole business," Pavel would plead with her. "Five times a day I have to tell the same story and answer all sorts of silly questions: was your grandmother insane, or did your great-grandfather suffer with rheumatism? How the devil should I know what he suffered from? I never saw him in my life! Every doctor tries to induce me to confess that I had gonorrhea or something worse, until I swear I'm ready to punch their bald heads. Give me a chance to rest, that's all I want.
If I'm going to let myself be diagnosed all the six weeks of my stay here I'll become a danger to society."
Yerusalimchik would laugh and joke with him, but a few minutes later she would take him gently by the arm and lead him to the surgeon, chattering volubly all the way.
But today there was no examination in the offing, and dinner was an hour away. Presently, through his doze, he heard steps approaching. He did not open his eyes.

"They'll think I'm asleep and go away," he thought. Vain hope! He heard the chair beside him creak as someone sat down.
A faint whiff of perfume told him it was a woman. He opened his eyes. The first thing he saw was a dazzling white dress and a pair of bronzed feet encased in soft leather slippers, then a boyish bob, two enormous eyes, and a row of white teeth as sharp as a mouse's. She gave him a shy smile.
"I haven't disturbed you, I hope?"
Pavel made no reply, which was not very polite of him, but he still hoped that she would go.
"Is this your book?" She was turning the pages of Insurrection.
"It is."
There was a moment of silence.
"You're from the Kommunar Sanatorium, aren't you?"
Pavel stirred impatiently. Why couldn't she leave him in peace? Now she would start asking about his illness. He would have to go.
"No," he replied curtly.
"I was sure I had seen you there."
Pavel was on the point of rising when a deep, pleasant woman's voice behind him said:
"Why, Dora, what are you doing here?''
A plump, sunburned, fair-haired girl in a beach costume seated herself on the edge of a chair. She glanced quickly at Korchagin.
"I've seen you somewhere, Comrade. You're from Kharkov, aren't you?"
"Where do you work?"
Pavel decided to put an end to the conversation.
"In the garbage disposal department," he replied. The laugh this sally evoked made him jump.
"You're not very polite, are you, Comrade?"
That is how their friendship began. Dora Rodkina turned out to be a member of the Bureau of the Kharkov City Committee of the Party and later, when they came to know each other well, she often teased him about the amusing incident with which their acquaintance had started.

One afternoon at an open-air concert in the grounds of the Thalassa Sanatorium Pavel ran across his old friend Zharky. And curious to relate, it was a foxtrot that brought them together.
After the audience had been treated to a highly emotional rendering of Oh, Nights of Burning Passion by a buxom soprano, a couple sprang onto the stage. The man, half-naked but for a red top hat, some shiny spangles on his hips, a dazzling white shirt front and bow tie, in feeble imitation of a savage, and his doll-faced partner in voluminous skirts. To the accompaniment of a delighted buzz from the crowd of beefy-necked shopowners standing behind the armchairs and cots occupied by the sanatorium patients, the couple gyrated about the stage in the intricate figures of a foxtrot. A more revolting spectacle could scarcely be imagined. The fleshy man in his idiotic top hat, with his partner pressed tightly to him, writhed on the stage in suggestive poses. Pavel heard the stertorous breathing of some fat carcass at his back. He turned to go when someone in the front row got up and shouted:
"Enough of this brothel show! To hell with it!"
It was Zharky.
The pianist stopped playing and the violin subsided with a squeak. The couple on the stage ceased writhing. The crowd at the back set up a vicious hissing.
"What impudence to interrupt a number!"
"All Europe is dancing foxtrot!"
But Seryozha Zhbanov, Secretary of the Cherepovets Komsomol organisation and one of the Kommunar patients, put four fingers into his mouth and emitted a piercing whistle. Others followed his example and in an instant the couple vanished from the stage, as if swept off by a gust of wind. The obsequious compere who looked like nothing so much as an old-time flunkey, announced that the concert troupe was leaving.
"Good riddance to bad rubbish!" a lad in a sanatorium bathrobe shouted amid general laughter.
Pavel went over to the front rows and found Zharky. The two friends had a long chat in Pavel's room. Zharky told Pavel that he was working in the propaganda section of  one of the Party's regional committees.
"You didn't know I was married, did you?" said Zharky. "I'm expecting a son or a daughter before long."
"Married, eh?" Pavel was surprised. "Who is your wife?"

Zharky took a photograph out of his pocket and showed it to Pavel.
"Recognise her?"
It was a photo of himself and Anna Borhart.
"What happened to Dubava?" Pavel asked in still greater surprise.
"He's in Moscow. He left the university after he was expelled from the Party. He's at the Bauman Technical Institute now. I hear he's been reinstated. Too bad, if it's true. He's rotten through and through. ... Guess what Pankratov is doing? He's assistant director of a shipyard. I don't know much about the others. We've lost touch lately. We all work in different parts of the country. But it's nice to get together occasionally and recall the old times."
Dora came in bringing several other people with her. She glanced at the decoration on Zharky's jacket and asked Pavel:
"Is your comrade a Party member? Where does he work?"
Puzzled, Pavel told her briefly about Zharky.
"Good," she said. "Then he can remain. These comrades have just come from Moscow. They are going to give us the latest Party news. We decided to come to your room and hold a sort of closed Party meeting," she explained.
With the exception of Pavel and Zharky all the newcomers were old Bolsheviks. Bartashev, a member of the Moscow Control Commission, told them about the new opposition headed by Trotsky, Zinoviev and Kamenev.
"At this critical moment we ought to be at our posts," Bartashev said in conclusion. "I am leaving tomorrow."
Three days after that meeting in Pavel's room the sanatorium was deserted. Pavel too left shortly afterward, before his time was up.
The Central Committee of the Komsomol did not detain him. He was given an appointment as Komsomol Secretary in one of the industrial regions, and within a week he was already addressing a meeting of the local town organisation.
Late that autumn the car in which Pavel was travelling with two other Party workers to one of the remote districts, skidded into a ditch and overturned.
All the occupants were injured. Pavel's right knee was crushed. A few days later he was taken to the surgical institute in Kharkov. After an examination and X-ray of the injured limb the medical commission advised an immediate operation.
Pavel gave his consent.
"Tomorrow morning then," said the stout professor, who headed the commission. He got up and the others filed out after him.
A small bright ward with a single cot. Spotless cleanliness and the peculiar hospital smell he had long since forgotten. He glanced about him. Beside the cot stood a small table covered with a snow-white cloth and a white-painted stool. And that was all.
The nurse brought in his supper. Pavel sent it back. Half-sitting in his bed, he was writing letters.
The pain in his knee interfered with his thoughts and robbed him of his appetite.
When the fourth letter had been written the door opened softly and a young woman in a white smock and cap came over to his bed.
In the twilight he made out a pair of arched eyebrows and large eyes that seemed black. In one hand she held a portfolio, in the other, a sheet of paper and a pencil.

"I am your ward doctor," she said. "Now I am going to ask you a lot of questions and you will have to tell me all about yourself, whether you like it or not."
She smiled pleasantly and her smile took the edge off her "cross-examination". Pavel spent the better part of an hour telling her not only about himself but about all his relatives several generations back.

... The operating theatre. People with gauze masks over noses and mouths. Shining nickel instruments, a long narrow table with a huge basin beneath it.
The professor was still washing his hands when Pavel lay down on the operating table. Behind him swift preparations were being made for the operation. He turned his head. The nurse was laying out pincets and lancets.
"Don't look, Comrade Korchagin," said Bazhanova, his ward doctor, who was unbandaging his leg. "It is bad for the nerves."
"For whose nerves, doctor?" Pavel asked with a mocking smile.
A few minutes later a heavy mask covered his face and he heard the professor's voice saying:
"We are going to give you an anaesthetic. Now breathe in deeply through your nose and begin counting."
"Very well," a calm voice muffled by the mask replied. "I apologise in advance for any unprintable remarks I am liable to make."
The professor could not suppress a smile.
The first drops of ether. The suffocating loathsome smell.
Pavel took a deep breath and making an effort to speak distinctly began counting. The curtain had risen on the first act of his tragedy.

Artem tore open the envelope and trembling inwardly unfolded the letter. His eyes bored into the first few lines, then ran quickly over the rest of the page.

"Artem! We write to each other so seldom, once, or at best twice a year! But is it quantity that matters? You write that you and your family have moved from Shepetovka to Kazatin railway yards because you wished to tear up your roots. I know that those roots lie in the backward, petty-proprietor psychology of Styosha and her relatives. It is hard to remake people of Styosha's type,and I am very much afraid you will not succeed. You say you are finding it hard to study 'in your old age', yet you seem to be doing not so badly. You are wrong in your stubborn refusal to leave the factory and take up work as Chairman of the Town Soviet. You fought for the Soviet power,didn't you? Then take it! Take over the Town Soviet tomorrow and get to work!
"Now about myself. Something is seriously wrong with me. I have become a far too frequentinmate in hospitals. They have cut me up twice. I have lost quite a bit of  blood and strength, but nobody can tell me yet when it will all end.
"I am no longer fit for work. I have acquired a new profession, that of 'invalid'. I am enduring much pain, and the net result of all this is loss of movement in the joint of my right knee, several scars in various parts of my body, and now the latest medical discovery: seven years ago I injured my spine and now I am told that this injury may cost me dearly. But I am ready to endure anything so long as I can return to the ranks.
"There is nothing more terrible to me in life than to fall out of the ranks. That is a possibility I refuse to contemplate. And that is why I let them do anything they like with me. But there is no improvement and the clouds grow darker and thicker all the time. After the first operation I returned to work as soon as I could walk, but before long they brought me back again. Now I am being sent to a sanatorium in Yevpatoria. I leave tomorrow. But don't be downhearted, Artem, you know I don't give in easily. I have life enough in me for three. You and I will do some good work yet, brother. Now take care of your health, don't try to overtax your strength, because health repairs cost the Party far too much. All the experience we gain in work, and the knowledge we acquire by study is far too precious to be wasted in hospitals. I shake your hand.

While Artem, his heavy brows knitted, was reading his brother's letter, Pavel was taking leave of Dr. Bazhanova in the hospital.
"So you are leaving for the Crimea tomorrow?" she said as she gave him her hand. "How are you going to spend the rest of the day?"
"Comrade Rodkina is coming here soon," Pavel replied. "She is taking me to her place to meet her family. I shall spend the night there and tomorrow she will take me to the station."
Bazhanova knew Dora for she had often visited Pavel in the hospital.
"But, Comrade Korchagin, have you forgotten your promise to let my father see you before you go? I have given him a detailed account of your illness and I should like him to examine you.
Perhaps you could manage it this evening."
Pavel agreed at once.
That evening Bazhanova showed Pavel into her father's spacious office.
The famous surgeon gave Pavel a careful examination. His daughter had brought all the X-ray pictures and analyses from the clinic. Pavel could not help noticing how pale she turned when her father made some lengthy remark in Latin. Pavel stared at the professor's large bald head bent over him and searched his keen eyes, but Bazhanov's expression was inscrutable.
When Pavel had dressed, the professor took leave of him cordially, explaining that he was due at a conference, and left his daughter to inform Pavel of the result of his examination.
Pavel lay on the couch in Bazhanova's tastefully furnished room waiting for the doctor to speak. But she did not know how to begin. She could not bring herself to repeat what her father had told her — that medicine was so far unable to check the disastrous inflammatory process at work in Pavel's organism. The professor had been opposed to an operation. "This young man is fated to lose the use of his limbs and we are powerless to avert the tragedy."
She did not consider it wise either as doctor or friend to tell him the whole truth and so in carefully chosen words she told him only part of the truth.
"I am certain, Comrade Korchagin, that the Yevpatoria mud will put you right and that by autumn you will be able to return to work."
But she had forgotten that his sharp eye had been watching her all the time.
"From what you say, or rather from what you have not said, I see that the situation is grave.
Remember I asked you always to be perfectly frank with me. You need not hide anything from me, I shan't faint or try to cut my throat. But I very much want to know what is in store for me."
Bazhanova evaded a direct answer by making some cheerful remark and Pavel did not learn the truth about his future that night.
"Do not forget that I am your friend, Comrade Korchagin," the doctor said softly in parting. "Who knows what life has in store for you. If ever you need my help or my advice please write to me. I shall do everything in my power to help you."
Through the window she watched the tall leather-clad figure, leaning heavily on a stick, move painfully from the door to the waiting cab.

Yevpatoria again. The hot southern sun. Noisy sunburned people in embroidered skullcaps. A ten-minute drive brought the new arrivals to a two-storey grey limestone building — the Mainak Sanatorium.
The doctor on duty, learning that Pavel's accommodation had been reserved by the Central Committee of the Ukrainian Communist Party, took him up to room No. 11.
"I shall put you in with Comrade Ebner. He is a German and he has asked for a Russian roommate," he explained as he knocked at the door. A voice with a heavy German accent sounded from within. "Come in."
Pavel put down his travelling bag and turned to the fair-haired man with the lively blue eyes who was lying on the bed. The German met him with a warm smile.
"Guten Morgen, Genosse. I mean, good day," he corrected himself, stretching a pale, long-fingered hand to Pavel.
A few moments later Pavel was sitting by his bed and the two were engrossed in a lively conversation in that "international language" in which words play a minor role, and imagination,gestures and mimicry, all the media of the unwritten Esperanto, fill in the gaps.
Pavel learned that Ebner was a German worker who had been wounded in the hip during the Hamburg uprising of 1923. The old wound had re-opened and he was confined to his bed. But hebore his sufferings cheerfully and that won Pavel's respect for him at once.
Pavel could not have wished for a better room-mate. This one would not talk about his ailments from morning till night and bemoan his lot. On the contrary, with him one could forget one's own troubles.
"Too bad I don't know any German, though," Pavel thought ruefully.

In a corner of the sanatorium grounds stood several rocking-chairs, a bamboo table and two bath-chairs. It was here that the five patients whom the others referred to as the "Executive of the Comintern" were in the habit of spending their time after the day's medical treatments were over.
Ebner half reclined in one of the bath-chairs. Pavel, who had also been forbidden to walk, in the other. The three other members of the group were Weiman, a thickset Estonian, who worked at a Republican Commissariat of Trade, Marta Laurin, a young, brown-eyed Lettish woman wholooked like a girl of eighteen, and Ledenev, a tall, powerfully-built Siberian with greying temples.
This small group indeed represented five different nationalities — German, Estonian, Lettish,Russian and Ukrainian. Marta and Weiman spoke German and Ebner used them as interpreters.

Pavel and Ebner were friends because they shared the same room; Marta, Weiman and Ebner, because they shared a common language. The bond between Ledenev and Korchagin was chess.
Before Ledenev arrived, Korchagin had been the sanatorium chess "champion". He had won the title from Weiman after a stiff struggle. The phlegmatic Estonian had been somewhat shaken by his defeat and for a long time he could not forgive Korchagin for having worsted him. But one day a tall man, looking remarkably young for his fifty years, turned up at the sanatorium and suggested a game of chess with Korchagin. Pavel, having no inkling of danger, calmly began with a Queen's Gambit, which Ledenev countered by advancing his central pawns. As "champion", Pavel was obliged to play all new arrivals, and there was always a knot of interested spectators around the board. After the ninth move Pavel realised that his opponent was cramping him by steadily advancing his pawns. Pavel saw now that he had a dangerous opponent and began to regret that he had treated the game so lightly at the start.
After a three-hour struggle during which Pavel exerted all his skill and ingenuity he was obliged to give up. He foresaw his defeat long before any of the onlookers. He glanced up at his opponent and saw Ledenev looking at him with a kindly smile. It was clear that he too saw how the game would end. The Estonian, who was following the game tensely and making no secret of his desire to see Korchagin defeated, was still unaware of what was happening.
"I always hold out to my last pawn," Pavel said, and Ledenev nodded approvingly.
Pavel played ten games with Ledenev in five days, losing seven, winning two and drawing one.
Weiman was jubilant.
"Thank you, Comrade Ledenev, thank you! That was a wonderful thrashing you gave him! He deserved it! He knocked out all of us old chess players and now he's been paid back by an old man himself. Ha! Ha!"
"How does it feel to be the loser, eh?" he teased the now vanquished victor.
Pavel lost the title of "champion" but won in Ledenev a friend who was later to become very precious to him. He saw now that his defeat on the chessboard was only to have been expected. His knowledge of chess strategy had been purely superficial and he had lost to an expert who knew all the secrets of the game.
Korchagin and Ledenev found that they had one important date in common: Pavel was born the year Ledenev joined the Party. Both were typical representatives of the young and old guard of Bolsheviks. The one had behind him a long life of intensive political activity, years of work in the underground movement and tsarist imprisonment, followed by important government work; the other had his flaming youth and only eight years of struggle, but years that could have burnt up more than............

Join or Log In! You need to log in to continue reading

Login into Your Account

  Remember me on this computer.

All The Data From The Network AND User Upload, If Infringement, Please Contact Us To Delete! Contact Us
About Us | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Tag List | Recent Search  
©2010-2018, All Rights Reserved