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The Cook's Wedding and Other Stories

The Runaway
IT had been a long business. At first Pashka had walked with his mother in the rain, at
one time across a mown field, then by forest paths, where the yellow leaves stuck to his
boots; he had walked until it was daylight. Then he had stood for two hours in the dark
passage, waiting for the door to open. It was not so cold and damp in the passage as in the
yard, but with the high wind spurts of rain flew in even there. When the passage
gradually became packed with people Pashka, squeezed among them, leaned his face
against somebody's sheepskin which smelt strongly of salt fish, and sank into a doze. But
at last the bolt clicked, the door flew open, and Pashka and his mother went into the
waiting-room. All the patients sat on benches without stirring or speaking. Pashka looked
round at them, and he too was silent, though he was seeing a great deal that was strange
and funny. Only once, when a lad came into the waiting-room hopping on one leg,
Pashka longed to hop too; he nudged his mother's elbow, giggled in his sleeve, and said:
"Look, mammy, a sparrow."
"Hush, child, hush!" said his mother.
A sleepy-looking hospital assistant appeared at the little window.
"Come and be registered!" he boomed out.
All of them, including the funny lad who hopped, filed up to the window. The assistant
asked each one his name, and his father's name, where he lived, how long he had been ill,
and so on. From his mother's answers, Pashka learned that his name was not Pashka, but
Pavel Galaktionov, that he was seven years old, that he could not read or write, and that
he had been ill ever since Easter.
Soon after the registration, he had to stand up for a little while; the doctor in a white
apron, with a towel round his waist, walked across the waiting-room. As he passed by the
boy who hopped, he shrugged his shoulders, and said in a sing-song tenor:
"Well, you are an idiot! Aren't you an idiot? I told you to come on Monday, and you
come on Friday. It's nothing to me if you don't come at all, but you know, you idiot, your
leg will be done for!"
The lad made a pitiful face, as though he were going to beg for alms, blinked, and said:
"Kindly do something for me, Ivan Mikolaitch!"
 
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