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The Horse-Stealers and Other Stories

Darkness
A YOUNG peasant, with white eyebrows and eyelashes and broad cheekbones, in a torn
sheepskin and big black felt overboots, waited till the Zemstvo doctor had finished seeing
his patients and came out to go home from the hospital; then he went up to him,
diffidently.
"Please, your honour," he said.
"What do you want?"
The young man passed the palm of his hand up and over his nose, looked at the sky, and
then answered:
"Please, your honour. . . . You've got my brother Vaska the blacksmith from Varvarino in
the convict ward here, your honour. . . ."
"Yes, what then?"
"I am Vaska's brother, you see. . . . Father has the two of us: him, Vaska, and me, Kirila;
besides us there are three sisters, and Vaska's a married man with a little one. . . . There
are a lot of us and no one to work. . . . In the smithy it's nearly two years now since the
forge has been heated. I am at the cotton factory, I can't do smith's work, and how can
father work? Let alone work, he can't eat properly, he can't lift the spoon to his mouth."
"What do you want from me?"
"Be merciful! Let Vaska go!"
The doctor looked wonderingly at Kirila, and without saying a word walked on. The
young peasant ran on in front and flung himself in a heap at his feet.
"Doctor, kind gentleman!" he besought him, blinking and again passing his open hand
over his nose. "Show heavenly mercy; let Vaska go home! We shall remember you in our
prayers for ever! Your honour, let him go! They are all starving! Mother's wailing day in,
day out, Vaska's wife's wailing . . . it's worse than death! I don't care to look upon the
light of day. Be merciful; let him go, kind gentleman!"
"Are you stupid or out of your senses?" asked the doctor angrily. "How can I let him go?
Why, he is a convict."
Kirila began crying. "Let him go!"
 
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