A. S. Makarenko Reference Archive

The Road to Life
Volume 2


Winter drew round once more. By October the endless "burty" had been filled with alternate layers of beets and straw and Lapot proposed to the Commanders' Council:

"Be it resolved: to heave a sigh of relief."

"Burty" are deep trenches, twenty metres long. Sherre had prepared about a dozen such trenches for the winter, and even then said it wasn't enough, and that we should have to economize in beets.

Each beet had to be laid in its trench as carefully as if it were an optical instrument. Sherre was capable of standing over a mixed detachment from morning till night, nagging at them ceaselessly.

"Don't throw them about like that, comrades, if you please! Bear in mind that if you give a hard knock to a single beet, it will begin to decay, and then it will rot, and the decay will spread to all the rest. Do be careful, comrades, please do!"

Exhausted by the monotony of the work, and thoroughly sick of beets, the colonists never missed an opportunity of making Sherre's admonitions an excuse for distraction and rest. Choosing from the heap a nice-looking, round, pinkish beet, the whole mixed detachment headed by its commander--some Mitka or Vitka--would gather round it, the commander raising his hands with outspread fingers, and slaying in a stage whisper:

"Don't go too near! Hold your breath! Who has clean hands?"

Litters would appear. When the commander of the mixed detachment lifted the beet tenderly from the heap, a cry of alarm would be uttered:

"What are you doing? What are you doing?"

All would stop in terror, and nod their heads, when the same voice continued:

"You got to be careful!"

The first pair of overalls that came handy would be rolled up into a soft, comfortable pillow, the pillow placed on the bitter, while the rosy, round, well-nourished beet resting on it really was a touching sight. Sherre would chew at a grass-stalk to conceal his smiles. The litter would be lifted from the ground, and Mitka would whisper:

"Gently, comrades, gently! Bear in mind, decay may set in...."

There was a remote likeness to Sherre's voice in that of Mitka, and Eduard Nikolayevich was therefore careful not to throw away his grass-stalk.

The winter ploughing was over. We had only begun to dream of a tractor, and it was quite impossible to do more than half a hectare a day with a plough and two horses. Sherre, therefore, grew extremely anxious, watching the work of the first and second mixed detachments.

In these detachments worked some of our most experienced colonists, under the command of such "hearts of oak" as Fedorenko, Koryto and Chobot. Possessing strength very little inferior to that of the two plough horses, and knowing the work of ploughing in all its details, these comrades had a happy way of applying the methods of ploughing to other spheres of life also. In the collective, in their friendly relations, and in their private lives, they were fond of the straight, deep furrow, the heavy gleaming clods of earth. And the work of their brains seemed to go on not in their heads but in some other places--in the muscles of their steel-strong hands, in their armoured chests, in their firm monumental thighs. In the colony they held out steadily against the attractions of the Rabfak, avoiding with silent scorn all talk on scholastic themes. Their convictions were unshakable, and none of the other colonists had such proudly good-natured gestures, such confidently laconic speech.

As active members of the first and second mixed detachments, these colonists enjoyed the profound respect of all, even though certain wits were not always able to refrain from sarcasms in their regard.

This autumn the first and second mixed detachments got all muddled up over ia contest. At that time emulation had not yet become the symbol of Soviet work, and I even had to suffer, in the torture chambers of the Department of Public Education, on its account. My sole justification was that emulation sprang up in our midst spontaneously, and that I had no hand in it myself.

The first mixed detachment worked from six a.m. till noon, and the second from noon till six p.m. The mixed detachments were formed for a week. The next week the combination of the colony's forces in mixed detachments had always changed a little, although there was a certain amount of specialization.

Every day, just as a mixed detachment was finishing its work, Alyosha Volkov, our assistant agronomist, would go out into the field with his two-metre level to ascertain the number of square metres ploughed by the mixed detachment.

The mixed detachments worked well at ploughing, but the amount done varied according to the soil, the horses, slopes in the ground, the weather, and other external factors. On a board hung for all sorts of announcements, Alyosha Volkov chalked up the figures:

Oct. 19 1st mixed Koryto... 2,850 sq.m.
Ist mixed Vetkovsky 2,300 " "
2nd mixed Fedorenko 2,410 " "
2nd mixed Nechitailo 2,270 " "

Quite spontaneously the boys began to take an interest in comparing the results of their work, each detachment trying to outvie its predecessors. It was discovered that the best commanders, and the most likely to head the list, were Fedorenko and Koryto. They had been close friends for long, but this did not prevent them from following each other's results jealously, and finding all sorts of faults in each other's work. And here Fedorenko reacted to a dramatic experience in a way which made it apparent that he also had his nerves. For some time he had been ahead of the other detachments, his results from day to day ranging on Alyosha Volkov's hoard from 2,500 to 2,600. Koryto's detachment tried to reach these records, but was always forty or fifty square metres behind, and Fedorenko made fun of his friend.

"Stop it, pal! Anyone can see you're still a young ploughman...."

The horse Dawn fell sick tin the end of October, and Sherre only sent one pair into the fields, asking the Commanders' Council to appoint Fedorenko to Koryto's detachment, in order to increase the effectiveness of the work.

At first Fedorenko did not see the dramatic possibilities of the situation, for he bad been much worried about Dawn's illness, and the necessity for speeding up the winter ploughing with only one team of horses. He flung himself zealously into the work, only coming to his senses when Alyoshla Volkov wrote on the board:

Oct. 24th 2nd mixed Koryto... 2730 sq. m.

The proud Koryto triumphed in his victory, and Lapot went about the colony declaring:

"How can Fedorenko compete with Koryto? Koryto's a regular agronomist, what's Fedorenko in comparison to him?"

The boys tossed Koryto in the air with shouts of "hurrah," while Fedorenko, his hands in his trouser pockets, turned pale with envy.

"Koryto an agronomist!" he roared. "I've never seen an agronomist like that before!"

Fedorenko was being continually pestered with innocent questions:

"You admit Koryto won?"

But Fedorenko bad been thinking things over. In the Commanders' Council he said:

"What's Koryto swaggering about? There'll be only one team this week, too. Give me Koryto in the first mixed, and I'll show you three thousand metres."

The Commanders' Council Fedorenko's resourcefulness, request. Koryto shook his head.

"Oh, that Fedorenko!" he said. "He's a cunning devil!"

"Mind!" Fedorenko adjured him. "I worked conscientiously for you--you'd better not try any shirking!"

Even before the work had begun, Koryto had to admit that his situation was a difficult one.

"What's to be e done? There's Fedorenko to consider, and then there's the ploughing. And if the kids start saying I've let Fedorenko down by not working hard enough, that won't be too good, either."

Fedorenko laughed, and Koryto laughed, going out in the fields the next morning. Fedorenko placed an enormous stick on the plough, to which he drew his friend's attention.

"See that!" he said. "Out in the field I shan't baby you, you know!"

Koryto reddened, at first from the gravity of the situation, and then from laughter.

When Alyosha returned from the field with his level, feeling in his pocket for a bit of chalk, the whole colony came out to meet him, and the lads asked impatiently:

"Well--how was it?"

Alyosha wrote on the hoard, slowly and silently:

Oct. 26th 1st mixed Fedorenko... 3010 sq. m.

"Oh, fancy that!--Fedorenko-three thousand!"

Fedorenko and Koryto came hack from the field. The boys greeted Fedorenko as a conqueror, and Lapot said:

"Didn't I say Koryto could never compete with Fedorenko? Why, Fedorenko's a regular agronomist!"

Fedorenko looked mistrustfully at Lapot, afraid to say what he thought about Lapot's crafty behaviour, for this all took place not in the fields, but in the yard, and Fedorenko no longer had the confidence he felt when holding the tense, quivering handles of the plough.

"How is it you were beaten, Koryto?" asked Lapot.

"It was irregular, Comrade Colonists! I'll tell you how it was--Fedorenko took a stick into the field, and that's how it was!"

"Of course I took a stick," corroborated Fedorenko. "One has to clean the plough every now and then."

"And he said: 'I shan't baby you.' "

"And why should I baby you? I slay it again--what's the use of babying you--you're not a girl?"

"And how many times did he hit you with the stick?" inquired the lads.

"Oh, I was so terrified of the stick, and worked hard, so's he didn't have to use it. And, by the way, you didn't use that stick for cleaning the plough, Fedorenko."

"It was a spare stick, I found a very convenient--er--stick in the field."

"If he never once hit you, you have no grounds for complaint," explained Lapot. "You adopted the wrong policy from the start, Koryto. You should have worked slowly, you know, and argued with the commander. He would have lammed into you with the stick. Then things would have been quite different: the Commanders' Council, the Komsomol Bureau, the general meeting and all that...."

"I didn't think of it," said Koryto.

Thus Fedorenko came off the winner, thanks to his determination and ingenuity.

The autumn drew to an end, abundant, closepacked, dependable. We did miss the colonists who had gone to Kharkov, but live human beings and days of toil as before brought to nightfall satisfactory portions of laughter and cheerfulness, and even Ekaterinla Grigoryevna admitted.

"You know what--our collective's wonderful! It's as if nothing had happened."

I now understood still better that, as a matter of fact, nothing special had happened. The success of our Rabfak candidates in the examinations at Kharkov, and the constant feeling that, though they were living and studying in another town, they were still the colonists of the seventh mixed, increased the stock of optimism in the colony. Zadorov, the commander of the seventh mixed, sent regular weekly reports, which were read at our meetings to the accompaniment of a pleasant, approving hum. Zadorov drew up his reports in detail, indicating who was sweating away at what, and adding comments of his own.

"Semyon is thinking of falling in love with a girl from Chernigov. Write and tell him to snap out of it. Vershnev is fussing because medical science isn't taught at the Rabfak, and he says he's sick of learning grammar. Tell him to stop putting on airs."

Another time Zadorov wrote:

"Oksana and Rakhil often come to see us. We give them lard, and they help us in all sorts of ways--Kolya has difficulties with his grammar, Golos, with arithmetic. So we want to ask the Commanders' Council to make Oksana and Rakhil members of the seventh mixed. They keep the rules."

And again:

"Oksana and Rakhil have no boots, and no money to buy any. We've had to have our boots repaired, we walk a lot, on pavements all the time. There's nothing left of the money Anton Semyonovich sent, because we had to buy textbooks and a set of draughting instruments for me. Oksana and Rakhil have to buy boots, they cost seven rubles a pair at the market. They feed us all right, here, but unfortunately only once a day, and we've finished all our lard. Semyon eats a lot of lard. Write and tell him not to eat so much if you send us any more."

At the general meeting the colonists enthusiastically resolved: to send money; to send more lard; to make Oksana and Rakhil members of the seventh mixed; to send them colonists' badges; not to say anything to Semyon about the lard he eats--they had their commander, let the commander issue lard himself, as a commander should; to write to Vershnev not to fuss, and to Semyon to be careful about that Chernigov girl, and not get his head filled with sentimental ideas. If necessary, the Chernigov g!rl could write to the Commanders' Council herself.

Lapot had a way of making a general meeting businesslike, brisk and lively, and could draw up splendid formulas for corresponding with our Rabfak students. The idea of the Chernigov girl appealing to the Commanders' Council pleased everyone, and was destined to undergo development in the future.

The life of the seventh mixed in Kharkov brought about a radical change in the tone of our school. The conviction was forced upon all that the Rabfak was a reality--that anyone could get into it, given the desire. And we observed a remarkable influx of energy in school studies from the autumn. Bratchenko, Georgievsky, Osadchy, Schneider, Gleiser, and Marusya Levchenko started working to get into the Rabfak in earnest.

Marusya had completely thrown off her hysteria, and during this period had quite fallen in love with Ekaterina Grigorvevna, accompanying her everywhere, helping her when she was on duty, and following her with an ardent gaze. I was pleased to see that Marusya had become a great stickler for neatness in dressing, and had learnt to wear severe high collars, and blouses of the most elegant cut. Marusya was blossoming into a beauty under our very eyes.

In the junior groups, too, the fragrance of the as yet remote Rabfak began to distil itself, and the eager juniors were frequently heard inquiring which would be the best Rabfak for them to aim at.

Natashia Petrenko attacked her studies with a zeal which was remarkable. She was about sixteen, but still illiterate. From her very first days in our school she displayed extraordinary ability, and I confronted her with the task of completing her studies for the first and second classes during the winter. Natashia thanked me with a flicker of the eyelashes, saying briefly:

"Why not?"

She had already stopped calling me "Uncle," and was rapidly settling down in the collective. She was beloved by all, for her indefinable beauty of disposition, for her serenely-confiding smile, for the sweetness of her expression. She still kept up her old friendship with Chobot, and Chobot, silently and morosely, still protected this precious creature from foes. But Chobot's position became more and more difficult every day, for there were no foes around Natasha--on the contrary, she began to make friends both among the girls and the boys. Lapot himself adopted quite a new tone towards Natasha--without the slightest sarcasm or tricks, attentive, affectionate, solicitous. Chobot therefore always had to wait for Natasha to be alone, so as to have a talk with her, or rather to hold silent communion with her on certain extremely confidential matters.

I began observing symptoms of growing anxiety in Chobot's bearing, and was not surprised when he came to me one evening and said:

"Anton Semyonovich, let me go and see my brother!"

"I didn't know you had a brother."

"Well, I have. He has a farm somewhere near Bogodukhov. I've bad a letter from him."

Chobot handed me the letter. In it was written:

"And as to what you say about your circumstances, you just come to me, my dear Brother Mykolia Fedorovich, and stay with me, for my hut is a large one, and very few people have a farm like mine, and my heart will rejoice at having found my brother, and since you're fond of the girl, just bring her along, too."

"So I thought I'd go there and see."

"Have you spoken to Natasha?"

"I have."


"What does Natasha understand? I shall have to go, and see for myself--I haven't seen my brother since I left home."

"Well, then, you go to your brother, and see for yourself. Your brother's probably a kulak, isn't he?"

"I wouldn't say he was a kulak, he used to keep only one horse. Of course I don't know how things are with him now."

Chobot left in the beginning of December, and was away a long time.

Natasha hardly seemed to notice his absence--serenely reserved as ever, she plodded steadily away at her studies. I realized that this girl could have gone through three classes in the winter.

The new attitude of the colonists towards school completely changed the character of the colony itself. It had become infinitely more civilized, and nearer to the usual scholastic organization. By now it would have been hard to find a single colonist who doubted the necessity and importance of study. This new mood was further keyed up by the feeling for Maxim Gorky which was shared by all. In one of his letters to the colonists, Alexai Maximovich had written:

"I would like my Childhood to be read by the colonists in the autumn evenings. From it they will see that I was just like them, only from my early youth I had the sense to stick to my desire to study, and was never afraid of work. I have always believed it's dogged as does it!' "

The colonists had long been corresponding with Gorky. Our first letter dispatched with the brief address--"Italia, Sorrento, Massimo Gorky" --was, to our surprise, received by him, and Alexsi Maximovich immediately replied to it with a kind, friendly letter, which we read into holes in a few weeks. Ever since, a regular correspondence had been kept up between us. The colonists wrote to Gorky in detachments, and brought me their letters for "editing," but I considered that no editing was required, and that the more natural they were, the more Gorky would enjoy reading them. And so my work as editor was limited to remarks such as:

"Couldn't you have found a better piece of paper?"

"Where are all the signatures?"

When a letter arrived from Italy every colonist wanted to hold it for a minute, to marvel over the fact that Gorky himself had written the address on the envelope, and to cast a critical eye over the portrait of the king on the stamp.

"How can they stand it so long, those Italians? What's the use of a king?"

Only I was permitted to open the letter and I had to read it aloud once or twice before it could be handed to the secretary of the Commanders' Council and read by admirers to their hearts' content, while Lapot imposed the sole condition:

"Don't pass your fingers under the words. You've got eyes, you can read without your fingers."

The boys derived a whole philosophy of life from every line of Gorky's, all the more convincing since the lines themselves admitted of not the slightest doubt. A book was quite another matter. One could argue about a book, one could denounce a book if it said what was not right. But this was no book, this was a real live letter from Maxim Gorky himself.

At first, the boys regarded Gorky with an almost religious veneration, considering him a creature superior to all others, and the idea of imitating him seemed to them almost blasphemous. They could not believe that it was events from his own life that were described in Childhood.

"A writer like him? Look what a lot of life he's seen! Seen, and written about--even when he was a little chap he could never have been just like everybody else."

I had the greatest trouble in persuading the colonists that Gorky had written the truth in his letter, that even a talented person had to work hard and to study. The living features of a living human being, of that very Alyosha whose life was so like that of many of the colonists, became gradually familiar, and comprehensible to us. Then it was that the boys longed still more to see Alexei Maximovich, and dreamt of his coming to the colony, while at the same time never quite believing in the possibility of this.

"Him come to the colony! D'you think you're such a fine chap, better than all the rest? Gorky has thousands like you--no, tens of thousands."

"What about it? D'you think he writes letters to them all?"

"And d'you think he doesn't? He could dash off twenty letters a day--just count up how many that would be a month! Six hundred letters. So you see!"

Regular investigations into this matter were made, and the boys came specially to me to ask how many letters a day I thought Gorky wrote.

"One or two, I should think. And not every day of course," I replied.

"It can't be! He must write more!"

"No, he doesn't! He writes books, and he needs time for that. And how many people go to see him, do you suppose? And what do you think--doesn't he have to rest?"

"So, according to you, if he writes to us, we are his friends--Gorky's friends!"

"Not his friends," I told them, "but Gorkyites. He's our chief. And if we keep on writing to him, and still more, if we meet him, we shall become his friends. Gorky hasn't many such."

The image of Gorky in the colony's collective at last attained normal proportions, and it was only then that I began to observe, not awe before a great man, not the respect due to a great writer, but a real, pulsating love for Alexei Mlaximovich, and real gratitude on the part of the Gorkyites for this remote, remarkable, but for all that, essentially human personality.

It was extremely hard for the colonists to manifest this love. They did not know how to write letters which should express their love, they even shrank from expressing it, owing to their austere habit of denying expression to all emotion whatsoever. And then Gud and his detachment found a way out. In a letter to Alexei Maximovich they asked him to send his foot measurements, so that they could send him a pair of high boots. The first detachment was quite sure Gorky would fulfil their request, since boots always have their value. Very few people ordered boots from our shoemakers' shop, and when they did, the order gave much trouble, requiring prolonged search at the market for suitable material, or good lasts, while leather for soles and linings had also to be bought. It needed a good shoemaker to make boots which would not pinch the foot, and which would, at the same time, look smart. Gorky would always find a pair of high boots useful, and moreover he would find pleasure in the fact that they had been made by the colonists, and not by some Italian cobbler.

A shoemaker acquaintance from town, considered a great swell in his own line, coming to the colony to have a sack of grain ground, confirmed the colonists in this opinion.

"Italians and Frenchmen don't wear high boots like ours, and they don't know how to make them. But what sort of boots do you mean to make for Gorky? You've got to know what sort he likes--all in one piece, or with a cap?--and what sort of heel and tops. If they're to be soft, that's one thing, but some people like a stiff top. And then, what sort of leather--you'll have to make them of kid, with box-calf tops. The length, now, that's another question."

Overcome by the complexity of the matter, Gud consulted me.

"Supposing the boots turn out rotten! It'll be a bad business. And what sort shall we make--kid, or patent leather? And who's to find patent leather? Me? Perhaps Kalina Ivanovich would. But all he says is, who are you, parasites, to make boots for Gorky? He says Gorky has his boots made by the king's shoemaker in Italy."

Kalina Ivanovich corroborated this statement.

"And did I tell you wrong? There's no such firm as Gud & Co. yet. And you can't make proper boots. He must have a boot that will go over a sock, and won't give him corns. And look how you work! Even when one wraps three layers of nag round the foot, it hurts, the parasite! A fine thing if you were to give Gorky corns!"

Gud fell melancholy, he actually grew thin thinking over all these complications. The reply came a month later.

"I don't need any boots," wrote Gorky. "I live almost in the country, and you can do without boots here."

Kalina Ivanovich lit his pipe, and threw up his head proudly.

"He's a wise man, he understands that it would be better to go without boots than put on your boots. Even Silanti curses the day he was born when he wears your boots, and he's used to anything."

Gud blinked and said:

"Of course, a good pair of boots can't be made if the shoemaker's here, and the customer's in Italy. Never mind, Kalina Ivanovich, there's plenty of time! If he ever comes to us, you'll see what a pair of boots we'll make him!"

Autumn ran its length peaceably.

The arrival of Lyubov Savelyevna Dzhurinskaya, inspector from the People's Commissariat for Education, was an event. She had come all the way from Kharkov to see the colony, and I received her, as I usually received inspectors, with the caution of a wolf accustomed to being hunted. Maria Kondratyevna, rosy-cheeked and gay, accompanied her.

"Allow me to introduce you to this savage," said Maria Kondratyevna. "I used to think he was an interesting person, myself, but now I know he's simply a saint. He makes me feel awful--my conscience begins to torture me."

Dzhurinskaya took Bokova by the shoulders with the words:

"Off with you--we can do without your frivolity!"

"With pleasure!" agreed Maria Kondratyevna affectionately, her dimples showing. "My frivolity can find people to appreciate it here. Where are your kids? At the river?"

"Maria Kondratyevna!" came Shelaputin's high soprano right from the riverbank. "Mania Kondratyevna! Come here--we have such a fine sleigh!"

"And is there room for us both?" asked Maria Kondratyevna, already on her way to the river.

"Plenty! Kolya's coming, too! But you've got a skirt on, it'll be awkward if you fall."

"Never mind--I know how to fall," cried Maria Kondratyevna, shooting a glance at Dzhurinskaya.

She sped off towards the frozen slope leading to the Kolomak, and Dzhurinskaya, following her with a loving glance, said:

"Strange creature! She feels thoroughly at home with you."

"Worse than that," I replied. "Soon I shall find myself putting her on penalty duty for making too much noise."

"You recall me to my duties. I've come here to talk to you about discipline. So you don't deny that you inflict punishments, those penalty duties... then they say there are certain other practices here--arrests...is it true that you put your charges on bread and water?"

Dzhurinskaya was a tall woman with an open countenance, and clear, youthful eyes. Somehow I felt that with her I might dispense with anything in the way of diplomacy.

"I don't put anybody on bread and water, but I do sometimes make them go without dinner. Penalty duties too. I put them under arrest sometimes, not tn a lockup, of course, but in my office. Your information is correct."

"But look here--all that is forbidden."

"It's not forbidden by the law, and I don't read the writings of all sorts of scribes."

"You don't read works on pedagogy! D'you mean it?"

"I gave up reading them three years ago."

"You ought to be ashamed! Do you read at all?"

"I read a lot. And I'm not ashamed--bear that in mind! And I'm extremely sorry for those who do read books on pedagogy."

"I shall have to convert you--really, I shall! We've got to have Soviet pedagogics."

I decided to bring the discussion to an end, and said to Lyubov Savelyevna:

"Look here! I'm not going to argue. I'm profoundly convinced that here, in the colony, we have real Soviet pedagogics. More, that ours is communist education. You can be convinced other by experience, or by serious research--a work on the subject. Such things are not to be decided in mere conversation. Will you be here long?"

"Two days."

"Splendid! You have all sorts of methods at your disposal. You can look about you, talk to the colonists, eat with them, work with them, rest with them. Draw whatever conclusions you like, have me dismissed from my post, if you like. You can write out all your conclusions, and dictate me any method you like. That's your right. But I shall go on doing thing the way I consider necessary, and as best I can. I don't know how to educate without punishment, I still have to learn that art."

Lyubov Savelyevna stayed not two, but four days with us, and I scarcely saw her during all that time. The boys said of her:

"Oh, that's a tough dame--she knows what's what!"

During her stay rat the colony Vetkovsky came to me.

"I'm leaving the colony, Anton Semyonovich."

"Where will you go?"

"I'll find somewhere. It's getting dull here. I'm not going in for the Rabfak, and I don't want to be a carpenter. I'll just go about and have a look at the world."

"And then what?"

"We'll see. You just give me my papers."

"All right. There'll be a Commanders' Council in the evening. The Commanders' Council can decide whether they'll let you go."

At the Commanders' Council Vetkovsky took up a hostile position, endeavouring to limit himself to formal replies.

"I don't like it here. Who's going to make me stay? I shall go wherever I like. It's my business what I shall do. Perhaps I'll steal."

Kudlaty was furious.

"D'you mean it's none of our business? You're to steal, and it's not our business? And supposing I up and give you a sock in the jaw for this sort of talk, will you still believe it's none of our business?"

Lyubov Savelyevna turned pale and seemed to be about to speak, but she was too late. The irritated colonists shouted at Vetkovsky. Volokhov stood in front of Kostya.

"You ought to be sent to the hospital! That's all about it! Give him his papers, indeed! Why don't you tell us the truth? Perhaps you've found work?"

Most of all raged Gud.

"We don't have any fences here, do we? No, we don't! Since you're such a rotter--good riddance to you! D'you think we're going to barness Molodets, and go after you? We shan't go after you! Go where you like! What did you come here for?"

Lapot closed the discussion.

"That'll be enough of expressing opinions. It's clear, Kostya--we shan't give you your papers."

Kostya drooped his head, muttering:

"I don't want any papers--I'll go without papers. Give me ten rubles for the way."

"Shall we?" asked Lapot.

All fell silent. Dzhurinskaya became all ears, even closing her eyes as she leaned her head against the back of the sofa. Koval spoke.

"He appealed to the Komsomol organization about this here matter. We turned him out of the Komsomol! But I think we can give him ten rubles."

"Quite right!" came from somewhere. "We don't grudge him ten rubles."

I took out my pocketbook.

"I'll give him twenty rubles. Write out a receipt."

In the midst of general silence, Kostya wrote out a receipt, tucked the money into his pocket, and put on his cap.

"Good-bye, comrades!"

No one answered him. Then Lapot jumped up and shouted after him, just as he was going out:

"Hi, you! When you've spent the twenty rubles, don't be shy, come back to the colony. You can work it off."

The commanders dispersed in vexation. Lyubov Savelyevna came to herself and said:

"How terrible! Someone should have talked to the lad." Then, after a moment's thought, she added:

"But what a terrible force this Commanders' Council of yours is! What people!"

She left the next morning. Anton brought the sleigh round. In it was some dirty straw, and bits of paper. Lyubov Savelyevna was already seated in the sleigh, when I asked Anton: "What's all that rubbish in the sleigh?"

"I didn't have time..." muttered Anton, getting red.

"Put yourself under arrest till I come back from town."

"Very good!" said Anton, and moved away from the sleigh. "In the office?"


Anton strolled off to the office, resentful of my severity, and we drove away from the colony. It was not till we were almost at the station that Lyubov Savelyevna took me by the arm, saying:

"Why such severity? You have a splendid collective. It's a sort of miracle. I'm simply overwhelmed...but tell me--are you quite sure that boy of yours--Anton--is under arrest now?"

I looked at Dzhurinskaya in astonishment.

"Anton is a person of great dignity," I said. "Of course he's under arrest. But taking them all round they're a pack of cubs!"

"Don't say that! All because of your Kostya! I'm sure he'll come back. It's marvellous! You get on marvellously! And Kostya's the best of all." I sighed, and did not answer.