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The late twilight came on, and after it the warm, dark night, but for long, until very midnight, did the deep crimson glow of the sky still smoulder. Simeon, the porter of the establishment, has lit all the lamps along the walls of the drawing room, and the lustre, as well as the red lantern over the stoop. Simeon was a spare, stocky, taciturn and harsh man, with straight, broad shoulders; dark-haired, pockmarked, with little bald spots on his eyebrows and moustaches from smallpox, and with black, dull, insolent eyes. By day he was free and slept, while at night he sat without absenting himself in the front hall under the reflector, in order to help the guests with their coats and to be ready in case of any disorder.
But he freed himself from under her arm, drawing his head in like a turtle, and she without the least offence went to dance with Niura. Three other couples were also whirling about. In the dances all the girls tried to hold the waist as rigid as possible, and the head as immobile as possible, with a complete unconcern in their faces, which constituted one of the conditions of the good taste of the establishment. Under cover of the slight noise the teacher walked up to Little Manka.
The first subterranean shocks of this catastrophe began in the heat of summer, at the time of the annual summer fair, which this year was unbelievably brilliant. Many circumstances contributed to its extraordinary success, multitudes, and the stupendousness of the deals concluded during it: the building in the vicinity of three new sugar refineries, and the unusually abundant crop of wheat, and, in particular, of sugar beets; the commencement of work in the laying of an electric trolley and of canalization; the building of a new road to the distance of 750 versts; but mainly, the fever of building which seized the whole town, all the banks and financial institutions, and all the houseowners. Factories for making brick sprang up on the outskirts of the town like mushrooms. A grandiose agricultural exposition opened. Two new steamer lines came into being, and they, together with the previously established ones, frenziedly competed with each other, transporting freight and pilgrims. In competition they reached such a state, that they lowered their passenger rates for the third class from seventy-five kopecks to five, three, two, and even one kopeck. In the end, ready to fall from exhaustion in the unequal struggle, one of the steamship companies offered a free passage to all the third-class passengers. Then its competitor at once added to the free passage half a loaf of white bread as well. But the biggest and most significant enterprise of this city was the engineering of the extensive river port, which had attracted to it hundreds of thousands of labourers and which cost God knows what money.
It must be said that this stern man, who did not approve of students because of their free-and-easy facetiousness and incomprehensible style in conversation, also did not like when just such boys in uniform appeared in the establishment.
And, having received a cigarette, suddenly, without delay, he got into a free-and-easy, unconstrained pose; put forward his bent right leg, put his hand to his side, and began to sing in a wizened falsetto:
A fine rain, like dust, obstinate and tedious, had been drizzling since morning. Platonov was working in the port, unloading watermelons. At the mill, where he had since the very summer proposed to establish himself, luck had turned against him; after a week he had already quarreled, and almost had a fight, with the foreman, who was extremely brutal with the workers. About a month Sergei Ivanovich had struggled along somehow from hand to mouth, somewheres in the backyards of Temnikovskaya Street, dragging into the editorial rooms of The Echoes, from time to time, notes of street accidents or little humorous scenes from the court rooms of the justices of the peace. But the hard newspaper game had long ago grown distasteful to him. He was always drawn to adventures, to physical labour in the fresh air, to life completely devoid of even the least hint at comfort; to carefree vagabondage, in which a man, having cast from him all possible external conditions, does not know himself what his lot is going to be on the morrow. And for that reason, when from the lower stretches of the Dnieper the first barges with watermelons started coming in, he willingly entered a gang of labourers, in which he was known even from last year, and loved for his good nature, for his comradely spirit, and for his masterly ability of keeping count.
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