November 15, 2019

The Signal part 8

In two minutes’ time No. 7 train was due. “Oh, Lord! Have pity on innocent souls!” In his mind Semyon saw the engine strike against the loosened rail with its left wheel, shiver, careen, tear up and splinter the sleepers and just there, there was a curve and the embankment seventy feet high, down which the engine would topple and the third-class carriages would be packed… little children… All sitting in the train now, never dreaming of danger. “Oh, Lord! Tell me what to do! … No, it is impossible to run to the hut and get back in time.”

Semyon did not run on to the hut, but turned back and ran faster than before. He was running almost mechanically, blindly; he did not know himself what was to happen. He ran as far as the rail which had been pulled up; his sticks were lying in a heap. He bent down, seized one without knowing why, and ran on farther. It seemed to him the train was already coming.

Strength was exhausted

He heard t

The Signal part 7

He got two kopeks apiece for them. On the day following the visit of the commission he left his wife at home to meet the six o’clock train, and Started off to the forest to cut some sticks. He went to the end of his section at this point the line made a sharp turn descended the embankment, and struck into the wood at the foot of the mountain. About half a verst away there was a big marsh, around which splendid reeds for his flute grew.

He cut a whole bundle of stalks and started back home. The sun was already dropping low, and in the dead stillness only the twittering of the birds was audible, and the crackle of the dead wood under his feet. As he walked along rapidly, he fancied he heard the clang of iron striking iron, and he redoubled his pace. There was no repair going on in his section.

Quietly to crawl

What did it mean? He emerged from the woods, the railway embankment stood high before him; on the top a man was squatting on the bed of the lin

The Signal part 6

“Head office? Ah, you are going to complain, I suppose. Give it up! Vasily Stepanych, forget it.”

“No, mate, I will not forget. It is too late. See! He struck me in the face, drew blood. So long as I live I will not forget. I will not leave it like this!”

Semyon took his hand. “Give it up, Stepanych. I am giving you good advice. You will not better things”

“Better things! I know myself I shan’t better things. You were right about Fate. It would be better for me not to do it, but one must stand up for the right.”

“But tell me, how did it happen?”

Government inquiry

“How? He examined everything, got down from the trolley, looked into the hut. I knew beforehand that he would be strict, and so I had put everything into proper order. He was just going when I made my complaint. He immediately cried out: ‘Here is a Government inquiry coming, and you make a complaint about a vegetable garden. Here are pr

The Signal part 5

Vasily kept silent for a while, pulling at his pipe, then added quietly: “A little more and I should have done for him.”

“You are hot-tempered.”

“No, I am not hot-tempered, but I tell the truth and think. Yes, he will still get a bloody nose from me. I will complain to the Chief. We will see then!” And Vasily did complain to the Chief.

Once the Chief came to inspect the line. Three days later important personages were coming from St. Petersburg and would pass over the line. They were conducting an inquiry, so that previous to their journey it was necessary to put everything in order. Ballast was laid down, the bed was leveled, the sleepers carefully examined, spikes driven in a bit, nuts screwed up, posts painted, and orders given for yellow sand to be sprinkled at the level crossings. The woman at the neighboring hut turned her old man out to weed.

Cleaned and polished

Semyon worked for a whole week. He put everyt

The Signal part 4

Semyon also got up. “Neighbor,” he called, “why do you lose your temper?” But his neighbor did not look round, and kept on his way.

Semyon gazed after him until he was lost to sight in the cutting at the turn. He went home and said to his wife: “Arina, our neighbor is a wicked person, not a man.”

However, they did not quarrel. They met again and discussed the same topics.

“Ah, friend, if it were not for men we should not be poking in these huts,” said Vasily, on one occasion.

“And what if we are poking in these huts? It’s not so bad. You can live in them.”

“Live in them, indeed! Bah, you!… You have lived long and learned little, looked at much and seen little. What sort of life is there for a poor man in a hut here or there? The cannibals are devouring you. They are sucking up all your life-blood, and when you become old, they will throw you out just as they do husks to feed the pigs on. What pay do you

The Signal part 3

Two months passed, and Semyon commenced to make the acquaintance of his neighbors, the track-walkers on either side of him. One was a very old man, whom the authorities were always meaning to relieve. He scarcely moved out of his hut. His wife used to do all his work. The other track-walker, nearer the station, was a young man, thin, but muscular. He and Semyon met for the first time on the line midway between the huts. Semyon took off his hat and bowed. “Good health to you, neighbor,” he said.

The neighbor glanced askance at him. “How do you do?” he replied ; then turned around and made off.

Later the wives met. Semyon’s wife passed the time of day with her neighbor, but neither did she say much.

On one occasion Semyon said to her: “Young woman, your husband is not very talkative.”

The woman said nothing at first, then replied: “But what is there for him to talk about? Every one has his own business. Go your way, and God be wi

The Signal part 2

“You are Ivanov?” he said.

“Yes, your Excellency.”

“How do you come to be here?”

Semyon told him all.

“Where are you off to?”

“I cannot tell you, sir.”

“Idiot! What do you mean by ‘cannot tell you’?”

“I mean what I say, your Excellency. There is nowhere for me to go to. I must hunt for work, sir.”

The station-master looked at him, thought a bit, and said: “See here, friend, stay here a while at the station. You are married, I think. Where is your wife?”

“Yes, your Excellency, I am married. My wife is at Kursk, in service with a merchant.”

“Well, write to your wife to come here. I will give you a free pass for her. There is a position as track-walker open. I will speak to the Chief on your behalf.”

Swept the platform

“I shall be very grateful to you, your Excellency,” replied Semyon.
He stayed at the station, hel

The Signal part 1

Vsevolod Garshin (1855-1888)

Garshin was all his life subject to melancholia. His work, consisting of only a score of stories, was influenced by his condition, and by his experiences in the Servian and Turkish wars. In 1888, sick with physical and mental torture, he killed himself. Garshin’s stark realism has that pitifully beautiful quality which makes his stories endure. They are pessimistic but never morbid.

The Signal

Semyon Ivanov was a track-walker. His hut was ten versts away from a railroad station in one direction and twelve versts away in the other. About four versts away there was a cotton mill that had opened the year before, and its tall chimney rose up darkly from behind the forest. The only dwellings around were the distant huts of the other track-walkers.
Semyon Ivanov’s health had been completely shattered. Nine years before he had served right through the war as servant to an officer. The sun had roasted him, the cold froze