November 15, 2019

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, helped in the kitchen, cut firewood, kept the yard clean, and swept the platform. In a fortnight’s time his wife nrrived, and Semyon went on a hand-trolley to his hut. The hut was a new one and warm, with as much wood as he wanted. There was a little Vegetable garden, the legacy of a former track-walker, and there Was about half a dessiatin of plowed land on either side of the railway embankment. Semyon was rejoiced. He began to think of doing Nome farming, of purchasing a cow and a horse.

He was given all necessary stores a green flag, a red flag, lanterns, It horn, hammer, screw-wrench for the nuts, a crow-bar, spade, broom, bolts, and nails: they gave him two books of regulations and a time-table of the trains. At first Semyon could not sleep at night, and learned the whole time-table by heart. Two hours before a train was due he would go over his section, sit on the bench at his hut, and look and listen whether the rails were trembling or the rumble of the train could be heard. He even learned the regulations by heart, although he could only read by spelling out each word.

It was summer; the work was not heavy; there was no snow to clear away, and the trains on that line were infrequent. Semyon used to go over his verst twice a day, examine and screw up nuts here and there, keep the bed level, look at the water-pipes, and then go home to his own affairs. There was only one drawback he always had to get the inspector’s permission for the least little thing he wanted to do, Semyon and his wife were even beginning to be bored.

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