December 14, 2019

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 line busily engaged in something. Semyon commenced quietly to crawl up towards him. He thought it was some one after the nuts which secure the rails. He watched, and the man got up, holding a crow-bar in his hand. He had loosened a rail, so that it would move to one side. A mist swam before Semyon’s eyes; he wanted to cry out, but could not. It was Vasily! Semyon scrambled up the bank, as Vasily with crow-bar and wrench slid headlong down the other side.

“Vasily Stepanych! My dear friend, come back! Give me the crowbar. We will put the rail back; no one will know. Come back! Save your soul from sin!”
Vasily did not look back, but disappeared into the woods.

Semyon stood, before the rail which had been tom up. He threw down his bundle of sticks. A train was due; not a freight, but a passenger- train. And he had nothing with which to stop it, no flag. He could not replace the rail and could not drive in the spikes with his bare hands. It was necessary to run, absolutely necessary to run to the hut for some tools. “God help me!” he murmured.

Semyon started running towards his hut. He was out of breath, but still ran, falling every now and then. He had cleared the forest; he was only a few hundred feet from his hut, not more, when he heard the distant hooter of the factory sound six o’clock!

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