Nonfiction > Upton Sinclair, ed. > The Cry for Justice

Upton Sinclair, ed. (1878–1968).
The Cry for Justice: An Anthology of the Literature of Social Protest.  1915.
A Night’s Lodging

By Maxim Gorky

(A true voice of the Russian masses, born 1868; by turns pedler, scullery-boy, baker’s assistant and tramp, he became all at once the most widely known of Russian writers. In this play he has portrayed the misery of the outcasts of his country. The scene is in the cellar of an inn, the haunt of thieves and tramps. Luka, the aged pilgrim, is talking to a young girl)
LUKA:—Treat everyone with friendliness—injure no one.
  NATASHA:—How good you are, grandfather! How is it that you are so good?
  LUKA:—I am good, you say. Nyah—if it is true, all right. But you see, my girl—there must be some one to be good. We must have pity on mankind. Christ, remember, had pity for us all and so taught us. Have pity when there is still time, believe me, that is right. I was once, for example, employed as a watchman, at a country place which belonged to an engineer, not far from the city of Tomsk, in Siberia. The house stood in the middle of the forest, an out-of-the-way location; and it was winter and I was all alone in the country house. It was beautiful there—magnificent! And once—I heard them scrambling up!
  LUKA:—Yes. They crept higher, and I took my rifle and went outside. I looked up—two men, opening a window, and so busy that they did not see anything of me at all. I cried to them: Hey, there, get out of that! And would you think it, they fell on me with a hand ax! I warned them. Halt, I cried, or else I fire! Then I aimed first at one and then at the other. They fell on their knees saying, Pardon us! I was pretty hot—on account of the hand ax, you remember. You devils, I cried, I told you to clear out and you didn’t! And now, I said, one of you go into the brush and get a switch. It was done. And now, I commanded, one of you stretch out on the ground, and the other thrash him. And so they whipped each other at my command. And when they had each had a sound beating, they said to me: Grandfather, said they, for the sake of Christ give us a piece of bread. We haven’t a bite in our bodies. They, my daughter, were the thieves who had fallen upon me with the hand ax. Yes, they were a pair of splendid fellows. I said to them, If you had asked for bread! Then they answered: We had gotten past that. We had asked and asked, and nobody would give us anything. Endurance was worn out. Nyah—and so they remained with me the whole winter. One of them, Stephen by name, liked to take the rifle and go into the woods. And the other, Jakoff, was constantly ill, always coughing. The three of us watched the place, and when spring came, they said, Farewell, grandfather, and went away—to Russia.        5
  NATASHA:—Were they convicts, escaping?
  LUKA:—They were fugitives—they had left their colony. A pair of splendid fellows. If I had not had pity on them—who knows what would have happened? They might have killed me. Then they would be taken to court again, put in prison, sent back to Siberia—why all that? You can learn nothing good in prison, nor in Siberia. But a man, what can he not learn!

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