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Бесплатный фрагмент - Portartur


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Part one

Chapter one


Tikhon Podkovin fun counting down the steps of the wide staircase, heading for the exit. An hour ago, the secretary of the Irkutsk Court of Justice told him:

— You can be our registrar.

The huge words on the marble plaque “Truth and mercy and reign in the courts” today seemed to him especially important.

In the evening, at the insistence of his sister, Fima, and her friend Vari Berezkina, Tikhon explained in detail how he was “produced” to the registrars.

Varya laughed loudly.

“So everything will go well,” she said. “You will be an official soon.”

— It will go… But I will not be an official. You need a higher education. I even will not reach the regular registrar.

Varya looked inquiringly at Tikhon.

“You still forget that I should go to the soldiers…”

Varya lived in the same yard with her mother-nurse and her brother in the same room.

“I never even took my hand,” the girl thought, running across the courtyard. — What is he like? Don’t you dare or not love?”

Mother Wari sat at the table and sewed.

— Tikhon registrar appointed.

— I did not doubt him. He can be appointed as clerk.

— And he says: I will not be an official. Soldatchina hurt.

— Reasonable guy. He will not marry before the end of military service.

Varya sighed heavily. Mother looked at her daughter.

— I approve Tikhon. You should not marry head-on, a lot of family soldiers have misfortunes… We will wait. He is more than a year old before being drafted…

Varya turned away and began to uneasily smooth her dark hair; her wet eyelashes shuddered.


Prior to entering the court chamber, Podkovin was a clerk in the fish shop of a merchant Kytmanov. He was tired of naughty lady-buyers. But in the clerical work, he did not find satisfaction.

“Two years — in the court of justice, four — in military service, — and then — to new places, to the Siberian rivers,” Tikhon often thought.

Six months ago, he met the family of merchant Rychagov. From his son, Elisha, he took books for self-education.

Shortly before this acquaintance, young Rychagov traveled to Port Arthur. It was necessary to look after a place for trading activities, and in Manchuria, new cities were being built, a railway was built.

“The Far East needs us like air,” Elisha liked to say. “We Russians must master it.”

During the conversation, Elisha often closed his eyes. He stood leaning against the wall, leaning his left hand on the back of a chair. A rant and a game with a chair jarred Tikhon.

A hanging lamp lit the table at which the Levers-Father sat. On the lean and oblong face of the old man, a grin wandered.

“If we do not fortify ourselves in Manchuria,” continued Elisha, “then the Americans or the Japanese will fit in there.”

— Japanese!.. — Father exclaimed, — Trifty country, hairdressers. Danger — from the British, but most likely from the Germans.

Young Levers leaned forward, leaning on the back of a chair.

— You’re right, dad. However, the British would elect the Japanese against us. And we will overcome them! In Port Arthur are our warships.

— Have you been to them? — asked Podkovin.

— was. And the port-arturskie forts saw. They are disguised, prepared several lines of defense. But we hardly have to fight on land. The Russian fleet will not allow the enemy to go ashore. The fortress is being built just in case… Now the emphasis is on expanding economic influence. We need a non-freezing trade port, and the port of Dalny will be such a port.

— Why didn’t you choose a place for yourself there?

— We have with you, Dad, pocket thin. To work in the Far or in Harbin, you need capital. The Chinese are first-class merchants and it is very difficult to compete with them. To look around and grow roots among them — money is required. We’ll move there for a year or two. And during this time there will finish the fortress and strengthen the fleet.

— Heather boy, — said the old man and pushed Shoe in the side. — Although, to tell the truth, this is a good deal to miss.

— In vain worried. We not only Amur region is waiting for enterprising people. And you, and especially us with Tikhon work enough.

“Tikhon must go to the soldiers,” remarked Elisha’s mother. – He will serve his term and nothing will happen to him.

— What if the war?

— There will be no war.


Talk about Port Arthur was often conducted in the court of justice, where Podkovin worked. One morning, the secretary of the office, Nikolai Vasilyevich Delusto, rummaged in folders and filed a signature list for the lawyers.

— Gentlemen, a cathedral is being built in the fortress of Port Arthur. Donate as much as you can.

The first on the sheet signed a young lawyer Patushinsky.

— They say our new fortress will be an impregnable stronghold. The Russian command also took into account local conditions and the latest data from the engineering of military science, he said.

— Whom will she have to deal with? — Interviewed Delyusto.

“Undoubtedly, with the Japanese,” the sworn attorney Stravinsky said, signing for a hundred rubles.

— In this case, the fortress will be idle! — Patushinsky exclaimed. — The Japanese will not be allowed to land.

— The enthusiasm is characteristic of youth, — the famous defender Zverev interfered in the conversation. — But the enthusiasm before the beginning of the case is harmful, because it does not allow to study the danger in detail. Meanwhile, Japan is growing by leaps and bounds.

“Japan likes to compare itself with the UK, but it’s a pimple,” said Patushinsky.

— Moreover, all the more… Acne is different. And you need to approach them skillfully, and then a malignant tumor can form.

— According to the latest data, more than two million rubles have been released to Port Arthur. There are several commissions from military specialists. Probably, not only we, Ivan Nikolaevich, are concerned about protecting our state interests, “said Stravinsky, who did not like Zverev and was jealous of him.

— That’s right, Rafail Sigismundovich. Your concreteness is known to all. But we must not forget that Japan is not alone. In addition, the theater of military operations will be, figuratively speaking, three steps from it and ten thousand miles from our center. There are rumors about the slow equipment of the fortress… Good would go there and see… By the way, why hasn’t there ever been an exit session of the court chamber? Nikolai Vasilyevich, what is your opinion on this matter?

— Cases from there comes decently. Treasury money, unscrupulous contractors… By the spring it will be possible to come up with something.

The bell rang. All went to the meeting room.


On the last Sunday of January Valya Inova came to the Podkovins. Tikhon met her on the third day of Christmas at Rychagov.

“Come to us now,” suggested Valya Tikhon and his sister. — Our people left for the village, and no one will interfere with us… I am afraid that we will soon leave Irkutsk. Pape offer a very profitable service in the Far East. I’m sorry to part with you, but apparently I’ll have to.

Tikhon began to dissuade.

— And do not think. What kind of news?.. Come on, let’s go!..

The apartment of the bank clerk Modest Vladimirovich Inov was large and luxuriously furnished. Nobody came before dusk. Valya played the piano, Tikhon sang. Fima looked at illustrations in the rich editions of the Inov library.

— From you, Tikhon, you can make a singer, even for the stage.

— I would never become an artist. But I love to sing. Occasionally sing something for friends is not bad.

Vale suddenly wanted to explain to Tikhon.

— For Wari?

“Varya is a good girl, but I did not give her any reason…”

— I can see…

Tikhon’s cheeks were covered with a blush.

— Listen, Quiet, I want to give you a riddle. Are you offended by my joke?

— I am afraid of your jokes only in a big company. Speak

— You decided to marry, and you have two beauties in mind. Both of them you like, and you are sure of success. In what order would you make an offer?

— First to you and last Vare. I’m sure of her, but you are not. And if I had made an offer to Vare, I could not have given you pleasure.

— That’s what you are mocking… But you would have lost. Would I have missed such a falcon?

Valya laughed loudly.

— And what kind of mansion will I take my fairy to?

— Won that came up! We have a different social position, you are the son of a peasant… But the heart, not the reason, participates in the choice of the beloved, “said Valya.

— All this is correct, but not for the husband, but for the beloved.

You’re intolerable boy, — bit her lip, answered Valya. “You argue like an old man, but you, with your dark gray eyes, lad…”

In May, the Inovs were to go to Harbin, and in late April it became known: the session of the court chamber would travel to the Far East in June. Tikhon was included in the session.

— One of your trips can justify your work as a registrar, — said Valya, having heard the news that was pleasant for Podkov.

Tikhon looked at the girl with embarrassment. His heart was beating fast.


The fertile plains of Manchuria turned around the Khingan Range before the Podkovin and judicial officials who left Irkutsk for a session. Around treeless, hilly expanse. There were still few villages, but herds of cows were often encountered. The train crossed fields with thick thickets of kaolin and corn. On high beds green soybeans. The fields sown by her seemed like striped fabric.

Delyusto and a member of the judicial chamber Kostinsky did not move away from the carriage window. The comrade of the prosecutor Yerakov, the defender Zverev, the member of the chamber Malinovsky and the chairman of the civil department Baron Taube played cards.

— A rich country lies at our side. Wild and desert country. Even the Chinese learned about its economic opportunities only after the Russian Chinese-Eastern Railway, “said Delyusto.

“The Chinese should be grateful to the Russians for this road,” said Baron Taube.

“Mmmmm,” muttered Zverev, smiling crookedly.

Along the roadway, after three or four kilometers, small fortresses of the railway guard, built to protect them from the Hunhuz, adorned the raids, still flaunted.

Behind Sungarii Bridge, on a large plain, noisy Harbin grew fabulously fast. On the river near the piers there were a dozen and a half beautiful river steamers plying along the Sungari and the Amur from Harbin to Blagoveshchensk, Khabarovsk and Nikolaevsk. Life in Harbin was in full swing.Huge flat-bottomed barges loaded wheat, beans, bean oil, barley, and eggs. The pipes of flour mills continuously smoked. At the stations, the products were fabulously cheap. The edge rose to life.

The sotolok of the Harbin station stunned Tikhon. Thick crowd of Chinese buzzing on the platform. It was difficult to get through it. Every now and then he was snatching a suitcase with the proposal to take him to the hotel.

— Tikhon, Tikhonya! — Podkovin heard a female voice behind him. — Where are you in a hurry?

— Valya!

Podkovin flushed and lowered his eyes. He became happy, and at the same time something confused him. He was confused.

— Yes hello! — Valya grabbed Tikhon by her free hand and kissed her cheek. — Not expected? Fima is well done, telegraphed.

Placing the suitcase, Tikhon took Valya by the hand, looked into her eyes:

— Hello, Valya!

— Oh, my God, how I missed Irkutsk… You have completely changed. A tunic suits you.

Podkovin looked at the judicial officials.

— You need to talk with the secretary! Let’s go together.

Delas was surprised. Valya met him and said:

— Today release Tikhon Stepanovich to us. We were friends with his sister when I lived in Irkutsk. Tomorrow morning, he will come to you, wherever you indicate.

— I am very happy. Tomorrow he can find us in the hotel “Far East”.

While members of the court chamber sat on dirty cabby cabs, Valya and Tikhon drove past them on a pair of well-groomed horses harnessed to a brand new carriage.

— Seems our registrar? — asked. Malinovsky.

“Yes,” Delauce laughed. — Today he was met by the daughter of a local bank employee. The guy is growing!..

— A sign of the times! — exclaimed Zverev.


The train raced between the hills. On the left stood jagged mountain. Podkovina satellites were military and two merchants. “Mount Samson,” said the soldier. “We will see Kinzhou soon.” The strongest position! And here are the first fortifications of the Kvantunsky Peninsula, see — trench belts.

On the left, the Gulf of Tiena was spread. The morning was quiet. The sea drew on itself, and Podkovin did not want to think about war and fortifications. He was full of experiences from Harbin. And at the same time, some awkwardness confused him. It seemed to him that in Harbin, in the presence of Vali, he did and did not say what was necessary.

“That seems to love — and suddenly so much doubt! I am afraid of her, I do not believe her, and therefore I cannot love her. But there is no mile and no find. Soon parted forever. For her, I am a toy, a hopeless raznochinets …”

At a train station in the city of Far, an unfamiliar fair-haired man approached Podkovina.

— I have the honor to introduce myself — Alexander Petrovich Lykov. For the duration of your stay here you are my guest. I carry out the orders of the Inovs. Here is a telegram in which all your signs are described… Fight! Take a suitcase!.. Probably need to notify your colleagues? Come on!..

Holding Tikhon under his arm, Lykov led him between the cars to the nondescript station building. There were fragments of bricks, sleepers, beams, barrels of cement lying around. It was hot and dusty. Pushing the passers-by, rickshaws ran up to Lykov.

— Allow me. I will walk on foot, “said Tikhon, embarrassed, when he saw a half-naked man who obediently stood at attention by the hand-carriage.

Ever and always the same story with the newcomers, — Lykov scoffed. Trying to be as courteous as possible, he took the Shoe under his elbow and sat him in the stroller. The crowd respectfully parted. Cab drivers and station workers, people knew Lykov as a rich man of a petty tyrant; tipsy, he did not give way to major local officials.

“This is my hut,” said Lykov, pointing to the mansion. “A decent house, but here I’ve become damn cheap.” Working hands in abundance.

In the hallway of Lykov and Podkovina, a tall, slender Japanese woman in a rich dress bowed low. She crouched so low that she touched the floor with her knees. Podkovin involuntarily backed away.

— Come in, Tikhon Stepanovich. Meet… My mistress. Sasha-san.

The Japanese woman bowed once again to Podkovin and, straightening out, extended her hand:

— Hello.

The guest looked into the face of the woman — it was beautiful. Crouching and backing back, Sasha-san led Tikhon into the living room and sat in a soft armchair.

— Smoke?

— No, I don not smoke.

“Yu ar notes tuxedo… do you not smoke?” The woman said in surprise. — Yes, yes, I forgot, Russian is very much not smoking… This is good.

— The battle! Prepare the captain of the batts [1 — Batts — bath.] — Lykov shouted and addressed Tikhon: — You are my friend, let’s speak at once to “you”. Take a bath and put on what they give you. A uniform hang in the wardrobe. I do not like at home uniforms. You look, it, on it and you think: to chop off, kanalya, came. And you and the buttons of the bailiff…

We dined in the dining room in a European way, but in dressing gowns and slippers. Sasha-san was sitting on the spot of the hostess and skillfully — mimicry and gestures — commanded the servants.

Japanese girl, and even so close, Podkovin saw for the first time. Her narrow face, bordered with thick hair, slightly matte skin and bright black eyes were charming.

— Eat, please, soup, and tomorrow we will cook Russian soup. Oh, this is very strong food! Lykov-san always shout: bow, come on!

The Japanese laughed loudly, White teeth, like mother-of-pearl, glittered.

“Every nation has beautiful women,” thought Tikhon.

— Irkutsk big city? — asked Sasha-san.

— Big and beautiful. There is a rapid river Angara.

— An-ga-ra-ah, what a resounding word! — Sasha-san said melodiously.

— And Baikal. — the best lake in the world, — put Lykov. — You are great, Mother Russia… Sasha, you need to drink before fried chicken. Pour our minister cognac,

— I do not drink cognac.

— Do not drink?.. So it is impossible! We also have a heart-to-heart talk. A drink should be. So why instead of brandy?

— Ryabinovki.

— Wonderful. Sasha’s favorite drink. Sasha-san, pour yourself and him more quickly. And I brandy.Lykov, raising his glass, glanced at Tikhon and, slightly screwing up one eye, began to examine it unceremoniously.

— Do not drink or smoke… This is good, my father would say. Here with whom would you see. Wonderful old man!.. —

Podkovin looked at the Japanese. She listened intensely to the conversation.

“My Sasha wants to learn and know everything,” Lykov sneered. — Curious nature… Drink, and after dinner on the side…

Podkovin lay on the sofa, but could not sleep. Soon everything went quiet in the house. Turning from side to side, he got up and went out to the front. The door of the corridor leading to the courtyard was ajar. Carefully stepping on a soft rug, Tikhon approached the exit and looked at the porch. The Chinese man and the little Chinese kept his tunic in the floor and carefully examined the buttons, trying, apparently, to understand the sign that was pressed out on them.

Podkovin backed away, and then, loudly slapping shoes, opened the door. The Chinese began to rub the cloth with a brush, and the old Chinese servant indifferently lit his pipe.

“Our departmental buttons are of deep interest. I remember, and Sasha-san very carefully, looked at them, “thought Podkovin and said to the little Chinese:

— I want to get dressed.

“Now, captain…”

In the city of Dalny were carried out haste. The bay was filled with merchant ships. Only one, the military cruiser stood out among them with its tall pipes and white paint. The city was surrounded by bare yellowish hills. A thin curtain of dust hung over him. The cranes puffed off the embankment, the locomotives whistled, pushing the cars to the pier. Tikhon for a long time could not take his eyes off ocean steamers with green sides and white cabins. From the pipes, smoke lazily was rising. Small boats snooping around the bay and the bay…

The city was something noteworthy in architectural terms. Its stone buildings, erected in the Gothic-Chinese style, with fancy facades, were far from the modern architectural ensemble. Observing from the mountain it would seem that before them theatrical scenery. Many-sided gabled roofs with gray tiling, decked out but with all faces with cemented crests and Chinese sculptures, strongly protruding dormer windows, also decorated with images of dragons and other mythical animals, colossal chimneys draped over a Chinese sample, high gable walls — all of this carried off into the world of fantasy. The diversity of eyes hurt. It was felt that the builders did not have a serious attitude to the matter that they were assigned. They shunned Russian originality even in cases where domestic architecture techniques, without disturbing the beauty of the streets, could provide significant savings.

Podkovin climbed to the nearest mountain, and his heart beat happily. He saw the picture of the seashore for the first time. Large and small capes went into the blue distance. Mount Samson rested against the clouds. Fishing boats bobbing in the waves. In the distance, on the horizon, three steamboats smoked. Turning to face Port Arthur, Podkovin tried to guess where there is a fortress there, but I saw nothing but a chain of hills.

— Captain! — he suddenly heard the voice of a little Chinese.

This is Lykov sent for the Horseshoe battle. He himself stood below, under the mountain.

“We are slaughtering millionaires,” he said to Tikhon, stretching his hand towards the Far. — Manchuria is a real treasury. Thousands of possibilities… And I like you. I did not fall asleep after dinner, the Russian heart could not restrain myself. Yes, we must admire the new acquisitions and rejoice… Your judges, I made inquiries, are going to spend the evening in a restaurant. Well, we are at home. I do not like restaurant sprees. Is it when the case…

— Is the money spent on the fortress properly?

“Ah, what are you thinking about?” — Lykov took Tikhon by the hand and looked into his eyes. — I will tell you that there is a lot of disorderly and, of course, there are abuses. Eye and eye need. Between us, the fortress is built slowly…

Twilight was gathering. In the east the sky darkened. The wind ran. Lights flashed on the ships. A huge cloud caught on Mount Samson, hanging in white gills in a ravine. The Kwangtung Mountains shrouded in a dark yellow haze. The noise in the city subsided.

Tikhon did not recognize the living room. It was decorated with paper lanterns and light Japanese screens. In the middle of the room on the carpet was a table with low legs. Lykov lay down on the pillows. Sasha-san met Podkovina with a low bow:

— Sit down. We will eat in Japanese.

— Now let’s drink as it should. Do not refuse. Ryabinovka invigorates only, you can not get drunk with it, — said Lykov.

The rooms were quiet. Podkovin enjoyed eating long noodles, round, like pasta, called “udon” in Japanese, and “skiyaki” — especially delicious cooked chicken meat.

— Japanese women have a subtle treatment. No whims, no requirements. And what cleaners!..

Tikhon looked into the eyes of a Japanese woman. Her eyelids lifted only for a moment.

— Frankly, I did not imagine that there are such beauties in Japan.

The owner burst into loud laughter.

— They are there to hell and for every taste. When a Japanese commissioner came to me on this “women’s issue”, I told him: first, slender and tall, second, oblong face and small mouth, third, straight and narrow nose, fourth, not to cheekbones… Writing down my requirements, the Japanese man said through clenched teeth: “good”, and ten days later, on the threshold of my house, I saw beautiful Sasha-san. As you can see, the order was executed exactly. Here with the acquisition of the hostess is very simple… Stay! We will find the case. And you are under the contract.

— Under the contract?

— Wonderful custom. Signed a paper for a year or two — and live. Sasha-san is very cheap for me: two hundred forty rubles a year. And for ten thousand yen I won’t give it up. Isn’t it Sasha?

The Japanese woman smiled and slightly ran a hand over her hair.

— Prepares tasty, speaks Russian and in English. She draws me all the papers with foreigners, serves as a translator. Plays on Japanese market. A delicate soul!.. Changes in my moods in one instant she catches. Wait for the coffee, I’ll explain everything.

Lykov lay back, stretched out and said:

— Call another girl. Let him dance…

After dinner, he began to drink liquor, pouring it into a cup of Japanese, then in a glass of Tikhon. Lykov smiled and often stroked his kept woman on the cheek.

— Economy is a big deal! — winking Tikhon, he said. — Japan now has only one product for export — women. Mosume [2 — Mosume — women.] Are exported to foreign brothels.

— Wildness! — exclaimed Podkovin.

At that moment a small Japanese girl with a plump cheek came in and, falling on her knees in the middle of the room, bowed low.

“Kon-ban-va, my spring, white cherry blossom,” Lykov greeted her. — Come here, I will look into your eyes. You are slim and flexible like a young birch… Meet me. This is Tikhon-san, our future soldier.

— Sordata? — the women were surprised.

“Yes, soldier… He knows the way that it will not be boring to fight in Japan.” There are many, many charming mosume.

“Why war?”

— Ha ha ha ha… I frightened you? No, this is not a soldier, but the future Minister of Justice. We have to do this soon…

While the owner was talking, the guest silently repeated: the Minister of Justice, the Minister of Justice…

— Sit closer to him, and he will see that you have the most elegant legs and the thinnest fingers in the world.

Japanese crawling close to the feet of Tikhon. He turned away in disgust.

The owner, as if noticing anything, continued:

— My Sasha-san is a thrifty person… Honestly working, and saving thousands and a half yen — he will leave me, go home and become a prolific mother…

— You’re lying. I do not need your money. I will serve you and your wife all my life. You’re evil!..

Two large tears appeared from under Sasha-san’s eyelashes.

— What art! Playing out in love!..

— Tikhona-san! — exclaimed the Japanese. — I love him, but he does not believe. My heart hurts, it hurts… When they made a contract, I thought he was an old man. They made me… They force us to do many things… Without him, I will kill myself.

Sasha-san sobbed. The guest, having moved closer to her, embraced her. Podkovin silently examined Japanese women.

— How do you look at my home life? — Lykov asked inquisitively.

“Pampering,” Tikhon said through clenched teeth. — Sheer hangover from you. After all, you can marry a Russian girl…

— The point is said!.. — Lykov shook his head, — There are many brides in Russia. And in my eye they are. For example, Valya Inova.

Tikhon flinched, straightened his legs and pulled the pillow under his side.

— Beautiful man, a rare girl, beautiful.

“That would have been the matchmaker,” said Podkovin, almost with malice.

— Dowager! The father is the servant. How much with her? Some thousand, many — two.

Podkovin laughed.

— Did you forget about the man again? Yes, there is no price!..

The owner approached the guest to pour him liquor.

— Stay here. We heap with you business. And in the fall you get married… I have a bride. Millionaire’s daughter. Young, beautiful, interesting, educated. The same musician, as well as Valya. Looking for a husband of a young official, not a merchant’s son.

“In the fall I am called for a call,” Tikhon answered evasively.

“Ahhhh… sorry,” Lykov said. His gaze faded, his face showed fatigue.

During the entire conversation, the men Sasha-san vigilantly watched Lykov. Noticing a sharp change in his mood, she crouched down and asked quietly:

— you what? Do you have a bad deal? Failed deal?

— Yes, dear Sasha. Broke down. I found a man, so it seems that yours is not there, “Lykov said in a falling voice. — It’s a shame… Come on, honey, play, and Cherry-san will dance.

Tikhon looked puzzled at the Japanese and Lykov. Sasha-san prepared to rise, her cheeks were covered with a blush. Moist eyes looked softly, and a kind smile lay in the corners of his lips. Tikhon reached for Sasha-san, and she stood beside him full-length, adjusting her kimono.

“No, this is a rare beauty,” he thought, and when Sasha-san moved away from the table, he turned his head to Cherry.

“My God, how is it painted,” he whispered under his breath, and barely restrained himself from the squeamish grimace.

Sasha-san began to play the Japanese guitar. The rattling, dull sounds of some motive torn into small pieces struck Tikhon’s consciousness, but did not irritate him. He tried to catch the melody and could not.

“Like smoke is perceptible, but elusive,” he thought.

Lykov poured himself brandy. Tikhon drank liquor. Cherry — san danced, slowly waving her arms and shaking her body. In the faint lighting of paper lanterns, a Japanese woman, dressed in a long blue, with large white kimono flowers, seemed to be a casual, airy Tikhon. Dance and music weary him.

“The Japanese still have beauty: in music, in dances… But they are not in our character. When Russians are dancing, people walk like a walk… I would cook them here, “flashed in Tikhon’s head.

From liquor he felt suddenly sick. He jumped up and ran out into the corridor. When he appeared, three people departed from the hanger: a Chinese servant and two strangers. Booster Jacket with unfolded floors rocked.

— What the hell… How do they like brass buttons!

The servant picked up the shoe under the arm and led it out onto the porch. The cool wind fanned Tikhon’s face, and his head began to spin. Cherry-san ran up to him with a glass of seltzer water. At a sign from Lykov, she led Tikhon into the room prepared for him.

“We will sleep, my Russian hero,” she said.

At the door, Podkovin stopped and set Vishnyu-san against himself.

— I am very grateful to you, Cherry-san, for dancing and affection.

The Japanese clung to Tikhon’s chest and, gently pushing him into the room, whispered:

— I love you, my hero… You are very blue. I love blue, strong…

— Thank you, goodbye… Go home to sleep, go home.

The girl just now realized that the young man had removed her. Embarrassed, she lowered her head and, inhaling the air, muttered:

— Cy-o-nara, con-ban-va…

As soon as Lykov and Tikhon fell asleep, both women retired to the living room, taking with them the skit. Emptying their pockets, they began to look at the paper. Sasha-san, dipping the brush in the ink, wrote in beautiful hieroglyphs on thin paper:

“Passport of Tikhon Stepanovich Podkovin, a peasant from the Nizhny Novgorod province., Lukoyanovsky district, Mareseveka volost, the village of Malaya Polyana. Minister of Justice”.

Chapter two


In November 1903, the Podkovin had to draw lots for the fulfillment of military service. He was frontal. A brother who was fourteen years older than Tikhon received a privilege on marital status in his family. According to the law of that time, the eldest son remained in the assistance of parents to feed and raise young children. There were three of them in the Podkovins family: Tikhon, his younger brother and sister.

Very often, recruits for the latest draw numbers were not taken to military service. In that year, when Podkovin was called, 320 people were to be collected in the city of Irkutsk, and 260 people were required in military units, therefore, sixty young men could count on staying. Tickets with insignificant numbers pulled out and weakly chested, and myopic, and obsessed with various diseases. During the medical examination, the defectives fell out, and instead of them they took healthy ones, even if they had long-range lots in their hands, above the two hundred and sixtieth. In addition, every year there were both delayed and hiding from conscription.

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