was a straw sticking in one brown mustache, another straw clung to the scrubby bristles of his shaved left cheek, and behind his ear he had stuck a little, freshly-picked twig of lime. Long, bony, rather stooping, he paced slowly over the flags, and turning his hooked, rapacious-looking nose from side to side, he cast sharp glances about him, his cold, gray eyes glittering as he looked for someone among the dock laborers. His thick and long brown mustaches were continually twitching like a cats whiskers, while he rubbed his hands behind his back, nervously clenching the long, crooked, clutching fingers. Even here, among hundreds of striking-looking, tattered tramps like himself, he attracted attention at once because of his resemblance to a vulture of the steppes, because of his lean, hungry look and because of that peculiar gait of his, as though pouncing down on his prey, so smooth and easy in appearance, but inwardly intent and alert, like the flight of the bird of prey that he resembled.
As he reached one of the groups of ragged dockers, reclining in the shade of a stack of coal baskets, there rose to meet him a thick-set young fellow, with purple blotches on his dull face and scratches on his neck, unmistakable traces of a recent thrashing. He got up and walked beside Chelkash, saying, in an undertone:
The dock officers have got wind of the two cases of goods. Theyre on the look-out.
Well? queried Chelkash, coolly measuring him with his eyes.
What do you mean, well? Theyre on the look-out, I say. Thats all.
Did they ask for me to help them look?
And with a smile Chelkash looked toward the store-house of the Volunteer Fleet.
You go to the devil!
His companion turned away.
Ha, wait a bit! Whos been decorating you like that? Why, what a sight they have made of your signboard! Have you seen Mishka here?
Ive not seen him this long while! the other shouted, and hastily went back to his companions.
Chelkash walked on, greeted by everyone as a familiar figure. But he, usually so lively and sarcastic, was unmistakably out of humor today, and made short and abrupt replies to all inquiries.
From behind a pile of goods emerged a customs-house guard, a dark green, dusty figure, of military erectness. He barred the way for Chelkash, standing before him in a challenging attitude, his left hand clutching the hilt of his dirk, while with his right he tried to seize Chelkash by the collar.
Stop! Where are you going?
Chelkash drew back a step, raised his eyes, looked at the guard, and smiled dryly.
The red, good-humoredly crafty face of the watchman, in its attempt to assume a menacing air, puffed and grew round and purple, while the brows scowled, the eyes rolled, and the effect was very comic.
Youve been tolddont you dare come into the dock, or Ill break your ribs! And youre here again! the man roared threateningly.
How dye do, Semyonich! Its a long while since weve seen each other, Chelkash greeted him calmly, holding out his hand.
Thankful never to see you again! Get along, get along!
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