“Right you are, there!” seconded the other. “Lived to grin and died in sin. Well, let’s go, mate, what?”
The cadets ran with all their might. Now, in the darkness, the figure of Roly-Poly drawn up on the floor, with his blue face, appeared before them in all the horror that the dead possess for early youth; and especially if recalled at night, in the dark.
A fine rain, like dust, obstinate and tedious, had been drizzling since morning. Platonov was working in the port at the unloading of watermelons. At the mill, where he had since the very summer proposed to establish himself, luck had turned against him; after a week he had already quarreled, and almost had a fight, with the foreman, who was extremely brutal with the workers. About a month Sergei Ivanovich had struggled along somehow from hand to mouth, somewheres in the back-yards of Temnikovskaya Street, dragging into the editorial rooms of The Echoes, from time to time, notes of street accidents or little humorous scenes from the court rooms of the justices of the peace. But the hard newspaper game had long ago grown distasteful to him. He was always drawn to adventures, to physical labour in the fresh air, to life completely devoid of even the least hint at comfort; to care-free vagabondage, in which a man, having cast from him all possible external conditions, does not know himself what is going to be with him on the morrow. And for that reason, when from the lower stretches of the Dnieper the first barges with watermelons started coming in, he willingly entered a gang of labourers, in which he was known even from last year, and loved for his merry nature, for his comradely spirit, and for his masterly ability of keeping count.
This labour was carried on with good team work and with skill. Four parties, each of five men, worked on each barge. Number one would reach for a watermelon and pass it on to the second, who was standing on the side of the barge. The second cast it to the third, standing already on the wharf; the third threw it over to the fourth; while the fourth handed it up to the fifth, who stood on a horse cart and laid the watermelons away—now dark-green, now white, now striped—into even glistening rows. This work is clean, lively, and progresses rapidly. When a good party is gotten up, it is a pleasure to see how the watermelons fly from hand to hand, are caught with a circus-like quickness and success, and anew, and anew, without a break, fly, in order to fill up the dray. It is only difficult for the novices, that have not as yet gained the skill, have not caught on to that especial sense of the tempo. And it is not as difficult to catch a watermelon as to be able to throw it.