Maxim Gorky: The fatal consequences of ignoring military protocol
From The Specter (1938)
Translated by Alexander Bakshy
“Lieutenant Valery Nikolayevich Petrov,” he announced, taking a step toward Samghin. Clim Ivanovich, too, introduced himself, and offered his hand.
The officer drew back. He said:
“I cannot shake your hand.
“You sit. I stand. Is it permissible that an officer should stand before a civilian, with hand outstretched?”
“I am near-sighted, and half asleep,” explained Samghin peaceably, looking at the thick-lipped, clean-shaven face, the little Mongolian eyes, and the broad nose.
“You should have explained that to me,” accused the officer, hiding his hand behind him.
“That’s exactly what I’m doing.”
“It’s too late. You have given me the right to believe that your behavior is the usual behavior of civilian liberals, Socialists, and all those who hide away in the Rural and City Unions, getting under our feet – ”
Raising his voice, he hissed and wheezed, louder and louder:
“You actually smiled, thus emphasizing your disrespect for a defender of the fatherland and the honor of the army – a dishonor which I am entitled to answer with a bullet.”
“He’s quite capable of doing it,” thought Samghin, trying to quell his fright. He said, conciliatingly:
“Yes – these days the army deserves – ”
“These days! Didn’t it deserve in 1906-07, destroying the revolutionists? Didn’t it?”