The father-miner sends his 12-year-old son to work at the mine on the weekend Christmas days. The boy “stubbornly and tearfully” tries to resist, but it is useless. “The boy, too, was black as an Ethiopian, cut off and also flashed his bare feet in his shoddy shoes.”
Three Christmas days were to be spent by the boy Senka in the mine at work. “My heart ached with despair and despair, my lips trembled, he squinted, frowned, trying to overcome himself and swallowing uncontrollably children’s tears.” A drunkard Yegor Finogenov was sent to the pump-house along with Senka. Egorka was angry with a hangover and from the upcoming work on holidays, when others are drinking and walking.
When Yegor and Senka were alone in a dark mine by the water tower, Finogenov went to bed and the boy had to work in the dark. Senka no longer thought about holidays and fun. “Senka possessed a state similar to the one experienced by a horse that is familiar to distant roads, when he crochets into a collar and flies, waving his head slightly, knowing that it will take a long, unhurried tread.”
He had a feeling of loneliness and growing fear. Senka sensed the presence of something terrible and yet hidden. He was tired and could not rock anymore. The water began to arrive. Out of desperation, the boy began to cry and cry. Finally Yegor changed Senka.
“Senka took out of his bosom a piece of black bread stuck to the dampness and began to eat.” The boy fell asleep. He dreamed of having fun, a holiday, a bath. Here he was painfully poked in the side. This Yegor came to wake him, so that Senka would change him. Again there was silence. Everything was motionless, sullen, hopeless.