It was frosty cloudless afternoon. The sun was shining so bright that it hurt the eyes. It was the real summer sun if you looked out the window of the warm house. And on the street you could still feel chilly. Light Eastern wind nipped the face.
Winter wrapped everything around in fluffy robes. The small Siberian town drowned in the white expanse of the steppe. Snow bunks were rising to the very rooftops. Smaller houses and barns were buried under snow; instead of those you could see only the white chains of hills. The streets were empty, foot worn snow squeaked under feet of the rare passers-by. The small town lay on the banks of the fast and cold Siberian river. Kazakhs lived there foremost. It was nondescript town, no order in it. The center was still all right: there were streets, the main of them - Zemskaya - came from the market to the river. Suburbs resembled a ragged camel blanket. Kazakh huts scattered there at random.
That day Zemskaya was empty. Only occasionally trader showed up, dragging bunches of furs on the snow or groaning under a heavy bale of wool. Sometimes the snow creaked under the sled runners. The swarthy Kazakh - a guest of the steppes – guided a camel to the market. And again it was quiet and deserted.
But in the end of the street the sleigh showed up - a small “koshevka”. The jarvey sent the sleigh to the market. The passenger was one of the city's literates, Meirhan. He was frowning and preoccupied.
The sledge stopped next to bazaar, near the small house under green roof. Meirhan immediately jumped out and ran to the house.
- Why, Khadisha, is that so bad? – he was alert when he faced a tearful young woman in the entry.
- Much worse by the hour, that's why I sent for you today. - Khadisha depressed her head, trying to hide her tears, and opened the door to the room. Heavy breath sighs could be heard. Meirhan entered the small entry room alone.
Maksut was lying on a high bed. Raised in pillows, usually white face seemed quite black. His cheeks were hollow with baggy skin under his eyes. Slicked-back black hair plastered to his head, as if lifeless. He strained breathing, from time to time touching his chest with waxy wizen fingers. Parched lips moved slightly. Meirhan leaned over to his friend, trying to understand what he was asking, but something in the throat of the patient was wheezing, gurgling, and Meirhan barely caught a few words.
Friends looked at each other as if saying goodbye. Maksut soon fell delirious, he began raving. He remembered his work - school, Kazakh children. The words broke through the wheeze: "Children ... orphan hamlet... I did not have time ... "The patient moved his hands over his chest saying, 'I could not ... Between life and death now. » He clenched his companion’s hand: "Do not feel bad, not all my fault ..."
The old mother and wife came in and stood by the bed. Khadisha pressed the baby to the breast, anxiously looking at the dying man. And her mother - Maksut was her only child - asked Meirhan with a look as if it depended on him, will her son live or not.
But could Meirhan comfort her? After all, today a doctor came in the morning and just said, "Not long now, he is going to die soon."
Maksut regained, recognized his mother. He looked longingly at her for some time, and then closed his eyes sadly. It could be seen he imagined a lonely, with no one there to warm it, anility of his mother.
He overcame himself and spoke:
- What will you do, my mother, to whom do I leave you? .. The young will find their way, and you? .. It would be better you died before me...
He stopped, turned to the wall. The mother was ready to burst, crying out loud. Aside Khadisha sobbed. Maksut friends came: Zhumagul and Aktay. They sat in silence. Maksut, staring at the wall, spoke again:
- Khadisha ... will not be lost ... She has many kinsmen... But she in no daughter to you, dear ... She’ll go, if something happens, and you? .. Maybe she will even make you cry ...
The old woman began to cry louder:
- An apple of my eyes, my only, why do you say that?
Maksut faintly asked:
- Do not cry, Mama, do not cry ... My heart hurts ... Go better from here.
The friends came to his mother and tried to comfort:
- Don’t. It’s harder for him on your tears. You'd better leave, sit a little in another room.
- My only, the light of my eyes! Lie down, I'll go. - An old woman came out, barely moving her feet. After her Khadisha silently left.
Meirhan was sitting depressed. Indeed, Maksut was right. His change was near. The grief now will come to the mother. How long shall the young wife remember of a deceased husband? Hardly she will stay a widow. Besides municipal ...
Maksut did not outlast long. The day has come - and he could not even move, his eyes could barely open. He breathed often and hoarsely.
His mother faded away. All these days, from morning to morning she did not get up from her knees and pleaded with God for her son. And now she realized – that was the end.
Maksut’s life was leaving his body. Now that breath was gone, hands and feet turned cold his family and friends were around. They decided it came to an end. And suddenly the dying opened his glazing eyes and asked:
- Am I alive or not? - And closed his eyes again. Paleness was slowly spreading across the face. Maksut was gone.
On the same day the city knew of the death of a young teacher. And all agreed: "A good guy he was, the glory of the city. It’s pity of the poor man." And added: "Poor old mother, what will be with her now?"
There were many people at the funeral. Maksut pupils, friends and relatives came. There was no one indifferent. All heads were depressed when Maksut’s body was brought to a fresh mound of clay near the blackened pit. Only the mullahs in this solemn moment did not forget the worldly affairs. They hissed, argued, shared a chapan and belt scarves of the deceased.
As the days passed ... Flew by and were forgotten the difficult months. The sun was warmer every day, it awakened the nature. And everything around was in rejuvenation. The trees dressed themselves in dense foliage, they were whispering about something. Birds from dawn to dusk were busy, welcoming with songs the glorious time of the year. And the people cheered up, jollier set to work.
Spring came to everyone. It only came by Maksut’s house. It was gloomy and mournful. Few have spoken. You could hear just how hard the old mother sighed. Dark were her eyelids as if carved from stone, did not rise, face withered and darkened. It was difficult for young Khadisha in the orphaned house. The sorrowful silence loomed her down. She would fall sick, if it was not for Jamila. Little Maksut’s daughter sometimes could make even the old woman forget.
And Maksut’s friends brought a little more joy - Zhumagul and Aktay. Meirhan, scarcely came, it looked like he even avoided meetings. But Zhumagul and Aktay visited, tried to banish the gloomy Khadisha’s thoughts.
Recently Zhumagul became frequent guest. He came alone, without Aktay. And what did not he do just to entertain little Khadisha. What a tale he would sometimes tell! And assured: with him himself, say, it happened. Not a word about Maksut. Zhumagul talked of him with the old woman. And the old woman was happy. "Good man," – she said.
And Khadisha got used to Zhumagul so much that if she did not see him for long time she was bored, starving for his funny stories. And when she went to sleep, the dreams and hopes came to her. The further the more miserable the house seemed to a young woman. She had enough of the mother’s-in-law sighs. "After all, I did not see any of life, it's time to know how sweet it is," – she thought. And all over sudden a bony hand grabbed her and held. And her husband's face flashed before her eyes.
The young widow lost peace. It was a true sign of quick changes, just wait ...
Once Meirhan came from work. Lay down to rest. Suddenly the letter was brought. Meirhan read through and did not believe his eyes:
"My dear friend!
I'll meet you tomorrow at twelve o'clock. It will be my wedding. Come. Probably you have already heard: I will marry Khadisha. It is the will of God.
Again and again Meirhan read the note and did not believe. Finally understood everything, and attributed in warm blood at the bottom: "Will not come. Drat it with the wedding. "
The next day two friends came to Meirhan, seen from afar - gathered for the wedding: clean, scented, white-collars over jackets; they called to go with them.
Meirhan protested, tried to talk:
- You need to have conscience! Only yesterday you said goodbye to a friend, and today we will go to the wedding of his wife!
- Come on – friends fended. - Do not be idealist! Come with us. Have a drink, a bite. Well, for whom, say, will that would be worse?
Still Meirhan went. He decided to take a look at this wedding.
Guests were celebrating, the fun was in full swing. The groom was happy. The bride was shining, as if she did not cry over the grave of her husband recently. No one remembered Maksut. Guests took a drop. Congratulated the married, were joking and laughing. Meirhan took a drop also. He got up, raised his glass and asked attention. Guests were silent, waiting for the new toast.
- I give a toast for Maksut... Let his soul be alive and prosperous! ..
Some snorted. Zhumagul and Khadisha smiled. They all drank, never understanding the meaning of the toast. Friends pulled down Meirhan: "Come on, why, sit."
Thus ended Meirhan’s attempt to stand up for the memory of his friend.
Several days later, a noisy procession went by under the windows of the Maksut’s house. Friends accompanied the married, Zhumagul was going with Khadisha and father-in –law to visit his native aul. Fast threesome with bells swept past the hushed house. Zhumagul glanced at the windows, and in one of them saw the old woman. Maskut’s mother with her unseeing eyes was mournfully staring into faraway...
May that year turned out to be generous. Steppe was violently green, pleasing an eye with high, succulent herbs. There was no edge to this carpet with yellow spring flowers running on it.
Valleys flourished, and mountains, and talkative river that relentlessly jumped from rock to rock at the foot of the mountains. The birch on the bank blossomed and became prettier, the shrubs, the company of the river, turned green. Even the gloomy stones - coastal guard – cheered up. In the bush the birds, singing in all the voices, fling. And the elegant yurt appeared there. It was waiting on arrival of a young daughter-in-law.
Auls, which migrated to “dzhaylyau” - alpine pastures, scattered along the southern side of the Chingiz mountain. White yourths seemed to be looking afar, and resembled the eggs laid in the grass. Not far there was the lake – a lot water that year - playing in the sun and casted rays of light, just like a mirror. Herds were roaming around the lake, not crowded – there was enough room for everyone. And in the villages people were happily bustling.
Herds were good that spring - good herds of horses – one could not take the eye off them. After well-fed winter, the horses were smooth and frolic in the desert. Hotheads were boasting. They would get together in twos and threes and start the games, contests. But the time has come for kumys. "Horses entered into force, the foals grew up, it's time to tie the mares", - said the old man. So prepare in auls harness and bridles, we’ll soon begin to catch the wild mares”.
Zhumagul’s aul was engaged in that business for a few days already. The mother of our savant hero - thrifty, frugal woman – did not like to waste time and the crumbs of goods and chattels. That's why she made it before all others. Today Amre, the elder, led and tied the mare, to the custom; people came, a little bit - the closest neighbors and passers-by. And nobody from another villages. Amre was not very generous with food. And people knowing that were reluctant to visit him.
The horseman continued to catch the horses. They ran wild over the winter, used to walk around freely and now they did not go in hand, did not let anyone close. Yes, the old herdsman knew his job, he ordered to begin with foals.
A wild herd ran rapidly trampling. But the thin, strong lasso managed to get a foal. And let it soar up on its hind legs, he would not break off the strong and grasping hands of an experienced hunter. The foal gave up and hit the ground. And Amre’s heart sank. "Bismillah" – the elder whispered a prayer and jumped up, shouting: "Hush you, don’t break his back, gently, you will roll your neck!"
Finally, all the foals were caught, the mares were tied. And women, as the custom was, brought into the field on large platters the Kurt and butter. Tired people were happy to take up food. Amre quietly sat down next to them.
The first hungerwas stilled, and the conversation flowed itself. They began to share the news. And the most interesting news then was Zhumagul’s marriage. How the son married, neither Amre nor his old wife Camaria really knew. And though they did not recognize that they listened with interest to what was told by occasional guests. In neighboring auls people came from the city. Zhumagul was praised. They told he well married; took Kondybay’s daughter. They heard her ransom was generous, and after her first husband she inherited all the wealth. Now, Zhumagul, they say, thought of adopting the girl - a daughter of his wife. And if so, all welfare of the deceased would go to him. There was an old woman, the mother of the deceased. Yes, did she need much? "The rich man your son, in a few days changed his life."
Amre and Camaria listened and thanked God in their hearts. Though they uttered aloud, as if nothing special had happened:
- Thank God, the wait is over. What a deal we spent on him, taught in the city! Thought – he would learn and we will not be forgotten, he’d send a penny. Now he will remember us. Who, if not son, would help the elderly. Very well done that took the endowed woman.
And guests continued the conversation and haggled. How the young people will be met? Will enough kumys be ready? After all this time the son will come with good daughter, they will be the guests of honor. Others were wondering whether they’d bring the old woman. They had to. She was left alone in the whole world, there was nobody to look after the poor, and yet she was the mistress of all the wellfare.
- Why, why that old woman need wealth?! – others replied.
And Camaria, Zhumagul’s mother, thought to herself: "It is unlikely to find the better son-in-law for an old woman than my Zhumagul. She’d be fed until the end of her days. She’s not stupid – would keep the young with her. And would not be bad..." So Camaria thought, but did not utter loud a word. If a hint is given then only on her husband's ear. And Amre did not want to listen, interrupted:
- Come on, you old, its vain talking. There is nothing in thinking ahead. As God put so be it!
Zhumagul’s parents concealed their hopes, hiding from everyone. Still, someone has discovered, inadvertently overheard the dropped word, and the rumors spread across aul of great riches of the bride and groom.
It took several days. One evening, Amre lingered with the herd at the waterhole. Camaria at that time stood in front of the yurt, talking with women - they were going to milk the sheep. Sheep and lambs were pushing aroud and bleating loudly ran to aul. Shepherd boy came up with the women and cried,
- Joy! Great Joy! Uncle Zhumagul arrived!
Aul rallied and rustled. Sure thing all starved to see the lucky groom.
Women ran from yourt to yourt. Children raced across aul, alerting all with a loud scream. Old women also alerted and their peaceful talk at the well stopped.
Near the large white Amre’s yourt the whole village gathered. Afar the ringing of the bells was heard. And soon three horses appeared, flying like a bird. The people made way for them and the driver besieged the horses. There were hugs, kisses, questions about health, about family, about friends. Zhumagul passed from one cousin to another. Khadisha was surrounded by women. Camaria kissed her, hugged Khadisha, and the others - the older ones – hugged her. The first excitement of the meeting faded, and people began to look closely at visitors. They were very different in appearance from the villagers.
Zhumagul and Khadisha were real citizens. They were dressed neatly, easily and beautifully, to season. And did not talk like in aul. Zhumagul put some strange, even funny for the local ear words into his speech. And Khadisha in the crowd of aul women and girls seemed a queer start.
Guests entered into theyourt and sat down on the place of honor. And then many people did not like the behavior of the city woman. She leaned over to her husband’s ear whispering. As though she disliked or condemned those who came to meet her. Nebby women immediately noticed her "culture." Mockery and whispering among people began. Let the city pals not fly high, villagers were not so simpletons.
Amre sat frowning, silent, unhappy and looked askance at cheerful guests. And Camaria, though noticed everything, did not show it, and still caressed and treated Zhumagul.
Daughter and mother-in-law felt each other briefly. "Culture" of the citizen has not prevented them of becoming close. Same happened with Amre and his educated son. All four soon found a common language.After all an important and difficult question of the welfare split occupied them all. Young seemed not less arrant than their old parents. The avaricious daughter-in-law and prudenct "scientist" even hit the elders. And there, this quartet of young and old, scholars and ignoramuses was joint by the idea of wealth. A day or two - and they revealed to each other their souls, not hesitating, howling secrets that they hid from everyone else. Camaria never got tired of reminding
- Prices are growing and there is no profit at all. All livestock diminished. It's time you take care of the elderly. Now whether you want but you should try.
Appetites grew: if at first the bride's dowry seemed a significant profit, now it was forgotten. Now they thought how to seize the Maksut’s heritage and take it from the old woman.
Earlier Zhumagul and Khadisha each did not start talking of that. Everyone thought to himself. And here, in the steppe, lost all shame. Old people did not ceremonize, said bluntly. Young did not lag behind. Camaria soon saw through his daughter-in-law and understood: she does not need to be taught. But just in case talked about theheritage, remember, as soon as the reason turned up. And if there was no reason, she took Maksut’s little daughter, Jamila, in her arms and said:
- My dear granddaughter, how soon yoyu’d solace us, your grandfather and grandmother, you will become the mistress of all wellfare. We can not wait for your help. Look, take away everything from the old woman, take away everything! - And she gently pulled Zhumagul’s and Khadisha’s ears.
And Amre had his plans. He came up with another way to increase wealth. He had a friend there in the village – the rich Zhangozy. Once small Jamila hit his eye.
- Your granddaughter is good – he praised her. - Just a fiancee to my junior, you know, who was born last year. I’d wooed her from you, Amre, what do you think?
Amre loved it and told all to Zhumagul. And the latter balked:
- It's not time yet. What would people say? After all, if we speak about the the old woman’s welfare split up, so it's for her own granddaughter. All for her blood, her son’s daughter, will give, why. And then? I’ll go for suit and how do I handle this? And people... Ashamed.
- People, people! - Amre grumbled. - Will you listen to what people say, will stay the poor. Those, to whom fortune comes, are always hated. Brush it off. And your conscience is of no need...
Amre grumbled, but did not insist. Suit was postponed.
Grass went dry. The steppe was no longer green, it turned brown and gray. People were more speaking about the harvest: how will the earth thank those who engaged in it?
Livecattle got strong on free pastures near the fresh ponds. The young have grown. It was time to think about winter. In the villages they began to prepare for the fall camping. And the aul elder, Amre, was busy with the same.
The young overstayed in the steppe. They rested and freshened up. One could not know them in those pale, feeble citizens, which were met there in spring. The folk in the desert was courteous. On visits and on holidays, in fun laughter summer flashed. It was time for the return trip.
Before leaving Zhumagul and Khadisha sat up late at night. Aul was sleeping peacefully and heavily. The moon shone. The smoldering fires flashed here and there.
Young sat side by side, covering the legs with large blanket. They were talking quietly. Camaria came. The conversation went on all the same - the heritage. Zhumagul remained silent. They silently accepted the final decision to go through Jamila. She was the mistress of all property. It should be by all means to legitimized in any way. The house with all the wealth must be written to Jamila. With that the young returned to the city. They met with friends, acquaintances, learned what happened over the summer. And about Maksut’s mother friends also told: the old woman is still alive. Sitting at home, she took in a lame relative. Yearned for her son. Prayed and cried.
Maksut’s mother learned about the return of Zhumagul and Khadisha. The whole night she did not turn off the light longing. Afternoon Khadisha with Jamila came to her. She hugged granddaughter, wept, and folded to a withered breasts. Did Jamila remember her father?
Khadisha, annoyed, could not wait to take away Jamila. And after, sitting for a little decorum, went away from the old woman with her daughter.
Khadisha did not care for the grief of the oldwoman. At home she immediately began to instruct her husband:
- Do not waste your time, get to work faster. You have a lot of friends, all will be arranged, they will help.
And the fuss began! Whoever did not Zhumagul and Khadisha asked for help in their affair! From someone they found out: there was a school board which specifically dedicated engaged with protection of minors. That's just what was needed! Kadisha filed an application there. Pretended to be a poor orphan. Turned everything so that Maksut’s mother turned almost a vilain. And the council made a decision: "the only lawful owner of the property left by Maksut was his daughter Jamila. As Jamila was underaged, the overdight of the assets was entrust to her stepfather and guardian Zhumagul. "
Incidentally, a common for Maksut and Zhumagul friend helped the latter in this matter. His name was Aktay. Aktay also desired Maksut’s wealth. Always told to his unmarried brother: "You sit here, you lose time, and where else will you find such a bride as Khadisha!" But it turned out different. Zhumagul was way ahead. Aktay quickly went off. Zhumagul now became an influential person, it was necessary to earn his gratitude. Thus a former Maksut’s friend became a pleader for Khadisha and Zhumagul.
A Maksut’s old mother did not know anything. She sheded tears for her only son. And then a newgrief came.
Kondybay once came to her and brought the council’s decision.
- The house and the property is now owned by Zhumagul and Jamila. Do not worry, you’ll live with them. That’s God’s will.
The old woman did not expect that bitter grief. Yes, it was clear, that Maksut’s specter came true. She understood well what a threat was the rule of daughter-in-law and her new husband. There it was, the true orphanage! Who could she go to to ask for help?
She tried to argue with Kondybay:
- Why on earth? After all it is my property, I got it by heritage from my husband and parents. Why do I give the husband’s and ancestors’ welfare not to the akin but to my enemy, the hated Zhumagul? There is no such right! I will better give it to the poor, and he will get not a jot under my will!
She gathered her last strength and yanked Kondybay off.
Kondybay left, and Maksut’s mother started to think what she could do and realized: the power was on the enemy's side, Zhumagul, he enlisted the paper from the state institution. She was not able to think of anuthing and started praying. And she remembered Meirhan. That's a real Maksut’s friend; he would help her in trouble.
And she told everything to Meirhan. What else did Khadisha want? She took her stuff a long time ago. Why would she want to take away the last from the old woman? Why would she want to take her home? She cried and begged Meirhan. "Help" – she conjured him with the memory of his friend.
The very next day Meirhan went to Zhumagul.
- What are you up to? You're young, healthy, and even "savant", too! Did you lose conscience? Think about what you want to do? You married well, did not pay a penny of ransom! Yoy are not poor, got the bride’s wealth. Isn't that enough for you? You think of robbing an old woman!..
- I did not start this – it was Khadisha. She does not want to listen to me. This is her businedd and she decides herself. Don’t be so smart. All you do is criticize the others. Watch or you’d be in trouble yourself.
Friend’s words did come down to Zhumagul’s heart. Meirhan went away and only said going:
- Truth is told: the richer the person, the greedier he is!.. And Zhumagul just in case spread the rumor: Meirhan envies the others’ luck and barges in when he’s not wanted.
Maksut’s mother knew of that and understood: Meirhan could not do anything.
So the last hope was gone. And she slowed up at once. Earlier, though she mourned greatly, but her mind was clear, and her face, frozen in grief seemed even majestic. Now she fussed, her eyes were restless and anxious. Sometimes, suddenly, she rushed around the room, grabed things, cried...
- Won’t give up, kill me!.. I will take it away ... I'll go to my Maksut!
And Zhumagul did not lose time. He enlisted the law support. One sudden day, he showed up at the Maskut’s house with three police officers, showed up before in dead friend mother’s eyes. The old woman looked with strange eye at armed police officers and Zhumagul, rose and staggered went to the unmade bed. She grabbed one and all from the bed, clinging to the things with thin arms.
- Won’t give it up ... kill ... Maksut! - Suddenly she screamed and fell flat on her back, arms outstretched.
And she went to Maksut...