The elder brother took in arms his younger brother just like a child and said to his wife who was remaking the bed:
“No bones, no flesh. Dry and light like a tumble-weed. What a strong man they exhausted!”
The bed was some quilts folded in three and four that were lying on the earthen floor under the grey cob wall of wintering. The sick man was laid down on his right side.
He has completely lost his strength when they risen him; he was heavily breathing and hardly moving his bloodless lips. His brother and daughter-in-law bent to his face but they rather guessed than heard his words:
“Emaciated horse – just like fluff down the wind.”
“Emaciated husband is like a shade.” the woman finished sighing sadly.
The elder brother’s name was Bakhtygul, the younger – Tektyguk. Khatshoi, that was the woman's name.
Bakhtygul, broad-shouldered and deep-chested man wish black moustache, set near the sick man hanging down his head. As far back as last autumn Tektygul was amazing people with his strong man stature. He was one head above his brother, much sturdier and stronger. And now this evil illness finished him. The power left the fellow just like blood flew out the wide wound.
Bare rock was soft for him before, now his bed is hard. He became captious, asks remaking his bed oftener; and it is as ease as winking to take him in arms. But there were times when you hardly could raise him from the ground!
I remember, in youth, in terrible times Bakhtyl had to bear his brother just like nowadays. The elder brother was sixteen then, the younger was ten. Mass typhus burned steppe, all auls round just like a fire. In one day their father and mother were laid up and after that died in one day too – mother in the morning, father by night. Brothers ran from their home aul um hill and sown dale as their father said while dying. And when the younger brother became weak in his knees, the elder was bearing him piggyback with his last strength just to go rather far off. Then Bakhtygul took his brother from death, from infective disease that was following them. And now he probably couldn’t...
Grief was torturing Tektygul, not that of a strong man, it was death grief.
"No leaf can grow on a cut bush,” he was repeating looking with his frightening frozen and dull eyes first at his brother than at his daughter in low. “It’s all our cursed poorness, our orphancy. It was poorness that killed me not people! How will you live without me?”
Cramp was wrinkling his grey lips as if something dearest, something hidden in his soul was trying to break out.
“Oh, if I just could get even with...not for death, not for hurt…” he was whispering and sobbing furiously and helplessly. He gave a cough strenuously as a decrepit old man turning back his face to the wall.
Today Khatsha couldn’t stand, she cried out tearfully:
“Mean men! Let their arms and legs wither and fall off! They were breaking and breaking the fellow and broke completely... If only they bought off with a dead kid. If they gave alms for living for the aching man...”
Bakhtygul was chary of words.
“Alms?” he said with a gloomy grin and tips of his thick black moustaches crept down.
Khatsha understood her husband. Their enemies have neither compassion no nobleness. They wouldn't only give a hand with a gift but also a wink of the eyelid! Offenders knew: if you feed a weakly and seek man, you admit your fault against him. And what if Tektygul doesn’t survive? There should be an answer according to the old steppe law – pay for murder. That was what they were afraid of.
In whole his life Bakhtygul couldn't remember a day when rich men were fair and he has already leaved the second life since his father and mother got cold in front on his eyes.
That year the terrible typhus haven't caught the fugitives, it was their destiny that caught them. After long wandering they found lodgment by their remote relatives, maternal uncles, but they didn't found any luck there. Boys became hired men in a rich aul of kozybak family roaming through the Burgenskaia volost. Last autumn twenty years have passed since brothers have being serving with good faith and fidelity to Salmen bai, the youngest of kozybak, tough and willful man.
Over the year of his service Bakhtygul reached a big honour – he became a horse herd wrangler that means the biggest among shepherds but he didn't really get rich. Instead his muster Salmen was making a fortune.
Bakhtygul’s clever hands raised and reared lots of bai herds, hundreds and hundreds head of good tough breed in the steppe.
The younger brother, Tektygul was treated by the bai as a drudge - filly miler. Year passed, grey youth left but nothing changed: By day Techtygul was milking fillies, by night he was guarding sheep flocs.
Bakhtygul was luckier - nevertheless the bai has given him in marriage. He took to wife a girl named Khatsha, daughter of a shepherd from a near aul and she also began serving to the bai Salmen, his wife and mother just like her husband did. It cost much for Bakhtygul to marry her - everything what he has earned for about ten years but that was bai's will. But Tektygul turned thirty and he wasn't still married.
Work-hand brothers were known around the whole neighborhood, they had a reputation of power and courage but bai had a special benefit from them.
Kosybak’s family was rich and that’s why greedy, power-loving and insatiable. From old times kosybaks were known because as a chance offers they started barymta, reft cattle. In such things Bakhtygul and Tektygul were worth weight of gold.
They were handed black clubs, mounted excellent horses and sent for secret robberies. Brothers swore to the bai and went where he told them to go.
The elder brother of their master Salmen, bai Sat, was engaging into internecine conflicts over and over again trying to get position of volost ruler. Sat maid parties in the volost, inflamed enmity among them and caught fish in troubled waters. Dyhigits' bones cracked under clubbing blows and bai Sat reaped the benefit of volost leader and herds and flocks of bai Salmen were grown.
Young men from other families were afraid of Bakhtygul and Tektygul, they envied them for their power:
- Are they really people - strong as clubs... Sometimes it happened that they were laughing at them:
- Are they really servant - slaves are they… Slave brothers!
Fame was daring but not glad. Ill fame. Not only strangers but also women and children in their home aul were whispering underhand:
- Our fallows went like barymta as our custom tells... Our fallows returned with night spoil of thieves...
But it was important that the bai should be happy! Under the bai we are walking, bai’s will for everything.
From year to year, from winter to summer kosybaks were growing fatter, getting impudent. Bakhtygul and Tektygul served them not in vain. Hard clubs, long lassos the shepherd brothers had, but shot souls. Twenty years passed but they were still the same uncomplaining and reliable fellows.
Bai Salmen didn’t pay them anything. And there was never any usual steppe agreement that could tie brothers and their master: that much cattle and clothes for that much time… There was no such over-indulgence at Salmen’s work! Isn't the bai a beneficent father for his slave? Furthermore they were relative even if matrilineal. They don’t pay relatives, they gift them.
That’s why Tektygul has nothing in thirty years, nothing that he could call "mine". Bakhtygul and Khatsha had just little more...
Old tight yurt, three-four horses, dozen of sheep - that’s all! That was all what they, three strong and skilled guys have earned for many years of diligence and efforts, hard work and desperate risk.
But thanks Heaven even for it, if only rich men were fair and if only there wasn't a boar heart in Salmen's chest.
But last autumn at dirty, windy and wet night a misfortune happened. Crying, weeping and swearing were hanging over the aul when Bakhtygul drove a herd of horses. Salmen the bai was rushing around the aul crying, spiting like a camel and whipping with a lash everybody who was caught near at hand. Khatsha was lying in tears near the dead fire wailing over Tektygul like a dead man.
- Where is he?
- Heaven knows...
- Is he alive or not?
- Heaven knows...
Of course he was in steppe. It happened that a whirlwind scattered the sheep flock and drove them away from the aul. Tektygul didn't follow them and when the bai jumped to him with his lash, he didn’t stand for the first time in his life and said right in his bloated eyes:
- Look, what a night… And I am naked andbarefooted! Only one chekmen but even it decayed because of sweat, a hole winks to a hole… Give me at least worn clothes to cover my soul.
Salmen stood dumbfounded because of such a suddeness.
- Sheep are dying…a big floc!... And you are still haggling?
- I beg…be merciful...
- Dog! You just save your skin! Tektykul joked unhappy:
- That is my one and only, the last one...
- Then I skin you alive thrice!
At the bai’s sign three young fellow of him went for Tektygul, stroke him down on the ground and started beating him deliriously with their boots in his chest and then drove him to the steppe. Tektygul bent his neck. He went with shame, than with blind despair saying:
- It will be your sin...
Bai followed him with a fierce swearing.
People were set the teeth on edge on just looking at Taktygul. His chekmen was torn up with bai’s shod boods, rags were hanging like camel mane while shedding of hair. But everybody was silent and bai was crying hurrying his work-hand with the lash...
Tektygul could strike Salmen down to death just with one punch but it didn't even cross the work-hand's mind. He has thought about it much later when he was lying at death's door.
Bakhtygul ordered Khatsha to look after the heard and galloped to the steppe calling for his brother. He rode around all neighboring hills and valleys, gathered all sheep but he couldn't find his Tekthygul before daylight. And when he found and raised him on his horse covering his brother with his own body from wind and rain, the fellow was more dead than alive.
Khatsha couldn't handle with the herd, horses were scattered just like with a windstorm and as soon as brother returned to the aul a fierce punishment of their master befell them. They were beating the younger brother, already senseless and raving in fever, but the elder brother couldn protect him. They were beating with anything what they could find, there was no compassion or mercy, they were beating brothers as they were horse-stealers.
After than night brothers left Salmen. They escaped from the kosybaks' aul to the neighbor Chelkarskaia Volost taking away their few things and found shelter in a forsaken shabby wintering place that they had left twenty years ago.
But an invisible slow death came with them as once typhus did. It came and stood over the Tektygul's head.
The fellow was laid up and didn't rise anymore. Through the whole winter loose cough was beating and turning him inside out. Tektygul spited thick blood spitting out his strength piece after piece.
Never before he’s complained about his destiny but then he was whimpering through clenched teeth as a beaten puppy. Not that he saw no happiness in his life or had no wife or born no children but that he didn't get even with his offender. Since childhood Tektygul was a kindly soul, so openhearted and inoffensive but that time as if an evil spirit was inside him.
While winder butchering Bakhtygul listened to Khatsha and went to Sat, Salmen’s brother. He went to him open-heartedly having a doubting complaint.
Sat listened to him patiently and answered in detail as in a bii court:
- You say, you are starving, aren’t you? You aren’t hiding, that is good. But you were not starving by Salmen! You are dying, you say? That's good that you aren’t cunning. But the murdered man dies immediately but the beaten one doesn’t! You have also appeared in the heat of the moment but you are still alive… He is ill, you say? That could not be more true. But you know what kind of illness is this in reality! Who of us isn’t ill with this illness? Who isn't afraid of it? Хорошо, что ты не лукавишь. Но убитый умирает сразу, а избитый не умирает! Ты тоже попал под горячую руку, а жив... Болеет, говоришь? Вот она, истинная правда. Но ты знаешь, что это за болезнь! Кто из нас не болеет этой болезнью? Кто ее не боится? Our mother, of mine and Salmen, lived well, in a clover but she died of con. Whose fault was it? Salmen? Or mine? Or must it be Khatsha because she was serving the decedent. Got is my witness that you forced me to say that I shouldn’t say. And how dare you even breathe a word, who put it into your head to call from a man for that what only God takes away?
And Sat sent him off not letting him object any word. And Bakhtygul left laughing bitterly at Khatsha and himself.
The early spring Tekhtygul's hour has struck. His life left him after his power. Unapparently a mud light has died out.
Bakhtygul couldn’t consol himself for a long time, he have mourned his brother a long while. He was grieving for forty days and in forty days he called his few and poor relatives from the Sara's family, sent his last what he had and made a funeral feast for Takhtygul properly.
They were saying at the feast that the deceased was a lion. They were talking about his suffering. And also that the Sara’s family has been deserted. The family left without batyr.
«I am like having no arms and legs...» - Bakhtygul thought hanging his head down, it was empty and desolated in his heart just as in his yurt.
That autumn Bakhtygul planned a secret and dangerous affair. He chose a dead rainy night, hung a leather bottle with malta soup thickened with curdled milk to the saddle and went to mountains. His old friend and adviser, his hunger, followed him.
Bakhtygul was riding and thinking:
«Cherished long-expected autumn… Rains are noisy, rains are obscuring, rains are swallowing up the trace…If there is luck, to the morning I steal it over three passes! Should I walk for nothing, watch for nothing, guard it for nothing?»
Mountains hulked up proudly in night sky. Bakhtygul could hardly differ the path in the dark but he could see the rocky ridges and forest slopes plainly. Shepherd is dog eyed. And places were familiar, well-waked and ridden, the dearest.
By day the mountains looked like rock yurts of giants from away, so desert and inaccessible for men of mound. Nearby and at night they assumed another similitude, they became scarily alive. Shaggy thick bed of fir on slopes looked like a skin of a huge animal sleeping and peacefully breathing. Hollows were as ears with animal-like sharp guarded tips and gabs as open chaps breathing with cold and dust, Rock fangs stuck out of them.
But Bakhtygul wasn’t afraid to be here, they were his native mountains, they met him with silence, peace, they called him: come here, hurry up, we will cover you.
True the path wasn’t safe, especially while raining, at autumn night. But Bakhtygul trusted his horse without any doubts. His Grey, strong and travelled horse, used to climb on steeps, walk above precipices, he was tenacious and deft as a rocky-mountain goat. Here and there the path ribboned into a string, two hoofs could hardly find place on it but Grey was walking quitely, smoothly, easy without pressing his side to a prominent rock on his right or looking afraid to the left side, he was walking right as a rope-walker.
Grey will save! He feels where his master was going. And when Bakhtygul was pressing Grey's sides with his legs in sign of anxiety or caution, the horse was tossing and jerking the bit disagreeing. His back was sinking soft under the saddle a kind of relaxing: sit quietly until I bring you to, after that you can do whatever you want, it's your own business...
Bakhtygul was riding and thinking - of himself, his horse and those whom he could meet on his path:
«You are also hardly glad about such weather. In the rain we all are stray! We'll see whose nose is wetter and who of us is going to put tail between legs… It’s not important whose are you - of Salmen or of someone other form Kosybiak's family! The whole Kosybiak’s family own me an irredeemable debt».
The endless night passed, the short cloudy day seemed to be longer. From late lazy daybreak to early twilight Bakhtygul was hiding and sleeping of in a pine wood named Sarapsakty that means garlicky, thickly sweet… The dark and wild wood smelt bitersweetly but it was hard to sleep on an empty stomach. Backtygul was awfully hungry as a wolf. No malta left in his leather bottle. But is it a real food for a man? Drink…it is for throat, not for stomach, and the weaker thirst the stronger stings of hunger.
Bakhtygul could hardly wait for darkness. His doubts left him. He was hearing only voice of his hidden adviser, unlaid friend.
«Samlenov’s men or their others…even if the Sat…what will be will be!»
Now herds should be still at mountain pastures - jailau. It is early for them to go down to steppe bottoms. There, at meadows under the sky, this night so be our meeting... Got is my witness whose quilt is it...
Yet Bakhtygul had doubts deep in his heart. "Let Salmen find excuses first!- he thought but he wanted to find excuses by himself before making what he planned.
- I have handful of ground black millet…he was whispering into horse’s ears. - Poor handful for the whole family…Children sent me here, they are innocent...
By midnight the horse began running faster. The path became wider, jailau will appear soon. Bakhtygul felt freedom in front with all his heart. He cheered up, squared his tired cold back. New fresh powers and desired daring were flowing into him and his horse.
Then the horseman looked like a big strong-chest bird that was slowly raising its wings. This bird is an old resident and master of those places, mountain tops, snow whites. In a moment it opens out its wings, shoots upwards to the sky and hangs above rocky mountains, bottomless ravines of Alatau watching for its prey vigilantly. Then it aims and suddenly strikes piping like an arrow, hawks and brakes with its iron claws.
Bakhtygul remembered that wild heady feeling that was following him early in life to night raids by kosybaks' wish. He felt himself as a bird then. He was flying like mad, beating without a second thought, straight from the shoulder. Tektygul was going next to him, a young fellow with temper of a child and power of a strong man.
No, they weren’t so simpletons, mules breaking front to front! They could do everything: track down, lay wait, go and take around, jump at full tilt over a sleepy man without awaking him, slip as invisible creatures right under very nose of a sleepless man wipe his eye. They were deft, skilful, sharp. Power alone feels bored but together with sharpness it is funny. They were persistent too: if there was no luck or chance, they didn’t turn round midway but they fought furiously, tireless, one against three.
Bakhtygul wished to have now his old passion, former grip of a golden eagle! But there was no sign of it! Something gave way, was broken in his chest.
But there was no time to consider. From far off Bakhtygul has already felt with his special shepherd sense an invisible movement of many head herd on soft wet grasses. Horses were grazing across a rocky saddle of the pass and Bakhtygul could hear them through rain whisper and wind whistle.
If guards are skilled there, they would ride round near the herd to hear better and catch a stranger in time. It is difficult to cheat such men even in dead night. And Bakhtygul took shorter reins watching that Grey wouldn’t clatter along on stones and what is most important that he wouldn’t neigh at sight of the herd missing in a long loneliness.
Delays are dangerous. Night affair loves deft and decisive men. Bakhtygul kept his horse on a short rein and didn’t let him stoop his head. He straightened himself up too and was ready to mead any suddenness each second. His small narrow eyes ware birdly enlarged and rounded as if he could really see in the dark.
The herd was unhastily flowing up to the meadow slope, right towards Bakhtygul. To the herd there was a distance of a good thrown stone. Bakhtygul froze under a lonely rock. Horses were crisping the rich grass together snoring and snorting. Playful rolling neigh of the young was spreading far away. Sometimes stallions gave voice, attentive, careful and martial masters of the herds. For a moment Bakhtygul could clearly see the shimmering and thick spot of the herd. Suddenly he felt frightened - was it really got lighter? No, it was still pitch-dark. And the herd surely was rich, filthy rich.
Bakhtygul took off his het and hung it on his saddlebow. He listened for something biting his long moustache. Nothing suspicious. Wranglers must be either cunning as devil or simply sleep. No people were seen or heard. But the fact that horses were grazing tightly disquieted him. That couldn’t be accidentally. Somebody skilled gathered them, took together and drove them to new grasses in the dark night.
Suddenly a thin alive trickle divided from a thick stocky mass of the herd and flew to the rock where Bakhtygul was hiding. Right then he fell on Grey's back noiselessly and forced him to lower his muzzle to the grass. The trickle sloped, spread and melted again. Aha! That was a stallion who took his own herd from the other horses. That means that there was no wrangler around…
At the same time Bakhtygul pushed Grey with his knees and the horse slowly went to the herd as if grazing.
The herd pricked up ears at the same time, began going aside and didn't allow a strange lonely horse to them. A long crest creamy good looker stallion around which the whole herd was flocking, jerked up high his head and neighed easy as asking "Who are you?". Of course he noticed a man.
Skilled eye can hear this bas neigh at once: there are both threat and challenge. What if it call to the wrangler! But Grey stepped aside right on time and Bakhtygul faked sleeping in his saddle. The stallion lowered his head.
First horses in the herd seemed small - one or two year young. At night not until you come close, you can't see how fattened they are. Step by step Grey came closer to them, and Bakhtygul breathed freely screwing up his eyes eagerly. Here is she! Finally she's found, the desired one...
Big full filly - the best in the flock and may be even in the whole herd. Smooth and round sides, cut crest, she was walking right near the stallion, she was really beautiful.
Bakhtygul took a hair lasso from the saddle. He didn't hesitate any second. When clever and skilled Grey came into the very middle of the flock and squeezed the filly with his shoulder, Bakhtygul didn’t miss in the dark - with the first perfect throw he threw a hard lasso loop on her neck. With such a throw Bakhtygul could lasso a bird on the fly.
The filly was stroppy - the whole summer there were no rein or hobble that touched her. Flighty and frightenedly shaking her head, she tossed in front right off the flock. But Grey was ready for it - not for the first time! Waiting no chucks he followed the fugitive as well didn't allowing her pull out the lasso from his master's hands.
For a long time the thrifty filly has been running straight out, like beans so that the lasso was ringing at full tilt as a string. Bakhtygul held her prudently and smoothly didn't allowing her run aside and pull the lasso. He didn't drive Grey, the shepherd's horse went right by himself helping the horseman in his each movement. The filly flung out, stumbled at full tilt and soon became tired, she went around a circle turning back to the herd.
That’s when Bakhtygul made her sensible of his hands and work hand loins power. He felt deep in the saddle to his back roaring of effort. The filly gasped in the lasso loop and reduces her run. Then she stopped lake a statue lowering her head.
Carefully picking and shortening the lasso and calming the filly with quite tender and power shouts, Bakhtygul closed to her and snaffled her fast and adroitly. He flicked her crupper wet of rain and sweat with a glancing blow and led her.
Horses in the herd crowded, pushed looking around uneasy and walking off Bakhtygul. That couldn't stay unnoticed. And then a heavy and headless-like big fellow with a huge club loomed right in front of him or rather above him...
Seemed? No…there he is, stay on the way without any movement as a voiceless blockwood. He is waiting, thinking if it is a friend or an enemy? What a sheep brain he has...
Bakhtygul set spurs to Grey sharply sending him forward. The big fellow stretched his long arm and grabbed the horse rein. Finally he wrapped his head around! Hard cheese. Bakhtygul imagined tremblingly as the horse lasso loop was tying his shoulders… But the big fellow behaved strange: he held Grey as if unwillingly, lazy, drowsly. He didn’t rise up his club and waited sniffing deep.
Bakhtygul rose up in stirrup watching and roared unmeant. That is, it is not a ram in front of him, it is a sheep. This is Kokai, the famous slasher, fellow with bad breaking horse power and hare sole, laughingstock for the whole neighborhood. Everyone was joking at him, everyone was playing tricks on him!
- I sqeeze you…dummy!, Bakhtygul whispered terribly and having whipped Kokai’s flea head with his lash, he blew off his het.
Stroke wasn’t strong rather offensive but Kokai fell out from his saddle as a sack and hid behind his horse’s crupper snuffing even more. He didn’t dare even cry and call his friends. He knew that they would laugh of him and that would be the end as always. Is would be better to be silent hiding with a night dark and begging Allah that this unknown left home quickly.
Bakhtygul jerked rein and galloped to the big ravine grown with a pine wood. There he could hide in safe, no one could find even his steps there at day...
And Kokai - Salmens’ wrangler, of the Salmen!
That means that Bakhtygul hit the nail of the head, right in the greedy boar heart. For nothing he has been torturing himself with doubts for two days.
Grey was galloping at full passing the herd. The filly was going near submissively shoulder to shoulder.
The cold ravine hole opened in front of them. And then they run against another wrangler.
He was riding a good horse from above, from the pass, cutting Bakhtygul and crying sonorously:
- Hey, who is there? Who are you?!
Bakhtygul recognized him immediately by his voice and confident manner. He was no coward, he would make pay even the devil. Bakhtygul for himself was once at his place by Salmen - the bai knew whom he could trust.
Getting closer to Grey’s crest, Bakhtygul worked loose his club silently and the wrangler rose his one over his head at full gallop crying at the top of his throat:
- Аh!.. Here! Come here, brothers! Ah! - Rolling echo followed at his heels.
Right then voices of other wranglers were heard from all sides. For that as they joined together and startled, no one slept and there were lots of them. In the dark they found out quickly and correctly which side to fling and they weren’t scared of it. Bakhtygul heard a heavy patter of hazardous chase.
Vociferous furious jeers flew over the herd. As if wranglers stirred up each other with a bad cry and called a windstorm. At one minute a gentle and quiet herd became wild.
Dozens of hands and crests rose up, long tails bent and flew as by the wind. Horses were biting, kicking rising up their backs and rearing. Stallions jerked trying to divide their flocks in different directions. Men voices sank in random hooves rumble.
Horses backs were going round and rearing as waves on a river in front of rapid. Then everything melted to common hard whirlpool of hot bodies that were as if stoke together. And suddenly that whirlpool flew into an awful smashing roll that was crushing and grinding everything without exception with thousands of hooves.
Making out no way in panic terror as if of flood or fire, the herd rolled like hell to the jailiau grasses. Horses spread in a mad gallop, run side by side close squishing and trampling those who was weak, and the one-year young and colts flew away as light small stones of snow slide falling dead.
Seemed that endless and deafening thunder blast felt and lied on mountain meadows, neighbor ridges from the ravine to the pass. Thanks heaven the horse roll wasn't rolling to the precipice.
Wranglers stopped one by one and turned back. They changed their mind late! No one of them saw whom he was following. Any minute you could get lost in the dark
It wasn’t immediately able to stop and calm the herd.
But finally it became calm and horses’ heads lowered to the grass. Only neigh of dams looking for their colts was shrilly ringing in the silence.
Wranglers gathered and cluttered swearing and blaming each other:
- What was then? Who started crying? Where did he came from, that damned shaitan! Did anyone see him personally?
But no one saw clearly and knew but how couldn’t you cry in the night? Your cry is my eye in the night...
Criers looked around and saw that the main wrangler wasn't there.
They turned back to the ravine and separated crying in a low voice and calling for Zhamantai.
That was Dexterous Kokai who found him on sharp stones of the rock slope girding the meadow. Zhamantai was groaning weakly, he had blood smell, near him there was his club lied but his horse didn’t seem to be close by.
- Hey!. - Kokai cried. - Just look at that… Somebody has beaten his head… All blood has left him!
They raised up Zhamantai.
- Alive! He’s breathing… Who did it with you? Who?
The main wrangler was groaning obscuredly pointing to the ravine.
Near those stones he run against Bakhtugul. Zhamantai stroke him first but in-warm-blood, off-the-cuff, that's why the stroke was weak and inaccurate, with the middle of the club on the shoulder. But the response stroke was hard - both the horseman and his horse rolled on the skids...
Zhamantai had no time to spot the stranger. But from that as the thief managed alone in the night having the laugh on wranglers, that fellow was sharp, skilled in secret business. YOu value a horse on its tittup, as well as a wolf…
Bakhtygul was unhurried going at a jogtrot along the ravine. Firs he listened too, then relaxed and Grey didn’t pick up his ears. There was nobody chasing them. Just in case Bakhtygul rode around among pines making some fox loops. He circled on the wet ground and left on the smooth stone. Besides they hardly could find his step.
Bakhtygul left and took away his luck. Again and again he looked at the filly admiring her. He liked her very much.
Having tousled her neck, he found out a layer of tight and deep fat under the short crest. You dab with finger and it springs. Isnt' that the luck? For a long time Bakhtygul haven't been so satisfied.
- Good... - he said with a delighted look. -Good animal!.. - And for fear of putting the evil eye he spad on his fingers: - Pooh-pooh!
It was raining without any pause. Wet darkness washed Bakhtygul's face. Smiling he twisted the wet moustache. Bakhtygul wasn’t afraid to get lost. Though the sky was black, the mountains were black and as if there was a ball of shaggy sheep hair in front of Grey’s muzzle, Bakhtygul saw sky in this darkness, he saw mountains and the way good.
Long before daybreak he felt with a fragrant smell that he came to the Sarymsakty pine wood. The road down is always shorter than the road up… And Grey is worker just as his master! But when a resinous scent stroke into his nose, Bakhtygul screwed himself up and turned round, he felt sick. He swallowed everything what left in his leather bottle and got off his horse. Grey had also to rest, he must have gnawing stomach too.
Bakhtygul became thoughtful sitting in the saddle under an old pine. Grey easy pushed his muster shoulder with his muzzle. That’s right, it's time. They should go rather farr off till the day light. It’s a sin to delay having the luck on a string.
Bakhtygul saddled Grey again tightened back girth harder so that the saddle wouldn’t slide to horse withers because they had to go down all the time.
Towards morning rain has stopped and it got wormer. Bakhtygul fell asleep. He nodded in the saddle leaning with moustaches to the chest.
He woke up because he snored. In fright he roused himself looking round wildly. It seemed to him that he was strangled.
Day was breaking. Lest they were caught by somebody's eyes...
Bakhtygul went by a far secret way scrambling through virgin brushing of karachai, clingy as a horse mite, narrow as a spider web.
Then he didn’t stop even at day, hurried on again and again letting any rest neither for horse nor for himself.
- It’s time to go home, children are waiting... - he murmured into Grey’s ears.
Bakhtygul's wintering place was nestled in a desert rock valley. Dusty caravan ways were laid in this areas but in the valley there could be hidden the whole flock of stolen horses. Bakhtygul was born there; there he buried his father and mother. There he was like at home.
Seeing his wintering place he dismounted, hobbled the filly formally and walked shaky to his housing stretching and moistening his dry lips.
Less than month was left to the snow but his family was still living in a ripped and smoked yurt near the fold fence.
Bakhtygul snicked and touched his black moustache to hide his tired smile. He saw Khatsha. Having burned to be almost black, hardly covered with ripped reaches, she was bustling about near the fire and burning tea for the children. They had three children: Seit, the first born, was ten, Zhumabai, the second, was five and Batima, two-years old black haired sharp child, wasn’t even weaned. Two sons, daughter… That was the wealth of Bakhtygul and Khatsha.
They met father without any noise or fuss but at if it became lighter immediately in the black yurt. Tall and well-build Khatsha froze in a joyful and uneasy waiting seeing her husband. And he came closer to the house calm without any word didn’t loosing man’s dignity. He stepped over sticks jumbled near the steps, entered the yurt and set on the main master place near the wall opposite the doorway. That was tor, the "beautiful corner" of the yurt. How sweety was that place under native roof after a difficult way.
But Bakhtygul haven't been silent for a long time. He didn't stand, looked with a side glance on red coals in the fire and nuzzled.
- So, how are you, wife… Was it blazing, was it quick ripen? Is there anything at least for one tooth...
Khatsha wanted to run and cling to his bright and hard shoulder. But she didn't dare, she just asked respectfully and shy right from the steps:
- Did you succeeded in your way?
- Hey, hurry up… he answered with a snarl. - I have no time to delay!
Khatsha put everything what was at home on the table. She didn't grudge butter that she has been keeping in a dried clear ram bowel from the spring. She took it from the products box from the very bottom. She gave it to her husband. She poured out hot tea. And again and again she tried to touch his elbow and shoulder with her body at least fleetingly. He was sipping the scalding tea noisily and her heart was aching. And he saw it.
It was holyday in the family. Children eyes were shining, their gladness tried to break out. Zhuabai and Batima were pushing each other easily laughing playfully. Seit was shooing at them strongly but smiling ear-to-ear.
Everything was smiling in Bakhtygul’s soul. As if invisible sparkles grip squeezing his chest have been released for the first time for so many days. But you coulnd’t notice on his face that he was glad. He didn’t like to spend words in vain. He sat and drank tea stroking his moustache.
He emptied three tea bowls one by one, stood up and left the yurt. From outdoors he threw over his shoulder to his wife as if the less important thing but she was waiting for it reverently:
- Take the sack and follow me.
In a hurry she made up the yurt and said to the elder son Seit:
- Don’t left home. Watch the fire. If someone comes and asks, say: mother went for kizyak, she will be back soon.
Children left along in the yurt. A scuffling was set up. A desperate scream and cry or rolling laugh was heard behind holed felted walls. Zhumabai, an irrepressible tease, was pestering his little sister and brother pulling out nice bits of irimshik, the desiccated plums, from their hands.
Khatsha found her husband not far in a hidden place on the bottom of a small dried ice lake. The bottom was stony, there was hard last year snow in cracks, the banks were cliffed as if paling, fenced with "ram brows" - white-pink wind-blown stones, sharp as horns, grown with long grass manes looking as goaty beards. Place was ordinary but you could reach there only with risk to brake horse legs and your own neck.
Bakhtygul was sitting on haunches near the spread corpse of the filly. He has already started skinning her. It was dark and cold in the stone hole. There was a hard smell of raw meat. Khatsha started helping her husband hurriedly and adroidly.
She had to mess about it fairly when he threw out insides of the horse on the skin. It was woman’s work to sort them and Khatsha tried as she could.
At odd times she made fire on a plain stone quickly and adroitly. She didn't forget that Got only knows when her husband has eaten meat and she buried into hot coals the fat gray-violet kidney and also two-three nice bits selected with love - a good food for him, the breadwinner.
Bakhtygul was looking uneasy at the fire. The smoke would attract uninvited guests… But there he kept silent too. Hunger dimmed, clue the tongue to the palate. God, safe that fire, feed them with that food!..
They were working consentaneously to the very evening. They parted the corpse and tucked away skin and mead having laid them with stones. They separated and left only weekly part of meat and offal. The part is limited but for the work hand family it is holiday satisfying meal. In twilling they turned back to the yurt.
Bakhtygul was smiling into his moustaches gradually looking at that who Khatsha was bustling near the fire hanging smoked kettle with water over the fire. She threw a piece of tender udder and heart there and filled that slumgullion with under-crest fat. At the same time she was frying pieces of lever on coals and giving them to children.
The night was breathing with cold but in the yurt there was warm and cozy in a family way. Seit was hauling sticks and putting them under mother's hands. The boy was making efforts but his diligence didn’t cheat Bakhtygul. He called his sun and the boy came as if unwillingly. Suddenly Seit became sad.
That's happened with him before. He was a strange boy, too thoughtful for his years, with inquisitive mind, quick-witted at inappropriate times. There is sadness, distressing silence at home, the elder have quarreled but he starts shaking legs and jumps as a kid for no reason. Everyone is happy but he sticks his nose to knees and nothing can raise him from the ground. When it happens to him, you can throw gold in front of him, nothing can help! He looks as a beaten dog or a mad man, so sad and blankly as if he is going to blind or deaf, he doesn’t even turn for cry of his mother and father.
Right then the boy was thoughtful too, hard was his look as of grown-up, a pale sad guilty smile was on his lips without a moustache...
Bakhtygul set him hear. Right then Zhumabai and Batima run to their father, stock as puppies to nipples. Khatsha has covered all four with a sheepskin - they were sitting far from the fire.
Children became quite. A sweet blissful calm was going from them. Food was gurgling in the kettle, there was a tasty smell in the yurt. Khatsha was fussing saying something playfully. Bakhtygul heard her voice as if through a cotton dressing gown. He didn’t even notice as he fall asleep sitting.
Khatsha felt a narrow-necked kugman with warm water and called her husband offering to wash on his hands. He opened his lids by force. His eyes were muddy and seemed be full of blood in gleam of the smoke fire. In sleep his back was cold, his legs were sleeping, he stretched shivering and spreading about his children snuggled to him.
- Ooh-ooh, I am not alive - he murmured clasping his hands as a scoop.
- Now, dear, now... - Khatsha answered tenderly and lovingly.
Taking the kettle off the tripod, she took a wooden scoop to put meat on the plate. And Bakhtygul put up his belt up from the ground, took out a long narrow knife with a black handle from sheath and tried blade sharpness with the right thumb. Knife was perfect, cut meat as butter. Bakhtygul washed his sword-blade with hot water from tea-kettle.
- Now, now... - Khatsha repeated and suddenly there was heard barking outside.
An old doggess and her two puppies barked together. From their barking Bakhtygul understood that they run to the fold.
Khatsha froze raising the scoop over the kettle and looking frigtenedly at her husband.
Patter of many hoofs run as if from under the ground and drowned barking. Bakhtygul could clear known chattering of soils dragging on stones, that was a tried weapon of steppe men.
- Cover the meat…Not long for trouble! - he cried faintly.
Khatsha jerked as a bird feathers on the wind, - she couldn't find the kettle top. Patter was getting closer. Husband was looking angry and fiercely and she was completely lost. Waving with the scoop, reeking with sweep she was whispering without any sence:
- Now, Now...
Bakhtygul swore through clenched teeth and in hurry she picked up a mat from the ground and covered the kettle with it, she threw the scoop into a bucket with water jarking back her hand as if getting burned Бахтыгул выругался сквозь зубы, и она впопыхах подхватила сземли половик и покрыла им котел, а черпак кинула в ведро с водой, судорожно отдернув руку, точно обжегшись. There were wisps of smoke from under the mat but Khatsha didn’t notice it. Her legs couldn’t hold her and she set right on the bare ground.
Strange people started entering the yurt without asking and greeting, their faces boded no good. They were kozybiakovzy - cutthroaters, hardened, choice gang of rapists, night getters. Impudent walking, scornful eyes. It was immediately obvious that they used to speak with fist and club and didn't wait for any objections.
Lashing on his own bootleg, big-bellied and fat-bottomed Salmen entered grandly waddling. He was belt with a broad leather belt with silver metal plates and cuts and some haughty, arrogant and fat guys. They stood heavy in front of Bakhtygul.
It became crowded in the yurt and people crowded again and again, pushing closer to the bai. The last who adroitly from the crowd was a punny man with red beard and savage eyes wrenched. He didn’t even look at Bakhtygul but straight off smelt and lied near the fire as having dipped snuggling against Khatsha who was mad of fear. She stepped aside and he winked her grinning rudely. Fools and impudent fellows feel themselves at home everywhere!..
A big red skinned fellow started straight from the shoulder staring offensive, dilating his nostrils and wrying:
- Hey, that was you who stole a pregnant filly from our herd and broke head of Zhamatai, the wrangler. There is nobody else who can do it! Everybody who understand would say it was your doing. Эй, вчера ночью на джайляу Дэн ты увел из нашего табуна жеребую кобылку и проломил башку табунщику Жамантаю. Больше некому! Всякий, кто понимает, скажет: твоих рук дело. And they saw a lonely horseman with two gray horses in mountains in the morning. And one fellow noticed a smoke near your yurt in the evening. In short, there is no need to beat the air. The robbed man would forgive even his father! We would you even less so… Answer!
Bakhtygul didn’t lose his nerve against all that robber gang though he knew: cruel and dull fellows came for his soul, don't wait any merci from them. And he was repeating for himself as a vow "My truth, your falshod! Whatever I did, it serves Salmen right!” And that’s why he asked the bai giving no answer to the big fellow:
- It seems you want make me a thief? When was Bakhtygul a thief?
Panting Salmen spitted out words through gritted teeth:
- Don’t play a white crow!
No muscle shivered on the stone face of Bakhtygul.
- No Crow will be a hawk! How could I match you, how could I even on you?
Salmen became red in a second and gagged with anger.
- Prove first! Who did accuse me! Who was the witness?
- He’ll be found…be sure...
- Where is he? Let he show his face.
- Waffling! - the bai interrupted. - You have stolen animal and drove wild the whole herd…Such a lost for one night. And it was you, you who grew on my hands!
- And it shows that on your hands. You throw me as you want not for nothing. You do used for that, knew that! And say why are you sore at me?
- But you are messing with me and it is you who dare twit me?
- As if there is nothing to twit you in! Bai stared at the work hand dully.
- And what did I take of you?
- Better ask what you didn't take! You took my soul out of me. You ruined my native brother. You beat him to death...
- Hegh! That means I am your sworn enemy? Bakhtygul lied his hands to his chest.
- That's the God who gives you this words…You were the first who told them!
- You are out of your head! Are you mad?
Bakhtygul shook his head bitterly.
- You didn’t allow the dying to die in peace… No greeting, no alms gift! For six months he had been pining waiting at least a black sheep from you. He hoped to cheer himself up at least before his end...
Bai necked his eyes and clicked his tongue.
- Oh…that’s what you are driving at... Well, let you count! How much have I to pay? May be the half of my good is yours in the lump? Grasp, look sharp! What else did you think to rip off kosybiaks, off Salmen?
Pleasing and threatening laughing was heard in the crowd but Bakhtygul didn’t bat an eye. He can be alone but the truth is with him!
- Count, you say? All right. For twenty winters I had been littering ice, cover myself with snow and got no wink of sleep in summer times. For twenty springs I hasn't been glad, for twenty autumns I hasn’t been complaining seeing no light and herding your herds! And how much had the poor Tektygul a rough time with your flocks? For twelve years Khatsha became my wife and your servant pleasing your mother. Your mother was melting of con, my wife youth was melting with that. And what did we get for all that? Only one right - to pick our noses until we peg out from hunger?
- I see, I see… Ripped stinking slave! - Salmen cried spitting. - I can see you through. What a rudeness! But you will hold your tongue… Where is the filly?
- You can ask your filly through the court.
- Ask? You, bastard, half-wit! Poverty with no pants…What do you hope at?
- The power is yours, the truth is mine. Let them judge us.
- Oh yeah, they judge, wait! Как же - рассудят, погоди! There is how you are talking, garrulous gelding. You want judge with kosybiaks, don’t you? You want a court, don’t you? Do you want the truth? That's allright… You can go to court if your tongue is so talkative. We’ll see who will be adjudged… I ask you one last time, where is the filly? Well? - And Salmen flicked with his lash becoming rad.
Bakhtygul didn’t even move as if it didn’t deal with him. He saw out of the corner of his eye that bai's fellows came on him shaking with their clubs. They were waiting. Only one wink.
He said sighing:
- There is no sign of your filly...
- What did you do to her?
- I gave it to one of my friends so he could drive her rather far off. The friend is faithful, he would never betray...
- You are lying, would your soul leave you!
- And if I lie, don’t ask! I would give no answer. Than the red bearded, punny man who lied near the fire, sit up and told with a foolish gravel bass:
- Hey, you, silent… you don’t need to deny. There is no sense to drive horses…It’s really such a fun! I will be damned if in that kettle that the mistress has tied her eyes there is the very same what my nose can smell. It even trickles my nostrils. Meat smells, I swear it's toothsome horse meat… Where did you get it, master, he? Tell us, we will listen to you.
Bakhtygul was silent. Khatsha didn’t look up. And the red bear jumped and whipped off the map being wet of steam from the kettle.
- That’s it! The cap is out of place, kettle is opened out of place, a treasure on the bottom!.. Well, dear guests, right to your coming. What's the hitch? Wash your hands and you, Khatsha, give the plate. Hurry up!
Salmen’s gang made a hubbub, crowding near the bai and working with elbows toughly.
Having lost her voice of bitter shame, Khatsha pu out a big plate.
The red beard took off and cut the meat by himself. Rolling up sleeves, Salmen and dozen of the most angry fellows started to grasp fat, delicate and smoking pieces.
They didn’t call for Bakhtygul even for laugh. The master of the house was staying aside and smacking his hungry lips. Dear guests fenced him tightly from the plate with their backs and bottoms.
Khatsha was looking at the ground with hate and disgust. She has seen lots of meanness in her life but she has never seen such a dirtiness!
Guests were eating like a wolf champing loud and the bai with them...Wish their bellies would blow out!
And when the bottom of the plate gleamed, Salmen belched fully and nodded to Bakhtygul:
- Now you will show us your yard. We’ll see what is hidden there. And let all my family disappear, if I leave you even a filly tail! You wouldn’t rustle up by me, don’t lie… I will take back everything, bag and baggage. Step lively until you are alive!
It seemed that a hungry pain tied a knot in Bakhtygul’s stomach.
- You can search if you want, you can take if you find. - he said through clenched teeth shivering of humiliation and waiting for worth. - But you can't frighten me with goggled eyes or a long tongue...
Salmen jumped and lashed Bakhtygul twice with a snake-yellow braiden kamcha...
Bakhtygul didn’t even raise his hand to shield himself. He was looking without any wink and his eyelids swollen of lack of sleep were going to be wet. Bai started swearing awfully.
That was what Bakhtygul was afraid most of all of: within sight of his wife, his children...
Wringing her hands, Khatsha screamed:
- Damn you, kosybak, God will scourge you! The little Seit cried shortly:
- Swine! - and he jumped on Salmen’s chest.
Bai threw the boy away. Then Bakthygul grasped offender’s throat being beside.
At that moment the work hand was terrible, he was stronger than five men. They couldn't tear him off Salmen right away, they couldn't bring the bai to life at once. Right having recovered and hiccoughing of anger, Salmen cried agan:
- You will get to the lockup! Creep…I will rot you into the ground, roll to the Siberia! Or I should never be born...
But Bakhtygul heard no swear or threat. They were beating him mortally. Fire zigzags and circles sparked, flashed and twisted in front of his eyes. Then they disappeard. He rumbled to a narrow black well knocking with his head, back, stomach on walls and no way he could fly to the bottom.
For a moment his consciousness came back to him from a cutting pain in his cheek bone. As if somebody was crushing his gum with an awl. And then again the darkness and finally he felt with his chest on the well bottom burned as a pan.
Bakhtygul didn’t remember anything anymore.
He didn't come to himself any soon. He could see Khatsha clear as if through a blood fog. She grew lean awfully and became older for one night. Weeping was strangling her, there was a croak and gurgle in her throat was croaking. Bakhtygul could’t recognize his wife’s voice.
Pale and sad light was flowing to the yurt through a bright oblique crack, the door was teared off. There was a bit of rain, near the steps there were lying whithy mops looking as horse cests.
Bakhtygul groaned. It would be better not to see this light - light of disaster.
The fire was out and Bakhtygul was shivering of cold under a heavy sheepskin. All his body was aching and his cheek bone was as if clamping. Howling of pity, Khatsha was washing his face of clotted blood; it wasn't a human face - hillocky brown-gray ball. Eyes swelled incredibly, the cheek was cut and bleeding, blood was hardened as shiny black beads on the dipped sheepskin .
Bakhtygul turned his head hardly mumbling. He was looking for somebody.
- Nobody is here… They left, damned…- Khatsha said sobbing.
- Seit... - Bakhtygul breathed out.
- He is here, he is fine boy.
Having finished with the father, the robbers took on the son. Salmen was extorting by himself out of the boy where the meat was hidden. He threatened to kill him. Seit said no word. Bai was crying with anger but the boy was laughing as a nuts.
Gulping tears, Khatsha was telling: the red beard made a torch and went running about as a dog. That was he who smelled out where the meat was - he found everything: what was hanged on the balk in the cattle yard, their poor weekly stock, and that was laid by stones in their hiding. Wranglers spotted skin of the filly from the paint. And Salmen told took everything and Grey and their cow too. The horse - for no loss of the bai's herd, the cow - in revenge of offence, and the meat - because it was stolen, they couldn’t leave it for the thief!
After all the red beard and Salmen and two more guys with the torch came close to Bakhtygul. The sat glancing to each other and listening for something.
Salmen came and the rad beard said to him calming:
- This slave, - Salmen said, - ought to die not in yurt but in jail. When my brother becomes the head of the volost…all of you are my witnesses…we will draw a paper, seal it…And they drive the thief to exile, in irons, to ride on dogs! Mark my words. - With that they left.
Bakhtugul was looking at his children. Poor unreasonable puppies, they have to starve again. Just as puppies of the old yard doggess.
- Is there something left…for children? - Bakhtygul asked.
- Nothing…not a bit. - Khatsha screamed. - They robbed right down to nothing. You see, they crippled the yurt too, monsters… They cut the arch…That was he who ordered to do it, boar! Let his grave be washed after his near burial!..
Bakhtygul grinded his teeth and lost his consciousness again. To the middle day he was raving laud and asking god and some judges grumbling for him and shaming them:
- Ah!.. Eh! Now you tell me who robbed whom? For several days Bakhtygul had been lying motionless, thinking and breaking his head what to do?
He is alone, he has no hopes. Can you alone even on kozybakovzy? You can find the truth in their aul - they wouldn't even talk. They are arrogant men, these skinflints. And others are frightened and silent. Whom can you bank on if you are in trouble? On relatives. And where are they? The thin family of the Sar has mo more than two dozen of yurt. And they were spread all over the neighborhood, you can’t gather them to a fist. They wander with rich families, serve them leading an aimless life in poverty and grief. Whom can they order? Nobody would even listen to them. There is no master among them who had even a small nail-size piece of land!
But still Bakhtygul couldn’t accept that what people from the Sara family do. He must be braver and more stubborn than others that's why it is worse and harder for him than for them. His brother Tektygul was a lamb and these wolves have eaten him. But in this small obstinate Seit there is the soul of his father, his temper. If there was luck, Bakhtygul could become somebody, a real person, live honestly, feed his children to the full. Thanks God, he had good brain and ready tongue. Bakhtygul could do a lot…but there is no luck, no justice. And God sends him humiliation stings as a catching cureless illnes.
It would be the worse now. Now he is a thorn in Salmen’s flesh. And that what has been before is only child's play to what is on the way! Kozybaks will do their best, surpass themselves. They have power: own head of the volost, own biis - family judges. That's one gang, claw me and I'll claw thee. And if they could catch Bakhtygul with the goods one time, they could shuffle on his head everything what happened and what didn’t and first of all their own sharp dealings. Their own be caught stealing - they would point to Bakhtygul. And then big grief, shame and fright that is called the jail would happened to him.
Bakhtygul was afraid of the jail most of all in the world.
Salmen knew how to frighten. Many times Bakhtygul have seen the death face in hand-to-hand fights at barymta and he has never shivered but then he was shivering as in a fiver. Jail... Stinking death womb… They want to mure him alive. Tektygul fate was much easier.
Of all people Salmen would start threatening for nothing. He will finish his disliked slave in order to teach others not to do so, he will put to the jail.
«Where should I go?» - Bakhtygul asked himself and rolled in despair on the ground as a coursed animal felt into a trap having no shame against his wife and children.
Khatsha thought that her husband stared raving again and was praying with all her heart:
- God, help him to stand…Don’t let him die, God!..
There was a day when he completely lost heart. He called Khatsha and started telling her needless what he always hated to do:
- No, wife…the power brakes straw…what the heck!...At this moment she was afraid for him for the first time.
- Is there nobody to stand up for?
He didn’t answer but put on thinking. And he seemed to take something into head! She understood it at once. He didn’t groan or rave any more. He was silent touching his chest covered with row sores.
A week passed and Bakhtygul recovered his legs. And on that how he did it Khatsha saw that she didn’t miskake him. He was going to a long way again.
Kozybaks, the thieves, took his faithful and trusty Grey but Bakhtygul had another one, not worse, a hot bay ambler that was hidden in the herd of his faithful friend and neighbor up to a certain time.
The horse was enviable, slim, with wide chest and thin sides. In the endless steppe the last homeless shepherd could have two or three horses, but not each bai had such a horse. Probably only the head of the volost ride the real ambler as good as Bay.
It was Bay’s turn to be saddled. In the early morning Bakhtygul loaded his old fling gun, buttered his scare on the cheek bone, closed it with a web and nodded Seit at parting who was giving him the rein. Bay run away with Bakhtygul up to the mountains, to unscalable places above woods.
For a long time the horseman has threaded the way through low bushes of karachai and thorny dog rose and only past midday he reached out to impassable wilds. Naked bloody red raising up bulky rocks opened in front of him.
If you look how they were hanging above your head, you would slouch involuntarily. It's terrible come closer to them. And it seemed that it is a sin to break their royal age old silence. No man or animal can be met there. Red rocks are a native abode for a wild and free animal but the hunter wander seldom here. It's difficult to climb here and more difficult to get out of here.
Bakhtygul rode easy closer to those rock giants, dismounted without any noise, tied his horse to a shadow cleft, took off a fox fur cap of his head, put it in his bossom, fastened his gun on the belt behind his back and started climbing to the steep. Because of efforts the scare on his cheek began bleeding, a sticky salty trickle of blood flew into his mouth. Bakhtygul licked.
On the bald top of the cliff he gathered breath moving his sides as a blown horse.
A wide gray stone hollow that was invisible from below opened to him and behind it, he knew, a bare slope cascaded down there that was so loved by goats and cut throughout with string ways disappearing down in stones.
Bakhtygul looked sharply at the unmovable rocks ripples. There was nobody at the other side of the hollow, on the wild steepness. Everything was dead, nothing was moving. A voiceless deaf desert... How many times Bakhtygul was running about here for no vain, creeping, ripped by stone claws and he was glad to come back in a whole skin! Now he couldn’t leave empty handed. It was his destiny then - prove that he was more stubborn than the stone.
The sky was gloomy and grey as stones around and Bakhtygul looked the same, in grey patched robe with bloodless grey face, so thin and bony, he was looking as a stone. Taking off his gun of his back he began prowling on the hollow crest noiselessly and unnoticeable as a lizard. Mountains, mountains! Give at least an alms for the poor man!..
The day was dropping when Bakhtygul reached to the slope on the other side of the whole and goals ways opened for him...
It happens sometimes that even unlucky man gets luck. Right under Bakhtygul on a long wave slope there were three great argalis, a shaggy goat with sharp horns and his wives with short tails and sharp hooves, as if hanging in gray stone ghost fog. They have just stopped turning their hands there where they were running from, prick-eared and ready to gallop at full and disappear before you can wink. And there was something springly and winged in their gethered shaggy bodies.
- Well, God grant… - Bakhtygul whispered noiselessly putting out stock of his flint gun from beneath his chest and taking his aim.
He aimed at the male but he hurried to much, his arms were shivering, muzzle was moving and the animal noticed it. Shyness has its own law - never look back twice. Hardly feeling that something was wrong, the goat hoicked aside and run down on the stepped slope easy and fast flying in a giant jump. Nanny goats outrun him right away and galloped in front as fleas.
Right then Bakhtygul's arms felt strength leading the goat in sight of his gun. And when it jumped on a high rock calling nanny goats, flame and great crack broke from the muzzle. A small blue cloud melt among stones and through the smoke Bakhtygul saw how the goat turned over the head in the air.
Being beside, Bakhtygul rolled down being afraid that his bag would raise and run away. Argali was beating in the death struggle lying on his side. Bakhtygul put out his knife and cut animal's throat. Light red blood flew on gray stones. The goat jerked once and limped. Croaking, Bakhtygul felt near it.
Then he skinned his bag, threw away insides. He separated the corpse into two parts and tied meat into skin. Long way round he brought Bay to the ravine and loaded him hardly, then he tied the load with a hair lasso.
Bakhtygul had rest in the saddle having deepened into karachai bushes. But he wasn't going home...
Close to the evening Bakhtygul went down a shadow valley covered from winds. A rich aul was settled there on the river bank. That was aul of Zharasbai, the head of the neighbor Chelkarskaia volost.
Zharasbai was known not only in his own volost and not only thanks to his rank position. In the whole district you couldn't find head, mirsa, hodzha, bai who would be more known as he was. He was famous both as master, merchant and a fighter - he had really no shortage of wealth, honor or mind.
You could wait everything from that man - fine and bad, good and evil with open hand, fistful, straight from the shoulder!
«I’ll try my luck... - Bakhtygul thought riding closer to the aul. - I am tired to live as a lone wolf...»
Zharasbai seemed to winter there near the river. Many aul habitants have already moved from yurts to wattle-and-daub wintering placing being afraid of autumn frosts. In the evening twilling everyone got out to the light.
Near the gates of the most wide yard Bakhtygul have seen a high fat man in a marten hat with three earflaps and snow white sheepskin fur. His face was purple-red, glanced of sweat but so grandly and even stately. Zharasbai! He wasn’t elder as Bakhtygul but anybody try to reach him… The whole suite was round him - two honorable aqsaqals, full fallow of seventeen years - his first born son, and spongers, young and old just as grey mice near a white bag with flour.
Bakhtygul gave salem with due respect. The head of the volost answered with a kind nod casting a look at screw horns of argali. Not bad for the beginning. The baibitshe, the senior wife of the bai, a full woman with well-kept light face came out the gate taking a narrow-necked kumgan. Other curious people followed her.
Bakhtygul bowed her politely.
- It seemed you like this trifle, don’t you? Going to your aul this morning I twigged that you must see no game, meat of argali for a long time, so I turned to mountains but met only this plain… I was bringing it to you, take if you don’t scorn...
Baibishe glimpsed at her husband playfully as if asking him and being afraid of refusal. Bakhtygul smiled to himself: he couldn't refuse her.
- Take it... What can I do... - Zharasbai said between teeth and added giving a wink to those around him: - Animal of our mountains, - if you don't give it by youself, we would take it away!
Everyone laughed. A load felt from Bakhtygul’s shoulder. One of aqsaqals waved his hand impatiently.
- Where are maids? Let they bring…
Bakhtygul twigged that that was Kairanbai, screwy and provident old man: he was a sworn friend of Zharasbai’s deceased father but now he is in charge of all live stocks and is thought as a right hand of the head of the volost.
- Don’t think, Kadisha, - Kairanbai pattered to the baibishe, - that if a man defiled and disgraced kosybaks, that means that everything from his hands is defiled and disgraced! We shouldn't despise him! This poor man would give his last horse if someone is to his liking. But they say he is stubborn, battyrs are stubborn...
Bakhtygul, cheered and pleased, bowed to him.
- Thank you, father. What can I say! You said better than me. I have no luck even if I am stubborn. Here I came to the mirza tell everything seethed… But I get silent in front of your wisdom. You can see me through. Let be so as you consider.
Sun of the head of the volost called for two young girls and they took the corpse from the horse and dragged it to the yard and the overgrown sun began horning women backs with the horns holding argali's head to his belly.
Zharasbay was looking for this fuss saying no word to Bakhtygul. May be he didn’t want to abase him but it didn’t behoove for the head of the volost to run toward each comer-crosser. He is not such a big fish and the gift is no great things!
But the second aqsaqal was looking at Bakhtygul with compassion. It was Sarcen, one of the senior biis in the volost: Zharasbai was constantly taking his side while judges choosing valuing his many years experience andm what is most important, his broad relations.
Sarsen was on a footing of equality with the head of the volost.
- Poor fellow... - Sarsen said stroking his beard. - Good aim is a half of the battle and I see there is lot of good in your thoughts. Well, that happened before: such unlucky fellows as you run from native auls madly feeling all woes of life. It is what you thought, isn't it?
- That’s right, aqsaqual, - Bakhtygul answered looking with the edge of the eye at the head of the volost. - I thought a big and unease…And for your kindness I am ready to pay over and above how many power I would have!
The head of the volost raised his eyebrow stingily. Finally he addressed to Bakhtygul:
- From the horse, you say, that seems to be the truth. Let’s listen what would you tell at the table. Come inside, you, stubborn...
Happy Bakhtygul followed the bai.
- That’s right, mirza, I had hardly come before I told so much. But is so burning.
- Ah…good…fine fellow... - spongers married together seeing the bai additude.
Following their master and strictly respecting seniority, they entered the yard and than his rich and high house.
It didn't happen so often for Bakhtygul to visit such houses - for all his life he could be one or two times there and he stock on the steps. In a huge warm room there was burning a betty lamp as a sun. On the place of honor, on an inaccessible bai’s tor there was a pile of bed quilts of different colours. A red carped was leading to it from the steps. On the right there was a magnificent nickel-glancing Russian bad and above it on the wall there was hanging the carpet with even richer weaves. Everything shined, flashed and plays around as on a flowery meadow in the spring time on the dew.
It was a rare honor for Bakhtygul to step into such a house from his black and cold work-hand yurt covered with ripped felts. And to stay over night in such a heavenly delight seemed to be happiness for him. And when he was sat near other guests in front of hearty bai's meal, he felt as if he forgot that he was hungry though his mouth was full with spit. He wasn't eating hungrily but everybody saw what did it cost to him. Thanks God, baibishe wasn’t lazy to entertain him. He thanked her for that with dignity and was talking again and again… His words were flowing as of themselves, they were burning and bitter.
Everyone listened to him gladly and with interest as if a terribly news or tale. And when he said a terrible word "jail", baibishe cried, sighed womanly and elder men bent their brows, shook their heads; bii Sarsen grasped his beard. One steppe inhabitant can wish death for another one but not the jail… And Bakhtygul wondered inside: what a compassionate people are these bais, they understand and feel injustice! Isn’t that a dream where he see this house, food and care?
- I am naked, orphaned, helpless… Bakhtygul said. As a young animal strayed from its herd. There is only one hope - to latch to a strong mother nipple, to touch it. I would give everything for that, I agree for everything!
Baibishe and the bai Zhangaz's son who were the first favourites in the house began blaming kozybiakovzy openly not waiting for elders. Both the woman and the boy didn’t take their eyes off the famous barymtach Bakhtygul. It is flattering to have such a fellow as a servant and a friend.
Sarsen the bii said also warning the master:
- Well, we’ll see what you have in your hands and bossom. Stop crying and catch at flap of our head of the volost. Hold on tight! He needs such fellows as you - cunning, skilled, smart and quick with no fear neither of devil or god... If you could and tried, you will be the youngest brother of the master and the uncle for his son, the dear person. Then don’t turn a hair. No judge or power can get you under his hand. Even the white tzar couldn’t get you either dead or alive! Please God, and any day now you will get even with your enemies, remember the evil, show them your power.
Bakhtygul was listening not believing his ears. Why such a generosity? And what was the honorable bii hinting at? "You will be the dear…Any day now..." Bakhtygul knew: kosybakovzy were the old rivals of Zharasbai; they were two borders, two banks, two mountains in the district. Bakhtygul didn't run there in vain. But could Zharasbai really be the brother of the unlucky beggar fugitive? Bakhtygul wasn't expecting for such a turn. His destiny promised him more than he was expecting.
He was running from the jail horror and was ready to be a slave of his rescuer. But they gave him a helping hand as if there was honour and justice in the steppe for him too!
But Zharasbai didn’t hurry to say his word. He was still listening for everybody coldly. And there was no way to understand his thoughts at his haughty and derisive face. It was good that he was still listening without any interruption... And it would be good if he only wanted to test patience of the poor man. And what if he hesitated? He could listen and listen and then face away. He would neither take nor kick away...
Bakhtygul didn’t ever wait for bai's answer. Joking and smiling the head of the volost went to bed letting his guests and spongers go in peace and nodding shortly to Bakhtygul just as while they were met. And everyone broke up gladly: the bai was satisfied and glad, he was in a good mood.
From the early morning prayers began flowing in to the yard of the head of the volost. There were many of them. Bakhtygul saddled Bay and stood aside showing that he was ready either to leave or stay as they order. After his morning tea the head of the volost came out. “Give me at least a hope…” Bakhtygul’s eyes were praying. Zharasbai passed by not even noticing him. But Bakhtygul waited until he sent off others and after that he appeared in front of bai's eyes again.
- What do you want, good man? - the head of the volost asked puffing tiredly.
Bakhtygul straightened and came up to him.
- I swear to serve you unto death! Send me wherever you want. Call for everything you want. I will be your younger brother and your son’s uncle… Shouldn’t the gray bearded Sarsen say that?
- Enough is discussed about it, Zharasbai answered coldly. - And I remember your swear. But we have…to wait little until gossips fade away and noise quiets down. Time will come and I will call you by myself, I won’t let you sleep! Then we’ll see how you keep your swear… In the meantime don’t avoid us, come oftener. Mine liked you, you would help them about the house, they will find you some work. Then I will placeyou properly. Go.
Bakhtygul was so gland that he couldn't even find thankful words.
- Dear…kind bolys…Dearer than native father…I thought you would face away… Forgive me for the bold world…- He pulled the rein of the ambler. The horse jerked up his head proudly. - Let me ...for your caress, for your greeting... I couldn't help but answer you in front of God's eyes... I want to set your son Zhangazy on this horse! If we weren't strangeers, let him take my Bay, let him own him...
The head of the volost stood silent neither agreeing nor protesting but he looked approvingly. Bakhtygul hurried to go out calling for Zhangazy loudly. The horse was fast as wind, one in a thousand. So much pleasantly to give him.
As his father the bai’s son was neither protesting nor thanking but it was obvious that the fellow was very glad. Say nothing, a greenhorn, frivolous and playful kid but he understood horses!
Baibishe didn't see Bakhtygul off empty-handed too - she gave laid him fat homemade sausages with garlic, chose some big pieces of tasty stallion meat by herself. Bakhtygul came back home happy and treated kindly.
In two days Zhangazy entered his yurt, sat, spoke, said hello from his father, after that he left, untied Bay, got on to him and went to his aul. The ambler was running under him good, was hovering as a hawk.
A strange and unusually easy life began.
First winder the head of the volost was keeping Bakhtygul in the shadow, he didn’t allow him to approach to his registry. Of course Bakhtygul wasn’t sitting twiddling his thumbs but he wasn’t living from hand to mouth, he wasn’t abased. And his old and unhappy glory began to be a history.
At big meetings gathering atkaminerovy’s volosts - big men and big shots of the families, bais’ nobility, "riding men among unmounted men" - Zharasbai was speaking highly of his new servant in an underhand way, he was talking about his woe and misfortune, patience. Sarsen and Kairanbai took up together this song and lauded the head of the volost for the charitable work. Wish it wouldn't putting the evel eye, he turn a night getter to a peaceful worker, flew good and humility in his chewed up and hardened heart.
- On the right way…he's becoming the man...
Atkaminers, fat as their herds and arrogant as their families looked closely to the fugitive work hand. Honourable men clapped him on the back, talked to him. And who could understood that understood: Zharasbai hat had plans about that fellow.
But Bakhtygul didn’t know what to do wearing of idleness. An easy life was difficult for him - golden eagle likes heights, racer likes run. He tried his best to serve for Zharasbai's aul. Whatever he began on, he did everything with a desirable skills thought he might know nothing except care of livestock. But is fussing in the aul a work? Does it really need his power? Even women can do that.
From dawn to dusk Bakhtygul was running, fussing, running around the aul as tongue in dog's chaps in a broiling day, constantly repairing, cleaning, carrying something looking for a work for himself tireless as if chasing tiredness. And watchful Kairanbai has completely melted seeing his working passion - the smile was spreading over his face as rings on a melted mutton fat. It's a sweet show to see how somebody is crouching his back and sweating for you.
- The work is just melting in his hands. Handy man. And not a fool in counting! You can’t cheat him… - Kairanbai said to the head of the volost.
- Poor fellow, fatherless, truly he had no wealth by God's disgrace. In other case could poverty stick to such a worker? - Kairanbai impressed others.
Bakhtygul was well up in every house work - herds driving off and rams fattening, spring sowing and autumn harvesting. If unease pastures should be found, hay should be prepared at time keeping out of jute or white bread should be baked for an event, he took in hand everything and do it faster and better that other wranglers, shepherds or backers.
Firs he was a slave, then he became a helper and after that an adviser not only in the house of the head of the volost or for his baibishe but for all neighborhood. No one hesitated to come to him for advice about housekeeping or family things; he reconciled, thought, persuaded though he wasn’t old. And over time they called him in the aul as "Clear eyed".
The head of the volost was constantly closing him to his records. One order, then another one… Bakhtygul mounted a horse again but not with shepherd stick but with a carrier's shoulder bag - sight of trust and power. And then he couldn’t recognize himself.
At odd moments Bakhtygul didn’t forget about himself. Riding around the district with a bag full of important papers written with ink and sealed he took some goods and reselled it to those who wanted to buy it and many were waiting his arrival and interesting about his goods. In spring Bakhtygul ploughed under land three or even four times than before and Zharasbai said no word to him; Kairanbai allowed him to take some seeds.
He got no pay same as by Salmen but Zharasbai didn’t beat him at least, he allowed him to live. Khatsha stocked up everything for future use: meat, flour, butter, white salt, yellow sulphur matches right as in the bai’s house as well as strong threads. She also had some work in the aul of the head of the volost, she was serving to the baibishe and really fed herself to the summer and even dressed herself. Castoffs off the bai’s shoulder were her dress and she altered her old clothes for their children so they didn't run naked in rags any more.
Else in winter Zharasbai said to Bakhtygul:
- Do you want that you san would be literate? Bring the kid.
That was the great mercy.
A young Kazakh named Zhunus was living in the aul of the head of the volost. He finished a Russian school and they called him a mullah for his literacy. He was teaching literacy to two-three kids from well-to-do families as well as the son of the head of the volost, Zhangazy. Bakhtygul brought his son Seit to the mullah with awe.
- You should go to the volost, learn there and make your way in life, - Bakhtygul said to his son and Seit firmly remembered those strange words.
During the whole winter Seit was learning the Russian alphabet, swotting it up hardly as a mysterious spell that helped to make way in life. He liked learning and fast he left behind lazy, spoilt and dullish bais' sons.
Mullah was lovingly talking to Sait:
- When you grow up, you will become a mullah.
And often at nights Seit couldn’t fall asleep for a long time - he was dreaming how he would grow up and become a mullah.
Bakhtygul’s seeds came up thick and clear. Soul of the work hand was getting peace. At summer he finally came to the Zharabai’s aul that became native for him. The hot season he has lived with his son at the jlailiau, high in mountains and drunk foamy golden kumis to the full.
There was less housekeeping work at summer. The head of the volost paid the whole attention for Bakhtygul. And days of a special mysterious fussing at which back there were big doings of Zharasbai .
Bakhtygul got the feel of the master science fast: hold himself friendly and politely in auls being under the wing of the head of the volost and in contrary threatenly and bully there where the head of the volot wasn’t treated very well. Sometimes the head of the volost allowed him speaking at small aul meetings - Bakhtygul was eloquent. He was faithful and quick until he felt that something was wrong. He noticed that people were looking at him as he was looking and Salmen’s helpers before. And it became dark in sole of the work hand at once.
Salmen hasn’t been evident yet. Almost a year has passed but Zharasbai didn't remember about Salmen. Bakhtygul tired to understand what was in mind of the head of the volost and the more he was thinking the more he was shadowing. This world was deceptive, the silence was suspicious.
In autumn there should be voting and as far back as in the beginning of the year a hidden and muddled fight of family parties began in Chelkar, Brugen and other volosts.
«You can’t wait for any good from this yard...» - Bakhtygul, the Clear Eyed noticed but there was no way that he could foresee what face the disaster would find him in.
Feelings ran high imperceptibly and inconceivable for men of mould, for a long time they have left volosts' bounds and covered almost the half of the huge district. Strong rich families, biis and atkaminers of neighbor volosts grappled blowing old unsolved disputes.
The weak men were looking for guardians but the strong men were looking for allies. The closer the voting came, the clearer two big inter-volost power appeared; the one was headed by Zharasbai , the bolys of Chelkar, the other one - by Sat, the head of Burgeny, Salmen's brother, and both had secret agents, people bought in opponent's camp.
In his volost Sai seemed to be more powerful and stronger than Zharasbai in Chelkar. The numerous and well united snobbish family of kosybaks stood for Sat. Zharasbai had two or three families that stood for him, reach and powerful but could you find two families without conflicts in the steppe? But the cunning Zharasbai had more relations in the whole district than the Sat, even more than any other head of the volost, and Zharasbay held reins in his hands.
The fight was flaming as a steppe fire at dry summer.
Insidious deletions, "verdicts" with many signatures and family tamgams, sealing marks of biis and atkaminers, were flowing to the district, to the registry of oiaz, the all powerful head of the district, the Russian official with light buttons.
Sat’s atkaminers tried very hard in their claims on Zharasbai ’s self-will. Each claim got him into an investigation or shameful and expensive fine. But every time Zharasbai came back justified in triumph. But Sat had a hard time in the city. On Zharasbai ’s slander Sat has set fifteen days in a district jug. Only Allah knows how much Zharasbai put into this cunning thing, how much money, but it was worth of it.
Everyone was talking:
- He came white as a star in front of the black…But he put that into dung to the top of the head as a hoe to the whole top…Fifteen days and nights - oh-oh!
After that luck Zharasbai got both more followers and enemies. Where the fear is, there envy is too.
No resting atkaminers were running along camping grounds somewhere carning somewhere threatening. The summer was hot and broiling, there was no time to drink kumis as they say. Voting, voting…Power for three years!
Zharasbai was persistently looking for weakness in Sat’s camp gathering around those who were displeased, deprived, full of doubts or just walking and he rewarded them generously and gave money and livestock right and left. He knew that Sat was doing the same and was looking for his own people, wheedling those whom he suspected, paid them more than Sat did. Power for three years! Everything will pay off in spades.
Time passed and it wasn’t clear whose favour the odds were in. Sat had no doubts in his kosybaks and those were screwing up their courage and laughing at Zharasbai 's fusses and his endless costs.
- He is a gold eagle in the city but a sparrow in the volost. We will pull down pride of Chelkar men… - so kosybaks said and Bakhtygul felt how would it finally turn.
And when Zharasbai ’s herd has wandered to the jailiau, two brood fillies and one fat colt disappeared in the heat. They run searching for them and got on the thieves' trail. A faithful man, spy from Burgen gave the cue: it was Salmen’s men who took horses by order of Salmen. Chase came after thieves’ trails. Zharasbai ’s people demanded to give back horses but Salmen swore them dirty without any scruples and kicked them away from the aul jeering.
Zharasbai hasn’t being sleeping for the whole night - he was gibbered with rage. And at daybreak he ordered Sarsen to make a delation without any hesitation and sent the paper to the city. Bakhtygul waited that the head of the volost would send him as an express but the bai didn't even remember about him and Bakhtygul unsaddled the horse with bewilderment and offence. The whole morning there was a crowd near the eight rope yurt of the bai, and there were loud talk heard from it. Aqsaqals were arguing, swearing and threatening there.
Only at midday when honorable white beards broke up and sipped cold and refreshing kumis hiding from the heat in yurts shadow, Zharasbai called Bakhtygul.
A bad feeling squeezed Bakhtygul’s heard just when he saw hot brown blotchy face of the head of the volost. The strongest bai, gloomy and black Kokysh stand on the right hand of his master.
Zharasbai set Bakhtygul, poured kumis for him and sipping from a thin tea bowl he began from that thanks God Bakhtygul lived good last year - the whole year as everyone knew and saw. Bai didn't allow to burden him with dirty work, kept him for things that were worth of the real man. And Bakhtygul felt that his strangely peaceful and unusually easy life finished.
- This mangy jackals wouldn’t get tail down until you take a stick... - Zharasbai added.
Kokysh spitted lashing his boot and Bakhtygul's hand shook spoiling kumis.
The work hand understood: the worth has happened - his old curse has caught him up.
- If we sit still, we will lose, - the head of the volost continued. - If we gaped, they will feed on us with forks and our animals with lasso. Our own people would sell us for pennies on the dollar to the full… It seemed we have lived with you, Bakhtygul, to the time that we have being waiting for the whole year.
Bakhtygul kept silence.
- Now choose ten of faithful dzhigits to your liking - and God speed! If you find no herds of Salmen or Sat, anyway attack any kosybaks. Beat back and steal flock of fillies with a stallion more stately and highbred. You can choose…not for the first time...
Bakhtygul kept silence again leaving his tea bowl with unfinished kumis wiping his palm on the robe. It seemed that a lump has stuck in his throat. "The time that we have being waiting of the year..." What was that? Has it happened for a long time that Zharasbai was showing Bakhtygul to bais and atkaminars as a tame animal and those were extolling the bai and work hands were tapping him on the shoulder and impressing that there was a right way! When was it? Yesterday. And now - "God speed"? What should people say? And what should he tell to his san Seit?
Kokysh squatted down in front of Bakhtygul and laughed blowing his bull neck.
- No way? Did you womanized at bai’s bread? The batyr would rise from the grave for such thing!
But Bakhtygul didn’t laugh and Zharasbai said pouring kumis for him:
- It was Sat who began all this as you know and as everyone knows. No first sale, no haggling. It was them who made their hands dirty with that night theft and we just wash our face with an honest barymta! And now wherever these thieves go, even to the governor, everyone will be on our side - both Kazakh and Russian… Did you understand me?
- No, bolis…I didn’t. There is mud in my head. - Bakhtygul answered faintly and sadly. - I know only one thing: there is autumn near at hand and this autumn both thief and barymtach would hang near between heaven and earth on the wooden horse… I have suffered enough evil, fed up to the back teeth. Don't send me, I beg you!
Zharasbai interrupted him with irritation:
- Since when have you started to look back at the wooden horse? What a Clear Eyed are you!.. Did you forget your debt? Did you hear no voice of your ancestors? Sat brought your father to ruin, Salmen made you abandoned and I give you power against Sat and Salmen. If you lose this chance, you are coward and betrayer, armless and brainless lazybones whom I have been feeding for nothing!
- What are you teaching me, master? - Bakhtygul told with a depressed look. - What example will I give to my son?
Zharasbai smiled underhand.
- I give answer for everything! Both in front of earth and heaven power! I feed and I order. It's my will than it's my sin. Go and trust in God...
- Enough talking. - Kokysh added. - Have no doubts, he surely goes.
Zharasbai rose from his seat heavy. Bakhtygul gave a jerk to rise first before the bai and froze on his knees, confused and stun.
The same day ten headed by Bakhtygul chose ten best horses, with long tails, fast as wind, stallions from herds of Zharasbai , Sarsen and Kokysh. They didn't hide their gathering because they were going for "right" barymta and to the evening all aul habitants, young and old, came out to see the fellows off.
Dzhigits had modest clothes, gray chekmens, but it’s not the day coat that makes the man but his power and stately horse. Handsome men gathered there. Chekmens stretched their sturdy shoulders tightly. Look at they, everyone can squash a stone with his fist and is fast and deft as swallow on the fly. Exchanging with naughty and rude jokes barymtachs were as if playing in a funny and amusing game shining in front of eyes of the people and showing themselves and their horses. Horses were lovely sight. Under low and flat saddles the stallions with tails tied shortly were keeping their dry hands up moving their thin legs nervously. They were the winner of races, famous racers. Their clean and groomed hair was shining as a gold-cloth in soft light of the evening glow. They didn’t stand on one place but went round and round under their horsemen; and above the aul there was a light and loud clattering like dub of war drums.
Everyone was waiting for Bakhtygul. He came out the Big Yurt instructed by the head of the volost. He was as if tranformed. He had the same simple and unremarkable clothes, everyone liked it. But there was something new and unseen before in his bearing and habit. Chekmen is pulled only on the left shoulder, the free right sleeve is stock into his belt so the shoulder can move and arm can be swung easy. From the girdle-belt there sticks a six shooter revolver. Bakhtygul wasn’t going to shoot a man from it but everyone could see thanks to this toy who the ataman was and who was going to stroke first and take the first stroke and rush of the strongest man alike himself.
Bakhtygul was walking to his friends easy and unhurried and they had eyes glued on him. You can’t go wrong with him. He is stronger and bigger than others. A springly exposive power was flowing in round muscles of his right hand.
And Bakhtygul’s face wasn’t the same as always. In necked narrow slot of his eyes there was shining a greedy and impatient revenge. Only behind his thorny moustaches a soft smile as if a dreamed one could be seen.
- Hey, eagles! - he cried shortly and powerful. - A lucky journey! - And his voice rang in the common silence through clattering.
- Good luck for everyone!... dzhigits answered together.
- Let it be so, let it be so! - the seer-offs caught up.
Before Bakhtygul came to the tight tied lasso been a horse standing, a young shepherd brought towards him and left across the road a light-brown hors with a tied tail. In red sunset beams the horse looked as a flame of a big fire. That was the favourite of the head of the volost; Zharasbai kept him for the baigy - steppe races through many versts.
The shepherd was going to mount the ataman respectfully but he flew on the saddle putting the end of the rein in his belt and hardly touching stirrup with his toe; squating the horse recoiled sideward for five steps to the side.
- Yo, go ahead. - Bakhtygul ordered spuring the horse. Horsemen followed him hustling and fitting their sticks and shokpars to their saddles. Some of them were riding holding their clubs carelessly under their arms as if they were going not for a fight but for a walk.
Men, women, children flocked after them shouting, screeching and sighing. Everything went to the steppe - power, daring, man beauty! Go it wild, it will squeeze the devil and tread him to pieces...
In twilling horses cruppers of light colour joined in one dark spot and melt far off but the melting wave rumble of their dashing clattering was heard in the aul.
So the barymga began that simpletons and cunning fellows called "the right” one. Bais soothed an old pride with it, the poor men satisfied their age old thirst of freedom. Some got stick on their head another got free livestock. Everyone to his trade that is destined by the faceless heaven judge, bii over all biis.
To the day break Bakhtygul and his eagles coped with their business - they stole a small flock of Sat, ten young fillies with noticeable crested stallion. They flung off pursuers excellently easy though they heard gunfire behind. Unseen, they hid in uninhabited silent mountains at the turn of borders of three volosts.
On the way home they took a one-year lamb leaving only dogs barking behind. Then they made fire on stones without any fear. Bakhtygul ordered to boil meat and went up on the naked rough rockslide.
A sharp chest, tile red rock as if blooded was looming alone in front. Pine wood were bristling behind it as a boar withers. Powerful thick firs was blackening as burned and a blue blinking smoky haze was hanging above them. And a round snow top, inaccessible, honorable white yurt, was shining higher as if snatched out by the sun out of the night. An eagle was hovering in bottomless sky; he seemed to be a size of a sparrow.
Bakhtygul was looking up on the red rock, black forest, white snow yurt, hovering eagle and his chest was pressed by something. He was looking and thinking: "What left that came to, that’s all what I have found!"
A clear smoke was winding up from the fire there down, there was a meat slumgullion smell, dzhigits were talking as women, romping as yearlings, unsteady loose stones were rustling under their legs. Bakhtygul was knitting his brows biting hard moustache.
Passion of the night flight died as a hopped heat. There was only a bitter fume left in jos soul.
- Eh…all one…Bari-bir! - Bakhtygul told loud.
Whether he is glorified or brought scandal upon him - all one. His destiny is in Zharasbai ’s hands. Bai could put him to the sword, bai could have mercy on him. Thank God that he is not like Salmen. Zharasbai wouldn’t forget that you have served him faithfully and diligent.
- That's enough for us, son. - Bakhtygul whispered. - On that we will settle.
So barymta began. Since that lucky and fatal night such a fight among families and family parties that has never been before. Both at eyeless night and daylight, both in the steppe and mountains -- everywhere there were wild scuffle and scrambles and scrambles, crazy and madden cry of pursuits, blood and black burning dust of hot sky. And following a swear noise of raids as in the early days theft spread along auls and pastures as a quite sap. And soon no saint or prophet could sanely judge where barymta was and where a theft , what a day theft was and what a midnight one.
They tell the truth that voting in steppe are like jute. You can’t foresee when jute strikes you, steppe winter evil. And voting are each three years! But Zharazbay must either get the upper hand or get angry.
Every day he still had crowded meetings, noisy advice gatherings, guests, guests… Animals were cut without counting - for food, or went under lasso - for gifts. And how many long money flew out the bai’s sleeve! Zharasbai must have stent one third of that what he hat that spring for month-two. And then he didn't allow Bakhtygul and his fellows coolling as if Salmen did once. But at least this cunning man said that he sent to take not to refill costs but in revenge. He was really talking fine!
No wonder that the cunning man has succeeded - he found a hard support, a strong ally in Sat. Short Zharasbai made friends with the aul of dosai’s from the Burgenskaia volost, the powerful aul of fat men, kozybiaks wasn’t their speed. And that caused special spending and costs.
Wise bii, burned steppe politics, as they say: turf lowers flowing water, young woman quits great enmity. Right, right, young woman of marriageable age…Dosai’s family had a young good looking daughter Kalysh and Zharasbai sent matchmaker to make a formal proposal of marrige.
Bakhtygul twigged at once what the point was. Of course Zharasbai might have his eyes on girls' beauty and wish to bring a young woman tokal to his beloved baibishe. But it was number ten on the priority list. And the point was that Zharasbai choose fifty camels personally and sent them to the father of the girl. Kalym was incredible as if it was khan's daughter who was asked in marriage. And before that there were previous gifts for her parents.
It’s true that the match making is the best union, it is tightened by animals, this strength is firmer that blood vow. That' why auls of bride and groom were tied together forever as intestines in stomach and everything what was left for Sat to do, was to kick himself, dosai's aul stood on his way as saksaul's bristle: you can neither get through it nor go around.
And the steppe was groaning as a woman being abused. Every here and there poor men who had no interest either in Sat or Zharasbai came across barytachs in the heat of the moment and suffered without guilt. Weeping and swearing were vain. It was said: jute!
Zharasbai made the deal largely. Stolen animal were sold on the side both in his own and native districts in a true merchant way. Bakhtygul drove, Kairanbai drove in... One got, second sold - without haggling for half-price just to get rid of it, faster and easier. And they wasn't out of pocket! Miser and pinch fist Zalmen could never do so. Animals were falling as down the drain - at night it was there, in the morning it disappeared. And Zharasbai purse didn't get thinner.
Bakhtygul gave up everything. He was living as in a blood fever fog, dust steppe storm when nothing could be seen in broad daylight. Where were animals taken while raids, he didn’t know. Zharasbai took care that the ataman’s soul would be calm about it. He strictly ordered to Sarsen, Karanbai and Kokysh:
- When you keep watch, he should sleep!.. Unexpectedly poker must be warmed in a fire, and our Clear Eyed should say nothing even under the harrow.
Voting came. Zharasbai won - he left the head in Chelkar. Sat lost - he wasn't chosen. But dosai's aul didn't bring his protege to the in Burgen but kozybaks were beaten. Zhzrazbai has spent for a reason. Then it was his turn to cut long hair and golden fleece sheep of power both in his own volost and in the district.
Right then he called Bakhtygul, took his congratulations and sent him home slapping on the back mercifully.
- Go, sleep off. Mare your wife and son happy. I give you full freedom even for three years running, for next voting...
Bakhtygul sighed with an obvious relief. He wanted to leave his muster and his master wanted him to leave rather far off.
- My will is your will, dear bolis. - the work hand said politely.
- Go, go…We’ll see then. - the sovereign bai answered carelessly.
A dark autumn came. Bakhtygul left for his wintering place and took his son with him. He mounted him on the horse and drove away. Only once in a vile Bakhtygul came to the aul of the head of the volost - to give proper respect to his master, greet him staying one-two days and then he left with an easy mind. Home, to family warm! That days he seemed to be strange in the aul - he stepped down from housekeeping and registry, wasn’t interesting either one thing or the another. He was living as on his own not seeing into people talkings or listening to rumors. And that was the only reason why he didn't know properly what was happening in the wide-wide world, in other words in the party of the head of the volost. He remembered only one thing: they both had the common enemy - kozybaks… He remembered that firmly and there was no need for him to think about other things.
And when a courier on a steaming horse ran suddenly crying right on the saddle "Zharasbai is calling for you!...", Bakhtygul didn’t worry very much and followed him.
All rules of the volost gathered in the aul…and somebody on the third hand. Having hamshackled their horses and allowed them grazing the new comers set around the head of the volost. At some distance Bakhtygul saw people from Oraz’s aul, the neighbor Burgenskaia volost.
Oraz’s family was in Burgen weaker then Dosai’s family, Zharasbai ’s relatives of the daughter-in-law, and much weaker than kozybaks’ family but when the strong families were strangling each other, Orazes brought their man to the heads of the volost. And is happened that the new Burgen head became acceptable for the fall Sat after voting. It goes without saying: the head of the volost from the weak family couldn’t be completely self-dependent and began going in rain of kozybaks.
Having seen Orazys Bakhtygul thought: "It seemed they called me cause of their demand". And he wasn’t mistaken. While there was barytma, his people took animals of them too because they were of Burgen… But Bakhtygul was mistaken in other thing. Zharasbai met him coldly. His greeting he took unwillingly as if forcing himself. And making no proper questionings as it should be after greeting he ran at Bakhtygul as if at a stranger with severe talking:
- Eh, Bakhtygul…You know no measure! I believed you and assured everyone that you were worth your salt but it appears that you sully me when I lay myself out for you. What did I deserve such a punishment for? Explain me, at least...
Zharasbai has never spoken with Bakhtygul in such a way. The head of the volost was groaning of the holy anger, his face was red. Bai making himself free from blame with saint ardour demanding a honest confession from his servant. Bakhtygul listened to being amazed at that how he turned out to be guilty against his good doer.
- And what is my guilt, dear bolis? There how you got blood up! Didn’t you find other words for me? First tell me what is my offence and after that put me to the sword without any regret. That’s shame to listen to a slander made by an evil tongue. Check first, find out...
- There is nothing to find out! I see it anyway, there is no one else but you…that's your hand… Tell the truth: was it you who took one bay and one flecked stallion and two dam fillies in the aul of Oraz in the Burgenskaia volost? You was...Repay the taken! - the head of the volost ordered threatfully.
Bakhtygul was silent stocking at him. He might have taken… There is no denying the truth… Bakhtygul wasn’t going to deny and lie in the eyes. But the head of the volost must not play the fool - those horses were taken of Orazes after his order and there were many witnesses of it. But they were also silent stocking at Bakhtygul
Did the head of the volost really turn back on his ataman? It couldn't be the truth!
That was only for show…for strangers…to throw dust into their eyes…Bai should know better what do to and how do say and you shouldn’t argue with him now and prevent his play. He must have a long-run and a subtle plan.
- Well, I have never turn back before and now I am not dancing around.- Bakhtygul, the Clear Eyed said. - All is yours, the head of the volost, both our bellies and lifes. Can I go against you? You are my only judge, and your only judge is God! I took horses. Do whatever you can find out only everything would be repaid for Orazes in full. I have nothing more to say.
At once everyone were as if came back to life, white beards and black ones, they began moving, fidgeting in their seats, shaking their bears, narrowing their eyes, wagging their fingers. They liked the speech of the work hand. Submission and power like each other.
Again there was heard praise for insight and justice of the head of the volost. Someone said about Bakhtygul:
- Poor as a church mouse but brave as a khan. He would rather die that tells the truth.
Another one said:
- If he must kill a man, he will and won’t hide it from his master. If took, he says, then took... - And that was also a praise for the head of the volost.
At that moment Bakhtygul was glad that his muster felt being flattering.
But he couldn’t understand one thing. Having looked around he saw people from Dosai's aul near complainers from Orazes... Bakhtygul couldn't believe his eyes. How could it be? The whole summer there were fighting irreconciliably but then they flew together as nestlings to their native nest and set so close, as they say, closing knees and nobody could say that there was no satisfaction or harmony among them.
They were judging his own man, Bakhtygul, there. Though he confessed openly, wasn’t prevaricating, the voice of the head of the volost wasn’t softer and his face wasn’t warmer. Then Zharasbai was swearing angry, loud and in the end he threatened:
- Don't wait for any indulgence from me now! I treated you kindly, drew you nearer to my heard, thought you as one of my own men - for what? For honesty. If you make one more mistake, get off the right way for one step, you would be stranger for me since that step and I would be stranger for you. Think thrice before making that step...
«Well, that's too much!» - Bakhtygul thought but kept silent again.
Others became silent too as if charmed and won of the voice of the head of the volost, of its steamed up and noble sound, its bass rolling.
Very beautiful voice, the real God’s gift, just as a guardian of truth and honor must have.
Бай указал на старшего из оразов.
- Now this man, master of animal that you took will follow you. You will bring him into your home and give from your hands four full horses not worth than you took ("And where are they - those...?" - a thought run into Bakhtygul's head). And one more horse as a payment for your guilt - to head, and one camel - to close the repayment…That would be worthy and honestly!
Bakhtygul opened his mouth and froze as beaten. He seemed to be beaten with a club on his nape. Everyone around was silent as if sewed up their mouths. They must me also surprised...
Bai knows how much and what kind of animal Bakhtygul has collected, he knows it very well. He knows and orders to give more than a half…And he orders to give his camel
No, of course Zharasbai would bring back over and above everything what was taken from Bakhtygul No other way! Bolis would call him and calm - in front of his own people and without strangers. He would gift the obedient slave both with animals and good word so there would be no loss or offence neither in household nor in soul to be worthy and honestly
So Bakhtygul was thinking leading people from the Oraz family and aqsaqal Sarsen too who was sent to check whether the will of the head of the volost was fulfilled right.
But one day passed, than second one, after that the third but the head of the volost didn’t call for Bakhtygul. The head of the volost had no time. There were many important and urgent business. Bai forgot about Bakhtygul. In one second he broke and offended his faithful friend in order to please their cruel enemies…just took him and treaded to pieces…and even no look he gave to the treaded men. Why so?
Bakhtygul was wandering. Khatsha was walking with cried dark face. Seit was looking at his father with strange look, either thoughtful or indifferent. Sometimes the boy was laughing in a low voice to his own secret thoughts and that frightened Bakhtygul and made him angry.
Tired out of guesses Bakhtygul ran to his neighbors, friends to neighbor auls to share painful thoughts, to get some advises, to look around and understand how to live further. But they met him cautiously. His head was dizzying of talking, tales and gossips - you couldn‘t sort them out to your grey hair. And again as after death of his brother Tektygul he felt behind the caravan, left in the desert, strayed desperately and hopelessly. And again his orphan destiny stand in front of his eyes as a stone wall without soul. All people, the whole world behind that wall were as one, as a cut finger, a pulled out hair.
Summer easy barymta was a feast…At autumn a hangover came, not for the fat, that was clear, but for the thin. As in years before the white was claimed as the black and the balck was claimed as the white, the steppe bais are good in it. The guilty man left as a boss sticking out his round belly but the man who wasn't guilty was dragging for his rapped collar - it's a habitual show, an awful picture!
Voting in volosts have hardly passed and barymty thunder began dying as a long echo was heard in the whole district. The big officer commanders pricked up their gendarme ears. They judged in city thick-wall registries in their own way:
- A gang riding became more frequent among Kirghiz (Kazakhs were called so at that time). A warlike element took its will. One never knows, this disease will flow out from Kirgiz volosts to Cossack villages...
- Guardians and sergeants report: disobedience! Events of disrespect to ranks…to regalias set up from above.
Pleasing delations of heads of volosts for each other added oil to the flame. Their over patrial papers were glistening with awful words: riot, rioters, troublemakers, thieves...
And the “thief” at officer slang is the same as "rioter".
And so at one cold autumn day an order of the head of the gendarmerie shook the district as an explosion. All heads of the volosts, all biis of auls were demanded urgently to the city for the strongest questioning and reprimand.
And how the whole country began writing! Big "bosses" and small potatoes in front of office tables, above glass ink-pots and marble letterpress were in all glory. They threatened by force of an old habit… They threatened with ouster for voted heads of volosts and with exile from native areas for heads of families and parties. They lined their pockets with bribes on the quiet.. Then they left telling: - Everything should be calm there, dear master bai!
Shaking had a healing effect on the fat. Hopped itch resulting from strong kumis under skin calmed down at once. Even such a disease awful and incurable as a plague of mischief making seemed to decrease.
Heads of feuding parties gathered to the city for common meeting noisily as a holiday and an ostentatious merry began… They were cutting selected horses of grey and other color, with hair hole on the front and without it, they were reading Koran loud holding up their groomed master hands to heaven and asking to help with fights and come to the desirable harmony. Near the end they swore on the offering blood in front of many witnesses - to stop revolt and theft in the area from now till eternity they stop pretending sly that they had no idea and didn’t even suspect who has done this theft.
By the example of others Zharasbai and Sat made peace in front of eyes of other people around.
Agreement was friendly and easy. Grey bearded vultures, old liars were quick understand each other and planned for future whom they would accuse, give to persecution in order to please gendarmes thought they called loud no names.
At all times that was the way: until you give a bribe in the country, you won't find any peace. But this time another bribe was needed: bride of people…guilty ones…
Zharasbai had his own man in the city - Tokpaiev, the metaphrast. Zharasbai was in perfect harmony with him, knitted sleeve to sleeve. Tokpaiev became a guardian angel for the bai, rather informing angel, one of those angels who get the earth gain in form of kind and money both in winter and summer without any hitch. In due time it was this habitant of the country heaven who helped Zharasbai "to entertain” Sat with the jug having given a proper paper and a proper piece of money to a proper person in a hot temper.
After voting the metaphrast called Zharasbai to his city flat and warned him caressingly eyeball to eyeball, from mouth to ear:
- The chief is angry…Many are delating, many: they say you hold thieves and famous horse-stealers of the first hand among them.
And Tokpaiev advised to give to the chief one or two of the most noticeable, inveterate men, those who were thorn in his side...
- What’s the most important, you should convict him by yourself, at your bii’s court, and bring him to the city under your own guard at hairy lasso. So this thing could have the proper look.
It was that Bakhtygul didn’t know.
Meeting of biis’ of the Chelkar volost came closer. The head of the volost called them once every three-four months when there were lot of disputes and arguing collected. Usually biis were judging and the head of the volost told behind their back:
- I didn’t decide, I didn’t put to death - it were the eldest and the wisest among people...
But while the next meeting the biis weren’t going to deal with some usual debt causes but there was a special important case needed a special wisdom that's why everyone was waiting for the meeting with impatience and unusual interest. They were waiting and hurrying the head of the volost. And Bakhtygul didn’t know about it too.
Disasters stick to the poor man as patchs to a worn chekmen. At the same time when Bakhtygul was running among his neighbors in perplexity asking for advise, livestock of kosybaks disappeared - some heads. Both the thief and the theft heads disappeared without a trace but kozybaks accused Bakhtygul at once. If there was no track, it was he who has stolen them. It has been well said that: the blind see that what he saw when he was able to see.
Two people came to search for the disappeared livestock. They ran into Bakhtygul’s house and began running about edges and corners as it was one year ago. Bakhtygul wondered first: those insolent fellows were bossing in the foreign volost as in their own one. But can you really expect them to be responsible? Kozybiaks - in a word! But Bakhtygul tried to see them off with good. They didn’t leave. They began crying as if they were masters there:
- Do you want the same what was last year? Do you miss your lashes?
Blood flew to Bakhtygul’s head. He pulled out a thin long knife with a black hand from his bootlet:
- I beat you to death... uncalming dogs!
The arrivals happened to be real "brave men": bad tongue, blown chest. Both scarpered from the knife to their horses swearing in both throats. They have been running round in front of the wintering place in full view of Bakhtygul and swearing dirty. Those jackals knew that the lion wouldn't follow them.
At the same day Khatsha made a tasty roast and went to the aul of the head of the volost with a worthy food for Zharasbai ’ home. But babishe Kadisha met her bending her darkened brows, she didn’t even looked at the meat. Khatsha called her the aunt but she was only screwing up her lips and sniffing arrogantly. Next to the mistress all cowgirls and home girl slaves began teasing on Khatsha making fun of each her word gibingly and grinning right to her face.
Khatsha stroke the right moment and said about her dear son Seit by Zharasbai and baibishe:
- The goosy liked teaching by the mullah. He gives no rest and repeats: there is winter near at hand, when would you send me?.. And I don’t know what I can answer him.
But neither the head of the volost nor his baibishe didn’t even turn their heads, give any word as if Khatsha wasn’t even there. Sad and frightened, she turned back to her poor winter place.
Then Bakhtygul went too and also came back soon silent and sad. They were looking at him frowningly in the aul, talking through clenched teeth. They were dabbing with finger behind him and hissing behind his back gloating:
- S-s-stroppy man...
More ten dais the recent ataman and favourite of the crows was living in the wild left by everyone not leaning out of his house or showing himself anywhere, wondering in vain what has happened and what is going to happen. He was living as under arrest and only by accident he found out from a stranger that it was already the third day as biis' meeting has gathered in Chelkar.
People say that extremely cruel and angry biis gathered. They judge strong, give a lot without any mercy or indulgence. And they said a black list might have been made and there were twenty people in it called thieves. Who was in that list, nobody knew but it was clear that those poor men wouldn't escape the jail.
God knows where but Khatsha found out name of one of those man - Zhadiger. And Bakhtygul shuddered with that feeling that he hasn’t been feeling for the whole year. Zhadiger, a young fellow, was the right hand of the ataman that summer while barymta.
- The devil sees whom to aim - Bakhtygul said to himself. - Now it's my turn.
Those days he wasn’t smiling, hardly eating, sleeping, speaking to no one. Putting a fur hat to his brows he was lying on his back on a holed felt without any movement as if tied and it seemed that the whole world turned upside down.
He was lying and waiting until somebody called him.
And they called him. A man with a honorable bag of a carrier came and took him with.
In the clean fine neat high yurt with eight ropes the fat were lying sprawling and sinking in fin down of pillows and blankets; day and night they were eating meat - full till ble in the face. They were eating and judging… And they were alike dogs of those auls where livestock died because of murrain - eyes full of blood, raised napes, tails off as rabid dogs: ate to full, fall and rushed.
Hardly dragging his feet, Bakhtygul entered as if been exhausted by a long illness and greeted quiet standing near the door. And nobody gave him a sympathetic look - neither the rugged elder nor the caressing Sarsen. Biis turned back as if being afraid to notice his bow and in contrary spongers looked at him, opened their fish eyes wide becoming pale that he dared to bow them. And then no man was found to ask him about his health, family, life.
«So, now do you fill what the trouble is?» - Bakhtygul asked himself with a poor smile and suddenly sighed with relief that he wasn’t even waiting for.
As if something grew lighter in his soul and clearer in his mind. That was a known thing, a usual one. There is no justice on the earth and it will never be there, that was it. So simple.
«I am clear in everything, there is no guilt behind my back, - Bakhtygul said to himself. - And if I am a thief than you are thieves three times and it’s not you who could blame or judge me. Got is my witness!»
As if he was arguing with himself proving his own rightness and meanwhile biis began their own court
Of course, complainants were kozybaks and biis have listened the elder with honorable attention. Then they hawked tasty, bent brows and took the accused in hand all together.
But no matter how hard they got on their high horse, he didn’t hang his head. He wasn’t deny as before. He answered coolly to the first, second and third biis:
- I haven't hidden and I will not hide - I took kozybaks' animals.
- For what? Why?
- For that and because I was in your party! Chelkar biis became quiet for a moment. They sniffed glancing at each other in silence. Kozybiak bii, a small and fat man with moustaches straight as needles helped them over.
- Oh, this party…your poor party! - he cried laughing fully. - Whom did he only serve, the poor one! And it seemed to give a back for you as a donkey, uh oh!
Chelkarzys brightened up grinning and licking their shiny lips.
- It would be interesting to know what party counting do you have with Sat or Orazys? May be you argued with them at a folk meeting, came to the defense of the Chelkarskaya power, stood up for people needs? I forgot when it was…remember us, be a good soul!
Biis were laughing falling back and holding their bellies.
- And on account of what did you take named five horses from Kozybaks? Well now, dear, remember…Named five horses!..
Bakhtygul looked around with a bitter perplexity. What were they laughing at? First he really tried to remember what horses they were talking about and then he smirked looking and exhilarated biis. It was always gaily for them, for all of them - both own and foreign, both complainants and judges.
- I took five and twice five… Bakhtygul said faintly. - Don’t you know how much I have taken! Well, of course I stood for my volost without any regret or thought - I was fighting for you, put my head for the master, for his belly...
At once biis roused and began making noise not allowing him telling any word.
- Listen to that, what he is talking, where he is driving at!
- Fighting!.. What a cheek…Who did him only learn those words?
- Fighting - stealing! All the same for him.
- He said "twice five….»
- I don’t understand, - Bakhtygul said unloud with restained power. - What do you want from me, honorable men?
- We judge you for criminal cases.- The eldest of the biis answered arrogantly. - And we forbid you those criminal speeches! - And he snicked slowly been satisfied with his words and stroked his gray beard with weightily. - And don’t even dare to hint at that what is out of your range, out of your depth, out of your slave understanding. Those who must who were appointed can sort out their own things by themselves according to the high judgment that is not within your understanding. Our volost party has already cleaned from those five horses and all other for a long time. I said: for a long time it has become white! And having cleaned itself it sent the law complainant to the real trail, to the way of the truth. Now answer for you guilt if you are called to account!
- But what is my guild? - Bakhtygul asked with despair. - I didn’t take them for myself and I didn’t become rich for that I took. I took it under order against my own will. May be that is my guilt that I was doing what was ordered, isn't it? Tell me...
- That’s interesting, and who could order to steal? - kozybak asked opened his impudent eyes wide.
Bakhtygul lowered his head. He was hesitating. It was shame for him to look, listen and answer to those people.
- Keep silence? Slanderer...
- You would better to say it. - Bakhtygul said sadly. - It wouldn’t take long time to search for them. You souldn't go far away…All of them are sitting at honorable places. - And he pointed at Sarsen and Kokysh who just entered the yurt with a splendid whickered kamcha in his hand. - Even if it’s not my rang but I would look at that how they would clean themselves of those five horses and all others...and what will be your judge there...
Biis were glancing at each other angry and with hidden fury. An envious and sneering laughing whispered among spongers.
The work hand ragamuffin was standing with the people in power too brave and too clever. Slave want the truth! That means the slave won’t get off cheaply!
Sarsen was silent being puffed up arrogantly. Kokysh, black and heavy as a bull was laughing gloomy playing with his kamcha.
- Bear in mind, - Kokysh said - one thing is party actions and another one is a theft! We answer for one, you, my dear, answer for another. And don't mix…you won’t get out! (“What is he talking about?.." - Bakhtygul thought). Bii - Kokysh continued in a hurry. - If you let him, he would smear with his shit not only us but more ten or even the Zharasbai! And here is what the head of the volost ordered me to say you right now sending me here. Listen to the workd of the head of the volost: Voting has nothing to do with it - there is a thief in front of your eyes!.. And his shitty theft that he admitted! Judge the thief and punish him.
Bakhtygul powerlessly lowered his hard work hands.
- I am…the thief? Is it... the word of bolis? - he asked with naivety of a child. But he didn't get any answer.
Whatever was happening in front of his very eyes, he was still waiting in the deep of his soul: in the last minute the word of bolis, only one word would rescue him from the disaster. "I answer for this poor man!" - that was all what the head of the volost should say. Nothing more. Bakhtygul wouldn’t forget that for ages even if biis would have judged him wrong. Bakhtygul would bring those words to his grave "I answer for this poor man…”
Unvoluntary Bakhtygul touched with his callous hands a scare on his cheek - a prominent ragged scare - memory about his last meeting with boar Salmen. The same indelible scare lied to the work hand's heard that day, his soul was bleeding.
Doesn’t he, an orphan heard, know how the cruel could be, how the perfidy could be? Doesn’t he know...
- Well, if it were the word of bolis, - Bakhtygul said, - and Kokysh doesn't lie, I close my mouth and keep silent as a dead man. Your will - burn my life, it is worth than a life of a dog. A poor man lived and a poor man died - nothing important! Only one last thing I am going to tell you: I have believed you indeed…believed! Eh, all right…God is with you, it serves me right… - and not finishing Bakhtygul lowered his head on his chest, raised up and left the yurt.
He went as a blind man biting his lips not to earning as a dog and suddenly he saw the head of the volost. Zharasbai and another four fats in rich robes crossed his road and wend talking weightily. Zharasbai hasn't even noticed his greeting. Never moved a muscle! That was the real dirtiness… What a impudence!..
And first time in his life Bakhtygul gnashed his teeth looking at Zharasbai’s back.
A carrier ran to and called him to take the verdict. Bakhtygul followed the carrier.
Biis judged to repay noted five horses with five other horses by rights. And in addition to that three years of the jail for the thief.
Two strong fellows took the convicted man out.
In the steppe there was no rooms with grates and it wasn’t a habit to take people locked that’s why they put irons with big padlocks at each bracelet on legs of convicted man before sending them to the city to be on the safe side.
First minutes Bakhtygul lost his head so much that he hasn't even understand where he was brought to. He was looking at his convoys and thinking about them in torpor: so ordinary and weak...
- Stay here, - the one said and another one went and brought out irons red of rust and began screwing around with them looking at Bakhtygul’s legs.
Then Bakhtygul pushed the fellow off scornfully and he did it so that the fellow could hardly stay on his legs and irons felt in dust having clanked pitifully. Another fellow jumped back frisky as a kid.
Bakhtygul came to his horse, jumped to the saddle and went at a jogtrot among yurts saying in his mind “Good bye, everybody…”
Fellow had no guns and nobody could blame them that they began crying when the famous barybtach has already been on his horse:
- Hey, hey! Where do you go? Hold him! Catch him!..
Catching a Kazakh in the steppe means to catch a wind in a net. While convoys were crying, the fugitive ran over the hill near which the aul was stuck, went deeper in a scarp hollow and disappeared in mountain counters. And again nobody could blame those who were send to pursuit him that they lost his trail? People are not dogs…For nothing the head of the volost was angry, biis were swearing threatening to give out negligent that lost the convicted man to gendarmes. The red beast left.
He left against his will to that life that he was always shy of and there was no way out.
Making no stops Bakhtygul ran home and Khatsha understood without any word that something happened and began preparing his warm clothes at once without weeping or crying.
Bakhtygul saddled fast an another horse - Savrasyi racer; since that moment that horse was his own friend. He hung his old hammer muzzle-loading gun charged with case-shots behind his back. He pulled his revolver that he took with him that summer behind his belt - since then it wasn't just a toy.
And he went to the Black Rocks not far away. Here he knifed his last ewe lamb and butched it in hurry; he left one half for his family and salted strongly another one and put it into the bag from dried bally. In the evening twilling Khatsha brought him crumbled millet and he gave her lamb meat. He took with him in rein a fat chestnut horse too.
Good bye was short. Having entrusted his family to God and saying no word to his wife about that when he was going to come back, Bakhtygul disappeared in the night.
Khatsha didn’t wipe again but only said with her dry lips:
- Oh, Zharasbai, double face, double soul!.. Let your wife see off you there where I did my husband!.. Let it happen with your children the same that with mine... - And she looked and starless sky with believe that this woe woulnd't miss the mean liar.
At the same night messengers of the head of the volost broke out to the house of the fugitive. But they couldn’t find anything from Khatsha.
- In the morning he left to you, - she said smiling falsely. - And what’s happened? - But her eyes were shining with anger and pride.
Two weeks passed. Zharasbai was searching thoroughly, so to say taking a light into his hands.
Day and night ten horsemen didn’t dismount their horses searching around mountains from the north to the south, from the east to the west. Everyone in Burgen und Chelkar knew that it wouldn’t be so easy to find Bakhtygul and he won’t let so easy to be caught that’s why Zharasbai decided to starve him out. Relieving each other and changing horses, people of the head of the volost were searching at mountains and meadows, auls and winter places leaving ambushes and watchmen everywhere not to allow the fugitive any rest, exhaust his horse, take him washed up and frightened by the hunt. The famous hunters were looking for him, they knew each stone, each crack by the feel in the mountains; knowing thieves were looking for him too who were able to see in a pitchy dark night and slip under the nose of a spooky sheep.
Bakhtygul got away from them as a smoke in the dark but it was difficult for him.
Terrible host of the jail, mute and eyeless, with bottomless stone mouth was following him as a devil. And Bakhtygul was praying looking back at him:
- Oh, Got, save me…give me the strengh!
Enemy was following him hard and persistently as in a fairy tale an old witch was following the brave hunter Kulamergen on a swift-foot one-humped camel. Sometimes the fugitive saw in his dreams that he was followed by a thick roll of a forest fire or there were long blue tongues of flood closing to him, and he woke up one day in sweat another day in chill. Sometimes it seemed for Bakhtygul in reality and there were minutes when he couldn’t distinguish dream and reality and spitted behind his back superstitiously to fight off that obsession and to escape from invisible hugs of the deamon.
Sometimes it happened that his horse brought him away from the pursuit and he was almost senseless, thanks God that even being unconscious the dzhigit didn’t fell from the saddle. Coming to himself, Bakhtygul thanked his destiny that gave him such a friend and whispered him madly:
- I won’t give up…They won’t catch me alive… I would better die in the saddle…I would better give up my spirit to Got than to the bai...Better to a gap than to a jail door...
But a gloom was catching his throat oftener, he was croaking as a horse in a tight strained lasso. Sooner or later they would reach him and put him into irons, those fat men with greedy hands. Hot blood was beating in his veins, in his tiered body. Squatting in front of a poor dying fire and raising his hand to the mountains as if a wolf in a cold moon night he said:
- Well, Zharazbai, don’t drive to desperation… - And an alive echo responded in the rocks.
Zharasbai suspected that people in poor auls were kind to the fugitive, some were hiding him, others were feeding. And he sent his messengers with a frightened news:
- Until there is the fugitive among us, nobody will be in peace. Something might be wrong and a troop, gendarmes would break out from the city…Then give it up for lost. Because of one stroppy man dozen, thousand could suffer…Old men would complain, wives and children would cry but it would be late!
At the same time Zharasbai sent faithful people to some powerful aqsaqals so they wouldn't sit twiddling their thumbs letting things slide. The cunning man frightened everyone, shy and unshy, good and bad. He set a golden eagle on top and greyhounds at bottom.
At once Bakhtygul lost his secret shelter and secret alms. Less than a week passed as he got into common round raid as a bear in a circle of blood-sucker dogs. Mountain wilderness became unsafe too. He heard what the fox Zharasbai used to frighten people. The tried thing frightened…Now you can't trust a man - one would chase, other would run off, another would sell or even kill because of fear.
At a dirty night it was the last time when Bakhtygul, tired completely made an overnight stop at one roof with people, it was in a small mountain aul, poor yurt nestled in the wild under a hanging rock, there where lively white-crest Talgar begins on.
From the very beginning it seemed to him that there was something wrong in the house, not as it was before, not as others did. They met Bakhtygul bending brows and looking at his feet and back as if there was a snake following him. At night he heard a pressed and uneasy whisper of masters as if they wanted to hide something from him. And when they became quiet, he fell asleep. He slept one our stretching his back aching of tiredness, raised up long before the daybreak and left noiseless so no hair was moved on people. He saddled his Light-brown who was sleeping standing on his legs and left checking carefully if there was no man eye following him. He left with shame and sadness but without anger. Thanks God that they didn't cross his way.
Bakhtygul had a friend in Burgen - a Russian man, an old unlucky creature and a very brave man. An fortuity met them three years ago while barymta when Bakhtygul was still serving to Salmen and they became close friends. The man had an incredible bravery: he went against the big city chiefs and they sent him to the jail though he was their own, the Russian. One year the man spent behind grates and when he was sitting there Bakhtygul did his best to feed his large family with bread and meat. The man came back being broken by jailers but he was talking about jail life with laughing so that he gave the creeps to Bakhtygul. He was the first man to whom Bakhtygul came after the biis' court having said good bye to his wife and children and without any talking the man first dug out and gave gunpowder and lead for the gun and bullets for the revolver that he hid for future use.
That was his sworn friend. Nobody could frighten him with gendarmes. But he lived far away, in the open steppe, in crowded places.
Bakhtygul had one more shelter - down Talgar’s steam near the Red Rocks, in the house of Katubai, a poor man. Bakhtygul wandered to that house oftener that into others and he could always find there a shelter. After separation from his native home fire, Katubai’s fire became the most native and warm for him. And Bakhtygul decided to drop in, warm with tea if tehy give it, listen what is heard in the area if they say, pet his horse in a dry corner and go to the mountains closer to the evening twilling.
He went to the edge of the pine wood climbing up along the hanging slope and looked around carefully. Talgar was roaring fiercely down feeling the whole hollow with its crashing. It seemed that there were no strange and saddled horses near Kaubai’s house and in his yard. Bakhtygul slowly drove to gates, dismounted the horse, hitched him up and entered the house.
Katubai, he was the fourth, was living settled with his wife and two children separate from his relatives wandering the whole year. They didn’t met often, from time to time and without any special interest to each other. In summer Katubai was growing grain, in winter he took care of his livestock. His livestock was small - one horse and some goats with kids, that was all what the poor man settled with. He also fared hunting, making nooses for small game adroitly, shouting the big one; that was also feeding him. Katubai took to hunging; Bakhtygul shared with him his valuable shots, he also liked to find a trail unnoticeable for others, get the game with one distant shot. That brought them closer.
When Bakhtygul entered, all four were at home. Katubai was cleaning his gun, his wife was frying kuyrdak, his children were hustling near the fire waiting for the food. The wished tea was boiling at the ntripod.
Katubai was over fifty, his small beard had some grey hairs and there was a blush on his cheekbones as a young man had. Small, good-natured man with a smooth temper. His baibishe was a stately plump woman with light face and the same blush. She had a little big face and body and was more like a man but so kind-hearted and naive and good as a girl or an old soft-hearted woman. Spirits of their ancestor should really meet these two for luck! Their children were right as their father and mother. Two boys, modest, clean, sweet and unpretentions.
Tea was served at once. Than the meat. And of course they left the fugitive to stay at night… He was warmed and sated as if under his native roof from dearest hands. Bakhtygul's lonely soul that was so chilled softened and whimpered. He went to the yard to his Light-brown crunching his hay easily in night silence, hugged his horse neck and was standing so with a dragging heard biting his hard moustache jerkly.
Katubai and his wife knew Bakhtygul’s history but only from his words. And they knew nothing more. Katubai didn’t make any guest visits or hang around auls for no reason, he didn’t hung for rumors and wasn’t bored without gossips. And this kind man shouldn't even realize how much he gave for the fugitive thief and how much he risks hiding him. Wasn’t that the reason why Katubai was so untroubled? What response could they ask from those who knew nothing?
Some chilly autumn night Bakhtygul has spent at Katubai’s house. He left in darkness so not to let down those nice people. He left refreshed and never came with empty hands - always with the game.
- It is you who is the help not us. - Katubai said at late dinner. - And I say more: Got is support for a lonely soul!
And Bakhtygul thought: «If he is the man who has to betray me, so let it be so... let him betray!»
- I heard that a terrible man is walking in our areas, a bad man. Not a man but a shaitan… The head of the volost orders: everyone who fears God should catch and tie the evil-doer. Recently the whole gang of horseman came to the down aul to search him…- And Katugai finished with a hollow laughing. - Isn’t that you, my son, that shaitan?
Bakhtygul understood: it was time to leave.
At once he saddled his Light-brown and went along Talgar.
A hoarse and heavy sound of the white-crest stream is heard from far. But near it it's called boiling frightens. Издалека слышен хрипучий игулкий голос белогривого потока. А вблизи его ледяное кипение устрашает. There is a wild cold and irrepressible power going from the green water bent into rash streams - involuntarily you step off the bank but still you can’t take your eyes off the water! It seems that many boas snaking and swelling as thick humps balled there into inseparable hugs and strangle each other belching out curling crests of snow-white foam. It seems that that not waves but thousands of feral animals are running with tremendous clattering along the stream bed in a panic horror and their backs are climbing at each other.
Bakhtygul held his horse in a thin dark ravine above a big rapid stocking and as if trying the mad water. Talgar is much deeper in summer and then in deep autumn it didn’t shallow, it was boiling and roaring to no purpose. The stream bent there as a tight bow-string. Up the stream the water flew out under a big hanging rock as if under a granitic nose, an awful stone throat and it disappeared down under another rock with its cut bottom as if into the yawning pit. It seemed that one mountain was watering another one and it couldn't do it.
Having passed the turn, Bakhtygul got out to a more slanting place, a small open valley. The stream became wider and smaller but even there it was terrifying to think about the shallow of the river. The head was dizzy while looking at flat smooth rolls going under each other with high fat belts of the foam as if frozen at one place in an endless flight.
«There is bridge near the down aul, - Bakhtygul thought. - There is no other way to jump...»
But suddenly Light-brown raised his head and pricked up his ears. Bakhtygul looked there where his horse was looking at and his heard shaked.
Two horsemen ran from behind the forestless ledge at least half verst from the bank. They wasn’t common people: chemenies were put on one left sleeve and clubs in hands. Horses were fat and fresh.
Bakhtygul looked back fast and saw behind him four horsemen else on the sloping rock and I of them seemed to have a gun.
Well. He seemed to be surrounded. The white-crest and loud-voice Talgar cut his Bakhtygul's way to desolate and hard-to-reach places.
There is no way to hide. Should he run straight through? He couldn’t. They won’t be to soft with him. They will shut him just in case not to lose him.
And there was no time to think. The horsemen noticed him and broke into a gallop with angry opened mouths swinging their clubs. There were already three in front and six or seven behind - there was no time to count. A long whistle cut Talgar’s roar.
There was only one way, only one hope left...
Almost thoughtlessly Bakhtygul fastened his gun behind his back, tapped a leather watertight bag with shots on his chest and put his six-shooter into the pocket. He chose a plce near the bank by eye so it would be quieter and lashed Light-brown sending him to the water.
And Light-brown went. He lowered his head as if trying to drink and entered the cold boiling slowly and carefully.
There was horse knee-high near the bank. Then he was pulled deeper, caught under his belly, pushed falling aside and taken away. And banks, mountains, sky - everything flew agley and twisted with roar in front of Bakhtygul's eyes as a big black-red-green roundabout.
- Got, get me out…Ancestors, help me… Bakhtygul prayed lying on the back of Light-brown.
Strong hard streams were throwing him and his horse sometimes up sometimes down taking them away fast along the stream. Water was beaten, mauling and thrashing Bakhtygul from name to heels as if with thousand of clubs, thousand of irons pulling and tearing from the horse. And he was clutching him growing numb of efforts and feeling clearly how his Light-brown was fighting under him with all his strength, how he was beaten and broken on hidden stones, but he was holding and not refusing saving his rider. Soon the horse became weak - the end! Were legs and chest of Light-brown al right? And where were the right bank and the left one? He couldn’t understand anything… Greedy green mouth of the water opened in front of Bakhtygul and he was flowing heels over head there realizing clearly that he was flowing to meet his death. There was no hope in his heard squeezed with his last effort.
For a moment the horse was raised up under the water to his chest and Bakhtygul saw suddenly a black wet stone block grown in front…” Here…the end!” - a thought flashed in his mind. One more second and they would be squeezed against that rock, torn in pieces to all sides... But nothing happened - neither one nor another. By a miracle Light-brown held near the black stone and seemed even to stand on his legs and was standing pressed to it with the water pressure. Bakhtygul looked around hawking and spitting. Dear God! There was only two or three stepps to the bank...
At once he felt that Light-brown began slipping from the slippery rock. He was carrying away! The horse was wheezing baring his yellow teeth and looking with a side glance of his fire eye. They would be washed off drown now. Bakhtygul cried nearly out of his mind not remembering what was that - may be "good bye", may be "forgive", he stood at horse back then stepped on his head between ears, pushed and jumped with all his might to the bank side with the power of despair...
Water stroke his legs as with a club and he thought "It's all over!"
He came to himself at the beach pebble lying down his face, blooded in ragged cloth and shivering from cold and pain. And the first what he remembered was "Light-brown”. Groaning Bakhtygul raised his head but he saw nothing in the purple fog covering his eyes.
His right side and thigh were scratched as with animal claws, the whole body was in scratches and bruises but bones and head were alright. The gun was also there as well as the small bag with shots but the six-shooter was pulled away with the pocket.
Mumbling of pain blind Bakhtygul climbed higher to the bank and when the blood cover left his eyes, he stared at Talgar as a mad man. He would cry from grief if there was enought strength for that. He couldn’t see Light-brown anywhere. Lash was hanging at Bakhtygul's hand as if jeering at him.
No, apparently it wasn’t his destiny to die in the saddle… Light-brown wasn’t there anymore! His fearless friend with yellow these went there where you could never collect the pieces...
With hate Bakhtygul looked at the other bank grinding his teeth.
Ten and a half horsemen were prancing there on their horses dancing nervously on a good distance from the stream not closing to the water. Both horses and men were afraid and frightened of that what they have seen. He has jumped over Talger, shaitan!
And then Bakhtygul raised his blooded fist and wheezed shaking with it weakly:
- Just you wait, good-doer, dear bai...
Bakhtygul was wandering in the desolate harsh land above the pass Karash-Karash. At nights he was hiding in the pine wood making a short-flame fire in thorny bushes in the stone hole to boil water for poor tea or another simple boiling. And when the sun rose up, he went down to the pass, to the grey strip of the rod twisting on the desert sad ridges.
Whole days Bakhtygul was staring hard at the road with his narrowed bloodshot eyes biting his black moustache. Sometimes he went down to it and walked back and forth looking around as if searching for something. Sometimes he squatted, laid on his belly on the road in dark thinking sometimes from one side sometimes from another one hawing something under his breath; he was staring at it steadily closing one eye as a bird as if winking.
Bakhtygul’s face was gray, there was no blood at his cheekbones and it seemed that all live bloods have frozen in him. His hands were shaking and startling as if squeezing something invisible with his crooked clinging fingers. He was breathing uneven and sometimes he signed hard with all his feeling and sometimes he coughed hoarsely and uneasy.
Impatience was torturing him. His long moustaches hanging above his swollen lips burning feverly looked sometimes as wings of a golden eagle who pushed a red fox to the snow.
Day by day he climbed down the steep to the road over the pass and having looked at it he raised his head to the heaven jailiau faded to the autumn and spotted with the early snaw at the high mountain Asy. Bakhtygul was looking at it with his red eyes blinking of glaring light of the snow and he couldn’t understand whether they tear or glancing coldly.
Got was his witness, he didn’t want to do that what he thought as before he didn’t’ want either loud glorious barymta or secret unglorius horse stealing. He was brought to the edge and he hugged the death without looking back having stepped into Talgar. It was his fate to raise back to life. That means he didn’t drain to the less there, at Karash-Karash!
Karash-Karash is a weaving of three ranges, rocky, naked headed, belted with pine and fir woods. The Main Karash, the Middle Karash, the Low Karash…Black mountains, slate mourning rocks, internally dark forest wilds… The pass is there high and difficult, but it was the only one in the whole area. In summer caravan by caravan are stepping at him slowly - to Burgen, Chelkar; bleating and neighing flocks and herds flow up to the attractive grasses of the jailiau. Not in grey autumn in the eve of snowstorms and white avalanches a rare stranger could jump the pass driving his horse and looking around if there were no wolfs following the animals to the plain lands.
Bakhtygul was the only one who didn’t left that place. He knew that his destiny was waiting for him there. And he was waiting for it looking at the road.
He chose the Middle Karash. He climbed round, went through each crack, each bend, smelled round mountains as a dog and he knew them all as mullah knows the book. He was looking for a place where he could appear as if under the ground and fall down to the ground at the same moment. He found such a place. The road was twisting along the slope of the stone hollow and leading the wanderer with a bright half-circle opening it from far. Near to the pass the road climbed on the edge of the steep along the hanging wall. If you met someone there you could miss each other only if holding to each other. Across the road on the other side of the hollow on the sharp range there were growing three old aspens cuddling together as if growing from one root. Right behind the aspens a brain-taxing slope began covered with blotches of red rocks on which only a goat could hold. Near its bottom there was a dark forest, both an unmounted and man and a horseman could hide there.
Those aspens were at the steep, Bakhtygul was caressing their dull silver bodies long with his callous called hands coming with the daybreak to the pass.
Griefly and hopelessly he looked around at the world where he had lived. Autumn sky was covered with a dirty grey fog oftener. Long grey tops were covered by turban of clouds. Gloomy shadows laid at the stone face of the mountains and even at midday the ranges and tops were frowning as if they were displeased with something. There was a grave silence around. In light of brightening breaking out behind the grey clouds the road across the aspens became thick red as if swelling and it seemed to be blooded. Red spots were blinking at neighbor rocks.
- Will it be so, if it has to... - Bakhtygul whispered and bit his moustache.
Sometimes in clear days he climbed up above the pass to look wider and free himself of the oppressive load in his heard.
Far in the South, at the sunny side, a pine bristle of the forest Sarymsaky was seen. From there he looked as a crupper of a strong black-brown horse. In that forest smelling as a wild garlic Bakhtygul was hiding with the stolen filly from the herd of his former masters and he felt sick then because of pitchy smell that how he was hungry... But it was just a year ago! The last year of his life that seemed to him first so heavily easy and unusually fat...
On the other side there was the range Nazar risen covering the pass from the breathing of cold winds. Its blue-brindle hump swelled as a vein at the work hand's arm being black of sweat. Age-old yellow-red pines and black-green firs were stretching up on the range, body to body. Somewhere they were fallen with their crowns to the top and their broken branches ragged by stone rains and ginormous brown butts with big knots of turned-out roots reminded of an old batyr's skeleton that became dark because of time. It is lying and rotting and there is nothing that can grow under it.
And higher above the range and the clouds the top Ozhar shined with intact virgin snows and ices eternally. The old grey head, it was called Ozhar that means “The Bolt”. Even at nights it was clearly whitening in the sky and sometimes Bakhtygul thought that it was beckoning him, attracting with its majestic and violent look there, to the wild dread height where is no sorrow and everything is cold and hard.
Yes, it was speaking with Bakhtygul, that ice head beyond the clouds as if it thought the same, as if it understood what the run down man who despaired to live at his dear and native land had in his mind.
It was a warm windless day. Bakhtygul was standing above the pass speaking speechlessly with the white-head Ozhar as suddenly something forced him to look around. He squated down under the rock carefully looking around uneasy. And he saw a thick crowd far off on the road under dark walls of the Middle Karash, the horsemen.
They were going from side of the Asy Mountain sliding step by step to a pitchy dark shadow of the hollow as if sinking at it.
Bakhtygul cried easy and ran to three old aspens along a chirring talus bending down.
He stalked, laid behind grey bodies gasping and sweating cold. At the same moment he looked at Ozhar. Its white and glaring White Head was looking right into his face as if triumphing, with thousands of eyes flashing with mischief and fervour.
Bakhtygul tagged his hand to his heard - it was breaking out of the chest, there was a bell rumble in his ears. Narrowing his lids he looked at forests of Nazar and it seemed to him that thorny firs moved and run up circuitry up along the hump range as an innumerable warrior-host storming for the last assault… But at the next moment something other seemed to him: up there, no warriors… Having wringed their branch hands as real people firs and pines were running from him headlong with a starting, from that what he wanted to do.
Bakhtygul passed his hand over his bloodshot eyes, laid on his chest on the ground to calm his heard, nuzzled in it his face wet of sweat and distorted of pain. The ground was silent and a distant hollow clattering was spreading along its surface.
Bakhtygul raised his hand hardly as if he was sick. Deep mud holes of mountain flood waters went down rapidly almost under the aspens bodies. They looked like wrinkles, and grey dirty and twisting stripes were flowing along them as trails of tears.
No, they couldn’t miss one another at this road! Bakhtygul clenched his teeth of pain.
- Let be that what has to, - he said slowly as a spell and moved forward a long gun barrel under his elbow.
On the road arc the horsemen, about fifteen men, appeared in a blue haze as under a clear silk curtain.
They weren’t shepherds or couriers. Most of them were riding amblers, horses only of light colour, a perfect choice. Saddles and harness were costly and glancing with silver dimly from far. The masters were riding unhurried, idly. The fattest were in the centre, those who were thinner were in front and behind. They were notable as women dressed as for a big festAgainst the background of black rocks the rainbow-bright shawls with rich brushes and skirts of snow-white silk dress. Everyone was merry, careless, excited. Through the hollow there could be already heard excited voices and trills of laughter. Where the road was wider, they were riding by two or by tree in a row; where the road was more narrow, they were stretching one by one. They were calling each other, turning back speaking and laughing loud reclining in their saddles. Good, rich and funny compnay!
Blinking and biting his lip, Bakhtygul was searching only one among those horsemen… And he groaned in a low voice having seen and recognized him! There he was, fat, haughty and kind, with high light front on familiar golden-red stallion with white crest and whitish tail, with white chestnuts. That color is called liver-chestnut. Horse was sure living in clover - he fas shining fat, shot with fire, clear gold. Bakhtygul drove dzhigits to barymta on this horse...Oh, what a racer! Women were riding close to him and coming closer to him over and over again, joking, amusing him and laughing playfully. They seemed to feel very funny.
Suddenly Bakhtygul felt chilled with invisible cold paws. The foresight was shivering. It was impossible to aim.
Then Bakhtygul looked at Ozhar again…and his chill vanished as if by magic. The white head pulled off its turban of clouds and was shining proudly from top to its shoulders. Bakhtygul saw an order in it. On the top there must be madly whistling a mad and robbery wind laying out as the stream of Talgar. And Bakhtygul growled as if singing along it taking his hard old gun. The funny holiday cavalcade stretched along the path above the steep under the black stone wall. Near the pass on the edge there were some currant bushes growing hanging into the steep. They had red-ripe tasty berries black as rocks of Karash-Karash. Closing to the bushes, the horsemen leaned to from their saddles one by one and browsing black berries. Only that one on the golden stallion didn’t stretch his hand. But when he flew under the bushes haughty, Bakhtygul has already aimed and was leading him.
He was waiting when the handsome bai would turn his face to him.
Кони, гулко цокая, стучали подкованными копытами по камню. Они подходили все ближе. И вот дорога округло повернула к трем осинам. Перед глазами Бахтыгула мелькнули, гарцуя, ноги светло-серого коня, а за ним открылся и игреневый. Скакун шел спокойно, высоко держа золотую голову и с непередаваемо легкой, плавной грацией вскидывая передние ноги. За спиной бая Бахтыгул увидел закутанную в шаль маленькую фигурку молодой женщины. Это, конечно, Калыш из рода досаев, токал, вторая жена Жарасбая, сосватанная еще в лихорадке выборов. Счастливый муж вез ее в свой аул.
«Стой!.. Погоди...» - сказал себе Бахтыгул. Сейчас не мудрено угодить одной пулей в двоих. Пусть всадник выдвинется вперед.
The handsome bai was stroking his well groomed beard smugly looking over horse ears when Bakhtygul has finally pulled the trigger and a ragged hole appeared in the fox fur from blue cloth in the aimed place and above that hole there was a clear wisp of a blue smoke wallowing.
Bakhtygul unwillingly jumped on his legs looking how the man was falling out of his saddle. Bai’s fellow travelers were watching too choked in hardly holding their frightened horses.
Then Bakhtygul ran down along the brain-taxing slope behind aspens jumping on red blotches of the rocks as a goat and he heard a screaming cry of Kalysh behind his back:
- Oh dear! Bakh-ty-gul!
He shook, slouched and ran to the forest without looking back.
To the evening Bakhtygul was far from Karash-Karash but his heard was still beating with that ring as there near those three aspens. His fever excitement didn’t pass. And though it wasn't cold, he began feeling chilly again and again.
In blue twilling he met an unknown hunter with corpus of an argali across his saddle. Bakhtygul called him, stopped, looked at his bag and said with an unkind wry smile:
- I have alswo shot an argali now...
Bakhtygul is in the jail.
He is alive, can breath, walk, speak but nobody could understand how he could survive, how his soul left in his body.
After that shot at Karash-Karash Zharasbai relatives dragged out of the hay the whole Tanys family. The city chiefs sent them a gendarme officer for help. And Bakhtygul didn’t want to leave his native area anywhere, he hasn’t even to the other district. And they have caught him.
Ash and dust were left by the almighty Tanys family at that place where the small Sary family was settling. There was only twenty houses…Tanyses robbed, took away the whole poor property of the Sary, they didn’t even scruple of rags, dirty smocked felts, bleeded people dry, diddled them and drove them out with their children and old man from settled areas, from Burgen and Chelkar to the four winds. They drained dry Khatsha with kids too.
Bakhtygul was waiting for a new court, the city one, the verdict of the Russian biis.
Khatsha worked as a servant in a house of a rich bii in the city. Of course she lived with her children from hand to mouth: she shared her grub for four...
Having chosen the right time, Bakhtygul kneeled at feet to the senior chief of the jail. And in some days the door was opened and Seit entered under the dark cave root of the ward!
Мальчик остался в тюрьме.
All jailbirds, both Kazakhs and Russians, liked the quiet, thoughtful and silent boy, many fed him up giving their part of the bread. And when Bakhtygul saw it, his heard was dragged.
Bakhtygul’s jail-bad neighbor got a book, bought a pencil and motley square paper for his own money and began teaching Seit to read and write as the mullah Zhunus has done before. Bakhtygul was looking at it with the awe.
Seit slept bad, tolk in sleep loud and angry and woke up in tears. He jumped in the middle of the night, gibbered and looked at the moon shine drowsily and widely from the grilled window as if thinking where the window in the yurt was from. And in day time sometimes he was sitting, keeping silence, chewing the jail bread and yellow seeds of tears were flowing on his cheeks.
The boy has seen how Tanyses caught his father, the elusive barymtach near their wintering place.
Seit was trashing in his mother's arms, she held him with all her strength and cried laud:
- Oh, you, poor creature, look, they kill your father, oh, poor creature!
And then in the dark jail hole the boy saw the same: clubs, lashes, fists, boots... He looked and saw and trashed in his mother’s arms...
Bakhtygul didn’t caress or calm his son, only sometimes he woke him up when the boy began whimpering in dream too loud. But one day in the early morning when other slept, Seit woke up and was walking near the bad, his father called him softly:
- Seit-zhan…come to me, my son…- And he hugged his son and nuzzled his nose into his cheek that was still wet of tears as if smelling it. - I have been thinking for a long time and here is what I want to tell you. My dear, I ask you as my elder son, don't raise your head from that motley paper. If there is something to set you on your feet, it is that paper! Look what has happened with me, that's all because I am illiterate.
- It’s not your fault… - Seit whispered dearly. - It was them…them…you!.. I know everything.
- Not everyone, my dear, not everyone. And if you learn, you will put bais’ and bii’s oses out of joint and they will never dear to do with you the same as with me... Your eyes will open and you will be their friend. It's not my second nature but you will be able to do it, you have to do! Put all your strength to the motley paper... I have nothing more to tell you. I have neither knowledge nor wisdom to give them to you.
A tear flew on the gray cheek of Bakhtygul. He dashed it away and pushed Seit from himself.
- Now go to your papers.
After that talking Seit stopped wining and crying in dream.
Afanasii Fedotych was also a funny man, he has never hang down his head. Every day he took Seit’s hand and brought him to the jail yard covered with pale grass for walking and ran a race with him.
Seit boiled water with him for his father and for other elders. His father loved tea.
One day the Russian asked the boy winking with his blue eye:
- What are you thinking at, Seitka? Spring is outside… You should miss your aul, shouldn’t you? Do you want out of the jai? Ah? Why are you silent?
The boy shook his head lifelessly.
- No, Afanasii-aga, I don’t...
- Stop lying! It can’t be the truth.
- It’s better here, Afanasii-aga…It’s better here...
Bakhtygul was lying faced to the wall biting his grey moustache and squeezing his throat with his hand.
«You, my little…You, my sharp apple of the eye...» - he thought about his son.
Afanasii Fedotych took the boy on his arms, folded him to breast and the boy didn’t try to escape.
- Do you listen what he’s talking, brothers? Ah, Seitka, Seitka!... You have really killed me!... And what is awful? That he didn’t read these words from a book! - And Afanasii began walking along the room back and forth with Seitka on his hands.
That’s how they lived day by day and night by night.
Silent, diligent and bright boy with black hair has written many sheets of motley paper. Afanasii-aga taught him to write, smile and see that what his father didn’t - the light of his future life.
And Bakhtygul was waiting. He was waiting for the court and hard labour...