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Жүсіпбек Аймауытұлы

29 тамыз 2014 3453

Yesenberlin Ilyas «A dangerous passage»

Негізгі тіл: «A dangerous passage»

Бастапқы авторы: Yesenberlin Ilyas

Аударма авторы: not specified

Дата: 29 тамыз 2014


A novel

Part One

A STRAY SINGER

I

White waters of Irtysh tame themselves close to the town, and the river flows slowly and heavily. The town lined up on the high sand bank of the river: willow thicket, birches, bushes and scrubs, and then suddenly unsteady and shaking houses with the wooden roofs and shabby stairs start to appear, and they are changed by the long gray buildings, looking like stone barracks – these are the warehouses and the shops. There is a mosque behind the warehouses, plank cinema with the columns and spire appears behind the mosque. This cinema was built and opened not so long time ago, that’s why the planking and wood boards haven’t blackened yet. And here are the real palaces and luxurious chambers emerging, with the frescos and paintings, one could find sometimes even the real palazzos, roofed with iron and painted sienna and cinnabar, with the statues of Hercules and goddesses. According to the architect’s idea, all of it has to remind about Paris, Moscow and Saint Petersburg and maybe even more – Rome and Florence. Though the family names of the owners of all this magnificence and splendor are not even close to be Roman or Florentine: Koshelev, Stroganov, Galimov and dozens of the similar names. The streets are busy and noisy. Slowly and majestic walks down the street a big Bactrian camel with the aristocratically protruding under lip; the real Russian troikas  rush in the streets, ringing and jingling with the small bells, the lacquer and the red carriage chocks are glittering and shimmering in the sun; people in the peaked caps with the noble badges, old men dressed in the long frock coats are walking down the streets; fur caps, skullcaps, gypsy scarves with roses and flowers (and each flower and rose are of a size of a good cabbage head) are tumbling around; one can see also the Asian decorated and painted robes and vests and the green jungsturms, enlaced with the belts. Some people frown and knit the brows, others smile, and it is obvious and easy to notice that some of them have a heavy burden in their hearts and souls, while others are shining with their happiness and joy, and these happiness and joy are springs from their open and beautiful eyes and enlightens their faces, differently and in his or her own way for everybody of them, but anyway they all have something in common with each other, something connected to a big and wondrous, unprecedented thing, which amazed them all. There is a one source for the sadness and happiness for all of them.
I love this little old town, grown on the sandy banks of Irtysh, very much: I love this town in summer, I love it in winter, but most of all I love this city in spring, when the birches start to flower, tender and soft white fluff and pile flies in the air all over the streets, and there is a sweet and beautiful smell of bird-cherry in the dark and solitary front gardens. 
Now it’s spring too. The houses are decorated with the red widths and blankets and deal twigs. The tribunes and arcs are being installed in all the squares of the city, and red bunting is everywhere. The country celebrates one of its most happy, merry and favorite holidays – the 1st of May. 
The sun is rising. The first street walkers appear, and the warm beams of sunlight lie on the sidewalks and merry spring slops. The dull sound of drum could be heard from afar and suddenly and husky and hoarse sound of the horn responded the drum, sounding as if it was trying to clean its throat. Three people look at the street through the wide opened window. The room, where they stand, is dark and gloomy, but there is a lot of fresh air inside. And this room is furnished with a good taste. A purple Persian carpet lies on the floor; a soft, but very big and beautiful suzane , depicting a big dombra  with the rich pearl inlay, hangs on the wall. Copper and porcelain dishes and plates, high copper narrow-mouth jars, decorated with the finest needle-shaped patterns, dappled and medley tea bowls, sowbelly white kettles with the big roses stand everywhere on the shelves and on the table as well. There is a coffer standing in the corner of the room, and this coffer isn’t simple too, but decorated with the intricate forged pattern. Low Asian table, covered with the bright and vivid silken tablecloth, completes the decoration of the room. Though it’s still dark and gloomily in this room. 
Three people are looking through the window on the 1st of May celebrations.
The first one among them is nearly thirty five years old. His face is swarthy and hawk-nosed, with the sad brown eyes. He is tall and broad-shouldered. He is dressed in a white silk shirt with the straight high collar, thin belt, decorated with the silver plates with the Caucasian niello, breeches and yellow morocco boots. A velvet chapan  with the fur collar is flung over his shoulders. His hair is long. He looks like an artist or a poet. The women should be really crazy about him, with their breathe stopping while just looking at him, but now he was gloomy and silent. He stares at one point steadily and thinks about something. It seems that some difficult and maybe even unpleasant conversation was just over. Two of his conversation partners stand at some distance. One of them is a young and swarthy dzhigit , dark-eyed, reflective and with a bush of curly black hair and high forehead. He is dressed in European style. Another one is very big and strong, like a young oak. He wears a little round Kazakh cap, edged with fur, a red Bokhara robe, a wide and heavy belt, decorated with silver, and patterned box calf boots. His glance is heave and sharp at the same time. People say about this kind of glance: he doesn’t watch at you, but his eyes seem to go right through you. His lips clenched tight. His dark face froze in a fierce and furious, and at the same time painful grimace. 
The three of them are looking through the window. A prominent Kazakh poet Akhan and two of his students: Burkut and Akpar. Burkut as a poet too, but if his great teacher Akhan was the first Kazakh poet, who graduated from an upper secondary school, then Burkut studied even at the Omsk National university. He teaches currently language and literature in the senior school. Akpar is a classmate of Burkut, they’ve graduated from an upper secondary school the same year. Akpar works as a secretary at the court now. Of course, it’s not the best and so distinguished carrier for Akpar Karymsakov, who is an heir of one of the richest and noblest families Sara. Prominent and famous bays , beys  and local rulers descended from this family, but Akpar was still a person of a little importance, comparing to his prominent predecessors. But what to do? The times have changed. That’s why his lips are tightly clenched, his glance is that heavy and gloomy and his face is so withdrawn and frowning.
The three of them are looking through the window.
The celebrations have started.
The first banners and flags are rising high, the first lines of the marching people are marching down the street, carrying the golden hammer and sickle above the lines of demonstrators. Somebody started to sing a song, and this song was supported by many voices, mounted up and flew. Now the entire square was singing.
“They are singing!” Akhan said. “They are singing from happiness and joy! So the Kazakhs became the same… Idiots and fools, they even cannot understand why they are so happy”.
He turned away from the window and started to walk in the room. Akpar looked at him and said:
“Yes, you have sung once:
I was waiting for the spring in vain,
The beam of sunlight didn’t gleam…
Now the Russian ocean
Has flooded my country again…
Akhan walked in the room back and forth several times then he suddenly and unexpectedly stopped right in the middle of the room and said:
“All the trouble and disaster of ours is in our trustfulness and blind confidence. We are just like little children: we follow the one, who will beckon us over with the finger and promise us a candy. We die because of our trustfulness”.
And he started to walk again.
“Yes!” Akpar said. “Yes, it’s true! We die because of our trustfulness and our stupidity and lack of wits. That’s the reason. You are totally right, Akhan-aga !”
Akhan glanced at him and smiled sorrowful:
“Why am I right, my friend? All the time before I knew, I always knew, where should I call my people and where should I lead them. I called my people to unity and fight for freedom, for independence, and now I am looking at this march and…” He met an uneasy glance of Burkut and didn’t finish his phrase. His favorite student looked at his teacher silent and cautiously. It was obvious that he didn’t understand everything in the words in his teacher and couldn’t accept some things and ideas as well. And, sensing this incomprehension, Akhan said:
“Okay, we have done everything we could. As a result we are left totally alone. There are only three of us here, in this room, in front of this window. And there are thousands of people marching there, outside. Look at them, they are carrying the banners, they are chanting the slogans and singing “The International”! They are singing “The International”, not our national anthem! Why? Tell me, why?..” and he looked steadily at Burkut.
“You seem to be very irritated today, Akhan-aga,” Burkut said instead of an answer.
“Irritated?” Akhan stood for some time, deep in his thoughts. “No, that’s not like that, that’s a wrong word! I think, I am not irritated or angered, I am totally unsettled, I’m beaten out of reason and I cannot understand anything anymore! They decided to follow Russians. Why? Explain me, why did they do this?”
“But even Abay-bay was urging us to learn from Russians,” Burkut reminded carefully.
“To learn!” Akhan smiled ironically. “Am I against learning? Of course, we should learn. But learning,” Akhan said, waggling his finger,” doesn’t mean crouching and leaking the boots. Loving doesn’t mean that you must obey. I swear with the name of Allah, I love Pushkin and Lermontov, Tolstoy and Dostoevsky so much, as if I would be a real Russian, but is it the matter?”
“So, what’s the matter?” Burkut asked.
“The matter is, my dear, that, for example, an Indian, tied to the gun barrel (do you remember “Execution in Bombay” of Vereshchagin?) doesn’t care a lot about the matter, whether British people had Shakespeare or not. Black people were dying under the lash of a whipmaster on the plantings despite the fact that Americans had Longfellow. A Kazakh, who has lost and abandoned his national identity, turns into a vagabond and outcast. Does it matter then if he knows by heart “Eugene Onegin” or not? There is no bigger and more terrible misfortune and disaster than to severe yourself from your own people, and there is no bigger happiness than to live the life of your people, to feel them and to know that they understand and feel you too. But there is no happiness and no freedom beyond the nationality. Just lose your language, and the West will absorb you in a matter of months! Did you read Kipling? He is a great English poet, right? And he wrote:
Oh, East is East, and West is West,
And never the twain shall meet,
Till Earth and Sky stand presently
At God’s great Judgment Seat.”
“It’s written in black and white,” he continued, “There is a day and there is a night. There is East and there is West. And the West is oppressing the East and trying to consume it. That’s what Kipling is writing about”.
“Well, Kipling isn’t an example,” Burkut said, frowning a little bit. “”It’s the same invader and conqueror in the pitch helmet and with a stick. He sees and hears only his beloved England all over the world; it doesn’t matter where he is. Why should we refer to him? There are a lot of other figures in the West, our friends…”
“Really? A lot of our friends?” Akpar nodded with his head, smiling sarcastically. He only listened and didn’t say anything till now. “Well, maybe, maybe! A bunch of coward friends and millions of enemies, armed with the real weapons, with Browning guns and machine guns! And these friends are silent, while the enemies are acting…”
He wanted to add something else, but stopped suddenly, looking at Akhan.
“Wait,” Burkut said. “The West wants to swallow and consume the East. That’s true. England squeezes India like a lemon. It’s true as well. But it seems that you refer it to our steppe as well? Are Russians and Englishmen the same for you? What do the Russians need from us? The land? But there’s no lack of their own land!”
“That’s the point!” Akpar turned on his heel to Akhan. “That’s exactly what they want! They want our land. They have sateless and insatiable eyes and sticky fingers, and they want our fields and our steppe, our cattle! And our ravines and valleys! And the gardens located in these valleys! Other fifty-sixty years will pass like this, and you will remember my words! We will have not land at all, not even a little patch of land in order to feed a dozen of the black sheep! The Kazakh folk degenerated, weakened and lost heart. It has neither a chieftain nor a teacher”.
“So what do you offer us to do? Do you want to call for the battle again?” Burkut sneered. “Do you need another Kenesary ?”
“Not Kenesary, but…” he didn’t finish his phrase again.
“It seems that even Kenesary would be unable to help here,” Akhan said with a said smile. “Even Timur will not help here. Where is his empire? He died, and his state shred like a bad cloth. And there are only steppes, ravines and hills now on the place where Otrar stood, one of the greatest cities of the Middle Aged East. Do you remember an empire of Alexander the Great? How it was? The entire world has never seen an Empire like that. It was stretched from Balkans to India. But Iskander died, and his empire fell into decay. No, Burkut, the time of conquerors is over… The new states are being built not on the bones of the conquered people now. It’s in the past, when Russia was being called a prison of the folks…”
“And what is now?” Akpar asked.
“And now each folk praises it for its liberation! Can you hear how do they shout and sing behind the window? But we are not there, not with them. We are sitting behind the windows. But it’s worse than death for a writer, my dear friends! The real writer and poet follow his people even after his death, he is always with his people, like a shadow, he is the people’s conscience, the people’s pride, the people’s mind and the people’s honor… But the kinds like us, who just sit hiding and keep silent…” he halted for a moment, thinking, and then finished: “It’s like with an albatross”.
“An albatross?” Akpar asked confused and wondering. “I guess it’s a sea bird, right?”
“Yes, it’s a sea bird, you are right,” Akhan replied, nodding. “And there was one great poet who wrote a poem about this bird. The sailors captured an albatross and let him on the deck. And a big and strong bird walks on the desk, it is eager to fly up into the sky, but it cannot fly… The wings don’t allow it to fly, because these wings are that big and wide, that a big width is needed in order to spread the wings like that, but there was not enough space for that… The space is needed, but where can you find it? On the desk?..”
“So what?” Burkut asked.
“Don’t you understand it? “You are the same, poet,” Baudelaire says, this is his poem, and this poem was translated by P.Y., it means Pavel Yakubovich, a prominent Russian writer. It’s the same with you, a poet, as you can fly only when you are surrounded by the people you love and understand when you are in a known environment. And the poet’s environment is people. If the people don’t need the poet, so nobody needs him. Even he himself. And what can you see? The people are there, while we are here, separated from the people. And if it’s really like this, it means that we have the only one path”.
“What path?” Burkut asked. “What path, teacher?”
Akhan started to walk in circles in the room again. Both of his students looked at him silently. Suddenly he approached the window, took the brace of window with his hand and stood like this motionless for about a minute. When he started to talk again, his voice was silent and reflective.
“I wanted to achieve a lot in this life,” he said. “I also promised a lot, but I did nothing. Nothing at all! Can you imagine it?” he grinned. “I was walking, walking, being happy, singing, having fun, and once I suddenly looked around and found out that I am standing alone in the middle of a vast desert. Heat, sands, death… But there were no powers anymore to try to come back… That’s all! The end! I was lost in the sands…”
“And is it you saying something like that?” Akpar asked him in bewilderment. “Is it you, whose songs are known by every guy and girl and being memorized and sung in every Kazakh aul ?”
“Yes, I am really good in romance and love poetry,” Akhan smiled sadly. “I can sing sweet. But it’s something everybody can do. But is it needed now? Do the people really need it today?”
“And what do they need? What do the people need today? Tell us, teacher!” Burkut asked avidly.
“I thought that people need and want freedom. And I was always calling people for freedom and liberation,” Akhan responded. “They asked me: from whom should we be liberated? And I answered them: from Russians. And I also always told my people about the power of unity. And that the power of my people was actually in unity. I was calling my people to unify and stand together, against the Russians. But it appeared that my people are searching for this freedom in their own way and that they understand unity in a different way as well. Do you hear what kind of songs do they sing there now? And they are marching all together under one and the same red banner. Russians and Kazakhs, all together! And they also consider the words “nationalism” and “nationalist” being a curse and term of offense! Both the Kazakhs and the Russians! And that’s the point!”
“Once you used to talk different, teacher,” Akpar said, looking attentively at Akhan.
“Once I used to talk different?..” Akhan asked, and something important and significant was heard in his voice again. “Yes, that’s true… Once… But I didn’t understand a lot of things at that time! It would be even more correct to say that I didn’t understand anything at all. Okay, let us not remember what happened long time ago… Do you remember the poetry of Blok? This one:
They will bury you, bury you deep under the ground,
A little hill on your grave will be covered with grass.
And we will hear how somewhere far and high
Warn rain falls on the earth…”
He read this poetry till the end and said:
“Here it is! And you say – one day… A silly man is flutters and tears around, looking for his place, and his place appears to be right here!”
“Where?” Burkut asked uneasily and approached Akhan. “Teacher, why have you read this poetry now?”
“A grave, this place is being called a grave,” Akhan said. “There is nothing more secure and trusted in the world than a grave. Nothing will affect it, either fire or bullet”.
He went and laid down right on the blanket, even without taking his boots off, and closed his eyes.
“Teacher,” Burkut called him shyly. He suddenly started to feel terrible fear. It seemed to him that he even felt a thorny breath of death. There was not enough air in the room to breathe. He felt tightness of his chest. “Akhan-aga,” he called again. But the teacher didn’t reply again. His eyes were closed, his lips were clenched, but he didn’t sleep. One could tell it from his fast and wavy breathing. 
An old woman entered the room. She put a jerk with the kumiss , three drinking bowls and left the room in silence. Once the door was shut behind her, Akhan raised form the bed and approached the table. His movements were measured, confident and fine. He took the dipper and started to mix with it the yellow viscous liquid. It was a kumiss of the young mares, who gave recently a birth to the colts.  This kind of kumiss was regularly brought to him from the far djaylyau  in the mountains. Then he poured the kumiss into the drinking bowls and said:
“Try it, please, my friends!”
And he took a little gulp himself.
They drank silently during several minutes.
“That’s a good kumiss,” Burkud said, drying his lips with satisfaction. “Only you have kumiss like this one! Why aren’t you drinking it yourself, Akhan-aga? You just tried it and put it back on the table”.
“No stomach for that now,” Akhan said and made a wry face. He stood up and started to walk in the room again.
Burkut looked at him and couldn’t stand it anymore:
“Akhan-aga, stop torturing yourself!” he said, jumping from his seat. “Are you scared of something? Are you scared that somebody could hurt you? It will never happen! The Soviet authorities punish only its true, bloody enemies! Are you an enemy?”
Akhan sneered:
“You understand the word “enemy” in a strange way. Do you think that an enemy is the one destroying the bridges and setting ablaze the auls and warehouses? No. They consider anybody who rises up against their ideas and their line being an enemy. And their idea is to tar everyone with the same brush. To make all the people completely the same, without any difference between them. In order to achieve it you should extinguish, lull and weaken their minds and to work your will upon them. And in order to achieve it, you should destroy everybody who protects and supports this mind and free will in people, to destroy everybody who is able to wake this mind, to raise it properly and to lead it. It means, you need to destroy the best representatives of the folk. That’s why they start to oppress and repress the poets, thinkers, philosophers, artists and teachers. They should be destroyed immediately. That’s how my fate will be as well”. 
“Does it mean that ours fates will be the same?” Burkut asked.
“No, you are different,” Akhan responded. “You are young and strong, it will be not so easy to conquer and defeat you. You will be able to spread your wings”.
“And you?”
“And I am old, my hair is gray, and I am too tired already… I had my wings too, but they are raveled, and the feathers have fallen. I wish I could fly to the night shelter now… I cannot even show the path for you! I was left nothing, only anger and rage. What kind of an advisor could it be from anger and rage? I can tell you only one thing: love your people! Love your people with your whole hearts! Love your people not like me, but in your own way,” he came to his students and hugged their shoulders. “Go now! Walk a little bit, watch the celebrations, and I… I am tired, I think I will lay down a little bit,” he concluded and saw them off the premises. 

On the first floor they met with two Red Army soldiers. The soldiers were going upstairs and were in haste, so they didn’t even pay attention to the friends. Burkut hesitated for a moment, but Akpar took rapidly his hand and led him away. 
“For whom did they come?” Burkut asked when they found themselves outside, in the street.
“Let’s leave as soon as possible!” Akpar ordered and almost ran.
It was crowded and noisy around. The demonstration was over, but the day was sunny and warm, and people didn’t want to leave and go back home. Little groups of dancing and singing people appeared from time to time everywhere in the streets. Joining their hands, people walked in the streets, and there was even a big crowd gathered in front of one little wooden house. People sang there, and a tall and thin man stood in front of the wide opened window and sang.
The friends halted.
A think and skinny man sang:
The path is running far away,
And I am walking down this path.
Who knows and who can tell,
How many days and nights should I walk this path?
I hit the road merrily,
But the way runs far away…
Will I be able to reach my target one day?
Or will the winds blow my ashes
Above the piles of steppe sand?..
Yes, the winds will read the last rites…
The path is wide and far…
“He is singing a really scary and horrible song,” Burkut said. “There is joy and happiness here, and he decided to sing such a scary song…”
“Well, I suppose, this song passes our current mood absolutely perfect now,” Akpar smiled lightly. “It seems that he has chosen this song with intention! Ohh, teacher, teacher!..”
“Let’s go,” Burkut said, frowning. “There is an orchestra approaching”.
They crossed to the other side of the street and halted, thinking of where they should go now. Suddenly Burkut grasped his friend’s hands and pointed with his hand:
“Look, look!”
They stood now on another side of the street, at catty-corner the Akhan’s house. The window frame of the upper floor opened wide suddenly with a loud and sharp sound, as it was hit with the fist. The poet stood there and looked at the street.
“What is he doing?!” Burkut shouted suddenly.
Akhan jumped suddenly up on the window sill and froe there for a moment, then he made a sudden and rush movement, almost unnoticeable, and then jumped into the three-storey abyss, opened under him. 
“Stop!” Burkut shouted loud. “Stop!” and he rushed running to the place, where a huge crows was already gathering and growing in numbers. Their teacher laid on the causeway, his face down and his hands widespread, and there was a big dark slop flowing under him. He was still alive, because, when the policeman came to him, and the crowd parted and made a way for him silently, he bend down to Akhan and took his hand, and Akhan opened his eyes slowly and then closed them again. 
Akpar almost forced Burkut to leave the crowd and saw him to his home.
“Let’s go, let’s go,” he said. “We should come into their sight. There will be an investigation conducted, with all these questioning and interrogations, but it won’t help Akhan anymore”.
They passed a block of the city, and then Burkut suddenly stopped.
“No, the deaths like that shouldn’t be left unpunished,” he said with a strong conviction. “Somebody should be held responsible for every drop of blood of our teacher”.
“Of course, of course,” Akpar agreed with him hastily. “Of course, Burkut, you are absolutely right. Every drop of his blood will be avenged”.
Burkut stood for some time, thinking. It was visible, how his cheekbones and jaw muscles moved. 
“And damn me, if I will forget about this!” he said finally.
“Of course,” Akpar nodded. “Of course, Burkut. Here is my hand! There will be revenge for our teacher!”
“Revenge,” Burkut confirmed. He stood silent for some time, deep in his thoughts and then added: “There will be ruthless and pitiless revenge for his enemies! For each of them!”

II
Burkut was seven years old, when he was taken from his native aul and brought to study to Karnak madrassa , the best and highest school of Islamic knowledge and wisdom in Central Asia. He still remembers that hot summer day. It was airless and motionless around. Scorching sun was shining in the over-heated sky. Madrassa stands on the hill, so only the top of it – its domes, minarets and prayer-towers – are visible, while all the rest faded in the thick and dark trees and bushes. The boy walked through the yard and he met old men in white turbans and with subha  in their hands and slow and indolent mullahs with the sharp beards everywhere. Everybody was walking silent and soft here and speaking noiseless. Then he saw two students, sitting under the tree and reading something from the big and massive book, laying in front of them. They swinging from one side to another, like bubbleheads. But once mullah approached them and passed them, they jumped immediately from their places and started to bow. Though the elder one among them was nearly thirty years old. Burkut was walking and wondering there all the time. After the mountains, vast banks and blue lakes these rainbow minarets, green turbans, patterned bright colored clothes amazed and wondered Burkut with a rave of colors and its splendor. He was ready to laugh and to shout from the merry and happy amazement, when he was looking at the fine patterned domes and benches and moldings of Ahmet Yassawi Mosque. He was ready to melt from his feelings when he entered the thick and dark greenery of the fruit gardens, hidden from the strangers’ looks with the high duvals . He was amazed by the splendor of the bazaars: yellow, green and orange melons, covered with the thing snake like patterns; donkeys, loaded with different kinds of baggage and freight; shaggy and wooly purple carpets, spread right on the ground…
But the study started, and he felt from the first days of his study that he desperately wanted either to die or at least to escape somewhere far away from here, to the ends of the earth. He was forced on his knees. He couldn’t manage to cope with this complicated and intricate Arabic ligature, and that’s why he was constantly neaten by his teachers and fell asleep in tears. He never had a shelter there. His fellow students teased him and made jokes, his teachers drove him away. One year passed like this. But till the beginning of the second year he read Qur’an fluent, and when he was twelve years old, he could already speak Arabic, Farsi and Chagatai language, cited The Shahnameh,  Layla and Majnoun and rehearsed and told over easily many fairy-tales and stories from One Thousand and One Nights. Probably, he could finally make it to become a good mullah or maybe even a sheikh, if only his father wouldn’t arrive unexpectedly and take him to Akshatyr, to the Russian upper secondary school, when Burkut was thirteen years old. The first day of his being in that city Burkut remembered unbelievable clear and with all the details till now. He remembered the cliff coasts of the Irtysh River, a huge town with the wide and spacious streets, two-storied stone houses, roofed with iron; a big crowd at the market and in the squares of the city, but this crowd didn’t look even close to the one Burkut used to see when he was in Turkestan. There were no chadors, chapans, burquas, skull-caps and fur-caps, but it was something completely different: hats, caps, peak caps. He had to learn Russian language instead of Chagatai language while he studied at the upper secondary school. And he had to work hard in order to learn it good and fast! He had to write dictations and essays. If he made at least three mistakes, he received only a “three” note, and if he made five mistakes or more, his note was “one”, “insufficient”! He stuck on the “sufficient” note and he never reached the “five”, excellent note, though he learned to speak Russian fluently very fast and easily. But he never forgot the beautiful and splendid Asian world with all its fairy-tales, stories, songs and wonderful poetry. He studied now classical Kazakh literature: “Koblandy”, “Kozy-Korpesh and Bayab-Slu” and others. He used to read to tatters the thin lithographic brochures and books, published in Kazan or Tashkent. He loved the poetry of Abay a lot. They reminded him of his native aul and about those days, when he was small and used to run with his friends, the same think and skinny boys with dark-skinned fast legs, to the nearest river to make some fishing. One remembrance was still very fresh in his memory, though there was nothing special and significant in it. He walks along the river bank through the little, but very merry and nice green spinney and read in a low voice some poems of Abay. There were a lot of people, walking around, but somehow nobody paid any attention to him: here is a young man walking and reading the poetry, there’s nothing so special in it. Maybe, he is a little bit drunk, who knows? And who cares about it? It seems that everybody is a little bit drunk in this warm and beautiful May or June day. But this evening, which seemed to be an ordinary evening in the long line of the similar evenings for someone else, was really special for Burkut, as he felt in himself trembling and light agitation of the newly born poem for the first time in his life. Later he used to tell to himself: “I’ve heard the lion’s roar inside of me this evening”. He called the voice of his Muse the lion’s roar. He wrote his first poem this evening. On the next morning he wrote the second one. Then there was the third poem, and then the fourth… The new poems seethed inside of him with such a strong power and agitation, that he walked all day long, as if he was deafened with their sound. And this sound of the poems surrounded him during the days, came to him in the nights, and made him singing all the time, this sound and feeling of poetry was eager to come out and to lie on the paper. One year later Burkut became a popular young poet, and people started to talk about him, and one another year later he met Akhan and became his student. Since that time his poems, previously singing about the words about love, friendship, joy, kumiss and nature, started to include the words like: “Homeland”, “My Kazahkia”, “Brother Kazakh”. It came at the same time with the revolution, shooting in the streets, red flags and banners, arrested policemen and totally destroyed shops of “Shahvorostov Brothers”. People started to divide themselves into the groups and parties; the barricades were erected on one of the streets. Tall and thin man with the long hair and wearing nose glasses declared the formation of the Soviet Republic. This day Burkut wrote his poem “My Kazakh Brothers”, and there was neither happiness nor joy in this poem anymore, but afterthoughts and fear for the future. Joy, filling his first, maybe not so perfect poems and songs, disappeared. Akhan died in these hard and terrible years. His death was like a knife stroke targeted Burkut’s heart. He could neither recognize the fact of his death and accept it, nor to explain it and its reasons to himself. “No, he didn’t commit a suicide, he simply couldn’t do it! He was killed!” he said to himself and to everybody and remembered those two Red Army soldiers. And if somebody asked him: “Who killed him?” – Burkut said nothing and just pointed silently with his hand in the Western direction. This time Akpar seized his young soul. It seemed that the fate created them for friendship or, the opposite, for the deadly enmity between each other. They were born in the same district, enrolled at the upper secondary school in the same year and graduated from it simultaneously. They sat together at the same desk, they used to flirt with the same girls, and their friends used to say about them: “Yes, they are friends, but enemies”, “Although they are enemies, they are friends” and things like that. And there were really a lot of reasons for that. For example, the poetry. It seems that there is no Kazakh who didn’t write some poetry, when he was young. Akpar used to write some poetry too. One local newspaper published usually his brisk and a little bit bold songs, later though he started to publish his poetry in the magazines like “Aykap” and “Sana” and started to write the poems. Though there was not so much actually poetry in these poems, but there was enough civic consciousness and public spirit in them. And what kind of public spirit! The young poet recalled and referred in his poems to Alash-Khan, Khan Albay, Kenesary. He called on all of them to rise from their graves and to lead their people either to victory or to death. His words were loud and solemn, each line ended with an exclamation mark. When Akhan read these poems, he said tentatively: “Well, your feelings are good; one can forgive you a lot because of them”. It was the only one praise Akpar heard from his great teacher. On the contrary, he praised Burkut a lot and lavish. Their teacher Akhan always lacked moderation, restraint and wise tact, unfortunately. He either destroyed or praised one to high heaven. As for Burkut, he even called him genius. It was the first reason for rivalry between Burkut and Akpar.
The second reason was of other character. Both of the friends liked the same girl, but she preferred Burkut. The girl’s name was Olga and she was a daughter of director of the upper secondary school, where the friends studied. She was tall and slender and had long beautiful chestnut hair and big perfectly clear eyes. Both poets dedicated their poems and songs to her, both of them wrote into her album, both of them composed the songs for her and performed them as well. Olga grew up in these places, and Kazakh language was her second mother tongue. And the fact that she preferred Burkut, drew Akpar in despair. He really couldn’t understand why Burkut always appears on the first place and why this uneducated and impolite village guy could be better than him. Burkut wasn’ not an improviser, his poetry technique was also relatively weak and had nothing significant, and he cannot deliver the speeches or hold conversations that easily and fluent like Akpar. But as Akpar was a clever, intelligent and practical man, he immediately understood one thing: it would be really silly and wrong to be at sword points with the one, who can serve and help you in the future, and whose help you could possibly use. It was needed only to find the needed lever and to press it. And Akpar found the lever like this. It was death of their teacher. Akpar decided to start from it.
And he started. When he told Burkut that it would be good to organize the commemoration feast for Akhan (forty days since the death of their teacher was close to pass), Burkut was really touched, and he was on the verge of tears. “Yes, of course!” he exclaimed and then added: “Well done, Akpar! You are his real student and friend!” 
“But we need to make an invitation list carefully,” Akpar said. “We cannot allow some strangers and outsiders to join this feast”.
“That’s right,” Burkut agreed.
“I think we could gather at Potapov’s restaurant,” Akpar went on. “It is usually quiet and calm there in the afternoon. We could order the separate cabinet and lock the doors there, in order to prevent the strangers to mix with our company and to have some privacy. We will need to talk about something”.
Burkut agreed with it too. Potapov’s restaurant was created for the meetings and gatherings like that. Like all the similar restaurants form the NEP  times, this one was decorated with the artificial palms, muffled with the dark felting and with the leaves, painted with the green color. The hall was decorated with the paintings depicting Nymphen and Thyiads. A “Roman” band performed there: violin, guitar and piano. The gypsies were singing. Women with the blue circles around their eyes and red lips sat at the tables. There was a lot of silk, velvet and atlas at this restaurant, smell of powder, fried onions and cigarettes was everywhere around. Thus, everything was there as it should be at the restaurant: the music is thundering and rattling, the gypsies are shouting and shrieking, and the noiseless and fast waiters with the black bow-ties and shining lapels are running around all of this mess. Thus, there was an ordinary restaurant, nothing special. Almost all the restaurants of the NEP times are of this kind, some of them a little bit cleaner and better, some others a little bit simpler or dirtier. 
The guests of the commemoration feast got a separate cabinet: a big and spacious room for about forty people. A big table stands in the middle of this room, a huge and tasteless copy of “The last day of Popmeii” hang on the wall. Burkut glanced at this picture and thought: the fact that this picture appeared in this place, full of NEPmen, prostitutes and spenders, obviously has a hidden meaning.
There are a lot of guests, but they all sit silent. There is neither wine, nor vodka on the table, only the jars with kumiss and plates with Kazakh national dishes. Burkut sat at the head of the table. Next to him sat his countryman (they are from the same aul) and distant relative Hassan. He is a poet and singer as well, but his songs are completely different comparing to the songs and poetry of Burkut. Hassan comes from a poor family, his father worked hard for the rich people, Russians and Kazakhs, all the time and left for his son two things only: to endure and to work hard. This fate, prepared for Hassan by his father, seemed to be inevitable, but the revolution changed everything. It wasn’t clear enough for him, why Burkut invited him here. He is from completely different company. Akpar stands at the window, smokes and looks at Burkut. Hassan took the dombra to play a little bit, but then put it aside, hardly even touching its strings. 
“There is no one to play on it now, no one,” Burkut sighed. “Our singer has died. He left us at the most terrible and hard moment. He just left us…”
“He left us, you say?” Akpar nodded: “No, he hasn’t left us. He didn’t leave this live voluntarily; he was forced out of it. He tried to escape the pursuit and chase away. He was chased, angry dogs were nearly catching him, but he fooled them and escaped…”
Hassan turned his head and looked at Burkut.
“Well, we can tell that he left us, of course,” Burkut spoke. “But whatever people say, the truth is the one: our teacher is not with us anymore. But at the moment when he was leaving us, he left us a message: “My children, Kazakhs, hold your hands and stay always together, supporting each other, don’t lose the sight of each other. We are the best representatives of our long time suffering people and we are the only one hope of Kazakh folk. Our duty is to stand united for our people. To stay united in the name of our fight. This fight will be difficult and unequal, not all of us will come alive from this fight, but there is no other path for us, my friends””.
“There is no other path,” Akpar repeated like an echo. Hassan touched the strings lightly again, and the sad and sorrowful sounds of “Aqasaq-kulan” filled the room. 
Burkut looked at him and went on:
“Forty days passed. Only forty days! Though I felt that nearly half a century passed! There was not a single night since that day when I saw the dead body of our teacher spread on the causeway when I was able to close my eyes and sleep. Anger and rage captured me, brothers. Akpar said everything right: our teacher didn’t die, he was killed, and he was driven forcibly into his grave. And there is no one to be held accountable for it now… The times, when a knight took his swords and went to the field alone against forty enemies, have passed long ago… The enemies are invisible now, and it doesn’t matter how many of them there are. And there are the enemies everywhere, hidden behind each bush. I understood it clearly during these dark and terrible days. Akhan-aga’s death became a scary limit and a red-line for us”.
The sounds of dombra faded. Hassan put the instrument on the chair carefully and stood up.
“Death of Akhan is an open wound,” he said. “When I stood at his grave, I couldn’t even talk; I was just staying and crying. All of us are walking in our beloved steppe, the same sun shines in the sky above our heads, the same mountains surround us, but once you read the poems of Akhan-aga, you start to understand, that he saw that all with the eyes of a genius. He saw everything brighter, clearer and more distinct than us. When you listen to his poems and his songs, you can see the steppe in all its splendor and beauty, just like Akhan-aga”.
“Here it is!” Burkut exclaimed. “You just said the right and exact words! We cannot forget about his death, we cannot forgive his death. Those, who did it, can never be forgiven! Never!”
“Who are those people?..” Hassan asked confused and in disbelief.
“His enemies, the culprits of his death,” Burkut responded.
“The culprits!” Hassan sighed. “There is a problem that there are no culprits. There is the only one culprit, and this culprit is he himself. He executed himself, and his death is a lesson for all of us. The one who turns his back to the people is doomed to death. Remember and learn this lesson good, Burkut! Do you remember the story of Kasym?”
“The story of Kasym?” Burkut asked again quizzically. “How does it come into picture?..”
“It does come into picture,” Hassan said persistently. “Just think about this story. Think about it good”.
There was the story of Kasym: once an old man Moldabek from an old family of argyns brought to their aul from the city Akshatyr an orphan, a Russian boy of seven years oldKostya. Kostya had blue eyes, curly hair and was so shy and so far from the life of adults that he even had no idea about his family name. An old man brought Kostya to their home as a helper and herdboy and left him as his son. He didn’t have his own children, so Kostya became like a good son for him, so an old man renamed him into Kasym Moldabekov. A boy started to call an old man “ake” – “father” and his wife Bigayshu – “apa”, “mother”. His step parents – akt and apa – dressed him in Kazakh fur hat and Kazakh chapan, got for him the slippers for a daily life and boots for holidays and celebrations, and Kasym remained a Kazakh until his military age. He used to play with Kazakh children their games, participated in baige , but when he was nineteen years old, he was called to the military committee, his head was shaved, and he received his military uniform, was taught to shoot a little bit and sent to the Western Front. It was summer of 1916. In 1919 Kasym came back home, to his native aul. But there was no joy for him in his coming home, because instead of his beloved aul, where he grew up and spent his best years, he found piles of ashes and ruins. Two days before his arrival the people of Dutov  were here. They’ve killed the step-parents of Kasym: “Don’t help the Bolsheviks, dirty dogs!” Kasym roamed all day long in the destroyed aul, sat with the crying and weeping old women, talked to the old men, who looked like they’ve turned into stone from their despair. A troop of Red Army soldiers rode to the aul at the evening. They were sent to chase Dutov and his people. But at the request of the old women the commander of the troop left at the aul about a dozen of soldiers to help the inhabitants to dig the graves for the killed ones, as there was no grown up, healthy and strong man left in the village after an attack. Preparing the bodies for the burial and desperate commemoration continued till the late evening. When it was already late, tired soldiers finished digging a big mass grave and started to put there the killed people, shot and axed down. They’ve simply piled them. There was a time to bury Kasym’s mother as well. The body was wrapped in an old woolen blanket, and Kasym carried her killed mother to the grave. Suddenly one old woman stopped him right next to the grave. She grasped Kasym’s hand and, lame, blowzy, tumbled, skinny and scary like a witch, and shouted loud and desperately:
“Kasym! Our beloved Kasym, light of our eyes! Did we hurt somehow these blue-eyed butchers? What have we done to them to deserve it? Why did they treat us like that? Kasym, you yourself were with them and you were among them, so tell us: what was wrong with us, that they did it? Tell us!”
“Wait, mother,” Kasym said almost calmly. “Let us bury the dead first and then we will be able to talk”.
But there was no chance to talk to him anymore. The soldiers brought him on his military coat in the morning. One of his feet was bare. He shot himself in the chest. He pulled the trigger with a thumb of his foot. His rifle lied about. Bullet came one the distance of one finger from his heart. He was transported to the nearest police station and then sent to the local hospital, where he spent almost one year. In spring 1920 he came back to his aul and started to build the house immediately, at the same place, where an old one was built. The new aul emerged.
Many people here knew this sad and at the same time bright and hopeful human story. Burkut was familiar with it as well. He even wanted to write a book named “Brother”, based on this story.
“So,” Hassan said, looking steadily at Burkut, “think very well about this story and you will understand something. We fought for our national liberation in 1916, and it was a fight not against the Russians, but rather against the Russian tsar. And now, when Russians achieved liberation for all of us, people and folks of the former Russian Empire, our path is to walk with them together”.
“The Russians killed our teacher,” Akpar said.
“That’s nonsense!” Hassan said with a wince. “Akhan committed a suicide just because he couldn’t find his place in this life. He understood: people need neither he himself, nor his teaching and his ideas, and it means that he had to admit his mistake and refused everything he taught us before. But he didn’t have enough courage for a step like that. Death appeared to be something easier and more accessible. That’s all. The one, who doesn’t want to live too, can follow his example, of course. But the one, who knows his or her past and present day hopes for tomorrow and lives for future. Akhan didn’t have this “tomorrow””.
“It seems that you really have this “tomorrow”,” Akpar sneered. “Are you so confident that you know it well? Can you tell me how it is? Didn’t your past teach you anything? Kasym, whose mother and father were killed by Russians, understood something, and what about you? Stop and listen to me! There were so many of those, who plundered and burnt our lands and cities, killed our brothers, attempted to destroy us! There were not only Genghis Khan, Batu Khan and Timur! There were also Huns, Dzungar people and only Allah knows who else came on our lands and tried to conquer us! And we could have been totally destroyed and disappear from the earth, if only our Khans wouldn’t understand and get an idea to come and bow to the Russian rulers. They’ve lost the freedom, that’s truth, but they’ve saved the people. I am thankful for that”.
“You are thankful to an empty place,” a tall and thin dzigit, who stood next to the door, said with an ironical smile. “The last Romanov was shot by Bolsheviks!”
“That’s right!” Akpar exclaimed. “He was shot! Now we are free again. The word “Kaz-akh” actually means “a free man”. A holy and high task stands no in front of us: we should unite and stand together for our future. “All the Kazakhs should join the one common family”. That’s what we all need to write today on our banners”.
“Who prevents you from doing it?” Hassan asked irritated. “Everybody will join you under this banner”.
“Really?” Akpar said, blinking mockingly. “And what about the class struggle? Equality? Russians? Strata? Classes? Rich and poor people? Religion? Old customs and traditions? What do we suppose to do with it all? The Bolsheviks say: turn the mosques into the stables; a poor one can rob a rich one; women should go ahead, while the men should retreat; don’t pay any attention to the old people and their traditions! But we don’t want it to be like that. And we will fight against it”.
“Against whom?” Hassan shouted, jumping rapidly from his seat. “For whom? You are a silly man! What do you think: there are no rich and poor people in the steppe? There are no beys and no workers? Ohh dear!..” he didn’t complete his speech.
“Don’t even dare to divide my people into two halves!” Akpar shouted and hit the table with his fist. “My people aren’t that big! All the traitors do it like this. It’s an old rule: “Divide and rule”!”
“Did you think about what are you calling the people for?” Hassan shouted too. “Don’t your words smell with the gun powder and blood? You want the bloody khans to come to the steppe again, and the generals on the white horses riding behind them! And there will be killings and destroying again. Killings, robbing, slavery. But it will never be like that again! Do you hear me, Akpar? Never! You cannot bring the past back. The people, who used to roam for centuries in the steppe, like a pack of saigas, have finally found the shepherd!” 
“And who is this shepherd? Is it a Red Army soldier with a little red star on his helmet? We’ve seen them when they went to take and arrest our teacher!” Akpar burst into laughter. “God with us, if there will be a shepherd like that! We don’t need it anymore! And don’t compare our people to the pack of saigas! You better compare it with the flight of eagles, it will be more correct! And I want to tell you, Hassan: don’t try to stand on our way, don’t be our enemy, because we will simply destroy you, if you’ll dare to!”
“We will see it!” Hassan said, standing up from his seat and leaving the table. “I’ve heard more serious and scary threats than yours, and from more serious people than you”.
“I am not threatening you, I am just telling you: if you will stand against us, you will lose your head,” Akpar said in a loud and strong voice.
“Come on, that’s enough!” everybody shouted from all the sides, trying to calm the men down. “Where did we come to: to the commemoration feast of to the battlefield?”
“Really, that’s enough,” Hassan said and took his dombra in his hands. The light and silver motive of “Aqsaq-kulan” streamed in the room again. The noise faded. It was very silent in the room now, and the setting sun rushed into the room, pouring yellow and purple light around. “The last day of Pompeii” flamed up like a big wound.
“Teacher, teacher,” Burkut sighed, “what have you done to all of us, teacher?.. If you didn’t have any kind of mercy for yourself, I wish you had some mercy for us…”
“Yes, the people will never ever forgive the Bolsheviks this death,” Akpar said.
“Talk about yourself and in your own name, not in the name of the people!” Hassan exclaimed. “The people didn’t charge you with speaking on their behalf!”
“Why is that?” Akpar wondered arrogant and lofty. “Do you think that I am not a son and part of my people?”
“The son!” Hassan said and even put his dombra aside. “That’s a good son! A son with a whip in his hands! And you want to chase your own people with this whip, like the sheep, into the abyss! You and this friend of yours,” he added, pointing at Burkut.
“Hey, you!..” Burkut was that much shocked and went that mad that he couldn’t even chose the words to express himself. “And you yourself! Who are you? What are you? I am a singer, I am akyn, a poet, I sing about the sufferings of my people, and the people sing my songs. And what do you do? Tell me!”
“I’m fighting against the kinds like you!” Hassan shouted and suddenly pulled the tablecloth that strong, that all the plates and jars, standing on the table, flew down on the floor. Everybody jumped from their seats.
“Let me go!” Burkut roared and broke forth from the hands of his neighbor. 
Nobody knows how it all could end up, if the door wouldn’t open wide suddenly, and a waiter with the table-napkins wouldn’t appear. 
“Did you call for me? Are you willing to order something else?” he asked, and these calm and ordinary words and, the most important, the voice, which declared these words, calmed everything down immediately. Burkut sat heavily on his seat. Hassan took his dombra again and started to play lightly again, playing with the strings of the instrument. Akpar went closer to the window.
“How much should we pay?” one of the guests asked.
“Don’t worry, everything is already paid!” Akpar said and brushed the matter of the waiter’s question, telling him: “No, thanks, we don’t need anything else. We are leaving now!”
“You know what I want to tell you,” Hassan said sullen and gloomy to Burkut, when the waiter left the room. “Of course, you are a poet. You are even a good poet. The people love and sing your songs. It’s truth… But you still don’t know your people! It’s hard to bring you to the new aul! You are simply scared of it. You are scared of your potential wrongness and injustice. Try to overcome yourself and travel all over the country, or visit at least a couple of other auls, where you haven’t been yet. Go and see everything yourself, see the people, talk to the people and think about what you’ll hear from them and what you’ll see. And then we will talk with you. What’s the ourpose of wasting the words, powers and efforts now?
Then he left, and all the rest of the guests followed him. There were only two people remaining in an empty room after several minutes: Burkut and Akpar.
“Please, take a seat!” Burkut invited his friend. “Look, how fast they all escaped! One by one, one by one! Here is the price of their words and their deeds, Akpar! When it will come to the deed and action, they all will escape. And there was even no deed or action here now, just the scary for them words “Kazakh” and “nation”,” he smiled wry: “Yes, one should fear the words like that nowadays,” he said.
Akpar kept silent. He sat and looked at Burkut with an obvious girt and mock, and it finally made Burkut to really explode.
“Why are you laughing?” he asked. “Are the words I am saying funny for you? Why didn’t you leave with them then?”
Akpar didn’t even move. 
“You look at the wrong direction,” he said. “You cannot distinguish your friend from your enemy, that’s why you are always alone. And you will be always alone, if you won’t try to learn something and to change yourself. But just remember: we both were present at the site and at the moment of our teacher’s death. We have seen his killers, right?”
“So what?” Burkut asked.
“He spent his last two hours with us as well, right?” Akpar continued. “Can you understand it finally or not? You say: “Go!” I have no place to go from you, our teacher left us both to continue his great deed and to realize his ideas. So what do our little and unimportant quarrels and argues matter comparing to this big task? And does it finally matter that your songs are better than mine, or that Olga loves you, while she feels nothing towards me? That’s the fate! But we shouldn’t think about the things like that now. Here is my hand! You’ve never had and you will never have a friend more loyal and devoted than me! If you are really ready to share this heavy burden with me”.
“What burden?” Burkut asked. 
“The burden of the people’s liberation, the burden of the fight for our people, my dear friend,” Akpar responded. “Give me your hand! It could be really heavy and almost unbearable burden, I know and understand it very well, but there is nothing except us to accept it and to take it. You’ve seen yourself what was happening here,” Akpar said, stretching his hand to Burkut. Burkut has shaken in it in a friendly and strong handshake, and they both stood like this, motionless, almost during a minute. Akpar released his hand first and took a Browning out of his pocket.
“Here, take it! I have one,” he said. “I hope that you know how to deal with it. No?” Akpar nodded with his head. “A fighter! Unable to fight! But don’t worry, it’s okay, I will teach you everything! This is very useful for us. You can just move your finger – and the man is already dead. Tsss! It’s loaded”.
Burkut took the Browning carefully, fingered it over a little bit and them gave it back to Akpar.
“Take it back! I don’t think I need it!” he said with a smile. “Anyway, I don’t know how to deal with it. I don’t need it! The word is my weapon!”
Akpar put the Browning back into his pocket.
“Okay, let’s go,” You won’t be able to do a lot with the word though, because there are not so much people who really understands it and understands it properly. You need something else as well!” Akpar said and shook his fist. “You need this and you need to know how to hit with it. You will understand it soon! Let’s go!”
They left the room and appeared in the hall. It was too noisy in the halls and some people were nearly fighting. A big and massive spotted dzigit, probably a bouncer, pulled a drunken man, holding his shoulder. The drunken man shouted and exclaimed something from time to time and was waving with his hands. A spotted dzigit was shouting at him and kicking him with his knee. Laughter and loud chatter was heard in the halls, mixed with the drunken exclaims, and then suddenly harmonica started to play. 
“Feast in time of plague,” Akpar said.
“Do you remember the poetry of Omar Khayyam?” Burkut smiled poignant:
“We will not find a shield to protect us from the arrows of the death.
Death is the same with a poor man and with a king as well.
If you want to live with satisfaction, live for satisfaction!
Everything else is vanity and fuss, believe me!”
“That’s great!” Akpar laughed. “If it’s really like that, so what’s the matter? Let’s go back, order a carafe of vodka or cognac for us, a bottle of champagne for the girls, and that’s all! Enjoy the life and don’t think of anything!”
“That’s right!” Burkut exclaimed. “Let’s celebrate and enjoy!”
And they both went outside.

III
Summer was hot this year. Snowy winter was changed rapidly with the spring with high water. The rivers came down and flooded the fields, hollows and lowlands for many hundreds kilometers around. There was a real heaven for the wild geese and wild ducks here! Even the swans arrived. It was noisy in the grassy bottom-lands next to the river. It seemed that the birds from all over the world have gathered here. The sky was deep blue, and this blueness was deep, damp and moist, like at the sea. Storms with heavy rains and thunders occurred many times at the beginning of the spring, but the weather stabilized and brightened closer to June, the soil dried a little bit, and there were so magnificent and splendid and juicy high grasses in the steppes, that even the old people just nodded their heads, looking at this beauty of nature. There was an unbelievable mowing-time, and they said they couldn’t remember when it was such a moving-time, like now, last time. Maybe it was more than thirty years ago, according to their words. The steppe though looked so beautiful and filled with different flowers! There were really many of them: light and almost airy silver feather grass, seeming to fly high into the sky; bluish-red double clover, which was that high, that even a hare could easily hide there; blue and yellow wormwood: and finally there, where the steppe approached the river and came closer to the water line, the reed jungles were growing there.
At this blessed time Burkut rode to the aul, where Akpar lives. He rode without any kind of haste, lingering for a long time for the overnight stops, visiting the neighboring auls. Thus, he didn’t hurry at all. Nearly forty-five kilometers far from the aul Burkut was met and accompanied by a young guy, who was sent by Karymsak, Akpar’s father. This young envoy and companion was limber, fast, nimble and very young and his name was Arin. They rode together from this place. They rode through the new grounds and virgin lands. The grass here was that high and strong, that only the heads of their horses were to be seen, and when the wind blew, the grassy thicket waved like a limitless sea. 
Arin started to sing something vibrant, clear and merry about love and beloved girl and then suddenly gave a flogging with his long lash to his horse and rode fast together with Burkut, trying to chase each other. But Burkut didn’t want to give up too. His palfrey used to take the highest prices always during different races. This horse had a calm and smooth, but very rapid running, that even if somebody will get on this horse and start to ride it, holding a glass with the water in his or her hands, not a single drop of water will be spilled. Arin’s horse was almost immediately left far behind, and Burkut felt himself as if he was a gull, flying high above the sea. There was an unending deep blue sky above him, and there was an endless and horizonless steppe ahead of him and everywhere around. It seemed that you need to only pull the horse stronger and draw the bridles, whoop loud, whip the horse with the lash, and the horse will rush that fast, that it will seem it is flying into the sky. The beauty and all the details of this amazing world are especially noticeable in the moments like this, and the mind captures and catches them. Wide open space, air, smelling with the steppe grass and flowers, clear and high sky, light and fast Argamak horse. And all of it is yours! That’s your homeland, that’s your land, that’s your home!
“Let’s have some rest and make a little camp here,“ Arin said, riding and approaching Burkut. “Let’s dismount and let the horses pasture a little bit”.
They hobbled their horses and spread on the grass to relax a little bit. 
“Look, there is wild strawberry here!” Arin said. “Look, how big and juice berries! Lay down and look at them, these are really very big berries!”
It was true; Burkut saw so big wild strawberry for the first time in his life. He ate, ate and couldn’t stop. Soon he smelled like strawberry.
“Did you miss steppe?” Arin asked.
“Indeed! Like a fish misses water!” Burkut replied and even moaned. “A fish like that is splattering and slopping around in a tub, the customers at the market check it, poke it, but this fish still thinks only of its river”.
Arin sneered and lied on his side.
“Yes, it’s good, it’s very good here,” he said. “Silence, freedom, free space. Strawberry ripens, wind blows and the grass is swinging in the wind… The birds are singing… That’s so good! Look around and enjoy! Soon you will not see it anymore”.
“Why?” Burkut asked.
“Nothing. There will be nothing. Soon all of it will be destroyed. They are planning to lay a rail track here. There will be ot-arba  here”.
“How do you know it?” Burkut asked.
“There was merchant, coming from the city, and he told us about that. I don’t know is it true or not? It would be good if it would be false news, because people really worry”.
“Why do the people worry?”
“It happened before, that he arrived by shaytan-arba , and people were discussing it all month long. And there is a miracle like a train! People say, it moves, flashing fire, and there are clouds of smoke coming up from the tube, and there are five hundred people with shovels and hammers picks sitting inside. If such an ot-arba will move through our steppe for about dozen times, and here it will be an end of steppe! The entire steppe will be dug, ploughed, there will be new barracks erected. The gatherings and parties will start, Russian guys will start to roam around with their songs and harmonicas, and everything will come to its end!”
“That’s true,” Burkut thought to himself. “This guy is saying the same thing like Akpar. Russian cities will come to our Kazakh steppe, it will stand here still with its stones and bricks right in the middle of the steppe great spaces, and there will be nothing left: either song, or language, or traditions and customs, or our Kazakh identity. They will say though: “Love the steppe! It’s your homeland!” But why do I need a Homeland like that, if you will totally change it and destroy everything I knew about it before and everything existed here before?”
“Let’s hit the road,” he said to Anil, rising from the ground. “The sun is going down soon, we should move”.
It was true, the steppe started to go quiet. The wind was blowing weak and withered, and the grass didn’t move in waves anymore, as the wind only moved lightly the tops of the high grass thicket. The birds went silent and stopped their beautiful singing. Light, keen and fragile silence stood in the entire steppe, full of many silent sounds and noises. 
Slowly and wonderful dusk reddened and shone with gold on the West.
“It’s not so far to the overnight stop now,” Arin said. “There will be Takejan’s aul on our way now, in about twelve kilometers or something like that. People there are poor, but the girls are bright and beautiful, like tulips. I know everybody there, you just tell me, where should I bring you to, to the young girls or to the young but married women? I can arrange it”.
“I need to meet and to talk with Aqsaqals ,” Burkut said. “I want to ask them some questions and to listen to them”.
“Why do you need them?” Arin asked him wondering, turning his head to Burkut, but then, as he didn’t get Burkut’s answer, he continued: “That’s okay, I can arrange it as well! You can meet our aqsaqals, you can meet even Takerjan himself, if you wish! He is always glad to see and meet the guests”.
This aul was located on the bank of a big and nice lake, among the hills. Takejan’s yourt  was the first one on their way. When the travelers entered, the yourt’s owners prepared for sleeping. Once an old man saw the guests, he started to be worried and agitated. He ordered to fire the chimney again, to bring the old dung cakes and to lighten the lamp. This man was strong and big-boned, with the skin of the bronze color. He wanted desperately to serve some meat for the guests and he has already sent for the sheep, but the guests asked to prepare the beds for them and fell asleep immediately, once their heads appeared on the pillows.
Next day in the morning Burkut woke up early, according to his city habit. He wore a good and new chapan (he took it for this trip) and left the yourt. He felt himself awake, vigorous and after getting enough sleep, but his body hurt and ached for want of habit. Is it a joke to spend more than fifteen hours riding! But he knew as well that this pain and exhaustion will disappear itself after half an hour, that’s why he tried to forget and not to think about it and went in the direction of the neighboring hills. When he passed along one yard, a big and strong black dog of a calf size rose from the ground, moved his tail and went after Burkut, as  two big puppies followed Burkut too, whimpering soft, wiggling and jumping: the dogs of auls are the same friendly and generous like their masters. Burkut went to the top of the hill, covered with green grass. A big lake laid below, and light morning dog swam around him. Neither geese not ducks were to be seen. Maybe, they were still sleeping in the reeds thickets. The reeds stood as a blind wall, and the bank of the lake wasn’t seen behind them. The lake was sleeping, just like the entire aul. There was silent, calm and desolate around. These silence and tranquility seized Burkut as well. “I will wait for the sun rise,” he thought and set on the stone on the top of this hill. In about ten minutes a bleak and tender pink stripe appeared on the Eastern part of the sky. It grew, became stronger and clearer, and played with the new colors and nuances. Everything in nature tightened and tailed away, waiting for something new, unexpected, unbelievable, bright and beautiful, and here the edge of a sun disk emerged in the sky, sharp and think sun beam shone, and the morning started. Everything got its shape and color. The reed became green, the sky became blue and the lake’s water was blue as well. A skylark flew high into the sky and started his song. A woman with the buckets and a balance-beam appeared on the road, and the same yellow funny puppies were running behind her. The cows started to mumble and the sheep gave the voice. Blue smoke of the chimneys appeared above the aul. A young and slender beautiful girl with the black and long braids, which almost reached the ground, and in a little skull-cap on her head went out of the big yourt, located in the middle of the aul. She held two little buckets in her hands, and she walked with them so silent and smooth, that even light and almost weightless yellow floss on her skull-cap remain absolutely motionless. A nightingale started his beautiful and unforgettable song, hiding somewhere in the bushes and green thickets, and the girl joined this singing. Burkut didn’t even try to understand and catch the words of the song and didn’t listened attentively to them, because the words actually didn’t matter now, as this girl sung about joy and happiness of life, about the unbelievable and priceless happiness to be born on this earth, she sung about how good and nice is it, to wake up early and go for a walk, when everybody still sleeps and the sun just rose, how great it is to get up, take the buckets and leave the yourt silently, trying not to wake up anybody, and to go to the wide steppe, wearing such a beautiful little cap and this light and flying summer gown, and soft wind is blowing lightly in the morning, the sun is shining warm and soft, and funny and clumsy puppies are running and jumping merrily and playfully around, following her. That’s what her song was probably about, Burkut was thinking, that’s why the exact words weren’t that important for him. This song should be simply felt. “Yes,” Burkut said silently to himself, “the point and meaning of our life is exactly in this beauty and happiness, shining around! And woe betides those who will attempt to destroy it all!”
Burkut desperately loved the nature, felt it with every cell and inch of his body, but he loved most the time, when the sweet herbs mellowed and ripened, and the yourts emerged in the river bends. He always was eager to come back to his beloved aul in summer, after the lessons were at their end, even despite the fact that he actually lived not so long in aul and left it early, when he was just a little boy, and he had almost no clear memories about his childhood spent there.  Melancholy and craving for his aul and the steppe forced him away from the big town and made him spending the summer months traveling, until it reached the level, when the terms “steppe” and “people”, “steppe” and “homeland” became for him of a similar meaning. Maybe that’s why his best poems and songs were about the steppe, djaylyau and nomads.
Thus, Burkut sat like that, remembering a lot of things and moments of his life and diving deep into his thoughts, until somebody touched gently his shoulder. Burkut looked back. An old man Takerjan stood in front of him.

Takerjan stood, leaning on his stick with the weight of all of his body, and looked at Burkut merrily, friendly and a little bit mockingly. 
“How are you doing?” he asked. “Did you have some rest after your trip? I know what it means to ride more than hundred kilometers through the wide steppe. It’s a real pleasure for the shepherd and a torture for the townsman! Is it true?”
“Although it was not exactly tortures,” Burkut replied with a smile, “I felt really very tired. I extended my horse though! I wanted desperately to see the steppe and djzylyau again! And I was thinking all the time: when will we reach it? When will we finally there? And now I am looking around and enjoying the nature, the view and this beauty. Our land is so amazing! I simply cannot take my eyes off it! And look at the herbs and grasses, they are so green, juicy and great this year! I wish I could spend all my life looking at them. I really wish I could stay here and never leave these places, without thinking of anything else but this beauty!”
“So what’s the problem then? You can stay here and enjoy all of it,” an old man smiled to him. “You can live here as long as you wish, we won’t ask you to leave! We could marry you, celebrate your wedding according to all the customs and traditions, make a great feast, build a yourt for you! Our girls are known in the whole neighborhood with their notorious beauty! You will never ever find the girls like ours. Why are you smiling? Don’t you believe it?”
“Why, I believe you,” Burkut replied. “I have already seen one incredible beauty today in the morning!”
“I know, I know! Her name is Sholpan. So, you’ve noticed her already? Well done, what can I say! Everybody wonders about her. Our guys and the guys from the neighboring auls are interested in her as well, on the other side of the lake. They woke up too now, preparing the carts, it means that they will go to the town now…”
Burkut looked at the direction an old man pointed with his hand and saw there the canvas tents, the carts and several warriors in the steppe. Three men stood at the bank of the lake and washed their faces with the lake water. 
“Who are they?” Burkur asked.
“That’s the simple men,” Takerjan replied easily. “Some settlers. Russians. I’ve heard they are going to build their settlement here”.
“On your land?”
An old man sneered and lifted his hands in dismay, making a helpless gesture. 
“What do you mean by saying “on our land”?” he asked in a tone, as if he’s just heard something extremely funny. “People used to say centuries ago that there was God’s land, then later people used to say the land belonged to the khans, then that it belonged to tsar, then to beys, and now people say that the land is a common property”.
“So they will take it all from you, if this land is a common property!” Burkut said agitated. “Who taught you the ideas and things like that and all those fairy-tails? Those Russians, I suppose? They will build their settlement here this year, and next year they will kick you off from these lands!”
“Why do you say they will kick us off? They won’t! There’s enough land for everybody here,” Takerjan replied. He was speaking with Burkut and looking at him as if Burkut was a little and witless boy. “They are stationed on that side of the lake, and we are here, on the other side. Everybody is okay, and there is no problem at all!”
Burkut looked at the old man, and controversial feelings seized him, because he really liked this man a lot, but he didn’t like the way of his thinking. He liked his hospitality, his friendliness and that confident calmness and the way Takerjan behaved himself. But now the old man showed the other side of his personality. He was not just careless, reckless, unconcerned and lightheaded, but he invited the guests in his house without even thinking and realizing that tomorrow these guests would possible want to become the owners and masters themselves and will simply kick him out of his own house. In order to do it, they only needed to gather their strength and to wait for an appropriate moment. And Burkut had absolutely no doubts that this moment will come sooner or later. 
“How did it happen that they’ve appeared here?” Burkut asked an old man.
“Accidently. They went to Irtysh looking for happiness, then they found shelter for night by Kasym, and he brought them here next morning. And you can see now, that there, where only the bushes and stones were before, now stands a little settlement and houses. Next year we will plough and saw together. They will teach us to plant potatoes, melons, is it bad?”
“Who is Kasym?” Burkut asked.
“Look, here he is, he is coming to us,” an old man replied.
Burkut turned his head and looked. Several Kazakh guys carried a net. Two girls walked behind them, and Burkut recognized immediately one of them. Another one was dressed in a simpler gown and looked a little bit elder. Both of them walked carrying the buckets.
“They are coming to greet you,” Takerjan said. “They’ve heard that a guest arrived and decided to come, they even turned from their path for this purpose. They were planning to go for fishing”.
Kasym talked to Burkut first. He was tall, lean and vigorous. Even his hair faded under the sun. He seemed to be very strong and supple, that’s why it was even more unpleasant to look at an empty sleeve of his jacket, stuck in his belt. Kasym didn’t have a left hand. “It must be that Kasym, who attempted to shot himself and commit a suicide and who critically injured and then lost his left hand!” Burkut suddenly understood. “That’s that Kostya, whose story I’ve heard! That’s right, I was told that he lives on the other side of the lake… I wanted to meet him before, but now I feel I don’t have this wish…” Now he looked at Kasym with other feelings, and he didn’t know the reason of this change and couldn’t explain it himself, but he looked at Kasym with the mixed feeling of heaviness and discomfort. Maybe, this beautiful girl, whom Burkut saw today in the morning, played a role in this change too. She raised her eyes to Burkut only for a short moment and then looked at Kasym all the time, following every movement he made: how he stood, how he smiled, how he spoke. It was obvious, that no one except Kasym existed for her now in the entire world. It hurt Burkut.
Kasym though didn’t notice anything. He looked at the guest and smiled to him.
“Here you are, and I finally have the chance and honor to meet you!” he said to Burkut, speaking pure Kazakh language. “We often sing your songs here! Our girls are the best in singing,” he said smiling and looked at the beautiful girl, his companion, and she blushed immediately like a flower.
“Maybe Burkut-aga will go together with us to the lake?” one of the Kasym’s friends and companions asked. He was a red-haired and strong dzhigit, and his question somehow alarmed Burkut.
“Thank you,” he replied coldly. “But we are in haste,” he said and saw Arin. Arin went to Burkut, leading the horses with him.
“Thank you, but I have no time,” Burkut replied unfriendly and in haste.
“What to do? Sometime later then!” Kasym decided. “Good bye, comrades!”
And they left: Kasym, red-haired dzhigit and two girls.
“Let’s go to the house,” an old man said. “I will not allow you to travel like this, without even a dinner and a good conversation!”
Right at this time thunder, rattle and clatter were heard over the lake, and a dog barked loud.
“What is it?” Burkut asked. 
“It’s geologists,” an old man replied. “Can you see, they explode something again. They tell us about their plans in advance now, because before, when they didn’t inform us about their experiments, women and children were scared and cried, when they’ve heard these explosions”.
“It seems that soon they will cry not only because of fear,” Burkut thought, but didn’t say anything. After one hour they hit the road again. Only when they left the aul far behind them, Burkut turned to Arin and said: “Let’s visit the geologists!” and turned his horse back.
The lands over the lake met them with the stone silence, cliffs, absence of people and masses of the gray stone blocks. These blocks were big and small, some of them were of a size of a house, and some others were not bigger than the boulders and the tillage. Though the banks of the lake were green, and the grass grew here juicy and thick. The cliffs hid the sun here, that’s why everything in this valley appeared to be misty and dim. Burkut’s soul was also dim, dark and uneasy now. Their trip to the geologists’ camp took nearly half an hour, and when they arrived, they saw the yourts erected there and the hobbled horses walking among the yourts. An oil rig was seen on the top of the cliff, and a lot of people were messing around there. When they heard the horses’ stamp, they left their work and started to look at the travelers, approaching them. When the travelers came closer, one of the workers exclaimed:
“Burkut-aga! How did it happen, that you decided to visit us?!”
“Nurlan!” Burkut replied, shaking the man’s hand. “What are you doing here?”
“I do a practical work here,” Nuran replied, smiling widely and happily. “I will graduate from the university soon! Soon I will say good-bye to Tomsk and come back to my native town! So, dismount now, you will be our guests! Here is Aleksey Vladimirovich…”
A tall and a little bit bow backed man in a worker’s robe approached them. He looked like a miner or a digger.
“Aleksey Vladimirovich,” Nurlan said, “this is my friend Burkut, he is a great and prominent Kazakh poet. We often sing his songs. And here is his friend”.
“Welcome, welcome!” Aleksey Vladimirovich said, shaking the hands of the guests and smiling. “Your name is Burkut, and what’s your friend’s name?”
“My father’s name is Baysalov,” Arin replied politely and officially. “My father is a prominent person. All the Kazakhs know him, he is the first and the best speaker here,” he added. It was obvious that Arin liked his current position and liked to be introduced as a friend of Burkut-aga.
“I am a chief of this party,” Aleksey Vladimirovich smiled in response. “I hope you will stay here with us for at least one day? Hunting and fishing here are simply perfect! Nurlan, help your friends, please! It’s so sad that I need to leave for the far party… Do you play chess?” he turned to Burkut. “No? That’s a pity! We could play with you chess… Okay then! Nurlan, escort our guests to their tent and entertain them, please!”
“He is an amazing and wonderful person,” Nurlan said to the friends, when the chief left. “If you wrote a poem about him, it would spread all over Kazakhstan!”
“Why won’t you try to write a poem about him?” Burkut said, teasing Nurlan. “You are a poet!”
But Nurlan only smiled shyly.
“Come on, I am not a poet at all, comparing to you,” he replied and even waved his hand. “I am like a little sparrow comparing to you! You are a real eagle!”
“You could be a real eagle too,” Burkut told him strictly. “You’ve got talent, but you don’t write, because talent alone is not enough. You should find your way too”.
“I am searching for it!” Nurlan replied openly. “I am searching for it always, Burkut-aga! That’s our job! Now I think that it’s the most important and needed job, because just think about it! Once a geologist came somewhere, a mine, then a factory, then a settlement and then even the whole town appears!”
Burkut smiled sadly.
“Whose town will it be, Nurlan?” he said. “Somehow I’ve never heard about the Kazakh towns and cities… And I hardly believe that your Aleksey Vladimirovich intends to build a town for Kazakhs! And do you work now on our native Kazakh land for the Kazakh brothers and sisters? You work for Russians! I cannot like this! Okay then, I wish you all the best, anyway,” Burkut concluded and rushed his horse.
“Wait!” Nurlan said, putting his hand on the saddle. “Do you want to say, that we are going to build the factories and plants, mines, power plants, clubs, schools, cinemas and others not for the Kazakh people? For whom else? Does it mean that Kazakh remains Kazakh only in case if he was born in the steppe near the sheep and cattle spent all his life there and died there as well? Only in this case? Is the cinema not for him? Is the grammar, writing, education, club not for him? I don’t understand, what do you want?”
“I don’t want,” Burkut exclaimed loud and emotionally from his horse, “I don’t want these Russians to root here around, on our land! I don’t want these Russians to build their towns on our Kazakh land! I don’t want them to invite me for a visit on my land, as if I am a guest here! On my land! I don’t want these Russians to feel themselves the masters here! Did you get it?” and a loud explosion was heard somewhere far right at this moment.
“Here,” Nurlan said, “can you hear? It’s a new town being born!”
“No, it’s my heart being torn down!” Burkut shouted to him and put spurs to his horse.
Arin couldn’t make it to ride that fast as Burkut. Burkut rode full tilt and didn’t even look at his companion. He just rode, and that’s all. Only one time he answered the Arin’s question, as the guy asked him, where they were rushing to.
“Back to the city,” Burkut replied fast.
“He got mad!” Arin thought. “We just came from the city!..” But he decided to avoid contradictions. Anyway, Burkut won’t listen to him, while he is in such a condition.
Burkut was really mad now. There was no calm and peace in his soul now, and he felt as if his soul and heart was a big wound. The only one thought seized everything: “Akpar is right! The steppe is dying, living its last days, and nobody cares about it! Nurlan says that we should learn from Russians. What could it be painful or offensive and insulting here? We should learn from our elder brother. Here is the point! From out “elder brother”! This elder brother will simply swallow the smaller and younger one, and we won’t even notice it! And we won’t be brothers anymore, we will be just a second class folk, even not a folk, just a tribe, without our own language, traditions, customs, lands… Without our fairy-tales and songs! Without our Kazakh soul! What will remain of us? There were so many different folks, and many of them simply disappeared, losing their identity. Allans, Huns, Khazars… Where are they now? They’ve just disappeared, as if they never existed”.
That was the flow of Burkut’s thoughts and ideas, while he was riding rapidly back to the city. He took a breath only two hours later, when the sun was scorching terribly. He looked back and saw Arin somewhere far away. He waved him with his hand. Everywhere around him a wide steppe spread, and there was nothing to stop your sight on. Maybe it doesn’t matter what are you thinking of, everything is in vain and to no purpose… You are funny, like a man who just saw a corpse: he is scared not to become the same. But everybody will have the same end.
He halted, and Arin finally approached him. Burkut looked at him, and it became even more difficult and hard on his soul. Arin’s horse was deadly tired, Arin was tired as well, it was difficult to look at both of them without feeling pity.
“While I was riding, I was composing a song. Here it is,” Burkut said and started to sing:
“There is no one next to me, and my aul is far,
Only desolate steppe surrounds me…
I am like a lonely gull 
With a broken wing…
I am chasing the waves aimless,
With no hope to reach it and to hug it…
What a poor gull could do,
Maybe only to cry?..
What can I do? What can I do,
If I have no powers anymore?..
And I cry, like a little, gull,
Lost in the cold darkness…”
“It’s about me,” he said, finishing his sing. “It’s me, crying like a gull. This steppe is for me like my own body, my blood and my flesh. Everything here belongs to me, every grass-blade, every little stone, all of it is me. And I cannot give it up to a stranger! I cannot and I don’t want! You can try to kill me, but I will be unable to do it! What could the Russians understand about the steppe? And for me this steppe is singing, and I will never ever throw over its beautiful nature, its scorched hills, its feather grass, even its yellow bones laying on the road! That’s why I am crying, I am suffering and don’t know what to do with myself and my feelings, seizing me… And I don’t know, am I right or wrong! Maybe I really don’t understand anything…”
He looked at Arin strict and demanding, and Arin felt uncomfortable and muttered:
“Maybe, it’s impossible to change something… That’s our fate, maybe…”
“Our fate!” Burkut smiled ironically. “You said it good: that’s our fate. What can we do? Okay, let’s ride further, if it’s our fate!”
They rode like this during other three hours. The sun started to set, when Burkut suddenly halted his horse and looked around, trying to understand where he actually is.
“Now it’s really very close to our aul,” Arin said. “Let’s go?”
“I don’t know what to say now,” Burkut replied, looking confusing around. “Maybe we should go back… It seems we had a long trip, and that’s enough”.
“We are almost next to our aul!” Arin wondered.
“Why should I go back?” Burkut thought to himself. “There might be Karymsak’s aul somewhere her, close. Maybe I could visit it. I could meet the people there and see what is happening now and what’s new,” and ne smiled to his own memories.
Three years ago Akpar invited him to his aul for the summer vacations. They went there. Their horses were fast and good, and their trip took three days. But when they were very close to the aul, Akpar suddenly halted a little bit his horse.
“There is something you should know about my family,” Akpar said, looking shyly at Burkut. “My father wants to marry a young girl, and he sent his previous, old wife to parents. Our mother died, when my sister was three years old and I was four,” he added fast.
“So,” Burkut said.
“People say, she liked to hang out a lot and was not a proper woman…” Akpar responded unwillingly. “And all of her family was hectic… Anyway, I don’t know the details. He just sent her back. And brought the new one to our house. The young one”.
“He might be more than sixty now, I suppose,” Burkut asked.
“Even more,” Akpar laughed. “What can I say? If he still has powers, let Allah help him! The Prophet isn’t against it, and the old people have their own law. That’s my opinion!”
“Yes, you are right,” Burkut agreed, but the rest of the trip they rode silent. 
When they approached the aul, they saw that it was almost empty and looked desolate. Nobody went to meet them, even dogs didn’t bark. Only a ginger horse, tied at the nearest house, looked at them, waved with his tail, nickered shortly and lost interest to them.
A white yourt stood in the middle of the aul. There was no one next to it too. The boys tied their horses, adjusted their robes and crossed the threshold of the yourt.
“Assalamu Aleikum!” Akapr said respectfully.
“Assalamu Aleikum!” Burkut repeated after him.
They saw a strange picture in front of them. A white bed with the soft pillows and mattress was spread on the floor and old bay Karymsak, grey-headed and long-bearded, also white and clad only in the small clothes, laid on it, relaxing. He had wide cheekbones and was heavily built, and on the contrary to the ordinary Kazakh villagers, who were whose faces were sunburnt and weather-beaten, he was sickly pale. An opened magazine “Sholpan” was on his pillow, next to him. A young girl sat at knees of the old bay and smiled to the guests. She was almost a child, probably sixteen years old, but she was already dressed like a grown up married woman: red patterned scarf covered her head; her hands were bedecked with the rings and bracelets. She was dressed in a rich Kazakh gown of red color. 
“It seems that Burkut-jan has visited us!” an old man exclaimed friendly and heartedly and then either rose a little bit from his bed or just changed his pose, it seemed that he wanted to say something else, but then he looked at his wife and didn’t say anything.
“Marjan, fetch us some kumiss, please, I think that our guests might be really thirsty,” he said to the young girl.
Marjan jumped lightly from her seat, and her beautiful black braids fell on her breast, all stud with silver and gems. She came to the table, took the jar and started to pour the fresh kumiss to the drinking bowls. An old man always had perfect kumiss: think, yellow and rich, with the strong smell of wormwood. Marjan was well-built and grown, like a woman: her body was playing and moving tempting under her red rich gown. She gave the drinking bowl, filled with kumiss, with a bow. An ordinary leisured and unhurried conversation has started, and then suddenly the curtains of the yourt opened wide, and a tall young man, dressed in worn and even ragged robe, entered. He didn’t step inside of the younrt, but halted at the threshold. An old man’s face darkened, and he moved his thin lips eagerly and impatient. 
“So, you came,” an old man said.
“I came to receive the rest of my share, bey,” a young man replied humble.
“Oh, yes, that’s true, I think I still owe you something,” an old man said careless. “How much should it be there?”
“Four sheep.”
An old man nodded:
“So, do you think that I’ve fooled you?”
“No, not at all, I didn’t even think of accusing you,” a guy said. “I just need to receive it all now, immediately”.
“Why such a haste?”
“I’m leaving soon. I’ve joined the special troop”.
“What is it?”
“We are going to catch the criminals and outlaws”.
“Cannot they catch those criminals and outlaws without you?” an old man said, looking steadily into the guy’s eyes. But the guy stood this look and didn’t cast his eyes. “Okay. Once the cattle will be here back from the pasture, you will get your share”.
Dhigit bowed and left the yourt. 
An old man looked at his son and shook his head:
“His name is Matan. Can you see his gratefulness? He was pasturing our horses in Koksay for the five years, he was always a normal man, but once the Red Army appeared here, he literally got mad. He is joining the special troop! I decided to give him what he was promised, and let him go to hell!”
“And who promised to give it to him?” his son asked.
“Ozhar did”.
“And you agreed! And you also couldn’t keep save the cattle, which fell through his fault!”
“Damn him! Let him go and leave us all! The rules are harsh now. If he will decide to take with him my wife, I won’t have the chance to resist, and it won’t do to complain!”
Marjan sat with the red face and her eyes cast away. Once the shepherd came, she was not herself, her face now reddened, then turned pale, as if she had no idea what to do and how to behave.
Akpar knew a full story, ordinary and common for these places, only later: Marjan was a daughter of an average peasant, who lived here in the neighborhood. Karymsak bought her from her father for forty nine heads of cattle. What to do? Marjan surrendered. That was the fate of all the Kazakh women during the centuries. And she started her new life with old Karymsak. Everything seemed to be normal, but suddenly… An old man noticed that his young and beautiful wife gave her look at a tall, strong and handsome laborer Matan. She laughed at the jokes of Matan, held long and nice conversations with him, asked him constantly for some help… It didn’t come further, but even this story worried and angered an old bey. He found some little fault and spared the young laborer. The laborer went to issue complain to the committee for the rights of poor people, and head of the committee Ozhar summoned them both and listened to the testimonies of the master and the worker. He listened carefully and attentively to everything, evaluated their arguments and finally took jis decision: “Only Allah knows what really happened there between you, but he worked for you, so you should pay him”. And then he set a fair payment. People say that Matan left the cabinet of Ozhar and started to sing:
There was not a single poor man in the aul with fewer rights,
But now he can decide as well.
And if I am a young, brave and handsome dzhigit,
Why do you need the love of an old and weak man?
For my blood and my sweat, for my hard work,
Oh Karymsak, I’ve received my payment!
You paid what you had to pay according to the bill.
I’m leaving now. Your wife will go with me.
This sing was spread all over the aul rapidly, and old Karymsak becomes bloodshot once he hears it, while his young wife reddens and laughs. “What a nonsense!” she says, and her eyes are shining. An old man even thought to deal with this young insolent beggar hob and nob, to gather the men from the aul, to make a good feast for them, and there would be no trace of this Matan next norning. But he understood that it was really inappropriate time for that, and that this young beggar has his connections everywhere.
That was what Burkut accidentally knew when he visited Akpar’s aul together with his friend. And then they experienced a lot together: trip to dzhajlyau, participation in baige, and finally the mocking and scornful voice of Marjan really provoked him. “I see, my educated friend, that you are a big coward,” she said once, “you never come to me to talk properly. Why is that? Are scared of my old husband? Don’t be afraid, he has almost no teeth left. He can only snarl, but he is unable to bark and bite anymore”. The following memories were even more excited and emotional, but these are that kind if memories you cannot tell anybody about. There was a beautiful night with the shining moonlight. He hid and kept quiet in the ravine and waited. He waited more than two hours. There was nobody. He wanted to leave, stood up, took his stick and then suddenly heard someone’s whispering: “Aren’t you cold? It was so hard to come here!..”
How could he forget something like that?
“Where is it all now?” Burkut thought. “People say right: the past joy and happiness is like an uncaged bird: once you will let it fly, you will never ever catch it again”.
“How long should we ride?” he asked his companion.
“We are almost here,” Arin replied, “we just need to ride to those hills. There will ba a lake on our way now, and then the aul”.
This time the doges were like the bears with the sour heads, as three huge and massive dogs, roaring and barking wildly, rushed towards the riders. Shrugging them off with their lashes, the travelers rode right towards the white yourt in the middle of the aul. Like long time ago, nobody went out of the yourt to meet them. Only a spotted old man with a long beard, who sat at the entrance, told them: “Come in, come in”.
They dismounted and entered the yourt. There was dark and silent inside, and nobody met them even here in the yourt. They even thought that the yourt is empty.
“Assalamu Aleikum!” Burkut said perplexedly.
More than a minute passed, until he heard a reply. Grey motley rags, laying on the bed, started to move and wave, and Burkut suddenly saw Karymsak. An old man rose and sat on the bed. His beard was tousled, his face was purple. “What happened to him?” Burkut thought in surprise, and an old man finally spoke:
“Hello, Burkut! Where is Akpar?”
“He is still in the town, delayed due to his business,” Burkut replied. “He asked to tell you hello. He will arrive by the end of this month. That’s what he said”.
“Ahhh….” An old man said thoughtfully. “He will come here and will be glad as well. We are living in bad times, my dear friend. You cannot control your property anymore and you are not a master and not a head even in your family! The Kazakhs angered our God…”
“Why?” Burkut asked. “What happened?”
An old man only shook his head and didn’t reply anything. Somebody touched carefully and lightly Burkut’s elbow. Burklut turned back. A spotted old man showed him the gestures and signs, asking Burkut to bend a little bit. Burkut inclined his head a little bit, and a spotted man whispered into his ear:
“His wife was taken. A policeman Matan came and took his wife. He said to her: “Let’s go from here, beauty”. She gathered her belongings, and they left together. Two other policemen, his friends, were waiting for them outside, with the cart, ready for trip. They put her things into the cart and took her away from our aul”.
“That’s simply outrageous!” Burkut cursed in Russian. He was really angered. “And what about the people? Did they simply watch how it all happened?”
Several other people entered the yourt as well and stood there, listening.
“Outrageous!” Burkut said loudly again. “That’s unacceptable! I don’t even know what could I do to the relatives, like you!..”
Everybody started to clamor and clatter immediately, interrupting each other:
“There were three of them, and they had the guns and the swords!”
“She went herself! Herself, nobody forced her! If only she tried to resist, to scream, but there was nothing like that! She jumped happily to the cart! Without even saying good-bye!”
“I would look at you at the moment like that, how you would try to interfere! They are respectable people now, and everybody believes them. If they will write that we attacked the policemen and threatened to kill them, everybody will believe them! And you will be sent somewhere to Siberia!”
One dzhigit, tall and strong, with wide shoulders and black hair, said:
“I wouldn’t be scared even of Siberia, if only our bey sad a word! Though he sat shut up like an oyster! He just sat and watched everything silently!”
Karymsak suddenly raised his head.
“Enough talking!” he said sharp. “She left, and that’s all! That’s even good that she left! There will be no cunning snake lying next to me under the same blanket anymore! Her outside price is not more than five colts! That’s nothing; I won’t grow poor because of it! That’s not a man died and not Irtysh flooded! Leave now, I want to talk with my guest now!”
When everybody left the yourt, Karymsak stood up from his bed and sat at the table. 
“There is some fresh kumiss there,” he said to Burkut. “Fetch some for yourself!”
“What about you?” Burkut asked.
“Pour me some kumiss too, please!” an old man replied and went on: “She bit me right in my heart, a viper! She has chosen such a day and bit me! That’s okay, I shouldn’t have get in touch with such a poverty like her! That’s my fault! I would just beat her violently for that before, you know, and now… You see though, who has the power now! Matan! My former laborer and shepherd! What are we talking about?..” an old man waved with his hand in despair. “Thus, we didn’t know how to save the good things, so we should learn to live with the bad things. What about you? What brought you here? Are you travelling somewhere or you are going to stay here for a while, waiting for Akpar?”
“I think I will stay here for some, to wait for Akpar. If you won’t send me off, of course,” Burkut responded. “I would like to spend some time here, to interact with the people and to see what is happening here”.
“That’s right. Look carefully and attentively around, listen to the people, pay attention to everything,” an old man said. “Listen to what the people are talking about! It could be really very useful!”
Burkut spent nearly half a month in this aul and left it totally broken and tired. The most important was that everybody was waiting for something. The laborers and workers were waiting for the new law, for the dividing of the lands and of the steppe… They were waiting for the new rules, when the bays will be sent away, and their property will be divided among the poor people. The bays were waiting as well. They were waiting for the troops of a white tsar to come from some far lands to beat all the workers and laborers, to imprison all these new policemen, and good and calm old life will come back again.
When Burkut finally left this aul, his brain was buzzing, he was lost and confused and didn’t know what to do, where to sail to and what kind of songs to sing. 

IV
Hassan stood up, walked a little bit in his room, tousled his hair and sat at the table again to read. He read several other sheets, covered with big, probably childish letters, and shook his head.
“What a fool!” he said sadly. “What a fool he is! He is really a fool! What is he trying to reach?..” and he started to walk in his room again.
The room was big and spacious, with high ceiling, full of different things. Once the whole house was owned by one merchant, and now this merchant either escaped abroad or was simply sent away from this house, and the apartment was occupied by the editorial office of a local newspaper. Hassan was a secretary of an editorial office and, as an unmarried and homeless man, received one of the rooms in this apartment. Despite the fact that many things were taken from this apartment, it was still filled with some strange and really weird things: a writing case made from the redwood, a glass ambry with the ornately formed porcelain, a little gaming table, a stuffed eagle, paintings depicting different mythological stories and characters. Hassan removed it all and carried it away to the corridor and to the hall closet, and then he pasted the posters and his own poetries all over the walls. One of these posters showed a Red Army soldier, riding a horse and ran over Wrangel, Kolchak and a fat man dressed in a coat. The inscription said:
“People’s wrath is like a storm!
It swooped and ran everything over!
Join the Red Army cavalry!”
On another poster a peasant man was dragging the sacks, and a laborer dressed in a blue skirt stretched his hands towards him. The inscription said:
“You are a proletarian, and I am a corn grower,
And both of us prepared a grave for our common enemy!”
The third poster showed hammer, sickle and a rising sun. It was written on it:
“Our hammer and sickle are shining under the sun, 
Long live the emblem of our state!”
An old iron bed stood under all these posters and mottos, a writing table, covered with the ink spots, and a couple of chairs. Hassan didn’t need anything else. Now he walked about the room and was really angry. The sheets of papers, laying in a pile on the table, irritated him without any reason. These sheets were sent to him today in the morning, and although the handwriting was unfamiliar, childish (maybe, they asked a school boy to write it down) and there was no signature at all, Hassan fathomed who it was. “That’s Akpar’s work,” he thought. “Burkut is a straight man, he would sign it, if it was him. Maybe Akpar took these verses from him without asking permission. Burkut, Burkut, you come to nothing for no reason!” He sat a little bit longer, thinking, picked his nails for a moment and suddenly took a decision: “I think I should go directly to Burkut and to talk to him”. He took his cap and came to the door, ready to go out, but suddenly the door opened wide in front of him. An unfamiliar young man, almost a boy, stood at the threshold. This young man was dressed like a dandy: velvet under tunic, girdled with a silver belt, wide pants with the patterned ornament and the morocco boots with little heels. A young man smiled openly and friendly. “A nice guy,” Hassan thought and asked:
“Did you come to see me?”
“Yes, I did! Do you receive the visitors, Hassan-aga?” a young man asked.
“Yes, I do. Come in, please!” Hassan replied and gave a way to this man.
A young man entered the room and sat on the chair.
“I see that you didn’t recognize me?” he asked affectedly. “I was in haste to come to you! I was thinking: what if I will arrive and you have already left. So, don’t you recognize me?”
“Wait a second,” Hassan said bewildered, looking steadily at the visitor. “It seems that I… I think I’ve met you somewhere…”
“Come on,” a young man said to Hassan, smiling to him. “Come on, you should remember me, Hassan-aga!” and then he exclaimed suddenly: “Your friend Akpar has a sister, and her name is Khanshaim.”
“Oh my God!” Hassan exclaimed gladly and rushed toward the young man, who appeared to be a girl, Akpar’s sister, dressed like a man. “Oh my God, I wouldn’t ever recognize you, my dear, you’ve changed so much! I remember you completely different, you’ve always been such a little pimple, with the tiny and thin braids, and now…”
Now a real beauty stood in front of him: tall, slender and delicate, with black fine eyebrows. 
“Allah, Allah!” Hassan repeated, peering at this beautiful girl. “And some people say there are no wonders and miracles in our world! If I would be told give years ago that little Khanshaim will become a real beauty, I wouldn’t believe it!”
Five years ago Hassan arrived to the Karymsak’s aul as a part of a group conducting the census. This thing was new and unusual for him. Hassan worked really hard, from dawn till dusk, that’s why he almost didn’t pay any attention at a little and nimble teenage girl, who was always fidgeting around him. He remembered only a general impression of lightness and careless joy. This girl was playful and naughty, like a yerkeshora , she was always merry and found out new and new games and tricks. Most of her friends were local boys, and she herself looked and behaved more like a boy, than like a girl. It seems that there was at that time almost nothing in her to tell her from the boys, maybe only that care and cautions the boys demonstrated towards their little friend. In addition to that, she was a daughter of Karymsak, who was known for his cruelness and vengefulness. Maybe at another point of time Hassan would be interested in it, but now there were too many things to do, and Hassan could simply not even notice Khanshaim, apart from one case: a horse was brought for Karymsak from the steppe, because an old bay was going to visit the town. It was a huge and strong horse with the massive muscles and short shining fur. Nobody except of his master had the courage to get on it and ride it. But Khanshaim wanted to try it. So said, so done! The girl jumped to the horse and shouted to Hassan (he stood close):
“Hey, dzhigit, help me, please, to get on this horse!” and she tore the bridle reins from the hands of a guy, holding a horse. “It seems that you’ve never tried to bestride a horse!”
“Of course, if only I had some time for that,” Hassan tried to snarl, but the girl repeated her request:
“Come and help, if you are asked to!”
Thus, Hassen approached, took the girl up, and suddenly – he still remembered this moment – his hands touched something tough, and it immediately forced him into sweating and out him to the blush. Khanshaim also turned short and became so confused and lost, that she even didn’t find what to reply to Hassan. They looked at each other like this for a moment. Then Khanshaim hooped and rode away. But maybe that moment and that trembling, seizing his whole body, led her to come here now. Now they stood and looked steadily at each other.
“Come in, please, you’ll be my guest!” Hassan finally said. “You might be right after the long trip and very tired. Here is the towel, take it. The first door in the corridor will lead you to the bathroom; you’ll find a wash stand there. There is a bowl and a jar with water there. I will run to the kitchen and cook something fast!”
“Don’t you have a mistress or a housewife?” the girl asked. “Or at least somebody who comes to do the homework?..”
“No, of course!..” Hassan replied, giving a wave of his hand, and left the room, running to the kitchen.
After ten minutes both of them sat at the table. Hassan poured the tea.
“Are you on some business here?” Hassan asked.
“Yes, there is one important case,” she responded, looking at him. “But we can talk about it later,” she added and looked around. “So, you live here, right?”
“Yes, I do, I live here,” Hassan replied.
“Where do you work and what do you do?”
“I work one floor down”.
“Yes, there is not so much space for action,” she smiled. “And you don’t have either a housewife, or a sister or a fiancé?”
Hassan smiled lightly and lifted his hands in dismay. 
“I am alone!” he said. “Why are you so surprised?”
“No, not at all,” she smiled. “I’m single as well”.
“What do you mean?” Hassan asked.
“Nothing special,” Khanshaim replied. “My father left the aul together with his people, they moved to China through the mountains. His sons-in-law live somewhere there, along the Chinese border. He took me with him too, but I escaped”.
“I can’t believe! How is it?” Hassan said wondering.
“Easy! It was dark and starless and moonless night, so I just left, rode away, and nobody even noticed me,” she said easily.
“That’s great!” Hassan exclaimed amazed. “I still can’t believe, are you serious?”
The girl laughed sadly.
“Do you think that I’m joking?” she said. “No, my dear, I’m not joking, my jokes are bad now! My father left and took his young wife together with him. They’ve just tied her, gagged her, like a stupid sheep, and took away. Policeman Matan was either killed or maimed him and left him somewhere, that he never came back again…”
“What about Akpar?” Hassan asked.
“What do you mean asking about Akpar?”
“Does he know about it all?”
Khanshaim laughed sadly again.
“That was actually him, who taught my father to do it all,” she said. “My father left him half of his money and property, they decided about it, discussed the matter and settled everything down two months before it. My father sent a rider to the borders, to get some information and to know does anybody wait for him there. His rider came back and said that people wait for Karymsak since long ago. That’s how it was. It means that my brother won’t like to see and meet me as well, so I have only one person in the entire world left…”
“Who is this person?..” Hassan asked.
“That’s you!”
“What?” Hassan exclaimed bewildered, jumping from his seat.
The girl was looking at him with a smile on her face.
“It seems that you aren’t happy at all,” she said.
Hassan sat stunned and kept silent.
“And I thought that you will be glad…”
“Oh my God, Khanshaim!” Hassan finally said, pressing her hands and looking into her eyes. “Am I happy?.. I… I… I simply cannot believe it till now!”
She suddenly stood up, came to him close, hugged him and nestled to him tenderly.
“You, you sunk deep into my mind and soul since long ago,” she said openly and lightly. “It happened that time, when I saw you for the first time in our yourt. You sat and wrote something. And do you remember that moment, with the horse?..”
“I remember it, I do remember it all,” Hassan said, nestling to her too. “I remember everything, ,y dear”.
She laughed happily and sat next to him.
“I was so worried and afraid! I thought, what if I will come, and there will be another woman sitting in his house? I thought that I will simply commit a suicide and jump down from the cliff… And when I went to you, I saw: everything is scattered here, chaos, a lot of things, dirty dishes on the table, the shoes on the chair, and I felt calmer: he might have no woman at all, if there is such a chaos here”.
“I don’t have a woman,” Hassan replied her, hugging her stronger. “NO. no! Now I will have a beloved woman!”
“Of course, my dear, my beloved, my clumsy funny and beloved Hassan,” she said tenderly and with a smile, hugging him. “Of course, you will have a woman beside you now. Listen, do you have a place for the horse somewhere here?” she suddenly asked, rising nimble from her seat. “My grey horse might be thirsty and hungry since yesterday, and he rode almost one hundred and fifty kilometers! Let’s go outside, to the yard!”
“Let’s go to the yard!” Hassan agreed, rising from his seat too. “Let’s go outside to walk somewhere in the streets! Let’s go to the park! Let us walk all day long and enjoy this time together! We will sing together! We will drink together!”
She looked at him with the smile:
“You are silly! I am tired too and I want to sleep so much. I haven’t slept since two days! I will leave my horse and the stable and I would like to have some sleep, to be honest…”
And she gave a yawn in a really childish way. 
Next morning Akpar suddenly appeared in Hassan’s home, breaking into his house unexpectedly. 
The young couple sat at the table, talking and drinking tea. Akpar appeared in front of them, dressed in a black robe and holding a lash in his hands. His face looked also black and dusty. It was obvious, that he was outraged and hardly held himself.
“So,” he said long and ominous. “So…. Here you are, dear sister! I was looking for you everywhere, and here you are! Come on, get out of the room, I need to talk to Hassan!”

“Let’s talk!” Hassan said.
“I think I said it clearly: let her leave the room! And generally, why is she here? What is she doing here?”
“I am here, because Hassan is my husband!” Khanshaim suddenly replied in a firm voice. 
“So that’s it!” Akpar exclaimed. “Well done, dear sister, well done! You are really fast! You don’t waste time! I wish I could say you one word now…”
“What’s the problem then? Say this word!” Khanshaim said.
“It’s not appropriate for the brother to talk to his sister this way in front of the strangers,” Akpar responded.
Khanshaim looked at Hassan.
“I will leave the room,” Hassan decided. “But beware, Akap! Behave yourself properly!”
Hassan went to the door, but halted at a loss at the threshold.
“Go, go, my darling,” Khanshaim said to him, smiling and trying to calm him. “Nothing bad will happen to me, be sure. We will just talk with my brother, and that’s all”.
Hassan left the room. Khanshaim looked at her brother.
“So?” she asked.
Akpar closed the door, latched it and tried it, as if checking if it was closed properly or not. Then he came closer to the girl.
“It’s strong,” he said, “he won’t be able to open it. So, my dear sister, we will talk about all of it later, and now – get out from here! Go away! You will never ever be a wife of this bastard!”
“I am already his wife,” Khanshaim replied him with a light smile, and this smile just exploded Akpar’s rage, but he still tried to hold himself.
“We will talk about it later too,” he said, clenching his fists. “And now I told you: get out from here!” 
“I will not leave this room and this house,” she replied calm and confident to her brother. “I love Hassan and I don’t care what your opinion about him is!”
“Okay,” Akpar said, walking around the room, then came to the window and looked down, to the yard. The morning just started, and the streets were calm and empty, as the entire city was still sleeping. “So…” he repeated unfathomed. “I am telling you that you dishonor and disgrace the whole family! You don’t care! You know that this man is our enemy, but you don’t care about it as well! You even don’t care that I am your brother and I have the right to order you three times, and you must obey! But it seems that it doesn’t mean fro you anything too!”
“Yes, brother, I have another opinion about it,” Khanshaim said confidently.
“Okay then, my dear sister, okay,” Akpar replied, stepped closer to her, that she even could feel his breath on her face, and looked steadily into her eyes: “So, you don’t care about anything! About shame, about conscience, about the traditions and customs of our ancestors!” and suddenly he stroke her strong and flash-like and slapped her face. She gave a shout and sat on the floor.
“Stand up!” Akpar shouted at her.
Khanshaim rose silently. Her face was bleeding.
“What a beauty! So you don’t care, right?” Akpar said and hit her several times with the lash.
A Kazakh lash is a terrible weapon. It is possible to hew a human’s body to the bones with only one stroke. But Khanshaim didn’t even move.
“I will whip you to death!” Akpar told her silently and stroke her one more time.  
When Hassan finally broke the locker and rushed to the room, Khanshaim lied on the floor motionless, and Akpar stood next to her, holding his lash in his hand. Hassan ran to him and took the lash from his hands.
“I will kill you!” he said, pointing his Browning at Akpar. “It’s a pity that it is happening in my house, because I could really simply shot you for that!”
But it didn’t impress Akpar at all. 
“Are you threatening me?!” he shouted. “Are you threatening me?! You’ve dishonored my sister and my family, and you dare to threaten me?! Wait, just wait, you, accursed Russian lap-dog! There will be your turn too! You will pay for Burkut’s tears! How is it possible to be such a shameless person to send to prison a man like Burkut!”
Hassan was outraged and enraged, but he was really bewildered hearing it.
“What?!” he exclaimed. “Burkut?! Is Burkut in prison?..”
“Yes, yes, he is!” Akpar shouted in rage and atrocity. “He is in prison, and he always remembers you, the accursed traitor! Wait, just wait, you, bastard!” and he left the room, shutting the door.
Hassan rushed to his wife and bend to her.
“Khanshaim,” he called to her tender, “Khanshaim-jan, my love!”
She lifted up her head, but she couldn’t open her eyes: a purple terrible bruise covered her face.
“I have another dress there, in my bag,” she said weak and wincing in pain. “The blue dress. Take it, please, out of my bag and bring it to me… And don’t look at me now, my darling, please, I am so scary now…”
Hassan brought her the dress.
“Turn back, please, and don’t watch now,” she asked him, and them after a moment, she added: “Come here now”.
Hassan rushed toward her and hugged her so tender and soft, with so warm and tender feelings and care, that even the tears came to his eyes. 
“Khanshaim, my beloved Khanshaim,” he repeated again and again. “My beloved Khanshaim!”
She looked at him tendered and tried to smile, but it was really hard for her now, as her lip was split. She could hardly speak.
“That’s nothing, my darling, that’s nothing,” she said to him. “I could endure even worse things for my beloved man! And we still didn’t drink tea with you, my dear… Let’s sit at the table,” and when they already sat at the table, she suddenly asked: “What happened to Burkut? Is he in prison? Why?”
“I will know it today, I hope,” Hassan said. “I will go now”.
He showed her how to use the phone, how to lock and unlock the door and then left.
“I will be back very soon,” he told her, “don’t open the door to anybody!”
“Don’t worry,” she replied. “Akpar won’t be back today. He is far away now…”
Hassan went to the house of Olga Pavlovna. It was a little one-storied house on the outskirts of the town. This house was tiny and had only three rooms, but the garden around the house was big and shadowy. The most fragrant and sweet bird cherry and the most splendid and magnificent lilac grew in this garden. Olga’s father, Pavel Nikolayevich Chernyshov, was a great and inspired gardener and flowers-lover. Nobody had so beautiful and unbelievable tulips, like the family of Chernyshov, and no one’s roses flowered before the roses in the garden of Pavel Nikolayevich. Medal of Honor of the Community of the gardening fans was handed over in 1913 to the director of the Akshatyrsk upper secondary school, Pavel Nikolayevich Chernyshov. Somehow it happened, maybe with the purpose or accidentally, but in this last year before the war started Pavel Nikolayevich have finally and totally cut all of his old relationships and connections, which he himself considered being “dangerous” and even secret and conspiratorial. This year he refused to sign the protests petition of the local intellectuals regarding one of the latest police violations and abuses. Many of his friends signed this paper, but he refused to support this petition and didn’t even explain his reasons. Though, nobody tried to contest his signature, because he was already a son-in-law of a military governor and director of the upper secondary school at that time. And of course he was a perfect director: knowing, educated, humanist, open-minded and modern. He held the charity parties in his secondary school, and the students performed, reciting and rehearsing the poetries of Blok and Bryusov. And what the beautiful verses was it!
Mason, mason, in a white apron, 
What are building there? For whom?
Hey, don’t disturb us, we are busy,
We are building, we are building a prison…
The artists rehearsed the verses, and a son-in-low of the military governor and a director of a secondary school sat in the first line and applauded. It made a strong impression. But something else was more important here, of course. Chernyshov was a Head of a local department of a Geographical Community and was actively engaged in archeology and gathering of the fairy-tales, legends and songs. Nearly thirty years ago he sent to the Academician E.Radlov fifty folk songs, written in Kazakh language, but with the Russian letters, and they started to be in correspondence with each other. After the scientific report of this great and prominent turkologist Mister Chernyshov was honored with the golden medal of the Ethnographical Community. One year later his book “Songs and fairy-tales of the steppe” was published first in Tomsk, and then later in St. Petersburg. Though Chernyshov didn’t manage to become a real scientist, but he was always a diligent collector. He spoke the local languages perfect. He even managed to infect his daughter Olga with the same passion and love to collecting and local culture. Since she was only five years old, she spoke Kazakh language great and fluent. Everything would be simply perfect, if only not his wife Aleksandra Ivanovna. She stood always aside of the interests and devotions of her husband, although she tried not to disturb him and not to interfere in his affairs. After October Revolution and the latest events, happening in the town, she suddenly declared that she is immediately moving to St. Petersburg. It was the most clever and rational decision, which could be taken by a daughter of General Kolomoytsev in such a situation and under such circumstances. The by-names and epithets “butcher”, “hangman” and even “vampire” haunted her father for more than ten years. The General was forced to escape in order to save his life. His daughter escaped as well. She had many relatives and friends in St. Petersburg, and she also found a good place for herself there, as she was working as a pianist in one of the movies. Four years later she sent her husband her first letter, then it was the second letter, and their correspondence has started. Aleksandra Ivanovna invited her husband and her daughter to relocate to her, to St. Petersburg, but they replied evasive and indirect. Only after seven years of correspondence her husband wrote to her: “I am liquidating all of my cases and making the lasts visits. If everything will be okay, I will send you a telegram, and you will meet us at the beginning of the next month. Concerning Olga, I cannot tell you anything clear now, as she still didn’t take her final decision”.
“Yes, it is unclear. Everything is unclear,” he said, getting up from the table. “Everything is unclear… It was clear, but then suddenly everything has changed… Only God knows how it all could end!”
“Think carefully, how it all could end, my dear,” he said to his daughter in the evening. “He was arrested by the General Prosecutor’s Office, and it was for a reason! You know about his mood and his ideas, and, despite this all, you decided to stay and to wait for him! It’s silly, my dear, believe me! What could happen next? He will be sent to Siberia, and you will stay here alone, without money, friends and work. What will happen to you then?”
“I will wait for him,” Olga replied.
“Where? Where are you going to wait for him?” her father exclaimed. “Where? How? What for? Let’s imagine that he will be released. What could he tell you? He will tell you: “I hate you all, I hate all the Russians, and I hate you most, Russian girl!” That’s what he will tell you!”
“What are you saying, father?!” Olga said in offense.
“That what you are hearing, my darling,” Pavel Nikolayevich said. “He hate Russians, he hate all the Russians, not somebody particular, not the one person, or two or even a hundred of them. He hates all the Russians, and it means that he hates you and me, and all our friends as well. Did you hear his songs? Did you like them? No? What are you waiting for then?”
She kept silent for a while, and them when she started to speak, her voice was calm and confident.
“Here what I will tell you, father,” she said. “I understand your feelings. But you should also try to understand mine. I cannot do it otherwise! I know what you are going to tell me now: romantic, game, princess Volkonskaya… But it’s nonsense! I am not playing, father! I just want to live, and I want to live with Burkut. Stop, don’t interrupt me, please! He will be released. He is not a counterrevolutionary, and he doesn’t hate all the Russians, that’s not true. He hates our grandfather, he hardly bears our mother, but he loves me dearly and he respects you a lot! If only you could hear at least one time, what he is saying about you! He really respects and admires you, father! But he talks too much sometimes, that’s true… And his speech became angry recently, it’s also true, unfortunately. That was the reason of his imprisonment…”
“And his songs as well!”
“Yes, probably. That’s true. I cannot leave him alone in such a condition. It means that I need to make some efforts and to try to help him. People aren’t blind, they will see the truth, and we need to only say clearly and openly about it. If everything will be good, we will come to Leningrad together. That’s my last word, father”.
“If that’s your last word, what can I do?..” her father said, making a helpless gesture with his hands and leaving the room.
Hassan came to Olga one hour after this conversation.
“Hassan, my dear friend,” Olga rushed towards him, once he entered the room, and the door closed behind him. “If you would only know what a disaster happened in our family!”
“I know,” Hassan replied. “Will you allow me to take a seat? How did it happen? When?”
It appeared that Burkut was arrested and taken to prison three days ago. Burkut, Olga and Akpar sat all together in Burkut’s place. Suddenly somebody knocked at the door. It was about eleven o’clock, and Burkut said: “Who could it be? That’s so late already!” and he went to the door. He came back, accompanied by two military men, dressed in leather jackets. He looked lost and confused.
“Nonsense,” he said, “I don’t understand anything!”
One of the military men asked Olga’s and Akpar’s documents for checking and, casting a look at them, said:
“I am asking you to stay here and to be the arresting witnesses. We are going to search this house”.
They left the house late in the night. 
Akpar went home, and Olga accompanied Burkut to the city prison. 
“Thus, he is in a city prison,” Hassan said, rising from his seat. “Thank you so much for information, dear Olga! I will go there now!”
“If I would be on your place, I would better go to the Joint State Political Directorate first,” Pavel Nikolayevich said (he appeared at the threshold in the middle of the conversation and stood there till the end of it). “Any appointments and meeting for the investigated persons could be allowed only according to the warrant of the investigator or a head of the department. You should visit them first in order to receive this warrant and to be able to meet Burkut”.
“That’s right,” Olga supported her father. “I was told the same, when I asked one of the military men. He even told me the number of the needed cabinet: one hundred and thirty-eight. He told me that I can go there in case I will need it”.
“Okay then, I will go to the cabinet number hundred and thirty-eight first,” Hassan decided. “Once I will get some new information, I will immediately come to you, Olga, and inform you. I’m going now! Good-bye!”
Hassan spent nearly two hours, talking with the head of the secret political department, and when he left the police building, he went home, to see Khanshaim, without even checking his editorial office.

V
Nikolay Ivanovich Gavrilov, Secretary of the Joint State Political Directorate in the city, looked frowning at the top of his pen. He has completely no idea how to deal with this suspect. Head of this young man is full of strange thought and ideas, there is a crazy mix of different terms and concepts, so it is really very hard to talk with him. Once you will start to discuss one issue, and then you will not even notice how you’ve jumped to another topic, far from the initial one. Now the conversation led them to Alexander the Great and his Empire. Where does this Empire come in?
“Empire of Alexander the Great! What’s that got to do with it?” Gavrilov said, wincing dolefully. “Why should it be an example for us? Yes, that’s true, we are building a multi-national state, but in our state everything is based on the common interest, on the friendship of folks, unlike in all those empires, where there were invasions, military assaults, land seizures, robbing, stripping the folks of their independence and self-government. It has another name: military occupation. How is it possible to compare a federal union of the independent and equal countries to the occupation? But you keep repeating: multi-national state cannot be strong and solid. Of course, my dear friend, I agree with you here, there is no country in the world which could be strong and solid, if it is based on the oppression. That’s why the revolutions happen. That’s their main reason. Cannot you understand it? Okay, okay, this hysterical Cassandra, this teacher of yours, Akhan, he didn’t understand it all, and probably there was impossible to even ask him about it, if he couldn’t grasp it… He is an old fashioned man, raised and educated by the mullahs… But you… You are a young and progressive man…”
“Though you were interrogating him and chasing him,” Burkut said. He sat motionless in front of the investigator and looked at him steadily. “And you were chasing him that strong and serious, that he had only one way…”
“To jump from the upper floor? That was his only one way?” Gavrilov asked, looking at Burkut. “Yes, it is really very sad story. And, to be honest with you, it’s also a totally absurd story! Nobody intended to hurt your teacher, and there was even no reason to do it, I should say!”
“So what do you want to say? That he went mad?” Burkut asked.
“Probably he did,” Gavrilov replied. “At any rate, he did it with intention. But mind you, there were several people, appeasing him and supporting many of his ideas. And those people are his real murderers or, at least, the murder associates. These people must be found, arrested and questioned. But we will talk about it later. Anyway, I don’t think that you are involved in this terrible death…”
“Thanks God,” Burkut said and even laughed tired. “Does it mean that you know those who are involved?”
“Maybe, we know them,” Gavrilov said. “But we will talk about it later. Let us talk now only about you. So. We offer you to leave that path you are currently walking, because this path is dangerous for you and leads you to the catastrophe, to the abyss”.
“Maybe, it leads me to the pit?”
“Yes, maybe, this word could be more exact in this case. But the words do not matter now. Here is what we offer you: if you cannot help us, please, at least don’t hinder and get in our way! Wait, wait, wait! Listen to me, please! It’s not that hard to bring chaos, disturbance and mess to the minds of our fellow countrymen. Tsar times left for us ninety eight percent of uneducated people, unfortunately. These people continue to live in accordance with Qur’an and Shari’a and they can believe anything. They listen to mullahs and believe them, so they will believe you as well. Let alone you really want all the best for your people, but you don’t know where to search for it. For you every Kazakh is equal to another Kazakh, everybody is equal for you, whether bay Karymsak or poor man Matan”.
Burkut shivered and stared distrustful at the investigator. What is it? Is it kind of trap?
“Why did you say exactly these names?” he asked.
“That’s easy, my dear friend. It’s because Karymsak is father of your close friends Akpar. Right? Would you deny it?”
“Well, it’s right, I won’t deny it. But what about Matan?”
“I mentioned him, because Karymsak together with his friends have beaten Matan almost to death and then escaped to China. They took their property, money, cattle with them. In addition to that, he took with him also his former wife, and she was taken against her will, bound hand and foot. It’s unknown what he will do to her there. Maybe he will beat her to death, maybe he will simply hang her, who knows? All of them are Kazakhs. And you are willing to push them all to fight against us. Of course, Karymsak will join you in this fight. And what about these two others, friends of Karymsak, who were with him? What do you think? Will they also follow bay Karymsak?”
“You start to go into personals in this conversation,” Burkut said discontented. He still couldn’t gather his wits.
“No, not at all. I just want more specific details, that’s all,” investigator replied. “I am talking about the factual information and background”.
He rose from his seat, walked around the room, came to the window, opened it and then closed it again.
“It will be storm, I think,” he said. “That’s so untimely! It will wash out the color…”
“Do you know that too?” Burkut asked.
Gavrilov smiled:
“Of course! I am though a former school teacher. I worked in Kazakh steppe for twenty years. Of course, my dear friend! And may father, and my grandfather, they all were from the Kazakh steppe. Kenesary killed him long ago. He just chopped him with his sword. My father is from the steppe as well, as I’ve just mentioned. He was killed by Dutov and his people. He was tied to the gun, for his resistance. Can you see, how they usually resolve national problems here. Okay then, that’s not the issue. I am repeating you again the same question. If we will simply release you now and let you go, will you stop your fight? Will you refuse to continue it? Any kind of fight, and first of all ideological one. Can I assure my heads and authorities, that if we will release you, you will not create the new songs about struggles of Kazakh people and atrocities of the Soviet commissioners and officers?”
Burkut sat, lowering his head and deep in his thoughts.
“Are you thinking over my offer and question now?” Gavrilov asked. “That’s good. Think it over again and again, evaluate everything and give us your answer, can you resolve this problem or not. Because if you will give us your word on it, you won’t be able to break it anymore”.
“Why?” Burkut asked.
“Because we will consider you being a traitor, if you will break your word,” Gavrilov replied. “You will be not better than Karymsak for us, and once we will fall into our hands, we will immediately destroy you,” Gavrilov lifted the handset and summoned the security man. “So, Burkut, it’s eight o’clock now. I will summon you at ten o’clock again, and you should take your decision till this time, so we will be able to settle everything down. Okay?”
“Oaky,” Burkut replied and rose from his seat.
“Wait a second,” Gavrilov referred to him. “Think over one more thing. You worked as a teacher. We will ask you to leave this work. I hope that you understand the reasons of this request. It will be better for you and for us, if you will do it”.

Burkut left the prison at ten o’clock. When the wall-mounted clock started to strike, he was still at commandant’s office. When he went out, he got right in the middle of the warm spring rain. Heavy rain was beaten the lilac leaves, the low roofs of the houses, the cabs and the lanterns. I could be seen in the yellow and unclear light of these lanterns how the impetuous streams were running, and Burkut’s shoes became totally wet immediately.
“Look, what’s happening with the weather!” A Red Army soldier said to him, going out of the guardhouse. “Maybe, you will wait a little bit, until the rain will stop or at least weaken? But it can be raining like this all night long… Do you live far from here?”
“No, I live close!” Burkut responded merrily. “I live close form here. Good bye, comrade!”
“Yes,” Burkut thought, crossing the yard, “everybody should have a friend to come to and to talk. It seems that it was the words of one of the Dostoevsky’s characters… Where should I go to? To whom? Olga left with her father, I think, she even had a ticket. Akpar? No, I don’t think that I should go to Akpar. He is able to think only of himself. He thinks, that not the aul, where he was born, belongs to him, but also all the people living in this aul, all the cattle and the fields and steppe around. No, I could go to anybody nut not to him now…” Burkut remembered also about Hassan, but it was only a little and unclear thought, he remembered about him, like people sometimes remember about a good person, whom you wish you could know closer and better, but there was no chance to do it, unfortunately. He thought about it all and walked through the park, and suddenly a black shadow rushed towards him.
“Burkut! Burkut!” this shadow shouted gladly, hugging Burkut. “Burkut, my friend! Is it you, Burkut?”
“Oh my God!” he exclaimed. “Olga!”
“I was waiting for you, waiting for you so long,” Olga said, hugging him, “I spent three hours sitting on this bench! See, I’m soaked to my skin under this rain! It’s so dark that I even cannot see your face clear! You might lose some weight, I suppose? Did they release you only now? Are you hungry? Let’s go, let’s go to my house, everything is ready there, let’s go! Did they release you as their final decision? Are you totally free now? Won’t they take you again? Is it final? Of course, they won’t take you again, why should they?”
She asked and answered her own questions herself. She cried and laughed and hugged Burkut stronger and stronger.
“Yes, it’s a final decision,” Burkut assured her, pressing tenderly her fingers and looking into her eyes. “Why should they need me? Only you need me!”
Embracing each other, they went together home, to Olga’s house, because Burkut actually didn’t have his own home since that day, and there could be no other home for him. His home is there, where Olga is. Olga will be always with him, for the lifetime. She is with him in everything: she supports his ideas, his thoughts, his feelings, his attitudes towards the people and events. It’s clear, of course. If she loves him, she might love everything in him and everything dear to him: his friends, his ideas and his hopes. She couldn’t even imagine how it could be different, if you live with your beloved person.
They decided to get married in one week.
…Despite the hard and gloomy times they took a decision to celebrate their wedding according to the old customs and traditions. There were nearly hundred persons invited. They didn’t forget to invite Akpar, Hassan and Khanshaim and even their distant friend Karazhan, who was a young man, who just graduated from the military school right at the beginning of the revolution.
Five sheep were delivered for the feast from the neighboring aul, five skins of the best kumiss were also prepared for the holiday. They didn’t forget about the music as well. Even faizollah, local trouveur and singer, was invited and he had to open the celebration. In general, everything went smooth and according to the plan, but suddenly Akpar appeared, on the morning of the wedding day. He came right at that moment, when the young couple was finishing serving and decorating the table. Burkut stood, holding a pile of dishes in his hands, while Olga and her friends placed them on the table. 
“It would be great to talk a little bit,” Akpar said to Burlut after greeting him. “Let us go for several minutes to another room”.
“So, that’s where it is,” he started, taking a seat at the couch. “First of all, I want to thank you for your invitation. I just came back from my trip yesterday and received it. So I want to thank you again and allow me to wish you both all the best and a lot of happiness”.
He was talking and smiling, but his eyes didn’t smile and were running, that’s why his smile was unnatural and crooked, looking more like an evil grin than like a smile.
“You can wish it all during our wedding feast,” Burkut said. “Remember, we are waiting for you”.
“That’s why I came now,” Akpar smiled again. “I cannot come to your wedding feast”.
“Why?” Olga asked.
“Don’t you understand it?” Akpar said and looked at her silently for some time. “I thought that you will understand it. I am too dangerous guest, you know, because I am, talking in a high language, son of a state traitor. Burkut was released only one week ago, and of course, he is followed and watched now. And generally, the less they will see me here, the better. It will be better for me and for my friends as well, believe me”.
“Don’t say this nonsense,” Burkut said frowning. “It doesn’t matter that your father escaped. You didn’t and you are here. Why should you be responsible for your father?”
“No, there are some things they could ask me about, and I am responsible for some things, unfortunately,” Akpar objected. “You are a Kazakh, you know our customs. The guest like me is a shame for your house and for your wedding feast as well. The one who wasn’t able to marry off his own sister in a proper way, but who just gave her up to his worst enemy, cannot be a guest at someone’s wedding,” his face was drawn in rage. “What a villain! He just defamed our family! I swear I will find a way to deal with this accursed Russian…” he even doubled his fist, but then suddenly came back to his senses and smiled again. “Oh my God, what am I saying?! I came to the bride’s house on the eve of the wedding and say such nonsense! You know, why I came…”
He got into his pocket and took out of it a massive golden bracelet with the crimson clasp. 
“I want to make you a wedding gift, Olga-jan,” he said with a smile. “It’s our family treasure; it was saved in our family and given through the generations. Take it as a gift, dear Olga!”
“No, no,” Olga replied, backing off, “I won’t take it now, only at the wedding feast!”
He lifted his hands in dismay.
“I’m telling you that I cannot come to your wedding feast, unfortunately,” he said. “Take my gift, please, don’t offend me!”
“It’s you who is offending me now, Akpar, if you don’t want to come to our celebration…”
“Olga, Olga,” Akpar replied, shaking his head dolefully. “What are you saying, Olga? Do you think I wouldn’t come if I could? Take it, please, don’t offend me…”
“Take it, Olga, take it,” Burkut said, supporting Akpar. “He makes it with all his heart!”
“This crimson is for luck,” Akpar went on saying. “Look at it, it’s like blood, it’s shining in the sun and playing with colors even now! It is as if it was designed for you! Wear it now, please, and don’t take it off! It’s fro luck!”
Olga looked at Burkut. She felt confused and uncomfortable. She was a little bit scared of Akpar. This feeling remained with her since the days when he was courting her. She always felt something strange, hidden, mysterious and dark in Akpar, something he didn’t want to show and share, something he was always hiding. Even his words always sounded different, as if he was telling one thing and thinking something completely different, and his eyes also never smiled, remaining cold and indifferent, although he himself could be laughing and joking. His deeds were also strange and incomprehensible. When she finally took a decision and chose Burkut, there was a painful break between her and Akpar, and they didn’t see each other during almost a year. Then they met together, three of them, and went to the cinema. Not a single word was said about the old times. Since that time they started to meet again, and everything went as if nothing special happened in their relationships, except of the happy and merry meetings, conversations, discussions and visiting some interesting places together. Olga was walking arm-in-arm with Burlut, while Akpar was walking beside them, now appearing and then disappearing, now participating in a conversation, then keeping silent. And if there would be no this strange feeling of tension, which seized Olga always, one could really think that all the past stories are forgotten, and Akpar is just their close and fair old friend. 
“I want to ask you to wear this bracelet during the wedding feast as well, dear Olga,” Akpar said.
“Yes, yes, that’s a good idea,” Burkut supported it. “And if anybody will ask where we got it, we will answer them that it’s a wedding gift from out good friend Akpar. Because what if the people will think that you refused to come to us and avoided the celebration, because you are offended or something like that…”
“Of course!” Akpar exclaimed. “Wear it and let it bring you only luck and happiness, dear Olga! A pure and dear heart gave it you, believe me! And now…” he turned to Burkut: “I would like to tell you a couple of words, my dear friend, but I would like to make it private, so, I hope, that Olga won’t be offended…”
“Please, please,” Olga said in haste and slid out of the room.
“Unbelievable and stunning girl!” Akpar exclaimed. “You are lucky man, Burkut! Here what I wanted to tell you: love your wife, take care of her, but don’t talk too much and too open in her presence. Our business is our business, don’t share it too much. And it would be better for our relatives, beloved ones and friends, if they could answer any questions about our business and our affairs with “I don’t know anything”. Why should we involve them in all those things? Do you agree with me?”
“Yes, I do,” Burkut replied.
“That’s fine. Well, I think I will go now,” he came to the door and halted for a moment. “Yes! Here is one more thing! Karazhan won’t be able to come as well. He travels tomorrow early in the morning, after the sunrise”.
“Why?”
“People’s commissariat for education sent a request for him. They say they want to give him some high position, to appoint him for head of something, I don’t know exactly. Why are you wondering so much?”
“No, just explain me, how does this people’s education come into picture?” Burkut said. “He graduated from the military school in Omsk, then he taught some soldiers here in the neighborhood. He is a guardsman!”
“Yes, we thought he is,” Akpar smiled ironically. “But in the real he made some connections and had friendship with the Bolsheviks while studying in the military school. And he was sent to teach these soldiers for the purpose too”.
“Why was he with us?”
“You ask him, why! I asked him, but he didn’t reply, he only smiled and joked. He used to say that we all served the same cause, he did it in his way, and we did in our way. Something like that”.
“It’s good that he won’t come in this case!” Burkut said, getting angry. “I cannot bear the people like that… A bird of passage… Today he is here, tomorrow he will be there! Today he is with you; tomorrow he will fight with your enemy against you! The wind just blew, and he followed it immediately”.
“Well,” Akpar said, putting his hand of Burkut’s shoulder. “Let us see how he will behave next and what he will do. And now the thing I didn’t want to tell you and discuss in Olga’s presence. I came to say good-bye. I am leaving”.
“Where to?”
“To Alma-Ata. A driver is waiting. I advise you to leave this town soon as well. Once you’ll celebrate your wedding and spend a week or something like that with your wife here and come to Alma-Ata as well. We will meet there. I will wait for you”.
“But I need to visit my aul first,” Burkut said.
“Your aul?” Akpar said in bewilderment.
“I mean my uncle’s aul,” Burkut smiled. “You know I am an orphan, my mother died, when I was under five years old, and only Allah knows when my father died. I grew up in my uncle’s aul, and now he invites me”.
“What can I say? Go, if he invited you,” Akpar allowed him. “You need some support in order to live normally and to not starve with your young wife. Nobody will feed you today for the poetry, unfortunately. There are no bays anymore. Our easy earnings are over. You should work, brother!”
“What are you saying? As if I was offered a work and refused it!” Burkut said with ironical smile. “Who will invite me to work? Who will hire me?”
“Maybe those, who gave work to Karazhan,” Akpar said. “Soviet authorities”.
“Really? I hardly believe that Soviet authorities could give me work again”.
“You should believe it, my dear friend,” Akpar smiled. “And not only believe, but to start to work. To work for them. In a smart way, of course. I hope you understand that if I refused to go to China together with my father, it was for a reason”.
“That’s the point!” Burkut exclaimed, understanding what Akpar was talking about. “So, you mean work for the both sides. You want me to run with the hare and hunt with the hounds. But this kind of work is not for me, my friend!”
“Sitting in the prison is better for you, I see,” Akpar said. “Don’t be silly. Remember what did our ancestors used to say. If the time is a fox, you should learn to be a coursing dog”.
“Should I also learn to become a wolf and to attack a dog tomorrow, if it will be needed?” Burkut objected. “That’s not for me. I fight only openly”.
“Is it in your power to fight openly?” Akpar laughed. “Burkut, Burkut! You still want to live with honor and to fight face to face. No, my dear friend, times of Zheke-batyr  have passed and they will never ever come back again. You need a camel’s patience, a fox’s cunning, a hare’s speed and a wolf’s fangs in this fight. If you lack it you need to get it somehow. That’s why I suggest you to go to Alma-Ata. And tell Olga that if we will meet somewhere in public there, we don’t know each other”.
“You’ve got scared,” Burkut sneered. “You’ve got scared that your associate, your ally was in prison. That’s him, that’s not me, I don’t even know him anymore and I will not even greet him! I didn’t expect it from you, Akpar! You are kaskyr !”
Akpar smiled and said: “I am a wolf, that’s true! I’m hiding my teeth until time will come to show them. But there is none of my fault in anything else. I’m not guilty especially towards you. You will see and understand everything when we will meet. Farewell!” he went, but then halted again. “Will Hassan come to your wedding today?”
“Why are you asking about it?” Burkut said, looking suspiciously at Akpar.
“It means he will come,” Akpar concluded. “I thought that he has already left the town. That’s nothing! I will go now. Tell my hello to Olga!”
He left, and Burkut stood motionless for a long time, looked at the door, where Akpar just disappeared, and was thinking.
There were really a lot of guests at the wedding feast. Everybody, who was invited, except of Akpar and Karazhan, attended the ceremony and the party. Hassan and his young beautiful wife came as well. Khanshaim presented to Olga a golden ring with the ruby. A prominent and famous jeweler Mustay made it. This ring and the bracelet, taken by Akpar and given to Olga as a wedding gift, were actually a part of Khanshaim’s dowry. When she saw her bracelet on Olga’s hand, she hardly held herself from exclaiming. Before his escape to China old Karymsak took this bracelet off the hand of his daughter and hid it in the big box. “You will wear it again in another place,” he said to her. But Khanshaim didn’t see this “another place”, that’s why she was sure that she will never ever see her jewels again, and now she saw them after several days on the hand of another woman. How could it happen? In order to avoid asking herself these questions, Khanshaim tried to oppress her agitation, said something indistinctive and unclear to the bride and stepped aside.
Fayzollah excelled himself this day. Old men, who attended the wedding feast, only chucked their tongues with the approval. Fayzollah brought to life the most delicate and beautiful sounds and notes from the violin, and this violin was singing like a human being in his hands. And the violin was crying like a human being as well. Then Fayzollah started to play something merry and stirring, and the girls started to sing merrily with him and to clap their hands in the rhythm of the music. Then the guests drank tea and were singing again, when suddenly clink of broken glass was heard. The shatters were scattered all over the floor and even reached the feasting table. Everybody screamed, and the owner of the apartment, Sakynjamal, was screaming the loudest. Her hand hung feeble and weak, like a piece of cloth. She shook it and cried. Blood was running and falling on the floor, and all the dishes were covered with blood. She kept on crying and moaning, when she was carried to another room. Somebody ran to call a doctor.
“It was a shot made from Browning,” Hassan said, approaching the window and examining the shatters. “It’s good that he didn’t shot her in the left hand, at least…”
“Why did he shot her? What did she do?” Burkut asked perplexedly.
“This person was targeting not her, but me,” Hassan said. “She fetched some tea for me, he shot at this moment and injured her. What a bastard!”
“Who is a bastard?!” Burkut exclaimed without understanding.
“Who? Akpar, of course,” Hassan said. “Or maybe some of his friends”.
“Akpar!” Burkut ran rapidly outside, to the yard.
There was a dark night, a moon in the sky, shadows on the ground, and nobody to be seen around. Only the patter of hoofs could be heard somewhere far away.
“I cannot believe that it was Akpar!” Burkut thought in dismay. “Did he make it to take revenge for his sister? Everything is possible… I wish I would meet him now!”
But they haven’t met. Three days later Burkut and Olga departed to Burkut’s uncle’s aul. 

Part Two
WANDERING AT THE CROSSROADS 

I
A chariot ripped along Bukhtarma River. The road runs close to the river. The river here is fast, hog-wild, with the high rugged and cliffed coasts. It looks like the cliffs cut the road into two halves, and the river lays on one side, while these gloomy high cliffs, crowned with the heave clouds high above, are on the other side of the road. Once you will raise your head to look up, and your hat will be lost. Pines, spruces, fir-trees and dense forest are to be seen along the long road. The river meadows, where the grass is waist-deep, come closer to the river. Big and juicy buttons, high umbels, red and blue flowers grow richly in these meadows. The air is full of unceasing birds’ tweet and this tweet muffles everything: patter of hoofs, howl of the wind in the cliffs and even the roar of a torrent. For the person, who used to live in the city and hear the typical city sounds, such as ringing, clanking, honks, signals, sirens and other sounds like this, could be really surprised and amazed being here and listening to this chorus of nature sounds. Everything is just like in the fairy-tale: the cliffs are fantastic here, looking now sharp, like the spikes, and then like the giant mysterious sculptures; the forests are thick, deep and weird; the birds are unbelievable and fantastic. There are three people in the chariot: a coachman dressed in a short warm overcoat, who is a grim and a short-spoken person and never asked a question the young couple he gave a ride. Other two passengers were Burkut and his young wife Olga. Olga was dressed in a while silken dress and a scarf. She looks around in amazement and cannot stop looking and enjoying the nature and the beauty, and everything wonders her: these cliff tops, wondrous flowers at the road, different birds.
On the contrary, Burkut was grim and concentrated, deep in his thoughts. He was thinking his own thoughts and didn’t share them. Wonderful and strange was an ancient and a centuries-long fate of his native Kazakh folk, Burkut thought, and it was also mysterious and too complicated. It’s very difficult and almost impossible to understand all the details and turns of its history. The history of Kazakhs starts from the story, that about two hundred years before Jesus Christ was born, the Wusuns – one of the biggest and most powerful Kazakh tribes – came to the Balkhash Lake.
They were moving through the valley of the Ili River and along the coasts of the Ala-Kul Lake. This place is being called the “historical gates” not without reason: all the folks, rushing towards the East, have passed these Gates. During almost four hundred years the powerful Wusuns owed the coasts of the Balkhash Lake and all the region of the seven rivers, until the second wave, coming in 177 AD, didn’t push them to the West. Though, not only the Wusuns were forced to leave their native places and to relocate, as there were times when almost all the folks were affected, and none of them could stand the strong and powerful Hun invasion, which started from China and spread across the all Southern steppe. The Great transmigration of people has started. The Huns were in charge of these lands for more than three centuries, until they were superseded later by the Mongols. They just disappeared, without leaving any trace and any artifacts and significant sites after themselves, as if they never existed. The modern historians and archeologists even suggest sometimes, that the fact of the Huns’ existence wasn’t “archeologically proved”.
“The wind is blowing in the West and the wind is blowing in the East, the wind is blowing and singing and comes back in cycles,” on old book says. Different folks came to the vast steppe and conquered it, they led wars against each other, destroyed the cattle, property and wives of their enemies and each other as well, but then they became reconciled and lived like the real brothers, they mixed and mingled with each other, so that soon it was not that easy to understand and to distinguish where are the representatives of some particular tribe or folk, where this tribe came from and what was its role in the history and in the current events. There were so many different folks on the long-suffering land of Kazakhs: Pechenegs, Torkils, Komans used to live in this steppe, until the powerful Komans’ wave of the strong conquerors didn’t rebound them to the lands near the Volga River and farther to the steppe and forests of Rus’ lands. What happened next is well known from the Russian chronicles, folk tales and songs. There was continuous violent fighting, there were the burnt cities and the crying wives – everybody remembers Yaroslavna’s lament – there were the cities totally destroyed and leveled to the ground, and it lasted endless. And then Kyrgys-Kaysaks, who seemed to disappear off the face of the earth after the Huns’ invasion, appeared again. That was actually the moment when the Kazakhs’ history and history of the great Kazakh folk starts. Long-suffering and bloody history, where there are more falls, then risings, and more defeats, then victories.
From the second till the eighteenth centuries the Kazakh people faced almost total destruction and elimination for three times. Three terrible and perilous invasions (Huns, Mongols, Dzungars) seemed to totally destroy and eliminate the Kazakh people off the face of Earth, but Kazakhs stood still and continued to live, rising like a Phoenix every time. And then the eighteenth century came and brought to the Kazakh kinds the tsar regime colonies and colonial expeditions and the rule of the khans.
Thus, the history failed. The past of this desolate, unfortunate and outcast folk led to the struggling, suffering, bloody fights, defeats and deaths.
It’s hard to find something like this even in the history of the dark and violent Middle Ages. Maybe that was the reason, that the soul of Kazakh people was preserved not in the heroic songs, not in the legends, not in the saga and tales, but in the genius characters of Korkut and Asan Kaygy. 
During the centuries this constant wanderer Korkut roams in the Kazakh steppe, riding his swift camel and hoping to finally find the land where there is no death. But wherever he went, he saw everywhere an open grave in front of him, that empty and narrow pit, which was always a real symbol of death in all Kazakh legends and tales. And then he finally understood that only art and creativity are immortal. A man can die, but his song will live. And then he taught his tribesmen to play kobza .
Another Kazakh legendary character, Asan Kaygy, or, in other words, Asan No-Hoper, is also searching for the Promised Land, where the birds could make their nests on the backs of the sheep without any fear. Maybe the poet couldn’t find out a more silent and peaceful and touching image in order to express his sadness and his yearning for the rest, peace and silence. The great sad heroes of the Kazakh people have been wandering during the centuries through the wide Kazakh steppe, living in their songs. They were looking for peace and solace and couldn’t find them.
What are you dreaming of now, Burkut? What are you thinking about now? Is it possible that these horrible and bloody lessons are still not enough for you? Is it possible that the greatness and splendor of the people is in their tragedies? But you believe in the life force of your fellow-countrymen. You believe that nobody and nothing in this world could defeat these people and cast them to the feet of the conquerors. You believe it, you really believe it! No matter how many times this land will be burnt again and its cities will be leveled to the ground, no matter how long and how many times again this land will be soaked with blood and tears of the ordinary people again, your people will resurrect and rise like a Phoenix from the ashes!
Maybe that is why your folk always sing. When a little child comes to this world, old people sing at its cradle; when an old man or an old woman dies, children put the body away to the grave with the song as well. This song’s name is zhoktau, it means “Song of Nonentity”. They sing, when they have fun, they sing, when they work. They sing in the morning and they sing in the night, they sing in joy and they sing in sorrow. When they show a beautiful bride to the guests, they sing a special song, betashar. When they bestow her in a marriage, they sing zhar-zhar song. When they fall in love, they sing, and when their love is gone, they sing too.
Each folk retails and stamps its youth in its memory in different ways. Greeks expressed it in the statues and stones of Acropolis, Italians embodied it in the pictures of Rafael, and Kazakhs express and embody it in their songs, because their songs are the best the Kazakh folk have ever created.
Once Olga’s father told Burkut about one prominent as, yearlong commemoration, which was held for the rich local man Sagintay. Everything was great and colossal in this commemoration, just like in the ancient legends and songs. The white yourts were erected for the numerous guests. Only rich and high-born and influential people had the tents and yourts, made from the white soft wool in that time, and here there were nearly five hundred of such white yourts erected. Five hundred Bukhara carpets were spread on the floor of these five hundred white splendid yourts.
Five thousand guests from all over the Kazakh lands and steppe have gathered for this commemoration feast. 
This commemoration feast lasted during two weeks.
The guests drank five tones of the flowers’ tea and fifty tones of sugar. Beautiful porcelain ware and the samovars for this tea feast were delivered here from Tashkent, Kazan and Nizhny Novgorod. 
Ten thousand of the satin blankets and the pillows from the soft and light floss were offered for the guests to take rest and to sleep comfortably. Five thousand Bukhara robes and five hundred Siberian martens were taken with the guests, after they’ve left. Twenty thousand of sheep and thousand of the two years old horses were slaughtered for the feast. Three hundred of the best quarter horses participated in the races. Five hundred of men and women ahorse have been serving the numerous guests. 
This unbelievable commemoration feast cost the Kerey family, who organized it, maybe the same amount of money, as the great Taj Mahal, one of the wonders of the world, cost the Great Mogul.   
But nothing could be left in the people’s memory about this commemoration feast and the events like this, if there was no sad and beautiful song of a Kazakh poet. And this song was composed not about the dead bay. A famous Kulager, a horse of a singer Akhan Sere, was killed during the races. The horse was killed in a disgraceful and in a gangster-like way, by the two brothers, named Kotrash and Batrash. They cracked open the horse’s head with the clubs, because they decided that the horse of a poor man cannot leave behind the best horses of the most noble and rich dzhigits, who participated in the races too. Now every Kazakh knows this beautiful and sad song about the noble horse, killed violently by the two outlaws. This song is a real anthem of grief, suffering and rage. The Kazakhs are proud of this song not less, than the Indians might be proud of the marble miracle of Taj Mahal.
That’s what the song means for a Kazakh! That’s why the biggest fear of Burkut was that the Russian culture will destroy and eliminate the best of what the Kazakhs have – their soul, their beautiful, strong and immortal song. That’s why he is so sad. That’s why he is deep in his thought, so dissipated and thought full, singing silently to himself:
Oh, my life, a lonesome road!
There are many stops and many miles on it…
I was hardly happy, I cried a lot, 
And my bread was always dry and hard…
But I didn’t know how I could live different,
And why does this sad dombra cry
About my lonely life…
“Hey, what a strange song are you singing? A lonesome road, a lonely dombra, I’ve cried a lot… What is it?” Olga asked turning her face to Burkut. “You better look around, it’s so beautiful!”
One hour later the travelers passed the cliffs, and their way ran through the steppe. Now everywhere, as far as the eyes could see, yellow and red tulips were flowering under the sun, while far away, at the horizon line, big hazy spots of yellow and red colors appeared. There were the mirages and blazes. And silence, silence everywhere! The chariot runs soundless, the white clouds crawl soundless in the sky, and their shadows slide soundless on the faces of the travelers and on the road and everything around. Olga sleeps and smiles asleep, and even strong and burning steppe sun cannot disturb her and interrupt her sleep despite its beams breaking away sometimes from the clouds. She only moves her head a little bit and winces lightly. It seems that the entire world holds itself and keeps quiet waiting for something unexpected. Only one time this silence was broken. This time Burkut fell asleep and then he was waked up by the shout of Olga:
“Burkut, look! Look!”
A little hare rushed towards their chariot in a terribly rapid pace. His ears were pressed to his neck, and he ran like blazes. Though there was no one chasing him in the steppe: either wolf, or fox, or dog or anyone else.
“He is mad!!” Burkut exclaimed.
Suddenly long black shadow slid along the steppe, and they saw a golden eagle. They didn’t see him before. He just fell like a stone from above. How could this little hare to fell this terrible danger flying in the sky high over his head, if this eagle was hiding in the clouds till the latest moment? Of course, this hare couldn’t see the eagle, but, maybe, his instinct gave him some supernatural sagacity and feeling of danger. This silent black shadow was ready to finally attack a little running creature, when suddenly the hare make an unexpected rapid move and sprang right under the chariot. 
“Halt!” Olga shouted, referring to the coachman.
The horses and the chariot stopped. The golden eagle flew, or, to be more precisely, slid over the ground, terrible and soundless, like a monstrous fish. Burkut saw his feathers on his huge and wide wings, terrible black nib and angry and furious snake-like head. This eagle flew very close to the chariot and was even close to hit it accidently with his wings, and then the bird took rapidly the air. 
“He is terrible angry,” a coachman said. “The birds like this one could even attack a man, if they are hungry enough, of course!”
Burkut looked under the chariot. The hare laid, pressed tight to the ground, and it could be seen how his sides heaved.
“Let this little hare recover itself,” Olga said. “We can wait a little bit”.
They stood nearly five minutes and then moved again, as the hare kept laying motionless for some time and then jumped and ran away rapidly.
“Good luck to you, lovely creature!” Olga shouted to the hare with a smile. It seemed that this little hare really heard her: he reached the nearest hill, drew itself up and waved with his small paws several times in Olga’s direction. Olga laughed merrily. Burkut laughed as well and then pondered immediately: “Here is the chariot… It saved the life of at least one little living creature now… And my folk… Can I hope to be such a strong pillar and shelter for you, my beloved suffering folk, in the times of sorrow and despair?..”
“Strange ideas are coming to my mind,” he said silent and grim.
“What kind of ideas?” Olga asked.
Look at this cliff,” he replied. “How does it look like?”
Olga looked at the cliff Burkut pointed at and said:
“I think it looks like a human being”.
“That’s right,” Burkut said. “Kazakhs used to call this cliff “Kerbez-Shyn”, it means “Stone Beauty”. It’s not so obvious from this side, but if we will look at this cliff from the opposite side, you will see…”
They’ve reached the cliff in about five minutes. 
“Here it is,” Burkut said, halting. “I was born here, in these places. It happened almost thirty years ago,” Burkut said in a thoughtful voice and then, noticing that Olga looked at him a little bit distrustful, laughed and said: “My darling, there’s nothing strange and special in it! Our aul was roaming and moving towards Tarbagatay that time, we stayed for the night here. And here my mother gave me a life,” Burkut said, waving his hands.
Olga looked at the cliffs. They were high, steep, sharp and vast, but even here some crooked and twisted pines, incurved under the wind, were scattered here and there on the slopes of these cliffs. There was noisy and merrily down, under the cliffs. They stood in a little birch wood; a little stream was running at their feet down, in the sandy ground.
“That’s true, the poets and artists should be born in the places like this one,” Olga said wistful.
Burkut turned to her and looked at her with the care-worn smile.
“What happened to you?” Olga asked anxiously.
“That’s nothing,” he replied and then suddenly he simply exploded: “The poets are born, you say! And tell me, why are the born? What for? What is the reason, what’s the purpose of this all? To shout accompanied by the drum and flute? To muddle in the filth? To ridicule and laugh at the kulaks ? To find out the bureaucrats? Neither the cliffs nor the poets are needed for that! I am a poet, I was born here, and I want to sing about this land and about my folk, the folk I dearly love and cannot even imagine my life without it! And I don’t care about all of these propagandists and agitprops! Do you understand it?”
“I do, Burkut,” Olga replied and kissed his head tenderly. “I do understand it all, my darling. But I ask you to be not only high-minded and lofty, but also wise. A poet should be a thinker, a philosopher. Your poetry is based on inspiration, emotion, on the outburst. But the only one hot heart is not enough for a poet! A poet needs a sober mind as well. Promise me that you will be more clever and wise and that you will always think. You are responsible for the two lives now”.
“I always remember it, my darling,” Burkut sighed.
“That’s good,” Olga smiled. “As for the rest… You want happiness and all the best for your beloved folk, and you want this happiness in a way you see and understand it. But the people could see and feel it different and they could have another opinion about it. And they could act different. The people have their own visions of the good and the bed, and you cannot force them to think like you do. It’s really very good that you truly love your people. But it’s sad that this love of yours is kind of egoistic”.
“Egoistic? How is it?” Burkut asked in bewilderment. It seemed to him that he misheard Olga’s words.
“Yes, my dear,” Olga approved her thought again, short and merciless. “Your love to your folk is egoistic. Irrational and unwise is often like this. This love tries to thrust its object its own rules and visions: you should do like this, because I am sure that this is good and right, and this is bad and wrong, so don’t do it; you should believe me and not yourself, because I know better what do you need and what is good for you, because I am more clever. And things like that. Isn’t it egoism? You know, there is a Russian proverb: “I wish you only the good and push you into water, but you don’t understand this good and tries to get out of there”. Something like that. Does it look a little bit like you?”
“No, not at all,” Burkut said and laughed.
“If it’s wrong and isn’t your case, so don’t decide everything in advance, but better try to really understand your people: what do they want, what do they dream of, what are their real wishes. Once you will understand the people’s will, you should share it and obey it, if you really love your people and want everything the best for them. The people say: “The voice of the people is the voice of God”.”
…They reached Burabay’s aul at the dawn time. This aul stood on the shore of the big lake, surrounded by the huge reed thickets. There were many black and small yourts, scattered across the entire Western shore of the lake, and one big white yourt emerged in the middle of the aul, with several smaller yourts erected next to it. These yourts were made from the best white woolen material and stood at a little distance from the other yourts on the meadow, in the middle of the little and merry woodlet. Here, nearly fifty meters form the yourts, stood the horses. There were thirty well-fed horses with the smooth and shining fur, saddled and ready for the trip. No one was seen in the aul, only the dogs were barking.
“It seems they aren’t so happy to meet us here,” Burkut said, looking around.
“If you would be a land surveyor, they would react different and would run around you,” a coachman smiled grimly.
“Hey, look, look!” Olga exclaimed, gripping an arm of her husband. 
A tall dzhigit rode towards them.
He dismounted, took his horse by the bridles and came closer to the chariot. Blinking and narrowing his eyes, Burkut looked sharply at him, trying to remember where he could have seen this tall, handsome black-haired young man. He was dressed poorly: a robe made from the camel fur and girded with the tawing belt, an old sun-bleached cap was on his head and old wore out boots on his feet. Only the poorest people, beggars or servants dress this way in the auls. But despite all of this, he looked like the real dzhigit, a noble and respectable young man. He also accomplished an old custom of meeting the guests: a guest should be always accepted on foot, even if somebody rides a horse, he or she usually dismounts and approaches a guest on foot, leading a horse having it on a string. This young man made everything according to the old Kazakh custom now. The way he walked, smiled and even the way he raised his whip in order to chase away the dogs, running around, showed a polite and well-bred man, knowing his worth. Suddenly his face was lighted with a wide and happy smile and joy.
“Burkut-aga!” he shouted merrily, stretching his both hands to Burkut. 
“Wait, wait, wait,” Burkut said, trying to remember, “your face looks familiar… Ohh my God! It’s Yerkebulan! I would never ever recognize you!”
They hugged each other.
“The time is running!” Burkut went on. “I remember you as a little shepherd boy, you were twelve years old that time, right? I think not elder than twelve years old… You became a real dzhigit now!” he turned to Olga and said: “Let me introduce my cousin, my uncle’s son, his name is Yerke. And this is your zheneshe, Yerke, your aunt Olga”.
Yerke turned red from shyness. He took Olga’s thin and tender white hand in his huge and rude from work hands and shook it carefully. It seemed that it was first time for him to see such a beautiful and well-dressed young woman.
“Why are you looking at her like this?” Burkut said smiling. “Hug her like a brother! Olga, he is afraid of you, bless me, he is really afraid of you!”
Olga laughed:
“I’ve never thought that I could be so fearsome for such a big and strong dzhigit. But that’s nothing! We will be great friends soon, I can feel it”.
“Thus, how are you doing?” Burkut asked. “I didn’t manage to take you with me that time, long ago… What could I do! I myself was just a student that time! So, how are you doing now? What is new?”
“Everything is the same, nothing new and nothing special,” Yerkebulan replied. “What could happen here? Every day is the same. I used to tend cattle and I still do the same!”
“That’s bad. You know, Olga,” Burkut said, referring to his wife: “the fate of this guy is on my conscience. He was left an orphan; he lost his parents and had no one on his side. His aunt visited our aul, when it was funeral. She wanted to take a boy with her and to raise him and give him education, but our aqsaqals  didn’t let him go. They said they can teach him themselves. You can see now, how did they teach him! Okay then, we can talk about it later. What is it happening now in your aul? Some kind of gathering? There are nearly thirty horses there, next to those yourts. Is it toy ?”
“Yes, it is,” Yerkebulan smiled painfully. “We have a toy, which I wish I wouldn’t see, my dear brother! Zhabagy-bay is getting married!”
“That’s great? Yet again?”
“I really don’t know, nobody counted! Maybe it’s his tenth time or something like that. Somehow his wives die too often and too soon! Now his youngest wife died, so he decided make happy Nurjamal. She is seventeen and he is sixty! Great!”
“Yes,” Burkut said thoughtful. “Yes… It’s really great….” He didn’t find what else to say. “That’s really an old-world, ancient custom!”
“But you take it so close to your heart,” Olga referred to the young dzhigit.
“That’s true, my dear sister,” Yerkebulan replied. “This accursed wedding is right in my poor heart. We love each other so strong with Nurjamal… It would be better for me to see her dead than to see her getting married to another man… Accursed old man! He wants to take her as his youngest wife!”
“Wait, wait, wait,” Olga said in surprise. “You say – she will be his youngest wife…. But I cannot believe it could happen till now, that a man could have several wives here…”
“Of course! Dear sister, you don’t know many of our old customs!”  Yerke said, waving his hand in despair. “Our people will be ready to bury a man alive if the eldest members of our aul will order it! But you were brought to us by Allah, I’m sure! They would not try to contradict you and Burkut-aga, and they won’t fight you, that’s for sure! Everything will be as you will say. Yes, Yes! Allah sent you both to us!”
“Yes, yes,” Burkut repeated after him, almost without understanding. “Yes…” he really didn’t know what to say. “What did her father say about it? How did he agree to it? She is only seventeen years old, while he is already sixty…” Burkut felt really lost and confused. Of course, he felt really sorry for the young guy, but he came to this aul not for resolving the problems of this kind and to destroy someone’s wedding. “I can’t believe that her father could agree to do it!”
Burabay ordered it! One can do nothing against his word and his will. This old devil promised to give him a new and strong horse, and this horse is famous in the whole neighborhood!”
Burkut got silently back into the chariot and then said to the coachman:
“Let’s go!”
They entered the aul.
A young girl was singing. She was singing and crying at the same time. She cried about her native and beloved aul, which she will never ever see again, about her dear girlfriends, whom she won’t see again, she sung about her childhood, when she was dearly and warmly loved by her family, everybody took care of her and nourished her and cherished and didn’t even allow the wind o blow on her, and now, when she finally grew up, she was simply stolen to the strange place and strange people for a couple of sheep and a horse.
“Who is it?” Olga asked.
“Look, look!” Burkut said, gripping her hand. Procession of the young girls appeared from behind the grey yourts. They were dressed like for celebration: caftans made from the green and black velvet, caps from zibeline and beautiful skull-caps, embroidered and fancied with gold and silver. Every cap had a little waving bunch of feather on its top. Their braids were loose and beset with the coins and silver bijouterie. All of it was moving, shining and jingling. A cart laden with many things and belongings moved following the procession. 
“Here is Nurjamal,” Burkut whispered.
She walked in front of the procession: thing and slender beautiful girl with white face, long dark braids and big and deep black eyes. “She has a camel colt’s eyes,” Kazakhs say about the girls like her, and it’s considered being the highest praise. In addition to that, she was slender and supple and maybe that’s why she seemed to be taller than many of her girlfriends. “Look at her, she is like a swan among the geese,” Burkut whispered to Olga. The girls crossed the road and entered one of the yourts among the other grey and poor yourts.
The bride was singing:
“Good bye, my beloved native lands!
I’m going to start my long trip far away!
You loved me so dearly, my father!
You took care of me and protected me from everything…
But when the time came,
You bartered me and my soul for the sheep…
Good bye forever, the games of my childhood!
Good bye forever, my beloved friends!
My future husband is old and grim,
And I am scared of his love…”
Then she cried.
“Look, look,” Olga said.
An old woman went out of the yourt, holding a nice red carpet in her hands. One of the girls took this carpet from the old lady and put in on the cart.
“What is it?” Olga asked.
“That’s a gift from family!” Burkut whispered to her. “It’s an ancient Kazakh custom. The girl collects her dowry this way, it’s being called hasau. Each family gives as a gift something useful for the young family. This lady gave a carpet, and there are many other things in the cart already, can you see? The pillows, some dishes, jars, samovar, blanket…”
“That’s a wonderful custom!” Olga exclaimed lightly and silent.
“Yes, if only all our customs would be that wonderful,” Burkut thought. 
The procession came over the entire aul and started to move towards the hills and mountains. Burkur and Olga stayed in their chariot and followed the procession. Yerkabulan rode beside them. When the girls stopped in front of the three white and rich yourts, located at some distance, Yerkebulan dismounted and led his horse, holding the bridles. He has such a grim and strange face that Olga preferred to turn her face back. It seemed that he will burst into tears any moment now. 
“The bride is so beautiful,” Olga whispered. “It’s impossible to take off eyes from her!”
“You better look at him”, Burkut replied silently. “He is like a bronze statue! They would be a perfect couple together!”
When their chariot came up with the procession of the girls, a swarthy young woman stepped forth from the group. 
“Welcome to our aul, dear mirza !” she said, bowing. “I hope that Yerke would not be so said for so long time anymore, if you have heard his call and arrived, dear brother!”
“Thank you for welcoming me, dear sister!” Burkut said with a smile. “Here is my gift for the wedding!” and he gave her a wallet. 
“Nurjamal!” a young woman shouted, referring to the bride. “Look, what did mirza give as a gift for your wedding!”
Suddenly the bride rushed towards the chariot.
“Help me, please!” she cried with tears in her eyes. “Please, save me!”
“Move to her house!” Burkut suddenly said to the coachman. “Girls, show us the way, please!”
And the chariot turned back.

II
Nurjamal’s father’s name was Adilbek. He descended from the karzhas tribe and came to the Burabay’s aul recently. Adilbek was already old and was a shoemaker. He fixed the boots, made the shoes. Adilbek’s life was hard and poor, as he was a stranger here and had no connections. His family was big, he had eight children. The eldest one was his daughter Nurjamal, who was seventeen years old. All of them should be well fed and dressed warmly, and all of his property and household consisted only of two cows, one camel and a dozen of sheep. The cows brought milk, the sheep were for the meat and the camel was usually being used for transportation, when the family moved in summer and in winter. It was really hard to exist with such a household; only if there will be always some additional work. That’s why Adilbek went to different auls in autumn, offering his services and making the shoes and boots, but anyway he was forced to always work hard, like a slave, and to beg. And it happened that he appeared to be a debtor of several rich members of the local auls. If one of them gave him a mare, he needed to beg another one for the little piece of land for mowing and for the scythe. That’s why Adilbek agreed to the proposal of the aqsaqal Burabay, who offered a horde for the young daughter of Adilbek. He ordered Adilbek to bestow in marriage hi Nurjamal to the old and crooked fat Zhabagy. Adilbek agreed easily and immediately. He knew also another thing: Zhabagy knew that he needs an approval of an aqsaqal, as he didn’t even need to ask the allowance of the girl’s father, he could just come late in the night with his dzhigits and steal the girl. If she would scream, he could gag and tie her. That’s all, And it will be impossible to get something from him.
Adilbek was close to finish his evening ablution, when the boy came running and said that the guests are coming.
“Really?” Adilbek wondered and gave a kettle to the boy, running inside of his yourt. “Who are they?” he asked while running, and, when he knew, that mirza Burkut, a prominent akyn , whose name he heard many times, is coming, he became happy and excited. He was also very proud, because he was said that the poet arrived to the wedding of his daughter. Aldibek ordered to spread the new carpet and blankets, to warm the chimney and to start cooking the meat.
…It was already dark, when the travelers finished their washing and sat finally at the table. An old samovar and a big pile of the flatbread appeared on the table. The kids were sent to play. The owner and about a dozen of the neighbors sat themselves around the table. Many tasty dishes were served on this table: baursaki, tiny balls, fried in oil; a round kurt; dried cottage cheese and butter were also served. Burkut sat at the place of honor, Olga in her turn was in the neighboring yourt, together with women. Another honored and respectable guest sat next to Burkut. It was an old man called Takezhan. He came in business to this aul. Aqsaqal Shalabay sat on another side, also next to Burkut. The owner, Adilbek, sat also close to the poet. Mother of Nurjamal was pouring tea for the guests. She was a beautiful woman too, when she was young, and she was still beautiful, having an open and noble face, but with many wrinkles. The last one among the guests was the young dzhigit, dressed in an old robe. He was a distant relative.
Their conversation turned rapidly into an argument, and they’ve being arguing loud and with fervency. People say that there will be very many changes in the steppe once the new authorities will come. Everybody was sharing opinions regarding this issue. There was no tsar anymore, but the poverty still made the people suffer and was everywhere. Everything is like in the old times: rich bays and owners had everything, while the ordinary people remained poor and worked hard. What for is this freedom? They wondered. Everybody agreed to that. Then Burkut took a word.
“Adilbek-aga!” he said, addressing the owner of the yourt. “You are talking about freedom now. Everybody is glad and happy because of this freedom and everybody needs it. That’s true and that’s all correct. But why don’t you want to give this freedom to your daughter, Adilbek-aga? If there is freedom, there is freedom for everybody, for you and for your daughters as well. For everybody. And that is fair. How did it happen, that you want to marry your young daughter Nurjamal to this old man? He already has two wives, and now you sell him the third one. And whom? You sell him your beloved daughter! How is it? And you are talking here now about the freedom and the new laws! These new rules and laws strictly forbid to sell the girls, as if they would be cattle!”
Aldibek looked at his guests and frowned. He was happy because of Burkut’s visit and was really proud of such an honor, but he couldn’t understand till the end, why did Burkut need his poor your? Now he understood it. “There are too many advisers around!” he thought to himself. “Everybody gives advices, but nobody can do something and help! Why do they give me advices? Why could I need their advices? I didn’t ask them for that all! I am dealing with this accurse Zhabagy not for fun! “The one who never has a headache never talks about God” – that’s a good proverb, and it’s totally correct!” he concluded.
“Tell me, where is this new law? Where are these new rules?” he asked Burkut. “We still haven’t seen it. You came to us from the town, who knows, maybe this law exists there, but there are only some rumors about this new law here in our aul, and the real law here is Burabay. If he will like you, you will live normally, if not – you are risking starving. Because everything here belongs to him and is controlled by him: water, soil, cattle and even the sky. Here how it is, my dear friends. And these laws you are talking about don’t work here”.
Silence fell on the company.
“Yes,” somebody sighed, “it’s truE…”
“No, that’s not true!” an old Shalabay suddenly exploded, sitting next to Adilbek. “Don’t make Allah angry! If there would be no Burabay, there will be no our aul! When did he refuse to help somebody? When did he cast away his poor relatives and refused to support them and to help them? He made a man of you as well! It’s a great honor for you to become related to Zhabagy! It’s really a big honor, no matter what somebody tells you. You can not worry about your children now. You will have everything, and kalym  will cover all your expenses and help you to support your family! You will put everybody in your family on their legs with the help of this kalym! Whom should you be thankful for that? Burabay. No, I cannot say anything bad about him. He always helped me and he always supported me”.
An old Takezhan looked at Shalabay, smiled ironically and shook his head. 
“Maybe I could believe you, Shalabay,” he said, “if only you wouldn’t be from the family of Zhangabyl. That’s why you are singing his song now. That’s why you support him now. What did you get from Burabay, tell me honestly? What did you have from him? What did he bring you? An old yourt and an old blanket, all in holes?”
Shalabay shook his head stubbornly.
“Nobody makes a heaven for somebody for free,” he replied shortly. “But anyway, there was no one more generous than Burabay in our aul”.
“Why shouldn’t he be generous?” Takezhan chuckled. “The steppe is big, the cattle are countless, nobody can control it, and who shepherd them? Have you ever seen Burabay pasturing a horse at least one time?”
“There are shepherds for that!” Shalabay said mockingly. 
“Here we go! We are close to the point!” Takezhan said with a smile. “The shepherds are for hard work day and night, and the master sits in comfort and gathers the incomes which the cattle bring! Right? To be able to live without any problems, to buy the young girls for themselves and to threaten their parents. There is why Burabay lives in this world. That’s true. But I still cannot understand why do you, an old man, call him a benefactor and a good-doer? As for me, dear Burkut-jan,” he turned to Burkut with an open and friendly smile on his face: “I would tell you that even if I personally haven’t seen joy in this life, I truly wish you, the younger generation, to finally see it. And I pray to God to give you the chance to see the light!”
Burkut turned to an old man and bowed low.
“Thank you so much, aqsaqal,” he said. “You see, you wish the younger generation joy and happiness, but we still don’t know where to search for it… The new life came, but the old despair and old problems are still with us and they don’t want to leave us alone… Nurjamal is crying day and night, she sees no hope and no light in her life anymore, but nobody cares… Nobody cares about her and about her love as well. But she loves another man”.
Adilbek bit the kurt, sipped some tea from his drinking bowl and only then said:
“You care about Nurjamal’s fate and her future, I really appreciate it a lot, my friend. Thank you so much! If all of us would be the same young like, we wouldn’t know any sadness and sorrow. And now we are sitting so deep in a pit that we even have no idea how to get out of it. Even your father Kuntuar. Despite the fact that he also had a household and some property, he sat in this pit several times and didn’t know what he should do and where he should look for help. That is why he died before time. You are an educated man, a poet, you write poetry and create the songs, of course, and we are no match to you! But you also don’t know our life and you don’t see it! You don’t know how your father lived and how much he suffered all his life. But you give us all your advices. It’s always easy to give advices,” he went on, taking another sip. “Yes, it’s easy to give advices, but it’s harder to really help! And there is no way to help at all. Tell me, do you think I don’t love and don’t feel sorry for my little daughter?”
“Of course, you love and feel sorry about her, if she is always crying, and you simply don’t care about it! Of course!” Burkut shouted.
“Stop!” an old man replied. “Who told you that I don’t care? But what should I do? Tell me, what do you think, what should I do? Should I also cry like her? Of course, I could cry together with her, but what’s the purpose of it? Would it help? The tears aren’t a stream as well. They will dry with time. She will cry for some time and then stop it. I only wish her to not lose her happiness!..”
“That’s a great happiness!” Burkut said with an ironic and grim smile.
“It doesn’t matter is it great happiness or not,” an old mad responded stubbornly, “but it is still happiness. I was always dreaming about this happiness. Now I know that everything will be good, and my children will be fed and dressed. Did you hear what aqsaqal said? He was right, saying it, he was right. My children will get the chance now to walk the right path. They have the chance to live normally and not to beg for the piece of bread and they won’t starve, like me at their age”.
Suddenly a mother cried. She cried loud and brisk. Her drinking bowl was shaking in her hand. A heave silence fell. Then somebody sighed heavily:
“It’s all because of the poverty! This accursed evil poverty!”
And then everybody spoke together:
“Is it so easy to sell your own child, your own blood and flesh?”
“And to marry it to the old man!”
“And such an ugly man!”
“For this Zhabagy with the bad teeth!”
“Of course, it’s hard, that’s why mother is crying!”
“Everybody would cry in such a situation!”
“Yes, everybody would cry, but how could it help? What to do?”
“Of course, it’s true…”
Burkut though sat with the bowed head, deep in his thoughts. He suddenly saw his ideal. The law and rule of the steppe. Tribe, family, custom, tradition. Or in another way: Kazakh, nation, autonomy. He was ready to fight and to even die for these principles. And now all of these principles are on the side of this accursed old man, and the young lives are being sacrificed for him and for these principles! Two young lives of the people, whose lives just start. It appeared to be very bloodthirsty gods: family, way of life and customs. Where is the decision? Where is the exit from this maze? How is it possible to preserve the both? To connect the young lives and their love with the old customs and traditions of the aul and tribe? Where is the decision? Where is the solution, where is the key? You can roam for hundred years, looking for this key and this solution, and you will not find them!
“That’s enough!” Adilbek said. “Enough crying! Burkut-jan says it not to accuse us of something, but with sympathy and compassion. Don’t we all understand what does it mean for Nurjamal to leave her home and to start her life with an old husband? Enough, enough”.
“I’m sorry, apa ,” Burkut said with agitation, turning to an old woman.”I met on my way here Nurjamal and Yerke, and my heart died within me, looking at them”.
“My darling!” an old woman say, trying to overwhelm her weeping. “You’ve seen her and him only one time, and you already feel so sorry for her and for them both! Imagine now, how is it for me, for her mother? I see these sufferings and torments every day! If there would be bo poverty, everything could be different…”
“That’s the matter!” her husband replied, shaking his head. “That’s the matter, this poverty. We have seven other children as well. The eldest one will be sixteen soon. All of them should be fed and dressed warmly. Each one of them should receive his or her own piece, and it will be more than ten pieces, and where do I suppose to find them?”
Everybody sat silent again.
“Now at least we have additional two cows and a horse,” a mother said in an almost calm and dry voice. “And we have fifteen sheep. That’s a real kalym! The young people say: “Get lost this kalym!”, and I say: “Get lost, this accursed life!””
“Yes, yes,” Burkut thought. “If you want to save nine fingers, you should give away the tenth one. You can choose the one you are ready to give! And here they’ve made a choice! What could be done here? Who is to blame? And that’s the case of Adilbek, and he at least has some household, he has some cows, sheep, a camel… What about those who have nothing at all? We are dreaming about autonomy, while all they are dreaming and thinking about is bread! They are not even interested in our thoughts and ideas! You better feed the people first, and then call for freedom! Yes, of course, it’s right, it’s all like this”.
He looked at his neighbor, old Takezhan, while Takezhan took out of his pocket his tobacco pouch with his nasybay , put it carefully over his lip, sat silent for some time and then said:
“Let’s think. This year the grass reaches the waist-deep. The bay is happy, because the cattle will be well-fed and fat. What is the profit of it for the poor man? He has no sheep at all, not even a single one!”
Suddenly tall and young dzhigit, who stood at the door, said:
“It used to be like this at all time, from everlasting. The best pieces of land belong to the bay. Now it will be different, the people say”.
“How will it be?” somebody asked.
“There will be this way,” a young dzhigit replied. “I was recently in the city and here is what I’ve heard there: there will be a great repartition, all the lands of the bays will be given to the poor people”.
“May Allah give it to us!” somebody said.
“Allah give it to us, Allah give it to us! And will Allah give you?” Shalabay said angrily. “Why do you need the steppe and the land if you have no cattle at all?!”
“I wish I would be given some land, and then I will see what I will do there,” a young dzhigit said. “Maybe I will plant on it, and then I will be able to sell the grain. If I will sell it in the city, do you know how much money will I get for that?”
“Where will you find the grain to sow? How are you planning to plough it too?” Shalabay said with an ironical smile.
“If it would be the land, I would learn fast what and how to do there,” a young dzhigit replied, waving his hand. “I can go to Russians, and they will teach me everything”.
“Yes, trust the Russians, just be careful, I wish you wouldn’t regret it,” Shalabay said. “They will give you land and will take away your homeland at the same time. They will take away everything you had and loved. They know how to do it. They are big masters in it”.
“Yes, they really know how to do it and they are really big masters in it,” Burkut thought bitterly. “He just read my mind, this old man! “Homeland”! Who taught him this word? I can’t believe that we both are afraid of the same things. No, he needs nothing more than his piece of land, while I am thinking of the entire steppe!”
A young dzhigit seemed to also read his mind and he turned to Shalabay:
“I see, aqsaqal,” he said, “that you have a lot of land, if you started to talk about homeland. Where is our homeland? We haven’t seen it till now! Or maybe you hide it from us and don’t tell us anything?”
“Don’t be silly!” Shalabay said sharply and angrily. “What kind of land do we have? I said it, because I am sure that it’s not common for a real Kazakh to sow and to plant. The Kazakhs used to roam and tend the cattle, that’s what we should do!”
“As for me, I agree to sow and to plant,” Takezhan interfered in the conversation again. “Let them only give me some land, and I will find the grain and the plough! And you will get what you are asking for too, Shalabay!”
“Why is that? Who will give it to me? Maybe, you?”
“Why you?” Takezhan smiled friendly. “I am the same old man like you! There will be the people who will give it to us! There will be the people! And why? Because you are walking in the aul, entering the white yourts, collecting and spreading the rumors. Young people usually don’t like it. We will sow this year and we will see what you will say”.
“And who is going to sow? Maybe you?” Shalabay said unfriendly.
“I will!” a young dzhigit said and thumped his chest. “I will sow and plough!”
“What about your relatives? Do they agree?”Shalabay asked.
“Why should I care about the relatives?” a dzhigit shouted. “My relatives have nothing to do with it! If they won’t agree, I will yoke my cow, burden it with all my belongings and move to the other places! I can move to Sarykul!”
“Well, well,” Takezhan said, raising his withered arm. “Don’t get rusty! There less land in Sarykul than here! The people say: look for your happiness where you live”.
“But you can see though that some people don’t allow us to have happiness here!” a young dzhigit shouted in a fit of temper, looking at Shalabay. 
“You will be allowed, don’t worry,” Takezhan said to him. “The law will be issued, and you will be allowed. Nobody will be able to do something against this law. Just wait a little bit! Wait!” an old man said, giving a wink and got back to his tea.
“It’s really hard to understand them!” Burkut thought. “They hope only for the help of the Soviet rule! They wait nothing from their aqsaqals and bays, they have lost any confidence in them. What is it? Is it their recklessness? Or maybe is it my stupidity? Maybe I don’t understand anything… What if I’ve really imposed my own thoughts and ideas to my folk? What if Olga was right? What if it is my wish and my ideas, not theirs?”
He fell so deep in his thoughts that he even didn’t notice at the beginning that someone shook his shoulder lightly and carefully. He turned around. A young guy, almost a boy, stood in front of him.
“Burkut-aga,” he said, “Bureke is waiting for you. For you and for zhengey”.
Burkut looked at Adilbek.
“Go, go, my dear friend,” Adilbek smiled to him. Aqsaqals don’t invite unneeded people. If you will have time, you can always visit us again”.
Burkut left the yourt. He didn’t see Olga anywhere. “Maybe, she went to spend some time with the local youth,” he thought and went to the yourt of Buralbay.
…Olga though was in the poor yourt at the end of the aul. A hard-hand widow lived there. She had nothing, neither house nor home, neither sheep, nor a little puppy, but she was very positive and always merry and was very popular among the youth. During the holidays her poor yourt was always full of guests. Even now the bride and all of her friends have gathered in her yourt, Olga noticed that the young bride calmed down when she was here, in this yourt, and she didn’t look like that crying and desperate girl, whom Olga met, when they’ve just arrived in the aul. Soon Olga understood what the matter was. It appeared a young couple didn’t even think of giving up. “It’s better to die together than to live separately,” Yerkebulan said today early in the morning to his beloved Nurjamal. “Wait for me this night in the ravine. I will bring the horses, and we will escape, and that will be the last they will ever see of us! When they will notice, we will be far away, in the city. That’s not an aul there, they won’t dare to come! Burkut-aga will also support us, I am sure!” A young bride share it all with Olga. 
“I just hope that these plans won’t be known,” she said to Olga. “Can you see these two women? They were sent by Zhabagy”. And Olga understood that this young girl is not that naïve and simple-hearted, as it appeared at the very beginning. 
Thus, the girls and the women sat all together, sang and had fun and wondered about Olga’s perfect Kazakh language and her wonderful pronunciation with no accent. Then her city’s little bag became an item of a common interest, as everybody wanted to look at it and to touch it. Then it was turn of her watches with bracelet, her rings, ear-rings and bracelets. While they all tried it all, the door of the poor yourt opened wide, and a crowd of the young dzhigits appeared on the threshold. Yerkebulan was the first one. Everybody wanted to give him a place of honor in the yourt, but he refused and remained standing on the threshold. The housewife gave him the dombra.
“Sing for us something, my dear friend,” she said to him. “Sing for us, please, entertain us a little bit!”
He shook his head.
“Where else should we all sing, if not at the wedding!” a widow said with a smile.
Yerkebulan didn’t reply, only shook his head again. Then Nurjamal asked him:
“Sing for us, Yerke, please, don’t refuse! Who knows when we will gather like this again?” she said and gave a light wink to him.
He took the dombra and asked: “What do you want me to sing?” Many advices, suggestions and offers showered him from all the sides and directions:
“Sing for us Sarymbet!”
“No, no, sing for us Janbota!”
“Why Janbota? Let him sing Leyleem Sheerak!”
And then Nurjamal said again:
“Why should we sing and listen to so sad songs? There is enough sorrow and despair here… You better sing us something merry!” she said and clicked with her fingers playfully.
Yerkebulan thought for some time, then took a decision and started to play and sing. The song’s name was “Akkuray”, it means “white kuray”, and this song was considered being one of the most merry and gay songs here.
“Oh white kuray! Oh red kuray!
My God, send me the best girl!
Let her father get angry, I don’t care!
Let her mother will become deaf for some time!
I found the dombra in the grass at the road,
A little sparrow sat on it.
Oh red kuray, oh white kuray!
I’m being dried by this strong nasybay!
But if I will stop chewing my nasybay,
My head will hurt me, ay-ay-ay!”
Yerkebulan sang loud and clear, showing funny faces and grimacing while singing, and the audience supported him with their merry shouts and clapping their hands:
“Sing, sing for us more!”
“Sing for us, Yerke!”
“Well done, Yerke, that’s a great song!”
Olga looked at the bride. Nurjamal was smiling weepingly. She knows how Yerke feels now. He should be really very strong to be able to sing and laugh now, at such a moment!
“Sing us more, Yerke!” she exclaimed.
Yerke stroke a chord again and sang:
“Winter will come, and it will be snowing, 
And dzhigit will lose the young and beautiful girls!
I’m sitting here alone and sing the songs,
And the old people are frowning at my song.
I’ve broken the kuray in order to make a dombra from it,
And the sparrow sat on my dombra!”
Everybody laughed again, but Olga really wondered a lot: it’s so important and decisive day for the bride and groom, today their future will be decided, and no one can be sure if their escape will be successful or not, and they were just making jokes and having fun! “Yes, it’s really mysterious folk,” Olga thought, “I think I wouldn’t be able to say a word, my face would be swollen because of tears, and she is smiling, singing and having fun! And you cannot read anything in their faces now! Nothing at all! They are having fun, that’s all. My Burkut might be the same. He is a brother of these steppe people. We have to help these young people, we have to support this lovely couple. But how? I don’t know how. But we must help them. I can see clearly that they don’t waste words here, and if the bride won’t manage to escape, they both will die! Like Romeo and Juliette. Like Bayab-Slu and Kozy-Korpesh. It will be good, if these silver-bearded old aqsaqals will listen to Burkut, but what if they won’t? What if they will refuse to listen, what to do then? It’s scary to even think of something like that! Okay, we all should calm down now! One single wrong word can destroy everything now! Calm down, calm down”.
She took her eyes off the young singer and looked around, examining all the people gathered here. The song seized everybody, and they all were singing the next verse of it. The bride sang as well:
“Kuray served the dombra!
And the sparrow sat at the dombra!”
Meanwhile Burkut sat as an honored guest at Burabay’s yourt. There were not so many guests, nearly ten people only. They all sat on the silken soft blanket, spread over the shag carpet. A pillow was near every guest. The guest can eat and drink and lean on the pillow. There are generally very many beautiful and expensive things in the house of the rich bay Burabay. There are two nickel-plated samovars, shining like a mirror, many iron-bound coffers and boxes here. Piles of the carpets and motley capes lay on them. There was also a spring bed decorated with the silver balls. The guests smile and look at all this splendor. All of them are fat, paunchy, bearded and with the flat noses. A master sits on the four carpets, put together. Unlike the guests he is tall and very thin, he has an exhausted and haunted, seamed face. A groom sits next to him. He is also fat, but uneven. It looks like something protuberates from under his robe everywhere, that’s why he looks like a sack with the dung cakes. His face is calm and motionless, but once you will look at him, you will immediately understand what it means to deal with this person and to have some troubles or argues with him. Mullah Raheembay sits at the most honored place in the yourt. He is a very small and strangely oblate man. The boys call him “a turtle”. Burkut sits at his left arm. The rest of the guests sat not according to their positions and ranks. A young and tightly built, blowzy wife of Burabay sits at the corner place, next to the door. This young wife was bought by Buralbay last year. She is dressed richly: kimeshek  with the pearl buttons on her head, many rings and bracelets on her hands. There were really very many rings and jewels; it was obvious that her old husband loved her. She sits and mixes kumiss for the guests. Silence prevails at the table and sometimes it is interrupted by someone’s exclamation or phrase. Everybody chews gravely: their bellies are moving, their jaws are working. The table is full of food. Burkut looks at them all and tries to understand at least something: he sees the rich chapans with the golden rich embroidery, fox fur coats and fur hats, velvet caftans with the wide silver and golden belts. Frowning, he examines it all and then suddenly he notices someone’s motley pants, and everything around him suddenly turned for him into pants: red, yellow, green, blue pants. He didn’t remember heads, or faces, or names or titles, only hairy legs and motley pants. Beasts’ hairy legs and hands! There were not human beings but the beasts, which was a gathering of the beasts, of different animals: wolf, turtle, monkey, miserable old steppe eagle… And suddenly someone inside of him started to talk in verses: these verses have been composed easily in his head, building a poem:
“The pants, the pants, the red chapans, 
Are they people or the monkeys?
Here is a goat, here is a boar, here is a fox, here is a bear,
Here is a monkey, and there is a lone wolf sitting there.
They all have surrounded the table,
As if they felt there will be funeral feast here.
And the Grim Reaper bends
Over the soul of a young and innocent girl…”
Burkut even shook his head: it all really looked like a funeral feast. 
But then the sixty-year old groom cleared his throat and said:
“Come on, Burkut-jan, tell us more about the new power and the new rules. Is it good or bad for the Kazakhs?”
“It depends on Kazakhs,” Burkut thought and even wanted to say that, but it seemed that an old groom didn’t even wait for his reply, because he retched, looked around at his relatives and friends and went on:
“We don’t have grudge against it till now. You know, there is a proverb: “It’s too high to God and too far to the king”. Here it’s a little bit different: Moscow is far, but the power is close. Here, in his pocket is all this power,” he said, nodding at the tall pimpled guy, who sat in the yourt at the table as well. “Let me introduce him! That’s Buzaubek, my nephew. Come, Buzaubek, show the Soviet power to our guest! Show it how it is! Show it, show it, don’t be afraid!” a red-haired guy grinned and took the seal of the aul council out of his pocket. “Can you see the Soviet power we have? We can easily arrest anybody we want!”
A dzhigit with the copper bowl in his hands entered the yourt. He had also a jar with water and a towel on his shoulder. The ritual of ablution has started. Mullah Raheembay dried his hands, took his wooden subha  and started to knock with them on the table.
A young wife of Burabay entered, moving playfully her hips, and cleared the place in the room. Then he bought and served a big plate with the cooked meat. Mullah waited until the bay’s wife left, as he was sure that it’s inappropriate and wrong to discuss serious matter in the presence of woman, and then he started:
“We don’t have grudge against it till now! Till now! But nobody knows and nobody can say how long this “till now” will last. Will this new power give us the chance to live according to our old customs and traditions? And if it will give us this chance, for how long then? It will not give us such a chance, it’s obvious even now. The yoke is on our necks already, soon we are risking to be captured totally! Our youth has also changed and is too spoiled already. Allah, prayer and traditions have for them no meaning anymore! Just empty words and games! For example, your wife,” mullah went on, nodding in the direction of the door, where the young Burabay’s wife disappeared, “she sleeps with you, but her dreams are about “equality” and “equal rights”,” he pronounced these words in Russian. “If there would be possible to change and decide, she would surely chose her husband to give birth and to work at home, and she would just dress nicely and visit different gatherings and meetings. Whose fault is it? You say that that’s not the power’s and authorities’ fault. Who then started all of this mess, if not this new power? Who planted these silly and even dangerous ideas in the heads of our people? Who defamed God with that? Are you blind if you don’t see what is happening around?”
Two dzhigits brought a pan with the whole sheep inside of it. They put it on the table and, taking seats at the ends of the table, started to cut the meat. Burabay took the sheep’s head from the pan and handed it to mullah. Mullah took his clasp-knife out of his pocket, cut the sheep’s ear and offered it to Burkut.
The ritual ended with this move, and everybody started to eat.
“Dear Zhabagy, may Allah grant you long life and good health! You are the youngest and the happiest here today!” mullah said. “Every year the new young wife! That’s good customs! And what if your wife will die or something will happen, who will give you the new one? The state? The government?”
Zhabagy started to laugh madly, and even his fat belly started to move in waves because of his laughter.
“Why should your wife die?” Zhabagy said. “How old is she? You took her one year ago to your bed, when she was a little girl, almost a child!”
“Allah, Allah ordered me to do it,” mullah said and smiled pious. “Allah doesn’t like unmarried people. It is mentioned in Qur’an: after forty days since the death of our wife you should get married again and bring the new wife to your home. We can change nothing here! It’s Allah’s wisdom! Allah doesn’t want a man to stay alone and bored. Some dangerous thoughts and ideas could appear in his head if he will stay along for a long time. A man should live and happy and merry life!”
“I am not looking for the merriment!” Zhabagy suddenly said, frowning. “I wish I could have a son. That’s what I really want, and I don’t need anything else. Let her give me a son, and I don’t want anything else from her! I actually pay kalym for that!”
Burkut finally decided to act.
“Try to pay more,” he said calmly, putting his food aside, “you can pay with your pride and your honor. The whole aul can see: Nurjamal cries day and night, she cannot see the sun and the stars because of her tears. Everybody is sorry for her, everybody wants to support her somehow. And do you know what do the people say about you? They say really bad things about you, Zhabagy”.
“Balsary, where is the soup?” the house owner suddenly shouted, interrupting Burkut. “Bring it immediately here!”
His young wife entered again, holding a big pot with the soup, gave it to one of the serving dzhigits and left the room, without even looking at the guests.
All the conversations stopped. The guests ate, chomped, chewed, sniffed, hiccupped, groaned and winged. They took the pieces of meat with their hands, and fat was streaming on their fingers. They ate the way, as if they haven’t eaten during the week. It was something canine in this grumbling, silent concentration on food and greed. “They are dogs, they are really the dogs,” Burkut thought, backing off the table. “And I wanted to build a free and fair country with these dogs! Of my God, what a nonsense! If they eat like this, when they are well-fed, like the pigs, what will happen if they will be hungry? They will start to tear and eat each other! Like the beasts! That’s what they call “white bones and high blood”. It’s honor and conscience of my nation! Those who should be its best people and its best representatives! They should lead my people to the better future! Oh my God, what a nonsense, what a terrible nonsense!”
They ate long. Slowly and with time, when these mountains of meat decreased, their bellies and jaws started to move more slowly. Burabay first moved away the totally gnawed bone, poured himself some kumiss into his wooden cup and started to carefully mix this fat and yellow kumiss. Mullah suddenly turned to Burkut.
“It seems that I’ve got you wrong, Burkut-jan,” he said. “The entire steppe sings your sings and knows your poems by heart. All of your songs and poems are about homeland, native land and folk. “Country of our fathers, customs of our grandfathers”. But it is completely different in the reality! You despise the customs of our grandfathers and your homeland as well! That’s what I want to tell you!”
“Why is that?” Burkut asked in bewilderment.
“Here you came to visit your native aul, and we are happy to see you, we welcome you here!” mullah went on. “But why did you bring this Russian girl with you? What didn’t she see here?”
Burlut felt confused and didn’t even know what to tell and how to react. He spent the entire day in this aul, and nobody among the poor people asked hi, why he came together with a Russian girl. “And the most important is,” he thought, “that all of them really think like that. Maybe it’s even not because Olga is Russian. If she would be a daughter of the governor and a merchant, everybody would understand me and congratulate me, but she is a daughter of a simple high school teacher!”
“Couldn’t you find a better match for yourself? Couldn’t you find a good Kazakh girl form a respectable family?” mullah went on saying. “Or maybe you don’t find them good enough for you, do you? If you are together with Russians, you need a Russian wife as well. Of course. Why do you reproach Zhabagy then? He has chosen the one he liked, and he sent the match-makers and his representatives to her family, to her parents, according to the customs. Is it bad? It’s good, according to our ancient customs and traditions. It’s the only one proper way of marriage. What can you say?”
“Bur Nurjamal loves another man!” Burkut exclaimed.
“Here is your concept! She loves another man! Who cares? Or maybe you brought us the new rule or law from the Soviet government, didn’t you?” Zhabagy asked, and this words made him even squirm from his wrath. “I will marry the one I love and want, and I don’t care about my parents! Is it how it should be? How do you think?”
“Wait, wait, Zhabagy, calm down!” mullah referred to him, trying to calm him. “You see, Burkut, it’s different here. There is a law in the city, but here in the steppe there is a custom. The city cannot stand and live without a law, and the steppe cannot exist without a custom. Everything will be destroyed without it! And it is also impossible to create different rules and laws for the same situation. If you will build your house from different types of brick, this house will collapse sooner or later. We have an ancient custom here in the steppe, since long ago, that a girl marries the one her parents have chosen; she makes it according to the parents’ will, not according to her feelings and wishes. And here is our steppe, it stands, it exists and it doesn’t collapse. And you felt sorry for one girl, and now even Shari’a and customs and traditions play for you no role! Everything for the sake of your Nurjamal and her happiness and wishes! Everything to make her do whatever she wants and to live with this poor guy! That what you say and do is bad, Burkut-jan. If we would do everything according to your advices and your point of view, we wouldn’t even sit at this table now! Though the Soviet state waits for that!”
“And recently,” Buzaubek said angrily suddenly, and his face even reddened immediately, “recently they said at the office that the Russians will come, take the lands from the aqsaqals and local bays and give it to all those poor beggars, like this Yerkebulan!”
“That’s right,” Zhabagy supported him. “They will take away our lands, there will be no hay anymore, the cattle will die… What will happen then to our people? What would we do? Where would we go? To the city? There will be the end of the steppe then! Maybe, you want it that way, wise Kazakh, husband of a Russian wife?” Zhabagy went on in an angry voice and started to even knock on the table with the bones of his fingers. “Tell us directly and don’t talk big about yourself that you are educated and a man of high culture! My brother is also educated, he lives in the city. He says: once our customs will disappear, everything will disappear! That will be the end of the steppe and the end of the Kazakhs!”
“Why are you crying about the cattle, Zhabagy?” mullah smiled sarcastically. “The one who will take your land from you, will take care of your cattle as well, don’t worry! For example, Yerkebulan with his young wife. Why not?”
“Allah save us from that!” Zhabagy exclaimed so sincerely that everybody laughed. It seemed for some time that the air was cleared a little bit, everybody started to move loud and noisily, smling and chatting with each other.
“Allah will save us from it, don’t worry,” mullah said. “Until the world didn’t change terribly, the steppe won’t allow it! It is said in Qur’an: “The one who will lust will die because of his desires”. It’s more probably that the light will fade away, than that something like that will happen!”
“Let the end of times come,” Burabay said. “Let the poor beggars take my horses hordes, I will give a horse for each of them! Take and owe it! And the steppe is yours as well! Take it all! I will tie you to the tale of my horse, in order to prevent you from falling, because you’ve never ever ridden a horse and don’t know how to hold yourself in the saddle, and then I will let you ride in the steppe! Let it be like in the old fairy-tale! You can take as much lands, as you will ride around! Take it! All of it is yours! You can even eat it, if you want! I cannot wait when such a day will finally come! I wish it could come as soon as possible!” he concluded, and even grinded his teeth.
“Wolves, they are the real wolves!” Burkut thought. “What a fool I was! But what if they will understand if I will try to talk to them friendly and openly?..”
“Shari’a Law is good, but we should always remember God as well,” he said. “All of us used to criticize and scold the tsar and his aides, all of these captains, police officers, governors, prosecutors… We even fought with them… I hope everybody remembers ninety sixteen! We have been also waiting for the day when the sun light will chase away these imps and evil spirits! And the sun has come, and chased away these evil spirits, the tsar and his aides, so we could try to start our new lives, to build the new society and the new country, but you…” he didn’t finish and waved with his hand in despair.
“What about us?” mullah asked.
“You are still the same! All of you are the same, you haven’t changed!” Burkut responded. “Zhabagy, Nurjamal cries bitterly days and nights, her eyes are swollen from the tears! Do you think that people don’t see these tears and these sufferings? Don you think that people don’t curse you for that all? “The one who lusts will die because of his desires and curses”. I know though that you aren’t afraid of Allah since long ago, that’s a known fact, but what about the people?..”
“Hey, do you understand what are you saying?” Zhabagy snapped and jumped from his seat. A leather whip suddenly appeared in his hands. It was a Kazakh whip, made from several writhen rawhides. It was really terrible weapon, because one stroke of it could dissect the skin like a sword. “If only you wouldn’t be a guest!” he shouted, growling and spraying spit.
“Wait, stop it!” mullah Raheembay said, raising from his seat. “Everybody says, Burlut, that you are a clever man, but what are you doing? You just arrived in the aul of your father and of your ancestors and you already started to saw dissention here, among the people? Why do you do that? Why do you turn loose the poor and rich people against each other? What’s the purpose of everything you are talking about now? What’s the meaning of it? Do you think that you will be able to convince Zhabagy to change his mind? Even if there will be a thousand of young hot hearts like you, he won’t listen! And what about aqsaqals? Do they violate Shari’a?”
“He is just stupid and silly!” Zhabagy said. He liked mullah’s speech very much. “He is silly and too young. They’ve taught him to bark in the city…”
“Burkut, if you came to us as a guest,” a house owner said peacefully, “be a guest, eat and drink with us, tell us something interesting about you, your life and the city, sing for us something, but don’t start the conversation like this one… It’s none of your business, seriously! There are aqsaqals sitting here, our best people and brightest minds, they are wise and experienced, they know everything”.
“If you are the best people and the best minds, what are the worst then?” Burkut couldn’t hold himself and his emotions. “If there would be at least one person who could say a word to this old wretch!”
“What?!” Zhabagy roared and jumped from his seat, almost hitting his neighbor. “What?! Let even my kalym be lost, but I will never ever allow you to treat me like this and I will never forgive you this!” and he slit Burkut’s face several times with his whip. Everything happened so rapidly and unexpected that the people stood shocked.
The blood appeared immediately. Burkut touched his face with his hand perplexedly.
“Blood,” he said surprised. “There is blood here…”
The guests kept silent. The master of the house wanted to say something, but Burkut suddenly dried his hand with his own jacket, raised from his seat and left the yourt silently. 
“He will know now!” Zhabagy spitted to his back, but nobody replied and all the guests stood wordless and motionless. 
…Burkut was walking through the streets of the aul. Half-transparent light twilight shadows fell already on the steppe. The cattle were driven home. Women with the milk buckets scurried between the yourts and little houses. Bleating and bellowing was heard everywhere. All the sounds seemed to be sharp and clear in the evening twilight. Fires were made in the yards of the houses and yourts, the boilers and kettles are on fire, and the milk is boiling. Burkut loved these evening hours especially dearly, but now only one thought seized his mind, and he even forgot about the pain caused by the stroke of Zhzbagy’s whip. Olga rushed towards him, when he approached Adilbek’s yourt. Olga whispered to him excited and agitated:
“They have been waiting only for you, Burkut, darling! I gave Akpar’s bracelet to our coachman, I hope he will help! He agreed to wait for them in the ravine and then to take them”.
“Well done, Olga!” he said agitated and hugged her strong and tender. “That’s what he’ll get, this old beast! There is no other way. Let them escape!”
“Let’s go to them faster!” Olga said, hugging Burkut’s shoulders. “Nurjamal is singing now, and everybody has gathered around her and they are listening to her song. I will sing next, and Nurjamal will have a chance to slide insensible from the yourt and to escape”.
They entered the yourt and took their seats on the blanket. The neighbors gave them place with the noisy and merry readiness. Olga started to sing. She had clear and beautiful voice, and she knew many steppe songs. Almost half of the sings, gathered during several years of scientific work by her father, she knew by heart. She sang wedding songs, youth songs, playful and jesting songs, and she sang many sad songs as well, songs about breaking up, about parting, good-bye and cast-off love. Olga sang loud, and all the old women of the aul gathered around the Adilbek’s house. Everybody was interested and wanted to hear how the Russian girl was singing.
Meanwhile people have been gathering around the other yourts as well: around the yourts, prepared for the wedding feasts and celebrations. There were many honored guests, invited by the groom and arrived from the distant auls. Zhabagy and Burabay are important persons! Gray beards, brushed silver hair, fox tymaks  and caps, lambskin, green and white turbans, slow and sweet streaming talking. They meet each other, greet, hug, sit together, talk and wait for the beginning of the feast and ceremony. Suddenly someone’s panicked voice destroyed this peaceful and slowly relaxed atmosphere:
“Oh my God, what a disaster! Sonebody has stolen and taken away our Nurjamal!”
Everything exploded immediately with the shouts and exclamations:
“How is it? How could she be taken away?”
“Where she was taken to?”
“Who did it?”
“This accursed Yerkebulan has done it, for sure!”
“It cannot be true!”
“Everything is possible today!”
“Give us the horses! Saddle the horses!”
“Let’s pursuit them!”
“Why do we stand without doing anything?”
“What should we tell the groom now?..”
Somebody suggested shyly:
“Maybe, we could still…” and didn’t finish.
Another one screamed angrily:
“What “maybe we could…”?! What does it mean? It’s clear! It’s plain like a day! They’ve planned everything and made it perfect!”
Somebody was crying:
“What should we do now? What will we tell the groom? He will kill us all!”
“The pursuit! Let’s pursuit them, they won’t be able to make it too far with the chariot! Where are the horses?”
“This chariot left in the evening, long ago! It wasn’t here when she was stolen!”
“What a trick!”
Somebody dragged a crying and sobbing woman out of one of the yourts and screamed at her, kicking her with his legs:
“You were watching and guarding her! How did you watch her then, if you allowed her to escape? How is that? You have been there though! Where have you been?!”
And a woman, crying and covering her face with her palms, said:
“That’s your brother’s fault! That’s his fault! He called me to the bushes! It was your brother! That’s his fault!”
Noisy, terrible, mocking crowd of the guests and curious watchers approached the white rich yourts, prepared for the wedding feast. Burabay went to the people first, Zhabagy followed him.
When the groom knew what happened he fell on the ground and roared like an injured and angry beast:
“”They’ve killed me! They’ve defamed me! They’ve cut my roots! Nurjamal, Nurjamal, where are you, my beloved bride?”
Two other guests appeared in the middle of this noise and chatter. They’ve met a chariot on the half a way to the aul, but they didn’t see who was in that chariot, as the roof og the chariot was covered, and the chariot itself just streamed like a lightening.
When Zhabagy heard it, he howled:
“That’s the end! Now this accursed beggar left me alone, defamed and destroyed! Woe be to him!”
“We will see it,” Burabay said to him and then ordered: “let six dzhigits get on the pursuit right now! Let them catch them,, tie and bring here! We will celebrate their wedding here!”
A couple of minutes later a group of riders rushed and went like blazes. Zhabagy rode his black horse behind them. He hardly breathed riding and was too slowly, but he kept riding. He turned green because of his wrath and anger. He wanted desperately to kill Yerkebulan with his own hands. Some other relatives of his rode next to him. Their horses were really great, prepared specially for tomorrow’s races. The pursuit rushed. The chariot left the aul by daylight, according to the words of the eyewitnesses, thus, it was more than fifty kilometers!
… After nearly three milestones a coachman suddenly heard a loud patter of hoofs and bucketed his chariot. But it was too late! Five minutes later three hooting and whooping giants crossed his way. “Halt, if you want to save your life!” one of them shouted and stroke the leather roof of the chariot with his lash. The chariot halted. Zhabagy appeared here immediately. Snarling like a wolf, he strokes the coachman and the man fell with a scream. Zhanbagy gripped the bridles, and the horses finally stopped. 
“Murder!” a coachman shouted loudly in the steppe. “Murder! They want to kill me!”
“Drag them here!” Zhanbagy shouted. “Drag her by the head and ears! And out her on the ground, on the ground! I will deal with the guy myself! Come on, why are you standing here?”
“There is no one here!” somebody shouted desperately.
“How is it?!” Zhabagy roared and, leaving his horse, rushed to the coachman, who laid moaning on the ground. Once the coachman saw Zhabagy, approaching him, he started to shout loud.
“You are dog’s meat!” a fat bay spitted, grinning like a man dog and stroke the man with his whip. Then raised his head by his hair and looked closely into his face with his terrible eyes: “I will kill you!” he said huskily. “You will die here, on this place! Where are they?”
“Allah, Allah!” a coachman cried out. “Are you the outlaws or what? I have nothing! I have nothing to take! Not a single cent! You can search me, if you wish, but you will find nothing, I swear! And these horses aren’t mine as well, they belong to Naurzbay! Allah, Allah!”
“Shut up!” Zhabagy roared. “Where are they? Where is this bastard? Where is the girl? I will kill you!”
“Murder! Murder!” a coachman shouted again. “They want to kill me! They want to kill a coachman of Naurzbay-aga! What a girl? I don’t know any girl, I don’t know what are you talking about! God damn this girl! I haven’t seen any girl! I haven’t seen anybody! I am going home to Naurzbay-aga. Oh my God, they are killing me!” a coachman started to shout so loud and strong, that even the ears of the young dzhigits hurt them.
“Pfew, devil!” Burabay said and spitted with disgust. “Why should we waste our time with him? Let’s go!”
Nobody wanted to get troubles with Naurzbay, who was an angry, strong and powerful man with many connections and a great influence.
“They couldn’t escape far!” Zhabagy spoke hoarsely. “We should look for them on the road! I wish I could catch them both with my hands!”
…The hoses went at a walk back, as they were extended by their riders all night along. Zhabagy was silent, and nobody even risked to approach him and to talk to him. He subsided and appeared to be smaller during this couple of hours.
They rode along the river. Then they decided to stop for some rest next to the little reed island. They loosened the horses’ girths and took some rest. Zhabagy watered his horse and made him sleep a little bit to renew the powers. Then he got on his horse again and rode into the river waters. Burabay looked at him and shook his head.
“What a disaster!” he said silently to himself. “A man lived sixty years and has never ever experienced a shame like this!”
“Yes, he will be merciless now, I think,” another dzhigit said. “He will chew them alive. Look at him, he is just like a mad beast now!”
“Yes, indeed… He has a wolf’s teeth! Look, he swims to the island!”
Zhabagy came back after ten minutes and said: “Here what I’ve found!” and he showed a white scarf.
“What is it?” Burabay asked.
“That’s her scarf! It was there on the island! They are somewhere here! Listen to me: we won’t be able to catch them that easy. We should burn the island. There is the last year’s reed there, very dry, it will burn easily! Let’s burn it!”
The dzhigits looked at each other.
“But, Zhabagy, she will burn alive in this case!” somebody said shyly.
“She will run away! She will be scared and appear to escape!”
“What if she won’t?..” Burabay asked uncertain.
“Shaytan  with her in this case!” Zhabagy shouted like a mad man. “Let them both burn! She spent the night with him! I don’t need such a wife! Do you hear me, Burabay? Swim on the island! Do you have matches? Because if you don’t have, I can give you mine!”
But Burabay hesitated.
“That’s an island of bay May-Basar,” he said.
“I will pay for his losses! I have enough cattle for that!” Zhabagt said. “The reed will be even better next year! It had to be burnt long ago! Burn it, what are you waiting for?”
And, before somebody could say a word, he clapped spurs to his horse and moved to the little island. A couple of minutes later a little red flame appeared on the island. Suddenly he heard a distant desperate scream, which sounded like a young girls’ scream. 
Burabay looked back.
“Let us ride back, okay?” he said to the dzhigits. “Anyway they will perish now…”
Half an hour later the whole island turned into a big bonfire. Black smoke raged and seethed, like water in the boiler, and the sparks and flakes of fire flew up like the fireworks, feather grass was burning with the white flames, dried red blazed with yellow fire. Huge orange glow appeared in the sky and was seen far away. One hour later everything was over. The pursuit came back to aul at the morning, and two hours later everybody knew: the lovers burnt alive on that island, but didn’t part. Because it is better to burn alive than to be married to odious man. Because bay Zhabagy’s love is worse than the most terrible death. All the girls in the aul understood and remembered it.
…Olga and Burkut stood silent and wordless at the piles of ashes. Everything is black here: the sky above seems to be black, the ground under the feet is black as well, it’s dry, it crunches and falls to pieces, and dry black dust rises from under the feet. Olga’s dress is black as well. She hardly holds herself and tries to not burst into tears right now and here. Burkut is silent. He looks at the burnt soil, at the ashes around and thinks: “There are those, for whom I was going to fight! Those for whom I was ready to die, in order to preserve our steppe, our traditions and ancient customs. Here they are. Here are those to whom I dedicated my songs and poems. The old Kazakh aqsaqals, preserving the traditions. I was singing these songs for these beasts, Zhabagy and Burabay! They are Kazakhs as well! They are despised and miserable part of my folk, who thinks they represent the entire nation! They say that there would be no Kazakh folk without them! Shari’a is us! The law is us! The traditions and customs are us as well! The one who is against us is against all the Kazakhs! And you believed them, Burkut! You believed these people! You believe them, you, stupid Burkut, and you are walking on the dead field now, where two people were burnt alive by those, who you believe and by those whom you were ready to protect!”
They all (Burkut, Olga and Takezhan, who gave them a ride with his old and simple cart) came back to the aul late. They came and tumbled on something new. There was a table on the square, covered with the red bunting. There were three people sitting at the table: a chairman of the aul council, that pimpled young man, nephew of Zhabagy, an elderly Kazakh woman and a young dzhigit, who sat right in the middle. There were many people to the right and to the left from the table. Burkut saw the gatherings like this several times: for example, people usually voted for the volost’ judge like this, but in this case the tribes and families usually stood in the groups. But now people were divided according to another feature: yesterday’s guests of Zhabagy stood on one side, including the bays, beys, mullah, aqsaqals and rich people, while the group of poor people, beggars and hard laborers gathered on another side. 
“What is happening here?” Burkut asked his neighbor, a hard laborer from the zhangabyl family, and he replied him:
“There was a new decree issued”.
“It might be that decree Gavrilov told me about,” Burkut thought. He started to listen carefully and attentively. The crowd was buzzing, the people were talking about mowing-time and division of the land and that now this land will be distributed among everybody. “Yes,” Burkut thought, “they stand now against each other like the real enemies. But there is not a family or tribe here now, it’s another type of division. Wealth and poverty, exploitation and labor, power and powerlessness stand now in front of each other and against each other. That’s exactly what the Bolsheviks call a class struggle. It’s already started. They will read this decree now, people will listen to it, then they will go back to their homes, but on the next day they will wake up completely different people. And they will meet each other as different, new people. Each of them will be hiding a stone, ready to strike, and each of them will have anger and wrath in his and her soul. And the struggle will start. And it will be the struggle for life or for death”.
But Burkut was mistaken, as the struggle started not the next day, but right at the moment, here, on this place. The decree about land was declared in the dead silence. The land was divided among all the members of the aul and it was given according to the new principle: not according to the position and the number of the cattle heads, but according to the number of the family members. 
“What should we do with our cattle in this case? Where should we place it?” a fat and wheezy man, who arrived from the neighboring aul, asked humble. “I have a thousand heads of sheep, three hundred horses, and we are only five members in our family. What do you offer me to do now? To sever all my cattle?”
“let them sever all of us in this case!” Burabay said. “It’s better to die from the knife then starving!”
The crowd started noise and sounded off immediately, people started to argue, scream and move.
“Don’t worry, we will do it easily, if you wish!” somebody screamed. “We will cut your throats with no mercy! Did you have mercy for us?”
“Zhabagy, Zhabagy, where is your wife?” another one shouted. “Does she come to you in your nightmares after you’ve burnt her alive? Wait a little bit, she will come to you!”
And the mess started. Arguments and sometimes even clashes and scuffles are a common thing at the gathering and meeting of the aul, when the people divide the land, but today everything turned into a real clash: the fists were doubled; the whips and lashes were raised from the both sides, ready for the fight. Somebody gripped another one for the collar and wanted to beat, and a real mess was close, as a shout suddenly was heard:
“Look, look!”
A group of riders appeared from behind the yourts. It was a police troop, sent for Zhabagy and his aides.

III
Burkut sits in a little room behind the stage and waits for a call. Today he is being accepted as a new member of the Kazakh Association of Proletarian Writers and Poets. The debates over his candidacy are ongoing, and he is expected to be summed in several minutes. He was preparing all the day and night long yesterday, thinking if what he will say in front of the gathering today, but now he felt clearly that all of it is not needed at all. He has written already everything, everything he considered being important and needed about him, his personality and his ideas and thought in his application, he mentioned there everything he also considered being the most important in his entire life, he listed there all his merits and records and didn’t hide his mistakes as well. Maybe there were even more mistakes than the merits there. Thus, he wrote everything openly and sincerely, he didn’t hide either his bad or his good sides and didn’t exaggerate anything. He really understood many things recently. One year has passed since the day he got married with Olga and traveled to the aul. Ten months have passed since the publication of his first article, which he considered being the beginning of his new life and new career. This article was straight, bold and challenging. Burkut described in the smallest details story of life, love and death of two lovers. He wrote especially agitated and passionately about their tragic death. He described that terrible burnt island, covered with ashes, where everything crunched and crumbled, and he wrote also about that strange and heavy feeling seized the three of them: father of the dead girl and they both, two strangers to this family – while they were walking on the dried ashes. Then he described a murderer: corrupt and dirty paunchy old man with the owl eyes and with stumble talking, who fired calmly and quietly this terrible and huge fire of sacrifice. “If she won’t belong to me, she won’t belong to anybody else!” he said. At the end of his article Burkut asked his readers a question: how could this terrible crime of this old jealous and evil-minded old man be measured and estimated? This article provoked many discussions and arguments and woke a real alive interest. The measure of punishment was found quickly: Zhabagy was sentenced to death by firing squad. All of his aides were sent to Siberial prisons and camps. At that time Burkut already moved to Almaty, a new capital of Kazakhstan. This city (or just a small town, to be more precise) was really very nice, and Burlut loved it dearly. But there was no this wide and sometimes stormy, sometimes calm and splendorous river, like the one on which banks the city of Akshatyr is located. But there was another positive moment: Almaty stood at the bottom of a mountain Ala-Tau, under the snowy tops of the mountains and was smothered in flowers and rich gardens. Each street looked like a poplar alley, and the poplars here were tall and slender, like the centenarian old giants with puckered and wrinkled elephantine’s skin. And the aryks ! Fast and cold ice water is streaming along the city streets, and the twigs and branches, heavy with the yellow and red fruits, hang over these streams. The people were also different in Almaty: they were more open and friendly, more sincere, more talk-active. Burkut find a common ground with them very soon. But his relationships with his fellow countrymen were unfortunately worse. Akpar and Karazhan worked here, but Burkut didn’t want to meet neither of them. He didn’t want to meet and have connections with Karazhan, because Karazhan was a relative of Zhabagy, and Burkut couldn’t think and remember calm about him, and it gave him shivers to think of hi, and all the things, connected to him and those terrible events. In the meantime, Karazhan worked in the People’s commissariat for education, filled a very high and responsible position and could be very useful for Burkut.
Burkut was happy to see and meet only one of his fellow countrymen. It was Hassan. Hassan worked in editorial office of ne republican newspaper and came back from his working trio recently. He visited many auls, read and explained to the people the new law and decree about land and its allocation. He had many interesting impressions and shared them with a great pleasure.
They talked till the late night, and Hassan praised Burkut’s article several times. “It’s a good article, really very good and sincere article,” he said to Burkut. “It’s very necessary to write the article like this one. Really. I had even tears on my eyes, while I was reading it, my friend!” At the end of their conversation he gave an advice to join the Kazakh Association of Proletarian Writers and Poets. “You should understand,” he said to Burkut, “you have now no one to seek an advice and assistance, you wife alone cannot help you with these issues. But once you will enter this organization, you will be a member of a big group, of a very big and powerful body. You will find new connections and new friends. It really means a lot, believe me, my dear friend! You should go to its head tomorrow, I will visit him too. You will see, he will welcome you like an old and good friend”. Burkut listened to the Hassan’s advice, and everything happened just like Hassan described. That’s why Burkut sits today in this little room behind the stage and waits until he will be summoned to join the meeting and to deliver his speech. Finally he was called. He entered and was offered a seat in the first raw of seats. The head of the Association delivered his speech. It was a man of solid build, with a round face. Here is what he said:
“We know Burkut as a poet since long ago. In the first years of Soviet power I used to sing his songs, and I remember it very good. I think that many of you did the same. I should admit that there were really great, very good songs. He still writes the songs and poems. Of course, not everything in them can be accepted by us. But, as it is mentioned in the application of comrade Burkut Kuntuarov, he understand it himself and he wants to finally get rid of everything casual, assumed and mistaken. I will read you now his application. Listen to it and take a right decision!”
He read this application and then addressed the audience:
“Let us start our discussion and debates. Who will speak up first?”
The first speaker mounted the platform. It was a gray-haired man of solid build, dressed in a field jacket. He had short and coarse hair. He cleared his throat and gave his hair a smooth with his hand, before he started his speech:
“In liked an application and request of comrade Kunutarov very much!” he said. “It is written clearly, sincerely, openly and without any influences. He made some mistakes in his life, he was wrong sometimes, he did some wrong things and wrote something he wouldn’t write today, but the most important is that now he understood everything and decided to break with the past and to turn over a new leaf! “I ask you to understand me and my situation: I was mistaken sincerely and I’ve corrected my mistakes sincerely as well. But I wanted always only the best: then and now”. That’s what Burkut told us, actually. I believe him and I want to support him. I raise my hand to vote for him to be accepted as a member of our Association!”
He said it and left the tribune. “Thank you,” Burkut whispered to him, when he passed him. 
The second speaker mounted the platform as well. It was a tall man with the wealth of hair and wearing the glasses. He strokes his hair up and declared:
“Comrades, we are all the writers and the poets, and our organization is being called the union of Writers. There are no more people, who would fell more responsibility for the folk, the history, the present and the future of the country, than the writers and the poets. Especially nowadays. Nobody works that hard as a writer works, and it should be like this. Our epoch sets for us a mission of an extraordinary importance and difficulty, which we should resolve…”
“Who is it?” Burkut asked his neighbor. His neighbor smiled ironically:
“I really don’t know! But he always delivers the speeches, at every meeting and gathering. He is only talking, talking, talking, like a gramophone, and it is impossible to stop him...”
The speaker finally came to a conclusion and ended of the first period of his difficult and long speech and went on:
“These are the honorary tasks! There are though many difficulties, burdens and obstacles on their way, but we must…”
He spoke during nearly five minutes more and then finally concluded:
“Thus, if comrade Kuntuaron will give us a solemn promise to carry out all the obligations, imposed on the proletarian writer and poet by people, I think, we need to accept his candidacy, and he can join our Association. I will vote for that. But comrade Kuntuarov should be aware of the fact, what kind of responsibility and obligations he assumes. That’s all I wanted to say”.
And he left the tribune, giving Burkut a strict glance.
Then a young military man dressed breeches and with the officer’s sword-knot took a word. His speech was extremely short:
“I vote for accepting candidacy of comrade Burkut Kuntuarov. He is a formed master and experienced writer and poet, and we can learn really a lot from him, I’m sure. He committed his mistakes and he is ready to correct them, and it’s also very important. Let him teach others on these mistakes now”.
Then something really strange happened. Burkut suddenly saw two people, entering the hall: one of them was Akpar and another one was… The poet even leaned forward. “That is Karazhan!” Burkut thought in bewilderment. “Oh my God, he changed so much!” He looked very reputable and even “responsible”. Solid pants of military style, dispatch cross-body bag, saddlebag sidelong, military shining and perfectly clean boots. Eye-glasses. When the military young men left the tribune and the head of the gathering asked: “Is there anybody else willing to deliver a speech and say something?” – Karazhan raised his hand at a leisurely pace and said: “Allow me to have a word!”. He took off his eye-glasses, when he mounted the platform, cleaned it and, picking at it from time to time, started to speak:
“I am not a member of you Association, comrades, but I am directly related to it. My surname is Aybasov. I work in the People’s Commissariat for Education and I am responsible for the department providing communication between the People’s Commissariat and your association”.
“We all know you very well, comrade Karzhan,” the head of the meeting responded to him. “And we want to hear you a lot”.
“Karazhan! He is a cousin of Zhabagy!” came suddenly to Burkut’s mind. “But he is a hero, a hero! He saved life of a communist Nuroly and his three friends! He was risking with his life, but he infiltrated to the camp of the Kolchak’s fighters, gained their trust and confidence, announced his readiness to command execution of the Red Army soldiers and then he led them away and saved their lives! He planned their escape on the march and helped them. The supporters and members of the White movement have been searching for him and wanted to capture and to shoot him, but then the city of Akshatyr, where it all had happened, was taken by the Red Army”. Burkut had no doubts regarding this story, and there could be really no doubts, as all the three rescued communists shared the same account and told the same story.
Karazhan took on his eye-glasses and went on:
“Comrade Burkut has written a really beautiful letter, it’s simply beautiful! I was close to cry while I was reading it! You see, even my eye-glasses fogged up,” he smiled, made a pause, as if he pondered for a short moment, and then he continued: “But that was only my first feeling and impression. Then I thought: is it true? Is it really like that? Does our comrade Burkut really repent what he’s done before, as he describes it in his article? He is a poet though, he can write anything! We are crying listening to his songs and poems. We are crying even now. But let us think together: where are the evidences of such a wonderful transformation? It happens different, my friends… The poet can be one person in the morning, but he dreamed of something in the night and he woke up next day a completely different person! This new person wakes up in the morning and then goes to the Association of the Proletarian writers, for example, and submits an application, describing all the previous mistakes and promising to totally change and asks to give a permission to become a part of the Association. Or a member of party. But it’s nonsense, comrades! In order to accept such a candidacy to the party or association, we need to see how this new features appear in him and how they develop! We should see what is really happening and what kind of changes occurs. Is it so in case of comrade Burkut? Can we say so about him? We are being told: there is an article in the regional newspaper about the terrible and violent crime of Zhabagy. And there are the evidences as well. But evidences of what? Zhabagy is one person only, and if we will condemn him and his deeds, it won’t mean that we can condemn the whole class of people? Right? And if to study this case in more details, it will look as follows: comrade Burkutb has condemned bay Zhabagy and praised at the same time the class Zhabagy represented. This class, according to the songs and poems of Burkut, is a bearer and keeper of all the sacred traditions and customs of the Kazakh people. What can I say? His poetry is great, it’s excellent, but if you, comrade Burkut, claim that you’ve committed and realized your previous mistakes, it means that we have the right to wait some new songs from you, and these new songs should be with all of your heart. And we will estimate you according to these new songs. As long as there are still no songs like that we cannot estimate them and we also cannot make any conclusions. That’s why, comrade Head of the meeting, if I would be in your place, I would take into account request of our renowned comrade Burkut Kuntuarov, but I would abstain from accepting him in the ranks of our Association now. I’s nothing personal. I would just wait a little bit. I would look closer. We have time though. That’s my opinion, comrades, that’s what I think on the issue,” he concluded and left the tribune.
Noise was raised in the hall immediately. Somebody shouted: “That’s a right decision!”, somebody exclaimed enthusiastic: “Well said!”, as somebody asked quick-tempered: “So why did Burkut submit such an application, how do you think?”. Then Karazhan turned back and answered with a question: “Have you heard a fable about a wolf in sheep’s clothing?” And then he went forth. Burkut couldn’t stand it anymore. He jumped from his seat, approached walking Karazhan and crossed his way, preventing him from leaving. Shaking with agitation, he asked him:
“What does it mean? Does it mean that I am a wolf? Does it?”
Karazhan smirked:
“”Are you going to beat me, or what?” he asked. “I see you are going to beat me; you even doubled your fists! Okay then, I will answer you. I don’t believe you, Burkut, I don’t believe you and your words! I cannot believe you, because you’ve chosen the perfect time for you to join the Association. You decided to make it right at that moment when nothing else was left for you. No other chances and no other options. You know, when the heavy rain starts, there is usually no time anymore to choose the roof to hide, so you will use any little house as a shelter. But once the rain is over, you will say good-bye to your shelter and leave it, as it is not useful anymore, you will go on walking your own path again. But we don’t need people like this, looking for a short time shelter during the storm. What’s happening again? Did I say something wrong? What’s wrong with you, Burkut? I see you are doubling your feasts again! My dear friend, you should know that a fist is not the best argument, especially for the writer. Another type of evidences and arguments is needed here”.
“I will prove with my songs that you are a liar!” Burkut shouted in the heat of the moment.
“What songs are you talking about? If you mean those songs, which aren’t created yet, then I and all the people sitting here will be very happy to hear them all, but where are they? And if you are talking about your previous songs, you know well who they praised. Zhabagy and the his likes. And not only him. Do you want me to list some names?”
He said it all silent, soft and with the worm smile on his face, and the hall started became agitated again.
“That’s absolutely right, Karazhan, let him prove first the he has changed!” somebody shouted.
“Why should we churn the old things and memories?” another voice shouted from another corner of the hall. “Bryusov praised the war too long ago, and then he died a member of the party! And there are many examples!”
Burkut suddenly turned around and went towards the hall exit. A straight and sharp exclamation of the meeting’s head stopped him:
“Comrade Kuntuarov! Come back and take your seat, please!”
Burkut came back and sat down.
“Here what I want to say,” the meeting’s head said. “I really didn’t like your words, comrade Karazhan. These words are angry, evil and unfair. It sounds as if you were talking about an enemy, not a comrade. No, there should be different approach found for the poet Burkut Kuntuarov. He is still very young. His life just started, and he has everything ahead. So, what will you say, comrades?” he asked, referring to the participants of the gathering. “I think we can start with the voting. Comrade Kuntuarov, we will ask you again to leave the hall for some time and to wait in the neighboring room. It will take something about ten minutes, not longer, I think”.
But he was called back to the hall again only half an hour later. Maybe, there were some argues and discussions regarding his candidacy during the procedure of the voting. Karazhan wasn’t presented in the hall anymore. The chairman called Burkut to him.
“So,” he said, “the meeting members decided to postpone proceeding of your application for half a year. We all wait that you will create during this period of time some art works, some poems and songs, which will enable you and us to shut the mouths of anybody who will try to criticize you unfairly again. You shouldn’t consider this decision of ours being a denial and rejection of your candidacy. Think of it like of the time to test you and us. It will be a test for you and those obligations you took, and it will be test for us as well, that we believed in you and gave you a chance. We are sure that…”
Burkut didn’t listen till the end. He turned around and left the hall wordless. Anger seized him. It was anger. That even prevented him from breathing freely. 
…He sees nothing. The trees brunches hit his face (he went to the park), his shoes clap, the people passing by rush from him, because he goes right on the people, like a blind or a mad man. He walks like this and doesn’t even notice that there is another man following him.
Burkut halted almost at the outskirts of the city, next to the Alma-Atynka River, which was small, but streaming rapidly and noisily. He felt only now how terribly tired he was. He sat down of the big black stone on the river bank. He spent like this several minutes, motionless and silent, looking at the ground and thinking of nothing. Once he raised his head he suddenly saw: Akpar stood in front of him. He turned back without saying any word. Akpar squatted next to him and started to throw little stones into the river water. Several minutes more passed like this. Both of them remained silent. Finally Akpar broke the silence and said:
“Are you feeling bad now, my dear friend? Do you feel you want to cry? Don’t cry. When a little child cries, he is being told a miraculous and wonderful fairy-tale, and then he calms down. The poet is the same child, just a big one. Do you want me to tell you a story or a fairy-tale?”
Burkut didn’t reply anything.
“Okay, listen,” Akpar said. “There was one poet. He had everything: talent, intelligence, diligence. He used to write his songs and poems all nights long, but Allah didn’t give him happiness. The poet was unlucky. Of course, his friends could support him and help him, and he actually had these friends. But what a misfortune! His friends were unlucky too. There articles in the magazines and newspapers being published about the other writers and poets, their portraits are being posted in the respectable magazines, such as “Ogoniok ”, for example. But nobody published anything about this poet, who had talent, intelligence and diligence. There was absolutely nothing! No articles, no pictures in the magazines, no interviews, nothing! Isn’t it insolent and offensive? Of course, it is, but what could he do? Once he asked one literature reviewer: “Tell me, please, why all the other poets and writers are being praised, but nobody talks about me? Am I worse than them?”. “No,” the reviewer replied, “you are better than them, but there is nothing to praise you for. We are the reds , and those poets are the reds as well, that’s why we praise them. But you are white, dear friend, and you don’t look like us, you are different, why should we praise you? Let the whites  praise you, not us”. But how the whites will praise him, if they are either at war or behind the bars? “Things are turning ugly,” the poet thought. “It seems that I should become the red too, or I will just die alone…” And he asked the reviewer: “Tell me, please, can I also be the red?”. “Why not?” the reviewer responded. “Of course you can! Just give us the more information about your white friends is possible, and you will turn “red” immediately! That’s easy!” Is it a big deal, to betray your friends? The poet thought to himself. Today it’s really easy. The poet said: “I agree”. And he immediately became red, getting even his cheeks red. He became not white, as was the banners of our ancestors and grandfathers, and not green, as is the banner of Muslims and our Prophet Mohammed and of our Kazakh fighter Kenesary, nut red, like red bunting. Thus, he turned red and said: “So, I am the red now, take me to your company now, and accept me, please. What should I do more?” Do understand it, Burkut?”
“Yes, I do,” Burkut replied. “Please, leave me alone, for the sake of Allah! I’m not in the mood for it now…”
“I can clearly see that you are not in the mood for it now,” Akpar sneered. “But this fairy-take will end soon anyway. So, they didn’t accept him in their ranks, these reds, they sent him to shaitan . “You are only from outside,” they said to him, “but you are still white inside, you haven’t changed. Go, go, we don’t need people like you”. You see, they aren’t fools too. You cannot wash out the black dog until it will be spotlessly clean and white. It won’t be white, if it is black. That’s the proverb. So, the poor poet walked in the city and didn’t know what to do and how to act. The reds refuse to accept him, the whites were betrayed by him, so he couldn’t come back to them. He reached the river bank, sat there and thought: “What should I do now? Should I escape to the ends of the earth, where nobody knows me? Or maybe should I simply jump down from the fourth floor?”
“Go away from me, leave me alone!” Burkut shouted, jumping from his seat. “What do you want from me? Why did you come here? To mock and roast me?”
“I came to save you, fool!” Akpar replied suddenly calm and earnest. “You will be simply ruined without me and my help, haven’t you get it? You won’t be even able to make a hole in the water of this puddle! Anyway you will be washed ashore. To one of the shores. And you will keep on dangling again and again. Tell me, did you really decide to commit a suicide and to be drowned?”
“With such helpers and benefactors anybody will get drowned!” Burkut said angrily.
“So, it’s my fault again!” Akpar said. “You are still looking for the guilty people around you… The hell with you, Burkut, if you weren’t my friend! Now listen to me. I am planning to cross Chinese border in several days. Let’s go with me. Our tribes are being roaming there, along the border. They went to China and crossed the border in nineteen sixteen. They’ve lost their lands, that’s truth, but they’ve preserved their language and culture, they will really appreciate a good song or a poem! You will be stud with the gold by them for the good songs! These are the rich people, they have everything. Take a decision as soon as possible! You will find everything there: home, land, family, wealth, future, possibilities and fame. You can easily find a girl as well, any girl will marry you happily! Why do you need this Russian?”
While he was talking, Burkut sat silently, without saying a word. Even the words about Olga didn’t touch him, he only asked:
“So, did you finish your speech?”
Akpar nodded.
“So, here is my answer, my dear,” Burkut said calmly, standing up from his seat. “You can escape, you can run from this land, I can see, that you have really nothing to do here. But leave me alone please! I will reach my goals! While you will be roaming in China, remembering our lands and looking in this direction sadly from time to time, I will be singing my songs here. And you will hear them there! I promise you, you will hear them! And now farewell! I can see that even the people like you can be useful. You opened my eyes for many things. If I wouldn’t meet you, maybe it would be really more difficult for me now. Maybe I would be really thinking of suicide. But now everything changed. I’ve listened to your words and I can understand now: the comrades are right. Who were my friends? For whom I was fighting? Whom was I praising? Whom I was listening to? If you dared to offer me to escape together with you, it means that the things are turning really ugly for me. And it’s right that the comrades didn’t believe me immediately, but told me to go and think more, to gather my thoughts and ideas and to take a right decision. Farewell, Akpar! Don’t think ill of me! I think we won’t see each other anymore. Farewell again!” he concluded and went fast away.
Akpar stood long time motionless, looking into the darkness, where Burkut disappeared. Then he gave a shrug to his shoulders and laughed.
“So, well then,” he said to himself. “Well then, comrade Burkut… What can I do if you decided to choose such a fate and such a path?.. We will see how it will be, we will see…”

…Olga was close to cry, when she saw her husband: he had really dark and grim face.
“I was waiting for you so long,” Olga said. “Look, it’s after eleven o’clock already. Where have you been so long?..”
“I was sitting on the bank of Alma-Atynka River,” Burkut ssneered.
“What?!” Olga asked bewildered. “I cannot understand?.. Were you denied?..”
“Not, I wasn’t,” Burkut replied. “But they didn’t accept my candidacy too. They decided to postpone it for half a year. But that’s okay, we can talk about it later. Do you know who have I seen? Akpar!”
“Oh my God!” Olga muttered. “And he…”
“He gave me an advice to leave you and to escape together with him to China,” Burkut said. “He said that I am like radish, red outside and white inside. I told him to go to hell and left, and while I was walking I was waiting that he will shoot me from the back or something like this. The place was really vast and desolate: Alma-Atynka. But no, he didn’t shoot, maybe he was scared to do it or maybe he simply forgot his Browning at home… In general, I think it’s over with him. But what will happen to me…” and he shook his head, smiling sadly.
“You know what,” Olga suddenly said decisively, “I have a bottle of cognac, I was saving it for a special occasion. Let’s open it and drink now”.
“I see that you are really rich,” Burkut smiled.
Olga took out of her suitcase the bottle, hidden there since the times of Akshatyr. It was a bottle of a good Armenian cognac. She took the glasses, then ran to the kitchen and brought bread and butter and out it all on the table in front of her husband. He looked at her with the smile.
“Well done, dear Olga!” he said. “I was walking home now and feeling so bad that I even didn’t want to live anymore. But now everything is good again. So, if we cannot drink for the happiness and joy now, we could at least drink for sorrow! Get the second glass as well, we’ll drink together!”
They drank some cognac together. Olga started to cough, as she wasn’t used of drinking something that strong.
“What?” Burkut asked with a smile. “Is it bitter?”
“It’s like a water-hemlock!” Olga replied.
“Yes, it seems that we will drink a water-hemlock soon,” Burkut smiled bitterly. “And not once, but many times. Akpar called me a traitor, but you know, it’s not only his words. Some people, on our side and on their side, speak like this about time sometimes… Karazhan told me actually almost the same, like Akpar did, and Karazhan is considered being a hero, as he risked his life for his comrade… Pour me some more cognac, please!”
Olga had to listen to many stories and things during this evening. Burkut said many things this night, and he said also many unfair things about himself and his friends and comrades as well. He was irritated, angry, saddened, confused, and Olga saw it clearly. She decided not to counter and contradict him, but just got him to bed and made sure he fell asleep. “The most important for him now is not to give up and lose heart, not to lose self-belief and self-confidence. Time of hardships came for him and for us both, and he should overcome it”. And then she thought again: “And we have almost no money… We need to find the decision and to make the best of a bad job!”
And she found the decision. She woke up early in the morning next day, slid from the bed, opened the wardrobe carefully and trying not to make noise and took her white downy scarf out of there. 
“I will go to that tradeswoman again,” she thought. Somehow everybody called “a tradeswoman” a widow, who lived from buying and selling used things and clothes and borrowed money with percents. “Maybe, she will borrow me five rubles or something like that”. 
A tradeswoman lived close to Burkut’s and Olga’s house, her house was small and nice and had three windows and carved staircase. Olga knocked the door, but nobody replied. She knocked again. “Please, come inside!” a woman’s voice was heard. “I am here, in the yard!” It seemed that a woman just finished washing. A rope was drawn between the two apple trees, ripe fruits hung right above the red and lilac tablecloths. A tradeswoman was a plump and red-cheeked woman at her forties. She wore a blouse with its sleeves pulled up. She carried a big bowl with the squeezed newly washed washing. Once she saw Olga, she put the bowl on the little chair and dried her hands with her dickey. 
“So,” she said, “open it, show me what you brought. What is it?” Olga unfolded her white scarf. “A scarf? A downy scarf?” she flung it over her shoulders and dolled up a little bit, as if she was watching into the mirror. “So, it’s a good scarf, ordinary scarf,” she said, taking it off, “but I don’t need it. In addition to that it is damaged a little bit…”
“It’s impossible!” Olga boiled over. “It was always safe, in the trunk, with camphor balls! It cannot be damaged! Where did you see these damages?”
“Everywhere, everywhere, my dear, it is really damaged a lot,” a woman said. “Furthermore, it’s summer now, the scarves are at a discount now. Take it back!” she doubled the scarf and handed it back to Olga.
“I would make a discount and sell it not expensive,” Olga said sadly. “I really need money”.
“Everybody needs money, my dear, but somehow nobody has them,” a tradeswoman replied instructive. “You better sell me your golden ring!”
“It’s my husband’s gift!” Olga exclaimed.
“Really?” a woman smiled. “I can see you have a good husband. I’m sure he’ll buy you another one. I also had a good husband, he was really very generous, but he died, so I have to buy everything by myself, if I want something! So, will you make a discount for me, if I will buy it?”
“I really don’t know,” Olga laughed. She needed money desperately. “My husband gave it to me as a gift, I don’t know…”
“There is a husband, there will be a new ring as well,” a tradeswoman snapped. “Let me take a look at it again! Maybe I will buy your scarf too. I will pay you well; you will never get the similar price in the shops”.
Olga came back home laded. Her husband sat on the bed and put on his boots. He looked pretty confused and lost. She laughed, threw the parcels on the table, approached him and hugged him tenderly.
“Did I drink too much yesterday?” he asked reluctantly. “I don’t even remember how I fell asleep”.
“Doe your head hurt you?” Olga asked him. “No? That’s fine. We will make a dinner now together. Get up, you will help me to clean potatoes!”
“Hey, where did you get it all?” Burkut asked, when they were done with potatoes. “I think there was almost no money anymore…”
“It will be enough for the next week,” Olga assured him. 
“That’s fine, that’s really great!” Burkut replied merrily. “I might get money from the “Red Kazakhstan” next week; it means we will find a way out”.
After the breakfast he went to the editorial office. Head of the prose department, a tall and thin middle-aged man greeted him with the light nodding of his head.
“You asked me to come today,” Burkut said.
“Yes, yes, I did,” a head of the department replied kindly. “But unfortunately I cannot tell you anything comfortable and positive now… The novel didn’t appear in our magazine this month… It fell out of our magazine”.
“Does it mean that it will be published in the next issue of the magazine?” Burkut asked timidly. 
“If I said “it fell out of our magazine”, it means that this novel won’t be published in our magazine at all,” a head of the department explained calmly.
“That’s great!” Burkut exclaimed madly. “Why?”
“We’ve received instructions!”
“Instructions? What instructions?” Burkut didn’t get it.
“We’ve received instructions from above,” a man said and pointed to the ceiling. “What exactly it means, you should better ask the editor in chief about it”.
Burkut went to see the editor.
“We cannot do anything!” an editor said, waving his hands in despair. “Our comrade Karazhan is against it!”
“Karazhan Aybasov?” Burkut asked.
“Yes, that’s him,” an editor replied. “He said that your novel cannot be published now as it has too many unacceptable allusions and hints”.
“What kind of allusions and hints, I wonder?”
“Well, there are many examples. The communists are presented in the character of the wolves. The same could be said about the images of defarming in the auls”.
“Really?” Burlut exclaimed. “Are you kidding me now?”
“Not at all! There is nothing to laugh about here!” an editor said. “It will be good at least if you won’t be accused of losing the class intuition. Your wolf has red chaps! He devours the white sheep with this red chaps. It could be considered as being an anti-Soviet propaganda”.
“No, seriously, are you kidding me?” Burkut said.
The editor laughed suddenly bitterly.
“I’m not kidding you at all!” he said, came close to Burkut and gave him a friendly hug. “Here is my advice for you: give up the work for our magazine as a hopeless case at the moment and go to the other editorial offices and magazines. Go there, where Karazhan’s hand and his connections and influence cannot reach you and affect your career. We work under jurisdiction of the People’s Commissariat for Education. But you can try to publish some of your new songs and poems in other source first and then come again to us. In this case Aybasov won’t be a scary obstacle for you. But now you will hardly bring him too justice, he is too influential and important figure here”.
“Where should I go to?” Burkut asked.
“I don’t know, but you should try your luck somewhere far from us,” the editor smiled. “Try the youth magazines and newspapers; maybe they could be helpful for you now. There are really brave guys working there, they like to risk. Karazhan isn’t an authority and example for them. Try them!”
But Burkut didn’t go anywhere. He came back home. He sat at the table and opened a folder with the manuscript of his poem “Yerkebulan and Nurjamal”. He read and reread it till the late night and then again and again till the morning. The poem was recently finished, but now, having a look at it again, Burkut clearly saw that it still needs rework, revision and adaptation. There were so many verses and strophes needed to be changed, edited or removed! He had to set about this work immediately, right away. He understood that the best, the strongest and the most effective argument in this controversy with Karazhan is this poem, and that’s why everything what could be done by Burkut, had to be done immediately, without any hesitation, sparing no effect and wasting no time. He had no doubts at all anymore that this fight will be long and desperate. Let Olga sleep. He will work all night long today.
But Olga didn’t sleep. She laid and followed him and his movements from under the half-closed eaves and thought that the money she received today will be enough for the week, but what could they do next?

IV
Two riders ride one by one along the narrow mountain path. One of them rides a black horse and another one rides a white one. A man rides in front and a woman rides behind him. The woman’s name is Sholpan, what means “a morning star” – Venus, and the man’s name is Akpar.
It’s silent and desolate around. Warm autumn sun now tears through the light white clouds, then hides behind them again. People and cattle move along the mountain’s slope far from the riders. Snoring of horses, bellowing and bleating of cattle and shouts of the shepherds are heard from time to time. Takerjan’s aul moves from the Konyr Aygyl Lake to the hunter’s lodge. This aul is poor, and it’s noticeable from the first sight. The men are dressed in old and ragged chekpens , the women wear the raggery, but the one woman, who is prancing on the horse in front of the column, is dressed in the red velvet caftan with the beautiful silver belt and a big and rich fur cap on her head. It’s Akpar’s fiancé, or to be exact, his former fiancé. She was promised for Akpar when she was just born. She was that girl whom Burkut saw early in the morning, when he and Olga just arrived in the aul. She walked with the buckets with water that time and sang, and Burkut thought about her: “That’s a light-hearted and happy songster, who knows no sorrows and has no burdens!” And it was true: Shoplan was really like this, until fate turned against her and her life changed. First of all, her father crashed and went to rack and ruin, as his herds and flocks appeared caught in the middle of the jute and perished almost totally. Jute is one of the most terrible and hard misfortunes and disasters a Kazakh could experience. When the weather changes to rapid and unexpected, when it rains first and then frost comes or there is a snow break at the beginning, followed then by frost again, the entire steppe is covered with the thin ice crust. The grass covered with this crust becomes inaccessible. Neither a cow, nor a sheep nor even a horse can break this ice crust with the hoof in order to reach the grass and die from starvation. Jute is a lack of fodder, broken and disjointed legs of cattle, starvation death and impoverishment. That’s why Sholpan’s father fell on evil times and lost almost everything he had before. People say that the price of a rich man is one jute. It was the first trouble in the young girl’s life and the first serious burden. Then their family experienced the second trouble: Karymsak refused the marriage brokerage, and the family was also forced to give back the full price of the lost cattle, which was received by them nearly eighteen years ago as kalym  for Sholpan. Thus, both the marriage and the wedding failed, but Sholpan remained. Even more: she grew up, matured and grew prettier and she was a real bride now, and the neighboring dzhigits started to feast their eyes on her and look at her with delight. Akpar saw her like this. It’s worth mentioning that he was really lucky at the beginning. All the girls in aul looked only at him, thought only of him, talked only about him, as he captured their hearts and minds. And how! He was a student, a townsman and a very clever and intelligent person. The it was a long parting again, Akpar didn’t visit this aul during more than three years, and when he finally came to visit it again, he couldn’t believe his own eyes: Sholpan became a real beauty, but she loved now Kasym-Kostya. There was already an agreement. They decided to celebrate their wedding next year, after the aul will move to the new place and settle there. The fact is that people linked really a lot with this new settlement and had high hopes for it: they decided to build the houses on the new place instead of their usual yourts and to start to saw and to plant grain next year. Now the aul resettled. Half of the aul’s youth was already on the new place, as they arrived earlier. They measured and registered the land and prepared the temporary houses. Kasym commands the work. That was the reason why Akpar appeared beside Sholpan now. Sholpan’s parents didn’t remember the bad moments connected to Akpar and received friendly and generous a former fiancé of their daughter. They served a good dinner for him and gave him a bed, and in the morning they persuaded him to go together with them. Akpar agreed immediately. The aul was roaming towards the city and that’s why Akpar’s way fitted the path of the aul now, according to Akpar’s explanations. He knew that some latitudes were permitted in the auls during the times of roaming, while girls and guys play, dance and sing together, chase each other and have a good time. Even now a former bride and a former groom rode beside each other. “Of course, her father did it right and well,” Akpar thought, looking at the girl. “It’s good that he decided to cut relationships with these beggars. It seems that the entire income of this family is enough only for dressing Sholpan like a princess. Of course, this Russian might help them as well. Wait, wait, my friend, it seems I will show you the bride! How is it possible to lose and miss such a girl?! You will bite your fingers from despair later. No, the one who will give up such a beauty is not a man at all! You will remember me, Russian. It’s nearly day and half of way to the wintering place, I’m sure I will find a way to settle it all down. I think education won’t work here, sights and pants as well. She saw really a lot! I think I should appeal to her past”.
“Yes,” he said, smiling sadly, “once a poet said the truth: “There is no bigger grief than to remember your happiness in the days of your grief”. That’s exactly my case… I still remember our last meeting. Do you remember it? It was in the night, on dzhaylyau. There were really many people, and everybody was singing a song, girls and guys, and you also sang for me:
You were so tender with my, my darling, 
Why don’t you pay attention to me now?
I have no fears and no sorrows
Until we are together with you!
Yes, I believed you, I really believed you then…. And here three years passed…”
Sholpan didn’t reply. 
“Are you silent? Are you angry with me?” Akpar went on. “But there was not my fault at all! There were too many grieves and disasters seizing me that time… My father escaped the country, my teacher died, he committed suicide. My closest friend betrayed me, my sister went to live with an enemy of mine and our family, my relatives, friends and close people left me alone and abandoned me. And here I am, coming back to the native aul, where I was born and where I spent my childhood, and everybody looks hostile at me, as if I was a wolf! And your father does the same. Of course! I am a son of a bay, and he is a red dehkan farmer , a poor man, a real pillar of Soviet authorities in the aul. Do you think I don’t understand it? What should I do then? Should I escape, like my family, and run to China? What about my homeland? What about my friends? What about an affair of my life? And what about you? So, I tear around like this, without knowing what to do and how to act, what could be my next step. Sometimes I feel myself that bad that I even don’t want to live anymore”.
The girl kept silent. He looked at her again and clenched the leading reins in his hands. 
“So, Sholpan, what will you tell me?” he asked.
The girl looked at him in amazement.
“What should I tell you?” she asked wondering.
“What should you tell me?” Akpar replied. “You loved me once,” and he suddenly recited:
I have no fears and no sorrows
Until we are together with you!
Isn’t it like this anymore, Sholpan?”
She looked at him.
“Three years passed, you said,” she replied. “There were too many things happening around, and many things changed. Do you remember how did you look and behave when you came from the town? You were dressed in a town style jacket, with the tie and a bracelet on your hand. I saw such watches on you for the first time in my life. Maybe it wasn’t that things which attracted me in you, but… You were really special, as if you were not from here, you were a stranger, someone who came from outside. Not like everybody…”
“And what happened next?”
“And then everything started to change,” Sholpan went on. “Once you arrived to the aul, drinking bouts, fights, clashes, quarrels, cards, obscene songs started… Do you remember what a great scandal it was, when a young dzhigit played away to you his horse and a saddle? Do you remember how his father was cursing you for that? Then this accident happened with Jibek. How did you treat her! Don’t you feel sorry for this poor orphan girl?”
Akpar shivered but kept silent and didn’t reply. It seemed that the story with Jibek won’t be forgotten that fast and easily. Here is this story. This Jobek lived with her distant relatives in Sholpan’s aul. She was thin and slender like a reed and shy like a gazelle. She was so silent that nobody even heard her speaking often. And it seems that nobody saw her smiling or laughing. Akapr brought a scandal upon her. Once he rode in the ravine and saw suddenly this silent and slender girl. He dismounted, called her, and when she approached him, he grabbed her, dragged her to the bushes and that was all. The girl didn’t even cry or shout. Nobody knew about it at her home as well. They knew everything later, after almost one month, when Kostya-Kasym brought her half-dead home.
It appeared that the girl dived in the lake waters, and if Kostya, who checked his nets that time, didn’t notice and save her, nobody would see her alive anymore. But even agter this incident she didn’t tell anything to anyone. 
But the bad rumors started to spread all over the aul. Jibek appeared to be sick, and people accused Akpar of it. It all ended when Kostya took the girl out of the aul and brought her to the town and then brought her back only one month later. The girl retired into herself even more and deeper. She still avoided talking about what happened to her. 
“Yes, that was great, of course,” Sholpan said angrily. “People bring the gift for their children from the town, books with the pictures, sweets, perfumed soap, and ribbons. And what did you give to this little child as a gift? And nobody even dared to rebuke you for that! Of course, you are a dzhigit, you are from a rich and respectable family, you came from the town, you are educated, you smoke expensive cigarettes. You know many clever words, you smell with perfumes! Of course. It was the first thing that repulsed me from you, Akpar”.
“And what was the second thing?” Akpar asked.
“The second thing…” Sholpan replied thoughtful. “You are too angry and too wicked, Akpar. You dislike everything here and you always criticize it all. You say that my father looks unfriendly at you and he is hostile towards you, but he accepted you as a dear guest! As if you were the most important guest! And what did you say about him now? And what are you saying about my beloved Kasym? “Russian”, and you say it with despise. You don’t have any normal and friendly words for him. Whatever he did, it looks funny for you. He gathered the dzhigits and the local guys now, they traveled to the new place and they build the houses there now and prepare everything for us. They have no free time at all, no rest! But you laugh. You only laugh, because it’s the only one thing you can do. Laughing and criticizing. But why do you laugh at him and at other people like him? Maybe you laugh because you yourself have never ever held either shovel, or a hammer or a plough in your hands, you’ve never worked in the field and you maybe you have even no idea of how the grain grows. Maybe you saw it once or twice only, and that’s all. That’s why it’s funny for you, and you laugh at us all. Akpar, Akpar! It seems your parents made a great joke when they decided to call you like this!”
Akpar paled but held himself.
“Why is it?” he asked, trying to speak calm.
“That’s because “Akpar” is actually “Akbar” and it means on Arabic “Great”,” Sholpan explained. “Are you great? Who can tell something good and positive about you? I hear only the bad things”.
Akpar still tried to hold himself.
“And are these bad things you’ve heard about me?” he asked her silently. “Tell me!”
“There is nothing to tell!” Shoplan responded. “You said it yourself that everybody looks daggers at you and is hostile towards you. Because you are like a wolf. How is it possible to love a wolf, tell me? Everybody fears and bewares the wolf. You are a bad and evil man, Akpar, very bad man. I am telling you it with all my heart”.
“You are a bitch! I will show you all the heart!” he said angrily and half stood on the stirrups. His face was changed with wrath, and he suddenly stroke her face with the lash several times. She screamed and fell on the saddle, covering her injured face. Her face was drenched in blood. Akpar looked back and saw the dzhigits rushing towards him. Then, clenching his teeth angrily, he stroke her again several times on her back, her shoulders and her head. Then he clapped spurs to his horse and rode rapidly away. He was chased, the dzhigits were shouting to him something and threatening him, but nobody had such a horse like Akpar did. The pursuit flicked out of sight very soon.

In the night he gave a horse the bridle and dismounted. It was so dark that he hardly saw anything in front of him. Only the bushes of osier-bed and something dim and gray in front of him was seen. Maybe it was a stone figure or a pillar. He sat on the ground and started to cry helplessly. He even didn’t cry but sobbed and wept loudly, with abandon.
He cried from anger, from despair, from impotence, from offense, from the fact that his life was so miserable and so unlucky that he even had no idea anymore how to deal with it and what to do with it. He was really like a wolf now, chased and abandoned by everybody, lonely gray vagabond, everybody is scared of him and he is scared of everybody too. By slow degrees his crying turned into a desperate howling. Only then he came back to his senses. He stood up and dried his eyes. It was calm and windless around. Big blue stars were shining in the big dark and clear sky. The starts were silent and calm and calmed down and refreshed like cold water. Only these starts weren’t hostile towards Akpar now, it seemed.
“Here it is,” Akpar said loud and even didn’t understand that he was speaking to himself. “Here how it is going, dear comrades. Did you decide to chase me? That’s very well! But remember always that I won’t let myself to be caught! The war is the war! You are chasing me because my father escaped to China, and I don’t like either you all or your stupid Soviet rule! What is mine is mine and it belongs to me only! That’s great! Let’s measure our strength! Of course, I am alone, and you are a lot. But we will see! And these tears of mine, my friends, these tears of mine this night in the middle of the steppe won’t be forgotten! I will never ever forget you these tears! Remember about it always! You can even offer to build a golden yourt for me, but I will never forget and forgive you my tears! Death for death, blood for blood and tears for tears. You will cry a lot! I will force you to cry bitterly! You will cry with bloody tears and you will remember me, dear comrades!”
After one day he was in Akshatyr city. He sold his horse (he even kissed its forehead at parting; he didn’t kiss his father like this). He got under way to Alma-Aty the same day. Somehow he didn’t think of escaping to China now. He had enough money.
He found this money at his father’s old wintering place. It was hidden and earthed in the agreed place. There were several hundreds of golden coins, and Akpar always carried them in his beg. “It will be enough to pay all the debts to my friends,” he thought with an evil smile, thinking of Burkut, Sholpan, Hassan and his sister. The distance from the railway station to the town was really big, and he had to get to the city with a cab and a coachman. He said the address to the coachman and soon he entered the yard of a little one-storied house with the acid-green shutters and architraves, located next to the main aryk. Karazhan stood in front of the zinc pan in the middle of the garden. He stood bare-chested and dried his body with the Turkish towel. He saw Akpar, greeted his with a short and light nodding and asked:
“Have you come back already?”
“As you see!” Akpar replied.
“You are fast. Did you come today? Are you just from the railway station?”
Yes, I just arrived. I thought you are still sleeping”.
Karazhan laughed, raised the bucket with the cold water and poured it on his head.
“How could you think that I can be still sleeping?” he smiled. “I used to wake up early and to make my morning exercises since my childhood. It’s my native habit, we can say”.
“Is it from your cadet’s times?” Akpar said blinking.
“You should listen more carefully! It’s my military habit,” Karazhan responded. “Okay then. What’s new? How are you doing?”
“It means you decided to disclaim your study at the cadet’s corps,” Akpar thought. “You were though so proud of it long ago!”
“What’s new?” he said thoughtfully. “I have visited my aul recently, saw the native places. I’ve met someone. In general, there is a lot of new things and nothing new at the same time. We have to talk!”
“Okay, we will talk. Just wait a little bit, please, I will finish my morning exercises, and we will talk,” Karazhan responded and went to the bar.
He did chin-ups several times, demonstrating his sportive, well formed body with the strong muscles, and Akpar looked with greed at his massive and wide strong shoulders, wide chest and thought that anyway this former cadet is strong and adroit, fast in his movements and looked like an Argamak horse, just prepared for the races. “I have a little belly already,” Akpar thought, “and he has no belly at all! I should make some sport as well,” he concluded.
“Look!” Karazhan exclaimed, flew up on the bar and then suddenly congealed in this position, standing actually on one hand only. Then he jumped down, prepared for the next stroke, jumped on the bar again and started to move so fast and crazy, that he looked like a fire ring. “People also say that he can shoot a flying coin easily,” Akpar remembered. “Yes, study at the cadets’ corps brought him benefits, it’s clear”.
Finally Karazhan jumped from the bar on the ground and got his breath. 
“Let’s go to the house,” he said, referring to Akpar, wearing his shirt and inviting Akpar to his house. “My wife might be still sleeping, so we will sit and talk at the dining room”.
The room they entered was shining with cleanness and decoration. A big round table stood in the middle of the room, and it was covered with the green velvet tablecloth. A silver tray with the cups of different colors and patterns stood on the table. It all reflected in the huge trumeau from the mahogany. 
“Have a seat here, on the coach. We can talk here,” Karazhan invited Akpar. “Tell me everything. Whom you met and what you heard. Everything you wanted to tell me”.
Their conversation didn’t last even five minutes, when the door suddenly opened wide, and a tall blond woman, dressed in the crimson robe, appeared at the threshold. She was clad with different jewels, which were obviously cheap. Coral beads laid on her chest, golden bracelets fell from her wrists, big round pearls were in her ears. She was big, racy, pretty and looked like an expensive and high-bred mare from the Khan’s stables. Her walk was silent, calm and smooth, her movements were roundish and calm, her eyes were laughing and her plump lips were laughing as well and were juicy and soft. She approached Akpar slowly, smiled to him and stretched her hand to him.
“He didn’t want to introduce you to me, but we met each other anyway,” she laughed.
Her hand was soft, tender and hot, but her handshake was string, almost like a man’s one. Akpar said his name and told her:
“I am an old friend of your husband”.
“It means that you are my friend too,” a lady said. “Karazhan, order, please, to fetch us some tea!” and then she turned to Akpar again and asked him: “Tell me, where I could meet you?”
“If I could tell you where you’ve met me…” Akpar sneered to himself but didn’t reveal his thoughts.
…Akpar saw Marukey, Karazhan’s wife, only one time, and of course she didn’t even notice it. She passed beside him rapidly and rushing. She was young, beautiful and heated with racing. She sat in the sledge, and a fast and racy Argamak horse ran rapidly. It happened during the traditional winter races usually held in Akshatyr. There were many people standing around, and Akpar asked that time: “Who is it?” He was answered with laughter: “It’s Marukey!” Her father was a rich man and a merchant, who owed a network of shops in the city and was an influential person. He was a Tatar and had his shops in many cities including Petropavlovsk, Akmolinsk, Semipalatinsk and Atbasar. Marukey was his only one daughter and an heir of everything he had, as her mother died during the labor. There were many potential fiancés circling always around her, but she was still not married.
“Marukey is a girl who prefers to get acquainted in the bed,” he was explained a little bit later. 
Long time passed since that time. The Soviet rule came, her father escaped, Marukey stayed in the city together with her step-mother (it was the same tradeswoman who bought the ring and scarf from Olga), and there were even more fiancés around her. But it seemed that she got married only recently.
Once Marukey left the room, Karazhan said very quickly:
“Here is her case. Her husband was imprisoned for the drugs’ trade, and she lives here with me now, during almost half a year,” and as Akpar kept silent and didn’t say anything, he added: “What can I do? I have to marry her anyway in this situation”.
“Yes,” Akpar agreed. “Yes, you are right, of course you should marry her,” and he thought to himself: “It seems that it could be interesting for me too here. So I shouldn’t give up”.
“Okay then,” Karazhan said, “you told me about other people and now tell me something about yourself. First of all, I haven’t seen you since that meeting of the writers’ association. Did you meet Burkut since that time?”
“I met him only once, that night after the meeting,” Akpar replied. “I think we can ignore Burkut now. He is not with us. It’s even worse. He is our enemy,” he pronounced the last words in a low voice.
Karazhan looked at him and laughed:
“Marukey cannot hear anything. Her ears are closed with gold, as the Russians say, and as for the reds or whites, she doesn’t care about it. She cares only about gold and men. That’s all she needs”.
“Ohh, that’s good,” Akpar thought to himself. “So, he won’t be even offended in this case”.
And then Akpar told him quickly everything what happened in Takerjan’s aul. 
“Do you understand, she called me a wolf right in my face! Consider it she slapped me with it!” Akpar said. “It made me angry and mad, and I stroke her several times with the lash and then left”.
“Did they chase you?”
“Of course they did!”
“Good,” Karazhan said with pleasure. “So, my dear, does it mean that a white wolf has attacked a red sheep? That’s very interesting!”
“Of course it’s interesting and maybe even funny for you,” Akpar frowned. 
“I cannot see you crying over this issue too,” Karazhan laughed. “That’s right, of course. So, what are you going to do next?”
Akpar gave a shrug of his shoulders.
“Yes,” Karazhan said. “Yes. There are a lot of things to think through here. You cannot appear in Akshatyr now, that’s plain like a day. You aren’t totally safe even here, in Alma-Aty. I think you should leave for some time and wait, until the things will calm and settle down,” Akpar didn’t reply and glanced at Karazhan silently. “How else? If they were chasing you and failed, it means that they will continue looking for you. Maybe they will go to the police, maybe they will even sue you in the court. The police will start looking for you. In addition to that we have Burkut here. Are you sure that he won’t run tomorrow with the denouncement for you? Thus, I don’t see any other way for you now except of leaving the city and hiding somewhere far away from here. Situation here is also not so good and friendly. You told it yourself: they look at you with hostility and speak unfriendly to you. It means that you need to wait somewhere in a far and safe place. How long can it be? I don’t know, it really depends on many things. But I think that it won’t take too long. But I am sure that it will be one or two years at least. Now we have another question: where and how? There are two ways. The first way is the simplest: get recruited and go to Karaganda. They will accept your candidacy. If they will inquire in your aul about you, they will tell them there that you broke up with your father, because you refused to escape to China together with him. If it’s like that nobody will even think of asking you why you suddenly decided to become a proletarian. It will be obvious for them. And then… You know the saying: “The knife is sharp, the sack is ragged”. You won’t be a worker forever, you will become a brigadier later, and the first doors will open in front of you. It will be your first opportunity. But I can see that you aren’t so enthusiastic about his way. Okay. There is also another way. You can enter the university and start your study. We will give you recommendation and studentship. Geologists are desperately needed now. Did you shake your head? You don’t like this way too, do you?”
“No, it would be wonderful,” Akpar replied. “But do you take into consideration that I am a son of bay and that my father actually escaped the country and moved to China?”
Karazhan laughed. 
“What are you worried about?” he said. “About documents? Don’t worry, everything will be okay with the documents. I have two free places at the Sverdlovsk Institute of non-ferrous metals. You can go there. Will we shake hands for this decision?”
Akpar smiled and gave him his hand.
“Thank you. When should I move?”
“As soon as possible. Maybe even today. It would be perfect. The train is at ten o’clock in the evening. You will receive your papers after dinner. I will make a call now and order a secretary to prepare everything. Let’s sit at the table!”

“So,” Akpar said, shaking Marukey’s hand in the corridor and smiling to her, “our acquaintance appeared to be very short. I’m leaving this night. Maybe we will not meet again. So, remember me kindly, please”.
She looked him right in his face.
“It’s a lot of time till the evening will come,” she replied. “Where are you planning to go now?”
“I was going to visit People’s Commissariat for Education, together with Karazhan. I need to receive some papers there,” Akpar told her.
“It’s a lot of time till the evening will come,” Marukey repeated and left the room.
Karazhan entered the room. He was wore the coat. He looked at Akpar and told him:
“Are you ready? Tell good bye to Marukey, and let’s go. The paper is ready, I will give it for signature now”.
Akpar stayed in the office of the People’s Commissariat for Education not longer than it required for getting the paper signed. Then he said that he had another thing to do.
“I am so thankful to you, my dear friend!” he said with emotion to Karazhan. “I’m really so thankful to you, I don’t know what I could do without your help? The thing you did for me today could be done only by a real brother! If the better times will come, I promise to thank you properly!”
They embraced each other, and Akpar even shed tears.
…He thanked Karazhan properly after half an hour. Laden with wine and fruits, he knocked again at the door of Karazhan’s house. Marukey opened the door for him. Like in the morning, she still wore the same seductive crimson velvet robe with the bare chest. 
“You know, I…” Akpar started and didn’t finish his phrase.
She laughed.
“I knew that you will be back,” she said, “I knew. Please, come inside,” and she kissed his lips.

V
One and half year passed. Many things have changed during this time. The Turkestan-Siberian Railway was laid. The steal giants of unprecedented power emerged in the steppe, and the names of “Karaganda”, “Dzezkazgan”, and “Ridder” started to appear in the newspapers. The collectivization passed. New towns emerged in the middle of the steppe, where only the auls roamed before, and the former shepherds took rock frills to their hands. Other people walked in the ravines of the Sary-Arka, Semirechye and Syr-Daria rivers and news songs were sung. Only in Burkut’s life nothing changed significantly. His poetry and songs were still not published, but one youth newspaper published his poem “Yerkebulan and Nurjamal” in three of its issues, but here everything halted. Karazhan, who was always very careful and even laggard person, started to energize towards Burkut. During the republican conference he presented his detailed and comprehensive report “About the relicts of nationalism in republican press”, where he mentioned specifically the songs and poems of a “certain Kuntuarov”.
“Allow me to recite you now some verses, without any comments,” he declared and then read different poems of Burkut, mostly oh his young period in poetry, during almost half an hour. Then he out aside his folder with the poems and said: “We could read during other two or three hours, but I think it’s enough, comrades. I think the issue is clear. How could we name these poems and songs? I think the words “politically unbalanced” or maybe even “politically erratic and false” are wrong when we are talking about the poems like this. Mistake is a mistake, and an author knows here very well, what he wants to achieve”.
“It’s a clear anti-Soviet propaganda, pure and simple!” somebody from the first row exclaimed. 
“We could call it whatever we want,” Karazhan went on, screwing up his face. “But the issue is of course not about the words, but about the deeds and about the essence and content. And the essence of this so called poet is that he was already arrested in Akshatyr. He was arrested and then released. We don’t know why he was released, and it’s actually none of our business, but our business is that we forbid very strictly the way to the Soviet press for the poets like him. We cannot give a tribune and platform for an enemy. I think we won’t discuss and debate this issue anymore”.
“I claim a word for a question!” someone’s voice was suddenly heard, and a tall black-haired dzhigit, editor in chief of a youth newspaper, mounted the platform. “I have such a question,” he went on, “the poems and songs our previous speaker recited for us of course cannot be published in any Soviet magazine, newspaper or book, that’s true. But these poems weren’t published. These are his old poetry, more than ten years old. Comrade Kuntuarov denounced these poems and songs publicly and he doesn’t write anything like that anymore. That was the reason why he decided to submit an application to the Kazakh Association of the Proletarian Writers and Poets. You were presented during that meeting and you’ve heard his speech”.
“Wait, wait, wait,” Karazhan interrupted him. “But you just said that you want to ask me a question”.
“I am close to asking it already,” a young man replied and went on: “All of you and you personally, comrade Karzhan, have heard that a chairman, while declaring the results of the neeting and discussion of Burkut’s candidacy, offered Burkut Kuntuarov to come back to his application after half a year and that he said: “During this period of time you will be able to write several poems and songs, that will convince us that you’ve cut all the connections with your past and that our Soviet literature received a new wonderful and talented poet. I am sure of it”. It means that Kuntuarov should get his poetry published. But how he supposes to publish his poetry, if we will bar him the way to the press and Soviet literature?”
His speech made a really strong impression.
“Is it your question?” Karazhan asked with a smile.
“It’s my first question,” a dzhigit said, “and there is also the second question, which is empiric. We are planning to start publishing a poem of Burkut Kuntuarov “Yerkebulan and Nurjamal” since the next issue of our newspaper. The topic of this poem, as you can clearly understand, is urgent. We didn’t have similar writing before. We’ve been discussing this poem in our editorial office, and this poem was approved by our team. Secretary for Propaganda gave a very positive feedback about this poem as well. He descends from those places. He participated in investigation and he even sent us his written feedback. I have it with me now. I can read it for you, if you will allow me. So, I have a question. What should we do with this poem? It’s set in type already. Should we spill it?”
Dzhigit’s voice sounded mockingly and derisively.
Karazhan gave a shrug of his shoulders. He was an experienced man and understood very well how is it better to behave and to act in different life situations.
“Why are you telling me this?” Karazhan smiled. “I just made it clear and reminded you all that Burkut, as he signs his poems, is a person with the problematic past, and you should always take it into consideration,” and he made a helpless gesture. “If this poem is good, you can publish it of course, it’s up to you. You are a responsible editor, so that’s your responsibility, you should take a decision yourself”.
“Yes, it’s my responsibility,” a young dzhigit agreed and took his seat.
Of course, Karazhan could easily kill Burkut’s poem under other circumstances. He could simply arrange a special call to the editorial office, and the material could be withdrawn from the issue. He did it with Burkut’s novel. But now the administration of a Kazakh Association of Proletarian Writers and Poets took on this poem and started to be interested in it. He had a very unpleasant conversation regarding this issue one week ago. A chairman of Association, an old and prominent, respectable man and writer, called him on the phone and told him, anticipating that he speaks not only in his own name:
“We are very concerned over your attitude toward a poet Burkut Kuntuarov. He visited us recently and he complained that you made everything to prevent his novel from being published and that you used your connections and influences to forbid it, and he knows about it. Now his poem “Yerkebulan and Nurjamal” should appear in this month’s issue. It would be really extremely unpleasant for us to know that something like this happened to his poem again, and it was withdrawn. In this case we will be forced to address the region’s committee”. 
Karazhan replied sincerely, but not exactly in point of fact:
“I haven’t even read this poem of Burkut!”
“All the more so,” a chairman agreed. “And there is another thing: Burkut is a literature teacher and he would like to get a job at one of the schools, but somehow nobody accepts his candidacy. We made enquires about it and found out that there was a special instruction of your department. It’s simply unfair”.
“Allow us to know it and to take a decision over the educational issues,” Karazhan replied softly. “We are sure that a person who was imprisoned for counter-revolution cannot teach our children anything good and useful. People of completely different qualities are needed for that,” and he hung up the phone.
The poem appeared in the newspaper and was widely praised, but situation of Burkut became even more difficult and controversial after it. People demanded from him not only an exposure of the whole “old aul”, but also the new novels and poems about the “new life” and “new rules”, about the new buildings, factories, life of workers and kolkhoz . He had not to only expose the bad sides of the previous life but to also describe and praise the new Soviet life, and he really didn’t know how to do it. Something really bleak, boring and pathetic was a result of his hard work. He couldn’t find out anything more than “Long live ..!” and “Glory to …!”, so the speculations started that Burkut Kuntuarov wrote himself out, that the new life is totally strange for him, that he cannot find his place in this new life and continues to live in the past. Later the same accusations were expressed in one of the regional newspapers: “We know and remember the old poems and songs of akyn  Burkut,” this newspaper wrote. “Old lifestyle, old customs and traditions, races, singers competitions and even combats of the fighters have been praised there, in generally – everything what went to the past. His poems and his songs were bright, clear, alive and full of images. People learnt them by heart, repeated them and sang them with a great pleasure. Then the revolution came, and everything changed. The old lifestyle with the bays is going to the past, the same about these terrible singers’ competitions, when the singers compete not in their abilities and poet’s talents but more in their bad language, where the winner is the one who will swear an oath more. Burkut was still a singer of all those old and dying things, going to the past and struggling to remain. And we should admit that there were really good and clear songs and poems. Then the singer went silent and remained silent during very long period of time. He went through the period of “breakage”, “withdrawals”, “reforming” and “crisis” painfully, and it took for him one or three years. What can we say? We are deeply sorry for the person who was brave enough to totally reject his past life and to make the first steps on the new path. We welcome people like this and we really want to see them in our ranks. But here the new poems and songs of Burkut appeared, and what is happening? We read them and we really cannot understand what happened to the poet? It’s impossible to believe that those withered and faded bond of colorless and bleak verses were written by the same Burkut. Everything he writes now is long, boring, unbearable and exhausted, it seems that it was just printed hastily, and that’s all. I repeat it again: we welcome a beautiful poet Burkut in our ranks and we gladly forgive him his previous mistakes and delusions, but if he really decided to love and to work together with us, if he really rejected his past, why does he write about it that bleak and exhausted? Why were his poems about the races and combats so great, while his poems about life and labor are unbearable to read? What is the matter?”
Burkut became totally dispirited after this article. Another reason for his depression was one very sharp clash happened at the editorial office, as the newspapers and magazines stopped to publish Burkut’s poems at all. Karazhan could be really very happy about it. A little bit more efforts, and Burkut as his enemy and as a poet could be done. But the fate had mercy on Burkut and sent him suddenly a friend. 

…It early and dreary spring. The weather was cloudy and foggy, sometimes sunny and sometimes rainy and even snowy. Somewhere on the hills and hummocks the young tender grass started to grow, while dark and old snow still laid under the fences and in the shadow of the buildings. Burkut always felt uncomfortable during the days like this. He had some rest now, laying on the sofa, and read a book. Olga was beside him and ironed the clothes. There was nothing in the room, no samovar, no clock. Everything was sold. Somebody knocked at the door. A postman with a parcel appeared in the door. Burkut cut the parcel fast and took a notebook out of it. He opened the notebook and saw an editorial office’s form falling out of it. He read it fast and threw it on the table. 
“It’s over,” he said desperately.
“What’s wrong?” Olga asked him, despite the fact that she actually understood everything already.
“It doesn’t work for them,” Burkut replied emotionless. “They say that “Song of the steppe” cannot be published in their magazine. Best regards... So, if there are best regards, it means that everything is okay,” Burkut laughed angrily. “Why it cannot be published? There is not a single word about it! But I know what the reason is. An author is wrong for them; they don’t want to cooperate with such an author like me. They could say it openly and directly: go anywhere you want and do anything you want to do, but we will never ever publish your poems, so don’t even waste your time and efforts! But they don’t want to say it directly, they play for time, give promises and raise hopes… Damn it all! You don’t like my novel or my poem? It is bad, you say? Here, here what you’ll get!” he suddenly exploded, grabbed his manuscript and started to tear it to tatters and throw in the room. Olga rushed towards him and grasped his arm, but he pushed her away that strong, that she almost fell on the floor, but she rushed to him again.
“Burkut!” she shouted tearfully.
Roaring and refusing to listen to anything, Burkut ran to the case where he saved his manuscripts and pulled out the manuscript of his novel.
“Leave it immediately! Stop it!” someone’s calm voice was heard. Hassan stood at the door.
He was totally wet, is it was raining heavily outside. Burkut glanced at him, halted for a moment deep in thoughts, then opened the door rush and ran outside.
“Burkut, stop! Where are you going?” Hassan shouted to him, but Burkut has already disappeared and was nowhere to be seen.
The storm became stronger and more intense; the sky was rumbled and roared like a huge iron plate. There was a loud thunder all the time, and one could see a sky mixed with an earth during the flash of lightning. Something hurtled close to Burkut’s face. There was a twig, tore by the wind. The Kazakhs say about the storms like this one: “a hero Gazregtali rides a horse Duldul and chases Devil”.
The wind hurtled, howled and appeared to be solid. Strong and old trees swayed all over the place, and centenary oaks were losing their twigs and leaves. 
Burkut hardly walked. He almost couldn’t hear and see because of the storm, thunder and strong wind. He even fell on the ground once, but he raised and continued walking through the storm. He approached an old and huge oak, stopped, leaned his back on it and said clearly and simply:
“”Kill me, kill! The lightning likes to strike the oaks like this one! Oh Lord, if you really exist, please have some mercy on me and send a lightning for me! Let it strike me right here!” he strokes his hair up and looked desperately into the sky. There is an old Kazakh legend: once you will uncover your head during the storm, you will be hit by the lightning immediately. 
The wind hit him that strong, that Burkut hardly stood still and was close to fall. Then he turned around, hugged an oak with his hands and pressed towards an old tree, hiding his face. 
“Kill me, kill me!” he repeated almost senseless and insane and then suddenly shouted: “Why did you create me, God? Why did you create me? A man should know how to live, and I don’t know it! Everybody kicks me away and throw me, as if I was a dog! Go away, they say, go away, we don’t need you! Who do you need then?..”
He asked his questions loud and clear, with the deep sense, and it seemed that he was really waiting for an answer. But it was only howling of the wind and cracking of the broken twigs in the tree were heard around. 
“So, you don’t want!” Burkut said suddenly calmly. “It’s not enough of my sufferings and humiliation for you! Okay then, all right, Lord!” he started to search in his side pocket and took out of it a big clasp-knife. It was a good and very sharp steal. Burkut never parted with this knife. He liked to carve different little figures from the wood with this knife, when he had some free time. His entire room was full of these little wooden figures.
“Now you will be really helpful,” he referred to his knife tenderly. “Now I will have the chance to use you properly, not just for carving the figures and little statues from wood,” he opened his knife and put it close to his throat. “Here is an end,” he said silently. Only one light movement of his hand and there will an end of everything: of all the sufferings and torments, intimidations, oppressions, enemies, end of this life. He only had to close his eyes, clench his teeth and slit his throat open with this little sharp knife, but his hand nearly ossified and became numb, and he looked on it sidewise. Sharp and clear steal shimmered with blue light now. 
Then Burkut lost his consciousness and internal sense, and when he came back to his senses again, it appeared that he stood at the same place, leaning his back to an oak, and his hand was trembling with a deep and inner shiver. Odds and ends of thoughts raged and fumed inside of his head.
“You will just die, and everything will come to its end. That’s so easy!” he thought to himself. “And you won’t be able to change and correct something anymore! And nobody will correct or change it… No way… From everlasting to everlasting”.
And then he thought again:
“Yes, Akhan probably did it right, because he couldn’t live like that… He simply couldn’t do it different… He was looking for an exit and his found it for himself. He, Burkut, will also find it for himself,” somehow Burkut thought about himself in the third place now. “Only one little movement of the hand, and he will never ever answer Olga’s question again: “Why did you leave me alone in the hardest moment of my life? I can’t believe that you didn’t love me at all, that you even didn’t think how I will live and what will happen to me without you!” There will be no answer on this question,” Burkut went on thinking. He still clenched a knife in his hand, but death stepped back from him already, and he could even feel it. He didn’t remember how long he stood like this, without seeing or sensing anything, in a strange condition between dream and reality. He couldn’t really remember it. Probably it lasted for long time. Only when it stopped raining and the wind faded away, he looked at his hands and noticed suddenly that there was no knife in his hand anymore. 
His knife couldn’t be seen on the ground as well. It disappeared. Maybe it fell from his hands on the ground, and Burkut simply dragged it through the mud accidently. 

Burkut didn’t see Hassan for about two years. It was exactly that time which Hassan spent in Moscow, at the Institute of the Red professorship. Khanshaim traveled together with him. Their little daughter came to this world there in Moscow, and Hassan wrote to Alma-Aty that there is a native Muscovite in their family now. Burkut and Olga congratulated a young and happy couple. In general, they corresponded often with each other, but Burkut never wrote something about his failures and problems. Nevertheless, Hassan knew something about it.
“So,” Hassan said, after he listened to the whole story, “it means that you are like Gogol or maybe some Turgenev’s character: “And I’ve burnt everything I worshipped and I worshipped everything I’ve burnt”. Far and by, both of these variants aren’t that good.”
They sat at the table, and Olga poured tea for them, filling their drinking bowls. Beshbarmaq  was being cooked at the kitchen. It was possible thanks to Olga, who sold yesterday her last treasure – her golden wrist watch, her father’s gift for her eighteenth birthday. He stretched his hand and took again the folder, laying on the bedside table, and read:
“I’ve always sung, like a nightingale in the wood,
But I was alone, and my song was being lost.
And there was only despair remaining in my soul,
And there was nothing alive in it anymore.
My soul is still bleeding till now, 
But I am light, and my sorrow is soft and silent.
No friends, no beloved ones beside me… I am alone in the desert.
But you are always with me, my closest friend, the melody of verse!”
“Where is it from?” Hassan asked. “Is it about you?”
“No, why about me?” Burkut replied, waving his hand. “That’s one of my poems; its name is “Confession of Korkit”. Everything happens in eighteenth century”.
“In eighteen century, you say?” Hassan turned several pages over and went on reading:
“I have neither cattle nor property,
The only one thing I have is my golden dombra.
I am always poor and always famous.
My songs is streaming like a river!
Guys and girls, can you see:
Your faithful friend Ayan is drunk and he hurries to you.
And it’s none of someone’s business,
That this dombra is the only property he has”.
“That’s swishy,” Hassan said. “And I think that this your Ayan is something like aul’s Till Eulenspiegel. He walks around and sings his songs, and then a daughter of a khan falls in love with him,” he went on, turning the sites over, “here it is. I was right. This is the reason of a conflict, it’s kind of a dead end and a poet’s resistance and revolt. What can I say?” he closed the folder. “You were always romantic and people should accept you like this. And you cannot get this poem published? Yes, that’s not the best time for such stories nowadays, I suppose, and the stories which are two centuries old. I am afraid you need to wait a little bit. But that’s nothing! Art’s life is long!”
“But the human’s life is too short, unfortunately,” Burkut smiled bitterly.
“Of course,” Hassan agreed and shook his head. “Great ships require deep water! The things the poet writes for eternity will go to eternity. If only the poet is not below his time and time requirements. It’s very small “only”, right? Eternity is good and important, but the present has its needs as well. So big events and developments are happening in the steppe now fir the first time in the history, such as land parceling and dividing it among the poor people, expulsion of bays, there are many new and useful people arrived in our places, there are many doctors, teachers, engineers. New towns are being built; new railways and roads are being laid. You are a contemporary to all these events, you witness them now, in front of your eyes. Aren’t you interested in them? Aren’t they worth your attention and writing about them?”
Burkut gave a shrug of his shoulders.
“What do I know about it?” he said. “And another thing: what if today’s good will turn into evil tomorrow? As one poet said once, we cannot see someone’s face clear, if we stand too close to each other. The big things are visible from the distance. There will be historians who will study it all and make their conclusions”.
“That’s great!” Hassan smirked. “But what about you, a contemporary? Aren’t you an eyewitness? Don’t you live in the middle of these events and developments? What kind of material the historians will use, if you won’t help them in it? There is no eternity and there will be no eternity for the one who is unable to understand and acknowledge the present day in the scale of eternity. Only a good contemporary of his present could be a contemporary of all the coming centuries and times. Remember it always”.
“Well said,” Burkut smiled sadly, shaking his head. “Very well! It’s probably from that Institute of the Red professorship, maybe they teach you like this there. Well, they teach you right, probably. A good journalist is needed today, he will be needed tomorrow and he still will be needed after hundred and thousand years. He is a day-fly for a contemporary, some builder, worker, engineer or accountant. But for the historian he is a voice of his time and his epoch. That’s true and that’s right, I totally agree with this statement, but I am not a reporter and not a journalist, my dear Hassan. I’m a poet. My business is to write about human’s soul and feelings. But I don’t see soul here anymore, unfortunately… I cannot see soul and deep feelings and emotions in these present developments and events, I’m sorry. Let the journalists and then later the historians write about the construction of the new towns, roads and factories. I will write about a human, about human’s soul and human’s inward, about its changes and developments. That’s my task”.
“You are right!” Hassan replied happily and even jumped from his seat. “About the developments and changes of the soul and inward! That’s what you can and should write about, my dear Burkut! That’s right! But why does the soul and inward change? Does it change because beloved girl betrayed you, cheated you and left you? Or does it change because somebody was forced to leave his or her native lands and to roam somewhere far away, looking for better life? Or maybe does it change because of some sad and sorrowful events, such as death of a mother and father? That’s right, it’s very important events and they could have really great impact on a person and his or her inward, that’s all true. But what can you say about another situation? What if he was a shepherd and then became suddenly a student? Then he was a student and became finally an engineer. He was an engineer and then managed to become a member of government. Isn’t it changes? Tell me, how would your Yerkebulan and Nurjamal talk, if they could manage to reach the town that night and left the pursuit far behind them? What if you’d met them today somewhere at the construction site or at the factory? Isn’t it interesting for you, my dear poet?”
Burkut lifted his hands in dismay.
“Of course it’s interesting for me,” he responded. “But I’ve seen this old aul and its customs and lifestyle with my own eyes, and I can tell that I was almost physically present at the moment of their terrible death, that’s why I write about it. How can I write about the things I’ve never seen?”
“Haven’t you been at the construction sites?” Hassan wondered.
“No, I haven’t”.
“That’s okay, that’s nothing, we can easily correct and change it,” Hassan smiled to him. Olga appeared in the room with the tray in her hands.
“Hassan, Burkut, go and wash your hands and be ready for the dinner!” she exclaimed merrily. “Everything is ready and the food is on the table already!”
“Let’s go!” Burkut said to Hassan in a friendly tone. “We had to slaughter a sheep for a guest like you, but what to do? Unfortunately we didn’t have a chance to do it. Nobody pays money for the ideas and thoughts only now”.
“Everything will be paid, and not only ideas and thoughts, but the deeds as well,” Hassan calmed him down, walking beside him to the washstand. “You will be paid very well for your great deeds, my friend. Olga Pavlovna, do you know that Burkut is leaving soon?”
“Really? I didn’t know it. Where to?” Olga replied in bewilderment.
“He will go to the constructions site, where my wife works,” Hassan responded to her. “They will go together for the construction of the “Koktogay” kolkhoz. Our little daughter Zura will come with them too. There is a kindergarten there. I will go to escort them and to tell them good-bye. That’s why, actually, I came today, to inform you about it”.
“How long did you argue about that?” Olga asked with a smile.
“It’s a pleasure to argue with a clever and intelligent man,” Hassan smiled back. “Thus, my dear friend, you will go to the district committee tomorrow, where you will get an assignment to the construction site, and then you will go there. Right?”
“Right,” Burkut replied.
“Right,” Olga approved.
One week later Burkut made his way to the Koktogay station.
Part Three
LIFE IS A VICTORY 
I
“Koktogay” means when translated literally “a blue forest”, but when Burkut arrived there, he saw not a forest, but a wide steppe and hills. Cold and chilling wind hurt the eyes, whirled up piles of sand, and the sky appeared to be sandy, dusty and yellow because of this sand. Burkut with the back-bag stood in the middle of this vast steppe, looked around and thought to himself: why did the people decide to call this station “Blue Forest” – “Koktogay”? Actually, the steppe names were usually of Kazakh origin, Ayaguz, Sary-Ozek, Chemolgan, Otar, Ushtobe, and only one name has Russian origin, and, by the way, this name is totally fait: Lugovaya. As for the construction of the “Koktogay” kolkhoz, it was made in the steppe, one needed to drive nearly hundred kilometers with the car from the railway station, in order to reach this construction site and future kolkhoz. There were only ditches and construction pits on this place now and in built in haste worker’s shelters with the round iron hearths. It was impossible to survive without these shelters now, in November, because it was terribly cols in the steppe, and the chilling and biting winds were blowing in the nights. Burkut, dressed in a leather jacket, felt himself extremely cold and froze up. In addition to that he was very tired and exhausted after his long trip and angry. The driver didn’t allow him to the cabin, he said there was no place there. A girlfriend of this driver sat there in the cabin and took the whole space. She was a little and plump smiling and always giggling young woman. As there was no place inside for him, Burkut was forced to spend the time of his trip in the bodywork, between the two rolling iron barrels. They arrived in the sovkhoz  at the evening, parked their car almost at the propaganda room: that was the name of a barrack located right in the middle of the settlement. The first what Burkut saw, jumping out of the bodywork, was a tall and swarthy, young and pretty Kazakh woman in the scarf and jersey, who went to meet and welcome them. He looked at her and noticed something very familiar in her face, but he still couldn’t understand what exactly it was.
“Khanshaim, is it you?” Burkut exclaimed.
“Oh my God! Burkut!” she rejoiced at seeing him. “We were waiting for you at the end of the week! You look frozen! I feel cold simply looking at you! Come on, let’s go inside! There is warm in the house, the furnace is so hot that it’s even difficult to stand next to it! I am a secretary of the Komsomol cell. Didn’t you know it? Here is a daughter of bay!”
She said these words in the barrack, helping Burkut with the leather jacket and offering him a comfortable seat closer to the furnace. It’s worth mentioning that there were the reasons for that: it was really hot close to this heated furnace, but it was hot only next to it, while in it was really chill in the rest of the room, and there was even windy, almost like outside. The kettle was boiling, and several people sat in the circle around it. They held tin cups in their hands and waited for the hot drink. They poured some hot water for Burkut too, and he drank a little bit of this boiling water. Then Khanshaim said:
“We will offer you a shelter in about one kilometer from this place. There are good and solid barracks there, not like here, here we have the shelters only. You will feel more safe and comfortable there in the barracks. I think you have seen it already, we build a bridge here, and this place is really very difficult for building and any construction. The soil is bad here. It’s too sandy, too weak and too unstable. Once the commission, controlling our work, refused to accept our road, and it appeared to be a right decision. One week later the bank of the river collapsed, and we were forced to start everything from the beginning again. It took more than two weeks. Far and by, we are only on the last place currently, right in the tail, but that’s nothing. We are working hard and try to do our best in order to change it. What is it? You drank some hot water but you still didn’t eat anything? Wait a second, please, let me give you at least some bread! It’s hard with bread here from time to time, but we manage the situation”.
She left and came back very soon with a hunk of bread and a big piece of white cheese.
“Here is some food, eat it, please!” she said, putting the food on the table in front of Burkut. “The cooks will be back from the building works soon (they went there to deliver dinner for the workers), and I will feed you with something hot and nourishing and then see you to your barrack. That’s okay, aga , don’t be sad, everything will be fine very soon and come back to normal!”
“Everything will come back to normal, that’s right,” Burkut thought to himself. “But what will remain of me after it all? You are young, everything is easy for you, but I…”
After almost one hour they left the propaganda room in the barrack and went to the settlement. It was very dark and the moon appeared in the black night sky. It was very silent and strangely calm and windless, what was really unusual for these places. They passed the shelters, barracks and tents; checked one of them, then another one, but there was no one there inside. In one of the tents they’ve checked were several people sleeping.
“Where are the others?” Burkut asked.
“We will see them now,” Khanshaim responded to him. “They might be working now. I’m telling you, we work very hard and with all our might, that’s why sometimes we work day and night”.
“Do the people stand such a pressure normally?” Burkut wondered. 
“We have to,” Khanshaim smiled.
“What about the food? Is it okay or so-so?” Burkut went on asking.
“They feed us terrible, I should admit,” she said, frowning. “They still cannot fix our supplies. We have almost nothing at our bases. We need to raise this issue again and discuss it in order to improve the situation, or we won’t withstand it”.
“Supplies”, “base”, “raise the issue”, “we won’t withstand it”… Is it you, Khanshaim? That was what came to Burkut’s mind, while he listened to her talking. Is it this crazy and playful bay’s daughter? That’s true, labor can work miracles! “Well done, Hassan!” Burkut thought. “What about me? Am I weaker than this little girl?”
Soon they came to the constructions site. The river ran in the hollow, and they stood on the verge of the precipice. Full moon was shining, and it was clear like in the day. People looked like little ants from here. They were carrying barrows and worked. Several campfires were visible in the workers’ camp. The workers descended these campfires one by one or in little groups.
“We work in shifts now,” Khanshaim said. “It means we work 24 hours every day now. But that’s okay, we will do it”.
When one hour later Burkut was in his barrack already, sat at the table and took out of his bag his notebook and pencil, he could still hear clank of shovels, rumble of mattocks, striking broken stone, shouts of working people and sound of rolling barrows. When he finished writing, rose from his seat at the table and went outside, the sun was rising. Despite an early hour there were many people around, several people gathered around the washstands beside the barracks. One bare-chested giant young man with curly hair rubbed his chest with the towel. Khanshaim stood next to him and spoke to him. Both of them laughed. Burkut greeted them. Khanshaim turned red, once she saw the poet, grabbed his hand and told the giant:
“That is pour prominent poet Burkut-aga. Make the acquaintance! And that is Bureke, our foreman. Yesterday, Burkut-aga, we have been visiting his sector of work. The people work great there, don’t they?”
“They do,” Burkut replied. “They really work that good that I even started to feel envy about it! What if I will ask your foreman to give me a shovel too?”
“Why do you need it?” Khanshaim wondered.
“Maybe I want to work hard together with you,” he said. “Maybe I am interested to see what will become of it and how will be my work”. 
Khanshaim glanced at the foreman confused, while he finished rubbing his chest, flung his towel over his shoulder, hid the soap into the soap dish, closed it and only then spoke.
“Why not?” he said. “Let’s go! I will introduce you to our brigadier. But you should change your clothes first”.
“Why should I?” Burkut asked.
“If you won’t, your clothes will turn into rags and tatters immediately,” Bureke smiled. “I suppose you have already seen how we work. That is the reason”.
Burkut worked at the construction site during about a week, participating in constructing the bridge. But he remembered this week for the term of his whole life. Till the end of this term he became weather-beaten, caught the sun and raveled once for all.
One important person actually met him like this.
A group of entertainers and art workers arrived that day to the construction site of this kolkhoz. A poster about the meeting of the workers and builders with the art workers’ group hang in the propaganda room. This meeting was set to take place at the evening, while these art workers and artists escorted and accompanied at the day one important person from the People’s Commissariat, with whom they visited the construction site and examined it. They walked along the road, stood on the river bank for some time, observed the workers and then suddenly one of the prominent artists stopped a digger. This digger drove a barrow, laden with the wet heavy sand to the brim. When he was stopped, he fetched his breathe and stroke his hair up. The artist asked what the amount of this digger’s monthly salary is. The digger stood silent, pondered for some time and answered that he actually doesn’t know it. Why? Because he still didn’t get his salary.
“How is it possible?” an artist wondered sincerely and looked at the representative of the People’s Commissariat, who stood behind him.
“He works here a short while only,” the representative explained. “It’s a former poet Kuntuarov. He decided to change his feather and writing on the barrow and work at the construction site. Of course, he did it right. Is it right, Burkut? What’s the purpose of the poetry? It’s better to work here!”
“You will hear my poems soon! And you will cry because of them! And you will cry with the bloody tears, I swear, Karazhan!” Burkut replied and, nodding to the artist, went away with his barrow.

The poem about workers at the construction site “An iron Tulpar ” was published initially in fragments in the local newspaper. Later a magazine published its full edition. Feedbacks about this poem were very positive and about two months later this local newspaper offered Burkut to visit Konyraygyr mines as a special correspondent. 
“By the way,” he was said, “Hassan will accompany you in this trip. Actually we offered you this trip and work according to his advice. You should go there. These mines are really extremely interesting for us. We are planning to dedicate this material the whole page”. 
And Burkut went there.
After he arrived at the last railway station, he had to ride several kilometers in order to reach the mines. They were given a cart and an old horse at the settlement. Their drover was almost the same like the horse they were given: it was a tall and grim old man of about seventy years old. He sat at the limber of the cart during their trip, didn’t interfere in Burkut’s and Hassan’s conversations, and answered their questions unwillingly and with big effort. He preferred to keep silent and think about something, and then suddenly during the little break he approached Burkut, who laid relaxing on the ground, in the green grass, and said to him:
“I want to ask you a question. Did you live in the city of Akshatyr?”
“Yes, I did,” Burkut replied.
“Did you have a comrade there? A tall and swarthy young man, with black hair, of your age?”
“I had such a comrade,” Burkut said. “His name is Akpar”.
“That’s right, comrade Akparov, everything is right,” an old man said. “And you visited the writer Akhanov, the one who committed a suicide and jumped out of the window on the First May. You sat at his home together before he did it”.
“Listen, how do you know it?..” Burkut shouted.
“Hmm,” a drover smirked bitterly. “I am actually here because of that episode. They wanted to out us on trial for this episode”.
“Whom – us?” Burkut wondered.
“Me and two other people…”
“Why?”
“Because we weren’t attentive enough and missed a trick. Akhanov fell to his death”.
“How were you connected to it?”
“Here is the point! You talk to them and ask them!” a drover smirked again sadly and bitterly. “That’s the matter! How could I know, standing outside, in the street, what did he plan in his head there, in his room?”
Burkut looked shocked at Hassan.
“Wait a second,” Hassan said. He laid next to Burkut on the grass, followed the conversation but didn’t interfere till now. “First of all, what is your name?”
“My name is Dyakov. Petr Maksimovich Dyakov,” a man replied.
“So, Petr Maksimovich,” Hassan went on, “if we started this conversation and this topic with you, kindly tell it us again and with the details, and more clear, please. What is your connection to Akhan’s suicide, if they asked you about it and made you somehow responsible for that? What did they ask you about?”
“You see!” Petr Maksimovich rejoiced grimly. “You are a responsible and respectable man. You understand it. We were said: have your eyes glued on him on the First May! On Akhan, I mean. It wasn’t about capturing him or something like that, we had just to follow him and to look, that he didn’t do anything strange on the First May. They said he could do something mad, because he is a desperate man, actually. That’s why we looked after him that day. Everybody noticed it. And we were not in our best condition that day, you know… I don’t want to say that we were totally drunk or something, we just drank a little bit because of the holiday. We weren’t actually drunk. Here it happened, this mismatch and accident. By hard adventure, two of us were in the uniforms of Red Army, as intended on the holiday. We just came back from the demonstration and decided to come to our ladies to tell them hello. And unfortunately we got wrong with the apartment. We knocked at his door. He decided that we came for him and jumped out of the window. And again misfortune: he heats his head against the stones of the paving, and he heats his temple. That was an end. He was taken by ambulance, and we were taken by the police immediately. How did it happen? When did it happen? Why did it happen? And there were really many questions asked that day. We sat at the nearby garden. And we were talking to those Red Army soldiers. They told us good bye and left”.
“We tried to explain everything, but their superior didn’t even want to listen to us,” a man went on. “He said that we are drunk. But we were not drunk; we just drank a little bit, maybe two hundred grams or something like that. If to be fair, it’s almost nothing. We told it to him, but he suddenly flipped and got pissed. He started to shout at us. He even wrote a report. The he explained it to us. He said that if Akhan at least was alive, just injured, if he didn’t die after his fall, it could be easier. There would be no problems at all. But he died. It means that we didn’t carry out our duties and we should be dismissed. So, we were dismissed. And here I am, working here. Since that time. But was it my fault?” a drover concluded.
Burkut sighed and stood up.
“No, that’s not your fault,” he said. “And it’s nobody’s fault. It’s even not Akhan’s fault. This epoch appeared to be much higher than he was, but he considered himself being higher than his epoch and he couldn’t bear thinking of his ideas as something small, while the ideas and truth of the epoch were really great. He couldn’t bear it. And he didn’t understand it. That was the reason”.
“That’s true,” drover Petr Maksimovich agreed. “Can they understand it? And he kept insisting: they were drunk on their duty”.
After this conversation they rode silent for a while. Burkut didn’t even notice how they passed a wide and vast steppe and rode through the foothills’ area now. Thick and clingy bush and underwood became frequent here, and then suddenly sharp and black rocks, covered with the bushes, appeared from behind the turn. It was a sundown, and the tops of the rocks looked bloody red. Terrible and intolerable heat, usual for the steppe, descended now and gave way to the evening coolness. Everything was very silent and quiet around. Even grasshoppers went silent and weren’t heard anymore. Burkut sat on the cart, covering his eyes with his palm, silent and deep in his thoughts.
“Yes,” Hassan said thoughtfully. “Akhan-aga perished! That’s really sad! And do you know why it is really sad? Because actually we are the persons who feel sorry for him, and that’s all! Nobody supports him, nobody cares, and nobody feels sorry. People don’t remember and sing his songs, newspapers and magazines don’t publish his poems… He shone, burnt and didn’t leave anything after himself, any trace. But it was a poet! And he was a great poet!”
“I think you shouldn’t tell me about it, I know it all,” Burkut replied. 
And they both went silent.
The road suddenly turned abruptly, and they suddenly saw the dark surface full of stars and reeds thicket under their feet. The moon was shining in a purple color. They approached the lake shore.
“Hey, look!” Hassan exclaimed.
Burkut looked where Hassan pointed: there was a fiery scattering glimmering among the rocks. Thousands of fires repeated the line of firmament. 
“What is it?” Burkut asked.
“These are Konyr-Aygyr mines,” Hassan responded.
“Ohh…” Burkut said. “I guess I remember this name…”
This memory was also not among the pleasant ones. Nearly ten years ago he was in these places and saw this lake. He went to visit karymsak that time and on his way to his aul he decided to stop and to have some rest at the Takerjan’s aul. That was the first time he heard how people exploded the rocks.
“What is it?” he asked in amazement his companion, nimble bay’s dzhigit Arin, that time.
“They explode the rocks!” he replied. “They are searching for something there, in the mountains. Maybe they want to remove them at all, who knows? Maybe they want everything to be plain here. Only Allah knows. They are Russians!”
“Let’s go and check!” Burkut offered.
Arin shook with his head but followed Burkut. That was the time when Burkut knew the geological party, its chief Aleksey Vladimirovich and his assistant Nurlan. Nurlan told him about their plan of works and concluded: “There will be a workers’ settlement here one year later”. Burkut didn’t believe it that time, but he decided not to argue. He just chuckled with dubiously and hurried to leave this place. And here they are, going to visit and see a leadpworks factory, emerged here. 
“There is a slope here, so be careful!” their drover said to them.
The settlement stood at the root of the mountain. There were nearly fifty brick barracks and many yourts and tents around them in this settlement. The tents were made from the tent-cloth; the yourths were made from thick felt. All of it together made up a long street, which end was lost somewhere far at the root of the mountain. Probably, there was a hollow and continuation of a settlement there, because many fires could be seen there as well.
“Where should I bring you to?” Dyakov asked them.
“Bring us to the office, please,” Hassan replied.
“It means we will go downhill again,” he said. “There are the lights of the office”.
They rode along the main street of the settlement. Despite the fact that it was dark and late already, there were really many people outside in the streets. They were walking, chatting with each other, laughing and singing. Campfires were seen by the side of the road, and the large cooking pots were boiling on fire. The carpets and blankets were spread at some campfires, and people sat and laid there. It looked the same like a peaceful Kazakh aul in the night. Only dogs’ barking wasn’t heard and there was a clear light of electricity instead of the oil lamps everywhere.
“It’s hot and no ait inside, in these yourts and tents, that’s why they all are outside,” Dyakov explained.
Burkut turned his head to the sides and looked around with interest and in amazement. There is a group of young dzhigits sitting on the bench. There were two young and pretty girls, wearing the skull-caps, in this group. They were chatting and laughing.
“Good girls,” a drover said with a smile.
“Yes, they are,” Burkut agreed, deep in his thoughts. “Yes…”
People were drinking tea at on of the campfires. Their drinking bowls moved slowly. An old man sat at the head of their improvised table and told something the company.
Suddenly a song started.
“Ohh!” Hassan said merrily. “Listen to it! It’s a song of Saken Seyfullin! It’s “Marseilaise” of our youth!”
Dyakov listened to the song with attention and said:
“It seems the people sing at the office. They have kind of a gathering there tonight”.
“Yes!” Burkut thought. “Here is a new aul! And the songs they sing are new as well. And it’s really difficult to distinguish is it an aul or the mines. But these people sing the songs of Seyfullin, not my songs”. And he remembered Hassan’s words about Akhan: “People don’t remember and don’t sing his songs, and nobody recites and publishes his poetry. He shone, burnt and perished, without leaving any trace. But he was a great poet!”, and these words made him squirm. 
Their cart stopped in front of the office building. 
A young dzhigit runned downstairs and rushed towards the cart to mee the guests. 
“You finnaly arrived, Burkut-aga and Hassan-aga!” he esclaimed happily. “And we were waiting for you at the afternoon!”
“Did you get the telegram?” Hassan asked, getting out if the cart. 
“Of course we did! Come here, give me your hand, let me help you!” he said.
His voice seemed to be very familiar to Burkut, and when they entered a line of light, Burkut recognized in him Nurlan. 
“Are you still here?” Burkut asked wondering.
Nurlan responded to him tenderly and friendly:
“Of course I am still here! I am actually a manager of these mines! Welcome to our settlement!”
His flat, which consisted of three rooms, was here, in the same building, just on the other side of the office. One of the rooms, the biggest one, was already prepared specifically for the guests. Nurlan introduced his family members to Burkut: his wife, who appeared to be a thin and slender and very young girl in a modest dress and looked almost like a teenager, and his father, who was a real aqsaqal and atall old man with the wide shoulders and white well trimmed beard. When he entered the room, he sat slowly and without haste at the edge of the bed and said:
“Hello to everybody! Well doing to you all! How was your trip?”
They answered him and thanked for a warm and friendly welcoming. 
“What aul are you from?” an aqsaqal asked.
“We cam now from Alma-Aty, but we are actually from these places, from Aydabal”.
“It means you are really our friends and fellow counntyrmen,” an old man smiled and nodded with his head patient and gentle. “So, how is the life there, in Alma-Aty?” he asked.
“Alma-Aty is being built and developed, ata ,” Hassan replied. “Everyday a new house emerges in this town! And a great house! These whole mines will be easily placed in one building like that!”
“That’s not bad, not bad,” an old man mentioned, stroking his beard. “As for us, we arrived here from Chubartu. Once Nurlan was appointed a drector of these mines, we gathered our belongings and came here”.
“Director, ata, not a “drector”,” Nurlan smiled softly. “And I was not elected but appointed. Do you understand it? I am a director and I was appointed, and we elected a volost’ judge!”
“I understand, I understand it,” an old man smiled foxy. “You yourself said once: “If I was appointed by the party…” Right?”
“Right,” Nurlan agreed.
“Right! And I will tell you the story about us, or to be more precise, our party elected our volost; judge,” an old aqsaqal went on saying. “We, poor people, wanted to choose one candidacy, while another party wanted to choose bay Tolebay. We shout about our choice, and they shout about their choice. But they had much more mouths, that’s why they outroared us. Tolebay became a volost’ judge, do you understand? And now your party won and it has appointed you on your position. Right?”
His son just waved his hand in dismay. An old man turned to the guests again and went on:
“So, here is the story how Nurlan was appointed a director. And then we moved to live with him. And not only we. These mines saved many people from starvation death!” he was silent for some time, thinking of something, and then spoke again: “What happened here? Once the collectivization started, the rumors appeared, maybe somebody meant to spread these rumors that there will be no private property anymore, that there won’t be anything what belongs to you in the kolkhoz, that everything will be a public property: theb spoons, the dishes, the houses, the cattle, even the wives and children. There will be nothing anymore belonging to you. You’ll loose everything you had before. They said we will live in one common house, sleep on one common bad and cover with one common blanket, eating all together from one and the same common plate with the common spoon. They told us: slaughter your cattle before it is taken. Because you won’t have anything till the winter. Thus, some people believed these rumors and started to really slaughter their cattle. And they’ve destroyed their cattle. Okay then, we joined the kolkhoz at last, the authorities didn’t allow us all to die. They gave the cattle to the poorest people, who had nothing at all, and once the spring came, they gave us even the grains and sent us to sow and to plough. We sowed. And then misfortune came again. There was no rain during the whole summer time. No rain at all! Everything was dried. Here this mines appeared in our lives and saved many of our people. The mines accepted averybody whi wanted to work! Here the work started, the youth went to work at the mines, and they started to teach this youth and organized many different courses for that”.
“Yes, that’s true, we can say here that we did really great job!” Nurlan supported his father. “We really have many courses here: courses of electric welders, courses of turners and lathe operators, school of carpentry and many other things. You should see: our former shepherds have really golden hands! Even their Russian teachers were surprised with it”.
“Yes, I remember, we wrote several pieces about it in our newspaper,” Hassan said, nodding with his haid.
Burkut sat silent and pondered.
“It’s good, of course,” he said, “but you say it yourself: there are many excesses, bad harvests, people flooded to the factories. But it was starvation death, not some ideology or something, what brought them here and what forced them to join the kolkhozes and to work at the factories and mines. Did I get you right?”
“But this mines emerged here before the collectivization started,” Nurlan objected, turning to Burkut. “Then the first workers and first members of our team came here to us. Three quarters of them were former shepherds and day laborers. We were surprised with their abilities and skills that time. There was an illetarate and an uneducated man, who came to us, but six months later he could easily put together the motor or the mechanism. Do you remember how you visited us something like eight years ago? If I remember it right, you came to us on your way from Akpar’s aul…”
“That’s great!” Burkut exclaimed in amazement. “Your memory is really great, you still remember this name!”
“Why shouldn’t I remember it? He actually works here, with us,” Nurlan replied. “What made you so surprised? He came to us as a student assistant and after one year he will graduate from the institute. He will get an engineer’s certificate”.
“Is he here now?” Burkut exclaimed and even jumped from his seat.
“He is exactly there now, where you just came from,” Nurlan replied. “He is in Alma-Aty. I gave him a little vacation, just for several days. He says there are some urgent family matters. He might be here again in a couple of days. Why did you frown, Burkut-aga?”
“The bay’s sons have truly long hands,” Hassan said, shaking his head. “Really very long hands!.. Who helped him with this study? Now he will get his certification, and it will be impossible to get him again!”
“Why should we get him?” Burkut objected. “Life can teach even a bear at last! I hope he came here not with the knofe hidden behind his back”.
“I hope it’s really like that,” Hassan sighed. “I hope so. We don’t push anyone away. It’s not so important, who you were in your past, just be a human being and a fair person now. That’s my attitude toward the people. But somehow I hardly believe and trust Akpar. His old father escaped to China not without his help, I’m sure of it”.
Nurlan only waved his hands in dismay.
“Even a cat can do dirt on,” Hassan sighed. “And Akpar is really an angry, evil minded and aggressive, go-ahead man… Okay, we will see what tomorrow will bring us!”
Dyakov enterd the room and stooped at the threshold.
“Hello!” he said.
“Oh, hello, my dear friend!” an old aqsaqal exclaimed merrily. “”Come in, come in, take a seat and make yourself comfortable, please! We will have a dinner now, and of course you are welcomed, my friend! And then we will drink tea together. We are big fans of tea with him,” an old man said, referring to Hassan and smiling. “And who is this Akpar? Are you talking about this son of Karymsak?”
“That’s right, it’s him”.
“I’ve seen him once,” and old man said. “He looks a solid and rough man. He never smiles, only frowns all the time… That’s true, his father escaped to Chin several years ago. I’ve heard that his wintering site was given to the sovkhoz or something like that…”
“Yes,” Nurlan approved. “It was given for the sovkhoz, the Soviet property”.
“Yes, yes,” an old man went on saying. “But I’m talking about different thing. I’m talking about the fact that the wintering site of bay Karymsak went to the poor people from the Takerjan’s aul. That’s what I’m talking about. And I should admit that it’s really great wintering site! There are six brick houses there, with the iron roots, each house can shelter nearly hundred people! There are also the sheds, barns, depots, many barrels and much other property. And they appointed Kasym their director. It’s good to live with such a director. He is kind hearted and soft and will never harm anymoby, but he can be tough as well, when it’s needed, and he won’t allow anybody to be harmed. What did he do when it was a dry year? He sent the people to dig the pit. And he made it in spring. They dug this pit, laid the ground, grouted everything in, then covered it with water and saved it there. So, drought was not a threat for them anymore! Just take this water and water the plants and the grains. Other’s plants and grains gut dried and burnt, but his harvest was good. Even potatoes and cabbage. He even helped his neighbors. Last year he organized a fishing team on the lake shores. Do you know how many people were rescued for starvation death because of it? That’s what does it mean to be a good owner and master”.
“Who is this Kasym?” Burkut asked.
“That’s Kostya, Kostya-Kasym, who has the whithered arm,” Dyakov replied. “He is actually Russian, bet he grew up with Kazakhs and was raised by them, that’s why he is being called also Kasym”.
“Kasym!” Burkut exclaimed. “Wair a second, I think I know him and I’ve even met him once…”
And he remembered again that morning in the Takerjan’s aul, long ago, he remembered the lake and Kostya-Kasym with his whthered hand on the shore of this lake. There was a beautiful girl with the long braids standing next to him. “It seems her name was Shopan,” Burkut thought to himself, remembering that morning. “Of course, her name was Sholpan, that’s right! She looked at this Kostya-Kasym with such a tenderness and love that I even felt that I envied him! I thought that time: what does this Russian need here in our land? What does he want here? Why did a Kazakh girl like this stranger so much? And this old man explained everything about him today, and I have answers on those questions now. He rescued the entire aul! In other words, he did what I couldn’t do”.
An old man rebuked Dyakov toucily at this moment:
“Why did you remane him into Kostya? Kazakhs don’t have such a name! He is Kasym! He is a Kazakh! His wife is Kazakh as well, and their children will be Kazakhs. Why do you call him Kostya?”
Dyakov hesitated with an answer, and old aqsaqal’s wife just waved with her hand, looking at her husband:
“You are going mad, dear. Kostya, Kasym… What’s the difference? Let the people call him how they wish. It doesn’t matter whether he is a Russian or a Kazakh, he belongs to his aul and his is really faithful to it. That’s all, and there is no need to argue about it anymore”.
“Okay, okay,” an old man agreed, noticing that the guests started to smile and laugh friendly. “I’m sayin one word, and you reply me with tem words! You became so educated that you will probably talk on radio soon! Yes,” he said, turning to Burkut again. “I am still thinking about Karymsak. He robbed all the people around, the alive and even the dead ones. He didn’t sleep normally, gathering his wealth and counting it all the time. People say that he has gathered and saved a sack of gold! He has even built the entire aul for himself only! His house had something about ten rooms, and now some strange people will live in it. And he isn’t connected to it anymore and he has no profits fdrom it at all. That’s how the life is”.
“That’s nothing, believe me, he took a lot with him when he escaped,” Hassan smiled ironically. “A man like him won’t be lost in any situation, especially when it’s about his money and his property,” and then he referred to Nurlan again and asked him: “Are you sure that Akpar is currently in Alma-Aty?”
Nurlan shrugged.
“Who knows?” he replied. “He asked for a vacation because he needed to go to Alma-Aty for several days. That’s what I know. But how is it in the reality… I really don’t know. But I have doubts that he could be at his native aul, for example. He is not there, for sure”.
“Maybe he is there?” Hassan asked.
Suddenly Nurlan’s wife entered the room and invited all the company to have a dinner. 

…They sat at the table, drinking tea and talking, late after midnight. When the next tray of the tea appeared on the table, Burlut rose from his seat, came to the office’s doors, opened it wide and stood there at the threshold, leaning his back toward the door-post. Hassan came closer to him.
“What’s the matter?” he asked him silently.
“I’m just looking around, looking at the nature…” Burkut replied indefinitely.
Hassen embraced him friendly, and they came back to the table together.
“Let’s go back, the tea will become cold,” he smiled.
“Burlut sat down, and the owner of the house gave him the drinking bowl, full with the tea.
“Drink some tea, aga, and then we will go to sleep,” Nurlan said. “We have a lot of things to do tomorrow. We are planning to explode the stones at the root of a Shaggy mountain. I also wanted to ask you one question: what came to your mind first when you looked at our mines? It looks like an ordinary and typical Kazakh aul. That’s what you thought about it, right?”
“Right,” Burlut wondered. “How do you know it?”
“Because you are not the first one, who thinks and feels like this,” Nurlan smiled friendly. “So, I told you that we are planning to explode the new stones at that mountain tomorrow. When we will explode it, the glass in some windows will be broken, but people maybe won’t even notice it and pay attention to it. They will continue working as they were working before it. Explosions are a daily routine for them now, there’s nothing special in it for them. This is the thing which is totally strange and new for the aul. It’s not even about the new type of the streets, the new stone and brick houses with the iron roofs, it’s not even about a Kazakh driving a field-engine or a tractor. It’s about new mind of people and total crush of the aul’s psychology”.
“Yes, that’s true,” Burkut agreed. He remembered how he heard the first explosion here, eight yeas ago, and how he thought then: “They’d better explode my heart like this!”. He remained silent for some time and then went on speaking: “Tell me, please, can we be allower to be present there, when you will explode these stones?”
“Of course you can! Welcome!” Nirlan replied and smiled again. But Hassan said:
“I’m afraid it won’t work tomorrow. I was close to forget that there should be the first meeting of the new sovkhoz from the wintering site of bay Karymsak tomorrow. The entire aul is expected to be there”.
“So what?” Burkut asked.
“I think that we should be there too,” Hassan replied. “Do you understand? My heart started to hurt me suddenly from the feelings. It’s actually Akpar’s aul. Maybe that was the reason why he asked for this vacation now. How can he stay calm when he will see how his native land, which belonged to his family, will be divided between these poor members of his aul and given to them? He still considers these lands being his property. In addition to that Sholpan is there as well. He will never ever forgive Kasym that Sholpan is with him”.
“Okay, let’s go there!” Burkut agreed and even rose from his seat. “We have to be at the aul tomorrow”.
“I will give you a carriage,” Nurlan said. “And I will give you a coachman as well. Let Petr Maksimovich have some rest”.

…They hit the road at dawn. Right at the moment, when an explosion was heard on the other side of the mountain and a black plume of smoke emerged from behind the hills.
“I think I will start my new poem, describing this explosion,” Burkut said. “An explosion is a symbol of a new life, a symbol of the beginning and leaving an old, previous life. I really don’t know what will it be and will it work or not… There are too many different thoughts and ideas in my mind now…”
“It will work, of course, it will!” Hassan assured him. “You should only want it desperately and work hard on it. Everything will work! You are that kind of people that once you really want something, you will achieve it. Just look at this,” and he pointed at the horses, “even the horses here aren’t afraid of these explosions anymore. Hey!” he shouted, referring to the young dzhigit, who sat on the coachman’s seat. “Move on, dear friend! Move on as fast as possible!”
Dzhigit lashed a horse, shouted something to it, and a horse rushed forward.
“The most important thing is to come in time,” Hassan said and even didn’t understand himself why and what for he said it. “Yes, I think we will make it in time…”

II
They stood on the top of the hill and looked on the lake and the aul, located on its southern shore.
“These yourts made from thick felt, scattered among the reeds thickets, build a Takerjan’s aul,” Hassan said. “Can you see? They even didn’t have enough time to dismantle them. Karymsak’s wintering site with all those houses is farther in the steppe”.
“Yes, I know,” Burlut replied and nodded, remembering the circumstances, under which he saw this place for the first time. There were five or six buildings from the red brick that time. The biggest one was the house of Karymsak, the smaller ones were the house for his son, the house for his daughter, the house for his elder wife, the house for his younger wife, the house for the guests and visitors. Folds, corrals, barns and granaries were located next to the houses. Everything was built from stone. The bay saved here the wheat, the meal and the oats, his beef cattle and his best horses, whim he didn’t allow to be in the common herd of horses, stood here as well. Farther one could see the low houses with the plain roofs and little windows. Day laborers, shepherds, sheepherdsmen and poorer relatives lived there. And farther behind these houses was the wide and vast steppe. Nearly fifty kilometers of this steppe belonged to Karymsak’s family since long ago. The best kumiss in the neighborhood was from his mares!
“Yes,” Hassan said, and his eyes glared derisively. “Not long ago the people could say about it all:
Kochubey is rich and glorious!
His fields are vast and immense!
The herds of his horses are running there, 
Pasturing free and without a guard…
Now everything here is ours. It belongs to kolkhoz, it belongs to people. Once there will be an order here and everything will be prepared, and the people will start to live here. I think they will manage to do it till autumn. There is a stone-pit Kulan-Tas in about ten kilometers from here, there will be enough stone for the entire country there! So there’ll be no problems with it, I am sure!”
They drove down from the hill and once they reached the first structures and constructions, they appeared in the middle of a noisy crowd: the people stood and looked at the road to the town. There were the women with sucklings on their hands, crowds of children, there were riders on their horses, there were dzhigits and bearded old men there as well. This huge crowd was clamoring, making noise, buzzing, chatting and laughing.
“What are they doing? What is happening here?” Burkut asked.
Hassan shrugged the shoulders.
“I have no idea!” he said. “Let’get closer and see!”
And here suddenly everybpdy started to shout and move all together. 
Two rumbling and roaring monsters, totally black and breathing with the dark smoke, appeared from behind the curve. They moved shakily and waggling, with a loud rumbling and crash, and this crash and rumbling grew louder and louder and became at last that loud that it damped down the noise of this crowd. Children started to cry. One of the horses got on hind legs suddenly. The monsters though came closer and closer, with this terrible and loud rumblinh and roaring. The ground was shaking and trembling because of their steal movement, and a smoke went out of the tubes of this monster. Two young and sunburnt men with the wide smiles on their face sat at the wheel of these mechanisms. The monsters suddenly stopped. The guy driving the first monster rose and waved with the little red flag. People started to laugh and shout in the crowd.
“The tractors,” Hassan said relaxed and smiling. “Tractors in our steppe!”
Suddenly Burlut grabbed his hand strongly and shouted to him:
“Look at that! Look at that! What is it?”
The last tractor got up to them, and they saw that a woman was driving it. 
“It’s Sholpan!” Burkut exclaimed in bewilderment and amazement.
It was really here, there were no doubts in it. He wore a blue overall and a scarf. Her hair was scraped back into a ponytail. 
“That’s something crazy!” Burkut muttered.
“Didn’t you know it?” Hassan wondered, turning fast to Burkut. “She just finished six-month courses in Alma-Aty and received her driver license. The one behind is a woman too. They drive these tractors from the town. They were charged with this mission as the excellent students”.
…The tractors went on moving through the steppe and a huge and noise crowd followed them. Kostya-Kasym went in front of the column of men. He walked with a wide and open smile on his face, his shirt was opened, his cap in his hand, he was talking about something, but nothing could be heard because of noise and rumbling of the motors. Everybody is amazed with the art of the tractor drivers.
“Look, look how they sit there!” a big and strong dzhigit shouted in the crowd. “I wish I could sit on the back of my horse the same like they sit here, in these tractors!”
“Here is a woman!” another one exclaimed. “Here is a wife! I suppose you won’t be able to shout at her!”
“Hold on now, Kasym!” somebody joked, and everybody laughed.
Takerjan approached the guests, walking through the crowd of people. 
“Don’t get offended, my dear guests, that they all forgot about you and didn’t meet and welcome you properly. They are just too excited about these things happening here today, you know!” he said with a smile. “Nobody believed here that we will be finally given these tractors! And we got them, and another wonder is that the women drive them!”
“That’s okay, everything is fine, aqsaqal!” Hassan said. “And we are happy and excited almost the same like you are! We are really glad and happy for your aul and for the entire land of ours! When do you plan to start ploughing?”
“I think we will wait a little bit until the soil will dry a little bit and start to plough,” Takerjan replied. “We have the grains; the government supplied us with them”.
“Aren’t you late with the sowing?” Burkut asked dubiously.
“No, we aren’t, my dear friend!” an old man waved with his hand and smiled again. “It’s a hollow here. It could be dry above, but it is still wet in the bottom. We asked for the special grains as well, for the fast-growing ones. You can sow them when you like! Kasym knows about it and is a real expert in it! Allah sent us a great man! He was actually the one who regained this wintering site of Karymsak for us. If he didn’t help us, we wouldn’t even hope to see these places!”
“Did you know his son Akpar?” Burkut asked. “Has he visited these places recently?”
“That’s the matter that he might be roaming somewhere here, close,” Takerjan replied. “One of our shepherds told us that people saw one strange and unknown dzhigit yesterday, he was watering his horse at the lake. He was also asking about our aul. He looked like Akpar, according to the marks described by the people. We thought then: could it be him? Maybe, who knows… Only Allah knows where he roams…”
Their conversation ended up with this. Nobody took it really serious, because nobody really believed that that dzhigit could be really Akpar. But it was really Akpar. He himself couldn’t understand clearly what this power was driving him here, to these places, and whom he was searching for. Actually, he knew of course who he was looking for. Akpar was looking for Kostya-Kasym. Many things bound him with this man! And even the fact that Sholpan finally married this one-handed Russian guy drove Akpar here. At any rate, not only this. He hated Kostya-Kasym with a heave and hidden hatred. Long ago, during the commemoration feast for Akhan, Akpar took a decision to meet this Russian guy and to expose him by any means and costs. 
The story of Kasym looked strange and mysterious for Akpar, despite the fact that everybody believed it, and it looked credible enough. It seemed impossible and strange for him that a Russian guy could try to shoot himself because of an old Kazakh woman. And he did it only because the Dutov’s fighters destroyed one aul? Was it the reason that a Russian soldier was shooting himself and miraculously left alive? Let them all go to hell, all of thise who tell these fairy-tails and wanted Akpar to belive them! “But it was really like that,” people objected, talking to Akpar. “I will never ever believe it until I won’t meet him and talk to him myself,” Apar replied then. And then the day came, when they really met each other.
Akpar crossed the border soon after Burkut’s wedding. But he did it not immediately. He decided to wait for some time, to hide, that’s why he went to his native places. He stopped at the Takerjan’s aul on his way. But, at his great displeasure, rumors about arrival of a big and important guest from the town spread rapidly in the neighborhood. Many visitors and guests came suddenly to the yourt where he stopped. Akpar noticed innediately among them a tall and blue-eyed Russian guy with one sleeve of his shirt, put in his belt. “Here he is, Kostya-Kasym!” Akpar thought to himself. “Yes, he is really hamdsome, that’s true. A guy like him can drive crazy not only Sholpan!”
Their conversation started from afar, with the town’s news, and then in turned to the local affairs. They started to discuss the fishing team. Akpar knew that Kostya was the one who organized it, that’s why he asked him how it is going with the fishermen. 
“We work!” Kostya replied indirect. “We have little money though, but we work. We cannot even afford ourselves good fishing equipment and work the old one. But that’s okay…”
“How is it?” Akpar smiled unpleasantly. “Does it mean that you work in vain? It’s known the old fishing equipment doesn’t give you any rest. No, our master had it completely different. Our master’s rules were following: the one who worked had money. And that was totally right”.
“We will have money as well,” Kostya replied unfriendly.
“Where from?” Akpar smirked. “Do you think that the government will give it to you?”
Kostya looked directly into Akpar’s eyes for the first time and smiled.
“Yes, the government,” he replied.
“That’s great!” Akpar laughed angrily. “But from whose pocket will this money come, huh? No, my friends, you should hang on the government nowadays. It hardly breathes in the reality. There are no merchants anymore, they destroyed them! There is thus no money as well.”
“No, they haven’t destroyed them all till now,” Kostya responded. “But that’s okay, soon they will destroy the rests of these merchants! The government will actually help us with their money”.
“How is it?” Akpar wondered. “Will it take this money away from us and give it to you?”
“Yes, it will!” Kostya said. “It will take this money from the bay Karymsak and give it to us!”
“That’s great what you are saying!” Akpar shook with his head. “That’s really great!”
They parted this conversation.
“There is the one who deserves the first bullet!” Akpar thought to himself. “Allah, give the chance to see him face to face! But I have doubts that it will happen…”
Nevertheless they met next day.
Akpar took his horse for watering in the morning.
The sun hasn’t risen yet, but the eastern part of the sky was already light and clear. The lake Konyr-Aygyr laid in the hollow. Weak and soft wind ruffled the surface of lake water. Akpar watered his horse and thought:
“They will take it from Karymsak and give it to us! That’s how they started to talk now! His voice even didn’t tremble when he said it to me! No, it’s nearly impossible to negotiate with the likes of him… It’s better to cut off their heads than to talk to them!” he thought angrily. And suddenly he saw a boot on the middle of the lake.
“Here he is!” Akpar understood. “What is he doing here? Ohh! I’ve got it now. He is checking his bloody old nets. He is looking at me now and isn’t even bowing! Wait, one-handed idiot, wait, I will show you how to behave properly! Just sail closer to the lake shore, and I’ll show you!”
Suddenly something unexpected and strange happened. A strong squall suddenly hit a plain and clear surface of the lake. It flew above the water surface, raised a choppy sea, and the boot started to circle in the funnel like a top. One second later this one-handed guy appeared in the water. Actually nothing special happened, such strong and unexpected squals and winds are frequent in these places and they aren’t dangerous for a good swimmer. But Kostya had only one hand! Here we go! Akpar thought with an evil smile. Akpar turned into eyes, watching that closely that he even dropped the reins. Kostya’s head disappeared for a moment and then appeared above the water surface again at the same place. Then he came under water again and emerged on the same place several moments later. “Why doesn’t he swim?” Akpar wondered and then suddenly understood: he might have been tangled in the nets! The nets are fixed in the hole, and this hole is at the bottom! “That’s your end now!” Akpar thought angrily. “Allah exists though! That’s your last fishing, it seems! Now the fish will capture you!”
He stood on the shore and looked how one-handed Kostya was struggling to save himself and how he was loosing his powers and failing. It’s not an easy task to escape the hole for the nets! Two hands are needed here, and it was plain like a day that Kostya-Kasym won’t stand it for long time. In addition to that his wet heavy clothes pulled him down, to the bottom. “That’s an end!” Akpar thought mischievous. “That’s an end! I have to leave now, I think”. He took the bridle reins of his horse and left the site.
“He isn’t even shouting and screaming for help! What a stubborn bastard!” Akapr thought. “He knows though that I won’t have mercy for him!” But when he turned back and looked at the lake again, he suddenly saw how the one-handed Kostya-Kasym swam slowly and hardly to the shores. It means he managed to escape it! Though it was really difficult for him to swim, he disappeared under the water and then emerged again and again, and when he emerged he breathed heavily, catching the air with an open mouth. But this drowning man didn’t make a single sound and didn’t even look at Akpar. One minute later he reached the place, where it was fleet and not deep, stood and took a breath. Akpar mounted his horse rapidly and rode away fast, without even turning his head back.
So, now this one-handed imp married his fiancé and was going to settle down with her and with their poor aul in his father’s place! And Akpar, a rightful and legitimate heir, couldn’t do anything to prevent it! That was a moment when Akpar took his final decision: he has to leave this land. That’s why he arrived to the Konyr Aygyr mines. There was very close to the border zone here, but he decided to settle accounts with his enemies first. That was the reason why he was roaming around his native places and the houses of his father suring the latest three days, hiding either in the reeds thickets or in the osier-bed thinckets. But he still didn’t manage to track down Kasym. Probably Kasym didn’t leave the farm, and Akpar didn’t dare to go there.
People didn’t know all these details, that’s why even Burkut didn’t pay attention to the story told by an old man. The tractors drove along the street for about half a kilometer and turned to the steppe, towards the stone barns. Kasym appeared again. He gave some orders and recommendations, and several dzhigits rushed immediately to the barns and dragged a couple of ploughs out of there. They attached these ploughs to the tractors, and everything was being made merrily, with laughter, jokes and songs. Here the tractors with the attached ploughs moved, and the first furrow appeared on the ground. People looked in amazement at the ground, being cut smoothly and easily, as if it was a piece of butter under the sharp knife. 
“Let’s get closer!” Hassan offered, and they were met with the merry laughter and shouts again. That was a real miracle though: tractors in this vast steppe. Ploughing tractors! A woman from this aul drives this tractor, and this woman is a wife of our Kasym, beautiful Sholpan. It’s a real miracle.
The voices were heard:
“Yes, it’s not a horse anymore!”
“There is a whole herd of horses in one machine like this!”
“And it doesn’t ask for eating or drinking!”
“And it won’tprobably get sick!”
But some people had doubts:
“Yes, it cannot get sick, that’s true, but it can be damaged”.
“Yes, and if it will be damaged, it will be once and for all!”
“And there are no special doctors for it…”
“If it will stop, you cannot simply speed it with the lash, like a horse. You’ll be forced to go to the town in order to fix it”.
Suddenly Kasym raised his only one sunburnt hand above the crowd.
“I will be its doctor!” he declared. “I can fix any tractor then and there! I was a mechanic during the war, so I understand how the mechanisms work and how to fix them”.
People crowded round the yourts and barracks till the late evening, talking about the new tractors and discussing this event, and then, later in the evening, everybody gathered in the house of an old Takerjan, and Kasym shared his plans: about how many hectares he plans to plough and sow this year, how many hectares should it be next year, what kind of cattle will they tend, what kind of industry will they get on track. People parted and went to their homes only late in the night. Burkut was sleeping, when he was suddenly woken up with a loud shout: “Fire! Fire!”
The barns were set ablaze. Suddenly, without any visible reasons, the metal barrels with the gas caught fire. When Burkut and Hassan leaped out of the wintering place, there was a terrible fire storm on the place of the barns. The fire was that strong and hot that even roof iron was burning, rolling, grumbling and scorched right before their eyes. The fire howled and roared. Burning thinning and flinders were circling in the air everywhere around, and sometimes the building shot with the big fountain of yellow flakes of fire or cloud of blue-black smoke. Howling and cracking were heard everywhere. Nobody dared to come closer, because a real fire storm was raging there. The heat was that strong that the windows’ glasses of the neighboring houses burst in splitters. 
Suddenly Hassan shouted loud and agitated and rushed towards one of the burning barns.
“The tractors! The tractors are there!” he shouted to the young dzhigits, who were close to him. “ We have to save the tractors!”
Somebody rushed to search for the keys. Kaszm had the keys and by hard adventure he was nowhere to be seen at the moment. Sholpan stood together with other dzhigits in the chain at the lake shore, and the buckets, empty and then filled with water, were flying in her hands, as she handed it forth. But she didn’t have the keys.
“Knock the doors down!” Hassan shouted. “Does anybody have a pinch bar?”
The pinch bar was found. The lockers were broken, the doors were knocked down, and the tractors were finally taken outside of the barns right before that moment when the fire came close by the barns hosting the tractors.
They contained the blaze only at dawn. And only then everybody suddenly recollected: where is Kasym? Nobody saw him!
“What if something happened?” Sholpan asked in a dismal of voice, and everybody turned to her immediately, trying to calm her down: what could happen to him if he didn’t absent himself anywhere and there were always people around. He will appear soon!
“I don’t like it, I have a bad feeling,” Hassan said to Burkut, when they came back to their barrack from the fire. “I don’t like this fire and I don’t like this disappearance… But who could do that? Who could set the barns ablaze? How? What for? When? And where is Kasym?”
They sat at the table, drinking tea, at Takerjan’s home, when two young dzhigits suddenly pounced into the room with such faces that Burkut understood everything from the first sight.
“Kasym?” he shouted, and one of the dzhigits suddenly burst into tears.
“What happen to him?” Hassan asked the second dzhigit, coming closer to him.
“He is killed,” the dzhigit replied. “Shot in the back of head...” and he told how they found Kasym’s corpse in the barn, where they brought the saved tractors. There was a hopper for the home furnishings there: shovels, brooms, dusters… Kasym’s corpse was hidden under these dusters… Probably he was shot when he approached the barn. 
“Why did he go there in the night?” Burkut wondered, and Hassan responded to him: “I think he felt that something is wrong and had a bad feeling and that’s why he decided to go there and check. He knew that Akpar is somewhere here, in the neighborhood…”
That was the second time during this day when Burkut heard Akpar’s name.
The third time Akpar’s name was mentioned again was when Burkut said it at the interrogator office. Interrogator arrived in the settlement on the next day and started to summon all the adult kolkhoz workers and miners one by one. When Burkut was in his office he told the interrogator that he suspected Akpar. It seemed that this name was somehow familiar for the interrogator, because he didn’t even asked who is this Akpar and just asked to explain this suspicion and suggestion. “No, it’s still not enough, I’m afraid,” he said, wincing, when Burkut told him that these lands actually belonged to Akpar’s father and Akpar still considers them being his property. In addition to that, yesterday he was probably seen somewhere here close, at the lake, but he never appeared in the aul. “That’s still not enough,” the interrogator repeated. “It’s not enough even for suspicion, unfortunately”. Burkut knew it himself that it was really not enough, but his certainty in it was still strong. He was totally sure that this murder and this fire were the work of Akpar. After Burkut lest the interrogator’s office, interrogator summoned Sholpan for questioning. But she only cried and sobbed and repeated: “Akpar! It was Akpar! Akpar can do anything!”

The interrogator visited Takerjan at the evening and offered Burkut to walk a little bit together (Hassan wasn’t here as he had to travel to the town immediately). The interrogator was a tall fair-haired Russian young man, with curly hair and blue eyes, looking almost like Koltsov.
“I am here for the first time, in this aul,” he said openly.”It’s so beautiful here! I feel I want to just walk here a little bit and enjoy this beauty of nature after all these horrible things about the murder”.
They headed to the lake shore. It was calm and windless. Sun didn’t burn and stood high in the sky, clad in the clouds like in blanket. The air was clear and smeeled with the river freshness and grass and flowers scents.
“What a beauty and freedom around!” the young interrogator exclaimed. “And did all of that,” and he made a round gesture with his hand, “belong to one person only?”
“Yes, it did. All these lands far away to the horizon and more than fifty kilometers around were the family property of Akpar’s father,” Burkut replied.
“Yes, yes, of Akpar’s father. Akpar,” the interrogator said thoughtfully and nodded with his head. “I’ve heard this name nearly five hundred times after you today, I suppose!” he added.
“So what?” Burkut asked.
The interrogator bent down and slipped off a little grass-blade.
“I don’t know,” he said. “It’s too little evidences, too little! It’s still not enough for accusation! Of course, once we will find him we will immediately summon him for questioning, we will question him and get information about him, we will ask him where he was during these days, what he did, we will even impose travel restrictions on him probably, but it’s all what is possible at the current stage. That’s all we can do as there are really almost no evidences. There are no direct testimonies against him. He wasn’t in the aul this day at all, nobody saw him. What if he will tell that he spent this night in the middle of the steppe? What should we do? We will be forced to believe him! And was it actually him, who was seen at the lake shore a couple of days before this terrible event? Could this shepherd identify him? In general, that’s a total fog. Nothing is clear. None of the prosecutors will give an arrest warrant!”
“But Kasym’s corpse isn’t a fog, it exists!” Burkut said. He had mixed feelings towards this interrogator: he somehow liked him, but this man also irritated him at the same time. He irritated him with his indecision, uncertainty, caution and even with his shyness. 
“Yes, the coprse in the barn with the dusters isn’t a fog, you are right,” he agreed. “It is even a fact of a class struggle in the aul or, like the journalists write in the newspapers, it’s a raid of a class enemy. What to do? There could be many deaths like that in the future…” He suddenly lloked at Burkut and smiled: “Here how it is, my dear friend and comrade writer. I liked a lot your article about murder of a girl and her fiancé. It was written with the real passion. And you saw it right that it was not only revenge againt the particular people, but also revenge against the particular class. I suppose he wouldn’t act like this with the daughter of some bay. He would just receive a buyout and that would be all. What did offend him most in this situation? “Who offended me? The poorest of the poor neglected me! She felt the new rules coming! Okay then, I will show them new rules!” And here we can see the same! “We will show what our land, our aul and our tractors are”!
“Yes, that’s right,” Burkut sighed. “Probably it’s really like that. I will write about it”.
“It will be great!” the interrogator supported him. “In this case Kasym’s death won’t be in vain, and it doesn’t matter what will be known later. And that’s the most important thing!”
They walked together till the darkness fell on the steppe, and when Burkut came back, the lights were everywhere in that aul already.
“We started to look for you!” old Takerjan said. “Then the boys said that they saw you walking together with the interrogator at the lake. The doctor arrived”.
Next day the postmortem was carried out right here, in the barn, where that tractors stood, and the bullet was taken out and taken to the case’s evidence. Burkut and Takerjan dressed Kasym in the new suit. Shoplan stood next to the barn’s entrance, but she wasn’t allowed to come closer to the dead body of her husband.
The funeral rituals started in the evening. Kasym was buried according to the old Kazakh custom. A black yourt was erected in the steppe, nearly hundred meters from the aul, and a horse’s tail was hung above the entrance. Now every traveler could know that there is a departed in this aul. Kasym’s horse was tied close to this yourt. The horse’s mane and tail were cropped. That was a custom. Hassan came back to aul from the town at the evening. They went all together – interrogator, doctor, Durkut and Hassan – to say goodbye to the dead Kasym. When they approached the yourt, Hassan suddenly grabbed Burkut’s hand and said: “Look, look!” There were three dzhigits riding rapidly through the steppe. They cried and shouted: “Our dear, beloved friend! Where are you? What happen to you?” The ridersdismounted at the distance of about fifty steps from the yourt and walked the rest of their way. That was how the dzhigits from the neighboring aul commemorated Kasym. When a crowd of people, wanted to say the last goodbye to Kasym, entered the yourt, all the women started to cry, weep, howl and keen. They sat at the body all night long, singing and crying. They were still singing, waggling and with their hands on their hips. Their faces were swollen from the tears and theur eyes became red. The song for the departed is being called zhoktau. It consists of several quatrains. This sing is being sung in turns. One woman starts it, another one continues. Each woman sings only her own zhoktau. 
Sholpan sings:
“It seems that my spring gor dried
Amd my grass withered.
When he came to our aul,
The sun started to shine brightly!”
Kasym lies under the sheet. His clothes: small clothes, velvet robe and military style black pants – hang next to him. He didn’t have chance to wear it, he was saving it for special days and occasions. And now he was laying under the sheet, and he will never wear it all again…
The women were singing and singing. His father-in-low came too and sat at the head of the coffer. He was motionless and rough and sat silently, as if he even couldn’t see anything. Nobody dared to start a conversation with him. But somebody had to, as it was necessary to decide over the details of the funeral ceremony. And then the oldest guest leaned towards Takerjan:
“You can see, dear aqsaqal, that all of us, your friends, relatives and neighbors, take your loss close at our hearts. The entire family of karzhas’ is crying together with you, but we cannot bring back the dead beloved one with our tears. Let us think about the funeral for our beloved and dear Kasy,-jan now”.
All the people went silent. This issue was really very hard for everybody.
“Yes, he was though a Bolshaybek ,” Sholpan said shyly.
“Yes, and Bolshaybek should be buried somehow in a special way,” Takerjan said. “And they usually place not a crescent, but a star at the head of his grave. A Red star with hammer and sickle”.
But an old man, who sat at the head, took a different decision:
“Everybody has Allah in his or her heart and soul. We all are Allah’s children, whether you are Bolshaybek or not, Allah doesn’t care about it. A good atheist is always better for Allah than a faithful man who though commits crimes and bad deeds. The one who killed Kasym will for sure go to hell after his death, even if he will read and recite Qur’an day and night and pray five times in a day. We have to bury Kasym according to the Muslim custom, in order to help him to find the way to Heaven. Let us recite Qur’an and sing commemoration songs, zhanazy, and the same like for the faithful Muslims”.
After delivering this big and probably unusual for him speech, an old aqsaqal fell silent and didn’t say a word anymore.

Kostya-Kasym was buried at the old, almost deserted cemetery, which belonged once to the family of karymsaks. The ancestors of this family were buried here. Some of them had stone and mud mazars , domes, stone turbans, crescents, quotes from Qur’an. Some of the graves started to collapse already. The stone flags nodded, the mud domes collapsed. The nomads don’t visit cemeteries very often, as they always roam. Today they are here, tomorrow they could be far away. Who could care about the graves? After Karymsak’s escape to China nobody was here at this cemetery and nobody checked the graves. The cemetery fell into disrepair, some of the graves broke down, and the holes with the green or black water stood on the place of the hills. Other graves sank and grassed, turning into the little hills. This cemetery is located on the mountain, and it could be seen from far away. The new grave was dug on the top of the hill. Kasym’s dead body was wrapped in the double thick felt and was laid in the grave, his head towards the West. Only his face, half opened, still looked up, at the sun. The people stood silent for a while and then, at the order of Takerjan, started to whelm the grave. Old Takerjan also bend down, took a lump of mud from the grave hill, crushed it between his fingers and threw it on the grave.
“May you rest in peace, Kasym-jan!” hes said softly and sadly. “Farewll, our dear Kasym!”
When the hill emerged above the grave, old men started parting and leaving the cemetery. One of them remained, opened an old book and started to read from it for those who stayed at the grave:
“Bismillah ar-Rahman ar-Raheem! Elhamdolellah Rabbi elameen… “ he started to recite.

…Hassan and Burkut spend another week at this aul. Hassan spent his time with the dhzigits, walking in the fields and explaining them something. Burkut though wanted to be closer to the epicenter of the events. Somehow he thought and felt that this murder will be investigated in the nearest future, but even one week later there was no clear and proper information, and nothing was known. The interrogator came one more time and said that the bullet was shot from the pistol, most probably it was shot out of the Belgium Browning gun. Burkut really saw the Browning like this in Akpar’s hands many years ago. Akpar even tried to give it to Burkut as a gift, telling that he had another one. But of course it still didn’t mean anything and couldn’t be proper evidence. Burkut wanted to tell about this story to interrogator, but then he thought that he will be forced to tell about too many other things in case he will mention this story, that he even decided to keep silent about this Browning. 
When they finally left the aul, he already had the ideas about his future poem in his mind and he knew even how he will start his poem about Kasym.
III
Khanshaim woke up because of the sound of somebody, scratching the window glass with the nail. She rose from the bed, threw a robe over her shoulders and came to the window. A man of solid build stood there in the bushes and looked at her through the twigs. She couldn’t distinguish his face. “It might be somebody sent by Hassan,” she thought. Sometimes he sent the kolkhoz worker with the short notes from him to her, something like: “Go to the shop together with this lady and help her choosing the material” or “come to the People’s Commissariat together with that lady and help her with getting some information” etc. Sometimes he even sent to her some people, asking her to find a place for them. But he usually sent the women or children with this kind of notes, and they usually came in the day. But what if something happen? She opened a small window.
A man went out of the bushes shadow, and she recognized him. She was that shocked that the only one thing she could say was:
“You?!”
“Yes, that’s me,” a guest replied unfriendly and abruptly. “Open the window”.
Without understanding what is actually happening, Khanshaim opened the window obedient.
“Don’t open it wide!” he warned her and flew easily over the window sill. He wore a canvas cloak and an opal color summer suit. 
“Here we meet again,” he said, looking closely into her eyes and examining her face. “So, where is your husband? Is he absent?”
“He is not here,” she replied, still strangely startled. His rough, swarthy and clean-shaven face looked mysterious and important in the darkness and moonlight. 
“So, maybe you will invite me to come inside in this case?” he asked and smirked.
“It doesn’t matter anymore, nothing can be changed now,” she thought to herself and stepped aside, giving him a way.
“Is it a dining room?” he asked, following her to the rooms, and stopped in front of a big pier glass. “I see you live not bad, Your flat is well furnished: pier glass, carpet, porcelain, wardrobe, cupboard, silken tablecloth, Not bad, not bad. Allah help you!”
“What does he want from me, I wonder?” Khanshaim thought and asked him:
“Are you hungry? Do you want to eat something?”
He sneered:
“I won’t refuse some food, my dear sister. But first of all I’d like to tell you one thing, and I really hope that you will understand me and do as I will say. So, if anybody will ask you whether you’ve seen me or not, answer them that you haven’t seen and heard me at all recently. Is it clear?”
“It is,” she smirked too.
“That’s fine,” he said. “Where is the phone here?”
She hesitated for a moment and then replied:
“It’s there”.
He opened the door to the neighboring room fast. The phone stood on the night table. He came to it, lifter the receiver, listened to the silence inside of it for some time and then put the phone down. 
“You wanted to bring me some food,” he reminded her suddenly.
She went to the kitchen and came back with the bread and a plate with the cold meat. Then she thought for a moment and took a vodka bottle out of the cupboard. 
“Come here,” she said.
He rose and went to the dining room.
“I’m getting drunk were hard, sister, and you know it well,” Akpar said. “Especially now,” he took the glass, poured some vodka for himself and drank some of it. “Let’s drink for our meet, sister! What happened? Don’t you drink? That’s right, that’s right, I guess the husband you have is enough, so you shouldn’t damage additionally with drinking alcohol,” he drank the glass and then poured himself another one. “And I do drink, sister! I have to! Life is hard, my dear sister…”
She suddenly calmed down totally. She felt that she understood everything now. Of course, Akpar is hiding from someone or maybe from the authorities. There could be really much reason for that. Life didn’t teach him till now, so he refused to change his habits and way of life. He still thinks that he is a bay’s son, that his word is a rule and his lash is an argument. As he had a very hard and wild character, he was forced to hide all the time in order to save his life and freedom. But it seems: why wouldn’t he just live a normal and peaceful life? He has plenty of money, he is young, clever, strong and handsome, and every girl will agree to marry him. But somehow he couldn’t and didn’t want to live like everybody, like all the ordinary people! He always had some stories! So, she didn’t think anything extremely bad and didn’t feel worried now. In addition to that, Akpar himself (he looked completely drunk after the second glass of vodka) sat relaxed on the chair and started to complain. Though, it was even difficult to understand did it complain or reproach. It looked like everybody was guilty in all his misfortunes and troubles, just not him. Once Khanshaim suggested him that, he went mad.
“What are you saying?!” he shouted at her. “What are you talking about? What do you understand in me and in this life? No, you just listen to your own words once again and think of what you said! I am chased like a beast just because I am my father’s son! Why did you come to this world in the bay’s family? They ask me. Okay, I reply them, okay, I’m guilty, it’s my fault, but I have come to this world already and I really cannot change it. What should I do now? Should I go to the old lake and make a hole in the water? They’d better say it directly and openly! But no! They gave me education first, then they appointed me on one position, they told me: go and work, and then they started to summon me for some questionings and interrogations and for some interviews! Where is your father? How did it happen that he managed to escape to China? Wans’t it made with your help or not?” And they mention you as well! How is it, they ask me, that your sister didn’t listen to her father and didn’t obey him, she escaped and came back to the city, and you’ve beaten her with the lash for that? And you did it in the house of her husband! Was it you who told them this story?” he asked her directly, looking closely into her eyes. She shook her head. He went on speaking: “It means it was your husband who told them this story! It appeared that I stole a march from him! Okay, we will not talk about it now. Then they said: give us your gold. What gold? That gold your father left for you! They said. He didn’t leave for me any gold, I told them, I have nothing, he took all of his belongings and treasures together with him, he didn’t leave me anything, I live only with my salary! They told me though that it’s very unlikely that I live with my salary only, because it’s impossible to live like this with the salary only. They told me: you drink, you have fun, you got a new horse for yourself, you visit your places every year and waste your money there! People, who live with their salary only, don’t live like that! But what else should I explain them? It seems that you will find an agreement only after my death in my case, I told them. No, my dear sister, it’s not a life here, it’s a real torture! There are only tow ways remaining for me: either suicide or China. You are lucky, ypou came like a faithful little dog to a man, and here you are! You don’t belong to yourself anymore, you belong to him! You have even taken his family nam! I cannot live like that. I am always alone and on my own. And money… What is money? Money comes and goes! But they will never ever see my money! I will take all I have with me! I won’t leave any cent to anybody! Right?”
He was speaking angrily, turning more and more aggressive, waving strongly with his hands and threatening someone imaginary. He finished the bottle of vodka and fell asleep in the chair. 
Khanshaim was woken up with the phone call in the morning. She picked up the phone. It was Burkut. He told her that he had a letter from Hassan. He was delayed in the district due to the case of Kasym’s murder. “Whose murder?” she asked.
“Murder of Kostya-Kasym,” Burkut explained her. “Hassan will tell you all the details and will explain you everything will he will be back. A young dzhigit was killed here in the aul. He was killed, and his dead body was hidden in the barn, under the sheets and dusters. And the barn was set ablaze. The one who committed this crime wanted probably to burn the barn with the body and with the newly arrived tractors”.
“Oh my God!” Khanshaim exclaimed. “That’s so terrible! Who did it?”
Burkut hesitated.
“There are many rumors here,” he replied reluctantly. “People say things. It happened in the aul of Karymsak, your father”.
“So what?” she shouted.
“There is the story…” he responded more reluctantly and uncertain, stopping at each word. “Karymsak escaped to China, but his son was seen recently in these places. Nearly six years ago he lamed Kazym’s wife with the lash…”
“Akpar!” she shouted and turned around.
Akpar stood beside her. She said goodbye to Burkut in haste and told him that she is waiting for Hassan’s letter. Brother and sister stood like this for a while, silent and looking at each other.
“That’s the story,” she finally said. “That’s why you are here”.
“What happened?” he asked.
She still stood at the bed table, with the phone receiver in her hands.
“Kasym was killed and the barns were burnt,” she replied. “It happened at our former wintering site. People say you have been there too”.
“I haven’t been there,” Akpar objected.
“In addition to that, you have beaten hardly and lamed Kasym’s wife…”
“She was my bride”.
“And I was your sister!” Khanshaim smiled sarcastically. “Do you beat and gave flogging to everybody you consider being yours? I will tell you something, brother. I think that you are a murderer and a firestarter. This case will clear and investigated soon, of course. And now leave me and my house immediately and never come back again! You’ve spent the night here, its early morning now, so please go away now!”
He doubled his fists and his face turned red.
“What if I will refuse to leave?” he asked her silently. “What would you do? Would you call the police?”
She put the phone down and came to her child.
“I will not call the police,” she said also silent, wrapping the child warmly with the blanket. “But Burkut will be here in half an hour and you will be forced to talk to him”.
“So…” he replied and closed his eyes for a moment and sighed. It was obvious how hard was it for him to hold himself now. “So…” he repeated again and opened his eyes, looking at Khanshaim. “What does it mean? Are you sending me away? Are you dismissing me out of here? Okay, okay… But if I will leave now, and you will call somewhere…”
He didn’t finish his words. Khanshaim didn’t replied, gave a shrug of her shoulders and turned her back to him. He stood for some time and then went to the exit. He turned around at the threshold.
“Remember it, sister!” he told her. “Remember it always! Remember that I came to you seeking refuge and support and you dismissed me. Remember it, please”.
Khanshiam told the whole story to Burkut when he came with Hassan’s letter. When Burkut heard that Akpar was just here, several minutes ago, he turned so agitated and emotional that he couldn’t even talk for some time and stood silent and shocked. Then he asked Khanshaim: “Where did he go to?” Khanshaim replied that she doesn’t know it, but actually he was going to relocate to China, to his father. At least she understood it like this from his talking. “We will see it!” Burkut said angrily and left.
He didn’t go to the police though. He weighed then that he would be forced to talk about Khanshaim and this entire story there. “Let Hassan come back home and decide what to do,” Burkut pondered. “It will be better”.

Hassan arrived three days later, in the evening. He called Burkut immediately. His voice was tired, exhausted and dull.
“Come to us tomorrow, please,” he said. “We need to talk”.
“What happened?” Burkut asked.
“You better come to us, and we will talk,” Hassan replied indistinctly. “Come at about five o’clock or something,” he offered and put the phone down.
“It seems that his wife told him this story about Akpar’s visit,” Burkut thought. “Of course, he got angry with her. It’s silly. I have to talk to him and tell him all I know”.
Burkut came to Hassan’s and Khanshaim’s house on the next day, exactly at five o’clock, as it was agreed. He suddenly saw a big crowd in front of the house and the policemen standing in the yard. He didn’t understand anything at the beginning and went upstairs, but somebody stopped him gently.
“You aren’t allowed to go there,” Burkut heard.
“Why?” he asked.
“They are all killed,” a man replied to him.
“What?!” Burkut shouted, and it seemed to him that it is either a wicked joke or he misheard and misunderstood the man’s words. “Who is killed? How? Who killed them?”
“Are you someone from their family?” one old lady in the crown asked him, drying her wet eyes with the rim of her scarf. 
“Some outlaws killed them,” a comely white-haired little old man turned to Burkut. “It seems that they were killed in the night, while they were sleeping. It was calm and silent in the night. They didn’t scream. I am their neighbor. I have a light sleep and I would certainly hear”.
“Let me in!” Burkut shouted desperately and rushed to the house, coming through the crowd. “Let me in! I must be there! I know who it was! I know who did it!”
He shouted that loud and desperately that a man dressed in civil clothes went out of the house and looked at him closely and attentively. Then he turned to a policeman, who had a service at the entrance, and told him something silently. 
“A man who just shouted!” a policeman said loud. “Please, come inside!”
He wasn’t allowed to enter the room where the murder happened. 
“He broke in the house through this window,” a man in civil clothes said. He was an interrogator. He showed the window and opened a window frame lightly. “Can you see? The frame isn’t tight here. He shoved the knife here and opened the window. We found fingerprints on the window glass. Maybe they belong to the murderer”.
“Yes!” Burkut said. “Yes!”
This civil man was familiar to Burkut. He had a chance to meet him once. Once his editorial office sent him to the criminal investigation department in attempt to receive some details and information regarding some criminal case the newspaper was writing about. This interrogator carried out this investigation. Here, standing next to the window, Burkut started to tell him about his yesterday’s phone conversation, but the interrogator interrupted him after his first phrase:
“You will tell it at the police office. Take a seat and wait a little bit here. I will be free soon, and we will go together,” and he enter the bedroom again.
Burkut left the police office late in the night. He halted in the middle of the street and stood like this for a while, motionless and deep in his thoughts. It was terrible cemetery silence inside of him, and he didn’t want anything anymore: either to go somewhere or to seem someone. Even conversation with Olga would be unbearable for him now.
He crossed the street and entered the park. It was an old oak, known by every inhabitant of Alma-Aty and planted nearly fifty years ago by the founders of this city. Now it was called “Pine Park”, because there were huge gray Tien Shan pines growing in it, and also a “Children’s Park”, because it was given to the pioneers children. It was noisy and crowded in the day, full of people, sounds and colors. Not the part was silent, and even the pines were dark and almost black and looked like the cemetery cypresses. Burkut sat here and thought. It means that after sister dismissed Akpar and sent him away, Akpar went to seek for refuge somewhere and he found it. It was not so important anymore where exactly he found it, but he really found it and didn’t leave the town this night. He sat and waited for something or for someone. Then he awaited Hassan’s arrival. It was also unknown how he knew about Hassan’s arrival, but he came to him in the first night. Did anybody help him? It’s really difficult to tell, but probably he made everything himself, without any help. He didn’t need any helpers and assistants, he even didn’t like them and couldn’t bear them. “So,” Burkut thought, “he left the house in the night. He walked through the sleepy and empty streets and didn’t meet anybody, I suppose. He had everything prepared for this crime: a knife to kill, a gun to choot in case of pursuit or something like that, maybe he had even a horse hidden somewhere in the backyard in order to escape the possible pursuit. Did he feel guilty planning and doing it? Was he haunted by remorse, when he leaped a hedge, opened the window with his knife and when he finally leaped over the window sill? Did he ponder and feel uncomfortable or guilty, when he was pushing the door and opening it? What did he feel when he slit his sister’s throat open with just one stroke of his knife? What did he feel, when Hassan, who just jumped from his bed and didn’t even wake up totally, rushed towards him, and Akpar hit him right in his heart with a precise stroke of the knife? And then, when he went to the exit of the room, avoiding touching the bodies and blood on them (there were no blood traces found either on the bed or on the floor of the room) and when he finally left the room, what did he feel? Did he feel anything else instead of a strong wish to leave this place as soon as possible?” Burkut knew that it’s very unlikely. Akpar’s conscience probably didn’t hurt him at all. Why should it hurt him? He never violated the customs of his aul. Murder of a sister who renounced her family, her parents and her faith could be considered even an act of bravery and a righteous deed, according to these customs. He didn’t have other sins as well: he didn’t have any debts, he didn’t steal anything, he didn’t betray his friends, he sincerely thought that Soviet regime was a limb of the devil, so the doors of heave were opened wide in front of him, according to these tradtions and customs. Burkut thought about Akpar and heave and about white clothes of the one who enters Heaven, and he suddenly jumped from his seat, then sat down and then jumped again. Another idea, like something on the brain and something very painful, came to his mind. He thought that not so long time ago this man considered Burkut being his true and faithful friend, while Burkut saw Akpar as his hero. He remembered that there were several other not so good cases connected to Akpar, of course, there were smaller cases, that this terrible murder, but it could drive a person crazy and totally desolate. But Burkut not only tolerated all these things long ago, he even thought that they are somehow necessary at the current stage, because they were done for the sake of their common business. Sp here what it was, their common business! A bed, drenched with blood, and two people he truly loved and appreciated, killed at theit own home. A two-year old poor child, who lost both his mother and his father and became an orphan at one moment. A murderer who tries to escape the bullet he really deserves. Here is their common business! He jumped from his place again, made several steps, thinking about something, and then sat down again, muttering something. And he was together with him! If the people, who questioned Burkut, knew something about that, they would talk to him completely different, and it would be totally fair! He deserved distrust, caution and suspiciousness, and even mockery! If only these people knew it all!
He sat like this, wiggling and wincing like from the pain, and he muttered something, when someone came closer to him and touched softly and gently his shoulder. He hopped in horror. It was Olga.
“My darling,” she said silently, sat next to him and embraced him. “Your face is wet!”
He grabbed her hand, pressed it toward his face and sobbed released and silent. It felt like an abscess in his soul finally grew ripe and burst. He felt better now. She kept silent and caressed his hair. He hushed after a minute.
“Where did you come from?” he asked her, still sobbing a little bit.
“I was looking for you,” she replied. “I went to Hassan. There are many people there, I wasn’t allowed inside. They told me that you are here. I called to the police office and found the needed cabinet. I was told that you left it more than one hour ago. I thought to myself that you might be somewhere here, but you don’t have power to rise. That’s why I came here and here I am”.
“Olga!” he said. “Olga, my darling! Please, stay always so kind and soft like you are now! Please, stay like this always!”
Sje smiled and kissed his wet cheek.
“Allright,” she said, “I will be always like this. Stand up, let’s go now! There is Zura at our home”.
“Zura?” he asked in amazement.
“Yes, I took her to us,” Olga replied. “We cannot leave her alone there! And do you know what am I thinking about? If we will not find her relatives, let her live with us, okay?”
Thus, Zura Hassanova became Burkut’s and Olga’s daughter. 
Burkut’s new poem “An oath” was published in the republican newspaper in the day of Hassan’a and Khanshaim’s funerals. Its Russian translation appeared in the Russian newspaper at the same day. Here how this poem was:
My dear friend! 
You fell, striken with an enemy’s hand!
Our tears turned into blood!
You lay motionless in the coffin, my friend,
And your pale face is calm and scary.
I give a terrible oath:
I will avenge your death!
I was trying to catch my own shadow all my life,
But I just hurt my legs on this path,
And, lost in the darkness and fog,
I mistook the night for a clear day.
My burden was terribly heavy,
And I was hardly walking with this burden,
But you just fell, my dear friend,
Like a proud eagle, hit by a bullet!
I felt the fire in my soul,
I thought it slept, but it awoke!
Igive now everything I have
For tha sake of the new and better life!
I fixed my old and faithful dombra
And it sounds new today.
My voice will be sharp and strong,
My song will be like fire!
I give a terrible oath with this sing,
To avenge your death, my dear friend!
Though, he didn’t manage to avenge Hassan’s and Khanshaim’s deaths. Akpar disappeared. He was declared wanted in USSR, but he wasn’t found. Two years later his criminal case was closed as there was no evidence of his guilt found. The murder didn’t leave any traces. Everybody almost forgot about this murder and search of him, when five years later Burkut was suddenly and unexpectedly summoned to the High Republican Court. 

Several days before he was summoned to the Court, he sat at his writing table till the late night. Publishing house signed with him a contract for translation of Tolstoy’s “Ordeal”, and he was in haste. The deadline was closer and closer, and he wanted desperately to translate this book.
“Do you understand me, Olya,” he told his wife, “it’s the most important for us now. What was the path of Russian intellectuals to the revolution? Of course, every folk and every nation has its own unique way, but it was harder for us, than for Russians. Our entire past was strongly connected to the Muslim East, and Russia scared us. Russia was a conqueror. Recall the tragedy of Chokan Valikhanov. When he saw what the soldiers of the White army and tsar were doing, he left everything: his friends, his family, science, career, connections and relationships. He left everything and cast everything aside and he went to the steppe to fight and to die for his people and for his land. Didn’t we have this example always in front of our eyes? The Russians never had a national issue, I mean in those terms as it stood for us. That’s why it resulted in the situation when the folks appeared to be wiser and more far-seeing than their intellectuals. Russian folk went straight, while we started to stray. These are the reasons of the tragedy of Akhan, and these are the reasons of my tragedy as well”.
Thus, he sat at his table, working hard on the Aleksey Tolstoy’s novel, and, tapping lightly with his pencil, thought of how he could grasp and express better and more precisely one simple, but very energetic and drastic speech of one of the novel’s characters, when somebody suddenly pulled a bell of their door. He ran cold instantly, but rose immediately from his seat and went to open the door. He halted next to the doorstep and entered the bedroom. Olga slept, folding her hands on her chest. Zura was in her little bed and slept uneasy. Her blanket was on the floor, her pillow as well. He stood a little bit at her bed, looking at her, then took the blanket and covered a child with it. 
“Sleep well!” he said softly and silently and left the bedroom, going to the door. “Who is there?” he asked when he approached the door.
“It’s a telegram for Burkut Kuntuarov!” a voice was heard behind the door.
He smiled and unlocked the door. Two military men and a house superintendant stood there in front of him. The superintendant smiled.
“Are you Burkut Kuntuarov?” one of the military men asked politely. “Hello! Accept our apologies, that we bothered you at so late time! We will ask you to come with us upstairs for several minutes. You will be a witness”.
“What?” Burkut didn’t understand and stepped back. “Me? A witness?” he expected anything but nit this.
“That’s nothing special, that’s okay,” a superintendant started to talk to him rapidly. “It’s right above your flat. You know, that professor…” he was a kind man and he smiled with intention: he wanted to calm Burkut down and to tell him clearly in order to mae him understand that everything is okay and that police came not for him, but for his neighbor, but a military amn, keeping his polite and friendly facial expression, turned his head to the superintendant and looked at him strict, so the superintendant kept silent and confused.
“Okay, let’s go!” a military man said. “You shouldn’t notify and warn anybody. It will take only a couple of minutes, so you will be back home very soon”.
Burkut came back only towards morning. Olga was at the kitchen and cooked a breakfast. Zura played and jumped next to her. Burkut entered silently and sat down on the stool. Olga glanced at him shortly but didn’t ask him any questions. He started to talk himself.
“Do you know, Olga,” he said in a serious tone. “I don’t understand anything. I was a witness during the house searching now. They took that old gentleman, who lives in the flat above us, that old man with a little dog. Do you remember, we tried to guess with you who he was? He appeared to be an archeologist. He and his wife are so cute and so funny, so small. So, they take him, and she stands and shouts to him: “Don’t sit at the window, you will catch a draft! You have an exudative pleurisy!”” he even ground his teeth saying it. “Exudative!” and he started to waggle his head, as if he was trying to throw off an intrusive pain. “Exudative!” he repeated again.
Olga left the milk she was boiling, approached Burkut and hugged him.
“Please, don’t,” she said appealingly. “What do we know with you? They will deal with it, find out the truth and let him go. Everything will be okay, I’m sure!”
But she knew, like him, what was needed now and what was no needed at all, and she stopped speaking, looking at him cautiously ad uncertainly.
He rose from his seat and said silently:
“If somebody will call and ask me, tell that I am out and that I will be back in about an hour. I will go to walk a little bit, I have a terrible headache…”
He walked in the streets till the evening. He even reached the river Alma-Atynka. It was a fast and merry, playful river on the outskits of the town. He met on his way back home director of that publishing house, where his translation of the novel was expected to be published. Director was a stubby man with wide shoulders and a mane of coarse half-silver hair. He was always in haste: now running from work to the neeting, then from meeting back to work again, then from work to home. And now, noticing Burkut, he also rose his hand to greet him and to run away, but then he suddenly stopped, as if he remembered something or as if something came suddenly to his mind.
He halted and asked Burkut:
“Weren’t you summoned to the court regarding the Aybasov’s case?”
“Regarding whose case?” Burkut didn’t get.
“Regarding Karazhan Aybasov’s case,” director explained him. “No? Maybe they will call you some time soon. You had a conflict with him, right? I told them about it. He even called to our publishing house and warned us: don’t have any affairs with Burkut Kuntuarov! He said you were a very suspicious person… I wish he could look at himself first!..”
And director told Burkut the story that Karazhan’s dead of arms appeared to be treason in the reality. He didn’t release the guerilla warriors and Red Army soldiers and didn’t save them from execution, as he described it, but he himself took them to the executing site, where they were shot, as he was one of the commanders of the punitive detachment. This legendary release he always described happened accidentally and wasn’t connected to him. The punitive squad met the troops in the ambush and ran in panic, leaving the prisoners. The only one thing appeared to be thruth was that he really received a big bribe from the brother of one of the convicts, merchant Fayzollah, so he had to save only one person: a communist Nurollyh. Of course he would do it this way, if not this accident. This story was told a little bit muzzily and sometimes even indistinctly, but Burkut understood the main line and the key moments. That’s why, when he was summoned to the republican prosecution one week later, the conversation he had there wasn’t a surprise for him. But one of the meetings at the prosecution office made a great impression on him. The prosecution interrogator didn’t receive him immediately, so Burkut had to wait. While he sat in the corridor and read a newspaper, one lady entered and asked him: 
“Did you come to meet Feofanov?” and she sat next to him, without waiting for his reply.
Burkut looked at her. She was nearly thirty-five year old and she was really beautiful: a hot, slender and thin woman. “Where have I seen her?” Burkut thought to himself and suddenly remembered: he has seen her in Akshatyr, fifteen years ago, in winter 1923, if to be more precise. There was a big holiday, and many people attended celebration. There were many people in their holiday clothes, music, games, horses and cart races. And then suddenly she darted pasted him in a carriage, decorated with the ribbons and paper roses. As for her clothes, Burkut remembered only her biever cap and her black gloves with laces. But her faces remained in his memory forever. She had straight and nice eyebrows, juicy lips and unbelievable smile… He was told then that she was Marukey, daughter of one rich merchant and his only one heir. He was told alos another thing: her father loves her so much, she has no mother, that’s why she knows no limits and no restrictions in anything, and she always gets and makes whatever she wants. Burkut didn’t see her again. He heard though that she married Karazhan, but somehow he didn’t pay attention to it. And now they met here, in the corridor of a prosecutor’s office. They even sat next to each other! What a wonderful and strange life! Everything can happen! He was pondering about it and felt suddenly a light touch.
He turned his head. Marukey looked at him. 
“Did you come regarding the case of Aybasov?” she asked.
He nodded.
“Have you been summoned with a notification?” she went on speaking. “Really? Did you know him good? Since when? I cannot remember you… I am Aybasov’s ex-wife, you know…”
But then the door opened and comrade Feofanov emerged on the doorstep.
“Comrade Kuntuarov?” he asked. “Great. And you?” he referred to Marukey.
Marukey hopped from her seat and showered him immediately with a flow of questions and exclaims that he even stepped back. She wanted to be divorced with Aybasov. How is it possible to do? When? How long will the process take? What is needed for that? Is it possible to make it immediately? That’s sad… She said that she wouldn’t sapend even one hour together with this person if she knew who he really was. 
“And who he really is?” Feofanov asked her.
“He is a public enemy, if you arrested him,” she replied. Then she reported that she managed to find a pile of books and notebooks at the garret, and that she brought them now in her bag, because they might be interesting for the investigation, and then she showed him also her application for divorce.
“Wait, wait, wait!” an interrogator tried to stop her. “Your papers will be accepted at the secretariat. As for the application, you should go to the office of civil registration and give it to the employees there,” then he couldn’t hold himself anymore, smirked and shook with his head. “You are fast, really fast! I have no words!” and then he nodded to Burkut: “I’m afraid you have to wait a little bit, comrade Kuntuarov. I will finish with this lady first, and then we will talk with you”.
He finished with Marukey after almost one hour and looked really strange and confused after it, when Burkut was suddenly called to his office.

“Well,” the interrogator said when the questioning report was finally filled. “Tell me now, when did you leave your home today?”
“I left home early in the morning, very early,” Burlut replied puzzled.
“Yes,” the interrogator smirked. “It seems that you haven’t even read a newspaper? No? You didn’t have time? That’s okay. Here is today’s newspaper, have a look, please!” he searched in his table and handed the fresh newspaper to Burkut. “Red what is marked with the blue pencil,” he explained him and hid behind some papers.
Ten minutes later Burkut put the newspaper on the table and said:
“Yes… And the article’s name is “On a string of a class enemy…”
“What is your opinion about this article?” the interrogator asked.
Burkut pondered. Somehow he was strangely calm. He was that calm that he became even scared about it. Though, it always happened to him in the minutes of danger. The danger here was really grave and deadly. And he realized it very well.
“You see,” he started speaking, “I am accused of collaboration with this Karazhan, but of whit kind of collaboration? It’s hard to understand. For example, what can the following words and phrases say and explain? “So, Karazhan is exposed and defused. But there is another question we have to answer: how is it possible that this terrible enemy, former White Army soldier, officer, headsman and participant of the punitive expeditions could live and work among us for so long time, without being exposed? Idiotic desease of kindness and good nature is very infectious, but it’s not the matter in this case. What can we say, for example, about Burkut Kuntuarov, former member of the Alash Horde, whom Karazhan Aybasov helped to join the Proletarian Writers and Poets Association?” Then there are the entries about me. But what do they mean? It is said here that I paid him with the same coin. How is it? How is it that I paid Aybasov the same coin? How exactly? Did I accept him in the Writers’ Union, or what?”
“Do you know the author of this article?” the interrogator asked, changing the topic.
“That’s the matter that I know him,” Burkut replied. “I saw and heard him and Karazhan at the same day, and this day was very important and notable for me. It was a meeting and discussion regarding my future membership in the Writers’ Union. This Zholybekov delivered a speech during this meeting. I noticed him immediately”.
“Why? Did he speak against you?”
“No, on the contrary. He supported me and spoke for me,” Burkut went on saying. “Karazhan was strongly against my candidacy to be accepted, he reproached me and accused of committing all the possible and impossible sins. Zholybekov though supported me. But he was speaking with the general places and phrases. I didn’t understand what he was talking about after five minutes of his long speech. I remembered him forever then. And I can see now that it was worth it. He is the one who wrote this article about me”.
“And there is not a single true word in this article, isn’t it?” an interrogator asked.
“First of all, there is not a single word of a direct accusation,” Burkut responded. “Because if there are no evidences, facts and specific details in the accusation, it’s not even accusation anymore, it’s just abuse and quarrel. And quarrel doesn’t hang on one’s collar, as one Russian proverb says. It’s even hard to understand what did this comrade Zholybekov want to say with the phrase that Karazhan helped me to become a member of the Writers’ Union and I paid him with the same coin? Seriously, what is it? What can it mean? I have no idea. I really don’t know. If you know it, please, explain me”.
The interrogator started to laugh.
“No, I don’t know it too!” he said to Burkut with a wide smile. “You know what? Let me sign your pass! Good bye and have a nice day!”
Burkut didn’t go to the publishing house and editorial office. He came back home.
“I have a headache,” he told Olga. “I will lie down and have some rest a little bit. If somebody will call or come to see me, tell them that I’m out”. 
Burkut remembered those days later like a terrible nightmare. Everything happened completely the opposite way he expected the thing to happen. All the people did the things which were totally the opposite things to the ones Burkut waited from them. It seemed that they wanted to appear worse than they really are. And it’s worth mentioning that they were seccussful in it. In one word, many unpleasant things happened during the recent days, and each unpleasant thing made Burkut shiver.
A couple of days after the first visit to the prosecutor’s office, Burkut was summoned there again. This time the interrogator met Burlut very politely and even hospitably, and Burlut thought to himself that it was made with intention. He started from afar, asked Burkut about his literature and writing experience and work, asked about Burkut’s current projects and his plans for future, then he started to talk about very old and far times, about the case of Zhabagy, and then suddenly he asked him about Akpar. And it was a question even not about Akpar, but rather is Burkut sure that a murder of Hassan and Khanshaim was committed by Akpar? 
When Burkutn said that he is totally sure, the interrogator asked him: “Why?” Burkut told him everything again. He shared his ideas about this case and told the interrogator about his last phone conversation with Hassan. And he told also about his conversation with Khanshaim, right after Akpar’s visit to her. She said that Akpar threated her, when he was leaving: “Remember, my dear sister, how I came to you seeking for refuge and support, and you simply dismissed me and sent me away. Remember about it always”. Khanshaim was extremely worried and alarmed when she told it to Burkut. The murder happened several days after this conversation.
“Yes, it sounds convincing enough,” the interrogator said. “But anyway it’s not enough for the accusation. We cannot accuse a person basing only on these words. Okay, so was Akpar somewhere here, in Alma-Aty, during all these days between the last talk with his sister and this terrible murder? Right?” Burkut nodded. “Very well. Where did he live during all this time? Does he have any friends or acquaintances? Could he stay by Karazhan’s house? How do you think?”
Interrogator didn’t actually question Burkut, he was rather talking to him, and even not talking but rather asking him some questions, passionately, persistent, with a great interest. Burkut thought it might be something personal in it.
“No, I don’t know it,” Burkut replied. “I saw them once together, that’s true, it was long ago, in Akshatyr, and I told you about it, but I cannot tell you more about their possible friendship. You need the facts, not my suggestions…”
“Yes, exactly, I need the facts,” the interrogator said, nodding his head. “I need only facts and nothing else. So, it was assigned document-wise that Karazhan Aybason was absent in the town during these days, and Akpar could be by him. But his wife Marukey was in the town…” and he looked at Burkut with a meaning again. “Tell me, does this name tell you something?”
Burkut gave a shrug of his shoulders.
“If you mean t in this connection, then it doesn’t tell me anything,” he said.
“And there are no rumors or something in the city about it?”
“I personally haven’t heard anything about it,” Burkut replied. “There were many talks and rumors about Akpar, but in other connection”.
The interrogator rose and walked a little bit in his cabinet.
“Do you know at least something about this Marukey?” he asked her. “Have you seen her?”
“No, he definitely wants to get some specific information,” Burkut thought, “ and maybe it has even nothing to do with the interrogation”.
And he replied:
“I’ve seen her two times. First time I’ve seen her was fifteen years ago in Akshatyr, during a public holiday. The second time was here, at the corridor, when I was here lst time”.
The interrogator rubbed his hands.
“Thus, you don’t think and suggest that Akpar could be hiding by Marukey?” he asked.
“No, I just told you that I personally know nothing about it,” Burkut said in a response.
A questioning report was issued, and it was mentioned there that Burkut doesn’t know anything bad or controversial about Marukey and that he cannot even imagine that the murder of Hassan and Khanshaim could have some connections with this name. Burkut though said that he considers such a suggestion “unfounded and baseless”, but interrogator wrote it down as “impossible”. He explained: “It’s bad and maleficent to cast a shadow on a woman without any serious reasons”. Then he signed Burkut’s pass and told him: “Good bye, comrade Kuntuarov! We won’t bother you again!”
It was true. This interrogator didn’t summon Burkut anymore. There was though another interrogator, who summoned and questioned him, and his way of talking was completely different. It happened two months after the latest visit to the prosecutor’s office. There were two people in the cabinet. One of them was tall, another one was small. A tall man introduced himself to Burlut as a republican prosecutor for special cases. This conversation immediately became sharp and unfriendly.
“Why are you so sure and why do you guarantee that Akpar couldn’t spend these days in the house of Karazhan Aybasov? We have all the reasons to be sure that his wife received in her house the murderer during her husband’s absence. What do you know about it?”
Burkut shrugged:
“I know nothing about it”.
“But you write different things!” the prosecutor said in a tone, as if he just cursed. “Do you know that Feofanov is arrested? He married this Marukey. Not officially, of course… And he closed her case. Now this case is reopened, and you have to answer several questions about this issue again. Have a seat, please! We will fill the questioning report again. Your family name, first name, father’s name, date of birth, place of birth, your occupation…”
A small man sat silently, looked at Burkut and smiled. He had very bad and unpleasant smile, this small man… It looked like he knew something very bad.
…Burkut came back late, and it was dark and empty in his soul. He felt really desolated. He thought almost for the first time in his life of getting drunk. And then his little daughter rushed to him.
“Daddy!” she said happily. “Daddy, look what I’ve got today!” and she showed him her school diary. There was a “two” mark there.
“That’s a note, daddy!” Zura shouted in agitation, looking closely into her father’s face, trying to guess his possible reaction.
He smiled, caressed her hair, kissed her in the forehead and told her softly:
“Congratulations with your first school mark, my darling!”
He went to the publishing house next morning. He went there concentrated and ready for any possible battle and argument with an editor. But he was met and received normally and friendly. A worker responsible for the publishing production even grabbed him and dragged him to the art section, because some details and illustrations appeared to be incomplete. Burkut checked everything and corrected some mistakes and went home calm and released.
In the middle of the night though he jumped from the bed and ran barefoot to the window. He thought that he heard a noise of motor. Somebody’s car stopped under their window. The entrance door clapped, and Burkut waited at the window till the moment when a taxi driver went out of the house, and there was a woman with him. She was their neighbor. The woman was sobbing, sniveling and tried to convince the taxi driver in something, but he only nodded and grinned. Their neighbor’s husband was a drunkard. He was brought home again. Their neighbor was crying and sobbing. Burlut sighed and left the window released. “I’m getting mad,” he thought to himself strangerly calm. “And there’s nothing more. I’m just going crazy. I have to sleep a little bit”. He came back to the bed but he couldn’t fall asleep.

A convict from the cell number forty-eight was summoned at an unusual time, late in the night. He walked along the prison corridor and thought of what could happen. He thought that maybe something really strange and unbelievable happen, maybe he will be shown some new and unexpected materials now. For example, he will be accused of Hassan’s and his wife’s murder. But everything was much simpler. He was convoyed through the network of the long prison corridors to the opposite side of the building, then he was taken up with an elevator, then he went downstairs, and then finally his guard knocked at the high door, lined with the black oil cloth. 
It was bright like in the day in this room. The carpets were everywhere around, a book-case stood at the wall. A man, who rose from the table, was a complete stranger.
“Let’s introduce ourselves!” he said calmly. “My name is Gavrilov, I am a deputy of the People’s Commissioner. Take a seat place! You can sit at this table. Feel free to smoke if you wish! How are you feeling?”
“What does he want?” Karazhan thought and replied that he feels actually well, but this uncertainty and unknown is really hard, as the interrogation is too long, and there are no results till now.
Gavrilov listened to him and nodded from time to time.
“I have actually summoned you to come here for that,” he suddenly said. “We are planning to finish investigation this month, but there are some details which I’d like to clear with you, if you don’t mind. For example,” he went on speaking, “you often mention the name of Burkut as you direct associate. But despite your flatness there are no evidences of it. Tell me how, when and under what circumstances did you meet and know each other?”
Karazhan pondered and then answered that they met for the first time in the Kazakh Association of the Proletarian Writers and Poets. 
“But how did it happened?” the interrogator went on asking. “You are not a member of the Kazakh Association of the Proletarian Writers and Poets”.
Karazhan became deadlocked for a moment. Nobody asked him the questions like that before. His testimony was the most important thing: this one participated in this thing, this one knew that one, this one is associate of that one etc.
“We got acquainted during the meeting regarding his membership in the Kazakh Association of the Proletarian Writers and Poets,”Karazjan replied. “It was…” he stopped before ton reply. When you lie, it’s very easy to be tabled with the dates, names and events, especially when it’s about the details. But Gavrilov interrupted him:
“It is not so important, how exactly it was,” he said. “The most important is what this meeting was like? What did you do about it? Did you recommend Burkut for this Association, or what?”
“He is trying to catch me,” Karazhan thought and responded:
“I couldn’t recommend him as I myself wasn’t a member of this organization. But I supported him, of course”.
“How did you support him? Verbally?”
“Yes, exactly. Verbally”.
Gavrilov foraged among the papers for some time, then found one document, took it out of the folder and handed it to Karazhan.
“Is it your handwriting?” he asked.
“In addition to the above,” Karazhan wrote in the letter addressed to the chairman of the Kazakh Association of the Proletarian Writers and Poets, “I’d like to say something about the possibility of accepting Burkut as a member of an association. Burkut Kuntuarov is actually a student of a so called poet Akhan, who is infamous for his clear anti-Soviet propaganda and activities. Burkut Kuntuarov is an echo of that old bay’s poetry, which is totally hostile towards the Soviet ideology and the proletarian revolution…”
“Damn it! I’ve written it and I forgot about it!” Karazhan thought in dismay. “Who could know that this piece of paper will be saved?”
“What can you say about that?” Gavrilov asked. “How could you comment it?”
Karazhan was left nothing but to simply give a shrug of his shoulders.
“Well,” Gavrilov said, rose from the table and came closer to Karazhan. “The matter is,” he went on speaking in the same soft and friendly tone, “that I know Burkut very well. I’ve arrested him long ago and then released him. It means that all materials of yours were studied and examined extremely carefully by myself. Why did you need to embarrass and entangle this man? You didn’t know him at all, hence you tried desperately to break and destroy his life and his future! And do you know why did you do that? Because he was not your man, he was ours, and you felt it. Listen, are you still going to continue entangling the investigation?”
Karazhan kept silent stubbornly.
Gavrilov took a cigarette, but he didn’t start to smoke it. He just took it close to his mouth and just forgot it in his hand.
“One more question,” he said. “Do you remember Kuntuarov’s article about Zhabagy?”
“Yes, I do,” Karazahn replied dejected and bleak.
“Zhabagy was convicted and received a death penalty. He was executed. Do you remember it?” the prosecutor said. “He was your close relative. What do you think: could a man like you and with your character forgive someone such an article about his close relative? Wouldn’t he turn into this person’s mortal enemy?”
When Karazhan was sent back to his prison cell, deputy of the People’s Commissioner had the following document on his table:
“I do certify hereby that all my accusations of the poet Burkut Kuntuarov are baseless and do not correspond with the reality. They were invented by me for my personal goals”.
“That’s finally truth,” Gavrilov said and picked up the phone. 
Burkut didn’t know it all. He didn’t know also that his arrest warrant was already in the table of Gavrilov, and the only one thing missing was a signature of the deputy minister.
But exactly this signature wasn’t obtained.
But it was obtained for the paper about sending of the professor’s case for the reinvestigation. A sharp and striking everything out inscription stood on the folder with his case’s papers: “Release due to the absence of components of crime. It’s nonsense! The fourth investigator and no fault!”
That was how Burkut survived the winter. Then spring finally came.
IV
The Kazakhs have such a proverb: “A gried has gray hair in its beard, while a joy has a sun in its eyes”. Burkut even grew younger again during the recent two years.
A tree, survived a steppe drought, changes and transforms like this. He saw the giant construction sites everywhere around him, and these constructions changed the face of his country once and for all, and he believed that everything will good in the future. He worked hard, putting out strength and sparing no effort, and he never felt himself so young and vivacious, like he felt himself after a long working night spent at the writing table. 
One month before the described events he arrived finally in the Konyr Aygy mines of Nurlan. Nurlan worked as a director for several years and invited his friend to visit him every summer (he called him respectfully “aga” in all his letters, what means “an elder brother”, though their age difference wasn’t that big), but “aga” or “akyn-aga”, as he also called him, still couldn’t manage to find the time to come, despite the fact that he promised it every year.
And noe he finally managed to do it. But to be more precisely, it was not exactly vacation, as this trip was also one of his responsibilities and tasks. The mines turned into the real town, and now not only Russians and Kazakhs worked there, as it was before, but also Ukrainians, Belorussians, Tatars, Kalmyks and many others. Burkut was actually going to write a poem about this friendly and perfectly coordinated work of these people. The initial name of the poem was “The folks’ friendship”, but it scared him a little bit with its conventionalism. “Actually the name is not only among the most important things,” he always said, “it’s also the latest thing. The most important though is writing”.
And he couldn’t complain. His writing work was good, and he had inspiration and was keen to work. The poem was ready during one month. This poem grew like a building, brick after brick, floor after floor, block after block. One more week, and the poem will be completely finalized. And then suddenly one thing happened, which was unimportant at all at the first sight, but Burkut paid attention to it. He had a dream (he worked all night long and fell asleep only at dawn). He saw in the dream that the three of them: Akhan, Akpar and him – sat at the same room, where this terrible accident happened, and their teacher jumped out of the window. They were arguing about something, and then suddenly Akpar hopped from his place and grabbed Burkut’s throat. He saw a face, pale from the hatred, he saw jumping and moving jaw muscles, he heard his croaking voice. Then he turned to his teacher and he didn’t see him anymore. Their teacher just disappeared somewhere, and the room was getting darker and darker, and then suddenly thunder was heard. Total darkness seized everything around, and somebody invisible was shouting something threatening and scary, it sounded like a horrible song, which sounded like a croaking and rattling. The soldier’s steps were heard clearly behind the window. 
Akpar went on strangling him and shouting:
“Do you still want to write your stupid silly poems, huh? Do you? Do you want to praise the new regime and the new rules? No, you won’t! We will destroy you and the likes of you! We will declare a war against you! Do you understand it? A war! A war! You will never ever hide from it!”
He strangled Burkut stronger and stronger, and Burkut felt that he gasped and chocked. 
He woke up from his own shout. Nurlan stood next to him and shook carefully his shoulder.
“What happened to you, Burkut-aga?” he asked uneasy. “Did you have a nightmare?”
Burkut raised his heavy head from the pillow, looked at his friend and said:
“That was some nonsense, nothing serious!”
And then he told Nurlan shortly about his dream. 
Nurlan shook with his head:
“The dream is scary, but God is merciful, the Russians say,” he said. “It’s really nonsense! A dream is a dream. Maybe you got too tired yesterday and you need some rest now”.
“Maybe you are right,” Burkut replied emotionless. “Maybe I was really too tired…”
“That’s most probably,” Nurlan agreed. “But maybe it was something important about Akpar… The friends like him only wait a moment to attack and to strike from the back. Our life is really uneasy and dangerous now… A brown plague comes close and closer…”
“If only there would be one brown plague,” Burut sighed. “But here are Japan, Italy, even Finnland… It seems there will be a war, really… The question is only: are we ready for such a war? There are millions of the likes as Akpar”.
“I think there are more friends in the world though,” Nurlan smiled calmly. He was sure that they won’t be caught unaware. He looked at his watches. “I think it’s time to go for me,” he said and went to the door, but stopped there. “Don’t be afraid of anything, akyn-aga,” he told Burkut. “Keep working and don’t think of the enemies. We are stronger, believe me!”
Nurlan left, and Burkut sat silent, deep in his thoughts. 
“That’s true,” he thought, “but that’s only the words till now… It’s necessary to trust your friends, but it’s impossible and its’ not enough to hope only for them and their help and support. The best steal doesn’t stand too much pressure sometimes! But at the same time: what can we know about the things yet to come?”
These ideas and thoughts seized him for the whole day. At the evening he went to one of his favorite places at the shore of the lake Konyr Aygyr. Here he sat on his favorite stone and fell deep into his thoughts.
Suddenly he heard a deep and almost trumpet sound. He raised his head and saw a swan singing. Burkut stood up and looked closely. Two white beautiful birds swam along the plain surface of the lake. They swam and talked to each other on their mysterious bird’s language. Each sound of their voices could be heard clearly in the deep silence of the lake. And Burlut remembered: he saw the swans first time in his life here, on this lake, something like ten years ago. It happened that summer when they rode here together with Arin (where could he be now? Burkut wondered) to the aul and met a geologists’ party. Burlut became famous this year. People started to sing his songs and to recite his poems. But his most popular artwork was his poem “Don’t shoot a white swan”. He wrote this poem right after he saw this beautiful lake for the first time. Swan is a sacred and holy bird for the Kazakh people, and it’s a big and terrible sin to shoot it. If somebody will kill a swan, it was a real tragedy. Kazakhs’ love to the swans has a lot in sommon with the British love to the mallemuk. The one who will kill this bird will bring a gried and misfortune upon his head. British poet Coleridge wrote a poem about it at the beginning of the twentieth century. This poen is known for every educated person. Burkut has read it too, but this grim and dark clolouring of this poem, all its icebergs and snows, didn’t have any impact of the poem of Burkut. His poem was clear, sad and lyrical. The one who reads it feels that he or she breathes the steppe air. Two swans were swimming peacefully and calmly together at the lake, at a dusk time, but then a stranger appeared and he killed a bird. He didn’t know and he even didn’t want to know the orders and rules of the steppe. That’s why his shot destroyed the harmony of the nature. The sky darkened and the storm started. Then there was a sad song of a lonely swan that lost its soulmate. This swan has lost his faithful friend and he was crying because of her, asking Allah to punish the murderer. This man has stolen the lakes beauty, peace and harmony; he took the customs and traditions of the local people and destroyed the peace of the steppe. 
This poem appeared to be that turning point of the beginning of Burkut’s poet’s fame. The swan’s crying and cursing of the murderer were put on the music. Burkut was being called a singer of the steppe and a keeper of its eternal silence and beauty.
Of course, it was like this that time. But now Burkut thought a little bit different about that old poem of his, about these swan’s songs and prasing the harmony of steppe. Peace! Silence! Are they the most important things in this world and in ourlife? He saw the same lake in front of him now, and the swans were swimming on its surface again. And it’s a couple, and they are singing. But at the same time there was not a single shot but a cannonade of them was heard here now. The mountains were exploded. The mines were created. The roads and the railroads were laid here. The towns and settlements were erected. A new big city emerged here in the middle of the vast steppe, and there are houses, factories here, there are tourists visiting it. Hundreds and thousands of young Kazakh people arrive here every year to work. Did Konyr Aygyr loose its beauty and peacefulness because of these changes? And what about the steppe? Did it loose its beauty and harmony? Not at all! Didn’t they believe a human? Didn’t they settle here hundreds of swans’ couples? They settle here now and nobody has an idea to kill them! 
And there are not only the Kazakhs who preserve beauty and silence of this steppe. There is a Russian shepherd-bay sits on the hill. Doesn’t he love this steppe dearly? Everybody loves beauty, beauty is a general force. Then he suddenly rememberd another thing: he remembered Hassan’s and Khanshaim’s funeral. The entire city came to commemorate the slain couple. Two people marched on the head of the column, in front of the tow coffins: him and old Takerjan. A huge crowd followed them. There were soldiers, workers, kolkhoz workers, scientists, students here. There were Tatars and Baskirs, Kazakhs and Kalmyks, Russians and Ukrainians here. Many people cried and sobbed. An orchestra performed Chopin. And grief of this Polish man, who died long ago and far away from here, was also easy to understand and close for everybody here. The real grief and sorrow, mourning for the young people who left this world too early, is clear and close for everybody. It’s universal. Try to write about it! Try to describe it! And try to write it the way that it will touch the soul of everybody: of a Kazakh, of a Russian, of a soldier, of an engineer, of everybody! Let everybody hear and feel this funeral march!
He thought about it and looked at the lake waters. Several minutes passed like this. The Russian boy brought his cows and sheep back to the villages and settlements already, the sun set, and the water turned from the blue into golden first, then it became pink, then red, then purple, and then finally back. Burkut still sat silent and motionless on the lake shore and thought about many things. Suddenly it seemed to him that somebody approached him from the back. Burkut turned around rapidly. A tall and straight man, dressed in a black hood stood there and looked at Burkut. “It’s someone familiar,” Burkut thought puzzled. “But I cannot remember this man… Who could it be? And I guess I’ve seen this moustache somewhere…”
“Burkut-aga!” a man greeted him. “Hello!”
“Hello!” Burkut replied, rising from the stone he sat on. “I’m afraid I cannot recognize you… Arin!” he exclaimed suddenly.
A man smiled.
“Is it that difficult to recognize me now?” he asked with a smile. “It’s Arin, right! As for you, you almost didn’t change,” he came closer to Burkut and stretched his hand to him. Burkut shook his hand strongly. Arin added: “I’m really very happy to see you healthy, Burkut-aga!”
There was a short and uncomfortable pause.
“How did it happen that you are here, dear friend?” Burkut asked him. “I thought that you are still there, not here”.
“I am still there, that’s true,” Arin replied. “I left then long ago with Karymsak and I stayed there. But I travel here from time to time, but I usually don’t stay for a long time here. I arrange my business here and go back to China,” he winked. “The circumstances have changed”.
Burkut looked at him and couldn’t take his eyes off him.
“Why you came now, can you tell me?” he asked.
“I will tell you a little bit later,” Arin replied.
“Okay, deal,” Burkut said. “Well, tell me now, how are you there? How did you settled down there?”
Arin smirked:
“How do the people settle down in a strange country? Bad, of course”.
“That’s interesting!” Burlut exclaimed. “I thought though that you left Kazakhstan and went there to your relatives! I’ve heard before that you usually roam along the Altai Mountains, upstream the Black Irtysh. Isn’t it true?”
“It’s true”.
“So what’s the matter then? Your families Nayman and Keren roam there for centuries! It’s more than thousand years since the Kazakhs pasture and tend their cattle there!”
Arin smirked again:
“What’s the purpose of it? The masters say that everything here belongs to us. They could relocate all of us long ago, but there is always no time! First of all, they’ve got some quarrels andclashes between each other, and the second thing: we live very high in the nountains, so it’s hard to get us”.
Burkut shook with his head.
“Do you know a Kazakh proverb: “Where a rat can climb, a snake can crawl”,” Burkut told him. “No, the mountains won’t save you, my friend… Another thing: if only the people’s authority will prevail there…”
“This people’s authorities don’t like and welcome us so much,” Arin sighed. “It won here, but we were forced to escape it to the far lands”.
Burkut looked at him and shook with his head again:
“But it was not you who was forced to escape, but Karymsak, you, little fool!” he said with a soft smile. “He just took you like one of his things with him, don’t you understand it? He just took you with him and traveled to the new place. And the masters will find you even in the mountains, believe me! It’s not the first time for them to chase and slaughter the entire folks! Did you hear of what happened in China in 1756?”
Arin waved his hands in dismay.
“How can I know it?” he sighed again. “We aren’t educated like you here! Maybe the old people know about it…”
“Of course, the old people knoe about it,” Burkut agreed, “but I have doubts that they will tell it o you. You live though on the brink of a precipice, my dear friend. The lands collapse right under your feet every year, and you don’t even notice it! There was Zungharia once, a great and powerful empire. It occupied the whole north-east of China. And then a Chinese emperor had a quarrel with the rulers of this Zungharia in this notorious 1756. And he gave an order: “Destroy the entire Zungharia Empire and let its people perish”. And the entire empire was really destroyed, as they didn’t have mercy for anybody, they’ve killed everybody, even children, women and old people. All of them. They spared only some young women, the prettiest ones, and took them as slaves. There was an end of Zungharia. There were only ashes remaining after it next summer. Don’t ever forget it! I wish you won’t recall my words in your life! I hope you won’t experience something like that!”
(Arin recalled Burkut’s words after fifteen years, when the entire aul of Karymsak, which consisted of several hundreds of hungry and shoeless people, croose the border again and appeared already in the Soviet Kazakhstan. They had to pay with grief and deaths for their treason, but there were fifteen years to pass before it happened, and there were really hard fifteen years).
“I hope Allah won’t allow it,” Arin repeated. “We escaped the wind and it seems that we got right in the epicenter of a hurricane. I think it wouldn’t be that easy for Karymsak now to convince us to relocate. People live better here, that’s plain like a day. I walked here around and saw it with my own eyes”.
“That’s fine! Stay here then!” Burkut offered hin sincerely.
Arin winded a head round short and resolute. 
“It will not work!” he said. “Akpar took my brother hostage as a guarantee that I will be back in time. He told me that if I won’t be back in time, my brother won’t live”.
“Akpar!” Burkut grabbed Arin’s ahoulder and didn’t even notice it. “Does it mean that he is alive?”
“Of course he is!” Arin sneered. “He is the first man among us! He just came back after his trip. He was somewhere in Europe. People say he visited Berlin. He seleced a dozen of our dzhigits and sent them somewhere. People sya he sent them for study”.
“To study what?” Burkut asked.
“I don’t know!” Arin replied. “Could Akpar teach something good? Some criminal affairs, I suppose. He will learn them and then will send then here, just like me”.
“Okay, okay,” Burkut ran his hand over his face, trying to recollect his thoughts. “Well, well,” he said, “let’s go and sit there. There is so much news at once! So, it was him who sent you here…”
“Yes, he did”, Arin replied.
“Why?”
“For you and Marukey”.
“What for?”
“He wants you both to come to him”.
“Well, well…” Burkut smiled. “Have you ever seen Marukey?”
“I’ve seen her once,” Arin replied.
“And what did she tell you?”
Arin smiled ironically.
“She replied me really strongly,” he smiled. “She told me: “Damn you and your Akpar!” And she told there are enough men for her in the town”.
Burkut laughed:
“That’s great! And that was how you left her?”
“Yes. I turned around and left”.
“So, you fulfilled your task”.
“No, not exactly. I had thought to shot her down in case she will refuse,” Arin said simply.
“Well, well,” Burkut said. “What about me? Were there the same instructions regarding me?”
“Of course!”
“It sounds promising,” Burkut smirked. “So, you came to me with this task”.
Burkut glanced at him and decided fast what he had to do.
“What to do?” he sighed. “Okay then fulfill your duty”.
“What are you saying, Burkut-aga?” Arin shouted in alarm. “I have only one bullet! I save it for myself. But it will be there. I have to come back. Akpar sticks to his word in the cases like that!”
“Is he that powerful there?”
“Of course he is!” Arin exclaimed. “How else, Burkut-aga? He is though the only one heir of Karymsak! And Karymsak ows two thousand heads of cattle and horses! And what horses! Everbody looks at him like at god there. Once he point at somebody, and this person doesn’t live anymore. Do you know how many masters in these affairs does he have there? I was unable to bring him your heads, so what to do? I will bring him mine int this case. And another thing,” he smiled sadly. “It’s calmer here now, but anyway, there is a war here. I was at the auls, I’ve asked people and I know it. There is a disorder among the Kazakhs. I am a stranger here now… So, I don’t really care who will bring me death, the local people or Akpar and Karymsak there… I don’t really care…”
Burkut kept silent for a while. 
“Okay,” he finally said. “Come back there. Come back there, to a strange land. But remember always that you were born here, not there, and you belong here. You cannot bring your native soil on your shoes to the strange lands. That was how one wise man said when he was offered to escape somewhere abroad. And remember also that all our greatest people and teachers – Abay, Chokan, Irbay – all of them were born here, lived here, died here and buried here as well. And they called on the Kazakhs not to escape the Russians but to be friends with them. Thus, if there will be a chance for you to escape, come to me. You are always welcome in my home, dear Arin. I will support you in anything. Here is my word to you! Bring your wife as well, We will receive her like our dear sister”.
Arin smiled sadly:
“I’m not married, Burkut-aga,” he replied. “It’s not that easy there. I had to get married this year, but it didn’t work,” he hesitated for a while and then added: “Akpar promised me to bring a bride for me and to give me also several dozens of horses as a wedding gift, if I will bring him your head! Do you see how unlucky am I? Farewell!”
He turned around silently and walked away. His shape disappeared totally in the fog after several minutes.
“Arin, take care of yourself!” Burkut shouted to his back, understanding that he had to shout him something as a parting word, but he didn’t know what it could be.
And suddenly darkness responded to him somewhere very close:
“Thank you! Thank you so much!”
Burkut went home. The moon was high in the dark sky already, and many white, blue, red and green fires and lights appeared between the hills. The mines were working there, the settlement and the city lived their life.
“That was the reason of this terrible dream about Akpar, I think,” Burkut thought. “The dream comes true! He might be thinking of me during these days and trying to understand whose side will I take in those upcoming battle? I will answer him with my new poem. There will be several verses for him. I will write it with the letters of his name: Akpar Karymsak!”
And he thought also:
“And Arin will be fine. He understood many things already. Soon he will realize everything! I hope that everything will be fine…”
V
The vultures came one year later. The war started. Burlut became a travelling correspondent of a local newspaper. He was at the Leningrad forefront at the beginning and wrote the novels and essays about the special Kazakh unit, fighting till death somewhere close to Nevel. Then, after his articles were published in a collection of the best military essays and reports and were translated into several foreign languages abroad, he was invited to the editorial office of a “Red Star” newspaper and he was given there his new reporter’s pass. 
I’ve heard that you were planning to write a book,” an editor told him. “So it looks like I interrupt your main work, but believe me, the book will wait for us. The time still didn’t come for it. But it will come. You can give it to us in parts, as essays and little novels; we will publish them in our new issues. And here there will be a book! As for the big and deep philosophic novels and things like that, believe me, my dear friend, your time will come! Leo Tolstoy expressed his memories about the war twelve years after this war, and he wrote his “Sevastopol novels” right after the battles. Do you understand this example?” 
“I do,” Burkut replied and went to the forefront as a military newspaper reporter. He was together with this unit during the long time and he was with it also during the hard path of retreat. He was with it during the Stalingrad battle and then at the great battle at the Kursl Salient. 
Germans invented their super-powerful tank “Tiger” for the first time then, and they started to use it in the battles. That’s why the book Burlut wrote was called “Hunting the tigers”. It was successful and translated into several foreign languages as well.
One very memorable event happened with him that time. He worked as an editor of a field newspaper that time and he just finished sending the final materials for the next issue to the editiorial office that night, when he was suddenly waken up. He came to his senses and woke up because someone stood at his bed and repeated loud:
“Comrade Kuntuarov, your presence is requested immediately at the headquarters. There is a representative of the General Headquarters there”.
Burkut jumped out of his bed immediately.
It was a colonel’s adjutant. 
A big battle for one city, where the strong power of an enemy were located, was just finished yesterday. The so called Turkestani Legion was fighting for this region and this city together with the Germans, and Kazakh, Kirgiz and Tajik languages were heard every day around. Al of it was terrible and disgusting, and Burkut was literally suffering from this dreary anger and terrible inconvenience. How was it possible to lie that terribly! To speak such a language! To invent so unbelievable stories! Once he even heard Zhakan Syzdykov’s voice, a voice of an old and sick Kazakh poet, who he knew very well since his time in Alma-Aty and whose letter he received recently. “Oh my God, what the idiots!” he thought. “They are not even the beasts or the murderers! They are first of all terrible idiots! What did they wait for?”
He wanted to howl wistfully when he heard an anchor’s voice.
And then the battle finally happened yesterday. And this accursed voice was silenced at last. But Burkut was so exhausted that he hardly walked and moved. He was buggered not even by the battle itself, but the things followed this battle: questioning of the war prisoners, gathering and transporting the wounded, arrival of the command, correspondence for the central newspaper, which had to be finalized fast and unexpectedly, shortening the most important moments and ideas, because the crew was leaving very soon. The tired and exhausted soldiers were listening to the gramophone music during several days. There was a case full of the phonograph records at the German headquarters, and there were even several plates with two or three Kazakh operas. Kulash was singing day and night, and the room was always filled with the soldiers. Thus, Burkut hardly slept during the latest three days. He slept only several hours maybe. And now, sending everybody away and finilising his tasks, he laid down on this uncomfortable coach and took a nap, as this young officer appeared.
Burlut continued sleeping, while he was getting dressed and preparing to meet the Command members. He was still sleeping while he was walking along the street and coming to the building of the headquarters, and he was sleeping while he was waiting to be called. He heard the officers reporting about the battle and its outcomes. Then he suddenly heard a dry and very familiar voice: “Oh, Burkut! I am waiting for him, let him come in!” and only then his sleeping disappeared.
General sat at the table and listened to the reports. I military lawyer stood in front of him. When Burlut entered, general waved him with his hand, saying: “One moment, please!” and started to search for something amonf his papers. About five minutes passed like this, and then general finally put his hand on the pile of papers and said:
“That’s all. If you will reply them this way, I think, they will be okay with it. Good bye, dear friend! There is a guests arrived to see me!..”
He looked at Burkut and laughed:
“Of course, you didn’t recognize me, dear comrade. But I recognized you immediately! You haven’t changed at all. Though I grew older and became more serious now, I suppose. How old are you? If it’s not a secret, of course. Are you elder then forty?”
“I’m forty three,” Burkut replied.
“A boy! I am fifty nine already! One more year, and I will turn sixty!” a general complained merrily and then referred to the captain again: “That’s all, we will wait for their reply now,” he said, “and send this message immediately! Report me once he the reply will come!”
“Yes, sir!”  Captain replied and left the room.
 General stared at Burkut. 
“You cannot recognize and remember me till now,” he said with certainty. “Do you remember Akshatyr?”
Of course I do,” Burkut muttered. “But, one second…”
“Do you remember 1926? Summer? Do you remember the conversation at the General Prosecution Office?” he went on saying. “You just left our office, and then suddenly it started to rain heavily. You became totally wet!”
“Oh my God…” Burkut muttered again. “Comrade Gavrilov! Is it you?”
“Of course it’s me!” Gavrilov exclaimed merrily. “Have a seat, please! Well done, comrade Burkut, well done! You are a great writer and a great reporter as well! Your articles and reports are wonderful! Once I’ve read your article about Zhabagy long ago, I told: he is on the right track! Now it will be hard to convince him to leave or change it! And I was right! Have a seat, please, dear Burkut! The furniture here is made from an oak and decorated with the lions’ ornaments. It’s really very nice! Have a seat, please!”
“If only you could know, how much I owe you!” Burkut exclaimed.
 General gave a wink to him and smiled.
“I know, I know,” he said. “But you might not know it. I was destined to meet your name at least two times during ten years. First time I met it during the investigation of the Zhabagy’s case. That’s clear, I think. The prosecutor used your article in his prosecutor’s charge! As for the second time, everything was much more complicated. Did you know some Karazhan?”
“I knew him, but not so close,” Burkut replied. “But he caused a lot of trouble to me! He was executed, if I’m not mistaken”.
“No, he received ten years in prison,” Gavrilov responded. “But he didn’t make it till the camp. He was killed by the fellow cellmates. He made an evil jokes with them as well, but they deal easily and fast with the likes of Karazhan. Thus, he was killed. So, you say that he caused you a lot of troubles? Of course, he was your mortal enemy! This accused Zgabagy was like a father to him! I think he was the one who taught Karazhan to cut off the heads”.
“To cut off the heads?” Bukut didn’t get it.
“Yes, exactly! That’s what he did very well!” a general said. “There was only one person who knew about it. And this person revealed everything. This Karazhan was a headsman of a chieftain. Nobody was so skilled in cutting the heads off with the only one stroke, like Karazhan. Thus Dutov made him closer to himself. And this headsman worked diligently for him. He wasn’t afraid of the eyewitnesses. All his eyewitnesses were buried already. Here is the story”.
“So, there was no one left alive?” Burkut asked.
“No, the one was finally found at the end. He was an old guard. He was arrested over another case. But he decided to reveal this. He probably wanted to get indulgency or something like that. Of course, his tale isn’t final evidence, as Karazhan obtained really serious position. I was working during more than a year with this case! I was searching in the archives, comparing different documents, sending Karazhan’s cards to different addresses. There were very little real participants and eyewitnesses of those events, who still remained alive, so it was really hard. But we found some people. The stories of those old years, especially in Kazakhstan, were so intricate and entangled! I think we will be still meeting more and more surprises in the future! Okay, here is another case,” general said in a serious tone, took his smoking pipe and summoned a “Bee”.
“I wish I could be present during the questioning of this prisoner,” he said about this prisoner with the nickname “Bee”. “I and another person as well. No, no, you cal hold a questioning, and I will just sit here and listen to it,” he turned to Burkut. “It seems I will show you some really special today!” he told him. “Yes, this case is very old, that’s true, but when this Karazhan was in our hands, he tried hard to misinform and entangle us, calling you his accomplice. But then this case was given to me, and I had a notion about him and about you as well, and I knew how hostile he was towards you. I was familiar with the case of his step-father Zhabagy in the smallest details. Thus, when I summoned him for the testimony, we found common ground with him very soon. Karazhan is a clever and experienced man and he understood it very fast that there is nothing to wait and hope for. He was really a clever one. That’s how it happened to him. I just pressured him a little bit, and he told me the truth”. 
General told Burkut fast the story happened nearly seven years ago. Burlut didn’t know all of the details and could only guess about it. Once they finished their conversation, the phone started to ring. General picked up the phone.
“Is it done? That’s very well!” he said. “We are coming soon!” and he touched Burkut’s shoulder lightly. “Be ready to meet your fellow countryman,” he told him. “The matter is that we have captured their anchor. He says that he is Tatar, but I hardly believe him. He is either Kazakh or Kirgiz. I have one another suspicions as well, but it’s my personal one. Let’s go, you will see everything yourself!”
Of course it was a Kazakh, and Burkut even knew who exactly it was. He spoke easily and good, his pronouncation and articulation were perfect, and his voice was good. He even didn’t speak, he delievered a speech, he actually performed.
“Well, we know it very well, what did you teach you people and your folk,” a general suddenly said. “But I should disappoint you. First of all, you haven’t invented and found out anything new and original, as it’s a typical emigrant’s talk. Armenian dashnaks tell the same things to his people, same for Georgians and many others. And if to be fair, you were captured by the soldiers of the National brigade! I came here together with a Kazakh as well. He is a writer and he writes on his language. Thus, you won’t probably tell him this fairy-tale of yours about destroying of the national language, national traditions and customs. And you probably won’t tell him about destruction of a term “Kazakh” as well. It doesn’t matter how do you call yourself, but the only think which is national in you is your form. It’s contains are anti-Soviet. If this man has the same luggage…”
German, tall, slender and arrogant, smiled and shook with his head. 
“I am rasist, I am not a Nationalist, Herr General,” he replied. “It’s a big difference!”
“I assume it’s clear for me!” general laughed. “But what’s the connection? Okay, you are a race of the masters. You are a Nordic race, that’s good. Everything good in this world belongs to you. I understand it. You will either kill us all or force us to become your slaves and work for you hard. But who is him? If you are Übermensch and I am Untermensch, what about him? Who he is? And what will he get as a result of your new world order?”
“He will get his country,” a German replied and touched his glasses. “As a faithful son of his people, he will take an appropriate place in his country”.
“It means that he is also one of your slaves, and you will find a place for him,” a general said. “Of course! Colonialism survives not only with the help of a lash and patronage, but also with the help of such half-repltilia! Okay. I am interested in another thing now. It’s not for the questioning, it’s for myself. What are you holing for? When you started this war against us, what was your expectation?” Captain gave a cough and moved his chair. This question clearly didn’t pass the questioning. Though, he was already accustomed to the general’s extravagancies.
“What do you mean?” German asked arrogantly, raising his head. “I don’t understand you”.
“I will explain you now,” General went on saying. “Look. When you dragged Soviet Union to this war, hoped for the friendship of our people and for their common interests. We don’t have a race of the masters, as we don’t have a race of the servants. I am Russian, I fight for my home, and he is a Kazakh, he fights for his home. He fights also for me, because I fight for him. What for will a Kazakh, a Polish, a Czech or a French man fight on your army, tell me? For your superiority? For your order? For their own defeat? You are the masters’ race, while they will be only canon fodder. What can the canon fodder fight for? For their own grave? Can’t you see that your acting armies turn more and more into the convoy troops, and the countries you conqured turn into the concentration camps? You destroy the whole folks there! Here you defeated Europe, but what’s the purpose? You got two hundred million enemies who hate you terribly and whom you are forced to guard. They chained your soldiers and froze them on their territories. You will conquer the entire republics here as well, but you won’t be able to walk normally here. Every tree prepares a coffin for you! What do you hope for?”
German smiled sarcastically.
“”Oh now, the things aren’t that bad and hopeless for us here,” he said. “It’s not like you imagine it, Red general. This man grew up to the nationalism, and it means that our paths are somehow common. In order to become a real and faithful rasist one need to become a good nationalist first. Nationalism and Nazism are the first stages of the great theory and idea”.
“Yes,” Burlut thought. “That’s exactly the same what came to my mind long ago as well… A scientific excuse! It could be found for each corpse, for each drop of blood and for each crime!”
“Comrade General!” he referred to Gavrilov. “May I address my fellow countryman?”
Gavrilov nodded in approval.
“Hello, Akpar,” he said to him. “I’ve recognized you at the first sight. Once I’ve entered this room, I understood that it’s you. I sat here and thought that I probably could be here, on this chair, as well, just like you, and I could say the same nonsense you are saying now. I started though the same like you…” he thought for a moment and then went on: “Yes, probably it could really happen, if only not this hand which supported me,” he nodded to Gavrilov. “This hand supported me and I’ve heard: “Your fate belongs to you, go and think. You stand on the wild and distant shore, you have to swim and cross the dark night river in order to join your people, it will be very dangerous passage, of course, but you should do that. You should do that if you want to remain a human being! You should do it ifn you simply want to live!”
Silence fell in the room. Captain looked puzzled now at Burkut and then at the prisoner. And only the prisoner still stood motionless in front of the interrogator’s table, putting his hands behind his back.
“That’s Akpar!” a general wondered. “He is…” he looked at the captain. “How is he registered in our lists?”
“He gave us another name!” a captain replied. 
“Hello, Burkut!” Akpar suddenly said clear and loud. “I’ve never thought and imagined we will meet under such circumstances! I won’t give you my hand, as I know it for sure, you won’t shake it”.
“You are right, I won’t,” Burkut replies. 
“So, you are sitting now, and I’m standing in front of you, I am a prisoner,” Akpar said. “An old song says: “A fate plays with a man”. But I always remembered you”.
“And do you remember Kasym?” Burkut asked him.
Nothing changed in Akpar’s face, he just gave a shrug of his shoulders.
“What Kasym?” he asked.
“I am talking about Kasym, whose wife you’ve beaten with a lash,” Burkut said. “Do you remember? During the moving to the wintering site?”
“Many things happened in my life, Bureke,” Akpar smiled. “Do you expect me remember them all? Akhan-aga though had only two students and jumped out of the window. Does anybody remember about it now? It’s not the matter now”.
“If you are Akpar, we will be talking about manyb things,” general interrupted, “including your sister”.
“What happened to her?” a prisoner asked with some interest.
Caprain glanced at Gavrilov.
“Comrade General,” he said, “if there are some old cases against the prisoners, it’s not an appropriate time to discuss it now. There will be investigation”.
“Of course there will be investigation! It will be investigation, for sure!” general exclaimed. “And you will be forced to answer all our questions. And you too,” he turned to a German. “You will be held accountable for everything!”
German gave a shrug of his shoulder and smiled lightly.
“I graduated from the Heidelberg University and I taught philosophy there before the war started,” he said proudly. “I am a PhD”.
“I saw a hanged child in the forest, yesterday,” Burkut said. “This child was small and thin, like a grass-blade. His face was of a fist size. Children cannot live in the place you come to… And I thought to myself: if only I could meet some PhD or philosophy teacher, he could explain me that properly, I suppose. He will find a good explanation and a good excuse for this little corpse, with the hands, tied with a wire. You know what,” Burkut turned to general, “this hanged child had black little hands. The wire came that deep into his body that it couldn’t be visible anymore. They were flogging this child with a lash! It’s racism, not something else. Fifteen years ago one rich old man burnt a young girl and her fiancé alive. He bought her, but she escaped with her fiancé. He decided to take revenge and burnt them both alive. They hid on a little reed island from him, because it wasn’t on his land. He set this little island ablaze and stood on the bank looking at it. He was smiling and trying to estimate how many heads of cattle should he give for this destroyed reed. I understood what nationalism then is.  You have the same value, dear professor, you and that rich beast. Wait, wait, wait!” he exclaimed as he noticed that a German wanted to object and to say something. “I’ve read the books of Faubert right before the war started. He was writing then at the time when Germans occupied half of France already. I remember these words almost by heart! “What a hatred, what a hatred!” he wrote. “Everything we saw at war doesn’t scare me a lot, as the war was always not only about murders, but also about thuggery and robbers. The conquerors always were wicked and violent beasts. But a PhD, who was robbing the dying people, educated people, shooting at the mirror, it was something totally new and unprecedented, never seen in the world’s history before”. What if he could see what a generation those professors have raised! They used to refer to their fathers “wildlings”. I could say about their children that they are beasts and monsters”.
“Anyway, we will judge them like wildlings,” general said, rising from his seat. “A PhD diploma is only a complicated circumstance on this case! As for you, Akpar, we will have a special conversation with you. You managed to unite everything in you: nationalism, racism, treason, murders and violence. Will though your head enough to pay for all your crimes?”
 EPILOGUE 
Next morning after Zura’s coming back Olga knocked carefully at the door of Burkut’s cabinet. He was preparing these days his new book of poetry, which was kind of a conclusion and was called “During half a century”. There was suddenly so much work that he even fell asleep at his writing table.
Yesterday Burkut was especially worried and uneasy. His house was full of youth, and his daughter gave the gifts and souvenirs to the guests, drank, sang and danced together with everybody, and when the guests finally parted at about three a.m., her parents nearly carried her to her bed, and her mother even helped her to undress. Burkut though didn’t grumble as he loved his daughter so much. He also loved youth, and the last thing: this day was really special, as their daughter just came back from France today. She spent some time there by invitation of one French publishing house, which has published and sold already her poetry book. Zura spoke French very well, almost like her two mother tongues, and her enemies told that her book’s success was so great due to the fact that a good quarter of it was dedicated to France. The last poem was telling the story of the last days of Proust. His lethal disease turned him into a cripple and isolated him from people. Proust spent most of his time in his lonely room, where he created his beautiful novel “Search of Lost Time”. Zura’s poem had some analogies with the today’s country and it was translated into Russian and then into French. Then Zura was invited to visit France. After merry and noisy night and celebration Burkut didn’t sleep and kept working. Olga touched his shoulder carefully. He flitted:
“Ohh, that’s so late! Where is Zura?..”
“She is already in her bed, sleeping,” Olga calmed him. “It’s almost seven o’clock now. Listen, I didn’t want to tell you, but Zura arrived, and I think she has to take her own decision…”
“What happened?” Burkut felt uneasy and jumped from his seat.
“Sit, sit, there is nothing special till now,” Olga smiled. “Here is a letter for Zura. I still didn’t give it to her,” and she took an envelope out of her pocket.
“What about this letter?” Burkut didn’t understand. 
“Have a look!”
Burkut took an envelope, picked it in his hands and suddenly exclaimed:
“Hey, it’s opened!” He looked at Olga, but she was silent. “How could you do that?” he said and threw the letter at the table. “I will never ever read it! I don’t read the letters addressed not to me!”
“It’s a letter from Akpar,” Olga replied dull. “That’s why I opened it”.
“What?!”
“He is alive. He writes her from the camp and he will be released soon,” Olga said. “This letter came to our Zura to the address of the Writers’ Union. Then it was sent here”.
“It’s something crazy!” Burkut exclaimed. He was so emotional and agitated that he hardly held himself. He leaned to the kettle to pour himself some tea. But his hands were trembling, but he still didn’t have courage to read this letter. He just looked at it in fear.
“Okay, I will read it for you!” Olga finally said. “Listen! It’s my sin of opening it, so I will read it for you!”
And she started to read the letter, frowning:
“My dear, beloved niece Zura!
You are everything I have in the entire world!..”
The Akpar wrote how he was convicted for the national treason and sentenced for twenty years, and now his term was almost over, and he should be released this summer. He is old, sick and weak, he is sixty seven now, and his only one way is to the nursing home. He planned to go there, but he just wanted to visit and see his native places once again before his death. He wrote that he would like to meet his niece too. He knew about her from the newspapers. He read in an article about the developments of the modern Kazakh literature that the poem of Zura Kuntuarova was translated into French language and that it received a positive feedback in French press and media. Publishing house “Gallimar” was ready to issue her second book of poems. Then it was a short summary of a young poet’s life (her parents died tragically), and it was said alos that the pomes of her step-father Burkut Kuntuarov were also translated into many languages and were very popular. “I understood that it’s exactly about my niece,” Akpar wrote in his letter. “I should tell you, my little girl, that there are too many misunderstandings regarding your parents’ death. The murderer wasn’t found, but there were many suspects. Some people even suggested that it was me. Let it remain on their conscience. I left the country that time and I was in China already. Twenty years ago a court declared that there were no direct evidences and no fact of my involvement in this terrible crime. I will add also that Hassan was a big supporter of a Soviet rule, he traveled to the auls, he took the lands and property of many people and divided it among the poor ones. Of course he had enough enemies”.
“What a rascal!” Burkut exclaimed and even hit the table with his fist. “Now he will be trying to deny everything! I wonder what would he say about those threats of Khanshaim on the eve of her death?”
“Listen,” Olga went on reading: “There was one thing your step-father was right about. The truth is always at his side. There were three oа us: our teacher Akhan, your step-father Burkut and I. And only Burkut stood this test and passed this dangerous passage. Two of us perished. One of us died physically, while another one perished morally. Yes, I am nothing for the country! I am a shadow, which is visible only in the night! I am a ghost, I a fog. One or two years more will pass, and nothing will remain from, as nothing will remind the people of me. Even if to consider me being a criminal and an outlaw, I cost too little now! Why should we always remember the past? I would like to see and to meet you, my little girl. I will be in Alma-Ayu this August and I will call you on the phone. I don’t want it to be a surprise for you, that’s why I am writing you this letter. Think it over and take a decision yourself. I wish I could spend only one hour beside you, to look at you and to hear your voice. I don’t need anything more. You might be looking right like your mother… I will just see you once and leave once and forever”.
“What a rascal!” Burkut shouted again, hopping from his seat and waving his hands in the air. “And he writes about it that calm and easily!..” he suddenly met her wife’s glance and stopped short. “But we have to decide something!..” he said perplexedly. “In August, he wrote? It means that he will be here very soon. We have to send him  a letter immediately and to urge him to refuse this idea…”
He stopped and looked at Olga again.
“What?” she asked.
He kept silent.
She waited a little bit and then rose from the chair.
“Zura is sleeping,” she said. “I will go and put this letter on her table. Let her read it and take a decision herself”.
“Yes, maybe,” Burkut said thoughtfully. “Lеt her decide on her own… She is able to do it. She doesn’t need to face this dangerous passage. She can do that”.


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