For two weeks Yerkebulan spent mostly in his saddle.
He organized meetings in auls – unquiet, with the most unexpected turns and splashes of spirit, sometime even mindless yapping… Sovdeps1 were created locally by the decision of a district revcom2.
A young poet who had recently reached the age of twenty-four amusedly discovered during this ride how human rumor praised him.
- Oh-oh, Yerkebulan!., Yerken! – people talked about him. – The boy was only twenty-two, he had better be chasing girls and visit tois3. And he? He was among those who had a stab at the white tsar! Now Kolchak’s glisten sabres, bullets sing around and Yerken has not frightened to take the side of the red banner. He has a brave heart. And what a poet! – and people recited by heart his poems.
He really was in the thick of action, for good reason his name was connected with everything what was happening in the steppe. And naif folk took literally the elevated comparisons in his poems. “Storm” means a real storm. Burning steppe. Strong and proud eagles skyward to the tops. And this storm has risen because of the eagles’ wing beats.
1 Sovdeps – deputy soviets.
2 Revcom – revolutionary committee.
3Toi – one of the Kazakh customs to invite everybody to a wedding
Then he felt and wrote so about this.
In the afternoon Yerken held a meeting in the volost centre. There was not any suitable room and the crowd took stand at the foot of a not-too-high hill.
It could seem that daily public speeches must have bated his ability to spark and the words could loose their power and unusualness because of frequent use. But just he sighted at the gathered people, noticed expectation in their awake eyes and he forgot about his tiredness and that only yesterday he hold a meeting and that tomorrow he will do the same…
Yerken told about freedom that streaming the red flag has come to the steppe, to Kazakhs. One people acclaim it, the other fight shy of it, the third ones kept quiet and wait… What are they waiting for? Somebody talks about troth to the fathers’ laws, about obedience. But who could see an obedient mullah or an obedient rich landowner? No, this obedience is needful not for themselves! But it will be no longer so, Bolsheviks say. There is no more any indignity, no more any inequality. But the right for happiness must be won yet.
From time to time he heard some acclaims:
- He says the truth, does not he? And where does he take the words?
™ What a dzhigit! I would rather entrust Allah my wife and my children and I myself will draw to him as a comrade if he wants to take me.
- God grant to see with my own eyes at leas the half of what he promises!
This noise was made by kedeis1 who took stand back from the crowd by force of an age old habit. They liked this fine dzhigit. He wore a black shirt with a closed collar, black woolen trousers tucked in the winkle high boots and a thin Caucasian belt with silver trimming – all these looked remarkably well on him. They liked how he stroked back his thick black hair. And his speech full of certainty encouraged them.
The meeting was already almost over and Yerken seemed that time would turn everything out all right. But at that moment it found out that not only winter fur caps had lain on the breasts under chapans and warped fur coats. Someone hid a stone in his bosom.
1Kedeis – poor people.
The first row swung, there were heard from there:
- You there, yacking up! Silence! Stop chuckling!
- Stop chattering, miserable skint bums!
People being behind were taken aback. No, they did not frighten. They did not just find at once what to answer. The word was experienced and well-known. But it was very strange to hear it again at the time when the freedom and equality came how this dzhigit who had came from the town said. Yerken also stopped talking. “Miserable skint bums” – who could cry this out?
He watched the first rows and could not stop his look at anybody. But here a plain grey-faced man with unblinking like a snake has eyes cried out:
- Stop talking everybody! Stop talking there! Let me listen to the visitant. I want to ask. Can I ask?
This was he…
- Ask me… - Yerken answered having prepared himself to a catch.
- I cannot understand.. – The man began sadly as if he was sad because of his ignorance. - What does it mean “class straggle”? Will argin-kipchack fight against kerei-uak and then konrat-naiman will join their scuffle1? And will they all have to clobber each other? Do I understand right?
“Ah, he can be a usual aul fool-glib talker.” – Yerken thought and having smiled wondered:
- Have not you really understood? Or you just want to chew the rag!
But by this time the back rows already recovered themselves.
- Oh yeah! He wants to know!
^ argin-kipchack, kerei-uak, konrat-naiman – the names of the Kazakh tribes of the Middle zhuzh.
- This Bersh just pretends to be a fool!
Do not answer him, boy, do not answer! We know who hallows this dog!
Yerken lifted his hand to calm down the crowd and began speaking about the class struggle again. No, the case is not about blood feud. Let argin-kipchaks and konrat-naimans live in peace. They do not have anything to share. But everybody has just one enemy.
They sat in front; their faces were dark red as a result of the constant greedy feeding as autumn bustards. Their clothes could not be compared with the clothes of those who were behind: each of them wore a solid plush camisole, an astrakhan low pulled over forehead cup. Their eyes darted in and out like mice ran but and ban.
Those who were in the front exchanged the words that seemed to mean nothing. They stuck Bersh ever and again with the handles of their whips wrapped with copper wire: “You, bite! You, sting once more!”. Whatever you may say but an experienced Kazakhs eye is able to see into the most cunning motives in a crack.
- You have heard everything, sons of steppes! – Yerkebulan said. – Look yourselves… You will live in this land. Could a train be stopped if it rushes blowing its long black brown mane? So will do the new time – it will wipe off those who will try to hinder it.
He stopped talking and mocking shoutings broke out:
- Ah, sly-arse Bersh, why have you stopped talking? Have you swallowed your unclean tongue?
- Ah, fox! Have you shut up?
- Is not your back itching, Bersh? You are a mass of hitches…
But Bersh lifted again his hand as if all these sticky words did not touch him.
Yut-arba - verbal: flamy wagon.
- To listen to you dzhigit is as good as to drink good kumis in a hot summer day. You speak good… Both about the red banner and about otarba. But I am a common man, unlearned. Can you explain me? You will give a poor man grazing lands. Cattle – also him. The power – also in his hands, work-worn, horny, as you have said. But see yourself! At last your poor man will become rich and want to be a rich landowner. What will be then? Will you take away and dispense everything he owns to former rich landowners?
Yerken did not find at once what to answer. Bersh, you contrive crafty! There became cold in the breast out of spite, and he already knew that now he would massacred the assured rich landowner’s henchman with a response word. It happened and not for a one time.
But he did not have time to say anything. The back rows throw up and mixed with the front ones, and barrel-bellieds began retreating rounding the hill. Thin Bersh turned among them docking dozen of the hands that were stretching to him. Somebody cried blue murder someone’s rugged ear-flaps hat, somebody – someone’s flat nose, somebody – someone’s finger stuck out from a torn high boot…
All the same Bersh was caught, thrown on the ground and he rolled aside getting several good kicks. Plush camisoles herded together and retreating hissed vapidly: “Hey, hey you! Go easier!.. Go easier!”. Neither proud port nor menacing look, nor assured smirk – there was nothing left. And nobody of them decided to bring into play a wicker whip.
They retreated and disappeared behind the hill.
Yerken was standing a bit aside. A tall broad-shouldered old man was coming up to him. Two young dzhigits wanted to take him by the arms but he moved displeased his beard and put them aside:
- What does it mean, my children? Are you thinking that I am not able to rise to a hill without your help?
The old man stopped at Yerken. And the crowd following him stopped in tracks. As thus – people are able to take hair down like a river at the time of high water but thin out like a small spring.
- Your words were told to us, my son: “Soon there will be your day, people! Go out to meet the dawn of a new life!”. We have heard about you – and now we have gathered to listen to clever words. And we are not mistaken in the hopes. Do I say the truth? – He turned to his people. – Such a person could lie himself but he will not be able to deceive the other.
Yerken was listening respectfully to the old man. It did not enter Yerken’s head to explain such a result of the meeting with his fiery speeches. No, this made the time; the time sets everything into its right place.
Thanks for the kind words, father. I am glad that my words have touched your heart, - Yerken answered shyly like a younger near an old, experienced man.
- And now say, can the dzhigits called by Alash-Or-da return home?
- Yes, home!
- That is right! They are nothing to do there. And you… Remember, you will be the most welcome guest when the house of old Baiken is on your way.
Riding towards a small aul on the bench of the lake Kzil-Mola Yerken continued to think about this meeting, about that unavoidable strike between “plush camisoles” and “rugged shirts”. He also remembered how volost disposer Myrkzakel’d had told him straightly unfriendly: “It happened the thing, comrade cemmissar1 that you have caused trouble between all our people, disrupted the meeting, stirred up the people!? Have not you? And who will answer for this?” And without many words it was clear whose hand he kept on and whom Myrkzakel’d is here a friend and whom – an enemy. Yerken told rudely to the volost disposer: “Do not forget that you must give me a horse to go on my ride”. He answered: “Well, well… Some new horses are waiting at the lake Kzil-Mola and then there are some relays in every twenty milestones before the town”
1Cemmissar - corrupted: commissar: :
And the sun was already setting when Yerken got the Kzil-Mola together with a short-spoken gloomy attendant and dismounted from the horse near a not big white otau.
Yerken dismounted the horse and the attendant having taken the headrope rode back at one.
The host came out to him. He made a strange impression. One of his eyes groped the guest with disbelieve and the other looked somewhere aside and it was impossible to realize whom he winks and whom he smiles wickedly ingratiatingly. It seemed that he recounted the stars appeared in the sky.
- And where are horses? – Yerken asked having greeted – The volost disposer said that here I could get a horse to ride to the town.
Now the flattering host’s eye looked at Yerken:
- Only towards the evening the aul chief told – I have to wait for you tomorrow at noon. I left the horses to the tabun. Make an overnight stop at our place. It is just fifty milestones to your town. In the morning we will bring you in trice.
- And who are you? An assistant of the aul chief’s chairman?
- No, I am a coachman. But I decided to refuse. – The other eye gazed at Yerken. – I have hands full. To meet one people, to see off the other. Now I am going to create a shop – it is called “kaperatip”, - he added importantly.
A felt fly-sheet was leant backwards from the outside and before Yerken there appeared a young woman who has not lost yet her slenderness and allure in the marriage. Her head was not covered with a shaulik (kerchief) but with a bright Gipsy shawl. What a cross-eyed! What a wife he picked up!
The woman continuing to held the sly-sheet made with the other hand a sign inviting to come in.
1Kaperatip - corrupted: cooperative.
Yerken came in.
In the yourt near the marital bed there hung an old out of colour certain made of bright silk. The bedding, the coverlets, the pillows covered with also not new cheap striped cotton – everything told about that the hosts are very far from well-being.
The hostess pointed him to a seat of honor near the fireplace. Next to there was a dombra leant to the grating.
- The auls wandered to dshailyau, we are alone, - she said.
Yerken seemed that woman’s forthcoming manner darkens the husband’s face. He kept still silent and something clearly troubled him, he had the heebie-jeebies. “We are also going to wander”, - he mumbled and left the yourt, but at once turned back and began explaining for some reason or other that his old father went to the volost disposer and now he is delayed… And went out again…
The woman lit the lamp and said with a sheepish smile:
- We have heard that you write poems and dombra is not foreign for your hands…
Yerkebulan stayed alone in the yourt. He did not like to lash catgut. He hardly touched them with his fingers and as a result of these almost plain touches there appeared light elusive melody of thinking.
There finds its way a small spring through the steppe. And here is wind – peeped on its way into a noisy and careless poplar grove.
The young woman drew backwards the fly-sheet, quiet, not to trouble him and let come in a boy with a woodpile. The fire smoldered in the fireplace and when the fire gained its power there became at once larger and jollier in the yourt. On the right there hung an expensive saddle lined with silver on the wall and next to it there was an elegant whip with a handle wrapped tightly with wire. Copper and silver sparkled dimly and it seemed they winked about something between each other in the light of the flame.
There became cozy at the laid table. The young hostess poured thick smelling tea with some warmed cream. She clearly tried to show the stranger her respect. She might want to wear off an impression caused by her husband’s gloomy silence.
- You have visited us at unlucky time, akin-aga,.. The neighbour auls have wandered to dzhailyau. Only we have stayed here. There stayed neither dzhigits nor girls. There are no worthy listeners to you. A dull evening with a gloomy couple – that is all what is waiting for you today.
- Why are you thinking that dull? What thing can be more expensive than sincere kindness and hearty attention? – Yerken replied and just wanted to look at the hostess but at the same moment he felt that the wry host aimed his one eye to him and the other to his wife. Yerken was on the verge of agape with wonder. Good god! Is he jealous? He might know his worth and hers, such a beauty.
A young boy hunkering at the wall noticed the surprise on the guest’s face and could not stay of laughing. The woman guessed what made him laugh. She told as if it were unexpectedly:
- Kaisar, why are you laughing? Cannot you like a human dart your eyes aglee?
The husband shut his ears to this offending glimpse.
- Look, is there really no horse, even one of? – She told to him. – We could send Kaisar to Bazauat aul, they also delayed. We could call the youth to our place… Could we?
- No, -Otarbai answered shortly.
- What for a horse? I can just run and gather all in trice. It is enough only to tell them that a guest at our place is akin!
The young boy raised himself a little. He wore a light chapan made of sheep wool and undertightened in the belt; his bare breast was visible form under the chapan. Smallpox spots on his forehead did not blemish his face, it was open, friendly. It was clear that he was a light, can-do boy, this Kaisar. Did the hostess name so him, I guess?
But in reply for his proposition to run the host answered rudely again:
- Why not? – The woman boiled over. – As if we dread people! Or does akin whom our neighbours could listen to come every day to our place?
The host did not see fit to explain his refusal. He might use to her constant objections and stopped paying attention to the wife’s asks and requirements.
Yerken was pity that he did not show his stability and did not make give him a horse today to get to the town. Family quarrels – they have to quarrel without witnesses.
From outside there was heard a rush change of horse’s hoofs.
Why do you become nervous? – The woman asked her husband bitterly. – Is it to our place? Are you waiting for somebody? г
He did not reply continuing to look at the door warily.
Horses approached, stopped at the otau. There was heard as riders dismounted horse. There appeared two in the door. They wore light clothes; it did not seem that they were going to make a far ride. Are they guests or persecutors? Aurally there also stayed two or three people out.
- Good evening, - one of incomers said lowly.
- Come in, come in… - the host spoke to them with absolutely another tone.
- How are you, Arkala? Is everything ok at home, Otarbai?
Only now Yerken recognized their names. Of course, such a nice friendly woman must be named only Arbala. It would be strange to name her another. God forbid – something like Ultugan or Dametken1…
Incomers spoke to the host like to old fellows. At that they looked at Yerken with curiosity.
- Hey, and where are you going? – The host asked.
Viennese names: Akbala - light (literally - white) child; Ultugan – son was born; Dametken – disappointed somebody’s hopes.
- Well... We have a loss. Town horse by-passed… - one of them answered mysteriously.
As soon as they just took their places at the laid table somebody rapped out from outside:
The host drew his head into the shoulders and took his heart not at once – to stand up and go out.
- Hey, Otorbai! How long must I call you?
He was about to go to the door and Akbala told him pursued by through her gritted teeth:
- Do not think to let him come here…
The Dzhigits peered at Yerken again – and that is why they did not notice a short exacting look that Akbala threw Kaisar. He understood her and went out at once. One of the dzhigits behaved calmly and the other pretended as if he was not interested in anything except tea. Yerken began guessing that the host had the jeebies not because of his jealousy after his arrival.
There became silent in the yourt but from outside there tutorially roared gravelly bass. It was impossible to understand any words but the speaker demanded something and forced to something. At first the host’s slimy tenor demurred him uncertainly. Then it went silent at all being dampened by the bass flow.
The Akbala’s warning might not have the effect. Two people came in the yourt following Otarbai. The first one was a big fellow in a satin camisole which was belted with a red girdle. He looked dimly, his upper cut hare lip was shown on the face. He behaved like a leader. His companion was like a shadow near him. The big fellow stood at the door and his companion stopped in tracks. The big fellow ranged eyes round the gathered people and the second also looked at everybody.
- Hello, callet! – The big fellow said and his companion moved his lips as if he repeated the saying.
Akbala not standing up from the laid table answered with a bad hidden dislike:
- Is it possible to hear from you any human word?
- Ho! And who are you if not a callet? Or have you forgotten how you had been bought for one dry caw and a half sack of grain in a hungry year? Have you forgotten?
- No, I have not. But as for you, all the same you were not able to swallow me. Your mouth turned out having holes.
A woman always stays a woman… Akbala hit the most suffering – his hare lip… The big fellow did not even find what to answer. He only began sniffing louder.
- What a bearcat! – It sounded a little softer as if he proposed to conclude a truce. – Am I guilty? Blame your father, plague take him in his grave. Then it was him who matched you to Otarbai and then he was pity that sold you too cheap.
- So long as to vapor about another persons’ graves you had better to look for where your father-poshtabai (courier) is tumbling! – No, it could be only Akbala who could not leave a slightest offence without a rebuff. And what is more offensive than to say that you do not know where your father is buried.
The big fellow became dark red; his hand clasped tightly the thick octal whip. Yerken was ready to intervene on behalf of the young woman if it was required although he did not understand how the courier hateful by the whole nation and an offender of a well-known singer and poet Birshan came here into the picture.
Otarbai found himself between two fires. He was not able to do both to manage with his wife and look like the host in his house in the big fellow’s eyes.
- Come in, Toke… Come in, why are you standing! Sit down… Would you like some tea?
- Am I a poor man from Kara-Otkel1? – Toke interrupted him. – Do you propose me to lap tea? Bring me up kumis.
He dropped heavily on the felt at the fireplace, threw nearly his woven whip and at the first time looked at Yerken. His eyes had red fibers, the eyes not knowing any remorse. On his chin there was not a hair, but his wrist, hands and thick short fingers were covered with black fur like wolf spider’s small wooly legs.
1Kara-Otkel – Kazakh’s name of Akmolinsk (Tselinograd), where now is situated the capital of independent Kazakhstan, Astana .
Akbala cleared away the table in silence and Kaisar helped her to bring away the samovar. Soon he looked into the yourt again:
- Host! The hostess calls you.
When Otarbai went out Toke took his whip and waving it lightly told:
- If not the presence of this scrawny weakling, Otarbai, I would lash the chubby launches of the assured callet for one time…
- Oibay, Toke-au1, - one of his companions could not stay of shouting. – And what will be left of the very chubby callet if you lash her for one time?
- And do they say the truth that in days gone by your father lashed the very Birshan with this very whip?
Toke smiled bumbling and looked at Yerken again.
Yes, people say the truth, - he answered the asker. – This whip I took from my father’s hands. And Birshan did not recover himself after that time. He stopped writing his poems. I heard, that at the end of his life he raved mad.
The historical whip called alive interest to itself.
- I have heard that a piece of lead is interwoven in its tip. Is it? – the second of those two who had come in the yourt from the very beginning asked.
- And how do you think? There is lead for the whole vershok. Touch hardly the old-timer wolf and your scull will be broken through!
- And what for did your father lash Birshan, do not you know?
- He, Birshan-sal! Birshan-sal!.. Have not you seen them, these sals and seris? He himself is from a poor slave race but a horse and clothes has… Puts himself apace with honourable people. Takes the rule to judge who is good and who is bad. And he thinks that is why he can bang out dombra and write foolish songs. Then it was a celebration. Birshan might intervene on behalf of somebody; he would like to show his justness… And he got his bitters… Chapan made of camel-hair was cut as with a knife. He had a white horse – the whole crupper was poured with Birshan’s blood. – Toke’s companions began tut-tuting in surprise.
- It is impossible!
- And how has he survived?
- He, my god… The father just touched him lightly, just for purpose of teaching…
Each word of this talking ripped with a sharp knife into Yerken’s breast. That is who this big fellow with a hare lip. The son of the skunk-poshtabai who had ventured to lift his hand on a public favourite, wise and heartfelt poet whose poems Yerken yearningly recited.
This story became a legend long ago – from those that are given in the steppe from aul to aul. It was told in different ways how poshtabai-courier had lashed the volost disposer Aznabai at the Singer holiday. But if Yerken could foreseen that sometime he would see with his own eyes this whip in the hands of that very poshtabai’s son!
At first Yerken did not lay emphases to such a conversation, but then he thought: if had they purposely remembered the story about Birshan-sala exactly in his presence? Do they know that he is also a poet?
Yerken drew out his note book.
Toke turned to him
- What are you doing there, guy? Are you writing?
-Yes, I am.
- And what are you writing?
- I would like to write down your story about Birshan.
- Ah… And what for? Who is Birshan for you?
- You may think that my father.
- Do you know that when an akin-poet’s tongue tickles it means that his back also tickles?
- And do you know that a whip can lash alike in different hands?
Toke laughed abrupt and clapped his collars of the square toed like a calf’s neb boots.
The collars were smeared thick with fat – Toke had a habit to wipe his hands on them after eating beshbarmak.
Although it was said enough straight but all the same Yerken did not take Toke’s words as a real danger. It was more like a cool fish’s clumsy joke who even today thinks that he is all-powerful in the steppe because he has a sonorous voice, black hairy fists and octal whip with a piece of lead.
- You'd rather understand already – Yerken said smiling, - there is some power in the world that is harder than your whip. Have not you heard? The Birshan-sala songs are sung in the steppe up to now in which your father is publically gibbeted… Even his name did not survive – poshtabai is just poshtabai…
- What? What did you say? – Toke raised threateningly from his place. Both the face and his shaulik were the same colour.
But here somebody drew backwards the fly-sheet. Otarbai and Kaisar brought carefully in a tegene – a big wooden cup with foamy kumis. Akbala followed them. Her face was pale. She looked discomposedly at Yerken and he understood – Akbala gives a sign that they are in danger and one more thing – he can lot upon her help.
- Hey, why are you muddling about? – Toke ran at the host, - Will we know the taste of your kumis today or not?
- Moment, batir-yekye… I am already pouring it, Toke. It will not run a minute…
Otarbay’s face was all puckered up, unhappy. Still recently though looking flimsy but he was alike a man and he even tried to keep his importance. And now – he trembled like a goat caught with a downpour. He might get a good ragging from his wife. But he was frightened of Toke even more than of his wife.
Without saying a word Akbala hustled away the husband, chose a brighter and newer drinking bowl. By this time the big fellow had already drunk one bowl given him by the host and stretched it again. But Akbala made him wait.
- Kaisar, give it the guest, - she said and there was no need to explain Kaisar secondly whom she meant by this word – guest.
Having taken the bowl from the Kaisar’s hands Yerken felt that there was a note under the very its bottom. At this time everybody watched in the yourt how Toke would endure new insults and Yerken invisibly put the paper into his note book and glanced at it quickly.
As if nothing had happened Akbala stirred her kumis. The guests emptied one bowl after another. There became silent in the yourt. Everybody warily looked after each other and the conversation was flagging.
Catching Akbala’s looks at himself Yerken understood her puzzlement. She noticed that he had read the note. Why is he so calm? Why is he smiling from time to time and there does not appear any wrinkle on his high forehead? Her looks became more and more desperate: she was beseeching, demanding him not to sit as in the circle of people but him to do anything to rescue himself.
At the yourt there stopped clanging somebody’s tarantas. Akbala’s eyes extincted and lost any hope. “Ah, it is late, it is late!” – they said Yerken. Has he really been late?..”
Yerken raised slowly as if he did it unwillingly.
- Hey, guy, guide me to the yard, - he said.
- Let’s go, akin-aga, - Kaisar sprang to his feet and drew backward the fly-sheet.
Yerken slowly passed Akbala, said her good bye with his look and was about to go in the direction of the exit but Toke rose before him.
- Where are you going?
- I have said, in the yard.
- Stop to sit! You will not go anywhere.
- It will be you who will stop me?
- Erckle! Your father, your Birshan!
The whip flied up. But Yerken was waiting for this. A short, killing, almost invisible stroke hit exactly on Toke’s temple and he dropped on the spot. His left leg got in the fire, the flame licked the fat boot leather and sticky stink spread in the yourt.
Nobody had any time to understand what happened; Farid, the son of a well-known Tatarian merchant in Kara-Otkel, came in. Unchangeable black takiya on his head, a silver clock chain on the breast from the pocket to the pocket. Like that Yerken used to see him in the town, in the same form he saw him here. It was clear that he was with them. Farid stretched his hand to Yerken but he treated into the yard.
Kaisar pulled him by the hand. For a moment Yerken stopped in order his eyes got over the darkness. At this time the door of the opposite big yourt opened and there appeared a young girl lighted from that side and worn a black plush waistcoat dressed upon a light yellow dress with edgings. Only for a moment the light lit the girl and she disappeared at once. As if she has come from akins’ songs – with thin eyebrows and flickering, tender like a chamois, proud and obedient. The dream of every dzhigit… Yerken had a time to notice all this. But she did not seem him to be a real girl whom he could come up and have a talk. It was just the beauty itself. Earlier he often tried to imagine how she could look. Now he knew this.
And Kaisar was still pulling him to the horses standing on the leash behind the yourt.
- Let’s go, aga! Hurry up! They want to kill you. Mount this one! It is a chestnut one, now it is invisible, with a star on its forehead. This is Toke’s horse, that big fellow. It is not a horse but wind. And the white one is mine. It is also a good horse. Let’s go, aga, hurry up!
Yerken seemed that there passed an unconscionable long time since he had seen the girl. But obviously it was really just a moment because only now there were heard fearful cries from the yourt:
- Has killed? Toke, Toke, wake up!
- Water, hurry up…
- Has he him? Yerkebulan? – it was the question of the arrived Tatarian, the merchant’s son.
Yerkebulan easily leapt into the saddle realizing still badly what Kaisar wanted from him. Yes, hurry up. He was ready to race to the ends of the earth. Not to whistle the horses the riders let them at a trot at first and only then – at full gallop. There were heard cries from the yourt:
- Follow them! Follow them!
- They cannot go far!
They could catch them. But Yerken was assured that nothing would happen with them. From now on the beauty itself protects him.
These cries, menaces, thunders still kept staying in the girl’s ears for a long time. “Oh, alla, will they really catch them?” – she repeated. But no, - such a handsome man, such a brave dzhigit. They will be not able to do this.
In the big yourt Aklima lay down near her mother but she could not sleep. Now she smiled at herself in the darkness, then she was overtaken fear and she chilly huddled under the blanket. Her heart started beating so loudly that Aklima was afraid that her mother would wake up. She did not understand yet – why but she felt: the last day and the last evening made her older for the whole life.
Yesterday at noon she together with Kaisar went to the lake to bring some water. Like she did it many times… A very thin atan – all its ribs are in sight – was inspanned in an old creaky arba with a barrel. They had fun and found an amusement for themselves: Kaisar gave the bucket in such a way to pour over her. Aklima was not in debt and also poured over Kaisar from above. There appeared a pool under the camel lain down in the shafts, the water broke through a groove and fled aside. The old atan disapproving nodded its head and bellowed angrily when some water got on its crupper.
Bare-chested, having rolled his trousers up to his hips, Kaisar was ready to pull the water till the evening. Aklima already got all wet. The bright calico dress stuck to her taut girlish body tightly clinging the hips, tummy and breast. But perhaps neither she nor Kaisar thought about that usually such pranks did not have a good end. They just might not know about this yet.
Aklima poured over Kaisar’s head the whole half a bucket and jumped off from the arba.
- Carry yourself and pour out yourself! And as for me so I will go to dry up my dress.
Aklima went away. Kaisar having looked into the barrel found out that it was filled only by halves. Continuing to carry buckets from time to time Kaisar looked around – where is Aklima. From the arba he soon looked the girl having swum enough far from the bench. Her white hands twinkled over the expanse of the lake and her back was lit by the sun.
Kaisar jumped off, threw the buckets and went there, to her – to tease her and scare. He ran down the cliff. Aklima was just coming out from the water. At the first time in his life the young boy saw a buck necked woman body. Her thick tresses hid the left breast. Drops of water sparkled on her tummy, hips, on her strong and slim legs like splinters of a jewel stone.
Kaisar froze. He breathed heavily and he was not able to recover his breath. Aklima squealed, caught the dress being dried up on the grass and having lopped down covered herself with it.
- Erckle, blushless! Go away right now!
The boy woke from a stupor. He quickly nodded with his head and uncertainly went away.
They have grown up in the same aul. They played together. As all children they quarreled, fought, made up. And one way or the other they did not guess that one of them was a boy and the other one was a girl. They have not seen each other for the last five years. Kaisar was hired somewhere in other places. And now they met each other again in the Otarbai’s house.
Already in the afternoon having just left the aul they sang at the top of their voices. At that moment they were still children. They stayed still children even then when they poured over each other from the bucket and the old atan angrily nodded its head watching their bustle. And now their childhood broke off, at the one moment. The boy and the girl ran somewhere not to return ever again. There was a young woman. There was a young dzhigit.
On the way back the both swollen, impressed by a sudden change, kept silent and sat on the arba having turned their backs to each other. It seemed to Kaisar that all happened was such a deep mystery because of what he did not let himself even look at Aklima. But no matter how long he waggled his head banishing this dream, all the same – she stood before him, wholly buck necked and sunlit.
Akbala was near the yourt when these two came back from the lake. She just looked at Kaisar and Aklima and grimly said:
- Kaisar! What is up with you? Get her out of your head. Have you understood?
Akbala expressed sharp and formed what the young boy and the girl felt very hazily. And the girl’s heart sank because of this. This strict “Get her out” followed Aklima till the evening, stuck like algae on the leg during bathing. All the day Kaisar and Aklima studiously avoided each other. How strange was this all… How surprisingly!
In the afternoon there appeared a rider from the volost aul and told to prepare two horses for a one important guest. By the evening there appeared the other one ordered to leave to the tabun the horses standing on the leash. Yerkabulan rode before the sunset and since that minute the Otarbai’s house was seized with dismay.
Akbala was kneading dough in the big yourt.
- Let me help you – Aklima proposed.
- Hey, sister… You will have time! When you get married all the work about the house will drop on your shoulders. – Is he a poet?
- Yes, Aklima. If you saw how he had taken dombra in his hands. Do you hear, he is playing?
Otarbai appeared all red and sweaty.
- Why are you hopscotching?- Akbala noticed discontentedly. – Shame on you! You have left the guest alone.
- It does not matter. He is spending time much jollier with dombra than with the host. But he is strange, asks suddenly, without rhyme or reason, how many people my kaperatip will have…
- And what have you answered?
- I say – now I am just alone but some time later I will hire a counterman.
- And what has he answered?
- Nothing, he started laughing. It turns out that I need something like a share. I say what a share? He says how can I keep a kaperatip without any share? Where will I take money? I have answered him that two people promised me to give some money.
- And has he approved or disapproved your plan?
- Hey, now he is on back, then you, callet! – Otarbai became angry, - I know myself what to do, not worse than you and not worse than him. It seems my Mankur and Nankur are not you!
He waved with his hand and went away but soon he turned back again.
- The guest says that we do not need to knife a sheep.
- And you before to cut a sheep, you ask for a permit by your guests?!
Akbala got all worked up and the talk with her was a bad omen for Otarbai. To say the truth when Aklima was watching her sister’s family life she lost any wish to get married.
Akbala was excited and glad when she knew that their guest was a poet. If the aul had not wandered to dshailyau who knows would such a person stay in their yourt, would he pay attention to worthless Otarbai?
Kazakhs by their habit honour more saints and the prophet himself, his name is repeated without proper reverent fear. Showing holy persons all signs of respect they feel nothing to them except contempt. But for the free steppe nation there can be nobody more significant than akin-poet whom the god gave the talent to write poems in such a way the words well known for a long time gain the sense of the poet who has a right to judge people and their deeds – and it does not matter are you either a poor man in a worn out chapan or a sultan… He judges them in his verses and songs which then a nation keeps and memorizes and they excite or calm or call…
2Mankur and Nankur – two angels who follow each human and count all his or her deeds, good and bad.
Akbala took in this respect with her mother’s milk, that is why she troubled now to receive an unusual guest in a more deserved manner, and like every hostess she was afraid that she would not be able to do this. And in addition to everything this blockhead Otorbai mumbles that there is no need to cut a sheep. As though somebody can set his or her own legal hospitalities in her house!
From the yesterday’s day Akbala did not understand her husband at all. He walked as to be at sea and was like a man who attempts to steal something in his own house. His fingers were all thumbs – in the morning he let fall a bowl with tea. Only two days ago he was going to wander to dshailyau together with all people but then he suddenly changed his mind.
He importantly explained to his family:
- The volost disposer ordered me. One commissar will come the day after tomorrow. I have to prepare some new horses for him.
But before the very arrival he said Kaisar to drive the horses back to the tabun.
Akbala understood nothing. When a young handsome dzhigit had already sat in otau and she was kneading dough in the big yourt Akbala asked her husband making no bones about her anger:
- Why are you on the jump? Have you known that our guest is not a simple commissar but a great akin? Have you or not?
- And what is your matter? – Otarbai headed off as usually. – You had better to knead you dough, do your woman’s things.
- Do not teach me! But if you have known that the guest will be this akin, have but have not said me so you may live for repent it and not for a one time! I will teach you how to knead dough!
A usual quarrel. Aklima was sick and tired of listening and she went out from the yourt. It was slowly getting dark. Twilight hid the horizonless steppe as if a pitchy dark black certain dropped on it. There were heard sleepy cackles of migrant geese from the lake. Swans shouted to one another. Frogs sang their songs in love languor. And the same natural among all evening sounds was a melody which was played with dombra by the skilled fingers.
Aklima shuddered – she did not notice Kaisar who had came up to her, she just felt that somebody took her hand.
- Kaisar… Is it you?
- And you thought who? – he asked gloomily. Aklima did not answer. Dombra continued to sound lowly.
- Do you know his poems? – Kaisar broke the silence.
- Yes, I know some.
- Do you like them?
She kept silent again. Having sighed Kaisar said:
- Would you like to look at him? Akin… Dzhigit… Would you?
He pulled her by the hand to the otau.
- What is up with you? I am ashamed, - she objected but some falter and Kaisar not listening to any objections came her up to the felt wall.
Aklima nestled to the slit.
At this minute akin was alone because Otarbai continued to quarrel with his wife. To say more exactly akin was not alone but with dombra. At this minute he might versify silently great words about the nation that is about to come on a new way, about sharp passes of time that will be overcome, about red falcons whose wings any fire is not able to burn… Or perhaps about truelove? He was more handsome than then when he came up to the yourt and Aklima managed to glance at him.
Suddenly she felt a great gratitude to Kaisar who – she knew this, today she has become a grown-up girl – sacrificed himself in order to she could see the poet nearly.
- Kaisar, dear! You are a good boy, - Aklima whispered under her breath.
- And? Have you fallen in love at once?
And he also has become a grown-up dzhigit.
And then… Then there raised a dust. Horses’ thud broke calm of the night. The riders spoke with gloomy whisper. From time to time as if feeling some danger geese cackled in the lake.
Somebody roared gravelly on Otarbai aside:
- Do not whine, a fool! Or do you imagine that I will ask you, such a drip, what I have to do? What is allowed for me and what is not? Shut up and do what I have said you.
In the big yourt the fire burnt brightly in the fireplace, the flame danced with violet gleam in the eyes of the sheep with tied legs. An old sheepman sometimes spitting on the whetstone ground a knife busily. Aklima wanted to go away not to see blood. But here Akbala frightened to death ran up to her.
- Oibai!.. The trouble is at our place. Hurry up, Aklima, write to him: akin-aga, they want to kill you. Write!
- What are you saying, Akbala, what are you saying! I cannot. I am afraid!
- Write! – Akbala ordered and it was difficult to object her, besides Aklima had a habit to rely in everything on her elder sister. She has written the note.
Kaisar came to take Akbala:
- Hostess! They are waiting for you to pour in kumis.
- When you give akin his bowl lay it under it… - She thrust the note into his hands.
- Ok, I’l do…
- Then choose two horses, the best ones. You will go with him. Look that akin-aga will go to the town safely.
The old sheepman did not chip in. He continued to grind the knife, but here Akbala remembered a legend of yore: at the time when somebody in the family is in danger it is forbidden to spill blood.
- Stop, - she said to the old man. – And the knife – stick it into the ground…
- Eh, daughter, - the old man answered. – I see, you have forgotten how it must be done at our place. – And with a sharp throw he stuck the knife but not into the ground but into gray ash at the edge of the fire.
Aklima was shivering because of strain and waiting for imminent danger, and the rest passed before her as in a sleep. She left the yourt and came back again. Now talking in otau flashed then faded away. Then there heard a short cry and fell something heavy. Yerken went out from the otau. Kaisar span like a top near him. “He has made it, - Aklima’s heart beat happily, - Oh, the God! Help him, do not leave him…”
And suddenly there heard a desperate cry:
- He is killed, killed!
Having lost control Aklima ran out from the yourt. Darkness hid her – and in some time there was heard horses’ thud. The thud buzzed off. Aklima began crying. Having heard her bawls Akbala ran up and took her to the yourt.
- Where? Where is this old man? – Akbala could not wait for. According to the same legend of yore a sheep must be cut exactly at this minute, at the minute of rescue, to head off danger from a human who is in danger. She took out the knife and not having shaken up the ash tightly took the sheep’s head and stabbed it into its neck.
-Oh, Alla! Save him… Aklima crying repeated after her:
- Oh, Alla, oh, Alla!..
- Do not cry. Kaisar has chosen the best horses… Soon it became silent. Two men started out the pursuers.
The rest of people brought out Toke, lay him in the tarantas what Farid came in – Toke himself was not able to walk. He turned his ankle when he fell and burnt it in the fire. He was brought to the volost to see a medical attendant.
Aklima lay down near her mother. But only before the sunrise she managed to fall into broken slumber that brought neither rest nor calm. Is he caught?.. Is not he caught? This question rankled with her all the night. When she opened her eyes, her mother and Otabai were sitting at the fireplace. And from outside Akbala quarreled so loudly that it could be heard in the yourt:
- I thought – we will avoid this black trouble! But it turned out that he was after no good once more. Lives – all the time sucks somebody’s ass! Cissy! For such a man – shaulik on his head and that he does not even dare to say a word! God’s blood, such a life!
Her voice approached. Perhaps already it was not enough for Akbula to fulminate her anger and her distress all by herself. Continuing to quarrel she came into the yourt.
Otarbai not turning to her said:
- When Allah wants to punish a mortal he sends him a wife-goose. Listen, goose! Have you forgotten about Hare Lip’s menace? Have you? He promised that he would grind us into dust.
- And are you already shivering? Listen to him more? I know you, you all are cotted with one string. Not without reason you span for two days as if you had a hedgehog under your ass! You have known everything in advance!
- Do you think, they wanted to get my advice?
- Keep silent! I know all your thoughts in advance. You apple-polish them to receive the cooperative… You want them to give Aklima for this, do not you?
- And do you think it is so easy to become a cooperative?
- Aklima who was lying with closed eyes shook. Now they talked about her. “Give to” – Akbala said. Surely the man whom Otarbai is going to give her will not be alike this akin with dreamy and manly eyes.
The old woman – both sisters’ mother – sighed and saw right to get into conversation:
- I do not know, is it easy to become a cooperative or is it difficult to become a cooperative. But listen to me, my son-in-law. You can become even a sultan but for Allah’s sake, do not involve us into your business, do not trade with us. Stand up, Aklima! We will go away from here, daughter! Stand up…
It was not necessary to repeat it Aklima. She understood herself that they must go as sooner as better.
The aul stayed back in the fog. They pulled into the highway which led to the town. Kaisar stopped his horse and Yerken pulled the horse, too. Behind from the side of the lake there approached hoofbeat – the pursuers also got the highway. It was not difficult to define for an experienced ear that there were two pursuers. Two – it is not so terrible, but, of course, they are weaponed.
- Oibai! This rides the black horse, croaker, - Kaisar said because, of course, he knew well all the horses famous in the district. – We do not have a horse here it not to get up. It has two holes under its arms. It does not know what weariness means, it can ride day and night. – Kaisar was glad to have a chance to show this famous person his knowledge.
- And what holes are these?
- Holes and holes. Like gills that fish have. Because of them it breathes more deeply, that is why he has such a ride. Everybody knows about this here.
Though they were in a very dangerous situation Yerken could not stand of wry smiling but Kaisar did not notice it in the dark.
- What to do now? – Yerken asked.
- We have to change the direction. Winter huts Elemes is situated there in front behind the hills. And behind them – Ulikul, Kisaktam, Buratal, Tas-Beket, and from there I can get to the town blindfolded. Let’s go, akin-aga!
Kaisar turned left and began riding. The chestnut with a star on its forehead on what Yerken rode, hot and angry put itself to gallop too. Having approached Kaisar warned:
- Aga, put the horse to wolfish canter… Then it will be impossible to hear the thud.
Kaisar and Yerken distanced themselves for less than one mile from the highway but two pursuers already rushed there.
Nowise Kaisar could not find the winter huts. Where was Yelemes and where – Ulikul… The fog was getting thicker and thicker and it was getting darker and darker. Because of the boy’s behavior Yerken understood that he did not know where to go and he was ashamed before him. He pricked forward his horse often and often, turned him now one side then another. And the dull silent steppe couched malevolently in the dark. No sound. No fire. They wished at least any star would give them a wink from the sky.
- Aga, we are lost, - at last beat Kaisar avowed himself.
- It does not matter, - Yerken calmed him. – We will go somewhere till the evening. Let us leave this wolfish canter, in other way we will whistle the horses. My chestnut tried to turn left all the time.
- Let it go!.. It will lead us somewhere. Ah? How do you think?
- Let it go, aga. I do not think about anything. I am already dizzy because of this straying.
Yerken released the reins. The chestnut delayed a little as if it proofed if it really could move free or it just seemed and then went turning left.
For Yerken the steppe was not already pitch-dark. He went into his thoughts. The poet was thinking about poet’s Birshan fate, about poet’s Birshan fate whom recently he had named the father in the fought with Hare Lip. According to the legend he went mad at the end of his life and Ahan-Sery also went out of mind. Why? Why do all talented outstanding people end so sadly?
What could this rude angry Toke understand in their lives? Toke who used to reckon only with power… But something in his words explained Yerken why Birshan had not been able to recover himself after that accident with this laborious toady poshtabai. “He went mad in an agony of grief” – Toke said. And how lee Birshan, a public favourite, Ark’s nightingale could not get in an agony of grief when on the people’s eyes one courier lashed him with a whip! How could he write the same proud, keen and kind poems after this? To tell the truth, what is the difference for a poet between “madness” and “grief”? And who of the best steppe poets could avoid such a fate? Neither Birshan-sal, nor Ahan-seri, nor Abai himself.
Yerken wanted to write a poem about Birshan. He felt enough power and skills to start a big work after writing many verses. The plot for this was clear. He was not going to back out of that real accident that had happened long ago. At the volost disposer’s holiday – Shanbota – Birshan’s dombra made people be jolly, sad and think about their lives. And a courier of the other disposer who competed with Shanbota called the singer to his host, he refused and poshtabai lashed him with his whip and seized dombra from his hands. Shanbota did not come to the defense of him! Birshan rained down angry words on him: “How could you let the foolish poshtabai to beat me with a whip in public?”
- Oibai, aga! Stop, please, do not sing so loudly, - Yerken heard Kaisar’s voice.
- I won’t do. It broke out, - he replied.
People call this song “Shanbota”. This two disposers who had competed between each other are not alive already for a long time. Poshtabai is graved too, and nobody knows where is his grave, disappeared as a dog… “You, Shanbota, let me debase! You let throw dirt at me, a singer!” If somebody would remember now that there lived such a man, Shanbota… “You let throw dirt at me, a singer!” – how much despair, pain and anger is in Birshan’s words. He doomed poshtabai for agelong shame and his son Toke knows about it, that is why he shows his temper and tries to show with all his behavior as if he wants to spit on all this shame. Birshan’s anger bore the words, and the words led the way for melody that even today sounds as blame. The evil does not finish with that the disposers’ time has gone away. There is much to do yet, to do the life clean and light as a spring in the steppe.
Who knows – it could be that Birshan’s anger and despair was increased by the fact that during the singing and fighting with poshtabai somebody’s fast wonderful eyes had stole a glance at him…
- Say me, aga, - Kaisar broke the thread of his thoughts. – Have you cut the throat of that big fellow with ragged lip, that Toke?
- He felt like being dead…
- No, what you say! I beat him with my palm rid in his temple.
- And what? Did he die?
- No, he just fell unconscious. He will get over himself.
- It is pity! You should beat him in such a way that he pops off. They say that it is easy for such a robber to spill human’s blood. But now, perhaps he will be lame at least. Got grant, it will turn out that his tendon is burned. His leg got directly into the fire.
Yerken saw at his direction but darkness became thicker before the sunrise and he did not even see the chestnut’s head before himself without saying about his companion here.
The boy kept silent and Yerken forgot about their short conversation at once. Before his eyes there appeared a girl at the entrance to the yourt, slightly lit with flame but it was enough for seeing on her face sadness and a wisp of a smile, and restrained fear. So many different feelings – and just at the friction of one second – can be expressed by a face. He would like to think that she is happy because of his arrival and is scared – because of that danger in what he was.
- Look, is it you who have written the note? – Yerken asked.
- Not likely! I am illiterate, - invisible Kaisar replied. – The hostess’s sister visits out place. Akbala-apa made her do it. Akbala-apa is so pully, her eyes see everything! At first her sister did not want to write. She cried. How can I, she says, write him such words: akin-aga, they want to kill you?
Kaisar did not guess to name her and Yerken was ashamed to ask. Perhaps it is even better that he does not know her name. She will stay for him for ever a symbol of beauty, kindness, womanhood. And why – will stay? Will they never meet each other again?
Darkness started disappearing. In front – at the bank of a miry lake – there pressed round yourts of an aul. Near them there walked ace deuce cows, nearly there grassed sheep and goats. The chestnut under Yerken shook up, jogtrotted proudly though he had a heavy night and a long way behind.
Kaisar got in a flap at once.
- Why is your chestnut so glad? I do not wish it to lead us to its aul. Do not we go in perhaps, aga? Perhaps let us change the direction?
Yerken did not have anything for answering. The chestnut neighed having turned up highly its head.
- Come on, - Yerken said. – Let’s know at least the way to the town.
People came out from the yourts having heard the horse’s thud and the chestnut’s nigh. They peeped into unknown strangers. Why? Since the dawn of time Kazakhs did not have such a habit to wake up so early – the east was not red yet, the sky was just a little pink.
The yourts approached. It was possible already to hear:
- Apirau, look! It is our chestnut!
- Ours, ours. Do you see that star on its forehead?
- Just one thing – what people are these?
1Apirau – shout of surprising.
While the riders were approaching the men had time to break up. Somebody went to a yourt, someone – behind a yourt. Who knows who that rider in civil clothes is, what he looks here for?
Now only women stayed – they wondered what riders these were, they would like to see what would happen then. Now such time – it is sometimes better when there are no men in the aul.
A woman jumped out from the yourt all smoked with sulphur and having seen the strangers she began crying:
- Oibai! Oibai! The horse has come back but without the owner! Where is the owner? What have you done with him? Have you killed him?
- Oh, what is with you, do not you know your husband? – Yerken said calmly. Is he a robber or a barimtach?
- Not luckily! He is a human like all. Is he alive, my husband?
- Alive, alive. Soon he will ride here to us.
A boy at the age of ten went out from the same yourt. He stretched himself, scratched his tummy and having made a wry mouth stared at the strangers. Suddenly he caught the chestnut’s lash.
Dismount it, dismount! – He cried sharply. – It is our horse!.. Ours! Dismount, it is no use to ride our horse!
Kaisar touched his horse and pushed the boy aside. Yerken noticed a man who carefully peeped out from behind the yourt trying to examine better suspicious guests and hear with what news they had come.
He called this man and asked detailed out what auls were situated in the neighbourhood and where the way to the town was. It turned out that in five miles there was a Russian village.
- Stop, Shengey2, - Yerken said a woman who was continuing to wail. – Everything will be all right with your husband. And mount your madcap on the horse of this boy. When we get the village we will give your horses back and the boy will lead them back.
Having driven off Yerken turned back – to look if somebody would follow them. Apparently the aul is not very peaceful… A robber’s aul. But it was calm among the grey yourts which looked like piled kizyak. The people stared after them and obviously they discussed their sudden appearance. Might they take them for Toke’s friends?
1 Barimtach – a person who is busy with a cattle-lifting
2Shengei - here: aunt.
The boy who accompanied them behaved himself like an angry caught in wolf cub. Yerken thought – it is pity the boy, pity that he was born in such a family, that his grandfather’s, rotten poshtabai’s blood runs in his veins. And his father? What can such a father like Toke teach?
What else this boy did not made during their way. He caught Kaisar’s neck from behind and strangled him really. Or having bent handily kicked the horse with his heel in its groin. The white bucked in alarm, rushed aside, went madly at full gallop. Clearly it was not so easy to spill Kaisar from the saddle. But he was sick and tired of this and he lashed the bared madcap’s hips for several times. The boy cried, whistled, hushed, and abused over the whole steppe. Then he guffawed shrilly in triumph and started from the very beginning.
The riders dismounted in the village at the building of a local sovdep. Having moved to the chestnut and taken the rein of the second horse, Toke’s son cried at parting:
- Hey, you! With your fathers!.. But my father will meet you – you will not be alive!
…From one aul to another, changing new horses, Yerken and Kaisar got to town Kara-Otkel only by the evening. Far away aside the chestnut with a star on his forehead led them.
Not having called on home, Yerken went at once to the editor’s office of a recently appeared Kazakh newspaper “Tirshilik” (“The Life”). On the way he unwittingly paid his attention that there were too many glassy eyed in the town. Ah, tomorrow it is an orthodox holiday. And Russians have a saying: who is glad to have a holiday, is drunk in the eve.
Secretary Karim sat in the editor’s office. He was one of those two who together with the editor chose all staff. They were on duty by turns; one is in the afternoon, the other – in the evening. There must be always somebody who could receive a visitor, have a talk to him or help write an article. There was no payment. Neither for secretaries nor for the editor.
Thought Yerken as a real son of steppe spent almost all time in his saddle but now he dropped down on the chair with great pleasure that did not move at least under him but it was up to turn somewhere aside.
Karim raised away his head from raw galley proofs smelling with printing-ink.
- Aah, here are you, tireless wanderer, poet, editor, commissar of education! Well, have you created the Soviet system everywhere, in all the auls?
- Everywhere, everywhere, not that we need, - Yerken answered in rhyme to him.
- And have you escaped unhurt?
- Almost… Look, Karim… Here is Kaisar. He helped me avoid big troubles. That is why he cannot return to his aul. Give the boy a job. Let him live at your place, you know my hostess.
- We can give him a job. Are you literate? – He said to Kaisar who was sitting shyly on his haunches almost at the very door.
- No, I have not got an education yet.
- Illiterate – well, is it a problem? It will be you who may educate him as well.
- It is clear, - Karim said. – Hey, Kaisar, you will be my assistant. Do you agree? Take this paper and go to the printing-office. When you come out turn left. The third house from here. There you will find a type slinger, old man Gizzat-aga. Give it him.
Kaisar nodded and the same silently ran to execute his first editorial task.
- Well… Are you going to stay at home now? Will you write about your trip?
- Sure thing! Somebody hopes in auls that we are not for a long time. We have to afflict them. I’ll write the article. Have you got my verses?
- Two of them will be typed in the tomorrow’s issue. But the third one! You can beat me, you can kill me, but it is some kind of rave but not a verse!
- Surprisingly! – Yerken falsely surprised. – I have meaningly sent all three. And it turned out you have learned to puzzle out in verses.
There was no need to ask what one of three Karim rejected. He felt that in that poem the words were flabby, inexpressive, the lines stumbled like worried horses and they did not express what the author wanted to say. And joking apart but for Yerken Karim was always the first listener and devotee of his poems, friendly and exacting who never forgave unfortunate lines, bad rhythm or a blurred thought.
They changed news, spoke about what materials would be printed in the tomorrow’s issue and what exactly Yerken would write about his trip.
- And now, you may go, - Karim said and hunched again over his galley proofs. – For the oldest Allah sake don’t trouble me. That will never do that the work suffers because of addle brained chatter about some verses. Now go to your sovdep, to your commissars. They have already been taken hoarse there because of disputes.
In the sovdep Yerken heard almost the same conversations which he had heard two weeks ago. They told him at once:
- Yesterday we had a meeting and someone threw the stone into the window. Here it is, in the corner, the whole cobblestone… It hit Yefrem. He sits now with his bent eye as after good booze. It is good that it was just a stone but not a bullet.
- Why are you talking about my eye all the time? I do not demand any payment for my eye from you, devils. Let us arrange one question at last: Will we make marketeers and other rich man to open their shops? Will we or not, I ask?
- And how will you make them? Do you have power them to make?
- So let us create our own squadron.
- What a one you are! And where is weapon? How will you nourish your fighters?
- Whereat to dispute here? Does the town need bread?
- Yes, it does.
- Does it need kerosene?
- Well, all this is under lock and key in bourgeois’ stocks.
- And without you we have not known about this?!
The situation was really difficult if not to say – desperate. They did not have any railway. The neglected steppe town did not have any connection with far away revolutionary Russia too. Kerosene, matches, fuel, salt and bread, bread!.. This all did not increase with the help of talks. The sovdep adopted a bylaw: take away the goods which marketeers were hiding till the better times. But it was easier to adopt the bylaw than execute it. The sovdep laid a tax on rich citizens for the total sum of three million ruble. They managed to nationalize the mills – wind, steam, water – but the grain reserves melted. There was nothing to grind yet. All administrative offices were already under sovdep’s control. But the situation was still uneasy as Yerken understood having returned from his ride across the auls.
They sat late well into the night but they did not arrange anything.
Yerken slowly went home along the quiet night streets.
The lights in the windows went off long ago. There was only one where he saw light. From there were heard some voices, somebody sang a song but stopped it at once.
Like this till the late night they sat in Omsk where Yerken studied then. But they had another disputes. About poetry. About beauty. About courage and humanism. About poets and artists who have become the voice and the eyes of the nation.
How many pikes were broken in honour of the wonderful Mona Lisa! World known Leonardo felt in love in his masterpiece and never left it. Other tried to explain his predilection only with the help of admiration before womanish beauty and of quest for excellence. An artist is an alive human and hot heart of a man beats in his chest.
But the reason of the dispute did not lie in this. Only for a moment there appeared a smile on the sad face of a young woman who had recently lost her husband and already for several centuries people addled at this mysterious smile. And Yerken addled too looking at the beautiful dark eyes. He has solved this riddle for himself. Every day, every hour is unique in the life. They are absolutely different. And a human’s life is full not only of happiness and not only of troubles. The almost imperceptible smile on the face of the mourner woman – it is what was the main for an artist and Yerken was sure in that so much as if Leonardo himself shared his secret aims with him creating Mona Lisa… Why has this young sad woman had that mild fleeting smile on her face? Has she remembered the best days of the gone love? Or has she had a flash of hope for the future? It is unknown, and nobody will ever know about this. But concentrated clouds of grief went away and not bright sunbeam stretched to her. “And why are you thinking about the Mona Lisa right now?” – Yerken asked Yerken.
There was no reason to hide from himself: this was that unknown girl who had appeared for a moment at the yourt, lit with feeble flame of fire, that was her on whose face he could read fare and a hope, and joy, and doubt – exactly this called up the Omsk’s remembrances about the Mona Lisa, about immortal Gioconda. Everybody who writes – independent of he is great or not – must have his own Gioconda. He does not know the name of that girl and perhaps he will never meet her once again, but it is so good that she exists and now – there on the bank of the lake Kzil-Mola – she is glad because the passer by akin and Kaisar have managed to fling of pursues.
Having come home Yerken drank a glass of cold lapped milk at one gulf that was left by the hostess and sat at the table. The five-line lamp was hardly lighting having shrunk the big world up to a dark corner that contained the Mona Lisa’s mystery and that big fellow Hare Lip, and that beautiful girl in the house of cross-eyed Otarbai, and Yefrem’s mourning cheek-bone, and the talks in the sovdep about bread and weapon.
- You’d better go to bed, commissar. – The hostess mumbled behind the separation wall. – You know yourself, you do not give kerosene now…
Yerken answered nothing. He just drew down the wick and moved the lamp nearer. He did not want to sleep although he had spent almost all day and night in the saddle. This state of sharp impressionability was known for him when the words started appearing – one word after another and there appeared characters, thoughts, feelings…
It could seem that he would write about the girl who had impressed his imagination. But he wrote on the sheet with Arabic script “Bread”. He was thinking about that bread that lay in stocks and nearby there were hungry people. He wrote about bread and the lines appeared on the sheet – one line after another, but all the same this was a poem about the girl because from time to time Yerken broke off and tried to imagine what face she would have when she reads this or that line.
The dull five-line lamp started smoking when he finished writing about bread. But Yerken could not stop yet and his hand itself wrote on the other sheet “Cry of the lamp”. The cry of darkly glowing, going out, bleeding lamps – itself screamed out on the paper.
Somebody knocked at the door. One time, two, three. The hostess began rolling over in her bed.
- Commissar, go yourself and open the door. It is surely your fellows. They came yesterday too. Could you say them not to come at night? I am afraid and…
Yerken came into the corridor. What was up there, could not they wait till the morning in the sovdep? He threw off the bolt and hurrying up to write down the born line went back…
- Freeze! – he heard behind his back.
He gave a start of surprise. He turned back. Two weaponed people stood at the door, with them – bug-eyed Farid, very fast he has got back to the town from Kzil-Mola! But this time he did not stretched his hand for greeting…
- You are arrested! It is finish of your sovdep!
By the last flashes of lamp in his room Yerken put the payment for the flat on the table. Having seen the paper Farid came up, took the sheet on what there was written “Bread”, and the second one – with unfinished “Cry of the lamp”. He turned to Yerken:
- Have you thought that if you ran away from Kzil-Mola so we could not catch you? Here is your bread! – He made and showed him a fig. “Cry of the lamp”? “I was born to light the people…” Oh! Akin!
Yerken kept silent. He did not say a word since the sharp order “Freeze!” threw him out from the world of verses. From the street – somewhere away – there heard a single riffle shot.
Farid put into his pocket the sheets with verses. It is good that the verses will stay alive. Yerken remembered everything till the last word.
The riders rode along the street, weaponed people moved in groups. “Is it finish of your sovdep?”. No, you are lying, Farid!
- Go, commissar. Hurry up! To the kingdom of freedom! A whip painfully lashed him on his bared head at the entrance. Its top hit his forehead and a warm trickle of blood poured his left eye and fled to the corners of his lips. This was the first time when Yerken knew the taste of his own blood, it was salty… This was the first time when somebody dared to lift a whip on him – it has made the marketeer’s son Farid, so decisive and brave against a weaponless human.
It got light. Long-winded bell ringing enveiled the town. Azan1 sounded holily from the minaret of a big mosk on the main square. “Allah akbar! Allah akbar!..” They did not contradict today but they repeated after each other – these were the voices of eternal enemies, Orthodox Church and Islamic mosk. It seemed that nobody slept at this night in the town. The people went out in the street and perhaps such a crowd Yerkebulan could watch only on the day when the news about the overthrow of the white tsar had come here.
1Azan – Islamic call for praying.
Many arrested people were driven on the square, from all corners of the town. It was ghastly to look at them: beaten, blooding, swollen… Their clothes were torn to tatters. Yerken did not obviously take into his head that he might not be looking better.
There were many such people in the crowd who only yesterday had diligently twitched off their caps meeting somebody from the sovdep in the street. Mills and leather-dressing workshops owners, tradesmen, officers – all they came to the square to enjoy themselves the sight of the plunged, as they thought, enemy. And each of them tried to lash a prisoner with the back of the hand, in such a way to throw out the teeth, to bleed the noses… Murdered people spat and kept silent.
The well-known marketer caught Yerken’s hair and husked in rage until a warder took him away not to stop the movement of the column. But all the same he had enough time to draw out a wisp of hair, several buttons and tear the collar of the shirt.
Half a year age Yerken lived in the flat of a marketer during about a month. He had a daughter: a fozy girl with a short neck and breast like bells on a church. With her oiled eyes she kindly looked at men who passed her in a hurry if they met her in the street. The marketer tried openly to thrust the roomer his failed daughter describing him all charms and joys that were waiting for that man who would tie his fortune with his daughter. Yerken was sick and tired of this and he quitted the house. And now the marketer paid him for the offered affront.
Yerken kept silent. He must stand whatever the cost! He believed, he knew that it was not the finish.
The struggle, life and death struggle stayed still ahead. And a nine months and nine days prison was also ahead.
Staff captain Serbov, honest to his Caesarian convictions examined Yerken. On the table before him there was a thin artful whip – stack.
- Are you a Bolshevik?
- Yes, I am.
- A commissar?
- And it seems to me, an editor of the newspaper?
It seems to him! Why it seems to him when everybody in Kara-Oktel knows additionally that Yerkebulan is a poet and an editor of a new newspaper “Tirshilik”.
- Yes, I am an editor. It is the truth.
- Are you on the side of the Soviet power? Do you admit that you have held a district convention of the sovdep?
- And we have not ever hidden it.
- Have you been among those who broke up the country council?
- Yes, I have.
- And why are you against the country council?
- Because the council has sworn allegiance to The Interim government and demanded from their delegates to serve it. And we have not admitted this government.
- Well… Clear. But you, as far I know, also argued against the district department of Alash-Orda, did not you?
- Yes, I did it too.
- But why, let me ask, do you argue against the friends?
- “Friends”… Who can make for a little sense of events will not say so… - Alash – they are not my friends. Nationalists imagine that the freedom for them means to create their khanate where bais will have more favours than they had earlier. Alash- Orda – it is their party! We have different ways. I am against them.
Waving the stack, making smoke circles, playing with a massive cigar case, glooming from time to time this handsome staff captain examined him for three hours. Persuaded, threatened.
The poet stood before him for three hours resisting his blandishment, not being scared by his threatening. Serbov looked at him mysteriously. During these days he examined dozen of people. There were such people who lost all their courage during the first examination, broke and told even more than they really knew. This one is different. But he was advised not to finish him off at once. You see, he is a poet! And in this wild steppe a poet is something like an alive holy man.
If to kill him it can become a cause for discontent of local Kazakhs, push them away from the party of Ala-Orda that has not much influence without this. But obviously he will have much to tinker at this Yerkebulan! To kill him, it is impossible, but he can and must be pressed.
Serbov called for a convoy and ordered to shackle the prisoner here, in his cabinet.
- I wish… - the staff captain said smiling, - I wish you that the chains stood hard wear and did not go out till the end of your days…
- Me too… - Yerkebulan also smiled. – At the day when you are shackled, you may think that I wish you the same.
… The prisoners cabined in a cold ward on the stone floor.
Here where only twenty-thirty people could be placed there were more than thousand of them. But not all were shackled. There were just not enough shackles for everybody, and prison heads and staff captain Serbov left them for the extra thwart persons.
Still since the tsar’s time there were kept in the prison prisoner jackets and trousers made of striped black and yellow rude linen. Yerken looked incredulously at himself in such clothes. He was ready to beat his head against the wall when he just began to think about indignities which he was subjected to by his enemies. An eagle behind the bars, a lion pining in a cell in irony chains – they are also ready each minute to crash out.
He bitterly blamed himself and his comrades because they allowed preparing and bringing to fulfillment this counterrevolutionary strike. In the ward there appeared exciting disputes, somebody tried to father the responsibility on somebody for all that had happened. In such cases Yerken told that everybody is guilty. They did not have enough experience. Wariness failed. There was not shown revolutionary alertness. While they were talking about how to make marketers open their shops, where get weapon for the battalion, the officers and people of Alash-Orda who had hidden up to a certain time were able to take them aback.
In some minutes Yerken lost the hope to return some time in the life that stayed behind this vile stone sack. One time, unable more to cabin on his place he jumped up, hopped, caught the grid-iron and chinned up to the window.
Erken stared at the count, and it seemed to him that there is no more beautiful place all around the world. The fool!.. So many of these lawns he met in his life and indifferently passed it by. It seemed to him, that he felt with his breasts the coolness of the grass... But it was the dampness of the prison wall.
Encased poet now press oneself to the window several times a day, without fear that some guard can shoot at him, because approach to the windows was strictly forbidden, it was one of the most serious violations of prison rules.
He already knew that every day, almost at the same time, a white goose with her brood importantly walked across the lawn. Goslings were still clumsy, with a yellowish delicate bloom, decorously dragged behind its mother and squeaked, funny swaying and twitching their tails. Then they became more independent, and the mother sometimes had to tweak any of them once or twice to get them listen to it.
If Erken turned his head to the left, there was a beaten path along the creek just in one hundred and fifty steps away. Along it all day long urban residents were moving on bulls, on horses and on carts loaded with manure.
It was stuffy and damp in the ward. The cool steppe breeze came only in the morning into a single window. Sometimes a trill of lark could be heard. Erken’s heart began to pinch, and he did not pay attention to the clattering shackles, rushed to the window; chin-up... Maybe it was foolish to risk getting a bullet in the head. But he was unable to refuse these high-risk "walks", as he called it.
For some time he noticed a very young girl on the lawn. She strolled here, gazing at the prisons windows. Black plushy sleeveless shirt, white silk dress with ruffles, , black hat, decorated with owl feathers, donned a little askew was on her head surprisingly fits to her. Tall and slender...
Erken has lost his peace when he saw her for the first time. Isn’t she? Isn’t it this girl, which was seen in the aul at gloomy anxiety evening? Is it she or not? But her face was hard to see from here. Her eyes were like a black currants, black silky hair, traces of sorrow on a clean face, the poet coined all of this, everything pictured in his vivid imagination.
But still Erken did not admit thought that it might be some other girl. No, she was the same, which wrote a note in the house of Otarbay: “Yeah, those bastards are going to kill you.” Childlike fragile handwriting. To kill, rods and hooks even more unsure, seen as shaking her hand, when she wrote that terrible and unnatural word.
Erken, gritting his teeth, struggling pulled over the iron bars, but tetrahedral thick twigs did not respond.
The prisoners were troubled:
“What is going on? What had happened?”
Erken said nothing. What could he say to them, how would be able to explain, who this girl was and what she meant to him.
Days dragged on painfully long, and the nights were even worse, and when it was possible to forget oneself with a troubled sleep, the sleep soon was interrupted by the clanging of shackles, of the deaf blows of rifle butts on the floor. “Goodbye friends.” Erkebulan once recognized the voice of Ephrem altered by apprehension of imminent death among those voices, the same whose eye was knocked out, and friends consoled him that it will be OK until the wedding day. Ephrem was really going to marry the daughter of a worker from a rendering works soon. They said that the Whites shoot outside the city, beyond the grove, where before gathered to the secret Maevka.
And there was no sleep, and his thoughts returned again to how did they allow officers to take them by surprise, and where is now Qaisar, and if Karim’s escape succeed.
Sometimes his anger, hate and love begged into poems, and the lines began to take shape in his head. He wrote about the freedom that been deprived, about that was not enough to love freedom, we must also be able to fight for it.
The time was creeping in a dungeon like a wagon, drawn by oxen. Once Erkebulan was getting on them into the Kara-Otkel from the village, where he could not find the horses. Interrogations have made some kind of diversity. Serbov, became more and more insistently, and, seeing the futility of his efforts, already started up in the course the stack, and he was not only playing with it, and pointedly told: “Perhaps, you want to shout “goodbye friends”? Your stubbornness will lead to this in the end.” And in the ward Erken easily talked about this, wittily, how is frantic Serbov, how the guard asked Erken "commissar" so that he stood up for him, when the Reds come again... Many people after interrogations were dejectedly silent, clasped their hands in the lap and staring eyes at one point. Erken knew that he could not lose his heart, but only he knew how much it cost to control himself and entertain the jailmates with stories about Serbov.
Placing a pillow under his head, stuffed with rotten straw, a poet settled down on the bare floor. And suddenly jumped up and ran to the window, although he’s just looked around the lawn and driveway road. Right now, at this moment, she should appear.
How right he was! The girl appeared, on the area in front of the prison, as soon as he leaned against the iron bars. But today, she was strangely hurriedly. Why such a hurry? Where? How she looks into the windows! And who is this woman in kimeshek1, who ran to her, angrily grabbed by the arm and began to reprimand. The girl did not respond to her. It seemed she did not even hear. She frozen and looked at the prison windows. Some dzhigit, at full gallop, rain up a black horse beside a woman. He waved his arms, showing backward and excitedly told them something. But the girl did not hear him too, and did not answer to him. Once again she looked around the windows and at once fall. And slowly, as if saying goodbye to someone forever, she turned to the woman in kimeshek.
Erken’s fingers unclenched, he fell to the stone floor, and chains clinking muffled. The prisoners were alarmed:
“What is wrong?..”
From that day, twice longer he was hanging on the window, but have never seen the girl.
1Kimeshek - lightweight women's headdress;
Autumn has come. Goslings became quite older and no longer needed a maternal care. And then the snow came, and came a searing cold of Arch. And a young girl in a plush sleeveless jacket and white silk dress?.. How would she be dressed now? Erken was thinking about her waking. And at night she came to him, the way he saw her once, near the yurt on the shore of Lake Kzyl-Mall, and such, as she strolled along the prison wall, came true and invented. Was it she or not? Whom she was looking for here? Dear me! Is that so?.. Was she looking for him? At this thought of the failed meeting, that was supposed to bring him happiness, the poet's heart was filled with pain. And he knew, he felt, that he would never recover from this pain.
“When I get rid of these vagrants!..”
Otarbay said it instead of answering to the courteous greeting, said loudly, did not hesitate, that the traveler has already entered the otau and hesitatingly stopped at the door. It was a tall man of about forty, he was overgrown with a thick beard, in the beard, under bright light of fifty-linear lamp, it was possible to consider the silver streaks. The spring was cold and he was in a large fur coat, a long-eared hat "kulakshyn " was on his head, bulky boots were on the feet, swollen from the damp, gripped from below with twine and rawhide straps.
Really many tramps have appeared for these days. Hunger drove them from their homes, and they went around the world. But all of these disasters, as can be seen, passed by the owner of the yurt. It could be seen, kaperatyp was not like some disenfranchised coachman, who pushed around by those who want., there are new pillows, blankets and new felt mats in the yurt. Still remains a fact that Akbala did not get along with her husband.
“As though people become vagrants because of a good life!”, she said, just to say something in defiance to him. “Better call a man to dastarkhan than scoff and grumble.”
She paused, as if to give him a chance, the owner of the house, to correct his mistake and show the hospitality. But he did not bother to take advantage of this opportunity.
“Take a sit”, Akbala said. “Enjoy your tea.” She handed him a bowl.
On dastarhan like a flock before sunset, were scattered kurt, irimshik1, large chunks of freshwater tortillas were lying. In front of Otarbay white a piece of sugar shone. Beside to Akbala, near the old woman, sitting next to the place of honor, wayfarer did not notice of sugar.
He was not greedy for food, not lashed, as might be expected, on bread and irimshik. He only ate a small piece of tortillas and drank only two bowls of black tea.
He spoke curtly, short. At first he was afraid that Otarbay or Akbala could recognize him by appearance. But if he now, a year later, would be able to look in the mirror, he would not recognize himself. And voice? The voice sounded hoarse too. Nine months and nine days in jail, and then three months of wandering about in the steppe. Circuitous route to avoid dangerous for him meetings with kolchakovtsiens and alashordyntsiens, he went to the south, where it was rumored, Soviets strengthened.
“Are you all right?”, Otarbay decided to break the silence. “Should be, and you leaned to nagashi2? Everybody, who has forgotten the smell of hearth and home, say the same thing – I am going to nagashi...”
“And you guessed right. I am really looking for my nagashi.”
1Kurt- cheese, prepared with a small pieces; irimshik - pieces of dried curd.
3Nagashi- relatives on the maternal side;
“Well, I think they are those, who do not know what to do with the goods, huh?”
“I do not know about the goods. But I've heard, that in those places, people are not starving.”
“Huh! You have heard... Telling...”, Otarbay grinned maliciously. “Prison's tramps have dispersed in the steppe, some looking for nagashi, others are attaching to jiens... If you would work, it will be better for you, than wandering!”
He took a bite of sugar with crackling.
“And do you need a worker?”
“The whole aul is working for me. For what do I need a tramp?”
“I could be a coachman...”
“In order to kill the owner and steal his horses on the road? Do you know what is cooperative? I feed them all, beggars.”
“Feed!”, Akbala could not resist. “Thank Allah, that at you don’t have hungry relatives. Because they would have died of starvation near your yurt.”
“Allah saved me, but you have. Here is sitting one albatross around my neck...”
With one eye, he drilling into his wife, and others stared at the older woman, who sat silently at dastarkhan, but did not touch to any refreshments, only drank tea.
Undisguised contempt sounded in the voice of Akbala:
“Do not worry. She will not overeat you. I will feed her out of my share, and you must feed me. Mother has forgotten the smell of hearth and home too, because she is going to her daughter. To the same daughter, whom you and your henchmen sold in marriage. Aklimazhan will carry her mother on the hands! And you do not hurt, do not you dare touch her with your nasty tongue.”
1Jien- relatives on the father.
It is good that none of them paid any attention to the traveler, and no one noticed as trembled his hand, holding an empty bowl, how gleamed his eyes were which were before this totally indifferent.
If the old lady is the mother of Akbala, and she is going to the other daughter... Means that his dream was called Aklima! Farewell, Aklima! He has already said goodbye to her once. And now, it is forever...
He forced himself to listen, hoping to hear something more about Aklima.
Akbala forgot about the presence of foreign. After she reach new caustic, angry, mark taunts, cockeyed bowed his head lower and lower, he simply drowned in a stream of deadly words. And she reveled in the hatred of him and the opportunity to express all this hatred, up to the end. But Akbala stopped to take a break.
Otarbay, humiliated and miserable, paused for a moment,
and then, apparently, he wanted to break his evil even on someone.
“Hey, who are you?”, he addressed to the traveler. “Do you have a belet1? If you have, then show it to me.”
“And if he will show you belet, what will you understand in this belet?”, Akbala started again.
“If I will not understand, then will understand what that belet is by its appearance...”
“And who are you to check the people? Maybe you are aulnay? Or urendyk2?”
“I am kaperatyp. And who is stronger - kaperatyp or urendyk, it is still unknown.”
“What a kaperatyp you are! You are miserable obedient pirkanshik of parish Myrzakelda and hajji Kal-jan. Pirkanshik, pirkanshik, that is who you are! You do not dare to say a word. They are taking themselves plush and velvet, sugar, tea, and to you, the bad, giving the cotton and mampasi3. As a bone to a dog. The best chunks leave themselves and in jail, you will sit for them, for everyone.
1Belet - license, residence permit.
2Aulnay – aul’s foreman; urendyk - distorted: constable.
3Mampasi - distorted: Monpasie, flat scented candy.
Otarbay not know what to say, and therefore throw a bowl in his wife. But threw careful not to break it down of the samovar.
“Why are you fighting?” mother of Akbala joined the conversation. I will be a burden to you not for long time. Tomorrow I'll leave, Aklimazhan said through people, that she wants me to take her home. They said that she is crying, poor thing, giving herself grief...
Everything was clear... Only in whose hands Aklima now languishes and tossing, and breaks at will, like a big white bird? What could be worse than the fate of the girl that has fallen into the clutches of the steppe jackals, in the claws of vultures? Everything was clear. Only one is unknown. The girl that came to the prison wall, and was looking for someone in the barred windows, was it Aklima? Or other one? Someone on a spirited black horse rushed off her on that time! And even if it was her. What a difference now? The ash remains there, where the fire burned. Where was in bloom tree, now are lying yellowing leaves, trampled in the dirt. A drunken painter worked with a brush there, where was the portrait of the Mona Lisa.
He could no longer stay in this house. He should stay face to face with his grief, in which no one could comfort him and that no one could share with him.
“Thank you... I am leaving. Goodbye”, he said softly and headed towards the door.
“Apyrau!”, Akbala exclaimed in surprise. “Where are you going in such darkness? It is night outside. Wolfs... And robbers in the steppe worse than any wolves. Stay, hitchhike here.
“Hm! I will tear wolf’s throat by myself. And what robbers could take from me?”
He took another look at Akbala, said goodbye to her with his eyes, and went out.
Akbala shuddered. It happened before... Year ago, here in the yurt, from the same place, black-eyed handsome poet silently said goodbye to her, the one who with stroked down Toke one blow. No, is it possible? He was twenty-four, twenty-five years old. And this one is forty years old at least. But the eyes, eyes! A little bit surprised, a little bit laughing, a little bit sad. His eyes. But she heard, that he was in prison and was gunned down at dawn.
But maybe by some miracle he escaped? That explains why he has turned gray... God grant, God grant, that it was he. Damn Otarbay with his stolen good, pillows and cattle. Damn his kaperatyp! Damn everything!.. Just let's hope it was him, the poet, the voice of the steppes.
And stranger came outside, stood in order to his eyes adjusted to the darkness. In front, at the same place, there was a large yurt. But from the smoke hole, as then sparks was not flying. There was nobody to fold the flap. There was no fire, there was no those beautiful face, which had stolen this fire for a moment from the darkness. Qaisar was not here, who could say: “Akyn-aga... Let’s go, let’s go Akyn-aga.” Who knows, where is Qaisar now.
Relying on a thick knotted stick, he moved forward. Sleepy cows noisy sighed in the aul. Hobbled horses nearby crunched with grass, snorted. Disturbed dogs barked following him, lazy, more out of duty.
Aklima was not here and aul seemed to him empty and cold, like a corpse.
Bitter thoughts were his inseparable companions and in three days, when he approached the aul, where he hoped to get help, to get, finally, to the south, to his friends. It was early morning. Light clouds floated at high blue sky. A small herd of horses were driven to the watering after a night of grazing. Herdsman on a chestnut bobtailed mare three years old, brandishing a long kuruk, drove foals into the water. Whether foals were afraid of the water, or they just like to play with a herdsman, but they were worn along the shore, whinnying thinly, and had great difficulty to get them go down to the river.
Herdsman saw a man walking on the beach, who pulling off his boots, apparently intending to pass fording the river.
“Hey! Hey, black beard! Do not take off your clothes! I will carry you. Are you nuts? Or are you so proud that you do not want to ask anything anyone?”
The bearded man, without answering to him, pulled on his boots again, tied up outsole with straps, but the thumb stayed stuck to the outside.
Herdsman sent a red mare to him. The traveler at first thought that he was wrong, but now he saw, that he is not wrong.
Qaisar sat riding on a red mare.
But the guy did not recognize him.
“Where are you going, old fellow?”
“Somewhere here should be my nagashi.”
“His name Bayken.”
“Yes, yes! This is he!”
“Oybay! I work as a herdsman in his aul, but I was born in another place. And the aul, which is visible on the other side of the river - it is his aul.”
“And is Baek at home? How healthy is he?”
“Оh! He is very healthy! He is preparing for a big toi now. His wife died the year before, and he took a young wife... So, she bore him a son. Alright fellow. I was just going to the aul. I will give you a horse. Otherwise Baek will wallop the living daylights out of me...”
“And what is your name, buddy?”
“Mine? Qaisar. Bolshevik Qaisar... Last year, I with a poet Erkebulan, went into Kara-Otkel. Since then, they called me a Bolshevik.”
“Are you join the party in the Kara-Otkel?”
“Phooey! Not likely! One day or half a day was a deputy in the Karim’s newspaper. Actually not he, but this poet had defined me this work. It is a long story. I will tell it to you sometime if you want to listen to.”
Qaisar has not changed for this year. The boy's shoulders increased slightly, hand has become larger. But he is the same simple-minded and a little boisterous... Generally people in the auls do not change, ten years will pass, and you will meet them in the same shabby fur coat, in the same hat, and talking as if parted yesterday.
Qaisar came back soon, driving in a headrope a beautiful, hot light-bay with yellowish markings horse. The horse was saddled.
“Take it! Maybe you have heard? This is the famous, the most famous horse in Baek.”
He still knows the best horses in the area and proud of them, as if they belongs to him.
Erken was walking through the steppe with his grief for three days alone. Now he transformed, barely felt a horse. He was wearing the same kurguz shabby fur coat. Posture has become another. His shoulders has straightened, the poet roused himself like a young golden eagle before takeoff, and if Qaisar noticed him at that moment, he would never think about saying “old fellow”.
They moved to the other side, Qaisar drove herd to the aul, it was time to tie the foals, to be able to milk a mares. Bay with yellowish markings horse swam widely flaring nostrils, and stepped on the land and immediately rushed, barely touching it with hooves. Oh, that bay with yellowish markings horse! Not for nothing Qaisar boasted it, not for nothing called it brother of wind! Erken had to hold his horse, that the guy could catch up with him. Qaisar rode beside, and bay with yellowish markings horse now not in a hurry to overtake playful redhead mare, they rode side by side, and Qaisar told:
“You should be heard about Erkbulan, right? He is a famous poet. We know every of his poems. Especially girls were crazy about him. At least secretly, even in the door, even through a crack in the yurt they wanted to look at him. He loved to play the dombra. He sits, his eyes shining, his fingers - clop, clop, clop, like this horse, which under you. And bais did not like him, he annoyed them with his poems very much, and more with speeches spoken in the auls. Once someone wanted to kill him, here in Kyzyl-Mall. For the fact that he spoke the truth.
“You said that he employed you to the newspaper. And why did you leave this job?”
“Oh, Allah! Did I quit by myself? I became a deputy in the evening and the morning newspaper was crushed. I was heated once or twice on the head and they told me to get out. They were looking for Karim but did not find him.”
“And what about the poet?”
“They arrested him because of misfortune. They took him at night at home. They kept him for a long time in prison. Some said that they killed him. He did not tell them anything that is why they shot him there, where everybody was shot, over the grove. But I have heard another. That he managed to escape. Like when they shot him, Erken fell for a second before shots rang out. And that he is walking somewhere in the steppe, sneaking to his friends the same Bolsheviks as himself. But I think this is not true. If he was still alive, we would know his new verses. And we have not heard of new verses.
“Maybe he has no time for them’, he said. “ But if he is alive, then you will surely hear. And what happened to you next?”
“What next... I wandered through the streets like a hobo. I ran away from my aul because I could not stay there. And where to go? Fortunately, I met Baek in the city. I did not know who he was. He fed me. We talked. He was a friend of the poet Erken. So he took me to his aul. So I graze the horses here. Where, where are you going?! It is always so crazy! Where are you going?!”
Qaisar whipped in pursuit to pinto mare and turned it to the rest of the horses. The herd came to the aul and mares wandered off. Aul kids began to chase the colts, to catch them and tie.
An elderly man was near the big yurt in the middle of aul. He gazed at the rider, who was sitting on his horse.
1 Suyunshi - gift for the delivered glad tidings.
“Suyunshi1, Baek, suyunshi!”, Qaisar shouted to him from afar, in that he was Qaisar too, he enjoyed to bring joy to people. “Your relative has arrived!”
Erken dismounted, he threw a headrope and hurried to the old man, who quickly went to meet him, arms spread. Men hugged each other.
“Oh my exile”, Baek said quietly, holding him, “How I were faint for you! Where have you been for so long, my Erkesh? Your old man spotted all eyes while waiting for you. I knew you would come. If you are alive, you will not pass by your Baek’s house. You see, I was right.”
For the nine months and nine days in jail Erken did not drop a single tear. The poet's heart ached when he found out about the bitter fate that has befallen to Aklima, but even then he kept his tears. But now his heart could not take it. He was not ashamed of his tears. The friend was next to him. Baek affectionately patted Erken on the back, on the shoulders and he said some words. He was a simple old man of aul, but he knows that the poet sometimes needs to be encouraged so friendly. And then his soul gets softened. The poet becomes soft and tender as molten lead. However, from that lead you can pour bullets for a meeting of enemies.
“I see. I see...” Bayken repeated. “I see that you have missed your worthless old man too. I have come to you in the Kara-Otkel, yes. But bastards did not let me in jail! There also I met Qaisar. Well, okay, okay, calm down... And what about you, Qaisar? Still do not recognize him, silly puppy? Look, Erken, how he is stupid, huh?”
Qaisar vaguely knew who this bearded man. He remembered to whom last year the old Bayken has been coming to Kara-Otkel. They told each other about Erken all the way home. Finally finding out whom he gave a horse on that beach, to cross the river, Qaisar rolled down from the saddle and ran to him.
“Be quiet. Come to the yurt. You have to be careful”, Bayken said, looking around.
Trivets were near the yurts, and the boilers were densely steaming. busy woman were Near them, fussed and chattered children. And the older kids, catching tanner, jumped between yurts. Someone of the adults, letting go the mares and foals tied, glancing in the direction of the Bayken’s yurt, and the two men were heading to it from afar to greet a guest.
“You recognized me, Baek, and others can...”, said Erken. “ You are right, I'd better hide from the eyes...”
Baiken said in yurta:
Today I am celebrating the toi. The son was born by the old men like me. The paper has come, Erken. You are the one whom they are searching. We should think well how to hide you. Ahn now… Qaisar! Do you know who is our guest? The owner of the house, we stayed at his place last year in Kara-Otkel. A poor men has become ill during the trip. Now the bed is made for him. He will lay and will be ill by turning his back towards the wall.
Erken has nearly managed to lie down and took cover by fur when people have come to the yurt. Each of them has had the only question: who is the guest of Baiken, where was he born and where is he going. Baiken was answering to everybody like it was arranged.
Erken was lying by covering his face with the ushanka, drinking kumys from the big tea bowl that stand near and when anyone from the guests has come to yurta hi was moaning naturally. Laying like that pretending seak, when you were deprived of people for a long time, when you were hiding for a long period and outside toi was in its fervor making noise, which was the real agony.
Qaisar has come running:
“Akyn-aga! Would it be great if you watch that! There is a fight…Abeke took Baiseke, rolled him, turned him – and how he chucked him at once! The poor men couldn’t even rise right away. Abeke got the win. Would you like more kumys, Akyn-aga?”
“Give me more kumys…”
“It is cheerfully here today, it wasn’t so for a long time. That crow croaker also is participating in baiga. Do you remember, Erke-aga? He has two holes under his paths; it is breath harder because of them. The crow will come the first today. Because Baeke does not let the bay with yellowish markings go. He is the owner of the toi. It is not comfortable, it is not appropriate. It could be a very good foul-up. Don’t you think? Would you like meet?”
“Give me meet.”
It was heard through the double wall how the bay with yellowish marking was yearning on the leash, how it was suffering that was nor in baiga and how he wanted to improve for everybody that here was no a horse that could beat him. And Erken - mentally was imagining what song he would sing if he could pick up dombra openly. He would show them - as he has no new poems!
..Again Qaisar has come running
“And I will participate too on my red one…At full gallop I will get the coin from the ground. God willing noses morning for not a few! Would you like some tea? Do you want some tea, Akyn-aga?”
-Give me tea.
The bay with yellowish marking was neighing indignantly. None of the horses enthusiastic by Baiga, responded. Baeke The five-line
When the sun went down and the guests had departed Baeke and six or seven man came up to the yurt. Everybody but mullah was the citizens of this aul. Baeke put the five-line a bit far from ill karaotkel –men because of the sun did not offend his eyes.
The mullah with the black taquiya on his head was sitting at the honorable place. Baiken address him suavely:
“Molda-eke, we ask you to give the name to this boy, varmint, culprit of this toi, which was given by Allah for the joy of his father.”
“Oh, Baeke! You trust me the choice? Maybe you have already the name for this child?”
We have thought, molda-eke…The thing is that the old man like I am, the junior – is a pet and varmint…there is one name. I would name him Erkebulan.”
“Who is going to object, if it is the will of father and mother?
One of the old-man also joined the conversation
“Now, you could consider that we have three Erkebulan in our aul. My grandson – the son of my junior daughter – was named by the same name.
“Oh, if it could be known where he is now – our first, the big Erkebulan, the first of three – someone sighed . Erken who steel was faced to the wall did not see who was it and he could not learn it from the voice.”
“Mullah stood up from his place and started the appropriate prayer. In the hands of Baeke the child was sleeping.”
“Allah akbar!..Allah akbar! Laylaha ella allam! – The mullah articulated carefully the words of his prayer. Your name is Erkebulan, Erkebulan, Erkebulan!”
“The name of newborn was pronounced three times, like it was relieved by the rite.”
“Let Allah almighty send the health, well-being, longevity to all of Erkebulan – said Baiken. – Let them be strong by their spirit and be happy in their undertakings.”
Aul subsided; it overcame by noisy troublesome toi. Dream knocked people anywhere. Snoring could be heard from all sides. Woman took a nap near the hearths, curled like a quail in the nest.
In the yurt for not attracting the attention of someone, old Baiken had a silent conversation with Erken with no fire.
“So Erkesh, now you say – where do you go and what do you need. You now already that I will do my best for you.”
“I know that, Baeke…At first I need to go not far away, here. If it possible let Qaisar go with me.”
“Is it all? What more do you need.”
“That’s all for now.”
“When do you want to go?”
“Tonight if it is possible.”
“You choose then what do you need. Change your cloth. I am an old men but have some cloth from the young years. Take the boots with the felt hose, the nights are cold yet. I have a grey woolen chapan it is perfect for your shoulders. What about the underwear? There is underwear too. Get off your ushanka, you will take my malahay. Which horse you will take? I think I will not give you a bay with yellowish marking. It is very noticeable, talks will go. About Qaisar I wiil tell that he goes you to accompany to the city. When you will come back?”
“I think in five days.”
Erken was listening the old men and thinking that the most simply words – take my malahay, wich are about your underwear – could express the deepest human feelings. The friendship. The help of the friend. The readiness to risking.
He abandoned the aul before dawn. Nearby on his red horse Qaisar was going. When they arrive to the place where they could not afraid of being heard or paid attention on their early departure, Qaisar started to talk up about the horse under Erken, the red one too but a bit more dark than his horse.
“Oh, Baeke knew what he chose for you! There were hunted three wolves on it in the autumn, on the first snow. It is, truly, not a zhorga, but its trot is good. And where are we going, Erke – aga?”
“Who was Aklima married with?”
“Ah.. He is from the family of zhappas, gshy is already on the Kara-Koin. Otarpay really wanted to be kaperatyp – that’s why he gave poor girl to the nephew of Kalzhan.
“And where does this zhappas stand? Kara-Koin – where it is?
“Their djayliau. We did not turn right, if we want to go there. This is to the side of Kazmonshak-Syrgaly.”
“And how old was Aklima in the last year, do you know?
“It is impossible for me to not know, we were growing up together, going for the water together at the lake. I turned eighteen already, and she is for one year younger than me.
Erken did not ask Qaisar more. On the road on the fine horse he always is able to think. How many friends had he with whom he fights for the Sovietic power? And now – He was the only, lost all connections with them. Many of them were transferred from Kara-Otkel and Kzyl-Zhar to Omsk jail. He was the fugitive; tramp by his own…Kolchak was already in power. Alash-Orda is already in its power. Baiken said not for nothing: “The paper came, Erkesh, they are searching for you”. But he can go to south only through Betpak-Dala, through the death unsheltered desert. Who would be his guide? Here even Qaisar could not be useful. ..
He had time to consult with Baeke. There is such an old men! He would come up with something, he always found a way if it was about Erken!
They came to Aklima. Erken didn’t know even what for? Whar could he change? What could he help her? But he must see her. It was something like desease…Once in the darl night this girl flicked just for a moment - and came to his life forever. She stood in front of him now, not going anywhere already and he saw the fear and the happiness and fright and sorrow on her well-turned face and all of thar feelings were about him. May be Aklima was so sweet because of the secret which was appeared between them in that short moment…
In that minute he understood all human complexity at first time and forever. No, not mentally - he understood earlier also, but by all his heart.
The greatest artists of the past, poets, who learned the existence of being and were able to present all move of the human soul by the magic word – they unraveled this mystery in their own way. But young Kazakh literature learns it yet.
And judging by the very large – the only way to judge in poetry – than more and more Erken did not like his own poetry. Well it had its own appearance. The mottled gangway with the emptiness. All that exalted and grandiloquent comparisons were not even on the level of one word of Baeke when he thought about which horse he should give to him for the trip. And it could not be said that he spared the bay with the yellowish markings. No, he was carry about Erken. Horsemen on that good horse could attract attention and many people knew the rebellious runaway poet. And how to express it that people could appreciate the soul of the wise old men, that high feeling moved him when he said: «I think I will not give you the bay with the yellowish markings. You cannot use here the exclamation – oh, you, my friend! Your nobleness is great like this steppe!
May be Erken exaggerated his flaws. But he couldn’t drop to think about new methods of expressing. To be in the first lawn of the new Kazakh poetry…Sometimes this thought about him seemed unforgivable arrogant childishness. But he saw another also – that many people imitated him, that they who chose the difficult way of literature used his finds in poems in their own way. That’s why he had a big responsibility. If it the time which chose him could he stand that kind of load on his shoulders? He was only twenty-five. He understood also that poetic epoch had gone to the past head of which was the great Abai. New age came to the steppe it was accompanied by a dull creak of old arba and lazy pace of a camel. How can you express that? Mona Lisa, Eugene Onegin – became the same part of his reality as Aklima, whom he saw once. How could be done that this reality become so close for other people, for many of them?
Erken wanted to see her one more time. If only…If he will see the slave without voice instead of that proud, surprisingly clear and independent girl? No, no! Allah do not let me to see her resigned, humiliated…
…In one day they came to zhayliau. Stretched out along the shore of the lake there were standing auls close one to another. It seemed there was no life here. The fireplaces didn’t’t smoke. There were no people also. Or they were hiding or abandoned everything and went. The cattle was roaming unattended at the steppe. Erken and Qaisar tried to find a shelter in three auls for start the search in the morning but no one, none of the owners let them come in.
“Move, move on…it can’t. We have a pestilence. Kara-Sheshek “
Finally they found a lonely shepherd with the small flock. He showed them the aul which they searched.
“There..Do you see two yurts? One of them disassembled for a half. It is there. But it is almost hopelessly to find there anyone. Someone is dead, someone has migrated.”
Erken pushed his dark red by the heels and galloped to the white yurts up-front. By coming he didn’t wait if he meet someone or not, but jumped off from the sweaty horse in a lather almost ripping canopy by enter to yurt.
An old woman was sitting looking stupidly to the ash of the extinct fire. There was the one whom he met in Otarbay’s recently.
At the right side the pert of the yurta was separated by the blue silk curtain. Someone was breathing hard behind like after the unstoppable running.
Qaisar was looking after the horses outside so he went a moment later.
The old women asked without looking up:
“Who are you, my children?.. Move on faster. Maybe you don’t know that there is kara-sheshek?”
They exchanged glanced.
“No, we know that, zheneshe, - Erken responded.”
“So you are not appreciating of your life and you are not afraid of the black misfortune? Who are you?”
“My name is Erken, and friends call me Qaisar. - Immediately the blue curtain trembled and the breath was caught for a moment.”
“Ah, I know Qaisar, - said old women. – But in any case I can’t let you come in here. That is the will of dogdyr.”
“Someone shouted after the curtain. Erken almost moaned of the pain which bited his hurt. This raucous suffering voice… He didn’t imagine this voice of Aklima like that…”
He was listening it in his dreams like sometime in Omsk he was listening piano which could be happy and feel sorrow and despair and hope. Aklima…It means that she was alive. She didn’t want them to go. In that shout the words were not comprehensible but Erken heard clearly: Don’t go! Don’t leave me!”
“Listen, Qaisar,- he said – I have been inculcated after the smallpox, they did it two times in the prison. And how about you?”
“Oh, Erke-aga! Can you see my damaged skin? There is no pestilence to do something bad for me.”
“So then, zheneshe, if you let us, we will stay tonight here, and don’t worry about us.”
The old women didn’t object. She got up silently and brought a cool samovar. Qaisar immediately disappeared after the curtain.
“Aklima, it’s me, Qaisar.”
Even in that moment on the fringe between death and life, it was not relies for married woman to have a conversation with the men, she must be descreet and all her feelings were expressed by this short interjection “ngy”. “Ngy” means: I know you.
“Aklima, can you hear me? How are you, dear?”
“Ngy…I can hear you. To say the true I am not very well.”
“Qaisar!” called Erken. “Come out. Don’t make her worry. Leave her. Come here.”
Qaisar came out. He took his head with his hands and started to cry., sobbing.
-“Calm down, fellow.”
But the guy could not hold himself.
“Erke-aga, I was so…I was so happy to hear from you that we are going to Aklima. If I knew that…that. Oh! – His voice broke, he shacked fast his head and run out from yurt.”
Behind the curtain there was a cry again. The ill demanded something, insisted on something. Maybe she called him? Erken hesitated no more. Hard danger under Aklima eliminated the need for decency. He went there to her.
Her chest was up and down, she was wheezing with each breath. The face was covered with the red shawl with stripes. Erken took her elbow – yes, with no doubts…All hand was covered by hard scabs. The blue vein was beating near the wrist.
“Aklima! You never say die! You will get well. I was searching for you – and here I found you. I will be here while you get well. Do you want me to stay with you, Aklima?”
After yesterday Aklima was getting worse. The smallpox choked her, but the youth didn’t give up, the youth was fighting with the disease. The husband of Aklima knowing about outbreak of smallpox escaped to the city without coming to aul. His young brother, his sister who rested in the next yurt, died. The widow withot children from the next aul was coming to Aklima, bringing her the food and boiling the tea, sitting at the head at night. With the arrival of the mother of Aklima the widiw didn’t return. Maybe she died?
The sudden appearance of Erken and the friend of childhood Qaisar touched her up strongly. Suddenly Aklima felt herself young, beautiful and strong. She became the girl who saw the famous akyn once, preserved memory about him. But why he became so dear for her? She almost didn’t know him, only saw through the narrow gap he was sitting in the otau at his sister’s and with sloopy grace knocked some melody on the dombra. No It was not true that she didn’t know him. She knew his poems, she knew everything about him. How did she hope that in would be the happy night with songs, dombra and games? But it was so that the poet was almost killed in their house. She hoped meet him once more. But apparently hi was thinking about her too. He was searching and found her!
“May be we should uncover your face? It would be not so stuffily for you.”
“Ok, I will not do it.”
It seemed that Aklima calmed down a little bit. Her chest didn’t come up and down so.
He was searching her and found her in the most difficult moments…Erlen-aga! What kind of girl dreamed about zhygit like Erken? You were happy Aklima. No for a long time but happy. The destiny brought you with the poet when needed your help and how was trembling your hand when you said that awful words: ”Akyn-aga, someone want to kill you.” I saved him from death and now he has come to save me from the black vortex. He said himself that he will with me until I get better until I rise on my feet. And the poet he can do everything he is almighty as the saint. If tomorrow I will be better a little bit, I will bring the survived zhygits and call the girls. There will be a shyldehana because I really born in the second time. Akbala, call everyone whom you can find beforehand. Erken with dombra should sit hear me. Oh girls! Have you come? How fast you have responded me. I am happy to see you. I was bored without you at home of the hateful. Sing, I beg you “Sursha- kyz”… “When I saw you my dear I remembered hugging the pillow was crying” Can I lean against you, aga? What a back-lit!..Qaisar where are you? Now is your turn to sing, sing the “Karakoz”. You sang this song well. Sing like in the past in all your voice. “Black-eyed, you leaved me, how can I be now, how can I be?” Why don’t you sing?
Erken was sitting behind her listening her words with his head down. Now he will not give her to anyone. Leonardo da Vinci did not leave the portrait of Mona Lisa and he will not leave Aklima. When she will get well and strong they will get through the Betpak-Dal together to south, to ours. How could poor Otarbai give his Aklima to someone? It wasn’t true. The old tradition is not important if it is the interference for his happiness with Aklima. Oh, Allah, help her. Do not let her go. How could he doubt if it was she who walk on the lawn near the prison window. What another girl could dare to do so decisively. Only Aklima could.
“Erkesh, don’t go – she said. – Don’t go Qaisar, Akbala, don’t go.”
The delirium finished. Aklima fell into oblivion.
Erken was sitting with her till morning came. Aklima was laying silent saw nothing around her, heard nothing. He got up noiselessly afraid of disturbing her, but her mother came to her and her squawk explained everything. Nobody can disturb Aklima already.
Every person in his life has his own calendar of memorable years. In that night near the dying Aklima the poet knew why the young women covered herself with the shawl – didn’t want him to see her face uglified by the illness. He kept her hand, covered by straws like scale and thought that there was no smallpox no suffering that could destroy the beauty. Thin girl that he saw in aul on the bank of the lake Kzyl-Mola, how could she die?
Long time has pass from that night.
The words of the poet have sounded in the Kazakh steppe, the words of the poet reverberated far beyond. The roads passed in fights for the Soviet power left behind. And now is not the sword, not the revolver he was holding in his hands, and morocco briefcase full of important business transactions.
There was a grave time. It was a time of proud, difficult and fun. It was not necessary to write in the old commonplace verse, and the poet broke the verse, he found new and unusual combinations of words and in the rhythm of his lines could be heard the beating of many hearts. He sought in the thick of life, he was trying to see everything, understand everything, and at the most simple, seemingly unremarkable events comprehended by him, lay a reflection of changes that have taken place in his native steppe after October.
A steady noisy glory came to him. But the poet, if he is a poet and a real man, should be able to stand the glory, and all that is connected with it. In verses written by a mature master, critics found many advantages. A poet himself did not like them. He did not cry about it at all intersections to avoid creating impression, though he brags about his perfectionism and puts it on display. But he could see their shortcomings and knew that it was possible to write simpler, brighter, deeper and stronger.
To pave the way to the unspoiled snow - more difficult than going after someone in the tracks. The poet had disciples. There were frank imitators. He was proud of his disciples, and imitators gave him many unpleasant experiences. Especially in recent time, they praised the poet, no matter what he wrote. Idle talk?.. No, not just. The calculation was accurate: wildly praising him, they thereby exaggerated value of their works. These were similar to literature like his short-cutter coat to a fashion chapan of thin cloth that Baeke had given to him.
The poet could not forgive himself that had not picked up a great job. Such a book would have absorbed the entire stock of his observations and reflections, have comprehended the vast improvements in the lives of the people of the steppe. He could not forgive himself that he had not written many of the facts that he had seen and experienced. On creation of complex, multifaceted images he dreamed when he was young men of twenty-four, when he had only guessed about the way that he had to pass in the literature. Whether he was afraid that he is not prepared yet for such a job and could spoil all with his haste. Whether the time filled with events did not leave him the opportunity to sit down for a great book...
Anyway, the poet never forgot about her. Over the years, even Mona Lisa and Onegin, and the girl who leapt into his life, the more disturbed him and demanded: "Do you remember? Why don’t you write? You have to write. «But is it true, that the girl flashed in his life only one time? No. As the evening echo, repeating many times, rushes into the mountains from rock to rock, so she always responded on the first call. Aklima entered his life strongly and powerfully, forced to take another look at the many events and phenomena. Maybe he was writing in a different way because once there, on the shore of Lake KzylgMola she appeared to him for the moment…
He was something to remember, something to think about. He could describe all the experiences from the day when the news of the overthrow of the white king came to Kara- Otkel, and he, Erken, was one of the first helped to put up the red flag. He had experienced all: the pride of victories and defeats of grieves. His memory with all details kept all signs of the times distinctly.
No, it is impossible to be going to the road of reflections because you never know if you can manage it –the road will not become neither easier, nor shorter.
"The Circulation" The name of the book suddenly appeared in his mind seemed for itself but how much time he thought about it, getting ready for this moment, when he would remain alone with a blank sheet of paper and his work experience. The feather of the poet became gentle and kind when he thought about his friends and colleagues. And when during the course of the story the enemies appeared, poet, without hesitation, rushed into the battle with the fervor of a young hot Erken.
Page after page the book was written, and saw the world. What went up then! Relatives of those who in "The Circulation" got a deserved punishment raised a furious persecution. Complaints and threats, gossip, denunciations, anonymous letters poured on the head of the poet. "You must know that there is a stronger weapon then your rotten pen", they reminded. "Bear in mind not so broken-company," wrote another. "Hey, you! Walk and look back, I'll meet you, "promised the third.
When it became especially hard and bleak at heart, the poet picked up the faithful dombra, which was the constant companion of his thoughts, his travels to the past. No, he did not doubt ... He knew he was on the right way, and now thinking about a second book of «The Circulation" Criticism of the first volume was useless for the poet at all. If someone scolded her angrily, others just wildly praised. There was almost no mid.
Behind the window dusk fell, but he did not want to put the light on. Behind the window two apple trees grew. It was August, and branches laden turned toward the ground with fruit. Suddenly, as often happens in a town near the mountains, the weather turned bad. Dark tattered clouds over hanged. Thunderstorm rolled over the tops and was about rain to shed. Fingers are increasingly being detained at the lower frets of dombra. With this capture both strings sounded surprisingly nice and blend and this harmony reminded to the poet of many secrets of the writing to unravel. The whole life goes to understand them and sometimes even more.
A consonance - is not the same sound of the two strings, is not the primitive unison but harmony, reciprocity! Without such consent of the words, there are neither poetry nor prose. And it is more and more difficult to attain it over the years, because you becomes even more severe, demanding to himself.
Dombra sounded muffled. Maybe, magician of the songs Birzhan-sal also reflected about the great mystery of sounds and words, being alone with dombra? His wide robe of camel's hair burst on the back from the blow of Kamcha with the hidden lead in its tail. Insolent poshtabay snatched dombra from the hands of the singer. The string was broken. It seemed it was moaning but not ringing. Groan of despair. But the head of the volost Zhanbota didn’t stand by, roughly cut the singer: "Who asked you to interfere in other people's affairs?" It was clear, it wasn’t possible for head of the volost to stand by some singer even it was Birzhan-sal by himself and quarrel with others heads of volost?
What about the poshtabay? He brought eternal shame by this blow, not only for himself but also for his entire clan. What price had his son Toke – the bruiser with a cleft lip. And his son, grandson of the poshtabay? .. He was quite an adult. If he moved out into the city, then he didn’t bring the infamous kamcha with him while walking. But today, for evil, for nefarious affairs you do not need a whip.
The fingers of the poet were still held on the lower frets. The dombra sang monotonously. "You let them humiliate me Zhanbot ..." It was clear he had been unconsciously tapped out this phrase exactly for a long time.
The poet remembered that Birzhan had a loud voice, and achieving the same height sound, he unconsciously twisted and turned the pegs so string snapped.
The street lamps were lighted, and the light fell into the room, in which the poet was sitting. Though he didn’t sing the verses, but still pulled a new string.
And the dombra came to live again in his hands.