In autumn our hens started disappearing from the coop. One day, after another incident, I saw footprints near the hen-house. They appeared to belong to a boy of sixteen or younger. I was eager to capture the thief and spit upon the face of his father who hadn"t brought him up properly.
At last, recalling the old technique of our primeval ancestors, I thought up a unique method of capture. I dug up a deep ditch by the hen-house and covered it with brushwood and earth.
One night I woke up from a rattling noise and rushed out into the yard. It was foggy. I ran up to the trap I had made. As I was running up to it I saw a man"s dark contour which climbed over the fence and vanished like a ghost. I had no time to lose, so I, too, jumping over the fence, ran after him following the thief"s footprints. I had been running for a long time until I bumped into a pole. Like the guard dog of detectives, I lost the trace. At first, I thought it was alvasti, i.e. a monster like a genie or a shaitan. But it turned to be an ordinary boy. I learnt it when I had found a hurdjun . I took it home and read the letter by the flash-light:
The Sinner"s Will
"I am writing these lines with bitter tears in my eyes. If somebody meets this boy, help him. He is an orphan. I wanted to adopt him, but I can"t possibly do it. It seems that God has punished me for the wrong I have done.
Once I built a country-house out of town. To build a foundation pit for the toilet I needed some man power. So I went to the labor market, where I could find cheap labor force. When I got there the laborers swooped down on me like a flock of hungry birds of prey.
- Is there a craftsman here that can dig a toilet pit for me?
-Yes, there is - they shouted in chorus.
A humpback of about forty years of age came up to me, a digging spade in hand, and said:
- I am the leading expert in this line. In fact, I am a grave-digger. I have dug all kinds of graves. Mostly graves for poor people. They died more often. But sometimes officials, too, would die. I remember once a big official kicked the bucket, a man that had been stealing people"s money. He was a bribe taker, in other words, he was a scoundrel. So his relatives ordered a three-room grave. Well... I didn"t care as long as they paid me. To begin with, I had gulped two bottles of wine with a pickled cucumber, took a spick and, spitting on my palms, began, you know, to dig the grave. Having painted the walls, I had no problems with excavation work except that I found a two meter long snake, dozens of scorpions, a giant lizard, three turtles, two hedgehogs, a few worms, beetles, centipedes and toads. By the evening, having painted the wall and the ceiling beige ( it was fashionable in those days) with water paint I finished the decoration work. Biting a pickled cucumber I gulped two more bottles of wine and turned over my duties ahead of schedule.
Then I cracked two more bottles of wine and finally received the money from the relatives of the deceased man who had robbed people all his life and respected no one but himself. I took the money, you know, and went home. When I got home I gave the money to my wife who carefully examined the banknotes and threw them at my face. The money turned out to be false. So there should be no problem here, brother. It"s true that I am a tippler and a rogue, insulting people morally and physically, hitting everybody with the digging spade which I had brought from the army. But the authorities somehow do not put me to prison. Maybe, they fear that I may dig up a tunnel or escape from penal colony along with political prisoners that can stage a striped revolution, when freed...
I asked the humpback:
- How much do I have to pay for the three meter foundation pit which I ask you to dig out?
He told me his price. I was not a fool, and offered half of his price. He stared at me the way communist stares at a bourgeois and said:
- Wha-a-t? Don"t give me any of that trash! Go and see the doc! You need a treatment. Who"s going to accept that money, really? Well, well... you"ve jacked it up indeed...
Now a boy of about fifteen came up to me and started begging me to take him on:
- Mister, I accept the price you offered. Take me. I am an orphan. My name is Hasan. My twin brother is hospital, at the isolation department. He"s fallen ill with jaundice. The doctors say that he urgently needs blood transfusion. I have found plasma but I cannot afford to buy it. I am ashamed of begging. That"s why I am here. I am ready to accept any job to save my twin brother. He"s got no one except me!
I was sorry for the boy. I took him along, and we set out. When we arrived home the boy started digging the pit. I helped him. When the hole became deep he would pull out the bucket by means of a rope, empty it up on the ground and then pull it down by means of a self made winch we had mounted above the hole.
Hasan was working without a break. When the hole was three meters deep he shouted:
-Master, maybe, this is enough? Bring the ladder. The time has come! I have to go to the doctor! If I am late, he will give the plasma to somebody else.
I shouted back:
- Hasanbbai, we still have time! Dig out half a meter more, and that will be enough! We"ll wind up!
Hasan agreed and resumed digging. I looked and saw the sand in the bucket was getting wet. Half an hour later the depth of the pit had reached three and a half meters. Hasan shouted:
- Master, what time is it? I may be late! Let me go!
- I"ll go and see the time now - I said and walked towards the verandah, to look at the clock. When I came back to the hole and started talking with him, suddenly a terrible thing happened. I heard a rattling noise and the boy"s loud cry. The ground slipped into the pit covering the boy. The poor boy was now under the heap of earth. When I came round I was at a loss. I couldn"t even shout. Since I didn"t have neighbors yet, nobody could see this terrible nightmare.
It all happened within seconds. It was self-burial. I looked around and saw the boy"s jacket hanging on the ladder. I searched the pockets and found a recipe proscribed by the doctor. Although I was in a state of shock I had enough strength to go to the district center where I could buy the plasma. Then I went to the isolation hospital and asked the way to the infectious department where Hasan"s brother was laid up. The nurse on duty told me he was in Ward 13 , and that he was feeling bad.
-What a merciless father! It"s a few days now that the boy hasn"t been eating anything. He urgently needs plasma transfusion...
- Sorry, I am not his father. I am a distant relative of his. I have brought the plasma... Here you are...
- The nurse took the plasmа and quickly walked to the procedure unit. I couldn"t wait till she came back. I pulled out my head through the window opening trying to hear the good news upon her return. From then on I started visiting the boy at hospital every day. Each time I would bring him food and medication. Husein was gradually recovering. It soothed my pain which had been tormenting me night and day.
At last Husein was discharged from hospital. I took him to my home. He kept asking me about his twin brother Hasan. He cried as he asked.
- Where is Hasan?.. I want to see him...
- I avoided the answer. Poor boy, he didn"t inquire about his parents. Hasan was his only relative. He was all for Husein. But there is such a notion as "getting used to something". It cures all from incurable wounds. Husein, too, was getting used to the new conditions.
- Days, weeks, months went by... Husein even started smiling. But my wife gave me no rest because of Husein. She thought Husein was my son from the second marriage. Therefore she would kick up a row every day, insisting that I should turn the boy away from our home. Gradually, it came to a big breach between my wife and me, and our family was breaking up. My wife started trying to get even with me, in other words, she made up her mind to revenge herself upon me.
One day I came home in the evening and saw my wife lying in bed with another man, making love. I am a jealous man by nature. Right off, I got cracked up, so to say. I took out a kitchen knife and, bursting into the room, I stabbed both of them. I cut them to tatters. They had shouted for pain and fear but nobody responded. After that I long sat on the threshold of the opened door, looking at the moon. My clothes were all covered with blood. I wept. Then, coming round a little, I got up. I changed my clothes, washed and entered the room where Husein was sleeping. I realized perfectly well that the guards of the law would arrest me and my wife"s relatives would kill the innocent boy. So I put this note into the bag along with food and made up my mind to take the boy to the railway junction and put him on a train. If somebody meets the boy and reads this note, please, for God"s sake, help him, so that he might not die the way his twin brother did".
I read the note and fell into a reverie sitting by the window and watching the gardens, wet from rain, with clouds of fog floating about. I didn"t sleep all night. In the morning I went out in search of Husein. I had been looking for him or three days running and finally found his traces. Some boys told me they had seen him near the corn field of the farm where the watchman by the name of Ilyas Mergen captured him. I made my way to the wine yard. But Ilyas was not there.
His son Arslan, who was sitting on the top of a tent made of willow branches, said that his father had gone to Abdumukhtar"s wedding.
I went to the house where the wedding was taking place and found Ilyas Mergen there . When I started talking about the boy he jumped up as if stricken by electric current:
- Goodness gracious! I"m such a fool! I have left him in the old mill! It has slipped my mind! Well...it is no fun getting old! To prevent him from stealing corn I bound him to a pole in the old mill. Poor boy! Come along, Al Kizim! We must free him right away!
Ilyas Mergen and I ran towards the river bank where the old mill towered above the river. When we arrived at the place we saw a crowd of people at the entrance. We entered the mill and saw a horrible scene. It so happened that the bound boy had been eaten up by rats. On seeing this picture I felt as if the whole world had suddenly turned black. Involuntarily, I seized Ilyas Mergen by the collar and smashed him in the face. He fell down and fainted.