Seeing her husband’s worried face, Alina immediately asked a question:
– What’s wrong, honey? – Any problems on the farm?
Oleg sat down on the edge of the sofa and calmly, as if troubles were commonplace for him, answered:
– Yes, that’s it… I’ve been seeing things lately, and the cows are acting restless somehow. Today it seemed as if wolves began to walk around the neighborhood, although no one has seen them here for probably twenty years. It would be necessary to talk to Mikhail so that he would round them up.
Hearing the name of a hunter who was not respected in their village, Alina threw up her hands.
– Well, why would you mess with him? That way you’ll only get yourself into more trouble. There is such a rumor among the locals about him that his ears curl up into a tube. I ask you, Oleg, back off, better get out, our neighbor, Anton, ask. Although he is not a hunter, he knows the habits of wild animals very well.
Looking at his wife, Oleg put his arm around her shoulders and said:
– Do you think that this biologist will help me in some way? Yes, he shies away from a small mongrel, and here are wolves. No, Alina, a professional is needed here, and in general, what kind of manner do you have to advise something that initially does not suit me? Okay, everyone, let’s have dinner, otherwise I’m really hungry.
Putting a bowl of rich borscht on the table in front of him, Alina continued to bend her line.
– And yet, talk to Anton. Maybe he will advise you something useful, maybe there are not wolves at all, you know these cows yourself.
In the morning, going to the farm, Oleg thought about it and decided to look at the same biologist. The fact is that Anton worked as a school teacher in biology. That is why Oleg called him a biologist for short.
– Hello, neighbor, how are you feeling? Are you still teaching the kids the right mind?
Frowning, he replied seriously:
– Hello, Oleg! Of course, especially since children love and respect my subject, they are interested in learning about the animal world. And I always tell the kids that biology is the queen of all sciences and without it there is nowhere, no university in the country to enter.
Scratching the back of his head, as if he had been scolded in front of the whole class, Oleg said confusedly:
– Wow, you’re a real good fellow! Listen, Anton, I have a matter for you: my wife here suggested that you could help me. The cows on my farm are behaving strangely, not that they are very afraid of something, but they are clearly worried. Maybe they are sick with something, I don’t know.
Anton looked at Oleg carefully.
– Interesting.. But there must be some reason, but tell me in more detail, what happened there in your domain?
Looking at his watch, the farmer asked:
– Aren’t you going to be late for the kids’ classes?
To which Anton replied quite calmly:
– Yes, no, today I have only electives on my schedule, but they will be in the afternoon.
Raising his eyebrows, Oleg laughed.
– So why did you lose your temper in the morning, did you miss school in any way?
Anton shook his head and, coming closer, calmly said:
– You can say that, but if you continue to laugh, you will lose the opportunity to get my help.
Oleg had to slow down.
– Okay, okay, that’s not what I wanted to say. I have a suspicion that wolves have appeared in our area. And I would like you to examine everything yourself and make your verdict.
The biologist waved his hand at him without any invitation and got into the car.
– Are we going, or are you just going to stand there!?
Whistling in surprise, Oleg plopped into the driver’s seat.
– Well, you’re a smart guy, even I don’t allow myself that. Okay, buckle up, or else the wind will blow you away.
The farmer famously pressed down on the gas pedal and the car started off with a bang, rushing towards the farm. While driving, both were silent and each thought about his own. Finally, having arrived at the gate of the fence, Oleg commanded:
– Here we are, and then we’ll walk. By the way, you can already, now, look around, suddenly you will find traces of an uninvited animal.
Anton did not answer anything, and immediately rushed to the buildings where the cows were kept. For almost half an hour he scrupulously studied the ground under his feet.
– I’ll say this, Oleg, the wolves didn’t come to visit you, but if they had, God forbid, they would not have left without prey.
The farmer put his hands to his sides and angrily asked:
– What does this mean, Anton, do you think I’m completely crazy? And then who is bothering my cows, a demon or something?
The biologist pointed intelligently to the ground near the barn.
– Look, there’s a barely visible boot print. Do you really think that wolves walk in shoes? No, it’s a human footprint, here, only the size is very small, childish, well, or like a dwarf. In any case, an adult has a much larger foot. And if you don’t believe it, then compare it with your shoes.
The farmer actually raised his leg.
– And that’s right, my shoes are much bigger, but I still don’t understand where a child can come from here? After all, the farm is far from the village, and the kids don’t come here. Okay, let’s go, I’ll treat you to tea and pies, my wife baked it with herself, but I still can’t eat everything.
Sitting down at his desk in his office, Anton again started talking about the trail he had found.
– I think it’s just one of the local kids who got into the habit of coming to your farm. And if I have time, I will definitely ask my students about it. It is possible that someone was talking about a farm, well, or about a trip to nature. You know how it is: children are bored after school, so they find themselves in various adventures.
Nodding in response, Oleg said:
– I completely agree with you, I was a restless child myself, my parents kept looking for me all over the village. But I still don’t understand how you can scare my cows. I remember how Alina brought her nephews to the farm and nothing, not a single burenka moved at the same time. No, Anton, it’s not just about the trail that you found. Cows just won’t worry, someone is definitely bothering them.
Slapping his palm on the table, the biologist immediately said:
– I almost forgot, I noticed a cot in your shed, where the hay is stored. And if you still think they’re wolves, they seem to spend the night with your cows sometimes.
Not believing his ears, Oleg, just in case, looked into the next shed.
– Wow, really a couch. I wonder who could have arranged it, well, not wolves, really?
In the far corner of the room there really was something like a rookery: straw crushed in a circle and a disheveled headboard in the form of a pillow. Anton, who was standing next to him, cautiously said:
– Well, I do not know who it could be, but it is clearly not a wild animal. He would not lie quietly on the straw, believe me, the predator would definitely satisfy his hunger.
Oleg was slightly wary:
– That’s true, that’s true! Well, what do you say? How will we proceed further?
Anton raised his eyebrows in surprise.
– What do you mean, did you really decide that I would settle on your farm and guard it?
In response , Oleg patted him on the shoulder and said:
– No, there is no need to guard anyone here, I have a watchman for this. He’s sitting in a booth by the fence, let’s go get acquainted.
A middle-aged man came out of a small wooden building to meet them.
– Greetings, Oleg Ivanovich, well, did you make the rounds?
Holding out his hand, he spoke.
– Meet Anton, our biology teacher, and also a great expert on wild animals. However, he claims that there is no smell of wolves here.
Turning his head to him, the watchman said:
– I am glad to see an educated person in front of me, they call me Dmitry. And as for the predators, you’re right, they really weren’t here. At least, I haven’t met any, although I’ve been working here for a long time.
Lifting his shoulder, Oleg returned to the conversation again.
– Well, if there are no wolves, then we are calmer, aren’t we, Anton Vasilyevich?
Returning to the car, he said almost in a whisper:
– It was possible without a patronymic, we are the same age. As for the wolves that you imagined, they really weren’t here. We saw footprints, but they belong to a person, or rather, a child. And here it is necessary to think about it: it is possible that local kids are indulging. And if that’s the case, then I definitely have to come up with something so that they don’t come here anymore. It’s not enough for your watchman to confuse them with thieves and hit them with salt from a gun.
An hour later they returned to the village and Oleg, in order not to go back and forth twice, brought Anton to school. Then I came home and told my wife everything I saw on the farm.
After filling his cup with tea, she said thoughtfully:
– If it’s not wolves playing pranks, then definitely children. But why would they go there, especially at such a time?
A fine snow was just falling outside the window and Oleg, looking at it, nodded and said:
– That’s it, that it’s winter outside, and they don’t care about anything, even the severe cold. You know how I feel about my cows, so I’m worried.
Alina hugged her husband and said:
– Stop worrying about it, dear! You have already realized that these are not wolves. And the fact that children are playing, so they will not bring any harm to cows anyway.
Oleg nodded in agreement.
– Okay, even so, but I still asked the biologist to have an educational conversation with them. There’s a caretaker on the farm, isn’t there, in case he gets confused with fright? I don’t need problems, especially with the law.
With that, they stopped talking about the farm and sat down at the table. Alina cooked a delicious pilaf. Scooping rice and meat with a spoon, Oleg still continued to think about something. This alerted his wife, and she carefully asked:
– Well, now what’s bothering your smart little head?
Looking out the window, where darkness had already gathered, Oleg said:
– Still, we need to go there again, see for ourselves what’s going on there. Yes, and I’ll check the watchman, maybe he sleeps without hind legs, I’ll give him a punch.
Alina remarked ruefully:
– Oleja, did you look at the clock? It’s almost nine o’clock in the evening, have you decided to spend the night there?
The husband looked at her pityingly, and from this his wife’s heart even tingled.
– Well, okay, go to your burenki, put them to bed and wish them good night. Just don’t linger, otherwise the frost is getting worse.
Having dressed warmly, Oleg quickly warmed up the car and rushed to the farm. The watchman met the farmer in a cheerful mood.
– Wow, Oleg Ivanovich, at such a late hour and here, to the farm, have you forgotten something? By the way, as we agreed, I let all the workers go early.
Nodding in response, Oleg went to the shed where he and the biologist had found a cot earlier in the day. Oleg turned on the light and carefully walked to the end of the shed. He immediately realized that there was someone in the previously discovered place, since the hay was not lying as it was.
– Hey, who’s there, come out!
There was some stirring in the distance, but there was no answer.
“Well, for sure the mongrel spends the night, okay, let him warm up!” Oleg thought.
But already approaching the exit, the farmer suddenly heard a child crying. He rushed to the pile of hay and began to frantically scatter it, just like a child. A little girl, somehow dressed, was shaking from the cold and crying out loud, covering her face with small hands. Picking up the baby in his arms, Oleg covered her with a jacket and ran into the warm lodge.
– Dima, receive the guests, but hurry up, otherwise the child is completely numb.
Covering the poor thing with a blanket and pouring a mug of hot tea, the watchman asked the girl:
– My God, where did you come from and how did you end up on the farm?
In a voice trembling from the cold , the little girl replied:
– Uncles, just don’t kick me out, I don’t want to go back to my mom!
After warming up and feeding the child, Oleg and Dima still found out that the girl’s mother is a pretty drinker. And when she got drunk, she usually chased the girl around the house, instead of devils and destroyed everything around. Moreover, she brought unfamiliar men and continued her drunken antics with them. It’s always cold in their house and there’s no food at all, so the baby went wherever she looked. I came across a farm and stayed overnight in a barn with hay. So she began to come here while drinking was going on in her house, and in the morning she ran home more quickly, making her way through her mother’s guests sleeping on the floor. If there was at least something left on the table from yesterday’s party, the girl ate up, but this rarely happened, because the guests ate the whole snack clean.
Oleg and his caretaker listened to a shocking story that gave goosebumps. They could not even imagine that their own mother had done this to the child. Leaving the girl at the watchman, Oleg started the car and went to the address that the girl called. It turned out that the poor girl lived in a neighboring village, two kilometers from the farm.
“And how did she have the strength to come here?”
Oleg thought about this all the way, and when he drove up to the right house, he almost fainted: from the outside, the dwelling looked very deplorable: old things and junk were lying around in the yard, and the porch had long been crooked from old age. Pushing open the door, which was barely closed, he went inside the house. The stale smells of strong drinks immediately hit my nose. Looking into the kitchen, Oleg almost tripped over the hostess. She was lying on the floor and muttering something under her breath, and a man was lying next to the bed in the next room. But whether he was the father of that girl, the farmer did not know yet. And to clarify the situation, Oleg brought a bucket of ice water from the well and doused both of them from head to toe. Instantly sobering came to them.
– What are you doing, Herod, and how did you get into the house?
Oleg had no desire to answer their stupid questions and therefore, he asked himself:
– Where is your daughter? And what’s her name?
Wow, he hadn’t even found out the girl’s name in a hurry. The hostess sat down on the floor, and barely opening her mouth, strained:
– Our Tonya is probably walking, and as soon as she comes, I’ll put her in the corner, the hooligan has completely strayed from her hands.
Clearly, then the found girl’s name was Antonina and Oleg, clenching his fists in anger, said:
– I’ll ask you for everything, but in the meantime I need to visit someone else.
Without any delay, he started the car again and soon rushed back to the village. But he did not go home to himself, but went straight to the biologist. He did not immediately realize what the farmer wanted from him.
– In business! A child, yes, in such a cold! She could have frozen to death!
Nodding in response, the farmer almost shouted:
– So I’m telling you about it, get dressed faster, and let’s go, now you’ll see everything for yourself.
Arriving at the farm, Oleg dropped Anton off and pointed to the caretaker’s house.
– Go, get acquainted, maybe you can guess why I pulled you out of the house in such a dark.
Anton opened the door and went inside, seeing the girl, he immediately said:
– Tonya? It can’t be!
However, the baby was sleeping sweetly, wrapped in a blanket in front of a warm stove. Realizing that now was not the time for questions, Anton got out and headed for the car. After he sat down on the seat, Oleg turned to him and said with all the anger:
– And now let’s go back to where she came from. Only, chur, do not faint.
Ignoring the bumps and potholes, the farmer raced at full speed. Finally, when they stopped, Anton ran into that house without any further preliminaries and barely stood on his feet so as not to fall off from the heavy smell. The owners continued to fall on the floor, but the girl’s mother woke up first.
– Get out of here, this is our house!
Anton came closer and tears gushed from his eyes.
– How can you live like this? And your daughter, she almost froze!
But his words didn’t seem to get through. And then the farmer joined the case of clarifying all the circumstances. – Well, damn drunks, admit it, who kicked the child out in the cold? – Having dragged them both into the same room, Oleg sat down on an old stool and, nudging his heel with his foot, continued. – Why are you silent, do you think that I will leave and leave? No, parasites, I’ll shake the whole soul out of you.
Anton wanted to intervene, but the farmer looked at him menacingly, gritting his teeth, and said:
– Better call our precinct officer to come here. And then you go to the farm and pick up the girl from there. Take her to my house, I’ll warn Alina on the phone. I left the keys in the car, then you’ll figure it out yourself!
After completing his instructions, Anton waited for the district police officer, who drew up a protocol, and then got into his car to go after the girl. Pausing at the door, the law enforcement officer looked at Oleg and said:
– Just make sure that there are no traces, otherwise you will not be able to avoid sin from the lawyers.
The very next day, the whole neighborhood was buzzing after learning how the farmer had treated those grieving parents. No one could have imagined that he would decide to do this: Oleg put both on a chain and forced them to work on the farm. And all in order for them to realize the extent of their guilt. But this did not last long, because soon officials from the district came running to the village, and with them those same champions of legitimate human rights. I had to release the parasites, otherwise Oleg would have been dragged through the courts later. But at the same time, the girl from this family, nevertheless, was withdrawn. They wanted to place her in an orphanage, but Anton persuaded them to give Tonya to his care. Representatives of the guardianship went to meet him and left the girl for the duration of the proceedings. As for those drunks, they were soon deprived of their parental rights. And here, without hesitation, Anton officially filed documents for guardianship.
A month later, in a special order, his request was approved. Now Tonya lives at his house, where her grandmother, Anton’s mother, takes care of her. By the way, she did not forget about how the farmer saved her that frosty night, and gave her savior a drawing. On it, the girl depicted Oleg in the company of his beloved cows. He thanked Tonya for such a gift and promised to take her to the farm more often in the summer.