The warm July twilight has fallen, very dark, which only happens in the Altai Mountains. A bright new moon caught on the chimney of a good village hut. From yard to yard, dogs that had stagnated without hunting were quarreling. And Grandfather Mitrofan was going to the forest. The old man always approached this very thoroughly. Scratching the back of his head, Mitrofan threw a cigarette and several flares inside. It’s not even an hour, you’ll meet a bear who has the most rut. The beast is serious, you can’t escape from it, you’ll have to fight back. Once again, after inspecting the luggage, the old man took out a large basket, put everything at the threshold and fell asleep.
At an early dawn, Mitrofan threw a backpack and a gun on his back, clicked a Bunny and began to get out of the outskirts. The dog, delighted with freedom, galloped along the road, simultaneously loudly notifying the relatives locked up at home about the coming of a new day. The dog was walking at an easy trot, occasionally jumping high over the ears, pointing the old man in the direction of the distant forest. This time they were not going to shoot, their prey should be porcini mushrooms and strawberries that have already ripened. I really wanted to please my granddaughter, who promised to come soon. The berry will probably be gone by now, and then the jam brewed by my grandfather will come in handy.
Mitrofan noted that it has become much lighter, the conifer has thinned. Now the birches surrounding the large green glades will begin. Looks like they came. Having half filled the basket with fragrant scarlet berries, grandfather wearily straightened up. Rubbing the small of his back, he went to the shade of a spreading tree, where the faithful Bunny guarded the gun and backpack left behind. He sat down, leaning back against a thick trunk:
— Yes, it’s getting harder to pick berries, — he said aloud, hugging the dog, — and you’re not helping.
He took a sip of cold water from the flask he had brought with him and dozed off, blown by a light breeze.
The old man was awakened by the furious barking of a dog. Not understanding what was the matter, he abruptly opened his eyes and met Her gaze. Twenty meters from their halt, swinging on all fours, stood a huge brown bear. The dog was barking angrily, and the beast was clearly going to attack. The snarling mouth, the raised withers – the predator’s intentions were extremely clear. “But, what happened? Bears don’t attack just like that,” the man reached for the gun.
A shot rang out in the air, the animal shied away and everything became clear. A small bear cub was standing on its hind legs behind the bear’s back: “No older than three months,” Grandfather Mitrofan mechanically noted. Rushing after his mother, the baby screamed loudly and sat down. A thick chain rustled ominously in the grass. “A trap,” the old man guessed, “we need to get out, the maddened bear will kill everyone who is nearby.” Picking up his backpack, he began to slowly back away. At this moment, the cub twitched once more and suddenly began to cry bitterly in a very human way.
The huge enraged beast made a sharp turn and began to return rapidly. The old man was dumbfounded for a split second, grabbed a rocket launcher from his backpack and discharged pyrotechnics directly into the shaggy muzzle. The bear recoiled and rushed into the thicket, driven by a madly barking dog. Mitrofan decided to leave, but stopped when he heard a particularly plaintive cry of a wounded bear cub. — I have no more than 10 minutes, then my mother will come back again, — flashed through my head. And he cautiously went to the cub. The trusty hunting knife did not fail. With difficulty unclenching the steel jaws of the wolf trap, the old man loudly tsked and, having received freedom, the baby, limping, ran away to the side. The old man whistled for a long time and began to move sideways in the opposite direction from the escaped animal.
Grandfather backed away and whistled calling the dog, not looking at his feet at all. The dog and the bear appeared at the same time very close from different sides. From surprise, the man lost his balance and fell. There was no time to get up, Mitrofan turned over on his stomach, protecting the most vulnerable places from sharp claws, and covered his head with his hands. Minute passed by minute. Strained breathing tickled behind his ear. The smell of burnt wool hit my nose. The bear carefully studied the man pressed into the ground. But there was no attack. Very close, the dog was barking loudly.
Mitrofan’s whole life flashed before his eyes before the old man carefully raised his head. The bear was slowly walking away from him in the direction of the bear cub eating strawberries. Clearly pleased, the cub knocked over the basket and picked berries from the grass, stretching his lips comically. Then he reached into his backpack and deftly pulled out a piece of bread wrapped in a rag. The calmed down mother butted the injured child with her shaggy head and joined the feast. The Rabbit, hoarse from barking, growled threateningly after the robbers. The old man stood up, waved his hand and backed away. Even leaving the clearing, he could not take his eyes off the very bright brown bear’s eyes fixed on him.
For the first time, Mitrofan returned from the forest without prey, and even having lost his backpack. I wanted to skip to the hut with vegetable gardens, but I met my neighbor Semyonych at the outskirts. A curious friend followed and soon was listening to the story of the hapless Mitrofan over a mug of tart tea:
«Why didn’t you shoot her right away?» Semyonych squinted his cunning eye at his neighbor.
— So the mother, and the baby where? He would have perished in the forest alone, a little one at all,» Grandfather Mitrofan shook his head in sorrow.
— I went to the forest to feed the bear, — the neighbor laughed in his voice, — Let your girlfriend now return the eaten grub, — the joker did not let up.
And the old man blushed and just waved it away. With the light hand of Semenych, the whole village found out about this case. Only the lazy one did not prick the old hunter’s eyes with a shaggy «girlfriend». But the old man was not angry:
— Let them babble, tongues without bones, — his conscience is clear, he did not orphaned the bear.
And soon, he stopped thinking about the incident at all. Granddaughter Marisha and her husband threatened to come on the weekend. It was necessary to prepare.
— We’ll go berry picking together, — the joyful grandfather dreamed, — I’ll take her to our lake, there are also notable strawberry glades there, and there is no risk of meeting a forest predator.
However, neither on Saturday nor on Sunday, the guests did not arrive. Grandfather cut off the phone, but could not get through.
— Well, it’s a young thing. If they decide to come, they will inform you,» the inconsiderate old man quickly walked away.
Monday morning began for Mitrofan long before the early dawn. He was awakened by a loud dog barking. It was not even a bark, but a hubbub raised by the village dogs who had suddenly gone mad. Looking out of the window, grandfather saw a Bunny circling around the garden, which did not give up trying to jump on a high fence. “It must be an animal in the village,” the old hunter decided, picked up his gun and jumped out of the gate. He hurried along the main street as best he could and very soon joined the peasants gathered at the outskirts.
Bristling with guns, the villagers tried to figure out who caused such a ruckus. But it was only with the first rays of the sun that the culprit became visible. A huge brown beast with a bloody rag in its teeth was rushing along the edge of the rye field. The hunters froze in disbelief, the bear seemed to be trying to break into the village, despite the attacks of the dogs.
— Isn’t it your girlfriend, — caustic jokes rained down on Mitrofan, — she wants to return the grub, — the men laughed.
The old man squinted and whistled the dog away. The others followed him, lowering their guns. The beast, realizing that the danger had passed, stopped. He looked for the old man in the crowd and very slowly put the bundle on the grass not far from him. Cautiously, raising his paws high, he backed away and suddenly ran as fast as he could across the field to the forest. People stood in a slight stupor: women crossed themselves, men scratched their heads.
And only Mitrofan fatefully wandered to the gift he had brought. For some reason, he knew exactly what it was for him. Bending over a dirty rag, he pulled off his cap. He recognized his granddaughter Marisha’s favorite shirt. He gave it to me for my last birthday “What does this mean, is there trouble with my granddaughter?”- terrible thoughts were rushing in my head. Grandfather picked up the bundle and heard a squeak. He saw the wrinkled face of a newborn, clenched fists sticking out in different directions and turned around in confusion. The child went into an angry cry of an absolutely healthy, hungry creature. The women rushed at Mitrofan with caring hens, took the child away and quickly took it away. The others followed them into the village. There must have been a disaster. The granddaughter was only eight months pregnant, giving birth in another month.
After telling everything at the general meeting, the grandfather asked for help in finding his granddaughter and her husband, who were supposed to arrive the day before. An hour later, the village men in three groups moved out to comb the forest. Mitrofan, accompanied by Semyonych, hurriedly walked towards the fork in the road leading to the city. The path ran through a sparse birch forest, and then the old man saw the morning guest. The bear stood like a candle, anxiously sucking in air. “But the meeting is not accidental,” Mitrofan realized and pushed the dumbfounded Semenych in the side. Noticing that he was discovered, the beast dropped to its paws and, looking around, slowly wandered in the opposite direction. A small brown bear trotted after, limping. The men stood for a minute and followed them.
Realizing that people were coming, the bear switched to a light trot, and then completely rushed. The bear cub lagged behind and whined plaintively. But the mother almost did not slow down and soon found herself at the old road to the city, on the edge of a deep ravine. She looked down, waited for the bear cub and slowly headed into the thicket. A few minutes later, the breathless hunters were looking for a convenient descent to the bodies of a man and a woman lying below. Semenych shouted into the phone, calling for help. And Mitrofan held the head of the delirious Marisha on his lap and tried to comprehend what had happened. His gaze fell on the old wooden bridge towering over his head and the old man understood everything. There was a huge hole in the very middle of it. The locals knew about the rotten boards of the ferry and had been going around for a long time. But Marisha, she hadn’t been to her grandfather for almost a year, so she decided to take the shortest way. But why on foot?
A week later, Mitrofan was sitting at the bedside of his already recovered granddaughter. The doctor allowed me to tell the sad news, Sergei’s husband is no more. But Marisha stopped her grandfather, who started from afar:
— Don’t try, I know, I saw everything, — the girl turned away, — now I will live for my son.
«Do you really remember everything?» – grandfather was horrified.
Marisha nodded: — I remember how the car broke down. How I volunteered to show the way to the village. How the boards cracked and how they flew down with her husband. I remember how I screamed and suddenly began to give birth on a pile of brushwood, which saved my life. How I called Sergei, but for some reason he did not respond. I remember wrapping the baby in my shirt. And I remember the bear, too. He stood at the very edge of the ravine and looked at us. Then I fainted from horror.
Grandfather was crumpling an old cap in his hands: — The boy should be named. Maybe Seryozha, in honor of her husband?
The girl looked out the window for a long time and shook her head negatively: — Grandfather, write him down as Misha. He is, after all, the godson of brown.
The bear never appeared in the village again. Marisha recovered and drove off with her son to the city. And Mitrofan, every year, on the birthday of his great-grandson, collected a large basket of goodies and came with a Bunny to the cherished glade. After sitting under a tree, he left gifts, crossed himself widely and set off on his way back. And he really wanted to believe that from somewhere in the dark thicket, the wary, very bright eyes of his shaggy girlfriend were watching him.