On the table lie cartridges, a ram’s bone, a field map, a brief, a bridle, a crust of bread. At the table sits Nikolka Koshevoy, squadron commander, he fills out the questionnaire. “A rusty sheet says sparingly: Nikolai Koshevoi, squadron commander, a surveyor, a member of the RCYM, age 18 years.” He looked like a green boy, but managed almost without damage to liquidate two gangs and led a squadron in battles and fights for six months no worse than any old commander. Nikolka hates his age, is ashamed of him.
Nikolka’s father is a Cossack, and Nikolka himself is also a Cossack. He recalls how his father put his horse in five or six years, taught him how to ride. In the “German” father disappeared. Mother died. From his father Nikolka inherited a
Nikola’s apartment is in the hut, which stands above the Don itself. In the morning he went out into the yard and lay down in the dewy grass. A Cossack came to him and reported that a messenger had arrived, informing him of a new gang from the Salsk District, who had already occupied the Grushinsky State Farm. The voyage rode forty versts without rest, drove the horse to death. Nikolka read the order to go to the rescue. He began to gather, thinking that it would be advisable to learn somewhere, and then the gang appeared. I’m sick of Nikolka’s life, but there’s nothing to do, there’s an order from the commander.
Three days the gang departs from the pursuit of the detachment of Nikola Koshevoy. The people in the gang are seasoned, they go like wolves. Ataman is drunk, and all the coachmen and machine-gunners are drunk. For seven years the ataman was not in his native land: first he was in German captivity, then at Wrangel, went to the turetchin, but then returned with the gang. “Here it is, the life of the ataman, if you look back over your shoulder, your soul is numb, how the marks in the steppe become stale in the heat in
The frosts froze. The miller Lukich fell ill, on the bee he lay down to rest; when he woke up, he was called by two military men who had left the forest. Ataman pretended to be red and began to find out from the miller if there were strangers nearby. He descended from his horse and confessed that he was liquidating the Reds, then demanding grain for the horses. Miller sorry for the grain, collected on crumbs, do not want to give; Ataman threatens to kill him for aiding Red. The old man lay at his feet, begging for mercy. Ataman laughed forgiving the old man. And the approaching bandits already feed grain of horses, waking gold grains under their feet.
Through the fog at the zork, Lukich moved to the farm and got on the horse that led him to the commander. Lukich was brought into the house to see Nikolka. Miller was glad that he had got to the Reds. He remembered Nikolka, as he had recently given him milk, when his detachment was passing by the mill. Miller complains about the bandits who have spent all the grain from him. Reports that they are still in the mill, drunk, asleep. Nikolka orders the saddling of the horses and attacking the gang, already speaking on the road.
Ataman saw a commanding officer leaping at him with a sword, which he identified by the binoculars hanging on the chest of a young fighter. Ataman aimed maliciously and fired. The horse under Nicholas fell, and he himself, shooting, ran closer to the ataman. Ataman waited for Nikolka to shoot the clip, and then flew into the guy. He waved his sword, and the body of Nikolka went limp, slipping to the ground. Ataman took off his binoculars and chrome boots from the dead man. Having pulled off the boots with their toes together, the ataman saw a birthmark. He turned Nicholas over to his face and cried: “Sonny, Nicholas! Native, my bloody…” Ataman, realizing that he had killed his son, took out a revolver and shot himself in the mouth.
And in the evening, when the horse mounted over the woods, the vulture-vulture fell from the shaggy head of the ataman.