V. F. Tendryakov
Nikolai Stepanovich Echevin celebrates his sixtieth birthday. He worked as a teacher for forty years, and his anniversary was an event for the whole city of Karasin: his portrait was printed in a local newspaper, congratulatory telegrams came down the stream, and musicians played for him in the local restaurant and solemnly made a cake with sixty candles.
A month later Nikolai Stepanovich, as always, comes from school, checks notebooks, then reads belated congratulatory telegrams. One of them is from the past – from a friend of the long-dead student of Hero of the Soviet Union Grigory Bukhalov. But the next telegram is unexpectedly not congratulatory. This is an anonymous threat to kill. Its author, the “alcoholic”, “the
Nikolai Stepanovich suddenly realizes how unprotected he is in his apartment. He wants to call the police, but something stops him. The next day he is afraid to go to school and yet goes. And all this time he is sorting out his life, trying to figure out an unknown enemy.
Is it Tanya Graube? He heard that she had recently returned to the city. Tanya’s father, Ivan Semyonovich Graube, brother of a railroad magnate, was the first teacher of Echevin. At home the boy did not know love. My father, a shoemaker, was always drunk, my mother did not spoil her son with caress. And Ivan Semenovich believed in the boy and made his parents believe in him. In the winter, through diligence, the boy received boots and a fur coat, and when they were fourteen years old, Kolya was carried away by the daughter of Ivan Semenovich, Tanya. But then Graube was removed from the post of director, and
And then there was a meeting where the best student, Kolya Echevin, came out against the teacher. In his closing speech, Ivan Semenovich said that he was already punished enough: he did not teach his pupil to tell lies from the truth. And the next day Graube was gone: a suicide note and a key to the cabinet with chemical reagents. Buried Graube all village… Could this be Tanya? Nikolai Stepanovich could not believe this.
He also recalls the student Anton Yelkin. They say he returned to the city, settled down – his wife, children, a turner of a high category. All this does not fit the definition of “alcoholic.” But this man became an enemy from their first meeting when he was still pouring glue into the teacher’s chair as a pupil of the fourth grade. Then the war was declared. Nikolai Stepanovich was picky towards Yelkin, but he is fair. Yelkin first took the call, preparing for the lessons, but then gave up. And one day, coming to school, Nikolai Stepanovich was greeted by a brick falling from the roof. The investigation did not take much time: Yelkina was immediately caught on the roof. Then expelled from school… Could this be it?
On the eve, checking the notebooks, Nikolai Stepanovich discovered one work that differed from the stack of the same. The theme was Ivan the Terrible, “cruel, but just,” according to the majority… Even always something that Leva Bocharov threw out this time wrote “like everyone else.” But an outstanding student Zoya Zybkovets quoted from Kostomarov about the murder of Ivan’s two wife’s wives and issued another verdict: “If there was any progress in his time, this is not Ivan’s merit.” Nikolai Stepanovich hesitated for a long time about what to do with this composition. Put two – you will beat the hunt to look somewhere else in addition to the textbook. Do not put it – decides that Kostomarov is the truth, will get used to thinking old fashioned. He still put this deuce, and now decided to make a “non-pedagogical” act – to put his doubts on the discussion in the class.
He asks his beloved disciple Len Shorokhov – she always knows what the teacher wants to hear. Here and now, briskly blurted out about the progressive role of Ivan the Terrible and set off with a victorious air. And then Nikolai Stepanovich realizes that, having taught Lena progressive views, he did not bring up indignation for the murder. And this student, whom he always thought of as his luck, was his piercing.
He was afraid to walk the streets, but he could not afford to hide, and that’s why he did not go straight home, but turned into a garden, sat down and thought. There he was found by Anton Yelkin. But instead of the expected bullet, Echevin heard from the former student the words of gratitude for science, for justice, for being against his expulsion from school. These unexpectedly warm words support Nikolai Stepanovich, and he goes home. And there is already waiting for him a new meeting with the past and his mistakes, his own daughter Vera.
Faith was the favorite of Echevin, and until her sixteen years old, he was only happy, looking at her. But at sixteen, Vera became pregnant. With morality, then it was strict. He himself was for the exclusion of his daughter from school. On his career this was not reflected, although it could. Vera went to work at the carpool, married a chauffeur who drank and beat her. A year ago, Vera became a Baptist. Nikolay Stepanovich could not admit that his grandson would be brought up in such an atmosphere, wanted to take him away, but hesitated. And so Vera came to talk about her son. Her stiffness revolted his father, and he firmly decided to take his grandson, but suddenly he saw in her eyes something that she understood: she could be the author of the note, and refused his intention. The possibility that a native daughter might want his death horrified him. He felt the need to tell someone about his fears and his pain. But to whom? Friends start to groan and regret, but he did not need it. And then he goes to the young literature teacher Ledenev, an opponent of his pedagogical methods. This one would not teach Lena Shorokhov not to appreciate human life. But he did not listen to Ledenev: he waited for a guest and escorted an inappropriate visitor. But Nikolai Stepanovich needs to talk with someone. He decides to go to his daughter after all. However, it was not required: his listener becomes his accuser, who overtakes after an unsuccessful attempt to escape. “Court” occurs in the cafe “Birch”. Nikolai Stepanovich would never have remembered his accuser if he had not introduced himself. It was Sergei Kropotov. During the war, his father was captured, became a policeman, but was associated with partisans. After the war, he was in the camp, and when he returned, comrades began to demand that Sergei renounce his father. He refused. Then they began to demand his expulsion from school. Nikolai Stepanovich wanted to help the boy and, leaving him after school, advised him to speak out against his father. At that moment, Sergei’s life was over. He could not forgive himself a lie, could not look into the eyes of his father… They left the city, but peace in their family never came.
Nikolai Stepanovich was given the opportunity to justify himself, but even making excuses, he was disgusted with himself. And then Sergei did not shoot, but just gave him a gun, with which he went home.
And yet he could not shoot himself, because it’s harder to live than die. He must see the sixty-first candle on the festive cake.