Konstantin Paustovsky "Gift"
Every time when autumn was approaching, it began to talk about the fact that a lot of things in nature did not work the way we would like. Winter is long and long, summer is much shorter than winter, and autumn passes instantly and leaves the impression of a golden bird that flashed past the window.
Our conversations were loved by the grandson of the forester Vanya Malyavin, a boy of about fifteen. He often came to our village from a grandfather’s guards from Lake Urzhenskoye and brought a purse of white mushrooms, then a cowberry sieve, or else he just ran to stay with us: listen to the conversations and read the magazine Around the World.
The thick intertwined volumes of this journal were lying in a closet with oars, lanterns and an old hive. The hive was painted with white glue paint. She fell off the dry wood in large chunks, and the tree under the paint smelled of old wax. Once Vanya brought a small birch dug from the root. He overlaid the roots with raw moss and wrapped his matting.
“This is for you,” he said, and blushed. – Present. Plant it in a wooden tub and place it in a warm room – it will be green all winter.
“Why did you dig her up, crank?” – asked Reuben.
“You said you feel sorry for the summer,” Vanya replied. – Grandfather and me pondered. “Run away, he says, to last year’s fire, there are two-year-old birch trees growing like grass – there is no passage from them. Dig it up and bring it to Rum Isaevich (grandfather called Reuben so). He is worried about summer, so he will have a summer memory for him at the icy winter. It is, of course, fun to look at the green leaf, when the yard snow falls like a sack. ”
“I’m not only about summer, I regret even more about autumn,” Reuben said and touched the thin birch leaves.
We brought a box from the barn, poured it to the top with earth and transplanted a small birch tree into it. The box was placed in the brightest and warmest room by the window, and a day later the descending branches of birch rose, she was all cheerful, and even the leaves were already rustling when the wind blew into the room and slammed the door in our hearts. Autumn settled in the garden, but our birch leaves remained green and alive.
Maple trees burned with dark purple, the euonymus turned pink, wild grapes squeezed on the gazebo. Even here and there, on a birch in the garden, yellow strands appeared, like the first gray hair of a still not old man. But the birch in the room seemed to be all younger. We did not notice any signs of fading.
One night the first frost came. He breathed cold on the glass in the house, and they were sweaty, sprinkled with grainy frost on the roof, crunched underfoot.
The stars alone seemed to rejoice at the first frost and glittered much brighter than on warm summer nights. That night I woke up from a long and pleasant sound – a shepherd’s horn sang in the dark. Outside, the dawn was barely blue.
I got dressed and went out into the garden. Harsh air washed his face with cold water – the dream immediately passed. Dawn broke out. The blue in the east was replaced by a crimson mist, similar to the smoke of a fire.
This darkness is lighter, everything was made more transparent, through it were already visible distant and delicate countries of golden and pink clouds.
There was no wind, but in the garden all the leaves fell and fell. For this one night, the birch trees turned yellow to the very tops, and the leaves showered with them in a frequent and sad rain.
I returned to the rooms: they were warm and sleepy. In the pale light of the dawn, a small birch stood in the tub, and I suddenly noticed that almost all of it had turned yellow that night, and several lemon leaves were already lying on the floor.
Room heat is not saved birch. A day later, she flew around the whole, as if she did not want to lag behind her adult girlfriends, who showered in cold forests, groves, on damp spacious glades in autumn. Vanya Malyavin, Reuben and we were all upset. We have already become accustomed to the idea that in winter snowy days the birch will turn green in the rooms lit by the white sun and the crimson flame of the jolly stoves. The last memory of summer has disappeared.
A familiar forester grinned when we told him about our attempt to save green foliage on birch.
“This is the law,” he said. – Law of nature. If the trees did not shed their leaves for the winter, they would die from many things – from the severity of the snow, which would grow on the leaves and break the thickest branches, and from the fact that by the fall a lot of harmful salts would accumulate in the tree, and finally, because the leaves would continue to evaporate moisture in the middle of winter, and the frozen ground would not give it to the roots of a tree, and the tree would inevitably die from a winter drought, from thirst.
And grandfather Mitry, nicknamed "Ten percent," having learned about this little story with a birch, interpreted it in his own way.
“You, my dear,” he said to Reuben, “live with mine, then argue.” Otherwise, you are arguing with me, but you see that you didn’t have enough time to think about it. We, the old, think better. We have few worries – so we pretend that what has been hacked on earth and what explanation it has. Take, say, this birch. You do not tell me about the forester, I know in advance everything he says. The forester is a cunning man, when he lived in Moscow, they say, he was preparing food for himself on electric current. Can it be or not?
“Maybe,” Reuben answered.
– “Maybe, maybe”! – mocked his grandfather. – Have you seen this electric current? How did you see him when he has no visibility, sort of like air? You about a birch listen. Is there friendship between people or not? That is what is. And people are recorded. They think that friendship is given to them alone, swagger in front of every living creature. And friendship – she, brother, is everywhere, everywhere you look. What can I say, a cow is a friend of a cow and a finch is a finch. Kill the crane, so the crane will fade away, it will cry, it will not find a place for itself. And every grass and tree, too, must be, friendship sometimes happens. How could your birch not fly around when all her companions in the woods flew around? What eyes does she look at them in the spring, what does she say when they were exhausted in winter, and she was warming herself by the stove, in the warmth, but in satiety, but clean? You must have a conscience too.
“Well, it’s you, grandfather, bent,” Reuben said. – You will not meet with you.
– weakened? He asked caustically. – Are you giving up? You do not start with me – useless thing.
The grandfather left, tapping with a stick, very pleased, confident that we had won the forest warden in this dispute.
We planted a birch tree in the garden, under the fence, and its yellow leaves were gathered and dried between the pages of Around the World.
This ended our attempt to preserve the memory of summer in winter.