Five

A winter afternoon in late January, the time before supper, the time before the start of evening consulting hours. On the drawing-room doorpost hung a sheet of paper, on which was written in Philip Philipovich’s hand:

 

I forbid the consumption of sunflower seeds in this flat.

  1. Preobrazhensky

 

Below this in big, thick letters Bormenthal had written in blue pencil:

 

Musical instruments may not be played between 7pm and 6am.

 

Then from Zina:

 

When you come back tell Philip Philipovich that he’s gone out and I don’t know where to. Fyodor says he’s with Shvonder.

 

Preobrazhensky’s hand:

 

How much longer do I have to wait before the glazier comes?

 

Darya Petrovna (in block letters):

 

Zina has, gone out to the store, says she’ll bring him back.

 

In the dining-room there was a cosy evening feeling, generated by the lamp on the sideboard shining beneath its dark cerise shade. Its light was reflected in random shafts all over the room, as the mirror was cracked from side to side and had been stuck in place with a criss-cross of tape. Bending over the table, Philip Philipovich was absorbed in the large double page of an open newspaper. His face was working with fury and through his teeth issued a jerky stream of abuse. This is what he was reading:

There’s no doubt that it is his illegitimate (as they used to say in rotten bourgeois society) son. This is how the pseudo-learned members of our bourgeoisie amuse themselves. He will only keep his seven rooms until the glittering sword ofjustice fi’ashes over him like a red ray. Sh… r.

Someone was hard at work playing a rousing tune on the balalaika two rooms away and the sound of a series of intricate variations on ‘The Moon is Shining’ mingled in Philip Philipovich’s head with the words of the sickening newspaper article. When he had read it he pretended to spit over his shoulder and hummed absentmindedly through his teeth: ‘“The moo-oon is shining… shining bright… the moon is shining…” God, that damned tune’s on my brain!’

He rang. Zina’s face appeared in the doorway.

‘Tell him it’s five o’clock and he’s to shut up. Then tell him to come here, please.’

Philip Philipovich sat down in an armchair beside his desk, a brown cigar butt between the fingers of his left hand. Leaning against the doorpost there stood, legs crossed, a short man of unpleasant appearance. His hair grew in clumps of bristles like a stubble field and on his face was a meadow of unsliaven fluff. His brow was strikingly low. A thick brush of hair began almost immediately above his spreading eyebrows.

His jacket, torn under the left armpit, was covered with bits of straw, his checked trousers had a hole on the right knee and the left leg was stained with violet paint. Round the man’s neck was a poisonously bright blue tie with a gilt tiepin. The colour of the tie was so garish that whenever Philip Philipovich covered his tired eyes and gazed at the complete darkness of the ceiling or the wall, he imagined he saw a flaming torch with a blue halo. As soon as he opened them he was blinded again, dazzled by a pair of patent-leather boots with white spats.

‘Like galoshes,’ thought Philip Philipovich with disgust. He sighed, sniffed and busied himself with relighting his dead cigar. The man in the doorway stared at the professor with lacklustre eyes and smoked a cigarette, dropping the ash down his shirtfront.

The clock on the wall beside a carved wooden grouse struck five o’clock. The inside of the clock was still wheezing as Philip Philipovich spoke.

‘I think I have asked you twice not to sleep by the stove in the kitchen — particularly in the daytime.’

The man gave a hoarse cough as though he were choking on a bone and replied:

‘It’s nicer in the kitchen.’

His voice had an odd quality, at once muffled yet resonant, as if he were far away and talking into a small barrel.

Philip Philipovich shook his head and asked:

‘Where on earth did you get that disgusting thing from? I mean your tie.’

Following the direction of the pointing finger, the man’s eyes squinted as he gazed lovingly down at his tie.

‘What’s disgusting about it?’ he said. ‘It’s a very smart tie. Darya Petrovna gave it to me.’

‘In that case Darya Petrovna has very poor taste. Those boots are almost as bad. Why did you get such horrible shiny ones? Where did you buy them? What did I tell you? I told you to find yourself a pair of decent boots. Just look at them. You don’t mean to tell me that Doctor Bormenthal chose them, do you?’

‘I told him to get patent leather ones. Why shouldn’t I wear them? Everybody else does. If you go down Kuznetzky Street you’ll see nearly everybody wearing patent leather boots.’

Philip Philipovich shook his head and pronounced weightily:

‘No more sleeping in the kitchen. Understand? I’ve never heard of such behaviour. You’re a nuisance there and the women don’t like it.’

The man scowled and his lips began to pout.

‘So what? Those women act as though they owned the place. They’re just maids, but you’d think they were commissars. It’s Zina — she’s always bellyaching about me.’

Philip Philipovich gave him a stern look.

‘Don’t you dare talk about Zina in that tone of voice! Understand?’

Silence.

‘I’m asking you — do you understand?’

‘Yes, I understand.’

‘Take that trash off your neck. Sha… if you saw yourself in a mirror you’d realise what a fright it makes you look. You look like a clown. For the hundredth time — don’t throw cigarette ends on to the floor. And I don’t want to hear any more swearing in this flat! And don’t spit everywhere! The spittoon’s over there. Kindly take better aim when you pee. Cease all further conversation with Zina. She complains that you lurk round her room at night. And don’t be rude to my patients! Where do’you think you are — in some dive?’

‘Don’t be so hard on me. Dad,’ the man suddenly said in a tearful whine.

Philip Philipovich turned red and his spectacles flashed.

‘Who are you calling “Dad”? What impertinent familiarity! I never want to hear that word again! You will address me by my name and patronymic!’

The man flared up impudently: ‘Oh, why can’t you lay off? Don’t spit… don’t smoke… don’t go there, don’t do this, don’t do that… sounds like the rules in a tram. Why don’t you leave me alone, for God’s sake? And why shouldn’t I call you “Dad”, anyway? I didn’t ask you to do the operation, did I?’ — the man barked indignantly — ‘A nice business -you get an animal, slice his head open and now you’re sick of him. Perhaps I wouldn’t have given permission for the operation. Nor would… (the man stared up at the ceiling as though trying to remember a phrase he had been taught)… nor would my relatives. I bet I could sue you if I wanted to.’

Philip Philipovich’s eyes grew quite round and his cigar fell out of his fingers. ‘Well, I’ll be…’ he thought to himself.

‘So you object to having been turned into a human being, do you?’ he asked, frowning slightly. ‘Perhaps you’d prefer to be sniffing around dustbins again? Or freezing in doorways? Well, if I’d known that I wouldn’t…’

‘So what if I had to eat out of dustbins? At least it was an honest living. And supposing I’d died on your operating table? What d’you say to that, comrade?’

‘My name is Philip Philipovich!’ exclaimed the professor irritably. ‘I’m not your comrade! This is monstrous!’ (’I can’t stand it much longer,’ he thought to himself.)

‘Oh, yes!’ said the man sarcastically, triumphantly uncrossing his legs. ‘I know! Of course we’re not comrades! How could we be? I didn’t go to college, I don’t own a flat with fifteen rooms and a bathroom. Only all that’s changed now — now everybody has the right to…’

Growing rapidly paler, Philip Philipovich listened to the man’s argument. Then the creature stopped and swaggered demonstratively over to an ashtray with a chewed butt-end in his fingers. He spent a long time stubbing it out, with a look on his face which clearly said: ‘Drop dead!’ Having put out his cigarette he suddenly clicked his teeth and poked his nose under his armpit.

‘You’re supposed to catch fleas with your fingersV shouted Philip Philipovich in fury. ‘Anyhow, how is it that you still have any fleas?’

‘You don’t think I breed them on purpose, do you?’ said the man, offended. ‘I suppose fleas just like me, that’s all.’ With this he poked his fingers through the lining of his jacket, scratched around and produced a tuft of downy red hair.

Philip Philipovich turned his gaze upwards to the plaster rosette on the ceiling and started drumming his fingers on the desk. Having caught his flea, the man sat down in a chair, sticking his thumbs behind the lapels of his jacket. Squinting down at the parquet, he inspected his boots, which gave him great pleasure. Philip Philipovich also looked down at the highlights glinting on the man’s blunt-toed boots, frowned and enquired:

‘What else were you going to say?’

‘Oh, nothing, really. I need some papers, Philip Philipovich.’

Philip Philipovich winced. ‘H’m… papers, eh? Really, well… H’m… Perhaps we might…’ His voice sounded vague and unhappy.

‘Now, look,’ said the man firmly. ‘I can’t manage without papers. After all you know damn well that people who don’t have any papers aren’t allowed to exist nowadays. To begin with, there’s the house committee.’

‘What does the house committee have to do with it?’

‘A lot. Every time I meet one of them they ask me when I’m going to get registered.’

‘Oh, God,’ moaned Philip Philipovich. ‘“Every time you meet one of them…” I can just imagine what you tell them. I thought I told you not to hang about the staircases, anyway.’

‘What am I — a convict?’ said the man in amazement. His glow of righteous indignation made even his fake ruby tiepin light up. “Hang about” indeed! That’s an insult. I walk about just like everybody else.’

So saying he wriggled his patent-leather feet.

Philip Philipovich said nothing, but looked away. ‘One must restrain oneself,’ he thought, as he walked over to the sideboard and drank a glassful of water at one gulp.

‘I see,’ he said rather more calmly. ‘All right, I’ll overlook your tone of voice for the moment. What does your precious house committee say, then?’

‘Hell, I don’t know exactly. Anyway, you needn’t be sarcastic about the house committee. It protects people’s interests.’

‘Whose interest, may I ask?’

‘The workers’, of course.’

Philip Philipovich opened his eyes wide. ‘What makes you think that you’re a worker?’

‘I must be — I’m not a capitalist.’

‘Very well. How does the house committee propose to stand up for your revolutionary rights?’

‘Easy. Put me on the register. They say they’ve never heard of anybody being allowed to live in Moscow without being registered. That’s for a start. But the most important thing is an identity card. I don’t want to be arrested for being a deserter.’

‘And where, pray, am I supposed to register you? On that tablecloth or on my own passport? One must, after all, be realistic. Don’t forget that you are… h’m, well… you are what you might call a… an unnatural phenomenon, an artefact…’ Philip Philipovich sounded less and less convincing.

Triumphant, the man said nothing.

‘Very well. Let’s assume that in the end we shall have to register you, if only to please this house committee of yours. The trouble is — you have no name.’

‘So what? I can easily choose one. Just put it in the newspapers and there you are.’

‘What do you propose to call yourself?’

The man straightened his tie and replied: Toligraph Poligraphovich.’

‘Stop playing the fool,’ groaned Philip Philipovich. ‘I meant it seriously.’

The man’s face twitched sarcastically.

‘I don’t get it,’ he said ingenuously. ‘I mustn’t swear. I mustn’t spit. Yet all you ever do is call me names. I suppose only professors are allowed to swear in the RSFSR.’

Blood rushed to Philip Philipovich’s face. He filled a glass, breaking it as he did so. Having drunk from another one, he thought: ‘Much more of this, and he’ll start teaching me how to behave, and he’ll be right. I must control myself.’

He turned round, made an exaggeratedly polite bow and said with iron self-control: ‘I beg your pardon. My nerves are slightly upset. Your name struck me as a little odd, that is all. Where, as a matter of interest, did you dig it up?’

‘The house committee helped me. We looked in the calendar. And I chose a name.’

‘That name cannot possibly exist on any calendar.’

‘Can’t it?’ The man grinned. ‘Then how was it I found it on the calendar in your consulting room?’

Without getting up Philip Philipovich leaned over to the knob on the wall and Zina appeared in answer to the bell.

‘Bring me the calendar from the consulting-room.’

There was a pause. When Zina returned with the calendar, Philip Philipovich asked: ‘Where is it?’

‘The name-day is March 4th.’

‘Show me… h’m… dammit, throw the thing into the stove at once.’ Zina, blinking with fright, removed the calendar. The man shook his head reprovingly.

‘And what surname will you take?’

‘I’ll use my real name.’

‘You’re real name? What is it?’

‘Sharikov.’

 

* * *

 

Shvonder the house committee chairman was standing in his leather tunic in front of the professor’s desk. Doctor Bormen-thal was seated in an armchair. The doctor’s glowing face (he had just come in from the cold) wore an expression whose perplexity was only equalled by that of Philip Philipovich.

‘Write it?’ he asked impatiently.

‘Yes,’ said Shvonder, ‘it’s not very difficult. Write a certificate, professor. You know the sort of thing — ‘This is to certify that the bearer is really Poligraph Poligraphovich Sharikov… h’m, born in, h’m… this flat.’

Bormenthal wriggled uneasily in his armchair. Philip Philipovich tugged at his moustache.

‘God dammit, I’ve never heard anything so ridiculous in my life. He wasn’t born at all, he simply… well, he sort of…’

‘That’s your problem,’ said Shvonder with quiet malice. ‘It’s up to you to decide whether he was born or not… It was your experiment, professor, and you brought citizen Sharikov into the world.’

‘It’s all quite simple,’ barked Sharikov from the glass-fronted cabinet, where he was admiring the reflection of his tie.

‘Kindly keep out of this conversation,’ growled Philip Philipovich. ‘It’s not at all simple.’

‘Why shouldn’t I join in?’ spluttered Sharikov in an offended voice, and Shvonder instantly supported him.

‘I’m sorry, professor, but citizen Sharikov is absolutely correct. He has a right to take part in a discussion about his affairs, especially as it’s about his identity documents. An identity document is the most important thing in the world.’

At that moment a deafening ring from the telephone cut into the conversation. Philip Philipovich said into the receiver:

‘Yes…’, then reddened and shouted: ‘Will you please not distract me with trivialities. What’s it to do with you?’ And he hurled the receiver back on to the hook.

Delight spread over Shvonder’s face.

Purpling, Philip Philipovich roared: ‘Right, let’s get this finished.’

He tore a sheet of paper from a notepad and scribbled a few words, then read it aloud in a voice of exasperation:

‘“I hereby certify…” God, what am I supposed to certify?… let’s see… “That the bearer is a man created during a laboratory experiment by means of an operation on the brain and that he requires identity papers”… ‘I object in principle to his having these idiotic documents, but still… Signed: “Professor Preobrazhensky!”’

‘Really, professor,’ said Shvonder in an offended voice. ‘What do you mean by calling these documents idiotic? I can’t allow an undocumented tenant to go on living in this house, especially one who hasn’t been registered with the police for military service. Supposing war suddenly breaks out with the imperialist aggressors?’

‘I’m not going to fight!’ yapped Sharikov.

Shvonder was dumbfounded, but quickly recovered himself and said politely to Sharikov: ‘I’m afraid you seem to be completely lacking in political consciousness, citizen Sharikov. You must register for military service at once.’

‘I’ll register, but I’m dammed if I’m going to fight,’ answered Sharikov nonchalantly, straightening his tie.

Now it was Shvonder’s turn to be embarrassed. Preobraz-hensky exchanged a look of grim complicity with Bormenthal, who nodded meaningly.

‘I was badly wounded during the operation,’ whined Sharikov. ‘Look — they cut me right open.’ He pointed to his head. The scar of a fresh surgical wound bisected his forehead.

‘Are you an anarchist-individualist?’ asked Shvonder, raising his eyebrows.

‘I ought to be exempt on medical grounds,’ said Sharikov.

‘Well, there’s no hurry about it,’ said the disconcerted Shvonder. ‘Meanwhile we’ll send the professor’s certificate to the police and they’ll issue your papers.’

‘Er, look here…’ Philip Philipovich suddenly interrupted him, obviously struck by an idea. ‘I suppose you don’t liave a room to spare in the house, do you? I’d be prepared to buy it.’

Yellowish sparks flashed in Shvonder’s brown eyes.

‘No, professor, I very much regret to say that we don’t have a room. And aren’t likely to, either.’

Philip Philipovich clenched his teeth and said nothing. Again the telephone rang as though to order. Without a word Philip Philipovich flicked the receiver off the rest so that it hung down, spinning slightly, on its blue cord. Everybody jumped. ‘The old man’s getting rattled,’ thought Bormenthal. With a glint in his eyes Shvonder bowed and went out. Sharikov disappeared after him, his boots creaking.

The professor and Bormenthal were left alone. After a short silence, Philip Philipovich shook his head gently and said:

‘On my word of honour, this is becoming an absolute nightmare. Don’t you see? I swear, doctor, that I’ve suffered more these last fourteen days than in the past fourteen years! I tell you, he’s a scoundrel…’

From a distance came the faint tinkle of breaking glass, followed by a stifled woman’s scream, then silence. An evil spirit dashed down the corridor, turned into the consulting-room where it produced another crash and immediately turned back. Doors slammed and Darya Petrovna’s low cry was heard from the kitchen. There was a howl from Sharikov.

‘Oh, God, what now!’ cried Philip Philipovich, rushing for the door.

‘A cat,’ guessed Bormenthal and leaped after him. They ran down the corridor into the hall, burst in, then turned into the passage leading to the bathroom and the kitchen. Zina came dashing out of the kitchen and ran full tilt into Philip Philipovich.

‘How many times have I told you not to let cats into the flat,’ shouted Philip Philipovich in fury. ‘Where is he? Ivan Amoldovich, for God’s sake go and calm the patients in the waiting-room!’

‘He’s in the bathroom, the devil,’ cried Zina, panting. Philip Philipovich hurled himself at the bathroom door, but it would not give way.

‘Open up this minute!’

The only answer from the locked bathroom was the sound of something leaping up at the walls, smashing glasses, and Sharikov’s voice roaring through the door: ‘I’ll kill you…’

Water could be heard gurgling through the pipes and pouring into the bathtub. Philip Philipovich leaned against the door and tried to break it open. Darya Petrovna, clothes torn and face distorted with anger, appeared in the kitchen doorway. Then the glass transom window, high up in the wall between the bathroom and the kitchen, shattered with a multiple crack. Two large fragments crashed into the kitchen followed by a tabby cat of gigantic proportions with a face like a policeman and a blue bow round its neck. It fell on to the middle of the table, right into a long platter, which it broke in half. From there it fell to the floor, turned round on three legs as it waved the fourth in the air as though executing a dance-step, and instantly streaked out through the back door, which was slightly ajar.The door opened wider and the cat was replaced by the face of an old woman in a headscarf, followed by her polka-dotted skirt. The old woman wiped her mouth with her index and second fingers, stared round the kitchen with protruding eyes that burned with curiosity and she said:

‘Oh, my lord!’

Pale, Philip Philipovich crossed the kitchen and asked threateningly:

‘What do you want?’

‘I wanted to have a look at the talking dog,’ replied the old woman ingratiatingly and crossed herself. Philip Philipovich went even paler, strode up to her and hissed: ‘Get out of my kitchen this instant!’

The old woman tottered back toward the door and said plaintively:

‘You needn’t be so sharp, professor.’

‘Get out, I say!’ repeated Philip Philipovich and his eyes went as round as the owl’s. He personally slammed the door behind the old woman.

‘Darya Petrovna, I’ve asked you before…’

‘But Philip Philipovich,’ replied Darya Petrovna in desperation, clenching her hands, ‘what can I do? People keep coming in all day long, however often I throw them out.’

A dull, threatening roar of water was still coming from the bathroom, although Sharikov was now silent. Doctor Bormenthal came in.

‘Please, Ivan Amoldovich… er… how many patients are there in the waiting-room?’

‘Eleven,’ replied Bormenthal.

‘Send them all away, please. I can’t see any patients today.’

With a bony finger Philip Philipovich knocked on the bathroom door and shouted: ‘Come out at once! Why have you locked yourself in?’

‘Oh… oh…!’ replied Sharikov in tones of misery.

‘What on earth… I can’t hear you — turn off the water.’

‘Ow-wow!…’

‘Turn off the water! What has he done? I don’t understand…’ cried Philip Philipovich, working himself into a frenzy. Zina and Darya Petrovna opened the kitchen door and peeped out. Once again Philip Philipovich thundered on the bathroom door with his fist.

‘There he is!’ screamed Darya Petrovna from the kitchen. Philip Philipovich rushed in. The distorted features of Poligraph Poligraphovich appeared through the broken transom and leaned out into the kitchen .His eyes were tear-stained and there was a long scratch down his nose, red with fresh blood.

‘Have you gone out of your mind?’ asked Philip Philipovich. ‘Why don’t you come out of there?’

Terrified and miserable, Sharikov stared around and replied: ‘I’ve shut myself in.’

‘Unlock the door, then. Haven’t you ever seen a lock before?’

‘The blasted thing won’t open!’ replied Poligraph, terrified.

‘Oh, my God, he’s shut the safety-catch too!’ screamed Zina, wringing her hands.

‘There’s a sort of button on the lock,’ shouted Philip Philipovich, trying to out-roar the water. ‘Press it downwards… press it down! Downwards!’

Sharikov vanished, to reappear over the transom a minute later.

‘I can’t see a thing!’ he barked in terror.

‘Well, turn the light on then! He’s gone crazy!’

‘That damned cat smashed the bulb,’ replied Sharikov, ‘and when I tried to catch the bastard by the leg I turned on the tap and now I can’t find it.’

Appalled, all three wrung their hands in horror.

Five minutes later Bormenthal, Zina and Darya Petrovna were sitting in a row on a damp carpet that had been rolled up against the foot of the bathroom door, pressing it hard with their bottoms. Fyodor the porter was climbing up a ladder into the transom window, with the lighted candle from Darya Petrovna’s ikon in his hand. His posterior, clad in broad grey checks, hovered in the air, then vanished through the opening.

‘Ooh!… ow!’ came Sharikov’s strangled shriek above the roar of water.

Fyodor’s voice was heard: ‘There’s nothing for it, Philip Philipovich, we’ll have to open the door and let the water out. We can mop it up from the kitchen.’

‘Open it then!’ shouted Philip Philipovich angrily.

The three got up from the carpet and pushed the bathroom door open. Immediately a tidal wave gushed out into the passage, where it divided into three streams — one straight into the lavatory opposite, one to the right into the kitchen and one to the left into the hall. Splashing and prancing, Zina shut the door into the hall. Fyodor emerged, up to his ankles in water, and for some reason grinning. He was soaking wet and looked as if he were wearing oilskins.

‘The water-pressure was so strong, I only just managed to turn it off,’ he explained.

‘Where is he?’ asked Philip Philipovich, cursing as he lifted one wet foot.

‘He’s afraid to come out,’ said Fyodor, giggling stupidly.

‘Will you beat me. Dad’ came Sharikov’s tearful voice from the bathroom.

‘You idiot!’ was Philip Philipovich’s terse reply.

Zina and Darya Petrovna, with bare legs and skirts tucked up to their knees, and Sharikov and the porter barefoot with rolled-up trousers were hard at work mopping up the kitchen floor with wet cloths, squeezing them out into dirty buckets and into the sink. The abandoned stove roared away. The water swirled out of the back door, down the well of the back staircase and into the cellar.

On tiptoe, Bormenthal was standing in a deep puddle on the parquet floor of the hall and talking through the crack of the front door, opened only as far as the chain would allow.

‘No consulting hours today, I’m afraid, the professor’s not well. Please keep away from the door, we have a burst pipe.

‘But when can the professor see me?’ a voice came through the door. ‘It wouldn’t take a minute…’

‘I’m sorry.’ Bormenthal rocked back from his toes to his heels. ‘The professor’s in bed and a pipe has burst. Come tomorrow. Zina dear, quickly mop up the hall or it will start running down the front staircase.’

‘There’s too much — the cloths won’t do it.’

‘Never mind,’ said Fyodor. ‘We’ll scoop it up with jugs.’

While the doorbell rang ceaselessly, Bormenthal stood up to his ankles in water.

‘When is the operation?’ said an insistent voice as it tried to force its way through the crack of the door.

‘A pipe’s burst…’

‘But I’ve come in galoshes…’

Bluish silhouettes appeared outside the door.

‘I’m sorry, it’s impossible, please come tomorrow.’

‘But I have an appointment.’

‘Tomorrow. There’s been a disaster in the water supply.’

Fyodor splashed about in the lake, scooping it up with a jug, but the battle-scared Sharikov had thought up a new method. He rolled up an enormous cloth, lay on his stomach in the water and pushed it backwards from the hall towards the lavatory.

‘What d’you think you’re doing, you fool, slopping it all round the flat?’ fumed Darya Petrovna. ‘Pour it into the sink.’

‘How can I?’ replied Sharikov, scooping up the murky water with his hands. ‘If I don’t push it back into the flat it’ll run out of the front door.’

A bench was pushed creaking out of the corridor, with Philip Philipovich riding unsteadily on it in his blue striped socks.

‘Stop answering the door, Ivan Amoldovich. Go into the bedroom, you can borrow a pair of my slippers.’

‘Don’t bother, Philip Philipovich, I’m all right.’

‘You’re wearing nothing but a pair of galoshes.’

‘I don’t mind. My feet are wet anyway.’

‘Oh, my God!’ Philip Philipovich was exhausted and depressed.

‘Destructive animal!’ Sharikov suddenly burst out as he squatted on the floor, clutching a soup tureen.

Bormenthal slammed the door, unable to contain himself any longer and burst into laughter. Philip Philipovich blew out his nostrils and his spectacles glittered.

‘What are you talking about?’ he asked Sharikov from the eminence of his bench.

‘I was talking about the cat. Filthy swine,’ answered Sharikov, his eyes swivelling guiltily.

‘Look here, Sharikov,’ retorted Philip Philipovich, taking a deep breath. ‘I swear I have never seen a more impudent creature than you.’

Bormenthal giggled.

‘You,’ went on Philip Philipovich, ‘are nothing but a lout. How dare you say that? You caused the whole thing and you have the gall… No, really! It’s too much!’

‘Tell me, Sharikov,’ said Bormenthal, ‘how much longer are you going to chase cats? You ought to be ashamed of yourself. It’s disgraceful! You’re a savage!’

‘Me — a savage?’ snarled Sharikov. ‘I’m no savage. I won’t stand for that cat in this flat. It only comes here to find what it can pinch. It stole Darya’s mincemeat. I wanted to teach it a lesson.’

‘You should teach yourself a lesson!’ replied Philip Philipovich. ‘Just take a look at your face in the mirror.’

‘Nearly scratched my eyes out,’ said Sharikov gloomily, wiping a dirty hand across his eyes.

By the time that the water-blackened parquet had dried out a little, all the mirrors were covered in a veil of condensed vapour and the doorbell had stopped ringing. Philip Philipovich in red morocco slippers was standing in the hall.

‘There you are, Fyodor. Thank you.’

‘Thank you very much, sir.’

‘Mind you change your clothes straight away. No, wait -have a glass of Darya Petrovna’s vodka before you go.’

‘Thank you, sir,’ Fyodor squirmed awkwardly, then said:

‘There is one more thing, Philip Philipovich. I’m sorry, I hardly like to mention it, but it’s the matter of the window-pane in No 7. Citizen Sharikov threw some stones at it, you see…’

‘Did he throw them at a cat?’ asked Philip Philipovich, frowning like a thundercloud.

‘Well, no, he was throwing them at the owner of the flat. He’s threatening to sue.’

‘Oh, lord!’

‘Sharikov tried to kiss their cook and they threw him out. They had a bit of a fight, it seems.’

‘For God’s sake, do you have to tell me all these disasters at once? How much?’

‘One rouble and 50 kopecks.’

Philip Philipovich took out three shining 50-kopeck pieces and handed them to Fyodor.

‘And on top of it all you have to pay 1 rouble and 50 kopecks because of that damned cat,’ grumbled a voice from the doorway. ‘It was all the cat’s fault…’

Philip Philipovich turned round, bit his lip and gripped Sharikov. Without a word he pushed him into the waiting-room and locked the door. Sharik immediately started to hammer on the door with his fists.

‘Shut up!’ shouted Philip Philipovich in a voice that was nearly deranged.

‘This is the limit,’ said Fyodor meaningfully. ‘I’ve never seen such impudence in my life.’

Bormenthal seemed to materialise out of the floor.

‘Please, Philip Philipovich, don’t upset yourself.’

The doctor thrust open the door into the waiting-room.

He could be heard saying: ‘Where d’you think you are? In some dive?’

‘That’s it,’ said Fyodor approvingly. ‘Serve him right…a punch on the ear’s what he needs…’

‘No, not that, Fyodor,’ growled Philip Philipovich sadly. ‘I think you’ve just about had all you can take, Philip Philipovich.’

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