Seven

We do not know what Philip Philipovich had decided to do. He did nothing in particular during the subsequent week and perhaps as a result of this things began happening fast.

About six days after the affair with the bath-water and the cat, the young person from the house committee who had turned out to be a woman came to Sharikov and handed him some papers. Sharikov put them into his pocket and immediately called Doctor Bormenthal.

‘Bormenthal!’

‘Kindly address me by my name and patronymic!’ retorted Bormenthal, his expression clouding. I should mention that in the past six days the great surgeon had managed to quarrel eight times with his ward Sharikov and the atmosphere in the flat was tense.

‘All right, then you can call me by my name and patronymic too!’ replied Sharikov with complete justification.

‘No!’ thundered Philip Philipovich from the doorway. ‘I forbid you to utter such an idiotic name in my flat. If you want us to stop calling you Sharikov, Doctor Bormenthal and I will call you “Mister Sharikov”.’

‘I’m not mister — all the “misters” are in Paris!’ barked Sharikov.

‘I see Shvonder’s been at work on you!’ shouted Philip Philipovich. ‘Well, I’ll fix that rascal.

There will only be “misters” in my flat as long as I’m living in it! Otherwise either I or you will get out, and it’s more likely to be you. I’m putting a “room wanted” advertisement in the papers today and believe me I intend to find you a room.’

‘You don’t think I’m such a fool as to leave here, do you?’ was Sharikov’s crisp retort.

‘What?’ cried Philip Philipovich. Such a change came over his expression that Bormenthal rushed anxiously to his side and gently took him by the sleeve.

‘Don’t you be so impertinent, Monsieur Sharikov!’ said Bormenthal, raising his voice. Sharikov stepped back and pulled three pieces of paper out of his pocket — one green, one yellow and one white, and said as he tapped them with his fingers:

‘There. I’m now a member of this residential association and the tenant in charge of flat No. 5, Preobrazhensky, has got to give me my entitlement of thirty-seven square feet…’ Sharikov thought for a moment and then added a word which Bormenthal’s mind automatically recorded as new — ‘please’.

Philip Philipovich bit his lip and said rashly:

‘I swear I’ll shoot that Shvonder one of these days.’

It was obvious from the look in Sharikov’s eyes that he had taken careful note of the remark.

‘Vorsicht, Philip Philipovich…’ warned Bormenthal.

‘Well, what do you expect? The gall of it…!’ shouted Philip Philipovich in Russian.

‘Look here, Sharikov… Mister Sharikov… If you commit one more piece of impudence I shall deprive you of your dinner, in fact of all your food. Thirty-seven square feet may be all very well, but there’s nothing on that stinking little bit of paper which says that I have to feed you!’

Frightened, Sharikov opened his mouth.

‘I can’t go without food,’ he mumbled. ‘Where would I eat?’

‘Then behave yourself!’ cried both doctors in chorus. Sharikov relapsed into meaningful silence and did no harm to anybody that day with the exception of himself — taking advantage of Bormenthal’s brief absence he got hold of the doctor’s razor and cut his cheek-bone so badly that Philip Philipovich and Doctor Bormenthal had to bandage the cut with much wailing and weeping on Sharikov’s part.

Next evening two men sat in the green twilight of the professor’s study — Philip Philipovich and the faithful, devoted Bormenthal. The house was asleep. Philip Philipovich was wearing his sky-blue dressing gown and red slippers, while Bormenthal was in his shirt and blue braces. On the round table between the doctors, beside a thick album, stood a bottle of brandy, a plate of sliced lemon and a box of cigars. Through the smoke-laden air the two scientists were heatedly discussing the latest event: that evening Sharikov had stolen two 10-rouble notes which had been lying under a paperweight in Philip Philipovich’s study, had disappeared from the flat and then returned later completely drunk. But that was not all. With him had come two unknown characters who had created a great deal of noise on the front staircase and expressed a desire to spend the night with Sharikov. The individuals in question were only removed after Fyodor, appearing on the scene with a coat thrown over his underwear, had telephoned the 45th Precinct police station. The individuals vanished instantly as soon as Fyodor had replaced the receiver. After they had gone it was found that a malachite ashtray had mysteriously vanished from a console in the hall, also Philip Philipovich’s beaver hat and his walking-stick with a gold band inscribed: ‘From the grateful hospital staff to Philip Philipovich in memory of “X”-day with affection and respect/

‘Who were they?’ said Philip Philipovich aggressively, clenching his fists. Staggering and clutching the fur-coats, Sharikov muttered something about not knowing who they were, that they were a couple of bastards but good chaps.

‘The strangest thing of all was that they were both drunk… How did they manage to lay their hands on the stuff?’ said Philip Philipovich in astonishment, glancing at the place where his presentation walking-stick had stood until recently.

‘They’re experts,’ explained Fyodor as he returned home to bed with a rouble in his pocket.

Sharikov categorically denied having stolen the 20 roubles, mumbling something indistinct about himself not being the only person in the flat.

‘Aha, I see — I suppose Doctor Bormenthal stole the money?’ enquired Philip Philipovich in a voice that was quiet but terrifying in its intonation.

Sharikov staggered, opened his bleary eyes and offered the suggestion:

‘Maybe Zina took it…*

‘What?’ screamed Zina, appearing in the doorway like a spectre, clutching an unbuttoned cardigan across her bosom.

‘How could he…’

Philip Philipovich’s neck flushed red.

‘Calm down, Zina,’ he said, stretching out his arm to her, ‘don’t get upset, we’ll fix this.’

Zina immediately burst into tears, her mouth fell wide open and her hand dropped from her bosom.

‘Zina — aren’t you ashamed? Who could imagine you taking it? What a disgraceful exhibition!’ said Bormenthal in deep embarrassment.

‘You silly girl, Zina, God forgive you…’ began Philip Philipovich.

But at that moment Zina stopped crying and the others froze in horror — Sharikov was feeling unwell. Banging his head against the wall, he was emitting a moan that was pitched somewhere between the vowels ‘i’ and ‘o’ — a sort of ‘eeuuhh’. His face turned pale and his jaw twitched convulsively.

‘Look out — get the swine that bucket from the consulting-room!’

Everybody rushed to help the ailing Sharikov. As he staggered off to bed supported by Bormenthal he swore gently and melodiously, despite a certain difficulty in enunciation.

The whole affair had occurred around 1 am and now it was Sam, but the two men in the study talked on, fortified by brandy and lemon. The tobacco smoke in the room was so dense that it moved about in slow, flat, unruffled swathes.

Doctor Bormenthal, pale but determined, raised his thin-stemmed glass.

‘Philip Philipovich,’ he exclaimed with great feeling, ‘I shall never forget how as a half-starved student I came to you and you took me under your wing. Believe me, Philip Philipovich, you are much more to me than a professor, a teacher… My respect for you is boundless… Allow me to embrace you, dear Philip Philipovich…’

‘Yes, yes, my dear fellow…’ grunted Philip Philipovich in embarrassment and rose to meet him. Bormenthal embraced him and kissed him on his bushy, nicotine-stained moustaches.

‘Honestly, Philip Phili…’

‘Very touching, very touching… Thank you,’ said Philip Philipovich. ‘I’m afraid I sometimes bawl at you during operations. You must forgive an old man’s testiness. The fact is I’m really so lonely… “…from Granada to Seville…”’

‘How can you say that, Philip Philipovich?’ exclaimed Bormenthal with great sincerity. ‘Kindly don’t talk like that again unless you want to offend me…’

‘Thank you, thank you… “…to the banks of the sacred Nile…” …thank you… I liked you because you were such a competent doctor.’

‘I tell you, Philip Philipovich, it’s the only way…’ cried Bormenthal passionately. Leaping up from his place he firmly shut the door leading into the corridor, came back and went on in a whisper: ‘Don’t you see, it’s the only way out? Naturally I wouldn’t dare to offer you advice, but look at yourself, Philip Philipovich — you’re completely worn out, you’re in no fit state to go on working!’

‘You’re quite right,’ agreed Philip Philipovich with a sigh.

‘Very well, then, you agree this can’t go on,’ whispered Bormenthal.

‘Last time you said you were afraid for me and I wish you knew, my dear professor, how that touched me. But I’m not a child either and I can see only too well what a terrible affair this could be. But I am deeply convinced that there is no other solution.’

Philip Philipovich stood up, waved his arms at him and cried:

‘Don’t tempt me. Don’t even mention it.’ The professor walked up and down the room, disturbing the grey swathes. ‘I won’t hear of it. Don’t you realise what would happen if they found us out? Because of our “social origins” you and I would never get away with it, despite the fact of it being our first offence. I don’t suppose your “origins” are any better than mine, are they?’

‘I suppose not. My father was a plain-clothes policeman in Vilno,’ said Bormenthal as he drained his brandy glass.

‘There you are, just as I thought. From the Bolshevik’s point of view you couldn’t have come from a more unsuitable background. Still, mine is even worse. My father was dean of a cathedral. Perfect. “…from Granada to Seville… in the silent shades of night…” So there we are.’

‘But Philip Philipovich, you’re a celebrity, a figure of world-wide importance, and just because of some, forgive the expression, bastard… Surely they can’t touch you!’

‘All the same, I refuse to do it,’ said Philip Philipovich thoughtfully.

He stopped and stared at the glass-fronted cabinet. ‘But why?’

‘Because you are not a figure of world importance.’ ‘But what…’

‘Come now, you don’t think I could let you take the rap while I shelter behind my world-wide reputation, do you? Really… I’m a Moscow University graduate, not a Sharikov.’

Philip Philipovich proudly squared his shoulders and looked like an ancient king of France.

‘Well, then, Philip Philipovich,’ sighed Bormenthal. ‘What’s to be done? Are you just going to wait until that hooligan turns into a human being?’

Philip Philipovich stopped him with a gesture, poured himself a brandy, sipped it, sucked a slice of lemon and said:

‘Ivan Arnoldovich. Do you think I understand a little about the anatomy and physiology of, shall we say, the human brain? What’s your opinion?’

‘Philip Philipovich — what a question!’ replied Bormenthal with deep feeling and spread his hands.

‘Very well. No need, therefore, for any false modesty. I also believe that I am perhaps not entirely unknown in this field in Moscow.’

‘I believe there’s no one to touch you, not only in Moscow but in London and Oxford too!’ Bormenthal interrupted furiously.

‘Good. So be it. Now listen to me, professor-to-be-Bor-menthal: no one could ever pull it off. It’s obvious. No need to ask. If anybody asks you, tell them that Preobrazhensky said so. Finite. Klim!’ — Philip Philipovich suddenly cried triumphantly and the glass cabinet vibrated in response. ‘Klim,’ he repeated. ‘Now, Bormenthal, you are the first pupil of my school and apart from that my friend, as I was able to convince myself today. So I will tell you as a friend, in secret — because of course I know that you wouldn’t expose me — that this old ass Preobrazhensky bungled that operation like a third-year medical student. It’s true that it resulted in a discovery — and you know yourself just what sort of a discovery that was’ — here Philip Philipovich pointed sadly with both hands towards the window-blind, obviously pointing to Moscow — ‘but just remember, Ivan Arnoldovich, that the sole result of that discovery will be that from now on we shall all have that creature Sharik hanging round our necks’ — here Preobrazhensky slapped himself on his bent and slightly sclerotic neck — ‘of that you may be sure! If someone,’ went on Philip Philipovich with relish, ‘were to knock me down and skewer me right now, I’d give him 50 roubles reward! “… from Granada to Seville…” … Dammit, I spent five years doing nothing but extracting cerebral appendages… You know how much work I did on the subject — an unbelievable amount. And now comes the crucial question — what for? So that one fine day a nice litde dog could be transformed into a specimen of so-called humanity so revolting that he makes one’s hair stand on end.’

‘Well, at least it is a unique achievement.’

‘I quite agree with you. This, doctor, is what happens when a researcher, instead of keeping in step with nature, tries to force the pace and lift the veil. Result — Sharikov. We have made our bed and now we must lie on it.’

‘Supposing the brain had been Spinoza’s, Philip Philipovich?’

‘Yes!’ bellowed Philip Philipovich. ‘Yes! Provided the wretched dog didn’t die under the knife — and you saw how tricky the operation was. In short — I, Philip Preobrazhensky would perform the most difficult feat of my whole career by transplanting Spinoza’s, or anyone else’s pituitary and turning a dog into a highly intelligent being. But what in heaven’s name for? That’s the point. Will you kindly tell me why one has to manufacture artificial Spinozas when some peasant woman may produce a real one any day of the week? After all, the great Lomonosov was the son of a peasant woman from Kholmogory. Mankind, doctor, takes care of that. Every year evolution ruthlessly casts aside the mass of dross and creates a few dozen men of genius who become an ornament to the whole world. Now I hope you understand why I condemned the deductions you made from Sharikov’s case history. My discovery, which you are so concerned about, is worth about as much as a bent penny… No, don’t argue, Ivan Arnoldovich, I have given it careful thought. I don’t give my views lightly, as you well know. Theoretically the experiment was interesting. Fine. The physiologists will be delighted. Moscow will go mad… But what is its practical value? What is this creature?’ Preobrazhensky pointed toward the consulting-room where Sharikov was asleep.

‘An unmitigated scoundrel.’

‘But what was Klim… Klim,’ cried the professor. ‘What was Klim Chugunkin?’ (Bormenthal opened his mouth.) ‘I’ll tell you: two convictions, an alcoholic, “take away all property and divide it up”, my beaver hat and 20 roubles gone’ — (At this point Philip Philipovich also remembered his presentation walking-stick and turned purple.) — ‘the swine!… I’ll get that stick back somehow… In short the pituitary is a magic box which determines the individual human image. Yes, individual… “…from Granda to Seville…”’ shouted Philip Philipovich, his eyes rolling furiously, ‘but not the universal human image. It’s the brain itself in miniature. And it’s of no use to me at all — to hell with it. I was concerned about something quite different, about eugenics, about the improvement of the human race. And now I’ve ended up by specialising in rejuvenation. You don’t think I do these rejuvenation operations because of the money, do you? I am a scientist.’

‘And a great scientist!’ said Bormenthal, gulping down his brandy. His eyes grew bloodshot.

‘I wanted to do a little experiment as a follow-up to my success two years ago in extracting sex hormone from the pituitary. Instead of that what has happened? My God! What use were those hormones in the pituitary… Doctor, I am faced by despair. I confess I am utterly perplexed.’

Suddenly Bormenthal rolled up his sleeves and said, squinting at the tip of his nose:

‘Right then, professor, if you don’t want to, I will take the risk of dosing him with arsenic myself. I don’t care if my father was a plain-clothes policeman under the old regime. When all’s said and done this creature is yours — your own experimental creation.’

Philip Philipovich, limp and exhausted, collapsed into his chair and said:

‘No, my dear boy, I won’t let you do it. I’m sixty, old enough to give you advice. Never do anything criminal, no matter for what reason. Keep your hands clean all your life.’

‘But just think, Philip Philipovich, what he may turn into if that character Shvonder keeps on at him! I’m only just beginning to realise what Sharikov may become, by God!’

‘Aha, so you realise now, do you? Well I realised it ten days after the operation. My only comfort is that Shvonder is the biggest fool of all. He doesn’t realise that Sharikov is much more of a threat to him than he is to me. At the moment he’s doing all he can to turn Sharikov against me, not realising that if someone in their turn sets Sharikov against Shvonder himself, there’ll soon be nothing left of Shvonder but the bones and the beak.’

‘You’re right. Just think of the way he goes for cats. He’s a man with the heart of a dog.’

‘Oh, no, no,’ drawled Philip Philipovich in reply. ‘You’re making a big mistake, doctor. For heaven’s sake don’t insult the dog. His reaction to cats is purely temporary… It’s a question of discipline, which could be dealt with in two or three weeks, I assure you. Another month or so and he’ll stop chasing them.’

‘But why hasn’t he stopped by now?’ ‘Elementary, Ivan Arnoldovich… think what you’re saying. After all, the pituitary is not suspended in a vacuum. It is, after all, grafted on to a canine brain, you must allow time for it to take root. Sharikov now only shows traces of canine behaviour and you must remember this — chasing after cats is the least objectionable thing he does! The whole horror of the situation is that he now has a human heart, not a dog’s heart. And about the rottenest heart in all creation!’

Bormenthal, wrought to a state of extreme anxiety, clenched his powerful sinewy hands, shrugged and said firmly:

‘Very well, I shall kill him!’

‘I forbid it!’ answered Philip Philipovich categorically.

‘But…’

Philip Philipovich was suddenly on the alert. He raised his finger.

‘Wait… I heard footsteps.’

Both listened intently, but there was silence in the corridor.

‘I thought…’ said Philip Philipovich and began speaking German, several times using the Russian word ‘crime’.

‘Just a minute,’ Bormenthal suddenly warned him and strode over to the door.

Footsteps could be clearly heard approaching the study, and there was a mumble of voices. Bormenthal flung open the door and started back in amazement. Appalled, Philip Philipovich froze in his armchair. In the bright rectangle of the doorway stood Darya Petrovna in nothing but her nightdress, her face hot and furious. Both doctor and professor were dazzled by the amplitude of her powerful body, which their shock caused them to see as naked. Darya Petrovna was dragging something along in her enormous hands and as that ‘something’ came to a halt it slid down and sat on its bottom. Its short legs, covered in black down, folded up on the parquet floor. The ‘something’, of course, was Sharikov, confused, still slightly drunk, dishevelled and wearing only a shirt.

Darya Petrovna, naked and magnificent, shook Sharikov like a sack of potatoes and said:

‘Just look at our precious lodger Telegraph Telegraphovich. I’ve been married, but Zina’s an innocent girl. It was a good thing I woke up.’

Having said her piece, Darya Petrovna was overcome by shame, gave a scream, covered her bosom with her arms and vanished.

‘Darya Petrovna, please forgive us,’ the red-faced Philip Philipovich shouted after her as soon as he had regained his senses.

Bormenthal rolled up his shirtsleeves higher still and bore down on Sharikov. Philip Philipovich caught the look in his eye and said in horror: ‘Doctor! I forbid you…’

With his right hand Bormenthal picked up Sharikov by the scruff of his neck and shook him so violently that the material of his shirt tore.

Philip Philipovich threw himself between them and began to drag the puny Sharikov free from Bormenthal’s powerful surgeon’s hands.

‘You haven’t any right to beat me,’ said Sharikov in a stifled moan, rapidly sobering as he slumped to the ground. ‘Doctor!’ shrieked Philip Philipovich. Bormenthal pulled himself together slightly and let Sharikov go. He at once began to whimper.

‘Right,’ hissed Bormenthal, ‘just wait till tomorrow. I’ll fix a little demonstration for him when he sobers up.’ With this he grabbed Sharikov under the armpit and dragged him to his bed in the waiting-room. Sharikov tried to kick, but his legs refused to obey him.

Philip Philipovich spread his legs wide, sending the skirts of his robe flapping, raised his arms and his eyes towards the lamp in the corridor ceiling and sighed.

Contents

Обращение к пользователям