The ‘little demonstration’ which Bormenthal had promised to lay on for Sharikov did not, however, take place the following morning, because Poligraph Poligraphovich had disappeared from the house. Bormenthal gave way to despair, cursing himself for a fool for not having hidden the key of the front door. Shouting that this was unforgivable, he ended by wishing Sharikov would fall under a bus. Philip Philipovich, who was sitting in his study running his fingers through his hair, said:
‘I can just imagine what he must be up to on the street… I can just imagine …“from Granada to Seville…” My God.’
‘He may be with the house committee,’ said Bormenthal furiously, and dashed off.
At the house committee he swore at the chairman, Shvonder, so violently that Shvonder sat down and wrote a complaint to the local People’s Court, shouting as he did so that he wasn’t Sharikov’s bodyguard. Poligraph Poligraphovich was not very popular at the house committee either, as only yesterday he had taken 7 roubles from the funds, with the excuse that he was going to buy text books at the co-operative store.
For a reward of 3 roubles Fyodor searched the whole house from top to bottom. Nowhere was there a trace to be found of Sharikov.
Only one thing was clear — that Poligraph had left at dawn wearing cap, scarf and overcoat, taking with him a bottle of rowanberry brandy from the sideboard. Doctor Bormenthal’s gloves, and all his own documents. Darya Petrovna and Zina openly expressed their delight and hoped that Sharikov would never come back again. Sharikov had borrowed 50 roubles from Darya Petrovna only the day before.
‘Serve you right!’ roared Philip Philipovich, shaking his fists. The telephone rang all that day and all the next day. The doctors saw an unusual number of patients and by the third day the two men were faced with the question of what to tell the police, who would have to start looking for Sharikov in the Moscow underworld.
Hardly had the word ‘police’ been mentioned than the reverent hush of Obukhov Street was broken by the roar of a lorry and all the windows in the house shook. Then with a confident ring at the bell Poligraph Poligraphovich appeared and entered with an air of unusual dignity. In absolute silence he took off his cap and hung his coat on the hook. He looked completely different. He had on a second-hand leather tunic, worn leather breeches and long English riding-boots laced up to the knee. An incredible odour of cat immediately permeated the whole hall. As though at an unspoken word of command Preobrazhensky and Bormenthal simultaneously crossed their arms, leaned against the doorpost and waited for Poligraph Poligraphovich to make his first remark. He smoothed down his rough hair and cleared his throat, obviously wanting to hide his embarrassment by a nonchalant air.
At last he spoke. ‘I’ve taken a job, Philip Philipovich.’
Both doctors uttered a vague dry noise in the throat and stirred slightly. Preobrazhensky was the first to collect his wits. Stretching out his hand he said: ‘Papers.’
The typewritten sheet read: ‘It is hereby certified that the bearer, comrade Poligraph Poligraphovich Sharikov, is appointed in charge of the sub-department of the Moscow Cleansing Department responsible for eliminating vagrant quadrupeds (cats, etc.)’
‘I see,’ said Philip Philipovich gravely. ‘Who fixed this for you? No, don’t tell me — I can guess.’
‘Yes, well, it was Shvonder.’
‘Forgive my asking, but why are you giving off such a revolting smell?’
Sharikov anxiously sniffed at his tunic.
‘Well, it may smell a bit — that’s because of my job. I spent all yesterday strangling cats…’
Philip Philipovich shuddered and looked at Bormenthal, whose eyes reminded him of two black gun-barrels aimed straight at Sharikov. Without the slightest warning he stepped up to Sharikov and took him in a light, practised grip around the throat.
‘Help!’ squeaked Sharikov, turning pale.
‘Don’t worry, Philip Philipovich, I shan’t do anything violent,’ answered Bormenthal in an iron voice and roared:
‘Zina and Darya Petrovna!’
The two women appeared in the lobby.
‘Now,’ said Bormenthal, giving Sharikov’s throat a very slight push toward the fur-coat hanging up on a nearby hook, ‘repeat after me: “I apologise…”’ ‘All right, I’ll repeat it…’ replied the defeated Sharikov in a husky voice.
Suddenly he took a deep breath, twisted, and tried to shout ‘help’, but no sound came out and his head was pushed right into the fur-coat.
‘Doctor, please…’ Sharikov nodded as a sign that he submitted and would repeat what he had to do.
‘…I apologise, dear Darya Petrovna and Zinaida?…’
‘Prokofievna,’ whispered Zina nervously.
‘Ow… Prokofievna… that I allowed myself…’
‘…to behave so disgustingly the other night in a state of intoxication.’
‘I shall never do it again…’
‘Do it again…’
‘Let him go, Ivan Arnoldovich,’ begged both women at once. ‘You’re throttling him. ‘
Bormenthal released Sharikov and said:
‘Is that lorry waiting for you?’
‘It just brought me here,’ replied Poligraph submissively.
‘Zina, tell the driver he can go. Now tell me — have you come back to Philip Philipovich’s flat to stay?’
‘Where else can I go?’ asked Sharikov timidly, his eyes nickering around the room.
‘Very well. You will be as good as gold and as quiet as a mouse. Otherwise you will have to reckon with me each time you misbehave. Understand?’
‘I understand,’ replied Sharikov.
Throughout Bormenthal’s attack on Sharikov Philip Philipovich had kept silent. He had leaned against the doorpost with a miserable look, chewed his nails and stared at the floor. Then he suddenly looked up at Sharikov and asked in a toneless, husky voice:
‘What do you do with them… the dead cats, I mean?’ ‘They go to a laboratory,’ replied Sharikov, ‘where they make them into protein for the workers.’
After this silence fell on the flat and lasted for two days. Poligraph Poligraphovich went to work in the morning by truck, returned in the evening and dined quietly with Philip Philipovich and Bormenthal.
Although Bormenthal and Sharikov slept in the same room — the waiting-room — they did not talk to each other, which Bormenthal soon found boring.
Two days later, however, there appeared a thin girl wearing eye shadow and pale fawn stockings, very embarrassed by the magnificence of the flat. In her shabby little coat she trotted in behind Sharikov and met the professor in the hall.
Dumbfounded, the professor frowned and asked:
‘Who is this?’
‘Me and her’s getting married. She’s our typist. She’s coming to live with me. Bormenthal will have to move out of the waiting-room. He’s got his own flat,’ said Sharikov in a sullen and very offhand voice.
Philip Philipovich blinked, reflected for a moment as he watched the girl turn crimson, then invited her with great courtesy to step into his study for a moment.
‘And I’m going with her,’ put in Sharikov quickly and suspiciously.
At that moment Bormenthal materialised from the floor.
‘I’m sorry,’ he said, ‘the professor wants to talk to the lady and you and I are going to stay here.’
‘I won’t,’ retorted Sharikov angrily, trying to follow Philip Philipovich and the girl. Her face burned with shame.
‘No, I’m sorry,’ Bormenthal took Sharikov by the wrist and led him into the consulting-room.
For about five minutes nothing was heard from the study, then suddenly came the sound of the girl’s muffled sobbing.
Philip Philipovich stood beside his desk as the girl wept into a dirty little lace handkerchief.
‘He told me he’d been wounded in the war,’ sobbed the girl. ‘He’s lying,’ replied Philip Philipovich inexorably. He shook his head and went on. ‘I’m genuinely sorry for you, but you can’t just go off and live with the first person you happen to meet at work… my dear child, it’s scandalous. Here…’ He opened a desk drawer and took out three 10-rouble notes.
‘I’d kill myself,’ wept the girl. ‘Nothing but salt beef every day in the canteen… and he threatened me… then he said he’d been a Red Army officer and he’d take me to live in a posh flat… kept making passes at me… says he’s kind-hearted really, he only hates cats… He took my ring as a memento…’
‘Well, well… so he’s kind-hearted… “…from Granada to Seville…”.’ muttered Philip Philipovich. ‘You’ll get over it, my dear. You’re still young.’
‘Did you really find him in a doorway?’
‘Look, I’m offering to lend you this money — take it,’ grunted Philip Philipovich.
The door was then solemnly thrown open and at Philip Philipovich’s request Bormenthal led in Sharikov, who glanced shiftily around. The hair on his head stood up like a scrubbing-brush.
‘You beast,’ said the girl, her eyes flashing, her mascara running past her streakily powdered nose.
‘Where did you get that scar on your forehead? Try and explain to the lady,’ said Philip Philipovich softly.
Sharikov staked his all on one preposterous card:
‘I was wounded at the front fighting against Kolchak,’ he barked.
The girl stood up and went out, weeping noisily.
‘Stop crying!’ Philip Philipovich shouted after her. ‘Just a minute — the ring, please,’ he said, turning to Sharikov, who obediently removed a large emerald ring from his finger.
‘I’ll get you,’ he suddenly said with malice. ‘You’ll remember me. Tomorrow I’ll make sure they cut your salary.’
‘Don’t be afraid of him,’ Bormenthal shouted after the girl. *I won’t let him do you any harm.’ He turned round and gave Sharikov such a look that he stumbled backwards and hit his head on the glass cabinet.
‘What’s her surname?’ asked Bormenthal. ‘Her surname!’ he roared, suddenly terrible.
‘Basnetsova,’ replied Sharikov, looking round for a way of escape.
‘Every day,’ said Bormenthal, grasping the lapels of Sharikov’s tunic, ‘I shall personally make enquiries at the City Cleansing Department to make sure that you haven’t been interfering with citizeness Basnetsova’s salary. And if I find out that you have… then I will shoot you down with my own hands. Take care, Sharikov — I mean what I say.’ Transfixed, Sharikov stared at Bormenthal’s nose. ‘You’re not the only one with a revolver…’ muttered Poligraph quietly.
Suddenly he dodged and spurted for the door. ‘Take care!’ Bormenthal’s shout pursued him as he fled. That night and the following morning were as tense as the atmosphere before a thunderstorm. Nobody spoke. The next day Poligraph Poligraphovich went gloomily off to work by lorry, after waking up with an uneasy presentiment, while Professor Preobrazhensky saw a former patient, a tall, strapping man in uniform, at a quite abnormal hour. The man insisted on a consultation and was admitted. As he walked into the study he politely clicked his heels to the professor.
‘Have your pains come back?’ asked Philip Philipovich pursing his lips. ‘Please sit down.’
‘Thank you. No, professor,’ replied his visitor, putting down his cap on the edge of the desk. ‘I’m very grateful to you… No… I’ve come, h’m, on another matter, Philip Philipovich… in view of the great respect I feel… I’ve come to… er, warn you. It’s obviously nonsense, of course. He’s simply a scoundrel.’ The patient searched in his briefcase and took out a piece of paper. ‘It’s a good thing I was told about this right away…’
Philip Philipovich slipped a pince-nez over his spectacles and began to read. For a long time he mumbled half-aloud, his expression changing every moment. ‘…also threatening to murder the chairman of the house committee, comrade Shvonder, which shows that he must be keeping a firearm. And he makes counter-revolutionary speeches, and even ordered his domestic worker, Zinaida Prokofievna Bunina, to burn Engels in the stove. He is an obvious Menshevik and so is his assistant Ivan Arnoldovich Bormenthal who is living secretly in his flat without being registered. Signed: P. P. Sharikov
Sub-Dept. Controller City Cleansing Dept. Countersigned: Shvonder
Chairman, House Committee. Pestrukhin Secretary, House Committee.
‘May I keep this?’ asked Philip Philipovich, his face blotchy. ‘Or perhaps you need it so that legal proceedings can be made?’
‘Really, professor.’ The patient was most offended and blew out his nostrils. ‘You seem to regard us with contempt. I…’ And he began to puff himself up like a turkeycock.
‘Please forgive me, my dear fellow!’ mumbled Philip Philipovich. ‘I really didn’t mean to offend you. Please don’t be angry. You can’t believe what this creature has done to my nerves…’
‘So I can imagine,’ said the patient, quite mollified. ‘But what a swine! I’d be curious to have a look at him. Moscow is full of stories about you…’
Philip Philipovich could only gesture in despair. It was then that the patient noticed how hunched the professor was looking and that he seemed to have recently grown much greyer.