Epilogue

One night, exactly ten days to the day after the struggle in Professor Preobrazhensky’s consulting-room in his flat on Obukhov Street, there was a sharp ring of the doorbell.

‘Criminal police. Open up, please.’

Footsteps approached, people knocked and entered until a considerable crowd filled the brightly-lit waiting-room with its newly-glazed cabinet. There were two in police uniform, one in a black overcoat and carrying a brief-case; there was chairman Shvonder, pale and gloating, and the youth who had turned out to be a woman; there was Fyodor the porter, Zina, Darya Petrovna and Bormenthal, half dressed and embarrassed as he tried to cover up his tieless neck.

The door from the study opened to admit Philip Philipovich. He appeared in his familiar blue dressing gown and everybody could tell at once that over the past week Philip Philipovich had begun to look very much better. The old Philip Philipovich, masterful, energetic and dignified, now faced his nocturnal visitors and apologised for appearing in his dressing gown.

‘It doesn’t matter, professor,’ said the man in civilian clothes, in great embarrassment. He faltered and then said:

‘I’m sorry to say we have a warrant to search your flat and’ -the men stared uneasily at Philip Philipovich’s moustaches and ended: ‘to arrest you, depending on the results of our search.’

Philip Philipovich frowned and asked:

‘What, may I ask, is the charge, and who is being charged?’

The man scratched his cheek and began reading from a piece of paper from his briefcase.

‘Preobrazhensky, Bormenthal, Zinaida Bunina and Darya Ivanova are charged with the murder of Poligraph Poligraph-ovich Sharikov, sub-department controller. City of Moscow Cleansing Department.’

The end of his speech was drowned by Zina’s sobs. There was general movement.

‘I don’t understand,’ replied Philip Philipovich with a regal shrug. ‘Who is this Sharikov? Oh, of course, you mean my dog… the one I operated on?’

‘I’m sorry, professor, not a dog. This happened when he was a man. That’s the trouble.’

‘Because he talked?’ asked Philip Philipovich. ‘That doesn’t mean he was a man. Anyhow, it’s irrelevant. Sharik is alive at this moment and no one has killed him.’

‘Really, professor?’ said the man in black, deeply astonished and raised his eyebrows. ‘In that case you must produce him. It’s ten days now since he disappeared and the evidence, if you’ll forgive my saying so, is most disquieting.’

‘Doctor Bormenthal, will you please produce Sharik for the detective,’ ordered Philip Philipovich, pocketing the charge-sheet. Bormenthal went out, smiling enigmatically.

As he returned he gave a whistle and from the door into the study appeared a dog of the most extraordinary appearance. In patches he was bald, while in other patches his coat had grown. He entered like a trained circus dog walking on his hind legs, then dropped on to all fours and looked round. The waiting-room froze into a sepulchral silence as tangible as jelly. The nightmarishlooking dog with the crimson scar on the forehead stood up again on his hind legs, grinned and sat down in an armchair.

The second policeman suddenly crossed himself with a sweeping gesture and in stepping back knocked Zina’s legs from under her.

The man in black, his mouth still wide open, said:

‘What’s been going on?… He worked in the City Cleansing Department…’

‘I didn’t send him there,’ answered Philip Philipovich. ‘He was recommended for the job by Mr Shvonder, if I’m not mistaken.’

‘I don’t get it,’ said the man in black, obviously confused, and turned to the first policeman. ‘Is that him?’

‘Yes,’ whispered the policeman, ‘it’s him all right.’

‘That’s him,’ came Fyodor’s voice, ‘except the little devil’s got a bit fatter.’

‘But he talked…’ the man in black giggled nervously.

‘And he still talks, though less and less, so if you want to hear him talk now’s the time, before he stops altogether’.

‘But why?’ asked the man in black quietly.

Philip Philipovich shrugged his shoulders. ‘Science has not yet found the means of turning animals into people. I tried, but unsuccessfully, as you can see. He talked and then he began to revert back to his primitive state. Atavism.’

‘Don’t swear at me,’ the dog suddenly barked from his chair and stood up.

The man in black turned instantly pale, dropped his briefcase and began to fall sideways. A policeman caught him on one side and Fyodor supported him from behind. There was a sudden turmoil, clearly pierced by three sentences:

Philip Philipovich: ‘Give him valerian. He’s fainted.’

Doctor Bormenthal: ‘I shall personally throw Shvonder downstairs if he ever appears in Professor Preobrazhensky’s flat again.’

And Shvonder said: ‘Please enter that remark in the report.’

The grey accordion-shaped radiators hissed gently. The blinds shut out the thick Prechistenka Street night sky with its lone star. The great, the powerful benefactor of dogs sat in his chair while Sharik lay stretched out on the carpet beside the leather couch. In the mornings the March fog made the dog’s head ache, especially around the circular scar on his skull, but by evening the warmth banished the pain. Now it was easing all the time and warm, comfortable thoughts flowed through the dog’s mind.

I’ve been very, very lucky, he thought sleepily. Incredibly lucky. I’m really settled in this flat. Though I’m not so sure now about my pedigree. Not a drop of labrador blood. She was just a tart, my old grandmother. God rest her soul. Certainly they cut my head around a bit, but who cares. None of my business, really.

From the distance came a tinkle of glass. Bormenthal was tidying the shelves of the cabinet in the consulting-room.

The grey-haired magician sat and hummed: ‘“… to the banks of the sacred Nile…”’

That evening the dog saw terrible things. He saw the great roan plunge his slippery, rubbergloved hands into a jar to fish out a brain; then relentlessly, persistently the great man pursued his search. Slicing, examining, he frowned and sang:

‘“To the banks of the sacred Nile…”’

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