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Why bother to leam to read when you can smell meat a mile away? If you live in Moscow, though, and if you've got an ounce of brain in your head you can't help learning to read -and without going to night-school either. There are forty-thousand dogs in Moscow and I'll bet there's not one of them so stupid he can't spell out the word 'sausage'.

Sharik had begun by learning from colours. When he was just four months old, blue-green signs started appearing all over Moscow with the letters MSFS - Moscow State Food Stores - which meant a butcher and delicatessen. I repeat that he had no need to learn his letters because he could smell the meat anyway. Once he made a bad mistake: trotting up to a bright blue shop-sign one day when the smell was drowned by car exhaust, instead of a butcher's shop he ran into the Polubizner Brothers' electrical goods store on Myasnitzkaya Street. There the brothers taught him all about insulated cable, which can be sharper than a cabman's whip. This famous occasion may be regarded as the beginning of Sharik's education. It was here on the pavement that Sharik began to realise that 'blue' doesn't always mean 'butcher', and as he squeezed his burningly painful tail between his back legs and howled, he remembered that on every butcher's shop the first letter on the left was always gold or brown, bow-legged, and looked like a toboggan.

After that the lessons were rather easier. 'A' he learned from the barber on the comer of Mokhovaya Street, followed by 'B' (there was always a policeman standing in front of the last four letters of the word). Corner shops faced with tiles always meant 'CHEESE' and the black half-moon at the beginning of the word stood for the name of their former owners 'Chichkin'; they were full of mountains of red Dutch cheeses, salesmen who hated dogs, sawdust on the floor and reeking Limburger.

If there was accordion music (which was slightly better than 'Celeste Aida'), and the place smelted of frankfurters, the first letters on the white signboards very conveniently | spelled out the word 'NOOB', which was short for 'No obscene language. No tips.' Sometimes at these places fights would break out, people would start punching each other in the face with their fists - sometimes even with napkins or boots.

If there were stale bits of ham and mandarin oranges in the window it meant a grrr . . . grrocery. If there were black bottles full of evil liquids it was . . . li-li-liquor . . . formerly Eliseyev Bros.

The unknown gentleman had led the dog to the door of his luxurious flat on the mezzanine floor, and rang the doorbell. The dog at once looked up at a big, black, gold-lettered nameplate hanging beside a pink frosted-glass door. He deciphered the first three letters at once: P-R-O- 'Pro . . .', but after tliat there was a funny tall thing with a cross bar which he did not know. Surely he's not a proletarian? thought Sharik with amazement... He can't be. He lifted up his nose, sniffed the fur coat and said firmly to himself:

No, this doesn't smell proletarian. Some high-falutin' word. God knows what it means.

Suddenly a light flashed on cheerfully behind the pink glass door, throwing the nameplate into even deeper shadow. The door opened soundlessly and a beautiful young woman in a white apron and lace cap stood before the dog and his master. A wave of delicious warmth flowed over the dog and the woman's skirt smelled of carnations.

This I like, thought the dog.

'Come in, Mr Sharik,' said the gentleman ironically and Sharik respectfully obeyed, wagging his tail.

A great multitude of objects filled the richly furnished hall. Beside him was a mirror stretching right down to the floor, which instantly reflected a second dirty, exhausted Sharik. High up on the wall was a terrifying pair of antlers, there were countless fur coats and pairs of galoshes and an electric tulip made of opal glass hanging from the ceiling.

'Where on earth did you get that from, Philip Philipovich?' enquired the woman, smiling as she helped to take off the heavy brown, blue-flecked fox-fur coat.

'God, he looks lousy.'

'Nonsense. He doesn't look lousy to me,' said the gentleman abruptly.

With his fur coat off he was seen to be wearing a black suit of English material; a gold chain across his stomach shone with a dull glow.

'Hold still, boy, keep still doggy . . . keep still you little fool. H'm . . . that's not lice . . . Stand still, will you . . . H'mm . . . aha - yes . . . It's a scald. Who was mean enough to throw boiling water over you, I wonder? Eh? Keep still, will you . . .!'

It was that miserable cook, said the dog with his pitiful eyes and gave a little whimper.

'Zina,' ordered the gentleman, 'take him into the consulting-room at once and get me a white coat.'

The woman whistled, clicked her fingers and the dog followed her slightly hesitantly. Together they walked down a narrow, dimly-lit corridor, passed a varnished door, reached the end then turned left and arrived in a dark little room which the dog instantly disliked for its ominous smell. The darkness clicked and was transformed into blinding white which flashed and shone from every angle.

Oh, no, the dog whined to himself, you won't catch me as easily as that! I see it now - to hell with them and their sausage. They've tricked me into a dogs' hospital. Now they'll force me to swallow castor oil and they'll cut up my side with knives - well, I won't let them touch it.

'Hey - where are you trying to go?' shouted the girl called Zina.

The animal dodged, curled up like a spring and suddenly hit the door with his unharmed side so hard that the noise reverberated through the whole apartment. Then he jumped back, spun around on the spot like a top and in doing so knocked over a white bucket, spilling wads of cotton wool. As he whirled round there flashed past him shelves full of glittering instruments, a white apron and a furious woman's face.

'You little devil,' cried Zina in desperation, 'where d'you think you're going?'

Where's the back door? the dog wondered. He swung round, rolled into a ball and hurled himself bullet-fashion at a glass in the hope that it was another door. With a crash and a tinkle a shower of splinters fell down and a pot-bellied glass jar of some reddish-brown filth shot out and poured itself over the floor, giving off a sickening stench. The real door swung open.

'Stop it, you little beast,' shouted the gentleman as he rushed in pulling on one sleeve of his white coat. He seized the dog by the legs. 'Zina, grab him by the scruff of the neck, damn him.' 'Oh - these dogs . . .!'

The door opened wider still and another person of the male sex dashed in, also wearing a white coat. Crunching over the broken glass he went past the dog to a cupboard, opened it and the whole room was filled with a sweet, nauseating smell. Then the person turned the animal over on his back, at which the dog enthusiastically bit him just above his shoelaces. The person groaned but kept his head. The nauseating liquid choked the dog's breathing and his head began to spin, then his legs collapsed and he seemed to be moving sideways. This is it, he thought dreamily as he collapsed on to the sharp slivers of glass. Goodbye, Moscow! I shan't see Chichkin or the proletarians or Cracow sausages again. I'm going to the heaven for long-suffering dogs. You butchers - why did you have to do this to me? With that he finally collapsed on to his back and passed out.

When he awoke he felt slightly dizzy and sick to his stomach. His injured side did not seem to be there at all, but was blissfully painless. The dog opened a languid right eye and saw out of its corner that he was tightly bandaged all around his flanks and belly. So those sons of bitches did cut me up, he thought dully, but I must admit they've made a neat job of it.

. . . "from Granada to Seville . . . those soft southern nights" . . .' a muzzy, falsetto voice sang over his head.

Amazed, the dog opened both eyes wide and saw two yards away a man's leg propped up on a stool. Trousers and sock had been rolled back and the yellow, naked ankle was smeared with dried blood and iodine.

Swine! thought the dog. He must be the one I bit, so that's my doing. Now there'll be trouble.

'. . . "the murmur of sweet serenades, the clink of Spanish blades . . ." Now, you little tramp, why did you bite the doctor? Eh? Why did you break all that glass? M'm?' Oowow, whined the dig miserably. 'All right, lie back and relax, naughty boy.' 'However did you manage to entice such a nervous, excitable dog into following you here, Philip Philipovich?' enquired a pleasant male voice, and a long knitted underpant lowered itself to the ground. There was a smell of tobacco, and glass phials tinkled in the closet.

'By kindness. The only possible method when dealing with a living creature. You'll get nowhere with an animal if you use terror, no matter what its level of development may be. That I have maintained, do maintain and always will maintain. People who think you can use terror are quite wrong. No, terror's useless, whatever its colour - white, red or even brown! Terror completely paralyses the nervous system. Zina! I bought this little scamp some Cracow sausage for 1 rouble 40 kopecks. Please see that he is fed when he gets over his nausea.'

There was a crunching noise as glass splinters were swept up and a woman's voice said teasingly: 'Cracower! Goodness, you ought to buy him twenty kopecks-worth of scraps from the butcher. I'd rather eat the Cracower myself!'

'You just try! That stuff's poison for human stomachs. A grown woman and you're ready to poke anything into your mouth like a child. Don't you dare! I warn you that neither I nor Doctor Bormenthal will lift a finger for you when your stomach finally gives out . . .'

Just then a bell tinkled all through the flat and from far away in the hall came the sound of voices. The telephone rang. Zina disappeared.

Philip Philipovich threw his cigar butt into the bucket, buttoned up his white coat, smoothed his bushy moustache in front of a mirror on the wall and called the dog.

'Come on, boy, you'll be all right. Let's go and see our visitors.'

The dog stood up on wobbly legs, staggered and shivered but quickly felt better and set off behind the napping hem of Philip Philipovich's coat. Again the dog walked down the narrow corridor, but saw that this time it was brightly lit from above by a round cut-glass lamp in the ceiling. When the varnished door opened he trotted into Philip Philipovich's study. Its luxury blinded him. Above all it was blazing with light: there was a light hanging from the moulded ceiling, a light on the desk, lights on the walls, lights on the glass-fronted cabinets. The light poured over countless knick-knacks, of which the most striking was an enormous owl perched on a branch fastened to the wall.

'Lie down,' ordered Philip Philipovich.

The carved door at the other end of the room opened and in came the doctor who had been bitten. In the bright light he now looked very young and handsome, with a pointed beard. He put down a sheet of paper and said: 'The same as before . . .'

Then he silently vanished and Philip Philipovich, spreading his coat-tails, sat down behind the huge desk and immediately looked extremely dignified and important.

No, this can't be a hospital, I've landed up somewhere else, the dog thought confusedly and stretched out on the patterned carpet beside a massive leather-covered couch. I wish I knew what that owl was doing here . . .

The door gently opened and in came a man who looked so extraordinary that the dog gave a timid yelp . . .

'Shut up! . . . My dear fellow, I hardly recognised you!'

Embarrassed, the visitor bowed politely to Philip Philipovich and giggled nervously.

'You're a wizard, a magician, professor!' he said bashfully.

'Take down your trousers, old man,' ordered Philip Philip-ovich and stood up.

Christ, thought the dog, what a sight! The man's hair was completely green, although at the back it shaded off into a brownish tobacco colour, wrinkles covered his face yet his complexion was as pink as a boy's. His left leg would not bend and had to be dragged across the carpet, but his right leg was as springy as a jack-in-the-box. In the buttonhole of his superb jacket there shone, like an eye, a precious stone.

The dog was so fascinated that he even forgot his nausea. Oow-ow, he whined softly.

'Quiet! . . . How have you been sleeping!'

The man giggled. 'Are we alone, professor? It's indescribable,' said the visitor coyly. 'Parole d'honneur - I haven't known anything like it for twenty-five years . . .' the creature started struggling with his flybuttons . . . 'Would you believe it, professor - hordes of naked girls every night. I am absolutely entranced. You're a magician.'

'H'm,' grunted Philip Philipovich, preoccupied as he stared into the pupils of his visitor's eyes. The man finally succeeded in mastering his flybuttons and took off his checked trousers, revealing the most extraordinary pair of pants. They were cream-coloured, embroidered with black silk cats and they smelled of perfume.

The dog could not resist the cats and gave such a bark that the man jumped.

'Oh!'

'Quiet - or I'll beat you! . . . Don't worry, he won't bite.'

Won't I? thought the dog in amazement.

Out of the man's trouser pocket a little envelope fell to the floor. It was decorated with a picture of a naked girl with flowing hair. He gave a start, bent down to pick it up and blushed violently.

'Look here,' said Philip Philipovich in a tone of grim warning, wagging a threatening finger, 'you shouldn't overdo it, you know.'

'I'm not overdo . . .' the creature muttered in embarrassment as he went on undressing. 'It was just a sort of experiment.'

'Well, what were the results?' asked Philip Philipovich sternly.

The man waved his hand in ecstasy. 'I swear to God, professor, I haven't known anything like it for twenty-five years. The last time was in 1899 in Paris, in the Rue de la Paix.'

'And why have you turned green?'

The visitor's face clouded over. 'That damned stuff! You'd never believe, professor, what those rogues palmed off on me instead of dye. Just take a look,' the man muttered, searching for a mirror. 'I'd like to punch him on the snout,' he added in a rage. 'What am I to do now, professor?' he asked tearfully.

'H'm. Shave all your hair off.'

'But, professor,' cried the visitor miserably, 'then it would only grow grey again. Besides, I daren't show my face at the office like this. I haven't been there for three days. Ah, professor, if only you had discovered a way of rejuvenating hair!'

'One thing at a time, old man, one thing at a time,' muttered Philip Philipovich. Bending down, his glittering eyes examined the patient's naked abdomen.

'Splendid, everything's in great shape. To tell you the truth I didn't even expect such results. You can get dressed now.'

' "Ah, she's so lovely . . ." ' sang the patient in a voice that quavered like the sound of someone hitting an old, cracked saucepan. Beaming, he started to dress. When he was ready he skipped across the floor in a cloud of perfume, counted out a heap of white banknotes on the professor's desk and shook him tenderly by both hands.

'You needn't come back for two weeks,' said Philip Philipovich, 'but I must beg you - be careful.'

The ecstaticvoice replied from behind thedoor: 'Don't worry, professor.' The creature gave a delighted giggle and went. The doorbell tinkled through the apartment and the varnished door opened, admitting the other doctor, who handed Philip Philipovich a sheet of paper and announced:

'She has lied about her age. It's probably about fifty or fifty-five. Heart-beats muffled.'

He disappeared, to be succeeded by a rustling lady with a hat planted gaily on one side of her head and with a glittering necklace on her slack, crumpled neck. There were black bags under her eyes and her cheeks were as red as a painted doll. She was extremely nervous.

'How old are you, madam?' enquired Philip Philipovich with great severity.

Frightened, the lady paled under her coating of rouge. 'Professor, I swear that if you knew the agony I've been going through . . .!'

'How old are you, madam?' repeated Philip Philipovich even more sternly.

'Honestly . . . well, forty-five . . .'

'Madam,' groaned Philip Philipovich, I am a busy man. Please don't waste my time. You're not my only patient, you know.'

The lady's bosom heaved violently. 'I've come to you, a great scientist ... I swear to you - it's terrible . . .'

'How old are you?' Philip Philipovich screeched in fury, his spectacles glittering.

'Fifty-one!' replied the lady, wincing with terror.

'Take off your underwear, please,' said Philip Philipovich with relief, and pointed to a high white examination table in the comer.

'I swear, professor,' murmured the lady as with trembling fingers she unbuttoned the fasteners on her belt, 'this boy Moritz ... I honestly admit to you . . .'

' "From Granada to Seville . . ." ' Philip Philipovich hummed absentmindedly and pressed the foot-pedal of his marble washbasin. There was a sound of running water.

'I swear to God,' said the lady, patches of real colour showing through the rouge on her cheeks, 'this will be my last affair. Oh, he's such a brute! Oh, professor! All Moscow knows he's a card-sharper and he can't resist any little tart of a dressmaker who catches his eye. But he's so deliciously young . . .'As she talked the lady pulled out a crumpled blob of lace from under her rustling skirts.

A mist came in front of the dog's eyes and his brain turned a somersault. To hell with you, he thought vaguely, laying his head on his paws and closing his eyes with embarrassment. I'm not going to try and guess what all this is about -it's beyond me, anyway.

He was wakened by a tinkling sound and saw that Philip Philipovich had tossed some little shining tubes into a basin.

The painted lady, her hands pressed to her bosom, was gazing hopefully at Philip Philipovich. Frowning impressively he had sat down at his desk and was writing something.

'I am going to implant some monkey's ovaries into you, madam,' he announced with a stern look.

'Oh, professor - not monkey's ?'

'Yes,' replied Philip Philipovich inexorably.

'When will you operate?' asked the lady in a weak voice, turning pale.

' ". . . from Granada to Seville . . ." H'm ... on Monday. You must go into hospital on Monday morning. My assistant will prepare you.'

'Oh, dear. I don't want to go into hospital. Couldn't you operate here, professor?'

'I only operate here in extreme cases. It would be very expensive - 500 roubles.'

'I'll pay, professor!'

Again came the sound of running water, the feathered hat swayed out, to be replaced by a head as bald as a dinner-plate which embraced Philip Philipovich. As his nausea passed, the dog dozed off, luxuriating in the warmth and the sense of relief as his injury healed. He even snored a little and managed to enjoy a snatch of a pleasant dream - he dreamed he had torn a whole tuft of feathers out of the owl's tail . . . until an agitated voice started yapping above his head.

'I'm too well known in Moscow, professor. What am I to do?'

'Really,' cried Philip Philipovich indignantly, 'you can't behave like that. You must restrain yourself. How old is she?'

'Fourteen, professor . . . The scandal would ruin me, you see. I'm due to go abroad on official business any day now.'

'I'm afraid I'm not a lawyer . . . you'd better wait a couple of years and then marry her.'

'I'm married already, professor.'

'Oh, lord!'

The door opened, faces changed, instruments clattered and Philip Philipovich worked on unceasingly.

This place is indecent, thought the dog, but I like it! What the hell can he want me for, though? Is he just going to let me live here? Maybe he's eccentric. After all, he could get a pedigree dog as easy as winking. Perhaps I'm good-looking! What luck. As for that stupid owl . . . cheeky brute.

The dog finally woke up late in the evening when the bells had stopped ringing and at the very moment when the door admitted some special visitors. There were four of them at once, all young people and all extremely modestly dressed.

What's all this? thought the dog in astonishment. Philip Philipovich treated these visitors with considerable hostility. He stood at his desk, staring at them like a general confronting the enemy. The nostrils of his hawk-like nose were dilated. The party shuffled awkwardly across the carpet.

'The reason why we've come to see you, professor . . .' began one of them, who had a six-inch shock of hair sprouting straight out of his head.

'You ought not to go out in this weather without wearing galoshes, gentlemen,' Philip Philipovich interrupted in a schoolmasterish voice. 'Firstly you'll catch cold and secondly you've muddied my carpets and all my carpets are Persian.'

The young man with the shock of hair broke off, and all four stared at Philip Philipovich in consternation. The silence lasted several minutes and was only broken by the drumming of Philip Philipovich's fingers on a painted wooden platter on his desk.

'Firstly, we're not gentlemen,' the youngest of them, with a face like a peach, said finally.

'Secondly,' Philip Philipovich interrupted him, 'are you a man or a woman?'

The four were silent again and their mouths dropped open. This time the shock-haired young man pulled himself together.

'What difference does it make, comrade?' he asked proudly.

'I'm a woman,' confessed the peach-like youth, who was wearing a leather jerkin, and blushed heavily. For some reason one of the others, a fair young man in a sheepskin hat, also turned bright red.

'In that case you may leave your cap on, but I must ask you, my dear sir, to remove your headgear,' said Philip Philipovich imposingly.

'I am not your dear sir,' said the fair youth sharply, pulling off his sheepskin hat.

'We have come to see you,' the dark shock-headed boy began again.

'First of all - who are 'we'?'

'We are the new management committee of this block of flats,' said the dark youth with suppressed fury. 'I am Shvonder, her name is Vyazemskaya and these two are comrades Pestrukhin and Sharovkyan. So we . . .'

'Are you the people who were moved in as extra tenants into Fyodor Pavlovich Sablin's apartment?' 'Yes, we are,' replied Shvonder.

'God, what is this place coming to!' exclaimed Philip Philipovich in despair and wrung his hands. 'What are you laughing for, professor?' 'What do you mean - laughing? I'm in absolute despair,' shouted Philip Philipovich. 'What's going to become of the central heating now?'

'Are you making fun of us. Professor Preobrazhensky?' 'Why have you come to see me? Please be as quick as possible. I'm just going in to supper.'

'We, the house management,' said Shvonder with hatred, 'have come to see you as a result of a general meeting of the tenants of this block, who are charged with the problem of increasing the occupancy of this house . . .' 28

'What d'you mean - charged?' cried Philip Philipovich. 'Please try and express yourself more clearly.'

'We are charged with increasing the occupancy.'

'All right, I understand! Do you realise that under the regulation of August 12th this year my apartment is exempt from any increase in occupancy?'

'We know that,' replied Shvonder, 'but when the general meeting had examined this question it came to the conclusion that taken all round you are occupying too much space. Far too much. You are living, alone, in seven rooms.'

'I live and work in seven rooms,' replied Philip Philipovich, 'and I could do with eight. I need a room for a library.'

The four were struck dumb.

'Eight! Ha, ha!' said the hatless fair youth. 'That's rich, that is!'

'It's indescribable!' exclaimed the youth who had turned out to be a woman.

'I have a waiting-room, which you will notice also has to serve as my library, a dining-room, and my study - that makes three. Consulting-room - four, operating theatre -five. My bedroom - six, and the servant's room makes seven. It's not really enough. But that's not the point. My apartment is exempt, and our conversation is therefore at an end. May I go and have supper?'

'Excuse me,' said the fourth, who looked like a fat beetle.

'Excuse me,' Shvonder interrupted him, 'but it was just because of your dining-room and your consulting-room that we came to see you. The general meeting requests you, as a matter of labour discipline, to give up your dining-room voluntarily. No one in Moscow has a dining-room.'

'Not even Isadora Duncan,' squeaked the woman. Something happened to Philip Philipovich which made his face turn gently purple. He said nothing, waiting to hear what came next.

'And give up your consulting-room too,' Shvonder went on. ' You can easily combine your consulting-room with your study.'

'Mm'h,' said Philip Philipovich in a strange voice. 'And where am I supposed to eat?'

'In the bedroom,' answered the four in chorus.

Philip Philipovich's purple complexion took on a faintly grey tinge.

'So I can eat in the bedroom,' he said in a slightly muffled voice, 'read in the consulting-room, dress in the hall, operate in the maid's room and examine patients in the dining-room. I expect that is what Isadora Duncan does. Perhaps she eats in her study and dissects rabbits in the bathroom. Perhaps. But I'm not Isadora Duncan. . . !' he turned yellow. 'I shall eat in the dining-room and operate in the operating theatre! Tell that to the general meeting, and meanwhile kindly go and mind your own business and allow me to have my supper in the place where all normal people eat. I mean in the dining-room - not in the hall and not in the nursery.'

'In that case, professor, in view of your obstinate refusal,' said the furious Shvonder, 'we shall lodge a complaint about you with higher authority.'

'Aha,' said Philip Philipovich, 'so that's your game, is it?' And his voice took on a suspiciously polite note. 'Please wait one minute.'

What a man, thought the dog with delight, he's just like me. Any minute now and he'll bite them. I don't know how, but he'll bite them all right ... Go on! Go for 'em! I could just get that long-legged swine in the tendon behind his knee . . . ggrrr . . .

Philip Philipovich lifted the telephone receiver, dialled and said into it: 'Please give me . . . yes . . . thank you. Put me through to Pyotr Alexandrovich, please. Professor Preobraz-hensky speaking. Pyotr Alexandrovich? Hello, how are you? I'm so glad I was able to get you. Thanks, I'm fine. Pyotr Alexandrovich, I'm afraid your operation is cancelled. What? Cancelled. And so are all my other operations. I'll tell you why:

I am not going to work in Moscow, in fact I'm not going to work in Russia any longer . . . I am just having a visit from four people, one of whom is a woman disguised as a man, and two of whom are armed with revolvers. They are terrorising me in my own apartment and threatening to evict me.'

'Hey, now, professor . . .' began Shvonder, his expression changing.

'Excuse me ... I can't repeat all they've been saying. I can't make sense of it, anyway. Roughly speaking they have told me to give up my consulting-room, which will oblige me to operate in the room I have used until now for dissecting rabbits. I not only cannot work under such conditions - I have no right to. So I am closing down my practice, shutting up my apartment and going to Sochi. I will give the keys to Shvonder. He can operate for me.'

The four stood rigid. The snow was melting on their boots. 'Can't be helped, I'm afraid . . . Of course I'm very upset, but ... What? Oh, no, Pyotr Alexandrovich! Oh, no. That I must flatly refuse. My patience has snapped. This is the second time since August . . . What? H'm . . . All right, if you like. I suppose so. Only this time on one condition: I don't care who issues it, when they issue it or what they issue, provided it's the sort of certificate which will mean that neither Shvonder nor anyone else can so much as knock on my door. The ultimate in certificates. Effective. Real. Armour-plated! I don't even want my name on it. The end. As far as they are concerned, I am dead. Yes, yes. Please do. Who? Aha . . . well, that's another matter. Aha . . . good. I'll just hand him the receiver. Would you mind,' Philip Philipovich spoke to Shvonder in a voice like a snake's, 'you're wanted on the telephone.'

'But, professor,' said Shvonder, alternately flaring up and cringing, 'what you've told him is all wrong' -

'Please don't speak to me like that.'

Shvonder nervously picked up the receiver and said:

'Hello. Yes ... I'm the chairman of the house management committee . . . We were only acting according to the regulations . . . the professor is an absolutely special case . . . Yes, we know about his work . . . We were going to leave him five whole rooms . . . Well, OK ... if that's how it is ... OK.'

Very red in the face, he hung up and turned round.

What a fellow! thought the dog rapturously. Does he know how to handle them! What's his secret, I wonder? He can beat me as much as he likes now - I'm not leaving this place!'

The three young people stared open-mouthed at the wretched Shvonder.

'This is a disgrace!' he said miserably.

'If that Pyotr Alexandrovich had been here,' began the woman, reddening with anger, 'I'd have shown him . . .'

'Excuse me, would you like to talk to him now?' enquired Philip Philipovich politely.

The woman's eyes flashed.

'You can be as sarcastic as you like, professor, but we're going now . . . Still, as manager of the cultural department of this house . . .'

' Manager,' Philip Philipovich corrected her.

'I want to ask you' - here the woman pulled a number of coloured magazines wet with snow, from out of the front of her tunic - 'to buy a few of these magazines in aid of the children of Germany. 50 kopecks a copy.'

'No, I will not,' said Philip Philipovich curtly after a glance at the magazines.

Total amazement showed on the faces, and the girl turned cranberry-colour.

'Why not?'

'I don't want to.'

'Don't you feel sorry for the children of Germany?'

'Yes, I do.'

'Can't you spare 50 kopecks?'

'Yes, I can.'

'Well, why won't you, then?'

'I don't want to.'

Silence.

'You know, professor,' said the girl with a deep sigh, 'if you weren't world-famous and if you weren't being protected by certain people in the most disgusting way,' (the fair youth tugged at the hem of her jerkin, but she brushed him away), 'which we propose to investigate, you should be arrested.'

'What for?' asked Philip Philipovich with curiosity.

'Because you hate the proletariat!' said the woman proudly.

'You're right, I don't like the proletariat,' agreed Philip Philipovich sadly, and pressed a button. A bell rang in the distance. The door opened on to the corridor.

'Zina!' shouted Philip Philipovich. 'Serve the supper, please. Do you mind, ladies and gentlemen?'

Silently the four left the study, silently they trooped down the passage and through the hall. The front door closed loudly and heavily behind them.

The dog rose on his hind legs in front of Philip Philipovich and performed obeisance to him.