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TWO VISITS

 

Like an unswaddled babe that clenches and unclenches its waxen fists

without stopping, moves its legs, waggles its cap-covered head, the size of

a large Antonov apple, and blows bubbles, Absalom Vladimirovich Iznurenkov

was eternally in a state of unrest. He moved his plump legs, waggled his

shaven chin, produced sighing noises, and made gestures with his hairy arms

as though doing gymnastics on the end of strings.

He led a very busy life, appeared everywhere, and made suggestions

while tearing down the street like a frightened chicken; he talked to

himself very rapidly as if working out the premium on a stone, iron-roofed

building. The whole secret of his life and activity was that he was

organically incapable of concerning himself with any one matter, subject, or

thought for longer than a minute.

If his joke was not successful and did not cause instant mirth,

Iznurenkov, unlike others, did not attempt to persuade the chief editor that

the joke was good and required reflection for complete appreciation; he

immediately suggested another one.

"What's bad is bad," he used to say, "and that's the end of it."

When in shops, Iznurenkov caused a commotion by appearing and

disappearing so rapidly in front of the sales people, and buying boxes of

chocolates so grandly, that the cashier expected to receive at least thirty

roubles. But Iznurenkov, dancing up and down by the cash desk and pulling at

his tie as though it choked him, would throw down a crumpled three-rouble

note on to the glass plate and make off, bleating gracefully.

If this man had been able to stay still for even as little as two

hours, the most unexpected things might have happened.

He might have sat down at a desk and written a marvellous novel, or

perhaps an application to the mutual-assistance fund for a permanent loan,

or a new clause in the law on the utilization of housing space, or a book

entitled How to Dress Well and Behave in Society.

But he was unable to do so. His madly working legs carried him off, the

pencil flew out of his gesticulating hands, and his thoughts jumped from one

thing to another.

Iznurenkov ran about the room, and the seals on the furniture shook

like the earrings on a gypsy dancer. A giggling girl from the suburbs sat on

the chair.

"Ah! Ah!" cried Absalom Vladimirovich, "divine! Ah! Ah! First rate! You

are Queen Margot."

The queen from the suburbs laughed respectfully, though she understood

nothing.

"Have some chocolate, do! Ah! Ah! Charming."

He kept kissing her hands, admiring her modest attire, pushing the cat

into her lap, and asking, fawningly: "He's just like a parrot, isn't he? A

lion. A real lion. Tell me, isn't he extraordinarily fluffy? And his tail.

It really is a huge tail, isn't it?"

The cat then went flying into the corner, and, pressing his hands to

his milk-white chest, Absalom Vladimirovich began bowing to someone outside



the window. Suddenly a valve popped open in his madcap mind and he began to

be witty about his visitor's physical and spiritual attributes.

"Is that brooch really made of glass? Ah! Ah! What brilliance.

Honestly, you dazzle me. And tell me, is Paris really a big city? Is there

really an Eiffel Tower there? Ah! What hands! What a nose!"

He did not kiss the girl. It was enough for him to pay her compliments.

And he talked without end. The flow of compliments was interrupted by the

unexpected appearance of Ostap.

The smooth operator fiddled with a piece of paper and asked sternly:

"Does Iznurenkov live here? Is that you? "

Absalom Vladimirovich peered uneasily into the stranger s stony face.

He tried to read in his eyes exactly what demands were forthcoming; whether

it was a fine for breaking a tram window during a conversation, a summons

for not paying his rent, or a contribution to a magazine for the blind.

"Come on, Comrade," said Ostap harshly, "that's not the way to do

things-kicking out a bailiff."

"What bailiff? " Iznurenkov was horrified.

"You know very well. I'm now going to remove the furniture. Kindly

remove yourself from that chair, citizeness," said Ostap sternly.

The young citizeness, who only a moment before had been listening to

verse by the most lyrical of poets, rose from her seat.

"No, don't move," cried Iznurenkov, sheltering the chair with his body.

"They have no right."

"You'd better not talk about rights, citizen. You should be more

conscientious. Let go of the furniture! The law must be obeyed."

With these words, Ostap seized the chair and shook it in the air.

"I'm removing the furniture," said Ostap resolutely.

"No, you're not."

"What do you mean, I'm not, when I am?" Ostap chuckled, carrying the

chair into the corridor.

Absalom kissed his lady's hand and, inclining his head, ran after the

severe judge. The latter was already on his way downstairs.

"And I say you have no right. By law the furniture can stay another two

weeks, and it's only three days so far. I may pay!"

Iznurenkov buzzed around Ostap like a bee, and in this manner they

reached the street. Absalom Vladimirovich chased the chair right up to the

end of the street. There he caught sight of some sparrows hopping about by a

pile of manure. He looked at them with twinkling eyes, began muttering to

himself, clapped his hands, and, bubbling with laughter, said:

"First rate! Ah! Ah! What a subject!"

Engrossed in working out the subject, he gaily turned around and rushed

home, bouncing as he went. He only remembered the chair when he arrived back

and found the girl from the suburbs standing up in the middle of the room.

Ostap took the chair away by cab.

"Take note," he said to Ippolit Matveyevich, "the chair was obtained

with my bare hands. For nothing. Do you understand?"

When they had opened the chair, Ippolit Matveyevich's spirits were low.

"The chances are continually improving," said Ostap, "but we haven't a

kopek. Tell me, was your late mother-in-law fond of practical jokes by any

chance? "

"Why?"

"Maybe there aren't any jewels at all."

Ippolit Matveyevich waved his hands about so violently that his jacket

rode up.

"In that case everything's fine. Let's hope that Ivanopulo's estate

need only be increased by one more chair."

"There was something in the paper about you today, Comrade Bender,"

said Ippolit Matveyevich obsequiously.

Ostap frowned. He did not like the idea of being front-page news. "What

are you blathering about? Which newspaper?"

Ippolit Matveyevich triumphantly opened the Lathe. "Here it is. In the

section 'What Happened Today'."

Ostap became a little calmer; he was only worried about public

denouncements in the sections "Our Caustic Comments" and "Take the

Malefactors to Court".

Sure enough, there in nonpareil type in the section "What Happened

Today" was the item:

 

KNOCKED DOWN BY A HORSE

CITIZEN O. BENDER WAS KNOCKED DOWN YESTERDAY ON SVERDLOV SQUARE BY

HORSE-CAB NO. 8974. THE VICTIM WAS UNHURT EXCEPT FOR SLIGHT SHOCK.

 

"It was the cab-driver who suffered slight shock, not me," grumbled O.

Bender. "The idiots! They write and write, and don't know what they're

writing about. Aha! So that's the Lathe. Very, very pleasant. Do you

realize, Vorobyaninov, that this report might have been written by someone

sitting on our chair? A fine thing that is!"

The smooth operator lapsed into thought. He had found an excuse to

visit the newspaper office.

Having found out from the editor that all the rooms on both sides of

the corridor were occupied by the editorial offices, Ostap assumed a naive

air and made a round of the premises. He had to find out which room

contained the chair.

He strode into the union committee room, where a meeting of the young

motorists was in progress, but saw at once there was no chair there and

moved on to the next room. In the clerical office he pretended to be waiting

for a resolution; in the reporters' room he asked where it was they were

selling the wastepaper, as advertised; in the editor's office he asked about

subscriptions, and in the humorous-sketch section he wanted to know where

they accepted notices concerning lost documents.

By this method he eventually arrived at the chief editor's office,

where the chief editor was sitting on the concessionaires' chair bawling

into a telephone.

Ostap needed time to reconnoitre the terrain.

"Comrade editor, you have published a downright libellous statement

about me."

"What libellous statement?"

Taking his time, Ostap unfolded a copy of the Lathe. Glancing round at

the door, he saw it had a Yale lock. By removing a small piece of glass in

the door it would be possible to slip a hand through and unlock it from the

inside.

The chief editor read the item which Ostap pointed out to him.

"Where do you see a libellous statement there?"

"Of course, this bit:

The victim was unhurt except

for slight shock.'"

"I don't understand."

Ostap looked tenderly at the chief editor and the chair.

"Am I likely to be shocked by some cab-driver? You have disgraced me in

the eyes of the world. You must publish an apology."

"Listen, citizen," said the chief editor, "no one has disgraced you.

And we don't publish apologies for such minor points."

"Well, I shall not let the matter rest, at any rate," replied Ostap as

he left the room.

He had seen all he wanted.

 

 

CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN

 


Date: 2015-01-02; view: 179


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