<< Главная страница


OCR: Tuocs


Granny is difficult - Mother is worried - Jack gets on a hot scent - A strange discovery is made in the Professor's study - The Professor disappears

MOTHER SPREAD A BIG WHITE CLOTH ON THE TABLE. GRANNY went over towards the sideboard. In the dining-room knives and forks jingled cheerfully and plates clattered.
"Is it egg and onion pie?" asked Granny.
"Yes. The children have been begging and begging me for it," said Mother, as she put out the plates.
"And is the sweet strawberries, and cream? "
"No. To-day we are going to have ice cream pudding for a sweet! The children do love it so."
"All the same," mumbled Granny, "in the summer it is better for the children to have berries and fruit. . . . When I was a little girl. . . ."
But Mother, apparently, was quite convinced Granny never had been a little girl. Shrugging her shoulders she went over to the window and, looking out into the courtyard, shouted loudly:
"Ka-a-ari-ik! Va-alya-ya! Lu-unch!"
"When I was a little girl . . . . " continued Granny, offended; but Mother, not listening to her, leaned out on the window-sill and shouted still louder:
"Karik! Valya! Where are you?"
In the courtyard all was silent.
"There you are," grumbled Granny. "I knew it would happen. . . ."
"Karik! Valya!" Mother shouted again, and not waiting for an answer sat down on the window-sill and asked, "Didn't they tell you where they were going to go?"
Granny bit her lip angrily. "When I was a little girl," she announced, "I always said where I was going, but nowadays . . . ." She straightened the cloth on the table, frowning. "Nowadays they just do as they like . . . if they take the fancy they'll go off to the North Pole; and sometimes even worse. . . . Why, only yesterday they announced on the radio. . . ."
"What did they announce?" asked Mother, hastily. "Oh, nothing! Just that some boy was drowned - at least that was what they said."
Mother shuddered. "That's all nonsense," she said, sliding off the window-sill. "Fiddlesticks! Rubbish! Karik and Valya would never go off and bathe."
"I don't know, I don't know!" Granny shook her head. "Only they should have been here ages ago and there is no sign of them. They ran off early and haven't had anything to eat this morning."
Mother put her hand up to her face, and not saying anything more went out of the dining-room quickly.
"When I was a little girl . . . ," sighed Granny.
But what Granny did when she was a little girl Mother just didn't hear, she was already out in the courtyard and screwing up her eyes in the bright sunlight was peering in all directions.
On a yellow mound of sand lay Valya's green spade with the bent handle, and beside it was flung Karik's faded beret.
No sign of the children.
Under the rusty gutter pipe, warming herself in the sun, was the big tortoise-shell cat - Anyuta. She lazily wrinkled her forehead and stretched out her paws as if she wanted to give them to Mother.

"Karik! Valya!" shouted Mother, and actually stamped her foot.
Anyuta, the cat, opened her green eyes widely, stared at Mother, and then, yawning luxuriously, turned over on the other side.

"What has become of them?" grumbled Mother.
She crossed the courtyard, glanced into the laundry room, peeped through the dark windows of the cellar where the firewood was kept. No sign of the children.
"Ka-ari-ik!" she shouted once again.
There was no reply. "Va-a-lya!" Mother cried out.
"Wough-ough, woof!" sounded quite close at hand. The door at a side entrance slammed violently. A big sheep-dog with a sharp pointed nose leaped out into the yard with his chain dragging behind him. With one rush he was on the mound, rolling in the sand, raising a great cloud of dust; then up he jumped, shook himself and with loud barking hurled himself at Mother.
Mother stepped back quickly.
"Back! No, you don't! Get away with you!" She shooed him off with her hands.
"Down, Jack! To heel!" a loud voice resounded in the doorway.
A fat man wearing sandals on his bare feet and with a lighted cigarette in his hand had come into the yard.
It was the tenant from the fourth floor, the photographer Schmidt.
"What are you up to, Jack, eh?" asked the fat man. Jack guiltily wagged his tail.
"Such a fool you are!" grinned the photographer. Pretending to yawn, Jack came up to his master, sat down and with a jingling chain set about scratching his neck with his hind leg.
"Grand weather to-day!" smiled the fat man. "Aren't you going to your country cottage?"
Mother stared first at the fat man, then at the dog and then said rather crossly:
"You have let that dog out again, Comrade Schmidt, without his muzzle. He behaves just like a wolf. He just looks around to see at whom he can snap. . . ."
"What, Jack?" said the fat man, apparently most surprised. "Why, he wouldn't harm a child! He is as peaceful as a dove. Would you like to stroke him?"
Mother waved him away with her hand.
"You think I have nothing else to do but to stroke dogs! At home, lunch is getting cold, none of the housework is done and here I am unable to get hold of the children. Ka-a-ri-ik! Val-a-alya!" she shouted once more.
"You just stroke Jack and ask him nicely. Say: 'Now then Jack, go find Karik and Valya.' He'll find them in a wink!" Schmidt bent down to his dog and rubbed his neck affectionately. "You'll find them, won't you Jack?"
Jack made a little whimpering noise and, quite unexpectedly, jumped up and licked the full lips of the photographer. The fat man staggered back, fussily spat out and wiped his lips with his sleeve.
Mother laughed.
"You need not laugh," Schmidt gravely assured her, "this is a sleuthhound. He follows the scent of a human being just like a train running on rails. Would you like me to show you?"
"I believe you!" said Mother.
"No, no!" the fat man was getting agitated. "Allow me to assure you that if I say it is true, it is true! Now then, just give me something belonging to Karik or Valya - a toy - coat - beret. It does not matter what. . . ."
Mother shrugged her shoulders, but all the same she stooped down, picked up the spade and beret and, smiling, handed them to Schmidt.
"Splendid! Excellent!" said the fat man, and gave the beret to the dog to smell. "Now, Jack," he continued loudly, "show them how you do it! Go find them, boy!"
Jack whimpered, put his nose to the ground and, sticking up his tail, started to run round the courtyard in large circles.
The photographer cheerfully puffed along behind him.
Having run up to the cat Anyuta, Jack stopped. The cat jumped up, bent herself into a bow and flashing her green eyes hissed like a snake. Jack tried to grab her by the tail.
The cat bristled up, gave Jack a box on the ear; the poor dog squealed with pain, but at once recovered himself and with a loud bark flung himself at Anyuta. The cat again hissed and raised one paw as if to say: " Sh-sh-sh-shove off! I'll s-s-slap you s-s-such a one!"
"Now, now, Jack," said the photographer, "you mustn't get put off!" and he tugged so hard at the lead that the dog sat back on his hind legs. "Get on, now! Go find them!" he ordered.
With a parting bark at the cat, Jack ran on ahead. He ran around the whole yard and once more stopped by the gutter pipe and loudly sniffed the air, looking at his master.
"I understand, I understand!" said the photographer, nodding his head. "They sat here, of course, playing with the cat! But where did they go afterwards? Now, go find them, go find them, Jack!"

Jack started wagging his tail, twisted himself around like a top, scraped with his paws at the sand under the pipe and then, with a loud bark, dashed to the main entrance to the flats.
"Ha-ha! he's got on the scent!" shouted Schmidt, and with his sandals slithering he leaped after the dog.
"If you do find the children, send them home!" Mother called after him, and started walking back through the yard. "Of course they are in one of the neighbouring courtyards," she thought to herself.
Pulling hard on his lead, Jack hauled his master up a staircase.
"Not so fast! Not so fast!" puffed the fat man, barely able to keep up with the dog.
On the landing of the fifth floor, Jack stopped for a second, gazed at his master and with a short bark threw himself at a door which was covered with oilcloth and felt.
On the door there hung a white enamelled plate with the inscription:


Underneath was pinned a notice:

Bell does not work. Please knock.

Jack with a squeal jumped up, scratching at the oilcloth covering the door.
"Down, Jack!" shouted the fat man. "It says knock, and not squeal."
The photographer Schmidt smoothed his hair with the palm of his hand, carefully wiped the perspiration off his face with a handkerchief and then knocked cautiously at the door with his knuckles.
Behind the door shuffling steps were heard.
The lock clicked.
The door opened. A face with shaggy eyebrows and a yellowish white beard appeared in the widening gap.
"Do you want me?"
"Excuse me, Professor," said the photographer in some confusion, "I only wanted to ask you - "
The stout man had not succeeded in finishing his sentence before Jack tore the lead out of his hand and, almost knocking the Professor off his feet, dashed into the flat.
"Come back! Jack! To heel!" shouted Schmidt.
But Jack was already rattling his chain somewhere at the end of the corridor.
"I am so sorry, Professor, Jack is only young. . . . If you will let me come in, I'll soon get hold of him."
"Yes, yes . . . of course," replied the Professor, absent-mindedly, letting Schmidt into the flat. "Come in, please. I hope your dog does not bite!"
"Hardly ever," Schmidt assured the Professor.
The photographer crossed the threshold and having closed the door behind him, said quietly: "A thousand apologies! I won't be a minute. . . . The children must be with you - Karik and Valya, from the second floor. . . ."
"Allow me, allow me! Karik and Valya? Yes, of course, I know them well. Very fine children. Polite and eager to learn.. . "
"Are they here?"
"No, they haven't been here to-day; in fact I am waiting for them!"
"Very odd !" muttered the stout man. "Jack has so certainly followed their trail. . . . ."
"But may be it is yesterday's trail?" politely suggested the Professor.
But Schmidt did not succeed in replying. In the further room, Jack was barking resoundingly, then something rattled, crashed and jingled as if a cupboard or table had fallen with crockery on it.
The Professor started.
"He may break up everything!" he shouted as if he was going to cry, and seizing Schmidt by the sleeve pulled him along the dark corridor. "Here! through here!" he barked, pushing open a door.
No sooner had the Professor and the photographer crossed the threshold of the room than Jack threw himself at his master's chest with a whimper and then at once dashed back with a bark. All around the room he darted with his lead behind him, smelling the bookshelves, jumping on the leather armchair, twisting himself under the table, all the time throwing himself from side to side.
On the table, tubes and retorts jingled as they bounced up and down, tall glass vessels swayed and fine glass tubes shivered. From one violent jolt the microscope, with its brass sparkling in the sun, started to rock. The Professor only just succeeded in catching it. But in saving the microscope, he caught with his sleeve a gleaming nickel container full of some sort of complicated weights. The container fell and the weights jumped out and scattered with a jingle over the yellow parquet floor.
"What are you up to, Jack?" gruffly jerked out the photographer. "You are making an ass of yourself. You're barking, but what is the use? Where are the children?"
Jack put his head on one side. He pricked up his ears and looked most attentively at his master, trying to understand what it was that they were scolding him about.
The photographer shook his head disapprovingly.
"You should be ashamed of yourself, Jack! They said you were a sleuthhound! With a diploma! And all you can do is to chase cats instead of following a trail. Now, come home! Be generous enough to forgive us. Comrade Professor, for this disturbance!"
The photographer bowed awkwardly and made towards the door. But here Jack became possessed as of a devil. He seized his master by the breeches with his teeth, and planting his feet on the slippery parquet floor, tugged towards the table.
"What on earth is up with you?" complained the fat man in amazement.
Squealing, Jack once more darted around the table, but then leaped on the small divan which stood in front of the open window and putting his paws on the window-sill, barked with short, jerky barks.
Schmidt got angry.
"Come to heel!" he shouted, seizing the dog by the collar; but Jack stubbornly shook his head and again darted to the divan. "I can't understand it!" The photographer threw up his hands.
"Probably there is a mouse behind the divan!" the Professor guessed. "Or maybe a crust of bread or a bone. I often have my dinner there."
He went up to the divan and pulled it towards him. At the back of the divan, something rustled and softly padded to the ground.
"A crust!" said the Professor.
Jack at that moment tore himself forward and squeezed, with his tail sticking up, between the wall, and just managed to shift the divan. He seized something in his teeth.
"Come on, show us what it is!" shouted the photographer.
Jack backed out, shook his head, turned abruptly to his master, and laid at his feet a child's down-at-heel sandal. The photographer perplexedly turned the find over in his hand.
"Apparently some sort of a child's shoe. . . ."
"H'm . . . strange!" said the Professor, examining the sandal. "Very strange!"
Whilst they were turning the find over in their hands. Jack pulled out from behind the divan a further three sandals, one the same size and two smaller ones.
Unable to follow what had happened, the Professor and the stout man looked first at each other and then at the sandals. Schmidt knocked the hard sole of one sandal with his knuckle, and for no apparent reason said:
"Strong enough! They're good sandals!"
But Jack meanwhile had pulled out from under the divan a pair of blue shorts and, pressing them with his paws to the floor, barked softly.
"Something more?" said the Professor, quite perplexed.
He bent over, and would have stretched out his hand for the shorts, but Jack bared his teeth and growled so threateningly that the Professor very quickly withdrew his hand.
"What a very unfriendly nature he has, to be sure!" said the Professor in some confusion.
"Yes, he is not over-polite to me!" agreed the photographer.
He took the shorts, shook them, and, folding them neatly, laid them before the Professor.
"Please take them."
The Professor looked sideways at Jack.
"No, no, it is quite unnecessary," said he. "I can see everything. . . . Well, now . . . well, now . . . there are the markings V and K. Valya and Karik!" And he touched with his fingers big white letters sewn in the belts of the shorts.
The stout man wiped his face with the palm of his hand.
"Is there a bathroom in the flat?" he asked in a businesslike way.
"No," replied the Professor, "there is no bathroom. But if you want to wash your hands, there's. . . ."
"Oh, no," panted the stout man, "I can wash at home. But I thought they might have undressed and were bathing themselves. Do you see what I mean?"
"Certainly." The Professor nodded his head.
"But where have they hidden themselves? Naked . . . without shorts, without sandals? I don't understand it at all!" Schmidt made a gesture of hopelessness.
Then he put his hands behind his back, spread out his feet, lowered his head and gazed solidly at the yellow rectangles of the parquet; then he suddenly straightened himself up and said confidently:
"Don't worry! We'll find them any minute now. They are here, Professor. They are simply hiding! You can be sure of that! My Jack has never been mistaken yet."
The Professor and the photographer proceeded on a tour round all the rooms; they examined the kitchen and even looked into the dark larder.
Jack listlessly tailed along behind them.
In the dining-room, the stout man opened the doors of the sideboard, poked his head under the table, and in the bedroom searched with his hands underneath the bed. But there was no trace of the children in the flat.
"Wherever can they have hidden themselves?" muttered the photographer.
"In my opinion," said the Professor, "they have not been here to-day."
"That's what you think?" questioned Schmidt thoughtfully. "You think they have not been here? But what do you think, Jack? Are they here or aren't they?"
Jack barked.
Jack barked again.
"Well, go find them! Go find them, you dog!"
Jack at once cheered up. He threw himself round and once more led the Professor and Schmidt into the study. Here he again jumped on to the window-sill and started to bark loudly, and then to whimper as if he wanted to assure his master that the children had left the room through the window.
Schmidt got angry.
"You're nothing but a dunce ! Just a puppy ! You actually think that the children jumped out into the yard through a window on the fifth floor? Or perhaps you think they flew out of the window like flies or dragonflies?"
"What !" The Professor started. "They flew? What dragonfly?"
The photographer smiled.
"Well, that is what Jack thinks!"
The Professor seized his head in his hands.
"What an awful thing!" His voice was hoarse.
The photographer gazed at him in amazement and asked:
"What is the matter with you? Here, have a drink of water! You are not well."
He stepped towards the table on which stood a glass jug full of water; but here the Professor positively screamed as if he had trodden on red-hot iron with bare feet.
"Stop! stop! stop!" he yelled.
The photographer, now frightened, froze in his tracks.
The Professor shot out his hand and grabbed a glass containing what appeared to be water, hastily raised it to the level of his eyes and looked through it towards the light. Then he hastily produced a huge magnifying glass with a horn handle from his pocket and shouted to Schmidt:
"Don't move! For goodness' sake, don't move! And hold the dog tight ! Better take him in your arms. I beg you!"
The fat man, thoroughly frightened, was completely bewildered. Without further ado, he picked up the dog in his arms and pressed him tightly to his chest. "The old man has gone off his head!" he thought.
"Now, stay like that!" shouted the Professor.
Holding the magnifying glass in front of his eyes, crouching down, he started to examine the rectangles of the floor carefully one after the other.
"Shall I have to stand long like this, Professor?" timidly asked the photographer as he followed with alarm the strange movements of the Professor.
"Put one foot here!" the Professor yelled at him, pointing with his finger at the nearest rectangles of the parquet.
Schmidt awkwardly moved his foot and pressed Jack so tightly that he wriggled in his arms and started to whimper.
"Shut up!" whispered Schmidt, watching the Professor with growing fright.
"Now - the other foot! Put it here!"
The fat man followed without protest.
Thus, step by step, the Professor conducted the photographer, who was quite dumb with astonishment, to the doorway.
"And now," gruff-gruffed1 the Professor, throwing the door wide open, "please go away!"
Schmidt had hardly got outside before the door banged in his face. He could hear the lock being turned.
The fat man dropped Jack, spluttered with fright and dashed down the stairway, losing his sandals, out of breath, looking over his shoulder every minute.
Jack, with a great bark, plunged after him.
And they did not stop running until they reached the nearest militia post.2

* * * * *

A motor-car with blue stripes on its sides drove at high speed into the courtyard. Several militiamen sprang out, called out the caretaker and hastened to the fifth floor home of Professor Enotoff.

1 Russians make use of words which show what they mean by their sound. "Gruff-gruff" has been made up and is used in various places to illustrate this. - Translator.
2 In the Soviet Union "policemen" no longer exist; in their place are "Militiamen" who occupy "Militia posts," not "police stations."

But the Professor did not appear to be at home. On the door of his flat there hung a note, pinned up with new drawing pins:

Don't look for me. It will be quite useless.
Professor J. H. Enotoff.

далее: CHAPTER II >>


На главную