The story of a unique medical experiment comes to its conclusion. Could a story like this have a happy ending? It’s hard to guess. But you can find out in Chapter IX below. We are sure that the ending of the plot will not leave you indifferent.
Doctor Bormental did not deal with Sharikov next morning as promised for the simple reason that Polygraph Polygraphovich had vanished from the house. Bormental was in a fury of despair, reproaching himself for having been ass enough not to hide the key of the front door, yelling that it was unforgivable, and concluding with the wish that Sharikov would run under a bus. Philip Philipovich sat in his study running his fingers through his hair and saying:
“I can well imagine what’s going on out there, I can well imagine. From Seville to Granada, oh my God.”
“He may still be with the house committee,” Bormental ran off like one possessed. In the house committee he had a stand up row with the chairman Shvonder till the latter, enraged, sat down and wrote a notice to the people’s court of the Khamovniki district, shouting that he was not the keeper of Professor Preobrazhensky’s protege, all the more so as that protege Polygraph had only yesterday shown himself to be a real cad, having taken 7 roubles from the house committee supposedly in order to buy text-books from the cooperative.
Fyodor was paid three roubles to search the whole house from top to bottom, but nowhere was Sharikov to be found. The only thing that did come to light was that Polygraph had made off at dawn in cap, scarf and coat, having supplied himself with a bottle of rowan-berry vodka from the sideboard, Doctor Bormental’s gloves and all his own documents. Darya Petrovna and Zina made no attempt to disguise their demonstrative delight and hope that Sharikov would never return. The day before Sharikov had borrowed three roubles and fifty kopecks from Darya Petrovna.
“Serve you all right!” growled Philip Philipovich, shaking his fists. The telephone rang all that day, and all the next. The doctors received a record number of patients and on the third day in the study they faced up to the question of the necessity of informing the militia about a missing person, whose duty it was to search out Sharikov in the deep waters of the Moscow underworld.
No sooner had the word “militia” been pronounced than the blessed quiet of Obukhov Alley was broken by the growl of a van and the windows of the house shook. After this there was a confident ring and in came Polygraph Polygraphovich with an air of exceptional dignity, quietly took off his cap, hung his coat on a peg and appeared in a new hypostasis. He was wearing a second-hand leather jacket, rubbed leather trousers and high English boots laced up to the knee. An incredibly powerful aroma of cats immediately billowed out to fill the whole hall. Preobrazhensky and Bormental, as if on command, folded their arms on their chests, planted themselves in the doorways and waited for Polygraph Polygraphovich to explain himself. He smoothed down his wiry hair, gave a little cough and looked round in such a way that it became clear that he wished to hide a certain embarrassment beneath an air of jaunty insouciance.
“I, Philip Philipovich,” he began at last, “have taken up an official post.”
Both doctors uttered an indeterminate strangled sound in their throats and moved. Preobrazhensky, the first to come to himself, held out his hand and said:
“Give me the paper.”
On it was printed: “The presenter of this, Comrade Polygraph Polygraphovich Sharikov, is truly employed as head of the sub-department for the control of stray animals (cats, etc.) in the precincts of the city of Moscow in the department of M.
“So,” pronounced Philip Philipovich glumly. “Who got you the job? But I suppose I can guess.”
“Yes, of course, Shvonder,” replied Sharikov.
“May I ask you — how comes it that you smell so singularly repulsive?” Sharikov sniffed at his jacket with some anxiety.
“Well, what can you do about it? It does smell … as everyone knows … of the job. Yesterday we were strangling cats, strangling ’em one after another…”
Philip Philipovich shuddered and glanced at Bormental. The latter’s eyes were reminiscent of two black gun muzzles, focussed point-blank on Sharikov. Without any preliminaries he moved in on Sharikov and with easy confidence seized him by the throat.
“Help!” squealed Sharikov, turning pale.
“I shall not permit myself anything unethical, Philip Philipovich, don’t worry,” replied Bormental grimly and yelled: “Zina and Darya Petrovna!”
Both appeared in the hall.
“Now repeat,” said Bormental and very slightly increased the pressure on Sharikov’s throat, pushing back his neck against a fur coat: “Forgive me…”
“All right, I’ll say it,” the totally defeated Sharikov responded in hoarse tones, suddenly gasped for air, jerked away and tried to shout for help again, only the shout did not come out and his head disappeared completely into the fur.
“Doctor, I implore you…”
Sharikov nodded his head slightly as a sign that he submitted and would repeat:
“Forgive me, much respected Darya Petrovna and Zinaida?”
“Prokofievna,” whispered the scared Zina.
“Oof, Prokofievna,” said Sharikov, hoarse-voiced, “that I permitted myself…”
“Myself a revolting prank at night in a drunken state…”
“And I will never do it again…”
“Let him go, let him go, Ivan Arnoldovich,” begged both the women simultaneously. “You’ll strangle him.”
Bormental let go of Sharikov and said:
“The van is waiting for you?”
“No,” replied Polygraph respectfully. “It just brought me home.”
“Zina, tell the van it can go. Now, I want you to bear in mind the following: you have returned to Philip Philipovich’s flat?”
“Where else should I go?” replied Sharikov timidly, his eyes wandering.
“Excellent. You will be good, quiet and humble. Otherwise, you will have me to reckon with. Do you understand?”
“I understand,” said Sharikov. Philip Philipovich throughout this violent action perpetrated against Sharikov had remained silent. He had shrunk pitiably against the lintel and was biting his nails, his eyes fixed on the parquet floor. Then he suddenly raised them to Sharikov and asked dully, automatically:
“What do you do with them … with the dead cats?”
“They’ll go for coats,” replied Sharikov. “They make squirrels out of them and sell them on workers’ credit schemes .” (10)
After this there was calm and quiet in the flat and it lasted for two days and two nights. Polygraph Polygraphovich left in the morning in his van, reappeared in the evening, and quietly ate his dinner in the company of Philip Philipovich and Bormental.
In spite of the fact that Bormental and Sharikov slept in the same room, the reception room, they were not on speaking terms, so it was Bormental who became really uncomfortable.
Two days later a thin young girl in cream-coloured stockings with heavily made-up eyes appeared and was clearly overwhelmed at the sight of the splendid flat. In her shabby little coat she followed Sharikov into the hall and bumped into the Professor.
Taken aback, he stopped, narrowed his eyes and said:
“May I inquire?”
“We are going to get married, this is our typist, she’s going to live with me. We’ll have to put Bormental out of the reception room. He’s got a flat of his own,” explained Sharikov, frowning and with intense hostility. Philip Philipovich thought a moment, looked at the embarrassed girl and said:
“May I ask you to step into my study for a moment?”
“I’ll come with her,” Sharikov said quickly and suspiciously. At this moment Bormental surfaced as if from under the earth.
“I beg your pardon,” he said. “The Professor will have a word with the lady, and you and I will remain here.”
“Not if I can help it,” Sharikov retorted furiously, trying to follow Philip Philipovich and the desperately embarrassed girl.
“Forgive me, no,” Bormental took Sharikov by the wrist and led him into the consulting room.
For five minutes there was no sound from the study and then suddenly they could hear the muffled sobbing of the girl.
Philip Philipovich stood by the table and the girl wept into a crumpled lace handkerchief.
“He said, the scoundrel, that he’d been wounded in battle,” the girl sobbed.
“He’s lying,” replied Philip Philipovich inexorably. He shook his head and went on: “I am sincerely sorry for you, but you know you should not go off with the first man you meet just because he has a steady job — my child, it is not right — there.” He opened a drawer of his writing table and took out three thirty-rouble notes.
“I’ll poison myself,” wept the girl, “there’s salt meat at the canteen every day, and he threatens … says he’s a Red commander, says he’ll take me to live in a luxurious flat … pineapples every day… I’ve a kind psyche, he says, it’s only cats I hate. He took a ring from me as a keepsake.”
“Well, well, well — a kind psyche. From Seville to Granada, ” muttered Philip Philipovich. “It will pass, you just have to bear the pain a little time. You are still so young…”
“Surely not under that same gateway?..”
“Now, now, take the money when it’s offered to you as a loan,” Philip Philipovich concluded gruffly.
After this the door was solemnly opened and Bormental, at the invitation of Philip Philipovich, led in Sharikov. He was looking particularly shifty-eyed and his hair stood on end like a brush.
“Scoundrel,” the girl scolded, her tear-reddened mascara-stained eyes and blotchily powdered nose flashing.
“Why have you a scar on your forehead? Be so good as to explain to this lady,” asked Philip Philipovich insinuatingly.
Sharikov went the whole hog:
“I was wounded at the Kolchak front,” he barked. The girl rose to her feet and went out, crying bitterly.
“Stop!” Philip Philipovich called after her. “Wait. The ring, please,” he said, turning to Sharikov.
Obediently, Sharikov took from his finger a hollow ring with an emerald.
“Right, then,” he said with sudden anger. “I’ll see you remember this. Tomorrow I’ll organise a few reductions of the office staff.”
“Don’t be afraid of him,” Bormental called after her. “I won’t let him do anything.” He gave Sharikov a look which sent him backing away until he bumped the back of his head on a cupboard.
“What’s her name?” Bormental asked him. “Her name,” he roared and suddenly became wild and terrifying.
“Vasnetsova,” replied Sharikov, looking round desperately for some line of retreat.
“Every day,” said Bormental, holding the lapel of Sharikov’s jacket, “I shall myself, personally, inquire at pest control whether or not Citizen Vasnetsova has been made redundant. And if you so much as … if I find out that she has been made redundant … I will shoot you with my own hands. Be careful, Sharikov — I am warning you in clear Russian.”
Sharikov kept his eyes fixed firmly on Bormental’s nose.
“I know where to lay hands on revolvers myself,” muttered Sharikov, though in a very flat voice, then, with a sudden cunning twist, broke free and dived for the door.
“Take care!” Bormental’s shout echoed after him.
The night and half the following day hung heavy as a cloud before the storm. There was a hush. Everyone was silent. But on the following day, when Polygraph Polygraphovich, who was troubled by a nagging presentiment from morning, had left gloomily with the van for his place of work, Professor Preobrazhensky received at a most unusual hour one of his ex-patients, a stout, tall man in military uniform. He had been most insistent on obtaining an appointment and had actually succeeded doing so. On entering the study he politely clicked his heels before the Professor.
“Are you having pain again, dear Sir?” asked the haggard Philip Philipovich.
“Sit down, please.”
“Merci. No, Professor,” replied the guest, putting his hat down on the corner of the table. “I owe you a great debt … but, er … I came for another reason, Philip Philipovich, full of respect as I am … hm … to warn you. It’s clearly nonsense.
Simply he’s a nasty bit of work.” The patient fumbled about in his briefcase and produced a paper. “It’s a good thing the report came straight to me…”
Philip Philipovich saddled his nose with his pince-nez, which he put on over his glasses, and began to read. He took his time, mumbling to himself, the expression of his face changing from one moment to the next: “…Likewise threatening to kill the chairman of the house committee Comrade Shvonder from which it is clear that he is in possession of a gun. And he pronounces counter-revolutionary speeches and even orders his social servant Zinaida Prokofievna Bunina to bum Engels in the stove, which proves him a typical Menshevik together with his assistant Bormental, Ivan Arnoldovich, who secretly and without registration lives in his flat. Signature of the Head of the Sub-Department of Pest Control P. P. Sharikov witnessed by the Chairman of the House Committee Shvonder and the secretary Pestrukhin.”
“May I keep this?” inquired Philip Philipovich, going all blotchy. “Or, forgive me, do you need it in furtherance of the process of law?”
“I beg your pardon, Professor,” the patient was deeply insulted and his nostrils dilated. “You really do hold us in great contempt, it seems. I…” And at this point he began to swell like a turkey-cock.
“Well then, excuse me, dear Sir, pray excuse me!” muttered Philip Philipovich.
“Forgive me, I really had no intention of insulting you. My dear fellow, don’t be angry with me, he’s got on my nerves to such an extent.”
“I should rather think he has,” the patient was entirely mollified. “But what trash! It would be interesting to take a look at him. Moscow is buzzing with all sorts of legends about you…”
Philip Philipovich merely made a despairing gesture. At this point the guest noticed that the Professor had developed a stoop and even appeared to have gone somewhat greyer lately.
The crime had ripened and now, as so often happens, fell like a stone. Polygraph Polygraphovich returned that evening in the van troubled by some indefinable presentiment of disaster which simply would not go away. Philip Philipovich’s voice invited him into the consulting room. Surprised, Sharikov went and, with a vague stirring of fear, looked down the barrel of Bormental’s face and then at Philip Philipovich. The assistant looked like thunder and his left hand with the cigarette trembled slightly on the arm of the gynaecological chair.
Philip Philipovich with most ominous calm said:
“Take your things this instant: trousers, coat, everything you need, and get out of this flat!”
“What the?..” Sharikov was sincerely taken aback.
“Out of the flat — today,” Philip Philipovich repeated monotonously, examining his nails through narrowed eyes.
Some evil spirit took possession of Polygraph Polygraphovich: evidently death was already awaiting him and Doom stood at his elbow. He cast himself into the embrace of the inevitable and snapped angrily and abruptly:
“What do you think you’re trying to do? Surely you don’t think I don’t know where to go to get you lot sorted out. I’ve a right to my 13 square yards here, and here I’ll stay.”
“Get out of this flat,” whispered Philip Philipovich on a note of intimate warning. Sharikov invited his own death. He raised his left hand and, with scratched and bitten fingers which smelt unbearably of cats, made a vulgar gesture of defiance. Then, with his right hand, pulled a revolver from his. pocket on the dangerous Bormental. Bormental’s cigarette fell like a shooting star and a few seconds later Philip Philipovich, leaping over the broken glass, was dithering in horror between the cupboard and the couch. On the couch, flat on his back and struggling for breath, lay the head of the sub-department of Pest Control, and on his chest the surgeon Bormental was crouching and stifling him with a small, white cushion. A few minutes later an unrecognisable Doctor Bormental went through to the hall and hung out a notice: “There will be no reception today on account of the Professor’s illness. Please do not disturb by ringing the bell.” With a shiny penknife he cut the bell-wire, and looked into the mirror at his scratched, bleeding face and convulsively trembling hands. Then be appeared in the door of the kitchen and said to the anxious Zina and Darya Petrovna:
“The Professor requests you not to leave the flat.” “Very good, Sir,” Zina and Darya Petrovna answered timidly.
“Permit me to lock the back door and keep the key,” said Bormental hiding in the shadow behind the door and covering his face with his hand. “It is a temporary measure, not because we don’t trust you. But someone might come and you might find it difficult to refuse them entry, and we must not be disturbed. We are busy.”
“Very good, Sir,” replied the women and immediately turned pale. Bormental locked the back door, locked the front door, locked the door into the corridor, and his footsteps receded into the consulting room.
Silence enveloped the flat, crawling into every comer. Twilight infiltrated it, ill-omened, tense, in a word — murk. True, later on the neighbours on the other side of the courtyard said that in the windows of the consulting room, which overlooked the courtyard, all the lights were ablaze that night and they even glimpsed the white surgeon’s cap of the Professor himself… It is hard to check. It is true also that Zina, when it was all over, did say that by the fireplace in the study after Bormental and the Professor had left the consulting room, Ivan Arnoldovich had scared her almost to death. She said he was squatting down in front of the fire burning with his own hands a blue exercise book from the pile of case histories of the Professor’s patients! The doctor’s face appeared completely green and covered all over in scratches. As to Philip Philipovich, he was not himself at all that evening. She also said that … however, maybe the innocent girl from the Prechistenka flat is just making it all up…
One thing is certain: throughout that evening the most complete and terrible silence reigned throughout the flat.
END OF STORY
On the night of the tenth day after the battle in the consulting room in the flat of Professor Preobrazhensky in Obukhov Alley there was a sharp ring at the door.
“Militia here. Open up.”
There was a sound of running footsteps, they began to knock, entered and, in the brilliantly lit entrance hall with all the cupboards newly glazed, a mass of people were suddenly foregathered. Two in militiaman’s uniform, one in a dark coat with a briefcase, the chairman Shvonder, pale and bursting with malicious satisfaction, the youth-woman, the porter Fyodor, Zina, Darya Petrovna and the half-dressed Bormental, trying in embarrassment to cover his bare throat, having been caught without a tie.
The door from the study opened to admit Philip Philipovich. He emerged in the familiar azure dressing gown and there and then it became clear to them all that Philip Philipovich had much improved in health over the last week. It was the old commanding and energetic Philip Philipovich, full of dignity, who appeared before these nocturnal visitors and begged pardon that he was in his dressing gown.
“Don’t let that worry you, Professor,” said the man in plain clothes with deep embarrassment, hesitated for a moment, then pronounced: “Very unpleasant business. We have a warrant to search your flat and,” the man squinted at Philip Philipovich’s moustaches and concluded, “and to make an arrest, depending on the results.”
Philip Philipovich narrowed his eyes and asked:
“May I ask on what grounds and whom?”
The man scratched his cheek and began to read from a paper in his briefcase:
“Preobrazhensky, Bormental, Zinaida Bunina and Darya Ivanova are hereby arrested on suspicion of the murder of the head of the sub-department of Pest Control of M. K. Kh., Polygraph Polygraphovich Sharikov.”
Zina’s sobs drowned the end of his words. There was a general stir.
“Quite incomprehensible,” replied Philip Philipovich with a lordly shrug of the shoulders.
“What Sharikov had you in mind? Ah, yes, I see, that dog of mine … the one I operated on?”
“Beg pardon, Professor, not the dog, but when he was already human; that’s what it’s all about.”
“You mean when he was able to speak?” asked Philip Philipovich. “That does not necessarily imply being human. However, that is not important. Sharik is still with us and most definitely no one has killed him.”
“Professor!” the man in black exclaimed in great surprise, raising his eyebrows. “In that case he must be produced. It’s ten days since he disappeared and the facts at our disposal, if you’ll pardon my saying so, look very black indeed.”
“Doctor Bormental, be so good as to produce Sharik for the inspector,” ordered Philip Philipovich, taking the warrant. Doctor Bormental, with a smile that went somewhat awry, made for the door. When he returned and gave a whistle a curious-looking dog came prancing in after him. Parts of him were bald, on other parts the hair had already grown back.
He made his entrance like a trained circus-dog on his hind legs, then sank down onto all fours and looked about him. A deathly hush froze the hall, setting like jelly. The ghoulish-looking dog with the crimson scar round his forehead again stood up on his hind legs and, with a smile, sat down in an armchair.
The second militiaman suddenly crossed himself in a sweeping peasant fashion and, stepping back, trod heavily on both Zina’s feet.
The man in black without shutting his mouth pronounced:
“I can’t believe it … he worked for Pest Control.”
“That was not my doing,” replied Philip Philipovich. “It was Mr. Shvonder who recommended him, if I am not mistaken.”
“It’s beyond me,” said the man in black at a loss, and turned to the first militiaman. “Is this he?”
“He it is,” the first militiaman mouthed the words soundlessly. “He as ever was.”
“That’s him all right,” Fyodor’s voice made itself heard. “Only the villain’s gone all hairy again.”
“But he could talk … hee … hee…”
“And he still can, but less and less as time goes by, so now is the time to hear him, he’ll soon be quite dumb again.”
“But why?” asked the man in the black coat quietly. Philip Philipovich shrugged his shoulders.
“Science has yet to discover ways of transforming beasts into human beings. I had a try, but it was unsuccessful, as you see. He spoke for a while and then began to regress towards his original condition. Atavism.”
“Do not use improper expressions,” barked the dog suddenly and rose from his chair. The man in black suddenly went very pale, dropped his briefcase and began to keel over sideways. A militiaman steadied him from the side and Fyodor from the back.
There was some confusion, through which most distinctly could be heard three phrases:
Philip Philipovich’s: “Tincture of valerian. He’s fainted.”
Doctor Bormental’s: “As to Shvonder I’ll throw him down the stairs with my own hands if he ever again shows his face in Professor Preobrazhensky’s flat.”
And Shvonder’s: “I request that those words be recorded in the protocol.”
The grey accordion-shaped radiators were pleasantly warm. The long curtains hid the dark Prechistenka night with its single star. The higher being, the dignified benefactor of the canine breed, was sitting in his armchair and the dog Sharik, delectably relaxed, lay on the carpet beside the leather sofa. The March mists affected the dog with morning headaches which tormented him along the line of the scar round his head. But the warmth helped, and by evening they no longer troubled him. And now it was getting easier and the thoughts flowing through the dog’s head were sweet and warm.
I was so lucky, so lucky, he thought, drifting off to sleep, indescribably lucky. I’ve really got settled into this flat. Now I’m quite certain there was something odd about my origins. A Newfoundland must have had a hand in it somewhere. My grandmother was a bit of a fly-by-night, God rest her soul, dear old thing. It’s true they’ve made scars all over my head for some reason or other, but that’ll mend. There’s no call to count that against them.
There was a faint clink of phials from the distance. The bitten man was tidying up in the cupboards of the consulting room.
The grey-haired magician sat and hummed to himself:
“To the sacred shores of the Nile… “
The dog had seen terrible things. This important man would plunge his hands in slippery gloves into glass jars and fish out brains — a determined man, persistent, always trying for something, cutting, examining, narrowing his eyes and singing: “To the sacred shores of the Nile.”
- 10. “They make squirrels out of them and sell them on workers’ credit schemes.” Articles of sham squirrel fur for sale on credit to members of the working class.
Source: The Heart of a Dog by Mikhail Bulgakov Translated by Avril Pyman Mikhail Bulgakov 1925 English translation copyright Raduga Publishers Moscow 1990