THE OLD GENIE
THE OLD GENIE THE OLD GENIE
THE OLD GENIE
A Story of Make-Believe
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TRANSLATED FROM THE RUSSIAN BY FAINNA SOLASKO
The Russian Title: и
The amusing and fascinating children’s book is ofte n called the Russian
“Thousand and One Nights”.
Who is the Old Genie Hottabych?
This is what the author has to say of him:” In one of Scheherezade’s
tales I red of the Fisherman who found a copper ves sel in his net. In the
vessel was a mighty Genie – a magician who had been imprisoned in the
bottle for nearly two thousand years. The Genie had sworn to make the
one who freed him rich, powerful and happy.
“ But what if such a Genie suddenly came to life in the Soviet Union, in
Moscow? I tried to imagine what would have happened if a very ordinary
Russian boy had freed him from the vessel.
“And imagine, I suddenly discovered that a schoolbo y named Volka
Kostylkov, the very same Volka who used to live on Three Ponds Street,
you know, the best diver at summer camp last year…. On second thought,
I believe we had better begin from the beginning….”
A Most Unusual Morning
The Strange Vessel
The Old Genie The Geography Examination
Hottabych's Second Service
An Unusual Event at the Movies A Troubled Evening
A Chapter Which Is a Continuation of the Previous One
A Restless Night
The Unusual Events in Apartment
A No Less Troubled Morning
Why S.S. Pivoraki Became Less Talkative
An Interview with a Diver
Charting a Flight
Zhenya Bogorad's Adventures Far Away in the East
Tra-la-la, ibn Alyosha!
Meet My Friend
Have Mercy on Us, Mighty Ruler!
It's So Embarrassing to Be an Illiterate Genie
Who's the Richest?
A Camel in the Street
A Mysterious Happening in the Bank
Hottabych and Sidorelli
A Hospital Under the Bed
One in Which We Return to the Barking Boy
Hottabych and Mr. Moneybags
Hassan Abdurrakhman ibn Hottab's Story of His Adven tures After Leaving the
The Same and Mr. Moneybags
How Many Footballs Do You Need?
Hottabych Enters the Game
The Situation Becomes More Tense
Where Should They Look for Omar?
The Story Told by the Conductor of the Moscow-Odess a Express of What
Happened on the Nara-Maly Yaroslavets Line
The Strange Sailing Ship
Aboard the "Sweet Omar"
The "VK-1" Magic-Carpet-Seaplane
Hottabych Is Lost and Found Again
The Vessel From the Pillars of Hercules
The Shortest Chapter of All
Dreaming of the "Ladoga"
A Commotion at the Central Excursion Bureau
Who Is Most Famous?
The Unexpected Encounter
What Interferes with Sleeping?
Hottabych at His Best
"Salaam, Sweet Omar!"
Omar Asaf Bares His Claws
What Good Optical Instruments Can Lead To
Hottabych's Fatal Passion
Hottabych's New Year Visit
A MOST UNUSUAL MORNING
At 7:32 a.m. a merry sun-spot slipped through a hol e in the curtain and settled
on the nose of Volka Kostylkov, a 6th-grade pupil. Volka sneezed and woke up.
Just then, he heard his mother say in the next room :
"Don't rush, Alyosha. Let the child sleep a bit lon ger, he has an exam today."
Volka winced. When, oh when, would his mother stop calling him a child?
"Nonsense!" he could hear his father answer. "The b oy's nearly thirteen. He
might as well get up and help us pack. Before you k now it, this child of yours will
be using a razor."
How could he have forgotten about the packing!
Volka threw off the blankets and dressed hurriedly. How could he ever have
forgotten such a day!
This was the day the Kostylkov family was moving to a different apartment in a
new six-storey house. Most of their belongings had been packed the night before.
Mother and Grandma had packed the dishes in a littl e tin tub that once, very long
ago, they had bathed Volka in. His father had rolle d up his sleeves and, with a
mouthful of nails, just like a shoemaker, had spent the evening hammering down
the lids on crates of books.
Then they had all argued as to the best place to pu t the things so as to have
them handy when the truck arrived in the morning. T hen they had their tea on an
uncovered table—as on a march. Then they decided th eir heads would be clearer
after a good night's sleep and they all went to bed .
In a word, there was just no explaining how he coul d have ever forgotten that
this was the morning they, were moving to a new apa rtment.
The movers barged in before breakfast was quite ove r. The first thing they did
was to open wide both halves of the door and ask in loud voices, "Well, can we
"Yes, please do," both Mother and Grandma answered and began to bustle
Volka marched downstairs, solemnly carrying the sofa pillows to the waiting
"Are you moving?" a boy from next door asked.
"Yes," Volka answered indifferently, as though he w as used to moving from
one apartment to another every week and there was n othing very special about it.
The janitor, Stepanych, walked over, slowly rolled a cigarette and began an
unhurried conversation as one grown-up talk to anot her. The boy felt dizzy with
pride and happiness. He gathered his courage and in vited Stepanych to visit them
at their new home. The janitor said, "With pleasure ." A serious, important, man-toman
conversation was beginning, when all at once Volka' s mother's voice came
through the open window:
"Volka! Volka! Where can that awful child be?" Volk a raced up to the
strangely large and empty apartment in which shreds of old newspapers and old
medicine bottles were lying forlornly about the flo or.
"At last!" his mother said. "Take your precious aqu arium and get right into the
truck. I want you to sit on the sofa and hold the a quarium on your lap. There's no
other place for it. But be sure the water doesn't s plash on the sofa."
It's really strange, the way parents worry when the y're moving to a new
THE STRANGE VESSEL
Well, the truck finally choked exhaustedly and stop ped at the attractive
entrance of Volka's new house. The movers quickly c arried everything upstairs
and soon were gone.
Volka's father opened a few crates and said, "We'll do the rest in the evening."
Then he left for the factory.
Mother and Grandma began unpacking the pots and pan s, while Volka decided
to run down to the river nearby. His father had war ned him not to go swimming
without him, because the river was very deep, but V olka soon found an excuse: "I
have to go in for a dip to clear my head. How can I take an exam with a fuzzy
It's wonderful, the way Volka was always able to th ink of an excuse when he
was about to do something he was not allowed to do.
How convenient it is to have a river near your hous e! Volka told his mother
he'd go sit on the bank and study his geography.
And he really and truly intended to spend about ten minutes leafing through the
text-book. However, he got undressed and jumped int o the water the minute he
reached the river. It was still early, and there wa s not a soul on the bank. This had
its good and bad points. It was nice, because no on e could stop him from swimming as
much as he liked. It was bad, because there was no one to admire
what a good swimmer and especially what an extraord inary diver he was.
Volka swam and dived until he became blue. Finally, he realized he had had
enough. He was ready to climb out when he suddenly changed his mind and
decided to dive into the clear water one last time.
As he was about to come up for air, his hand hit a long hard object on the
bottom. He grabbed it and surfaced near the shore, holding a strange-looking
slippery, moss-covered clay vessel. It resembled an ancient type of Greek vase
called an amphora. The neck was sealed tightly with a green substance and what
looked like a seal was imprinted on top.
Volka weighed the vessel in his hand. It was very h eavy. He caught his breath.
A treasure! An ancient treasure of great scientific value! How wonderful!
He dressed quickly and dashed home to open it in th e privacy of his room.
As he ran along, he could visualize the notice whic h would certainly appear in
all the papers the next morning. He even thought of a heading: "A Pioneer Aids
"Yesterday, a pioneer named Vladimir Kostylkov came to his district militia
station and handed the officer on duty a treasure c onsisting of antique gold objects
which he found on the bottom of the river, in a ver y deep place. The treasure has
been handed over to the Historical Museum. Accordin g to reliable sources,
Vladimir Kostylkov is an excellent diver."
Volka slipped by the kitchen, where his mother was cooking dinner. He dashed
into his room, nearly breaking his leg as he stumbl ed on a chandelier lying on the
floor. It was Grandma's famous chandelier. Very lon g ago, before the Revolution,
his deceased grandfather had converted it from a ha nging oil lamp. Grandma
would not part with it for anything in the world, b ecause it was a treasured
memory of Grandfather. Since it was not elegant eno ugh to be hung in the dining
room, they decided to hang it in Volka's room. That is why a huge iron hook had
been screwed into the ceiling.
Volka rubbed his sore knee, locked the door, took h is penknife from his pocket
and, trembling from excitement, scraped the seal of f the bottle.
The room immediately filled with choking black smok e, while a noiseless
explosion of great force threw him up to the ceilin g, where he remained suspended
from the hook by the seat of his pants.
THE OLD GENIE
While Volka was swaying back and forth on the hook, trying to understand
what had happened, the smoke began to clear. Sudden ly, he realized there was
someone else in the room besides himself. It was a skinny, sunburnt old man with
a beard down to his waist and dressed in an elegant turban, a white coat of fine
wool richly embroidered in silver and gold, gleamin g white silk puffed trousers
and petal pink morocco slippers with upturned toes.
"Hachoo!" the old man sneezed loudly and prostrated himself. "I greet you, o
Wonderful and Wise Youth!"
Volka shut his eyes tight and then opened them agai n. No, he was not seeing
things. The amazing old man was still there. Kneeli ng and rubbing his hands, he
stared at the furnishings of Volka's room with live ly, shrewd eyes, as if it were all
goodness-knows what sort of a miracle.
"Where did you come from?" Volka inquired cautiousl y, swaying back and
forth under the ceiling like a pendulum. "Are you.. . from an amateur troupe?"
"Oh, no, my young lord," the old man replied grandl y, though he remained in
the same uncomfortable pose and continued to sneeze . "I am not from the strange
country of Anamateur Troupe you mentioned. I come f rom this most horrible
With these words he scrambled to his feet and began jumping on the vessel,
from which a wisp of smoke was still curling upward , until there was nothing left
but a small pile of clay chips. Then, with a sound like tinkling crystalware, he
yanked a hair from his beard and tore it in two. Th e bits of clay flared up with a
weird green flame until soon there was not a trace of them left on the floor.
Still, Volka was dubious. You must agree, it's not easy to accept the fact that a
live person can crawl out of a vessel no bigger tha n a decanter.
"Well, I don't know..." Volka stammered. "The vesse l was so small, and you're
so big compared to it."
"You don't believe me, o despicable one?!" the old man shouted angrily, but
immediately calmed down; once again he fell to his knees, hitting the floor with
his forehead so strongly that the water shook in th e aquarium and the sleepy fish
began to dart back and forth anxiously. "Forgive me , my young saviour, but I am
not used to having my words doubted. Know ye, most blessed of all young men,
that I am none other than the mighty Genie Hassan A bdurrakhman ibn Hottab—
that is, the son of Hottab, famed in all four corne rs of the world."
All this was so interesting it made Volka forget he was hanging under the
ceiling on a chandelier hook.
"A 'gin-e'? Isn't that some kind of a drink?"
"I am not a drink, o inquisitive youth!" the old man flared u p again, then took
himself in hand once more and calmed down. "I am no t a beverage, but a mighty,
unconquerable spirit. There is no magic in the worl d which I cannot do, and my
name, as I have already had the pleasure of conveyi ng to your great and extremely
respected attention, is Hassan Abdurrakhman ibn Hot tab, or, as you would say in
Russian, Hassan Abdurrakhman Hottabych. If you ment ion it to the first Ifrit or
Genie you meet, you'll see him tremble, and his mou th will go dry from fear," the
old man continued boastfully.
"My story— hachoo!— is strange, indeed. And if it were written with needles
in the corners of the eyes, it would be a good less on for all those who seek
learning. I, most unfortunate Genie that I am, diso beyed Sulayman, son of David
(on the twain be peace!)—I, and my brother, Omar As af Hottabych. Then
Sulayman sent his Vizier Asaf, son of Barakhiya, to seize us, and he brought us
back against our will. Sulayman, David's son (on th e twain be peace!), ordered two
bottles brought to him: a copper one and a clay one . He put me in the clay vessel
and my brother Omar Hottabych in the copper one. He sealed both vessels and
imprinted the greatest of all names of Allah on the m and then ordered his Genies
to carry us off and throw my brother into the sea a nd me into the river, from which
you, my blessed saviour— hachoo, hachoo!—have fished me. May your days be
prolonged. ... Begging your pardon, I would be indescribably h appy to know
your name, most beautiful of all youths."
"My name's Volka," our hero replied as he swayed so ftly to and fro under the
"And what is your fortunate father's name, may he b e blessed for eternity? Tell
me the most gentle of all his names, as he is certa inly deserving of great love and
gratitude for presenting the world with such an out standing offspring."
"His name's Alexei. And his most gentle ... most ge ntle name is Alyosha."
"Then know ye, most deserving of all youths, the st ar of my heart, Volka ibn
Alyosha, that I will henceforth fulfil all your wis hes, since you have saved me
from the most horrible imprisonment. Hachoo!"
"Why do you keep on sneezing so?" Volka asked, as t hough everything else
was quite clear.
"The many thousand years I spent in dampness, deprived of the beneficial rays
of the sun, in a cold vessel lying on the bottom of a river, have given me, your
undeserving servant, a most tiresome running nose. Hachoo! Hachoo! But all this
is of no importance at all and unworthy of your mos t treasured attention. Order me
as you wish, young master!" Hassan Abdurrakhman ibn Hottab conc luded
heatedly with his head raised, but still kneeling.
"First of all, won't you please rise," Volka said.
"Your every word is my command," the old man replie d obediently and rose. "I
await your further orders."
"And now," Volka mumbled uncertainly, "if it's not too much trouble ... would
you be kind enough ... of course, if it's not too m uch trouble.... What I mean is, I'd
really like to be back on the floor again." That very moment he found himself standing beside o ld man Hottabych, as we
shall call our new acquaintance for short. The firs t thing Volka did was to grab the
seat of his pants. There was no hole at all.
Miracles were beginning to happen.
THE GEOGRAPHY EXAMINATION
"Order me as you wish!" Hottabych continued, gazing at Volka devotedly. "Is
there anything that grieves you, Volka ibn Alyosha? Tell me, and I will help
"My goodness!" Volka cried, glancing at the clock t icking away loudly on the
table. "I'm late! I'm late for my exam!"
"What are you late for, most treasured Volka ibn Alyosha?" Hottabych asked
in a business-like way. "What does that strange wor d 'ex-am' mean?"
"It's the same as a test. I'm late for my test at s chool."
"Then know ye, Volka, that you do not value my powers at all," th e old man
said in a hurt voice. "No, no, and no again! You wi ll not be late for your exam.
Just tell me what your choice is:
to hold up the exam, or to find yourself immediatel y at your school gates?"
"To find myself at the gates," Volka replied.
"Nothing could be simpler! You will now find yourse lf where your young and
honourable spirit draws you so impatiently. You wil l stun your teachers and your
comrades with your great knowledge."
With the same pleasant tinkling sound the old man o nce again pulled a hair
from his beard; then a second one.
"I'm afraid I won't stun them," Volka sighed, quick ly changing into his school
uniform. "To tell you the truth, I have little chan ce of getting an 'A' in geography."
"In geography?" the old man cried and raised his th in hairy arms triumphantly.
"So you're to take an exam in geography?! Then know ye, most wonderful of all
wonderful ones, that you are exceptionally lucky, f or I know more about
geography than any other Genie—I, your devoted Hass an Abdurrakhman ibn
Hottab. We shall go to school together, may its fou ndation and roof be blessed! I'll
prompt you invisibly and tell you all the answers. You will become the most
famous pupil of your school and of all the schools of your most beautiful city. And
if anyone of your teachers does not accord you the greatest praise, he will have to
deal with me! Oh, they will be very, very sorry!" H ottabych raged. "I'll turn them
into mules that carry water, into homeless curs cov ered with scabs, into the most
horrible and obnoxious toads—that's what I'll do to
them! However," he said,
calming down as quickly as he had become enraged, " things will not go that far,
for everyone, Volka ibn Alyosha, will be astounded by your answe rs."
' "Thank you, Hassan Hottabych," Volka sighed miser ably. "Thank you, but I
don't want you to prompt me. We pioneers are agains t prompting as a matter of
principle. We're conducting an organized fight agai nst prompting."
Now, how could an old Genie who had spent so many y ears in prison know
such a scholarly term as "a matter of principle"? H owever, the sigh his young saviour
heaved to accompany his sad and honourable words co nvinced Hottabych
that Volka ibn Alyosha needed his help more than ev er before.
"Your refusal grieves me," Hottabych said. "After a ll, no one will notice me
"Ha!" Volka said bitterly. "You don't know what kee n ears our teacher Varvara
"You not only upset me, you now offend me, Volka ibn Alyosha! If Hassan
Abdurrakhman ibn Hottab says that no one will notic e, it means no one will
"Not a single soul?" Volka asked again, just to mak e sure.
"Not a single soul. The words which I will have the pleasure of telling you will
go straight from my deferential lips to your greatl y respected ears."
"I really don't know what to do, Hassan Hottabych," Volka said sighing, as
though with reluctance. "I really hate to upset you by refusing. All right, have your
own way! Geography isn't Math or Grammar. I'd never agree to even the tiniest
prompt in those subjects, but since geography isn't really the most important
subject.... Come on, let's hurry!" He looked at the old man's unusual clothing with
a critical eye. "Hm-m-m.... D'you think you could c hange into something else,
"Don't my garments please your gaze, most noble of Volkas?" Hottabych
"Sure they do, they certainly do," Volka answered d iplomatically. "But you're
dressed ... if you know what I mean.... Our styles are a little bit different.... Your
clothes will attract too much attention."
"But how do respectable, honourable gentlemen of ad vanced age dress
Volka tried to explain what a jacket, trousers and a hat were, but though he tried
very hard, he wasn't very successful. He was about to despair, when he suddenly
glanced at his grandfather's portrait on the wall. He led Hottabych over to the
photograph and the old man gazed long at it with cu riosity, surprised to
see clothing so unlike his own.
A moment later, Volka, holding Hottabych's arm, eme rged from the house. The
old man was magnificent in a new linen suit, an emb roidered Ukrainian shirt, and
a straw boater. The only things he had refused to c hange, complaining of three
thousand-year-old corns, were his slippers. He rema ined in his pink slippers with
the upturned toes, which, in times gone by, would h ave probably driven the most
stylish young man at the Court of Caliph Harun al R ashid out of his mind with
When Volka and a transformed Hottabych approached t he entrance of Moscow
Secondary School No. 245 the old man looked at hims elf coyly in the glass door
and remained quite pleased with what he saw.
The elderly doorman, who was sedately reading his p
aper, put it aside with
pleasure at the sight of Volka and his companion. I t was hot and the doorman felt
like talking to someone.
Skipping several steps at a time, Volka dashed upst airs. The corridors were
quiet and empty, a true and sad sign that the exami nation had begun and that he
was late. "And where are you going?" the doorman asked Hottab ych good-naturedly as
he was about to follow his young friend in.
"He's come to see the principal," Volka shouted fro m the top 'of the stairs.
"You won't be able to see him now. He's at an exami nation. Won't you please
come by again later on in the day?"
Hottabych frowned angrily.
"If I be permitted to, respected old man, I would prefer to wait for him here."
Then he shouted to Volka, "Hurry to your classroom, Volka ibn Alyosha! I'm
certain that you'll astound your teachers and your comrades with your great
"Are you his grandfather or something?" the doorman inquired, trying to start
up a conversation. Hottabych said nothing. He felt it beneath his dignity to
converse with a doorkeeper.
"Would you care for a cup of tea?" the doorman cont inued. "The heat's
something terrible today."
He poured a full cup of tea and, turning to hand it to the untalkative stranger, he
saw to his horror that the old man had disappeared into thin air. Shaken by this
impossible occurrence, the doorman gulped down the tea intended for Hottabych,
poured himself a second cup, and then a third, and did not stop until there wasn't a
drop left. Then he sank into his chair and began to fan himself exhaustedly with
All the while, a no less unusual scene was taking p lace on the second floor,
right above the doorman, in the classroom of 6B. Th e teachers, headed by the
principal, Pavel Vasilyevich, sat at a table covere d with a heavy cloth used for
special occasions. Behind them was the blackboard, hung with various maps.
Facing them were rows of solemn pupils. It was so q uiet in the room that one
could hear a lonely fly buzzing monotonously near t he ceiling. If the pupils of 6B
were always this quiet, theirs would undoubtedly be the most disciplined class in
all of Moscow.
It must be noted, however, that the quiet in the cl assroom was not only due to
the hush accompanying any examination, but also to the fact that Volka Kostylkov
had been called to the board—and he was not in the room.
"Vladimir Kostylkov!" the principal repeated and lo oked at the quiet children in
It became still more quiet.
Then, suddenly, they heard the loud clatter of runn ing feet in the hall outside,
and at the very moment the principal called "Vladim ir Kostylkov" for the third and
last time, the door burst open and Volka, very much out of breath, gasped:
"Please come up to the board," the principal said d ryly. "We'll speak about your
being late afterwards."
"I ... I feel ill," Volka mumbled, saying the first thing that came to his head, as
he walked uncertainly towards his examiners.
While he was wondering which of the slips of paper
laid out on the table he
should choose, old man Hottabych slipped through th e wall in the corridor and
disappeared through the opposite one into an adjoin ing classroom. He had an
absorbed look on his face.
Volka finally took the first slip his hand touched. Tempting his fate, he turned it
over very slowly, but was pleasantly surprised to s ee that he was to speak on India.
He knew quite a lot about India, since he had alway s been interested in that
"Well, let's hear what you have to say," the princi pal said.
Volka even remembered the beginning of the chapter on India word for word as
it was in his book. He opened his mouth to say that the Hindustan Peninsula
resembled a triangle and that this triangle bordere d on the Indian Ocean and its
various parts: the Arabian Sea in the West and the Bay of Bengal in the East, that
two large countries—India and Pakistan—were located on the peninsula, that both
were inhabited by kindly and peace-loving peoples w ith rich and ancient cultures,
etc., etc., etc., but just then Hottabych, standing in the adjoining classroom, leaned
against the wall and began mumbling diligently, cup ping his hand to his mouth
like a horn:
"India, my most respected teacher...!"
And suddenly Volka, contrary to his own desires, be gan to pour forth the most
"India, my most respected teacher, is located close to the edge of the Earth's
disc and is separated from this edge by desolate an d unexplored deserts, as neither
animals nor birds live to the east of it. India is a very wealthy country, and its
wealth lies in its gold. This is not dug from the g round as in other countries, but is
produced, day and night, by a tireless species of g old-bearing ants, which are
nearly the size of a dog. They dig their tunnels in the ground and three times a day
they bring up gold sand and nuggets and pile them i n huge heaps. But woe be to
those Indians who try to steal this gold without du e skill! The ants pursue them
and, overtaking them, kill them on the spot. From t he north and west, India borders
on a country of bald people. The men and women and even the children are all
bald in this country. And these strange people live on raw fish and pine cones. Still
closer to them is a country where you can neither s ee anything nor pass, as it is
filled to the top with feathers. The earth and the air are filled with feathers, and
that is why you can't see anything there."
"Wait a minute, Kostylkov," the geography teacher s aid with a smile. "No one
has asked you to tell us of the ancients' views on Asia's geography. We'd like you
to tell us the modern, scientific facts about India ."
Oh, how happy Volka would have been to display his knowledge of the subject!
But what could he do if he was no longer the master of his speech and actions! In
agreeing to have Hottabych prompt him, he became a toy in the old man's wellmeaning
but ignorant hands. He wanted to tell his teachers that what he had told
them obviously had nothing to do with modern scienc e. But Hottabych on the
other side of the wall shrugged in dismay and shook his head, and Volka, standing
in front of the class, was compelled to do the same .
"That which I have had the honour of telling you, greatly respected Varvara
Stepanovna, is based on the most reliable sources, and there exist no other, more
scientific facts on India than those I have just, w ith your permission, revealed to
"Please keep to the subject. This is an examination
, not a masquerade. If you
don't know the answers, it would be much more honou rable to admit it right away.
What was it you said about the Earth's disc by the way? Don't you know that the
Earth is round?"
Did Volka Kostylkov, an active member of the Moscow Planetarium's
Astronomy Club, know that the Earth was round? Why, any first-grader knew that.
But Hottabych, standing behind the wall, burst out laughing, and no matter how
our poor boy tried to press his lips together, a ha ughty smirk escaped him:
"I presume you are making fun of your most devoted pupil! If the Earth were
round, the water would run off it, and then everyon e would die of thirst and all the
plants would dry up. The Earth, most noble and honoured of all teachers and
pedagogues, has always had and does now have the sh ape of a flat disc,
surrounded on all sides by a mighty river named 'Oc ean.' The Earth rests on six
elephants, and they, in turn, are standing on a tre mendous turtle. That is how the
world is made, teacher!"
The board of teachers gazed at Volka with rising su rprise. He broke out in a
cold sweat from horror and the realization of his o wn complete helplessness. The
other children could not quite understand what had happened to their friend, but
some began to giggle. It was really funny to hear a bout a country of bald people,
about a country filled with feathers, about gold-be aring ants as big as dogs and
about the flat Earth resting on six elephants and a turtle. As for Zhenya Bogorad,
Volka's best friend and one of the class pioneer le aders, he became really worried.
He knew that Volka, as chairman of the Astronomy Cl ub, at least knew that the
Earth was round—if he knew nothing else. Could it b e that he had suddenly
decided upon some mischief, and during an examinati on, of all times! Volka was
probably ill, but what ailed him? What kind of a st range, unusual disease did he
have? And then, it was very bad for their pioneer g roup. So far, they had been first
in all the exams, but now Volka's stupid answers wo uld spoil everything, though
he was usually a disciplined pioneer! Goga Pilukin, a most unpleasant boy at the
next desk (nicknamed "Pill" by his classmates), has tened to pour salt on Zhenya's
"That takes care of your group, Zhenya dear," he wh ispered with a malicious
giggle. "You're sinking fast!" Zhenya shook his fis t at Pill.
"Varvara Stepanovna!" Goga whined. "Bogorad just sh ook his fist at me."
"Sit still and don't tattle," Varvara Stepanovna sa id and turned back to Volka,
who stood before her more dead than alive. "Were yo
u serious about the elephants
and the turtle?" "More serious than ever before, most respected of all teachers,"
Volka repeated after the old man and felt himself b urning up with shame.
"And haven't you anything else to add? Do you reall y think you were answering
"No, I've nothing to add," Hottabych said behind th e wall, shaking his head.
And Volka, helpless to withstand the force that was pushing him towards
failure, also shook his head and said, "No, I've no thing to add. Perhaps, however,
the fact that in the wealthy land of India the hori zons are framed by gold and
"It's incredible!" his teacher exclaimed.
It was difficult to believe that Kostylkov, a usual ly disciplined boy, had
suddenly decided to play a silly joke on his teache rs (and at such an important
time!), running the risk of a second examination in the autumn.
"I don't think the boy is quite well," Varvara Step anovna whispered to the
Glancing hurriedly and sympathetically at Volka, wh o stood numb with grief
before them, the committee held a whispered confere nce.
Varvara Stepanovna suggested, "What if we ask the c hild another question, just
to calm him? Say, from last year's book. Last year he got an 'A' in geography."
The others agreed, and Varvara Stepanovna once agai n turned to the unhappy
"Now, Kostylkov, wipe your tears and don't be nervo us. Tell us what a horizon
"A horizon?" Volka said with new hope. "That's easy . A horizon is an imagined
But Hottabych came to life behind the wall again an d Volka once again became
the victim of prompting.
"The horizon, my most revered one," Volka corrected himself, "I would call
the horizon that brink, where the crystal cupola of the Heavens touches the edge of
"It gets worse as he goes on," Varvara Stepanovna m oaned. "How would you
have us understand your words about the crystal cup ola of the Heavens—literally
"Literally, teacher," Hottabych prompted from the next room.
And Volka was obliged to repeat after him, "Literal ly, teacher."
"Figuratively!" someone hissed from the back of the room. But Volka repeated,
"Naturally, in the literal sense and no other."
"What does that mean?" Varvara Stepanovna asked, st ill not believing her ears.
"Does that mean you consider the sky to be a solid cupola?"
"And does it mean there's a place where the Earth e nds?"
"Yes, there is, my most highly respected teacher."
Behind the wall Hottabych nodded approvingly and ru bbed his hands together
A strange silence fell on the class. Even those who were always ready to laugh
stopped smiling. Something was definitely wrong wit h Volka. Varvara Stepanovna
rose and felt his forehead anxiously. He did not ha ve a fever.
But Hottabych was really touched by this. He bowed low and touched his
forehead and chest in the Eastern manner and then b
egan to whisper. Volka, driven
by the same awful force, repeated his movements exa ctly.
"I thank you, most gracious daughter of Stepan! I thank you for your trouble.
But it is unnecessary, because, praised be Allah, I am quite well."
All this sounded extremely strange and funny. Howev er, the other children
were so worried about Volka that not a shade of a s mile crossed a single face.
Varvara Stepanovna took him by the hand, led him ou t of the room, and patted his
"Never mind, Kostylkov. Don't worry. You're probabl y overtired. Come back
when you've had a good rest. All right?"
"All right," Volka said. "But upon my word of honou r, Varvara Stepanovna, it's
not my fault! It isn't really!"
"Why, I'm not blaming you at all," the teacher answ ered kindly. "I'll tell you
what: let's drop in on Pyotr Ivanych."
Pyotr Ivanych, the school doctor, examined Volka fo r all of ten minutes. He
made him close his eyes and hold his arms out befor e him with his fingers spread
apart; then he tapped his knee and drew lines on hi s chest and back with his
By then Volka came to himself. His cheeks turned pi nk again and his spirits
"The boy's perfectly well," said Pyotr Ivanych. "An d if you want my opinion,
he's an unusually healthy child! I think he was pro bably overworked. He must
have studied too much before his exams, because the re's nothing wrong with him.
And that's all there is to it!"
Just in case, though, he measured some drops into a glass, and the unusually
healthy child was forced to drink the medicine.
Suddenly, Volka had an idea. What if he could profi t from Hottabych's absence
and take his geography examination right there, in the doctor's office?
"By no means!" Pyotr Ivanych said emphatically. "By no means. Let the child
have a few days of rest. Geography can wait."
"That's quite true," the teacher sighed with relief , pleased that .everything had
turned out so well in the end. "And you, my young f riend, run along home and
have a good rest. When you feel better, come back a nd take your exam. I'm
positive you'll get an 'A.' What do you think, Pyot r Ivanych?"
"Such a Hercules as he? Why, he'll never get less t han an 'A'+!'
"Ah ... and don't you think someone had better see him home?" Varvara
"Oh no, Varvara Stepanovna!" Volka cried. "I'll mak e out fine."
All he needed now was for a chaperone to bump into that crazy old Hottabych!
Volka appeared to be in the pink of health, and wit h an easy heart Varvara
Stepanovna let him go home.
The doorman rushed towards him as he was on the way out. "Kostylkov! Your
grandpa, or whoever he is, the one who came here wi th you...."
At that very moment, old man Hottabych appeared fro m the wall. He was as
happy as a lark and immensely pleased with himself, and he was humming a little
"Help!" the doorman cried soundlessly and tried in vain to pour himself another
cup of tea from the empty kettle. When he put the k ettle down and turned around,
both Volka Kostylkov and his mysterious companion h ad disappeared. By then
they had already turned the nearest corner.
"Pray tell me, young master, did you astound your t
eacher and your comrades
with your great knowledge?" Hottabych inquired prou dly, breaking a rather long
"I astounded them all right!" Volka said and looked at the old man with
Hottabych beamed. "I expected nothing else! But for a moment there I thought
that the most revered daughter of Stepan was disple ased with the breadth and
scope of your knowledge."
"Oh, no, no!" Volka cried in fear, recalling Hottab ych's terrible threats. "You
were imagining things."
"I would have changed her into a chopping block on which butchers chop up
mutton," the old man said fiercely (and Volka was r eally frightened for his
teacher's fate), "if I hadn't seen that she had suc h great respect for you and took
you to the door of your classroom and then practica lly down the stairs. I realized
then that she had fully appreciated your answers. P eace be with her!"
"Sure, peace be with her!" Volka added hastily, fee ling that a load had fallen
from his shoulders.
During the several thousand years of Hottabych's li fe, he had often had to do
with people feeling sad and gloomy, and he knew how to cheer them up. At any
rate, he was convinced he knew how to do so. All th at was needed was to give a
person that which he had always longed for. But wha t kind of a present should he
give Volka? The answer came to him quite by chance when Volka asked a passerby:
"Would you please tell me what time it is?"
The man looked at his watch and said, "Five to two. "
"Thank you," Volka said and continued on in silence .
Hottabych was the first to speak.
"Tell me, Volka, how was the man able to tell the time of da y so accurately?"
"Didn't you see him look at his watch?" The old man raised his eyebrows in
"His watch?!" "Sure, his watch," Volka explained. " He had a watch on his
wrist. The round chrome-plated thing."
"Why don't you have such a watch, most noble of all Genie-saviours?"
"I'm too young to have such a watch," Volka answere d humbly.
"May I be permitted, honourable passer-by, to inquire as to the time of day?"
Hottabych said, stopping the first person he saw an d staring at his watch.
"Two minutes to two," the man answered, somewhat su rprised at the flowery
Thanking him in the most elaborate oriental manner, Hottabych said with a sly
"May I be permitted, loveliest of all Volkas, to inquire as to the time of day?"
And there was a watch shining on Volka's left wrist , exactly like the one the
man they had stopped had, but instead of being chro me-plated, it was of the purest
"May it be worthy of your hand and your kind heart, " Hottabych said in a
touched voice, basking in Volka's happiness and sur prise.
Then Volka did something that any other boy or girl would have done in his
place, having found themselves the proud possessors of their first watch. He raised
his arm to his ear to hear it tick.
"O-o-o-o," he drawled. "It's not wound. I'll have t
o wind it." To his great
disappointment, he found he could not move the wind ing button. Then he got out
his pen-knife to open the watch case. However, try as he would, he could not find
a trace of a slit in which to insert the knife.
"It's made of solid gold," the old man boasted and winked. "I'm not one of those
people who give presents made of hollow gold."
"Does that mean there's nothing inside of it?" Volk a asked with disappointment.
"Why, should there be anything inside?" the old Gen ie inquired anxiously.
Volka unbuckled the strap in silence and returned t he watch to Hottabych.
"All right, then, I'll give you a watch that doesn' t have to have anything inside."
Once again a gold watch appeared on Volka's wrist, but now it was very small
and flat. There was no glass on it and instead of h ands there was a small vertical
gold rod in the middle. The face was studded with t he most exquisite emeralds set
where the numbers should be.
"Never before did anyone, even the wealthiest of al l sultans, have a hand sun
watch!" the old man boasted again. "There were sun dials in city squares, in
market places, in gardens and in yards. And they we re all made of stone. But I just
invented this one. It's not bad, is it?"
It certainly was exciting to be the only owner of a sun watch in the whole
Volka grinned broadly, while the old man beamed.
"How do you tell the time on it?" Volka asked.
"Here's how," Hottabych said, taking hold of Volka' s hand gently. "Hold your
arm straight out like this and the shadow cast by t he little gold rod will fall on the
"But the sun has to be shining," Volka said, lookin g with displeasure at a small
cloud that just obscured it.
"The cloud will pass in a minute," Hottabych promis ed. True enough, in a
minute the sun began to shine once again. "See, it points somewheres between 2
and 3 p.m. That means it's about 2:30." As he was s peaking, another cloud covered
"Don't pay any attention to it," Hottabych said. "I 'll clear the sky for you
whenever you want to find out what time it is."
"What about the autumn?" Volka asked.
"What about it?"
"What about the autumn and the winter, when the sky is covered with clouds
for months on end?"
"I've already told you, Volka, the sun will shine whenever you want it to. You
have but to order me and everything will be as you wish."
"But what if you're not around?"
"I'll always be near-by. All you have to do is call me."
"But what about the evenings and nights?" Volka ask ed maliciously. "What
about the night, when there's no sun in the sky?"
"At night people must surrender themselves to sleep , and not look at their
watches," Hottabych snapped. He had to control hims elf not to teach the insolent
youth a good lesson. "All right then, tell me wheth er you like that man's watch. If
you do, you shall have it."
"What do you mean? It belongs to him. Don't tell me you are going to...."
"Don't worry, Volka ibn Alyosha. I won't touch a hair on his hea d. He'll offer
you the watch himself, for you are certainly worthy
of receiving the most treasured
"You'll force him to and then he'll...."
"And he'll be overjoyed that I did not wipe him off the face of the Earth, or
change him into a foul rat, or a cockroach hiding i n a crack of a hovel, or the last
"That's real blackmail," Volka said angrily. "Trick s like that send a man to jail,
my friend. And you'll well deserve it."
"Send me to jail?!" the old man flared up. "Me?! Ha ssan Abdurrakhman ibn
Hottab? And does he know, that most despicable of a ll passers-by, who J am? Ask
the first Genie, or Ifrit, or Shaitan you see, and they'll tell you, as they tremble
from fear, that Hassan Abdurrakhman ibn Hottab is t he chief of all Genie
bodyguards. My army consists of 72 tribes, with 72, 000 warriors in each tribe;
every warrior rules over one thousand Marids and ev ery Marid rules over a
thousand Aides and every Aide rules over a thousand Shaitans and every Shaitan
rules over a thousand Genies. I rule over them all and none can disobey me! If
only this thrice-miserable of all most miserable pa ssers-by tries to...."
Meanwhile, the man in question was strolling down t he street, glancing at the
shop windows, and in no way aware of the terrible d anger hanging over him
because of an ordinary watch glittering on his wris t.
' "Why, I'll..." Hottabych raged on in his boastful ness, "why, if you only so
desire, I'll turn him into a...."
Each second counted. Volka shouted:
"Don't touch that man! I don't need a watch! I don' t need anything!"
"Nothing at all?" the old man asked doubtfully, qui ckly calming down. The
only sun watch in the world disappeared as quickly as it had appeared.
"Nothing at all," said Volka. He heaved such a sigh that Hottabych realized he
must apply himself to cheering up his young saviour and dispelling his gloomy
HOTTABYCH'S SECOND SERVICE
Volka was in the dumps. Hottabych sensed that somet hing was wrong. He
never dreamed he had done the boy such a bad turn d uring the exam, but it was all
too clear that Volka was upset. And the one to blam e, apparently, was none other
than himself, Hassan Abdurrakhman ibn Hottab.
"Would you, moon-like, feel inclined to listen to stories of m ost unusual and
strange adventures?" he asked slyly. "For instance, do you know the story of the
Baghdad barber's three black roosters and his lame son? Or the one about the
copper camel with a silver hump? Or about the water -carrier Ahmet and his magic
Volka kept on frowning. This did not stop the old m an, and he began hurriedly:
"Be it known to you, most wonderful of all secondary school pupils, tha t once
upon a time in Baghdad there lived a skilled barber named Selim who had three
roosters and a lame son named Tub. It so happened t hat Caliph Harun al Rashid
once passed his shop. But, most attentive of all youths, I suggest we sit dow n on
this bench in order that your young legs don't tire during this long and most
Volka agreed. They sat down in the shade of an old
For three long hours Hottabych went on and on with the truly interesting story.
He finally ended it with these crafty words:
"But more marvellous still is the story of the copp er camel with a silver hump,"
and immediately proceeded with it. When he came to the part: "Then the stranger
took a piece of coal from the brazier and drew the outline of a camel on the wall.
The camel waved its tail, nodded its head, walked o ff the wall and onto the
cobblestones..."—he stopped to enjoy the impression his story of a drawing
coming to life had made on his young listener.
But Hottabych was in for some disappointment, becau se Volka had seen
enough cartoons in his life. However, the old man's words gave him an idea.
"You know what? Let's go to the movies. You can fin ish the story after."
"Your every word is my command, 0 Volka ibn Alyosha ," the old man replied
obediently. "But do me a favour and tell me what yo u mean by 'the movies'? Is it a
bath-house? Or, perhaps, that's what you call the m arket-place, where one can
stroll and chat with friends and acquaintances?"
"Well! Any child can tell you what a movie is. It's a...." At this, Volka waved
his hands around vaguely and added, "Well, anyway, you'll see when we get
Over the Saturn Theatre box-office was a sign that read:
"Children under sixteen not admitted to evening per formances."
"What's the matter, most handsome of all handsome youths?" Hottabych
inquired anxiously, noticing that Volka had become gloomy again.
"Nothing much. It's just that we're late for the la st day-time performance! You
have to be sixteen to get in now. I really don't kn ow what to do, 'cause I don't feel
like going home."
"You won't go home!" Hottabych cried. "In a twinkli ng of an eye they'll let us
through, surrounded by the respect your truly endle ss capabilities command! I'll
just have a peek at those bits of paper everyone's handing that stern-looking
woman at the entrance."
"That old braggart!" Volka thought irritably. Sudde nly, he felt two tickets in his
"Come!" Hottabych called, beaming again. "Come, the y'll let you through
"Are you sure?"
"Just as positive as that a great future awaits you !"
He nudged Volka towards a mirror hanging nearby. A boy with a bushy blond
beard on his healthy freckled face looked back from the mirror at a shocked and
AN UNUSUAL EVENT AT THE MOVIES
A triumphant Hottabych dragged Volka up the stairs to the second-floor foyer.
At the entrance to the projection room stood Zhenya Bogorad, the envy of every
pupil of 6B. This darling of fate was the theatre m anager's nephew and therefore
permitted to attend evening performances. But today , instead of being the happiest
of boys, he was suffering terribly. He was sufferin g from loneliness. He was dying
to have a companion, someone he could talk to about Volka Kostylkov's behaviour
at the morning's geography examination. Alas! There
was not a familiar face in
He then decided to go downstairs, in the hope that Luck would send him
someone. At the landing he was nearly knocked off h is feet by an old man in a
white suit and embroidered morocco slippers who was dragging along—whom do
you think?— Volka Kostylkov, in person! For reasons unknown, Volka was
covering his face with his hands.
"Volka!" Bogorad shouted happily. "Kostylkov!"
Unlike Zhenya, Volka did not seem at all pleased at the encounter. In fact, he
even pretended not to have recognized his best frie nd. He darted into the thick of
the crowd which stood listening to an orchestra whi le awaiting the next showing.
"Don't think I care!" Zhenya said in an offended to ne and went off to buy an
The moment these words reached the snack bar, every one there rushed to see
the bearded child.
"Volka!" Zhenya yelled at the top of his voice, des pairing of ever getting
through the crowd. "I can't see anything! Can you s ee? Does he have a big beard?"
"Golly!" the unfortunate Volka wailed. "What if he. ..."
"Poor child!" the curious onlookers sighed.
"What a pity!"
"Is science helpless in his case?"
At first, Hottabych misunderstood the attention his young friend was attracting.
He thought the people were crowding round to expres s their respect for Volka.
Then he began to get angry.
"Disperse, my good people!" he shouted, drowning ou t the noise of the crowd
and the band. "Disperse, or I'll do something terri ble to all of you!"
A timid girl gasped from fear, but the others only laughed. Really now, what
was there to fear from such a funny old man in sill y pink slippers? Why, if
someone as much as touched him, he'd probably fall to pieces!
No, no one took his threats seriously. However, the old man was used to having
people tremble at his words. He felt that he and Vo lka were being insulted and was
becoming more and more enraged. There is no telling how it all could have ended,
if the first bell had not rung just then.
The doors to the projection room were thrown open a nd everyone rushed to
take their seats. Zhenya thought this was his chanc e to get a peek at the weird boy.
But the same crowd that had blocked his view now ca ught him up and carried him
into the projection room.
No sooner had he found a seat in the first row than the lights went out.
"Whew!" Zhenya breathed. "Just in time. I'll still be able to see the bearded boy
on the way out." Nonetheless, he kept fidgeting in his seat, trying to catch a
glimpse of the freak who was sitting somewhere behi nd him.
"Stop fidgeting! You're bothering us!" the man next to him said. "Sit still!"
However, to his utter amazement, the fidgety boy su ddenly disappeared.
Volka and Hottabych were the last to enter the dark ened projection room. To
tell the truth, Volka was so upset he was ready to leave without seeing the film.
"If you're so displeased with the beard I thought y ou'd appreciate, I'll free you
of it the moment we find our seats. That's easy eno ugh. Let's follow the others in,
for I'm impatient to discover what a 'movie' is. It must indeed be something
wonderful, if even grown men attend it on such a ho
t summer day!"
When they were seated, Hottabych snapped the finger s of his left hand.
Contrary to his promises, nothing happened to Volka 's beard.
"Why is it taking you so long? Remember how you boa sted!"
"I wasn't boasting, most wonderful of 6B pupils. Fortunately, I change d my
mind in time. If you don't have a beard, you'll be turned out of the movie which is
so dear to your heart."
It soon became clear that this was merely a cunning excuse. Volka was not yet
aware of the old man's craftiness.
"That's all right, they won't turn me out of here," he said.
Hottabych pretended not to have heard him. Volka re peated his words. Once
again, Hottabych played deaf. Then Volka raised his voice:
"Hassan Abdurrakhman ibn Hottab!"
"I'm listening, my young master," the old man answered obediently.
"Sh-h-h!" someone hissed.
Volka continued in a whisper, bending close to his friend who suddenly looked
"Do something to make this stupid beard disappear i mmediately!"
"It's not a bit stupid," the old man whispered back . "It is a most grand and noble
"This very second! Do you hear? This very second!"
"I hear and I obey," Hottabych muttered and began w hispering again, snapping
The hairy growth on Volka's face remained unchanged .
"One moment, most blessed Volka ibn Alyosha," the old man repli ed, still
whispering and snapping his fingers nervously.
The beard on Volka's chin remained where it was.
"Look! Look who's sitting in the ninth row!" Volka whispered, forgetting his
great misfortune for the moment.
As far as Hottabych could see, the two men in the n inth row appeared in no way
"They're famous actors," Volka explained and told H ottabych their names,
which, though they were very well known, meant noth ing to him.
"Do you mean they're performers?" the old man asked condescendingly. "Are
they tight-rope walkers?"
"They're movie actors! They're the most famous movi e actors, that's who they
"Then why aren't they doing anything? Why are they sitting back doing
nothing?" Hottabych demanded critically. "They're p robably very lazy performers.
It pains me to see you praising them so thoughtless ly, movie of my heart."
"Ha, ha!" Volka laughed. "Movie actors never act in a theatre. Movie actors act
"Does that mean we are going to see some others, an d not movie actors,
"No, we'll see movie actors. Don't you understand, they act in a studio, but we
see their acting here, in a theatre. Why, any child knows that."
"Pray forgive me, but what you're saying is a lot o f nonsense," Hottabych
reproached him sternly. "However, I'm not angry at you, because I don't think you
meant to play a trick on your most obedient servant
. You seem to be affected by
the heat in this building. Unfortunately, I don't s ee a single window which could
be opened to let in some fresh air."
Volka realized that in the few remaining minutes be fore the beginning of the
film he would never be able to explain a movie acto r's work to the old man. He
decided to put off all explanations till later, and especially since he suddenly
recalled his terrible misfortune.
"Dear, dear Hottabych, it's really no trouble to yo u—please, can't you do
something right now?"
The old man heaved a sigh, yanked a hair from his b eard, then a second, and a
third, and, finally, in great anger, a whole bunch together. He began tearing them
to bits savagely, muttering something with his eyes fixed on Volka's face. There
was no change whatsoever. Then Hottabych began snap ping his fingers in the
most varied combinations: first two fingers at a ti me, then all five fingers of the
right hand, then the left hand, then all ten finger s together, then once with the right
and twice with the left, then the other way round—b ut all to no avail. Finally, he
began ripping off his clothes.
"Are you mad?" Volka cried. "What're you doing?"
"Woe is me!" Hottabych replied in a whisper and beg an scratching his face.
"Woe is me! The centuries I spent in that accursed vessel have—alas!—left their
mark! A lack of practice has been extremely detrime ntal to my profession. Forgive
me, my young saviour, but I can do nothing with your b eard! woe is me, poor
Genie Hassan Abdurrakhman ibn Hottab that I am!"
"What are you whispering?" Volka asked. "Say it lou der, I can't make out a
And Hottabych replied, tearing at his clothes: " most treasured of youths, 0 most pleasing of all, do not vent your rightful
anger upon me! I cannot rid you of your beard! I forgot how to do it!"
"Have a heart!" someone hissed. "You'll talk it all over at home. You're
bothering us. Do you want me to call the usher?"
"Such disgrace has fallen upon my old head!" Hottab ych whimpered. "To
forget such simple magic! And who is it that forgot it? Me, Hassan Abdurrakhman
ibn Hottab, the most powerful of all Genies—me, the very same Hassan
Abdurrakhman ibn Hottab whom even Sulayman son of D avid (on the twain be
peace!) could not subdue for twenty years!"
"Stop whining!" Volka whispered with unconcealed sc orn. "Tell me honestly:
how much longer will I have to go around with this beard?"
"Oh, calm your fears, my young master! Luckily, I o nly used small magic. In
two days your face will be as smooth as that of a n ew-born babe. Perhaps I'll even
remember how to break small magic spells before tha t."
Just then, the many credits which usually precede a film flashed off the screen
and were replaced by people who moved and spoke. Ho ttabych whispered smugly:
"Hm! This is all quite clear. And very simple. All these people have appeared
through the wall. You can't surprise me with that s ort of stuff. I can do that
"You don't understand a thing," Volka said with a s mile, upon hearing such
nonsense. "If you really want to know, films are ba sed on the principle...."
There was hissing from all sides now, and Volka's e xplanations were cut short.
For a moment Hottabych seemed entranced. Then he be gan squirming nervously,
turning round ever so often to look at the ninth ro
w and the two movie actors
sitting there. He became convinced that they were s itting quietly behind him and,
at the same time, galloping at top speed in front o f him on the only lighted wall in
this most mysterious building.
He became pale with fear. He raised his eyebrows an d whispered, "Look behind
us, fearless Volka ibn Alyosha!"
"Sure, those are the actors. They play the leads an d have come to see how the
audience likes their acting."
"I don't like it!" Hottabych informed him quickly. "I don't like people to split in
two. Even I don't know how to sit in a chair with m y arms folded and gallop away
as fast as the wind— and all at one and the same ti me! Even Sulayman, son of
David (on the twain be peace!), could not do such a thing. And that's why I'm
"There's nothing to worry about," Volka said patron izingly. "Look at everyone
else. See? No one's afraid. I'll explain what it's all about later."
Suddenly, the mighty roar of a locomotive cut throu gh the stillness. Hottabych
grabbed Volka's arm. " royal Volka!" he whispered, breaking out in a cold sweat. "I recognize that
voice. It's the voice of Jirjis, the ruler of all G enies! Let's flee before it's too late!"
"What nonsense! Sit still! Nothing's threatening us ."
"I hear and I obey," Hottabych mumbled obediently, though he continued to
But a split-second later, when a thundering locomot ive seemed to be rushing off
the screen and right into the audience, a scream of terror rent the projection room.
"Let's flee! Let's flee!" Hottabych shrieked as he dashed off.
At the exit he remembered about Volka and in severa l leaps returned, grabbed
him by the arm, and dragged him to the door.
"Let's flee, Volka ibn Alyosha! Let's flee before it's too late !"
"Now, wait a minute. .." the usher began, appearing in front of them. However,
she immediately did a long, graceful loop in the ai r and landed on the stage in
front of the screen.
"What were you screeching about? What was all the p anic about?" Volka asked
angrily when they were out in the street again.
"How can I help shouting when the most terrifying o f all dangers was
threatening you! The great Jirjis, son of Rejmus, g randson of the Aunt of Ikrash,
was heading straight for us, spitting fire and deat h!"
"What Jirjis? Which aunt? It was just an ordinary l ocomotive!"
"Has my young master decided to teach his old Genie
ibn Hottab what a Shaitan is?" Hottabych asked acid ly.
Volka realized that it would take much more than fi ve minutes and much more
than an hour to tell him what a movie and a locomot ive were.
After Hottabych recovered his breath, he asked mild ly, "What would you desire
now, treasured apple of my eye?"
"As if you didn't know. I want to get rid of my bea rd!"
"Alas," the old man sighed, "I am as yet helpless t o fulfil your wish. But
perhaps you'd like something else instead? Just tel l me, and you'll have it in a
"I'd like to have a shave. And as quickly as possib le." A few minutes later they
entered a barbershop. Ten minutes later a tired bar ber stuck his head into the
waiting room and shouted:
Then, from a corner near the coat-rack, rose a boy whose face was wrapped in
an expensive silk scarf. He hurriedly sat down in t he barber's chair.
"You want a hair-cut?" the barber asked. "No, a sha ve!" the boy answered in a
hollow voice and removed the scarf that had covered most of his face.
A TROUBLED EVENING
It was a good thing Volka didn't have dark hair. Zh enya Bogorad, for instance,
would certainly have had a blue shadow on his cheek s after having been shaved,
but Volka's cheeks after he left the barbershop wer e no different from those of his
friends. It was after seven, but it was still light outdoors and very hot. "Is there any
place in your blessed city where they sell sherbets or cold drinks like sherbet and
where we could quench our thirst?" Hottabych asked.
"Why, that's an idea! A glass of cold lemonade woul d really be grand."
Entering the first juice and mineral water shop the y saw, they took a table.
"We'd like two bottles of lemonade, please," Volka said. The waitress nodded
and headed towards the counter. Hottabych called he r back angrily.
"You come right back, unworthy servant! I don't lik e the way you responded to
the orders of my young friend and master."
"Hottabych, stop it! Do you hear! Stop..." Volka be gan to whisper.
But Hottabych covered the boy's mouth gently with h is hand.
"At least don't interfere when I defend your honour , since your kind heart
prevents you from scolding her yourself."
"You don't understand," Volka protested. He was rea lly becoming frightened.
"Hottabych, can't you see...."
Suddenly, he froze, for he felt he had lost the gif t of speech. He wanted to
throw himself between the old man and the still uns uspecting waitress, but found
he could not move a finger.
It was all Hottabych's doing. To prevent Volka from interfering in something he
considered a matter of honour, he had lightly pinch ed his ear lobe between the first
two fingers of his left hand and had thus condemned the boy to silence and
"How did you reply to the order my young master gav e you?" he repeated.
"I'm afraid I don't understand you," the waitress a nswered politely. "It was not
an order, it was a request, and I went to fulfil it . And, in the second place, it's
customary to speak politely to strangers. All I can
say is that I'm surprised you
don't know such a thing, though every cultured pers on should."
"Don't tell me you want to teach me manners!" Hottabych shouted. "On y our
knees, or I'll turn you to dust!"
"Shame on you!" the cashier said. She was the only witness of the disgraceful
scene, for there was no one besides Volka and Hotta bych in the cafe. "How can
you be so rude? And especially a person your age!"
"On your knees!" Hottabych roared. "And you get dow n on your knees, too," he
added, pointing to the cashier. "And you!" he shout ed to another waitress who was
rushing to the rescue. "All three of you, get down on your knees immediately, and
beg my young friend's pardon!" At this, Hottabych s uddenly began to grow bigger
and bigger until finally his head touched the ceili ng. It was a strange and terrible
sight. The cashier and the second waitress both fai nted, but the first waitress only
paled and said calmly, "Shame on you! You should be have properly in public. And
if you're a decent sort of hypnotist..."
(She thought the old man was practising hypnotic tr icks on them.)
"On your knees!" Hottabych bellowed. "Didn't you he ar me— on your knees?!"
In all his three thousand seven hundred and thirty- two years, this was the first
time ordinary mortals had refused to obey him. Hott abych felt the boy would lose
respect for him, and he was terribly anxious to hav e Volka respect him and
treasure his friendship.
"Down, despicable one, if you value your life!"
"That's entirely out of the question," the brave wa itress answered in a trembling
voice. "I can't understand why you're raising your voice. If you think something's
wrong, you can ask the cashier for the 'Complaints and Suggestions Book.'
Anyone can have it. And I'd like to add that the mo st famous hypnotists and
mesmerists visit our cafe, but none have ever behav ed like you. Aren't I right,
Katya?" she said, turning to her friend who had by then come to.
"How d'you like that!" Katya sniffled. "He wants us to get down on our knees!
"Is that so?!" Hottabych yelled, losing his temper
completely. "Is that how
insolent you are? Well, you have only yourselves to blame!"
With a practised gesture he yanked three hairs from his beard and let go of
Volka's ear to tear them to bits. To the old man's annoyance, Volka regained his
power of speech and the freedom to move his limbs a t will the moment he let go.
The first thing he did was to grab Hottabych's hand and cry:
"Oh, no, Hottabych! What do you want to do?"
"I want to punish them, Volka. I'm ashamed to admit I was about to strike
them down with thunder. Something even the most wor thless Ifrit can do!"
Despite the gravity of the situation, Volka felt he had to stand up for science.
"A clap of thunder cannot kill anyone," he said, th inking feverishly of how to
ward off the danger now hanging over the poor waitr esses. "What kills people is
lightning—a charge of atmospheric electricity. Thun der is harmless, it's only a
"I wouldn't be so sure," Hottabych answered dryly, not wishing to lower
himself to an argument with such an inexperienced y outh. "I don't think you're
right. But I've changed my mind. I won't strike the m with thunder, I'll change them
into sparrows instead. Yes, that's the best thing t o do."
"I must punish them, Volka. Evil must always be punished."
"There's no reason to punish them! Do you hear!"
Volka tugged at Hottabych's hand, for the old man w as about to tear the hairs,
and then it would really be too late. But the hairs which he had knocked out of his
hand miraculously returned to Hottabych's rough dar k palm.
"Just you try!" Volka shouted, seeing that the old man was about to tear them
anyway. "You can turn me into a sparrow, too! Or in to a toad! Or into anything
you want! And you can consider our friendship disso lved as of this minute. I don't
like your ways, that's what. Go on, turn me into a sparrow! And I hope the first cat
that sees me gobbles me up!"
The old man was dismayed.
"Can't you see, I'm only doing this to prevent anyo ne from ever approaching
you without the great respect your endless merits c all for?"
"No, I can't, and I don't want to!"
"Your every word is my command," Hottabych replied obediently, sincerely
puzzled at his saviour's strange softheartedness. " All right, then. I won't turn them
"Nor into anything else!"
"Nor into anything else," the old man agreed meekly . However, he gathered up
the hairs with the obvious intention of tearing the m to bits.
"Why do you want to tear them?" Volka cried. ; "I'll turn all the goods, all the
tables and all the equipment of this despicable sho p into dust!"
"You're mad!" Volka said, really angry by now. "Don 't you know that's
government property, you dope!"
"And may I inquire, diamond of my soul, what you mean by the strange w ord
'dope'?" Hottabych asked.
Volka turned as red as a beet.
"Well you see... What I mean is.... Uh.... Well, an yway, 'dope' is a sort of wise
Hottabych decided to remember the word, in order to
use it in some future
"But. .." he began.
"No buts! I'll count to three. If, after I say 'thr ee,' you don't leave this cafe alone,
we'll call off our friendship and... I'm counting: one! two! th...."
Volka did not finish. Shrugging sadly, the old man resumed his usual
appearance and muttered in a gloomy voice:
"All right, have it your way. Your good graces are more precious to me than the
pupils of my eyes."
"Well, there you are! Now all you have to do is to apologize and we can leave."
"You should be forever grateful to your young savio ur," Hottabych shouted
sternly to the waitresses, and Volka realized he wo uld never be able to pry an
apology from the old man's lips.
"Please excuse us," he said. "And I wish you wouldn 't be too angry at this old
man. He's a foreigner and doesn't know our ways yet . Good-bye!"
"Good-bye," the waitresses answered politely.
They were still rather upset and were both puzzled and frightened. But, of
course, they never dreamed how great a danger they had avoided. They followed
Hottabych and Volka out and watched the curious old man in an ancient straw
boater go down the street and disappear around the corner.
"I can't imagine where such naughty old men come fr om," Katya sighed and
wiped a tear.
"I suppose he's an old-time hypnotist," her brave f riend said compassionately.
"He's probably a pensioner. Maybe he's just lonely. "
"It's no fun to be old," the cashier joined in. "Co me on back in, girls."
The day's mischief was not to end there. As Hottaby ch and Volka reached
Gorky Street, they were blinded by an automobile's headlights. A large ambulance,
its screaming siren piercing the calm of twilight, seemed to be rushing straight at
Hottabych changed colour and wailed loudly:
"Oh, woe is me, an old, unfortunate Genie! Jirjis, the mighty, merciless king of
all Shaitans and Ifrits, has not forgotten our anci ent feud and has sent his most
awful monster after me!"
With these words he shot straight up from the pavem ent and, somewhere on the
level of the third or fourth storey, he took off hi s hat, waved it to Volka, and
slowly dissolved in the air, shouting:
"I'll find you again, Volka ibn Alyosha! I kiss the dust beneath your fe et!
To tell the truth, Volka was happy the old man had vanished. Other things were
pressing on his mind, and he felt faint at the thou ght of having to return home.
Really now, try to imagine yourself in his place. H e had left the house in the
morning to take a geography examination, then go to the movies and be back for
supper as expected, at six-thirty. Instead, he was returning after nine, having failed
his examination miserably, and, what was most horri ble, with shaved cheeks! And
him not even thirteen yet! No matter how he racked his brains, he could not find a
solution. Thus, without having thought of anything, he dragged his feet back to his
quiet side street, now full of long evening shadows .
He walked past the surprised janitor, entered the d ownstairs hall, climbed a
flight of stairs and, with a heavy sigh, pressed th e bell. He could hear someone's
steps, and a strange voice asked through the door:
"It's me," Volka wanted to say, but suddenly rememb ered that, as of this
morning, he didn't live there any more.
Without answering the new tenant, he ran downstairs , marched by the still
puzzled janitor nonchalantly, reached the main stre et, and boarded a trolley-bus.
This certainly was his unlucky day: somewhere, most probably at the movies, he
had lost his change-purse, so he had to get out and walk home.
Least of all, Volka wanted to meet a classmate, but most unbearable was the
thought that he would have to face Goga-the-Pill. S ly Fate had added insult to
injury: from this day forth they were both to live in the same house.
Sure enough, no sooner did he enter the yard of his new house than an
unbearable, familiar voice shouted:
"Hi, nutty! Who was the old bird you left school wi th today?"
Goga-the-Pill ran up to Volka, winking insolently a nd pulling the most
"He wasn't an old bird, he was a nice old man," Vol ka said peaceably, as he
didn't want to end the day with a fight. "He's ... he's my father's friend from
"What if I je-ee-st go to your father and je-ee-st tell him about your monkeybusiness
at the exam!"
"Oh, Pill, you've gone crying for a beating too lon g!" Volka flared up,
imagining what an impression Pill's words would hav e on his parents. "Why, you
dirty tattle-tale! I'll push your face in!"
"Now, now, take it easy! A person can't even joke a ny more. You're really a
Fearing Volka's fists, which, after several encount ers, Goga chose to avoid, he
dashed headlong into the entrance of the house in w hich he was now to live in
dangerous closeness to Volka, whose new apartment w as on the same landing.
"Bald people! A country of bald people!" Goga shout ed, sticking his head out
the front door. He showed Volka his tongue and, fea ring the other's righteous
anger, flew up the stairs, two at a time, to his ow n door.
However, he was distracted by the mysterious behavi our of a huge Siberian cat
from apartment 43. The cat, named "Homych" in honou r of the popular football
goalie, was standing on the stairs with his back ar ched and hissing at nothing at all.
Goga's first thought was that the cat had gone mad. He reflected again and was
nearly certain that mad cats kept their tails betwe en their legs, while Homych's tail
was sticking up straight, and in all other respects the animal looked quite healthy.
Goga kicked it—just in case. Homych's yowl of pain, surprise and hurt could be
heard on the tenth floor. He jumped so high and gra cefully that his famous
namesake could have been proud of such a leap.
Then something completely unexpected happened.
A good half yard from the wall, Homych yowled again and flew back in the
opposite direction, straight at Goga, just as thoug h the unfortunate animal had hit
an invisible but very hard rubber wall. At the same time a gasp could be heard
nearby, as if someone had trodden very hard on anot her person's foot. Courage had
never been one of Goga's outstanding virtues, but n ow he nearly died of fright.
"Oh-h-h!" he moaned softly, feeling all numb. Final ly, tearing his leaden feet
from the stairs, he made a dash for his flat.
When the apartment door banged shut behind him, Hot
tabych became visible.
He was writhing with pain and examining his left le g, which had been severely
scratched by the cat's claws.
"Oh, cursed youth!" Hottabych groaned, after first making sure he was alone on
the stairs. "Oh, dog among boys!"
He fell silent and listened. Coming slowly up the s tairs, lost in the most
grievous thoughts, was his young saviour, Volka Kos tylkov.
The sly old man did not want the boy to see him and so dissolved quickly in the
A CHAPTER WHICH IS A CONTINUATION OF THE PREVIOUS
No matter how tempting it is to present Volka Kosty lkov as a boy without
faults, the well-known truthfulness of the author o f this tale won't permit him to do
so. And if envy is to be justly considered a fault, then, to our great sorrow, we
must admit that at times Volka experienced this fee ling keenly. During the last few
days he had been very envious of Goga. Long before their exams had begun, Goga
boasted that his mother had promised him an Alsatia n puppy as soon as he was
promoted to the 7th grade.
"Sure, you just wait!" Volka had sniffed at the tim e, feeling that he was turning
cold from envy.
In his heart of hearts, he had to admit that Pill's words certainly resembled the
truth. The whole class knew that Goga's mother neve r skimped on anything for her
little darling. She'd refuse herself the bare neces sities of life, but she'd get Goga a
present that would leave them all speechless.
"She'll certainly get me a puppy," Goga persisted. "If you want to know, my
mother never refuses me anything. If she promised, it means she'll buy me one. If
the worst comes to the worst, she'll borrow some mo ney and buy it. You don't
know how highly they think of her at the factory!"
That was true. Goga's mother was greatly respected at the factory. She was the
senior draughtsman and was a modest, hard-working a nd cheerful person.
Everyone liked her, both her fellow-workers and her neighbours at home. Even
Goga was fond of her in his own way. And she really doted on Goga. Anyway, if
she had promised to buy him a puppy, it meant she w ould.
Perhaps, at this sorrowful moment, when Volka, crus hed by all he had gone
through that day, was slowly mounting the stairs, G oga-the-Pill, the very same Pill
who deserved such happiness less than anyone else i n their class, in their school,
or even in all of Moscow, was playing with a magnif icent, happy, furry puppy
right next door, in apartment 37.
Such were Volka's thoughts. The only consideration that afforded him some
solace was that it was highly unlikely that Goga's mother, even though she really
and truly intended to buy her son a dog, had done s o already. After all, Goga had
only taken his last exam several hours before, and it's not so easy to buy a puppy.
You don't walk into a pet shop and say, "Please wra p up that puppy for me." You
have to look long and hard for a good dog.
The very moment Volka's grandmother opened the door , he heard the highpitched,
squeaky yelping of a puppy coming from behind the c losed door of
"So she bought it after all!" he thought bitterly.
"An Alsatian.... or maybe even
It was more than he could bear, to imagine Goga the proud owner of a real, live
service dog. Volka slammed the door shut to blot ou t the exciting, unimaginably
wonderful, magical barking of a dog.
He also heard the frightened exclamation which esca ped Goga's mother. The
puppy had probably bitten him. But even this could not console our young hero.
Volka's father had not yet returned, as he was stay ing late at a meeting. His
mother had apparently called for him at the factory after her evening classes.
Despite all his efforts to appear calm and happy, V olka looked so gloomy that
his grandmother decided to give him supper first an d then start asking him
"Well, how are things, Volka dear?" she asked hesit antly, when her only
grandchild had made quick work of his supper.
"Uh, you see..." he said vaguely, pulling off his p olo shirt and heading towards
His grandmother followed him with a sorrowful and k indly gaze that was full of
silent sympathy. There was no need to ask him any q uestions. Everything was all
Volka sighed and got undressed. Then he stretched o ut under the clean cool
sheet. Still, he was restless.
On the night table near his bed lay a large, thick volume in a brightly-coloured
dust-cover. Volka's heart skipped a beat. Yes, that was it, the longed-for
astronomy book! On the frontispiece in a large fami liar hand were the words:
"To Vladimir Kostylkov, the Highly Educated 7th-Grade Student and Acting Member of
the Astronomy Club of the Moscow Planetarium, from his Loving Grandma."
What a funny inscription! Grandma always invented s omething funny. But why
didn't it make Volka smile? Oh, why didn't it! And imagine, he wasn't at all happy
to have finally received such a fascinating book, t he one he had wished for for so
long. Grief was eating out his heart. He felt a gre at weight on his chest.... It was
"Grandma!" he shouted, turning away from the book. "Grandma, would you
come here a minute?"
"Well, what do you want, mischief-maker?" his grand mother answered,
pretending to be angry, but really pleased that she 'd have a chance to talk to him
before he went to sleep. "Why, the Sandman can't ev en cope with you, you
astronomer! You night owl!"
"Grandma," Volka whispered fervently, "close the do or and come sit on my
bed. I have to tell you something terribly importan t."
"Perhaps we'd better put off such an important conv ersation till morning," his
grandmother answered, though she was consumed with curiosity as to what it was
"No, right now. This very minute. I ... Grandma, I wasn't promoted, I mean, I
wasn't yet. I didn't pass the exam."
"Did you fail?" his grandmother gasped.
"No, I didn't fail. I didn't pass, but I didn't fai l, either. I started to tell them what
the ancients thought about India, the horizon, and all kinds of things. Everything I
said was right. But I just couldn't tell them about the scientific point of view. I
began to feel very bad and Varvara Stepanovna said
I should come back after I had
had a good rest."
Even now, he could not bring himself to talk about Hottabych, not even to his
grandma. Anyway, she'd never believe him and would think he was really ill.
"At first, I didn't want to say anything. I wanted to tell you after I took the exam
again, but I felt ashamed. D'you understand?"
"What's there to understand! A person's conscience is a great thing. There's
nothing worse than doing something that's against y our conscience. Now go to
sleep, my dear astronomer!"
"You can take the book back meanwhile," Volka sugge sted in a trembling
"Nonsense! And where would I put it? Let's consider that I've given it to you
for safe-keeping for the time being. Go to sleep no w, will you?"
"Yes," Volka answered. A load had fallen from his c hest. "And I promise you,
upon my word of honour, that I'll get an 'A' in geo graphy. D'you believe me?"
"Certainly, I do. Now go to sleep and get strong. W hat about Father and
Mother? Shall I tell them, or will you tell them yo urself?"
"You'd better tell them."
"Well, good night." Grandma kissed him good night, turned off the light, and
left the room.
For some while after, Volka lay in the darkness, ho lding his breath, waiting to
hear his grandma tell his mother and father the sad news. However, he fell asleep
before they came home.
A RESTLESS NIGHT
Before an hour passed, however, he was suddenly awa kened by the ringing of
the telephone in the hall.
His father answered the phone:
"Hello. Yes. Who? Good evening, Varvara Stepanovna? ... I'm fine, thank you.
And you? ... Volka? He's asleep.... I think he's qu ite well. He had a very big
supper.... Yes, I know. He told us.... I'm terribly surprised myself.... Yes, that's
probably the only answer.. ,. Certainly, he should rest a while, if you have no
objections.... Thank you very much.... Varvara Step anovna sends you her regards,"
his father said to his mother. "She wanted to know how Volka is. She said not to
worry, because they think very highly of him, and s he suggests he have a good
Volka strained his ears listening to what his paren
ts were talking about, but
unable to make anything out, he fell asleep. This t ime he slept no longer than
fifteen minutes. The telephone rang again.
"Yes, speaking," he heard his father's muffled voic e. "Yes.... Good evening....
What?... No, he's not here.... Yes, he's at home... . Certainly he's at home.... That's
quite all right.... Good-bye."
"Who was it?" Volka's mother called from the kitche n. "It was Zhenya
Bogorad's father. He sounded very worried. Zhenya's not home yet. He wanted to
know whether he was here and if Volka was at home."
"In my time," Grandma said, "only hussars came home this late, but when a
Half an hour later the ringing of the telephone int errupted Volka's sleep for the
third time that troubled night. It was Zhenya's mot her. He had still not returned.
She wanted them to ask Volka if he knew where he wa s.
"Volka!" his father called, opening the door. "Zhen ya's mother wants to know
where you saw him last." "At the movies this evenin g." "And after the movie?" "I
didn't see him after that." "Did he say where he wa s going afterwards?" "No."
For a long, long time after that, Volka waited for the grown-ups to stop talking
about Zhenya's disappearance (he himself was not th e least bit worried, since he
was sure Zhenya had gone to the circus in the recre ation park to celebrate), but he
fell asleep again before they did. This time till m orning.
Soon there was a soft splash in the corner. Then th e patter of wet bare feet
could be heard. Footprints appeared and quickly dri ed on the floor. Someone
invisible was silently pacing the room, humming a p laintive Eastern melody.
The footprints headed towards the table where an al arm clock was ticking
away. There was the sound of lips smacking together with pleasure. Then the
alarm clock floated into the air, and for a while i t hung suspended between the
ceiling and the floor. Then it returned to the tabl e and the footprints headed
towards the aquarium. Once again there was a splash . Then all was quiet.
Late that night it began to rain. The raindrops pat tered on the window, they
rustled the leaves of the trees and gurgled in the drain-pipes. At times the rain
would die down, and then one could hear the large d rops falling into the rain barrel
below with a loud, ringing splash. Then, as if havi ng gathered its. strength, the rain
would again pour down in torrents.
Towards morning, when the sky was nearly clear of c louds, someone tapped
Volka lightly on the shoulder. He was sound asleep and did not waken. Then,
whoever it was who had tried to awaken him, sighed sadly, mumbled, and shuffled
towards the high stand with Volka's aquarium. There was a faint splash. Once
again a sleepy quiet fell on the room.
THE UNUSUAL EVENTS IN APARTMENT 37
Goga's mother had not bought him a dog after all. S he had not had the time to,
and later on she never got him one, for after the f antastic events of that terrible
evening, both Goga and his mother lost all interest in Man's oldest and truest
But Volka had clearly heard a dog barking m apartment 37. Could he have been
No, he was not mistaken.
And yet, there had been no dog in apartment 37 that
evening. If you want to
know, not so much as a dog's paw entered their hous e after that evening.
Truly, Volka had no reason to be envious of Goga. T here was nothing to be
envious of: it was Goga who had barked! It all bega n while he was washing up for
supper. He was very anxious to tell his mother a lo ng and elaborate story about
how his classmate and neighbour, Volka Kostylkov, h ad made a fool of himself at
the examination that morning. And it was then that he started barking. Goga didn't
bark all the time—some words were real words—but in stead of very many other
ones, he was surprised and horrified to hear a genu ine dog's bark issue from his
He wanted to say that Volka suddenly began to talk such nonsense at the exam
and that Varvara Stepanovna je-ee-st crashed her fi st down on the table and je-eest
screamed, "What nonsense you're babbling, you fool! Why, you hooligan, I'll
leave you back another term for this!"
But this is what Goga said instead:
"And suddenly Volka je-ee-st began to bow-wow-wow . .. and Varvara
Stepanovna je-ee-st crashed her bow-wow-wow!"
Goga was struck dumb with surprise. He was silent f or a moment, then he took
a deep breath and tried to repeat the sentence. But instead of saying the rude
words, this little liar and tattle-tale wanted to a scribe to Varvara Stepanovna, he
began to bark again.
"Oh, Mummie!" he wailed. "Mummie dear!"
"What's the matter with you, darling?" his mother a sked anxiously. "You look
"I wanted to say that bow-wow-wow.... Oh, Mummie, w hat's the matter?"
Goga had really turned blue from fright.
"Stop barking, dearest! Please stop, my darling, my sweet!"
"I'm not doing it on purpose," Goga whined. "I only wanted to say...."
And once again, instead of human speech, all he cou ld do was to produce an
"Darling! My pet, don't frighten me!" his poor moth er pleaded, as the tears ran
down her kind face. "Don't bark! I beg you, don't b ark!"
At this point Goga could think of nothing better to do than to become angry at
his mother. And since he was not used to choosing h is words on such occasions,
he began barking so fiercely that someone shouted f rom the next balcony:
"Tell your boy to stop teasing that dog! It's a sha me! You've spoiled your child
beyond all reason!"
With the tears still pouring down her cheeks, Goga' s mother rushed to close the
windows. Then she tried to feel Goga's forehead, bu t this only brought on a new
attack of angry barking.
She finally put a completely frightened Goga to bed , wrapped him up in a
heavy quilt, though it was a hot summer evening, an d ran down to the telephone
booth to call an ambulance.
Since she should not tell them the truth, she was f orced to say that her son had a
very high fever and was delirious.
Soon a doctor arrived. He was a stout, middle-aged man with a grey moustache,
many years of experience and an unruffled manner.
The first thing he did, naturally, was to feel Goga 's forehead. He discovered the
boy had no fever at all. This made him angry, but h e did not show it, since the
boy's mother looked so terribly grief-stricken. He
sighed and sat down on a chair
by the bed. Then he asked Goga's mother to explain why she had called an
ambulance instead of her regular doctor.
She told him the truth.
The doctor shrugged. He asked her to repeat her sto ry from the beginning. Then
he shrugged again, thinking that if this were reall y true, she should have called a
psychiatrist and not a general practitioner.
"Perhaps you think you are a dog?" he asked Goga, a s if casually.
Goga shook his head.
"Well, that's something," the doctor thought. "At l east it isn't a mania when
people imagine they're dogs."
Naturally, he did not say this aloud, so as not to frighten the patient or his
mother, but it was obvious that the doctor was feel ing more cheerful.
"Stick out your tongue," he said.
Goga stuck out his tongue.
"It's a very normal-looking tongue. And now, young man, let me listen to your
heart. Ah, an excellent heart. His lungs are clear. And how is his stomach?" . "His
stomach's fine," his mother said.
"And has he been uh ... barking a long time?"
"For over two hours. I just don't know what to do."
"First of all, calm down. I don't see anything terr ible yet. Now, young man,
won't you tell me how it all began?"
"Well, it all began from nothing," Goga complained in a small voice. "I was just
telling my mother how Volka Kostylkov .bow-wow-wow. "
"You see, doctor?" his mother sobbed loudly. "It's terrible. Maybe he needs
some pills, or powders, or perhaps he needs a physi c?"
The doctor frowned.
"Give me time to think, and I'll look through my bo oks. It's a rare case, a very
rare case, indeed. Now, I want him to have a comple te rest, no getting off the bed,
a light diet, just vegetables and milk products, no coffee or cocoa, weak tea with
milk, if desired. And by no means should he go out. "
"I couldn't drag him outside if I tried, he's so as hamed. .One of his friends
dropped in, and poor Goga barked so long and loud, I had a hard time persuading
the boy not to tell anyone about it. But don't you think he needs a physic?"
"Well, a physic can't hurt him," the doctor said th oughtfully.
"And what about mustard plasters before he goes to bed?" she asked, still
"That's not bad, either. Mustard plasters are alway s helpful."
The doctor was about to pat Goga's head, but Pill, anticipating all the bitter
medicines he had prescribed, barked so viciously th at the old doctor jerked his
hand away, frightened lest the unpleasant boy reall y bite him.
"By the way," he said, gaining control over himself , "why are all the windows
closed on such a hot day? The child needs fresh air ."
Goga's mother reluctantly explained why she had clo sed the windows.
"Hm.... A rare case, a very rare case, indeed!" the doctor repeated. Then he
wrote out a prescription and left, promising to com e back the next day.
A NO LESS TROUBLED MORNING
Morning dawned bright and beautiful.
At 6:30 a.m. Grandma opened the door softly, tiptoe
d to the window and
opened it wide. Cool, invigorating air rushed into the room. This was the
beginning of a cheerful, noisy, busy Moscow morning . But Volka would not have
awakened had not his blanket slipped off the bed.
The first thing he did was to feel the bristles on his chin. He realized there was
no way out. The situation was hopeless. There could be no question of his going
out to greet his parents looking as he did. He snug gled under the blanket again and
began to think of what to do.
"Volka! Come on, Volka! Get up!" he heard his fathe r calling from the dining
room. He pretended to be asleep and did not answer. "I don't see how anyone can
sleep on a morning like this!"
Then he heard his grandmother say:
"Someone should make you take examinations, Alyosha, and then wake you up
at the crack of dawn!"
"Well, let him sleep then," his father grumbled. "B ut don't you worry, he'll get
up as soon as he's hungry."
Was it Volka who was supposed not to be hungry?! Wh y, he kept catching
himself thinking about an omlette and a chunk of br ead more than about the
reddish bristle on his cheeks. But common sense tri umphed over hunger, and
Volka remained in bed until his father had left for work and his mother had gone
"Here goes," he decided, hearing the outside door c lick shut. "I'll tell Grandma
everything. We'll think of something together."
Volka stretched, yawned and headed toward the door. As he was passing the
aquarium, he glanced at it absently . .. and stoppe d dead in his tracks. During the
night, something had happened in this small, four-c ornered glass reservoir, a
mysterious event which could in no way be explained from a scientific point of
view: yesterday, there were three fishes swimming a round inside, but this morning
there were four. There was a new fish, a large, fat goldfish which was waving its
bright red fins solemnly. When a startled Volka loo ked at it through the thick glass
wall he was nearly certain the fish winked at him s lyly.
"Gosh!" he mumbled, forgetting his beard for the mo ment.
He stuck his hand into the water to catch the myste rious fish, and it seemed that
this was just what it was waiting for. The fish sla pped its tail against the water,
jumped out of the aquarium and turned into Hottabyc h.
"Whew!" the old man said, shaking off the water and
wiping his beard with a
magnificent towel embroidered with gold and silver roosters which had appeared
from thin air. "I've been waiting to offer my respe cts all morning, but you wouldn't
wake up and I didn't have the heart to waken you. S o I had to spend the night with
these pretty fishes, most happy Volka ibn Alyosha!"
"Aren't you ashamed of yourself for making fun of m e!" Volka said angrily.
"It's really a poor joke to call a boy with a beard happy!"
WHY S. S. PIYORAKI BECAME LESS TALKATIVE
This wonderful morning Stepan Stepanych Pivoraki de cided to combine two
joys at once. He decided to shave, while taking in the picturesque view of the
Moskva River. He moved the little table with his sh aving things close to the
window and began to lather his cheeks as he hummed a merry tune. We'd like to
pause here and say a few words about our new acquai ntance.
Pivoraki was a very talkative man, a trait which of ten made him, though he was
actually no fool and very well read, extremely tire some, even to his best friends.
On the whole, however, he was a nice person and a g reat master of his trade—
which was pattern-making.
When he had finished lathering his cheeks, Stepan S tepanych picked up his
razor, drew it back and forth over his palm, and th en began to shave with the
greatest ease and skill. When he had finished shavi ng, he sprayed some
"Magnolia" cologne on his face and then began to wi pe his razor clean. Suddenly,
an old man in a white suit and gold-embroidered, pe tal-pink morocco slippers with
queer turned-up toes appeared beside him.
"Are you a barber?" the old man asked a flabbergast ed Stepan Stepanych in a
"No, I'm not a professional barber. However, on the other hand, I can truthfully
say I am a barber, because, while I am not actually a barber , I am a match for any
professional barber, for not a single barber can ou tdo me. And do you know why?
Because, while a professional barber...."
The old man interrupted the chattering Pivoraki rud ely:
"Can you, unnecessarily talkative barber, shave a young man well and
without cutting him once, although you are not even worthy of kissing the dust
beneath his feet?"
"As to the essence of your question, I would say... ."
He was about to continue his speech, but here the o ld man silently gathered up
his shaving equipment, took Stepan Stepanych, who w as still going a mile a
minute, by the scruff of his neck and, without furt her ado, flew out the window
with him, headed for parts unknown.
Soon they flew into a familiar room, where Volka Ko stylkov sat sadly on his
bed, moaning every time he looked at himself and hi s bristly chin in the mirror.
"Happiness and luck accompany you in all your under takings, my young
master!" Hottabych announced triumphantly, still ho lding on to the kicking Stepan
Stepanych. "I was about to despair of ever finding you a barber when I suddenly
came upon this unusually talkative man, and I broug ht him along to this room
beneath the blessed roof of your house. Here he is before you, with everything
necessary for shaving. And now," he said to Pivorak i who was gaping at the bristly
boy, "lay out your tools properly and shave this ho nourable youth so that his
cheeks become as smooth as those of a young maiden.
Pivoraki stopped struggling. The razor glistened in his skilled hand and a few
minutes later Volka was excellently shaved.
"Now put away your tools," the old man said. "I'll fly over for you again early
tomorrow morning, and you'll shave this youth once more."
"I can't come tomorrow," Pivoraki objected in a tir ed voice. "I'm in the morning
"That doesn't concern me in the least," Hottabych r eplied icily. A heavy silence
fell on the room. Suddenly, Stepan Stepanych had a bright idea.
"Why don't you try a Tbilisi preparation? It's an e xcellent remedy."
"Is that some kind of a powder?" Volka interrupted. "Isn't that a greyish
powder? I heard about it, or read something about i t...."
"Yes, that's it! A greyish powder!" Pivoraki cried happily. "It's made in
Georgia, a wonderful and sunny land. I personally a m crazy about Georgia. I've
travelled back and forth across all the roads in th e country during my many
vacations. Sukhumi, Tbilisi, Kutaisi.... There's no better place for a rest! From the
bottom of my heart and from my own experience, I hi ghly recommend that you
visit.... Pardon me, I seem to have drifted off the point. Anyway, getting back to
the powder.... All you have to do is apply it to yo ur cheeks, and the heaviest beard
disappears without a trace. Naturally, it'll grow b ack again after a while."
"It won't grow back in my young friend's case," Hot tabych interrupted.
"Are you positive?"
Hottabych assumed a haughty expression and said not hing. He considered it
beneath his dignity to take a lowly barber into his confidence.
A short minute later, an old man wearing an old-fas hioned straw -boater, a
white linen suit and pink morocco slippers with tur ned-up toes was seen in the
locker room of a local bath-house in Tbilisi.
Without bothering to get undressed, he entered the steam room. The smell of
sulphur stung his nostrils, but this was to be expe cted, as these were the famous
Tbilisi sulphur baths. However, a person entering t he crowded, steam-filled room
fully dressed could not but attract the attention o f the other patrons.
Curious eyes followed him as he slowly made his way towards a bright-eyed
attendant. He halted within a few steps of the atte ndant, whose name was Vano,
and began to remove his linen coat with an unhurrie d gesture.
(A friendly form of address (Georgian )., Vano said affably, "you are
supposed to. get undressed in the locker room. This is where you wash."
The old man smirked. He had no intention of washing . It was just that he felt a
bit warm with his coat on.
"Come over here!" he said to Vano and fanned himsel f languidly with his hat.
"But hurry, if you value your life."
The attendant smiled pleasantly.
"Genatsvale, on such a lovely morning one values one's life more than ever.
What would you like, Grandfather?"
The old man addressed him in a stern voice:
"Tell me nothing but the truth, bath attendant. Are these really the very
famous Tbilisi Baths, of which I've heard so much w orthy of amazement?"
"Yes, they're the very same ones," Vano said with p ride. "You can travel all
over the world, but you'll never find another bath- house like this. I take it you're a
The haughty old man let the question go unanswered.
"Well, if these are the very same baths I've been l ooking for, why don't I see
any of that truly magic salve which people who know and are worthy of trust say
removes human hair without a trace?"
"Ah, so that's what it's all about!" Vano cried hap pily. "You want some 'taro.'
You should have said so right away."
"All right, if it's called 'taro,' then bring me so me 'taro,' but hurry if you...."
"I know, I know: if I value my life. I'm off!"
The experienced bath attendant had met many a queer character in his life and
he knew that the wisest thing to do was never to ar gue.
He returned with a clay bowl filled with something that looked like ashes.
"Here," he said, panting heavily as he handed the o ld man the bowl. "No place
in the world will you find such a wonderful powder. You can take the word of a
The old man's face turned purple with rage.
"You're making a fool of me, most despicable of all bath-house attendants!"
he said in a voice terrible in all its softness. "Y ou promised to bring me a
wonderful salve, but like a marketplace crook, you want to pass off an old dish of
powder the colour of a sick mouse!"
The old man snorted so loudly that the entire conte nts of the bowl rose in a
cloud and settled on his hair, eyebrows, moustache and beard, but he was too
furious to bother shaking it off.
"You shouldn't be so angry, Genatsvale," the attendant laughed. "Just add some
water and you'll have the salve you longed for."
The old man realized he was shouting for nothing an d became embarrassed.
"It's hot," he mumbled in some confusion. "May this tiring heat be no more!"
and he added very softly: "and while my beard is we t, may my magic powers
remain in my fingers.... And so, may this tiresome heat be no more!"
"I'm sorry, but that's something I've no power over ," Vano said and shrugged.
"But I have," Hottabych (naturally, it was he) mutt ered through clenched teeth
and snapped the fingers of his left hand.
The attendant gasped. And no wonder: he felt an icy chill coming from where
the strange old man stood; the wet floor became cov ered with a thin sheet of ice
and clouds of hot steam from the entire room were d rawn towards the cold pole
which had formed over Hottabych's head; there, they turned into rain clouds and
came down in a drizzle over his head.
"This is much better," he said with pleasure. "Noth ing is so refreshing as a cool
shower on a hot day."
After enjoying this both unnatural and natural show er for a few minutes, he
snapped the fingers of his right hand. The current of cold air was cut off
immediately, while the ice melted. Once again cloud s of hot steam filled the room.
"And so," Hottabych said, pleased at the impression these unaccountable
changes of temperature had made on the other patron s, "and so, let us return to the
'taro.' I am inclined to believe that the powder wi ll really turn into the salve I have
come in search of if one adds water to it. I want y ou to bring me a barrel of this
marvellous potion, for I do not have much time at m y disposal."
"Oh, Genatsvdle! One bowl-full will be more than enough for even the heaviest
"All right then, bring me five bowls of it."
"In a second!" Vano said, disappearing into an adjo
ining room. He reappeared
in a moment with a heavy bottle stopped with a cork . "There are at least twenty
portions here. Good luck."
"Beware, bath attendant, for I'd not wish anyone to be in y our boots if you
have tricked me!"
"How could you even think of such a thing," Vano pr otested. "Would I ever
dare trick such a respectable old man as you! Why, I would never...."
He stood there and gaped, for the amazing, quarrels ome old man had suddenly
disappeared into thin air.
Exactly a minute later, a bald old man without eyeb rows, a moustache or a
beard and dressed in a straw boater, a linen suit a nd pink slippers with turned-up
toes touched Volka Kostylkov's shoulder as the boy was sadly devouring a huge
piece of jam tart.
Volka turned round, looked at him, and nearly choke d on the cake in
"Dear Hottabych, what's happened to you?"
Hottabych looked at himself in the wall mirror and forced a laugh. "I suppose it
would be exaggerating things to say I look handsome . You may consider me
punished for lack of trust and you won't be wrong. I snorted when I was kindheartedly
offered a bowl of 'taro' powder in that far-off bat h-house. The powder
settled on my eyebrows, moustache and beard. The ra in which I called forth in that
justly famous place turned the powder into mush, an d the rain I was caught in on
the way back to Moscow washed off the mush together with my beard, moustache,
and eyebrows. But don't worry about my appearance. Let's better worry about
yours." Then he sprinkled some powder into a plate.
When Volka's beard and moustache were disposed of, Hottabych snapped the
fingers of his left hand and once again assumed his previous appearance.
Now he looked at himself in the mirror with true sa tisfaction. He stroked his
recovered beard and twisted the ends of his moustac he jauntily. Then he passed his
hand over his hair, smoothed his eyebrows and sighe d with relief.
"Excellent ! Now both our faces are back to normal again."
As concerns Stepan Stepanych Pivoraki, who will nev er again appear on the
pages of our extremely truthful story, it is a know n fact that he became a changed
man after the events described above. Why, it seems only yesterday that his
friends, who suffered so acutely from his talkative ness, named every chatter-box
"Pivoraki." However, he has now become so sparing w ith his words, weighing
each one carefully beforehand, that it is a joy to talk to him and listen to him speak
Just think what an effect this incident had on him!
AN INTERVIEW WITH A DIVER
Zhenya Bogorad's parents were up all night. They te lephoned all their friends
and, taking a cab, made the rounds of every militia station in the city, and of every
hospital. They even stopped off at the criminal cou rt, but all to no avail. Zhenya
had disappeared without a trace.
The following morning the principal of the school c alled in Zhenya's
classmates, including Volka, and questioned each on
Volka told the principal about meeting Zhenya at th e movies the night before,
though he quite naturally said nothing about his be ard. The boy who sat next to
Zhenya in class recalled that he had seen him on Pu shkin Street close to six o'clock
the previous evening, that he was in high spirits a nd was rushing to the movies.
Other children said the same, but this was of no he lp.
Suddenly, one boy remembered Zhenya said he wanted to go swimming too.
In half an hour's time every volunteer life guard i n the city was searching for
Zhenya Bogorad's body. The river was dragged within the city limits, but yielded
nothing. Divers traversed the entire river-bed, pay ing special attention to holes and
depressions, but they, too, found nothing.
The fiery blaze of sunset was slowly sinking beyond the river, a faint breeze
carried the low sounds of a siren from the recreati on park, a signal that the second
act of the evening's play at the summer theatre was about to begin, but the dark
silhouettes of the river boats could still be seen on the water. The search was still
This cool, quiet evening Volka was too restless to sit at home. Terrifying
thoughts of Zhenya's fate gave him no peace. He dec ided to go back to school,
perhaps there was some news there. As he was leavin g the school yard, Hottabych
joined him silently at the gate, appearing from now here at all. The old man saw
Volka was upset, yet he was too tactful to annoy hi m with his questions. Thus,
they continued on in silence, each lost in his own thoughts. Soon they were
walking down the wide granite embankment of the Mos kva River.
"What kind of strange-headed people are standing in those frail vessels?" the
old man asked, pointing to the river boats.
"Those are divers," Volka answered sadly.
"Peace be with you, noble diver," Hottabych said grandly to one of the divers
climbing out of a boat near the bank. "What are you searching for on the bottom of
this beautiful river?"
"A boy drowned," the diver answered and hurried up the steps of the first-aid
"I have no more questions, highly respected diver," Hottabych said to his
Then he returned to Volka, bowed low and exclaimed:
"I kiss the ground beneath your feet, most noble student of Secondary School
"Huh?" Volka started, shaken from his unhappy thoug hts.
"Am I correct in understanding that this diver is s earching for the youth who
has the great honour of being your classmate?"
Volka nodded silently and heaved a great sigh.
"Is he round of face, sturdy of body, snub of nose and sporting a haircut
unbecoming to a boy?"
"Yes, that was Zhenya. He had a haircut like a real dandy," Volka said and
sighed heavily again.
"Did we see him in the movies? Was it he who shoute d something to you and
made you sad, because he'd tell everyone you had su ch a beard?"
"Yes. How did you know what I was thinking then?"
"Because that's what you mumbled when you tried to conceal your honourable
and most beautiful face from him," the old man cont inued. "Don't fear, he won't
"That's not true!" Volka said angrily. "That doesn'
t bother me at all. On the
contrary, I'm sad because Zhenya drowned."
Hottabych smirked triumphantly.
"He didn't drown!"
"What do you mean? How d'you know he didn't drown?"
"Certainly I am the one to know," Hottabych said. "I lay in wait for him near
the first row in the dark room and I said to myself in great anger, 'No, you will tell
nothing, Zhenya! Nothing which is unpleasant to your great, wise friend Volka
ibn Alyosha, for never again will you see anyone wh o will believe you or will be
interested in such news!' That's what I said to mys elf as I tossed him far away to
the East, right to where the edge of the Earth meet s the edge of the Heavens and
where, I assume, he has already been sold into slav ery. There he can tell
whomever he wants to about your beard."
CHARTING A FLIGHT
"What do you mean—slavery?! Sell Zhenya Bogorad int o slavery?!" a shaken
The old man saw that something had gone wrong again , an his face became
"It's very simple. It's quite usual. Just like they always sell people into slavery,"
he mumbled, rubbing his hands together nervously an d avoiding Volka's eyes.
"That's so he won't babble for nothing, most pleasant dope in the world."
The old man was very pleased at having been able to put the new word he had
learned from Volka the night before into the conver sation. But his young saviour
was so upset by the terrible news that he really di dn't pay attention to having been
called dope for nothing.
"That's horrible!" Volka cried, holding his head. " Hottabych, d'you realize what
"Hassan Abdurrakhman ibn Hottab always realizes wha t he does!"
"Like hell you do! For no reason at all, you're rea dy to turn good people into
sparrows or sell them into slavery. Bring Zhenya ba ck here immediately!"
"No!" Hottabych shook his head. "Don't demand the i mpossible of me!"
"But do you find it possible to sell people into sl avery? Golly, you can't even
imagine what I'll do if you don't bring Zhenya righ t back!"
To tell the truth, Volka himself had no idea what h e could do -s to save Zhenya
from the clutches of unknown slave dealers, but he would have thought of
something. He would have written to some ministry o r other. But which ministry?
And what was he to say?
By now the readers of this book know Volka well eno ugh to agree that he's no
cry-baby. But this was too much, even for Volka. Ye s, our courageous, fearless
Volka sat down on the edge of the first bench he ca me upon and broke into tears of
The old man asked anxiously:
"What is the meaning of this crying that has overco me you? Answer me, and do
not tear my heart apart, my young saviour."
But Volka, regarding the old man with hate-filled e yes;
pushed him away as he leaned over him with concern.
Hottabych looked at Volka closely, sucked his lips
and said thoughtfully:
"I'm really amazed. No matter what I do, it just do esn't seem to make you
happy. Though I'm trying my best to please you, all my efforts are in vain. The
most powerful potentates of the East and West would often appeal to my magic
powers, and there was not a single one among them w ho was not grateful to me
later and did not glorify my name in words and thou ghts. And look at me now! I'm
trying to understand what's wrong, but I cannot. Is it senility? Ah, I'm getting old!"
"Oh no, no, Hottabych, you still look very young," Volka said through his tears.
And true enough, the old man was well preserved for being close on four
thousand years of age. No one would have ever given him more than seventy or
seventy-five. Any of our readers would have looked much older at his age.
"You flatter me," Hottabych smiled and added: "No, it is not within my powers
to return your friend Zhenya immediately."
Volka's face turned ashen from grief.
"But," the old man continued significantly, "if his absence upsets you so, we
can fly over and fetch him."
"Fly?! So far away? How?"
"How? Not on a bird, of course," Hottabych answered craftily. "Obviously, on a
magic carpet, greatest dope in the world."
This time Volka noticed that he had been called suc h an unflattering name.
"Whom did you call a dope?!" he flared.
"Why, you, of course, Volka ibn Alyosha, for you are wise beyond your
years," Hottabych replied, being extremely pleased that he was again able to use
his new word so successfully in a conversation.
Volka was about to feel offended. However, he blush ed as he recalled that he
had no one to blame but himself. Avoiding the old m an's honest eyes, he asked
him never again to call him a dope, for he was not worthy of such a great honour.
"I praise your modesty, priceless Volka ibn Alyosha," Hottabych said with
"When can we start?" Volka asked, still unable to o vercome his embarrassment.
"Right now, if you wish."
"Then let's be off!" However, he added anxiously, " I don't know what to do
about Father and Mother. They'll worry if I fly awa y without telling them, but if I
tell them, they won't let me go."
"Let it worry you no more," the old man said. "I'll cast a spell on them and they
won't think of you once during our absence."
"You don't know my parents!"
"And you don't know Hassan Abdurrakhman ibn Hottab! "
In one corner of the magic carpet the pile was rath er worn, most probably due
to moths. On the whole, however, it was wonderfully preserved and the fringes
were as good as new. Volka thought he had seen exac tly the same kind of carpet
before, but he could not recall whether it was in Z henya's house or in the Teachers'
Room at school.
They took off from the river bank without a single witness to their departure.
Hottabych took Volka's hand and stood him in the mi ddle of the carpet beside
himself; he then yanked three hairs from his beard, blew on them, and whispered
something, rolling his eyes skyward. The carpet tre
mbled. One after the other, all
four tassled corners rose. Then the edges buckled a nd rose, but the middle
remained on the grass, weighted down by the two hea vy passengers. After
fluttering a bit, the carpet became motionless.
The old man bustled about in confusion.
"Excuse me, kind Volka. There's been a mistake somewheres. I'l l fix
everything in a minute."
Hottabych was quiet as he did some complex figuring on his fingers. He
apparently got the right answer, because he beamed. Then he yanked six more
hairs from his beard, tore off half of one hair and threw it away, and then blew on
the others, saying the magic words and rolling his eyes skyward. Now the carpet '
straightened out and became as flat and as hard as a staircase landing. It soared
upwards, carrying off a smiling Hottabych and Volka , who was dizzy from
exhilaration, or the height, or from both together.
The carpet rose over the highest trees, over the hi ghest houses, over the highest
factory stacks and sailed over the city that was bl inking with a million lights
below. They could hear muffled voices, automobile h orns, people singing in row
boats on the river and the far-off music of a band.
The city was plunged in twilight, but here, high up in the air, they could still see
the crimson ball of the sun sinking slowly beyond t he horizon.
"I wonder how high up we are now?" Volka said thoug htfully.
"About 600 or 700 elbows," Hottabych answered, stil l figuring out something
on his fingers.
Meanwhile, the carpet settled on its course, though still gaining height.
Hottabych sat down majestically, crossing his legs and holding on to his hat.
Volka tried to sit down cross-legged, as Hottabych had, but found neither pleasure
nor satisfaction from this position. He shut his ey es tight to overcome his awful
dizziness and sat down on the edge of the carpet, d angling his legs over the side.
Though this was more comfortable, the wind tore at his legs mercilessly; it blew
them off to a side and they were constantly at a sh arp angle to his body. He soon
became convinced that this method was no good eithe r, and finally settled down
with his legs stretched out before him on the carpe t.
In no time, he felt chilled to the bone. He thought sadly of his warm jacket that
was so far below in his closet at home, hundreds of miles away.
As a last resort, he decided to warm up the way cab
bies used to do in the olden
days, long before he was born. His father once show ed him how it was done when
they were out ice skating. Volka began to slap his shoulders and sides in sweeping
motions, and in the twinkling of an eye he slipped off the carpet and into
Needless to say, if he had not grabbed on to the fr inges, our story would have
ended with this unusual air accident.
Hottabych did not even notice what had happened to his young friend. He was
sitting with his back to Volka, his legs tucked und er him in Eastern fashion and
lost in thought. He was trying to recall how to bre ak spells he himself had cast.
"Hottabych!" Volka howled, feeling that he wouldn't last long, as he hung on to
the fringes. "Help, Hottabych!" " woe is me!" the old man cried, seeing that Volka w as flying through the air.
"Shame on my old grey head! I would have killed mys elf if you had perished!"
Muttering and calling himself all kinds of names fo r being so careless, he
dragged a petrified Volka back up on the carpet, sa t him down and put his arm
around the boy, firmly resolved not to let go of hi m until they landed.
"It would be g-g-good t-t-to h-h-have s-s-something w-w-warm to wear!" Volka
said wistfully through chattering teeth.
"S-s-sure, gracious Volka ibn Alyosha!" Hottabych answered an d covered
him with a quilted robe that appeared from nowhere.
It became dark. Now it was especially uncomfortable on the magic carpet.
Volka suggested that they rise another 500 elbows o r so. "Then we'll see the sun
Hottabych greatly doubted that they could see the s
un before morning, since it
had already set, but he didn't argue.
You can imagine how surprised he was and how his es teem for Volka grew,
when, as they rose higher, they really saw the sun again! For a second time its
crimson edge was barely touching the black line of the far horizon.
"Oh, Volka, if only I had not promised myself faith fully to obey your modest
request, nothing would prevent me from calling you the greatest dope in the
world," Hottabych cried ecstatically. However, when he saw how displeased
Volka was, he quickly added, "but since you forbade it, I shall limit myself to
expressing my amazement at the unusual maturity of your mind. I "promised never
to call you a dope and I won't."
"And don't call anyone else by that name, either."
"All right, Volka," Hottabych agreed obediently.
"Do you swear?"
"Yes, I do!"
"Now don't forget," Volka said in a tone of satisfa ction that puzzled Hottabych.
Far below them forests and fields, rivers and lakes , villages and cities sailed by,
adorned in softly glowing pearly strings of electri c lights. A sea of clouds with
hard round edges appeared;
they darkened and disappeared in the blackness belo w, but the carpet kept on
flying farther and farther away to the south-east, closer and closer to the strange
land where the young prisoner
Zhenya Bogorad was probably already suffering at th e hands of fierce and
terrible slave traders.
"To think that poor Zhenya's breaking his back at h ard labour," Volka said
bitterly after a long silence.
A guilty Hottabych only grunted in reply.
"He's all alone in a strange land, without any frie nds or relatives. The poor
fellow's probably groaning," Volka continued sadly.
Hottabych again said nothing.
If only our travellers could have heard what was ha ppening that very minute,
thousands of miles away to the East!
Far away in the East, Zhenya Bogorad was really gro aning.
"Oh no, I can't!" Zhenya moaned, "Oh no, no more!"
In order to describe the circumstances under which he uttered these heartrending
words, we shall have to part with our travellers fo r a while and relate the
experiences of Zhenya Bogorad, a pioneer group lead er of 6B (7B, as of the day
before) of Moscow Secondary School No. 245.
ZHENYA BOGORAD'S ADVENTURES FAR AWAY IN THE EAST
As soon as Zhenya Bogorad, seated in the first row of the Saturn Theatre,
turned around to catch a glimpse of the bearded boy before the movie began,
everything suddenly went dark, he heard an ear-spli tting whistle, and instead of the
hard floor beneath his feet, he felt he was standin g in tall grass.
When his eyes became accustomed to the dark, he was greatly amazed to
discover that he was in a dense forest filled with the aroma of strange flowers.
Lianas hung from huge trees, the likes of which he had never seen before. Yes,
these were definitely lianas. It was hot and humid, much hotter than it had been in
the projection room.
Holding his arms out, Zhenya took several cautious
steps and nearly trod on a
... snake! The snake hissed like a broken bicycle p ump, flashed its small green
eyes and disappeared in the bushes.
"Golly! Where am I?!" Zhenya wondered, not daring t o move. "It's just like the
jungles. It's just like a dream. Why, sure," he tho ught happily, "sure, this is all a
dream! I'm sleeping and this is a dream."
At one time or another everyone has had a dream in which he knows quite
clearly that he is dreaming. It's fun to have such a dream: no dangers frighten you,
and you always succeed in the most hazardous feats. Most important, you know
the time will come when you'll awake safe and sound in your own bed.
However, when Zhenya attempted to make his way thro ugh the prickly bushes,
he really got scratched. Since it's most unpleasant to be hurt, even though you are
quite positive everything is just a dream, Zhenya d ecided to doze off till morning.
When he awoke, he saw the hot, pale blue sky shinin g brightly through the
openings in the crowns of the trees. Zhenya was ove rjoyed to find his wonderful
dream still continuing!
The first thing he saw when he found his way to the edge of the forest were four
elephants carrying huge logs in their trunks. A thi n, dark-skinned man, naked to
the waist and wearing a white turban, was riding th e lead elephant.
In the distance, smoke curled from the rooftops of a small village. Now Zhenya
knew what he was dreaming about. He was dreaming ab out India! This was really
wonderful. Yet, still more wonderful things awaited him.
"Who are you?" the man on the elephant asked Zhenya dryly. "An Englishman?
A Portuguese? An American?"
"No," Zhenya answered in broken English. "I Russian , Rusi." Just to make sure,
he pointed to himself and said, "Hindi Rusi bhai, bhai."
At this, the man on the elephant beamed and nodded so vigorously that it was a
wonder his turban didn't fall off his head.
Then he made his elephant kneel and he took Zhenya up beside him. The whole
cavalcade, swaying majestically, continued towards the village.
On the way they met several children.
The man shouted something to them; they gaped and s tared at the real-life
Soviet boy. Then they dashed back to the village, s houting and skipping. By the
time Zhenya Bogorad, a 7B pupil of Moscow Secondary School No. 245, arrived
in the village riding the head elephant, its entire population had poured out into the
narrow single street.
What a welcome it was!
Zhenya was helped down respectfully, he was led int o a room and offered food,
which was more than welcome, since he found that ev en in his sleep he was
hungry. Imagine, what a real dream he was having! T hen people approached him
and shook his hand, then everybody sang a long and plaintive Indian song. Zhenya
sang along with them as best he could and everyone was terribly pleased. Then
Zhenya sang the democratic youth song and some boys and girls joined in, while
the rest sang along as best they could. Then everyo ne began coaxing a young
Hindu youth and he finally gave in and began anothe r song, which Zhenya
recognized as "Katyusha." He joined in enthusiastic ally, while everyone else
clapped in rhythm to the song. Then they shook his hand again and everyone
shouted Hindi Rusi bhai, bhai!
When things settled down a bit, the whole village began a conversation with
Zhenya. However, since neither he nor the villagers knew very much English, it
took a long time for them to discover whether Zheny a was in a hurry to get to
Delhi and the Soviet Embassy. But Zhenya was in no special rush. Why should a
person hurry when he's having such an interesting a nd pleasant dream?
In no time, delegates from a neighbouring village a rrived to lead the honoured
guest to their village. In this village and in the three others he visited during that
wonderful day the scene which had taken place in th e first village was repeated
again and again.
He spent the night in the fourth village. At day-br eak delegates from a fifth
village were awaiting him. This was when Zhenya beg an to moan a bit.
Just try not to moan when hundreds of friendly arms toss you up to the
accompaniment of: Hindi Rusi bhai, bhai and overflowing emotions make them
toss you as high as the clouds.
Luckily for him, they soon heard the rumbling of a small truck which was going
past the closest railway station and which was to t ake Zhenya along.
Smiling villagers surrounded the perspiring boy, th ey shook his hands and
embraced him. Two girls came running up with a larg e wreath of flowers and put
it around his neck. The young guest blushed. Three boys and their schoolteacher
brought him a gift of a large bunch of bananas. On behalf of all the villagers, the
teacher wished Zhenya a happy journey. The children asked him to say hello to the
children of Moscow from the children of India and t hey also asked for his
autograph, just as if he had been a famous person. Naturally, he could not refuse.
Clutching the bunch of bananas with both hands and bowing to all sides,
Zhenya was being helped onto the running board when suddenly he ...
disappeared. He simply vanished!
This in itself was worthy of great amazement, but m ore amazing still was the
fact that not a single villager was surprised at th is. They were not surprised,
because they immediately and completely forgot all about Zhenya. But we, dear
reader, should by no means be surprised that they f orgot about him so quickly.
There is nothing more dangerous than falling asleep on a magic carpet without
having first taken the necessary precautions.
Tired from all their experiences and lulled to slee p by the complete quiet that
surrounded them, Hottabych and Volka did not notice how they dozed off under
the warm quilted robes that had appeared from nowhe res.
Volka had curled up cosily and slept a dreamless sl eep, but Hottabych, who had
fallen asleep sitting up uncomfortably, with his ch est pressed against his sharp old
knees, had a terrible dream.
He dreamt that the servants of Sulayman, son of Dav id, led by the Vizier Asaf
ibn Barakhiya, were once again about to imprison hi m in a clay vessel and that
they had stuffed him halfway in already, but that h e was struggling desperately,
pressing his chest against the mouth of the bottle. He dreamt that his wonderful
young friend and saviour was about to be stuffed in to another vessel and then
neither of them would ever be rescued, while poor Z henya would have to suffer
the slave's lot to the end of his days, with no one to save him. Worst of all,
someone had a firm hold on Hottabych's arms so that he was unable to yank a
single hair from his beard and therefore was unable to use his magic powers to
save himself and Volka. Realizing that it would be too late to do anything in a few
more moments, Hottabych exerted all his energy. In great despair he plunged
sideways, forcefully enough to fall completely out of the vessel. Before really
waking up, he slipped off the carpet into the cold black void below.
Fortunately, his shout awakened Volka. The boy was just able to grab his left
arm. Now it was Hottabych's turn to fly in tow behi nd the carpet. However, the
tow was not very firm: the old man was too heavy fo r Volka. They would probably
have plunged downwards from this great height to th e unseen Earth below, if
Hottabych had not managed to yank a whole batch of hair from his beard with his
free hand and rattle off the necessary magic words.
Suddenly, Volka found he could pull the old man up quite easily.
Our young fellow's happiness would have been comple te, had not Hottabych
been bellowing, "Aha, Volka! Everything's in top shape, my precious one!"
and trying to sing something and laughing with such wild glee all the while Volka
was pulling him up that he really became worried: w hat if the old man had lost his
mind from fright? True, once Hottabych found himsel f on the carpet, he stopped
singing. Yet, he could think of nothing better to d o than begin a jig. And this in the
middle of the night! On a shabby, threadbare old ma gic carpet!
"Tra-la-la, Volka! Tra-la-la, ibn Alyosha!" Hottabych yelled in the
darkness, raising his long skinny legs high and con stantly running the danger of
falling off the carpet again.
Finally, he gave in to Volka's pleas and stopped da ncing. Instead, he began to
sing again. At first he sang "When Your Far-off Fri end is Singing," terribly offkey
and then went on to mutilate an old Gypsy love song called "Open the Garden
Gate," which he had heard goodness knows where. All at once, he stopped singing,
crouched, and yanked several hairs from his beard. Volka guessed what he was
doing by the slight crystal tinkling.
In a word, if you ever forget something very import ant and just can't recall it,
there's no better remedy than to fall off a magic c arpet, if even for a second. Such a
fall really clears one's memory. At least it helped Hottabych recall how to break
spells he himself had cast.
Now there was no need to continue the difficult and
dangerous flight to rescue
the unfortunate Zhenya Bogorad from slavery. Indeed , the sound of crystal
tinkling was still in the air when Zhenya fell out of the darkness and onto the
magic carpet, clutching a twenty-pound bunch of ban anas.
"Zhenya!" Volka shouted happily.
The magic carpet could not withstand the extra weig ht and plunged downward
with a whistling sound. Suddenly, it became damp an d chilly. The stars shining
overhead disappeared. They had entered a cloud bank .
"Hottabych!" Volka shouted. "We have to get out of here, up over the clouds!"
But Hottabych did not answer. Through the heavy fog they could barely make
out the shrivelled figure with his collar turned up . The old man was hurriedly
yanking one hair after another from his beard. Ther e was a sound like plink, like a
tightly stretched string on a home-made children's balalaika. With a moan of
despair, Hottabych would throw out the hair and yan k out another. Once again
they'd hear the plink, once again the moan of despair, and the despondent
mumbling of the old Genie.
"Hey, Volka," Zhenya said, "What's this we're flyin g on? It looks like a magic
"That's exactly what it is. Hottabych, what's takin g you so long?"
"There's no such thing as a magic carpet," Zhenya s aid. "Help!"
The carpet had dipped sharply.
Volka had no time to argue with Zhenya.
"Hottabych, what's the matter?" he said, tugging at the old man's damp coat
sleeve. " woe is me!" came the hollow, sobbing voice of a fa intly visible Hottabych
through the whistling of the falling carpet. " woe is all of us! I'm soaked from
head to toe!"
"We're all drenched!" Volka shouted back angrily. " What selfishness!"
"My beard! Alas, my beard is wet!"
"Ha, what a thing to worry about!" Zhenya smirked.
"My beard is wet!" Hottabych repeated in terrible g rief. "I'm as helpless as a
babe. You need dry hair for magic, the very driest kind of hair!"
"We'll go smack against the ground!" Volka said in a wooden voice. "There'll
just be a little wet spot left from all of us."
"Wait! Wait a minute!" Zhenya panted. "The main thi
ng is not to get panicky!
What do people in balloons do in such a case?
In such a case, people flying in balloons throw the ir extra ballast overboard.
Farewell, my dear Indian bananas!"
With these words he tossed the heavy bunch of banan as into the darkness. They
began to fall more slowly. Then they stopped fallin g altogether. The carpet
swerved upwards and was caught in an air current wh ich carried them to the right
of their previous course.
Zhenya was dying to know what this was all about, a nd so he asked Volka in a
"Volka, Volka! Who's the old man?"
"Later," Volka whispered back. "I'll tell you later , when we get back on the
All Zhenya understood was that for some very import ant reason or other all his
questions would have to wait till later.
Volka shared his robe with Zhenya and gradually all three dozed off.
MEET MY FRIEND
Volka awoke from a pleasant ringing sound, like the tinkling of crystal
chandelier pendants. Still half asleep, he thought it was Hottabych yanking magic
hairs. But no, the old man was snoring softly, slee ping like a babe. The tinkling
sound was coming from the icicles on his beard and the frozen carpet fringes
flying in the fresh morning wind.
In the East, the blinding sun was rising. It kept g etting warmer and warmer. The
icicles on Hottabych's beard and on the fringes mel ted; the icy crust that had
covered the rest of the carpet also melted. Hottaby ch turned over on his side,
yawned and began to snore with a whistle, as if the re really was a pipe in his nose.
Zhenya woke up from the dampness and the warmth. Le aning towards Volka's
chilled ear he whispered:
"Do tell me who the old man is?"
"Come clean," Volka whispered back, keeping a wary eye on Hottabych. "Did
you want to talk to the fellows about me behind my back?"
"What of it?"
"Just that he doesn't like it."
"What doesn't he like?"
"He doesn't like people to go blabbering about me!"
"Humph yourself! Presto! And you're in a desert. It 's all very-simple."
Zhenya wasn't convinced.
Volka cast another wary glance at Hottabych and mov ed closer to his friend's
"Do you think I'm crazy?"
"What a silly question!"
"Not even a bit?"
"Of course not."
"Well, believe it or not, but this old man is a Gen ie, a real live Genie from the
"And he was the one who got everything messed up du
ring the exam. He
prompted me and I had to repeat everything like a p arrot."
"But don't say a word about my having failed. He sw ore to kill all the teachers
if they failed me. And now I'm knocking myself out to save Varvara Stepanovna
from his magic. I have to keep distracting him all the time. Understand?"
"Well, be quiet anyway!"
"Don't worry, I will," Zhenya whispered thoughtfull y. "Then he was the one
who tossed me into India?"
"Sure he was. And he got you back from India, too. If you want to know, he
sent you there so they could sell you into slavery. "
"Me, a slave? Ha-ha-ha!"
"Ssh! You'll wake him up."
But Volka's warning came too late. Hottabych opened his eyes and yawned.
"Good morning, Volka. Am I correct in assuming that this young ma n is none
other than your friend Zhenya?"
"Yes, I'd like you to meet him," Volka said, introd ucing his recovered friend to
Hottabych as if all this was taking place in the mo st ordinary of circumstances and
not on a magic carpet high above the Earth.
"Pleased to meet you," Zhenya said solemnly.
Hottabych was silent for a moment, looking at the b oy closely to decide
whether or not he was worth a kind word. He apparen tly became convinced that
Volka had not made a mistake in choosing his friend and so smiled his most
"There is no end to my happiness at meeting you. An y friend of my young
master is my best friend."
"Master?" Zhenya asked.
"Master and saviour."
"Saviour?!" Zhenya repeated and giggled.
"There's no need to laugh," Volka stopped him stern ly. "There's nothing to
In as few words as possible, he told Zhenya everyth ing our attentive readers
HAVE MERCY ON US, MIGHTY RULER!
Twice that day the magic carpet passed through heav y cloud banks, and each
time Hottabych's nearly dry beard would again becom e so damp it was no use
thinking about even the simplest kind of magic—some thing that would get them
some food, for instance. They were beginning to fee l hungry. Even Zhenya's
description of his adventures of the previous day c ould not take their minds away
from food. But, most important, there was no end to their flight in sight.
They were hungry, bored, and extremely uncomfortabl e. The carpet seemed to
be stuck in mid-air, so slowly did it fly and so mo notonous was the steppe
stretching far below them. At times, cities or litt le blue ribbons of rivers would
drift by slowly, and then once again they saw nothi ng but steppe and endless fields
of ripening wheat. Zhenya was right in saying they were flying over the southern
part of the country. Then, suddenly, ahead and to t
he right of them, as far as the
eye could see, there was blue water below. To the l eft was the ragged line of
"It's the Black Sea!" the boys shouted in unison. " woe is us," Hottabych cried. "We're going straight out to sea!"
Fortunately, a capricious air current turned the ca rpet a bit to the left and tossed
it into another cloud bank at top speed. Thus, it w as carried along the Caucasian
Through an opening in the clouds, Zhenya noticed th e city of Tuapse far below,
its boats on anchor at the long, jutting pier.
Then everything was lost in a thick fog again. Our travellers' clothing once
again—for the hundredth time!—became wet. The carpe t was so water-logged and
heavy that it began to fall sharply with a whistlin g sound. In a few short seconds
the clouds were left far above. Soon, the famous re sort city of Sochi flashed by
below in the blinding rays of the setting sun.
As it descended lower and lower, the carpet passed over the broad white band
of the Sochi-Matsesta Highway. The three passengers , horror-stricken in
expectation of their near and terrible end, thought that the highway, studded on
both sides by former palaces which were now rest ho mes, was dashing towards
them at a mad speed.
They had a momentary glimpse of a beautiful bridge thrown over a deep,
Then they were grazing the tree-tops. It seemed as if they could touch them if
they leaned over.
Then they flew over a sanatorium with a high escala tor which took the bathers
up from the beach in a pretty little car.
Several minutes later, amidst a shower of spray, th e carpet plunged into the
swimming pool of another sanatorium. The place was quiet and deserted, as it was
supper time and all the vacationers were in the din ing room. Shedding water and
puffing, our ill-fated travellers climbed out of th e pool.
"It could have been worse," Volka said, looking aro und curiously.
"Sure," Zhenya agreed. "We could have crashed into a building just as easy as
pie. Or into a mountain."
It was a good thing there was no one close by. The travellers sat down on beach
chairs placed near the pool. They undressed, wrung out their wet clothes, pulled
them on again, shivering and groaning with cold, an d then left the swimming
"If only I could dry my beard, everything would be just lovely," Hottabych said
with concern and touched it, just to make sure. "Ah , me! It's quite damp!"
"Let's look for the kitchen," Zhenya suggested. "Ma ybe they'll let you dry it
near the stove. Boy, what wouldn't I give for a big chunk of bread and some
"Or some fried potatoes," Volka added.
"You're breaking my heart, my young friends," Hottabych cried woefully.
"It's all my fault that you...." .
"No, it's not your fault at all," Volka consoled hi m. "Let's go look for the
They passed the deserted tennis court, went down a paved path under a high
arch and found themselves before the majestic, snow -white columns of a miners'
sanatorium. A circular fountain with a pool as big
as a dance floor shot up foaming
sprays of water, right to the third-storey windows. All the windows of the main
building were brightly lit.
"Our end has come!" Hottabych gasped. "We're in the palace of a most wealthy
and mighty potentate. His guards will be on us any minute and chop off our heads,
and I'm the only one to blame! woe! Oh, such terrible shame on my old grey
Zhenya giggled. Volka nudged him, to make him still and not tease the old
"What guards? Which heads?" Volka asked with annoya nce. "It's a very
ordinary sanatorium. What I mean is, not very ordinary, but very nice. Though I
think they're all the same here in Sochi."
"I was an expert on palaces, Volka, when your great-great-great-grandfather
wasn't even born, and I, for one, certainly know th at guards will come running any
minute and.... woe is us! Here they come!"
The boys also heard the sounds of running feet on t he staircase of the main
"Jafar!" someone hanging over the banister shouted from above. "We'll look for
them together after supper! They can't disappear th is late at night! Jafar!"
"Did you hear him?" Hottabych cried, grabbing the b oys' hands. He dragged
them off to a side path as fast as he could and fro m there into the nearest bushes.
"Did you hear him? That was the Sergeant of the Gua rd shouting. They'll go
looking for us after supper, and they'll certainly find us. But my beard has soaked
up as much water as a sponge, and I'm as helpless a s a babe!"
Just then he happened to glance at two towels hangi ng over the back of a park
"Allah be praised!" he cried excitedly, running tow ards the towels. "These will
help me dry my beard! Then we won't have to fear an
y guards in the world."
He picked up first one and then the other towel and groaned:
" Allah! They are quite damp! And the guards are so close!"
Nevertheless, he hurriedly began to dry his beard.
It was while he was drying it that an Azerbaijanian of tremendous height,
dressed in a dark red robe, came upon them. He appe ared from behind the pink
bushes as unexpectedly as a Jack-in-the-box.
"Aha!" he said rather calmly. "Here they are. Tell me, my dear man, is this your
"Spare us, mighty ruler!" Hottabych cried, falling to his kne es. "You can chop
off my head, but these youths are in no way guilty. Let them go free! They have
lived but such a short while!"
"Hottabych, get up and don't make a fool of yoursel f!" Volka said in great
embarrassment. "What kind of a ruler are you talkin g about? He's just a very
ordinary man here on a holiday."
"I won't get up until this wonderful and merciful s ultan promises to spare your
lives, my young friends!"
The Azerbaijanian shrugged his mighty shoulders and said, "My dear citizen,
why are you insulting me? What kind of a sultan am I? I'm an ordinary Soviet
citizen." He puffed out his chest and added, "I'm J afar Alt Muhammedov, a
drilling foreman. Do you know where Baku is?"
Hottabych shook his head.
"Do you know where Bibi-Aibat is?"
Hottabych shook his head again.
"Don't you read the papers? Now, what are you kneel ing for? That's shameful.
Oh, how very shameful and embarrassing, my dear man !" Muhammedov pulled
the old man to his feet.
"Wait a minute!" Volka whispered like a conspirator , taking Muhammedov off
to a side. "Don't pay any attention to the old man. He's off his rocker. And the
worst part of it is, we're so wet."
"Ah! Did you get caught in the rain in the mountain s too? I came back as wet as
a mouse. Vai, vai! The old man may catch cold. Dear man," he said, cat ching
Hottabych under the arms as he was about to fall to his knees again. "You look
very familiar. Are you from Gandji? You look like m y father, except that he's
older. My father's going on eighty-three."
"Then know ye, mighty ruler, that I am going on three thousand seven
hundred and thirty-three!" Hottabych replied hotly.
It was only to Muhammedov's credit that he didn't b at an eyelid upon hearing
these words. He merely nodded understandingly to Vo lka, who was winking hard
from behind Hottabych's back.
Pressing his right hand to his heart, the drilling foreman answered Hottabych
politely, "Of course, my good man, of course. But y ou're so well preserved. Let's
go and warm up. We'll have something to eat and res t or else you might catch
cold. Va, how you remind me of my father!" -
"I don't dare disobey, mighty ruler," Hottabych answered fawningly, touch ing
his beard ever so often. Alas! It was still very, v ery damp.
Oh, how restless his soul was! All his many years' experience rose up against
the fact that the owner of the palace should invite a strange old man and two young
boys—all dressed in a far from elaborate fashion—to share his meal. That meant
there was some mischief to be expected. Perhaps thi
s Jafar Alt ibn Mohammed
was trying to coax them into his palace in order to play a joke on them and then,
having had his fill of torturing them, would order his servants to chop off their
heads, or throw them into cages with wild beasts. O h, how cautious he had to be!
So thought Hottabych as he and his young friends as cended the broad stairway
to the first block of dormitories.
They encountered no one, either on the stairs or in the hall, and this but served
to confirm Hottabych's suspicions. Muhammedov took them to his room, induced
the old man to change into a pair of pyjamas, and l eft, telling them to make
themselves at home. "I'll be back soon, after I giv e a few orders. I'll be right back."
"Aha! We know to whom you'll give those orders and what they'll be about,
you crafty, two-faced ruler!" Hottabych thought. "Y ou have a heart of stone, one
that is immune to mercy. To chop off such noble boy s' heads!"
Meanwhile, the noble boys were looking round the co mfortable room.
"Look, d'you see this?" Volka cried happily. He pic ked up a small table fan, a
thing Hottabych had never seen.
"It's a fan," Volka explained. "We'll dry your bear d in a flash!"
True enough, in two minutes' time Hottabych's beard was ready for use.
"We'll test it," the sly old man mumbled innocently .
He yanked out two hairs. Before the crystal tinklin g sound had died down, our
friends suddenly found themselves about three miles away, on the warm sandy
beach. At their feet, the blue-black waves of the r ising tide softly lapped against
"This is much better," Hottabych said contentedly. Before the boys could utter a
sound, he yanked three more hairs from his beard.
That very instant a large tray of steaming roast la mb and a second, smaller tray
of fruit and biscuits appeared on the sand.
Hottabych snapped his fingers and two strange-looki ng bronze pitchers with
"Golly!" Zhenya cried. "But what about our clothes? "
"Alas, I am becoming forgetful before my time," Hot tabych said critically and
yanked out another hair. Their clothes and shoes be came dry the same instant.
Moreover, their things appeared freshly pressed and their shoes shined brightly
and even smelling of the most expensive shoe polish .
"And may this treacherous ruler, Jafar Alt ibn Muha mmed, call for as many
guards as he wishes!" the old man said with satisfa ction, pouring himself a cup of
icy, fragrant sherbet. "The birds have flown out fr om under the knife!"
"Why, he's no ruler!" Volka said indignantly. "He's a real nice man. And if you
want to know, he didn't go off to call any guards, he went to get us something to
"You're too young to teach me, Volka!" Hottabych snapped, for he was really
displeased that his young companions were not in th e least thankful for having
been saved from death's jaws. "Who but I should kno w what rulers look like and
how they behave! Know ye, that there are no more tr eacherous men than sultans."
"But he's no sultan, he's a foreman. D'you understa nd, a drilling foreman!"
"Let's not argue, Volka," the old man answered glumly.
"Don't you think it's time we sat down to eat?"
"What about your pyjamas?" Zhenya said, seeing that they could not out-talk
the old man this time. "You've carried off someone else's pyjamas!"
"Oh, Allah! I've never yet degraded myself by steal
ing," Hottabych cried
If all the people at the sanatorium were not then i n the dining hall, they
probably would have seen a pair of striped pyjamas appear suddenly in the dark
sky, coming from the direction of Matsesta, flying at the height of the third-storey
windows. The pyjamas flew into Muhammedov's room th rough the open balcony
doors and draped themselves neatly over the back of the chair, from which the
kind drilling foreman had so recently picked them u p and handed them to a
Muhammedov, however, forgot all about the old man a nd the boys before he
even reached the dining hall.
"I found them," he said to his room-mate. "I found both towels. We left them on
the bench when we sat down to rest."
Then he joined the others at the table and applied himself to his supper.
IT'S SO EMBARRASSING TO BE AN ILLITERATE GENIE!
Before Muhammedov had a chance to start on his dess ert, the clouds that our
travellers had left somewhere between Tuapse and So chi finally reached the spa
and burst forth in a loud, torrential, sub-tropical storm.
In a moment the streets, parks and beaches became d eserted.
Soon the storm reached the spot where, by Hottabych 's grace, the small crew of
the drowned magic carpet were to spend the night on the shore of the Black Sea.
Luckily, they noticed the approaching storm in time ; the prospect of getting
drenched to the bone again did not appeal to them i n the least. However, the most
important thing to keep dry was the old man's beard . The simplest thing to do
would have been to fly somewhere farther south, but in the pitch darkness of the
southern night they might easily crash into a mount ain.
For the time being, they took refuge under some bus hes and considered where
'"I've got it!" Zhenya cried, jumping to his feet. "Golly, what an idea! We
should smear his beard with oil!"
"And then what?" the old man shrugged.
"Then it won't even get wet in another Flood, that' s what!"
"Zhenya's right," Volka agreed, feeling a bit peeve d that it was not he who had
thought of such a wonderful, scientifically sound i dea. "Hottabych, go into
Hottabych yanked out several hairs, tore one of the m in two, and his beard
became covered with a thin layer of excellent palm oil.
Then he tore a second hair in two and they all foun d themselves in a
comfortable, marble-faced cave that suddenly appear ed on the steep bank. And
while a warm June storm was booming loudly over the Caucasian coast, they sat
on thick carpets, had a plentiful dinner and then f ell asleep soundly till morning.
They were awakened by the soft whispering of the cr ystal-clear waves.
The sun had long since risen.
Stretching and yawning, they went out onto the dese rted beach, bathed in the
slanting rays of the morning sun. Immediately, as i f it had never existed, the cave
that had sheltered them for the night disappeared.
The boys were splashing delightedly in the cool wav es when they heard the faroff
hum of an airplane motor coming from the direction
of Adler Airport.
A large passenger plane with glistening silver wing s was flying over the sea.
"Ah-h!" Zhenya sighed dreamily. "Wouldn't it be nic e if we could go to
Moscow in that plane?"
"That's not a bad idea at all," Volka agreed.
Thereupon Hottabych drew something very thin and wh ite from his pocket. It
resembled a delicate silver thread. He tore it into several pieces and suddenly all
three of them found themselves in comfortable recli ning seats inside the airplane.
The most surprising thing was that none of the pass engers paid the slightest
attention to them, as if they had been aboard the p lane right from the start.
"Hottabych," Zhenya whispered. "What was it you tor e that looked just like a
"Just a little hair from my beard," Hottabych repli ed, though he seemed
"But you took it from your pocket."
"I tore it out of my beard beforehand and hid it in my pocket, just ... in case....
Forgive me, but I wasn't sure my oiled beard would stay dry."
"Don't you believe in science?" Zhenya cried in ama zement.
"I am quite well versed in the sciences," Hottabych said in a hurt voice, "but I
don't know what kind of a science teaches you to pr otect a magic beard from
getting wet by oiling it." To change the subject he said, "How comfortable and
speedy this air chariot is! At first, I thought we were inside a tremendous and truly
unusual iron bird and was indeed surprised."
All conversation stopped at this point, because the old man became just a tiny
bit air-sick. Rather, he was very tired. He dozed o ff in his seat and did not open his
eyes until they were quite near Moscow. Beneath the m was the great Moscow Sea.
Volka, who was sitting beside him, whispered proudl y, "My uncle made this
"You mean to say that you're Allah's nephew?" the o ld man sounded very sad.
"My uncle's an excavator operator. He's in charge o f a walking excavator. His
name's Vladimir Nekrasov. If you want to know, he's digging the Kuibyshev Sea
"My, oh my! You most blessed one!" Hottabych said t urning an angry red. "I so
believed you, Volka! I respected you so! And suddenly you tell s uch horrid,
"Is Vladimir Nekrasov really your uncle?" the stock y man with a broad,
weather-beaten face sitting behind them asked loudl y. "Is he really?"
"He's my mother's cousin."
"Why didn't you say so before!" the man exclaimed. "The boy's got such a man
for an uncle, and he doesn't say a thing! Why, he's a rare man, indeed! I'm on my
way back from the Kuibyshev Sea right now. We're wo rking on the same sector.
Why, if you want to know, we...."
Volka nodded towards a gloomy Hottabych.
"But he doesn't believe my uncle made the Moscow Se a."
"Ai-ai-ai, citizen. That's not nice at all!" the ma n began to shame Hottabych.
"How can you doubt it? Vladimir Nekrasov dug that s
ea and now he's digging
another, and if a third sea has to be dug, he'll di g that one, too! What's the matter?
Don't you read the papers? Here, have a look. Right here. This is our paper." He
pulled a newspaper from his battered brief-case and pointed to a photograph.
"Look! That's my uncle!" Volka shouted. "Can I have this paper? I want to give
it to my mother."
"Take it, it's yours," the man said. "Do you still doubt him?" he asked
Hottabych, who now seemed very small. "Here, read t he heading: 'Our Wonderful
Sea-Builders.' It's all about his uncle."
"Is it about you, too?" Zhenya asked.
"It's mostly about Nekrasov. I'm not famous. Here, read it."
Hottabych took the paper and pretended to read. Rea lly now, he couldn't admit
he didn't know how to read, could he?
That is why, on the way home from the airport, he a sked his young friends to
teach him how to read and write, for he said he had nearly died of shame when the
man had asked him to read the words "Our Wonderful Sea-Builders."
They agreed that at the very first opportunity they would teach him how to read
the papers, because the old man was very insistent that he begin with them.
Nothing else would do.
"So's I'll know which sea is being built, and where ," he explained, looking away
WHO'S THE RICHEST?
"Let's go for a walk, crystal of my soul," Hottabych said the next day.
"On one condition only, and that's that you won't s hy away from every bus like
a village horse. But I'm insulting village horses f or nothing. They haven't shied
away from cars in a long, long time. And it's about time you got used to the idea
that these aren't any Jirjises, but honest-to-goodn ess Russian internal combustion
"I hear and I obey, Volka ibn Alyosha," the old man answered timidly.
"Then repeat after me: I will never again be afraid of...."
"I will never again be afraid of...."
". .. buses, trolley-buses, trolley-cars, trucks, h elicopters...."
"... buses, trolley-buses, trolley-cars, trucks, he licopters...."
"... automobiles, searchlights, excavators, typewri ters...."
"... automobiles, searchlights, excavators, typewri ters...." "... gramophones,
loud-speakers, vacuum-cleaners...." "... gramophone s, loud-speakers, vacuum-
cleaners...." "... electric plugs, TV-sets, fans an d rubber toys that squeak.'* "...
electric plugs, TV-sets, fans and rubber toys that squeak." "Well, I guess that takes
care of everything," Volka said. "Well, I guess tha t takes care of everything,"
Hottabych repeated automatically, and they both bur st out laughing.
In order to harden the old man's nerves, they crossed the busiest streets at least
twenty times. Then they rode on a trolley-car for a long while and, finally, tired
but content, they boarded a bus.
They rode off, bouncing softly on the leather-uphol stered seats.
Volka was engrossed in a copy of Pionerskaya Pravda, the children's
newspaper. The old man was lost in thought and kept glancing at his young
companion kindly from time to time. Then his face b
roke into a smile, evidently
reflecting some pleasant idea he had conceived.
The bus took them to the doorstep. Soon they were b ack in Volka's room.
"Do you know what, most honourable of secondary school pupils?"
Hottabych began the minute the door closed behind t hem. "I think you should be
more aloof and reserved in your relations with the young inhabitants of your
house. Believe it or not, my heart was ready to bre ak when I heard them shouting:
'Hey, Volka!' 'Hello, Volka!' and so forth, all of which is obviously unworthy of
you. Forgive me for being so outspoken, blessed one, but you have slackened the
reins unnecessarily. How can they be your equals wh en you are the richest of the
rich, to say nothing of your other innumerable qual ities?"
"Huh! They certainly are my equals. One boy is even a grade ahead of me, and
we're all equally rich."
"No, you are mistaken here, treasure of my soul!" Hottabych cried delightedly
and led Volka to the window. "Look, and be convince d of the truth of my words."
A strange sight met Volka's eyes.
A few moments before, the left half of their tremen dous yard had been
occupied by a volley-ball pitch, a big pile of fres h sand for the toddlers, "giant
steps" and swings for the daring, exercise bars and rings for athletics fans, and one
long and two round bright flower-beds for all the i nhabitants to enjoy.
Now, instead of all this, there towered in glitteri ng magnificence three marble
palaces in an ancient Asiatic style. Great columns adorned the façades. Shady
gardens crowned the flat roofs, and strange red, ye llow and blue flowers grew in
the flower-beds. The spray issuing from exotic foun tains sparkled like precious
stones in the sunlight. Beside the entrance of each palace stood two giants holding
huge curved swords. Volka and Hottabych went down t o the yard. At the sight of
Volka, the giants fell to their knees as one and gr eeted him in thunderous voices,
while terrible flames escaped their mouths. Volka s huddered.
"May my young master not fear these beings, for the se are peaceful Ifrits whom
I have placed at the entrance to glorify your name. "
The giants again fell to their knees and, spitting flames, they thundered
obediently, "Order us as you wish, mighty master!"
"Please get up! I do wish you'd get up," Volka said in great embarrassment.
"Why do you keep falling on your knees all the time ? It's just like feudalism. Get
up this minute, and don't you ever let me catch you crawling like this. Shame on
you! Shame on both of you!"
Looking at each other in dismay, the Ifrits rose an d silently resumed their
previous stand of "attention."
"Well now!" Volka mumbled. "Come on, Hottabych, let 's have a look at your
palaces." He skipped up the steps lightly and enter ed the first palace.
"These are not my palaces, they are your palaces," the old man objected
respectfully as he followed Volka in.
However, the boy paid no attention to his words.
The first palace was made entirely of rare pink mar ble. Its heavy carved
sandalwood doors were studded with silver nails and adorned with silver stars and
bright red rubies.
The second palace was made of light blue marble and had ten doors of rare
ebony studded with gold nails and adorned with diam onds, sapphires and
In the middle of the second palace was the mirror-l
ike surface of a large pool,
the home of goldfish the size of sturgeon.
"That's instead of your little aquarium," Hottabych explained shyly. "I think this
is the only kind of aquarium in keeping with your g reat dignity."
"Hm, imagine picking up one of those fishes. It'll bite your hand off," Volka
"And now, do me the honour of casting a kindly glan ce at the third palace,"
They entered the portals of the third palace. It gl ittered so magnificently that
"Why, it's just like the Metro! It's just like the Komsomolskaya Station!"
"You haven't seen it all yet, blessed one!" Hottabych said quickly.
He led Volka out into the yard. Once again the gian ts "presented arms," but
Hottabych ignored them and pointed to the shining g olden plaques adorning the
entrances to the palaces. On each the same words we re engraved, words which
made Volka both hot and cold at the same time:
"These palaces belong to the most noble and gloriou s of youths of this city, to
the most beautiful of the beautiful, the most wise of the wise, to him who is replete
with endless qualities and perfections, the unmatch ed and unsurpassed scholar in
geography and other sciences, the first among diver s, the best of all swimmers and
volley-ball players, the unchallenged champion of b illiards and ping-pong—to the
Royal Young Pioneer Volka ibn Alyosha, may his name be glorified for ages to
come as well as the names of his fortunate parents. "
"With your permission," Hottabych said, bursting wi th pride and happiness, "I
wish, when you come to live here with your parents, that you appoint me a corner,
too, so that your new residence will not separate u s and I may thus have the
opportunity at all times to express my deep respect and devotion to you."
"In the first place, these inscriptions aren't very objective," Volka said after a
short pause, "but that's not the most important thi ng in the long run. It's not
important, because we'll have to hang up new signs. "
"I understand you and cannot but blame myself for b eing so short-sighted," the
old man said in an embarrassed tone. "Naturally, th e inscriptions should have been
made in precious stones. You are most worthy of it. "
"You misunderstood me, Hottabych. I wanted the insc riptions to read that these
palaces belong to the RONO. (
District Department of Education.) You see, in our country all
the palaces belong to the RONO, or to the sanatoriu ms."
Volka misunderstood Hottabych's question.
"It doesn't matter which, but I'd rather it belonge d to the Krasnopresnensky
RONO. That's the district I was born in, that's whe re I grew up and learned how to
read and write."
"I don't know who that RONO is," Hottabych said bit terly, "and I'm quite ready
to believe that he is a worthy person. But did RONO free me from my thousands
of years of imprisonment in the vessel? No, it was not RONO, it was you,
wonderful youth, and that is why these palaces will belong to you alone and no
"But don't you see...."
"I don't want to! They are yours or no one's!"
Never before had Volka seen Hottabych so angry. His face was purple and his
eyes were flashing. The old man was obviously tryin
g hard to keep his temper.
"Does that mean you don't agree, crystal of my soul?"
"Of course not. What do I need these palaces for? W hat do you think I am, a
clubhouse, or an office, or a kindergarten?"
"Ah-h-h!" Hottabych sighed unhappily and shrugged. "We'll have to try
something else then!"
The palaces became hazy, swayed, and dissolved into thin air, like a fog blown
by the wind. The giants howled and shot upwards, wh ere they, too, disappeared.
A CAMEL IN THE STREET
Instead, the yard suddenly filled with heavily lade n elephants, camels and
mules. New caravans kept arriving constantly. The s houts of the dark-skinned
drivers, dressed in snow-white robes, blended with the elephants' trumpeting, the
camels' snorting, the mules' braying, the stamping of hundreds of hooves and the
melodious tinkling of bells.
A short sunburnt man in rich silk robes climbed dow n from his elephant,
approached the middle of the yard, and tapped the p avement thrice with his ivory
cane. Suddenly, a huge fountain appeared. Immediate ly drivers carrying leather
pails formed a long queue; soon the yard was filled with the snorting, chomping
and wheezing of the thirsty animals.
"All this is yours, Volka," Hottabych cried, trying to make himself he ard
above the din. "Won't you please accept my humble g ift?"
"What do you mean by 'all this'?"
"Everything. The elephants, and the camels, and the mules, and all the gold and
precious stones they carry, and the people who are accompanying them—
everything is yours!"
Things were going from bad to worse. Volka had near ly become the owner of
three magnificent but quite useless palaces, and no w he was to be the owner of a
vast fortune, an owner of elephants and, to top it all—a slave-owner!
His first thought was to beg Hottabych to make all these useless gifts disappear
before anyone had noticed them. But he immediately recalled how things had gone
with the palaces. If he had been smarter, he probab ly would have been able to talk
the old man into letting the city keep them.
He had to stall for time to think and map out a pla n of action.
"You know what, Hottabych?" he said, trying to soun d nonchalant. "What do
you say if we go for a ride on a camel, while the m en take care of the caravan?"
"It would really be a pleasure," answered the unsus pecting old man.
A moment later, a double-humped camel appeared on t he street, swaying
majestically and looking round with an arrogant air . On its back were an excited
Volka and Hottabych, who felt quite at home and was fanning himself lazily with
"A camel! A camel!" the children shouted excitedly. They had poured out into
the street in great numbers, just as if they had al l been waiting for the camel to
They surrounded the unruffled animal in a close cir cle, and it towered over
them like a double-decker bus towers over an ice-cr eam cart. One of the little boys
was skipping and shouting:
on a camel!
on a camel!
The camel approached the crossing just as the light turned red. Since it was not
used to traffic rules, it coolly stepped across the white line with the word "STOP!"
written in large letters in front of it. In vain di d Volka try to hold it back. The
camel continued on its way, straight towards the mi litia man who was quickly
pulling out his receipt book for fines.
Suddenly a horn blared, brakes screeched and a ligh t blue car came to a stop
right under the steely-nerved camel's nose. The dri ver jumped out and began
yelling at the animal and its two passengers. And t rue enough, in another second
there would have been a terrible accident.
"Kindly pull over to the curb," the militia man sai d politely as he walked up to
Volka had great difficulty in making the camel obey this fatal order. A crowd
gathered immediately, and everyone had an opinion t o offer:
"This is the first time I've seen people riding a c amel in Moscow."
"Just think, there could have been a terrible accid ent!"
"What's wrong with a child going for a ride on a ca mel?"
"No one's allowed to break traffic rules."
"You try and stop a proud animal like that. That's no car, you know!"
"I can't imagine where people get camels in Moscow! "
"It's obviously from the zoo. There are several cam els there."
"It makes me shiver to think what could have happen ed. He's an excellent
"The militia man is absolutely right."
Volka felt he was in a jam. He hung down over the c amel's side and began to
"It'll never happen again! Please let us go! It's t ime to feed the camel. This is a
"I'm sorry, but there's nothing I can do about it,"
the militia man replied dryly.
"They always say it's the first time in cases like this."
Volka was still attempting to soften the stern man' s heart when he felt
Hottabych tugging at his sleeve. " my young master, it makes me sad to see you lower yourself in order to
shield me from any unpleasantness. All these people are unworthy of even kissing
your heels. You should let them know of the chasm t hat separates them from you."
Volka waved the old man away impatiently, but all a t once he felt as he had
during the geography examination: once again he was not the master of his own
He wanted to say:
"Please, won't you let us go? I promise never to br eak any traffic rules as long
as I live."
Instead of this humble plea, he suddenly bellowed a t the top of his voice:,
"How dare you, despicable guard, detain me during the precious ho ur of my
promenade! On your knees! On your knees immediately , or I'll do something
terrible to you! I swear by my beard—I mean, by his beard!" And he nodded
At these .words, Hottabych grinned smugly and strok ed his beard fondly.
As concerns the militia man and the crowd, the chil d's insolence was so
unexpected that they were more dumbfounded than ind ignant.
"I am the most outstanding boy in this whole city!" Volka kept on shouting,
inwardly wishing he were dead. "You're unworthy of even kissing my heels! I am
handsome! I am wise!"
"All right," the militia man answered darkly. "They 'll see just how wise you are
down at the station."
"Goodness! What nonsense I'm saying! It's really ho oliganism!" Volka thought
and shuddered. Nevertheless, he continued:
"Repent, you, who have dared to spoil my good spiri ts! Cease your insolence
before it's too late!"
Just then, something distracted Hottabych's attenti on. He stopped whispering to
Volka and for a few moments the boy was once again on his own. As he hung
down over the side of the camel and looked at the c rowd pathetically he began to
"Citizens! Dear people! Don't listen to me. Do you think it's me talking? It's
him, this old man, who's making me talk like this."
But here Hottabych once again picked up the reins a nd in the same breath
"Tremble before me and do not anger me, for I am te rrible in my wrath! Oh,
how fearsome I am!"
He understood only too well that his words did not frighten anyone; instead,
they made some indignant, while others found them s imply funny. But there was
nothing he could do. Meanwhile, the crowd's feeling of surprise and indignation
began to change to one of concern. It was clear tha t no schoolboy could ever speak
so foolishly and rudely if he were normal.
Then a woman shouted, "Look! The child has a fever! Look, he's steaming!"
"What disrespect!" Volka shouted back, but, to his utter horror, he saw large
puffs of black smoke escaping his mouth at every wo rd.
People gasped, someone ran to call an ambulance, an
d Volka whispered to
Hottabych, taking advantage of the confusion:
"Hassan Abdurrakhman ibn Hottab! I order you to tak e this camel and us as far
away as possible. Immediately. Somewhere outside th e city limits. Otherwise, we
can get in very bad trouble. Do you hear me? Im-me- di-ate-ly!"
"I hear and I obey," the old man replied in a whisp er.
That very instant, the camel and its riders soared into the air and disappeared,
leaving everyone behind in the greatest confusion.
A moment later it landed gracefully on the outskirt s of the city. There its
passengers parted with it forever.
The camel is probably still grazing there. You'll r ecognize it at once if you see
it, for its bridle is studded with diamonds and eme ralds.
A MYSTERIOUS HAPPENING IN THE BANK
Despite the day's unpleasant experiences, Volka was in high spirits when he and
Hottabych returned home. He had finally hit upon an idea of how to dispose of the
endless treasures he had so suddenly acquired.
First, he asked Hottabych whether he could make the drivers, elephants, camels,
mules and all their loads invisible.
"You need only command me to do so, and it will be done."
"Fine. Then please make them invisible for the time being, and let's go to bed.
We'll have to get up at sunrise tomorrow."
"I hear and I obey!"
And so, the people who had gathered in the yard to stare at the strange and
noisy caravan suddenly found the place to be comple tely empty. They went back
to their homes in amazement.
Volka gulped down his supper, undressed and climbed into bed with a happy
sigh. He only had a sheet for a cover, since it was so hot.
Hottabych, however, had decided to comply with an a ncient custom Genies
had. He became invisible and lay down across the th reshold, to guard his young
master's sleep. Hottabych was just about to begin a solemn conversation when the
door opened and Volka's grandmother entered, to say good night as always. She
tripped over the invisible old man and nearly fell.
"Why, something was definitely lying on the thresho ld!" she gasped when
Volka's father came running.
"Where was that something lying?" he asked. "And wh at did that something
"It didn't look like anything, Alyosha."
"Mother, do you mean to tell me you tripped over an empty space?" he asked
and laughed with relief, happy that she had not hur t herself.
"Yes, I guess I did," Grandma answered in bewilderm ent and laughed, too.
Volka's father and grandmother left.
As for Hottabych, he had wisely decided to crawl un der Volka's bed—at least
no one would step on him there, and he would be clo ser to Volka.
For several minutes no one said a word. Volka could not decide how to begin
such a ticklish conversation.
"Good night!" Hottabych said amiably from under the bed.
Volka realized he had better begin.
"Hottabych," he called, hanging his head over the s
ide of the bed, "I want to
talk to you about something."
"Not about my gifts to you today?" Hottabych asked warily, and when he
received an affirmative answer he sighed.
"You see, dear Hottabych, I'd like to know whether I can do as I please with
"And you won't be angry at me, no matter what I do with them?"
"No, I won't, Volka. How can I dare be angry with someone who ha s done so
much for me?"
"If it's not too much trouble, Hottabych, could you please swear to that?"
"I swear!" Hottabych said in a hollow voice from un der the bed. He understood
that there must be a catch to this.
"That's fine," Volka said happily. "That means you won't feel too bad if I tell
you that I have no earthly use for these presents, though I'm awfully grateful to
you for them." " woe is me!" Hottabych moaned. "You're refusing my gifts again. But these
aren't palaces! Can't you see, Volka, I'm not giving you palaces any more. You
might as well tell me the truth—that the gifts of y our most devoted servant disgust
"Figure it out yourself, Hottabych, you're a very w ise old man: now, what in the
world could I do with so many treasures?"
"You could be the richest of the rich, that's what, " Hottabych grumbled. "Don't
tell me you wouldn't want to be the richest person in your country? Yet, it would
be just like you, most capricious and puzzling of all boys I have ev er met!
Money means power, money means glory, money means f riends galore! That's
what money means!"
"Who needs bought friends and bought glory? You mak e me laugh, Hottabych!
What's the use of glory that's been bought, instead of earned through honest labour
in your country's service?"
"You forget that money gives you the most reliable and durable power over
people, my young and stubborn arguer."
"But not in our country."
"Next thing, you'll be saying that people in your c ountry don't want to get
richer. Ha, ha, ha!" Hottabych thought this was really a cutting re mark.
"Sure they do," Volka answered patiently. "A person who does more useful
work makes more money. Sure, everyone wants to earn more, but only through
"Be that as it may, nothing could be further from m y mind than to make my
precious young friend seek dishonest earnings. If y ou don't need these treasures,
turn them into money and lend the money out. You mu st agree, that's a very
honourable undertaking—to lend money to those who n eed it."
"Why, you must be crazy! You don't know what you're talking about. How can
a Soviet person be a usurer! And even if there was such a vampire, who'd ever go
to him? If a person needs money, he can ask for a l oan at the Mutual Aid, or
borrow some from a friend."
"Well then," a somewhat disheartened Hottabych pers isted, "buy as many
goods as you can and open up your own shops in ever y part of the city. You'll
become a well-known merchant and everyone will resp ect you and seek your
"Don't you understand, the Government and the co-op
eratives are in charge of
all trade? Why, making a profit by selling stuff in your own shop...."
"Hm!" Hottabych pretended to agree. "Supposing it i s as you say it is. I hope
you think creating goods is an honest occupation?"
"Sure it is! See, you're beginning to understand!" Volka said happily.
"I am extremely pleased." Hottabych smiled sourly. "I recall you once said that
your greatly respected father was a foreman in a fa ctory. Am I correct?"
"Is he the most important man in the factory?"
"No. He's a foreman, but there's a shop foreman, an d a chief engineer, and a
director above him."
"Well then," Hottabych concluded triumphantly, "you can use the treasures I've
given you to buy your excellent father the factory he works in and lots of other
"It belongs to him already."
"Volka ibn Alyosha, you just said..."
"If you want to know, he owns the factory he works in and all the other
factories and plants, and all the mines and the rai lways, and the land and the water,
and the mountains and the shops and the schools, an d the universities and the
clubs, and the palaces, and the theatres, and the p arks, and the movies in the
country. And they belong to me and to Zhenya Bogora d, and to his parents, and...."
"You wish to say that your father has partners, don 't you?"
"Yes, that's what it is—partners. About two hundred million partners. As many
as there are people in the country."
"You have a very strange country, one that I cannot understand at all,"
Hottabych mumbled from under the bed and said no mo re.
At sunrise the next day the ringing of a telephone awakened the District Branch
Manager of the State Bank. He was urgently being su mmoned to the office.
Worried by such an early phone call, he dashed to h is office and, upon entering the
yard of the building in which the branch was locate d, he saw a great number of
heavily-laden elephants, camels and mules.
"There's someone here who wants to make a deposit," the night watchman said
"A deposit?" the manager repeated. "So early in the morning? What kind of a
The watchman handed him a sheet of paper torn from a school notebook. It was
covered with a firm, childish scrawl. The manager r ead the paper and asked the
watchman to pinch him. The puzzled man did as he wa s told. The manager
winced, looked at the page again and said:
"Impossible! It's absolutely incredible!"
A person who wished to remain anonymous was giving the State Bank two
hundred and forty-six bags of gold, silver and prec ious stones, valued at three
thousand four hundred and sixty-seven million, one hundred and thirty-five
thousand, seven hundred and three roubles and eight een kopeks, to use as it saw
The most amazing thing happened a moment later. Fir st, the animals which had
delivered the treasure, then, the people who had dr iven the animals, and then, the
treasures they had brought began to sway; they beca me transparent and dissolved
in the air, just like steam. A fresh morning breeze
tore the sheet of paper from the
amazed manager's hand, whipped it high into the air and carried it off into an open
window. It was Volka Kostylkov's room. As he slept soundly, the page was fitted
back into the notebook it had recently been torn fr om and once again became a
clean piece of paper.
But that is not all. Strange as it may seem, neithe r the people at the branch
office of the bank, nor Volka's neighbours, nor Vol ka himself ever remembered
anything at all about the event afterwards. It was as if someone had erased it from
their memories completely.
HOTTABYCH AND SIDORELLI
It was pitiful to look at the old man. He spent the whole day in the aquarium,
saying that he was having an attack of rheumatism. This was certainly a foolish
excuse, for nothing can be sillier than sitting in cold water if you have rheumatism.
Hottabych lay on the bottom of the aquarium, moving his fins sluggishly and
swallowing water lazily. When either Volka or Zheny a approached, the old man
would swim off to the far side and rudely turn his tail towards them. However,
whenever Volka left the room, Hottabych would get o ut of the water to stretch his
legs; but as soon as he'd hear him approaching, he' d dash back into the aquarium
with a soft splash, as though he had never thought of leaving it. He apparently
found some bitter pleasure in the fact that Volka k ept pleading with him to get out
of the water and stop sulking. The old man would li sten to all his entreaties with
his tail turned towards the boy. Yet the moment his young friend would open his
geography book and begin to study for his exam, Hot tabych would stick his head
out of the aquarium and accuse Volka of having no h eart at all. How could he be
occupied with all sorts of nonsense, when an old ma n was suffering so from
No sooner would Volka close his book, however, than Hottabych would again
turn his tail towards him. This went on till evenin g. At a little after seven o'clock,
he swished his tail and hopped out on to the floor. He squeezed the water from his
beard and moustache and dried them quickly at the b uzzing table fan. Then he said
with some reserve:
"You hurt me by refusing to accept my humble gifts. It's your good luck that I
promised you I wouldn't get angry. But I did promis e and, therefore, I'm not angry
at you, for I now see who is really responsible for your offending me so, though
you do it unconsciously. It is your teachers—they a re the root of all evil! Varvara
Stepanovna, not you, youthful and inexperienced boy, will be held fully
responsible for all the bitterness of the past few days. And now that undeserving
Varvara, daughter of Stepan, will...."
He yanked four hairs at once from his beard. Someth
ing extraordinary was
about to happen.
"Oh, no! No, Hottabych! Dear, dear Hottabych!" Volk a babbled as he hung on
the angry Genie's arms. "My word of honour! Varvara Stepanovna's not at all to
blame! It was only me..."
"No! She's to blame, she's to blame!" Hottabych droned, trying to free his
"She's not to blame! She's not to blame! Upon my wo rd of honour, she's not to
blame!" Volka repeated in a frightened voice, while feverishly trying to think of a
way to distract the raging Genie's attention from h is teacher. "You know what?
You know what?" He had finally thought of something : "Let's go to the circus.
Huh, Hottabych? Let's go to the circus! Zhenya and I will never get tickets, but it's
so easy for you to get them. You're the only one wh o can help us get into the
circus. You're so powerful, so amazingly all-powerf ul!"
The old man was very inquisitive and an easy prey t o flattery. Most important,
unlike all other Genies, he never remained angry lo ng.
"And what does this funny word mean?" Hottabych's e yes burned with interest.
"Is it a market where they sell parrots and other u nusual birds? Then, know ye, that
I am completely indifferent to birds. I've had my f ill of the sight of parrots."
"Oh, no, this is a thousand times more interesting. Why, it's a million times, a
million million times more interesting!"
Hottabych immediately forgot about Varvara Stepanov na.
"Let's go there on a camel. No, better still, on an elephant. Just imagine how
everyone will envy you."
"No, don't bother. I don't want you to go to all th at trouble," Volka objected
with suspicious haste. "If you're not afraid, let's go on the trolley-bus."
"What's there to be afraid of?" the old man sounded offended. "Why, I've been
looking at these iron carts for four days now witho ut any fear at all."
Half an hour later, Volka, Zhenya and Hottabych rea ched the recreation park
and approached the entrance to the summer circus.
The old man ran over to the box-office to have a lo ok at the tickets, and soon
he, Volka and Zhenya were holding pink tickets.
They entered the brightly-lit big top.
There were three empty seats in one of the boxes ri ght near the arena, but
Hottabych was quite vigorous in refusing them.
"I cannot agree to having anyone in this place sitt ing higher than myself and my
greatly respected friends. It would be below our di gnity."
It was no use arguing with the old man. With heavy hearts the boys climbed to
the last row of the second balcony.
Soon attendants in crimson and gold uniforms lined up along both sides of the
entrance to the arena.
The ring-master announced the first act. A bare-bac k rider dressed in a sequined
suit and looking like a Christmas tree ornament rod e into the ring.
"Do you like it?" Volka asked Hottabych.
"It is not devoid of interest, and it is pleasant t o the eye," the old man replied
The bare-back rider was followed by acrobats, who w ere followed by clowns,
who were followed by a dog act—this attraction met with Hottabych's reserved
praise—who were followed by jugglers and spring-boa rd jumpers. Then there was
It was a shame to leave and miss the second half of
the show, but a geography
book opened at the very first chapter awaited Volka at home.
He sighed heavily and whispered to Zhenya, "Well, I guess I'll be going. But
you try and keep him here for at least another two hours. Go for a walk with him
after the show, or something...."
Zhenya mumbled softly, but with great emphasis:
"We should all three leave, all three of us. V. S. is here! V. S. is here!"
And he nodded towards the side isle.
Volka turned round and froze: Varvara Stepanovna an d her five-year-old
granddaughter Irisha were making their way down the isle to the foyer.
As if by agreement, the boys jumped to their feet a nd stood in front of the
unsuspecting old man in a way to shield their teach er from him.
"You know what, Hottabych?" Volka choked. "Let's go home! Huh? There's
nothing of interest here today."
"Sure," Zhenya agreed, trembling like a leaf in his fear for Varvara
Stepanovna's life. "That's right, let's go home. We 'll walk in the park and all kinds
"Oh, no, my young friends!" Hottabych answered inno cently. "Never before
have I been so interested as I am in this truly mag ic tent. I'll tell you what: you run
along and I'll return as soon as this amazing perfo rmance ends."
What an idea—to leave Varvara Stepanovna alone with a Genie who hated her
They had to think of something, of anything at all, to occupy him during
intermission. Once the performance was resumed, his eyes would be glued on the
arena. They had to think of something urgently, but , fearing for Varvara
Stepanovna's very life, Volka was completely at a l oss. His teeth even began to
chatter. This attracted Hottabych's attention, for he was interested in everything.
"I tell you, Hottabych," Zhenya came to the rescue, "it's either one way or the
other: either we study or not!"
Both Volka and Hottabych looked at him in bewilderm ent.
"What I mean is, since we've promised Hottabych to teach him to read and
write, we should use every free minute for study. I sn't that right, Hottabych?"
"Your perseverance is worthy of the greatest praise , Zhenya," Hottabych
answered. He was really touched.
"Well, if that's the case, here's the circus progra mme. Let's sit right down and
learn the alphabet. We'll study all through intermi ssion...."
"With happiness and pleasure, Zhenya."
Zhenya opened the programme and pointed to the firs t letter "A" he saw.
"This is the letter 'A,' understand?"
"Now, what letter did I say it was?"
"It's the letter 'A,' Zhenya."
"Right. Now find me all the 'A's you can on this pa ge."
"Here's a letter 'A,' Zhenya."
"Fine! Do you see any more?"
"Here, and here, and here, and here, and here...."
Hottabych was so engrossed in his studies that he p aid no attention at all to
anything else. By the time the intermission was ove r and the audience had returned
to its seats, Hottabych had learned the alphabet an
d was reading in syllables:
"An ac-ro-bat on a spring ... board."
"D'you know, Hottabych, you really are gifted!" Zhe nya said with true
"What did you think?" Volka replied. "Why, there ha s never been such a
talented Genie in all the world."
Hottabych read on delightedly: " 'Jum-ping ac-ro-ba ts un-der the di-rec . .. direc-
tion of Phil-lip Bel-ykh.' We saw that already. 'Ev -en-ing per-for-man-ces begin
at 8 p.m. Ma-ti-nees at 12 no-on.' my young teachers, I have read the entire
programme. Does that mean I'll now be able to read the newspapers, too?"
"Certainly! Sure you will!" the boys said. "Now let 's try to read the greetings
hanging over the orchestra pit," Volka said.
Just then a young lady in a little white apron carr ying a large tray appeared.
"Would you care for some ice-cream?" she asked the old man. He looked at
"Take some, Hottabych, it's very nice. Try it!" Hot tabych tried it and he liked it.
He bought some for the boys and another portion for himself, then a third and,
finally, being carried away, he bought the astounde d young lady's entire supply—
forty-three bars of ice-cream covered with delicate frost. The girl said she'd be
back later for the tray and went off, turning back to look at the strange customers.
"Oho!" Zhenya winked. "Look at him pack it away." I n the space of five
minutes' time, Hottabych had gulped down all forty- three bars. He ate it as one
would eat a cucumber, biting off big chunks and che wing loudly. He swallowed
the last mouthful just as the performance began.
"A world-famous act! Presenting Afanasy Sidorelli!" The audience applauded
and the band played a loud viva. A short, middle-aged man in a blue silk robe
embroidered with gold dragons entered the arena, bo wing and smiling in all
directions. It was the famous Sidorelli himself. Wh ile his assistants laid out his
props on a small lacquered table, in preparation fo r the first magic trick, he
continued to bow and smile. A gold tooth glittered in his mouth when he smiled.
"It's wonderful!" Hottabych whispered enviously. "W hat's wonderful?" Volka
asked, clapping as loud as he could.
"It's wonderful to see a person who has gold teeth growing in his mouth."
"You think so?" Volka asked absently as he watched the first trick.
"I am positive," Hottabych replied. "It's very beau tiful and rich looking."
Sidorelli completed the trick.
"Did you see that?" Volka asked Zhenya proudly, as if he himself had done the
"It was swell!" Zhenya answered. Volka gasped: Zhen ya now had two rows of
gold teeth in his mouth.
"Volka! Oh, Volka!" Zhenya whispered in a frightene d voice. "I want to tell
you something—but don't get scared. All your teeth are made of gold."
"It's all Hottabych's doing, I know," Volka said de jectedly.
And true enough, the old man, who was listening in on their conversation,
nodded and smiled guilelessly. Then they saw that h e, too, had two rows of large,
even gold teeth.
"Even Sulayman, the Son of David (peace be on the h oly twain!), did not have
such a luxurious mouth!" he boasted. "But don't bot her thanking me. I assure you
that you are both worthy of this small surprise."
"Don't worry, we're in no rush to thank you!" Zheny
Volka was afraid the old man might get angry and he tugged his friend's sleeve.
Zhenya said no more.
"You see, Hottabych," be began diplomatically, "it' ll be awfully obvious if all
three of us sitting in a row have gold teeth. Every body will look at us, and we'll
"I won't be embarrassed in the least," Hottabych sa id.
"But still, we won't feel right. There won't be any pleasure in being at the
"Well, we wanted to ask you to make our teeth plain bone again till we get
"I am perfectly awed by your modesty, my young friends!" the old man said
in a somewhat hurt voice.
It was a relief to feel that once again they had th eir own teeth in their mouths.
"Will they turn gold again when we get home?" Zheny a whispered anxiously.
"Never mind, we'll find out later. Maybe the old ma n will forget about them."
Once again Volka became absorbed watching Afanasy S idorelli's breath-taking
magic. He applauded together with the rest when the man pulled a pigeon, a hen,
and, finally, a bouncy, fluffy white poodle from an empty box.
There was only one man present who showed no sign o f appreciation as he
watched the magician. This was Hottabych.
He felt very hurt, because everyone was applauding the magician for all sorts of
trifles, while he, who had performed such wonderful miracles from the time he had
been liberated from the vessel, had not even heard a single sincere word of praise,
let alone been applauded.
That is why, when the tent was once again filled wi th applause and Sidorelli
began bowing to all sides, Hassan Abdurrakhman ibn Hottab grunted irritably and,
despite the protests of those sitting in front, pro ceeded to climb over them down to
the arena. An approving murmur passed through the c rowd and a stout man said to
his neighbour: "I told you that the old man was one of them. You can tell he's a
very experienced clown. Look how funny he is. Somet imes they sit in with the
audience on purpose."
Fortunately for the man, Hottabych heard nothing of what 'he said, as he was
engrossed in watching the magician. Sidorelli was a bout to begin his most difficult
First of all, the famous illusionist set fire to se veral long coloured ribbons and
stuffed them into his mouth. Then he picked up a la rge, brightly coloured bowl
filled with something that looked like sawdust. He stuffed his mouth full of the
sawdust and began to fan himself quickly with a bea utiful green fan. The sawdust
in his mouth began to smoulder. Then a wisp of smok e appeared and, finally,
when the lights were turned out, everyone saw thous ands of sparks and even a
small flame shoot from the famous magician's mouth.
Then, amidst a storm of applause and shouts of Brav o! Hottabych's indignant
voice could be heard.
"It's a fake!" he shouted at the top of his lungs. "That's no magic! It's simple
"Isn't he something!" someone shouted.
"A wonderful clown! Bravo, clown!" And everyone pre sent except Volka and
his friend applauded Hottabych enthusiastically.
The old man did not understand which clown they wer
e shouting about. He
waited for the applause he had inspired to die down and continued acidly:
"What kind of magic is that! Ha, ha, ha!"
He shoved the thunderstruck magician aside. To begi n with, fifteen tremendous
multi-coloured flames shot from his mouth; they wer e so real that a smell of
burning filled the circus.
The applause was balm to Hottabych's heart. Then he snapped his fingers, and
instead of one large Sidorelli, seventy-two tiny Si dorellis ran off in single file
along the barrier surrounding the arena. After comp leting several circles, they
blended into one large Sidorelli again, just as tin y drops of mercury roll together to
form a large drop.
"That's not all!" Hottabych thundered in a voice th at was no longer human. He
was excited by the admiration he had aroused, and b egan to draw forth herds of
horses from under the flaps of his jacket.
The horses whinnied with fear, they pawed the groun d and tossed their heads,
making their lovely silken manes blow. Then, at a s ignal from the old man, the
horses disappeared. Instead, four huge, roaring Afr ican lions jumped out from
under his jacket. They raced around the arena sever al times and also disappeared.
There was an unending storm of applause from that m oment on.
Hottabych waved his hand and everything on the aren a— Sidorelli and his
assistants, and his various props, and the elegant uniformed attendants—all shot
into the air, completed several farewell circles ov er the heads of the astounded
audience, and dissolved into nothing.
Suddenly and from nowhere, a huge African elephant with sly, twinkling eyes
appeared on the arena. On its back was an elephant of smaller size; on the second
was a third, still smaller; on the third was a four th... the seventh and smallest of all
stood right under the top of the tent and was no bi gger than a dog.
They trumpeted in unison, their trunks raised on hi gh; then all flapped their ears
like wings and flew off.
The band of thirty-three musicians—all shouting hap pily— suddenly became a
single ball; it rolled down from the bandstand into the arena and along the barrier,
getting smaller and smaller until it was no larger than a pea. Then Hottabych
picked it up, put it in his right ear, and the muff led sounds of a march could be
heard coming from within.
The old man was really bouncing up and down from ex citement. He snapped all
ten fingers at once and in a very special way, and everyone present began to shoot
up from their seats, one at a time, and disappear f ar under the big top.
Finally, only three people remained in the empty ci rcus: Hottabych, who had
wearily sat down to rest on the barrier, and the tw o boys, who had rushed down to
him from the last row.
"Well, how was it?" Hottabych asked limply, raising his head with difficulty
and looking at the boys from strangely glazed eyes. "That's no Sidorelli for you, is
"He's certainly no match for you," Volka replied, w inking at Zhenya angrily,
because his friend kept trying to ask the old man s omething.
"I can't stand fakers," Hottabych muttered with une xpected bitterness. "To pass
off simple sleight-of-hand for miracles! And in my presence!"
"But he didn't know a wise and mighty Genie was pre sent here," Zhenya put in
a word for the magician. "And anyway, he didn't say
he was performing miracles.
In fact, he didn't say anything at all."
"It says so there. It says so in the programme. You heard me read it: 'Miracles
of Illusion.' "
"Well, but of illusion, il-lu-sion! Don't you under stand?"
"How they applauded me!" the old man recalled delig htedly. "But you, Volka,
have never applauded nor even approved of me. No, I 'm wrong. There was one
occasion. But it was on account of some very simple magic. I don't even consider
And that evil Varvara Stepanovna is blame. It was s he who taught you to scorn
my gifts! Do not argue, my young friends! It was she, it was she! Such
wonderful palaces! Such a lovely little caravan! Su ch devoted and healthy slaves!
Such excellent camels! And it was all because of th at evil Varvara Ste..." but here,
luckily for the teacher and our young friends, Hott abych's gaze fell on a long
banner hanging over the bandstand. His glazed eyes, once again took on an
intelligent expression; a weak smile appeared on hi s face and, with the satisfaction
of one who has just learned to read, he pronounced aloud:
"De-ar child-ren! Con-gra-tu-la-tions on fi-ni-shin g the sch-ool term. We wish
The old man fell silent and closed his eyes. It see med as if he were about to lose
"Could you bring everyone back to their seats?" Vol ka asked anxiously.
"Hottabych, can you hear me? D'you hear me? Can you make everything as it was
before? I bet it's very hard to do, isn't it?"
"No, not at all. I mean, it's not hard for me to do at all," Hottabych answered in
a barely audible whisper.
"I don't think even you can do it," Volka said craf tily.
"Yes, I can, but I feel very tired."
"See, that's what I said! You can't do it."
At this, Hottabych rose up with a sigh. He yanked t hirteen hairs from his beard,
tore them to bits, and shouted a strange and very l ong word. Then he sank down
onto the sawdust covering the floor. From high unde r the circus tent enraptured
people came whizzing down, and each one to his own seat. Sidorelli and his
assistants, the props and the uniformed attendants, headed by the imposing ringmaster,
appeared on the arena as from under the ground.
Flapping their ears loudly, all seven African eleph ants came flying back. They
landed and formed a pyramid again, only this time t he smallest one was on the
bottom and the big one with the twinkling eyes on t op, right under the roof. Then
the pyramid they formed fell apart and they rushed around the arena in single file,
getting smaller and smaller until they were no bigg er than the head of a pin;
finally, they got lost in the sawdust.
The orchestra rolled out of Hottabych's right ear l ike a pea;
it mushroomed into a huge pile of laughing people a nd, contrary to the law of
gravity, rolled upwards to the bandstand, where it fell apart into thirty-three men.
They took their seats and began to play a march.
"Let me through, please! Let me through!" a thin ma n in large horn-rimmed
glasses said, as he made his way through the excite d crowd standing around
Hottabych. "Won't you be so kind as to drop in at t he manager's office? He'd like
to talk to you about performing in Moscow and on a road tour," he said
"Leave the old man alone," Volka told him unhappily
. "Can't you see he's sick?
He's got a high fever!"
And true enough, Hottabych was really burning up. H e had got sick from eating
too much ice-cream.
A HOSPITAL UNDER THE BED
He who has never had to take care of a sick Genie c annot imagine what a tiring
and bothersome affair it is.
First of all, there arises the question of where to keep him. You can't put him in
a hospital, and there's no question of keeping him in bed at home, where everyone
can see him.
Then again, how does one cure a Genie? Modern medic ine is useful when one
deals with people, not fairy-tale magicians.
And, finally, can people catch Genies' diseases?
The boys discussed these problems at great length a s they rode home in a cab
with a delirious Hottabych.
They came to the following decisions:
1. They would not take him to a hospital, but keep him as comfortable as
possible under Volka's bed, suggesting first that, for safety's sake, he become
2. They would treat him as they would a person who had a cold. They would
give him aspirin and tea with raspberry jam before going to sleep to make him
3. Genies' diseases could not possibly be catching.
Fortunately, no one was at home. They made Hottabyc h comfortable in his
usual place under Volka's bed.
Zhenya ran off to buy some aspirins and raspberry j am, while Volka went to the
kitchen to make some tea.
"Well, tea's ready!" he said cheerfully, entering t he room with a boiling kettle.
"Let's have some tea, Hottabych. Hm?"
There was no answer.
"He's dead," Volka gasped and suddenly, despite all the unpleasantness
Hottabych had caused him, he felt he would miss the old man terribly if he died.
"Dear, dear Hottabych!" he babbled, crawling under the bed.
The old man was not there.
"What a crazy old man!" Volka said angrily, forgett ing all his tender feelings.
"He was here a moment ago, and now he's disappeared !"
There is no telling what bitter words Volka would h ave added if Zhenya had
not then dashed into the room, dragging a balky Hot tabych behind. The old man
was mumbling something.
"What a nut! You can't imagine what a nut he is!" Z henya shouted as he helped
Volka settle Hottabych under the bed again. "I was coming back from the shop and
there he was, standing on the corner with a sack of gold, trying to hand it out to
passers-by. I asked him, 'What are you doing here w ith a high fever?' And he said,
'I feel my days are counted. I want to hand out alm s on this occasion.' And I said,
'You're nuts! Whom are you going to give alms to? D id you see any beggars here?'
And he said, 'If that's the case, I'll go back home .' So I dragged him back. You just
lie still and get well! There's no use rushing deat
They gave Hottabych a mouthful of aspirins, then fe d him the whole jar of
raspberry jam with tea, and bundled him up tightly to make him perspire.
For a while, the old man lay there quietly. Suddenl y, he began to fuss, trying to
get up. He said he was going to Sulayman, the Son o f David, to ask forgiveness for
some long-forgotten ill deeds. Then he began to cry and asked Volka to run down
to the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean and f ind a copper vessel on the
bottom in which his dear brother Omar Asaf ibn Hott ab was imprisoned. He
wanted Volka to free him and bring him back home.
"We'd all live so happily here!" he mumbled delirio usly with. bitter tears
pouring down his cheeks.
Half an hour later the old man came to his senses a nd said in a weak voice from
under the bed:
"Oh, my young friends, you cannot imagine how grate ful I am for your love
and precious attention! Will you please do me a las t favour: bind my hands tightly,
because I'm afraid I might do such magic while unco nscious that I'll never be able
to undo it later."
They tied him up and he immediately fell soundly as leep.
Next morning Hottabych awoke in the prime of health .
"That's what medical attention administered in time can do!" Zhenya said with
satisfaction. Then and there he decided to be a doc tor when he grew up.
ONE IN WHICH WE RETURN TO THE BARKING BOY
To tell the truth, each time Volka thought of Goga, he became terribly envious.
If he was at home or on the stairs, or downstairs n ear the entrance, it was difficult
not to think of Goga:
ever so often a teasing, wonderful, marvellous bark ing could be heard—even
through closed doors and closed windows.
It was most strange, however, that Goga did not com e outside. No other boy in
his place could ever have been able to stay away so long and not boast to his
friends about his real, pure-breed puppy. And Goga, especially, would have
gloated to see the children so envious.
There was something strange about it all. Finally, Volka could not keep from
asking Goga's mother what the matter was. She becam e terribly embarrassed and
mumbled something about her dear boy being sick. Th en she rushed off.
"Wait a minute!" Volka pleaded. "Can I ask you some thing? Just one
Goga's mother stopped reluctantly.
"Can you just tell me if it's an Alsatian? Is it?"
"What Alsatian?" the poor woman shrugged.
"The puppy you gave Goga. You know, the one that's barking. Is it an Alsatian
or a Boxer?"
"Goodness, what nonsense!" she sighed and disappear ed quickly into her
As if for spite, a high-pitched angry barking issue d forth.
It was all very mysterious.
Just then Hottabych, who was lying in his usual pla ce under Volka's bed, asked
"I wonder how your enemy named Pill is getting on?"
He yearned to boast about the cunning spell he had cast on him and share with
Volka his delight in the trouble Goga was deservedl y having.
"No one but I can ever break the spell," he thought . "I can just imagine how the
most greatly-respected Volka ibn Alyosha will be pl eased and how amazed he will
be at the endless variety of my powers."
"Pill?" Volka repeated absently, for he had just th ought of a very simple and
tempting idea. "Pill? He's not feeling too good. Li sten, Hottabych," he crouched
down and stuck his head under the bed, in order to carry on negotiations more
comfortably. "I want to ask you for a big favour."
"This is it," the old Genie thought unhappily. He s uspected that Volka was
about to ask him to break the spell he had cast on Goga; and he decided to refuse
flatly. At least for the time being. It wouldn't hu rt the horrid tattle-tale and gossip
to suffer a bit. It would only do him good. However . Hottabych replied sourly:
"I'll be only too happy to know your wish."
"I want to ask you for a present."
The old man was pleased at not being forced to disc uss Goga's premature
pardon. He scurried out from under the bed.
"Just tell me what you want and you'll have it imme diately, young and
"Could you give me a dog? An Alsatian?"
"A dog? Nothing could be simpler or more pleasing t o my heart!"
Hottabych yanked a hair from his beard. Volka felt faint from happiness: there,
at his feet, a magnificent, sleek and muscular thre e-year-old Alsatian stretched
with a pleasant growl. It had lively, intelligent e yes, a cold, wet nose and
marvellous pointed ears. Volka patted its neck. The dog wagged its tail politely
and barked loudly from an overflow of emotion.
"How do you like this dog?" Hottabych asked, as he bustled about, ready at a
sign from Volka to fill the entire room, the entire apartment, and the entire house
with the most valuable dogs. "Oh, I beg your pardon . I forgot a small detail."
The "small detail" was a collar, which appeared imm ediately. It glittered with
such a multitude of precious stones that there woul d be more than enough for two
The unexpected happiness was almost more than Volka could bear. He patted
the dog with a shaking hand and had such a dazed sm ile on his face that tears of
happiness rolled down the kind-hearted old man's ch eeks.
But there can never be complete happiness in life, at any rate, not when you are
dealing with a Genie's gifts! Suddenly, they heard the clicking of a woman's heels
behind the door. No sooner had Hottabych darted und er the bed, there to become
invisible, than the door opened and Volka's mother entered.
"That's just what I thought," she said, looking at the animal. In his haste, the old
Genie had forgotten to make it invisible. "A dog! I 'd like to know where you got
it?" Volka knew he was sinking fast and sure. "I go t it.... It was given to me.... You
see.... What I mean is...."
There was no sense telling her the truth, and Volka didn't want to lie. Anyway,
there was no sense lying—his mother could always te ll when he was not telling the
"Volka!" she said, raising her voice, "I don't like your mumbling. I want you to
tell me whose dog it is."
"It isn't anyone's ... I mean, it wasn't anybody's
before, but now it's mine."
His mother turned pink with indignation. "I didn't think you would lie to me. I
didn't think you were capable of it. Tell me whose dog it is. Why, the collar alone
is worth hundreds of roubles."
She thought the stones were just coloured glass. Ho ttabych became very angry.
He was both angry and hurt. He wanted this noble, b ut naive woman to understand
that Has-san Abdurrakhman ibn Hottab was not one to present his best friends
with cheap imitations and that this truly priceless collar was worth thousands upon
thousands of roubles. But he checked himself in tim e, since he now realized such
bragging would only make Volka's situation worse.
He himself was a straightforward and truthful perso n and was proud of Volka
for not wanting to lie, even though it was the tini est white lie. The only thing to do
was to stop the misunderstanding immediately.
"Well then, my kind and truthful young friend will have to do without a dog for
the time being. And let him not be bothered by drea ms of owning a dog,"
Hottabych thought, smiling into his beard.
A faint crystal tinkling issued from under the bed, and the dog disappeared.
"Volka, dear," his mother said, completely forgetti ng what they had been
talking about. "If my office calls, please tell the m I'll be there in an hour or so. By
the way, do you know whom the doctor came to see ne xt door?"
"Goga, I guess."
"Is he ill?"
"I think so." -
"You think so! Isn't he your friend?"
"I'm ashamed of you, Volka," his mother said angril y, and she turned and
walked out of the room with a stony face.
"Hm!" Volka sighed and decided to visit Goga as soo n as the doctor left.
"Hottabych! Hey, Hottabych!"
There was no answer.
"He's gone again! Whenever you have to discuss some thing with him, he's not
there. What a Genie!"
Meanwhile, Hottabych was making himself comfortable in apartment 37, this
time under Goga's bed. He was curious to see how th e old doctor, who obviously
had no idea what a mighty and unusual opponent he w as up against, would
helplessly fumble about in search of a correct diag nosis.
This is what was happening in the room where the mo st mysterious of all the
old district doctor's cases lay high on fluffed pil lows, while Volka, taking
advantage of Hottabych's absence, sat down to study his geography, and the old
Genie himself lay hidden under Goga's bed.
The old doctor's name was Alexander Alexeyevich. We want you to know this,
in case you meet him some day. He was very experien ced and wise.
"Now, will you please leave us alone? There's somet hing we have to discuss,"
he said kindly to Goga's despairing mother.
"Well, young man," he said when they were alone (Ho ttabych under the bed
obviously did not count), "how are things? Are we s till barking?"
"It's awful!" Goga moaned.
"Aha! Well then, let's just chat a bit. What kind o f poems do you like?"
"Bow-wow-wow!" Goga barked. His mother, who was standing just outs ide the
door, began to sob.
You can imagine what Goga wanted to reply to the ol
d doctor's question! He
was indignant and he considered it a foolish and un necessary question. However,
his barking neither surprised nor distressed the ol d doctor.
"Don't get angry," Alexander Alexeyevich said in a very calm voice. "This
question has direct bearing on your illness."
"I like 'A Winter's Evening,' a poem by Pushkin," G oga finally answered after
barking for a long while.
"Won't you recite it for me? Do you know it by hear t?"
Goga recited four lines.
"That's enough!" the doctor said. "Now, will you pl ease tell me what you think
about your classmate, ah, what's-his-name? The one who lives next door?"
"You mean Volka Kostylkov?"
"Bow-wow-wow!" Goga barked loudly.
"Now, now. Try to use words."
"Bow-wow-wow'." Goga replied, shrugging helplessly, as if to say: " I'd be only
too glad to use words, but I can't. I don't seem to be able to."
"I see. That's enough. That's enough, I said! Hm! W ell, and what about the
other children in your class?"
"In my class?" the ailing Goga smirked. "If you wan t to know, all the kids in
my class are bow-wow-wow!"
"Well, and what do you think about me? Don't be shy , tell me what you really
think. What do you think of me as a doctor?"
"As a doctor, I think you're nothing but a bow-wow- wow!"
"Wonderful!" Alexander Alexeyevich exclaimed with g enuine joy. "And what
do you think about your mother?"
"My mother's very nice," Goga said. His mother, sti ll standing behind the door,
burst out in tears, though these were tears of happ iness. "But sometimes she's
bow...." He shuddered and fell silent. "No, she's a lways very, very nice."
"And what about your class wall-newspaper? Do you h ave anything to say
about it?" the old doctor asked, but this time only to be doubly certain. He had
finally discovered the essence of the rare illness his young patient was suffering
from. "Did they ever criticize you in the paper?"
This time Goga kept on barking for at least two min utes. Hottabych was tired of
listening to him, but the old doctor was so delight ed that one would think it was
not Goga Pilukin, nicknamed "Pill" for his atrociou s temper, barking, but an opera
star singing his most famous aria.
When Goga had barked his fill, Alexander Alexeyevic h rubbed his hands
"It seems quite clear now. But let us not be hasty and, instead, put it to the test
again. Here's my pen and a sheet of paper. I want y ou to write: 'There is no place
in our country for gossips and tattle-tales!' Have you written it? Excellent! Let me
see it. You have written it nicely and without a si ngle mistake. Now let's write
another sentence. By the way, what's your teacher's name? Varvara Stepanovna?
Well then, write this: 'Varvara Stepanovna! Vanya a nd Petya are purposely
teaching me to swear. I'm a conscientious boy and w ish you would punish them."
Goga's face became terribly sour. Something was obv iously wrong. He kept
writing and crossing out what he had written, until the doctor finally took the
messy sheet of paper away. This is what he read, ch
uckling, but apparently not a
"Varvara Stepanovna! Vanya and Petya bow-wow-wow.... I'm a conscientious
boy and wish you would bow-wow-wow." Each of these "bow-wow-wow's" was
crossed out, but each time the unfortunate Goga had written in another "bow-wowwow"
over the one that had been crossed out.
"The committee's findings are clear," the doctor sa id, folding the two papers
and putting them away in his wallet. "Please come i n!" he called to Goga's
She entered, dabbing her eyes with a damp hanky.
After she had sat down, Alexander Alexeyevich said, "I have to inform you that
I didn't sleep a wink last night, because I was bus y looking through my medical
books and thinking. I could find nothing at all whi ch even vaguely resembled your
The poor woman gasped nervously.
"Do not despair, my good woman," the old doctor sai d. "Things are not
hopeless. I read on and on, and thought a great dea l. And after that I naturally
could not fall asleep, for I'm getting on in years. Seeking distraction, I picked up a
volume of Arabian Nights and read a tale about a magician or, rather, a Geni e,
changing a person he disliked into a dog. Then I th ought that if there really were
Genies in the world (Hottabych lying under the bed was offended) and if one of
them decided to punish someone, say a boy, for goss iping, tattling, and thinking
poorly of his friends, he could cast a spell on him that would make him bark each
time he wanted to say something bad. Your son and I just had a long talk and we
discovered that he could recite a poem by Pushkin w ithout barking at all and speak
of you with hardly a small bark, and then bark ince ssantly when talking of his
friends or the school newspaper, in which he had ap parently been criticized several
times. Do you understand what I'm getting at? I do hope I've made myself clear."
"Do you mean," Goga's mother said thoughtfully, "th at..."
"Exactly. Naturally, there aren't any Genies and th ere never were any.
(Hottabych again felt hurt, this time even more tha n before.) What your son has is
a very strange kind of psychological trauma. And I must warn you that he will
continue barking in the future...."
"Oh my goodness!" the poor woman wailed.
"Yes, he will bark each time he decides to tattle o r gossip, or whenever he tries
to say something unpleasant. And then people will n o longer call him Goga
Pilukin, but Bow-Wow Pilukin. And this will continu e when he grows up,
although no one will call him that to his face. As you see, your son may find
himself in a very unhappy situation. However, if he makes a firm resolution never
to tattle, gossip, or spoil good people's lives, I can guarantee you that he will stop
barking once and for all."
"Bow-Wow Pilukin!" Goga's unfortunate mother though t and shuddered. "How
horrible! I would never survive it. But what about some medicine? Won't you at
least write out a prescription for some medicine?"
"In this case, no medicine will help. Well, young m an, shall we give it a try?"
"And I won't bark at all any more?"
"Everything depends entirely on you."
"Then you won't leave a prescription?" Goga's mothe r asked again, seeing that
the doctor was about to leave.
"I gave you my prescription, the only one that will
work. However, we can
check on it. Now, won't you say a few fair words ab out your friend Volka? I want
you to pay special attention: I said 'fair.'"
"Sure, Volka Kostylkov's a good fellow," Goga mumbl ed hesitantly, as if he
were just learning how to talk. "You're right dear, dear doctor! This is the first time
since the geography exam that I didn't bark when I talked about Volka! Hurray!"
"Exactly what happened at the exam?" the old doctor asked, as if casually.
"Why, nothing special. Can't a boy suddenly become ill from overwork?" Goga
went on in a much more confident tone.
"I guess I'll be going along," Alexander Alexeyevic h said. "I have to visit a
good dozen real patients. I take it you understood everything, Goga ?"
"Yes! Oh, yes! Upon my word of honour! Thank you!"
"Well, then, keep it up! Good-bye, everyone."
"Where'd you disappear to?" Volka shouted at the ol d Genie several seconds
later, as Hottabych crawled back to his place under his bed with a very thoughtful
expression-on his face.
"Listen, Volka," the old man said with great solemnity. I j ust witnessed a
most unusual scene: a spell cast by a Genie was bro ken by a human being! True,
this was a very wise and very just human being. He was so just that I didn't even
think of punishing him for not believing in my exis tence. Where are you going?
"I have to visit Goga. I should really be ashamed o f myself."
"Yes, do go and visit your classmate. Though he is no longer ill."
"Not ill at all? Did he get well so quickly?"
"That depends entirely on him," Hottabych said. And pocketing his own pride,
he told Volka about the only known case of curing a boy who barked.
HOTTABYCH AND MR. MONEYBAGS " blessed Volka," Hottabych said as he basked happil y in the sun after
breakfast, "each time I present you with gifts whic h I consider of great value I
discover they are the wrong kind of gifts. Perhaps it would be a better idea if you
were to tell me what you and your young friend woul d care for. I would consider it
a great honour and joy to fulfil your wish on the s pot."
"If that's the case, would you please give me a pai r of large navy binoculars?"
Volka said promptly.
"With the greatest of pleasure and joy."
"I'd like a pair of binoculars, too. I mean, if it' s all right with you," Zhenya
"Nothing could be simpler."
The three of them set out for a large second-hand s hop, located on a busy little
side street in the centre of the city. The shop was crowded and our friends had
difficulty in pushing their way to the counter. The re were so many odd items on
the shelves that they could never be sorted accordi ng to any system, for then there
would have to be a separate section for each item.
"Show me, sweet Volka, what these binoculars so dear to your heart look
like," Hottabych said happily but then suddenly tur ned pale and began to tremble.
He looked at his young friends sadly, burst into te ars and said in a hollow voice,
"Farewell, light of my eyes!" Then, shoving the people in the shop aside, he
headed towards a grey-haired ruddy-complexioned for eigner and fell to his knees
before the man.
"Order me as you will, for I am your obedient and h
umble slave!" Hottabych
mumbled, swallowing his tears and trying to kiss th e flap of the foreigner's jacket.
"Shame on you, citizen, to go begging in our times! " one of the shop assistants
said to Hottabych.
"And so, how many I should have pay you for this ba d ring?" the foreigner
continued nervously in bad Russian, after being int errupted by Hottabych.
"Only ten roubles and seventy kopeks," the clerk an swered "It certainly is an
The clerks of second-hand shops knew Mr. Moneybags well though he had but
recently arrived from abroad as a touring businessm an. He spent all his free time
combing the second-hand shops in the hope of acquir ing a treasure for a song.
"Quite recently he had bought half a dozen china cu ps of the Lomonosov
Pottery very cheaply and now, just when an inconsol able Hottabych had fallen to
his knees before him, he was pricing a time-blacken ed ring which the clerk
thought was made of silver and Mr. Moneybags though t was made of platinum.
When he received his purchase he put it in his vest pocket and left the shop.
Hottabych rushed out after him, wiping the tears th at poured down his wrinkled
old face. As he passed his friends, he barely had t ime to whisper:
"Alas! This grey-haired foreigner holds the magic r ing of Sulayman, the Son of
David (on the twain be peace!). And I am the slave of this ring and must follow its
owner. Farewell, my friends. I'll always remember y ou with gratitude and love...."
Only now, when they had parted with Hottabych forev er, did the boys realize
how used to him they had got. They left the shop in silence without even looking
at any binoculars and headed towards the river bank , where, as of late, they were
wont to sit long hours having heart-to-heart talks. They lay on the bank for a long
time, right near the place where such a short while ago Volka had found the slimy
clay vessel with Hottabych. They recalled the old m an's funny but endearing ways
and became more and more convinced that, when all w as said and done, he had
had a very pleasant and kind nature.
"There's no use denying it. We didn't appreciate Ho ttabych enough," Zhenya
said critically and heaved a sigh.
Volka turned on his other side and was about to rep ly, but instead he jumped to
his feet quickly and ran off.
"Hurray! Hottabych is back! Hurray!"
And true enough, Hassan Abdurrakhman ibn Hottab was approaching them in a
quick old man's shuffle. Dangling over his shoulder on long straps were two black
leather cases containing large naval binoculars.
HASSAN ABDURRAKHMAN IBM HOTTAB'S STORY OF HIS
ADVENTURES AFTER LEAVING THE SHOP
my young friends, that my story is strange and my adventures
most unusual. I want you to sit beside me while I t ell you how I came to be here
"It so happened, that when the ruddy-faced foreigne r left the shop, he continued
on foot, in order to shake off a little of the fat that covers his well-fed body so
plentifully. He walked so quickly that I was barely able to keep up with him. I
caught up with him on another street and fell down before him crying, 'Order me
to follow you, my master!'
"But he would not listen and continued on his way. I caught up with him
eighteen times in all and eighteen times I fell on my knees before him and eighteen
times he left me where I was.
"And so we continued on until we came to his house. I wanted to follow him in,
but he shouted, 'You do not push into my rooms or I will be calling a militia man!'
Then I asked him whether I was to stand by his door all day and he replied, 'Till
next year if you want to!'
"And I remained outside the door, for the words of one who possesses
Sulayman's ring are law to me. And I stood there fo r some time until I heard a
noise overhead and the window opened. I looked up a nd saw a tall thin woman in
a green silk dress standing by the window. Her laug h was bitter and taunting.
Behind her stood the same foreigner who now looked extremely put out. The
woman said derisively, 'Alas, how mistaken I was wh en I married you fourteen
years ago! You always were and always will be a ver y ordinary haberdasher! My
goodness, not to be able to tell a worthless silver ring from a platinum one! Oh, if
only my poor father had known!'
"And she tossed the ring down on the pavement and s hut the window with a
bang. I saw this and dropped senseless to the groun d, for if Sulayman's ring is
thrown to the ground terrible calamities may occur. But then I opened my eyes and
became convinced that I was alive and nothing unfor tunate had happened. I
gathered from this that I can consider myself lucky .
"Then I jumped to my feet and blessed my fate. I pi cked up the ring and ran
back to you, my friends, having previously procured the presents you so desired.
That's all I have to say."
"It's just like in a fairy-tale," Zhenya cried exci tedly when the old man had
finished his story. "Can I hold the magic ring a li ttle?"
"Of course! Put it on the index finger of your left hand. Then turn it and say
your wish out loud. It will be fulfilled immediatel y."
"Golly!" Zhenya said, putting on the ring. He turne d it and said in a loud voice,
"I want a bicycle right now!" All three held their breaths in expectation. However,
no bicycle appeared.
Zhenya repeated still louder, "I want to have a bic ycle immediately! This very
But the bicycle just wouldn't appear.
"Something must have gone wrong with the ring," Vol ka said, taking it from
Zhenya and looking at it closely. "Look, there's so mething written inside. It's
written in Russian!" he said and read aloud: "Wear this, Katya, and remember me.
Vasya Kukushkin, May 2, 1916."
THE SAME AND MR. MONEYBAGS
"Anyone can make a mistake," Volka said magnanimous
ly, looking at a
confused Hottabych with sympathy. "I'm glad the rin g has turned out to be a plain
ordinary one. And thanks a lot for the presents."
The boys turned away tactfully, took their binocula rs from the leather cases and
began enjoying their wonderful presents. The far-of f houses came right up to the
river, tiny dots turned into walking people, and a car speeding down the road
seemed about to knock the happy owner of a pair of binoculars off his feet. One
could not even dream of bigger enlargement.
"Hottabych," Volka said several minutes later, "her e, have a look at who's
coming towards us." He handed his binoculars over t o Hottabych, who had already
discerned Mr. Harry Moneybags in person walking rap idly towards them. In fact,
he was running, huffing and puffing from his great weight.
When Mr. Moneybags noticed that he was being watche d he slowed down and
continued on nonchalantly, as if he were in no hurr y at all, as if he were merely
strolling along to get away from the city noises. W hen he came up close, his red
face contorted into a sickeningly sweet smile and h e said:
"Oh, my goodness! How pleasant and unexpected meeti ngs!"
As he approaches our friends to shake their hands e nthusiastically, we shall
explain why he has again appeared in our story.
It so happened that Mrs. Moneybags was in a black t emper that day, and that is
why she tossed the ring out of the window so hastil y. After she had tossed it out,
she remained standing at the window to calm her ner ves. It was then that she
noticed with interest an old man picking the ring u p from the gutter and dashing
off as fast as he could.
"Did you see that?" she said to her crestfallen hus band. "What a funny old man!
He grabbed up that cheap ring as if it had an emera ld in it and scampered off."
"Oh, that was a very bothersome old man!" her husba nd answered in a more
lively tone. "He came up to me back in the second-h and shop and hung on to me
right to our doorstep, and just imagine, my dear, h e kept falling to his knees before
me and shouting, 'I am your slave, because you have Sulayman's ring!' and I said,
'Sir, you are greatly mistaken. I have just bought this ring and it belongs to no one
but me.' But he was stubborn as a mule and kept on saying, 'No, it's Sulayman's
ring! It's a magic ring!' And I said, 'No, it's not a magic ring, its a platinum one!'
And he said, 'No, my master, it's not platinum, it' s a magic ring!' and he pretended
he wanted to kiss the flap of my jacket."
His wife gazed at him with loathing and then, appar ently unable to stand his
smug expression, she looked away. Her eyes came upo n a copy of Arabian Nights
lying on the couch. Suddenly she was struck by an i dea. Mrs. Moneybags
collapsed into the nearest armchair and whispered b itterly:
"My God! How unlucky I am to be obliged to live wit h such a man! Someone
with your imagination, Sir, should be an undertaker , not a businessman. A lizard
has more brains than you!"
"What's the matter, my dear?" her husband asked anx iously.
"Gentlemen," Mrs. Moneybags wailed tragically, thou gh there was no one save
themselves in the room. "Gentlemen, this man wants to know what's the matter!
Sir, will you be kind enough to catch up with the o
ld man immediately and get the
ring back before it's too late!"
"But what do we want it for? It's a cheap little si lver ring, and a home-made one
"This man will surely drive me to my grave! He keep s asking me why I want
King Solomon's magic ring! Gentlemen, he wants to k now why I need a ring that
can fulfil one's any wish, that can make one the ri chest and most powerful man in
"But, my dove, where have you ever seen a magic rin g before?"
"And where have you ever seen anyone in this countr y fall on his knees before
another and try to kiss his hand?"
"Not my hand, my sweet, my jacket!"
"All the more so! Will you please be so kind as to catch up with the old man
immediately and take back the ring! And I don't env y you if you come back
Such were the events which caused the red-faced hus band of the terrible Mrs.
Moneybags to appear so suddenly before Hottabych an d his friends.
Had Mr. Moneybags been in Hottabych's place, he wou ld never have returned
the ring, even if it were an ordinary one, and espe cially so if it were a magic one.
That is why he decided to begin from afar.
"Oh, my goodness! How happy and unexpected surprise !" he cried with so
sweet a smile that one would think he had dreamed o f becoming their friend all his
life. "What a wonderful weather! How you feel?"
Hottabych bowed silently.
"Oh!" Mr. Moneybags exclaimed with feigned surprise . "I see on your finger
one silver ring. You give me look at this silver ri ng?"
"With the utmost of pleasure," Hottabych answered, extending his hand with
the ring on it.
Instead of admiring the ring, Mr. Moneybags suddenl y snatched it off
Hottabych's finger and squeezed it onto his own fle shy finger.
"I thanking you! I thanking you!" he wheezed and hi s already purple face
became still redder, so that Hottabych feared Mr. M oneybags might even have a
"You have buy this ring someplace?"
He expected the old man to lie, or at least to try every means possible to get
back the almighty ring. Mr. Moneybags sized up the skinny old man and the two
boys and decided he would be more than a match for them if things took a bad
However, to his great surprise the old man did not lie. Instead, he said quite
"I did not buy the ring, I picked it up in the gutt er near your house. It is your
ring, grey-haired foreigner!"
"Oh!" Mr. Moneybags exclaimed happily. "You are ver y honest old man! You
will be my favourite servant!"
At these words the boys winced, but said nothing. T hey were interested to know
what would follow.
"You have very good explained to me before that thi s ring is magic ring. I can
actually have fulfil any wish?" Hottabych nodded. T he boys giggled. They decided
that Hottabych was about to play a trick on this un pleasant man and were ready to
have a good laugh.
"Oh, thank you, thank you!" Mr. Moneybags said. "Yo
u will be explaining how
I use magic ring."
"With the greatest of pleasure, most ruddy-faced of foreigners!" Hottabych
answered, bowing low. "You take the magic ring, put it on the index finger of your
left hand, turn it and say your wish."
"And it has to by all means come true?"
"Most different various kind of wish?"
"Any wish at all."
"Ah, so?" Mr. Moneybags said with satisfaction and his face at once became
cold and arrogant. He turned the ring around quickl y and shouted to Hottabych,
"Hey, you foolish old man! Coming here! You be pack ing my moneys!"
His insolent tone enraged Volka and Zhenya. They mo ved a step forward and
were about to open their mouths to reprimand him, b ut Hottabych waved them
away angrily and approached Mr. Moneybags.
"Begging your pardon, sir," the old man said humbly . "I don't know what kind
of money you mean. Show me some, so I know what it looks like."
"Cultured man must know how moneys look," Mr. Money bags muttered.
And taking a foreign bill from his pocket, he waved it in front of Hottabych and
then put it back.
"And now. Now is time to begin business," said Mr. Moneybags. "Let me have
now one hundred bags of moneys!"
"You have a long wait coming!" Volka snickered and winked at Zhenya. "That
Mr. Moneybags has got his teeth into the magic ring . 'Wear it, Katya, and
remember me.' "
"Let me have immediately coming one thousand bags o f moneys," Mr.
He was disappointed: the money did not appear. The boys watched him with
"I can't see moneys! Where is my one thousand bags of moneys?" Mr.
Moneybags bellowed and immediately fell senseless t o the ground, having been
struck by a huge sack which dropped out of the blue .
While Hottabych was bringing him back to his senses , the boys opened the
One hundred carefully tied bags of money were stuff ed in side. Each bag
contained one hundred bills.
"What a funny ring!" Zhenya muttered unhappily. "It won' even give a decent
person a bike, but this character gets hundred bags of money just for nothing! That
sure is some 'Wear it, Katya, and remember me,' for you!"
"It sure is strange," Volka shrugged.
Mr. Moneybags opened his eyes, saw the bags of mone y; jumped to his feet,
counted the bags and saw that there were exactly on e hundred of them. However,
his happy smile soon vanished. No sooner had his sh aking hands tied the valuable
sack than his eyes once again began to glitter gree dily.
He pressed the sack to his fat chest, turned the ri ng around again and shouted
"One hundred bags is little! I want immediately one million! Right away now!"
He barely had time to jump aside when a huge sack w
eighing at least ten tons
crashed to the ground. The force of the crash split the canvas sack and a million
bags of money spilled out on the grass. Each bag co ntained a hundred bills.
These bills in no way differed from real money, exc ept for the fact that they all
had the same serial number. This was the number Hot tabych had seen on the bill
the greedy owner of the magic ring had shown him.
Mr. Moneybags would certainly have been grieved to discover this, for any
bank-teller would have noticed that all the numbers were the same, and that would
mean it was counterfeit money. However, Mr. Moneyba gs had no time to check
the serial numbers just now. Pale from excitement, he climbed to the top of the
precious pile and stood up to his full height like a monument, like a living
embodiment of greed. Mr. Moneybag's hair was dishev elled, his eyes burned with
insane fire, his hands trembled and his heart thund ered in his breast.
"And now ... and now... and now I want ten thousand gold watches strewn with
diamonds, twenty thousand gold cigarette cases, thi rty . .. no, fifty thousand strings
of pearls, fifteen thousand antique China services! " he shouted darting back and
forth in order to dodge the great treasures falling from all sides.
" red-faced foreigner, don't you think what you have received is enough?"
Hottabych asked sternly.
"Silence!" Mr. Moneybags yelled and stamped his fee t in rage. "When the boss
do business, the servant must silence! Ring, do as my wish is! Fast!"
"Go back where you came from, you old grabber!" Vol ka shouted. "Out of our
country! We'll propel you out of here!"
"May it be so," Hottabych agreed and yanked four ha irs from his beard.
That very moment the sacks of money, the crates of china, watches and
necklaces, everything the silver ring had brought— disappeared. Mr. Moneybags
himself rolled down the grass and along the path ve ry quickly, heading in the
direction from which he had recently come so full o f hopes. In no time he was
gone with just a little puff of dust to show where he had been.
After the boys had regained their composure and cal med down, Volka said in a
thoughtful tone, "I can't understand what sort of a ring it is—a plain one or a magic
"Why, a plain one, of course," Hottabych answered k indly.
"Then why did it fulfil that robber's wishes?"
"It was I who fulfilled them, not the ring."
"It was just a matter of politeness, curious youth. I felt indebted to the man,
because I bothered him in the shop and annoyed him on the way home, right up to
his very doorstep. 1 felt it wouldn't be fair not t o fulfil a few of his wishes, but his
greed and his black soul turned my stomach."
When they left the river bank and walked along the street, Hottabych stepped
on a small round object. It was the ring with the i nscription: "Wear it, Katya, and
remember me," which Mr. Moneybags must have lost as he rolled awa y.
The old man picked it up, wiped it with his huge, b right-blue handkerchief, and
put it on his right small finger.
The boys and the old man came home, went to bed and woke up the next
morning, but Mr. Moneybags was still rolling and ro lling away home to where he
had come from.
On a bright and sunny summer day our friends set ou
t to see a football game.
During the soccer season the entire population of M oscow is divided into two alien
camps. In the one are the football fans; in the oth er are those queer people who are
entirely indifferent to this fascinating sport.
Long before the beginning of the game, these first stream towards the high
entrance gates of the Central Stadium from all part s of the city.
They look upon those who are heading in the opposit e direction with a feeling
In turn, these other Muscovites shrug in amazement when they see hundreds of
crowded buses and trolley-buses and thousands of ca rs crawling through the
turbulent sea of pedestrian fans.
But the army of fans which appears so unified to an onlooker is actually torn
into two camps. This is unnoticeable while the fans are making their way to the
stadium. However, as they approach the gates, this division appears in all its
ugliness. It suddenly becomes evident that some peo ple have tickets, while others
do not. The possessors of tickets pass through the gates confidently; the others dart
back and forth excitedly, rushing at new arrivals w ith the same plaintive plea:
"D'you have an extra ticket?" or "You don't have an extra ticket, do you?"
As a rule, there are so few extra tickets and so ma ny people in need of them,
that if not for Hottabych, Volka and Zhenya would h ave certainly been left outside
"With the greatest of pleasure," Hottabych murmured in reply to Volka's
request. "You'll have as many as you need in a minu te."
No sooner were these words out of his mouth, than t he boy saw him holding a
whole sheaf of blue, green and yellow tickets. "Wil l this be enough, wonderful
Volka? If not, I'll...." He waved the tickets. This gesture nearly cost him his life.
"Look, extra tickets!" a man shouted, making a dash for him. A few seconds later
no less than a hundred and fifty excited people wer e pressing Hottabych's back
against the concrete fence. The old man would have been as good as dead if not
for Volka. He ran to a side and shouted at the top of his voice:
"Over here! Who needs an extra ticket? Who needs so me extra tickets?"
At these magic words the people who had been closin g in on a distraught
Hottabych rushed towards Volka, but the boy darted into the crowd and
disappeared. A moment later he and his two friends handed the gate-keeper three
tickets and passed through the North Gate to the st adium, leaving thousands of
inconsolable fans behind.
No sooner had the friends found their seats, than a girl in a white apron carrying
a white lacquered box approached them.
"Would you like some ice-cream?" she asked and shri eked. We must be fair.
Anyone else in her place would have been just as fr ightened, for what answer
could an ice-cream vendor expect?
In the best of cases: "Yes, thank you. Two, please. " In the worst of cases: "No,
Now, just imagine that upon hearing the young lady'
s polite question, a little old
man in a straw boater turned as red as a beet, his eyes became bloodshot and he
bristled all over. He leaned over to her and whispe red in a fierce voice:
"A-a-ah! You want to kill me with your foul ice-cream! Well, you won't,
despicable thing! The forty-six ice-creams which I, old fool that I am, ate in the
circus nearly sent me to my grave.
They have been enough to last me the rest of my lif e. Tremble, wretch, for I'll
turn you into a hideous toad!"
At this, he rose and raised his dry wrinkled arms o ver his head. Suddenly a boy
with sun-bleached eyebrows on his freckled face hun g onto the old man's arms and
shouted in a frightened voice, "She's not to blame if you were greedy and stuffed
yourself with ice-cream! Please sit down, and don't be silly!"
"I hear and I obey," the old man answered obedientl y. He let down his arms and
resumed his seat. Then he addressed the frightened young lady as follows, "You
can go now. I forgive you. Live in peace and be gra teful to this youth till the end
of your days, for he has saved your life."
The young lady did not appear in their section agai n for the remainder of the
HOW MANY FOOTBALLS DO YOU NEED?
Meanwhile, the stadium was full of that very specia l festive atmosphere which
pervades it during decisive football matches. Loud- speakers blared. A hundred
thousand people were heatedly discussing the possib le outcome of the game, thus
giving rise to a hum of human voices incomparable t o anything else. Everyone was
impatiently awaiting the umpire's whistle.
Finally, the umpire and the linesmen appeared on th e emerald-green field. The
umpire was carrying a ball which was to be kicked b ack and forth—thus
covering quite a few miles on land and in the air—a nd, finally, having landed in
one goal more times than in the other, was to decid e which team was the winner
that day. He put the ball down in the centre of the field. The two teams appeared
from their locker rooms and lined up opposite each other. The captains shook
hands and drew lots to see which team was to play a gainst the sun. The
unfortunate lot fell to the Zubilo team, to the gre at satisfaction of the Shaiba team
4 and a portion of the fans.
"Will you, Volka, consider it possible to explain to your unw orthy servant
what these twenty-two pleasant young men are going to do with the ball?"
Hottabych asked respectfully.
Volka waved his hand impatiently and said, "You'll see for yourself in a
At that very moment a Zubilo player kicked the ball smartly and the game was
"Do you mean that these twenty-two nice young men w ill have to run about
such a great field, get tired, fall and shove each other, only to have a chance to
kick this plain-looking leather ball around for a f ew seconds? And all because they
gave them just this one ball for all twenty-two of them?" Hottabych asked in a
very displeased voice a few minutes later.
Volka was completely engrossed in the game and did not reply. He could not be
bothered with Hottabych at a time when the Shaiba's forwards had got possession
of the ball and were approaching the Zubilo goal.
"You know what, Volka?" Zhenya whispered. "It's rea
l luck Hottabych doesn't
know a thing about football, because he'd surely st ick his finger in the pie!"
"I know," Volka agreed. Suddenly, he gasped and jum ped to his feet.
At that very moment, the other hundred thousand fan s also jumped to their feet
and began to shout. The umpire's whistle pierced th e air, but the players had
already come to a standstill.
Something unheard-of in the history of football had happened, something that
could not be explained by any law of nature: twenty -two brightly coloured balls
dropped from somewhere above in the sky and rolled down the field. They were
all made of top-grain morocco leather.
"Outrageous! Hooliganism! Who did this?" the fans s houted.
The culprit should have certainly been taken away a nd even handed over to the
militia, but no one could discover who he was. Only three people of the hundred
thousand—Hottabych and his two young friends—knew w ho was responsible.
"See what you've gone and done?" Volka whispered. " You've stopped the game
and prevented the Shaiba team from making a sure po int!"
However, Volka was not especially displeased at the team's misfortune, for he
was a Zubilo fan.
"I wanted to improve things," Hottabych whispered g uiltily. "I thought it would
be much better if each player could play with his o wn ball as much as he wanted
to, instead of shoving and chasing around like mad on such a great big field."
"Golly! I don't know what to do with you!" Volka cr ied in despair and pulled
the old man down. He hurriedly explained the basic rules of football to him. "It's a
shame that the Zubilo team has to play opposite the sun now, because after they
change places in the second half it won't be in any one's eyes any more. This way,
the Shaiba players have a terrific advantage, and f or no good reason at all," he
concluded emphatically, hoping Hottabych would bear his words in mind.
"Yes, it really is unfair," the old man agreed. Whe reupon the sun immediately
disappeared behind a little cloud and stayed there till the end of the game.
Meanwhile, the extra balls had been taken off the f
ield, the umpire totalled up
the time wasted, and the game was resumed.
After Volka's explanation, Hottabych began to follo w the course of the match
with ever-increasing interest. The Shaiba players, who had lost a sure point
because of the twenty-two balls, were nervous and w ere playing badly. The old
man felt guilty and was conscience-stricken.
HOTTABYCH ENTERS THE GAME
Thus, the sympathies of Volka Kostylkov and Hassan Abdurrakhman ibn
Hottab were fatally divided. When the first beamed with pleasure (and this
happened every time a Shaiba player missed the othe r team's goal), the old man
became darker than a cloud. However, when the Zubil o forwards missed the
Shaiba goal, the reaction was reversed. Hottabych w ould burst out in happy
laughter and Volka would become terribly angry.
"I don't see what's so funny about it, Hottabych. W hy, they nearly made a
"'Nearly' doesn't count, my dear boy," Hottabych wo uld answer.
Hottabych, who was witnessing a football game for t he first time in his life, did
not know there was such a thing as a fan. He had re garded Volka's concern about
the sun being in the Zubilo's eyes as the boy's des ire for fair play. Neither he nor
Volka suspected that he had suddenly become a fan, too. Volka was so engrossed
in what was happening on the field that he paid not the slightest attention to
anything else—and this forgetfulness of his caused all the unusual events which
took place at the stadium that day.
It all began during a very tense moment, when the Z ubilo forwards were
approaching the Shaiba goal and Volka bent over to Hottabych's ear, whispering
"Hottabych, dear, please make the Shaiba goal a lit tle wider when the Zubilo
men kick the ball." The old man frowned.
"Of what good will this be to the Shaiba team?"
"Why should you worry about them? It's good for the Zubilo team."
The old man said nothing. Once again the Zubilo pla yers missed. Two or three
minutes later a happy Shaiba player kicked the ball into the Zubilo goal, to the
approving yells of the Shaiba fans.
"Yegor, please don't laugh, but I'm ready to swear the goal post's on the
Shaiba's side," the Zubilo goalie said to one of th e spare players when the game
had passed over to the far end of the field.
"You see, when they kicked the ball, the right goal post... upon my sacred word
of honour ... the right goal post... moved about a half a yard away and let the ball
pass. I saw it with my own eyes!"
"Have you taken your temperature?" the spare player asked,
"You sure must have a high fever!"
"Humph!" the goalie spat and stood tensely in the g oal.
The Shaiba players were out-manoeuvring the defence and were fast
approaching the Zubilo goal.
Barn! The second goal in three minutes! And it had not be en the Zubilo goalie's
fault either time. He was fighting like a tiger. Bu
t what could he do? At the
moment the ball was hit, the cross-bar rose of its own accord, just high enough to
let it pass through, brushing the tips of his finge rs.
Whom could he complain to? Who would ever believe h im? The goalie felt
scared and forlorn, just like a little boy who find s himself in the middle of a forest
"See that?" he asked Yegor in a hopeless voice. "I th-th-th-ink I did," the spare
player stuttered. "But you c-c-c-an't tell anyone, n-n-no one will ever b-b-believe
you." "That's just it, no one'll believe me," the g oalie agreed sadly. Just then, a
quiet scandal was taking place in the North Section . A moment before the second
goal, Volka noticed the old man furtively yank a ha ir from his beard.
"What did he do that for?" he wondered uneasily, st ill unaware of the storm
gathering over the field. However, even this though t did not come to Volka
The game was going so badly for the Zubilo team tha t he had no time to think
of the old man.
But soon everything became perfectly clear.
The first half of the game was nearing an end, and it seemed that Luck had
finally turned its face towards the Zubilo team, Th e ball was now on the Shaiba
side of the field. The Zubilo men were ploughing up the earth, as the saying goes,
and soon their best forward kicked the ball with tr emendous force into the top
corner of the Shaiba goal.
All one hundred thousand fans jumped to their feet. This sure goal was to give
the team its first point. Volka and Zhenya, two ard ent Zubilo fans, winked happily
to each other, but immediately groaned with disappo intment: it was a sure goal,
but the ball smacked against the cross-bar so loudl y that the sound echoed all over
This sound was echoed by a loud wail from the Shaib a goalie:
the lowered cross-bar had fouled a goal, but it had knocked him smartly on the
Now Volka understood all and was terrified.
"Hassan Abdurrakhman ibn Hottab," he said in a shak ing voice. "What's this I
see? You know both Zhenya and I are Zubilo fans, an d here you are, against us!
You're a Shaiba fan!"
"Alas, blessed one, it is so!" the old man replied unhapp ily.
"Didn't I save you from imprisonment in the clay ve ssel?" Volka continued
"This is as true as the fact that it is now day and that there is a great future
ahead of you," Hottabych replied in a barely audibl e voice.
"Then why are you helping the Shaiba team instead o f the Zubilo team?"
"Alas, I have no power over my actions," Hottabych answered sadly, as large
tears streamed down his wrinkled face. "I want the Shaiba team to win."
THE SITUATION BECOMES MORE TENSE
"Just wait, nothing good will come of it!" Volka th reatened.
"Be that as it may."
That very moment the Zubilo goalie slipped on an ex tremely dry spot and let
the third ball into the goal.
"Oh, so that's how it is! You won't listen to reaso
n, will you? All right then!"
Volka jumped onto the bench and shouted, pointing t o Hottabych:
"Listen; everyone! He's been helping the Shaiba tea m all the time!"
"Who's helping them? The umpire? What do you mean?" people began to
"No, not the umpire! What has he to do with it? It' s this old man here who's
helping them.... Leave me alone!"
These last words were addressed to Zhenya, who was tugging at his sleeve
nervously. Zhenya realized that no good would come of Volka's quarrel with
Hottabych. But Volka would not stop, though no one took his words seriously.
"So you say the old man is shifting the goal posts from over here, in the North
Section?" People roared with laughter. "Ha, ha, ha! He probably has a special
gimmick in his pocket to regulate the goals at a di stance. Maybe he even tossed all
those balls into the field?"
"Sure, it was him," Volka agreed readily, calling f orth a new wave of laughter.
"I bet he was also responsible for the earthquake i n Chile! Ho-ho-ho! Ha-haha!"
"No, he wasn't responsible for that." Volka was an honest boy. "An earthquake
is the result of a catastrophic shifting of soil. E specially in Chile. And he was just
recently released from a vessel."
A middle-aged man sitting behind Volka entered the conversation. Volka knew
him, since they lived in the same house. He was the one who had named his cat
Homych in honour of the famous goalie.
"Keep your shirt on, and don't make a fool of yours elf," the man said kindly,
when the laughter had died down a bit. "Stop talkin g nonsense and bothering us.
The way things are now, it's bad enough without you adding your bit." (He was
also a Zubilo fan.)
And true enough, there were still eleven long minut es left till the end of the first
time, but the score was already 14:0 in favour of t he Shaiba team.
Strange things kept happening to the Zubilo players . They seemed to have
forgotten how to play: their tackling was amazingly feeble and stupid. The men
kept falling; it was as if they had just learned ho w to walk.
And then the defence began to act queerly. Those ol d football lions began to
shy away in fright as soon as they saw the ball app roaching, as if it were a bomb
about to explode.
Oh, how miserable our young friends were! Just thin k: they had explained the
rules of soccer to Hottabych to their own misfortun e! What were they to do? How
were they to help the unfortunate Zubilo players se e justice restored? And what
should they do with Hottabych? Even a scandal had p roved useless. How could
they at least distract the old Genie's attention fr om the field on which this unique
sports tragedy was unfolding?
Zhenya found the answer. He stuck a copy of Soviet Sports into Hottabych's
hand, saying, "Here, read the paper and see what a wonderful team you're
disgracing in the eyes of the nation!" He pointed t owards the heading: "An Upand-
Coming Team." Hottabych read aloud:
"The Zubilo team has improved considerably during t he current season. In their
last game in Kuibyshev against the local 'Krylya So vetov'- team they demonstrated
their.... That's interesting!" he said and buried h is nose in the paper.
The boys grinned at each other. No sooner had Hotta bych begun to read, than
the Zubilo men came to life. Their forwards immedia tely proved that the article in
had all the facts straight. A great roar coming fro m tens of thousands
of excited throats accompanied nearly every kick. I n a few seconds the game was
on the Shaiba half of the field. One kick followed another in quick succession.
Those Zubilo players were really good!
A few more moments, and they would finally be able to score.
"Aha!" Volka's neighbour shouted behind his back. " See?! What did I say!
They'll show those Shaiba imbeciles a thing or two. ..."
Ah, how much better it would have been for all conc erned if he had curbed his
joy. He should not have nudged Hottabych in the sid e with such a triumphant look
on his face, as if every man on the Zubilo team was his own favourite son, or at
least his favourite pupil!
Hottabych started, tore his eyes from the paper, an d took in the field at a glance.
He sized up the situation like an expert and handed the paper back to Zhenya, who
accepted it with a long face.
"I'll finish reading it later," the old man said. H e hurriedly yanked a hair from
his beard, and the Zubilo team's unexplainable and disgraceful sufferings began
15:0! 16:0! 18:0! 23:0!
The ball flew into the Zubilo goal on an average of once every 40 seconds.
But what had happened to the goalie? Why did he clu tch at the side-post and
wail "Mamma!" every time the ball was kicked into t he goal? Why did he
suddenly walk to the side with a thoughtful express ion on his face—and for no
apparent reason at all—and this at a most decisive moment, in the middle of a
heated tangle right in front of the goal?
"Shame! It's outrageous! What's the matter with you !" the fans shouted from all
sides. But he, the famous goalie, the pride of his country, staggered out of the goal
and off to a side every time the opposite team clos ed in.
"What's the matter with you? Have you gone crazy?" the spare player croaked.
And the goalie moaned in reply:
"I sure have. Someone seems to be pulling me. I try to hold my ground, but
something keeps pushing me out of the goal.
When I want to turn towards the ball, that same som ething presses me toward
the goal-post so hard that I can't tear myself away ."
"Things are really bad!"
"Couldn't be worse!"
. The situation was so extraordinary that there was not a person present at the
stadium, including the ticket collectors, militia m en and food vendors, who was
not taking the strange events
to heart and discussing them loudly.
There was only one fan among the thousands who, tho ugh
suffering keenly, was remarkably silent. This was a n amazingly
uncommunicative man of about fifty-five, grey-haire d, tall and lanky, with a long,
yellowish stony face. His face was equally stony du ring an unimportant game and
during the finals, when a successful kick decides t he champion of the year. He was
always equally dour, straightlaced and immobile.
This day he was in his usual seat, which was right in front of Hottabych. As he
was a Zubilo fan, one can well imagine the anguish in his sunken, bony chest.
However, only the shifting of his eyes and the bare ly discernible movements of his
head indicated that he was far from indifferent to the events taking place on the
field. He apparently had a bad heart, and had to ta
ke good care of himself, for any
amount of emotion might have produced grave results . However, even as he felt
around with a practised gesture for his box of suga r and his bottle of medicine and
dropped the medicine onto a bit of sugar, without e ver tearing his eyes from the
game, his face remained as immobile as if he were s taring into space.
When the score became 23:0 it nearly finished him. He opened his thin pale lips
and squeaked in a wooden voice:
"They could at least sell mineral water here!"
Hottabych, whose soul was singing joyfully at the u nheard-of success of the
Shaiba team, was more willing than ever to do peopl e favours.
Upon hearing the words of his phlegmatic neighbour, he snapped his fingers
softly. The man suddenly saw that he was holding a glass of ice-cold mineral
water which had appeared from nowhere.
Anyone else in his place would have been astounded, or, at any rate, would
have looked around at the people sitting to all sid es of him. But this man merely
raised the frosted glass to his lips with the same stony expression. However, he did
not even take a sip: the poor Zubilo players were a bout to get the twenty-fourth
ball kicked into their goal. He sat frozen to the s pot with his glass raised and
Zhenya, who was still frantically searching for a w ay to save the disgraced team,
snatched the mineral water from him and dashed it o nto Hottabych's beard.
"What treachery! What vile treachery!" the old Geni e gasped and began
feverishly yanking out one hair after another. Inst ead of the clear crystal tinkling,
the boys were happy to hear a dull sound like that of a tightly pulled piece of
"And isn't it treachery to help the Shaiba players? " Volka asked acidly. "You'd
better keep mum."
Meanwhile, just as had happened after the fourteent h goal, the revived Zubilo
players once again tore through the forward and def ence lines of the Shaiba team
and raced the ball towards their goal.
The Shaiba defence had become unkeyed from their lo ng idleness and could not
collect their wits quickly to ward off the unexpect ed danger. Their goalie was
really something to look at. There he sat on the gr ass, shelling melon seeds.
Choking, he jumped to his feet, but the Zubilo play ers had already kicked the
ball straight towards the centre of the unprotected goal.
Just then, to the great torment of our young friend s, they heard a clear crystal
tinkling. Yes, Hottabych had finally been able to f ind a dry hair in his beard.
Oh, Zhenya, Zhenya! Where was your keen eye and sur e hand? Why didn't you
take good aim? The Zubilo team was as good as dead now!
"Hottabych! Dear, sweet Hottabych! Let the Zubilo p layers score at least once!"
But Hottabych pretended to hear nothing. The ball, which was flying straight at
the centre of the goal, suddenly swerved to the lef t and hit against the post with
such force that it flew back across the whole field , careful to avoid the Zubilo
players in its way, as though it was alive. Then it rolled softly into the longsuffering
This was an amazing score, considering that the tea ms were equal.
Volka lost his temper completely.
"I demand—no, I order you to stop this mockery immediately!" he hissed.
"Otherwise, I'll never be friends with you again! Y
ou have your choice: the Shaiba
team or me!"
"Why, you're a football fan yourself. Can't you und erstand my feelings?" the
old man pleaded, but he sensed from Volka's express ion that this time their
friendship might really end. And so, he whispered b ack, "I await your further
"The Zubilo team isn't to blame that you're a Shaib a fan. You've made them the
laughing-stock of the country. Make it so that ever yone should see they're not to
blame for losing."
"I hear and I obey, young goalie of my soul!"
No sooner had the umpire's whistle died down, annou ncing the end of the first
time, than the entire Zubilo team began to sneeze a nd cough for all it was worth.
Forming a semblance of a formation, they dragged th eir feet listlessly to their
locker room, sneezing and coughing loudly.
A moment later a doctor was summoned, since all ele ven players were feeling
ill. The doctor felt each one's pulse in turn, he a sked them to take off their shirts,
then looked in their mouths and finally summoned th e umpire. "I'm afraid you'll
have to call off the game."
"Why? What do you mean?"
"Because the Zubilo team can't play for at least se ven more days. The whole
team is sick," the doctor answered dazedly.
"Sick! What's the matter?"
"It's a very strange case. All these eleven grown m en have come down with the
measles. I would never have believed it if I had no t given them a thorough checkup
Thus ended the only football match in history in wh ich a fan had an opportunity
to influence the game. As you see, it did not come to any good.
The unusual instance of eleven adult athletes simul taneously contracting the
measles for the second time in their lives and waki ng up the following morning in
the pink of health was described in great detail in an article by the famous
Professor Hooping Cough and published in the medica l journal Measles and
Sneezles. The article was entitled "That's a Nice How D'You D o!" and is still so
popular that one can never get a copy of the magazi ne in the libraries, as they are
always on loan. That is why, dear readers, you migh t as well not look for it, since
you'll only waste your time for nothing.
The little cloud that was covering the sun floated off and disappeared, as it was
no longer needed. Once again it became hot. A hundr ed thousand fans were slowly
leaving the stadium through the narrow concrete pas sages.
No one was in a hurry. Everyone wanted to voice an opinion about the amazing
game which had ended so strangely.
These opinions were each more involved than the pre vious one. However, not
even the most vivid imaginations could think of an explanation that would so
much as resemble the true reason for all the queer things they had witnessed.
Only three people took no part in these discussions . They left the North Section
in deep silence. They entered a crowded trolley-bus in silence and alighted in
silence at Okhotny Ryad, where they separated.
"Football is an excellent game," Hottabych finally
mustered up the courage to
"Mm-m-m," Volka replied.
"I can just imagine how sweet the moment is when yo u kick the ball into the
enemy's goal!" Hottabych continued in a crestfallen voice. "Isn't that so, Volka?"
"Are you still angry with me, goalie of my heart? I'll die if you don't answer
He scurried along beside his angry friend, sighing sadly and cursing the hour he
had agreed to go to the game.
"What do you think!" Volka snapped, but then continued in a soft er tone, "Boy,
what a mess! I'll never forget it as long as I live . Have a look at this new-found
fan! No sir, we'll never take
you to a football game again! And we don't need your ti ckets, either."
"Your every word is my command," Hottabych hurried to assure him, pleased
to have got off so easily. "I'll be quite content i f you occasionally find the time to
tell me of the football matches."
So they continued on as good friends as ever.
WHERE SHOULD THEY LOOK FOR OMAR?
To look at Hottabych's healthy face, no one would e ver suspect he had been
seriously ill so recently.
His cheeks were a soft, even shade of old-age pink. His step was as light and as
quick as always, and a broad smile lighted his artl ess face. And only Volka, who
knew Hottabych so well, noticed that a secret thoug ht was constantly gnawing at
the old Genie. Hottabych often sighed, he stroked h is beard thoughtfully, and large
tears would ever so often roll from his frank, frie ndly eyes.
Volka would pretend not to notice and did not bothe r the old man with tactless
questions. He was convinced that in the end Hottaby ch would be the first to speak.
That is exactly what happened.
"Grief and sadness rent my old heart, noble saviour of Genies," Hottabych
said softly one day when a magnificent sunset colou red the evening waters of the
Moskva River a delicate pink. "Thoughts of my poor lost brother and of his
terrible and hapless fate do not leave me for a mom ent. The more I think of him,
the more I feel I should set out to search for him as soon as possible. What do you
think of this, wise Volka ibn Alyosha? And if you regard this dec ision kindly,
would you not make me happy by sharing the joys and sorrows of this journey
"Where do you want to start looking for your brothe r?" Volka asked in a
business-like way, since he was no longer surprised at the most unexpected
suggestions Hottabych might have.
"If you remember, Volka, at the very dawn of our extremely happy
acquaintance, I told you that Sulayman's Genies thr ew him into one of the
Southern Seas, sealed in a copper vessel. There, al ong the shores of the hot
countries, is where one must naturally look for Oma r Asaf."
The possibility of setting out on a journey to the Southern Seas really appealed
"All right. I'll come along with you. Wherever you go, I go. It would be nice
if..." Volka fumbled.
But a cheerful Hottabych continued: "...if we could
take our wonderful friend
Zhenya ibn Kolya along. Have I understood you corre ctly, my kind Volka ibn
"There could not have been a shadow of doubt," Hott abych said. It was decided
then and there that the expedition setting out to s earch for Hottabych's unfortunate
brother would leave no later than in two days' time .
However, if the time of departure caused ho discord , it quite suddenly became
apparent that there were serious differences on the question of a means of
"Let's go by magic carpet," Hottabych suggested. "T here's enough room for all
"Oh no," Volka objected strongly. "No more magic ca rpets for me. Thanks a
lot! Our last trip was enough for me. I don't want to freeze like a dog a second
"I'll supply you both with warm clothing, blessed Volka. And if you so desire,
a large bonfire will constantly burn in the middle of the carpet. We can warm
ourselves beside it during our flight."
"No, no, no! The magic carpet is out of the questio n. Let's go to Odessa by
train. Then, from Odessa...."
Hottabych immediately accepted Volka's plan and Zhe nya, who was told of it in
detail a short half hour later, enthusiastically ap proved.
THE STORY TOLD BY THE CONDUCTOR OF THE MOSCOWODESSA
EXPRESS OF WHAT HAPPENED ON THE NARA-MALY
(Told by the conductor to Ms assistant, who was asl eep during the events described
"I woke you up just to tell you that a very strange thing has happened in our car.
"Well, I made up the beds for the passengers, the s ame as always, and the ones
in Compartment 7, too. The passengers there were a bearded old bird in an oldfashioned
straw boater and two boys. The boys looked about th e same age. And
what do you think: not a single piece of luggage !N o, sir, not a single one!
"Just then, one of the boys, a blond freckled lad, says:
" 'Can you please tell us where the dining car is?'
"And I says, 'I'm sorry, but we don't have a dining car, There'll be tea and
crackers in the morning.'
"Then the boy looks at the old man and the old man winks at him. So the boy
says, 'Never mind, we'll manage without your tea, s ince you haven't a dining car.'
" 'Ha,' I thought, 'I'd like to see how you'll make out all the way to Odessa
without my tea.' So I came back here to our compart ment, but I left a chink in the
door when I closed it.
"Everyone in the car was sound asleep, having sweet dreams, but all the time
there was buzz-buzz-buzz coming from Compartment 7—they kept on talking and
whispering all the time. I couldn't hear what they were saying, but I can tell you
for sure they were talking.
"Then suddenly their door opens and the same old ma n sticks out his head. He
didn't notice me watching him so he pushed his old
hat back. And what d'you think
he did? Upon my word, I'm tellin' the truth! He pul led a fistful of hair from his
beard—may I drop dead on the spot if he didn't!
" 'Goodness,' I thought, 'he's crazy! Just my luck to get a madman while I'm on
duty.' Well, I didn't say anything and waited to se e what'd happen.
"Well, the old man tore this same fistful of hair i nto little pieces, then he threw
this litter on the floor and mumbled something. I f elt more and more sure he was
mad and that I'd have to put him off at Bryansk, no doubt about it.
" 'Well,' I thought, 'there'll be no end of worry! Why, maybe he'll start attacking
the passengers this very minute, or breaking the wi ndows!'
"No, he didn't start any trouble, but just stood th ere mumbling. After he
mumbled a while more, he went back into his compart ment.
"All of a sudden I heard someone walking barefoot d own the passage, coming
from behind. That meant whoever it was had come in from the platform. I sure
was surprised, because I always lock the platforms when we pull out of a station.
Well, I looked round, and—upon my sacred word of ho nour, I'm telling the
truth!—I saw four young fellows coming towards me f rom the platform. They
were as sunburned as vacationers and quite naked. A ll they had on were little
cloths round their hips. And barefoot. As skinny as could be! You could count
"I came out of our compartment and said, 'Citizens, I believe you've got your
cars mixed. All our compartments are occupied.'
"And they all answered together, 'Silence, infidel! We know where we're going!
We've come exactly to the place we want.'
"So I says, 'Then I'd like to see your tickets, ple ase.'
"And they all said together again, 'Don't annoy us, foreigner, for we are
hurrying to our lord and master!'
"So I says, 'I'm surprised that you call me a forei gner. I'm a Soviet citizen and
I'm in my own country. That's for one. And in the s econd place, we haven't had
any masters here since the Revolution. That,' I sai d, 'is in the second place.'
"So their leader says, 'You should be ashamed, infi del! You are taking
advantage of the fact that our hands are occupied a nd we therefore cannot kill you
for your terrible insolence. It , is most dishonour able of you to take advantage of
"I forgot to tell you that they were piled high wit h all sorts of food. One was
carrying a heavy tray with roast lamb and rice. Ano ther had a huge basket of
apples, pears, apricots and grapes.
The third one was balancing something that looked l ike a pitcher on his head,
and something was splashing inside the pitcher. The fourth was holding two large
platters of meat pies and pastries. To tell you the truth, I just stood there gaping.
"Then the leader says, 'Infidel, you'd do better to show us where Compartment
7 is, for we are in a hurry to fulfil our orders.'
"Then I began to put two and two together and asked , 'What does your boss
look like? Is he a little old man with a beard?'
" 'Yes, that is he. That is whom we serve.'
"I showed them to Compartment 7, and on the way I s aid, 'I'll have to fine your
boss for letting you travel without tickets. Have y ou been working for him long?'
"So the leader says, 'We've been serving him for th ree thousand five hundred
"To tell you the truth, I thought I didn't hear him
right. So I says again, 'How
many years did you say?'
" 'You heard me, that's exactly how long we've serv ed him— three thousand
five hundred years.'
"The other three nodded.
" 'Good gracious,' I thought, 'as if one crazy man wasn't enough—now I have
four more on my neck!'
"But I went on talking to them as I would to any no rmal passengers. 'What a
shame! Look how many years you've been working for him and he can't even get
you some ordinary overalls. If you'll pardon the ex pression, you're absolutely
"So the leader says, 'We don't need overalls. We do n't even know what they
" 'It's strange to hear that coming from someone wh o's worked so many years. I
guess you're from far away. Where d'you live?'
" 'We've just come from Ancient Arabia.'
"Then I says, 'Well, that clears everything up. Her e's Compartment 7. Knock on
"Just then, the same little old man comes out and a ll his men fall to their knees
and stretch out the food and drinks they've brought . But I called the old man off to
a side and said, 'Are these your employees?'
" 'Yes, they are.'
" 'They have no tickets. That means you have to pay a fine. Will you pay it?'
" 'Right away, if you wish. But won't you first tel l me what a fine is?'
"I saw the old man was being sensible, so I began t o explain things in a
whisper, 'One of your men has gone out of his mind:
he says he's been working for you for three thousan d five hundred years. I'm
sure you'll agree he's crazy.'
"Then the old man says, 'I cannot agree, since he i s not lying. Yes, that's right—
three thousand five hundred years. Even a little lo nger, since I was only two
hundred or two hundred and thirty when I became the ir master.'
"So I says to him, 'Stop making a fool of me! It do esn't become your age. If you
don't pay the fine immediately, I'll put them off a t the next station. And, anyway,
you look like a suspicious character, going on such a long journey without any
" 'What's luggage?'
" 'You know, bundles, suitcases and such stuff.'
"The old man laughed and said, 'Why are you inventi ng things, conductor?
Saying that I have no luggage. Just look at the she lves.'
"I looked up at the luggage racks and they were jam med! I'd looked a moment
before and there hadn't been anything there, and su ddenly—just imagine!—so
many suitcases and bundles!
"Then I said, 'Something's wrong here. Pay the fine quickly and I'll bring the
chief conductor over at the next stop. Let him deci de. I can't understand what's
"The old man laughed again. 'What fine?' says he. ' Whom do I have to pay a
"Then I really got angry. I turned around and point ed to the passage, but there
was no one there! I ran up and down the whole car, but couldn't find a trace of my
four stray passengers.
"Then the old man said, '
conductor, you had better go back to your own
compartment.' And so I went back.
"Now d'you understand why I woke you up? Don't you believe me?"
An hour before the train arrived in Odessa, the con ductor entered Compartment
7 to remove the bedding. Hottabych treated him to s ome apples.
It was quite apparent that the man did not remember anything of the incident
which had taken place the night before.
After he had left their compartment, Zhenya said wi th admiration: "I must
admit, Volka is a bright chap!"
"I should think so!" Hottabych exclaimed. "Volka ib n Alyosha is
unquestionably an excellent fellow and his suggesti on is worthy of great praise."
Since the reader might not be too clear on the mean ing of this short
conversation, we hurry to explain.
When the completely confused conductor left Compart ment 7 the previous
night, Volka said to Hottabych, "Can you do somethi ng to make him forget what's
"Why, Volka ibn Alyosha, that's as simple as pie."
"Then please do it and as quickly as possible. He'l l go to sleep then, and when
he wakes up in the morning he won't remember anythi ng."
"Excellent, treasure-store of common sense!" Hottabych said ad miringly,
waved his hand and made the conductor forget everyt hing.
THE STRANGE SAILING SHIP
Several passengers were talking leisurely as they l eaned on the rail of the
excursion ship "Kolkhida," sailing from Odessa to B atumi. Powerful diesel
engines hummed far below, in the depths of the ship . The water whispered
dreamily as it lapped against the steep sides, and high above, over the spar deck,
the ship's wireless piped anxiously.
"You know, it's really a shame that the large saili ng ships of yore, those whitewinged
beauties, are a thing of the past. How happy I woul d be to find myself on a
real frigate.... Just to enjoy the sight of those b illowing white sails, to listen to the
creaking of the mighty yet graceful masts, to watch in amazement as, at the
captain's command, the crew scrambles up the riggin g! If I could only see a real
sailing ship! I mean a real genuine one! Nowadays e ven a bark has to have a
motor, you know, even though—mark my words—it's con sidered a sailboat!"
"A motor-sailboat," a man wearing the uniform of th e Merchant Marine added.
They fell silent. All except the sailor went over t o the left side to watch a school of
tireless dolphins splash and cavort in the warm noo nday sea. Dolphins were
nothing new to the sailor. He stretched out in a de ck chair and picked up a
magazine lazily. Soon the sun made him drowsy. He c losed the magazine and
fanned himself with it.
Then something attracted his attention. He stopped fanning himself, jumped to
his feet and rushed to the railing. Far off, near t he very horizon, he saw a beautiful
but terribly old-fashioned sailing ship skimming ov er the waves. It seemed like
something from a fairy tale.
"Everybody! Everybody hurry over here!" he shouted. "Look at that sailing
ship! Isn't it ancient! Oh, and something's wrong w ith its mainmast! It doesn't have
a mainmast! Why, it just isn't there! My goodness!
Just look! The sails are all
billowed out the wrong way! According to every law of nature, the foremast
should have been blown overboard long ago! It's rea lly a miracle!"
However, by the time the other passengers heeded hi s words and returned to the
starboard side, the unknown vessel had disappeared from sight. We say
"unknown," because the sailor was ready to swear th at the wonderful sailing ship
was not registered at any Soviet port on the Black Sea. This is true. In fact, it
wasn't registered at any foreign port, either; it w asn't registered any place, for the
simple reason that it had appeared in the world and was launched but a few short
The name of the vessel was the "Sweet Omar," in hon our of the unfortunate
brother of our old friend, Hassan Abdurrakhman ibn Hottab.
ABOARD THE "SWEET OMAR"
Had our friend the conductor on the Moscow-Odessa e xpress miraculously
found himself aboard the twin-masted "Sweet Omar," he would not have been
most amazed at the fact that he had suddenly found himself aboard a sailing
vessel, nor that this vessel did not in any way res emble a usual sea or river craft.
He would have been most amazed at finding that he w as already acquainted with
the passengers and crew.
The old man and his two young companions who had le ft Compartment 7 that
morning were its passengers, while the four dark-sk inned citizens whose term of
service dated back to the 16th century B.C. were it s crew.
One can well imagine that a second encounter would have landed the
impressive conductor in bed for a long time.
Despite the fact that Volka and Zhenya had become a ccustomed to witnessing
the most unexpected events during the past few days , they were most amazed to
find their recent acquaintances aboard the ship and to discover that they were also
After the boys had stood gazing at the quick and sk ilful movements of the small
crew scurrying up and down the riggings just as if they were on a polished floor,
they went to explore the rest of the ship. It was v ery beautiful, but small—no
larger than a Moscow river launch. However, Hottaby ch assured them that even
Sulayman, the Son of David, did not have a ship as big as the "Sweet Omar."
Everything on the ship glittered with cleanliness a nd splendour. Its sides and
high, carved bow and stern were inlaid with gold an d ivory. The priceless
rosewood deck was covered with rugs as magnificent as those which adorned the
That is why Volka was so surprised at suddenly comi ng upon a dark and filthy
cubby-hole in the prow. In it were plank beds cover ed with rags.
As he looked in disgust at the meagre furnishings o f this tiny room, Zhenya
joined him. After careful scrutiny, Zhenya decided the unsightly hole was intended
for the pirates they might capture on the way.
"Not at all," Volka persisted. "This place was forg otten about after a complete
overhauling. Sometimes, after repairs, there's a fo rgotten corner full of rags and all
kinds of rubbish."
"What do you mean by 'a complete overhauling' when this ship didn't even exist
this morning?" Zhenya protested.
Volka had no answer to this question, and so the bo
ys set off to find Hottabych,
to ask him to help solve the mystery. But they foun d the old man asleep and thus
did not speak to him until an hour or two later, at dinner time.
Tucking their feet under them uncomfortably, they s at down on a thick,
brightly-coloured carpet. There were neither chairs nor tables in the cabin or
anywhere else on board.
One of the crew remained above at the wheel, while the others brought in and
placed before them many various dishes, fruits and beverages. When they turned
to leave, the boys called to them:
"Why are you leaving?"
And Volka added politely, "Aren't you going to have lunch?"
The servants only shook their heads in reply.
Hottabych was confused.
"I must not have been listening intently, my young friends. For a moment, I
thought you had invited these servants to join us a t the table."
"Sure we did," Volka said. "Why, what's wrong with that?"
"But they are only ordinary sailors," Hottabych obj ected in a voice that
indicated that the matter was now closed.
However, to his great surprise, the boys held their ground.
"All the more so, if they're sailors. They're not p arasites, they're real hard
workers," Volka said.
And Zhenya added:
"And let's not forget that they seem to be Negroes and that means they are an
oppressed nation. That's why we should be especiall y considerate."
"This seems to be a most unfortunate misunderstandi ng," Hottabych said
excitedly, confused by the solid opposition of the boys. "I must ask you again to
remember that these are plain sailors. It is not be coming to us to sit down to eat
with them. This would lower us both in their eyes a nd in our own."
' "It wouldn't lower me at all," Volka objected hea tedly.
"Or me, either. On the contrary, it'll be very inte resting," Zhenya said, looking
at the steaming turkey with hungry eyes. "Hurry up and ask them to sit down,
otherwise the turkey'll get cold."
"I don't feel like eating, my young friends. I'll eat later on," Hottabych sa id
glumly and clapped loudly three times.
The sailors appeared immediately.
"These young gentlemen have kindly expressed the de sire to partake of their
meal together with you, my undeserving servants." " great and mighty ruler!" the eldest of the sailors cried, falling to his knees
before Hottabych and touching the precious carpet w ith his forehead. "We don't
feel like eating at all. We are very full. We are s o full, that if we eat a single
chicken leg our stomachs will burst and we will die in terrible agony."
"They're lying!" Volka whispered to Zhenya with con viction;
"I'm ready to bet anything that they're lying. They wouldn't mind eating, but
they're afraid of Hottabych." Then he addressed the sailors. "You say you're full,
but won't you please tell me when you've had time t o eat?"
"Then know ye, young and noble master, that we can go without foo d for a
year or more and never feel hungry," the sailor rep lied evasively.
"They'll never agree, they're afraid of him," Zheny a said in disappointment.
The sailors backed out and were gone.
"To my great pleasure, I suddenly feel hungry again
," Hottabych said
cheerfully. "Let us begin quickly."
"No, Hottabych, you eat by yourself. We're no compa ny for you!" Zhenya
muttered angrily and got up. "Come on, Volka!"
"Come on. Golly! You try to educate a person and ch ange his ways, but nothing
good comes of it...."
And so, the old man was left alone with the untouch ed dinner. He sat there with
his legs tucked under him, as straight and stiff an d solemn as an Eastern god. But
the moment the boys disappeared behind the drapery that separated the cabin from
the deck, he began to pound his head with his small fists that were nevertheless as
hard as iron. woe to him, poor Hassan Abdurrakhman ibn Hottab! S omething had gone
wrong again! Yet, how happily the "Sweet Omar" had started on its journey! How
sincerely delighted the boys had been with its ador nments, its sparkling sails, the
soft carpets in which their bare feet sank up to th eir ankles, the priceless handrails
of ebony and ivory, the mighty masts covered with a mosaic of precious stones!
Why had they suddenly conceived such a strange idea ? But what if it wasn't just an
idea or a caprice, but something quite different? H ow queer these boys were to
have refused such a feast, despite their hunger, an d only because his servants were
not allowed to share the meal as equals! Oh, how pu zzling and unfair it was, and
how hungry, how very hungry Hottabych was!
While his feeling of attachment for Volka and Zheny a was struggling with
prejudices of thousands of years' standing, our you ng travellers were discussing
the situation heatedly. Hottabych’s servants tried to keep out of sight, but one of
them, either absent-mindedly or from lack of cautio n, suddenly appeared from the
very cubby-hole Volka had believed was intended for captive pirates. Then the
dingy hole on the luxurious "Sweet Omar" was the sa ilors' quarters!
"Oh, no!" Volka said indignantly. "We'll never rema in on such a ship. Either
Hottabych changes the rules immediately, or else we call off our friendship and he
gets us back home."
Suddenly they heard Hottabych's voice behind them. " sails of my heart," the crafty old man said, as if nothing untoward had
happened. "Why are you wasting your time here on de ck, when a most delightful
and filling dinner awaits you? The turkey is still steaming, but it can get cold, and
then it certainly will taste worse. Let us hurry ba ck to the cabin, for my beloved
sailors and I, your faithful servant, are dying of hunger and thirst."
The boys looked into the cabin they had just left a nd saw the sailors sitting
primly on the rug, awaiting their return.
"All right," Volka said dryly. "But we're still goi ng to have a long and serious
talk with you, Hottabych. Meanwhile, let's have our dinner."
No sooner was dinner over, than the sea became turb ulent;
the small ship now flew up on the crest of a huge w ave, now plunged down into
a deep chasm between two tremendous walls of water. The waves thundered and
crashed as they washed over the deck and carried of f the carpets that covered it.
Streams of water kept rushing into the cabins. It b ecame chilly, but the brazier
with hot coals was tossed back and forth so violent ly that they had to throw it
overboard to prevent a fire. The servant-sailors, w hose only clothing were their
loincloths, turned grey from the cold, as they batt led the flapping sails.
In another half hour nothing but a sad memory would have remained of the
"Sweet Omar." However, the storm ceased as unexpect
edly as it had begun. The
sun peeped out. It became warm again. But everythin g became terribly calm. The
sails hung limply on the masts and the ship began t o rock softly on the water
without moving forward an inch.
Hottabych decided that this was just the time to im prove his shaky relations
with his young companions. Rubbing his hands togeth er merrily, he said, "Calm?
Why you should know, benevolent and just youths, that a calm means noth ing to
us. We can do fine without the wind. The 'Sweet Oma r' will go forward faster than
ever. May it be so!" He snapped the fingers of his left hand.
Instantly the "Sweet Omar" sped forward at top spee d; the sails, meeting the
resistance of the air, naturally filled out in a di rection opposite to the ship's
In the entire history of sailing ships, no one had ever seen such a strange sight.
However, neither Volka nor Zhenya, nor Hottabych, w ho at the time the ship
started were all standing on the stern, had time to enjoy the sight, since the sudden
forward thrust threw them overboard. The next momen t the mainmast, unable to
withstand the terrible resistance of the air, came crashing down on the very spot
where the three travellers had been standing but a moment before.
The "Sweet Omar" disappeared from sight immediately .
"A life-boat, or even a life-saver would really com e in handy now," Volka
thought as he splashed about in the water and blew air like a horse. "We can't even
see the shore."
And true, no matter which way he looked, he could s ee nothing but the calm
and endless sea.
THE "VK-1" MAGIC-CARPET-SEAPLANE
"Where are you going?" Volka shouted to Zhenya, who was swimming off
rapidly. "You won't reach the shore anyway, Don't w aste your energy! Turn over
and float on your back."
Zhenya took his advice. Hottabych also turned over, holding his hat carefully
Thus began the only conference of shipwrecked peopl e in the history of sailing,
in which the speakers expressed their opinions whil e floating on their backs.
"Well, we're shipwrecked!" Volka said with somethin g close to satisfaction. He
had taken upon himself the duties of chairman. "Wha t are you planning to do?" he
asked, noticing that Hottabych had begun yanking ha irs from his beard with his
"I want to return our ship. It's a great stroke of luck that my beard is completely
"There's no hurry," Volka interrupted. "The questio n is: do we want to return to
it or not? I, for one, do not. To tell you the trut h, there are inhuman rules aboard.
It's disgusting to even think of it."
"I agree. The 'Sweet Omar' is out of the question," Zhenya added. "But you
know, Hottabych, you'll have to act quickly to save the sailors, otherwise they'll go
down with the ship!"
"The fate of my unworthy servants should not bother you at all. They have been
in Arabia for not less than five minutes already. T hat is where they reside, that is
where they are now awaiting my orders. But please t
ell me, masts of my heart,
why should we not continue our journey aboard the ' Sweet Omar'?"
"I thought we made that clear," Volka said.
"And anyway, a sailing ship is too slow and unrelia ble. We're dependent on
every little change in the weather. No, the 'Sweet Omar' is out," Zhenya said.
" anchors of my happiness!" Hottabych whined pitiful ly. "I'll do anything
"No, it's out, and that's the end of it," Volka int errupted and shivered. It was
most unpleasant to lie in the water fully dressed. "It remains to be seen what else
Hottabych can suggest."
"I can take you under my arms and fly."
"No good!" Volka said. "Who wants to fly under some body's arms!"
"Not somebody's— mine!" Hottabych replied in a hurt voice.
"It makes no difference."
"Then I would venture to suggest to your enlightene d attention the magic
carpet. It is an excellent means of transportation, my choosy friends!"
"There's nothing excellent about it. You freeze on it, and it's too slow, and
there's no comforts at all," Volka said thoughtfull y and suddenly exclaimed, "I've
got it! Upon my word of honour, I have a wonderful idea!"
At this, he went under, as in his excitement he cou ld think of nothing better to
do than clap his hands. He bobbed up again, huffing and spitting water, and then
resumed his comfortable position on his back, conti nuing as if nothing had
"We have to modernize the magic carpet: it should b e streamlined and coldresistant,
and it should have bunks and be on pontoons."
It was most difficult to explain Volka's idea to Ho ttabych. In the first place, the
old man did not know what "streamlined" meant. In t he second place, he could not
visualize a pair of pontoons.
It would seem that "streamlined" was such a simple word, but they had to
explain and explain until they finally hit upon the thought of saying that a
streamlined magic carpet should look like a hollowe d-out cucumber. It also took a
great deal of explaining to make Hottabych understa nd what pontoons were like.
Finally, a streamlined "VK-1" magic-carpet-seaplane soared into the air and set its
course at South-South-West. In translation to ordin ary words, "VK-1" meant
"Vladimir Kostylkov. First Model."
This magic-carpet-seaplane, resembling a huge cucum ber with a tiny stem in
back, had three berths and two windows on each side , cut through the heavy
The flying qualities of Volka's plane were immeasur ably superior to those of an
ordinary magic carpet. The Black Sea, the Bosporus, the Dardanelles, Asia Minor
and the sun-parched plateau of Arabia flashed by be low. Then they saw the yellow
sands of the Sinai Desert. The thin ribbon of the S uez Canal separated it from the
no less yellow sands of the Arabian Desert, which w as Africa, Egypt. Hottabych
had planned to begin his search for Omar Asaf here, in the Mediterranean, from its
eastern point to its western end. But no sooner had the "VK-1" descended to an
altitude of 200 metres, than Hottabych groaned and said he was an old fool. The
magic-carpet-seaplane gained altitude and headed we st. After spending so many
years in the vessel, Hottabych had forgotten that t his was where the Nile
discharged into the Mediterranean and where the wat er was always muddy from
the slime and sand the great river carried far out
to sea. How could one even
attempt a search in such sticky yellow mire? It wou ld only irritate the eyes.
Hottabych decided to put off the exploration of thi s inconvenient area till last, if
their search for Omar Asaf in other parts of the Me diterranean proved futile.
A short while later they landed in a quiet blue lag oon close to the Italian city of
HOTTABYCH IS LOST AND FOUND AGAIN
"Well, wish me luck!" Hottabych exclaimed, turning into a fish and
disappearing into the lagoon.
The water was crystal-clear, so very unlike the wat er of the Nile Delta, and they
had a good view of the old man working his fins qui ckly as he headed for the open
While awaiting his return, the boys went in for a g ood dozen dips, they dived to
their heart's content, lay in the sun until they we re dizzy, and, finally, with hunger
clawing at their insides, they began to worry. Hott abych had been gone for a
suspiciously long time, though he had promised not to be away longer than an
hour. The sun had long since set, colouring the hor izon and the calm sea in tints of
amazing beauty; thousands of city lights twinkled i n the distance, but still the old
man had not returned.
"Could he have got lost?" Zhenya said despondently.
"He can't get lost," Volka answered. "Chaps like hi m never get lost."
"He might have been swallowed by a shark."
"There aren't any sharks in these waters," Volka ob jected, though he wasn't too
sure of his words.
"I'm hungry!" Zhenya confessed after a long silence .
Just then, a rowboat nosed into the beach with a so ft splash. Three fishermen
climbed out. One of them began to lay a fire of dri ftwood, while the others picked
out the smaller fish. They cleaned it and threw it into a kettle of water.
"Let's go ask them for something to eat," Zhenya su ggested. "They look like
nice working people. I'm sure they'll give us somet hing."
"Good evening, Signores!" Zhenya bowed politely, as he addressed the
"Just think how many homeless children there are in our poor Italy!" one of the
three, a thin, grey-haired man, said hoarsely. "Gio vanni, give them something to
"We've just enough bread for ourselves, but there's plenty of onions and more
than enough salt!" a curly-haired stocky youth of a bout nineteen answered
cheerfully. He was busy cleaning fish.
"Sit down, boys. Soon the best fish soup ever cooke d in or around Genoa will
Either the cheerful Giovanni was truly a gifted coo k by nature, or else the boys
were famished, but they agreed that they had never eaten anything more delicious
in their lives. They ate with such gusto, smacking their lips from sheer joy, that the
fishermen watching them chuckled.
"If you want some more, you can cook it yourselves, there nothing complicated
about it," Giovanni said and stretched. "We'll doze off meanwhile. Be sure you
don't take any big fishes, they go to market tomorr
ow, so we'll have money to pay
Zhenya began puttering around the fire, while Volka rolled up his trousers and
made his way to the boat full of fish.
He had gathered as much as he needed and was about to re turn to the beach,
when his eyes chanced upon the net folded near the mast. A lonely fish was
struggling frantically within, now giving up, now r esuming its useless battle to free
"It will come in handy for the chowder," Volka said , plucking it from the net.
But it again began to struggle in his hands, and he suddenly felt sorry for it. He
turned round to make sure the fishermen weren't loo king and threw it back into the
The fish made a small splash as it hit the dark sur face of the lagoon and turned
into a beaming Hottabych.
"May the day upon which you were born be forever bl essed, kind-hearted son
of Alyosha!" he exclaimed gratefully, as he stood w aist-deep in water. "Once
again you've saved my life A few moments more and I would have choked in that
net. got foolishly trapped in it while searching fo r my unfortunate brother."
"Hottabych, old man! What a great fellow you are fo r being alive! We were so
"And I, too, was tortured by the thought that you, twice my saviour, and our
young friend were left alone and hungry in an alien country."
"We're not hungry at all. These fishermen really tr eated us to a feast."
"May these kind people be blessed! Are they rich?"
"I think they're very poor."
"Then let's hurry, and I will return their kindness generously."
"I don't think it's the right thing to do," Volka s aid after a moment's pause. "Put
yourself in their place: suddenly you see a wet old man climbing out of the water
in the middle of the night. No, this is no good at all."
"You're right as always," Hottabych agreed. "Return to the shore and I'll join
A short while later, the sleeping fishermen were aw akened by the sound of an
approaching horse. Soon a strange rider stopped at the smouldering fire.
He was an old man in a cheap linen suit and a hard straw boater. His
magnificent beard was wind-blown, disclosing to all who cared to look an
embroidered Ukrainian shirt. He wore a pair of gold and silver embroidered pink
slippers with funny turned-up toes. His feet were p laced in gold stirrups that were
studded with diamonds and emeralds. The saddle upon which he sat was so
magnificent that it was surely worth a fortune. The prancing horse was of
indescribable beauty. In each hand the old man held a large leather suitcase.
"Would you please direct me to the noble fishermen who have so kindly taken
in and fed two lonely, hungry boys?" he said to Gio vanni, who had risen to greet
ithout waiting for an answer, he dismounted, and, w ith a sigh of relief, set the
suitcases on the sand.
"What's the matter? Do you know them?" Giovanni ask ed cautiously.
"Certainly I know my young friends!" Hottabych crie d, embracing each in turn
as they ran up to him.
Then he addressed the startled fishermen:
most honourable of all fishermen, when I say I do not know how
to thank you enough for your precious hospitality a nd kindness!"
"Why, there's nothing to thank us for. Not for the fish certainly?" the greyhaired
fisherman said in surprise. "It didn't Set us back much, believe me,
"These are the words of a truly selfless man, and t hey only increase my feeling
of gratitude. Permit me to repay you with these mod est gifts," Hottabych said,
handing a dumb-founded Giovanni the two suitcases.
"There must be some mistake, respected Signore," Giovanni uttered after
exchanging puzzled glances with his companions. "Wh y, you can buy at least a
thousand chowders like the one we shared with the b oys for two such suitcases. I
don't want you to think it was a very special kind of chowder. We're poor
"It is you who are mistaken, most modest of all kind-hearted people! Within
these excellent boxes which you call by the scholar ly name of 'suitcase' are riches
that are thousands and thousands of times greater t han the cost of your soup.
Nonetheless, I consider they cannot pay for it, for there is nothing more precious in
the world than disinterested hospitality."
He opened the suitcases and everyone saw that they were crammed with
magnificent, live, silvery fish.
While the fishermen were still wondering what sense there was in giving
fishermen fish, Hottabych emptied the quivering con tents of the suitcases onto the
sand. It was then that the three men gasped in surp rise and amazement: in some
strange way, both suitcases were found to be cramme d full of fish again!
Hottabych emptied the suitcases once again, and onc e again they were filled with
the marvellous gifts of the sea. This was repeated a fourth and a fifth time.
"And now," Hottabych said, enjoying the impression he had made, "if you
wish, you can test the wonderful qualities of these 'suitcases' yourselves. Never
again will you have to shiver in your little dingy in foul weather or in the fog of
early dawn. You will no longer have to pray to Alla h for luck, you will never again
have to drag about the market-place with heavy bask ets of fish. You need only
take along one of these 'suitcases' and give the cu stomer exactly as much as he
wants. But I beg you, do not object," Hottabych sai d when he noticed that the
fishermen were about to say something. "I assure yo u, there has been no mistake.
May your life be happy and cloudless, most noble of fishermen! Farewell! Hop
up here, boys!"
With Giovanni's help, the boys climbed into the sad dle behind Hottabych.
"Farewell, Signore! Good-bye, boys!" the dazed fish
ermen shouted, as they
watched the surprising strangers disappear in the d istance.
"Even if these were ordinary suitcases, not magic o nes, we could get many liras
for them," Giovanni said thoughtfully.
"Well, I think we'll finally be able to make ends m eet now, Pietro," the oldest of
the three added. He was close to sixty, with a wrin kled, weather-beaten face and
dry, sinewy arms. "We'll pay our taxes, cure my cur sed rheumatism, and buy you a
coat, a hat and a pair of shoes, Giovanni. After al l, you're a young man and you
should be dressed well. As a matter of fact, some n ew clothes won't harm any of
us, will they?"
"New clothes!" Giovanni mimicked angrily. "When the re's so much sorrow and
poverty everywhere! First of all, we'll have to hel p Giacomo's widow, you know,
the one who drowned last year and left three childr en and an old mother."
"You're right, Giovanni," Pietro agreed. "We should help Giacomo's widow. He
was a good and true friend."
Then the third fisherman entered the conversation. He was a man of thirty, and
his name was Cristoforo.
"What about Luigi? We should give him some money, t oo. The poor fellow's
dying of tuberculosis."
"That's right," Giovanni said. "And Sybilla Capelli . Her son's been in prison for
over a year now for organizing the strike."
"Just think how many people we can help," Giovanni said excitedly. And the
three kind fishermen sat late into the night, discu ssing whom else they could help,
now that they had the wonderful suitcases. These we re honest and kind-hearted
toilers, and the idea never entered their minds to use Hottabych's present in order
to get rich and be wealthy fishmongers.
I am happy to tell this to my readers, so they'll k now the old man's present fell
into good hands, and I'm certain that none of them, if they were in the fishermen's
place, would have acted otherwise.
THE VESSEL FROM THE PILLARS OF HERCULES
This time Hottabych was true to his word. He had pr omised he'd be back in two
or three hours. At about a quarter to nine his beam ing face shot out of the water.
The old man was excited. He scrambled up on the bea ch, carrying a large
seaweed-covered metal object over his head.
"I found him, my friends!" he yelled. "I found the vessel in which my
unfortunate brother Omar Asaf ibn Hottab has been i mprisoned these many
centuries—may the sun always shine over him! I scan ned the whole sea bottom
and was beginning to despair when I noticed this ma gic vessel in the green
vastness near the Pillars of Hercules."
"What are you waiting for? Hurry up and open it!" Z henya cried, running up to
the exultant old man.
"I dare not open it, for it is sealed with Sulayman 's Seal. Let Volka ibn Alyosha,
who freed me, also free my long-suffering little br other. Here's the vessel which I
have spent so many sleepless nights dreaming about! " Hottabych continued,
waving his find overhead.
"Here, Volka, open it, to the joy of my brother Omar and myself!"
Pressing his ear to the side of the vessel, he laug hed happily, "Oho, my friends!
Omar is signalling to me from within!"
There was envy in Zhenya's eyes as he watched the o
ld man hand a nattered
Volka the vessel, or, rather, lay it at Volka's fee t, since it was so heavy.
"But didn't you say that Omar was imprisoned in a c opper vessel? This one's
made of iron. Oh well, no matter.... Where's the se al? Aha, here it is!" Volka said,
inspecting the vessel carefully from all sides.
Suddenly he turned pale and shouted:
"Quick, lie down! Zhenya, lie down! Hottabych, thro w it right back into the
water and lie down!"
"You're mad!" Hottabych said indignantly. "I've dre amed of our meeting for so
many years, and now, after finding him, you want me to throw him back to the
"Throw it as far out as you can! Your Omar isn't in side! Hurry, or we'll all be
dead!" Volka pleaded. Since the old man still hesit ated, he yelled at the top of his
voice, "It is an order! Do you hear?!"
Shrugging in dismay, Hottabych raised the heavy obj ect, heaved it and tossed it
at least 200 yards from the shore.
Before he had a chance to turn for an explanation t owards Volka, who was
standing beside him, there was a terrible explosion at the spot the vessel hit the
water. A huge pillar of water rose over the calm su rface of the lagoon and fell
apart with a loud crash. Thousands of stunned and k illed fish floated bellies up on
People were already running towards them, attracted by the sound of the
"Let's run!" Volka commanded.
They hurried to the highway and headed towards the city.
A grieved Hottabych lagged behind and kept turning round constantly. He was
still not convinced that he had done right by obeyi ng Volka.
"What did you see on the thing?" Zhenya asked when he had caught up with
Volka, who was way ahead of him and Hottabych.
" 'Made in USA,' that's what!"
"So it was a bomb."
"No, it was a mine. There's a big difference! It wa s an underwater mine."
Hottabych sighed sadly.
When Hottabych saw that Omar was not to be found in the Mediterranean Sea,
he suggested that they set out to the shores of the Atlantic Ocean. The suggestion
in itself was extremely tempting. However, Volka wa s unexpectedly against it. He
said that he had to be in Moscow the following day without fail. But he would not
tell them the reason, he just said it was very impo rtant. And so, with a heavy heart,
Hottabych temporarily put off the search for Omar A saf.
The "VK-1" magic-carpet-seaplane with Hassan Abdurr akhman ibn Hottab,
Volka Kostylkov and Zhenya Bogorad aboard, soared i nto the air and disappeared
beyond the far-off mountains.
Some ten hours later it landed safely on the slopin g bank of the Moskva River.
THE SHORTEST CHAPTER OF ALL
On a hot July noon, the ice-breaker "Ladoga," carry ing a large group of
excursionists, left the Red Pier of the port of Ark hangelsk. The band on the pier
was playing marches. People waved their handkerchie
fs and shouted "Bon
voyage!" Trailing white puffs of steam, the ship sailed caut iously out into the
middle of the Severnaya Dvina, past the many Soviet and foreign ships at anchor
there, and headed for the mouth of the river and th e White Sea. Endless cutters,
motor-boats, schooners, trawlers, gigs, and cumbers ome rafts ploughed the calm
surface of the great northern river.
The excursionists, who were now gathered on the top deck, were leaving
Arkhangelsk and the mainland for a whole month.
"Volka!" one of the passengers shouted to another, who was anxiously darting
about near the captain's bridge, "Where's Hottabych ?"
The perceptive reader will gather from these words that our old friends were
among the passengers.
DREAMING OF THE "LADOGA"
Here we should like to pause for a moment and tell our readers how our three
friends came to be aboard the "Ladoga" in the first place.
Naturally, everyone recalls that Volka failed his g eography examination
disgracefully, which was largely his own fault (he should never have relied on
prompting). It is difficult to forget such an event . Volka certainly remembered it
and was studying intently for his re-examination. H e had decided to do his utmost
to get an "A."
Despite his sincere desire to prepare for the exami nation, it was not as easy as it
seemed. Hottabych was in the way. Volka had never m ustered up enough courage
to tell the old man of the true consequences of his fatal prompting. That is why he
could never tell him he needed time to study, since he feared that Hottabych might
decide to punish his teachers, and Varvara Stepanov na in particular, for having
Hottabych made himself particularly troublesome the day of the unusual
football match between the Shaiba and Zubilo teams.
Feeling terribly contrite for all the anguish he ha d caused Volka at the stadium,
Hottabych fairly shadowed him; he tried to regain h is favour by scattering
compliments and proposing the most tempting adventu res. It was not until eleven
o'clock at night that Volka had a chance to get dow n to his studies.
"With your permission, Volka, I shall go to sleep, for I feel somewhat
drowsy," Hottabych finally said, as he yawned and c rawled under the bed.
"Good night, Hottabych! Sweet dreams!" Volka answer ed, settling back in his
chair and gazing at his bed longingly. He was also tired and, as he put it, was quite
ready to doze off for some 500 or 600 minutes. But he had to study, and so
reluctantly put his mind to his work.
Alas! The rustling of the pages attracted the sleep y Genie's attention. He stuck
his head and dishevelled beard from under the bed a nd said in a foggy voice:
"Why aren't you in bed yet, stadium of my soul?"
"I'm not sleepy. I have insomnia," Volka lied.
"My, my, my!" Hottabych said compassionately. "That 's really too bad.
Insomnia is extremely harmful at your delicate age. But don't despair, there's
nothing I can't do."
He yanked several hairs from his beard, blew on the m, whispered something,
and Volka, who had no time to object to this untime ly and unnecessary aid, fell
asleep immediately, with his head resting on the ta
"Praised be Allah! All is well," Hottabych mumbled, crawling out from under
the bed. "May you remain in the embraces of sleep u ntil breakfast time!"
He lifted the sleeping boy lightly and carefully la y him to rest in his bed,
pulling the blanket over him. Then, clucking and mu mbling with satisfaction, he
crawled back under the bed.
All night long the table lamp cast its useless ligh t on the geography text-book,
forlornly opened at page 11.
You can well imagine how cunning Volka had to be to prepare for his reexamination
in such difficult circumstances. This was the very important reason
why Volka (and, therefore, Hottabych and Zhenya) ha d to fly home to Moscow
from Genoa instead of continuing on to the shores o f the Atlantic Ocean.
However, Volka soon found out that preparing for th e examination was only
half the job done. He had yet to think of a way to get rid of Hottabych while he
was in school taking the exam, to find a way of lea ving the apartment unnoticed.
The telephone rang. Volka went to the foyer to answ er it. It was Zhenya.
"Hello!" Volka said. "Yes, today. At noon.... He's still sleeping.... What?...
Sure, he's well. He's a very healthy old man.... Wh at?... No, I haven't thought of
anything yet.... You're crazy! He'll be terribly hu rt and he'll do such mischief we
won't be able to undo it in a hundred years.... The n you'll be here at ten-thirty?
Hottabych stuck his head out of Volka's room. He wh ispered reproachfully,
"Volka, why are you talking to our best friend Zhen ya ibn Kolya in the hall? That's
not polite. Wouldn't it be nicer if you invited him in?"
"How can he come in if he's at home?"
Hottabych was offended.
"I can't understand why you want to play tricks on your old devoted Genie. My
ears have never yet deceived me. I just heard you t alking to Zhenya."
"I was talking to him on the telephone. Don't you u nderstand—te-le-ph one? I
sure do have a lot of trouble with you! What a thin g to get mad at! Come here, I'll
show you what I mean!"
Hottabych joined him. Volka removed the receiver an d dialled the familiar
"Will you please call Zhenya to the phone?" he said .
Then he handed the receiver to Hottabych.
"Here, you can talk to him now."
Hottabych pressed the receiver to his ear cautiousl y and his face broke into a
"Is that really you, blessed Zhenya ibn Kolya? Where are you now?... At
home?... And I thought you were sitting in this bla ck little thing I'm holding to my
ear.... Yes, that's right, it's me, your devoted fr iend Hassan Abdurrakhman ibn Hottab....
You'll be here soon? If that's the case, may your t rip be blessed!"
Beaming with pleasure, he handed the receiver back to Volka, who was looking
"It's amazing!" Hottabych exclaimed. "Without once raising my voice I spoke
to a boy who is two hours' walking distance away!"
Returning to Volka's room, the old man turned round slyly, snapped the fingers
of his left hand, and there appeared on the wall ov er the aquarium an exact copy of
the telephone hanging in the hall.
"Now you can talk to your friends as much as you li
ke without leaving your
"Golly, thanks a lot!" Volka said gratefully. He re moved the receiver, pressed it
to his ear and listened.
There was no dial tone.
"Hello! Hello!" he shouted. He shook the receiver a nd then blew into it. Still,
there was no dial tone.
"The phone's broken," he explained to Hottabych. "F U unscrew the receiver and
see what's wrong."
However, despite all his efforts, he could not unsc rew it.
"It's made of the finest black marble," Hottabych b oasted.
"Then there's nothing inside?" Volka asked disappoi ntedly.
"Why, is there supposed to be something inside this , too? Just like in a watch?"
"Now I know why it doesn't work. You've only made a model of a telephone,
without anything that's supposed to go inside it. B ut the insides are the most
"What's supposed to be inside? A special kind of fi lling? The kind that was in
the watch, with all kinds of wheels? You just expla in it, and I'll make it exactly as
it should be."
"It's not like a watch; it's entirely different. An d it's not so easy to explain. You
have to study all about electricity first," Volka s aid with an air of importance.
"Then teach me about what you call electricity."
"To begin with, you have to study arithmetic, algeb ra, geometry, trigonometry,
mechanical drawing and all kinds of other subjects. "
"Then teach me these other subjects, too."
"Uh ... well... I don't know all of them myself, ye t," Volka confessed.
"Then teach me what you already know."
"It'll take an awfully long time."
"That doesn't matter. I am willing, nonetheless. Do n't keep me in suspense: will
you teach me these subjects, which give a person su ch wonderful powers?"
"On condition that you do your homework well," Volk a said sternly. "Here,
read the paper while I go to see a friend of mine a bout something." He handed
Hottabych a copy of Pionerskaya Pravda and set out for school.
The light-grey school building was unusually desert ed and quiet. In the office
on the first floor the principal and Varvara Stepan ovna were discussing school
problems, and on the third floor the loud, cheerful voices of the painters and
plasterers echoed through the halls. It was summer and the school was being
"Well, my dear Varvara Stepanovna, what shall I say ?" the principal said with a
smile. "One can only envy such a vacation. How long will you be gone?" "I
believe for a month or so."
Volka was glad to hear that Varvara Stepanovna woul d not be in danger of
encountering Hottabych for at least a month. If onl y she would leave as quickly as
"Aha, the crystal cupola of the heavens!" the princ ipal teased as he greeted
Volka. "Well, are you feeling better now?" "Yes, I' m quite well, thank you."
"Excellent! Have you prepared for your examination? " "Yes, I have."
"Well, then, let's have a little talk."
The little talk embraced almost the whole of sixth- grade geography. If Volka
had thought of looking at the time, he would have b
een surprised to note that their
little talk lasted nearly twenty minutes. But he co uldn't be bothered with the time.
He thought the principal was not asking the questio ns in great enough detail. He
felt he could speak on each topic for five or ten m inutes. He was experiencing the
tormenting and at once pleasant feeling of a pupil who knows his subject insideout
and is most worried by the thought that this fact m ight go unnoticed by his
examiners. But one look at Varvara Stepanovna convi nced him that she was
pleased with his answers. Nevertheless, when the pr incipal said, "Good for you!
Now I can see that your teacher hasn't wasted her t ime on you," Volka felt a
pleasant chill run down his spine. His freckled fac e spread into such a broad smile
that the principal and Varvara Stepanovna smiled, t oo.
"Yes, Kostylkov has obviously put in a lot of study ing," his teacher said.
Ah, if they only knew of the terribly difficult con ditions under which Volka had
to prepare for his exam! What stratagems he had had to resort to, how he had had
to hide from Hottabych in order to have a chance to study quietly; what colossal
barriers the unsuspecting Hottabych had put in his way! How much more his
teachers would have respected his achievements, had they only known!
For a moment, Volka was on the point of boasting of his own success as a
teacher (not everyone can proudly say he has taught a Genie to read and write!),
but he checked himself in time.
"Well, Kostylkov, congratulations on passing to the 7th grade! Have a good rest
until September. Get strong and healthy! Goodbye fo r now!"
"Thank you," Volka replied as discreetly as a 7th-g rade pupil should. "Goodbye."
When he arrived at the river bank, Hottabych, who h ad made himself
comfortable in the shade of a mighty oak, was readi ng the paper aloud to Zhenya.
"I passed! I got an 'A'!" Volka whispered to his fr iend. Then he stretched out
beside Hottabych, experiencing at least three pleas ant feelings at once: the first
was that he was lying in the shade; the second, tha t he had passed his exam so
well; and the last, but by no means least—the pride of a teacher enjoying the
achievements of his pupil.
Meanwhile, Hottabych had reached the section entitl ed "Sports News." The
very first article made the friends sigh with envy.
"In the middle of July, the ice-breaker 'Ladoga,' c hartered by the Central
Excursion Bureau, will leave Arkhangelsk for the Ar ctic. Sixty-eight persons, the
best workers of Moscow and Leningrad, will spend th eir vacations aboard it. This
promises to be a very interesting cruise." "What a trip! I'd give anything to go
along," Volka said dreamily.
"You need only express your wish, my most excellent friends, and you shall
go wherever you please!" Hottabych promised, for he yearned to somehow repay
his young teachers. Volka merely sighed again. Zhen ya explained sadly:
"No, Hottabych, there's no question of it. Only fam ous people can get aboard
the 'Ladoga.' "
A COMMOTION AT THE CENTRAL EXCURSION BUREAU
That very same day an old man dressed in a white su it and a straw boater and
wearing queer pink embroidered slippers with turned -up toes entered the offices of
the Central Excursion Bureau. He politely inquired whether he had the good
fortune of being in the chambers of that high-place d establishment which granted
people the fragrant joy of travel. The secretary, s
urprised by such a flowery
question, replied in the affirmative. Then the old man inquired in the same florid
language where the wise man worthy of the greatest respect sat, he, who was in
charge of booking passage on the ice-breaker "Ladog a."
He was directed to a plump, bald man seated at a la rge desk piled high with
"But please bear in mind that there are no cabins l eft on the 'Ladoga'," the
The old man did not reply. He thanked her with a no d and approached the
plump man silently. In silence he made a low bow, i n silence and with great
dignity he handed him a roll of paper wrapped in a newspaper; then he bowed
again, turned in silence and left, with the puzzled eyes of all who had witnessed
this curious scene following him out.
The bald man unwrapped the newspaper. There, on his desk, was the strangest
letter the Central Excursion Bureau had ever receiv ed—or, for that matter, the
strangest letter ever received by any Soviet office. It was a yellow parchment
scroll. A large green wax seal dangled from a golde n silk cord attached to it.
"Did you ever see anything like it?" the plump man asked loudly and ran off to
show it to his chief, in charge of long-range cruis es.
When they had read it, his chief dropped his work a nd the two of them dashed
off to the director.
"What's the matter? Can't you see I'm busy?" the di rector said.
The section chief silently unrolled the parchment s croll.
"What's that? Is it from a museum?"
"No, it's from 'Incoming mail'."
"Incoming mail?! What's in it?" After reading the c ontents, the director said,
"Well, I've seen quite a lot in my day, but I've ne ver received such a letter. It must
have been written by a maniac."
"Even if he is a maniac, he's a collector of antiqu es," the section chief
answered. "You try to get some genuine parchment no wadays."
"Just listen to what he's written," the director co ntinued, forgetting that his
subordinates had already read the message. "It's ty pical raving!
" 'To the greatly respected Chief of Pleasures, the incorruptible and enlightened
Chief of the Long-Range Cruise Section, may his nam e be renowned among the
most honourable ' and respected Section Chiefs!' "
The director read this and winked at the section ch ief. "He means you, I guess!"
The section chief coughed in embarrassment.
" 'I, Hassan Abdurrakhman, the mighty Genie, the gr eat Genie, known for my
power and might in Baghdad and Damascus, in Babylon and Sumer, son of
Hottab, the great King of Evil Spirits, a part of t he Eternal Kingdom, whose
dynasty is pleasing to Sulayman, the Son of David ( on the twain be peace!), whose
reign is pleasing to their hearts. Allah was overjo yed at my blessed doings and
blessed me, Hassan Abdurrakhman, a Genie who worshi pped him. All the kings
reigning in the palaces of the Four Parts of the Wo rld, from the Upper Sea to the
Lower Sea, and the kings of the West who live in te nts—all have brought their
homage to me and kissed my feet in Baghdad.
" 'It has become known to me, most noble of Section Chiefs, that a ship which
navigates without sails and is named the "Ladoga" w ill soon set out on a pleasure
cruise from the city of Arkhangelsk with famous peo ple of various cities aboard. It
is my wish that my two young friends, whose virtues
are so many that even a short
enumeration of them will not fit into this scroll, should also be among them.
" 'Alas, I have not been informed of how great a pe rson's fame must be in order
that he be eligible for this magnificent trip. Howe ver, no matter how great the
requirements, my friends will meet them—nay, more t han meet them, for it is in
my power to make them princes or sheiks, tsars or k ings, the most famous of the
famous, the richest of the rich, the mightiest of t he mighty.
" 'I kiss your feet seven times and seven times and send you greetings, wise
Section Chief, and request you to ' inform me when I and my two young
companions should appear on board the above-mention ed ship, may storms and illfortune
by-pass it on its distant and dangerous journey!
" 'Signed by the hand of Hassan Abdurrakhman ibn Ho ttab, the Mighty Genie.'
At the very bottom was Volka's address, enclosed fo r a reply.
"'Ravings!" the director said, rolling up the scrol l. "The ravings of a madman.
Stick it away in the file and be done with it."
"I think we'd better answer him, or the crazy old m an will be dropping in five
times a day to find out about the outcome of his ap plication. I assure you, it'll be
quite impossible to work in the office," the sectio n chief objected. A few minutes
later he dictated an answer to his secretary.
WHO IS MOST FAMOUS?
Hottabych had acted unwisely in giving Volka's addr ess for a reply. It was only
by the merest chance that Volka met the postman on the stairs. What if this lucky
meeting had not taken place? The letter from the Ce ntral Excursion Bureau would
have been delivered to his parents; all sorts of qu estions would have followed,
resulting in such a mess, that he didn't even care to think of it.
The younger Kostylkov did not often receive mail ad dressed to him, personally.
In fact, not more than three or four times in all h is life. That is why, when the
postman said he had a letter for him, Volka was gre atly surprised. When he saw
the return address of the Central Excursion Bureau he was stunned. He examined
the envelope carefully and even smelled it, but it only smelled of the paste on the
flap. With trembling fingers he opened it and read the section chief's short but
polite reply several times over without understandi ng a thing:
"Dear Citizen H. Abdurrakhmanov,
"We regret to inform you that we received your requ est too late. There are no
cabins left on the 'Ladoga.'
"My best regards to your princes and sheiks.
I. Domosedov, Section Chief of Long-Range Cruises."
"Can it be that the old man tried to get us on the 'Ladoga'?" it suddenly occurred
to Volka. He was deeply touched. "What a wonderful old man! But I don't
understand which princes and sheiks this Domosedov is sending his regards to. I'll
find out right away, though."
"Hottabych! Hey, Hottabych!" he shouted when he rea ched the river bank.
"Come here for a minute, will you?" The old man was dozing in the shade of the
great oak. When he heard Volka calling, he started, jumped to his feet, and
shuffled over to the boy.
"Here I am, goalie of my soul," he panted. "I await your order s."
"Come clean now. Did you write to the Central Excur sion Bureau?"
"Yes, but I wanted it to be a surprise. Did you rec eive an answer already?"
"Sure, here it is," Volka said, showing the old man the letter.
Hottabych snatched the paper from him. After readin g the tactful answer
slowly, syllable by syllable, he turned purple and began to tremble all over. His
eyes became bloodshot. In a great rage he ripped op en his embroidered collar.
"I beg your pardon," he wheezed, "I beg your pardon ! I must leave you for a
few minutes to take care of that most despicable Do mosedov. Oh, I know what I'll
do to him! I'll annihilate him! No, that's no good! He doesn't deserve such merciful
punishment. Better still, I'll turn him into a filt hy rag, and on rainy days people
will wipe their dirty shoes on him before entering a house. No! That's not enough
to repay him for his insolent refusal!"
With these words the old man zoomed into the air. B ut Volka shouted sternly:
"Come back! Come back this minute!"
The old man returned obediently. His heavy grey bro ws were drawn together
"Really now!" Volka shouted, truly alarmed on the s ection chief's account.
"What's the matter! Are you crazy? Is it his fault there's no more room on the ship?
After all, it's not made of rubber, it can't stretc h. And will you please tell me who
the sheiks and princes he refers to are?"
"You, Volka ibn Alyosha, you and our friend Zhenya ibn K olya, may Allah
grant you both a long life. I wrote and told this m ost degraded of all section chiefs
that he need not worry about your not being famous enough, for no matter how
famous the other passengers aboard the 'Ladoga' are , I can make you, my friends,
more famous still. I wrote this small-brained Domos edov—may Allah forget him
completely—that he may regard you as sheiks or prin ces or tsars without even
having seen you."
Despite the tenseness of the situation, Volka could not help laughing. He
laughed so loudly, that several very serious-minded jackdaws rose noisily from the
nearest tree and flew off indignantly.
"Help! That means I'm a prince!" Volka choked the w ords out through peals of
"I must admit, I cannot understand the reason for y our laughter," Hottabych
said in a wounded tone. "But if we are to discuss t he question seriously, I had
planned on making Zhenya a prince. I think you dese rve to be a sultan."
"Honestly, you'll be the death of me yet! Then Zhen ya would be a prince, while
I'd be a sultan? What political backwardness!" Volk a gasped when he had finally
stopped laughing. "What's so glorious about being a prince or a king? Why, they're
the most good-for-nothing people in the world!"
"I'm afraid you've gone out of your mind," Hottabyc h said, looking anxiously at
his young companion. "As I understand it, even sult ans aren't good enough for
you. Whom then do you consider to be famous? Name m e at least one such
"Why, Chutkikh, or Lunin, or Kozhedub, or Pasha Ang elina."
"Who is this Chutkikh, a sultan?"
"Much higher than that! He's one of the best textil e specialists in the country!"
"Lunin is the best engine driver!"
"He's one of the very, very best pilots!"
"And whose wife is Pasha Angelina for you to consid
er her more famous than a
sheik or a king?"
"She's famous in her own right. It has nothing at a ll to do with her husband.
She's a famous tractor driver." " precious Volka, how can you play such tricks on an old man like me! Do you
want to convince me that a plain weaver or a locomo tive driver is more famous
than a tsar?"
"In the first place, Chutkikh isn't a plain weaver. He's a famous innovator,
known to the entire textile industry; and Lunin is a famous engineer. And in the
second place, the most ordinary worker in our count ry is more respected than the
tsar of tsars. Don't you believe me? Here, read thi s."
Volka handed Hottabych the paper and there, with hi s own eyes, he read the
following heading: "Famous People of Our Country," beneath which were over a
dozen photographs of fitters, agronomists, pilots, collective farmers, weavers,
teachers and carpenters.
"I would never have believed you," Hottabych said w ith a sigh. "I would never
have believed you if your words had not been corrob orated on the pages of this
newspaper I so respect. I beg you, Volka, explain why everything is so different
in this wonderful country of yours?"
"With pleasure," Volka answered. And sitting down o n the river bank, he spoke
at length and with great pride, explaining the esse nce of the Soviet system to
There is no use repeating their long conversation.
"All you have said is as wise as it is noble. And t o anyone who is honest and
just all this gives plenty to think about," Hottaby ch said candidly when his first
lesson in current events was over. After a short pa use he added:
"That is all the more reason why I want you and you r friend to sail on the
'Ladoga.' Believe me, I will see that it is arrange d."
"But please, no rough stuff," Volka warned. "And no monkey-business. That
means no fakery. For instance, don't think of makin g me out to be a straight 'A'
pupil. I have 'B's in three subjects."
"Your every wish is my command," Hottabych replied and bowed low.
The old man was as good as his word. He did not lay a finger on a single
employee of the Central Excursion Bureau.
He just arranged matters so, that when our three fr iends boarded the "Ladoga,"
they were met very warmly and were given an excelle nt cabin; and no one ever
inquired why in the world they had been included in the passenger list—it simply
did not occur to anyone to ask such a question.
To the captain's great surprise, twenty minutes bef ore sailing time a hundred
and fifty crates of oranges, as many crates of exce llent grapes, two hundred crates
of dates and a ton and a half of the finest Eastern delicacies were delivered to the
ship. The following message was stencilled on each and every crate:
"For the passengers and the members of the fearless crew of the 'Ladoga,' from
a citizen who wishes to remain anonymous."
One does not have to be especially clever to guess that these were Hottabych's
gifts: he did not want the three of them to take pa rt in the expedition at someone
And if you ask any of the former passengers, they s
till cherish the kindest
feelings for the "citizen who wished to remain anon ymous." His gifts were well
liked by all.
Now, having made it sufficiently clear to the reade rs how our friends found
themselves aboard the "Ladoga," we can continue our story with a clear
THE UNEXPECTED ENCOUNTER
If you recall, dear readers, it was a hot July noon when the ice-breaker
"Ladoga" sailed from the Red Pier in the port of Ar khangelsk with a large group of
excursionists on board. Our three friends, Hottabyc h, Volka and Zhenya, were
among the passengers. Hottabych was sitting on deck , conversing solemnly with a
middle-aged fitter from Sverdlovsk on the advantage s of cloth shoes as compared
to leather ones, pointing out the comfort people su ffering from old corns found in
Volka and Zhenya were leaning on the railing of the top deck. They were as
happy as only boys can be who are aboard a real ice -breaker for the first time in
their lives, and, to top it all, are sailing away f or a whole month, not to just any old
place, but to the Arctic.
After exchanging opinions on boats, diesel ships, i ce-breakers, tug-boats,
schooners, trawlers, cutters, and other types of cr aft skimming over the surface of
the Northern Dvina, the boys fell silent, enchanted by the beauty of the great river.
"Isn't that something!" Volka said in a voice that seemed to imply he was
responsible for all this beauty.
"Nobody'd believe it if you told them."
"I'm really glad that we. .." Volka began after a l ong pause and looked around
cautiously to see if Hottabych was anywhere nearby. Just in case, he continued in a
whisper, "... that we've taken the old man away fro m Varvara Stepanovna for at
least a month."
"Sure," Zhenya agreed.
"There's the Mate in charge of the passengers," Vol ka whispered, nodding
towards a young sailor with a freckled face.
They looked with awe at the man who carried his hig h and romantic title so
nonchalantly. His glance slid over the young passen gers unseeingly and came to
rest on a sailor who was leaning on the railing nea rby.
"What's the matter, are you feeling homesick?"
"Well, here we are, off again for a whole month to the end of nowheres."
The boys were amazed to discover that someone might not want to go to the
Arctic! What a strange fellow!
"A real sailor is a guest on shore and at home at s ea!" the Passenger Mate said
weightily. "Did you ever hear that saying?"
"Well, I can't say I'm a real sailor, since I'm onl y a waiter."
"Then get one dinner in the galley and take it to C abin 14, to a lady named
"That's the same last name as Varvara Stepanovna ha s," Volka remarked to
"She's a middle-aged lady and she caught cold on th
e way here," the Mate
explained. "It's nothing very serious," he said, as if to calm the waiter, though the
latter did not appear in any way alarmed at the lad y's state of health. "She only
ought to stay in her cabin a day or two and she'll be all right. And please be
especially nice. She's an Honoured Teacher of the R epublic."
"An Honoured Teacher! And her last name is Koltsova . What a coincidence!"
"Well, it's a very common last name, just like Ivan ov," Zhenya objected in a
voice that was suddenly hoarse.
"Her name and patronymic are Varvara Stepanovna," t he Mate went on.
The boys saw spots before their eyes.
"It's no matter that she's Varvara Stepanovna, too. That doesn't mean she's our
Varvara Stepanovna," Zhenya said in an effort to re assure himself and his friend.
At this point, however, Volka recalled the conversa tion that had taken place in
the principal's office when he was there to take hi s geography examination. He
merely shrugged hopelessly.
"It's she all right. That's exactly who it is. I'm scared to think what'll happen to
her. Why couldn't she go some place else!"
"We'll save her anyway, we just have to think of a way," Zhenya said darkly
after a short but painful silence.
They sat down on a bench, thought a while, and comp lained of their bad luck:
such a journey was really something wonderful for a nyone else, but it would be
nothing but a headache for them from now on. Yet, s ince this was the way things
had turned out, they must save their teacher. But h ow? Why, it was all quite
simple: by distracting Hottabych.
They had no need to worry today, for she would cert ainly be confined to her
cabin till the morrow. Then they would plan their s trategy as follows: one would
go strolling with Varvara Stepanovna, or sit on a b ench talking to her, while the
other would be distracting Hottabych. For instance, Volka and Hottabych might
play a game of chess, while Zhenya and Varvara Step anovna took a stroll down
the deck. Volka and Hottabych could be on deck, whi le Zhenya and Varvara
Stepanovna were talking somewhere far away, in a ca bin or someplace. The only
points remaining to be cleared up were what they we re supposed to do when
everyone went ashore together or gathered for meals in the mess hall.
"What if we disguise her?" Volka suggested.
"What do you want to do—stick a beard on her?" Zhen ya snapped. "Nonsense.
Make-up won't save her. We'll have to think it over carefully."
"Ahoy, my young friends! Where are you?" Hottabych shouted from below.
"We're here, we're coming right down."
They went down to the promenade deck.
"I and my honourable friend here are having an argu ment about the Union of
South Africa," Hottabych said, introducing them to his companion.
Things were going from bad to worse. If the old man began advertising his
knowledge of geography, the passengers would surely laugh at him; he might very
well become offended, and what might happen then did not bear thinking about.
"Who's right, my young friends? Isn't Pretoria the capital of the Union of South
"Sure it is," the boys agreed.
They were amazed. How had the old man come by this
Maybe from the papers? Naturally. That was the only answer.
"My honourable friend here insists it's Cape Town, not Pretoria," Hottabych
said triumphantly. "We also argued about how far ab ove us the stratosphere is. I
said that one could not draw a definite line betwee n the troposphere and the
stratosphere, since it is higher or lower in variou s parts of the world. And also that
the line of the horizon, which, as one can ascertai n from the science of geography,
is no more than a figment of our imagination...." .
"Hottabych, I want a word with you in private," Vol ka interrupted sternly. They
walked off to a side. "Tell me the truth, was it yo u who filched my geography
"May I be permitted to know what you mean by that s trange " word? If you
mean, Volka, that I.... What's the matter now, anchor of my heart? You're as
pale as a ghost."
Volka's jaw dropped. His gaze became fixed on somet hing behind the old
Hottabych was about to turn round to see what it wa s, but Volka wailed:
"Don't turn around! Please, don't turn around! Hott abych, my sweet, dear
Nevertheless, the old man did turn around.
Coming towards them, arm in arm with another elderl y lady, was Varvara
Stepanovna Koltsova, an Honoured Teacher of the Rep ublic, the 6B geography
teacher of Moscow Secondary School No. 245.
Hottabych approached her slowly. With a practised g esture he yanked a hair
from his beard, and then another.
"Don't!" Volka yelled in horror, as he grabbed Hott abych's hand. "She's not to
blame! You've no right to!"
Zhenya silently tackled Hottabych from the rear and gripped him as firmly as
The old man's companion looked at this strange scen e in utter amazement.
"Boys!" Varvara Stepanovna commanded, apparently no t at all surprised at
meeting her pupils on the ice-breaker. "Behave your selves! Leave the old man
alone! Didn't you hear me?! Kostylkov! Bogorad! Do you hear?"
"He'll turn you into a toad if we do!" Volka cried frantically, feeling that he
could not manage Hottabych.
"Or into a chopping-block on which butchers carve m utton!" Zhenya added.
"Run, Varvara Stepanovna! Hurry up and hide before he breaks loose! What Volka
said is true!"
"What nonsense!" Varvara Stepanovna said, raising h er voice. "Children, did
you hear what I said?!"
By then Hottabych had wrenched free from his young friends and quickly tore
the hairs in two. The boys shut their eyes in horro r.
However, they opened them when they heard Varvara S tepanovna thanking
someone. She was holding a bouquet of flowers and a large bunch of ripe bananas.
Hottabych replied by bowing with a nourish and touc hing first his forehead and
then his heart.
When they were back in their cabin, the three frien ds had a show-down.
"Oh, Volka, why didn't you tell me right away, righ t after the examination, the
very first day of our happy acquaintance, that I fa iled you by my over-confident
and ignorant prompting? You've offended me. If you
had only told me, I wouldn't
have bothered you with my annoying gratitude. Then you could have easily
prepared for your re-examination, as is becoming an enlightened youth like you."
So spoke Hottabych, and there was real hurt in his voice.
"But you'd have turned Varvara Stepanovna into a ch opping-block for carving
mutton. No, Hottabych, I know you only too well. We spent all these days in
terrible fear for her life. Tell me, would you have changed her into a choppingblock?"
"Yes, I would have, there's no use denying it. Eith er that or into a terrible toad."
"See! Is that what she deserves?"
"Why, if anyone ever dares to turn this noble woman into a chopping-block or a
toad he'll have to deal with me first!" the old man cried hotly and added, "I bless
the day you induced me to learn the alphabet and ta ught me how to read the
papers. Now I am always up-to-date and well informe d on which sea is being built,
and where. And I also bless the day Allah gave me t he wisdom to 'filch' your
geography book—that's the right expression, isn't i t, Volka? For that truly wise
and absorbing book has opened before me the blessed expanses of true science and
has saved me from administering that which I, in my blindness, considered a
deserving punishment for your highly respected teac her. I mean Varvara
"I guess that takes care of that!" Volka said.
"It sure does," Zhenya agreed.
WHAT INTERFERES WITH SLEEPING?
They were having good sailing weather. For three da ys and three nights they
sailed in open seas and only towards the end of the third day did they enter a
region of scattered ice.
The boys were playing checkers in the lounge, when an excited Hottabych burst
in on them, holding on to the brim of his old straw hat.
"My friends," he said with a broad smile, "go and h ave a look: the whole world,
as far as the eye can see, is covered with sugar an d diamonds!"
We can excuse Hottabych these funny words, as never before in his nearly forty
centuries of living had he seen a single mound of i ce worth speaking of.
Everyone in the lounge rushed on deck and discovere d thousands of snowwhite
drifting ice-floes sparkling and glittering in the bright rays of the midnight
sun, moving silently towards the "Ladoga." Soon the first ice-floes crunched and
crashed against the rounded steel stem of the boat.
Late that night (but it was as bright and sunny as on a clear noonday) the
passengers saw a group of islands in the distance. This was the first glimpse they
had of the majestic and sombre panorama of Franz Jo seph Land. They saw the
gloomy, naked cliffs and mountains covered with gli ttering glaciers which
resembled sharp, pointed clouds that had been press ed close to the harsh land.
"It's time to go to bed, I guess," Volka said when everyone had had his fill of
looking at the far islands. "There's really nothing to do, but I don't feel like
sleeping. It all comes from not being used to sleep ing while the sun is shining!"
" blessed one, it seems to me that it is not the sun which is interfering, but
something else entirely," Hottabych suggested timid ly.
However, no one paid attention to his words.
For a while, the boys wandered up and down the deck
s. There were less and
less people aboard. Finally they, too, went back to their cabin. Soon the only
people on the ship who were not asleep were the cre w members on duty.
It was quiet and peaceful aboard the "Ladoga." From every cabin there came
the sound of snoring or deep breathing, as if this were not taking place on a ship
some two and a half thousand kilometres from the ma inland, in the harsh and
treacherous Barents Sea, but in a cosy rest home so mewhere near Moscow, during
the afternoon "quiet hour." The shades were drawn o n the port-holes, just as on the
windows in rest homes, to keep out the bright sunsh ine.
However, it soon became clear that there was a very tangible difference
between the "Ladoga" and a rest home. Apart from th e Crimean earthquake, oldtimers
at rest homes do not recall having been tossed out of their beds in their
sleep. The passengers had just fallen asleep when a sharp jerk threw them from
That very moment the steady hum of the engines stop ped. In the silence which
followed, one could hear the slamming of doors and the sound of running feet, as
the people rushed out of their cabins to find out w hat had happened. There were
shouts of command coming from the deck. Volka was l ucky in tumbling out of the
top berth without major injuries. He immediately ju mped to his feet and began to
rub his sore spots. As he was still half asleep, he decided that it had been his own
fault and was about to climb up again when the murm ur of anxious voices coming
from the corridor convinced him that the reason was much more serious than he
"Perhaps we hit an underground reef?" he wondered, pulling on his clothes.
This thought, far from frightening him, gave him a strange and burning feeling of
anxious exhilaration. "Golly! This is a real adventure! Gee! There isn't a single
ship within a thousand kilometres, and maybe our wi reless doesn't work!"
He imagined a most exciting picture: they were ship wrecked, their supplies of
drinking water and food were coming to an end, but the passengers and crew of the
"Ladoga" were calm and courageous—as Soviet people should be. Naturally, he,
Volka Kostylkov, had the greatest will power. Yes, Vladimir Kostylkov could look
danger in the face. He would always be cheerful and outwardly carefree, he would
comfort those who were despondent. When the captain of the "Ladoga" would
succumb to the inhuman strain and deprivation, he, Volka, would rightly take over
command of the ship.
"What has disturbed the sleep so necessary to your young system?" Hottabych
asked and yawned, interrupting Volka's day-dreams.
"I'll find out right away, Hottabych. I don't want you to worry about anything,"
Volka said comfortingly and ran off.
Gathered on the spardeck near the captain's bridge were about twenty halfdressed
passengers. They were all discussing something quie tly. In order to raise
their spirits, Volka assumed a cheerful, carefree e xpression and said courageously:
"Be calm, everyone! Calmness above all! There's no need to panic!"
"That's very true. Those are golden words, young ma n! And that is why you
should go right back to your cabin and go to sleep without fear," one of the
passengers replied with a smile. "By the way, no on e here is feeling at all
Everyone laughed, to Volka's considerable embarrass
ment. Besides, it was
rather chilly on deck and he decided to run down an d get his coat.
"Calmness above all!" he said to Hottabych, who was waiting for him below.
"There's no reason to get panicky. Before two days are out, a giant ice-breaker will
come for us and set us afloat once again. We certai nly could have done it
ourselves, but can you hear? The engines have stopp ed working. Something went
wrong, but no one can find out what it is. There wi ll surely be deprivations, but
let's hope that no one will die."
Volka was listening to himself speak with pleasure. He had never dreamt he
could calm people so easily and convincingly. " woe is me!" the old man cried suddenly, shoving hi s bare feet into his
famous slippers. "If you perish, I'll not survive y ou. Have we really come upon a
shoal? Alas, alas! It would be much better if the e ngines were making noise. And
just look at me! Instead of using my magic powers f or more important things, I...."
"Hottabych," Volka interrupted sternly, "tell me th is minute: what have you
"Why, nothing much. It's just that I so wanted you to sleep soundly, that I
permitted myself to order the engines to stop makin g noise."
"Oh, no!" Volka cried in horror. "Now I know what h appened! You ordered the
engines to be still, but they can't work silently. That's why the ship stopped so
suddenly. Take back your order before the boilers e xplode!"
"I hear and I obey," a rather frightened Hottabych answered shakily.
That very moment the engines began to hum again and the "Ladoga" continued
on its way as before. Meanwhile, the captain, the c hief engineer and everyone else
on board were at a loss to explain why the engines had stopped so suddenly and
mysteriously and had resumed working again just as suddenly and mysteriously.
Only Hottabych and Volka knew what had happened, bu t for obvious reasons
they said nothing. Not even to Zhenya. But then, Zh enya had slept soundly
through it all.
"If there was ever an international contest to see who's the soundest sleeper, I
bet Zhenya would get first prize and be the world c hampion," Volka said.
Hottabych giggled ingratiatingly, though he had no idea what a contest was,
and especially an international one, or what a cham pion was. But he was trying to
Yet, this in no way staved off the unpleasant conve rsation. Volka sat down on
the edge of Hottabych's berth and said:
"You know what? Let's have a man-to-man talk."
"I am all ears, Volka," Hottabych replied with exaggerated cheerfu lness.
"Did you ever try counting how many years older you are than me?"
"Somehow, the thought never entered my head, but if you permit me to, I'll
gladly do so."
"Never mind, I figured it out already. You're three thousand, seven hundred and
nineteen years older than me—or exactly two hundred and eighty-seven times!
And when people see us together on the deck or in t he lounge they probably think:
how nice it is that these boys have such a respecta ble, wise and elderly gentleman
to keep an eye on them. Isn't that right? What's th e matter? Why don't you
But Hottabych, hanging his unruly grey head, seemed to have taken a mouthful
"But how do things really stand? Actually, I find t
hat I'm suddenly responsible
for your life and the lives of all the passengers, because since it was me who let
you out of the bottle an since you nearly sank a wh ole ice-breaker, it means I'm
responsible for everything. I deserve to have my he ad chopped off."
"Just let anyone try to chop off such a noble head as yours! Hottabych cried.
"All right, never mind that. Don't interrupt. To co ntinue: Pi sick and tired of
your miracles. There's no doubt about it, you're re ally a very mighty Genie
(Hottabych puffed out his chest), bi as concerns mo dern times and modern
technical development; you don't know much more tha n a new-born babe. Is the
"Alas, it is."
"Well then, let's agree: whenever you feel like per forming some miracle,
consult other people."
"I'll consult you, Volka, and if you won't be on hand, or : you're bu sy
preparing for a re-examination (Volka winced), the I'll consult Zhenya."
"Do you swear?"
"I swear," the old man exclaimed and struck his che st wit his fist.
"And now, back to bed," Volka ordered.
"Aye, aye, Sir!" Hottabych answered loudly. He had already managed to pick
up some nautical terms.
HOTTABYCH AT HIS BEST
By morning the "Ladoga" had entered a zone of heavy fogs. ; crawled ahead
slowly and every five minutes its siren wailed loud ly, breaking the eternal silence.
This was done in accordance with the rules of navig ation. then it is foggy, all
vessels must sound their fog horns, no matter wheth er they are in the busiest
harbours or in the empty wastes of the Arctic Ocean . This is done to prevent
The sound of the "Ladoga's" siren depressed the pas sengers.
It was dull and damp on deck, and boring in the cab ins. That is why every seat
in the lounge was occupied. Some passengers were pl aying chess, some were
playing checkers, others were reading. Then they ti red of these pastimes, too.
Finally they decided to sing.
They sang all together and one at a time; they danc ed to the accompaniment of
a guitar and an accordion. A famous Uzbek cotton-gr ower danced to an
accompaniment provided by Zhenya. There really shou ld have been a tambourine,
but since there was none, Zhenya tapped out the rhy thm quite well on an
enamelled tray. Everyone was pleased except the Uzb ek, but he was very polite
and praised Zhenya, too. Then a young man from a Mo scow factory began doing
card tricks. This time everyone except Hottabych th ought it was grand.
He called Volka out into the corridor.
"Permit me, Volka, to entertain these kind people with several simple
Volka recalled how these "simple miracles" had near ly ended in the circus and
protested vigorously, "Don't even think of it!" Fin ally, however, he agreed,
because Hottabych was looking at him with such sad- dog eyes.
"All right, but remember—just card tricks and maybe something with the pingpong
balls, if you want to."
"I shall never forget your wise generosity," Hottab
ych said gratefully, and they
returned to the lounge. The young worker was in the midst of a really good trick.
He offered anyone in the audience to choose a card, look at it, replace it, and then
shuffle the deck. Then he shuffled it too, and the top card always turned out to be
the right one.
After he had received his well-earned applause and returned to his seat,
Hottabych asked to be permitted to entertain the ga thering with several simple
tricks. That's how the boastful old man put it—simp le.
Naturally, everyone agreed. They applauded before h e even began.
Bowing smartly to all sides like an old-timer on th e stage, Hottabych took two
ping-pong balls from a table and threw them into th e air. Suddenly, there were four
balls; he threw them up again and they became eight , then thirty-two. He began
juggling all thirty-two balls, and then they disapp eared and were found to be in
thirty-two pockets of thirty-two people in the audi ence. Then they flew out of the
pockets, formed a chain and began spinning around a bowing Hottabych like
sputniks until they became a white hoop. Hottabych put this large hoop on Varvara
Stepanovna's lap with a low bow. The hoop began to flatten out until it turned into
a roll of excellent silk. Hottabych cut it into pie ces with Volka's pen-knife. The
pieces of silk flew into the air like birds and wou nd themselves into turbans of
remarkable beauty around the heads of the amazed au dience.
Hottabych listened to the applause blissfully. Then he snapped his fingers. The
turbans turned into pigeons which flew out through the open port-holes and
disappeared. Everyone was now convinced that the ol d man in the funny oriental
slippers was one of the greatest conjurors.
Hottabych wallowed in the applause. The boys knew h im well enough to
understand how dangerous such unanimous and excitin g approval was for him.
"Just wait and see! Watch him go to town now," Zhen ya whispered in a worried
voice. "I have a funny feeling, that's all."
"Don't worry, we have a very strict agreement on th is point."
"One minute, my friends," Hottabych said to the app lauding passengers. "Will
you permit me to...."
He yanked a single hair from his beard. Suddenly a shrill whistle sounded on
deck. They could hear the heavy clatter of running feet.
"That's the militia coming to fine someone!" Zhenya joked. "Somebody's
jumped overboard at full speed!" No one had time to laugh, because the "Ladoga"
shuddered and something clanged menacingly below. F or the second time that day
the ship came to a stop.
"See! What did I say!" Zhenya hissed and looked at Hottabych with loathing.
"He couldn't control himself. Just look at him boas t! Golly! I've never met a more
conceited, boastful and undisciplined Genie in my w hole life!"
"Are you up to your old tricks again, Hottabych? Yo u swore yesterday that...."
There was such shouting in the lounge that Volka di dn't bother lowering his
"Oh, no! No! Do not insult me with such suspicions, serpent among boys, for
I have never broken the smallest promise, to say no thing of an oath. I swear I
know no more than you do about the reasons for our sudden stop."
"A snake?" Volka shouted angrily. "Oh, so on top of everything else, I'm a
snake! Thank you, Hottabych! My best merci to you!"
"Not a snake, a serpent, for know ye that a serpent
is the living embodiment of
This time the old man was really not to blame. The "Ladoga" had lost its way in
the fog and gone aground. Passengers crowded the de ck, but they had difficulty in
even making out the rails. However, by leaning over the side near the bow they
could see the propellers churning up the dark unfri endly waters.
Half an hour passed, but all attempts to get the sh ip off the shoal by putting it in
reverse ended in failure. Then the captain ordered the spry boatswain to pipe all on
Everyone except those standing watch gathered on th e spardeck. The captain
said, "Comrades, this is an emergency. There's only one way to get off the shoal
under our own steam and that's transfer the coal fr om the bow to the stern; then
we'll be able make free of the shoal. If everyone p itches in, it won't take more than
ten or twelve hours to do the job. The boatswain wi ll divide you into teams. Put on
your worst clothes and let's start the ball rolling .
"You, boys, and you, Hassan Hottabych, need not wor ry. its is no job for you:
the boys are too young and it's a little too late f or you to carry heavy loads."
"What do you mean by saying I can't carry heavy loa ds?" Hottabych replied
scornfully. "Please be informed that no one present here can equal me in weightlifting,
most respected captain."
The other passengers began to smile.
"What an old man!" "Listen to him boast." "Just loo k at that muscle-man!"
"There's nothing to laugh at, he feels offended. It 's no fun be old."
"See for yourself!" Hottabych shouted. He grabbed h is two young friends and,
to the general amazement, began juggling them as if they were plastic billiard balls
stead of sturdy thirteen-year-old boys. The applaus e which followed was so
deafening, the whole scene might very well have tak en place at a weight-lifting
contest and not on board a ship in danger.
"I take my words back," the captain said solemnly a fter the applause had died
down. "And now, let's get to work! There's time to waste!"
"Hottabych," Volka said, -taking the old man off to a side "what's the use of
dragging coal from one hold to another for twelve l ong hours? I think you should
do something to get the ship off the shoal."
"That's not within my powers," the old man answered sadly "I thought of it
already. Naturally, I can pull it off the rocks, bu t then the bottom will be all
scratched and ripped, and I won't b able to fix it,
because I never saw what a ship
looks like on the bottom. Then we'll certainly drow n in no time."
"Think again, Hottabych! Maybe you'll think of some thing!"
"I'll try my best, compass of my soul," the old man replied. After a short
pause he asked, "What if I make the rocks disappear ?"
"Oh, Hottabych! How smart you are!" Volka said and began to shake his hand.
"That's a wonderful idea."
"I hear and I obey."
The first emergency team was down in the hold, load ing the first iron bins with
coal, when the "Ladoga" suddenly lurched and then b egan to spin around in a
whirlpool over the spot where there had just been a shoal. In another minute, the
ship would have broken to bits, had not Volka sense enough to tell Hottabych to
make the whirlpool disappear. The sea became calm; the "Ladoga" spun around a
while longer from sheer force of inertia. Then it c ontinued on its way.
Once again, no one but Hottabych and Volka knew wha t he happened.
Ahead were more exciting days, each unlike the othe r, as they journeyed across
little-known seas and channels, past bleak islands upon which no human foot had
ever stepped. The passengers often left the ship to go ashore on deserted cliffs and
on islands where polar station teams greeted them w ith rifle salvos. Our three
friends joined the rest in climbing glaciers, wande ring over the naked stones of
basalt plateaux, jumping from ice-floe to ice-floe over black open patches of
water, and hunting polar bears. The fearless Hottab ych dragged one bear aboard
the "Ladoga" by the scruff of its neck. Under his i nfluence the animal soon became
as tame and playful as a cat, and so provided many happy hours for both
passengers and crew. Now the bear often tours with circuses, and many of our
readers have undoubtedly seen him. His name is Kuzy a.
"SALAAM, SWEET OMAR!"
After stopping off at Rudolph Island, the "Ladoga" began its return journey.
The passengers were worn out from the mass of new i mpressions, from the sun
which shone round the clock from the frequent fogs and endless crashing of ice
against the stem and sides of the ship. At each sto p there were less and less
passengers who wished to go ashore on deserted isla nds, and towards the end of
the journey our friends and two or three other tire less explorers were the only ones
to take advantage o a chance to climb the inhospita ble cliffs.
One morning the captain said, "Well, this is the la st time you're going ashore.
There's no sense stopping the ship for six or seven people."
That is why Volka talked the others going ashore in to staying there as long as
possible, in order to really have one good last loo k at the islands. They could do it
in peace since Hottabych, who was usually in a rush to get back, was staying
behind to play chess with the captain.
"Volka," Zhenya said mysteriously when they dragged their feet aboard the
"Ladoga" three hours later. "Come on down to the ca bin! I want to show you
something. Here, look at this," he continued, after shutting the door tightly. He
pulled a longish object from under his coat. "What d'you think it is? I found it on
the opposite side of the island. Right near the wat er."
Zhenya was holding a small copper vessel the size o f a decanter. It was all
green from age and brine.
"We should give it to the captain right away," Volk
a said excitedly. "Some
expedition probably put a letter inside and threw i t into the water, hoping someone
would come to the rescue."
"That's what I thought at first, too, but then I de cided nothing would happen if
we opened it first to have a look inside. It's inte resting, isn't it?"
"It sure is."
Zhenya turned pale from excitement. He quickly knoc ked off the tar-like
substance that covered the mouth of the bottle. Und er it was a heavy lead cap
covered with a seal. Zhenya had great difficulty pr ying it loose.
"And now we'll see what's inside," he said, turning it upside-down over his
Before he had time to finish the sentence, clouds o f black smoke began pouring
from the bottle, filling the entire cabin. It becam e dark and choky. Presently, the
thick vapour condensed and became an unsightly old man with an angry face and a
pair of eyes that burnt like coals. He fell to his knees and knocked his forehead on
the floor so hard that the things hanging on the ca bin wall swayed as if the ship
was rolling. " Prophet of Allah, do not kill me!" he shouted.
"I'd like to ask you something," a frightened but c urious Volka interrupted his
wailing. "If I'm not mistaken, you mean the former King Solomon, don't you?"
"Yes, miserable youth! Sulayman, the Son of David (may t he days of the
twain be prolonged on earth!)."
"I don't know about who's miserable," Volka objecte d calmly, "but as far as
your Sulayman is concerned—his days can in no way b e prolonged. That's out
completely: he's dead."
"You lie, wretch, and will pay dearly for it!"
"There's nothing to get mad about. That Eastern kin g die two thousand nine
hundred and nineteen years ago. You ca look it up i n the Encyclopaedia."
"Who opened the bottle?" the old man asked in a bus iness like way, having
obviously accepted Volka's information an not appea ring to be too saddened by it.
"I did, but you really shouldn't thank me," Zhenya said modestly.
"There is no God but Allah!" the stranger exclaimed . "Rejoice, undeserving
"Why should I rejoice? It's you who've been freed f rom your prison, and you
should be the one to rejoice. What's there for me t o rejoice about?"
"Rejoice, because you must die an ill death this ve ry hour"
"That's what I call real mean! After all, I freed y ou from the copper vessel. If
not for me, who-knows how many thousands of years l onger you'd have to lie
around in smoke and soot."
"Don't tire me with idle chatter! Ask of me only wh at mode of death you
choose and in what manner I shall slay you! Gr-r-r!
"I'll thank you not to act so fierce! And anyway, w hat's that all about?" Zhenya
"Know, undeserving boy, that I am one of the Genies who d isobeyed
Sulayman, David's Son (on the twain be peace!), whe reupon Sulayman sent his
minister, Asaf, son of Barakhiya, to seize me. And this Vizier brought me against
my will and led me in bonds to Sulayman and he plac ed me standing before him.
When Sulayman saw me, he sent for this bottle, shut me up therein and stoppered
it over with lead."
"Good for him!" Zhenya whispered to Volka.
"What are you whispering about?" the old man asked
"Nothing, nothing at all," Zhenya answered hurriedl y.
"Take care!" the old man warned. "I am not one to h ave tricks played upon me.
To continue: he imprisoned me in the bottle and ord ered his Genies to throw me
into the ocean. There I abode a hundred years, duri ng which time I said in my
heart, 'Whoso shall release me, him will I enrich f or ever and ever.' But the full
century went by and, when no one set me free, I ent ered upon the second five
score saying, 'Whoso shall release me, for him I sh all open the hoards of the
Earth.' Still, no one set me free, and thus four hu ndred years passed away. Then
quoth I, 'Whoso shall release me, for him will I fu lfil three wishes.' Yet ho one set
me free. Thereupon I waxed wroth and said to myself , 'Whoso shall release me
from this time forth, him will I slay, and I will g ive him choice of what death he
will die,' and now, as you have released me, I give you full choice of death."
"But it's not at all logical to kill your saviour! It's illogical and downright
ungrateful," Zhenya objected heatedly.
"Logic has nothing to do with it," the Genie interr upted harshly. "Choose the
death that most appeals to you and do not detain me , for I am terrible in my
"May I ask you something?" Volka said, raising his hand.
But the Genie glared at him so frightfully, it made Volka's knees tremble.
"Well then, will you at least permit me to ask a question?" Zhenya pleaded with
such despair that the Genie relented.
"All right. But be brief."
"You say that you spent several thousand years in t his copper vessel, but it's
even too small to hold your hand. How should the wh ole of you fit in it?"
"What! Do you not believe that I was there?"
"I'll never believe it until I see you inside with my own eyes."
"Well then, look and be convinced," the Genie roare d. He shook and became a
smoke which condensed and entered the jar little by little, while the boys clapped
softly in excitement.
More than half the vapour had disappeared into the vessel. Zhenya, with bated
breath, had the stopper ready to imprison the Genie once again, but the old man
seemed to change his mind, for he filtered out agai n and assumed a human form.
"Oh, no you don't!" he said, squinting slyly and sh aking a hooked and dirty
finger in front of Zhenya's face, while the boy hur riedly slipped the stopper in his
pocket. "You didn't want to outsmart me, did you, despicable brat? What a
terrible memory I have! I nearly forgot that a thou sand one hundred and forty-two
years ago a fisherman fooled me in just the same ma nner. He asked me the very
same question and I trustingly wished to prove that I had indeed been in the vessel.
So I turned into smoke again and entered the jar, w hile the fisherman snatched up
the leaden cap with the seal and stoppered therewit h the mouth of it. Then he
tossed it back into the sea. Oh no, you can't play that trick on me twice!"
"Why, I had no intention of fooling you," Zhenya li ed in a shaky voice, feeling
that now he was a goner for sure.
"Hurry and choose what manner of death you will die and detain me no longer,
for I am weary of all this talk!"
"All right," Zhenya said after thinking a bit. "But promise me that I'll die in
exactly the way I choose."
"I swear!" the Genie promised solemnly and his eyes
burnt with a devilish fire.
"Well, then," Zhenya said and swallowed hard. "Well then... I want to die of
"Good for you!" Volka shouted.
The Genie turned purple from rage and cried, "But y our old age is still very far
off. You are still so young!"
"That's all right," Zhenya answered courageously, " I can wait."
When Volka heard this, he laughed happily, but the Genie began to curse in
Arabic as he dashed back and forth in the cabin, to ssing aside everything in his
way in helpless rage.
This went on for a good five minutes until he final ly seemed to come to a
decision. He laughed so fiendishly as to give the b oys goose-pimples. Standing
before Zhenya, he said maliciously:
"There is no denying it, you are cunning. But Omar Asaf ibn Hottab is more
cunning than you, despicable one."
"Omar Asaf ibn Hottab?" the boys cried in unison. T he Genie was trembling
with wrath and bellowed:
"Silence! Or I'll destroy you immediately! Yes, I a m Omar Asaf ibn Hottab, and
I am more cunning than this brat! I'll fulfil his w ish and he will surely die of old
age. But," he said, looking at the boys triumphantl y, "his old age will come upon
him before you count to a hundred!"
"Help!" Zhenya cried in his usual voice. "Help!" he groaned in a deep basso a
few seconds later. "Help!" he squeaked in a trembli ng old man's voice a few"
moment's later. "Help! I'm dying!"
Volka looked on horror-struck as Zhenya quickly tur ned into a youth, then into
a grown man with a long black beard; then his beard turned to grey and he became
middle-aged; and, finally, he became a bald, bony, scrawny old man. All would
have been over in a few seconds if Omar Asaf, who w as gleefully watching
Zhenya's quick deterioration, had not exclaimed:
"Oh, if my unfortunate brother were only here now! How happy he would be at
"Wait!" Volka shouted. "Tell me, was your brother's name Hassan
"How did you discover that?" Omar Asaf asked in ama zement. "Do not remind
me of him, for my heart is rent at the memory of po or Hassan. Yes, I had a brother
named so, but all the worse for you, for reopening my terrible wounds!"
"If I tell you your brother is alive and bring him to you, alive and healthy, will
you spare Zhenya then?"
"Oh, if I could only see my dear Hassan! Oh, then y our friend would remain
alive until he aged naturally and that will not hap pen for many and many a year.
But if you deceive me ... I swear, neither of you w ill escape my rightful wrath!"
"Then wait a minute, just one minute!" Volka shoute d.
A few moments later, he rushed into the lounge wher e Hottabych was
engrossed in his game of chess with the captain.
"Dear Hottabych, hurry! Let's run back to the cabin , there's a great joy awaiting
"I can think of no greater joy than to check-mate m y sweetest friend, the
captain," Hottabych replied solemnly, studying the board intently.
"Hottabych, we can't spare a minute! I beg you, com e below with me!"
"All right," Hottabych replied and moved his castle
. "Check! Run along, Volka.
I'll be with you as soon as I win, and, according t o my calculations, this will be in
about three more moves."
"We'll see about that yet," the captain replied che erfully. "Three moves indeed!
Just you let me see...."
"Yes, yes, do see," the old man chuckled. "You won' t think of anything
anyway. I can wait. I'll be only too happy to wait. "
"We've no time to wait!" Volka wailed in despair, a nd knocked all the figures
off the board. "If you don't come below with me thi s minute, both Zhenya and I
will die a horrible death! Hurry! Run!"
"You're behaving atrociously," Hottabych grumbled, but followed Volka out
"That means it's a draw!" the captain shouted happi ly, pleased to have escaped
a completely hopeless situation.
"No, sir! What do you mean a draw?" Hottabych objec ted and was ready to turn
But Volka shouted angrily:
"Sure it's a draw! It's a typical draw!" and shoved the old man into their cabin,
where Omar Asaf was about to fulfil his terrible th reat.
"Who's the old man?" Hottabych asked, seeing a decr epit old man moaning on
the berth. Actually, but a few short moments ago, h e had been a thirteen-year-old
boy named Zhenya Bogorad. "And who's that other old man?" he continued,
noticing Omar Asaf. Suddenly he turned pale. Not tr usting his eyes, he took
several hesitant steps forward and whispered, "Sala am, sweet Omar!"
"Is that you, my dear Hassan Abdurrakhman?" Omar Asaf cried.
The brothers fell into each other's arms, for they had been separated for nearly
three thousand years.
At first, Volka was so touched by this unusual meet ing of brothers in the midst
of the Arctic icebergs, and so happy for Hottabych' s sake, that he completely
forgot about the unfortunate Zhenya. Soon a barely audible groan from the berth
reminded him that urgent aid was needed.
"Help!" he cried and rushed to separate Hottab's tw o sons. "A person's dying
"Help, I'm dying! "the old man Zhenya croaked, as i f to corroborate Volka's
words. Hottabych looked at him in surprise and aske d:
"Who is this white-haired old man, and how does he come to be lying in our
friend Zhenya's bed?"
"But this is Zhenya," Volka wailed. "Save him, Hottabych!"
"I beg your pardon, dearest Hassan," Omar Asaf said irritably to his n ewlyfound
brother. "I shall have to interrupt these pleasant moments of reunion in order
to fulfil my promise."
With these words he went over to the berth, touched Zhenya's shoulder, and
"Ask forgiveness before it is too late."
"Forgiveness? Of whom?" the old man Zhenya croaked.
"Of me, despicable youth!"
"For trying to trick me."
"You should ask my forgiveness," Zhenya objected. " I saved you and you want
to kill me for it. I won't ask your forgiveness!"
"Be it as you wish," Omar Asaf agreed maliciously.
"I do not insist. But bear in
mind that you shall die in a few seconds if you do not."
"So what? Who cares?" Zhenya whispered proudly if w eakly, though he
certainly did care.
"Omar, my sweet!" Hottabych interrupted kindly but firmly. "Don't cloud our
long-awaited reunion by a dishonest act. You must i mmediately and
unconditionally fulfil the promise given to my prec ious friend, Volka ibn Alyosha.
And please bear in mind that the most noble Zhenya is a very good friend of mine
Omar Asaf ground his teeth in helpless rage. Yet, h e took hold of himself and
"Change, insolent youth, and be as you were before!" "Now y ou're talking,"
Everyone present had the pleasure of witnessing a m ost unusual sight: a dying
old man turned into a thirteen-year-old boy.
First, his withered, sunken cheeks became rosy; the n, his bald head was covered
with white hair which soon turned black, as did his heavy beard. Feeling stronger,
Zhenya hopped off the berth and winked at his frien ds happily. Standing before
them was a husky man of forty, who differed from ot her men of his age in that his
beard kept on shrinking until it finally turned int o a barely noticeable fringe of
fluff which soon disappeared completely. The man wa s becoming smaller in
height and narrower in the shoulders. Finally, he t ook on Zhenya Bogorad's usual
Thus, Zhenya was now the only person in the world w ho could say. "Long ago.
when I was still an old man," the same as millions of old men say, "When I was
still a young rascal."
OMAR ASAF BARES HIS CLAWS
"There's one thing I can't understand," Omar Asaf s aid thoughtfully as he
shivered with cold. "I clearly heard Sulayman's Gen ies say, 'Let's throw him—
meaning me—into the West Ethiopian Sea.' That's why I thought that if I was ever
lucky enough to look upon the sun and earth again, it would be near the shores of
sunny Africa. But this," and he pointed to the isla nd fast disappearing through the
port-hole, "this is not at all like Africa. Isn't i t so, my dear brother Hassan?"
"You are right, my dear Omar Asaf, one so pleasing to my heart. We are now
near other shores, quite a distance from Africa. We are now...."
"I know! Really, I know!" Volka interrupted and did a jig from excitement.
"Golly! Now I know! Now I know!"
"What do you know?" Omar Asaf asked haughtily.
"Now I know how you came to be in the Arctic." " insolent and boastful boy, how unpleasant I find y our undue pride!" Omar
Asaf said in disgust. "How can you understand somet hing which remains a
mystery even to me, the wisest and most powerful of all Genies! Well then,
express your opinion, so that I and my dear brother may have a good laugh at your
"That's as you wish. You can laugh if you want to. But it's all because of the
"Because of what?" Omar Asaf asked acidly.
"The Gulf Stream, the warm current which brought yo
u to the Arctic from the
"What nonsense!" Omar Asaf smirked, turning to his brother for support.
But his brother said nothing.
"It's not rubbish at all," Volka began.
But Omar Asaf corrected him:
"I did not say 'rubbish,' I said 'nonsense.' "
"It's neither rubbish nor nonsense," Volka replied with annoyance. "I got an 'A'
in geography for the Gulf Stream."
Since Zhenya supported Volka's scientific theory, H ottabych also supported
Omar Asaf, seeing that he was a minority of one, pr etended to agree about the
Gulf Stream, but actually concealed a grudge agains t Volka and his friend.
"I am tired of arguing with you, conceited boy," he said, forcing a yawn. "I
am tired and want to sleep. Hurry and bring a fan a nd keep away the flies while I
"In the first place, there are no flies here. In th e second place, what right have
you to order me about?" Volka asked indignantly.
"There will be flies soon enough," Omar Asaf mutter ed through clenched teeth.
And sure enough, swarms of flies began buzzing abou t the cabin.
"We can manage without a fan," Volka said in a frie ndlier tone, making believe
he did not understand the humiliating nature of Oma r Asaf's demand.
He opened first the door, then the port-hole; a str ong draught carried the flies
out into the corridor.
"All the same, you'll fan me!" Omar Asaf said capri ciously, ignoring
Hottabych's attempts at calming him.
"No, I won't! No one has ever made me fulfil humili ating orders."
"Then I'll be the first to do so."
"No you won't!"
"Omar, my sweet!" Hottabych said, trying to avert t he imminent quarrel.
But Omar Asaf, who had turned black with rage, wave d him away angrily.
"I'd rather die than fulfil your whims!" Volka shou ted.
"Then you'll die very soon, as soon as the Sun sets ," Omar Asaf announced,
Suddenly, Volka had a wonderful idea.
"If that's the case, then tremble, you despicable G enie!" he shouted in his most
terrible voice. "You have tried my patience too lon g, and I must stop the Sun! It
will not go down today, or tomorrow, or the day aft er. You have only yourself to
Volka was taking a big chance. If Hottabych had had time to tell his brother
that the Arctic Sun shone twenty-four hours a day a t this time of the year, then all
But in reply to Volka's words, Omar Asaf scoffed, " Braggart of braggarts!
Boaster of boasters! I, too, like to boast at times , but even in my greatest rage I
have never promised to stop the course of that grea t celestial body. Not even
Sulayman, the Son of David (on the twain be peace!) , could do that."
Volka saw that he was saved. And not only saved, bu t that he could take
Hottabych's disagreeable brother in hand.
Hottabych, meanwhile, winked approvingly at Volka.
As for Zhenya, there is
no need to say he was delighted. He had guessed Vol ka's idea and was aglow from
excitement, anticipating Omar Asaf's imminent downf all.
"Rest assured, Omar Asaf. If I said I'll stop the S un, you can be sure it won't go
"You brat!" Omar Asaf snapped.
"You're a brat yourself!" Volka replied as arrogant ly. "Don't worry, I'll take
care of the Sun."
"But what if it goes down anyway?" Omar Asaf asked, choking with laughter.
"If it goes down, I will henceforth fulfil your mos t stupid orders."
"Oh, no," Omar Asaf said triumphantly. "If the Sun, despite your conceited
promise, does go down—and this will obviously happe n—then I will eat you up.
I'll eat you, bones and all!"
"And my slippers too," Volka added courageously. "B ut if the Sun does not go
down today, will you obey my every command?"
"If the Sun does not go down, I will do so with the greatest pleasure, most
boastful and insignificant of magicians! But— ha-ha-ha—alas! This will never
"It's still an open question as to who will say 'al as!' a few hours from now,"
"Well then!" Omar Asaf said, shaking his finger in warning. "According to the
present position of the Sun, it should go down in a nother eight or nine hours. I am
even a tiny bit sorry for you, shameless milksop, for you have less than twelve
hours to live."
"You can save your pity; you'd better pity yourself ."
Omar Asaf giggled scornfully, revealing two rows of small yellow teeth.
"What awful teeth," Hottabych sighed. "Omar, why do n't you get yourself gold
teeth, like I have?" It was only then that Omar Asa f noticed Hottabych's unusual
teeth, and his soul was filled with the blackest en vy.
"To tell you the truth. Brother, I don't find anyth ing very special about gold
teeth. I think I'd rather have diamond teeth."
That very moment, thirty-two crystal-clear diamonds sparkled in his mouth as
he smiled spitefully. Gazing at himself in the litt le bronze mirror the old dandy
carried in his belt, Omar Asaf was quite pleased wi th what he saw.
There were only three things that somehow clouded h is triumph. First,
Hottabych did not seem at all envious; second, his diamond teeth sparkled only
when the light fell upon them directly. If the ligh t did not fall upon them, he
appeared completely toothless; third, his diamond t eeth scratched his tongue and
lips. In his heart of hearts, he was sorry he had b een so greedy, but he did not show
this so as not to lose face.
"No, no," he giggled, noticing that Volka was about to leave the cabin. "You
shall not leave until the Sun goes down. I understa nd you only too well. You want
to flee, in order to escape your deserved end. I ha ve no intention of searching for
you all over the boat."
"Why, I can stay in the cabin as long as you want. That will even be better.
Otherwise, I'll have to hunt for you all over the b oat when the Sun doesn't go
down. How long do you think I'll have to wait?"
"Not more than nine hours, young braggart," Omar Asaf said, bowing
sarcastically. He snapped the fingers of his left h and and a cumbersome waterclock
appeared on the table beneath the port-hole. "As so
on as the water reaches
this line," he said, tapping the side of the clock with a crooked brown nail, "the
Sun will go down. It is the hour of your death."
"Fine, I'll wait."
"We'll wait, too," said Zhenya and Hottabych.
Eight hours slipped by quickly, because Zhenya coul d not deny himself the
pleasure of suggesting that the conceited Omar Asaf learn to play checkers.
"I'll win anyway," Omar Asaf warned.
Zhenya kept on winning. Omar Asaf got angrier and a ngrier. He tried to cheat,
but each time they caught him at it, and so he woul d begin a new game, which
would end just as sadly for him.
"Well, the time's up, Omar Hottabych," Volka said f inally.
"Impossible!" Omar Asaf replied, tearing himself aw ay from the checker board.
Glancing quickly at the water-clock, he turned pale and jumped up from the
berth where he and Zhenya had been sitting. He rush ed to the port-hole, stuck his
head out and groaned in terror and helpless rage: t he Sun was just as high in the
sky as it had been eight hours before!
Then he turned to Volka and said in a flat voice:
"I must have made a little mistake in my calculatio ns. Let's wait two more
"Even three if you like, but it won't help you any. It'll be just as I said: the Sun
will not go down today, or tomorrow, or the day aft er tomorrow."
Four and a half hours later, Omar Asaf stuck his he ad out of the port-hole for
the twentieth time, and for the twentieth time he s aw that the Sun had no intention
of sinking beyond the horizon.
He turned as white as a sheet and trembled all over as he crashed to his knees.
"Spare me, mighty youth!" he cried in a pitiful voice. "Do no t be angry at me,
your unworthy slave, for when I shouted at you I di d not know you were stronger
"Does that mean you think you can shout at me if I' m weaker than you?"
They all felt disgusted.
"What a brother you have," Zhenya whispered to Hott abych. "Forgive me for
saying so, but he's a most unpleasant, envious and vicious old man."
"Yes, my brother is no lump of sugar," Hottabych re plied sadly.
"For goodness' sake, get up!" Volka said with annoy ance, as the old Genie
remained on his knees and kept trying to kiss Volka 's hands.
"What are your orders, my young but mighty master?" Omar Asaf asked
submissively, rubbing his soft palms together and r ising.
"At present, there's only one; don't you dare leave this cabin for a second
without my permission!"
"With the greatest of pleasure, wisest and most powerful of youths," Omar
Asaf replied in a self-abasing tone, as he regarded Volka with fear and awe.
It was just as Volka had predicted. Neither that da y nor the next, nor the third
did the Sun go down. Making use of some small misde meanour of Omar Asaf's,
Volka said he would make the Sun shine round the cl ock until further notice. And
not until he learned from the captain that the "Lad oga" had finally entered a
latitude where there was a brief period of night, d id he inform Omar Asaf of this,
as his special favour to the undeserving, grumpy Ge nie.
Omar Asaf was as quiet as a mouse. Not once did he
leave the cabin. He crept
back into the copper vessel without a murmur when t he "Ladoga" docked to the
strains of a band at its home pier, from which it h ad sailed away thirty days before.
Naturally, Omar Asaf was extremely reluctant to ret urn to his bottle, if even for
a short period, since he had already spent so many unhappy and lonely centuries
there. But Volka gave him his word of honour that h e would let him out the minute
they reached home.
There is no use denying that as Volka left the hosp itable "Ladoga," carrying the
copper vessel under his arm, he was sorely tempted to toss it into the water. But
there you are—if you've given your word you've got to keep it. And so Volka
walked down the gang-plank, having conquered this m omentary temptation.
If no one aboard the "Ladoga" ever stopped to wonde r why Hottabych and his
friends were taking part in the expedition, it is q uite clear that the old man had no
trouble casting the same spell over his young frien ds' parents and acquaintances.
At any rate, their relatives and friends accepted i t as a matter of course that the
children had been in the Arctic, without questionin g how in the world they had
ever booked berths on the Ladoga."
After an excellent dinner, the children told their respective parents the story of
their adventures in the Arctic, keeping almost true to the facts. They were wise
enough to say nothing about Hottabych. Zhenya, howe ver, was so carried away,
that the rash words nearly slipped out of his mouth . When he described the
performances the passengers had put on in the loung e, he said:
"And then, of course, Hottabych could not leave it at that. So he said...."
"What a strange name—Hottabych!" Zhenya's mother sa id.
"I didn't say 'Hottabych,' Mother, I said 'Potapych .' That was our boatswain's
name," Zhenya said resourcefully, though he blushed .
However, this went unnoticed. Everyone looked at hi m with awe, because he
had met and talked with a real live boatswain every single day of the journey.
Volka, on the other hand, nearly had an accident wi th the copper bottle. He was
sitting on the couch in the dining room, explaining the difference between an icebreaker
and an iceboat to his parents with a true knowledge of his subject. He did
not notice his grandmother leaving the room. After she had been gone for about
five minutes, she returned holding ... the vessel w ith Omar Asaf inside!
"What's this? Where did you get it. Mother?" Volka' s father asked.
"Just imagine, I found it in Volka's suitcase. I st arted unpacking his things and
found this very nice pitcher. It will be lovely as a decanter. I'll have to polish it,
though, because it's so terribly green."
"That's no decanter!" Volka cried and turned pale. He grabbed the vessel from
his grandmother. "The First Mate asked me to give t his to his friend. I promised
him I'd deliver it today."
"My, isn't this a strange vessel," said his father, a great lover of antiques. "Let
me have a look at it. Why, there's a lead cap on it . That's very interesting...."
He tried to pry it off, but Volka grabbed the vesse l frantically and stammered:
"You're not supposed to open it! It's not supposed to be opened at all! Anyway,
it's empty inside. I promised the First Mate I woul dn't open it, so's not to spoil the
threads on the screw."
"Look how upset he is! All right, you can have the old pitcher back," his father
said, letting go of it.
Volka sat back on the couch in exhaustion, clutchin g the terrible vessel; but the
conversation was all spoiled. Soon he rose. Trying
to sound casual, he said he
would go to , hand in the pitcher and dashed out of the room.
"Come back soon!" his mother called, but by then he had already vanished.
WHAT GOOD OPTICAL INSTRUMENTS CAN LEAD TO
Zhenya and Hottabych had been awaiting Volka on the bank for a long time. It
was very still. The vast sky was spread above them. The full moon cast its cold,
Zhenya had brought his binoculars along and was now looking at the moon.
"You can dismiss the astronomy club," Volka said, c oming up to them. "The
next act on our show is the solemn freeing of our g ood friend, Omar Asaf! Music!
"That mean old thing will have to manage without mu sic," Zhenya muttered.
In order to emphasize his loathing for the horrible Genie, he turned his back on
the vessel and studied the moon through his binocul ars for such a long time, that
he finally heard Omar Asaf's squeaky voice:
"May your humble servant, mighty Volka, ask what purpose these black pipes
serve which your friend Zhenya— and my greatly este emed master—has pressed
to his noble eyes?"
"They're binoculars. It's to see things closer," Vo lka tried to explain. "Zhenya's
looking at the moon through them, to see it better. It makes things bigger."
"I can imagine how pleasant such a pastime can be," Omar Asaf said
He kept trying to peep into the binoculars, but Zhe nya purposely turned away
from him. The conceited Genie was cut to the quick by such a lack of respect. Oh,
if not for the presence of the almighty Volka, who had stopped the Sun itself with
a single word, then Omar Asaf would certainly have known how to deal with the
unruly boy! But Volka was standing beside them, and the enraged Genie had no
choice but to ask Zhenya in a wheedling voice to le t him have a look at the great
planet of the night through such interesting binocu lars.
"I join my brother in asking you to do him this fav our," Hottabych added.
Zhenya reluctantly handed Omar Asaf the binoculars.
"The despicable boy has cast a spell on the magic p ipes!":
Omar Asaf cried a few moments later and crashed the binoculars to the ground.
"Instead of making things bigger, they make the moo n much smaller! Oh, some
day I will lay my hands on this boy!"
"You're always ready to abuse people!" Volka said i n disgust. "What has
Zhenya to do with it? You're looking through the wr ong end."
He picked up the binoculars and handed them back to the angry Genie. "You
have to look through the small end."
Omar Asaf followed his advice cautiously and soon s ighed:
"Alas, I had a much better opinion of this celestia l body. I see that it is all pockmarked
and has ragged edges, just like the tray of the poo rest day-labourer. The
stars are much better.-Though they are much smaller than the moon, they at least
have no visible faults." " my brother, let me see for myself," Hottabych said and he, too, looked
through the binoculars with interest. "This time I believe my brother is right," he
added with surprise.
This made it only too clear that Omar Asaf had long
since fallen greatly in his
"What ignorance," Zhenya scoffed. "It's high time y ou knew that the moon is
millions of times smaller than any of the stars."
"Enough! I can no longer take the constant mockery of this brat!" Omar Asaf
roared and grabbed Zhenya by the collar. "Next, you 'll say that a speck of sand is
bigger than a mountain. I wouldn't put it past you. Enough! This time I'll do away
with you for good!"
"Stop!" Volka shouted. "Stop, or I'll bring the Moo n down upon you, and not
even a wet spot will remain where you now stand! Yo u know I can do it with my
eyes closed. I think you know me by now."
The enraged Omar Asaf reluctantly let go of a frigh tened Zhenya.
"You're raving for nothing again," Volka continued. "Zhenya’s right. Sit down
and I'll try to explain things to you."
"You don't have to explain anything to me. I know e verything already," Omar
Asaf objected conceitedly. Yet, he dared not disobe y.
Volka could talk about astronomy for hours on end. This was his favourite
subject. He had read every popular book on the stru cture of the Universe and could
retell their contents to anyone who'd care to liste n. But Omar Asaf obviously did
not want to listen. He kept on snickering contemptu ously. Finally unable to control
himself any longer, he grumbled:
"I'll never believe your words until I convince mys elf of their truth."
"What do you mean 'convince yourself? Don't tell me you want to fly to the
Moon in order to be convinced that it's a huge sphe re and not a little saucer?"
"And why not?" Omar Asaf asked haughtily. "Why, I c an fly off today, if I
"But the Moon is millions of miles away."
"Omar Asaf is not afraid of great distances. And al l the more so, since—forgive
me—I greatly doubt the truth of your words."
"But the way to the Moon lies through outer space, where there's no air," Volka
"I can manage quite well without breathing."
"Let him go! We'll have plenty of trouble with him if he stays," Zhenya
"Sure, he can go," Volka agreed quietly, "but still , I consider it my duty to warn
him about what awaits him on the way.... Omar Asaf, " he continued, turning
towards the conceited Genie, "bear in mind that it' s terribly cold there."
"I am not afraid of the cold. I'll be seeing you so on. Good-bye!"
"If that's the case, and if you've decided to fly t o the Moon, come what may,
then at least listen to one piece of advice. Do you promise to obey my words?"
"All right, I promise," the Genie answered condesce ndingly, his awe of Volka
"You must leave the Earth at a speed of no less tha n eleven kilometres a
second; otherwise you can be sure you'll never reac h the Moon."
"With the greatest of pleasure," Omar Asaf said, co mpressing his thin blue lips.
"And how big is a kilometre? Tell me, for I know of no such measurement."
"Let's see now. How can I explain?... Well, a kilom etre is about a thousand four
"Your steps? That means there are no more than a th ousand two hundred of my
steps in a kilometre. Maybe even less."
Omar Asaf had an exaggerated idea about his height.
He was no taller than
Volka, but they could not convince him of this.
"Be sure not to crash into the cupola of the Heaven s," Hottabych admonished
his brother, not being completely convinced of Volk a's stories about the structure
of the Universe.
"Don't teach someone who knows more than you," Omar Asaf said coldly and
soared into the air. He instantly became white hot and disappeared from view,
leaving a long fiery trail behind.
"Let's wait for him here, my friends," Hottabych su ggested timidly, for he felt
guilty for all the unpleasantness Omar Asaf had cau sed them.
"No, there's no use waiting for him now. You'll nev er see him again," Volka
said. "He didn't listen to my advice, which was bas ed on scientific knowledge, and
he'll never return to the Earth. Since your Omar to ok off at a speed which was less
than eleven kilometres a second, he'll be circling the Earth forever. If you want to
know, he's become a sputnik."
"If you have no objections, I'll wait for him here a while," a saddened
Late that night he slipped into Volka's room. Turni ng into a goldfish, he dived
silently into the aquarium. Whenever Hottabych was upset by anything, he spent
the night in the aquarium instead of under Volka's bed. This time he was especially
upset. He had waited for his brother for over five hours, but Omar Asaf had not
Some day scientists will develop precision instrume nts that will make it
possible to note the smallest amount of gravitation the Earth experiences from the
tiniest of celestial bodies passing close to its su rface. And then an astronomer,
who, perhaps, read this book in his childhood, will determine, after long and
laborious calculations, that someplace, comparative ly close to the Earth, there
rotates a celestial body weighing a hundred and thi rty pounds. Then, Omar Asaf, a
grouchy and narrow-minded Genie who turned into an Earth satellite because of
his impossible character and ignorant scoffing at s cientific facts, will be entered
into the great astronomical catalogue as a many-num bered figure.
Someone who heard of this instructive tale about Ho ttabych's brother once told
us in all seriousness that one night he had seen so mething flash across the sky
which in shape resembled an old man with a long flo wing beard. As concerns the
author of this book, he does not believe the story, for Omar Asaf was a very
HOTTABYCH'S FATAL PASSION
For several days Hottabych remained in the aquarium , pining away for his
brother. Gradually, however, he got used to his abs ence and once again everything
was back to normal.
One day he and the boys were talking quietly. It wa s still rather early and the
old man was lolling under the bed.
"It looks like rain," Zhenya said, looking out the window.
Soon the whole sky became overcast with clouds. It started to drizzle.
"Shall we turn it on?" Volka asked off-handedly, no dding towards a new radio
set his parents had given him for being promoted to 7B. He turned it on with
The loud sounds of a symphony orchestra filled the
room. Hottabych stuck his
head out from under the bed.
"Where are all those people playing so sweetly on v arious instruments?"
"Golly! Hottabych doesn't know anything about radio s!" Zhenya said.
(There was one omission on the "Ladoga" for all its excellent equipment—they
forgot to install a radio set in the lounge.)
For nearly two hours the boys watched Hottabych del ightedly. The old man was
overwhelmed. Volka tuned in on Vladivostok, Tbilisi , Kiev, Leningrad, Minsk and
Tashkent. Songs, thunderous marches, and the voices of people speaking in many
tongues obediently poured forth from the set. Then the boys got fed up. The sun
peeped out and they decided to go for a walk, leavi ng a fascinated Hottabych
behind. The strange events which then occurred rema in a mystery to Volka's
grandmother to this very day.
Soon after the boys left, she entered Volka's room to turn off the radio and
distinctly heard an old man coughing in the empty r oom. Then she saw the dial
turn by itself and the indicator move along the sca le.
The frightened old woman decided not to touch the s et, but to find Volka
immediately. She caught up with him at the bus stop . Volka was very upset. He
said he was improving the set, that he was making i t automatic, and he begged his
grandmother not to tell his parents what she had se en, because it was supposed to
be a surprise for them. His grandmother was not at all comforted by these words.
Nevertheless, she promised to keep his secret. All afternoon she listened anxiously
to the strange mumbling coming from the empty room.
That day the radio played on and on. At about two o 'clock at night it went off,
but only because the old man had forgotten how to t une in on Tashkent. He woke
Volka up, asked him how to do it, and returned to t he set.
A fatal thing had happened: Hottabych had become a radio fan.
HOTTABYCH'S NEW YEAR VISIT
During the winter vacation, Zhenya went to visit hi s relatives in Zvenigorod.
On January 4th he received a letter, which was of e xtreme interest for at least three
reasons. In the first place, this was the first let ter he had ever received in which he
was addressed by his full name, as a grown man. In the second place, it was the
first letter Hottabych had ever written to his youn g friend. But of greatest interest
were the contents of this most remarkable message.
Following is the letter, slightly abridged: "
most lovable and precious friend, the sweet and si ngular adornment of all
schools and sports fields, the fond hope of your na tive arts and sciences, the joy
and pride of your parents and friends, Zhenya ibn K olya, from the famous and
noble family of Bogorads, may your life's road be s trewn with thornless roses and
may it be as long as your pupil, Hassan Abdurrakhma n ibn Hottab, wishes it to be!
"I hope you remember how great my joy and gratitude were when, six months
ago, you, my young friend and friend of my young saviour, re leased my
unfortunate brother Omar Asaf ibn Hottab, from whom I was so grievously
separated for many centuries, from his horrible imp risonment in the copper vessel.
"But immediately following my first joy of a long-a waited reunion, there came
a terrible disappointment, for my brother turned ou t to be an ungrateful, shortsighted,
narrow-minded, grouchy and envious person. And he, as you well
remember, took it upon himself to fly to the Moon, in order to be convinced
whether its surface was truly covered with mountain s, as our highly educated
friend Volka ibn Alyosha stated, basing his knowled ge on a science called
"Alas! It was not a selfless thirst for knowledge t hat guided my unwise brother,
nor the noble and exemplary desire to discover the World, but a vain and ignorant
wish to belittle and shame a person who had tried t o hold him back from
committing a fatal deed.
"He did not even take into account the laws of anot her science called
'Mechanics,' and thereby doomed himself to an etern al and useless circling of the
Earth, which, as I recently discovered (who could h ave ever dreamed of it!) in turn
revolves around the Sun!
"Three days ago I received a message from you, Zhenya ibn Kolya, which
bears the scientific name of 'Telegram,' and in whi ch you so graciously and
pleasantly wished me a Happy New Year. And then I r ecalled that my unpleasant,
but extremely unfortunate brother is spinning round in the sky day and night and
that there is no one to wish him a Happy New Year. And so, I prepared for a
journey, and exactly at noon I took off for the far distances of Outer Space, in
order to visit Omar Asaf, to wish him a Happy New Y ear, and, if it were at all
possible, to help him return to the Earth.
"I will not tire your kind attention, Zhenya ibn Kolya, with a description of
how I was able to manage the Law of Universal Gravi tation. For this is not the
purpose of my message. Suffice it to say that at fi rst I took off at approximately
the same speed as Omar Asaf, and, as he, I turned i nto a satellite of the Earth, but
only temporarily, and only long enough for a meetin g with Omar. Then, when I
saw it was time for me to return to the Earth, I tu rned to face it and assumed the
speed necessary for overcoming the forces which rev olved me about the Earth, just
as a pail of water tied to a string would revolve r ound a boy who held the string. It
is of no use to write what my speed was. When I nex t see you, I will show you all
the calculations I did with the aid of my knowledge of Mathematics, Astronomy
and Mechanics, which you and Volka ibn Alyosha so g raciously and patiently
taught me. But this is not the point in question. I sincerely wished to visit my poor
Hottabych had apparently burst into tears at this p oint, for the ink was all
smudged. That is why we find we must leave out seve ral lines.
"Leaving the Earth, so full of cheerful noonday lig ht behind, I soon entered an
area as black as pitch that was terribly and unbear
ably cold. As before, the far-off
stars sparkled in the icy darkness with a bright bu t dead, unblinking light, and the
pale yellow disk of the flaming Sun blinded my eyes .
"I flew on and on, amidst the cold darkness and sil ence. I was about to despair,
when, suddenly, on the black velvet of the sky, the re appeared a skinny body,
brightly illumined by the Sun. It was approaching m e at tremendous speed, and the
long beard flowing behind like the tail of a comet, as well as the incessant and
vicious grumbling, told me beyond doubt it was my b rother.
" 'Salaam, dear Omar!' I cried, when he came abreas t of me. 'How is your
" 'Not bad,' Omar answered reluctantly and in an un friendly voice. 'As you see,
I revolve around the Earth.' He chewed his lips and added dryly, 'Tell me what you
want. Don't forget that I'm a busy man. State what you want and be off.'
" 'What are you so busy at, my good brother?'
" 'What do you mean what at?! Didn't you hear me say I'm now working as a
sputnik? I keep revolving like mad, day and night, without a moment's rest.'
" ' woe is me!' I cried in great sorrow. 'How sad and uninteresting your life
must be, amidst this eternal cold and darkness, in constant and useless revolving,
apart from all living things!' And I burst into tea rs, for I was so terribly sorry for
my brother. But in answer to my heartfelt words, Om ar Asaf replied coldly and
" 'Don't feel sorry for me, for I am less in need o f pity than anyone else on
Earth. Just look around and you'll be convinced tha t I'm the largest of all celestial
bodies. True enough, both the Sun and the Moon shed light—though I don't—and
are even quite bright, but I am much larger than th ey are. I don't even mention the
stars, which are so small that a great multitude of them could fit on my finger-nail.'
Something which resembled a kindly smile appeared o n his face. 'If you wish, you
can join me and become my sputnik. We will revolve together. Then, not counti ng
me, you'll be the largest of all celestial bodies.'
"In vain did I rejoice at this brotherly show of af fection, though it may have
taken a rather strange form, for Omar Asaf continue d as follows:
" 'All celestial bodies have their sputniks, but I have none. It makes me feel
"I was amazed at the ignorance and stupid conceit o f my brother. I understood
that he did not want to return to the Earth and so said with a heavy heart:
" 'Farewell, for I am in a hurry. I still have to w ish some of my friends a Happy
"But Omar, who, apparently, had his heart set on th is idea of his, roared:
" 'Then who will be my sputnik? You had better rema in of your own free will,
or I'll tear you to bits!'
"With these words he grabbed hold of my left leg. I kept my wits and turned
sharply to a side, wrenching free of Omar, though l eaving in his grasp one of my
slippers. Naturally, he wanted to catch up with me, but he could not do so, for he
had to continue his endless journey around a circle known by the scientific name
"Flying off to a good distance, and still feeling a bit sorry for my unpleasant
and conceited brother, I shouted:
" 'If you are so in need of sputniks, Omar Asaf, you shall have them!'
"I yanked five hairs from my beard, tore them to bi ts and scattered them about.
Then many-coloured, beautiful balls, ranging in siz
e from a pea to a large
pumpkin, began revolving around Omar Asaf. These we re sputniks worthy of him
both in size and in beauty.
"My brother, a short-sighted person, had apparently never thought of making
his own sputniks. Now, in his great pride, he desir ed to have a sputnik the size of a
mountain. And so, such a sputnik immediately appear ed. But since the mass of
matter within this mountain was hundreds of thousan ds of times greater than the
weight of my scatter-brained and ignorant brother O mar Asaf, he immediately
crashed into the new celestial body he had created and bounded off it like a
football. With a terrible wail, he began revolving around it at top speed.
"Thus, Omar Asaf fell a victim to his terrible vani ty by becoming the sputnik of
his own sputnik.
"I returned to the Earth and sat down to write you this letter, you, who have
all good assets, in order that you do not remain in ignorance of the above events.
"I also hurry to add that on Gorky Street, at the r adio store, I saw a wonderful
set with nine tubes. And its virtues are endless. I ts appearance would please the
most choosy eye. It occurred to me that if I were t o attach...."
The letter then continued as a typical radio fan's letter would, and there is no
sense quoting it, for radio fans will not find anyt hing new in it, and those who are
not interested in this branch of communications wil l find nothing in it worthy of
If any of the readers of this really truthful story are in Moscow on Razin Street
and look in at the offices of the Central Board of the Northern Sea Route, they will
probably see among the dozens of people putting in applications for work in the
Arctic an old man in a straw boater and pink slippe rs embroidered in silver and
gold. This is Hottabych. Despite all his efforts, h e has not been able to procure a
job as a radio-operator on some polar station.
His appearance alone, with the long grey beard reac hing down to his waist, a
sure sign of his undoubtedly advanced age, is a gre at hindrance in finding
employment in the harsh conditions of the Arctic. H owever, his situation becomes
still more hopeless when he begins to fill in the a pplication form.
In answer to the question: "Occupation," he writes: "Professional Genie." In
answer to the question: "Age," he writes: "3,732 ye ars and five months." As to
family status, he replies simple-heartedly: "Orphan . Single. I have a brother named
Omar Asaf who, until July of last year, lived on th e bottom of the Arctic Ocean in
a copper vessel, but who now works as an Earth sate llite," etc., etc., etc.
After reading his application form, the personnel m anager decides that
Hottabych is slightly crazy, though the readers of our story know only too well
that what the old man has written is nothing but th e truth.
Naturally, it would be no trouble for him at all to become a young man and to
fill in the form as it should be; or, if the worst came to the worst, to cast the same
spell on the personnel manager as he had once befor e, when he and his friends
boarded the "Ladoga." But the trouble is the old ma n has decided he wants to get a
job in the Arctic honestly, without any fakery at a ll.
However, he has been visiting the Board offices les s and less frequently lately.
Instead, he has decided to study radio technology, to learn how to design his own
radio equipment. Knowing his abilities and his love
for work, it is not such a
hopeless matter. What he needs now are competent te achers. Hottabych wants his
young friends to be his teachers. All they could pr omise him, as we already know,
is that they will teach him what they learn from da y to day. Hottabych considered
this and decided that it was not such a bad idea af ter all.
Thus, both Volka and Zhenya are very conscientious, straight "A" pupils, for
they don't want to fail their elderly student. They have agreed that they will help
Hottabych finish secondary school together with the m. But at this point their roads
will part. As you recall, Zhenya had long since dec ided to become a doctor, while
Volka shares Hottabych's passion. He wants to becom e a radio engineer, and I
assure you that he will make his way in this diffic ult but fascinating field.
It remains for us to bid farewell to the characters of this story and to wish the
three friends good health and good luck in their st udies and their future lives. If
you ever meet them, please say hello to them from t he author who invented them
with great love and tenderness.
* * * * * *
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