THE OLD GENIE HOTTABYCH
A Story of Make-Believe
FOREIGN LANGUAGES PUBLISHING HOUSE MOSCOW
TRANSLATED FROM THE RU SSIAN BY FAINNA SOLASKO
The Ru ssian Title: Ст арый Джин Хотта быч
The amusing and fascinating children’ s book is often 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 f ound a copper vessel in his net. In the
vessel was a mighty Genie – a m agician 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 discover ed that a schoolboy 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 Exam ination
Hottabych' s Second Service
An Unusual Event at the Movies A Troubled Evening
A Chapter W hich Is a Continuation of the Previous One
A Restless Night
The Unusual Events in Apartm ent
A No Less Troubled Morning
W hy S.S. Pivoraki Becam e 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 Em barrassing to Be an Illiterate Genie
W ho' s the Richest?
A Cam el in the Street
A Mysterious Happening in the Bank
Hottabych and Sidorelli
A Hospital Under the Bed
One in W hich W e Return to the Barking Boy
Hottabych and Mr. Moneybags
Hassan Abdurrakhm an ibn Hottab' s Story of His Adventures After Leaving the
The Sam e and Mr. Moneybags
How Many Footballs Do You Need?
Hottabych Enters the Gam e
The Situation Becom es More Tense
W here Should They Look for Om ar?
The Story Told by the Conductor of the Moscow-Odessa Express of W hat
Happened on the Nara-Maly Yaroslavets Line
The Strange Sailing Ship
Aboard the "Sweet Om ar"
The "VK-1" Magic-Carpet-Seaplane
Hottabych Is Lost and Found Again
The Vessel From the Pillars of Hercules
The Shortest Chapter of All
Dream ing of the "Ladoga"
A Com motion at the Central Excursion Bureau
W ho Is Most Fam ous?
The Unexpected Encounter
W hat Interferes with Sleeping?
Hottabych at His Best
"Salaam , Sweet Om ar!"
Om ar Asaf Bares His Claws
W hat Good Optical Instrum ents Can Lead To
Hottabych' s Fatal Passion
Hottabych's New Year Visit
A MOST UNUSUAL MORNING
At 7:32 a.m . a m erry sun-spot slipped through a hole in the curtain and settled
on the nose of Volka Kostylkov, a 6th-grade pupil. Volka sneezed and wok
Just then, he heard his m other say in the next room :
"Don' t rush, Alyosha. Let the child sleep a bit longer, he has an exam today."
Volka winced. W hen, oh when, would his m other stop calling him a child?
"Nonsense!" he could hear his father answer. "The boy' s nearly thirteen. He
might as well get up and help us pack. Be fore you know it, this child of yours will
be using a razor."
How could he have forgotten about the packing!
Volka threw off the blankets and dresse d hurriedly. How could he ever have
forgotten such a day!
This was the day the Kostylkov fam ily wa s m oving to a different apartm ent in a
new six-storey house. Most of their bel ongings had been packed the night before.
Mother and Grandm a had packed the dishes in a little tin tub that once, very long
ago, they had bathed Volka in. His father had rolled up his sleeves and,
mouthful of nails, just like a shoem ake r, had spent the evening ham mering down
the lids on crates of books.
Then they had all argued as to the best place to put the things so as to have
them handy when the truck arrived in the m orning. Then they had their tea on an
uncovered table—as on a m arch. Then they decided their 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 could have ever forgotten that
this was the m orning they, were m oving to a new apartm ent.
The m overs barged in before breakfast was quite over. The first thing they did
was to open wide both halves of the door and ask in loud voices, "W ell, can we
"Yes, please do," both Mother and Gra ndm a answered and began to bustle
Volka m arched downstairs, solem nly ca rrying the sof a pillows to the waiting
"Are you m oving? " a boy from next door asked.
"Yes," Volka answered indifferently, as though he was used to m oving from
one apartm ent to another every week and there was nothing very special about it.
The janitor, Stepanych, walked over, sl owly rolled a cigarette and began an
unhurried conversation as one grown-up talk to another. The boy felt dizzy with
pride and happiness. He gathered his cour age and invited Stepanych to visit them
at their new hom e. The janitor said, "W ith pleasure." A serious, im portant, m an-to-
man conversation was beginning, when all at once Volka' s m other' s voice cam e
through the open window:
"Volka! Volka! W here can that awfu l child be?" Volka raced up to the
strangely large and em pty apartm ent in wh ich shreds of old newspapers and old
medicine bottles were lying forlornly about the floor.
"At last!" his m other said. "Take your pr ecious aquarium and get right into the
truck. I want you to sit on the sofa and hold the aquarium on your lap. There' s no
other place for it. But be sure the water doesn' t splash on the sofa."
It's really strange, the way parents worry when they' re m oving to a new
THE STRANGE VESSEL
W ell, the truck finally choked exhaus tedly and stopped at the attractive
entrance of Volka' s new house. The m overs quickly carried everything upstairs
and soon were gone.
Volka' s father opened a few crates and sa id, "W e'll do the rest in the evening."
Then he left for the factory.
Mother and Grandm a began unpacking th e pots and pans, while Volka decided
to run down to the river nearby. His fath er had warned him not to go swim ming
without him , because the river was very deep, but Volka soon found an excuse: "I
have to go in for a dip to clear m y hea d. How can I take an exam with a fuzzy
It's wonderful, the way Volka was always able to think of an excuse when he
was about to do som ething he was not allowed to do.
How convenient it is to have a river n ear your house! Volka told his m other
he' d go sit on the bank and study his geography.
And he really and truly intended to sp end about ten m inutes leafing through the
text-book. However, he got undressed and jum ped into the water the m inute he
reached the river. It was still early, and there was not a soul on the bank. This had
its good and bad points. It was nice, because no one could stop him from
swim ming as m uch as he liked. It was bad, because there was no one to adm ire
what a good swim mer and especially what an extraordinary diver he was.
Volka swam and dived until he becam e bl ue. Finally, he realized he had had
enough. He was ready to clim b out when he suddenly changed his m ind and
decided to dive into the clear water one last tim e.
As he was about to com e up for air, his hand hit a long hard object on the
bottom . He grabbed it and surfaced n ear the shore, holding a strange-looking
slippery, m oss-covered clay vessel. It re sem bled an ancient type of Greek vase
called an am phora. The neck was sealed ti ghtly with a green substance and what
looked like a seal was im printed on top.
Volka weighed the vessel in his hand. It was very heavy. He caught his b
A treasure! An ancient treasure of great scientific value! How wonderful
He dressed quickly and dashed hom e to open it in the privacy of his room .
As he ran along, he could visualize the notice which would certainly app
all the papers the next m orning. He even thought of a heading: "A Pioneer Aids
"Yesterday, a pioneer nam ed Vladim ir Kostylkov cam e to his district m ilitia
station and handed the officer on duty a tr easure consisting of antique gold objects
which he found on the bottom of the river, in a very deep place. The treasure has
been handed over to the Historical Museum . According to reliable sources,
Vladim ir 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 stum bled on a chandelier lying on the
floor. It was Grandm a's fam ous chandelie r. Very long ago, before the Revolution,
his deceased grandfather had converted it from a hanging oil lam p. Grandm a
would not part with it for anything in the world, because it was a treas
memory of Grandfather. Since it was not elegant enough 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 th e door, took his penknife from his pocket
and, trem bling from excitem ent, scraped the seal off the bottle.
The room im mediately filled with choking black sm oke, while a noiseless
explosion of great force th rew him up to the ceiling, where he rem ained suspended
from the hook by the seat of his pants.
THE OLD GENIE
W hile Volka was swaying back and forth on the hook, trying to understand
what had happened, the sm oke began to clear. Suddenly, he realized there was
som eone else in the room besides him self. It was a skinny, sunburnt old m an with
a beard down to his waist and dressed in an elegant turban, a white coat of fine
wool richly em broidered in silver a nd gold, gleam ing white silk puffed trousers
and petal pink m orocco slippers with upturned toes.
"Hachoo!" the old m an sneezed loudly and pros trated him self. "I greet you, 0
W onderful and W ise Youth!"
Volka shut his eyes tight and then opened them again. No, he was not seeing
things. The am azing old m an was still ther e. Kneeling and rubbing his hands, he
stared at the furnishings of Volka' s room with lively, shrewd eyes, as if it were all
goodness-knows what sort of a m iracle.
"W here did you com e from ?" Volka i nquired cautiously, swaying back and
forth under the ceiling like a pendulum . "Are you... from an am ateur troupe?"
"Oh, no, m y young lord," the old m an rep lied grandly, though he rem ained in
the sam e uncom fortable pose and continued to sneeze. "I am not from the strange
country of Anam ateur Troupe you m entione d. I com e from this m ost horrible
W ith these words he scram bled to his feet and began jum ping on the vessel,
from which a wisp of sm oke was still cu rling upward, until there was nothing lef t
but a sm all pile of clay chips. Then, with a sound like tinkling crystalware, he
yanked a hair from his beard and tore it in two. The bits of clay flared up with a
weird green flam e until soon there was not a trace of them left on the floor.
Still, Volka was dubious. You m ust agree, it's not easy to accept the fact that a
live person can crawl out of a vessel no bigger than a decanter.
"W ell, I don' t know..." Volka stam mered. "T he vessel was so sm all, and you' re
so big com pared to it."
"You don' t believe m e, 0 despicable one ?!" the old m an shouted angrily, but
im mediately calm ed down; once again he f ell to his knees, hitting the f loor with
his forehead so strongly that the water shook in the aquarium and the sleepy fish
began to dart back and forth anxiousl y. "Forgive m e, m y young saviour, but I am
not used to having m y words doubted. K now ye, m ost blessed of all young m en,
that I am none other than the m ight y Genie Hassan Abdurrakhm an ibn Hottab—
that is, the son of Hottab, fam ed in all four corners of the world."
All this was so interesting it m ade Volka forget he was hanging under the
ceiling on a chandelier hook.
"A ' gin-e' ? Isn' t that som e kind of a drink? "
"I am not a drink, 0 inquisitive youth!" the old m an flared up again, then took
him self in hand once m ore and calm ed dow n. "I am not a beverage, but a m ighty,
unconquerable spirit. There is no m agic in the world which I cannot do, and m y
nam e, as I have already had the pleasure of conveying to your great and extrem ely
respected attention, is Hassan Abdurrakhm an ibn Hottab, or, as you would say in
Russian, Hassan Abdurrakhm an Hottabych. If you m ention it to the first Ifrit or
Genie you m eet, you' ll see him trem ble, and his m outh will go dry from fear," the
old m an 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 lesson for all those who seek
learning. I, m ost unfortunate Genie that I am , disobeyed Sulaym an, son of David
(on the twain be peace!)—I, and m y brother, Om ar Asaf Hottabych. Then
Sulaym an sent his Vizier Asaf, son of Barakhiya, to seize us, and he brought us
back against our will. Sulaym an, David' s son (on the twain be peace!), ordered two
bottles brought to him : a copper one and a cl ay one. He put m e in the clay vessel
and m y brother Om ar Hottabych in the copper one. He sealed both vessels and
im printed the greatest of all nam es of A llah on them and then ordered his Genies
to carry us off and throw m y brother into the sea and m e into the river, from which
you, 0 m y blessed saviour— hachoo, hachoo! —have fished m e. May your days be
prolonged. 0.... Begging your pardon, I woul d be indescribably happy to know
your nam e, m ost beautiful of all youths."
"My nam e's Volka," our hero replied as he swayed softly to and fro under the
"And what is your fortunate father' s nam e, m ay he be blessed for eternity? Tell
me the m ost gentle of all his nam es, as he is certainly deserving of great love and
gratitude for presenting the world with such an outstanding offspring."
"His nam e's Alexei. And his m ost gentle ... m ost gentle nam e is Alyosha."
"Then know ye, m ost deserving of all yout hs, the star of m y heart, Volka ibn
Alyosha, that I will henceforth fulfil a ll your wishes, since you have saved m e
from the m ost horrible im prisonm ent. Hachoo!"
"W hy do you keep on sneezing so? " Volka asked, as though everything else
was quite clear.
"The m any thousand years I spent in dam pne ss, deprived of the beneficial rays
of the sun, in a cold vessel lying on the bottom of a river, have given m e, your
undeserving servant, a m ost tiresom e running nose. Hachoo! Hachoo! But all this
is of no im portance at all and unworthy of your m ost treasured attention. Order m e
as you wish, 0 young m aster!" Hassan Abdurrakhm an ibn Hottab concluded
heatedly with his head raised, but still kneeling.
"First of all, won' t you please rise," Volka said.
"Your every word is m y com mand," the ol d m an replied obediently and rose. "I
await your further orders."
"And now," Volka m umbled uncertainly, "if it' s not too m uch trouble ... would
you be kind enough ... of course, if it' s not too m uch trouble.... W hat I m ean is, I' d
really like to be back on the floor again."
That very m oment he found him self st anding beside old m an Hottabych, as we
shall call our new acquaintance for short. Th e f irst 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 m e as you wish!" Hottabych con tinued, gazing at Volka devotedly. "Is
there anything that grieves you, 0 Volka ibn Alyosha? Tell m e, and I will help
"My goodness!" Volka cried, glancing at the clock ticking away loudly on the
table. "I' m late! I' m late f or m y exam !"
"W hat are you late for, 0 m ost treasur ed Volka ibn Alyosha? " Hottabych asked
in a business-like way. "W hat does that strange word ' ex-am ' m ean? "
"It' s the sam e as a test. I' m late for m y test at school."
"Then know ye, 0 Volka, that you do not value m y powers at all," the old m an
said in a hurt voice. "No, no, and no again! You will not be late for your exam .
Just tell m e what your choice is:
to hold up the exam , or to find yourself im mediately at your school gates? "
"To find m yself at the gates," Volka replied.
"Nothing could be sim pler! You will now find yourself where your young and
honourable spirit draws you so im patientl y. You will stun your teachers and your
com rades with your great knowledge."
W ith the sam e pleasant tinkling sound the old m an once again pulled a hair
from his beard; then a second one.
"I' m afraid I won' t stun them ," Volka sighed, quickly changing into his school
uniform . "To tell you the truth, I have little chance of getting an ' A' in geography."
"In geography? " the old m an cried and rais ed his thin hairy arm s trium phantly.
"So you' re to take an exam in geography? ! Then know ye, 0 m ost wonderful of all
wonderful ones, that you are exceptionally lucky, for I know m ore about
geography than any other Genie—I, your devoted Hassan Abdurrakhm an ibn
Hottab. W e shall go to school together, m ay its foundation and roof be blessed! I' ll
prom pt you invisibly and tell you all the answers. You will becom e the m ost
fam ous pupil of your school and of all the schools of your m ost beautiful city. And
if anyone of your teachers does not accord you the greatest praise, he will have to
deal with m e! Oh, they will be very, very sorry!" Hottabych raged. "I' ll turn them
into m ules that carry water, into hom eless curs covered with scabs, into the m ost
horrible and obnoxious toads—that' s what I'll do to them ! However," he said,
calm ing down as quickly as he had becom e enraged, "things will not go that f ar,
for everyone, 0 Volka ibn Alyosha, will be astounded by your answers."
' "Thank you, Hassan Hottabych," Volka sighed m iserably. "Thank you, but I
don' t want you to prom pt m e. W e pioneers are against prom pting as a m atter of
principle. W e're conducting an organized fight against prom pting."
Now, how could an old Genie who ha d spent so m any years in prison know
such a scholarly term as "a m atter of principle"? However, the sigh his young
saviour heaved to accom pany his sad and honourable words convinced Hottabych
that Volka ibn Alyosha needed his help m ore than ever before.
"Your ref usal grieves m e," Hottabych sa id. "Af ter all, no one will notice m e
prom pting you."
"Ha!" Volka said bitterly. "You don' t know what keen ears our teacher Varvara
"You not only upset m e, you now offend me, 0 Volka ibn Alyosha! If Hassan
Abdurrakhm an ibn Hottab says that no one will notice, it m eans no one will
"Not a single soul? " Volka asked again, just to m ake sure.
"Not a single soul. The words which I will have the pleasure of telling you will
go straight from m y deferential lips to your greatly 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 rig
ht, have your
own way! Geography isn' t Math or Gram mar. I' d never agree to even the tiniest
prom pt in those subjects, but since ge ography isn' t really the m ost im portant
subject.... Com e on, let' s hurry!" He looked at the old m an's unusual clothing with
a critical eye. "Hm -m-m.... D' you think you could change into som ething else,
Hassan Hottabych? "
"Don' t m y garm ents please your gaze, 0 m ost noble of Volkas? " Hottabych
"Sure they do, they certainly do," Volka answered diplom atically. "But you' re
dressed ... if you know what I m ean.... Our styles are a little bit different.... Your
clothes will attract too m uch attention."
"But how do respectable, honourable gentlem en of advanced age dress
Volka tried to explain what a jacket, tr ousers 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 th e wall. He led Hottabych over to the tim e-
darkened photograph and the old m an gazed long at it with curiosity, surprised to
see clothing so unlike his own.
A m oment later, Volka, holding Hottabyc h's arm , em erged from the house. The
old m an was m agnificent in a new linen suit, an em broidered Ukrainian shirt, and
a straw boater. The only things he had re fused to change, com plaining of three
thousand-year-old corns, were his slippers. He rem ained in his pink slippers with
the upturned toes, which, in tim es gone by, would have probably driven the m ost
stylish young m an at the Court of Caliph Ha run al Rashid out of his m ind with
W hen Volka and a transform ed Hottabych approached the entrance of Moscow
Secondary School No. 245 the old m an looke d at him self coyly in the glass door
and rem ained quite pleased with what he saw.
The elderly doorm an, who was sedately r eading his paper, put it aside with
pleasure at the sight of Volka and his com panion. It was hot and the doorm an felt
like talking to som eone.
Skipping several steps at a tim e, Volka dashed upstairs. The corridors were
quiet and em pty, a true and sad sign that the exam ination had begun and that he
"And where are you going? " the doorm an asked Hottabych good-naturedly as
he was about to follow his young friend in.
"He' s com e to see the principal," Volka shouted from the top ' of the stairs.
"You won' t be able to see him now. He 's at an exam ination. W on' t you please
com e by again later on in the day? "
Hottabych frowned angrily.
"If I be perm itted to, 0 respected old m an, I would pref er to wait f or him here."
Then he shouted to Volka, "Hurry to your classroom , 0 Volka ibn Alyosha! I' m
certain that you' ll astound your teachers and your com rades with your great
"Are you his grandfather or som ething? " the doorm an inquired, trying to start
up a conversation. Hottabych said nothing. He felt it beneath his dignity to
converse with a doorkeeper.
"W ould you care for a cup of tea? " the doorm an continued. "The heat' s
som ething 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 m an had disa ppeared into thin air. Shaken by this
im possible occurrence, the doorm an gulped down the tea intended for Hottabych,
poured him self a second cup, and then a th ird, and did not stop until there wasn' t a
drop left. Then he sank into his chair a nd began to fan him self exhaustedly with
All the while, a no less unusual scene was taking place on the second fl
right above the doorm an, in the classroom of 6B. The teachers, headed by the
principal, Pavel Vasilyevich, sat at a ta ble covered with a heavy cloth used for
special occasions. Behind them was the blackboard, hung with various m aps.
Facing them were rows of solem n pupils. It was so quiet in the room that one
could hear a lonely fly buzzing m onotonously near the ceiling. If the pupils of 6B
were always this quiet, theirs would undoubt edly be the m ost disciplined class in
all of Moscow.
It m ust be noted, however, that the quiet in the classroom was not only due to
the hush accom panying any exam ination, but also to the fact that Volka Kostylkov
had been called to the board—and he was not in the room .
"Vladim ir Kostylkov!" the principal repeat ed and looked at the quiet children in
It becam e still m ore quiet.
Then, suddenly, they heard the loud clatte r of running feet in the hall outside,
and at the very m oment the principal called "Vladim ir Kostylkov" for the third and
last tim e, the door burst open and Volka, very m uch out of breath, gasped:
"Please com e up to the board," the principal said dryly. "W e'll speak about your
being late afterwards."
"I ... I feel ill," Volka m umbled, saying the first thing that cam e to his head, as
he walked uncertainly towards his exam iners.
W hile he was wondering which of the slip s of paper laid out on the table he
should choose, old m an Hottabych slippe d through the wall in the corridor and
disappeared through the opposite one into an adjoining classroom . He had an
absorbed look on his face.
Volka finally took the first slip his hand touched. Tem pting his fate, he turned it
over very slowly, but was pleasantly surprise d to see that he was to speak on India.
He knew quite a lot about India, since he had always been interested in that
"W ell, let' s hear what you have to say," the principal said.
Volka even rem embered the beginning of the chapter on India word for word as
it was in his book. He opened his m outh to say that the Hindustan Peninsula
resem bled a triangle and that this tria ngle bordered on the Indian Ocean and its
various parts: the Arabian Sea in the W est and the Bay of Bengal in the East, that
two large countries—India and Pakistan—wer e located on the peninsula, that both
were inhabited by kindly and peace-loving pe oples with rich and ancient cultures,
etc., etc., etc., but just then Hottabych, st anding in the adjoining classroom , leaned
against the wall and began m umbling diligently, cupping his hand to his m outh
like a horn:
"India, 0 m y m ost respected teacher...!"
And suddenly Volka, contrary to his own desires, began to pour forth the m ost
"India, 0 m y m ost respected teacher, is lo cated close to the edge of the Earth' s
disc and is separated from this edge by de solate and unexplored deserts, as neither
anim als 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 ground as in other countries, but is
produced, day and night, by a tireless speci es of gold-bearing ants, which are
nearly the size of a dog. They dig their t unnels in the ground and three tim es a day
they bring up gold sand and nuggets and pile them in huge heaps. But woe be to
those Indians who try to steal this gold without due skill! The ants pursue them
and, overtaking them , kill them on the spot. From the north and west, India borders
on a country of bald people. The m en a nd wom en and even the children are all
bald in this country. And these strange pe ople live on raw fish and pine cones. Still
closer to them is a country where you can neither see anything nor pass, as it is
filled to the top with f eathers. The earth and the air are f illed with f eathers, and
that is why you can' t see anything there."
"W ait a m inute, Kostylkov," the geography teacher said with a sm ile. "No one
has asked you to tell us of the ancients' views on Asia' s geography. W e'd like you
to tell us the m odern, 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 m aster of his speech and actions! In
agreeing to have Hottabych prom pt him , he becam e a toy in the old m an's well-
meaning but ignorant hands. He wanted to tell his teachers that what he had told
them obviously had nothing to do with modern science. But Hottabych on the
other side of the wall shrugged in dism ay and shook his head, and Volka, standing
in front of the class, was com pelled to do the sam e.
"That which I have had the honour of telling you, 0 greatly respected Va
Stepanovna, is based on the m ost reliable sources, and there exist no other, m ore
scientific facts on India than those I have just, with your perm ission, revealed to
"Please keep to the subject. This is an exam ination, not a m asquerade. If you
don' t know the answers, it would be m uch more honourable to adm it it right away.
W hat 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 m ember of the Moscow Planetarium 's
Astronom y Club, know that the Earth was r ound? W hy, any first-grader knew that.
But Hottabych, standing behind the wall, burst out laughing, and no m atter how
our poor boy tried to press his lips together, a haughty sm irk escaped him :
"I presum e you are m aking fun of your m ost devoted pupil! If the Earth were
round, the water would run off it, and then everyone would die of thirst and all the
plants would dry up. The Earth, 0 m ost noble and honoured of all teachers and
pedagogues, has always had and does now have the shape of a flat disc,
surrounded on all sides by a m ighty river nam ed ' Ocean.' The Earth rests on six
elephants, and they, in turn, are standi ng on a trem endous turtle. That is how the
world is m ade, 0 teacher!"
The board of teachers gazed at Volka w ith rising surprise. He broke out in a
cold sweat from horror and the realizati on of his own com plete helplessness. The
other children could not quite understand what had happened to their fri
som e began to giggle. It was really funny to hear about a country of bald people,
about a country filled with feathers, about gold-bearing ants as big as dogs and
about the flat Earth resting on six elephants and a turtle. As for Zheny
Volka' s best friend and one of the class pi oneer leaders, he becam e really worried.
He knew that Volka, as chairm an of the Astronom y Club, at least knew that the
Earth was round—if he knew nothing else. Could it be that he had suddenly
decided upon som e m ischief, and during an exam ination, of all tim es! Volka was
probably ill, but what ailed him ? W hat kind of a strange, unusual disease did he
have? And then, it was very bad for their pi oneer group. So far, they had been first
in all the exam s, but now Volka' s stupid answers would spoil everything, though
he was usually a disciplined pioneer! G oga Pilukin, a m ost unpleasant boy at the
next desk (nicknam ed "Pill" by his classm ates), hastened to pour salt on Zhenya' s
"That takes care of your group, Zhenya d ear," he whispered with a m alicious
giggle. "You' re sinking fast!" Zhenya shook his fist at Pill.
"Varvara Stepanovna!" Goga whined. "B ogorad just shook his fist at m e."
"Sit still and don' t tattle," Varvara Stepanovna said and turned back to Volka,
who stood before her m ore dead than aliv e. "W ere you serious about the elephants
and the turtle?" "More serious than ever be fore, 0 m ost respected of all teachers,"
Volka repeated after the old m an and felt him self burning up with sham e.
"And haven' t you anything else to add? Do you really think you were answering
the question? "
"No, I' ve nothing to add," Hottabych said behind the wall, shaking his head.
And Volka, helpless to withstand th e force that was pushing him towards
failure, also shook his head and said, "N o, I' ve nothing to add. Perhaps, however,
the f act that in the wealthy land of India the horizons are fram ed by gold and
"It' s incredible!" his teacher exclaim ed.
It was difficult to believe that Kostylkov, a usually disciplined boy, h
suddenly decided to play a silly joke on his teachers (and at such an im portant
tim e!), running the risk of a second exam ination in the autum n.
"I don' t think the boy is quite well," Varvara Stepanovna whispered to the
Glancing hurriedly and sym pathetically at Volka, who stood num b with grief
before them , the com mittee held a whispered conference.
Varvara Stepanovna suggested, "W hat if we ask the child 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 Step anovna once again turned to the unhappy
"Now, Kostylkov, wipe your tears and don' t be nervous. Tell us what a horizon
"A horizon? " Volka said with new hope. "That' s easy. A horizon is an im agined
But Hottabych cam e to life behind the wa ll again and Volka once again becam e
the victim of prom pting.
"The horizon, 0 m y m ost revered one," Vo lka corrected him self, "I would call
the horizon that brink, where the crystal c upola 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 cupola of the Heavens—
or figuratively? "
"Literally, 0 teacher," Hottabych prom pted from the next room .
And Volka was obliged to repeat after him , "Literally, 0 teacher."
"Figuratively!" som eone hissed from the back of the room . But Volka repeated,
"Naturally, in the literal sense and no other."
"W hat does that m ean? " Varvara Stepanovna asked, still not believing her ears.
"Does that m ean you consider the sky to be a solid cupola? "
"And does it m ean there' s a place where the Earth ends?"
"Yes, there is, 0 m y m ost highly respected teacher."
Behind the wall Hottabych nodded approvingl y and rubbed his hands together
A strange silence fell on the class. Even those who were always ready to laugh
stopped sm iling. Som ething was definitely wrong with Volka. Varvara Stepanovna
rose and felt his forehead anxiously. He did not have a fever.
But Hottabych was really touched by th is. He bowed low and touched his
forehead and chest in the Eastern m anner and then began to whisper. Volka, driven
by the sam e awful force, repeated his m ovem ents exactly.
"I thank you, 0 m ost 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 extrem ely strange a nd funny. However, the other children
were so worried about Volka that not a shade of a sm ile crossed a single face.
Varvara Stepanovna took him by the hand, le d him out of the room , and patted his
"Never m ind, Kostylkov. Don' t worry. You' re probably overtired. Com e back
when you' ve had a good rest. All right? "
"All right," Volka said. "But upon m y word of honour, Varvara Stepanovna, it' s
not m y fault! It isn' t really!"
"W hy, I' m not blam ing you at all," the teacher answered kindly. "I' ll tell you
what: let' s drop in on Pyotr Ivanych."
Pyotr Ivanych, the school doctor, exam ined Volka for all of ten m inutes. He
made him close his eyes and hold his arm s out before him with his fingers spread
apart; then he tapped his knee and drew lines on his chest and back with his
By then Volka cam e to him self. His cheeks turned pink again and his spirits
"The boy' s perfectly well," said Pyot r Ivanych. "And if you want m y opinion,
he' s an unusually healthy child! I thi nk he was probably overworked. He m ust
have studied too m uch before his exam s, because there' s nothing wrong with him .
And that' s all there is to it!"
Just in case, though, he m easured som e drops into a glass, and the unusually
healthy child was forced to drink the m edicine.
Suddenly, Volka had an idea. W hat if he could profit from Hottabych' s absence
and take his geography exam ination right there, in the doctor' s office?
"By no m eans!" Pyotr Ivanych said em pha tically. "By no m eans. Let the child
have a few days of rest. Geography can wait."
"That' s quite true," the teacher sighed with relief, pleased that .everything
turned out so well in the end. "And you, m y young friend, run along hom e and
have a good rest. W hen you feel better, com e back and take your exam . I' m
positive you' ll get an ' A.' W hat do you think, Pyotr Ivanych? "
"Such a Hercules as he? W hy, he' ll never get less than an ' A'+!'
"Ah ... and don' t you think som eone had better see him hom e? " Varvara
"Oh no, Varvara Stepanovna!" Volka cried. "I' ll m ake out fine."
All he needed now was for a chaperone to bum p into that crazy old Hottabych!
Volka appeared to be in the pink of health, and with an easy heart Varva
Stepanovna let him go hom e.
The doorm an rushed towards him as he was on the way out. "Kostylkov! Your
grandpa, or whoever he is, the one who cam e here with you...."
At that very m oment, old m an Hottabych appeared from the wall. He was as
happy as a lark and im mensely pleased w ith him self, and he was hum ming a little
"Help!" the doorm an cried soundlessly and tr ied in vain to pour him self another
cup of tea from the em pty kettle. W hen he put the kettle down and turned around,
both Volka Kostylkov and his m ysterious com panion had disappeared. By then
they had already turned the nearest corner.
"Pray tell m e, young m aster, did you ast ound your teacher and your com rades
with your great knowledge? " Hottabych i nquired proudly, breaking a rather long
"I astounded them all right!" Volka said and looked at the old m an with
Hottabych beam ed. "I expected nothing el se! But for a m oment there I thought
that the m ost revered daughter of Stepan was displeased with the breadth and
scope of your knowledge."
"Oh, no, no!" Volka cried in fear, reca lling Hottabych' s terrible threats. "You
were im agining things."
"I would have changed her into a chopping block on which butchers chop up
mutton," the old m an said fiercely (and Volka was really frightened for his
teacher' s fate), "if I hadn' t seen that she had such great respect for you and took
you to the door of your classroom and then practically down the stairs. I realized
then that she had fully appreciated your answers. Peace be with her!"
"Sure, peace be with her!" Volka added hastily, feeling that a load had fallen
from his shoulders.
During the several thousand years of Ho ttabych' s life, he had often had to do
with people feeling sad and gloom y, and he knew how to cheer them up. At any
rate, he was convinced he knew how to do so. All that was needed was to give a
person that which he had always longed fo r. But what kind of a present should he
give Volka? The answer cam e to him qu ite by chance when Volka asked a passer-
"W ould you please tell m e what tim e it is? "
The m an looked at his watch and said, "Five to two."
"Thank you," Volka said and continued on in silence.
Hottabych was the f irst to speak.
"Tell m e, 0 Volka, how was the m an able to tell the tim e of day so accurately?"
"Didn' t you see him look at his watch? " The old m an raised his eyebrows in
"His watch? !" "Sure, his watch," Volka explained. "He had a watch on his
wrist. The round chrom e-plated thing."
"W hy don' t you have such a watch, 0 m ost noble of all Genie-saviours? "
"I' m too young to have such a watch," Volka answered hum bly.
"May I be perm itted, 0 honourable passer-by, to inquire as to the tim e of day? "
Hottabych said, stopping the first person he saw and staring at his watc
"Two m inutes to two," the m an answere d, som ewhat surprised at the flowery
Thanking him in the m ost elaborate oriental m anner, Hottabych said with a sly
"May I be perm itted, 0 loveliest of all Volkas, to inquire as to the tim e of day? "
And there was a watch shining on Volka' s lef t wrist, exactly like the one the
man they had stopped had, but instead of being chrom e-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 surprise.
Then Volka did som ething that any othe r boy or girl would have done in his
place, having found them selves the proud posse ssors 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 to wind it." To his great
disappointm ent, he found he could not m ove the winding button. Then he got out
his pen-knife to open the watch case. Howe ver, try as he would, he could not find
a trace of a slit in which to insert the knife.
"It' s m ade of solid gold," the old m an boa sted and winked. "I' m not one of those
people who give presents m ade of hollow gold."
"Does that m ean there' s nothing inside of it? " Volka asked with disappointm ent.
"W hy, should there be anything inside? " the old Genie inquired anxiously.
Volka unbuckled the strap in silence and returned the 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 sm all
and flat. There was no glass on it and instead of hands there was a sm all vertical
gold rod in the m iddle. The face was studded with the m ost exquisite em eralds set
where the num bers should be.
"Never before did anyone, even the wealthiest of all sultans, have a han
watch!" the old m an boasted again. "There were sun dials in city squares, in
market places, in gardens and in yards. And they were all m ade 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 who
Volka grinned broadly, while the old m an beam ed.
"How do you tell the tim e on it? " Volka asked.
"Here' s how," Hottabych said, taking hol d of Volka' s hand gently. "Hold your
arm straight out like this and the sha dow cast by the little gold rod will f all on the
right num ber."
"But the sun has to be shining," Volka said, looking with displeasure at a sm all
cloud that just obscured it.
"The cloud will pass in a m inute," Hottabych prom ised. True enough, in a
minute the sun began to shine once agai n. "See, it points som ewheres between 2
and 3 p.m . That m eans it' s about 2:30." As he was speaking, 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 tim e it is."
"W hat about the autum n?" Volka asked.
"W hat about it? "
"W hat about the autum n and the winter, when the sky is covered with clouds
for m onths on end? "
"I' ve already told you, 0 Volka, the sun will shine whenever you want it to. You
have but to order m e 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 m e."
"But what about the evenings and ni ghts? " Volka asked m aliciously. "W hat
about the night, when there' s no sun in the sky? "
"At night people m ust surrender them selv es to sleep, and not look at their
watches," Hottabych snapped. He had to control him self not to teach the insolent
youth a good lesson. "All right then, tell m e whether you like that m an's watch. If
you do, you shall have it."
"W hat do you m ean? It belongs to him . Don' t tell m e you are going to...."
"Don' t worry, 0 Volka ibn Alyosha. I won' t touch a hair on his head. He' ll offer
you the watch him self, for you are certainly worthy of receiving the m ost 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 in a crack of a hovel, or the last
"That' s real blackm ail," Volka said angril y. "Tricks like that send a m an to jail,
my friend. And you' ll well deserve it."
"Send m e to jail? !" the old m an fl ared up. "Me? ! Hassan Abdurrakhm an ibn
Hottab? And does he know, that m ost desp icable of all passers-by, who J am ? Ask
the first Genie, or Ifrit, or Shaitan you see, and they' ll tell you, as they trem ble
from fear, that Hassan Abdurrakhm an i bn Hottab is the chief of all Genie
bodyguards. My arm y consists of 72 trib es, with 72,000 warriors in each tribe;
every warrior rules over one thousand Marids and every Marid rules over
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 m e! If
only this thrice-m iserable of all m ost m iserable passers-by tries to...."
Meanwhile, the m an in question was stro lling down the street, glancing at the
shop windows, and in no way aware of the terrible danger hanging over him
because of an ordinary watch glittering on his wrist.
' "W hy, I' ll..." Hottabych raged on in his boastfulness, "why, if you only so
desire, I' ll turn him into a...."
Each second counted. Volka shouted:
"Don' t what? "
"Don' t touch that m an! I don' t need a watch! I don' t need anything!"
"Nothing at all? " the old m an aske d doubtfully, quickly calm ing 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 reali
must apply him self to cheering up hi s young saviour and dispelling his gloom y
HOTTABYCH'S SECOND SERVICE
Volka was in the dum ps. Hottabych se nsed that som ething was wrong. He
never dream ed he had done the boy such a bad turn during the exam , but it was all
too clear that Volka was upset. And the one to blam e, apparently, was none other
than him self, Hassan Abdurrakhm an ibn Hottab.
"W ould you, 0 m oon-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 a nd his lam e son? Or the one about the
copper cam el with a silver hum p? Or about the water-carrier Ahm et and his m agic
Volka kept on frowning. This did not stop the old m an, and he began hurriedly:
"Be it known to you, 0 m ost wonderful of all secondary school pupils, that once
upon a tim e in Baghdad there lived a skille d barber nam ed Selim who had three
roosters and a lam e son nam ed Tub. It so happened that Caliph Harun al Rashid
once passed his shop. But, 0 m ost attentiv e of all youths, I suggest we sit down on
this bench in order that your young legs don' t tire during this long and m ost
Volka agreed. They sat down in the shade of an old linden tree.
For three long hours Hottabych went on and on with the truly interesting story.
He f inally ended it with these craf ty words:
"But m ore m arvellous still is the story of the copper cam el with a silver hum p,"
and im mediately proceeded with it. W hen he cam e to the part: "Then the stranger
took a piece of coal from the brazier and drew the outline of a cam el on the wall.
The cam el waved its tail, nodded its h ead, walked off the wall and onto the
cobblestones..."—he stopped to enjoy th e im pression his story of a drawing
com ing to life had m ade on his young listener.
But Hottabych was in for som e disa ppointm ent, because Volka had seen
enough cartoons in his life. However, the old m an's words gave him an idea.
"You know what? Let' s go to the m ovies. You can finish the story after."
"Your every word is m y com mand, 0 Volk a ibn Alyosha," the old m an replied
obediently. "But do m e a favour and tell m e what you m ean by ' the m ovies' ? 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? "
"W ell! Any child can tell you what a m ovi e is. It' s a...." At this, Volka waved
his hands around vaguely and added, "W ell, anyway, you' ll see when we get
Over the Saturn Theatre box-office was a sign that read:
"Children under sixteen not adm itted to evening perform ances."
"W hat' s the m atter, 0 m ost handsom e of all handsom e youths? " Hottabych
inquired anxiously, noticing that Volka had becom e gloom y again.
"Nothing m uch. It' s just that we' re late for the last day-tim e perform ance! You
have to be sixteen to get in now. I rea lly don' t know what to do, ' cause I don' t feel
like going hom e."
"You won' t go hom e!" Hottabych cried. "In a twinkling of an eye they' ll let us
through, surrounded by the respect your truly endless capabilities com mand! I' ll
just have a peek at those bits of paper everyone' s handing that stern-looking
wom an at the entrance."
"That old braggart!" Volka thought irrita bly. Suddenly, he felt two tickets in his
"Com e!" Hottabych called, beam ing again. "Com e, they' ll let you through
"Are you sure? "
"Just as positive as that a great future awaits you!"
He nudged Volka towards a m irror ha nging nearby. A boy with a bushy blond
beard on his healthy freckled face looked back from the m irror at a shocked and
AN UNUSUAL EVENT AT THE MOVIES
A trium phant Hottabych dragged Volka up th e 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 th e theatre m anager' s nephew and therefore
perm itted to attend evening perf orm ances. But today, instead of being the happiest
of boys, he was suffering terribly. He was suffering from loneliness. He was dying
to have a com panion, som eone he could talk to about Volka Kostylkov' s behaviour
at the m orning' s geography exam ination. Alas! There was not a fam iliar face in
He then decided to go downstairs, in the hope that Luck would send him
som eone. At the landing he was nearly knoc ked off his feet by an old m an in a
white suit and em broidered m orocco s lippers 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 friend. He darted into the thick of
the crowd which stood listening to an orchestra while awaiting the next
"Don' t think I care!" Zhenya said in an offended tone and went off to buy an
That is why he didn' t see the people gathering round the strange old m an and
Volka. Later, when he tried to push his way through to the spot which was
attracting so m any eager eyes, his fr iend was already surrounded by a rapidly-
growing crowd. He could hear the f oldi ng seats hitting against the backs of the
chairs as those who were listening to the orchestra rushed off. Soon the
were playing to rows of em pty seats.
"W hat happened? " Zhenya asked, vainly trying to elbow his way through. "If
there' s been an accident, I can phone for he lp. My uncle' s the m anager here. W hat' s
the m atter?"
But no one seem ed to know what the m atter was. And, since hardly anyone
could see anything and everyone wanted to know what was going on inside the
circle, they all kept asking each other questions and dem anding sensible answers,
until they raised such a ruckus they began to drown out the m usic, though the
musicians were playing as loud as they could.
Zhenya' s uncle finally appeared, clim bed on a chair and shouted, "Everyone
please disperse! W hat' s the m atter? Haven' t you ever seen a bearded child before? "
The m oment these words reached the snack bar, everyone there rushed to see
the bearded child.
"Volka!" Zhenya yelled at the top of his voice, despairing of ever getti
through the crowd. "I can' t see anything! Can you see? Does he have a big beard? "
"Golly!" the unfortunate Volka wailed. "W hat if he...."
"Poor child!" the curious onlookers sighed.
"W hat a pity!"
"Is science helpless in his case? "
At first, Hottabych m isunderstood the attention his young friend was attracting.
He thought the people were crowding round to express their respect for Volka.
Then he began to get angry.
"Disperse, m y good people!" he shouted, drowning out the noise of the crowd
and the band. "Disperse, or I' ll do som ething terrible to all of you!"
A tim id girl gasped from fear, but th e others only laughed. Really now, what
was there to fear from such a funny ol d m an in silly pink slippers? W hy, if
som eone as m uch as touched him , he' d probably fall to pieces!
No, no one took his threats seriously. However, the old m an was used to having
people trem ble at his words. He felt that he and Volka were being insulted and was
becom ing m ore and m ore 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 and everyone rushed to
take their seats. Zhenya thought this was his chance to get a peek at th
e weird boy.
But the sam e crowd that had blocked hi s view now caught 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.
"W hew!" Zhenya breathed. "Just in tim e. 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
glim pse of the f reak who was sitting som ewhere behind him .
"Stop f idgeting! You' re bothering us!" the m an next to him said. "Sit still!"
However, to his utter am azem ent, the fidgety boy suddenly disappeared.
Volka and Hottabych were the last to enter the darkened 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 bear d I thought you' d appreciate, I' ll free you
of it the m oment we find our seats. That' s easy enough. Let' s follow the others in,
for I' m im patient to discover what a ' movi e' is. It m ust indeed be som ething
wonderful, if even grown m en attend it on such a hot sum mer day!"
W hen they were seated, Hottabych sn apped the fingers of his left hand.
Contrary to his prom ises, nothing happened to Volka' s beard.
"W hy is it taking you so long? Rem ember how you boasted!"
"I wasn' t boasting, 0 m ost wonderful of 6B pupils. Fortunately, I changed m y
mind in tim e. If you don' t have a beard, you' ll be turned out of the m ovie which is
so dear to your heart."
It soon becam e clear that this was m erely a cunning excuse. Volka was not yet
aware of the old m an's craftiness.
"That' s all right, they won' t turn m e out of here," he said.
Hottabych pretended not to have heard him . Volka repeated his words. Once
again, Hottabych played deaf. Then Volka raised his voice:
"Hassan Abdurrakhm an ibn Hottab!"
"I' m listening, 0 m y young m aster," the old m an answered obediently.
"Sh-h-h!" som eone hissed.
Volka continued in a whisper, bending close to his friend who suddenly looked
"Do som ething to m ake this stupid beard disappear im mediately!"
"It' s not a bit stupid," the old m an whispe red back. "It is a m ost grand and noble
"This very second! Do you hear? This very second!"
"I hear and I obey," Hottabych m uttered and began whispering again, snapping
The hairy growth on Volka' s face rem ained unchanged.
"One m oment, 0 m ost blessed Volka i bn Alyosha," the old m an replied, still
whispering and snapping his fingers nervously.
The beard on Volka' s chin rem ained where it was.
"Look! Look who' s sitting in the ninth row!" Volka whispered, forgetting his
great m isfortune for the m oment.
As far as Hottabych could see, the two m en in the ninth row appeared in no way
"They' re fam ous actors," Volka explai ned and told Hottabych their nam es,
which, though they were very well known, m eant nothing to him .
"Do you m ean they' re perform ers? " the old m an asked condescendingly. "Are
they tight-rope walkers? "
"They' re m ovie actors! They' re the m ost fam ous m ovie actors, that' s who they
"Then why aren' t they doing anythi ng? W hy are they sitting back doing
nothing? " Hottabych dem anded critically. "They' re probably very lazy perform ers.
It pains m e to see you praising them so thoughtlessly, 0 m ovie of m y heart."
"Ha, ha!" Volka laughed. "Movie actors never act in a theatre. Movie act
"Does that m ean we are going to see som e others, and not m ovie actors,
"No, we' ll see m ovie actors. Don' t you unde rstand, they act in a studio, but we
see their acting here, in a theatre. W hy, any child knows that."
"Pray forgive m e, but what you' re saying is a lot of 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 m ost obedien t servant. You seem to be affected by
the heat in this building. Unfortunatel y, I don' t see a single window which could
be opened to let in som e fresh air."
Volka realized that in the f ew rem aining m inutes before the beginning of the
film he would never be able to explain a m ovie actor' s work to the old m an. He
decided to put off all explanations till later, and especially since he
recalled his terrible m isfortune.
"Dear, dear Hottabych, it' s really no trouble to you—please, can' t you do
som ething right now? "
The old m an heaved a sigh, yanked a hair from his beard, then a second, and a
third, and, finally, in great anger, a whol e bunch together. He began tearing them
to bits savagely, m uttering som ething with his eyes fixed on Volka' s face. There
was no change whatsoever. Then Hottabych began snapping his fingers in t
most varied com binations: f irst two f ingers at a tim e, then all five fingers of the
right hand, then the left hand, then all ten fingers together, then once with the right
and twice with the left, then the other way round—but all to no avail. Finally, he
began ripping off his clothes.
"Are you m ad? " Volka cried. "W hat' re you doing? "
"W oe is m e!" Hottabych replied in a whisper and began scratching his face.
"W oe is m e! The centuries I spent in th at accursed vessel have—alas!—left their
mark! A lack of practice has been extrem ely detrim ental to m y profession. Forgive
me, 0 m y young saviour, but I can do nothing with your beard! 0 woe is m e, poor
Genie Hassan Abdurrakhm an ibn Hottab that I am !"
"W hat are you whispering? " Volka asked. "Say it louder, I can' t m ake out a
And Hottabych replied, tearing at his clothes:
"0 m ost treasured of youths, 0 m ost pleasing of all, do not vent your rightful
anger upon m e! I cannot rid you of your beard! I forgot how to do it!"
"Have a heart!" som eone hissed. "You' ll talk it all over at hom e. You' re
bothering us. Do you want m e to call the usher? "
"Such disgrace has fallen upon m y old head!" Hottabych whim pered. "To
forget such sim ple m agic! And who is it that forgot it? Me, Hassan Abdurrakhm an
ibn Hottab, the m ost powerful of all Genies—m e, the very sam e Hassan
Abdurrakhm an ibn Hottab whom even Sula ym an son of David (on the twain be
peace!) could not subdue for twenty years!"
"Stop whining!" Volka whispered with unconcealed scorn. "Tell m e honestly:
how m uch longer will I have to go around with this beard? "
"Oh, calm your fears, m y young m aster! Lu ckily, I only used sm all m agic. In
two days your face will be as sm ooth as th at of a new-born babe. Perhaps I' ll even
rem ember how to break sm all m agic spells before that."
Just then, the m any credits which usually precede a film flashed off the screen
and were replaced by people who m oved and spoke. Hottabych whispered sm ugly:
"Hm ! This is all quite clear. And very sim ple. All these people have appeared
through the wall. You can' t surprise m e w ith that sort of stuff. I can do that
"You don' t understand a thing," Volka said with a sm ile, upon hearing such
nonsense. "If you really want to know, film s are based on the principle...."
There was hissing from all sides now, and Volka' s explanations were cut short.
For a m oment Hottabych seem ed entrance d. Then he began squirm ing nervously,
turning round ever so often to look at the ninth row and the two m ovie actors
sitting there. He becam e convinced that they were sitting quietly behind him and,
at the sam e tim e, galloping at top speed in front of him on the only lighted wall in
this m ost m ysterious building.
He becam e pale with fear. He raised his eyebrows and whispered, "Look behind
us, 0 fearless Volka ibn Alyosha!"
"Sure, those are the actors. They play the leads and have com e to see how the
audience likes their acting."
"I don' t like it!" Hottabych inform ed him quickly. "I don' t like people to split in
two. Even I don' t know how to sit in a chai r with m y arm s folded and gallop away
as fast as the wind— and all at one and the sam e tim e! Even Sulaym an, 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 patronizingly. "Look at everyone
else. See? No one' s afraid. I' ll explain what it' s all about later."
Suddenly, the m ighty roar of a locom otive cut through the stillness. Hottabych
grabbed Volka' s arm .
"0 royal Volka!" he whispered, breaking out in a cold sweat. "I recognize that
voice. It' s the voice of Jirjis, the ruler of all Genies! Let' s flee before it' s too late!"
"W hat nonsense! Sit still! Nothing' s threatening us."
"I hear and I obey," Hottabych m umbled obediently, though he continued to
But a split-second later, when a thundering locom otive seem ed 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 rem embered about Volka and in several leaps returned, grabbed
him by the arm , and dragged him to the door.
"Let' s flee, 0 Volka ibn Alyosha! Let' s flee before it' s too late!"
"Now, wait a m inute. .." the usher began, appearing in front of them . However,
she im mediately did a long, graceful loop in the air and landed on the stage in
front of the screen.
"W hat were you screeching about? W hat wa s all the panic about? " Volka asked
angrily when they were out in the street again.
"How can I help shouting when the most terrifying of all dangers was
threatening you! The great Jirjis, son of Rejm us, grandson of the Aunt of Ikrash,
was heading straight f or us, spitting f ire and death!"
"W hat Jirjis? W hich aunt? It was just an ordinary locom otive!"
"Has m y young m aster decided to teach his old Genie Hassan Abdurrakhm an
ibn Hottab what a Shaitan is? " Hottabych asked acidly.
Volka realized that it would take m uch more than five m inutes and m uch m ore
than an hour to tell him what a m ovie and a locom otive were.
After Hottabych recovered his breath, he asked m ildly, "W hat would you desire
now, 0 treasured apple of m y eye? "
"As if you didn' t know. I want to get rid of m y beard!"
"Alas," the old m an sighed, "I am as yet helpless to fulfil your wish. But
perhaps you' d like som ething else instead? Just tell m e, and you' ll have it in a
"I' d like to have a shave. And as quickly as possible." A few m inutes later they
entered a barbershop. Ten m inutes later a tired barber stuck his head into the
waiting room and shouted:
Then, from a corner near the coat-rac k, rose a boy whose face was wrapped in
an expensive silk scarf. He hurriedly sat down in the barber' s chair.
"You want a hair-cut? " the barber asked. "No, a shave!" the boy answered in a
hollow voice and rem oved the scarf that had covered m ost of his face.
A TROUBLED EVENING
It was a good thing Volka didn' t have dark hair. Zhenya Bogorad, for instance,
would certainly have had a blue shadow on his cheeks after having been shaved,
but Volka' s cheeks after he left the barber shop were 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
where we could quench our thirst? " Hottabych asked.
"W hy, that' s an idea! A glass of cold lem onade would really be grand."
Entering the first juice and m ineral water shop they saw, they took a table.
"W e'd like two bottles of lem onade, pl ease," Volka said. The waitress nodded
and headed towards the counter. Hottabych called her back angrily.
"You com e right back, unworthy servan t! I don' t like the way you responded to
the orders of m y young friend and m aster."
"Hottabych, stop it! Do you hear! Stop..." Volka began to whisper.
But Hottabych covered the boy' s m outh gently with his hand.
"At least don' t interfere when I de fend your honour, since your kind heart
prevents you from scolding her yourself."
"You don' t understand," Volka protested. He was really becom ing frightened.
"Hottabych, can' t you see...."
Suddenly, he froze, for he felt he had lo st the gift of speech. He wanted to
throw him self between the old m an and the still unsuspecting waitress, but found
he could not m ove a finger.
It was all Hottabych' s doing. To prevent Vo lka from interfering in som ething he
considered a m atter of honour, he had lightly pinched his ear lobe between the first
two fingers of his left hand and had thus condem ned the boy to silence and
"How did you reply to the order m y young m aster gave you? " he repeated.
"I' m afraid I don' t understand you," the wa itress answered politely. "It was not
an order, it was a request, and I went to fulfil it. And, in the second place, it' s
custom ary to speak politely to strangers. All I can say is that I' m surprised you
don' t know such a thing, though every cultured person should."
"Don' t tell m e you want to teach m e m anners!" Hottabych shouted. "On your
knees, or I' ll turn you to dust!"
"Sham e on you!" the cashier said. She was the only witness of the disgraceful
scene, for there was no one besides Volka and Hottabych in the cafe. "Ho
you be so rude? And especially a person your age!"
"On your knees!" Hottabych roared. "A nd you get down on your knees, too," he
added, pointing to the cashier. "And you!" he shouted to another waitress who was
rushing to the rescue. "All three of you, get down on your knees im mediately, and
beg m y young friend' s pardon!" At this, Ho ttabych suddenly began to grow bigger
and bigger until finally his head touched the ceiling. It was a strange and terrible
sight. The cashier and the second waitress both fainted, but the first waitress only
paled and said calm ly, "Sham e on you! You should behave properly in public. And
if you' re a decent sort of hypnotist..."
(She thought the old m an was practising hypnotic tricks on them .)
"On your knees!" Hottabych bellowed. "Didn' t you hear m e— on your knees? !"
In all his three thousand seven hundred and thirty-two years, this was the first
tim e ordinary m ortals had refused to obe y him . Hottabych felt the boy would lose
respect for him , and he was terribly a nxious to have Volka respect him and
treasure his friendship.
"Down, 0 despicable one, if you value your life!"
"That' s entirely out of the question," the brave waitress answered in a trem bling
voice. "I can' t understand why you' re rais ing your voice. If you think som ething' s
wrong, you can ask the cashier for the 'Com plaints and Suggestions Book.'
Anyone can have it. And I' d like to a dd that the m ost fam ous hypnotists and
mesm erists visit our cafe, but none have ever behaved like you. Aren' t I right,
Katya? " she said, turning to her friend who had by then com e to.
"How d' you like that!" Katya sniffled. "He wants us to get down on our knees!
"Is that so? !" Hottabych yelled, losing hi s tem per com pletely. "Is that how
insolent you are? W ell, you have only yourselves to blam e!"
W ith a practised gesture he yanked three hairs from his beard and let go of
Volka' s ear to tear them to bits. To th e old m an's annoyance, Volka regained his
power of speech and the freedom to m ove his lim bs at will the m oment he let go.
The first thing he did was to grab Hottabych' s hand and cry:
"Oh, no, Hottabych! W hat do you want to do? "
"I want to punish them , 0 Volka. I' m asham ed to adm it I was about to strike
them down with thunder. Som ething even the m ost worthless Ifrit can do!"
Despite the gravity of the situation, Volka felt he had to stand up for
"A clap of thunder cannot kill anyone," he said, thinking feverishly of how to
ward off the danger now hanging over the poor waitresses. "W hat kills people is
lightning—a charge of atm ospheric electricity. Thunder is harm less, it' s only a
"I wouldn' t be so sure," Hottabych an swered dryly, not wishing to lower
him self to an argum ent with such an inexperienced youth. "I don' t think you' re
right. But I' ve changed m y m ind. I won' t stri ke them with thunder, I' ll change them
into sparrows instead. Yes, that' s the best thing to do."
"But why? "
"I m ust punish them , 0 Volka. Evil m ust always be punished."
"There' s no reason to punish them ! Do you hear!"
Volka tugged at Hottabych' s hand, for the ol d m an was about to tear the hairs,
and then it would really be too late. But the hairs which he had knocked out of his
hand m iraculously returned to Hottabych' s rough dark palm .
"Just you try!" Volka shouted, seeing that the old m an was about to tear them
anyway. "You can turn m e into a sparrow, too! Or into a toad! Or into anything
you want! And you can consider our friendshi p dissolved as of this m inute. I don' t
like your ways, that' s what. Go on, turn m e into a sparrow! And I hope the first cat
that sees m e gobbles m e up!"
The old m an was dism ayed.
"Can' t you see, I' m only doing this to prevent anyone from ever approaching
you without the great respect your endless m erits call for? "
"No, I can' t, and I don' t want to!"
"Your every word is m y com mand," Ho ttabych replied obediently, sincerely
puzzled at his saviour' s strange softhearte dness. "All right, then. I won' t turn them
"Nor into anything else!"
"Nor into anything else," the old m an ag reed m eekly. However, he gathered up
the hairs with the obvious intention of tearing them to bits.
"W hy do you want to tear them ?" Volka cried. ; "I' ll turn all the goods, all the
tables and all the equipm ent of this despicable shop into dust!"
"You' re m ad!" Volka said, really angry by now. "Don' t you know that' s
governm ent property, you dope!"
"And m ay I inquire, 0 diam ond of m y soul , what you m ean by the strange word
'dope' ?" Hottabych asked.
Volka turned as red as a beet.
"W ell you see... W hat I m ean is.... Uh.... W ell, anyway, ' dope' is a sort of wise
Hottabych decided to rem ember the word, in order to use it in som e future
"But. .." he began.
"No buts! I' ll count to three. If, after I say ' three,' 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 sadl y, the old m an resum ed his usual
appearance and m uttered in a gloom y voice:
"All right, have it your way. Your good graces are m ore precious to m e than the
pupils of m y eyes."
"W ell, there you are! Now all you have to do is to apologize and we can le
"You should be forever grateful to your young saviour," Hottabych shouted
sternly to the waitresses, and Volka reali zed he would never be able to pry an
apology from the old m an'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 f rightened. But, of
course, they never dream ed how great a danger they had avoided. They followed
Hottabych and Volka out and watched the curious old m an in an ancient straw
boater go down the street and disappear around the corner.
"I can' t im agine where such naughty ol d m en com e from ," Katya sighed and
wiped a tear.
"I suppose he' s an old-tim e hypnotist," her brave friend said com passionately.
"He' s probably a pensioner. Maybe he' s just lonely."
"It' s no fun to be old," the cashier joined in. "Com e on back in, girls."
The day' s m ischief was not to end th ere. As Hottabych and Volka reached
Gorky Street, they were blinded by an au tom obile' s headlights. A large am bulance,
its scream ing siren piercing the calm of twilight, seem ed to be rushing straight at
Hottabych changed colour and wailed loudly:
"Oh, woe is m e, an old, unfortunate Geni e! Jirjis, the m ighty, m erciless king of
all Shaitans and Ifrits, has not forgotte n our ancient feud and has sent his m ost
awf ul m onster af ter m e!"
W ith these words he shot straight up from the pavem ent and, som ewhere on the
level of the third or fourth storey, he took off his hat, waved it to Volka, and
slowly dissolved in the air, shouting:
"I' ll find you again, 0 Volka ibn Alyosha ! I kiss the dust beneath your feet!
To tell the truth, Volka was happy the old man had vanished. Other things were
pressing on his m ind, and he felt faint at the thought of having to return hom e.
Really now, try to im agine yourself in his place. He had left the house in the
morning to take a geography exam ination, th en go to the m ovies and be back for
supper as expected, at six-thirty. Instead, he was returning after nine, having failed
his exam ination m iserably, and, what was m ost horrible, with shaved cheeks! And
him not even thirteen yet! No m atter how he racked his brains, he could not find a
solution. Thus, without having thought of anyt hing, he dragged his feet back to his
quiet side street, now full of long evening shadows.
He walked past the surprised janitor, entered the downstairs hall, clim bed a
flight of stairs and, with a heavy sigh, pr essed the bell. He could hear som eone' s
steps, and a strange voice asked through the door:
"W ho' s there?"
"It' s m e," Volka wanted to say, but suddenly rem embered that, as of this
morning, he didn' t live there any m ore.
W ithout answering the new tenant, he ran downstairs, m arched by the still
puzzled janitor nonchalantly, reached the m ain street, and boarded a trolley-bus.
This certainly was his unlucky day: som ewh ere, m ost probably at the m ovies, he
had lost his change-purse, so he had to get out and walk hom e.
Least of all, Volka wanted to m eet a classm ate, but m ost unbearable was the
thought that he would have to face Goga -the-Pill. Sly Fate had added insult to
injury: from this day forth they were both to live in the sam e house.
Sure enough, no sooner did he enter the yard of his new house than an
unbearable, fam iliar voice shouted:
"Hi, nutty! W ho was the old bird you left school with today? "
Goga-the-Pill ran up to Volka, winking insolently and pulling the m ost
"He wasn' t an old bird, he was a nice old m an," Volka said peaceably, as he
didn' t want to end the day with a fight. "He' s ... he' s m y father' s friend from
"W hat if I je-ee-st go to your father and je-ee-st tell him about your m onkey-
business at the exam !"
"Oh, Pill, you' ve gone crying for a b eating too long!" Volka flared up,
im agining what an im pression Pill' s wo rds would have on his parents. "W hy, you
dirty tattle-tale! I' ll push your face in!"
"Now, now, take it easy! A person can' t even joke any m ore. You' re really a
Fearing Volka' s fists, which, after severa l encounters, Goga chose to avoid, he
dashed headlong into the entrance of th e house in which he was now to live in
dangerous closeness to Volka, whose new apartm ent was on the sam e landing.
"Bald people! A country of bald people! " Goga shouted, sticking his head out
the front door. He showed Volka his t ongue and, fearing the other' s righteous
anger, flew up the stairs, two at a tim e, to his own door.
However, he was distracted by the m yster ious behaviour of a huge Siberian cat
from apartm ent 43. The cat, nam ed "Hom ych" in honour of the popular football
goalie, was standing on the stairs with his b ack arched and hissing at nothing at all.
Goga' s first thought was that the cat ha d gone m ad. He reflected again and was
nearly certain that m ad cats kept their ta ils between their legs, while Hom ych' s tail
was sticking up straight, and in all other respects the anim al looked quite healthy.
Goga kicked it—just in case. Hom ych' s yowl of pain, surprise and hurt could be
heard on the tenth floor. He jum ped so high and gracefully that his fam ous
nam esake could have been proud of such a leap.
Then som ething com pletely unexpected happened.
A good half yard from the wall, Hom ych yowled again and flew back in the
opposite direction, straight at Goga, just as though the unfortunate anim al had hit
an invisible but very hard rubber wall. At the sam e tim e a gasp could be heard
nearby, as if som eone had trodden very hard on another person' s foot. Courage had
never been one of Goga' s outstanding virtue s, but now he nearly died of fright.
"Oh-h-h!" he m oaned softly, feeling a ll num b. Finally, tearing his leaden feet
from the stairs, he m ade a dash for his flat.
W hen the apartm ent door banged shut behind him , Hottabych becam e visible.
He was writhing with pain and exam ining his left leg, which had been severely
scratched by the cat' s claws.
"Oh, cursed youth!" Hottabych groaned, afte r first m aking sure he was alone on
the stairs. "Oh, dog am ong boys!"
He fell silent and listened. Com ing slow ly up the stairs, lost in the m ost
grievous thoughts, was his young saviour, Volka Kostylkov.
The sly old m an did not want the boy to s ee him and so dissolved quickly in the
A CHAPTER WHICH IS A CONTINUATION OF THE PREVIOUS
No m atter how tem pting it is to pres ent Volka Kostylkov as a boy without
faults, the well-known truthfulness of the aut hor of this tale won' t perm it him to do
so. And if envy is to be justly considered a fault, then, to our great s
must adm it that at tim es Volka experienced this feeling keenly. During the last few
days he had been very envious of Goga . Long before their exam s had begun, Goga
boasted that his m other had prom ised him an Alsatian puppy as soon as he was
prom oted 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 adm it that Pill' s words certainly resem bled the
truth. The whole class knew that Goga' s mother never skim ped on anything for her
little darling. She' d refuse herself the bare necessities of life, but she' d get Goga a
present that would leave them all speechless.
"She' ll certainly get m e a puppy," Goga persisted. "If you want to know, m y
mother never refuses m e anything. If she prom ised, it m eans she' ll buy m e one. If
the worst com es to the worst, she' ll borrow som e m oney and buy it. You don' t
know how highly they think of her at the factory!"
That was true. Goga' s m other was greatly respected at the factory. She was the
senior draughtsm an and was a m odest , hard-working and cheerful person.
Everyone liked her, both her fellow-work ers and her neighbours at hom e. Even
Goga was fond of her in his own way. A nd she really doted on Goga. Anyway, if
she had prom ised to buy him a puppy, it m eant she would.
Perhaps, at this sorrowful m oment, wh en Volka, crushed by all he had gone
through that day, was slowly m ounting the st airs, Goga-the-Pill, the very sam e Pill
who deserved such happiness less than anyone else in their class, in the
or even in all of Moscow, was play ing with a m agnificent, happy, furry puppy
right next door, in apartm ent 37.
Such were Volka' s thoughts. The only c onsideration that afforded him som e
solace was that it was highly unlikely that Goga' s m other, even though she really
and truly intended to buy her son a dog, had done so 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 wrap up that puppy for m e." You
have to look long and hard for a good dog.
The very m oment Volka' s grandm othe r opened the door, he heard the high-
pitched, squeaky yelping of a puppy com ing from behind the closed door of
apartm ent 37.
"So she bought it after all!" he thought bitterly. "An Alsatian.... or m aybe even
It was m ore than he could bear, to im agine Goga the proud owner of a real, live
service dog. Volka slam med the door shut to blot out the exciting, unim aginably
wonderful, m agical barking of a dog.
He also heard the frightened exclam ation which escaped Goga' s m other. 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 staying late at a m eeting. His
mother had apparently called for him at the factory after her evening classes.
Despite all his efforts to appear cal m and happy, Volka looked so gloom y that
his grandm other decided to give him supper first and then start asking him
"W ell, how are things, Volka dear? " she asked hesitantly, when her only
grandchild had m ade quick work of his supper.
"Uh, you see..." he said vaguely, pulling off his polo shirt and heading towards
his room .
His grandm other followed him with a sorro wful and kindly gaze that was full of
silent sym pathy. There was no need to ask him any questions. Everything was all
Volka sighed and got undressed. Then he stretched out under the clean cool
sheet. Still, he was restless.
On the night table near his bed lay a large, thick volum e in a brightly-coloured
dust-cover. Volka' s heart skipped a b eat. Yes, that was it, the longed-for
astronom y book! On the frontispiece in a large fam iliar hand were the words:
"To Vladim ir Kostylkov, the Highly Educ ated 7th-Grade Student and Acting Mem ber of
the Astronom y Club of the Moscow Planetarium , from his Loving Grandm a."
W hat a funny inscription! Grandm a alwa ys invented som ething funny. But why
didn' t it m ake Volka sm ile? Oh, why didn' t it! And im agine, he wasn' t at all happy
to have finally received such a fascina ting book, the one he had wished for for so
long. Grief was eating out his heart. He fe lt a great weight on his chest.... It was
"Grandm a!" he shouted, turning away from the book. "Grandm a, would you
com e here a m inute? "
"W ell, what do you want, m ischief-m aker? " his grandm other answered,
pretending to be angry, but really pleased that she' d have a chance to talk to him
before he went to sleep. "W hy, the Sandm an can' t even cope with you, you
astronom er! You night owl!"
"Grandm a," Volka whispered fervently, "close the door and com e sit on m y
bed. I have to tell you som ething terribly im portant."
"Perhaps we' d better put off such an im portant conversation till m orning," his
grandm other answered, though she was consum ed with curiosity as to what it was
"No, right now. This very m inute. I ... Gr andm a, I wasn' t prom oted, I m ean, I
wasn't yet. I didn' t pass the exam ."
"Did you fail? " his grandm other gasped.
"No, I didn' t fail. I didn' t pass, but I didn' t fail, either. I started to tell them what
the ancients thought about India, the horizon, and all kinds of things.
said was right. But I just couldn' t tell them about the scientific point of view. I
began to feel very bad and Varvara Stepa novna said I should com e back after I had
had a good rest."
Even now, he could not bring him self to talk about Hottabych, not even to his
grandm a. 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 asham ed. D' you understand? "
"W hat' s there to understand! A person' s conscience is a great thing. There' s
nothing worse than doing som ething that' s against your conscience. Now go to
sleep, m y dear astronom er!"
"You can take the book back m eanwhile," Volka suggested in a trem bling
"Nonsense! And where would I put it? Let' s consider that I' ve given it to you
for safe-keeping for the tim e being. Go to sleep now, will you? "
"Yes," Volka answered. A load had fallen from his chest. "And I prom ise you,
upon m y word of honour, that I' ll get an ' A' in geography. D' you believe m e?"
"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 yourself? "
"You' d better tell them ."
"W ell, good night." Grandm a kissed him good night, turned off the light, and
left the room .
For som e while after, Volka lay in the darkness, holding his breath, waiting to
hear his grandm a tell his m other and father the sad news. However, he fell asleep
before they cam e hom e.
A RESTLESS NIGHT
Before an hour passed, however, he wa s suddenly awakened by the ringing of
the telephone in the hall.
His father answered the phone:
"Hello. Yes. W ho? Good evening, Varv ara Stepanovna? ... I' m fine, thank you.
And you? ... Volka? He' s asleep.... I think he' s quite well. He had a very big
supper.... Yes, I know. He told us.... I' m te rribly surprised m yself.... Yes, that' s
probably the only answer.. ,. Certainly, he should rest a while, if you have no
objections.... Thank you very m uch.... Varvara Stepanovna sends you her regards,"
his father said to his m other. "She want ed to know how Volka is. She said not to
worry, because they think very highly of him , and she suggests he have a good
Volka strained his ears listening to what his parents were talking about, but
unable to m ake anything out, he fell asl eep. This tim e he slept no longer than
fifteen m inutes. The telephone rang again.
"Yes, speaking," he heard his father 's m uffled voice. "Yes.... Good evening....
W hat? ... No, he' s not here.... Yes, he' s at hom e.... Certainly he' s at hom e.... That' s
quite all right.... Good-bye."
"W ho was it?" Volka' s m other called f rom the kitchen. "It was Zhenya
Bogorad' s father. He sounded very worried. Zhenya' s not hom e yet. He wanted to
know whether he was here and if Volka was at hom e."
"In m y tim e," Grandm a said, "only hussars cam e hom e this late, but when a
Half an hour later the ringing of the te lephone interrupted Volka' s sleep for the
third tim e that troubled night. It was Zhe nya' s m other. He had still not returned.
She wanted them to ask Volka if he knew where he was.
"Volka!" his father called, opening the door. "Zhenya' s m other wants to know
where you saw him last." "At the m ovies th is evening." "And after the m ovie? " "I
didn' t see him after that." "Did he say where he was going afterwards? " "No."
For a long, long tim e after that, Volka waited for the grown-ups to stop talking
about Zhenya' s disappearance (he him self was not the least bit worried, since he
was sure Zhenya had gone to the circus in the recreation park to celebrate), but he
fell asleep again before they did. This tim e till m orning.
Soon there was a soft splash in the corner. Then the patter of wet bare
could be heard. Footprints appeared and quickly dried on the floor. Som eone
invisible was silently pacing the room , hum ming a plaintive Eastern m elody.
The f ootprints headed towards the ta ble where an alarm clock was ticking
away. There was the sound of lips sm acki ng together with pleasure. Then the
alarm clock floated into the air, and for a while it hung suspended between t
ceiling and the floor. Then it returned to the table and the footprints
towards the aquarium . Once again there was a splash. Then all was quiet.
Late that night it began to rain. Th e raindrops pattered on the window, they
rustled the leaves of the trees and gurgled in the drain-pipes. At tim es the rain
would die down, and then one could hear th e large drops f alling into the rain barrel
below with a loud, ringing splash. Then, as if having gathered its. strength, the rain
would again pour down in torrents.
Towards m orning, when the sky was n early clear of clouds, som eone 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, m umbled, and shuffled
towards the high stand with Volka' s a quarium . There was a faint splash. Once
again a sleepy quiet fell on the room .
THE UNUSUAL EVENTS IN APARTMENT 37
Goga' s m other had not bought him a dog af ter all. She had not had the tim e to,
and later on she never got him one, for after the fantastic events of that terrible
evening, both Goga and his m other lost a ll interest in Man' s oldest and truest
But Volka had clearly heard a dog barking m apartm ent 37. Could he have been
No, he was not m istaken.
And yet, there had been no dog in apar tm ent 37 that evening. If you want to
know, not so m uch as a dog' s paw entered their house after that evening.
Truly, Volka had no reason to be envious of Goga. There was nothing to be
envious of: it was Goga who had barked! It all began while he was washin
g up for
supper. He was very anxious to tell his mother a long and elaborate story about
how his classm ate and neighbour, Volka Kost ylkov, had m ade a fool of him self at
the exam ination that m orning. And it was then that he started barking. Goga didn' t
bark all the tim e—som e words were real words—but instead of very m any other
ones, he was surprised and horrified to hear a genuine dog' s bark issue from his
He wanted to say that Volka suddenly began to talk such nonsense at the
and that Varvara Stepanovna je-ee-st cras hed her fist down on the table and je-ee-
st scream ed, "W hat nonsense you' re babbling, you fool! W hy, you hooligan, I' ll
leave you back another term for this!"
But this is what Goga said instead:
"And suddenly Volka je-ee-st bega n to bow-wow-wow ... and Varvara
Stepanovna je-ee-st crashed her bow-wow-wow!"
Goga was struck dum b with surprise. He was silent for a m oment, then he took
a deep breath and tried to repeat the se ntence. But instead of saying the rude
words, this little liar and tattle-tale wanted to ascribe to Varvara Ste
began to bark again.
"Oh, Mum mie!" he wailed. "Mum mie dear!"
"W hat' s the m atter with you, darling? " his m other asked anxiously. "You look
"I wanted to say that bow-wow-wow.... Oh, Mum mie, what' s the m atter? "
Goga had really turned blue from fright.
"Stop barking, dearest! Please stop, m y darling, m y sweet!"
"I' m not doing it on purpose," Goga whined. "I only wanted to say...."
And once again, instead of hum an speec h, all he could do was to produce an
"Darling! My pet, don' t frighten m e!" hi s poor m other pleaded, as the tears ran
down her kind face. "Don' t bark! I beg you, don' t bark!"
At this point Goga could think of nothi ng better to do than to becom e angry at
his m other. And since he was not used to choosing his words on such occasions,
he began barking so fiercely that som eone shouted from the next balcony:
"Tell your boy to stop teasing that dog! It 's a sham e! You' ve spoiled your child
beyond all reason!"
W ith the tears still pouring down her cheeks, Goga' s m other rushed to close the
windows. Then she tried to feel Goga' s forehead, but this only brought on a new
attack of angry barking.
She f inally put a com pletely f righten ed Goga to bed, wrapped him up in a
heavy quilt, though it was a hot sum mer evening, and ran down to the telephone
booth to call an am bulance.
Since she should not tell them the truth, sh e was forced to say that her son had a
very high fever and was delirious.
Soon a doctor arrived. He was a stout, m iddl e-aged m an with a grey m oustache,
many years of experience and an unruffled m anner.
The first thing he did, naturally, was to feel Goga' s forehead. He discovered the
boy had no fever at all. This m ade him angry, but he did not show it, since the
boy' s m other looked so terribly grief-stri cken. He sighed and sat down on a chair
by the bed. Then he asked Goga' s m other to explain why she had called an
am bulance instead of her regular doctor.
She told him the truth.
The doctor shrugged. He asked her to rep eat her story from the beginning. Then
he shrugged again, thinking that if this we re really true, she should have called a
psychiatrist and not a general practitioner.
"Perhaps you think you are a dog? " he asked Goga, as if casually.
Goga shook his head.
"W ell, that' s som ething," the doctor thought. "At least it isn' t a m ania when
people im agine 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 feeling m ore cheerful.
"Stick out your tongue," he said.
Goga stuck out his tongue.
"It' s a very norm al-looking tongue. A nd now, young m an, let m e listen to your
heart. Ah, an excellent heart. His lungs are clear. And how is his stom ach? " . "His
stom ach' s fine," his m other said.
"And has he been uh ... barking a long tim e? "
"For over two hours. I just don' t know what to do."
"First of all, calm down. I don' t see anything terrible yet. Now, young m an,
won' t you tell m e how it all began? "
"W ell, it all began from nothing," Goga com plained in a sm all voice. "I was just
telling m y m other how Volka Kostylkov .bow-wow-wow."
"You see, doctor? " his m other sobbed loudly. "It' s terrible. Maybe he needs
som e pills, or powders, or perhaps he needs a physic? "
The doctor frowned.
"Give m e tim e to think, and I' ll look through m y books. It' s a rare case, a very
rare case, indeed. Now, I want him to ha ve a com plete rest, no getting off the bed,
a light diet, just vegetables and m ilk pr oducts, no coffee or cocoa, weak tea with
milk, if desired. And by no m eans should he go out."
"I couldn' t drag him outside if I tried, he' s so asham ed. .One of his friends
dropped in, and poor Goga barked so l ong and loud, I had a hard tim e persuading
the boy not to tell anyone about it. But don' t you think he needs a physic? "
"W ell, a physic can' t hurt him ," the doctor said thoughtfully.
"And what about m ustard plasters befo re he goes to bed? " she asked, still
"That' s not bad, either. Mustard plasters are always helpful."
The doctor was about to pat Goga' s hea d, but Pill, anticipating all the bitter
medicines he had prescribed, barked so viciously that the old doctor jerked his
hand away, frightened lest the unpleasant boy really bite him .
"By the way," he said, gaining control over him self, "why are all the windows
closed on such a hot day? The child needs fresh air."
Goga' s m other reluctantly explained why she had closed the windows.
"Hm .... A rare case, a very rare case, indeed!" the doctor repeated. Then h
wrote out a prescription and left, prom ising to com e back the next day.
A NO LESS TROUBLED MORNING
Morning dawned bright and beautiful.
At 6:30 a.m . Grandm a opened the door softly, tiptoed to the window and
opened it wide. Cool, invigorating air ru shed into the room . This was the
beginning of a cheerful, noisy, busy Mosc ow m orning. But Volka would not have
awakened had not his blanket slipped off the bed.
The first thing he did was to feel the br istles on his chin. He realized there was
no way out. The situation was hopeless. Th ere could be no question of his going
out to greet his parents looking as he di d. He snuggled under the blanket again and
began to think of what to do.
"Volka! Com e on, Volka! Get up!" he h eard his father calling from the dining
room . He pretended to be asleep and di d not answer. "I don' t see how anyone can
sleep on a m orning like this!"
Then he heard his grandm other say:
"Som eone should m ake you take exam inations, Alyosha, and then wake you up
at the crack of dawn!"
"W ell, let him sleep then," his father grum bled. "But don' t you worry, he' ll get
up as soon as he' s hungry."
W as it Volka who was supposed not to be hungry? ! W hy, he kept catching
him self thinking about an om lette and a chunk of bread m ore than about the
reddish bristle on his cheeks. But com mon sense trium phed over hunger, and
Volka rem ained in bed until his father ha d left for work and his m other had gone
"Here goes," he decided, hearing the outsi de door click shut. "I' ll tell Grandm a
everything. W e'll think of som ething together."
Volka stretched, yawned and headed to ward the door. As he was passing the
aquarium , he glanced at it absently . .. and stopped dead in his tracks. During the
night, som ething had happened in this sm all, four-cornered glass reservoir, a
mysterious event which could in no way be explained from a scientific point of
view: yesterday, there were three fishes swim ming around inside, but this m orning
there were four. There was a new fish, a large, fat goldfish which was waving its
bright red fins solem nly. W hen a startle d Volka looked at it through the thick glass
wall he was nearly certain the fish winked at him slyly.
"Gosh!" he m umbled, forgetting his beard for the m oment.
He stuck his hand into the water to catch the m ysterious fish, and it seem ed that
this was just what it was waiting f or. The fish slapped its tail against the water,
jum ped out of the aquarium and turned into Hottabych.
"W hew!" the old m an said, shaking off the water and wiping his beard with a
magnificent towel em broidered with gold a nd silver roosters which had appeared
from thin air. "I' ve been waiting to o ffer m y respects all m orning, but you wouldn' t
wake up and I didn' t have the heart to wa ken you. So I had to spend the night with
these pretty fishes, 0 m ost happy Volka ibn Alyosha!"
"Aren' t you asham ed of yourself for m aking 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 m orning Stepan Stepanych Pivoraki decided to com bine two
joys at once. He decided to shave, while taking in the picturesque view of the
Moskva River. He m oved the little table with his shaving things close to the
window and began to lather his cheeks as he hum med a m erry tune. W e'd like to
pause here and say a few words about our new acquaintance.
Pivoraki was a very talkative m an, a tra it which often m ade him , though he was
actually no fool and very well read, extrem ely tiresom e, even to his best friends.
On the whole, however, he was a nice pe rson and a great m aster of his trade—
which was pattern-m aking.
W hen he had finished lathering his ch eeks, Stepan Stepanych picked up his
razor, drew it back and forth over his pa lm , and then began to shave with the
greatest ease and skill. W hen he had finished shaving, he sprayed som e
"Magnolia" cologne on his face and then began to wipe his razor clean. S
an old m an in a white suit and gold-em broidered, petal-pink m orocco slippers with
queer turned-up toes appeared beside him .
"Are you a barber? " the old m an asked a flabbergasted Stepan Stepanych in a
"No, I' m not a professional barber. Howeve r, on the other hand, I can truthfully
say I am a barber, because, while I am not act ually a barber, I am a m atch for any
professional barber, for not a single ba rber can outdo m e. And do you know why?
Because, while a professional barber...."
The old m an interrupted the chattering Pivoraki rudely:
"Can you, 0 unnecessarily talkative barber, shave a young m an 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 old m an silently gathered up
his shaving equipm ent, took Stepan Stepanych, who was still going a m ile a
minute, by the scruff of his neck and, w ithout further ado, flew out the window
with him , headed for parts unknown.
Soon they flew into a fam iliar room , where Volka Kostylkov sat sadly on his
bed, m oaning every tim e he looked at him self and his bristly chin in the m irror.
"Happiness and luck accom pany you in all your undertakings, 0 m y young
master!" Hottabych announced trium phantl y, still holding on to the kicking Stepan
Stepanych. "I was about to despair of ever finding you a barber when I suddenly
cam e upon this unusually talkative m an, and I brought 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 Pivoraki who was gaping at t
boy, "lay out your tools properly and sh ave this honourable youth so that his
cheeks becom e as sm ooth as those of a young m aiden."
Pivoraki stopped struggling. The razor glistened in his skilled hand and
minutes later Volka was excellently shaved.
"Now put away your tools," the old m an said. "I' ll fly over for you again early
tom orrow m orning, and you' ll shave this youth once m ore."
"I can' t com e tom orrow," Pivoraki objected in a tired voice. "I' m in the m orning
shif t tom orrow."
"That doesn' t concern m e in the least," Hottabych replied icily. A heavy silence
fell on the room . Suddenly, Stepan Stepanych had a bright idea.
"W hy don' t you try a Tbilisi preparation? It' s an excellent rem edy."
"Is that som e kind of a powder? " Volk a interrupted. "Isn' t that a greyish
powder? I heard about it, or read som ething about it...."
"Yes, that' s it! A greyish powder!" Pi voraki cried happily. "It' s m ade in
Georgia, a wonderful and sunny land. I pers onally am crazy about Georgia. I' ve
travelled back and forth across all th e roads in the country during m y m any
vacations. Sukhum i, Tbilisi, Kutaisi.... There' s no better place for a rest! From the
bottom of m y heart and from m y own experience, I highly recom mend that you
visit.... Pardon m e, I seem to have drifte d off the point. Anyway, getting back to
the powder.... All you have to do is apply it to your cheeks, and the heaviest beard
disappears without a trace. Naturally, it' ll grow back again after a while."
"It won' t grow back in m y young friend' s case," Hottabych interrupted.
"Are you positive? "
Hottabych assum ed a haughty expression and said nothing. He considered it
beneath his dignity to take a lowly barber into his confidence.
A short m inute later, an old m an weari ng an old-fashioned straw -boater, a
white linen suit and pink m orocco slippers with turned-up toes was seen in the
locker room of a local bath-house in Tbilisi.
W ithout bothering to get undressed, he en tered the steam room . The sm ell of
sulphur stung his nostrils, but this was to be expected, as these were the fam ous
Tbilisi sulphur baths. However, a pers on entering the crowded, steam -filled room
fully dressed could not but attract the attention of the other patrons.
Curious eyes followed him as he slowly m ade his way towards a bright-eyed
attendant. He halted within a few steps of the attendant, whose nam e was Vano,
and began to rem ove his linen coat with an unhurried gesture.
"Genatsvale" (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 m an sm irked. He had no intention of washing. It was just that he felt a
bit warm with his coat on.
"Com e over here!" he said to Vano and fanned him self languidly with his hat.
"But hurry, if you value your life."
The attendant sm iled pleasantly.
"Genatsvale, on such a lovely m orning one valu es one' s life m ore than ever.
W hat would you like, Grandfather? "
The old m an addressed him in a stern voice:
"Tell m e nothing but the truth, 0 bath attendant. Are these really the very
fam ous Tbilisi Baths, of which I' ve heard so m uch worthy of am azem ent?"
"Yes, they' re the very sam e ones," Vano said with pride. "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 m an let the question go unanswered.
"W ell, if these are the very sam e baths I' ve been looking for, why don' t I see
any of that truly m agic salve which pe ople who know and are worthy of trust say
rem oves hum an hair without a trace? "
"Ah, so that' s what it' s all about!" Va no cried happily. "You want som e 'taro.'
You should have said so right away."
"All right, if it' s called ' taro,' then bring m e som e 'taro,' but hurry if you...."
"I know, I know: if I value m y life. I' m off!"
The experienced bath attendant had m et many a queer character in his life and
he knew that the wisest thing to do was never to argue.
He returned with a clay bowl filled w ith som ething that looked like ashes.
"Here," he said, panting heavily as he handed the old m an the bowl. "No place
in the world will you find such a wonderful powder. You can take the word of a
The old m an's face turned purple with rage.
"You' re m aking a fool of m e, 0 m ost de spicable of all bath-house attendants!"
he said in a voice terrible in all its softness. "You prom ised to bring m e a
wonderful salve, but like a m arketplace cr ook, you want to pass off an old dish of
powder the colour of a sick m ouse!"
The old m an snorted so loudly that the entire contents 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 som e
water and you' ll have the salve you longed for."
The old m an realized he was shouting for nothing and becam e em barrassed.
"It' s hot," he m umbled in som e confusion. "May this tiring heat be no m ore!"
and he added very softly: "and while m y beard is wet, m ay m y m agic powers
rem ain in m y fingers.... And so, m ay this tiresom e heat be no m ore!"
"I' m sorry, but that' s som ething I' ve no power over," Vano said and shrugged.
"But I have," Hottabych (naturally, it was he) m uttered through clenched teeth
and snapped the fingers of his left hand.
The attendant gasped. And no wonder: he felt an icy chill com ing from where
the strange old m an stood; the wet floor b ecam e covered with a thin sheet of ice
and clouds of hot steam from the entire room were drawn towards the cold pole
which had form ed over Hottabych' s head; ther e, they turned into rain clouds and
cam e down in a drizzle over his head.
"This is m uch better," he said with pleas ure. "Nothing is so refreshing as a cool
shower on a hot day."
After enjoying this both unnatural and na tural shower for a few m inutes, he
snapped the fingers of his right hand. The current of cold air was cut off
im mediately, while the ice m elted. Once again clouds of hot steam filled the room .
"And so," Hottabych said, pleased at the im pression these unaccountable
changes of tem perature had m ade on the othe r patrons, "and so, let us return to the
'taro.' I am inclined to believe that the pow der will really turn into the salve I have
com e in search of if one adds water to it. I want you to bring m e a barrel of this
marvellous potion, for I do not have m uch tim e at m y disposal."
"Oh, Genatsvdle! One bowl-full will be m ore than enough for even the heaviest
"All right then, bring m e five bowls of it."
"In a second!" Vano said, disappearing into an adjoining room . He reappeared
in a m oment with a heavy bottle stopped w ith a cork. "There are at least twenty
portions here. Good luck."
"Beware, 0 bath attendant, for I' d not wish anyone to be in your boots if you
have tricked m e!"
"How could you even think of such a thing," Vano protested. "W ould I ever
dare trick such a respectable old m an as you! W hy, I would never...."
He stood there and gaped, for the am azing, quarrelsom e old m an had suddenly
disappeared into thin air.
Exactly a m inute later, a bald old m an without eyebrows, a m oustache or a
beard and dressed in a straw boater, a lin en suit and pink slippers with turned-up
toes touched Volka Kostylkov' s shoulde r as the boy was sadly devouring a huge
piece of jam tart.
Volka turned round, looked at him , and nearly choked on the cake in
am azem ent.
"Dear Hottabych, what' s happened to you? "
Hottabych looked at him self in the wall mirror and forced a laugh. "I suppose it
would be exaggerating things to say I look handsom e. You m ay consider m e
punished for lack of trust and you won' t be wrong. I snorted when I was kind-
heartedly offered a bowl of ' taro' powde r in that far-off bath-house. The powder
settled on m y eyebrows, m oustache and beard. The rain which I called f orth in that
justly fam ous place turned the powder into m ush, and the rain I was caught in on
the way back to Moscow washed off the m ush together with m y beard, m oustache,
and eyebrows. But don' t worry about my appearance. Let' s better worry about
yours." Then he sprinkled som e powder into a plate.
W hen Volka' s beard and m oustache were disposed of, Hottabych snapped the
fingers of his left hand and once again assum ed his previous appearance.
Now he looked at him self in the m irror with true satisfaction. He stroked his
recovered beard and twisted the ends of his m oustache jauntily. Then he passed his
hand over his hair, sm oothed his eyebrows and sighed with relief.
"Excellent ! Now both our faces are back to norm al again."
As concerns Stepan Stepanych Pivorak i, who will never again appear on the
pages of our extrem ely truthful story, it is a known fact that he becam e a changed
man after the events described above. W hy, it seem s only yesterday that his
friends, who suffered so acutely from hi s talkativeness, nam ed every chatter-box
"Pivoraki." However, he has now becom e so sparing with his words, weighing
each one carefully beforehand, that it is a j oy to talk to him and listen to him speak
at m eetings.
Just think what an effect this incident had on him !
AN INTERVIEW WITH A DIVER
Zhenya Bogorad' s parents were up all night. They telephoned all their friends
and, taking a cab, m ade the rounds of every militia station in the city, and of every
hospital. They even stopped off at the crim inal court, but all to no avail. Zhenya
had disappeared without a trace.
The following m orning the principal of the school called in Zhenya' s
classm ates, including Volka, and questioned each one.
Volka told the principal about m eeting Zh enya at the m ovies the night before,
though he quite naturally said nothing about his beard. The boy who sat
Zhenya in class recalled that he had seen him on Pushkin Street close to six o' clock
the previous evening, that he was in hi gh spirits and was rushing to the m ovies.
Other children said the sam e, but this was of no help.
Suddenly, one boy rem embered Zhenya said he wanted to go swim ming too.
In half an hour' s tim e every volunteer lif e guard in the city was searching for
Zhenya Bogorad' s body. The river was dragge d within the city lim its, but yielded
nothing. Divers traversed the entire river-be d, paying special attention to holes and
depressions, but they, too, found nothing.
The fiery blaze of sunset was slowly sinking beyond the river, a faint b
carried the low sounds of a siren from th e recreation park, a signal that the second
act of the evening' s play at the sum mer theatre was about to begin, but the dark
silhouettes of the river boats could still be seen on the water. The sea
rch was still
This cool, quiet evening Volka was t oo restless to sit at hom e. Terrif ying
thoughts of Zhenya' s fate gave him no p eace. He decided to go back to school,
perhaps there was som e news there. As he was leaving the school yard, Hottabych
joined him silently at the gate, appeari ng from nowhere at all. The old m an saw
Volka was upset, yet he was too tactful to annoy him with his questions. Thus,
they continued on in silence, each lost in his own thoughts. Soon they were
walking down the wide granite em bankm ent of the Moskva River.
"W hat kind of strange-headed people are standing in those frail vessels? " the
old m an asked, pointing to the river boats.
"Those are divers," Volka answered sadly.
"Peace be with you, 0 noble diver," Hottabych said grandly to one of the
clim bing out of a boat near the bank. "W ha t are you searching for on the bottom of
this beautif ul river?"
"A boy drowned," the diver answered and hurried up the steps of the first-aid
"I have no m ore questions, 0 highly re spected diver," Hottabych said to his
Then he returned to Volka, bowed low and exclaim ed:
"I kiss the ground beneath your feet, 0 m ost noble student of Secondary School
"Huh? " Volka started, shaken from his unhappy thoughts.
"Am I correct in understanding that this diver is searching for the youth who
has the great honour of being your classm ate? "
Volka nodded silently and heaved a great sigh.
"Is he round of face, sturdy of body, snub of nose and sporting a haircut
unbecom ing to a boy? "
"Yes, that was Zhenya. He had a haircut like a real dandy," Volka said a
sighed heavily again.
"Did we see him in the m ovies? W as it he who shouted som ething to you and
made you sad, because he' d tell everyone you had such a beard? "
"Yes. How did you know what I was thinking then? "
"Because that' s what you m umbled when you tried to conceal your honourable
and m ost beautiful face from him ," the old m an continued. "Don' t fear, he won' t
"That' s not true!" Volka said angrily. "T hat doesn' t bother m e at all. On the
contrary, I' m sad because Zhenya drowned."
Hottabych sm irked trium phantly.
"He didn' t drown!"
"W hat do you m ean? How d' you know he didn' t drown? "
"Certainly I am the one to know," Hottabych sa id. "I lay in wait for him near
the first row in the dark room and I said to m yself in great anger, ' No, you will tell
nothing, 0 Zhenya! Nothing which is unpleas ant to your great, wise friend Volka
ibn Alyosha, for never again will you see anyone who will believe you or will be
interested in such news!' That' s what I sa id to m yself as I tossed him far away to
the East, right to where the edge of the Earth m eets the edge of the Heavens and
where, I assum e, he has already been sold into slavery. There he can tell
whom ever he wants to about your beard."
CHARTING A FLIGHT
"W hat do you m ean—slavery? ! Sell Zhenya Bogorad into slavery? !" a shaken
The old m an saw that som ething had gone wrong again, an his face becam e
"It' s very sim ple. It' s quite usual. Just like they always sell people into slavery,"
he m umbled, rubbing his hands together nervously and avoiding Volka' s eyes.
"That' s so he won' t babble for nothing, 0 m ost pleasant dope in the world."
The old m an was very pleased at having been able to put the new word he had
learned from Volka the night before in to the conversation. But his young saviour
was so upset by the terrible news that he really didn' t pay attention to having been
called dope for nothing.
"That' s horrible!" Volka cried, holding hi s head. "Hottabych, d' you realize what
you' ve done? "
"Hassan Abdurrakhm an ibn Hottab always realizes what he does!"
"Like hell you do! For no reason at all, you' re ready to turn good people into
sparrows or sell them into slavery. Bring Zhenya back here im mediately!"
"No!" Hottabych shook his head. "Don' t dem and the im possible of m e!"
"But do you find it possible to sell people into slavery? Golly, you can' t even
im agine what I' ll do if you don' t bring Zhenya right back!"
To tell the truth, Volka him self had no idea what he could do -s to save Zhenya
from the clutches of unknown slave deal ers, but he would have thought of
som ething. He would have written to som e ministry or other. But which m inistry?
And what was he to say?
By now the readers of this book know Vo lka well enough to agree that he' s no
cry-baby. But this was too m uch, even fo r Volka. Yes, our courageous, fearless
Volka sat down on the edge of the first be nch he cam e upon and broke into tears of
The old m an asked anxiously:
"W hat is the m eaning of this crying th at has overcom e you? Answer m e, and do
not tear m y heart apart, 0 m y young saviour."
But Volka, regarding the old m an with hate-f illed eyes;
pushed him away as he leaned over him with concern.
Hottabych looked at Volka closely, sucked his lips and said thoughtfully
"I' m really am azed. No m atter what I do, it just doesn' t seem to m ake you
happy. Though I' m trying m y best to please you, all m y efforts are in vain. The
most powerful potentates of the East and W est would often appeal to m y m agic
powers, and there was not a single one am ong them who was not grateful to m e
later and did not glorify m y nam e in wo rds and thoughts. And look at m e 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 hi
And true enough, the old m an was well preserved for being close on four
thousand years of age. No one would have ever given him m ore than seventy or
seventy-five. Any of our readers would have looked m uch older at his age.
"You flatter m e," Hottabych sm iled and added: "No, it is not within m y powers
to return your friend Zhenya im mediately."
Volka' s face turned ashen from grief.
"But," the old m an continued significan tly, "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," Hotta bych answered craftily. "Obviously, on a
magic carpet, 0 greatest dope in the world."
This tim e Volka noticed that he had been called such an unflattering nam e.
"W hom did you call a dope? !" he flared.
"W hy, you, of course, 0 Volka ibn Al yosha, for you are wise beyond your
years," Hottabych replied, being extrem ely pl eased that he was again able to use
his new word so successfully in a conversation.
Volka was about to feel offended. However, he blushed as he recalled that he
had no one to blam e but him self. Avoidi ng 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 m odesty, 0 priceless Vo lka ibn Alyosha," Hottabych said with
"W hen can we start?" Volka asked, still unable to overcom e his em barrassm ent.
"Right now, if you wish."
"Then let' s be off!" However, he a dded anxiously, "I don' t know what to do
about Father and Mother. They' ll worry if I fly away without te lling them , but if I
tell them , they won' t let m e go."
"Let it worry you no m ore," the old m an sa id. "I' ll cast a spell on them and they
won' t think of you once during our absence."
"You don' t know m y parents!"
"And you don' t know Hassan Abdurrakhm an ibn Hottab!"
In one corner of the m agic carpet the p ile was rather worn, m ost probably due
to m oths. On the whole, however, it wa s wonderfully preserved and the fringes
were as good as new. Volka thought he ha d seen exactly the sam e kind of carpet
before, but he could not recall whether it wa s in Zhenya' 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 m iddle of the carpet beside
him self; he then yanked three hairs from his beard, blew on them , and whispered
som ething, rolling his eyes skyward. The car pet trem bled. One after the other, all
four tassled corners rose. Then the edges buckled and rose, but the m iddle
rem ained on the grass, weighted down by the two heavy passengers. After
fluttering a bit, the carpet becam e m otionless.
The old m an bustled about in confusion.
"Excuse m e, 0 kind Volka. There' s been a m istake som ewheres. I' ll fix
everything in a m inute."
Hottabych was quiet as he did som e com plex figuring on his fingers. He
apparently got the right answer, because he beam ed. Then he yanked six m ore
hairs from his beard, tore off half of one hair and threw it away, and then blew on
the others, saying the m agic words and rolling his eyes skyward. Now the carpet '
straightened out and becam e as flat and as hard as a staircase landing. It soared
upwards, carrying off a sm iling Hottabyc h and Volka, who was dizzy from
exhilaration, or the height, or from both together.
The carpet rose over the highest trees, over the highest houses, over the highest
factory stacks and sailed over the city that was blinking with a m illion lights
below. They could hear m uffled voices, autom obile horns, people singing in row
boats on the river and the far-off m usic of a band.
The city was plunged in twilight, but here, high up in the air, they could still see
the crim son ball of the sun sinking slowly beyond the horizon.
"I wonder how high up we are now? " Volka said thoughtfully.
"About 600 or 700 elbows," Hottabych answ ered, still figuring out som ething
on his fingers.
Meanwhile, the carpet settled on its course, though still gaining height.
Hottabych sat down m ajestically, crossing his legs and holding on to his hat.
Volka tried to sit down cross-legged, as Hottabych had, but found neithe
nor satisfaction from this position. He shut his eyes tight to overcom e his awful
dizziness and sat down on the edge of the carpet, dangling his legs over
Though this was m ore com fortable, the wind tore at his legs m ercilessly; it blew
them off to a side and they were consta ntly at a sharp angle to his body. He soon
becam e convinced that this m ethod wa s no good either, and finally settled down
with his legs stretched out before him on the carpet.
In no tim e, he felt chilled to the bone. He thought sadly of his warm jacket that
was so far below in his closet at hom e, hundreds of m iles away.
As a last resort, he decided to warm up the way cabbies used to do in the olden
days, long before he was born. His father once showed 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 ey e he slipped off the carpet and into
Needless to say, if he had not grabbed on to the fringes, our story would have
ended with this unusual air accident.
Hottabych did not even notice what ha d happened to his young friend. He was
sitting with his back to Volka, his legs tucked under him in Eastern fashion and
lost in thought. He was trying to recall how to break spells he him self had cast.
"Hottabych!" Volka howled, feeling that he wouldn' t last long, as he hung on to
the fringes. "Help, Hottabych!"
"0 woe is m e!" the old m an cried, seei ng that Volka was flying through the air.
"Sham e on m y old grey head! I would have killed m yself if you had perished!"
Muttering and calling him self all kinds of nam es for being so careless, he
dragged a petrified Volka back up on the carpet, sat him down and put his arm
around the boy, firm ly resolved not to let go of him until they landed.
"It would be g-g-good t-t-to h-h-have s- s-som ething w-w-warm to wear!" Volka
said wistfully through chattering teeth.
"S-s-sure, 0 gracious Volka ibn Alyos ha!" Hottabych answered and covered
him with a quilted robe that appeared f rom nowhere.
It becam e dark. Now it was especially uncom fortable on the m agic carpet.
Volka suggested that they rise another 500 elbows or so. "Then we' ll see the sun
Hottabych greatly doubted that they coul d see the sun before m orning, since it
had already set, but he didn' t argue.
You can im agine how surprised he was and how his esteem for Volka grew,
when, as they rose higher, they really saw the sun again! For a second tim e its
crim son edge was barely touching the black line of the far horizon.
"Oh, Volka, if only I had not prom ised myself faithfully to obey your m odest
request, nothing would prevent m e from calling you the greatest dope in the
world," Hottabych cried ecstatically. Howe ver, when he saw how displeased
Volka was, he quickly added, "but sin ce you forbade it, I shall lim it m yself to
expressing m y am azem ent at the unusual m aturity of your m ind. I "prom ised never
to call you a dope and I won' t."
"And don' t call anyone else by that nam e, either."
"All right, 0 Volka," Hottabych agreed obediently.
"Do you swear? "
"Yes, I do!"
"Now don' t forget," Volka said in a tone of satisfaction that puzzled Hottabych.
Far below them forests and fields, rivers and lakes, villages and cities sailed by,
adorned in softly glowing pearly strings of electric lights. A sea of clouds with
hard round edges appeared;
they darkened and disappeared in the blackness below, but the carpet kep
flying farther and farther away to the sout h-east, closer and closer to the strange
land where the young prisoner
Zhenya Bogorad was probably already su ffering at the hands of fierce and
terrible slave traders.
"To think that poor Zhenya' s breaking hi s back at hard 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 friends or relatives. The poo
fellow' s probably groaning," Volka continued sadly.
Hottabych again said nothing.
If only our travellers could have heard what was happening that very m inute,
thousands of m iles away to the East!
Far away in the East, Zhenya Bogorad was really groaning.
"Oh no, I can' t!" Zhenya m oaned, "Oh no, no m ore!"
In order to describe the circum stances under which he uttered these heart-
rending words, we shall have to part with our travellers f or a while and relate the
experiences of Zhenya Bogorad, a pioneer group leader 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 glim pse of the bearded boy before the m ovie began,
everything suddenly went dar k, he heard an ear-splitting whistle, and instead of the
hard floor beneath his feet, he felt he was standing in tall grass.
W hen his eyes becam e accustom ed to th e dark, he was greatly am azed to
discover that he was in a dense f orest f illed with the arom a of strange f lowers.
Lianas hung from huge trees, the likes of which he had never seen before. Yes,
these were definitely lianas. It was hot and hum id, m uch hotter than it had been in
the projection room .
Holding his arm s out, Zhenya took seve ral cautious steps and nearly trod on a
... snake! The snake hissed like a broken bicycle pum p, flashed its sm all green
eyes and disappeared in the bushes.
"Golly! W here am I? !" Zhenya wondered, not daring to m ove. "It' s just like the
jungles. It' s just like a dream . W hy, sure," he thought happily, "sure, this is all a
dream ! I' m sleeping and this is a dream ."
At one tim e or another everyone has had a dream in which he knows quite
clearly that he is dream ing. It' s fun to have such a dream : no dangers frighten you,
and you always succeed in the m ost hazardous feats. Most im portant, you know
the tim e will com e when you' ll awake safe and sound in your own bed.
However, when Zhenya attem pted to m ake his way through the prickly bushes,
he really got scratched. Since it' s m ost unpleasant to be hurt, even though you are
quite positive everything is just a dream , Zhenya decided to doze off till m orning.
W hen he awoke, he saw the hot, pale blue sky shining brightly through the
openings in the crowns of the trees. Zh enya was overjoyed to find his wonderful
dream still continuing!
The first thing he saw when he found his way to the edge of the forest w
elephants carrying huge logs in their tr unks. A thin, dark-skinned m an, naked to
the waist and wearing a white turban, was riding the lead elephant.
In the distance, sm oke curled f rom the roof tops of a sm all village. Now Zhenya
knew what he was dream ing about. He was dream ing about India! This was really
wonderful. Yet, still m ore wonderful things awaited him .
"W ho are you? " the m an on the elephant asked Zhenya dryly. "An Englishm an?
A Portuguese? An Am erican? "
"No," Zhenya answered in broken English. "I Russian, Rusi." Just to m ake sure,
he pointed to him self and said, "Hindi Rusi bhai, bhai."
At this, the m an on the elephant beam ed and nodded so vigorously that it was a
wonder his turban didn' t fall off his head.
Then he m ade his elephant kneel and he took Zhenya up beside him . The whole
cavalcade, swaying m ajestically, continued towards the village.
On the way they m et several children.
The m an shouted som ething to them ; they gaped and stared at the real-life
Soviet boy. Then they dashed back to the village, shouting and skipping.
tim e Zhenya Bogorad, a 7B pupil of Mo scow Secondary School No. 245, arrived
in the village riding the head elephant, its entire population had poured out into the
narrow single street.
W hat a welcom e it was!
Zhenya was helped down respectfully, he was led into a room and offered food,
which was m ore than welcom e, since he found that even in his sleep he was
hungry. Im agine, what a real dream he wa s having! Then people approached him
and shook his hand, then everybody sang a l ong and plaintive Indian song. Zhenya
sang along with them as best he could and everyone was terribly pleased. Then
Zhenya sang the dem ocratic youth song and som e boys and girls joined in, while
the rest sang along as best they c ould. Then everyone began coaxing a young
Hindu youth and he finally gave in a nd began another song, which Zhenya
recognized as "Katyusha." He joined in enthusiastically, while everyone else
clapped in rhythm to the song. Then they shook his hand again and everyone
shouted Hindi Rusi bhai, bhai!
W hen things settled down a bit, the w hole village began a conversation with
Zhenya. However, since neither he nor the villagers knew very m uch English, it
took a long tim e for them to discover whet her Zhenya was in a hurry to get to
Delhi and the Soviet Em bassy. But Zhenya was in no special rush. W hy should a
person hurry when he' s having such an interesting and pleasant dream ?
In no tim e, delegates from a neighbouri ng village arrived 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 the first village was repeated
again and again.
He spent the night in the f ourth village. At day-break delegates f rom a f ifth
village were awaiting him . This was when Zhenya began to m oan a bit.
Just try not to m oan when hundreds of friendly arm s toss you up to the
accom panim ent of: Hindi Rusi bhai, bhai and overflowing em otions m ake them
toss you as high as the clouds.
Luckily for him , they soon heard the rum bling of a sm all truck which was going
past the closest railway station and which was to take Zhenya along.
Sm iling villagers surrounded the pers piring boy, they shook his hands and
em braced him . Two girls cam e running up w ith a large wreath of flowers and put
it around his neck. The young guest blushed. Three boys and their school
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 they also asked for his
autograph, just as if he had been a fam ous 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 sim ply vanished!
This in itself was worthy of great am azem ent, but m ore am azing still was the
fact that not a single villager was surpri sed at this. They were not surprised,
because they im mediately and com pletely forgot all about Zhenya. But we, dear
reader, should by no m eans be surprised that they forgot about him so quickly.
TRA-LA-LA, 0 IBN ALYOSHA!
There is nothing m ore dangerous than falling asleep on a m agic carpet without
having first taken the necessary precautions.
Tired from all their experiences and lulle d to sleep by the com plete quiet that
surrounded them , Hottabych and Volka did not notice how they dozed off under
the warm quilted robes that had appeared f rom nowheres.
Volka had curled up cosily and slept a dream less sleep, but Hottabych, who had
fallen asleep sitting up uncom fortably, with his chest pressed against his sharp old
knees, had a terrible dream .
He dream t that the servants of Sulaym an, son of David, led by the Vizier Asaf
ibn Barakhiya, were once again about to im prison him in a clay vessel and that
they had stuffed him halfway in already, but that he was struggling desperately,
pressing his chest against the m outh of the bottle. He dream t that his wonderful
young friend and saviour was about to be stuffed into another vessel and then
neither of them would ever be rescued, while poor Zhenya would have to suffer
the slave' s lot to the end of his days, w ith no one to save him . W orst of all,
som eone had a firm hold on Hottabych' s ar ms so that he was unable to yank a
single hair from his beard and therefor e was unable to use his m agic powers to
save him self and Volka. Realizing that it would be too late to do anything in a few
more m oments, Hottabych exerted all hi s energy. In great despair he plunged
sideways, forcefully enough to fall com plete ly out of the vessel. Before really
waking up, he slipped off the carpet into the cold black void below.
Fortunately, his shout awakened Volka. Th e boy was just able to grab his left
arm . Now it was Hottabych' s turn to f ly in tow behind the carpet. However, the
tow was not very firm : the old m an was too heavy for Volka. They would probably
have plunged downwards from this great height to the unseen Earth below, if
Hottabych had not m anaged to yank a whole ba tch of hair from his beard with his
free hand and rattle off the necessary m agic words.
Suddenly, Volka found he could pull the old m an up quite easily.
Our young fellow' s happiness would have been com plete, had not Hottabych
been bellowing, "Aha, 0 Volka! Everything' s in top shape, 0 m y precious one!"
and trying to sing som ething and laughing w ith such wild glee all the while Volka
was pulling him up that he really becam e worried: what if the old m an had lost his
mind from fright? True, once Hottabych found him self on the carpet, he stopped
singing. Yet, he could think of nothing better to do than begin a jig. And this in the
middle of the night! On a shabby, threadbare old m agic carpet!
"Tra-la-la, 0 Volka! Tra-la-la, 0 ibn Alyosha!" Hottabych yelled in the
darkness, raising his long skinny legs high and constantly running the d
falling off the carpet again.
Finally, he gave in to Volka' s pleas and stopped dancing. Instead, he began to
sing again. At first he sang "W hen Your Far-off Friend is Singing," terribly off-
key and then went on to m utilate an old Gypsy love song called "Open the Garden
Gate," which he had heard goodness knows wh ere. 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 som ething very im portant and just can' t recall it,
there' s no better rem edy than to fall off a m agic carpet, if even for a second. Such a
fall really clears one' s m emory. At least it helped Hottabych recall how to break
spells he him self had cast.
Now there was no need to continue the di fficult 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 bananas.
"Zhenya!" Volka shouted happily.
The m agic carpet could not withstand the extra weight and plunged downward
with a whistling sound. Suddenly, it becam e dam p and chilly. The stars shining
overhead disappeared. They had entered a cloud bank.
"Hottabych!" Volka shouted. "W e have to get out of here, up over the clouds!"
But Hottabych did not answer. Through the heavy fog they could barely m ake
out the shrivelled figure with his colla r turned up. The old m an was hurriedly
yanking one hair after another from his beard. There was a sound like plink, like a
tightly stretched string on a hom e-m ade children' s balalaika. W ith a m oan of
despair, Hottabych would throw out the hair and yank out another. Once a
they' d hear the plink, once again the m oan of despair, and the despondent
mumbling of the old Genie.
"Hey, Volka," Zhenya said, "W hat' s this we' re flying on? It looks like a m agic
"That' s exactly what it is. Hottabych, what' s taking you so long? "
"There' s no such thing as a m agic carpet," Zhenya said. "Help!"
The carpet had dipped sharply.
Volka had no tim e to argue with Zhenya.
"Hottabych, what' s the m atter? " he sai d, tugging at the old m an's dam p coat
"0 woe is m e!" cam e the hollow, sobbi ng voice of a faintly visible Hottabych
through the whistling of the falling carpet. "0 woe is all of us! I' m soaked from
head to toe!"
"W e're all drenched!" Volka shouted back angrily. "W hat selfishness!"
"My beard! Alas, m y beard is wet!"
"Ha, what a thing to worry about!" Zhenya sm irked.
"My beard is wet!" Hottabych repeated in terrible grief . "I' m as helpless as a
babe. You need dry hair for m agic, the very driest kind of hair!"
"W e'll go sm ack against the ground!" Volka said in a wooden voice. "There' ll
just be a little wet spot lef t from all of us."
"W ait! W ait a m inute!" Zhenya panted. "The m ain thing is not to get panicky!
W hat do people in balloons do in such a case?
In such a case, people flying in balloons throw their extra ballast overboard.
Farewell, m y dear Indian bananas!"
W ith these words he tossed the heavy bunch of bananas into the darkness.
began to fall m ore slowly. Then they stopped falling altogether. The carpet
swerved upwards and was caught in an air current which carried them to the right
of their previous course.
Zhenya was dying to know what this was all about, and so he asked Volka in a
"Volka, Volka! W ho' s the old m an? "
"Later," Volka whispered back. "I' ll te ll you later, when we get back on the
ground. Understand? "
All Zhenya understood was that for som e very im portant 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 yank
ing m agic
hairs. But no, the old m an was snoring softly, sleeping like a babe. The tinkling
sound was com ing from the icicles on his beard and the frozen carpet fringes
flying in the fresh m orning wind.
In the East, the blinding sun was rising. It kept getting warm er and warm er. The
icicles on Hottabych' s beard and on the fr inges m elted; the icy crust that had
covered the rest of the carpet also melted. Hottabych turned over on his side,
yawned and began to snore with a whistle, as if there really was a pipe
in his nose.
Zhenya woke up from the dam pness and the warm th. Leaning towards Volka' s
chilled ear he whispered:
"Do tell m e who the old m an is? "
"Com e clean," Volka whispered back, keeping a wary eye on Hottabych. "Did
you want to talk to the fellows about m e behind m y back? "
"W hat of it? "
"Just that he doesn' t like it."
"W hat doesn' t he like? "
"He doesn' t like people to go blabbering about m e!"
"Hum ph yourself! Presto! And you' re in a desert. It' s all very-sim ple."
Zhenya wasn' t convinced.
Volka cast another wary glance at Hotta bych and m oved closer to his friend' s
"Do you think I' m crazy? "
"W hat a silly question!"
"Not even a bit?"
"Of course not."
"W ell, believe it or not, but this old m an is a Genie, a real live Genie from the
"And he was the one who got everyt hing m essed up during the exam . He
prom pted m e and I had to repeat everything like a parrot."
"But don' t say a word about m y having failed. He swore to kill all the teachers
if they failed m e. And now I' m knocking m yself out to save Varvara Stepanovna
from his m agic. I have to keep distracting him all the tim e. Understand? "
"W ell, be quiet anyway!"
"Don' t worry, I will," Zhenya whispere d thoughtfully. "Then he was the one
who tossed m e 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 cam e too late. Hottabych opened his eyes and yawned.
"Good m orning, 0 Volka. Am I correct in assum ing that this young m an is none
other than your friend Zhenya? "
"Yes, I' d like you to m eet him ," Volka sa id, introducing his recovered friend to
Hottabych as if all this was taking place in the m ost ordinary of circum stances and
not on a m agic carpet high above the Earth.
"Pleased to m eet you," Zhenya said solem nly.
Hottabych was silent for a m oment, l ooking at the boy closely to decide
whether or not he was worth a kind wor d. He apparently becam e convinced that
Volka had not m ade a m istake in choos ing his friend and so sm iled his m ost
am iable sm ile.
"There is no end to m y happiness at m eeting you. Any friend of m y young
master is m y best friend."
"Master? " Zhenya asked.
"Master and saviour."
"Saviour? !" Zhenya repeated and giggled.
"There' s no need to laugh," Volka st opped him sternly. "There' s nothing to
In as few words as possible, he told Zhenya everything our attentive readers
HAVE MERCY ON US, 0 MIGHTY RULER!
Twice that day the m agic carpet passed through heavy cloud banks, and each
tim e Hottabych' s nearly dry beard would again becom e so dam p it was no use
thinking about even the sim plest kind of m agic—som ething that would get them
som e food, for instance. They were be ginning to feel hungry. Even Zhenya' s
description of his adventures of the prev ious day could not take their m inds away
from food. But, m ost im portant, there was no end to their flight in sight.
They were hungry, bored, and extrem ely unc om fortable. The carpet seem ed to
be stuck in m id-air, so slowly did it fly and so m onotonous was the steppe
stretching far below them . At tim es, citie s or little blue ribbons of rivers would
drift by slowly, and then once again they saw nothing but steppe and endless fields
of ripening wheat. Zhenya was right in sa ying they were flying over the southern
part of the country. Then, suddenly, ahead a nd to the right of them , as far as the
eye could see, there was blue water belo w. To the lef t was the ragged line of
distant m ountains.
"It' s the Black Sea!" the boys shouted in unison.
"0 woe is us," Hottabych cried. "W e're going straight out to sea!"
Fortunately, a capricious air current turned the carpet a bit to the lef t and tossed
it into another cloud bank at top speed. Thus, it was carried along the Caucasian
Through an opening in the clouds, Zhenya no ticed the 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 tim e!—becam e wet. The carpet was so water-logged and
heavy that it began to fall sharply with a whistling sound. In a few short seconds
the clouds were left far above. Soon, the fa mous resort 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 terribl e end, thought that the highway, studded on
both sides by form er palaces which were now rest hom es, was dashing towards
them at a m ad speed.
They had a m omentary glim pse of a b eautiful bridge thrown over a deep,
Then they were grazing the tree-tops. It seem ed as if they could touch them if
they leaned over.
Then they flew over a sanatorium with a high escalator which took the bathers
up from the beach in a pretty little car.
Several m inutes later, am idst a shower of spray, the carpet plunged into the
swim ming pool of another sanatorium . The place was quiet and deserted, as it was
supper tim e and all the vacationers were in the dining room . Shedding water and
puffing, our ill-fated travellers clim bed out of the pool.
"It could have been worse," Volka said, looking around curiously.
"Sure," Zhenya agreed. "W e could have cr ashed into a building just as easy as
pie. Or into a m ountain."
It was a good thing there was no one clos e by. The travellers sat down on beach
chairs placed near the pool. They undressed, wrung out their wet clothes
them on again, shivering and groaning w ith cold, and then lef t the swim ming
"If only I could dry m y bear d, everything would be just lovely," Hottabych said
with concern and touched it, just to m ake sure. "Ah, m e! It' s quite dam p!"
"Let' s look for the kitchen," Zhenya suggested. "Maybe they' ll let you dry it
near the stove. Boy, what wouldn' t I gi ve for a big chunk of bread and som e
"Or som e fried potatoes," Volka added.
"You' re breaking m y heart, 0 m y young friends," Hottabych cried woefully.
"It' s all m y fault that you...." .
"No, it' s not your fault at all," Volka consoled him . "Let' s go look for the
They passed the deserted tennis court, went down a paved path under a hi
arch and found them selves before the m ajestic, snow-white colum ns of a m iners'
sanatorium . A circular fountain with a pool as big as a dance floor shot up foam ing
sprays of water, right to the third-st orey windows. All the windows of the m ain
building were brightly lit.
"Our end has com e!" Hottabych gasped. "W e're in the palace of a m ost wealthy
and m ighty potentate. His guards will be on us any m inute and chop off our heads,
and I' m the only one to blam e! 0 woe! Oh, such terrible sham e on m y old grey
Zhenya giggled. Volka nudged him , to make him still and not tease the old
"W hat guards? W hich heads? " Volka asked with annoyance. "It' s a very
ordinary sanatorium . W hat I m ean is, not very ordinary, but very nice. Though I
think they' re all the sam e here in Sochi."
"I was an expert on palaces, 0 Volka, when your great-great-great-grandfather
wasn' t even born, and I, for one, certainly know that guards will com e running any
minute and.... 0 woe is us! Here they com e!"
The boys also heard the sounds of runni ng feet on the staircase of the m ain
"Jafar!" som eone hanging over the banist er shouted from above. "W e'll look for
them together after supper! They can' t disappear this late at night! Jafar!"
"Did you hear him ?" Hottabych cried, grabbing the boys' hands. He dragged
them off to a side path as fast as he could and from there into the nearest bushes.
"Did you hear him ? That was the Serg eant of the Guard shouting. They' ll go
looking for us after supper, and they' ll certainly find us. But m y beard has soaked
up as m uch water as a sponge, and I' m as helpless as a babe!"
Just then he happened to glance at two towels hanging over the back of a park
"Allah be praised!" he cried excitedly, running towards the towels. "These will
help m e dry m y beard! Then we won' t have to fear any guards in the world."
He picked up first one and then the other towel and groaned:
"0 Allah! They are quite dam p! 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 trem endous height,
dressed in a dark red robe, cam e upon th em . He appeared from behind the pink
bushes as unexpectedly as a Jack-in-the-box.
"Aha!" he said rather calm ly. "Here they are. Tell m e, m y dear m an, is this your
"Spare us, 0 m ighty ruler!" Hottabych cried, falling to his knees. "You can chop
off m y 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 m ake a fool of yourself!" Volka said in great
em barrassm ent. "W hat kind of a ruler ar e you talking about? He' s just a very
ordinary m an here on a holiday."
"I won' t get up until this wonderful and merciful sultan prom ises to spare your
lives, 0 m y young friends!"
The Azerbaijanian shrugged his m ighty shoulders and said, "My dear citizen,
why are you insulting m e? W hat kind of a su ltan am I? I' m an ordinary Soviet
citizen." He puffed out his chest a nd added, "I' m Jafar Alt Muham medov, a
drilling forem an. 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 kneeling for? That' s sham eful.
Oh, how very sham eful and em barrassing, m y dear m an!" Muham medov pulled
the old m an to his feet.
"W ait a m inute!" Volka whispered like a conspirator, taking Muham medov off
to a side. "Don' t pay any attention to th e old m an. 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 th e m ountains too? I cam e back as wet as
a m ouse. Vai, vai! The old m an m ay catch cold. Dear m an," he said, catching
Hottabych under the arm s as he was about to fall to his knees again. "You look
very fam iliar. 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, 0 m ighty ruler, that I am going on three thousand seven
hundred and thirty-three!" Hottabych replied hotly.
It was only to Muham medov' s credit that he didn' t bat an eyelid upon hearing
these words. He m erely nodded understandi ngly to Volka, who was winking hard
from behind Hottabych' s back.
Pressing his right hand to his heart, the drilling f orem an answered Hottabych
politely, "Of course, m y good m an, of cour se. But you' re so well preserved. Let' s
go and warm up. W e'll have som ething to eat and rest or else you m ight catch
cold. Va, how you rem ind m e of m y father!" -
"I don' t dare disobey, 0 m ighty ruler," Hottabych answered fawningly, touching
his beard ever so of ten. Alas! It was still very, very dam p.
Oh, how restless his soul was! All his m any years' experience rose up against
the fact that the owner of the palace s hould invite a strange old m an and two young
boys—all dressed in a far from elaborate fashion—to share his m eal. That m eant
there was som e m ischief to be expect ed. Perhaps this Jafar Alt ibn Moham med
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. Oh, how cautious he had to be!
So thought Hottabych as he and his young friends ascended the broad stairway
to the first block of dorm itories.
They encountered no one, either on the stairs or in the hall, and this b
to confirm Hottabych' s suspicions. Muha mmedov took them to his room , induced
the old m an to change into a pair of pyjam as, and left, telling them to m ake
them selves at hom e. "I' ll be back soon, after I give a few orders. I' ll be right back."
"Aha! W e know to whom you' ll give thos e orders and what they' ll be about,
you crafty, two-faced ruler!" Hottabych t hought. "You have a heart of stone, one
that is im mune to m ercy. To chop off such noble boys' heads!"
Meanwhile, the noble boys were looking round the com fortable room .
"Look, d' you see this? " Volka cried happily. He picked up a sm all table fan, a
thing Hottabych had never seen.
"It' s a fan," Volka explained. "W e'll dry your beard in a flash!"
True enough, in two m inutes' tim e Hottabych' s beard was ready for use.
"W e'll test it," the sly old m an m umbled innocently.
He yanked out two hairs. Before the crystal tinkling sound had died down, our
friends suddenly found them selves about three m iles away, on the warm sandy
beach. At their feet, the blue-black wave s of the rising tide softly lapped against
"This is m uch better," Hottabych said c ontentedly. Before the boys could utter a
sound, he yanked three m ore hairs from his beard.
That very instant a large tray of steam ing roast lam b and a second, sm aller tray
of fruit and biscuits appeared on the sand.
Hottabych snapped his fingers and two strange-looking bronze pitchers wi
"Golly!" Zhenya cried. "But what about our clothes? "
"Alas, I am becom ing forgetful before my tim e," Hottabych said critically and
yanked out another hair. Their clothes and shoes becam e dry the sam e instant.
Moreover, their things appeared freshly pressed and their shoes shined b
and even sm elling of the m ost expensive shoe polish.
"And m ay this treacherous ruler, Jafar Alt ibn Muham med, call for as m any
guards as he wishes!" the old m an said with satisfaction, pouring him self a cup of
icy, fragrant sherbet. "The birds have flown out from under the knife!"
"W hy, he' s no ruler!" Volka said indignantly. "He' s a real nice m an. And if you
want to know, he didn' t go off to call any gua rds, he went to get us som ething to
"You' re too young to teach m e, 0 Volka!" Hottabych snapped, for he was really
displeased that his young com panions were not in the least thankful for having
been saved from death' s jaws. "W ho but I should know what rulers look like and
how they behave! Know ye, that there are no m ore treacherous m en than sultans."
"But he' s no sultan, he' s a forem an. D' you understand, a drilling forem an!"
"Let' s not argue, 0 Volka," the old m an answered glum ly.
"Don' t you think it' s tim e we sat down to eat? "
"W hat about your pyjam as? " Zhenya sai d, seeing that they could not out-talk
the old m an this tim e. "You' ve carried off som eone else' s pyjam as!"
"Oh, Allah! I' ve never yet degraded m yself by stealing," Hottabych cried
If all the people at the sanatorium were not then in the dining hall, they
probably would have seen a pair of stri ped pyjam as appear suddenly in the dark
sky, com ing from the direction of Matsesta, flying at the height of the third-storey
windows. The pyjam as flew into Muham medov' s room through the open balcony
doors and draped them selves neatly over th e back of the chair, from which the
kind drilling forem an had so recently picked them up and handed them to a
Muham medov, however, forgot all about the old m an and the boys before he
even reached the dining hall.
"I found them ," he said to his room -m ate. "I found both towels. W e left them on
the bench when we sat down to rest."
Then he joined the others at the table and applied him self to his supper.
IT'S SO EMBARRASSING TO BE AN ILLITERATE GENIE!
Before Muham medov had a chance to start on his dessert, the clouds that our
travellers had left som ewhere between Tu apse and Sochi finally reached the spa
and burst forth in a loud, torrential, sub-tropical storm .
In a m oment the streets, parks and beaches becam e deserted.
Soon the storm reached the spot where, by Hottabych' s grace, the sm all crew of
the drowned m agic carpet were to spend the night on the shore of the Black Sea.
Luckily, they noticed the approaching st orm in tim e; the prospect of getting
drenched to the bone again did not appeal to them in the least. However, the m ost
im portant thing to keep dry was the ol d m an's beard. The sim plest thing to do
would have been to fly som ewhere farther south, but in the pitch darkness of the
southern night they m ight easily crash into a m ountain.
For the tim e being, they took refuge under som e bushes and considered where
'"I've got it!" Zhenya cried, jum ping to his feet. "Golly, what an idea! W e
should sm ear his beard with oil!"
"And then what? " the old m an shrugged.
"Then it won' t even get wet in another Flood, that' s what!"
"Zhenya' s right," Volka agreed, feeling a bit peeved that it was not he who had
thought of such a wonderful, scientif ically sound idea. "Hottabych, go into
Hottabych yanked out several hairs, tore one of them in two, and his beard
becam e covered with a thin layer of excellent palm oil.
Then he tore a second hair in two and they all found them selves in a
com fortable, m arble-faced cave that suddenly appeared on the steep bank. And
while a warm June storm was boom ing loudly over the Caucasian coast, they sat
on thick carpets, had a plentiful dinner and then fell asleep soundly ti
ll m orning.
They were awakened by the soft whispering of the crystal-clear waves.
The sun had long since risen.
Stretching and yawning, they went out ont o the deserted beach, bathed in the
slanting rays of the m orning sun. Im mediat ely, as if it had never existed, the cave
that had sheltered them for the night disappeared.
The boys were splashing delightedly in th e cool waves when they heard the far-
off hum of an airplane m otor com ing from the direction of Adler Airport.
A large passenger plane with glistening silver wings was flying over the
"Ah-h!" Zhenya sighed dream ily. "W oul dn' t it be nice if we could go to
Moscow in that plane? "
"That' s not a bad idea at all," Volka agreed.
Thereupon Hottabych drew som ething very thin and white from his pocket. It
resem bled a delicate silver thread. He tore it into several pieces and suddenl
three of them found them selves in com fortable reclining seats inside the airplane.
The m ost surprising thing was that none of the passengers paid the slightest
attention to them , as if they had been aboard the plane right from the start.
"Hottabych," Zhenya whispered. "W hat wa s it you tore that looked just like a
"Just a little hair from m y beard," Hottabych replied, though he seem ed
strangely em barrassed.
"But you took it from your pocket."
"I tore it out of m y beard beforehand a nd hid it in m y pocket, just ... in case....
Forgive m e, but I wasn' t sure m y oiled beard would stay dry."
"Don' t you believe in science? " Zhenya cried in am azem ent.
"I am quite well versed in the sciences," Hottabych said in a hurt voice, "bu
don' t know what kind of a science teaches you to protect a m agic beard from
getting wet by oiling it." To change the s ubject he said, "How com fortable and
speedy this air chariot is! At first, I t hought we were inside a trem endous and truly
unusual iron bird and was indeed surprised."
All conversation stopped at this point, because the old m an becam e just a tiny
bit air-sick. Rather, he was very tired. He dozed off in his seat and did not open his
eyes until they were quite near Moscow. Beneath them was the great Moscow Sea.
Volka, who was sitting beside him , wh ispered proudly, "My uncle m ade this
"Your uncle? "
"You m ean to say that you' re Allah' s nephew? " the old m an sounded very sad.
"My uncle' s an excavator operator. He' s in charge of a walking excavator. His
nam e's Vladim ir Nekrasov. If you want to know, he' s digging the Kuibyshev Sea
"My, oh m y! You m ost blessed one!" Hottabych said turning an angry red. "I so
believed you, 0 Volka! I respected you so! And suddenly you tell such horrid,
sham eful lies!"
"Is Vladim ir Nekrasov really your uncle? " the stocky m an with a broad,
weather-beaten face sitting behind them asked loudly. "Is he really? "
"He' s m y m other' s cousin."
"W hy didn' t you say so before!" the m an exclaim ed. "The boy' s got such a m an
for an uncle, and he doesn' t say a thing! W hy, he' s a rare m an, indeed! I' m on m y
way back from the Kuibyshev Sea right now. W e're working on the sam e sector.
W hy, if you want to know, we...."
Volka nodded towards a gloom y Hottabych.
"But he doesn' t believe m y uncle m ade the Moscow Sea."
"Ai-ai-ai, citizen. That' s not nice at all!" the m an began to sham e Hottabych.
"How can you doubt it? Vladim ir Nekras ov dug that sea and now he' s digging
another, and if a third sea has to be dug, he 'll dig that one, too! W hat' s the m atter?
Don' t you read the papers? Here, have a l ook. Right here. This is our paper." He
pulled a newspaper from his battered brief-case and pointed to a photograph.
"Look! That' s m y uncle!" Volka shouted. "Can I have this paper? I want to give
it to m y m other."
"Take it, it' s yours," the m an sai d. "Do you still doubt him ?" he asked
Hottabych, who now seem ed very sm all. "Her e, read the heading: ' Our W onderful
Sea-Builders.' It' s all about his uncle."
"Is it about you, too? " Zhenya asked.
"It' s m ostly about Nekrasov. I' m not fam ous. Here, read it."
Hottabych took the paper and pretended to read. Really now, he couldn' t adm it
he didn' t know how to read, could he?
That is why, on the way hom e from the airport, he asked his young friends to
teach him how to read and write, for he said he had nearly died of sham e when the
man had asked him to read the words "Our W onderful Sea-Builders."
They agreed that at the very first opport unity they would teach him how to read
the papers, because the old m an 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, 0 crystal of m y soul," Hottabych said the next day.
"On one condition only, and that' s that you won' t shy away from every bus like
a village horse. But I' m insulting village horses for nothing. They haven' t shied
away from cars in a long, long tim e. And it' s about tim e you got used to the idea
that these aren' t any Jirjises, but hone st-to-goodness Russian internal com bustion
"I hear and I obey, 0 Volka ibn Alyosha," the old m an answered tim idly.
"Then repeat after m e: I will never again be afraid of...."
"I will never again be afraid of...."
". .. buses, trolley-buses, trolley-cars, trucks, helicopters...."
"... buses, trolley-buses, trolley-cars, trucks, helicopters...."
"... autom obiles, searchlights, excavators, typewriters...."
"... autom obiles, searchlights, excavators, typewriters...." "... gram ophones,
loud-speakers, vacuum -cleaners...." " ... gram ophones, loud-speakers, vacuum -
cleaners...." "... electric plugs, TV-sets, fa ns and rubber toys that squeak.' * "...
electric plugs, TV-sets, fans and rubber toys that squeak." "W ell, I guess that takes
care of everything," Volka said. "W ell, I guess that takes care of everything,"
Hottabych repeated autom atically, and they both burst out laughing.
In order to harden the old m an's nerves, they crossed the busiest streets at least
twenty tim es. Then they rode on a trolle y-car for a long while and, finally, tired
but content, they boarded a bus.
They rode off, bouncing softly on the leather-upholstered seats.
Volka was engrossed in a copy of Pionerskaya Pravda, the children' s
newspaper. The old m an was lost in thought and kept glancing at his young
com panion kindly from tim e to tim e. Then his face broke into a sm ile, evidently
reflecting som e pleasant idea he had conceived.
The bus took them to the doorstep. Soon they were back in Volka' s room .
"Do you know what, 0 m ost honourable of secondary school pupils? "
Hottabych began the m inute the door closed behind them . "I think you should be
more aloof and reserved in your relations with the young inhabitants of yo
house. Believe it or not, m y heart was ready to break when I heard them shouting:
'Hey, Volka!' 'Hello, Volka!' and so fort h, all of which is obviously unworthy of
you. Forgive m e for being so outspoken, 0 blessed one, but you have slackened the
reins unnecessarily. How can they be your equals when you are the richest of the
rich, to say nothing of your other innum erable qualities?"
"Huh! They certainly are m y equals. On e boy is even a grade ahead of m e, and
we' re all equally rich."
"No, you are m istaken here, 0 treasure of my soul!" Hottabych cried delightedly
and led Volka to the window. "Look, and be convinced of the truth of m y words."
A strange sight m et Volka' s eyes.
A few m oments before, the left half of their trem endous yard had been
occupied by a volley-ball pitch, a big pile of fresh 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 inhabitants to enjoy.
Now, instead of all this, there towered in glittering m agnif icence three m arble
palaces in an ancient Asiatic style. Great colum ns adorned the façades. Shady
gardens crowned the flat roofs, and stra nge red, yellow and blue flowers grew in
the flower-beds. The spray issuing from exotic fountains sparkled like precious
stones in the sunlight. Beside the entran ce of each palace stood two giants holding
huge curved swords. Volka and Hottabych we nt down to the yard. At the sight of
Volka, the giants fell to their knees as one and greeted him in thunderous voices,
while terrible flam es escaped their m ouths. Volka shuddered.
"May m y young m aster not fear these beings , for these are peaceful Ifrits whom
I have placed at the entrance to glorify your nam e."
The giants again fell to their knees and, spitting flam es, they thundered
obediently, "Order us as you wish, 0 m ighty m aster!"
"Please get up! I do wish you' d get up," Volka said in great em barrassm ent.
"W hy do you keep falling on your knees all the tim e? It' s just like feudalism . Get
up this m inute, and don' t you ever let m e catch you crawling like this. Sham e on
you! Sham e on both of you!"
Looking at each other in dism ay, the Ifrits rose and silently resum ed their
previous stand of "attention."
"W ell now!" Volka m umbled. "Com e on, Hottabych, let' s have a look at your
palaces." He skipped up the steps lightly and entered the first palace.
"These are not m y palaces, they ar e your palaces," the old m an objected
respectfully as he followed Volka in.
However, the boy paid no attention to his words.
The first palace was m ade entirely of rare pink m arble. Its heavy carved
sandalwood doors were studded with silver na ils and adorned with silver stars and
bright red rubies.
The second palace was m ade of light bl ue m arble and had ten doors of rare
ebony studded with gold nails and adorned with diam onds, sapphires and
In the m iddle of the second palace was the m irror-like surface of a large pool,
the hom e 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 great dignity."
"Hm , im agine picking up one of those fi shes. It' ll bite your hand off," Volka
"And now, do m e the honour of casting a ki ndly glance at the third palace,"
They entered the portals of the third pa lace. It glittered so m agnificently that
"W hy, it' s just like the Metro! It' s just like the Kom som olskaya Station!"
"You haven' t seen it all yet, 0 blessed one!" Hottabych said quickly.
He led Volka out into the yard. Once again the giants "presented arm s," but
Hottabych ignored them and pointed to the shining golden plaques adorning the
entrances to the palaces. On each the sa me words were engraved, words which
made Volka both hot and cold at the sam e tim e:
"These palaces belong to the m ost noble a nd glorious of youths of this city, to
the m ost beautif ul of the beautif ul, the m ost wise of the wise, to him who is replete
with endless qualities and perf ections, th e unm atched and unsurpassed scholar in
geography and other sciences, the first am ong divers, the best of all swim mers and
volley-ball players, the unchallenged ch am pion of billiards and ping-pong—to the
Royal Young Pioneer Volka ibn Alyosha, m ay his nam e be glorified for ages to
com e as well as the nam es of his fortunate parents."
"W ith your perm ission," Hottabych said, bursting with pride and happiness, "I
wish, when you com e to live here with your parents, that you appoint m e a corner,
too, so that your new residence will not separate us and I m ay thus have the
opportunity at all tim es to express m y deep respect and devotion to you."
"In the first place, these inscriptions ar en' t very objective," Volka said after a
short pause, "but that' s not the m ost im portant thing in the long run. It' s not
im portant, because we' ll have to hang up new signs."
"I understand you and cannot but blam e m yse lf for being so short-sighted," the
old m an said in an em barrassed tone. "Natur ally, the inscriptions should have been
made in precious stones. You are m ost worthy of it."
"You m isunderstood m e, Hottabych. I wanted th e inscriptions to read that these
palaces belong to the RONO. (Distr ict Depar tment of E ducation. ) You see, in our country all
the palaces belong to the RONO, or to the sanatorium s."
"W hich RONO? "
Volka m isunderstood Hottabych' s question.
"It doesn' t m atter which, but I' d rath er it belonged to the Krasnopresnensky
RONO. That's the district I was born in, th at's where I grew up and learned how to
read and write."
"I don' t know who that RONO is," Hottabyc h said bitterly, "and I' m quite ready
to believe that he is a worthy person. But did RONO free m e from m y thousands
of years of im prisonm ent in the vessel? No, it was not RONO, it was you, 0
wonderful youth, and that is why these palaces will belong to you alone
"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 m an was obviously trying hard to keep his tem per.
"Does that m ean you don' t agree, 0 crystal of m y soul? "
"Of course not. W hat 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. "W e'll have to try
som ething else then!"
The palaces becam e hazy, swayed, and disso lved into thin air, like a fog blown
by the wind. The giants howled and shot upwards, where they, too, disapp
A CAMEL IN THE STREET
Instead, the yard suddenly filled with heavily laden elephants, cam els and
mules. New caravans kept arriving cons tantly. The shouts of the dark-skinned
drivers, dressed in snow-white robes, bl ended with the elephants' trum peting, the
cam els' snorting, the m ules' braying, th e stam ping of hundreds of hooves and the
melodious tinkling of bells.
A short sunburnt m an in rich silk robes clim bed down from his elephant,
approached the m iddle of the yard, and ta pped the pavem ent thrice with his ivory
cane. Suddenly, a huge fountain appeared. Im mediately drivers carrying leather
pails form ed a long queue; soon the yard was filled with the snorting, chom ping
and wheezing of the thirsty anim als.
"All this is yours, 0 Volka," Hottabych cried, trying to m ake him self heard
above the din. "W on' t you please accept m y hum ble gift? "
"W hat do you m ean by ' all this' ?"
"Everything. The elephants, and the cam els, and the m ules, and all the gold and
precious stones they carry, and th e people who are accom panying them —
everything is yours!"
Things were going from bad to worse. Volka had nearly becom e the owner of
three m agnificent but quite useless palaces, and now 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 im mediately recalled how things had gone
with the palaces. If he had been sm arter, he probably would have been able to talk
the old m an into letting the city keep them .
He had to stall for tim e to think and m ap out a plan of action.
"You know what, Hottabych? " he said, trying to sound nonchalant. "W hat do
you say if we go for a ride on a cam el, while the m en take care of the caravan? "
"It would really be a pleasure," answered the unsuspecting old m an.
A m oment later, a double-hum ped cam el appeared on the street, swaying
majestically and looking round with an arroga nt air. On its back were an excited
Volka and Hottabych, who felt quite at hom e and was fanning him self lazily with
"A cam el! A cam el!" the children shouted excitedly. They had poured out into
the street in great num bers, just as if they had all been waiting f or the cam el to
They surrounded the unruffled anim al in a close circle, and it towered over
them like a double-decker bus towers over an ice-cream cart. One of the little boys
was skipping and shouting:
They' re com ing
on a cam el!
They' re com ing
on a cam el!
The cam el approached the crossing just as the light turned red. Since it was no
used to traf fic rules, it coolly stepped across the white line with the word "STOP!"
written in large letters in f ront of it. In vain did Volka try to hold it back. The
cam el continued on its way, straight to wards the m ilitia m an who was quickly
pulling out his receipt book for fines.
Suddenly a horn blared, brakes screeched and a light blue car cam e to a stop
right under the steely-nerved cam el' s nose. The driver jum ped out and began
yelling at the anim al and its two passengers. And true enough, in another second
there would have been a terrible accident.
"Kindly pull over to the curb," the m ilitia man said politely as he walked up to
Volka had great difficulty in m aking the cam el obey this fatal order. A crowd
gathered im mediately, and everyone had an opinion to offer:
"This is the first tim e I' ve seen people riding a cam el in Moscow."
"Just think, there could have been a terrible accident!"
"W hat' s wrong with a child going for a ride on a cam el? "
"No one' s allowed to break traffic rules."
"You try and stop a proud anim al like that. That' s no car, you know!"
"I can' t im agine where people get cam els in Moscow!"
"It' s obviously from the zoo. There are several cam els there."
"It m akes m e shiver to think what could have happened. He' s an excellent
"The m ilitia m an is absolutely right."
Volka felt he was in a jam . He hung down over the cam el' s side and began to
"It' ll never happen again! Please let us go! It' s tim e to feed the cam el. This is a
"I' m sorry, but there' s nothing I can do about it," the m ilitia m an replied dryly.
"They always say it' s the f irst tim e in cases like this."
Volka was still attem pting to sof ten the stern m an's heart when he f elt
Hottabych tugging at his sleeve.
"0 m y young m aster, it m akes m e sad to see you lower yourself in order to
shield m e from any unpleasantness. All these people are unworthy of even kissing
your heels. You should let them know of the chasm that separates them from you."
Volka waved the old m an away im patientl y, but all at once he felt as he had
during the geography exam ination: once agai n he was not the m aster of his own
He wanted to say:
"Please, won' t you let us go? I prom ise ne ver to break any traffic rules as long
as I live."
Instead of this hum ble plea, he suddenly bellowed at the top of his voice:,
"How dare you, 0 despicable guard, deta in m e during the precious hour of m y
prom enade! On your knees! On your kn ees im mediately, or I' ll do som ething
terrible to you! I swear by m y beard—I m ean, by his beard!" And he nodded
At these .words, Hottabych grinned sm ugly and stroked his beard fondly.
As concerns the m ilitia m an and the crowd, the child' s insolence was so
unexpected that they were m ore dum bfounded than indignant.
"I am the m ost outstanding boy in this whole city!" Volka kept on shouting,
inwardly wishing he were dead. "You' re unworthy of even kissing m y heels! I am
handsom e! I am wise!"
"All right," the m ilitia m an answered dark ly. "They' ll see just how wise you are
down at the station."
"Goodness! W hat nonsense I' m saying! It 's really hooliganism !" Volka thought
and shuddered. Nevertheless, he continued:
"Repent, you, who have dared to spo il m y good spirits! Cease your insolence
bef ore it' s too late!"
Just then, som ething distracted Hottabyc h's attention. He stopped whispering to
Volka and for a few m oments the boy was once again on his own. As he hung
down over the side of the cam el and looked at the crowd pathetically he began to
"Citizens! Dear people! Don' t listen to m e. Do you think it' s me talking? It' s
him, this old m an, who' s m aking m e talk like this."
But here Hottabych once again picked up the reins and in the sam e breath
Volka scream ed:
"Trem ble before m e and do not anger m e, for I am terrible in m y wrath! Oh,
how fearsom e I am !"
He understood only too well that his wo rds did not frighten anyone; instead,
they m ade som e indignant, while others found them sim ply 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 that no schoolboy could
so foolishly and rudely if he were norm al.
Then a wom an shouted, "Look! The child has a fever! Look, he' s steam ing!"
"W hat disrespect!" Volka shouted back, but, to his utter horror, he saw la
puffs of black sm oke escaping his m outh at every word.
People gasped, som eone ran to call an am bulance, and Volka whispered to
Hottabych, taking advantage of the confusion:
"Hassan Abdurrakhm an ibn Hottab! I order you to take this cam el and us as far
away as possible. Im mediately. Som ewhere outside the city lim its. Otherwise, we
can get in very bad trouble. Do you hear m e? Im -m e-di-ate-ly!"
"I hear and I obey," the old m an replied in a whisper.
That very instant, the cam el and its ride rs soared into the air and disappeared,
leaving everyone behind in the greatest confusion.
A m oment later it landed gracefully on th e outskirts of the city. There its
passengers parted with it forever.
The cam el is probably still grazing there. You' ll recognize it at once if you see
it, for its bridle is studded with diam onds and em eralds.
A MYSTERIOUS HAPPENING IN THE BANK
Despite the day' s unpleasant experiences, Vo lka was in high spirits when he and
Hottabych returned hom e. He had finally h it upon an idea of how to dispose of the
endless treasures he had so suddenly acquired.
First, he asked Hottabych whether he coul d m ake the drivers, elephants, cam els,
mules and all their loads invisible.
"You need only com mand m e to do so, and it will be done."
"Fine. Then please m ake them invisibl e for the tim e being, and let' s go to bed.
W e'll have to get up at sunrise tom orrow."
"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 com pletely em pty. They went back
to their hom es in am azem ent.
Volka gulped down his supper, undressed and clim bed into bed with a happy
sigh. He only had a sheet for a cover, since it was so hot.
Hottabych, however, had decided to com ply with an ancient custom Genies
had. He becam e invisible and lay down across the threshold, to guard his young
master' s sleep. Hottabych was just about to begin a solem n conversation when the
door opened and Volka' s grandm other ente red, to say good night as always. She
tripped over the invisible old m an and nearly fell.
"W hy, som ething was definitely lying on the threshold!" she gasped when
Volka' s father cam e running.
"W here was that som ething lying? " he asked. "And what did that som ething
look like? "
"It didn' t look like anything, Alyosha."
"Mother, do you m ean to tell m e you tripped over an em pty space? " he asked
and laughed with relief, happy that she had not hurt herself.
"Yes, I guess I did," Grandm a answered in bewilderm ent and laughed, too.
Volka' s father and grandm other left.
As for Hottabych, he had wisely decide d to crawl under Volka' s bed—at least
no one would step on him there, and he would be closer to Volka.
For several m inutes no one said a word. Volka could not decide how to begin
such a ticklish conversation.
"Good night!" Hottabych said am iably from under the bed.
Volka realized he had better begin.
"Hottabych," he called, hanging his head ove r the side of the bed, "I want to
talk to you about som ething."
"Not about m y gifts to you today? " Hottabych asked warily, and when he
received an affirm ative answer he sighed.
"You see, dear Hottabych, I' d like to know whether I can do as I please with
your presents? "
"And you won' t be angry at m e, no m atter what I do with them ?"
"No, I won' t, 0 Volka. How can I dare be angry with som eone who has done so
mu ch fo r me ?"
"If it' s not too m uch trouble, Hottabych, could you please swear to that? "
"I swear!" Hottabych said in a hollo w voice from under the bed. He understood
that there m ust be a catch to this.
"That' s fine," Volka said happily. "That m eans 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 ."
"0 woe is m e!" Hottabych m oaned. "You' re refusing m y gifts again. But these
aren' t palaces! Can' t you see, 0 Volka, I'm not giving you palaces any m ore. You
might as well tell m e the truth—that the gi fts of your m ost devoted servant disgust
"Figure it out yourself, Hottabych, you' re a very wise old m an: now, what in the
world could I do with so m any treasures? "
"You could be the richest of the rich, that' s what," Hottabych grum bled. "Don' t
tell m e you wouldn' t want to be the rich est person in your country? Yet, it would
be just like you, 0 m ost capricious and puzzling of all boys I have ever m et!
Money m eans power, m oney m eans glory, money m eans friends galore! That' s
what m oney m eans!"
"W ho needs bought friends and bought glor y? You m ake m e laugh, Hottabych!
W hat' s the use of glory that' s been bought, instead of earned through honest labour
in your country' s service? "
"You forget that m oney gives you the most reliable and durable power over
people, 0 m y young and stubborn arguer."
"But not in our country."
"Next thing, you' ll be saying that peopl e in your country don' t want to get
richer. Ha, ha, ha!" Hottabych thought this was really a cutting rem ark.
"Sure they do," Volka answered patien tly. "A person who does m ore useful
work m akes m ore m oney. Sure, everyone wants to earn m ore, but only through
"Be that as it m ay, nothing could be furt her from m y m ind than to m ake m y
precious young friend seek dishonest earnings. If you don' t need these treasures,
turn them into m oney and lend the m oney out. You m ust agree, that' s a very
honourable undertaking—to lend m oney to those who need it."
"W hy, you m ust 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 vam pire, who' d ever go
to him ? If a person needs m oney, he can ask for a loan at the Mutual Aid, or
borrow som e from a friend."
"W ell then," a som ewhat disheartened Hottabych persisted, "buy as m any
goods as you can and open up your own shops in every part of the city. You' ll
becom e a well-known m erchant and ev eryone will respect you and seek your
"Don' t you understand, the Governm ent and the co-operatives are in charge of
all trade? W hy, m aking a profit by selling stuff in your own shop...."
"Hm !" Hottabych pretended to agree. "Supposing it is as you say it is. I hop
you think creating goods is an honest occupation? "
"Sure it is! See, you' re beginning to understand!" Volka said happily.
"I am extrem ely pleased." Hottabych sm ile d sourly. "I recall you once said that
your greatly respected father was a forem an in a factory. Am I correct? "
"Is he the m ost im portant m an in the factory? "
"No. He' s a forem an, but there' s a shop forem an, and a chief engineer, and a
director above him ."
"W ell then," Hottabych concluded trium pha ntly, "you can use the treasures I' ve
given you to buy your excellent father the f actory 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 fact ory he works in and all the other
factories and plants, and all the m ines and the railways, and the land and the water,
and the m ountains and the shops and th e schools, and the universities and the
clubs, and the palaces, and the theatres, and the parks, and the m ovies in the
country. And they belong to m e and to Zh enya Bogorad, 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 m illion partners. As m any
as there are people in the country."
"You have a very strange country, one that I cannot understand at all,"
Hottabych m umbled from under the bed and said no m ore.
At sunrise the next day the ringing of a telephone awakened the District
Manager of the State Bank. He was urge ntly being sum moned to the office.
W orried by such an early phone call, he dashed to his office and, upon entering the
yard of the building in which the branch was located, he saw a great num
heavily-laden elephants, cam els and m ules.
"There' s som eone here who wants to m ake a deposit," the night watchm an said
in dism ay.
"A deposit? " the m anager repeated. "So ear ly in the m orning? W hat kind of a
The watchm an handed him a sheet of pa per torn from a school notebook. It was
covered with a firm , childish scrawl. Th e m anager read the paper and asked the
watchm an to pinch him . The puzzled m an did as he was told. The m anager
winced, looked at the page again and said:
"Im possible! It' s absolutely incredible!"
A person who wished to rem ain anonym ous was giving the State Bank two
hundred and forty-six bags of gold, silver and precious stones, valued at three
thousand four hundred and sixty-seve n m illion, one hundred and thirty-five
thousand, seven hundred and three roubles and eighteen kopeks, to use as it saw
The m ost am azing thing happened a m oment later. First, the anim als which had
delivered the treasure, then, the people w ho had driven the anim als, and then, the
treasures they had brought began to sway; they becam e transparent and dissolved
in the air, just like steam . A fresh m orni ng breeze tore the sheet of paper from the
am azed m anager' 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 from and once again becam e a
clean piece of paper.
But that is not all. Strange as it m ay seem , neither the people at the branch
office of the bank, nor Volka' s neighbours, nor Volka him self ever rem embered
anything at all about the event afterwards. It was as if som eone had erased it from
their m emories com pletely.
HOTTABYCH AND SIDORELLI
It was pitiful to look at the old m an. He spent the whole day in the aquarium ,
saying that he was having an attack of rheum atism . This was certainly a f oolish
excuse, for nothing can be sillier than sitting in cold water if you hav
e rheum atism .
Hottabych lay on the bottom of the aqua rium , m oving his fins sluggishly and
swallowing water lazily. W hen either Vo lka or Zhenya approached, the old m an
would swim off to the far side and rudely turn his tail towards them . However,
whenever Volka left the room , Hottabych w ould get out 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 neve r thought of leaving it. He apparently
found som e bitter pleasure in th e fact that Volka kept pleading with him to get out
of the water and stop sulking. The old m an would listen to all his entreaties with
his tail turned towards the boy. Yet th e m oment his young friend would open his
geography book and begin to study for his exam , Hottabych would stick his head
out of the aquarium and accuse Volka of having no heart at all. How could he be
occupied with all sorts of nonsense, wh en an old m an was suffering so from
rheuma tism? !
No sooner would Volka close his book, however, than Hottabych would agai
turn his tail towards him . This went on till evening. At a little after seven o' clock,
he swished his tail and hopped out on to th e floor. He squeezed the water from his
beard and m oustache and dried them quickly at the buzzing table fan. Then he said
with som e reserve:
"You hurt m e by refusing to accept m y hum ble gifts. It' s your good luck that I
prom ised you I wouldn' t get angry. But I di d prom ise and, therefore, I' m not angry
at you, for I now see who is really re sponsible for your offending m e so, though
you do it unconsciously. It is your teachers—th ey are the root of all evil! Varvara
Stepanovna, not you, 0 youthful and ine xperienced 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 hi s beard. Som ething extraordinary was
about to happen.
"Oh, no! No, Hottabych! Dear, dear Ho ttabych!" Volka babbled as he hung on
the angry Genie' s arm s. "My word of honou r! Varvara Stepanovna' s not at all to
blam e! It was only m e..."
"No! She' s to blam e, she's to blam e!" Hottabych droned, trying to free his
"She' s not to blam e! She' s not to blam e! Upon m y word of honour, she' s not to
blam e!" Volka repeated in a frightened voi ce, while f everishly trying to think of a
way to distract the raging Genie' s atte ntion from his teacher. "You know what?
You know what? " He had finally thought of som ething: "Let' s go to the circus.
Huh, Hottabych? Let' s go to the circus! Zhe nya and I will never get tickets, but it' s
so easy for you to get them . You' re the only one who can help us get into the
circus. You' re so powerful, so am azingly all-powerful!"
The old m an was very inquisitive and an easy prey to flattery. Most im portant,
unlike all other Genies, he never rem ained angry long.
"And what does this funny word m ean? " Hottabych' s eyes burned with interest.
"Is it a m arket where they sell parrots a nd other unusual birds? Then, know ye, that
I am com pletely indif ferent to birds. I' ve had m y fill of the sight of parrots."
"Oh, no, this is a thousand tim es m ore interesting. W hy, it' s a m illion tim es, a
million m illion tim es m ore interesting!"
Hottabych im mediately forgot about Varvara Stepanovna.
"Let' s go there on a cam el. No, better s till, on an elephant. Just im agine how
everyone will envy you."
"No, don' t bother. I don' t want you to go to all that trouble," Volka objected
with suspicious haste. "If you' re not afraid, let' s go on the trolley-bus."
"W hat' s there to be afraid of? " the old m an sounded offended. "W hy, I' ve been
looking at these iron carts for four days now without any fear at all."
Half an hour later, Volka, Zhenya and Hottabych reached the recreation p
and approached the entrance to the sum mer circus.
The old m an ran over to the box-office to have a look at the tickets, and soon
he, Volka and Zhenya were holding pink tickets.
They entered the brightly-lit big top.
There were three em pty seats in one of the boxes right near the arena, but
Hottabych was quite vigorous in refusing them .
"I cannot agree to having anyone in this place sitting higher than m yself and m y
greatly respected friends. It would be below our dignity."
It was no use arguing with the old m an. W ith heavy hearts the boys clim bed to
the last row of the second balcony.
Soon attendants in crim son and gold uni form s lined up along both sides of the
entrance to the arena.
The ring-m aster announced the first act. A bare-back rider dressed in a sequined
suit and looking like a Christm as tree ornam ent rode into the ring.
"Do you like it? " Volka asked Hottabych.
"It is not devoid of interest, and it is pleasant to the eye," the old m an replied
The bare-back rider was followed by acrobats, who were followed by clown
who were followed by a dog act—this attraction m et with Hottabych' s reserved
praise—who were followed by jugglers and spring-board jum pers. Then there was
an interm ission.
It was a sham e to leave and m iss the s econd half of the show, but a geography
book opened at the very first chapter awaited Volka at hom e.
He sighed heavily and whispered to Zhenya, "W ell, I guess I' ll be going. But
you try and keep him here for at least a nother two hours. Go for a walk with him
after the show, or som ething...."
Zhenya m umbled softly, but with great em phasis:
"W e 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 and her five-year-old
granddaughter Irisha were m aking their way down the isle to the foyer.
As if by agreem ent, the boys jum ped to their feet and stood in front of the
unsuspecting old m an in a way to shield their teacher from him .
"You know what, Hottabych? " Volka choked. "Let' s go hom e! Huh? There' s
nothing of interest here today."
"Sure," Zhenya agreed, trem bling like a leaf in his fear for Varvara
Stepanovna' s life. "That' s right, let' s go hom e. W e'll walk in the park and all kinds
"Oh, no, m y young friends!" Hottabych answered innocently. "Never before
have I been so interested as I am in th is truly m agic tent. I' ll tell you what: you run
along and I' ll return as soon as this am azing perform ance ends."
W hat an idea—to leave Varvara Stepa novna alone with a Genie who hated her
They had to think of som ething, of anything at all, to occupy him during
interm ission. Once the perform ance was resum ed, his eyes would be glued on the
arena. They had to think of som ething urgently, but, fearing for Varvara
Stepanovna' s very life, Volka was com plete ly at a loss. His teeth even began to
chatter. This attracted Hottabych' s attention, for he was interested in everything.
"I tell you, Hottabych," Zhenya cam e 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.
"W hat I m ean is, since we' ve prom ised Hottabych to teach him to read and
write, we should use every free m inute for study. Isn' t that right, Hottabych? "
"Your perseverance is worthy of the greatest praise, 0 Zhenya," Hottabyc
answered. He was really touched.
"W ell, if that' s the case, here' s the circus program me. Let' s sit right down and
learn the alphabet. W e'll study all through interm ission...."
"W ith happiness and pleasure, 0 Zhenya."
Zhenya opened the program me and pointed to the first letter "A" he saw.
"This is the letter ' A,' understand? "
"Yes, 0 Zhenya."
"Now, what letter did I say it was? "
"It' s the letter ' A,' 0 Zhenya."
"Right. Now find m e all the ' A's you can on this page."
"Here' s a letter ' A,' 0 Zhenya."
"Fine! Do you see any m ore? "
"Here, and here, and here, and here, and here...."
Hottabych was so engrossed in his studies that he paid no attention at all to
anything else. By the tim e the interm ission was over and the audience had returned
to its seats, Hottabych had learned the alphabet and was reading in syll
"An ac-ro-bat on a spring ... board."
"D' you know, Hottabych, you really are gifted!" Zhenya said with true
am azem ent.
"W hat did you think? " Volka replied. "W hy, there has never been such a
talented Genie in all the world."
Hottabych read on delightedly: " ' Jum -pi ng ac-ro-bats un-der the di-rec . .. di-
rec-tion of Phil-lip Bel-ykh.' W e saw that already. ' Ev-en-ing per-for-m an-ces beg-
in at 8 p.m . Ma-ti-nees at 12 no-on.' 0 my young teachers, I have read the entire
program me. Does that m ean 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 carrying a large tray app
"W ould you care for som e ice-cream ?" sh e asked the old m an. He looked at
"Take som e, Hottabych, it' s very nice. Try it!" Hottabych tried it and he liked it.
He bought som e for the boys and another portion for him self, then a third and,
finally, being carried away, he bought the astounded 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 strang
e custom ers.
"Oho!" Zhenya winked. "Look at him pack it away." In the space of five
minutes' tim e, Hottabych had gulped down a ll forty-three bars. He ate it as one
would eat a cucum ber, biting off big c hunks and chewing loudly. He swallowed
the last m outhful just as the perform ance began.
"A world-f amous act! Presenting Af an asy Sidorelli!" The audience applauded
and the band played a loud viva. A short, m iddle-aged m an in a blue silk robe
em broidered with gold dragons entered the arena, bowing and sm iling in all
directions. It was the f amous Sidorelli him self . W hile his assistants laid out his
props on a sm all lacquered table, in pr eparation for the first m agic trick, he
continued to bow and sm ile. A gold tooth glittered in his m outh when he sm iled.
"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 m outh."
"You think so? " Volka asked absently as he watched the first trick.
"I am positive," Hottabych replied. "It' s very beautiful and rich looking."
Sidorelli com pleted the trick.
"Did you see that? " Volka asked Zhenya proudly, as if he him self had done the
"It was swell!" Zhenya answered. Volka gasped: Zhenya now had two rows of
gold teeth in his m outh.
"Volka! Oh, Volka!" Zhenya whispered in a frightened voice. "I want to tell
you som ething—but don' t get scared. All your teeth are m ade of gold."
"It' s all Hottabych' s doing, I know," Volka said dejectedly.
And true enough, the old m an, who was listening in on their conversation,
nodded and sm iled guilelessly. Then they saw that he, too, had two rows of large,
even gold teeth.
"Even Sulaym an, the Son of David (peace be on the holy twain!), did not have
such a luxurious m outh!" he boasted. "B ut don' t bother thanking m e. I assure you
that you are both worthy of this sm all surprise."
"Don' t worry, we' re in no rush to thank you!" Zhenya m uttered.
Volka was afraid the old m an m ight get angry and he tugged his friend' s sleeve.
Zhenya said no m ore.
"You see, Hottabych," be began diplom atically, "it' ll be awfully obvious if all
three of us sitting in a row have gold teeth. Everybody will look at us, and we' ll
feel em barrassed."
"I won' t be em barrassed in the least," Hottabych said.
"But still, we won' t f eel right. There won' t be any pleasure in being at the
"W ell, we wanted to ask you to m ake our teeth plain bone again till we get
"I am perfectly awed by your m odesty, 0 m y young friends!" the old m an said
in a som ewhat hurt voice.
It was a relief to feel that once again they had their own teeth in thei
r m ouths.
"W ill they turn gold again when we get hom e?" Zhenya whispered anxiously.
"Never m ind, we' ll find out later. Maybe the old m an will forget about them ."
Once again Volka becam e absorbed watc hing Afanasy Sidorelli' s breath-taking
magic. He applauded together with the rest when the m an pulled a pigeon, a hen,
and, finally, a bouncy, fluffy white poodle from an em pty box.
There was only one m an present who s howed no sign of appreciation as he
watched the m agician. This was Hottabych.
He felt very hurt, because everyone was applauding the m agician for all sorts of
trifles, while he, who had perform ed such wonderful m iracles from the tim e he had
been liberated from the vessel, had not ev en heard a single sincere word of praise,
let alone been applauded.
That is why, when the tent was once again filled with applause and Sidor
began bowing to all sides, Hassan Abdurrakhm an ibn Hottab grunted irritably and,
despite the protests of those sitting in fr ont, proceeded to clim b over them down to
the arena. An approving m urm ur passed th rough the crowd and a stout m an said to
his neighbour: "I told you that the old m an was one of them . You can tell he' s a
very experienced clown. Look how funny he is. Som etim es they sit in with the
audience on purpose."
Fortunately for the m an, Hottabych heard nothing of what ' he said, as he was
engrossed in watching the m agician. Sidore lli was about to begin his m ost difficult
First of all, the fam ous illusionist set fire to several long coloured ribbons and
stuffed them into his m outh. Then he pi cked up a large, brightly coloured bowl
filled with som ething that looked like saw dust. He stuffed his m outh full of the
sawdust and began to fan him self quickly with a beautiful green fan. The sawdust
in his m outh began to sm oulder. Then a wisp of sm oke appeared and, finally,
when the lights were turned out, everyone saw thousands of sparks and even a
sm all flam e shoot from the fam ous m agician' s m outh.
Then, am idst a storm of applause and shouts of Bravo! Hottabych' s indignant
voice could be heard.
"It' s a fake!" he shouted at the top of his lungs. "That' s no m agic! It' s sim ple
"Isn' t he som ething!" som eone shouted.
"A wonderful clown! Bravo, clown!" And everyone present except Volka and
his friend applauded Hottabych enthusiastically.
The old m an did not understand which cl own they were shouting about. He
waited for the applause he had inspired to die down and continued acidly
"W hat kind of m agic is that! Ha, ha, ha!"
He shoved the thunderstruck m agician asid e. To begin with, fifteen trem endous
multi-coloured f lam es shot f rom his m outh; they were so real that a sm ell of
burning f illed the circus.
The applause was balm to Hottabych' s h eart. Then he snapped his fingers, and
instead of one large Sidorelli, seventy-tw o tiny Sidorellis ran of f in single f ile
along the barrier surrounding the arena. Af ter com pleting several circles, they
blended into one large Sidorelli again, just as tiny drops of m ercury roll together to
form a large drop.
"That' s not all!" Hottabych thundered in a voice that was no longer hum an. He
was excited by the adm iration he had arous ed, and began to draw forth herds of
horses from under the flaps of his jacket.
The horses whinnied with fear, they pawed the ground and tossed their he
making their lovely silken m anes blow. Then, at a signal from the old m an, the
horses disappeared. Instead, four huge, ro aring African lions jum ped out from
under his jacket. They raced around the arena several tim es and also disappeared.
There was an unending storm of applause from that m oment on.
Hottabych waved his hand and everything on the arena— Sidorelli and h
assistants, and his various props, and th e elegant uniform ed attendants—all shot
into the air, com pleted several farewe ll circles over 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 sm aller size; on the second
was a third, still sm aller; on the third was a fourth... the seventh and sm allest of all
stood right under the top of the tent and was no bigger than a dog.
They trum peted in unison, their trunks rais ed on high; then all flapped their ears
like wings and flew off.
The band of thirty-three m usicians—a ll shouting happily— suddenly becam e a
single ball; it rolled down from the bandstand into the arena and along the barrier,
getting sm aller and sm aller until it was no larger than a pea. Then Hottabych
picked it up, put it in his right ear, and the m uffled sounds of a m arch could be
heard com ing from within.
The old m an was really bouncing up and dow n from excitem ent. 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 tim e, and disappear far under the big top.
Finally, only three people rem ained in the em pty circus: Hottabych, who had
wearily sat down to rest on the barrier, and the two boys, who had rushed down to
him from the last row.
"W ell, how was it? " Hottabych asked lim ply, raising his head with difficulty
and looking at the boys from strangely gl azed eyes. "That' s no Sidorelli for you, is
"He' s certainly no m atch for you," Volk a replied, winking at Zhenya angrily,
because his friend kept trying to ask the old m an som ething.
"I can' t stand f akers," Hottabych m uttere d with unexpected bitterness. "To pass
off sim ple sleight-of-hand for m iracles! And in m y presence!"
"But he didn' t know a wise and m ighty Ge nie was present here," Zhenya put in
a word for the m agician. "And anyway, he didn' t say he was perform ing m iracles.
In fact, he didn' t say anything at all."
"It says so there. It says so in the program me. You heard m e read it: ' M iracles
of Illusion.' "
"W ell, but of illusion, il-lu-sion! Don' t you understand?"
"How they applauded m e!" the old m an recalled delightedly. "But you, 0 Volka,
have never applauded nor even approve d of m e. No, I' m wrong. There was one
occasion. But it was on account of som e very sim ple m agic. I don' t even consider
it m agic.
And that evil Varvara Stepanovna is blam e. It was she who taught you to scorn
my gifts! Do not argue, 0 m y young frie nds! It was she, it was she! Such
wonderful palaces! Such a lovely little car avan! Such devoted and healthy slaves!
Such excellent cam els! And it was all because of that evil Varvara Ste..." but here,
luckily for the teacher and our young fr iends, Hottabych' s gaze fell on a long
banner hanging over the bandstand. His glazed eyes, once again took on an
intelligent expression; a weak sm ile appear ed on his 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-shing the sch-ool term . W e wish
The old m an fell silent and closed his eyes. It seem ed as if he were about to lose
"Could you bring everyone back to th eir seats? " Volka asked anxiously.
"Hottabych, can you hear m e? D' you hear me? Can you m ake everything as it was
before? I bet it' s very hard to do, isn' t it? "
"No, not at all. I m ean, 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 craftily.
"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 thirteen hairs from his beard,
tore them to bits, and shouted a strange and very long word. Then he sank down
onto the sawdust covering the floor. From high under the circus tent enraptured
people cam e whizzing down, and each one to his own seat. Sidorelli and his
assistants, the props and the uniform ed attendants, headed by the im posing ring-
master, appeared on the arena as from under the ground.
Flapping their ears loudly, all seven Afri can elephants cam e flying back. They
landed and form ed a pyram id again, only this tim e the sm allest one was on the
bottom and the big one with the twinkli ng eyes on top, right under the roof. Then
the pyram id they form ed fell apart and th ey rushed around the arena in single file,
getting sm aller and sm aller until they were no bigger than the head of a pin;
finally, they got lost in the sawdust.
The orchestra rolled out of Hottabych' s right ear like a pea;
it m ushroom ed into a huge pile of laughing people and, contrary to the law of
gravity, rolled upwards to the bandstand, wh ere it fell apart into thirty-three m en.
They took their seats and began to play a m arch.
"Let m e through, please! Let m e through!" a thin m an in large horn-rim med
glasses said, as he m ade his way through the excited crowd standing around
Hottabych. "W on' t you be so kind as to drop in at the m anager' s office? He' d like
to talk to you about perform ing in Moscow and on a road tour," he said
"Leave the old m an alone," Volka told him unhappily. "Can' t you see he' s sick?
He' s got a high fever!"
And true enough, Hottabych was really bur ning up. He had got sick from eating
too m uch ice-cream .
A HOSPITAL UNDER THE BED
He who has never had to take care of a sick Genie cannot im agine what a tiring
and bothersom e 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 hom e, where everyone
can see him .
Then again, how does one cure a Genie? Modern m edicine is useful when one
deals with people, not fairy-tale m agicians.
And, finally, can people catch Genies' diseases?
The boys discussed these problem s at great length as they rode hom e in a cab
with a delirious Hottabych.
They cam e to the following decisions:
1. They would not take him to a hospita l, but keep him as com fortable as
possible under Volka' s bed, suggesting first that, for safety' s sake, he becom e
2. They would treat him as they woul d a person who had a cold. They would
give him aspirin and tea with raspberry jam before going to sleep to m ake him
3. Genies' diseases could not possibly be catching.
Fortunately, no one was at hom e. They m ade Hottabych com fortable in his
usual place under Volka' s bed.
Zhenya ran off to buy som e aspirins and raspberry jam , while Volka went to the
kitchen to m ake som e tea.
"W ell, tea' s ready!" he said cheerf ully, entering the room with a boiling kettle.
"Let' s have som e tea, Hottabych. Hm ?"
There was no answer.
"He' s dead," Volka gasped and s uddenly, despite all the unpleasantness
Hottabych had caused him , he felt he woul d m iss the old m an terribly if he died.
"Dear, dear Hottabych!" he babbled, crawling under the bed.
The old m an was not there.
"W hat a crazy old m an!" Volka said angr ily, forgetting all his tender feelings.
"He was here a m oment ago, and now he' s disappeared!"
There is no telling what bitter words Volka would have added if Zhenya had
not then dashed into the room , dra gging a balky Hottabych behind. The old m an
was m umbling som ething.
"W hat a nut! You can' t im agine what a nut he is!" Zhenya shouted as he helped
Volka settle Hottabych under the bed again. "I was com ing 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 , 'W hat are you doing here with a high fever? ' And he said,
'I feel m y days are counted. I want to hand out alm s on this occasion.' And I said,
'You' re nuts! W hom are you going to give alm s to? Did you see any beggars here? '
And he said, ' If that' s the case, I' ll go b ack hom e.' So I dragged him back. You just
lie still and get well! There' s no use rushing death!"
They gave Hottabych a m outhful of aspi rins, then fed him the whole jar of
raspberry jam with tea, and bundled him up tightly to m ake him perspire.
For a while, the old m an lay there quietly. Suddenly, he began to fuss, trying to
get up. He said he was going to Sulaym an, the Son of David, to ask forgiveness for
som e long-forgotten ill deeds. Then he began to cry and asked Volka to run d
to the Mediterranean Sea and the Indi an Ocean and find a copper vessel on the
bottom in which his dear brother Om ar Asaf ibn Hottab was im prisoned. He
wanted Volka to free him and bring him back hom e.
"W e'd all live so happily here!" he m umbled deliriously with. bitter tears
pouring down his cheeks.
Half an hour later the old m an cam e to his senses and said in a weak voice from
under the bed:
"Oh, m y young friends, you cannot im agine how grateful I am for your love
and precious attention! W ill you please do m e a last favour: bind m y hands tightly,
because I' m afraid I m ight do such m agic while unconscious that I' ll never be able
to undo it later."
They tied him up and he im mediately fell soundly asleep.
Next m orning Hottabych awoke in the prim e of health.
"That' s what m edical attention adm inistered in tim e can do!" Zhenya said with
satisfaction. Then and there he decided to be a doctor when he grew up.
ONE IN WHICH WE RETURN TO THE BARKING BOY
To tell the truth, each tim e Volka thought of Goga, he becam e terribly envious.
If he was at hom e or on the stairs, or dow nstairs near the entrance, it was difficult
not to think of Goga:
ever so often a teasing, wonderful, m arvellous barking could be heard—even
through closed doors and closed windows.
It was m ost 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 som ething strange about it all. Finally, Volka could not keep from
asking Goga' s m other what the m atter was. She becam e terribly em barrassed and
mumbled som ething about her dear boy being sick. Then she rushed off.
"W ait a m inute!" Volka pleaded. "Can I ask you som ething? Just one
Goga' s m other stopped reluctantly.
"Can you just tell m e if it' s an Alsatian? Is it? "
"W hat Alsatian? " the poor wom an 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 disappeared quickly into her
As if for spite, a high-pitched angry barking issued forth.
It was all very m ysterious.
Just then Hottabych, who was lying in his usual place under Volka' s bed, asked
"I wonder how your enem y nam ed Pill is getting on? "
He yearned to boast about the cunning sp ell he had cast on him and share with
Volka his delight in the trouble Goga was deservedly having.
"No one but I can ever break the spell," he thought. "I can just im agine how the
most greatly-respected Volka ibn Alyosha will be pleased and how am azed he will
be at the endless variety of m y powers."
"Pill? " Volka repeated absently, for he had just thought of a very sim ple and
tem pting idea. "Pill? He' s not feeling too good. Listen, Hottabych," he crouched
down and stuck his head under the bed, in order to carry on negotiations m ore
com fortably. "I want to ask you for a big favour."
"This is it," the old Genie thought unha ppily. He suspected that Volka was
about to ask him to break the spell he ha d cast on Goga; and he decided to refuse
flatly. At least for the tim e being. It wouldn' t hurt 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 m an was pleased at not being forced to discuss Goga' s prem ature
pardon. He scurried out from under the bed.
"Just tell m e what you want and you' ll have it im mediately, 0 young and
"Could you give m e a dog? An Alsatian? "
"A dog? Nothing could be sim pler or m ore pleasing to m y heart!"
Hottabych yanked a hair from his beard. Vo lka f elt f aint f rom happiness: there,
at his feet, a m agnificent, sleek and m uscular three-year-old Alsatian stretched
with a pleasant growl. It had lively, intelligent eyes, a cold, wet nose
marvellous pointed ears. Volka patted its neck. The dog wagged its tail po
and barked loudly from an overflow of em otion.
"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 apartm ent, and the entire house
with the m ost valuable dogs. "Oh, I beg your pardon. I forgot a sm all detail."
The "sm all detail" was a collar, which appeared im mediately. It glittered with
such a m ultitude of precious stones that there would be m ore than enough for two
im perial crowns.
The unexpected happiness was alm ost m ore 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 m an's cheeks.
But there can never be com plete happiness in life, at any rate, not when you are
dealing with a Genie' s gifts! Suddenly, th ey heard the clicking of a wom an's heels
behind the door. No sooner had Hottabych da rted under the bed, there to becom e
invisible, than the door opened and Volka' s m other entered.
"That' s just what I thought," she said, looki ng at the anim al. In his haste, the old
Genie had forgotten to m ake it invisibl e. "A dog! I' d like to know where you got
it? " Volka knew he was sinking fast and sure . "I got it.... It was given to m e.... You
see.... W hat I m ean is...."
There was no sense telling her the truth, and Volka didn' t want to lie. Anyway,
there was no sense lying—his m other could always tell when he was not telling the
"Volka!" she said, raising her voice, "I don' t like your m umbling. I want you to
tell m e whose dog it is."
"It isn' t anyone' s ... I m ean, it wasn' t anybody' s before, but now it' s m ine."
His m other turned pink with indignation. "I didn' t think you would lie to m e. I
didn' t think you were capable of it. Tell me whose dog it is. W hy, the collar alone
is worth hundreds of roubles."
She thought the stones were just colour ed glass. Hottabych becam e very angry.
He was both angry and hurt. He wanted this noble, but naive wom an to understand
that Has-san Abdurrakhm an ibn Hottab was not one to present his best friends
with cheap im itations and that this truly priceless collar was worth thousands upon
thousands of roubles. But he checked him self in tim e, since he now realized such
bragging would only m ake Volka' s situation worse.
He him self was a straightforward and truthful person and was proud of Volka
for not wanting to lie, even though it was th e tiniest white lie. The only thing to do
was to stop the m isunderstanding im mediately.
"W ell then, m y kind and truthful young friend will have to do without a dog for
the tim e being. And let him not be bothered by dream s of owning a dog,"
Hottabych thought, sm iling into his beard.
A faint crystal tinkling issued from under the bed, and the dog disappeared.
"Volka, dear," his m other said, com pletely f orgetting what they had been
talking about. "If m y office calls, please tell them I'll be there in an hour or so. By
the way, do you know whom the doctor cam e to see next door? "
"Goga, I guess."
"Is he ill?"
"I think so." -
"You think so! Isn' t he your friend? "
"Som e friend!"
"I' m asham ed of you, Volka," his m other said angrily, and she turned and
walked out of the room with a stony face.
"Hm !" Volka sighed and decided to vis it Goga as soon as the doctor left.
"Hottabych! Hey, Hottabych!"
There was no answer.
"He' s gone again! W henever you have to discuss som ething with him , he' s not
there. W hat a Genie!"
Meanwhile, Hottabych was m aking him self com fortable in apartm ent 37, this
tim e under Goga' s bed. He was curious to see how the old doctor, who obviously
had no idea what a m ighty and unusual opponent he was up against, would
helplessly fum ble about in search of a correct diagnosis.
This is what was happening in the room where the m ost m ysterious of all the
old district doctor' s cases lay high on fluffed pillows, while Volka, taking
advantage of Hottabych' s absence, sat down to study his geography, and the old
Genie him self lay hidden under Goga' s bed.
The old doctor' s nam e was Alexander Alexeyevich. W e want you to know this,
in case you m eet him som e day. He was very experienced and wise.
"Now, will you please leave us alone? Ther e's som ething we have to discuss,"
he said kindly to Goga' s despairing m other.
"W ell, young m an," he said when they were alone (Hottabych under the bed
obviously did not count), "how are things? Are we still barking? "
"It' s awful!" Goga m oaned.
"Aha! W ell then, let' s just chat a bit. W hat kind of poem s do you like? "
"Bow-wow-wow!" Goga barked. His m other, who was standing just outside the
door, began to sob.
You can im agine what Goga wanted to reply to the old doctor' s question! He
was indignant and he considered it a foolish and unnecessary question. H
his barking neither surprised nor distressed the old doctor.
"Don' t get angry," Alexander Alexeyevich said in a very calm voice. "This
question has direct bearing on your illness."
"I like ' A W inter' s Evening,' a poem by Pushkin," Goga finally answered after
barking for a long while.
"W on' t you recite it for m e? Do you know it by heart? "
Goga recited four lines.
"That' s enough!" the doctor said. "Now, will you please tell m e what you think
about your classm ate, ah, what' s-his-nam e? The one who lives next door? "
"You m ean 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 m y class? " the ailing Goga sm irked. "If you want to know, all the kids in
my class are bow-wow-wow!"
"W ell, and what do you think about m e? Don' t be shy, tell m e what you really
think. W hat do you think of m e as a doctor? "
"As a doctor, I think you' re nothing but a bow-wow-wow!"
"W onderful!" Alexander Alexeyevich exclaim ed with genuine joy. "And what
do you think about your m other? "
"My m other' s very nice," Goga said. His m other, still standing behind the door,
burst out in tears, though these were t ears of happiness. "But som etim es she' s
bow...." He shuddered and fell silent. "No, she' s always very, very nice."
"And what about your class wall-newspa per? Do you have anything to say
about it? " the old doctor asked, but this tim e 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 tim e Goga kept on barking for at least two m inutes. Hottabych was tired of
listening to him , but the old doctor was so delighted that one would think it was
not Goga Pilukin, nicknam ed "Pill" for his atrocious tem per, barking, but an opera
star singing his m ost fam ous aria.
W hen Goga had barked his fill, Al exander Alexeyevich rubbed his hands
"It seem s quite clear now. But let us not be hasty and, instead, put it to the test
again. Here' s m y pen and a sheet of paper. I want you to write: ' There is no place
in our country for gossips and tattle-tales !' Have you written it? Excellent! Let m e
see it. You have written it nicely and without a single m istake. Now let' s write
another sentence. By the way, what' s your teacher' s nam e? Varvara Stepanovna?
W ell then, write this: ' Varvara Step anovna! Vanya and Petya are purposely
teaching m e to swear. I' m a conscientious boy and wish you would punish them ."
Goga' s face becam e terribly sour. So mething was obviously wrong. He kept
writing and crossing out what he had written, until the doctor finally t
messy sheet of paper away. This is what he read, chuckling, 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 tim e the unfortunate Goga had written in another "bow-wow-
wow" over the one that had been crossed out.
"The com mittee' s findings are clear," th e doctor said, folding the two papers
and putting them away in his wallet. "P lease com e in!" he called to Goga' s
She entered, dabbing her eyes with a dam p hanky.
After she had sat down, Alexander Alexeyev ich said, "I have to inform you that
I didn' t sleep a wink last night, because I was busy looking through m y m edical
books and thinking. I could find nothing at all which even vaguely resem
son' s case."
The poor wom an gasped nervously.
"Do not despair, m y good wom an," th e old doctor said. "Things are not
hopeless. I read on and on, and thought a gr eat deal. And after that I naturally
could not fall asleep, for I' m getting on in years. Seeking distraction, I picked up a
volum e of Arabian Nights and read a tale about a m agician or, rather, a Genie,
changing a person he disliked into a dog. Th en I thought that if there really were
Genies in the world (Hottabych lying unde r the bed was offended) and if one of
them decided to punish som eone, say a boy, for gossiping, tattling, and thinking
poorly of his friends, he could cast a spe ll on him that would m ake him bark each
tim e he wanted to say som ething bad. Your son and I just had a long talk and we
discovered that he could recite a poem by Pushkin without barking at all and speak
of you with hardly a sm all bark, and then bark incessantly when talking of his
friends or the school newspaper, in which he had apparently been criticized several
tim es. Do you understand what I' m getting at? I do hope I' ve m ade m yself clear."
"Do you m ean," Goga' s m other said thoughtfully, "that..."
"Exactly. Naturally, there aren' t a ny Genies and there never were any.
(Hottabych again felt hurt, this tim e even m ore than before.) W hat your son has is
a very strange kind of psychological trau ma. And I m ust warn you that he will
continue barking in the future...."
"Oh m y goodness!" the poor wom an wailed.
"Yes, he will bark each tim e he decides to tattle or gossip, or whenever he tries
to say som ething unpleasant. And then people will no longer call him Goga
Pilukin, but Bow-W ow Pilukin. And this will continue when he grows up,
although no one will call him that to hi s face. As you see, your son m ay find
him self in a very unhappy situation. However, if he m akes a firm resolution never
to tattle, gossip, or spoil good people' s liv es, I can guarantee you that he will stop
barking once and for all."
"Bow-W ow Pilukin!" Goga' s unfortuna te m other thought and shuddered. "How
horrible! I would never survive it. But what about som e m edicine? W on' t you at
least write out a prescription for som e m edicine? "
"In this case, no m edicine will help. W ell, young m an, shall we give it a try?"
"And I won' t bark at all any m ore? "
"Everything depends entirely on you."
"Then you won' t leave a prescription? " Goga' s m other asked again, seeing that
the doctor was about to leave.
"I gave you m y prescription, the only one that will work. However, we can
check on it. Now, won' t you say a few fair words about your friend Volka? I want
you to pay special attention: I said ' fair.' "
"Sure, Volka Kostylkov' s a good fellow," Goga m umbled hesitantly, as if he
were just learning how to talk. "You' re right dear, dear doctor! This is the f irst tim e
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.
"W hy, nothing special. Can' t a boy suddenl y becom e ill from overwork?" Goga
went on in a m uch m ore confident tone.
"I guess I' ll be going along," Alexander Alexeyevich said. "I have to visit a
good dozen real patients. I take it you understood everything, Goga? "
"Yes! Oh, yes! Upon m y word of honour! Thank you!"
"W ell, then, keep it up! Good-bye, everyone."
"W here' d you disappear to? " Volka shouted at the old Genie several seconds
later, as Hottabych crawled back to hi s place under his bed with a very thoughtful
expression-on his face.
"Listen, 0 Volka," the old m an said with great solem nity. I just witnessed a
most unusual scene: a spell cast by a Ge nie was broken by a hum an being! True,
this was a very wise and very just hum an being. He was so just that I didn' t even
think of punishing him for not believing in m y existence. W here are you going?
"I have to visit Goga. I should really be asham ed of m yself."
"Yes, do go and visit your classm ate. Though he is no longer ill."
"Not ill at all? Did he get well so quickly?"
"That depends entirely on him ," Hottabyc h said. And pocketing his own pride,
he told Volka about the only known case of curing a boy who barked.
HOTTABYCH AND MR. MONEYBAGS
"0 blessed Volka," Hottabych said as he basked happily in the sun after
breakfast, "each tim e I present you with gifts which 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 m e what you and your young frie nd would care for. I would consider it
a great honour and joy to fulfil your wish on the spot."
"If that' s the case, would you please give m e a pair of large navy binoculars? "
Volka said prom ptly.
"W ith the greatest of pleasure and joy."
"I' d like a pair of binoculars, too. I m ean, if it' s all right with you," Zhenya
"Nothing could be sim pler."
The three of them set out for a large second-hand shop, located on a busy little
side street in the centre of the city. The shop was crowded and our frie
difficulty in pushing their way to the counter. There were so m any odd item s on
the shelves that they could never be sort ed according to any system , for then there
would have to be a separate section for each item .
"Show m e, 0 sweet Volka, what these binoculars so dear to your heart look
like," Hottabych said happily but then suddenly turned pale and began to
He looked at his young friends sadly, burst into tears and said in a hollow voice,
"Farewell, 0 light of m y eyes!" Then, shoving the people in the shop aside, he
headed towards a grey-haired ruddy-com plexioned foreigner and fell to his knees
before the m an.
"Order m e as you will, for I am your obedient and hum ble slave!" Hottabych
mumbled, swallowing his tears and trying to kiss the flap of the foreigner' s jacket.
"Sham e on you, citizen, to go begging in our tim es!" one of the shop assistants
said to Hottabych.
"And so, how m any I should have pay you for this bad ring? " the foreigner
continued nervously in bad Russian, after being interrupted by Hottabych
"Only ten roubles and seventy kopeks," th e clerk answered "It certainly is an
odd item ."
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 tim e
com bing the second-hand shops in the hope of acquiring a treasure for a song
"Quite recently he had bought half a dozen china cups of the Lom onosov
Pottery very cheaply and now, just when an inconsolable Hottabych had fa
his knees before him , he was prici ng a tim e-blackened ring which the clerk
thought was m ade of silver and Mr. M oneybags thought was m ade of platinum .
W hen he received his purchase he put it in his vest pocket and left the sh
Hottabych rushed out after him , wiping th e tears that poured down his wrinkled
old face. As he passed his friends, he barely had tim e to whisper:
"Alas! This grey-haired foreigner holds the m agic ring of Sulaym an, the Son of
David (on the twain be peace!). And I am the slave of this ring and m ust follow its
owner. Farewell, m y friends. I' ll always rem ember you with gratitude and love...."
Only now, when they had parted with Hottabych forever, 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 ri ver bank, where, as of late, they were
wont to sit long hours having heart-to-hear t talks. They lay on the bank for a long
tim e, right near the place where such a short while ago Volka had found the slim y
clay vessel with Hottabych. They recalled the old m an's funny but endearing ways
and becam e m ore and m ore convinced that , when all was said and done, he had
had a very pleasant and kind nature.
"There' s no use denying it. W e didn' t appreciate Hottabych enough," Zhenya
said critically and heaved a sigh.
Volka turned on his other side and was a bout to reply, but instead he jum ped to
his feet quickly and ran off.
"Hurray! Hottabych is back! Hurray!"
And true enough, Hassan Abdurrakhm an ibn Hottab was approaching them in a
quick old m an's shuffle. Dangling over hi s 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
"Know ye, 0 m y young friends, that m y st ory is strange and m y adventures
most unusual. I want you to sit beside m e while I tell you how I cam e to be here
"It so happened, that when the ruddy-faced foreigner left the shop, he continued
on foot, in order to shake off a little of the fat that covers his well-fed body so
plentif ully. 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 m e
to follow you, 0 m y m aster!'
"But he would not listen and conti nued on his way. I caught up with him
eighteen tim es in all and eighteen tim es I fell on m y knees before him and eighteen
tim es he left m e where I was.
"And so we continued on until we cam e to his house. I wanted to follow him in,
but he shouted, ' You do not push into m y room s or I will be calling a m ilitia m an!'
Then I asked him whether I was to sta nd by his door all day and he replied, ' Till
next year if you want to!'
"And I rem ained outside the door, fo r the words of one who possesses
Sulaym an' s ring are law to m e. And I stood there for som e tim e until I heard a
noise overhead and the window opened. I l ooked up and saw a tall thin wom an in
a green silk dress standing by the wi ndow. Her laugh was bitter and taunting.
Behind her stood the sam e foreigner w ho now looked extrem ely put out. The
wom an said derisively, ' Alas, how m istaken I was when I m arried you fourteen
years ago! You always were and always will be a very ordinary haberdashe
goodness, not to be able to tell a worthless silver ring from a platinum one! Oh, if
only m y poor father had known!'
"And she tossed the ring down on the pave ment and shut the window with a
bang. I saw this and dropped senseless to the ground, for if Sulaym an' s ring is
thrown to the ground terrible calam ities m ay occur. But then I opened m y eyes and
becam e convinced that I was alive a nd nothing unfortunate had happened. I
gathered from this that I can consider m yself lucky.
"Then I jum ped to m y feet and blessed m y fate. I picked up the ring and ran
back to you, m y friends, having previously procured the presents you so desired.
That' s all I have to say."
"It' s just like in a f airy-tale," Zhenya cried excitedly when the old m an had
finished his story. "Can I hold the m agic ring a little?"
"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 im mediately."
"Golly!" Zhenya said, putting on the ring. He turned it and said in a loud voice,
"I want a bicycle right now!" All three he ld their breaths in expectation. However,
no bicycle appeared.
Zhenya repeated still louder, "I want to have a bicycle im mediately! This very
But the bicycle just wouldn' t appear.
"Som ething m ust have gone wrong with the ring," Volka said, taking it from
Zhenya and looking at it closely. "Look, th ere' s som ething 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 m ake a m istake," Volka said m agnanim ously, looking at a
confused Hottabych with sym pathy. "I' m glad the ring has turned out to be a plain
ordinary one. And thanks a lot for the presents."
The boys turned away tactfully, took thei r binoculars from the leather cases and
began enjoying their wonderful presents . The far-off houses cam e right up to the
river, tiny dots turned into walking pe ople, and a car speeding down the road
seem ed about to knock the happy owner of a pair of binocular s off his feet. One
could not even dream of bigger enlargem ent.
"Hottabych," Volka said several m inutes later, "here, have a look at who' s
com ing towards us." He handed his binoc ulars over to Hottabych, who had already
discerned Mr. Harry Moneybags in person walking rapidly towards them . In fact,
he was running, huffing and puffi ng from his great weight.
W hen Mr. Moneybags noticed that he was being watched he slowed down and
continued on nonchalantly, as if he were in no hurry at all, as if he were m erely
strolling along to get away from the city noises. W hen he cam e up close, his red
face contorted into a sickeningly sweet sm ile and he said:
"Oh, m y goodness! How pleasant and unexpected m eetings!"
As he approaches our friends to shake their hands enthusiastically, we shall
explain why he has again appeared in our story.
It so happened that Mrs. Moneybags was in a black tem per that day, and that is
why she tossed the ring out of the window so hastily. After she had tossed it out,
she rem ained standing at the window to calm her nerves. It was then that she
noticed with interest an old m an picki ng the ring up from the gutter and dashing
off as fast as he could.
"Did you see that? " she said to her cr estfallen husband. "W hat a funny old m an!
He grabbed up that cheap ring as if it had an em erald in it and scam pered off."
"Oh, that was a very bothersom e old m an!" her husband answered in a m ore
lively tone. "He cam e up to m e back in the second-hand shop and hung on to m e
right to our doorstep, and just im agine, m y dear, he kept falling to his knees before
me and shouting, ' I am your slave, because you have Sulaym an' s ring!' and I said,
'Sir, you are greatly m istaken. I have just bought this ring and it belongs to no one
but m e.' But he was stubborn as a m ule and kept on saying, ' No, it' s Sulaym an' s
ring! It' s a m agic ring!' And I said, ' No, it' s not a m agic ring, its a platinum one!'
And he said, ' No, m y m aster, it' s not pla tinum , it' s a m agic ring!' and he pretended
he wanted to kiss the flap of m y jacket."
His wife gazed at him with loathing a nd then, apparently unable to stand his
sm ug expression, she looked awa y. Her eyes cam e upon a copy of Arabian Nights
lying on the couch. Suddenly she was struck by an idea. Mrs. Moneybags
collapsed into the nearest arm chair and whispered bitterly:
"My God! How unlucky I am to be obliged to live with such a m an! Som eone
with your im agination, Sir, should be an undertaker, not a businessm an. A lizard
has m ore brains than you!"
"W hat' s the m atter, m y dear? " her husband asked anxiously.
"Gentlem en," Mrs. Moneybags wailed tr agically, though there was no one save
them selves in the room . "Gentlem en, this m an wants to know what' s the m atter!
Sir, will you be kind enough to catch up with the old m an immediately and get the
ring back before it' s too late!"
"But what do we want it for? It' s a ch eap little silver ring, and a hom e-m ade one
"This m an will surely drive m e to m y grave! He keeps asking m e why I want
King Solom on' s m agic ring! Gentlem en, he wants to know why I need a ring that
can fulfil one' s any wish, that can m ake one the richest and m ost powerful m an in
"But, m y dove, where have you ever seen a m agic ring before? "
"And where have you ever seen anyone in this country fall on his knees before
another and try to kiss his hand? "
"Not m y hand, m y sweet, m y jacket!"
"All the m ore so! W ill you please be so kind as to catch up with the old m an
im mediately and take back the ring! And I don' t envy you if you com e back
Such were the events which caused the red-faced husband of the terrible Mrs.
Moneybags to appear so suddenly before Hottabych and his friends.
Had Mr. Moneybags been in Hottabych' s place, he would never have returned
the ring, even if it were an ordinary one, and especially so if it were a m agic one.
That is why he decided to begin from afar.
"Oh, m y goodness! How happy and unexpected surprise!" he cried with so
sweet a sm ile that one would think he ha d dream ed of becom ing their friend all his
life. "W hat a wonderful weather! How you feel? "
Hottabych bowed silently.
"Oh!" Mr. Moneybags exclaim ed with fe igned surprise. "I see on your finger
one silver ring. You give m e look at this silver ring? "
"W ith the utm ost of pleasure," Hotta bych answered, extending his hand with
the ring on it.
Instead of adm iring the ring, Mr. M oneybags suddenly snatched it off
Hottabych' s finger and squeezed it onto his own fleshy finger.
"I thanking you! I thanking you!" he wheezed and his already purple face
becam e still redder, so that Hottabych feared Mr. Moneybags m ight even have a
"You have buy this ring som eplace? "
He expected the old m an to lie, or at least to try every m eans possible to get
back the alm ighty ring. Mr. Moneybags sized up the skinny old m an and the two
boys and decided he would be m ore than a m atch 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 gutter near your house. I
t is your
ring, 0 grey-haired foreigner!"
"Oh!" Mr. Moneybags exclaim ed happily. "You are very honest old m an! You
will be m y favourite servant!"
At these words the boys winced, but said nothing. They were interested to know
what would follow.
"You have very good explained to m e before that this ring is m agic ring. I can
actually have fulfil any wish? " Hottabyc h nodded. The boys giggled. They decided
that Hottabych was about to play a trick on this unpleasant m an and were ready to
have a good laugh.
"Oh, thank you, thank you!" Mr. Moneybags said. "You will be explaining how
I use m agic ring."
"W ith the greatest of pleasure, 0 m ost ruddy-faced of foreigners!" Hottabych
answered, bowing low. "You take the m agic ring, put it on the index finger of your
left hand, turn it and say your wish."
"And it has to by all m eans com e true? "
"Most different various kind of wish? "
"Any wish at all."
"Ah, so?" Mr. Moneybags said with sa tisfaction and his face at once becam e
cold and arrogant. He turned the ri ng around quickly and shouted to Hottabych,
"Hey, you foolish old m an! Com ing here! You be packing m y m oneys!"
His insolent tone enraged Volka and Zh enya. They m oved a step forward and
were about to open their m ouths to reprim and him , but Hottabych waved them
away angrily and approached Mr. Moneybags.
"Begging your pardon, sir," the old m an said hum bly. "I don' t know what kind
of m oney you m ean. Show m e som e, so I know what it looks like."
"Cultured m an m ust know how m oneys look," Mr. Moneybags m uttered.
And taking a f oreign bill f rom his pocket, he waved it in f ront of Hottabych and
then put it back.
"And now. Now is tim e to begin business, " said Mr. Moneybags. "Let m e have
now one hundred bags of m oneys!"
"You have a long wait com ing!" Volka sn ickered and winked at Zhenya. "That
Mr. Moneybags has got his teeth into the m agic ring. ' W ear it, Katya, and
remember me.' "
"Let m e have im mediately com ing one thousand bags of m oneys," Mr.
He was disappointed: the m oney did not appear. The boys watched him with
open m alice.
"I can' t see m oneys! W here is m y one thousand bags of m oneys? " Mr.
Moneybags bellowed and im mediately fe ll senseless to the ground, having been
struck by a huge sack which dropped out of the blue.
W hile Hottabych was bringing him back to his senses, the boys opened the
One hundred carefully tied bags of m one y were stuffed in side. Each bag
contained one hundred bills.
"W hat a funny ring!" Zhenya m uttered unhapp ily. "It won' even give a decent
person a bike, but this character gets hundred bags of m oney just for nothing! That
sure is som e 'W ear it, Katya, and remember me,' for you!"
"It sure is strange," Volka shrugged.
Mr. Moneybags opened his eyes, saw the ba gs of m oney; jum ped to his feet,
counted the bags and saw that there were exactly one hundred of them . However,
his happy sm ile soon vanished. No sooner ha d his shaking hands tied the valuable
sack than his eyes once again began to glitter greedily.
He pressed the sack to his fat chest, turned the ring around again and s
"One hundred bags is little! I want im mediately one m illion! Right away now!"
He barely had tim e to jum p aside when a huge sack weighing at least ten tons
crashed to the ground. The force of the crash split the canvas sack and
a m illion
bags of m oney spilled out on the grass. Each bag contained a hundred bills.
These bills in no way dif fered f rom real money, except f or the f act that they all
had the sam e serial num ber. This was the num ber Hottabych had seen on the bill
the greedy owner of the m agic ring had shown him .
Mr. Moneybags would certainly have been grieved to discover this, for an
bank-teller would have noticed that all th e num bers were the sam e, and that would
mean it was counterfeit m oney. However, Mr. Moneybags had no tim e to check
the serial num bers just now. Pale from ex citem ent, he clim bed to the top of the
precious pile and stood up to his full height like a m onum ent, like a living
em bodim ent of greed. Mr. Moneybag' s hair was dishevelled, his eyes burned with
insane fire, his hands trem bled and his heart thundered in his breast.
"And now ... and now... and now I want te n thousand gold watches strewn with
diam onds, twenty thousand gold cigarette cas es, thirty . .. 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.
"0 red-faced foreigner, don' t you thi nk what you have received is enough? "
Hottabych asked sternly.
"Silence!" Mr. Moneybags yelled and stam ped his feet in rage. "W hen the boss
do business, the servant m ust silence! Ring, do as m y wish is! Fast!"
"Go back where you cam e from , you old gr abber!" Volka shouted. "Out of our
country! W e'll propel you out of here!"
"May it be so," Hottabych agreed and yanked four hairs from his beard.
That very m oment the sacks of m oney, the crates of china, watches and
necklaces, everything the silver ring had brought— disappeared. Mr. Moneybags
him self rolled down the grass and along th e path very quickly, heading in the
direction from which he had recently co me so full of hopes. In no tim e he was
gone with just a little puff of dust to show where he had been.
After the boys had regained their com posure and calm ed down, Volka said in a
thoughtful tone, "I can' t understand what sort of a ring it is—a pl ain one or a m agic
"W hy, a plain one, of course," Hottabych answered kindly.
"Then why did it fulfil that robber' s wishes? "
"It was I who fulfilled them , not the ring."
"You? W hy? "
"It was just a m atter of politeness, 0 cu rious youth. I felt indebted to the m an,
because I bothered him in the shop and annoyed him on the way hom e, right up to
his very doorstep. 1 felt it wouldn' t be fair not to fulfil a few of his wishes, but his
greed and his black soul turned m y stom ach."
"That' s right!"
W hen they left the river bank and wa lked along the street, Hottabych stepped
on a sm all round object. It was the ring with the inscription: "Wear it, Katya, and
remember me," which Mr. Moneybags m ust have lost as he rolled away.
The old m an picked it up, wiped it with his huge, bright-blue handkerchief, and
put it on his right sm all finger.
The boys and the old m an cam e hom e, went to bed and woke up the next
morning, but Mr. Moneybags was still rolli ng and rolling away hom e to where he
had com e from .
On a bright and sunny sum mer day our fr iends set out to see a football gam e.
During the soccer season the entire population of Moscow is divided into two alien
cam ps. In the one are the football fans; in the other are those queer people who are
entirely indifferent to this fascinating sport.
Long before the beginning of the gam e, these first stream towards the high
entrance gates of the Central Stadium from all parts of the city.
They look upon those who are heading in the opposite direction with a feeling
In turn, these other Muscovites shrug in am azem ent when they see hundreds of
crowded buses and trolley-buses and thousands of cars crawling through the
turbulent sea of pedestrian fans.
But the arm y of fans which appears so unified to an onlooker is actually torn
into two cam ps. This is unnoticeable while the fans are m aking their way to the
stadium . However, as they approach the gates, this division appears in all its
ugliness. It suddenly becom es evident that som e people have tickets, while others
do not. The possessors of tickets pass through the gates confidently; th
e others dart
back and forth excitedly, rushing at new arrivals with the sam e 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 m any people in need of them ,
that if not for Hottabych, Volka and Zhenya would have certainly been left outside
"W ith the greatest of pleasure," Hotta bych m urm ured in reply to Volka' s
request. "You' ll have as m any as you need in a m inute."
No sooner were these words out of hi s m outh, than the boy saw him holding a
whole sheaf of blue, green and yellow tickets. "W ill this be enough, 0 wonderful
Volka? If not, I' ll...." He waved the tickets . This gesture nearly cost him his life.
"Look, extra tickets!" a m an shouted, m aking a dash for him . A few seconds later
no less than a hundred and fifty excited people were pressing Hottabych'
against the concrete fence. The old m an 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! W ho needs an extra ticket? W ho needs som e extra tickets? "
At these m agic words the people who had been closing in on a distraught
Hottabych rushed towards Volka, but the boy darted into the crowd and
disappeared. A m oment later he and his two friends handed the gate-keeper three
tickets and passed through the North Gate to the stadium , leaving thousands of
inconsolable fans behind.
No sooner had the friends found their seats, than a girl in a white apro
a white lacquered box approached them .
"W ould you like som e ice-cream ?" she asked and shrieked. W e m ust be fair.
Anyone else in her place would have been just as frightened, for what answer
could an ice-cream vendor expect?
In the best of cases: "Yes, thank you. Tw o, please." In the worst of cases: "No,
Now, just im agine 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 becam e bloodshot and he
bristled all over. He leaned over to her and whispered in a fierce voice
"A-a-ah! You want to kill m e with your foul ice-cream ! W ell, you won' t,
despicable thing! The forty-six ice-cream s which I, old fool that I am , ate in the
circus nearly sent m e to m y grave.
They have been enough to last m e the rest of m y life. Trem ble, wretch, for I' ll
turn you into a hideous toad!"
At this, he rose and raised his dry wr inkled arm s over his head. Suddenly a boy
with sun-bleached eyebrows on his freckled face hung onto the old m an's arm s and
shouted in a frightened voice, "She' s not to blam e 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 m an answered obediently. He let down his arm s and
resum ed his seat. Then he addressed the frightened young lady as follows, "You
can go now. I forgive you. Live in peace and be grateful to this youth till the end
of your days, for he has saved your life."
The young lady did not appear in their s ection again for the rem ainder of the
HOW MANY FOOTBALLS DO YOU NEED?
Meanwhile, the stadium was f ull of that very special festive atm osphere which
pervades it during decisive football m atches. Loud-speakers blared. A hundred
thousand people were heatedly discussing the possible outcom e of the gam e, thus
giving rise to a hum of hum an voices inco mparable to anything else. Everyone was
im patiently awaiting the um pire' s whistle.
Finally, the um pire and the linesm en appeared on the em erald-green field. The
um pire was carrying a ball which was to be kicked back and forth—thus
covering quite a few m iles on land and in the air—and, finally, having landed in
one goal m ore tim es than in the other, was to decide which team was the winner
that day. He put the ball down in the centr e of the field. The two team s appeared
from their locker room s and lined up opposite each other. The captains shook
hands and drew lots to see which t eam was to play against the sun. The
unf ortunate lot f ell to the Zubilo team , to the great satisfaction of the Shaiba team
4 and a portion of the fans.
"W ill you, 0 Volka, consider it possible to explain to your unworthy servant
what these twenty-two pleasant young men are going to do with the ball? "
Hottabych asked respectfully.
Volka waved his hand im patiently and said, "You' ll see for yourself in a
At that very m oment a Zubilo player kicked the ball sm artly and the gam e was
"Do you m ean that these twenty-two nice young m en will 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 few seconds? And all because they
gave them just this one ball f or all twenty-two of them ?" Hottabych asked in a
very displeased voice a few m inutes later.
Volka was com pletely engrossed in the ga me and did not reply. He could not be
bothered with Hottabych at a tim e when th e Shaiba' s forwards had got possession
of the ball and were approaching the Zubilo goal.
"You know what, Volka? " Zhenya whispered. "It' s real luck Hottabych doesn' t
know a thing about football, because he' d surely stick his finger in the pie!"
"I know," Volka agreed. Suddenly, he gasped and jum ped to his feet.
At that very m oment, the other hundred t housand fans also jum ped to their feet
and began to shout. The um pire' s whistle pierced the air, but the players had
already com e to a standstill.
Som ething unheard-of in the history of football had happened, som ething that
could not be explained by any law of natu re: twenty-two brightly coloured balls
dropped from som ewhere above in the sky and rolled down the field. They were
all m ade of top-grain m orocco leather.
"Outrageous! Hooliganism ! W ho did this? " the fans shouted.
The culprit should have certainly been taken away and 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 who was responsi
"See what you' ve gone and done? " Volka whispered. "You' ve stopped the gam e
and prevented the Shaiba team from m aking a sure point!"
However, Volka was not especially displeased at the team 's m isfortune, for he
was a Zubilo fan.
"I wanted to im prove things," Hotta bych whispered guiltily. "I thought it would
be m uch better if each player could play with his own ball as m uch as he wanted
to, instead of shoving and chasing around like m ad on such a great big field."
"Golly! I don' t know what to do with you! " Volka cried in despair and pulled
the old m an down. He hurriedly explained the basic rules of football to him . "It' s a
sham e 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 anyone' s eyes any m ore. This way,
the Shaiba players have a terrific adva ntage, and for no good reason at all," he
concluded em phatically, hoping Hottabych would bear his words in m ind.
"Yes, it really is unfair," the old m an agreed. W hereupon the sun im mediately
disappeared behind a little cloud and stayed there till the end of the g
Meanwhile, the extra balls had been take n off the field, the um pire totalled up
the tim e wasted, and the gam e was resum ed.
After Volka' s explanation, Hottabych bega n to follow the course of the m atch
with ever-increasing interest. The Shaiba players, who had lost a sure point
because of the twenty-two balls, were nervous and were playing badly. The old
man f elt guilty and was conscience-stricken.
HOTTABYCH ENTERS THE GAME
Thus, the sym pathies of Volka Ko stylkov and Hassan Abdurrakhm an ibn
Hottab were fatally divided. W hen the first beam ed with pleasure (and this
happened every tim e a Shaiba player m issed the other team 's goal), the old m an
becam e darker than a cloud. However, when the Zubilo forwards m issed the
Shaiba goal, the reaction was revers ed. Hottabych would burst out in happy
laughter and Volka would becom e terribly angry.
"I don' t see what' s so funny about it, Hottabych. W hy, they nearly m ade a
"'Nearly' doesn' t count, m y dear boy," Hottabych would answer.
Hottabych, who was witnessing a football gam e for the f irst tim e in his lif e, did
not know there was such a thing as a fan. He had regarded Volka' s concern about
the sun being in the Zubilo' s eyes as the boy' s desire for fair play. Neither he nor
Volka suspected that he had suddenly b ecom e 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 ev
took place at the stadium that day.
It all began during a very tense m oment, when the Zubilo forwards were
approaching the Shaiba goal and Volka bent over to Hottabych' s ear, whispering
"Hottabych, dear, please m ake the Shaiba goal a little wider when the Zubilo
men kick the ball." The old m an frowned.
"Of what good will this be to the Shaiba team ?"
"W hy should you worry about them ? It' s good for the Zubilo team ."
The old m an said nothing. Once again the Zubilo players m issed. Two or three
minutes later a happy Shaiba player kicked the ball into the Z ubilo 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 the spare players when the gam e
had passed over to the far end of the field.
"You see, when they kicked the ball, the right goal post... upon m y sacred word
of honour ... the right goal post... m oved about a half a yard away and let the ball
pass. I saw it with m y own eyes!"
"Have you taken your tem perature? " the spare player asked,
"You sure m ust have a high fever!"
"Hum ph!" the goalie spat and stood tensely in the goal.
The Shaiba players were out-m anoe uvring the defence and were fast
approaching the Zubilo goal.
Barn! The second goal in three m inutes! And it had not been the Zubilo goalie' s
fault either tim e. He was f ighting like a tiger. But what could he do? At the
moment the ball was hit, the cross-bar ro se of its own accord, just high enough to
let it pass through, brushing the tips of his fingers.
W hom could he com plain to? W ho woul d ever believe him ? The goalie felt
scared and forlorn, just like a little boy who finds him self in the m iddle 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 te ll anyone, n-n-no one will ever b-b-believe
you." "That' s just it, no one' ll believe m e," the goalie agreed sadly. Just then, a
quiet scandal was taking place in the Nort h Section. A m oment before the second
goal, Volka noticed the old m an furtively yank a hair from his beard.
"W hat did he do that for? " he wondered uneasily, still unaware of the storm
gathering over the field. However, even this thought did not com e to Volka
The gam e was going so badly for the Zub ilo team that he had no tim e to think
of the old m an.
But soon everything becam e perfectly clear.
The first half of the gam e was neari ng an end, and it seem ed that Luck had
finally turned its face towards the Zub ilo team , The ball was now on the Shaiba
side of the field. The Zubilo m en were ploughing up the earth, as the saying goes,
and soon their best forward kicked the ball with trem endous force into the top
corner of the Shaiba goal.
All one hundred thousand fans jum ped to th eir feet. This sure goal was to give
the team its first point. Volka and Zhenya , two ardent Zubilo fans, winked happily
to each other, but im mediately groaned with disappointm ent: it was a sure goal,
but the ball sm acked against the cross-bar so loudly that the sound echoed all over
the stadium .
This sound was echoed by a loud wail from the Shaiba goalie:
the lowered cross-bar had fouled a goa l, but it had knocked him sm artly on the
Now Volka understood all and was terrified.
"Hassan Abdurrakhm an ibn Hottab," he said in a shaking voice. "W hat' s this I
see? You know both Zhenya and I are Zubilo fans, and here you are, against u
You' re a Shaiba fan!"
"Alas, 0 blessed one, it is so!" the old m an replied unhappily.
"Didn' t I save you from im prisonm ent in the clay vessel? " Volka continued
"This is as true as the f act that it is now day and that there is a great future
ahead of you," Hottabych replied in a barely audible voice.
"Then why are you helping the Shaiba team instead of the Zubilo team ?"
"Alas, I have no power over m y actions ," Hottabych answered sadly, as large
tears stream ed down his wrinkled face. "I want the Shaiba team to win."
THE SITUATION BECOMES MORE TENSE
"Just wait, nothing good will com e of it!" Volka threatened.
"Be that as it m ay."
That very m oment the Zubilo goalie s lipped on an extrem ely dry spot and let
the third ball into the goal.
"Oh, so that' s how it is! You won' t liste n to reason, will you? All right then!"
Volka jum ped onto the bench and shouted, pointing to Hottabych:
"Listen; everyone! He' s been helping the Shaiba team all the tim e!"
"W ho' s helping them ? The um pire? W hat do you m ean? " people began to
"No, not the um pire! W hat has he to do w ith it? It' s this old m an here who' s
helping them .... Leave m e alone!"
These last words were addressed to Zhenya, who was tugging at his sleeve
nervously. Zhenya realized that no good would com e of Volka' s quarrel with
Hottabych. But Volka would not stop, though no one took his words seriou
"So you say the old m an is shifting the goal posts from over here, in the North
Section? " People roared with laughter. "Ha, ha, ha! He probably has a special
gim mick in his pocket to regulate the goals at a distance. Maybe he even tossed all
those balls into the f ield?"
"Sure, it was him ," Volka agreed readily, calling forth a new wave of laughter.
"I bet he was also responsible for the earthquake in Chile! Ho-ho-ho! Ha-ha-
"No, he wasn' t responsible for that." Volka was an honest boy. "An earthquake
is the result of a catastrophic shifting of so il. Especially in Chile. And he was just
recently released from a vessel."
A m iddle-aged m an sitting behind Volka entered the conversation. Volka knew
him , since they lived in the sam e house. He was the one who had nam ed his cat
Hom ych in honour of the fam ous goalie.
"Keep your shirt on, and don' t m ake a fool of yourself," the m an said kindly,
when the laughter had died down a bit. "Stop talking 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 l ong m inutes left till the end of the first
tim e, but the score was already 14:0 in favour of the Shaiba team .
Strange things kept happening to the Z ubilo players. They seem ed to have
forgotten how to play: their tackling was am azingly feeble and stupid. The m en
kept falling; it was as if they had just learned how to walk.
And then the defence began to act queer ly. Those old football lions began to
shy away in fright as soon as they saw the ball approaching, as if it were a bom b
about to explode.
Oh, how m iserable our young friends were! Just think: they had explained the
rules of soccer to Hottabych to their own misfortune! W hat were they to do? How
were they to help the unf ortunate Zubilo players see justice restored? And what
should they do with Hottabych? Even a scandal had proved useless. How could
they at least distract the old Genie' s a ttention from 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 a nd see what a wonderful team you' re
disgracing in the eyes of the nation!" He pointed towards the heading: "
and-Com ing Team ." Hottabych read aloud:
"The Zubilo team has im proved considerably during the current season. In their
last gam e in Kuibyshev against the local 'Krylya Sovetov' - team they dem onstrated
their.... That' s interesting!" he said and buried his nose in the paper.
The boys grinned at each other. No sooner had Hottabych begun to read, t
the Zubilo m en cam e to life. Their forwards im mediately proved that the article in
Soviet Sports had all the facts straight. A great roar com ing from tens of thousands
of excited throats accom panied nearly every kick. In a few seconds the gam e was
on the Shaiba half of the field. One ki ck followed another in quick succession.
Those Zubilo players were really good!
A few m ore m oments, and they would finally be able to score.
"Aha!" Volka' s neighbour shouted behi nd his back. "See? ! W hat did I say!
They' ll show those Shaiba im beciles a thing or two...."
Ah, how m uch better it would have been fo r all concerned if he had curbed his
joy. He should not have nudged Hottabych in the side with such a trium phant look
on his face, as if every m an on the Zubilo team was his own favourite son, or at
least his favourite pupil!
Hottabych started, tore his eyes from the pa per, and 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 f inish reading it later," the old m an said. He hurriedly yanked a hair from
his beard, and the Zubilo team 's unexplai nable 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 second
But what had happened to the goalie? W hy did he clutch at the side-post and
wail "Mam ma!" every tim e the ball was kicked into the goal? W hy did he
suddenly walk to the side with a t houghtful expression on his face—and for no
apparent reason at all—and this at a m ost decisive m oment, in the m iddle of a
heated tangle right in front of the goal?
"Sham e! It' s outrageous! W hat' s the m atter with you!" the fans shouted from all
sides. But he, the fam ous goalie, the pride of his country, staggered out of the goal
and off to a side every tim e the opposite team closed in.
"W hat' s the m atter with you? Have you gone crazy? " the spare player croaked.
And the goalie m oaned in reply:
"I sure have. Som eone seem s to be pulling m e. I try to hold m y ground, but
som ething keeps pushing m e out of the goal.
W hen I want to turn towards the ball, that sam e som ething presses m e toward
the goal-post so hard that I can' t tear m yself away."
"Things are really bad!"
"Couldn' t be worse!"
. The situation was so extraordinary that there was not a person present
stadium , including the ticket collectors, m ilitia m en and food vendors, who was
not taking the strange events
to heart and discussing them loudly.
There was only one fan am ong the thousands who, though
suffering keenly, was rem arkably silent. This was an am azingly
uncom municative m an of about fifty-five , grey-haired, tall and lanky, with a long,
yellowish stony face. His face was equally stony during an unim portant gam e and
during the finals, when a successful kick decides the cham pion of the year. He was
always equally dour, straightlaced and im mobile.
This day he was in his usual seat, whic h was right in front of Hottabych. As he
was a Zubilo fan, one can well im agine the anguish in his sunken, bony chest.
However, only the shifting of his eyes and the barely discernible m ovem ents of his
head indicated that he was far from indi fferent to the events taking place on the
field. He apparently had a bad heart, and had to take good care of him self, for any
am ount of em otion m ight have produced gr ave results. However, even as he felt
around with a practised gesture for his box of sugar and his bottle of m edicine and
dropped the m edicine onto a bit of sugar, without ever tearing his eyes from the
gam e, his face rem ained as im mobile as if he were staring into space.
W hen the score becam e 23:0 it nearly finish ed him . He opened his thin pale lips
and squeaked in a wooden voice:
"They could at least sell m ineral water here!"
Hottabych, whose soul was singing joyfully at the unheard-of success of the
Shaiba team , was m ore willing than ever to do people favours.
Upon hearing the words of his phlegm atic neighbour, he snapped his fingers
softly. The m an suddenly saw that he wa s holding a glass of ice-cold m ineral
water which had appeared from nowhere.
Anyone else in his place would have b een astounded, or, at any rate, would
have looked around at the people sitting to all sides of him . But this m an m erely
raised the frosted glass to his lips with the sam e stony expression. However, he did
not even take a sip: the poor Zubilo play ers were about to get the twenty-fourth
ball kicked into their goal. He sat f rozen to the spot with his glass raised and
Zhenya, who was still f rantically searching for a way to save the disgraced team ,
snatched the m ineral water from him and dashed it onto Hottabych' s beard.
"W hat treachery! W hat vile treachery!" the old Genie gasped and began
feverishly yanking out one hair after anothe r. Instead 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 Shai ba players?" Volka asked acidly. "You' d
better keep m um."
Meanwhile, just as had happened after th e fourteenth goal, the revived Zubilo
players once again tore through the forward and defence lines of the Sha
and raced the ball towards their goal.
The Shaiba defence had becom e unkeyed from their long idleness and could not
collect their wits quickly to ward off the unexpected danger. Their goal
really som ething to look at. There he sat on the grass, shelling m elon seeds.
Choking, he jum ped to his feet, but the Zubilo players had already kicked the
ball straight towards the centre of the unprotected goal.
Just then, to the great torm ent of our young friends, they heard a clear crystal
tinkling. Yes, Hottabych had finally been able to find a dry hair in his
Oh, Zhenya, Zhenya! W here was your k een eye and sure hand? W hy didn' t you
take good aim ? The Zubilo team was as good as dead now!
"Hottabych! Dear, sweet Hottabych! Let th e Zubilo players score at least once!"
But Hottabych pretended to hear nothing. Th e ball, which was flying straight at
the centre of the goal, suddenly swerved to the left 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 t
suffering Zubilo goal!
This was an am azing score, considering that the team s were equal.
Volka lost his tem per com pletely.
"I dem and—no, I order you to stop this m ockery im mediately!" he hissed.
"Otherwise, I' ll never be friends with you again! You have your choice: the Shaiba
team or m e!"
"W hy, you' re a football fan yourself. Ca n't you understand m y feelings? " the
old m an pleaded, but he sensed from Vo lka' s expression that this tim e their
friendship m ight really end. And so, he whispered back, "I await your further
"The Zubilo team isn' t to blam e that you' re a Shaiba fan. You' ve m ade them the
laughing-stock of the country. Make it so that everyone should see they' re not to
blam e for losing."
"I hear and I obey, 0 young goalie of m y soul!"
No sooner had the um pire' s whistle died down, announcing the end of the first
tim e, than the entire Zubilo team began to sneeze and cough for all it was worth.
Form ing a sem blance of a form ation, they dragged their feet listlessly to their
locker room , sneezing and coughing loudly.
A m oment later a doctor was sum moned, since all eleven players were feeling
ill. The doctor felt each one' s pulse in turn, he asked them to take off their shirts,
then looked in their m ouths and finally sum moned the um pire. "I' m afraid you' ll
have to call off the gam e."
"W hy? W hat do you m ean? "
"Because the Zubilo team can' t play fo r at least seven m ore days. The whole
team is sick," the doctor answered dazedly.
"Sick! W hat' s the m atter?"
"It' s a very strange case. All these elev en grown m en have com e down with the
measles. I would never have believed it if I had not given them a thorough check-
up just now."
Thus ended the only football m atch in history in which a fan had an opportunity
to influence the gam e. As you see, it did not com e to any good.
The unusual instance of eleven adult athletes sim ultaneously contracting the
measles for the second tim e in their lives and waking up the following m orning in
the pink of health was described in gr eat detail in an article by the f amous
Professor Hooping Cough and published in the m edical journal Measles and
Sneezles. The article was entitled "That' s a Nice How D' You Do!" and is still so
popular that one can never get a copy of the magazine in the libraries, as they are
always on loan. That is why, dear reader s, you m ight as well not look for it, since
you' ll only waste your tim e for nothing.
The little cloud that was covering the sun floated off and disappeared,
as it was
no longer needed. Once again it becam e hot. A hundred thousand fans were slowly
leaving the stadium through the narrow concrete passages.
No one was in a hurry. Everyone wanted to voice an opinion about the am azing
gam e which had ended so strangely.
These opinions were each m ore involved than the previous one. However, not
even the m ost vivid im aginations could think of an explanation that would so
much as resem ble the true reason for all the queer things they had witnessed.
Only three people took no part in these di scussions. 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 gam e," Hottabyc h finally m ustered up the courage to
"M m- m- m, " V olka replied.
"I can just im agine how sweet the m oment is when you kick the ball into the
enem y's goal!" Hottabych continued in a crestfallen voice. "Isn' t that so, 0 Volka? "
"Are you still angry with m e, 0 goalie of my heart? I'll die if you don' t answer
He scurried along beside his angry frie nd, sighing sadly and cursing the hour he
had agreed to go to the gam e.
"W hat do you think!" Volka snapped, but then continued in a softer tone, "Boy,
what a m ess! 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 gam e again! And we don' t need your tickets, either."
"Your every word is m y com mand," Hotta bych hurried to assure him , pleased
to have got off so easily. "I' ll be quite content if you occasionally find the tim e to
tell m e of the f ootball m atches."
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 ever suspect he had been
seriously ill so recently.
His cheeks were a soft, even shade of ol d-age pink. His step was as light and as
quick as always, and a broad sm ile light ed his artless face. And only Volka, who
knew Hottabych so well, noticed that a s ecret thought was constantly gnawing at
the old Genie. Hottabych often sighed, he stroked his beard thoughtfully, and large
tears would ever so often roll from his frank, friendly eyes.
Volka would pretend not to notice and di d not bother the old m an with tactless
questions. He was convinced that in the end Hottabych would be the first to speak.
That is exactly what happened.
"Grief and sadness rent m y old heart, 0 noble saviour of Genies," Hottabych
said softly one day when a m agnificent sunset coloured the evening waters of the
Moskva River a delicate pink. "Thoughts of m y poor lost brother and of his
terrible and hapless fate do not leave m e for a m oment. The m ore I think of him ,
the m ore I feel I should set out to search for him as soon as possible. W hat do you
think of this, 0 wise Volka ibn Alyosha ? And if you regard this decision kindly,
would you not m ake m e happy by sharing th e joys and sorrows of this journey
with m e?"
"W here do you want to start looking for your brother? " Volka asked in a
business-like way, since he was no longer surprised at the m ost unexpected
suggestions Hottabych m ight have.
"If you rem ember, 0 Volka, at the very dawn of our extrem ely happy
acquaintance, I told you that Sulaym an' s Genies threw him into one of the
Southern Seas, sealed in a copper vessel. There, along the shores of the
countries, is where one m ust naturally look for Om ar Asaf."
The possibility of setting out on a journey to the Southern Seas really appealed
"All right. I' ll com e along with you. W herever you go, I go. It would be nice
if..." Volka fum bled.
But a cheerful Hottabych continued: "...i f we could take our wonderful friend
Zhenya ibn Kolya along. Have I underst ood you correctly, 0 m y kind Volka ibn
"There could not have been a shadow of doubt," Hottabych said. It was decided
then and there that the expedition setting out to search for Hottabych' s unfortunate
brother would leave no later than in two days' tim e.
However, if the tim e of departure cau sed ho discord, it quite suddenly becam e
apparent that there were serious diffe rences on the question of a m eans of
"Let' s go by m agic carpet," Hottabych s uggested. "There' s enough room for all
"Oh no," Volka objected strongly. "No m ore m agic carpets for m e. Thanks a
lot! Our last trip was enough for m e. I don' t want to freeze like a dog a second
"I' ll supply you both with warm clothing, 0 blessed Volka. And if you so desire,
a large bonfire will constantly burn in th e m iddle of the carpet. W e can warm
ourselves beside it during our flight."
"No, no, no! The m agic carpet is out of the question. Let' s go to Odessa by
train. Then, from Odessa...."
Hottabych im mediately accepted Volka' s plan and Zhenya, who was told of it in
detail a short half hour later, enthusiastically approved.
THE STORY TOLD BY THE CONDUCTOR OF THE MOSCOW-
ODESSA EXPRESS OF WHAT HAPPENED ON THE NARA-MALY
(Told by the conductor to Ms assistant, who was asleep during the events described
"I woke you up just to tell you that a very strange thing has happened in our car.
"W ell, I m ade up the beds for the passe ngers, the sam e as always, and the ones
in Com partm ent 7, too. The passengers there were a bearded old bird in an old-
fashioned straw boater and two boys. The boys looked about the sam e age. And
what do you think: not a single piece of luggage !No, sir, not a single
"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 ha ve a dining car, There' ll be tea and
crackers in the m orning.'
"Then the boy looks at the old m an and the old m an winks at him . So the boy
says, ' Never m ind, we' ll m anage without your tea, since you haven' t a dining car.'
" ' Ha,' I thought, ' I'd like to see how you' ll m ake out all the way to Odessa
without m y tea.' So I cam e back here to our com partm ent, but I left a chink in the
door when I closed it.
"Everyone in the car was sound asleep, having sweet dream s, but all the tim e
there was buzz-buzz-buzz com ing from Com partm ent 7—they kept on talking and
whispering all the tim e. 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 sa me old m an sticks out his head. He
didn' t notice m e watching him so he pushe d his old hat back. And what d' you think
he did? Upon m y word, I' m tellin' the truth! He pulled a fistful of hair from his
beard—m ay I drop dead on the spot if he didn' t!
" ' Goodness,' I thought, ' he's crazy! Just m y luck to get a m adm an while I' m on
duty.' W ell, I didn' t say anything and waited to see what' d happen.
"W ell, the old m an tore this sam e fistfu l of hair into little pieces, then he threw
this litter on the floor and m umbled som ething. I felt m ore and m ore sure he was
mad and that I' d have to put him off at Bryansk, no doubt about it.
" ' W ell,' I thought, ' there' ll be no end of worry! W hy, m aybe he' ll start attacking
the passengers this very m inute, or breaking the windows!'
"No, he didn' t start any trouble, but just stood there m umbling. After he
mumbled a while m ore, he went back into his com partm ent.
"All of a sudden I heard som eone walk ing barefoot down the passage, com ing
from behind. That m eant whoever it was ha d com e in from the platform . I sure
was surprised, because I always lock the platform s when we pull out of a station.
W ell, I looked round, and—upon m y sacred word of honour, I' m telling the
truth!—I saw four young fellows com ing to wards m e from the platform . They
were as sunburned as vacationers and quite naked. All they had on were l
cloths round their hips. And barefoot. As skinny as could be! You could count
"I cam e out of our com partm ent and said, ' Citizens, I believe you' ve got your
cars m ixed. All our com partm ents are occupied.'
"And they all answered together, ' Silen ce, infidel! W e know where we' re going!
W e've com e exactly to the place we want.'
"So I says, ' Then I' d like to see your tickets, please.'
"And they all said together again, ' Don' t annoy us, foreigner, for we are
hurrying to our lord and m aster!'
"So I says, ' I'm surprised that you call m e a foreigner. I' m a Soviet citizen and
I'm in m y own country. That' s for one. And in the second place, we haven' t had
any m asters here since the Revolution. That,' I said, ' is in the second place.'
"So their leader says, ' You should be asham ed, infidel! You are taking
advantage of the fact that our hands ar e occupied and we therefore cannot kill you
for your terrible insolence. It , is m ost dishonourable of you to take advantage of
"I forgot to tell you that they were p iled high with all sorts of food. One was
carrying a heavy tray with roast lam b and rice. Another had a huge basket of
apples, pears, apricots and grapes.
The third one was balancing som ething that looked like a pitcher on his head,
and som ething was splashing inside the p itcher. The fourth was holding two large
platters of m eat 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 Com partm ent
7 is, for we are in a hurry to fulfil our orders.'
"Then I began to put two and two t ogether and asked, ' W hat does your boss
look like? Is he a little old m an with a beard? '
" ' Yes, that is he. That is whom we serve.'
"I showed them to Com partm ent 7, and on the way I said, ' I'll have to fine your
boss for letting you travel without tickets. Have you been working for h
im long? '
"So the leader says, ' W e've been serv ing him for three thousand five hundred
"To tell you the truth, I thought I didn' t h ear him right. So I says again, ' How
many years did you say? '
" ' You heard m e, that' s exactly how long we' ve served him — three thousand
five hundred years.'
"The other three nodded.
" ' Good gracious,' I thought, ' as if one crazy m an wasn' t enough—now I have
four m ore on m y neck!'
"But I went on talking to them as I would to any norm al passengers. ' W hat a
sham e! Look how m any years you' ve been wo rking for him and he can' t even get
you som e ordinary overalls. If you' ll pardon the expression, you' re absolutely
"So the leader says, ' W e don' t need ove ralls. W e don' t even know what they
" ' It's strange to hear that com ing from som eone who' s worked so m any years. I
guess you' re from far away. W here d' you live? '
" ' W e've just com e from Ancient Arabia.'
"Then I says, ' W ell, that clears ever ything up. Here' s Com partm ent 7. Knock on
"Just then, the sam e little old m an com es out and all his m en f all to their knees
and stretch out the food and drinks they' ve brought. But I called the old m an off to
a side and said, ' Are these your em ployees? '
" ' Yes, they are.'
" ' They have no tickets. That m eans you have to pay a fine. W ill you pay it? '
" 'Right away, if you wish. But won' t you first tell m e what a fine is? '
"I saw the old m an was being sensible, so I began to explain things in a
whisper, ' One of your m en has gone out of his m ind:
he says he' s been working for you for three thousand five hundred years. I' m
sure you' ll agree he' s crazy.'
"Then the old m an says, ' I cannot agree, si nce he is not lying. Yes, that' s right—
three thousand five hundred years. Even a little longer, since I was only two
hundred or two hundred and thirty when I becam e their m aster.'
"So I says to him , 'Stop m aking a fool of m e! It doesn' t beco me your age. If you
don' t pay the fine im mediately, I' ll put them off at the next station. And, anyway,
you look like a suspicious character, goi ng on such a long journey without any
" ' W hat' s luggage? '
" 'You know, bundles, suitcases and such stuff.'
"The old m an laughed and said, ' W hy are you inventing things, 0 conductor?
Saying that I have no luggage. Just look at the shelves.'
"I looked up at the luggage racks and th ey were jam med! I' d looked a m oment
before and there hadn' t been anything there, and suddenly—just im agine!—so
many suitcases and bundles!
"Then I said, ' Som ething' s wrong here. Pa y the fine quickly and I' ll bring the
chief conductor over at the next stop. Let him decide. I can' t understand what' s
"The old m an laughed again. ' W hat fine? ' says he. ' W hom do I have to pay a
fine for? '
"Then I really got angry. I turned around and pointed to the passage, but there
was no one there! I ran up and down the whole car, but couldn' t find a trace of m y
four stray passengers.
"Then the old m an said, ' 0 conductor, you had better go back to your own
com partm ent.' And so I went back.
"Now d' you understand why I woke you up? Don' t you believe m e?"
An hour before the train arrived in Od essa, the conductor entered Com partm ent
7 to rem ove the bedding. Hottabych treated him to som e apples.
It was quite apparent that the m an did not rem ember anything of the incident
which had taken place the night before.
Af ter he had lef t their com partm ent, Zh enya said with adm iration: "I m ust
adm it, Volka is a bright chap!"
"I should think so!" Hottabych ex claim ed. "Volka ibn Alyosha is
unquestionably an excellent fellow and his suggestion is worthy of great praise."
Since the reader m ight not be too clear on the m eaning of this short
conversation, we hurry to explain.
W hen the com pletely confused conducto r left Com partm ent 7 the previous
night, Volka said to Hottabych, "Can you do som ething to m ake him forget what' s
"W hy, 0 Volka ibn Alyosha, that' s as sim ple as pie."
"Then please do it and as quickly as possible. He' ll go to sleep then, and when
he wakes up in the m orning he won' t rem ember anything."
"Excellent, 0 treasure-store of com mon sense!" Hottabych said adm iringly,
waved his hand and m ade the conductor forget everything.
THE STRANGE SAILING SHIP
Several passengers were talking leisurely as they leaned on the rail of the
excursion ship "Kolkhida," sailing from Odessa to Batum i. Powerful diesel
engines hum med far below, in the dept hs of the ship. The water whispered
dream ily as it lapped against the steep si des, and high above, over the spar deck,
the ship' s wireless piped anxiously.
"You know, it' s really a sham e that the la rge sailing ships of yore, those white-
winged beauties, are a thing of the past. How happy I would be to find m yself on a
real frigate.... Just to enjoy the sight of those billowing white sails, to listen to the
creaking of the m ighty yet graceful m asts, to watch in am azem ent as, at the
captain' s com mand, the crew scram bles up th e rigging! If I could only see a real
sailing ship! I m ean a real genuine one! Nowadays even a bark has to have a
motor, you know, even though—m ark m y words—it' s considered a sailboat!"
"A m otor-sailboat," a m an wearing the uni form of the Merchant Marine added.
They fell silent. All except the sailor went ove r to the left side to watch a school of
tireless dolphins splash and cavort in the warm noonday sea. Dolphins were
nothing new to the sailor. He stretched out in a deck chair and picked up a
magazine lazily. Soon the sun m ade him drowsy. He closed the m agazine and
fanned him self with it.
Then som ething attracted his attention. He stopped fanning him self, jum ped to
his feet and rushed to the railing. Far off, near the very horizon, he saw a beautiful
but terribly old-fashioned sailing ship sk im ming over the waves. It seem ed like
som ething from a fairy tale.
"Everybody! Everybody hurry over here!" he shouted. "Look at that sailing
ship! Isn' t it ancient! Oh, and som ething' s wrong with its m ainm ast! It doesn' t have
a m ainm ast! W hy, 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 forem ast
should have been blown overboard long ago! It' s really a m iracle!"
However, by the tim e the other passengers heeded his words and returned to the
starboard side, the unknown vessel had disappeared from sight. W e say
"unknown," because the sailor was ready to swear that the wonderful sailing ship
was not registered at any Soviet port on th e Black Sea. This is true. In fact, it
wasn' t registered at any foreign port, eith er; it wasn' t registered any place, for the
sim ple reason that it had appeared in th e world and was launched but a few short
The nam e of the vessel was the "Sweet Om ar," in honour of the unfortunate
brother of our old friend, Hassan Abdurrakhm an ibn Hottab.
ABOARD THE "SWEET OMAR"
Had our friend the conductor on the Mo scow-Odessa express m iraculously
found him self aboard the twin-m asted "Sw eet Om ar," he would not have been
most am azed at the fact that he ha d suddenly found him self aboard a sailing
vessel, nor that this vessel did not in any way resem ble a usual sea or river craft.
He would have been m ost am azed at findi ng that he was already acquainted with
the passengers and crew.
The old m an and his two young com panions who had left Com partm ent 7 that
morning were its passengers, while the f our dark-skinned citizens whose term of
service dated back to the 16th century B.C. were its crew.
One can well im agine that a second encounter would have landed the
im pressive conductor in bed for a long tim e.
Despite the fact that Volka and Zhenya had becom e accustom ed to witnessing
the m ost unexpected events during the past few days, they were m ost am azed to
find their recent acquaintances aboard the sh ip and to discover that they were also
After the boys had stood gazing at the quick and skilful m ovem ents of the sm all
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 very beautiful, but sm all—no
larger than a Moscow river launch. Howe ver, Hottabych assured them that even
Sulaym an, the Son of David, did not have a ship as big as the "Sweet Om ar."
Everything on the ship glittered with cleanliness and splendour. Its sid
high, carved bow and stern were inlaid with gold and ivory. The priceless
rosewood deck was covered with rugs as m agnificent as those which adorned the
That is why Volka was so surprised at suddenly com ing upon a dark and filthy
cubby-hole in the prow. In it were plank beds covered with rags.
As he looked in disgust at the m eagre furnishings of this tiny room , Zhenya
joined him . After careful scrutiny, Zhenya decided the unsightly hole was intended
for the pirates they m ight capture on the way.
"Not at all," Volka persisted. "This place was forgotten about after a c
overhauling. Som etim es, after repairs, there' s a forgotten corner full of rags and all
kinds of rubbish."
"W hat do you m ean by ' a com plete overhauling' when this ship didn' t even exist
this m orning? " Zhenya protested.
Volka had no answer to this question, a nd so the boys set off to find Hottabych,
to ask him to help solve the m ystery. But they found the old m an asleep and thus
did not speak to him until an hour or two later, at dinner tim e.
Tucking their feet under them uncom fortably, they sat down on a thick,
brightly-coloured carpet. There were neith er chairs nor tables in the cabin or
anywhere else on board.
One of the crew rem ained above at th e wheel, while the others brought in and
placed before them m any various dishes, fr uits and beverages. W hen they turned
to leave, the boys called to them :
"W hy 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 m ust not have been listening inte ntly, 0 m y young friends. For a m oment, I
thought you had invited these servants to join us at the table."
"Sure we did," Volka said. "W hy, what' s wrong with that? "
"But they are only ordinary sailors," Hottabych objected in a voice that
indicated that the m atter was now closed.
However, to his great surprise, the boys held their ground.
"All the m ore so, if they' re sailors. They' re not parasites, they' re real hard
workers," Volka said.
And Zhenya added:
"And let' s not f orget that they seem to be Negroes and that m eans they are an
oppressed nation. That' s why we should be especially considerate."
"This seem s to be a m ost unfortunate m isunderstanding," Hottabych said
excitedly, confused by the solid opposition of the boys. "I m ust ask you again to
rem ember that these are plain sailors. It is not becom ing to us to sit down to eat
with them . This would lower us both in their eyes and in our own."
' "It wouldn' t lower m e at all," Volka objected heatedly.
"Or m e, either. On the contrary, it' ll be very interesting," Zhenya said, looking
at the steam ing turkey with hungry eyes. "Hurry up and ask them to sit down,
otherwise the turkey' ll get cold."
"I don' t feel like eating, 0 m y young frie nds. I' ll eat later on," Hottabych said
glum ly and clapped loudly three tim es.
The sailors appeared im mediately.
"These young gentlem en have kindly expre ssed the desire to partake of their
meal together with you, m y undeserving servants."
"0 great and m ighty ruler!" the eldest of the sailors cried, f alling to his knees
before Hottabych and touching the precious carpet with his forehead. "W e don' t
feel like eating at all. W e are very full. W e are so full, that if we eat a single
chicken leg our stom achs will burst and we will die in terrible agony."
"They' re lying!" Volka whispered to Zhenya with conviction;
"I' m ready to bet anything that they 're lying. They wouldn' t m ind eating, but
they' re afraid of Hottabych." Then he a ddressed the sailors. "You say you' re full,
but won' t you please tell m e when you' ve had tim e to eat? "
"Then know ye, 0 young and noble m aster, that we can go without food for a
year or m ore and never feel hungry," the sailor replied evasively.
"They' ll never agree, they' re afraid of him ," Zhenya said in disappointm ent.
The sailors backed out and were gone.
"To m y great pleasure, I suddenly feel hungry again," Hottabych said
cheerfully. "Let us begin quickly."
"No, Hottabych, you eat by yourself. W e're no com pany for you!" Zhenya
muttered angrily and got up. "Com e on, Volka!"
"Com e on. Golly! You try to educate a pe rson and change his ways, but nothing
good com es of it...."
And so, the old m an was left alone with the untouched dinner. He sat there with
his legs tucked under him , as straight a nd stiff and solem n as an Eastern god. But
the m oment the boys disappeared behind the drapery that separated the cabin from
the deck, he began to pound his head with hi s sm all fists that were nevertheless as
hard as iron.
0 woe to him , poor Hassan Abdurrakhm an ibn Hottab! Som ething had gone
wrong again! Yet, how happily the "Sweet Om ar" had started on its journey! How
sincerely delighted the boys had been with its adornm ents, its sparkling sails, the
soft carpets in which their bare feet sank up to their ankles, the priceless handrails
of ebony and ivory, the m ighty m asts covere d with a m osaic of precious stones!
W hy had they suddenly conceived such a stra nge idea? But what if it wasn' t just an
idea or a caprice, but som ething quite different? How queer these boys were to
have refused such a feast, despite their hunger, and only because his se
not allowed to share the m eal as equals ! Oh, how puzzling and unfair it was, and
how hungry, how very hungry Hottabych was!
W hile his feeling of attachm ent for Volka and Zhenya was struggling with
prejudices of thousands of years' sta nding, our young travellers were discussing
the situation heatedly. Hottabych’s servants tried to keep out of sight, but one of
them , either absent-m indedly or from lack of caution, suddenly appeared from the
very cubby-hole Volka had believed was in tended for captive pirates. Then the
dingy hole on the luxurious "Sweet Om ar" was the sailors' quarters!
"Oh, no!" Volka said indignantly. "W e'll never rem ain on such a ship. Either
Hottabych changes the rules im mediately, or else we call off our friendship and he
gets us back hom e."
Suddenly they heard Hottabych' s voice behind them .
"0 sails of m y heart," the crafty ol d m an said, as if nothing untoward had
happened. "W hy are you wasting your tim e here on deck, when a m ost delightful
and filling dinner awaits you? The turkey is still steam ing, but it can get cold, and
then it certainly will taste worse. Let us hurry back to the cabin, f or m y beloved
sailors and I, your faithful servant, are dying of hunger and thirst."
The boys looked into the cabin they had just left and saw the sailors si
prim ly on the rug, awaiting their return.
"All right," Volka said dryly. "But we' re still going to have a long and serious
talk with you, Hottabych. Meanwhile, let' s have our dinner."
No sooner was dinner over, than the sea becam e turbulent;
the sm all ship now flew up on the cres t of a huge wave, now plunged down into
a deep chasm between two trem endous walls of water. The waves thundered and
crashed as they washed over the deck and carried off the carpets that co
Stream s of water kept rushing into the cabins. It becam e chilly, but the brazier
with hot coals was tossed back and forth so violently that they had to throw it
overboard to prevent a fire. The servant-sailors, whose only clothing we
loincloths, turned grey f rom the cold, as they battled the f lapping sails.
In another half hour nothing but a sad m emory would have rem ained of the
"Sweet Om ar." However, the storm ceased as unexpectedly as it had begun. The
sun peeped out. It becam e warm again. But everything becam e terribly calm . The
sails hung lim ply on the m asts and the ship began to rock softly on the water
without m oving forward an inch.
Hottabych decided that this was just th e tim e to im prove his shaky relations
with his young com panions. Rubbing his hands together m errily, he said, "Calm ?
W hy you should know, 0 benevolent and just youths, that a calm m eans nothing to
us. W e can do fine without the wind. The ' Sweet Om ar' will go forward faster than
ever. May it be so!" He snapped the fingers of his left hand.
Instantly the "Sweet Om ar" sped forwar d at top speed; the sails, m eeting the
resistance of the air, naturally filled out in a direction 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, who at the tim e the ship
started were all standing on the stern, had tim e to enjoy the sight, since the sudden
forward thrust threw them overboard. Th e next m oment the m ainm ast, unable to
withstand the terrible resistance of the air, cam e crashing down on the very spot
where the three travellers had been standing but a m oment before.
The "Sweet Om ar" disappeared from sight im mediately.
"A life-boat, or even a life-saver w ould really com e in handy now," Volka
thought as he splashed about in the water and blew air like a horse. "W e can' t even
see the shore."
And true, no m atter which way he looke d, he could see nothing but the calm
and endless sea.
THE "VK-1" MAGIC-CARPET-SEAPLANE
"W here are you going? " Volka shouted to Zhenya, who was swim ming off
rapidly. "You won' t reach the shore anyw ay, Don' t waste 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 shipwr ecked people in the history of sailing,
in which the speakers expressed their opinions while floating on their b
"W ell, we' re shipwrecked!" Volka said w ith som ething close to satisfaction. He
had taken upon him self the duties of chai rm an. "W hat are you planning to do? " he
asked, noticing that Hottabych had begun ya nking hairs from his beard with his
"I want to return our ship. It' s a great st roke of luck that m y beard is com pletely
"There' s no hurry," Volka interrupted. "The question is: do we want to return to
it or not? I, for one, do not. To tell you the truth, there are inhum an rules aboard.
It's disgusting to even think of it."
"I agree. The ' Sweet Om ar' 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 m y unworthy servants shoul d not bother you at all. They have been
in Arabia for not less than five m inutes al ready. That is where they reside, that is
where they are now awaiting m y orders. Bu t please tell m e, 0 m asts of m y heart,
why should we not continue our journey aboard the ' Sweet Om ar' ?"
"I thought we m ade that clear," Volka said.
"And anyway, a sailing ship is too slow and unreliable. W e're dependent on
every little change in the weather. No, the ' Sweet Om ar' is out," Zhenya said.
"0 anchors of m y happiness!" Hottabych whined pitif ully. "I' ll do anything
"No, it' s out, and that' s the end of it," Volka interrupted and shivered. It was
most unpleasant to lie in the water fully dr essed. "It rem ains to be seen what else
Hottabych can suggest."
"I can take you under m y arm s and fly."
"No good!" Volka said. "W ho wants to fly under som ebody' s arm s!"
"Not som ebody' s— mine !" Hottabych replied in a hurt voice.
"It m akes no difference."
"Then I would venture to suggest to your enlightened attention the m agic
carpet. It is an excellent m eans of transportation, 0 m y choosy friends!"
"There' s nothing excellent about it. You freeze on it, and it' s too slow, and
there' s no com forts at all," Volka said thoughtfully and suddenly exclaim ed, "I' ve
got it! Upon m y word of honour, I have a wonderful idea!"
At this, he went under, as in his excite ment he could think of nothing better to
do than clap his hands. He bobbed up agai n, huffing and spitting water, and then
resum ed his com fortable position on his back, continuing as if nothing had
"W e have to m odernize the m agic carpet: it should be stream lined and cold-
resistant, and it should have bunks and be on pontoons."
It was m ost difficult to explain Volka' s idea to Hottabych. In the f irst place, the
old m an did not know what "stream lined" m ean t. In the second place, he could not
visualize a pair of pontoons.
It would seem that "stream lined" was su ch a sim ple word, but they had to
explain and explain until they finally hit upon the thought of saying th
stream lined m agic carpet should look like a hollowed-out cucum ber. It also took a
great deal of explaining to m ake Ho ttabych understand what pontoons were like.
Finally, a stream lined "VK-1" m agic-carpet-s eaplane soared into the air and set its
course at South-South-W est. In transla tion to ordinary words, "VK-1" m eant
"Vladim ir Kostylkov. First Model."
This m agic-carpet-seaplane, resem bling a huge cucum ber with a tiny stem in
back, had three berths and two window s on each side, cut through the heavy
The f lying qualities of Volka' s plane were im measurably superior to those of an
ordinary m agic carpet. The Black Sea, the Bosporus, the Dardanelles, Asia Minor
and the sun-parched plateau of Arabia fl ashed by below. Then they saw the yellow
sands of the Sinai Desert. The thin ribbon of the Suez Canal separated i
t from the
no less yellow sands of the Arabian Dese rt, which was Africa, Egypt. Hottabych
had planned to begin his search for Om ar 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 m etres, than Hottabych groa ned and said he was an old fool. The
magic-carpet-seaplane gained altitude a nd headed west. Af ter spending so m any
years in the vessel, Hottabych had f orgotten that this was where the Nile
discharged into the Mediterranean and where the water was always m uddy from
the slim e and sand the great river carried far out to sea. How could one even
attem pt a search in such sticky yellow m ire? It would only irritate the eyes.
Hottabych decided to put off the explorati on of this inconveni ent area till last, if
their search f or Om ar Asaf in other parts of the Mediterranean proved f utile.
A short while later they landed in a quiet blue lagoon close to the Ital
ian city of
HOTTABYCH IS LOST AND FOUND AGAIN
"W ell, wish m e luck!" Hottabych exclaim ed, turning into a f ish and
disappearing into the lagoon.
The water was crystal-clear, so very unlik e the water of the Nile Delta, and they
had a good view of the old m an working his fins quickly as he headed for the open
W hile awaiting his return, the boys went in for a good dozen dips, they di
their heart' s content, lay in the sun un til they were dizzy, and, finally, with hunger
clawing at their insides, they began to worry. Hottabych had been gone f
suspiciously long tim e, though he had prom ised not to be away longer than an
hour. The sun had long since set, colouring the horizon and the calm sea in tints of
am azing beauty; thousands of city lights twinkled in the distance, but sti
ll the old
man had not returned.
"Could he have got lost? " Zhenya said despondently.
"He can' t get lost," Volka answered. "Chaps like him never get lost."
"He m ight have been swallowed by a shark."
"There aren' t any sharks in these wate rs," Volka objected, 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 soft splash. Three fisherm en
clim bed out. One of them began to lay a fi re of driftwood, while the others picked
out the sm aller f ish. They cleaned it and threw it into a kettle of water.
"Let' s go ask them for som ething to eat," Zhenya suggested. "They look like
nice working people. I' m sure they' ll give us som ething."
"Good evening, Signores!" Zhenya bowed politely, as he addressed the
"Just think how m any hom eless children ther e are in our poor Italy!" one of the
three, a thin, grey-haired m an, said hoars ely. "Giovanni, give them som ething to
"W e've just enough bread for ourselves, but there' s plenty of onions and m ore
than enough salt!" a curly-haired stocky youth of about nineteen answere
cheerfully. He was busy cleaning fish.
"Sit down, boys. Soon the best fish soup ever cooked in or around Genoa will
Either the cheerful Giovanni was truly a gifted cook by nature, or else the boys
were fam ished, but they agreed that they had never eaten anything m ore delicious
in their lives. They ate with such gusto, sm acking their lips from sheer joy, that the
fisherm en watching them chuckled.
"If you want som e m ore, you can cook it yourselves, there nothing com plicated
about it," Giovanni said and stretched. "W e'll doze off m eanwhile. Be sure you
don' t take any big fishes, they go to m arket tom orrow, so we' ll have m oney 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 m uch as he needed and was about to re turn to the beach,
when his eyes chanced upon the net folded near the m ast. A lonely fish was
struggling frantically within, now giving up, now resum ing its useless battle to free
"It will com e 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 m ake sure the fisherm en weren' t looking and threw it back into the
The fish m ade a sm all splash as it hit the dark surface of the lagoon and turned
into a beam ing Hottabych.
"May the day upon which you were born be forever blessed, 0 kind-hearted son
of Alyosha!" he exclaim ed gratefully, as he stood waist-deep in water. "Once
again you' ve saved m y life A few m oments more and I would have choked in that
net. got foolishly trapped in it while searching for m y unfortunate brother."
"Hottabych, old m an! W hat a great fellow you are for being alive! W e were so
"And I, too, was tortured by the thought that you, 0 twice m y saviour, and our
young friend were left alone and hungry in an alien country."
"W e're not hungry at all. These fisherm en really treated 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," Vo lka said after a m oment' s pause. "Put
yourself in their place: suddenly you see a wet old m an clim bing out of the water
in the m iddle of the night. No, this is no good at all."
"You' re right as always," Hottabych agr eed. "Return to the shore and I' ll join
A short while later, the sleeping fisher men were awakened by the sound of an
approaching horse. Soon a strange rider stopped at the sm ouldering fire.
He was an old m an in a cheap linen suit and a hard straw boater. His
magnificent beard was wind-blown, disclo sing to all who cared to look an
em broidered Ukrainian shirt. He wore a pair of gold and silver em broidered pink
slippers with funny turned-up toes. His feet were placed in gold stirrups that were
studded with diam onds and em eralds. 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 m an held a large leather suitcase.
"W ould you please direct m e to the noble fisherm en who have so kindly taken
in and fed two lonely, hungry boys? " he said to Giovanni, who had risen to greet
W ithout waiting for an answer, he dism ount ed, and, with a sigh of relief, set the
suitcases on the sand.
"W hat' s the m atter? Do you know them ?" Giovanni asked cautiously.
"Certainly I know m y young friends!" Ho ttabych cried, em bracing each in turn
as they ran up to him .
Then he addressed the startled fisherm en:
"Believe m e, 0 m ost honourable of all fisherm en, when I say I do not know how
to thank you enough for your precious hospitality and kindness!"
"W hy, there' s nothing to thank us for. Not for the fish certainly? " the grey-
haired fisherm an said in surprise. "I t didn' t Set us back m uch, believe m e,
"These are the words of a truly selfle ss m an, and they only increase m y feeling
of gratitude. Perm it m e to repay you with these m odest gifts," Hottabych said,
handing a dum b-founded Giovanni the two suitcases.
"There m ust be som e m istake, 0 respected Signore," Giovanni uttered after
exchanging puzzled glances with his com panions. "W hy, you can buy at least a
thousand chowders like the one we shared with the boys for two such suitcases. I
don' t want you to think it was a very special kind of chowder. W e're poor
"It is you who are m istaken, 0 m ost m odest of all kind-hearted people! W ithin
these excellent boxes which you call by the scholarly nam e of ' suitcase' are riches
that are thousands and thousands of tim es greater than the cost of your soup.
Nonetheless, I consider they cannot pay fo r it, for there is nothing m ore precious in
the world than disinterested hospitality."
He opened the suitcases and everyone saw that they were cram med with
magnificent, live, silvery fish.
W hile the fisherm en were still wonderi ng what sense there was in giving
fisherm en fish, Hottabych em ptied the quive ring contents of the suitcases onto the
sand. It was then that the three m en gasp ed in surprise and am azem ent: in som e
strange way, both suitcases were found to be cram med full of fish again!
Hottabych em ptied the suitcases once again, and once again they were f illed with
the m arvellous gifts of the sea. This was repeated a fourth and a fifth tim e.
"And now," Hottabych said, enjoying th e im pression he had m ade, "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 Allah for luck, you will never again
have to drag about the m arket-place with heavy baskets of fish. You need only
take along one of these ' suitcases' and give the custom er exactly as m uch as he
wants. But I beg you, do not object," Hotta bych said when he noticed that the
fisherm en were about to say som ething. "I assure you, there has been no m istake.
May your life be happy and cloudless, 0 m ost noble of fisherm en! Farewell! Hop
up here, boys!"
W ith Giovanni' s help, the boys clim bed into the saddle behind Hottabych.
"Farewell, Signore! Good-bye, boys!" th e dazed fisherm en shouted, as they
watched the surprising strangers disappear in the distance.
"Even if these were ordinary suitcases, not m agic ones, we could get m any liras
for them ," Giovanni said thoughtfully.
"W ell, I think we' ll f inally be able to m ake ends m eet now, Pietro," the oldest of
the three added. He was close to sixty, w ith a wrinkled, weather-beaten face and
dry, sinewy arm s. "W e'll pay our taxes, cure m y cursed rheum atism , and buy you a
coat, a hat and a pair of shoes, Gi ovanni. After all, you' re a young m an and you
should be dressed well. As a m atter of f act, som e new clothes won' t harm any of
us, will they?"
"New clothes!" Giovanni m imicked angr ily. "W hen there' s so m uch sorrow and
poverty everywhere! First of all, we' ll have to help Giacom o's widow, you know,
the one who drowned last year and left three children and an old m other."
"You' re right, Giovanni," Pietro agree d. "W e should help Giacom o's widow. He
was a good and true friend."
Then the third fisherm an entered the c onversation. He was a m an of thirty, and
his nam e was Cristoforo.
"W hat about Luigi? W e should give him som e m oney, too. The poor fellow' s
dying of tuberculosis."
"That' s right," Giovanni said. "And Sybilla Capelli. Her son' s been in prison f or
over a year now for organizing the strike."
"Just think how m any people we can hel p," Giovanni said excitedly. And the
three kind f isherm en sat late into the night , discussing whom else they could help,
now that they had the wonderful suitcas es. These were honest and kind-hearted
toilers, and the idea never entered their m inds to use Hottabych' s present in order
to get rich and be wealthy fishm ongers.
I am happy to tell this to m y readers, so they' ll know the old m an's present fell
into good hands, and I' m certain that none of them , if they were in the fisherm en's
place, would have acted otherwise.
THE VESSEL FROM THE PILLARS OF HERCULES
This tim e Hottabych was true to his word. He had prom ised 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 m an was excited. He scram bled up on the beach, carrying a large
seaweed-covered m etal object over his head.
"I found him , m y friends!" he yelled. "I found the vessel in which m y
unfortunate brother Om ar Asaf ibn Hottab has been im prisoned these m any
centuries—m ay the sun always shine over him ! I scanned the whole sea bottom
and was beginning to despair when I no ticed this m agic vessel in the green
vastness near the Pillars of Hercules."
"W hat are you waiting for? Hurry up and open it!" Zhenya cried, running up to
the exultant old m an.
"I dare not open it, for it is sealed with Sulaym an' s Seal. Let Volka ibn Alyosha,
who freed m e, also free m y long-suffering little brother. Here' s the vessel which I
have spent so m any sleepless nights dream ing about!" Hottabych continued,
waving his find overhead.
"Here, 0 Volka, open it, to the joy of m y brother Om ar and m yself!"
Pressing his ear to the side of the ve ssel, he laughed happily, "Oho, m y friends!
Om ar is signalling to m e from within!"
There was envy in Zhenya' s eyes as he watched the old m an hand a nattered
Volka the vessel, or, rather, lay it at Volka' s feet, since it was so heavy.
"But didn' t you say that Om ar was im pr isoned in a copper vessel? This one' s
made of iron. Oh well, no m atter.... W here' s the seal? Aha, here it is!" Volka said,
inspecting the vessel caref ully f rom all sides.
Suddenly he turned pale and shouted:
"Quick, lie down! Zhenya, lie down! Hottabych, throw it right back into
water and lie down!"
"You' re m ad!" Hottabych said indignantly. "I' ve dream ed of our m eeting for so
many years, and now, after finding him , you want m e to throw him back to the
"Throw it as far out as you can! Your Om ar isn' t inside! Hurry, or we' ll all be
dead!" Volka pleaded. Since the old m an s till hesitated, he yelled at the top of his
voice, "It is an order! Do you hear? !"
Shrugging in dism ay, Hottabych raised th e heavy object, heaved it and tossed it
at least 200 yards from the shore.
Before he had a chance to turn for an explanation towards 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 ove r the calm surface of the lagoon and fell
apart with a loud crash. Thousands of stunned and killed fish floated be
llies up on
People were already running towards them , attracted by the sound of the
"Let' s run!" Volka com manded.
They hurried to the highway and headed towards the city.
A grieved Hottabych lagged behind and ke pt turning round constantly. He was
still not convinced that he had done right by obeying Volka.
"W hat did you see on the thing? " Zhenya asked when he had caught up with
Volka, who was way ahead of him and Hottabych.
" ' M ade in USA,' that' s what!"
"So it was a bom b."
"No, it was a m ine. There' s a big difference! It was an underwater m ine."
Hottabych sighed sadly.
W hen Hottabych saw that Om ar was not to be found in the Mediterranean Sea,
he suggested that they set out to the shores of the Atlantic Ocean. The
in itself was extrem ely tem pting. However, Volka was 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 ve ry im portant. And so, with a heavy heart,
Hottabych tem porarily put off the search for Om ar Asaf.
The "VK-1" m agic-carpet-seaplane with Hassan Abdurrakhm an ibn Hottab,
Volka Kostylkov and Zhenya Bogorad aboar d, soared into the air and disappeared
beyond the far-off m ountains.
Som e ten hours later it landed safely on the sloping bank of the Moskva Rive
THE SHORTEST CHAPTER OF ALL
On a hot July noon, the ice-breaker "Ladoga," carrying a large group of
excursionists, left the Red Pier of th e port of Arkhangelsk. The band on the pier
was playing m arches. People waved their handkerchiefs and shouted "Bon
voyage!" Trailing white puf fs of steam , the ship sailed cautiously out into the
middle of the Severnaya Dvina, past the many Soviet and foreign ships at anchor
there, and headed for the m outh of the river and the W hite Sea. Endless cutters,
motor-boats, schooners, trawlers, gigs, and cum bersom e rafts ploughed the calm
surface of the great northern river.
The excursionists, who were now gath ered on the top deck, were leaving
Arkhangelsk and the m ainland for a whole m onth.
"Volka!" one of the passengers shouted to another, who was anxiously darting
about near the captain' s bridge, "W here' s Hottabych? "
The perceptive reader will gather f rom these words that our old f riends were
am ong the passengers.
DREAMING OF THE "LADOGA"
Here we should like to pause for a m oment and tell our readers how our three
friends cam e to be aboard the "Ladoga" in the first place.
Naturally, everyone recalls that Volka failed his geography exam ination
disgracefully, which was largely his ow n fault (he should never have relied on
prom pting). It is difficult to forget such an event. Volka certainly rem embered it
and was studying intently for his re-exam ination. He had decided to do his utm ost
to get an "A."
Despite his sincere desire to prepare fo r the exam ination, it was not as easy as it
seem ed. Hottabych was in the way. Volk a had never m ustered up enough courage
to tell the old m an of the true consequences of his fatal prom pting. That is why he
could never tell him he needed tim e to st udy, since he feared that Hottabych m ight
decide to punish his teachers, and Varv ara Stepanovna in particular, for having
failed him .
Hottabych m ade him self particularly troublesom e the day of the unusual
football m atch between the Shaiba and Zubilo team s.
Feeling terribly contrite for all the anguish he had caused Volka at the
Hottabych fairly shadowed him ; he tr ied to regain his favour by scattering
com plim ents and proposing the m ost tem pting adventures. It was not until eleven
o'clock at night that Volka had a chance to get down to his studies.
"W ith your perm ission, 0 Volka, I sha ll go to sleep, for I feel som ewhat
drowsy," Hottabych finally said, as he yawned and crawled under the bed.
"Good night, Hottabych! Sweet dream s!" Volka answered, settling back in his
chair and gazing at his bed l ongingly. He was also tired and, as he put it, was quite
ready to doze off for som e 500 or 600 minutes. But he had to study, and so
reluctantly put his m ind to his work.
Alas! The rustling of the pages attracted the sleepy Genie' s attention. He stuck
his head and dishevelled beard from under the bed and said in a foggy voice:
"W hy aren' t you in bed yet, 0 stadium of m y soul? "
"I' m not sleepy. I have insom nia," Volka lied.
"My, m y, m y!" Hottabych said com passionately. "That' s really too bad.
Insom nia is extrem ely harm ful at your delicate age. But don' t despair, there' s
nothing I can' t do."
He yanked several hairs from his bear d, blew on them , whispered som ething,
and Volka, who had no tim e to object to this untim ely and unnecessary aid, fell
asleep im mediately, with his head resting on the table.
"Praised be Allah! All is well," Ho ttabych m umbled, crawling out from under
the bed. "May you rem ain in the em braces of sleep until breakfast tim e!"
He lifted the sleeping boy lightly and car efully lay him to rest in his bed,
pulling the blanket over him . Then, clucking and m umbling with satisfaction, he
crawled back under the bed.
All night long the table lam p cast its useless light on the geography text-book,
forlornly opened at page 11.
You can well im agine how cunning Volka had to be to prepare for his re-
exam ination in such difficult circum stan ces. This was the very im portant reason
why Volka (and, therefore, Hottabych and Zhenya) had to fly hom e to Moscow
from Genoa instead of continuing on to the shores of the Atlantic Ocean.
However, Volka soon found out that pr eparing for the exam ination was only
half the job done. He had yet to think of a way to get rid of Hottabych
was in school taking the exam , to find a way of leaving the apartm ent unnoticed.
The telephone rang. Volka went to the foyer to answer it. It was Zhenya.
"Hello!" Volka said. "Yes, today. At noon.... He' s still sleeping.... W hat? ...
Sure, he' s well. He' s a very healthy old m an.... W hat? ... No, I haven' t thought of
anything yet.... You' re crazy! He' ll be terri bly hurt and he' ll do such m ischief we
won' t be able to undo it in a hundred year s.... Then you' ll be here at ten-thirty?
Hottabych stuck his head out of Volka' s room . He whispered reproachfully,
"Volka, why are you talking to our best frie nd Zhenya ibn Kolya in the hall? That' s
not polite. W ouldn' t it be nicer if you invited him in?"
"How can he com e in if he' s at hom e? "
Hottabych was offended.
"I can' t understand why you want to play tricks on your old devoted Genie. My
ears have never yet deceived m e. I just heard you talking to Zhenya."
"I was talking to him on the tele phone. Don' t you understand—te-le-ph one? I
sure do have a lot of trouble with you! W hat a thing to get m ad at! Com e here, I' ll
show you what I m ean!"
Hottabych joined him . Volka rem oved the receiver and dialled the fam iliar
"W ill 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 cautiously and his face broke into a
puzzled sm ile.
"Is that really you, 0 blessed Zhenya ibn Kolya? W here are you now? ... At
hom e? ... And I thought you were sitting in th is black little thing I' m holding to m y
ear.... Yes, that' s right, it' s m e, your de voted friend Hassan Abdurrakhm an ibn Hot-
tab.... You' ll be here soon? If that' s the case, m ay your trip be blessed!"
Beam ing with pleasure, he handed the r eceiver back to Volka, who was looking
"It' s am azing!" Hottabych exclaim ed. "W ithout once raising m y voice I spoke
to a boy who is two hours' walking distance away!"
Returning to Volka' s room , the old m an turned round slyly, snapped the fingers
of his left hand, and there appeared on th e wall over the aquarium an exact copy of
the telephone hanging in the hall.
"Now you can talk to your friends as much as you like without leaving your
own room ."
"Golly, thanks a lot!" Volka said gratef ully. He rem oved the receiver, pressed it
to his ear and listened.
There was no dial tone.
"Hello! Hello!" he shouted. He shook the receiver and then blew into it. Still,
there was no dial tone.
"The phone' s broken," he explained to Hottabych. "FU unscrew the receiver and
see what' s wrong."
However, despite all his efforts, he could not unscrew it.
"It' s m ade of the finest black m arble," Hottabych boasted.
"Then there' s nothing inside? " Volka asked disappointedly.
"W hy, is there supposed to be som ething inside this, too? Just like in a watch? "
"Now I know why it doesn' t work. You' ve only m ade a m odel of a telephone,
without anything that' s supposed to go in side it. But the insides are the m ost
"W hat' s supposed to be inside? A special kind of filling? The kind that was in
the watch, with all kinds of wheels? You just explain it, and I' ll m ake it exactly as
it should be."
"It' s not like a watch; it' s entirely dif ferent. And it' s not so easy to explain. You
have to study all about electricity first," Volka said with an air of im
"Then teach m e about what you call electricity."
"To begin with, you have to study arithm etic, algebra, geom etry, trigonom etry,
mechanical drawing and all kinds of other subjects."
"Then teach m e these other subjects, too."
"Uh ... well... I don' t know all of them m yself, yet," Volka confessed.
"Then teach m e what you already know."
"It' ll take an awfully long tim e."
"That doesn' t m atter. I am willing, nonethel ess. Don' t keep m e in suspense: will
you teach m e these subjects, which give a person such wonderful powers? "
"On condition that you do your hom ework well," Volka said sternly. "Here,
read the paper while I go to see a frie nd of m ine about som ething." He handed
Hottabych a copy of Pionerskaya Pravda and set out for school.
The light-grey school building was unusually deserted and quiet. In the office
on the first floor the principal and Va rvara Stepanovna were discussing school
problem s, and on the third floor the l oud, cheerful voices of the painters and
plasterers echoed through the halls. It was sum mer and the school was being
"W ell, m y dear Varvara Stepanovna, what shall I say? " the principal said with a
sm ile. "One can only envy such a v acation. How long will you be gone? " "I
believe for a m onth or so."
Volka was glad to hear that Varvara Stepanovna would not be in danger of
encountering Hottabych for at least a m onth. If only she would leave as quickly as
"Aha, the crystal cupola of the heavens! " the principal teased as he greeted
Volka. "W ell, are you feeling better now? " "Yes, I' m quite well, thank you."
"Excellent! Have you prepared for your exam ination? " "Yes, I have."
"W ell, then, let' s have a little talk."
The little talk em braced alm ost the whol e of sixth-grade geography. If Volka
had thought of looking at the tim e, he would have been surprised to note that their
little talk lasted nearly twenty m inutes. Bu t he couldn' t be bothered with the tim e.
He thought the principal was not asking th e questions in great enough detail. He
felt he could speak on each topic for five or ten m inutes. He was experiencing the
torm enting and at once pleasant feeling of a pupil who knows his subject inside-
out and is m ost worried by the thought th at this fact m ight go unnoticed by his
exam iners. But one look at Varvara St epanovna convinced him that she was
pleased with his answers. Nevertheless, when the principal said, "Good for you!
Now I can see that your teacher hasn' t wasted her tim e on you," Volka felt a
pleasant chill run down his spine. His freckle d face spread into such a broad sm ile
that the principal and Varvara Stepanovna sm iled, too.
"Yes, Kostylkov has obviously put in a lot of studying," his teacher sai
Ah, if they only knew of the terribly difficult conditions under which V
to prepare for his exam ! W hat stratagem s 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 m uch m ore his
teachers would have respected his achievem ents, had they only known!
For a m oment, 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 him self in tim e.
"W ell, Kostylkov, congratulations on passi ng to the 7th grade! Have a good rest
until Septem ber. Get strong and healthy! Goodbye for now!"
"Thank you," Volka replied as discree tly as a 7th-grade pupil should. "Good-
W hen he arrived at the river bank, Hottabych, who had m ade him self
com fortable in the shade of a m ighty oak, was reading the paper aloud to Zhenya.
"I passed! I got an ' A'!" Volka whispere d to his friend. Then he stretched out
beside Hottabych, experiencing at least thr ee pleasant feelings at once: the first
was that he was lying in the shade; th e second, that he had passed his exam so
well; and the last, but by no m eans least— the pride of a teacher enjoying the
achievem ents of his pupil.
Meanwhile, Hottabych had reached the section entitled "Sports News." The
very first article m ade the friends sigh with envy.
"In the m iddle of July, the ice-breaker 'Ladoga,' chartered by the Central
Excursion Bureau, will leave Arkhangelsk f or the Arctic. Sixty-eight persons, the
best workers of Moscow and Leningrad, w ill spend their vacations aboard it. This
prom ises to be a very interesting cruise." "W hat a trip! I' d give anything to go
along," Volka said dream ily.
"You need only express your wish, 0 m y most excellent friends, and you shall
go wherever you please!" Hottabych prom ise d, for he yearned to som ehow repay
his young teachers. Volka m erely sighed again. Zhenya 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 sam e day an old m an dressed in a white suit and a straw boater and
wearing queer pink em broidered slippers with turned-up toes entered the offices of
the Central Excursion Bureau. He politely inquired whether he had the go
fortune of being in the cham bers of th at high-placed establishm ent which granted
people the fragrant joy of travel. The secretary, surprised by such a flowery
question, replied in the affirm ative. Then the old m an inquired in the sam e florid
language where the wise m an worthy of th e greatest respect sat, he, who was in
charge of booking passage on the ice-breaker "Ladoga."
He was directed to a plum p, bald m an s eated at a large desk piled high with
"But please bear in m ind that there are no cabins left on the ' Ladoga' ," the
The old m an did not reply. He thanke d her with a nod and approached the
plum p m an silently. In silence he m ade a low bow, in silence and with great
dignity he handed him a roll of paper wrapped in a newspaper; then he bowed
again, turned in silence and lef t, with th e puzzled eyes of all who had witnessed
this curious scene following him out.
The bald m an unwrapped the newspaper. There, on his desk, was the strangest
letter the Central Excursion Bureau had ever received—or, for that m atter, the
strangest letter ever received by any Soviet office. It was a yellow parchm ent
scroll. A large green wax seal dangled from a golden silk cord attached to it.
"Did you ever see anything like it? " the plum p m an asked loudly and ran off to
show it to his chief, in charge of long-range cruises.
W hen they had read it, his chief dropped his work and the two of them dashed
off to the director.
"W hat' s the m atter? Can' t you see I' m busy? " the director said.
The section chief silently unrolled the parchm ent scroll.
"W hat' s that? Is it from a m useum ?"
"No, it' s from 'Incom ing m ail'."
"Incom ing m ail? ! W hat' s in it? " After reading the contents, the director said,
"W ell, I' ve seen quite a lot in m y day, but I' ve never received such a letter. It m ust
have been written by a m aniac."
"Even if he is a m aniac, he' s a coll ector of antiques," the section chief
answered. "You try to get som e genuine parchm ent nowadays."
"Just listen to what he' s written," the director continued, f orgetting that his
subordinates had already read the m essage. "It' s typical raving!
" ' To the greatly respected Chief of Pleas ures, the incorruptible and enlightened
Chief of the Long-Range Cruise Section, m ay his nam e be renowned am ong the
most honourable ' and respected Section Chiefs!' "
The director read this and winked at the section chief. "He m eans you, I guess!"
The section chief coughed in em barrassm ent.
" ' I, Hassan Abdurrakhm an, the m ighty Genie, the great Genie, known for m y
power and m ight in Baghdad and Dam ascus, in Babylon and Sum er, son of
Hottab, the great King of Evil Spirits, a part of the Eternal Kingdom , whose
dynasty is pleasing to Sulaym an, the Son of David (on the twain be peace!), whose
reign is pleasing to their hearts. Alla h was overjoyed at m y blessed doings and
blessed m e, Hassan Abdurrakhm an, a Geni e who worshipped him . All the kings
reigning in the palaces of the Four Parts of the W orld, from the Upper Sea to the
Lower Sea, and the kings of the W est who live in tents—all have brought their
hom age to m e and kissed m y feet in Baghdad.
" ' It has becom e known to m e, 0 m ost noble of Section Chiefs, that a ship which
navigates without sails and is nam ed the "Ladoga" will soon set out on a pleasure
cruise f rom the city of Arkhangelsk with famous people of various cities aboard. It
is m y wish that m y two young friends, whos e virtues are so m any that even a short
enum eration of them will not fit into this scroll, should also be am ong them .
" ' Alas, I have not been inform ed of how great a person' s fam e m ust be in order
that he be eligible f or this m agnif icen t trip. However, no m atter how great the
requirem ents, m y friends will m eet them —nay, m ore than m eet them , f or it is in
my power to m ake them princes or sheiks , tsars or kings, the m ost fam ous of the
fam ous, the richest of the rich, the m ightiest of the m ighty.
" ' I kiss your feet seven tim es and se ven tim es and send you greetings, 0 wise
Section Chief, and request you to ' inform m e when I and m y two young
com panions should appear on board the above-m entioned ship, m ay storm s and ill-
fortune by-pass it on its distant and dangerous journey!
" ' Signed by the hand of Hassan Abdurrakhm an ibn Hottab, the Mighty Genie.'
At the very bottom was Volka' s address, enclosed for a reply.
"'Ravings!" the director said, rolling up the scroll. "The ravings of a m adm an.
Stick it away in the file and be done with it."
"I think we' d better answer him , or th e crazy old m an will be dropping in five
tim es a day to find out about the outcom e of his application. I assure you, it' ll be
quite im possible to work in the of fice," the section chief objected. A few m inutes
later he dictated an answer to his secretary.
WHO IS MOST FAMOUS?
Hottabych had acted unwisely in giving Vo lka' s address for a reply. It was only
by the m erest chance that Volka m et the pos tm an on the stairs. W hat if this lucky
meeting had not taken place? The letter from the Central Excursion Bureau would
have been delivered to his parents; a ll sorts of questions would have followed,
resulting in such a m ess, that he didn' t even care to think of it.
The younger Kostylkov did not often receive m ail addressed to him , personally.
In fact, not m ore than thr ee or four tim es in all his life. That is why, when the
postm an said he had a letter for him , Volka was greatly surprised. W hen he saw
the return address of the Central Excursion Bureau he was stunned. He ex
the envelope carefully and even sm elled it, but it only sm elled of the paste on the
flap. W ith trem bling fingers he opened it and read the section chief' s short but
polite reply several tim es over without understanding a thing:
"Dear Citizen H. Abdurrakhm anov,
"W e regret to inform you that we recei ved your request too late. There are no
cabins left on the ' Ladoga.'
"My best regards to your princes and sheiks.
I. Dom osedov, Section Chief of Long-Range Cruises."
"Can it be that the old m an tried to get us on the ' Ladoga' ?" it suddenly occurred
to Volka. He was deeply touched. "W hat a wonderful old m an! But I don' t
understand which princes and sheiks this Dom osedov is sending his regards to. I' ll
find out right away, though."
"Hottabych! Hey, Hottabych!" he shouted when he reached the river bank.
"Com e here for a m inute, will you? " The old m an was dozing in the shade of the
great oak. W hen he heard Volka calling, he started, jum ped to his feet, and
shuffled over to the boy.
"Here I am , 0 goalie of m y soul," he panted. "I await your orders."
"Com e clean now. Did you write to the Central Excursion Bureau? "
"Yes, but I wanted it to be a surprise. Did you receive an answer alread
"Sure, here it is," Volka said, showing the old m an the letter.
Hottabych snatched the paper from him . After reading the tactful answer
slowly, syllable by syllable, he turned pur ple and began to trem ble all over. His
eyes becam e bloodshot. In a great rage he ripped open his em broidered collar.
"I beg your pardon," he wheezed, "I be g your pardon! I m ust leave you for a
few m inutes to take care of that m ost despicable Dom osedov. Oh, I know what I' ll
do to him ! I'll annihilate him ! No, that' s no good! He doesn' t deserve such m erciful
punishm ent. Better still, I' ll turn him into a filthy 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!"
W ith these words the old m an zoom ed into the air. But Volka shouted sternly:
"Com e back! Com e back this m inute!"
The old m an returned obediently. His h eavy grey brows were drawn together
"Really now!" Volka shouted, truly al arm ed on the section chief' s account.
"W hat' s the m atter! Are you crazy? Is it his fault there' s no m ore room on the ship?
After all, it' s not m ade of rubber, it can 't stretch. And will you please tell m e who
the sheiks and princes he refers to are? "
"You, 0 Volka ibn Alyosha, you and our fr iend Zhenya ibn Kolya, m ay Allah
grant you both a long life. I wrote and told th is m ost degraded of all section chiefs
that he need not worry about your not being fam ous enough, for no m atter how
fam ous the other passengers aboard the 'Ladoga' are, I can m ake you, m y friends,
more fam ous still. I wrote this sm all-brained Dom osedov—m ay Allah forget him
com pletely—that he m ay regard you as sheiks or princes or tsars without even
having seen you."
Despite the tenseness of the situation, Volka could not help laughing. H
laughed so loudly, that several very serious -m inded jackdaws rose noisily from the
nearest tree and flew off indignantly.
"Help! That m eans I' m a prince!" Volk a choked the words out through peals of
"I m ust adm it, I cannot understand th e reason for your laughter," Hottabych
said in a wounded tone. "But if we are to discuss the question seriously
, I had
planned on m aking Zhenya a prince. I think you deserve to be a sultan."
"Honestly, you' ll be the death of m e yet! Then Zhenya would be a prince, while
I'd be a sultan? W hat political backwardne ss!" Volka gasped when he had f inally
stopped laughing. "W hat' s so glorious about being a prince or a king? W hy, they' re
the m ost good-for-nothing people in the world!"
"I' m afraid you' ve gone out of your m ind," Hottabych said, looking anxiously at
his young com panion. "As I understand it, even sultans aren' t good enough for
you. W hom then do you consider to be fam ous? Nam e m e at least one such
"W hy, Chutkikh, or Lunin, or Kozhedub, or Pasha Angelina."
"W ho is this Chutkikh, a sultan? "
"Much higher than that! He' s one of the best textile specialists in the country!"
"And Lunin? "
"Lunin is the best engine driver!"
"And Kozhedub? "
"He' s one of the very, very best pilots!"
"And whose wife is Pasha Angelina for you to consider her m ore fam ous than a
sheik or a king? "
"She' s fam ous in her own right. It ha s nothing at all to do with her husband.
She' s a fam ous tractor driver."
"0 precious Volka, how can you play such tricks on an old m an like m e! Do you
want to convince m e that a plain weaver or a locom otive driver is m ore fam ous
than a tsar?"
"In the first place, Chutkikh isn' t a pl ain weaver. He' s a fam ous innovator,
known to the entire textile industry; and L unin is a fam ous engineer. And in the
second place, the m ost ordinary worker in our country is m ore respected than the
tsar of tsars. Don' t you believe m e? Here, read this."
Volka handed Hottabych the paper and ther e, with his own eyes, he read the
following heading: "Fam ous People of Ou r Country," beneath which were over a
dozen photographs of fitters, agronom ists, pilots, collective farm ers, weavers,
teachers and carpenters.
"I would never have believed you," Hotta bych said with a sigh. "I would never
have believed you if your words had not b een corroborated on the pages of this
newspaper I so respect. I beg you, 0 Volka, explain why everything is so different
in this wonderful country of yours? "
"W ith pleasure," Volka answered. And sitting down on the river bank, he spoke
at length and with great pride, explaini ng the essence 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 to anyone who is honest and
just all this gives plenty to think about ," Hottabych said candidly when his first
lesson in current events was over. After a short pause he added:
"That is all the m ore reason why I want you and your friend to sail on the
'Ladoga.' Believe m e, I will see that it is arranged."
"But please, no rough stuff," Volka wa rned. "And no m onkey-business. That
means no fakery. For instance, don' t think of m aking m e out to be a straight ' A'
pupil. I have ' B's in three subjects."
"Your every wish is m y com mand," Hottabych replied and bowed low.
The old m an was as good as his word. He did not lay a finger on a single
em ployee of the Central Excursion Bureau.
He just arranged m atters so, that when our three friends boarded the "Ladoga,"
they were m et very warm ly and were given an excellent cabin; and no one ever
inquired why in the world they had been included in the passenger list—
it sim ply
did not occur to anyone to ask such a question.
To the captain' s great surprise, twen ty m inutes before sailing tim e a hundred
and fifty crates of oranges, as m any crat es of excellent grapes, two hundred crates
of dates and a ton and a half of the finest Eastern delicacies were delivered to the
ship. The following m essage was stencilled on each and every crate:
"For the passengers and the m embers of th e fearless crew of the ' Ladoga,' from
a citizen who wishes to rem ain anonym ous."
One does not have to be especially clev er to guess that these were Hottabych' s
gifts: he did not want the three of them to take part in the expedition at som eone
else' s expense.
And if you ask any of the form er passe ngers, they still cherish the kindest
feelings for the "citizen who wished to rem ain anonym ous." His gifts were well
liked by all.
Now, having m ade it sufficiently clear to the readers how our friends found
them selves 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 Arkhangelsk with a large group of
excursionists on board. Our three frie nds, Hottabych, Volka and Zhenya, were
am ong the passengers. Hottabych was sitting on deck, conversing solem nly with a
middle-aged f itter f rom Sverdlovsk on the a dvantages of cloth shoes as com pared
to leather ones, pointing out the com fort people suffering from old corns found in
Volka and Zhenya were leaning on the ra iling of the top deck. They were as
happy as only boys can be who are aboard a real ice-breaker for the first tim e in
their lives, and, to top it all, are sailing aw ay for a whole m onth, not to just any old
place, but to the Arctic.
After exchanging opinions on boats, dies el ships, ice-breakers, tug-boats,
schooners, trawlers, cutters, and other type s of craft skim ming over the surface of
the Northern Dvina, the boys fell silent, enchanted by the beauty of the
"Isn' t that som ething!" Volka said in a voice that seem ed to im ply 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 long 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 m an away from Varvara Stepanovna for at
least a m onth."
"Sure," Zhenya agreed.
"There' s the Mate in charge of the passengers," Volka whispered, nodding
towards a young sailor with a freckled face.
They looked with awe at the m an who carried his high and rom antic title so
nonchalantly. His glance slid over th e young passengers unseeingly and cam e to
rest on a sailor who was leaning on the railing nearby.
"W hat' s the m atter, are you feeling hom esick? "
"W ell, here we are, off again for a whole m onth to the end of nowheres."
The boys were am azed to discover that som eone m ight not want to go to the
Arctic! W hat a strange f ellow!
"A real sailor is a guest on shore and at hom e at sea!" the Passenger Mate said
weightily. "Did you ever hear that saying? "
"W ell, I can' t say I' m a real sailor, since I' m only a waiter."
"Then get one dinner in the galley and take it to Cabin 14, to a lady na
"That' s the sam e last nam e as Varvara Stepanovna has," Volka rem arked to
"She' s a m iddle-aged lady and she caught cold on the 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 alarm ed at the lady' 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 Republic."
"An Honoured Teacher! And her last nam e is Koltsova. W hat a coincidence!"
"W ell, it' s a very com mon last nam e, ju st like Ivanov," Zhenya objected in a
voice that was suddenly hoarse.
"Her nam e and patronym ic are Varvara Stepanovna," the Mate went on.
The boys saw spots before their eyes.
"It' s no m atter that she' s Varvara Step anovna, too. That doesn' t m ean she' s our
Varvara Stepanovna," Zhenya said in an e ffort to reassure him self and his friend.
At this point, however, Volka recalled the conversation that had taken p
the principal' s office when he was ther e to take his geography exam ination. 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. W hy couldn' t she go som e place else!"
"W e'll save her anyway, we just have to think of a way," Zhenya said darkly
after a short but painf ul silence.
They sat down on a bench, thought a while, and com plained of their bad luck:
such a journey was really som ething w onderful for anyone else, but it would be
nothing but a headache for them from now on. Yet, since this was the way things
had turned out, they m ust save thei r teacher. But how? W hy, it was all quite
sim ple: by distracting Hottabych.
They had no need to worry today, for she would certainly be confined to
cabin till the m orrow. Then they would pl an their strategy as f ollows: one would
go strolling with Varvara Stepanovna, or s it on a bench talking to her, while the
other would be distracting Hottabych. Fo r instance, Volka and Hottabych m ight
play a gam e of chess, while Zhenya and Varvara Stepanovna took a stroll down
the deck. Volka and Hottabych could be on deck, while Zhenya and Varvara
Stepanovna were talking som ewhere far aw ay, in a cabin or som eplace. The only
points rem aining to be cleared up were what they were supposed to do when
everyone went ashore together or gathered for m eals in the m ess hall.
"W hat if we disguise her? " Volka suggested.
"W hat do you want to do—stick a beard on her? " Zhenya snapped. "Nonsense.
Make-up won' t save her. W e'll have to think it over carefully."
"Ahoy, m y young friends! W here are you? " Hottabych shouted from below.
"W e're here, we' re com ing right down."
They went down to the prom enade deck.
"I and m y honourable friend here are ha ving an argum ent about the Union of
South Africa," Hottabych said, introducing them to his com panion.
Things were going from bad to worse. If the old m an began advertising his
knowledge of geography, the passengers would surely laugh at him ; he m ight very
well becom e offended, and what m ight happen then did not bear thinking about.
"W ho' s right, m y young friends? Isn' t Pretor ia the capital of the Union of South
"Sure it is," the boys agreed.
They were am azed. How had the old m an com e by this correct inform ation?
Maybe from the papers? Naturally. That was the only answer.
"My honourable friend here insists it' s Cape Town, not Pretoria," Hottabych
said trium phantly. "W e also argued about how far above us the stratosphere is. I
said that one could not draw a definite line between the troposphere and
stratosphere, since it is higher or lower in various parts of the world. And also that
the line of the horizon, which, as one can ascertain from the science of geography,
is no m ore than a figm ent of our im agination...." .
"Hottabych, I want a word with you in pr ivate," Volka interrupted sternly. They
walked off to a side. "Tell m e the truth, was it you who filched m y geography
"May I be perm itted to know what you m ean by that strange " word? If you
mean, 0 Volka, that I.... W hat' s the m atter now, 0 anchor of m y heart? You' re as
pale as a ghost."
Volka' s jaw dropped. His gaze becam e fixed on som ething behind the old
Genie' s back.
Hottabych was about to turn round to see what it was, but Volka wailed:
"Don' t turn around! Please, don' t turn around! Hottabych, m y sweet, dear
Nevertheless, the old m an did turn around.
Com ing towards them , arm in arm with another elderly lady, was Varvara
Stepanovna Koltsova, an Honoured Teacher of the Republic, the 6B geography
teacher of Moscow Secondary School No. 245.
Hottabych approached her slowly. W ith a practised gesture he yanked a hair
from his beard, and then another.
"Don' t!" Volka yelled in horror, as he grabbed Hottabych' s hand. "She' s not to
blam e! You' ve no right to!"
Zhenya silently tackled Hottabych from the rear and gripped him as firm ly as
The old m an's com panion looked at this strange scene in utter am azem ent.
"Boys!" Varvara Stepanovna com manded, apparently not at all surprised at
meeting her pupils on the ice-breaker. "Behave yourselves! Leave the old m an
alone! Didn' t you hear m e?! Kostylkov! Bogorad! Do you hear? "
"He' ll turn you into a toad if we do!" Vo lka cried frantically, feeling that he
could not m anage Hottabych.
"Or into a chopping-block on which but chers carve m utton!" Zhenya added.
"Run, Varvara Stepanovna! Hurry up and hide before he breaks loose! W hat Volka
said is true!"
"W hat nonsense!" Varvara Stepanovna sa id, raising her voice. "Children, did
you hear what I said? !"
By then Hottabych had wrenched free fr om his young friends and quickly tore
the hairs in two. The boys shut their eyes in horror.
However, they opened them when they heard Varvara Stepanovna thanking
som eone. She was holding a bouquet of flowers and a large bunch of ripe bana
Hottabych replied by bowing with a nourish and touching first his forehead and
then his heart.
W hen they were back in their cabin, the three friends had a show-down.
"Oh, Volka, why didn' t you tell m e right away, right after the exam ination, the
very first day of our happy acquaintan ce, that I failed you by m y over-confident
and ignorant prom pting? You' ve offended me. If you had only told m e, I wouldn' t
have bothered you with m y annoying gr atitude. Then you could have easily
prepared for your re-exam ination, as is becom ing an enlightened youth like you."
So spoke Hottabych, and there was real hurt in his voice.
"But you' d have turned Varvara Stepa novna into a chopping-block for carving
mutton. No, Hottabych, I know you only too we ll. W e spent all these days in
terrible fear for her life. Tell m e, w ould you have changed her into a chopping-
"Yes, I would have, there' s no use denying it. Either that or into a terrible toad."
"See! Is that what she deserves?"
"W hy, if anyone ever dares to turn this noble wom an into a chopping-block or a
toad he' ll have to deal with m e first!" the old m an cried hotly and added, "I bless
the day you induced m e to learn the al phabet and taught m e how to read the
papers. Now I am always up-to-date and we ll inf orm ed on which sea is being built,
and where. And I also bless the day Alla h gave m e the wisdom to ' filch' your
geography book—that' s the right expression, isn' t it, 0 Volka? For that truly wise
and absorbing book has opened before m e the blessed expanses of true science and
has saved m e from adm inistering that wh ich I, in m y blindness, considered a
deserving punishm ent for your highly respected teacher. I m ean 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. Fo r three days and three nights they
sailed in open seas and only towards the end of the third day did they e
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 sm ile , "go and have a look: the whole world,
as far as the eye can see, is covered with sugar and diam onds!"
W e can excuse Hottabych these funny words, as never before in his nearly forty
centuries of living had he seen a single m ound of ice worth speaking of.
Everyone in the lounge rushed on deck and discovered thousands of snow-
white drif ting ice-f loes sparkling and glitte ring in the bright rays of the m idnight
sun, m oving 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 bri ght and sunny as on a clear noonday) the
passengers saw a group of islands in the di stance. This was the first glim pse they
had of the m ajestic and som bre panoram a of Franz Joseph Land. They saw the
gloom y, naked cliffs and m ountains c overed with glittering glaciers which
resem bled sharp, pointed clouds that had been pressed close to the harsh land.
"It' s tim e to go to bed, I guess," Volka sa id 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 com es from not being used to sleeping while the sun is shining!"
"0 blessed one, it seem s to m e that it is not the sun which is interfering, but
som ething else entirely," Hottabych suggested tim idly.
However, no one paid attention to his words.
For a while, the boys wandered up and dow n the decks. There were less and
less people aboard. Finally they, too, went back to their cabin. Soon th
people on the ship who were not asleep were the crew m embers on duty.
It was quiet and peaceful aboard the "L adoga." From every cabin there cam e
the sound of snoring or deep breathing, as if this were not taking place on a ship
som e two and a half thousand kilom etres from the m ainland, in the harsh and
treacherous Barents Sea, but in a cosy rest hom e som ewhere near Moscow, during
the afternoon "quiet hour." The shades were drawn on the port-holes, just as on the
windows in rest hom es, to keep out the bright sunshine.
However, it soon becam e clear that there was a very tangible difference
between the "Ladoga" and a rest hom e. Apart from the Crim ean earthquake, old-
tim ers at rest hom es do not recall having b een tossed out of their beds in their
sleep. The passengers had just fallen asleep when a sharp jerk threw them from
That very m oment the steady hum of the engines stopped. In the silence which
followed, one could hear the slam ming of doors and the sound of running feet, as
the people rushed out of their cabins to find out what had happened. There were
shouts of com mand com ing from the deck. Volka was lucky in tum bling out of the
top berth without m ajor injuries. He im mediately jum ped 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 clim b up again wh en the m urm ur of anxious voices com ing
from the corridor convinced him that the reason was m uch m ore serious than he
"Perhaps we hit an underground reef? " he wondered, pulling on his clothes.
This thought, far from frightening him , ga ve 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 kilom etres, and m aybe our wireless doesn' t work!"
He im agined a m ost exciting picture: th ey were shipwrecked, their supplies of
drinking water and food were com ing to an end, but the passengers and crew of the
"Ladoga" were calm and courageous—as S oviet people should be. Naturally, he,
Volka Kostylkov, had the greatest will power . Yes, Vladim ir Kostylkov could look
danger in the face. He would always be cheerful and outwardly carefree, he would
com fort those who were despondent. W hen the captain of the "Ladoga" would
succum b to the inhum an strain and depriv ation, he, Volka, would rightly take over
com mand of the ship.
"W hat has disturbed the sleep so necessary to your young system ?" Hottabych
asked and yawned, interrupting Volka' s day-dream s.
"I' ll find out right away, Hottabych. I don' t want you to worry about anything,"
Volka said com fortingly and ran off.
Gathered on the spardeck near the capta in' s bridge were about twenty half-
dressed passengers. They were all discussing som ething quietly. In order to raise
their spirits, Volka assum ed a cheerful, carefree expression and said courageously:
"Be calm , everyone! Calm ness above all! There' s no need to panic!"
"That' s very true. Those are golden words, young m an! And that is why you
should go right back to your cabin and go to sleep without fear," one of
passengers replied with a sm ile. "By th e way, no one here is feeling at all
Everyone laughed, to Volka' s considerable em barrassm ent. Besides, it was
rather chilly on deck and he decided to run down and get his coat.
"Calm ness above all!" he said to Ho ttabych, who was waiting for him below.
"There' s no reason to get panicky. Before two days are out, a giant ice-breaker will
com e for us and set us afloat once again. W e certainly could have done it
ourselves, but can you hear? The engines have stopped working. Som ething went
wrong, but no one can find out what it is. There will surely be deprivations, but
let' s hope that no one will die."
Volka was listening to him self speak with pleasure. He had never dream t he
could calm people so easily and convincingly.
"0 woe is m e!" the old m an cried suddenly, shoving his bare feet into his
fam ous slippers. "If you perish, I' ll not survive you. Have we really com e upon a
shoal? Alas, alas! It would be m uch be tter if the engines were m aking noise. And
just look at m e! Instead of using m y m agic powers for m ore im portant things, I...."
"Hottabych," Volka interrupted sternly, "tell m e this m inute: what have you
"W hy, nothing m uch. It' s just that I so wanted you to sleep soundly, that I
perm itted m yself to order the engines to stop m aking noise."
"Oh, no!" Volka cried in horror. "Now I know what happened! 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 explode!"
"I hear and I obey," a rather frightened Hottabych answered shakily.
That very m oment the engines began to hum again and the "Ladoga" continued
on its way as before. Meanwhile, the captai n, the chief engineer and everyone else
on board were at a loss to explain why the engines had stopped so suddenly and
mysteriously and had resum ed working again just as suddenly and m ysteriously.
Only Hottabych and Volka knew what had happened, but for obvious reasons
they said nothing. Not even to Zhenya . But then, Zhenya had slept soundly
through it all.
"If there was ever an international cont est to see who' s the soundest sleeper, I
bet Zhenya would get first prize and be the world cham pion," Volka said.
Hottabych giggled ingratiatingly, though he had no idea what a contest was,
and especially an international one, or wh at a cham pion was. But he was trying to
Yet, this in no way staved off the unpleasant conversation. Volka sat down on
the edge of Hottabych' s berth and said:
"You know what? Let' s have a m an-to-m an talk."
"I am all ears, 0 Volka," Hottabych replied with exaggerated cheerfulness.
"Did you ever try counting how m any years older you are than m e?"
"Som ehow, the thought never entered m y head, but if you perm it m e to, I' ll
gladly do so."
"Never m ind, I figured it out already. Y ou' re three thousand, seven hundred and
nineteen years older than m e—or exactly two hundred and eighty-seven tim es!
And when people see us together on the deck or in the lounge they probably think:
how nice it is that these boys have such a respectable, wise and elderly gentlem an
to keep an eye on them . Isn' t that right? W hat' s the m atter? W hy don' t you
But Hottabych, hanging his unruly grey head, seem ed to have taken a m outhful
"But how do things really stand? Actua lly, I find that I' m suddenly responsible
for your life and the lives of all the passengers, because since it was
m e who let
you out of the bottle an since you nearly sank a whole ice-breaker, it m eans I' m
responsible for everything. I deserve to have m y head chopped off."
"Just let anyone try to chop off such a noble head as yours! Hottabych c
"All right, never m ind that. Don' t interrupt. To continue: Pi sick and tired of
your m iracles. There' s no doubt about it, you' re really a very m ighty Genie
(Hottabych puffed out his chest), bi as concerns m odern tim es and m odern
technical developm ent; you don' t know m uch more than a new-born babe. Is the
"Alas, it is."
"W ell then, let' s agree: whenever you feel like perform ing som e m iracle,
consult other people."
"I' ll consult you, 0 Volka, and if you won' t be on hand, or : you' re busy
preparing for a re-exam ination (Volka winced), the I' ll consult Zhenya."
"Do you swear? "
"I swear," the old m an exclaim ed and struck his chest wit his fist.
"And now, back to bed," Volka ordered.
"Aye, aye, Sir!" Hottabych answered l oudly. He had already m anaged to pick
up som e nautical term s.
HOTTABYCH AT HIS BEST
By m orning the "Ladoga" had entered a zone of heavy fogs. ; crawled ahead
slowly and every five m inutes its siren wailed loudly, breaking the eternal silence.
This was done in accordance with the ru les of navigation. then it is foggy, all
vessels m ust sound their fog horns, no m atter whether they are in the busiest
harbours or in the em pty wastes of the Arctic Ocean. This is done to prevent
The sound of the "Ladoga' s" siren depressed the passengers.
It was dull and dam p on deck, and boring in the cabins. That is why every seat
in the lounge was occupied. Som e passenge rs were playing chess, som e were
playing checkers, others were reading. Th en they tired of these pastim es, too.
Finally they decided to sing.
They sang all together and one at a tim e; they danced to the accom panim ent of
a guitar and an accordion. A fam ous Uz bek cotton-grower danced to an
accom panim ent provided by Zhenya. There r eally should have been a tam bourine,
but since there was none, Zhenya tappe d out the rhythm quite well on an
enam elled tray. Everyone was pleased ex cept the Uzbek, but he was very polite
and praised Zhenya, too. Then a young m an from a Moscow factory began doing
card tricks. This tim e everyone except Hottabych thought it was grand.
He called Volka out into the corridor.
"Perm it m e, 0 Volka, to entertain these kind people with several sim ple
Volka recalled how these "sim ple m iracles " had nearly ended in the circus and
protested vigorously, "Don' t even think of it!" Finally, however, he agreed,
because Hottabych was looking at him with such sad-dog eyes.
"All right, but rem ember—just card tricks and m aybe som ething with the ping-
pong balls, if you want to."
"I shall never forget your wise generos ity," Hottabych said gratefully, and they
returned to the lounge. The young worker was in the m idst of a really good trick.
He offered anyone in the audience to choos e 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 a pplause and returned to his seat,
Hottabych asked to be perm itted to entertain the gathering with several sim ple
tricks. That' s how the boastful old m an put it—sim ple.
Naturally, everyone agreed. They applauded before he even began.
Bowing sm artly to all sides like an ol d-tim er on the stage, Hottabych took two
ping-pong balls from a table and threw them into the air. Suddenly, there were four
balls; he threw them up again and they becam e eight, then thirty-two. He began
juggling all thirty-two balls, and then they disappeared and were found
to be in
thirty-two pockets of thirty-two people in the audience. Then they flew out of the
pockets, form ed a chain and began spinning around a bowing Hottabych like
sputniks until they becam e a white hoop. Hottabych put this large hoop on Varvara
Stepanovna' s lap with a low bow. The hoop be gan to flatten out until it turned into
a roll of excellent silk. Hottabych cut it into pieces with Volka' s pen-knife. The
pieces of silk flew into the air like birds and wound them selves into turbans of
rem arkable beauty around the heads of the am azed audience.
Hottabych listened to the applause blissf ully. Then he snapped his fingers. The
turbans turned into pigeons which fl ew out through the open port-holes and
disappeared. Everyone was now convinced th at the old m an in the funny oriental
slippers was one of the greatest conjurors.
Hottabych wallowed in the applause. The boys knew him well enough to
understand how dangerous such unanim ous and exciting approval was for him .
"Just wait and see! W atch him go to town now," Zhenya whispered in a worried
voice. "I have a funny feeling, that' s all."
"Don' t worry, we have a very strict agreem ent on this point."
"One m inute, m y friends," Hottabych sa id to the applauding passengers. "W ill
you perm it m e to...."
He yanked a single hair from his b eard. Suddenly a shrill whistle sounded on
deck. They could hear the heavy clatter of running feet.
"That' s the m ilitia com ing to fine som eone!" Zhenya joked. "Som ebody' s
jum ped overboard at full speed!" No one had tim e to laugh, because the "Ladoga"
shuddered and som ething clanged m enacingl y below. For the second tim e that day
the ship cam e to a stop.
"See! W hat did I say!" Zhenya hissed and looked at Hottabych with loathing.
"He couldn' t control him self. Just look at him boast! Golly! I' ve never m et a m ore
conceited, boastful and undisciplined Genie in m y whole life!"
"Are you up to your old tricks again, Hottabych? You swore yesterday that...."
There was such shouting in the lounge that Volka didn' t bother lowering his
"Oh, no! No! Do not insult m e with such suspicions, 0 serpent am ong boys, for
I have never broken the sm allest prom ise, to say nothing of an oath. I swear I
know no m ore 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 m erci to you!"
"Not a snake, a serpent, for know ye th at a serpent is the living em bodim ent of
This tim e the old m an was really not to blam e. The "Ladoga" had lost its way in
the fog and gone aground. Passengers crowded the deck, but they had diff
even m aking out the rails. However, by l eaning over the side near the bow they
could see the propellers churning up the dark unfriendly waters.
Half an hour passed, but all attem pts to get the ship off the shoal by putting it in
reverse ended in f ailure. Then the captain ordered the spry boatswain to pipe all on
Everyone except those standing watch gathered on the spardeck. The capta
said, "Com rades, this is an em ergency. There' s only one way to get off the shoal
under our own steam and that' s transfer the coal from the bow to the stern; then
we' ll be able m ake free of the shoal. If everyone pitches in, it won' t take m ore than
ten or twelve hours to do the job. The boats wain will divide you into team s. Put on
your worst clothes and let' s start the ball rolling.
"You, boys, and you, Hassan Hottabych, need not worry. its is no job for
the boys are too young and it' s a little too late for you to carry heavy loads."
"W hat do you m ean by saying I can' t carry heavy loads? " Hottabych replied
scornfully. "Please be inform ed that no one present here can equal m e in weight-
lifting, 0 m ost respected captain."
The other passengers began to sm ile.
"W hat an old m an!" "Listen to him boast." "Just look at that m uscle-m an!"
"There' s nothing to laugh at, he feels offended. It' s no fun be old."
"See for yourself!" Hottabych shouted. He grabbed his two young friends and,
to the general am azem ent, began juggling them as if they were plastic billiard balls
stead of sturdy thirteen-year-old boys. The applause which followed was
deafening, the whole scene m ight very well have taken place at a weight-lifting
contest and not on board a ship in danger.
"I take m y words back," the captain said solem nly after the applause had died
down. "And now, let' s get to work! There' s tim e to waste!"
"Hottabych," Volka said, -taking the old m an off to a side "what' s the use of
dragging coal from one hold to another for twelve long hours? I think you should
do som ething to get the ship of f the shoal."
"That' s not within m y powers," the ol d m an answered sadly "I thought of it
already. Naturally, I can pull it off the rocks, but 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 drown in no tim e."
"Think again, Hottabych! Maybe you' ll think of som e thing!"
"I' ll try m y best, 0 com pass of m y soul," the old m an replied. After a short
pause he asked, "W hat if I m ake the rocks disappear? "
"Oh, Hottabych! How sm art you are!" Volk a said and began to shake his hand.
"That' s a wonderful idea."
"I hear and I obey."
The first em ergency team was down in th e hold, loading the first iron bins with
coal, when the "Ladoga" suddenly lurched and then began to spin around i
whirlpool over the spot where there had just been a shoal. In another m inute, the
ship would have broken to bits, had not Volka sense enough to tell Hottabych to
make the whirlpool disappear. The s ea becam e calm ; the "Ladoga" spun around a
while longer from sheer force of inertia. Then it continued on its way.
Once again, no one but Hottabych and Volka knew what he happened.
Ahead were m ore exciting days, each unlike the other, as they journeyed across
little-known seas and channels, past bleak islands upon which no hum an foot had
ever stepped. The passengers often left the ship to go ashore on deserted cliffs and
on islands where polar station team s greet ed them with rif le salvos. Our three
friends joined the rest in clim bing gl aciers, wandering over the naked stones of
basalt plateaux, jum ping from ice-floe to ice-floe over black open patches of
water, and hunting polar bears. The fear less Hottabych dragged one bear aboard
the "Ladoga" by the scruff of its neck. Unde r his influence the anim al soon becam e
as tam e and playful as a cat, a nd so provided m any happy hours for both
passengers and crew. Now the bear often tours with circuses, and m any of our
readers have undoubtedly seen him . His nam e is Kuzya.
"SALAAM, SWEET OMAR!"
After stopping off at Rudolph Island, the "Ladoga" began its return journey.
The passengers were worn out from the m ass of new im pressions, from the sun
which shone round the clock from the fre quent fogs and endless crashing of ice
against the stem and sides of the shi p. At each stop there were less and less
passengers who wished to go ashore on dese rted islands, and towards the end of
the journey our friends and two or three other tireless explorers were the only ones
to take advantage o a chance to clim b the inhospitable cliffs.
One m orning the captain said, "W ell, this is the last tim e you' re going ashore.
There' s no sense stopping the ship for six or seven people."
That is why Volka talked the others goi ng ashore into staying there as long as
possible, in order to really have one good last look at the islands. They could do it
in peace since Hottabych, who was usually in a rush to get back, was sta
behind to play chess with the captain.
"Volka," Zhenya said m ysteriously when they dragged their feet aboard the
"Ladoga" three hours later. "Com e on dow n to the cabin! I want to show you
som ething. Here, look at this," he con tinued, after shutting the door tightly. He
pulled a longish object from under his co at. "W hat d' you think it is? I found it on
the opposite side of the island. Right near the water."
Zhenya was holding a sm all copper vessel the size of a decanter. It was all
green from age and brine.
"W e should give it to the captain right away," Volka said excitedly. "Som e
expedition probably put a letter inside a nd threw it into the water, hoping som eone
would com e to the rescue."
"That' s what I thought at first, too, but then I decided nothing would happen if
we opened it first to have a look inside. It' s interesting, isn' t it? "
"It sure is."
Zhenya turned pale from excitem ent. He quickly knocked off the tar-like
substance that covered the m outh of th e bottle. Under it was a heavy lead cap
covered with a seal. Zhenya had great difficulty prying it loose.
"And now we' ll see what' s inside," he said, turning it upside-down over his
Before he had tim e to finish the sent ence, clouds of black sm oke began pouring
from the bottle, filling the entire cabin. It becam e dark and choky. Presently, the
thick vapour condensed and becam e an unsi ghtly old m an 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 cabin wall swayed as if the ship
"0 Prophet of Allah, do not kill m e!" he shouted.
"I' d like to ask you som ething," a fright ened but curious Volka interrupted his
wailing. "If I' m not m istaken, you m ean the form er King Solom on, don' t you? "
"Yes, 0 m iserable youth! Sulaym an, the Son of David (m ay the days of the
twain be prolonged on earth!)."
"I don' t know about who' s m iserable," Vo lka objected calm ly, "but as far as
your Sulaym an is concerned—his days can in no way be prolonged. That' s out
com pletely: he' s dead."
"You lie, wretch, and will pay dearly f or it!"
"There' s nothing to get m ad about. That Eastern king die two thousand nine
hundred and nineteen years ago. You ca look it up in the Encyclopaedia."
"W ho opened the bottle?" the old m an asked in a business like way, having
obviously accepted Volka' s inform ation an not appearing to be too saddened by it.
"I did, but you really shouldn' t thank m e," Zhenya said m odestly.
"There is no God but Allah!" the stra nger exclaim ed. "Rejoice, 0 undeserving
"W hy should I rejoice? It' s you who' ve been freed from your prison, and you
should be the one to rejoice. W hat' s there for m e to rejoice about? "
"Rejoice, because you m ust die an ill death this very hour"
"That' s what I call real m ean! After all, I freed you from the copper vessel. If
not for m e, who-knows how m any thousands of years longer you' d have to lie
around in sm oke and soot."
"Don' t tire m e with idle chatter! Ask of m e only what m ode of death you
choose and in what m anner I shall slay you! Gr-r-r!
"I' ll thank you not to act so fierce! And anyway, what' s that all about? " Zhenya
"Know, 0 undeserving boy, that I am one of the Genies who disobeyed
Sulaym an, David' s Son (on the twain be peace!), whereupon Sulaym an sent his
minister, Asaf, son of Barakhiya, to sei ze m e. And this Vizier brought m e against
my will and led m e in bonds to Sulaym an and he placed m e standing before him .
W hen Sulaym an saw m e, he sent for this bottle, shut m e up therein and stoppered
it over with lead."
"Good for him !" Zhenya whispered to Volka.
"W hat are you whispering about? " the old m an asked suspiciously.
"Nothing, nothing at all," Zhenya answered hurriedly.
"Take care!" the old m an warned. "I am not one to have tricks played upon m e.
To continue: he im prisoned m e in the bo ttle and ordered his Genies to throw m e
into the ocean. There I abode a hundred years, during which tim e I said in m y
heart, ' W hoso shall release m e, him will I enrich f or ever and ever.' But the f ull
century went by and, when no one set m e free, I entered upon the second five
score saying, ' W hoso shall release m e, fo r him I shall open the hoards of the
Earth.' Still, no one set m e free, and t hus four hundred years passed away. Then
quoth I, ' W hoso shall release m e, for him w ill I fulfil three wishes.' Yet ho one set
me free. Thereupon I waxed wroth and said to m yself, ' W hoso shall release m e
from this tim e f orth, him will I slay, and I will give him choice of what death he
will die,' and now, as you have released m e, 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 interrupted harshly. "Choos
death that m ost appeals to you and do not detain m e, for I am terrible in m y
"May I ask you som ething? " Volka said, raising his hand.
But the Genie glared at him so frightfully, it m ade Volka' s knees trem ble.
"W ell then, will you at least perm it 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 this copper vessel, bu
t it' s
even too sm all to hold your hand. How should the whole of you fit in it? "
"W hat! Do you not believe that I was there? "
"I' ll never believe it until I see you inside with m y own eyes."
"W ell then, look and be convinced," the Genie roared. He shook and becam e a
sm oke which condensed and entered the jar little by little, while the boys clapped
sof tly in excitem ent.
More than half the vapour had disappeared into the vessel. Zhenya, with
breath, had the stopper ready to im prison the Genie once again, but the old m an
seem ed to change his m ind, for he filtered out again and assum ed a hum an form .
"Oh, no you don' t!" he said, squinting slyly and shaking a hooked and dirty
finger in front of Zhenya' s face, while the boy hurriedly slipped the stopper in his
pocket. "You didn' t want to outsm art m e, did you, 0 despicable brat? W hat a
terrible m emory I have! I nearly forgot that a thousand one hundred and forty-two
years ago a fisherm an fooled m e in just the sam e m anner. He asked m e the very
sam e question and I trustingly wished to prove that I had indeed been in the vessel.
So I turned into sm oke again and entered the jar, while the f isherm an snatched up
the leaden cap with the seal and stoppere d therewith the m outh of it. Then he
tossed it back into the sea. Oh no, you can' t play that trick on m e twice!"
"W hy, I had no intention of fooling you," Zhenya lied in a shaky voice, feeling
that now he was a goner for sure.
"Hurry and choose what m anner of death you will die and detain m e no longer,
for I am weary of all this talk!"
"All right," Zhenya said after thinking a bit. "But prom ise m e that I' ll die in
exactly the way I choose."
"I swear!" the Genie prom ised solem nly and his eyes burnt with a devilish f ire.
"W ell, then," Zhenya said and swallowe d hard. "W ell then... I want to die of
"Good for you!" Volka shouted.
The Genie turned purple from rage and cr ied, "But your old age is still very far
off. You are still so young!"
"That' s all right," Zhenya answered courageously, "I can wait."
W hen Volka heard this, he laughed happily, but the Genie began to curse in
Arabic as he dashed back and forth in the cabin, tossing aside everything in his
way in helpless rage.
This went on for a good five m inutes un til he finally seem ed to com e to a
decision. He laughed so fiendishly as to give the boys goose-pim ples. Standing
before Zhenya, he said m aliciously:
"There is no denying it, you are cunning. But Om ar Asaf ibn Hottab is m ore
cunning than you, 0 despicable one."
"Om ar Asaf ibn Hottab? " the boys crie d in unison. The Genie was trem bling
with wrath and bellowed:
"Silence! Or I' ll destroy you im mediately! Yes, I am Om ar Asaf ibn Hottab, and
I am m ore cunning than this brat! I' ll fulf il his wish and he will surely die of old
age. But," he said, looking at the boys trium phantly, "his old age will com e 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 trem bling old m an's voice a few"
moment' s later. "Help! I' m dying!"
Volka looked on horror-struck as Zhenya quickly turned into a youth, the
a grown m an with a long black beard; then his beard turned to grey and he becam e
middle-aged; and, finally, he becam e a bald, bony, scrawny old m an. All would
have been over in a few seconds if Om ar Asaf, who was gleefully watching
Zhenya' s quick deterioration, had not exclaim ed:
"Oh, if m y unfortunate brother were onl y here now! How happy he would be at
my trium ph!"
"W ait!" Volka shouted. "Tell m e, was your brother' s nam e Hassan
Abdurrakhm an? "
"How did you discover that? " Om ar Asaf asked in am azem ent. "Do not rem ind
me of him , for m y heart is rent at the m emory of poor Hassan. Yes, I had a brother
nam ed so, but all the worse for you, for reopening m y 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 m y dear Hassa n! Oh, then your friend would rem ain
alive until he aged naturally and that will not happen f or m any and m any a year.
But if you deceive m e ... I swear, neither of you will escape m y rightful wrath!"
"Then wait a m inute, just one m inute!" Volka shouted.
A few m oments later, he rushed into the lounge where Hottabych was
engrossed in his gam e 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-m ate m y sweetest friend, the
captain," Hottabych replied solem nly, studying the board intently.
"Hottabych, we can' t spare a m inute! I beg you, com e below with m e!"
"All right," Hottabych replied and m ove d his castle. "Check! Run along, Volka.
I'll be with you as soon as I win, and, accord ing to m y calculations, this will be in
about three m ore m oves."
"W e'll see about that yet," the captain replied cheerfully. "Three m oves indeed!
Just you let m e see...."
"Yes, yes, do see," the old m an chuc kled. "You won' t think of anything
anyway. I can wait. I' ll be only too happy to wait."
"W e've no tim e to wait!" Volka wailed in despair, and knocked all the figures
off the board. "If you don' t com e below with m e this m inute, both Zhenya and I
will die a horrible death! Hurry! Run!"
"You' re behaving atrociously," Hottabyc h grum bled, but followed Volka out
"That m eans it' s a draw!" the captain s houted happily, pleased to have escaped
a com pletely hopeless situation.
"No, sir! W hat do you m ean a draw? " Hottabych objected and was ready to turn
But Volka shouted angrily:
"Sure it' s a draw! It' s a typical draw!" and shoved the old m an into their cabin,
where Om ar Asaf was about to fulfil his terrible threat.
"W ho' s the old m an? " Hottabych asked, seeing a decrepit old m an m oaning on
the berth. Actually, but a few short m oments ago, he had been a thirteen-year-old
boy nam ed Zhenya Bogorad. "And who' s that other old m an? " he continued,
noticing Om ar Asaf. Suddenly he turned pale. Not trusting his eyes, he took
several hesitant steps forward and whispered, "Salaam , sweet Om ar!"
"Is that you, 0 m y dear Hassan Abdurrakhm an? " Om ar Asaf cried.
The brothers fell into each other' s arm s, for they had been separated for nearly
three thousand years.
At first, Volka was so touched by this unusual m eeting of brothers in the m idst
of the Arctic icebergs, and so happy for Hottabych' s sake, that he com pletely
forgot about the unfortunate Zhenya. Soon a barely audible groan from the berth
rem inded him that urgent aid was needed.
"Help!" he cried and rushed to separa te Hottab' s two sons. "A person' s dying
"Help, I' m dying! "the old m an Zhenya croaked, as if to corroborate Volka' s
words. Hottabych looked at him in surprise and asked:
"W ho is this white-haired old m an, and how does he com e to be lying in our
friend Zhenya' s bed? "
"But this is Zhenya," Volka wailed. "Save him , Hottabych!"
"I beg your pardon, 0 dearest Hassan," Om ar Asaf said irritably to his newly-
found brother. "I shall have to interrupt these pleasant m oments of reunion in order
to f ulfil m y prom ise."
W ith these words he went over to the berth, touched Zhenya' s shoulder, and
"Ask f orgiveness bef ore it is too late."
"Forgiveness? Of whom ?" the old m an Zhenya croaked.
"Of m e, 0 despicable youth!"
"W hat for?"
"For trying to trick m e."
"You should ask m y forgiveness," Zhenya objected. "I saved you and you want
to kill m e for it. I won' t ask your forgiveness!"
"Be it as you wish," Om ar Asaf agreed m aliciously. "I do not insist. But bear in
mind that you shall die in a few seconds if you do not."
"So what? W ho cares? " Zhenya whis pered proudly if weakly, though he
certainly did care.
"Om ar, m y sweet!" Hottabych interrupt ed kindly but firm ly. "Don' t cloud our
long-awaited reunion by a dishonest act. You m ust im mediately and
unconditionally fulfil the prom ise given to m y precious friend, Volka ibn Alyosha.
And please bear in m ind that the m ost nobl e Zhenya is a very good friend of m ine
Om ar Asaf ground his teeth in helpless ra ge. Yet, he took hol d of him self and
"Change, 0 insolent youth, and be as you were before!" "Now you' re talking,"
Everyone present had the pleasure of witnessing a m ost unusual sight: a dying
old m an turned into a thirteen-year-old boy.
First, his withered, sunken cheeks becam e rosy; then, his bald head was covered
with white hair which soon turned black, as did his heavy beard. Feeling
Zhenya hopped off the berth and winked at his friends happily. Standing before
them was a husky m an of forty, who differed from other m en of his age in that his
beard kept on shrinking until it finally turned into a barely noticeable fringe of
fluff which soon disappeared com pletely. The m an was becom ing sm aller in
height and narrower in the shoulders. Fi nally, he took on Zhenya Bogorad' s usual
Thus, Zhenya was now the only person in the world who could say. "Long ago.
when I was still an old m an," the sam e as m illions of old m en say, "W hen I was
still a young rascal."
OMAR ASAF BARES HIS CLAWS
"There' s one thing I can' t understand," Om ar Asaf said thoughtfully as he
shivered with cold. "I clearly heard Su laym an' s Genies say, ' Let' s throw him —
meaning m e—into the W est 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
sunny Africa. But this," and he pointed to the island fast disappearing through the
port-hole, "this is not at all like Africa. Isn' t it so, m y dear brother Hassan? "
"You are right, m y dear Om ar Asaf, one so pleasing to m y heart. W e are now
near other shores, quite a distance from Africa. W e are now...."
"I know! Really, I know!" Volka interrupted and did a jig from excitem ent.
"Golly! Now I know! Now I know!"
"W hat do you know? " Om ar Asaf asked haughtily.
"Now I know how you cam e to be in the Arctic."
"0 insolent and boastful boy, how unpl easant I find your undue pride!" Om ar
Asaf said in disgust. "How can you understand som ething which rem ains a
mystery even to m e, the wisest and m ost powerf ul of all Genies! W ell then,
express your opinion, so that I and m y dear brother m ay 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
Gulf Stream ."
"Because of what?" Om ar Asaf asked acidly.
"The Gulf Stream , the warm current which brought you to the Arctic from the
"W hat nonsense!" Om ar Asaf sm irked, turning to his brother for support.
But his brother said nothing.
"It' s not rubbish at all," Volka began.
But Om ar 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, Hottabych also supported
Om ar Asaf, seeing that he was a m inority of one, pretended to agree about the
Gulf Stream , but actually concealed a grudge against Volka and his friend.
"I am tired of arguing with you, 0 conce ited boy," he said, forcing a yawn. "I
am tired and want to sleep. Hurry and bri ng a fan and keep away the flies while I
"In the first place, there are no flies here . In the second place, what right have
you to order m e about? " Volka asked indignantly.
"There will be flies soon enough," Om ar Asaf m uttered through clenched teeth.
And sure enough, swarm s of flies began buzzing about the cabin.
"W e can m anage without a fan," Volka sa id in a friendlier tone, m aking believe
he did not understand the hum iliating nature of Om ar Asaf' s dem and.
He opened first the door, then the port-hol e; a strong draught carried the flies
out into the corridor.
"All the sam e, you' ll fan m e!" Om ar Asaf said capriciously, ignoring
Hottabych' s attem pts at calm ing him .
"No, I won' t! No one has ever m ade m e fulfil hum iliating orders."
"Then I' ll be the first to do so."
"No you won' t!"
"Om ar, m y sweet!" Hottabych said, trying to avert the im minent quarrel.
But Om ar Asaf, who had turned black with rage, waved him away angrily.
"I' d rather die than fulfil your whim s!" Volka shouted.
"Then you' ll die very soon, as soon as the Sun sets," Om ar Asaf announced,
sm iling disgustingly.
Suddenly, Volka had a wonderful idea.
"If that' s the case, then trem ble, you despicable Genie!" he shouted in his m ost
terrible voice. "You have tried m y patien ce too long, and I m ust stop the Sun! It
will not go down today, or tom orrow, or th e day after. You have only yourself to
Volka was taking a big chance. If Hotta bych had had tim e to tell his brother
that the Arctic Sun shone twenty-four hours a day at this tim e of the year, then all
But in reply to Volka' s words, Om ar Asaf scoffed, "Braggart of braggarts!
Boaster of boasters! I, too, like to boast at tim es, but even in m y greatest rage I
have never prom ised to stop the course of that great celestial body. Not even
Sulaym an, the Son of David (on the twain be peace!), could do that."
Volka saw that he was saved. And not only saved, but that he could take
Hottabych' s disagreeable brother in hand.
Hottabych, m eanwhile, winked approvingly at Volka. As for Zhenya, there is
no need to say he was delighted. He ha d guessed Volka' s idea and was aglow from
excitem ent, anticipating Om ar Asaf' s im minent downfall.
"Rest assured, Om ar Asaf. If I said I' ll stop the Sun, you can be sure it won' t go
"You brat!" Om ar Asaf snapped.
"You' re a brat yourself!" Volka replied as arrogantly. "Don' t worry, I' ll take
care of the Sun."
"But what if it goes down anyway? " Om ar Asaf asked, choking with laughter.
"If it goes down, I will henceforth fulfil your m ost stupid orders."
"Oh, no," Om ar Asaf said trium phantl y. "If the Sun, despite your conceited
prom ise, does go down—and this will obviously happen—then I will eat you up.
I'll eat you, bones and all!"
"And m y slippers too," Volka added courageously. "But if the Sun does not go
down today, will you obey m y every com mand? "
"If the Sun does not go down, I will do so with the greatest pleasure, 0 m ost
boastful and insignificant of m agicians! But— ha-ha-ha—alas! This will never
"It' s still an open question as to who will say ' alas!' a few hours from now,"
"W ell then!" Om ar Asaf said, shaking his finger in warning. "According to the
present position of the Sun, it should go down in another eight or nine hours. I am
even a tiny bit sorry for you, 0 sham eless m ilksop, for you have less than twelve
hours to live."
"You can save your pity; you' d better pity yourself."
Om ar Asaf giggled scornfully, revealing two rows of sm all yellow teeth.
"W hat awful teeth," Hottabych sighed. "Om ar, why don' t you get yourself gold
teeth, like I have? " It was only then that Om ar Asaf noticed Hottabych' s unusual
teeth, and his soul was filled with the blackest envy.
"To tell you the truth. Brother, I don' t find anything very special about gold
teeth. I think I' d rather have diam ond teeth."
That very m oment, thirty-two crystal-cl ear diam onds sparkled in his m outh as
he sm iled spitefully. Gazing at him self in the little bronze m irror the old dandy
carried in his belt, Om ar Asaf was quite pleased with what he saw.
There were only three things that som ehow clouded his trium ph. First,
Hottabych did not seem at all envious; second, his diam ond teeth sparkled only
when the light fell upon them directly. If the light did not fall upon them , he
appeared com pletely toothless; third, his diam ond teeth scratched his tongue and
lips. In his heart of hearts, he was sorry he had been so greedy, but he
did not show
this so as not to lose face.
"No, no," he giggled, noticing that Volk a was about to leave the cabin. "You
shall not leave until the Sun goes down. I understand you only too well. You want
to flee, in order to escape your deserved end. I have no intention of searching for
you all over the boat."
"W hy, I can stay in the cabin as long as you want. That will even be bette
Otherwise, I' ll have to hunt for you a ll over the boat when the Sun doesn' t go
down. How long do you think I' ll have to wait? "
"Not m ore than nine hours, 0 young br aggart," Om ar Asaf said, bowing
sarcastically. He snapped the fingers of his left hand and a cum bersom e water-
clock appeared on the table beneath the port-hole. "As soon as the water
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."
"W e'll wait, too," said Zhenya and Hottabych.
Eight hours slipped by quickly, because Zhenya could not deny him self the
pleasure of suggesting that the conceited Om ar Asaf learn to play checkers.
"I' ll win anyway," Om ar Asaf warned.
Zhenya kept on winning. Om ar Asaf got angr ier and angrier. He tried to cheat,
but each tim e they caught him at it, and so he would begin a new gam e, which
would end just as sadly for him .
"W ell, the tim e's up, Om ar Hottabych," Volka said finally.
"Im possible!" Om ar Asaf replied, teari ng him self away from the checker board.
Glancing quickly at the water-clock, he turned pale and jum ped up from the
berth where he and Zhenya had been sitti ng. He rushed to the port-hole, stuck his
head out and groaned in terror and helple ss rage: the 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 m ust have m ade a little m istake in m y calculations. Let' s wait two m ore
"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 tom orrow, or the day af ter tom orrow."
Four and a half hours later, Om ar Asaf stuck his head out of the port-hole for
the twentieth tim e, and f or the twentieth tim e he saw that the Sun had no intention
of sinking beyond the horizon.
He turned as white as a sheet and trem bled all over as he crashed to his knees.
"Spare m e, 0 m ighty youth!" he cried in a pitiful voice. "Do not be angry at m e,
your unworthy slave, for when I shouted at you I did not know you were stronger
"Does that m ean you think you can shout at m e if I' m weaker than you? "
"W hy, certainly."
They all felt disgusted.
"W hat a brother you have," Zhenya whis pered to Hottabych. "Forgive m e for
saying so, but he' s a m ost unpleasant, envious and vicious old m an."
"Yes, m y brother is no lum p of sugar," Hottabych replied sadly.
"For goodness' sake, get up!" Volka said with annoyance, as the old Genie
rem ained on his knees and kept trying to kiss Volka' s hands.
"W hat are your orders, 0 m y young but mighty m aster? " Om ar Asaf asked
subm issively, rubbing his soft palm s together and rising.
"At present, there' s only one; don' t you dare leave this cabin for a second
without m y perm ission!"
"W ith the greatest of pleasure, 0 wisest and m ost powerful of youths," Om ar
Asaf replied in a self-abasing tone, as he regarded Volka with fear and
It was just as Volka had predicted. Neith er that day nor the next, nor the third
did the Sun go down. Making use of som e sm all m isdem eanour of Om ar Asaf' s,
Volka said he would m ake the Sun shin e round the clock until further notice. And
not until he learned from the captain th at the "Ladoga" had finally entered a
latitude where there was a brief period of ni ght, did he inform Om ar Asaf of this,
as his special favour to the undeserving, grum py Genie.
Om ar Asaf was as quiet as a m ouse. No t once did he leave the cabin. He crept
back into the copper vessel without a m urm ur when the "Ladoga" docked to the
strains of a band at its hom e pier, from which it had sailed away thirty days before.
Naturally, Om ar Asaf was extrem ely reluctant to return to his bottle, if even f or
a short period, since he had already sp ent so m any unhappy and lonely centuries
there. But Volka gave him his word of honour that he would let him out the m inute
they reached hom e.
There is no use denying that as Volka le ft the hospitable "Ladoga," carrying the
copper vessel under his arm , he was sorely tem pted 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 tem ptation.
If no one aboard the "Ladoga" ever stopped to wonder why Hottabych and h
friends were taking part in the expedition, it is quite clear that the old m an had no
trouble casting the sam e spell over his young friends' parents and acquaintances.
At any rate, their relatives and friends accepted it as a m atter of course that the
children had been in the Arctic, without questioning how in the world th
ever booked berths on the Ladoga."
Af ter an excellent dinner, the children to ld their respective parents the story of
their adventures in the Arctic, keeping alm ost true to the facts. They were wise
enough to say nothing about Hottabych. Zhe nya, however, was so carried away,
that the rash words nearly slipped out of his m outh. W hen he described the
perform ances the passengers had put on in the lounge, he said:
"And then, of course, Hottabych could not leave it at that. So he said..
"W hat a strange nam e—Hottabych!" Zhenya' s m other said.
"I didn' t say ' Hottabych,' Mother, I said ' Potapych.' That was our boatswain' s
nam e," Zhenya said resourcefully, though he blushed.
However, this went unnoticed. Everyone looked at him with awe, because he
had m et and talked with a real live boatswain every single day of the journey.
Volka, on the other hand, nearly had an accident with the copper bottle.
sitting on the couch in the dining room , e xplaining the dif ference between an ice-
breaker and an iceboat to his parents with a true knowledge of his subject. He did
not notice his grandm other leaving the r oom . After she had been gone for about
five m inutes, she returned holding ... the vessel with Om ar Asaf inside!
"W hat' s this? W here did you get it. Mother? " Volka' s father asked.
"Just im agine, I found it in Volka' s suitcase. I started unpacking his things and
found this very nice pitcher. It will be love ly 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 grandm other. "The First Mate asked m e to give this to his friend. I prom ised
him I'd deliver it today."
"My, isn' t this a strange vessel," said his father, a great lover of antiques. "L
me have a look at it. W hy, there' s a lead cap on it. That' s very interesting...."
He tried to pry it off, but Volka grabbed the vessel frantically and sta
"You' re not supposed to open it! It' s not supposed to be opened at all! Anyway,
it's em pty inside. I prom ised the First Mate I wouldn' t open it, so' s not to spoil the
threads on the screw."
"Look how upset he is! All right, you can ha ve the old pitcher back," his father
said, letting go of it.
Volka sat back on the couch in exhaustion, clutching 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 .
"Com e back soon!" his m other 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 tim e. It
was very still. The vast sky was spread above them . The full m oon cast its cold,
Zhenya had brought his binoculars al ong and was now looking at the m oon.
"You can dism iss the astronom y club," Volka said, com ing up to them . "The
next act on our show is the solem n fr eeing of our good friend, Om ar Asaf! Music!
"That m ean old thing will have to m anage without m usic," Zhenya m uttered.
In order to em phasize his loathing for the horrible Genie, he turned his back on
the vessel and studied the m oon through his binoculars for such a long tim e, that
he finally heard Om ar Asaf' s squeaky voice:
"May your hum ble servant, 0 m ighty Volka, ask what purpose these black pipes
serve which your friend Zhenya— and m y greatly esteem ed m aster—has pressed
to his noble eyes? "
"They' re binoculars. It' s to see things closer," Volka tried to explain. "Zhenya' s
looking at the m oon through them , to see it better. It m akes things bigger."
"I can im agine how pleasant such a pastim e can be," Om ar Asaf said
He kept trying to peep into the binocul ars, but Zhenya 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 alm ighty Vo lka, who had stopped the Sun itself with
a single word, then Om ar Asaf would certa inly 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 voi ce to let him have a look at the great
planet of the night through such interesting binoculars.
"I join m y brother in asking you to do him this favour," Hottabych added.
Zhenya reluctantly handed Om ar Asaf the binoculars.
"The despicable boy has cast a spell on the m agic pipes!":
Om ar Asaf cried a few m oments later and crashed the binoculars to the ground.
"Instead of m aking things bigger, they m ake the m oon m uch sm aller! Oh, som e
day I will lay m y hands on this boy!"
"You' re always ready to abuse people! " Volka said in disgust. "W hat has
Zhenya to do with it? You' re looking through the wrong end."
He picked up the binoculars and handed them back to the angry Genie. "You
have to look through the sm all end."
Om ar Asaf followed his advice cautiously and soon sighed:
"Alas, I had a m uch better opinion of th is celestial body. I see that it is all pock-
marked and has ragged edges, just like the tray of the poorest day-labourer. The
stars are m uch better.-Though they are m uch sm aller than the m oon, they at least
have no visible faults."
"0 m y brother, let m e see for m yself," Hottabych said and he, too, looked
through the binoculars with interest. "This tim e I believe m y brother is right," he
added with surprise.
This m ade it only too clear that Om ar As af had long since fallen greatly in his
"W hat ignorance," Zhenya scoffed. "It' s high tim e you knew that the m oon is
millions of tim es sm aller than any of the stars."
"Enough! I can no longer take the constant m ockery of this brat!" Om ar Asaf
roared and grabbed Zhenya by the collar. "Next, you' ll say that a speck of sand is
bigger than a m ountain. I wouldn' t put it past you. Enough! This tim e I' ll do away
with you for good!"
"Stop!" Volka shouted. "Stop, or I' ll bring the Moon down upon you, and not
even a wet spot will rem ain where you now stand! You know I can do it with m y
eyes closed. I think you know m e by now."
The enraged Om ar Asaf reluctantly let go of a frightened Zhenya.
"You' re raving for nothing again," Volk a 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 everything already," Om ar
Asaf objected conceitedly. Yet, he dared not disobey.
Volka could talk about astronom y fo r hours on end. This was his favourite
subject. He had read every popular book on th e structure of the Universe and could
retell their contents to anyone who' d car e to listen. But Om ar Asaf obviously did
not want to listen. He kept on snickering contem ptuously. Finally unable to control
him self any longer, he grum bled:
"I' ll never believe your words until I convince m yself of their truth."
"W hat do you m ean ' convince yourself? Don' t tell m e you want to fly to the
Moon in order to be convinced that it' s a huge sphere and not a little saucer? "
"And why not? " Om ar Asaf asked haugh tily. "W hy, I can fly off today, if I
"But the Moon is m illions of m iles away."
"Om ar Asaf is not afraid of great distances. And all the m ore so, since—forgive
me—I greatly doubt the truth of your words."
"But the way to the Moon lies through out er space, where there' s no air," Volka
"I can m anage quite well without breathing."
"Let him go! W e'll have plenty of tr ouble with him if he stays," Zhenya
"Sure, he can go," Volka agreed quietly, " but still, I consider it m y duty to warn
him about what awaits him on the way.... Om ar Asaf," he continued, turning
towards the conceited Genie, "bear in m ind that it' s terribly cold there."
"I am not afraid of the cold. I' ll be seeing you soon. Good-bye!"
"If that' s the case, and if you' ve deci ded to fly to the Moon, com e what m ay,
then at least listen to one piece of advice. Do you prom ise to obey m y words? "
"All right, I prom ise," the Genie answer ed condescendingly, his awe of Volka
obviously dim inishing.
"You m ust leave the Earth at a speed of no less than eleven kilom etres a
second; otherwise you can be sure you' ll never reach the Moon."
"W ith the greatest of pleasure," Om ar Asaf said, com pressing his thin blue lips.
"And how big is a kilom etre? Tell m e, for I know of no such m easurem ent."
"Let' s see now. How can I explain? ... W ell, a kilom etre is about a thousand four
"Your steps? That m eans there are no m ore than a thousand two hundred of m y
steps in a kilom etre. Maybe even less."
Om ar Asaf had an exaggerated idea a bout 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 Heavens," Hottabych adm onished
his brother, not being com pletely convinced of Volka' s stories about the structure
of the Universe.
"Don' t teach som eone who knows m ore than you," Om ar Asaf said coldly and
soared into the air. He instantly becam e white hot and disappeared from view,
leaving a long fiery trail behind.
"Let' s wait for him here, m y friends," Hottabych suggested tim idly, for he felt
guilty for all the unpleasantness Om ar Asaf had caused them .
"No, there' s no use waiting for him now. You' ll never see him again," Volka
said. "He didn' t listen to m y advice, wh ich was based on scientific knowledge, and
he' ll never return to the Earth. Since your Om ar took off at a speed which was less
than eleven kilom etres a second, he' ll be circling the Earth forever. If you want to
know, he' s becom e a sputnik."
"If you have no objections, I' ll wait fo r him here a while," a saddened
Late that night he slipped into Volka' s room . Turning into a goldfish, he dived
silently into the aquarium . W henever Hottabych was upset by anything, he spent
the night in the aquarium instead of under Volka' s bed. This tim e he was especially
upset. He had waited for his brother for over five hours, but Om ar Asaf had not
Som e day scientists will develop precision instrum ents that will m ake it
possible to note the sm allest am ount of gr avitation the Earth experiences from the
tiniest of celestial bodies passing close to its surface. And then an astronom er,
who, perhaps, read this book in his childhood, will determ ine, after long and
laborious calculations, that som eplace, com paratively close to the Earth, there
rotates a celestial body weighing a hundred and thirty pounds. Then, Om ar Asaf, a
grouchy and narrow-m inded Genie who turned into an Earth satellite because of
his im possible character and ignorant scoffi ng at scientific facts, will be entered
into the great astronom ical catalogue as a m any-num bered figure.
Som eone who heard of this instructive tale about Hottabych' s brother once told
us in all seriousness that one night he had seen som ething flash across the sky
which in shape resem bled an old m an with a long flowing beard. As concerns the
author of this book, he does not believe the story, for Om ar Asaf was a very
insignificant m an.
HOTTABYCH'S FATAL PASSION
For several days Hottabych rem ained in the aquarium , pining away for his
brother. Gradually, however, he got used to his absence and once again everything
was back to norm al.
One day he and the boys were talking quietly. It was still rather early
old m an was lolling under the bed.
"It looks like rain," Zhenya said, looking out the window.
Soon the whole sky becam e overcast with clouds. It started to drizzle.
"Shall we turn it on? " Volka asked off-handedly, nodding towards a new radio
set his parents had given him for being prom oted to 7B. He turned it on with
The loud sounds of a sym phony orchestra filled the room . Hottabych stuck his
head out from under the bed.
"W here are all those people playing so sweetly on various instrum ents? "
"Golly! Hottabych doesn' t know anything about radios!" Zhenya said.
(There was one om ission on the "Ladoga" for all its excellent equipm ent—they
forgot to install a radio set in the lounge.)
For nearly two hours the boys watched Hottabych delightedly. The old m an was
overwhelm ed. Volka tuned in on Vladivos tok, Tbilisi, Kiev, Leningrad, Minsk and
Tashkent. Songs, thunderous m arches, a nd the voices of people speaking in m any
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, leaving a fascinated Hottabych
behind. The strange events which then occurred rem ain a m ystery to Volka' s
grandm other to this very day.
Soon after the boys left, she entered Volka' s room to turn off the radio and
distinctly heard an old m an coughing in the em pty room . Then she saw the dial
turn by itself and the indicator m ove along the scale.
The frightened old wom an decided not to touch the set, but to find Volka
im mediately. She caught up with him at the bus stop. Volka was very upset. He
said he was im proving the set, that he was m aking it autom atic, and he begged his
grandm other not to tell his parents what she had seen, because it was supposed to
be a surprise for them . His grandm other was not at all com forted by these words.
Nevertheless, she prom ised to keep his secret. All afternoon she listened anxiously
to the strange m umbling com ing from the em pty room .
That day the radio played on and on. At a bout two o' clock at night it went off,
but only because the old m an had forgotten how to tune in on Tashkent. He woke
Volka up, asked him how to do it, and returned to the set.
A fatal thing had happened: Hottabych had becom e a radio fan.
HOTTABYCH'S NEW YEAR VISIT
During the winter vacation, Zhenya went to visit his relatives in Zvenigorod.
On January 4th he received a letter, which was of extrem e interest for at least three
reasons. In the first place, this was the first letter he had ever recei
ved in which he
was addressed by his full nam e, as a gr own m an. In the second place, it was the
first letter Hottabych had ever written to his young friend. But of greatest interest
were the contents of this m ost rem arkable m essage.
Following is the letter, slightly abridged:
"0 m ost lovable and precious friend, th e sweet and singular adornm ent of all
schools and sports fields, the fond hope of your native arts and sciences, the joy
and pride of your parents and friends, Zh enya ibn Kolya, from the fam ous and
noble fam ily of Bogorads, m ay your life' s ro ad be strewn with thornless roses and
may it be as long as your pupil, Hassan Abdurrakhm an ibn Hottab, wishes it to be!
"I hope you rem ember how great m y joy and gratitude were when, six m onths
ago, you, 0 m y young friend and friend of m y young saviour, released m y
unfortunate brother Om ar Asaf ibn Ho ttab, from whom I was so grievously
separated for m any centuries, from his horrible im prisonm ent in the copper vessel.
"But im mediately following m y first j oy of a long-awaited reunion, there cam e
a terrible disappointm ent, for m y brother turned out to be an ungrateful, short-
sighted, narrow-m inded, grouchy and e nvious person. And he, as you well
rem ember, took it upon him self to fly to the Moon, in order to be convinced
whether its surface was truly covered w ith m ountains, as our highly educated
friend Volka ibn Alyosha stated, ba sing his knowledge on a science called
"Alas! It was not a selfless thirst for knowledge that guided m y unwise brother,
nor the noble and exem plary desire to di scover the W orld, but a vain and ignorant
wish to belittle and sham e a person who had tried to hold him back f rom
com mitting a f atal deed.
"He did not even take into account the laws of another science called
'M echanics,' and thereby doom ed him self to an eternal and useless circling of the
Earth, which, as I recently discovered (who could have ever dream ed of it!) in turn
revolves around the Sun!
"Three days ago I received a m essage from you, 0 Zhenya ibn Kolya, which
bears the scientific nam e of ' Telegra m,' and in which you so graciously and
pleasantly wished m e a Happy New Year. And then I recalled that m y unpleasant,
but extrem ely unfortunate brother is sp inning round in the sky day and night and
that there is no one to wish him a Ha ppy New Year. And so, I prepared for a
journey, and exactly at noon I took off for the far distances of Outer S
order to visit Om ar Asaf, to wish him a Happy New Year, and, if it were at all
possible, to help him return to the Earth.
"I will not tire your kind attention, 0 Zhe nya ibn Kolya, with a description of
how I was able to m anage the Law of Un iversal Gravitation. For this is not the
purpose of m y m essage. Suffice it to say that at first I took off at approxim ately
the sam e speed as Om ar Asaf, and, as he, I turned into a satellite of the Earth, but
only tem porarily, and only long enough for a m eeting with Om ar. Then, when I
saw it was tim e for m e to return to the Earth, I turned to face it and assum ed the
speed necessary for overcom ing the forces which revolved m e about the Earth, just
as a pail of water tied to a string would revolve round a boy who held the string. It
is of no use to write what m y speed was. W hen I next see you, I will show you all
the calculations I did with the aid of my knowledge of Mathem atics, Astronom y
and Mechanics, which you and Volka ibn Alyosha so graciously and patiently
taught m e. But this is not the point in que stion. I sincerely wished to visit m y poor
Hottabych had apparently burst into tear s at this point, for the ink was all
sm udged. That is why we find we m ust leave out several lines.
"Leaving the Earth, so full of cheerfu l noonday light behind, I soon entered an
area as black as pitch that was terribly and unbearably cold. As before, the far-off
stars sparkled in the icy darkness with a bright but dead, unblinking light, and the
pale yellow disk of the flam ing Sun blinded m y eyes.
"I flew on and on, am idst the cold darkne ss and silence. I was about to despair,
when, suddenly, on the black velvet of the sky, there appeared a skinny body,
brightly illum ined by the Sun. It was approaching m e at trem endous speed, and the
long beard flowing behind like the tail of a com et, as well as the incessant and
vicious grum bling, told m e beyond doubt it was m y brother.
" ' Salaam , dear Om ar!' I cried, when he cam e abreast of m e. ' How is your
" ' Not bad,' Om ar answered reluctantly and in an unfriendly voice. ' As you see,
I revolve around the Earth.' He chewed hi s lips and added dryly, ' Tell m e what you
want. Don' t forget that I' m a busy m an. State what you want and be off.'
" ' W hat are you so busy at, 0 m y good brother? '
" ' W hat do you m ean what at? ! Didn' t you hear m e say I' m now working as a
sputnik? I keep revolving like m ad, day and night, without a m oment' s rest.'
" ' 0 woe is m e!' I cried in great so rrow. ' How sad and uninteresting your life
must be, am idst this eternal cold and da rkness, in constant and useless revolving,
apart from all living things!' And I burst in to tears, for I was so terribly sorry for
my brother. But in answer to m y heartf elt words, Om ar Asaf replied coldly and
" ' Don' t feel sorry for m e, for I am less in need of pity than anyone else on
Earth. Just look around and you' ll be convinced that 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 m uch larger than they are. I don' t even m ention the
stars, which are so sm all that a great m ultitude of them could f it on m y finger-nail.'
Som ething which resem bled a kindly sm ile appeared on his face. ' If you wish, you
can join m e and becom e my sputnik. W e will revolve t ogether. Then, not counting
me, you' ll be the largest of all celestial bodies.'
"In vain did I rejoice at this brothe rly show of affection, though it m ay have
taken a rather strange form , for Om ar Asaf continued as follows:
" ' All celestial bodies have their sputniks , but I have none. It m akes m e feel
"I was am azed at the ignorance and stupid conceit of m y brother. I understood
that he did not want to return to the Earth and so said with a heavy hea
" ' Farewell, for I am in a hurry. I still ha ve to wish som e of m y friends a Happy
"But Om ar, who, apparently, had his heart set on this idea of his, roared:
" ' Then who will be m y sputnik? You ha d better rem ain of your own free will,
or I' ll tear you to bits!'
"W ith these words he grabbed hold of m y left leg. I kept m y wits and turned
sharply to a side, wrenching free of Om ar, though leaving in his grasp one of m y
slippers. Naturally, he wanted to catch up with m e, but he could not do so, for he
had to continue his endless journey ar ound a circle known by the scientific nam e
of 'o rbit.'
"Flying off to a good distance, and still feeling a bit sorry for m y unpleasant
and conceited brother, I shouted:
" 'If you are so in need of sputniks, 0 Om ar Asaf, you shall have them !'
"I yanked five hairs from m y beard, tore them to bits and scattered them about.
Then m any-coloured, beautiful balls, ra nging in size from a pea to a large
pum pkin, began revolving around Om ar Asaf. These were sputniks worthy of him
both in size and in beauty.
"My brother, a short-sighted person, ha d apparently never thought of m aking
his own sputniks. Now, in his great pride, he desired to have a sputnik the size of a
mountain. And so, such a sputnik im mediately appeared. But since the m ass of
matter within this m ountain was hundreds of thousands of tim es greater than the
weight of m y scatter-brained and ignor ant brother Om ar Asaf, he im mediately
crashed into the new celestial body he had created and bounded off it like a
football. W ith a terrible wail, he began revolving around it at top speed.
"Thus, Om ar Asaf fell a victim to his terrible vanity by becom ing the sputnik of
his own sputnik.
"I returned to the Earth and sat down to write you this letter, 0 you, who have
all good assets, in order that you do not rem ain in ignorance of the above events.
"I also hurry to add that on Gorky Street , at the radio store, I saw a wonderful
set with nine tubes. And its virtues are endless. Its appearance would please the
most choosy eye. It occurred to m e that if I were to attach...."
The letter then continued as a typical radio fan' s letter would, and there is no
sense quoting it, f or radio f ans will not f ind anything new in it, and those who are
not interested in this branch of com munications will f ind nothing in it worthy of
If any of the readers of this really trut hful story are in Mo scow on Razin Street
and look in at the offices of the Central Bo ard of the Northern Sea Route, they will
probably see am ong the dozens of people putti ng in applications for work in the
Arctic an old m an in a straw boater and pink slippers em broidered in silver and
gold. This is Hottabych. Despite all his efforts, he has not been able t
o procure a
job as a radio-operator on som e polar station.
His appearance alone, with the long grey beard reaching down to his waist, a
sure sign of his undoubtedly advanced age, is a great hindrance in finding
em ploym ent in the harsh conditions of the Arctic. However, his situation becom es
still m ore hopeless when he begins to fill in the application form .
In answer to the question: "Occupation," he writes: "Professional Genie." In
answer to the question: "Age," he write s: "3,732 years and five m onths." As to
fam ily status, he replies sim ple-heartedly: "Orphan. Single. I have a brother nam ed
Om ar Asaf who, until July of last year, liv ed on the bottom of the Arctic Ocean in
a copper vessel, but who now works as an Earth satellite," etc., etc., e
After reading his application form , the personnel m anager decides that
Hottabych is slightly crazy, though the r eaders of our story know only too well
that what the old m an has written is nothing but the truth.
Naturally, it would be no trouble for him at all to becom e a young m an and to
fill in the form as it should be; or, if the worst cam e to the worst, to cast the sam e
spell on the personnel m anager as he had once before, when he and his friends
boarded the "Ladoga." But the trouble is th e old m an has decided he wants to get a
job in the Arctic honestly, without any fakery at all.
However, he has been visiting the Board offices less and less f requently lately.
Instead, he has decided to study radio t echnology, to learn how to design his own
radio equipm ent. Knowing his abilities and his love f or work, it is not such a
hopeless m atter. W hat he needs now are com petent teachers. Hottabych wants his
young friends to be his teachers. All they could prom ise him , as we already know,
is that they will teach him what they l earn from day to day. Hottabych considered
this and decided that it was not such a bad idea after 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 w ith them . But at this point their roads
will part. As you recall, Zhenya had long since decided to becom e a doctor, while
Volka shares Hottabych' s passion. He want s to becom e a radio engineer, and I
assure you that he will m ake his way in this difficult but fascinating field.
It rem ains f or us to bid f arewell to the characters of this story and to wish the
three friends good health and good luck in th eir studies and their future lives. If
you ever m eet them , please say hello to th em from the author who invented them
with great love and tenderness.
TO THE READER The Foreign Languages Publishing House would be grateful for your comments on the content, translation and design of this book. We woul d also be pleased to receive any other suggestions you may wish to make. Our address is: 21, Zubovsky Boulevard, Moscow, U.S.S.R.
Printed in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics
Lagin L.-The Old Genie Hottabych-1955
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