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     A Story of Make-Believe
     Russian original title: Старик  Хоттабыч ( старое название "Старый джин
Хоттабыч")
     FOREIGN LANGUAGES PUBLISHING HOUSE MOSCOW
     Translated from the Russian by Fainna Solasko
     OCR: http://home.freeuk.com/russica2
     _______________________________________________


     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  found a copper vessel in his  net. In  the
vessel was a mighty Genie - a magician who had been imprisoned in the bottle
for nearly two thousand years. The Genie had sworn to make the one who freed
him rich, powerful and happy.
     "  But what if such a Genie suddenly came to life in the Soviet  Union,
in  Moscow? I tried to imagine  what would have  happened if a very ordinary
Russian boy had freed him from the vessel.
     "And  imagine,  I  suddenly  discovered that  a  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 Examination
     Hottabych's Second Service
     An Unusual Event at the Movies A Troubled Evening
     A Chapter Which Is a Continuation of the Previous One
     A Restless Night
     The Unusual Events in Apartment
     A No Less Troubled Morning
     Why S.S. Pivoraki Became Less Talkative
     An Interview with a Diver
     Charting a Flight
     The Flight
     Zhenya Bogorad's Adventures Far Away in the East
     Tra-la-la, ibn Alyosha!
     Meet My Friend
     Have Mercy on Us, Mighty Ruler!
     It's So Embarrassing to Be an Illiterate Genie
     Who's the Richest?
     A Camel in the Street
     A Mysterious Happening in the Bank
     Hottabych and Sidorelli
     A Hospital Under the Bed
     One in Which We Return to the Barking Boy
     Hottabych and Mr. Moneybags
     Hassan Abdurrakhman ibn Hottab's Story of His Adventures After  Leaving
the Shop
     The Same and Mr. Moneybags
     Extra Tickets
     Ice-Cream Again
     How Many Footballs Do You Need?
     Hottabych Enters the Game
     The Situation Becomes More Tense
     Reconciliation
     Where Should They Look for Omar?
     The Story Told by the  Conductor of the Moscow-Odessa  Express  of What
Happened on the Nara-Maly Yaroslavets Line
     The Strange Sailing Ship
     Aboard the "Sweet Omar"
     The "VK-1" Magic-Carpet-Seaplane
     Hottabych Is Lost and Found Again
     The Vessel From the Pillars of Hercules
     The Shortest Chapter of All
     Dreaming of the "Ladoga"
     A Commotion at the Central Excursion Bureau
     Who Is Most Famous?
     The Unexpected Encounter
     What Interferes with Sleeping?
     Shipwrecked?
     Hottabych at His Best
     "Salaam, Sweet Omar!"
     Omar Asaf Bares His Claws
     What Good Optical Instruments Can Lead To
     Hottabych's Fatal Passion
     Hottabych's New Year Visit
     Epilogue







     At 7:32 a.m. a merry sun-spot slipped through a hole in the curtain and
settled on the nose of Volka Kostylkov, a 6th-grade pupil. Volka sneezed and
woke up.
     Just then, he heard his mother say in the next room:
     "Don't rush, Alyosha. Let the child sleep a bit  longer, he has an exam
today."
     Volka winced. When, oh when, would his mother stop calling him a child?
     "Nonsense!"  he  could  hear  his  father  answer.  "The  boy's  nearly
thirteen. He might as well get up and help us pack. Before 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  dressed hurriedly. How could he ever
have forgotten such a day!
     This  was  the  day the  Kostylkov family  was moving  to  a  different
apartment in  a new  six-storey house.  Most of  their  belongings had  been
packed the night  before. Mother and  Grandma  had  packed the dishes  in  a
little  tin tub  that once,  very  long ago, they  had bathed Volka  in. His
father had rolled up his sleeves and,  with a mouthful of nails, just like a
shoemaker, had spent the evening hammering down the lids on crates of books.
     Then they had  all argued as to the best  place to put the things so as
to have  them handy when the truck  arrived  in the morning. Then  they  had
their tea on an uncovered table-as on a march. 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 morning they, were moving to a new apartment.
     The  movers 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,
"Well, can we begin?"
     "Yes, please do,"  both Mother and Grandma answered and began to bustle
about.
     Volka  marched  downstairs, solemnly carrying  the sofa pillows  to the
waiting truck.
     "Are you moving?" a boy from next door asked.
     "Yes," Volka answered  indifferently,  as though he was  used to moving
from one apartment to another every week and there  was nothing very special
about it.
     The  janitor,  Stepanych,  walked over, slowly  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  courage  and invited
Stepanych  to  visit  them  at their  new  home.  The  janitor  said,  "With
pleasure." A serious, important, man-to-man conversation was beginning, when
all at once Volka's mother's voice came through the open window:
     "Volka! Volka!  Where can that awful child be?" Volka raced  up to  the
strangely  large and empty apartment  in which shreds of old newspapers  and
old medicine bottles were lying forlornly about the floor.
     "At last!" his  mother said. "Take your precious 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 moving to a new
apartment.



     Well,  the  truck  finally  choked  exhaustedly   and  stopped  at  the
attractive  entrance  of  Volka's new  house.  The  movers  quickly  carried
everything upstairs and soon were gone.
     Volka's father opened a few  crates and said, "We'll do the rest in the
evening." Then he left for the factory.
     Mother  and  Grandma  began unpacking the  pots  and pans, while  Volka
decided to run down to the river nearby. His father had warned him not to go
swimming without him, because the river was  very deep, but Volka soon found
an  excuse: "I have to go in for a dip  to clear my head. How can  I take an
exam with a fuzzy brain!"
     It's  wonderful,  the way Volka  was always able to  think of an excuse
when he was about to do something he was not allowed to do.
     How convenient it  is to  have a river near your house! Volka told  his
mother he'd go sit on the bank and study his geography.
     And  he  really  and truly intended to spend about  ten minutes leafing
through  the text-book.  However, he got undressed and jumped into the water
the  minute 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 swimming  as much as he liked. It was bad, because
there  was no  one to admire  what  a good  swimmer and  especially  what an
extraordinary diver he was.
     Volka swam and dived until he became blue. Finally, he  realized he had
had enough. He was ready to climb out when he suddenly changed  his mind and
decided to dive into the clear water one last time.
     As he was about to come up for air, his  hand hit a long hard object on
the  bottom.  He  grabbed  it  and   surfaced  near  the  shore,  holding  a
strange-looking slippery, moss-covered clay vessel. It  resembled an ancient
type  of Greek vase called  an amphora. The  neck was  sealed tightly with a
green substance and what looked like a seal was imprinted on top.
     Volka weighed the vessel in his hand. It was very  heavy. He caught his
breath.
     A  treasure!  An  ancient  treasure  of  great  scientific  value!  How
wonderful!
     He dressed quickly and dashed home  to open  it  in the privacy  of his
room.
     As he  ran along, he could  visualize the notice  which would certainly
appear in all the papers the next morning.  He even thought of a heading: "A
Pioneer Aids Science."
     "Yesterday, a  pioneer named  Vladimir Kostylkov came  to his  district
militia  station and handed  the officer on  duty a  treasure  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, Vladimir Kostylkov is an excellent diver."
     Volka slipped by  the kitchen, where  his mother was cooking dinner. He
dashed into his room, nearly breaking his leg as he stumbled on a chandelier
lying on the  floor.  It was Grandma's famous  chandelier.  Very  long  ago,
before the Revolution, his deceased  grandfather had  converted  it  from  a
hanging oil lamp. Grandma would  not part with it for anything in the world,
because it was a treasured 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 the door, took his penknife from his
pocket and, trembling from excitement, scraped the seal off the bottle.
     The room immediately filled with choking black smoke, while a noiseless
explosion  of great  force threw him up to the  ceiling,  where  he remained
suspended from the hook by the seat of his pants.



     While  Volka  was swaying  back  and  forth  on  the  hook,  trying  to
understand what  had  happened,  the  smoke  began  to  clear. Suddenly,  he
realized  there  was  someone else  in the room besides  himself.  It was  a
skinny, sunburnt old man with  a  beard down to his waist and dressed  in an
elegant turban,  a white coat of fine  wool richly embroidered in silver and
gold,  gleaming  white silk puffed trousers and petal pink  morocco slippers
with upturned toes.
     "Hachoo!" the old  man  sneezed loudly and prostrated himself. "I greet
you, 0 Wonderful and Wise Youth!"
     Volka shut  his  eyes tight and then opened them again. No,  he was not
seeing things. The amazing old man was still there. 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 miracle.
     "Where did you come from?" Volka inquired cautiously, swaying back  and
forth  under  the  ceiling  like  a  pendulum.  "Are  you... from an amateur
troupe?"
     "Oh,  no,  my  young  lord,"  the old  man  replied  grandly, though he
remained in the same uncomfortable pose and continued to sneeze.  "I am  not
from the strange country of Anamateur Troupe you mentioned. I come from this
most horrible vessel."
     With these words he  scrambled to his  feet and  began  jumping on  the
vessel, from which a wisp of smoke was still curling upward, until there was
nothing left but  a  small  pile of  clay chips.  Then, with  a  sound  like
tinkling crystalware,  he  yanked a hair from his beard and tore it in  two.
The bits of clay flared up with a weird green flame until soon there was not
a trace of them left on the floor.
     Still,  Volka was dubious. You  must agree, it's not easy to accept the
fact that a live person can crawl out of a vessel no bigger than a decanter.
     "Well, I don't know..." Volka stammered. "The vessel was  so small, and
you're so big compared to it."
     "You don't believe me, 0 despicable one?!" the old man shouted angrily,
but immediately calmed down; once again  he fell to  his knees,  hitting the
floor with his forehead so strongly that the water shook in the aquarium and
the  sleepy fish began to  dart  back  and forth  anxiously. "Forgive me, my
young saviour, but I am not  used to having my words doubted. Know ye,  most
blessed of all young men, that I am none other than the mighty  Genie Hassan
Abdurrakhman ibn Hottab-that  is,  the  son  of  Hottab,  famed  in all four
corners of the world."
     All this was so interesting it made Volka forget  he was  hanging under
the ceiling on a chandelier hook.
     "A 'gin-e'? Isn't that some kind of a drink?"
     "I am not a  drink, 0 inquisitive youth!" the old man flared  up again,
then  took himself in hand once more  and calmed down. "I am not a beverage,
but a mighty, unconquerable spirit. There  is  no magic in the world which I
cannot do, and  my name, as I have  already had the pleasure of conveying to
your great  and  extremely  respected attention, is  Hassan Abdurrakhman ibn
Hottab,  or, as  you would say in Russian, Hassan Abdurrakhman Hottabych. If
you mention it to the first Ifrit or Genie you meet, you'll see him tremble,
and his mouth will go dry from fear," the old man continued boastfully.
     "My story-  hachoo!-  is strange, indeed. And if  it were  written with
needles in the corners of the eyes, it would be a good lesson  for all those
who seek learning. I, most unfortunate Genie that I am, disobeyed  Sulayman,
son of  David (on  the  twain  be  peace!)-I,  and  my  brother,  Omar  Asaf
Hottabych. Then  Sulayman  sent his  Vizier Asaf, son of Barakhiya, to seize
us, and  he brought us back  against our will. Sulayman, David's son (on the
twain be peace!), ordered  two  bottles brought  to him: a  copper one and a
clay one. He put me  in the clay vessel and my brother Omar Hottabych in the
copper one. He sealed both  vessels and imprinted the greatest of  all names
of  Allah on  them and then ordered his  Genies to carry us off and throw my
brother into the sea and  me into the river,  from which  you, 0 my  blessed
saviour- hachoo, hachoo!-have  fished me. May your days be  prolonged. 0....
Begging your pardon,  I would be indescribably happy to know your name, most
beautiful of all youths."
     "My  name's  Volka,"  our hero replied as  he  swayed softly to and fro
under the ceiling.
     "And what  is  your  fortunate father's name,  may  he be  blessed  for
eternity? Tell  me  the most gentle  of all  his names, as  he  is certainly
deserving of great love and  gratitude for presenting the world with such an
outstanding offspring."
     "His  name's  Alexei.  And his  most gentle ...  most  gentle  name  is
Alyosha."
     "Then know ye,  most deserving of  all youths,  the star  of  my heart,
Volka ibn Alyosha,  that I will henceforth fulfil all your wishes, since you
have saved me from the most horrible imprisonment. Hachoo!"
     "Why do you  keep  on  sneezing so?" Volka  asked, as though everything
else was quite clear.
     "The  many  thousand  years  I  spent  in  dampness,  deprived  of  the
beneficial rays of the sun, in a cold vessel lying on the bottom of a river,
have  given  me, your undeserving  servant,  a most  tiresome  running nose.
Hachoo! Hachoo! But all this is of no importance at all and unworthy of your
most  treasured  attention. Order me as you wish, 0  young  master!"  Hassan
Abdurrakhman 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  my  command," the old man replied  obediently  and
rose. "I await your further orders."
     "And now," Volka mumbled uncertainly, "if  it's not too much trouble ..
. would you be kind enough ... of course, if it's not too  much  trouble....
What I mean is, I'd really like to be back on the floor again."
     That very moment he found himself standing beside old man Hottabych, as
we shall call our new acquaintance for  short. The first thing Volka did was
to grab the seat of his pants. There was no hole at all.
     Miracles were beginning to happen.



     "Order me as you wish!" Hottabych continued, gazing at Volka devotedly.
"Is there  anything  that grieves  you, 0 Volka ibn Alyosha? Tell  me, and I
will help you."
     "My  goodness!" Volka cried,  glancing at the clock ticking away loudly
on the table. "I'm late! I'm late for my exam!"
     "What are you  late for, 0 most treasured Volka ibn Alyosha?" Hottabych
asked in a business-like way. "What does that strange word 'ex-am' mean?"
     "It's the same as a test. I'm late for my test at school."
     "Then know  ye, 0 Volka, that you do not value  my  powers at all," the
old man said in  a hurt voice. "No, no, and no again! You will  not be  late
for your exam. Just tell me what your choice is:
     to  hold up the exam,  or to find yourself  immediately at  your school
gates?"
     "To find myself at the gates," Volka replied.
     "Nothing could  be simpler! You will now find yourself where your young
and honourable spirit draws you so  impatiently. You will stun your teachers
and your comrades with your great knowledge."
     With the same pleasant  tinkling sound the old man 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  man  cried and  raised his thin hairy  arms
triumphantly. "So you're to take an exam in geography?! Then know ye, 0 most
wonderful  of all wonderful  ones, that  you are exceptionally  lucky, for I
know more  about  geography  than  any  other  Genie-I, your  devoted Hassan
Abdurrakhman ibn Hottab. We shall go to school together, may  its foundation
and roof be blessed! I'll prompt you invisibly and tell you all the answers.
You  will become the most famous pupil of your school and of all the schools
of your most beautiful city. And if anyone of your teachers does  not accord
you the greatest  praise,  he will have to  deal with me! Oh, they  will  be
very, very  sorry!" Hottabych raged. "I'll  turn  them into mules that carry
water, into homeless curs covered with scabs,  into  the  most  horrible and
obnoxious toads-that's what I'll do to them! However," he said, calming down
as quickly  as  he  had become  enraged, "things  will  not go that far, for
everyone, 0 Volka ibn Alyosha, will be astounded by your answers."
     ' "Thank  you, Hassan Hottabych," Volka  sighed  miserably. "Thank you,
but I don't  want  you to prompt me. We pioneers are against  prompting as a
matter of principle. We're conducting an organized fight against prompting."
     Now, how could an old Genie who had spent so many years  in prison know
such  a scholarly term  as  "a matter of principle"?  However, the sigh  his
young saviour  heaved  to  accompany his sad and honourable  words convinced
Hottabych that Volka ibn Alyosha needed his help more than ever before.
     "Your  refusal  grieves me," Hottabych  said. "After all,  no one  will
notice me prompting you."
     "Ha!" Volka said bitterly. "You don't know what keen  ears our  teacher
Varvara Stepanovna has."
     "You not only upset me, you  now offend me,  0  Volka  ibn  Alyosha! If
Hassan Abdurrakhman ibn Hottab says that no one will notice, it means no one
will notice!"
     "Not a single soul?" Volka asked again, just to make sure.
     "Not a single soul. The words which I will have the pleasure of telling
you will go  straight  from my  deferential lips to  your 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
right, have your own way! Geography  isn't Math or  Grammar. I'd never agree
to  even the  tiniest  prompt in those  subjects, but since geography  isn't
really the most important subject.... Come on,  let's hurry!"  He  looked at
the old  man's unusual clothing with a critical eye. "Hm-m-m.... D'you think
you could change into something else, Hassan Hottabych?"
     "Don't my garments please your gaze, 0 most noble of Volkas?" Hottabych
asked unhappily.
     "Sure they  do, they certainly do," Volka answered diplomatically. "But
you're dressed ...  if you know what I mean.... Our  styles are a little bit
different.... Your clothes will attract too much attention."
     "But how  do  respectable, honourable  gentlemen of  advanced age dress
nowadays?"
     Volka tried to  explain what  a jacket,  trousers and a  hat were,  but
though  he  tried very hard, he  wasn't  very  successful.  He  was about to
despair, when he suddenly glanced at his grandfather's portrait on the wall.
He led Hottabych over to the time-darkened photograph and the  old man gazed
long at it with curiosity, surprised to see clothing so unlike his own.
     A moment later, Volka, holding Hottabych's arm, emerged from the house.
The  old man was magnificent in  a new linen suit, an embroidered  Ukrainian
shirt,  and  a  straw boater. The  only things  he had  refused  to  change,
complaining of three thousand-year-old corns, were his slippers. He remained
in his pink slippers with the upturned toes, which, in times gone  by, would
have probably driven the most stylish young man at the Court of Caliph Harun
al Rashid out of his mind with envy.
     When  Volka  and  a transformed  Hottabych  approached  the entrance of
Moscow Secondary School No. 245 the old  man looked at himself  coyly in the
glass door and remained quite pleased with what he saw.
     The elderly doorman, who was sedately reading his paper, put  it  aside
with pleasure at the sight of  Volka and his  companion. It was  hot and the
doorman felt like talking to someone.
     Skipping several steps at a  time, Volka dashed upstairs. The corridors
were quiet and empty, a true and sad sign that the examination had begun and
that he was late.
     "And where are you going?" the doorman  asked  Hottabych good-naturedly
as he was about to follow his young friend in.
     "He's come 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 examination. Won't  you
please come by again later on in the day?"
     Hottabych frowned angrily.
     "If I be permitted to, 0 respected old man, I would prefer  to wait for
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  comrades
with your great knowledge!"
     "Are you his grandfather or something?" the doorman inquired, trying to
start up a  conversation.  Hottabych  said nothing.  He  felt it beneath his
dignity to converse with a doorkeeper.
     "Would you care for a cup of  tea?" the doorman  continued. "The heat's
something terrible today."
     He poured a full cup  of tea and, turning to hand it to the untalkative
stranger, he saw to his horror that  the old  man had  disappeared into thin
air. Shaken by this  impossible occurrence, the doorman gulped down the  tea
intended for Hottabych, poured  himself a second cup, and then a  third, and
did not stop until there wasn't a drop left. Then he sank into his chair and
began to fan himself exhaustedly with his newspaper.
     All the while, a  no less unusual scene  was taking place on the second
floor, right above the doorman, in the classroom of 6B. The teachers, headed
by  the principal, Pavel Vasilyevich,  sat at  a  table covered with a heavy
cloth used for  special occasions. Behind them was the blackboard, hung with
various maps. Facing them were rows of solemn pupils. It was so quiet in the
room that one could hear a lonely fly buzzing monotonously near the ceiling.
If the pupils of  6B were always this quiet, theirs would undoubtedly be the
most disciplined class in all of Moscow.
     It must be noted, however, that the quiet in the classroom was not only
due to the  hush accompanying  any examination,  but also to the  fact  that
Volka Kostylkov had been called to the board-and he was not in the room.
     "Vladimir  Kostylkov!" the principal repeated  and looked at  the quiet
children in surprise.
     It became still more quiet.
     Then, suddenly, they heard the loud clatter of running feet in the hall
outside, and at  the very  moment  the principal called "Vladimir Kostylkov"
for the third and last time, the door burst open and Volka, very much out of
breath, gasped:
     "Here!"
     "Please come up to the board," the principal  said dryly. "We'll  speak
about your being late afterwards."
     "I  ... I feel ill," Volka mumbled, saying the first thing that came to
his head, as he walked uncertainly towards his examiners.
     While he  was  wondering  which of the slips of  paper laid out  on the
table he  should choose, old  man Hottabych slipped  through 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.  Tempting his fate,
he turned it over  very slowly, but was pleasantly surprised to see  that he
was to  speak on India. He knew quite a lot about India, since he had always
been interested in that country.
     "Well, let's hear what you have to say," the principal said.
     Volka  even remembered  the beginning of the chapter  on India word for
word as it was in his book. He opened his  mouth  to say  that the Hindustan
Peninsula resembled a triangle and that this triangle bordered on the Indian
Ocean and  its  various  parts:  the Arabian Sea  in the West and the Bay of
Bengal in the East, that two large countries-India and Pakistan-were located
on  the  peninsula,  that  both  were inhabited  by kindly and  peace-loving
peoples with  rich  and ancient cultures, etc.,  etc., etc.,  but  just then
Hottabych, standing in the adjoining  classroom, leaned against the wall and
began mumbling diligently, cupping his hand to his mouth like a horn:
     "India, 0 my most respected teacher...!"
     And suddenly Volka, contrary to his  own desires,  began to pour  forth
the most atrocious nonsense:
     "India, 0 my most respected teacher,  is located close  to the  edge of
the Earth's disc and is separated from this  edge by desolate and unexplored
deserts, as  neither animals nor birds live to the east  of it.  India is  a
very  wealthy country, and its wealth lies in its gold. This is not dug from
the ground as  in other countries, but  is  produced, day  and  night,  by a
tireless species of gold-bearing ants,  which  are nearly the size of a dog.
They dig their  tunnels in the ground and three  times a  day they bring  up
gold  sand and nuggets  and  pile  them 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 men and women and even the children
are  all bald in this country. And these strange people live on raw fish and
pine cones. Still closer  to them  is a  country where you  can neither  see
anything nor pass, as it  is filled  to the top with feathers. The earth and
the air  are filled with  feathers, and that is why you can't  see  anything
there."
     "Wait a  minute,  Kostylkov," the geography teacher said with  a smile.
"No one has asked you to tell us of the ancients' views on Asia's geography.
We'd like you to tell us the modern, scientific facts about India."
     Oh,  how  happy  Volka would have been to display  his knowledge of the
subject! But what could he do if  he was no longer  the master of his speech
and  actions! In agreeing to have Hottabych prompt him, he became  a  toy in
the old  man's  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 dismay  and
shook his head,  and Volka, standing in front of the class, was compelled to
do the same.
     "That  which I have had the  honour of telling you, 0 greatly respected
Varvara Stepanovna, is based  on the most reliable  sources, and there exist
no other, more scientific facts on India than those I  have just, with  your
permission, revealed to you."
     "Please keep to the subject. This is an  examination, not a masquerade.
If you don't know the answers, it would be much more honourable  to admit it
right away. What was  it you said  about the  Earth's disc by the way? Don't
you know that the Earth is round?"
     Did  Volka Kostylkov,  an active  member of  the  Moscow  Planetarium's
Astronomy Club, know  that the Earth  was round? Why,  any first-grader knew
that. But Hottabych, standing behind  the  wall, burst out laughing,  and no
matter how our poor  boy tried to press  his lips together, a haughty  smirk
escaped him:
     "I presume  you are making fun of your most devoted pupil! If the Earth
were  round,  the water would  run off it, and then  everyone  would die  of
thirst and all the plants would dry up. The Earth, 0 most 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 mighty river named 'Ocean.' The
Earth  rests  on  six  elephants,  and they,  in  turn,  are standing  on  a
tremendous turtle. That is how the world is made, 0 teacher!"
     The board of teachers gazed at Volka with rising surprise. He broke out
in  a  cold sweat  from horror  and  the  realization  of  his  own complete
helplessness.  The other  children  could  not  quite  understand  what  had
happened to their friend, but some began  to giggle.  It was really funny to
hear 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 Zhenya Bogorad, Volka's best friend  and
one of  the class pioneer leaders,  he became  really worried. He knew  that
Volka,  as chairman  of the Astronomy Club, at least knew that the Earth was
round-if he knew nothing else. Could it be that he had suddenly decided upon
some mischief, and during an  examination, of all times! Volka was  probably
ill, but what ailed  him?  What kind of a strange,  unusual  disease  did he
have?  And then, it  was very bad  for their pioneer group. So far, they had
been first in  all  the exams, but now  Volka's stupid answers  would  spoil
everything,  though  he was usually a  disciplined  pioneer! Goga Pilukin, a
most unpleasant boy at the next  desk (nicknamed "Pill" by  his classmates),
hastened to pour salt on Zhenya's fresh wounds.
     "That  takes  care of  your  group,  Zhenya dear," he whispered  with a
malicious giggle. "You're sinking fast!" Zhenya shook his fist at Pill.
     "Varvara Stepanovna!" Goga whined. "Bogorad just shook his fist at me."
     "Sit still and don't tattle,"  Varvara Stepanovna said  and turned back
to Volka, who stood before her more dead than alive. "Were you serious about
the elephants  and the  turtle?"  "More  serious  than  ever before,  0 most
respected  of  all  teachers,"  Volka repeated  after the  old  man and felt
himself burning up with shame.
     "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 the force that was pushing him towards
failure,  also shook  his head and said, "No, I've nothing  to add. Perhaps,
however,  the fact that in the wealthy land of India the horizons are framed
by gold and pearls."
     "It's incredible!" his teacher exclaimed.
     It was difficult to believe that Kostylkov, a  usually disciplined boy,
had suddenly decided to  play a silly  joke  on his teachers (and at such an
important time!), running the risk of a second examination in the autumn.
     "I  don't think the boy is quite well," Varvara Stepanovna whispered to
the principal.
     Glancing  hurriedly and sympathetically at Volka,  who stood numb  with
grief before them, the committee held a whispered conference.
     Varvara  Stepanovna  suggested,  "What  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  Stepanovna once again turned  to  the
unhappy boy.
     "Now, Kostylkov, wipe your tears  and don't be nervous. Tell us  what a
horizon is."
     "A horizon?" Volka said  with new hope.  "That's easy.  A horizon is an
imagined line which...."
     But Hottabych came to life behind the  wall again and  Volka once again
became the victim of prompting.
     "The horizon, 0 my most revered one," Volka corrected himself, "I would
call the horizon that brink, where the crystal cupola of the Heavens touches
the edge of the Earth."
     "It gets worse as  he goes on," Varvara Stepanovna  moaned. "How  would
you  have  us  understand  your  words  about  the  crystal  cupola  of  the
Heavens-literally or figuratively?"
     "Literally, 0 teacher," Hottabych prompted from the next room.
     And Volka was obliged to repeat after him, "Literally, 0 teacher."
     "Figuratively!" someone  hissed  from the  back of the  room. But Volka
repeated, "Naturally, in the literal sense and no other."
     "What does that  mean?"  Varvara Stepanovna asked, still not  believing
her ears. "Does that mean you consider the sky to be a solid cupola?"
     "Yes."
     "And does it mean there's a place where the Earth ends?"
     "Yes, there is, 0 my most highly respected teacher."
     Behind  the  wall  Hottabych  nodded approvingly  and  rubbed his hands
together smugly.
     A strange silence  fell on the class. Even those who were always  ready
to laugh stopped smiling. Something 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 this. He  bowed low and touched his
forehead and chest in the Eastern manner and then began to  whisper.  Volka,
driven by the same awful force, repeated his movements exactly.
     "I thank you,  0 most gracious daughter of Stepan! I thank you for your
trouble. But it is unnecessary, because, praised be Allah, I am quite well."
     All this  sounded  extremely  strange  and funny.  However,  the  other
children were so worried  about Volka that  not a shade of a smile crossed a
single  face. Varvara Stepanovna  took  him by  the hand, led him out of the
room, and patted his lowered head.
     "Never mind, Kostylkov. Don't worry.  You're  probably overtired.  Come
back when you've had a good rest. All right?"
     "All  right,"  Volka  said.  "But  upon  my  word  of  honour,  Varvara
Stepanovna, it's not my fault! It isn't really!"
     "Why, I'm not blaming you at all,"  the teacher answered kindly.  "I'll
tell you what: let's drop in on Pyotr Ivanych."
     Pyotr  Ivanych,  the  school  doctor,  examined Volka for  all  of  ten
minutes. He  made him close  his eyes and  hold his arms out before him with
his fingers spread  apart; then he  tapped his knee  and  drew lines on  his
chest and back with his stethoscope.
     By then  Volka  came to  himself. His cheeks turned  pink again and his
spirits rose.
     "The  boy's perfectly  well," said Pyotr Ivanych.  "And  if you want my
opinion,   he's  an  unusually  healthy  child!  I  think  he  was  probably
overworked. He must have studied too much  before his exams, because there's
nothing wrong with him. And that's all there is to it!"
     Just in case, though, he  measured  some drops  into a  glass,  and the
unusually healthy child was forced to drink the medicine.
     Suddenly, Volka had an idea.  What if he could profit from  Hottabych's
absence  and  take his geography  examination right there, in  the  doctor's
office?
     "By no  means!" Pyotr Ivanych said emphatically.  "By no means. Let the
child have a few days of rest. Geography can wait."
     "That's  quite  true,"  the teacher  sighed  with relief, pleased  that
.everything had  turned out so well  in the  end. "And you, my young friend,
run  along home and  have  a  good rest. When you feel better, come back and
take  your  exam. I'm positive  you'll get an 'A.' What do you think,  Pyotr
Ivanych?"
     "Such a Hercules as he? Why, he'll never get less than an 'A'+!'
     "Ah ... and don't you  think someone had better see him  home?" Varvara
Stepanovna added.
     "Oh no, Varvara Stepanovna!" Volka cried. "I'll make out fine."
     All he  needed  now was for  a chaperone to bump into  that  crazy  old
Hottabych!
     Volka  appeared  to be in the pink of  health, and with  an  easy heart
Varvara Stepanovna let him go home.
     The doorman  rushed towards  him as  he was on the way out. "Kostylkov!
Your grandpa, or whoever he is, the one who came here with you...."
     At that  very moment, old man Hottabych appeared from  the wall. He was
as happy as a lark and  immensely pleased with himself, and he was humming a
little tune.
     "Help!" the doorman cried soundlessly and tried in vain to pour himself
another cup of tea  from the empty kettle. When  he put the  kettle down and
turned around,  both  Volka  Kostylkov  and  his  mysterious  companion  had
disappeared. By then they had already turned the nearest corner.
     "Pray tell me, young  master, did you  astound your  teacher  and  your
comrades with your great knowledge?" Hottabych inquired  proudly, breaking a
rather long silence.
     "I astounded them all right!" Volka said and looked at the old man with
loathing.
     Hottabych beamed. "I  expected nothing else!  But for a moment  there I
thought that the  most revered  daughter of Stepan  was  displeased with the
breadth and scope of your knowledge."
     "Oh,  no,  no!" Volka cried  in  fear,  recalling Hottabych's  terrible
threats. "You were imagining things."
     "I would have changed her into  a chopping block on which butchers chop
up mutton," the old man  said fiercely (and Volka was 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 Hottabych's life, he had often had
to do with people feeling sad and gloomy, and he knew how to cheer them  up.
At any rate, he was convinced he knew how to do so. All that was  needed was
to  give a  person  that which he had always longed for. But  what kind of a
present should he give Volka?  The  answer came to him quite  by chance when
Volka asked a passer-by:
     "Would you please tell me what time it is?"
     The man looked at his watch and said, "Five to two."
     "Thank you," Volka said and continued on in silence.
     Hottabych was the first to speak.
     "Tell me,  0 Volka,  how was the  man able to tell  the time  of day so
accurately?"
     "Didn't you see him look at his watch?" The old man raised his eyebrows
in surprise.
     "His watch?!" "Sure, his watch,"  Volka  explained.  "He had a watch on
his
     wrist. The round chrome-plated thing."
     "Why don't you have such a watch, 0 most noble of all Genie-saviours?"
     "I'm too young to have such a watch," Volka answered humbly.
     "May I be permitted, 0 honourable passer-by, to inquire  as to the time
of day?" Hottabych said, stopping the first person he saw and staring at his
watch.
     "Two  minutes to two,"  the  man answered,  somewhat surprised  at  the
flowery language.
     Thanking him in the most elaborate oriental manner, Hottabych said with
a sly grin:
     "May I be permitted,  0 loveliest of all Volkas,  to inquire  as to the
time of day?"
     And there was a watch  shining  on Volka's left wrist, exactly like the
one the man they had stopped had, but instead of being chrome-plated, it was
of the purest gold.
     "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 something that any other boy  or girl would have done in
his place,  having  found themselves  the  proud  possessors of their  first
watch. He raised his arm to his ear to hear it tick.
     "O-o-o-o," he drawled. "It's not wound.  I'll have to wind  it." To his
great disappointment, he found he could not move the winding button. Then he
got out his  pen-knife to open the watch case. However, try as he would,  he
could not find a trace of a slit in which to insert the knife.
     "It's made of solid gold," the old man boasted and winked. "I'm not one
of those people who give presents made of hollow gold."
     "Does  that  mean  there's  nothing inside  of it?"  Volka  asked  with
disappointment.
     "Why,  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
small and  flat. There  was no glass  on it and instead of hands there was a
small vertical gold rod in the middle. The face was  studded  with  the most
exquisite emeralds set where the numbers should be.
     "Never before did anyone, even the  wealthiest  of all  sultans, have a
hand  sun  watch!" the old man boasted again. "There were sun dials in  city
squares, in market places, in gardens and in  yards.  And they were all made
of stone. But I just invented this one. It's not bad, is it?"
     It certainly was exciting to be the only owner  of  a sun  watch in the
whole world.
     Volka grinned broadly, while the old man beamed.
     "How do you tell the time on it?" Volka asked.
     "Here's how," Hottabych said, taking hold of Volka's hand gently. "Hold
your arm  straight out like this and the shadow cast by  the little gold rod
will fall on the right number."
     "But the sun has to be  shining," Volka said, looking with  displeasure
at a small cloud that just obscured it.
     "The cloud will pass in a minute," Hottabych promised.  True enough, in
a  minute  the sun began to shine  once  again. "See, it  points  somewheres
between  2 and 3  p.m.  That means it's about  2:30."  As  he was  speaking,
another cloud covered the sun.
     "Don't pay any attention  to  it,"  Hottabych said. "I'll clear the sky
for you whenever you want to find out what time it is."
     "What about the autumn?" Volka asked.
     "What about it?"
     "What  about the autumn and the  winter, when the sky  is covered  with
clouds for months on end?"
     "I've already  told  you, 0 Volka, the sun will shine whenever you want
it to. You have but to order me and everything will be as you wish."
     "But what if you're not around?"
     "I'll always be near-by. All you have to do is call me."
     "But  what  about the  evenings  and nights?"  Volka asked maliciously.
"What about the night, when there's no sun in the sky?"
     "At night  people must surrender themselves  to sleep,  and not look at
their  watches," Hottabych snapped. He had  to control himself not to  teach
the  insolent youth a good lesson. "All right then, tell me whether you like
that man's watch. If you do, you shall have it."
     "What  do you  mean? It belongs  to him. Don't tell  me  you are  going
to...."
     "Don't worry, 0  Volka ibn Alyosha. I won't touch a hair on  his  head.
He'll offer you the watch himself, for you are certainly worthy of receiving
the most treasured gifts."
     "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 beggar...."
     "That's real  blackmail,"  Volka said angrily. "Tricks like that send a
man to jail, my friend. And you'll well deserve it."
     "Send me  to jail?!"  the old man flared up. "Me?!  Hassan Abdurrakhman
ibn Hottab? And does  he know, that most despicable of all passers-by, who J
am? Ask the first Genie, or Ifrit, or Shaitan you see, and they'll tell you,
as they tremble from fear, that Hassan Abdurrakhman ibn Hottab  is the chief
of all Genie bodyguards. My army consists of 72 tribes, with 72,000 warriors
in each tribe; every  warrior rules over one thousand Marids and every Marid
rules over  a thousand Aides and every Aide rules  over  a thousand Shaitans
and  every Shaitan rules over a thousand Genies.  I  rule  over them all and
none can disobey  me!  If only this  thrice-miserable of all most  miserable
passers-by tries to...."
     Meanwhile,  the man in question was strolling 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.
     ' "Why, 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!"
     "Don't what?"
     "Don't touch that man! I don't need a watch! I don't need anything!"
     "Nothing  at all?" the  old man asked doubtfully, quickly calming down.
The only sun watch in the world disappeared as quickly as it had appeared.
     "Nothing at all," said  Volka.  He  heaved such  a sigh that  Hottabych
realized  he  must  apply  himself  to  cheering  up his young  saviour  and
dispelling his gloomy thoughts.

     HOTTABYCH'S SECOND SERVICE

     Volka was in the dumps. Hottabych  sensed that something  was wrong. He
never  dreamed  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 blame,  apparently,
was none other than himself, Hassan Abdurrakhman ibn Hottab.
     "Would  you, 0  moon-like,  feel inclined  to listen to stories of most
unusual and strange adventures?" he asked  slyly. "For instance, do you know
the story of the Baghdad barber's three  black roosters and his lame son? Or
the   one  about  the  copper  camel  with  a  silver  hump?  Or  about  the
water-carrier Ahmet and his magic pail?"
     Volka kept on  frowning. This did  not stop  the old man,  and he began
hurriedly:
     "Be  it known to you, 0 most wonderful of  all secondary school pupils,
that once upon  a time  in Baghdad  there lived a skilled barber named Selim
who had three roosters  and a lame son named Tub. It so happened that Caliph
Harun al Rashid once passed his shop. But, 0 most attentive of all youths, I
suggest we sit down on this  bench in order that your  young legs don't tire
during this long and most educational story."
     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 finally ended it with these crafty words:
     "But  more marvellous still is the  story of  the copper  camel with  a
silver hump," and immediately proceeded with  it. When he came to the  part:
"Then the  stranger  took  a  piece  of coal  from the brazier and drew  the
outline of a camel on the wall.  The camel waved its tail,  nodded its head,
walked  off the wall and onto the cobblestones..  ."-he stopped to enjoy the
impression his  story of  a drawing  coming to life  had  made on  his young
listener.
     But Hottabych  was in for some disappointment, because  Volka  had seen
enough cartoons in his life. However, the old man's words gave him an idea.
     "You know  what?  Let's  go to  the movies.  You can  finish the  story
after."
     "Your  every  word  is my  command, 0 Volka ibn Alyosha," the  old  man
replied obediently. "But  do me a favour and tell me  what you  mean by 'the
movies'?  Is  it  a  bath-house?  Or,  perhaps,  that's what  you  call  the
market-place, where one can stroll and chat with friends and acquaintances?"
     "Well! Any child can tell  you  what a  movie is. It's a...." At  this,
Volka  waved his hands around vaguely and added,  "Well, anyway, you'll  see
when we get there."
     Over the Saturn Theatre box-office was a sign that read:

     "Children under sixteen not admitted to evening performances."

     "What's the matter, 0 most handsome of all handsome youths?"  Hottabych
inquired anxiously, noticing that Volka had become gloomy again.
     "Nothing much.  It's  just  that  we're  late  for  the  last  day-time
performance! You have to be sixteen  to get in now. I really don't know what
to do, 'cause I don't feel like going home."
     "You won't go home!" Hottabych cried. "In a twinkling of an eye they'll
let  us  through, surrounded by  the respect your truly endless capabilities
command!  I'll just have a  peek  at  those bits of paper everyone's handing
that stern-looking woman at the entrance."
     "That  old  braggart!" Volka thought irritably.  Suddenly, he  felt two
tickets in his right fist.
     "Come!" Hottabych called, beaming again. "Come, they'll let you through
now!"
     "Are you sure?"
     "Just as positive as that a great future awaits you!"
     He  nudged  Volka towards a  mirror  hanging nearby. A boy with a bushy
blond beard on his healthy freckled  face looked  back  from the mirror at a
shocked and gaping Volka.



     A triumphant Hottabych dragged  Volka up the stairs to the second-floor
foyer. At the entrance to the projection room stood Zhenya Bogorad, the envy
of every pupil of 6B. This darling of fate was the  theatre manager's nephew
and  therefore permitted to attend evening performances. But  today, instead
of being the happiest  of boys, he was suffering terribly.  He was suffering
from loneliness. He  was dying to have a companion, someone he could talk to
about Volka Kostylkov's  behaviour at  the  morning's geography examination.
Alas! There was not a familiar face in sight.
     He then decided to go downstairs, in the hope that  Luck would send him
someone. At the landing he was nearly knocked off his feet by an old man  in
a white suit and embroidered morocco slippers who was dragging along-whom do
you  think?-  Volka  Kostylkov, in person!  For reasons  unknown, Volka  was
covering his face with his hands.
     "Volka!" Bogorad shouted happily. "Kostylkov!"
     Unlike Zhenya, Volka  did  not seem at all pleased at the encounter. In
fact, he even  pretended not  to have recognized his best  friend. He darted
into  the thick of the crowd which  stood  listening  to an orchestra  while
awaiting the next showing.
     "Don't think I care!"  Zhenya said in an offended  tone and went off to
buy an ice-cream.
     That  is why he  didn't see the people gathering round the  strange old
man and Volka.  Later,  when  he tried to push his way  through  to the spot
which was attracting so many eager eyes,  his friend  was already surrounded
by a rapidly-growing crowd. He could hear  the folding seats hitting against
the backs  of the chairs as those who were listening to the orchestra rushed
off. Soon the musicians were playing to rows of empty seats.
     "What happened?" Zhenya asked, vainly trying to elbow  his way through.
"If  there's been an accident,  I can phone for help. My uncle's the manager
here. What's the matter?"
     But no one seemed to know what the matter 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  demanding  sensible
answers, until they raised such a  ruckus they began to drown out the music,
though the musicians were playing as loud as they could.
     Zhenya's  uncle  finally  appeared,  climbed on  a chair  and  shouted,
"Everyone  please  disperse!  What's the matter? Haven't  you  ever  seen  a
bearded child before?"
     The moment 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
getting through the crowd. "I can't  see anything! Can you see? Does he have
a big beard?"
     "Golly!" the unfortunate Volka wailed. "What if he...."
     "Poor child!" the curious onlookers sighed.
     "What a pity!"
     "Is science helpless in his case?"
     At  first, Hottabych misunderstood  the attention  his young friend was
attracting.  He  thought  the people  were  crowding round to  express their
respect for Volka. Then he began to get angry.
     "Disperse, my good people!"  he shouted, drowning out the noise  of the
crowd and the band. "Disperse, or I'll do something terrible to all of you!"
     A timid girl gasped from fear, but the others only laughed. Really now,
what was there to fear from such a funny old  man  in  silly  pink slippers?
Why, if someone as much as touched him, he'd probably fall to pieces!
     No, no one took his threats seriously. However, the old man was used to
having people tremble at his words.  He felt that  he  and Volka  were being
insulted and was becoming more and more enraged. There is  no telling how it
all could have ended, if the first bell had not rung just then.
     The  doors to  the projection room were thrown open and everyone rushed
to take their seats. Zhenya thought this was his chance to get a peek at the
weird boy.  But the same crowd  that had blocked his 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.
     "Whew!" Zhenya  breathed. "Just in time. I'll still be able to  see the
bearded  boy on the  way out." Nonetheless, he  kept fidgeting in  his seat,
trying to catch a glimpse of the freak who was sitting somewhere behind him.
     "Stop fidgeting! You're bothering us!" the man next to  him said.  "Sit
still!"  However,  to  his   utter  amazement,  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.
     Hottabych pleaded:
     "If you're  so displeased with  the  beard I  thought you'd appreciate,
I'll free you of it the moment we find our seats. That's easy enough.  Let's
follow the others  in, for I'm impatient to discover  what a 'movie'  is. It
must indeed  be something wonderful, if even  grown  men attend it on such a
hot summer day!"
     When  they were seated, Hottabych snapped the fingers of his left hand.
Contrary to his promises, nothing happened to Volka's beard.
     "Why is it taking you so long? Remember how you boasted!"
     "I  wasn't  boasting,  0  most wonderful of 6B  pupils.  Fortunately, I
changed my mind in time. If you don't have  a beard, you'll be turned out of
the movie which is so dear to your heart."
     It soon became  clear that this  was merely a cunning excuse. Volka was
not yet aware of the old man's craftiness.
     "That's all right, they won't turn me out of here," he said.
     Hottabych pretended not  to have heard  him. Volka repeated his  words.
Once again, Hottabych played deaf. Then Volka raised his voice:
     "Hassan Abdurrakhman ibn Hottab!"
     "I'm listening, 0 my young master," the old man answered obediently.
     "Sh-h-h!" someone hissed.
     Volka continued in a whisper, bending close to his friend who  suddenly
looked very sad.
     "Do something to make this stupid beard disappear immediately!"
     "It's not a  bit  stupid," the  old  man whispered back. "It is a  most
grand and noble beard."
     "This very second! Do you hear? This very second!"
     "I  hear and I obey,"  Hottabych muttered  and began whispering  again,
snapping his fingers.
     The hairy growth on Volka's face remained unchanged.
     "Well?"
     "One moment,  0  most blessed Volka ibn Alyosha," the  old man replied,
still whispering and snapping his fingers nervously.
     The beard on Volka's chin remained where it was.
     "Look!  Look  who's  sitting  in  the  ninth  row!"  Volka   whispered,
forgetting his great misfortune for the moment.
     As far as Hottabych could see, the two men in the ninth row appeared in
no way remarkable.
     "They're  famous  actors,"  Volka  explained and told  Hottabych  their
names, which, though they were very well known, meant nothing to him.
     "Do  you mean  they're performers?" the  old man asked condescendingly.
"Are they tight-rope walkers?"
     "They're movie actors! They're the most famous movie actors, that's who
they are!"
     "Then why  aren't they doing anything? Why are they  sitting back doing
nothing?"  Hottabych  demanded  critically.  "They're  probably   very  lazy
performers. It pains me  to see you praising them  so thoughtlessly, 0 movie
of my heart."
     "Ha, ha!"  Volka  laughed. "Movie actors never act  in a theatre. Movie
actors act in studios."
     "Does that mean we are going to see some others, and not movie  actors,
perform?"
     "No,  we'll  see movie actors.  Don't  you understand,  they  act in  a
studio,  but  we  see their acting here, in a theatre. Why, any  child knows
that."
     "Pray forgive  me, but  what  you're  saying  is  a  lot  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 most obedient  servant. You
seem to be affected by the heat in this building. Unfortunately, I don't see
a single window which could be opened to let in some fresh air."
     Volka realized that  in the few remaining  minutes before the beginning
of the film  he would never be able to explain a  movie actor's work  to the
old man. He decided  to put off all explanations till  later, and especially
since he suddenly recalled his terrible misfortune.
     "Dear, dear Hottabych, it's really  no trouble to you-please, can't you
do something right now?"
     The old man heaved a sigh, yanked a hair from his beard, then a second,
and a third, and, finally, in great anger, a whole bunch together. He  began
tearing them to bits savagely,  muttering something  with his eyes fixed  on
Volka's face. There was no change whatsoever. Then  Hottabych began snapping
his fingers in  the most  varied combinations:  first two fingers at a time,
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 mad?" Volka cried. "What're you doing?"
     "Woe is  me!"  Hottabych replied in a whisper and began  scratching his
face.  "Woe  is   me!  The  centuries  I  spent  in  that  accursed   vessel
have-alas!-left  their  mark!  A  lack  of  practice  has   been   extremely
detrimental to my profession. Forgive me, 0 my young  saviour, but I  can do
nothing with your  beard! 0 woe is  me,  poor Genie  Hassan Abdurrakhman ibn
Hottab that I am!"
     "What are you whispering?" Volka asked. "Say it louder,  I  can't  make
out a word."
     And Hottabych replied, tearing at his clothes:
     "0 most treasured of  youths, 0 most pleasing of  all, do not vent your
rightful anger upon me! I  cannot  rid you of your beard! I forgot how to do
it!"
     "Have a  heart!"  someone hissed.  "You'll talk it all  over  at  home.
You're bothering us. Do you want me to call the usher?"
     "Such  disgrace  has fallen upon my old head!" Hottabych whimpered. "To
forget  such  simple  magic!  And  who  is  it  that forgot it?  Me,  Hassan
Abdurrakhman  ibn  Hottab, the most powerful of all Genies-me, the very same
Hassan Abdurrakhman ibn Hottab whom even Sulayman son of David (on the twain
be peace!) could not subdue for twenty years!"
     "Stop  whining!"  Volka  whispered  with  unconcealed scorn.  "Tell  me
honestly: how much longer will I have to go around with this beard?"
     "Oh,  calm your  fears, my young master!  Luckily,  I  only  used small
magic. In two days your face will be as smooth as that of  a new-born  babe.
Perhaps I'll even remember how to break small magic spells before that."
     Just  then, the many credits which  usually precede a film flashed  off
the  screen and  were  replaced  by people  who moved and  spoke.  Hottabych
whispered smugly:
     "Hm! This is all quite  clear. And very  simple. All these  people have
appeared through the wall. You can't surprise me  with that sort of stuff. I
can do that myself."
     "You don't understand  a thing," Volka said  with a smile, upon hearing
such  nonsense.  "If you  really  want to  know,  films  are  based  on  the
principle...."
     There was hissing from all sides now, and Volka's explanations were cut
short. For a moment  Hottabych seemed  entranced.  Then he  began  squirming
nervously, turning round ever so often to look at the ninth row  and the two
movie actors  sitting  there. He  became  convinced that they  were  sitting
quietly behind him and, at the same time, galloping at top speed in front of
him on the only lighted wall in this most mysterious building.
     He became 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 come  to see
how the audience likes their acting."
     "I don't like it!" Hottabych informed him quickly. "I don't like people
to split in two. Even I don't know how to sit in a chair with my arms folded
and gallop away as fast as the wind-  and all at one and the same time! Even
Sulayman, son of David (on the twain be peace!), could not do such a  thing.
And that's why I'm frightened."
     "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  mighty roar  of a  locomotive 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!"
     "What nonsense! Sit still! Nothing's threatening us."
     "I hear and I obey," Hottabych mumbled obediently, though  he continued
to tremble.
     But a split-second  later, when  a  thundering locomotive  seemed to be
rushing off the screen and right into the audience,  a scream of terror rent
the projection room.
     "Let's flee! Let's flee!" Hottabych shrieked as he dashed off.
     At the exit  he remembered about  Volka and  in 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 minute. .." the usher began,  appearing  in front of them.
However, she immediately did a long, graceful loop in the air and  landed on
the stage in front of the screen.
     "What were  you screeching about?  What was 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 Rejmus, grandson of the Aunt of
Ikrash, was heading straight for us, spitting fire and death!"
     "What Jirjis? Which aunt? It was just an ordinary locomotive!"
     "Has my young master decided to teach his old Genie Hassan Abdurrakhman
ibn Hottab what a Shaitan is?" Hottabych asked acidly.
     Volka realized that it would take much more than  five minutes and much
more than an hour to tell him what a movie and a locomotive were.
     After Hottabych recovered his  breath, he asked mildly, "What would you
desire now, 0 treasured apple of my eye?"
     "As if you didn't know. I want to get rid of my beard!"
     "Alas," the old man sighed, "I am as yet helpless  to fulfil your wish.
But perhaps you'd like something else instead? Just tell me, and you'll have
it in a flash."
     "I'd like to  have a shave. And as quickly as possible."  A few minutes
later they  entered a barbershop. Ten minutes later a tired barber stuck his
head into the waiting room and shouted:
     "Next!"
     Then, from a corner  near  the coat-rack, rose  a  boy whose  face  was
wrapped in an expensive silk scarf.  He  hurriedly sat  down in the barber's
chair.
     "You  want  a  hair-cut?"  the  barber  asked.  "No,  a shave!" the boy
answered  in a hollow voice and removed the scarf  that had  covered most of
his face.



     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  barbershop 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 sherbet and where we could quench our
thirst?" Hottabych asked.
     "Why, that's an idea! A glass of cold lemonade would really be grand."
     Entering the first  juice and mineral water shop they saw,  they took a
table.
     "We'd like two bottles of  lemonade, please," Volka said. The  waitress
nodded and headed towards the counter. Hottabych called her back angrily.
     "You come  right back,  unworthy  servant! I  don't like  the  way  you
responded to the orders of my young friend and master."
     "Hottabych, stop it! Do you hear! Stop..." Volka began to whisper.
     But Hottabych covered the boy's mouth gently with his hand.
     "At least don't interfere when I defend  your  honour,  since your kind
heart prevents you from scolding her yourself."
     "You  don't  understand,"  Volka  protested.  He  was  really  becoming
frightened. "Hottabych, can't you see...."
     Suddenly, he froze,  for  he felt  he had  lost  the gift of speech. He
wanted  to  throw himself  between the  old  man and the still  unsuspecting
waitress, but found he could not move a finger.
     It was all  Hottabych's doing.  To prevent  Volka  from  interfering in
something he considered a matter of honour, he had  lightly  pinched his ear
lobe between the first  two fingers  of his left hand and had thus condemned
the boy to silence and immobility.
     "How did you reply to the order my young master gave you?" he repeated.
     "I'm afraid I don't  understand you," the  waitress answered  politely.
"It was not an order, it was a request, and I went to fulfil it. And, in the
second place, it's customary to speak politely to strangers.  All I can  say
is that  I'm  surprised you don't know such  a thing,  though every cultured
person should."
     "Don't tell me  you  want to teach me  manners!" Hottabych shouted. "On
your knees, or I'll turn you to dust!"
     "Shame  on  you!"  the cashier said. She  was the  only witness  of the
disgraceful scene,  for there was no one besides Volka and Hottabych  in the
cafe. "How can you be so rude? And especially a person your age!"
     "On your knees!"  Hottabych  roared. "And 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  immediately, and beg my young  friend's  pardon!" At  this, Hottabych
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  calmly,
"Shame on you! You should behave properly in public.  And if you're a decent
sort of hypnotist..."
     (She thought the old man was practising hypnotic tricks on them.)
     "On your  knees!" Hottabych bellowed.  "Didn't  you hear  me-  on  your
knees?!"
     In all his  three thousand seven hundred and thirty-two years, this was
the  first time ordinary mortals had refused to obey him. Hottabych felt the
boy would  lose respect for him, and he  was terribly anxious  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
trembling voice. "I  can't understand why you're  raising your voice. If you
think  something's wrong, you can  ask  the  cashier for the 'Complaints and
Suggestions  Book.' Anyone can have it.  And I'd like  to add that the  most
famous hypnotists and mesmerists 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 come to.
     "How d'you like that!" Katya sniffled. "He  wants us to get down on our
knees! It's outrageous!"
     "Is that so?!" Hottabych yelled, losing his temper completely. "Is that
how insolent you are? Well, you have only yourselves to blame!"
     With  a practised gesture he yanked three hairs  from his beard and let
go of Volka's ear  to tear them to bits. To  the old  man's annoyance, Volka
regained  his power  of speech and the freedom to move his limbs at will the
moment he let go. The first  thing he did was  to grab  Hottabych's hand and
cry:
     "Oh, no, Hottabych! What do you want to do?"
     "I want to punish  them, 0 Volka.  I'm ashamed to admit I  was about to
strike  them down  with thunder. Something even the most worthless Ifrit can
do!"
     Despite the gravity of the situation, Volka felt he had to stand up for
science.
     "A clap of thunder cannot kill anyone," he said, thinking feverishly of
how to ward off the danger now hanging over the poor waitresses. "What kills
people  is  lightning-a  charge  of  atmospheric   electricity.  Thunder  is
harmless, it's only a sound."
     "I wouldn't be so sure," Hottabych answered dryly, not wishing to lower
himself  to an argument  with  such an inexperienced youth.  "I don't  think
you're right.  But  I've changed my mind. I  won't strike them with thunder,
I'll change them into sparrows instead. Yes, that's the best thing to do."
     "But why?"
     "I must punish them, 0 Volka. Evil must always be punished."
     "There's no reason to punish them! Do you hear!"
     Volka tugged at Hottabych's hand, for the old man 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 miraculously  returned to  Hottabych's rough  dark
palm.
     "Just you try!" Volka shouted, seeing that  the old  man was  about  to
tear them anyway.  "You can turn me into a sparrow, too! Or into a toad!  Or
into anything you want! And you can consider  our friendship dissolved as of
this minute.  I don't like your  ways, that's what. Go on,  turn me  into  a
sparrow! And I hope the first cat that sees me gobbles me up!"
     The old man was dismayed.
     "Can't you  see,  I'm  only  doing this  to prevent  anyone  from  ever
approaching you without the great respect your endless merits call for?"
     "No, I can't, and I don't want to!"
     "Your  every   word  is  my  command,"  Hottabych  replied  obediently,
sincerely  puzzled at  his saviour's  strange softheartedness.  "All  right,
then. I won't turn them into sparrows."
     "Nor into anything else!"
     "Nor into  anything  else,"  the  old man agreed  meekly.  However,  he
gathered up the hairs with the obvious intention of tearing them to bits.
     "Why  do you  want to tear them?" Volka cried.  ; "I'll  turn  all  the
goods,  all the tables and  all the equipment  of this despicable  shop into
dust!"
     "You're  mad!" Volka said, really angry  by now. "Don't you know that's
government property, you dope!"
     "And may I inquire, 0 diamond of my soul, what you  mean by the strange
word 'dope'?" Hottabych asked.
     Volka turned as red as a beet.
     "Well you see. . . What I mean is.... Uh... . Well, anyway, 'dope' is a
sort of wise man."
     Hottabych decided  to remember the  word,  in order  to use  it in some
future conversation.
     "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 sadly, the  old man resumed his usual
appearance and muttered in a gloomy voice:
     "All right, have it your  way. Your good graces are more precious to me
than the pupils of my eyes."
     "Well, there you are! Now all you have to do is to apologize and we can
leave."
     "You  should  be forever  grateful  to your  young  saviour," Hottabych
shouted sternly to the waitresses, and Volka realized he would never be able
to pry an apology from the old man's lips.
     "Please excuse us," he said. "And I wish you wouldn't be  too  angry at
this old man. He's a foreigner and doesn't know our ways yet. Good-bye!"
     "Good-bye," the waitresses answered politely.
     They were still rather upset and were both puzzled and frightened. But,
of course, they never  dreamed how  great  a  danger they had  avoided. They
followed  Hottabych and  Volka out  and  watched the curious old  man in  an
ancient straw boater go down the street and disappear around the corner.
     "I can't imagine  where  such  naughty old men come from," Katya sighed
and wiped a tear.
     "I  suppose  he's  an  old-time  hypnotist,"   her  brave  friend  said
compassionately. "He's probably a pensioner. Maybe he's just lonely."
     "It's no  fun to be old," the cashier joined  in.  "Come  on  back  in,
girls."
     The day's mischief was not to end there. As Hottabych and Volka reached
Gorky  Street,  they  were blinded  by an automobile's  headlights. A  large
ambulance, its screaming siren piercing the calm  of  twilight, seemed to be
rushing straight at them.
     Hottabych changed colour and wailed loudly:
     "Oh,  woe  is  me,  an  old,  unfortunate  Genie! Jirjis,  the  mighty,
merciless king of all Shaitans and Ifrits, has  not  forgotten  our  ancient
feud and has sent his most awful monster after me!"
     With these words  he shot straight  up from the pavement and, somewhere
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! Good-bye!"
     To tell the  truth, Volka was  happy  the old  man had vanished.  Other
things were pressing on his mind, and he felt faint at the thought of having
to return home.
     Really now, try to imagine yourself in his place. He had left the house
in the morning to take a geography examination, then go to the movies and be
back for supper  as expected, at six-thirty. Instead, he was returning after
nine, having failed his examination miserably, and, what was most  horrible,
with shaved cheeks!  And him not even thirteen yet! No  matter how he racked
his brains, he could  not find  a solution. Thus, without  having thought of
anything,  he dragged his feet  back to his quiet  side street, now  full of
long evening shadows.
     He walked  past the  surprised janitor,  entered  the downstairs  hall,
climbed a flight of stairs and,  with a heavy sigh,  pressed  the  bell.  He
could hear someone's steps, and a strange voice asked through the door:
     "Who's there?"
     "It's  me,"  Volka wanted to say, but suddenly remembered  that, as  of
this morning, he didn't live there any more.
     Without  answering the new  tenant, he  ran downstairs, marched  by the
still puzzled  janitor nonchalantly, reached the main  street, and boarded a
trolley-bus. This certainly was his unlucky day: somewhere, most probably at
the  movies, he had lost his change-purse, so he had  to  get  out  and walk
home.
     Least of all, Volka wanted to meet a classmate, but most unbearable was
the thought  that  he would have  to face Goga-the-Pill. Sly Fate  had added
insult  to injury: from this day forth they were both to  live  in the  same
house.
     Sure enough, no sooner did  he enter the yard of  his new house than an
unbearable, familiar voice shouted:
     "Hi, nutty! Who was the old bird you left school with today?"
     Goga-the-Pill  ran up to Volka, winking insolently and pulling the most
insulting faces.
     "He wasn't an old bird, he was a nice old man,"  Volka  said peaceably,
as he  didn't want to end the day with  a fight. "He's ... he's  my father's
friend from Tashkent."
     "What if I je-ee-st go to your father  and je-ee-st tell him about your
monkey-business at the exam!"
     "Oh, Pill, you've gone crying for a beating too long!" Volka flared up,
imagining what an impression Pill's words would have on his  parents.  "Why,
you dirty tattle-tale! I'll push your face in!"
     "Now, now,  take it easy! A  person  can't even  joke  any more. You're
really a nut!"
     Fearing  Volka's  fists, which, after several encounters, Goga chose to
avoid, he dashed headlong into the entrance of the house in which he was now
to live in dangerous closeness to Volka, whose new apartment was on the same
landing.
     "Bald  people!  A country of bald people!"  Goga  shouted, sticking his
head out the front door. He showed Volka his tongue and, fearing the other's
righteous anger, flew up the stairs, two at a time, to his own door.
     However,  he was  distracted by  the  mysterious behaviour  of  a  huge
Siberian cat  from apartment 43. The  cat, named "Homych" in  honour  of the
popular football goalie, was standing on the stairs with his back arched and
hissing at nothing at all.
     Goga's first thought was that the cat had gone  mad. He reflected again
and was nearly certain that  mad cats  kept their tails between  their legs,
while Homych's tail was sticking up straight, and in all  other respects the
animal looked quite healthy.
     Goga kicked it-just  in case. Homych's yowl of pain,  surprise and hurt
could be heard on the tenth floor. He jumped so high and gracefully that his
famous namesake could have been proud of such a leap.
     Then something completely unexpected happened.
     A  good half  yard from the wall, Homych yowled again and flew  back in
the  opposite direction,  straight at Goga,  just as though the  unfortunate
animal had  hit an invisible  but very hard rubber wall. At the same  time a
gasp could  be heard nearby, as  if someone had trodden very hard on another
person's foot. Courage had never been one of Goga's outstanding virtues, but
now he nearly died of fright.
     "Oh-h-h!" he moaned  softly, feeling  all  numb.  Finally,  tearing his
leaden feet from the stairs, he made a dash for his flat.
     When the  apartment  door  banged  shut behind  him,  Hottabych  became
visible. He  was writhing  with pain and examining  his left  leg, which had
been severely scratched by the cat's claws.
     "Oh, cursed youth!" Hottabych groaned,  after  first making sure he was
alone on the stairs. "Oh, dog among boys!"
     He fell silent  and listened. Coming slowly up the stairs, lost  in the
most grievous thoughts, was his young saviour, Volka Kostylkov.
     The sly old  man did  not  want the boy  to  see him and  so  dissolved
quickly in the air.




     No  matter how tempting  it  is  to  present Volka Kostylkov as  a  boy
without faults, the well-known truthfulness of the author of this tale won't
permit him  to do  so. And if envy is to be justly considered a fault, then,
to our great sorrow, we must  admit  that  at times  Volka experienced  this
feeling keenly. During the last few days he had been very envious  of  Goga.
Long before their exams had begun, Goga boasted that his mother had promised
him an Alsatian puppy as soon as he was promoted to the 7th grade.
     "Sure,  you just wait!" Volka had sniffed  at the time, feeling that he
was turning cold from envy.
     In  his heart of hearts, he had to  admit  that Pill's  words certainly
resembled the  truth. The  whole class knew that Goga's mother never skimped
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 me a  puppy,"  Goga persisted.  "If you  want to
know, my mother never refuses me anything.  If she promised, it means she'll
buy me one. If the worst comes to  the worst, she'll borrow  some money  and
buy it. You don't know how highly they think of her at the factory!"
     That  was true. Goga's mother was greatly respected at the factory. She
was  the  senior  draughtsman and was a  modest,  hard-working  and cheerful
person.  Everyone  liked her, both her  fellow-workers and her neighbours at
home. Even Goga  was  fond  of  her in his  own way. And she really doted on
Goga. Anyway, if she had promised to buy him a puppy, it meant she would.
     Perhaps, at this sorrowful moment, when  Volka,  crushed  by all he had
gone through that  day, was  slowly mounting the stairs,  Goga-the-Pill, the
very same Pill who deserved such  happiness less  than anyone  else in their
class,  in  their  school,  or  even in  all of  Moscow, was playing  with a
magnificent, happy, furry puppy right next door, in apartment 37.
     Such were Volka's  thoughts. The only  consideration that  afforded him
some solace was that it was highly unlikely that Goga's mother, even  though
she really  and truly intended to buy her son  a dog, had  done  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 me." You have to look long and hard for a good dog.
     The  very  moment  Volka's grandmother  opened  the  door, he heard the
high-pitched, squeaky yelping of a puppy  coming from behind the closed door
of apartment 37.
     "So she bought it after  all!" he thought bitterly. "An Alsatian.... or
maybe even a Boxer...."
     It  was more than he could bear, to imagine Goga the  proud  owner of a
real,  live service  dog.  Volka  slammed  the  door  shut  to blot out  the
exciting, unimaginably wonderful, magical barking of a dog.
     He also heard the frightened exclamation which  escaped  Goga's mother.
The puppy had probably bitten him. But even this could not console our young
hero.
     Volka's  father had  not  yet  returned, as he was staying  late  at  a
meeting. His mother had apparently called  for him at the factory  after her
evening classes.
     Despite  all his efforts  to appear  calm and happy,  Volka  looked  so
gloomy that  his grandmother decided to give him supper first and then start
asking him questions.
     "Well, how are things, Volka dear?" she asked hesitantly, when her only
grandchild had made quick work of his supper.
     "Uh,  you see.. ."  he  said vaguely,  pulling off  his  polo shirt and
heading towards his room.
     His grandmother followed  him with a sorrowful and kindly gaze that was
full of  silent  sympathy. There  was  no  need  to  ask him any  questions.
Everything was all too clear.
     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  volume in  a
brightly-coloured dust-cover. Volka's heart skipped  a beat.  Yes,  that was
it, the longed-for astronomy book!  On the frontispiece in a  large familiar
hand were the words:
     "To  Vladimir  Kostylkov,  the  Highly  Educated 7th-Grade  Student and
Acting Member of  the  Astronomy Club  of the Moscow Planetarium,  from  his
Loving Grandma."
     What a funny inscription! Grandma  always invented something funny. But
why didn't it make Volka smile? Oh, why didn't it! And imagine, he wasn't at
all happy to  have  finally received such a fascinating book, the one he had
wished  for for so  long. Grief  was eating  out his heart.  He felt a great
weight on his chest.... It was unbearable!
     "Grandma!" he shouted, turning away from the  book. "Grandma, would you
come here a minute?"
     "Well,  what do you want, mischief-maker?"  his  grandmother  answered,
pretending to be angry, but really pleased  that she'd have a chance to talk
to him before he  went to sleep. "Why, the Sandman can't even cope with you,
you astronomer! You night owl!"
     "Grandma," Volka whispered fervently, "close the door  and  come sit on
my bed. I have to tell you something terribly important."
     "Perhaps  we'd  better  put  off  such  an important conversation  till
morning," his grandmother  answered, though she was consumed with  curiosity
as to what it was all about.
     "No, right now. This  very minute. I ...  Grandma, I wasn't promoted, I
mean, I wasn't yet. I didn't pass the exam."
     "Did you fail?" his grandmother gasped.
     "No, I didn't fail. I didn't pass, but I didn't fail, either. I started
to  tell them what the ancients thought  about India, the horizon,  and  all
kinds of  things. Everything I said was right. But I just couldn't tell them
about the scientific point  of view. I began  to feel very  bad and  Varvara
Stepanovna said I should come back after I had had a good rest."
     Even now,  he could not bring himself to talk about Hottabych, not even
to  his  grandma. Anyway, she'd  never believe  him  and would  think he was
really ill.
     "At first, I  didn't want to say anything. I wanted to tell you after I
took the exam again, but I felt ashamed. D'you understand?"
     "What's  there to understand! A  person's  conscience is a great thing.
There's  nothing worse than doing something that's  against your conscience.
Now go to sleep, my dear astronomer!"
     "You can take the book back meanwhile," Volka  suggested in a trembling
voice.
     "Nonsense! And  where would I put it? Let's consider that I've given it
to you for safe-keeping for the time being. Go to sleep now, will you?"
     "Yes," Volka answered. A load had fallen from his chest. "And I promise
you,  upon my word of  honour,  that  I'll  get an  'A'  in geography. D'you
believe me?"
     "Certainly, I do. Now go to sleep and get strong. What about Father and
Mother? Shall I tell them, or will you tell them yourself?"
     "You'd better tell them."
     "Well,  good  night."  Grandma kissed him good  night,  turned off  the
light, and left the room.
     For some while  after, Volka lay in the darkness,  holding  his breath,
waiting  to  hear  his  grandma tell  his mother and  father  the sad  news.
However, he fell asleep before they came home.



     Before an hour passed, however, he was suddenly awakened by the ringing
of the telephone in the hall.
     His father answered the phone:
     "Hello. Yes. Who? Good evening, Varvara Stepanovna?... I'm  fine, thank
you. And you? ... Volka?  He's asleep.... I think he's quite well. He  had a
very  big supper...  .  Yes, I  know. He  told us.... I'm terribly surprised
myself....  Yes, that's probably the only  answer..  ,. Certainly, he should
rest a while, if  you have no objections.... Thank you very much.... Varvara
Stepanovna sends  you her regards,"  his  father  said  to his  mother. "She
wanted to know how Volka is. She said not to worry,  because they think very
highly of him, and she suggests he have a good rest."
     Volka strained  his  ears  listening  to what  his parents were talking
about, but unable to make anything  out, he  fell asleep. This time he slept
no longer than fifteen minutes. The telephone rang again.
     "Yes,  speaking," he  heard  his father's muffled voice. "Yes....  Good
evening.... What?... No, he's  not here.... Yes,  he's at home.... Certainly
he's at home.... That's quite all right.... Good-bye."
     "Who was it?" Volka's  mother called from  the kitchen.  "It was Zhenya
Bogorad's father. He sounded  very worried. Zhenya's not home yet. He wanted
to know whether he was here and if Volka was at home."
     "In my time," Grandma said, "only hussars came home this late, but when
a child...."
     Half  an hour later  the  ringing of the  telephone interrupted Volka's
sleep for the third time that troubled night. It was Zhenya's mother. 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 mother wants to
know where you saw him  last." "At the  movies this evening." "And after the
movie?" "I  didn't  see him after that."  "Did he  say  where  he  was going
afterwards?" "No."
     For a long, long time  after that,  Volka  waited for the grown-ups  to
stop talking about Zhenya's disappearance (he himself was not 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 time till
morning.
     Soon there was a soft splash in the corner. Then the patter of wet bare
feet could be  heard.  Footprints appeared and quickly  dried on the  floor.
Someone invisible was silently pacing  the room, humming a plaintive Eastern
melody.
     The  footprints  headed towards  the  table  where  an  alarm clock was
ticking away.  There was the sound of lips smacking together  with pleasure.
Then the alarm clock floated into the air, and for a while it hung suspended
between the ceiling and  the floor.  Then  it  returned to the table and the
footprints headed towards the aquarium. Once again there was  a splash. Then
all was quiet.
     Late that night it began to rain. The raindrops pattered on the window,
they rustled  the  leaves of the trees  and gurgled in  the drain-pipes.  At
times  the rain  would die  down,  and  then one  could hear the large drops
falling 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  morning,  when the  sky  was nearly clear  of clouds,  someone
tapped Volka lightly on the shoulder. He was sound asleep and did not waken.
Then, whoever it was who had tried to awaken him, sighed sadly, mumbled, and
shuffled  towards  the high stand with Volka's  aquarium. There was a  faint
splash. Once again a sleepy quiet fell on the room.



     Goga's mother  had not bought him a dog  after all. She had not had the
time to, and later on she never got  him one, for after the fantastic events
of  that  terrible evening, both  Goga and his  mother lost all  interest in
Man's oldest and truest friend.
     But Volka had clearly heard a dog barking m apartment 37. Could he have
been mistaken?
     No, he was not mistaken.
     And  yet, there had been  no dog  in apartment 37 that  evening. If you
want to  know, not so much  as  a dog's paw entered  their  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 washing
up for supper.  He was  very anxious to tell his mother a long and elaborate
story  about  how his classmate and  neighbour, Volka Kostylkov,  had made a
fool  of himself at the examination  that morning.  And it was then that  he
started  barking.  Goga  didn't  bark  all  the  time-some  words  were real
words-but instead of very many other ones, he was surprised and horrified to
hear a genuine dog's bark issue from his mouth.
     He wanted to say that Volka suddenly began to talk such nonsense at the
exam and that Varvara Stepanovna je-ee-st crashed her fist down on the table
and je-ee-st  screamed,  "What nonsense you're babbling, you fool!  Why, you
hooligan, I'll leave you back another term for this!"
     But this is what Goga said instead:
     "And  suddenly  Volka  je-ee-st  began  to bow-wow-wow ...  and Varvara
Stepanovna je-ee-st crashed her bow-wow-wow!"
     Goga was struck dumb with surprise. He was silent for a moment, then he
took a deep breath and tried  to repeat  the sentence. But instead of saying
the rude  words,  this little  liar and  tattle-tale  wanted  to  ascribe to
Varvara Stepanovna, he began to bark again.
     "Oh, Mummie!" he wailed. "Mummie dear!"
     "What's the matter with you, darling?" his mother asked anxiously. "You
look terrible!"
     "I wanted to say that bow-wow-wow.... Oh, Mummie, what's the matter?"
     Goga had really turned blue from fright.
     "Stop barking, dearest! Please stop, my darling, my sweet!"
     "I'm not doing it on purpose," Goga whined. "I only wanted to say...."
     And once again, instead of human speech, all he could do was to produce
an irritable bark.
     "Darling! My  pet, don't frighten me!"  his poor mother 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 nothing better to  do than to become
angry at his mother. And since he was not used to choosing his words on such
occasions,  he began barking so fiercely that  someone shouted from the next
balcony:
     "Tell your boy to stop teasing that dog! It's  a shame!  You've spoiled
your child beyond all reason!"
     With the tears still  pouring down her cheeks, Goga's mother  rushed to
close the windows. Then she tried  to feel  Goga's forehead,  but  this only
brought on a new attack of angry barking.
     She finally put a completely frightened Goga to bed, wrapped  him up in
a  heavy quilt, though  it  was a  hot summer evening,  and ran down to  the
telephone booth to call an ambulance.
     Since she should not tell them  the truth, she  was  forced to say that
her son had a very high fever and was delirious.
     Soon a  doctor arrived. He  was a  stout, middle-aged  man with a  grey
moustache, many years of experience and an unruffled manner.
     The first  thing he  did,  naturally, was  to feel Goga's  forehead. He
discovered the boy had no fever at all. This made him angry, but  he did not
show it, since the boy's mother looked so terribly grief-stricken. He sighed
and sat down on a chair by the bed. Then he asked Goga's mother  to  explain
why she had called an ambulance instead of her regular doctor.
     She told him the truth.
     The  doctor  shrugged. He asked  her  to  repeat  her  story  from  the
beginning. Then  he shrugged again, thinking that if this  were 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.
     "Well,  that's something,"  the  doctor thought.  "At  least it isn't a
mania when people imagine they're dogs."
     Naturally, he did not say this aloud, so as not to frighten the patient
or his mother, but it was obvious that the doctor was feeling more cheerful.
     "Stick out your tongue," he said.
     Goga stuck out his tongue.
     "It's  a very normal-looking tongue. And now, young man, let  me listen
to your heart. Ah, an excellent heart.  His lungs are clear.  And how is his
stomach?" . "His stomach's fine," his mother said.
     "And has he been uh ... barking a long time?"
     "For over two hours. I just don't know what to do."
     "First of all, calm down. I don't see anything terrible yet. Now, young
man, won't you tell me how it all began?"
     "Well, it all began from nothing," Goga complained in a small voice. "I
was just telling my mother how Volka Kostylkov .bow-wow-wow."
     "You see, doctor?"  his mother  sobbed loudly. "It's terrible. Maybe he
needs some pills, or powders, or perhaps he needs a physic?"
     The doctor frowned.
     "Give me time  to  think, and I'll look through  my books. It's a  rare
case, a very rare case, indeed. Now, I want him to  have a complete rest, no
getting  off the bed, a light diet, just vegetables and  milk  products,  no
coffee or cocoa, weak tea  with milk, if desired. And by no means should  he
go out."
     "I couldn't drag him outside if  I  tried, he's so ashamed. .One of his
friends dropped in, and poor Goga barked so long and loud, I had a hard time
persuading the boy not to tell anyone about it. But don't you think he needs
a physic?"
     "Well, a physic can't hurt him," the doctor said thoughtfully.
     "And  what about mustard plasters  before he  goes to  bed?" she asked,
still sobbing.
     "That's not bad, either. Mustard plasters are always helpful."
     The doctor was about to pat Goga's head, 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 himself, "why are all  the
windows closed on such a hot day? The child needs fresh air."
     Goga's mother reluctantly explained why she had closed the windows.
     "Hm.... A  rare case,  a very rare  case, indeed!" the doctor repeated.
Then he  wrote  out a prescription and left, promising to come back the next
day.



     Morning dawned bright and beautiful.
     At 6:30 a.m. Grandma opened the door softly, tiptoed to the window  and
opened it wide. Cool, invigorating air rushed  into the room. This  was  the
beginning of  a  cheerful, noisy, busy  Moscow morning. But  Volka would not
have awakened had not his blanket slipped off the bed.
     The  first  thing  he did  was  to  feel the  bristles on his chin.  He
realized there was no way out. The situation was hopeless. There could be no
question  of his  going  out  to greet his parents  looking as  he  did.  He
snuggled under the blanket again and began to think of what to do.
     "Volka! Come on, Volka!  Get up!" he heard his father calling  from the
dining room. He pretended to be asleep and did not answer.  "I don't see how
anyone can sleep on a morning like this!"
     Then he heard his grandmother say:
     "Someone should make you take examinations, Alyosha, and  then wake you
up at the crack of dawn!"
     "Well, let him sleep then,"  his father grumbled. "But don't you worry,
he'll get up as soon as he's hungry."
     Was  it Volka who was supposed not to be hungry?! Why, he kept catching
himself  thinking about an omlette and a chunk of bread  more than about the
reddish bristle on  his  cheeks. But common sense triumphed over hunger, and
Volka remained in  bed until his father had left for work and his mother had
gone shopping.
     "Here goes,"  he decided,  hearing the outside door click  shut.  "I'll
tell Grandma everything. We'll think of something together."
     Volka stretched, yawned and headed toward the door. As he  was  passing
the aquarium, he glanced at it absently . .. and stopped dead in his tracks.
During the night, something had happened in  this small, 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 swimming around
inside, but this morning there were four. There was a new fish, a large, fat
goldfish which was waving  its  bright  red  fins  solemnly. When a startled
Volka looked at it  through the thick glass  wall he was nearly certain  the
fish winked at him slyly.
     "Gosh!" he mumbled, forgetting his beard for the moment.
     He stuck his hand into the water  to  catch the mysterious fish, and it
seemed that this was just what it was waiting for. The fish slapped its tail
against the water, jumped out of the aquarium and turned into Hottabych.
     "Whew!" the  old man said, shaking  off the water and wiping his  beard
with a magnificent towel embroidered with gold and silver roosters which had
appeared from thin air. "I've been waiting to offer my respects all morning,
but you wouldn't wake up and I  didn't have the heart to waken you. So I had
to  spend  the  night with  these pretty  fishes,  0 most  happy  Volka  ibn
Alyosha!"
     "Aren't  you ashamed  of  yourself for  making fun of  me!" Volka  said
angrily. "It's really a poor joke to call a boy with a beard happy!"



     This wonderful morning Stepan Stepanych Pivoraki decided to combine two
joys at once. He decided to shave, while taking  in the picturesque  view of
the Moskva River. He moved the little table with his shaving things close to
the window and began to lather his cheeks  as he  hummed  a merry tune. We'd
like to pause here and say a few words about our new acquaintance.
     Pivoraki was a very talkative man, a trait which often made him, though
he was actually no fool and very well read, extremely tiresome, even  to his
best friends.
     On the whole, however,  he was a nice person  and a great master of his
trade-which was pattern-making.
     When he had  finished lathering his cheeks, Stepan Stepanych  picked up
his razor,  drew it back and forth over his  palm, and  then began to  shave
with the greatest ease and skill. When he had finished  shaving,  he sprayed
some "Magnolia" cologne  on his face and then began to wipe his razor clean.
Suddenly,  an  old  man  in a white  suit and  gold-embroidered,  petal-pink
morocco slippers with queer turned-up toes appeared beside him.
     "Are you  a barber?" the old man asked a flabbergasted Stepan Stepanych
in a stern voice.
     "No, I'm not a professional barber. However,  on the other hand, I  can
truthfully say I am a barber, because,  while I  am not actually a barber, I
am a match  for any professional barber, for not a  single  barber can outdo
me. And do you know why? Because, while a professional barber...."
     The old man interrupted the chattering Pivoraki rudely:
     "Can you,  0 unnecessarily talkative barber, shave a young man well and
without cutting  him once, although you are not even  worthy of  kissing the
dust beneath his feet?"
     "As to the essence of your question, I would say...."
     He was about  to  continue his speech, but  here  the old  man silently
gathered  up  his  shaving  equipment, took  Stepan Stepanych, who was still
going  a mile  a minute, by the scruff of his neck and, without further ado,
flew out the window with him, headed for parts unknown.
     Soon they flew into a familiar room, where Volka Kostylkov sat sadly on
his bed, moaning every time he looked at himself and his bristly chin in the
mirror.
     "Happiness and luck accompany  you in all your undertakings, 0 my young
master!" Hottabych  announced triumphantly, still holding on to  the kicking
Stepan Stepanych. "I was about  to despair of ever finding you a barber when
I suddenly came upon  this unusually talkative man, and I 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  the bristly boy,  "lay out your  tools  properly and shave  this
honourable youth  so that his cheeks become as smooth  as those  of a  young
maiden."
     Pivoraki  stopped struggling. The razor glistened in his  skilled  hand
and a few minutes later Volka was excellently shaved.
     "Now  put away your tools," the old  man  said.  "I'll fly over for you
again early tomorrow morning, and you'll shave this youth once more."
     "I can't come tomorrow,"  Pivoraki objected in a tired  voice. "I'm  in
the morning shift tomorrow."
     "That doesn't  concern  me in  the  least," Hottabych replied  icily. A
heavy  silence fell on  the room.  Suddenly, Stepan  Stepanych had  a bright
idea.
     "Why don't you try a Tbilisi preparation? It's an excellent remedy."
     "Is  that  some  kind of a  powder?" Volka  interrupted.  "Isn't that a
greyish powder? I heard about it, or read something about it...."
     "Yes, that's it! A greyish powder!" Pivoraki cried happily. "It's  made
in Georgia, a wonderful and sunny land. I personally am crazy about Georgia.
I've travelled back and  forth across all the roads in the country during my
many vacations. Sukhumi, Tbilisi, Kutaisi... . There's no better place for a
rest! From the bottom  of my  heart and  from  my own  experience, I  highly
recommend that  you visit.... Pardon  me, I  seem  to  have drifted  off the
point. Anyway, getting back to the powder.... All you have to do is apply it
to  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 my young friend's case," Hottabych interrupted.
     "Are you positive?"
     Hottabych assumed a haughty expression and said nothing. He  considered
it beneath his dignity to take a lowly barber into his confidence.
     A  short  minute later,  an  old  man wearing  an  old-fashioned  straw
-boater,  a white linen suit and  pink morocco  slippers with turned-up toes
was seen in the locker room of a local bath-house in Tbilisi.
     Without  bothering to  get  undressed, he entered  the steam  room. The
smell  of sulphur stung his nostrils, but this  was to be expected, as these
were  the famous  Tbilisi sulphur baths.  However,  a  person  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  made  his  way  towards  a
bright-eyed attendant. He halted  within a few steps of the attendant, whose
name was Vano, and began to remove 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  man smirked. He had  no intention of washing. It was just that
he felt a bit warm with his coat on.
     "Come over here!" he said to Vano and fanned himself languidly with his
hat. "But hurry, if you value your life."
     The attendant smiled pleasantly.
     "Genatsvale, on such a lovely  morning one values one's  life more than
ever. What would you like, Grandfather?"
     The old man addressed him in a stern voice:
     "Tell me nothing but the truth, 0 bath  attendant. Are these really the
very famous Tbilisi Baths, of which I've heard so much worthy of amazement?"
     "Yes, they're the  very same  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 stranger here."
     The haughty old man let the question go unanswered.
     "Well,  if  these are the very same  baths  I've been looking for,  why
don't  I see  any of that  truly magic salve  which people  who know and are
worthy of trust say removes human hair without a trace?"
     "Ah, so that's what it's all about!" Vano cried happily. "You want some
'taro.' You should have said so right away."
     "All right, if it's called 'taro,' then bring me some 'taro,' but hurry
if you...."
     "I know, I know: if I value my life. I'm off!"
     The  experienced  bath attendant had  met many a queer character in his
life and he knew that the wisest thing to do was never to argue.
     He returned with a clay  bowl  filled with something that  looked  like
ashes.
     "Here," he said, panting heavily as he handed the old man the bowl. "No
place  in the  world will you find such a wonderful powder. You can take the
word of a bath-house attendant!"
     The old man's face turned purple with rage.
     "You're making a  fool  of me,  0  most  despicable of  all  bath-house
attendants!" he said in a voice terrible in all its  softness. "You promised
to bring  me a wonderful  salve, but like a  marketplace crook, you  want to
pass off an old dish of powder the colour of a sick mouse!"
     The old man snorted so loudly that the entire 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 some water and you'll have the salve you longed for."
     The   old   man  realized  he  was  shouting  for  nothing  and  became
embarrassed.
     "It's  hot," he mumbled in some confusion.  "May this tiring heat be no
more!" and he added very  softly:  "and while  my beard is wet, may my magic
powers remain in my fingers.... And so, may this tiresome heat be no more!"
     "I'm  sorry,  but  that's something  I've no power over," Vano said and
shrugged.
     "But  I  have,"  Hottabych (naturally,  it  was  he)  muttered  through
clenched teeth and snapped the fingers of his left hand.
     The attendant gasped. And no wonder: he felt  an  icy chill coming from
where the strange  old  man stood; the  wet floor became covered with a thin
sheet of ice and clouds of hot steam from the entire room were drawn towards
the  cold pole which had formed  over Hottabych's head; there,  they  turned
into rain clouds and came down in a drizzle over his head.
     "This is much better," he said with pleasure. "Nothing is so refreshing
as a cool shower on a hot day."
     After  enjoying  this  both  unnatural  and natural  shower for  a  few
minutes, he  snapped the  fingers of his right hand. The current of cold air
was  cut  off immediately,  while the ice melted. Once  again clouds  of hot
steam filled the room.
     "And so," Hottabych said, pleased at the impression these unaccountable
changes of temperature had made on the other patrons, "and so, let us return
to the  'taro.' I  am  inclined to believe that the powder will really  turn
into the salve I have come in search of if one adds  water to it. I want you
to bring me a  barrel of this marvellous potion, for I do not have much time
at my disposal."
     "A barrel?!"
     "Even two."
     "Oh, Genatsvdle! One bowl-full  will be more than  enough for even  the
heaviest beard!"
     "All right then, bring me five bowls of it."
     "In  a second!" Vano said,  disappearing  into  an  adjoining room.  He
reappeared in a moment  with a heavy bottle  stopped with 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 me!"
     "How  could you even think of such  a thing,"  Vano protested. "Would I
ever dare trick such a respectable old man as you! Why, I would never...."
     He  stood  there and gaped, for  the  amazing,  quarrelsome old man had
suddenly disappeared into thin air.
     Exactly a minute later, a bald old man without eyebrows, a moustache or
a beard and dressed in a straw boater, a linen  suit  and pink slippers with
turned-up  toes  touched Volka  Kostylkov's  shoulder as the boy  was  sadly
devouring a huge piece of jam tart.
     Volka turned round, looked at him, and nearly  choked on  the  cake  in
amazement.
     "Dear Hottabych, what's happened to you?"
     Hottabych looked at himself in the  wall mirror  and forced a laugh. "I
suppose it  would be  exaggerating things to say I  look  handsome.  You may
consider me  punished for lack of trust  and  you  won't be wrong. I snorted
when I was  kind-heartedly offered a bowl  of  'taro' powder in that far-off
bath-house. The powder settled on my eyebrows, moustache and beard. The rain
which  I called  forth in  that justly famous place turned  the powder  into
mush, and the rain I was  caught in on the way back to Moscow washed off the
mush  together with my beard, moustache, and eyebrows. But don't worry about
my appearance.  Let's  better  worry  about yours." Then  he  sprinkled some
powder into a plate.
     When Volka's beard and  moustache were  disposed  of, Hottabych snapped
the fingers of his left hand and once again assumed his previous appearance.
     Now  he  looked at himself  in  the mirror with true  satisfaction.  He
stroked his recovered beard and  twisted the ends of his moustache jauntily.
Then he passed his hand over his hair, smoothed his eyebrows and sighed with
relief.
     "Excellent ! Now both our faces are back to normal again."
     As  concerns Stepan Stepanych Pivoraki, who will  never again appear on
the pages of our extremely truthful story, it is a known fact that he became
a changed man after the events described above. Why, it seems only yesterday
that his friends,  who suffered so  acutely  from his  talkativeness,  named
every chatter-box "Pivoraki." However, he has now become so sparing with his
words, weighing each one carefully beforehand,  that it is a  joy to talk to
him and listen to him speak at meetings.
     Just think what an effect this incident had on him!



     Zhenya Bogorad's parents were up all night. They  telephoned  all their
friends and, taking a cab, made the  rounds of every militia station in  the
city, and of every  hospital. They even  stopped off at the  criminal court,
but all to no avail. Zhenya had disappeared without a trace.
     The following morning  the  principal of the school  called in Zhenya's
classmates, including Volka, and questioned each one.
     Volka  told the principal  about meeting Zhenya at the movies the night
before, though he quite naturally said  nothing about his beard. The boy who
sat next to  Zhenya in class recalled that he had seen him on Pushkin Street
close to six o'clock the previous  evening, that he was in high  spirits and
was rushing to the movies.  Other children said the same, but this was of no
help.
     Suddenly, one boy remembered Zhenya said he wanted to go swimming too.
     In half an hour's time  every volunteer  life  guard in  the  city  was
searching for Zhenya Bogorad's  body. The river  was dragged within the city
limits, but yielded  nothing. Divers traversed  the entire river-bed, 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
breeze carried the low sounds of a siren from the recreation park,  a signal
that the second act of the evening's play at the summer theatre was about to
begin, but the dark  silhouettes of the river  boats  could still be seen on
the water. The search was still on.
     This  cool, quiet  evening  Volka  was  too  restless to  sit at  home.
Terrifying thoughts of  Zhenya's fate gave  him  no peace. He  decided to go
back  to school, perhaps there  was some news there. As  he  was leaving the
school  yard,  Hottabych  joined him silently  at the gate,  appearing  from
nowhere at  all. The old man  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 embankment
of the Moskva River.
     "What  kind of  strange-headed  people  are  standing  in  those  frail
vessels?" the old man asked, pointing to the river boats.
     "Those are divers," Volka answered sadly.
     "Peace be  with you, 0 noble  diver," Hottabych said  grandly to one of
the divers climbing out of a boat near the bank. "What are you searching for
on the bottom of this beautiful river?"
     "A boy drowned," the  diver answered  and hurried  up the steps  of the
first-aid station.
     "I have no more questions, 0 highly respected diver," Hottabych said to
his disappearing back.
     Then he returned to Volka, bowed low and exclaimed:
     "I kiss the ground beneath your feet, 0 most noble student of Secondary
School No. 245!"
     "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 classmate?"
     Volka nodded silently and heaved a great sigh.
     "Is  he  round  of face,  sturdy of body, snub of nose  and sporting  a
haircut unbecoming to a boy?"
     "Yes, that was Zhenya. He  had a haircut like a real dandy," Volka said
and sighed heavily again.
     "Did we see him in the movies? Was it he who shouted something  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 mumbled  when  you  tried to  conceal  your
honourable and most beautiful face from  him," the old man continued. "Don't
fear, he won't tell!"
     "That's not true!"  Volka said angrily. "That doesn't bother me at all.
On the contrary, I'm sad because Zhenya drowned."
     Hottabych smirked triumphantly.
     "He didn't drown!"
     "What do you mean? How d'you know he didn't drown?"
     "Certainly I am the one to  know," Hottabych said. "I lay  in  wait for
him near the first row in the dark room and I said to myself in great anger,
'No,  you will  tell nothing, 0 Zhenya! Nothing which is unpleasant  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 said
to myself as I tossed him far away to the  East, right to where  the edge of
the Earth meets the edge of the Heavens and where, I assume,  he has already
been  sold into slavery. There he can tell  whomever he  wants to about your
beard."



     "What do  you  mean-slavery?!  Sell Zhenya  Bogorad  into slavery?!"  a
shaken Volka asked.
     The old man saw that something had gone wrong again, an his face became
very sour.
     "It's very simple. It's quite usual. Just like they always  sell people
into slavery," he mumbled, rubbing his hands together nervously and avoiding
Volka's eyes. "That's  so he won't babble for nothing, 0 most pleasant  dope
in the world."
     The old man was very pleased at having been able to put the new word he
had learned from Volka the night before into the 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  his head. "Hottabych,  d'you
realize what you've done?"
     "Hassan Abdurrakhman 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
immediately!"
     "No!" Hottabych shook his head. "Don't demand the impossible of me!"
     "But  do you  find it possible to sell people into slavery? Golly,  you
can't even imagine what I'll do if you don't bring Zhenya right back!"
     To  tell the  truth, Volka himself  had no  idea what he could do -s to
save  Zhenya from  the clutches  of unknown slave dealers, but he would have
thought of something. He would have written to some  ministry or  other. But
which ministry? And what was he to say?
     By now  the readers of this  book know Volka  well enough to agree that
he's  no  cry-baby.  But  this  was  too  much,  even  for  Volka. Yes,  our
courageous, fearless Volka sat  down on the edge of the first bench  he came
upon and broke into tears of helpless rage.
     The old man asked anxiously:
     "What is the meaning of  this crying that has overcome  you? Answer me,
and do not tear my heart apart, 0 my young saviour."
     But Volka, regarding the old man with hate-filled 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 amazed.  No  matter what I do, it just doesn't seem to make
you happy. Though I'm  trying  my best to please you, all my efforts  are in
vain. The most powerful potentates of the  East and  West would often appeal
to my magic powers, and  there was not  a  single one among them who was not
grateful  to me later and did not glorify my name in words and thoughts. And
look at me now! I'm  trying to understand what's  wrong, but I cannot. Is it
senility? Ah, I'm getting old!"
     "Oh no, no, Hottabych, you  still look very young," Volka  said through
his tears.
     And true enough, the old man was well preserved for being close on four
thousand years of age. No one would have ever given him more than seventy or
seventy-five. Any of our readers would have looked much older at his age.
     "You flatter me," Hottabych smiled and  added: "No, it is not within my
powers to return your friend Zhenya immediately."
     Volka's face turned ashen from grief.
     "But," the old man continued significantly, "if his absence  upsets you
so, we can fly over and fetch him."
     "Fly?! So far away? How?"
     "How?  Not  on  a   bird,  of  course,"  Hottabych  answered  craftily.
"Obviously, on a magic carpet, 0 greatest dope in the world."
     This time Volka noticed  that he had been called  such an  unflattering
name. "Whom did you call a dope?!" he flared.
     "Why, you, of course, 0 Volka ibn Alyosha, for you are wise beyond your
years," Hottabych replied, being extremely pleased that he was again able to
use his new word so successfully in a conversation.
     Volka was about to  feel offended.  However, he  blushed as he recalled
that he had no one to blame but himself. Avoiding the old man's honest eyes,
he asked him never again to call him a dope, for he was not worthy of such a
great honour.
     "I praise your modesty,  0 priceless Volka ibn Alyosha," Hottabych said
with great respect.
     "When  can  we  start?"  Volka  asked,  still  unable  to  overcome his
embarrassment.
     "Right now, if you wish."
     "Then let's be off!" However, he added anxiously, "I don't know what to
do about Father  and  Mother.  They'll worry if  I fly away without  telling
them, but if I tell them, they won't let me go."
     "Let it worry you no more," the old man  said. "I'll  cast  a spell  on
them and they won't think of you once during our absence."
     "You don't know my parents!"
     "And you don't know Hassan Abdurrakhman ibn Hottab!"




     In  one  corner  of the magic  carpet the pile was  rather  worn,  most
probably due to moths. On the whole,  however,  it was wonderfully preserved
and the fringes were as good as new.  Volka thought he had seen exactly  the
same  kind  of  carpet before, but  he could not  recall whether  it was  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 middle of the
carpet  beside himself;  he then yanked three hairs from  his beard, blew on
them,  and  whispered  something,  rolling  his  eyes  skyward.  The  carpet
trembled. One after the other, all four tassled corners rose. Then the edges
buckled and rose, but the middle remained on the grass, weighted down by the
two heavy passengers. After fluttering a bit, the carpet became motionless.
     The old man bustled about in confusion.
     "Excuse  me, 0 kind Volka. There's been a mistake somewheres.  I'll fix
everything in a minute."
     Hottabych  was quiet as he did some complex figuring on his fingers. He
apparently got the  right answer, because he beamed. Then he yanked six more
hairs from his beard, tore off half of one hair and threw it away, and  then
blew on the others, saying the magic words and rolling his eyes skyward. Now
the carpet ' straightened out and became as flat  and as hard as a staircase
landing. It soared upwards, carrying  off a smiling Hottabych and Volka, who
was dizzy from exhilaration, or the height, or from both together.
     The  carpet rose over the highest trees, over the highest houses,  over
the highest factory stacks and sailed over the city that was blinking with a
million  lights  below. They  could hear muffled  voices, automobile  horns,
people singing in row boats on the river and the far-off music of a band.
     The city  was plunged in twilight,  but here, high  up in the air, they
could  still  see the  crimson  ball of  the sun  sinking  slowly beyond the
horizon.
     "I wonder how high up we are now?" Volka said thoughtfully.
     "About 600  or  700 elbows," Hottabych  answered,  still  figuring  out
something on his fingers.
     Meanwhile,  the  carpet settled on  its course,  though  still  gaining
height. Hottabych sat down majestically, crossing his legs and holding on to
his hat. Volka tried to sit down cross-legged, as  Hottabych  had, but found
neither pleasure nor satisfaction from this position. He shut his eyes tight
to  overcome his  awful dizziness and sat down on  the  edge  of the carpet,
dangling  his legs over the side. Though this was more comfortable, the wind
tore  at his  legs  mercilessly; it blew them  off  to a side  and they were
constantly at a sharp angle to  his body. He soon became convinced that this
method was no good either, and finally settled down with his  legs stretched
out before him on the carpet.
     In  no  time, he felt chilled to the bone. He thought sadly of his warm
jacket that was so far below in his closet at home, hundreds of miles away.
     As a last resort, he decided  to warm up the way  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 eye he slipped off
the carpet and into nothingness.
     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 had 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
himself had cast.
     "Hottabych!" Volka howled,  feeling that he  wouldn't  last long, as he
hung on to the fringes. "Help, Hottabych!"
     "0 woe is me!" the  old man cried, seeing that Volka was flying through
the air. "Shame on  my old grey head!  I would have killed myself if you had
perished!"
     Muttering and calling himself all kinds of names for being so careless,
he dragged a petrified Volka back up on the carpet, sat him down and put his
arm around the boy, firmly resolved not to let go of him until they landed.
     "It would be  g-g-good t-t-to h-h-have s-s-something w-w-warm to wear!"
Volka said wistfully through chattering teeth.
     "S-s-sure,  0  gracious  Volka ibn  Alyosha!"  Hottabych  answered  and
covered him with a quilted robe that appeared from nowhere.
     It became  dark.  Now it  was  especially  uncomfortable on  the  magic
carpet. Volka suggested that they rise another 500 elbows or so. "Then we'll
see the sun again."
     Hottabych greatly doubted that they could see the sun  before  morning,
since it had already set, but he didn't argue.
     You can imagine 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 time
its crimson edge was barely touching the black line of the far horizon.
     "Oh, Volka, if only I had not promised  myself faithfully  to obey your
modest request, nothing would prevent  me from calling you the greatest dope
in  the world," Hottabych  cried  ecstatically.  However,  when  he saw  how
displeased Volka was, he quickly added, "but since  you forbade  it, I shall
limit  myself to expressing  my amazement at  the unusual  maturity of  your
mind. I "promised never to call you a dope and I won't."
     "And don't call anyone else by that name, either."
     "All right, 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
kept on flying farther and farther away to the south-east, closer and closer
to the strange land where the young prisoner
     Zhenya  Bogorad was  probably already suffering at the  hands of fierce
and terrible slave traders.
     "To think that poor  Zhenya's  breaking his 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 poor fellow's probably groaning," Volka continued sadly.
     Hottabych again said nothing.
     If only our  travellers could have heard what  was  happening that very
minute, thousands of miles away to the East!
     Far away in the East, Zhenya Bogorad was really groaning.
     "Oh no, I can't!" Zhenya moaned, "Oh no, no more!"
     In order  to  describe the  circumstances under which he uttered  these
heart-rending words, we  shall have to  part with our travellers for 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 glimpse  of the bearded  boy  before the
movie  began,  everything  suddenly  went  dark, he heard  an  ear-splitting
whistle, and  instead of  the hard floor beneath his  feet,  he felt  he was
standing in tall grass.
     When his  eyes became accustomed  to the dark, he was greatly amazed to
discover that he  was in  a dense forest  filled  with the  aroma of strange
flowers. Lianas hung  from huge trees, the likes of which he had  never seen
before. Yes, these were definitely lianas. It was hot and humid, much hotter
than it had been in the projection room.
     Holding his arms out,  Zhenya  took several cautious steps  and  nearly
trod on a  ... snake! The snake hissed like a  broken bicycle pump,  flashed
its small green eyes and disappeared in the bushes.
     "Golly! Where am I?!"  Zhenya  wondered, not daring to move. "It's just
like the jungles. It's  just like a dream. Why,  sure," he thought  happily,
"sure, this is all a dream! I'm sleeping and this is a dream."
     At one time or another everyone has had a dream in which he knows quite
clearly that he  is  dreaming.  It's fun to  have such  a dream:  no dangers
frighten you,  and you  always succeed  in  the  most hazardous  feats. Most
important, you know  the time will come when you'll awake  safe and sound in
your own bed.
     However,  when  Zhenya  attempted to make his way  through  the prickly
bushes, he really got scratched. Since it's most unpleasant to be hurt, even
though you are quite positive everything is just a dream, Zhenya  decided to
doze off till morning.
     When he awoke, he  saw the hot, pale blue  sky shining brightly through
the openings in the  crowns of the trees. Zhenya 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
were four elephants carrying huge logs in their trunks. A thin, dark-skinned
man,  naked to the waist and  wearing a  white  turban,  was riding the lead
elephant.
     In the distance, smoke curled from the rooftops of a small village. Now
Zhenya knew what  he was  dreaming  about. He was dreaming about India! This
was really wonderful. Yet, still more wonderful things awaited him.
     "Who  are  you?"  the  man  on  the  elephant  asked  Zhenya dryly. "An
Englishman? A Portuguese? An American?"
     "No,"  Zhenya answered  in broken  English. "I Russian, Rusi."  Just to
make sure, he pointed to himself and said, "Hindi Rusi bhai, bhai."
     At this, the man  on the elephant beamed  and nodded so vigorously that
it was a wonder his turban didn't fall off his head.
     Then  he  made his elephant kneel and he took Zhenya up beside him. The
whole cavalcade, swaying majestically, continued towards the village.
     On the way they met several children.
     The man  shouted something  to  them;  they  gaped  and stared  at  the
real-life  Soviet  boy. Then they dashed back to the  village, shouting  and
skipping. By the time Zhenya Bogorad, a 7B pupil  of Moscow Secondary School
No.  245,  arrived  in  the  village riding the head  elephant,  its  entire
population had poured out into the narrow single street.
     What a welcome it was!
     Zhenya was helped down respectfully, he was led into a room and offered
food, which was more than welcome, since he found  that even in his sleep he
was hungry. Imagine, what a real dream he was having! Then people approached
him  and  shook  his hand,  then everybody  sang a long and plaintive Indian
song. Zhenya sang along with them as best he could and everyone was terribly
pleased.  Then Zhenya sang the democratic youth song and some boys and girls
joined in, while the rest sang along as best they could. Then everyone began
coaxing a young Hindu  youth  and he finally gave in and 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!
     When things settled down a bit, the  whole village began a conversation
with  Zhenya.  However, since neither  he nor the villagers  knew very  much
English, it took a long time for them to discover whether  Zhenya was  in  a
hurry  to get to Delhi and the Soviet Embassy. But  Zhenya was in no special
rush. Why should a  person hurry when he's  having such  an interesting  and
pleasant dream?
     In no time,  delegates from  a neighbouring 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 fourth village. At day-break delegates from a
fifth village were awaiting him. This was when Zhenya began to moan a bit.
     Just try not to moan when hundreds of friendly arms toss  you up to the
accompaniment  of: Hindi Rusi bhai,  bhai and overflowing emotions make them
toss you as high as the clouds.
     Luckily for him,  they soon heard  the  rumbling of a small truck which
was going  past the closest  railway  station  and  which was to take Zhenya
along.
     Smiling villagers surrounded the  perspiring  boy, they shook his hands
and embraced him. Two girls came running up with  a  large wreath of flowers
and put  it  around his neck. The young guest blushed.  Three boys and their
schoolteacher  brought him a gift of  a large bunch of bananas. On behalf of
all the  villagers, the teacher wished Zhenya a happy  journey. The children
asked him to say hello to the children of  Moscow from the children of India
and they  also asked  for  his  autograph, just  as if  he had been a famous
person. Naturally, he could not refuse.
     Clutching the bunch of bananas with both hands and bowing to all sides,
Zhenya  was  being  helped  onto  the  running  board when suddenly  he  ...
disappeared. He simply vanished!
     This in itself was  worthy  of great amazement, but more amazing  still
was the fact that not a single villager was surprised at this. They were not
surprised, because they  immediately and completely forgot all about Zhenya.
But  we, dear reader, should by no means be surprised that they forgot about
him so quickly.



     There is  nothing more dangerous than falling asleep on a magic  carpet
without having first taken the necessary precautions.
     Tired from  all their experiences and lulled to sleep by  the  complete
quiet that  surrounded them, Hottabych and  Volka did not  notice  how  they
dozed off under the warm quilted robes that had appeared from nowheres.
     Volka had curled up cosily and  slept a dreamless sleep, but Hottabych,
who  had  fallen  asleep  sitting  up uncomfortably, with his  chest pressed
against his sharp old knees, had a terrible dream.
     He  dreamt  that the servants  of  Sulayman, son of  David, led  by the
Vizier Asaf ibn Barakhiya, were  once  again about to imprison 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 mouth of the bottle.
He  dreamt  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,  with  no one  to  save him. Worst of all, someone had a firm  hold on
Hottabych's arms so that he was  unable to yank a single hair from his beard
and therefore was  unable to use his magic powers to save himself and Volka.
Realizing that  it would be too late to  do anything in a few more  moments,
Hottabych  exerted all his energy.  In  great despair  he  plunged sideways,
forcefully enough to fall completely out of the vessel. Before really waking
up, he slipped off the carpet into the cold black void below.
     Fortunately, his  shout  awakened Volka. The boy was just able to  grab
his  left arm. Now it was Hottabych's turn to fly in  tow behind the carpet.
However, the tow was not very  firm: the old man was  too  heavy  for Volka.
They  would  probably  have plunged downwards  from this great height to the
unseen  Earth below, if Hottabych had  not managed  to yank a whole batch of
hair from his beard with his  free hand and rattle  off  the necessary magic
words.
     Suddenly, Volka found he could pull the old man up quite easily.
     Our  young  fellow's  happiness  would  have  been  complete,  had  not
Hottabych been bellowing,  "Aha, 0 Volka!  Everything's in  top  shape, 0 my
precious one!" and trying to sing something and laughing with such wild glee
all the while  Volka was pulling him  up that he really became worried: what
if  the old  man had  lost his mind from fright? True, once Hottabych  found
himself 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 magic 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
danger of 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 "When Your Far-off Friend is Singing,"
terribly off-key and then went on  to mutilate an old Gypsy love song called
"Open the Garden  Gate," which  he  had heard goodness  knows where.  All at
once, he stopped singing, crouched, and yanked several hairs from his beard.
Volka guessed what he was doing by the slight crystal tinkling.
     In a word, if you ever  forget something very  important and just can't
recall it, there's no better remedy than to fall off a magic carpet, if even
for  a second. Such  a fall really clears one's memory.  At least it  helped
Hottabych recall how to break spells he himself had cast.
     Now there was no need to continue the difficult and dangerous flight to
rescue the unfortunate Zhenya  Bogorad  from  slavery.  Indeed, the sound of
crystal tinkling was still in  the air when Zhenya fell out of  the darkness
and onto the magic carpet, clutching a twenty-pound bunch of bananas.
     "Zhenya!" Volka shouted happily.
     The  magic  carpet  could not withstand the  extra weight  and  plunged
downward with a whistling sound.  Suddenly, it became damp  and chilly.  The
stars shining overhead disappeared. They had entered a cloud bank.
     "Hottabych!"  Volka shouted. "We have to get out  of here, up over  the
clouds!"
     But Hottabych did  not answer. Through the  heavy fog they could barely
make out the  shrivelled figure  with his collar turned up.  The old man was
hurriedly yanking one  hair after another  from his beard. There was a sound
like plink,  like  a  tightly stretched  string  on  a home-made  children's
balalaika. With a  moan of despair, Hottabych would throw out the  hair  and
yank out another. Once again  they'd hear  the plink, once again the moan of
despair, and the despondent mumbling of the old Genie.
     "Hey, Volka," Zhenya said, "What's this we're flying  on? It looks like
a magic carpet."
     "That's exactly what it is. Hottabych, what's taking you so long?"
     "There's no such thing as a magic carpet," Zhenya said. "Help!"
     The carpet had dipped sharply.
     Volka had no time to argue with Zhenya.
     "Hottabych, what's the matter?"  he said, tugging at the old man's damp
coat sleeve.
     "0  woe is  me!" came the  hollow, sobbing  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!"
     "We're all drenched!" Volka shouted back angrily. "What selfishness!"
     "My beard! Alas, my beard is wet!"
     "Ha, what a thing to worry about!" Zhenya smirked.
     "My beard  is  wet!" Hottabych  repeated  in terrible  grief.  "I'm  as
helpless  as a babe. You need dry hair for  magic,  the very  driest kind of
hair!"
     "We'll  go  smack  against the ground!"  Volka said in a  wooden voice.
"There'll just be a little wet spot left from all of us."
     "Wait!  Wait  a  minute!" Zhenya panted. "The main thing is not to  get
panicky! What do people in balloons do in such a case?
     In  such a case, people flying  in balloons throw  their  extra ballast
overboard. Farewell, my dear Indian bananas!"
     With  these  words  he  tossed  the  heavy  bunch of bananas  into  the
darkness.  They  began  to  fall  more 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 whisper:
     "Volka, Volka! Who's the old man?"
     "Later," Volka  whispered back. "I'll tell you later,  when we get back
on the ground. Understand?"
     All Zhenya understood was that for  some very important reason or other
all his questions would have to wait till later.
     Volka shared his robe with Zhenya and gradually all three dozed off.



     Volka awoke from a pleasant ringing sound, like the tinkling of crystal
chandelier pendants. Still half asleep, he thought it  was Hottabych yanking
magic hairs. But  no,  the old man was snoring softly, sleeping like a babe.
The tinkling sound was coming from the icicles on  his beard  and the frozen
carpet fringes flying in the fresh morning wind.
     In the East,  the blinding sun was rising.  It kept getting  warmer and
warmer. The icicles on Hottabych's beard and on the fringes melted;  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  dampness  and  the warmth. Leaning  towards
Volka's chilled ear he whispered:
     "Do tell me who the old man is?"
     "Come clean,"  Volka  whispered back, keeping  a wary eye on Hottabych.
"Did you want to talk to the fellows about me behind my back?"
     "What of it?"
     "Just that he doesn't like it."
     "What doesn't he like?"
     "He doesn't like people to go blabbering about me!"
     "Humph!"
     "Humph yourself! Presto! And you're in a desert. It's all very-simple."
     Zhenya wasn't convinced.
     Volka  cast another  wary glance at  Hottabych and  moved closer to his
friend's ear.
     "Do you think I'm crazy?"
     "What a silly question!"
     "Not even a bit?"
     "Of course not."
     "Well, believe  it or not,  but this  old man  is a Genie, a real  live
Genie from the Arabian Nights!"
     "Boloney!"
     "And he was the one who got everything  messed  up during the  exam. He
prompted me and I had to repeat everything like a parrot."
     "Him?!"
     "But don't say a word about my  having failed. He swore to kill all the
teachers if they failed me. And now I'm knocking myself out  to save Varvara
Stepanovna  from  his  magic. I have to keep distracting him all  the  time.
Understand?"
     "Not really."
     "Well, be quiet anyway!"
     "Don't  worry, I will," Zhenya whispered thoughtfully. "Then he was the
one who tossed me into India?"
     "Sure he was. And he got you back from India, too. If you want to know,
he sent you there so they could sell you into slavery."
     Zhenya giggled.
     "Me, a slave? Ha-ha-ha!"
     "Ssh! You'll wake him up."
     But  Volka's  warning  came  too  late.  Hottabych opened his  eyes and
yawned.
     "Good morning, 0 Volka. Am I correct in assuming that this young man is
none other than your friend Zhenya?"
     "Yes, I'd like you to meet him," Volka said, introducing  his recovered
friend to Hottabych as if all this was taking place in the most  ordinary of
circumstances and not on a magic carpet high above the Earth.
     "Pleased to meet you," Zhenya said solemnly.
     Hottabych was silent for a moment, looking at the boy closely to decide
whether or not he was worth a kind word. He apparently became convinced that
Volka had not made  a mistake  in choosing his friend and so smiled his most
amiable smile.
     "There is no end to my happiness at meeting you. Any friend of my young
master is my best friend."
     "Master?" Zhenya asked.
     "Master and saviour."
     "Saviour?!" Zhenya repeated and giggled.
     "There's no need to laugh," Volka stopped him sternly. "There's nothing
to laugh about."
     In  as  few words as possible, he told  Zhenya everything our attentive
readers already know.





     Twice that day the magic carpet  passed through heavy cloud  banks, and
each time Hottabych's nearly dry beard would again become so  damp it was no
use thinking about even the simplest kind  of magic-something that would get
them  some food,  for  instance. They were  beginning  to feel  hungry. Even
Zhenya's  description of his adventures  of the previous day  could not take
their minds away from food.  But, most  important, there was no end to their
flight in sight.
     They were hungry, bored, and extremely uncomfortable. The carpet seemed
to be  stuck  in mid-air,  so slowly  did it fly and  so monotonous was  the
steppe stretching far below them. At times, cities 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 saying they
were flying over the southern part of the country. Then, suddenly, ahead and
to  the  right of them,  as far as the  eye could see, there  was blue water
below. To the left was the ragged line of distant mountains.
     "It's the Black Sea!" the boys shouted in unison.
     "0 woe is us," Hottabych cried. "We're going straight out to sea!"
     Fortunately, a capricious air  current turned the  carpet a  bit to the
left and  tossed  it into another  cloud  bank at  top speed.  Thus,  it was
carried along the Caucasian coastline.
     Through an opening in the clouds, Zhenya noticed 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  time!-became   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  famous
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  terrible end, thought  that  the highway,
studded  on both sides  by former palaces which  were  now  rest  homes, was
dashing towards them at a mad speed.
     They had a  momentary glimpse of a beautiful bridge thrown over a deep,
narrow valley.
     Then they were grazing the tree-tops. It  seemed as if they could touch
them if they leaned over.
     Then they  flew over a sanatorium with a high escalator which  took the
bathers up from the beach in a pretty little car.
     Several  minutes  later, amidst  a shower of spray, the  carpet plunged
into  the swimming  pool  of  another  sanatorium. The place  was quiet  and
deserted, as it was supper time and  all the vacationers were in  the dining
room. Shedding  water and puffing, our  ill-fated travellers climbed  out of
the pool.
     "It could have been worse," Volka said, looking around curiously.
     "Sure," Zhenya agreed. "We  could have crashed into a building just  as
easy as pie. Or into a mountain."
     It was a good thing there was no one close by.  The travellers sat down
on beach chairs  placed near the pool. They undressed, wrung out  their  wet
clothes, pulled them on again,  shivering and groaning  with cold, and  then
left the swimming enclosure.
     "If  only  I could dry  my  beard,  everything would be  just  lovely,"
Hottabych said with concern and touched it, just to make sure. "Ah, me! It's
quite damp!"
     "Let's look for the kitchen," Zhenya suggested. "Maybe  they'll let you
dry it near  the stove.  Boy, what wouldn't I give for  a big chunk of bread
and some sausage!"
     "Or some fried potatoes," Volka added.
     "You're  breaking  my  heart,  0  my young  friends,"  Hottabych  cried
woefully. "It's all my fault that you...." .
     "No,  it's  not your fault at all," Volka  consoled him. "Let's go look
for the kitchen."
     They  passed the deserted tennis court, went down a paved path under  a
high arch and found themselves before the  majestic, snow-white columns of a
miners' sanatorium. A circular  fountain with a pool as big as a dance floor
shot up foaming sprays of water, right to the  third-storey windows. All the
windows of the main building were brightly lit.
     "Our end  has come!" Hottabych  gasped. "We're in  the palace of a most
wealthy  and mighty potentate. His  guards will be on us any minute and chop
off our heads, and I'm the only one to blame! 0 woe! Oh, such terrible shame
on my old grey head!"
     Zhenya giggled. Volka nudged  him, to make him  still and not tease the
old man.
     "What guards? Which  heads?" Volka asked  with annoyance. "It's a  very
ordinary  sanatorium.  What  I  mean is, not  very  ordinary, but very nice.
Though I think they're all the same here in Sochi."
     "I    was    an    expert    on   palaces,    0    Volka,   when   your
great-great-great-grandfather wasn't  even born,  and I, for one,  certainly
know that guards will come running any minute and.... 0 woe is us! Here they
come!"
     The boys also heard the sounds of  running feet on the staircase of the
main building.
     "Jafar!" someone hanging over  the  banister shouted from above. "We'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 Sergeant of the Guard shouting. They'll
go looking for us after supper, and they'll  certainly find us. But my beard
has soaked up as much water as a sponge, and I'm as helpless as a babe!"
     Just then he happened to glance at two towels hanging over the back  of
a park bench.
     "Allah be praised!"  he  cried  excitedly, running towards the  towels.
"These will help me  dry my 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 damp! And the guards are so close!"
     Nevertheless, he hurriedly began to dry his beard.
     It was while  he  was drying  it that  an  Azerbaijanian  of tremendous
height, dressed in a dark red robe, came upon them. He  appeared from behind
the pink bushes as unexpectedly as a Jack-in-the-box.
     "Aha!" he said rather calmly. "Here they are. Tell me, my dear man,  is
this your towel?"
     "Spare us, 0 mighty ruler!" Hottabych cried, falling to his knees. "You
can  chop off my head, but these youths  are  in no way  guilty. Let them go
free! They have lived but such a short while!"
     "Hottabych,  get up  and don't  make a fool of yourself!" Volka said in
great embarrassment. "What kind of a ruler  are you talking about? He's just
a very ordinary man here on a holiday."
     "I won't get  up  until this wonderful  and merciful sultan promises to
spare your lives, 0 my young friends!"
     The Azerbaijanian  shrugged  his  mighty  shoulders and  said, "My dear
citizen, why  are you  insulting me? What kind  of  a sultan am  I?  I'm  an
ordinary Soviet citizen." He puffed out his chest  and added, "I'm Jafar Alt
Muhammedov, a drilling foreman. Do you know where Baku is?"
     Hottabych shook his head.
     "Do you know where Bibi-Aibat is?"
     Hottabych shook his head again.
     "Don't you read the  papers?  Now,  what  are you kneeling  for? That's
shameful.  Oh, how very shameful and embarrassing, my  dear man!" Muhammedov
pulled the old man to his feet.
     "Wait a  minute!" Volka whispered like a conspirator, taking Muhammedov
off to a side. "Don't pay any attention to the old man. He's off his rocker.
And the worst part of it is, we're so wet."
     "Ah! Did you get  caught in the rain in the mountains  too? I came back
as wet as a mouse. Vai, vai! The old man may catch cold. Dear man," he said,
catching  Hottabych  under  the arms  as  he was about to  fall to his knees
again.  "You  look  very  familiar. Are  you from Gandji?  You look  like my
father, except that he's older. My father's going on eighty-three."
     "Then know ye, 0 mighty ruler,  that I am going on three thousand seven
hundred and thirty-three!" Hottabych replied hotly.
     It  was only to Muhammedov's credit  that he  didn't bat an eyelid upon
hearing  these  words. He merely nodded  understandingly  to Volka,  who was
winking hard from behind Hottabych's back.
     Pressing his  right  hand to his  heart, the drilling foreman  answered
Hottabych politely, "Of course, my good  man, of course.  But you're so well
preserved.  Let's  go and  warm  up. We'll have something to eat and rest or
else you might catch cold. Va, how you remind me of my father!" -
     "I don't  dare disobey, 0 mighty ruler," Hottabych answered  fawningly,
touching his beard ever so often. Alas! It was still very, very damp.
     Oh, how  restless his soul  was! All his many years' experience rose up
against  the fact that  the  owner of the palace should invite a strange old
man and two young boys-all dressed in a far from elaborate  fashion-to share
his meal. That meant there was  some mischief to  be  expected. Perhaps this
Jafar Alt  ibn Mohammed was trying to coax them into his  palace in order to
play a joke on them and then, having had his fill  of torturing  them, would
order  his servants to  chop off their heads, or throw them into  cages with
wild beasts. 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 dormitories.
     They encountered no  one, either on the stairs or in the hall, and this
but served to confirm  Hottabych's suspicions.  Muhammedov  took them to his
room, induced the  old  man to  change into  a  pair of pyjamas,  and  left,
telling them to make themselves at  home. "I'll be back soon, after I give a
few orders. I'll be right back."
     "Aha!  We  know to whom you'll give those  orders  and what they'll  be
about, you crafty, two-faced ruler!" Hottabych thought. "You have a heart of
stone, one that is immune to mercy. To chop off such noble boys' heads!"
     Meanwhile, the noble boys were looking round the comfortable room.
     "Look, d'you see this?" Volka cried happily. He picked up a small table
fan, a thing Hottabych had never seen.
     "It's a fan," Volka explained. "We'll dry your beard in a flash!"
     True enough, in two minutes' time Hottabych's beard was ready for use.
     "We'll test it," the sly old man mumbled innocently.
     He  yanked out two hairs. Before the  crystal  tinkling  sound had died
down,  our friends suddenly found  themselves about three miles away, on the
warm  sandy  beach.  At their feet, the blue-black waves  of the rising tide
softly lapped against the shore.
     "This is much better,"  Hottabych  said  contentedly. Before  the  boys
could utter a sound, he yanked three more hairs from his beard.
     That very instant  a  large tray of  steaming roast lamb  and a second,
smaller tray of fruit and biscuits appeared on the sand.
     Hottabych snapped his fingers and two  strange-looking  bronze pitchers
with sherbet appeared.
     "Golly!" Zhenya cried. "But what about our clothes?"
     "Alas,  I  am  becoming  forgetful  before  my  time,"  Hottabych  said
critically and yanked out  another  hair. Their clothes and shoes became dry
the same instant.
     Moreover, their things appeared freshly pressed and their shoes  shined
brightly and even smelling of the most expensive shoe polish.
     "And may this treacherous ruler,  Jafar Alt ibn Muhammed, call  for  as
many  guards  as he wishes!"  the  old man said with  satisfaction,  pouring
himself a cup of icy, fragrant sherbet. "The birds have flown out from under
the knife!"
     "Why, he's no  ruler!" Volka said indignantly. "He's  a real  nice man.
And if you want to know, he didn't go off to call any guards, he went to get
us something to eat."
     "You're too young to teach me, 0  Volka!" Hottabych snapped, for he was
really displeased that his  young companions were not in the least  thankful
for having been saved from death's jaws.  "Who but I should know what rulers
look like and how  they  behave! Know ye, that there are no more treacherous
men than sultans."
     "But  he's  no  sultan,  he's a  foreman.  D'you understand, a drilling
foreman!"
     "Let's not argue, 0 Volka," the old man answered glumly.
     "Don't you think it's time we sat down to eat?"
     "What  about your pyjamas?"  Zhenya said, seeing  that  they could  not
out-talk the old man this time. "You've carried off someone else's pyjamas!"
     "Oh,  Allah!  I've  never  yet degraded  myself by stealing," Hottabych
cried unhappily.
     If  all the people at the  sanatorium were not then in the dining hall,
they  probably would  have seen a pair of striped pyjamas appear suddenly in
the dark sky, coming from the direction of Matsesta, flying at the height of
the third-storey windows. The  pyjamas flew into Muhammedov's  room  through
the open  balcony doors and  draped themselves neatly  over the back of  the
chair, from which the  kind drilling foreman had  so recently picked them up
and handed them to a shivering Hottabych.
     Muhammedov, however, forgot all about  the old man  and the boys before
he even reached the dining hall.
     "I found them," he said to his room-mate. "I found both towels. We left
them on the bench when we sat down to rest."
     Then  he  joined the others  at  the table  and  applied himself to his
supper.

     IT'S SO EMBARRASSING TO BE AN ILLITERATE GENIE!

     Before Muhammedov had a chance to start on his dessert, the clouds that
our travellers  had left somewhere between Tuapse and Sochi  finally reached
the spa and burst forth in a loud, torrential, sub-tropical storm.
     In a moment the streets, parks and beaches became deserted.
     Soon  the storm reached the spot where, by Hottabych's grace, the small
crew of the drowned magic carpet were to spend the night on the shore of the
Black Sea.
     Luckily, they noticed the  approaching storm in  time;  the prospect of
getting drenched to  the  bone again did not  appeal  to them in  the least.
However, the most important thing to keep  dry was the old  man's beard. The
simplest thing to do would have been to fly  somewhere farther south, but in
the pitch darkness of  the  southern night they  might  easily crash  into a
mountain.
     For  the time being, they took refuge under some bushes and  considered
where to go.
     '"I've  got  it!" Zhenya cried,  jumping to  his feet. "Golly, what  an
idea! We should smear his beard with oil!"
     "And then what?" the old man shrugged.
     "Then it won't even get wet in another Flood, that's what!"
     "Zhenya's right," Volka agreed, feeling a bit peeved that it was not he
who had thought of such a  wonderful, scientifically sound idea. "Hottabych,
go into action!"
     Hottabych yanked out  several  hairs, tore one of them in  two, and his
beard became covered with a thin layer of excellent palm oil.
     Then he tore  a second hair  in two and they all found themselves  in a
comfortable, marble-faced cave that suddenly appeared on the steep bank. And
while  a warm June storm was booming  loudly  over the Caucasian coast, they
sat on thick carpets, had a plentiful  dinner and  then fell asleep  soundly
till morning.
     They were awakened by the soft whispering of the crystal-clear waves.
     The sun had long since risen.
     Stretching  and yawning,  they went out onto the deserted beach, bathed
in the  slanting rays of  the morning sun. Immediately, as  if it  had never
existed, the cave that had sheltered them for the night disappeared.
     The boys were splashing delightedly in the cool waves  when they  heard
the  far-off hum of  an  airplane motor coming from the  direction  of Adler
Airport.
     A large  passenger  plane with glistening silver wings  was flying over
the sea.
     "Ah-h!" Zhenya sighed dreamily. "Wouldn'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 something very thin and white from his pocket.
It  resembled a delicate silver thread.  He  tore it into several pieces and
suddenly all three of them found themselves  in comfortable reclining  seats
inside the airplane.
     The  most  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. "What was it you  tore that looked just
like a silver thread?"
     "Just a little hair from my beard," Hottabych replied, though he seemed
strangely embarrassed.
     "But you took it from your pocket."
     "I tore it out of my beard beforehand and hid it in my pocket, just ...
in case.... Forgive me, but I wasn't sure my oiled beard would stay dry."
     "Don't you believe in science?" Zhenya cried in amazement.
     "I am quite  well  versed in  the  sciences," Hottabych  said in a hurt
voice, "but I  don't know what kind of  a  science teaches you  to protect a
magic beard from getting wet by oiling it." To change  the subject  he said,
"How comfortable and speedy this air chariot is! At first, I thought we were
inside a tremendous and truly unusual iron bird and was indeed surprised."
     All conversation stopped at this point, because the old man became just
a tiny bit air-sick. Rather, he was very tired. He dozed 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,  whispered proudly, "My uncle made
this sea."
     "This sea?"
     "Yes."
     "Your uncle?"
     "Yes."
     "You mean to say that you're Allah's nephew?" the old man sounded  very
sad.
     "My  uncle's  an  excavator  operator.  He's in  charge  of  a  walking
excavator. His name's Vladimir Nekrasov. If  you want to know, he's  digging
the Kuibyshev Sea right now."
     "My, oh my! You most blessed one!" Hottabych said turning an angry red.
"I so believed you, 0 Volka! I respected you so! And suddenly you tell  such
horrid, shameful lies!"
     "Is Vladimir Nekrasov really your uncle?" the  stocky man with a broad,
weather-beaten face sitting behind them asked loudly. "Is he really?"
     "He's my mother's cousin."
     "Why didn't you say so before!" the man exclaimed. "The  boy's got such
a  man for an uncle,  and  he doesn't  say a thing!  Why,  he's a rare  man,
indeed! I'm on my way back  from the Kuibyshev Sea  right now. We're working
on the same sector. Why, if you want to know, we...."
     Volka nodded towards a gloomy Hottabych.
     "But he doesn't believe my uncle made the Moscow Sea."
     "Ai-ai-ai, citizen.  That's not nice  at  all!" the man  began to shame
Hottabych. "How can you  doubt it? Vladimir Nekrasov dug  that sea  and  now
he's digging another, and if a third sea has to  be dug, he'll dig that one,
too! What's the matter? Don't you read the papers? Here, have a  look. Right
here. This is our paper." He pulled a newspaper from his battered brief-case
and pointed to a photograph. "See?"
     "Look! That's my uncle!" Volka shouted.  "Can I have this paper? I want
to give it to my mother."
     "Take it, it's yours," the man said. "Do you still doubt him?" he asked
Hottabych,  who  now  seemed  very  small.  "Here,  read  the heading:  'Our
Wonderful Sea-Builders.' It's all about his uncle."
     "Is it about you, too?" Zhenya asked.
     "It's mostly about Nekrasov. I'm not famous. Here, read it."
     Hottabych took the paper and pretended to read. Really now, he couldn't
admit he didn't know how to read, could he?
     That  is why,  on the way home  from the airport,  he  asked  his young
friends to teach him how to  read and write, for  he said he had nearly died
of shame  when  the  man had asked  him to read  the  words  "Our  Wonderful
Sea-Builders."
     They agreed that at the very first opportunity they would teach him how
to read  the papers,  because the  old man was  very insistent that he begin
with them. Nothing else would do.
     "So's I'll know which sea is  being  built,  and where," he  explained,
looking away shyly.

     WHO'S THE RICHEST?

     "Let's go  for a walk, 0 crystal  of my 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  time. And it's about  time you
got used to the idea that these aren't any  Jirjises, but honest-to-goodness
Russian internal combustion engines."
     "I hear and I obey, 0 Volka ibn Alyosha," the old man answered timidly.
     "Then repeat after me: I will never again be afraid of...."
     "I will never again be afraid of...."
     ". .. buses, trolley-buses, trolley-cars, trucks, helicopters...."
     "... buses, trolley-buses, trolley-cars, trucks, helicopters...."
     "... automobiles, searchlights, excavators, typewriters...."
     "...   automobiles,  searchlights,  excavators,  typewriters...."  "...
gramophones,    loud-speakers,   vacuum-cleaners...."   "...    gramophones,
loud-speakers,  vacuum-cleaners...." "... electric plugs, TV-sets,  fans and
rubber toys that squeak.'
     "... electric plugs, TV-sets, fans and rubber toys that squeak." "Well,
I guess  that  takes care  of  everything," Volka said. "Well,  I guess that
takes care of everything,"  Hottabych  repeated automatically, and they both
burst out laughing.
     In  order  to  harden  the  old man's  nerves, they crossed the busiest
streets at least  twenty times. Then they  rode on a trolley-car  for a long
while and, finally, tired but content, they boarded a bus.
     They rode off, bouncing softly on the leather-upholstered seats.
     Volka  was engrossed  in  a copy  of Pionerskaya Pravda, the children's
newspaper. The  old man was lost in thought and kept  glancing at  his young
companion  kindly from time  to time.  Then his face  broke  into  a  smile,
evidently reflecting some 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 most  honourable of  secondary school  pupils?"
Hottabych began the minute the door closed  behind them. "I think you should
be more  aloof and reserved in your relations  with the young inhabitants of
your house. Believe it or not, my heart was ready to break when I heard them
shouting:
     'Hey, Volka!' 'Hello, Volka!' and so forth, all  of which  is obviously
unworthy  of you. Forgive me for being so outspoken, 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 innumerable
qualities?"
     "Huh! They certainly are my equals. One boy is  even  a grade ahead  of
me, and we're all equally rich."
     "No, you  are mistaken here, 0  treasure of my  soul!"  Hottabych cried
delightedly and led  Volka to the  window.  "Look, and be  convinced of  the
truth of my words."
     A strange sight met Volka's eyes.
     A few moments before, the left half of their tremendous  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 magnificence
three marble  palaces in an ancient Asiatic style. Great columns adorned the
facades.  Shady gardens crowned the flat roofs,  and strange 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 entrance
of  each  palace stood two giants  holding  huge  curved  swords. Volka  and
Hottabych went 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
flames escaped their mouths. Volka shuddered.
     "May my young  master  not  fear  these beings,  for these are peaceful
Ifrits whom I have placed at the entrance to glorify your name."
     The  giants again fell  to  their  knees  and,  spitting  flames,  they
thundered obediently, "Order us as you wish, 0 mighty master!"
     "Please  get up!  I  do  wish  you'd  get  up,"  Volka  said  in  great
embarrassment.  "Why  do  you keep falling on  your knees all the time? It's
just like feudalism. Get up this minute, and don't you ever let me catch you
crawling like this. Shame on you! Shame on both of you!"
     Looking at each other in dismay,  the Ifrits rose and  silently resumed
their previous stand of "attention."
     "Well now!" Volka mumbled. "Come on, Hottabych,  let's  have a  look at
your palaces." He skipped up the steps lightly and entered the first palace.
     "These are not my palaces, they are your palaces," the old man objected
respectfully as he followed Volka in.
     However, the boy paid no attention to his words.
     The  first palace was  made entirely  of  rare  pink  marble. Its heavy
carved sandalwood  doors were  studded  with silver nails  and adorned  with
silver stars and bright red rubies.
     The second palace  was  made of light blue marble  and had ten doors of
rare ebony studded with gold nails and adorned with  diamonds, sapphires and
emeralds.
     In the middle of  the second palace was the  mirror-like  surface  of a
large pool, the home of goldfish the size of sturgeon.
     "That's instead of your little aquarium," Hottabych explained shyly. "I
think this is the only kind of aquarium in keeping with your great dignity."
     "Hm, imagine picking up one of those fishes. It'll bite your hand off,"
Volka thought.
     "And now,  do me the honour of casting a  kindly glance  at  the  third
palace," Hottabych said.
     They  entered  the  portals  of  the  third  palace.  It  glittered  so
magnificently that Volka gasped:
     "Why, it's  just like  the  Metro!  It's  just  like  the Komsomolskaya
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 arms,"
but  Hottabych  ignored them and  pointed  to  the  shining  golden  plaques
adorning the entrances to the palaces. On each the same words were engraved,
words which made Volka both hot and cold at the same time:
     "These palaces belong to the most noble and glorious of youths of  this
city, to the most  beautiful of the beautiful, the most wise of the wise, to
him who is replete with endless qualities and perfections, the unmatched and
unsurpassed scholar in geography and other sciences, the first among divers,
the best of all swimmers  and volley-ball players, the unchallenged champion
of billiards and ping-pong-to the Royal Young Pioneer Volka ibn Alyosha, may
his name be glorified for ages to come as well as the names of his fortunate
parents."
     "With  your  permission,"  Hottabych  said,  bursting  with  pride  and
happiness, "I wish, when you come  to live here with your parents,  that you
appoint  me a corner,  too, so that your new  residence will not separate us
and I may thus have the opportunity at all  times to express my deep respect
and devotion to you."
     "In the first place, these  inscriptions  aren't very objective," Volka
said after a short pause, "but  that's not the most important  thing  in the
long run. It's not important, because we'll have to hang up new signs."
     "I  understand  you  and   cannot   but  blame   myself  for  being  so
short-sighted,"  the  old man said in  an embarrassed  tone. "Naturally, the
inscriptions should  have been made in precious stones. You  are most worthy
of it."
     "You  misunderstood  me, Hottabych. I  wanted the  inscriptions to read
that these palaces belong  to the RONO. (District  Department of Education.)
You  see,  in our country all  the palaces  belong to the  RONO,  or  to the
sanatoriums."
     "Which RONO?"
     Volka misunderstood Hottabych's question.
     "It  doesn't  matter  which,  but   I'd  rather   it  belonged  to  the
Krasnopresnensky RONO.  That's the  district  I was born in,  that's where I
grew up and learned how to read and write."
     "I  don't  know  who that RONO is,"  Hottabych said bitterly, "and  I'm
quite ready to believe that he is a worthy person. But did RONO free me from
my thousands of years of imprisonment in the vessel? No, it was not RONO, it
was you, 0 wonderful youth, and that is why these palaces will belong to you
alone and no one else."
     "But don't you see...."
     "I don't want to! They are yours or no one's!"
     Never before had Volka seen Hottabych so angry. His face was purple and
his  eyes were  flashing.  The old man was obviously trying hard to keep his
temper.
     "Does that mean you don't agree, 0 crystal of my soul?"
     "Of course not. What do I need these palaces for?  What do  you think I
am, a clubhouse, or an office, or a kindergarten?"
     "Ah-h-h!" Hottabych  sighed  unhappily and shrugged. "We'll have to try
something else then!"
     The palaces became hazy,  swayed, and dissolved into  thin  air, like a
fog blown by the wind. The giants howled and shot upwards, where they,  too,
disappeared.



     Instead, the yard suddenly filled with heavily laden  elephants, camels
and  mules.  New  caravans kept  arriving  constantly.  The  shouts  of  the
dark-skinned  drivers,  dressed  in  snow-white  robes,  blended   with  the
elephants'  trumpeting,  the  camels'  snorting,  the  mules'  braying,  the
stamping of hundreds of hooves and the melodious tinkling of bells.
     A short sunburnt man in rich silk robes climbed down from his elephant,
approached the  middle of  the yard, and tapped the pavement thrice with his
ivory cane. Suddenly, a huge fountain appeared. Immediately drivers carrying
leather  pails  formed  a  long queue; soon the  yard  was  filled  with the
snorting, chomping and wheezing of the thirsty animals.
     "All this is yours, 0 Volka,"  Hottabych cried, trying to make  himself
heard above the din. "Won't you please accept my humble gift?"
     "What do you mean by 'all this'?"
     "Everything. The elephants, and  the camels, and the mules, and all the
gold  and  precious stones they carry,  and the  people who are accompanying
them-everything is yours!"
     Things were going from bad  to worse. Volka had nearly become the owner
of three magnificent 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 immediately  recalled how
things had gone with the palaces. If he had been smarter, he  probably would
have been able to talk the old man into letting the city keep them.
     He had to stall for time to think and map out a plan of action.
     "You know what, Hottabych?" he said, trying to  sound nonchalant. "What
do  you say if we go for a ride  on a camel, while the men take  care of the
caravan?"
     "It would really be a pleasure," answered the unsuspecting old man.
     A moment later,  a double-humped camel appeared on the  street, swaying
majestically and looking round  with  an arrogant air. On  its  back were an
excited Volka and Hottabych, who felt quite at home and was fanning  himself
lazily with his hat.
     "A camel! A camel!" the children shouted excitedly. They had poured out
into the street in great numbers, just  as if they had all  been waiting for
the camel to appear.
     They surrounded the  unruffled animal 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 coming
     on a camel!
     They're coming
     on a camel!

     The camel  approached the crossing  just as the light turned red. Since
it was not used  to traffic  rules, it coolly stepped across the  white line
with the word "STOP!"  written in large letters in front of it.  In vain did
Volka try to hold it back. The camel  continued on its way, straight towards
the militia man who was quickly pulling out his receipt book for fines.
     Suddenly a horn blared, brakes screeched and a light blue car came to a
stop  right under the steely-nerved camel's nose. The driver jumped out  and
began yelling at the animal  and its two passengers.  And  true  enough,  in
another second there would have been a terrible accident.
     "Kindly pull over to the  curb," the militia man  said politely  as  he
walked up to them.
     Volka had great difficulty in making the camel obey this fatal order. A
crowd gathered immediately, and everyone had an opinion to offer:
     "This is the first time I've seen people riding a camel in Moscow."
     "Just think, there could have been a terrible accident!"
     "What's wrong with a child going for a ride on a camel?"
     "No one's allowed to break traffic rules."
     "You try and stop a proud animal like that. That's no car, you know!"
     "I can't imagine where people get camels in Moscow!"
     "It's obviously from the zoo. There are several camels there."
     "It  makes  me shiver  to  think  what  could  have happened.  He's  an
excellent driver!"
     "The militia man is absolutely right."
     Volka felt  he was in a jam. He hung down  over  the  camel's side  and
began to apologize:
     "It'll  never  happen  again! Please let us go! It's time to  feed  the
camel. This is a first offence."
     "I'm sorry, but there's  nothing I can do about it,"  the  militia  man
replied dryly. "They always say it's the first time in cases like this."
     Volka was still attempting to soften the stern man's heart when he felt
Hottabych tugging at his sleeve.
     "0 my young master, it makes me sad to see  you lower yourself in order
to shield me from any unpleasantness.  All these people are unworthy of even
kissing  your  heels. You should let  them  know of the chasm that separates
them from you."
     Volka waved the old man away impatiently, but all at once he felt as he
had  during the geography examination: once again  he was  not the master of
his own words.
     He wanted to say:
     "Please, won't  you  let us go? I promise  never to break  any  traffic
rules as long as I live."
     Instead of  this humble plea, he suddenly bellowed  at the  top of  his
voice:,
     "How dare you,  0 despicable  guard, detain me during the precious hour
of my  promenade!  On  your knees!  On  your knees immediately, or  I'll  do
something terrible to you! I swear by my beard-I mean, by his beard!" And he
nodded towards Hottabych.
     At these .words, Hottabych grinned smugly and stroked his beard fondly.
     As concerns the militia man and the crowd, the child's insolence was so
unexpected that they were more dumbfounded than indignant.
     "I  am the  most outstanding  boy in  this  whole  city!" Volka kept on
shouting, inwardly wishing he were dead. "You're unworthy of even kissing my
heels! I am handsome! I am wise!"
     "All  right," the  militia man answered darkly.  "They'll see  just how
wise you are down at the station."
     "Goodness!  What nonsense  I'm saying! It's really hooliganism!"  Volka
thought and shuddered. Nevertheless, he continued:
     "Repent,  you,  who  have dared  to spoil my  good spirits! Cease  your
insolence before it's too late!"
     Just  then,  something  distracted  Hottabych's  attention.  He stopped
whispering to Volka and for a few moments the boy was once again on his own.
As  he  hung  down  over  the  side  of the  camel  and looked at  the crowd
pathetically he began to plead:
     "Citizens! Dear  people! Don't  listen  to  me. Do you  think  it's  me
talking? It's him, this old man, who's making me talk like this."
     But here  Hottabych once  again  picked  up  the reins and  in the same
breath Volka screamed:
     "Tremble before me and do not  anger me, for I am terrible in my wrath!
Oh, how fearsome I am!"
     He  understood only  too well that  his words did  not frighten anyone;
instead, they made some indignant, while others found them simply 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 ever speak so foolishly and rudely if he were normal.
     Then  a  woman  shouted,  "Look! The child  has  a  fever!  Look,  he's
steaming!"
     "What disrespect!" Volka shouted back, but, to his utter horror, he saw
large puffs of black smoke escaping his mouth at every word.
     People gasped, someone ran to call an ambulance, and Volka whispered to
Hottabych, taking advantage of the confusion:
     "Hassan Abdurrakhman ibn Hottab!  I order you to take this camel and us
as  far away  as possible. Immediately. Somewhere  outside  the city limits.
Otherwise, we can get in very bad trouble. Do you hear me? Im-me-di-ate-ly!"
     "I hear and I obey," the old man replied in a whisper.
     That  very instant,  the camel and its riders soared  into the air  and
disappeared, leaving everyone behind in the greatest confusion.
     A moment later it landed gracefully on the outskirts of the city. There
its passengers parted with it forever.
     The camel is probably still grazing there.  You'll recognize it at once
if you see it, for its bridle is studded with diamonds and emeralds.



     Despite  the day's unpleasant  experiences, Volka  was in high  spirits
when he and Hottabych returned home. He had finally hit  upon an idea of how
to dispose of the endless treasures he had so suddenly acquired.
     First, he asked Hottabych whether he could make the drivers, elephants,
camels, mules and all their loads invisible.
     "You need only command me to do so, and it will be done."
     "Fine. Then please make them invisible for the time being, and let's go
to bed. We'll have to get up at sunrise tomorrow."
     "I hear and I obey!"
     And so, the people who had gathered in the yard to stare at the strange
and noisy caravan suddenly found the place to be completely empty. They went
back to their homes in amazement.
     Volka  gulped down his supper, undressed and climbed  into  bed with  a
happy sigh. He only had a sheet for a cover, since it was so hot.
     Hottabych, however, had decided to comply with an ancient custom Genies
had.  He  became  invisible and lay down  across the threshold, to guard his
young  master's  sleep.  Hottabych  was  just  about  to   begin  a   solemn
conversation when the door  opened and Volka's  grandmother  entered, to say
good night  as always. She tripped  over the invisible  old man  and  nearly
fell.
     "Why, something was definitely lying on the threshold!" she gasped when
Volka's father came running.
     "Where  was  that  something  lying?"  he  asked.  "And  what did  that
something look like?"
     "It didn't look like anything, Alyosha."
     "Mother,  do you mean to tell me you tripped over an  empty space?"  he
asked and laughed with relief, happy that she had not hurt herself.
     "Yes,  I  guess I did,"  Grandma  answered in bewilderment and laughed,
too.
     Volka's father and grandmother left.
     As for Hottabych, he had wisely decided to  crawl under  Volka's bed-at
least no one would step on him there, and he would be closer to Volka.
     For several minutes no one said  a  word. Volka could not decide how to
begin such a ticklish conversation.
     "Good night!" Hottabych said amiably from under the bed.
     Volka realized he had better begin.
     "Hottabych," he called,  hanging his head over  the side of the bed, "I
want to talk to you about something."
     "Not about my gifts to you  today?" Hottabych asked warily, and when he
received an affirmative answer he sighed.
     "You see, dear Hottabych, I'd like to know whether I can do as I please
with your presents?"
     "Undoubtedly."
     "And you won't be angry at me, no matter what I do with them?"
     "No, I won't,  0 Volka.  How can I dare be angry with  someone who  has
done so much for me?"
     "If  it's  not too much trouble, Hottabych,  could  you please swear to
that?"
     "I  swear!" Hottabych  said in a  hollow voice from  under the bed.  He
understood that there must be a catch to this.
     "That's fine," Volka said happily. "That means  you won't feel too  bad
if  I tell you that I have no earthly  use for  these presents,  though  I'm
awfully grateful to you for them."
     "0  woe is me!" Hottabych moaned. "You're refusing my gifts  again. But
these aren't palaces! Can't you see, 0 Volka, I'm not giving you palaces any
more.  You  might  as well tell me the  truth-that  the  gifts  of your most
devoted servant disgust you."
     "Figure  it out  yourself, Hottabych, you're a very wise old man:  now,
what in the world could I do with so many treasures?"
     "You  could  be the  richest  of  the  rich,  that's  what,"  Hottabych
grumbled.  "Don't tell me you wouldn't want to be the richest person in your
country? Yet,  it would be just  like you, 0 most capricious and puzzling of
all boys I have  ever met! Money means power, money means glory, money means
friends galore! That's what money means!"
     "Who  needs  bought  friends  and  bought  glory?  You  make me  laugh,
Hottabych!  What's  the use of  glory that's been bought,  instead of earned
through honest labour in your country's service?"
     "You  forget that  money gives you the most reliable  and durable power
over people, 0 my young and stubborn arguer."
     "But not in our country."
     "Next thing, you'll be saying that people in your country don't want to
get richer. Ha, ha, ha!" Hottabych thought this was really a cutting remark.
     "Sure  they  do," Volka answered  patiently. "A  person  who does  more
useful work  makes more money.  Sure, everyone wants to earn more, but  only
through honest work."
     "Be that as it  may, nothing could be further from my mind than to make
my precious young friend seek dishonest  earnings.  If you don't need  these
treasures, turn  them  into  money and lend  the money  out. You must agree,
that's a very honourable undertaking-to lend money to those who need it."
     "Why, you must be crazy! You  don't know what you're talking about. How
can a Soviet person be a usurer! And even if there was such a vampire, who'd
ever go to him? If a person needs money, he can ask for a loan at the Mutual
Aid, or borrow some from a friend."
     "Well then," a somewhat disheartened  Hottabych persisted, "buy as many
goods  as  you can and open up  your  own shops in every  part  of the city.
You'll become a well-known merchant and everyone will respect you  and  seek
your favour."
     "Don't you understand,  the  Government  and  the co-operatives are  in
charge  of all  trade?  Why, making a profit by  selling stuff  in  your own
shop...."
     "Hm!" Hottabych  pretended to agree. "Supposing it is as you say it is.
I hope you think creating goods is an honest occupation?"
     "Sure it is! See, you're beginning to understand!" Volka said happily.
     "I am extremely pleased." Hottabych  smiled sourly. "I recall you  once
said  that your  greatly respected father was  a foreman in a factory.  Am I
correct?"
     "Yes."
     "Is he the most important man in the factory?"
     "No. He's a foreman, but there's  a shop foreman, and a chief engineer,
and a director above him."
     "Well  then,"  Hottabych  concluded  triumphantly,  "you  can  use  the
treasures  I've given you to buy your excellent father the factory he  works
in and lots of other factories besides."
     "It belongs to him already."
     "Volka ibn Alyosha, you just said..."
     "If you want to know, he owns the factory he works in and all the other
factories and plants, and all the mines  and the railways, and the  land and
the  water,  and the  mountains  and  the shops and  the  schools,  and  the
universities and  the  clubs, and the palaces, and  the  theatres,  and  the
parks, and the  movies in  the country. And they belong  to me and to Zhenya
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 million  partners.
As many as there are people in the country."
     "You have a very strange country, one that I cannot understand at all,"
Hottabych mumbled from under the bed and said no more.
     At  sunrise  the  next  day the  ringing of  a  telephone  awakened the
District Branch Manager of the State Bank. He was urgently being summoned to
the office. Worried  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 number of heavily-laden elephants, camels and mules.
     "There's someone here who wants to make a deposit," the night  watchman
said in dismay.
     "A deposit?" the manager repeated. "So early in the morning? What  kind
of a deposit?"
     The watchman handed  him a sheet of paper torn from a school  notebook.
It was covered with  a firm, childish scrawl. The manager read the paper and
asked the watchman to pinch  him.  The puzzled  man did  as he was told. The
manager winced, looked at the page again and said:
     "Impossible! It's absolutely incredible!"
     A  person who  wished to remain anonymous was giving the State Bank two
hundred and  forty-six bags  of gold, silver  and precious stones, valued at
three  thousand four  hundred  and  sixty-seven  million,  one  hundred  and
thirty-five thousand, seven hundred and  three  roubles and eighteen kopeks,
to use as it saw fit.
     The  most  amazing thing happened a moment  later. First,  the  animals
which  had  delivered the treasure,  then, the people  who  had  driven  the
animals, and then, the treasures they had brought began to sway; they became
transparent  and  dissolved  in the  air, just  like  steam. A fresh morning
breeze tore  the sheet  of paper from the  amazed manager's hand, whipped it
high into  the air  and  carried it off  into an open window. It  was  Volka
Kostylkov's  room. As  he  slept soundly, the page was fitted back into  the
notebook it had recently been torn  from and once again became a clean piece
of paper.
     But that is not all. Strange as it may seem, neither  the people at the
branch  office of the bank, nor Volka's neighbours,  nor Volka himself  ever
remembered anything at all about the event afterwards. It was  as if someone
had erased it from their memories completely.



     It  was pitiful  to look at the old man.  He spent the whole day in the
aquarium,  saying that he  was  having an  attack  of  rheumatism.  This was
certainly a foolish excuse, for nothing can be sillier than  sitting in cold
water if you have rheumatism.
     Hottabych lay on the bottom of the aquarium, moving his fins sluggishly
and swallowing water lazily. When either Volka or Zhenya approached, the old
man would swim  off  to the far side and rudely turn  his tail towards them.
However, whenever Volka left the room, Hottabych  would get 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 never thought of
leaving it. He apparently found  some bitter pleasure in the fact that Volka
kept pleading with him to get out of the water and stop sulking. The old man
would listen to all his entreaties with his tail turned towards the boy. Yet
the moment his young friend would open his geography book and begin to study
for his exam, 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, when an old man was suffering so from rheumatism?!
     No  sooner would Volka  close his book, however,  than  Hottabych would
again  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  the floor. He
squeezed the water from  his beard and  moustache and dried them  quickly at
the buzzing table fan. Then he said with some reserve:
     "You hurt me by refusing to accept my humble gifts. It's your good luck
that I promised you I wouldn't get angry. But I  did promise and, therefore,
I'm  not angry at you,  for I now  see who  is really  responsible for  your
offending me so,  though  you do it unconsciously. It is  your teachers-they
are  the  root  of all  evil! Varvara  Stepanovna,  not you, 0 youthful  and
inexperienced boy, will be  held fully responsible for all the bitterness of
the past few  days. And  now that undeserving Varvara,  daughter  of Stepan,
will...."
     He yanked  four hairs at once  from his  beard. Something extraordinary
was about to happen.
     "Oh, no! No, Hottabych! Dear, dear Hottabych!" Volka babbled as he hung
on the angry Genie's arms. "My  word of honour! Varvara Stepanovna's not  at
all to blame! It was only me..."
     "No! She's to blame, she's to blame!"  Hottabych droned, trying to free
his hands.
     "She's not to blame! She's not to blame! Upon my  word of honour, she's
not to blame!" Volka repeated in a frightened voice, while feverishly trying
to think of a way to distract the raging Genie's attention from his teacher.
"You  know what? You know what?" He had finally thought of something: "Let's
go to the circus.  Huh, Hottabych? Let's go to the circus! Zhenya and I will
never get tickets, but it's so easy for you to get them. You're the only one
who can  help  us  get  into  the circus.  You're so powerful, so  amazingly
all-powerful!"
     The old  man was very  inquisitive  and an easy prey to  flattery. Most
important, unlike all other Genies, he never remained angry long.
     "And what  does this funny  word  mean?" Hottabych's eyes  burned  with
interest. "Is it a market where they sell  parrots  and other unusual birds?
Then, know ye, that I am  completely indifferent to birds. I've  had my fill
of the sight of parrots."
     "Oh, no, this is a thousand times more interesting. Why, it's a million
times, a million million times more interesting!"
     Hottabych immediately forgot about Varvara Stepanovna.
     "Let's  go there on  a camel.  No, better still,  on  an elephant. Just
imagine how everyone will envy you."
     "No, don't bother. I don't want  you to go to all  that trouble," Volka
objected with  suspicious haste.  "If  you're not  afraid,  let's go on  the
trolley-bus."
     "What's there  to be afraid  of?" the  old  man sounded offended. "Why,
I've been looking at these iron carts for four days now without any fear  at
all."
     Half an hour later, Volka, Zhenya and Hottabych reached the  recreation
park and approached the entrance to the summer circus.
     The old man 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 empty  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
myself and my greatly respected friends. It would be below our dignity."
     It was  no  use arguing with  the old man. With  heavy  hearts the boys
climbed to the last row of the second balcony.
     Soon  attendants in crimson and gold uniforms lined up along both sides
of the entrance to the arena.
     The ring-master announced the first act. A bare-back rider dressed in a
sequined suit and looking like a Christmas tree ornament 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
man replied cautiously.
     The bare-back  rider  was  followed  by acrobats,  who were followed by
clowns, who were followed by a  dog act-this attraction met with Hottabych's
reserved praise-who were followed by jugglers and spring-board jumpers. Then
there was an intermission.
     It  was a shame to  leave and miss the second half of the  show, but  a
geography book opened at the very first chapter awaited Volka at home.
     He  sighed  heavily  and whispered  to  Zhenya, "Well, I guess I'll  be
going. But you try and  keep him here for at least another two hours. Go for
a walk with him after the show, or something...."
     Zhenya mumbled softly, but with great emphasis:
     "We  should all three leave, all three  of us.  V. S. is here! V. S. is
here!"
     And he nodded towards the side isle.
     Volka turned round and froze: Varvara Stepanovna and  her five-year-old
granddaughter Irisha were making their way down the isle to the foyer.
     As if by agreement, the boys jumped to their feet and stood in front of
the unsuspecting old man in a way to shield their teacher from him.
     "You know what, Hottabych?" Volka  choked. "Let's go home! Huh? There's
nothing of interest here today."
     "Sure," Zhenya agreed, trembling like  a leaf  in his  fear for Varvara
Stepanovna's life. "That's right, let's go  home. We'll walk in the park and
all kinds of things...."
     "Oh,  no,  my  young  friends!" Hottabych  answered  innocently. "Never
before have I been so interested as I am in this truly magic tent. I'll tell
you what: you run along and I'll return as soon as this amazing  performance
ends."
     What an  idea-to leave Varvara Stepanovna alone  with a Genie who hated
her so!
     They had  to  think of  something, of  anything at all, to  occupy  him
during intermission. Once the  performance was resumed,  his  eyes  would be
glued on the arena. They had to  think of  something urgently,  but, fearing
for  Varvara Stepanovna's very  life, Volka was  completely at a  loss.  His
teeth  even began to chatter. This  attracted Hottabych's attention,  for he
was interested in everything.
     "I tell  you, Hottabych," Zhenya came to the  rescue, "it's  either one
way or the other: either we study or not!"
     Both Volka and Hottabych looked at him in bewilderment.
     "What I mean is, since we've promised  Hottabych  to teach him  to read
and write, we  should  use every free minute  for study.  Isn't  that right,
Hottabych?"
     "Your  perseverance  is  worthy  of  the greatest  praise,  0  Zhenya,"
Hottabych answered. He was really touched.
     "Well, if that's the case, here's the circus programme. Let's sit right
down and learn the alphabet. We'll study all through intermission...."
     "With happiness and pleasure, 0 Zhenya."
     Zhenya opened the programme 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 me all the 'A's you can on this page."
     "Here's a letter 'A,' 0 Zhenya."
     "Fine! Do you see any more?"
     "Here, and here, and here, and here, and here...."
     Hottabych was so engrossed in  his studies that he paid no attention at
all to anything else. By the time the intermission was over and the audience
had  returned to  its  seats,  Hottabych had  learned the alphabet  and  was
reading in syllables:
     "An ac-ro-bat on a spring ... board."
     "D'you know, Hottabych, you  really are  gifted!" Zhenya said with true
amazement.
     "What did you think?" Volka replied.  "Why, there has never been such a
talented Genie in all the world."
     Hottabych read on delightedly: " 'Jum-ping ac-ro-bats un-der the di-rec
. ..  di-rec-tion of  Phil-lip  Bel-ykh.'  We saw  that already.  'Ev-en-ing
per-for-man-ces beg-in  at  8  p.m.  Ma-ti-nees  at  12  no-on.' 0 my  young
teachers, I have read the entire programme. Does that mean I'll now  be able
to read the newspapers, too?"
     "Certainly! Sure you will!" the boys said.  "Now let's try  to read the
greetings hanging over the orchestra pit," Volka said.
     Just then a young lady in a little white  apron  carrying  a large tray
appeared.
     "Would  you care for some ice-cream?" she asked the old man.  He looked
at Volka questioningly.
     "Take some, Hottabych, it's very nice.  Try it!" Hottabych tried it and
he  liked it. He bought some for the  boys and another portion  for himself,
then a third and, finally, being carried away, he bought the 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 strange customers.
     "Oho!" Zhenya  winked. "Look at him pack it away." In the space of five
minutes' time,  Hottabych had gulped down all forty-three bars. He ate it as
one would  eat a  cucumber, biting off big  chunks  and  chewing loudly.  He
swallowed the last mouthful just as the performance began.
     "A  world-famous  act!  Presenting  Afanasy  Sidorelli!"  The  audience
applauded and the band played a loud viva.  A  short, middle-aged  man  in a
blue silk robe  embroidered with  gold dragons entered the arena, bowing and
smiling  in all directions. It  was the famous Sidorelli himself. While  his
assistants laid out his props on a small lacquered table, in preparation for
the first magic trick, he continued to bow and smile. A gold tooth glittered
in his mouth when he smiled.
     "It's  wonderful!" Hottabych  whispered  enviously. "What's wonderful?"
Volka asked, clapping as loud as he could.
     "It's  wonderful to  see  a person  who  has  gold teeth growing in his
mouth."
     "You think so?" Volka asked absently as he watched the first trick.
     "I  am  positive," Hottabych replied.  "It's  very beautiful  and  rich
looking."
     Sidorelli completed the trick.
     "Did  you see that?" Volka asked  Zhenya proudly, as if he  himself had
done the trick.
     "It was swell!" Zhenya answered. Volka gasped: Zhenya now had  two rows
of gold teeth in his mouth.
     "Volka! Oh, Volka!" Zhenya whispered in a frightened voice. "I want  to
tell you something-but don't get scared. All your teeth are made of gold."
     "It's all Hottabych's doing, I know," Volka said dejectedly.
     And  true  enough,   the  old  man,  who  was  listening  in  on  their
conversation, nodded and smiled guilelessly. Then they saw that he, too, had
two rows of large, even gold teeth.
     "Even Sulayman, the Son of David (peace be on the holy twain!), did not
have such a luxurious mouth!" he boasted. "But don't bother  thanking me.  I
assure you that you are both worthy of this small surprise."
     "Don't worry, we're in no rush to thank you!" Zhenya muttered.
     Volka was afraid the old man might get angry and he tugged his friend's
sleeve. Zhenya said no more.
     "You  see, Hottabych,"  be  began  diplomatically,  "it'll  be  awfully
obvious if all three of us sitting in a row have gold  teeth. Everybody will
look at us, and we'll feel embarrassed."
     "I won't be embarrassed in the least," Hottabych said.
     "But still, we  won't feel right. There won't be any pleasure in  being
at the circus."
     "So?"
     "Well,  we wanted to ask you to make our teeth plain bone again till we
get home."
     "I am perfectly awed by  your modesty, 0 my young friends!" the old man
said in a somewhat hurt voice.
     It was a relief to feel  that  once  again they had  their own teeth in
their mouths.
     "Will  they  turn  gold  again  when  we  get  home?"  Zhenya whispered
anxiously.
     "Never mind, we'll find out later. Maybe the old man will  forget about
them."
     Once   again  Volka  became  absorbed   watching  Afanasy   Sidorelli's
breath-taking magic. He applauded together with the rest when the man pulled
a pigeon, a hen, and, finally, a  bouncy, fluffy  white poodle from an empty
box.
     There was only one man present who showed no sign of appreciation as he
watched the magician. This was Hottabych.
     He felt very hurt, because everyone was applauding the magician for all
sorts of trifles, while he,  who had  performed such wonderful miracles from
the time he had been liberated from the vessel, had not even heard a  single
sincere word of praise, let alone been applauded.
     That  is  why, when the tent was once  again filled with  applause  and
Sidorelli began bowing to all sides,  Hassan Abdurrakhman ibn Hottab grunted
irritably and,  despite the protests of those sitting in front, proceeded to
climb  over them down  to the  arena. An approving murmur passed through the
crowd  and a stout man  said to his  neighbour: "I told you that the old man
was one of them.  You can tell he's a very experienced clown. Look how funny
he is. Sometimes they sit in with the audience on purpose."
     Fortunately  for the man, Hottabych heard nothing of what 'he said,  as
he was  engrossed in watching the magician. Sidorelli was about to begin his
most difficult trick.
     First of all, the famous illusionist set fire  to several long coloured
ribbons and stuffed them into his mouth. Then he picked up a large, brightly
coloured bowl filled with something that looked like sawdust. He stuffed his
mouth full of the sawdust  and began to fan himself quickly with a beautiful
green fan.  The sawdust in his mouth began to smoulder. Then a wisp of smoke
appeared  and,  finally,  when  the  lights  were turned  out,  everyone saw
thousands  of sparks and even a small flame shoot from the famous magician's
mouth.
     Then,  amidst  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 magic!
It's simple sleight-of-hand!"
     "Isn't he something!" someone shouted.
     "A  wonderful  clown! Bravo, clown!" And everyone  present except Volka
and his friend applauded Hottabych enthusiastically.
     The old man did not understand which clown they were shouting about. He
waited for the applause he had inspired to die down and continued acidly:
     "What kind of magic is that! Ha, ha, ha!"
     He  shoved  the  thunderstruck  magician aside.  To begin with, fifteen
tremendous multi-coloured flames shot from his mouth; they were so real that
a smell of burning filled the circus.
     The  applause was  balm  to Hottabych's  heart.  Then  he  snapped  his
fingers, and instead of one large Sidorelli, seventy-two tiny Sidorellis ran
off in single file along the barrier surrounding the arena. After completing
several circles, they blended into one  large Sidorelli  again, just as tiny
drops of mercury roll together to form a large drop.
     "That's not  all!" Hottabych thundered  in a  voice that was no  longer
human.  He was excited  by the admiration he had aroused,  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
heads, making their lovely silken manes blow. Then, at a signal from the old
man, the  horses  disappeared. Instead, four  huge,  roaring  African  lions
jumped out from under his  jacket. They raced around the arena several times
and also disappeared.
     There was an unending storm of applause from that moment on.
     Hottabych waved his hand and everything on the arena- Sidorelli and his
assistants, and his various  props, and the elegant uniformed attendants-all
shot into the air, completed several farewell 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 smaller size; on
the second was a  third, still smaller; on the third  was a fourth. . .  the
seventh and smallest of all stood right under the top of the tent and was no
bigger than a dog.
     They trumpeted in unison, their trunks raised on high; then all flapped
their ears like wings and flew off.
     The  band  of  thirty-three  musicians-all  shouting  happily- suddenly
became a single ball; it rolled down  from the  bandstand into the arena and
along the barrier, getting smaller and smaller until it was no larger than a
pea. Then Hottabych picked it up, put  it in his right ear, and the  muffled
sounds of a march could be heard coming from within.

     The old man was really bouncing up and down from excitement. He snapped
all  ten fingers at once  and in a very special way,  and  everyone  present
began to shoot up from their  seats, one at a time,  and disappear far under
the big top.
     Finally, only three people remained in the empty 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.
     "Well,  how was  it?" Hottabych asked  limply,  raising his  head  with
difficulty and  looking  at the boys from strangely glazed  eyes. "That's no
Sidorelli for you, is it?"
     "He's certainly no  match for  you," Volka  replied,  winking at Zhenya
angrily, because his friend kept trying to ask the old man something.
     "I can't stand fakers," Hottabych muttered  with unexpected bitterness.
"To pass off simple sleight-of-hand for miracles! And in my presence!"
     "But he didn't know a  wise and mighty Genie was present here,"  Zhenya
put in a word for the magician. "And anyway, he didn't say he was performing
miracles. In fact, he didn't say anything at all."
     "It says so there. It says so in the programme.  You heard  me read it:
'Miracles of Illusion.' "
     "Well, but of illusion, il-lu-sion! Don't you understand?"
     "How they applauded me!" the old man recalled delightedly.  "But you, 0
Volka, have never applauded nor  even approved of me. No,  I'm wrong.  There
was one occasion. But  it was on  account of some very simple magic. I don't
even consider it magic.
     And that evil Varvara Stepanovna is blame. It was she who taught you to
scorn  my gifts! Do not  argue, 0 my  young friends! It was she, it was she!
Such  wonderful  palaces!  Such a lovely little  caravan! Such  devoted  and
healthy slaves! Such excellent camels! And  it was all because of that  evil
Varvara Ste..." but  here, luckily  for the  teacher  and our young friends,
Hottabych's gaze  fell  on  a  long banner hanging  over the bandstand.  His
glazed  eyes,  once  again took on an  intelligent expression; a weak  smile
appeared on 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.
We wish you...."
     The old man fell silent  and closed his eyes.  It seemed as if he  were
about to lose consciousness.
     "Could you bring everyone back to  their seats?" Volka asked anxiously.
"Hottabych, can  you hear me? D'you hear  me?  Can you make everything as it
was before? I bet it's very hard to do, isn't it?"
     "No, not at  all. I mean, it's not hard for me to do at all," Hottabych
answered in a barely audible whisper.
     "I don't think even you can do it," Volka said 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 came whizzing  down, and each one to  his  own  seat.
Sidorelli and his assistants, the props and the uniformed attendants, headed
by the imposing ring-master, appeared on the arena as from under the ground.
     Flapping  their  ears loudly, all seven African  elephants came  flying
back.  They  landed and formed  a pyramid again, only this time the smallest
one was on the bottom and the big one with the twinkling eyes on  top, right
under  the roof. Then  the pyramid they  formed fell apart and  they  rushed
around the arena in single file, getting smaller and smaller until they were
no 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 mushroomed into a huge pile of laughing people and, contrary  to the
law of  gravity, rolled upwards to  the bandstand, where  it fell apart into
thirty-three men. They took their seats and began to play a march.
     "Let  me  through,  please!  Let  me  through!"  a thin  man  in  large
horn-rimmed glasses  said, as he  made  his way  through  the excited  crowd
standing around Hottabych.  "Won't  you be  so  kind as to  drop in  at  the
manager's office? He'd like to talk to you about performing in Moscow and on
a road tour," he said deferentially.
     "Leave the  old  man  alone," Volka  told him unhappily. "Can't you see
he's sick? He's got a high fever!"
     And true enough, Hottabych was really burning up. He had got  sick from
eating too much ice-cream.



     He who has never had to take care of a sick Genie cannot imagine what a
tiring and bothersome affair it is.
     First of all, there arises the question of where to keep him. You can't
put  him  in a  hospital, and  there's no question of  keeping him in bed at
home, where everyone can see him.
     Then again, how does one cure a  Genie? Modern medicine  is useful when
one deals with people, not fairy-tale magicians.
     And, finally, can people catch Genies' diseases?
     The boys discussed these problems at great length  as they rode home in
a cab with a delirious Hottabych.
     They came to the following decisions:
     1. They would not take him to a hospital,  but keep him  as comfortable
as possible under  Volka's bed, suggesting first that, for safety's sake, he
become invisible.
     2. They would treat him  as they  would  a person who had a  cold. They
would give him aspirin  and tea with raspberry jam before going to sleep  to
make him perspire.
     3. Genies' diseases could not possibly be catching.
     Fortunately, no one was at home. They made Hottabych comfortable in his
usual place under Volka's bed.
     Zhenya ran off to buy some aspirins and raspberry jam, while Volka went
to the kitchen to make some tea.
     "Well,  tea's  ready!"  he said cheerfully,  entering the  room with  a
boiling kettle. "Let's have some tea, Hottabych. Hm?"
     There was no answer.
     "He's  dead," Volka gasped and suddenly, despite all the unpleasantness
Hottabych had  caused him, he felt he would  miss the old man terribly if he
died. "Dear, dear Hottabych!" he babbled, crawling under the bed.
     The old man was not there.
     "What a crazy old man!" Volka  said angrily,  forgetting all his tender
feelings. "He was here a moment 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, dragging  a balky Hottabych  behind. The
old man was mumbling something.
     "What a nut! You  can't imagine what a nut he is!" Zhenya shouted as he
helped Volka settle Hottabych under  the bed again. "I was coming  back from
the shop  and there he was,  standing  on  the  corner with a sack of  gold,
trying to hand it  out to passers-by. I asked him, 'What are you  doing here
with a high fever?' And he said, 'I feel my days are counted. I want to hand
out alms on this occasion.' And I said, 'You're nuts! Whom are you  going to
give alms to?  Did you see any  beggars here?' And  he  said, 'If that's the
case, I'll go back home.' So I dragged him back. You  just lie still and get
well! There's no use rushing death!"
     They gave Hottabych a mouthful of  aspirins, then fed him the whole jar
of raspberry jam with tea, and bundled him up tightly to make him perspire.
     For a while, the old man lay there quietly. Suddenly, he began to fuss,
trying to get up. He said he was going to Sulayman, the Son of David, to ask
forgiveness for some  long-forgotten  ill deeds. Then he  began  to cry  and
asked Volka to run down  to the  Mediterranean Sea and the Indian  Ocean and
find a copper vessel on the bottom in  which his dear brother  Omar Asaf ibn
Hottab was imprisoned. He wanted Volka to free him and bring him back home.
     "We'd all  live so  happily here!" he mumbled deliriously with.  bitter
tears pouring down his cheeks.
     Half an hour later  the old man  came to his  senses and said in a weak
voice from under the bed:
     "Oh, my young  friends, you cannot  imagine how grateful I  am for your
love and  precious attention! Will you please  do me a  last favour: bind my
hands  tightly, because I'm afraid I might do such  magic  while unconscious
that I'll never be able to undo it later."
     They tied him up and he immediately fell soundly asleep.
     Next morning Hottabych awoke in the prime of health.
     "That's what  medical attention administered  in  time can  do!" Zhenya
said  with satisfaction. Then  and there he decided to be a doctor  when  he
grew up.



     To tell the truth, each time  Volka thought of Goga, he became terribly
envious.  If  he  was at home  or on  the  stairs, or  downstairs  near  the
entrance, it was difficult not to think of Goga:
     ever  so  often  a teasing,  wonderful,  marvellous  barking  could  be
heard-even through closed doors and closed windows.
     It was most strange, however, that Goga did not come  outside. No other
boy  in his place  could ever have  been  able to stay  away so long and not
boast to his friends about his real, pure-breed puppy. And Goga, especially,
would have gloated to see the children so envious.
     There was something strange about it all. Finally, Volka could not keep
from  asking  Goga's  mother  what  the  matter  was.  She  became  terribly
embarrassed and mumbled something about  her dear  boy being sick.  Then she
rushed off.
     "Wait  a minute!" Volka  pleaded. "Can I ask  you something?  Just  one
question?"
     Goga's mother stopped reluctantly.
     "Can you just tell me if it's an Alsatian? Is it?"
     "What Alsatian?" the poor woman shrugged.
     "The  puppy you gave  Goga. You  know, the one that's barking. Is it an
Alsatian or a Boxer?"
     "Goodness, what nonsense!" she sighed and disappeared quickly  into her
apartment.
     As if for spite, a high-pitched angry barking issued forth.
     It was all very mysterious.
     Just then Hottabych,  who  was lying in  his usual  place under Volka's
bed, asked casually:
     "I wonder how your enemy named Pill is getting on?"
     He  yearned to boast  about the  cunning spell  he  had cast on him and
share with Volka his delight in the trouble Goga was deservedly having.
     "No  one  but I  can ever break the spell,"  he thought.  "I  can  just
imagine how the most greatly-respected Volka ibn Alyosha will be pleased and
how amazed he will be at the endless variety of my powers."
     "Pill?" Volka repeated  absently, for he had  just  thought  of  a very
simple  and  tempting  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 more comfortably.  "I  want  to  ask  you  for  a  big
favour."
     "This is it," the old Genie thought unhappily. He suspected that  Volka
was about to ask him  to break the spell he had cast on Goga; and he decided
to  refuse flatly. At least for the  time being. It wouldn't 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 man was pleased at not being forced to discuss Goga's premature
pardon. He scurried out from under the bed.
     "Just tell me what you want and you'll have it immediately, 0 young and
benevolent Genie-saviour."
     "Could you give me a dog? An Alsatian?"
     "A dog? Nothing could be simpler or more pleasing to my heart!"
     Hottabych  yanked  a  hair  from  his  beard.  Volka  felt  faint  from
happiness:  there,   at   his  feet,  a  magnificent,  sleek  and   muscular
three-year-old Alsatian  stretched with a pleasant  growl.  It  had  lively,
intelligent eyes, a cold, wet nose and marvellous pointed ears. Volka patted
its  neck.  The  dog wagged  its  tail politely and  barked  loudly  from an
overflow of emotion.
     "How do you like this dog?" Hottabych asked, as he bustled about, ready
at a sign from Volka to  fill the entire room, the entire apartment, and the
entire house with the most valuable dogs. "Oh, I beg your pardon. I forgot a
small detail."
     The  "small  detail"  was  a  collar, which  appeared  immediately.  It
glittered with such a  multitude of precious stones that there would be more
than enough for two imperial crowns.
     The unexpected  happiness was  almost more  than Volka  could bear.  He
patted the dog with a  shaking  hand and had such a dazed smile on  his face
that tears of happiness rolled down the kind-hearted old man's cheeks.
     But there can never  be  complete happiness  in life,  at any rate, not
when you are dealing with a Genie's gifts! Suddenly, they heard the clicking
of a woman's heels behind the door. No sooner had Hottabych darted under the
bed,  there  to  become invisible,  than  the door opened and Volka's mother
entered.
     "That's just what  I thought," she said, looking at the animal.  In his
haste, the old Genie had forgotten to make it invisible. "A dog! I'd like to
know where  you got it?" Volka knew he  was sinking fast  and sure.  "I  got
it.... It was given to me... . You see.... What I mean is...."
     There was no sense telling her the truth, and Volka didn't want to lie.
Anyway, there was no  sense  lying-his mother could always tell when  he was
not telling the truth.
     "Volka!" she said, raising  her voice, "I don't  like your  mumbling. I
want you to tell me whose dog it is."
     "It isn't anyone's ... I mean, it wasn't anybody's before, but now it's
mine."
     His mother  turned pink with indignation. "I didn't think you would lie
to me. I didn't think you were  capable of it. Tell me whose dog it is. Why,
the collar alone is worth hundreds of roubles."
     She thought the stones were just coloured glass.  Hottabych became very
angry. He was both  angry and hurt. He wanted this noble, but naive woman to
understand that Has-san Abdurrakhman ibn Hottab was not one to  present  his
best friends  with cheap imitations and that this truly priceless collar was
worth thousands upon thousands of roubles. But  he  checked himself in time,
since he now realized such bragging would only make Volka's situation worse.
     He  himself was a  straightforward and truthful person and was proud of
Volka for not wanting to lie,  even though it was the tiniest white lie. The
only thing to do was to stop the misunderstanding immediately.
     "Well then, my kind and truthful young friend will have to do without a
dog  for the time being. And let him not  be bothered by dreams  of owning a
dog," Hottabych thought, smiling into his beard.
     A  faint crystal  tinkling  issued  from under  the bed,  and  the  dog
disappeared.
     "Volka,  dear," his mother  said,  completely forgetting what  they had
been  talking about. "If my office calls, please tell them I'll be  there in
an hour or so.  By  the way,  do you know whom the doctor  came to see  next
door?"
     "Goga, I guess."
     "Is he ill?"
     "I think so." -
     "You think so! Isn't he your friend?"
     "Some friend!"
     "I'm ashamed  of you, Volka," his mother said angrily,  and she  turned
and walked out of the room with a stony face.
     "Hm!"  Volka sighed and decided  to visit  Goga as  soon as the  doctor
left. "Hottabych! Hey, Hottabych!"
     There was no answer.
     "He's gone again! Whenever you have to discuss something with him, he's
not there. What a Genie!"
     Meanwhile, Hottabych was making  himself  comfortable in  apartment 37,
this  time under Goga's bed. He was curious to see how the  old doctor,  who
obviously had no idea what  a mighty and unusual opponent he was up against,
would helplessly fumble about in search of a correct diagnosis.
     This is what was happening in the room where the most mysterious 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 himself lay hidden under Goga's bed.
     The old doctor's name was  Alexander  Alexeyevich.  We want you to know
this, in case you meet him some day. He was very experienced and wise.
     "Now,  will  you please  leave us alone? There's something we  have  to
discuss," he said kindly to Goga's despairing mother.
     "Well, young man," 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 moaned.
     "Aha!  Well then,  let's just  chat  a bit. What  kind of poems do  you
like?"
     "Bow-wow-wow!"  Goga barked. His mother, who  was standing just outside
the door, began to sob.
     You can imagine what Goga wanted to reply to the old doctor's question!
He was  indignant  and he  considered it a foolish and unnecessary question.
However, 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 Winter's Evening,' a poem by Pushkin," Goga finally answered
after barking for a long while.
     "Won't you recite it for me? Do you know it by heart?"
     Goga recited four lines.
     "That's enough!"  the doctor said. "Now, will you please  tell  me what
you think about your classmate, ah, what's-his-name?  The one who lives next
door?"
     "You mean Volka Kostylkov?"
     "Exactly."
     "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! Well, and what about
the other children in your class?"
     "In my  class?" the ailing Goga smirked. "If you want to  know, all the
kids in my class are bow-wow-wow!"
     "Well,  and what do you think about me? Don't be shy, tell me what  you
really think. What do you think of me as a doctor?"
     "As a doctor, I think you're nothing but a bow-wow-wow!"
     "Wonderful!"  Alexander Alexeyevich exclaimed with  genuine  joy.  "And
what do you think about your mother?"
     "My  mother's very nice," Goga said. His mother, still  standing behind
the  door, burst out in tears,  though  these were tears of happiness.  "But
sometimes  she's bow...." He shuddered  and  fell silent.  "No, she's always
very, very nice."
     "And what about your class wall-newspaper? Do you have  anything to say
about it?" the old doctor asked, but this time only to be doubly certain. He
had finally discovered the essence of the rare illness his young patient was
suffering from. "Did they ever criticize you in the paper?"
     This time Goga kept on barking for at least two  minutes. Hottabych was
tired  of listening to  him, but the  old doctor  was so  delighted that one
would  think it  was not  Goga  Pilukin, nicknamed "Pill" for his  atrocious
temper, barking, but an opera star singing his most famous aria.
     When Goga had barked  his  fill, Alexander Alexeyevich rubbed his hands
together contentedly.
     "It seems quite clear now. But let us not be hasty and, instead, put it
to the test again. Here's my pen  and a sheet of paper. I want you to write:
'There is  no  place in our  country for gossips and tattle-tales!' Have you
written it? Excellent! Let me see it. You have written it nicely and without
a single mistake. Now let's write another  sentence. By the way, what's your
teacher's  name?  Varvara  Stepanovna?  Well  then,   write  this:  'Varvara
Stepanovna!  Vanya  and  Petya  are purposely teaching me  to  swear.  I'm a
conscientious boy and wish you would punish them."
     Goga's  face became  terribly  sour. Something was  obviously wrong. He
kept writing and crossing out what he had written, until the doctor  finally
took  the messy sheet of  paper  away.  This is what he read, chuckling, but
apparently not a bit surprised:
     "Varvara   Stepanovna!   Vanya   and  Petya   bow-wow-wow....   I'm   a
conscientious   boy  and  wish  you  would  bow-wow-wow."   Each   of  these
"bow-wow-wow's"  was  crossed out, but each  time  the unfortunate  Goga had
written in another "bow-wow-wow" over the one that had been crossed out.
     "The committee's findings are clear," the  doctor said, folding the two
papers and putting them away in his  wallet. "Please come in!" he called  to
Goga's mother..
     She entered, dabbing her eyes with a damp hanky.
     After she had sat down,  Alexander Alexeyevich said,  "I have to inform
you that  I  didn't  sleep  a  wink last night, because I  was busy  looking
through my  medical books and  thinking. I  could find nothing  at all which
even vaguely resembled your son's case."
     The poor woman gasped nervously.
     "Do not  despair,  my good woman," the old doctor said. "Things are not
hopeless. I  read on and  on, and thought a  great  deal. And  after  that I
naturally  could  not  fall  asleep, for  I'm getting  on in years.  Seeking
distraction, I picked up a  volume of Arabian Nights and read a tale about a
magician or, rather, a Genie, changing a person he disliked into a dog. Then
I  thought that if there really were Genies  in  the world (Hottabych  lying
under the bed  was  offended) and if one of them decided  to punish someone,
say a boy, for gossiping, tattling, and  thinking  poorly of his friends, he
could  cast  a spell on him that would make him  bark each time he wanted to
say  something bad.  Your son  and I just had a long talk  and we discovered
that he could recite a poem by Pushkin without barking  at all and  speak of
you with hardly a small bark, and then  bark incessantly when talking of his
friends or the school newspaper, in which he had apparently  been criticized
several  times. Do you understand what  I'm  getting at? I do hope I've made
myself clear."
     "Do you mean," Goga's mother said thoughtfully, "that..."
     "Exactly. Naturally, there aren't any Genies and  there never were any.
(Hottabych again felt  hurt, this time even more than before.) What your son
has is a very strange kind of psychological trauma. And I must warn you that
he will continue barking in the future...."
     "Oh my goodness!" the poor woman wailed.
     "Yes,  he will  bark  each time  he decides  to tattle  or  gossip,  or
whenever he  tries  to  say something  unpleasant.  And then  people will no
longer call  him  Goga Pilukin, but Bow-Wow Pilukin. And this will  continue
when he grows up, although no  one  will call  him that  to his face. As you
see, your  son may find himself in a very unhappy situation. However, if  he
makes  a  firm  resolution never  to tattle, gossip,  or spoil good people's
lives, I can guarantee you that he will stop barking once and for all."
     "Bow-Wow  Pilukin!"  Goga's  unfortunate mother thought and  shuddered.
"How horrible! I would never survive it. But what about some medicine? Won't
you at least write out a prescription for some medicine?"
     "In this case, no medicine will help. Well, young man, shall we give it
a try?"
     "And I won't bark at all any more?"
     "Everything depends entirely on you."
     "Then  you  won't leave  a prescription?"  Goga's  mother asked  again,
seeing that the doctor was about to leave.
     "I gave you my prescription,  the only one  that will work. However, we
can check  on it.  Now,  won't  you say a  few fair words  about your friend
Volka? I want you to pay special attention: I said 'fair.'"
     "Sure, Volka Kostylkov's a good fellow," Goga mumbled hesitantly, as if
he were just learning how to talk. "You're right dear,  dear doctor! This is
the first time since the geography exam that I  didn't bark  when  I  talked
about Volka! Hurray!"
     "Exactly what happened at  the  exam?"  the old  doctor  asked,  as  if
casually.
     "Why, nothing special. Can't a boy suddenly  become ill from overwork?"
Goga went on in a much more confident tone.
     "I guess  I'll be going along,"  Alexander Alexeyevich said. "I have to
visit  a  good  dozen real patients. I  take it  you understood  everything,
Goga?"
     "Yes! Oh, yes! Upon my word of honour! Thank you!"
     "Well, then, keep it up! Good-bye, everyone."
     "Where'd you disappear to?"  Volka  shouted  at  the old Genie  several
seconds later, as Hottabych crawled  back  to his place under his bed with a
very thoughtful expression-on his face.
     "Listen,  0  Volka,"  the  old man  said with  great solemnity.  I just
witnessed a  most unusual  scene: a spell  cast by a  Genie  was broken by a
human being! True, this was a very wise and very just human being. He was so
just  that I didn't even think  of  punishing him for not  believing  in  my
existence. Where are you going?
     "I have to visit Goga. I should really be ashamed of myself."
     "Yes, do go and visit your classmate. Though he is no longer ill."
     "Not ill at all? Did he get well so quickly?"
     "That depends entirely on him," Hottabych said.  And  pocketing his own
pride, he told Volka about the only known case of curing a boy who barked.




     "0 blessed Volka," Hottabych said as he basked happily in the sun after
breakfast, "each time 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 me what you and your young friend 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  me a pair  of large navy
binoculars?" Volka said promptly.
     "With the greatest of pleasure and joy."
     "I'd  like a pair of  binoculars, too. I mean, if  it's all  right with
you," Zhenya added shyly.
     "Nothing could be simpler."
     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 friends had difficulty in pushing their way to the  counter. There  were
so many odd  items on the shelves that they could  never be sorted according
to any system, for then  there would have to be a separate section for  each
item.
     "Show me,  0 sweet Volka, what these binoculars  so dear to your  heart
look  like," Hottabych  said happily but then suddenly turned pale and began
to tremble.
     He looked at his young friends sadly,  burst  into tears  and said in a
hollow voice, "Farewell, 0  light of my eyes!" Then, shoving  the  people in
the shop aside, he headed towards a grey-haired ruddy-complexioned foreigner
and fell to his knees before the man.
     "Order  me  as you  will,  for  I  am  your obedient and humble slave!"
Hottabych mumbled, swallowing his tears and  trying to kiss  the flap of the
foreigner's jacket.
     "Shame  on you, citizen, to go  begging in our times!"  one of the shop
assistants said to Hottabych.
     "And  so,  how many I should have  pay  you  for  this  bad  ring?" the
foreigner  continued nervously  in bad Russian,  after being interrupted  by
Hottabych.
     "Only ten roubles and seventy kopeks," the 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 businessman. He  spent all his
free time combing 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 Lomonosov
Pottery very cheaply and now, just when an inconsolable Hottabych had fallen
to  his knees before  him,  he was pricing a  time-blackened  ring which the
clerk thought  was  made of  silver and Mr.  Moneybags  thought was  made of
platinum.
     When he received his purchase he put it in his vest pocket and left the
shop. Hottabych rushed out after him, wiping the  tears that poured down his
wrinkled old face. As he passed his friends, he barely had time to whisper:
     "Alas! This grey-haired foreigner holds the magic ring of Sulayman, the
Son of David (on the twain be  peace!). And I am the slave of this  ring and
must follow its owner.  Farewell, my  friends. I'll always remember 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 river bank, where, as
of late, they were wont to sit long hours having  heart-to-heart talks. They
lay on the  bank  for  a long time, right near the place where such a  short
while  ago  Volka  had  found the  slimy  clay  vessel with Hottabych.  They
recalled the old man's  funny but endearing ways  and became  more  and more
convinced that, when  all was said  and done, he had had a very pleasant and
kind nature.
     "There's  no use denying it.  We didn't appreciate  Hottabych  enough,"
Zhenya said critically and heaved a sigh.
     Volka  turned on his other side and was about to reply, but instead  he
jumped to his feet quickly and ran off.
     "Hurray! Hottabych is back! Hurray!"
     And true enough, Hassan Abdurrakhman ibn Hottab was approaching them in
a quick old man's  shuffle. Dangling over his  shoulder on  long straps were
two black leather cases containing large naval binoculars.

     HASSAN ABDURRAKHMAN IBM  HOTTAB'S STORY OF HIS ADVENTURES AFTER LEAVING
THE SHOP

     "Know ye,  0  my  young  friends,  that  my  story  is strange  and  my
adventures most unusual. I want you to sit beside me  while I tell you how I
came to be here again.
     "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 plentifully. He walked so quickly that I was barely able to
keep  up with  him.  I  caught up with him on another  street and  fell down
before him crying, 'Order me to follow you, 0 my master!'
     "But he would not listen and continued on his way. I caught up with him
eighteen times  in all and eighteen times  I fell on my knees before him and
eighteen times he left me where I was.
     "And so we continued on until we came to  his house. I wanted to follow
him in, but he shouted, 'You do not push into my rooms or I will  be calling
a militia man!' Then I asked him whether I was to stand  by his door all day
and he replied, 'Till next year if you want to!'
     "And I remained outside the  door,  for the words of  one who possesses
Sulayman's ring are law to me. And I stood there for some time until I heard
a noise  overhead  and the window opened. I  looked up and saw  a tall  thin
woman in a green silk dress standing by the window. Her laugh was bitter and
taunting. Behind her stood  the same foreigner who  now looked extremely put
out. The woman said derisively, 'Alas, how mistaken I was when I married you
fourteen years ago! You  always were  and  always  will  be a very  ordinary
haberdasher! My goodness,  not  to  be  able to tell a worthless silver ring
from a platinum one! Oh, if only my poor father had known!'
     "And  she tossed the ring down on the pavement and shut the window with
a bang.  I saw this and dropped senseless  to the ground, for if  Sulayman's
ring is  thrown  to  the  ground  terrible calamities  may occur. But then I
opened my eyes and became convinced that I was alive and nothing unfortunate
had happened. I gathered from this that I can consider myself lucky.
     "Then I jumped to my feet and blessed my fate. I picked up the ring and
ran  back to you, my friends, having previously procured the presents you so
desired. That's all I have to say."
     "It's just like  in a fairy-tale," Zhenya  cried excitedly when the old
man had finished his story. "Can I hold the magic 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 immediately."
     "Golly!"  Zhenya said, putting on the ring. He turned it  and said in a
loud  voice, "I want  a  bicycle right now!" All three held their breaths in
expectation. However, no bicycle appeared.
     Zhenya repeated  still louder, "I want to  have a  bicycle immediately!
This very minute!"
     But the bicycle just wouldn't appear.
     "Something must have gone wrong with  the ring,"  Volka said, taking it
from Zhenya  and looking  at  it closely.  "Look, there's  something written
inside. It's written in Russian!" he said and read aloud: "Wear this, Katya,
and remember me. Vasya Kukushkin, May 2, 1916."



     "Anyone  can make  a mistake," Volka said magnanimously,  looking  at a
confused Hottabych with sympathy. "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 their binoculars  from the leather
cases and began  enjoying their wonderful presents. The far-off  houses came
right  up  to  the river, tiny dots  turned  into walking people, and  a car
speeding down  the  road seemed about to knock the happy  owner of a pair of
binoculars off his feet. One could not even dream of bigger enlargement.
     "Hottabych," Volka said  several minutes later,  "here, have  a look at
who's  coming towards  us."  He handed his binoculars over to Hottabych, who
had already discerned Mr. Harry  Moneybags in person walking rapidly towards
them. In fact, he was running, huffing and puffing from his great weight.
     When 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
merely strolling  along to  get away  from the  city noises. When he came up
close, his red face contorted into a sickeningly sweet smile and he said:
     "Oh, my goodness! How pleasant and unexpected meetings!"
     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 temper that day, and
that is why she tossed the ring out of  the window so hastily. After she had
tossed it out,  she remained standing at the  window to calm her nerves.  It
was then that she noticed with interest an old man picking the  ring up from
the gutter and dashing off as fast as he could.
     "Did you  see that?" she said to her crestfallen husband. "What a funny
old  man! He grabbed up that cheap ring  as if it  had an emerald in  it and
scampered off."
     "Oh, that was  a very bothersome  old man!"  her  husband answered in a
more lively tone. "He came up to me back in the second-hand shop and hung on
to me right to our  doorstep, and just imagine, my dear, he  kept falling to
his  knees  before  me and  shouting, 'I  am your slave,  because  you  have
Sulayman's  ring!' and I said, 'Sir, you  are greatly mistaken.  I have just
bought this ring and it belongs  to no one but me.' But he was stubborn as a
mule and kept on saying, 'No, it's Sulayman's ring! It's a magic ring!'  And
I  said, 'No, it's not a magic ring, its a  platinum one!' And he said, 'No,
my master, it's not platinum, it's a magic ring!' and he pretended he wanted
to kiss the flap of my jacket."
     His wife  gazed  at him  with loathing  and then, apparently unable  to
stand his  smug  expression,  she looked away. Her  eyes came upon a copy of
Arabian Nights lying  on the couch. Suddenly she was struck by an idea. Mrs.
Moneybags collapsed into the nearest armchair and whispered bitterly:
     "My God!  How  unlucky I  am  to be obliged to  live with  such a  man!
Someone  with  your  imagination,  Sir,  should  be  an  undertaker,  not  a
businessman. A lizard has more brains than you!"
     "What's the matter, my dear?" her husband asked anxiously.
     "Gentlemen," Mrs. Moneybags wailed  tragically, though there was no one
save themselves in the room. "Gentlemen, this man  wants to  know what's the
matter! Sir,  will  you  be  kind  enough  to  catch  up  with  the old  man
immediately and get the ring back before it's too late!"
     "But  what  do  we want it for? It's a  cheap little silver ring, and a
home-made one at that."
     "This man  will surely drive me to  my grave! He  keeps asking me why I
want King  Solomon's  magic ring! Gentlemen, he wants to know why I  need  a
ring  that can fulfil one's any wish, that can make one the richest and most
powerful man in the world!"
     "But, my dove, where have you ever seen a magic 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 my hand, my sweet, my jacket!"
     "All the more so! Will you  please be so kind as  to catch up  with the
old man immediately and take back the ring! And I don't envy you if you come
back without it!"
     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 magic one. That is why he decided to begin from afar.
     "Oh, my goodness! How happy and unexpected surprise!" he cried  with so
sweet a  smile that one would think  he had dreamed of becoming their friend
all his life. "What a wonderful weather! How you feel?"
     Hottabych bowed silently.
     "Oh!"  Mr.  Moneybags exclaimed with  feigned  surprise. "I see on your
finger one silver ring. You give me look at this silver ring?"
     "With the utmost of pleasure,"  Hottabych  answered, extending his hand
with the ring on it.
     Instead of  admiring  the ring, Mr. Moneybags  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 became still redder, so that Hottabych feared  Mr. Moneybags might even
have a stroke.
     "You have buy this ring someplace?"
     He expected the old man to lie, or at least to try every means possible
to get back the almighty ring. Mr. Moneybags sized up the skinny old man and
the two  boys and decided he would be more than a match for  them  if things
took a bad turn.
     However,  to his great surprise the  old man  did not lie. Instead,  he
said quite calmly:
     "I did not buy the  ring, I picked it up in the gutter near your house.
It is your ring, 0 grey-haired foreigner!"
     "Oh!" Mr. Moneybags exclaimed happily.  "You  are very honest  old man!
You will be my 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 me before that  this  ring is  magic
ring.  I can  actually have fulfil any wish?"  Hottabych  nodded.  The  boys
giggled. They  decided  that  Hottabych was about  to play  a  trick on this
unpleasant man and were ready to have a good laugh.
     "Oh, thank you, thank you!" Mr. Moneybags said. "You will be explaining
how I use magic ring."
     "With  the greatest of  pleasure, 0  most  ruddy-faced of  foreigners!"
Hottabych  answered,  bowing low.  "You take the magic  ring,  put it on the
index finger of your left hand, turn it and say your wish."
     "And it has to by all means come true?"
     "Exactly."
     "Most different various kind of wish?"
     "Any wish at all."
     "Ah,  so?"  Mr. Moneybags said with satisfaction and  his face at  once
became cold and  arrogant.  He turned the ring around quickly and shouted to
Hottabych, "Hey,  you foolish  old  man! Coming  here!  You  be  packing  my
moneys!"
     His insolent tone  enraged Volka and Zhenya. They moved  a step forward
and were  about to open their  mouths to reprimand  him, but Hottabych waved
them away angrily and approached Mr. Moneybags.
     "Begging your pardon, sir," the old man said humbly. "I don't know what
kind of money you mean. Show me some, so I know what it looks like."
     "Cultured man must know how moneys look," Mr. Moneybags muttered.
     And  taking  a foreign  bill from his pocket, he waved  it in  front of
Hottabych and then put it back.
     Hottabych bowed.
     "And now. Now is time to begin  business," said Mr. Moneybags. "Let  me
have now one hundred bags of moneys!"
     "You have  a  long wait coming!" Volka  snickered and winked at Zhenya.
"That Mr. Moneybags has  got his teeth into the magic ring. 'Wear it, Katya,
and remember me.' "
     "Let  me have  immediately coming  one  thousand  bags  of moneys," Mr.
Moneybags repeated.
     He  was disappointed: the  money did not appear.  The boys  watched him
with open malice.
     "I  can't see moneys!  Where is my  one  thousand bags of moneys?"  Mr.
Moneybags bellowed and immediately fell senseless to the ground, having been
struck by a huge sack which dropped out of the blue.
     While Hottabych was bringing him back to  his  senses,  the boys opened
the sack.
     One hundred carefully tied bags of money were stuffed in side. Each bag
contained one hundred bills.
     "What a funny  ring!" Zhenya muttered unhappily. "It won' even  give  a
decent person a bike, but this character gets hundred bags of money just for
nothing! That sure is some 'Wear it, Katya, and remember me,' for you!"
     "It sure is strange," Volka shrugged.
     Mr.  Moneybags opened his eyes,  saw the  bags of money;  jumped to his
feet, counted the bags and saw  that there were exactly one hundred of them.
However, his happy smile soon vanished. No sooner had 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
shouted heatedly:
     "One hundred bags is little! I want immediately one million! Right away
now!"
     He barely had time to jump 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  million bags  of  money  spilled  out on the  grass. Each bag contained a
hundred bills.
     These bills in no  way differed from  real money,  except  for the fact
that they  all had the same serial number. This was the number Hottabych had
seen on the bill the greedy owner of the magic ring had shown him.
     Mr. Moneybags would certainly have  been grieved  to discover this, for
any bank-teller would have noticed that all  the numbers were the same,  and
that would mean it was counterfeit money. However, Mr. Moneybags had no time
to check the serial numbers  just now. Pale from excitement,  he  climbed to
the top  of the precious  pile  and  stood  up to  his  full  height  like a
monument,  like a  living  embodiment  of greed.  Mr.  Moneybag's  hair  was
dishevelled,  his  eyes burned with insane fire, his hands trembled and  his
heart thundered in his breast.
     "And now ... and now... and now I want ten thousand gold watches strewn
with diamonds,  twenty thousand gold cigarette cases, 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 think what  you  have  received  is
enough?" Hottabych asked sternly.
     "Silence!" Mr. Moneybags yelled and stamped his feet in rage. "When the
boss do business, the servant must silence! Ring, do as my wish is! Fast!"
     "Go back where you came from, you  old grabber!" Volka shouted. "Out of
our country! We'll propel you out of here!"
     "May it be so," Hottabych agreed and yanked four hairs from his beard.
     That very  moment the sacks of money, the crates  of china, watches and
necklaces,  everything   the  silver  ring  had  brought-  disappeared.  Mr.
Moneybags  himself  rolled down the grass  and along the  path very quickly,
heading in the direction from which he  had recently come so full of  hopes.
In no time he was gone with just a little puff of dust to show where he  had
been.
     After the boys had regained their composure and calmed down, Volka said
in a thoughtful tone, "I can't understand what sort of a  ring it is-a plain
one or a magic one?"
     "Why, 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? Why?"
     "It was just  a matter of politeness, 0 curious youth. I felt  indebted
to  the man, because I bothered him in  the  shop and annoyed him on the way
home,  right up to his very doorstep.  1  felt  it  wouldn't be fair  not to
fulfil  a few of his  wishes,  but his  greed and  his  black soul turned my
stomach."
     "That's right!"
     When they  left the river bank  and walked along the  street, Hottabych
stepped on a small round object. It was the ring with the inscription: "Wear
it, Katya, and remember me," which Mr. Moneybags must have lost as he rolled
away.
     The  old  man  picked  it  up,  wiped  it  with  his huge,  bright-blue
handkerchief, and put it on his right small finger.
     The boys and the old  man  came home, went to bed and woke up  the next
morning,  but Mr. Moneybags was still rolling and rolling away home to where
he had come from.



     On a bright and sunny summer day our friends set out  to see a football
game. During the soccer season  the entire  population  of Moscow is divided
into two alien  camps.  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 game, 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 of superiority.
     In  turn,  these  other  Muscovites shrug in  amazement when  they  see
hundreds of crowded buses  and trolley-buses and thousands  of cars crawling
through the turbulent sea of pedestrian fans.
     But  the  army  of  fans  which  appears  so unified  to an onlooker is
actually torn into two camps. This is unnoticeable while the fans are making
their way to the stadium. However, as they approach the gates, this division
appears  in  all its ugliness. It suddenly becomes  evident that some people
have tickets,  while others do  not. The possessors  of tickets pass through
the gates  confidently; the others dart back and forth excitedly, rushing at
new arrivals with the same plaintive plea: "D'you  have an extra ticket?" or
"You don't have an extra ticket, do you?"
     As a rule, there are so few extra tickets and so many people in need of
them, that if  not for Hottabych, Volka and Zhenya would have certainly been
left outside the gates.
     "With the greatest of pleasure," Hottabych murmured in reply to Volka's
request. "You'll have as many as you need in a minute."
     No sooner were  these words  out of  his  mouth, than the boy  saw  him
holding  a whole  sheaf  of blue, green  and yellow  tickets. "Will  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  man  shouted,
making a dash for him. A few seconds  later no less than a hundred and fifty
excited people were pressing  Hottabych's  back against the  concrete fence.
The old man would have been as good  as dead if not for Volka.  He ran  to a
side and shouted at the top of his voice:
     "Over here! Who needs an extra ticket? Who needs some extra tickets?"
     At these magic 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 moment 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
apron carrying a white lacquered box approached them.
     "Would  you like  some ice-cream?" she asked  and  shrieked. We must 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. Two,  please." In the  worst of
cases: "No, thank you."
     Now, just imagine that upon hearing the young lady's polite question, a
little  old man in a straw boater turned  as red as a beet,  his eyes became
bloodshot and he bristled all over. He leaned over to her and whispered in a
fierce voice:
     "A-a-ah! You want to kill me with your foul ice-cream! Well, you won't,
despicable thing! The forty-six ice-creams  which I, old fool that I am, ate
in the circus nearly sent me to my grave.
     They have been enough to last me the  rest of my life. Tremble, wretch,
for I'll turn you into a hideous toad!"
     At  this, he rose and  raised  his  dry wrinkled  arms over  his  head.
Suddenly a boy with sun-bleached eyebrows on his freckled face hung onto the
old man's arms and shouted in a frightened voice, "She's not to blame if you
were greedy and stuffed yourself  with ice-cream! Please sit down, and don't
be silly!"
     "I hear and  I obey," the old man answered obediently.  He let down his
arms  and resumed  his seat. Then he addressed the  frightened young lady as
follows, "You  can go now. I forgive  you. Live in peace and be grateful  to
this youth till the end of your days, for he has saved your life."
     The young  lady did not appear in their section again for the remainder
of the afternoon.



     Meanwhile, the stadium was full of that very special festive atmosphere
which pervades it during decisive  football matches. Loud-speakers blared. A
hundred thousand people were heatedly discussing the possible outcome of the
game, thus giving rise  to  a hum of human  voices  incomparable to anything
else. Everyone was impatiently awaiting the umpire's whistle.
     Finally, the  umpire  and  the  linesmen appeared on  the emerald-green
field.  The  umpire was carrying a ball which  was  to  be  kicked back  and
forth-thus covering quite a few miles on land  and in the  air-and, finally,
having landed in one goal more times than  in the other, was to decide which
team  was the  winner  that day. He put the ball down  in the  centre of the
field. The two teams appeared  from their locker rooms and lined up opposite
each other. The captains shook hands  and drew lots to see which team was to
play against the  sun. The unfortunate lot fell to the Zubilo  team, to  the
great satisfaction of the Shaiba team 4 and a portion of the fans.
     "Will 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 impatiently and said, "You'll see for yourself in
a minute."
     At  that  very moment a  Zubilo player kicked  the ball smartly and the
game was on.
     "Do you  mean that these twenty-two  nice  young men  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  for all twenty-two  of
them?" Hottabych asked in a very displeased voice a few minutes later.
     Volka was completely engrossed in the  game and did not reply. He could
not be bothered with  Hottabych at a time when the Shaiba's forwards had got
possession of the ball and were approaching the Zubilo goal.
     "You  know what, Volka?"  Zhenya whispered. "It's 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 jumped to his feet.
     At that very  moment, the other hundred  thousand  fans also jumped  to
their feet and began to shout. The umpire's whistle pierced the air, but the
players had already come to a standstill.
     Something unheard-of in the history of football had happened, something
that  could  not  be  explained by  any  law of nature: twenty-two  brightly
coloured balls dropped  from somewhere  above in the sky and rolled down the
field. They were all made of top-grain morocco leather.
     "Outrageous! Hooliganism! Who did this?" the fans 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
responsible.
     "See what you've gone and done?"  Volka whispered.  "You've stopped the
game and prevented the Shaiba team from making a sure point!"
     However, Volka was  not especially displeased at the team's misfortune,
for he was a Zubilo fan.
     "I wanted to improve things," Hottabych whispered guiltily.  "I thought
it  would be much better if each player could play with his own ball as much
as he wanted to, instead of shoving  and  chasing around like  mad on such a
great big field."
     "Golly!  I don't know  what to do with you!" Volka cried in despair and
pulled the old man down. He hurriedly  explained the basic rules of football
to him. "It's a shame that the Zubilo team has to play opposite the sun now,
because after they change places in the second half it  won't be in anyone's
eyes any more. This  way, the Shaiba players  have a terrific advantage, and
for no  good reason  at all," he  concluded  emphatically, hoping  Hottabych
would bear his words in mind.
     "Yes, it really is  unfair,"  the old  man  agreed. Whereupon  the  sun
immediately disappeared behind a little cloud and stayed  there till the end
of the game.
     Meanwhile,  the extra balls had been  taken  off  the field, the umpire
totalled up the time wasted, and the game was resumed.
     After Volka's explanation, Hottabych began to  follow the course of the
match with ever-increasing interest. The Shaiba players, who had lost a sure
point because of the twenty-two balls, were nervous and were  playing badly.
The old man felt guilty and was conscience-stricken.



     Thus,  the  sympathies of  Volka Kostylkov  and Hassan Abdurrakhman ibn
Hottab were fatally  divided. When the first  beamed with pleasure (and this
happened every time a Shaiba player missed the other  team's goal),  the old
man became darker than a cloud. However, when the Zubilo forwards missed the
Shaiba  goal,  the reaction was reversed. Hottabych would burst out in happy
laughter and Volka would become terribly angry.
     "I don't see what's so funny about it, Hottabych. Why, they nearly made
a point!"
     "'Nearly' doesn't count, my dear boy," Hottabych would answer.
     Hottabych, who was witnessing a football game for the first time in his
life, 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 become a fan,
too.  Volka was so engrossed in what was happening on the field that he paid
not the slightest attention to  anything else-and  this forgetfulness of his
caused all the unusual events which took place at the stadium that day.
     It  all began during a very tense moment, when the Zubilo forwards were
approaching  the  Shaiba  goal  and Volka  bent  over  to  Hottabych's  ear,
whispering hotly:
     "Hottabych, dear,  please make the Shaiba goal  a little wider when the
Zubilo men kick the ball." The old man frowned.
     "Of what good will this be to the Shaiba team?"
     "Why should you worry about them? It's good for the Zubilo team."
     The  old man said nothing. Once again the Zubilo players missed. Two or
three minutes later  a happy  Shaiba player kicked the  ball into the Zubilo
goal, to the approving yells of the Shaiba fans.
     "Yegor, please don't laugh, but I'm  ready  to swear the goal post's on
the Shaiba's side," the Zubilo goalie said to one of  the spare players when
the game had passed over to the far end of the field.
     "Wha-a-at?"
     "You see, when they  kicked the  ball, the right  goal post.. . upon my
sacred word of  honour ... the right goal post... moved  about a half a yard
away and let the ball pass. I saw it with my own eyes!"
     "Have you taken your temperature?" the spare player asked,
     "Why?"
     "You sure must have a high fever!"
     "Humph!" the goalie spat and stood tensely in the goal.
     The  Shaiba  players  were out-manoeuvring  the defence  and were  fast
approaching the Zubilo goal.
     Barn! The second goal in three minutes! And  it had not been the Zubilo
goalie's fault either time. He was  fighting like a tiger. But what could he
do? At  the moment  the ball was hit, the cross-bar rose of its own  accord,
just high enough to let it pass through, brushing the tips of his fingers.
     Whom could he complain to? Who would ever believe him? The goalie  felt
scared  and forlorn, just like a  little boy who finds himself in the middle
of a forest at night.
     "See that?" he asked Yegor in a hopeless voice. "I th-th-th-ink I did,"
the spare player stuttered. "But you c-c-c-an't tell anyone, n-n-no one will
ever  b-b-believe you." "That's just it, no  one'll believe me," the  goalie
agreed  sadly. Just then,  a  quiet  scandal  was taking place in the  North
Section.  A  moment  before  the  second goal,  Volka  noticed  the old  man
furtively yank a hair from his beard.
     "What  did he do  that for?" he wondered uneasily, still unaware of the
storm gathering over the field. However, even this thought did  not  come to
Volka immediately.
     The game was going so badly for the  Zubilo team that he had no time to
think of the old man.
     But soon everything became perfectly clear.
     The first  half of the game was nearing an end, and it seemed that Luck
had finally turned its face towards the Zubilo team, The ball was now on the
Shaiba side of the field. The Zubilo men were ploughing up the earth, as the
saying  goes, and soon their best forward  kicked the ball  with  tremendous
force into the top corner of the Shaiba goal.
     All one hundred thousand fans  jumped to their feet. This sure goal was
to give the team its first point. Volka  and Zhenya, two ardent Zubilo fans,
winked happily to  each other, but immediately groaned  with disappointment:
it was  a sure  goal, but the ball smacked 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 goal, but it had knocked him smartly
on the head.
     Now Volka understood all and was terrified.
     "Hassan  Abdurrakhman  ibn Hottab," he said in a shaking voice. "What's
this  I see? You know both Zhenya and  I are  Zubilo fans, and here you are,
against us! You're a Shaiba fan!"
     "Alas, 0 blessed one, it is so!" the old man replied unhappily.
     "Didn't  I  save  you  from imprisonment  in  the  clay vessel?"  Volka
continued bitterly.
     "This is  as true as  the fact that  it  is now day and that there is a
great future ahead of you," Hottabych replied in a barely audible voice.
     "Then why are you helping the Shaiba team instead of the Zubilo team?"
     "Alas,  I have no power over my actions,"  Hottabych answered sadly, as
large  tears  streamed down his  wrinkled  face. "I want  the Shaiba team to
win."



     "Just wait, nothing good will come of it!" Volka threatened.
     "Be that as it may."
     That very moment the Zubilo goalie slipped on an extremely dry spot and
let the third ball into the goal.
     "Oh, so  that's how  it is!  You won't listen to  reason, will you? All
right then!" Volka jumped onto the bench and shouted, pointing to Hottabych:
     "Listen; everyone! He's been helping the Shaiba team all the time!"
     "Who's  helping  them? The umpire?  What do you mean?"  people began to
shout.
     "No, not the umpire! What has  he to do with it? It's this old man here
who's helping them.... Leave me alone!"
     These last  words  were addressed  to Zhenya, who  was  tugging at  his
sleeve nervously. Zhenya realized that no good would come of Volka's quarrel
with  Hottabych.  But  Volka  would  not stop, though no  one took his words
seriously.
     "So  you say the old man is shifting the goal  posts from over here, in
the North  Section?"  People roared with laughter. "Ha, ha, ha!  He probably
has  a  special gimmick in his pocket to regulate the goals at  a  distance.
Maybe he even tossed all those balls into the field?"
     "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-ha!"
     "No,  he  wasn't  responsible for  that." Volka was  an honest boy. "An
earthquake is the  result of a catastrophic shifting  of soil. Especially in
Chile. And he was just recently released from a vessel."
     A middle-aged man sitting behind Volka entered the  conversation. Volka
knew him, since they lived  in  the same house. He was the one who had named
his cat Homych in honour of the famous goalie.
     "Keep your shirt on,  and don't make a fool of yourself,"  the man 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 long minutes left till the end
of the first time, but the  score was already  14:0  in favour of the Shaiba
team.
     Strange things  kept  happening to the Zubilo players.  They seemed  to
have forgotten how to  play: their tackling was amazingly feeble and stupid.
The men kept falling; it was as if they had just learned how to walk.
     And  then the  defence began  to  act queerly. Those old football lions
began to shy away in fright as soon as they saw the  ball approaching, as if
it were a bomb about to explode.
     Oh,  how  miserable  our  young  friends  were! Just  think:  they  had
explained  the rules  of soccer to  Hottabych  to their own misfortune! What
were  they  to  do? How were they to help the unfortunate 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 attention
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 and  see what a wonderful
team you're  disgracing in the  eyes  of the nation!" He pointed towards the
heading: "An Up-and-Coming Team." Hottabych read aloud:
     "The Zubilo  team  has improved considerably during the current season.
In  their last  game  in  Kuibyshev against the local 'Krylya Sovetov'- team
they  demonstrated  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,
than the Zubilo men came to life. Their forwards immediately proved that the
article in Soviet Sports had all the facts  straight.  A  great  roar coming
from tens of thousands of excited  throats accompanied nearly every kick. In
a  few  seconds the  game was  on the Shaiba half  of  the  field.  One kick
followed another in quick succession. Those Zubilo players were really good!
     A few more moments, and they would finally be able to score.
     "Aha!"  Volka's neighbour  shouted behind his  back. "See?! What did  I
say! They'll show those Shaiba imbeciles a thing or two...."
     Ah, how much better it would  have been for all  concerned  if  he  had
curbed his joy. He should not have nudged Hottabych in  the side with such a
triumphant look on his face, as if every man on  the Zubilo team was his own
favourite son, or at least his favourite pupil!
     Hottabych  started, tore his eyes from the paper, 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 finish reading it later," the old man said. He hurriedly yanked a
hair from  his beard, and  the  Zubilo team's unexplainable  and disgraceful
sufferings began anew.



     The  ball  flew into  the Zubilo goal  on an average of  once every  40
seconds.


     But what had happened to the goalie? Why did he clutch at the side-post
and  wail "Mamma!" every time the ball was kicked into the goal? Why did  he
suddenly walk to the  side with  a thoughtful expression on his face-and for
no apparent reason at all-and this at  a most decisive moment, in the middle
of a heated tangle right in front of the goal?
     "Shame! It's outrageous! What's the matter with  you!" the fans shouted
from all  sides.  But  he,  the  famous  goalie, the pride  of  his country,
staggered out of the goal and  off  to  a side every time the opposite  team
closed in.
     "What's  the  matter with you? Have you gone  crazy?" the spare  player
croaked.
     And the goalie moaned in reply:
     "I sure have. Someone seems to be  pulling me. I try to hold my ground,
but something keeps pushing me out of the goal.
     When I want  to  turn towards the ball, that same  something presses me
toward the goal-post so hard that I can't tear myself away."
     "Things are really bad!"
     "Couldn't be worse!"
     The situation was so extraordinary that  there was not a person present
at  the  stadium,  including the  ticket  collectors, militia  men and  food
vendors, who was not taking the strange events
     to heart and discussing them loudly.
     There was only one fan among the thousands who, though
     suffering  keenly,  was   remarkably  silent.  This  was  an  amazingly
uncommunicative man of about fifty-five, grey-haired, tall and lanky, with a
long, yellowish stony face. His face was equally stony during an unimportant
game and during  the finals, when a successful kick decides the  champion of
the year. He was always equally dour, straightlaced and immobile.
     This  day  he  was  in his  usual seat,  which was  right in  front  of
Hottabych. As  he was a Zubilo fan, one  can well imagine the anguish in his
sunken, bony  chest.  However, only the shifting of his  eyes and the barely
discernible movements of his head indicated that he was far from indifferent
to the events taking place on the field. He apparently had a bad  heart, and
had to take  good  care  of  himself, for  any amount of emotion might  have
produced  grave results. However, even as  he felt around  with a  practised
gesture for  his box  of  sugar and his  bottle of medicine and dropped  the
medicine onto a bit of sugar, without ever tearing  his  eyes from the game,
his face remained as immobile as if he were staring into space.
     When the  score became 23:0 it  nearly finished him. He opened his thin
pale lips and squeaked in a wooden voice:
     "They could at least sell mineral water here!"
     Hottabych, whose soul was singing joyfully at the unheard-of success of
the Shaiba team, was more willing than ever to do people favours.
     Upon  hearing the  words of his  phlegmatic  neighbour,  he snapped his
fingers softly. The man suddenly saw that he was holding a glass of ice-cold
mineral water which had appeared from nowhere.
     Anyone else in  his place would  have been astounded, or, at any  rate,
would have looked around at the people sitting to all sides of him. But this
man  merely  raised  the  frosted glass  to  his lips  with  the  same stony
expression. However,  he did  not even  take a sip: the  poor Zubilo players
were  about to get  the twenty-fourth ball  kicked into  their goal.  He sat
frozen  to  the  spot  with  his  glass raised  and  Zhenya, who  was  still
frantically  searching  for  a way to save the  disgraced team, snatched the
mineral water from him and dashed it onto Hottabych's beard.
     "What treachery! What vile treachery!" the  old Genie gasped and  began
feverishly yanking out one  hair after another. Instead of the clear crystal
tinkling, the boys were happy  to hear  a dull sound like  that of a tightly
pulled piece of string.
     "And  isn't  it  treachery  to  help  the Shaiba players?" Volka  asked
acidly. "You'd better keep mum."
     Meanwhile, just  as had happened after the fourteenth goal, the revived
Zubilo players once again tore through  the forward and defence lines of the
Shaiba team and raced the ball towards their goal.
     The Shaiba defence  had become  unkeyed from their  long  idleness  and
could not collect their wits quickly to  ward  off  the  unexpected  danger.
Their goalie was  really something  to look at. There he sat on  the  grass,
shelling melon seeds.
     Choking,  he jumped 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  torment of our young  friends, they heard a
clear  crystal tinkling.  Yes, Hottabych had finally been able to find a dry
hair in his beard.
     Oh,  Zhenya, Zhenya! Where was your keen eye and sure hand?  Why didn't
you take good aim? The Zubilo team was as good as dead now!
     "Hottabych!  Dear,  sweet Hottabych!  Let the Zubilo  players score  at
least once!" Volka wailed.
     But  Hottabych pretended to hear  nothing.  The  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 the long-suffering Zubilo goal!
     "24:0!"
     This was an amazing score, considering that the teams were equal.
     Volka lost his temper completely.
     "I demand-no, I order you to stop this mockery immediately!" he hissed.
"Otherwise, I'll never be  friends with you again! You have your choice: the
Shaiba team or me!"
     "Why,  you're  a  football   fan  yourself.  Can't  you  understand  my
feelings?"  the old man  pleaded, but he sensed from Volka's expression that
this time their friendship might really end. And so, he  whispered back,  "I
await your further orders."
     "The Zubilo team isn't to blame that  you're  a Shaiba fan. You've made
them the laughing-stock of the country.  Make it so that everyone should see
they're not to blame for losing."
     "I hear and I obey, 0 young goalie of my soul!"
     No sooner had the umpire's whistle died down, announcing the end of the
first time, than the entire Zubilo team began to sneeze and cough for all it
was worth.
     Forming  a semblance of a formation, they dragged their feet listlessly
to their locker room, sneezing and coughing loudly.
     A  moment  later a  doctor was summoned, 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 mouths and  finally summoned the
umpire. "I'm afraid you'll have to call off the game."
     "Why? What do you mean?"
     "Because the Zubilo team  can't play for at least  seven more days. The
whole team is sick," the doctor answered dazedly.
     "Sick! What's the matter?"
     "It's a very  strange case. All these  eleven grown men  have come 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 match  in history in which  a fan  had an
opportunity to influence the game. As you see, it did not come to any good.
     The   unusual  instance   of   eleven  adult   athletes  simultaneously
contracting the measles for the second time in their lives and waking up the
following morning in the pink of health was described in great detail  in an
article by the famous Professor  Hooping Cough  and published in the medical
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
readers,  you might  as well not look  for it, since you'll  only waste your
time for nothing.



     The little cloud that was covering the sun floated off and disappeared,
as  it was no  longer needed. Once again it became hot.  A  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
amazing game which had ended so strangely.
     These opinions were each more involved than  the previous one. However,
not  even the  most vivid  imaginations could think  of an explanation  that
would so much as resemble the true reason for all the  queer things they had
witnessed.
     Only three  people took no part  in these  discussions. They  left  the
North Section in deep silence. They entered a crowded trolley-bus in silence
and alighted in silence at Okhotny Ryad, where they separated.
     "Football  is an excellent  game," Hottabych  finally mustered  up  the
courage to say.
     "Mm-m-m," Volka replied.
     "I can just imagine how sweet the moment is when you kick the ball into
the  enemy's goal!" Hottabych continued  in a crestfallen voice. "Isn't that
so, 0 Volka?"
     "Mm-m-m."
     "Are  you still angry with me, 0  goalie  of my heart? I'll  die if you
don't answer me!"
     He scurried  along beside his  angry friend,  sighing sadly and cursing
the hour he had agreed to go to the game.
     "What do you think!"  Volka snapped,  but then  continued  in a  softer
tone, "Boy, what a mess! I'll never forget it as long as I live. Have a look
at this new-found fan! No sir, we'll never take
     you to a football game again! And we don't need your tickets, either."
     "Your every  word  is  my  command," Hottabych hurried to  assure  him,
pleased  to  have  got  off  so  easily.  "I'll  be  quite  content  if  you
occasionally find the time to tell me of the football matches."
     So they continued on as good friends as ever.



     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 old-age pink. His step  was as
light and  as quick as  always, and  a broad smile lighted his artless face.
And only Volka,  who knew  Hottabych so  well, noticed that a secret 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 did not bother the old man 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  my old  heart, 0  noble  saviour of Genies,"
Hottabych said softly one day when a magnificent sunset coloured the evening
waters  of the  Moskva River  a delicate  pink.  "Thoughts of my  poor  lost
brother and of his terrible and hapless fate do not  leave me for  a moment.
The more I think of him, the more I feel I should set out to search  for him
as soon  as possible. What do  you think of this,  0 wise Volka ibn Alyosha?
And  if  you regard this  decision kindly, would  you  not make me happy  by
sharing the joys and sorrows of this journey with me?"
     "Where do you want to start looking for your brother?" Volka asked in a
business-like way, since he was  no longer surprised at  the most unexpected
suggestions Hottabych might have.
     "If  you  remember, 0 Volka,  at  the very dawn of  our extremely happy
acquaintance, I told you that Sulayman's  Genies threw  him into one of  the
Southern Seas, sealed in a copper vessel. There, along the shores of the hot
countries, is where one must naturally look for Omar Asaf."
     The possibility of setting out on a journey to the Southern Seas really
appealed to Volka.
     "All right. I'll come  along with you. Wherever you go,  I go. It would
be nice if.. ." Volka fumbled.
     But a cheerful Hottabych continued: ".. .if we could take our wonderful
friend  Zhenya ibn  Kolya  along. Have I understood you correctly, 0 my kind
Volka ibn Alyosha?"
     "Uh-huh."
     "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' time.
     However, if the  time of departure caused ho discord, it quite suddenly
became apparent that there  were  serious  differences on  the question of a
means of transportation.
     "Let's  go by magic  carpet," Hottabych suggested. "There's enough room
for all of us."
     "Oh no," Volka objected strongly. "No more magic carpets for me. Thanks
a lot! Our  last trip was enough for me. I don't want to freeze like a dog a
second time."
     "I'll  supply you both with warm clothing, 0  blessed Volka. And if you
so desire, a large bonfire will constantly burn in the middle of the carpet.
We can warm ourselves beside it during our flight."
     "No, no,  no!  The magic carpet is out of the  question.  Let's  go  to
Odessa by train. Then, from Odessa...."
     Hottabych immediately accepted Volka's plan and Zhenya, who was told of
it in detail a short half hour later, enthusiastically approved.



HAPPENED ON THE NARA-MALY YAROSLAYETS LINE
     (Told  by  the conductor to  Ms  assistant,  who  was asleep during the
events described herein)

     "I woke you  up just to tell you that a very strange thing has happened
in our car.
     "Well, I made  up the beds for the passengers, the same as  always, and
the ones in Compartment 7, too. The passengers there were a bearded old bird
in  an  old-fashioned  straw boater and two boys. The boys  looked about the
same age. And what do you think: not a single piece of luggage !No, sir, not
a single one!
     "Just then, one of the boys, a blond freckled lad, says:
     " 'Can you please tell us where the dining car is?'
     "And I says, 'I'm sorry, but we don't  have a  dining car, There'll  be
tea and crackers in the morning.'
     "Then the boy looks at the old man and the old man winks at him. So the
boy says, 'Never  mind, we'll manage  without your tea, since you  haven't a
dining car.'
     " 'Ha,' I thought, 'I'd like to see how you'll make  out all the way to
Odessa without my tea.' So I came back here to our compartment, but I left a
chink in the door when I closed it.
     "Everyone in the car was sound asleep, having sweet dreams, but all the
time there was buzz-buzz-buzz coming from Compartment 7-they kept on talking
and  whispering all the time.  I couldn't  hear what they were saying, but I
can tell you for sure they were talking.
     "Then suddenly their  door  opens and the  same old man  sticks out his
head. He didn't notice me watching him so  he pushed his old  hat  back. And
what d'you think he  did? Upon my word,  I'm tellin' the truth! He pulled  a
fistful of hair from his beard-may I drop dead on the spot if he didn't!
     " 'Goodness,' I  thought, 'he's crazy! Just my  luck  to  get a  madman
while I'm on duty.'  Well, I  didn't  say anything and  waited to see what'd
happen.
     "Well, the old man tore this same  fistful of hair into little  pieces,
then he threw this litter on  the floor  and mumbled something. I  felt more
and more sure he was mad and that  I'd  have  to put  him off at Bryansk, no
doubt about it.
     " 'Well,'  I  thought, 'there'll be no end of worry! Why,  maybe  he'll
start attacking the passengers this very minute, or breaking the windows!'
     "No, he didn't start any trouble, but just stood there  mumbling. After
he mumbled a while more, he went back into his compartment.
     "All of  a sudden  I heard someone  walking barefoot  down the passage,
coming from behind. That meant whoever it was had come in from the platform.
I sure  was surprised,  because I always lock the platforms when we pull out
of a station.  Well, I looked round, and-upon  my sacred word of honour, I'm
telling  the  truth!-I saw four young  fellows  coming towards  me from  the
platform. They were as sunburned as vacationers  and quite  naked. All  they
had on were little cloths round their hips. And barefoot. As skinny as could
be! You could count every rib.
     "I came out of  our compartment  and  said, 'Citizens, I believe you've
got your cars mixed. All our compartments are occupied.'
     "And they all answered together, 'Silence, infidel! We know where we're
going! We've come exactly to the place we want.'
     "So I says, 'Then I'd like to see your tickets, please.'
     "And they all said together again, 'Don't annoy us,  foreigner,  for we
are hurrying to our lord and master!'
     "So I says, 'I'm surprised that you call me a  foreigner. I'm a  Soviet
citizen and I'm in my  own country. That's for one. And in the second place,
we haven't had any masters  here since the Revolution. That,' I said, 'is in
the second place.'
     "So their leader says,  'You should be ashamed, infidel! You are taking
advantage of the fact that our hands are occupied  and  we  therefore cannot
kill you for your terrible insolence. It , is most  dishonourable of  you to
take advantage of us so.'
     "I forgot to tell you that they were piled high with all sorts of food.
One was carrying a heavy tray  with roast lamb and  rice. Another had a huge
basket of apples, pears, apricots and grapes.
     The third one was balancing something that looked like a pitcher on his
head, and something was splashing inside the pitcher. The fourth was holding
two large platters of meat pies  and pastries. To tell you the truth, I just
stood there gaping.
     "Then  the leader says, 'Infidel,  you'd  do  better to  show  us where
Compartment 7 is, for we are in a hurry to fulfil our orders.'
     "Then I began to put two  and two  together and asked,  'What does your
boss look like? Is he a little old man with a beard?'
     " 'Yes, that is he. That is whom we serve.'
     "I  showed them to Compartment 7, and on  the way I said, 'I'll have to
fine your boss for letting you travel without tickets. Have you been working
for him long?'
     "So the leader says,  'We've been serving him  for  three thousand five
hundred years."
     "To tell you the truth, I thought  I  didn't  hear him right. So I says
again, 'How many years did you say?'
     "  'You heard  me, that's  exactly  how long we've  served  him-  three
thousand five hundred years.'
     "The other three nodded.
     " 'Good gracious,'  I thought, 'as if one crazy man wasn't enough-now I
have four more on my neck!'
     "But I  went  on talking to them  as I would to  any normal passengers.
'What a shame!  Look how many years you've been working for him and he can't
even get you some ordinary overalls. If you'll pardon the expression, you're
absolutely naked.'
     "So the leader says, 'We don't need  overalls. We don't  even know what
they are.'
     " 'It's strange to hear that coming  from someone  who's worked so many
years. I guess you're from far away. Where d'you live?'
     " 'We've just come from Ancient Arabia.'
     "Then I says, 'Well,  that  clears everything up. Here's Compartment 7.
Knock on the door.'
     "Just then, the same little old man comes out and  all his  men fall to
their knees  and stretch  out  the  food and drinks  they've  brought. But I
called the old man off to a side and said, 'Are these your employees?'
     " 'Yes, they are.'
     "  'They have no tickets. That  means you have  to pay a fine. Will you
pay it?'
     " 'Right  away, if you wish. But won't  you first tell me  what a  fine
is?'
     "I saw the old man was being  sensible, so I began to explain things in
a whisper, 'One of your men has gone out of his mind:
     he  says he's been  working  for  you for  three thousand  five hundred
years. I'm sure you'll agree he's crazy.'
     "Then  the  old man says, 'I cannot agree, since 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 became their
master.'
     "So I says to  him, 'Stop making a  fool of me! It  doesn't become your
age. If you don't  pay the fine immediately, I'll put them off  at  the next
station. And, anyway, you look  like a suspicious character, going on such a
long journey without any luggage.'
     " 'What's luggage?'
     " 'You know, bundles, suitcases and such stuff.'
     "The  old man  laughed  and  said, 'Why 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 they were jammed! I'd  looked a
moment  before  and  there  hadn't  been  anything there,  and suddenly-just
imagine!-so many suitcases and bundles!
     "Then I  said,  'Something's wrong here. Pay the fine  quickly and I'll
bring  the chief  conductor over at the  next stop. Let him decide.  I can't
understand what's going on.'
     "The  old man laughed again.  'What fine?' says he. 'Whom 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 my four stray passengers.
     "Then  the old man said,  '0  conductor, you had better go back to your
own compartment.' And so I went back.
     "Now d'you understand why I woke you up? Don't you believe me?"
     An  hour  before the  train  arrived  in Odessa, the  conductor entered
Compartment 7 to remove the bedding. Hottabych treated him to some apples.
     It was  quite  apparent that the man did  not remember anything  of the
incident which had taken place the night before.
     After  he had left their  compartment, Zhenya said with admiration:  "I
must admit, Volka is a bright chap!"
     "I  should  think  so!"  Hottabych  exclaimed.  "Volka  ibn Alyosha  is
unquestionably an excellent fellow and his  suggestion is  worthy  of  great
praise."
     Since  the reader  might not be too clear on the meaning of this  short
conversation, we hurry to explain.
     When the completely confused conductor left Compartment 7 the  previous
night,  Volka said to Hottabych,  "Can you do something to  make  him forget
what's happened?"
     "Why, 0 Volka ibn Alyosha, that's as simple as pie."
     "Then please  do it and as quickly as possible. He'll go to sleep then,
and when he wakes up in the morning he won't remember anything."
     "Excellent,   0  treasure-store   of  common  sense!"   Hottabych  said
admiringly, waved his hand and made the conductor forget everything.



     Several passengers were talking leisurely as they leaned on the rail of
the  excursion  ship  "Kolkhida,"  sailing from Odessa to  Batumi.  Powerful
diesel engines hummed  far  below,  in the depths  of  the  ship. The  water
whispered  dreamily as  it lapped against the steep  sides, and high  above,
over the spar deck, the ship's wireless piped anxiously.
     "You  know, it's  really a shame that the large sailing ships  of yore,
those white-winged beauties, are a thing of the  past. How happy I  would be
to  find myself on a real frigate...  .  Just  to enjoy the  sight  of those
billowing white sails, to listen to  the creaking of the mighty yet graceful
masts, to  watch  in  amazement  as,  at  the  captain's command,  the  crew
scrambles  up the rigging! If I could only see a real sailing ship! I mean a
real  genuine one! Nowadays even a bark has to have a motor,  you know, even
though-mark my words-it's considered a sailboat!"
     "A motor-sailboat," a  man wearing  the uniform  of the Merchant Marine
added. They fell silent. All except the sailor went over 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  made him drowsy. He
closed the magazine and fanned himself with it.
     Then something attracted his  attention.  He  stopped  fanning himself,
jumped to  his feet  and  rushed  to  the railing.  Far off,  near  the very
horizon, he saw a beautiful but terribly old-fashioned sailing ship skimming
over the waves. It seemed like something from a fairy tale.
     "Everybody!  Everybody  hurry  over  here!"  he  shouted. "Look at that
sailing ship! Isn't it ancient! Oh, and something's wrong with its mainmast!
It doesn't have a mainmast!  Why,  it just isn't there!  My  goodness!  Just
look!  The sails are all billowed  out the wrong way! According to every law
of nature,  the  foremast should  have been blown  overboard long  ago! It's
really a miracle!"
     However, by the time the other passengers heeded his words and returned
to the starboard side, the unknown vessel had disappeared from sight. We say
"unknown," because  the sailor was ready to swear that the wonderful sailing
ship was not  registered at any Soviet port  on the Black Sea. This is true.
In fact,  it  wasn't registered  at  any  foreign  port,  either;  it wasn't
registered any place,  for  the  simple reason  that it had appeared  in the
world and was launched but a few short hours before.
     The  name  of  the vessel  was  the  "Sweet  Omar,"  in honour  of  the
unfortunate brother of our old friend, Hassan Abdurrakhman ibn Hottab.




     Had our friend the conductor on  the Moscow-Odessa express miraculously
found himself aboard the twin-masted  "Sweet Omar," he would  not have  been
most amazed  at the fact that he had suddenly found himself aboard a sailing
vessel,  nor that  this vessel did  not in any way resemble  a  usual sea or
river  craft. He  would have been most amazed at finding that he was already
acquainted with the passengers and crew.
     The  old man and his  two young  companions who had  left Compartment 7
that morning were its passengers, while the four dark-skinned citizens whose
term of service dated back to the 16th century B.C. were its crew.
     One  can  well  imagine  that a second encounter would have landed  the
impressive conductor in bed for a long time.
     Despite  the fact  that  Volka  and  Zhenya  had become  accustomed  to
witnessing  the  most unexpected events during the past few days,  they were
most  amazed  to  find  their  recent acquaintances aboard the  ship and  to
discover that they were also excellent sailors.
     After the  boys had stood gazing at  the quick and skilful movements of
the small crew scurrying up and down the riggings just as if  they were on a
polished floor, they went  to explore  the rest  of  the ship.  It was  very
beautiful,  but  small-no  larger  than  a  Moscow  river  launch.  However,
Hottabych assured  them that even Sulayman, the Son of David, did not have a
ship as big as the "Sweet Omar."
     Everything  on the ship glittered with cleanliness  and  splendour. Its
sides and high, carved  bow  and stern were inlaid with gold  and ivory. The
priceless  rosewood deck was covered with rugs as magnificent as those which
adorned the cabins.
     That is why Volka was so surprised at suddenly coming  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 meagre  furnishings of this  tiny room,
Zhenya joined him. After careful scrutiny, Zhenya decided the unsightly hole
was intended for the pirates they might capture on the way.
     "Not  at all," Volka persisted. "This place was forgotten about after a
complete overhauling. Sometimes, after repairs,  there's a forgotten  corner
full of rags and all kinds of rubbish."
     "What do  you  mean  by 'a complete overhauling' when this ship  didn't
even exist this morning?" Zhenya protested.
     Volka had no answer  to this  question, and so the boys set off to find
Hottabych,  to ask him to help solve the mystery. But they found the old man
asleep and thus  did not speak to him until an  hour or two later, at dinner
time.
     Tucking their feet under them  uncomfortably, they sat down on a thick,
brightly-coloured carpet.  There were neither chairs nor tables in the cabin
or anywhere else on board.
     One of the crew  remained above at the wheel, while the others  brought
in  and placed before  them many various dishes, fruits  and beverages. When
they turned to leave, the boys called to them:
     "Why are you leaving?"
     And Volka added politely, "Aren't you going to have lunch?"
     The servants only shook their heads in reply.
     Hottabych was confused.
     "I must not have  been listening intently, 0  my  young friends.  For a
moment, I thought you had invited these servants to join us at the table."
     "Sure we did," Volka said. "Why, what's wrong with that?"
     "But they  are only  ordinary sailors," Hottabych objected  in  a voice
that indicated that the matter was now closed.
     However, to his great surprise, the boys held their ground.
     "All  the more  so, if they're  sailors. They're not parasites, they're
real hard workers," Volka said.
     And Zhenya added:
     "And let's  not forget that they seem to be Negroes and that means they
are an oppressed nation. That's why we should be especially considerate."
     "This seems to be a most unfortunate  misunderstanding," Hottabych said
excitedly, confused by the  solid  opposition of the  boys. "I must  ask you
again to remember that these are plain sailors. It  is not becoming 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 me at all," Volka objected heatedly.
     "Or me,  either. On the contrary,  it'll be  very  interesting," Zhenya
said,  looking at the  steaming turkey with hungry eyes.  "Hurry up  and ask
them to sit down, otherwise the turkey'll get cold."
     "I don't  feel like  eating, 0 my  young friends.  I'll eat  later on,"
Hottabych said glumly and clapped loudly three times.
     The sailors appeared immediately.
     "These young gentlemen  have kindly expressed the desire to partake  of
their meal together with you, my undeserving servants."
     "0 great and mighty ruler!" the eldest of the sailors cried, falling to
his  knees  before  Hottabych  and  touching the  precious carpet  with  his
forehead. "We don't feel like  eating at all.  We are very  full. We are  so
full, that  if  we  eat a single chicken leg our stomachs will  burst and we
will die in terrible agony."
     "They're lying!" Volka whispered to Zhenya with conviction;
     "I'm  ready  to bet  anything that they're lying.  They  wouldn't  mind
eating, but they're  afraid  of Hottabych." Then he addressed  the  sailors.
"You say  you're  full, but won't you please tell me when you've had time to
eat?"
     "Then know  ye, 0 young and noble master, that we  can go  without food
for a year or more and never feel hungry," the sailor replied evasively.
     "They'll   never  agree,  they're  afraid  of  him,"  Zhenya   said  in
disappointment.
     The sailors backed out and were gone.
     "To  my  great pleasure, I suddenly feel hungry again,"  Hottabych said
cheerfully. "Let us begin quickly."
     "No, Hottabych, you eat by yourself. We're no company  for you!" Zhenya
muttered angrily and got up. "Come on, Volka!"
     "Come on. Golly! You try  to educate  a person and change his ways, but
nothing good comes of it...."
     And so, the old man was left  alone with the untouched dinner.  He  sat
there with his legs tucked under him, as straight and stiff and solemn as an
Eastern  god. But the  moment the boys disappeared behind the  drapery  that
separated the cabin from the deck, he began to pound his head with his small
fists that were nevertheless as hard as iron.
     0 woe to him, poor Hassan  Abdurrakhman ibn Hottab!  Something had gone
wrong again!  Yet, how happily the "Sweet Omar" had started on its  journey!
How sincerely delighted the boys had been with its adornments, its sparkling
sails, the soft carpets in  which their bare feet sank  up  to their ankles,
the priceless handrails of ebony and ivory, the mighty masts covered with  a
mosaic  of precious stones! Why had  they suddenly  conceived such a strange
idea? But what if it  wasn't just an  idea or a caprice, but something quite
different?  How queer these boys  were to have refused such a feast, despite
their hunger,  and  only because his  servants were not allowed to share the
meal as equals! Oh, how puzzling and unfair it was, and how hungry, how very
hungry Hottabych was!
     While  his feeling of  attachment  for Volka and Zhenya was  struggling
with prejudices  of thousands of years' standing, our  young travellers were
discussing the situation heatedly. Hottabych's servants tried to keep out of
sight,  but one of  them,  either absent-mindedly or from  lack of  caution,
suddenly appeared from the very  cubby-hole  Volka had believed was intended
for captive pirates. Then  the dingy hole on the  luxurious "Sweet Omar" was
the sailors' quarters!
     "Oh, no!" Volka  said indignantly. "We'll  never remain on such a ship.
Either Hottabych changes the  rules  immediately, or  else we call  off  our
friendship and he gets us back home."
     Suddenly they heard Hottabych's voice behind them.
     "0 sails of my heart," the  crafty old man said, as if nothing untoward
had  happened. "Why are you  wasting  your time here on deck,  when  a  most
delightful and filling dinner awaits you?  The turkey is still steaming, but
it can get cold, and  then it certainly will taste worse. Let us  hurry back
to the cabin, for my beloved sailors and I, your faithful servant, are dying
of hunger and thirst."
     The  boys looked into the  cabin they had just left and saw the sailors
sitting primly 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 became turbulent;
     the  small ship  now flew up on the crest of  a  huge wave, now plunged
down into a  deep chasm between  two tremendous walls  of water.  The  waves
thundered  and crashed as  they washed over the  deck  and carried  off  the
carpets that covered  it. Streams of water kept rushing into  the cabins. It
became 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 were their loincloths, turned grey from
the cold, as they battled the flapping sails.
     In another half hour  nothing but a  sad memory would have  remained of
the "Sweet Omar." However, the storm ceased as unexpectedly as it had begun.
The  sun peeped out. It became warm  again.  But everything  became terribly
calm. The sails hung  limply on  the masts and the ship began to rock softly
on the water without moving forward an inch.
     Hottabych  decided  that this was  just the time  to  improve his shaky
relations with his young companions. Rubbing his  hands together merrily, he
said, "Calm? Why you should know, 0 benevolent and just youths, that a  calm
means nothing to us. We can do fine without the wind. The 'Sweet Omar'  will
go forward  faster than ever. May  it be so!" He snapped the fingers  of his
left hand.
     Instantly  the  "Sweet  Omar" sped forward at  top  speed;  the  sails,
meeting  the resistance  of  the  air, naturally  filled out in  a direction
opposite to the ship's movement.
     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
time the  ship started were all standing on the stern, had time to enjoy the
sight, since the sudden forward thrust threw them overboard. The next moment
the mainmast, unable  to withstand the terrible resistance  of the air, came
crashing down on the very spot  where the three travellers had been standing
but a moment before.
     The "Sweet Omar" disappeared from sight immediately.
     "A  life-boat, or even a life-saver  would  really come in  handy now,"
Volka thought as he splashed about  in the water and blew air like  a horse.
"We can't even see the shore."
     And true, no matter which way he  looked, he could  see nothing but the
calm and endless sea.



     "Where are  you going?" Volka shouted  to  Zhenya, who was swimming off
rapidly. "You  won't reach the shore anyway,  Don't waste  your energy! Turn
over and float on your back."
     Zhenya took  his advice. Hottabych  also  turned over,  holding his hat
carefully above water.
     Thus began the only  conference of shipwrecked people in the history of
sailing, in which the speakers expressed their  opinions  while floating  on
their backs.
     "Well,  we're  shipwrecked!"  Volka   said  with  something   close  to
satisfaction. He  had taken upon himself the duties of  chairman.  "What are
you planning  to  do?" he asked, noticing that  Hottabych had begun  yanking
hairs from his beard with his free hand.
     "I want to return  our  ship. It's a great stroke of luck that my beard
is completely dry."
     "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
inhuman rules aboard. It's disgusting to even think of it."
     "I agree. The 'Sweet  Omar' is out of the question," Zhenya added. "But
you  know,  Hottabych,  you'll  have  to act  quickly  to save the  sailors,
otherwise they'll go down with the ship!"
     Hottabych frowned.
     "The fate  of my  unworthy servants should not bother you  at all. They
have  been in Arabia  for not less than five minutes already.  That is where
they reside, that is  where they are now awaiting my orders. But please tell
me,  0 masts of my heart, why should we not continue our journey aboard  the
'Sweet Omar'?"
     "I thought we made that clear," Volka said.
     "And anyway, a sailing ship is too slow and unreliable. We're dependent
on every little change in the weather. No, the  'Sweet Omar' is out," Zhenya
said.
     "0  anchors of my  happiness!"  Hottabych  whined pitifully.  "I'll  do
anything to...."
     "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  dressed.  "It
remains to be seen what else Hottabych can suggest."
     "I can take you under my arms and fly."
     "No good!" Volka said. "Who wants to fly under somebody's arms!"
     "Not somebody's-mine!" Hottabych replied in a hurt voice.
     "It makes no difference."
     "Then  I would  venture  to suggest  to your enlightened  attention the
magic  carpet. It  is  an excellent  means  of transportation,  0  my choosy
friends!"
     "There's  nothing excellent about it. You  freeze on  it,  and it's too
slow, and there's  no comforts at all," Volka said thoughtfully and suddenly
exclaimed, "I've got it! Upon my word of honour, I have a wonderful idea!"
     At  this, he went under, as in his excitement he could think of nothing
better to do than clap  his hands. He bobbed  up again, huffing and spitting
water, and  then resumed his comfortable position on his back, continuing as
if nothing had happened:
     "We have to  modernize the magic carpet:  it should  be streamlined and
cold-resistant, and it should have bunks and be on pontoons."
     It  was  most difficult  to explain Volka's  idea  to Hottabych. In the
first place,  the  old man  did  not know what  "streamlined" meant.  In the
second place, he could not visualize a pair of pontoons.
     It would seem that "streamlined" was such  a  simple word, but they had
to explain and explain  until  they finally  hit upon the  thought of saying
that a streamlined magic carpet should look like a hollowed-out cucumber. It
also  took  a great deal of  explaining to  make  Hottabych  understand what
pontoons  were  like. Finally,  a  streamlined "VK-1"  magic-carpet-seaplane
soared into the  air and set its course at  South-South-West. In translation
to ordinary words, "VK-1" meant "Vladimir Kostylkov. First Model."
     This magic-carpet-seaplane, resembling a huge cucumber with a tiny stem
in  back, had  three berths  and two windows  on each  side, cut through the
heavy carpeting.
     The flying  qualities  of  Volka's plane were  immeasurably superior to
those  of  an ordinary  magic  carpet.  The Black  Sea,  the  Bosporus,  the
Dardanelles,  Asia Minor  and  the sun-parched plateau of Arabia flashed  by
below. Then  they saw the  yellow sands of the Sinai Desert. The thin ribbon
of the Suez Canal separated it from the no  less yellow sands of the Arabian
Desert, which was  Africa, Egypt. Hottabych  had planned to begin his search
for  Omar Asaf here, in the  Mediterranean, from  its eastern  point  to its
western  end. But no  sooner had the "VK-1" descended  to an altitude of 200
metres,  than  Hottabych   groaned  and  said   he  was  an  old  fool.  The
magic-carpet-seaplane  gained altitude  and  headed west. After  spending so
many years in  the  vessel,  Hottabych had forgotten that this was where the
Nile discharged into the Mediterranean and where the water was  always muddy
from  the  slime and sand the great river carried far out to  sea. How could
one even attempt a search in such sticky yellow mire? It would only irritate
the eyes.
     Hottabych decided to put off the exploration of this inconvenient  area
till last, if their search for Omar Asaf in other parts of the Mediterranean
proved futile.
     A short while later they landed  in  a quiet  blue lagoon close to  the
Italian city of Genoa.



     "Well,  wish me luck!"  Hottabych  exclaimed, turning into  a fish  and
disappearing into the lagoon.
     The  water  was  crystal-clear,  so very unlike the water  of the  Nile
Delta, and they  had a good view of the old  man working his fins quickly as
he headed for the open sea.
     While awaiting his return, the boys went in for a good dozen dips, they
dived  to their heart's content, lay in the sun  until they were dizzy, and,
finally,  with  hunger  clawing  at  their insides,  they  began  to  worry.
Hottabych had been gone for a suspiciously long time, though he had promised
not  to be  away longer than an hour.  The sun had long since set, colouring
the horizon and the calm sea in tints of amazing beauty;  thousands  of city
lights twinkled in the distance, but still the old man had not returned.
     "Could he have got lost?" Zhenya said despondently.
     "He can't get lost," Volka answered. "Chaps like him never get lost."
     "He might have been swallowed by a shark."
     "There aren't any sharks in these  waters,"  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
fishermen climbed out. One  of them began to  lay a fire of driftwood, while
the others picked out the smaller fish. They cleaned it  and threw it into a
kettle of water.
     "Let's go ask  them for something to eat," Zhenya suggested. "They look
like nice working people. I'm sure they'll give us something."
     Volka agreed.
     "Good evening, Signores!" Zhenya  bowed politely,  as he  addressed the
fishermen.
     "Just think  how many homeless children there  are  in our poor Italy!"
one of the three, a  thin,  grey-haired  man, said hoarsely. "Giovanni, give
them something to eat."
     "We've just  enough  bread  for ourselves, but there's plenty of onions
and  more than  enough salt!" a curly-haired stocky youth of about  nineteen
answered cheerfully. He was busy cleaning fish.
     "Sit down, boys. Soon the best fish soup ever cooked in or around Genoa
will be ready."
     Either the cheerful Giovanni was truly a gifted cook by nature, or else
the  boys were famished, but they agreed that they had  never eaten anything
more delicious in their lives. They ate with such gusto, smacking their lips
from sheer joy, that the fishermen watching them chuckled.
     "If  you want  some more, you can  cook  it  yourselves,  there nothing
complicated  about  it,"  Giovanni  said  and  stretched.  "We'll  doze  off
meanwhile.  Be  sure  you  don't  take any big  fishes,  they go  to  market
tomorrow, so we'll have money to pay our taxes."
     Zhenya  began  puttering  around the fire,  while Volka  rolled up  his
trousers and made his way to the boat full of fish.
     He had gathered as much  as  he  needed and was about to re turn to the
beach, when his  eyes  chanced  upon the  net folded near the mast. A lonely
fish  was  struggling frantically within, now  giving  up, now resuming  its
useless battle to free itself.
     "It will  come in handy for the chowder," Volka  said, plucking it from
the net. But it again began to struggle in  his hands, and  he suddenly felt
sorry for it. He turned round to make sure the fishermen weren't looking and
threw it back into the water.
     The fish made a small splash as it hit  the  dark surface of the lagoon
and turned into a beaming Hottabych.
     "May  the  day  upon  which  you  were  born   be  forever  blessed,  0
kind-hearted  son  of  Alyosha!"  he  exclaimed  gratefully,   as  he  stood
waist-deep in water. "Once again you've saved my life A few moments more and
I would have choked in that net. got foolishly trapped in it while searching
for my unfortunate brother."
     "Hottabych, old man! What a great fellow  you are  for being alive!  We
were so worried!"
     "And I, too,  was tortured by the thought that you, 0 twice my saviour,
and our young friend were left alone and hungry in an alien country."
     "We're  not  hungry at  all. These fishermen  really 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," Volka said after a moment's
pause. "Put yourself in their place: suddenly you see a wet old man climbing
out of the water in the middle of the night. No, this is no good at all."
     "You're right as always,"  Hottabych agreed.  "Return to the shore  and
I'll join you presently."
     A short while later, the sleeping fishermen were awakened  by the sound
of an approaching horse. Soon  a  strange rider stopped  at  the smouldering
fire.
     He was an old man in  a cheap  linen suit and a hard straw  boater. His
magnificent beard was wind-blown, disclosing to all  who  cared  to look  an
embroidered Ukrainian shirt. He  wore  a pair of gold and silver embroidered
pink  slippers  with  funny  turned-up toes. His  feet  were  placed in gold
stirrups that were studded with diamonds and emeralds. The saddle upon which
he sat was so  magnificent that it was surely  worth a fortune. The prancing
horse  was of  indescribable  beauty. In each  hand the old man held a large
leather suitcase.
     "Would you please  direct me to the  noble fishermen who have so kindly
taken  in and fed two lonely, hungry boys?"  he  said to Giovanni,  who  had
risen to greet him.
     Without waiting  for an  answer,  he dismounted, and,  with  a  sigh of
relief, set the suitcases on the sand.
     "What's the matter? Do you know them?" Giovanni asked cautiously.
     "Certainly I know my young friends!" Hottabych cried, embracing each in
turn as they ran up to him.
     Then he addressed the startled fishermen:
     "Believe me, 0 most honourable of all fishermen,  when  I say I do  not
know how to thank you enough for your precious hospitality and kindness!"
     "Why, there's nothing to thank us for. Not for the fish certainly?" the
grey-haired fisherman said in surprise. "It didn't Set us back much, believe
me, Signore."
     "These are the words of a truly selfless man, and they only increase my
feeling  of gratitude. Permit me  to  repay you with  these  modest  gifts,"
Hottabych said, handing a dumb-founded Giovanni the two suitcases.
     "There  must be some mistake,  0  respected Signore,"  Giovanni uttered
after exchanging puzzled glances  with his companions. "Why, 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.
We're poor people...."
     "It is you who are mistaken, 0 most modest  of all kind-hearted people!
Within these  excellent  boxes  which  you  call by  the scholarly  name  of
'suitcase' are riches that are thousands and thousands of times greater than
the cost of your soup. Nonetheless, I consider they cannot pay  for it,  for
there is nothing more precious in the world than disinterested hospitality."
     He opened the suitcases and  everyone saw  that they  were crammed with
magnificent, live, silvery fish.
     While the fishermen were still wondering what sense there was in giving
fishermen fish, Hottabych emptied  the quivering  contents  of the suitcases
onto the  sand.  It  was  then  that  the three men  gasped in  surprise and
amazement: in some strange way, both suitcases were found to be crammed full
of fish again! Hottabych emptied the suitcases once  again, and  once  again
they were filled with the marvellous gifts of the sea. This was  repeated  a
fourth and a fifth time.
     "And now," Hottabych said, enjoying the impression he had made, "if you
wish, you can test the wonderful  qualities of these 'suitcases' yourselves.
Never again will you have to shiver  in your little dingy in foul weather or
in the fog of early dawn. You will no longer have to pray to Allah for luck,
you will  never again have to drag about the market-place with heavy baskets
of  fish. You need only take  along one of  these  'suitcases' and give  the
customer  exactly  as  much  as he  wants. But I beg  you,  do not  object,"
Hottabych  said  when  he  noticed that  the  fishermen were  about  to  say
something. "I assure you, there has been no mistake. May your life be  happy
and cloudless, 0 most noble of fishermen! Farewell! Hop up here, boys!"
     With  Giovanni's  help,  the  boys  climbed  into  the  saddle   behind
Hottabych.
     "Farewell,  Signore! Good-bye, boys!" the dazed  fishermen  shouted, as
they watched the surprising strangers disappear in the distance.
     "Even if these were ordinary  suitcases,  not magic ones, we  could get
many liras for them," Giovanni said thoughtfully.
     "Well, I think  we'll  finally be able  to make ends meet now, Pietro,"
the oldest  of the three  added.  He  was close to  sixty, with  a wrinkled,
weather-beaten face  and dry,  sinewy  arms. "We'll  pay our taxes,  cure my
cursed rheumatism, and buy you a coat, a hat and a pair  of shoes, Giovanni.
After all, you're a young man and you should be dressed well. As a matter of
fact, some new clothes won't harm any of us, will they?"
     "New clothes!" Giovanni mimicked  angrily. "When there's so much sorrow
and  poverty  everywhere! First of  all, we'll have to help Giacomo's widow,
you  know, the one who drowned last year and left three children and an  old
mother."
     "You're right,  Giovanni,"  Pietro agreed.  "We should  help  Giacomo's
widow. He was a good and true friend."
     Then the  third fisherman entered  the  conversation. He  was a man  of
thirty, and his name was Cristoforo.
     "What  about  Luigi?  We should  give  him some  money,  too.  The poor
fellow's dying of tuberculosis."
     "That's right," Giovanni said. "And Sybilla Capelli.  Her son's been in
prison for over a year now for organizing the strike."
     "Just  think how many people we can help," Giovanni said excitedly. And
the three  kind fishermen sat late into the night, discussing whom else they
could help, now that they had the wonderful suitcases. These were honest and
kind-hearted  toilers,  and the  idea  never  entered  their  minds  to  use
Hottabych's present in order to get rich and be wealthy fishmongers.
     I am happy to tell this  to  my readers,  so they'll know the old man's
present fell into good hands, and I'm  certain that  none of  them,  if they
were in the fishermen's place, would have acted otherwise.



     This time Hottabych was true to  his word. He had promised he'd be back
in two or three hours.  At about a quarter to nine his beaming face shot out
of the  water.  The old  man  was  excited. He scrambled up  on  the  beach,
carrying a large seaweed-covered metal object over his head.
     "I found him, my friends!" he yelled.  "I found the vessel in which  my
unfortunate  brother  Omar Asaf ibn  Hottab has  been  imprisoned these many
centuries-may the sun always shine over him! I scanned the whole  sea bottom
and was beginning to despair when  I noticed this magic  vessel in the green
vastness near the Pillars of Hercules."
     "What are you waiting for? Hurry up and open it!" Zhenya cried, running
up to the exultant old man.
     "I dare not  open it, for it is sealed  with Sulayman's Seal. Let Volka
ibn Alyosha,  who  freed me,  also free my  long-suffering  little  brother.
Here's the  vessel which  I have spent  so  many  sleepless nights  dreaming
about!" Hottabych continued, waving his find overhead.
     "Here, 0 Volka, open it, to the joy of my brother Omar and myself!"
     Pressing his ear  to the side of  the vessel, he laughed happily, "Oho,
my friends! Omar is signalling to me from within!"
     There was  envy in Zhenya's eyes  as he  watched the  old  man  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 Omar was imprisoned in a  copper vessel? This
one's  made of iron. Oh well, no  matter.... Where's the  seal? Aha, here it
is!" Volka said, inspecting the vessel carefully from all sides.
     Suddenly he turned pale and shouted:
     "Quick, lie down! Zhenya, lie down! Hottabych, throw it right back into
the water and lie down!"
     "You're mad!" Hottabych said indignantly. "I've dreamed  of our meeting
for so many years, and now, after finding him, you want me to throw him back
to the waves."
     "Throw it  as far out  as you  can! Your Omar  isn't inside!  Hurry, or
we'll all  be  dead!" Volka pleaded. Since the old  man still hesitated,  he
yelled at the top of his voice, "It is an order! Do you hear?!"
     Shrugging in dismay, Hottabych raised the 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 over the calm surface  of
the lagoon and fell apart with a loud crash. Thousands of stunned and killed
fish floated bellies up on the waves.
     People were already running towards them, attracted by the sound of the
explosion.
     "Let's run!" Volka commanded.
     They hurried to the highway and headed towards the city.
     A grieved Hottabych lagged behind and kept turning round constantly. He
was still not convinced that he had done right by obeying Volka.
     "What  did  you see on the thing?" Zhenya  asked when  he had caught up
with Volka, who was way ahead of him and Hottabych.
     " 'Made in USA,' that's what!"
     "So it was a bomb."
     "No, it  was a  mine.  There's  a big difference! It  was an underwater
mine."
     Hottabych sighed sadly.
     When Hottabych  saw that Omar was  not to be found in the Mediterranean
Sea, he suggested that they set out to the shores of the Atlantic Ocean. The
suggestion in itself was extremely tempting. However, Volka 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  very
important.  And so, with  a heavy  heart, Hottabych temporarily put  off the
search for Omar Asaf.
     The "VK-1" magic-carpet-seaplane  with Hassan  Abdurrakhman ibn Hottab,
Volka  Kostylkov  and  Zhenya  Bogorad  aboard,  soared  into  the  air  and
disappeared beyond the far-off mountains.
     Some ten hours later it landed safely on the sloping bank of the Moskva
River.




     On a hot July noon, the ice-breaker "Ladoga," carrying a large group of
excursionists, left the Red Pier of the port of Arkhangelsk. The band on the
pier was playing marches. People  waved their handkerchiefs and shouted "Bon
voyage!" Trailing white puffs 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 mouth of  the river and the  White  Sea.
Endless  cutters,  motor-boats, schooners,  trawlers,  gigs,  and cumbersome
rafts ploughed the calm surface of the great northern river.
     The excursionists,  who were now gathered on the top deck, were leaving
Arkhangelsk and the mainland for a whole month.
     "Volka!" one of  the  passengers shouted to another, who  was anxiously
darting about near the captain's bridge, "Where's Hottabych?"
     The perceptive reader will gather from these words that our old friends
were among the passengers.



     Here we should like to pause for a moment and tell our readers how  our
three friends came to be aboard the "Ladoga" in the first place.
     Naturally, everyone recalls that Volka failed his geography examination
disgracefully, which was largely his own fault (he should never have  relied
on  prompting). It is  difficult to  forget such an  event.  Volka certainly
remembered it and was  studying  intently  for  his  re-examination.  He had
decided to do his utmost to get an "A."
     Despite his sincere desire to  prepare for the examination,  it was not
as easy as it seemed. Hottabych was  in the way. Volka had never mustered up
enough  courage to tell  the old man of the true consequences  of  his fatal
prompting.  That is why he could  never  tell him  he needed time to  study,
since he  feared that Hottabych might  decide to  punish  his teachers,  and
Varvara Stepanovna in particular, for having failed him.
     Hottabych made himself particularly troublesome the day of the  unusual
football match between the Shaiba and Zubilo teams.
     Feeling terribly  contrite for all the  anguish he had caused Volka  at
the stadium, Hottabych fairly shadowed him; he tried to regain his favour by
scattering  compliments  and proposing the most  tempting adventures. It was
not until eleven o'clock at night that Volka had a chance to get down to his
studies.
     "With  your  permission,  0  Volka,  I shall  go  to sleep,  for I feel
somewhat drowsy," Hottabych finally said, as he yawned and crawled under the
bed.
     "Good night, Hottabych! Sweet dreams!" Volka answered, settling back in
his chair  and gazing at his bed longingly. He was also tired and, as he put
it,  was quite ready to doze off for some 500 or 600 minutes.  But he had to
study, and so reluctantly put his mind to his work.
     Alas! The rustling of the pages attracted the sleepy Genie's attention.
He stuck  his head and dishevelled beard from  under  the bed and  said in a
foggy voice:
     "Why aren't you in bed yet, 0 stadium of my soul?"
     "I'm not sleepy. I have insomnia," Volka lied.
     "My, my, my!" Hottabych said compassionately.  "That's really too  bad.
Insomnia  is extremely  harmful  at  your delicate  age. But  don't despair,
there's nothing I can't do."
     He  yanked  several  hairs  from his  beard,  blew  on them,  whispered
something,  and  Volka, who  had no  time  to object  to this  untimely  and
unnecessary aid,  fell asleep  immediately,  with  his head resting  on  the
table.
     "Praised be Allah! All is well," Hottabych mumbled,  crawling  out from
under  the bed. "May you  remain in  the embraces of sleep  until  breakfast
time!"
     He lifted the sleeping boy lightly and carefully lay him to rest in his
bed, pulling  the  blanket  over  him.  Then,  clucking  and  mumbling  with
satisfaction, he crawled back under the bed.
     All night  long the table lamp cast its useless  light on the geography
text-book, forlornly opened at page 11.
     You can well imagine  how cunning Volka  had to  be to prepare for  his
re-examination in such difficult circumstances. This  was the very important
reason why Volka (and, therefore, Hottabych and Zhenya) had to  fly  home to
Moscow  from Genoa instead of continuing  on to the  shores  of the Atlantic
Ocean.
     However, Volka  soon found  out  that preparing for the examination was
only half the job done. He had yet to think of a way to get rid of Hottabych
while  he  was  in school taking  the  exam, to find a way  of  leaving  the
apartment 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....
What?. . . Sure,  he's well.  He's a very healthy old man.... What?... No, I
haven't thought of anything yet.... You're crazy! He'll be terribly hurt and
he'll do such mischief we won't be able to undo it in  a  hundred  years....
Then you'll be here at ten-thirty? Fine!"
     Hottabych  stuck   his   head  out  of   Volka's  room.  He   whispered
reproachfully, "Volka,  why are  you talking to our best friend  Zhenya  ibn
Kolya in  the hall? That's not  polite.  Wouldn't it be nicer if you invited
him in?"
     "How can he come in if he's at home?"
     Hottabych was offended.
     "I can't understand  why you want  to play  tricks  on your old devoted
Genie.  My  ears  have  never yet deceived me. I just heard  you talking  to
Zhenya."
     "I was talking to  him  on the telephone. Don't you understand-te-le-ph
one? I sure  do have a lot of  trouble with you! What a thing to get mad at!
Come here, I'll show you what I mean!"
     Hottabych  joined  him. Volka  removed  the  receiver  and  dialled the
familiar number.
     "Will you please call Zhenya to the phone?" he said.
     Then he handed the receiver to Hottabych.
     "Here, you can talk to him now."
     Hottabych pressed the receiver to his ear cautiously and his face broke
into a puzzled smile.
     "Is that really you, 0 blessed Zhenya  ibn Kolya? Where are you now?...
At home?... And  I thought you  were sitting in  this black little thing I'm
holding to my ear.... Yes, that's right, it's me, your devoted friend Hassan
Abdurrakhman ibn Hot-tab.... You'll be  here soon? If that's the  case,  may
your trip be blessed!"
     Beaming with pleasure,  he handed the receiver back to  Volka, who  was
looking very superior.
     "It's amazing!" Hottabych  exclaimed. "Without once  raising my voice I
spoke to a boy who is two hours' walking distance away!"
     Returning to Volka's room, the old man turned round  slyly, snapped the
fingers  of his left hand, and there appeared  on the wall 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 gratefully. He removed 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 made of the finest black marble," Hottabych boasted.
     "Then there's nothing inside?" Volka asked disappointedly.
     "Why, is there supposed to be  something inside this, too? Just like in
a watch?"
     "Now  I  know  why  it  doesn't  work.  You've  only made  a model of a
telephone, without anything that's supposed to go inside it. But the insides
are the most important part."
     "What'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
make it exactly as it should be."
     "It's not like a watch;  it's  entirely different. And it's not so easy
to explain. You have to study all about electricity first," Volka said  with
an air of importance.
     "Then teach me about what you call electricity."
     "To  begin with,  you  have  to  study  arithmetic, algebra,  geometry,
trigonometry, mechanical drawing and all kinds of other subjects."
     "Then teach me these other subjects, too."
     "Uh ... well... I don't know all of them myself, yet," Volka confessed.
     "Then teach me what you already know."
     "It'll take an awfully long time."
     "That  doesn't matter.  I  am willing, nonetheless.  Don't  keep me  in
suspense:  will  you  teach  me  these  subjects, which give a  person  such
wonderful powers?"
     "On condition that  you  do your homework  well," Volka  said  sternly.
"Here, read  the paper while  I go to see a friend of mine about something."
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  Varvara  Stepanovna  were
discussing school problems, and on the third floor the loud, cheerful voices
of  the painters and plasterers echoed through the  halls. It was summer and
the school was being renovated.
     "Well,  my dear  Varvara Stepanovna, what shall  I say?" the  principal
said  with a smile. "One can only envy such a vacation. How long will you be
gone?" "I believe for a month or so."
     Volka was  glad to hear that Varvara Stepanovna  would not be in danger
of encountering Hottabych for at least a  month. If only she would leave  as
quickly as possible!
     "Aha, the crystal cupola of the  heavens!" the principal teased  as  he
greeted  Volka.  "Well,  are you feeling better now?" "Yes, I'm  quite well,
thank you."
     "Excellent! Have you prepared for your examination?" "Yes, I have."
     "Well, then, let's have a little talk."
     The little talk embraced almost the whole of sixth-grade geography.  If
Volka had  thought of looking at the time, he would have  been  surprised to
note that their little talk lasted nearly twenty minutes. But he couldn't be
bothered  with  the  time.  He  thought the  principal was  not  asking  the
questions  in great enough detail. He felt he could speak  on each topic for
five or ten minutes. He was experiencing the tormenting and at once pleasant
feeling of a pupil who knows  his subject inside-out and is most worried  by
the thought that this fact might go unnoticed by his examiners. But one look
at  Varvara Stepanovna 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 time on you," Volka felt a pleasant chill run
down  his spine. His freckled face spread into  such  a broad smile that the
principal and Varvara Stepanovna smiled, too.
     "Yes, Kostylkov has  obviously put in a lot  of studying,"  his teacher
said.
     Ah, if they only  knew of the terribly difficult conditions under which
Volka had to prepare for his exam! What stratagems he had had  to resort to,
how he had had to  hide  from Hottabych in order to have a chance  to  study
quietly;  what colossal barriers the unsuspecting  Hottabych had put in  his
way! How much more his teachers would  have  respected his achievements, had
they only known!
     For a moment, Volka was on the point of boasting of his  own success as
a  teacher (not everyone can proudly say he has taught  a  Genie to read and
write!), but he checked himself in time.
     "Well,  Kostylkov, congratulations on  passing to the 7th grade! Have a
good rest until September. Get strong and healthy! Goodbye for now!"
     "Thank you," Volka replied  as discreetly as  a 7th-grade pupil should.
"Good-bye."
     When  he  arrived at  the  river bank,  Hottabych, who had made himself
comfortable in  the shade of a mighty oak,  was reading the  paper aloud  to
Zhenya.
     "I passed!  I  got  an 'A'!" Volka  whispered  to his  friend.  Then he
stretched  out  beside  Hottabych,  experiencing  at  least  three  pleasant
feelings at once: the first was that he was lying in the  shade; the second,
that he had passed his exam so well; and the last, but by no means least-the
pride of a teacher enjoying the achievements of his pupil.
     Meanwhile, Hottabych had reached  the section entitled  "Sports  News."
The very first article made the friends sigh with envy.
     "In the middle  of July, the  ice-breaker 'Ladoga,'  chartered  by  the
Central Excursion Bureau, will leave Arkhangelsk for the Arctic. Sixty-eight
persons,  the best  workers  of  Moscow  and  Leningrad,  will  spend  their
vacations aboard it. This promises to be a very interesting cruise." "What a
trip! I'd give anything to go along," Volka said dreamily.
     "You need only  express your wish, 0 my most excellent friends, and you
shall go wherever you please!" Hottabych promised, for he yearned to somehow
repay his young teachers. Volka merely sighed again. Zhenya explained sadly:
     "No, Hottabych, there's no question of it. Only famous people  can  get
aboard the 'Ladoga.' "




     That very same  day  an  old man  dressed  in a  white suit and a straw
boater and  wearing  queer pink embroidered  slippers  with  turned-up  toes
entered  the  offices of the Central Excursion Bureau. He politely  inquired
whether he had the good fortune of being in the chambers of that high-placed
establishment  which  granted  people  the  fragrant   joy  of  travel.  The
secretary, surprised by such a flowery question, replied in the affirmative.
Then the  old man inquired in the same  florid  language  where the wise man
worthy of the greatest respect sat, he, who was in charge of booking passage
on the ice-breaker "Ladoga."
     He was directed to a  plump, bald man seated at a large desk piled high
with letters.
     "But  please  bear  in  mind  that  there  are  no cabins left  on  the
'Ladoga'," the secretary warned.
     The old man did not reply. He thanked her with a nod and approached the
plump man silently. In silence he made 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 left, with  the puzzled eyes of  all who had
witnessed this curious scene following him out.
     The  bald  man unwrapped the newspaper.  There,  on  his desk, was  the
strangest letter the Central Excursion Bureau had ever received-or, for that
matter, the strangest  letter ever received by any Soviet  office. It  was a
yellow parchment scroll. A large green wax seal  dangled from  a golden silk
cord attached to it.
     "Did you ever see anything like it?" the plump man asked loudly and ran
off to show it to his chief, in charge of long-range cruises.
     When they  had read it, his chief dropped  his work and the two of them
dashed off to the director.
     "What's the matter? Can't you see I'm busy?" the director said.
     The section chief silently unrolled the parchment scroll.
     "What's that? Is it from a museum?"
     "No, it's from 'Incoming mail'."
     "Incoming  mail?!  What's  in  it?" After  reading  the  contents,  the
director  said,  "Well, I've seen  quite a  lot  in  my day, but  I've never
received such a letter. It must have been written by a maniac."
     "Even if  he is a  maniac, he's a  collector of antiques,"  the section
chief answered. "You try to get some genuine parchment nowadays."
     "Just listen to what  he's written," the director continued, forgetting
that his subordinates had already read the message. "It's typical raving!
     "  'To the greatly respected Chief of  Pleasures, the incorruptible and
enlightened Chief of the Long-Range Cruise Section, may his name be renowned
among the most honourable ' and respected Section Chiefs!' "
     The director read this  and winked at the section chief. "He means you,
I guess!" The section chief coughed in embarrassment.
     " 'I, Hassan Abdurrakhman, the mighty Genie, the great Genie, known for
my  power and  might in Baghdad and Damascus, in Babylon  and Sumer, son  of
Hottab, the great King of Evil Spirits, a part of the Eternal Kingdom, whose
dynasty is pleasing to Sulayman, the Son of David (on the twain  be peace!),
whose reign  is pleasing  to their hearts. Allah was overjoyed at my blessed
doings and blessed  me, Hassan Abdurrakhman, a Genie who worshipped him. All
the kings reigning  in  the palaces of the Four Parts of the World, from the
Upper Sea to the Lower Sea, and the kings of the West who live in  tents-all
have brought their homage to me and kissed my feet in Baghdad.
     "  'It has become known to me, 0 most noble of Section Chiefs,  that  a
ship which navigates without sails  and  is named the "Ladoga" will soon set
out on a pleasure cruise from  the city of Arkhangelsk with famous people of
various  cities  aboard. It  is my wish  that my  two young  friends,  whose
virtues are so many that even a short enumeration  of them will not fit into
this scroll, should also be among them.
     " 'Alas, I have not been informed of  how great a person's fame must be
in order that he be eligible for this magnificent  trip. However,  no matter
how great the  requirements,  my friends will meet  them-nay, more than meet
them, for it is in my power to make them princes or sheiks, tsars or  kings,
the most famous of the famous, the richest of the rich, the mightiest of the
mighty.
     " 'I kiss your feet seven times and seven times and send you greetings,
0 wise Section Chief, and request you to ' inform me when I and my two young
companions  should appear on  board the above-mentioned ship, may storms and
ill-fortune by-pass it on its distant and dangerous journey!
     "  'Signed  by the hand of Hassan Abdurrakhman  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
madman. Stick it away in the file and be done with it."
     "I  think we'd better answer him, or the crazy old man will be dropping
in  five  times a day to find out  about  the outcome of his  application. I
assure you, it'll be  quite impossible  to work in  the office," the section
chief objected. A few minutes later he dictated an answer to his secretary.



     Hottabych had acted unwisely in giving Volka's address for a  reply. It
was only by the merest chance that Volka met the postman on the stairs. What
if this  lucky meeting  had  not taken place?  The letter  from  the Central
Excursion Bureau would  have  been delivered  to  his parents; all sorts  of
questions would have followed, resulting in such a mess, that he didn't even
care to think of it.
     The younger Kostylkov did not  often receive  mail  addressed  to  him,
personally. In fact, not more than three or four times in all his life. That
is  why, when the postman said he  had  a letter  for him, Volka was greatly
surprised. When he saw the return address of the Central Excursion Bureau he
was stunned.  He examined the envelope carefully and even smelled it, but it
only  smelled  of the paste on the flap. With trembling fingers he opened it
and read  the section chief's  short but polite  reply  several  times  over
without understanding a thing:

     "Dear Citizen H. Abdurrakhmanov,
     "We regret to inform you that we received your  request too late. There
are no cabins left on the 'Ladoga.'
     "My best regards to your princes and sheiks.
     "Sincerely yours,
     I. Domosedov, Section Chief of Long-Range Cruises."

     "Can  it be that the old man tried  to  get  us on  the  'Ladoga'?"  it
suddenly occurred to Volka.  He was deeply touched.  "What a  wonderful  old
man!  But I  don't  understand which  princes and  sheiks this Domosedov  is
sending his regards to. I'll find out right away, though."
     "Hottabych! Hey, Hottabych!" he shouted when he reached the river bank.
"Come here for a minute, will  you?" The  old man was dozing in the shade of
the great oak. When he heard Volka calling, he started, jumped  to his feet,
and shuffled over to the boy.
     "Here I am, 0 goalie of my soul," he panted. "I await your orders."
     "Come clean now. Did you write to the Central Excursion Bureau?"
     "Yes, but  I wanted  it  to be  a surprise. Did  you receive an  answer
already?"
     "Sure, here it is," Volka said, showing the old man the letter.
     Hottabych snatched the paper from him. After reading the tactful answer
slowly,  syllable  by syllable,  he turned purple  and began to tremble  all
over.  His  eyes  became  bloodshot.  In a  great  rage  he ripped  open his
embroidered collar.
     "I beg your pardon," he wheezed,  "I beg your pardon! I must  leave you
for a few minutes to take care of that most despicable Domosedov. Oh, I know
what  I'll do to  him! I'll annihilate him!  No, that's  no good! He doesn't
deserve  such merciful punishment. Better still, I'll turn him into a 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!"
     With these words the old man  zoomed  into  the air.  But Volka shouted
sternly:
     "Come back! Come back this minute!"
     The  old man  returned obediently.  His  heavy grey  brows  were  drawn
together gloomily.
     "Really  now!"  Volka  shouted, truly alarmed on  the  section  chief's
account. "What's the matter! Are you crazy? Is it his fault there's  no more
room on the ship? After all, it's  not made of rubber, it can't stretch. And
will you please tell me who the sheiks and princes he refers to are?"
     "You, 0  Volka ibn Alyosha, you and our friend Zhenya  ibn  Kolya,  may
Allah grant you both a long life. I wrote and told this most degraded of all
section chiefs that  he  need not worry about your  not being famous enough,
for no matter how famous the other passengers aboard the 'Ladoga' are, I can
make  you,  my  friends,  more famous  still.  I  wrote  this  small-brained
Domosedov-may Allah  forget  him completely-that he may regard you as sheiks
or princes or tsars without even having seen you."
     Despite the tenseness of the  situation, Volka could not help laughing.
He laughed so loudly, that several very serious-minded jackdaws rose noisily
from the nearest tree and flew off indignantly.
     "Help! That means I'm a  prince!"  Volka choked the  words out  through
peals of laughter.
     "I must  admit,  I  cannot understand the  reason for  your  laughter,"
Hottabych said  in a wounded tone. "But if  we are to  discuss  the question
seriously,  I had planned on making Zhenya a prince. I  think you deserve to
be a sultan."
     "Honestly, you'll  be  the  death  of me  yet!  Then Zhenya would  be a
prince, while  I'd be a  sultan?  What political backwardness!" Volka gasped
when  he had  finally stopped  laughing.  "What's so glorious about being  a
prince or a king?  Why,  they're  the most  good-for-nothing  people in  the
world!"
     "I'm afraid you've gone  out  of your  mind,"  Hottabych  said, looking
anxiously  at his young companion. "As I  understand it, even sultans aren't
good enough for  you.  Whom then do you  consider  to be  famous? Name me at
least one such person."
     "Why, Chutkikh, or Lunin, or Kozhedub, or Pasha Angelina."
     "Who 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 more famous
than a sheik or a king?"
     "She's famous in her own right. It has nothing at all  to  do  with her
husband. She's a famous tractor driver."
     "0 precious Volka, how can you  play such tricks on an old man like me!
Do you want to convince me that  a  plain weaver or a locomotive  driver  is
more famous than a tsar?"
     "In  the first place,  Chutkikh isn't a  plain  weaver.  He's  a famous
innovator,  known  to  the entire  textile industry;  and Lunin  is a famous
engineer. And in the second place,  the  most ordinary worker in our country
is more respected than the  tsar of tsars.  Don't you believe me? Here, read
this."
     Volka handed Hottabych  the paper and there, with his own eyes, he read
the following heading: "Famous People  of Our  Country," beneath which  were
over  a  dozen  photographs  of  fitters,  agronomists,  pilots,  collective
farmers, weavers, teachers and carpenters.
     "I would never have believed you," Hottabych said with a sigh. "I would
never have believed you if your words had not been 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?"
     "With pleasure," Volka answered. And sitting down on the river bank, he
spoke  at length and with great pride,  explaining the essence of the Soviet
system to Hottabych.
     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 more reason why I want you and your friend to sail on
the 'Ladoga.' Believe me, I will see that it is arranged."
     "But please, no rough stuff," Volka warned.  "And  no  monkey-business.
That  means no  fakery.  For instance, don't think of  making me out to be a
straight 'A' pupil. I have 'B's in three subjects."
     "Your every wish is my command," Hottabych replied and bowed low.
     The old  man  was  as  good as his word.  He did not lay  a finger on a
single employee of the Central Excursion Bureau.
     He  just arranged  matters so, that  when our three friends boarded the
"Ladoga,"  they were met very warmly and were given an excellent  cabin; and
no  one  ever inquired  why  in the  world  they had been  included  in  the
passenger list-it simply did not occur to anyone to ask such a question.
     To the captain's great surprise, twenty  minutes before sailing  time a
hundred and fifty crates of oranges, as many crates 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 message was stencilled
on each and every crate:
     "For  the  passengers and  the  members  of the  fearless  crew  of the
'Ladoga,' from a citizen who wishes to remain anonymous."
     One  does  not  have to be especially  clever to guess  that these were
Hottabych's gifts: he did not want the  three of them  to  take  part in the
expedition at someone else's expense.
     And if you  ask  any  of  the former passengers, they still cherish the
kindest feelings for the "citizen who wished to remain anonymous." His gifts
were well liked by all.
     Now, having made it sufficiently clear  to the readers  how our friends
found themselves aboard the "Ladoga," we can continue our story with a clear
conscience.



     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  friends, Hottabych,
Volka  and Zhenya, were among the passengers. Hottabych was sitting on deck,
conversing  solemnly  with  a  middle-aged  fitter  from  Sverdlovsk on  the
advantages of cloth shoes  as compared to leather  ones,  pointing  out  the
comfort people suffering from old corns found in cloth shoes.
     Volka and Zhenya were leaning on the railing of the top deck. They were
as happy as only boys can be who are aboard a real ice-breaker for the first
time in their lives, and, to top it all, are sailing away for a whole month,
not to just any old place, but to the Arctic.
     After  exchanging  opinions  on   boats,  diesel  ships,  ice-breakers,
tug-boats, schooners,  trawlers, cutters, and other types of craft  skimming
over the surface of the Northern  Dvina,  the boys fell silent, enchanted by
the beauty of the great river.
     "Isn't that something!" Volka said  in a voice that seemed to imply  he
was responsible for all this beauty.
     "Uh-huh."
     "Nobody'd believe it if you told them."
     "Uh-huh!"
     "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  man away from Varvara
Stepanovna for at least a month."
     "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 man who carried his high and romantic title
so nonchalantly.  His glance  slid over the  young passengers unseeingly and
came to rest on a sailor who was leaning on the railing nearby.
     "What's the matter, are you feeling homesick?"
     "Well,  here  we  are,  off  again  for  a whole month  to  the  end of
nowheres."
     The boys were amazed to discover that someone might  not  want to go to
the Arctic! What a strange fellow!
     "A real sailor is a  guest on  shore and at home at sea!" the Passenger
Mate said weightily. "Did you ever hear that saying?"
     "Well, 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
named Koltsova."
     "That's  the same last name as Varvara  Stepanovna has," Volka remarked
to Zhenya.
     "Uh-huh."
     "She's  a middle-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 alarmed 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  name  is  Koltsova.   What  a
coincidence!" Volka whispered.
     "Well, it's a very common last name, just like Ivanov," Zhenya objected
in a voice that was suddenly hoarse.
     "Her name and patronymic are Varvara Stepanovna," the Mate went on.
     The boys saw spots before their eyes.
     "It's no  matter that she's Varvara Stepanovna,  too. That doesn't mean
she's our Varvara  Stepanovna," Zhenya said in an effort to reassure himself
and his friend.
     At this point, however, Volka  recalled the conversation that had taken
place in the principal's  office when he  was there  to  take his  geography
examination. He merely shrugged hopelessly.
     "It's  she  all  right. That's exactly who it  is.  I'm scared to think
what'll happen to her. Why couldn't she go some place else!"
     "We'll save her anyway,  we just have to think of a way,"  Zhenya  said
darkly after a short but painful silence.
     They sat down on a bench, thought a while, and complained of their  bad
luck: such a  journey was really something wonderful 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 must  save their teacher. But how? Why,
it was all quite simple: by distracting Hottabych.
     They had no need to worry today, for she would certainly be confined to
her cabin till  the  morrow. Then they would plan their strategy as follows:
one would go strolling with Varvara Stepanovna, or sit on a bench talking to
her, while the other would be distracting Hottabych. For instance, Volka and
Hottabych might play a game of  chess,  while Zhenya and  Varvara Stepanovna
took  a stroll  down  the deck. Volka and Hottabych could  be on deck, while
Zhenya and Varvara Stepanovna were talking somewhere far away, in a cabin or
someplace.  The only points  remaining to be cleared up were  what they were
supposed to  do when everyone  went ashore together or gathered for meals in
the mess hall.
     "What if we disguise her?" Volka suggested.
     "What  do  you  want  to do-stick  a  beard  on her?"  Zhenya  snapped.
"Nonsense. Make-up won't save her. We'll have to think it over carefully."
     "Ahoy, my young friends! Where are you?" Hottabych shouted from below.
     "We're here, we're coming right down."
     They went down to the promenade deck.
     "I and my honourable friend here are having an argument about the Union
of South Africa," Hottabych said, introducing them to his companion.
     Things were going from bad  to worse. If the old  man began advertising
his knowledge of  geography,  the passengers would surely laugh at  him;  he
might very well become offended,  and  what  might  happen then did not bear
thinking about.
     "Who's right, my young friends? Isn't Pretoria the capital of the Union
of South Africa?"
     "Sure it is," the boys agreed.
     They were amazed. How had the old man come by this correct information?
Maybe from the papers? Naturally. That was the only answer.
     "My  honourable  friend  here insists  it's  Cape Town,  not Pretoria,"
Hottabych  said triumphantly.  "We  also argued  about how far above  us the
stratosphere is. I said that one could not draw a  definite line between the
troposphere and the  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 more  than a figment of our
imagination...." .
     "Hottabych,  I  want  a word with you  in private,"  Volka  interrupted
sternly. They  walked off  to a side. "Tell  me  the truth,  was it you  who
filched my geography book?"
     "May  I be permitted to know what  you mean by that strange "  word? If
you mean, 0 Volka, that I.... What's the matter  now,  0 anchor of my heart?
You're as pale as a ghost."
     Volka's jaw dropped. His gaze became fixed  on something 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, my  sweet,
dear Hottabych!"
     Nevertheless, the old man did turn around.
     Coming 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. With 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 blame! You've no right to!"
     Zhenya silently tackled Hottabych  from the rear  and  gripped  him  as
firmly as he could.
     The  old  man's  companion  looked  at  this  strange  scene  in  utter
amazement.
     "Boys!" Varvara Stepanovna commanded,  apparently not at all  surprised
at meeting her pupils on the ice-breaker.  "Behave yourselves! Leave the old
man alone! Didn't you hear me?! Kostylkov! Bogorad! Do you hear?"
     "He'll turn you into a toad if we do!" Volka cried frantically, feeling
that he could not manage Hottabych.
     "Or  into  a  chopping-block on  which  butchers carve  mutton!" Zhenya
added. "Run, Varvara Stepanovna! Hurry  up and hide before he  breaks loose!
What Volka said is true!"
     "What nonsense!" Varvara Stepanovna said, raising her voice. "Children,
did you hear what I said?!"
     By then  Hottabych had wrenched free from his young friends and quickly
tore the hairs in two. The boys shut their eyes in horror.
     However,  they opened them  when they heard Varvara Stepanovna thanking
someone.  She was holding  a  bouquet of flowers and a  large bunch of  ripe
bananas.
     Hottabych replied  by bowing  with  a  nourish  and  touching first his
forehead and then his heart.
     When they were back in their cabin, the three friends had a show-down.
     "Oh,  Volka, why  didn't  you  tell  me  right  away, right  after  the
examination, the very first day of our happy acquaintance, that I failed you
by my over-confident and ignorant prompting? You've offended  me. If you had
only told me, I wouldn't have bothered you with my annoying  gratitude. Then
you could  have easily prepared for  your  re-examination, as is becoming an
enlightened youth like you."
     So spoke Hottabych, and there was real hurt in his voice.
     "But you'd have  turned Varvara  Stepanovna into  a chopping-block  for
carving mutton. No, Hottabych, I know you only too well. We spent all  these
days in terrible fear for her life. Tell me, would you have changed her into
a chopping-block?"
     Hottabych sighed.
     "Yes, I would  have, there's no use denying it.  Either that or  into a
terrible toad."
     "See! Is that what she deserves?"
     "Why,  if   anyone  ever  dares  to   turn  this  noble  woman  into  a
chopping-block  or a toad he'll  have  to deal with me first!" the  old  man
cried hotly and added, "I bless the day you induced me to learn the alphabet
and taught me how to read the papers. Now  I am  always up-to-date and  well
informed on which sea is being  built, and  where. And I also bless the  day
Allah gave me  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 me the blessed expanses of true science and has  saved me from
administering  that  which  I,  in  my  blindness,  considered  a  deserving
punishment for your highly respected teacher. I mean Varvara Stepanovna."
     "I guess that takes care of that!" Volka said.
     "It sure does," Zhenya agreed.




     They were having  good sailing weather. For three days and three nights
they sailed in open seas and only towards the end of the third  day did they
enter a region of scattered ice.
     The boys were playing checkers in the lounge, when an excited Hottabych
burst in on them, holding on to the brim of his old straw hat.
     "My friends," he said with a broad  smile, "go  and have  a  look:  the
whole world, as far as the eye can see, is covered with sugar and diamonds!"
     We can  excuse Hottabych  these  funny  words, as never  before  in his
nearly forty centuries  of living had he seen  a single  mound  of ice worth
speaking of.
     Everyone  in the  lounge rushed on  deck and  discovered  thousands  of
snow-white drifting ice-floes sparkling and glittering in the bright rays of
the  midnight sun,  moving silently towards the  "Ladoga."  Soon  the  first
ice-floes crunched and crashed against the rounded steel stem of the boat.
     Late that night (but it was as bright  and sunny as on a clear noonday)
the passengers saw a group  of islands in  the distance. This was the  first
glimpse they had of the majestic  and sombre panorama of Franz Joseph  Land.
They saw  the  gloomy, naked cliffs  and  mountains covered  with glittering
glaciers which resembled sharp,  pointed clouds that had been  pressed close
to the harsh land.
     "It's time to go to bed, I guess," Volka said when everyone had had his
fill  of looking at the far islands.  "There's  really nothing to do, but  I
don't feel like sleeping. It all comes from not being used to sleeping while
the sun is shining!"
     "0  blessed  one,  it seems to  me that  it is  not the  sun  which  is
interfering, but something else entirely," Hottabych suggested timidly.
     However, no one paid attention to his words.
     For a while, the boys wandered up and down the decks. There  were  less
and less people  aboard. Finally they,  too, went back to their  cabin. Soon
the only  people on the ship who were not  asleep  were the  crew members on
duty.
     It was quiet and  peaceful aboard the "Ladoga." From every cabin  there
came  the sound of snoring  or deep  breathing, as if  this  were not taking
place on a ship some two and a  half thousand kilometres from  the mainland,
in the harsh and treacherous Barents  Sea, but in a cosy rest home somewhere
near Moscow, during the afternoon "quiet hour." The shades were drawn on the
port-holes, just  as on the  windows  in rest homes, to keep out  the bright
sunshine.



     However, it soon became clear that there was a very tangible difference
between the "Ladoga" and a rest  home.  Apart  from  the Crimean earthquake,
old-timers at rest homes do not recall having  been tossed out of their beds
in  their sleep. The passengers had  just fallen  asleep when  a  sharp jerk
threw them from their berths.
     That very  moment the steady hum of the engines stopped. In the silence
which  followed,  one could hear  the slamming  of  doors  and  the sound of
running feet, as the people rushed out of their cabins to  find out what had
happened. There were shouts of command coming from the deck. Volka was lucky
in  tumbling  out  of the top berth without  major  injuries. He immediately
jumped to  his feet and began to rub his sore  spots.  As he was still  half
asleep, he  decided that it had been his own fault and was about to climb up
again when  the murmur of  anxious voices coming from the corridor convinced
him that the reason was much more serious than he thought.
     "Perhaps we  hit  an underground  reef?"  he wondered,  pulling on  his
clothes. This thought,  far  from  frightening him, gave  him  a strange and
burning  feeling of  anxious exhilaration. "Golly! This is a real adventure!
Gee! There isn't a single ship  within a thousand kilometres, and maybe  our
wireless doesn't work!"
     He imagined  a  most  exciting  picture:  they were  shipwrecked, their
supplies of drinking  water  and  food  were  coming  to  an  end,  but  the
passengers  and  crew of  the  "Ladoga"  were calm  and courageous-as Soviet
people should be.  Naturally,  he,  Volka Kostylkov, had  the  greatest will
power. Yes,  Vladimir Kostylkov  could look  danger  in  the face.  He would
always be cheerful and outwardly carefree,  he would comfort those who  were
despondent. When  the  captain of the "Ladoga" would succumb to the  inhuman
strain and  deprivation, he, Volka,  would  rightly take over command of the
ship.
     "What has  disturbed  the sleep so  necessary  to your  young  system?"
Hottabych asked and yawned, interrupting Volka's day-dreams.
     "I'll find out right away, Hottabych. I  don't want you  to worry about
anything," Volka said comfortingly and ran off.
     Gathered on  the spardeck near  the  captain's bridge were about twenty
half-dressed passengers.  They were  all discussing  something  quietly.  In
order to raise  their spirits, Volka assumed a cheerful, carefree expression
and said courageously:
     "Be calm, everyone! Calmness above all! There's no need to panic!"
     "That's very true. Those are  golden words,  young man! And that is why
you should go right back to your cabin and go to sleep without fear," one of
the passengers replied with a smile.  "By the way, no one here is feeling at
all panicky."
     Everyone laughed,  to Volka's considerable embarrassment.  Besides,  it
was rather chilly on deck and he decided to run down and get his coat.
     "Calmness above all!" he said  to Hottabych, who was  waiting  for  him
below. "There's no reason to get panicky.  Before two days  are out, a giant
ice-breaker will  come  for  us and  set us afloat once  again. We certainly
could  have done it ourselves, but  can you hear?  The engines  have stopped
working.  Something 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 himself speak with pleasure. He had never dreamt
he could calm people so easily and convincingly.
     "0  woe is me!" the old  man cried suddenly, shoving his bare feet into
his  famous  slippers. "If you perish, I'll not survive  you. Have we really
come upon a shoal? Alas, alas!  It would be much better  if the engines were
making noise. And just look at me! Instead of using my magic powers for more
important things, I...."
     "Hottabych," Volka interrupted sternly, "tell me this minute: what have
you done?"
     "Why, nothing much. It's just  that I  so  wanted you to sleep soundly,
that I permitted myself to order the engines to stop making 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 moment  the  engines began  to hum  again and  the  "Ladoga"
continued on its way as  before. Meanwhile, the captain, 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 resumed  working again just as
suddenly and mysteriously.
     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 contest to see who's the soundest
sleeper,  I bet  Zhenya would  get  first prize and be  the world champion,"
Volka said.
     Hottabych giggled ingratiatingly, though he had no idea what  a contest
was, and especially an international one, or what a champion was. But he was
trying to appease Volka.
     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 man-to-man talk."
     "I  am  all  ears,   0   Volka,"  Hottabych  replied  with  exaggerated
cheerfulness.
     "Did you ever try counting how many years older you are than me?"
     "Somehow, the thought never entered my  head, but  if you permit me to,
I'll gladly do so."
     "Never mind,  I figured it  out  already. You're three thousand,  seven
hundred  and  nineteen  years  older  than  me-or  exactly  two  hundred and
eighty-seven  times!  And when people see us  together on the deck or in the
lounge they probably  think: how nice  it is  that  these  boys  have such a
respectable, wise and elderly gentleman  to keep an  eye on them. Isn't that
right? What's the matter? Why don't you answer?"
     But Hottabych,  hanging  his unruly grey head, seemed to have  taken  a
mouthful of water.
     "But  how do things really  stand? Actually,  I  find that I'm suddenly
responsible for your life and the lives of all the passengers, because since
it was me who  let you  out of  the bottle an since you nearly sank  a whole
ice-breaker, it means I'm responsible for everything. I  deserve to have  my
head chopped off."
     "Just  let anyone try to chop off such a noble head as yours! Hottabych
cried.
     "All right, never mind that. Don't interrupt. To continue: Pi sick  and
tired of  your miracles. There's no doubt  about  it, you're  really a  very
mighty Genie (Hottabych puffed  out his chest),  bi as concerns modern times
and modern technical development; you don't know much  more than  a new-born
babe. Is the clear?"
     "Alas, it is."
     "Well  then,  let's agree:  whenever  you  feel  like  performing  some
miracle, 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-examination  (Volka  winced),  the  I'll  consult
Zhenya."
     "Do you swear?"
     "I swear," the old man exclaimed and struck his chest wit his fist.
     "And now, back to bed," Volka ordered.
     "Aye,  aye, Sir!" Hottabych answered loudly. He had  already managed to
pick up some nautical terms.




     By morning the  "Ladoga" had entered  a zone  of heavy  fogs. ; crawled
ahead slowly and every  five  minutes its siren wailed  loudly, breaking the
eternal silence.
     This was done in accordance with the  rules  of navigation. then it  is
foggy, all vessels must sound their fog horns, no matter whether they are in
the busiest harbours or in  the  empty wastes of  the Arctic Ocean.  This is
done to prevent collisions.
     The sound of the "Ladoga's" siren depressed the passengers.
     It was dull and  damp on deck,  and boring  in the cabins. That is  why
every seat  in the lounge was occupied. Some passengers  were playing chess,
some  were playing checkers, others were  reading. Then they tired of  these
pastimes, too. Finally they decided to sing.
     They sang  all  together  and  one  at  a  time;  they  danced  to  the
accompaniment  of  a guitar and an  accordion. A famous Uzbek  cotton-grower
danced to an accompaniment provided by Zhenya. There really should have been
a  tambourine, but since  there was none, Zhenya tapped out the rhythm quite
well on an enamelled tray. Everyone was pleased except the Uzbek, but he was
very polite  and praised Zhenya, too. Then a young man from a Moscow factory
began doing card tricks. This time everyone except  Hottabych thought it was
grand.
     He called Volka out into the corridor.
     "Permit me, 0 Volka, to entertain these kind people with several simple
miracles."
     Volka recalled  how  these "simple  miracles"  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 remember-just card tricks and maybe something with the
ping-pong balls, if you want to."
     "I shall never forget your wise generosity," Hottabych said gratefully,
and they returned to the  lounge. The  young  worker was in the midst  of  a
really good trick.  He offered anyone in the audience to choose a card, look
at it, replace  it, and then shuffle the  deck. Then he shuffled it too, and
the top card always turned out to be the right one.
     After he had  received  his well-earned  applause and  returned  to his
seat,  Hottabych asked to  be  permitted  to  entertain the  gathering  with
several simple tricks. That's how the boastful old man put it-simple.
     Naturally, everyone agreed. They applauded before he even began.
     Bowing  smartly to all sides like an old-timer 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 became 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, formed a chain and began
spinning around  a bowing Hottabych like sputniks until  they became a white
hoop. Hottabych put this large hoop  on Varvara Stepanovna's lap with a  low
bow. The hoop began to flatten out  until it turned into a roll of excellent
silk. Hottabych  cut it  into pieces with Volka's  pen-knife. The pieces  of
silk flew into  the  air  like birds and  wound themselves  into turbans  of
remarkable beauty around the heads of the amazed audience.
     Hottabych  listened to  the applause  blissfully.  Then  he snapped his
fingers. The turbans  turned into  pigeons which flew out  through the  open
port-holes and  disappeared. Everyone was now convinced that  the old man 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 unanimous and exciting approval was for him.
     "Just wait  and see! Watch 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 agreement on this point."
     "One minute, my friends," Hottabych said  to the applauding passengers.
"Will you permit me to...."
     He  yanked a single hair from  his  beard.  Suddenly  a  shrill whistle
sounded on deck. They could hear the heavy clatter of running feet.
     "That's the militia  coming to fine someone!" Zhenya joked. "Somebody's
jumped overboard  at full speed!" No  one  had  time  to laugh, because  the
"Ladoga" shuddered  and something  clanged menacingly  below. For the second
time that day the ship came to a stop.
     "See! What did I  say!"  Zhenya  hissed  and looked  at Hottabych  with
loathing. "He couldn't control himself.  Just look at him boast! Golly! I've
never met a more conceited, boastful and undisciplined  Genie  in  my  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 voice.
     "Oh, no! No! Do not  insult  me with  such  suspicions, 0 serpent among
boys, for  I have never broken the  smallest  promise, to say nothing of  an
oath. I  swear I know no more than you  do about the  reasons for our sudden
stop."
     "A  snake?" Volka shouted  angrily. "Oh, so  on top of everything else,
I'm a snake! Thank you, Hottabych! My best merci to you!"
     "Not  a snake,  a  serpent, for know ye that a  serpent  is  the living
embodiment of wisdom."
     This time the old man was really not to  blame. The  "Ladoga"  had lost
its  way in the fog and gone aground.  Passengers crowded the deck, but they
had  difficulty in  even  making out the rails. However, by leaning over the
side  near the bow  they  could see the  propellers  churning  up  the  dark
unfriendly waters.
     Half an hour passed, but all attempts to get the ship off  the shoal by
putting it in reverse  ended in  failure. Then the captain ordered  the spry
boatswain to pipe all on deck.
     Everyone  except those  standing watch  gathered  on  the spardeck. The
captain said, "Comrades, this is  an emergency. There's only one way to  get
off the  shoal under our own steam and that's transfer the coal from the bow
to the stern; then we'll be able make free of the shoal. If everyone pitches
in, it won't take more than ten or twelve hours to do the job. The boatswain
will  divide you into teams. 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 you: the boys are too young and it's a  little too late for you to carry
heavy loads."
     "What do  you mean  by  saying I  can't carry heavy  loads?"  Hottabych
replied scornfully. "Please be informed that no one present here  can  equal
me in weight-lifting, 0 most respected captain."
     The other passengers began to smile.
     "What  an  old  man!"  "Listen  to  him  boast."  "Just  look  at  that
muscle-man!"
     "There's nothing to laugh at, he feels offended. It's no fun be old."
     "See for yourself!" Hottabych shouted. He grabbed his two young friends
and, to the general amazement,  began juggling them as  if they were plastic
billiard balls  stead of sturdy thirteen-year-old  boys. The  applause which
followed was so deafening, the whole scene might very well have taken  place
at a weight-lifting contest and not on board a ship in danger.
     "I  take  my words back," the captain said  solemnly after the applause
had died down. "And now, let's get to work! There's time to waste!"
     "Hottabych," Volka said,  -taking the old man off to a side "what's the
use of dragging coal from one hold to another for twelve long hours? I think
you should do something to get the ship off the shoal."
     "That's not within my powers," the old man answered sadly "I thought of
it already. Naturally, I can pull it off the rocks, 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
time."
     "Think again, Hottabych! Maybe you'll think of some thing!"
     "I'll try my best, 0  compass of my soul," the old man replied. After a
short pause he asked, "What if I make the rocks disappear?"
     "Oh, Hottabych! How smart you are!" Volka said  and  began to shake his
hand. "That's a wonderful idea."
     "I hear and I obey."
     The first emergency  team was down in the hold, loading  the first iron
bins with coal, when  the "Ladoga"  suddenly lurched and then began  to spin
around in a  whirlpool over the  spot where there had just  been a shoal. In
another  minute,  the  ship would  have broken to bits, had  not Volka sense
enough to tell  Hottabych to  make  the  whirlpool disappear. The sea became
calm; the "Ladoga" spun  around a while longer from  sheer force of inertia.
Then it continued on its way.
     Once again, no one but Hottabych and Volka knew what he happened.
     Ahead were more exciting days, each unlike the other, as they journeyed
across  little-known  seas  and channels, past bleak  islands  upon which no
human foot had ever stepped. The passengers often left the ship to go ashore
on  deserted cliffs  and  on  islands where polar station teams greeted them
with  rifle salvos. Our three friends joined the rest in climbing  glaciers,
wandering over the naked stones of basalt plateaux, jumping from ice-floe to
ice-floe  over black  open  patches  of water, and  hunting polar bears. The
fearless Hottabych dragged one bear aboard the "Ladoga" by the scruff of its
neck. Under his  influence the  animal soon became  as tame and playful as a
cat, and so provided many happy hours for both  passengers and crew. Now the
bear often tours with circuses,  and many of  our  readers  have undoubtedly
seen him. His name is Kuzya.



     After  stopping off  at Rudolph Island, the "Ladoga" began  its  return
journey. The passengers were worn out from the mass of new impressions, from
the  sun  which shone round the  clock from the frequent  fogs  and  endless
crashing of ice against the stem and sides  of  the ship. At each stop there
were  less and less passengers who  wished to go ashore on deserted 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 climb
the inhospitable cliffs.
     One morning the captain said, "Well, this is the last time you're going
ashore. There's no sense stopping the ship for six or seven people."
     That is why Volka  talked the others going ashore 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 staying behind to play chess with the captain.
     "Volka," Zhenya said  mysteriously when they dragged their feet  aboard
the "Ladoga" three hours  later. "Come on down to  the cabin! I want to show
you something.  Here, look at this," he continued,  after shutting  the door
tightly.  He pulled a longish object from under  his coat. "What d'you think
it is? I found it on the opposite side of the island. Right near the water."
     Zhenya was holding a small copper vessel the size of a decanter. It was
all green from age and brine.
     "We should give it  to the captain right away," Volka  said  excitedly.
"Some expedition probably put  a letter inside and threw it  into the water,
hoping someone would come 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 excitement. He quickly knocked off the tar-like
substance that  covered the mouth of  the  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 berth.
     Before he had  time to finish the sentence, clouds of black smoke began
pouring from the bottle, filling the entire cabin. It became dark and choky.
Presently, the  thick vapour condensed and became an unsightly  old man with
an angry face and a pair of eyes that burnt like coals. He fell to his knees
and knocked his forehead on the floor so hard that the things hanging on the
cabin wall swayed as if the ship was rolling.
     "0 Prophet of Allah, do not kill me!" he shouted.
     "I'd  like  to  ask  you something,"  a  frightened  but curious  Volka
interrupted  his wailing. "If  I'm not  mistaken,  you mean the  former King
Solomon, don't you?"
     "Yes, 0 miserable youth! Sulayman, the Son  of David (may  the  days of
the twain be prolonged on earth!)."
     "I don't know about who's miserable,"  Volka  objected calmly,  "but as
far as  your  Sulayman is concerned-his  days can in no  way  be  prolonged.
That's out completely: he's dead."
     "You lie, wretch, and will pay dearly for it!"
     "There's  nothing to get mad  about. That Eastern king die two thousand
nine  hundred  and  nineteen  years   ago.  You  ca   look  it  up   in  the
Encyclopaedia."
     "Who  opened the bottle?"  the  old man asked  in a  business like way,
having obviously accepted Volka's information an not  appearing  to  be  too
saddened by it.
     "I did, but you really shouldn't thank me," Zhenya said modestly.
     "There  is  no God  but  Allah!"  the  stranger  exclaimed. "Rejoice, 0
undeserving brat."
     "Why should I rejoice? It's you who've been freed from your prison, and
you should be the one to rejoice. What's there for me to rejoice about?"
     "Rejoice, because you must die an ill death this very hour"
     "That's what I  call real mean! After all, I  freed you from the copper
vessel.  If not  for me, who-knows how many thousands of  years longer you'd
have to lie around in smoke and soot."
     "Don't tire me with idle chatter! Ask of me only what mode of death you
choose and in what manner I shall slay you! Gr-r-r!
     "I'll  thank you  not to  act so  fierce!  And  anyway, what's that all
about?" Zhenya flared up.
     "Know,  0  undeserving boy,  that I am  one of the Genies who disobeyed
Sulayman,  David's Son (on the twain be peace!), whereupon Sulayman sent his
minister,  Asaf,  son of Barakhiya, to seize me. And  this Vizier brought me
against  my  will and led me in  bonds to Sulayman and he placed me standing
before  him.  When Sulayman  saw me,  he sent for this  bottle, shut  me  up
therein and stoppered it over with lead."
     "Good for him!" Zhenya whispered to Volka.
     "What are you whispering about?" the old man asked suspiciously.
     "Nothing, nothing at all," Zhenya answered hurriedly.
     "Take care!"  the  old man warned. "I am not one to have tricks  played
upon me. To continue: he imprisoned me in the bottle and ordered his  Genies
to throw me into the ocean. There I abode a hundred years, during which time
I said in my heart, 'Whoso shall  release me, him will I enrich for ever and
ever.' But the full century went  by and, when no one set me free, I entered
upon the second five score  saying, 'Whoso shall release me, for him I shall
open the  hoards of the Earth.'  Still,  no  one set me free, and  thus four
hundred years passed away. Then quoth I, 'Whoso shall  release  me, for  him
will I fulfil three wishes.' Yet ho one set me free. Thereupon I waxed wroth
and said to myself, 'Whoso shall release me from this time forth, him will I
slay, and I will give him choice of what death he will die,' and now, as you
have released me, I give you full choice of death."
     "But it's not at all logical to kill your saviour!  It's  illogical and
downright ungrateful," Zhenya objected heatedly.
     "Logic  has nothing  to  do  with it,"  the Genie interrupted  harshly.
"Choose the death that most  appeals to you and do not detain  me, for I  am
terrible in my wrath!"
     "May I ask you something?" Volka said, raising his hand.
     But the  Genie glared  at  him  so  frightfully, it made  Volka's knees
tremble.
     "Well then,  will  you at least  permit me to  ask a  question?" Zhenya
pleaded with such despair that the Genie relented.
     "All right. But be brief."
     "You say that you  spent several thousand years in  this copper vessel,
but  it's even too small to hold your hand. How  should the whole of you fit
in it?"
     "What! Do you not believe that I was there?"
     "I'll never believe it until I see you inside with my own eyes."
     "Well then, look  and be  convinced," the  Genie roared. He  shook  and
became a smoke which condensed and  entered the jar  little by little, while
the boys clapped softly in excitement.
     More than half the vapour had disappeared into the vessel. Zhenya, with
bated  breath,  had the  stopper ready to imprison the Genie once again, but
the old man seemed to change his mind, for he filtered out again and assumed
a human 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  outsmart  me, did  you, 0
despicable  brat? What a  terrible  memory I have!  I  nearly forgot  that a
thousand  one hundred and forty-two  years ago a fisherman fooled me in just
the same manner.  He asked me the very same question and I trustingly wished
to prove that I had indeed been  in the vessel. So I turned into smoke again
and entered the jar, while the fisherman snatched up the leaden cap with the
seal and stoppered therewith  the mouth  of  it. Then he tossed it back into
the sea. Oh no, you can't play that trick on me twice!"
     "Why, I had no intention of fooling you," Zhenya lied in a shaky voice,
feeling that now he was a goner for sure.
     "Hurry and choose what  manner  of death you will die  and detain me no
longer, for I am weary of all this talk!"
     "All right," Zhenya said  after thinking a  bit.  "But promise me  that
I'll die in exactly the way I choose."
     "I  swear!"  the  Genie promised  solemnly and  his eyes  burnt with  a
devilish fire.
     "Well, then," Zhenya  said and  swallowed hard. "Well then... I want to
die of old age."
     "Good for you!" Volka shouted.
     The Genie turned purple from rage and cried, "But your old age is still
very far off. You are still so young!"
     "That's all right," Zhenya answered courageously, "I can wait."
     When Volka heard this, he laughed happily, but the Genie began to curse
in Arabic as he dashed back and forth in the cabin, tossing aside everything
in his way in helpless rage.
     This went on for a good five minutes until he finally seemed to come to
a decision. He laughed so  fiendishly  as  to  give the  boys goose-pimples.
Standing before Zhenya, he said maliciously:
     "There  is no denying it, you are cunning. But Omar  Asaf ibn Hottab is
more cunning than you, 0 despicable one."
     "Omar  Asaf  ibn  Hottab?" the boys  cried  in unison.  The  Genie  was
trembling with wrath and bellowed:
     "Silence! Or  I'll destroy you  immediately! Yes,  I  am Omar Asaf  ibn
Hottab,  and I am more cunning  than this  brat! I'll fulfil his wish and he
will surely die of old age. But," he said, looking at the boys triumphantly,
"his old age will come upon him before you count to a hundred!"
     "Help!" Zhenya cried in his usual voice.  "Help!" he  groaned in a deep
basso  a few  seconds later.  "Help!" he  squeaked  in a trembling old man's
voice a few" moment's later. "Help! I'm dying!"
     Volka looked on horror-struck as Zhenya  quickly turned into  a  youth,
then into a grown man with a long black beard; then his beard turned to grey
and he became middle-aged; and, finally, he became a bald, bony, scrawny old
man.  All  would  have been  over  in a few  seconds if Omar  Asaf,  who was
gleefully watching Zhenya's quick deterioration, had not exclaimed:
     "Oh,  if my unfortunate brother were  only here now! How happy he would
be at my triumph!"
     "Wait!"  Volka  shouted.  "Tell me,  was  your  brother's  name  Hassan
Abdurrakhman?"
     "How  did you  discover  that?" Omar  Asaf asked  in amazement. "Do not
remind me of him, for my heart is rent at the memory of poor Hassan. Yes,  I
had a brother named so, but all the worse for you, for reopening my terrible
wounds!"
     "If  I tell you your brother is alive and bring  him to you, alive  and
healthy, will you spare Zhenya then?"
     "Oh, if  I could only see  my dear Hassan! Oh, then  your  friend would
remain alive until he aged  naturally and that  will not happen for many and
many a  year. But if you deceive  me ... I swear, neither of you will escape
my rightful wrath!"
     "Then wait a minute, just one minute!" Volka shouted.
     A few  moments later, he rushed into  the  lounge where  Hottabych  was
engrossed in his game of chess with the captain.
     "Dear Hottabych,  hurry! Let's  run back  to the cabin, there's a great
joy awaiting you there."
     "I can think of no  greater joy than  to check-mate my sweetest friend,
the captain," Hottabych replied solemnly, studying the board intently.
     "Hottabych, we can't spare a minute! I beg you, come below with me!"
     "All right," Hottabych replied and moved his castle. "Check! Run along,
Volka. I'll be with you as soon as I win, and, according to my calculations,
this will be in about three more moves."
     "We'll see  about that  yet," the captain  replied  cheerfully.  "Three
moves indeed! Just you let me see...."
     "Yes, yes,  do see," the old man chuckled. "You won't think of anything
anyway. I can wait. I'll be only too happy to wait."
     "We've no time to wait!" Volka wailed in despair, and  knocked all  the
figures off the board. "If  you don't come below  with me  this minute, both
Zhenya and I will die a horrible death! Hurry! Run!"
     "You're behaving atrociously," Hottabych  grumbled, but  followed Volka
out nonetheless.
     "That means it's a draw!" the captain  shouted happily, pleased to have
escaped a completely hopeless situation.
     "No, sir! What do you mean a draw?" Hottabych objected and was ready to
turn back.
     But Volka shouted angrily:
     "Sure it's a draw!  It's a  typical draw!" and shoved the  old man into
their cabin, where Omar Asaf was about to fulfil his terrible threat.
     "Who's the old man?" Hottabych asked, seeing a decrepit old man moaning
on  the  berth.  Actually,  but  a  few short moments ago,  he  had  been  a
thirteen-year-old boy named  Zhenya Bogorad. "And who's that other old man?"
he continued, noticing Omar Asaf. Suddenly  he turned pale. Not trusting his
eyes, he took several hesitant  steps forward and  whispered, "Salaam, sweet
Omar!"
     "Is that you, 0 my dear Hassan Abdurrakhman?" Omar Asaf cried.
     The  brothers fell into each other's arms, for  they had been separated
for nearly three thousand years.
     At first,  Volka was so touched by this unusual meeting of  brothers in
the midst of the Arctic icebergs, and so happy for Hottabych's sake, that he
completely forgot about the unfortunate Zhenya. Soon a barely  audible groan
from the berth reminded him that urgent aid was needed.
     "Help!" he cried and  rushed to separate Hottab's two sons. "A person's
dying and they...."
     "Help, I'm dying! "the old man Zhenya croaked,  as  if  to  corroborate
Volka's words. Hottabych looked at him in surprise and asked:
     "Who is this white-haired  old man, and how does he come to be lying in
our friend Zhenya's bed?"
     "But this is Zhenya," Volka wailed. "Save him, Hottabych!"
     "I  beg your pardon, 0 dearest Hassan," Omar Asaf said irritably to his
newly-found  brother.  "I  shall have to interrupt these pleasant moments of
reunion in order to fulfil my promise."
     With these words he went  over to the berth, touched Zhenya's shoulder,
and hissed:
     "Ask forgiveness before it is too late."
     "Forgiveness? Of whom?" the old man Zhenya croaked.
     "Of me, 0 despicable youth!"
     "What for?"
     "For trying to trick me."
     "You should ask my  forgiveness," Zhenya objected. "I saved you and you
want to kill me for it. I won't ask your forgiveness!"
     "Be it  as you wish," Omar Asaf agreed maliciously. "I  do not  insist.
But bear in mind that you shall die in a few seconds if you do not."
     "So what?  Who cares?"  Zhenya whispered  proudly if weakly,  though he
certainly did care.
     "Omar, my sweet!" Hottabych interrupted kindly but firmly. "Don't cloud
our  long-awaited  reunion  by  a dishonest act.  You  must  immediately and
unconditionally fulfil the  promise  given  to my precious friend, Volka ibn
Alyosha. And please  bear in mind that the most noble Zhenya is a very  good
friend of mine to."
     Omar  Asaf  ground his  teeth  in helpless rage.  Yet,  he took hold of
himself and muttered:
     "Change,  0 insolent  youth, and be as  you were  before!" "Now  you're
talking," Zhenya said.
     Everyone present had the pleasure of witnessing a most unusual sight: a
dying old man turned into a thirteen-year-old boy.
     First, his withered, sunken cheeks became rosy; then, his bald head was
covered  with white hair which soon  turned black,  as did his  heavy beard.
Feeling  stronger,  Zhenya  hopped off the  berth and winked  at his friends
happily. Standing before them  was a husky man of  forty, who differed  from
other men  of his age in that his beard kept on shrinking  until it  finally
turned into a  barely  noticeable  fringe  of  fluff which soon  disappeared
completely.  The man  was  becoming  smaller in  height and narrower in  the
shoulders. Finally, he took on Zhenya Bogorad's usual appearance.
     Thus, Zhenya was now the only person  in the world who could say. "Long
ago. when  I was  still an old man," the same as  millions  of old  men say,
"When I was still a young rascal."



     "There's one thing I  can't understand," Omar Asaf said thoughtfully as
he shivered with cold. "I clearly heard Sulayman's Genies  say, 'Let's throw
him-meaning  me-into the West Ethiopian Sea.' That's why I thought that if I
was ever lucky enough to look upon the sun and earth again, it would be near
the shores of sunny Africa. But this,"  and  he pointed  to the island  fast
disappearing through the port-hole, "this is  not  at all like Africa. Isn't
it so, my dear brother Hassan?"
     "You  are right, my dear Omar Asaf, one so pleasing to my heart. We are
now near other shores, quite a distance from Africa. We are now...."
     "I  know!  Really,  I  know!"  Volka interrupted  and did  a  jig  from
excitement. "Golly! Now I know! Now I know!"
     "What do you know?" Omar Asaf asked haughtily.
     "Now I know how you came to be in the Arctic."
     "0 insolent and boastful boy, how unpleasant I find your undue  pride!"
Omar Asaf said in disgust. "How can you understand something which remains a
mystery even to me, the wisest  and most powerful of all Genies!  Well then,
express your opinion, so that I and my dear brother may have a good laugh at
your expense."
     "That's as you wish. You can laugh if you want to. But it's all because
of the Gulf Stream."
     "Because of what?" Omar Asaf asked acidly.
     "The Gulf Stream, the warm current which brought you to the Arctic from
the Southern Seas."
     "What nonsense!" Omar Asaf smirked, turning to his brother for support.
     But his brother said nothing.
     "It's not rubbish at all," Volka began.
     But Omar Asaf corrected him:
     "I did not say 'rubbish,' I said 'nonsense.' "
     "It's neither rubbish  nor nonsense," Volka replied  with annoyance. "I
got an 'A' in geography for the Gulf Stream."
     Since  Zhenya  supported  Volka's  scientific  theory,  Hottabych  also
supported him.
     Omar  Asaf, seeing  that he was a minority 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 conceited boy," he said, forcing a
yawn. "I am tired and want to sleep. Hurry and bring a fan and keep away the
flies while I rest."
     "In the first place, there are no flies here. In the second place, what
right have you to order me about?" Volka asked indignantly.
     "There will  be flies soon enough," Omar Asaf muttered through clenched
teeth. And sure enough, swarms of flies began buzzing about the cabin.
     "We can manage without a fan," Volka said in  a friendlier tone, making
believe he did not understand the humiliating nature of Omar Asaf's demand.
     He opened first  the door, then the port-hole; a strong draught carried
the flies out into the corridor.
     "All the same, you'll fan  me!" Omar Asaf said  capriciously,  ignoring
Hottabych's attempts at calming him.
     "No, I won't! No one has ever made me fulfil humiliating orders."
     "Then I'll be the first to do so."
     "No you won't!"
     "Omar, my sweet!" Hottabych said, trying to avert the imminent quarrel.
     But Omar Asaf, who had turned black with rage, waved him away angrily.
     "I'd rather die than fulfil your whims!" Volka shouted.
     "Then you'll  die  very  soon,  as  soon as  the  Sun  sets," Omar Asaf
announced, smiling disgustingly.
     Suddenly, Volka had a wonderful idea.
     "If that's the case, then tremble, you despicable Genie!" he shouted in
his most  terrible voice. "You have tried my patience  too  long, and I must
stop the Sun! It will not  go down today, or tomorrow, or the day after. You
have only yourself to blame!"
     Volka was taking a big chance. If  Hottabych had  had  time to tell his
brother that the Arctic Sun shone twenty-four hours a  day  at this  time of
the year, then all was lost.
     But  in  reply  to  Volka's  words,  Omar  Asaf  scoffed, "Braggart  of
braggarts! Boaster of boasters! I, too,  like to boast at times, but even in
my greatest  rage I  have  never  promised to stop the course  of that great
celestial  body.  Not  even  Sulayman, the  Son of  David (on  the twain  be
peace!), could do that."
     Volka saw that he was saved. And not only saved, but that he could take
Hottabych's disagreeable brother in hand.
     Hottabych, meanwhile, winked approvingly at Volka. As for Zhenya, there
is no need to say he was  delighted.  He had guessed Volka's  idea  and  was
aglow from excitement, anticipating Omar Asaf's imminent downfall.
     "Rest assured, Omar Asaf. If I  said I'll stop the Sun, you can be sure
it won't go down today."
     "You brat!" Omar 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?"  Omar  Asaf  asked,  choking  with
laughter.
     "If it goes down, I will henceforth fulfil your most stupid orders."
     "Oh,  no," Omar  Asaf  said  triumphantly. "If  the  Sun, despite  your
conceited  promise, does go down-and  this will obviously happen-then I will
eat you up. I'll eat you, bones and all!"
     "And my  slippers too," Volka  added courageously. "But if the Sun does
not go down today, will you obey my every command?"
     "If the Sun does not go down, I will do so with the greatest  pleasure,
0  most  boastful and insignificant of magicians! But-  ha-ha-ha-alas!  This
will never happen."
     "It's  still an  open question as to who will say 'alas!'  a few  hours
from now," Volka cautioned.
     "Well then!" Omar 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 shameless milksop, for you
have less than twelve hours to live."
     "You can save your pity; you'd better pity yourself."
     Omar Asaf giggled scornfully, revealing two rows of small yellow teeth.
     "What awful teeth," Hottabych sighed. "Omar, why don't you get yourself
gold  teeth,  like  I  have?"  It  was  only  then  that  Omar  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 diamond teeth."
     That very moment,  thirty-two crystal-clear  diamonds sparkled  in  his
mouth as he smiled spitefully. Gazing at himself in the little bronze mirror
the old dandy carried in his belt, Omar Asaf was  quite pleased with what he
saw.
     There were only three things  that somehow clouded his  triumph. First,
Hottabych did  not seem at all envious;  second, his diamond  teeth sparkled
only when the light  fell upon them directly. If the light did not fall upon
them, he appeared completely toothless; third,  his  diamond 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 Volka 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."
     "Why, I  can stay in  the cabin as long as you want. That  will even be
better. Otherwise, I'll have  to hunt for you all over the boat when the Sun
doesn't go down. How long do you think I'll have to wait?"
     "Not  more  than nine hours, 0 young braggart,"  Omar Asaf said, bowing
sarcastically.  He snapped the  fingers  of  his left  hand and a cumbersome
water-clock appeared on  the table  beneath the port-hole.  "As soon as  the
water  reaches this line,"  he  said,  tapping  the side of the clock with a
crooked brown nail, "the Sun will go down. It is the hour of your death."
     "Fine, I'll wait."
     "We'll wait, too," said Zhenya and Hottabych.
     Eight hours slipped by quickly,  because Zhenya could  not deny himself
the  pleasure of  suggesting  that  the conceited  Omar  Asaf learn  to play
checkers.
     "I'll win anyway," Omar Asaf warned.
     Zhenya kept on winning. Omar  Asaf got angrier and angrier. He tried to
cheat,  but  each  time they caught him  at it, and  so he would begin a new
game, which would end just as sadly for him.
     "Well, the time's up, Omar Hottabych," Volka said finally.
     "Impossible!" Omar Asaf replied,  tearing himself away from the checker
board.
     Glancing quickly at the water-clock, he  turned pale and jumped up from
the berth where he and  Zhenya had been sitting. He rushed to the port-hole,
stuck his head out and groaned in terror and helpless 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  must have made  a little mistake in my calculations. Let's wait two
more hours."
     "Even three if you like, but it won't help you any. It'll  be just as I
said:  the  Sun will  not  go  down today,  or  tomorrow,  or the  day after
tomorrow."
     Four  and a  half  hours  later, Omar Asaf  stuck his head out  of  the
port-hole for the twentieth time, and for the twentieth time he saw that the
Sun had no intention of sinking beyond the horizon.
     He turned  as white as  a sheet and trembled all over as  he crashed to
his knees.
     "Spare me,  0 mighty youth!" he  cried in a  pitiful voice. "Do  not be
angry  at me, your unworthy slave, for when I shouted  at you I did not know
you were stronger than I!"
     "Does that mean you think you can shout at me if I'm weaker than you?"
     "Why, certainly."
     They all felt disgusted.
     "What a brother you  have," Zhenya whispered to  Hottabych. "Forgive me
for saying so, but he's a most unpleasant, envious and vicious old man."
     "Yes, my brother is no lump of sugar," Hottabych replied sadly.
     "For  goodness' sake, get  up!" Volka said  with annoyance, as  the old
Genie remained on his knees and kept trying to kiss Volka's hands.
     "What are your  orders, 0  my young but mighty master?" Omar Asaf asked
submissively, rubbing his soft palms together and rising.
     "At present,  there's  only one; don't you dare leave this  cabin for a
second without my permission!"
     "With the greatest of pleasure, 0 wisest and most powerful  of youths,"
Omar Asaf replied in a self-abasing tone, as he regarded Volka with fear and
awe.
     It  was just as Volka had predicted. Neither that day nor the next, nor
the third did the Sun go down. Making use of some small misdemeanour of Omar
Asaf's, Volka said he would make the Sun shine round the clock until further
notice. And  not until he  learned  from the  captain  that the "Ladoga" had
finally entered a latitude  where there was a brief  period of night, did he
inform Omar Asaf of this, as his special favour to  the undeserving,  grumpy
Genie.
     Omar Asaf was as quiet as  a mouse. Not once did he leave the cabin. He
crept back into  the copper vessel without a murmur when the "Ladoga" docked
to  the strains of a band  at its home  pier, from which it had sailed  away
thirty days before.
     Naturally,  Omar Asaf was extremely reluctant to return to his  bottle,
if even for  a short period, since he had already spent so  many unhappy and
lonely centuries there. But Volka gave him his word of  honour that he would
let him out the minute they reached home.
     There is  no  use denying that as Volka left  the  hospitable "Ladoga,"
carrying the copper vessel under his arm, he was sorely tempted to  toss  it
into the water. But there  you are-if you've  given your word you've got  to
keep  it. And  so  Volka walked down  the  gang-plank, having conquered this
momentary temptation.
     If no one aboard the "Ladoga" ever stopped to wonder why Hottabych  and
his friends  were taking part in the expedition, it is quite clear that  the
old  man  had no  trouble  casting  the  same spell  over his young friends'
parents and acquaintances.
     At  any  rate,  their relatives and friends accepted it as a  matter of
course that  the children had been in the Arctic, without questioning how in
the world they had ever booked berths on the Ladoga."
     After an  excellent dinner, the children told their  respective parents
the story  of their adventures in  the  Arctic, keeping  almost true to  the
facts.  They  were wise  enough to  say  nothing  about  Hottabych.  Zhenya,
however, was so carried away, that the rash  words nearly slipped out of his
mouth.  When he  described the performances the passengers had put on in the
lounge, he said:
     "And then, of  course,  Hottabych could not  leave it  at  that. So  he
said...."
     "What a strange name-Hottabych!" Zhenya's mother said.
     "I didn't say 'Hottabych,' Mother,  I  said  'Potapych.'  That was  our
boatswain's name," Zhenya said resourcefully, though he blushed.
     However, this went unnoticed. Everyone looked at  him with awe, because
he had  met and  talked with a real  live boatswain  every single day of the
journey.
     Volka,  on  the other  hand, nearly had  an  accident with  the  copper
bottle.  He was  sitting  on  the  couch  in the dining room, explaining the
difference between an ice-breaker and an iceboat to his parents with a  true
knowledge  of  his subject.  He  did not notice  his grandmother leaving the
room. After she had been gone for about five minutes,  she  returned holding
... the vessel with Omar Asaf inside!
     "What's this? Where did you get it. Mother?" Volka's father asked.
     "Just imagine, I found it in Volka's suitcase. I started unpacking  his
things  and found this very  nice pitcher. It will  be lovely as a decanter.
I'll have to polish it, though, because it's so terribly green."
     "That's  no  decanter!"  Volka  cried and  turned pale. He grabbed  the
vessel from  his grandmother. "The First Mate asked me to give this  to  his
friend. I promised him I'd deliver it today."
     "My,  isn't this  a strange vessel," said his father, a great lover  of
antiques. "Let  me have a look at it. Why, there's a lead cap  on it. That's
very interesting...."
     He tried to pry it off, but Volka  grabbed the  vessel frantically  and
stammered:
     "You're not supposed to open it! It's not supposed to be opened at all!
Anyway,  it's empty  inside. I promised the  First Mate I wouldn't  open it,
so's not to spoil the threads on the screw."
     "Look how upset he is! All right, you can  have  the old pitcher back,"
his father said, letting go of it.
     Volka sat  back  on the  couch  in  exhaustion,  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.
     "Come  back  soon!" his  mother called,  but by  then  he  had  already
vanished.



     Zhenya and Hottabych  had been  awaiting Volka  on the  bank for a long
time. It was  very still. The  vast sky was spread above them. The full moon
cast its cold, bluish light.
     Zhenya had brought his  binoculars  along  and was  now  looking at the
moon.
     "You can dismiss the astronomy club,"  Volka  said, coming  up to them.
"The  next  act on our show is the solemn  freeing of our good  friend, Omar
Asaf! Music! Curtain!"
     "That  mean  old  thing  will  have to  manage  without  music," Zhenya
muttered.
     In order to emphasize his loathing  for  the  horrible Genie, he turned
his back on the vessel and studied the  moon through his binoculars for such
a long time, that he finally heard Omar Asaf's squeaky voice:
     "May your humble servant, 0 mighty Volka, ask what  purpose these black
pipes serve which your friend  Zhenya- and  my  greatly  esteemed master-has
pressed to his noble eyes?"
     "They're  binoculars.  It's  to  see  things  closer,"  Volka tried  to
explain.  "Zhenya's looking at the  moon through them, to see  it better. It
makes things bigger."
     "I  can  imagine how pleasant such a  pastime  can  be," Omar Asaf said
ingratiatingly.
     He kept trying to peep into the binoculars, 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 almighty  Volka, who had stopped
the Sun itself with a single word, then Omar Asaf would certainly have known
how to deal with the unruly boy! But Volka was standing beside them, and the
enraged Genie had no choice but to ask Zhenya  in  a wheedling voice to  let
him have a look  at the great planet of  the  night through such interesting
binoculars.
     "I join my  brother  in asking you to do  him this  favour,"  Hottabych
added.
     Zhenya reluctantly handed Omar Asaf the binoculars.
     "The despicable boy has cast a spell on the magic pipes!":
     Omar Asaf cried a few moments later and crashed  the binoculars  to the
ground. "Instead of making things  bigger, they make  the moon much smaller!
Oh, some day I will lay my hands on this boy!"
     "You're always ready to abuse people!" Volka said in disgust. "What 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 small end."
     Omar Asaf followed his advice cautiously and soon sighed:
     "Alas, I  had a much better opinion  of this 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  much  better.-Though they  are  much
smaller than the moon, they at least have no visible faults."
     "0  my  brother, let me  see  for myself," Hottabych said and  he, too,
looked through the binoculars with interest. "This time I believe my brother
is right," he added with surprise.
     This  made  it only  too  clear that  Omar Asaf had  long  since fallen
greatly in his estimation.
     "What ignorance,"  Zhenya scoffed.  "It's high  time you knew  that the
moon is millions of times smaller than any of the stars."
     "Enough! I can no longer take the  constant mockery of this brat!" Omar
Asaf roared and grabbed Zhenya by the collar. "Next, you'll say that a speck
of sand is bigger  than a mountain. I wouldn't put it past you. Enough! This
time I'll do away with you for good!"
     "Stop!" Volka shouted. "Stop, or I'll bring the Moon down upon you, and
not even a wet spot will remain where  you now  stand! You know I  can do it
with my eyes closed. I think you know me by now."
     The enraged Omar Asaf reluctantly let go of a frightened Zhenya.
     "You're raving  for nothing again," Volka continued.  "Zhenya's  right.
Sit down and I'll try to explain things to you."
     "You don't have to explain anything to me. I know  everything already,"
Omar Asaf objected conceitedly. Yet, he dared not disobey.
     Volka  could  talk  about astronomy  for  hours on  end. This  was  his
favourite subject.  He had read  every popular  book on the structure of the
Universe and could retell their contents to anyone who'd care to listen. But
Omar  Asaf  obviously  did  not  want  to  listen.  He  kept  on  snickering
contemptuously. Finally unable to control himself any longer, he grumbled:
     "I'll never believe your words until I convince myself of their truth."
     "What do  you mean 'convince yourself? Don't tell me you want to fly to
the Moon in  order to be convinced that it's a huge sphere  and not a little
saucer?"
     "And why not?" Omar Asaf asked haughtily. "Why, I can fly off today, if
I want to."
     "But the Moon is millions of miles away."
     "Omar  Asaf  is not  afraid of  great distances.  And all the  more so,
since-forgive me-I greatly doubt the truth of your words."
     "But the way to  the Moon  lies through  outer space, where there's  no
air," Volka objected conscientiously.
     "I can manage quite well without breathing."
     "Let him go! We'll have plenty of trouble with him if he stays," Zhenya
whispered fiercely.
     "Sure,  he can go," Volka  agreed quietly, "but still, I consider it my
duty to  warn him about  what  awaits  him  on  the way.... Omar  Asaf,"  he
continued, turning  towards the  conceited Genie,  "bear in  mind  that it's
terribly cold there."
     "I am not afraid of the cold. I'll be seeing you soon. Good-bye!"
     "If that's the  case, and if you've  decided to  fly to the  Moon, come
what  may,  then  at least listen to one piece of advice. Do you promise  to
obey my words?"
     "All right, I  promise," the Genie answered condescendingly, his awe of
Volka obviously diminishing.
     "You must leave the Earth at a speed of no  less than eleven kilometres
a second; otherwise you can be sure you'll never reach the Moon."
     "With  the greatest of pleasure,"  Omar Asaf said, compressing his thin
blue lips.  "And  how  big  is a kilometre? Tell me, for I know  of no  such
measurement."
     "Let's  see now. How can  I  explain?... Well, a  kilometre  is about a
thousand four hundred steps."
     "Your steps? That means  there  are no more than a thousand two hundred
of my steps in a kilometre. Maybe even less."
     Omar  Asaf had an exaggerated idea about his  height. He was no  taller
than Volka, but they could not convince him of this.
     "Be  sure not  to crash  into  the  cupola of the  Heavens,"  Hottabych
admonished his  brother, not being completely convinced of  Volka's  stories
about the structure of the Universe.
     "Don't teach someone who  knows  more than you," Omar  Asaf said coldly
and soared into the air. He instantly  became white hot and disappeared from
view, leaving a long fiery trail behind.
     "Let's wait for him here, my friends," Hottabych suggested timidly, for
he felt guilty for all the unpleasantness Omar 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  my advice, which was  based on scientific
knowledge, and he'll never return  to the Earth. Since your Omar took off at
a speed which was  less  than eleven kilometres a  second, he'll be circling
the Earth forever. If you want to know, he's become a sputnik."
     "If you have no objections, I'll wait for him here a while," a saddened
Hottabych whispered.
     Late that night he slipped into Volka's room. Turning into a  goldfish,
he  dived silently  into  the  aquarium.  Whenever  Hottabych  was upset  by
anything, he spent the night in the  aquarium  instead of under Volka's bed.
This  time he  was especially upset.  He had waited for his brother for over
five hours, but Omar Asaf had not returned.
     Some day scientists  will develop precision  instruments that will make
it possible to note the smallest amount of gravitation the Earth experiences
from the tiniest  of celestial bodies passing close to its surface. And then
an  astronomer,  who,  perhaps,  read  this  book  in  his  childhood,  will
determine,   after  long  and   laborious  calculations,   that   someplace,
comparatively close  to the Earth, there rotates a celestial body weighing a
hundred  and thirty  pounds. Then,  Omar Asaf,  a grouchy  and narrow-minded
Genie who turned into an Earth satellite because of his impossible character
and ignorant  scoffing  at scientific facts, will  be entered into the great
astronomical catalogue as a many-numbered figure.
     Someone who heard  of  this instructive tale  about Hottabych's brother
once told us in  all  seriousness that one night he had seen something flash
across the  sky  which in shape resembled  an old  man  with  a long flowing
beard. As concerns the author of  this book, he does  not believe the story,
for Omar Asaf was a very insignificant man.

     HOTTABYCH'S FATAL PASSION

     For several  days Hottabych remained in the  aquarium, pining  away for
his brother. Gradually, however,  he got used to his absence  and once again
everything was back to normal.
     One day he and the boys were talking quietly. It was still rather early
and the old man was lolling under the bed.
     "It looks like rain," Zhenya said, looking out the window.
     Soon the whole sky became overcast with clouds. It started to drizzle.
     "Shall we turn it on?" Volka asked off-handedly,  nodding towards a new
radio set his parents  had given him for being  promoted to 7B. He turned it
on with obvious pleasure.
     The  loud  sounds of  a symphony  orchestra filled the room.  Hottabych
stuck his head out from under the bed.
     "Where are all those people playing so sweetly on various instruments?"
     "Golly! Hottabych doesn't know anything about radios!" Zhenya said.
     (There  was  one  omission  on  the  "Ladoga"  for  all  its  excellent
equipment-they forgot to install a radio set in the lounge.)
     For nearly two  hours  the  boys watched Hottabych delightedly. The old
man  was  overwhelmed.  Volka  tuned  in  on  Vladivostok,  Tbilisi,   Kiev,
Leningrad, Minsk and Tashkent. Songs, thunderous marches, and the  voices of
people speaking in many tongues  obediently poured forth from the set.  Then
the boys  got fed up. The  sun peeped out and they decided to go for a walk,
leaving  a  fascinated  Hottabych behind.  The  strange  events  which  then
occurred remain a mystery to Volka's grandmother to this very day.
     Soon  after the boys left,  she entered  Volka's  room to turn off  the
radio and distinctly  heard an old man  coughing in the empty room. Then she
saw the dial turn by itself and the indicator move along the scale.
     The  frightened  old  woman  decided  not to touch the set, but to find
Volka immediately. She caught up with  him at the  bus stop.  Volka was very
upset. He said he  was  improving the set, that he was  making it automatic,
and  he begged his grandmother not to tell his  parents what she  had  seen,
because it was supposed to be a  surprise for them. His grandmother was  not
at all  comforted by  these words.  Nevertheless,  she promised  to keep his
secret. All afternoon she listened anxiously to the strange mumbling  coming
from the empty room.
     That day the radio played on and on. At about two  o'clock at night  it
went off, but only  because  the old man had  forgotten how  to 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 become 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  extreme
interest for at least three reasons. In the first place,  this was the first
letter he had ever received in which he was addressed by his full name, as a
grown  man. In the second place, it was the first letter Hottabych  had ever
written to his young  friend. But  of greatest interest were the contents of
this most remarkable message.
     Following is the letter, slightly abridged:
     "0 most  lovable  and precious friend, the sweet and singular adornment
of  all  schools  and sports fields, the fond  hope of your native  arts and
sciences, the joy  and pride of your parents and friends,  Zhenya ibn Kolya,
from the famous and noble family of Bogorads, may your life's road be strewn
with  thornless  roses  and  may  it  be  as  long  as  your  pupil,  Hassan
Abdurrakhman ibn Hottab, wishes it to be!
     "I  hope you  remember how great  my  joy and  gratitude were when, six
months  ago, you, 0 my young friend and friend of my young saviour, released
my unfortunate brother Omar Asaf ibn  Hottab, from whom I  was so grievously
separated for many centuries,  from his  horrible imprisonment in the copper
vessel.
     "But  immediately following my first  joy  of  a  long-awaited reunion,
there  came a  terrible disappointment, for my brother  turned out to  be an
ungrateful,  short-sighted, narrow-minded, grouchy and  envious  person. And
he, as you  well remember, took it upon himself to fly to the Moon, in order
to be convinced whether its surface was truly covered with mountains, as our
highly educated friend  Volka ibn Alyosha stated, basing his knowledge on  a
science called Astronomy.
     "Alas! It was not a selfless thirst for knowledge that guided my unwise
brother, nor the  noble and  exemplary desire  to discover the World,  but a
vain and ignorant wish to belittle and shame a person  who had tried to hold
him back from committing a fatal deed.
     "He  did not even take into account  the laws of another science called
'Mechanics,' and thereby doomed himself to  an eternal and useless  circling
of the Earth, which, as I  recently discovered (who could have ever  dreamed
of it!) in turn revolves around the Sun!
     "Three days  ago  I received a message from you,  0  Zhenya  ibn Kolya,
which  bears  the  scientific  name  of  'Telegram,'  and  in  which you  so
graciously  and pleasantly  wished me a Happy New Year. And  then I recalled
that my unpleasant,  but extremely unfortunate  brother is spinning round in
the sky day and night and that there is no one to wish him a Happy New Year.
And so, I prepared for a journey, and exactly at noon I took off for the far
distances of Outer Space, in order to  visit Omar Asaf, to wish him a  Happy
New Year, and, if it were at all possible, to help him return to the Earth.
     "I  will not  tire your kind  attention,  0 Zhenya ibn  Kolya,  with  a
description  of how  I  was able to manage the Law of Universal Gravitation.
For this is not the purpose of my message. Suffice it to say that at first I
took  off at approximately the same speed as Omar Asaf, and, as he, I turned
into a satellite of  the Earth,  but only temporarily, and  only long enough
for  a meeting with Omar. Then,  when I saw it was time for me to return  to
the  Earth, I  turned  to  face  it  and  assumed the  speed  necessary  for
overcoming  the forces which revolved me 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 my speed was. When I next  see you, I will show you
all the calculations I did  with  the aid  of my  knowledge  of Mathematics,
Astronomy and Mechanics, which  you and  Volka ibn Alyosha so graciously and
patiently  taught  me.  But  this is not the point  in question. I sincerely
wished to visit my poor brother...."
     Hottabych had apparently  burst  into tears at this point, for the  ink
was all smudged. That is why we find we must leave out several lines.
     "Leaving  the Earth, so full of cheerful  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 flaming Sun blinded
my eyes.
     "I flew on and on, amidst the cold darkness and silence. I was about to
despair, when, suddenly, on  the black velvet of the sky,  there appeared  a
skinny  body,  brightly  illumined  by the  Sun.  It was  approaching  me at
tremendous speed,  and the long beard  flowing behind  like  the  tail of  a
comet, as well as the incessant and vicious grumbling, told  me beyond doubt
it was my brother.
     " 'Salaam, dear Omar!' I cried,  when he  came  abreast of me.  'How is
your health?'
     " 'Not bad,' Omar answered reluctantly  and in an unfriendly voice. 'As
you see, I  revolve around the Earth.' He chewed his lips  and added  dryly,
'Tell  me what you want. Don't forget  that  I'm a busy  man. State what you
want and be off.'
     " 'What are you so busy at, 0 my good brother?'
     " 'What do you mean what at?! Didn't you hear me say I'm now working as
a  sputnik? I  keep revolving  like  mad, day and night, without a  moment's
rest.'
     " '0  woe  is me!' I cried in great sorrow. 'How sad  and uninteresting
your  life must  be, amidst this eternal cold and darkness, in  constant and
useless revolving,  apart  from all living things!' And I  burst into tears,
for I was so  terribly sorry for  my brother. But in  answer to my heartfelt
words, Omar Asaf replied coldly and haughtily:
     "  'Don't feel sorry for me, 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  much larger  than
they  are.  I don't even mention the  stars, which are so small that a great
multitude of them could fit on  my finger-nail.' Something which resembled a
kindly smile appeared on his face. 'If you wish, you  can join me and become
my sputnik.  We will revolve together. Then, not counting me,  you'll be the
largest of all celestial bodies.'
     "In vain did I rejoice  at this brotherly  show of affection, though it
may have taken a rather strange form, for Omar Asaf continued as follows:
     "  'All celestial bodies have their sputniks, but I have none. It makes
me feel inferior.'
     "I  was  amazed at  the ignorance and stupid  conceit of my brother.  I
understood that he  did  not  want to return to the Earth and so said with a
heavy heart:
     " 'Farewell,  for I am in  a hurry. I still have to  wish  some  of  my
friends a Happy New Year.'
     "But Omar, who,  apparently,  had  his heart  set on this  idea of his,
roared:
     " 'Then who will be my sputnik? You had better  remain of your own free
will, or I'll tear you to bits!'
     "With these words he grabbed hold of  my left leg. I  kept  my wits and
turned  sharply  to a side,  wrenching free  of  Omar, though leaving in his
grasp one of my slippers. Naturally, he wanted  to catch up  with me, but he
could not do  so, for he had to continue his endless journey around a circle
known by the scientific name of 'orbit.'
     "Flying  off to a good distance, and still feeling a bit  sorry  for my
unpleasant and conceited brother, I shouted:
     " 'If  you  are  so  in need of  sputniks,  0 Omar Asaf, you shall have
them!'
     "I yanked five  hairs from  my beard,  tore them to  bits and scattered
them about. Then many-coloured, beautiful  balls, ranging in size from a pea
to a  large pumpkin, began  revolving around Omar Asaf. These  were sputniks
worthy of him both in size and in beauty.
     "My brother, a short-sighted person, had  apparently  never  thought of
making his own sputniks.  Now,  in  his great  pride,  he desired  to have a
sputnik the size of a mountain. And so, such a sputnik immediately appeared.
But since the mass of  matter within this mountain was hundreds of thousands
of  times greater than the weight of my scatter-brained and ignorant brother
Omar Asaf, he immediately crashed into the new celestial body he had created
and bounded off it like a football. With a terrible wail, he began revolving
around it at top speed.
     "Thus, Omar Asaf fell a victim  to his terrible vanity by  becoming 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 remain 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  me 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, for radio fans will not find anything new in
it, and  those who are  not interested in this branch of communications will
find nothing in it worthy of their attention.






     If any  of the readers  of this  really truthful story are in Moscow on
Razin Street and look in at the offices of the Central Board of the Northern
Sea  Route,  they  will  probably see among the dozens of people  putting in
applications for work  in  the  Arctic an old man in a straw boater and pink
slippers embroidered in silver and gold. This is Hottabych. Despite all  his
efforts, he has not been able  to  procure a job as a radio-operator on some
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  employment in the  harsh conditions of  the  Arctic.  However,  his
situation  becomes still more  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 writes: "3,732 years and  five
months." As to family  status, he replies simple-heartedly: "Orphan. Single.
I have a brother named Omar Asaf who, until  July of last year, lived on the
bottom of the Arctic Ocean in a copper vessel, but who now works as an Earth
satellite," etc., etc., etc.

     After  reading his application form, the personnel manager decides that
Hottabych is slightly crazy, though the readers  of our story know  only too
well that what the old man has written is nothing but the truth.
     Naturally, it would be no trouble for him at all to become  a young man
and to fill in the form as it should be; or, if the worst came to the worst,
to cast the same spell on the personnel manager as he had once before,  when
he and his friends boarded the "Ladoga." But the trouble  is the old man 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
frequently  lately. Instead,  he has decided to study radio  technology,  to
learn how to design his own radio equipment.  Knowing  his abilities and his
love for  work,  it is not  such a hopeless matter.  What  he needs  now are
competent teachers. Hottabych wants his  young friends  to be  his teachers.
All they could promise him, as we already know,  is that they will teach him
what they learn 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 with  them.
But at  this point their  roads  will  part. As you recall, Zhenya  had long
since decided to become a doctor, while Volka shares Hottabych's passion. He
wants to become a radio engineer, and I assure you that he will make his way
in this difficult but fascinating field.
     It remains for us to bid  farewell  to the characters of this story and
to wish  the three  friends  good health and good  luck in their studies and
their future lives. If you ever meet them, please say hello to them from the
author who invented them with great love and tenderness.



     Moscow
     1938-1955

     _________________________________________


     Printed in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics







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