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THEATRE NEWS





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The Moscow Columbus Theatre left yesterday, Sept. 3, for a tour of Yalta, having completed its stay in Tiflis. The theatre is planning to remain in the Crimea until the opening of the winter season in Moscow.'"

"What did I tell you!" said Vorobyaninov.
"What did you tell me!" snapped back Ostap.
He was nevertheless embarrassed. The careless mistake was very unpleasant. Instead of ending the treasure hunt in Tiflis, they now had to move on to the Crimean peninsula. Ostap immediately set to work. Tickets were bought to Batumi and second-class-berths reserved on the S.S. Pestel leaving Batumi for Odessa at 11 p.m. Moscow time on September 7.
On the night of September 10, as the Pestel turned out to sea and set sail for Yalta without calling at Anapa on account of the gale, Ippolit Matveyevich had a dream.
He dreamed he was standing in his admiral's uniform on the balcony of his house in Stargorod, while the crowd gathered below waited for him to do something. A large crane deposited a black-spotted pig at his feet.
Tikhon the caretaker appeared and, grabbing the pig by the hind legs, said:
"Durn it. Does the Nymph really provide tassels?"
Ippolit Matveyevich found a dagger in his hand. He stuck it into the pig's side, and jewels came pouring out of the large wound and rolled on to the cement floor. They jumped about and clattered more and more loudly. The noise finally became unbearable and terrifying,
Ippolit Matveyevich was wakened by the sound of waves dashing against the porthole.
They reached Yalta in calm weather on an enervating sunny morning. Having recovered from his seasickness, the marshal was standing at the prow near the ship's bell with its embossed Old Slavonic lettering. Gay Yalta had lined up its tiny stalls and floating restaurants along the shore. On the quayside there were waiting carriages with velvet-covered seats and linen awnings, motor-cars and buses belonging to the "Krymkurso" and "Crimean Driver" societies. Brick-coloured girls twirled parasols and waved kerchiefs.
The friends were the first to go ashore, on to the scorching embankment. At the sight of the concessionaires, a citizen in a tussore-silk suit dived out of the crowd of people meeting the ship and idle onlookers and began walking quickly towards the exit to the dockyard. But too late. The smooth operator's eagle eye had quickly recognized the silken citizen.
"Wait a moment, Vorobyaninov," cried Ostap.
And he raced off at such a pace that he caught up the silken citizen about ten feet from the exit. He returned instantly with a hundred roubles.
"He wouldn't give me any more. Anyway, I didn't insist; otherwise he won't be able to get home."
And indeed, at that very moment Kislarsky was fleeing in a bus for Sebastopol, and from there went home to Stargorod by third class.
The concessionaires spent the whole day in the hotel sitting naked on the floor and every few moments running under the shower in the bathroom. But the water there was like warm weak tea. They could not escape from the heat. It felt as though Yalta was just about to melt and flow into the sea.
Towards eight that evening the partners struggled into their red-hot shoes, cursing all the chairs in the world, and went to the theatre.
The Marriage was being shown. Exhausted by the heat, Stepan almost fell over while standing on his hands. Agafya ran along the wire, holding the parasol marked "I want Podkolesin" in her dripping hands. All she really wanted at that moment was a drink of ice water. The audience was thirsty, too. For this reason and perhaps also because the sight of Stepan gorging a pan of hot fried eggs was revolting, the performance did not go over.
The concessionaires were satisfied as soon as they saw that their chair, together with three new rococo armchairs, was safe.
Hiding in one of the boxes, they patiently waited for the end of the performance; it dragged on interminably. Then, finally, the audience left and the actors hurried away to try to cool off. The theatre was empty except for the shareholders in the concession. Every living thing had hurried out into the street where fresh rain was, at last, falling fast.
"Follow me, Pussy," ordered Ostap. "Just in case, we're provincials who couldn't find the exit."
They made their way on to the stage and, striking matches, though they still collided with the hydraulic press, searched the whole stage.
The smooth operator ran up a staircase into the props room.
"Up here! "he called.
Waving his arms, Vorobyaninov raced upstairs.
"Do you see?" said Ostap, lighting a match.
Through the darkness showed the corner of a Hambs chair and part of the parasol with the word "want".
"There it is! There is our past, present and future. Light a match, Pussy, and I'll open it up."
Ostap dug into his pockets for the tools.
"Right," he said, reaching towards the chair. "Another match, marshal."
The match flared up, and then a strange thing happened. The chair gave a jump and suddenly, before the very eyes of the amazed concessionaires, disappeared through the floor.
"Mama!" cried Vorobyaninov, and went flying over to the wall, although he had not the least desire to do so.
The window-panes came out with a crash and the parasol with the words "I want Podkolesin" flew out of the window, towards the sea. Ostap lay on the floor, pinned down by sheets of cardboard.
It was fourteen minutes past midnight. This was the first shock of the great Crimean earthquake of 1927.
A severe earthquake, wreaking untold disaster throughout the peninsula, had plucked the treasure from the hands of the concessionaires.
"Comrade Bender, what's happening?" cried Ippolit Matveyevich in terror.
Ostap was beside himself. The earthquake had blocked his path. It was the only time it had happened in his entire, extensive practice.
"What is it?" screech Vorobyaninov.
Screaming, ringing, and trampling feet could be heard from the street.
"We've got to get outside immediately before the wall caves in on us. Quick! Give me your hand, softie."
They raced to the door. To their surprise, the Hambs chair was lying on its back, undamaged, at the exit from the stage to the street. Growling like a dog, Ippolit Matveyevich seized it in a death-grip.
"Give me the pliers," he shouted to Bender. "Don't be a stupid fool," gasped Ostap. "The ceiling is about to collapse, and you stand there going out of your mind! Let's get out quickly."
"The pliers," snarled the crazed Vorobyaninov. "To hell with you. Perish here with your chair, then. I value my life, if you don't."
With these words Ostap ran for the door. Ippolit Matveyevich picked up the chair with a snarl and ran after him.
Hardly had they reached the middle of the street when the ground heaved sickeningly under their feet; tiles came off the roof of the theatre, and the spot where the concessionakes had just been standing was strewn with the remains of the hydraulic press.
"Right, give me the chair now," said Bender coldly. "You're tired of holding it, I see." "I won't!" screeched Ippolit Matveyevich. "What's this? Mutiny aboard? Give me the chair, do you hear?"
"It's my chair," clucked Vorobyaninov, drowning the weeping, shouting and crashing on all sides., "In that case, here's your reward, you old goat!" And Ostap hit Vorobyaninov on the neck with his bronze fist. At that moment a fire engine hurtled down the street and in the lights of its headlamps Ippolit Matveyevich glimpsed such a terrifying expression on Ostap's face that he instantly obeyed and gave up the chair.
"That's better," said Ostap, regaining his breath. "The mutiny has been suppressed. Now, take the chair and follow me. You are responsible for the state of the chair. The chair must be preserved even if there are ten earthquakes. Do you understand?"
"Yes."
The whole night the concessionaires wandered about with the panic-stricken crowds, unable to decide, like everyone else, whether or not to enter the abandoned buildings, and expecting new shocks.
At dawn, when the terror had died down somewhat, Ostap selected a spot near which there was no wall likely to collapse, or people likely to interfere, and set about opening the chair.
The results of the autopsy staggered both of them-there was nothing in the chair. The effect of the ordeal of the night and morning was 'too much for Ippolit Matveyevich; he burst into a vicious, high-pitched cackle.
Immediately after this came the third shock. The ground heaved and swallowed up the Hambs chair; its flowered pattern smiled at the sun that was rising in a dusty sky.
Ippolit Matveyevich went down on all fours and, turning his haggard face to the dark purple disc of the sun, began howling. The smooth operator fainted as he listened to him. When he regained consciousness, he saw beside him Vorobyaninov's lilac-stubble chin. Vorobyaninov was unconscious.
"At last," said Ostap, like a patient recovering from typhus, "we have a dead certainty. The last chair [at the word "chair", Ippolit Matveyevich stirred] may have vanished into the goods yard of October Station, but has by no means been swallowed up by the ground. What's wrong? The hearing is continued."
Bricks came crashing down nearby. A ship's siren gave a protracted wail.

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