Today we finish reading a story “Laddy” by Nikolai Nosov, what we started to read look Stories from Soviet Childhood: Laddy (1).
Next day Mishka came to my place and said:
“You know what? It turns out I’m a thief!”
“Because I took someone’s luggage.”
“But you took it by mistake.”
“I know. But someone might think I did it on purpose. Besides, the owner must be looking for it. I’ve got to get it back to him somehow.”
“How will you find him?”
“I’ll put up notices all over town. The owner will read them and come here for his bag.”
“That’s right,” I said. “Let’s write the notices now.”
We cut up slips of paper and wrote in neat letters on each one:
“Found. A suit-case. In the train. Apply to Misha Kozlov. Peschanaya Street No. 8, Apartment 3.”
After we had written out about twenty notices, I said:
“Now let’s write a notice about Laddy. Someone may have taken our bag by mistake too.”
“Yes, it must have been the man sitting next to us,” said Mishka.
We cut up some more slips of paper and wrote another notice:
“Lost. A puppy in a suit-case. Please return to Misha Kozlov or write to Peschanaya Street No. 8, Apartment 3.”
We wrote about twenty of these notices too and went out to paste them up. We stuck them on lamp-posts and on the walls. Very soon we had used up all our slips and went home to write some more. We were busy writing when the bell rang. Mishka ran to open the door. A strange woman came in.
“May I speak to Misha Kozlov?” she said.
“I’m Misha Kozlov,” Mishka answered, looking surprised. How could the woman have known his name?
“I saw your notice,” she said. “I lost a suit-case in the train.”
“A suit-case?” said Mishka joyfully. “Just a moment, I’ll go and get it.” He ran into the next room and came back lugging the suitcase.
“Here it is.”
The woman looked at it and shook her head. “No,” she said. “That isn’t mine.”
“Not yours?” cried Mishka.
“Mine was bigger. Besides, it was black, this one is light brown.”
“Then I’m sorry, we haven’t got yours. This is the only one we found. But if we do find yours we’ll be very glad to return it to you.”
The woman laughed.
“You’re a funny pair. That’s not the way to return lost property. You ought not to show the bag to anyone who asks for it. You must first ask the person what sort of a suit-case he lost and what was in it. If he answers right, then you can give him the suit-case. Otherwise some dishonest person might take something that doesn’t belong to him. There are all sorts of people, you know.”
“We never thought of that,” said Mishka.
“See how quickly our notices worked,” said Mishka to me when the woman had gone. “We haven’t finished pasting them all up yet and people are beginning to come already. At this rate we may find Laddy soon.”
No one else came that day. But the next the bell kept ringing all the time. Mishka and I were surprised. We never thought so many people lost suit-cases in trains. But the real owner didn’t appear. All sorts of people came. There was a man who had lost his bag in a tram-car, and another who had left a box of nails in a bus, and an old woman who had a trunk stolen from her—they all came hoping to find their belongings in Mishka’s place. They must have thought that if we had found one suit-case we must be able to find all sorts of other things.
“I wish someone would find my bag,” said Mishka.
“Yes, they could write a note to us at least, couldn’t they? We would go for it ourselves.”
* * *
One day Mishka and I were sitting at home when someone knocked at the door.
Mishka ran to answer it and came back with a letter. He was all excited.
“Perhaps it’s some news about Laddy,” he said, examining the address scrawled on the envelope which was covered with all sorts of queer postmarks and stamps.
“It’s not for us at all,” he said finally. “It’s for Mum. Some brilliant scholar must have written it, judging by the way the address is spelt. Two mistakes in Peschanaya Street. He’s written Pechnaya Street instead of Peschanaya. The letter must have travelled all over town before it reached us. Mum! Here’s a letter for you from some grammarian.”
“I don’t know any grammarians.”
“Well, read it.”
Mishka’s mother opened the envelope and began reading to herself:
“Dear Mum. Please let me keep a little puppy. He is so very sweet, he’s brown all over except one ear which has a black spot on it, and I love him very much….”
“Why,” says Mishka’s mother. “It’s your own letter.”
I burst out laughing and looked at Mishka. He turned red as a beetroot and ran out of the room.
* * *
Mishka and I gave up hope of ever finding Laddy but Mishka couldn’t forget him. He often talked about him.
“I wonder where he is now?” he would say. “What sort of a master has he got? I do hope he isn’t a cruel man who beats dogs. Perhaps nobody took Laddy out of the suit-case and he died of hunger? I wouldn’t even mind not getting him back so long as I knew he was alive and happy.”
Before long the holidays were over and school started again. We were glad because we liked school and we were a bit tired of doing nothing.
On the first day of the term I got up very early, put on my new clothes and hurried off to Mishka’s to wake him up. I met him on the stairs. He was coming to wake me up too.
We thought we would have the same teacher as last term, but when we came to school we found we had a new one. Vera Alexandrovna, our old teacher, had been transferred to another school. Our new teacher’s name was Nadezhda Viktorovna.
Nadezhda Viktorovna gave us the time-table and told us what textbooks we would need, and then she called on each one of us so as to get acquainted. After that she asked us whether we had learned Pushkin’s poem “Winter” the previous term. We said we had.
“Do you still remember it?” she asked.
The class was silent. I nudged Mishka and whispered: “You remember it, don’t you?”
“Then raise your hand.”
Mishka raised his hand.
“Very well, come out here and recite it,” said the teacher.
Mishka went over and stood by her desk and- began to recite with expression:
‘Tis winter! The rejoicing peasant
Is seen again upon a sleigh.
His pony also finds it pleasant
To trot along the snow-clad way….
I noticed that the teacher was staring at him. Her forehead was puckered as if she were trying to remember something. Suddenly she stopped him and said:
“Just a moment. I remember now. Aren’t you the boy who recited verses in the train this summer?”
Mishka turned red. “Yes, it was me,” he said.
“Hm. Well, that will do now. Come to the common-room after class. I should like to talk to you.”
“Shall I finish the poem?” Mishka asked.
“No. I can see that you know it quite well.”
Mishka sat down and kicked my foot under the seat.
“It’s her! She was with the girl Lenochka and the man who kept making nasty remarks about us. Uncle Fedya they called him. Remember?”
“Yes,” I said. “I recognized her the minute you started reciting.”
“What shall I do?” Mishka said, looking worried. “Why did she tell me to stay behind? I suppose she’s going to tell me off for misbehaving that time in the train.”
We were so worried that we hardly noticed how the lessons ended. We were the last to leave the class-room. Mishka went to the common-room and I waited outside in the corridor. At last he came out.
“Well, what did she say?”
“It turns out it was her suit-case we took, or rather not hers but, that man’s, which amounts to the same thing. It’s theirs all right, because she told me exactly what was in it, and it all fits. She asked me to bring it to them this evening. Here’s the address.”
He showed me a slip of paper with an address on it. We hurried home, took the bag and set out.
We found the house without much trouble and rang the bell. The door was opened by that girl Lenochka we had seen in the train.
She asked us whom we wanted, but we had forgotten our new teacher’s name and we didn’t know whom to ask for.
“Half a mo,” said Mishka. “It must be written here on the address. Here it is: Nadezhda Viktorovna.”
“Oh,” said the girl, “you’ve brought our suit-case! Come in.” She showed us into a room and called:
“Aunt Nadya, Uncle Fedya, the boys have come with the suitcase.”
Nadezhda Viktorovna and Uncle Fedya came in. Uncle Fedya opened the bag, snatched up his glasses and put them on his nose at once.
“My favourite spectacles, at last!” he cried, beaming all over. “I’m so glad I’ve found them. I couldn’t get used to those new ones at all.”
“We posted notices all over town as soon as we found we had taken the wrong suit-case by mistake,” Mishka explained.
“Oh, I never read notices,” said Uncle Fedya. “That just shows you. Next time I lose something I shall certainly read all the notices.”
Just then a little dog came running into the room after Lenochka. He was brown all over except for one ear which was black.
“Look!” whispered Mishka.
The pup pricked up his ears and looked at us with his head cocked to one side.
“Laddy!” we cried.
Laddy gave a yelp of joy and rushed at us, jumping on us and barking excitedly. Mishka picked him up and hugged him.
“Laddy! Dear old Laddy. So you haven’t forgotten us after all.”
Laddy licked his face and Mishka kissed him right on the nose. Lenochka laughed and clapped her hands.
“He was in the bag we brought from the train. We must have taken yours by mistake. It’s all Uncle Fedya’s fault!”
“Yes,” said Uncle Fedya. “It’s all my fault. I took your bag and went out first, and you took mine, thinking it was yours.”
They gave us back our bag, the one Laddy had travelled in. I could see that Lenochka didn’t want to part with Laddy. She looked as though she were going to cry, but Mishka promised her that next year when Diana had puppies we would choose the prettiest one and bring it to her.
“Really and truly? You won’t forget, will you?” she begged.
We said we would not forget. Then we said good-bye and left. Mishka carried Laddy who kept turning his head this way and that and taking an interest in everything he saw. Evidently Lenochka had kept him in the house all the time for fear he would run away.
When we came home we found several people waiting for us.
“Are you the boys who found a suit-case?” they asked.
“Yes,” we said, “but there isn’t any suit-case any more. We’ve returned it to the owner.”
“Then why haven’t you taken down the notices? Making folks waste time for nothing.”
They grumbled some more and went away. That same day Mishka and I went for a walk and tore down all the notices.
Post by Kyle Keeton
Windows to Russia…