The audience began to hiss and boo at Nikanor Ivanovich.

"He's the foreign-currency speculator!" the audience screamed. "It's guys like that who make us innocent folk suffer!"

"Don't chastise him," said the emcee softly. "He'll repent." He then turned his blue eyes, brimming with tears, to Nikanor Ivanovich and added, "Well, Nikanor Ivanovich, go back to your place!"

After this the actor rang the bell and announced loudly, "Intermission, you scoundrels!"

A shaken Nikanor Ivanovich, who, to his surprise, had somehow be-

Niluznor ¡vanovich's Dream 137

come part of a theatrical program, again found himself in his place on the floor. Then he dreamed that the theater plunged into total darkness, and the walls were lit up with bright red lights, flashing the words, "Hand over your foreign currency!" Then the curtains parted again, and the emcee said invitingly, "Would Sergei Gerardovich Dunchil please come up on stage."

Dunchil turned out to be a good-looking, but very stout man of about fifty.

"Sergei Gerardovich," said the emcee. "You've been sitting here for more than a month now, and yet you still refuse to hand over the rest of your foreign currency; now, when your country is in need of it, and it's of absolutely no use to you, you still refuse to comply. You're an intelligent fellow and understand all this perfectly, and yet you still don't want to meet me halfway."

"Unfortunately, I can't do anything, since I don't have any more foreign currency," Dunchil replied calmly.

"Don't you have any diamonds at least?" asked the actor.

"No diamonds either."

The actor hung his head and looked pensive, and then he clapped his hands. A middle-aged woman emerged from the wings and came out on stage. She was fashionably dressed, that is, in a tiny hat and a coat with no collar. She had an anxious air, and Dunchil stared at her without moving a muscle.

"Who is this woman?" the man in charge of the program asked Dunchil.

"She's my wife," Dunchil answered with dignity, as he looked at the woman's long neck with a flicker of disgust.

"We have disturbed you, Madame Dunchil, for the following reason: we wished to ask you if your husband still has any foreign currency?"

"He's already handed over everything he had," was her nervous reply.

"Indeed," said the actor. "Well, if you say so. And if he's handed everything over, then we shouldn't keep him any longer, should wel You may leave the theater, if you wish, Sergei Gerardovich," said the actor with an imperious wave of his hand.