No sooner had Party Secretary Zhanaidarov entered his office in the early hours of the morning, combed his hair, brushed the traces of dandruff from his shoul- ders and sat down in a chair, than the telephone rattled loudly in the corner to his right, as if just waiting for him to arrive. ‘Long distance,’ thought Zhanaidarov, picking up the receiver and holding it to his ear. ‘Hel- lo!’ he uttered in an important, somewhat tired voice, preoccupied with the enormity of things to do in the morning. ‘Zhanaidarov speaking. Ah, hello, Tursun Satanovich!’ The trace of importance went from his voice, and he seemed ready to hang up the phone. ‘How is your health? I heard you caught a cold, how do you feel now? Is it gone? Yes, spring is the most treacherous time, especially the beginning. You should take care of yourself, dress warmer. I say, take care of yourself. From colds, I mean… Yes? I remember, of course. You bet I do! A statue? Statue! It’s… standing… Right in front of the tannery. Who, who? Well…’ Zha- naidarov suddenly weakened and became as helpless as a steppe toad seeing a snake: sucked in, hypnotised. ‘Let them come… Let them… Wait… You too…?’ his voice quivered. ‘Oibai, in that case… Of course we are, we’re delighted, infinitely delighted. When, when? This evening…? Where did you say the guests come from? From England…? Oh, thank Allah… Save… ‘ Zhanaidarov had no time to come to his senses; they had already hung up the phone at the other end. ‘That’s it, gone!’ he whispered as if reciting a last prayer. ‘This is God’s punishment, pure and simple. Who would have thought it! And these Englishmen get themselves around the world. They should be sitting there on their own island, but they have to go all the way from one side of the world to the other. Not only to England, but to Alma-Ata!’ Zhanaidarov himself did not notice how he rose from his desk and paced around the room, putting his hands behind his back. An unknowable force, blowing out from the telephone receiver, lifted him easily from his chair and made him pace like a pendulum around the study. Here, perhaps, it is necessary to explain why the district secretary was so agitated. The area had long been a livestock breeding area. Even in the pre-revolutionary years,

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