Оцените этот текст:

   © Mikhail Bulgakov
   © Translated from the russian by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky
   OCR: Scout
   Spellcheck: Chaim Ash
   Origin: "Master i Margarita"

     This translation published in PENGUIN BOOKS 1997
     OCR: Scout

     A Note on the Text and Acknowledgements

     Never Talk with Strangers
     Pontius Pilate
     The Seventh Proof
     The Chase
     There were Doings at Griboedov's
     Schizophrenia, as was Said
     A Naughty Apartment
     The Combat between the Professor and the Poet
     Koroviev's Stunts
     News From Yalta
     Ivan Splits in Two
     Black Magic and Its Exposure
     The Hero Enters
     Glory to the Cock!
     Nikanor Ivanovich's Dream
     The Execution
     An Unquiet Day
     Hapless Visitors

     Azazello's Cream
     By Candlelight
     The Great Ball at Satan's
     The Extraction of the Master
     How the Procurator Tried to Save Judas of Kiriath
     The Burial
     The End of Apartment No.50
     The Last Adventures of Koroviev and Behemoth
     The Fate of the Master and Margarita is Decided
     It's Time! It's Time!
     On Sparrow Hills
     Forgiveness and Eternal Refuge

     Mikhail Bulgakov  worked on this luminous book throughout  one  of  the
darkest decades of the century. His last revisions were dictated to his wife
a  few  weeks before his death in 1940 at  the age  of forty-nine.  For him,
there was never any  question of publishing the novel. The mere existence of
the  manuscript,  had  it come to  the knowledge of Stalin's  police,  would
almost certainly have led to  the permanent disappearance of its author. Yet
the book was of great importance to him, and he clearly believed that a time
would come when it could be published. Another twenty-six years had  to pass
before events bore  out  that  belief and The Master and  Margarita, by what
seems a surprising  oversight in Soviet literary politics,  finally appeared
in print. The effect was electrifying.
     The  monthly  magazine  Moskva, otherwise a  rather cautious and  quiet
publication,  carried  the  first  part of The  Master and Margarita  in its
November 1966 issue. The 150,000  copies sold out within hours. In the weeks
that followed, group readings were held,  people  meeting  each  other would
quote and compare favourite passages, there was talk of little else. Certain
sentences from the novel immediately became proverbial. The very language of
the novel  was a  contradiction of everything wooden, official,  imposed. It
was a joy to speak.
     When the second part appeared in  the January  1967 issue of Moskva, it
was greeted with the same enthusiasm. Yet this was not the excitement caused
by the emergence of a new  writer, as when  Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's One Day
in the  Life of Ivan Denisovich  appeared in the magazine Novy Mir in  1962.
Bulgakov  was neither  unknown  nor forgotten.  His plays  had begun  to  be
revived in theatres during the late fifties and were  published in 1962. His
superb  Life of Monsieur de  Moliere  came out  in that same year. His early
stories were reprinted. Then,  in 1965, came the  Theatrical Novel, based on
his years of experience with Stanislavsky's renowned Moscow Art Theatre. And
finally in  1966  a volume of Selected Prose was published,  containing  the
complete text  of  Bulgakov's first novel. The  White  Guard, written in the
twenties  and  dealing with nearly contemporary events of  the Russian civil
war in  his  native Kiev  and the Ukraine, a book which in its clear-sighted
portrayal of human courage and weakness ranks among the truest depictions of
war in all of literature.
     Bulgakov was known well enough, then. But, outside a very  small group,
the existence of The  Master and  Margarita was completely unsuspected. That
certainly  accounts  for some of the amazement caused by its publication. It
was thought that virtually all of Bulgakov had found its way into print. And
here  was not some  minor literary remains but  a major novel, the  author's
crowning  work.  Then  there were the qualities of  the  novel itself--  its
formal originality,  its devastating  satire of  Soviet life, and  of Soviet
literary  life in particular, its 'theatrical' rendering of the Great Terror
of the thirties,  the audacity of its portrayal of Jesus  Christ and Pontius
Pilate,  not to mention Satan. But, above all, the  novel breathed an air of
freedom, artistic  and spiritual, which had  become rare indeed, not only in
Soviet Russia. We  sense  it in  the special tone  of  Bulgakov's writing, a
combination  of  laughter  (satire,  caricature,  buffoonery)  and  the most
unguarded vulnerability. Two aphorisms detachable from the novel may suggest
something of the complex  nature of this freedom and  how it may have struck
the novel's first readers. One is the much-quoted 'Manuscripts  don't burn',
which  seems  to  express  an  absolute  trust  in  the triumph  of  poetry,
imagination, the  free word,  over terror  and oppression,  and  could  thus
become a watchword  of the intelligentsia. The publication of The Master and
Margarita was taken as a proof of the assertion. In fact, during a moment of
fear early in his work on the novel,  Bulgakov did burn what he had written.
And yet, as we see, it refused to stay burned. This moment of fear, however,
brings me to the second aphorism - 'Cowardice is the most terrible of vices'
- which  is repeated with slight variations several times in the novel. More
penetrating than the defiant 'Manuscripts don't burn', this word touched the
inner experience of generations of Russians. To portray that experience with
such candour required another sort of freedom and a love  for something more
than 'culture'. Gratitude for such perfect expression  of this other, deeper
freedom must surely have  been part of  the enthusiastic response of readers
to the novel's first appearance.
     And then  there was the sheer  unlikeliness of its publication. By 1966
the 'thaw' that had followed Stalin's death was over and  a  new freeze  was
coming. The hopes awakened by the publication of One Day in the Life of Ivan
Denisovich, the first public acknowledgement of  the existence of the Gulag,
had been disappointed.  In 1964 came the notorious trial of the  poet Joseph
Brodsky, and a year later the trial of the writers Andrei Sinyavsky and Yuli
Daniel, both sentenced to terms  in that same Gulag. Solzhenitsyn saw a  new
Stalinization approaching, made worse by the terrible  sense of  repetition,
stagnation and  helplessness. Such  was the monotonously  grim atmosphere of
the Brezhnev era. And in the midst of it there suddenly burst The Master and
Margarita, not only an anomaly but an impossibility, a sort of cosmic error,
evidence  of  some  hidden  but fatal crack in the  system of Soviet  power.
People kept asking, how could they have let it happen?
     Bulgakov began work on the first version of the novel early in 1929, or
possibly  at the  end of 1928.  It  was  abandoned, taken up  again, burned,
resurrected,  recast and revised many times. It accompanied Bulgakov through
the period of greatest  suffering for his  people  -- the  period  of forced
collectivization and  the  first  five-year  plan, which decimated  Russia's
peasantry and  destroyed her  agriculture, the period of  expansion  of  the
system of 'corrective labour camps', of the penetration of the secret police
into all areas of life,  of  the liquidation of the intelligentsia,  of vast
party purges and  the  Moscow 'show trials'. In literature the same struggle
went  on in miniature, and with the same results. Bulgakov was not arrested,
but by 1930 he found himself so far excluded that he could no longer publish
or produce  his work. In an extraordinarily forthright letter to the central
government, he asked for permission to emigrate, since the hostility  of the
literary  powers made it  impossible for him  to live. If emigration was not
permitted, 'and if I am condemned to keep silent in the Soviet Union for the
rest of my  days, then I  ask the Soviet government  to give me  a job in my
speciality and assign me to a theatre as a titular director.' Stalin himself
answered this letter by telephone  on  17  April, and shortly afterwards the
Moscow  Art Theatre  hired  Bulgakov  as an assistant  director and literary
consultant.  However,  during  the  thirties only his  stage adaptations  of
Gogol's Dead Souls and Cervantes' Don Quixote were granted a normal run. His
own plays either  were not staged at  all or were quickly withdrawn, and his
Life  of Monsieur de Moliere, written in 1932--5 for the collection Lives of
Illustrious  Men,  was rejected  by the publisher. These  circumstances  are
everywhere present in The Master and Margarita, which was in part Bulgakov's
challenge to the rule  of terror in literature. The successive stages of his
work  on the novel, his  changing evaluations of the nature of the book  and
its characters, reflect events  in his life and his  deepening grasp of what
was at stake in the struggle.  I will  briefly  sketch what the study of his
archives has made known of this process.
     The  novel in its definitive  version is  composed of two distinct  but
interwoven  parts,  one  set  in  contemporary Moscow, the other in  ancient
Jerusalem (called Yershalaim). Its central characters are Woland (Satan) and
his retinue, the poet Ivan Homeless, Pontius Pilate, an unnamed writer known
as  'the master', and  Margarita.  The  Pilate story is condensed into  four
chapters and focused on four  or  five large-scale figures. The Moscow story
includes a whole array of minor characters.  The Pilate  story, which passes
through a  succession  of narrators, finally joins the Moscow  story  at the
end, when the fates of Pilate and the master are simultaneously decided. The
earliest version, narrated by  a first-person  'chronicler' and entitled The
Engineer's Hoof, was written  in the first few months  of 1929. It contained
no trace  of  Margarita and  only a faint  hint of  the  master in  a  minor
character representing the old intelligentsia. The Pilate story was confined
to a single  chapter. This version  included the  essentials  of  the Moscow
satire, which afterwards underwent  only minor revisions and rearrangements.
It began in much the  same way  as  the  definitive version, with a dialogue
between a people's poet and an  editor (here  of an anti-religious magazine.
The  Godless)  on the correct portrayal  of  Christ  as  an exploiter of the
proletariat.  A  stranger (Woland) appears and, surprised at their unbelief,
astounds  them  with  an  eyewitness account of  Christ's crucifixion.  This
account forms the second chapter, entitled 'The Gospel of Woland'.
     Clearly, what first spurred Bulgakov to write the novel was his outrage
at the portrayals of Christ in Soviet anti-religious propaganda (The Godless
was an actual monthly magazine of atheism, published from 1922 to 1940). His
response was based on a  simple reversal -- a vivid circumstantial narrative
of what  was thought to  be a  'myth' invented by  the ruling class,  and  a
breaking down of the self-evident reality of Moscow life by the intrusion of
the  'stranger'. This device, fundamental to the novel, would be  more fully
elaborated in  its final  form.  Literary  satire was  also present from the
start. The  fifth chapter of  the  definitive version, entitled  There  were
Doings at  Griboedov's', already appeared  intact in  this  earliest  draft,
where it  was entitled 'Mania Furibunda'. In May of 1929, Bulgakov sent this
chapter  to a  publisher, who  rejected it.  This was  his  only  attempt to
publish anything from the novel.
     The second version, from later in the same year, was a reworking of the
first four chapters, filling out certain episodes and  adding the  death  of
Judas to the second chapter, which also  began to detach  itself from Woland
and  become  a more autonomous narrative.  According to  the author's  wife,
Elena  Sergeevna, Bulgakov partially destroyed  these  two versions  in  the
spring of 1930  -- 'threw them in the fire', in the writer's own words. What
survived were two large notebooks with many pages  torn out. This was at the
height of the  attacks on Bulgakov . in the press,  the moment of his letter
to the government.
     After  that  came  some  scattered   notes  in   two  notebooks,   kept
intermittently over the next two years, which was a very difficult time  for
Bulgakov. In the upper-right-hand corner of the second, he wrote:
     'Lord,  help  me to finish  my novel, 1931.' In  a  fragment of a later
chapter,  entitled 'Woland's  Flight',  there  is  a  reference  to  someone
addressed familiarly as ty, who is told that he 'will meet with Schubert and
clear mornings'. This is obviously  the master, though he is not  called so.
There  is also  the  first mention of the name of  Margarita. In  Bulgakov's
mind, the  main outlines of a new  conception  of  the  novel were evidently
already clear.
     This  new version  he  began  to  write in  earnest in October of 1932,
during a visit to Leningrad with Elena  Sergeevna, whom he had just married.
(The 'model' for Margarita,  who had  now entered  the  composition, she was
previously married to a high-ranking  military  official, who for  some time
opposed her wish to leave him for the  writer, leading  Bulgakov to think he
would never see her again.) His wife was surprised that he could set to work
without having any notes or earlier drafts with him, but Bulgakov explained,
'I  know it by heart.' He continued working, not without long interruptions,
until  1936. Various new tides occurred to him, all still referring to Satan
as the central figure -- The Great Chancellor, Satan,  Here I Am,  The Black
Theologian, He Has Come, The  Hoofed Consultant. As in the earliest version,
the time of the action is 24-- 5 June, the feast of St John, traditionally a
time of magic enchantments (later  it  was moved to  the time of  the spring
full  moon). The nameless  friend  of  Margarita is  called  'Faust' in some
notes, though not in the text itself. He  is also called 'the  poet', and is
made the author of a novel which corresponds to the  'Gospel of Woland' from
the  first  drafts. This  historical section is now broken up and moved to a
later place in the novel, coming closer to what would  be the arrangement in
the final version.
     Bulgakov laboured especially  over the conclusion of the novel and what
reward  to give the  master.  The ending  appears  for  the first time  in a
chapter entitled 'Last Flight',  dating  from July  1956.  It differs little
from  the  final version. In it, however,  the master is told explicitly and
     The house  on  Sadovaya  and the horrible Bosoy  will vanish from  your
memory, but  with  them will go Ha-Nozri  and  the forgiven  hegemon.  These
things are not  for your spirit. You will never raise  yourself  higher, you
will not see Yeshua, you will never leave your refuge.
     In an earlier note, Bulgakov had written even more tellingly: 'You will
not hear the  liturgy.  But you  will listen to the  romantics . .  .' These
words,  which do not appear  in the definitive text, tell us  how  painfully
Bulgakov weighed the question of cowardice and guilt in considering the fate
of  his hero, and how we should understand the ending of the final  version.
They  also  indicate a  thematic link  between  Pilate, the master, and  the
author  himself, connecting  the  historical  and  contemporary parts of the
     In  a brief reworking from 1936--7, Bulgakov  brought the  beginning of
the  Pilate story back to the second chapter, where it would remain, and  in
another reworking  from 1937-8 he finally  found the definitive tide for the
novel. In this version, the original narrator, a characterized 'chronicler',
is  removed.  The  new narrator is  that fluid voice  -- moving freely  from
detached  observation  to  ironic  double  voicing,  to  the  most  personal
interjection - which is perhaps the finest achievement of Bulgakov's art.
     The  first typescript of The  Master and Margarita, dating to 1958, was
dictated  to  the typist  by  Bulgakov  from this last revision,  with  many
changes  along  the  way.  In  1939  he  made  further  alterations  in  the
typescript, the  most important of which concerns the fate  of the hero  and
heroine.  In  the  last  manuscript  version, the  fate  of  the  master and
Margarita, announced to  them by  Woland, is to follow Pilate up the path of
moonlight to find  Yeshua  and  peace.  In the typescript, the fate  of  the
master,  announced to Woland by Matthew Levi, speaking for Yeshua, is not to
follow Pilate but to go to his 'eternal refuge' with Margarita, in a  rather
German-Romantic setting, with Schubert's music and blossoming cherry  trees.
Asked by Woland, 'But why don't you take him with you into the  light?' Levi
replies in a sorrowful voice, 'He  does  not deserve the  light, he deserves
peace.' Bulgakov, still pondering the problem of the master's guilt (and his
own, for what  he  considered  various compromises, including his  work on a
play about Stalin's youth), went  back to his notes and revisions from 1936,
but  lightened  their severity with an enigmatic irony. This was to  be  the
definitive resolution. Clearly, the master is  not to be  seen as  a  heroic
martyr  for art or  a 'Christ-figure'. Bulgakov's gentle  irony is a warning
against the  mistake,  more  common in  our  time than  we might  think,  of
equating artistic mastery with a  sort of saintliness, or,  in Kierkegaard's
terms, of confusing the aesthetic with the ethical.
     In the  evolution of The  Master  and Margarita,  the Moscow  satire of
Woland and  his retinue versus the literary powers and the imposed normality
of Soviet life in general is there from the first, and  comes to involve the
master when  he appears, acquiring details  from the  writer's own life  and
with them a more personal  tone alongside the  bantering  irreverence of the
demonic retinue. The Pilate story, on the other hand, the story of an act of
cowardice  and an interrupted dialogue, gains in weight and independence  as
Bulgakov's  work  progresses. From a single inset episode,  it  becomes  the
centrepiece of the novel, setting off the contemporary events and serving as
their measure.  In style and form it is a counterpoint  to the  rest  of the
book. Finally, rather late in the process, the master  and Margarita appear,
with Margarita coming to dominate the second part of the novel. Her story is
a romance in the old sense - the celebration of a beautiful woman, of a true
love, and of personal courage.
     These three stories, in form as  well as content, embrace virtually all
that was  excluded from official Soviet ideology  and its literature. But if
the  confines  of  'socialist  realism' are  utterly  exploded,  so are  the
confines of more traditional novelistic realism. The Master and Margarita as
a  whole is a consistently  free verbal construction which,  true to its own
premises, can re-create ancient Jerusalem  in the smallest  physical detail,
but can also alter the specifics of the New Testament and play variations on
its  principal  figures,  can combine  the  realities of  Moscow  life  with
witchcraft, vampirism, the tearing off and replacing  of heads, can describe
for several  pages the sensation of flight on a broomstick  or the gathering
of the infamous  dead at Satan's annual  spring  ball,  can combine the most
acute  sense  of  the  fragility  of  human  life  with  confidence  in  its
indestructibility. Bulgakov  underscores the continuity of this verbal world
by having certain  phrases  -- 'Oh, gods, my gods', 'Bring me poison', 'Even
by moonlight I have  no peace' -- migrate from one character to another,  or
to  the  narrator.  A  more  conspicuous case  is the  Pilate  story itself,
successive parts of which are told by Woland, dreamed by the  poet Homeless,
written by the master, and read  by Margarita, while the whole preserves its
stylistic unity.  Narrow notions of  the  'imitation  of reality' break down
here. But The Master and Margarita is true to the broader sense of the novel
as a freely developing form embodied in  the works of Dostoevsky  and Gogol,
of Swift and  Sterne, of  Cervantes, Rabelais and Apuleius.  The mobile  but
personal  narrative voice of the novel, the closest model for which Bulgakov
may  have  found  in  Gogol's Dead Souls, is  the  perfect  medium for  this
continuous verbal construction. There is no multiplicity of narrators in the
novel. The voice is always  the same. But  it has unusual range, picking up,
parodying,  or  ironically  undercutting  the  tones  of  the  novel's  many
characters, with undertones of lyric and epic poetry and old popular tales.
     Bulgakov  always  loved clowning and agreed with E. T. A. Hoffmann that
irony and  buffoonery are expressions  of 'the deepest contemplation of life
in all its  conditionality'. It is not  by chance that his stage adaptations
of the  comic masterpieces of Gogol and Cervantes coincided with the writing
of The Master and Margarita.  Behind such specific 'influences'  stands  the
age-old  tradition  of  folk humour with  its  carnivalized world-view,  its
reversals  and  dethronings, its  relativizing of  worldly  absolutes  --  a
tradition  that  was  the  subject  of  a  monumental  study  by  Bulgakov's
countryman  and  contemporary Mikhail  Bakhtin. Bakhtin's  Rabelais  and His
World,  which in its way  was as  much an explosion  of  Soviet  reality  as
Bulgakov's novel, appeared in 1965, a year before The  Master and Margarita.
The  coincidence  was  not  lost  on  Russian  readers.  Commenting  on  it,
Bulgakov's  wife noted  that,  while there  had never  been any direct  link
between the  two  men,  they were  both responding to  the  same  historical
situation from the same cultural basis.
     Many observations  from Bakhtin's  study seem to  be aimed  directly at
Bulgakov's intentions,  none more so than his comment on Rabelais's travesty
of the  'hidden  meaning',  the  'secret',  the  'terrifying  mysteries'  of
religion, politics and  economics:  'Laughter must liberate the gay truth of
the world  from the  veils of  gloomy lies  spun by the seriousness of fear,
suffering,  and  violence.'  The settling  of  scores  is also  part  of the
tradition  of  carnival  laughter. Perhaps the  most  pure  example  is  the
Testament of the poet Francois Villon, who in the liveliest verse handed out
appropriate 'legacies' to all his enemies, thus entering into tradition  and
even earning himself a place in the fourth book of  Rabelais's Gargantua and
Pantagruel. So, too, Bakhtin says of Rabelais:
     In his novel  ... he uses the popular-festive system of images with its
charter of freedoms consecrated by many centuries; and he uses it to inflict
a severe punishment upon  his foe, the Gothic  age  ...  In this setting  of
consecrated rights Rabelais  attacks  the fundamental dogmas and sacraments,
the holy of holies of medieval ideology.
     And he comments further on the broad nature of this tradition:
     For thousands of years the people have  used these festive comic images
to express their criticism, their deep distrust of official truth, and their
highest hopes and aspirations. Freedom was  not so much an exterior right as
it  was  the  inner  content  of  these images. It was the thousand-year-old
language  of  feariessness,  a language with no reservations  and omissions,
about the world and about power.
     Bulgakov drew on  this same source  in  settling  his  scores  with the
custodians of official literature and official reality.
     The  novel's   form  excludes  psychological  analysis  and  historical
commentary. Hence the quickness  and pungency  of Bulgakov's writing. At the
same time, it allows Bulgakov to  exploit all the theatricality of its great
scenes -- storms, flight, the attack  of vampires, all  the  antics  of  the
demons Koroviev and Behemoth, the seance in the Variety theatre, the ball at
Satan's,  but also the  meeting  of  Pilate and  Yeshua, the crucifixion  as
witnessed  by Matthew  Levi, the murder  of Judas in  the moonlit garden  of
     Bulgakov's treatment of Gospel figures is the most controversial aspect
of  The Master  and Margarita and has met with the greatest incomprehension.
Yet his premises are made clear in the very first pages of the novel, in the
dialogue between  Woland and the atheist  Berlioz. By the deepest  irony  of
all, the 'prince of this world' stands as guarantor of the 'other' world. It
exists, since he exists. But he says nothing  directly about it. Apart  from
divine revelation, the only language  able to speak of the 'other' world  is
the language of parable. Of  this  language Kafka wrote, in his  parable 'On
     Many complain that the words of the wise are always merely parables and
of no use in daily life, which is the only life we have. When the sage says:
'Go over,' he does not mean that we should cross to some actual place, which
we  could  do  anyhow  if  it was worth the trouble; he means  some fabulous
yonder, something unknown to us,  something, too,  that he cannot  designate
more  precisely, and  therefore cannot  help us here in the least. All these
parables  really  set  out  to  say  simply  that  the  incomprehensible  is
incomprehensible,  and  we  know  that already.  But  the  cares we have  to
struggle with every day: that is a different matter.
     Concerning this a  man  once said:  Why such reluctance?  If  you  only
followed the parables, you yourselves would become parables and with that nd
of all your daily cares.
     Another said: I bet that is also a parable.
     The first said: You win.
     The second said: But unfortunately only in parable.
     The first said: No, in reality. In parable you lose.
     A similar  dialogue lies at the heart of  Bulgakov's novel. In it there
are those who belong to parable and those who belong  to reality.  There are
those  who  go over and those who do not. There are those who win in parable
and become parables themselves, and there are those who  win in reality. But
this reality belongs to Woland. Its  nature is made chillingly  clear in the
brief  scene when  he and Margarita  contemplate  his special  globe. Woland
     'For instance, do you see this chunk of land, washed on one side by the
ocean?  Look, it's filling with  fire. A war has started there. If you  look
closer, you'll see the details.'
     Margarita leaned towards  the  globe and saw the  little square of land
spread out, get  painted in many colours, and turn as  it were into a relief
map. And then she  saw the little ribbon of  a river, and some village  near
it. A little house the size of a pea grew and became the size of a matchbox.
Suddenly and  noiselessly the roof of this house flew  up along with a cloud
of black smoke, and  the  walls collapsed, so that nothing was  left of  the
little two-storey box except a small heap  with black smoke pouring from it.
Bringing her eye stffl  closer,  Margarita  made  out a small  female figure
lying on the ground, and next to her, in a pool  of blood,  a  little  child
with outstretched arms.
     That's  it,'  Woland  said, smiling, 'he had no time to sin.  Abaddon's
work is impeccable.'
     When Margarita asks which side this Abaddon is on, Woland replies:
     'He  is of  a rare impartiality and sympathizes equally with both sides
of the  fight. Owing  to  that, the results are always  the  same  for  both
     There are others who dispute Woland's claim to the power of this world.
They are  absent  or all but  absent from  The Master and Margarita. But the
reality of the world seems to be at their disposal, to be shaped by them and
to bear their imprint. Their names are Caesar  and Stalin. Though absent  in
person, they  are omnipresent.  Their imposed will has become the measure of
normality and self-evidence. In other  words, the normality of this world is
imposed terror. And,  as the story of  Pilate  shows, this is by  no means a
twentieth-century  phenomenon. Once terror  is identified with the world, it
becomes invisible.  Bulgakov's portrayal of Moscow under Stalin's  terror is
remarkable precisely for its weightless,  circus-like theatricality and lack
of pathos. It is a sub-stanceless reality, an empty suit writing  at a desk.
The  citizens  have adjusted to  it and learned to play along as they always
do.  The  mechanism  of  this forced adjustment  is revealed in the  chapter
recounting 'Nikanor  Ivanovich's Dream', in  which prison,  denunciation and
betrayal  become yet  another theatre with  a  kindly and helpful master  of
ceremonies. Berlioz,  the comparatist, is the  spokesman  for  this 'normal'
state of  affairs,  which  is what  makes his  conversation  with Woland  so
interesting. In  it he  is confronted  with another reality which  he cannot
recognize.  He  becomes  'unexpectedly  mortal'.  In the  story  of  Pilate,
however,  a  moment  of  recognition  does come. It occurs  during  Pilate's
conversation  with Yeshua, when  he sees  the wandering  philosopher's  head
float off and in its  place the toothless head of the aged  Tiberius Caesar.
This is the pivotal moment of the novel. Pilate breaks off his dialogue with
Yeshua, he does not 'go over', and afterwards must sit like  a stone for two
thousand years waiting to continue their conversation.
     Parable cuts through the normality of this world only at moments.
     These  moments  are  preceded by  a  sense  of  dread,  or  else  by  a
presentiment  of  something  good. The first variation is Berlioz's  meeting
with Woland. The second is Pilate's meeting  with Yeshua.  The  third is the
'self-baptism' of the poet  Ivan Homeless before he  goes in  pursuit of the
mysterious  stranger. The fourth is the meeting of the master and Margarita.
These chance encounters have eternal consequences, depending on the response
of  the  person,  who must act without  foreknowledge and then  becomes  the
consequences of that action.
     The touchstone character of the novel is Ivan Homeless, who is there at
the start,  is  radically changed  by  his encounters  with  Woland and  the
master, becomes the latter's 'disciple' and  continues his  work, is present
at  almost every  turn of the novel's  action,  and appears  finally  in the
epilogue.  He  remains  an  uneasy  inhabitant  of 'normal'  reality,  as  a
historian  who 'knows everything',  but  each year,  with the coming of  the
spring  full moon, he returns to the parable which for this world looks like
     Richard Pevear

     A Note on the Text and Acknowledgements
     At his  death,  Bulgakov  left The  Master and Margarita  in a slightly
unfinished state.  It contains, for instance, certain  inconsistencies - two
versions  of  the 'departure' of the master  and Margarita, two  versions of
Yeshua's  entry into  Yershalaim, two  names for  Yeshua's native  town. His
final revisions, undertaken in October of 1939, broke off  near the start of
Book Two. Later  he dictated  some additions  to his  wife, Elena Sergeevna,
notably the opening  paragraph  of Chapter 32 ('Gods, my  gods! How sad  the
evening earth!').  Shortly  after his death  in 1940, Elena Sergeevna made a
new  typescript of the novel. In 1965, she  prepared  another typescript for
publication, which differs slightly from her 1940 text. This  1965  text was
published by Moskva in  November 1966 and January 1967. However, the editors
of the magazine made cuts  in it  amounting to some sixty typed pages. These
cut  portions   immediately   appeared   in   samizdat   (unofficial  Soviet
'self-publishing'), were published by Scherz Verlag in Switzerland in  1967,
and were then included  in the  Possev  Verlag  edition  (Frankfurt-am-Main,
1969) and the  YMCA-Press edition  (Paris,  1969). In  1975  a  new  and now
complete  edition came out in  Russia,  the result  of a  comparison  of the
already  published  editions  with  materials  in the Bulgakov  archive.  It
included  additions  and  changes taken  from  written corrections on  other
existing typescripts. The latest Russian edition (1990) has removed the most
important of  those additions, bringing  the text close  once again to Elena
Sergeevna's 1965 typescript.  Given  the absence of  a  definitive authorial
text, this process  of revision is virtually  endless.  However, it involves
changes that in most cases have little bearing for a translator.
     The  present translation  has  been  made from the text of the original
magazine publication,  based on  Elena Sergeevna's 1965 typescript, with all
cuts restored as in the  Possev and YMCA-Press  editions. It is complete and
     The  translators wish to express their gratitude to M. 0. Chudakova for
her  advice on the text and to  Irina Kronrod for  her help in preparing the
Further Reading.
     R. P., L. V.

     The Master and Margarita

     '... who are you, then?'
     'I am part of that power which eternally wills evil and eternally works
     Goethe, Faust

     At  the hour  of the hot  spring sunset two citizens  appeared  at  the
Patriarch's Ponds. One of them, approximately  forty years old, dressed in a
grey summer  suit,  was  short,  dark-haired, plump,  bald, and  carried his
respectable fedora hat in his hand. His neatly shaven face was adorned  with
black   horn-rimmed   glasses   of   a  supernatural   size.  The  other,  a
broad-shouldered young  man  with  tousled reddish hair, his  checkered  cap
cocked back on his head, was wearing a cowboy shirt, wrinkled white trousers
and black sneakers.
     The first was none other than Mikhail Alexandrovich Berlioz, [2] editor
of a  fat literary  journal and chairman  of  the board  of one of the major
Moscow  literary associations, called Massolit [3]  for short, and his young
companion  was the poet  Ivan  Nikolayevich  Ponyrev,  who wrote  under  the
pseudonym of Homeless. [4]
     Once  in the shade  of the barely greening lindens,  the writers dashed
first  thing to a  brightly  painted stand with  the  sign: `Beer  and  Soft
     Ah, yes,  note  must be made of the first  oddity of this  dreadful May
evening. There was not a single person  to be seen, not  only  by the stand,
but also along the whole walk parallel  to  Malaya Bronnaya Street.  At that
hour when  it  seemed no longer possible to breathe,  when the  sun,  having
scorched Moscow, was  collapsing  in a dry  haze somewhere  beyond  Sadovoye
Ring, no one  came  under the lindens, no one sat  on  a bench, the walk was
     'Give us seltzer,' Berlioz asked.
     'There is no seltzer,' the woman in the stand said, and for some reason
became offended.
     'Is there beer?' Homeless inquired in a rasping voice.
     `Beer'll be delivered towards evening,' the woman replied.
     'Then what is there?' asked Berlioz.
     'Apricot soda, only warm,' said the woman.
     'Well, let's have it, let's have it! ...'
     The soda produced an abundance of  yellow foam, and  the air  began  to
smell  of a barber-shop.  Having  finished drinking, the writers immediately
started to hiccup, paid, and sat down  on a bench face to the pond and  back
to Bronnaya.
     Here the second oddity  occurred, touching  Berlioz alone.  He suddenly
stopped hiccupping, his heart gave a thump and dropped away somewhere for an
instant, then came back, but with a blunt needle lodged in it. Besides that,
Berlioz  was  gripped by fear, groundless,  yet so strong that  he wanted to
flee the Ponds at once without looking back.
     Berlioz looked around in anguish, not understanding what had frightened
him. He paled, wiped his forehead with a handkerchief, thought:
     "What's the matter with me? This has never happened  before. My heart's
acting up... I'm overworked... Maybe it's  time to send it all to  the devil
and go to Kislovodsk...'[5]
     And  here  the sweltering air thickened  before him, and  a transparent
citizen  of the  strangest  appearance  wove  himself  out  of it. A  peaked
jockey's cap on his little head, a short checkered jacket also made of air.
     ...  A  citizen  seven  feet  tall,  but   narrow  in  the   shoulders,
unbelievably thin, and, kindly note, with a jeering physiognomy.
     The life of Berlioz had taken such a course that he was unaccustomed to
extraordinary phenomena.  Turning  paler  still,  he goggled  his  eyes  and
thought in consternation:
     'This can't be! ...'
     But, alas, it was, and the long, see-through citizen was swaying before
him to the left and to the right without touching the ground.
     Here terror took such possession of Berlioz that he shut his eyes. When
he opened  them again, he  saw that  it  was  all  over,  the  phantasm  had
dissolved,  the checkered  one  had vanished, and with that the blunt needle
had popped out of his heart.
     'Pah,  the devil!' exclaimed the editor. 'You  know, Ivan, I nearly had
heat stroke  just now! There  was even something like a hallucination...' He
attempted  to  smile,  but  alarm  still  jumped in  his eyes  and his hands
trembled.  However,  he  gradually  calmed  down,  fanned  himself with  his
handkerchief and, having  said rather cheerfully: 'Well, and  so...' went on
with the conversation interrupted by their soda-drinking.
     This conversation, as was learned afterwards, was about Jesus Christ.
     The thing was that  the editor had commissioned  from  the poet a  long
anti-religious poem for the next issue of his journal.  Ivan Nikolaevich had
written this poem, and in  a  very short time, but unfortunately the  editor
was not  at all satisfied with it. Homeless had portrayed the main character
of his poem - that is,  Jesus - in very dark colours,  but nevertheless  the
whole  poem, in  the editor's opinion, had to be  written over again. And so
the editor was now giving the poet something of a lecture on Jesus, with the
aim of underscoring the poet's essential error.
     It is  hard  to say what precisely had let Ivan  Nikolaevich down - the
descriptive powers of his talent or a total unfamiliarity with  the question
he was writing  about - but his Jesus came out,  well, completely alive, the
once-existing  Jesus, though,  true,  a Jesus  furnished  with  all negative
     Now, Berlioz wanted to prove to  the poet that the main thing  was  not
how  Jesus was,  good or bad, but that this same Jesus,  as a person, simply
never existed in the world, and all the stories about him were mere fiction,
the most ordinary mythology.
     It  must be noted  that  the  editor  was a well-read  man  and in  his
conversation very  skillfully pointed  to ancient historians - for instance,
the  famous  Philo  of Alexandria  [6]  and the brilliantly educated Flavius
Josephus [7]  -  who  never  said  a word  about  the  existence  of  Jesus.
Displaying a solid erudition, Mikhail Alexandrovich also informed  the poet,
among  other things,  that the  passage in  the  fifteenth book of Tacitus's
famous Annals  [8], the forty-fourth chapter, where mention is made  of  the
execution of Jesus, was nothing but a later spurious interpolation.
     The  poet,  for  whom everything the editor  was  telling  him was new,
listened attentively to Mikhail Alexandrovich, fixing his pert green eyes on
him, and merely hiccupped from time to time,  cursing the apricot soda under
his breath.
     There's not a single Eastern religion,' Berlioz  was saying, 'in which,
as a rule, an immaculate virgin did not give birth to a god. And in just the
same  way, without inventing  anything  new,  the  Christians created  their
Jesus, who in fact never lived. It's on this that the  main  emphasis should
be placed...'
     Berlioz's  high tenor rang out  in  the  deserted walk,  and as Mikhail
Alexandrovich  went deeper into  the  maze, which only a highly educated man
can go into without risking  a broken neck, the poet learned more  and  more
interesting and useful  things about the  Egyptian Osiris, [9] a  benevolent
god  and the son of Heaven and Earth, and about the  Phoenician god  Tammoz,
[10] and about Marduk, [11]  and even about  a lesser known,  terrible  god,
Vitzliputzli,'[12] once greatly venerated by  the Aztecs in Mexico. And just
at the moment when Mikhail Alexandrovich was telling the poet how the Aztecs
used  to  fashion figurines of Vitzli-putzli  out of dough - the  first  man
appeared in the walk.
     Afterwards, when, frankly speaking,  it was already too  late,  various
institutions presented  reports describing this  man.  A  comparison of them
cannot but cause  amazement. Thus, the  first of them  said that the man was
short, had gold teeth, and limped on his right leg. The second, that the man
was enormously  tall,  had platinum  crowns, and limped on his left leg. The
third laconically averred that the man had no distinguishing  marks. It must
be acknowledged that none of these reports is of any value.
     First  of all,  the man described  did  not  limp  on any  leg, and was
neither  short nor  enormous,  but  simply tall. As for  his  teeth,  he had
platinum crowns on the  left side and gold  on the right. He was  wearing an
expensive grey suit and imported shoes of a matching colour.  His grey beret
was cocked rakishly over one ear;  under his arm he carried a  stick with  a
black knob shaped  like a poodle's head. [13] He looked to  be a little over
forty.  Mouth somehow  twisted. Clean-shaven. Dark-haired. Right eye  black,
left  - for some  reason  - green.  Dark eyebrows, but one  higher  than the
other. In short, a foreigner. [14]
     Having passed by  the  bench  on  which  the  editor  and the poet were
placed, the foreigner  gave them a sidelong look, stopped, and  suddenly sat
down on the next bench, two steps away from the friends.
     `A German...'  thought  Berlioz. `An  Englishman...'  thought Homeless.
'My, he must be hot in those gloves.'
     And the foreigner gazed around at the tall buildings that rectangularly
framed  the pond, making it  obvious  that  he  was seeing the place for the
first  time and that it  interested him.  He rested  his glance on the upper
floors, where the glass dazzlingly reflected the broken-up sun which was for
ever  departing from Mikhail  Alexandrovich, then shifted  it lower  down to
where  the  windows  were  beginning  to  darken  before   evening,   smiled
condescendingly at something, narrowed his eves,  put his hands on  the knob
and his chin on his hands.
     'For instance, Ivan,'  Berlioz was saying,  `you portrayed the birth of
Jesus, the son of God, very well and satirically, but the gist of it is that
a whole series  of  sons  of God were  born  before Jesus,  like,  say,  the
Phoenician Adonis, [15]  the Phrygian Atris,  [16] the Persian Mithras. [17]
And, to put it briefly, not  one  of  them was  born or ever  existed, Jesus
included, and  what's necessary is that, instead of portraying his birth or,
suppose, the  coming of the  Magi,'[18]  you portray  the  absurd rumours of
their coming. Otherwise  it follows from your story that he really was born!
     Here Homeless made an attempt to stop his painful hiccupping by holding
his breath, which caused  him to hiccup more  painfully  and loudly,  and at
that  same moment  Berlioz  interrupted his  speech,  because  the foreigner
suddenly got  up and  walked towards  the writers.  They  looked  at him  in
     'Excuse me, please,' the approaching man began speaking, with a foreign
accent but without distorting the words, 'if, not being your acquaintance, I
allow  myself...  but  the  subject  of  your  learned  conversation  is  so
interesting that...'
     Here he politely took off his beret and the  friends  had  nothing left
but to stand up and make their bows.
     'No, rather a Frenchman ....' thought Berlioz.
     'A Pole? ...' thought Homeless.
     It must  be  added  that from  his  first  words  the  foreigner made a
repellent impression on the poet, but  Berlioz rather liked  him - that  is,
not liked but ... how to put it ... was interested, or whatever.
     'May I sit down?' the foreigner asked politely, and the friends somehow
involuntarily moved apart; the foreigner adroitly sat  down between them and
at once entered into the conversation:
     'Unless  I  heard  wrong,  you  were  pleased  to  say that Jesus never
existed?' the foreigner asked, turning his green left eye to Berlioz.
     'No, you did  not  hear  wrong,' Berlioz replied courteously,  'that is
precisely what I was saying.'
     'Ah, how interesting!' exclaimed the foreigner.
     'What the devil does he want?' thought Homeless, frowning.
     'And you were agreeing with your  interlocutor?' inquired the stranger,
turning to Homeless on his right.
     'A hundred per cent!' confirmed the man, who was fond of  whimsical and
figurative expressions.
     'Amazing!' exclaimed the uninvited interlocutor and, casting a thievish
glance around and muffling his low voice for some reason, he said:
     'Forgive  my importunity,  but,  as I understand, along with everything
else, you also do not believe in God?' he made frightened eyes and added:
     'I swear I won't tell anyone!'
     'No, we don't believe in God,' Berlioz replied, smiling slightly at the
foreign tourist's fright, but we can speak of it quite freely.'
     The  foreigner sat  back  on the  bench and asked, even  with a  slight
shriek of curiosity:
     'You are - atheists?!'
     Yes, we're atheists,' Berlioz smilingly replied, and  Homeless thought,
getting angry: 'Latched on to us, the foreign goose!'
     'Oh,  how  lovely!' the  astonishing  foreigner  cried  out  and  began
swiveling his head, looking from one writer to the other.
     'In  our country atheism  does not surprise anyone,' Berlioz  said with
diplomatic politeness. 'The majority of  our population consciously and long
ago ceased believing in the fairytales about God.'
     Here the  foreigner pulled the following stunt: he got up and shook the
amazed editor's hand, accompanying it with these words:
     'Allow me to thank you with all my heart!'
     'What are you thanking him for?' Homeless inquired, blinking.
     'For some very important  information, which is of great interest to me
as  a  traveler,'  the  outlandish  fellow  explained,  raising  his  finger
     The important  information  apparendy  had  indeed  produced  a  strong
impression on the traveler, because he passed his frightened glance over the
buildings, as if afraid of seeing an atheist in every window.
     'No, he's not an Englishman ...' thought Berlioz, and Homeless thought:
     'Where'd  he  pick up  his Russian, that's the  interesting thing!' and
frowned again.
     'But, allow  me  to  ask  you,'  the foreign  visitor  spoke after some
anxious reflection, 'what,  then,  about the proofs of  God's existence,  of
which, as is known, there are exactly five?'
     'Alas!' Berlioz said with regret. 'Not  one  of these proofs  is  worth
anything,  and  mankind  shelved them  long  ago. You must agree that in the
realm of reason there can be no proof of God's existence.'
     'Bravo!'  cried the  foreigner.  'Bravo!  You  have perfectly  repeated
restless old Immanuel's [19] thought in this  regard. But  here's the hitch:
he  roundly  demolished  all five proofs, and then, as if  mocking  himself,
constructed a sixth of his own.'
     'Kant's  proof,'  the learned editor objected with a subtle  smile, 'is
equally unconvincing.  Not  for nothing did  Schiller say that  the  Kantian
reasoning  on  this  question  can satisfy only  slaves  and Strauss  simply
laughed at this proof.' Berlioz spoke, thinking all the while: 'But, anyhow,
who is he? And why does he speak Russian so well?'
     They  ought to take  this Kant  and  give him a  three-year  stretch in
Solovki [22] for such proofs!' Ivan Nikolaevich plumped quite unexpectedly.
     'Ivan!' Berlioz whispered, embarrassed.
     But  the suggestion of  sending Kant to Solovki not  only did not shock
the foreigner, but even sent him into raptures.
     'Precisely, precisely,'  he  cried, and his green  left eye, turned  to
Berlioz,  flashed. 'Just the place  for him! Didn't I  tell him that time at
     "As you  will,  Professor,  but  what  you've  thought  up doesn't hang
together. It's clever, maybe, but mighty unclear. You'll be laughed at."'
     Berlioz goggled his eyes. 'At  breakfast... to Kant? ... What  is  this
drivel?' he thought.
     'But,' the outlander went on, unembarrassed by  Berlioz's amazement and
addressing the  poet,  'sending him to Solovki is unfeasible, for the simple
reason  that he  has  been abiding for over  a  hundred  years now in places
considerably more remote than Solovki, and to  extract him from  there is in
no way possible, I assure you.'
     'Too bad!' the feisty poet responded.
     'Yes, too bad!' the stranger agreed, his eye flashing, and went on:
     'But here is a question that is troubling me: if there is no God, then,
one may  ask,  who governs human  life and, in  general, the  whole order of
things on earth?'
     'Man governs  it himself,'  Homeless angrily hastened to reply  to this
admittedly  none-too-clear  question.  `Pardon  me,'  the stranger responded
gently, 'but in  order to  govern, one needs,  after  all, to have a precise
plan for certain, at least somewhat  decent, length of time. Allow me to ask
you, then, how man can govern, if he is not only deprived of the opportunity
of making a plan for at least  some ridiculously short period - well, say, a
thousand years - but cannot even vouch for his own tomorrow?
     `And in fact,' here the  stranger turned to Berlioz, 'imagine that you,
for  instance,  start  governing,  giving  orders to  others  and  yourself,
generally, so  to  speak, acquire  a taste for  it,  and  suddenly  you  get
...hem... hem ...  lung cancer...' -  here the foreigner smiled sweetly, and
if the thought of lung cancer gave him pleasure -  'yes, cancer' - narrowing
his eyes like a cat, he  repeated the sonorous word - 'and so your governing
is over!
     'You are no longer  interested  in anyone's fate  but  your  own.  Your
family starts lying to  you. Feeling  that something is  wrong,  you rush to
learned  doctors, then  to quacks, and sometimes to fortune-tellers as well.
Like the first,  so  the second and third are  completely senseless, as  you
understand. And it all ends tragically: a man who still  recently thought he
was governing something, suddenly winds up lying motionless in a wooden box,
and the people around him, seeing that the man lying there is no longer good
for anything, burn him in an oven.
     'And sometimes  it's  worse still: the man  has just decided  to go  to
Kislovodsk' - here the foreigner squinted  at Berlioz - 'a trifling  matter,
it seems, but even this he cannot accomplish, because suddenly, no one knows
why, he slips and falls under a tram-car! Are you going to say it was he who
governed himself that way? Would it not be more correct to think that he was
governed by someone else  entirely?' And here  the unknown man  burst into a
strange little laugh.
     Berlioz listened with great attention to the unpleasant story about the
cancer and the tram-car, and certain alarming thoughts began to torment him.
     'He's  not a foreigner... He's not  a foreigner...' he thought, 'he's a
most peculiar specimen ... but, excuse me, who is he then? ...'
     You'd  like  to   smoke,  I  see?'  the  stranger   addressed  Homeless
unexpectedly. "Which kind do you prefer?'
     'What,  have you got several?' the poet, who had run out of cigarettes,
asked glumly.
     'Which do you prefer?' the stranger repeated.
     'Okay - Our Brand,' Homeless replied spitefully.
     The unknown  man immediately took  a cigarette case from his pocket and
offered it to Homeless:
     'Our Brand...'
     Editor and poet were both struck,  not so  much by  Our Brand precisely
turning up in the cigarette case, as by the cigarette case itself. It was of
huge size, made  of  pure gold, and, as it was  opened,  a  diamond triangle
flashed white and blue fire on its lid.
     Here the writers thought differently. Berlioz: 'No, a foreigner!',  and
Homeless: 'Well, devil take him, eh! ...'
     The poet and the owner of the cigarette case lit up, but the non-smoker
Berlioz declined.
     'I  must counter  him like this,' Berlioz decided, 'yes, man is mortal,
no one disputes that. But the thing is...'
     However, before he managed to utter these words, the foreigner spoke:
     'Yes, man is mortal, but that would be only half the trouble. The worst
of it  is that he's sometimes unexpectedly mortal - there's  the trick!  And
generally he's unable to say what he's going to do this same evening.'
     `What an absurd  way  of putting the question ...' Berlioz  thought and
     'Well, there's  some exaggeration here. About  this same  evening I  do
know more or less certainly. It goes without saying, if a brick  should fall
on my head on Bronnaya. . '
     'No  brick,' the  stranger interrupted  imposingly, `will ever fall  on
anyone's head just out of  the blue.  In this particular case, I assure you,
you are not in danger of that at all. You will die a different death.'
     'Maybe  you know  what kind precisely?' Berlioz inquired with perfectly
natural irony, getting drawn into an  utterly absurd conversation. 'And will
tell me?'
     'Willingly,' the unknown  man responded. He looked Berlioz up  and down
as if he were going to make him a suit, muttered through his teeth something
like: 'One,  two  ... Mercury in the  second house  ...  moon gone ... six -
disaster... evening - seven...' then announced loudly and joyfully:
     'Your head will be cut off!'
     Homeless goggled his  eyes wildly  and  spitefully  at  the  insouciant
stranger, and Berlioz asked, grinning crookedly:
     'By whom precisely? Enemies? Interventionists?'[23]
     'No,' replied his interlocutor,  'by a Russian woman,  a Komsomol  [24]
     `Hm...'  Berlioz mumbled, vexed at the  stranger's  little joke, `well,
excuse me, but that's not very likely.'
     'And I beg  you to excuse me,' the foreigner replied, 'but it's so. Ah,
yes, I wanted  to ask you,  what are you going to do tonight, if  it's not a
     `It's not a secret. Right now  I'll stop by my place  on  Sadovaya, and
then  at ten  this evening there will be a meeting at  Massolit, and  I will
chair it.'
     'No, that simply cannot be,' the foreigner objected firmly.
     'Why not?'
     `Because,' the  foreigner replied  and, narrowing his eyes, looked into
the  sky,  where, anticipating  the cool of the  evening,  black  birds were
tracing noiselessly, 'Annushka has already bought the sunflower oil, and has
not only bought it, but has already spilled it. So the meeting will not take
     Here, quite understandably, silence fell under the lindens.
     `Forgive   me,'  Berlioz  spoke   after  a  pause,   glancing   at  the
drivel-spouting foreigner, 'but what has sunflower oil got to do with it ...
and which Annushka?'
     'Sunflower  oil has got this  to do with it,'  Homeless suddenly spoke,
obviously deciding to declare war on the uninvited  interlocutor.  'Have you
ever happened, citizen, to be in a hospital for the mentally ill?'
     'Ivan! ...' Mikhail Alexandrovich  exclaimed quietly. But the foreigner
was not a bit offended and burst into the merriest laughter.
     'I  have,  I  have, and  more than once!'  he cried  out, laughing, but
without taking his unlaughing eye  off the poet. 'Where haven't I been! Only
it's too bad  I didn't get around to asking the professor what schizophrenia
is. So you will have to find that out from him yourself, Ivan Nikolaevich!'
     'How do you know my name?'
     'Gracious, Ivan Nikolaevich, who doesn't know you?' Here  the foreigner
took out of his pocket the previous day's issue of the Literary Gazette, and
Ivan Nikolaevich saw his own picture on the very first page and under it his
very  own verses.  But the proof of fame and popularity, which yesterday had
delighted the poet, this time did not delight him a bit.
     'Excuse me,' he said, and his face darkened, 'could you wait one little
moment? I want to say a couple of words to my friend.'
     'Oh, with pleasure!' exclaimed  the stranger. 'It's so nice here  under
the lindens, and, by the way, I'm not in any hurry.'
     'Listen here, Misha,' the poet whispered,  drawing Berlioz aside, 'he's
no foreign tourist, he's a spy. A Russian emigre [25] who has  crossed  back
over. Ask for his papers before he gets away...'
     'YOU  think so?' Berlioz whispered  worriedly, and thought: 'Why,  he's
     'Believe me,' the poet rasped  into his ear, `he's pretending to  be  a
fool  in order  to find  out something or  other. Just hear  how  he  speaks
Russian.'  As  he  spoke, the poet  kept glancing sideways, to make sure the
stranger did not escape. 'Let's go and detain him, or he'll get away...'
     And the poet pulled Berlioz back to the bench by the arm.
     The unknown man was not sitting, but was  standing near it,  holding in
his hands some booklet in a  dark-grey binding, a  sturdy  envelope  made of
good paper, and a visiting card.
     `Excuse  me for  having forgotten,  in  the  heat of  our  dispute,  to
introduce myself. Here is my card, my passport, and an invitation to come to
Moscow for a consultation,' the stranger said weightily, giving both writers
a penetrating glance.
     They  were  embarrassed. 'The devil,  he  heard everything...'  Berlioz
thought, and with a polite gesture indicated that there was  no need to show
papers. While the foreigner was pushing them at the editor, the poet managed
to make out the word  `Professor' printed  in foreign type on  the card, and
the initial letter of the last name - a double 'V' - 'W'.
     `My pleasure,' the editor meanwhile muttered in embarrassment, and  the
foreigner put the papers back in his pocket.
     Relations  were thus restored,  and  all  three sat  down on the  bench
     'You've been invited here as a consultant, Professor?' asked Berlioz.
     'Yes, as a consultant.'
     "You're German?' Homeless inquired.
     'I?  ...' the professor repeated  and suddenly fell to thinking.  'Yes,
perhaps I am German ...' he said.
     'YOU speak real good Russian,' Homeless observed.
     'Oh, I'm  generally a polyglot and know  a great number  of languages,'
the professor replied.
     'And what is your field?' Berlioz inquired.
     'I am a specialist in black magic.'
     There he goes!...' struck in Mikhail Alexandrovich's head.
     'And  ... and you've been  invited here  in that  capacity?'  he asked,
     'Yes, in that capacity,' the professor confirmed, and  explained: 'In a
state  library  here  some  original  manuscripts   of   the   tenth-century
necromancer Gerbert of Aurillac [26] have been found. So it is necessary for
me to sort them out. I am the only specialist in the world.'
     'Aha! You're a historian?' Berlioz asked with great relief and respect.
     'I am a  historian,' the scholar confirmed,  and added with no rhyme or
reason: This evening there will be an interesting story at the Ponds!'
     Once again editor and  poet were extremely surprised, but the professor
beckoned them both to him, and when they leaned towards him, whispered:
     'Bear in mind that Jesus did exist.'
     `You  see.  Professor,' Berlioz  responded  with  a  forced  smile, `we
respect  your  great learning, but on this question we hold  to  a different
point of view.'
     `There's  no  need  for any  points of  view,'  the  strange  professor
replied, 'he simply existed, that's all.'
     'But there's need for some proof...' Berlioz began.
     "There's no need  for  any proofs,' replied the professor, and he began
to  speak softly,  while his accent  for some reason  disappeared: 'It's all
very simple: In a white cloak with blood-red lining, with the shuffling gait
of a cavalryman, early in the  morning of  the fourteenth  day of the spring
month of Nissan...'[27]

     In a  white cloak with blood-red lining, with  the shuffling gait of  a
cavalryman, early in  the morning of the  fourteenth day of the spring month
of Nisan, there came out to the covered colonnade between the two  wings  of
the palace of  Herod the Great' the procurator of Judea, [2] Pontius Pilate.
     More than anything in the world the procurator hated  the smell of rose
oil,  and now everything foreboded a  bad day,  because this smell had  been
pursuing the procurator since dawn.
     It seemed to the procurator that a rosy smell exuded from the cypresses
and palms in the garden, that the smell  of leather trappings and sweat from
the convoy was mingled with the cursed rosy flux.
     From the outbuildings at the back of the palace, where the first cohort
of the Twelfth  Lightning legion, [4]  which had come to Yershalaim [5] with
the procurator, was quartered, a whiff of smoke reached the colonnade across
the upper  terrace  of  the palace,  and  this  slightly acrid  smoke, which
testified  that  the centuries' mess cooks had begun to prepare dinner,  was
mingled with the same thick rosy scent.
     'Oh, gods, gods,  why do you punish me? ... Yes, no doubt, this  is it,
this is it again, the invincible,  terrible illness... hemicrania, when half
of the head aches ...  there's no remedy for it, no escape  ... I'll try not
to move my head...'
     On the mosaic  floor by  the fountain a chair was already prepared, and
the procurator,  without looking  at anyone, sat in it and reached his  hand
out to one side. His secretary deferentially placed  a sheet of parchment in
this  hand. Unable to  suppress  a  painful grimace,  the  procurator  ran a
cursory, sidelong  glance over  the writing, returned  the  parchment to the
secretary, and said with difficulty:
     "The accused is from Galilee? [6] Was the case sent to the tetrarch?'
     'Yes, Procurator,' replied the secretary.
     'And what then?'
     'He refused to make a decision on the case and sent the Sanhedrin's [7]
death sentence to you for confirmation,' the secretary explained.
     The procurator twitched his cheek and said quietly:
     'Bring in the accused.'
     And at once two legionaries  brought a  man  of about twenty-seven from
the garden terrace to the balcony under the columns and stood him before the
procurator's chair.  The  man was dressed in  an  old  and  torn  light-blue
chiton. His head was covered by a white cloth with a leather band around the
forehead, and his hands were bound behind his back. Under the man's left eye
there was a large bruise, in the corner of his mouth a cut caked with blood.
     The man gazed at the procurator with anxious curiosity.
     The latter paused, then asked quietly in Aramaic: [8]
     `So  it  was you  who  incited the  people to  destroy  the  temple  of
     The procurator  sat  as  if made of stone while he  spoke, and only his
lips  moved slightly  as he  pronounced the words. The procurator was  as if
made of  stone because he was afraid to move his head, aflame with  infernal
     The man with bound hands leaned forward somewhat and began to speak:
     'Good man! Believe me ...'
     But me procurator, motionless as before and  not raising  his  voice in
the least, straight away interrupted him:
     'Is it  me  that you are calling  a good  man? You  are mistaken. It is
whispered about me in  Yershalaim that I am a fierce  monster, and  that  is
perfectly  correct.' And he added in the same monotone: 'Bring the centurion
     It  seemed  to  everyone that it became darker on the balcony  when the
centurion of the first century, Mark, nicknamed Ratslayer, presented himself
before the  procurator. Ratslayer was a head taller than the tallest soldier
of the  legion and so broad in the shoulders  that he completely blocked out
the still-low sun.
     The procurator addressed the centurion in Latin:
     `The criminal  calls me "good  man".  Take  him outside for  a  moment,
explain to him how I ought to be spoken to. But no maiming.'
     And everyone  except the motionless procurator  followed Mark Ratslayer
with  their eyes  as  he  motioned to the  arrested  man, indicating that he
should  go  with  him. Everyone generally followed Ratslayer with their eyes
wherever he appeared,  because  of his height, and those who were seeing him
for the  first  time also because  the  centurion's face was disfigured: his
nose had once been smashed by a blow from a Germanic club.
     Mark's heavy boots thudded across the mosaic, the bound man noiselessly
went  out with  him, complete silence fell in the colonnade,  and  one could
hear pigeons cooing on the garden terrace near the balcony and water singing
an intricate, pleasant song in the fountain.
     The  procurator would  have  liked to get up,  put his temple under the
spout, and stay standing that way. But he knew that even that would not help
     Having  brought the  arrested man  from under  the  columns  out to the
garden, Ratslayer took a whip from the hands of a legionary who was standing
at the foot of a bronze statue and, swinging easily, struck the arrested man
across the shoulders. The centurion's movement was casual and light, yet the
bound man instantly collapsed on the ground as if his legs had been cut from
under him; he gasped for air, the colour drained from his face, and his eyes
went vacant.
     With his left hand only Mark heaved the fallen man into the air like an
empty  sack, set him  on his feet, and spoke nasally,  in  poorly pronounced
     The Roman procurator is called Hegemon. [10] Use no  other words. Stand
at attention. Do you understand me, or do I hit you?'
     The arrested man swayed, but got  hold of himself, his colour returned,
he caught his breath and answered hoarsely:
     I understand. Don't beat me.'
     A moment later he was again standing before the procurator.
     A lusterless, sick voice sounded:
     'Mine?' the arrested man hastily  responded, his whole being expressing
a readiness to answer sensibly, without provoking further wrath.
     The procurator said softly:
     'I know my own. Don't pretend to be stupider than you are. Yours.'
     'Yeshua,'[11] the prisoner replied promptly.
     'Any surname?'
     'Where do you come from?'
     The town of Gamala,'[12] replied the prisoner, indicating with his head
that there, somewhere far off to his  right, in the north,  was the  town of
     'Who are you by blood?'
     'I don't know exactly,' the arrested  man replied animatedly, `I  don't
remember my parents. I was told that my father was a Syrian...'
     "Where is your permanent residence?'
     'I have no permanent home,' the prisoner answered shyly, 'I travel from
town to town.'
     That  can be  put more briefly, in  a word - a vagrant,' the procurator
said, and asked:
     'Any family?'
     "None. I'm alone in the world.'
     'Can you read and write?'
     'Do you know any language besides Aramaic?'
     'Yes. Greek.'
     A swollen eyelid rose, an eye clouded with suffering fixed the arrested
man. The other eye remained shut.
     Pilate spoke in Greek.
     'So it was you who was going to  destroy the temple building and called
on the people to do that?'
     Here the prisoner again became animated, his eyes ceased to show  fear,
and he spoke in Greek:
     'Never, goo...' Here terror flashed in the prisoner's eyes,  because he
had nearly  made  a  slip. 'Never, Hegemon, never in my life was I going  to
destroy the temple building, nor did I incite anyone to this senseless act.'
     Surprise showed on  the face of the secretary, hunched over a low table
and writing down the testimony. He raised his head, but immediately  bent it
to the parchment again.
     'All sorts  of people gather  in this  town for the  feast.  Among them
there  are magicians, astrologers, diviners and  murderers,' the  procurator
spoke in  monotone, `and  occasionally also liars. You,  for instance, are a
liar. It  is written clearly: "Incited to  destroy the  temple". People have
testified to it.'
     These  good  people,' the prisoner spoke and, hastily adding `Hegemon',
went on: '... haven't any learning and have confused everything I told them.
Generally,  I'm beginning to be  afraid that  this confusion may go on for a
very  long   time.  And  all  because  he  writes  down  the  things  I  say
     Silence fell. By now both sick eyes rested heavily on the prisoner.
     'I repeat to you, but for  the last time, stop pretending that you're a
madman,  robber,' Pilate  said softly  and monotonously,  `there's not  much
written in your record, but what there is enough to hang you.'
     'No, no, Hegemon,' the  arrested man  said,  straining all over in  his
wish to  convince, `there's one with a  goatskin  parchment who  follows me,
follows me  and keeps writing all  the  time. But  once  I peeked  into this
parchment and was  horrified. I said  decidedly  nothing of  what's  written
there. I implored him: "Burn your parchment, I beg  you!" But he tore it out
of my hands and ran away.'
     'Who is that?' Pilate asked squeamishly and touched his temple with his
     'Matthew Levi,'[13] the  prisoner explained willingly. 'He used to be a
tax collector, and I first met him  on the  road  in Bethphage,'[14] where a
fig grove juts out at an angle, and I got to talking with him. He treated me
hostilely at first and even insulted me -  that is, thought he insulted me -
by  calling me a dog.' Here the  prisoner smiled. `I personally see  nothing
bad about this animal, that I should be offended by this word...'
     The secretary stopped writing and  stealthily cast  a surprised glance,
not at the arrested man, but at the procurator.
     '... However, after listening to me,  he began to  soften,' Yeshua went
on, `finally  threw  the  money down  in the  road  and  said  he  would  go
journeying with me...'
     Pilate  grinned with one cheek, baring  yellow teeth, and said, turning
his whole body towards the secretary:
     'Oh, city of Yershalaim! What does one not hear in it! A tax collector,
do you hear, threw money down in the road!'
     Not  knowing how to reply  to that, the secretary found it necessary to
repeat Pilate's smile.
     `He  said  that  henceforth money  had become hateful  to  him,' Yeshua
explained Matthew Levi's  strange action and  added:  'And since then he has
been my companion.'
     His teeth still bared, the procurator glanced at the arrested man, then
at the sun, steadily rising over the equestrian  statues of  the hippodrome,
which lay far  below  to the right, and suddenly, in some sickening anguish,
thought that  the simplest thing would be to drive this  strange  robber off
the balcony by uttering just two words: 'Hang him.' To drive the convoy away
as  well,  to  leave  the  colonnade,  go into the palace,  order  the  room
darkened, collapse  on  the bed, send  for cold water,  call in  a plaintive
voice for his dog Banga, and complain  to  him about the hemicrania. And the
thought of poison suddenly flashed temptingly in the procurator's sick head.
     He gazed with dull eyes at the arrested man and was silent for a  time,
painfully trying to  remember  why  there  stood before him in  the pitiless
morning sunlight of Yershalaim  this  prisoner with  his face  disfigured by
beating, and what other utterly unnecessary questions he had to ask him.
     'Matthew Levi?'  the sick  man asked in a hoarse voice  and closed  his
     'Yes, Matthew Levi,' the high, tormenting voice came to him.
     `And what was  it in any  case that you said about  the temple  to  the
crowd in the bazaar?'
     The  responding   voice  seemed  to  stab   at  Pilate's  temple,   was
inexpressibly painful, and this voice was saying:
     'I said, Hegemon, that the temple of the old faith would fall and a new
temple  of truth would  be built. I  said it that way  so as to make it more
     'And why did you stir up the people in the bazaar, you vagrant, talking
about the truth, of which you have no notion? What is truth?'[15]
     And here the  procurator thought: 'Oh,  my  gods!  I'm asking him about
something unnecessary at a  trial... my reason no longer  serves me...'  And
again he pictured a cup of dark liquid. 'Poison, bring me poison...'
     And again he heard the voice:
     The truth is, first of  all,  that your head aches, and aches  so badly
that you're  having  faint-hearted thoughts of death. You're not only unable
to speak to me, but it is even hard for you to look at me. And I am now your
unwilling torturer, which upsets me. You can't even think about anything and
only  dream  that  your  dog should  come, apparently the one  being you are
attached to. But  your suffering will  soon be  over, your  headache will go
     The secretary goggled his eyes at the prisoner  and stopped writing  in
     Pilate raised  his tormented eyes to the  prisoner and saw that the sun
already stood quite high over the hippodrome, that  a ray had penetrated the
colonnade and  was  stealing towards Yeshua's worn sandals, and that the man
was trying to step out of the sun's way.
     Here the  procurator  rose from his chair, clutched his head  with  his
hands, and his  yellowish,  shaven face  expressed dread. But  he  instantly
suppressed it with his will and lowered himself into his chair again.
     The  prisoner meanwhile continued his speech,  but the secretary was no
longer writing it down, and only stretched his neck like a goose, trying not
to let drop a single word.
     'Well,  there,  it's  all  over,'  the  arrested   man  said,  glancing
benevolently at  Pilate,  `and  I'm extremely glad  of it. I'd  advise  you,
Hegemon, to leave the  palace for a while  and go for a stroll  somewhere in
the vicinity - say, in the gardens on the Mount of Olives. [16] A storm will
come...' the prisoner  turned, narrowing  his eyes at the sun, '...later on,
towards  evening. A stroll  would do you much  good, and I  would be glad to
accompany  you. Certain new thoughts have occurred to me, which I think  you
might  find interesting, and I'd  willingly share them with you, the more so
as you give the impression of being a very intelligent man.'
     The secretary turned deathly pale and dropped the scroll on the floor.
     'The trouble  is,' the bound man went on, not stopped by  anyone, 'that
you are too closed off and have definitively lost faith  in people. You must
agree,  one can't  place  all  one's  affection  in  a  dog.  Your  life  is
impoverished, Hegemon.' And here the speaker allowed himself to smile.
     The secretary now  thought of  only one  thing, whether to believe  his
ears or not.  He  had to  believe.  Then he  tried to imagine precisely what
whimsical form the wrath of  the hot-tempered procurator  would take at this
unheard-of impudence from the prisoner. And this the secretary was unable to
imagine, though he knew the procurator well.
     Then  came  the cracked, hoarse  voice of the procurator, who  said  in
     'Unbind his hands.'
     One  of the convoy  legionaries rapped  with his spear,  handed  it  to
another, went over and took the ropes off the prisoner. The secretary picked
up his scroll, having decided to record nothing for now, and to be surprised
at nothing.
     `Admit,'  Pilate  asked  softly  in  Greek,  `that   you  are  a  great
     'No,  Procurator,  I  am  not  a  physician,'  the  prisoner   replied,
delightedly rubbing a crimped and swollen purple wrist.
     Scowling  deeply,  Pilate  bored the prisoner with his eyes,  and these
eyes were no longer dull, but flashed with sparks familiar to all.
     'I didn't ask you,' Pilate said, 'maybe you also know Latin?'
     'Yes, I do,' the prisoner replied.
     Colour came to Pilate's yellowish cheeks, and he asked in Latin:
     'How did you know I wanted to call my dog?'
     'It's very  simple,' the prisoner replied in  Latin.  `You  were moving
your hand in the air' - and the prisoner repeated  Pilate's gesture - `as if
you wanted to stroke something, and your lips...'
     'Yes,' said Pilate.
     There was silence. Then Pilate asked a question in Greek:
     'And so, you are a physician?'
     'No,  no,'  the  prisoner  replied  animatedly, `believe me, I'm  not a
     Very  well,  then, if you want to keep  it  a secret,  do so. It has no
direct bearing on  the case. So you maintain that  you did not incite anyone
to destroy ... or set fire to, or in any other way demolish the temple?'
     `I repeat,  I  did not incite anyone  to such acts, Hegemon. Do  I look
like a halfwit?'
     'Oh, no, you don't look like a halfwit,' the procurator replied quietly
and smiled some strange smile. 'Swear, then, that it wasn't so.'
     `By  what  do  you  want me  to swear?' the  unbound  man  asked,  very
     'Well,  let's  say, by your life,' the procurator  replied. 'It's  high
time you swore by it, since it's hanging by a hair, I can tell you.'
     'You don't think it was you who hung it, Hegemon?' the prisoner asked.
     'If so, you are very mistaken.'
     Pilate gave a start and replied through his teeth:
     'I can cut that hair.'
     `In  that,  too,  you  are  mistaken,'  the  prisoner retorted, smiling
brightly and  shielding himself from the sun with  his hand. 'YOU must agree
that surely only he who hung it can cut the hair?'
     'So, so,' Pilate  said,  smiling, 'now I have no doubts  that the  idle
loafers of Yershalaim followed at your heels.  I don't know  who hung such a
tongue on  you,  but he hung it well. Incidentally, tell me, is it true that
you  entered  Yershalaim  by  the  Susa gate  [17]  riding  on an ass,  [18]
accompanied  by a crowd of riff-raff who shouted  greetings to you  as  some
kind of prophet?' Here the procurator pointed to the parchment scroll.
     The prisoner glanced at the procurator in perplexity.
     'I don't even have  an ass, Hegemon,' he said. `I  did enter Yershalaim
by the  Susa gate, but on foot, accompanied only by Matthew Levi, and no one
shouted anything to me, because no one in Yershalaim knew me then.'
     'Do  you happen to know,' Pilate continued without taking his eyes  off
the prisoner,  `such  men as a certain  Dysmas,  another named Gestas, and a
third named Bar-Rabban?'[19]
     'I do not know these good people,' the prisoner replied.
     'And now tell me, why is it that you use me words "good people" all the
time? Do you call everyone that, or what?'
     'Everyone,'  the  prisoner replied.  There  are no evil  people  in the
     The first I hear of it,' Pilate said, grinning. 'But perhaps I know too
little of life! ...
     You needn't record any more,' he addressed the  secretary,  who had not
recorded anything  anyway, and went on talking  with the prisoner. 'YOU read
that in some Greek book?'
     'No, I figured it out for myself.'
     'And you preach it?'
     `But take, for instance, the centurion Mark, the one known as Ratslayer
- is he good?'
     'Yes,' replied the prisoner.  True, he's an unhappy man. Since the good
people disfigured him, he has become cruel  and hard. I'd be curious to know
who maimed him.'
     'I can willingly tell you that,' Pilate responded, 'for I was a witness
to it. The good people  fell on him like  dogs on a bear. There were Germans
fastened  on  his  neck, his  arms,  his  legs.  The  infantry  maniple  was
encircled, and if one flank hadn't been cut by a cavalry turmae, of which  I
was the commander - you, philosopher, would not have had the chance to speak
with the  Rat-slayer. That was at  the battle  of  Idistaviso, [20]  in  the
Valley of the Virgins.'
     `If I could speak with him,' the prisoner suddenly said  musingly, 'I'm
sure he'd change sharply.'
     'I don't suppose,' Pilate responded, 'that you'd bring much  joy to the
legate of the  legion  if you  decided to  talk with any of his  officers or
soldiers. Anyhow, it's also  not going to  happen, fortunately for everyone,
and I will be the first to see to it.'
     At that  moment a swallow swiftly flitted into the colonnade, described
a circle under the golden  ceiling, swooped down, almost brushed the face of
a bronze statue in a niche with its pointed wing, and disappeared behind the
capital of a column. It may be that it thought of nesting there.
     During its flight, a formula took shape in the now light and lucid head
of the procurator. It went like this: the hegemon has looked into  the  case
of  the  vagrant  philosopher  Yeshua,  alias Ha-Nozri, and  found  in it no
grounds  for  indictment.  In particular,  he has  found  not the  slightest
connection  between the acts of  Yeshua and  the disorders that  have lately
taken place in Yershalaim. The vagrant philosopher has proved to be mentally
ill.  Consequently,  the procurator has not confirmed the death sentence  on
Ha-Nozri passed  by  the Lesser Sanhedrin.  But seeing that  Ha-Nozri's  mad
utopian talk  might  cause disturbances  in  Yershalaim, the  procurator  is
removing  Yeshua from  Yershalaim  and  putting  him  under  confinement  in
Stratonian  Caesarea  on  the Mediterranean - that is,  precisely where  the
procurator's residence was.
     It remained to dictate it to the secretary.
     The  swallow's  wings whiffled right over the hegemon's head,  the bird
darted to the  fountain basin and then flew out into freedom. The procurator
raised his eyes to the prisoner and saw the dust blaze up in a pillar around
     'Is that all about him?' Pilate asked the secretary.
     'Unfortunately  not,'  the  secretary  replied unexpectedly  and handed
Pilate another piece of parchment.
     'What's this now?' Pilate asked and frowned.
     Having  read what had been handed to  him, he  changed countenance even
more: Either the  dark  blood rose  to his neck and  face, or something else
happened, only his  skin lost its yellow tinge, turned  brown,  and his eyes
seemed to sink.
     Again  it  was probably  owing to  the blood  rising to his temples and
throbbing in them, only something happened to the procurator's vision. Thus,
he imagined  that  the prisoner's head  floated off somewhere,  and  another
appeared  in  its  place.  [21] On this bald head sat a scant-pointed golden
diadem. On the forehead was a round canker, eating into the skin and smeared
with ointment. A sunken, toothless mouth with a pendulous, capricious  lower
lip.  It seemed to  Pilate that  the pink columns  of  the  balcony and  the
rooftops  of  Yershalaim  far  below,  beyond  the  garden,  vanished,   and
everything was  drowned in  the  thickest  green  of  Caprean  gardens.  And
something  strange  also happened  to  his  hearing:  it was as if  trumpets
sounded far away,  muted and menacing,  and a nasal  voice was  very clearly
heard, arrogantly drawling: 'The law of lese-majesty...'
     Thoughts raced,  short, incoherent and extraordinary: 'I'm  lost!  ...'
then: 'We're  lost! ...'  And among them  a totally absurd  one,  about some
immortality, which immortality for some reason provoked unendurable anguish.
     Pilate strained, drove the apparition away, his  gaze  returned to  the
balcony, and again the prisoner's eyes were before him.
     'Listen, Ha-Nozri,'  the  procurator spoke, looking at  Yeshua  somehow
strangely: the procurator's face  was menacing, but his  eyes  were alarmed,
'did  you ever say anything about the great Caesar? Answer!  Did  you?...Yes
... or ...  no?'  Pilate drew the word 'no' out somewhat longer than is done
in  court, and his glance sent Yeshua  some thought that he wished as  if to
instill in the prisoner.
     To speak the truth is easy and pleasant,' the prisoner observed.
     `I have no need to  know,' Pilate responded in a stifled,  angry voice,
'whether  it is  pleasant or unpleasant for you to speak the truth. You will
have to  speak  it  anyway. But,  as you speak, weigh every word, unless you
want a not only inevitable but also painful death.'
     No  one knew  what had happened  with the  procurator  of Judea, but he
allowed himself  to raise his hand  as if to  protect himself from a ray  of
sunlight,  and from behind his hand, as  from behind  a shield, to  send the
prisoner some sort of prompting look.
     'Answer, then,' he went on speaking,  `do you know a certain Judas from
Kiriath, [22]  and  what  precisely did you say to him about Caesar, if  you
said anything?'
     'It  was like this,'  the prisoner began talking  eagerly.  The evening
before last, near  the temple, I  made the acquaintance  of a young man  who
called himself Judas, from the town  of Kiriath.  He invited me to his place
in the Lower City and treated me to...'
     'A good man?' Pilate asked, and a devilish fire flashed in his eyes.
     'A very good man and an inquisitive  one,'  the prisoner confirmed. 'He
showed   the  greatest  interest  in  my  thoughts  and   received  me  very
     'Lit the lamps...'[23] Pilate spoke through his teeth, in the same tone
as the prisoner, and his eyes glinted.
     Yes,'  Yeshua went on,  slightly surprised  that  the procurator was so
well informed, 'and asked me  to give  my  view of state  authority.  He was
extremely interested in this question.'
     'And what did you say?'  asked Pilate. 'Or are you going  to reply that
you've  forgotten  what  you  said?'  But there  was already hopelessness in
Pilate's tone.
     `Among  other  things,'  the  prisoner  recounted,  `I  said  that  all
authority is violence over people, and that a time will come when there will
be no authority of  the Caesars, nor any other authority. Man will pass into
the kingdom of  truth and justice, where generally there will be no need for
any authority.'
     'Go on!'
     'I didn't go on,' said the prisoner.  'Here  men  ran in, bound me, and
took me away to prison.'
     The secretary, trying not to let drop a single word, rapidly traced the
words on his parchment.
     'There never has been, is not, and never will be any authority in  this
world  greater  or better  for  people  than  the authority  of  the emperor
Tiberius!'  Pilate's cracked and  sick voice  swelled.  For  some reason the
procurator looked at the secretary and the convoy with hatred.
     `And  it is not  for  you, insane criminal,  to reason about  it!' Here
Pilate shouted: 'Convoy, off  the balcony!' And turning to the secretary, he
added: 'Leave me alone with the criminal, this is a state matter!'
     The convoy raised their  spears  and with a measured tramp of hobnailed
caligae walked  off the balcony  into the garden, and the secretary followed
the convoy.
     For some  time the silence on the balcony was broken only by the  water
singing  in the  fountain.  Pilate saw how the watery dish blew  up over the
spout, how its edges broke off, how it fell down in streams.
     The prisoner was the first to speak.
     'I see that some  misfortune has come about because  I talked with that
young man from Kiriath. I  have a foreboding, Hegemon, that  he will come to
grief, and I am very sorry for him.'
     'I think,' the procurator replied,  grinning strangely,  `that there is
now  someone else in the world for whom you ought to feel sorrier  than' for
Judas of Kiriath, and who is going to have it much worse than Judas! ...
     So, then, Mark  Rat-slayer, a cold  and convinced torturer, the  people
who,  as I see,' the procurator pointed to Yeshua's  disfigured  face, `beat
you  for  your  preaching, the  robbers  Dysmas  and Gestas, who with  their
confreres killed four soldiers, and, finally, the dirty traitor  Judas - are
all good people?'
     'Yes,' said the prisoner.
     'And the kingdom of truth will come?'
     'It will, Hegemon,' Yeshua answered with conviction.
     'It will  never  come!' Pilate  suddenly cried  out in such a  terrible
voice that Yeshua drew back. Thus, many years before,  in the Valley of  the
Virgins,  Pilate had cried to his  horsemen the  words:  'Cut them down! Cut
them down! The giant Rat-slayer  is trapped!'  He  raised his voice, cracked
with commanding, still more, and called out so that his words could be heard
in the garden: 'Criminal! Criminal! Criminal!' And then, lowering his voice,
he asked: 'Yeshua Ha-Nozri, do you believe in any gods?'
     'God is one,' replied Yeshua, 'I believe in him.'
     Then pray to him! Pray hard! However...' here Pilate's voice  gave out,
'that won't  help. No  wife?' Pilate asked with anguish for some reason, not
understanding what was happening to him.
     `No, I'm alone.'
     'Hateful  city...' the  procurator  suddenly muttered for some  reason,
shaking his shoulders as if he were  cold, and  rubbing his hands as  though
washing them, 'if they'd  put a knife in you  before your meeting with Judas
of Kiriath, it really would have been better.'
     `Why don't you  let me  go, Hegemon?' the prisoner  asked unexpectedly,
and his voice became anxious. 'I see they want to kill me.'
     A spasm  contorted  Pilate's  face,  he turned to  Yeshua the inflamed,
red-veined whites of his eyes and said:
     `Do  you  suppose, wretch, that the Roman procurator will let a  man go
who has said what you  have said? Oh, gods, gods! Or do you think  I'm ready
to  take your place? I don't  share your thoughts! And listen to me: if from
this  moment on you say even one word, if you speak to anyone at all, beware
of me! I repeat to you - beware!'
     'Silence!' cried Pilate, and his furious gaze followed the swallow that
had again fluttered on to the balcony. 'To me!' Pilate shouted.
     And when the secretary and the  convoy returned to their places, Pilate
announced that he confirmed the death  sentence passed at the meeting of the
Lesser  Sanhedrin on the criminal Yeshua Ha-Nozri,  and the  secretary wrote
down what Pilate said.
     A  moment  later  Mark  Rat-slayer  stood before  the  procurator.  The
procurator ordered him to  hand  the criminal over to the head of the secret
service, along with the procurator's directive  that Yeshua Ha-Nozri  was to
be separated from the other condemned men, and also that the soldiers of the
secret  service were to be forbidden, on pain  of severe punishment, to talk
with Yeshua about anything at all or to answer any of his questions.
     At a  sign from Mark, the  convoy closed around Yeshua and led him from
the balcony.
     Next  there stood  before the procurator a  handsome, light-bearded man
with eagle feathers on the crest of his  helmet, golden lions' heads shining
on  his chest, and golden  plaques  on  his sword belt, wearing triple-soled
boots  laced  to the  knees,  and  with a  purple cloak thrown over his left
shoulder. This was the legate in command of the legion.
     The  procurator  asked him where  the Sebastean cohort was stationed at
the  moment.  The legate told him that the  Sebasteans  had cordoned off the
square in front of the hippodrome, where the sentencing of the criminals was
to be announced to the people.
     Then the procurator ordered the legate to detach two centuries from the
Roman cohort. One  of them,  under the  command of Rat-slayer, was to convoy
the  criminals, the  carts with the  implements  for the  execution and  the
executioners as they were transported to Bald Mountain, [24] and on  arrival
was to  join  the  upper  cordon. The  other was to be sent  at once to Bald
Mountain  and immediately start forming the  cordon.  For the  same purpose,
that  is, to guard the mountain, the procurator asked  the legate to send an
auxiliary cavalry regiment - the Syrian ala.
     After the legate left the balcony, the procurator ordered the secretary
to summon to the palace the president of the Sanhedrin, two  of its members,
and the head of the  temple guard in Yershalaim, adding that he asked things
to be so arranged  that before conferring with all these  people,  he  could
speak with the president previously and alone.
     The procurator's order was executed quickly and precisely, and the sun,
which  in  those  days  was  scorching  Yershalaim  with   an  extraordinary
fierceness, had not yet had time to  approach its highest point when, on the
upper terrace of the garden, by the two white marble lions that  guarded the
stairs, a meeting took  place between the  procurator and the man fulfilling
the duties  of president of  the  Sanhedrin,  the high  priest  of the Jews,
Joseph Kaifa. [25]
     It  was  quiet  in  the garden.  But  when he  came out from  under the
colonnade to the sun-drenched upper level of  the garden with its palm trees
on monstrous  elephant legs, from which there spread  before  the procurator
the whole of hateful  Yershalaim, with its hanging bridges, fortresses, and,
above all,  that utterly  indescribable heap of  marble  with  golden dragon
scales  for a roof -  the temple of Yershalaim - the procurator's sharp  ear
caught, far below, where the stone wall separated the lower  terraces of the
palace garden from  the city square, a low  rumble over  which  from time to
time there soared feeble, thin moans or cries.
     The procurator understood that there, on the square, a numberless crowd
of  Yershalaim  citizens, agitated  by  the  recent disorders,  had  already
gathered,  that this crowd was waiting  impatiently for  the announcement of
the sentences, and that restless water sellers were crying in its midst.
     The procurator  began by inviting the high priest on to the balcony, to
take shelter from the merciless heat, but Kaifa politely apologized [26] and
explained that he could not do that on the eve of the feast.
     Pilate  covered  his slightly balding  head  with a hood and  began the
conversation. This conversation took place in Greek.
     Pilate said that  he  had looked  into the case  of Yeshua Ha-Nozri and
confirmed the death sentence.
     Thus, three  robbers - Dysmas, Gestas and Bar-Rabban -  and this Yeshua
Ha-Nozri besides, were condemned  to be executed, and it was to be done that
day. The first  two, who had ventured to incite  the people to rebel against
Caesar,  had  been  taken in armed struggle by the  Roman authorities,  were
accounted  to the procurator, and, consequently,  would not be talked  about
here. But the  second two, Bar-Rabban and Ha-Nozri,  had been seized by  the
local  authorities  and condemned by  the Sanhedrin. According  to the  law,
according to custom, one of these two criminals had to be released in honour
of  the great feast of  Passover,  which would begin  that  day.  And so the
procurator wished to know which of the two criminals the  Sanhedrin intended
to set free: Bar-Rabban or Ha-Nozri? [27]
     Kaifa inclined his head to  signify that the question was clear to him,
and replied:
     `The Sanhedrin asks that  Bar-Rabban be released.'  The procurator knew
very well  that the high priest would  give  precisely that answer, but  his
task consisted in showing that this answer provoked his astonishment.
     This  Pilate did with great artfulness. The  eyebrows  on  the arrogant
face rose,  the procurator  looked  with  amazement  straight into  the high
priest's eyes.
     'I confess, this answer stuns me,' the  procurator  began  softly, `I'm
afraid there may be some misunderstanding here.'
     Pilate  explained himself.  Roman authority  does  not encroach  in the
least upon the  rights of the local  spiritual authorities, the  high priest
knows  that very well, but in the present case we are  faced with an obvious
error.  And  this  error  Roman  authority  is,  of  course,  interested  in
     In fact, the crimes of  Bar-Rabban and  Ha-Nozri are quite incomparable
in their gravity.  If  the latter, obviously an insane person, is  guilty of
uttering  preposterous  things  in  Yershalaim  and some  other  places, the
former's burden of guilt is more considerable. Not only did he allow himself
to call  directly  for  rebellion, but  he  also  killed a  guard during the
attempt  to  arrest  him. Bar-Rabban  is  incomparably  more dangerous  than
     On  the  strength  of all the foregoing, the  procurator asks the  high
priest to  reconsider the  decision and release the less  harmful of the two
condemned men, and that is without doubt Ha-Nozri. And so? ...
     Kaifa said  in a quiet but firm voice that the Sanhedrin had thoroughly
familiarized itself  with the case and informed him  a second  time  that it
intended to free Bar-Rabban.
     'What?  Even after  my  intercession?  The intercession of him  through
whose person Roman authority speaks? Repeat it a third time, High Priest.'
     'And a third time  I repeat that we are setting Bar-Rabban free,' Kaifa
said softly.
     It was all over, and there was nothing more to talk about. Ha-Nozri was
departing for ever, and there was no one to cure the dreadful, wicked  pains
of the procurator, there was no remedy for them except death. But it was not
this thought which now struck Pilate. The same incomprehensible anguish that
had already  visited him on the balcony pierced his whole being. He tried at
once to explain it, and the explanation was a strange one: it seemed vaguely
to the procurator that there was something he had not finished saying to the
condemned man, and perhaps something he had not finished hearing.
     Pilate drove this  thought away, and it flew off as instantly as it had
come flying. It flew off, and the anguish remained unexplained, for it could
not well  be explained by another  brief thought that flashed like lightning
and at  once  went  out  -  'Immortality...  immortality  has come...' Whose
immortality had come? That  the  procurator  did  not  understand,  but  the
thought of  this enigmatic immortality made  him grow  cold in the scorching
     'Very well,' said Pilate, 'let it be so.'
     Here  he turned,  gazed around  at the world  visible  to him,  and was
surprised at the change that had taken  place. The bush laden with roses had
vanished, vanished  were the cypresses bordering the upper  terrace, and the
pomegranate tree, and the white statue amidst the greenery, and the greenery
itself. In place  of it all there floated some purple mass, [28] water weeds
swayed in it and began moving off somewhere, and Pilate himself began moving
with  them. He  was carried along  now,  smothered and  burned, by the  most
terrible wrath - the wrath of impotence.
     'Cramped,' said Pilate, 'I feel cramped!'
     With  a cold, moist  hand he tore at  the clasp  on the  collar  of his
cloak, and it fell to the sand.
     'It's sultry  today,  there's  a storm somewhere,' Kaifa responded, not
taking his eyes off the procurator's reddened face,  and foreseeing  all the
torments that still lay ahead,  he thought: 'Oh, what  a  terrible month  of
Nisan we're having this year!'
     'No,' said Pilate, 'it's not because  of the sultriness, I feel cramped
with you here, Kaifa.' And, narrowing his eyes, Pilate smiled and added:
     "Watch out for yourself, High Priest.'
     The high  priest's  dark  eyes glinted,  and  with his  face -  no less
artfully than the procurator had done earlier - he expressed amazement.
     'What  do I hear, Procurator?' Kaifa replied proudly  and  calmly. "You
threaten  me after you yourself have confirmed the sentence passed? Can that
be? We  are accustomed to the Roman procurator choosing his words before  he
says something. What if we should be overheard, Hegemon?'
     Pilate looked at the high priest  with dead eyes and, baring his teeth,
produced a smile.
     'What's your trouble, High Priest? Who can hear us where we are now? Do
you think I'm like that young vagrant holy fool who is to be executed today?
Am I a boy, Kaifa? I know what I say and where I  say it. There  is a cordon
around the garden, a cordon around the palace, so that a mouse couldn't  get
through any  crack! Not only a mouse, but even that  one, what's his name...
from the  town of  Kiriath, couldn't get through. Incidentally, High Priest,
do  you know him? Yes... if that one got in here, he'd  feel  bitterly sorry
for himself, in this  you will, of course, believe me? Know, then, that from
now on, High Priest, you will have no peace! Neither you nor your people'  -
and Pilate pointed far  off to  the right,  where the  temple blazed on high
-'it  is  I  who  tell  you so, Pontius  Pilate,  equestrian  of  the Golden
     'I know,  I know!' the  black-bearded Kaifa fearlessly replied, and his
eyes  flashed. He raised  his arm to heaven and went on: "The Jewish  people
know  that you hate  them with  a  cruel  hatred, and will cause  them  much
suffering, but you will not destroy them  utterly! God will protect them! He
will  hear us, the almighty Caesar will hear, he will protect us from Pilate
the destroyer!'
     'Oh, no!' Pilate exclaimed, and he felt lighter  and lighter with every
word: there was no more  need to pretend, no more need  to choose his words,
`you have complained about me too much to Caesar, and  now my hour has come,
Kaifa! Now the message will fly from me, and not to the governor in Antioch,
and not to  Rome, but  directly  to Capreae,  to the  emperor  himself,  the
message of  how you in Yershalaim are sheltering known criminals from death.
And then it will not be  water from Solomon's Pool that I give Yershalaim to
drink, as I wanted to do for your own  good! No,  not water! Remember how on
account of you I had to remove the shields  with the emperor's insignia from
the  walls, had to transfer  troops, had, as you see,  to  come in person to
look into what goes on with you here! Remember my  words: it is not just one
cohort  that you  will see here in Yershalaim, High  Priest - no! The  whole
Fulminata  legion will come  under the  city walls, the Arabian cavalry will
arrive, and then you will hear bitter weeping and wailing! You will remember
Bar-Rabban then, whom you saved, and  you  will  regret having  sent to  his
death a philosopher with his peaceful preaching!'
     The high priest's face became covered with blotches, his eyes burned.
     Like the procurator, he smiled, baring his teeth, and replied:
     `Do you yourself believe  what you are saying now, Procurator?  No, you
do not!  It is  not  peace, not  peace, that  the seducer of  the people  of
Yershalaim brought us,  and you, equestrian, understand that perfectly well.
You  wanted to release him so that he could disturb the  people, outrage the
faith, and bring  the people under Roman swords! But  I, the high priest  of
the Jews, as long as I  live, will  not allow the faith to  be  outraged and
will  protect the people! Do you  hear, Pilate?' And  Kaifa raised  his  arm
menacingly: 'Listen, Procurator!'
     Kaifa fell silent, and the procurator again heard a noise as if  of the
sea, rolling  up  to the very  walls of the garden of Herod  the Great.  The
noise  rose from below to the feet and into  the face of the procurator. And
behind his  back,  there,  beyond the  wings of the  palace,  came  alarming
trumpet calls, the heavy crunch of hundreds of feet, the clanking of iron.
     The procurator understood that  the Roman  infantry was already setting
out, on his orders,  speeding to the parade of death  so terrible for rebels
and robbers.
     `Do you hear,  Procurator?' the high priest repeated  quietly. 'Are you
going to  tell me that all this' - here the high priest raised both arms and
the dark hood fell from his  head - 'has been caused  by the wretched robber
     The procurator wiped his wet, cold forehead with the back of  his hand,
looked  at the ground, then, squinting at the sky, saw that the red-hot ball
was  almost over his  head and that Kaifa's shadow  had shrunk to nothing by
the lion's tail, and said quietly and indifferently:
     'It's nearly noon. We got carried away  by our conversation, and yet we
must proceed.'
     Having apologized in refined terms before the  high  priest, he invited
him to sit down  on a bench  in the shade  of  a magnolia and wait until  he
summoned the other persons needed for the last brief conference and gave one
more instruction connected with the execution.
     Kaifa bowed politely,  placing his hand on his heart, and stayed in the
garden while  Pilate returned to the  balcony.  There he told the secretary,
who  had been waiting  for  him, to invite to the garden the  legate of  the
legion and the tribune of the  cohort, as  well as  the  two members of  the
Sanhedrin  and  the head of  the temple  guard,  who  had been awaiting  his
summons on the lower garden terrace, in  a round gazebo with a fountain.  To
this Pilate added that he himself would come out to the garden at  once, and
withdrew into the palace.
     While the secretary  was gathering the conference, the  procurator met,
in a  room shielded from the sun by dark curtains, with a certain man, whose
face was half covered by a hood, though  he  could not have been bothered by
the sun's  rays  in  this room.  The  meeting  was a  very  short  one.  The
procurator quietly spoke a few words to the man, after which he withdrew and
Pilate walked out through the colonnade to the garden.
     There,  in  the  presence  of  all  those  he had desired to  see,  the
procurator solemnly and dryly stated that he confirmed the death sentence on
Yeshua Ha-Nozri, and officially inquired of the members of the Sanhedrin  as
to whom  among the criminals they would like to grant  life. Having received
the reply that it was Bar-Rabban, the procurator said:
     Very well,' and told the secretary to put it into  the record at  once,
clutched in  his  hand the clasp that the secretary  had  picked up from the
sand, and said solemnly: It is time!'
     Here all  those present  started  down the wide marble stairway between
walls  of roses that  exuded a stupefying aroma, descending lower  and lower
towards the palace  wall, to the gates opening on to the big, smoothly paved
square,  at  the end of which  could be seen the  columns and statues of the
Yershalaim stadium.
     As soon as the group entered the square from the garden and mounted the
spacious stone platform  that dominated the  square, Pilate, looking  around
through narrowed eyelids, assessed the situation.
     The space he  had  just traversed, that is, the space  from  the palace
wall to the  platform, was empty, but  before him Pilate could no longer see
the square -  it had been swallowed up by the crowd, which would have poured
over the platform and the cleared space as well, had it not been kept at bay
by a triple row of Sebastean soldiers to the left of Pilate and soldiers  of
the auxiliary Iturean cohort to his right.
     And so, Pilate mounted the platform, mechanically clutching the useless
clasp  in his fist and squinting his eyes. The procurator was squinting  not
because the sun burned his eyes - no! For some reason he did not want to see
the  group of condemned men who, as he knew  perfectly well, were  now being
brought on to the platform behind him.
     As soon as the white cloak with crimson lining  appeared high up on the
stone cliff over the verge of the human sea, the unseeing Pilate  was struck
in  the  ears  by a  wave of  sound: 'Ha-a-a...' It started mutedly, arising
somewhere  far away by the  hippodrome, then  became  thunderous and, having
held  out  for  a  few  seconds,  began  to subside.  They've  seen me,' the
procurator thought.  The  wave had not reached  its  lowest  point before it
started swelling  again  unexpectedly and,  swaying, rose  higher  than  the
first, and as foam boils up on the billows of the sea, so a whistling boiled
up  on this second wave and, separate, distinguishable from the thunder, the
wails  of women. They've been led on to the platform,'  thought Pilate, `and
the wails mean that several women got crushed as the crowd surged forward.'
     He waited for some  time, knowing that no power could silence the crowd
before it exhaled all that was pent up in it and fell silent of itself.
     And when this moment came, the procurator threw  up his right arm,  and
the last noise was blown away from the crowd.
     Then Pilate drew into his breast as much of the hot air as he could and
shouted, and his cracked voice carried over thousands of heads:
     'In the name of the emperor Caesar! ...'
     Here his  ears  were struck several times by a clipped iron shout:  the
cohorts of soldiers raised  high their spears and standards  and shouted out
     'Long live Caesar!'
     Pilate lifted his face and thrust  it straight into the sun. Green fire
flared up  behind  his eyelids, his  brain took flame  from it,  and  hoarse
Aramaic words went flying over the crowd:
     `Four  criminals,  arrested  in Yershalaim for  murder,  incitement  to
rebellion, and  outrages against the laws and the faith, have been sentenced
to  a  shameful execution  - by hanging on  posts! And  this  execution will
presently  be  carried  out on Bald Mountain! The names of the criminals are
Dysmas, Gestas, Bar-Rabban and Ha-Nozri. Here they stand before you!'
     Pilate pointed to his right, not seeing any criminals, but knowing they
were there, in place, where they ought to be.
     The crowd responded with a long rumble as if of surprise or relief.
     When it died down, Pilate continued:
     'But only three  of them will be executed, for,  in accordance with law
and custom, in honour of the feast of Passover, to one of the condemned,  as
chosen  by  the  Lesser  Sanhedrin and  confirmed by  Roman  authority,  the
magnanimous emperor Caesar will return his contemptible life!'
     Pilate cried out the words  and at the same time listened as the rumble
was replaced by a great silence. Not a sigh, not a rustle  reached his  ears
now, and there was even a  moment when it seemed to  Pilate that  everything
around him had  vanished altogether. The hated  city died, and  he alone  is
standing  there, scorched by  the sheer rays, his face  set against the sky.
Pilate held the silence a little longer, and then began to cry out:
     'The name of the one who will now be set free before you is...' He made
one  more pause, holding back the name, making sure he had said all, because
he knew that the dead city  would resurrect once the name of the  lucky  man
was  spoken,  and no further words  would be heard. 'All?' Pilate  whispered
soundlessly to  himself.  'All. The name!' And, rolling the letter 'r'  over
the silent city, he cried:
     Here  it  seemed to him that  the  sun,  clanging,  burst over  him and
flooded  his  ears with fire.  This fire raged  with  roars, shrieks, wails,
guffaws and whistles.
     Pilate  turned  and  walked back  across the platform  to  the  stairs,
looking  at nothing except the multicoloured  squares of the flooring  under
his feet, so as not  to trip. He knew  that behind his back the platform was
being showered with bronze coins, dates, that people in the howling mob were
climbing  on shoulders, crushing each other, to see  the  miracle with their
own eyes - how a man already in the grip of death escaped that grip! How the
legionaries take the ropes off  him, involuntarily causing  him burning pain
in  his  arms,  dislocated during  his  interrogation;  how he,  wincing and
groaning, nevertheless smiles a senseless, crazed smile.
     He knew that  at the same time the convoy was already leading the three
men with bound arms to the side stairs, so as to take them to the road going
west  from  the  city,  towards  Bald Mountain. Only  when  he  was  off the
platform, to  the rear of it, did Pilate open  his eyes, knowing that he was
now safe - he could no longer see the condemned men.
     Mingled with the  wails of the quieting crowd, yet distinguishable from
them, were the piercing cries of heralds repeating, some in Aramaic,  others
in Greek, all  that the procurator had cried  out from the platform. Besides
that, there came to his ears the tapping, clattering and approaching thud of
hoofs, and a  trumpet calling out  something  brief and  merry. These sounds
were answered by the drilling whistles of boys on  the roofs of houses along
the street that led from  the bazaar to the  hippodrome square, and by cries
of 'Look out!'
     A  soldier, standing  alone in the cleared  space  of the square with a
standard  in his hand,  waved  it anxiously,  and  then the procurator,  the
legate of the legion, the secretary and the convoy stopped.
     A cavalry  ala, at an ever-lengthening trot, flew out into  the square,
so as to cross it at one side, bypassing the mass of people, and ride down a
lane under a stone  wall  covered with creeping  vines, taking the  shortest
route to Bald Mountain.
     At a flying trot, small as a boy, dark  as a  mulatto, the commander of
the  ala,  a Syrian, coming  abreast of  Pilate, shouted something in a high
voice and  snatched  his sword from its sheath.  The  angry,  sweating black
horse  shied  and reared.  Thrusting his  sword back  into  its sheath,  the
commander struck the horse's neck with his crop, brought  him down, and rode
off  into the lane,  breaking into  a gallop.  After  him,  three by  three,
horsemen  flew  in a cloud  of dust, the tips  of their  light bamboo lances
bobbing,  and faces dashed  past the procurator - looking especially swarthy
under their white turbans - with merrily bared, gleaming teeth.
     Raising dust to the  sky, the ala burst into the  lane, and the last to
ride past Pilate was  a soldier with a trumpet slung on his back, blazing in
the sun.
     Shielding  himself from the dust with his hand and wrinkling  his  face
discontentedly, Pilate  started  on  in the direction  of  the  gates to the
palace garden, and after him came the legate, the secretary, and the convoy.
     It was around ten o'clock in the morning.

     'Yes,  it  was around ten  o'clock in  the  morning, my  esteemed  Ivan
Nikolaevich,' said the professor.
     The poet passed his hand over his face like a man  just  coming  to his
senses,  and saw that it was  evening at the Patriarch's Ponds. The water in
the pond had turned black, and a light boat was  now gliding  on it, and one
could hear  the splash of  oars and the  giggles of some  citizeness  in the
little boat. The public appeared  on the  benches along the walks, but again
on  the  other  three  sides of the  square, and not on the  side where  our
interlocutors were.
     The sky  over Moscow  seemed to lose colour, and the full moon could be
seen quite  distinctly  high above,  not  yet golden but white. It was  much
easier  to  breathe, and  the voices  under the lindens now sounded  softer,
     `How is it I didn't notice that he'd managed to spin a whole story?...'
Homeless thought in amazement. 'It's already evening! ... Or maybe he wasn't
telling it, but I simply fell asleep and dreamed it all?'
     But it must be supposed  that the  professor did  tell the story  after
all,  otherwise it would have  to be assumed  that Berlioz had  had the same
dream, because he said, studying the foreigner's face attentively:
     'Your  story  is  extremely interesting,  Professor, though it does not
coincide at all with the Gospel stories.'
     'Good heavens,' the professor responded, smiling  condescendingly, 'you
of all people should know that precisely nothing of  what is written in  the
Gospels ever actually took place, and if  we start referring  to the Gospels
as a historical  source...' he smiled once more,  and Berlioz stopped short,
because this was literally the  same thing he had been saying to Homeless as
they walked down Bronnaya towards the Patriarch's Ponds.
     'That's  so,' Berlioz replied, 'but I'm afraid no  one can confirm that
what you've just told us actually took place either.'
     'Oh, yes! That there is one who can!' the professor, beginning to speak
in  broken  language,  said  with  great  assurance,  and   with  unexpected
mysteriousness he motioned the two friends to move closer.
     They leaned towards him from both sides, and he said, but again without
any accent, which with him, devil knows why, now appeared, now disappeared:
     The thing is...'  here  the professor looked around fearfully and spoke
in a  whisper,  `that I  was personally present at it all. I was  on Pontius
Pilate's  balcony, and in the garden when  he  talked with Kaifa, and on the
platform, only  secretly, incognito, so to speak, and therefore I beg you  -
not a word to anyone, total secrecy, shh...'
     Silence fell, and Berlioz paled.
     'YOU  ... how long  have you  been in Moscow?' he asked  in a quavering
     'I  just arrived  in  Moscow this  very  minute,'  the  professor  said
perplexedly, and only here did it occur to the friends to take  a good  look
in his eyes, at which  they became  convinced that his  left  eye, the green
one, was totally insane, while the right one was empty, black and dead.
     'There's   the   whole  explanation  for   you!'   Berlioz  thought  in
bewilderment. 'A mad German has turned up, or just went crazy at the  Ponds.
What a story!'
     Yes,  indeed, that explained the  whole thing:  the strangest breakfast
with the late philosopher Kant, the  foolish  talk  about sunflower  oil and
Annushka,  the  predictions about his head being cut off and  all the rest -
the professor was mad.
     Berlioz realized  at once  what  had to be done.  Leaning  back on  the
bench, he winked to Homeless  behind the professor's back -  meaning,  don't
contradict him - but the perplexed poet did not understand these signals.
     'Yes,  yes,  yes,'  Berlioz  said  excitedly,  `incidentally  it's  all
possible...  even  very possible, Pontius  Pilate, and  the balcony,  and so
forth... Did you come alone or with your wife?'
     'Alone, alone, I'm always alone,' the professor replied bitterly.
     'And where are your things, Professor?' Berlioz asked insinuatingly.
     'At the Metropol?* Where are you staying?'
     'I? ...  Nowhere,'  the  half-witted  German  answered,  his  green eye
wandering in wild anguish over the Patriarch's Ponds.
     'How's that? But ... where are you going to live?'
     'In your apartment,' the madman suddenly said brashly, and winked.
     'I  ... I'm very glad  ...' Berlioz began muttering,  'but, really, you
won't  be  comfortable at my place ... and they have wonderful  rooms at the
Metropol, it's a first-class hotel...'
     'And  there's  no devil either?' the sick man suddenly inquired merrily
of Ivan Nikolaevich.
     'No devil...'
     'Don't contradict him,' Berlioz whispered  with his lips only, dropping
behind the professor's back and making faces.
     There  isn't any devil!' Ivan  Nikolaevich, at  a  loss from  all  this
balderdash,  cried out not what  he ought. 'What a punishment! Stop  playing
the psycho!'
     Here the insane man burst into such laughter that a sparrow flew out of
the linden over the seated men's heads.
     'Well, now that is positively interesting!' the professor said, shaking
with  laughter.  'What is it with you - no  matter what one  asks for, there
isn't  any!' He suddenly stopped  laughing and,  quite understandably for  a
mentally ill person, fell into the opposite  extreme after laughing,  became
vexed and cried sternly: 'So you mean there just simply isn't any?'
     'Calm down,  calm down,  calm  down,  Professor,' Berlioz muttered, for
fear  of agitating the  sick man.  'You  sit here  for a little  minute with
comrade Homeless, and I'll just run to the corner  to make a phone call, and
then we'll take you wherever you like. You don't know the city...'
     Berlioz's plan must be acknowledged as correct: he  had to run  to  the
nearest  public  telephone  and inform the foreigners' bureau, thus  and so,
there's some consultant from abroad sitting at the  Patriarch's  Ponds in an
obviously  abnormal state. So it was necessary to  take  measures, lest some
unpleasant nonsense result.
     To make a call? Well, then make your call,' the sick  man agreed sadly,
and suddenly  begged passionately:  `But I implore  you, before  you go,  at
least believe that the devil exists! I no longer ask you for anything more.
     Mind you, there exists a seventh proof of it, the surest of all! And it
is going to be presented to you right now!'
     'Very good, very good,' Berlioz said with false tenderness and, winking
to the  upset poet, who did not relish  at all the idea of guarding  the mad
German,  set out for the exit from  the Ponds at the corner  of Bronnaya and
Yermolaevsky Lane.
     And the professor seemed to recover his health and brighten up at once.
     'Mikhail Alexandrovich!' he shouted after Berlioz.
     The  latter gave a start,  looked back, but reassured himself  with the
thought that the  professor  had also learned  his  name and patronymic from
some newspaper.
     Then the professor called out, cupping his hands like a megaphone:
     `Would you  like me to  have a telegram sent at  once  to your uncle in
     And again Berlioz winced. How does the madman know about  the existence
of  a  Kievan  uncle?  That  has  certainly  never  been  mentioned  in  any
newspapers. Oh-oh, maybe Homeless is right after all? And suppose his papers
are phoney? Ah, what a strange specimen ... Call, call! Call at once!
     They'll quickly explain him!
     And, no longer listening to anything, Berlioz ran on.
     Here, just at the exit to Bronnaya, there rose from a bench to meet the
editor  exactly  the  same citizen who in the sunlight  earlier  had  formed
himself out of the thick swelter. Only now he was no longer made of air, but
ordinary,  fleshly,  and  Berlioz  clearly distinguished  in  the  beginning
twilight that he  had a  little  moustache like chicken feathers, tiny eyes,
ironic  and half drunk,  and  checkered trousers pulled up so  high that his
dirty white socks showed.
     Mikhail Alexandrovich  drew  back, but  reassured himself by reflecting
that it was a  stupid coincidence  and that  generally there was  no time to
think about it now.
     'Looking for the turnstile, citizen?' the checkered type inquired  in a
cracked tenor. This  way, please! Straight  on and  you'll get where  you're
going.  How about  a little pint pot  for  my information  ... to  set up an
ex-choirmaster!...' Mugging,  the specimen  swept his jockey's cap  from his
     Berlioz,  not  stopping  to  listen   to   the  cadging   and  clowning
choirmaster, ran up to the turnstile and took hold  of it with his hand.  He
turned it and was  just about to  step across  the rails when  red and white
light  splashed  in his  face.  A  sign lit  up in  a  glass  box:  'Caution
     And right  then this tram-car came racing along, turning down the newly
laid line from Yermolaevsky  to  Bronnaya. Having  turned, and coming to the
straight stretch, it suddenly  lit  up  inside with electricity, whined, and
put on speed.
     The prudent Berlioz, though he was standing in a safe place, decided to
retreat behind the stile, moved his hand on the crossbar, and stepped back.
     And right then his hand slipped and slid, one foot, unimpeded, as if on
ice, went  down the cobbled slope leading to the rails, the other was thrust
into the air, and Berlioz was thrown on to the rails.
     Trying to get hold  of something,  Berlioz fell  backwards, the back of
his head  lightly striking the cobbles,  and had  time to see high up -  but
whether  to  right  or  left  he no longer knew - the  gold-tinged moon.  He
managed  to  turn  on his side, at the same moment drawing  his legs  to his
stomach in a frenzied movement,  and, while turning, to make  out the  face,
completely  white  with horror, and the crimson armband of the  woman driver
bearing down on him  with irresistible force. Berlioz did not  cry  out, but
around him the whole street screamed with desperate female voices.
     The woman driver tore at  the electric brake, the car dug its nose into
the ground, then instantly jumped up, and glass flew from the windows with a
crash and a jingle. Here someone in Berlioz's brain  cried desperately: 'Can
it  be?...'  Once more, and for the  last  time, the  moon flashed,  but now
breaking to pieces, and then it became dark.
     The  tram-car went over Berlioz, and a round  dark object was thrown up
the  cobbled slope below  the fence of the Patriarch's walk.  Having  rolled
back down this slope, it went bouncing along the cobblestones of the street.
     It was the severed head of Berlioz.

     The  hysterical women's  cries died down,  the police whistles  stopped
drilling, two ambulances drove off - one with the headless body and  severed
head, to the  morgue, the other with the beautiful driver, wounded by broken
glass; street sweepers  in white  aprons removed the broken glass and poured
sand on the pools of blood, but Ivan Nikolaevich just stayed on the bench as
he had  dropped on  to it before reaching  the  turnstile. He tried  several
times  to get  up,  but his  legs  would not obey him -  something  akin  to
paralysis had occurred with Homeless.
     The poet had  rushed to the turnstile  as soon as  he  heard  the first
scream, and  had seen the head go bouncing along the pavement.  With that he
so  lost  his senses  that, having dropped on to  the bench, he bit his hand
until it bled. Of course, he forgot about the mad German and tried to figure
out one thing  only: how it  could be  that  he  had just been  talking with
Berlioz, and a moment later - the head...
     Agitated people went  running down the walk  past the  poet, exclaiming
something, but Ivan Nikolaevich was insensible to their  words. However, two
women  unexpectedly  ran  into  each  other  near  him,  and  one  of  them,
sharp-nosed and bare-headed, shouted the  following to the other, right next
to the poet's ear:
     '...Annushka,  our Annushka! From Sadovaya! It's her work... She bought
sunflower oil  at the grocery, and went  and broke the whole litre-bottle on
the turnstile! Messed her skirt all up, and swore and swore!
     ... And he, poor man, must have slipped and - right on to the rails...'
     Of  all  that  the  woman shouted,  one  word  lodged  itself  in  Ivan
Nikolaevich's upset brain: 'Annushka'...
     'Annushka... Annushka?' the poet muttered, looking around anxiously.
     Wait a minute, wait a minute...'
     The word 'Annushka' got strung together with the words 'sunflower oil',
and then for some  reason with 'Pontius Pilate'.  The poet  dismissed Pilate
and began linking  up the  chain that started from  the word `Annushka'. And
this chain got very quickly linked up and led at once to the mad professor.
     `Excuse me! But he  did say  the  meeting  wouldn't  take place because
Annushka had spilled the  oil.  And,  if  you please,  it won't  take place!
What's more, he said straight out that  Berlioz's head would be cut off by a
woman?! Yes, yes, yes! And the driver was a woman! What is all this, eh?!'
     There was not a  grain of doubt left that the mysterious consultant had
known beforehand the exact picture of  the  terrible death  of Berlioz. Here
two  thoughts  pierced the poet's brain. The first:  'He's  not  mad in  the
least, that's all  nonsense!' And the second:  Then didn't  he set it all up
     'But in  what  manner, may we ask?!  Ah,  no, this we're going to  find
     Making  a great  effort, Ivan Nikolaevich got  up from  the  bench  and
rushed  back  to  where  he  had  been  talking  with  the  professor.  And,
fortunately, it turned out that the man had not left yet.
     The street lights were already lit on Bronnaya, and  over the Ponds the
golden moon shone, and in the  ever-deceptive light of the moon it seemed to
Ivan Nikolaevich that he stood holding a  sword,  not a walking stick, under
his arm.
     The ex-choirmaster was sitting in the very place where Ivan Nikolaevich
had sat just recently. Now the busybody had perched on his nose an obviously
unnecessary  pince-nez, in  which  one lens  was missing  altogether and the
other  was cracked. This made the checkered citizen even more repulsive than
he had been when he showed Berlioz the way to the rails.
     With a chill in his  heart, Ivan approached the professor and, glancing
into his face, became convinced that there were not and never  had  been any
signs of madness in that face.
     'Confess, who are you?' Ivan asked in a hollow voice.
     The foreigner scowled, looked at the poet as if he were seeing  him for
the first time, and answered inimically:
     'No understand ... no speak Russian. ..'
     The  gent  don't understand,' the choirmaster mixed in  from the bench,
though no one had asked him to explain the foreigner's words.
     'Don't pretend!' Ivan said threateningly, and felt  cold  in the pit of
his  stomach. 'You spoke excellent Russian just now. You're not a German and
you're not a professor! You're  a murderer and a spy!... Your  papers!' Ivan
cried fiercely.
     The  mysterious professor  squeamishly twisted  his  mouth,  which  was
twisted to begin with, then shrugged his shoulders.
     'Citizen!'  the loathsome  choirmaster  butted in again.  "What're  you
doing bothering a foreign tourist? For that you'll incur severe punishment!'
     And the suspicious  professor made an arrogant face, turned, and walked
away from Ivan. Ivan felt  himself at a  loss. Breathless, he addressed  the
     'Hey, citizen, help me to detain the criminal! It's your duty!'
     The   choirmaster  became  extraordinarily  animated,   jumped  up  and
     `What  criminal? Where  is he? A foreign  criminal?'  The choirmaster's
eyes sparkled gleefully. That one? If he's a criminal, the first thing to do
is shout "Help!" Or else he'll get  away. Come on, together now, one,  two!'
-- and here the choirmaster opened his maw.
     Totally at  a  loss, Ivan obeyed the trickster and shouted  'Help!' but
the choirmaster bluffed him and did not shout anything.
     Ivan's solitary, hoarse cry did not produce any good results. Two girls
shied away from him, and he heard the word 'drunk'.
     'Ah, so you're in  with  him!' Ivan  cried out, waxing wroth. "What are
you doing, jeering at me? Out of my way!'
     Ivan dashed to the  right, and so did the choirmaster;  Ivan  dashed to
the left, and the scoundrel did the same.
     `Getting under my feet on purpose?' Ivan cried, turning ferocious.
     'I'll hand you over to the police!'
     Ivan  attempted to grab the blackguard  by the sleeve,  but missed  and
caught  precisely  nothing: it was as if the  choirmaster fell  through  the
     Ivan gasped, looked into the distance, and saw the hateful stranger. He
was already at the exit to Patriarch's Lane; moreover, he was not alone. The
more  than dubious choirmaster had managed to join him.  But  that was still
not  all: the third in this company proved to be a tom-cat, who appeared out
of nowhere, huge as a hog,  black as soot or as a rook, and with a desperate
cavalryman's  whiskers. The  trio  set  off down  Patriarch's Lane, the  cat
walking on his hind legs.
     Ivan sped after the  villains  and became convinced at  once that  it -
would be very difficult to catch up with them.
     The trio shot down the lane in an instant and came out on Spiridonovka.
No matter  how  Ivan quickened his  pace, the distance  between him and  his
quarry never diminished. And before  the poet knew it, he emerged, after the
quiet of Spiridonovka,  by the Nikitsky Gate, where  his situation worsened.
The place was swarming with people. Besides, the gang of villains decided to
apply the favourite trick of bandits here: a scattered getaway.
     The  choirmaster, with  great  dexterity, bored  his  way  on  to a bus
speeding towards the Arbat Square and  slipped away. Having lost one  of his
quarries,  Ivan focused his attention on the cat and saw this strange cat go
up to the footboard of an 'A' tram waiting at a stop, brazenly elbow aside a
woman,  who screamed, grab hold of the handrail, and even make an attempt to
shove  a  ten-kopeck piece  into the conductress's hand  through the window,
open on account of the stuffiness.
     Ivan was so struck by the cat's behaviour  that he froze  motionless by
the grocery store on the corner,  and here he was  struck for a second time,
but much more strongly, by  the conductress's  behaviour. As soon as she saw
the cat getting into the tram-car, she shouted  with a malice that even made
her shake:
     'No cats allowed! Nobody with cats allowed! Scat! Get off, or I'll call
the police!'
     Neither the conductress nor the passengers were struck  by the  essence
of the matter: not just that a cat was boarding a tram-car, which would have
been good enough, but that he was going to pay!
     The cat turned out  to  be not  only a solvent  but also a  disciplined
animal. At the very first shout from the conductress, he halted his advance,
got off the footboard, and sat  down at the stop, rubbing  his whiskers with
the ten-kopeck piece. But as soon as the conductress yanked the cord and the
tram-car started moving off, the cat acted like anyone who has been expelled
from  a tram-car but still  needs a ride. Letting all three cars go  by, the
cat jumped on to  the rear coupling-pin of the  last one,  wrapped  its paws
around some hose sticking out of the side, and rode off, thus saving himself
ten kopecks.
     Occupied with the obnoxious  cat, Ivan almost lost  the main one of the
three  - the professor. But,  fortunately, the man  had not managed  to slip
away. Ivan saw  the  grey  beret in the  throng  at  the  head  of  Bolshaya
Nikitskaya,  now  Herzen, Street.  In the twinkling of an  eye, Ivan arrived
there  himself. However, he had  no luck.  The poet would quicken  his pace,
break  into  a trot,  shove  passers-by, yet not get an  inch closer  to the
     Upset as he was, Ivan was still struck by the supernatural speed of the
chase.  Twenty seconds had not gone by  when, after the  Nikitsky Gate, Ivan
Nikolayevich was already dazzled by the lights of the Arbat  Square. Another
few seconds, and here was some dark lane with slanting sidewalks, where Ivan
Nikolaevich  took a tumble and  hurt his knee. Again a lit-up thoroughfare -
Kropotkin Street  - then a lane, then Ostozhenka, then another lane, dismal,
vile  and sparsely lit. And it was here  that Ivan Nikolaevich  definitively
lost him whom he needed so much. The professor disappeared.
     Ivan Nikolaevich was  perplexed, but not for long, because he  suddenly
realized  that the professor must unfailingly be  found in house no. 15, and
most assuredly in apartment 47.
     Bursting into  the entrance, Ivan Nikolaevich  flew  up to  the  second
floor,  immediately found  the apartment, and rang impatiently.  He  did not
have to wait long. Some little girl of about  five opened the  door for Ivan
and, without asking him anything, immediately went away somewhere.
     In  the  huge,  extremely neglected  front hall,  weakly  lit by a tiny
carbon arc lamp under the high ceiling, black with grime,  a bicycle without
tyres hung on the wall, a huge iron-bound trunk  stood, and on  a shelf over
the coat rack a winter hat lay, its long ear-flaps  hanging down. Behind one
of the  doors, a resonant male voice was angrily shouting something in verse
from a radio set.
     Ivan Nikolaevich  was  not  the  least  at  a  loss  in the  unfamiliar
surroundings and  rushed straight into  the  corridor,  reasoning thus:  'Of
course, he's hiding in the bathroom.' The corridor  was  dark. Having bumped
into the wall a few  times, Ivan  saw a faint streak of  light under a door,
felt for the handle,  and  pulled it gently. The hook popped  out,  and Ivan
found himself precisely in the bathroom and thought how lucky he was.
     However, his luck was not all it  might have been! Ivan met with a wave
of humid heat and, by the light of the coals smouldering in the boiler, made
out big basins hanging on  the walls,  and a bath  tub,  all black frightful
blotches  where the enamel  had  chipped  off. And  there, in this bath tub,
stood  a  naked citizeness,  all  soapy and with a scrubber in her hand. She
squinted near-sightedly at the bursting-in Ivan and, obviously mistaking him
in the infernal light, said softly and gaily:
     'Kiriushka!  Stop this tomfoolery!  Have you  lost your mind?... Fyodor
Ivanych will be back  any minute. Get out right now!' and she waved  at Ivan
with the scrubber.
     The misunderstanding was evident,  and Ivan Nikolaevich was, of course,
to  blame  for it.  But  he  did  not  want  to  admit  it  and,  exclaiming
reproachfully: 'Ah, wanton  creature!  ...', at once found himself  for some
reason  in  the  kitchen.  No  one  was  there,  and  on  the  oven  in  the
semi-darkness silently  stood about  a dozen extinguished  primuses [1].'  A
single  moonbeam,  having seeped  through  the  dusty,  perennially unwashed
window, shone  sparsely  into  the  corner where,  in dust  and  cobwebs,  a
forgotten icon hung, with  the ends of two wedding candles  [2] peeking  out
from behind its casing. Under the big icon, pinned to it,  hung a little one
made of paper.
     No one knows what  thought took hold of Ivan here,  but before  running
out  the back door, he  appropriated one of  these candles, as  well as  the
paper icon.  With these  objects, he  left  the unknown apartment, muttering
something, embarrassed at the thought of what he had just experienced in the
bathroom, involuntarily trying to guess who this impudent Kiriushka might be
and whether the disgusting hat with ear-flaps belonged to him.
     In the desolate, joyless lane the poet looked around, searching for the
fugitive, but he was nowhere to be seen. Then Ivan said firmly to himself:
     'Why, of course, he's at the Moscow River! Onward!'
     Someone ought, perhaps, to have  asked Ivan Nikolaevich why he supposed
that the professor was precisely at  the Moscow River  and not in some other
place. But the trouble was  that there was no one to  ask him. The loathsome
lane was completely empty.
     In  the  very  shortest  time, Ivan  Nikolaevich  could  be seen on the
granite steps of the Moscow River amphitheatre. [3]
     Having taken  off  his clothes,  Ivan  entrusted  them  to a  pleasant,
bearded  fellow who was smoking  a hand-rolled  cigarette,  sitting beside a
torn  white Tolstoy blouse  and a pair of unlaced, worn  boots. After waving
his arms to cool off, Ivan dived swallow-fashion into the water.
     It took  his breath away, so  cold the water was, and  the thought even
flashed in him that he might  not manage to come up to the surface. However,
he did  manage  to  come  up, and, puffing and snorting, his eyes rounded in
terror,  Ivan Nikolaevich  began swimming  through the  black,  oil-smelling
water among the broken zigzags of street lights on the bank.
     When the wet Ivan came dancing back up the steps to the place where the
bearded fellow was guarding his clothes, it  became clear that not  only the
latter, but also the former - that is, the bearded fellow himself - had been
stolen. In the  exact  spot where  the pile of clothes  had been, a  pair of
striped drawers, the torn Tolstoy blouse, the candle, the  icon and a box of
matches had been left.  After  threatening someone  in the distance with his
fist in powerless anger, Ivan put on what was left for him.
     Here two considerations began to trouble him: first,  that his Massolit
identification card, which  he never parted  with,  was  gone, and,  second,
whether he could manage to get through Moscow unhindered  looking the way he
did now?  In striped drawers, after all ... True, it  was nobody's business,
but still there might be some hitch or delay.
     Ivan  tore off  the buttons where the drawers  fastened  at the  ankle,
figuring that this way they might  pass for summer trousers, gathered up the
icon, the candle and the matches, and started off, saying to himself:
     'To Griboedov's! Beyond all doubt, he's there.'
     The city was already living its evening  life.  Trucks flew through the
dust, chains  clanking, and on their platforms men lay sprawled belly  up on
sacks. All  windows were open. In each of these windows a light burned under
an orange lampshade, and from every window, every door, every gateway, roof,
and  attic, basement  and courtyard blared the hoarse roar  of the polonaise
from the opera Evgeny Onegin. [4]
     Ivan Nikolaevich's apprehensions proved fully justified: passers-by did
pay attention  to him and  turned  their  heads.  As  a  result, he took the
decision to leave  the main streets  and  make his  way through  back lanes,
where people are not so importunate, where there were fewer chances  of them
picking on  a barefoot man, pestering him with questions about his  drawers,
which stubbornly refused to look like trousers.
     This Ivan  did, and, penetrating the mysterious network of lanes around
the Arbat, he began making his way along the walls, casting fearful sidelong
glances, turning around every moment, hiding in gateways from  time to time,
avoiding  intersections  with  traffic  lights and  the  grand  entrances of
embassy mansions.
     And all along his difficult  way, he was  for some reason inexpressibly
tormented  by  the ubiquitous  orchestra that accompanied  the  heavy  basso
singing about his love for Tatiana.

     The  old,  two-storeyed,  cream-coloured  house   stood  on  the   ring
boulevard, in the depths of a seedy garden, separated from the sidewalk by a
fancy cast-iron  fence. The  small terrace in front  of the  house was paved
with  asphalt, and in wintertime was dominated by a snow pile with a  shovel
stuck in it, but in summertime  turned into the most  magnificent section of
the summer restaurant under a canvas tent.
     The house was called  `The House of Griboedov'  on  the grounds that it
was  alleged  to  have  once  belonged to  an  aunt of the  writer Alexander
Sergeevich Griboedov. [1] Now, whether it did or did not  belong  to her, we
do not exactly know. On recollection, it even seems that Griboedov never had
any  such house-owning  aunt... Nevertheless, that  was  what the  house was
called. Moreover, one Moscow liar had it that there, on the second floor, in
a round hall with columns,  the famous writer had  supposedly read  passages
from Woe From Wit to this very aunt while she reclined on a sofa.
     However, devil knows, maybe he did, it's of no importance.
     What  is important  is that at the present time this house was owned by
that  same  Massolit  which  had  been  headed by  the  unfortunate  Mikhail
Alexandrovich Berlioz before his appearance at the Patriarch's Ponds.
     In  the casual  manner of Massolit members, no one called the house The
House of  Griboedov', everyone simply said 'Griboedov's': 'I spent two hours
yesterday  knocking about Griboedov's.'  'Well, and so?' `Got myself a month
in Yalta.' 'Bravo!'  Or: 'Go to Berlioz, he receives today from four to five
at Griboedov's...' and so on.
     Massolit had settled itself at Griboedov's in  the best and cosiest way
imaginable.  Anyone entering Griboedov's first  of  all became involuntarily
acquainted with the announcements of various sports clubs, and with group as
well as  individual photographs  of  the members of Massolit,  hanging  (the
photographs) on the walls of the staircase leading to the second floor.
     On the door to the very first room of this upper  floor one could see a
big  sign: 'Fishing and Vacation  Section', along with the picture of a carp
caught on a line.
     On  the  door  of room  no. 2  something  not  quite comprehensible was
written: 'One-day Creative Trips. Apply to M. V. Spurioznaya.'
     The  next  door   bore  a   brief  but   now  totally  incomprehensible
inscription: 'Perelygino'. [2] After which the chance visitor to Griboedov's
would not know  where  to  look  from the  motley inscriptions on the aunt's
walnut  doors: `Sign up  for  Paper  with  Poklevkina', `Cashier', 'Personal
Accounts of Sketch-Writers'...
     If one cut through the longest  line, which already went downstairs and
out  to the doorman's lodge, one  could see the sign 'Housing Question' on a
door which people were crashing every second.
     Beyond the housing  question  there opened out  a luxurious  poster  on
which a  cliff  was depicted and,  riding on its crest, a horseman in a felt
cloak with a  rifle on his shoulder. A  little  lower  -  palm trees  and  a
balcony;  on the  balcony -  a  seated young  man  with  a  forelock, gazing
somewhere aloft with very lively eyes, holding a fountain pen in his hand.
     The  inscription:   'Full-scale  Creative  Vacations   from  Two  Weeks
(Story/Novella)  to  One  Year  (Novel/Trilogy).  Yalta,  Suuk-Su,  Borovoe,
Tsikhidziri,  Makhindzhauri, Leningrad (Winter Palace).'[3] There was also a
line at this door, but not an excessive one - some hundred and fifty people.
     Next, obedient to the whimsical  curves, ascents  and descents  of  the
Griboedov house,  came the `Massolit Executive Board', 'Cashiers nos.  2, 3,
4, 5', 'Editorial Board',  'Chairman  of Massolit', 'Billiard Room', various
auxiliary institutions and, finally, that same hall with the colonnade where
the aunt had delighted in the comedy other genius nephew.
     Any visitor  finding himself in Griboedov's, unless of course  he was a
total  dim-wit, would realize at once what a  good life those lucky fellows,
the Massolit  members,  were having, and black envy would  immediately start
gnawing at him. And he would immediately address bitter reproaches to heaven
for  not having  endowed him  at  birth with literary talent, lacking  which
there was naturally no dreaming of owning a Massolit membership card, brown,
smelling  of  costly leather, with a  wide gold border - a card known to all
     Who will speak in  defence  of envy? This feeling  belongs to the nasty
category, but all the same one must put oneself in the visitor's position.
     For what he had  seen on the upper floor was not all, and was far  from
     The entire  ground  floor  of  the  aunt's  house  was  occupied  by  a
restaurant,  and what a  restaurant! It was  justly  considered  the best in
Moscow. And not only because it took up two vast halls with arched ceilings,
painted with violet,  Assyrian-maned horses, not only because on each  table
there  stood  a  lamp shaded  with  a  shawl,  not only because  it was  not
accessible to  just anybody  coming  in off the  street, but  because in the
quality of its fare Griboedov's beat  any restaurant  in Moscow up and down,
and this  fare was available  at the most reasonable, by  no means  onerous,
     Hence  there was  nothing  surprising, for instance,  in the  following
conversation, which the author of these most truthful lines  once heard near
the cast-iron fence of Griboedov's:
     'Where are you dining today, Amvrosy?'
     `What  a  question!  Why,  here,  of  course, my  dear Foka!  Archibald
Archibaldovich whispered to me today  that there  will be  perch  au naturel
done to order. A virtuoso little treat!'
     `You  sure know  how  to live, Amvrosy!' skinny, run-down  Foka, with a
carbuncle on  his  neck,  replied  with a  sigh  to the ruddy-lipped  giant,
golden-haired, plump-cheeked Amvrosy-the-poet.
     `I have no special  knowledge,'  Amvrosy protested, 'just  the ordinary
wish to live like a human being. You mean to say, Foka that perch can be met
with at the Coliseum as  well. But at the  Coliseum a portion of perch costs
thirteen roubles  fifteen kopecks, and  here - five-fifty!  Besides, at  the
Coliseum they serve three-day-old perch, and, besides,  there's no guarantee
you won't get slapped in the mug  with a bunch  of grapes at the Coliseum by
the first young man  who bursts in from Theatre Alley. No, I'm categorically
opposed  to  the  Coliseum,'  the gastronome  Amvrosy  boomed for  the whole
boulevard to hear. 'Don't try to convince me, Foka!'
     'I'm not trying to convince you, Amvrosy,' Foka squeaked. 'One can also
dine at home.'
     `I humbly thank you,' trumpeted Amvrosy, 'but I can imagine  your wife,
in the communal kitchen at home, trying to do perch au naturel to order in a
saucepan! Hee, hee, hee! ... Aurevwar, Foka!' And, humming, Amvrosy directed
his steps to the veranda under the tent.
     Ahh,  yes! ... Yes, there was a time! ... Old Muscovites will  remember
the renowned Griboedov's! What is poached perch done to order!
     Cheap stuff, my dear Amvrosy! But sterlet, sterlet in a silvery chafing
dish, sterlet slices interlaid  with crayfish  tails and  fresh  caviar? And
eggs en  cocotte with  mushroom puree in little dishes? And how did you like
the  fillets of  thrush? With truffles? Quail a la genoise?  Nine-fifty! And
the  jazz, and the courteous service! And in July, when the whole  family is
in the country, and you are kept  in the city by urgent literary  business -
on the veranda, in the shade of the creeping vines,  in a golden spot on the
cleanest of  tablecloths, a bowl of soup printanier? Remember,  Amvrosy? But
why ask! I  can  see by your lips that you do. What is your  whitefish, your
perch! But the snipe, the great snipe, the jack snipe, the woodcock in their
season,  the quail, the curlew? Cool seltzer  fizzing in  your  throat?! But
enough, you are getting distracted, reader! Follow me!...
     At half  past ten  on  the evening when Berlioz died at the Patriarch's
Ponds,  only one room was  lit upstairs at Griboedov's, and in it languished
twelve writers who had gathered for a meeting  and were waiting  for Mikhail
     Sitting on chairs, and  on  tables, and even on the two window-sills in
the office of the Massolit executive board, they suffered seriously from the
heat. Not a single breath of fresh air came through the open windows. Moscow
was releasing the heat accumulated in the asphalt all day, and it  was clear
that night would bring no relief. The smell of onions came from the basement
of the aunt's house, where the restaurant kitchen was at work, they were all
thirsty, they were all nervous and angry.
     The  belletrist  Beskudnikov  -  a quiet,  decently  dressed  man  with
attentive and at the  same time elusive eyes - took out his  watch. The hand
was crawling towards eleven.  Beskudnikov tapped his  finger on the face and
showed it to the poet  Dvubratsky, who was sitting next to  him on the table
and in boredom dangling his feet shod in yellow shoes with rubber treads.
     'Anyhow,' grumbled Dvubratsky.
     "The  laddie  must've got stuck  on the Klyazma,' came the thick-voiced
response  of Nastasya Lukinishna Nepremenova,  orphan of a Moscow  merchant,
who  had become  a writer and  wrote  stories  about sea  battles  under the
pen-name of Bos'n George.
     'Excuse me!' boldly exclaimed Zagrivov, an author  of popular sketches,
'but I  personally would prefer a  spot of tea on the  balcony to stewing in
here. The meeting was set for ten o'clock, wasn't it?'
     'It's  nice now  on the Klyazma,' Bos'n  George needled  those present,
knowing that Perelygino on the Klyazma, the country colony for  writers, was
everybody's sore spot. 'There's nightingales  singing already. I always work
better in the country, especially in spring.'
     'It's the third year I've  paid in so as to send my wife with goitre to
this paradise,  but  there's  nothing to be  spied  amidst the  waves,'  the
novelist Ieronym Poprikhin said venomously and bitterly.
     'Some are  lucky and some  aren't,' the critic  Ababkov droned from the
     Bos'n George's little eyes lit up with glee,  and  she said,  softening
her contralto:
     We mustn't be envious, comrades. There's  twenty-two dachas [4] in all,
and  only  seven more  being  built,  and  there's  three thousand of  us in
     `Three thousand  one  hundred  and  eleven,'  someone  put in from  the
     'So you see,' the Bos'n went on, 'what can be done? Naturally, it's the
most talented of us that got the dachas...'
     'The generals!' Glukharev the scenarist cut right into the squabble.
     Beskudnikov, with an artificial yawn, walked out of the room.
     'Five rooms to himself in Perelygino,' Glukharev said behind him.
     `Lavrovich  has six  to himself,'  Deniskin cried  out, `and the dining
room's panelled in oak!'
     'Eh,  that's not the point right now,' Ababkov droned, 'it's that  it's
half past eleven.'
     A clamour  arose,  something like  rebellion was brewing. They  started
telephoning hated Perelygino,  got the wrong  dacha, Lavrovich's, found  out
that Lavrovich  had gone to the river, which made them  totally  upset. They
called at random to the commission on fine literature, extension 950, and of
course found no one there.
     'He might have called!' shouted Deniskin, Glukharev and Quant.
     Ah,  they were shouting in  vain: Mikhail Alexandrovich could not  call
anywhere.   Far,   far   from  Griboedov's,  in  an  enormous  room  lit  by
thousand-watt bulbs, on three zinc tables, lay what had  still recently been
Mikhail Alexandrovich.
     On the  first  lay the  naked body,  covered with dried blood,  one arm
broken,  the  chest  caved in; on the  second, the head with the front teeth
knocked out, with dull, open  eyes unafraid of  the brightest light;  and on
the third, a pile of stiffened rags.
     Near the  beheaded body  stood  a  professor  of  forensic medicine,  a
pathological  anatomist   and   his  dissector,   representatives   of   the
investigation, and Mikhail Alexandrovich's assistant in Massolit, the writer
Zheldybin, summoned by telephone from his sick wife's side.
     A car had come  for Zheldybin and first of  all taken him together with
the  investigators  (this was around midnight) to the  dead man's apartment,
where the sealing of his papers had  been  carried out, after which they all
went to the morgue.
     And now those standing by the remains of  the  deceased  were  debating
what was the  better thing to do: to sew the severed head to the neck, or to
lay out  the body in  the hall at Griboedov's after simply covering the dead
man snugly to the chin with a black cloth?
     No, Mikhail  Alexandrovich  could  not  call  anywhere,  and  Deniskin,
Glukharev  and  Quant,  along  with Beskudnikov, were  being  indignant  and
shouting quite  in vain.  Exactly at  midnight, all  twelve writers left the
upper  floor  and  descended  to the  restaurant. Here again  they  silently
berated Mikhail  Alexandrovich: all the  tables on  the  veranda, naturally,
were  occupied, and  they  had to stay for  supper  in those  beautiful  but
airless halls.
     And  exactly  at  midnight,  in  the first of  these  halls,  something
crashed, jangled,  spilled,  leaped.  And  all  at once a  high  male  voice
desperately cried out 'Hallelujah!' to the music. The  famous Griboedov jazz
band  struck up. Sweat-covered  faces  seemed to brighten,  it was as if the
horses painted on the  ceiling  came alive, the lamps  seemed to  shine with
added light, and suddenly, as if tearing loose, both halls broke into dance,
and following them the veranda broke into dance.
     Glukharev danced  with  the poetess  Tamara Polumesyats, Quant  danced,
Zhukopov the novelist danced with some movie actress in a yellow dress.
     Dragunsky  danced, Cherdakchi danced,  little  Deniskin danced with the
enormous Bos'n George, the beautiful Semeikina-Gall, an architect, danced in
the tight embrace of a stranger in white canvas trousers. Locals and invited
guests  danced,  Muscovites  and  out-of-towners,  the  writer  Johann  from
Kronstadt, a certain Vitya  Kuftik from Rostov, apparently a stage director,
with  a purple spot all over his cheek, the most eminent  representatives of
the  poetry  section  of  Massolit danced - that  is, Baboonov, Blasphemsky,
Sweetkin, Smatchstik and Addphina Buzdyak - young men of unknown profession,
in  crew  cuts,  with cotton-padded shoulders, danced, someone very  elderly
danced,  a shred  of green onion stuck in his beard, and with him  danced  a
sickly, anaemia-consumed girl in a wrinkled orange silk dress.
     Streaming with sweat, waiters carried sweating mugs of beer  over their
heads, shouting hoarsely and  with hatred:  'Excuse  me, citizen!' Somewhere
through a  megaphone a voice commanded: `One Karsky shashlik! Two Zubrovkas!
Home-style tripe!' The high voice no longer sang, but howled 'Hallelujah!'
     The clashing of  golden cymbals in  the band sometimes even drowned out
the  clashing of dishes, which the dishwashers sent down a sloping  chute to
the kitchen. In short - hell.
     And at midnight there came an apparition in hell. A handsome  dark-eyed
man with a  dagger-like beard, in a tailcoat,  stepped on to the veranda and
cast a regal glance over his domain. They used to  say, the mystics  used to
say, that there was  a  time when the handsome man wore not a tailcoat but a
wide leather belt with pistol butts sticking from it, and his raven hair was
tied with  scarlet  silk, and under his command a  brig sailed the Caribbean
under a black death flag with a skull and crossbones.
     But no, no!  The  seductive  mystics  are lying, there are no Caribbean
Seas  in the  world, no  desperate freebooters sail them, no corvette chases
after them, no cannon smoke drifts across the  waves. There  is nothing, and
there was nothing!  There  is that sickly linden over  there,  there is  the
cast-iron  fence, and  the boulevard beyond it... And the  ice is melting in
the bowl, and at  the  next table you see someone's  bloodshot, bovine eyes,
and you're afraid, afraid... Oh, gods, my gods, poison, bring me poison!...
     And suddenly a word fluttered up from some table:  'Berlioz!!' The jazz
broke up and fell silent, as if someone had hit it with a fist. 'What, what,
what, what?!!' 'Berlioz!!!' And they began jumping up, exclaiming...
     Yes,  a  wave of grief billowed up  at the  terrible news about Mikhail
Alexandrovich. Someone fussed about,  crying  that it was necessary at once,
straight away, without leaving the spot, to compose some collective telegram
and send it off immediately.
     But what telegram, may we ask,  and where? And why  send it? And where,
indeed?  And  what possible  need for  any telegram  does someone have whose
flattened pate  is now clutched  in the dissector's rubber hands, whose neck
the  professor is now  piercing with curved  needles? He's dead, and has  no
need of any telegrams. It's  all  over, let's not burden the telegraph wires
any more.
     Yes, he's dead, dead... But, as for us, we're alive!
     Yes, a wave of grief billowed up, held out for  a while, but then began
to subside, and somebody  went back to his  table and  -  sneakily at first,
then openly - drank a little vodka and ate a bite. And, really,  can one let
chicken cutlets de volatile perish? How can we help Mikhail Alexandrovich?
     By going hungry? But, after all, we're alive!
     Naturally, the grand piano was locked, the jazz band dispersed, several
journalists left for their offices to write obituaries. It became known that
Zheldybin  had  come  from  the  morgue.  He  had  installed himself in  the
deceased's office upstairs, and the rumour spread at once that it was he who
would  replace Berlioz. Zheldybin summoned from the  restaurant  all  twelve
members of  the  board, and at  the  urgently convened meeting in  Berlioz's
office they started a discussion of the pressing questions of decorating the
hall  with columns at  Griboedov's, of transporting the body from the morgue
to that hall, of opening it to the public, and all else  connected with  the
sad event.
     And  the  restaurant began to live  its usual nocturnal  life and would
have gone on living it  until closing  time, that is, until four o'clock  in
the morning, had it not  been for an  occurrence which was completely out of
the  ordinary and which struck the restaurant's clientele much more than the
news of Berlioz's death.
     The first to  take alarm were the coachmen  [5] waiting at the gates of
the Griboedov house. One of them, rising on his box, was heard to cry out:
     'Hoo-ee! Just look at that!'
     After  which, from God knows  where,  a  little  light flashed  by  the
cast-iron fence and began  to  approach the  veranda.  Those sitting at  the
tables began  to get up and peer at  it, and saw  that along with the little
light a white  ghost was marching towards the restaurant. When it came right
up  to  the trellis, everybody sat as if frozen at  their tables, chunks  of
sterlet on  their forks, eyes popping. The doorman, who  at that  moment had
stepped out of the  restaurant coatroom to have a smoke in the yard, stamped
out  his  cigarette and  made  for the  ghost with  the obvious intention of
barring its way into the restaurant, but for some reason did not do so,  and
stopped, smiling stupidly.
     And  the  ghost, passing  through  an  opening in  the trellis, stepped
unhindered on to the veranda. Here everyone saw that it was no ghost at all,
but Ivan Nikolaevich Homeless, the much-renowned poet.
     He was barefoot,  in a torn, whitish Tolstoy blouse,  with a paper icon
bearing  the image of an  unknown saint pinned to  the  breast of it  with a
safety  pin, and  was  wearing striped  white  drawers.  In  his  hand  Ivan
Nikolaevich carried a lighted wedding candle. Ivan Nikolaevich's right cheek
was freshly scratched. It would even be difficult to plumb the depths of the
silence that reigned on the  veranda. Beer could be seen  running down on to
the floor from a mug tilted in one waiter's hand.
     The poet raised the candle over his head and said loudly:
     'Hail,  friends!'  After which he peeked  under  the nearest  table and
exclaimed ruefully: 'No, he's not there!'
     Two voices were heard. A basso said pitilessly:
     That's it. Delirium tremens.'
     And the second, a woman's, frightened, uttered the words:
     'How could the police let him walk the streets like that?'
     This Ivan Nikolaevich heard, and replied:
     They tried to detain me twice, in Skaterny and here on Bronnaya, but  I
hopped  over  the  fence  and,  as you  can see,  cut  my cheek!'  Here Ivan
Nikolaevich  raised the candle and cried out: 'Brethren in literature!' (His
hoarse voice grew stronger and more fervent.) 'Listen to me everyone! He has
appeared. Catch him immediately, otherwise he'll do untold harm!'
     'What? What?  What did he say? Who  has appeared?' voices came from all
     The  consultant,' Ivan replied, `and this consultant just  killed Misha
Berlioz at the Patriarch's Ponds.'
     Here people came flocking to  the veranda from the inner rooms, a crowd
gathered around Ivan's flame.
     `Excuse me, excuse me, be  more precise,' a soft and polite voice  said
over Ivan Nikolaevich's ear, 'tell me, what do you mean "killed"?
     Who killed?'
     'A  foreign  consultant, a professor, and a  spy,'  Ivan  said, looking
     'And what is his name?' came softly to Ivan's ear. That's just it - his
name!' Ivan  cried in anguish. 'If only I knew  his  name! I didn't make out
his name on his visiting card... I only remember  the first letter, "W", his
name begins with "W"! What last  name begins  with "W"?' Ivan asked himself,
clutching his forehead, and suddenly  started muttering: 'Wi, we,  wa ... Wu
... Wo ... Washner? Wagner? Weiner? Wegner? Winter?' The hair on Ivan's head
began to crawl with the tension.
     'Wolf?' some woman cried pitifully.
     Ivan became angry.
     'Fool!' he cried, seeking the  woman with his  eyes. "What has Wolf got
to do  with it? Wolf's  not to blame for anything! Wo, wa... No,  I'll never
remember this way! Here's what, citizens: call the police at once,  let them
send  out  five motor  cycles with machine-guns to catch the  professor. And
don't  forget  to tell them  that  there are  two  others with  him:  a long
checkered one, cracked pince-nez, and a cat, black  and fat... And meanwhile
I'll search Griboedov's, I sense that he's here!'
     Ivan  became anxious, pushed away the people around him, started waving
the  candle,  pouring  wax on  himself, and looking under  the tables.  Here
someone said:  `Call a  doctor!'  and  someone's benign, fleshy face,  clean
shaven and well nourished, in horn-rimmed glasses, appeared before Ivan.
     'Comrade  Homeless,' the face began in  a guest speaker's voice,  'calm
down! You're upset at the death of  our beloved Mikhail Alexandrovich... no,
say  just  Misha  Berlioz. We all  understand that perfectly well. You  need
rest. The comrades will take you home to bed right now, you'll forget...'
     'You,' Ivan  interrupted, baring his teeth, "but  don't  you understand
that  the  professor  has to  be  caught?  And  you come  at  me  with  your
foolishness! Cretin!'
     `Pardon  me,   Comrade  Homeless!...'   the  face  replied,   blushing,
retreating, and already repentant at having got mixed up in this affair.
     'No, anyone else, but  you  I will not  pardon,' Ivan Nikolaevich  said
with quiet hatred.
     A spasm distorted  his  face,  he quickly  shifted  the candle from his
right  hand to his left, swung roundly and hit the compassionate face on the
     Here  it occurred  to them  to  fall upon  Ivan - and so they did.  The
candle  went out,  and  the  glasses  that had  fallen  from  the  face were
instantly  trampled.  Ivan  let  out  a  terrible  war  cry,  heard,  to the
temptation of all,  even  on the boulevard, and set about defending himself.
Dishes fell clattering from the tables, women screamed.
     All  the while the waiters  were tying  up the  poet  with  napkins,  a
conversation was going on in the coatroom between the commander  of the brig
and the doorman.
     'Didn't you see he was in his underpants?' the pirate inquired coldly.
     'But, Archibald  Archibaldovich,'  the doorman replied, cowering,  'how
could I not let him in, if he's a  member of Massolit?' 'Didn't  you see  he
was  in  his  underpants?'  the  pirate  repeated.   'Pardon  me,  Archibald
Archibaldovich,' the doorman said, turning purple,  'but what  could I do? I
understand, there are ladies sitting on the veranda...'
     `Ladies  have nothing  to do with it,  it makes  no  difference to  the
ladies,' the pirate replied, literally burning the doorman up with his eyes,
'but it does  to the police! A man in his underwear can walk the  streets of
Moscow only in this one case,  that he's accompanied by the police, and only
to one place - the police station!  And  you, if  you're a doorman, ought to
know that on seeing  such a man, you must,  without a  moment's delay, start
blowing  your whistle.  Do you  hear? Do  you hear  what's going on  on  the
     Here the half-crazed doorman heard some sort of hooting coming from the
veranda, the smashing of dishes and women's screams.
     'Now, what's to be done with you for that?' the freebooter asked.
     The skin on the doorman's face acquired a typhoid tinge, his eyes  went
dead.  It  seemed to him  that  the black hair,  now combed and parted,  was
covered  with  flaming silk. The shirt-front and  tailcoat disappeared and a
pistol  butt  emerged,  tucked  into  a leather belt. The  doorman  pictured
himself hanging from  the  fore-topsail yard.  His eyes saw his  own  tongue
sticking  out and his lifeless head  lolling on his shoulder, and even heard
the splash of waves against the hull. The doorman's knees gave way. But here
the freebooter took pity on him and extinguished his sharp gaze.
     `Watch out,  Nikolai, this  is the last  time! We have no need  of such
doormen in the restaurant. Go find yourself  a job as a beadle.' Having said
this,  the commander  commanded precisely,  clearly,  rapidly: `Get Pantelei
from the snack bar. Police. Protocol. A car. To the psychiatric clinic.' And
added: 'Blow your whistle!'
     In a quarter of an hour an extremely  astounded public, not only in the
restaurant but on the  boulevard itself and in the windows of houses looking
on  to the restaurant  garden, saw Pantelei,  the doorman,  a  policeman,  a
waiter and the poet  Riukhin carry through the gates of Griboedov's a  young
man swaddled like  a doll, dissolved in tears, who spat, aiming precisely at
Riukhin, and shouted for all the boulevard to hear:
     'You bastard! ... You bastard!...'
     A truck-driver with a spiteful face was starting his motor. Next to him
a coachman, rousing his  horse, slapping it on  the croup with violet reins,
     'Have a run for your money! I've taken `em to the psychics before!'
     Around them the crowd buzzed,  discussing the unprecedented  event.  In
short, there  was a nasty, vile, tempting, swinish scandal, which ended only
when  the truck carried away from  the gates of  Griboedov's the unfortunate
Ivan Nikolaevich, the policeman, Pantelei and Riukhin.

     It was half past one in the morning when a man with a pointed beard and
wearing  a  white  coat  came  out  to  the  examining room  of  the  famous
psychiatric clinic, built recently on the outskirts of Moscow by the bank of
the river. Three orderlies had their eyes fastened on Ivan Nikolaevich,  who
was sitting on a couch. The extremely agitated poet Riukhin was also there.
     The  napkins with which Ivan Nikolaevich had been bed up lay in  a pile
on the same couch. Ivan Nikolaevich's arms and legs were free.
     Seeing  the  entering  man,  Riukhin  turned  pale, coughed,  and  said
     'Hello, Doctor.'
     The  doctor bowed to Riukhin but, as he bowed, looked not at him but at
Ivan Nikolaevich. The latter sat perfectly motionless, with  an  angry  face
and knitted brows, and did not even stir at the doctor's entrance.
     'Here,  Doctor,'  Riukhin  began  speaking,   for  some  reason,  in  a
mysterious  whisper,  glancing  timorously  at  Ivan  Nikolaevich,  `is  the
renowned  poet Ivan Homeless  ... well, you see ... we're afraid it might be
delirium tremens...'
     'Was he drinking hard?' the doctor said through his teeth.
     'No, he drank, but not really so...'
     'Did  he  chase after cockroaches,  rats,  little devils,  or  slinking
     'No,' Riukhin replied with a  shudder,  `I saw him  yesterday  and this
morning ... he was perfectly well.'
     'And why is he in his drawers? Did you get him out of bed?'
     'No, Doctor, he came to the restaurant that way...'
     'Aha, aha,'  the doctor said with  great  satisfaction,  'and  why  the
scratches? Did he have a fight?'
     'He fell off a fence, and then in the restaurant he hit somebody... and
then somebody else...'
     'So, so, so,'  the  doctor said  and, turning  to Ivan,  added:  'Hello
     'Greetings, saboteur! [1]' Ivan replied spitefully and loudly.
     Riukhin was so embarrassed that  he did not dare raise his eyes to  the
courteous doctor. But the latter, not offended  in  the least,  took off his
glasses with  a habitual, deft movement,  raised the skirt of his coat,  put
them into the back pocket of his trousers, and then asked Ivan:
     'How old are you?'
     'You can all go to the devil!' Ivan shouted rudely and turned away.
     'But why are you angry? Did I say anything unpleasant to you?'
     'I'm twenty-three years old,' Ivan began excitedly,  'and  I'll file  a
complaint against you all. And particularly against you, louse!' he adverted
separately to Riukhin.
     'And what do you want to complain about?'
     'About the fact that I, a healthy man, was seized  and dragged by force
to a madhouse!' Ivan replied wrathfully.
     Here Riukhin looked closely at  Ivan and went cold: there was decidedly
no  insanity  in  the  man's eyes.  No  longer  dull  as  they  had been  at
Griboedov's, they were now clear as ever.
     `Good  God!'  Riukhin  thought fearfully. 'So he's  really normal! What
nonsense! Why, in fact, did we drag him here? He's normal,  normal, only his
mug got scratched...'
     'You are,' the doctor began calmly, sitting down  on a white stool with
a shiny foot, `not in a  madhouse,  but in a  clinic, where no one will keep
you if it's not necessary.'
     Ivan Nikolaevich glanced at him mistrustfully out of the  corner of his
eye, but still grumbled:
     'Thank the Lord! One normal man has finally turned up among the idiots,
of whom the first is that giftless goof Sashka!'
     'Who is this giftless Sashka?' the doctor inquired.
     'This one here -  Riukhin,' Ivan replied, jabbing  his  dirty finger in
Riukhin's direction.
     The  latter  flushed with indignation. That's the  thanks  I  get,'  he
thought bitterly, 'for showing concern for him! What trash, really!'
     'Psychologically, a  typical little  kulak,'[2] Ivan Nikolaevich began,
evidently from an irresistible urge to  denounce Riukhin, 'and, what's more,
a little kulak carefully  disguising himself as a  proletarian.  Look at his
lenten physiognomy, and compare it with those resounding verses he wrote for
the First of May [3] - heh, heh, heh ... "Soaring up!" and "Soaring  down!!"
But  if you could look inside him and see what he thinks... you'd gasp!' And
Ivan Nikolaevich burst into sinister laughter.
     Riukhin  was  breathing  heavily, turned red,  and thought of  just one
thing, that he had warmed a serpent on his breast, that he had shown concern
for  a man  who turned out to be a vicious enemy. And, above all,  there was
nothing to be done: there's no arguing with the mentally ill!
     `And  why, actually, were  you  brought here?' the  doctor asked, after
listening attentively to Homeless's denunciations.
     'Devil take them, the numskulls! They  seized  me, tied me up with some
rags, and dragged me away in a truck!'
     'May I ask why you came to the restaurant in just your underwear?'
     There's nothing surprising about  that,' Ivan  replied.  `I went  for a
swim in the Moscow River, so they filched my clothes and left me this trash!
     I couldn't very well walk around Moscow naked!  I put it  on  because I
was hurrying to Griboedov.'
     The doctor glanced questioningly at Riukhin, who muttered glumly:
     'The name of the restaurant.'
     `Aha,' said  the  doctor,  `and  why  were  you in  such a  hurry? Some
business meeting?'
     'I'm  trying to catch the consultant,' Ivan Nikolaevich said and looked
around anxiously.
     'What consultant?'
     'Do you know Berlioz?' Ivan asked significantly.
     The... composer?'
     Ivan got upset.
     'What composer?  Ah, yes... Ah, no. The composer  has  the same name as
Misha Berlioz.'
     Riukhin had no wish to say anything, but was forced to explain:
     The secretary  of Massolit, Berlioz, was run over by a tram-car tonight
at the Patriarch's Ponds.'
     'Don't blab about what you don't know!' Ivan got angry with Riukhin. 'I
was there, not you! He got him under the tram-car on purpose!'
     'Pushed him?'
     '"Pushed  him",  nothing!'  Ivan  exclaimed,  angered  by  the  general
obtuseness. 'His kind don't need to push! He  can perform such stunts - hold
on  to your  hat! He  knew  beforehand  that  Berlioz  would get  under  the
     'And did anyone besides you see this consultant?'
     That's the trouble, it was just Berlioz and I.'
     'So. And  what measures did you take to catch this  murderer?' Here the
doctor turned and sent  a glance towards  a woman  in a white  coat, who was
sitting  at a  table to one side.  She  took out a sheet of  paper and began
filling in the blank spaces in its columns.
     'Here's what measures: I took a little candle from the kitchen...'
     That one?' asked the doctor, pointing to the broken candle lying on the
table in front of the woman, next to the icon.
     That very one, and...'
     'And why the icon?'
     'Ah, yes, the icon...' Ivan  blushed. `It was the icon that  frightened
them most of all.' He again jabbed his finger in  the direction of  Riukhin.
'But the thing is that he,  the consultant, he... let's speak directly... is
mixed up with the unclean powers... and you won't catch him so easily.'
     The  orderlies  for some reason snapped to attention and fastened their
eyes on Ivan.
     Yes, sirs,' Ivan went on,  'mixed  up with them! An  absolute  fact. He
spoke personally with Pontius  Pilate.  And there's  no need to  stare at me
like  that.  I'm  telling the truth! He saw everything - the balcony and the
palm trees. In short, he was at Pontius Pilate's, I can vouch for it.'
     'Come, come...'
     'Well, so I pinned the icon on my chest and ran...'
     Here the clock suddenly struck twice.
     'Oh-oh!'  Ivan exclaimed  and got up from the couch. `It's two o'clock,
and I'm wasting time with you! Excuse me, where's the telephone?'
     'Let him use the telephone,' the doctor told the orderlies.
     Ivan  grabbed  the  receiver,  and  the  woman meanwhile  quietly asked
     'Is he married?'
     'Single,' Riukhin answered fearfully.
     'Member of a trade union?'
     'Police?'  Ivan   shouted   into   the   receiver.   'Police?   Comrade
officer-on-duty, give orders at once for five motor cycles with machine-guns
to be sent out to catch the  foreign consultant. What? Come and pick me  up,
I'll go with you... It's the poet Homeless speaking from the madhouse...
     What's your address?' Homeless asked the doctor in  a whisper, covering
the  receiver  with  his hand,  and  then  again  shouting into it: 'Are you
     Hello!... Outrageous!' Ivan suddenly screamed  and hurled  the receiver
against the  wall. Then he  turned to the doctor, offered him his hand, said
'Goodbye' drily, and made as if to leave.
     `For pity's sake, where do you intend  to go?' the doctor said, peering
into  Ivan's eyes.  'In  the dead of night, in  your underwear... You're not
feeling well, stay with us.'
     `Let  me  pass,'  Ivan said to the orderlies,  who closed ranks at  the
door. 'Will you let me pass or not?' the poet shouted in a terrible voice.
     Riukhin  trembled,  but  the woman  pushed  a button on the table and a
shiny little box with a sealed ampoule popped out on to its glass surface.
     'Ah, so?!' Ivan said, turning around with a wild and hunted look.
     'Well,   then...  Goodbye!'  And   he  rushed   head  first   into  the
     The crash was rather forceful, but the glass  behind the blind  gave no
crack, and in an instant Ivan Nikolaevich was struggling in the hands of the
orderlies. He gasped, tried to bite, shouted:
     'So that's the  sort  of  windows you've  got here! Let me go!  Let  me
     A syringe flashed  in the doctor's  hand,  with  a single  movement the
woman  slit the threadbare  sleeve  of  the shirt  and  seized the  arm with
unwomanly strength. There was a  smell of ether, Ivan went limp in the hands
of the four  people, the deft doctor took advantage of this moment and stuck
the needle into Ivan's arm. They  held Ivan for another few seconds and then
lowered him on to the couch.
     'Bandits!' Ivan shouted and jumped up from the couch, but was installed
on it again. The moment they let go of him, he again jumped up, but sat back
down  by himself. He paused, gazing around wildly, then unexpectedly yawned,
then smiled maliciously.
     'Locked me up after all,' he said, yawned again, unexpectedly lay down,
put  his head  on the pillow, his fist  under  his  head  like a  child, and
muttered now in  a sleepy voice,  without malice: 'Very well, then... you'll
pay for it yourselves... I've warned you, you  can do as you like... I'm now
interested most of all in Pontius Pilate ...  Pilate...', and he closed  his
     'A bath,  a private  room, number  117, and  a nurse to watch him,' the
doctor  ordered  as he put his glasses  on. Here Riukhin again gave a start:
the white door opened  noiselessly, behind  it a corridor could be seen, lit
by  blue night-lights. Out of  the  corridor rolled  a  stretcher  on rubber
wheels, to which  the quieted Ivan  was  transferred, and then he rolled off
down the corridor and the door closed behind him.
     'Doctor,' the  shaken Riukhin asked in a whisper, 'it means he's really
     'Oh, yes,' replied the doctor.
     'But what's wrong with him, then?' Riukhin asked timidly.
     The tired doctor glanced at Riukhin and answered listlessly:
     'Locomotor  and  speech  excitation...  delirious  interpretations... A
complex case, it seems. Schizophrenia, I suppose. Plus this alcoholism...'
     Riukhin  understood nothing from the doctor's words, except that things
were evidently not so great with Ivan Nikolaevich. He sighed and asked:
     'But what's all this talk of his about some consultant?'
     `He must have seen  somebody who  struck his  disturbed imagination. Or
maybe a hallucination...'
     A few minutes later the truck was carrying Riukhin  off to  Moscow. Day
was  breaking, and the  light of  the street  lights still burning along the
highway was now unnecessary and unpleasant.  The  driver was vexed at having
wasted the  night, drove the truck as  fast as he  could, and skidded on the
     Now the woods dropped off, stayed somewhere behind, and  the river went
somewhere to the  side, and  an  omnium gatherum came spilling  to  meet the
truck: fences with sentry boxes and stacks of wood, tall posts and some sort
of poles, with spools strung on the poles, heaps of rubble, the earth scored
by  canals - in short, you sensed that  she was there, Moscow, right  there,
around the turn, and about to heave herself upon you and engulf you.
     Riukhin was jolted  and tossed about;  the sort of stump  he had placed
himself  on kept trying to slide out from under him. The restaurant napkins,
thrown in by the policeman and Pantelei, who had left earlier  by bus, moved
all  around the flatbed. Riukhin tried to collect them, but then,  for  some
reason hissing spitefully: 'Devil take them! What am  I doing fussing like a
fool?...', he spumed them aside with his foot and stopped looking at them.
     The rider's state of mind was  terrible. It was becoming clear that his
visit to the house of sorrow had left the deepest mark on him. Riukhin tried
to understand what was tormenting  him. The corridor with blue lights, which
had  stuck  itself  to  his memory?  The  thought that  there  is no greater
misfortune in  the world than the loss of reason? Yes, yes, of course, that,
too. But that - that's only a general thought. There's  something else. What
is it? An insult, that's what. Yes, yes, insulting words hurled right in his
face by Homeless. And the trouble is not that they were insulting,  but that
there was truth in them.
     The poet no longer looked  around, but, staring into the dirty, shaking
floor, began muttering something, whining, gnawing at himself.
     Yes, poetry... He was thirty-two years old! And, indeed, what  then? So
then he  would  go  on writing his several poems a year. Into old  age? Yes,
into old age. What would these poems bring him? Glory? 'What nonsense! Don't
deceive  yourself, at least. Glory will never come to someone who writes bad
poems.  What makes  them bad? The truth, he was telling the truth!'  Riukhin
addressed himself mercilessly. 'I don't believe in anything I write!...'
     Poisoned  by this  burst of  neurasthenia, the poet swayed,  the  floor
under him stopped shaking. Riukhin raised his head  and saw that he had long
been in Moscow,  and, what's more,  that  it was dawn over  Moscow, that the
cloud was underlit with gold, that his truck had stopped, caught in a column
of other  vehicles at the turn  on  to the boulevard, and that very close to
him on a pedestal stood a metal man [4], his head inclined  slightly, gazing
at the boulevard with indifference.
     Some strange thoughts flooded  the head of the ailing poet. 'There's an
example of real luck...' Here Riukhin rose to his full height on the flatbed
of the truck and raised his arm, for some reason attacking the cast-iron man
who was not bothering anyone.  'Whatever step  he made in his life, whatever
happened to him, it all turned to his benefit, it all led to his  glory! But
what did he do? I can't  conceive... Is there anything special in the words:
"The snowstorm covers..."? I don't understand!...
     Luck, sheer  luck!'  Riukhin concluded  with venom, and  felt the truck
moving under him. `He shot him,  that white guard shot him, smashed his hip,
and assured his immortality...'
     The column began  to move. In no more than two minutes, the  completely
ill and  even aged poet was entering the veranda of Griboedov's.  It was now
empty. In a corner some company was finishing its drinks, and  in the middle
the familiar master  of  ceremonies was bustling  about, wearing a skullcap,
with a glass of Abrau wine in his hand.
     Riukhin,  laden   with  napkins,   was   met   affably   by   Archibald
Archibaldovich  and at once  relieved of  the  cursed  rags. Had Riukhin not
become so worn  out in the clinic and on the  truck, he would certainly have
derived pleasure  from telling  how everything had  gone in the hospital and
embellishing the story with invented details. But just  then he was far from
such  things, and,  little observant though  Riukhin  was,  now,  after  the
torture on the truck, he peered keenly at the pirate for the first time  and
realized  that,  though the  man asked  about  Homeless  and even  exclaimed
'Ai-yai-yai!', he was essentially quite  indifferent to Homeless's fate  and
did not feel a bit sorry for him.
     'And   bravo!  Right   you  are!'   Riukhin   thought   with   cynical,
self-annihilating  malice   and,  breaking   off   the   story   about   the
schizophrenia, begged:
     `Archibald  Archibaldovich,  a  drop of  vodka...'  The pirate  made  a
compassionate face and whispered:
     'I  understand...  this very  minute...' and  beckoned  to a waiter.  A
quarter of an hour later, Riukhin sat in complete solitude, hunched over his
bream, drinking glass after glass, understanding and recognizing that it was
no longer  possible  to  set anything right in his  life,  that it was  only
possible to forget.
     The  poet  had wasted  his night  while  others were feasting  and  now
understood that it was impossible to  get it  back. One needed only to raise
one's  head from the lamp  to  the  sky  to  understand that  the night  was
irretrievably lost. Waiters were hurriedly tearing the tablecloths from  the
tables. The  cats  slinking  around  the  veranda  had  a morning  look. Day
irresistibly heaved itself upon the poet.

     If Styopa Likhodeev had been  told the next morning: 'Styopa! You'll be
shot  if  you don't  get up  this  minute!' - Styopa would have replied in a
languid, barely audible voice:
     'Shoot me, do what you like with me, I won't get up.'
     Not only not get up,  it seemed to him that he could not open his eyes,
because  if he were to  do so,  there would be a flash of lightning, and his
head would at  once be blown  to pieces.  A heavy bell  was booming in  that
head, brown  spots rimmed with fiery green floated  between his eyeballs and
his closed eyelids, and to crown  it all he was nauseous, this nausea, as it
seemed  to  him,  being  connected  with  the  sounds  of  some  importunate
     Styopa tried to recall something, but only one thing would get recalled
- that yesterday, apparently, and in some unknown place, he had stood with a
napkin in his hand and tried to kiss  some lady, promising her that the next
day, and exactly at noon, he would come to visit her. The lady had declined,
saying: 'No, no, I won't be home!', but Styopa had stubbornly insisted: 'And
I'll just up and come anyway!'
     Who the lady  was, and what time it was now, what  day,  of what month,
Styopa decidedly did not know,  and,  worst of  all, he could not figure out
where  he was. He attempted to  learn  this last at  least, and to  that end
unstuck the stuck-together  lids of his left eye. Something gleamed dully in
the  semi-darkness. Styopa  finally recognized  the pier-glass  and realized
that he was lying  on his  back  in his own  bed  - that is, the  jeweller's
wife's former  bed  -  in the bedroom. Here he felt such a  throbbing in his
head that he closed his eyes and moaned.
     Let us  explain: Styopa Likhodeev, director of the Variety Theatre, had
come to  his senses that morning at  home,  in  the very  apartment which he
shared with the  late Berlioz, in a  big, six-storeyed, U-shaped building on
Sadovaya Street.
     It must  be said that  this apartment - no.50 - had long  had, if not a
bad, at least a  strange reputation. Two  years ago it had still belonged to
the widow  of  the  jeweller de  Fougeray. Anna  Frantsevna de  Fougeray,  a
respectable and  very practical fifty-year-old woman, let out  three  of the
five rooms to  lodgers: one  whose  last  name  was apparently  Belomut, and
another with a lost last name.
     And then  two  years ago  inexplicable  events began  to  occur in this
apartment: people  began  to disappear [1]  from this  apartment  without  a
     Once,  on  a  day off, a policeman came to the  apartment,  called  the
second lodger (the one whose last name  got lost) out to the front hall, and
said  he was invited  to come to the police station for a  minute to put his
signature to  something. The lodger told Anfisa, Anna Frantsevna's long-time
and devoted housekeeper,  to say, in case he received any  telephone  calls,
that  he would be back in ten  minutes, and left together  with the  proper,
white-gloved policeman. He  not  only  did not come back in ten minutes, but
never  came back at  all. The most surprising  thing was that  the policeman
evidently vanished along with him.
     The  pious,  or, to speak  more  frankly, superstitious Anfisa declared
outright to the very upset Anna Frantsevna that it was sorcery  and that she
knew perfectly  well who had stolen both the lodger and the policeman,  only
she did not wish to talk about it towards night-time.
     Well, but with  sorcery, as everyone knows, once it starts,  there's no
stopping  it. The  second  lodger is remembered to  have  disappeared  on  a
Monday, and  that Wednesday Belomut seemed to drop from sight, though, true,
under different circumstances. In the  morning a car came, as usual, to take
him to work, and it did take him to  work, but it  did not bring anyone back
or come again itself.
     Madame  Belomut's  grief  and  horror  defied description.  But,  alas,
neither  the  one  nor the other continued for  long. That  same  night,  on
returning with Anfisa from her dacha, which Anna Frantsevna  had hurried off
to  for some reason,  she did not  find the  wife of citizen  Belomut in the
apartment.  And not only that:  the doors of the two rooms  occupied  by the
Belomut couple turned out to be sealed.
     Two days passed somehow. On the third  day,  Anna Frantsevna,  who  had
suffered all the while  from insomnia, again left hurriedly for her dacha...
Needless to say, she never came back!
     Left  alone,  Anfisa,  having wept her  fill,  went to  sleep past  one
o'clock in the morning. What  happened to her after  that  is not known, but
lodgers in other apartments told of hearing some sort of  knocking all night
in no.50 and of seeing electric light burning in the windows till morning.
     In the morning it turned out that there was also no Anfisa!
     For a long time all sorts of legends  were repeated in the  house about
these  disappearances  and  about  the  accursed  apartment,  such  as,  for
instance, 'that  this dry and pious little Anfisa had supposedly carried  on
her dried-up breast, in a suede  bag,  twenty-five big diamonds belonging to
Anna Frantsevna.  That  in  the woodshed  of  that  very dacha to which Anna
Frantsevna had gone so hurriedly, there supposedly turned up, of themselves,
some  inestimable treasures in the form of  those same  diamonds,  plus some
gold  coins of tsarist minting... And so on, in the same vein. Well, what we
don't know, we can't vouch for.
     However it may have been, the apartment stood empty and sealed for only
a week. Then the late Berlioz moved in  with his wife, and this same Styopa,
also with his wife. It was perfectly natural that, as soon as they got  into
the malignant  apartment,  devil  knows what started happening with them  as
well! Namely, within the space of a month both wives vanished. But these two
not without a trace. Of  Berlioz's wife it was told that  she had supposedly
been seen in Kharkov with some ballet-master, while Styopa's  wife allegedly
turned up on Bozhedomka Street, where  wagging  tongues said the director of
the Variety, using his innumerable acquaintances, had contrived to get her a
room, but on the one condition that she never show her face on Sadovaya...
     And so, Styopa moaned. He wanted to call the housekeeper Grunya and ask
her for aspirin, but was still able to realize that it was foolish, and that
Grunya,  of  course,  had  no aspirin.  He tried to  call Berlioz for  help,
groaned twice: 'Misha... Misha...', but, as you will understand, received no
reply. The apartment was perfectly silent.
     Moving his toes, Styopa realized that he was  lying there in his socks,
passed his  trembling  hand  down  his hip  to determine whether he  had his
trousers on or not, but  failed. Finally, seeing  that  he was abandoned and
alone, and  there was  no one to  help  him, he  decided to get up,  however
inhuman the effort it cost him.
     Styopa unstuck  his  glued  eyelids  and  saw  himself reflected in the
pier-glass as a man with hair sticking out in all directions, with a bloated
physiognomy  covered with black  stubble, with puffy  eyes,  a dirty  shirt,
collar and necktie, in drawers and socks.
     So he saw himself  in the pier-glass, and next to the mirror he  saw an
unknown man, dressed in black and wearing a black beret.
     Styopa sat up in bed and goggled his bloodshot eyes as well as he could
at the unknown man. The silence was broken by this unknown  man, who said in
a low, heavy voice, and with a foreign accent, the following words:
     'Good morning, my most sympathetic Stepan Bogdanovich!'
     There  was  a  pause,  after  which,  making a  most terrible strain on
himself, Styopa uttered:
     "What  can  I do  for  you?' - and was amazed, not recognizing his  own
voice. He spoke the word 'what'  in a treble, 'can I' in a bass, and his 'do
for you' did not come off at all.
     The stranger smiled amicably,  took out a big gold watch with a diamond
triangle on the lid, rang eleven times, and said:
     'Eleven. And for  exactly an hour I've been waiting for you to wake up,
since you made  an appointment for me  to come to your place  at ten. Here I
     Styopa felt for his trousers on the chair beside his bed, whispered:
     'Excuse me...', put them on,  and asked hoarsely:  'Tell me your  name,
     He had difficulty speaking. At each  word, someone stuck  a needle into
his brain, causing infernal pain.
     'What! You've forgotten my name, too?' Here the unknown man smiled.
     `Forgive me...' Styopa croaked, feeling that his hangover had presented
him with a new symptom: it seemed to  him that the floor beside his bed went
away, and that at  any moment he would go flying down to  the devil's dam in
the nether world.
     `My  dear Stepan  Bogdanovich,' the  visitor said, with a perspicacious
smile, 'no aspirin will help  you. Follow the wise old rule - cure like with
like. The only thing  that  will bring you back to life  is  two glasses  of
vodka with something pickled and hot to go with it.'
     Styopa was a shrewd man and, sick as he was, realized that since he had
been found in this state, he would have to confess everything.
     `Frankly  speaking,'  he began, his  tongue barely moving, 'yesterday I
got a bit...'
     'Not a word more!' the visitor answered and drew aside with his  chair.
Styopa, rolling his eyes, saw  that a tray had been set on a small table, on
which tray there  were sliced white bread,  pressed caviar in a little bowl,
pickled mushrooms on a dish, something in a saucepan, and, finally, vodka in
a roomy  decanter  belonging to  the jeweller's  wife.  What  struck  Styopa
especially was that the decanter  was  frosty with cold.  This, however, was
understandable: it  was sitting in a  bowl packed with  ice.  In  short, the
service was neat, efficient.
     The stranger  did  not allow  Styopa's amazement to develop to a morbid
degree, but deftly poured him half a glass of vodka.
     'And you?' Styopa squeaked.
     'With pleasure!'
     His hand twitching,  Styopa brought the  glass to  his  lips, while the
stranger swallowed the contents of his glass at one  gulp. Chewing a lump of
caviar, Styopa squeezed out of himself the words:
     'And you... a bite of something?'
     `Much obliged,  but  I never snack,' the  stranger replied  and  poured
seconds. The saucepan was opened and found to contain frankfurters in tomato
     And then the accursed  green haze before his eyes dissolved, the  words
began to come out clearly, and, above all, Styopa remembered a thing or two.
Namely, that it had  taken place yesterday in Skhodnya, at the dacha of  the
sketch-writer  Khustov, to which  this same Khustov had  taken  Styopa in  a
taxi. There was even a memory of having hired this taxi by the Metropol, and
there was also some  actor, or not an actor... with a gramophone in a little
suitcase. Yes, yes, yes, it was at the dacha! The  dogs,  he remembered, had
howled  from  this  gramophone.  Only  the lady  Styopa  had wanted  to kiss
remained unexplained... devil knows who she was...  maybe  she was in radio,
maybe not...
     The previous day was thus coming gradually  into  focus,  but right now
Styopa  was  much more  interested  in today's day and, particularly, in the
appearance  in his bedroom  of a stranger, and with hors d'oeuvres and vodka
to boot. It would be nice to explain that!
     'Well, I hope by now you've remembered my name?'
     But Styopa only smiled bashfully and spread his arms.
     'Really!  I get the feeling that you followed the vodka with port wine!
Good heavens, it simply isn't done!'
     'I beg you to keep it between us,' Styopa said fawningly.
     'Oh, of course, of course! But as for Khustov, needless to say, I can't
vouch for him.'
     'So you know Khustov?'
     "Yesterday, in your office, I saw  this individuum briefly, but it only
takes  a fleeting glance at his  face  to understand that he is a bastard, a
squabbler, a trimmer and a toady.'
     `Perfectly  true!' thought Styopa, struck  by  such a true, precise and
succinct definition of Khustov.
     Yes,  the  previous day was  piecing  itself  together, but,  even  so,
anxiety would  not  take leave of the director of the Variety. The thing was
that  a  huge  black hole yawned in this  previous  day.  Say what you will,
Styopa  simply  had not  seen this  stranger  in the  beret  in  his  office
     'Professor  of black magic  Woland,'[3]  the  visitor  said  weightily,
seeing Styopa's difficulty, and he recounted everything in order.
     Yesterday afternoon he arrived in Moscow from abroad,  went immediately
to Styopa, and offered his show to the Variety. Styopa telephoned the Moscow
Regional  Entertainment  Commission and  had the  question  approved (Styopa
turned  pale and blinked), then signed a contract  with Professor Woland for
seven performances  (Styopa  opened his mouth),  and  arranged  that  Woland
should come the next morning at ten o'clock to work out the details...
     And so Woland came. Having come, he  was met by the housekeeper Grunya,
who explained  that she had just  come  herself, that  she was not a live-in
maid, that Berlioz  was not home, and  that if  the  visitor  wished  to see
Stepan Bogdanovich,  he should go to his bedroom himself. Stepan Bogdanovich
was such a sound sleeper that she would not undertake to wake him up. Seeing
what  condition  Stepan Bogdanovich was in, the  artiste sent  Grunya to the
nearest  grocery  store for vodka and hors d'oeuvres, to the  druggist's for
ice, and...
     `Allow me  to reimburse  you,' the mortified Styopa  squealed and began
hunting for his wallet.
     'Oh,  what nonsense!' the guest  performer  exclaimed and would hear no
more of it.
     And  so, the vodka and hors d'oeuvres got explained,  but all the  same
Styopa was a pity to see: he remembered decidedly nothing about the contract
and, on his life, had  not seen this Woland yesterday. Yes, Khustov had been
there, but not Woland.
     'May I have a look at the contract?' Styopa asked quietly.
     'Please do, please do...'
     Styopa looked at the paper and froze. Everything was in place: first of
all, Styopa's own dashing  signature... aslant the margin a note in the hand
of  the  findirector  [4] Rimsky  authorizing  the payment of  ten  thousand
roubles to the artiste Woland, as  an advance  on the  thirty-five  thousand
roubles due him for seven performances. What's more, Woland's  signature was
right there attesting to his receipt of the ten thousand!
     `What is all this?!'  the wretched  Styopa  thought, his head spinning.
Was  he  starting to  have ominous gaps  of  memory? Well, it  went  without
saying,  once  the contract had  been produced, any further  expressions  of
surprise  would  simply  be  indecent. Styopa asked  his  visitor's leave to
absent himself for a  moment and, just as he was,  in his stocking feet, ran
to  the  front  hall for the telephone.  On  his way he  called  out in  the
direction of the kitchen:
     But no one responded. He glanced at the door  to Berlioz's study, which
was next to the front hall, and here  he was, as they say, flabbergasted. On
the door-handle he made out an enormous wax seal [5] on a string.
     'Hel-lo!' someone barked in Styopa's head. 'Just  what we  needed!' And
here  Styopa's thoughts began running on twin tracks, but, as always happens
in times of catastrophe, in the  same  direction and, generally, devil knows
where. It is  even  difficult to convey  the porridge in Styopa's head. Here
was this devilry with the black beret, the chilled vodka, and the incredible
contract...  And along with all that, if you  please, a seal on the  door as
well! That is, tell anyone you like that Berlioz has been up to no good - no
one will believe  it, by Jove, no one will believe it! Yet look, there's the
seal! Yes, sir...
     And here  some  most  disagreeable  little  thoughts  began stirring in
Styopa's  brain, about  the article which,  as luck  would have it,  he  had
recently inflicted on Mikhail Alexandrovich for publication in his journal.
     The article, just between us, was idiotic! And worthless. And the money
was so little...
     Immediately after the recollection  of the article, there came flying a
recollection of some dubious conversation that had taken place, he recalled,
on the twenty-fourth of April,  in the  evening, right  there in the  dining
room, while Styopa was having dinner with Mikhail Alexandrovich. That is, of
course, this conversation could not have  been  called  dubious in the  full
sense of the word (Styopa would not have ventured upon such a conversation),
but  it was on  some  unnecessary  subject.  He had been  quite  free,  dear
citizens, not  to  begin  it.  Before  the  seal,  this  conversation  would
undoubtedly  have been  considered  a  perfect  trifle,  but now, after  the
     'Ah, Berlioz, Berlioz!' boiled up  in Styopa's head. This is simply too
much for one head!'
     But it would not do to  grieve too  long, and Styopa dialled the number
of the office of  the  Variety's findirector, Rimsky. Styopa's  position was
ticklish: first, the foreigner might get offended that Styopa  was  checking
on  him after the contract  had  been  shown,  and  then  to talk  with  the
findirector was also exceedingly difficult.  Indeed,  he could not just  ask
him like that:
     `Tell  me,  did  I sign a  contract for  thirty-five  thousand  roubles
yesterday with a professor of black magic?' It was no good asking like that!
     'Yes!' Rimsky's sharp, unpleasant voice came from the receiver.
     'Hello,  Grigory  Danilovich,'  Styopa began  speaking  quietly,  'it's
Likhodeev. There's  a certain  matter... hm...  hm... I  have  this... er...
artiste Woland sitting here... So you see... I wanted to ask, how about this
     'Ah, the black magician?' Rimsky's voice responded in the receiver. The
posters will be ready shortly.'
     'Uh-huh...' Styopa said in a weak voice, 'well, 'bye...'
     'And you'll be coming in soon?' Rimsky asked.
     'In half an hour,' Styopa replied and, hanging up the receiver, pressed
his  hot  head in his hands. Ah, what a nasty thing to have happen! What was
wrong with his memory, citizens? Eh?
     However, to  go on  lingering in the front hall was awkward, and Styopa
formed  a  plan  straight  away:  by  all  means  to conceal his  incredible
forgetfulness, and now,  first  off, contrive  to  get out of the  foreigner
what, in fact,  he  intended to show that evening in  the  Variety, of which
Styopa was in charge.
     Here  Styopa turned away from the  telephone and saw distinctly  in the
mirror that stood in the front hall, and which the lazy Grunya had not wiped
for ages, a certain strange specimen,  long  as  a  pole, and in a pince-nez
(ah, if only Ivan Nikolaevich had been there!  He would have recognized this
specimen at  once!). The figure was  reflected and then disappeared.  Styopa
looked further down  the hall in alarm and was rocked a second time,  for in
the mirror a stalwart black cat passed and also disappeared.
     Styopa's heart skipped a beat, he staggered.
     'What is  all this?' he thought. 'Am  I losing my mind? Where are these
reflections  coming  from?!'  He  peeked  into  the  front  hall  and  cried
     'Grunya! What's this cat  doing hanging around here?! Where did he come
from? And the other one?!'
     'Don't worry, Stepan Bogdanovich,' a voice  responded, not Grunya's but
the visitor's,  from the  bedroom. The  cat  is mine. Don't  be nervous. And
Grunya is not here, I  sent her off to Voronezh.  She complained you diddled
her out of a vacation.'
     These words were so unexpected and preposterous that  Styopa decided he
had not heard  right. Utterly bewildered, he trotted back to the bedroom and
froze on the threshold. His hair stood on end and small beads of sweat broke
out on his brow.
     The visitor was no longer alone in the bedroom, but had company: in the
second armchair sat the same type he had imagined in  the front hall. Now he
was  clearly  visible: the  feathery  moustache,  one  lens of the pince-nez
gleaming, the  other  not there. But worse  things  were to be  found in the
bedroom: on the jeweller's wife's ottoman,  in  a casual  pose,  sprawled  a
third party - namely, a black cat of uncanny size, with a  glass of vodka in
one paw and a fork, on which  he had managed to spear a pickled mushroom, in
the other.
     The light, faint in the bedroom anyway, now began to grow quite dark in
Styopa's  eyes. This is  apparently how one loses one's mind...' he  thought
and caught hold of the doorpost.
     `I see you're somewhat surprised, my dearest Stepan Bogdanovich?'
     Woland  inquired  of  the  teeth-chattering  Styopa.  `And yet  there's
nothing to be surprised at. This is my retinue.'
     Here  the  cat tossed off  the vodka, and Styopa's hand began to  slide
down the doorpost.
     'And  this  retinue requires room,' Woland continued,  'so there's just
one too many of us in  the apartment. And it seems to  us that this  one too
many is precisely you.'
     Theirself, theirself!' the long  checkered one sang in  a goat's voice,
referring to Styopa in the plural. 'Generally, theirself has been up to some
terrible swinishness lately. Drinking, using their position to have liaisons
with  women,  don't  do  devil a thing, and can't do  anything, because they
don't know anything of  what they're supposed to  do.  Pulling the wool over
their superiors' eyes.'
     `Availing hisself  of a government car!' the  cat  snitched, chewing  a
     And here  occurred the  fourth and last appearance in the apartment, as
Styopa, having slid all the way to the floor, clawed at the doorpost with an
enfeebled hand.
     Straight  from  the  pier-glass stepped  a  short  but  extraordinarily
broad-shouldered man, with a bowler hat  on his head and a fang sticking out
of  his  mouth,  which  made  still  uglier  a  physiognomy  unprecedentedly
loathsome without that. And with flaming red hair besides.
     'Generally,'  this  new  one  entered into  the  conversation, `I don't
understand  how he got to  be  a  director,' the redhead's  nasal twang  was
growing stronger and stronger, 'he's as much a director as I'm a bishop.'
     "You don't look like a bishop, Azazello,'[6] the cat observed,  heaping
his plate with frankfurters.
     That's what I  mean,'  twanged the redhead  and,  turning to Woland, he
added deferentially:
     'Allow me, Messire, to chuck him the devil out of Moscow?'
     'Scat!' the cat barked suddenly, bristling his fur.
     And  then the  bedroom  started spinning around Styopa, he hit his head
against the doorpost, and, losing consciousness, thought: 'I'm dying...'
     But he did  not  die. Opening his eyes slightly, he saw himself sitting
on  something made of stone. Around him something  was making noise. When he
opened his eyes properly, he realized that the noise  was being made by  the
sea and, what's more, that the  waves were rocking just at his feet, that he
was, in  short, sitting  at  the very end of  a  jetty, that over him was  a
brilliant blue sky and behind him a white city on the mountains.
     Not  knowing how to  behave  in such  a case,  Styopa  got  up  on  his
trembling legs and walked along the jetty towards the shore.
     Some man was standing on the jetty, smoking and spitting into the sea.
     He looked at Styopa with wild eyes and stopped spitting.
     Then  Styopa pulled  the following  stunt: he  knelt  down  before  the
unknown smoker and said:
     'I implore you, tell me what city is this?'
     "Really!' said the heartless smoker.
     'I'm  not drunk,' Styopa  replied  hoarsely,  'something's happened  to
me... I'm ill... Where am I? What city is this?'
     "Well, it's Yalta...'
     Styopa quietly gasped and sank down on his side, his  head striking the
warm stone of the jetty. Consciousness left him.

     At the same  time  that  consciousness left Styopa in Yalta,  that  is,
around  half  past eleven  in the morning, it returned  to  Ivan Nikolaevich
Homeless,  who woke up after a  long and  deep  sleep.  He spent  some  time
pondering how it was that he had wound  up in an  unfamiliar room with white
walls, with an astonishing  night table made of some light  metal, and  with
white blinds behind which one could sense the sun.
     Ivan shook  his head, ascertained that it did  not ache, and remembered
that  he was  in  a  clinic. This  thought drew after  it the remembrance of
Berlioz's death, but today it did not provoke a strong shock in Ivan. Having
had a good  sleep, Ivan Nikolaevich  became calmer  and began to think  more
clearly. After lying motionless for  some time in this most clean, soft  and
comfortable spring bed, Ivan noticed a bell  button beside him. From a habit
of touching things needlessly, Ivan pressed  it. He expected the pressing of
the  button to  be followed by  some  ringing  or appearance, but  something
entirely different happened. A frosted glass  cylinder with the word 'Drink'
on  it  lit up at the  foot  of Ivan's bed.  After pausing for a  while, the
cylinder began to  rotate until the word `Nurse' popped out. It goes without
saying that  the clever cylinder amazed Ivan. The word 'Nurse' was  replaced
by the words 'Call the Doctor.'
     'Hm...'  said  Ivan, not  knowing  how  to proceed  further  with  this
cylinder. But here he happened to be lucky. Ivan pressed the button a second
time  at  the  word  'Attendant'.  The cylinder  rang  quietly in  response,
stopped, the light went out, and a plump, sympathetic woman in a clean white
coat came into the room and said to Ivan:
     'Good morning!'
     Ivan did not reply, considering such a greeting inappropriate under the
circumstances. Indeed, they lock up a healthy man in  a  clinic, and pretend
that that is how it ought to be!
     The  woman  meanwhile,  without  losing  her  good-natured  expression,
brought  the  blinds up with one push of a button, and sun flooded  the room
through a light and wide-meshed grille which reached right to the floor.
     Beyond the grille a balcony came into  view, beyond that  the bank of a
meandering river, and on its other bank a cheerful pine wood.
     'Time for our bath,' the woman invited, and  under  her hands the inner
wall parted, revealing behind it a bathroom and splendidly equipped toilet.
     Ivan, though he had resolved not  to talk to the woman,  could not help
himself and, on seeing the water gush into the tub in a wide stream from the
gleaming faucet, said ironically:
     'Looky there! Just like the Metropol!...'
     'Oh, no,' the woman answered  proudly, `much  better. There is  no such
equipment  even anywhere abroad. Scientists and  doctors come especially  to
study our clinic. We have foreign tourists every day.'
     At  the words  'foreign  tourists', Ivan at once remembered yesterday's
consultant. Ivan darkened, looked sullen, and said:
     `Foreign  tourists... How you all  adore foreign  tourists!  But  among
them,  incidentally, you come  across  all  sorts. I, for instance, met  one
yesterday - quite something!'
     And he  almost started telling  about  Pontius Pilate,  but  restrained
himself, realizing that the woman had no use for these stories, that in  any
case she could not help him.
     The  washed  Ivan  Nikolaevich   was  straight  away  issued  decidedly
everything a man needs after  a bath: an ironed shirt,  drawers,  socks. And
not only that: opening the  door of a cupboard, the woman pointed inside and
     'What would you like to put on - a dressing gown or some nice pyjamas?'
     Attached to his new dwelling by force, Ivan almost clasped his hands at
the  woman's casualness  and  silently  pointed  his  finger at the  crimson
flannel pyjamas.
     After  this, Ivan  Nikolaevich was  led  down the empty  and  noiseless
corridor  and brought to an examining room of huge dimensions.  Ivan, having
decided  to take an ironic attitude  towards everything  to be found in this
wondrously  equipped building,  at  once  mentally christened this room  the
'industrial kitchen'.
     And with good reason. Here stood cabinets and glass cases with gleaming
nickel-plated  instruments.  There were  chairs of  extraordinarily  complex
construction, some pot-bellied lamps with shiny shades, a myriad  of phials,
Bunsen burners, electric cords and appliances quite unknown to anyone.
     In the examining room Ivan was  taken over by three persons - two women
and  a man - all in white. First,  they led Ivan to  a  corner,  to a little
table, with the obvious purpose of getting something or other out of him.
     Ivan began to ponder  the situation. Three  ways stood before  him. The
first  was  extremely  tempting:  to hurl  himself  at  all these lamps  and
sophisticated little things, make the devil's own wreck of them, and thereby
express his protest at being detained for nothing. But today's Ivan  already
differed  significantly from  the  Ivan  of yesterday,  and  this  first way
appeared dubious to him: for all  he knew, the thought  might get  rooted in
them that he  was a violent madman.  Therefore Ivan  rejected the first way.
There  was a second: immediately to begin his account of the  consultant and
Pontius  Pilate.  However,  yesterday's experience  showed  that  this story
either  was  not  believed  or was taken somehow perversely. Therefore  Ivan
renounced this  second way  as  well,  deciding  to choose  the third  way -
withdrawal into proud silence.
     He  did not succeed  in  realizing  it  fully,  and had  willy-nilly to
answer, though charily and  glumly, a  whole series of questions.  Thus they
got out of Ivan decidedly everything about his  past life, down to when  and
how  he had fallen ill with scarlet  fever fifteen  years ago. A whole  page
having been covered  with writing  about  Ivan, it was  turned over, and the
woman in white went on  to  questions about  Ivan's relatives. Some  sort of
humdrum started: who died when and why, and whether he drank or had venereal
disease, and more of  the  same. In  conclusion he  was  asked to tell about
yesterday's events at the Patriarch's Ponds, but they did not pester him too
much, and were not surprised at the information about Pontius Pilate.
     Here  the woman yielded  Ivan up  to the man, who  went to  work on him
differently and no longer asked any questions.  He took  the temperature  of
Ivan's body, counted his pulse, looked  in Ivan's  eyes, directing some sort
of lamp into them. Then the  second woman came to the  man's assistance, and
they pricked Ivan in the back with something,  but not painfully,  drew some
signs on the skin of  his chest with the handle of a little  hammer,  tapped
his  knees with the hammer, which made Ivan's legs jump,  pricked his finger
and took his  blood, pricked  him  inside  his bent  elbow,  put some rubber
bracelets on his arms...
     Ivan just smiled bitterly  to himself and reflected on how stupidly and
strangely it had all happened. Just think! He had wanted to warn them all of
the  danger threatening from  the unknown consultant, had intended to  catch
him, and all he had achieved was to wind up in some mysterious room, telling
all sorts of  hogwash about Uncle Fyodor, who had done some hard drinking in
Vologda. Insufferably stupid!
     Finally Ivan was released. He was  escorted  back to his room, where he
was given a cup of coffee, two soft-boiled eggs and white bread with butter.
     Having eaten and drunk all  that was offered him, Ivan  decided to wait
for whoever  was chief of this institution, and  from this chief  to  obtain
both attention for himself and justice.
     And he did come, and very soon  after  Ivan's breakfast.  Unexpectedly,
the door of Ivan's room opened, and in came a lot of people in white coats.
     At their head walked a man of about forty-five, as  carefully shaven as
an actor, with  pleasant but quite  piercing eyes and courteous manners. The
whole retinue showed him tokens of attention  and respect,  and his entrance
therefore came out  very solemn. 'Like Pontius  Pilate!' thought  Ivan. Yes,
this  was unquestionably the chief. He sat  down on  a stool, while everyone
else remained standing.
     'Doctor Stravinsky,' the seated man introduced himself to Ivan and gave
him a friendly look.
     'Here, Alexander  Nikolaevich,' someone with a trim beard said in a low
voice, and handed the chief Ivan's chart, all covered with writing.
     They've sewn up a whole case!' Ivan thought. And the chief ran  through
the chart with a practised eye, muttered 'Mm-hm, mm-hm...', and exchanged  a
few phrases with those around him in a little-known language. 'And he speaks
Latin like Pilate,' Ivan thought sadly. Here one word made  him jump; it was
the  word 'schizophrenia' - alas, already  uttered  yesterday by  the cursed
foreigner  at  the  Patriarch's Ponds, and  now repeated today by  Professor
Stravinsky. 'And he knew that, too!' Ivan thought anxiously.
     The chief  apparently made it a rule to  agree  with  and rejoice  over
everything said to him  by  those  around him, and  to express this with the
words 'Very nice, very nice...'
     'Very nice!' said Stravinsky, handing the chart back to someone, and he
addressed Ivan:
     'You are a poet?'
     `A  poet,' Ivan replied glumly, and for  the first  time  suddenly felt
some inexplicable loathing for poetry, and his own verses, coming to mind at
once, seemed to him for some reason distasteful.
     Wrinkling his face, he asked Stravinsky in turn:
     'You are a professor?'
     To this, Stravinsky, with obliging courtesy, inclined his head.
     'And you're the chief here?' Ivan continued.
     Stravinsky nodded to this as well.
     'I must speak with you,' Ivan Nikolaevich said meaningly.
     That is what I'm here for,' returned Stravinsky.
     'The thing  is,' Ivan began, feeling his hour had come, `that I've been
got up as a madman, and nobody wants to listen to me!...'
     'Oh,  no, we shall hear you out  with great attention,' Stravinsky said
seriously and  soothingly,  'and by  no means allow you to  be  got up  as a
     'Listen, then: yesterday  evening  I  met  a  mysterious person at  the
Patriarch's Ponds, maybe a foreigner, maybe not, who  knew  beforehand about
Berlioz's death and has seen Pontius Pilate in person.'
     The retinue listened to the poet silently and without stirring.
     'Pilate? The Pilate who lived  in the time of Jesus Christ?' Stravinsky
asked, narrowing his eyes at Ivan.
     "The same.'
     'Aha,' said Stravinsky, 'and this Berlioz died under a tram-car?'
     'Precisely,  he's the one who in my  presence was killed by a  tram-car
yesterday at the Ponds, and this same mysterious citizen...'
     The  acquaintance  of  Pontius  Pilate?' asked  Stravinsky,  apparently
distinguished by great mental alacrity.
     'Precisely him,' Ivan confirmed, studying Stravinsky. 'Well, so he said
beforehand  that Annushka had spilled  the  sunflower oil... And he  slipped
right  on that place! How do you like  that?'  Ivan  inquired significantly,
hoping to produce a great effect with his words.
     But  the effect did not  ensue, and Stravinsky  quite  simply asked the
following question:
     'And who is this Annushka?'
     This question upset Ivan a little; his face twitched.
     `Annushka is of absolutely no importance here,' he said nervously.
     "Devil knows who she is. Just some fool from Sadovaya. What's important
is that he knew beforehand, you see, beforehand, about the sunflower oil! Do
you understand me?'
     `Perfectly,' Stravinsky  replied  seriously  and, touching  the  poet's
knee, added: 'Don't get excited, just continue.'
     To continue,' said Ivan,  trying to fall in with Stravinsky's tone, and
knowing already from bitter experience  that only calm  would help him, 'so,
then, this horrible type (and he's  lying that he's a consultant)  has  some
extraordinary  power!...  For  instance,  you  chase  after  him  and   it's
impossible to catch up with him... And there's also a little pair with him -
good ones, too,  but in their  own way: some long one in broken glasses and,
besides him, a cat of incredible size who rides the tram all by himself. And
besides,' interrupted by  no one, Ivan went on talking  with ever increasing
ardour and  conviction,  `he  was personally  on Pontius  Pilate's  balcony,
there's  no  doubt of  it. So what  is all  this, eh?  He  must be  arrested
immediately, otherwise he'll do untold harm.'
     `So  you're  trying  to   get  him  arrested?  Have  I  understood  you
correctly?' asked Stravinsky.
     'He's  intelligent,'  thought Ivan.  "You've got to  admit, even  among
intellectuals you come across some of rare intelligence, there's  no denying
it,' and he replied:
     `Quite correctly!  And  how could I not  be trying,  just  consider for
yourself! And meanwhile I've been  forcibly detained  here, they  poke lamps
into my  eyes, give me baths,  question  me  for some  reason about my Uncle
Fedya!... And he  departed  this  world long ago!  I  demand to be  released
     'Well,  there,  very  nice,  very  nice!'  Stravinsky  responded.  'Now
everything's clear. Really, what's the sense  of keeping a healthy man in  a
clinic? Very well, sir, I'll check you out of here right now, if you tell me
you're normal. Not prove, but merely tell. So, then, are you normal?'
     Here  complete  silence fell, and the  fat  woman who had taken care of
Ivan  in the  morning  looked at the professor  with awe. Ivan  thought once
again: 'Positively intelligent!'
     The  professor's  offer pleased him very much, yet  before replying  he
thought very, very hard, wrinkling his forehead, and at last said firmly:
     'I am normal.'
     'Well,  how  very nice,'  Stravinsky exclaimed with relief, `and if so,
let's reason logically.  Let's take your day yesterday.'  Here he turned and
Ivan's chart was immediately handed to him. 'In search of an unknown man who
recommended himself as an acquaintance of  Pontius Pilate, you performed the
following  actions yesterday.'  Here  Stravinsky began holding  up  his long
fingers, glancing now at the chart, now at Ivan.  'You hung a little icon on
your chest. Did you?'
     'I did,' Ivan agreed sullenly.
     'You fell  off a  fence and  hurt  your  face. Right?  Showed  up  in a
restaurant  carrying  a burning  candle in  your hand,  in nothing  but your
underwear, and  in the restaurant you  beat somebody. You were  brought here
tied up. Having come  here, you called the police and asked them to send out
machine-guns. Then you attempted to throw yourself out the window. Right?
     The question is:  can  one, by acting  in such fashion, catch or arrest
     And if you're a normal man, you yourself will  answer: by no means. You
wish to leave here? Very well, sir. But allow me to ask, where are you going
to go?'
     'To  the  police, of course,' Ivan  replied,  no  longer so firmly, and
somewhat at a loss under the professor's gaze.
     'Straight from here?'
     'Without stopping at your place?' Stravinsky asked quickly.
     'I  have no time to stop anywhere! While I'm  stopping at places, he'll
slip away!'
     'So. And what will you tell the police to start with?'
     'About Pontius Pilate,' Ivan Nikolaevich replied, and his eyes  clouded
with a gloomy mist.
     'Well, how  very nice!' the won-over Stravinsky exclaimed and,  turning
to  the one with the  little  beard, ordered: 'Fyodor  Vassilyevich,  please
check  citizen Homeless out  for town. But  don't put  anyone in his room or
change the linen.  In  two  hours citizen  Homeless will  be back  here. So,
then,' he turned to  the  poet, 'I won't wish  you success, because I  don't
believe one  iota  in that  success.  See you  soon!' He  stood  up, and his
retinue stirred.
     'On what grounds will I be back here?' Ivan asked anxiously.
     Stravinsky was as  if waiting for this  question, immediately sat down,
and began to speak:
     `On  the grounds  that as  soon as you show up at the police station in
your  drawers  and tell  them  you've seen  a  man  who  knew Pontius Pilate
personally, you'll instantly be brought here, and you'll find yourself again
in this very same room.'
     'What  have drawers got to  do with it?' Ivan asked,  gazing around  in
     'It's mainly Pontius Pilate.  But  the drawers, too. Because we'll take
the  clinic underwear from you and give you back your  clothes. And you were
delivered here in your drawers.  And  yet you were by no means going to stop
at your place, though I dropped you a  hint. Then comes Pilate... and that's
     Here something strange happened with  Ivan Nikolaevich. His will seemed
to crack, and he felt himself weak, in need of advice.
     'What am I to do, then?' he asked, timidly this time.
     "Well, how very nice!' Stravinsky replied. 'A most reasonable question.
Now I am going to tell  you what actually happened to you. Yesterday someone
frightened you  badly and upset you with  a story  about Pontius Pilate  and
other things. And  so you, a very nervous and high-strung man, started going
around the city,  telling  about  Pontius  Pilate.  It's quite natural  that
you're  taken  for a  madman. Your salvation  now  lies  in just one thing -
complete peace. And you absolutely must remain here.'
     'But he has to be caught!' Ivan exclaimed, imploringly now.
     'Very good, sir, but why should you go running around yourself? Explain
all your suspicions and accusations against this man on paper. Nothing could
be simpler than to send your declaration to  the proper quarters, and if, as
you  think, we are  dealing with  a  criminal,  it  will  be  clarified very
quickly. But only on one condition: don't strain your head, and try to think
less about  Pontius  Pilate. People  say  all kinds of  things! One  mustn't
believe everything.'
     'Understood!'  Ivan declared  resolutely.  `I ask to  be given  pen and
     'Give him paper and a short  pencil,' Stravinsky ordered the fat woman,
and to Ivan he said: 'But I don't advise you to write today.'
     'No, no, today, today without fail!' Ivan cried out in alarm.
     'Well,  all right. Only  don't strain your head. If it doesn't come out
today, it will tomorrow.'
     'He'll escape.'
     'Oh, no,' Stravinsky objected confidently, 'he won't escape anywhere, I
guarantee  that. And remember  that  here with  us  you'll be helped in  all
possible  ways, and without  us nothing  will come  of  it. Do you hear me?'
Stravinsky suddenly asked meaningly and took Ivan Nikolaevich by both hands.
     Holding them in his own, he repeated for a long time, his eyes fixed on
     'You'll be helped here... do you  hear me?... You'll be helped  here...
you'll  get  relief... it's quiet  here, all  peaceful...  you'll be  helped
     Ivan  Nikolaevich unexpectedly  yawned, and  the expression on his face
     'Yes, yes,' he said quietly.
     'Well,  how  very nice!' Stravinsky concluded the  conversation  in his
usual way and stood up: 'Goodbye!' He shook Ivan's hand and, on his way out,
turned to  the one  with the little beard and  said: 'Yes, and try oxygen...
and baths.'
     A few moments later there was no Stravinsky or his retinue before Ivan.
     Beyond the window grille, in the noonday sun, the joyful and springtime
pine  wood stood  beautiful  on  the other bank  and,  closer by,  the river

     Nikanor Ivanovich Bosoy, chairman of the  tenants' association'  [1] of
no.302-bis on  Sadovaya Street in Moscow,  where  the late  Berlioz  used to
reside, had  been  having  the most terrible  troubles,  starting  from that
Wednesday night.
     At midnight, as we already know, a commission of which Zheldybin formed
a  part  came to the house, summoned  Nikanor Ivanovich, told him  about the
death of Berlioz, and together with him went to apartment no.50.
     There the sealing  of  the deceased's manuscripts  and  belongings  was
carried out. Neither  Grunya, the daytime housekeeper, nor  the light-minded
Stepan  Bogdanovich  was  there  at  the  time. The commission announced  to
Nikanor Ivanovich that it would take the deceased's manuscripts  for sorting
out, that his living space, that is, three rooms (the former  study,  living
room and dining  room of the jeweller's wife), reverted  to  the disposal of
the tenants' association, and that  the  belongings  were to  be kept in the
aforementioned living space until the heirs were announced.
     The news of Berlioz's death spread  through the whole house with a sort
of supernatural speed, and as of seven o'clock Thursday morning, Bosoy began
to  receive  telephone calls  and  then  personal  visits  with declarations
containing claims  to  the  deceased's  living  space. In  the period of two
hours, Nikanor Ivanovich received thirty-two such declarations.
     They  contained pleas, threats,  libels, denunciations,  promises to do
renovations at their own expense, references to unbearable overcrowding  and
the impossibility of living in the same apartment with bandits. Among others
there were  a description,  staggering  in its artistic  power, of the theft
from  apartment no. 51  of some  meat dumplings,  tucked directly  into  the
pocket of a suit jacket, two  vows to end life by suicide and one confession
of secret pregnancy.
     Nikanor Ivanovich was  called  out  to the front hall of his apartment,
plucked by the sleeve,  whispered to, winked at, promised that  he would not
be left the loser.
     This torture went on until noon, when Nikanor Ivanovich simply fled his
apartment for the management office by the  gate, but when he saw them lying
in  wait for  him there,  too,  he  fled that place as  well. Having somehow
shaken  off those  who  followed  on  his  heels  across  the  asphalt-paved
courtyard, Nikanor Ivanovich disappeared into the sixth entrance and went up
to the fifth floor, where this vile apartment no.50 was located.
     After  catching  his  breath  on  the  landing,  the  corpulent Nikanor
Ivanovich rang, but no one opened for him. He rang  again, and  then  again,
and started grumbling  and swearing  quietly. Even  then no  one opened. His
patience  exhausted,  Nikanor  Ivanovich  took from  his  pocket  a bunch of
duplicate keys belonging  to the house management,  opened  the  door with a
sovereign hand, and went in.
     'Hey,  housekeeper!'  Nikanor Ivanovich  cried in the  semi-dark  front
hall. 'Grunya, or whatever your name is! ... Are you here?'
     No one responded.
     Then Nikanor Ivanovich took a folding ruler from his briefcase, removed
the seal from  the door to the study,  and stepped in. Stepped in, yes,  but
halted in amazement in the doorway and even gave a start.
     At the deceased's desk sat an unknown, skinny, long citizen in a little
checkered jacket, a jockey's cap,  and a  pince-nez... well, in  short, that
same one.
     'And who might you be, citizen?' Nikanor Ivanovich asked fearfully.
     'Hah! Nikanor Ivanovich!' the unexpected  citizen yelled in a  rattling
tenor  and, jumping up,  greeted  the  chairman  with a  forced  and  sudden
handshake. This greeting by no means gladdened Nikanor Ivanovich.
     'Excuse me,' he said suspiciously,  'but who might  you  be? Are you an
official person?'
     'Eh, Nikanor Ivanovich!' the unknown man exclaimed soulfully. "What are
official and unofficial persons? It all depends on your point of view on the
subject. It's all fluctuating and relative, Nikanor Ivanovich. Today I'm  an
unofficial person, and  tomorrow, lo and behold, I'm an official one! And it
also happens the other way round - oh, how it does!'
     This argument in no way satisfied the chairman of the house management.
Being a generally suspicious person  by  nature, he concluded  that  the man
holding  forth  in  front of  him was  precisely  an  unofficial person, and
perhaps even an idle one.
     "Yes, but who might  you be? What's your  name?' the  chairman inquired
with increasing severity and even began to advance upon the unknown man.
     `My name,'  the citizen responded, not  a bit put out by  the severity,
'well,  let's  say it's  Koroviev. But wouldn't  you  like a  little  snack,
Nikanor Ivanovich? No formalities, eh?'
     `Excuse  me,'  Nikanor Ivanovich  began,  indignantly  now, `what  have
snacks got  to do  with it!' (We  must  confess, unpleasant  as it  is, that
Nikanor Ivanovich was of a somewhat rude nature.) 'Sitting in the deceased's
half is not permitted! What are you doing here?'
     `Have a  seat, Nikanor  Ivanovich,' the citizen went on yelling, not  a
bit at a loss, and began fussing about offering the chairman a seat.
     Utterly infuriated, Nikanor Ivanovich rejected the seat and screamed:
     'But who are you?'
     'I, if  you please, serve as interpreter for a  foreign  individual who
has taken  up residence in this apartment,' the man calling himself Koroviev
introduced himself and clicked the heels of his scuffed, unpolished shoes.
     Nikanor Ivanovich opened his mouth. The presence  of some  foreigner in
this apartment, with an interpreter to boot,  came as a complete surprise to
him, and he demanded explanations.
     The interpreter explained  willingly. A foreign artiste, Mr Woland, had
been  kindly invited  by the  director  of the  Variety, Stepan  Bogdanovich
Likhodeev, to spend  the time  of  his performances, a  week  or so,  in his
apartment,  about  which  he  had  written  to Nikanor  Ivanovich yesterday,
requesting that  he  register  the foreigner  as a temporary resident, while
Likhodeev himself took a trip to Yalta.
     'He never wrote me anything,' the chairman said in amazement.
     `Just  look  through   your  briefcase,  Nikanor  Ivanovich,'  Koroviev
suggested sweetly.
     Nikanor  Ivanovich,  shrugging his shoulders, opened the briefcase  and
found Likhodeev's letter in it.
     `How could  I  have forgotten  about it?'  Nikanor Ivanovich  muttered,
looking dully at the opened envelope.
     `All sorts of things happen,  Nikanor Ivanovich,  all  sorts!' Koroviev
rattled.  'Absent-mindedness,  absent-mindedness,  fatigue  and  high  blood
pressure,  my  dear  friend Nikanor  Ivanovich! I'm  terribly  absent-minded
myself! Someday, over a glass, I'll tell you a few facts from my biography -
you'll die laughing!'
     'And when is Likhodeev going to Yalta?'
     `He's  already  gone,  gone!'  the  interpreter  cried.  `He's  already
wheeling along,  you know!  He's already devil  knows  where!' And  here the
interpreter waved his arms like the wings of a windmill.
     Nikanor Ivanovich  declared that he  must see  the foreigner in person,
but got a refusal on that from the interpreter: quite impossible. He's busy.
Training the cat.
     'The cat I can show you, if you like,' Koroviev offered.
     This  Nikanor  Ivanovich  refused  in his  turn,  and  the  interpreter
straight  away  made  the  chairman  an  unexpected  but  quite  interesting
proposal: seeing that Mr Woland had no desire whatsoever to live in a hotel,
and was  accustomed to having a  lot of  space, why  shouldn't  the tenants'
association  rent  to  him, Woland, for one  little  week, the  time  of his
performances in Moscow,  the whole of the apartment, that is, the deceased's
rooms as well?
     'It's  all the same to him -  the deceased -  you  must  agree, Nikanor
Ivanovich,' Koroviev whispered hoarsely. 'He doesn't need the apartment now,
does he?'
     Nikanor Ivanovich, somewhat perplexed, objected that  foreigners  ought
to live at the Metropol, and not in private apartments at all...
     `I'm  telling  you,  he's capricious as  devil  knows  what!'  Koroviev
whispered. 'He just  doesn't want to! He doesn't like hotels! I've  had them
up to  here, these foreign  tourists!'  Koroviev  complained confidentially,
jabbing his  finger at  his  sinewy neck. 'Believe  me, they  wring the soul
right  out of you! They come and either spy on you like the lowest  son of a
bitch, or else torment you with their  caprices - this  isn't right and that
isn't right!...  And for  your association, Nikanor Ivanovich, it's  a sheer
gain and an obvious profit. He won't stint on money.' Koroviev looked around
and then whispered into the chairman's ear: 'A millionaire!'
     The interpreter's offer made clear practical sense, it was a very solid
offer, yet there was something remarkably unsolid in his manner of speaking,
and in  his clothes, and in that loathsome, good-for-nothing pince-nez. As a
result, something vague weighed on the chairman's soul,  but he nevertheless
decided to accept the offer. The  thing was  that  the tenants' association,
alas, had quite a  sizeable deficit. Fuel had to be bought for  the  heating
system by  fall, but who was going to  shell out for it - no  one  knew. But
with the foreign tourist's money, it might be possible to wriggle out of it.
     However,  the  practical and prudent Nikanor  Ivanovich said  he  would
first have to settle the question with the foreign tourist bureau.
     `I understand!' Koroviev cried out. `You've got to settle it!
     Absolutely! Here's the telephone, Nikanor Ivanovich, settle it at once!
And  don't be  shy  about the money,' he added  in  a whisper,  drawing  the
chairman to the telephone in the front hall, 'if he won't pay, who will! You
should see the villa he's got in Nice! Next summer, when you go abroad, come
especially to see it - you'll gasp!'
     The business  with the  foreign tourist bureau  was  arranged over  the
phone with an extraordinary speed, quite amazing  to the chairman. It turned
out that  they  already  knew  about  Mr  Woland's  intention  of staying in
Likhodeev's private apartment and had no objections to it.
     `That's wonderful!' Koroviev  yelled. Somewhat stunned by his  chatter,
the  chairman  announced  that  the  tenants'  association  agreed  to  rent
apartment no.50 for a week  to the artiste  Woland, for... Nikanor Ivanovich
faltered a little, then said:
     'For five hundred roubles a day.'
     Here Koroviev utterly  amazed  the chairman. Winking  thievishly in the
direction  of the bedroom, from which the soft leaps of a heavy cat could be
heard, he rasped out:
     'So it comes to three thousand five hundred for the week?'
     To which Nikanor Ivanovich thought he was  going to add: 'Some appetite
you've got, Nikanor Ivanovich!' but Koroviev said something quite different:
     'What kind of money is that? Ask five, he'll pay it.'
     Grinning perplexedly, Nikanor Ivanovich,  without  noticing  how, found
himself at the deceased's writing desk, where Koroviev  with great speed and
dexterity drew up a contract in two copies. Then he flew to the bedroom with
them  and  came  back,  both  copies  now bearing  the  foreigner's sweeping
signature.  The chairman also signed the contract. Here Koroviev asked for a
receipt for five...
     Write it out, write it out, Nikanor Ivanovich!... thousand  roubles...'
And with  words somehow unsuited to serious business  - 'Bin, zwei, drei!' -
he laid out for the chairman five stacks of new banknotes.
     The  counting-up took place,  interspersed with  Koroviev's  quips  and
quiddities, such  as 'Cash loves  counting', 'Your own  eye  won't lie', and
others of the same sort.
     After  counting the  money, the chairman  received  from  Koroviev  the
foreigner's passport for temporary  registration, put it,  together with the
contract and  the  money, into  his  briefcase, and, somehow  unable to help
himself, sheepishly asked for a free pass...
     'Don't mention it!' bellowed  Koroviev. 'How many tickets do you  want,
Nikanor Ivanovich - twelve, fifteen?'
     The flabbergasted chairman explained that all he needed was a couple of
passes, for himself and Pelageya Antonovna, his wife.
     Koroviev snatched  out a notebook at once  and  dashed off  a pass  for
Nikanor Ivanovich, for two persons  in the front row. And with his left hand
the interpreter deftly  slipped  this pass  to Nikanor Ivanovich, while with
his right he put into the chairman's other hand a thick, crackling wad.
     Casting  an eye on  it, Nikanor Ivanovich blushed deeply and  began  to
push it away.
     'It isn't done...' he murmured.
     'I won't  hear  of it,' Koroviev whispered right in  his ear.  'With us
it's  not  done,  but with foreigners it  is.  You'll  offend  him,  Nikanor
Ivanovich, and that's embarrassing. You've worked hard...'
     `It's  severely punishable,' the chairman  whispered very, very  softly
and glanced over his shoulder.
     'But where are the witnesses?' Koroviev whispered into his other ear.
     'I ask you, where are they? You don't think... ?'
     Here, as the chairman insisted afterwards, a  miracle occurred: the wad
crept into his briefcase by itself. And then the  chairman, somehow limp and
even broken, found  himself  on the stairs. A whirlwind of thoughts raged in
his head. There was the villa in  Nice, and the trained cat, and the thought
that there were  in fact no witnesses, and that Pelageya Antonovna would  be
delighted  with  the pass. They  were  incoherent  thoughts,  but  generally
pleasant. But, all the same, somewhere, some little needle kept pricking the
chairman in the very bottom of his soul. This was the needle of anxiety.
     Besides, right  then on the stairs  the chairman was  seized, as with a
stroke,  by the thought:  'But how did the interpreter get into the study if
the  door was  sealed?! And how  was it that  he, Nikanor Ivanovich, had not
asked about  it?' For some time  the chairman stood staring like a  sheep at
the steps of the stairway, but then he decided to spit on it and not torment
himself with intricate questions...
     As soon as  the chairman left the apartment, a low  voice came from the
     'I  didn't like this Nikanor Ivanovich. He is a  chiseller and a crook.
Can it be arranged so that he doesn't come any more?'
     'Messire,  you  have only to say  the word...'  Koroviev responded from
somewhere, not in a rattling but in a very clear and resounding voice.
     And  at once the accursed  interpreter  turned  up  in the  front hall,
dialled a number  there, and for some  reason  began speaking very tearfully
into the receiver:
     'Hello! I consider it  my duty  to  inform you that the chairman of our
tenants' association  at no.502-bis on Sadovaya, Nikanor Ivanovich Bosoy, is
speculating in foreign currency. [2] At the present moment, in his apartment
no.  55,  he  has four hundred  dollars  wrapped  up  in  newspaper  in  the
ventilation of the privy. This is Timofei Kvastsov speaking, a tenant of the
said  house, apartment no. 11. But I adjure you to keep  my name a secret. I
fear the vengeance of the above-stated chairman.'
     And he hung up, the scoundrel!
     What happened  next  in apartment  no.50  is not known, but it is known
what happened  at  Nikanor Ivanovich's. Having locked  himself in the  privy
with  the hook, he took from his briefcase the  wad  foisted  on him by  the
interpreter and satisfied himself that it contained four hundred roubles.
     Nikanor Ivanovich  wrapped this wad  in a scrap of newspaper and put it
into the ventilation duct.
     Five  minutes later the chairman  was sitting at the table in his small
dining room. His  wife brought  pickled  herring from  the  kitchen,  neatly
sliced  and  thickly  sprinkled  with green onion. Nikanor Ivanovich  poured
himself a dram of vodka, drank it, poured another, drank it, picked up three
pieces of herring on his fork... and at that moment the doorbell rang.
     Pelageya Antonovna was just bringing in a steaming pot which, one could
tell at once  from a single  glance, contained, amidst a fiery borscht, that
than which there is nothing more delicious in the world - a marrow bone.
     Swallowing his spittle, Nikanor Ivanovich growled like a dog:
     'Damn them  all! Won't  allow a man to eat... Don't let anyone  in, I'm
not here,  not here...  If  it's about  the  apartment,  tell them  to  stop
blathering, there'll be a meeting next week.'
     His wife ran to the front hall, while Nikanor Ivanovich, using a ladle,
drew from the fire-breathing lake - it, the bone, cracked lengthwise. And at
that moment  two  citizens entered  the dining room, with Pelageya Antonovna
following them,  for some  reason looking  very  pale.  Seeing the citizens,
Nikanor Ivanovich also turned white and stood up.
     'Where's  the Jakes?'  the  first one, in  a white side-buttoned shirt,
asked with a preoccupied air.
     Something  thudded against the dining table (this was Nikanor Ivanovich
dropping the ladle on to the oilcloth).
     'This way, this way,' Pelageya Antonovna replied in a patter.
     And the visitors immediately hastened to the corridor.
     ^What's the matter?' Nikanor  Ivanovich asked quietly,  going after the
visitors. `There can't be anything like that in  our apartment... And - your
papers... begging your pardon...'
     The first, without stopping, showed Nikanor Ivanovich a paper,  and the
second  was at the same moment standing  on a stool in the privy, his arm in
the ventilation duct.  Everything went dark in Nikanor Ivanovich's eyes. The
newspaper  was removed,  but  in the wad  there were  not  roubles but  some
unknown money, bluish-greenish, and with the portrait of some old man.
     However, Nikanor Ivanovich saw it all  dimly, there  were some  sort of
spots floating in front of his eyes.
     'Dollars  in  the  ventilation...' the  first said  pensively and asked
Nikanor Ivanovich gently and courteously: 'Your little wad?'
     'No!' Nikanor Ivanovich replied  in a dreadful voice. 'Enemies stuck me
with it!'
     'That happens,' the first agreed and added, again gently: 'Well, you're
going to have to turn in the rest.'
     'I haven't got  any! I swear to God, I never laid a  finger on it!' the
chairman cried out desperately.
     He dashed to the chest, pulled a drawer out with a clatter, and from it
the briefcase, crying out incoherently:
     'Here's  the  contract... that vermin of an  interpreter stuck  me with
it... Koroviev... in a pince-nez!...'
     He opened the briefcase, glanced  into it, put a hand inside, went blue
in  the face, and dropped  the briefcase into the borscht. There was nothing
in  the  briefcase:  no  letter  from  Styopa,  no contract, no  foreigner's
passport,  no  money, no theatre  pass. In  short, nothing except a  folding
     'Comrades!'  the  chairman  cried  frenziedly. `Catch them!  There  are
unclean powers in our house!'
     It is not known what Pelageya Antonovna imagined here, only she clasped
her hands and cried:
     'Repent, Ivanych! You'll get off lighter.'
     His eyes bloodshot, Nikanor Ivanovich raised his fists  over his wife's
head, croaking:
     'Ohh, you damned fool!'
     Here he went slack and  sank  down  on a  chair, evidently  resolved to
submit to the inevitable.
     During this  time, Timofei Kondratievich Kvastsov stood on the landing,
placing now his  ear,  now  his  eye to the  keyhole  of  the  door  to  the
chairman's apartment, melting with curiosity.
     Five  minutes later the tenants of the house  who were in the courtyard
saw the  chairman, accompanied by two other persons, proceed directly to the
gates  of the  house. It  was  said  that Nikanor  Ivanovich  looked  awful,
staggered like a drunk man as he passed, and was muttering something.
     And an hour after that an unknown citizen appeared in apartment no. 11,
just as Timofei Kondratievich, spluttering with delight,  was  telling  some
other   tenants   how  the  chairman   got  pinched,  motioned   to  Timofei
Kondratievich with his finger  to come  from  the kitchen to the front hall,
said something to him, and together they vanished.

     At the  same time that disaster struck Nikanor  Ivanovich, not far away
from no.502-bis, on the same Sadovaya Street, in the office of the financial
director of the Variety Theatre,  Rimsky, there sat two men: Rimsky himself,
and the administrator of the Variety, Varenukha [1].'
     The  big office on the second floor of the  theatre  had two windows on
Sadovaya and one, just behind the  back of the findirector,  who was sitting
at his desk,  facing the  summer  garden  of the Variety,  where  there were
refreshment   stands,  a  shooting  gallery   and  an  open-air  stage.  The
furnishings of the office,  apart from the desk, consisted of a bunch of old
posters hanging on the  wall, a small table  with  a carafe of water  on it,
four armchairs and, in  the corner,  a stand  on which  stood a dust-covered
scale model of  some  past review.  Well,  it goes  without saying that,  in
addition,  there was in the office a  small, shabby, peeling fireproof safe,
to Rimsky's left, next to the desk.
     Rimsky, now sitting at his desk, had been in bad spirits since morning,
while Varenukha, on the contrary, was very animated and  somehow  especially
restlessly active. Yet there was no outlet for his energy.
     Varenukha was presently  hiding in the findirector's  office to  escape
the seekers  of free passes, who poisoned his life,  especially on days when
the programme  changed. And today  was precisely such a day. As  soon as the
telephone started to ring, Varenukha would pick up the receiver and lie into
     "Who? Varenukha? He's not here. He stepped out.'
     'Please call Likhodeev again,' Rimsky asked vexedly.
     'He's  not home. I even sent Karpov, there's no  one in the apartment.'
`Devil  knows what's  going on!'  Rimisky  hissed,  clacking  on  the adding
     The  door  opened  and  an usher  dragged in a  thick stack of  freshly
printed extra posters; in big red letters on a green background was printed:
     Today and Every Day at the Variety Theatre
     an Additional Programme
     Sances of Black Magic and its Full Exposure
     Varenukha stepped back from the poster,  which  he had thrown on to the
scale model, admired it, and  told  the usher  to send  all the posters  out
immediately to be pasted up.
     'Good... Loud!' Varenukha observed on the usher's departure.
     `And  I  dislike this undertaking extremely,' Rimsky grumbled, glancing
spitefully at the poster through his horn-rimmed glasses, 'and generally I'm
surprised he's been allowed to present it.'
     'No, Grigory Danilovich, don't say so! This is a very subdue  step. The
salt is all in the exposure.'
     `I don't know, I don't know, there's no salt, in my opinion... and he's
always  coming up with things  like this! ... He might at  least show us his
magician! Have you seen him? Where he dug him up, devil knows!'
     It turned  out that Varenukha  had not seen  the magician any more than
Rimsky  had. Yesterday  Styopa had  come running ('like  crazy', in Rimsky's
expression) to the findirector with the already written draft of a contract,
ordered  it copied straight away and  the money  handed over  to Woland. And
this  magician  had  cleared out, and  no  one  had  seen him  except Styopa
     Rimsky took out his watch, saw that it read five minutes past two,  and
flew into a  complete rage. Really! Likhodeev  had called at around  eleven,
said he'd  come  in  half  an  hour, and  not  only had  not  come, but  had
disappeared from his apartment.
     'He's holding up  my business!' Rimsky  was  roaring  now, jabbing  his
finger at a pile of unsigned papers.
     'Might he have fallen under a tram-car like Berlioz?' Varenukha said as
he held his ear to the  receiver, from which came low, prolonged and utterly
hopeless signals.
     "Wouldn't be a bad  thing...' Rimsky  said barely  audibly  through his
     At that same  moment a  woman in a uniform  jacket,  visored cap, black
skirt and sneakers came into the office. From a small pouch  at her belt the
woman took a small white square and a notebook and asked:
     "Who here is Variety? A super-lightning telegram. [2] Sign here.'
     Varenukha  scribbled some flourish in the woman's notebook, and as soon
as the door slammed  behind  her,  he  opened the square. After reading  the
telegram, he blinked and handed the square to Rimsky.
     The telegram contained  the following: `Yalta to Moscow  Variety. Today
eleven  thirty  brown-haired  man  came  criminal  investigation  nightshirt
trousers  shoeless mental case  gave name Likhodeev  Director  Variety  Wire
Yalta criminal investigation where Director Likhodeev.'
     `Hello  and how do  you  do!'  Rimsky  exclaimed,  and added:  'Another
     'A  false Dmitri!'[3] said Varenukha,  and he  spoke into the receiver.
Telegraph office? Variety account. Take a  super-lightning telegram. Are you
listening?  "Yalta   criminal  investigation.  Director   Likhodeev   Moscow
Findirector Rimsky."'
     Irrespective  of the  news  about the  Yalta impostor,  Varenukha again
began searching all over for Styopa by telephone, and naturally did not find
him anywhere.
     Just as Varenukha, receiver in hand, was pondering  where else he might
call, the same woman who had brought the first  telegram came in  and handed
Varenukha  a new envelope. Opening it hurriedly, Varenukha read the  message
and whistled.
     'What now?' Rimsky asked, twitching nervously.
     Varenukha silently  handed  him the  telegram,  and the findirector saw
there the  words: `Beg believe  thrown  Yalta Woland hypnosis  wire criminal
investigation confirm identity Likhodeev.'
     Rimsky  and Varenukha,  their heads  touching, reread the telegram, and
after rereading it, silently stared at each other.
     'Citizens!' the  woman got angry. 'Sign, and then be silent  as much as
you like! I deliver lightnings!'
     Varenukha,  without  taking his eyes off the  telegram, made a  crooked
scrawl in the notebook, and the woman vanished.
     'Didn't you  talk with  him on the phone at a  little past eleven?' the
administrator began in total bewilderment.
     'No, it's  ridiculous!' Rimsky cried  shrilly. Talk or not, he can't be
in Yalta now! It's ridiculous!'
     'He's drunk...' said Varenukha.
     "Who's drunk?' asked Rimsky, and again the two stared at each other.
     That some  impostor or madman had sent telegrams  from Yalta, there was
no  doubt. But the strange thing was this: how did the Yalta mystifier  know
Woland,  who had  come  to Moscow just the day before? How did he know about
the connection between Likhodeev and Woland?
     'Hypnosis...' Varenukha kept repeating the word from the telegram.
     'How does he know about Woland?' He blinked his eyes and suddenly cried
resolutely: 'Ah, no! Nonsense! ... Nonsense, nonsense!'
     'Where's he staying, this Woland, devil take him?' asked Rimsky.
     Varenukha  immediately got  connected with the  foreign  tourist bureau
and, to Rimsky's utter astonishment, announced  that Woland was  staying  in
Likhodeev's apartment. Dialling the number of the Likhodeev  apartment after
that, Varenukha listened for a long time to the low buzzing in the receiver.
     Amidst the buzzing, from somewhere far away, came a heavy, gloomy voice
singing:  '...  rocks, my refuge ...'[4]  and  Varenukha  decided  that  the
telephone lines had crossed with a voice from a radio show.
     The  apartment  doesn't  answer,'  Varenukha  said,  putting  down  the
receiver, 'or maybe I should call...'
     He did  not finish. The same woman appeared in the door, and  both men,
Rimsky and Varenukha, rose  to meet her, while she took from her pouch not a
white sheet this time, but some sort of dark one.
     This is  beginning  to  get  interesting,' Varenukha  said through  his
teeth, his  eyes  following the  hurriedly  departing woman. Rimsky  was the
first to take hold of the sheet.
     On  a  dark background  of  photographic paper, some black  handwritten
lines were barely discernible:
     'Proof my handwriting  my  signature wire  urgently  confirmation place
secret watch Woland Likhodeev.'
     In his  twenty  years of work in  the theatre,  Varenukha had seen  all
kinds of sights, but here he felt his mind becoming obscured as with a veil,
and he could find nothing to say but the  at once mundane and utterly absurd
     This cannot be!'
     Rimsky acted otherwise. He stood up, opened the door, barked out to the
messenger girl sitting on a stool:
     'Let no one in except postmen!' - and locked the door with a key.
     Then  he took a pile of papers out of the desk  and began carefully  to
compare the bold, back-slanting letters of the photogram with the letters in
Styopa's resolutions and signatures, furnished with a corkscrew flourish.
     Varenukha,  leaning his weight on the table, breathed hotly on Rimsky's
     `It's  his  handwriting,'  the  findirector finally  said  firmly,  and
Varenukha repeated like an echo:
     Peering into Rimsky's face, the administrator  marvelled  at the change
that had come over this face. Thin to begin with, the findirector seemed  to
have  grown still thinner and  even older,  his eyes in  their horn rims had
lost their customary prickliness, and there appeared in them not only alarm,
but even sorrow.
     Varenukha  did everything that a man in a moment  of great astonishment
ought to do. He raced up and down the office, he raised his  arms twice like
one crucified, he drank a whole glass of yellowish water from the carafe and
     'I don't understand! I don't understand! I don't un-der-stand!'
     Rimsky  meanwhile  was looking out  the  window,  thinking  hard  about
something. The findirector's position was  very difficult.  It was necessary
at   once,  right  on  the  spot,  to   invent   ordinary  explanations  for
extraordinary phenomena.
     Narrowing  his eyes,  the  findirector pictured to himself Styopa, in a
nightshirt and shoeless,  getting into  some unprecedented  super-high-speed
airplane at around  half past eleven that morning, and then the same Styopa,
also at half past eleven,  standing in his stocking feet at the  airport  in
Yalta ... devil knew what to make of it!
     Maybe it was not Styopa who talked with him this morning over the phone
from his  own apartment?  No, it  was Styopa speaking! Who if not  he should
know Styopa's voice? And even if it was not Styopa speaking today, it was no
earlier  than  yesterday,  towards  evening, that Styopa  had  come from his
office to this very  office  with  this  idiotic  contract  and  annoyed the
findirector with his light-mindedness. How could  he have gone or flown away
without leaving word  at  the  theatre?  But if  he had flown away yesterday
evening - he would not have arrived by noon today. Or would he?
     'How many miles is it to Yalta?' asked Rimsky.
     Varenukha stopped his running and yelled:
     'I thought  of that! I already thought  of it!  By train it's over nine
hundred miles to Sebastopol, plus another fifty to Yalta! Well, but by  air,
of course, it's less.'
     Hm ... Yes ... There could be no question of any trains. But what then?
Some fighter  plane? Who would let Styopa on any fighter  plane  without his
shoes? What for? Maybe he took his shoes off when he got to  Yalta? It's the
same thing: what for? And even with his shoes on they  wouldn't have let him
on a fighter! And what has the fighter got to do with it? It's  written that
he  came to the  investigators at half past  eleven in  the  morning, and he
talked on the  telephone in Moscow ... excuse  me ... (the  face of Rimsky's
watch emerged before his eyes).
     Rimsky tried to remember where the  hands had been ... Terrible! It had
been twenty minutes past eleven!
     So  what  does  it  boil  down  to?  If one  supposes  that  after  the
conversation Styopa instantly rushed to the airport, and reached it in, say,
five minutes (which, incidentally, was also unthinkable), it  means that the
plane, taking off at once, covered nearly a thousand miles in five minutes.
     Consequently, it was  flying  at twelve thousand  miles an hour!!! That
cannot be, and that means he's not in Yalta!
     What remains, then? Hypnosis? There's no hypnosis in the world that can
fling  a man a thousand miles away! So he's imagining that he's in Yalta? He
may be  imagining it, but are the Yalta investigators also imagining it? No,
no, sorry, that can't be! ... Yet they did telegraph from there?
     The findirector's face was literally dreadful. The door  handle was all
the while being turned and pulled from outside, and the messenger girl could
be heard through the door crying desperately:
     'Impossible! I won't let you! Cut me to pieces! It's a meeting!'
     Rimsky  regained  control of  himself  as well  as  he could, took  the
receiver of the phone, and said into it:
     'A super-urgent call to Yalta, please.'
     'Clever!' Varenukha observed mentally.
     But the conversation with  Yalta did not take place. Rimsky hung up the
receiver and said:
     'As luck would have it, the line's broken.'
     It could  be  seen  that the  broken line especially upset him for some
reason,  and even made him lapse into  thought. Having  thought a little, he
again took  the receiver  in one hand, and with the other began writing down
what he said into it:
     Take  a super-lightning.  Variety.  Yes.  Yalta criminal investigation.
Yes. 'Today around eleven thirty Likhodeev talked me phone Moscow stop After
that did not come work unable locate by phone stop Confirm  handwriting stop
Taking measures watch said artiste Findirector Rimsky.'"
     'Very clever!' thought Varenukha, but before he had time to think well,
the words rushed through his head: 'Stupid! He can't be in Yalta!'
     Rimsky meanwhile did the following:  he neatly stacked all the received
telegrams, plus the copy of his own, put the stack into an  envelope, sealed
it, wrote a few words on it, and handed it to Varenukha, saying:
     'Go right now, Ivan Savelyevich, take it there personally. [5] Let them
sort it out.'
     'Now that is really clever!' thought Varenukha, and he put the envelope
into his briefcase. Then, just in case, he dialled Styopa's apartment number
on the  telephone, listened, and  began winking and  grimacing  joyfully and
mysteriously. Rimsky stretched his neck.
     'May I speak with the artiste Woland?' Varenukha asked sweetly.
     `Mister's  busy,' the receiver answered  in  a  rattling  voice, 'who's
     The administrator of the Variety, Varenukha.'
     `Ivan Savelyevich?' the receiver  cried out joyfully. Terribly  glad to
hear your voice! How're you doing?'
     'Merci,' Varenukha replied in amazement, 'and with whom am I speaking?'
     'His assistant, his  assistant and interpreter, Koroviev!' crackled the
receiver. 'I'm entirely at  your service, my dearest Ivan Savelyevich! Order
me around as you like. And so?'
     `Excuse me,  but ... what,  is Stepan Bogdanovich Likhodeev not at home
     'Alas, no! No!' the receiver shouted. 'He left!'
     'For where?'
     'Out of town, for a drive in the car.'
     'Wh ... what? A dr ... drive? And when will he be back?'
     'He said, I'll get a breath of fresh air and come back.'
     `So...'  said  the puzzled Varenukha, 'merci  ...  kindly tell Monsieur
Woland that his performance is tonight in the third part of the programme.'
     'Right.  Of  course.  Absolutely.  Urgently.  Without fail.  I'll  tell
him,'the receiver rapped out abruptly.
     'Goodbye,' Varenukha said in astonishment.
     'Please  accept,'  said the receiver, 'my best,  warmest  greetings and
wishes! For success! Luck! Complete happiness! Everything!'
     'But of course! Didn't I say so!' the administrator cried agitatedly.
     'It's not any Yalta, he just went to the country!'
     'Well, if that's so,' the findirector  began,  turning pale with anger,
'it's real swinishness, there's even no name for it!'
     Here the  administrator  jumped up and  shouted  so  that Rimsky gave a
     `I  remember! I  remember!  They've opened  a  new Georgian  tavern  in
Pushkino called  "Yalta"! It's all clear! He went  there, got drunk, and now
he's sending telegrams from there!'
     'Well, now that's too much!'  Rimsky answered, his cheek twitching, and
deep,  genuine anger burned  in  his  eyes. 'Well,  then, he's  going to pay
dearly  for  this  little excursion!  ...'  He  suddenly faltered and  added
irresolutely: 'But what about the criminal investigation ...'
     'It's  nonsense! His  own  little jokes,'  the  expansive administrator
interrupted, and asked: 'Shall I take the envelope?'
     'Absolutely,' replied Rimsky.
     And again the  door  opened  and  in came that same  ... 'Her!' thought
Rimsky,  for  some reason with  anguish.  And  both  men  rose to  meet  the
     This time the telegram contained the words:
     Thank   you   confirmation   send   five  hundred   urgently   criminal
investigation my name tomorrow fly Moscow Likhodeev.'
     'He's lost his mind...' Varenukha said weakly.
     Rimsky jingled his key, took money from the fireproof safe, counted out
five hundred roubles,  rang  the bell,  handed the messenger the money,  and
sent him to the telegraph office.
     'Good heavens, Grigory  Danilovich,' Varenukha said,  not believing his
eyes, 'in my opinion you oughtn't to send the money.'
     'It'll come  back,' Rimsky replied quietly, 'but he'll have a hard time
explaining  this  little picnic.' And he  added, indicating the briefcase to
Varenukha: 'Go, Ivan Savelyevich, don't delay.'
     And Varenukha ran out of the office with the briefcase.
     He  went down to  the ground floor,  saw  the longest  line at  the box
office,  found  out from the  box-office girl that  she expected to sell out
within  the  hour,  because  the  public  was  simply  pouring in  since the
additional poster had been put up, told the girl to  earmark and hold thirty
of  the best  seats in  the gallery and  the stalls, popped out  of the  box
office,  shook  off  importunate pass-seekers as  he ran, and dived into his
little office to get his cap. At that moment the telephone rattled.
     'Yes!' Varenukha shouted.
     'Ivan  Savelyevich?'  the receiver  inquired in a most  repulsive nasal
     'He's not in the  theatre!' Varenukha was  shouting,  but  the receiver
interrupted him at once:
     'Don't play the fool, Ivan  Savelyevich, just listen. Do not take those
telegrams anywhere or show them to anyone.'
     'Who  is  this?' Varenukha bellowed. 'Stop these jokes, citizen! You'll
be found out at once! What's your number?'
     'Varenukha,' the same nasty voice returned, 'do you understand Russian?
Don't take the telegrams anywhere.'
     'Ah, so you won't stop?'  the administrator cried furiously. 'Look out,
then!  You're going to  pay for it!' He shouted some other threat, but  fell
silent, because he sensed that no one was listening to him any longer in the
     Here it somehow began to grow dark very quickly in his little office.
     Varenukha ran out, slammed the door behind him, and rushed  through the
side entrance into the summer garden.
     The  administrator was agitated and full of energy. After the  insolent
phone call  he had no doubts that it was a band  of hooligans  playing nasty
tricks,  and that  these tricks were  connected  with  the  disappearance of
Likhodeev.  The administrator  was  choking  with  the desire to  expose the
malefactors, and, strange as it was, the anticipation of something enjoyable
was born in him. It happens that way when a man strives to become the centre
of attention, to bring sensational news somewhere.
     In the garden the wind blew in the administrator's  face and flung sand
in his eyes, as if blocking his way,  as  if cautioning him. A window on the
second floor slammed so that the  glass nearly broke, the tops of the maples
and   lindens   rustled  alarmingly.   It  became  darker  and  colder.  The
administrator rubbed his eyes and saw that  a yellow-bellied storm cloud was
creeping low over Moscow. There came a dense, distant rumbling.
     However  great Varenukha's hurry, an irrepressible desire pulled at him
to run over to the summer toilet for a second on his way,  to check  whether
the repairman had put a wire screen over the light-bulb.
     Running past the shooting  gallery, Varenukha came to a thick growth of
lilacs where the light-blue toilet  building stood. The repairman turned out
to be an efficient fellow, the bulb under  the roof  of the gentlemen's side
was covered with a wire screen, but the administrator was upset that even in
the  pre-storm  darkness one  could make  out  that the walls  were  already
written all over in charcoal and pencil.
     'Well, what sort  of...' the  administrator began  and suddenly heard a
voice purring behind him:
     'Is that you, Ivan Savelyevich?'
     Varenukha started,  turned around, and saw before him a short, fat  man
with what seemed to him a cat-like physiognomy.
     'So, it's me', Varenukha answered hostilely.
     'Very, very  glad,' the  cat-like fat man responded  in a squeaky voice
and, suddenly swinging his arm, gave Varenukha  such a blow on the ear  that
the cap flew off the administrator's head  and vanished without a trace down
the hole in the seat.
     At the fat  man's  blow, the  whole  toilet  lit up momentarily with  a
tremulous light, and a roll of  thunder echoed in the sky. Then came another
flash  and a second man  emerged  before the administrator - short, but with
athletic  shoulders,  hair red as  fire, albugo  in  one eye, a fang in  his
mouth... This second one, evidently a lefty, socked the administrator on the
other ear.  In response there was another roll  of  thunder in  the sky, and
rain poured down on the wooden roof of the toilet.
     `What is it, comr...' the half-crazed administrator whispered, realized
at once that the word 'comrades' hardly fitted bandits attacking a man  in a
public toilet, rasped out: 'citiz...' - figured that they did not merit this
appellation either, and received a third terrible blow  from he did not know
which of them, so that blood gushed from his nose on to his Tolstoy blouse.
     'What  you  got  in the briefcase, parasite?' the one  resembling a cat
cried shrilly. 'Telegrams?  Weren't you warned  over the phone  not to  take
them anywhere? Weren't you warned, I'm asking you?'
     `I   was   wor...   wer...   warned...'   the  administrator  answered,
     `And you  skipped off anyway? Gimme the briefcase, vermin!' the  second
one cried in the same nasal  voice that had come over  the telephone, and he
yanked the briefcase from Varenukha's trembling hands.
     And the two picked the administrator up under the arms, dragged him out
of the  garden, and  raced  down Sadovaya with him. The  storm raged at full
force,  water streamed  with  a  noise and howling  down  the  drains, waves
bubbled and billowed  everywhere,  water  gushed  from  the  roofs past  the
drainpipes, foamy streams  ran  from gateways. Everything living got  washed
off Sadovaya, and there was no one to save Ivan Savelyevich. Leaping through
muddy rivers, under flashes of lightning, the bandits dragged the half-alive
administrator  in a  split second to no.502-bis,  flew with  him through the
gateway, where two  barefoot  women, holding their shoes  and  stockings  in
their hands, pressed themselves to the wall. Then they dashed into the sixth
entrance, and Varenukha, nearly insane, was taken  up to the fifth floor and
thrown  down  in the  semi-dark front hall, so well known to  him, of Styopa
Likhodeev's apartment.
     Here the two robbers vanished, and in their place there appeared in the
front  hall a  completely naked girl -  red-haired, her eyes burning  with a
phosphorescent gleam.
     Varenukha understood that this was the most terrible of all things that
had  ever happened to him and, moaning, recoiled against  the wall. But  the
girl came right up to the administrator and placed the palms of her hands on
his shoulders. Varenukha's hair stood on end, because even through the cold,
water-soaked cloth of his Tolstoy blouse he could feel that those palms were
still colder, that their cold was the cold of ice.
     `Let  me  give you  a  kiss,' the  girl said tenderly, and  there  were
shining eyes  right in front of his  eyes. Then Varenukha  fainted and never
felt the kiss.

     The woods  on the  opposite bank of the river,  still lit up by the May
sun an hour earlier, turned dull, smeary, and dissolved.
     Water  fell down  in  a solid sheet  outside  the  window. In the  sky,
threads flashed every moment, the sky kept  bursting open, and the patient's
room was flooded with a tremulous, frightening light.
     Ivan quietly  wept, sitting on his  bed  and looking  out at  the muddy
river boiling with bubbles. At every clap of thunder, he cried out pitifully
and buried his face  in  his hands. Pages covered  with  Ivan's writing  lay
about  on the floor. They had been blown down by the wind that flew into the
room before the storm began.
     The poet's  attempts  to  write a  statement  concerning  the  terrible
consultant  had gone nowhere. As  soon as he got the  pencil  stub and paper
from  the fat attendant, whose name was Praskovya Fyodorovna,  he rubbed his
hands in  a business-like  way and  hastily  settled himself at  the  little
table. The beginning came out quite glibly.
     To the police.  From  Massolit  member  Ivan  Nikolaevich  Homeless.  A
statement.  Yesterday evening  I  came  to  the Patriarch's Ponds  with  the
deceased M. A. Berlioz...'
     And  right  there the  poet  got  confused, mainly  owing  to the  word
'deceased'. Some nonsensicality emerged at once: what's this - came with the
deceased? The deceased  don't  go  anywhere!  Really, for all  he knew, they
might take him for a madman!
     Having  reflected thus, Ivan Nikolaevich began to correct what  he  had
written. What came out this time was: '...  with M. A. Berlioz, subsequently
deceased  ...' This  did  not  satisfy the  author either.  He  had to  have
recourse to a third redaction, which proved still worse than  the first two:
'Berlioz, who  fell under the  tram-car...'  - and  that namesake  composer,
unknown to  anyone, was also  dangling  here, so  he had to put in: 'not the
     After suffering over these two Berliozes, Ivan crossed  it all  out and
decided to begin right off with something  very strong,  in order to attract
the  reader's attention  at  once,  so  he wrote that  a  cat  had got on  a
tram-car, and  then went back to the episode with the severed head. The head
and the consultant's prediction led  him  to the thought of  Pontius Pilate,
and for  greater conviction  Ivan  decided to tell  the  whole story  of the
procurator in full, from the  moment he walked out  in  his white cloak with
blood-red lining to the colonnade of Herod's palace.
     Ivan worked assiduously,  crossing out what  he had written, putting in
new words, and even attempted to draw Pontius Pilate and then a cat standing
on  its hind legs. But the  drawings did not help, and the further it  went,
the more confusing and incomprehensible the poet's statement became.
     By the time the frightening  cloud with smoking edges appeared from far
off and covered the woods, and the wind began to blow, Ivan felt that he was
strengthless, that he would  never be able to manage with the statement, and
he would not pick up the scattered pages, and he wept quietly and bitterly.
     The good-natured nurse Praskovya Fyodorovna visited the poet during the
storm, became alarmed  on seeing him weeping, closed the  blinds so that the
lightning would  not frighten  the patient, picked up  the  pages  from  the
floor, and ran with them for the doctor.
     He came, gave  Ivan  an injection in the  arm, and  assured him that he
would  not weep any  more, that  everything would pass now, everything would
change, everything would be forgotten.
     The  doctor proved  right.  Soon  the woods across the river  became as
before. It was outlined to the last tree under the sky, which cleared to its
former perfect blue,  and the  river grew  calm.  Anguish had begun to leave
Ivan  right after the  injection, and now the  poet lay calmly and looked at
the rainbow that stretched across the sky.
     So it went  till  evening, and  he did not even  notice how the rainbow
melted away, how the sky saddened and faded, how the woods turned black.
     Having drunk some hot milk, Ivan  lay  down again and marvelled himself
at how  changed his thinking was. The accursed, demonic cat somehow softened
in  his  memory,  the  severed  head did not  frighten him  any  more,  and,
abandoning all thought of  it, Ivan  began to reflect that,  essentially, it
was not so bad in the clinic, that Stravinsky was  a clever man and a famous
one,  and it was  quite pleasant to deal with him. Besides,  the evening air
was sweet and fresh after the storm.
     The house of sorrow was falling  asleep. In quiet corridors the frosted
white lights went out, and in their  place, according  to regulations, faint
blue night-lights  were lit, and  the careful steps of attendants were heard
more and more rarely on the rubber matting of the corridor outside the door.
     Now Ivan lay in  sweet languor, glancing  at the  lamp under its shade,
shedding a softened light  from the ceiling, then  at the moon rising behind
the black woods, and conversed with himself.
     'Why, actually, did I  get so  excited  about  Berlioz falling  under a
tram-car?' the poet reasoned. `In the  final analysis, let him sink! What am
I, in fact, his chum or in-law? If  we air the  question properly,  it turns
out that, in essence, I really did not even know the deceased. What, indeed,
did I know about him? Nothing except that he was bald and terribly eloquent.
And furthermore, citizens,' Ivan continued his speech, addressing someone or
other,  `let's  sort this out:  why,  tell  me,  did  I  get furious at this
mysterious consultant, magician and professor with the black and empty eye?
     Why all this absurd chase after him in underpants  and with a candle in
my hand, and then those wild shenanigans in the restaurant?'
     'Uh-uh-uh!'  the  former Ivan suddenly said sternly  somewhere,  either
inside  or  over his  ear,  to the new  Ivan. `He  did  know beforehand that
Berlioz's head would be cut off, didn't he? How could I not get excited?'
     'What are we talking about, comrades?' the  new  Ivan  objected  to the
old,  former  Ivan. That things  are not quite proper here, even a child can
understand. He's a one-hundred-per-cent outstanding and mysterious person!
     But  that's   the  most  interesting  thing!  The  man  was  personally
acquainted with Pontius  Pilate,  what could be more interesting  than that?
And,  instead of raising a stupid rumpus at the Ponds, wouldn't it have been
more  intelligent to  question him politely  about what happened  further on
with Pilate  and his  prisoner Ha-Nozri?  And I started devil knows  what! A
major occurrence, really - a magazine editor gets run over! And so, what, is
the magazine going to shut down for that? Well,  what  can be done about it?
Man is mortal and, as has  rightly been said, unexpectedly mortal. Well, may
he rest in peace! Well, so  there'll be another editor, and maybe even  more
eloquent than the previous one!'
     After  dozing  for   a  while,  the   new   Ivan  asked  the  old  Ivan
     'And what does it make me, in that case?'
     'A fool!' a bass voice said distinctly somewhere, a voice not belonging
to either of the Ivans and extremely like the bass of the consultant.
     Ivan,  for  some  reason  not offended  by  the  word 'fool', but  even
pleasantly  surprised at  it,  smiled and  drowsily  grew quiet.  Sleep  was
stealing  over  Ivan,  and  he  was  already picturing  a palm tree  on  its
elephant's leg, and a cat passing by - not scary, but merry - and, in short,
sleep was  just about  to  come  over  Ivan,  when the grille suddenly moved
noiselessly aside,  and a mysterious figure appeared on  the balcony, hiding
from the moonlight, and shook its finger at Ivan.
     Not frightened in the least,  Ivan sat up in bed and saw that there was
a  man on the  balcony.  And  this  man,  pressing a  finger  to  his  lips,
     'Shhh! ...'

     A  small  man  in  a  yellow  bowler-hat  full  of  holes  and  with  a
pear-shaped,    raspberry-coloured   nose,   in   checkered   trousers   and
patent-leather  shoes,  rolled out  on to  the  stage  of  the Variety on an
ordinary two-wheeled bicycle. To the sounds of a foxtrot  he  made a circle,
and then gave a triumphant shout, which caused his bicycle to rear up. After
riding around  on  the  back wheel,  the  little  man  turned  upside  down,
contrived while in motion to unscrew the front wheel and send it  backstage,
and then  proceeded on his  way with one wheel, turning the pedals with  his
     On a tall metal pole with a seat at the top and a single wheel, a plump
blonde rolled out in tights and a little skirt strewn with silver stars, and
began riding in a circle. As he  met her,  the  little man  uttered cries of
greeting, doffing his bowler-hat with his foot.
     Finally, a little eight-year-old with  an elderly face came rolling out
and began scooting about  among the adults on  a tiny  two-wheeler furnished
with an enormous automobile horn.
     After  making  several  loops,  the  whole  company,  to  the  alarming
drum-beats of the orchestra, rolled to the  very edge  of the stage, and the
spectators in the front rows gasped and drew back, because it seemed to  the
public that the whole trio with  its  vehicles was about to crash  down into
the orchestra pit.
     But the bicycles  stopped  just at the  moment  when  the front  wheels
threatened to slide into the abyss on  the  heads of  the musicians. With  a
loud  shout of 'Hup!' the cyclists jumped off their vehicles and  bowed, the
blonde  woman  blowing kisses  to the public,  and the  little one tooting a
funny signal on his horn.
     Applause  shook  the  building, the light-blue curtain  came  from both
sides  and covered the  cyclists,  the green `Exit' lights by the doors went
out, and in the web  of trapezes under  the cupola white spheres lit up like
the sun. It was the intermission before the last part.
     The only man who was not the least bit interested in the wonders of the
Giulli family's cycling technique was Grigory Danilovich Rimsky.
     In  complete  solitude  he sat in  his office,  biting his thin lips, a
spasm  passing  over  his  face from  time  to time.  To  the  extraordinary
disappearance  of  Likhodeev  had  now  been  added  the  wholly  unforeseen
disappearance of Varenukha.
     Rimsky knew where  he  had gone, but he had gone and ... not come back!
Rimsky shrugged his shoulders and whispered to himself:
     'But what for?'
     And it was  strange: for such  a  practical man as the findirector, the
simplest thing would, of course, have been to call the place where Varenukha
had gone and find out  what had befallen him, yet until ten o'clock at night
he had been unable to force himself to do it.
     At  ten,  doing outright  violence  to  himself, Rimsky picked  up  the
receiver and  here discovered that  his  telephone was dead.  The  messenger
reported that the other telephones in the building were also out of order.
     This certainly unpleasant,  though hardly supernatural,  occurrence for
some reason thoroughly shocked the findirector, but at the same time  he was
glad: the need to call fell away.
     Just as the red light over the  findirector's  head lit up and blinked,
announcing  the beginning  of  the  intermission, a  messenger  came in  and
informed him of the foreign  artiste's arrival.  The findirector cringed for
some  reason, and, blacker than a storm cloud, went backstage to receive the
visitor, since there was no one else to receive him.
     Under various  pretexts,  curious  people kept  peeking  into  the  big
dressing room from the corridor, where the signal bell was already ringing.
     Among them were conjurers  in bright robes  and turbans, a skater  in a
white knitted jacket, a storyteller pale with powder and the make-up man.
     The  newly  arrived celebrity  struck everyone by his  marvellously cut
tailcoat, of a length never seen before,  and by his  having come in a black
half-mask.  But  most  remarkable  of  all  were  the black  magician's  two
companions: a long checkered one with a  cracked pince-nez,  and a fat black
cat who came into the dressing room on  his hind legs and quite nonchalantly
sat on the sofa squinting at the bare make-up lights.
     Rimsky attempted  to produce  a smile on  his face, which made  it look
sour and spiteful, and bowed to the silent black magician, who was seated on
the sofa  beside  the  cat. There  was  no handshake. Instead, the easygoing
checkered  one  made his  own  introductions  to  the fin-director,  calling
himself 'the gent's assistant'. This circumstance surprised the findirector,
and unpleasantly so: there was  decidedly no mention of any assistant in the
     Quite  stiffly  and  drily,  Grigory   Danilovich   inquired  of   this
fallen-from-the-sky checkered one where the artiste's paraphernalia was.
     'Our heavenly  diamond,  most precious mister director,' the magician's
assistant replied in a rattling voice, 'the paraphernalia is always with us.
Here it is! Ein, zwei, drei!' And, waving his knotty fingers before Rimsky's
eyes, he suddenly took from behind the cat's ear Rimsky's own gold watch and
chain,  hitherto worn by  the findirector in his waistcoat pocket, under his
buttoned coat, with the chain through a buttonhole.
     Rimsky inadvertently  clutched his stomach,  those present gasped,  and
the make-up man, peeking in the doorway, grunted approvingly.
     Your little watchie?  Kindly take it,' the checkered one  said, smiling
casually  and  offering  the bewildered Rimsky his own property  on a  dirty
     'No getting on a tram with that one,' the storyteller whispered quietly
and merrily to the make-up man.
     But the  cat pulled a  neater trick than  the  number  with the  stolen
watch. Getting up from the  sofa unexpectedly, he walked on his hind legs to
the dressing table, pulled the stopper out of the carafe with his front paw,
poured water into a glass, drank it, installed the stopper in its place, and
wiped his whiskers with a make-up cloth.
     Here no one even gasped, their mouths simply fell open, and the make-up
man whispered admiringly:
     'That's class!'
     Just then  the bells rang  alarmingly for the third time, and everyone,
agitated  and  anticipating  an  interesting  number,  thronged  out  of the
dressing room.
     A moment  later the  spheres went out  in the  theatre,  the footlights
blazed up, lending a reddish  glow  to the base  of the curtain, and in  the
lighted  gap of the curtain there appeared before the  public  a plump  man,
merry as  a  baby,  with  a  clean-shaven face, in  a  rumpled  tailcoat and
none-too-fresh shirt. This was the master  of ceremonies, well  known to all
Moscow - Georges Bengalsky.
     'And now, citizens,' Bengalsky began, smiling his baby smile, 'there is
about to come  before you ...' Here  Bengalsky interrupted himself and spoke
in a different tone: 'I see the audience has grown for the third part. We've
got half the city here! I met a  friend the other day and said to  him: "Why
don't you come to our show? Yesterday we had  half the city." And he says to
me: "I live in the other half!"'  Bengalsky  paused,  waiting for a burst of
laughter,  but as  no  one laughed, he  went on: '... And so, now comes  the
famous foreign artiste. Monsieur Woland, with a sance of black magic. Well,
both you and I know,' here Bengalsky smiled a wise smile,  'that there's  no
such thing  in  the  world, and that it's all just superstition, and Maestro
Woland is simply a perfect master of the technique of conjuring, as we shall
see from the most interesting part, that is, the exposure of this technique,
and since we're all of us to a man both for  technique and for its exposure,
let's bring on Mr Woland! ...'
     After uttering all this claptrap, Bengalsky pressed his  palms together
and waved them in greeting through  the slit of the curtain, which caused it
to part with a soft rustic.
     The entrance of the magician with his long  assistant and the cat,  who
came on stage on his hind legs, pleased the audience greatly.
     'An  armchair  for  me,' Woland  ordered in a low voice, and that  same
second  an  armchair  appeared on stage, no  one knew  how or from where, in
which the magician sat down. 'Tell me, my gentle Fagott,' Woland inquired of
the checkered clown,  who evidently had  another  appellation than Koroviev,
`what  do  you think, the  Moscow populace has changed significantly, hasn't
     The  magician  looked  out  at  the  hushed  audience,  struck  by  the
appearance of the armchair out of nowhere.
     "That it has, Messire,' Fagott-Koroviev replied in a low voice.
     "You're right. The  city folk have changed greatly ... externally, that
is  ...  as  has  the city  itself,  incidentally...  Not  to mention  their
clothing,  these ... what do you  call them ... trams, automobiles ...  have
appeared ...'
     'Buses ...'-Fagott prompted deferentially.
     The audience  listened  attentively to  this  conversation, thinking it
constituted  a  prelude to the magic tricks.  The  wings  were  packed  with
performers  and stage-hands, and among their faces could be  seen the tense,
pale face of Rimsky.
     The physiognomy of Bengalsky,  who  had retreated to  the  side  of the
stage, began to  show some perplexity.  He raised one  eyebrow slightly and,
taking advantage of a pause, spoke:
     "The foreign artiste is expressing his  admiration  for  Moscow and its
technological  development,  as well as for the Muscovites.' Here  Bengalsky
smiled twice, first to the stalls, then to the gallery.
     Woland,  Fagott and the cat turned their heads in the direction of  the
master of ceremonies.
     'Did I express admiration?' the magician asked the checkered Fagott.
     'By no  means, Messire, you never  expressed any admiration,' came  the
     Then what is the man saying?'
     'He  quite simply lied!' the  checkered assistant  declared sonorously,
for the whole theatre to hear, and turning to Bengalsky, he added:
     'Congrats, citizen, you done lied!'
     Tittering spattered  from  the  gallery, but Bengalsky gave a start and
goggled his eyes.
     'Of  course,  I'm not so much interested in buses, telephones and other
     'Apparatuses,' the checkered one prompted.
     'Quite right,  thank you,' the  magician spoke slowly in  a heavy bass,
`as  in a question of much greater importance:  have the city  folk  changed
     "Yes, that is the most important question, sir.'
     There  was  shrugging  and an  exchanging  of  glances  in  the  wings,
Bengalsky stood all  red, and Rimsky  was pale. But  here, as if sensing the
nascent alarm, the magician said:
     'However, we're  talking  away,  my  dear  Fagott,  and the audience is
beginning to get bored. My gentle Fagott,  show us some  simple little thing
to start with.'
     The audience stirred. Fagott and the cat walked along the footlights to
opposite  sides  of  the  stage.  Fagott  snapped his  fingers, and  with  a
rollicking Three, four!' snatched a deck of cards from the air, shuffled it,
and sent it in a long ribbon  to the cat. The cat intercepted it and sent it
back. The satiny snake whiffled, Fagott opened his mouth like a nestling and
swallowed it all card by card. After which the cat bowed, scraping his right
hind paw, winning himself unbelievable applause.
     'Class! Real class!' rapturous shouts came from the wings.
     And Fagott jabbed his finger at the stalls and announced:
     'You'll find that same deck,  esteemed citizens, on  citizen Parchevsky
in the seventh row, just  between a three-rouble bill and a summons to court
in connection with the payment of alimony to citizen Zeikova.'
     There was a stirring in the stalls, people began to get up, and finally
some citizen whose name was indeed  Parchevsky, all  crimson with amazement,
extracted the deck from his wallet and began sticking it up in the  air, not
knowing what to do with it.
     'You may keep it as a souvenir!' cried Fagott. 'Not for nothing did you
say  at dinner  yesterday that if it weren't for  poker your life in  Moscow
would be utterly unbearable.'
     `An old trick!' came  from  the gallery.  The one in the stalls is from
the same company.'
     'You think so?' shouted Fagott, squinting at the gallery. 'In that case
you're also one of us, because the deck is now in your pocket!'
     There was movement in the balcony, and a joyful voice said:
     'Right! He's got it! Here, here! ... Wait! It's ten-rouble bills!'
     Those sitting  in the  stalls  turned  their  heads. In the  gallery  a
bewildered  citizen  found in his  pocket  a  bank-wrapped packet with  'One
thousand roubles' written on it. His neighbours hovered over him, and he, in
amazement, picked at  the wrapper with his fingernail, trying to find out if
the bills were real or some sort of magic ones.
     'By God, they're  real! Ten-rouble bills!'  joyful cries  came from the
     'I want to play with the same kind of deck,' a fat man in the middle of
the stalls requested merrily.
     `Avec playzeer!'  Fagott responded.  `But why just  you? Everyone  will
warmly participate!' And he commanded: 'Look up, please! ... One!' There was
a  pistol in his hand. He  shouted:  'Two!' The  pistol  was pointed  up. He
shouted: 'Three!' There was a flash, a bang, and all at once, from under the
cupola, bobbing between  the  trapezes, white  strips of paper began falling
into the theatre.
     They twirled,  got blown aside, were drawn towards the gallery, bounced
into the orchestra and on to the stage. In a few seconds, the rain of money,
ever thickening,  reached the seats,  and the  spectators began snatching at
     Hundreds of arms were raised,  the spectators  held the bills up to the
lighted stage and  saw the most true and honest-to-God watermarks. The smell
also  left no doubts: it was  the incomparably delightful  smell of  freshly
printed  money.  The whole theatre was seized first with merriment and  then
with amazement. The word 'money, money!' hummed everywhere, there were gasps
of  'ah, ah!'  and merry laughter. One or  two were  already crawling in the
aisles, feeling under  the chairs. Many stood on the  seats, trying to catch
the flighty, capricious notes.
     Bewilderment  was  gradually coming to the faces  of the policemen, and
performers unceremoniously began sticking their heads out from the wings.
     In the dress  circle  a voice was heard: `What're you grabbing at? It's
mine,  it flew  to me!' and another voice: 'Don't  shove me,  or  you'll get
shoved  back!' And  suddenly there  came the  sound of  a  whack. At  once a
policeman's helmet appeared in the dress circle, and someone from  the dress
circle was led away.
     The general  agitation was  increasing, and no one  knows where it  all
would have ended if Fagott  had  not  stopped the  rain of money by suddenly
blowing into the air.
     Two  young men, exchanging significant and merry glances, took off from
their seats  and  made  straight  for the buffet.  There  was  a hum  in the
theatre, all  the spectators'  eyes glittered  excitedly. Yes,  yes, no  one
knows  where  it  all would  have ended if  Bengalsky had not  summoned  his
strength and acted. Trying to gain better control of himself, he rubbed  his
hands, as was his custom, and in his most resounding voice spoke thus:
     'Here, citizens, you and I  have  just beheld  a case of so-called mass
hypnosis. A  purely scientific experiment, proving  in the best way possible
that there  are no  miracles in magic.  Let us ask Maestro Woland to  expose
this experiment  for  us. Presently,  citizens, you will see  these supposed
banknotes disappear as suddenly as they appeared.'
     Here he applauded, but quite  alone, while a confident smile  played on
his face,  yet in his eyes  there  was  no  such  confidence, but  rather an
expression of entreaty.
     The audience did not like Bengalsky's speech. Total silence fell, which
was broken by the checkered Fagott.
     `And  this is  a  case  of so-called  lying,' he announced  in a  loud,
goatish tenor. The notes, citizens, are genuine.'
     'Bravo!' a bass barked from somewhere on high.
     This one, incidentally,' here Fagott pointed to Bengalsky, 'annoys me.
     Keeps  poking his nose where nobody's asked him, spoils the sance with
false observations! What're we going to do with him?'
     Tear his head off!' someone up in the gallery said severely.
     'What's that you said? Eh?' Fagott responded at once to this outrageous
suggestion. Tear his head off? There's an idea! Behemoth!' he shouted to the
cat. 'Go to it! Ein, zwei, drei!!'
     And an unheard-of thing occurred. The  fur bristled on the cat's  back,
and he gave a rending miaow. Then he compressed himself into a ball and shot
like a panther straight at Bengalsky's chest, and from there on to his head.
     Growling, the cat sank his plump paws into the skimpy chevelure  of the
master  of ceremonies and  in two  twists tore the head from  the thick neck
with a savage howl.
     The two and a half thousand people in the theatre cried out as one.
     Blood  spurted in fountains from the torn neck arteries and poured over
the shirt-front  and tailcoat.  The headless  body paddled its feet  somehow
absurdly and sat  down on the floor. Hysterical women's cries came from  the
audience. The cat  handed  the head  to Fagott, who lifted it up by the hair
and showed it to the audience,  and the  head cried  desperately for all the
theatre to hear:
     'A doctor!'
     'Will you pour out such drivel in the future?' Fagott asked the weeping
head menacingly.
     'Never again!' croaked the head.
     'For  God's sake, don't  torture him!' a woman's voice from a  box seat
suddenly rose above the clamour, and the magician turned in the direction of
that voice.
     'So,  what  then,  citizens,  shall  we  forgive  him?'  Fagott  asked,
addressing the audience.
     'Forgive  him, forgive him!'  separate  voices,  mostly women's,  spoke
first, then merged into one chorus with the men's.
     'What are your orders, Messire?' Fagott asked the masked man.
     'Well, now,'  the  latter  replied pensively, 'they're  people like any
other  people...  They  love money, but  that has always  been so... Mankind
loves money,  whatever it's  made of-  leather, paper,  bronze,  gold. Well,
they're  light-minded  ...  well,  what of  it ... mercy sometimes knocks at
their  hearts  ...  ordinary people... In general, reminiscent of the former
ones  ...  only the housing problem has  corrupted them...'  And  he ordered
loudly: 'Put the head on.'
     The cat, aiming accurately, planted the  head on the  neck, and it  sat
exactly in its place, as if it had never gone anywhere. Above all, there was
not even any scar left on the neck. The cat brushed Bengalsky's tailcoat and
shirt-front with his paws, and all traces of blood disappeared from them.
     Fagott got  the  sitting Bengalsky to his feet, stuck a packet of money
into his coat pocket, and sent him from the stage with the words:
     'Buzz off, it's more fun without you!'
     Staggering and looking around senselessly, the master of ceremonies had
plodded  no  farther  than  the fire post when he  felt  sick. He  cried out
     'My head, my head! ...'
     Among  those who  rushed  to him  was  Rimsky. The master of ceremonies
wept, snatched at something in the air with his hands, and muttered:
     'Give me my head, give me back my head ... Take my  apartment,  take my
paintings, only give me back my head! ...'
     A  messenger ran for  a doctor. They tried to  lie Bengalsky down on  a
sofa  in the dressing room, but he began to struggle, became  violent.  They
had  to call an ambulance. When  the unfortunate  master  of  ceremonies was
taken away,  Rimsky  ran  back  to  the stage and saw that new wonders  were
taking place on it. Ah, yes, incidentally, either then or a little  earlier,
the magician disappeared from  the stage together with  his  faded armchair,
and it must be said that the public took absolutely no notice of it, carried
away as it was by the extraordinary things Fagott was unfolding on stage.
     And  Fagott,  having packed off  the  punished  master  of  ceremonies,
addressed the public thus:
     `All righty,  now  that we've  kicked that nuisance out, let's  open  a
ladies' shop!'
     And  all  at  once  the  floor  of the  stage was covered with  Persian
carpets, huge  mirrors appeared,  lit by  greenish tubes at  the sides,  and
between the mirrors -  display windows,  and in them  the merrily astonished
spectators saw Parisian ladies' dresses of various colours and cuts. In some
of the windows, that is, while in others there appeared hundreds  of ladies'
hats, with feathers and without feathers,  and  - with  buckles or without -
hundreds of shoes, black, white, yellow, leather, satin, suede, with straps,
with stones. Among the shoes there appeared cases of perfume,  mountains  of
handbags of antelope  hide, suede, silk,  and among  these,  whole  heaps of
little elongated cases of gold metal such as usually contain lipstick.
     A red-headed girl  appeared  from devil knows where in  a black evening
dress - a girl nice in all respects, had she not been marred by a queer scar
on her neck - smiling a proprietary smile by the display windows.
     Fagott,  grinning  sweetly,  announced  that   the  firm  was  offering
perfectly  gratis an  exchange  of  the ladies'  old dresses and  shoes  for
Parisian  models  and Parisian shoes. The  same  held,  he  added,  for  the
handbags and other things.
     The cat began scraping with his hind paw, while his front paw performed
the gestures appropriate to a doorman opening a door.
     The  girl  sang out sweetly, though with some  hoarseness, rolling  her
r's, something not quite comprehensible but, judging by the women's faces in
the stalls, very tempting:
     'Gueriain,  Chanel,  Mitsouko,  Narcisse  Noir, Chanel No.  5,  evening
gowns, cocktail dresses ...'
     Fagott wriggled, the cat bowed, the girl opened the glass windows.
     'Welcome!' yelled Fagott. With no embarrassment or ceremony!'
     The audience was excited, but as yet  no one ventured on stage. Finally
some brunette stood up in the tenth row of the stalls and, smiling as if  to
say it was all the same to her and she did not give a hoot, went and climbed
on stage by the side stairs.
     'Bravo!' Fagott shouted. 'Greetings  to the first customer! Behemoth, a
chair! Let's start with the shoes, madame.'
     The brunette sat in the chair, and Fagott  at once poured a  whole heap
of shoes on the rug in  front of her.  The brunette  removed her right shoe,
tried a lilac one, stamped on the rug, examined the heel.
     They won't pinch?' she asked pensively.
     To this Fagott exclaimed with a hurt air:
     'Come, come!' and the cat miaowed resentfully.
     'I'll take this pair, m'sieur,' the brunette said with dignity, putting
on the second shoe as well.
     The  brunette's  old  shoes  were  tossed behind  a  curtain,  and  she
proceeded there herself, accompanied by the  red-headed girl and Fagott, who
was carrying several fashionable dresses on hangers. The cat bustled  about,
helped, and for greater importance hung a measuring tape around his neck.
     A minute  later  the brunette  came from  behind the  curtain in such a
dress that  the stalls all let out a  gasp. The brave woman,  who had become
astonishingly prettier, stopped at  the mirror,  moved  her  bare shoulders,
touched the hair on her nape and, twisting, tried to peek at her back.
     The firm asks  you to accept this as a  souvenir,' said Fagott, and  he
offered the brunette an open case with a flacon in it.
     `Merci,'  the brunette said  haughtily and went  down  the steps to the
stalls. As she walked, the spectators jumped up and touched the case.
     And here there came a clean  breakthrough, and  from  all  sides  women
marched  on  to the stage. Amid the general agitation of  talk, chuckles and
gasps, a man's voice was heard: 'I won't allow it!' and a woman's:
     `Despot and  philistine! Don't break my  arm!' Women disappeared behind
the curtain, leaving their dresses there and coming out in new ones. A whole
row  of  ladies  sat  on  stools  with  gilded  legs,  stamping  the  carpet
energetically with  newly shod feet. Fagott was  on his  knees, working away
with a metal shoehorn; the  cat, fainting under piles of purses  and  shoes,
plodded back  and forth between the display windows and the stools; the girl
with the disfigured  neck appeared  and  disappeared, and reached  the point
where she started rattling away entirely in French,  and,  surprisingly, the
women all understood her from  half a word, even those  who  did not  know a
single word of French.
     General amazement was aroused  by a  man  edging his way  on-stage.  He
announced that his wife had the  flu, and he therefore  asked that something
be sent to her through him. As proof that he was indeed married, the citizen
was prepared to show his passport. The solicitous husband's announcement was
met with guffaws. Fagott  shouted  that  he  believed him like his own self,
even  without  the  passport,  and handed  the  citizen two  pairs  of  silk
stockings, and the cat for his part added a little tube of lipstick.
     Late-coming women tore on  to the stage, and off  the  stage the  lucky
ones  came  pouring down in ball gowns,  pyjamas with dragons,  sober formal
outfits, little hats tipped over one eyebrow.
     Then Fagott announced that owing to the lateness of the hour, the  shop
would  close  in  exactly  one  minute  until  the  next   evening,  and  an
unbelievable  scramble arose  on-stage. Women hastily  grabbed shoes without
trying  them on. One burst behind the curtain like  a storm, got  out of her
dress  there, took possession  of the first thing that came to hand - a silk
dressing-gown covered with huge bouquets - and managed to pick up  two cases
of perfume besides.
     Exactly a minute later a pistol shot rang out, the mirrors disappeared,
the display windows and stools dropped away, the carpet melted  into air, as
did the curtain. Last to disappear was  the high mountain of old dresses and
shoes, and the stage was again severe, empty and bare.
     And it was here that a new character mixed into the affair. A pleasant,
sonorous, and very insistent baritone came from box no. 2:
     'All the same it  is  desirable, citizen artiste, that you  expose  the
technique of your  tricks to the spectators  without  delay,  especially the
trick  with  the  paper money.  It  is  also  desirable  that  the master of
ceremonies  return to the  stage. The  spectators are  concerned  about  his
     The  baritone belonged  to  none  other  than that  evening's guest  of
honour,   Arkady  Apollonovich  Sempleyarov,  chairman   of  the   Acoustics
Commission of the Moscow theatres.
     Arkady  Apollonovich was  in  his  box with two  ladies:  the older one
dressed expensively  and  fashionably,  the  other  one,  young  and pretty,
dressed  in a simpler way.  The  first,  as was  soon discovered  during the
drawing up of the report, was Arkady Apollonovich's wife, and the second was
his distant relation, a promising debutante,  who had  come from Saratov and
was living in the apartment of Arkady Apollonovich and his wife.
     Pardone!' Fagott replied. 'I'm  sorry, there's nothing here to  expose,
it's all clear.'
     'No, excuse me! The exposure  is  absolutely necessary. Without it your
brilliant numbers will  leave  a painful impression. The mass  of spectators
demands an explanation.'
     'The mass  of  spectators,' the impudent clown interrupted Sempleyarov,
`doesn't seem to be saying  anything.  But, in  consideration of  your  most
esteemed desire, Arkady Apollonovich, so be it - I will perform an exposure.
But, to that end, will you allow me one more tiny number?'
     'Why not?' Arkady Apollonovich replied patronizingly.  'But  there must
be an exposure.'
     'Very well, very  well,  sir. And  so, allow me to ask,  where were you
last evening, Arkady Apollonovich?'
     At  this  inappropriate  and  perhaps  even  boorish  question,  Arkady
Apollonovich's countenance changed, and changed quite drastically.
     `Last evening  Arkady Apollonovich was  at a meeting  of  the Acoustics
Commission,' Arkady Apollonovich's  wife  declared  very haughtily,  "but  I
don't understand what that has got to do with magic.'
     'Ouee, madame!' Fagott agreed. 'Naturally you don't understand. As  for
the meeting, you are totally deluded. After driving off to the said meeting,
which   incidentally   was  not  even  scheduled  for   last  night,  Arkady
Apollonovich dismissed his chauffeur at the Acoustics Commission building on
Clean Ponds'  (the  whole  theatre became  hushed),  `and  went  by  bus  to
Yelokhovskaya  Street  to  visit  an actress  from  the  regional  itinerant
theatre, Militsa Andreevna Pokobatko, with whom he spent some four hours.'
     'Aie!'  someone  cried out  painfully  in  the  total  silence.  Arkady
Apollonovich's young relation suddenly broke into a low and terrible laugh.
     'It's all clear!' she exclaimed. 'And I've long suspected it. Now I see
why that giftless thing got the role of Louisa [1]!''
     And, swinging suddenly, she struck Arkady Apollonovich on the head with
her short and fat violet umbrella.
     Meanwhile, the scoundrelly Fagott, alias Koroviev, was shouting:
     'Here,  honourable  citizens,  is  one  case  of  the  exposure  Arkady
Apollonovich so importunately insisted on!'
     'How dare you touch  Arkady Apollonovich,  you  vile creature?'  Arkady
Apollonovich's wife  asked  threateningly,  rising  in  the box to  all  her
gigantic height.
     A second brief wave of satanic laughter seized the young relation. 'Who
else should dare touch  him,' she answered, guffawing, 'if  not me!' And for
the second time there came the dry, crackling sound of the umbrella bouncing
off the head of Arkady Apollonovich.
     'Police! Seize her!!'  Sempleyarov's  wife shouted in such  a  terrible
voice that many hearts went cold.
     And here the cat also leaped out to the footlights and  suddenly barked
in a human voice for all the theatre to hear:
     The seance  is  over!  Maestro!  Hack  out a  march!'  The  half-crazed
conductor, unaware of what he was doing, waved his baton,  and the orchestra
did not play, or even strike up, or even bang away at, but precisely, in the
cat's  loathsome  expression,  hacked  out  some  incredible  march  of   an
unheard-of brashness.
     For a moment  there was  an illusion of having heard  once upon a time,
under   southern  stars,  in  a  cafe-chantant,  some  barely  intelligible,
half-blind, but rollicking words to this march:
     His Excellency reached the stage
     Of liking barnyard fowl.
     He took under his patronage
     Three young girls and an owl!!!
     Or maybe these were not the words at all, but there were  others to the
same music, extremely indecent ones.  That  is not the important thing,  the
important thing is that, after all this, something like Babel broke loose in
the Variety.  The  police  went  running  to Sempleyarov's box, people  were
climbing  over the barriers,  there were  bursts  of infernal guffawing  and
furious shouts, drowned in the golden clash of the orchestra's cymbals.
     And  one could see that  the stage  was  suddenly  empty,  and that the
hoodwinker  Fagott, as well as the  brazen tom-cat Behemoth, had melted into
air, vanished as the magician had vanished  earlier in his armchair with the
faded upholstery.

     And so, the unknown man shook his finger at Ivan and whispered:
     'Shhh! ...'
     Ivan lowered his legs from the bed and peered. Cautiously looking  into
the  room  from  the  balcony  was   a  clean-shaven,  dark-haired  man   of
approximately thirty-eight, with a sharp nose, anxious  eyes,  and a wisp of
hair hanging down on his forehead.
     Having listened and  made  sure that Ivan  was  alone,  the  mysterious
visitor took heart and stepped into the room. Here Ivan saw that the man was
dressed as a patient. He was  wearing long  underwear, slippers on  his bare
feet, and a brown dressing-gown thrown over his shoulders.
     The visitor winked at Ivan, hid a bunch of keys in his pocket, inquired
in a whisper: 'May I sit down?' - and receiving an affirmative  nod,  placed
himself in an armchair.
     'How did you get here?' Ivan asked in a whisper, obeying the dry finger
shaken at him. 'Aren't the balcony grilles locked?'
     The grilles are  locked,' the guest agreed, `but  Praskovya Fyodorovna,
while the dearest  person, is also, alas, quite absent-minded. A month ago I
stole a bunch of keys from her, and so gained the opportunity of getting out
on to the common  balcony,  which  runs  around the entire  floor, and so of
occasionally calling on a neighbour.'
     'If  you can get out on to the  balcony, you  can escape. Or is it high
up?' Ivan was interested.
     'No,' the guest replied firmly, 'I cannot escape from here, not because
it's high up, but because I have nowhere to escape to.' And he  added, after
a pause: 'So, here we sit.'
     `Here  we  sit,'  Ivan replied,  peering into the man's brown and  very
restless eyes.
     'Yes ...'  here  the  guest  suddenly became  alarmed,  'but you're not
violent, I hope? Because, you know, I cannot stand noise, turmoil, force, or
other things like that. Especially hateful to me are people's cries, whether
cries of rage, suffering, or anything else. Set  me at ease, tell me, you're
not violent?'
     `Yesterday  in  a  restaurant  I  socked  one  type  in  the mug,'  the
transformed poet courageously confessed.
     'Your grounds?' the guest asked sternly.
     "No grounds, I must confess,' Ivan answered, embarrassed.
     'Outrageous,' the guest denounced Ivan and added: 'And besides, what  a
way to express yourself: "socked  in the mug"... It  is  not known precisely
whether  a man  has a mug or a face. And, after all, it may well  be a face.
So, you know, using fists ... No, you should give that up, and for good.'
     Having thus reprimanded Ivan, the guest inquired:
     'Your profession?'
     'Poet,' Ivan confessed, reluctantly for some reason.
     The visitor became upset.
     'Ah, just my luck!' he exclaimed, but at once reconsidered, apologized,
and asked: 'And what is your name?'
     'Oh-oh ...' the guest said, wincing.
     'What, you mean you dislike my poetry?' Ivan asked with curiosity.
     'I dislike it terribly.'
     'And what have you read.'
     'I've never read any of your poetry!' the visitor exclaimed nervously.
     Then how can you say that?'
     'Well, what of it?' the guest replied. 'As if I haven't read others? Or
else ... maybe there's  some  miracle? Very well,  I'm  ready to  take it on
faith. Is your poetry good? You tell me yourself.'
     'Monstrous!' Ivan suddenly spoke boldly and frankly.
     'Don't write any more!' the visitor asked beseechingly.
     'I promise and I swear!' Ivan said solemnly.
     The  oath  was  sealed with a handshake,  and  here soft footsteps  and
voices were heard in the corridor.
     'Shh!' the  guest whispered and, jumping out to the balcony, closed the
grille behind him.
     Praskovya  Fyodorovna peeked  in, asked  Ivan  how  he was feeling  and
whether he wished to sleep in the  dark or with a light.  Ivan asked  her to
leave the light on, and Praskovya Fyodorovna withdrew, wishing the patient a
good night. And when everything was quiet, the guest came back again.
     He informed Ivan in a whisper that there was a new arrival  in room 119
- some fat man with a purple physiognomy, who kept muttering something about
currency in  the ventilation and swearing that unclean powers were living in
their place on Sadovaya.
     'He curses Pushkin up and down and  keeps shouting: "Kurolesov, encore,
encore!"' the guest said, twitching nervously. Having calmed himself, he sat
down, said: 'Anyway,  God  help him,'  and continued  his  conversation with
Ivan: 'So, how did you wind up here?'
     'On account of  Pontius Pilate,' Ivan replied,  casting  a glum look at
the floor.
     'What?!' the guest cried, forgetting  all caution, and clapped his hand
over his own mouth. 'A staggering coincidence! Tell me  about it, I beg you,
I beg you!'
     Feeling  trust  in  the  unknown  man  for  some  reason,  Ivan  began,
falteringly and  timorously at  first,  then more boldly,  to tell about the
previous  day's  story at the  Patriarch's  Ponds. Yes,  it  was  a grateful
listener  that  Ivan  Nikolaevich acquired  in the person of the  mysterious
stealer of keys! The guest did  not take Ivan for a madman,  he showed great
interest  in  what he  was being told, and, as the  story developed, finally
became ecstatic. Time and again he interrupted Ivan with exclamations:
     'Well, well, go on, go  on, I beg you!  Only, in the name of all that's
holy, don't leave anything out!'
     Ivan  left nothing out  in  any case, it was easier  for him to tell it
that way,  and he gradually  reached the  moment when  Pontius Pilate,  in a
white mantle with blood-red lining, came out to the balcony.
     Then the visitor put his hands together prayerfully and whispered:
     'Oh, how I guessed! How I guessed it all!'
     The  listener accompanied the description of  Berlioz's terrible  death
with an enigmatic remark, while his eyes flashed with spite:
     'I only  regret  that  it  wasn't the  critic Latunsky  or  the  writer
Mstislav Lavrovich  instead of this Berlioz!',  and  he cried out frenziedly
but soundlessly: 'Go on!'
     The  cat  handing  money  to  the  woman  conductor  amused  the  guest
exceedingly, and  he choked with quiet laughter watching as Ivan, excited by
the success  of his narration, quietly hopped on bent legs,  portraying  the
cat holding the coin up next to his whiskers.
     `And  so,'  Ivan concluded, growing  sad and melancholy  after  telling
about the events at Griboedov's, 'I wound up here.'
     The guest sympathetically placed a hand on the poor poet's shoulder and
spoke thus:
     'Unlucky  poet! But you yourself, dear heart, are to blame  for it all.
You oughtn't to have behaved so casually and even impertinently with him. So
you've  paid for  it. And  you must still say thank  you  that  you  got off
comparatively cheaply.'
     'But who is he, finally?' Ivan asked, shaking his fists in agitation.
     The guest peered at Ivan and answered with a question:
     `You're  not going to get  upset?  We're all unreliable  here...  There
won't be any calling for the doctor, injections, or other fuss?'
     'No, no!' Ivan exclaimed. 'Tell me, who is he?'
     'Very well,' the visitor replied, and he said weightily and distinctly:
     "Yesterday at the Patriarch's Ponds you met Satan.'
     Ivan did not get upset, as he  had promised, but even so he was greatly
     'That can't be! He doesn't exist!'
     `Good heavens!  Anyone  else  might  say that,  but  not you.  You were
apparently  one  of  his  first  victims. You're  sitting, as  you  yourself
understand, in a psychiatric  clinic, yet you keep  saying he doesn't exist.
Really, it's strange!'
     Thrown off, Ivan fell silent.
     'As soon as you started describing him,' the guest went on, 'I began to
realize who it was that you had the pleasure of talking with yesterday. And,
really,  I'm  surprised  at  Berlioz! Now  you,  of course, are  a  virginal
person,'  here the guest apologized  again, `but  that one, from  what  I've
heard about him,  had after all  read at  least  something! The  very  first
things this professor  said  dispelled  all  my  doubts.  One can't fail  to
recognize him, my friend! Though you ... again I must apologize, but I'm not
mistaken, you are an ignorant man?'
     'Indisputably,' the unrecognizable Ivan agreed.
     'Well, so ... even the face, as  you  described it, the different eyes,
the  eyebrows!  ... Forgive me, however, perhaps you've never even heard the
opera Faust?
     Ivan  became terribly embarrassed for some reason and, his face aflame,
began mumbling something about some trip to a sanatorium ... to Yalta ...
     'Well, so, so... hardly surprising! But Berlioz, I repeat, astounds  me
... He's not only a well-read man but also a  very shrewd one. Though I must
say in his defence  that Woland  is, of course, capable  of pulling the wool
over the eyes of an even shrewder man.'
     'What?!' Ivan cried out in his turn.
     Ivan slapped himself roundly on the forehead with his palm and rasped:
     'I see, I see. He had  the letter "W" on his visiting card. Ai-yai-yai,
what a thing!' He lapsed into a bewildered silence for some time, peering at
the moon floating outside the grille, and then spoke:
     'So that means he  might actually have been at Pontius Pilate's? He was
already  born then?  And  they call me  a madman!'  Ivan added  indignantly,
pointing to the door.
     A bitter wrinkle appeared on the guest's lips.
     `Let's look  the  truth  in the eye.'  And  the guest  turned his  face
towards the nocturnal luminary racing through a cloud. 'You  and I  are both
madmen,  there's  no  denying  that! You see, he shocked you - and  you came
unhinged, since  you evidently had the  ground prepared for it. But what you
describe undoubtedly took place in  reality. But it's so extraordinary  that
even Stravinsky, a psychiatrist of  genius, did not, of course, believe you.
Did he examine you?'  (Ivan nodded.) 'Your interlocutor was at Pilate's, and
had breakfast with Kant, and now he's visiting Moscow.'
     'But he'll be up to  devil knows what here! Oughtn't  we  to catch  him
somehow?' the former,  not  yet  definitively  quashed Ivan still raised his
head, though without much confidence, in the new Ivan.
     'You've already tried, and that will do  for  you,' the  guest  replied
ironically. 'I don't advise others to try  either.  And  as for being up  to
something, rest assured, he  will be! Ah, ah! But  how  annoying that it was
you who met him and  not I. Though  it's  all burned up,  and the coals have
gone  to  ashes,  still,  I  swear,  for  that  meeting  I'd  give Praskovya
Fyodorovna's bunch of keys, for I have nothing else to give. I'm destitute.'
     'But what do you need him for?'
     The  guest  paused ruefully for a  long time and twitched,  but finally
     `You see, it's  such  a  strange story,  I'm sitting here  for the same
reason you  are -  namely, on account  of Pontius  Pilate.' Here  the  guest
looked around fearfully  and said: The thing is that a  year  ago I  wrote a
novel about Pilate.'
     'You're a writer?' the poet asked with interest.
     The guest's face darkened  and  he threatened Ivan with  his fist, then
     `I  am  a master.'  He grew  stern and  took  from  the pocket  of  his
dressing-gown a completely greasy black cap  with the letter 'M' embroidered
on it in yellow silk.  He put this cap on and showed himself to Ivan both in
profile and  full face,  to prove that he was a master. `She sewed it for me
with her own hands,' he added mysteriously.
     'And what is your name?'
     'I  no longer  have  a name,' the strange  guest answered  with  gloomy
disdain.  `I renounced  it,  as I generally did  everything  in life.  Let's
forget it.'
     Then at least tell me about the novel,' Ivan asked delicately.
     'If you please, sir. My life, it  must be  said, has taken  a not  very
ordinary course,' the guest began.
     ... A  historian by education, he had worked until two years ago at one
of the Moscow museums, and, besides that, had also done translations.
     'From what languages?' Ivan interrupted curiously.
     'I know  five  languages besides my own,'  replied the guest, 'English,
French, German, Latin and Greek. Well, I can also read Italian a little.'
     'Oh, my!' Ivan whispered enviously.
     ... The  historian had  lived  solitarily, had no  family  anywhere and
almost no acquaintances in Moscow. And, just think, one day he won a hundred
thousand roubles.
     'Imagine my astonishment,'  the guest in the black cap whispered, 'when
I put my hand in  the basket of dirty laundry and, lo and behold, it had the
same number  as in the  newspaper. A  state bond  [1],'' he explained, 'they
gave it to me at the museum.'
     ... Having  won  a  hundred thousand roubles,  Ivan's  mysterious guest
acted thus: bought books, gave up his room on Myasnitskaya ...
     'Ohh, that accursed hole! ...' he growled.
     ...and rented  from a  builder, in a lane near the Arbat, two  rooms in
the basement of a little house in the garden. He left his work at the museum
and began writing a novel about Pontius Pilate.
     'Ah, that was a golden age!' the narrator whispered, his eyes shining.
     `A  completely private little  apartment, plus a front hall with a sink
in it,' he underscored for some  reason with special  pride, 'little windows
just  level  with the paved walk leading from the gate. Opposite, only  four
steps away, near the fence,  lilacs, a linden  and  a maple. Ah, ah,  ah! In
winter it  was very seldom that I saw someone's black feet through my window
and heard  the  snow crunching  under  them.  And  in my  stove  a  fire was
eternally blazing!
     But suddenly spring came and through the  dim glass I saw lilac bushes,
naked at first, then dressing themselves up in  green. And it was then, last
spring,  that something happened far  more delightful than getting a hundred
thousand roubles. And that, you must agree, is a huge sum of money!'
     That's true,' acknowledged the attentively listening Ivan. 'I opened my
little windows and sat in the second, quite minuscule room.' The guest began
measuring with his arms:  'Here's the sofa, and another sofa opposite, and a
little table between  them, with a beautiful night  lamp on  it,  and  books
nearer the window, and here a small writing table, and in the first room - a
huge room, one hundred and fifty  square feet! - books, books and the stove.
Ah, what furnishings I had!  The extraordinary smell of  the  lilacs! And my
head was getting light with fatigue, and Pilate was flying to the end...'
     'White mantle, red lining! I  understand!' Ivan  exclaimed.  'Precisely
so! Pilate  was flying to the end, to  the  end, and I already knew that the
last words of the  novel would be:  "... the  fifth procurator of Judea, the
equestrian Pontius Pilate". Well, naturally, I used to go  out for a walk. A
hundred thousand  is a huge  sum, and I had an excellent suit. Or I'd go and
have  dinner  in some cheap restaurant. There was a  wonderful restaurant on
the Arbat, I don't know whether it exists now.' Here the guest's eyes opened
wide,  and he went on whispering,  gazing  at  the moon: 'She  was  carrying
repulsive, alarming  yellow flowers in  her hand.  Devil knows  what they're
called, but for some reason they're the first to appear in Moscow. And these
flowers stood  out clearly against  her  black spring coat. She was carrying
yellow flowers! Not a nice colour. She turned down a lane from Tverskaya and
then looked back. Well, you know Tverskaya! Thousands of people were walking
along Tverskaya, but I can assure you that she  saw me alone, and looked not
really  alarmed, but even as if in pain. And I was struck not so much by her
beauty  as by  an extraordinary loneliness  in  her eyes, such as no one had
ever seen before! Obeying this yellow  sign, I also turned down the lane and
followed  her.  We walked along the crooked, boring lane silently, I  on one
side, she  on  the other. And, imagine, there was  not a soul in the lane. I
was  suffering, because it seemed  to me that it was  necessary to speak  to
her, and I worried that I wouldn't utter a single word, and she would leave,
and I'd never see her again. And, imagine, suddenly she began to speak:
     ' "Do you like my flowers?"
     'I remember clearly the sound of her voice, rather low, slightly husky,
and, stupid as it is, it  seemed  that  the echo resounded  in the  lane and
bounced off the dirty yellow wall. I quickly crossed to her side and, coming
up to her, answered:
     'She  looked at me in surprise, and I suddenly, and quite unexpectedly,
understood that all my life I had loved precisely this woman! Quite a thing,
eh? Of course, you'll say I'm mad?'
     'I won't say anything,' Ivan exclaimed, and added: 'I beg you, go on!'
     And the guest continued.
     'Yes,  she looked at  me in surprise, and  then,  having looked,  asked
     '"You generally don't like flowers?"
     'It seemed to me there was hostility in her voice. I was walking beside
her, trying to  keep  in step,  and, to my surprise,  did not feel the least
     ' "No, I like flowers, but not this kind," I said.
     '"Which, then?"
     '"I like roses."
     'Then I regretted having said it, because she smiled guiltily and threw
the flowers into the gutter. Slightly at a loss, I nevertheless picked  them
up and gave them to her, but she, with a smile, pushed the flowers away, and
I carried them in my hand.
     'So we  walked silently for some time, until she took  the flowers from
my hand and threw  them to  the  pavement,  then put her own hand in a black
glove with a bell-shaped cuff under my arm, and we walked on side by side.'
     'Go on,' said Ivan, 'and please don't leave anything out!'
     'Go on?'  repeated the visitor. 'Why, you can guess for yourself how it
went on.'  He suddenly  wiped an unexpected tear with his right  sleeve  and
continued:  `Love  leaped out in front of us like  a  murderer  in an  alley
leaping out of nowhere, and struck us both at once. As lightning strikes, as
a Finnish knife strikes! She, by the way, insisted afterwards that it wasn't
so, that we had, of course, loved each other for a long, long  time, without
knowing  each  other, never  having seen each other, and that she was living
with a different man ... as I was, too, then ... with that, what's her ...'
     'With whom?' asked Homeless.
     With that... well... with ...' replied the guest, snapping his fingers.
     'You were married?'
     'Why, yes, that's why I'm snapping... With that... Varenka ... Manechka
... no, Varenka ... striped dress, the museum ... Anyhow, I don't remember.
     'Well,  so  she said she went  out  that day with yellow flowers in her
hand so that I would find her at  last, and that if  it hadn't happened, she
would have poisoned herself, because her life was empty.
     'Yes, love struck us instantly. I knew it that same day, an hour later,
when, without  having noticed  the city,  we  found ourselves by the Kremlin
wall on the embankment.
     We talked as if we had parted only  the day before, as if  we had known
each  other  for  many years. We arranged to  meet the next day at  the same
place  on  the Moscow River, and we did.  The May sun shone down on  us. And
soon, very soon, this woman became my secret wife.
     'She used to come to me every afternoon,  but I would begin waiting for
her in the  morning. This waiting expressed  itself in the moving around  of
objects on the table.  Ten  minutes  before,  I would sit down by the little
window  and  begin to listen  for the  banging of the decrepit gate. And how
curious: before  my meeting  with her,  few  people came to our yard  - more
simply, no one  came  - but now  it seemed  to me that the  whole  city came
flocking there.
     'Bang goes the gate, bang goes my heart, and, imagine,  it's inevitably
somebody's  dirty   boots  level  with  my   face  behind   the  window.   A
knife-grinder. Now, who needs a knife-grinder in our house? To sharpen what?
What knives?
     'She would come through the gate once, but my heart would pound no less
than ten times before that, I'm not lying. And then, when her hour came  and
the hands showed noon, it even wouldn't stop pounding  until, almost without
tapping, almost noiselessly, her shoes would come even with my window, their
black suede bows held tightly by steel buckles.
     'Sometimes she would get mischievous, pausing at the  second window and
tapping the glass  with her toe. That same instant I would be at the window,
but  the shoe would be gone, the black silk blocking the light would be gone
- I'd go and open the door for her.
     `No one  knew  of our liaison,  I  assure you of  that, though it never
happens. Her husband  didn't know, her acquaintances didn't know. In the old
house where I had that basement, people knew, of  course, they saw that some
woman visited me, but they didn't know her name.'
     `But who is she?' asked  Ivan, intrigued in the highest  degree by this
love story.
     The guest made  a gesture signifying that he  would never tell that  to
anyone, and went on with his story.
     Ivan learned that the master and the  unknown woman loved each other so
deeply that they  became  completely inseparable. Ivan could clearly picture
to himself the two rooms  in  the basement of the house, where it was always
twilight because of the lilacs  and  the fence. The  worn red furniture, the
bureau, the clock on it which struck every half hour, and books, books, from
the painted floor to the sooty ceiling, and the stove.
     Ivan learned  that his guest  and his secret wife,  from the very first
days  of  their liaison, had come  to the  conclusion that  fate itself  had
thrown them together at the corner of Tverskaya and that lane, and that they
had been created for each other for all time.
     Ivan learned from the guest's story how the lovers would spend the day.
     She  would  come, and put on an  apron first  thing, and  in the narrow
front hall where stood that same sink of which the poor patient was for some
reason so proud, would light the kerosene stove on the wooden table, prepare
lunch, and  set it out  on the oval table in  the  first room. When the  May
storms   came  and  water  rushed  noisily  through  the  gateway  past  the
near-sighted windows, threatening to  flood  their  last  refuge, the lovers
would light the stove and bake potatoes in it. Steam rose from the potatoes,
the  black  potato  skins  dirtied  their fingers. Laughter  came  from  the
basement,  the trees  in  the  garden  after rain shed  broken  twigs, white
     When  the storms ended  and  sultry summer came,  there appeared in the
vase  the long-awaited roses they both loved. The  man who called  himself a
master  worked feverishly on  his  novel, and  this novel  also absorbed the
unknown woman.
     'Really, there were times when I'd begin to be jealous of it on account
of her,' the night visitor come from the moonlit balcony whispered to Ivan.
     Her slender fingers with sharply  filed  nails buried  in her hair, she
endlessly  reread what  he  had written,  and after rereading it  would  sit
sewing that very same  cap. Sometimes she crouched down by the lower shelves
or stood by the upper  ones and  wiped  the hundreds of dusty spines  with a
cloth. She foretold fame, she urged him  on, and it  was then that she began
to call him a master. She  waited impatiently for the already promised  last
words about the fifth procurator of  Judea,  repeated aloud in  a  sing-song
voice certain phrases she liked, and said that her life was in this novel.
     It was finished in  the month of  August,  was  given  to  some unknown
typist, and she  typed it in five copies. And  finally the hour came when he
had to leave his secret refuge and go out into life.
     `And  I went out into life holding  it in my hands,  and then  my  life
ended,' the master  whispered and  drooped  his  head,  and for a  long time
nodded the woeful black cap with the yellow letter 'M'  on it. He  continued
his story, but it became somewhat incoherent, one could only understand that
some catastrophe had then befallen Ivan's guest.
     'For the first time I found myself in the world of literature, but now,
when  it's  all  over and  my ruin is clear, I recall  it  with horror!' the
master whispered  solemnly  and  raised  his  hand.  'Yes,  he astounded  me
greatly, ah, how he astounded me!'
     'Who?' Ivan whispered barely audibly, fearing to interrupt the agitated
     'Why, the editor, I tell you, the editor! Yes, he read it all right. He
looked at me as  if I had a swollen  cheek, looked sidelong into the corner,
and  even tittered  in embarrassment. He  crumpled the manuscript needlessly
and grunted. The questions he asked seemed crazy to me. Saving nothing about
the essence of the  novel, he asked me who I was, where I came from, and how
long I  had been writing, and why  no one  had heard of me before,  and even
asked what in my opinion  was a totally  idiotic question: who  had given me
the  idea of writing a novel on such a strange theme? Finally  I got sick of
him and asked directly  whether he would publish the  novel or  not. Here he
started squirming, mumbled  something, and declared that he could not decide
the question on his own, that other members  of the  editorial board  had to
acquaint themselves with  my work - namely, the critics Latunsky and Ariman,
and the writer Mstislav Lavrovich.  [2] He asked me to  come in two weeks. I
came  in two weeks and  was received by  some  girl whose eyes  were crossed
towards her nose from constant lying.'
     That's Lapshennikova, the editorial secretary,' Ivan said with a smirk.
     He knew very well the world described so wrathfully by his guest.
     `Maybe,' the  other  snapped, 'and  so  from  her I got  my novel back,
already quite greasy and dishevelled. Trying to avoid looking me in the eye,
Lapshennikova told me  that the publisher was provided with material for two
years ahead, and therefore the question of printing my novel, as she put it,
"did not arise".
     `What  do I remember after  that?' the  master  muttered,  rubbing  his
temple. 'Yes, red petals strewn across the  tide  page, and also the eyes of
my friend. Yes, those eyes I remember.'
     The story of Ivan's  guest was becoming more confused, more filled with
all sorts of reticences. He said something about slanting  rain  and despair
in  the  basement refuge, about  having  gone  elsewhere. He exclaimed in  a
whisper that  he did not blame her in the least for  pushing  him to fight -
oh, no, he did not blame her!
     Further on, as Ivan  heard, something sudden and strange  happened. One
day our  hero opened  a newspaper and saw  in it  an  article  by the critic
Ariman, [3] in which Ariman  warned all and  sundry  that he, that  is,  our
hero, had attempted to foist into print an apology for Jesus Christ.
     'Ah, I remember, I remember!'  Ivan cried out. 'But I've forgotten your
     'Let's leave my name out of it, I repeat, it no longer exists,' replied
the guest. 'That's not the point. Two days later in  another newspaper, over
the signature of  Mstislav Lavrovich, appeared another article, in which its
author  recommended striking, and  striking hard,  at  Pilatism  and at  the
icon-dauber  who had ventured to foist it  (again  that accursed word!) into
     'Dumbfounded  by this  unheard-of word  "Pilatism", I  opened  a  third
newspaper. There were two articles in it,  one by Latunsky, the other signed
with the initials "N.E." I assure you,  the works  of Ariman  and  Lavrovich
could be counted as jokes  compared with what  Latunsky wrote. Suffice it to
say that Latunsky's  article was  entitled "A Militant  Old Believer". [4] I
got so carried away reading the article about myself that I didn't notice (I
had forgotten to lock the  door) how she  came in and stood before me with a
wet umbrella in her hand and wet  newspapers as well. Her eyes flashed fire,
her  trembling  hands were cold. First she  rushed to  kiss  me, then,  in a
hoarse  voice,  and  pounding the table with  her  fist, she said  she would
poison Latunsky.'
     Ivan grunted somewhat embarrassedly, but said nothing.
     'Joyless autumn days set in,' the guest went on. 'The monstrous failure
with  this novel seemed  to have  taken out a part  of my  soul. Essentially
speaking, I had nothing more to do, and I lived from one meeting with her to
the next. And it was at that time that something happened to me. Devil knows
what, Stravinsky probably figured it out long ago. Namely, anguish came over
me and certain forebodings appeared.
     "The  articles, please note, did not cease. I laughed at  the first  of
them. But the more of  them that appeared, the more my attitude towards them
changed.  The  second stage was one of astonishment. Some  rare falsity  and
insecurity  could be  sensed  literally in  every line  of  these  articles,
despite  their threatening  and  confident tone. I  had  the feeling, and  I
couldn't get rid  of  it, that the authors of these articles were not saying
what they wanted to say, and that their rage sprang precisely from that. And
then, imagine, a third stage came - of fear. No, not fear of these articles,
you understand, but fear of other things totally unrelated to them or to the
novel. Thus, for  instance, I began to be afraid of the dark.  In short, the
stage of  mental illness came. It seemed to me, especially as I was  falling
asleep, that  some very  cold  and  pliant  octopus  was stealing  with  its
tentacles immediately and directly towards my heart. And I had to sleep with
the light on.
     'My beloved changed very much (of  course, I never  told  her about the
octopus,  but  she could see that something  was  going  wrong with me), she
became thinner and paler, stopped laughing, and  kept  asking me to  forgive
her for  having  advised  me  to publish an  excerpt. She said I should drop
everything and go  to the  south,  to the Black Sea,  and spend all that was
left of the hundred thousand on the trip.
     'She was very insistent, and to avoid an argument (something  told me I
was not to go to the Black Sea), I promised her that I'd do it one  of those
days. But she said she would buy me the ticket herself. Then  I took out all
my money - that is, about ten thousand roubles - and gave it to her.
     ' "Why so much?" she was surprised.
     'I said something  or other about being afraid of thieves and asked her
to  keep the  money  until my departure.  She took it,  put it in her purse,
began kissing me and  saying that it would be easier for her to die  than to
leave me alone in such a state, but that she was expected, that she must bow
to  necessity, that  she  would come the next day. She begged me not  to  be
afraid of anything.
     'This was at dusk, in mid-October. And she left. I lay down on the sofa
and fell asleep without turning on the  light. I was awakened by the feeling
that the octopus was there. Groping in the dark, I barely managed to turn on
the light. My pocket watch showed two o'clock in the morning. I  was falling
ill when I went to bed, and  I woke up sick.  It suddenly seemed  to me that
the autumn darkness would push through the glass and pour into the room, and
I  would  drown in it as  in  ink. I got up  a man  no longer in  control of
himself. I cried out, the thought came to me of running to  someone, even if
it was my landlord upstairs.  I struggled with myself like  a madman.  I had
strength enough to get  to the stove and  start a fire in it. When the  wood
began to  crackle and  the stove door rattled,  I  seemed  to feel  slightly
better.  I dashed to  the  front room,  turned on the  light there,  found a
bottle of white wine, uncorked it and began drinking from the  bottle.  This
blunted the  fear somewhat  - at least enough to keep me from running  to me
landlord  - and I went back  to me stove. I  opened the little door, so that
the heat began to burn my face and hands, and whispered:
     ' "Guess that trouble has befallen me ... Come, come, come! ..."
     'But no one  came.  The fire  roared in the  stove,  rain lashed at the
windows. Then  the final thing happened. I took the heavy manuscript  of the
novel and the draft notebooks from the desk drawer and started burning them.
This was terribly hard to do, because written-on paper burns reluctantly.
     Breaking my fingernails, I tore up the notebooks, stuck them vertically
between the logs, and  ruffled the pages  with the poker. At times the ashes
got the best  of me, choking  the flames, but I struggled with them, and the
novel,  though  stubbornly resisting, was nevertheless  perishing.  Familiar
words flashed before me,  the yellow climbed steadily up the  pages, but the
words still showed through it. They would  vanish only when the paper turned
black, and I finished them off with the poker.
     `Just  then someone  began scratching quietly  at the  window. My heart
leaped, and having stuffed the last notebook into the fire, I rushed to open
the  door.  Brick steps  led up from the  basement to the door on the  yard.
Stumbling, I ran up to it and asked quietly:
     ' "Who's there?"
     'And that voice, her voice, answered:
     'It's me...'
     'I don't remember how I managed with the chain and hook. As soon as she
stepped inside, she clung to me, trembling, all wet, her cheeks wet  and her
hair uncurled. I could only utter the word:
     ' "You ... you? ...", and my voice broke, and we ran downstairs.
     `She freed herself of  her  overcoat in the front hall, and we  quickly
went into the first room. With a soft cry, she pulled  out of the stove with
her bare hands and threw on to the floor the last of what was there, a sheaf
that had  caught fire from  below. Smoke filled the room at once. I  stamped
out  the fire  with  my  feet,  and  she  collapsed  on  the sofa  and  wept
irrepressibly and convulsively.
     'When she calmed down, I said:
     ' "I came to hate this novel, and I'm afraid. I'm ill. Frightened."
     'She stood up and said:
     '  "God, how sick you are. Why is it, why? But I'll save you. I'11 save
you. What is all this?"
     `I  saw her eyes swollen  with smoke  and weeping, felt her cold  hands
stroke my forehead.
     '"I'll cure  you, I'll  cure  you,"  she was  murmuring,  clutching  my
shoulders. "You'll restore it. Why, why didn't I keep a copy?"
     'She bared her teeth with rage, she said something else inarticulately.
Then,  compressing  her  lips,  she began  to  collect  and smooth  out  the
burnt-edged pages. It was some chapter from the middle of the novel, I don't
remember which.  She neatly stacked  the  pages, wrapped them in paper, tied
them  with  a  ribbon.  All  her  actions  showed  that  she   was  full  of
determination,  and that  she had regained control of herself. She asked for
wine and, having drunk it, spoke more calmly:
     ' "This  is how one pays for lying," she said, "and I don't want to lie
any more. I'd stay with  you right now, but I'd rather not do it that way. I
don't want it to remain for ever in his memory that I  ran  away from him in
the middle of  the  night. He's never done me any wrong ...  He was summoned
unexpectedly, there was a fire at the  factory. But he'll be back soon. I'll
talk  with him  tomorrow morning, I'll tell him that I love  another man and
come back to you for ever. Or maybe you don't want that? Answer me."
     ' "Poor dear, my poor dear," I said to her. "I  won't  allow you to  do
it. Things won't go well for me, and I don't want you to perish with me."
     '  "Is that the  only reason?" she asked, and brought  her eyes dose to
     '"The only one."
     'She  became terribly animated, she  dung to me, put her arms around my
neck and said:
     ' "I'm perishing with you. In the morning I'll be here."
     'And  so, the  last thing I remember from my  life is a strip  of light
from my  front hall, and in that  strip of light an uncurled strand of hair,
her beret and her eyes filled  with determination. I also remember the black
silhouette in the outside doorway and the white package.
     ' "I'd  see you home, but it's beyond my strength to  come  back alone.
I'm afraid."
     ' "Don't be afraid. Bear with it for a few hours. Tomorrow morning I'll
be here."
     `Those  were her  last  words  in  my  life ...  Shh!  ... `the patient
suddenly interrupted himself  and raised a  finger. 'It's a restless moonlit
night tonight.'
     He disappeared  on to the balcony.  Ivan  heard little wheels roll down
the corridor, someone sobbed or cried out weakly.
     When everything grew still, the guest came back and announced that room
120 had  received  an occupant. Someone had been brought, and he kept asking
to be given back his head. The two interlocutors fell anxiously silent, but,
having calmed down,  they returned  to the interrupted story. The  guest was
just opening  his mouth, but the night was indeed a restless one. There were
still voices in the corridor, and the guest began to speak into  Ivan's ear,
so softly that what  he told him was known  only to the poet, apart from the
first phrase:
     'A quarter of  an hour after she left  me,  there  came  a knock at  my
window ...'
     What the patient whispered  into Ivan's ear evidently agitated him very
much. Spasms repeatedly passed over his face. Fear and rage swam and flitted
in his eyes. The narrator pointed his hand somewhere in the direction of the
moon,  which had  long  since  left the balcony. Only when all  sounds  from
outside ceased to reach them did the  guest move away from Ivan and begin to
speak more loudly:
     'Yes, and  so in mid-January, at  night, in the  same coat but with the
buttons torn off, [5] I was huddled with cold  in  my little yard. Behind me
were  snowdrifts  that hid the lilac bushes,  and before me and below  -  my
little windows, dimly lit, covered with shades. I  bent down to the first of
them and listened - a gramophone was  playing in my  rooms. That  was all  I
heard, but I  could not see anything. I stood there a  while, then  went out
the gate to the  lane. A blizzard was frolicking in it. A dog, dashing under
my feet, frightened  me, and I ran away from it to the other side. The cold,
and the fear  that  had  become my  constant  companion,  were driving me to
frenzy. I had nowhere to go, and the simplest thing,  of course, would  have
been to throw myself under a tram-car on the street where my lane  came out.
From  far  off  I could see those light-filled, ice-covered  boxes  and hear
their  loathsome screeching in the frost. But,  my dear neighbour, the whole
thing was that  fear possessed  every cell of  my body. And,  just as  I was
afraid of the dog, so I was afraid of the tram-car. Yes, there is no illness
in this place worse than mine, I assure you!'
     `But  you  could  have let her know,'  said Ivan, sympathizing with the
poor patient. 'Besides, she has your money. She did keep it, of course?'
     'You needn't doubt that, of course she kept it. But you evidently don't
understand me. Or, rather, I've lost  the  ability I once had for describing
things. However,  I'm not very sorry  about that, since I no longer have any
use for  it. Before her,' the guest reverently looked out at the darkness of
the night,  `there would  lie  a  letter from a madhouse.  How  can one send
letters  from such an address ... a mental  patient?  ... You're joking,  my
friend! Make her unhappy? No, I'm not capable of that.'
     Ivan was unable to object to this, but the silent Ivan sympathized with
the guest, he commiserated  with  him. And the  other, from the  pain of his
memories, nodded his head in the black cap and spoke thus:
     'Poor woman ... However, I have hopes that she has forgotten me ...'
     'But you may recover ...' Ivan said timidly.
     'I am  incurable,' the  guest replied calmly.  'When Stravinsky says he
will  bring  me back to life, I don't  believe him. He is  humane and simply
wants to  comfort me. I don't deny, however,  that I'm much better now. Yes,
so  where did I  leave off? Frost, those flying  trams... I knew  that  this
clinic had been opened, and set out for it on foot across the entire city.
     Madness!  Outside the city I  probably  would have frozen to death, but
chance saved me. A truck had broken down,  I came  up to the  driver, it was
some three miles beyond the city limits, and to my surprise he took  pity on
me. The truck was coming here.  And he took me along. I got away with having
my left  toes frostbitten. But  they  cured that. And now this is the fourth
month that I've been here. And, you know, I find it not at all bad here. One
mustn't  make  grandiose  plans,  dear neighbour,  really!  I, for instance,
wanted to go all around the globe. Well, so it  turns out that I'm not going
to do it. I see  only an insignificant piece  of that  globe. I suppose it's
not the very best there is on it, but, I repeat, it's not so bad.  Summer is
coming, the ivy will  twine up  on to the  balcony.  So Praskovya Fyodorovna
promises. The  keys have broadened my possibilities. There'll be the moon at
night. Ah, it's gone! Freshness. It's falling past midnight. Time to go.'
     Tell me, what happened afterwards with Yeshua and Pilate?' Ivan asked.
     'I beg you, I want to know.'
     'Ah, no, no,' the guest replied with a painful twitch. 'I cannot recall
my novel without trembling. And your acquaintance from the Patriarch's Ponds
would do it better than I. Thank you for the conversation. Goodbye.'
     And  before Ivan  could collect  his senses,  the grille closed  with a
quiet clang, and the guest vanished.

     His nerves gave out, as  they say, and Rimsky fled to his office before
they finished  drawing up the  report. He  sat at  his desk  and stared with
inflamed eyes  at the magic banknotes lying  before  him. The  findirector's
wits were  addled.  A steady hum came  from outside. The audience poured  in
streams from  the  Variety  building  into  the street.  Rimsky's  extremely
sharpened hearing suddenly  caught the distant trill of a policeman. That in
itself  never  bodes  anything pleasant. But when  it  was repeated  and, to
assist it, another joined  in, more authoritative and prolonged, and to them
was added a clearly audible guffawing and even some hooting, the findirector
understood at once  that something else scandalous and  vile had happened in
the street. And that, however much he wanted to wave it away, it was closely
connected  with the repulsive sance presented by the black magician and his
     The keen-eared findirector was not mistaken in the least. As soon as he
cast a glance out the window on  to Sadovaya,  his face twisted, and he  did
not whisper but hissed:
     'So I thought!'
     In the bright glare  of the  strongest street lights he saw, just below
him on the sidewalk, a  lady in  nothing  but a shift  and violet  bloomers.
True, there  was a little  hat on the lady's  head  and  an  umbrella in her
hands. The lady, who was in a  state  of utter  consternation, now crouching
down, now  making as if to run off  somewhere, was surrounded by an agitated
crowd, which produced  the very  guffawing that had  sent a  shiver down the
fin-director's spine. Next to  the  lady  some  citizen  was flitting about,
trying to  tear off his summer coat, and  in his  agitation simply unable to
manage the sleeve in which his arm was stuck.
     Shouts and  roaring guffaws came from  yet  another place - namely, the
left entrance  - and turning his head in that  direction, Grigory Danilovich
saw a  second lady, in pink underwear. She  leaped  from the street  to  the
sidewalk,  striving to hide  in the  hallway,  but the audience pouring  out
blocked  the way,  and the poor victim other own flightiness and passion for
dressing up, deceived  by  vile  Fagott's firm, dreamed of only one  thing -
falling  through  the earth. A  policeman  made  for the unfortunate  woman,
drilling the  air with his whistle,  and  after  the policeman hastened some
merry young men in caps. It was they who produced the guffawing and hooting.
     A skinny, moustachioed cabby  flew up to  the first undressed woman and
dashingly  reined  in his bony, broken-down  nag.  The  moustached  face was
grinning gleefully.
     Rimsky beat himself on  the head  with his fist, spat,  and leaped back
from the window. For some  time he sat at his desk listening  to the street.
The  whistling at  various points reached  its  highest pitch, then began to
subside.  The  scandal, to  Rimsky's  surprise, was somehow liquidated  with
unexpected swiftness.
     It came time to act. He had to drink the  bitter cup of responsibility.
The telephones had been  repaired  during the third  part. He  had  to  make
calls, to tell what had happened, to  ask for help,  lie  his way out of it,
heap  everything  on Likhodeev, cover up  for himself, and  so on. Pah,  the
     Twice  the upset director put his hand  on the  receiver,  and twice he
drew it back. And suddenly, in the dead silence of the office, the telephone
burst out ringing  by itself right in the findirector's  face, and he gave a
start and went cold. 'My  nerves  are really upset, though!' he thought, and
picked up the receiver. He recoiled from it instantly and turned whiter than
paper.  A soft  but at the  same  time  insinuating  and  lewd  female voice
whispered into the receiver:
     'Don't call anywhere, Rimsky, it'll be bad ...'
     The  receiver  straight away went empty. With  goose-flesh prickling on
his back, the findirector  hung up  the telephone and for some reason turned
to look at  the  window  behind  him.  Through the  scant  and still  barely
greening branches of a maple, he saw the moon racing in a transparent cloud.
     His eyes fixed on the branches for  some reason, Rimsky went  on gazing
at them, and the longer he gazed, the more strongly he was gripped by fear.
     With great effort, the findirector finally turned away from the moonlit
window and stood up.  There could no longer be any question of phone  calls,
and now the findirector was thinking of only one thing  - getting out of the
theatre as quickly as possible.
     He listened: the theatre building was  silent. Rimsky realized that  he
had long  been  the only  one  on the whole  second floor,  and  a childish,
irrepressible fear came over him at this thought. He could not think without
shuddering of having to walk alone  now along the  empty corridors and  down
the stairs. Feverishly he seized the  hypnotist's banknotes from  the table,
put them in his briefcase, and  coughed so as to cheer himself up at least a
little. The cough came out slightly hoarse, weak.
     And  here it seemed to  him that  a whiff of some  putrid dankness  was
coming in under  the office  door. Shivers ran down the findirector's spine.
And then the clock also  rang out unexpectedly and began to strike midnight.
And even its striking  provoked  shivers in the  findirector. But his  heart
definitively sank when he heard the English key turning quietly in the lock.
Clutching his briefcase with damp, cold hands,  the findirector felt that if
this scraping in the keyhole were to go  on  any longer, he would break down
and give a piercing scream.
     Finally the door yielded to someone's  efforts,  opened, and  Varenukha
noiselessly entered  the office. Rimsky simply sank  down  into the armchair
where he  stood, because his legs gave way. Drawing a deep breath, he smiled
an ingratiating smile, as it were, and said quietly:
     'God, you frightened me...'
     Yes, this sudden appearance might have frightened anyone you  like, and
yet at the same time it was a great joy: at least one  little end peeped out
in this tangled affair.
     Well, tell me quickly!  Well? Well?'  Rimsky wheezed, grasping  at this
little end. 'What does it all mean?!'
     `Excuse  me,  please,' the  entering  man replied  in  a hollow  voice,
closing the door, 'I thought you had already left.'
     And Varenukha, without taking  his cap off, walked to  the armchair and
sat on the other side of the desk.
     It must be said that Varenukha's response was marked by a slight oddity
which at once needled the findirector, who could compete in sensitivity with
the seismograph of any  of  the world's best stations. How could it  be? Why
did Varenukha  come to  the  findirector's  office if  he thought he was not
there? He had his own  office, first of all. And  second, whichever entrance
to the building Varenukha had used, he  would inevitably have met one of the
night-watchmen, to all of whom it had been announced that Grigory Danilovich
was  staying  late  in his  office. But the findirector  did not spend  long
pondering this oddity - he had other problems.
     'Why didn't you call? What are all these shenanigans about Yalta?'
     "Well, it's as  I was saying,' the administrator replied, sucking as if
he were troubled by a bad tooth. 'He was found in the tavern in Pushkino.'
     `In Pushkino?! You mean just outside Moscow?! What  about the telegrams
from Yalta?!'
     'The devil they're from Yalta!  He got a telegrapher drunk in Pushkino,
and  the two of them  started acting up, sending  telegrams  marked "Yalta",
among other things.'
     'Aha ... aha ... Well, all right, all right...'  Rimsky did not say but
sang out. His eyes lit up with a yellow  light. In his head there formed the
festive picture of Styopa's  shameful dismissal  from  his job. Deliverance!
The findirector's long-awaited deliverance  from this disaster in the person
of  Likhodeev!  And maybe  Stepan  Bogdanovich would achieve something worse
than dismissal... The details!' said Rimsky, banging  the paperweight on the
     And Varenukha began giving the details. As soon as he arrived where the
findirector had sent him, he was received at once and given a most attentive
hearing.  No one, of course, even entertained the thought  that Styopa could
be in  Yalta.  Everyone  agreed  at once  with  Varenukha's  suggestion that
Likhodeev was, of course, at the Yalta in Pushkino.
     `Then where  is he  now?'  the  agitated  findirector  interrupted  the
     'Well,  where else could  he be?'  the administrator replied,  grinning
crookedly. 'In a sobering-up cell, naturally!'
     'Well, well. How nice!'
     Varenukha  went on  with  his  story, and the  more he told,  the  more
vividly there unfolded  before the findirector the long chain of Likhodeev's
boorish and outrageous acts, and every link in this chain was worse than the
one before.  The drunken dancing  in the arms of the telegrapher on the lawn
in front  of the Pushkino  telegraph office to  the sounds of some itinerant
barrel-organ  was  worth something!  The chase  after  some female  citizens
shrieking with  terror! The attempt at a  fight with the barman in the Yalta
itself! Scattering green onions all over the floor of the same Yalta.
     Smashing eight bottles of  dry white Ai-Danil. Breaking the meter  when
the taxi-driver refused to take Styopa in his cab. Threatening to arrest the
citizens  who  attempted to stop Styopa's obnoxiousness...  In  short, black
     Styopa was well known in Moscow theatre circles, and everyone knew that
the man  was  no gift.  But all the same, what the administrator was telling
about him was too much even for Styopa. Yes, too much. Even much too much...
     Rimsky's  needle-sharp glance  pierced  the  administrator's face  from
across  the desk, and the  longer  the man  spoke,  the  grimmer  those eyes
became. The  more lifelike  and  colourful the  vile details with  which the
administrator  furnished  his story, the less  the  findirector believed the
storyteller. And when Varenukha told how Styopa had let himself go so far as
to try to resist those who came to bring him back to Moscow, the findirector
already knew  firmly  that everything the  administrator who had returned at
midnight  was telling him,  everything, was a lie! A  lie from first word to
     Varenukha never went to Pushkino, and there was no Styopa in Pushkino.
     There was  no drunken  telegrapher, there  was no broken glass  in  the
tavern, Styopa did not get tied up with ropes ... none of it happened.
     As  soon   as  the   findirector  became   firmly  convinced  that  the
administrator was lying to him, fear crept over  his body, starting from the
legs,  and  twice again  the  findirector  fancied that  a  putrid  malarial
dankness was wafting across the  floor.  Never for  a moment taking his eyes
off  the administrator  -  who  squirmed somehow strangely in  his armchair,
trying not to get out  of  the blue  shade  of  the desk lamp, and screening
himself  with a newspaper in some remarkable  fashion  from  the  bothersome
light  -  the  findirector was thinking of only one thing:  what did it  all
mean? Why was  he  being lied  to  so brazenly,  in the  silent and deserted
building, by the administrator  who  was so  late in coming back to him? And
the  awareness of danger, an  unknown but menacing danger,  began to gnaw at
Rimsky's soul. Pretending to ignore Varenukha's dodges  and tricks with  the
newspaper, the findirector studied his face, now almost without listening to
the yarn Varenukha was spinning. There was something that seemed  still more
inexplicable  than the  calumny invented. God knows why, about adventures in
Pushkino,  and  that  something   was  the  change  in  the  administrator's
appearance and manners.
     No  matter how the man pulled the duck-like visor of his cap  over  his
eyes, so as to  throw a shadow on his  face, no  matter how he fidgeted with
the newspaper, the findirector managed to make out an enormous bruise on the
right  side  of his face  just  by  the  nose.  Besides  that,  the normally
full-blooded administrator was now pale with a chalk-like, unhealthy pallor,
and  on this stifling night his neck  was for  some reason wrapped in an old
striped  scarf.  Add to that the  repulsive  manner  the  administrator  had
acquired during the time of his absence of  sucking  and smacking, the sharp
change in his voice, which had become hollow and coarse, and the furtiveness
and cowardliness in his eyes, and one could boldly say that Ivan Savelyevich
Varenukha had become unrecognizable.
     Something else burningly troubled the findirector, but he was unable to
grasp precisely what  it  was,  however much  he strained his feverish mind,
however hard he peered at Varenukha. One thing he could affirm,  that  there
was   something  unprecedented,   unnatural  in  this  combination  of   the
administrator and the familiar armchair.
     "Well, we  finally overpowered him, loaded him into the car,' Varenukha
boomed, peeking from behind the paper and covering the bruise with his hand.
     Rimsky  suddenly  reached  out  and,  as  if  mechanically, tapping his
fingers on the table at the  same time, pushed the electric-bell button with
his palm and went numb.  The sharp  signal ought  to have been heard without
fail  in  the  empty  building.  But no  signal came, and  the  button  sank
lifelessly into the wood of the desk. The button was dead, the bell broken.
     The findirector's stratagem did not escape the notice of Varenukha, who
asked, twitching, with a clearly malicious fire flickering in his eyes:
     "What are you ringing for?'
     'Mechanically,'  the  findirector replied  hollowly,  jerking  his hand
back, and asked in turn, in an unsteady voice: "What's that on your face?'
     'The car skidded, I  bumped  against  the door-handle,' Varenukha said,
looking away.
     'He's lying!'  the findirector  exclaimed  mentally. And here his  eyes
suddenly grew round  and utterly  insane, and he stared  at the back of  the
     Behind  the chair  on the floor two  shadows  lay criss-cross, one more
dense and  black,  the other faint and grey. The shadow  of the  back of the
chair  and of its tapering legs could be seen distinctly on  the  floor, but
there was no shadow of Varenukha's head  above  the back of the chair, or of
the administrator's legs under its legs.
     `He  casts  no  shadow!'  Rimsky cried  out desperately in his mind. He
broke into shivers.
     Varenukha, following  Rimsky's insane gaze, looked furtively behind him
at the back of the chair, and realized that he had been found out.
     He got  up  from  the chair (the findirector did likewise) and made one
step back from the desk, clutching his briefcase in his hands.
     'He's  guessed, damn him!  Always was clever,' Varenukha said, grinning
spitefully right in the findirector's face, and  he sprang unexpectedly from
the chair to the  door and quickly  pushed  down the catch on the lock.  The
findirector looked  desperately  behind him, as  he retreated  to the window
giving on to the garden, and in this window, flooded with moonlight, saw the
face of a naked girl  pressed  against the glass and her naked arm  reaching
through the vent-pane and trying  to open the lower latch. The upper one was
already open.
     It seemed to Rimsky that the light of the desk lamp was  going  out and
the desk was tilting. An icy wave engulfed Rimsky, but - fortunately for him
- he got control of himself and did not fall. He had enough strength left to
whisper, but not cry out:
     Varenukha, guarding the door, hopped up  and down by it, staying in air
for a  long time  and  swaying there. Waving  his hooked fingers in Rimsky's
direction, he hissed and smacked, winking to the girl in the window.
     She began to hurry, stuck her red-haired head through the vent, reached
her arm down as far as she could, her nails clawing at  the  lower latch and
shaking  the  frame.  Her  arm began  to lengthen,  rubber-like, and  became
covered with a putrid green. Finally the dead woman's green fingers got hold
of the latch knob, turned it, and the  frame began to open. Rimsky cried out
weakly, leaned against the wall, and held his briefcase in front of him like
a shield. He realized that his end had come.
     The frame swung wide open, but instead of the night's freshness and the
fragrance  of the lindens, the smell of  a cellar burst into the  room.  The
dead  woman stepped on to the window-sill. Rimsky clearly saw spots of decay
on her breast.
     And just then the joyful,  unexpected crowing  of a cock came from  the
garden, from that  low building  beyond  the  shooting gallery  where  birds
participating  in the programme were kept. A  loud,  trained cock trumpeted,
announcing that dawn was rolling towards Moscow from the east.
     Savage  fury distorted the girl's  face, she emitted a hoarse oath, and
at the door Varenukha shrieked and dropped from the air to the floor.
     The cock-crow was repeated, the girl  clacked her  teeth,  and her  red
hair stood on end. With the third  crowing of the cock, she turned and  flew
out and  after her,  jumping  up and stretching himself horizontally  in the
air, looking like a flying cupid, Varenukha slowly floated over the desk and
out the window.
     White  as snow, with not a single black  hair on his  head, the old man
who  still  recently had  been Rimsky rushed to  the door, undid the  catch,
opened the door, and ran hurtling down the dark corridor. At the turn to the
stairs, moaning with fear, he felt  for the switch, and the stairway lighted
up. On the  stairs the  shaking, trembling old  man fell because he imagined
that Varenukha had softly tumbled on top of him.
     Having run downstairs, Rimsky saw a watchman asleep  on a  chair by the
box office in the lobby. Rimsky stole past him on tiptoe and slipped out the
main  entrance. Outside he felt  slightly  better.  He  recovered his senses
enough to realize, clutching his head, that his hat had stayed behind in the
     Needless to say, he did not go back for it, but, breathless, ran across
the  wide street to the  opposite corner by the movie theatre, near  which a
dull  reddish light hovered. In a moment he  was there.  No one had  time to
intercept the cab.
     `Make  the  Leningrad  express, I'll  tip you well,' the old  man said,
breathing heavily and clutching his heart.
     'I'm  going to  the garage,' the  driver answered  hatefully and turned
     Then Rimsky unlatched his briefcase, took out fifty roubles, and handed
them to the driver through the open front window.
     A few  moments  later,  the rattling car  was flying like the wind down
Sadovoye  Ring.  The  passenger was  tossed about  on  his seat,  and in the
fragment  of mirror  hanging in  front of  the driver,  Rimsky saw  now  the
driver's happy eyes,  now  his own insane ones.  Jumping  out of the car  in
front of the  train station, Rimsky cried to the first man he saw in a white
apron with a badge:
     'First class, single, I'll pay  thirty,'  he was pulling  the banknotes
from  his briefcase, crumpling them,  'no first class, get  me second ... if
not -- a hard bench!'
     The man with the badge kept glancing up at the lighted clock face as he
tore the banknotes from Rimsky's hand.
     Five minutes  later the express train  disappeared from under the glass
vault of the train station and vanished clean away in the darkness. And with
it vanished Rimsky.

     It  is  not  difficult  to guess that  the  fat  man  with  the  purple
physiognomy  who was put in room 119  of the  clinic  was  Nikanor Ivanovich
     He got to Professor Stravinsky  not at once,  however,  but after first
visiting  another  place [1]. Of this other place little remained in Nikanor
Ivanovich's memory. He recalled only a desk, a bookcase and a sofa.
     There a conversation was held with Nikanor Ivanovich, who had some sort
of haze before his eyes from the rush of blood and mental agitation, but the
conversation  came out somehow strange, muddled, or, better  to say, did not
come out at all.
     The very first question put to Nikanor Ivanovich was the following:
     'Are you  Nikanor  Ivanovich Bosoy, chairman of the house  committee at
no.502-bis on Sadovaya Street?'
     To  this  Nikanor  Ivanovich, bursting into terrible laughter,  replied
literally thus:
     'I'm  Nikanor, of course  I'm  Nikanor!  But  what  the deuce  kind  of
chairman am I?'
     'Meaning what?' the question was asked with a narrowing of eyes.
     `Meaning,'  he  replied,  `that  if  I  was  chairman,  I  should  have
determined at once that he was  an unclean power! Otherwise  - what is it? A
cracked pince-nez, all in rags... what kind of foreigner's interpreter could
he be?'
     'Who are you talking about?' Nikanor Ivanovich was asked.
     'Koroviev!' Nikanor Ivanovich cried  out.  `Got himself lodged  in  our
apartment number fifty. Write it down - Koroviev! He must be caught at once.
Write it down - the sixth entrance. He's there.'
     `Where  did you get  the currency?'  Nikanor Ivanovich was  asked  soul
     'As God is  true, as God is almighty,' Nikanor Ivanovich began, he sees
everything, and it serves me right. I never  laid a finger on it, never even
suspected what it was, this currency! God is punishing me for my iniquity,'
     Nikanor Ivanovich went on with feeling, now buttoning, now  unbuttoning
his shirt,  now  crossing himself. 'I took! I took, but I  took ours. Soviet
money! I'd  register  people for  money,  I  don't argue,  it happened.  Our
secretary Bedsornev is a good one,  too, another good one! Frankly speaking,
there's nothing but thieves in  the  house  management...  But I never  took
     To the  request that he stop playing the fool and tell how  the dollars
got  into  the ventilation, Nikanor  Ivanovich went on his knees and swayed,
opening his mouth as if he meant to swallow a section of the parquet.
     'If you want,'  he mumbled, 'I'll eat  dirt  that  I didn't do  it! And
Koroviev - he's the devil!'
     All patience has its  limits, and the voice at the desk was now raised,
hinting  to Nikanor Ivanovich that it was time he  began  speaking  in human
     Here the room with  that same  sofa resounded  with Nikanor Ivanovich's
wild roaring, as he jumped up from his knees:
     'There  he  is!  There,  behind the bookcase! He's  grinning!  And  his
pince-nez... Hold him! Spray the room with holy water!'
     The blood left Nikanor Ivanovich's face. Trembling, he  made crosses in
the air, rushing  to the door  and back,  intoned  some  prayer, and finally
began spouting sheer gibberish.
     It  became perfectly  clear that  Nikanor  Ivanovich was unfit for  any
conversation. He was taken  out and put in  a separate room, where he calmed
down somewhat and only prayed and sobbed.
     They did, of course, go to Sadovaya and visit apartment no.50. But they
did not find any Koroviev there, and no one  in the house either knew or had
seen any Koroviev. The apartment occupied by the late Berlioz, as well as by
the Yalta-visiting  Likhodeev,  was empty,  and in the study wax seals  hung
peacefully  on  the  bookcases, unbroken  by anyone.  With  that  they  left
Sadovaya, and  there  also  departed with them  the perplexed and dispirited
secretary of the house management, Bedsornev.
     In the evening Nikanor Ivanovich was delivered to Stravinsky's clinic.
     There he  became  so  agitated  that  an injection,  made according  to
Stravinsky's recipe, had  to  be  given him, and  only  after  midnight  did
Nikanor Ivanovich fall asleep in room  119, every now  and  then emitting  a
heavy, painful moan.
     But the longer  he  slept,  the  easier his  sleep became.  He  stopped
tossing and groaning, his breathing became easy and regular, and he was left
alone. Then  Nikanor Ivanovich was visited by a dream, at the basis of which
undoubtedly lay the experience of that day. It began with  Nikanor Ivanovich
seeing as  it were some people with golden  trumpets in their  hands leading
him, and very solemnly, to a big lacquered door. At this door his companions
played as it  were a nourish for Nikanor Ivanovich,  and then from the sky a
resounding bass said merrily:
     'Welcome, Nikanor Ivanovich, turn over your currency!'
     Exceedingly astonished, Nikanor Ivanovich saw a black loudspeaker above
     Then he found himself for some reason in a theatre house, where crystal
chandeliers blazed  under a gilded ceiling  and  Quinquet lamps  [2] on  the
walls. Everything was  as it ought  to be in a  small-sized but very  costly
theatre. There was a stage closed  off by a velvet curtain, its  dark cerise
background spangled, as if with stars, with oversized gold pieces, there was
a prompter's box, and there was even an audience.
     What surprised Nikanor Ivanovich was that this audience was all  of the
same sex  - male -  and  all for some reason bearded. Besides that,  it  was
striking that there were no seats  in the theatre,  and the audience was all
sitting on the floor, splendidly polished and slippery.
     Abashed in  this new and big  company, Nikanor Ivanovich, after a brief
hesitation,  followed  the  general example and  sat  down  on  the  parquet
Turkish-fashion,  huddled between some stalwart, bearded redhead and another
citizen, pale and quite overgrown. None of the sitters paid any attention to
the newly arrived spectator.
     Here the soft ringing of a bell was heard, the lights in the house went
out, and the  curtain opened to reveal a lighted stage with  an  armchair, a
little  table  on  which  stood a golden  bell,  and  a solid  black  velvet
     An artiste came out  from  the  wings in an  evening  jacket,  smoothly
shaven,  his hair neatly parted, young and with  very pleasant features. The
audience in the house livened up, and everyone turned towards the stage. The
artiste advanced to the prompter's box and rubbed his hands.
     'All sitting?'[3] he asked in a soft baritone and smiled to the house.
     'Sitting,  sitting,' a chorus of tenors and  basses answered  from  the
     'Hm ...' the artiste began pensively, 'and how you're not sick of it. I
just don't understand! Everybody  else is out  walking around  now, enjoying
the spring sun and the warmth,  and you're stuck in here on  the  floor of a
stuffy theatre!  Is  the  programme so interesting? Tastes differ, however,'
the artiste concluded philosophically.
     Then he  changed both the timbre  of his voice and its intonation,  and
announced gaily and resoundingly:
     `And  now  for the  next  number on our programme  -  Nikanor Ivanovich
Bosoy,  chairman  of  a  house committee and director of a dietetic kitchen.
Nikanor Ivanovich, on-stage!'
     General  applause greeted the artiste. The surprised Nikanor  Ivanovich
goggled his eyes, while the master of ceremonies, blocking the glare  of the
footlights  with  his  hand,  located  him  among the  sitters and  tenderly
beckoned  him  on-stage  with  his finger.  And  Nikanor Ivanovich,  without
knowing how, found himself on-stage. Beams of coloured light struck his eyes
from in front and below, which at once caused the house and the audience  to
sink into darkness.
     'Well,  Nikanor Ivanovich,  set  us  a good  example,  sir,' the  young
artiste said soulfully, 'turn over your currency.'
     Silence ensued.  Nikanor Ivanovich took a deep breath and quietly began
to speak:
     'I swear to God that I...'
     But before he had time to get the words out, the whole house burst into
shouts of indignation. Nikanor Ivanovich got confused and fell silent.
     'As far as I understand you,' said the programme announcer, 'you wanted
to  swear  to  God  that  you  haven't got  any  currency?',  and  he  gazed
sympathetically at Nikanor Ivanovich.
     'Exactly right, I haven't,' replied Nikanor Ivanovich.
     'Right,' responded the artiste, 'and... excuse the  indiscretion, where
did the four  hundred dollars that were found in the privy  of the apartment
of which you and your wife are the sole inhabitants come from?'
     'Magic!' someone in the dark house said with obvious irony.
     'Exactly  right - magic,' Nikanor  Ivanovich timidly  replied,  vaguely
addressing either the artiste or the dark house, and he explained:
     'Unclean powers, the checkered interpreter stuck me with them.'
     And  again the house raised an indignant  roar. When silence came,  the
artiste said:
     'See what La Fontaine fables  I have to listen to! Stuck  him with four
hundred dollars! Now, all of you here are currency dealers, so I address you
as experts: is that conceivable?'
     We're not currency  dealers,'  various offended  voices came  from  the
theatre, 'but, no, it's not conceivable!'
     'I'm entirely  of the  same mind,' the artiste said firmly, `and let me
ask you: what is it that one can be stuck with?'
     'A baby!' someone cried from the house.
     `Absolutely correct,' the  programme announcer confirmed,  'a baby,  an
anonymous letter, a tract,  an  infernal  machine, anything else, but no one
will  stick  you with  four  hundred dollars, for such idiots don't exist in
nature.' And turning to  Nikanor Ivanovich,  the artiste added reproachfully
and sorrowfully:
     `You've upset me, Nikanor Ivanovich, and I was counting on you. So, our
number didn't come off.'
     Whistles came from the house, addressed to Nikanor Ivanovich.
     'He's a currency dealer,' they shouted from the house, 'and we innocent
ones have to suffer for the likes of him!'
     `Don't scold  him,'  the  master  of  ceremonies  said  softly,  'he'll
repent.' And turning to  Nikanor Ivanovich, his blue eyes filled with tears,
he added: 'Well, Nikanor Ivanovich, you may go to your place.'
     After that the artiste rang the bell and announced loudly:
     'Intermission, you blackguards!'
     The shaken Nikanor Ivanovich, who unexpectedly for himself had become a
participant in some sort  of theatre programme, again found  himself in  his
place on  the floor. Here he  dreamed that  the  house  was plunged in total
darkness, and fiery red words leaped out on the walls:
     Turn over your currency!'  Then the curtain opened again and the master
of ceremonies invited:
     'I call Sergei Gerardovich Dunchil to the stage.'
     Dunchil turned out to be a fine-looking but rather unkempt man of about
     `Sergei  Gerardovich,' the master  of ceremonies addressed him, 'you've
been sitting here for a  month  and  a half now, stubbornly refusing to turn
over  the currency you still have, while the country is  in need of it,  and
you  have  no  use  for  it whatsoever.  And  still you  persist.  You're an
intelligent  man, you understand it  all  perfectly well,  and yet you don't
want to comply with me.'
     To  my regret, there  is  nothing  I  can  do,  since  I have  no  more
currency,' Dunchil calmly replied.
     `Don't  you  at  least  have  some  diamonds?' asked  the artiste.  'No
diamonds either.'
     The  artiste hung  his head and  pondered,  then  clapped  his hands. A
middle-aged lady  came out from the wings, fashionably dressed - that is, in
a  collarless  coat  and a tiny hat.  The  lady looked worried, but  Dunchil
glanced at her without moving an eyebrow.
     'Who is this  lady?' the programme announcer asked Dunchil. 'That is my
wife,'  Dunchil replied with dignity and looked at the lady's long neck with
a certain repugnance.
     We  have  troubled  you,  Madame  Dunchil,' the  master  of  ceremonies
adverted to the lady, 'with regard  to  the following: we wanted to ask you,
does your husband have any more currency?'
     `He turned  it  all  over  the  other  time,'  Madame  Dunchil  replied
     'Right,' said  the artiste, 'well, then, if it's  so, it's  so.  If  he
turned  it  all  over,  then  we  ought  to  part  with  Sergei  Gerardovich
immediately,  there's nothing else to do!  If you wish, Sergei  Gerardovich,
you may leave the theatre.' And the artiste made a regal gesture.
     Dunchil turned calmly and with dignity, and headed for the wings. 'Just
a moment!'  the master of ceremonies stopped  him. 'Allow  me  on parting to
show you  one  more number from our  programme.' And  again  he  clapped his
     The black backdrop parted, and on to the stage came a young beauty in a
ball  gown, holding in her hands a golden  tray on which lay a fat wad  tied
with candy-box ribbon and a diamond necklace from which blue, yellow and red
fire leaped in all directions.
     Dunchil took a step back and his face went pale. The house froze.
     'Eighteen thousand dollars  and a  necklace  worth  forty  thousand  in
gold,'  the artiste solemnly announced,  `kept  by Sergei Gerardovich in the
city of Kharkov, in the apartment  of  his mistress,  Ida Herkulanovna Vors,
whom we have the pleasure of  seeing here before us and who so kindly helped
in discovering these  treasures  - priceless, vet useless  in the hands of a
private person. Many thanks, Ida Herkulanovna!'
     The  beauty  smiled,   flashing  her  teeth,  and  her  lush  eyelashes
fluttered. 'And under  your so very dignified mask,' the artiste adverted to
Dunchil, `is  concealed a  greedy  spider and an astonishing bamboozler  and
liar.  You  wore everyone  out during this month and a half  with your  dull
obstinacy.  Go home now, and  let the hell your wife sets up for you be your
     Dunchil swayed and, it  seems, wanted to fall down, but was held  up by
someone's sympathetic hands. Here  the front curtain  dropped and  concealed
all those on-stage.
     Furious  applause shook the  house, so much so  that Nikanor  Ivanovich
fancied the lights were leaping in the  chandeliers. When the  front curtain
went up, there was no one on-stage except the lone  artiste. Greeted  with a
second burst of applause, he bowed and began to speak:
     'In the person of this Dunchil, our programme has shown  you a  typical
ass. I  did  have  the pleasure of saying  yesterday that  the concealing of
currency is senseless. No one can make use of it  under any circumstances, I
assure you. Let's  take this  same Dunchil.  He  gets a splendid  salary and
doesn't  want for  anything.  He  has  a  splendid  apartment, a  wife and a
beautiful mistress. But no, instead of living quietly and peacefully without
any  troubles,  having turned  over  the currency and stones, this mercenary
blockhead  gets himself exposed in  front  of everybody,  and to top it  off
contracts  major  family  trouble.  So,  who's   going  to  turn  over?  Any
volunteers?  In that case, for  the next number on  our programme, a  famous
dramatic  talent,  the actor  Kurolesov, Sawa Potapovich, especially invited
here,  will  perform excerpts  from  The  Covetous  Knight [4]  by the  poet
     The promised  Kurolesov was not slow in coming on stage  and turned out
to be a strapping and beefy man, clean-shaven, in a tailcoat and white tie.
     Without any  preliminaries,  he  concocted a gloomy  face,  knitted his
brows, and began speaking  in an unnatural  voice, glancing sidelong at  the
golden bell:
     `As a young scapegrace awaits a tryst with some sly strumpet...'[5]
     And Kurolesov  told  many  bad things about himself. Nikanor  Ivanovich
heard Kurolesov confess that some  wretched widow  had gone  on her knees to
him, howling, in the rain, but had failed to move the actor's callous heart.
     Before his dream, Nikanor Ivanovich had been completely ignorant of the
poet Pushkin's works, but the man himself he knew perfectly well and several
times  a day  used to say  phrases like: 'And who's going  to pay the rent -
Pushkin?'[6] or  `Then who did unscrew the bulb on the  stairway - Pushkin?'
or 'So who's going to buy the fuel - Pushkin?'
     Now, having become acquainted  with one of his works, Nikanor Ivanovich
felt sad, imagined the woman  on her  knees,  with her orphaned children, in
the rain, and involuntarily thought: "What a type, though, this Kurolesov!'
     And the latter, ever raising his voice, went on with his confession and
got Nikanor  Ivanovich  definitively  muddled, because he  suddenly  started
addressing someone who was  not on-stage, and responded for this absent  one
himself, calling himself now dear sir,  now baron, now  father, now son, now
formally, and now familiarly.
     Nikanor  Ivanovich  understood  only one thing, that the actor died  an
evil death,  crying  out: 'Keys! My keys!', after  which he collapsed on the
floor, gasping and carefully tearing off his tie.
     Having died,  Kurolesov got up,  brushed the  dust from  his  trousers,
bowed with  a false  smile,  and  withdrew  to  the  accompaniment  of  thin
applause. And the master of ceremonies began speaking thus:
     'We have just heard The  Covetous Knight wonderfully performed by  Sawa
Potapovich. This knight  hoped that frolicking  nymphs would come running to
him, and that many other pleasant things in the same vein would occur.  But,
as you see,  none of  it happened,  no nymphs came  running to  him, and the
muses paid him no tribute, and  he raised no mansions, but, on the contrary,
ended quite  badly,  died of  a  stroke,  devil  take  him, on  his chest of
currency and jewels. I warn you that the same sort of thing,  if not  worse,
is going to happen to you if you don't turn over your currency!'
     Whether Pushkin's poetry produced such an effect, or it was the prosaic
speech of the master  of ceremonies,  in any  case a shy voice suddenly came
from the house:
     'I'll turn over my currency.'
     `Kindly  come to  the  stage,' the  master  of  ceremonies  courteously
invited, peering into the dark house.
     On-stage appeared a short, fair-haired  citizen, who,  judging  by  his
face, had not shaved in about three weeks.
     'Beg pardon, what is your name?' the master of ceremonies inquired.
     'Kanavkin, Nikolai,' the man responded shyly.
     'Ah! Very pleased. Citizen Kanavkin. And so? ...'
     'I'll turn it over,' Kanavkin said quietly.
     'How much?'
     'A thousand dollars and twenty ten-rouble gold pieces.'
     'Bravo! That's all, then?'
     The  programme announcer  stared  straight into Kanavkin's eyes, and it
even seemed  to  Nikanor  Ivanovich  that  those  eyes  sent out  rays  that
penetrated Kanavkin like X-rays. The house stopped breathing.
     `I believe  you!'  the artiste exclaimed finally and  extinguished  his
gaze. I do! These eyes are not lying! How many times have  I  told you  that
your basic error consists in  underestimating  the significance of the human
eye. Understand that the tongue can conceal the truth, but the eyes - never!
A sudden question  is put to you, you don't even  flinch, in  one second you
get hold of yourself and  know what you  must say to conceal  the truth, and
you speak quite convincingly, and not a wrinkle on  your face  moves,  but -
alas - the truth which the question  stirs up  from the bottom of your  soul
leaps momentarily into your eyes, and it's all over! They see it, and you're
     Having delivered, and with great ardour, this highly convincing speech,
the artiste tenderly inquired of Kanavkin:
     'And where is it hidden?'
     With my aunt, Porokhovnikova, on Prechistenka.'
     'Ah! That's... wait... that's Klavdia Ilyinishna, isn't it?'
     'Ah, yes, yes, yes, yes! A separate little house? A little front garden
opposite? Of course, I know, I know! And where did you put it there?'
     'In the cellar, in a candy tin...'
     The artiste clasped his hands.
     'Have you ever seen the like?' he cried out, chagrined. "Why, it'll get
damp and mouldy there! Is it conceivable to entrust currency to such people?
Eh? Sheer childishness! By God! ...'
     Kanavkin himself realized  he had fouled up and was in for it,  and  he
hung his tufty head.
     'Money,' the  artiste went  on, 'must  be kept  in the  state  bank, in
special dry  and well-guarded rooms, and by no means in  some aunt's cellar,
where it may, in particular, suffer damage from rats!  Really, Kanavkin, for
shame! You're a grown-up!'
     Kanavkin no longer knew what  to do with himself, and  merely picked at
the lapel of his jacket with his finger.
     'Well,  all right,' the artiste  relented, 'let bygones  be...'  And he
suddenly added  unexpectedly: 'Ah, by the way ... so that in one ... to save
a trip ... this same aunt also has some, eh?'
     Kanavkin,  never expecting  such  a turn of  affairs,  wavered, and the
theatre fell silent.
     'Ehh, Kanavkin...' the master  of  ceremonies said in tender  reproach,
'and here  I was  praising him! Look, he  just  went and messed it up for no
reason  at  all! It's absurd, Kanavkin! Wasn't  I  just talking about  eyes?
Can't  we see that the  aunt has got some?  Well, then why do you torment us
for nothing?'
     'She has!' Kanavkin cried dashingly.
     'Bravo!' cried the master of ceremonies.
     'Bravo!' the house roared frightfully.
     When  things  quieted  down, the  master  of  ceremonies  congratulated
Kanavkin, shook his  hand, offered him a ride home to the city in a car, and
told someone in  the wings  to go in that same car to fetch the aunt and ask
her kindly to come for the programme at the women's theatre.
     'Ah, yes, I  wanted to  ask  you, has the aunt ever mentioned where she
hides  hers?'  the  master  of  ceremonies  inquired,  courteously  offering
Kanavkin  a  cigarette and  a lighted match.  As he lit  up, the man grinned
somehow wistfully.
     'I believe you, I believe you,' the artiste responded with a sigh. 'Not
just her nephew,  the  old pinchfist  wouldn't tell the devil himself! Well,
so, we'll try  to  awaken  some  human  feelings in her. Maybe not  all  the
strings have rotted in her usurious little soul. Bye-bye, Kanavkin!'
     And  the happy Kanavkin  drove off. The  artiste inquired whether there
were any others  who wished to  turn  over their currency, but  was answered
with silence.
     'Odd birds, by God!'  the  artiste said, shrugging, and the curtain hid
     The  lights  went out, there  was darkness for a  while,  and  in it  a
nervous tenor was heard singing from far away:
     There great heaps of gold  do shine, and all  those heaps  of  gold are
     Then twice the sound of subdued applause came from somewhere.
     'Some little lady in the women's theatre is turning hers over,' Nikanor
Ivanovich's red-bearded neighbour  spoke up unexpectedly,  and added with  a
sigh:  'Ah,  if it  wasn't  for  my  geese! ... I've  got  fighting geese in
Lianozovo, my dear fellow ... they'll die without me, I'm afraid. A fighting
bird's delicate, it needs care ... Ah, if it wasn't for my geese!
     '...  They won't surprise  me with  Pushkin...'  And again  he began to
     Here  the house  lit  up brightly,  and  Nikanor Ivanovich dreamed that
cooks in white chef's hats and with ladles in their hands came  pouring from
all the  doors. Scullions dragged in  a cauldron of  soup  and a  stand with
cut-up rye bread. The spectators livened up. The jolly  cooks shuttled among
the theatre buffs, ladled out bowls of soup, and distributed bread.
     'Dig in, lads,' the cooks shouted, 'and turn over your currency! What's
the point of sitting here? Who wants to slop up this  swill! Go home, have a
good drink, a little bite, that's the way!'
     'Now, you, for instance, what're you doing sitting here, old man?"
     Nikanor  Ivanovich  was  directly  addressed  by  a  fat  cook  with  a
raspberry-coloured neck,  as  he offered him a bowl in  which a lone cabbage
leaf floated in some liquid.
     'I don't have any! I don't! I don't!' Nikanor Ivanovich cried out  in a
terrible voice. 'You understand, I don't!'
     `You  don't?' the cook  bellowed  in a menacing bass.  'You  don't?' he
asked  in  a  tender  woman's  voice.  `You  don't, you  don't,' he murmured
soothingly, turning into the nurse Praskovya Fyodorovna.
     She  was gently shaking Nikanor Ivanovich by  the shoulder as he moaned
in his sleep.  Then  the cooks melted away, and the theatre with its curtain
broke  up.  Through his tears,  Nikanor Ivanovich  made  out his room in the
hospital  and  two people in white coats, who were by no means casual  cooks
getting at people with their  advice, but the doctor and that same Praskovya
Fyodorovna, who was holding not a bowl but a little dish covered with gauze,
with a syringe lying on it.
     `What  is  all  this?'  Nikanor  Ivanovich said bitterly, as  they were
giving him the injection. 'I  don't have any and  that's  that! Let  Pushkin
turn over his currency for them. I don't have any!'
     'No,  you  don't,  you  don't,'  the kind-hearted  Praskovya Fyodorovna
soothed him, 'and if you don't, there's no more to be said.'
     After the injection, Nikanor  Ivanovich  felt  better  and  fell asleep
without any dreams.
     But, thanks to his cries, alarm was communicated to room 120, where the
patient  woke up and began looking  for his head, and to room 118, where the
unknown master  became restless and wrung his  hands in  anguish, looking at
the moon, remembering the last bitter  autumn night of his life, a  strip of
light under the basement door, and uncurled hair.
     From room 118, the  alarm flew by way  of  the balcony to Ivan, and  he
woke up and began to weep.
     But  the doctor quickly calmed all these  anxious, sorrowing heads, and
they began to  fall asleep. Ivan was the last  to become oblivious, as  dawn
was already breaking over the river. After the  medicine, which suffused his
whole  body, calm  came like a wave and covered him.  His body grew lighter,
his head  basked in  the warm wind of reverie. He fell asleep, and the  last
waking  thing he heard was the  pre-dawn chirping of birds in the woods. But
they soon fell silent, and he began  dreaming that the sun was already going
down  over  Bald Mountain, and  the mountain was  cordoned off  by a  double
cordon ...

     The sun was already going down over Bald Mountain, and the mountain was
cordoned off by a double cordon.
     The cavalry ala that had cut across the  procurator's  path around noon
came  trotting up to the Hebron gate of the city.  Its way had  already been
prepared.  The   infantry  of  the  Cappadocian   cohort   had  pushed   the
conglomeration  of people, mules and camels  to  the  sides,  and  the  ala,
trotting and  raising  white  columns  of  dust  in  the  sky,  came  to  an
intersection where two  roads met: the  south road leading to Bethlehem, and
the north-west road to Jaffa.  The ala raced  down the north-west  road. The
same Cappadocians were strung out along  the sides of the road, and in  good
time had driven to the sides  of it all  the caravans hastening to the feast
in  Yershalaim.  Crowds  of pilgrims  stood behind  the Cappadocians, having
abandoned their temporary striped tents, pitched right on  the grass.  Going
on for  about a half-mile, the ala  caught up with the  second cohort of the
Lightning  legion  and, having covered another  half-mile, was the  first to
reach the foot of Bald Mountain. Here they  dismounted. The commander  broke
the  ala up  into squads, and  they cordoned off the whole foot of the small
hill, leaving open only the way up from the Jaffa road.
     After  some time, the ala was joined at the  hill by the second cohort,
which climbed one level higher and also encircled the hill in a wreath.
     Finally the  century under the  command  of Mark Ratslayer  arrived. It
went stretched out in  files along the sides of the road,  and between these
files, convoyed by the secret guard, the three condemned men rode in a cart,
white boards hanging around their  necks with  'robber and rebel' written on
each of them in two languages - Aramaic and Greek.
     The  cart  with the  condemned  men was followed by  others  laden with
freshly hewn posts with  crosspieces, ropes, shovels, buckets and axes.  Six
executioners  rode in  these  carts. They were followed on horseback by  the
centurion Mark, the  chief of the temple guard of  Yershalaim, and that same
hooded man with  whom Pilate had  had a momentary meeting in a darkened room
of the palace.
     A file of soldiers brought up the rear of the procession, and behind it
walked about two thousand of the curious, undaunted by the infernal heat and
wishing  to  be present  at the  interesting spectacle. The curious from the
city  were now  joined  by  the curious from  among the  pilgrims, who  were
admitted without  hindrance to  the tail of the procession. Under the shrill
cries of  the heralds who accompanied the column and cried aloud what Pilate
had cried out at around noon, the procession drew itself up Bald Mountain.
     The ala admitted  everyone to the second level, but the  second century
let  only  those  connected  with the  execution  go further  up,  and then,
manoeuvring quickly, spread the crowd around the entire hill, so that people
found themselves between the cordons of infantry above and cavalry below.
     Now  they  could watch  the execution  through the sparse  line of  the
     And so, more than three hours had  gone by since the procession climbed
the mountain, and the sun was already going down over Bald Mountain, but the
heat was still unbearable, and the soldiers  in  both cordons  suffered from
it, grew weary with boredom,  and cursed the  three robbers in their hearts,
sincerely wishing them the speediest death.
     The little commander of the ala, his brow moist and  the  back  of  his
white  shirt dark with  sweat, having placed himself at the foot of the hill
by the open passage,  went over to  the  leather  bucket  of the first squad
every now and then, scooped handfuls of water from it, drank  and wetted his
turban. Somewhat relieved by that, he would step away and again begin pacing
back and forth on the dusty road leading to the top. His long  sword slapped
against his laced leather boot. The commander wished to  give his cavalrymen
an example of endurance, but, pitying his soldiers, he allowed them to stick
their spears  pyramid-like  in the  ground and throw their white cloaks over
them. Under these tents, the Syrians hid from the merciless sun. The buckets
were quickly emptied, and cavalrymen from different squads took turns  going
to fetch  water in  the gully  below the hill,  where in  the thin  shade of
spindly  mulberries  a  muddy  brook was  living  out its last days  in  the
devilish  heat.  There, too, catching the unsteady  shade, stood  the  bored
horse-handlers, holding the quieted horses.
     The  weariness  of the soldiers and the abuse they aimed at the robbers
were understandable. The procurator's apprehensions concerning the disorders
that might occur at the time of the execution in the city of Yershalaim,  so
hated by him, fortunately were  not borne out. And when the  fourth  hour of
the  execution came, there was, contrary  to all  expectations, not a single
person left between the two files, the infantry above and the cavalry below.
     The sun had scorched the crowd and driven it back to Yershalaim. Beyond
the file of two Roman centuries there were only two dogs that belonged to no
one knew whom and had for some reason ended up on the hill. But the heat got
to them, too, and they lay down with their  tongues hanging out, panting and
paying no attention to the green-backed  lizards, the only beings not afraid
of the sun, darting among the scorching stones and some sort  of big-thorned
plants that crept on the ground.
     No one attempted to  rescue  the  condemned  men either  in  Yershalaim
itself, flooded with troops, or here on the cordoned-off hill, and the crowd
went back to  the city, for indeed there was absolutely nothing  interesting
in this execution, while there  in  the city preparations were under way for
the great feast of Passover, which was to begin that evening.
     The Roman infantry on the  second level  suffered still more  than  the
cavalry. The only thing the centurion Ratslayer  allowed his soldiers was to
take off their helmets and cover their  heads with white headbands dipped in
water,  but he kept them standing,  and with their spears in their hands. He
himself, in  the same kind  of headband, but dry, not wet,  walked about not
far from the group  of executioners, without even taking the  silver plaques
with lions' muzzles off his shirt, or removing his greaves, sword and knife.
     The sun beat straight down on the centurion without doing him any harm,
and the lions'  muzzles were  impossible to look at - the eyes were devoured
by the dazzling gleam of the silver which was as if boiling in the sun.
     Ratslayer's mutilated face expressed neither weariness nor displeasure,
and it seemed  that the giant  centurion was capable of pacing like that all
day, all night  and the next day -  in short, for  as long  as necessary. Of
pacing in the same way, holding his hands  to the heavy belt with its bronze
plaques, glancing in the same stern way now at  the  posts with the executed
men, now at  the file of soldiers, kicking aside  with  the toe  of a shaggy
boot in  the  same indifferent  way  human bones whitened by  time or  small
flints that happened under his feet.
     That  man  in the  hood  placed  himself not  far from  the posts on  a
three-legged stool and sat there in complacent motionlessness, though poking
the sand with a twig from time to time out of boredom.
     What has  been said  about there  not being a single person beyond  the
file  of legionaries is not quite true.  There was one person, but he simply
could not  be seen by everyone. He had placed himself, not on the side where
the way up the mountain was open  and from  where  it would have  been  most
convenient  to  watch the execution, but on the north side,  where the slope
was not gentle and accessible, but uneven, with gaps and  clefts, where in a
crevice, clutching  at the  heaven-cursed  waterless soil, a sickly fig tree
was trying to live.
     Precisely under it, though  it gave no shade,  this sole spectator  who
was not  a participant in the execution had established himself, and had sat
on a stone from  the very beginning, that is, for over three hours now. Yes,
he  had  chosen  not  the  best but  the worst  position  for  watching  the
execution. But still,  even from  there the posts could be  seen,  and there
could also be seen, beyond the file of soldiers, the two dazzling  spots  on
the centurion's chest, and that  was  apparently quite enough for a  man who
obviously wished to remain little noticed and not be bothered by anyone.
     But some  four hours ago, at  the start of the execution, this  man had
behaved quite differently, and might have  been noticed very well, which was
probably why he had now changed his behaviour and secluded himself.
     It was only when  the procession came to the very top, beyond the file,
that  he  had first  appeared, and as an obvious latecomer  at that.  He was
breathing hard, and did not walk but ran up the  hill, pushing his way, and,
seeing  the file close  together  before him as before everyone else, made a
naive attempt, pretending he did not  understand the angry shouts, to  break
through the soldiers to the very place of execution, where the condemned men
were already being taken from the cart. For that he received a heavy blow in
the  chest with the  butt  end of  a  spear,  and  he leaped  back  from the
soldiers,  crying out not in pain  but in despair. At the legionary who  had
dealt the blow  he cast a  dull glance, utterly  indifferent to  everything,
like a man insensible to physical pain.
     Coughing and breathless, clutching his chest,  he ran around the  hill,
trying to find some gap in the  file  on  the north side where he could slip
through. But it was  too  late, the ring  was closed. And the man,  his face
distorted  with grief, was forced to renounce his  attempts to break through
to the carts, from which the posts had already been unloaded. These attempts
would have led nowhere, except  that  he would  have been  seized, and to be
arrested on that day by no means entered his plans.
     And so  he went to the side, towards the crevice, where  it was quieter
and nobody bothered him.
     Now, sitting on the stone, this  black-bearded man, his eyes  festering
from the sun and lack of sleep, was in anguish. First he sighed, opening his
tallith, worn out in his wanderings, gone from light-blue to dirty grey, and
bared his chest, which  had been hurt by the spear and  down which ran dirty
sweat; then, in unendurable pain, he raised his eyes to  the  sky, following
the three vultures that  had long been  floating in  great circles on  high,
anticipating an  imminent feast; then he peered with  hopeless eyes into the
yellow earth, and saw on it  the half-destroyed  skull of a  dog and lizards
scurrying around it.
     The man's  sufferings were so great that at times he  began  talking to
     'Oh, fool  that I am ...' he muttered, swaying on the stone in the pain
of his heart and clawing  his swarthy chest with his nails. 'Fool, senseless
woman, coward! I'm not a man, I'm carrion!'
     He  would fall silent,  hang  his head, then,  after drinking some warm
water from a wooden flask, he would revive again and clutch now at the knife
hidden on his chest under the tallith,  now at the  piece of parchment lying
before him on the stone next to a stylus and a pot of ink.
     On this parchment some notes had already been scribbled:
     The minutes run on, and I,  Matthew Levi, am here on Bald Mountain, and
still no death!'
     The sun is sinking, but no death.'
     Now Matthew Levi wrote hopelessly with the sharp stylus:
     'God! Why are you angry with him? Send him death.'
     Having written this, he sobbed tearlessly and again  wounded  his chest
with his nails.
     The reason for Levi's despair lay  in the terrible misfortune  that had
befallen Yeshua and him and, besides that, in the grave error that he, Levi,
in his  own opinion, had committed.  Two days earlier,  Yeshua and  Levi had
been in Bethphage near Yershalaim, where they had visited a certain gardener
who liked Yeshua's preaching very much. The two visitors had spent the whole
morning  working in  the garden,  helping their  host, and planned to go  to
Yershalaim towards evening when it cooled off. But Yeshua began to hurry for
some reason, said he had urgent business in  the city, and left alone around
noontime. Here  lay Matthew Levi's first error. Why, why had he let  him  go
     Nor was Matthew Levi to go to Yershalaim that evening. He was struck by
some unexpected and  terrible ailment. He began to shake, his whole body was
filled with  fire, his teeth chattered,  and he kept asking to drink all the
     He  could  not go  anywhere.  He collapsed  on  a horse  blanket in the
gardener's shed and lay there till dawn on Friday, when the illness released
Levi as unexpectedly as it had fallen upon him. Though he was still weak and
his legs  trembled,  he  took  leave  of  his  host and,  oppressed  by some
foreboding  of  disaster, went  to  Yershalaim.  There he  learned that  his
foreboding  had not deceived him  - the  disaster occurred. Levi was  in the
crowd and heard the procurator announce the sentence.
     When the  condemned men were led off to the mountain, Matthew  Levi ran
alongside the file in the crowd of the curious, trying to let Yeshua know in
some inconspicuous way that at least  he, Levi, was there with him,  that he
had  not abandoned him  on  his last  journey, and  that he was praying that
death would overtake Yeshua as soon as possible. But Yeshua, who was looking
into  the distance towards where  he  was being taken, of course did not see
     And  then, when the procession  had  gone  about a  half-mile along the
road,  a  simple and  ingenious thought  dawned  on  Matthew,  who was being
jostled by the crowd just next to the file, and in his excitement he at once
showered himself with curses for  not having thought of it earlier. The file
of  soldiers  was not  solid,  there were  spaces between them. Given  great
dexterity  and a precise calculation, one could  bend down, slip between two
legionaries, make it  to the cart and jump  into it.  Then Yeshua  would  be
saved from suffering.
     One instant  would be enough  to stab Yeshua in the back with a  knife,
crying to  him:  'Yeshua!  I save you  and go  with  you! I,  Matthew,  your
faithful and only disciple!'
     And if God granted him one more free instant,  he would also have  time
to stab himself and avoid death on a post. This last, however, was of little
interest  to Levi, the  former tax collector. He was  indifferent to how  he
died. He wanted one thing, that Yeshua,  who had never  in his life done the
least evil to anyone, should escape torture.
     The plan was a very  good one, but the fact of the matter was that Levi
had no knife with him. Nor did he have a single piece of money.
     Furious  with himself,  Levi got out of the crowd and  ran  back to the
city.  A  single  feverish  thought was leaping in his burning head: how  to
procure a  knife  there in  the city,  in any way possible, and have time to
overtake the procession.
     He  ran up  to the city gate,  manoeuvring amid the throng of  caravans
being sucked  into the city, and saw to his  left the open door  of a little
shop  where bread  was sold. Breathing hard after running down  the scorched
road, Levi got control of  himself, entered the shop  very sedately, greeted
the woman behind the counter, asked her to take the top loaf from the shelf,
which for some  reason he liked better than the  others, and when she turned
around, silently  and quickly  took from the counter that than  which  there
could  be nothing better  - a long, razor-sharp bread knife  -  and  at once
dashed out of the shop.
     A few moments later he  was again on the Jaffa road. But the procession
was no longer in sight. He  ran. At times  he had to  drop down right in the
dust and lie motionless to recover his breath. And so he would lie there, to
the astonishment of people riding on mules or walking on foot to Yershalaim.
     He would lie listening to  his heart pounding not only in his chest but
in his head and ears. Having recovered his breath a little, he would jump up
and continue running,  but  ever slower and  slower. When he finally  caught
sight of the long procession raising dust in the distance, it was already at
the foot of the hill.
     'Oh, God! ...' Levi moaned, realizing that he was going to be too late.
And he was too late.
     When the fourth  hour of the  execution  had gone  by, Levi's  torments
reached  their  highest degree and he fell into a  rage. Getting up from the
stone, he flung to the ground the stolen knife -  stolen in vain, as he  now
thought - crushed the flask with his foot, depriving himself of water, threw
off his kefia, seized his thin hair, and began cursing himself.
     He cursed himself,  calling  out meaningless  words,  growled and spat,
abused his father and mother for bringing a fool into the world.
     Seeing  that  curses  and  abuse  had no  effect  and  nothing  in  the
sun-scorched place was changed by them, he  clenched  his  dry fists, raised
them,  squinting, to the  sky, to  the sun  that  was  sliding  ever  lower,
lengthening the shadows  and  going  to  fall  into the  Mediterranean,  and
demanded  an immediate miracle from God. He demanded  that God  at once send
Yeshua death.
     Opening his eyes, he became convinced that  everything  on the hill was
unchanged, except that the blazing spots on the centurion's  chest  had gone
out. The sun was  sending  its rays into the backs of the executed men,  who
were facing Yershalaim. Then Levi shouted:
     'I curse you. God!'
     In a  rasping voice he shouted that he was convinced of God's injustice
and did not intend to believe in him any longer.
     You  are  deaf!'  growled Levi. `If  you were not deaf,  you would have
heard me and killed him straight away!'
     Shutting his eyes, Levi waited for  the fire that  would  fall from the
sky and strike him instead. This did  not happen, and  Levi, without opening
his eyes,  went on shouting offensive and  sarcastic things at  the sky.  He
shouted about his total disappointment,  about  the existence of other  gods
and religions. Yes, another god  would not  have allowed it, he  would never
have allowed a man like Yeshua to be burnt by the sun on a post.
     'I  was mistaken!' Levi cried in a completely hoarse voice. 'You are  a
god  of evil! Or are your eyes  completely clouded by smoke from the  temple
censers,  and  have  your ears ceased to  hear anything but  the  trumpeting
noises of the priests? You are not  an almighty god! You  are a black god! I
curse you, god of robbers, their soul and their protector!'
     Here  something blew  into  the face of the former  tax collector,  and
something rustled under his feet. It blew once more,  and  then, opening his
eyes,  Levi saw that, either under  the influence of his curses, or owing to
other reasons, everything in the world was changed. The sun  had disappeared
before reaching the sea, where it sank every evening. Having swallowed it, a
storm  cloud was rising  menacingly and inexorably  against the sky  in  the
west. Its edges were already seething with white foam, its black smoky belly
was tinged with yellow. The storm cloud was  growling, threads of fire  fell
from it now and again. Down  the Jaffa  road, down the meagre Hinnom valley,
over the tents  of the pilgrims, driven by the suddenly risen wind,  pillars
of dust went flying.
     Levi  fell silent, trying  to grasp whether the storm that was about to
cover  Yershalaim  would bring  any  change in the  fate of  the unfortunate
Yeshua. And straight away, looking  at  the  threads  of fire cutting up the
cloud,  he began to  ask  that  lightning strike Yeshua's post.  Repentantly
looking  into the clear sky that had not yet been devoured by the cloud, and
where  the vultures  were  veering  on one  wing to  escape the  storm, Levi
thought he had been insanely hasty with his curses: now God was not going to
listen to him.
     Turning his gaze to the foot of the hill, Levi fixed on the place where
the strung-out cavalry regiment stood, and saw that considerable changes had
taken  place there. From  above, Levi  was able to distinguish very well the
soldiers bustling about, pulling spears out of the  ground, throwing  cloaks
on, the horse-handlers  trotting  towards  the road leading black horses  by
their bridles.  The regiment was  moving off,  that  was clear. Spitting and
shielding himself with his hand from  the  dust blowing  in  his face,  Levi
tried to  grasp  what it might mean if  the  cavalry  was about to leave. He
shifted  his  gaze further  up and  made out a  little  figure in a  crimson
military  chlamys climbing towards the place of execution. And  here a chill
came over  the  heart of  the  former tax collector in  anticipation of  the
joyful end.
     The man climbing  the  mountain  in  the  fifth hour  of  the  robbers'
sufferings  was  the commander  of the  cohort, who had come  galloping from
Yershalaim accompanied by an aide.  At a gesture from Ratslayer, the file of
soldiers  parted, and the centurion  saluted the tribune. The latter, taking
Ratslayer  aside,  whispered something  to him. The centurion saluted him  a
second time and moved towards the group of executioners, who were sitting on
stones  at the  foot of the posts.  The tribune meanwhile directed his steps
towards  the  one sitting  on  the three-legged  stool, and  the  seated man
politely rose to meet the tribune. And the tribune  said something to him in
a low  voice,  and  the two went over to the  posts. They were joined by the
head of the temple guard.
     Ratslayer, casting a squeamish sidelong  glance at the dirty rags lying
on the ground  near the posts,  rags  that had recently been  the criminals'
clothing, and which  the executioners had rejected, called two  of them  and
     'Follow me!'
     From the nearest post came a hoarse, senseless song. Gestas, hanging on
it,  had lost his mind from the  flies and sun towards the end of the  third
hour,  and  was  now quietly singing  something about  grapes, but his head,
covered with a turban, occasionally  swayed all the same, and then the flies
rose sluggishly from his face and settled on it again.
     Dysmas, on the second post, suffered more than the other two because he
did   not  lose  consciousness,  and   he  swung  his  head  constantly  and
rhythmically, right and left, so that his ears struck his shoulders.
     Yeshua was more  fortunate than  the other two. In the very first hour,
he began to have blackouts, and then he fell into oblivion, hanging his head
in  its  unwound turban. The  flies  and  horseflies  therefore  covered him
completely,  so that his face disappeared under the  black swarming mass. In
his  groin, and on his belly, and in his armpits, fat horseflies sat sucking
at his yellow naked body.
     Obeying the gestures of the man in the  hood,  one of the  executioners
took a  spear and  another brought a  bucket and a sponge  to  the post. The
first executioner  raised the spear and  with it  tapped first one, then the
other  of Yeshua's arms, stretched out and bound with ropes to  the crossbar
of the  post.  The body,  with  its  protruding  ribs,  gave  a  start.  The
executioner passed the tip of  the spear over the belly. Then  Yeshua raised
his  head, and  the  flies moved off with a  buzz, revealing the face of the
hanged man, swollen with bites, the eyes puffy, an unrecognizable face.
     Ungluing his eyelids, Ha-Nozri looked down. His  eyes,  usually  clear,
were slightly clouded.
     'Ha-Nozri!' said the executioner.
     Ha-Nozri moved  his swollen  lips and  answered  in a  hoarse  robber's
     'What do you want? Why have you come to me?'
     'Drink!' said the executioner, and a water-soaked sponge on  the tip of
a spear rose to Yeshua's lips.  Joy  flashed  in his  eyes,  he clung to the
sponge and began greedily imbibing the  moisture. From the neighbouring post
came the voice of Dysmas:
     'Injustice! I'm a robber just like him!'
     Dysmas strained but  was unable  to move, his arms  being bound to  the
crossbar  in  three places with loops of rope.  He drew in his belly, clawed
the  ends  of  the crossbar  with his nails,  kept his head  turned  towards
Yeshua's post, malice blazed in the eyes of Dysmas.
     A  dusty cloud covered the place, it became much  darker. When the dust
blew away, the centurion shouted:
     'Silence on the second post!'
     Dysmas fell  silent. Yeshua  tore himself  away from  the  sponge,  and
trying to make his voice sound gentle and persuasive, but not succeeding, he
begged the executioner hoarsely:
     'Give him a drink.'
     It was growing ever darker.  The storm cloud had already  poured across
half the sky, aiming towards Yershalaim, boiling white clouds raced ahead of
the storm cloud suffused with black moisture and fire. There was a flash and
a thunderclap right over the  hill. The executioner removed  the sponge from
the spear.
     'Praise the  magnanimous hegemon!'  he whispered  solemnly, and  gently
pricked Yeshua in the heart. He twitched and whispered:
     Blood ran down his  belly,  his lower jaw twitched convulsively and his
head dropped.
     At  the second thunderclap, the executioner was already giving Dysmas a
drink, and with the same words:
     'Praise the hegemon!' - killed him as well.
     Gestas, deprived  of  reason,  cried  out  fearfully  as  soon  as  the
executioner came near him, but when the sponge  touched his lips, he growled
something and seized it with his teeth. A  few seconds later his  body, too,
slumped as much as the ropes would allow.
     The man in the  hood followed the  executioner and  the centurion,  and
after him came the head of the temple guard. Stopping at the first post, the
man in the  hood examined the blood-covered Yeshua  attentively, touched his
foot with his white hand, and said to his companions:
     The same was repeated at the other two posts.
     After that the  tribune motioned to the centurion and, turning, started
off the hilltop together with the head  of the temple guard and  the  man in
the  hood.  Semi-darkness set in, and lightning farrowed the black sky. Fire
suddenly sprayed out of it, and the centurion's shout: 'Raise  the cordon!',
was drowned in rumbling. The happy soldiers rushed  headlong down the  hill,
putting on their helmets.
     Darkness covered Yershalaim.
     Torrents of rain poured down suddenly  and caught the centuries halfway
down the  hill. The deluge  fell so terribly  that the soldiers were already
pursued by raging streams as they ran downhill. Soldiers slipped and fell in
the sodden clay, hurrying to get to the level road, along which - now barely
visible through the sheet of  water  - the thoroughly  drenched cavalry  was
heading for  Yershalaim. A  few minutes  later only one  man remained in the
smoky brew of storm, water and fire on the hill.
     Shaking the not uselessly stolen knife,  falling from slippery  ledges,
clutching  at whatever  was  there, sometimes  crawling  on  his  knees,  he
strained towards  the  posts. He now  vanished  in  total  darkness, now was
suddenly illumined by a tremulous light.
     Having made his way to the posts, already up to his ankles in water, he
tore off his heavy water-soaked tallith,  remaining just in  his  shirt, and
clung  to Yeshua's feet. He cut the ropes on his shins,  stepped  up on  the
lower crossbar, embraced Yeshua and freed his arms from the upper bonds. The
naked, wet body of Yeshua collapsed on Levi and brought him to the ground.
     Levi  wanted to heave  it on to  his  shoulders straight away, but some
thought  stopped  him.  He  left  the  body  with  its thrown-back  head and
outspread  arms on  the  ground in  the  water, and ran, his feet slithering
apart in the clayey mire, to the other  posts.  He cut the  ropes on them as
well, and the two bodies collapsed on the ground.
     Several minutes  passed, and  all that remained on the  top of the hill
was these two bodies and the three empty posts. Water beat on the bodies and
rolled them over.
     By  that time  both  Levi and  the body  of Yeshua  were  gone from the

     On Friday morning, that is, the day after the  accursed sance, all the
available  staff  of  the  Variety  -  the  bookkeeper  Vassily  Stepanovich
Lastochkin,  two  accountants,  three typists, both  box-office  girls,  the
messengers, ushers, cleaning women - in short, all those available, were not
at their places  doing their jobs, but were all sitting on the  window-sills
looking out on Sadovaya  and  watching  what was going on by the wall of the
Variety. By this wall a queue of many thousands clung  in two rows, its tail
reaching to Kudrinskaya Square. At the head of the line stood some two dozen
scalpers well known to theatrical Moscow.
     The line  behaved  with  much  agitation,  attracting the notice of the
citizens  streaming   past,   and   was  occupied  with  the  discussion  of
inflammatory tales about yesterday's unprecedented sance of black magic.
     These same  tales caused the greatest consternation in  the  bookkeeper
Vassily Stepanovich,  who  had not  been  present at the  previous evening's
     The ushers  told of God knows  what, among other things  that after the
conclusion of the famous sance, some female citizens went running around in
the  street looking  quite indecent, and so on  in the same vein. The modest
and quiet Vassily Stepanovich merely blinked his eyes, listening to the tall
tales of these wonders, and  decidedly  did not know what to  undertake, and
yet  something  had to  be undertaken, and precisely  by him, because he now
turned out to be the senior member of the whole Variety team.
     By ten o'clock the line of  people desiring tickets had swelled so much
that  rumour  of it  reached  the  police,  and with  astonishing  swiftness
detachments  were sent, both on foot  and mounted,  to  bring this line into
some  sort of  order.  However, in itself even an orderly  snake a half-mile
long presented  a  great  temptation,  and caused  utter  amazement  in  the
citizens on Sadovaya.
     That  was outside,  but inside the  Variety things  were  also none too
great. Early in the morning the telephones began to ring and went on ringing
without  interruption  in Likhodeev's  office, in  Rimsky's office,  at  the
bookkeeper's, in the box office, and in Varenukha's office.
     Vassily Stepanovich at first made some answer, the box-office girl also
answered, the ushers  mumbled  something into the telephones,  but then they
stopped altogether, because to questions of where  Likhodeev, Varenukha  and
Rimsky were, there  was decidedly no answer. At first they tried to get  off
by  saying 'Likhodeev's at home', but the reply to  this was that  they  had
called him at home, and at home they said Likhodeev was at the Variety.
     An agitated lady called, started asking for Rimsky, was advised to call
his wife, to which the receiver, sobbing, answered that she was his wife and
that Rimsky was nowhere to be found. Some sort of nonsense was beginning.
     The cleaning woman had already told everybody that when she came to the
findirector's  office to clean, she saw the door wide  open, the  lights on,
the window to the garden broken, the armchair lying on the floor, and no one
in the office.
     Shortly after ten  o'clock, Madame Rimsky burst  into the Variety.  She
was sobbing and wringing  her hands. Vassily Stepanovich was  utterly  at  a
loss and did  not know how to counsel her. Then at half  past  ten  came the
police. Their first and perfectly reasonable question was:
     "What's going on here, citizens? What's this all about?'
     The team stepped  back, bringing forward the  pale and agitated Vassily
Stepanovich. He had  to  call  things  by  their names and  confess that the
administration  of  the   Variety  in  the  persons  of  the  director,  the
findirector  and the administrator had vanished and no one  knew where, that
the master  of  ceremonies had been taken  to a psychiatric  hospital  after
yesterday's  sance, and  that, to put it briefly, this seance yesterday had
frankly been a scandalous sance.
     The sobbing Madame Rimsky, having been calmed down as much as possible,
was sent home,  and the greatest  interest was shown in the cleaning woman's
story about the shape in which  the findirector's office had been found. The
staff were asked  to go to their places  and get busy, and in a short  while
the  investigation  appeared  in  the  Variety  building, accompanied  by  a
sharp-eared, muscular, ash-coloured dog with extremely intelligent eyes. The
whisper spread at once among  the Variety staff that the dog was none  other
than the  famous  Ace of Diamonds.  And so it was. His behaviour amazed them
all.  The  moment  Ace of Diamonds ran  into  the  findirector's  office, he
growled, baring his monstrous yellow fangs, then crouched on his  belly and,
with some sort of look of  anguish and at the same time of rage in his eyes,
crawled towards the broken window. Overcoming his  fear, he suddenly  jumped
up  on the  window-sill and, throwing back his sharp muzzle, howled savagely
and angrily. He refused to leave the window, growled and twitched, and  kept
trying to jump out.
     The dog was taken from the office and turned loose in the lobby, whence
he  walked  out  through  the  main entrance  to  the  street and  led those
following  him to  the  cab  stand.  There  he lost  the trail  he had  been
pursuing. After that Ace of Diamonds was taken away.
     The  investigation settled  in  Varenukha's  office,  where they  began
summoning  in  turn  all  the  Variety   staff  members  who  had  witnessed
yesterday's events during the sance. It must be said that the investigation
had  at  every  step to overcome  unforeseen difficulties. The  thread  kept
snapping off in their hands.
     There  had been posters, right?  Right.  But during the night  they had
been pasted  over  with  new  ones, and  now, strike me dead, there wasn't a
single one to be found! And the magician himself, where had he come from?
     Ah, who knows! But there was a contract drawn up with him?
     I suppose so,' the agitated Vassily Stepanovich replied.
     'And if one was drawn up, it had to go through bookkeeping?'
     'Most assuredly,' responded the agitated Vassily Stepanovich.
     'Then where is it?'
     `Not  here,'  the  bookkeeper  replied,  turning  ever  more  pale  and
spreading his arms.
     And indeed no  trace  of the contract  was found  in  the  files of the
bookkeeping  office,  nor  at  the  findirector's,  nor  at  Likhodeev's  or
     And what was this magician's name? Vassily Stepanovich did not know, he
had not  been  at  the  sance  yesterday.  The  ushers  did  not  know, the
box-office girl wrinkled  her brow,  wrinkled  it,  thought and thought, and
finally said:
     'Wo... Woland, seems like...'
     Or maybe not Woland? Maybe not Woland. Maybe Faland.
     It turned out that in  the foreigners' bureau they had heard  precisely
nothing either  about  any  Woland,  or  for  that  matter  any Faland,  the
     The  messenger  Karpov  said  that  this same magician  was  supposedly
staying  in Likhodeev's apartment. The apartment was, of course,  visited at
once - no magician was found there. Likhodeev himself was not there either.
     The  housekeeper  Grunya was  not there, and where she  had gone nobody
     The  chairman  of  the management,  Nikanor  Ivanovich, was not  there,
Bedsornev was not there!
     Something   utterly   preposterous  was  coming   out:  the  whole  top
administration  had  vanished,  a strange, scandalous seance had taken place
the day before, but who had produced it and at whose prompting, no one knew.
     And  meanwhile it was drawing towards noon, when the box office  was to
open.  But,  of course, there could  be  no  talk of  that! A huge piece  of
cardboard was straight away posted on the doors of the Variety reading:
     'Today's  Show Cancelled'. The line became agitated,  beginning  at its
head, but after some agitation, it nevertheless began to break up, and about
an  hour  later no  trace  of it  remained  on Sadovaya.  The  investigation
departed to continue its  work elsewhere, the staff was  sent home,  leaving
only the watchmen, and the doors of the Variety were locked.
     The bookkeeper Vassily Stepanovich had urgently to perform two tasks.
     First, to go to the Commission  on Spectacles and Entertainment of  the
Lighter  Type with  a report on yesterday's events and, second, to visit the
Finspectacle  sector  so as  to  turn  over  yesterday's receipts  -  21,711
     The  precise  and  efficient Vassily Stepanovich wrapped  the  money in
newspaper, criss-crossed  it with  string,  put  it in his  briefcase,  and,
knowing  his instructions very well, set  out, of course, not for a bus or a
tram, but for the cab stand.
     The moment  the  drivers  of the three cabs  saw  a passenger  hurrying
towards  the  stand  with  a tightly stuffed briefcase, all three left empty
right under his nose, looking back at him angrily for some reason.
     Struck  by this  circumstance,  the bookkeeper stood like a post  for a
long time, trying to grasp what it might mean.
     About three minutes later, an empty cab drove up, but the driver's face
twisted the moment he saw the passenger.
     'Are you free?' Vassily Stepanovich asked with a cough of surprise.
     'Show your money,' the  driver replied angrily, without looking at  the
     With  increasing  amazement,  the  bookkeeper,  pressing  the  precious
briefcase under his arm, pulled a ten-rouble bill from his wallet and showed
it to the driver.
     'I won't go!' the man said curtly.
     'I beg your  pardon...'  the bookkeeper  tried to begin, but the driver
interrupted him.
     'Got any threes?'
     The  completely bewildered bookkeeper took  two three-rouble bills from
his wallet and showed them to the driver.
     'Get in,' he shouted, and slapped down the flag of the meter so that he
almost broke it. 'Let's go!'
     'No change, is that it?' the bookkeeper asked timidly.
     `A  pocket  full of change!'  the driver bawled,  and the  eyes  in the
mirror  went bloodshot.  'It's my  third  case  today. And  the  same  thing
happened with the others, too. Some son of a bitch gives me a tenner, I give
him change - four-fifty. He gets out, the scum!  About five minutes later, I
look:  instead of a tenner, it's a label  from a  seltzer  bottle!' Here the
driver uttered several unprintable words. 'Another one, beyond Zubovskaya. A
tenner.  I give him three  roubles  change. He leaves.  I  go to  my wallet,
there's a bee there - zap in the finger! Ah, you! ...' and again the  driver
pasted on some unprintable words.  'And no tenner. Yesterday, in the Variety
here'  (unprintable words),  'some vermin of a  conjurer  did a sance  with
ten-rouble bills' (unprintable words)...
     The bookkeeper went numb, shrank into himself, and pretended it was the
first time he had heard even the word 'Variety', while thinking to himself:
     'Oh-oh! ...'
     Having  got  where  he  had  to  go,  having paid  satisfactorily,  the
bookkeeper  entered  the  building and  went down the  corridor  towards the
manager's  office,  and realized on his way that he  had  come at  the wrong
time.  Some  sort  of  tumult  reigned  in the  offices  of  the  Spectacles
Commission. A  messenger  girl  ran  past the bookkeeper,  her  kerchief all
pushed back on her head and her eyes popping.
     'Nothing, nothing,  nothing, my dears!' she shouted, addressing no  one
knew whom.  The jacket and trousers are there, but inside the jacket there's
     She  disappeared through some  door, and straight  away from  behind it
came the noise of smashing dishes. The  manager  of the  commission's  first
sector, whom the bookkeeper  knew, ran out  of the secretary's room,  but he
was in such a state that he did not recognize the bookkeeper and disappeared
without a trace.
     Shaken by  all this, the bookkeeper reached the secretary's room, which
was the anteroom to the office of the  chairman of the commission, and  here
he was definitively dumbfounded.
     From behind  the closed  door  of  the  office came  a terrible  voice,
undoubtedly belonging to Prokhor Petrovich, the chairman of the commission.
     `Must  be scolding somebody!' the consternated bookkeeper thought  and,
looking around,  saw something else: in a leather armchair, her head  thrown
back, sobbing unrestrainedly, a wet handkerchief in her hand, legs stretched
out into the middle of the room, lay Prokhor  Petrovich's personal secretary
- the beautiful Anna Richardovna.
     Anna  Richardovna's chin  was all  smeared with lipstick,  and down her
peachy cheeks black streams of sodden mascara flowed from her eyelashes.
     Seeing someone  come  in,  Anna Richardovna  jumped  up, rushed to  the
bookkeeper,  clutched  the  lapels  of  his  jacket, began  shaking him  and
     'Thank God! At least one brave man has been found! Everybody ran  away,
everybody betrayed us! Let's go, let's go to him, I don't know what to do!'
     And, still sobbing, she dragged the bookkeeper into the office.
     Once in the office, the bookkeeper  first of all dropped his briefcase,
and all  the thoughts in his head turned  upside-down. And, it must be said,
not without reason.
     At a huge writing desk with  a massive inkstand an  empty  suit sat and
with a dry pen, not dipped in ink, traced on a piece of paper. The  suit was
wearing  a  necktie, a  fountain pen  stuck from its  pocket,  but above the
collar there was neither neck nor head, just as there were no hands sticking
out of the sleeves. The suit was immersed in work and completely ignored the
turmoil that reigned around it.  Hearing  someone come  in, the suit  leaned
back and  from  above  the  collar  came the voice,  quite  familiar to  the
bookkeeper, of Prokhor Petrovich:
     'What is this? Isn't it written on the door that I'm not receiving?'
     The beautiful secretary shrieked and, wringing her hands, cried out:
     'You see? You see?! He's not there! He's not! Bring him back, bring him
     Here someone peeked in the door of the office, gasped, and flew out.
     The bookkeeper felt his legs trembling and sat on the edge  of a chair,
but did not forget to pick up his  briefcase. Anna Richardovna hopped around
the bookkeeper, worrying his jacket, and exclaiming:
     'I always,  always stopped him  when he swore  by the devil! So now the
devil's got him!' Here  the beauty ran to  the writing desk and in a tender,
musical voice, slightly nasal from weeping, called out:
     'Prosha! Where are you!'
     'Who  here  is "Prosha"  to  you?' the suit inquired haughtily, sinking
still deeper into the armchair.
     'He doesn't recognize me! Me  he  doesn't! Do you understand? ... ' the
secretary burst into sobs.
     'I ask you not to sob in the office!' the hot-tempered striped suit now
said angrily, and with its sleeve it drew to itself a fresh stack of papers,
with the obvious aim of appending its decision to them.
     'No, I can't look at it, I can't!' cried Anna Richardovna, and she  ran
out to  the secretary's  room,  and  behind  her,  like  a  shot,  flew  the
     'Imagine, I'm sitting here,' Anna  Richardovna  recounted, shaking with
agitation, again clutching  at the bookkeeper's sleeve, 'and a cat walks in.
Black,  big as a behemoth. Of course, I shout "scat" to it. Out it goes, and
in comes a fat fellow instead, also with a sort of cat-like mug, and says:
     "What are  you doing, citizeness, shouting  'scat' at  visitors?" And -
whoosh -  straight  to Prokhor  Petrovich.  Of  course,  I  run  after  him,
shouting: "Are you  out of your mind?" And this brazen-face goes straight to
Prokhor Petrovich and sits down opposite him in the armchair. Well, that one
...  he's the kindest-hearted man, but edgy. He blew up, I don't deny it. An
edgy  man,  works like  an ox  - he  blew up. "Why  do  you  barge  in  here
unannounced?"  he  says.  And  that  brazen-face,  imagine, sprawls  in  the
armchair and says, smiling:
     "I've come," he says, "to discuss a little business with  you." Prokhor
Petrovich blew up again: "I'm busy." And the other one, just think, answers:
     "You're not busy  with anything ..." Eh? Well, here, of course, Prokhor
Petrovich's patience ran out, and he shouted: "What is all this? Get him out
of here, devil take me!" And that one, imagine, smiles and says: "Devil take
you? That, in fact, can be done!" And - bang! Before I had time to scream, I
look: the one  with the cat's mug is gone, and th ... there ... sits ... the
suit ... Waaa! ...' Stretching her mouth, which had lost all shape entirely,
Anna Richardovna howled.
     After choking with sobs, she caught her breath, but  then began pouring
out something completely incoherent:
     'And it writes, writes, writes! You could lose your mind! Talks  on the
telephone! A suit! They all ran away like rabbits!'
     The  bookkeeper only  stood and shook. But here  fate came to his  aid.
Into  the secretary's room, with  calm,  business-like strides,  marched the
police,  to the  number  of two  men. Seeing  them, the beauty  sobbed still
harder, jabbing towards the door of the office with her hand.
     'Let's  not  cry  now, citizeness,'  the  first  said  calmly,  and the
bookkeeper,  feeling  himself  quite  superfluous  there,  ran  out  of  the
secretary's room  and a minute later was already in the fresh air. There was
some sort of  draught in his  head, a soughing as in a chimney,  and through
this  soughing  he  heard scraps  of  the  stories  the  ushers  told  about
yesterday's cat, who had taken part in the sance. 'Oh-ho-ho! Might that not
be our same little puss?'
     Having  got nowhere  with  the commission,  the  conscientious  Vassily
Stepanovich decided to visit its affiliate, located in Vagankovsky Lane, and
to calm himself a little he walked the distance to the affiliate on foot.
     The  affiliate for city spectacles  was housed in a peeling old mansion
set  back  from the  street, and was  famous for the porphyry columns in its
vestibule.  But it was not the columns that struck visitors to the affiliate
that day, but what was going on at the foot of them.
     Several  visitors  stood in  stupefaction and  stared at a weeping girl
sitting behind a small table on which  lay  special literature about various
spectacles, which the girl sold. At  that moment, the girl  was not offering
any of  this literature  to anyone, and only  waved her hand  at sympathetic
inquiries, while at the  same time,  from above, from below, from the sides,
and from all sections of the affiliate poured the ringing of at least twenty
overwrought telephones.
     After weeping for a while, the girl suddenly gave a start and cried out
     'Here it  comes again!' and  unexpectedly began singing  in a tremulous
     'Glorious sea, sacred Baikal...'[1]
     A messenger  appeared  on  the  stairs, shook his fist at  someone, and
began singing along with the girl in a dull, weak-voiced baritone:
     'Glorious boat, a barrel of cisco ...'[2]
     The messenger's voice was joined by  distant voices, the choir began to
swell, and finally  the song resounded in all corners of  the  affiliate. In
the neighbouring room no. 6, which housed the account comptroller's section,
one powerful, slightly husky octave stood out particularly.
     'Hey, Barguzin [3] ...  make the waves rise and  fall!  ...' bawled the
messenger on the stairs.
     Tears flowed down the  girl's face,  she tried to clench her teeth, but
her mouth opened of itself, as she sang an octave higher than the messenger:
     'This young lad's ready to frisk-o!'
     What  struck  the  silent  visitors  to  the  affiliate  was  that  the
choristers,  scattered in various places, sang quite harmoniously, as if the
whole choir stood there with its eyes fixed on some invisible director.
     Passers-by in  Vagankovsky Lane  stopped  by the  fence  of  the  yard,
wondering at the gaiety that reigned in the affiliate.
     As soon as the first verse came to an end, the singing suddenly ceased,
again  as  if  to  a  director's  baton.  The  messenger  quietly swore  and
     Here the  front door  opened, and in  it appeared a citizen in a summer
jacket, from under which protruded the skirts of  a white coat, and with him
a policeman.
     'Take measures, doctor, I implore you!' the girl cried hysterically.
     The secretary of the affiliate ran  out to  the  stairs and,  obviously
burning with shame and embarrassment, began falteringly:
     'You  see, doctor, we have a case of some sort of mass hypnosis, and so
it's necessary that...' He did  not  finish the  sentence, began to choke on
his words, and suddenly sang out in a tenor:
     'Shilka and Nerchinsk ...'[4]
     'Fool!' the girl had time to shout, but, without explaining who she was
abusing, produced instead a forced roulade and  herself began singing  about
Shilka and Nerchinsk.
     `Get  hold  of  yourself!  Stop  singing!'  the  doctor  addressed  the
     There was every indication  that the secretary would himself have given
anything  to stop singing, but stop singing he could not, and  together with
the choir he brought to the hearing of passers-by in  the lane the news that
'in the  wilderness he was not touched by voracious beast, nor  brought down
by bullet of shooters.'
     The moment the verse ended, the girl was the first to receive a dose of
valerian from  the doctor,  who then ran  after the secretary  to  give  the
others theirs.
     'Excuse me, dear citizeness,' Vassily  Stepanovich  addressed the girl,
'did a black cat pay you a visit?'
     `What cat?' the  girl  cried in anger.  'An ass,  it's an ass we've got
sitting  in the affiliate!'  And adding  to  that: `Let him  hear, I'll tell
everything' - she indeed told what had happened.
     It  turned out that  the manager of the city affiliate, 'who has made a
perfect mess of lightened entertainment' (the girl's words), suffered from a
mania  for  organizing  all  sorts  of  little  clubs. 'Blew  smoke  in  the
authorities' eyes!' screamed the girl.
     In the course of a year this manager had succeeded in organizing a club
of  Lermontov studies [5],  of  chess and checkers,  of  ping-pong,  and  of
horseback  riding. For the  summer, he was threatening  to organize clubs of
fresh-water canoeing  and alpinism. And so  today, during lunch-break,  this
manager comes in ...
     ' ...with some son of a bitch  on his arm,' the girl went  on, 'hailing
from  nobody  knows  where,  in  wretched  checkered  trousers,   a  cracked
pince-nez, and ... with a completely impossible mug! ...'
     And  straight  away, the  girl said, he  recommended  him to all  those
eating  in  the  affiliate's  dining  room  as  a  prominent  specialist  in
organizing choral-singing clubs.
     The faces of the future alpinists darkened, but the manager immediately
called on everyone to cheer up, while the specialist joked a little, laughed
a little, and swore  an oath that singing takes  no time at all,  but  that,
incidentally, there was a whole load of benefits to be derived from it.
     Well, of course, as the girl said, the first to pop up were  Fanov  and
Kosarchuk, well-known affiliate toadies,  who announced that they would sign
up. Here the rest of  the staff realized that there was  no  way  around the
singing,  and they, too, had to sign up for the  club. They decided to  sing
during the lunch break, since the rest of the time was taken up by Lermontov
and checkers. The manager, to set an example, declared  that he was a tenor,
and  everything   after  that  went  as  in  a  bad  dream.   The  checkered
specialist-choirmaster bawled out:
     'Do,  mi,  sol, do!'  -  dragged  the  most  bashful  from  behind  the
bookcases,  where  they had tried  to  save themselves  from  singing,  told
Kosarchuk he had perfect pitch, began whining, squealing, begging them to be
kind  to  an  old  singing-master, tapped  the  tuning fork  on his knuckle,
beseeched them to strike up 'Glorious Sea'.
     Strike up they did. And gloriously. The checkered one  really  knew his
business. They finished the first  verse. Here the director excused himself,
said: `Back in a minute...', and disappeared. They thought he would actually
come back  in a minute. But ten  minutes went by  and he was not there.  The
staff was overjoyed - he had run away!
     Then suddenly, somehow of themselves, they began the second verse. They
were all led by Kosarchuk, who may not have had perfect pitch,  but did have
a rather pleasant high tenor. They sang it through. No director! They  moved
to their places, but had  not managed to sit down when,  against their will,
they began to sing. To stop was impossible.  After three minutes of silence,
they would strike  up again. Silence - strike up!  Then  they realized  that
they were in trouble. The manager locked himself in his office from shame!
     Here the girl's story  was interrupted - the valerian had not done much
     A quarter of  an hour later,  three  trucks drove  up  to the fence  in
Vagankovsky, and the entire staff of the affiliate, the manager at its head,
was loaded on to them.
     As soon  as the first truck, after  lurching  in the gateway, drove out
into the lane, the staff members, who  were standing on the platform holding
each  other's  shoulders,  opened their mouths, and the whole lane resounded
with the popular song. The second truck picked it up, then the third. And so
they drove  on. Passers-by hurrying about their own business would cast only
a fleeting glance at the trucks, not surprised in the least, thinking it was
a group excursion to the country. And they were indeed going to the country,
though not on an excursion, but to Professor Stravinsky's clinic.
     Half an  hour later, the bookkeeper,  who had lost his head completely,
reached the financial sector,  hoping finally to get rid  of  the box-office
money.  Having  learned from experience by now,  he first peeked  cautiously
into  the  oblong  hall  where,  behind   frosted-glass  windows  with  gold
lettering, the staff was sitting. Here the bookkeeper discovered no signs of
alarm or scandal. It was quiet, as it ought to be in a decent institution.
     Vassily  Stepanovich  stuck  his  head  through  the window  with 'Cash
Deposits' written over it, greeted some unfamiliar clerk, and politely asked
for a deposit slip.
     'What do you need it for?' the clerk in the window asked.
     The bookkeeper was amazed.
     'I want to turn over some cash. I'm from the Variety.'
     'One moment,' the clerk replied and instantly closed the opening in the
window with a grille.
     'Strange!...'  thought  the  bookkeeper.  His  amazement was  perfectly
natural. It  was  the first time in his  life that  he  had met with such  a
circumstance. Everybody knows how hard it is to  get money; obstacles to  it
can  always be found. But there had been no case in the bookkeeper's  thirty
years of experience when anyone, either an official or a private person, had
had a hard time accepting money.
     But  at  last  the little grille moved aside, and  the bookkeeper again
leaned to the window.
     'Do you have a lot?' the clerk asked.
     'Twenty-one thousand seven hundred and eleven roubles.'
     'Oho!'  the  clerk answered  ironically for some reason  and handed the
bookkeeper a green slip.
     Knowing the form well, the bookkeeper instantly filled it out and began
to untie  the string  on  the bundle. When he  unpacked his load, everything
swam before his eyes, he murmured something painfully.
     Foreign money  flitted before his  eyes: there were stacks  of Canadian
dollars, British pounds, Dutch guldens, Latvian lats, Estonian kroons...
     'There he  is,  one of those tricksters  from the Variety!' a  menacing
voice  resounded over the  dumbstruck  bookkeeper. And straight away Vassily
Stepanovich was arrested.

     At the same time that the zealous bookkeeper was racing in a cab to his
encounter with the self-writing suit, from first-class sleeping car no. 9 of
the  Kiev train, on  its arrival in Moscow,  there alighted, among others, a
decent-looking  passenger  carrying   a   small  fibreboard  suitcase.  This
passenger  was  none  other  than  the  late  Berlioz's   uncle,  Maximilian
Andreevich Poplavsky, an  industrial  economist,  who  lived in Kiev on  the
former Institutsky Street.  The reason for Maximilian Andreevich's coming to
Moscow was a telegram received late in  the evening two days before with the
following content:
     Have just been run over by tram-car at Patriarch's Ponds funeral Friday
three pm come. Berlioz.
     Maximilian Andreevich was considered one of the most intelligent men in
Kiev, and deservedly so. But  even the most  intelligent man might have been
nonplussed by  such a telegram.  If  someone  sends a telegram saying he has
been  run over, it is clear that he has not  died of it. But then, what  was
this about a funeral? Or was he  in a bad way and foreseeing death? That was
possible, but such precision was in the highest degree strange: how could he
know he would be buried on Friday at three pm? An astonishing telegram!
     However, intelligence  is granted to intelligent  people so as  to sort
out entangled affairs. Very simple. A mistake had been made, and the message
had been distorted.  The word  'have' had undoubtedly come there  from  some
other telegram in place of  the word 'Berlioz', which got moved and wound up
at the end of the  telegram.  With such  an emendation, the  meaning  of the
telegram became clear, though, of course, tragic.
     When  the outburst  of grief  that struck  Maximilian Andreevich's wife
subsided, he at once started preparing to go to Moscow.
     One  secret about Maximilian Andreevich  ought to be revealed. There is
no  arguing  that  he felt sorry for his wife's nephew,  who had died in the
bloom of life. But, of course, being a practical man, he realized that there
was  no special  need for his  presence  at the  funeral.  And  nevertheless
Maximilian  Andreevich was in  great  haste to go  to Moscow. What  was  the
point? The point was the  apartment.  An apartment  in  Moscow is a  serious
thing! For some unknown reason, Maximilian Andreevich did not like Kiev [1],
and the thought of  moving to Moscow had been gnawing at  him so much lately
that he had even begun to sleep badly.
     He  did not  rejoice  in  the  spring flooding  of  the Dnieper,  when,
overflowing  the islands by  the lower  bank,  the  water  merged  with  the
horizon. He did not rejoice in the staggeringly beautiful view  which opened
out  from  the foot of the  monument  to  Prince  Vladimir. He did not  take
delight in patches of sunlight playing in  springtime  on the brick paths of
Vladimir's Hill. He wanted none of it, he wanted only one thing - to move to
     Advertising   in  the  newspapers  about  exchanging  an  apartment  on
Institutsky Street  in  Kiev  for  smaller  quarters in  Moscow  brought  no
results.  No takers were found, or  if  they occasionally were, their offers
were disingenuous.
     The telegram  staggered Maximilian  Andreevich.  This  was  a moment it
would be  sinful to let slip. Practical people know that such moments do not
come twice.
     In short, despite all  obstacles,  he had to  succeed in inheriting his
nephew's apartment on Sadovaya. Yes, it  was  difficult, very difficult, but
these difficulties  had to  be overcome at whatever  cost.  The  experienced
Maximilian  Andreevich knew that the first and  necessary step towards  that
had  to  be  the  following:  he  must  get  himself  registered,  at  least
temporarily, as the tenant of his late nephew's three rooms.
     On Friday afternoon, Maximilian  Andreevich walked  through the door of
the  room which housed  the management of no.502-bis on  Sadovava Street  in
     In the narrow room, with an old poster hanging on the wall illustrating
in several pictures the ways of resuscitating people who have drowned in the
river,  an  unshaven,  middle-aged  man with  anxious  eyes sat  in  perfect
solitude at a wooden table.
     'May  I see the chairman?' the industrial  economist inquired politely,
taking off his hat and putting his suitcase on a vacant chair.
     This seemingly  simple  little question for some  reason so  upset  the
seated man that he even changed countenance. Looking sideways in anxiety, he
muttered unintelligibly that the chairman was not there.
     `Is  he  at  home?'  asked Poplavsky.  `I've  come  on  the most urgent
     The  seated man  again replied quite incoherently, but all the same one
could guess that the chairman was not at home.
     'And when will he be here?'
     The seated man made no reply  to this and looked with a certain anguish
out the window.
     'Aha! ...' the intelligent Poplavsky said to himself and inquired about
the secretary.
     The  strange man at the table  even turned purple with strain and said,
again unintelligibly, that the secretary was not there either ... he did not
know when he would be back, and ... that the secretary was sick...
     'Aha! ...' Poplavsky  said to himself. `But surely  there's somebody in
the management?'
     'Me,' the man responded in a weak voice.
     'You see,' Poplavsky  began to speak imposingly, 'I am the sole heir of
the late  Berlioz, my  nephew,  who, as you  know, died  at  the Patriarch's
Ponds, and  I am  obliged,  in accordance with  the law,  to  take over  the
inheritance contained in our apartment no.50...'
     'I'm not informed, comrade ...' the man interrupted in anguish.
     'But, excuse me,' Poplavsky said in a sonorous voice, 'you are a member
of the management and are obliged ...'
     And here some citizen entered  the room.  At the sight of  the entering
man, the man seated at the table turned pale.
     'Management member Pyatnazhko?' the entering man asked the seated man.
     'Yes,' the latter said, barely audibly.
     The  entering  one  whispered  something  to the  seated  one, and  he,
thoroughly  upset, rose  from  his chair, and a few seconds later  Poplavsky
found himself alone in the empty management room.
     'Eh, what a complication! As if on purpose, all of them at once ...'
     Poplavsky  thought in  vexation,  crossing  the  asphalt  courtyard and
hurrying to apartment no.50.
     As  soon  as the industrial economist rang,  the door was  opened,  and
Maximilian  Andreevich entered the semi-dark front  hall.  It was a somewhat
surprising circumstance  that he  could not figure out  who had let him  in:
there was no one in the front hall except an enormous black cat sitting on a
     Maximilian Andreevich coughed,  stamped his  feet, and then the door of
the  study  opened and  Koroviev  came out  to  the  front hall.  Maximilian
Andreevich bowed politely, but with dignity, and said:
     'My name is Poplavsky. I am the uncle...'
     But before he could finish, Koroviev snatched a dirty handkerchief from
his pocket, buried his nose in it, and began to weep.
     '... of the late Berlioz ...'
     'Of course, of course!'  Koroviev interrupted, taking  his handkerchief
away  from  his face. `Just  one look and  I  knew it was  you!' Here he was
shaken with tears and  began to exclaim:  'Such a calamity, eh? What's going
on here, eh?'
     'Run over by a tram-car?' Poplavsky asked in a whisper.
     'Clean!'  cried  Koroviev, and tears flowed  in streams from under  his
pince-nez. 'Run clean over!  I was a witness.  Believe  me -  bang! and  the
head's gone! Crunch - there goes the right leg! Crunch - there goes the left
leg! That's what these trams  have brought us to!' And,  obviously unable to
control himself, Koroviev pecked the  wall beside the mirror with  his  nose
and began to shake with sobs.
     Berlioz's uncle was genuinely struck by the  stranger's behaviour. 'And
they say there are no warm-hearted people in our time!' he  thought, feeling
his own  eyes beginning to itch.  However, at the same time,  an  unpleasant
little  cloud came over his soul, and  straight away the  snake-like thought
flashed in  him that this  warm-hearted man might perchance have  registered
himself in the deceased man's apartment, for such examples have  been  known
in this life.
     'Forgive me,  were you a friend of my late Misha?' he asked, wiping his
dry  left  eye  with  his  sleeve,  and with  his  right  eye  studying  the
racked-with-grief Koroviev. But  the man was sobbing so  much that one could
understand nothing except the repeated  word  'crunch!'  Having  sobbed  his
fill, Koroviev finally unglued himself from the wall and said:
     'No, I can't take any more! I'll go and swallow three  hundred drops of
tincture of  valerian...' And  turning  his  completely tear-bathed  face to
Poplavsky, he added: That's trams for you!'
     'Pardon me, but did you send me the  telegram?'  Maximilian  Andreevich
asked, painfully puzzling over who this astonishing cry-baby might be.
     'He did!' replied Koroviev, and he pointed his finger at the cat.
     Poplavsky goggled his eyes, assuming he had not heard right.
     'No, it's too much, I just can't,' Koroviev went on, snuffing his nose,
'when I remember: the  wheel over the leg  ... the  wheel alone weighs three
hundred pounds ... Crunch! ... I'll go to bed, forget myself in sleep.'
     And here he disappeared from the hall.
     The cat then stirred,  jumped off the chair,  stood  on his  hind legs,
front legs akimbo, opened his maw and said:
     'Well, so I sent the telegram. What of it?'
     Maximilian Andreevich's head at once began to  spin, his arms and  legs
went numb, he dropped the suitcase and sat down on a chair facing the cat.
     'I believe I  asked  in good  Russian?' the  cat said sternly. 'What of
     But Poplavsky made no reply.
     'Passport!'[2] barked the cat, holding out a plump paw.
     Understanding nothing and seeing nothing except the two sparks  burning
in the cat's eyes, Poplavsky snatched  the passport  from his pocket like  a
dagger. The cat picked up a pair  of glasses in thick  black frames from the
pier-glass  table,  put  them on his  muzzle, thus acquiring  a  still  more
imposing air, and took the passport from Poplavsky's twitching hand.
     'I wonder, am I going to faint or not? ...' thought Poplavsky. From far
away  came Koroviev's snivelling, the whole front hall filled with the smell
of ether, valerian and some other nauseating vileness.
     'What office issued this document?' the cat asked, peering at the page.
     No answer came.
     `The 412th,'  the cat  said to himself, tracing  with his  paw  on  the
passport, which he was holding upside down. 'Ah, yes, of course! I know that
office, they issue passports to anybody. Whereas I,  for instance,  wouldn't
issue  one to the likes of  you! Not on your life I wouldn't! I'd just  take
one look at your face and  instantly refuse!' The cat got so  angry that  he
flung  the  passport  on  the  floor.  `Your  presence  at  the  funeral  is
cancelled,' the cat continued in an official voice. 'Kindly  return  to your
place of residence.' And he barked through the door 'Azazello!'
     At his call a small man ran out to the front hall, limping, sheathed in
black tights, with a knife tucked into  his leather belt, red-haired, with a
yellow fang and with albugo in his left eye.
     Poplavsky felt  he could  not  get enough air, rose from  his seat  and
backed away, clutching his heart.
     'See him off, Azazello!' the cat ordered and left the hall.
     'Poplavsky,' the other twanged softly,  'I hope everything's understood
     Poplavsky nodded.
     'Return immediately to Kiev,' Azazello went on. 'Sit there stiller than
water,  lower than  grass,  and  don't  dream of  any apartments  in Moscow.
     This small man,  who  drove Poplavsky  to  mortal terror with his fang,
knife and blind  eye,  only came  up  to  the  economist's shoulder, but his
actions were energetic, precise and efficient.
     First of all,  he  picked up the  passport and handed  it to Maximilian
Andreevich,  and  the latter took the booklet with a dead hand. Then the one
named Azazello  picked up  the suitcase with one hand, with the other  flung
open the door, and, taking Berlioz's uncle under the arm, led him out to the
landing of the stairway. Poplavsky leaned against the wall. Without any key,
Azazello opened the  suitcase, took out  of  it a  huge roast chicken with a
missing leg wrapped in greasy newspaper,  and placed it on the landing. Then
he took out two pairs of underwear, a razor-strop, some book and a case, and
shoved it all down the stairwell with  his foot, except for the chicken. The
emptied suitcase  went  the same  way. There  came  a crash from  below and,
judging by the sound of it, the lid broke off.
     Then the red-haired  bandit grabbed  the chicken by the  leg,  and with
this whole chicken hit Poplavsky on  the  neck, flat, hard, and  so terribly
that the body of the chicken tore off  and  the  leg remained  in Azazello's
hand. 'Everything was  confusion in the  Oblonskys'  home,'[3] as the famous
writer Leo Tolstoy correctly put it. Precisely so he might have said on this
occasion.  Yes, everything  was  confusion in Poplavsky's eyes. A long spark
flew  before  his  eyes,  then  gave  place  to  some  funereal  snake  that
momentarily  extinguished the  May day, and Poplavsky went hurtling down the
stairs, clutching his passport in his hand.
     Reaching the turn, he  smashed the  window on the landing with his foot
and sat on a  step. The legless chicken went bouncing past him and fell down
the stairwell. Azazello, who  stayed  upstairs, instantly gnawed the chicken
leg dean, stuck the bone into  the  side pocket  of his tights, went back to
the apartment, and shut the door behind him with a bang.
     At that moment there began to be heard from below the cautious steps of
someone coming up.
     Having run down one more  flight of stairs, Poplavsky sat on  a  wooden
bench on the landing and caught his breath.
     Some tiny  elderly man with an extraordinarily  melancholy face, in  an
old-fashioned tussore  silk  suit and a hard straw hat with a green band, on
his way upstairs, stopped beside Poplavsky.
     'May I ask you, citizen,' the  man in tussore silk asked  sadly, 'where
apartment no.50 is?'
     'Further up,' Poplavsky replied curtly.
     'I  humbly  thank  you,  citizen,' the  little  man said  with the same
sadness and went on up, while Poplavsky got to his feet and ran down.
     The  question  arises  whether it  might  have  been  the  police  that
Maximilian Andreevich was  hastening to,  to complain  about the bandits who
had perpetrated savage violence upon him in broad daylight? No, by no means,
that can be said with certainty.  To go into a police station and tell them,
look here, just now a cat in eyeglasses read my passport, and then a  man in
tights, with a  knife ... no, citizens, Maximilian Andreevich  was indeed an
intelligent man.
     He was already downstairs and saw  just by the exit  a  door leading to
some closet. The glass in the door was broken. Poplavsky hid his passport in
his pocket and looked around, hoping to see  his thrown-down belongings. But
there was no trace of  them.  Poplavsky  was  even  surprised himself at how
little this upset him. He was occupied with another interesting and tempting
thought: of testing the accursed apartment one more time on this little man.
     In fact, since he had  inquired after its whereabouts,  it meant he was
going there for the  first time. Therefore he was presently heading straight
into  the clutches  of the company that  had  ensconced itself in  apartment
     Something told  Poplavsky that  the  little man would  be  leaving this
apartment very soon.  Maximilian Andreevich was, of  course, no longer going
to  any funeral of any nephew, and there was plenty of time before the train
to Kiev. The economist looked around and ducked into the closet.
     At that moment way upstairs a door banged. That's him going in...'
     Poplavsky thought, his heart  skipping a beat. The closet was cool,  it
smelled  of  mice and boots. Maximilian Andreevich settled  on some stump of
wood and decided to wait. The position was convenient, from  the  closet one
looked directly on to the exit from the sixth stairway.
     However,  the man  from Kiev had to  wait longer  than he supposed. The
stairway was  for some  reason  deserted all the while. One could hear well,
and  finally a door  banged on the  fifth floor. Poplavsky froze. Yes, those
were  his little  steps.  'He's  coming  down  ...' A door one  flight lower
opened. The little steps ceased. A woman's voice. The voice of the sad man -
yes, it's his voice...  Saying something like 'leave me alone, for  Christ's
sake ...' Poplavsky's ear stuck  through the broken glass. This ear caught a
woman's  laughter. Quick and brisk steps coming down. And now a woman's back
flashed by. This woman, carrying a green oilcloth bag, went out  through the
front hall to the courtyard. And the little man's steps came anew. 'Strange!
He's going  back up to  the  apartment! Does it  mean he's part  of the gang
himself? Yes, he's going back. They've opened the door again upstairs. Well,
then, let's wait a little longer ...'
     This  time  he did  not have  to wait  long. The sound of the door. The
little steps. The little steps cease. A desperate cry. A cat's miaowing. The
little steps, quick, rapid, down, down, down!
     Poplavsky had not  waited  in  vain.  Crossing  himself  and  muttering
something,  the melancholy  little  man rushed  past  him,  hatless,  with a
completely  crazed  face,  his  bald  head  all scratched  and his  trousers
completely wet. He began tearing at the handle of the front  door, unable in
his fear to determine whether it opened out or in, managed at last, and flew
out into the sun in the courtyard.
     The testing  of  the apartment had been  performed.  Thinking  no  more
either of the deceased nephew or of the apartment, shuddering at the thought
of  the risk he had been running, Maximilian Andreevich, whispering only the
three words 'It's all  clear, it's all clear!', ran out  to the courtyard. A
few  minutes later  the  bus was carrying the  industrial economist  in  the
direction of the Kiev station.
     As for the tiny little man, a most unpleasant  story  had gone on  with
him while the economist was sitting in the closet downstairs. The little man
was  barman at  the Variety,  and was called Andrei Foldch Sokov. While  the
investigation was going on in the Variety, Andrei Fokich  kept himself apart
from all that was  happening, and only one  thing could be noticed, that  he
became still sadder than he generally was, and, besides, that he inquired of
the messenger Karpov where the visiting magician was staying.
     And so,  after  parting with the economist on  the  landing, the barman
went up to the fifth floor and rang at apartment no.50.
     The door was opened for him immediately,  but  the barman gave a start,
backed  away, and did not enter at once. This  was understandable. The  door
had  been opened by a  girl  who was wearing nothing but a coquettish little
lacy  apron and a  white fichu on her head.  On  her feet,  however, she had
golden slippers. The girl was distinguished by an irreproachable figure, and
the only thing that might  have  been considered a defect in  her appearance
was the purple scar on her neck.
     'Well, come  in then, since you rang,'  said the girl, fixing her  lewd
green eyes on the barman.
     Andrei Fokich  gasped, blinked  his eyes,  and  stepped into  the front
hall, taking off his hat. Just then the telephone in the front hall rang.
     The shameless maid put one foot on a chair, picked up the receiver, and
into it said:
     The  barman, not knowing where to look, stood shifting from one foot to
the other, thinking: 'Some maid this foreigner's got! Pah, nasty thing!' And
to save  himself  from the  nasty thing, he began  casting  sidelong glances
around him.
     The whole big and semi-dark hall was cluttered with unusual objects and
clothing. Thus,  thrown over  the back of a chair was a funereal cloak lined
with  fiery cloth, on the pier-glass table lay a long sword with  a gleaming
gold  hilt. Three swords  with silver hilts stood  in the  corner  like mere
umbrellas or canes. And on the stag-horns hung berets with eagle feathers.
     `Yes,' the maid  was  saying into  the  telephone.  'How's that?  Baron
Meigel?  I'm listening. Yes.  Mister artiste is at home today. Yes, he'll be
glad to see you. Yes, guests... A tailcoat or a black suit. What? By  twelve
midnight.' Having finished the conversation, the  maid  hung up the receiver
and turned to the barman: 'What would you like?'
     'I must see the citizen artiste.'
     'What? You mean him himself?'
     'Himself,' the barman replied sorrowfully.
     'I'll ask,' the maid said with visible hesitation and, opening the door
to the late Berlioz's study, announced: 'Knight, there's a  little  man here
who says he must see Messire.'
     'Let him come in,' Koroviev's cracked voice came from the study.
     'Go  into  the  living  room,' the girl said as  simply as if she  were
dressed  like  anyone else, opened the door to the living room, and  herself
left the hall.
     Going  in where he was invited, the barman even forgot his business, so
greatly was he struck by the decor of the room. Through the stained glass of
the  big windows (a fantasy of the jeweller's utterly  vanished wife) poured
an  unusual,  church-like  light.  Logs were  blazing  in the  huge  antique
fireplace, despite the hot spring  day. And yet it was not the least bit hot
in the room, and even quite the contrary,  on entering one was  enveloped in
some  sort  of  dankness as  in a cellar. On a tiger  skin in  front  of the
fireplace sat a huge black tom-cat, squinting good-naturedly at the fire.
     There was a  table at  the sight of which the God-fearing barman gave a
start: the table was covered with  church brocade. On the brocade tablecloth
stood a host of bottles - round-bellied, mouldy and dusty. Among the bottles
gleamed a dish, and it  was obvious at once that it was of pure gold. At the
fireplace a small red-haired fellow with  a knife in  his  belt was roasting
pieces  of meat on  a long steel sword, and the juice dripped into the fire,
and the smoke went up the flue. There was a smell not only of roasting meat,
but  also  of some very strong perfume and  incense, and  it flashed in  the
barman's  mind, for  he  already  knew  of  Berlioz's death and his place of
residence from the newspapers, that this might, for all he knew, be a church
panikhida [4] that was being served for Berlioz,  which thought, however, he
drove away at once as a priori absurd.
     The astounded barman unexpectedly heard a heavy bass:
     'Well, sir, what can I do for you?'
     And here the barman discovered in the shadows the one he wanted.
     The black  magician was  sprawled  on some boundless  sofa,  low,  with
pillows  scattered over it. As  it  seemed to the  barman, the  artiste  was
wearing only black underwear and black pointed shoes.
     'I,' the barman began bitterly,  'am the  manager of the buffet at  the
Variety Theatre...'
     The artiste stretched  out his hand, stones flashing on its fingers, as
if stopping the barman's mouth, and spoke with great ardour:
     'No, no, no! Not a word more! Never and by  no means! Nothing from your
buffet will ever pass my  lips! I, my  esteemed  sir, walked past your stand
yesterday,  and even now I am unable to forget  either  the  sturgeon or the
feta  cheese! My precious man! Feta cheese is never green in colour, someone
has tricked  you. It ought to be white. Yes, and the tea? It's simply swill!
I saw with  my  own  eyes some slovenly girl add tap  water from a bucket to
your huge  samovar, while the tea  went on being  served. No, my  dear, it's
     'I  beg your pardon,'  said  Andrei Fokich,  astounded  by this  sudden
attack,  'but I've come about something else, and sturgeon has nothing to do
with it...'
     'How do you mean, nothing to do with it, when it's spoiled!'
     "They supplied sturgeon of the second freshness,' the barman said.
     'My dear heart, that is nonsense!'
     'What is nonsense?'
     `Second  freshness  - that's  what  is  nonsense!  There  is  only  one
freshness  - the  first - and it is also the last. And if sturgeon is of the
second freshness, that means it is simply rotten.'
     'I beg your pardon...' the barman again tried to begin, not knowing how
to shake off the cavilling artiste.
     'I cannot pardon you,' the other said firmly.
     'I have  come about something  else,' the  barman  said, getting  quite
     'About something else?' the  foreign  magician was surprised. 'And what
else could have brought you to me? Unless memory deceives  me,  among people
of  a  profession similar to  yours,  I  have  had  dealings  with  only one
sutler-woman, but that was long ago, when you were not yet in this world.
     However, I'm glad. Azazello! A tabouret for mister buffet-manager!'
     The  one  who was roasting meat turned, horrifying the  barman with his
fangs, and deftly offered him one of the dark oaken tabourets. There were no
other seats in the room.
     The barman managed to say:
     'I humbly thank you,' and lowered himself on to the stool. Its back leg
broke at  once with  a  crack, and the barman, gasping, struck his  backside
most painfully on the floor. As he fell, he kicked another stool in front of
him  with his  foot, and from  it  spilled  a full cup  of red  wine  on his
     The artiste exclaimed:
     'Oh! Are you hurt?'
     Azazello  helped  the barman  up and gave him another  seat. In a voice
filled with grief,  the barman declined  his host's  suggestion that he take
off his  trousers  and dry them before  the  fire, and,  feeling  unbearably
uncomfortable in his wet underwear  and clothing, cautiously sat down on the
other stool.
     'I  like sitting  low  down,' the artiste  said,  `it's less  dangerous
falling  from a  low height.  Ah, yes,  so  we  left off  at  the  sturgeon.
Freshness,  dear  heart, freshness, freshness! That  should be the motto  of
every barman. Here, wouldn't you like to try...'
     In the  crimson light of the fireplace a sword flashed in front  of the
barman, and  Azazello  laid a  sizzling piece of  meat  on  the golden dish,
squeezed lemon  juice over it, and handed  the barman  a golden  two-pronged
     'My humble... I ...'
     'No, no, try it!'
     The barman put a piece into his mouth out of politeness, and understood
at  once that he was chewing  something very  fresh indeed, and, above  all,
extraordinarily delicious. But as he  was chewing the  fragrant, juicy meat,
the barman  nearly choked and fell a second time. From the neighbouring room
a big, dark bird flew  in and gently brushed the barman's bald head with its
wing. Alighting on the mantelpiece beside the clock,  the bird turned out to
be an  owl. 'Oh,  Lord  God! ...' thought Andrei Fokich,  nervous  like  all
barmen. 'A nice little apartment! ...'
     'A cup of wine? White, red?  What country's wine  do you prefer at this
time of day?'
     'My humble ... I don't drink ...'
     'A  shame! What  about a game of dice, then? Or do you have  some other
favourite game? Dominoes? Cards?'
     'I don't play games,' the already weary barman responded.
     `Altogether  bad,'  the  host  concluded.  'As  you  will, but  there's
something not  nice hidden  in men who  avoid wine,  games, the  society  of
charming women, table talk. Such  people are either  gravely ill or secretly
hate everybody around them.  True, there may  be exceptions.  Among  persons
sitting down  with me  at  the banqueting table, there have been on occasion
some extraordinary scoundrels! ... And so, let me hear your business.'
     'Yesterday you were so good as to do some conjuring tricks ...'
     'I?' the magician  exclaimed in amazement. 'Good gracious, it's somehow
even unbecoming to me!'
     'I'm sorry,' said  the barman, taken aback. 'I mean the sance of black
     'Ah, yes, yes, yes!  My dear, I'll  reveal a secret to you.  I'm not an
artiste at all, I  simply  wanted to see the  Muscovites en masse, and  that
could be done most conveniently in a theatre. And so my  retinue,' he nodded
in the direction of the cat, 'arranged for this sance, and I merely sat and
looked at the Muscovites. Now, don't go changing  countenance,  but tell me,
what is it in connection with this sance that has brought you to me?'
     'If you please, you see, among other things there were banknotes flying
down from  the ceiling...'  The  barman lowered his voice and looked  around
abashedly.  'So they snatched them all up. And then a young man comes  to my
bar and gives me a ten-rouble bill, I give him eight-fifty in change... Then
another one ...'
     'Also a young man?'
     'No, an  older  one. Then a third, and a fourth ... I keep giving  them
change. And today  I went to check the cash box, and there, instead of money
- cut-up paper. They hit the buffet for a hundred and nine roubles.'
     'Ai-yai-yai!' the  artiste exclaimed. 'But can they have  thought those
were real bills? I can't admit the idea that they did it knowingly.'
     The  barman  took a somehow hunched and  anguished look around him, but
said nothing.
     'Can they be crooks?' the magician asked worriedly of his visitor. 'Can
there be crooks among the Muscovites?'
     The barman  smiled so bitterly in  response that all  doubts fell away:
yes, there were crooks among the Muscovites.
     'That is mean!' Woland was indignant. 'You're  a poor man ... You are a
poor man?'
     The barman drew his head down between his shoulders, making  it evident
that he was a poor man.
     'How much have you got in savings?'
     The question  was  asked in  a  sympathetic  tone,  but  even so such a
question could not but be acknowledged as indelicate. The barman faltered.
     Two  hundred and forty-nine thousand roubles in  five savings banks,' a
cracked  voice responded  from  the  neighbouring  room,  `and  two  hundred
ten-rouble gold pieces at home under the floor.'
     The barman became as if welded to his tabouret.
     'Well, of course, that's not  a great sum,' Woland said condescendingly
to his visitor, 'though, as a matter of fact, you have no need of it anyway.
When are you going to die?'
     Here the barman became indignant.
     'Nobody knows that and it's nobody's concern,' he replied.
     'Sure  nobody knows,' the same trashy voice  came  from  the study. The
binomial  theorem, you might think!  He's going to die in  nine months, next
February,  of  liver  cancer,  in  the  clinic  of the  First  Moscow  State
University, in ward number four.'
     The barman's face turned yellow.
     'Nine   months...'  Woland   calculated  pensively.  Two  hundred   and
forty-nine thousand... rounding it off that comes to twenty-seven thousand a
month... Not  a lot,  but  enough  for  a  modest  life ...  Plus those gold
pieces... '
     `He  won't get  to realize the gold  pieces,' the  same voice mixed in,
turning  the barman's heart to ice. 'On  Andrei  Fokich's  demise, the house
will immediately be torn down, and the gold will be sent to the State Bank.'
     'And I wouldn't advise you to go to the clinic,' the artiste went on.
     'What's the sense of dying in a ward  to the groans and wheezes of  the
hopelessly ill?  Isn't  it better  to give  a  banquet on  the  twenty-seven
thousand, then  take poison and move on to the other world to the sounds  of
strings, surrounded by drunken beauties and dashing friends?'
     The barman sat  motionless and grew very old. Dark rings surrounded his
eyes, his cheeks sagged, and his lower jaw hung down.
     'However, we've started day-dreaming,' exclaimed the host. To business!
     Show me your cut-up paper.'
     The  barman, agitated, pulled a package  from his pocket, unwrapped it,
and was dumbfounded: the piece of paper contained ten-rouble bills.
     'My dear, you really are unwell,' Woland said, shrugging his shoulders.
     The barman, grinning wildly, got up from the tabouret.
     'A-and...' he said, stammering, 'and if they ... again ... that is...'
     `Hm...' the artiste  pondered, 'well,  then  come to  us  again. You're
always welcome. I'm glad of our acquaintance ...'
     Straight  away Koroviev  came  bounding  from  the study,  clutched the
barman's  hand, and began  shaking  it, begging Andrei Fokich  to  give  his
regards to everybody, everybody. Not thinking  very well, the barman started
for the front hall.
     'Hella, see him out!' Koroviev shouted.
     Again that naked redhead in the front hall! The barman squeezed through
the door, squeaked 'Goodbye!',  and went off like a  drunk  man. Having gone
down a  little  way, he  stopped,  sat on a  step, took out  the packet  and
checked - the ten-rouble bills were in place.
     Here  a  woman  with a  green bag  came out of  the  apartment  on that
landing. Seeing a man sitting on a step and staring dully at some money, she
smiled and said pensively:
     'What a  house we've got... Here's this one drunk in the morning... And
the window on the stairway is broken again!'
     Peering more attentively at the barman, she added:
     'And you, dozen, are simply rolling in money! ... Give some to me, eh?'
     `Let  me  alone,  for  Christ's sake!' the  barman got  frightened  and
quickly hid the money.
     The woman laughed.
     To the hairy devil with you,  skinflint! I was joking...' And she  went
     The barman slowly got up, raised his hand to  straighten  his  hat, and
realized that it was not  on his head. He was terribly reluctant to go back,
but he was  sorry about the hat. After some hesitation, he nevertheless went
back and rang.
     'What else do you want?' the accursed Hella asked him.
     'I forgot my hat...' the barman whispered, pointing to his bald head.
     Hella turned around. The barman  spat mentally and dosed his eyes. When
he opened them, Hella was holding out his hat to him and a sword with a dark
     'Not mine ...' the barman whispered, pushing the sword away and quickly
putting on his hat.
     'You came without a sword?' Hella was surprised.
     The barman growled something and quickly went  downstairs. His head for
some reason felt uncomfortable  and too warm in the hat. He took it off and,
jumping from fear,  cried out softly: in his hands was a velvet beret with a
dishevelled cock's feather. The barman  crossed himself. At the same moment,
the beret miaowed,  turned into a black kitten  and, springing  back  on  to
Andrei Fokich's head, sank  all its claws into  his bald spot. Letting out a
cry  of  despair, the barman  dashed downstairs, and the kitten fell off and
spurted back up the stairway.
     Bursting outside, the barman trotted to the gates and left the devilish
no.502-bis for ever.
     What  happened to him afterwards is known  perfectly well.  Running out
the gateway, the barman looked around wildly, as if searching for something.
A  minute later he was on the other side of the street in a pharmacy. He had
no sooner uttered the words:
     'Tell me, please ...' when the woman behind the counter exclaimed:
     'Citizen, your head is cut all over!'
     Some five minutes later the barman was bandaged  with gauze,  knew that
the  best specialists  in  liver diseases  were considered  to be professors
Bernadsky and Kuzmin, asked who was closer, lit up with joy on learning that
Kuzmin lived literally across the courtyard in a small white house, and some
two minutes later was in that house.
     The premises were antiquated but very, very cosy. The barman remembered
that the first one he happened to meet was an old nurse who wanted  to  take
his hat,  but as he turned out to have no hat, the nurse went off somewhere,
munching with an empty mouth.
     Instead of her, there turned up near  the  mirror and under what seemed
some sort  of arch, a middle-aged woman  who said straight away that  it was
possible to make an appointment  only for  the nineteenth, not  before.  The
barman at once grasped what would save him. Peering with fading eyes through
the arch, where  three persons  were waiting in what was obviously some sort
of anteroom, he whispered:
     'Mortally ill...'
     The  woman  looked  in  perplexity  at  the  barman's  bandaged   head,
hesitated, and said:
     'Well, then ...' and allowed the barman through the archway.
     At that same moment the opposite door opened, there was the  flash of a
gold pince-nez. The woman in the white coat said:
     'Citizens, this patient will go out of turn.'
     And  before  the  barman could  look  around him, he  was  in Professor
Kuzmin's  office.  There  was nothing terrible, solemn or  medical  in  this
oblong room.
     "What's wrong with  you?' Professor Kuzmin asked in  a pleasant  voice,
and glanced with some alarm at the bandaged head.
     `I've just  learned  from reliable hands,' the barman  replied, casting
wild glances at some group photograph under glass, 'that I'm going to die of
liver cancer in February of this corning year. I beg you to stop it.'
     Professor  Kuzmin,  as  he sat there,  threw  himself against  the high
Gothic leather back of his chair.
     `Excuse me, I don't understand you... you've, what, been to the doctor?
Why is your head bandaged?'
     `Some  doctor!  ...  You  should've seen  this  doctor...'  the  barman
replied,  and his  teeth  suddenly  began  to chatter.  'And don't  pay  any
attention to the head,  it has no  connection ...  Spit on the  head, it has
nothing to do with it... Liver cancer, I beg you to stop it! ...'
     'Pardon me, but who told you?!'
     'Believe him!' the barman ardently entreated. 'He knows!'
     `I  don't  understand  a thing!'  the  professor  said,  shrugging  his
shoulders and pushing his chair  back  from the desk. 'How  can he know when
you're going to die? The more so as he's not a doctor!'
     'In ward four of the clinic of the First MSU,' replied the barman.
     Here  the  professor  looked at  his patient, at his head, at his  damp
trousers, and thought: 'Just what I needed, a madman...' He asked:
     'Do you drink vodka?'
     'Never touch it,' the barman answered.
     A  moment  later he  was undressed, lying on  the cold oilcloth of  the
couch,  and the professor was kneading  his stomach. Here, it must  be said,
the barman cheered up considerably. The  professor  categorically maintained
that presently, at least for the given moment, the barman had no symptoms of
cancer, but since it was so ... since he was afraid and had  been frightened
by some charlatan, he must perform all the tests ...
     The professor was  scribbling away on some sheets  of paper, explaining
where  to go, what to bring. Besides  that, he gave him a note for Professor
Bouret, a  neurologist, telling  the barman that his nerves were in complete
     'How much  do I owe you. Professor?' the  barman  asked in a tender and
trembling voice, pulling out a fat wallet.
     'As much as you like,' the professor said curtly and drily.
     The barman took out thirty roubles and  placed  them on the  table, and
then,  with an  unexpected softness, as  if operating with a  cat's  paw, he
placed on top of the bills a clinking stack wrapped in newspaper.
     'And what is this?' Kuzmin asked, twirling his moustache.
     'Don't scorn it, citizen Professor,' the barman whispered. 'I beg you -
stop the cancer!'
     Take away your gold this minute,' said the professor, proud of himself.
     'You'd  better  look  after  your  nerves.  Tomorrow  have  your  urine
analysed, don't drink a lot of tea, and don't put any salt in your food.'
     'Not even in soup?' the barman asked.
     'Not in anything,' ordered Kuzmin.
     'Ahh! ...' the barman exclaimed wistfully, gazing at the professor with
tenderness, gathering up his gold pieces and backing towards the door.
     That evening the professor had few patients, and as twilight approached
the  last one left. Taking off his  white coat, the professor glanced at the
spot where the barman had left his money and saw no banknotes there but only
three labels from bottles of Abrau-Durso wine.
     `Devil knows what's  going on!'  Kuzmin muttered, trailing  the flap of
his coat on the  floor and feeling the labels. 'It turns out he's not only a
schizophrenic but also a  crook!  But I  can't understand what  he needed me
for!  Could it  be the prescription for the urine  analysis? Oh-oh! ... He's
stolen my overcoat!'  And the professor rushed  for the front  hall, one arm
still in the sleeve of  his white coat. 'Xenia Nikitishna!' he cried shrilly
through the door to the  front hall. 'Look  and  see  if all  the  coats are
     The  coats all turned  out to be there. But instead, when the professor
went back to his  desk, having peeled off his white coat at last, he stopped
as if rooted to the parquet beside his  desk, his eyes riveted to it. In the
place where  the labels had been there  sat an orphaned  black kitten with a
sorry little muzzle, miaowing over a saucer of milk.
     'Wh-what's  this, may  I ask?! Now this is...' And Kuzmin felt the nape
of his neck go cold.
     At the professor's quiet and pitiful cry, Xenia Nikitishna came running
and at once reassured him  completely, saying that it was, of course, one of
the patients who had abandoned the kitten, as happens  not  infrequently  to
     They probably have a poor life,' Xenia Nikitishna explained, "well, and
we, of course...'
     They started  thinking  and  guessing  who  might  have  abandoned  it.
Suspicion fell on a little old lady with a stomach ulcer.
     `It's  she, of  course,' Xenia Nikitishna said. 'She thinks:  "I'll die
anyway, and it's a pity for the kitten.'"
     'But excuse me!' cried Kuzmin. 'What about the milk? ... Did she  bring
that, too? And the saucer, eh?'
     `She brought it  in  a  little  bottle, and poured it  into  the saucer
here,' Xenia Nikitishna explained.
     'In any case, take both the  kitten  and the saucer away,' said Kuzmin,
and he accompanied Xenia Nikitishna to the door himself.  When he came back,
the situation had altered.
     As he was hanging his coat on a nail, the professor heard  guffawing in
the courtyard. He glanced out and, naturally,  was  struck dumb.  A lady was
running  across the yard to  the  opposite wing in  nothing but a shift. The
professor even knew her name - Marya Alexandrovna. The guffawing came from a
young boy.
     'What's this?' Kuzmin said contemptuously.
     Just  then,  behind the  wall,  in the professor's  daughter's room,  a
gramophone began to play the foxtrot  'Hallelujah,' and at the same moment a
sparrow's chirping came from behind the professor's  back. He turned  around
and saw a large sparrow hopping on his desk.
     'Hm ... keep calm!' the  professor thought. 'It flew in  as I left  the
window. Everything's  in  order!' the professor told  himself, feeling  that
everything was in complete disorder, and  that, of  course, owing chiefly to
the sparrow. Taking a closer look at him, the professor  became convinced at
once that this was no  ordinary sparrow. The obnoxious little sparrow dipped
on its left leg, obviously clowning, dragging it, working  it in syncopation
- in short, it was dancing the foxtrot to the sounds of the gramophone, like
a  drunkard in a bar, saucy  as  could be, casting  impudent glances at  the
     Kuzmin's  hand fell  on the telephone, and he decided  to  call his old
schoolmate Bouret, to ask what such little sparrows might mean at the age of
sixty, especially when one's head suddenly starts spinning?
     The sparrow meanwhile sat on the presentation inkstand, shat in it (I'm
not joking!), then flew  up, hung in the air,  and, swinging  a steely beak,
pecked at the glass covering the photograph portraying the entire university
graduating class of '94, broke the glass to smithereens, and  only then flew
out the window.
     The  professor dialled  again,  and instead of calling Bouret, called a
leech bureau,  [5] said he was Professor Kuzmin, and asked them to send some
leeches to his house at once. Hanging up the receiver, the  professor turned
to his desk  again  and  straight away let out a scream. At this  desk sat a
woman in  a nurse's  headscarf,  holding a handbag with  the  word 'Leeches'
written  on  it. The professor screamed as he looked  at her mouth: it was a
man's mouth, crooked, stretching from  ear  to ear, with  a single fang. The
nurse's eyes were dead.
     'This bit  of cash I'll just pocket,' the nurse said in a  male  basso,
`no  point in letting it lie  about  here.' She  raked up the  labels with a
bird's claw and began melting into air.
     Two hours passed. Professor  Kuzmin sat in his bedroom on the bed, with
leeches  hanging from his  temples, behind  his  ears,  and on his neck.  At
Kuzmin's feet, on a quilted silk  blanket, sat the grey-moustached Professor
Bouret, looking at Kuzmin with condolence and comforting  him, saying it was
all nonsense. Outside the window it was already night.
     What other prodigies occurred in  Moscow that night we do not know  and
certainly will not try to find out  - especially as it  has come time for us
to go on to the second part of this truthful narrative. Follow me, reader!

     Follow  me, reader! Who  told  you  that  there is  no true,  faithful,
eternal love in this world! May the liar's vile tongue be cut out!
     Follow me, my reader, and me alone, and I will show you such a love!
     No! The master was mistaken when  with bitterness  he told Ivanushka in
the hospital, at that hour when the  night was  falling past  midnight, that
she  had forgotten him. That could not be. She had, of course, not forgotten
     First of all let us reveal  the secret which the master did not wish to
reveal to Ivanushka. His beloved's name was Margarita Nikolaevna [1].
     Everything the master told the poor poet about her was the exact truth.
He  described his beloved correctly. She was  beautiful and  intelligent. To
that  one more thing must be added: it can be said with certainty that  many
women  would have  given  anything to exchange  their lives for the  life of
Margarita  Nikolaevna. The childless  thirty-year-old Margarita was the wife
of a very  prominent specialist,  who, moreover, had  made a very  important
discovery  of state significance. Her husband  was  young,  handsome,  kind,
honest, and adored his  wife.  The two of them, Margarita  and  her husband,
occupied the entire  top floor of a  magnificent house in a garden on one of
the lanes  near the Arbat.  A charming place! Anyone can  be convinced of it
who wishes  to  visit  this garden. Let them inquire of me, and  I will give
them  the address, show them the way  -  the house stands  untouched to this
     Margarita Nikolaevna  was not in  need of  money. Margarita  Nikolaevna
could  buy whatever she  liked. Among her husband's acquaintances there were
some  interesting people.  Margarita Nikolaevna  had never touched  a primus
stove.  Margarita  Nikolaevna  knew  nothing  of the  horrors  of life in  a
communal apartment.  In short ...  she was happy? Not for one minute! Never,
since the age of nineteen, when she had  married and wound up in this house,
had she known any  happiness.  Gods, my gods!  What,  then,  did  this woman
need?! What  did this  woman  need, in whose  eyes there always burned  some
enigmatic  little fire? What did she need, this witch  with a slight cast in
one eye, who had adorned herself with mimosa that time in  the  spring? I do
not  know. I have no idea. Obviously she was telling  the truth, she  needed
him, the master, and not  at all some Gothic mansion, not a  private garden,
not money. She loved him, she was telling the truth.
     Even I, the truthful narrator, though an outsider, feel my  heart wrung
at the  thought of  what  Margarita  endured  when she came  to the master's
little house the next  day (fortunately before she had time to talk with her
husband, who had not  come  back at the  appointed time) and discovered that
the  master was no longer  there. She did everything to find  out  something
about him,  and, of course,  found out  nothing. Then she went  back to  her
house and began living in her former place.
     But  as  soon  as the dirty  snow disappeared  from  the  sidewalks and
streets, as soon as the  slightly rotten, disquieting  spring  breeze wafted
through the  window, Margarita  Nikolaevna began  to  grieve  more  than  in
winter. She often wept in  secret, a  long and bitter weeping.  She  did not
know  who it was she loved: a  living man or a dead one? And the longer  the
desperate  days went  on,  the more often,  especially at twilight, did  the
thought come to her that she was bound to a dead man.
     She had  either to forget him  or to die herself. It was  impossible to
drag on with such a life. Impossible! Forget him, whatever the cost - forget
him! But he would not be forgotten, that was the trouble.
     'Yes, yes, yes, the very same mistake!' Margarita  said, sitting by the
stove  and  gazing  into the fire lit in memory of the fire that  had burned
while he was  writing Pontius Pilate. `Why did I leave him that  night? Why?
It was madness!  I came back the next day, honestly, as I'd promised, but it
was too late. Yes, like the unfortunate Matthew Levi, I came back too late!'
     All these words  were, of  course, absurd, because what, in fact, would
it have changed if she had stayed with the master that night? Would she have
saved him? 'Ridiculous! ...' we might exclaim, but we shall not do so before
a woman driven to despair.
     On that same day when all sorts of absurd turmoil  took place, provoked
by the  appearance of  the black  magician in  Moscow,  on the  Friday  when
Berlioz's  uncle was chased  back to  Kiev, when the bookkeeper was arrested
and a host  of other quite stupid and incomprehensible things  took place  -
Margarita woke  up  at around noon in her bedroom  with bay  windows  in the
tower of the house.
     On  awakening, Margarita did not  weep, as  she  often did, because she
awoke with a presentiment that today something was finally going to happen.
     Having felt this presentiment,  she  began to warm it and nurture it in
her soul, for fear it might abandon her.
     'I believe!' Margarita whispered solemnly.  'I believe! Something  will
happen! It cannot not happen, because for what, indeed, has lifelong torment
been sent to me?  I admit that I lied and deceived and lived a  secret life,
hidden from people,  but all  the  same the  punishment for  it cannot be so
cruel... Something  is bound to happen, because  it cannot be that  anything
will go  on  forever. And besides, my  dream  was  prophetic,  I'll swear it
     So Margarita Nikolaevna  whispered, looking at the  crimson curtains as
they  filled with sun, dressing anxiously, combing her short curled  hair in
front of the triple mirror.
     The dream that Margarita had dreamed that night was indeed unusual. The
thing was that during her winter sufferings she had never seen the master in
her  dreams. He  released her  for the night,  and she suffered only  in the
daylight hours. But now she had dreamed of him.
     The dream was of a place unknown to Margarita - hopeless, dismal, under
the sullen  sky of  early  spring.  In  the  dream  there was  this  ragged,
fleeting, grey sky, and under it  a  noiseless flock of  rooks. Some gnarled
little  bridge,  and  under it  a  muddy spring runlet. Joyless,  destitute,
half-naked trees. A lone aspen, and further on, among the trees, beyond some
vegetable patch, a little log  structure - a separate kitchen, a  bathhouse,
devil knows what it was!  Everything  around somehow  lifeless and so dismal
that one just longed to hang oneself  from  that  aspen by the bridge. Not a
puff of breeze, not a movement of the clouds, and not a living soul. What  a
hellish place for a living man!
     And then, imagine, the door of this  log structure is  thrown open, and
he appears. Rather far away, but  clearly visible.  He  is in tatters, it is
impossible to make out what he is wearing. Unshaven, hair dishevelled. Sick,
anxious eyes. He beckons with his hand, calling her. Gasping in the lifeless
air, Margarita ran to him over the tussocks, and at that moment she woke up.
     This dream means only one of two things,' Margarita Nikolaevna reasoned
with herself. 'If he's dead and beckoned to me, it means he has come for me,
and I will die soon. And that's very good -  because then my suffering  will
soon end. Or  else  he's alive, and then the dream  can only mean one thing,
that he's reminding me of himself!  He wants  to say  that we  will see each
other again... Yes, we will see each other very soon!'
     Still in the same  agitated  state,  Margarita  got  dressed  and began
impressing  it upon  herself  that, essentially,  everything was turning out
very luckily, and  one  must know  how to catch  such lucky moments and take
advantage of them. Her husband had gone on a business trip for a whole three
days. During those three days she was at her own disposal, and no  one could
prevent her  from  thinking what  she  liked or dreaming what she liked. All
five rooms  on the top floor  of the  house, all of this apartment which  in
Moscow would be the envy of tens of thousands of people, was entirely at her
     However, being granted freedom for a whole three days,  Margarita chose
from this entire luxurious apartment what was far from the best place. After
having  tea,  she went  to a dark, windowless  room where  suitcases and all
sorts of  old stuff were kept  in two large wardrobes.  Squatting down,  she
opened the bottom drawer of the first of them, and took from under a pile of
silk scraps the only precious  thing she had in life.  Margarita held in her
hands an old brown leather album which contained a photographic portrait  of
the  master, a bank  savings book with a deposit of ten thousand  roubles in
his name, the petals of a dried rose pressed between sheets of tissue paper,
and part of a full-sized notebook covered with typescript and with a charred
bottom edge.
     Going  back  to her bedroom with these riches, Margarita Nikolaevna set
the photograph up on the triple mirror and sat for about an hour holding the
fire-damaged book on her knees, leafing through it and rereading that which,
after the burning, had neither beginning nor end:
     '... The darkness that came from the Mediterranean Sea covered the city
hated  by the procurator. The hanging bridges connecting the temple with the
dread Antonia Tower [2] disappeared, the abyss  descended  from the  sky and
flooded the winged gods over the hippodrome, the Has-monaean Palace [3] with
its loopholes, the bazaars, caravanserais, lanes, pools... Yershalaim -  the
great city - vanished as if it had never existed in the world...'
     Margarita wanted to read  further, but further there was nothing except
an irregular, charred fringe.
     Wiping  her tears, Margarita Nikolaevna  abandoned the notebook, rested
her elbows  on  the dressing table and, reflected  in the  mirror, sat for a
long time without taking her  eyes from the photograph. Then the tears dried
up. Margarita neatly  folded her possessions, and a few  minutes  later they
were  again buried under silk rags, and the lock  clicked shut  in  the dark
     Margarita Nikolaevna was putting her coat on in the front hall in order
to  go for a  walk.  The beautiful Natasha, her  housemaid,  asked  what  to
prepare  for the main  course,  and, receiving  the  reply  that it made  no
difference, got into conversation with her mistress for  her own  amusement,
and began telling her God  knows  what, something about how yesterday in the
theatre a  conjurer began performing such tricks that everybody gasped, gave
away  two  flacons of  foreign  perfume  and  a pair of  stockings  free  to
everybody,  and then, when the sance ended, the audience came outside and -
bang - everybody turned out  to be naked! Margarita Nikolaevna dropped on to
the chair in front of the hall mirror and burst out laughing.
     'Natasha! You ought to be ashamed,' Margarita Nikolaevna said,  'you, a
literate, intelligent girl... they tell devil knows what lies in the queues,
and you go repeating them!'
     Natasha  flushed  deeply and objected with great ardour  that, no, they
weren't lying, and that she herself had personally seen today, in a grocer's
on the Arbat, one citizeness  who came into  the shop wearing shoes,  but as
she was paying  at the cash register, the shoes disappeared from  her  feet,
and she was left in just her stockings. Eyes  popping out, and a hole in her
heel! And the shoes were magic ones from that same sance.
     'And she left like that?'
     `And she  left like that!' Natasha  cried, blushing still more from not
being  believed.  `And  yesterday, Margarita Nikolaevna, the police arrested
around a hundred people in the evening. Women from this sance were  running
down Tverskaya in nothing but their bloomers.'
     'Well,  of  course,  it's  Darya  who  told  you  that,' said Margarita
Nikolaevna. 'I noticed long ago that she's a terrible liar.'
     The funny conversation ended with a pleasant surprise for Natasha.
     Margarita Nikolaevna went  to the bedroom and came back holding a  pair
of stockings and a  flacon of eau-de-cologne. Telling Natasha that she, too,
wanted to perform a trick, Margarita Nikolaevna gave her both  the stockings
and the  bottle, and  said her only  request was that she  not run around on
Tverskaya in nothing but stockings and that  she not listen to Darya. Having
kissed each other, mistress and housemaid parted.
     Leaning against the comfortable  soft  back  of  the  trolley-bus seat,
Margarita Nikolaevna rode down the Arbat, now thinking her own thoughts, now
listening to the whispers of two citizens sitting in front of her.
     They  were  exchanging whispers  about  some nonsense,  looking  around
warily from time to time to make sure no one was listening. The hefty, beefy
one with pert, piggish eyes,  sitting by the window, was quietly telling his
small neighbour that the coffin had to be covered with a black cloth...
     `It  can't be!'  the  small one whispered, amazed.  'This  is something
unheard-of! ... And what has Zheldybin done?'
     Amidst  the  steady humming of  the  trolley-bus,  words came from  the
     `Criminal investigation ... scandal ... well, outright mysticism!
     ...'  From these  fragmentary  scraps, Margarita Nikolaevna somehow put
together something  coherent.  The citizens were whispering about some  dead
person (they did not  name him)  whose head  had been stolen from the coffin
that morning... This was the  reason why Zheldybin was now  so worried.  And
the two who were whispering on the trolley-bus also had some connection with
the robbed dead man.
     `Will  we have  time to stop for  flowers?'  the small one worried. The
cremation is at two, you say?'
     Margarita Nikolaevna finally got tired of listening to this  mysterious
palaver about a head stolen from a coffin, and she was  glad it was time for
her to get off.
     A few  minutes  later Margarita  Nikolaevna was  sitting on  one of the
benches  under  the Kremlin  wall, settling herself in  such  a way that she
could see the Manege. [4]
     Margarita squinted  in the bright sunlight, remembered her last night's
dream,  remembered how, exactly a year ago to  the day and the hour, she had
sat next to  him on  this same bench.  And in just the same way as then, her
black handbag lay beside her on the bench. He was  not beside  her this day,
but  Margarita  Nikolaevna  mentally  conversed with him  all the  same: 'If
you've been exiled,  why don't you send  me word of yourself? People do send
word. Have you stopped loving me? No, for some reason I don't  believe that.
It means you were exiled  and died... Release  me,  then, I beg you, give me
freedom to  live,  finally,  to  breathe the air!  ...' Margarita Nikolaevna
answered for him herself:
     'You  are free  ... am  I holding you?' Then she  objected to him: 'No,
what kind of answer is that? No, go from my memory, then I'll be free...'
     People walked past Margarita Nikolaevna. Some man gave the well-dressed
woman  a sidelong glance,  attracted by  her beauty  and  her  solitude.  He
coughed and sat  down at the end of the same bench that Margarita Nikolaevna
was sitting on. Plucking up his courage, he began:
     'Definitely nice weather today ...'
     But Margarita gave him such a dark look that he got up and left.
     "There, for example,' Margarita said mentally to him who possessed her.
     'Why,  in  fact,  did I  chase  that man away? I'm  bored, and  there's
nothing bad about this  Lovelace, unless  it's the stupid  word "definitely"
... Why am I  sitting alone under the wall like an  owl?  Why  am I excluded
from life?'
     She  became  thoroughly  sad and  downcast. But here suddenly  the same
morning wave of expectation and  excitement pushed at  her chest.  'Yes,  it
will happen!'  The wave pushed her a second time, and now she  realized that
it was a  wave of sound. Through the noise of  the city there came ever more
distinctly the approaching beat of a drum and the sounds of slightly off-key
     The  first to  appear  was  a mounted policeman riding  slowly past the
garden fence, with three more following on foot. Then a slowly rolling truck
with the musicians. After that, a  new,  open hearse moving slowly, a coffin
on it  all  covered with wreaths, and at  the corners of the  platform  four
standing persons - three men and one woman.
     Even from a distance, Margarita  discerned that the faces of the people
standing on the hearse, accompanying the deceased on  his last journey, were
somehow strangely bewildered. This was particularly  noticeable  with regard
to the  citizeness  who  stood  at the left rear  corner of the hearse. This
citizeness's fat cheeks were as if pushed out still more from inside by some
piquant secret, her  puffy little eyes  glinted  with  an ambiguous fire. It
seemed that just a little longer and the citizeness, unable to help herself,
would wink at the deceased and  say:  `Have you ever seen the like? Outright
mysticism!  ...'  The same  bewildered faces showed on those in the cortege,
who, numbering three hundred or near it, slowly walked behind the hearse.
     Margarita  followed  the  procession with her eyes,  listening  to  the
dismal  Turkish drum  fading  in  the distance,  producing one  and the same
'boom,  boom, boom', and  thought: 'What  a  strange  funeral  ... and  what
anguish from that "boom"! Ah,  truly,  I'd pawn my soul to the devil just to
find out whether he's alive or not ... It would  be interesting to know  who
they're burying.'
     'Berlioz, Mikhail Alexandrovich,' a slightly nasal male voice came from
beside her, 'chairman of Massolit.'
     The surprised  Margarita Nikolaevna  turned and  saw  a  citizen on her
bench, who had  apparently sat  down there  noiselessly  while Margarita was
watching the procession and, it must  be  assumed, absent-mindedly asked her
last question aloud.
     The procession meanwhile was slowing down, probably  delayed by traffic
lights ahead.
     `Yes,' the  unknown citizen went  on, 'they're  in a  surprising  mood.
They're accompanying the deceased  and thinking only  about what happened to
his head.'
     What head?'  asked  Margarita, studying her unexpected  neighbour. This
neighbour turned out to be short of stature, a fiery redhead with a fang, in
a  starched shirt, a good-quality  striped suit,  patent  leather shoes, and
with a bowler hat on his head. His tie was brightly coloured. The surprising
thing was that from the pocket where men usually carry  a  handkerchief or a
fountain pen, this gentleman had a gnawed chicken bone sacking out.
     'You see,'  the  redhead  explained,  `this  morning  in  the  hall  of
Griboedov's, the deceased's head was filched from the coffin.'
     `How can  that be?' Margarita  asked involuntarily,  remembering at the
same time the whispering on the trolley-bus.
     'Devil knows how!' the redhead replied  casually. `I suppose,  however,
that it wouldn't  be a bad idea to  ask Behemoth about it. It was an awfully
deft snatch! Such a scandal! ... And, above all, it's incomprehensible - who
needs this head and for what!'
     Occupied though Margarita Nikolaevna was with her own thoughts, she was
struck all the same by the unknown citizen's strange twaddle.
     `Excuse me!' she  suddenly  exclaimed.  'What  Berlioz?  The  one  that
today's newspapers...'
     The same, the same...'
     'So it means  that those  are writers following the coffin!'  Margarita
asked, and suddenly bared her teeth.
     'Well, naturally they are!'
     'And do you know them by sight?'
     'All of them to a man,' the redhead replied.
     'Tell me,' Margarita began to say, and her voice became hollow, 'is the
critic Latunsky among them?'
     `How could he not be?' the redhead replied.  'He's there at the  end of
the fourth row.'
     The blond one?' Margarita asked, narrowing her eyes.
     'Ash-coloured ... See, he's raising his eyes to heaven.'
     'Looking like a parson?'
     "That's him!'
     Margarita asked nothing more, peering at Latunsky.
     `And I  can  see,'  the  redhead said,  smiling,  'that  you hate  this
     There are some  others I  hate,' Margarita answered through her  teeth,
'but it's not interesting to talk about it.'
     The  procession  moved  on just  then, with  mostly  empty  automobiles
following the people on foot.
     'Oh,  well,  of course  there's  nothing interesting in  it,  Margarita
     Margarita was surprised.
     'Do you know me?'
     In place of an answer, the redhead  took off his bowler hat and held it
     `A  perfect  bandit's  mug!'  thought  Margarita,  studying  her street
     'Well, I don't know you,' Margarita said drily.
     `Where could you know me  from? But  all the same I've been sent to you
on a little business.'
     Margarita turned pale and recoiled.
     You ought to have begun with that straight off,' she  said, 'instead of
pouring out devil knows  what  about some  severed head! You  want to arrest
     'Nothing of the kind!' the redhead exclaimed. 'What is it - you start a
conversation, and  right  away  it's  got  to  be an  arrest! I  simply have
business with you.'
     'I don't understand, what business?'
     The redhead looked around and said mysteriously:
     'I've been sent to invite you for a visit this evening.'
     'What are you raving about, what visit?'
     'To a very  distinguished  foreigner,' the redhead said  significantly,
narrowing one eye.
     Margarita became very angry.
     'A new breed has  appeared -  a street pander!' she said, getting up to
     Thanks a lot for such errands!'  the  redhead exclaimed grudgingly, and
he muttered 'Fool!' to Margarita Nikolaevna's back.
     'Scoundrel!'  she  replied,  turning,  and  straight  away  heard   the
redhead's voice behind her:
     'The  darkness  that came  from the Mediterranean Sea covered the  city
hated by the procurator. The hanging  bridges connecting the temple with the
dread Antonia  Tower disappeared  ... Yershalaim - the great city - vanished
as if it had never existed in the world... So you, too, can just vanish away
along  with your  burnt notebook and dried-up  rose!  Sit here on the  bench
alone and entreat  him to set you free,  to let you  breathe the  air, to go
from your memory!'
     Her  face white, Margarita came  back  to  the bench.  The  redhead was
looking at her, narrowing his eyes.
     `I  don't  understand any  of  this,'  Margarita  began  quietly. 'It's
possible to find out about the pages ... get in, snoop around ... You bribed
Natasha, right?  But  how  could  you  find out  my  thoughts?' She  scowled
painfully and added: 'Tell me, who are you? From which institution?'
     `What a bore ...' the redhead muttered and then said aloud, 'I beg your
pardon,  didn't I  tell  you that  I'm not  from any institution?  Sit down,
     Margarita obeyed unquestioningly, but even so, as she was sitting down,
she asked once more:
     'Who are you?'
     'Well,  all right, my  name  is  Azazello,  but  anyhow that tells  you
     'And you won't tell  me how you  found out about the pages and about my
     'No, I won't,' Azazello replied drily.
     'But do you know anything about him?' Margarita whispered imploringly.
     'Well, suppose I do.'
     'I  implore  you, tell me only  one  thing  ...  is he alive? ... Don't
torment me!'
     'Well, he's alive, he's alive,' Azazello responded reluctantly.
     'Oh, God! ...'
     'Please, no excitements and exclamations,' Azazello said, frowning.
     `Forgive  me,  forgive me,' the  now obedient  Margarita  murmured, 'of
course, I got angry  with you. But, you must agree, when a  woman is invited
in  the street  to  pay a visit somewhere ... I have no prejudices, I assure
you,' Margarita smiled joylessly, 'but I never see any foreigners, I have no
wish to  associate with  them ... and, besides, my husband ...  my  drama is
that I'm living with someone I don't love ...  but I consider it an unworthy
thing to spoil his life ... I've never seen  anything but kindness from  him
     Azazello heard out this incoherent speech with visible boredom and said
     'I beg you to be silent for a moment.'
     Margarita obediently fell silent.
     The foreigner to whom I'm inviting you is not dangerous at all. And not
a single soul will know of this visit. That I can guarantee you.'
     'And what does he need me for?' Margarita asked insinuatingly.
     'You'll find that out later.'
     'I understand ... I must give myself to him,' Margarita said pensively.
     To which Azazello grunted somehow haughtily and replied thus:
     'Any woman in the world, I can assure you, would dream of just that,'
     Azazello's mug twisted with a little laugh, 'but I must disappoint you,
it won't happen.'
     'What kind of foreigner is that?!' Margarita exclaimed in bewilderment,
so loudly that people passing by turned to  look at her.  'And what interest
do I have in going to him?'
     Azazello leaned towards her and whispered meaningfully:
     'Well, a very great interest ... you'd better use the opportunity...'
     'What?' exclaimed Margarita, and her eyes  grew round. 'If I understand
you rightly, you're hinting that I may find out about him there?'
     Azazello silently nodded.
     'I'll  go!' Margarita  exclaimed with force and seized Azazello  by the
hand. 'I'll go wherever you like!'
     Azazello, with  a sigh of relief, leaned against the back of the bench,
covering up  the  name  `Niura'  carved on it  in  big letters,  and  saying
     'Difficult folk, these  women!' he  put  his hands  in  his pockets and
stretched his legs way out. 'Why, for instance, was I sent on this business?
Behemoth should have gone, he's a charmer...'
     Margarita said, with a crooked and bitter smile:
     'Stop mystifying me and tormenting me with your riddles. I'm an unhappy
person, and you're taking  advantage of it... I'm getting myself  into  some
strange story, but I swear, it's only because  you lured me with words about
him! My head's spinning from all these puzzlements...'
     'No dramas, no dramas,' Azazello returned, making faces, 'you must also
put yourself in my position. To give  some administrator a pasting, or chuck
an uncle out of the house, or gun somebody down, or  any other trifle of the
sort - that's right in my line. But talking with a woman in love, no thanks!
... It's half  an hour now that I've been wangling  you into it... So you'll
     'I will,' Margarita Nikolaevna answered simply.
     'Be  so  good as  to accept this, then,' said Azazello, and, pulling  a
round little golden box from his pocket, he offered it to Margarita with the
words:  'Hide  it  now, the  passers-by are looking.  It'll come in  useful,
Margarita Nikolaevna, you've aged a lot from grief in the last half-year.'
     Margarita flushed but said nothing, and Azazello went  on: 'Tonight, at
exactly half  past nine, be so  good as to take off all your clothes and rub
your face and your whole body with this ointment. Then do whatever you like,
only don't go far from the telephone. At ten  I'll call you and tell you all
you need to know. You won't have to worry about a thing, you'll be delivered
where you need to go and won't be put to any trouble. Understood?'
     Margarita was silent for a moment, then replied:
     'Understood. This thing  is pure gold, you can tell by  the weight. So,
then, I understand  perfectly well that I'm being bribed and drawn into some
shady story for which I'm going to pay dearly...'
     'What is all this?' Azazello almost hissed. 'You're at it again?'
     'No, wait!'
     'Give me back  the cream!' Margarita  clutched the box more tightly  in
her hand and said:
     'No, wait! ... I know what I'm getting into. But I'm getting into it on
account of him, because  I have no more hope for anything in this world. But
I want to tell you that if you're going to  ruin me, you'll be ashamed! Yes,
ashamed!  I'm perishing on account of love!' -  and striking herself on  the
breast, Margarita glanced at the sun.
     'Give it back!'  Azazello cried  angrily.  'Give it back and devil take
the whole thing. Let them send Behemoth!'
     'Oh, no!' exclaimed Margarita,  shocking  the passers-by. `I  agree  to
everything, I agree to perform this comedy of rubbing in the ointment, agree
to go to the devil and beyond! I won't give it back!'
     'Hah!' Azazello suddenly shouted and, goggling  his eyes at  the garden
fence, began pointing off somewhere with his finger.
     Margarita  turned to  where Azazello  was pointing, but  found  nothing
special  there.  Then  she  turned  back  to Azazello,  wishing  to  get  an
explanation  of  this  absurd  'Hah!'  but  there was  no  one  to  give  an
explanation: Margarita Nikolaevna's mysterious interlocutor had disappeared.
     Margarita quickly thrust  her hand into her  handbag, where she had put
the  box before this shouting,  and made sure  it was there.  Then,  without
reflecting  on  anything,  Margarita hurriedly ran out of the  Alexandrovsky

     The moon in the clear evening sky hung full, visible  through the maple
branches. Lindens  and  acacias drew  an  intricate  pattern of spots on the
ground in the garden. The triple  bay window, open but covered by a curtain,
was lit with a furious electric light. In Margarita Nikolaevna's bedroom all
the lamps were burning, illuminating the total disorder in the room.
     On the blanket on the bed lay shifts, stockings and underwear. Crumpled
underwear  was  also  simply  lying about  on  the floor  next  to  a box of
cigarettes crushed in the excitement. Shoes stood on the night table next to
an unfinished  cup of  coffee and an ashtray in which a butt was  smoking. A
black  evening  dress hung over the back of a  chair. The  room  smelled  of
perfume.  Besides  that,  the smell  of  a  red-hot  iron  was  coming  from
     Margarita  Nikolaevna  sat  in  front of the pier-glass,  with  just  a
bathrobe thrown  over her  naked  body, and  in  black  suede  shoes. A gold
bracelet  with a watch lay in  front of Margarita Nikolaevna, beside the box
she had received from Azazello, and Margarita did not take her eyes from its
     At times it  began to seem to  her  that the  watch was broken  and the
hands were not  moving. But they  were  moving, though very  slowly,  as  if
sucking, and at last the big hand fell on the twenty-ninth minute past nine.
     Margarita's  heart  gave  a terrible thump, so that she could  not even
take hold of the box  right  away. Having mastered herself, Margarita opened
it  and saw in  the  box a  rich, yellowish cream. It seemed to her  that it
smelted of swamp slime.  With the tip of her finger, Margarita put  a  small
dab  of the cream  on her  palm,  the  smell of swamp grass and forest  grew
stronger, and then  she began rubbing the cream into her forehead and cheeks
with her palm.
     The cream  spread easily and, as it seemed  to Margarita, evaporated at
once.  Having  rubbed several times, Margarita  glanced into the  mirror and
dropped  the box  right  on  her  watch  crystal, which became covered  with
cracks. Margarita closed her eyes, then glanced once  again  and  burst into
stormy laughter.
     Her  eyebrows, plucked  to a thread with tweezers, thickened and lay in
even black arches over her  greening eyes. The thin vertical crease  cutting
the bridge of  her nose, which had appeared back then, in October,  when the
master  vanished, disappeared  without a trace. So did the yellowish shadows
at her temples and the  two barely noticeable little webs of wrinkles at the
outer corners  of her eyes. The  skin of her cheeks filled out with  an even
pink colour, her  forehead  became white  and clear, and  the  hairdresser's
waves in her hair came undone.
     From the mirror a  naturally curly, black-haired woman of  about twenty
was looking  at the thirty-year-old Margarita, baring her  teeth and shaking
with laughter.
     Having laughed  her fill,  Margarita jumped out of her  bathrobe with a
single  leap, dipped freely  into the light, rich  cream,  and with vigorous
strokes  began rubbing it into the skin of her body.  It at once turned pink
and tingly. That instant, as if a needle  had been snatched from  her brain,
the ache  she  had felt in her temple all evening after the  meeting in  the
Alexandrovsky Garden subsided,  her leg  and arm  muscles grew stronger, and
then Margarita's body became weightless.
     She sprang up  and hung in  the air just above the rug, then was slowly
pulled down and descended.
     'What a cream! What a cream!' cried Margarita, throwing herself into an
     The rubbings changed her not only externally. Now joy was boiling up in
her,  in all of her, in every particle of her body, which felt to  her  like
bubbles  prickling  her body all over.  Margarita felt herself free, free of
everything.  Besides,  she  understood  with  perfect clarity that  what was
happening was precisely  what her presentiment had been telling her  in  the
morning, and that she was leaving her house and her former life forever.
     But, even so, a thought  split off from this former life about the need
of  fulfilling just  one last  duty  before  the  start  of  something  new,
extraordinary, which was pulling her upwards into the air. And, naked as she
was, she ran  from her bedroom,  flying up in the air time and again, to her
husband's study, and, turning on the  light, rushed  to the desk. On a  page
torn from  a notebook, she  pencilled a  note quickly  and  in  big letters,
without any corrections:
     Forgive  me  and  forget me as soon as possible. I  am  leaving you for
ever. Do not  look for me, it  is  useless. I  have become a witch from  the
grief and calamities that have struck me. It's time for me to go. Farewell.
     With  a  completely  unburdened soul, Margarita  came flying  into  the
bedroom, and after  her ran Natasha,  loaded  down with things. At once  all
these things - a wooden hanger with  a dress, lace  shawls,  dark blue satin
shoes on shoe-trees and a belt - all of it spilled on the floor, and Natasha
clasped her freed hands.
     'What, nice?' Margarita Nikolaevna cried loudly in a hoarse voice.
     'How can it be?' Natasha  whispered, backing away.  'How did you do it,
Margarita Nikolaevna.'
     'It's the cream! The cream, the cream!' answered Margarita, pointing to
the glittering golden box and turning around in front of the mirror.
     Natasha,  forgetting  the wrinkled  dress lying on the floor, ran up to
the pier-glass  and fixed her greedy,  lit-up  eyes on the  remainder of the
cream. Her lips were whispering something. She again turned to Margarita and
said with a sort of awe:
     'And,  oh, the  skin! The  skin! Margarita  Nikolaevna,  your  skin  is
glowing!'  But she  came to her senses, ran to the  dress, picked  it up and
began shaking it out.
     'Leave it! Leave it!'  Margarita  shouted to her. 'Devil take it! Leave
it all! Or,  no, keep it as  a  souvenir. As a  souvenir, I  tell  you. Take
everything in the room!'
     As if half-witted, the motionless Natasha  looked at Margarita for some
time, then hung on her neck, kissing her and crying out:
     'Satin! Glowing! Satin! And the eyebrows, the eyebrows!'
     `Take all  these rags, take the  perfume, drag  it  to your trunk, hide
it,' cried Margarita, 'but don't take  any valuables, they'll accuse  you of
     Natasha  grabbed and  bundled up  whatever  came to her hand - dresses,
shoes, stockings, underwear - and ran out of the bedroom.
     Just then from somewhere at the other  end of the  lane  a  thundering,
virtuoso waltz burst and flew out an open window,  and the chugging of a car
driving up to the gate was heard.
     `Azazello will call now!'  exclaimed  Margarita, listening to the waltz
spilling into the lane. 'He'll call! And the foreigner's not dangerous, yes,
I understand now that he's not dangerous!'
     There was  the noise of a  car driving away from the  front  gate.  The
garden gate banged, and steps were heard on the tiles of the path.
     'It's Nikolai Ivanovich, I recognize his footsteps,' thought Margarita.
     'I must do something funny and interesting in farewell.'
     Margarita tore the curtain open  and sat  sideways on  the window-sill,
her arms around her knees. Moonlight licked her from the right side.
     Margarita  raised  her head towards the moon and  made  a  pensive  and
poetic face. The steps tapped twice more, and then suddenly - silence. After
admiring  the moon  a little  longer, sighing  for  the sake  of  propriety,
Margarita  turned her head to the  garden and  indeed saw Nikolai Ivanovich,
who  lived on  the bottom floor of  the same house.  Moonlight  poured  down
brightly on  Nikolai Ivanovich.  He  was  sitting  on a bench, and there was
every  indication that he  had sunk on to  it suddenly. The pince-nez on his
face was somehow askew, and he was clutching his briefcase in his hands.
     'Ah, hello, Nikolai Ivanovich,' Margarita said in a melancholy voice.
     'Good evening! Coming back from a meeting?'
     Nikolai Ivanovich made no reply to that.
     'And  I,' Margarita  went on, leaning further out into the  garden, 'am
sitting alone, as you see, bored, looking  at the moon and listening  to the
     Margarita passed her left hand over her temple, straightening a  strand
of hair, then said crossly:
     That is  impolite, Nikolai Ivanovich! I'm still a woman after all! It's
boorish not to reply when someone is talking to you.'
     Nikolai Ivanovich, visible in  me  moonlight  to the last button on his
grey waistcoat,  to the last hair of his blond, wedge-shaped beard, suddenly
smiled a wild smile, rose  from  the bench, and,  apparently beside  himself
with embarrassment,  instead of taking off his  hat, waved  his briefcase to
the side and bent his knees as if about to break into a squatting dance.
     'Ah, what a boring type you are, Nikolai Ivanovich!' Margarita went on.
     'Generally, I'm so sick of  you all that I can't even tell you, and I'm
so happy to be parting with you! Well, go to the devil's dam!'
     Just  then, behind  Margarita's  back  in  the  bedroom, the  telephone
exploded.  Margarita  tore  from  the  window-sill  and, forgetting  Nikolai
Ivanovich, snatched the receiver.
     'Azazello speaking,'  came  from the receiver. 'Dear,  dear  Azazello!'
cried Margarita.
     `It's  time. Take off,' Azazello  spoke into the receiver, and it could
be heard in his tone that he liked Margarita's sincere and joyful impulse.
     'When you fly over the  gate, shout "Invisible!" Then fly over the city
a little, to get used to it, and after that head south, out of the city, and
straight for the river. You're expected!'
     Margarita hung up, and here something in the next room hobbled woodenly
and started beating  on  the door.  Margarita flung it open  and  a sweeping
broom,  bristles up, flew dancing into the  bedroom. It drummed on the floor
with its end, kicking and straining  towards the window.  Margarita squealed
with delight and jumped astride the broom. Only now did the thought flash in
the rider that amidst all this fracas she had forgotten  to get dressed. She
galloped  over to the bed and grabbed the first thing she found, some  light
blue shift. Waving it  like a banner, she flew out the window. And the waltz
over the garden struck up louder.
     From the window Margarita slipped down and saw Nikolai Ivanovich on the
bench. He seemed to have frozen to it and listened completely dumbfounded to
the shouting and  crashing coming from the lighted bedroom of  the  upstairs
     'Farewell, Nikolai  Ivanovich!'  cried Margarita, capering in front  of
Nikolai Ivanovich.
     He  gasped and  crawled along the bench, pawing it with  his  hands and
knocking down his briefcase.
     'Farewell  for  ever! I'm  flying  away!'  Margarita shouted  above the
waltz. Here  she  realized  that  she  did not  need any shift,  and  with a
sinister guffaw threw  it over Nikolai Ivanovich's head. The blinded Nikolai
Ivanovich crashed from the bench on to the bricks of the path.
     Margarita  turned to  take  a  last look at  the house  where  she  had
suffered for so long, and saw in the blazing window Natasha's face distorted
with amazement.
     'Farewell, Natasha!' Margarita cried and reared up on the broom.
     'Invisible! Invisible!' she cried still louder, and,  flying  over  the
front gates, between the maple branches, which  lashed at her face, she flew
out into the lane. And after her flew the completely insane waltz.

     Invisible and free! Invisible and free! ...  After  flying down her own
lane, Margarita got into another that crossed the first at right angles.
     This patched up, darned, crooked  and long lane, with the lopsided door
of a kerosene shop where they sold  paraffin  by the cup and liquid  against
parasites in  flacons, she cut across in  an  instant, and here she realized
that, even while completely free and invisible, she still had to be at least
somewhat  reasonable  in  her  pleasure.  Having  slowed down  only  by some
miracle, she just  missed smashing herself to death against  an old lopsided
street light at the corner. Dodging it, Margarita clutched the broom tighter
and  flew more  slowly, studying the  electric  wires  and  the street signs
hanging across the sidewalk.
     The third lane led  straight to the Arbat. Here Margarita became  fully
accustomed to  controlling the broom,  realized that it obeyed the slightest
touch of her hands and  legs, and that, flying over the city, she had  to be
very attentive and not act up too much. Besides, in the lane  it had already
become abundantly clear that passers-by  did not see the  lady flier. No one
threw his head back, shouted 'Look! Look!' or dashed aside, no one shrieked,
swooned or guffawed with wild laughter.
     Margarita flew noiselessly, very slowly, and not high up, approximately
on second-floor level. But even with this slow flying,  just at the entrance
to the dazzlingly lit Arbat  she misjudged slightly and struck  her shoulder
against some illuminated  disc with an arrow on it. This  angered Margarita.
She reined in the obedient broom, flew a  little  aside, and then,  suddenly
hurling  herself  at  the  disc with the  butt of the broom,  smashed it  to
smithereens. Bits of glass  rained down with a crash, passers-by shied away,
a  whistle  came  from somewhere,  and Margarita,  having  accomplished this
unnecessary act, burst out laughing.
     'On the Arbat I must be more careful,' thought Margarita, 'everything's
in such a  snarl  here, you can't figure  it out.' She began dodging between
the wires. Beneath Margarita floated the roofs of buses, trams and cars, and
along the sidewalks, as it seemed to Margarita from above, floated rivers of
caps. From  these  rivers  little  streams branched off  and flowed into the
flaming maws of night-time shops.
     'Eh,  what  a mess!' Margarita thought  angrily.  'You can't  even turn
around here.'
     She  crossed  the Arbat, rose higher, to fourth-floor level, and,  past
the dazzlingly bright tubes on the  theatre  building at the corner, floated
into  a narrow lane with tall buildings. All  the windows in them were open,
and  everywhere  radio  music  came  from  the windows.  Out  of  curiosity,
Margarita peeked into  one of  them.  She saw  a kitchen. Two primuses  were
roaring on the range, and next to them stood two women with spoons in  their
hands, squabbling.
     'You should  turn  the toilet light  off  after  you,  that's what  I'm
telling you, Pelageya Petrovna,' said the woman before whom there  was a pot
with some sort of eatables steaming in it, 'or else we'll apply to  have you
     You're a  good  one yourself,' the  other woman answered.  `You're both
good  ones,' Margarita said loudly, clambering over the window-sill into the
     The two quarrelling women turned towards the voice and froze with their
dirty spoons  in their hands.  Margarita carefully reached out between them,
turned the knobs of both primuses,  and extinguished them. The  women gasped
and  opened their mouths.  But Margarita was already bored with  the kitchen
and flew out into the lane.
     Her  attention  was   attracted  by   the   magnificent   hulk   of  an
eight-storeyed, obviously just-constructed building at the end of it.
     Margarita  dropped down  and, alighting, saw  that  the  facade of  the
building was  covered in black marble, that the doors were wide, that behind
their glass could be glimpsed a  doorman's buttons and peaked cap with  gold
braid, and that over the door there was a gold inscription: 'Dramlit House'.
     Margarita squinted at the inscription, trying  to  figure  out what the
word 'Dramlit' might mean. Taking her broom under  her arm, Margarita walked
into the lobby, shoving the surprised doorman with the  door, and saw on the
wall  beside  the  elevator a huge black board  and on it,  written in white
letters,  apartment numbers  and  tenants'  names.  The  heading  `House  of
Dramatists and  Literary  Workers'  above the  list  provoked  a  suppressed
predatory scream in Margarita. Rising in the air, she greedily began to read
the last names: Khustov, Dvubratsky, Quant, Beskudnikov, Latunsky...
     'Latunsky!' shrieked Margarita. 'Latunsky! Why, he's the one ...'  he's
the one who ruined the master!'
     The  doorman at the entrance, even hopping with astonishment, his  eyes
rolled out, gazed at the black board, trying to  understand  the marvel: why
was the list of tenants suddenly shrieking?
     But by that time Margarita was already going impetuously up the stairs,
repeating in some sort of rapture:
     'Latunsky eighty-four... Latunsky eighty-four...'
     Here to the left - 82, to the right - 85, further up, to the left - 84!
     Here! And the name plate - '0. Latunsky'.
     Margarita jumped  off the broom, and her hot  soles  felt the  pleasant
coolness  of  the stone  landing.  Margarita rang once, twice.  But  no  one
opened.  Margarita  began  to  push the button harder  and  could  hear  the
jangling  it set off  in  Latunsky's apartment.  Yes, to his dying  day  the
inhabitant of  apartment no.84 on the eighth floor should be grateful to the
late Berlioz, chairman of Massolit, for  having fallen under a tram-car, and
that the memorial gathering had been appointed precisely for that evening.
     The critic  Latunsky was  born under a lucky star -  it  saved him from
meeting Margarita, who that Friday became a witch.
     No  one  opened  the  door.  Then  Margarita raced down at  full swing,
counting the floors, reached the bottom, burst out the door and, looking up,
counted and checked  the  floors from outside, guessing which precisely were
the windows of Latunsky's  apartment. Undoubtedly  they were  the  five dark
windows at the corner of the building on the eighth floor.  Convinced of it,
Margarita  rose into the  air and in a  few seconds was stepping through  an
open window into an unlit room, where only a narrow path from the moon shone
silver. Margarita ran down it, felt for the switch. A moment later the whole
apartment was lit up. The broom stood in a corner. After making sure that no
one was  home, Margarita  opened  the door to the stairs and checked whether
the name plate was there. The name plate  was in place. Margarita was  where
she wanted to be.
     Yes,  they  say  that  to  this  day  the  critic  Latunsky  rums  pale
remembering  that  terrible evening, and to this  day  he utters the name of
Berlioz  with veneration. It is totally unknown what dark and vile  criminal
job would  have marked this evening - returning from the kitchen,  Margarita
had a heavy hammer in her hands.
     Naked  and invisible,  the lady flier tried to control  and talk  sense
into herself; her  hands  trembled  with  impatience.  Taking  careful  aim,
Margarita struck at the keys of the grand  piano, and a first plaintive wail
passed  all  through the  apartment.  Becker's drawing-room  instrument, not
guilty of anything, cried out  frenziedly. Its  keys  caved in, ivory veneer
flew in all directions. The instrument howled, wailed, rasped and jangled.
     With the noise of a pistol  shot,  the  polished upper soundboard split
under  a hammer blow. Breathing hard, Margarita tore and mangled the strings
with  the hammer. Finally  getting tired, she left off and flopped  into  an
armchair to catch her breath.
     Water was roaring terribly in the bathroom, and in the kitchen as well.
     'Seems it's already overflowing on the floor...' Margarita thought, and
added aloud:
     'No point sitting around, however.'
     The stream was already running from the kitchen into the corridor.
     Splashing  barefoot  through  the water,  Margarita carried  buckets of
water from the kitchen to the  critic's study and emptied them into his desk
drawers.  Then,  after smashing the door of the bookcase  in  the same study
with her  hammer, she rushed to  the  bedroom. Shattering  the mirror on the
wardrobe, she took  out the critic's dress suit and drowned it in the tub. A
large bottle of ink, picked up in the study, she poured over the luxuriously
plumped-up double bed.
     The devastation she wrought afforded her a burning pleasure, and yet it
seemed to her all the while that the results came out somehow meagre.
     Therefore she  started doing whatever came along. She smashed  pots  of
ficus in the room with the grand piano. Before finishing that, she went back
to the bedroom, slashed the sheets with a kitchen knife, and broke the glass
on the framed photographs.  She felt no fatigue, only the sweat  poured from
her in streams.
     Just  then,   in  apartment  no.82,  below  Latunsky's  apartment,  the
housekeeper  of the dramatist Quant was having tea in the kitchen, perplexed
by  the clatter,  running and jangling coming  from above.  Raising her head
towards the ceiling, she suddenly saw  it  changing colour before  her  eyes
from white to some deathly blue. The spot was widening right in front of her
and drops suddenly  swelled out on it. For about two minutes the housekeeper
sat marvelling at  this phenomenon, until finally a real  rain began to fall
from  the ceiling, drumming on the floor. Here she  jumped  up,  put a  bowl
under the  stream,  which did not help at all, because the rain expanded and
began pouring down on the  gas stove and the table with dishes. Then, crying
out, Quant's  housekeeper ran from the apartment  to the  stairs and at once
the bell started ringing in Latunsky's apartment.
     Well, they're ringing ... Time  to be  off,' said Margarita. She sat on
the broom, listening to the female voice shouting through the keyhole:
     'Open up, open up! Dusya, open the door! Is your  water overflowing, or
what? We're being flooded!'
     Margarita  rose up  about  a  metre and hit  the chandelier.  Two bulbs
popped and pendants flew in all directions. The shouting through the keyhole
stopped, stomping was heard on the stairs.  Margarita  floated  through  the
window,  found herself outside it, swung lightly and hit  the glass with the
hammer. The  pane sobbed, and splinters went cascading down the marble-faced
wall.  Margarita flew  to the next window. Far  below, people began  running
about on the sidewalk, one of the two cars parked by the entrance honked and
drove off. Having finished with Latunsky's windows, Margarita floated to the
neighbour's  apartment. The blows became more  frequent, the lane was filled
with crashing and jingling. The doorman ran out of the main entrance, looked
up,  hesitated a  moment, evidently  not grasping at first what he ought  to
undertake, put the whistle to his lips, and started whistling furiously.  To
the  sound of  this whistle, Margarita, with  particular passion, demolished
the  last  window  on  the eighth floor,  dropped down  to  the seventh, and
started smashing the windows there.
     Weary of his prolonged idleness behind the glass doors of the entrance,
the doorman  put  his  whole  soul into  his whistling,  following Margarita
precisely  as  if he were her  accompanist. In the pauses as  she  flew from
window to  window, he  would  draw his breath, and  at  each of  Margarita's
strokes,  he would puff out his  cheeks and dissolve in whistling,  drilling
the night air right up to the sky.
     His  efforts,  combined with the efforts  of the  infuriated Margarita,
yielded  great results. There  was panic  in the house.  Those  windows left
intact were  flung  open, people's heads appeared  in them and  hid at once,
while the open windows, on the contrary, were being closed. In the buildings
across the street, against the lighted background of windows, there appeared
the dark silhouettes of people  trying to understand why the windows in  the
new Dramlit building were bursting for no reason at all.
     In  the lane people  ran  to  Dramlit House,  and  inside,  on all  the
stairways, there  was the stamping of people rushing about with no reason or
sense. Quant's housekeeper shouted to those running up the  stairs that they
were being  flooded, and she  was soon joined  by Khustov's housekeeper from
apartment no.80, located just below Quant's  apartment. At Khustov's  it was
pouring from the ceiling in  both the kitchen and  the  toilet. Finally,  in
Quant's kitchen  a huge slab of plaster fell from the ceiling, breaking  all
the  dirty dishes, after which came  a real downpour, the water gushing from
the grid of wet, hanging lath as if  from a bucket. Then on the steps of the
main entrance shouting began.
     Flying past  the  penultimate  window of  the  fourth  floor, Margarita
peeked in and saw a man who in  panic had pulled on  a gas mask. Hitting his
window with the hammer, Margarita  scared him off,  and he  disappeared from
the room.
     And unexpectedly the  wild  havoc ceased.  Slipping down  to the  third
floor,  Margarita peeked into the end window, covered by a thin, dark little
curtain. In the room a little lamp was  burning weakly under a shade.  In  a
small bed with net sides sat a boy of about four, listening timorously.
     There were no grown-ups in the room, evidently they had all run  out of
the apartment.
     They're breaking the windows,' the boy said and called: 'Mama!'
     No one answered, and then he said:
     'Mama, I'm afraid.'
     Margarita drew the little curtain aside and flew in.
     'I'm afraid,' the boy repeated, and trembled.
     'Don't  be afraid, don't be afraid, little one,' said Margarita, trying
to  soften her  criminal voice, grown husky  from the wind.  'It's some boys
breaking windows.'
     'With a slingshot?' the boy asked, ceasing to tremble.
     With a slingshot, with a slingshot,' Margarita  confirmed, 'and  you go
to sleep.'
     'It's Sitnik,' said the boy, "he's got a slingshot.'
     Well, of course it's he!'
     The boy looked slyly somewhere to the side and asked:
     'And where are you, ma'am?'
     'I'm nowhere,' answered Margarita, 'I'm your dream.'
     'I thought so,' said the boy.
     'Lie down now,' Margarita ordered, 'put your hand under your cheek, and
I'll go on being your dream.'
     'Well, be my dream, then,' the boy agreed, and at once lay down and put
his hand under his cheek.
     'I'll  tell you a  story,' Margarita  began, and placed her hot hand on
his cropped head. `Once there was a certain lady... And she had no children,
and generally no happiness either. And so  first she  cried for a long time,
and then she became wicked...' Margarita fell  silent and took away her hand
- the boy was asleep.
     Margarita quietly placed the hammer on the window-sill and flew out the
window. There was  turmoil  by the building.  On the asphalt pavement strewn
with  broken  glass,  people were running and shouting something.  Policemen
were  already  flashing  among  them.  Suddenly  a  bell  rang,  and  a  red
fire-engine with a ladder drove into the lane from the Arbat.
     But what followed no longer interested Margarita. Taking aim, so as not
to brush  against any wires, she  clutched her broom more tightly  and in  a
moment was high above the ill-fated house.  The lane beneath  her went askew
and plunged away. In place of it a mass of  roofs appeared under Margarita's
feet, criss-crossed at various angles by  shining paths. It all unexpectedly
went off to one side, and the strings of lights smeared and merged.
     Margarita made one more spurt  and the whole mass of roofs fell through
the earth,  and in place of it a  lake of quivering electric lights appeared
below, and  this  lake  suddenly  rose up vertically  and then appeared over
Margarita's head,  while the moon flashed under her feet. Realizing that she
had  flipped  over, Margarita  resumed a normal position and, glancing back,
saw that there was no longer any lake, and that there behind her only a pink
glow remained on  the horizon.  That,  too, disappeared a second  later, and
Margarita saw that she was alone with the moon flying  above and to the left
of  her.  Margarita's  hair had long been  standing up in  a  shock, and the
whistling moonlight  bathed  her body. Seeing two rows of widespread  lights
merge into two unbroken fiery lines, seeing how quickly they vanished behind
her, Margarita realized that she  was flying at  an  enormous speed and  was
amazed that she was not out of breath.
     After  a few seconds, a new glow of electric lights flared up far below
in the  earthly blackness and  hurtled  under the  flying woman's  feet, but
immediately  spun away like  a  whirligig and fell into  the  earth.  A  few
seconds later - exactly the same phenomenon.
     'Towns! Towns!' cried Margarita.
     Two  or three times after that she  saw  dully gleaming sabres lying in
open black sheaths below her and realized that these were rivers.
     Turning her head  up and to  the left, the flying woman admired the way
the  moon  madly raced back over her towards  Moscow,  and at the  same time
strangely stayed in its  place, so  that  there could be  clearly seen on it
something  mysterious, dark  - a dragon, or a little  humpbacked  horse, its
sharp muzzle turned to the abandoned city.
     Here the thought came to Margarita that, in fact, there was no need for
her to drive  her broom so furiously, that she was depriving herself of  the
opportunity of seeing  anything properly, of  revelling properly in her  own
flight. Something told her that she would be waited for in the place she was
flying to,  and  that there  was no need  for her to  become bored with this
insane speed and height.
     Margarita turned the broom's bristles  forward,  so  that its tail rose
up, and, slowing way  down, headed right for the earth. This downward glide,
as on an airy sled, gave her the greatest pleasure. The  earth  rose to meet
her, and in its hitherto formless  black density  the charms  and secrets of
the earth  on a moonlit night  revealed themselves. The  earth was coming to
her, and Margarita was already enveloped in the scent of greening forests.
     Margarita was flying just above the mists of a dewy meadow, then over a
pond. Under Margarita sang a chorus of frogs, and from somewhere  far  away,
stirring her heart deeply for some reason, came the noise of  a  train. Soon
Margarita saw it.  It was crawling slowly along like a caterpillar, spraying
sparks  into the air. Going ahead of it, Margarita passed  over yet  another
watery mirror, in which a second moon floated under her  feet,  dropped down
lower still  and went  on, her  feet nearly touching  the tops  of the  huge
     A heavy  noise of ripping  air came from behind and  began  to overtake
Margarita. To this noise  of  something flying like a cannon ball  a woman's
guffaw was gradually added, audible for  many miles around. Margarita looked
back  and saw some  complex  dark object  catching up  with  her. As it drew
nearer to Margarita, it became more distinct - a mounted flying person could
be  seen. And  finally  it became quite distinct: slowing down, Natasha came
abreast of Margarita.
     Completely naked,  her dishevelled hair flying  in  the  air,  she flew
astride a fat hog, who  was clutching  a briefcase in his front hoofs, while
his hind hoofs desperately threshed the  air.  Occasionally  gleaming in the
moonlight, then  fading,  the  pince-nez that had fallen  off his  nose flew
beside the hog on  a string, and  the hog's  hat kept sliding down  over his
eyes.  Taking  a  close  look,  Margarita  recognized  the  hog  as  Nikolai
Ivanovich, and then her laughter rang out over the forest, mingled with  the
laughter of Natasha.
     'Natashka!' Margarita shouted piercingly. 'You rubbed yourself with the
     'Darling!!'  Natasha  replied, awakening the sleeping pine  forest with
her shout. 'My French queen, I smeared it on him, too, on his bald head!'
     'Princess!' the hog shouted tearfully, galloping along with his rider.
     'Darling!   Margarita   Nikolaevna!'   cried  Natasha,  riding   beside
Margarita, `I confess, I took the cream! We, too, want to live and fly!
     Forgive me,  my sovereign lady, I won't go back, not for  anything! Ah,
it's good,  Margarita Nikolaevna!  ... He  propositioned me,' Natasha  began
jabbing  her   finger  into   the  neck   of   the  abashedly  huffing  hog,
'propositioned  me! What was  it you called me,  eh?'  she  shouted, leaning
towards the hog's ear.
     'Goddess!' howled the hog, 'I can't fly so fast! I may  lose  important
papers, Natalya Prokofyevna, I protest!'
     'Ah, devil  take you and your  papers!'  Natasha shouted with a  brazen
     'Please,  Natalya Prokofyevna,  someone  may hear us!'  the hog  yelled
     Flying beside Margarita,  Natasha laughingly told her what happened  in
the house after Margarita Nikolaevna flew off over the gates.
     Natasha confessed that, without ever touching any of the things she had
been given, she threw off her clothes, rushed to the cream,  and immediately
smeared  herself with it. The  same  thing  happened with  her as  with  her
mistress.  Just as  Natasha, laughing  with joy,  was  revelling in  her own
magical  beauty  before the mirror,  the door opened  and Nikolai  Ivanovich
appeared before her. He was agitated; in  his hands he was holding Margarita
Nikolaevna's  shift  and his  own hat and briefcase. Seeing Natasha, Nikolai
Ivanovich was dumbfounded.  Getting some  control  of himself, all red as  a
lobster,  he announced that he felt  it was  his  duty to pick up the little
shift and bring it personally...
     The things he  said, the blackguard!' Natasha shrieked and laughed. The
things  he said, the  things he tempted me to do! The money he promised!  He
said Klavdia Petrovna would never learn of it. Well, speak, am I lying?'
     Natasha shouted to the hog, who only turned his muzzle away abashedly.
     In the bedroom, carried away with her own mischief, Natasha dabbed some
cream on Nikolai Ivanovich and was herself struck dumb with astonishment.
     The respectable ground-floor tenant's face shrank to a pig's snout, and
his hands and feet acquired little  hoofs. Looking at himself in the mirror,
Nikolai Ivanovich let out a wild and desperate howl, but it  was already too
late. A few seconds later, saddled up, he was flying out of Moscow to  devil
knows where, sobbing with grief.
     `I demand  that  my normal  appearance be  restored  to  me!'  the  hog
suddenly grunted hoarsely, somewhere between frenzy  and supplication.  'I'm
not going to fly  to any illegal gathering!  Margarita Nikolaevna, it's your
duty to call your housekeeper to order!'
     'Ah, so  now I'm a housekeeper? A housekeeper?' Natasha cried, pinching
the hog's ear. 'And I used to be a goddess? What was it you called me?'
     'Venus!'  the hog  replied tearfully, as he flew  over a brook bubbling
between stones, his little hoofs brushing the hazel bushes.
     'Venus! Venus!' Natasha  cried triumphantly, one hand  on her  hip, the
other stretched out towards the moon. 'Margarita! Queen! Intercede for me so
that I can stay a witch! They'll do anything  for you, you have been granted
     And Margarita responded:
     'All right, I promise.'
     Thank  you!' exclaimed Natasha, and suddenly she cried out  sharply and
somehow longingly: 'Hey! Hey! Faster! Faster! Come on, speed it up''
     She dug her heels  into the hog's sides, which had grown thinner during
this insane ride, and he tore  on, so that the  air ripped open again, and a
moment later  Natasha could be seen only as  a black speck in the  distance,
then vanished completely, and the noise of her flight melted away.
     Margarita flew as slowly  as before through the deserted and unfamiliar
place, over hills strewn with occasional  boulders among huge, widely spaced
pines.  Margarita now flew not over the tops of the pines but  between their
trunks, silvered on one side by the moon.
     The light shadow of the flying woman glided over the ground ahead,  the
moon shining now on Margarita's back.
     Margarita sensed the proximity of water,  and guessed that her goal was
near. The pines  parted and Margarita rode slowly through  the  air  up to a
chalk cliff. Beyond this cliff, down in the shadows, lay a river. Mist  hung
clinging to the bushes on the cliff, but the opposite bank was flat and low.
     On it, under a  solitary group of  spreading  trees,  the  light  of  a
bonfire flickered  and  some  small figures could be  seen moving about.  It
seemed to  Margarita that some nagging,  merry  little tune was coming  from
     Further  off, as far as  the  eye  could  see, there  was  no  sign  of
habitation or people on the silvered plain.
     Margarita leaped off the cliff and quickly descended  to the water. The
water enticed her  after her airy race. Casting the broom aside, she ran and
threw herself head first  into the water. Her light body pierced the water's
surface like an arrow, and the  column of water thrown up almost reached the
moon. The water turned out to be warm as in a bathhouse,  and, emerging from
the depths,  Margarita swam  her fill in the total solitude of night in this
     There was no one near Margarita, but a little  further away, behind the
bushes, splashing  and grunting could  be heard -  someone was also having a
swim there.
     Margarita ran out on to the bank. Her body was on fire after the swim.
     She felt  no fatigue,  and  was joyfully  capering about  on  the moist
     Suddenly she stopped dancing and pricked up her ears. The grunting came
closer, and from behind the willow bushes some naked fat man emerged, with a
black silk top hat pushed back on his head. His feet were covered with slimy
mud, which made it seem that the swimmer was wearing black shoes. Judging by
his huffing  and  hiccuping,  he  was  properly  drunk,  as  was  confirmed,
incidentally, by the fact that the river suddenly began to smell of cognac.
     Seeing Margarita, the fat man peered at her and then shouted joyfully:
     `What's  this? Who is  it  I see?  Claudine, it's  you, the  ungrieving
widow! You're  here, too?' and he  came at her with his greetings. Margarita
stepped back and replied with dignity:
     'Go  to the devil! What sort of  Claudine  am I  to you? Watch out  who
you're talking to,' and, after a moment's reflection, she added to her words
a long, unprintable oath. All this had a sobering effect on the light-minded
fat man.
     'Ah!' he exclaimed softly and gave a start, `magnanimously  forgive me,
bright Queen  Margot! I mistook you for someone else. The cognac's to blame,
curse it!' The fat man lowered himself to one knee,  holding the top hat far
out, made a bow, and started to prattle, mixing Russian phrases with French,
some nonsense about the  bloody wedding of his friend Guessard in Paris, and
about the cognac, and about being mortified by his sad mistake.
     `Why don't you  put your trousers  on, you  son of  a bitch,' Margarita
said, softening.
     The fat man grinned joyfully, seeing that Margarita was  not angry, and
rapturously declared that he  found himself  without trousers at  the  given
moment only because in his absent-mindedness he had left them on the Yenisey
River, where he had been swimming just before,  but that he  would presently
fly  there, since it was close at hand,  and then, entrusting himself to her
favour and patronage, he began  to back away and went on backing  away until
he slipped and fell  backwards into the water. But even as he fell, he  kept
on his face, framed in small side-whiskers, a smile of rapture and devotion.
     Here  Margarita  gave a piercing whistle and, mounting  the broom  that
flew up to her, crossed to the opposite bank of the fiver. The shadow of the
chalk mountain did not reach that far, and the  whole bank was  flooded with
     As soon as Margarita touched the moist grass, the music under the pussy
willows struck  up louder,  and a sheaf of sparks flew up more  merrily from
the bonfire.  Under  the pussy-willow branches, strewn with  tender,  fluffy
catkins, visible in the moonlight, sat two rows of  fat-faced frogs, puffing
up as if they were made of rubber, playing a bravura march on wooden pipes.
     Glowing marsh-lights  hung on willow twigs in  front of the  musicians,
lighting  up  the music; the restless light  of  the bonfire danced  on  the
frogs' faces.
     The march was being played in honour of Margarita. She was given a most
solemn  reception.  Transparent naiads  stopped their round  dance over  the
river and waved weeds  at Margarita,  and their far-audible greetings moaned
across the deserted, greenish bank. Naked witches, jumping from  behind  the
pussy willows, formed a line and began curtseying and making courtly bows.
     Someone  goat-legged flew up and bent  to her hand, spread  silk on the
grass, inquired  whether the queen had had  a good swim, and  invited her to
lie down and rest.
     Margarita  did just  that.  The goat-legged one offered her  a glass of
champagne, she drank it, and her heart became warm  at once. Having inquired
about Natasha's whereabouts, she received the reply that Natasha had already
taken her swim  and had flown ahead  to Moscow on her hog, to warn them that
Margarita would soon arrive and to help prepare her attire.
     Margarita's  short  stay under  the  pussy willows was  marked  by  one
episode: there  was a whistling in  the  air,  and  a  black body, obviously
missing  its mark, dropped  into the water. A few moments later there  stood
before  Margarita that  same fat  side-whiskerist who  had so unsuccessfully
introduced himself on  the other bank.  He had  apparently managed to get to
the Yenisey and back, for he was in full evening dress, though wet from head
to foot. The cognac had  done  him  another  bad  turn: as he came down,  he
landed in the water  after all. But he did not lose  his smile even  on this
lamentable occasion, and the laughing Margarita admitted him to her hand.
     Then they all started getting ready. The naiads finished their dance in
the moonlight and melted into it. The goat-legged one deferentially inquired
of  Margarita how she  had come to me river. On learning that she  had  come
riding on a broom, he said:
     'Oh, but why, it's so inconvenient!' He instantly slapped together some
dubious-looking telephone from two twigs, and demanded of someone that a car
be  sent that very minute,  which, that same minute,  was actually  done. An
open, light sorrel car  came down on the  island, only in the driver's  seat
there sat  no ordinary-looking  driver, but a black, long-beaked rook in  an
oilcloth cap  and gauntlets. The little island was  becoming  deserted.  The
witches flew off,  melting into the moon-blaze. The  bonfire was dying down,
and the coals were covering over with hoary ash.
     The goat-legged  one helped Margarita in,  and she sank  on to the wide
back seat of the  sorrel car. The car roared, sprang up, and  climbed almost
to the moon; the  island vanished,  the river vanished, Margarita was racing
to Moscow.

     The steady  humming  of the car, flying high above  the  earth,  lulled
Margarita, and the  moonlight warmed her pleasantly. Closing her  eyes,  she
offered  her  face  to the wind and thought with a certain sadness about the
unknown river bank she had left behind, which she sensed she would never see
again. After  all  the  sorceries and wonders  of  that evening,  she  could
already guess precisely whom she was being taken to visit, but  that did not
frighten her. The hope that  there she would manage to regain  her happiness
made her fearless. However, she was not to dream of this happiness for  long
in the car. Either  the rook knew his job well, or  the car was a good  one,
but  Margarita  soon opened her eyes  and  saw beneath  her  not the  forest
darkness,  but  a  quivering  sea of Moscow  lights.  The  black bird-driver
unscrewed  the right  front wheel  in flight, then landed  the car  in  some
completely deserted cemetery in the Dorogomilovo area.
     Having deposited the unquestioning Margarita by one of the graves along
with her broom, the rook started the car, aiming it straight into the ravine
beyond the cemetery. It tumbled noisily into it and there perished. The rook
saluted deferentially, mounted the wheel, and flew off.
     A black  cloak appeared at once from behind  one of the  tombstones.  A
fang flashed  in  the  moonlight,  and  Margarita  recognized  Azazello.  He
gestured to Margarita, inviting her to get on the broom, jumped on to a long
rapier himself, they both whirled  up  and in a  few  seconds,  unnoticed by
anyone, landed near no. 302-bis on Sadovaya Street.
     When the companions passed through the gateway,  carrying the broom and
rapier under their arms, Margarita noticed a man languishing there  in a cap
and high boots, probably  waiting for  someone. Light  though Azazello's and
Margarita's  footsteps  were,  the  solitary  man  heard  them and  twitched
uneasily, not understanding who had produced them.
     By the sixth entrance they met a second man  looking surprisingly  like
the first. And again the same story repeated itself. Footsteps  ...  the man
turned  and frowned uneasily. And when the door opened and closed, he dashed
after the invisible enterers, peeked  into the front hall, but of course saw
     A  third man, the exact copy of the  second,  and therefore also of the
first, stood watch on the  third-floor landing. He smoked strong cigarettes,
and Margarita  had a fit of coughing as she walked past him. The  smoker, as
if  pricked with a pin, jumped up from  the bench he was  sitting  on, began
turning around  uneasily, went to  the banister,  looked down. Margarita and
her companion were by that time already at the door of apartment no.50. They
did not ring  the bell. Azazello  noiselessly opened the  door with his  own
     The  first thing that  struck Margarita  was the darkness in which  she
found  herself.  It  was as  dark as underground, so that  she involuntarily
clutched at Azazello's cloak for  fear of stumbling. But then, from far away
and above, the light of some little lamp flickered and began to approach.
     Azazello took the broom from under Margarita's arm as they walked,  and
it disappeared without a sound in the darkness.
     Here  they  started climbing  some wide steps,  and Margarita  began to
think there would be no end to them. She was struck that  the  front hall of
an ordinary Moscow apartment could contain this extraordinary invisible, yet
quite  palpable,  endless  stairway. But  the  climb  ended,  and  Margarita
realized  that she was on a  landing. The light  came right up to  them, and
Margarita saw in this light the  face  of a  man,  long and black, holding a
little lamp in his hand. Those who in recent days had been so unfortunate as
to cross paths  with  him, would certainly have recognized him  even  by the
faint tongue of flame from the lamp. It was Koroviev, alias Fagott.
     True, Koroviev's appearance was quite changed. The flickering light was
reflected not in the cracked pince-nez, which it had long been time to throw
in the trash,  but in a  monocle, which, true, was also cracked. The  little
moustache  on his insolent face  was  twirled up  and waxed,  and Koroviev's
blackness  was quite simply  explained - he  was in formal attire.  Only his
chest was white.
     The magician, choirmaster, sorcerer, interpreter -  devil knows what he
really was - Koroviev, in short, made his  bows  and, with a broad  sweep of
the lamp in the air, invited Margarita to follow him. Azazello disappeared.
     'An amazingly strange evening,' thought Margarita, 'I expected anything
but this. Has their  electricity gone off, or  what?  But  the most striking
thing is the size of the place... How could it all be squeezed into a Moscow
apartment? There's simply no way it could be! ...'
     However little light Koroviev's lamp  gave out, Margarita realized that
she was in  an absolutely enormous hall, with  a colonnade besides, dark and
on first impression endless. Koroviev stopped by some sort of little settee,
placed  his lamp on some sort of post,  gestured  for Margarita to sit down,
and settled  himself beside her in a picturesque attitude, leaning his elbow
on the post.
     'Allow me to introduce myself to you,' creaked Koroviev, 'Koroviev. You
are surprised there's no  light? Economy,  so you think, of course? Unh-unh!
May the  first executioner to come along, even  one of those who later  this
evening will have the honour of kissing your knee,  lop  my head off on this
very post if it's so! Messire simply doesn't like electric light, and  we'll
save it for the very last moment. And  then, believe me, there'll be no lack
of it. Perhaps it would even be better to have less.'
     Margarita  liked  Koroviev, and his  rattling chatter  had  a  soothing
effect on her.
     'No,' replied Margarita, 'most of all I'm struck  that there's room for
all this.' She made a gesture with her hand, emphasizing the enormousness of
the hall.
     Koroviev grinned sweetly, which made  the shadows stir  in the folds of
his nose.
     `The  most uncomplicated thing of  all!' he replied. 'For  someone well
acquainted with the fifth dimension, it costs nothing to expand space to the
desired  proportions.  I'll say  more, respected lady -  to devil knows what
proportions!  I,  however,' Koroviev  went on chattering, "have known people
who had no idea, not only of the fifth dimension, but generally  of anything
at  all, and who nevertheless performed absolute wonders in  expanding their
space.  Thus,  for  instance,  one city-dweller,  as I've  been told, having
obtained a three-room apartment  on Zemlyanoy Val, transformed it instantly,
without any fifth dimension  or other  things  that addle the  brain, into a
four-room apartment by dividing one room in half with a partition.
     `He  forthwith  exchanged  that  one  for  two separate  apartments  in
different parts of  Moscow: one of three rooms, the  other of two.  You must
agree that that makes five. The three-room one he exchanged for two separate
ones,  each of two rooms, and became the owner, as you can see for yourself,
of six rooms - true,  scattered in total disorder  all  over Moscow.  He was
just  getting  ready  to  perform his  last  and  most  brilliant  leap,  by
advertising  in  the newspapers  that  he  wanted  to exchange six  rooms in
different parts of Moscow for one five-room apartment on Zemlyanoy Val, when
his  activity  ceased for reasons independent of him. He  probably also  has
some sort of room now, only I venture to assure you it is not  in  Moscow. A
real  slicker,  you  see, ma'am,  and  you  keep  talking  about  the  fifth
     Though  she had  never talked  about the fifth  dimension,  and it  was
Koroviev himself who kept talking about it, Margarita laughed gaily, hearing
the story of the adventures of the apartment slicker. Koroviev went on:
     'But to business, to  business,  Margarita  Nikolaevna. You're quite an
intelligent woman, and of course have already guessed who our host is.'
     Margarita's heart thumped, and she nodded.
     Well, and so, ma'am,' Koroviev said, 'and so, we're enemies of any sort
of  reticence and mysteriousness.  Messire  gives one ball  annually. It  is
called the spring ball of the full moon, or the ball of the hundred kings.
     Such  a crowd!  ...'  here  Koroviev  held his cheek  as if  he  had  a
     'However, I hope you'll  be convinced of it yourself. Now, Messire is a
bachelor, as you yourself, of course, understand. Yet a hostess is needed,'
     Koroviev spread his arms, 'without a hostess, you must agree ...'
     Margarita listened to  Koroviev, trying not to  miss a single word; she
felt cold under her heart, the hope of happiness made her head spin.
     'The tradition has been established,'  Koroviev said further, 'that the
hostess of the ball must without fail be named Margarita, first, and second,
she  must  be a native  of the  place. And  we,  you will  kindly note,  are
travelling and at the present moment are in Moscow. We found one hundred and
twenty-one Margaritas in  Moscow, and, would you  believe it,' here Koroviev
slapped himself on  the  thigh with despair, 'not one  of them was suitable!
And, at last, by a happy fate ...'
     Koroviev  grinned   expressively,  inclining   his   body,  and   again
Margarita's heart went cold.
     'In short!' Koroviev cried out 'Quite shortly: you won't refuse to take
this responsibility upon yourself?'
     'I won't refuse!' Margarita replied firmly.
     'Done!'  said Koroviev  and, raising  the little  lamp,  added:  Please
follow me.'
     They walked between  the columns and finally  came to  another hall, in
which  for some  reason there  was  a  strong  smell of  lemons,  where some
rustlings  were  heard and something  brushed  against Margarita's head. She
gave a start.
     'Don't be frightened,' Koroviev reassured her sweetly, taking Margarita
under the arm,  'it's Behemoth's contrivances  for the ball, that's all. And
generally  I  will  allow myself the  boldness  of  advising  you, Margarita
Nikolaevna,  never to  be afraid of  anything.  It is unreasonable. The ball
will  be a magnificent  one,  I will not  conceal it  from  you. We will see
persons the scope of whose power in their own time was extremely great. But,
really, once you  think how  microscopically  small their possibilities were
compared to those of him to whose retinue I have the honour of belonging, it
seems ridiculous, and  even, I would say, sad  ...  And, besides, you are of
royal blood yourself.'
     'Why  of royal blood?' Margarita whispered  fearfully, pressing herself
to Koroviev.
     'Ah, my Queen,' Koroviev rattled on playfully, 'questions of blood  are
the  most complicated questions in the  world! And  if we  were  to question
certain  great-grandmothers, especially those who enjoyed  a  reputation  as
shrinking  violets, the  most  astonishing  secrets  would  be uncovered, my
respected Margarita Nikolaevna! I would not be sinning in  the least if,  in
speaking of that, I should make reference to a whimsically shuffled pack  of
cards.  There  are things  in which neither  barriers  of rank nor  even the
borders  between countries have  any validity whatsoever. A hint: one of the
French queens who lived in the sixteenth century would, one must suppose, be
very amazed  if  someone  told her that after all these  years  I  would  be
leading her  lovely  great-great-great-granddaughter  on my arm through  the
ballrooms of Moscow. But we've arrived!'
     Here Koroviev blew out  his lamp  and it vanished from  his hands,  and
Margarita saw lying on  the floor  in front of her a  streak  of light under
some dark  door.  And on this  door Koroviev softly knocked.  Here Margarita
became so agitated that her teeth chattered and a chill ran down her spine.
     The door  opened. The room turned out to be very small. Margarita saw a
wide oak bed with  dirty, rumpled and bunched-up sheets and pillows.  Before
the bed was an oak table with carved legs, on which stood a candelabrum with
sockets in the form of a bird's claws. In  these seven golden claws'  burned
thick wax candles. Besides that, there  was on the table a  large chessboard
with  pieces of extraordinarily artful workmanship. A little low bench stood
on a  small, shabby rug. There was  yet another  table with some golden bowl
and  another candelabrum  with branches  in the  form  of  snakes. The  room
smelled of sulphur and pitch. Shadows  from the  lights criss-crossed on the
     Among those  present  Margarita immediately  recognized  Azazello,  now
dressed in a tailcoat and  standing at the head of  the bed. The  dressed-up
Azazello no longer resembled  that bandit  in  whose form he had appeared to
Margarita in  the  Alexandrovsky Garden,  and his  bow to Margarita was very
     A naked  witch, that same Hella who had so embarrassed the  respectable
barman of  the  Variety, and - alas  - the same who had so fortunately  been
scared off by the cock on the night of the notorious sance, sat on a rug on
the  floor  by  the  bed,  stirring  something in a  pot  which  gave off  a
sulphurous steam.
     Besides these, there was also a huge black tom-cat in the room, sitting
on  a high tabouret before the chess  table, holding a chess knight  in  his
right paw.
     Hella rose  and bowed to Margarita. The  cat, jumping off the tabouret,
did  likewise. Scraping  with his right  hind paw, he dropped the knight and
crawled under the bed after it.
     Margarita,  sinking with fear, nevertheless  made all  this out  by the
perfidious  candlelight. Her  eyes were drawn  to  the  bed, on which sat he
whom, still quite recently, at the Patriarch's Ponds, poor Ivan had tried to
convince that the devil does not exist. It was this non-existent one who was
sitting on the bed.
     Two eyes  were fixed on Margarita's  face. The right one  with a golden
spark at its bottom, drilling anyone to the bottom of his soul, and the left
one empty and black, like the narrow eye  of a needle, like the  entrance to
the bottomless well of all darkness and shadow. Woland's face was twisted to
one side, the  right corner of the mouth drawn down, the high, bald forehead
scored by deep wrinkles running parallel to the sharp eyebrows.  The skin of
Woland's face was as if burned for all eternity by the sun.
     Woland,  broadly sprawled  on the bed, was wearing  nothing but  a long
nightshirt, dirty  and patched on the left shoulder. One bare leg was tucked
under him, the other was stretched out on  the little bench. It was the knee
of this dark leg that Hella was rubbing with some smoking ointment.
     Margarita also  made  out  on Woland's  bared, hairless chest  a beetle
artfully  carved  [2]  from dark  stone, on  a  gold  chain  and  with  some
inscriptions on its back. Beside Woland, on  a heavy stand, stood  a strange
globe, as if alive, lit on one side by the sun.
     The  silence  lasted  a  few  seconds.  'He's   studying  me,'  thought
Margarita, and with an effort of will she tried  to control the trembling in
her legs.
     At last Woland began to speak, smiling, which made his sparkling eye as
if to flare up.
     'Greetings to you, Queen, and I beg you to excuse my homely attire.'
     The voice of Woland was  so low that on some syllables it drew out into
a wheeze.
     Woland took a long sword from the sheets,  leaned down, poked  it under
the bed, and said:
     'Out with you! The game is cancelled. The guest has arrived.'
     'By  no means,' Koroviev anxiously piped, prompter-like, at Margarita's
     'By no means ...' began Margarita.
     'Messire ...' Koroviev breathed into her ear.
     `By  no  means,  Messire,'  Margarita  replied  softly  but distinctly,
gaining control over herself, and she added with a smile: `I  beg you not to
interrupt your game. I imagine the  chess journals would pay good money  for
the chance to publish it.'
     Azazello gave a low but approving  grunt,  and Woland, looking intently
at Margarita, observed as if to himself:
     'Yes, Koroviev is right.  How whimsically  the deck has been  shuffled!
     He  reached out  and beckoned Margarita to him with his  hand. She went
up, not feeling the floor under her bare feet. Woland placed his hand, heavy
as  if  made of  stone and  at the  same time  hot as  fire, on  Margarita's
shoulder, pulled her towards him, and sat her on the bed by his side.
     `Well,' he said,  `since  you  are  so charmingly  courteous  -  and  I
expected  nothing else - let us not stand on ceremony.' He again leaned over
the side of the  bed  and cried: 'How  long  will this circus  under the bed
continue? Come out, you confounded Hans!'[3]
     'I can't find my knight,'  the  cat responded from  under the bed in  a
muffled and false voice, 'it's ridden off somewhere, and I keep getting some
frog instead.'
     `You don't imagine  you're  at some  fairground, do you?' asked Woland,
pretending  to  be angry. 'There's  no frog under the bed! Leave these cheap
tricks for the Variety.  If you  don't appear  at once, we'll consider  that
you've forfeited, you damned deserter!'
     'Not for anything, Messire!' yelled the cat, and he got  out from under
the bed that same second, holding the knight in his paw.
     'Allow me  to present ...' Woland began and interrupted himself: 'No, I
simply cannot look at  this buffoon. See what he's turned himself into under
the bed!'
     Standing on his hind legs, the dust-covered cat  was  meanwhile  making
his bows to Margarita. There was now a white bow-tie on the cat's  neck, and
a pair of ladies' mother-of-pearl  opera glasses  hung  from a strap  on his
neck. What's more, the cat's whiskers were gilded.
     'Well, what's all this  now?' exclaimed Woland.  `Why  have you  gilded
your whiskers? And what the devil  do you need the bow-tie for,  when you're
not even wearing trousers?'
     'A cat is not supposed to wear trousers, Messire,' the cat replied with
great dignity. 'You're not going  to tell me  to wear boots, too,  are  you?
Puss-in-Boots exists  only in fairy  tales, Messire. But  have you ever seen
anyone  at  a  ball without a bow-tie? I  do not  intend to put myself in  a
ridiculous situation  and  risk  being chucked out! Everyone  adorns himself
with what he can. You may consider what  I've said as referring to the opera
glasses as well, Messire!'
     'But the whiskers? ...'
     'I don't understand,' the cat retorted drily. 'Why  could  Azazello and
Koroviev put white powder on  themselves as they were shaving today, and how
is that better than gold? I powdered my whiskers,  that's all! If I'd shaved
myself,  it would be a different matter! A shaved cat - now, that  is indeed
an outrage, I'm prepared to admit  it a thousand times over. But generally,'
here the cat's voice quavered touchily, 'I see I am being made the object of
a certain captiousness, and I see that  a serious problem stands before me -
am I to attend the ball? What have you to say about that, Messire?'
     And the cat got so puffed up with offence that it seemed he would burst
in another second.
     'Ah,  the  cheat, the cheat,' said Woland, shaking his head. 'Each time
his game is  in a hopeless situation,  he  starts addling your pate like the
crudest mountebank on a street corner. Sit down  at once  and  stop slinging
this verbal muck.'
     `I shall sit down,'  replied the cat, sitting down, 'but  I shall enter
an objection with regard to your last. My speeches in no way resemble verbal
muck, as  you have  been pleased to put  it  in the presence of a  lady, but
rather a sequence of tightly packed syllogisms, the merit of which  would be
appreciated by such connoisseurs as Sextus Empiricus, Martianus Capella, [4]
and, for all I know, Aristotle himself.
     'Your king is in check,' said Woland.
     Very  well, very  well,' responded the cat, and  he  began studying the
chessboard through his opera glasses.
     'And so, Donna,'  Woland addressed  Margarita,  `I  present  to  you my
retinue. This  one who is playing the fool is the cat Behemoth. Azazello and
Koroviev  you have already met.  I  present to  you  my maidservant,  Hella:
efficient, quick, and there is no service she cannot render.'
     The beautiful Hella was smiling as she turned her green-tinged eyes  to
Margarita, without ceasing to dip into the ointment and apply it to Woland's
     'Well,  that's  the  lot,'  Woland concluded, wincing  as Hella pressed
especially  hard on his knee. 'A small, mixed and guileless company, as  you
see.' He fell silent and  began to spin the globe in front of him, which was
so artfully made  that the blue oceans moved on it and  the  cap at the pole
lay like a real cap of ice and snow.
     On the  chessboard, meanwhile, confusion  was  setting in. A thoroughly
upset king  in  a white  mantle was  shuffling  on  his square,  desperately
raising his arms.  Three  white  pawn-mercenaries  with  halberds  gazed  in
perplexity  at  the  bishop  brandishing his crozier and pointing forward to
where, on two  adjacent squares,  white  and black, Woland's  black horsemen
could be seen on two fiery chargers pawing the squares with their hoofs.
     Margarita was extremely interested and  struck  by the  fact  that  the
chessmen were alive.
     The cat,  taking the opera glasses  from  his eyes,  prodded  his  king
lightly in the back. The king covered his face with his hands in despair.
     'Things  aren't so great, my dear Behemoth,' Koroviev said quietly in a
venomous voice.
     `The  situation  is  serious  but  by   no  means  hopeless,'  Behemoth
responded.  'What's more, I'm quite  certain  of  final  victory. Once  I've
analysed the situation properly.'
     He set about this analysing  in a rather strange  manner  -  namely, by
winking and making all sorts of faces at his king. 'Nothing helps,' observed
     'Aie!'  cried  Behemoth,  `the  parrots  have  flown  away, just  as  I
     Indeed, from somewhere far away came the noise of many wings.  Koroviev
and Azazello rushed out of the room.
     `Devil  take  you  with  your  ball amusements!' Woland grunted without
tearing his eyes from his globe.
     As soon as Koroviev and Azazello disappeared Behemoth's winking took on
greater  dimensions.  The white king  finally understood what was wanted  of
him. He suddenly pulled off his mantle, dropped it on  the  square,  and ran
off  the board. The bishop covered himself with the abandoned royal garb and
took the king's place. Koroviev and Azazello came back.
     'Lies,  as  usual,'  grumbled  Azazello,  with  a  sidelong  glance  at
     'I thought I heard it,' replied the cat.
     'Well, is this going to continue for long?' asked Woland. 'Your king is
in check.'
     'I must  have heard wrong, my master,' replied the cat. 'My king is not
and cannot be in check.' 'I repeat, your king is in check!'
     `Messire,'  the  cat responded  in  a  falsely alarmed voice,  'you are
overtired. My king is not in check.'
     The king is on square G-5,' said Woland, without looking at the board.
     'Messire, I'm horrified!' howled the cat, showing horror on his mug.
     There is no king on that square!'
     `What's that?'  Woland  asked  in perplexity and began looking  at  the
board, where the bishop standing on the king's square kept  turning away and
hiding behind his hand.
     'Ah, you scoundrel,' Woland said pensively.
     'Messire! Again I appeal to logic!' the cat began, pressing his paws to
his chest. 'If a player announces  that  the king is in check, and meanwhile
there's no trace of the king  on the board, the check must  be recognized as
     'Do you give up or not?' Woland cried in a terrible voice.
     `Let  me think it over,' the cat replied humbly, resting his  elbows on
the  table, putting  his  paws over his ears,  and beginning  to  think.  He
thought for a long time and finally said: 'I give up.'
     The obstinate beast should be killed,' whispered Azazello.
     'Yes,  I give up,'  said the cat, `but I do so only because I am unable
to play  in  an atmosphere  of persecution  on the part of the envious!'  He
stood up and the chessmen climbed into their box.
     'Hella, it's time,' said Woland, and Hella disappeared from the room.
     'My leg hurts, and now this ball ...' he continued.
     'Allow me,' Margarita quietly asked.
     Woland looked at her intently and moved his knee towards her.
     The  liquid, hot as  lava,  burned  her  hands, but Margarita,  without
wincing, and trying not to cause any pain, rubbed it into his knee.
     'My attendants insist it's  rheumatism,' Woland was saying,  not taking
his eyes off Margarita, 'but I strongly  suspect that  this pain  in my knee
was  left me as  a souvenir by  a  charming witch  with  whom I  was closely
acquainted in the year 1571, on Mount Brocken, [5] on the Devil's Podium.'
     'Ah, can that be so!' said Margarita.
     'Nonsense!  In  another  three hundred years it will  all go away! I've
been recommended a host of medications, but I keep to my granny's old  ways.
Amazing herbs  she left  me,  my grandma, that vile old thing! Incidentally,
tell me, are you suffering from  anything? Perhaps you  have  some  sort  of
sorrow or soul-poisoning anguish?'
     'No,  Messire,  none  of that,' replied the clever  Margarita, 'and now
that I'm here with you, I feel myself quite well.'
     'Blood is a great thing  ...' Woland said gaily, with no obvious point,
and added: 'I see you're interested in my globe.'
     'Oh, yes, I've never seen anything like it.'
     `It's a nice little object.  Frankly speaking, I don't  enjoy listening
to the news  on the  radio. It's always reported by some girls who pronounce
the names of places inarticulately. Besides, every third one has some slight
speech defect,  as if  they're chosen on  purpose.  My  globe  is much  more
convenient,  especially since I  need a  precise  knowledge  of  events. For
instance, do you see this chunk of land,  washed on one  side by the  ocean?
Look,  it's filling with fire. A war has started there. If you  look closer,
you'll see the details.'
     Margarita leaned towards the globe  and  saw the  little square of land
spread out, get  painted in many colours, and turn as it  were into a relief
map. And  then she saw  the little ribbon  of a river, and some village near
it. A little house the size of a pea grew and became the size of a matchbox.
     Suddenly and  noiselessly the roof  of  this house flew up along with a
cloud of  black smoke,  and the walls collapsed, so that nothing was left of
the little two-storey box except a  small heap with black smoke pouring from
     Bringing her eye still closer, Margarita made out a small female figure
lying on the ground, and  next to her, in  a pool of blood, a  little  child
with outstretched arms.
     'That's it,' Woland said,  smiling,  'he had no  time to sin. Abaddon's
[6] work is impeccable.'
     'I wouldn't want to be on the side that this Abaddon is  against,' said
Margarita. 'Whose side is he on?'
     The longer I talk with  you,' Woland responded amiably,  'the more  I'm
convinced that  you are very  intelligent. I'll set you  at ease. He is of a
rare  impartiality and  sympathizes equally  with  both  sides of the fight.
Owing to that, the results are always the same for both sides. Abaddon!'
     Woland called in a low voice,  and here there emerged from the wall the
figure of  some gaunt man  in  dark glasses. These glasses  produced  such a
strong impression on Margarita that she cried out softly and hid her face in
Woland's leg. 'Ah, stop it!' cried Woland. `Modern people are so nervous!'
     He swung and  slapped  Margarita on  the back  so that  a ringing  went
through her whole  body. 'Don't you see  he's  got his glasses on?  Besides,
there  has never  yet been,  and  never will  be,  an  occasion when Abaddon
appears before  someone  prematurely. And, finally,  I'm  here. You  are  my
guest! I simply wanted to show him to you.'
     Abaddon stood motionless.
     'And is it possible for him to take off his glasses for a second?'
     Margarita  asked, pressing  herself  to Woland and  shuddering, but now
from curiosity.
     'Ah, no, that's  impossible,' Woland  replied  seriously and waved  his
hand at Abaddon, and he was no more. "What do you wish to say, Azazello?'
     'Messire,' replied Azazello, 'allow me to say - we've got two strangers
here: a beauty who is whimpering and pleading to be allowed to stay with her
lady, and with her, begging your pardon, there is also her hog.'
     'Strange behaviour for a beauty!' observed Woland.
     'It's Natasha, Natasha!' exclaimed Margarita.
     'Well, let her stay with her lady. And the hog - to the cooks.'
     `To  slaughter  him?'  Margarita  cried fearfully.  `For  pity's  sake,
Messire,  it's  Nikolai  Ivanovich,   the   ground-floor  tenant.   It's   a
misunderstanding, you see, she daubed him with the cream...'
     'But wait,' said Woland, 'why the devil would anyone slaughter him? Let
him  stay with the cooks,  that's all. You must agree, I cannot let him into
the ballroom.'
     'No, really...' Azazello added and announced: `Midnight is approaching,
     'Ah, very good.' Woland turned to Margarita: 'And so,  if you please...
I  thank  you beforehand.  Don't  become  flustered and  don't  be afraid of
anything. Drink nothing but  water, otherwise you'll get groggy and it  will
be hard for you. It's time!'
     Margarita got  up  from  the  rug, and then  Koroviev  appeared in  the

     Midnight  was approaching; they had to hurry. Margarita dimly perceived
her surroundings. Candles and a jewelled pool remained in her memory. As she
stood in  the bottom of  this pool, Hella, with the assistance  of  Natasha,
doused her with some hot, thick and red liquid. Margarita felt a salty taste
on her  lips  and realized that she  was being washed in blood.  The  bloody
mantle  was  changed  for  another  -  thick,  transparent,  pinkish  -  and
Margarita's head began to spin from rose  oil. Then Margarita  was laid on a
crystal couch and rubbed with some big green leaves until she shone.
     Here  the  cat  burst in  and  started to  help. He  squatted  down  at
Margarita's feet  and  began rubbing up her  soles with the  air of  someone
shining shoes in the street.
     Margarita does not remember who  stitched  slippers for her  from  pale
rose petals  or  how these slippers  got fastened  by themselves with golden
clasps. Some force snatched Margarita up and put her before a  mirror, and a
royal  diamond crown gleamed  in her  hair. Koroviev appeared from somewhere
and  hung a heavy, oval-framed picture of a black poodle by a heavy chain on
Margarita's breast.  This adornment  was extremely burdensome  to the queen.
The chain at once began to chafe her neck,  the picture pulled her down. But
something compensated Margarita  for the inconveniences that the  chain with
the black poodle caused  her, and this was the deference with which Koroviev
and Behemoth began to treat her.
     'Never mind, never mind,  never mind!' muttered Koroviev at the door of
the  room with the pool. 'No help for it, you must, must, must...  Allow me,
Queen,  to give you a last piece  of  advice. Among the guests there will be
different  sorts, oh, very different, but no  one, Queen  Margot,  should be
shown any preference! Even if you  don't like  someone ... I understand that
you will not, of course, show it on your face - no, no, it's unthinkable!
     He'll notice  it,  he'll notice it instantly! You  must love  him, love
him, Queen! The mistress  of the ball  will be rewarded  a  hundredfold  for
that. And also - don't ignore anyone! At least a little smile, if there's no
time to drop  a  word, at least  a tiny turn of the head! Anything you like,
but not inattention, they'll sicken from that ...'
     Here  Margarita,  accompanied by Koroviev and Behemoth, stepped  out of
the room with the pool into total darkness.
     'I, I,' whispered the cat, 'I give the signal!'
     'Go ahead!' Koroviev replied from the darkness.
     The ball!!!' shrieked the cat piercingly, and just then Margarita cried
out and shut her eyes for a few seconds. The ball fell on her all at once in
the form  of light, and, with it, of sound and smell. Taken under the arm by
Koroviev,   Margarita  saw  herself  in  a  tropical  forest.  Red-breasted,
green-tailed   parrots   fluttered  from  liana  to  liana  and   cried  out
deafeningly:  'Delighted!'  But  the  forest soon  ended, and  its bathhouse
stuffiness changed  at  once  to the  coolness of a ballroom with columns of
some yellowish,  sparkling stone. This  ballroom,  just like the forest, was
completely empty, except  for some naked negroes  with silver bands on their
heads who  were standing  by  the columns.  Their faces turned a dirty brown
from  excitement when Margarita  flew into the ballroom with her retinue, in
which Azazello showed up from somewhere. Here Koroviev let go of Margarita's
arm and whispered:
     'Straight to the tulips.'
     A  low wall of  white  tulips had grown  up in  front of Margarita, and
beyond  it she saw numberless lamps under little shades  and behind them the
white chests and black  shoulders of tailcoaters.  Then Margarita understood
where the  sound of  the ball was coming from.  The roar of trumpets crashed
down on her, and the soaring of violins that burst from under it doused  her
body as if with blood. The orchestra  of about a hundred  and fifty men  was
playing a polonaise.
     The  tailcoated  man  hovering  over  the  orchestra  paled  on  seeing
Margarita,  smiled, and  suddenly, with a  sweep of his arms,  got the whole
orchestra  to  its  feet.  Not  interrupting the  music  for  a moment,  the
orchestra, standing, doused Margarita with sound. The man over the orchestra
turned from  it and bowed deeply, spreading his arms  wide,  and  Margarita,
smiling, waved her hand to him.
     'No, not enough, not enough,' whispered  Koroviev, 'he won't  sleep all
night. Call out to him: "Greetings to you, waltz king! [1]'
     Margarita  cried  it out, and marvelled that her voice, full as a bell,
was heard over the howling of the orchestra. The  man started with happiness
and put  his left hand to  his chest, while the right went  on brandishing a
white baton at the orchestra.
     'Not enough, not enough,' whispered Koroviev, 'look to the left, to the
first  violins,  and  nod so  that each  one thinks  you've  recognized  him
individually. There are only world celebrities here. Nod  to that one ... at
the  first  stand, that's  Vieuxtemps!  [2]  ...  There,  very good...  Now,
     'Who is the conductor?' Margarita asked, flying off.
     'Johann Strauss!' cried  the cat. 'And they can hang me from a liana in
a tropical forest if such an  orchestra ever  played at any ball! I  invited
them! And, note, not one got sick or declined!'
     In the next  room there were no columns.  Instead there  stood walls of
red,  pink  and milk-white roses on one side,  and on  the other  a  wall of
Japanese  double  camellias.  Between  these  walls  fountains  spurted  up,
hissing, and bubbly champagne seethed in three pools, the first of which was
transparent violet, the second ruby, the third crystal. Next to them negroes
in  scarlet  headbands dashed about, filling flat cups  from the  pools with
silver  dippers.  The  pink  wall  had  a gap in  it, where a man  in a  red
swallowtail coat was flailing away on  a  platform. Before  him thundered an
unbearably loud jazz  band. As soon as the conductor saw Margarita,  he bent
before her  so  that his hands touched the  floor, then straightened  up and
cried piercingly:
     He slapped himself on the  knee - one! - then  criss-cross on the other
knee - two! -  then snatched a cymbal from the hands of the end musician and
banged it on a column.
     As she flew off, Margarita saw only that the virtuoso jazzman, fighting
against the polonaise blowing  in  Margarita's back, was beating his jazzmen
on the heads with the cymbal while they cowered in comic fright.
     Finally they flew out on to the  landing  where, as Margarita realized,
she had  been met in the dark by Koroviev with  his little lamp. Now on this
landing the light pouring from clusters of crystal grapes blinded the eye.
     Margarita was  put in  place,  and  under her left arm she found a  low
amethyst column.
     'You may rest  your arm  on it if it  becomes too  difficult,' Koroviev
     Some black man threw a pillow under Margarita's feet embroidered with a
golden poodle, and she, obedient to  someone's hands, bent her right leg  at
the knee and placed her foot on it.
     Margarita tried to  look around. Koroviev and Azazello stood beside her
in  formal  poses.  Next to Azazello stood another three young  men, vaguely
reminding  Margarita of Abaddon. It  blew cold  in her back. Looking  there,
Margarita saw bubbly wine spurt from the  marble wall  behind her  and  pour
into a  pool of  ice. At her left foot she felt something warm and furry. It
was Behemoth.
     Margarita was high  up, and a  grandiose stairway  covered with  carpet
descended from her feet. Below, so far away that it was as if Margarita were
looking the wrong way  through binoculars, she saw a vast front hall with an
absolutely  enormous  fireplace,  into the  cold and  black  maw  of which a
five-ton  truck could  easily have driven. The front hall  and stairway,  so
flooded  with light that it hurt the eyes, were empty. The sound of trumpets
now came to  Margarita from far away. Thus they stood motionless for about a
     'But where are the guests?' Margarita asked Koroviev.
     'They'll come, Queen, they'll  come, they'll come soon enough. There'll
be no lack  of  them. And, really, I'd rather go and chop  wood than receive
them here on the landing.'
     'Chop wood -  hah!' picked up the garrulous cat. 'I'd rather  work as a
tram conductor, and there's no worse job in the world than that!'
     `Everything must be made ready  in advance, Queen,' explained Koroviev,
his eye gleaming through the broken monocle. "There's nothing more loathsome
than when the first guest to arrive  languishes, not knowing what to do, and
his lawful beldame nags at him in a whisper for having come before everybody
else. Such balls should be thrown in the trash, Queen.'
     'Definitely in the trash,' confirmed the cat.
     'No more than ten seconds till  midnight,'  said Koroviev. "It'll start
     Those ten seconds seemed extremely  long to Margarita.  Obviously  they
had  already passed  and precisely nothing had happened. But  here something
suddenly  crashed  downstairs in the huge fireplace, and from  it  leaped  a
gallows with some  half-decayed remains dangling from it. The  remains  fell
from the rope, struck the floor, and from it  leaped  a handsome dark-haired
man in a tailcoat  and patent leather shoes. A half-rotten little coffin ran
out of the fireplace,  its lid fell  off, and another remains tumbled out of
it. The handsome  man gallantly leaped over  to  it and offered  it his bent
arm. The  second  remains put itself together into  a fidgety woman in black
shoes, with black feathers on her  head, and then the man and the woman both
hastened up the stairs.
     The first!' exclaimed Koroviev. 'Monsieur Jacques [3] and his spouse. I
commend to  you,  Queen, one  of  the most interesting  of men. A  confirmed
counterfeiter, a traitor to his  government,  but a rather  good  alchemist.
Famous,'  Koroviev  whispered  in Margarita's  ear, 'for having  poisoned  a
king's mistress. That doesn't happen to everyone! Look how handsome he is!'
     The pale Margarita, her mouth open,  watched as both gallows and coffin
disappeared into some side passage in the front hall.
     'Delighted!' the cat yelled right into  the face of Monsieur Jacques as
he came up the stairs.
     At that moment a headless skeleton with a torn-off arm emerged from the
fireplace, struck the ground, and turned into a man in a tailcoat.
     Monsieur  Jacques's  spouse  was  already  going  on  one  knee  before
Margarita and, pale with excitement, was kissing Margarita's foot.
     `Queen...' Monsieur Jacques's spouse murmured.
     The queen is delighted!' cried Koroviev.
     `Queen...' the handsome Monsieur Jacques said quietly.
     We're delighted,' howled the cat.
     The  young men, Azazello's companions,  smiling  lifeless  but  affable
smiles,  were already shouldering  Monsieur  Jacques  and his  spouse to one
side, towards the  cups of  champagne that the  negroes  were  holding.  The
single man in the tailcoat was coming up the stairs at a run.
     'Earl  Robert,'[4]  Koroviev  whispered  to Margarita, 'interesting  as
ever.  Note how funny, Queen: the reverse case, this one was a queen's lover
and poisoned his wife. 'We're very glad, Earl,' cried Behemoth.
     Out of the fireplace,  bursting  open and falling apart,  three coffins
tumbled  one  after another, then came someone in a black  mantle, whom  the
next one  to run out of  the black  maw stabbed in the back with a knife.  A
stifled cry was heard from below.  An almost entirely  decomposed corpse ran
out of the  fireplace.  Margarita shut  her eyes, and someone's hand  held a
flacon of  smelling  salts  to her  nose.  Margarita  thought the  hand  was
     The stairway began to fill up. Now on each step there were tailcoaters,
looking quite alike from  afar, and naked women with them, who differed from
each other only in the colour of their shoes and  of the  feathers  on their
     Coming towards  Margarita,  hobbling, a strange wooden boot on her left
foot, was  a lady with  nunnishly lowered eyes, thin and modest, and  with a
wide green band around her neck for some reason.
     'Who is this ... green one?' Margarita asked mechanically.
     'A most  charming and respectable lady,' whispered Koroviev, 'I commend
her  to  you:  Madame  Tofana.  [5] Extremely popular  among  young,  lovely
Neapolitans, as well as the ladies  of Palermo, especially those of them who
had grown weary of their  husbands.  It does happen, Queen,  that one  grows
weary of one's husband...'
     'Yes,' Margarita replied in a hollow voice, smiling at the same time to
two  tailcoaters who bent before her  one after the other,  kissing her knee
and hand.
     'And so,' Koroviev managed to whisper to Margarita and at the same time
to cry out to someone: 'Duke! A glass of champagne? I'm delighted! ...
     Yes, so then, Madame Tofana entered  into  the situation of these  poor
women and sold them some sort of water in little vials. The wife poured this
water into her spouse's  soup, he ate it, thanked her for being so nice, and
felt  perfectly well.  True,  a few  hours later he would begin to get  very
thirsty, then go  to bed,  and a day later the lovely Neapolitan who had fed
her husband soup would be free as the spring breeze.'
     'But what's that on her foot?' asked Margarita, tirelessly offering her
hand to the  guests who  came ahead  of the hobbling Madame Tofana. 'And why
that green band? A withered neck?'
     'Delighted, Prince!' cried Koroviev, and at  the same time whispered to
Margarita:  `A beautiful neck,  but  an unpleasantness  happened to  her  in
prison. What she has on her foot, Queen, is a Spanish boot, [6] and the band
is explained this way: when the prison guards learned that some five hundred
ill-chosen husbands had departed Naples and Palermo for ever, in the heat of
the moment they strangled Madame Tofana in prison.'
     'How  happy I  am,  kindest Queen, that  the high honour has fallen  to
me...' Tofana whispered nunnishly, trying to lower herself to one knee - the
Spanish boot hindered her. Koroviev and Behemoth helped her up.
     'I'm very glad,'  Margarita answered her, at the same time offering her
hand to others.
     Now a steady  stream  was coming up the  stairs  from below.  Margarita
could  no longer see  what  was going on in the front hall. She mechanically
raised and lowered her hand and smiled uniformly to  the guests. There was a
hum in the air on the landing; from the  ballrooms Margarita had left, music
could be heard, like the sea.
     `But this  one is a boring  woman,' Koroviev  no longer  whispered, but
spoke aloud, knowing that in the hubbub of voices no one would hear him.
     'She  adores  balls,  and  keeps  dreaming  of  complaining  about  her
     Margarita's glance picked out among those  coming up the woman at  whom
Koroviev  was pointing. She was young, about twenty, of remarkably beautiful
figure, but with somehow restless and importunate eyes.
     'What handkerchief?' asked Margarita.
     `She has a  chambermaid assigned to her,' explained Koroviev,  'who for
thirty years  has been putting a handkerchief on her night  table during the
night. She wakes up and the handkerchief is there. She's tried burning it in
the stove and drowning it in the river, but nothing helps.'
     'What handkerchief?' whispered Margarita, raising and lowering her arm.
     'A blue-bordered one. The thing is that when she worked in  a cafe, the
owner once invited her to the pantry, and nine  months  later she gave birth
to a  boy, took him to the forest, stuffed  the handkerchief into his mouth,
and then buried the boy in  the ground. At the trial she said she had no way
of feeding the child.'
     `And where is the owner of the cafe?' asked Margarita. `Queen,' the cat
suddenly creaked from below,  'what,  may I  ask, does the owner have to  do
with it? It wasn't he who smothered the infant in the forest!'
     Margarita, without ceasing to smile and proffer her right hand, dug the
sharp nails of the left into Behemoth's ear and whispered to him:
     `If  you,  scum,  allow  yourself  to  interfere  in  the  conversation
     Behemoth squeaked in a not very ball-like fashion and rasped:
     'Queen  ...  the ear will  get swollen ... why spoil  the  ball  with a
swollen ear? ... I was speaking  legally, from the legal point of view ... I
say no more, I say no more. Consider me not a cat but a post, only let go of
my ear!'
     Margarita  released his ear,  and  the  importunate,  gloomy eyes  were
before her.
     'I am happy, Queen-hostess, to be invited to the great ball of the full
     'And I am glad  to see you,' Margarita answered her, 'very glad. Do you
like champagne?'
     `What  are  you  doing,  Queen?!'  Koroviev   cried   desperately   but
soundlessly in Margarita's ear. There'll be a traffic jam!'
     'Yes,  I do,' the woman  said imploringly, and suddenly began repeating
mechanically: 'Frieda, [7] Frieda, Frieda! My name is Frieda, Queen!'
     'Get  drunk  tonight,  Frieda, and don't  think  about anything,'  said
     Frieda reached out both arms to Margarita, but  Koroviev  and  Behemoth
very adroitly took her under the arms and she blended into the crowd.
     Now people were coming in  a solid wall  from below, as if storming the
landing  where  Margarita  stood.  Naked  women's  bodies  came  up  between
tailcoated men.  Their swarthy,  white, coffee-bean-coloured, and altogether
black  bodies  floated towards  Margarita.  In  their  hair  -  red,  black,
chestnut, light  as  flax - precious  stones  glittered and danced, spraying
sparkles  into  the  flood  of light. And as  if someone  had sprinkled  the
storming column of men with droplets of light,  diamond  studs sprayed light
from  their chests. Every  second now  Margarita felt  lips touch her  knee,
every  second she held  out her  hand  to be kissed, her face was contracted
into a fixed mask of greeting.
     'I'm delighted,'  Koroviev sang  monotonously, 'we're delighted ... the
queen is delighted ...'
     The queen is delighted...' Azazello echoed nasally behind her back.
     'I'm delighted!' the cat kept exclaiming.
     The  marquise  ...'[8]  muttered  Koroviev, `poisoned  her  father, two
brothers and two sisters for the inheritance ... The queen is delighted! ...
Madame Minkin ...[9] Ah, what a  beauty! A bit  nervous. Why bum the  maid's
face  with  the  curling-irons?  Of  course, in  such  conditions  one  gets
stabbed...  The queen is delighted!  ... Queen, one second of attention! The
emperor  Rudolf  [10]  - sorcerer  and alchemist... Another alchemist  - got
hanged  ...  Ah, here she  is!  Ah, what  a  wonderful brothel  she  ran  in
Strasbourg!  ... We're  delighted! ... A Moscow dressmaker," we all love her
for  her inexhaustible fantasy ...  She kept  a shop and invented a terribly
funny trick: drilled two round holes in the wall ...'
     'And the ladies didn't know?' asked Margarita.
     'Every one  of them knew,  Queen,'  answered  Koroviev. 'Delighted! ...
This  twenty-year-old  boy  was  distinguished  from  childhood  by  strange
qualities, a dreamer and an eccentric.  A girl fell in love with him, and he
went and sold her to a brothel...'
     A river came streaming from below,  and there was no end to this  river
in  sight. Its source - the enormous fireplace  - continued to feed it. Thus
one hour passed and a second commenced. Here Margarita began to notice  that
her chain had  become heavier than  before. Something strange also  happened
with her  arm. Now, before  raising it,  Margarita had to  wince. Koroviev's
interesting  observations ceased  to amuse Margarita.  Slant-eyed  Mongolian
faces, white faces and black became undifferentiated  to her, they merged at
times, and the air between them  would for some reason begin to  tremble and
flow. A sharp pain, as if  from a needle, suddenly pierced Margarita's right
arm, and,  clenching  her teeth,  she  rested her  elbow  on the post.  Some
rustling,  as  if from wings  against the  walls,  was now  coming  from the
ballroom, and it was  clear that unprecedented hordes of guests were dancing
there,  and it seemed to Margarita  that even the massive marble, mosaic and
crystal floors of this prodigious room were pulsing rhythmically.
     Neither Gaius Caesar Caligula [12] nor Messalina"  interested Margarita
any longer, nor did any of the kings, dukes, cavaliers, suicides, poisoners,
gallowsbirds,  procuresses,   prison  guards  and   sharpers,  executioners,
informers,  traitors,  madmen,  sleuths,  seducers.  All their  names became
jumbled  in her head, the  faces stuck  together into one huge  pancake, and
only a single  face lodged itself painfully in her memory - the face, framed
in a truly fiery beard, of Maliuta Skuratov. [14]
     Margarita's legs kept giving way, she was afraid of bursting into tears
at any moment.  The worst suffering was caused by  her right knee, which was
being kissed. It became swollen, the skin turned blue, even though Natasha's
hand appeared  by this  knee several  times with  a sponge, wiping  it  with
something  fragrant. At the end of  the third hour, Margarita  glanced  down
with completely  desperate eyes  and gave  a joyful start -  the  stream  of
guests was thinning out.
     'Balls always assemble according  to the  same laws,  Queen,' whispered
Koroviev. 'Presently the wave will begin to  subside. I swear we're enduring
the final minutes. Here's the group  of revellers  from Brocken, they always
come last. Yes, here  they are. Two drunken vampires ... that's all? Ah, no,
here's one more ... no, two!'[15]
     The last two guests were coming up the stairs!
     'It's some new one,' Koroviev was saying, squinting through his lens.
     'Ah,  yes,  yes.  Azazello  visited  him  once  and,  over the  cognac,
whispered  some  advice  to him  on  how  to get rid of a certain  man whose
exposures he was extremely afraid of. And so he told an acquaintance who was
dependent on him to spray the walls of the office with poison ...'
     'What's his name?' asked Margarita.
     'Ah, really, I myself don't know yet,' Koroviev replied, 'we'11 have to
ask Azazello.'
     'And who is with him?'
     'Why,  that  same  efficient  subordinate  of  his.  Delighted!'  cried
Koroviev to the last two.
     The stairway was empty. They waited a little longer as a precaution.
     But no one else came from the fireplace.
     A  second  later,  without  knowing how  it happened,  Margarita  found
herself  in the  same room with the pool, and  there, bursting into tears at
once from the pain in her arm and leg, she collapsed right on the floor. But
Hella and Natasha, comforting her, again drew  her  under the bloody shower,
again massaged her body, and Margarita revived.
     "There's  more,  there's  more,  Queen   Margot,'  whispered  Koroviev,
appearing beside her. 'You must fly around the rooms, so that the honourable
guests don't feel they've been abandoned.'
     And once  more Margarita  flew  out of  the  room with the pool. On the
stage behind the tulips, where the waltz  king's orchestra had been playing,
there now  raged an ape jazz band. A huge gorilla with shaggy side-whiskers,
a trumpet in his hand, capering heavily, was doing the conducting.
     Orang-utans sat  in a row  blowing on shiny  trumpets. Perched on their
shoulders were merry chimpanzees with concertinas.
     Two  hamadryads with  manes  like lions played grand  pianos, but these
grand pianos were not heard  amidst the thundering, squeaking and booming of
saxophones,  fiddles  and  drums  in  the  paws  of  gibbons,  mandrills and
marmosets. On the  mirror floor a countless number of couples, as if merged,
amazing in the deftness and cleanness of their movements, all turning in the
same direction, swept on like a wall threatening to clear away everything in
its  path.  Live satin butterflies  bobbed above  the heads  of  the dancing
hordes,  flowers  poured  down from  the  ceiling.  In the  capitals of  the
columns, each  time the electricity went off,  myriads of  fireflies lit up,
and marsh-lights floated in the air.
     Then Margarita found herself  in a room with  a pool of  monstrous size
bordered  by a colonnade. A giant black Neptune spouted a  wide  pink stream
from his  maw.  A  stupefying smell of  champagne rose from the  pool.  Here
unconstrained  merriment held sway. Ladies, laughing, gave their handbags to
their  cavaliers or the negroes who rushed about with towels in their hands,
and with a cry dived swallow-like into  the pool. Foamy columns shot up. The
crystal bottom of  the pool shone with light from below  that broke  through
the density  of  the wine, and  in it  the silvery swimming  bodies could be
seen.  The ladies  got  out  of  the  pool completely  drunk. Loud  laughter
resounded under the columns, booming like the jazz band.
     All that was  remembered from this turmoil  was the  completely drunken
face  of a woman with senseless and, even in their senselessness,  imploring
eyes, and only one name - Frieda - was recalled.
     Margarita's head began to spin  from the smell of the wine, and she was
about to leave when the cat arranged a number in the pool that detained her.
     Behemoth performed  some  magic  by  Neptune's  maw, and  at  once  the
billowing  mass of  champagne,  hissing  and  gurgling,  left  the pool, and
Neptune began spewing out a stream  neither glittering nor foaming but  of a
dark-yellow  colour. The ladies - shrieking and screaming 'Cognac!' - rushed
from the pool-side and hid behind the columns. In a few seconds the pool was
filled, and the  cat, turning  three  times  in  the  air, dropped  into the
heaving cognac.  He crawled out, spluttering, his bow-tie  limp, the gilding
on his whiskers gone, along with the opera  glasses. Only one woman dared to
follow Behemoth's example  -  that  same  frolicsome  dressmaker,  with  her
cavalier,  an unknown  young  mulatto. The  two  threw  themselves  into the
cognac, but  here Koroviev took  Margarita under the  arm and they  left the
     It seemed to Margarita that she flew somewhere, where she saw mountains
of oysters in  huge stone  basins. Then  she flew  over  a glass floor  with
infernal  furnaces burning under it  and devilish white cooks  darting among
them. Then  somewhere, already ceasing to comprehend anything, she  saw dark
cellars where some sort of lamps burned, where girls served meat sizzling on
red-hot  coals, where her health was drunk from big mugs. Then she saw polar
bears playing  concertinas  and dancing the Kamarinsky [16] on a platform. A
salamander-conjurer [17] who  did not  burn in the fireplace ... And for the
second time her strength began to ebb.
     'One last appearance,' Koroviev  whispered to  her anxiously, `and then
we're free!'
     Accompanied by Koroviev, she again found herself  in the ballroom,  but
now  there  was  no  dancing in  it, and the  guests in a numberless  throng
pressed back between the columns, leaving the middle of the room open.
     Margarita did not  remember who helped her to  get  up on the dais that
appeared in the  middle of this  open space in the  room. When she was up on
it,  to her own  amazement, she  heard a clock  strike  midnight  somewhere,
though by her reckoning it was long past. At the last  stroke  of the clock,
which came from no one knew where, silence fell on the crowd of guests.
     Then  Margarita saw  Woland  again. He walked in surrounded by Abaddon,
Azazello and several others who resembled Abaddon - dark-haired and young.
     Now Margarita saw that opposite her dais another  had been prepared for
Woland. But he did not make use of it. What struck Margarita was that Woland
came out for this last great appearance at the ball looking just the same as
he had looked in the bedroom. The same dirty, patched shirt [18] hung on his
shoulders, his feet were in  worn-out bedroom  slippers. Woland had a sword,
but he used this bare sword as a cane, leaning on it.
     Limping,  Woland  stopped  at his  dais,  and immediately  Azazello was
before him with a platter in his hands, and  on this platter Margarita saw a
man's severed head with the front teeth knocked out. Total silence continued
to  reign,  broken only once by  the  far-off sound, inexplicable  under the
circumstances, of a doorbell, coming as if from the front hall.
     "Mikhail Alexandrovich,' Woland  addressed the head in a low voice, and
then the slain man's eyelids rose, and on the  dead face Margarita saw, with
a shudder, living eyes filled with thought and suffering.
     'Everything came to pass, did it not?' Woland went on, looking into the
head's eyes.  "The head  was  cut  off by a woman, the meeting  did not take
place, and I am living in your apartment. That is a  fact.  And fact is  the
most stubborn thing in the world. But we are now interested in what follows,
and not in  this already  accomplished fact. You have  always been an ardent
preacher of the  theory that, on the cutting off of his head, life ceases in
a man, he turns  to  ashes and goes into non-being. I have the  pleasure  of
informing you, in the presence of my guests,  though they serve  as proof of
quite a different theory, that your theory is both solid and clever.
     However, one  theory is as  good  as another.  There is also one  which
holds that it will be given to each according to his faith. [19] Let it come
true!  You  go into non-being,  and  from the cup  into which  you are to be
transformed, I will joyfully drink to being!'
     Woland  raised  his  sword. Straight away the flesh of the head  turned
dark and shrivelled, then fell off in pieces, the eyes disappeared, and soon
Margarita  saw on the  platter  a yellowish  skull with emerald  eyes, pearl
teeth and a golden foot. The lid opened on a hinge.
     `Right  this   second,  Messire,'  said  Koroviev,  noticing   Woland's
questioning look, 'he'll appear before you. In this sepulchral silence I can
hear the creaking of his patent leather shoes and the clink of the goblet he
has just set down on the table, having drunk champagne for the last time  in
his life. Here he is.'
     A solitary new guest was entering the room, heading towards Woland.
     Outwardly he did  not differ  in any  way from  the numerous other male
guests,  except  for  one  thing:  this guest  was  literally  reeling  with
agitation, which could be seen  even from afar. Flushed  spots burned on his
cheeks, and his eyes  darted about in total alarm. The guest was dumbstruck,
and that was  perfectly natural:  he was astounded by everything, and  above
all, of course, by Woland's attire.
     However, the guest was met with the utmost kindness.
     'Ah, my  dearest Baron Meigel,'  Woland, smiling affably, addressed the
guest,  whose eyes were popping  out of his head. `I'm  happy  to commend to
you,' Woland turned to the other guests, 'the most esteemed Baron Meigel, an
employee of  the Spectacles Commission, in charge of acquainting  foreigners
with places of interest in the capital.'
     Here Margarita froze, because she recognized this  Meigel. She had come
across him several times in Moscow theatres and restaurants. 'Excuse me ...'
thought Margarita, 'but that means - what - that he's also dead? ...'
     But the matter straight away clarified itself.
     'The dear  baron,' Woland  went  on, smiling joyfully, 'was so charming
that, having learned  of my  arrival  in  Moscow,  he  rang  me  up at once,
offering his services along the line  of his expertise, that is, acquainting
people with places of interest. It goes  without saying that  I was happy to
invite him here.'
     Just  then Margarita  saw  Azazello hand the platter  with the skull to
     'Ah, yes,  incidentally,  Baron,'  Woland  said,  suddenly lowering his
voice intimately,  'rumours have spread about  your extreme  curiosity. They
say  that,  combined  with your  no  less  developed talkativeness,  it  was
beginning  to attract general  attention. What's  more,  wicked tongues have
already dropped the word - a stool-pigeon and a spy. And, what's still more,
it is  hinted  that this will bring you  to a  sorry end in no  more  than a
month. And so, in order  to deliver you from  this painful anticipation,  we
have decided to  come  to  your aid, taking advantage  of the  fact that you
invited yourself here precisely with the purpose of eavesdropping and spying
out whatever you can.'
     The  baron  turned  paler than Abaddon, who was  exceptionally pale  by
nature, and then something strange took place. Abaddon stood in front of the
baron  and took off his glasses  for a  second. At the same moment something
flashed fire in Azazello's  hand,  something clapped softly, the baron began
to fall backwards, crimson blood spurted from his chest and  poured down his
starched shirt and waistcoat. Koroviev put the cup  to the spurt and  handed
the full  cup to  Woland. The baron's lifeless body was by that time already
on the floor.
     'I drink your health, ladies  and gentlemen,' Woland said  quietly and,
raising the cup, touched it to his lips.
     Then a metamorphosis  occurred.  The  patched shirt  and worn  slippers
disappeared. Woland was in some sort of  black chlamys with a steel sword on
his  hip. He  quickly  approached Margarita, offered her the  cup,  and said
     Margarita became dizzy,  she  swayed, but  the cup  was already  at her
lips, and voices, she could not make out whose, whispered in both her ears:
     'Don't be afraid, Queen ...  don't be afraid, Queen, the blood has long
since gone into the earth. And where it was  spilled, grapevines are already
     Margarita,  without opening her eyes,  took a gulp, and a sweet current
ran through her veins, a ringing  began in her ears. It seemed  to her  that
cocks were crowing deafeningly, that somewhere a march was being played. The
crowds of guests began to lose their  shape:  tailcoaters and women  fell to
dust. Decay enveloped the room before  Margarita's eyes, a  sepulchral smell
flowed  over  it. The columns  fell apart, the  fires went  out,  everything
shrank, there were no more fountains, no camellias, no tulips. And there was
simply this:  the modest living room of the jeweller's widow, and a strip of
light falling from  a slightly opened door. And  Margarita went through this
slightly opened door.

     In Woland's bedroom  everything turned out to be as it had been  before
the ball. Woland was sitting on the bed in his nightshirt, only Hella was no
longer  rubbing  his leg, but was setting out  supper on the table on  which
they had  been playing chess. Koroviev and  Azazello, having  removed  their
tailcoats,  were sitting at  the table, and next to them, of course, was the
cat, who refused  to part  with his  bow-tie, though  it had turned  into an
utterly filthy rag.  Margarita, swaying, came up to the table and  leaned on
it.  Then Woland beckoned her to him like the other time and  indicated that
she should sit down beside him.
     "Well, did they wear you out very much?' asked Woland.
     'Oh, no, Messire,' Margarita answered, but barely audibly.
     'Nobless obleege,' the cat observed and poured some  transparent liquid
into a goblet for Margarita.
     'Is that vodka?' Margarita asked weakly.
     The cat jumped up on his chair in resentment.
     `Good heavens, Queen,' he croaked, 'would I allow myself  to pour vodka
for a lady? It's pure alcohol!'
     Margarita smiled and made an attempt to push the glass away.
     'Drink boldly,'  said Woland,  and Margarita took the glass in her hand
at once.
     'Hella, sit down,' Woland ordered and explained to Margarita: The night
of the full moon is a festive night, and I  have supper in the small company
of my  retinue  and  servants. And so, how do you feel?  How did this tiring
ball go?'
     'Stupendous!'  rattled  Koroviev. `Everybody's  enchanted,  infatuated,
crushed! So much tact, so much skill, charm, and loveliness!'
     Woland silently raised his glass and clinked with Margarita.  Margarita
drank  obediently, thinking that this alcohol would be the end  of  her. But
nothing bad happened. A  living warmth  flowed  into  her stomach, something
struck her softly on the nape, her strength  came back, as if she had got up
after  a long,  refreshing  sleep,  with a wolfish appetite besides.  And on
recalling that she had eaten nothing since  the previous morning, it  flared
up still more ... She greedily began gulping down caviar.
     Behemoth cut  a slice of pineapple, salted it, peppered it, ate it, and
then  tossed  off  a second glass  of  alcohol so  dashingly  that  everyone
     After Margarita's second glass, the candles in the candelabra flared up
more  brightly, and the flame increased in the fireplace. Margarita  did not
feel drunk at all. Biting the meat with her white  teeth, Margarita savoured
the juice  that  ran  from it, at  the same time  watching  Behemoth  spread
mustard on an oyster.
     'Why don't you put some grapes on top?' Hella said quietly, nudging the
cat in the ribs.
     'I beg you not  to teach me,' replied Behemoth, `I  have sat  at table,
don't worry, that I have!'
     'Ah, how nice it is to have supper like this, by the fireside, simply,'
Koroviev clattered, 'in a small circle ...'
     'No, Fagott,' objected the cat, 'a ball has its own charm, and scope.'
     'There's no charm in it,  or scope either,  and those idiotic bears and
tigers in the bar almost gave me migraine with their roaring,' said Woland.
     `I  obey,  Messire,'  said  the cat,  'if you  find  no  scope,  I will
immediately begin to hold the same opinion.'
     'Watch yourself!' Woland said to that.
     'I was  joking,'  the  cat said humbly,  'and as far as the tigers  are
concerned, I'll order them roasted.'
     'One can't eat tiger,' said Hella.
     'You  think not? Then  I beg you to  listen,' responded the  cat,  and,
narrowing his  eyes with pleasure, he  told  how he had once wandered in the
wilderness for nineteen days,' and the only thing he had to eat was the meat
of a tiger he had killed. They all listened  to this entertaining  narrative
with interest, and when Behemoth finished, exclaimed in chorus:
     'And the most interesting thing about this bunk,' said Woland, 'is that
it's bunk from first word to last.'
     'Ah,  bunk is it?' exclaimed  the  cat, and  they  all thought he would
start protesting, but he only said quietly: 'History will judge.'
     'And  tell me,' Margot,  revived after the vodka,  addressed  Azazello,
'did you shoot him, this former baron?'
     `Naturally,'  answered  Azazello,  `how  could  I  not  shoot  him?  He
absolutely had to be shot.'
     'I got so excited!' exclaimed Margarita, 'it happened so unexpectedly!'
     "There was nothing  unexpected in it,'  Azazello objected, but Koroviev
started wailing and whining:
     `How not get excited? I myself was  quaking  in my  boots!  Bang!  Hup!
Baron on his back!'
     'I nearly had hysterics,' the cat added, licking the caviar spoon.
     'Here's  what  I don't understand,' Margarita said,  and golden  sparks
from  the crystal glittered in  her eyes. 'Can it be that the music  and the
noise of this ball generally weren't heard outside?'
     'Of course they weren't, Queen,' explained Koroviev. 'It has to be done
so that nothing is heard. It has to be done carefully.'
     'Well, yes, yes  ... But the thing is  that that man on the  stairs ...
when Azazello and I passed by ... and  the  other  one by the entrance ... I
think he was watching your apartment...'
     'Right, right!'  cried Koroviev, 'right, dear Margarita Nikolaevna! You
confirm my suspicions! Yes, he was  watching  the apartment! I myself  first
took him for an absent-minded assistant  professor or a lover languishing on
the  stairs.  But no, no!  Something kept  gnawing at my  heart! Ah,  he was
watching the apartment! And the other one by the entrance, too! And the same
for the one in the gateway!'
     'But,  it's interesting, what  if they come  to arrest  you?' Margarita
     `They're  sure  to  come,  charming  Queen,  they're sure to!'  replied
Koroviev, 'my heart tells me they'll  come. Not  now, of course,  but in due
time   they'll  certainly  come.  But  I  don't  suppose  it  will  be  very
     'Ah,  I got so excited when that baron fell!' said Margarita, evidently
still reliving the murder, which was the first she had seen in her life.
     'You must be a very good shot?'
     'Passable,' replied Azazello.
     `From  how many paces?' Margarita asked Azazello  a  not entirely clear
     'Depends on what,'  Azazello replied reasonably. 'It's one thing to hit
the critic Latunsky's window  with a hammer, and quite another  thing to hit
him in the heart.'
     `In  the heart!' exclaimed Margarita, for  some reason putting her hand
to her own heart. 'In the heart!' she repeated in a hollow voice.
     `Who is this  critic  Latunsky?' asked  Woland, narrowing  his eyes  at
     Azazello, Koroviev  and Behemoth dropped their  eyes somehow abashedly,
and Margarita answered, blushing:
     `There  is  this  certain  critic.  I  destroyed  his  whole  apartment
     'Just look at you! But what for? ...'
     'You see, Messire,' Margarita explained, 'he ruined a certain master.'
     'But why go to such trouble yourself?' asked Woland.
     'Allow me, Messire!' the cat cried out joyfully, jumping up.
     'You  sit down,' Azazello  grunted, standing  up. 'I'll go myself right
now ...'
     'No!' exclaimed Margarita. 'No, I beg you, Messire, there's no need for
     `As you wish, as  you wish,' Woland  replied, and Azazello  sat down in
his place.
     'So,  where  were we,  precious Queen Margot?' said Koroviev. 'Ah, yes,
the  heart... He does hit the heart,' Koroviev  pointed  his long  finger in
Azazello's direction,  'as you  choose -  any auricle of  the heart, or  any
     Margarita did not  understand at first, and when she did, she exclaimed
in surprise:
     'But they're covered up!'
     'My dear,' clattered Koroviev, 'that's the point, that they're  covered
up! That's the whole salt of it! Anyone can hit an uncovered object!'
     Koroviev  took a seven  of  spades from the desk drawer, offered  it to
Margarita, and asked her to mark one of the pips with her fingernail.
     Margarita marked the one in the upper right-hand corner.  Hella hid the
card under a pillow, crying:
     Azazello, who  was sitting with  his  back to  the pillow, drew a black
automatic from the pocket  of his tailcoat trousers, put the muzzle over his
shoulder,  and,  without  turning towards  the bed, fired, provoking a merry
fright in  Margarita. The  seven was  taken  from under  the  bullet-pierced
pillow. The pip marked by Margarita had a hole in it.
     'I wouldn't want  to  meet  you when  you're carrying a gun,' Margarita
said, casting coquettish glances at Azazello. She  had  a passion for anyone
who did something top-notch.
     'Precious Queen,' squeaked Koroviev, `I wouldn't advise anyone  to meet
him, even if  he's  not carrying a  gun! I give you  my word of honour as an
ex-choirmaster and precentor that  no one  would congratulate the  one doing
the meeting.'
     The  cat  sat  scowling  throughout  the shooting  trial, and  suddenly
     'I undertake to beat the record with the seven.'
     Azazello  growled  out  something in  reply to  that.  But  the cat was
stubborn, and demanded not one but two guns. Azazello took a second gun from
the second back pocket of his trousers and, twisting his mouth disdainfully,
handed it to the braggart together  with  the first. Two pips were marked on
the seven. The  cat  made  lengthy preparations,  turning his  back  to  the
pillow. Margarita sat  with her fingers  in her ears and looked at  the  owl
dozing on  the mantelpiece.  The  cat  fired both  guns, after  which  Hella
shrieked  at  once, the owl fell dead from the mantelpiece, and  the smashed
clock stopped. Hella, whose hand was  all bloody, clutched at the cat's  fur
with a howl, and  he  clutched  her  hair in  retaliation,  and the two  got
tangled into  a ball and  rolled on the  floor. One of the goblets fell from
the table and broke.
     'Pull this rabid hellion off me!' wailed  the cat, fighting  off Hella,
who was  sitting  astride him. The combatants  were separated, and  Koroviev
blew on Hella's bullet-pierced finger and it mended.
     'I can't shoot  when someone's talking at my  elbow!' shouted Behemoth,
trying to stick in place a huge clump of fur pulled from his back.
     'I'll  bet,' said Woland, smiling to Margarita, `that he did this stunt
on purpose. He's not a bad shot.'
     Hella and the cat made  peace and,  as  a sign of their reconciliation,
exchanged  kisses. The card was taken from under the pillow and checked. Not
a single pip had been hit, except for the one shot through by Azazello.
     "That can't be,'  insisted the cat, holding the card up to the light of
the candelabra.
     The merry supper went on. The candles  guttered  in the candelabra, the
dry, fragrant warmth of the fireplace spread waves over the room.
     After  eating,  Margarita was  enveloped  in  a feeling  of bliss.  She
watched the  blue-grey smoke-rings  from  Azazello's  cigar  float into  the
fireplace, while the cat caught them on the tip of a sword. She did not want
to go anywhere, though according to her  reckoning  it was already late.  By
all  tokens, it was getting on towards six in  the morning. Taking advantage
of a pause, Margarita turned to Woland and said timidly:
     'I suppose it's time for me ... it's late ...'
     'What's your hurry?' asked Woland, politely  but a bit drily.  The rest
kept silent, pretending to be occupied with the smoke-rings.
     'Yes, it's  time,'  Margarita  repeated,  quite embarrassed by it,  and
looked around  as  if searching  for some cape  or  cloak. She was  suddenly
embarrassed by  her nakedness. She got up  from the  table. Woland  silently
took his worn-out and greasy  dressing-gown from the bed, and Koroviev threw
it over Margarita's shoulders.
     'I thank you,  Messire,'  Margarita said  barely  audibly,  and  looked
questioningly  at  Woland.  In  reply,  he  smiled at  her  courteously  and
indifferently. Black anguish somehow surged  up all  at once  in Margarita's
heart.  She felt  herself  deceived. No rewards would be offered her for all
her services at the ball, apparently,  just as no one was detaining her. And
yet it was perfectly clear to her that she  had nowhere to go. The  fleeting
thought of having to return to her house provoked an inward burst of despair
in  her.  Should  she  ask,  as  Azazello  had  temptingly  advised  in  the
Alexandrovsky Garden? 'No, not for anything!' she said to herself.
     'Goodbye,  Messire,' she said aloud, and thought,  'I must just get out
of here, and then I'll go to the river and drown myself.'
     'Sit down now,' Woland suddenly said imperiously.
     Margarita changed countenance and sat down.
     'Perhaps you want to say something before you leave?'
     'No, nothing, Messire,' Margarita answered proudly, 'except that if you
still need me, I'm willing  and ready to do anything you wish. I'm not tired
in the least, and I had a  very good  time at the ball. So  that if it  were
still going  on, I  would again offer my knee  for thousands of gallowsbirds
and murderers to kiss.' Margarita looked at Woland as if through a veil, her
eyes filling with tears.
     'True! You're perfectly right!' Woland cried resoundingly and terribly.
That's the way!'
     'That's the way!' Woland's retinue repeated like an echo.
     `We've  been testing you,' said  Woland. 'Never ask for anything! Never
for anything, and especially from those who  are stronger than  you. They'll
make  the offer themselves, and  give everything themselves. Sit down, proud
woman,' Woland  tore  the heavy  dressing-gown from Margarita and again  she
found herself sitting next to him on the bed. 'And so, Margot,'  Woland went
on, softening his  voice,  `what  do you  want  for having  been  my hostess
tonight? What do you wish for having spent the ball naked? What price do you
put on your knee? What are your losses  from my guests, whom you just called
gallowsbirds? Speak!  And speak now  without  constraint,  for  it is  I who
     Margarita's heart began to pound, she sighed heavily, started pondering
     'Well,  come, be  braver!' Woland  encouraged her. 'Rouse your fantasy,
spur  it on!  Merely being present  at  the  scene  of  the murder  of  that
inveterate  blackguard of a baron is  worth  a reward,  particularly if  the
person is a woman. Well, then?'
     Margarita's  breath was taken  away, and  she  was  about to  utter the
cherished words prepared in her soul, when  she suddenly turned pale, opened
her mouth  and  stared: 'Frieda! ... Frieda, Frieda!' someone's importunate,
imploring voice cried  in  her  ears,  `my  name  is Frieda!' And Margarita,
stumbling over the words, began to speak:
     'So, that means ... I can ask ... for one thing?'
     'Demand, demand, my donna,' Woland replied, smiling knowingly, 'you may
demand one thing.'
     Ah, how  adroitly and distinctly Woland, repeating  Margarita's  words,
underscored that 'one thing'!
     Margarita sighed again and said:
     'I want them  to stop giving Frieda  that  handkerchief with  which she
smothered her baby.'
     The cat raised his eyes to heaven and sighed noisily, but said nothing,
perhaps remembering how his ear had already suffered.
     'In view of  the fact,' said Woland, grinning, 'that the possibility of
your having been bribed by that fool Frieda is, of course, entirely excluded
- being incompatible with  your royal dignity - I simply don't  know what to
do.  One  thing remains, perhaps: to procure some rags and stuff them in all
the cracks of my bedroom.'
     `What are  you talking about,  Messire?' Margarita was  amazed, hearing
these indeed incomprehensible words.
     `I  agree  with  you  completely,  Messire,'  the  cat mixed  into  the
conversation, 'precisely  with rags!' And the cat  vexedly  struck the table
with his paw.
     'I am talking about mercy,' Woland explained his words, not  taking his
fiery  eye  off  Margarita.  'It  sometimes  creeps, quite  unexpectedly and
perfidiously, through  the narrowest  cracks. And so I am talking about rags
     'And  I'm  talking about the same thing!' the  cat  exclaimed, and drew
back from Margarita  just  in  case,  raising his paws to  protect his sharp
ears, covered with a pink cream.
     'Get out,' said Woland.
     'I haven't had coffee  yet,' replied the cat, how can  I leave?  Can it
be, Messire, that on a festive  night the guests are divided into two sorts?
One of the first, and  the other, as that  sad skinflint of a barman put it,
of second freshness?'
     'Quiet,' ordered Woland, and, turning to Margarita, he asked: 'You are,
by all tokens, a person of exceptional kindness? A highly moral person?'
     'No,'  Margarita replied emphatically, 'I know  that one can only speak
frankly with you,  and  so  I will tell  you  frankly: I  am a  light-minded
person. I asked you  for  Frieda only because I  was careless enough to give
her firm hope. She's  waiting, Messire, she  believes  in  my  power. And if
she's left disappointed,  I'll be in a terrible position. I'll have no peace
in my life. There's no help for it, it just happened.'
     'Ah,' said Woland, 'that's understandable.'
     'Will you do it?' Margarita asked quietly.
     `By  no  means,' answered Woland. 'The  thing  is, dear  Queen, that  a
little confusion  has taken place  here. Each department must look after its
own affairs.  I don't deny our possibilities  are rather great, they're much
greater than some not very keen people may think...'
     'Yes,  a  whole  lot  greater,'  the  cat,  obviously  proud  of  these
possibilities, put in, unable to restrain himself.
     'Quiet, devil take  you!' Woland  said to  him,  and went on addressing
Margarita: 'But  there is simply no sense in doing what ought to be  done by
another - as I just put it -  department.  And so, I will not do it, but you
will do it yourself.'
     'And will it be done at my word?'
     Azazello gave  Margarita an ironic look out of the  comer of his  blind
eye, shook his red head imperceptibly, and snorted.
     `Just do  it,  what a pain!'  Woland muttered and,  turning  the globe,
began peering into some detail on it, evidently also occupied with something
else during his conversation with Margarita.
     'So, Frieda ...' prompted Koroviev.
     'Frieda!' Margarita cried piercingly.
     The door flew open and a dishevelled, naked woman, now showing no signs
of drunkenness, ran into the room with frenzied eyes  and stretched her arms
out to Margarita, who said majestically:
     'You are forgiven. The handkerchief will no longer be brought to you.'
     Frieda's  scream  rang  out,  she  fell  face  down on  the  floor  and
prostrated in  a  cross before Margarita. Woland waved his  hand and  Frieda
vanished from sight.
     'Thank you, and farewell,' Margarita said, getting up.
     'Well, Behemoth,' began Woland, 'let's not take advantage of the action
of an impractical person on a  festive night.' He turned to  Margarita: 'And
so, that does not count, I did nothing. What do you want for yourself?'
     Silence ensued, interrupted  by Koroviev,  who  started  whispering  in
Margarita's ear:
     'Diamond donna, this time I advise you to be  more reasonable!  Or else
fortune may slip away.'
     'I want my beloved master to be returned to me right now, this second,'
said Margarita, and her face was contorted by a spasm.
     Here a  wind burst into the room, so that the flames  of the candles in
the candelabra were flattened, the heavy  curtain on the window moved aside,
the window opened wide and revealed far away on high a full, not morning but
midnight moon. A greenish kerchief of  night-light fell from the window-sill
to  the  floor, and  in  it appeared Ivanushka's  night visitor,  who called
himself a master. He  was  in his hospital clothes - robe, slippers  and the
black cap,  with  which he never  parted.  His unshaven face  twitched  in a
grimace, he glanced sidelong with a crazy amorousness at the  lights of  the
candles, and the torrent of moonlight seethed around him.
     Margarita recognized him at  once,  gave a moan, clasped her hands, and
ran to him. She kissed him on the forehead, on the lips, pressed herself  to
his stubbly cheek, and her long held-back tears now streamed down  her face.
She uttered only one word, repeating it senselessly:
     'You ... you ... you...'
     The master held her away from him and said in a hollow voice:
     'Don't weep, Margot, don't torment me, I'm gravely ill.' He grasped the
window-sill with  his hand, as if he  were about to  jump on to it and flee,
and,  peering  at  those  sitting  there,  cried: `I'm  afraid,  Margot!  My
hallucinations are beginning again...'
     Sobs stifled Margarita, she whispered, choking on the words:
     'No, no, no  ... don't be  afraid  of anything ... I'm with you ... I'm
with you ...'
     Koroviev deftly and inconspicuously pushed a chair  towards the master,
and  he  sank into it, while  Margarita threw  herself on her knees, pressed
herself to the sick man's side, and so grew  quiet. In her agitation she had
not noticed that her nakedness was somehow suddenly over, that  she  was now
wearing a black silk cloak. The  sick  man hung his  head and began  looking
down with gloomy, sick eyes.
     `Yes,' Woland began after  a silence, 'they did a good  job on him.' He
ordered Koroviev: 'Knight, give this man something to drink.'
     Margarita begged the master in a trembling voice:
     'Drink, drink! You're afraid? No, no, believe me, they'll help you!'
     The sick man took the glass and  drank  what  was in  it,  but his hand
twitched and the lowered glass smashed at his feet.
     'It's good luck, good luck!' Koroviev whispered  to  Margarita.  'Look,
he's already coming to himself.'
     Indeed, the sick man's gaze was no longer so wild and troubled.
     'But is it you, Margot?' asked the moonlit guest.
     'Don't doubt, it's I,' replied Margarita.
     'More!' ordered Woland.
     After the master emptied  the  second glass, his eyes became  alive and
     'Well,  there, that's something else again,' said Woland, narrowing his
eyes. 'Now let's talk. Who are you?'
     'I'm nobody now,' the master replied, and a smile twisted his mouth.
     'Where have you just come from?'
     'From the house of sorrows. I am mentally ill,' replied the visitor.
     These words Margarita could not bear, and she began to weep again. Then
she wiped her eyes and cried out:
     Terrible words! Terrible words! He's a master, Messire, I'm letting you
know that! Cure him, he's worth it!'
     `Do you know with whom  you  are presently speaking?' Woland  asked the
visitor. 'On whom you have come calling?'
     'I do,' replied the master, 'my neighbour in the madhouse was that boy,
Ivan Homeless. He told me about you.'
     'Ah,  yes,  yes,' Woland responded, 'I had the pleasure of meeting that
young man  at the Patriarch's Ponds. He almost drove me  mad myself, proving
to me that I don't exist. But you do believe that it is really I?'
     'I  must believe,' said the visitor,  'though, of  course,  it would be
much more comforting to consider you the product of a hallucination. Forgive
me,' the master added, catching himself.
     'Well,  so, if it's more comforting,  consider me that,' Woland replied
courteously. 'No, no!' Margarita said, frightened, shaking the master by the
shoulder. 'Come to your senses! It's really he before you!'
     The cat intruded here as well.
     `And  I really look like  a  hallucination.  Note  my  profile  in  the
moonlight.' The  cat got  into  the  shaft of  moonlight and  wanted  to add
something else, but on being asked to keep silent, replied: 'Very well, very
well,  I'm prepared to be  silent. I'll be a silent hallucination,' and fell
     'But tell me, why does Margarita call you a master?' asked Woland.
     The man smiled and said:
     "That is an excusable weakness. She has too high an opinion  of a novel
I wrote.'
     'What is this novel about?'
     'It is  a novel about  Pontius Pilate.' Here again  the  tongues of the
candles swayed and leaped,  the  dishes on the table clattered, Woland burst
into  thunderous  laughter,  but  neither frightened  nor  surprised anyone.
Behemoth applauded for some reason.
     'About what? About what? About whom?' said Woland, ceasing to laugh.
     'And  that - now?  It's stupendous! Couldn't  you have found some other
subject? Let me see it.' Woland held out his hand, palm up.
     'Unfortunately,  I  cannot  do  that,'  replied the  master, `because I
burned it in the stove.'
     'Forgive me, but I don't believe you,' Woland replied, 'that cannot be:
manuscripts don't  burn.'[2] He  turned  to  Behemoth and  said,  'Come  on.
Behemoth, let's have the novel.'
     The  cat instantly  jumped off the chair, and everyone  saw that he had
been sitting on a thick  stack of manuscripts. With  a bow, the cat gave the
top copy to Woland. Margarita trembled and  cried out,  again shaken to  the
point of tears:
     'It's here, the manuscript! It's here!' She dashed to  Woland and added
in admiration:
     'All-powerful! All-powerful!'
     Woland took the manuscript that had been handed to him, turned it over,
laid  it aside, and silently, without smiling, stared at the master. But he,
for some unknown reason, lapsed into anxiety and uneasiness, got up from the
chair, wrung his hands, and,  quivering  as  he addressed  the distant moon,
began to murmur:
     `And  at  night, by  moonlight, I have  no  peace...  Why  am  I  being
troubled? Oh, gods, gods ...'
     Margarita clutched  at the hospital robe, pressing herself  to him, and
began to murmur herself in anguish and tears:
     'Oh, God, why doesn't the medicine help you?'
     'It's  nothing, nothing,  nothing,' whispered  Koroviev, twisting about
the  master,  'nothing, nothing... One  more little  glass,  I'll  keep  you
     And  the  little glass winked and gleamed in  the  moonlight, and  this
little  glass helped.  The master was put back in  his place, and  the  sick
man's face assumed a calm expression.
     'Well, it's all clear now,' said  Woland, tapping the manuscript with a
long finger.
     'Perfectly  clear,' confirmed  the  cat, forgetting his promise to be a
silent hallucination. 'Now the main line of this opus is thoroughly clear to
me. What do you say, Azazello?' he turned to the silent Azazello.
     `I say,' the other  twanged, `that it would be  a  good thing  to drown
     'Have mercy, Azazello,'  the cat replied to him, 'and don't suggest the
idea  to my sovereign. Believe me, every night I'd  come to  you in the same
moonlight garb as the  poor master, and nod  and beckon to you to follow me.
How would that be, Azazello?'
     'Well, Margarita,'  Woland again  entered  the conversation,  `tell  me
everything you need.'
     Margarita's eyes lit up, and she said imploringly to Woland:
     'Allow me to whisper something to him.'
     Woland nodded  his head, and Margarita,  leaning to the  master's  ear,
whispered something to him. They heard him answer her.
     'No, it's too late. I want nothing more in my  life, except to see you.
But again I advise you to leave me, or you'll perish with me.'
     'No, I won't leave you,' Margarita answered and turned to Woland:
     'I ask that we be returned  to the basement  in the lane off the Arbat,
and that the lamp be burning, and that everything be as it was.
     Here the master laughed and, embracing  Margarita's long-since-uncurled
head, said:
     'Ah,  don't listen  to  the poor woman,  Messire! Someone else has long
been living  in the basement,  and generally it never happens  that anything
goes  back to what it used to  be.' He put  his cheek to his friend's  head,
embraced Margarita, and began muttering: 'My poor one ... my poor one...'
     'Never happens, you say?' said Woland. That's true. But we shall try.'
     And he called out: 'Azazello!'
     At once there dropped from the ceiling on to the floor a bewildered and
nearly  delirious  citizen  in  nothing but  his underwear,  though  with  a
suitcase in  his hand for  some reason and wearing a  cap. This man trembled
with fear and kept cowering.
     'Mogarych?' Azazello asked of the one fallen from the sky.
     'Aloisy Mogarych,'[3] the  man  answered, shivering. `Was  it you  who,
after  reading  Latunsky's  article   about   this  man's  novel,   wrote  a
denunciation saying that he kept illegal literature?' asked Azazello.
     The  newly  arrived citizen  turned blue  and  dissolved  in  tears  of
     'You wanted  to move into his rooms?' Azazello  twanged as soulfully as
he could.
     The hissing of an infuriated cat was heard in  the room, and Margarita,
with a howl of 'Know a witch when you see  one!', sank her nails into Aloisy
Mogarych's face.
     A commotion ensued.
     `What  are  you  doing?'  the master cried  painfully.  'Margot,  don't
disgrace yourself!'
     'I protest! It's not a disgrace!' shouted the cat.
     Koroviev pulled Margarita away.
     `I put  in  a  bathroom...'  the  bloodied  Mogarych  cried, his  teeth
chattering,  and, terrified,  he  began pouring  out  some balderdash,  'the
whitewashing alone ... the vitriol...'
     'Well,  it's  nice  that  you  put  in  a   bathroom,'  Azazello   said
approvingly, 'he needs to take baths.' And he yelled: 'Out!'
     Then  Mogarych was turned upside down and left Woland's bedroom through
the open window.
     The master goggled his eyes, whispering:
     `Now  that's maybe  even  neater than what Ivan  described!' Thoroughly
struck, he looked around and finally said to  the cat: 'But, forgive me, was
it  you ... was it you, sir  ...' he faltered, not knowing how to  address a
cat, 'are you that same cat, sir, who got on the tram?'
     'I am,' the flattered cat confirmed and added: 'It's pleasing  to  hear
you address  a cat  so politely. For some reason, cats are usually addressed
familiarly, though no cat has ever drunk bruderschaft with anyone.'
     'It seems  to me that  you're not so much a cat...' the  master replied
hesitantly. 'Anyway, they'll  find  me missing  at  the hospital,'  he added
timidly to Woland.
     'Well, how are they going  to find you missing?'  Koroviev soothed him,
and  some  papers and ledgers  turned  up  in his  hands.  'By  your medical
     Yes ...'
     Koroviev flung the medical records into the fireplace.
     'No papers,  no person,' Koroviev said with  satisfaction. `And this is
your landlord's house register?'
     "Who is registered  in it? Aloisy Mogarych?' Koroviev blew on  the page
of the house register.  'Hup, two! He's not there, and, I beg you to notice,
never has  been.  And if  this landlord gets surprised, tell him  he dreamed
Aloisy up! Mogarych? What Mogarych? There was  never any Mogarych!' Here the
loose-leafed  book evaporated  from Koroviev's  hands.  'And  there  it  is,
already back in the landlord's desk.'
     'What you  say is true,' the master observed, struck by the neatness of
Koroviev's  work, 'that if there are no papers, there's no person. I have no
papers, so there's precisely no me.'
     `I beg  your  pardon,' Koroviev  exclaimed,  `but  that  precisely is a
hallucination, your papers are right here.'  And Koroviev  handed the master
his papers. Then he rolled up his eyes and whispered sweetly to Margarita:
     `And here is  your property, Margarita Nikolaevna,' and Koroviev handed
Margarita the  notebook with  charred edges, the dried rose, the photograph,
and,  with particular care, the savings  book.  'Ten thousand, as you kindly
deposited, Margarita Nikolaevna. We don't need what belongs to others.'
     'Sooner let my paws wither than touch what belongs to others,' the  cat
exclaimed, all  puffed  up, dancing on  the  suitcase to stamp  down all the
copies of the ill-fated novel.
     'And your little papers as well,' Koroviev continued, handing Margarita
her papers and then turning to report deferentially to Woland:
     That's all, Messire!'
     'No, not all,' replied Woland, tearing himself away from the globe.
     'What, dear donna,  will  you  order me  to  do with  your  retinue?  I
personally don't need them.'
     Here the  naked Natasha ran through  the open door, clasped  her hands,
and cried out to Margarita:
     `Be happy, Margarita  Nikolaevna!' She nodded to the master  and  again
turned to Margarita: 'I knew all about where you used to go.'
     'Domestics   know   everything,'  observed  the  cat,  raising   a  paw
significantly. 'It's a mistake to think they're blind.'
     'What do you want, Natasha?' asked Margarita. 'Go back to the house.'
     `Darling  Margarita Nikolaevna,' Natasha  began  imploringly and  knelt
down, 'ask them' - she cast a sidelong glance at Woland  - 'to let me stay a
witch. I don't  want any more of that house! I won't marry an engineer or  a
technician! Yesterday at  the ball Monsieur Jacques proposed to me.' Natasha
opened her fist and showed some gold coins.
     Margarita turned a questioning look to Woland. He  nodded. Then Natasha
threw herself  on  Margarita's neck,  gave her  a smacking kiss,  and with a
victorious cry flew out the window.
     In Natasha's  place  Nikolai Ivanovich now stood.  He had regained  his
former human shape, but was extremely glum and perhaps even annoyed.
     This is someone  I shall dismiss with  special  pleasure,' said Woland,
looking at Nikolai Ivanovich  with disgust,  `with exceptional  pleasure, so
superfluous he is here.'
     'I earnestly beg that you issue  me  a certificate,'  Nikolai Ivanovich
began with great insistence, but looking around wildly, 'as to where I spent
last night.'
     'For what purpose?' the cat asked sternly.
     `For the purpose of presenting it to the police and to my wife,'
     Nikolai Ivanovich said firmly.
     'We  normally  don't issue certificates,'  the  cat  replied, frowning,
'but, very well, for you we'll make an exception.'
     And  before  Nikolai Ivanovich had time to gather his  wits, the  naked
Hella was sitting at a typewriter and the cat was dictating to her.
     'It is hereby  certified that the bearer, Nikolai Ivanovich,  spent the
said  night at Satan's ball, having been summoned there in the capacity of a
means  of transportation ...  make a parenthesis,  Hella, in the parenthesis
put "hog". Signed - Behemoth.'
     'And the date?' squeaked Nikolai Ivanovich.
     We  don't  put  dates,  with  a  date  the  document  becomes invalid,'
responded  the cat, setting his scrawl to it.  Then  he got himself a  stamp
from somewhere, breathed on it according to all the rules,  stamped the word
'payed'  on the paper,  and handed  it  to  Nikolai  Ivanovich. After  which
Nikolai Ivanovich disappeared without a  trace, and in his place  appeared a
new, unexpected guest.
     'And who is this one?' Woland asked squeamishly, shielding himself from
the candlelight with his hand.
     Varenukha hung his head, sighed, and said softly:
     'Let me go back, I can't be a vampire. I almost did Rimsky in that time
with Hella. And I'm not bloodthirsty. Let me go!'
     `What is all  this  raving!'  Woland said with  a wince. "Which Rimsky?
What is this nonsense?'
     'Kindly do not worry, Messire,' responded  Azazello,  and he  turned to
Varenukha:  'Mustn't be  rude  on  the telephone.  Mustn't  tell lies on the
telephone. Understand? Will you do it again?'
     Everything went  giddy with joy  in Varenukha's head, his face  beamed,
and, not knowing what he was saying, he began to murmur:
     'Verily ... that is, I mean to say... Your ma... right after dinner...'
Varenukha pressed his hands to his chest, looking beseechingly at Azazello.
     'All right. Home with you!' the latter said, and Varenukha dissolved.
     'Now all of you leave  me alone with them,' ordered Woland, pointing to
the master and Margarita.
     Woland's order was obeyed instantly. After some silence, Woland said to
the master:
     'So it's back to the Arbat basement? And who is going to write? And the
dreams, the inspiration?'
     'I have no more dreams, or inspiration either,' replied the master. 'No
one  around  me  interests  me,  except  her.'  He  again put  his  hand  on
Margarita's head. 'I'm broken, I'm bored, and I want to be in the basement.'
     'And your novel? Pilate?'
     'It's  hateful to me, this novel,' replied the master, 'I  went through
too much because of it.'
     'I  implore you,' Margarita begged  plaintively, 'don't talk like that.
Why do you torment me? You know I put my whole life into this work.' Turning
to Woland,  Margarita also  added:  'Don't listen to him,  Messire, he's too
worn out.'
     'But you must write about something,' said Woland. 'If you've exhausted
the procurator, well, then why not start portraying, say, this Aloisy ...'
     The master smiled.
     'Lapshennikova   wouldn't   publish   that,  and,  besides,   it's  not
     'And what are you going to live on? You'll have a beggarly existence.'
     'Willingly, willingly,' replied the master, drawing Margarita to him.
     He  put his arm around  her shoulders and  added:  'She'll see  reason,
she'll leave me ...'
     'I doubt that,' Woland said through his teeth and went on: 'And so, the
man who wrote the story  of  Pontius Pilate goes  to  the  basement with the
intention of settling by the lamp and leading a beggarly existence?'
     Margarita  separated herself from  the master and  began speaking  very
     'I  did all I could. I whispered the most tempting thing to him. And he
     'I know what you whispered to him,' Woland retorted, 'but it is not the
most tempting thing. And to  you I say,'  he turned, smiling, to the master,
'that your novel will still bring you surprises.'
     'That's very sad,' replied the master.
     'No, no, it's not sad,' said Woland, 'nothing terrible. Well, Margarita
Nikolaevna, it has all been done. Do you have any claims against me?'
     'How can you, oh, how can you, Messire! ...'
     "Then take this from me  as a memento,' said Woland, and he  drew  from
under the pillow a small golden horseshoe studded with diamonds.
     'No, no, no, why on earth!'
     'You want to argue with me?' Woland said, smiling.
     Since Margarita had no pockets in her cloak, she put the horseshoe in a
napkin and tied it into a knot. Here something amazed her. She looked at the
window through which the moon was shining and said:
     `And here's  something I  don't  understand  ...  How  is it  midnight,
midnight, when it should have been morning long ago?'
     `It's nice to prolong the festive night a little,' replied Woland.
     'Well, I wish you happiness!'
     Margarita  prayerfully  reached out both hands  to Woland,  but did not
dare approach him and softly exclaimed:
     'Farewell! Farewell!'
     'Goodbye,' said Woland.
     And,  Margarita in the  black cloak, the master  in the  hospital robe,
they walked out to the corridor of the  jeweller's wife's apartment, where a
candle was burning and Woland's retinue was waiting for them. When they left
the  corridor, Hella  was carrying the  suitcase  containing the  novel  and
Margarita Nikolaevna's few possessions, and the cat was helping Hella.
     At the door of the apartment, Koroviev  made his bows  and disappeared,
while the rest went to accompany them downstairs. The stairway was empty. As
they passed the third-floor landing,  something thudded softly, but  no  one
paid any attention to it. Just at the exit from the sixth stairway, Azazello
blew upwards,  and  as  soon as  they came out  to  the courtyard, where the
moonlight  did not  reach, they saw  a  man  in a cap and boots asleep,  and
obviously dead asleep, on the  doorstep, as well as a big  black car  by the
entrance with its lights turned  off. Through the  windshield could be dimly
seen the silhouette of a rook.
     They were just about to get in when Margarita cried softly in despair
     'Oh, God, I've lost the horseshoe!'
     'Get  into the car,' said Azazello,  'and wait  for  me.  I'll be right
back, I only have to see what's happened.' And he went back in.
     What had happened  was the following: shortly before Margarita  and the
master  left with their escort, a little dried-up woman carrying a can and a
bag came out of apartment no.48, which was located just under the jeweller's
wife's apartment. This was that same Annushka who on Wednesday, to Berlioz's
misfortune, had spilled sunflower oil by the turnstile.
     No one knew, and probably no one will ever know, what this woman did in
Moscow or how she maintained her existence. The only thing  known  about her
is that she could be seen every day either with the can, or with bag and can
together, in the kerosene shop, or in the market,  or under the gateway,  or
on the  stairs, but most often in the kitchen  of apartment no.48,  of which
this  Annushka  was  one of  the  tenants. Besides that and above all it was
known  that  wherever  she was or  wherever she appeared, a scandal would at
once break out, and, besides, that she bore the nickname of 'the Plague'.
     Annushka the Plague always got up very early for some reason, and today
something got her up in the wee hours, just past midnight. The key turned in
the door, Annushka's nose stuck out of  it, then the whole of her stuck out,
she slammed the door behind her, and was about to set off  somewhere when  a
door  banged  on the  landing  above,  someone  hurded down  the stairs and,
bumping into Annushka, flung her aside so that she  struck  the back  of her
head against the wall.
     'Where's the devil taking you in nothing but your underpants?' Annushka
shrieked, clutching her head.
     The man in nothing but his underwear, carrying a suitcase and wearing a
cap, his eyes shut, answered Annushka in a wild, sleepy voice:
     'The boiler  ... the vitriol... the cost of the whitewashing  alone...'
And, bursting into tears, he barked: 'Out!'
     Here he dashed, not  further down,  but back up to where the window had
been broken by the economist's foot, and out this  window he flew, legs  up,
into the courtyard.  Annushka even forgot about her head, gasped, and rushed
to the window  herself. She lay down on her stomach on the landing and stuck
her head into the yard,  expecting to see the man with the  suitcase smashed
to death on the asphalt, lit up by the courtyard lantern. But on the asphalt
courtyard there was precisely nothing.
     It only remained to suppose  that a sleepy and strange person had flown
out of  the  house like  a bird,  leaving  not a  trace behind him. Annushka
crossed herself  and  thought: 'Yes, indeed, a  nice little apartment,  that
number  fifty!  It's  not  for  nothing  people say  ...  Oh, a  nice little
     Before she  had  time to think it  through,  the door  upstairs slammed
again, and  a  second someone came running down. Annushka pressed herself to
the wall  and saw a  rather respectable citizen with a little beard, but, as
it seemed to Annushka, with a slightly piggish face, dart past her and, like
the first  one, leave  the  house  through  the  window, again  without ever
thinking of smashing himself on  the asphalt. Annushka had already forgotten
the purpose of  her outing  and  stayed on the  stairway,  crossing herself,
gasping, and talking to herself.
     A third  one, without a little beard, with a round,  clean-shaven face,
in a Tolstoy blouse, came running down a short while later and fluttered out
the window in just the same way.
     To  Annushka's  credit it must be said  that  she was  inquisitive  and
decided to wait and see whether any new miracles would occur. The door above
was  opened again, and now a  whole company started down, not  at a run, but
normally, as everybody  walks. Annushka darted away from the window, went to
her  own door, opened it in a  trice, hid  behind it, and her eye,  frenzied
with curiosity, glittered in the chink she left for herself.
     Someone,  possibly  sick  or possibly not, but  strange, pale,  with  a
stubbly beard,  in  a  black  cap  and some sort  of robe, walked  down with
unsteady  steps.  He was  led carefully under the arm by a lady  in a  black
cassock,  as it  seemed to  Annushka in  the darkness. The lady was possibly
barefoot,  possibly wearing some  sort  of  transparent, obviously imported,
shoes that were torn to  shreds.  Pah! Shoes my eye! ... The  lady is naked!
Yes, the cassock  has been thrown right over  her  naked  body! ... `A  nice
little apartment! ...' Everything in Annushka's soul sang in anticipation of
what she was going to tell the neighbours the next day.
     The  strangely  dressed  lady was followed  by a completely  naked  one
carrying a suitcase, and next  to the suitcase a huge black cat was knocking
about.  Annushka  almost  squeaked  something out  loud,  rubbing  her eyes.
Bringing up the rear of the procession was a short, limping foreigner, blind
in one eye,  without a jacket,  in a  white formal waistcoat and  tie.  This
whole  company marched downstairs  past Annushka. Here something  thudded on
the landing.
     As the  steps died away, Annushka slipped like  a snake from behind the
door, put the can down by the wall, dropped to the floor on her stomach, and
began  feeling around. Her hands came  upon a napkin with something heavy in
it. Annushka's eyes started out of her head when she unwrapped the package.
     Annushka  kept bringing the precious thing  right up to  her  eyes, and
these  eyes  burned  with  a perfectly  wolfish fire. A  whirlwind formed in
Annushka's head:
     'I see nothing, I know  nothing! ... To my nephew? Or cut it in pieces?
... I could  pick  the stones out,  and then  one by  one:  one to Petrovka,
another to Smolensky ... And - I see nothing, I know nothing!'
     Annushka hid  the found object in her  bosom,  grabbed the can, and was
about to slip back into  her apartment,  postponing her trip to  town,  when
that same one with  the  white  chest, without a jacket, emerged before  her
from devil knows where and quietly whispered:
     'Give me the horseshoe and napkin!'
     `What napkin  horseshoe?' Annushka  asked,  shamming very  artfully. 'I
don't know about any napkins. Are you drunk, citizen, or what?'
     With  fingers as hard  as the handrails  of a bus,  and  as  cold,  the
white-chested one, without another word,  squeezed Annushka's throat so that
he completely stopped all access of air  to her chest. The can dropped  from
Annushka's hand on to the floor. After keeping Annushka without air for some
time, the jacketless  foreigner removed his fingers from her throat. Gulping
air, Annushka smiled.
     'Ah,  the little  horseshoe?' she said. This very  second! So it's your
little horseshoe? And I see it lying there in a napkin, I pick it up so that
no one takes it, and then just try finding it!'
     Having received the little horseshoe and napkin,  the foreigner started
bowing and scraping before Annushka, shook  her hand firmly, and thanked her
warmly, with the strongest of foreign accents, in the following terms:
     'I am deeply grateful to you,  ma'am. This little horseshoe is  dear to
me as  a  memento. And, for having  preserved it, allow me  to give you  two
hundred  roubles.' And he  took the  money from his waistcoat pocket at once
and handed it to Annushka.
     She, smiling desperately, could only keep exclaiming:
     'Ah, I humbly thank you! Merci! Merci!'
     The generous foreigner  cleared a whole flight  of stairs in one  leap,
but,  before  decamping  definitively,  shouted  from below, now without any
     'You old witch, if  you ever pick up somebody  else's stuff again, take
it to the police, don't hide it in your bosom!'
     Feeling a ringing  and commotion in her head from all  these events  on
the stairs, Annushka went on shouting for some time by inertia:
     'Merci! Merci! Merci! ...'  But the foreigner was long gone. And so was
the car in  the  courtyard.  Having  returned  Woland's  gift  to Margarita,
Azazello said goodbye to her and  asked if she was comfortably seated, Hella
exchanged smacking kisses with Margarita,  the cat kissed her hand, everyone
waved to the master, who collapsed lifelessly and motionlessly in the corner
of the seat, waved to the  rook, and at once melted into air, considering it
unnecessary to take the trouble of climbing the stairs. The rook  turned the
lights  on and rolled out through  the gates, past the man lying dead asleep
under the archway. And the lights of the big black car disappeared among the
other lights on sleepless and noisy Sadovaya.
     An hour later, in  the basement of the small house in  the lane off the
Arbat, in the front room,  where  everything  was  the same as  it  had been
before that  terrible autumn night last  year, at the table  covered  with a
velvet tablecloth,  under the shaded lamp, near which stood a little vase of
lilies of the valley,  Margarita sat and wept quietly from the shock she had
experienced and from  happiness.  The notebook disfigured by fire lay before
her, and next to  it rose a  pile of intact notebooks.  The little house was
silent.  On a sofa in  the small adjoining room,  covered with  the hospital
robe, the master lay in a deep sleep. His even breathing was noiseless.
     Having wept her fill, Margarita  went to the intact notebooks and found
the place she had been rereading  before  she met Azazello under the Kremlin
wall. Margarita did not want to sleep. She caressed the manuscript tenderly,
as one caresses a favourite cat, and kept turning it in her hands, examining
it from all sides, now  pausing  at the tide page, now opening to the end. A
terrible thought suddenly swept over  her,  that this was all  sorcery, that
the  notebooks would presently disappear from sight, and she would be in her
bedroom in  the old house, and that on  waking up she would have  to go  and
drown herself. But  this  was her last terrible thought, an echo of the long
suffering  she  had  lived through.  Nothing disappeared,  the  all-powerful
Woland really  was all-powerful,  and  as long as she liked, even  till dawn
itself, Margarita could  rustle the pages of  the notebooks, gaze  at  them,
kiss them, and read over the words:
     'The darkness that came  from  the Mediterranean Sea  covered  the city
hated by the procurator ...' Yes, the darkness...

     The  darkness  that came  from  the Mediterranean Sea covered the  city
hated  by the procurator. The hanging bridges connecting the temple with the
dread  Antonia  Tower disappeared,  the  abyss descended from  the  sky  and
flooded the winged gods over  the hippodrome, the Hasmonaean Palace with its
loopholes, the  bazaars,  caravanserais, lanes,  pools ... Yershalaim  - the
great city - vanished  as if it had  never existed in  the world. Everything
was  devoured  by  the darkness, which  frightened  every  living  thing  in
Yershalaim and round about. The strange cloud was swept from seaward towards
the end of the day, the fourteenth day of the spring month of Nisan.
     It   was  already  heaving  its  belly  over   Bald  Skull,  where  the
executioners  hastily stabbed the condemned men, it heaved itself  over  the
temple of  Yershalaim,  crept in smoky  streams down  the  temple hill,  and
flooded the Lower City. It poured through windows  and drove people from the
crooked streets into the houses. It was in no hurry to yield up its moisture
and gave off  only light. Each time the black smoky brew was ripped by fire,
the  great  bulk of the temple with its glittering scaly roof flew up out of
the pitch  darkness. But  the fire  would instantly go  out, and the  temple
would  sink into the dark abyss. Time and again it  grew out of  it and fell
back,  and  each  time  its  collapse  was accompanied  by  the  thunder  of
     Other  tremulous glimmers  called out of the abyss  the palace of Herod
the  Great, standing opposite the temple on the western hill, and its dread,
eyeless golden statues flew up into the black sky, stretching their arms out
to  it.  But again the  heavenly fire would hide, and heavy claps of thunder
would drive the golden idols into the darkness.
     The  downpour  burst unexpectedly,  and then the  storm turned  into  a
hurricane. In the very  place where the  procurator and the  high priest had
had their talk  around noon,  by  the marble bench in the garden,  with  the
sound of a cannon shot, a cypress snapped like a reed. Along with the watery
spray and hail, broken-off roses, magnolia leaves, small twigs and sand were
swept on to the balcony under the columns. The hurricane racked the garden.
     At that time there was only one man under the columns, and that man was
the procurator.
     Now he was not  sitting in  the chair but lying on a couch by  a small,
low table set with food and jugs of wine. Another couch, empty, stood on the
other side of the  table.  By  the procurator's feet spread  an  unwiped red
puddle, as if  of blood, with pieces  of a  broken  jug. The servant who was
setting  the  table for the procurator before the  storm became disconcerted
for  some reason  under his  gaze, grew alarmed at  having displeased him in
some way, and the procurator, getting angry with him, smashed the jug on the
mosaic floor, saying:
     "Why  don't you look me in the face when  you serve me? Have you stolen
     The African's black face turned grey, mortal fear  showed in his  eyes,
he trembled and almost broke a second jug, but  the procurator's  wrath flew
away as quickly as it had flown in. The African  rushed to remove the pieces
and wipe up  the puddle, but the procurator waved his hand and the slave ran
away. The puddle remained.
     Now, during the hurricane, the African was hiding near a niche in which
stood the statue of a white,  naked woman  with a drooping  head, afraid  of
appearing  before  the procurator's eyes at  the wrong time, and at the same
time fearing to miss the moment when the procurator might call for him.
     Lying  on the couch in the storm's twilight, the procurator poured wine
into  the cup  himself,  drank it in long draughts, occasionally touched the
bread, crumbled it,  swallowed small pieces, sucked out  an oyster from time
to time, chewed a lemon, and drank again.
     Had it not been for the roaring of the water, had  it not been  for the
thunderclaps that seemed to threaten to lay flat the roof of the palace, had
it not been for  the rattle of  hail hammering on  the steps of the balcony,
one might have heard that the procurator was muttering something, talking to
himself. And if the unsteady glimmering of the heavenly fire had turned into
a constant  light,  an  observer  would  have  been  able  to  see  that the
procurator's face,  with  eyes inflamed by recent insomnia and wine,  showed
impatience, that the procurator was not  only looking at the two white roses
drowned  in  the red  puddle, but  constantly  turned  his  face towards the
garden, meeting the watery spray and sand, that  he was waiting for someone,
impatiently waiting.
     Time passed, and the veil of water  before the  procurator's eyes began
to thin. Furious as it was,  the hurricane was weakening. Branches no longer
cracked and fell. The thunderclaps and flashes came less frequently.  It was
no  longer  a  violet coverlet  trimmed  with  white, but an ordinary,  grey
rear-guard  cloud that  floated over Yershalaim. The storm  was  being swept
towards the Dead Sea.
     Now it was possible to hear separately the  noise of the  rain  and the
noise of water rushing along the gutters and also straight down the steps of
that stairway  upon  which  the procurator  had walked in  the  afternoon to
announce  the sentence in  the square. And  finally the hitherto drowned-out
fountain made itself heard. It was growing lighter. Blue windows appeared in
the grey veil fleeing eastward.
     Here,  from far  off, breaking  through  the patter  of the  now  quite
weakened  rainfall, there  came to the  procurator's  ears a  weak sound  of
trumpets  and  the  tapping  of several  hundred  hoofs.  Hearing this,  the
procurator stirred, and his face livened  up. The ala  was coming  back from
Bald Mountain. Judging by the sound, it was passing  through the same square
where the sentence had been announced.
     At last the procurator heard the long-awaited footsteps  and a slapping
on the stairs leading to  the upper terrace of the garden, just  in front of
the balcony. The procurator stretched his neck and  his eyes glinted with an
expression of joy.
     Between the two marble lions there appeared first a hooded head, then a
completely drenched man with his cloak clinging to his body. It was the same
man who had exchanged whispers with the procurator in a darkened room of the
palace before  the sentencing, and who during  the execution  had  sat  on a
three-legged stool playing with a twig.
     Heedless  of puddles, the  man in the hood crossed the  garden terrace,
stepped on to the mosaic floor of the balcony, and, raising his arm, said in
a high, pleasant voice:
     'Health and joy to the procurator!' The visitor spoke in Latin.
     'Gods!'  exclaimed  Pilate.  'There's not  a dry stitch on you! What  a
hurricane! Eh? I beg you to go inside immediately. Do me a favour and change
your clothes.'
     The visitor threw  back his hood, revealing a completely wet head  with
hair  plastered  to  the  forehead,  and,  showing  a  polite  smile on  his
clean-shaven  face, began refusing to change,  insisting that  a little rain
would not hurt him.
     'I won't hear of it,' Pilate replied and  clapped his hands. With  that
he called out the servants who were hiding  from him, and told  them to take
care of the visitor and then serve the hot course immediately.
     The procurator's  visitor  required very little time  to dry his  hair,
change his clothes and shoes,  and generally  put himself  in order,  and he
soon appeared on the balcony in dry  sandals, a dry crimson  military cloak,
and with slicked-down hair.
     Just then the sun returned to Yershalaim, and, before going to drown in
the  Mediterranean  Sea,  sent  farewell  rays  to  the  city hated  by  the
procurator  and  gilded the  steps  of the  balcony.  The  fountain  revived
completely  and sang away with all its  might,  doves came out on  the sand,
cooing, hopping over broken branches, pecking at something  in the wet sand.
The red puddle was wiped up, the broken pieces were removed, meat steamed on
the table.
     'I wait to hear the procurator's orders,' said the visitor, approaching
the table.
     'But you won't hear anything until you sit down and drink some wine,'
     Pilate replied courteously and pointed to the other couch.
     The  visitor reclined, a servant poured  some  thick  red wine into his
cup. Another  servant, leaning cautiously over Pilate's shoulder, filled the
procurator's cup. After that, he motioned for the two servants to withdraw.
     While  the  visitor  drank  and ate, Pilate,  sipping  his  wine,  kept
glancing with narrowed eyes at his guest. The man who had come to Pilate was
middle-aged, with a very pleasant, rounded and neat face and a fleshy mouth.
His hair  was of some indeterminate colour. Now,  as  it  dried,  it  became
lighter. It would be difficult to establish the man's nationality. The chief
determinant  of  his  face was  perhaps its good-natured  expression, which,
however, was not in accord with his eyes, or, rather,  not his eyes but  the
visitor's way of looking at  his interlocutor. Ordinarily he kept  his small
eyes under his  lowered,  somewhat strange, as if  slightly swollen eyelids.
Then the  slits of  these eyes shone with an unspiteful  slyness. It must be
supposed that  the  procurator's guest  had  a  propensity  for  humour. But
occasionally,  driving this glittering humour  from  the slits entirely, the
procurator's  present  guest would open his  eyelids  wide  and look  at his
interlocutor  suddenly  and point-blank, as if with  the purpose of  rapidly
scrutinizing some inconspicuous spot on his interlocutor's nose. This lasted
only an instant, after which the eyelids would lower again,  the slits would
narrow, and once again they would  begin to shine with  good-naturedness and
sly intelligence.
     The  visitor  did not  decline  a second cup of  wine, swallowed  a few
oysters with obvious pleasure, tried some steamed vegetables, ate a piece of
meat. Having eaten his fill, he praised the wine:
     `An excellent vintage, Procurator, but it is not Falerno?''
     'Caecuba,  [2] thirty  years old,' the  procurator replied courteously.
The guest put  his hand to his heart, declined to eat more, declared that he
was full. Then Pilate filled his own cup, and the  guest did the same.  Both
diners poured some  wine  from their  cups  on to the meat platter,  and the
procurator, raising his cup, said loudly:
     'For us,  for thee, Caesar,  father of the Romans,  best and dearest of
men! ...'
     After this they finished  the wine,  and  the Africans removed the food
from  the table, leaving  the  fruit  and  the  jugs.  Again  the procurator
motioned for  the servants to withdraw and  remained  alone with  his  guest
under the colonnade.
     'And so,' Pilate began in a low  voice, 'what can you tell me about the
mood of this city?'
     He inadvertently turned his eyes to where the colonnades and flat roofs
below, beyond  the  terraces of  the garden, were drying out, gilded  by the
last rays.
     `I  believe,  Procurator,'  the   guest  replied,  `that  the  mood  of
Yershalaim is now satisfactory.'
     'So it can be guaranteed that there is no threat of further disorders?'
     'Only  one thing can be guaranteed in this  world,'  the guest replied,
glancing tenderly at the procurator, 'the power of great Caesar.'
     'May the  gods grant  him long life!'  Pilate  picked up  at once, 'and
universal peace!' He paused and then  continued: 'So  you believe the troops
can now be withdrawn?'
     'I believe  that the cohort of the Lightning legion  can go,' the guest
replied  and added: 'It  would be good  if it  paraded  through the  city in
     'A very  good thought,' the procurator approved, 'I will dismiss it the
day  after tomorrow, and go myself, and - I swear to you by the feast of the
twelve gods, [3] by the lares [4] I swear - I'd give a lot to  be able to do
so today!'
     'The   procurator   doesn't   like   Yershalaim?'   the   guest   asked
     `Good  heavens,' the  procurator exclaimed, smiling, `there's  no  more
hopeless place on earth. I'm not even speaking of natural conditions - I get
sick every time I have to come here - but that's  only half the trouble! ...
But  these  feasts!  ...  Magicians,  sorcerers,  wizards, these  flocks  of
pilgrims!  ...  Fanatics,  fanatics!  ...  Just take this messiah  [5]  they
suddenly started expecting this year! Every moment you think you're about to
witness the most  unpleasant bloodshed... The  shifting  of  troops  all the
time,  reading denunciations and calumnies,  half of  which,  moreover,  are
written against yourself! You must agree, it's boring. Oh, if it weren't for
the imperial service!'
     'Yes, the feasts are hard here,' agreed the guest.
     'I wish with all my  heart that they should be over soon,' Pilate added
energetically.  `I  will finally  have  the  possibility  of going  back  to
Caesarea.  Believe  me,  this  delirious  construction  of  Herod's'  -  the
procurator  waved  his arm along the  colonnade, to  make  clear that he was
speaking  of  the  palace  - 'positively drives  me out of my mind! I cannot
spend  my nights in it. The world has  never known  a stranger architecture!
...  Well, but let's  get  back  to  business.  First  of  all,  this cursed
Bar-Rabban - you're not worried about him?'
     And here the guest sent his peculiar glance at the procurator's cheek.
     But the  latter,  frowning  squeamishly, gazed  into  the distance with
bored eyes, contemplating the part of the city that lay  at his feet and was
fading  into  the  twilight. The guest's eyes also  faded,  and  his eyelids
     'It may be supposed that Bar has now become as harmless as a lamb,' the
guest began  to say, and wrinkles appeared on  his round face.  `It would be
awkward for him to rebel now.'
     'Too famous?' Pilate asked with a smirk.
     "The procurator has subtly understood the problem, as always.'
     'But in any case,'  the procurator observed with concern, and the thin,
long finger with the black stone of its ring was raised, 'there must be...'
     'Oh, the procurator can be  certain that as long  as I am in Judea, Bar
will not take a step without having someone on his heels.'
     'Now I am at peace - as I always am, incidentally, when you are here.'
     The procurator is too kind!'
     `And  now  I  ask  you  to  tell  me  about  the execution,'  said  the
     'What precisely interests the procurator?'
     Were   there  any  attempts  on  the  part  of  the  crowd  to  display
rebelliousness? That is the main thing, of course.'
     'None,' replied the guest.
     'Very good. Did you personally establish that death took place?'
     "The procurator may be certain of it.'
     `And  tell me ... were  they  given the  drink before being hung on the
     'Yes. But he,' here the guest closed his eyes, 'refused to drink it.'
     'Who, precisely?' asked Pilate.
     `Forgive  me,  Hegemon!'  the guest  exclaimed.  `Did  I not name  him?
     'Madman!' said Pilate, grimacing for some reason. A  little nerve began
to twitch under  his left eye. To die of sunburn! Why refuse what is offered
by law! In what terms did he refuse it?'
     'He said,' the guest answered,  again  closing his eyes, 'that  he  was
grateful and laid no blame for the taking of his life.'
     'On whom?' Pilate asked in a hollow voice.
     That he did not say, Hegemon...'
     'Did he try to preach anything in the soldiers' presence?'
     'No,  Hegemon, he was not  loquacious this time. The only thing he said
was that among human vices he considered cowardice one of the first.'[7]
     This was said with regard  to what?' the guest heard a suddenly cracked
     That  was  impossible  to  understand.  He  generally  behaved  himself
strangely - as always, however.'
     'What was this strangeness?'
     'He kept trying to peer into the eyes of one or another of those around
him, and kept smiling some sort of lost smile.'
     'Nothing else?' asked the hoarse voice.
     'Nothing else.'
     The procurator knocked against the cup as he poured himself some wine.
     After draining it to the very bottom, he spoke:
     The matter consists in  the following: though we have been  unable - so
far at least - to discover any admirers or followers of his, it  is none the
less impossible to guarantee that there are none.'
     The guest listened attentively, inclining his head.
     'And  so, to avoid surprises of any sort,' the procurator continued, 'I
ask you to  remove the bodies of all three executed men from the face of the
earth, immediately  and without any  noise, and  to bury them in secrecy and
silence, so that not another word or whisper is heard of them.'
     'Understood, Hegemon,' replied the guest, and he got up, saying:
     'In view  of the complexity and responsibility  of the matter, allow me
to go immediately.'
     'No,  sit down again,' said Pilate, stopping  his guest with a gesture,
`there are  two  more  questions.  First, your enormous merits in  this most
difficult  job  at the post of head of the secret service for the procurator
of Judea give me the pleasant opportunity of reporting them to Rome.'
     Here the guest's face turned pink, he rose and bowed to the procurator,
     'I merely fulfil my duty in the imperial service.'
     `But  I wanted to  ask  you,' the  hegemon  continued, `in  case you're
offered a transfer elsewhere with a raise - to decline it and remain here. I
wouldn't  want to part  with you for anything. Let  them  reward you in some
other way.'
     'I am happy to serve under your command, Hegemon.'
     'That  pleases me very much. And  so,  the second question. It concerns
this ... what's his name ... Judas of Kiriath.'
     Here  the guest sent the procurator his glance, and at once, as was his
custom, extinguished it.
     They say,'  the  procurator continued,  lowering  his  voice, `that  he
supposedly got some money for receiving this madman so cordially?'
     'Will get,' the head of the secret service quietly corrected Pilate.
     'And is it a large sum?'
     That no one can say, Hegemon.'
     'Not even you?' said the hegemon, expressing praise by his amazement.
     'Alas, not  even  I,' the  guest calmly replied. "But he  will  get the
money this evening, that I  do know. He  is to be summoned  tonight  to  the
palace of Kaifa.'
     'Ah, that greedy old man of Kiriath!' the procurator observed, smiling.
     'He is an old man, isn't he?'
     The procurator is never  mistaken,  but he  is mistaken this time,' the
guest replied courteously, 'me man from Kiriath is a young man.'
     'You don't say! Can you describe his character for me? A fanatic?'
     'Oh, no, Procurator.'
     'So. And anything else?''
     'Very handsome.'
     'What else? He has some passion, perhaps?'
     'It is difficult to have such precise  knowledge about everyone in this
huge city, Procurator ...'
     'Ah, no, no, Aphranius! Don't play down your merits.'
     'He has one  passion, Procurator.'  The  guest made a  tiny  pause.  'A
passion for money.'
     'And what is his occupation?'
     Aphranius raised his eyes, thought, and replied:
     'He works in the money-changing shop of one of his relatives.'
     'Ah, so, so, so, so.' Here the procurator fell silent, looked around to
be sure there was no one on the balcony, and then said quietly:
     The thing  is this - I have just received information that he  is going
to be killed tonight.'
     This time the guest  not  only cast his glance at  the procurator,  but
even held it briefly, and after that replied:
     'You spoke too flatteringly of me, Procurator. In my opinion,  I do not
deserve your report. This information I do not have.'
     'You deserve the highest reward,' the procurator replied. 'But there is
such information.'
     'May I be so bold as to ask who supplied it?'
     `Permit  me  not to  say  for  the  time being, the more so  as  it  is
accidental, obscure and uncertain. But it is  my duty to foresee everything.
That is  my job, and most of  all  I must  trust my presentiment, for it has
never  yet deceived me. The information  is  that  one of Ha-Nozri's  secret
friends, indignant at  this money-changer's monstrous  betrayal, is plotting
with his accomplices  to  kill him tonight, and to foist the money paid  for
the betrayal on the high priest, with a note:
     "I return the cursed money."'
     The head of the  secret service cast no  more of his unexpected glances
at the hegemon, but went on listening to him,  narrowing his eyes, as Pilate
went on:
     'Imagine, is it going to  be  pleasant  for the  high priest to receive
such a gift on the night of the feast?'
     'Not only  not pleasant,' the guest  replied, smiling, 'but  I believe,
Procurator, that it will cause a very great scandal.'
     'I am  of  the same opinion myself.  And therefore  I ask you to occupy
yourself with this  matter - that is, to take  all measures to protect Judas
of Kiriath.'
     'The hegemon's order will be carried out,' said Aphranius, 'but I  must
reassure the hegemon: the evil-doers'  plot  is very hard to bring off. Only
think,'  the guest looked over his  shoulder  as  he spoke and  went on, 'to
track  the man  down, to kill him, and besides that  to find out how much he
got,  and manage to return  the  money to Kaifa, and all that in one  night?
     `And none  the  less he  will  be  killed tonight,'  Pilate  stubbornly
repeated.  `I  have  a  presentiment, I tell you! Never once has it deceived
me.' Here a spasm passed over the procurator's face, and he rubbed his hands
     'Understood,' the guest obediently replied, stood up, straightened out,
and suddenly asked sternly: 'So they will kill him, Hegemon?'
     'Yes,' answered  Pilate, 'and all hope lies  in  your efficiency alone,
which amazes everyone.'
     The guest adjusted the heavy belt under his cloak and said:
     'I salute you and wish you health and joy!'
     'Ah, yes,' Pilate  exclaimed softly,  'I completely forgot!  I owe  you
something! ...'
     The guest was amazed.
     'Really, Procurator, you owe me nothing.'
     'But of course! As I was riding into Yershalaim, remember, the crowd of
beggars ... I wanted to throw them some money, but I didn't have any, and so
I took it from you.'
     'Oh, Procurator, it was a trifle!'
     'One ought to remember trifles, too.' Here Pilate turned, picked up the
cloak that lay  on the chair  behind him, took a leather bag from under  it,
and handed  it  to the  guest. The  man bowed, accepting it, and put the bag
under his cloak.
     'I expect a report on the burial,' said Pilate, 'and also on the matter
to do with Judas  of Kiriath, this same night,  do you hear, Aphranius, this
night. The convoy will have orders to awaken me the moment you  appear. I'll
be expecting you.'
     'I salute you,' the head of the secret service said and,  turning, left
the balcony.  One could hear the wet sand crunch  under his  feet,  then the
stamp of  his boots on the  marble between the lions, then his legs were cut
off, then his body, and finally the hood also disappeared. Only here did the
procurator notice that the sun was gone and twilight had come.

     And perhaps  it was the twilight that caused such a sharp change in the
procurator's appearance. He aged, grew hunched as if before one's eyes, and,
besides that,  became alarmed.  Once he  looked around  and gave a start for
some reason, casting  an eye  on  the empty chair with the cloak thrown over
its back. The night of the feast was approaching, the evening shadows played
their  game, and the  tired procurator  probably  imagined that  someone was
sitting in the empty  chair.  Yielding to his faint-heartedness and ruffling
the cloak, the procurator let it drop and  began rushing  about the balcony,
now  rubbing  his hands, now rushing to  the table and  seizing the cup, now
stopping  and staring senselessly at the mosaics of the floor, as  if trying
to read something written there ...  It was the second time  in the same day
that anguish came over him.
     Rubbing his temple, where only a  dull, slightly aching reminder of the
morning's infernal pain lingered, the procurator strained to understand what
the  reason for his soul's torments  was. And he quickly understood it,  but
attempted to deceive himself. It was clear to him that that afternoon he had
lost something irretrievably, and that he now wanted to make up for the loss
by  some petty, worthless and, above all, belated  actions. The deceiving of
himself consisted in the procurator's  trying to convince himself that these
actions,  now,  this  evening,  were no less  important  than  the morning's
sentence. But in this the procurator succeeded very poorly.
     At  one of his turns, he stopped abruptly and whistled. In response  to
this  whistle, a  low barking  resounded  in  the  twilight,  and a gigantic
sharp-eared dog with  a grey pelt and a gold-studded  collar sprang from the
garden on to the balcony.
     'Banga, Banga,' the procurator cried weakly.
     The  dog rose on his hind legs,  placed his front paws  on his master's
shoulders,  nearly  knocking him to  the floor,  and  licked his cheek.  The
procurator sat down in the armchair. Banga, his tongue hanging  out, panting
heavily, lay down at his master's feet, and the joy in the dog's  eyes meant
that the storm was over,  the only thing  in the world that the fearless dog
was  afraid of, and also that he was again  there, next to the  man whom  he
loved,  respected,  and considered the most powerful  man in the world,  the
ruler of all men, thanks to whom  the dog  considered himself a  privileged,
lofty  and special  being.  Lying down at  his  master's  feet without  even
looking  at  him, but looking into the  dusky  garden, the dog  nevertheless
realized at once that trouble had  befallen his master. He therefore changed
his position, got up, came from the side and placed his front paws  and head
on the procurator's knees, smearing  the bottom of his  cloak with wet sand.
Banga's actions were probably meant to signify that  he comforted his master
and was ready to meet misfortune with him. He also attempted to express this
with his eyes, casting  sidelong glances at his master, and  with his alert,
pricked-up ears. Thus the two of them, the dog and man who loved each other,
met the night of the feast on the balcony.
     Just then the procurator's guest was in the midst of a great bustle.
     After leaving the  upper  terrace of  the garden before the balcony, he
went  down the stairs to  the next terrace of  the garden, turned right  and
came to the  barracks which  stood on the palace  grounds. In these barracks
the two  centuries that  had  come with the  procurator  for  the  feast  in
Yershalaim  were quartered, as was  the procurator's secret guard, which was
under the command of  this very guest.  The guest did not spend much time in
the barracks, no more than ten minutes, but at the end of these ten minutes,
three carts drove out of the barracks yard loaded with entrenching tools and
a barrel  of water. The  carts were escorted by fifteen mounted  men in grey
cloaks. Under  their escort the carts left  the palace  grounds by  the rear
gate, turned west, drove through gates in the city wall, and followed a path
first to  the Bethlehem road, then down this road to the north, came to  the
intersection  by the Hebron gate, and then moved down the Jaffa road,  along
which  the  procession had  gone  during the  day with the  men condemned to
death. By  that  time  it  was already dark,  and the moon  appeared  on the
     Soon after  the departure of the carts with their escorting detachment,
the procurator's guest  also left  the palace  grounds on  horseback, having
changed into a  dark,  worn  chiton. The guest went not  out of the city but
into it. Some  time later he could be seen approaching the Antonia Fortress,
located to the north and in the vicinity of the great temple.
     The guest did  not spend much time in the fortress either, and then his
tracks turned up in the Lower City, in its crooked and tangled streets. Here
the guest now came riding a mule.
     Knowing the city well, the guest easily found the street he wanted.  It
was called Greek Street, because there were several Greek shops on it, among
them  one that sold carpets. Precisely  by this shop, the guest stopped  his
mule, dismounted, and tied it to the ring by the gate. The  shop  was closed
by then. The guest walked through the little gate beside the entrance to the
shop and found himself in a small square courtyard surrounded on three sides
by  sheds.  Turning a corner inside  the yard,  the guest came to  the stone
terrace  of a house all  twined with  ivy and looked around. Both the little
house  and the sheds  were dark, no  lamps  were lit  yet.  The guest called
     At this call a door creaked, and in the evening twilight a  young woman
without a veil appeared on the terrace. She leaned over the railing, peering
anxiously, wishing to know who had come. Recognizing the visitor, she smiled
amiably to him, nodded her head, waved her hand.
     'Are you alone?' Aphranius asked softly in Greek.
     'Yes,'  the  woman  on  the  terrace  whispered,  `my husband  left for
Caesarea in the morning.' Here the woman  looked  back at the door and added
in a whisper: 'But the serving-woman  is  at home.' Here she made a  gesture
meaning 'Come in'.
     Aphranius looked around  and went up the stone  steps. After which both
he and the woman disappeared into the house. With this woman Aphranius spent
very little time, certainly no more than  five  minutes. After which he left
the house and  the terrace, pulled the hood down lower on his eyes, and went
out to the street. Just then the lamps were  being  lit  in the houses,  the
pre-festive tumult  was still considerable,  and Aphranius on his mule  lost
himself in the stream of riders and passers-by. His  subsequent route is not
known to anyone.
     The  woman  Aphranius  called  'Niza', left  alone, began  changing her
clothes,  and was hurrying greatly. But  difficult though it  was for her to
find the  things  she  needed in the dark room, she did not light  a lamp or
call the serving-woman. Only after she was ready and her head was covered by
a  dark veil  did the sound  of her voice  break  the  silence in the little
     'If anyone asks for me, say I went to visit Enanta.'
     The old serving-woman's grumbling was heard in the darkness:
     'Enanta? Ah, this Enanta! Didn't your husband forbid you to visit her?
     She's a procuress, your Enanta! Wait till I tell your husband ...'
     'Well, well, be quiet,' Niza replied and, like a shadow, slipped out of
the house. Niza's sandals pattered over  the stone flags  of the  yard.  The
serving-woman, grumbling, shut the door to the terrace. Niza left her house.
     Just at that time, from another lane in the Lower City, a twisting lane
that ran down from  ledge to ledge to  one of the city pools, from the gates
of an  unsightly house with a blank wall looking  on to the lane and windows
on  the courtyard, came a young man with  a neatly  trimmed beard, wearing a
white kefia falling to  his shoulders, a  new pale blue festive tallith with
tassels   at  the  bottom,  and   creaking   new  sandals.   The   handsome,
aquiline-nosed  young fellow, all  dressed  up for  the great feast,  walked
briskly, getting ahead of passers-by  hurrying home for the solemn meal, and
watched as one window  after another lit up.  The young man took  the street
leading past the bazaar  to the palace  of the high priest Kaifa, located at
the foot of the temple hill.
     Some  time  later  he  could  be  seen  entering the gates  of  Kaifa's
courtyard. And a bit later still, leaving the same courtyard.
     After visiting the palace, where the lamps and torches  already blazed,
and  where  the festive  bustle had  already  begun,  the young man  started
walking still more briskly, still more joyfully, hastening back to the Lower
City. At the corner where  the street  flowed  into the market-place, amidst
the seething and tumult, he was overtaken by a slight woman,  walking with a
dancer's gait, in a black veil that came down over her eyes. As she overtook
the  handsome young  man, this  woman raised her veil  for a moment, cast  a
glance in the young man's direction, yet not only did not slow her pace, but
quickened it, as if trying to escape from the one she had overtaken.
     The young man not only noticed this woman, no, he also recognized  her,
and, having  recognized her, gave a start, halted, looking perplexedly  into
her back, and at once set out after her. Almost knocking over some passer-by
carrying a  jug, the  young  man  caught up  with the woman, and,  breathing
heavily with agitation, called out to her:
     The woman turned,  narrowed her eyes,  her face  showing cold vexation,
and replied drily in Greek:
     'Ah, it's you, Judas? I  didn't recognize  you  at  once.  That's good,
though. With us,  if someone's not recognized,  it's  a sign he'll get  rich
     So agitated that his heart started leaping  like a  bird under a  black
cloth,  Judas  asked  in  a  faltering  whisper, for fear  passers-by  might
     'Where are you going, Niza?'
     'And what do you want to know that for?' replied Niza, slowing her pace
and looking haughtily at Judas.
     Then some sort of childish intonations began to sound in Judas's voice,
he whispered in bewilderment:
     'But why? ... We had it all arranged ... I  wanted to come to  you, you
said you'd be home all evening ...'
     'Ah, no, no,' answered Niza, and she pouted her lower lip capriciously,
which made it seem to Judas that her  face,  the  most beautiful face he had
ever seen  in his  life,  became  still more beautiful. `I was bored. You're
having a feast, and what am I supposed to  do? Sit and listen to you sighing
on  the  terrace? And  be afraid, on  top of it, that the serving-woman will
tell  him about it? No, no,  I decided to go out  of  town and listen to the
     'How, out of town?' the bewildered Judas asked. 'Alone?'
     'Of course, alone,' answered Niza.
     'Let  me accompany you, Judas asked  breathlessly. His mind clouded, he
forgot  everything in the world and looked with imploring eyes into the blue
eyes of Niza, which now seemed black.
     Niza said nothing and quickened her pace.
     'Why are you silent, Niza?' Judas said pitifully, adjusting his pace to
     Won't I  be  bored with you?'  Niza  suddenly asked  and stopped.  Here
Judas's thoughts became totally confused.
     Well, all right,' Niza finally softened, 'come along.'
     'But where, where?'
     "Wait ... let's go into this yard and arrange it, otherwise  I'm afraid
some acquaintance will see  me  and then  they'll tell my husband I  was out
with my lover.'
     And here  Niza  and Judas  were  no  longer  in the  bazaar, they  were
whispering under the gateway of some yard.
     'Go  to  the olive estate,'  Niza whispered,  pulling the veil over her
eyes and turning away  from a man who was  coming through the gateway with a
bucket, 'to Gethsemane, beyond the Kedron, understand?'
     'Yes, yes, yes...'
     `I'll  go ahead,' Niza continued, `but don't  follow on my  heels. Keep
separate from me. I'll go ahead  ... When you cross  the stream ... you know
where the grotto is?'
     'I know, I know...'
     'Go up past the olive press and turn to the grotto. I'll be there. Only
don't you dare come after me at once, be patient, wait here,' and with these
words Niza walked out the gateway as though she had never spoken with Judas.
     Judas  stood  for  some time  alone,  trying to  collect his scattering
thoughts. Among  them  was the  thought  of how he was  going to explain his
absence from the festal family  meal. Judas stood thinking up some lie,  but
in his agitation  was unable to think through or prepare anything  properly,
and slowly walked out the gateway.
     Now he changed his route,  he was no longer heading  towards  the Lower
City, but turned back  to Kaifa's  palace. The feast had already entered the
city. In the windows  around Judas, not only were lights shining, but  hymns
of  praise  were heard.  On  the  pavement,  belated passers-by urged  their
donkeys on,  whipping them up, shouting at them. Judas's legs carried him by
themselves, and he  did not notice how  the  terrible, mossy  Antonia Towers
flew past him, he did not hear the roar of trumpets in the fortress, did not
pay attention  to  the mounted Roman patrol  and  its torch that flooded his
path with an alarming light.
     Turning  after  he  passed the  tower, Judas  saw that in  the terrible
height above  the temple two gigantic five-branched candlesticks blazed. But
even  these  Judas made out  vaguely. It seemed to him that ten lamps of  an
unprecedented size lit up  over Yershalaim, competing with the light  of the
single lamp that was rising ever higher over Yershalaim - the moon.
     Now  Judas could  not be  bothered with  anything, he  headed  for  the
Gethsemane gate, he wanted to  leave the city quickly. At times it seemed to
him that before him, among  the backs and faces  of passers-by,  the dancing
little  figure  flashed, leading him after  her. But this was  an  illusion.
Judas  realized that Niza was significantly  ahead of him. Judas rushed past
the  money-changing shops and  finally got to  the  Gethsemane gate.  There,
burning  with impatience, he was  still  forced to wait. Camels were  coming
into  the  city, and after them rode a  Syrian  military patrol, which Judas
cursed mentally ...
     But  all  things come to an end. The impatient Judas was already beyond
the city  wall. To the left  of him Judas saw a small  cemetery, next to  it
several striped  pilgrims'  tents.  Crossing  the dusty  road  flooded  with
moonlight, Judas headed for  the stream of the Kedron with the intention  of
wading across it. The water babbled quietly under Judas's feet. Jumping from
stone to stone, he finally came out on the Gethsemane bank  opposite and saw
with  great  joy  that  here  the  road below  the  gardens  was empty.  The
half-ruined gates of the olive estate could already be seen not far away.
     After the stuffy city, Judas was struck by  the stupefying smell of the
spring  night.  From  the  garden  a  wave  of  myrtle and  acacia  from the
Gethsemane glades poured over the fence.
     No  one was guarding the gateway,  there was no  one  in it, and  a few
minutes later  Judas was already running under the mysterious  shade of  the
enormous, spreading  olive  trees.  The road  went uphill.  Judas  ascended,
breathing heavily, at  times emerging from  the  darkness  on  to  patterned
carpets of moonlight, which reminded him  of the carpets he had  seen in the
shop of Niza's jealous husband.
     A short time later  there flashed  at Judas's left hand, in a clearing,
an olive press with a heavy stone wheel and a pile of barrels.  There was no
one in  the garden, work had ended  at  sunset, and now over Judas choirs of
nightingales pealed and trilled.
     Judas's goal was near. He  knew that  on his right in the  darkness  he
would  presently begin  to hear  the  soft whisper of  water  falling in the
grotto. And  so it  happened, he heard it. It  was  getting  cooler. Then he
slowed his pace and called softly:
     But  instead  of Niza, a stocky  male  figure, detaching  itself from a
thick olive trunk, leaped out on the road, and something gleamed in its hand
and at once  went out. With a weak cry, Judas rushed back,  but a second man
barred his way.
     The first man, in front of him, asked Judas:
     'How much did you just get? Speak, if you want to save your life!' Hope
flared up in Judas's heart, and he cried out desperately:
     Thirty tetradrachmas!' Thirty tetradrachmas! I have it all with me!
     Here's the money! Take it, but grant me my life!'
     The man in front instantly  snatched the  purse from Judas's hands. And
at the same instant a knife flew up behind Judas's back and struck the lover
under the shoulder-blade. Judas was flung forward and  thrust  out his hands
with clawed  fingers into the  air. The front man caught Judas on his  knife
and buried it up to the hilt in Judas's heart.
     'Ni ... za ...'Judas  said,  not in his own high and clear young voice,
but in  a low and reproachful  one, and uttered not another  sound. His body
struck the earth so hard that it hummed.
     Then a third figure appeared  on the  road. This third one wore a cloak
with a hood.
     `Don't linger,'  he ordered. The  killers  quickly  wrapped  the  purse
together with a note handed to them by the third man  in a piece of hide and
criss-crossed it  with twine.  The second put the bundle into his bosom, and
then the two killers plunged off the roadsides and the darkness between  the
olive trees ate them. The third squatted down by the murdered man and looked
at his face. In the darkness it appeared white  as chalk  to the gazing  man
and somehow spiritually beautiful.
     A  few seconds  later  there  was not  a living  man on  the  road. The
lifeless  body  lay with  outstretched arms. The left foot was in a spot  of
moonlight,  so that  each strap of  the sandal could be seen distinctly. The
whole  garden  of  Gethsemane  was  just  then  pealing  with  the  song  of
     Where the two who  had stabbed Judas went, no one  knows, but the route
of the third man in the hood is  known. Leaving the road, he headed into the
thick of the olive trees, making his  way south.  He climbed over the garden
fence far from the main gate, in the southern corner, where the upper stones
of the masonry  had fallen out. Soon he was on the bank of  the Kedron. Then
he entered the  water  and for  some time  made his  way in it, until he saw
ahead  the silhouettes of two  horses and a man beside them. The horses were
also standing  in the  stream. The water  flowed,  washing their hoofs.  The
horse-handler mounted  one of the  horses, the man in the hood  jumped on to
the  other, and the two slowly walked in  the stream, and one could hear the
pebbles crunching under the horses' hoofs. Then  the riders left  the water,
came out on the Yershalaim  bank, and rode slowly under the city wall.  Here
the  horse-handler separated himself,  galloped ahead,  and disappeared from
view,  while  the  man  in the hood stopped  his  horse,  dismounted  on the
deserted road, removed his  cloak, turned it inside out, took from under the
cloak  a flat helmet without plumes and  put it on. Now it  was a man  in  a
military chlamys with a short sword at his hip who jumped on to the horse.
     He touched the reins and  the fiery cavalry  horse set  off at  a trot,
jolting its  rider.  It was not a long way - the  rider was approaching  the
southern gate of Yershalaim.
     Under the arch of the  gateway the restless flame of torches danced and
leaped. The  soldiers on guard from the  second  century  of  the  Lightning
legion sat on stone benches playing dice. Seeing a military man ride in, the
soldiers jumped up,  the man waved  his  hand  to them and rode on  into the
     The city was flooded with festive lights. The flames of lamps played in
all  the windows,  and  from everywhere, merging  into one dissonant chorus,
came hymns of  praise. Occasionally glancing into windows  that looked on to
the street, the rider could see people at tables set with roast kid and cups
of  wine amidst dishes of bitter herbs. Whistling some quiet song, the rider
made his way  at an unhurried trot through the deserted streets of the Lower
City,   heading  for  the  Antonia  Tower,  glancing  occasionally   at  the
five-branched candlesticks, such as the world  had never seen, blazing above
the  temple, or at the moon  that  hung still  higher than the five-branched
     The palace of Herod the Great  took no part  in  the solemnities of the
Passover  night. In  the  auxiliary quarters of  the palace, facing  to  the
south, where the officers of the Roman cohort and the  legate of the  legion
were stationed, lights burned and  there was a feeling of some  movement and
life. But the  front  part,  the formal  part,  which  housed the  sole  and
involuntary  occupant of the  palace - the procurator -  all of it, with its
columns and golden statues, was as if blind under the brightest  moon. Here,
inside the palace, darkness and silence reigned.
     And  the procurator,  as he had told Aphranius, would not go inside. He
ordered  his bed made up on the balcony, there where he  had dined and where
he had conducted the interrogation in the morning. The procurator lay on the
made-up couch, but sleep would not come to him.  The bare  moon hung high in
the clear sky, and the procurator did  not  take his eyes off it for several
     Approximately at midnight, sleep finally took pity on the hegemon. With
a spasmodic yawn, the procurator unfastened and threw off his cloak, removed
the belt girded over his shirt, with a broad steel knife in a sheath, placed
it on the chair by his couch, took off his sandals, and stretched out. Banga
got  on  the bed at  once  and  lay down next to him, head to head, and  the
procurator, placing  his  hand on the  dog's neck, finally closed his  eyes.
Only then did the dog also fall asleep.
     The couch was in semi-darkness, shielded from the moon by a column, but
a ribbon  of moonlight  stretched from the porch steps to the  bed. And once
the procurator lost connection  with  what surrounded  him  in  reality,  he
immediately set  out on the shining road and went up it straight towards the
moon. He even  burst out laughing in his sleep  from happiness, so wonderful
and inimitable did everything come to be on the transparent, pale blue road.
     He walked in the company of Banga, and beside him walked the  wandering
philosopher. They were arguing about something very complex  and  important,
and  neither of them  could refute the  other. They did not agree  with each
other in anything, and that made their  argument especially  interesting and
endless. It went without saying that today's execution proved to  be a sheer
misunderstanding:  here  this  philosopher,  who  had  thought  up  such  an
incredibly absurd thing  as  that all men are good, was  walking beside him,
therefore he  was alive. And, of course, it would be terrible even to  think
that  one  could execute  such  a man.  There  had  been  no  execution!  No
execution! That  was the loveliness of this journey  up the stairway of  the
     There was  as much free time  as they needed, and the storm would  come
only towards evening, and cowardice was undoubtedly one of the most terrible
vices. Thus spoke Yeshua Ha-Nozri. No,  philosopher, I disagree with you: it
is the most terrible vice!
     He, for example,  the present procurator of Judea and former tribune of
a legion, had been no coward that  time,  in the Valley of the Virgins, when
the  fierce German had almost torn Rat-slayer the Giant to pieces. But, good
heavens, philosopher! How can you, with your intelligence, allow yourself to
think that, for  the sake of a man who has committed a crime against Caesar,
the procurator of Judea would ruin his career?
     'Yes, yes...' Pilate moaned  and sobbed  in  his  sleep.  Of  course he
would. In the morning he  still would not, but now, at night, after weighing
everything, he would agree to  ruin it. He  would  do everything to save the
decidedly innocent, mad dreamer and healer from execution!
     `Now  we  shall  always be  together,'[2]  said  the  ragged  wandering
philosopher in his dream, who for some unknown reason had crossed paths with
the equestrian of  the golden spear. `Where there's one of us, straight away
there will be  the  other! Whenever  I am  remembered, you will  at once  be
remembered, too! I, the foundling, the son of unknown parents, and  you, the
son of an astrologer-king and a miller's daughter, the beautiful Pila.'[3]
     'Yes,  and  don't you  forget to remember  me, the  astrologer's  son,'
Pilate asked in his dream. And securing in his dream a nod from the En-Sarid
[4] beggar who was  walking  beside him, the cruel procurator of Judea  wept
and laughed from joy in his dream.
     This was all  very  good,  but  the more  terrible  was  the  hegemon's
awakening. Banga growled at  the moon, and  the pale-blue road, slippery  as
though smoothed with  oil,  fell  away before the  procurator. He opened his
eyes, and the first thing he remembered was that the execution had been. The
first thing the procurator did was to clutch  Banga's collar with a habitual
gesture, then with sick eyes he began searching for the moon and saw that it
had  moved slightly to  the side  and  turned silvery.  Its light was  being
interfered with by  an  unpleasant, restless light  playing  on the  balcony
right  before his eyes.  A torch  blazed  and smoked  in  the  hand  of  the
centurion Ratslayer. The holder of it glanced sidelong with fear  and  spite
at the dangerous beast preparing itself to leap.
     'Stay, Banga,' the procurator said in a sick voice and coughed.
     Shielding  himself from the flame with his hand,  he  went on: 'Even at
night, even by moonlight, I have no peace! ... Oh, gods! ... Yours is also a
bad job, Mark. You cripple soldiers...'
     Mark  gazed  at  the  procurator  in  great  amazement,  and  the   man
recollected  himself. To smooth over the unwarranted words, spoken while not
quite awake, the procurator said:
     `Don't be offended, centurion. My  position, I repeat, is  still worse.
What do you want?'
     The  head of the secret  guard  is  waiting to see  you,' Mark reported
     'Call him, call  him,' the procurator ordered, clearing his throat with
a cough,  and he began feeling for his sandals with his bare feet. The flame
played  on the columns,  the centurion's caligae tramped across the mosaics.
The centurion went out to the garden.
     'Even by moonlight I have no  peace,' the procurator said  to  himself,
grinding his teeth.
     Instead of the centurion, a man in a hood appeared on the balcony.
     'Stay, Banga,' the procurator said quietly and pressed  the back of the
dog's head.
     Before beginning to speak, Aphranius, as was his custom, looked  around
and stepped into the shadow, and having made sure that, besides Banga, there
were no extra persons on the balcony, he said quietly:
     `I  ask  to be tried, Procurator. You  turned  out to  be right.  I was
unable to  protect Judas  of Kiriath, he has been stabbed to death. I ask to
be tried and retired.'
     It seemed to Aphranius that four eyes were looking at him - a dog's and
a wolf's.
     Aphranius took from under his chlamys a  purse stiff with blood, sealed
with two seals.
     'This is the bag of money the killers  left at the high priest's house.
The blood on this bag is the blood of Judas of Kiriath.'
     'How much is there, I wonder?' asked Pilate, bending over the bag.
     'Thirty tetradrachmas.'
     The procurator grinned and said:
     'Not much.'
     Aphranius was silent.
     'Where is the murdered man?'
     That I do not know,' the visitor, who never parted with his  hood, said
with calm dignity. 'We will begin a search in the morning.'
     The procurator started, abandoning  a  sandal  strap that refused to be
     'But you do know for certain that he was killed?'
     To this the procurator received a dry response:
     'I have been working in Judea for fifteen years, Procurator. I began my
service under  Valerius Grams. [5] I do not have to see the corpse  in order
to say that a man  has been killed, and so I report  to you that the one who
was called Judas of Kiriath was stabbed to death several hours ago.'
     'Forgive me, Aphranius,' answered Pilate, 'I'm not  properly awake yet,
that's why I said it. I sleep badly,' the procurator grinned, 'I keep seeing
a moonbeam in my sleep. Quite funny,  imagine,  it's as if I'm walking along
this moonbeam ... And so, I would like to know your thoughts on this matter.
     Where  are you going to  look for him?  Sit  down,  head of the  secret
     Aphranius bowed,  moved the  chair  closer  to the bed, and  sat  down,
clanking his sword.
     'I am going to look for him not far from the oil press in the garden of
     'So, so. And why there, precisely?'
     'As I figure it, Hegemon, Judas was  not  killed in Yershalaim  itself,
nor anywhere very far from it, he was killed near Yershalaim.'
     `I  regard you as  one of the outstanding experts in  your business.  I
don't know how things are in Rome, but in the colonies you have no equal ...
But, explain to me, why are you going to look for him precisely there?'
     'I will by no means admit the notion,'  Aphranius spoke in a low voice,
`of  Judas  letting  himself be caught by any  suspicious people within city
limits. It's impossible  to put  a knife into a  man secretly in the street.
That means he was lured to a basement somewhere. But the service has already
searched  for him in the Lower City and undoubtedly would have found him. He
is  not  in  the city, I  can guarantee that. If he was killed far  from the
city, this packet of money  could  not have  been dropped off so quickly. He
was killed near the city. They managed to lure him out of the city.'
     'I cannot conceive how that could have been done!'
     'Yes, Procurator,  that is the most difficult  question  in  the  whole
affair, and I don't even know if I will succeed in resolving it.'
     'It is indeed mysterious! A believer, on the eve of the feast, goes out
of the city for some unknown reason, leaving the Passover meal, and perishes
there. Who  could  have  lured him, and how?  Could  it have  been done by a
woman?' the procurator asked on a sudden inspiration.
     Aphranius replied calmly and weightily:
     'By  no means,  Procurator. That  possibility is utterly  excluded. One
must reason logically. Who was interested in Judas's death?  Some  wandering
dreamers, some  circle in  which, first of all, there weren't  any women. To
marry, Procurator, one needs money. To bring a  person  into the  world, one
needs the  same. But to put a knife into a man with the help of a woman, one
needs very big money, and no vagabond has got it. There was no woman in this
affair, Procurator. Moreover, I will say  that such an interpretation of the
murder  can only  throw us  off  the track,  hinder  the  investigation, and
confuse me.'
     'I  see  that you  are perfectly right, Aphranius,' said Pilate, 'and I
merely allowed myself to express a supposition.'
     'Alas, it is erroneous, Procurator.'
     `But what  is  it, then, what is it?' exclaimed the procurator, peering
into Aphranius's face with greedy curiosity.
     'I suppose it's money again.'
     'An excellent thought! But who could have offered him  money  at night,
outside the city, and for what?'
     'Oh, no, Procurator, it's not that. I have only one supposition, and if
it is wrong, I may not find any other explanations.' Aphranius leaned closer
to the procurator and finished in a whisper: 'Judas wanted to hide his money
in a secluded place known only to himself.'
     'A very subtle explanation. That, apparently, is how things were. Now I
understand you: he was lured out not by others, but by his own purpose. Yes,
yes, that's so.'
     'So. Judas was mistrustful, he was hiding the money from others.' 'Yes,
in Gethsemane, you said...  And why you intend  to look  for  him  precisely
there - that, I confess, I do not understand.'
     'Oh, Procurator, that is the simplest  thing of all. No one  would hide
money on the roads, in open and empty places. Judas was neither on the  road
to Hebron, nor on the road to Bethany. He had to be in a protected, secluded
place with trees. It's as simple as that. And  except  for Gethsemane, there
are no such places near Yershalaim. He couldn't have gone far.'
     'You have utterly convinced me. And so, what are we to do now?'
     'I will immediately start a search for the  murderers who tracked Judas
out of the city, and I myself, meanwhile, as I have already reported to you,
will stand trial.'
     "What for?'
     'My guards lost  him in the bazaar  last evening, after he left Kaifa's
palace. How it happened, I  cannot comprehend. It has  never happened before
in my life. He was put  under surveillance just after  our conversation. But
in the  neighbourhood of the bazaar he doubled back somewhere, and made such
a strange loop that he escaped without a trace.'
     'So. I declare  to you that I do not consider it necessary  to try you.
You did all you could, and no one in the world' - here the procurator smiled
- `could do more than you! Penalize the  sleuths  who lost  Judas. But here,
too, I warn you, I would not want it to be anything of a severe sort. In the
last analysis, we did everything to take care of the blackguard!'
     'Ah, yes! I forgot to ask,' the procurator rubbed his forehead, how did
they manage to foist the money on Kaifa?'
     `You see,  Procurator  ... that  is  not  especially  complicated.  The
avengers came from behind Kaifa's  palace, where the lane is higher than the
yard. They threw the packet over the fence.'
     "With a note?'
     'Yes, exactly as you suspected, Procurator.'
     'Yes,  although...' Here  Aphranius  tore the seal off the  packet  and
showed its contents to Pilate.
     `Good  heavens,  what  are you  doing, Aphranius, those must be  temple
     "The procurator needn't trouble himself with that question,'  Aphranius
replied, closing the packet.
     'Can it be that you have all the seals?' Pilate asked, laughing.
     'It couldn't be otherwise, Procurator,' Aphranius replied very sternly,
not laughing at all.
     'I can imagine the effect at Kaifa's!'
     'Yes,  Procurator,  it  caused  great   agitation.  They  summoned   me
     Even in the semi-darkness one could see how Pilate's eyes flashed.
     'That's interesting, interesting...'
     'I venture to  disagree,  Procurator, it  was  not interesting. A  most
boring and  tiresome business.  To my  question whether anyone had been paid
money in  Kaifa's  palace, I  was  told categorically  that  there had  been
nothing of the sort.'
     'Ah,  yes?  Well, so, if no one  was paid, no one was paid. It will  be
that much harder to find the killers.'
     'Absolutely right, Procurator.'
     `It  suddenly occurs  to  me,  Aphranius:  might  he  not  have  killed
     'Oh, no, Procurator,' Aphranius replied, even leaning back in his chair
from astonishment, 'excuse me, but that is entirely unlikely!'
     'Ah, everything is likely in this city. I'm ready to bet that in a very
short time rumours of it will spread all over the city.'
     Here  Aphranius again darted his look at the procurator, thought  for a
moment, and replied:
     'That may be, Procurator.'
     The procurator was obviously still unable to part with this question of
the  killing of the man from  Kiriath, though everything was  already clear,
and he said even with a sort of reverie:
     `But I'd like  to have seen how  they killed him.'  'He was killed with
great  art, Procurator,' Aphranius replied, glancing somewhat ironically  at
the procurator.
     'How do you know that?'
     'Kindly pay  attention to  the bag, Procurator,' Aphranius replied.  'I
guarantee you that Judas's blood  gushed out in a stream. I've seen murdered
people in my time, Procurator.'
     'So, of course, he won't rise?'
     'No,   Procurator,   he   will   rise,'  replied   Aphranius,   smiling
philosophically,  'when  the trumpet  of the messiah they're expecting  here
sounds - over him. But before then he won't rise.'
     'Enough, Aphranius, the question is clear. Let's go on to the burial.'
     The executed men have been buried, Procurator.'
     'Oh, Aphranius, it would be a crime to try you. You're deserving of the
highest reward. How was it?'
     Aphranius  began  to tell about it:  while he himself was occupied with
Judas's affair, a detachment of the secret guard, under the direction of his
assistant, arrived at  the  hill as  evening came. One of the bodies was not
found on the hilltop. Pilate gave a start and said hoarsely:
     'Ah, how did I not foresee it! ...'
     'No need to worry, Procurator,' said Aphranius, and he went on with his
narrative: `The  bodies  of  Dysmas and Gestas, their  eyes  pecked  out  by
carrion birds, were taken up, and they immediately  rushed in search of  the
third body. It was discovered in a very short time. A certain man ...'
     'Matthew   Levi,'   said   Pilate,  not   questioningly,   but   rather
     'Yes, Procurator... Matthew Levi was hiding in  a cave  on the northern
slope of Bald Skull, waiting for darkness. The naked body of Yeshua Ha-Nozri
was with him. When the guards entered the cave with a torch, Levi  fell into
despair and wrath. He  shouted  about having  committed  no crime, and about
every man's right  by law  to bury an executed  criminal if  he so  desires.
Matthew  Levi said he did  not  want to  pan with the body. He was agitated,
cried out something incoherent, now begging, now threatening and cursing...'
     'Did they have to arrest him?' Pilate asked glumly.
     'No, Procurator, no,' Aphranius replied very soothingly,  'they managed
to quiet  the  impudent madman,  explaining to  him that  the body  would be
buried. Levi,  having grasped what was being said to  him, calmed down,  but
announced that he would not leave and wished to take part in  the burial. He
said he would not leave even if they started  to kill him, and even  offered
for that purpose a bread knife he had with him.'
     'Was he chased away?' Pilate asked in a stifled voice.
     'No,  Procurator,  no.  My  assistant allowed him  to take part in  the
     'Which of your assistants was in charge of it?' asked Pilate.
     'Tolmai,' Aphranius answered and  added  in alarm: `Perhaps he  made  a
     'Go  on,' answered Pilate,  `there  was no  mistake.  Generally,  I  am
beginning to  feel a bit at a loss, Aphranius, I am apparendy dealing with a
man who never makes mistakes. That man is you.'
     `Matthew Levi was  taken in  the cart  with the bodies  of the executed
men,  and  in about  two  hours they  reached  a solitary  ravine  north  of
Yershalaim. There the detachment, working  in shifts, dug a deep hole within
an hour and buried all three executed men in it.'
     'No,  Procurator,  the detachment brought  chitons with  them for  that
purpose.  They  put  rings on the  buried men's  fingers. Yeshua's  with one
notch, Dysmas's with two, and Gestas's with three. The hole has been covered
over and heaped with stones. The landmark is known to Tolmai.'
     'Ah, if only I had foreseen it!' Pilate spoke, wincing. I needed to see
this Matthew Levi...'
     'He is here, Procurator.'
     Pilate, his eyes wide open, stared at Aphranius for some time, and then
     'I thank you for everything  that  has been done in  this affair. I ask
you  to send Tolmai to me tomorrow, and  to  tell  him beforehand that I  am
pleased with him. And you, Aphranius,' here the procurator took  a seal ring
from  the pouch of the belt lying on the table and gave it to me head of the
secret service, 'I beg you to accept this as a memento.'
     Aphranius bowed and said:
     'A great honour, Procurator.'
     `I  request that  the  detachment that  performed  the  burial be given
rewards. The  sleuths  who let Judas slip - a reprimand.  Have  Matthew Levi
sent to me right now. I must have the details on Yeshua's case.'
     'Understood, Procurator,' Aphranius  replied and  began  retreating and
bowing, while the procurator clapped his hands and shouted:
     To me, here! A lamp to the colonnade!'
     Aphranius was going out to the garden when lights began to flash in the
hands of servants behind  Pilate's back. Three lamps  appeared on the  table
before  the  procurator,  and the  moonlit  night  at once retreated to  the
garden, as if Aphranius had led it away with  him. In place of Aphranius, an
unknown man, small and skinny, stepped on to the balcony beside the gigantic
centurion. The latter, catching the procurator's eye, withdrew to the garden
at once and there disappeared.
     The procurator studied the newcomer with greedy and slightly frightened
eyes. So one looks at a man of whom one has heard a great deal,  of whom one
has been thinking, and who finally appears.
     The newcomer, a man  of about  forty, was black-haired, ragged, covered
with caked mud, and looked wolf-like from under his knitted brows. In short,
he  was  very unsightly, and rather resembled a city beggar,  of  whom there
were  many hanging about on the porches of the  temple  or in the bazaars of
the noisy and dirty Lower City.
     The silence continued for  a  long time, and was broken by the  strange
behaviour of the man brought to Pilate. His countenance  changed, he swayed,
and  if he had not  grasped  the edge of the table  with  his dirty hand, he
would have fallen.
     'What's wrong with you?' Pilate asked him.
     'Nothing,' answered Matthew Levi, and  he made a movement as if he were
swallowing  something. His skinny, bare,  grey  neck  swelled out  and  then
slackened again.
     'What's wrong, answer me,' Pilate repeated.
     'I'm tired,' Levi answered and looked sullenly at the floor.
     'Sit down,' said Pilate, pointing to the armchair.
     Levi   looked  at  the  procurator  mistrustfully,  moved  towards  the
armchair, gave a  timorous sidelong glance at  the gilded armrests, and  sat
down not in the chair but beside it on the floor.
     'Explain to me, why did you not sit in the chair?' asked Pilate.
     'I'm dirty, I'd soil it,' said Levi, looking at the ground.
     'You'll presently be given something to eat.'
     'I don't want to eat,' answered Levi.
     'Why lie?' Pilate asked quietly. 'You haven't eaten  for the whole day,
and  maybe even longer. Very well, don't eat.  I've summoned you so that you
could show me the knife you had with you.'
     `The soldiers took  it from me when they brought me here,' Levi replied
and added sullenly: 'You must give it back to me, I have to return it to its
owner, I stole it.'
     'What for?'
     To cut the ropes,' answered Levi.
     'Mark!' cried  the procurator, and  the  centurion stepped in under the
columns. 'Give me his knife.'
     The centurion took a dirty bread knife from one of the two cases on his
belt, handed it to the procurator, and withdrew.
     'Who did you take the knife from?'
     'From the bakery by the Hebron gate, just as you enter the city, on the
     Pilate looked at  the broad blade, for some reason  tried the sharpness
of the edge with his finger, and said:
     'Concerning the knife you  needn't worry, the knife will be returned to
the shop. But now I want  a second thing - show me the charta you carry with
you, on which Yeshua's words are written down.'
     Levi looked  at Pilate  with hatred and  smiled such an inimical  smile
that his face became completely ugly.
     'You want to take away the last thing?' he asked.
     'I didn't say "give me",' answered Pilate, 'I said "show me".'
     Levi fumbled  in his bosom and produced a parchment scroll. Pilate took
it, unrolled it, spread it out between the lights, and, squinting,  began to
study the  barely legible ink  marks. It was  difficult to understand  these
crabbed lines,  and Pilate kept wincing and  leaning right to the parchment,
running  his finger over  the lines.  He did  manage to  make  out that  the
writing  represented  an  incoherent  chain of  certain utterances,  certain
dates,  household records,  and poetic  fragments. Some  of it  Pilate could
read: '...there is  no death ...  yesterday we  ate  sweet  spring baccuroth
     Grimacing with the  effort, Pilate squinted as he read: '...  we  shall
see  the pure river of the  water of life [8] ... mankind shall look at  the
sun through transparent crystal...' Here Pilate gave  a  start. In the  last
lines of  the  parchment  he made  out the  words:  '...  greater  vice  ...
     Pilate rolled up the parchment and with an abrupt movement handed it to
     Take  it,' he said and, after a pause, added: `You're  a bookish man, I
see, and there's no need for  you to go around alone, in  beggar's clothing,
without shelter. I have a big library  in Caesarea, I am very rich and  want
to take you to work for me. You will sort out and look after the papyri, you
will be fed and clothed.'
     Levi stood up and replied:
     'No, I don't want to.'
     'Why?'  the procurator asked, his face darkening. `Am I disagreeable to
you? ... Are you afraid of me?'
     The same bad smile distorted Levi's face, and he said:
     'No, because  you'll be afraid of me.  It won't be very easy for you to
look me in the face now that you've killed him.'
     'Quiet,' replied Pilate. Take some money.'
     Levi shook his head negatively, and the procurator went on:
     'I know you consider  yourself a disciple of Yeshua, but I can tell you
that you  learned nothing of what he  taught you.  For if you had, you would
certainly take something  from  me. Bear in mind that before he died he said
he did not blame anyone.'  Pilate  raised a  finger  significantly, Pilate's
face  was twitching. 'And he himself would surely have taken something.  You
are cruel, and he was not cruel. Where will you go?'
     Levi  suddenly came  up to  the table, leaned both  hands  on  it, and,
gazing at the procurator with burning eyes, whispered to him:
     'Know, Hegemon,  that I am going to kill a man  in Yershalaim. I wanted
to tell you that, so you'd know there will be more blood.'
     'I, too, know  there will be more  of it,' replied Pilate, `you haven't
surprised me with your words. You want, of course, to kill me?'
     `You  I  won't manage  to  kill,'  replied  Levi, baring  his teeth and
smiling, 'I'm  not  such  a foolish  man as  to count on that. But I'll kill
Judas of Kiriath, I'll devote the rest of my life to it.'
     Here  pleasure showed  in  the procurator's eyes, and beckoning Matthew
Levi to come closer, he said:
     'You  won't manage to do it, don't  trouble yourself. Judas has already
been killed this night.'
     Levi sprang away from the table, looking wildly around, and cried out:
     'Who did it?'
     `Don't be jealous,' Pilate answered, his teeth bared,  and  rubbed  his
hands, 'I'm afraid he had other admirers besides you.'
     'Who did it?' Levi repeated in a whisper.
     Pilate answered him:
     'I did it.'
     Levi opened his mouth and stared at the procurator, who said quietly:
     `It is, of course, not much to have done, but all the same I did it.'
     And he added: 'Well, and now will you take something?'
     Levi considered, relented, and finally said:
     'Have them give me a piece of clean parchment.'
     An  hour went  by.  Levi was not in the palace.  Now the silence of the
dawn was  broken only by the quiet noise  of the sentries'  footsteps in the
garden.  The moon was quickly losing its colour, one could see  at the other
edge of the sky the whitish  dot of the morning star. The lamps had gone out
long, long ago. The procurator lay on the couch. Putting  his hand under his
cheek, he slept and breathed soundlessly. Beside him slept Banga.
     Thus  was  the  dawn of the fifteenth  day of  Nisan met  by the  fifth
procurator of Judea, Pontius Pilate.

     When Margarita  came  to the last words of the chapter  - '... Thus was
the dawn of the fifteenth day of Nisan met by the fifth procurator of Judea,
Pontius Pilate' - it was morning.
     Sparrows could be heard  in the branches  of the willows and lindens in
the little garden, conducting a merry, excited morning conversation.
     Margarita got  up from  the armchair, stretched, and only then felt how
broken her  body was  and how much she wanted to sleep. It is interesting to
note that Margarita's  soul  was  in perfect order.  Her  thoughts were  not
scattered, she was quite unshaken by having spent the night supernaturally.
     She was  not  troubled by  memories of  having been at Satan's ball, or
that by some miracle the master had been returned to her, that the novel had
risen  from  the ashes, that everything was back in place in the basement in
the  lane, from which  the  snitcher Aloisy Mogarych  had  been expelled. In
short, acquaintance with Woland had caused her no psychic damage. Everything
was as if it ought to have been so.
     She  went  to  the  next  room, convinced  herself that  the master was
soundly  and peacefully  asleep, turned off  the unnecessary table lamp, and
stretched out by  the opposite wall on a  little couch covered with an  old,
torn sheet.  A minute later she was  asleep,  and that  morning  she had  no
dreams. The basement rooms were silent, the builder's whole little house was
silent, and it was quiet in the solitary lane.
     But just  then, that is, at  dawn on  Saturday,  an entire  floor  of a
certain Moscow institution was not asleep, and its windows, looking out on a
big asphalt-paved square which  special machines, driving around  slowly and
droning, were  cleaning  with  brushes, shone with  their  full  brightness,
cutting through the light of the rising sun.
     The whole floor was occupied with the investigation of the Woland case,
and the lights had burned all night in dozens of offices.
     Essentially  speaking,  the matter  had  already  become  clear  on the
previous day, Friday, when the Variety  had had to be  closed,  owing to the
disappearance of  its  administration and  all sorts  of  outrages which had
taken place during the notorious sance of black magic the  day  before. But
the thing was that more and more new material kept arriving all the time and
incessantly on the sleepless floor.
     Now  the investigators of  this strange case, which smacked of  obvious
devilry, with an admixture of some hypnotic tricks and distinct criminality,
had to shape into one  lump all the many-sided and tangled events  that  had
taken place in various parts of Moscow.
     The first  to visit the sleepless, electrically lit-up floor was Arkady
Apollonovich Sempleyarov, chairman of the Acoustics Commission.
     After dinner on  Friday, in his apartment located  in a  house  by  the
Kamenny  Bridge,  the telephone  rang  and  a male voice  asked  for  Arkady
Apollonovich. Arkady Apollonovich's wife, who  picked up  the phone, replied
sullenly that Arkady Apollonovich was unwell, had retired for the night, and
could not come to  the phone. However, Arkady Apollonovich came to the phone
all the same. To the question of where Arkady Apollonovich was being  called
from, the voice in the telephone had said very briefly where it was from.
     'This  second ... at once  ...  this minute ...' babbled the ordinarily
very haughty wife  of the chairman of the Acoustics Commission, and she flew
to  the bedroom like  an arrow to  rouse  Arkady  Apollonovich from his bed,
where  he  lay  experiencing the  torments  of  hell  at the recollection of
yesterday's sance and the night's scandal, followed by the expulsion of his
Saratov niece from the apartment.
     Not in a second, true, yet not in a minute either, but in  a quarter of
a minute, Arkady Apollonovich, with one slipper on his left foot, in nothing
but his underwear, was already at the phone, babbling into it:
     'Yes, it's me ... I'm listening, I'm listening ...'
     His wife, forgetting for these moments all the loathsome crimes against
fidelity in which the unfortunate Arkady Apollonovich had been exposed, kept
sticking herself out the door to the corridor with a frightened face, poking
a slipper at the air and whispering:
     'Put the slipper on,  the  slipper  ... you'll catch cold ...' At which
Arkady Apollonovich, waving  his  wife  away with  his bare foot and  making
savage eyes at her, muttered into the telephone:
     'Yes, yes, yes, surely ... I understand ... I'll leave at once...'
     Arkady Apollonovich spent  the whole evening on that  same  floor where
the investigation was being conducted.
     It was a difficult conversation, a most unpleasant conversation, for he
had to tell with complete sincerity not only about this obnoxious sance and
the fight in the  box, but along  with that - as was indeed necessary - also
about Militsa Andreevna  Pokobatko from Yelokhovskaya Street, and about  the
Saratov niece, and  about  much else,  the telling  of  which  caused Arkady
Apollonovich inexpressible torments.
     Needless to  say,  the testimony of Arkady Apollonovich, an intelligent
and cultivated man,  who  had been  a  witness to the  outrageous  sance, a
sensible and qualified  witness, who gave an  excellent description  of  the
mysterious masked magician himself  and of his two scoundrelly assistants, a
witness  who remembered perfectly well that  the magician's name  was indeed
Woland,  advanced the  investigation considerably. And the  juxtaposition of
Arkady Apollonovich's testimony with  the testimony  of others - among  whom
were  some  ladies who  had  suffered after the  sance  (the one in  violet
underwear who had shocked Rimsky and,  alas, many others), and the messenger
Karpov, who  had been sent to  apartment no.50 on  Sadovaya Street - at once
essentially established the place where the culprit in all  these adventures
was to be sought.
     Apartment no.50 was  visited, and  not  just once,  and not only was it
looked over with extreme thoroughness, but  the walls were also  tapped  and
the fireplace flues checked, in search  of  hiding places. However,  none of
these  measures  yielded  any  results,  and  no one was  discovered  in the
apartment  during  any  of these  visits, though it was perfectly clear that
there was someone in the apartment, despite the fact that all persons who in
one way or another were supposed to be in charge of foreign  artistes coming
to Moscow  decidedly and categorically insisted that there was not and could
not be any black magician Woland in Moscow.
     He had decidedly not  registered anywhere  on  arrival,  had  not shown
anyone his  passport or other  papers, contracts, or agreements, and no  one
had heard anything about him! Kitaitsev, head of the programme department of
the Spectacles  Commission, swore  to God that the vanished Styopa Likhodeev
had never sent him any performance programme of  any Woland for approval and
had  never telephoned him about the arrival of  such a Woland. So  that  he,
Kitaitsev, utterly  failed to  see  and  understand how  Styopa  could  have
allowed such a sance in the Variety. And when told that Arkady Apollonovich
had  seen this  magician  at  the  seance with his own  eyes, Kitaitsev only
spread his arms and raised his  eyes  to heaven. And  from Kitaitsev's  eyes
alone one could see and say confidently that he was as pure as crystal.
     That   same  Prokhor   Petrovich,  chairman  of   the  main  Spectacles
     Incidentally, he returned to his suit immediately after the police came
into  his  office,  to  the ecstatic joy of  Anna Richardovna and the  great
perplexity of the needlessly troubled police.
     Also, incidentally, having returned to his place, into his grey striped
suit,  Prokhor Petrovich fully approved of all the resolutions the suit  had
written during his short-term absence.
     ... So, then, this same Prokhor Petrovich  knew decidedly nothing about
any Woland.
     Whether  you  will  or  no,  something  preposterous  was  coming  out:
thousands  of spectators, the  whole  staff  of  the  Variety,  and  finally
Sempleyarov,  Arkady  Apollonovich,  a  most  educated  man,  had seen  this
magician, as well as his thrice-cursed assistants, and yet it was absolutely
impossible  to find  him anywhere. What was  it, may  I  ask, had  he fallen
through  the ground  right after his disgusting  sance, or, as some affirm,
had  he not  come  to  Moscow  at all? But  if  the first is  allowed,  then
undoubtedly,  in  falling  through,  he  had  taken  along  the  entire  top
administration  of the Variety,  and if  the second,  then would it not mean
that  the  administration  of  the  luckless  theatre  itself,  after  first
committing some vileness (only recall the broken window in the study and the
behaviour of Ace of Diamonds!), had disappeared from Moscow without a trace?
     We  must do  justice to  the  one who  headed  the  investigation.  The
vanished Rimsky was found with  amazing speed.  One had only to put together
the behaviour of Ace of Diamonds at the cab stand by the movie theatre  with
certain given  times,  such as  when the  seance  ended, and  precisely when
Rimsky  could  have  disappeared, and then immediately  send a  telegram  to
Leningrad.  An hour  later (towards evening on Friday)  came the  reply that
Rimsky had been discovered in number four-twelve on the fourth floor of  the
Hotel Astoria, next to the room in which the repertory manager of one of the
Moscow theatres,  then on tour in  Leningrad, was staying  - that  same room
which,  as  is  known,  had  gilded  grey-blue  furniture  and  a  wonderful
     Discovered hiding in the wardrobe of number four-twelve of the Astoria,
Rimsky was questioned  right there in Leningrad. After which a telegram came
to Moscow reporting  that findirector Rimsky was  in  an unanswerable state,
that he could not or did not wish to give sensible replies to questions  and
begged  only to be hidden in a bulletproof  room and provided  with an armed
     A telegram from Moscow ordered that Rimsky be delivered to Moscow under
guard, as a  result  of  which  Rimsky departed  Friday evening, under  said
guard, on the evening train.
     Towards evening on that  same Friday, Likhodeev's trail was also found.
Telegrams of inquiry about Likhodeev were sent to all cities, and from Yalta
came the reply that Likhodeev had been in Yalta but had left on a  plane for
     The  only one  whose  trail they  failed to pick up was Varenukha.  The
famous theatre administrator known to  decidedly all of Moscow had  vanished
into thin air.
     In  the meantime, there  was some bother with things happening in other
parts of  Moscow, outside  the Variety  Theatre. It was necessary to explain
the  extraordinary   case  of   the   staff   all  singing  `Glorious   Sea'
(incidentally:  Professor Stravinsky managed  to  put them  right within two
hours,  by means  of  some subcutaneous  injections),  of persons presenting
other  persons or  institutions with devil knows what in the guise of money,
and also of persons who had suffered from such presentations.
     As goes  without saying,  the most unpleasant,  the most scandalous and
insoluble  of all these cases  was the case of the theft of  the head of the
deceased  writer Berlioz right from  the coffin in the hall of  Griboedov's,
carried out in broad daylight.
     Twelve   men   conducted   the  investigation,  gathering   as   on   a
knitting-needle the accursed stitches of this complicated case scattered all
over Moscow.
     One of the investigators arrived  at Professor Stravinsky's clinic  and
first  of all asked to be shown a list of the persons who  had checked in to
the clinic over  the past three days. Thus they discovered Nikanor Ivanovich
Bosoy and the unfortunate master of ceremonies whose head had been torn off.
     However,  little attention  was  paid  to them. By  now it was easy  to
establish that these two had fallen victim  to the same gang, headed by that
mysterious magician. But to Ivan Nikolaevich Homeless the investigator  paid
great attention.
     The  door of Ivanushka's room  no.117 opened towards evening on Friday,
and into the room came a young, round-faced, calm and mild-mannered man, who
looked quite unlike an investigator and yet was  one of the best in  Moscow.
He saw  lying on the  bed  a pale and pinched young  man, in whose eyes  one
could read a lack of interest in what went on around him,  whose eyes looked
now somewhere into  the distance, over his surroundings,  now into the young
man  himself.  The investigator gently introduced  himself and  said he  had
stopped  at Ivan Nikolaevich's  to talk  over  the events at the Patriarch's
Ponds two days ago.
     Oh, how triumphant Ivan would have been if the investigator had come to
him  earlier - say, on  Wednesday night, when Ivan had striven so  violently
and passionately  to make his story about  the Patriarch's  Ponds heard! Now
his dream  of helping  to  catch  the consultant had come true, there was no
longer any need to  run  after anyone, they had  come  to  him on their own,
precisely to hear his story about what had happened on Wednesday evening.
     But, alas, Ivanushka had changed completely in the time that had passed
since the moment  of Berlioz's  death:  he was  ready  to answer all of  the
investigator's questions willingly and politely,  but  indifference could be
sensed both  in  Ivan's eyes and in  his intonation. The  poet was no longer
concerned with Berlioz's fate.
     Before  the investigator's arrival, Ivanushka  lay  dozing, and certain
visions passed before him. Thus, he saw a  city,  strange, incomprehensible,
non-existent, with marble masses, eroded colonnades,  roofs gleaming in  the
sun, with the black, gloomy  and merciless Antonia Tower, with the palace on
the western hill sunk almost up  to its rooftops in the tropical greenery of
the garden, with bronze statues blazing  in the  sunset above this greenery,
and he  saw armour-clad Roman centuries moving along  under the walls of the
ancient city.
     As  he dozed, there  appeared  before  Ivan a  man,  motionless  in  an
armchair, clean-shaven, with a harried yellow face, a man  in a white mantle
with red lining, gazing hatefully into the luxurious and alien  garden. Ivan
also saw a treeless yellow hill with empty cross-barred posts. And what  had
happened at  the  Patriarch's  Ponds  no longer  interested  the  poet  Ivan
     Tell me, Ivan Nikolaevich, how far were you from the turnstile yourself
when Berlioz slipped under the tram-car?'
     A barely  noticeable,  indifferent smile touched Ivan's  lips  for some
reason, and he replied:
     'I was far away.'
     'And the checkered one was right by the turnstile?'
     'No, he was sitting on a little bench nearby.'
     `You clearly  recall  that  he did not go  up to the turnstile  at  the
moment when Berlioz fell?'
     'I recall. He didn't go up to it. He sat sprawled on the bench.'
     These  questions  were the investigator's last.  After them he  got up,
gave Ivanushka  his  hand, wished him  a speedy  recovery, and expressed the
hope that he would soon be reading his poetry again.
     'No,' Ivan quietly replied, I won't write any more poetry.'
     The investigator  smiled  politely,  allowed  himself  to  express  his
certainty that, while the poet was presently in a  state of some depression,
it would soon pass.
     'No,'  Ivan  responded, looking  not  at the investigator but  into the
distance, at the fading sky,  'it will never pass. The poems I used to write
were bad poems, and now I understand it.'
     The investigator left Ivanushka, having  obtained  some quite important
material. Following the thread of events from the end to the beginning, they
finally succeeded in reaching the source from which all the events had come.
     The investigator had no  doubt that  these events began with the murder
at the Patriarch's Ponds. Of  course,  neither Ivanushka nor  this checkered
one  had  pushed the unfortunate  chairman of  Massolit under  the tram-car;
physically,  so to  speak,  no one had  contributed to his failing under the
wheels. But the  investigator was convinced that  Berlioz had thrown himself
under the tram-car (or tumbled under it) while hypnotized.
     Yes,  there was already a lot of material, and it  was known who had to
be caught and where. But the thing was that  it proved in no way possible to
catch  anyone.  We  must  repeat,  there  undoubtedly  was  someone  in  the
thrice-cursed apartment no.50. Occasionally the apartment answered telephone
calls,  now in  a rattling, now  in a nasal voice,  occasionally  one of its
windows was  opened, what's  more, the sounds of a gramophone came  from it.
And yet  each time it was  visited, decidedly no one was found there. And it
had already been visited more than once  and at different  times of day. And
not only that,  but they had gone  through it  with  a  net, checking  every
corner. The apartment had long  been under suspicion. Guards were placed not
just at the way to the courtyard through the gates, but at the back entrance
as well. Not  only that, but guards were placed on the roof by the chimneys.
Yes, apartment  no.50  was acting up, and it was impossible to  do  anything
about it.
     So the thing  dragged on  until midnight on  Friday, when Baron Meigel,
dressed in evening clothes and patent-leather shoes, solemnly proceeded into
apartment no.50  in the  quality  of a guest. One could hear the baron being
let  in to the apartment. Exactly ten minutes  later, without any ringing of
bells, the apartment was visited, yet not  only were  the hosts not found in
it,  but, which was something quite bizarre, no  signs of  Baron Meigel were
found in it either.
     And so, as was said, the thing dragged on in this fashion until dawn on
Saturday.  Here  new  and  very  interesting  data were  added.  A six-place
passenger plane, coming from the Crimea, landed at the Moscow airport. Among
the other passengers, one strange passenger got out of it. This was a  young
citizen,  wildly  overgrown with  stubble, unwashed  for  three  days,  with
inflamed and  frightened  eyes,  carrying  no  luggage and dressed  somewhat
whimsically.  The citizen was wearing a tall  sheepskin hat, a Georgian felt
cape  over  a  nightshirt,  and new,  just-purchased,  blue leather  bedroom
slippers. As soon as  he separated from the  ladder  by which they descended
from the plane, he was approached. This citizen had been expected, and  in a
little  while the unforgettable  director of the Variety, Stepan Bogdanovich
Likhodeev, was standing before the investigators. He threw in some new data.
It now became clear that Woland had  penetrated the Variety in the guise  of
an artiste, having hypnotized Styopa  Likhodeev,  and had then  contrived to
fling this same Styopa out of Moscow and God knows  how many miles away. The
material was  thus augmented,  yet  that  did  not make  things easier,  but
perhaps even a bit harder, because it was becoming obvious that  to lay hold
of a  person  who  could perform  such  stunts as  the  one of  which Stepan
Bogdanovich  had  been  the  victim  would  not  be so  easy.  Incidentally,
Likhodeev,  at his  own request,  was  confined  in a  secure cell, and next
before  the  investigators   stood  Varenukha,  just  arrested  in  his  own
apartment,  to which he had returned after  a blank disappearance of  almost
two days.
     Despite the  promise  he had given Azazello  not  to  lie any more, the
administrator  began precisely with a lie.  Though, by the way, he cannot be
judged very harshly for it. Azazello had forbidden him to lie and be rude on
the telephone, but in the present case the  administrator spoke without  the
assistance of this  apparatus. His eyes wandering, Ivan Savelyevich declared
that on Thursday  afternoon he had  got drunk in his  office at the Variety,
all  by  himself,  after  which he  went somewhere,  but  where  he did  not
remember, drank  starka [2] somewhere,  but where he  did not remember,  lay
about somewhere  under a fence, but where  he again  did  not remember. Only
after  the administrator  was told  that  with  his  behaviour,  stupid  and
senseless, he was hindering the investigation of an important case and would
of course have to answer for it, did Varenukha  burst  into sobs and whisper
in a  trembling  voice, looking around him, that he had  lied  solely out of
fear, apprehensive of the revenge of Woland's gang, into whose hands he  had
already fallen, and that  he begged, implored and yearned to be locked up in
a bullet-proof cell.
     'Pah, the devil! Really, them and  their bulletproof  cells!'  grumbled
one of the investigators.
     `They've   been   badly  frightened  by  those  scoundrels,'  said  the
investigator who had visited Ivanushka.
     They calmed Varenukha down the best they could, said they would protect
him without any  cell,  and here it  was  learned that he had not  drunk any
starka under a fence, and that he had been beaten by two, one red-haired and
with a fang, the other fat...
     'Ah, resembling a cat?'
     'Yes, yes, yes,' whispered  the  administrator,  sinking  with fear and
looking around him every second,  coming  out with further details of how he
had existed for some two days in apartment no.50 in the quality of a tip-off
vampire, who had all but caused the death of the findirector Rimsky...
     Just then Rimsky, brought on the Leningrad train, was being led in.
     However, this  mentally disturbed, grey-haired old man,  trembling with
fear,  in  whom  it was very difficult to recognize  the former findirector,
would  not  tell the truth  for anything,  and proved to be very stubborn in
this respect. Rimsky insisted  that  he had not seen any Hella in his office
window at night, nor any Varenukha, but had simply felt  bad and in a  state
of  unconsciousness  had  left  for  Leningrad. Needless to  say, the ailing
findirector  concluded his testimony with a request that he be confined to a
bulletproof cell.
     Annushka was arrested just as she made an attempt to hand  a ten-dollar
bill to  the  cashier of  a department  store on the Arbat. Annushka's story
about  people flying  out the window of the  house on Sadovaya and about the
little horseshoe which Annushka, in her own words, had picked up in order to
present it to the police, was listened to attentively.
     The  horseshoe was  really  made  of gold  and diamonds?'  Annushka was
     'As if I don't know diamonds,' replied Annushka.
     'But he gave you ten-rouble bills, you say?'
     'As if I don't know ten-rouble bills,' replied Annushka.
     'Well, and when did they turn into dollars?'
     'I don't know  anything about any  dollars,  I never  saw any dollars!'
Annushka replied shrilly. 'I'm in my rights! I got recompensed, I was buying
cloth  with it,' and  she  went  off  into  some  balderdash about not being
answerable for the house  management that allowed unclean powers  on  to the
fifth floor, making life unbearable.
     Here the investigator waved at Annushka with his  pen, because everyone
was  properly sick of her, and wrote  a  pass for her to  get out on a green
slip  of paper,  after which, to everyone's  pleasure,  Annushka disappeared
from the building.
     Then there followed one after another a whole series of people, Nikolai
Ivanovich among them, just arrested  owing solely to the  foolishness of his
jealous wife, who towards  morning  had informed the police that her husband
had vanished. Nikolai Ivanovich did not surprise the investigators very much
when he  laid on  the table the clownish certificate of his having spent the
time  at  Satan's  ball. In  his stories of  how  he had  carried  Margarita
Nikolaevna's naked housekeeper  on his  back through the air,  somewhere  to
hell and beyond, for a swim in a river,  and  of the preceding appearance of
the  bare Margarita  Nikolaevna  in the window,  Nikolai  Ivanovich departed
somewhat  from  the  truth.  Thus,  for instance, he  did  not  consider  it
necessary to mention  that he had arrived in the bedroom with the  discarded
shift in his hands, or that he had called Natasha 'Venus'. From his words it
looked as if Natasha  had flown out the window, got astride him, and dragged
him away from Moscow ...
     'Obedient to constraint, I was  compelled to submit,' Nikolai Ivanovich
said, and finished his tale with a  request that not a word of it be told to
his wife. Which was promised him.
     The  testimony  of  Nikolai  Ivanovich  provided   an  opportunity  for
establishing that Margarita Nikolaevna  as well as  her  housekeeper Natasha
had vanished without a trace. Measures were taken to find them.
     Thus every  second  of Saturday  morning was marked by  the unrelenting
investigation. In the  city during that  time, completely impossible rumours
emerged and floated about, in which  a tiny portion of truth was embellished
with the  most luxuriant  lies. It was said that there had been  a seance at
the Variety after which all two thousand spectators ran out to the street in
their birthday suits, that  a press  for making counterfeit money of a magic
sort had been nabbed on Sadovaya  Street, that some gang  had kidnapped five
managers from the entertainment sector, but the police had immediately found
them all, and many other things that one does not even wish to repeat.
     Meanwhile it was getting on towards dinner time, and then, in the place
where  the  investigation  was  being conducted,  the  telephone  rang. From
Sadovaya came a report that the  accursed  apartment was again showing signs
of life.  It was  said that its windows had been  opened  from  inside, that
sounds of a piano and  singing were coming from it, and that a black cat had
been seen in a window, sitting on the sill and basking in the sun.
     At  around  four  o'clock  on that hot day,  a big  company of  men  in
civilian clothes got out of three cars a  short distance from  no.502-bis on
Sadovaya  Street. Here the big group  divided into two small ones, the first
going  under the gateway  of  the house and across the courtyard directly to
the sixth entrance,  while the  second opened the normally boarded-up little
door leading to the back entrance, and both started up separate stairways to
apartment no.50.
     Just then Koroviev and  Azazello - Koroviev in his usual outfit and not
the  festive  tailcoat - were sitting  in the dining room of  the  apartment
finishing breakfast. Woland, as was his wont, was in the bedroom,  and where
the cat  was nobody knew. But  judging by the clatter of dishes  coming from
the kitchen, it could be supposed that Behemoth was precisely there, playing
the fool, as was his wont.
     'And  what are those footsteps on  the  stairs?' asked Koroviev, toying
with the little spoon in his cup of black coffee.
     `That's  them  coming to  arrest us,' Azazello replied  and drank off a
glass of cognac.
     'Ahh ... well, well...' Koroviev replied to that.
     The ones  going up the  front stairway were already on the  third-floor
landing. There a couple of plumbers were pottering over the harmonica of the
steam  heating.  The   newcomers  exchanged  significant  glances  with  the
     'They're all at home,' whispered  one  of the plumbers,  tapping a pipe
with his hammer.
     Then the one walking at  the head openly took a black Mauser from under
his  coat, and another beside  him took  out the  skeleton keys.  Generally,
those going to apartment no.50 were properly equipped. Two of them had fine,
easily  unfolded silk nets in  their pockets.  Another  of them had a lasso,
another had gauze masks and ampoules of chloroform.
     In a second  the front door to apartment no.50 was  open  and  all  the
visitors  were in the  front  hall, while the  slamming of  the door in  the
kitchen at the same moment  indicated the timely arrival of the second group
from the back stairs.
     This time there was, if not complete, at least some sort of success.
     The men  instantly dispersed  through  all the  rooms  and found no one
anywhere, but instead on the  table of the  dining room they  discovered the
remains of an apparently just-abandoned breakfast, and in  the living  room,
on the mantelpiece, beside a crystal  pitcher, sat an enormous black cat. He
was holding a primus in his paws.
     Those who  entered the living  room contemplated this cat for  quite  a
long time in total silence.
     'Hm, yes ... that's quite something ...' one of the men whispered.
     'Ain't  misbehaving,  ain't   bothering  anybody,  just  reparating  my
primus,' said the cat with an  unfriendly scowl, `and I  also consider it my
duty to warn you that the cat is an ancient and inviolable animal.'
     'Exceptionally neat  job,' whispered  one of the  men, and another said
loudly and distinctly:
     "Well, come right in,  you  inviolable,  ventriloquous  cat!'  The  net
unfolded and soared upwards, but the  man  who cast  it, to everyone's utter
astonishment,  missed  and  only caught  the  pitcher, which  straight  away
smashed ringingly.
     'You  lose!' bawled  the cat.  'Hurrah!'  and here,  setting the primus
aside, he  snatched  a Browning from behind his back. In a trice he aimed it
at the man  standing  closest,  but before the  cat  had time to shoot, fire
blazed  in the  man's hand, and at the blast  of the Mauser the cat  plopped
head  first from the mantelpiece  on to the floor, dropping the Browning and
letting go of the primus.
     'It's all over,' the cat said in a  weak voice, sprawled languidly in a
pool of blood, 'step back from  me for a second, let  me say farewell to the
earth.  Oh, my friend  Azazello,' moaned the cat, bleeding profusely, 'where
are you?' The cat rolled his fading eyes in the direction of the dining-room
door.  `You did not come to  my aid in the  moment  of  unequal battle,  you
abandoned poor  Behemoth, exchanging  him for a  glass of - admittedly  very
good - cognac! Well, so, let my death be on your conscience, and I  bequeath
you my Browning...'
     The net, the net, the net ...' was anxiously whispered around the  cat.
But the net, devil  knows why, got caught in someone's pocket and refused to
come out.
     The only thing that can save a mortally wounded cat,' said the cat, 'is
a  swig of  benzene.' And taking advantage of the confusion, he  bent to the
round opening  in the primus and had a  good drink of benzene. The  blood at
once stopped flowing from under his left front leg. The cat jumped up, alive
and  cheerful,  seized the primus  under  his  paw,  shot  back  on  to  the
mantelpiece with it, and  from  there, shredding the wallpaper,  climbed the
wall and some two seconds later was high above the visitors and sitting on a
metal curtain rod.
     - Hands instantly  clutched  the curtain and tore  it off together with
the  rod,  causing  sunlight  to  flood  the shaded  room.  But  neither the
fraudulently  recovered cat  nor  the  primus fell  down. The  cat,  without
parting  with his primus,  managed to shoot through the air and land on  the
chandelier hanging in the middle of the room.
     'A stepladder!' came from below.
     'I  challenge you to a duel!' bawled the cat, sailing  over their heads
on the swinging chandelier, and the Browning  was again in  his paw, and the
primus was lodged among  the branches of the chandelier.  The  cat took  aim
and, flying like a pendulum  over the heads of  the visitors, opened fire on
them. The  din  shook  the  apartment. Crystal  shivers poured down from the
chandelier, the mantelpiece  mirror  was  cracked into stars,  plaster  dust
flew,  spent  cartridges  bounced over  the  floor,  window-panes shattered,
benzene spouted from the bullet-pierced primus. Now there was no question of
taking the cat alive, and the visitors fiercely and accurately  returned his
fire  from  the Mausers,  aiming  at his  head, stomach, chest and back. The
shooting caused panic on the asphalt courtyard.
     But this shooting did not last long and began to die down of itself.
     The  thing  was that  it  caused  no harm either to the  cat  or to the
visitors. Not only was no one killed, but no one was even wounded. Everyone,
including the cat, remained totally unharmed. One of the visitors, to verify
it  definitively, sent some  five bullets at  the confounded animal's  head,
while the cat smartly  responded with a full clip, but  it was the same - no
effect was  produced  on anybody. The  cat swayed  on the  chandelier, which
swung less and less, blowing into the muzzle of his Browning and spitting on
his paw for some reason. The faces of those standing silently below acquired
an  expression of utter bewilderment. This was the only case, or one  of the
only  cases,  when shooting  proved to  be entirely inefficacious. One might
allow, of course, that the  cat's Browning  was  some  sort of toy, but  one
could by no  means  say the same  of the visitors' Mausers.  The cat's  very
first wound - there  obviously could not  be the slightest doubt of it - was
nothing but a trick and a swinish sham, as was the drinking of the benzene.
     One more attempt was made to get hold of the cat. The lasso was thrown,
it caught on one of the candles, the  chandelier fell down. The crash seemed
to shake the whole structure  of the house, but it was no use. Those present
were showered with splinters, and the cat flew through the air over them and
settled high under the ceiling on the upper part of the mantelpiece mirror's
gilded  frame.  He  had  no  intention of  escaping anywhere,  but,  on  the
contrary, while sitting in relative safety, even started another speech:
     `I utterly  fail to  comprehend,' he  held  forth  from  on  high, 'the
reasons for such harsh treatment of me...'
     And here at its very beginning this speech was interrupted  by a heavy,
low voice coming from no one knew where:
     "What's going on in the apartment? They prevent me from working...'
     Another voice, unpleasant and nasal, responded:
     'Well, it's Behemoth, of course, devil take him!'
     A third, rattling voice said:
     'Messire! It's Saturday. The sun is setting. Time to go.'
     'Excuse me, I can't talk any more,' the cat said from the mirror, 'time
to go.'  He hurled his Browning and  knocked out both panes in  the  window.
Then he splashed down some benzene, and this  benzene caught fire by itself,
throwing a wave of flame up to the very ceiling. Things caught  fire somehow
unusually quickly and violently, as  does  not happen even with benzene. The
wallpaper at  once began to smoke, the torn-down curtain  started burning on
the  floor, and the frames of the broken windows began to smoulder. The  cat
crouched,  miaowed, shot from the mirror to the window-sill, and disappeared
through it together with his primus.
     Shots rang out outside. A  man sitting on  the iron fire-escape  at the
level of the jeweller's wife's windows fired at the  cat as he flew from one
window-sill to another, making  for the corner drainpipe of the house which,
as has been said, was  built in the form of a 'U'. By  way of this pipe, the
cat climbed up to the roof. There, unfortunately also without any result, he
was shot at  by the sentries guarding the chimneys, and the  cat cleared off
into the setting sun that was flooding the city.
     Just then  in the apartment the parquet blazed  up under  the visitors'
feet, and in that fire, on the same spot where the cat had sprawled with his
sham wound,  there appeared, growing more  and more dense, the corpse of the
former  Baron  Meigel with upthrust chin and glassy eyes. To get him out was
no longer possible.
     Leaping over the  burning squares of  parquet,  slapping themselves  on
their  smoking chests and  shoulders,  those who  were  in the  living  room
retreated to the study and front hall. Those who were in the dining room and
bedroom ran out through the corridor. Those in the kitchen also came running
and rushed into the front hall. The living room was already filled with fire
and smoke. Someone managed, in  flight,  to  dial  the number  of  the  fire
department and shout briefly into the receiver:
     'Sadovaya, three-oh-two-bis! ...'
     To stay  longer was impossible. Flames gushed out into the front  hall.
Breathing became difficult.
     As soon as  the  first little spurts of smoke pushed through the broken
windows  of the  enchanted apartment,  desperate  human cries  arose in  the
     'Fire! Fire! We're burning!'
     In  various  apartments  of  the  house,  people  began  shouting  into
     'Sadovaya! Sadovaya, three-oh-two-bis!'
     Just then,  as the heart-quailing bells were heard on Sadovaya, ringing
from long red engines racing quickly from all  parts of the city, the people
rushing about the yard saw how, along with the smoke, there flew out  of the
fifth-storey  window  three  dark,  apparently   male  silhouettes  and  one
silhouette of a naked woman.

     Whether these silhouettes  were there,  or  were only  imagined  by the
fear-struck tenants of the  ill-fated  house  on  Sadovaya,  is,  of course,
impossible to say precisely.  If they were  there, where they set out for is
also  known  to  no one. Nor can we say where they separated, but we do know
that approximately a quarter of an hour after the  fire started on Sadovaya,
there appeared by the mirrored doors of a currency store'  on  the Smolensky
market-place a long  citizen in  a  checkered suit, and with him a big black
     Deftly  slithering between  the  passers-by, - the  citizen opened  the
outer  door  of the shop. But here a small, bony and extremely  ill-disposed
doorman barred his way and said irritably:
     'No cats allowed!'
     'I beg your pardon,' rattled the long one, putting  his gnarled hand to
his ear as if he were hard  of hearing, 'no cats, you say? And where  do you
see any cats?'
     The  doorman  goggled his eyes, and  well he might: there was no cat at
the citizen's feet now,  but instead, from behind his shoulder, a fat fellow
in a tattered cap, whose mug indeed  somewhat resembled a cat's, stuck  out,
straining to get  into the store. There  was a primus in  the  fat  fellow's
     The  misanthropic  doorman  for  some  reason  disliked  this  pair  of
     `We  only accept currency,' he  croaked, gazing  vexedly from under his
shaggy, as if moth-eaten, grizzled eyebrows.
     `My dear man,'  rattled  the  long one, flashing his  eye  through  the
broken pince-nez, 'how do you  know I don't have any? Are  you judging by my
clothes? Never do  so, my  most precious  custodian! You may make a mistake,
and a big one at that. At least read the  story  of  the famous caliph Harun
al-Rashid [2] over again.  But in the present case, casting that story aside
temporarily, I want to  tell you  that I  am going to make a complaint about
you to the manager and tell him such tales about you  that you may  have  to
surrender your post between the shining mirrored doors.'
     'Maybe  I've  got a whole primus full  of currency,' the  cat-like  fat
fellow, who was simply shoving  his way  into the  store,  vehemently butted
into the conversation.
     Behind  them  the public was already pushing and getting angry. Looking
at the prodigious pair with hatred and suspicion, the doorman stepped aside,
and our acquaintances, Koroviev and Behemoth, found themselves in the store.
     Here  they first of  all looked around, and then, in  a  ringing  voice
heard decidedly in every corner, Koroviev announced:
     'A wonderful store! A very, very fine store!'
     The public turned away from the  counters and for some reason looked at
the speaker in amazement, though he had all grounds for praising the store.
     Hundreds of  bolts of cotton in the richest assortment of colours could
be seen in the pigeonholes of the shelves. Next to them were piled calicoes,
and chiffons, and flannels for suits. In receding perspective endless stacks
of  shoeboxes could be seen,  and  several citizenesses  sat  on little  low
chairs,  one  foot shod in an old, worn-out shoe, the other in a  shiny  new
pump, which they stamped on the carpet with a preoccupied air.
     Somewhere in the depths, around a corner,  gramophones sang  and played
     But,  bypassing all these  enchantments,  Koroviev  and  Behemoth  made
straight for the junction of the grocery and confectionery departments. Here
there was plenty of room, no cidzenesses in  scarves and little  berets were
pushing against the counters, as in the fabric department.
     A short,  perfectly  square  man  with blue shaven  jowls,  horn-rimmed
glasses, a brand-new hat, not crumpled and with no sweat stains on the band,
in a  lilac  coat  and orange  kid  gloves,  stood  by the counter  grunting
something peremptorily. A sales clerk in a clean  white smock and a blue hat
was waiting on  the lilac client. With the sharpest of knives, much like the
knife stolen  by  Matthew Levi, he was removing  from a weeping, plump  pink
salmon its snake-like, silvery skin.
     `This department  is splendid, too,'  Koroviev  solemnly  acknowledged,
'and the foreigner is a likeable fellow,' he benevolently pointed his finger
at the lilac back.
     'No,  Fagott, no,'  Behemoth  replied pensively,  `you're mistaken,  my
friend: the lilac gendeman's face lacks something, in my opinion.'
     The lilac back twitched, but probably by chance, for the  foreigner was
surely unable  to understand  what Koroviev and his companion were saying in
     'Is good?' the lilac purchaser asked sternly.
     Top-notch!' replied  the sales clerk, cockily slipping the edge of  the
knife under the skin.
     'Good I like, bad I don't,' the foreigner said sternly.
     'Right you are!' the sales clerk rapturously replied.
     Here our acquaintances walked away from the foreigner and his salmon to
the end of the confectionery counter.
     'It's hot today,' Koroviev addressed a young, red-cheeked salesgirl and
received no reply to his words. 'How much are  the mandarins?' Koroviev then
inquired of her.
     'Fifteen kopecks a pound,' replied the salesgirl.
     'Everything's so  pricey,'  Koroviev observed with a  sigh, 'hm  ... hm
...'  He  thought  a little longer and then  invited his companion: 'Eat up,
     The  fat  fellow put his  primus  under  his arm, laid hold  of the top
mandarin on the pyramid, straight away gobbled it up skin and all, and began
on a second.
     The salesgirl was overcome with mortal terror.
     'You're out of your mind!' she shouted, losing her colour. 'Give me the
receipt! The receipt!' and she dropped the confectionery tongs.
     'My darling, my dearest, my beauty,' Koroviev  rasped, leaning over the
counter and  winking at the salesgirl, 'we're out of currency today ... what
can we do? But I swear to you, by next time, and no later than Monday, we'll
pay  it  all  in  pure cash! We're from near by,  on Sadovaya, where they're
having the fire ...'
     Behemoth, after swallowing a third  mandarin, put his paw into a clever
construction of chocolate bars, pulled out the  bottom one, which  of course
made  the whole  thing  collapse,  and swallowed it  together with  its gold
     The sales clerks behind the fish counter  stood as if petrified,  their
knives  in their hands, the lilac foreigner swung around to the robbers, and
here it turned out that  Behemoth was mistaken: there was nothing lacking in
the  lilac  one's  face,  but,  on the contrary, rather  some superfluity of
hanging jowls and furtive eyes.
     Turning  completely yellow, the salesgirl anxiously cried for the whole
store to hear:
     'Palosich! [3] Palosich!'
     The public from the fabric department came thronging at this cry, while
Behemoth, stepping  away from the confectionery temptations, thrust  his paw
into  a barrel labelled 'Choice Kerch Herring', [4] pulled out  a couple  of
herring, and swallowed them, spitting out the tails.
     'Palosich!' the  desperate cry came again from behind the confectionery
counter,  and from  behind the  fish counter a  sales  clerk with  a  goatee
     'What's this you're up to, vermin?'
     Pavel Yosifovich  was already hastening  to the scene of the action. He
was an imposing man in a  clean white smock,  like a surgeon, with  a pencil
sticking  out of the pocket. Pavel Yosifovich  was  obviously an experienced
man. Seeing the tail of  the third herring in Behemoth's mouth, he instantly
assessed  the  situation,  understood  decidedly  everything,  and,  without
getting  into any arguments with the insolent louts, waved  his arm into the
distance, commanding:
     The  doorman  flew  from  the  mirrored door out to  the corner of  the
Smolensky  market-place and  dissolved in a  sinister  whisding.  The public
began  to surround  the  blackguards,  and then Koroviev  stepped  into  the
     'Citizens!'  he called out in a high, vibrating voice, 'what's going on
here? Eh? Allow me to ask you that! The poor man' - Koroviev let some tremor
into his  voice and pointed to Behemoth, who immediately concocted  a woeful
physiognomy  -  'the  poor man spends all  day reparating primuses.  He  got
hungry ... and where's he going to get currency?'
     To this Pavel Yosifovich, usually restrained and calm, shouted sternly:
     'You just  stop that!' and waved into  the distance,  impatiently  now.
Then  the trills by the door resounded more merrily. But Koroviev, unabashed
by Pavel Yosifovich's pronouncement, went on:
     'Where? - I ask you this entire  question! He's languishing with hunger
and thirst, he's hot. So the hapless fellow took and sampled a mandarin. And
the  total  worth  of  that  mandarin  is  three kopecks. And here  they  go
whistling like  spring  nightingales in  the woods,  bothering  the  police,
tearing them away  from  their  business.  But he's  allowed, eh?'  and here
Koroviev pointed  to the lilac fat man, which caused the  strongest alarm to
appear  on his face.  `Who is he? Eh?  Where  did  he  come  from? And  why?
Couldn't  we do widiout him? Did  we invite him,  or what? Of  course,'  the
ex-choirmaster  bawled  at  the  top  of   his  lungs,  twisting  his  mouth
sarcastically, 'just look at him, in his smart lilac suit,  all swollen with
salmon, all stuffed with currency - and us, what about the likes of us?! ...
I'm  bitter!  Bitter,  bitter!'[5] Koroviev wailed, like the best man at  an
old-fashioned wedding.
     This  whole stupid,  tacdess, and probably  politically harmful  speech
made Pavel Yosifovich  shake with wrath,  but,  strange as it  may seem, one
could see  by  the eyes of the crowding public mat it provoked sympathy in a
great  many people. And when Behemom,  putting a torn,  dirty sleeve  to his
eyes, exclaimed tragically:
     `Thank you, my faithful  friend,  you stood up for  the sufferer!'  - a
miracle occurred. A  most decent,  quiet little old  man, poorly but cleanly
dressed,  a  little  old  man  buying  three macaroons in the  confectionery
department, was suddenly  transformed. His eyes flashed with bellicose fire,
he  turned  purple, hurled  the little bag of  macaroons on  the floor,  and
shouted  'True!'  in a  child's high  voice.  Then  he snatched up  a  tray,
dirowing from  it the remains of the  chocolate  Eiffel  Tower demolished by
Behemoth, brandished it, tore  the  foreigner's hat  off with his left hand,
and with his right swung and struck the foreigner flat on his bald head with
the tray. There was  a  roll as of the  noise one hears when sheets of metal
are thrown down from a truck. The fat man, turning white, fell backwards and
sat  in the barrel  of Kerch herring, spouting a fountain of brine from  it.
Straight away a second miracle occurred. The lilac  one, having fallen  into
the barrel, shouted in pure Russian, with no trace of any accent:
     'Murder! Police!  The  bandits  are  murdering  me!'  evidently  having
mastered, owing to the shock, this language hitherto unknown to him.
     Then  the doorman's whistling ceased, and amid  the crowds  of agitated
shoppers  two  military  helmets could  be  glimpsed  approaching.  But  the
perfidious Behemoth doused the confectionery  counter with  benzene from his
primus, as  one douses  a bench in a bathhouse with a tub  of  water, and it
blazed up of itself. The flame spurted  upwards and  ran along the  counter,
devouring  the beautiful paper ribbons  on the fruit baskets. The salesgirls
dashed shrieking from behind the  counters,  and as soon  as  they came from
behind them, the linen  curtains on the windows blazed up and the benzene on
the floor ignited.
     The public,  at  once  raising  a  desperate  cry, shrank back from the
confectionery   department,  running   down  the  no  longer   needed  Pavel
Yosifovich, and from behind the fish counter  the  sales  clerks  with their
whetted knives trotted in single file towards the door of the rear exit.
     The lilac citizen, having extracted himself from the barrel, thoroughly
drenched with herring juice, heaved himself over the  salmon  on the counter
and followed after them. The glass of the mirrored front doors clattered and
spilled  down,  pushed out  by fleeing people,  while the  two  blackguards,
Koroviev  and the  glutton Behemoth, got lost somewhere, but where - it  was
impossible to grasp.  Only afterwards did eyewitnesses who  had been present
at the starting of the fire in the currency store  in Smolensky market-place
tell how  the  two hooligans supposedly  flew up to  the  ceiling and  there
popped  like  children's  balloons.  It is  doubtful, of course, that things
happened that way, but what we don't know, we don't know.
     But we do know that exactly one minute after the happening in Smolensky
market-place,  Behemoth and Koroviev both  turned up on  the sidewalk of the
boulevard just by the house of Griboedov's aunt. Koroviev stood by the fence
and spoke:
     'Hah!  This is the writers' house! You know,  Behemoth, I've heard many
good and flattering things about this house. Pay attention to this house, my
friend. It's pleasant  to  think  how under this roof no end  of talents are
being sheltered and nurtured.'
     'Like  pineapples  in a  greenhouse,' said Behemoth and, the better  to
admire the  cream-coloured  building with columns, he  climbed the  concrete
footing of the cast-iron fence.
     `Perfectly correct,' Koroviev  agreed with  his  inseparable companion,
'and a  sweet awe creeps into one's heart at the thought that in  this house
there is now ripening  the future author  of a  Don Quixote or a Faust,  or,
devil take me, a Dead Souls. Eh?'
     'Frightful to think of,' agreed Behemoth.
     'Yes,'  Koroviev went on,  'one can expect astonishing  things from the
hotbeds  of this  house,  which  has united under its  roof several thousand
zealots  resolved  to  devote  their  lives  to the  service  of  Melpomene,
Polyhymnia and Thalia.  [7]  You  can imagine the noise that will arise when
one of  them, for  starters, offers the reading public The Inspector General
or, if worse comes to worst, Evgeny Onegin.'[9]
     'Quite easily,' Behemoth again agreed.
     'Yes,' Koroviev went on, anxiously raising his finger, 'but! ... But, I
say, and I repeat this but ... Only  if these tender hothouse plants are not
attacked  by some microorganism that gnaws  at their roots so that they rot!
And it does happen with pineapples! Oh, my, does it!'
     'Incidentally,' inquired Behemoth,  putting  his round head through  an
opening in the fence, 'what are they doing on the veranda?'
     'Having dinner,' explained Koroviev, 'and  to that I will add, my dear,
that the restaurant here is inexpensive and not bad at all. And, by the way,
like any tourist before continuing  his trip, I feel a desire to have a bite
and drink a big, ice-cold mug of beer.'
     'Me, too,'  replied  Behemoth, and the two blackguards marched down the
asphalt path under the lindens straight  to the  veranda of the unsuspecting
     A pale and bored citizeness in white socks and a white beret with a nib
sat on a Viennese chair  at  the corner  entrance to the veranda, where amid
the  greenery of  the trellis an opening for the entrance  had been made. In
front of her on a simple kitchen table lay a fat book of the ledger variety,
in  which the  citizeness,  for  unknown reasons, wrote down  all those  who
entered  the  restaurant.  It  was precisely  this  citizeness  who  stopped
Koroviev and Behemoth.
     'Your identification cards?' She was gazing in  amazement at Koroviev's
pince-nez, and also at Behemoth's primus and Behemoth's torn elbow.
     `A thousand pardons, but what  identification cards?' asked Koroviev in
     'You're writers?' the cidzeness asked in her turn.
     'Unquestionably,' Koroviev answered with dignity.
     "Your identification cards?' the citizeness repeated.
     'My sweetie ...' Koroviev began tenderly.
     'I'm no sweetie,' interrupted the citizeness.
     'More's the pity,' Koroviev said disappointedly and went on; 'Well, so,
if you don't want to be a sweetie, which would  be quite pleasant, you don't
have to be. So, then, to convince yourself that Dostoevsky was  a writer, do
you have to ask  for his  identification card? Just take any five pages from
any one of his  novels and you'll be  convinced, without  any identification
card,  that  you're dealing with a writer. And I don't think he even had any
identification card! What do you think? ' Koroviev turned to Behemoth.
     'I'll bet he didn't,' replied Behemoth,  setting the primus down on the
table beside the  ledger and wiping the  sweat from  his sooty forehead with
his hand.
     'You're not Dostoevsky,' said the  citizeness, who was getting  muddled
by Koroviev.
     'Well, who knows, who knows,' he replied.
     `Dostoevsky's  dead,'  said  the  citizeness,  but  somehow  not   very
     'I protest!' Behemoth exclaimed hotly. 'Dostoevsky is immortal!'
     'Your identification cards, citizens,' said the citizeness.
     'Good gracious, this is getting  to  be ridiculous!' Koroviev would not
give  in. 'A  writer is  defined not by any identity  card, but by  what  he
writes.  How do  you know  what plots  are  swarming in my head? Or in  this
head?'  and he pointed  at Behemoth's head, from  which the  latter  at once
removed the cap, as if to let the citizeness examine it better.
     'Step aside, citizens,' she said, nervously now.
     Koroviev and  Behemoth stepped aside and let pass some writer in a grey
suit with a tie-less,  summer white shirt, the collar of which lay wide open
on the lapels of his jacket, and with a newspaper  under his arm. The writer
nodded  affably to  the citizeness,  in  passing put  some  nourish  in  the
proffered ledger, and proceeded to the veranda.
     'Alas, not to us, not to us,' Koroviev began sadly, 'but to him will go
that  ice-cold mug of beer, which you and I, poor  wanderers, so dreamed  of
together.  Our position  is  woeful and difficult, and I  don't know what to
     Behemoth only spread  his arms bitterly  and put  his  cap on his round
head, covered with thick hair very much resembling a cat's fur.
     And at that  moment a low but peremptory voice sounded over the head of
the citizeness:
     'Let them pass, Sofya Pavlovna.'[10]
     The citizeness with the ledger  was amazed. Amidst the greenery, of the
trellis appeared  the white tailcoated chest and wedge-shaped  beard  of the
freebooter. He  was looking  affably  at  the two dubious  ragamuffins  and,
moreover,  even making inviting gestures to them. Archibald Archibaldovich's
authority  was  something  seriously  felt   in  the  restaurant  under  his
management, and Sofya Pavlovna obediently asked Koroviev:
     'What is your name?'
     'Panaev,'" he answered courteously. The citizeness wrote this name down
and raised a questioning glance to Behemoth.
     'Skabichevsky,'[12] the  latter squeaked, for some  reason  pointing to
his primus. Sofya Pavlovna wrote this down, too, and pushed the book towards
the visitors for  them to  sign.  Koroviev wrote 'Skabichevsky' next to  the
name 'Panaev', and Behemoth wrote `Panaev' next to 'Skabichevsky'.
     Archibald  Archibaldovich,  to  the utter amazement  of Sofya Pavlovna,
smiled seductively, and led  the guests to  the best table, at  the opposite
end of the  veranda, where the deepest  shade lay, a table next to which the
sun played merrily through one of the  gaps  in the  trellis greenery, while
Sofya Pavlovna, blinking with amazement, studied for a long time the strange
entry made in the book by the unexpected visitors.
     Archibald  Archibaldovich surprised  the waiters  no  less than he  had
Sofya Pavlovna. He  personally drew a chair  back from  the table,  inviting
Koroviev to sit down, winked to one, whispered something  to the  other, and
the two  waiters began  bustling  around the new guests, one of whom set his
primus down on the floor next to his scuffed shoe.
     The old  yellow-stained  tablecloth immediately  disappeared  from  the
table, another shot  up into the  air,  crackling  with starch,  white  as a
Bedouin's  burnous,  and  Archibald Archibaldovich  was  already  whispering
softly but very significantly, bending right to Koroviev's ear:
     What may I treat you  to? I have a special little balyk here ... bagged
at the architects' congress...'
     'Oh ... just give us  a bite of something ... eh? ...' Koroviev mumbled
good-naturedly, sprawling on the chair.
     `I  understand  ...'  Archibald  Archibaldovich  replied  meaningfully,
closing his eyes.
     Seeing the way the chief  of the restaurant  treated the rather dubious
visitors, the waiters laid aside their suspicions and got seriously down  to
business. One was already offering a match to Behemoth, who had taken a butt
from  his pocket and put it in his mouth, the other raced  up  clinking with
green  glass and  at  their places  arranged  goblets,  tumblers,  and those
thin-walled  glasses from which it is  so  nice to drink  seltzer  under the
awning ... no,  skipping ahead, let us say:  it used to be so  nice to drink
seltzer under the awning of the unforgettable Griboedov veranda.
     `I  might  recommend  a   little  fillet  of  hazel-grouse,'  Archibald
Archibaldovich murmured  musically. The guest in the cracked pince-nez fully
approved  the  commander  of   the  brig's  suggestions  and  gazed  at  him
benevolently through the useless bit of glass.
     The fiction writer Petrakov-Sukhovey, dining at the next table with his
wife,  who  was  finishing  a  pork  chop,  noticed  with  the  keenness  of
observation  proper to all writers the  wooing of Archibald  Archibaldovich,
and was quite, quite surprised.  And his wife, a very respectable lady, even
simply became jealous of Koroviev over  the pirate, and even rapped with her
teaspoon, as if to say: why are we kept waiting? ... It's time the ice cream
was served. What's the matter? ...
     However,  after  sending  Mrs  Petrakov  a  seductive smile,  Archibald
Archibaldovich dispatched a waiter to her, but did not leave his dear guests
himself. Ah, how intelligent Archibald Archibaldovich was! And his powers of
observation were perhaps no less keen than those of the writers themselves!
     Archibald Archibaldovich  knew  about  the seance  at the Variety,  and
about many other events of those days; he had heard, but, unlike the others,
had  not closed  his  ears  to, the  word 'checkered'  and  the word  'cat'.
Archibald Archibaldovich guessed at  once who his visitors were. And, having
guessed, naturally  did  not  start quarrelling  with  them. And that  Sofya
Pavlovna was a good one! To come up with  such a thing - barring the  way to
the veranda for those two! Though what could you expect of her! ...
     Haughtily  poking her little  spoon  into  the  slushy  ice cream,  Mrs
Petrakov, with displeased eyes, watched the table in front of the two motley
buffoons become overgrown  with dainties as if by magic. Shiny clean lettuce
leaves were already sticking from  a  bowl  of fresh  caviar  ... an instant
later a sweating silver  bucket  appeared, brought especially on a  separate
little table...
     Only when convinced that everything had been done impeccably, only when
there  came  flying  in  the  waiter's hands  a covered  pan with  something
gurgling in it, did Archibald Archibaldovich allow  himself to leave the two
mysterious visitors, and that after having first whispered to them:
     'Excuse me! One moment! I'll see to the fillets personally!'
     He  flew away  from the table and disappeared  into an inner passage of
the restaurant. If any observer had been  able to follow the further actions
of Archibald  Archibaldovich,  they  would  undoubtedly have seemed somewhat
mysterious to him.
     The  chief did not go to the kitchen  to supervise the  fillets at all,
but went  to  the restaurant  pantry. He opened  it with his own key, locked
himself inside, took  two hefty balyks from the icebox, carefully, so as not
to soil his cuffs, wrapped them  in newspaper, tied them neatly with string,
and  set them aside. Then  he made sure that his  hat and  silk-lined summer
coat were  in place in  the next room,  and only after that proceeded to the
kitchen,  where the  chef  was  carefully boning the fillets  the pirate had
promised his visitors.
     It must be  said that there was  nothing strange or incomprehensible in
any of  Archibald Archibaldovich's actions, and that they could seem strange
only to a superficial observer. Archibald Archibaldovich's behaviour was the
perfectly logical result  of  all that had gone before. A  knowledge  of the
latest   events,  and  above   all  Archibald   Archibaldovich's  phenomenal
intuition, told the chief of the Griboedov restaurant that his two visitors'
dinner, while abundant and sumptuous,  would be of extremely short duration.
And  his intuition, which had never yet  deceived the former freebooter, did
not let him down this time either.
     Just  as Koroviev and  Behemoth were clinking  their  second glasses of
wonderful, cold, double-distilled  Moskovskaya vodka, the sweaty and excited
chronicler  Boba   Kandalupsky,  famous   in  Moscow   for  his   astounding
omniscience,  appeared  on the  veranda  and  at  once  sat  down  with  the
Petrakovs. Placing his bulging briefcase on the table, Boba  immediately put
his lips to Petrakov's ear and whispered some very tempting things  into it.
Madame Petrakov, burning with curiosity, also  put her  ear to Boba's plump,
greasy lips.  And  he,  with  an occasional  furtive  look  around,  went on
whispering and whispering, and one could make out separate words, such as:
     'I swear to you! On Sadovaya, on Sadovaya!  ...' Boba lowered his voice
still more, 'bullets have no effect! ... bullets ... bullets ... benzene ...
fire bullets ...'
     'It's the liars that spread these vile rumours,' Madame Petrakov boomed
in a  contralto  voice,  somewhat  louder in her indignation than Boba would
have liked, 'they're the ones who  ought to  be explained! Well, never mind,
that's how it will be, they'll be called to order! Such pernicious lies!'
     `Why  lies,  Antonida  Porfirievna!'  exclaimed  Boba,   upset  by  the
disbelief of the writer's  wife,  and  again  began spinning: 'I  tell  you,
bullets  have  no effect! ... And then  the fire ... they went up in the air
... in the air!' Boba went  on hissing, not  suspecting  that  those he  was
talking about were sitting next to him, delighting in his yarn.
     However,  this delight  soon  ceased:  from an  inner  passage  of  the
restaurant three  men,  their  waists  drawn  in tightly by  belts,  wearing
leggings and holding  revolvers  in their hands, strode precipitously on  to
the veranda. The one in front cried ringingly and terribly:
     'Don't move!' And at once all  three opened fire on the veranda, aiming
at  the heads  of  Koroviev  and Behemoth. The two objects  of the  shooting
instantly melted into  air,  and  a pillar of fire  spurted  from the primus
directly on  to  the tent roof. It was as if a gaping maw  with  black edges
appeared in the tent and began spreading in all directions. The fire leaping
through it  rose  up to the roof  of Griboedov House. Folders full of papers
lying  on the  window-sill  of  the  editorial office  on  the second  floor
suddenly blazed up, followed by the  curtains, and now the fire,  howling as
if someone were blowing on it, went  on in pillars to  the  interior of  the
aunt's house.
     A few seconds  later, down  the asphalt paths leading to the  cast-iron
fence  on the boulevard, whence Ivanushka, the first herald of the disaster,
understood by no one,  had come on Wednesday evening, various writers, Sofya
Pavlovna,  Boba, Petrakov's wife  and  Petrakov,  now went running,  leaving
their dinners unfinished.
     Having stepped out through a side entrance beforehand,  not fleeing  or
hurrying anywhere, like a captain  who must be the last to leave his burning
brig, Archibald Archibaldovich stood  calmly  in his summer  coat  with silk
lining, the two balyk logs under his arm.

     At sunset, high over the  city, on the stone terrace of one of the most
beautiful houses in Moscow, a house built about a  hundred and  fifty  years
ago, there  were  two: Woland and  Azazello. They could not be seen from the
street below,  because they were hidden  from unwanted eyes by  a balustrade
with plaster vases and  plaster flowers. But they  could see the city almost
to its very edges.
     Woland was sitting on a folding stool, dressed in his black soutane.
     His long and  broad sword was stuck vertically into a crack between two
flags of  the  terrace so  as to make a  sundial. The shadow  of  the  sword
lengthened slowly and steadily, creeping towards the black shoes on  Satan's
     Resting his sharp chin on his  fist, hunched on the stool with  one leg
drawn  under  him,  Woland  stared fixedly'  at the  endless  collection  of
palaces, gigantic buildings and little hovels destined to be pulled down.
     Azazello, having  parted  with his  modern  attire -  that is,  jacket,
bowler  hat  and patent-leather shoes - and  dressed, like Woland, in black,
stood motionless not far from his sovereign, like him with his eyes fixed on
the city.
     Woland began to speak:
     'Such an interesting city, is it not?'
     Azazello stirred and replied respectfully:
     'I like Rome better, Messire.'
     'Yes, it's a matter of taste,' replied Woland.
     After a while, his voice resounded again:
     'And what is that smoke there on the boulevard?'
     That is Griboedov's burning,' replied Azazello.
     'It must be supposed that that inseparable pair, Koroviev and Behemoth,
stopped by there?'
     'Of that there can be no doubt, Messire.'
     Again silence fell, and the two on the terrace gazed at the fragmented,
dazzling  sunlight in the  upper-floor windows  of the huge buildings facing
west. Woland's eye burned like one of  those windows,  though Woland had his
back to the sunset.
     But here something made  Woland turn  his attention to the round  tower
behind  him on the roof. From its  wall  stepped a  tattered,  clay-covered,
sullen man in a chiton, in home-made sandals, black-bearded.
     'Hah!' exclaimed Woland, looking mockingly at  the newcomer. 'Least  of
all would I expect you here! What have you come with, uninvited guest?'
     'I have come to see you, spirit of evil and sovereign of shadows,'  the
newcomer replied, glowering inimically at Woland.
     `If  you've come to  see  me, why didn't you  wish  me a  good evening,
former tax collector?' Woland said sternly.
     `Because I  don't  wish you  a  good  anything,'  the newcomer  replied
     'But you'll have to reconcile yourself to that,' Woland objected, and a
grin twisted his  mouth. 'You no sooner appear on the roof than  you produce
an  absurdity,  and  I'll tell you what it is  - it's  your  intonation. You
uttered your words as if you don't acknowledge shadows, or evil either.
     Kindly consider  the question: what would your good do if evil did  not
exist, and what would the  earth look like  if  shadows disappeared from it?
Shadows are  cast by objects and  people. Here is  the  shadow  of my sword.
Trees and living  beings  also  have shadows.  Do you want to skin the whole
earth,  tearing all  the  trees and living things  off it,  because of  your
fantasy of enjoying bare light? You're a fool.'
     'I won't argue with you, old sophist,' replied Matthew Levi.
     'You also cannot argue with me, for the reason I've already  mentioned:
you're a fool,' Woland replied and asked: "Well, make  it short, don't weary
me, why have you appeared?'
     'He sent me.'
     'What did he tell you to say, slave?'
     'I'm not a slave,' Matthew Levi replied, growing ever angrier, 'I'm his
     'You and I speak different languages, as usual,' responded Woland, 'but
the things we say don't change for all that. And so? ...'
     'He has  read the  master's work,'  said Matthew Levi, 'and asks you to
take the master with you and  reward him with peace. Is that hard for you to
do, spirit of evil?'
     'Nothing is  hard for me to do,' answered Woland, 'you  know  that very
well.' He paused and added: 'But why don't  you take  him with you  into the
     'He does not deserve  the  light,  he deserves peace,' Levi  said in  a
sorrowful voice.
     'Tell him it will be done,' Woland replied and added, his eye flashing:
     'And leave me immediately.'
     'He  asks that she who  loved  him and suffered because of  him also be
taken with him,' Levi addressed Woland pleadingly for the first time.
     'We would never have thought of it without you. Go.'
     Matthew Levi  disappeared  after that, and  Woland  called Azazello and
ordered him:
     'Fly to them and arrange it all.'
     Azazello left the terrace, and Woland remained alone.
     But his solitude did not last. Over  the flags  of the terrace came the
sound of footsteps and animated voices, and before Woland stood Koroviev and
Behemoth. But now the fat fellow had no primus with him, but was loaded with
other things. Thus, under his arm he had a small landscape in a  gold frame,
from  one  hand hung a half-burnt cook's smock, and in  the other  he held a
whole salmon  with skin  and  tail.  Koroviev and  Behemoth reeked  of fire.
Behemoth's mug was all sooty and his cap was badly burnt.
     'Greetings, Messire!' cried the irrepressible pair, and Behemoth  waved
the salmon.
     'A fine sight,' said Woland.
     'Imagine, Messire!' Behemoth cried excitedly and joyfully, 'I was taken
for a looter!'
     'Judging by the things you've brought,' Woland replied, glancing at the
landscape, 'you are a looter!'
     'Believe me, Messire ...' Behemoth began in a soulful voice.
     'No, I don't,' Woland replied curdy.
     'Messire,  I swear,  I made heroic efforts to save everything  I could,
and this is all I was able to rescue.'
     'You'd better tell me, why did Griboedov's catch fire?' asked Woland.
     Both  Koroviev and Behemoth  spread their  arms, raised their  eyes  to
heaven, and Behemoth cried out:
     `I can't conceive  why!  We  were  sitting there  peacefully, perfectly
quiet, having a bite to eat...'
     'And suddenly - bang, bang!' Koroviev picked up, 'gunshots! Crazed with
fear,  Behemoth and I  ran out to the boulevard, our  pursuers  followed, we
rushed to Timiriazev! ...'[2]
     'But the sense  of  duty,' Behemoth put in, 'overcame our shameful fear
and we went back.'
     'Ah, you went  back?'  said Woland. 'Well,  then of course the building
was reduced to ashes.'
     To ashes!' Koroviev ruefully confirmed, 'that is, Messire, literally to
ashes, as you were pleased to put it so aptly. Nothing but embers!'
     'I hastened,' Behemoth narrated, 'to the meeting room, the one with the
columns, Messire, hoping  to  bring out something valuable. Ah, Messire,  my
wife, if only I had one, was twenty times in danger of being left  a  widow!
But  happily,  Messire, I'm  not  married, and, let me tell you, I'm  really
happy that I'm not. Ah, Messire, how can one trade a bachelor's freedom  for
the burdensome yoke...'
     'Again some gibberish gets going,' observed Woland.
     'I hear and continue,' the cat replied. 'Yes, sir, this landscape here!
It was impossible to bring anything more out of the meeting room, the flames
were beating in my face. I ran to the pantry  and rescued the  salmon. I ran
to  the  kitchen  and  rescued  the  smock. I  think,  Messire, that  I  did
everything  I  could, and  I don't understand  how to explain the  sceptical
expression on your face.'
     'And what did Koroviev do while you were looting?' asked Woland.
     'I was helping the firemen, Messire,' replied Koroviev, pointing to his
torn trousers.
     'Ah, if so, then of course a new building will have to be built.'
     'It will be built, Messire,'  Koroviev responded, `I venture  to assure
you of that.'
     'Well, so it  remains for us to wish  that it be better  than  the  old
one,' observed Woland.
     'It will be, Messire,' said Koroviev.
     'You can believe me,' the cat added, 'I'm a regular prophet.'
     'In  any case, we're here, Messire,' Koroviev reported, 'and await your
     Woland got  up from  his stool, went over to the balustrade, and alone,
silently, his back turned to his retinue, gazed into the distance for a long
time. Then he stepped away from the edge, lowered himself  on to his  stool,
and said:
     'There will be no orders, you have fulfilled all you could, and for the
moment I no longer need  your  services. You may rest. Right now  a storm is
coming, the  last  storm, it  will complete all that  needs  completing, and
we'll be on our way.'
     `Very  well,  Messire,'  the  two  buffoons  replied  and   disappeared
somewhere behind the round  central tower, which stood in  the middle of the
     The  storm  of which  Woland  had  spoken was already gathering on  the
horizon. A black cloud rose  in the  west  and cut off half the sun. Then it
covered it entirely. The air became cool on the terrace.  A little  later it
turned dark.
     This darkness which came from  the west covered the  vast city. Bridges
and palaces disappeared. Everything vanished as  if it had  never existed in
the  world. One fiery thread  ran across the whole sky.  Then  a thunderclap
shook the city. It was repeated, and the storm began. Woland could no longer
be seen in its gloom.

     'You know,' said  Margarita, `just as you fell asleep last night, I was
reading about  the  darkness that came from  the Mediterranean Sea  ...  and
those idols,  ah, the golden idols! For some  reason they  never leave me in
peace.  I think  it's  going to rain now, too. Do you  feel  how  cool  it's
     'That's all well and good,' replied the master, smoking and breaking up
the smoke with his hand, 'and  as for the  idols. God be  with them  ... but
what will happen further on is decidedly unclear!'
     This conversation occurred  at sunset,  just at the moment when Matthew
Levi came to Woland on  the terrace. The basement  window  was  open, and if
anyone had looked through  it, he would  have been astonished at how strange
the talkers looked. Margarita  had a black  cloak thrown directly  over  her
naked  body,  and  the  master was in his hospital underwear. The reason for
this was that  Margarita had decidedly  nothing  to  put on, because all her
clothes had stayed  in her house, and though this house was  very  near  by,
there was, of  course, no  question of going  there to take her clothes. And
the master, whose clothes  were all found in the wardrobe as if he had never
gone  anywhere,  simply  did not  want to  get  dressed,  developing  before
Margarita the thought that some perfect nonsense was  about to  begin at any
moment. True, he was clean-shaven for the first time since that autumn night
(in the clinic his beard had been cut with clippers).
     The room also had a strange look, and it was very hard to make anything
out in its  chaos. Manuscripts were  lying  on the  rug, and  on the sofa as
well. A  book sat  humpbacked on an armchair. And dinner was  set out on the
round table, with several bottles standing  among  the dishes of food. Where
all this food and drink came from  was known neither to Margarita nor to the
master. On waking up they found everything already on the table.
     Having slept  until  sunset  Saturday,  the master and his friend  felt
themselves  thoroughly  fortified,  and  only one thing told of the previous
day's adventure - both had a slight ache in the left temple. But with regard
to their minds, there were great changes in both  of  them, as anyone  would
have been convinced  who was able to  eavesdrop on the  conversation  in the
basement. But there was decidedly no one to eavesdrop. That little courtyard
was good  precisely for  being  always  empty.  With  each day the  greening
lindens and the  ivy  outside  the  window exuded an ever stronger smell  of
spring, and the rising breeze carried it into the basement.
     'Pah,  the devil!' exclaimed the master unexpectedly. 'But, just think,
it's  ...' he put out his cigarette butt in the ashtray and pressed his head
with  his hands.  'No, listen, you're an  intelligent person and  have never
been  crazy  ...  are  you  seriously  convinced  that  we were  at  Satan's
     'Quite seriously,' Margarita replied.
     'Of course, of course,' the master said ironically, 'so now instead  of
one madman there are  two - husband and wife!' He raised his hands to heaven
and cried: 'No, the devil knows what this is! The devil, the devil...'
     Instead of  answering,  Margarita  collapsed  on  the  sofa,  burst out
laughing, waved her bare legs, and only then cried out:
     'Aie, I can't ... I can't! You should see what you look like! ...'
     Having  finished  laughing, while  the  master bashfully pulled  up his
hospital drawers, Margarita became serious.
     'You unwittingly spoke the truth just now,' she began, 'the devil knows
what it is, and the  devil, believe  me, will arrange everything!' Her  eyes
suddenly flashed, she jumped up and began dancing on the spot, crying out:
     'How happy I am, how happy I am, how happy I am that I struck a bargain
with him! Oh, Satan,  Satan! ... You'll have to live with a witch, my dear!'
Then  she  rushed  to  the master, put  her arms around  his neck, and began
kissing his lips, his nose, his cheeks. Strands of unkempt black hair leaped
at the master, and his cheeks and forehead burned under the kisses.
     'And you've really come to resemble a witch.'
     'And I  don't deny it,' answered Margarita,  'I'm  a witch and I'm very
glad of it.'
     'Well, all  right,'  said the master, `so  you're a witch,  very  nice,
splendid! And  I've been stolen from  the hospital ... also  very nice! I've
been brought here, let's grant  that, too.  Let's even suppose that we won't
be missed ... But tell me, by all that's holy, how and on what are  we going
to live? My concern is for you when I say that, believe me!'
     At  that  moment round-toed shoes and  the lower  part  of  a  pair  of
pinstriped trousers appeared in the window. Then  the trousers  bent at  the
knee and somebody's hefty backside blocked the daylight.
     'Aloisy, are you home?'  asked a voice somewhere up above the trousers,
outside the window.
     'There, it's beginning,' said the master.
     'Aloisy?' asked Margarita, going closer to the window. 'He was arrested
yesterday. Who's asking for him? What's your name?'
     That  instant  the  knees and backside vanished, there came the bang of
the gate, after which everything returned to normal.  Margarita collapsed on
the sofa and laughed so that tears poured from her eyes. But when she calmed
down,  her countenance changed greatly, she began speaking seriously, and as
she spoke she slipped down from the couch, crept over to the master's knees,
and, looking into his eyes, began to caress his head.
     'How you've suffered,  how  you've suffered, my poor one!  I'm the only
one who  knows  it. Look, you've got white threads  in  your  hair,  and  an
eternal crease by  your lips! My  only one,  my  dearest, don't think  about
anything! You've  had to think too much, and now I'll think  for  you. And I
promise you, I promise, that everything will be dazzlingly well!'
     'I'm  not afraid of anything, Margot,' the master suddenly answered her
and raised his head, and he seemed to her  the same as he  had  been when he
was inventing that which he had never seen, but of which he knew for certain
that it had been, 'not afraid, because I've already experienced it all. They
tried too  hard  to frighten me, and  cannot frighten me with  anything  any
more. But I pity you, Margot, that's the trick, that's why I  keep saying it
over and over. Come to your senses! Why do you have to ruin your life with a
sick man and a beggar? Go back! I pity you, that's why I say it.'
     'Oh, you, you  ...'  Margarita whispered, shaking her dishevelled head,
'oh, you  faithless, unfortunate man! ... Because  of you I spent the  whole
night yesterday shivering and naked. I lost my nature and replaced it with a
new  one, I spent several months sitting in a dark closet thinking about one
thing, about the storm  over Yershalaim, I cried my eyes out, and  now, when
happiness has befallen us, you  drive me away! Well,  then I'll go, I'll go,
but you should know that you are a cruel man! They've devastated your soul!'
     Bitter tenderness rose up  in the  master's heart, and, without knowing
why,  he began  to  weep,  burying  his face in  Margarita's  hair.  Weeping
herself, she whispered to  him, and her  fingers  trembled on  the  master's
     'Yes, threads, threads ... before my eyes your head is getting  covered
with snow ... ah, my much-suffering head! Look what eyes you've got! There's
a desert in them ... and the  shoulders, the shoulders with their burden ...
crippled,  crippled  ...'  Margarita's  speech   was   becoming  incoherent,
Margarita was shaking with tears.
     Then the master wiped his eyes, raised Margarita from her knees, got up
himself and said firmly:
     'Enough.   You've   shamed   me.   Never   again   will  I   yield   to
faint-heartedness, or come back  to this question, be reassured. I know that
we're both  the  victims  of our mental illness, which you perhaps got  from
me... Well, so we'll bear it together.'
     Margarita put her lips close to the master's ear and whispered:
     'I swear to you by your life, I swear by the astrologer's son whom, you
guessed, that all will be well!'
     'Fine, fine,' responded the master, and he added, laughing: 'Of course,
when people have been robbed  of everything,  like  you  and  me,  they seek
salvation from other-worldly powers! Well, so, I agree to seek there.'
     'Well,  there,  there,  now  you're  your  old self,  you're laughing,'
replied   Margarita,  `and   devil   take   you  with  your  learned  words.
Other-worldly or not other-worldly, isn't it all the same? I want to eat!'
     And she dragged the master to the table by the hand.
     'I'm not sure  this food  isn't  about to fall through the floor or fly
out the window,' he said, now completely calm.
     'It won't fly out.'
     And just then a nasal voice came through the window:
     'Peace be unto you.''
     The master  gave a  start,  but Margarita,  already  accustomed to  the
extraordinary, exclaimed:
     'Why, it's Azazello! Ah, how  nice, how good!' and,  whispering to  the
master: 'You  see, you see, we're not abandoned!'  - she rushed to  open the
     'Cover yourself at least,' the master called after her.
     'Spit on it,' answered Margarita, already in the corridor.
     And there was  Azazello  bowing, greeting  the master, and flashing his
blind eye, while Margarita exclaimed:
     'Ah, how glad I am! I've never been so glad in my life! But forgive me,
Azazello, for being naked!'
     Azazello begged her not  to worry, assuring  her  that  he had seen not
only naked  women,  but even women  with  their skin flayed clean  off,  and
willingly sat down at the table, having first placed some package wrapped in
dark brocade in the corner by the stove.
     Margarita poured Azazello  some cognac, and he willingly  drank it. The
master, not taking his eyes off him, quietly pinched his own left hand under
the table. But the pinches did  not help.  Azazello  did not melt  into air,
and, to  tell the  truth, there  was  no need  for  that. There was  nothing
terrible  in  the short,  reddish-haired  man,  unless it was  his eye  with
albugo, but that occurs even without sorcery, or unless his clothes were not
quite  ordinary -  some  sort  of cassock or  cloak  - but  again,  strictly
considered, that  also happens. He  drank  his cognac adroitly, too,  as all
good  people do, by the glassful and without nibbling. From this same cognac
the master's head became giddy, and he began to think:
     'No, Margarita's right ...  Of  course, this is  the devil's  messenger
sitting before me. No more than  two nights ago, I myself tried to prove  to
Ivan that it was precisely Satan whom he  had met  at the Patriarch's Ponds,
and now for  some reason I got  scared of  the thought and started  babbling
something  about   hypnotists  and  hallucinations  ...  Devil  there's  any
hypnotists in it! ...'
     He began  looking at Azazello  more closely and became  convinced  that
there was some constraint in his eyes, some thought that he would not reveal
before its time.  'This is  not  just  a visit, he's  come on some  errand,'
thought the master.
     His powers  of observation did not deceive him. After  drinking a third
glass of cognac, which produced no effect in  Azazello,  the  visitor  spoke
     `A cosy little basement, devil take me! Only one question arises - what
is there to do in this little basement?'
     That's just what I was saying,' the master answered, laughing.
     'Why do you trouble me, Azazello?' asked Margarita. 'We'll live somehow
or other!'
     'Please, please!' cried Azazello,  'I never  even thought  of troubling
you. I say the same thing -  somehow or  other! Ah, yes! I almost forgot ...
Messire  sends his regards and has also asked me to tell you that he invites
you to go on a  little excursion with him - if you  wish, of course. What do
you say to that?'
     Margarita nudged the master under the table with her leg.
     With  great  pleasure,'  replied  the  master,  studying Azazello,  who
     `We  hope  that  Margarita  Nikolaevna  will   also  not  decline   the
     'I  certainly will not,'  said Margarita, and  again  her  leg  brushed
against the master's.
     `A wonderful thing!'  exclaimed Azazello. 'I like  that! One,  two, and
it's done! Not like that time in the Alexandrovsky Garden!'
     'Ah, don't remind  me,  Azazello,  I was  stupid then.  And anyhow  you
mustn't blame  me too severely for it -  you don't meet unclean powers every
     That you don't!'  agreed  Azazello. 'Wouldn't it  be pleasant if it was
every day!'
     'I like quickness myself,' Margarita said excitedly, 'I  like quickness
and nakedness...  Like from  a  Mauser - bang! Ah, how he shoots!' Margarita
cried,  turning  to the  master.  `A  seven under  the pillow - any pip  you
like!...' Margarita was getting drunk, and it made her eyes blaze.
     'And again I forgot!' cried Azazello, slapping himself on the forehead.
     `I'm  quite frazzled! Messire sends  you a present,'  here  he adverted
precisely to the master, 'a bottle of wine. I beg you to note that it's  the
same wine the procurator of Judea drank. Falernian wine.'
     It  was  perfectly  natural  that  such a rarity  should  arouse  great
attention in both Margarita and  the master. Azazello drew from the piece of
dark coffin brocade  a completely mouldy jug.  The wine was sniffed,  poured
into glasses,  held up to the light  in the  window, which was  disappearing
before the storm.
     To Woland's health!' exclaimed Margarita, raising her glass.
     All three put their glasses to their  lips and took big gulps. At  once
the pre-storm light began to  fade in  the master's eyes, his  breath failed
him,  and he  felt  the end  coming. He  could  still see the  deathly  pale
Margarita,  helplessly reaching her arms  out to him, drop her  head  to the
table and then slide down on the floor.
     `Poisoner...'  the master managed to  cry out. He wanted to snatch  the
knife  from  the  table and strike  Azazello with  it,  but  his  hand  slid
strengthlessly from  the  tablecloth,  everything around  the master  in the
basement took  on  a  black colour  and then vanished  altogether.  He  fell
backwards and in falling cut  the skin of his  temple on the  corner  of his
     When  the poisoned ones lay still, Azazello began to act. First of all,
he rushed out of the window and a few instants later was in the house  where
Margarita Nikolaevna lived. The ever precise and accurate Azazello wanted to
make sure that everything  was  carried out properly.  And everything turned
out to be in perfect order. Azazello saw a gloomy woman, who was waiting for
her husband's return, come  out  of her bedroom,  suddenly turn pale, clutch
her heart, and cry helplessly:
     'Natasha ... somebody ... come ...' and fall to the floor in the living
room before reaching the study.
     'Everything's  in  order,' said  Azazello. A moment later he was beside
the fallen lovers. Margarita lay with her face against  the little rug. With
his iron  hands, Azazello turned her  over  like  a doll,  face to him,  and
peered at her. The face of the poisoned woman  was changing before his eyes.
Even in the gathering dusk of the storm, one could see the temporary witch's
cast in her eyes and the cruelty and violence of her features disappear. The
face of the dead woman  brightened and finally softened, and the look of her
bared teeth was no longer predatory but simply that of a suffering woman.
     Then Azazello unclenched her  white  teeth and  poured  into her  mouth
several drops  of the same wine with which he had  poisoned  her.  Margarita
sighed, began to rise without Azazello's help, sat up and asked weakly:
     'Why, Azazello, why? What have you done to me?'
     She saw the outstretched master, shuddered, and whispered:
     'I didn't expect this ... murderer!'
     'Oh, no, no,' answered Azazello, 'he'll rise presently. Ah, why are you
so nervous?'
     Margarita  believed  him  at  once,  so  convincing was the  red-headed
demon's  voice. She  jumped  up,  strong and alive, and helped  to  give the
outstretched man a drink  of wine. Opening his eyes, he gave a dark look and
with hatred repeated his last word:
     'Ah, insults are the usual reward for a good job!' replied Azazello.
     'Are you blind? Well, quickly recover your sight!'
     Here  the master rose, looked  around  with alive  and bright eyes, and
     'What does this new thing mean?'
     'It means,'  replied Azazello, 'that it's  time for us to go. The storm
is already thundering, do you hear? It's getting dark. The steeds are pawing
the  ground, your little  garden is  shuddering. Say farewell,  quickly  say
farewell to your little basement.'
     'Ah, I understand...' the master said, glancing around, 'you've  killed
us, we're  dead.  Oh, how  intelligent  that  is!  And  how  timely!  Now  I
understand everything.'
     'Oh, for pity's sake,' replied Azazello, 'is it you I hear talking?
     Your friend calls you a master, you can  think, so how can you be dead?
Is it  necessary, in  order to consider yourself alive, to sit in a basement
and dress yourself in a shirt and hospital drawers? It's ridiculous! ...'
     'I understand everything  you're saying,'  the master cried out, 'don't
go on! You're a thousand times right!'
     'Great Woland!' Margarita began to echo him. 'Great Woland! He  thought
it out much better than I did! But the novel, the novel,' she shouted to the
master, 'take the novel with you wherever you fly!' "
     'No need,' replied the master, 'I remember it by heart.'
     `But you  won't ...  you won't  forget a single  word of it?' Margarita
asked, pressing herself  to her  lover  and wiping the  blood from  his  cut
     'Don't worry. I'll never forget anything now,' he replied.
     'Fire, then!'  cried  Azazello.  'Fire,  with which all  began and with
which we end it all.'
     'Fire!'  Margarita  cried terribly. The little basement  window banged,
the  curtain  was  beaten aside by the wind.  The sky thundered  merrily and
briefly.  Azazello  thrust his clawed hand  into  the stove,  pulled  out  a
smoking brand, and set fire to the tablecloth. Then he set fire to the stack
of old newspapers on the sofa, and next  to the  manuscripts and the  window
     The master, already drunk with the impending ride, flung some book from
the shelf on to the table, ruffled its pages in the flame of the tablecloth,
and the book blazed up merrily.
     'Burn, burn, former life!'
     'Burn, suffering!' cried Margarita.
     The  room was  already  swaying  in crimson pillars, and along with the
smoke  the three ran out of the door, went up the  stone steps, and  came to
the yard. The first  thing they saw there was the landlord's cook sitting on
the ground. Beside  her lay spilled  potatoes and several bunches of onions.
The cook's state was comprehensible. Three black steeds snorted by the shed,
twitching,  sending  up  fountains of earth. Margarita  mounted  first, then
Azazello, and last the master.  The cook moaned and wanted to raise her hand
to  make the sign  of the cross, but Azazello shouted  menacingly  from  the
     'I'll cut your hand off!' He whistled, and the steeds, breaking through
the linden branches, soared up and pierced the low black cloud. Smoke poured
at once from the basement window. From below  came the weak, pitiful cry  of
the cook:
     'We're on fire...'
     The steeds were already racing over the rooftops of Moscow.
     'I want to bid farewell to the city,' the master cried to Azazello, who
rode at their head. Thunder ate up the  end of the master's phrase. Azazello
nodded and  sent his horse into a gallop. The dark  cloud flew precipitously
to meet the fliers, but as yet gave not a sprinkle of rain.
     They flew  over the  boulevards,  they  saw little  figures  of  people
scatter, running for shelter from the  rain.  The first drops were  falling.
They flew over smoke - all that remained of Griboedov  House. They flew over
the city which was already being  flooded by  darkness.  Over them lightning
flashed. Soon the roofs gave  place to greenery. Only then did the rain pour
down, transforming the fliers into three huge bubbles in the water.
     Margarita was already  familiar with the sensation  of  flight, but the
master was not, and he marvelled at how quickly they reached their goal, the
one to whom  he wished to  bid farewell,  because he had no one else to  bid
farewell to. He immediately recognized through the veil of rain the building
of  Stravinsky's clinic, the river, and the pine woods on  the  other  bank,
which he had studied so well. They came down in the clearing of a copse  not
far from the clinic.
     'I'll wait for  you here,' cried Azazello, his hands to  his mouth, now
lit  up by lightning,  now  disappearing  behind the  grey  veil. 'Say  your
farewells, but be quick!'
     The master and Margarita jumped from their saddles and flew, flickering
like watery shadows, through the clinic  garden. A  moment later the master,
with  an  accustomed  hand,  was pushing  aside the balcony  grille of  room
no.117. Margarita followed after  him. They  stepped into Ivanushka's  room,
unseen  and unnoticed in the rumbling and howling of the  storm. The  master
stopped by the bed. Ivanushka lay  motionless, as before, when for the first
time he had  watched a  storm in the house  of his repose.  But he  was  not
weeping  as  he had been  then. Once  he had taken  a  good look at the dark
silhouette that burst  into  his room from the  balcony, he raised  himself,
held out his hands, and said joyfully:
     'Ah, it's you! And I kept waiting and  waiting for  you! And  here  you
are, my neighbour!'
     To this the master replied:
     'I'm here, but unfortunately I cannot be your neighbour any longer. I'm
flying away for ever, and I've come to you only to say farewell.'
     'I knew that, I  guessed it,' Ivan replied quietly and asked: 'You  met
     'Yes,' said the master. 'I've come to  say farewell to you, because you
are the only person I've talked with lately.'
     Ivanushka brightened up and said:
     `It's good that you stopped off here. I'll keep  my word, I won't write
any more poems.  I'm interested in something else now,' Ivanushka smiled and
with mad eyes looked somewhere past the  master. 'I want to  write something
else. You know, while I lay here, a lot became clear to me.'
     The master was  excited  by these  words and, sitting  on  the  edge of
Ivanushka's bed, said:
     'Ah, but that's good, that's good. You'll write a sequel about him.'
     Ivanushka's eyes lit up.
     'But won't  you do  that  yourself?'  Here he  hung  his head and added
pensively:  'Ah, yes ... what am I asking?' Ivanushka looked sidelong at the
floor, his eyes fearful.
     'Yes,' said the master, and his voice seemed  unfamiliar and hollow  to
Ivanushka,  `I  won't write  about him any  more now. I'll be occupied  with
other things.'
     A distant whistle cut through the noise of the storm.
     'Do you hear?' asked the master.
     'The noise of the storm ...'
     'No, I'm being called, it's time  for me to  go,' explained the master,
and he got up from the bed.
     "Wait! One word more,' begged Ivan. "Did you find her?  Did she  remain
faithful to you?'
     `Here she  is,' the  master  replied and pointed to the wall. The  dark
Margarita  separated from the white wall and came up to  the bed. She looked
at the young man lying there and sorrow could be read in her eyes.
     'Poor boy, poor boy ...' Margarita  whispered soundlessly and bent down
to the bed.
     'She's  so beautiful,' Ivan said, without envy, but sadly,  and with  a
certain quiet tenderness.  'Look how well everything has turned out for you.
But not so for me.' Here he thought a little and added thoughtfully:
     'Or else maybe it is so...'
     'It is so, it is so,' whispered Margarita, and she bent closer to him.
     'I'm going to kiss you now, and everything will be as it should be with
you ... believe me in that, I've seen everything, I know everything ...' The
young man put his arms around her neck and she kissed him.
     'Farewell, disciple,'  the master said barely audibly and began melting
into air.  He disappeared, and  Margarita disappeared with him. The  balcony
grille was closed.
     Ivanushka fell into anxiety. He sat up  in bed, looked around uneasily,
even  moaned,  began talking  to himself, got up. The  storm raged more  and
more,  and evidendy stirred up his soul. He was also upset by  the troubling
footsteps and muted voices that his ear, accustomed to the constant silence,
heard outside the door. He called out, now nervous and trembling:
     'Praskovya Fyodorovna!'
     Praskovya  Fyodorovna was  already  coming into  the  room,  looking at
Ivanushka questioningly and uneasily.
     'What? What is it?' she asked. The storm upsets you?  Never mind, never
mind ... we'll help you now ... I'll call the doctor now ...'
     'No,  Praskovya   Fyodorovna,  you  needn't  call   the  doctor,'  said
Ivanushka, looking anxiously not at Praskovya Fyodorovna but into the wall.
     'There's nothing especially the matter with me. I can  sort  things out
now,  don't worry. But you'd better tell  me,' Ivan  begged soulfully, 'what
just happened in room one-eighteen?'
     'Eighteen?' Praskovya Fyodorovna repeated, and her eyes became furtive.
     'Why, nothing  happened  there.'  But  her voice  was  false, Ivanushka
noticed it at once and said:
     'Eh,  Praskovya Fyodorovna! You're such a  truthful person... You think
I'll get violent? No, Praskovya Fyodorovna, that won't happen.  You'd better
speak direcdy, for I can feel everything through the wall.'
     'Your neighbour has just passed away,' whispered  Praskovya Fyodorovna,
unable  to  overcome  her truthfulness and kindness, and, all  clothed in  a
flash of  lightning, she looked fearfully at Ivanushka. But nothing terrible
happened to Ivanushka. He only raised his finger significandy and said:
     'I knew it! I assure you, Praskovya Fyodorovna, that yet another person
has  just  passed away in the city.  I even know who,' here Ivanushka smiled
mysteriously. 'It's a woman!'

     The storm was swept away without  a trace, and a multicoloured rainbow,
its arch thrown across all of Moscow, stood in  the sky, drinking water from
the Moscow  River.  High up,  on  a hill  between  two  copses,  three  dark
silhouettes  could be seen.  Woland, Koroviev and Behemoth sat in the saddle
on three black horses, looking at the city spread out beyond the river, with
the fragmented sun glittering in thousands  of  windows  facing west, and at
the gingerbread towers of the Devichy Convent. [2]
     There was a noise  in the air,  and Azazello,  who had the  master  and
Margarita flying in the  black tail of his  cloak, alighted with them beside
the waiting group.
     'We  had to  trouble you a  little,  Margarita Nikolaevna and  master,'
Woland began  after some silence, 'but you won't grudge  me  that.  I  don't
think you  will  regret it. So, then,'  he addressed the master alone,  'bid
farewell  to  the city.  It's time for us  to  go,'  Woland pointed with his
black-gauntleted hand  to where numberless suns  melted the glass beyond the
river, to where, above  these suns, stood  the mist, smoke and steam of  the
city scorched all day.
     The master threw himself  out of the saddle, left the mounted ones, and
ran  to  the  edge of the  hillside. The black  cloak dragged on the  ground
behind him. The  master began to look  at the city.  In the  first moments a
wringing sadness crept  over his  heart,  but  it very quickly gave wav to a
sweetish anxiety, a wondering gypsy excitement.
     `For ever! ...  That needs  to  be grasped,'  the master  whispered and
licked  his  dry, cracked lips.  He  began to heed and take precise  note of
everything that went on in his  soul. His excitement turned, as it seemed to
him, into a feeling of  deep  and  grievous offence.  But it  was  unstable,
vanished, and gave way for some reason to  a  haughty indifference, and that
to a foretaste of enduring peace.
     The group of riders waited silently for the master. The group of riders
watched the black, long figure on the edge of the  hillside gesticulate, now
raising his head, as if trying to reach across the whole city with his eyes,
to  peer  beyond its limits, now hanging his head  down, as if  studying the
trampled,  meagre grass under his feet. The silence  was broken by the bored
Behemoth. `Allow me, maltre,' he began, 'to  give  a farewell  whisde before
the ride.'
     'You  may  frighten the lady,'  Woland  answered, 'and, besides,  don't
forget that all your outrages today are now at an end.'
     'Ah,  no, no,  Messire,' responded Margarita, who sat side-saddle, arms
akimbo, the sharp corner of her train hanging to the ground, 'allow him, let
him whisde. I'm overcome  with sadness  before  the long journey.  Isn't  it
true, Messire, it's quite natural even when a person knows that happiness is
waiting at the end of the road? Let him make us laugh, or I'm afraid it will
end in tears, and everything will be spoiled before the journey!'
     Woland  nodded to Behemoth, who  became all animated,  jumped down from
the  saddle,  put  his  fingers  in his  mouth, puffed out his  cheeks,  and
whistled. Margarita's ears rang. Her horse reared, in  the  copse dry  twigs
rained down from  the trees,  a whole flock of crows and sparrows flew up, a
pillar of dust went sweeping  down to  the river, and, as  an excursion boat
was passing the pier, one could see several of the passengers' caps blow off
into the water.
     The  whistle  made the master  start,  yet  he did  not turn, but began
gesticulating  still more anxiously, raising  his  hand  to  the  sky  as if
threatening the city. Behemoth gazed around proudly.
     'That was whistled, I don't  argue,' Koroviev observed condescendingly,
'whistled indeed, but, to be impartial, whistled rather middlingly.'
     'I'm not a choirmaster,' Behemoth replied with dignity, puffing up, and
he winked unexpectedly at Margarita.
     'Give us a try, for  old times' sake,' Koroviev  said, rubbed his hand,
and breathed on his fingers.
     'Watch  out,  watch out,' came the stern voice of  Woland on his horse,
'no inflicting of injuries.'
     'Messire, believe  me,'  Koroviev responded, placing his  hand  on  his
heart,  'in fun, merely  in  fun ...'  Here  he  suddenly  stretched himself
upwards, as if he were made of rubber, formed the  fingers of his right hand
into some  clever  arrangement, twisted  himself up like a screw, and  then,
suddenly unwinding, whistled.
     This whisde Margarita did  not hear, but she  saw it in the moment when
she, together with  her fiery steed,  was thrown some  twenty yards away. An
oak tree  beside her  was torn up by  the roots, and the ground was  covered
with cracks all the way to the river. A huge slab of the bank, together with
the  pier and the restaurant,  sagged into the river. The water boiled, shot
up, and the entire excursion boat with its perfectly unharmed passengers was
washed  on to the low bank opposite. A jackdaw, killed by  Fagott's whistle,
was flung at the feet of Margarita's snorting steed.
     The master was startled by this whistle. He clutched his  head and  ran
back to the group of waiting companions.
     'Well, then,'  Woland addressed him  from the height of his steed,  'is
your farewell completed?'
     'Yes, it's  completed,'  the  master replied and,  having  calmed down,
looked directly and boldly into Woland's face.
     And then over the hills like a  trumpet blast  rolled Woland's terrible
     'It's time!!' - and with it the sharp whistle and guffaw of Behemoth.
     The steeds  tore  off, and  the riders rose into the air  and galloped.
Margarita felt her furious steed champing and straining at the bit. Woland's
cloak billowed over the heads of the cavalcade; the cloak began to cover the
evening sky. When the  black  shroud was momentarily  blown aside, Margarita
looked back as  she  rode  and saw that there not only were no multicoloured
towers behind them, but the city itself had long been gone.  It was as if it
had fallen through the earth - only mist and smoke were left...

     Gods, my gods! How sad the evening earth! How mysterious the mists over
the  swamps!  He  who has  wandered in these mists, he who has suffered much
before death, he who has flown over this  earth bearing on himself too heavy
a burden, knows it. The weary man knows it. And without regret he leaves the
mists  of the  earth, its  swamps and  rivers, with a light heart  he  gives
himself into the hands of death, knowing that she alone can bring him peace.
     The  magical black horses  also became  tired and carried their  riders
slowly,  and ineluctable night  began to overtake  them. Sensing  it at  his
back, even the irrepressible Behemoth quieted  down and, his claws sunk into
the saddle, flew silent and serious, puffing up his tail.
     Night began to cover forests and fields with its black shawl, night lit
melancholy little lights somewhere far below - now no longer interesting and
necessary either for Margarita or  for the master - alien lights. Night  was
outdistancing the cavalcade,  it sowed itself over  them from above, casting
white specks of stars here and there in the saddened sky.
     Night  thickened, flew  alongside, caught  at the riders'  cloaks  and,
tearing  them  from  their  shoulders,  exposed  the  deceptions.  And  when
Margarita, blown upon by the  cool wind,  opened her eyes,  she saw  how the
appearance of them  all  was changing  as they flew to their goal. And when,
from beyond the edge of the  forest, the crimson and full moon  began rising
to meet them,  all deceptions vanished, fell into  the swamp,  the  unstable
magic garments drowned in the mists.
     Hardly recognizable as  Koroviev-Fagott, the self-appointed interpreter
to the mysterious consultant who needed no interpreting, was he who now flew
just beside Woland, to the right of the master's friend. In place of him who
had  left  Sparrow  Hills  in  a  ragged  circus  costume under  the name of
Koroviev-Fagott, there  now  rode, softly clinking the golden  chains of the
bridle,  a  dark-violet knight with a most gloomy and never-smiling face. He
rested his chin on  his chest, he  did not look  at  the moon,  he  was  not
interested in the earth, he was thinking something of his own, flying beside
     "Why  has  he changed  so?'  Margarita  quietly  asked  Woland  to  the
whistling of the wind.
     This knight once made an unfortunate joke,' replied Woland, turning his
face with its quietly burning eye to Margarita. 'The pun he thought up, in a
discussion about light and darkness, was not altogether good. And after that
the  knight had to go  on joking a bit more and longer than he supposed. But
this is one of the nights when accounts are settled.  The knight has paid up
and closed his account.'
     Night  also  tore off  Behemoth's fluffy  tail,  pulled off his fur and
scattered it in tufts  over the swamps. He  who had been a cat, entertaining
the prince of darkness, now turned out to be a slim youth, a demon-page, the
best  jester the world  has  ever  seen. Now  he,  too,  grew quiet and flew
noiselessly, setting his young face towards the light that streamed from the
     At the far side, the steel of his armour glittering, flew Azazello. The
moon also  changed  his  face. The  absurd,  ugly fang disappeared without a
trace, and the albugo on his eye proved false. Azazello's eyes were both the
same, empty and black, and his face was white and cold. Now Azazello flew in
his true form, as the demon of the waterless desert, the killer-demon.
     Margarita could not see herself, but she  saw very well how the  master
had changed. His hair was now  white in the moonlight and gathered behind in
a braid, and it flew on the wind. When the wind blew the cloak away from the
master's legs, Margarita saw  the stars of spurs on his jackboots, now going
out, now lighting up.  Like the demon-youth,  the  master flew with his eyes
fixed on the moon, yet smiling to it, as to a close and beloved friend, and,
from a habit acquired in room no.118, murmuring something to himself.
     And,  finally, Woland also flew in his  true image. Margarita could not
have said  what his horse's  bridle was made of,  but thought  it  might  be
chains of moonlight, and  the horse itself was a  mass of darkness,  and the
horse's mane a storm cloud, and the rider's spurs the white flecks of stars.
     Thus they flew in silence for a long time, until the place itself began
to change below them. The melancholy forests drowned in earthly darkness and
drew with them the  dim blades of the rivers. Boulders appeared and began to
gleam below,  with  black gaps between  them  where the  moonlight  did  not
     Woland reined in his  horse on a  stony, joyless,  flat summit, and the
riders then proceeded at a walk, listening to  the crunch of flint and stone
under  the  horses'  shoes.  Moonlight  flooded  the  platform  greenly  and
brightly, and soon Margarita made out an armchair in this deserted place and
in it the white figure of a seated man. Possibly the seated man was deaf, or
else too sunk in his own thoughts. He did not  hear the  stony earth shudder
under the horses' weight, and the  riders approached  him without disturbing
     The moon helped Margarita well, it shone  better than the best electric
lantern, and  Margarita saw  that  the seated man, whose eyes  seemed blind,
rubbed his hands fitfully, and peered with those  same  unseeing eyes at the
disc  of  the moon. Now Margarita saw that beside the heavy stone  chair, on
which sparks glittered in the moonlight, lay a dark,  huge, sharp-eared dog,
and, like its master, it gazed anxiously at the moon. Pieces of a broken jug
were  scattered by  the seated man's feet  and  an undrying black-red puddle
spread there. The riders stopped their horses.
     Your novel has  been read,' Woland began, turning to  the master,  'and
the  only thing said  about it  was that, unfortunately, it is not finished.
So, then, I wanted to  show you your hero.  For  about two thousand years he
has  been  sitting  on  this platform  and sleeping,  but when the full moon
comes, as you  see, he is tormented by insomnia. It  torments not  only him,
but also his faithful guardian, the dog.
     If it is true that cowardice is the most grievous vice, then the dog at
least  is not guilty of it. Storms were the only thing the brave dog feared.
Well, he who loves must share the lot of the one he loves.'
     `What  is  he  saying?'  asked  Margarita, and her  perfectly calm face
clouded over with compassion.
     'He says one and  the same thing,'  Woland replied. `He says  that even
the moon gives him no  peace,  and that his  is a bad job. That  is what  he
always says when he is not asleep, and when he sleeps, he dreams one and the
same thing: there is a  path of moonlight, and he wants to  walk down it and
talk with the  prisoner Ha-Nozri, because, as he  insists, he never finished
what he was saying that time, long  ago, on the fourteenth day of the spring
month of  Nisan. But, alas, for some reason he  never manages  to  get on to
this path, and  no one  comes to  him. Then there's no help for it, he  must
talk to himself. However,  one  does  need some diversity,  and  to his talk
about the moon he often adds that of all things in the world,  he most hates
his  immortality  and  his  unheard-of fame.  He  maintains  that  he  would
willingly exchange his lot for that of the ragged tramp Matthew Levi.'
     `Twelve thousand moons for one moon  long ago,  isn't  that too  much?'
asked Margarita.
     `Repeating  the  story  with  Frieda?'  said Woland. 'But don't trouble
yourself here, Margarita. Everything will turn out right, the world is built
on that.'
     'Let him  go!' Margarita suddenly cried piercingly,  as  she had  cried
once as a witch, and at this cry a stone fell somewhere in the mountains and
tumbled down the ledges into the abyss, filling the mountains with rumbling.
But Margarita could not have said whether it was the rumbling of its fall or
the  rumbling  of satanic  laughter. In any case, Woland was  laughing as he
glanced at Margarita and said:
     'Don't shout  in  the mountains, he's accustomed  to avalanches anyway,
and it won't rouse  him. You don't  need to ask for him,  Margarita, because
the one  he so yearns to talk with has  already  asked for him.' Here Woland
turned to the master and said:
     'Well, now you can finish your novel with one phrase!'
     The master  seemed to have been expecting this, as he stood  motionless
and looked  at  the seated procurator. He cupped his hands to his  mouth and
cried  out  so  that the  echo  leaped  over  the unpeopled  and  unforested
     'You're free! You're free! He's waiting for you!'
     The mountains  turned the master's voice to thunder,  and by  this same
thunder  they  were destroyed. The accursed rocky  walls collapsed. Only the
platform with the stone armchair remained. Over  the  black abyss into which
the  walls had gone, a boundless  city lit  up, dominated by  gleaming idols
above a garden grown luxuriously over many thousands  of  moons. The path of
moonlight so long awaited  by the procurator stretched right to this garden,
and the first to rush down it was the sharp-eared dog. The man  in the white
cloak with blood-red  lining rose from the armchair and shouted something in
a hoarse, cracked voice. It was impossible to tell whether he was weeping or
laughing,  or what he shouted.  It  could only  be seen that, following  his
faithful guardian, he, too, rushed headlong down the path of moonlight.
     `I'm  to  follow him there?' the  master asked  anxiously, holding  the
     'No,' replied Woland, 'why run after what is already finished?'
     There, then?'  the master asked, turning  and pointing  back, where the
recently abandoned city with the gingerbread towers of its convent, with the
sun broken to smithereens in its windows, now wove itself behind them.
     'Not there, either,' replied Woland, and his voice thickened and flowed
over the  rocks. `Romantic  master! He, whom the hero you invented  and have
just set free so yearns to see, has read your novel.' Here Woland turned  to
Margarita: `Margarita Nikolaevna! It is impossible  not to  believe that you
have  tried  to think up the best future for the master, but, really, what I
am offering you, and what  Yeshua has asked for you, is better still!  Leave
them to each other,' Woland said, leaning  towards the  master's saddle from
his own, pointing to  where the  procurator had  gone,  'let's not interfere
with them. And maybe  they'll still arrive at something.'  Here Woland waved
his arm in the direction of Yershalaim, and it went out.
     'And there, too,' Woland pointed behind them, 'what are you going to do
in the little basement?' Here the sun broken up in the glass went out.
     'Why?'  Woland went on  persuasively and  gently,  'oh, thrice-romantic
master, can it be that you don't want to go  strolling  with your  friend in
the  daytime  under cherry trees just coming into  bloom, and in the evening
listen to Schubert's  music?  Can it be  that you won't like writing  with a
goose  quill by candlelight?  Can it be  that  you don't want  to sit over a
retort like Faust, in hopes that you'll succeed in forming a new homunculus?
There! There! The house and the old servant are already waiting for you, the
candles are  already burning,  and  soon they  will go out, because you will
immediately meet the dawn. Down this path,  master, this one! Farewell! It's
time for me to go!'
     'Farewell!' Margarita and the  master  answered Woland in one cry. Then
the black Woland, heedless of any road,  threw himself  into a gap,  and his
retinue noisily hurried down after him. There were no rocks, no platform, no
path of moonlight, no Yershalaim around. The black steeds also vanished. The
master  and  Margarita  saw  the  promised  dawn.  It  began  straight away,
immediately after the midnight moon.
     The master walked with his friend in the brilliance of  the first  rays
of  morning over a mossy little stone bridge. They crossed it.  The faithful
lovers left the stream behind and walked down the sandy path.
     'Listen to the stillness,' Margarita said to the master, and  the  sand
rustled  under her  bare feet, `listen and enjoy what you  were not given in
life - peace. Look,  there ahead  is  your eternal home, which you have been
given  as a reward. I can  already see the Venetian  window and the twisting
vine, it climbs right up to the roof. Here is your home, your eternal home.
     I know that in  the  evenings you will  be visited  by those you  love,
those who interest you and who will  never trouble you.  They will play  for
you, they will sing for you, you will see what light is in the room when the
candles are burning. You will fall  asleep,  having  put  on your greasy and
eternal nightcap, you will fall asleep with a smile on your lips. Sleep will
strengthen you, you will reason wisely. And you will  no longer  be able  to
drive me away. I will watch over your sleep.'
     Thus spoke Margarita, walking with the  master to their  eternal  home,
and it seemed to the master that Margarita's words flowed in the same way as
the stream  they  had  left  behind  flowed  and whispered, and the master's
memory,  the  master's anxious, needled  memory began  to fade.  Someone was
setting  the master  free, as he himself  had just  set free the hero he had
created. This hero had gone into the abyss, gone irrevocably, the son of the
astrologer-king, forgiven on the eve of Sunday,  the cruel  fifth procurator
of Judea, the equestrian Pontius Pilate.


     But all the same  - what  happened later in Moscow, after that Saturday
evening when Woland left the capital, having  disappeared from Sparrow Hills
at sunset with his retinue?
     Of  the fact that, for a long time, a dense hum  of the most incredible
rumours went  all over  the capital and  very quickly  spread to  remote and
forsaken  provincial  places as  well,  nothing need be  said.  It  is  even
nauseating to repeat such rumours.
     The  writer of  these truthful lines himself, personally, on a trip  to
Feodosiya, heard a story on the train about two  thousand persons in  Moscow
coming out  of a theatre stark-naked in the literal sense of the word and in
that fashion returning home in taxi-cabs.
     The  whisper  'unclean  powers' was  heard in queues waiting  at  dairy
stores,  in tram-cars, shops,  apartments, kitchens, on trains both suburban
and long-distance, in stations big  and small,  at  summer  resorts  and  on
     The  most developed and  cultured  people, to be sure,  took no part in
this  tale-telling about the unclean  powers  that had visited Moscow,  even
laughed at them and tried to bring the tellers to reason. But all the same a
fact, as they say, is a fact,  and to brush it aside without explanations is
simply impossible: someone had visited the capital. The  nice little cinders
left  over from Griboedov's,  and many other things  as well, confirmed that
only too eloquently.
     Cultured people adopted the view of the investigation: it had  been the
work  of  a gang of hypnotists and ventriloquists  with a  superb command of
their art.
     Measures for catching  them, in  Moscow as well as outside it,  were of
course immediately and energetically taken,  but, most regrettably, produced
no  results. The one calling himself Woland disappeared with all his company
and  neither  returned to  Moscow  nor appeared  anywhere else, and did  not
manifest himself in any way. Quite naturally, the suggestion emerged that he
had fled abroad, but there, too, he gave no signs of himself.
     The investigation  of his case  continued for a long  time. Because, in
truth,  it was  a  monstrous case! Not to mention four burned-down buildings
and hundreds of people driven mad, there had been murders. Of two this could
be said with certainty: of  Berlioz, and of that ill-fated  employee of  the
bureau  for acquainting  foreigners with  places of  interest in Moscow, the
former Baron Meigel. They had been murdered. The charred bones of the latter
were discovered in apartment no.50 on Sadovaya Street after the fire was put
out. Yes, there were victims, and these victims called for investigation.
     But  there were other  victims  as well,  even  after  Woland  left the
capital, and these victims, sadly enough, were black cats.
     Approximately  a hundred of these peaceful  and useful animals, devoted
to mankind,  were  shot or  otherwise exterminated in various parts  of  the
country. About a dozen cats, some badly disfigured, were delivered to police
stations in  various cities. For instance, in Armavir one of these perfectly
guiltless beasts was brought to  the police by some  citizen with its  front
paws tied.
     This cat had been ambushed by the  citizen at the very moment when  the
animal,  with a thievish look  (how can it be helped if cats have this look?
It is not because they are depraved, but  because they are  afraid lest some
beings  stronger than themselves - dogs or  people - cause them some harm or
offence. Both are very easy to do, but  I  assure you there  is no credit in
doing so, no, none at all!), so, then,  with a thievish look the cat was for
some reason about to dash into the burdock.
     Falling  upon the  cat and tearing his  necktie  off  to  bind  it, the
citizen muttered venomously and threateningly:
     'Aha!  So now you've  been  so good as to come to  our Armavir,  mister
hypnotist? Well, we're not afraid of  you here. Don't pretend to be dumb! We
know what kind of goose you are!'
     The citizen brought the cat to  the police, dragging the poor beast  by
its front paws, bound with a green  necktie, giving it little kicks  to make
the cat walk not otherwise than on its hind legs.
     `You  quit  that,'  cried  the citizen, accompanied  by whistling boys,
'quit playing the fool! It won't do! Kindly walk like everybody else!'
     The black  cat only rolled its martyred eyes. Being deprived  by nature
of the  gift of speech, it could not vindicate itself in any way.  The  poor
beast owed its salvation first of all to the police, and then to its owner -
a  venerable old widow.  As soon  as the  cat  was  delivered to  the police
station,  it  was realized  that  the  citizen  smelled  rather strongly  of
alcohol, as a result of which his evidence was at once subject to doubt. And
the little old lady, having meanwhile  learned  from neighbours that her cat
had been hauled in, rushed to the station and arrived in the nick of time.
     She gave the most flattering references for the cat, explained that she
had  known it for five years, since it was a kitten, that she vouched for it
as for her own self, and proved that it had never been  known to do anything
bad and had never been to Moscow. As it had  been  born in Armavir, so there
it had grown up and learned the catching of mice.
     The cat was untied and returned to its owner, having tasted grief, it's
true, and having learned by experience the meaning of error and slander.
     Besides cats, some minor unpleasantnesses befell certain persons.
     Detained for  a short time were: in Leningrad,  the citizens Wolman and
Wolper; in Saratov, Kiev  and Kharkov, three Volodins; in Kazan, one Volokh;
and  in  Penza  - this for totally  unknown  reasons  - doctor  of  chemical
sciences  Vetchinkevich.  True, he  was enormously tall,  very  swarthy  and
     In various places, besides that, nine Korovins, four Korovkins and  two
Karavaevs were caught.
     A  certain citizen was taken off the Sebastopol train and  bound at the
Belgorod  station.  This  citizen  had  decided   to  entertain  his  fellow
passengers with card tricks.
     In Yaroslavl, a citizen came to a restaurant  at lunch-time carrying  a
primus which he had just picked up from being  repaired. The moment they saw
him,  the two doormen abandoned  their  posts in the coatroom  and fled, and
after them fled all the restaurant's customers and personnel. With  that, in
some inexplicable fashion, the girl  at the cash register had all the  money
disappear on her.
     There was much else, but one cannot remember everything.
     Again  and  again justice must  be  done to  the  investigation.  Every
attempt  was made not  only to catch the criminals, but to explain all their
mischief. And  it all was explained, and  these explanations  cannot  but be
acknowledged as sensible and irrefutable.
     Representatives  of  the  investigation  and experienced  psychiatrists
established  that members  of the  criminal  gang,  or one  of  them perhaps
(suspicion fell mainly on Koroviev), were hypnotists of unprecedented power,
who could  show themselves not in the place where they actually were, but in
imaginary, shifted positions.  Along with that, they could freely suggest to
those  they encountered  that certain  things  or  people  were  where  they
actually were not, and, contrariwise, could  remove from the field of vision
things or people that were in fact to be found within that field of vision.
     In the light of such explanations, decidedly everything was clear, even
what the citizens found most troublesome, the  apparently quite inexplicable
invulnerability of the cat, shot at in apartment no.50 during the attempt to
put him under arrest.
     There had been no cat on the chandelier, naturally, nor had anyone even
thought of returning their fire,  the  shooters had been aiming at an  empty
spot,  while Koroviev,  having suggested that  the cat was acting up on  the
chandelier,  was free  to stand  behind  the  shooters' backs,  mugging  and
enjoying his enormous, albeit criminally employed, capacity for suggestion.
     It was he, of course, who had set fire to the apartment by spilling the
     Styopa Likhodeev had, of course, never gone  to any Yalta (such a stunt
was  beyond even Koroviev's  powers), nor  had he  sent  any telegrams  from
there. After  fainting in the  jeweller's wife's apartment,  frightened by a
trick of Koroviev's, who had shown him a cat holding a pickled mushroom on a
fork, he lay there until Koroviev, jeering at him,  capped him with a shaggy
felt hat and sent him  to the Moscow  airport, having first suggested to the
representatives of  the investigation  who went  to  meet Styopa that Styopa
would be getting off the plane from Sebastopol.
     True, the  criminal  investigation department in Yalta  maintained that
they  had received  the barefoot Styopa,  and had sent telegrams  concerning
Styopa to Moscow, but no copies  of these telegrams were found in the files,
from which the  sad but absolutely invincible  conclusion was drawn that the
hypnotizing gang was able to hypnotize at an enormous distance, and not only
individual persons but even whole groups of them.
     Under these circumstances, the criminals  were able to  drive people of
the  sturdiest psychic  make-up out  of their minds. To say  nothing of such
trifles as the pack  of cards in the  pocket  of someone in  the stalls, the
women's disappearing dresses, or the miaowing beret, or other things of that
sort! Such  stunts can be  pulled  by any professional hypnotist of  average
ability on any  stage, including the uncomplicated trick of tearing the head
off  the master of ceremonies. The talking  cat  was also sheer nonsense. To
present people with such a cat, it is enough to have a command  of the basic
principles of ventriloquism, and scarcely anyone will doubt that  Koroviev's
art went significantly beyond those principles.
     Yes, the  point here lay not  at all  in  packs of  cards, or the false
letters in Nikanor Ivanovich's briefcase! These were all trifles! It was he,
Koroviev, who  had sent  Berlioz to certain death under the tram-car. It was
he who had driven the poor  poet Ivan Homeless  crazy, he  who  had made him
have visions, see ancient Yershalaim in tormenting dreams, and sun-scorched,
waterless Bald Mountain with three men hanging on posts.  It was he  and his
gang who had made Margarita Nikolaevna and her housekeeper Natasha disappear
from Moscow.  Incidentally, the  investigation  considered this  matter with
special attention. It had to find out if the two women had been  abducted by
the  gang of  murderers  and  arsonists or  had  fled voluntarily  with  the
criminal  company. On the  basis of  the  absurd and  incoherent evidence of
Nikolai  Ivanovich,  and considering the  strange and insane  note Margarita
Nikolaevna had left for  her husband,  the note in which she wrote that  she
had gone off to become a witch, as well as the circumstance that Natasha had
disappeared leaving all her clothes behind, the investigation concluded that
both mistress and housekeeper, like many  others, had  been  hypnotized, and
had  thus been abducted  by the band. There also emerged  the probably quite
correct thought that  the criminals had  been attracted by the beauty of the
two women.
     Yet what  remained completely unclear  to  the  investigation  was  the
gang's motive in abducting the mental patient who  called himself the master
from  the psychiatric clinic. This they never succeeded in establishing, nor
did they succeed in obtaining the abducted man's last name. Thus he vanished
for  ever  under  the dead alias  of  number  one-eighteen  from  the  first
     And so, almost everything was explained,  and the investigation came to
an end, as everything generally comes to an end.
     Several years passed, and the citizens began to forget Woland, Koroviev
and the rest.  Many changes took  place  in  the lives of those who suffered
from Woland and  his  company, and however  trifling and insignificant those
changes are, they still ought to be noted.
     Georges Bengalsky,  for instance,  after  spending  three months in the
clinic, recovered  and left it, but had  to give up his work at the Variety,
and that at the hottest time, when the  public  was flocking  after tickets:
the memory of black magic and its exposure proved very tenacious.
     Bengalsky  left the  Variety, for  he understood that  to appear  every
night before two thousand people, to  be inevitably recognized and endlessly
subjected to  jeering questions of  how he liked it better, with  or without
his head, was much too painful.
     And,  besides that,  the master of ceremonies  had lost  a considerable
dose of  his gaiety, which is  so  necessary in his profession. He  remained
with  the unpleasant, burdensome habit of falling, every  spring  during the
full  moon, into a state  of anxiety,  suddenly clutching his  neck, looking
around fearfully and weeping. These fits would pass, but all the same, since
he had them,  he  could not continue in his  former occupation, and  so  the
master of ceremonies retired  and  started living  on his savings, which, by
his modest reckoning, were enough to last him fifteen years.
     He left  and  never  again  met  Varenukha,  who  has gained  universal
popularity and affection  by  his  responsiveness and politeness, incredible
even  among  theatre  administrators. The  free-pass seekers, for  instance,
never refer to him otherwise  than  as father-benefactor. One  can  call the
Variety at any time and always hear in the receiver a soft but sad voice:
     `May  I help you?' And to the  request that Varenukha be  called to the
phone,  the same voice hastens to  answer:  'At your  service.' And, oh, how
Ivan Savelyevich has suffered from his own politeness!
     Styopa  Likhodeev  was to talk no more  over the phone at  the Variety.
Immediately after  his release from  the clinic, where he spent  eight days,
Styopa  was transferred to  Rostov, taking up the position of manager  of  a
large  food  store.  Rumour has it that  he has stopped  drinking cheap wine
altogether  and drinks only vodka with blackcurrant buds, which has  greatly
improved his health.  They say he has become taciturn and  keeps  away  from
     The removal of Stepan Bogdanovich from the Variety did not bring Rimsky
the  joy of which he had  been  so greedily dreaming over the  past  several
years.  After  the clinic  and Kislovodsk, old, old as  could  be,  his head
wagging,  the findirector  submitted  a request  to  be dismissed  from  the
Variety.  The  interesting thing  was that this request  was brought to  the
Variety by Rimsky's wife. Grigory Danilovich  himself  found it  beyond  his
strength to visit, even during  the daytime, the building where he had  seen
the  cracked  window-pane flooded with moonlight and the long arm making its
way to the lower latch.
     Having left the Variety, the findirector took a  job with  a children's
marionette theatre in Zamoskvorechye. In this  theatre he  no  longer had to
run  into the much-esteemed Arkady  Apollonovich  Semplevarov  on matters of
acoustics. The latter had been promptly transferred to Briansk and appointed
manager of  a mushroom  cannery. The Muscovites now eat  salted  and pickled
mushrooms and cannot praise them  enough, and  they rejoice exceedingly over
this  transfer. Since  it  is  a  bygone thing, we may now say  that  Arkady
Apollonovich's  relations with acoustics never worked out  very well, and as
they had been, so they remained, no matter how he tried to improve them.
     Among  persons  who have  broken  with the theatre,  apart from  Arkady
Apollonovich, mention should be made of Nikanor  Ivanovich Bosoy,  though he
had  been connected with the theatre  in  no other way  than by his love for
free tickets. Nikanor Ivanovich not only goes to no  sort of theatre, either
paying or free, but even changes countenance at any theatrical conversation.
     Besides  the theatre, he has come  to hate,  not to a lesser  but to  a
still  greater  degree,  the  poet  Pushkin  and  the  talented  actor  Sawa
Potapovich Kurolesov. The latter to  such a degree that  last year, seeing a
black-framed announcement in the newspaper that Sawa Potapovich had suffered
a stroke in the full bloom of his career, Nikanor Ivanovich turned so purple
that he almost followed  after  Sawa Potapovich, and  bellowed: `Serves  him
     Moreover, that same evening Nikanor Ivanovich, in whom the death of the
popular  actor had  evoked a great many painful memories, alone, in the sole
company of  the full moon shining on Sadovaya, got terribly drunk. And  with
each drink, the cursed line  of hateful figures got longer, and in this line
were  Dunchil, Sergei  Gerardovich, and  the beautiful Ida Herculanovna, and
that red-haired owner of fighting geese, and the candid Kanavkin, Nikolai.
     Well, and what  on  earth  happened  to them?  Good heavens!  Precisely
nothing  happened  to  them,  or could  happen,  since they  never  actually
existed, as that affable artiste, the  master of ceremonies, never  existed,
nor  the theatre itself, nor  that old  pinchfist of an aunt Porokhovnikova,
who kept currency  rotting in the cellar, and there certainly were no golden
trumpets  or impudent cooks. All this Nikanor Ivanovich merely dreamed under
the influence of the nasty Koroviev. The only living person to fly into this
dream was precisely  Sawa Potapovich, the actor,  and he got  mixed up in it
only  because  he  was ingrained in Nikanor Ivanovich's  memory owing to his
frequent performances on the radio. He existed, but the rest did not.
     So, maybe Aloisy Mogarych  did not exist  either?  Oh, no! He  not only
existed, but  he  exists even now  and precisely in  the  post given  up  by
Rimsky, that is, the post of findirector of the Variety.
     Coming to his senses about twenty-four hours after his visit to Woland,
on a  train somewhere near Vyatka, Aloisy  realized  that,  having for  some
reason left Moscow in a darkened state of mind, he  had forgotten to put  on
his  trousers,  but  instead  had  stolen,  with  an  unknown  purpose,  the
completely useless household  register of the builder. Paying a colossal sum
of money to the conductor, Aloisy  acquired from him  an old and greasy pair
of  pants,  and in Vyatka  he turned back. But, alas, he did  not  find  the
builder's little house. The decrepit trash had  been licked clean away by  a
fire. But Aloisy was an  extremely enterprising man. Two weeks later he  was
living  in a splendid room on Briusovsky Lane, and a few months later he was
sitting  in  Rimsky's  office. And  as Rimsky had  once suffered because  of
Styopa, so now Varenukha was tormented because of Aloisy. Ivan Savelyevich's
only dream  is that this  Aloisy  should be removed somewhere out of  sight,
because, as Varenukha sometimes whispers  in intimate company, he supposedly
has never  in his life met  'such  scum  as this Aloisy', and  he supposedly
expects anything you like from this Aloisy.
     However, the  administrator is perhaps prejudiced. Aloisy has not  been
known for any shady business, or for any business  at all, unless  of course
we count his appointing someone else to replace the barman Sokov. For Andrei
Fokich  died of liver cancer in the clinic of the First MSU some  ten months
after Woland's appearance in Moscow.
     Yes, several  years have passed, and the events truthfully described in
this book have healed over  and faded from memory. But not for everyone, not
for everyone.
     Each year, with the festal spring full moon,' a man of about  thirty or
thirty-odd  appears  towards  evening under the lindens  at the  Patriarch's
Ponds.  A  reddish-haired,  green-eyed,  modestly  dressed  man.  He  is   a
researcher  at the  Institute of  History  and  Philosophy,  Professor  Ivan
Nikolaevich Ponyrev.
     Coming under the lindens,  he  always  sits down on the  same  bench on
which he sat that evening when Berlioz, long forgotten by  all, saw the moon
breaking  to pieces  for the last  time in his life. Whole now, white at the
start of the evening, then gold with a dark horse-dragon, it floats over the
former poet Ivan  Nikolaevich and at the same  time stays  in  place at  its
     Ivan  Nikolaevich  is  aware  of everything,  he knows  and understands
everything.  He  knows  that  as  a  young  man he fell  victim to  criminal
hypnotists  and  was  afterwards treated and cured.  But he also  knows that
there are things he cannot manage. He cannot manage this spring full moon.
     As  soon as it begins to approach, as  soon as the  luminary that  once
hung higher than the two five-branched candlesticks begins to swell and fill
with gold,  Ivan Nikolaevich becomes anxious, nervous, he loses appetite and
sleep, waiting till  the  moon ripens. And when the full moon comes, nothing
can keep Ivan Nikolaevich at home. Towards evening  he goes out and walks to
the Patriarch's Ponds.
     Sitting on the bench, Ivan Nikolaevich openly talks to himself, smokes,
squints now at the moon, now at the memorable turnstile.
     Ivan Nikolaevich spends an hour or  two like this. Then  he  leaves his
place and, always following the same itinerary, goes with empty and unseeing
eyes through Spiridonovka to the lanes of the Arbat.
     He passes  the kerosene shop, turns  by a  lopsided  old gaslight,  and
steals  up to a  fence, behind  which  he  sees  a luxuriant,  though as yet
unclothed, garden, and in it  a Gothic mansion, moon-washed on the side with
the triple bay window and dark on the other.
     The professor does not know what draws him to the fence or who lives in
the mansion, but he  does know that there is no fighting with himself on the
night of the full  moon. Besides,  he knows that he will inevitably see  one
and the same thing in the garden behind the fence.
     He will see an elderly and respectable man with a little beard, wearing
a pince-nez,  and with slightly piggish  features, sitting on a bench.  Ivan
Nikolaevich  always finds this resident  of  the mansion in one and the same
dreamy  pose,  his  eyes  turned towards the  moon.  It  is  known  to  Ivan
Nikolaevich that, after  admiring the moon, the seated man will  unfailingly
turn  his  gaze to the bay windows and fix it on them, as  if expecting that
they would presently be flung open and something extraordinary would  appear
on the  window-sill. The whole sequel Ivan Nikolaevich knows  by heart. Here
he must bury himself  deeper behind the fence,  for presently the seated man
will begin  to turn  his head restlessly, to snatch at  something in the air
with a wandering gaze, to smile rapturously, and then he will suddenly clasp
his hands in  a  sort of  sweet anguish,  and then he will murmur simply and
rather loudly:
     'Venus! Venus! ... Ah, fool that I am! ...'
     'Gods, gods!' Ivan Nikolaevich will begin to whisper, hiding behind the
fence  and never taking his kindling eyes off the mysterious stranger. 'Here
is one more of the moon's victims ... Yes, one more victim, like me...'
     And the seated man will go on talking:
     'Ah,  fool that I am! Why, why didn't I fly off with her? What were you
afraid of,  old  ass? Got yourself a  certificate! Ah,  suffer now,  you old
cretin! ...'
     It will go  on like this until a window in the dark part of the mansion
bangs, something whitish appears in it, and an unpleasant female voice rings
     'Nikolai Ivanovich, where are you? What is this fantasy? Want  to catch
malaria? Come and have tea!'
     Here, of course,  the seated man will recover his senses and reply in a
lying voice:
     'I  wanted a  breath of  air,  a breath of  air, dearest! The air is so
nice! ...'
     And here he will get up from the  bench, shake his  fist on the sly  at
the closing ground-floor window, and trudge back to the house.
     'Lying, he's lying! Oh, gods, how he's lying!' Ivan Nikolaevich mutters
as he leaves the fence.  'It's not the air that draws him to the  garden, he
sees something at the  time  of this  spring full moon, in  the  garden,  up
there!  Ah, I'd pay dearly to  penetrate his mystery, to know who this Venus
is that he's lost and now fruitlessly feels for in the air, trying  to catch
her! ...'
     And the professor returns home completely ill. His wife pretends not to
notice his condition and urges him to go to bed. But she herself does not go
to bed and sits  by the lamp with a book, looking with grieving  eyes at the
sleeper. She knows that Ivan Nikolaevich will wake up at dawn with a painful
cry, will  begin  to  weep  and  thrash. Therefore there  lies  before  her,
prepared ahead of time,  on  the tablecloth,  under the lamp,  a  syringe in
alcohol and an ampoule of liquid the colour of dark tea.
     The poor woman, tied to a gravely ill  man, is now  free and  can sleep
without apprehensions. After the injection, Ivan Nikolaevich will sleep till
morning with  a blissful face, having sublime and blissful dreams unknown to
     It is always one and the same thing that  awakens the scholar and draws
pitiful  cries  from  him  on  the night of  the  full  moon.  He  sees some
unnatural, noseless executioner who, leaping up and hooting somehow with his
voice, sticks his spear into the  heart of Gestas, who is tied to a post and
has gone insane. But it is not the executioner who is frightening so much as
the unnatural lighting in this dream, caused by  some dark cloud boiling and
heaving itself upon the earth, as happens only during world catastrophes.
     After  the  injection,  everything changes  before the sleeping man.  A
broad path of moonlight stretches from his bed to the window, and a man in a
white cloak with blood-red  lining gets on to this path  and begins to  walk
towards  the moon. Beside him walks a young man in a torn  chiton and with a
disfigured face. The walkers talk heatedly about something, they argue, they
want to reach some understanding.
     'Gods,  gods!' says that man in the cloak, turning his  haughty face to
his companion. `Such a banal execution!  But,  please,' here the  face turns
from haughty to imploring, `tell me it never happened!  I implore  you, tell
me, it never happened?'
     'Well, of course it never happened,' his companion  replies in a hoarse
voice, 'you imagined it.'
     'And you can swear it to me?' the man in the cloak asks ingratiatingly.
     `I  swear  it!' replies his companion,  and  his  eyes  smile  for some
     'I need nothing more!' the man in  the cloak exclaims  in a husky voice
and goes ever  higher towards  the moon, drawing his companion along. Behind
them a gigantic, sharp-eared dog walks calmly and majestically.
     Then the moonbeam boils up, a river of moonlight begins to gush from it
and  pours out in all directions. The moon rules and plays,  the moon dances
and  frolics. Then a woman of boundless beauty forms herself in the  stream,
and by the hand she leads out to Ivan a man overgrown with beard who glances
around  fearfully.  Ivan  Nikolaevich recognizes him at  once.  It is number
one-eighteen, his nocturnal guest. In his dream Ivan Nikolaevich reaches his
arms out to him and asks greedily:
     'So it ended with that?'
     'It  ended with  that, my disciple,' answers number  one-eighteen,  and
then the woman comes up to Ivan and says:
     'Of course, with that. Everything has ended, and everything ends... And
I  will kiss  you on  the  forehead, and everything with you  will be as  it
should be ...'
     She bends over  Ivan and kisses him  on the forehead,  and Ivan reaches
out to her and peers into her eyes, but she retreats, retreats, and together
with her companion goes towards the moon...
     Then  the moon begins to rage, it pours streams  of light down right on
Ivan, it sprays light in all directions, a flood  of moonlight  engulfs  the
room,  the light heaves, rises higher, drowns the bed. It is then that  Ivan
Nikolaevich sleeps with a blissful face.
     The  next  morning he wakes up silent  but perfecdy calm and  well. His
needled memory grows quiet, and until the next full moon no one will trouble
the professor - neither the noseless killer of Gestas,  nor the  cruel fifth
procurator of Judea, the equestrian Pontius Pilate.

     1. The epigraph  comes  from the scene entitled 'Faust's Study'  in the
first part of the drama Faust by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1842). The
question is asked by Faust; the answer comes from the demon Mephistopheles.
     Book One
     Chapter1: Never Talk with Strangers
     1. the Patriarch's  Ponds: Bulgakov uses the old name for what in  1918
was  rechristened 'Pioneer Ponds'. Originally  these were  three ponds, only
one of  which  remains, on  the  place  where  Philaret,  eighteenth-century
patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, had his residence.
     2. Berlioz: Bulgakov names  several of  his characters after composers.
In addition to Berlioz, there will be  the financial director Rimsky and the
psychiatrist Stravinsky. The efforts of critics to find some  meaning behind
this fact seem rather strained.
     3.  Massolit: An invented but plausible  contraction parodying the many
contractions introduced  in post-revolutionary Russia. There  will be others
further  on - Dramlit  House  (House for Dramatists  and Literary  Workers),
findirector (financial director), and so on.
     4. Homeless: In early versions of  the  novel, Bulgakov called his poet
Bezrodny  (Tastless'  or 'Familyless').  Many `proletarian' writers  adopted
such  pen-names,  the most famous being Alexei  Peshkov, who  called himself
Maxim  Gorky  (gorky meaning  'bitter').  Others called  themselves  Golodny
('Hungry'),  Besposhchadny  ('Merciless'),  Pribludny  ('Stray').  Worthy of
special  note  here is the  poet Efim  Pridvorov, who called  himself Demian
Bedny ('Poor'), author of violent anti-religious poems. It may have been the
reading of  Bedny that  originally  sparked Bulgakov's  impulse to write The
Master  and Margarita. In his Journal  of  1925 (the  so-called 'Confiscated
Journal' which turned up in the files of the KGB and was published in 1990),
Bulgakov noted:  'Jesus Christ is  presented as a scoundrel  and swindler...
There is no name for this crime.'
     5.  Kislovodsk:  Literally  `acid  waters',  a  popular resort  in  the
northern Caucasus, famous for its mineral springs.
     6. Philo of  Alexandria: (20  BC-AD  54),  Greek  philosopher of Jewish
origin,   a   biblical   exegete   and  theologian,   influenced  both   the
Neo-Platonists and early Christian thinkers.
     7. Flavius Josephus: (AD 57-100), Jewish general and historian, born in
Jerusalem,  the  author  of  The  Jewish  War  and Antiquities of  the Jews.
Incidentally, Berlioz is mistaken: Christ is mentioned in the latter work.
     8. Tacitus's [famous] Annals:  A work, covering the years AD 14-66,  by
Roman historian  Cornelius Tacitus (AD 55-120).  He also wrote a History  of
the years  AD  69-70,  among  other works.  Modern  scholarship  rejects the
opinion that the passage Berlioz refers to here is a later interpolation.
     9. Osiris: Ancient Egyptian  protector of the dead, brother and husband
of Isis, and father of the hawk-headed Horus,  a 'corn god', annually killed
and resurrected.
     10. Tammuz: A  Syro-Phoenician demi-god, like Osiris a spirit of annual
     11.  Marduk: Babylonian  sun-god,  leader of  a revolt against  the old
deities and institutor of a new order.
     12. Vitzliputzli: Also  known as Huitzilopochdi, the Aztec  god of war,
to whom human sacrifices were offered.
     13. a poodle's head: In  Goethe's Faust, Mephistopheles  first  gets to
Faust by taking the form of a black poodle.
     14.  a foreigner:  Foreigners aroused  both curiosity  and suspicion in
Soviet Russia, representing both the glamour of 'abroad' and the possibility
of espionage.
     15. Adonis: Greek version of the Syro-Phoenician demi-god Tammuz.
     16. Attis: Phrygian god, companion to Cybele. He was castrated and bled
to death.
     17. Mithras: God of light in ancient Persian Mazdaism.
     18. Magi: The three wise men from the east (a magus was a member of the
Persian priestly caste) who visited the newborn Jesus (Matt. 2:1--12).
     19. restless old  Immanuel:  Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), German idealist
philosopher, thought  that  the moral law  innate in  man  implied  freedom,
immortality and the existence of God.
     20.Schiller:   Friedrich   Schiller   (1759-1805),   German   poet  and
playwright, a liberal idealist.
     21.  Strauss: David Strauss  (1808-74),  German theologian, author of a
Life of Jesus,  considered the Gospel story as belonging to the category  of
     22. Solovki: A casual name for the  'Solovetsky Special  Purpose Camps'
located on the  site of a former monastery on the Solovetsky Islands in  the
White Sea. They  were of especially terrible renown during the thirties. The
last prisoners were loaded on a barge and drowned in the White Sea in 1959.
     23. Enemies? Interventionists?: There was  constant talk  in  the early
Soviet period  of 'enemies of the revolution' and 'foreign interventionists'
seeking to subvert the new workers' state.
     24.  Komsomol: Contraction  of the Union of Communist Youth, which  all
good Soviet young people were expected to join.
     25. A Russian emigre: Many Russians opposed to the revolution emigrated
abroad, forming  important  'colonies' in various capitals  - Berlin, Paris,
Prague,   Harbin,  Shanghai  -  where  they  remained  potential  spies  and
     26. Gerbert  of  Aurillac:  (958-1005), theologian  and  mathematician,
popularly taken to be a  magician and alchemist. He became pope in 999 under
the name of Sylvester II.
     27. Nisan:  The seventh month of the Jewish lunar calendar, twenty-nine
days  in  length. The  fifteenth  day of Nisan (beginning at sundown on  the
fourteenth)  is the start of the feast of Passover, commemorating the exodus
of the Jews from Egypt.
     Chapter 2: Pontius Pilate
     1. Herod  the Great: (?75 BC-AD 4), a clever politician whom the Romans
rewarded for his services by making king of Judea, an honour he handed on to
his son and grandson.
     2. Judea: The southern part of Palestine, subject to  Rome since 65 BC,
named for Judah, fourth son of Jacob.  In AD 6 it was made  a Roman province
with the procurator's seat at Caesarea.
     3. Pontius  Pilate: Roman  procurator  of Judea from  aboutAD 26 to 56.
Outside  the  Gospels,  virtually  nothing is  known  of  him, though  he is
mentioned  in  the passage  from  Tacitus  referred to  above. Bulgakov drew
details for his portrayal of the procurator from fictional lives of Jesus by
P. W. Farrar (1851-1905), Dean of Canterbury  Cathedral, and by Ernest Renan
(1825-92),  French  historian  and  lapsed  Catholic,  as  well  as  by  the
previously mentioned David Strauss.
     4.  Twelfth  Lightning legion: Bulgakov  translates  the  actual  Latin
nickname  (julmi-nata)  by which the  Twelfth legion was  known at  least as
early as the time  of the emperors Nerva and Trajan (late first century AD),
and probably earlier.
     5. Yershalaim: An alternative  transliteration  from Hebrew of the name
of Jerusalem. In  certain other  cases as well,  Bulgakov  has preferred the
distancing  effect  of  these  alternatives:  Yeshua  for Jesus,  Kaifa  for
Caiaphas, Kiriath for Iscariot.
     6. Galilee: The northern part of Palestine, green and fertile, with its
capital  at Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee (Lake  Kinnereth).  In Galilee at
that  time, the tetrarch (ruler of one of  the  four Roman  subdivisions  of
Palestine)  was  Herod Antipas,  son of Herod  the  Great. According  to the
Gospel of  Luke (25:7-- 11), Herod Antipas was in Jerusalem at  the  time of
Christ's crucifixion.
     7. Sanhedrin: The highest Jewish legislative and  judicial body, headed
by  the  high priest of the temple in Jerusalem. The lower courts of justice
were called lesser sanhedrins.
     8.  Aramaic: Name of  the northern  branch of  Semitic languages,  used
extensively  in south-west  Asia, adopted by  the Jews after  the Babylonian
captivity in the late sixth century BC.
     9. the temple of  Yershalaim: Built by King Solomon (tenth century BC),
the  first  temple was destroyed by the Babylonian  invaders in 586 BC.  The
second  temple,  built  in 557- 515 BC, rebuilt and embellished by Herod the
Great, was destroyed  by Titus in AD 70. No third temple has been built. One
of the accusations against Jesus  in the  Gospels was that he  threatened to
destroy the temple (see Mark 15:1-2,14:58). It may be well to note here that
Bulgakov's Yeshua is not  intended as a faithful depiction of Jesus  or as a
'revisionist'  alternative  to  the  Christ of the  Gospels,  though he does
borrow a number of details from the Gospels in portraying him.
     10. Hegemon: Greek for 'leader' or 'governor'.
     11.  Yeshua:  Aramaic for 'the  lord is salvation'. Ha-Nozri means  'of
Nazareth', the town in Galilee where Jesus lived before beginning his public
     12. Gamala:  A town north-east of Tiberias on the  Sea of  Galilee, not
traditionally connected with Jesus.
     13. Matthew Levi: Compare the Matthew Levi of the Gospels, a former tax
collector, one  of the  twelve disciples (Matt.  9:9, Mark 2:14, Luke 5:27),
author of  the first Gospel.  Again, Bulgakov's character is not meant as an
accurate  portrayal of  Christ's disciple  (about  whom virtually nothing is
known) but is a free variation on the theme of discipleship.
     14. Bethphage: Hebrew for 'house of figs',  the  name of a village near
Jerusalem which Jesus passed through on his final journey to the city.
     15. What is truth?: Pilate's question to  Christ in the Gospel  of John
     16.  the Mount of Olives: A hill  to the east of Jerusalem. At the foot
of this hill is  Gethsemane ('the olive  press'), just across the  stream of
Kedron. It was here that Christ  was arrested (Matt. 26:56, Mark 14:52, Luke
22:59, John 18:1). These places will be important later in the novel.
     17. the Susa gate: Also known as the Golden gate, on the  east  side of
Jerusalem, facing the Mount of Olives.
     18. riding on an  ass: The Gospels are unanimous in describing Christ's
entry into Jerusalem riding on  an ass (Matt.  21:1--11, Mark 11:1--11, Luke
19:28-- 58, John 12:12-19).
     19. Dysmas  ...  Gestas ... Bar-Rabban:  The first two are the  thieves
crucified with Christ;  not given in the  canonical Gospels,  the names here
come from the apocryphal Gospel of Nicodemus (part of which is known as 'the
Acts  of Pilate'), one  of Bulgakov's references  during the  writing of the
novel. The third is a variant on the Barabbas of the Gospels.
     20.  Idistaviso: Mentioned  in Tacitus's Annals (2:16) as the site of a
battle between the Romans and the Germani in AD 16, on the right bank of the
Weser, in which the Roman general Germanicus defeated the army of Arminius.
     21.  another appeared  in its place: Pilate's  nightmarish vision is of
the aged emperor  Tiberius (42 BC-AD 57), who spent  many years in seclusion
on the island of Capri, where he succumbed to all sorts of vicious passions.
     The  law  of  lese-majesty (offence  against  the sovereign  people  or
authority) existed in  Rome under the republic; it was  revived by  Augustus
and given wide application by Tiberius.
     22.  Judas  from Kiriath:  Bulgakov's  variant  of  Judas  Iscariot  is
developed  quite differently from the Judas of  the  Gospel accounts, though
they have in common their  betrayal and the reward they get for it  from the
high priest.
     23.  Lit  the lamps: According to  B. V.  Sokolov's commentary  to  the
Vysshaya Shkola  edition  of the novel (Leningrad,  1989), the law  demanded
that lights be lit so  that the concealed witnesses for the accusation could
see  the  face  of  the  criminal. This would  explain  Pilate's  unexpected
     24.  Bald Mountain: Also referred to in the novel as Bald Hill and Bald
Skull, the  site corresponds to the Golgotha  ('place of the  skull') of the
Gospels, where Christ was  crucified, though topographically Bulgakov's hill
is  higher  and farther from  the city. There is also a  Bald Mountain  near
Kiev, Bulgakov's native city.
     25.  Kaifa: Bulgakov's variant of the name of the high priest Caiaphas,
mentioned in the Gospels and in historical records.
     26. Kaifa politely apologised: Going under the roof of  a gentile would
have  made  the high priest unclean and  therefore  unable to  celebrate the
coming feast.
     27. Bar-Rabban  or Ha- Nozri?: The same choice is offered in the Gospel
accounts (see Matt. 27:15--25, Mark 15:6--15, John 19:59--40).
     28. there floated some purple mass: According to  B. V.  Sokolov, there
existed a legend according to which  Pilate died by  drowning  himself. That
may be what Bulgakov has in mind here.
     29.  Equestrian  of  the  Golden  Spear: The equestrian order of  Roman
nobility was next in importance to the Senate. Augustus reformed the  order,
after  which it  supplied occupants for many administrative  posts. The name
Pilate (Pilatus) may derive from pilum, Latin for 'spear'.
     Chapter 3 The Seventh Proof
     1. Metropol:  A luxury  hotel in  Moscow,  built  at  the turn  of  the
century,  decorated  with  mosaics  by  the  artist Vrubel.  Used mainly  by
Foreigners during  the Soviet period, it still exists and has  recently been
     Chapter 4: The Chase
     1. about a dozen  extinguished primuses: The  shortage of living  space
after the revolution led to  the typically Soviet phenomenon of the communal
apartment, in which several families would have one or two private rooms and
share  kitchen  and  toilet facilities.  This  led  to special psychological
conditions   among   people   and  to   a  specific   literary  genre   (the
communal-apartment  story, which  still  flourishes in  Russia).  The primus
stove, a portable  one-burner  stove  fuelled with pressurized benzene, made
its appearance at the  same  time and  became a symbol of communal-apartment
life. Each  family would have its own primus. The old wood- or (more rarely)
coal-burning  ranges  went out  of use  but remained in  place.  The general
problem of  "living  space', and the  primus stove in  particular,  plays an
important part throughout the Moscow sections of The Master and Margarita.
     2. two wedding candles: In the Orthodox marriage service, the bride and
groom  stand during the ceremony holding lighted candles. These are special,
large, often decorated candles, and are customarily  kept indefinitely after
the wedding, sometimes in the corner with the family icon.
     3. the Moscow  River amphitheatre: Ivan takes  his swim at the  foot of
what had been the Cathedral of Christ  the Saviour,  which  was dynamited in
1931. The remaining granite steps and amphitheatre were  originally  a grand
baptismal  font  at  the riverside, popularly  known  as 'the  Jordan'.  The
cathedral has now been rebuilt.
     4.  Evgeny Onegin:  An  opera by Pyotr  I. Tchaikovsky (1840--93), with
libretto by  the composer's brother  Modest, based  on the  great  'novel in
verse' of  the same  title by Alexander Pushkin  (1799-1837). Its  ubiquity,
like the  orange  lampshades,  suggests  the standardizing of  Soviet  life.
Tatyana, mentioned further on, is the heroine of Evgeny Onegin.
     Chapter 5. There were Doings at Gribwdov's
     1. Alexander Sergeevich Griboedov.  (1795-1829), poet,  playwright  and
diplomat,  best  known as the author of the  comedy  Woe From Wit, the first
real masterpiece of the Russian theatre.
     2.  Perelygino:  The  name  is  clearly  meant to  suggest  the  actual
Peredelkino,  a  "writers'  village'  near Moscow where  many  writers  were
allotted country houses. It was a privileged and highly desirable place.
     3. Yalta, Suuk-Su... (Winter  Palace):  To this list of resort towns in
the  Crimea,  the Caucasus and Kazakhstan, Bulgakov  incongruously adds  the
Winter Palace in Leningrad, former residence of the emperors.
     4.  dachas: The Russian dacha  (pronounced  DA-tcha)  is  a  summer  or
country house.
     5. coachmen: Though  increasingly  replaced by automobiles, horse-drawn
cabs were still in use in Moscow until around 1940. Thus  the special  tribe
of  Russian  coachmen  persisted  long  after  their  western   counterparts
     Chapter 6: Schizophrenia, as was Said
     1. saboteur: Here and a little further on Ivan uses standard terms from
Soviet  mass campaigns against 'enemies of the people'. Anyone thought to be
working against the aims of the ruling party could be denounced and arrested
as a saboteur.
     2. Kulak: (Russian for 'fist') refers to the class of wealthy peasants,
which Stalin ordered liquidated in 1930.
     3. the First of May: Originally commemorating the Haymarket Massacre in
Chicago, this day later became a general holiday of the  labour movement and
was celebrated with particular enthusiasm in the Soviet Union.
     4.  a metal  man:  This is  the poet  Pushkin, whose  statue  stands in
Strastnaya  (renamed  Pushkin)  Square. The snowstorm  covers  ...'  is  the
beginning  of Pushkin's much-anthologized poem The Snowstorm'. The reference
to 'that white  guard'  is anachronistic here.  The White  Guard opposed the
Bolsheviks ('Reds') during the Russian civil war in the early twenties.
     Pushkin was fatally wounded  in the  stomach  during  a duel with Baron
Georges  D'Anthes, an  Alsatian  who  served in the  Russian  Imperial Horse
Guard.  Under  the  Soviet regime  the  term 'white guard' was a  pejorative
accusation,  which   was  levelled   against  Bulgakov  himself  after   the
publication of  his novel, The White Guard, and the  production of his play,
Days  of  the  Turbins,  based  on the  novel. In having  Riukhin  talk with
Pushkin's  statue,  Bulgakov  parodies  the  `revolutionary'  poet  Vladimir
Mayakovsky (1893-1930),  whose  poem Yubileinoe  was written `in 1924 on the
occasion of the 125th anniversary of Pushkin's birth.
     Chapter 7: A. Naughty Apartment
     1.  ... people  began to disappear: Here,  as throughout The Master and
Margarita, Bulgakov treats the everyday Soviet phenomenon of disappearances'
(arrests) and  other  activities  of  the  secret  police in the most vague,
impersonal and hushed manner.  The  main example is the arrest of the master
himself in Chapter 13, which passes almost without mention.
     2. Here I am': Bulgakov quotes the exact words (in Russian translation)
of Mephistopheles' first appearance to Faust in  the opera Faust,  by French
composer Charles Gounod (1818-95).
     3. Woland: A German name for Satan, which appears in  several  variants
in  the  old Faust legends (Valand,  Woland, Faland, Wieland). In his drama,
Goethe once refers to the devil as 'Junker Woland'.
     4. findirtctor: Typical Soviet contraction for financial director.
     5.  an  enormous wax seal: Styopa immediately assumes that Berlioz  has
been arrested, hence his 'disagreeable thoughts' about whether he  may  have
compromised himself with the editor and thus be in danger of arrest himself.
     6.  Azazello: Bulgakov adds an Italian ending to the Hebrew name Azazel
('goat god'), to  whom a goat (the scapegoat or  'goat for Azazel')  bearing
the sins of  the people was sacrificed on  Yom Kippur by being sent into the
wilderness to die (Leviticus 16:7--10).
     Chapter 9. Korowiev's Stunts
     1. chairman  of the tenants' association: This quasi-official  position
gave  its occupant  enormous power, considering  the  permanent shortage  of
living  space,  which  led  to  all  sorts of  crookedness and bribe-taking.
Bulgakov portrays knavish house chairmen in several works, having suffered a
good deal from  them  in  his search  for  quarters  during the twenties and
thirties. This chairman's name, Bosoy, means 'Barefoot'.
     2.  speculating  in  foreign  currency:  The  Soviet rouble  was  not a
convertible currency, and the government therefore had great need of foreign
currency for trade purposes. Soviet  citizens were forbidden to keep foreign
currency, and  there  were also several  'round-ups' of gold  and  jewellery
during  the  thirties.  Speculating  in  currency could  even be  a  capital
offence. This situation plays a role in several later episodes of the novel.
     Chapter 10: News from Yalta
     1.  Varenukha: His name is that of a drink made from honey, berries and
spices boiled in vodka.
     2.  A   super-lightning  telegram:  Bulgakov's   exaggeration  of   the
'lightning telegram', which did exist.
     3. A false Dmitri:  The notorious impostor Grigory ('Grishka') Otrepev,
known as 'the false Dmitri', was a defrocked monk of the seventeenth century
who claimed  the  Russian  throne by  pretending  to be  the prince  Dmitri,
murdered son of Ivan the Terrible.
     4. rocks, my refuge...: Words from the romance 'Refuge', with  music by
Franz Schubert (1797-1828), inspired by Goethe's Faust.
     5.  take it  there personally: Another oblique reference to the  secret
police. By now the reader should recognize the manner.
     Chapter 12: Black Magic and Its Exposure
     1.  Louisa: The character Louisa Miller, from Schiller's  play Intrigue
and Love, a fixture in the repertories of Soviet theatres.
     Chapter 13. The Hero Enters
     1.  A state bond: Soviet citizens were  'asked' to  buy state bonds  at
their places  of work. As  an incentive, lotteries  would  be held every  so
often in which certain bond numbers would win a significant amount of money.
Secure  places being  scarce  in  communal  living  conditions,  the  master
evidently kept his bond in his laundry basket.
     2. Latunsky ... Ariman ... Lavrovich: Russian commentators see the name
Latunsky as a fusion of the names of  critics 0.Litovsky and A.Orlinsky, who
led  the  attack  on  'Bulgakovism'  in the  mid-twenties,  after the  first
performances of Bulgakov's play Days of the Turbins. Ariman (Ahriman),  name
of  the principle  of  evil  in  the  Zoroastrian  religion, has  also  been
identified  by  commentators  with L.L. Averbakh, general secretary of  RAPP
(Russian  Association of Proletarian  Writers),  one of  Bulgakov's fiercest
opponents. And Lavrovich is thought to  be V. V. Vishnevsky, who  forced the
withdrawal of two of Bulgakov's plays  from the repertory  of the Moscow Art
     3. an article by the  critic Ariman: It was common  practice  in Soviet
literary politics to mount a press campaign against a book after denying  it
publication.  The  same  happened  at the  end  of  the  fifties with  Boris
Pasternak's Doctor Zhivago.
     4. A Militant Old Believer: The Old  Believers  broke with  the Russian
Orthodox Church in  the  mid-seventeenth century,  in  protest  against  the
reforms of  the patriarch Nikon. The  term  is thus used rather  loosely  by
Latunsky.  In  the  mid-twenties, Bulgakov  was  similarly  attacked  as  'a
militant white guard'.
     5.  in  the  same  coat but  with the  buttons torn  off: This  laconic
reference is the only indication of where the master spent those  lost three
months.  It was customary  to remove  belts, shoelaces  and buttons from the
apparel of those 'held for questioning'.
     Chapter 14: Nikanor Ivamvich's Dream
     1. after  first visiting  another  place: Noteworthy  is  not  only the
impersonality of the  interrogation that follows, but the combination in the
interrogating  voice  of  menace  and  'tenderness'  (a word  Bulgakov  uses
frequently in this context).  The same combination will reappear in  Nikanor
Ivanovich's dream -  an extraordinary rendering of  the operation  of secret
police  within  society,  which  also  suggests  the  `theatre' of  Stalin's
trumped-up 'show trials' of the later thirties.
     2. Quinquet lamps:  A specially designed oil-lamp, named for its French
inventor, in which the oil  reservoir is higher than the  wick. Like  carbon
arc lamps in apartment hallways, they were a means of saving electricity.
     3.  All  sitting?: Bulgakov plays on the meanings of  the Russian  verb
sidet: 'to sit' and also 'to sit in prison'.
     4. The Covetous Knight: One of Pushkin's 'little tragedies', written in
1830, about the demonic and destructive fascination of gold.
     5.  As a  young scapegrace . . . some sly strumpet: The first two lines
of the baron's opening monologue in scene two of The Covetous Knight.
     6. And who's going to pay the rent - Pushkin? : This 'household' way of
referring  to  Pushkin is common  in Russia,  showing how far  the poet  has
entered into people's everyday life, though  without necessarily bringing  a
knowledge of his works with him.
     7.  There great heaps... of gold are mine: Lines from Hermann's aria in
Tchaikovsky's opera The Queen of Spades, based on the story by  Pushkin (the
lines, however, are by Modest Tchaikovsky).
     Chapter 17: An Unquiet Day
     1.  Glorious sea,  sacred Baikal: A  prerevoludonary  song  about  Lake
Baikal,  sung  by convicts  at  hard  labour. It became  popular  after  the
revolution and remained so throughout the Soviet period.
     2. cisco: A northern variety of whitefish caught in Lake Baikal.
     3. Barguzin: A local personification of the north-east wind.
     4.  Shilka  and  Nerchinsk: Towns on the Shilka River  east  of Baikal,
known as places of exile.
     5. Lermontov  studies:  Mikhail  Lermontov  (1814-41),  lyric  poet and
novelist of the generation following Pushkin.
     Chapter 18: Hapless Visitors
     1.  Maximilian Andreevich did not like Kiev:  Bulgakov,  however, loved
Kiev, his birthplace, as the descriptions of the city and of Vladimir's Hill
here  and in The White Guard make clear. Prince  Vladimir  (or St Vladimir),
grand prince of Kievan Rus, gave firm foundations to the first Russian state
and in 988 converted his people to Christianity.
     2.  Passport! : The  internal passport,  a feature  of Russian life  in
tsarist times,  was abolished after the revolution, but reinstated by Stalin
in  1932. It was the only  accepted  means  of identification and had  to be
carried at all times. The  precinct number  that the cat gives later (412th)
is absurdly high, even for a big city.
     3.  Everything was confusion... The second  sentence  of Tolstoy's Anna
Kannina, proverbial in Russia.
     4.  a church panikhida: A special service  of  the Orthodox Church  for
commemoration of the dead.
     5.  Leech bureau: Leeches have been used  medically since ancient times
as  a means  of  blood-letting,  thought  to lower blood pressure  and  cure
various ailments. A rather primitive treatment in this context.
     Book Two
     Chapter 19: Margarita
     1. Margarita: The name  Bulgakov gives to  his heroine recalls that  of
Gretchen  (diminutive of  Margarete),  the  young  girl  ruined by  Faust in
Goethe's drama. It may also recall Marguerite de Valois (1555-1615), wife of
French  king  Henri IV,  known as `la reine Margot'  (several times in later
chapters Margarita will be called Margot and even Queen Margot).
     2.  the dread  Antonia Tower:  A  fortress  in ancient  Jerusalem which
housed  the  Roman  garrison  in  the city  and where  the  Roman procurator
normally stayed  on official visits.  It  was named  by  Herod  the Great in
honour  of the Roman general and triumvir  Mark Antony (85-50 ac), who ruled
the eastern third of the empire.
     3.  Hasmonaean Palace:  Palace of the Hasmonaean or  Maccabean dynasty,
rulers of  Judea in the second century BC, who  resisted the Seleucid  kings
Antiochus IV and Demetrius Soter.
     4.  the Manege: Originally a  riding academy  built after the war  with
Napoleon,  the building was later used as a  quondam concert hall. Abandoned
after the revolution, it served in Bulgakov's time as a garage and warehouse
for  the Kremlin, but has  now been restored as  a permanent  art-exhibition
     Chapter 22: By Candlelight
     1. a candelabrum ...  seven golden claws:  Woland's  two candelabra are
satanic  parodies  of  the menorah made by the Jews at God's  command during
their   wandering  in   the   wilderness  (Exodus   25:51-9,  57:17-24).   A
seven-branched  candelabrum  also  stands  on  the  altar of every Christian
     2. a beetle artfully carved: The Egyptians saw the scarabaeus beetle as
a symbol of immortality because it survived the annual flooding of the Nile.
The ritual use of carved stone scarabs spread to Palestine, Greece and Italy
in ancient times.
     3. Hans: Like Jack, Jean, or Ivan in the folk-tales of their countries,
the Hans  of  German tales  is  generally  the third son of  the  family and
considered  a fool  (though he usually winds  up  with  the treasure and the
princess for his bride).
     4. Sextus Empiricus, Martianus Capella: Sextus Empiricus (second--third
century   AD),  Greek   philosopher,   astronomer   and   physician,  was  a
representative of the  most impartial scepticism. Martianus Capella, a Latin
author of the fifth century AD, wrote an encyclopedia in novel form entitled
The Marriage of Mercury and Philology.
     5.  this pain  in my knee ... Mount  Bracken: Satan's  lameness is more
commonly ascribed  to his fall from  heaven. Mount Brocken, highest  of  the
Harz Mountains  in Germany, is  a  legendary gathering place  of witches and
devils, and the site of the Walpurgisnacht (as in Goethe's Faust) on the eve
of the First of May.
     6.  Abaddon:  Hebrew  for  'destruction'.  In  the Old Testament  it is
another  name for  Sheol,  the place where  the dead abide (Job 26:6, 28:22;
Psalms  88:11). In the New Testament,  it is the name of  the 'angel of  the
bottomless pit' (Revelation 9:11).
     Chapter 23: The Great Ball at Satan's
     1. waltz king: Unofficial title of the Viennese composer Johann Strauss
     2. Vieuxtemps: Henri  Vieuxtemps (1820-81), Belgian virtuoso violinist,
made his debut  in  Paris at the age of ten. He travelled  the world  giving
concerts, taught  in the conservatory of  Brussels and for some time also in
the conservatory of  St  Petersburg,  where  he  was first  violinist of the
imperial court.
     3.  Monsieur  Jacques: Identified  by  L. Yanovskaya as  Jacques  Coeur
(c.1595-1456),  a rich French merchant who became superintendent of finances
under  Charles VII. He did make a false start  in life in association with a
counterfeiter before embarking on his  legitimate successes, and was  indeed
suspected  of poisoning the king's mistress, Agnes  Sorel,  but was  quickly
cleared. He was neither a traitor to his country nor an alchemist.
     4. Earl Robert: Identified by L. Yanovskaya as Robert  Dudley,  Earl of
Leicester (?1532-88), a favourite of Elizabeth I of England, whose wife, Amy
Rosbarts, did die in suspicious circumstances, though  not by poisoning  but
by falling downstairs.
     5. Madame Tofana: La Tofana,  a  woman of  Palermo,  was  arrested as a
poisoner and strangled in prison in 1709. The poison  named after  her, aqua
tofana,  had in  fact been known  since  the  fifteenth century  and is held
responsible for the deaths of some 600 persons, including the popes Pius III
and Clement XTV and the Duke of Anjou.
     6. a Spanish hoot: A wooden torture device.
     7. Frieda: Her story is reminiscent of that of Gretchen in Faust. B. V.
Sokolov   finds  Bulgakov's  source  in   The  Sexual  Question,   by  Swiss
psychiatrist Auguste  Forel, who tells  a similar  story of a certain Frieda
     8. The  marquise:  Marie-Madeleine  d'Aubray, Marquise  de Brinvilliers
(1650-76), a notorious poisoner, was decapitated and burned in Paris.
     9.  Madame  Minkin:  Nastasya  Fyodorovna  Minkin,  mistress  of  Count
Arakcheev  (1769-1854), military  adviser  to  the  emperor Alexander  I.  A
notoriously  cruel and depraved  woman, she  was  murdered  by her household
serfs in 1825.
     10. the emperor Rudolf: Rudolf II Hapsburg (1552-1612), German emperor,
son  of Maximilian II, lived in Prague, took great interest in astronomy and
alchemy, and was the protector of Tycho Brahe and Johannes Kepler.
     11. A  Moscow dressmaker: The  heroine  of  Bulgakov's own play, Zyka's
Apartment, which describes a brothel disguised as a dressmaker's shop.
     12.  Caligula: Gaius Caesar  (AD 12-41),  nicknamed  Caligula  ('Little
Boot^,  was  the son of Germanicus  and succeeded Tiberius as  emperor. Half
mad, he  subjected  Rome to  many  tyrannical outrages  and  was  eventually
     13.  Messalina: (AD  15-48),  third wife of the  emperor Claudius,  was
famous for her debauchery.
     14.  Maliuta  Skuratw.   Nickname  of  the  Russian   nobleman  Grigory
Lukyanovich Skuratov-Belsky,  the  right-hand man of Ivan the Terrible,  who
made him head  of  the oprichnina, a special  force opposed to the nobility,
which terrorized Russia, burning, pillaging and murdering many people. He is
said  to  have smothered St  Philip, metropolitan  of  Moscow, with  his own
     15. one  more... no, two!: B. V. Sokolov  identifies these  two unnamed
new ones as  former  People's Commissar  for  Internal Affairs,  Genrikh  G.
Yagoda  (1891 -1938)  and his  secretary, P. P. Bulanov. Yagoda,  a ruthless
secret-police official who fabricated  the 'show  trial' of the  'right-wing
Trotskyist  centre', was  later arrested  himself  and condemned to be shot,
along with  his secretary, Bukharin,  Rykov and  others,  in Stalin's  third
great 'show trial' of 1938.
     16. the Kamarinsky: A popular Russian dance-song with ribald words.
     17. A salamander-conjurer: The salamander enjoyed the reputation during
the Middle  Ages and  Renaissance of being able  to go through fire  without
getting burned.
     18.  the same  dirty,  patched  shirt:  According to  one of Bulgakov's
sources,  M.  N.  Orlov's  History  of Man's  Relations  with  the Devil (St
Petersburg, 1904), Satan always wears a dirty shirt while performing a black
     19.  it  will  be  given  to  each  according  to  his faith: A  common
misapplication of Christ's  words,  'According to your  faith be it done  to
you' (Matt. 9:29).
     Chapter 24: The Extraction of the Master
     1.  wandered in the wilderness for nineteen days: A comic distortion of
well-known examples: the  period  of wandering is  usually a  round figure -
forty days or forty years - and the usual sustenance is manna or locusts and
wild honey (see Numbers 35:58, Amos 5:25, Matt. 5:1-4).
     2. manuscripts  don't bum: This phrase became proverbial among  Russian
intellectuals after the publication of The  Master and Margarita,  an  event
which in itself seemed to bear out the truth of Woland's words.
     3. Aloisy Mogaiych: An absurd combination of the Larinate Aloisius with
the  slangy  'Mogarych', the word  for the round  of drinks that concludes a
deal, which happens to have the form of a Russian patronymic.
     4. bruderschaft: A special pledge of brotherhood  drunk with interlaced
right  arms, after  which the  friends address each other  with the familiar
form ty.
     Chapter 25: How the Procurator Tried to Save Judas of Kiriath
     1. Falemo:  A rich and strong  red wine, named for the  ager falemus in
the  Roman Campagnia  where it  was produced  in  ancient times (not  to  be
confused with the white Falerno now produced around Naples).
     2.  Caecuba:  Also a strong red wine,  product of  the ager caecubus in
southern Larium.
     3. the feast  of the  twelve gods: The twelve senior  gods of the Roman
     Jupiter, Juno, Neptune,  Vulcan, Apollo,  Diana,  Ceres,  Venus,  Mars,
Vesta, Mercury and Minerva.
     4.  lares:  A  word of  Etruscan  or Sabine  origin,  referring  to the
nameless protective deiries of the house and hearth in Roman religion.
     5.  messiah:  From  the Hebrew  mashiah,  meaning 'the  anointed  one',
referring to the redeemer and deliverer of Israel  to be  born  of the royal
house  of  David, prophesied  by Isaiah, Jeremiah, Zechariah and others, and
awaited by the  Jewish  nation. Christians  believe that  this  prophecy was
fulfilled in Christ (christos being Greek for 'the annointed one").
     6. were they given the  drink before being  hung on the posts?: Thought
by  some commentators to be a legal mercy granted to the condemned to lessen
the suffering of crucifixion, as Pilate means it here, though in the Gospels
it has more the  appearance of a final mockery.  Jesus also refuses to drink
it (see Matt. 27:54, Mark 15:25).
     7. ... among human vices he considered cowardice one of the first: This
saying, not found  in the Gospels,  is of great  thematic importance for the
novel. Bulgakov himself, according to one of his friends, regarded cowardice
as the worst of all vices, 'because all the  rest come from it' (quoted in a
memoir in Vospominaniya o Mikhaile Bulgakove, Moscow, 1988, pp. 589-90).
     Interestingly,  all references to this  'worst  of vices'  were removed
from the original magazine publication of the novel.
     Chapter 26: The Burial
     1. thirty tetradrachmas: The 'thirty pieces of silver' mentioned in the
Gospel  of  Matthew  (26:15) as  Judas's  reward  from the  high priest  for
betraying Jesus. A tetradrachma was  a Greek silver coin worth four drachmas
and was equivalent to one Jewish shekel.
     2. Now we shall always be together: Yeshua's words are fulfilled in the
Nicene Creed: '... one Lord Jesus  Christ ... who was crucified for us under
Pontius Pilate...' - words repeated countless  times a day  for  nearly  two
thousand years in every liturgy or mass. Later in the novel, Pilate will say
that nothing in the world  is more hateful to  him than 'his immortality and
his unheard-of fame'.
     3. the  son of an astrologer-king  ... Pila: Details found in the  poem
Pilate by the twelfth-century Flemish poet Petrus Pictor  (noted by Marianne
Gourg in her commentary to  the French translation of the novel, R. Laffont,
Paris, 1995). The name of Pila thus becomes the source  of the  procurator's
second name.
     4. En-Sarid: Arabic for Nazareth.
     5. Valerius  Gratus: According  to Flavius Josephus, in Antiquities  of
the Jews (Book  18, Chapter 2),  Valerius Gratus  was  procurator  of  Judea
starting  from  sometime around  AD  15,  and was  thus  Pilate's  immediate
     6. might he  not  have  killed himself?: Here Pilate  prompts Aphranius
with what is in fact the Gospel account of Judas's death (Matt. 27:5).
     7. baccuroth: Aramaic for 'fresh figs'.
     8. the pure river of the water of life:  'And he shewed me a pure river
of water of  life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and
of the Lamb' (Revelation 22:1).

     Chapter 27: The End of Apartment No.50
     1. the Hotel Astoria ... bathroom: A large  hotel on  St Isaac's Square
in Petersburg, where  Bulgakov  and his wife used to  stay when visiting the
     2. starka: An infusion of a pale-brown colour, made from spirits, white
port, cognac, sugar, and apple and pear leaves.

     Chapter 28: The Last Adventures of Koroviev and Behemoth
     1. a  currency  store: A  phenomenon of  Soviet life,  currency  stores
emerged  in the early  thirties, offering a  great  variety of goods (in the
midst  of  the  general  impoverishment and uniformity of  Soviet  life)  in
exchange for  foreign  currency. They  were  supposed to be exclusively  for
foreigners, but  were  also patronized by privileged Russians who had access
to currency or special  coupons (Bulgakov himself occasionally had  currency
from  sales of his books abroad and could  avail himself of this privilege).
There was in fact a  currency store at the  comer of the Arbat and Smolensky
     2. Harun al-Rashid: (?766--809),  Abassid caliph  of Baghdad,  known in
legend  for  walking  about  the  city  at  night  disguised  as  a  beggar,
familiarizing himself with the life of  his subjects.  He became  a hero  of
songs and figures in some tales from The Thousand and One Nights.
     3. Palosich!: A spoken contraction of the name Pavel Yosifovich.
     4.  Kerch Herring:  Much-prized fish from the Crimean city of Kerch, on
the Sea of Azov.
     5.  Bitter,  bitter!: There  is  an  Old  Russian  custom  of  shouting
'Bitter!'  every now  and  then  during  the  banquet  after a wedding.  The
newly-weds are then expected to kiss so as to make it sweet.
     6. Dead Souls: The only novel by the 'father of Russian prose', Nikolai
Gogol (1809--52). Its  influence on  The Master and Margarita  is pervasive.
Bulgakov made an adaptation of Dead Souls for the Moscow Art  Theatre in the
thirties, while at work on his own novel.
     7. Melpomene, Polyhymnia and Thalia: Three of the nine Greek muses,  of
tragedy, lyric poetry and comedy respectively.
     8.  The  Inspector  General:  A comedy  by Nikolai  Gogol,  one of  the
masterpieces of the Russian theatre.
     9.  Evgeny Onegin:  Koroviev's  comically  slighting  reference  is  to
Pushkin's poem, not to Tchaikovsky's opera.
     10. Sojya Pavlovna: The citizeness happens to have the same name as the
heroine of Griboedov's Woe From  Wit. It may have been this connection  that
landed her such a desirable job.
     11. Panaev: Two  Panaevs made a brief appearance in Russian literature:
V.  I.  Panaev (1792-1859)  was a writer of sentimental poetry; I. I. Panaev
(1812-62), on the contrary, was a liberal  prose-writer  and for a  time  an
editor of the influential journal `The Contemporary'.
     12.  Skabichwsky:  A. M.  Skabichevsky (1858-1912) was a liberal critic
and journalist.
     13. balyk: A  special dorsal section of flesh running the entire length
of a salmon or sturgeon, which was removed in one piece and either salted or
smoked. Highly prized in Russia.
     Chapter 29: The Fate of the Master and Margarita is decided
     1. Resting his sharp chin on his fist... Woland  stared fixedly: Woland
seems almost consciously to adopt the pose of Rodin's famous sculpture known
as the Thinker, actually the central figure over his Gates of Hell.
     2. to Timiriazev: That is, to the statue of the botanist and founder of
the  Russian school of  plant  physiology,  Kliment  Arkadyevich  Timiriazev
(1845-- 1910), on Tverskoy Boulevard near the Nikitsky Gates.
     Chapter 30: It's Time! It's Time!
     1. Peace  be  unto  you:  Bulgakov  playfully gives this common  Hebrew
greeting (a translation of Shalom aleichem) to his demon. It  was spoken  by
the risen Christ to his disciples  (Luke 24:56, John 20:26) and is  repeated
in every liturgy or mass.
     Chapter 31: On Sparrow Hills
     1. Sparrow  Hills: Hills on  the south-west  bank of the  Moscow River,
renamed 'Lenin Hills' in the Soviet period.
     2. Devichy Convent: Actually the Novodevichy Convent, founded  by Basil
III in 1524, on the  spot where, according to legend, maidens {devitsy) were
gathered to be sent as tribute  to the Mongols. Nikolai Gogol's remains were
transferred there in the  1950s, and many members of the Moscow Art  Theatre
are also buried there, including Bulgakov himself.
     the  festal springfall  moon:  The  first full moon  after  the  vernal
equinox, which determines  the  date of the feast of  Passover  and thus  of

Last-modified: Wed, 06 Jul 2005 04:58:05 GMT
Оцените этот текст: