© Mikhail Bulgakov
     © Translated from the russian by Michael Glenny
     © 1967 Collins and Harvill Press, London
     OCR: Scout

     Translated from the russian by Michael Glenny
     Collins and Harvill Press, London
     Printed in Great Britain by Collins Clear-Type Press London and Glasgow

      1967 in the English translation
     The Harvill Press, London, and
     Harper air Row Publishers Inc., New York
     OCR: Scout


     1 Never Talk to Strangers
     2 Pontius Pilate
     3 The Seventh Proof
     4 The Pursuit
     5 The Affair at Griboyedov
     6 Schizophrenia
     7 The Haunted Flat
     8 A Duel between Professor and Poet
     9 Koroviev's Tricks
     10 News from Yalta
     11 The Two Ivans
     12. Black Magic Revealed
     13 Enter the Hero
     14 Saved by Cock-Crow
     15 The Dream of Nikanor Ivanovich
     16 The Execution
     17 A Day of Anxiety
     18 Unwelcome Visitors

     book two

     19 Margarita
     20 Azazello's Cream
     21 The Flight
     22 By Candlelight
     23 Satan's Rout
     24 The Master is Released
     25 How the Procurator Tried to Save Judas of Karioth
     26 The Burial
     27 The Last of Flat No. 50
     28 The Final Adventure of Koroviev and Behemoth
     29 The Fate of the Master and Margarita is Decided
     30 Time to Go
     31 On Sparrow Hills
     32 Absolution and Eternal Refuge

     'Say at last--who art thou?'
     'That Power I serve
     Which wills forever evil
     Yet does forever good.'

     Goethe, Faust

     At the sunset  hour of one warm spring day two  men were  to be seen at
Patriarch's Ponds. The first of them--aged about forty, dressed in a greyish
summer  suit--was  short,  dark-haired,  well-fed  and bald.  He carried his
decorous pork-pie hat by the brim and his neatly shaven face was embellished
by  black hornrimmed spectacles of  preternatural  dimensions. The other,  a
broad-shouldered young  man with  curly reddish hair  and a check cap pushed
back  to the nape of  his neck,  was  wearing a tartan  shirt,  chewed white
trousers and black sneakers.
     The first was none other than Mikhail Alexandrovich  Berlioz, editor of
a  highbrow literary magazine  and chairman of the management cofnmittee  of
one of the  biggest Moscow  literary  clubs, known by  its  abbreviation  as
massolit; his  young companion  was  the  poet Ivan  Nikolayich Poniryov who
wrote under the pseudonym of Bezdomny.
     Reaching  the shade  of the budding lime  trees,  the two writers  went
straight to a gaily-painted kiosk labelled'Beer and Minerals'.
     There was an oddness about  that  terrible day in  May  which  is worth
recording  : not  only at  the  kiosk but along the whole avenue parallel to
Malaya Bronnaya Street there was not a person to be seen. It was the hour of
the  day  when people  feel too exhausted to breathe, when Moscow glows in a
dry haze as the sun disappears behind the Sadovaya Boulevard--yet no one had
come  out for a walk under the limes,  no one  was  sitting  on a bench, the
avenue was empty.
     'A glass of lemonade, please,'said Berlioz.
     'There isn't any,'replied the woman  in the kiosk. For some reason  the
request seemed to offend her.
     'Got any beer?' enquired Bezdomny in a hoarse voice.
     'Beer's being delivered later this evening' said the woman.
     'Well what have you got?' asked Berlioz.
     'Apricot juice, only it's warm' was the answer.
     'All right, let's have some.'
     The apricot juice produced a rich  yellow froth, making the  air  smell
like a hairdresser's. After drinking it the two writers immediately began to
hiccup.  They paid and  sat down on a bench facing  the pond, their backs to
Bronnaya  Street.Then occurred  the second oddness,  which  affected Berlioz
alone.  He suddenly stopped  hiccuping, his heart  thumped and for  a moment
vanished, then  returned  but  with  a  blunt  needle sticking  into it.  In
addition  Berlioz was seized  by a  fear that was groundless but so powerful
that he had an immediate impulse  to run away from Patriarch's Ponds without
looking back.
     Berlioz gazed  miserably  about him, unable  to say what had frightened
him.  He went pale,  wiped his forehead with his handkerchief and thought: '
What's  the  matter with me?  This has never happened  before. Heart playing
tricks . . .  I'm overstrained ... I think it's time  to chuck everything up
and go and take the waters at Kislovodsk. . . .'
     Just then the sultry air coagulated and wove itself into the shape of a
man--a  transparent man of the strangest appearance. On his small head was a
jockey-cap and he wore a short check bum-freezer made of  air.  The man  was
seven feet tall but narrow in the shoulders, incredibly thin and with a face
made for derision.
     Berlioz's life  was  so arranged that he  was not  accustomed to seeing
unusual  phenomena. Paling even more, he stared and thought in consternation
: ' It can't be!'
     But alas it was,  and the tall, transparent gentleman was  swaying from
left to right in front of him without touching the ground.
     Berlioz was so overcome with  horror  that  he shut  his eyes.  When he
opened them he saw  that  it was  all  over, the  mirage  had dissolved, the
chequered  figure  had  vanished and  the  blunt needle  had  simultaneously
removed itself from his heart.
     'The  devil! '  exclaimed the  editor.  ' D'you  know, Ivan,  the heat
nearly gave me a stroke just then! I even saw something like a hallucination
. . . ' He tried to smile but his eyes were still blinking with fear and his
hands trembled.  However he gradually calmed  down, flapped his handkerchief
and with a brave enough ' Well, now. .  . ' carried on the conversation that
had been interrupted by their drink of apricot juice.
     They had been talking, it seemed, about Jesus Christ. The fact was that
the editor had commissioned the poet to write a long anti-religious poem for
one of the regular issues of  his magazine. Ivan Nikolayich had written this
poem in record  time, but unfortunately the editor did not  care for  it  at
all.  Bezdomny had drawn the chief figure in  his poem, Jesus, in very black
colours, yet in the editor's opinion the whole poem had to be written again.
And  now he was reading Bezdomny a lecture on Jesus in  order  to stress the
poet's fundamental error.
     It  was  hard  to  say  exactly what  had  made  Bezdomny  write as  he
had--whether  it was  his  great talent  for graphic description or complete
ignorance  of  the  subject he was writing on, but  his Jesus had come  out,
well,  completely alive, a Jesus who had really existed, although admittedly
a Jesus who had every possible fault.
     Berlioz however wanted to prove to the poet  that  the main object  was
not who Jesus was, whether  he was bad  or good, but that as a  person Jesus
had never existed  at  all  and  that all the  stories  about  him were mere
invention, pure myth.
     The editor  was a well-read man and  able to make  skilful reference to
the  ancient historians,  such as  the  famous Philo  of Alexandria  and the
brilliantly educated Josephus  Flavius, neither of  whom mentioned a word of
Jesus' existence. With a display  of solid erudition, Mikhail  Alexandrovich
informed  the  poet  that  incidentally,  the passage  in Chapter  44 of the
fifteenth book of  Tacitus'  Annals, where  he  describes the  execution  of
Jesus, was nothing but a later forgery.
     The poet, for  whom everything  the  editor was  saying was  a novelty,
listened attentively  to  Mikhail  Alexandrovich, fixing him with  his  bold
green eyes, occasionally hiccuping  and cursing the apricot juice under  his
     'There  is  not one oriental  religion,' said Berlioz, '  in which an
immaculate  virgin does not  bring a god into the world. And the Christians,
lacking any originality,  invented their  Jesus in exactly  the same way. In
fact he never lived at all. That's where the stress has got to lie.
     Berlioz's high tenor  resounded along the empty  avenue and  as Mikhail
Alexandrovich picked his way round the  sort of historical pitfalls that can
only  be negotiated safely by a  highly educated man, the poet learned  more
and more useful and instructive facts about the Egyptian god Osiris,  son of
Earth  and  Heaven, about the  Phoenician god Thammuz, about Marduk and even
about the fierce little-known god Vitzli-Putzli, who  had once been held  in
great  veneration by  the Aztecs of Mexico. At  the very moment when Mikhail
Alexandrovich was telling the poet how the Aztecs used to model figurines of
Vitzli-Putzli out of dough-- the first man appeared in the avenue.
     Afterwards, when  it  was frankly  too late,  various  bodies collected
their  data and issued descriptions of this  man.  As to his  teeth, he haid
platinum crowns on his  left side and gold  ones on  his tight.  He wore  an
expensive  grey suit and foreign  shoes  of the same colour as his suit. His
grey beret  was stuck jauntily over one ear and  under his arm  he carried a
walking-stick  with a  knob in the shape  of  a  poodle's  head.  He  looked
slightly over forty. Crooked sort of mouth. Clean-shav-n.  Dark  hair. Right
eye  black, left ieye for some reason green. Eyebrows black,  but one higher
than the other. In short--a foreigner.
     As  he  passed  the bench occupied  by  the  editor  and the poet,  the
foreigner gave them a sidelong  glance, stopped and suddenly sat down on the
next bench a couple of paces away from the two friends.
     'A German,'' thought Berlioz. ' An Englishman. ...' thought  Bezdomny.
' Phew, he must be hot in those gloves!'
     The  stranger glanced  round the tall houses that formed a square round
the  pond, from which it  was obvious  that he seeing this  locality for the
first time and that it interested him. His gaze halted on the upper storeys,
whose  panes threw  back a  blinding, fragmented reflection of the sun which
was setting on Mikhail Alexandrovich for  ever ; he then looked downwards to
where the windows were turning darker in the early evening  twilight, smiled
patronisingly at  something, frowned,  placed his hands  on the knob  of his
cane and laid his chin on his hands.
     'You  see,  Ivan,'  said Berlioz,' you  have  written  a  marvellously
satirical description  of the  birth of Jesus, the son of God, but the whole
joke lies in the fact  that there had already been a whole series of sons of
God before Jesus, such as  the  Phoenician Adonis, the  Phrygian Attis,  the
Persian Mithras. Of course  not one of these ever  existed, including Jesus,
and instead  of the  nativity or the  arrival of the  Magi  you should  have
described the absurd  rumours about  their  arrival.  But  according to your
story the nativity really took place! '
     Here Bezdomny made an effort to stop his torturing hiccups and held his
breath, but it only  made  him hiccup more  loudly and  painfully.  At  that
moment Berlioz interrupted his  speech because  the foreigner suddenly  rose
and approached the two writers. They stared at him in astonishment.
     'Excuse me, please,' said the stranger with a foreign accent, although
in correct Russian, ' for permitting  myself, without  an introduction . . .
but the subject of your learned conversation was so interesting that. . .'
     Here  he  politely took  off his  beret  and  the two  friends  had  no
alternative but to rise and bow.
     'No, probably a Frenchman.. . .' thought Berlioz.
     'A Pole,' thought Bezdomny.
     I  should add that the poet had found the stranger repulsive from first
sight, although Berlioz  had  liked the look  of him, or rather not  exactly
liked him but, well. . . been interested by him.
     'May  I join you? '  enquired  the foreigner politely, and as the two
friends moved somewhat unwillingly aside he adroitly placed himself 'between
them and at once joined the conversation. ' If I am not  mistaken,  you were
saying that Jesus never existed, were you not? ' he asked, turning his green
left eye on Berlioz.
     'No, you were not  mistaken,' replied  Berlioz  courteously. '  I did
indeed say that.'
     'Ah, how interesting! ' exclaimed the foreigner.
     'What the hell does he want?' thought Bezdomny and frowned.
     'And  do you  agree with your friend?  '  enquired  the  unknown man,
turning to Bezdomny on his right.
     'A hundred per cent! ' affirmed the poet, who loved to use pretentious
numerical expressions.
     'Astounding!  '  cried  their unbidden companion.  Glancing  furtively
round and lowering  his voice he said : ' Forgive me for being so rude,  but
am  I right in thinking that you do not believe in  God  either? ' He gave a
horrified look and said: ' I swear not to tell anyone! '
     'Yes, neither of us believes in  God,' answered Berlioz  with a  faint
smile at this foreign  tourist's apprehension.  '  But we can  talk about it
with absolute freedom.'
     The foreigner leaned against the backrest of the bench  and asked, in a
voice positively squeaking with curiosity :
     'Are you . . . atheists? '
     'Yes, we're atheists,' replied Berlioz, smiling, and Bezdomny  thought
angrily : ' Trying to pick an argument, damn foreigner! '
     'Oh, how delightful!' exclaimed the astonishing foreigner and swivelled
his head from side to side, staring at each of them in turn.
     'In our  country  there's nothing  surprising  about  atheism,'  said
Berlioz  with  diplomatic  politeness.  ' Most of us have long ago and quite
consciously given up believing in all those fairy-tales about God.'
     At this the foreigner did an extraordinary thing--he stood up and shook
the astonished editor by the hand, saying as he did so :
     'Allow me to thank you with all my heart!'
     'What are you thanking him for? ' asked Bezdomny, blinking.
     'For  some very  valuable  information, which as  a traveller  I find
extremely interesting,' said the eccentric foreigner, raising his forefinger
     This  valuable  piece of  information had  obviously  made  a  powerful
impression on the traveller, as he gave a frightened glance at the houses as
though afraid of seeing an atheist at every window.
     'No,  he's  not an Englishman,' thought Berlioz. Bezdomny thought:  '
What  I'd like to know is--where did he manage to pick up such good Russian?
' and frowned again.
     'But might I  enquire,'  began  the  visitor  from  abroad  after some
worried reflection, ' how you  account  for the proofs of  the existence  of
God, of which there are, as you know, five? '
     'Alas!  ' replied Berlioz  regretfully. ' Not one of  these  proofs is
valid, and mankind has long since  relegated them to the  archives. You must
agree that rationally there can be no proof of the existence of God.'
     'Bravo!' exclaimed the  stranger. ' Bravo! You have  exactly  repeated
the views of the immortal Emmanuel on that subject. But here's the oddity of
it: he completely demolished all five proofs and  then, as though  to deride
his own efforts, he formulated a sixth proof of his own.'
     'Kant's  proof,' objected the  learned editor with  a thin smile, ' is
also unconvincing. Not for nothing did Schiller say that Kant's reasoning on
this question would only satisfy slaves, and Strauss  simply  laughed at his
     As Berlioz  spoke he thought to himself: '  But who on earth is he? And
how does he speak such good Russian? '
     'Kant ought to be arrested and given three years in Solovki asylum for
that " proof " of his! ' Ivan Nikolayich burst out completely unexpectedly.
     'Ivan!' whispered Berlioz, embarrassed.
     But the  suggestion to pack  Kant off  to an asylum  not  only  did not
surprise the stranger but actually delighted him. ' Exactly,  exactly! '  he
cried and his green left eye, turned on Berlioz glittered.  ' That's exactly
the place for  him! I  said to him  myself that morning at breakfast:  "  If
you'll  forgive me, professor, your theory is no good. It may  be clever but
it's horribly incomprehensible. People will think you're mad." '
     Berlioz's eyes bulged. ' At breakfast ... to Kant? What  is he rambling
about? ' he thought.
     'But,' went on  the foreigner, unperturbed by  Berlioz's amazement and
turning  to the  poet,  ' sending him to Solovki  is  out  of the  question,
because for over  a hundred  years  now he has been somewhere far  away from
Solovki and I assure you that it is totally impossible to bring him back.'
     'What a pity!' said the impetuous poet.
     'It is a pity,' agreed the unknown man with  a  glint in his eye,  and
went on: ' But this is the  question that disturbs me--if there  is  no God,
then who, one wonders, rules the life of man and keeps the world in order? '
     'Man  rules  himself,'  said  Bezdomny angrily in answer  to  such  an
obviously absurd question.
     'I  beg your pardon,' retorted the stranger quietly,' but to rule one
must have a precise  plan worked out for some reasonable period ahead. Allow
me  to  enquire  how man can control  his own affairs  when  he is not  only
incapable of compiling a plan for some laughably short term, such as, say, a
thousand years, but cannot even predict what will happen to him tomorrow? '
     'In  fact,' here the stranger turned to Berlioz, ' imagine what  would
happen if you, for  instance, were to  start organising others and yourself,
and  you developed a taste for it--then  suddenly you got. .  . he, he ... a
slight heart attack . . . ' at this  the foreigner smiled sweetly, as though
the  thought of  a heart attack  gave him pleasure. .  .  .  ' Yes, a  heart
attack,' he repeated the word sonorously,  grinning like a cat, ' and that's
the end of you as an organiser!  No one's fate except your own interests you
any  longer.  Your relations  start lying to you. Sensing that  something is
amiss you rush  to a specialist, then to  a charlatan, and even perhaps to a
fortune-teller. Each  of  them  is as  useless  as  the other, as  you  know
perfectly well. And it all ends in  tragedy: the man who thought  he  was in
charge is suddenly reduced to lying prone and motionless in a wooden box and
his fellow  men, realising that there  is  no more sense  to be  had of him,
incinerate him.
     'Sometimes  it  can  be  even  worse  :  a   man  decides  to  go  to
Kislovodsk,'--here the stranger stared  at Berlioz--'  a trivial matter  you
may think, but he cannot because for no good reason he suddenly jumps up and
falls under a  tram! You're not going to tell me that he arranged to do that
himself? Wouldn't it be nearer the truth to say that someone quite different
was directing his fate?' The stranger gave an eerie peal of laughter.
     Berlioz had been  following the unpleasant story about the heart attack
and the tram  with great attention and some uncomfortable thoughts had begun
to worry  him.  '  He's  not a foreigner  .  . . he's  not  a foreigner,' he
thought, ' he's a very peculiar character . . . but I ask you, who  is he? .
. . '
     'I see you'd like to smoke,'  said the stranger unexpectedly,  turning
to Bezdomny, ' what sort do you prefer? '
     'Do you mean  you've got different sorts? ' glumly asked the poet, who
had run out of cigarettes.
     'Which do you prefer? ' repeated the mysterious stranger.
     'Well, then " Our Brand ",' replied Bezdomny, irritated.
     The unknown man immediately pulled  a cigarette case out of  his pocket
and offered it to Bezdomny.
      " Our Brand " . . .'
     The editor and the poet were not so much surprised by the fact that the
cigarette  case actually contained  ' Our  Brand' as  by the cigarette  case
itself. It was of enormous dimensions, made of  solid gold and on the inside
of the cover a triangle of diamonds flashed with blue and white fire.
     Their  reactions  were  different.  Berlioz  thought:  '  No,  he's   a
foreigner.' Bezdomny thought: ' What the hell is he . . .? '
     The  poet and  the owner  of the case lit their cigarettes and Berlioz,
who did not smoke, refused.
     'I shall refute his argument by saying' Berlioz decided to  himself, '
that of course man  is mortal, no one will argue with that.  But the fact is
that . . .'
     However he was  not able  to  pronounce  the words before the  stranger
     'Of course man is mortal, but that's only half the problem. The trouble
is that mortality sometimes comes to him so suddenly! And he cannot even say
what he will be doing this evening.'
     'What  a  stupid way of putting the question.  '  thought  Berlioz and
objected :
     'Now there you exaggerate. I know more or less exactly  what I'm going
to be doing this evening. Provided of course that a brick doesn't fall on my
head in the street. . .'
     'A  brick is  neither  here  nor  there,'  the  stranger  interrupted
persuasively. ' A  brick  never falls on anyone's head. You in particular, I
assure you, are in no danger from that. Your death will be different.'
     'Perhaps you  know exactly how I am going to die? '  enquired  Berlioz
with  understandable sarcasm at the ridiculous  turn  that the  conversation
seemed to be taking. ' Would you like to tell me?'
     'Certainly,' rejoined  the stranger. He looked Berlioz up and down as
though he were  measuring  him for  a suit and  muttered  through  his teeth
something that sounded like : ' One, two . . . Mercury in the second house .
. . the moon waning . . . six-- accident . . .  evening--seven . . . '  then
announced loudly and cheerfully : ' Your 'head will be cut off!'
     Bezdomny turned to the stranger with a wild, furious stare and  Berlioz
asked with a sardonic grin :
     'By whom? Enemies? Foreign spies? '
     'No,' replied their companion, ' by  a Russian woman, a member of the
     'Hm,' grunted Berlioz, upset by the foreigner's little  joke. ' That,
if you don'c mind my saying so, is most improbable.'
     'I beg your pardon,' replied the foreigner, ' but it is so.  Oh yes, I
was going to ask you--what are you doing this evening, if it's not a secret?
     'It's no secret.  From here I'm  going  home, and then at ten o'clock
this evening there's a meeting at the massolit and I shall be in the chair.'
     'No, that is absolutely impossible,' said the stranger firmly.
     'Because,' replied  the foreigner and  frowned  up at  the sky  where,
sensing the oncoming cool of the evening, the  birds were flying to roost, '
Anna has already  bought  the sunflower-seed oil, in fact she has  not  only
bought it, but has already spilled it. So that meeting will not take place.'
     With this,  as  one might imagine, there was silence  beneath  the lime
     'Excuse  me,'  said  Berlioz  after a  pause  with  a  glance  at  the
stranger's jaunty beret, ' but what on  earth has  sunflower-seed oil got to
do with it... and who is Anna? '
     'I'll tell you what sunflower-seed  oil's  got  to  do  with it,' said
Bezdomny  suddenly,  having  obviously  decided  to  declare  war  on  their
uninvited  companion. ' Have you, citizen, ever had to spend  any time in  a
mental hospital? '
     'Ivan! ' hissed Mikhail Alexandrovich.
     But  the stranger was not  in the least offended  and  gave a  cheerful
laugh. '  Yes, I have, I have,  and more than once! ' he exclaimed laughing,
though the  stare that he  gave the poet  was  mirthless. ' Where haven't  I
been! My only regret is that I didn't stay  long enough to ask the professor
what  schizophrenia  was.  But  you  are  going  to find that  out  from him
yourself, Ivan Nikolayich!'
     'How do you know my name? '
     'My  dear  fellow, who doesn't  know you?  '  With this the  foreigner
pulled the previous day's  issue of  The Literary Gazette  out of his pocket
and Ivan Nikolayich saw his own  picture on the front page above some of his
own verse. Suddenly what had delighted  him  yesterday  as proof of his fame
and popularity no longer gave the poet any pleasure at all.
     'I beg your pardon,' he said,  his face darkening. ' Would  you excuse
us for a minute? I should like a word or two with my friend.'
     'Oh, with  pleasure!  ' exclaimed  the stranger. ' It's so delightful
sitting here under the trees and I'm  not in a hurry to  go anywhere,  as it
     'Look  here, Misha,'  whispered the  poet  when he had drawn  Berlioz
aside.  ' He's not just a foreign tourist, he's a spy. He's a Russian emigre
and he's trying to catch  us  out. Ask him for his papers  and then he'll go
away . . .'
     'Do you  think  we should? ' whispered Berlioz anxiously,  thinking to
himself--' He's right, of course . . .'
     'Mark my words,' the poet whispered to him. ' He's pretending to be an
idiot so that he can trap us with some  compromising  question. You can hear
how he speaks Russian,' said the poet, glancing sideways and watching to see
that the stranger was  not eavesdropping. '  Come on,  let's arrest  him and
then we'll get rid of him.'
     The poet led Berlioz by the arm back to the bench.
     The unknown  man  was no longer sitting on it  but standing  beside it,
holding a booklet in a dark grey binding, a fat envelope made of good  paper
and a visiting card.
     'Forgive  me, but in  the  heat of our argument I forgot  to introduce
myself.  Here is my  card, my passport and  a letter inviting  me to come to
Moscow for consultations,' said the stranger gravely, giving both writers  a
piercing stare.
     The  two men were embarrassed. ' Hell, he overheard us .  . . ' thought
Berlioz, indicating with a polite gesture that  there  was no need  for this
show of documents. Whilst the stranger was  offering them to the editor, the
poet managed to catch sight of the visiting card. On it in foreign lettering
was the word '  Professor ' and  the initial letter of a surname which began
with a'W'.
     'Delighted,' muttered  the  editor awkwardly as  the foreigner put his
papers  back into his pocket. Good relations having been re-established, all
three sat down again on the bench.
     'So you've been invited here as a consultant, have  you,  professor? '
asked Berlioz.
     'Yes, I have.'
     'Are you German? ' enquired Bezdomny.
     'I? '  rejoined  the professor and  thought for  a  moment.  ' Yes, I
suppose I am German. . . . ' he said.
     'You speak excellent Russian,' remarked Bezdomny.
     'Oh, I'm something of a polyglot. I know a great number of languages,'
replied the professor.
     'And what is your particular field of work? ' asked Berlioz.
     'I specialise in black magic.'
     'Like hell you do! . . . ' thought Mikhail Alexandrovich.
     'And ... and you've been  invited here to give advice  on  that? ' he
asked with a gulp.
     'Yes,'  the professor  assured him, and went  on : ' Apparently  your
National   Library   has  unearthed   some   original  manuscripts  of   the
ninth-century necromancer  Herbert Aurilachs. I  have been asked to decipher
them. I am the only specialist in the world.'
     'Aha! So you're a historian? ' asked Berlioz in a tone of considerable
relief and respect.
     ' Yes,   I   am  a   historian,'   adding  with  apparently  complete
inconsequence, ' this evening a  historic event is going to take place  here
at Patriarch's Ponds.'
     Again  the editor and the poet showed signs of utter amazement, but the
professor beckoned to them and when both had bent their heads towards him he
whispered :
     'Jesus did exist, you know.'
     'Look, professor,'  said  Berlioz, with  a forced smile,  ' With  all
respect to you as a scholar we take a different attitude on that point.'
     'It's  not a question  of having  an attitude,' replied  the  strange
professor. ' He existed, that's all there is to it.'
     'But one must have some proof. . . . ' began Berlioz.
     'There's  no need  for any  proof,' answered  the professor. In a  low
voice, his foreign accent vanishing altogether, he began :
     'It's  very  simple--early in  the morning on the  fourteenth  of  the
spring month of  Nisan the Procurator of Judaea, Pontius Pilate,  in a white
cloak lined with blood-red...

     Early in the morning on the fourteenth of the spring month of Nisan the
Procurator of Judaea, Pontius Pilate, in a white cloak lined with blood-red,
emerged with his shuffling cavalryman's walk into  the arcade connecting the
two wings of the palace of Herod the Great.
     More than anything else in the world the Procurator  hated the smell of
attar of roses. The omens  for  the day were  bad,  as this  scent  had been
haunting him since dawn.
     It seemed to  the Procurator  that the very cypresses and palms in  the
garden were exuding the smell of roses, that this damned stench of roses was
even mingling with the  smell of leather tackle and  sweat  from his mounted
     A  haze  of smoke was  drifting  towards  the  arcade across  the upper
courtyard of the garden, coming from the wing at the rear of the palace, the
quarters of the first  cohort of the XII Legion ; known as the ' Lightning',
it had been stationed  in Jerusalem since the Procurator's arrival. The same
oily perfume of roses  was mixed with the acrid  smoke that  showed that the
centuries' cooks had started to prepare breakfast.
     'Oh gods, what are you punishing me for? . . . No, there's no doubt, I
have it again, this terrible incurable pain . .  . hemicrania, when half the
head aches  . . .  there's no cure for it, nothing helps. ... I must try not
to move my head. . . . '
     A  chair had already been  placed on the mosaic floor by  the fountain;
without a glance round, the Procurator  sat in it and stretched out his hand
to one  side.  His secretary deferentially laid a piece of  parchment in his
hand. Unable to restrain a grimace  of agony the Procurator gave  a fleeting
sideways look  at its  contents, returned the parchment to his secretary and
said painfully:
     'The  accused comes  from Galilee,  does he? Was  the case sent to the
tetrarch? '
     'Yes, Procurator,' replied the secretary. ' He declined to confirm the
finding of the court and passed the Sanhedrin's sentence of death to you for
     The Procurator's cheek twitched and he said quietly :
     'Bring in the accused.'
     At once two legionaries  escorted a man of  about twenty-seven from the
courtyard, under  the  arcade and  up to the balcony, where  they placed him
before the Procurator's chair. The  man  was dressed in  a shabby, torn blue
chiton.  His  head  was covered  with a  white  bandage  fastened round  his
forehead, his hands tied behind his back. There was a large bruise under the
man's left  eye and a scab of dried  blood  in  one corner of his mouth. The
prisoner stared at the Procurator with anxious curiosity.
     The Procurator was silent at first, then asked quietly in Aramaic:
     'So  you  have been inciting the people  to  destroy  the  temple  of
Jerusalem? '
     The Procurator sat as though carved in stone, his lips barely moving as
he pronounced the words. The Procurator was like stone from fear of  shaking
his fiendishly aching head.
     The  man  with  bound  hands  made  a slight move  forwards  and  began
     'Good man! Believe me . . . '
     But  the Procurator, immobile as before and without raising  his voice,
at once interrupted him :
     'You call me good man? You are making  a mistake. The rumour about me
in Jerusalem is that I am a raving monster and that is absolutely  correct,'
and he added in the same monotone :
     'Send centurion Muribellum to me.'
     The  balcony seemed to  darken when the centurion of the first century.
Mark surnamed Muribellum, appeared  before  the Procurator. Muribellum was a
head taller  than  the  tallest soldier in the legion  and  so broad  in the
shoulders that he completely obscured the rising sun.
     The Procurator said to the centurion in Latin:
     'This criminal calls  me " good  man ". Take him away for a minute and
show him the proper way to address me. But do not mutilate him.'
     All  except  the  motionless  Procurator watched Mark  Muribellum as he
gestured to the prisoner  to follow him. Because of his height people always
watched  Muribellum wherever he went. Those  who  saw him for the first time
were inevitably fascinated  by  his disfigured face : his nose had once been
smashed by a blow from a German club.
     Mark's heavy boots resounded on the mosaic, the bound  man followed him
noiselessly. There  was complete  silence  under  the arcade  except for the
cooing of doves in the garden below and the water singing its seductive tune
in the fountain.
     The  Procurator  had a sudden urge to get up  and put his temples under
the stream of  water until they were numb. But he knew  that even that would
not help.
     Having  led the prisoner out of the  arcade into the garden, Muribellum
took a whip from the hands of a legionary standing by the plinth of a bronze
statue and with a gentle swing struck the prisoner across the shoulders. The
centurion's  movement  was  slight,  almost  negligent,  but  the bound  man
collapsed instantly as though his legs had been struck from under him and he
gasped for air. The colour fled from his face and his eyes clouded.
     With  only  his left hand Mark lifted the fallen  man into  the air  as
lightly  as  an  empty sack, set him on his feet and said in  broken,  nasal
     'You call  a Roman Procurator "  hegemon "  Don't  say  anything else.
Stand to attention. Do you understand or must I hit you again? '
     The prisoner  staggered helplessly, his colour  returned, he gulped and
answered hoarsely :
     'I understand you. Don't beat me.'
     A  minute later he was again  standing in front of the  Procurator. The
harsh, suffering voice rang out:
     'Mine? ' enquired the prisoner hurriedly,  his whole being  expressing
readiness to answer sensibly and to forestall any further anger.
     The Procurator said quietly :
     'I know  my  own name. Don't pretend to be stupider than you are. Your
     'Yeshua,' replied the prisoner hastily.
     'Where are you from? '
     'From the town of  Gamala,' replied the  prisoner, nodding his head to
show that far over there to his right, in the north, was the town of Gamala.
     'Who are you by birth? '
     'I  don't know exactly,' promptly  answered the  prisoner,  ' I don't
remember my parents. I was told that my father was a Syrian. . . .'
     'Where is your fixed abode? '
     'I have no home,' said the prisoner  shamefacedly,  ' I move from town
to town.'
     'There is a shorter way of saying that--in  a word you are a vagrant,'
said the Procurator and asked: ' Have you any relations?'
     'No, none. Not one in the world.'
     'Can you read and write? ' ' Yes.'
     'Do you know any language besides Aramaic?
     '' Yes. Greek.'
     One swollen  eyelid was  raised and  a  pain-clouded  eye stared at the
prisoner. The other eye remained closed. Pilate said in Greek :
     'So you intended to destroy the temple building and incited the people
to do so?'
     'Never,  goo  . . . ' Terror  flashed across the prisoner's  face for
having so nearly said the wrong word. '  Never  in my  life, hegemon, have I
intended to destroy the temple. Nor have I ever tried to persuade  anyone to
do such a senseless thing.'
     A look of amazement came over the  secretary's  face as  he bent over a
low table recording the evidence. He raised his head but immediately lowered
it again over his parchment.
     'People of all kinds are  streaming  into the city for the feast-day.
Among them  there are magicians, astrologers, seers and murderers,' said the
Procurator in a monotone. '  There are also liars.  You, for instance, are a
liar.  It is clearly written down : he incited people to destroy the temple.
Witnesses have said so.'
     'These  good people,'  the  prisoner  began,  and  hastily  adding  '
hegemon', he went on, ' are unlearned and have confused everything I said. I
am beginning to fear that this confusion will last for a very long time. And
all because he untruthfully wrote down what I said.'
     There was silence.  Now  both  pain-filled eyes stared  heavily  at the
     'I  repeat,  but  for the  last  time--stop  pretending  to  be  mad,
scoundrel,'  said  Pilate softly and evenly.  ' What has been  written  down
about you is little enough, but it is sufficient to hang you.'
     'No, no,  hegemon,' said the prisoner, straining  with the  desire to
convince. '  This man follows  me everywhere with  nothing but  his goatskin
parchment  and  writes  incessantly. But  I once caught  a  glimpse  of that
parchment  and I was horrified. I had  not said a  word  of what was written
there.  I  begged him--  please burn this parchment of yours! But he tore it
out of my hands and ran away.'
     'Who was he? ' enquired Pilate in a strained voice and put his hand to
his temple.
     'Matthew  the  Levite,'  said  the  prisoner  eagerly.  '  He  was  a
tax-collector. I first met him  on the road to Bethlehem at the corner where
the road skirts a fig orchard and I started  talking to him. At first he was
rude and even insulted  me, or rather he  thought  he was  insulting  me  by
calling me  a dog.'  The  prisoner laughed. ' Personally I see nothing wrong
with that animal so I was not offended by the word. . . .'
     The secretary stopped  taking notes and glanced surreptitiously, not at
the prisoner, but at the Procurator.
     'However,  when he had  heard me out he grew milder,' went on Yeshua,'
and in the end  he threw his money into the  road and said that he would  go
travelling with me. . . .'
     Pilate  laughed with one cheek. Baring  his  yellow  teeth  and turning
fully round to his secretary he said :
     'Oh,  city of Jerusalem! What tales you have to tell! A tax-collector,
did you hear, throwing away his money!'
     Not  knowing what reply was expected  of him,  the  secretary chose  to
return Pilate's smile.
     'And he said that henceforth he  loathed his money,'  said Yeshua  in
explanation of Matthew the Levite's strange  action,  adding  : ' And  since
then he has been my companion.'
     His  teeth  still  bared in  a  grin,  the  Procurator glanced  at  the
prisoner, then at the sun rising  inexorably over the  equestrian statues of
the hippodrome far below to his left, and  suddenly in a moment of agonising
nausea it occurred to him that the simplest thing would be  to  dismiss this
curious rascal from his balcony with no more than two words :  ' Hang him. '
Dismiss the body-guard  too, leave the arcade and go indoors, order the room
to be darkened, fall on to his couch, send for cold water, call for  his dog
Banga in a  pitiful  voice  and complain  to  the dog  about his hemicrania.
Suddenly  the tempting thought of  poison flashed  through  the Procurator's
     He stared dully at the prisoner for a while, trying painfully to recall
why this man  with  the bruised  face was  standing  in front of him  in the
pitiless  Jerusalem morning sunshine and what further  useless questions  he
should put to him.
     'Matthew the  Levite?  ' asked the suffering man in  a  hoarse voice,
closing his eyes.
     'Yes, Matthew the Levite,' came the grating, high-pitched reply.

     'So you did make a speech about the temple to the crowd in the temple
forecourt? '
     The  voice  that  answered  seemed  to  strike  Pilate on the forehead,
causing him inexpressible torture and it said:
     'I  spoke, hegemon, of how the temple of the old beliefs  would  fall
down and the new temple of truth  would be built up.  I  used those words to
make my meaning easier to understand.'
     'Why should a tramp like you upset the crowd in the bazaar by  talking
about truth, something of which you have no conception? What is truth? '
     At this the Procurator thought: ' Ye gods! This is a court of law and I
am asking him an irrelevant question . . . my mind no longer obeys me. . . .
' Once more he had  a  vision  of a goblet of dark liquid. ' Poison,  I need
poison.. .. ' And again he heard the voice :
     'At this moment the  truth is  chiefly  that  your head is aching  and
aching so hard  that you are having cowardly thoughts about  death. Not only
are you in no condition to talk to me, but it even hurts  you to look at me.
This makes me seem to be your torturer, which distresses me. You cannot even
think and you can  only long for your dog, who is clearly the  only creature
for  whom  you  have any  affection. But  the pain will  stop  soon and your
headache will go.'
     The secretary stared at the prisoner, his note-taking abandoned. Pilate
raised his martyred eyes to the prisoner and saw how high the sun now  stood
above the hippodrome, how a ray had penetrated the arcade, had crept towards
Yeshua's patched sandals  and how the man moved aside from the sunlight. The
Procurator stood  up and clasped his head in his hands. Horror came over his
yellowish,  clean-shaven  face. With  an effort  of  will he  controlled his
expression and sank back into his chair.
     Meanwhile the prisoner continued talking, but the secretary had stopped
writing, craning his neck  like a goose  in the effort not to miss  a single
     'There,  it  has  gone,' said the  prisoner,  with a kindly glance at
Pilate. ' I am so glad. I would advise you, hegemon, to leave the palace for
a while and take a walk somewhere nearby, perhaps in the gardens or on Mount
Eleona. There will be thunder . . .' The prisoner turned and  squinted  into
the sun .  . . ' later, towards evening. A walk would do you a great deal of
good  and I should be happy to go with you. Some new thoughts have just come
into my head which you might, I think, find interesting and I should like to
discuss  them  with you,  the  more so as you  strike me  as a  man of great
intelligence.' The secretary turned mortally  pale and dropped his scroll to
the  ground. '  Your trouble is,' went  on the  unstoppable prisoner, ' that
your  mind  is  too closed and  you have finally  lost your  faith in  human
beings. You must admit  that no one ought to lavish all their devotion on  a
dog. Your life is a cramped one, hegemon.' Here  the speaker allowed himself
to smile.
     The  only  thought in the  secretary's  mind  now was whether  he could
believe his  ears. He had to  believe them. He then  tried to guess in  what
strange form the Procurator's fiery temper might break out at the prisoner's
unheard-of insolence. Although he  knew the Procurator well  the secretary's
imagination failed him.
     Then the hoarse, broken voice of the Procurator barked out in Latin:
     'Untie his hands.'
     One of the legionary escorts tapped the ground with his  lance, gave it
to his neighbour, approached and removed the prisoner's bonds. The secretary
picked up his scroll, decided  to take no more notes for  a while  and to be
astonished at nothing he might hear.
     'Tell me,' said Pilate softly in Latin, ' are you a great physician?'
     'No, Procurator, I am no physician,' replied the  prisoner, gratefully
rubbing his twisted, swollen, purpling wrist.
     Staring from beneath his eyelids, Pilate's eyes bored into the prisoner
and those eyes  were no  longer dull. They  now flashed with their  familiar
sparkle. ' I did not ask you,' said Pilate. ' Do you know Latin too? '
     'Yes, I do,' replied the prisoner.
     The  colour flowed  back into Pilate's yellowed cheeks and he  asked in
     'How did you know that I wanted to call my dog? '
     'Quite simple,' the prisoner answered in  Latin. ' You moved your hand
through the air  . . . ' the  prisoner repeated Pilate's gesture .  . . ' as
though to stroke something and your lips . . .'
     'Yes,' said Pilate.
     There was silence. Then Pilate put a question in Greek :
     'So you are a physician? '
     'No, no,' was the prisoner's eager reply. ' Believe me I am not.'
     'Very well,  if you wish to keep it a secret, do so. It has  no direct
bearing on the case. So you maintain  that  you never incited people to tear
down ... or burn, or by any means destroy the temple?'
     'I repeat,  hegemon, that I  have  never tried to  persuade  anyone to
attempt any such thing. Do I look weak in the head? '
     'Oh no, you  do not,' replied the  Procurator quietly, and  smiled an
ominous smile. ' Very well, swear that it is not so.'
     'What would you have me swear by? ' enquired the unbound prisoner with
great urgency.
     'Well, by your  life,' replied  the Procurator. ' It is high  time to
swear by it because you should know that it is hanging by a thread.'
     'You do not believe,  do you, hegemon, that  it is you who have strung
it up?' asked the prisoner. ' If you do you are mistaken.'
     Pilate shuddered and answered through clenched teeth :
     'I can cut that thread.'
     'You  are  mistaken  there  too,'  objected  the prisoner, beaming and
shading himself from the sun with his hand. ' You  must agree, I think, that
the thread can only be cut by the one who has suspended it? '
     'Yes, yes,' said Pilate, smiling.  ' I now have no doubt that the idle
gapers of Jerusalem have been pursuing you. I do not know who strung up your
tongue, but  he  strung it  well. By the  way. tell me, is it true that  you
entered Jerusalem  by the Susim Gate  mounted on a donkey, accompanied by  a
rabble who greeted you  as though you were a prophet? '  Here the Procurator
pointed to a scroll of parchment.
     The prisoner stared dubiously at the Procurator.
     'I  have  no  donkey, hegemon,'  he  said.  ' I  certainly  came into
Jerusalem through the  Susim  Gate,  but I came  on  foot  alone  except for
Matthew the  Levite  and nobody shouted a word to me  as no one in Jerusalem
knew me then.'
     'Do you happen to know,' went on  Pilate without taking  his eyes off
the prisoner, ' anyone called Dismas? Or Hestas? Or a third--Bar-Abba? '
     'I do not know these good men,' replied the prisoner.
     'Is that the truth? '
     'It is.'
     'And now tell me why you  always use that expression " good  men "? Is
that what you call everybody? '
     'Yes, everybody,' answered the prisoner. ' There are no evil people on
     'That is news to me,' said Pilate with a laugh. ' But perhaps I am too
ignorant of life. You need take no further notes,' he said to the secretary,
although  the man had taken  none for some time. Pilate turned back  to  the
prisoner :
     'Did you read about that in some Greek book? '
     'No, I reached that conclusion in my own mind.'
     'And is that what you preach? '
     'Centurion Mark Muribellum, for instance--is he good? '
     'Yes,' replied the  prisoner. ' He  is, it is  true,  an unhappy man.
Since  the  good people disfigured him he has become harsh  and callous.  It
would be interesting to know who mutilated him.'
     'That I  will  gladly  tell you,' rejoined Pilate, '  because  I was a
witness to it. These  good men threw  themselves at him like dogs at a bear.
The Germans clung to his neck, his arms, his  legs. An  infantry maniple had
been  ambushed and had it not  been for  a troop of cavalry breaking through
from  the flank--a troop  commanded by me--you,  philosopher, would not have
been talking to Muribellum just now. It happened at the battle of Idistavizo
in the Valley of the Virgins.'
     'If I were to talk to him,' the prisoner suddenly said in a reflective
voice, ' I am sure that he would change greatly.'
     'I suspect,' said Pilate, ' that the Legate of the Legion would not be
best pleased if you took it into your head to talk to one of his officers or
soldiers. Fortunately for us all  any such thing is  forbidden and the first
person to ensure that it cannot occur would be myself.'
     At  that moment a swallow  darted into the  arcade,  circled  under the
gilded ceiling, flew lower, almost brushed its pointed wingtip over the face
of  a bronze statue  in  a niche and  disappeared behind  the  capital of  a
column, perhaps with the thought of nesting there.
     As it flew an  idea formed  itself in the  Procurator's mind, which was
now bright and clear. It was thus : the hegemon had examined the case of the
vagrant philosopher Yeshua, surnamed  Ha-Notsri, and  could not substantiate
the  criminal  charge made against him. In particular he could not find  the
slightest  connection between Yeshua's actions  and the  recent disorders in
Jerusalem.  The vagrant  philosopher was mentally ill, as a  result of which
the sentence  of death pronounced on Ha-Notsri by the Lesser Sanhedrin would
not be confirmed. But in view of the danger of unrest liable to be caused by
Yeshua's mad, Utopian preaching, the Procurator would  remove  the  man from
Jerusalem and  sentence him to imprisonment  in Caesarea  Stratonova  on the
Mediterranean--the place of the Procurator's own residence. It only remained
to dictate this to the secretary.
     The  swallow's wings fluttered  over  the hegemon's head, the bird flew
towards the fountain and out into freedom.
     The Procurator raised his eyes to the prisoner and saw that a column of
dust had swirled up beside him.
     'Is that all there is on this man? ' Pilate asked the secretary.
     'No, unfortunately,' replied the secretary  unexpectedly, and  handed
Pilate another parchment.
     'What else is there? ' enquired Pilate and frowned.
     Having  read the further evidence  a change  came over his  expression.
Whether it  was blood flowing back into his neck and  face or from something
else that  occurred,  his skin changed from yellow to red-brown and his eyes
appeared to collapse. Probably caused by the increased blood-pressure in his
temples, something happened to the Procurator's  sight. He seemed to see the
prisoner's head vanish  and  another appear in  its place,  bald and crowned
with a spiked golden diadem. The skin  of the forehead was split by a round,
livid  scar  smeared  with  ointment.  A  sunken,  toothless  mouth  with  a
capricious, pendulous lower  lip.  Pilate had  the  sensation  that the pink
columns of his balcony  and the roofscape of Jerusalem below and  beyond the
garden had all vanished, drowned in the thick foliage of cypress groves. His
hearing, too,  was  strangely  affected--there  was a  sound  as of  distant
trumpets,  muted and threatening, and  a nasal voice could clearly be  heard
arrogantly intoning the words: ' The law pertaining to high treason . . .'
     Strange, rapid, disconnected thoughts passed through his mind. '  Dead!
'  Then  :  '  They  have  killed him! . .  .' And  an absurd  notion  about
immortality, the thought of which aroused a sense of unbearable grief.
     Pilate straightened  up, banished the vision, turned his  gaze back  to
the balcony and again the prisoner's eyes met his.
     'Listen,  Ha-Notsri,' began  the Procurator, giving  Yeshua a strange
look. His expression was grim but his eyes betrayed anxiety. ' Have you ever
said anything about great Caesar? Answer! Did you say anything of the  sort?
Or did you  . . . not?  '  Pilate gave the word 'not' more emphasis than was
proper  in  a  court of law and his  look  seemed  to be trying to project a
particular thought into the prisoner's mind. ' Telling the truth is easy and
pleasant,' remarked the prisoner.
     'I do  not want to know,'  replied  Pilate  in  a voice of  suppressed
anger, ' whether you enjoy telling the truth or not. You are obliged to tell
me  the truth. But  when you speak weigh every word, if  you wish to avoid a
painful death.'
     No one knows what passed through the  mind of the Procurator of Judaea,
but he permitted himself to raise  his hand as though shading himself from a
ray of sunlight and, shielded by  that hand, to throw the prisoner  a glance
that conveyed a hint.
     'So,' he said, ' answer this question : do you know a certain Judas of
Karioth and  if you have  ever  spoken to him  what did you say to him about
Caesar? '
     'It happened  thus,'  began  the prisoner readily.  ' The day  before
yesterday,  in the evening,  I met a young man  near the  temple  who called
himself Judas, from the town of Karioth.  He invited  me to  his home in the
Lower City and gave me supper...'
     'Is he a good man? ' asked Pilate, a diabolical glitter in his eyes.
     'A very  good  man and eager to learn,'  affirmed the prisoner.  ' He
expressed the greatest interest in my ideas and welcomed me joyfully .. . '
     'Lit the  candles. . . .' said  Pilate through  clenched teeth  to the
prisoner, his eyes glittering.
     'Yes,' said Yeshua, slightly astonished that the Procurator  should be
so  well  informed,  and  went  on  : ' He  asked  me  for  my views on  the
government. The question interested him very much.'
     'And so what did you say? ' asked Pilate. ' Or are you going to reply
that  you have  forgotten what you said? '  But  there was already a note of
hopelessness in Pilate's voice.
     'Among other  things I said,' continued the prisoner, ' that all power
is a form of violence exercised over people and that the time will come when
there will be no rule by Caesar nor any other form  of  rule. Man will  pass
into  the kingdom of  truth and  justice where no  sort  of  power  will  be
     'Go on!'
     'There is no more to tell,'  said the  prisoner. ' After that some men
came running in, tied me up and took me to prison.'
     The  secretary,  straining not to miss  a  word, rapidly scribbled  the
statement on his parchment.
     'There never  has been, nor  yet shall  be a greater and  more perfect
government  in this world than the rule  of the emperor  Tiberius!' Pilate's
voice rang out harshly and painfully. The Procurator stared at his secretary
and at the  bodyguard with what seemed like hatred. ' And what business have
you, a criminal lunatic, to discuss such matters! ' Pilate shouted. ' Remove
the  guards from the  balcony! '  And turning to his  secretary he added:  '
Leave me alone with this criminal. This is a case of treason.'
     The bodyguard raised their lances  and with the measured tread of their
iron-shod  caligae  marched from the balcony towards the garden  followed by
the secretary.
     For  a  while the  silence  on  the  balcony was  only disturbed bv the
splashing of the fountain. Pilate watched the water splay out at the apex of
the jet and drip downwards.
     The prisoner was the first to speak :
     'I see that there has been some trouble as a result of my conversation
with that young man from Karioth. I have a presentiment,  hegemon, that some
misfortune will befall him and I feel very sorry for him.'
     'I  think,' replied the Procurator with a strange smile, '  that there
is someone  else  in this  world for whom you should feel  sorrier than  for
Judas of Karioth and who is destined for  a fate much worse than Judas'! ...
So  Mark  Muribellum, a coldblooded killer,  the  people  who I  see  '--the
Procurator  pointed  to  Yeshua's disfigured face--'  beat  you for what you
preached, the robbers Dismas and  Hestas who with  their confederates killed
four soldiers, and finally this dirty informer Judas--are they all good men?
     'Yes,' answered the prisoner.
     'And will the  kingdom of  truth come? ' '  It will, hegemon,' replied
Yeshua with conviction.
     'It will never come! ' Pilate suddenly shouted in a voice so terrible
that  Yeshua staggered  back. Many years ago  in  the Valley  of the Virgins
Pilate had shouted in that same voice to his horsemen : ' Cut them down! Cut
them down! They have caught  the  giant Muribellum!' And again he raised his
parade-ground voice,  barking out  the words so that  they would be heard in
the garden :  ' Criminal! Criminal!  Criminal! ' Then lowering his voice  he
asked : ' Yeshua Ha-Notsri, do you believe in any gods?'
     'God is one,' answered Yeshua. ' I believe in Him.'
     'Then pray to him! Pray hard! However,' at  this Pilate's voice  fell
again, ' it will do no  good. Have you  a wife? ' asked Pilate with a sudden
inexplicable access of depression.
     'No, I am alone.'
     'I  hate this city,' the  Procurator suddenly  mumbled,  hunching his
shoulders as though from cold and wiping his hands as though washing them. '
If they had murdered you before your meeting with Judas of Karioth  I really
believe it would have been better.'
     'You  should  let  me  go,  hegemon,' was  the  prisoner's  unexpected
request, his voice full of anxiety. ' I see now that they want to kill me.'
     A spasm distorted  Pilate's  face as he turned his blood-shot  eyes  on
Yeshua and said :
     'Do you imagine, you miserable creature, that a Roman Procurator could
release a man who has said what you have said to me? Oh gods, oh gods! Or do
you think I'm  prepared to take your  place? I  don't believe in your ideas!
And listen  to me : if from this  moment onward you say so much as a word or
try to talk to anybody, beware! I repeat--beware!'
     'Hegemon . ..'
     'Be  quiet!  '  shouted Pilate,  his  infuriated stare following  the
swallow which had flown on to the balcony again. ' Here!' shouted Pilate.
     The  secretary  and  the  guards  returned  to their  places and Pilate
announced that he confirmed  the sentence of death pronounced by  the Lesser
Sanhedrin  on  the  accused  Yeshua  Ha-Notsri  and the  secretary  recorded
Pilate's words.
     A minute  later centurion Mark Muribellum  stood before the Procurator.
He  was ordered by the Procurator to hand the  felon over  to the captain of
the secret service and in  doing  so to  transmit the Procurator's directive
that  Yeshua  Ha-Notsri was to  be segregated from  the other convicts, also
that  the captain  of  the  secret  service was forbidden on pain  of severe
punishment to talk to Yeshua or to answer any questions he might ask.
     At a signal from Mark the guard closed ranks around Yeshua and escorted
him from the balcony.
     Later the Procurator received a call from a  handsome man with  a blond
beard,  eagles'  feathers in  the  crest of  his helmet,  glittering  lions'
muzzles on his  breastplate,  a  gold-studded sword belt, triple-soled boots
laced to the knee and a purple cloak thrown over his left shoulder.  He  was
the commanding officer, the Legate of the Legion.
     The Procurator asked him where  the Sebastian cohort was stationed. The
Legate reported that the Sebastian was on cordon duty in the square in front
of the hippodrome, where the sentences on the prisoners would  be  announced
to the crowd.
     Then the Procurator  instructed the Legate to detach two centuries from
the  Roman  cohort. One of  them, under the  command of Muribellum,  was  to
escort the convicts,  the carts transporting the executioners' equipment and
the executioners themselves to Mount  Golgotha and on arrival  to cordon off
the  summit area. The other was to proceed at once to  Mount Golgotha and to
form a cordon immediately on arrival. To assist in the task of guarding  the
hill,  the Procurator asked the Legate  to  despatch  an  auxiliary  cavalry
regiment, the Syrian ala.
     When  the  Legate  had  left  the balcony, the  Procurator ordered  his
secretary to summon to the palace the president of the Sanhedrin, two of its
members and the captain of  the Jerusalem temple  guard, but  added that  he
wished arrangements to be made which would allow him, before conferring with
all  these  people,  to have a  private  meeting with  the president  of the
     The Procurator's orders were carried out rapidly and precisely and  the
sun,  which had  lately  seemed to scorch  Jerusalem  with  such  particular
vehemence, had  not  yet reached its  zenith when  the  meeting  took  place
between the Procurator  and the president of  the Sanhedrin, the High Priest
of Judaea,  Joseph Caiaphas. They  met on  the upper  terrace  of the garden
between two white marble lions guarding the staircase.
     It was quiet in the garden. But as he emerged from the arcade on to the
sun-drenched  upper  terrace of the garden with its palms on their monstrous
elephantine legs, the terrace from which the whole of Pilate's detested city
of  Jerusalem  lay  spread  out  before  the Procurator with its  suspension
bridges, its fortresses and over it all  that  indescribable  lump of marble
with a golden dragon's scale instead of a roof--the temple of Jerusalem--the
Procurator's sharp hearing detected far below, down there where a stone wall
divided the lower  terraces of the palace garden from the city square, a low
rumbling broken now and again by faint sounds, half groans, half cries.
     The Procurator realised that already there was assembling in the square
a numberless crowd of  the inhabitants of Jerusalem, excited  by  the recent
disorders; that this crowd was waiting impatiently for the pronouncement  of
sentence and that the water-sellers were busily shouting their wares.
     The Procurator began by inviting the High Priest on  to  the balcony to
find  some shade  from  the  pitiless heat,  but  Caiaphas politely  excused
himself, explaining that he could not do that on the eve of a feast-day.
     Pilate pulled his  cowl over his slightly  balding head and  began  the
conversation, which was conducted in Greek.
     Pilate remarked that  he had examined the case  of Yeshua Ha-Notsri and
had confirmed the sentence  of death.  Consequently those due for  execution
that day were the three  robbers--Hestas, Dismas and Bar-Abba--and  now this
other man, Yeshua  Ha- Notsri. The first two, who had  tried  to incite  the
people to rebel against Caesar, had  been forcibly apprehended by  the Roman
authorities; they were  therefore the  Procurator's responsibility and there
was no reason to  discuss their case.  The  last  two, however, Bar-Abba and
Ha-Notsri, had been  arrested by the local authorities and tried before  the
Sanhedrin. In  accordance  with law  and custom, one of  these two criminals
should be  released in honour of the imminent great feast of  Passover.  The
Procurator therefore wished to know which of these two felons the  Sanhedrin
proposed to discharge--Bar-Abba or Ha-Notsri?
     Caiaphas inclined  his head as a sign  that he  understood the question
and replied:
     'The Sanhedrin requests the release of Bar-Abba.' The  Procurator well
knew  that this would be  the High Priest's reply;  his problem was  to show
that the request aroused his astonishment.
     This  Pilate  did  with  great  skill.  The eyebrows rose on his  proud
forehead and the Procurator looked the High Priest straight  in the eye with
     'I confess that your reply surprises me,' began the Procurator softly.
' I fear there may have been some misunderstanding here.'
     Pilate stressed that the  Roman  government wished  to make no  inroads
into the  prerogatives of the local  priestly authority, the High Priest was
well aware of that,  but  in this particular case an obvious error seemed to
have  occurred.  And  the Roman  government  naturally  had  an  interest in
correcting  such an error. The crimes of Bar-Abba and Ha-Notsri  were  after
all not comparable in gravity.  If the latter, a man who was clearly insane,
were guilty of making some absurd speeches in Jerusalem  and  various  other
localities, the former stood convicted of offences that were infinitely more
serious.  Not  only  had he  permitted himself to  make  direct  appeals  to
rebellion,  but he had killed a sentry while resisting arrest.  Bar-Abba was
immeasurably more dangerous  than Ha-Notsri. In view of all these facts, the
Procurator requested  the High  Priest  to  reconsider his  decision  and to
discharge  the  least  dangerous  of  the two  convicts  and  that  one  was
undoubtedly Ha-Notsri . . . Therefore?
     Caiaphas said in  a quiet but  firm voice that the  Sanhedrin had taken
due cognisance of the case and repeated its intention to release Bar-Abba.
     'What?  Even  after  my   intervention?   The  intervention  of   the
representative  of the Roman government?  High Priest,  say it for the third
     'And  for the third  time I say that we shall release Bar-Abba,'  said
Caiaphas softly.
     It was over  and there was no more to be discussed. Ha-Notsri had  gone
for ever  and there was no one  to  heal the  Procurator's terrible,  savage
pains ;  there was no cure for them now  except  death. But this thought did
not strike  Pilate immediately. At first his whole being was seized with the
same incomprehensible sense of grief which had come to him  on  the balcony.
He at once sought for its explanation and its  cause was a strange one : the
Procurator was obscurely aware that he still  had something to  say  to  the
prisoner and that perhaps, too, he had more to learn from him.
     Pilate banished the thought and it passed as quickly as it had come. It
passed, yet that  grievous ache  remained a  mystery, for  it  could not  be
explained  by  another thought that had flashed  in and out of his mind like
lightning--' Immortality ... immortality  has come .  . .' Whose immortality
had come? The Procurator could not understand it, but  that puzzling thought
of immortality sent a chill over him despite the sun's heat.
     'Very well,' said Pilate. ' So be it.'
     With that  he looked round. The visible  world vanished from  his sight
and an astonishing change occurred. The  flower-laden rosebush  disappeared,
the cypresses fringing the upper terrace disappeared, as did the pomegranate
tree, the white  statue among  the foliage and the foliage  itself. In their
place came a kind of dense purple mass in which seaweed waved and swayed and
Pilate himself was swaying with  it. He was seized, suffocating and burning,
by the most terrible rage of all rage--the rage of impotence.
     'I am suffocating,' said Pilate. ' Suffocating! '
     With  a cold damp hand he tore the buckle from the collar  of his cloak
and it fell on to the sand.
     'It  is  stifling  today,  there  is  a thunderstorm  brewing,'  said
Caiaphas, his gaze fixed on the Procurator's  reddening face, foreseeing all
the discomfort that the weather was yet  to bring. '  The month of Nisan has
been terrible this year! '
     'No,' said Pilate. ' That  is not why I am suffocating. I feel stifled
by your  presence, Caiaphas.'  Narrowing his eyes Pilate  added  : ' Beware,
High Priest! '
     The  High Priest's dark eyes  flashed  and--no less cunningly  than the
Procurator--his face showed astonishment.
     'What do I hear, Procurator? ' Caiaphas answered proudly and calmly. '
Are you threatening me--when sentence has been duly pronounced and confirmed
by yourself? Can  this be  so?  We  are accustomed  to the  Roman Procurator
choosing his words carefully before saying anything. I trust no one can have
overheard us, hegemon?'
     With lifeless  eyes Pilate  gazed at the High Priest and manufactured a
     'Come now. High Priest! Who can overhear us here? Do you take me for a
fool, like  that crazy  young  vagrant  who is  to be executed today? Am I a
child, Caiphas? I know what I'm saying and where I'm saying it. This garden,
this whole palace is so  well cordoned that there's not a crack for a  mouse
to slip through.  Not a mouse--and  not even that man--what's his name  . .?
That man from Karioth.  You do know him, don't you,  High Priest? Yes ... if
someone like that  were to  get in here,  he would  bitterly  regret it. You
believe me when I say that, don't you?  I tell you,  High  Priest, that from
henceforth you  shall  have no peace! Neither you nor your  people '--Pilate
pointed  to  the  right  where the  pinnacle  of  the temple flashed  in the
distance. ' I, Pontius Pilate,  knight of the Golden Lance, tell you so! ' '
I know it! ' fearlessly replied the bearded Caiaphas. His eyes flashed as he
raised his hand to the sky and went on :  ' The Jewish people knows that you
hate  it  with  a  terrible  hatred  and  that  you  have  brought  it  much
suffering--but you will  never destroy it! God will protect it. And he shall
hear  us--mighty  Caesar  shall  hear us  and  protect  us from  Pilate  the
oppressor! '
     'Oh no! ' rejoined Pilate,  feeling more and more relieved with  every
word that he spoke; there was  no longer any need to dissemble, no  need  to
pick his words : ' You have complained of me to  Caesar too often and now my
hour has come, Caiaphas! Now  I  shall send word--but not to the  viceroy in
Antioch,  not even to Rome  but straight to Capreia, to the emperor himself,
word  of  how you in Jerusalem are saving  convicted rebels from death.  And
then it will not be  water from Solomon's pool, as I once intended for  your
benefit,  that I  shall give Jerusalem to  drink--no, it will  not be water!
Remember how thanks  to  you  I was  made to  remove  the  shields  with the
imperial cipher from the walls, to transfer troops, to come and  take charge
here myself! Remember my  words. High Priest: you are going to see more than
one cohort here in Jerusalem! Under the city walls you are going to see  the
Fulminata legion at full strength and Arab cavalry too. Then the weeping and
lamentation will be bitter! Then you  will  remember that you saved Bar-Abba
and you will regret that you sent that preacher of peace to his death!
     Flecks of colour spread over the High  Priest's face, his eyes  burned.
Like the Procurator he grinned mirthlessly and replied:
     'Do you really believe what you have just said, Procurator? No, you do
not! It was not peace  that this  rabble-rouser brought to Jerusalem and  of
that, hegamon,  you are  well aware. You wanted to  release  him  so that he
could  stir up the  people,  curse our faith and deliver the people to  your
Roman swords! But as long as  I, the High Priest of Judaea, am alive I shall
not  allow the faith to be defamed and  I shall  protect the people!  Do you
hear, Pilate?' With this Caiaphas raised his arm threateningly;
     'Take heed. Procurator! '
     Caiaphas was  silent and again the  Procurator heard a murmuring  as of
the sea, rolling up to the very walls of Herod the Great's garden. The sound
flowed upwards from below until it  seemed  to swirl round  the Procurator's
legs  and into  his  face. Behind  his back,  from beyond the  wings of  the
palace, came urgent trumpet calls, the heavy crunch of hundreds of feet, the
clank of metal. It told  the Procurator that the Roman infantry was marching
out, on his  orders, to  the execution parade that was to strike terror into
the hearts of all thieves and rebels
     'Do you  hear. Procurator?  ' the  High  Priest quietly  repeated his
words. '  Surely you are not trying to tell  me  that all this '--  here the
High Priest raised both arms and his dark cowl  slipped from his head--' can
have been evoked by that miserable thief Bar-Abba?'
     With  the  back of  his  wrist the  Procurator  wiped  his  damp,  cold
forehead,  stared at  the  ground, then frowning skywards  he  saw  that the
incandescent ball was nearly overhead,  that  Caiaphas' shadow had shrunk to
almost nothing and he said in a calm, expressionless voice :
     'The execution will be at noon. We have enjoyed this conversation, but
matters must proceed.'
     Excusing  himself to  the High Priest in a few  artificial phrases,  he
invited him to sit down  on a bench  in the shade of a magnolia  and to wait
while he summoned the others necessary for  the final short consultation and
to give one more order concerning the execution.
     Caiaphas bowed politely, placing his hand on his heart, and remained in
the garden  while  Pilate  returned to  the  balcony.  There he  ordered his
waiting secretary to call the  Legate of the  Legion and  the Tribune of the
cohort  into  the  garden, also  the two  members of  the Sanhedrin and  the
captain of the temple guard, who were standing grouped round the fountain on
the lower terrace  awaiting  his  call. Pilate  added that he would  himself
shortly  return  to  join  them  in  the garden, and  disappeared inside the
     While  the  secretary  convened  the  meeting,  inside  his  darken-ed,
shuttered  room  the  Procurator spoke  to a  man  whose face,  despite  the
complete absence of sunlight from the room, remained half covered by a hood.
The  interview was very short. The Procurator whispered a  few words  to the
man,  who immediately departed. Pilate passed  through the arcade  into  the
     There  in  the  presence of all  the  men  he had  asked  to  see,  the
Procurator solemnly and curtly repeated that  he confirmed the  sentence  of
death  on Yeshua Ha-Notsri and enquired officially of  the Sanhedrin members
as to which of the prisoners it had  pleased them to  release. On being told
that it was Bar-Abba, the Procurator said:
     'Very well,' and ordered the secretary to enter it  in the minutes. He
clutched the  buckle which  the secretary  had picked  up from  the sand and
announced solemnly : ' It is time! '
     At this all present set off down the broad marble staircase between the
lines of rose  bushes,  exuding  their stupefying  aroma,  down towards  the
palace wall, to a gate leading to the  smoothly  paved  square at whose  end
could be seen the columns and statues of the Jerusalem hippodrome.
     As  soon as the group entered the square and  began climbing  up to the
broad  temporary  wooden  platform  raised  high  above  the square,  Pilate
assessed the situation through narrowed eyelids.
     The cleared passage  that he had just crossed between the  palace walls
and  the scaffolding platform was empty, but  in front  of Pilate the square
could no longer  be  seen--it had been  devoured by the crowd. The mob would
have poured on to the platform and the passage too if there had not been two
triple rows of soldiers, one from  the Sebastian cohort on Pilate's left and
on his right another from the Ituraean auxiliary cohort, to keep it clear.
     Pilate climbed the platform, mechanically clenching and unclenching his
fist  on  the useless  buckle and  frowning  hard.  The  Procurator was  not
frowning because  the  sun was blinding him but to  somehow avoid seeing the
group of prisoners which, as he well knew,  would shortly be led  out on the
platform behind him.
     The moment the white  cloak with the blood-red lining appeared atop the
stone block at the edge of that human sea a wave of sound--' Aaahh '--struck
the  unseeing Pilate's ears. It began softly, far away at the hippodrome end
of the square, then grew to thunderous volume and after a few seconds, began
to diminish again. ' They have seen me,' thought the Procurator. The wave of
sound did  not recede altogether and  began unexpectedly to  grow  again and
waveringly rose to  a higher pitch than the first and  on top of the  second
surge of noise, like  foam on  the  crest of a wave at sea, could  be  heard
whistles and the  shrieks of several  women  audible above the  roar. ' That
means  they have led them  out  on to the  platform,' thought  Pilate, ' and
those  screams are  from  women who  were  crushed  when  the  crowd  surged
     He waited for a while, knowing  that  nothing  could silence the  crowd
until it had let loose its pent-up feelings and quietened of its own accord.
     When that moment came tlie Procurator  threw up his  right hand and the
last murmurings  of  the crowd expired. Then Pilate took as deep a breath as
he could of the hot air and his cracked voice rang out over the thousands of
heads :
     'In the name of imperial Caesar! . . .'
     At  once his ears were struck by a  clipped,  metallic  chorus  as  the
cohorts, raising lances and standards, roared out their fearful response:
     'Hail, Caesar! '
     Pilate jerked his head up straight  at the  sun. He had  a sensation of
green fire piercing his eyelids, his brain seemed to burn. In hoarse Aramaic
he flung his words out over the crowd :
     'Four  criminals,  arrested in  Jerusalem for  murder,  incitement to
rebellion,  contempt of  the law  and blasphemy,  have been condemned to the
most  shameful form  of  execution--crucifixion!  Their  execution  will  be
carried  out shortly on Mount Golgotha The names of these felons are Dismas,
Hestas, Bar-Abba and Ha-Notsri and there they stand before you! '
     Pilate pointed to  the right, unable to see  the prisoners but  knowing
that they were standing where they should be.
     The crowd responded with a long rumble that could have been surprise or
relief. When it had subsided Pilate went on :
     'But only three of them are to be executed for, in accordance with law
and custom, in honour of the great feast  of Passover the emperor Caesar  in
his magnanimity will,  at the choice  of  the Lesser  Sanhedrin and with the
approval of the Roman government, render back to  one of these convicted men
his contemptible life!'
     As Pilate  rasped out his words he noticed that the rumbling  had given
way to a great  silence. Now  not a sigh, not a rustle reached  his ears and
there even came a moment when it seemed to Pilate that the people around him
had  vanished altogether. The city he so  hated might have died and  only he
alone  stood  there,  scorched  by the vertical  rays  of the  sun, his face
craning skywards. Pilate allowed the  silence to continue and  then began to
shout again: ' The name of the man who is about to be  released before you .
. .'
     He paused once more, holding back the name, mentally confirming that he
had said  everything, because he knew that as soon as he pronounced the name
of the fortunate man the lifeless city would awaken and nothing more that he
might say would be audible.
     'Is that everything? ' Pilate whispered soundlessly to himself. ' Yes,
it is. Now  the name!  ' And rolling his ' r 's over the heads of the silent
populace he roared : ' Bar-Abba! '
     It was as though the  sun  detonated above him and drowned his  ears in
fire, a fire that roared, shrieked, groaned, laughed and whistled.
     Pilate  turned and walked back  along the platform towards  the  steps,
glancing only at the parti-coloured wooden  blocks  of the steps beneath his
feet to save  himself from stumbling. He knew that behind his back a hail of
bronze coins  and  dates  was showering  the  platform, that  people in  the
whooping crowd, elbowing each other aside, were climbing  on to shoulders to
see a miracle with their own eyes--a  man already in  the arms of  death and
torn  from  their  grasp!  They watched  the legionaries  as they untied his
bonds, involuntarily causing  him searing pain in his swollen  arms, watched
as  grimacing  and complaining he nevertheless  smiled an  insane, senseless
     Pilate knew that the escort was now marching  the three bound prisoners
to the side steps of the platform to lead them off on the road westward, out
of the city,  towards Mount Golgotha. Only when he stood beneath  and behind
the platform did Pilate  open his  eyes,  knowing  that he was  now safe--he
could no longer see the convicted men.
     As  the roar  of  the  crowd  began to  die down the separate, piercing
voices  of the heralds could be heard repeating, one in Aramaic, the  others
in Greek, the  announcement  that  the Procurator  had  just  made from  the
platform. Besides that his ears  caught the approaching irregular clatter of
horses' hoofs and the sharp, bright call of a trumpet. This sound was echoed
by  the  piercing whistles of boys from the rooftops and by shouts of ' Look
out! '
     A lone soldier, standing in the space cleared in the square,  waved his
standard in warning, at  which the  Procurator, the Legate of the Legion and
their escort halted.
     A squadron of cavalry entered the square at a fast trot, cutting across
it  diagonally,  past  a  knot  of people, then down a  side-street  along a
vine-covered  stone  wall in  order to gallop  on to  Mount  Golgotha by the
shortest route.
     As the squadron commander, a Syrian as small as a  boy and as dark as a
mulatto, trotted  past Pilate he gave a high-pitched cry and drew  his sword
from  its scabbard.  His sweating,  ugly-tempered black  horse  snorted  and
reared up on its hind  legs.  Sheathing his sword the commander  struck  the
horse's neck with his whip, brought its forelegs down and moved off down the
side street, breaking into a gallop. Behind him in columns of three galloped
the horsemen  in a ha2e  of dust, the  tips  of  their bamboo lances bobbing
rhythmically. They  swept past the Procurator, their  faces unnaturally dark
in contrast with their white turbans, grinning cheerfully, teeth flashing.
     Raising a cloud of  dust the squadron surged down the street,  the last
trooper to pass Pilate carrying a glinting trumpet slung across his back.
     Shielding  his face  from  the  dust with  his hand  and  frowning with
annoyance Pilate walked  on, hurrying  towards the gate of the palace garden
followed by the Legate, the secretary and the escort.
     It was about ten o'clock in the morning.

     'Yes,  it  was  about  ten  o'clock  in  the morning,  my  dear  Ivan
Nikolayich,' said the professor.
     The poet drew his hand across his face like a man who has just woken up
and noticed that it was now evening. The water in the pond had turned black,
a little boat was gliding  across it  and he could hear the splash of an oar
and a girl's laughter  in the boat. People  were beginning  to appear in the
avenues and were sitting on the benches on all sides of the square except on
the side where our friends were talking.
     Over Moscow it was as if the sky had blossomed : a clear, full moon had
risen, still  white  and not  yet golden. It was  much  less stuffy  and the
voices under the lime trees now had an even-tide softness.
     'Why didn't I notice what a long story he's been telling us? ' thought
Bezdomny in amazement. ' It's evening already! Perhaps he  hasn't told it at
all but I simply fell asleep and dreamed it?'
     But  if  the professor had  not  told the story Berlioz  must have been
having the identical  dream because  he said, gazing  attentively  into  the
stranger's face :
     'Your  story is  extremely  interesting,  professor,  but  it  diners
completely from the accounts in the gospels.'
     'But surely,' replied the professor with a condescending smile, ' you
of  all  people must realise that absolutely nothing written in the  gospels
actually happened.  If you want to regard the gospels as a proper historical
source . . .'  He smiled again  and Berlioz was silenced. He had  just  been
saying exactly the same thing to Bezdomny on their walk from Bronnaya Street
to Patriarch's Ponds.
     'I agree,'  answered  Berlioz, '  but I'm  afraid that no  one is in a
position to prove the authenticity of your version either.'
     'Oh yes! I can easily confirm it! '  rejoined the professor with great
confidence,  lapsing into his foreign accent and mysteriously  beckoning the
two friends closer. They bent towards him from both sides and he began, this
time without a trace of his accent which seemed to come and go without rhyme
or reason :
     'The fact is . . .' here the professor  glanced  round  nervously  and
dropped  his  voice to a whisper, ' I was there myself.  On the balcony with
Pontius  Pilate,  in  the garden  when  he  talked to  Caiaphas and  on  the
platform, but secretly, incognito so to speak, so don't breathe a word of it
to anyone and please keep it an absolute secret, sshhh . . .'
     There was silence. Berlioz went pale.
     'How . . . how long did you say you'd been  in Moscow? ' he asked in a
shaky voice.
     'I have just  this  minute arrived in Moscow,' replied  the professor,
slightly disconcerted. Only then did it occur to the two friends to look him
properly in the eyes. They  saw that his green left  eye was completely mad,
his right eye black, expressionless and dead.
     'That explains it all,' thought Berlioz  perplexedly. '  He's some mad
German who's just arrived or else he's suddenly gone out of his mind here at
Patriarch's. What an extraordinary business! ' This really seemed to account
for  everything--the  mysterious breakfast with  the  philosopher  Kant, the
idiotic  ramblings about sunflower-seed oil and  Anna, the  prediction about
Berlioz's head being cut off and all the rest: the professor was a lunatic.
     Berlioz at once started to think what they ought to do. Leaning back on
the  bench  he  winked  at Bezdomny behind  the  professor's back, meaning '
Humour him!  ' But the poet, now thoroughly confused,  failed  to understand
the signal.
     'Yes,  yes, yes,' said  Berlioz with  great animation.  ' It's  quite
possible, of course. Even probable--Pontius Pilate, the balcony,  and so on.
. . . Have you come here alone or with your wife? '
     'Alone, alone, I am always alone,' replied the professor bitterly.
     'But  where is your luggage, professor?' asked Berlioz cunningly. ' At
the Metropole? Where are you staying? '
     'Where am I staying? Nowhere. .  . .' answered the mad German, staring
moodily around Patriarch's Ponds with his g:reen eye
     'What! . . . But . . . where are you going to live? '
     'In your flat,' the lunatic suddenly replied casually and winked.
     'I'm ...  I should  be delighted .  . .' stuttered Berlioz, : but I'm
afraid you wouldn't be  very comfortable at my place . .  - the rooms at the
Metropole are excellent, it's a first-class hotel . . .'
     'And the devil doesn't exist either, I  suppose? ' the madman suddenly
enquired cheerfully of Ivan Nikolayich.
     'And the devil . . .'
     'Don't contradict him,' mouthed Berlioz  silently,  leaning back  and
grimacing behind the professor's back.
     'There's no such  thing as the devil!  '  Ivan Nikolayich  burst  out,
hopelessly  muddled by all this  dumb  show, ruining all Berlioz's plans  by
shouting: ' And stop playing the amateur psychologist! '
     At this the lunatic gave such a laugh that it startled the sparrows out
of the tree above them.
     'Well  now, that  is interesting,'  said  the professor, quaking  with
laughter. '  Whatever  I ask  you  about--it  doesn't  exist! ' He  suddenly
stopped laughing and with a typical madman's reaction he immediately went to
the  other extreme, shouting angrily and harshly :  ' So you think the devil
doesn't exist? '
     'Calm  down,  calm  down, calm down,  professor,' stammered  Berlioz,
frightened  of exciting  this lunatic. ' You stay here a minute with comrade
Bezdomny while I run round the corner and  make a 'phone call and then we'll
take you where you want  to go. You don't know  your way around town, sitter
all...  .'  Berlioz's  plan  was  obviously right--to  run  to  the  nearest
telephone box and tell the Aliens' Bureau that there was a foreign professor
sitting  at Patriarch's Ponds who was clearly  insane.  Something had to  be
done or there might be a nasty scene.
     'Telephone?  Of  course, go and telephone  if you want to,' agreed the
lunatic sadly, and then suddenly begged with passion :
     'But please--as a  farewell  request--at least say you believe in  the
devil! I won't ask anything more of you. Don't forget that there's still the
seventh proof--the  soundest! And it's just about to be demonstrated to you!
     'All right, all right,' said Berlioz pretending to  agree. With a wink
to the  wretched Bezdomny, who by no  means relished the thought  of keeping
watch on this crazy German,  he rushed towards  the park gates at the corner
of Bronnaya and Yermolay-evsky Streets.
     At once the professor seemed to recover his reason and good spirits.
     'Mikhail Alexandrovich! ' he shouted after Berlioz, who  shuddered  as
he  turned round and then remembered that  the  professor could have learned
his name from a newspaper.
     The professor, cupping his hands into a trumpet, shouted :
     'Wouldn't you like me to send a telegram to your uncle in Kiev? '
     Another shock--how  did this madman know that he had an uncle  in Kiev?
Nobody had ever put that in any newspaper. Could Bezdomny be right about him
after all? And what about those phoney-looking documents of  his? Definitely
a weird character . . . ring up, ring up  the  Bureau at once . .  . they'll
come and sort it all out in no time.
     Without waiting to hear any more, Berlioz ran on.
     At the park gates leading into Bronnaya Street, the identical man, whom
a short  while ago the editor had seen materialise  out of a  mirage, got up
from a bench and walked  toward him. This time, however, he was not made  of
air  but  of  flesh and blood. In the early twilight Berlioz  could  clearly
distinguish his feathery little moustache, his little eyes, mocking and half
drunk, his check trousers pulled up so tight that his dirty white socks were
     Mikhail  Alexandrovich  stopped,  but  dismissed  it  as  a  ridiculous
coincidence. He had in any case no time to stop and puzzle it out now.
     'Are you looking for the turnstile, sir? ' enquired the check-clad man
in  a quavering  tenor. ' This  way, please! Straight on for  the exit.  How
about  the price of  a  drink  for showing you  the  way,  sir?  ...  church
choirmaster out  of work, sir ... need a helping hand, sir.  .  . .' Bending
double, the weird creature pulled off his jockey cap in a sweeping gesture.
     Without stopping to  listen to the  choirmaster's begging and  whining,
Berlioz  ran to the turnstile and pushed it.  Having  passed through  he was
just about to step off the pavement and cross the tramlines when a white and
red  light  flashed in his face and  the  pedestrian  signal lit up with the
words ' Stop! Tramway!' A tram rolled into view, rocking slightly along  the
newly-laid track that ran down Yermolayevsky Street and into Bronnaya. As it
turned  to join the main  line  it suddenly  switched its inside lights  on,
hooted and accelerated.
     Although he was  standing  in safety,  the  cautious Berlioz decided to
retreat behind the railings. He put his hand  on  the turnstile  and  took a
step backwards. He  missed his grip  and his  foot slipped on the cobbles as
inexorably as  though on ice. As it slid towards the tramlines his other leg
gave way and  Berlioz was thrown across the  track. Grabbing wildly, Berlioz
fell  prone. He struck his head violently on the cobblestones and the gilded
moon flashed hazily across his vision. He just had time to turn on his back,
drawing his legs up to his stomach with a frenzied movement and as he turned
over  he saw the woman tram-driver's face, white with horror above  her  red
necktie, as she bore down on him with irresistible  force and speed. Berlioz
made no sound, but all round  him the street rang with the desperate shrieks
of  women's voices. The driver grabbed the electric  brake, the  car pitched
forward, jumped  the rails and with a tinkling crash the glass broke  in all
its  windows. At this moment Berlioz heard a despairing voice: ' Oh, no  . .
.! ' Once more and for the last time the moon flashed before his eyes but it
split into fragments and then went black.
     Berlioz vanished from sight under the tramcar and a round,  dark object
rolled  across  the  cobbles,  over  the  kerbstone and  bounced  along  the
     It was a severed head.

     The women's hysterical  shrieks and the sound,  of police whistles died
away. Two ambulances drove on, one bearing the body and the decapitated head
to the morgue, the other carrying  the  beautiful  tram-driver  who had been
wounded by slivers of glass. Street  sweepers in white overalls swept up the
broken glass and poare'd sand on the pools of  blood. Ivan  Nikolayich,  who
had failed to reach the turnstile in time, collapsed on a bench and remained
there. Several times he tried to ge:t up, but his legs refuse d to obey him,
stricken by a kind of paralysis.
     The  moment he had heard the first cry the  poet had rushed towards the
turnstile and seen the head bouncing on the pavement. The sight unnerved him
so much that he bit his hand until it drew blood. He had naturally forgotten
all  about the mad German and could do nothing but wonder how one  minute he
coald have been talking to Berlioz and the next... his head ...
     Excited  people  were  running along the avenue  past the poet shouting
something,  but  Ivan  Nikolayich  did  not  hear  them.  Suddenly two women
collided alongside him and  one of them,  witlh a  pointed nose and straight
hair, shouted to the other woman just above his ear :
     '.. . Anna, it was our Anna! She was  coming  from Sadovaya!  It's her
job, you see  . .  . she was carrying a litre  of sunflower-seed  oil to the
grocery and she broke her jug on. the turnstile! It went all  over her skirt
amd  ruined  it  and she  swore and swore....! And that  poor man must  have
slipped on the oil and fallen under the tram....'
     One word stuck in Ivan Nikolayich's brain--'  Anna' . . . ' Anna? . . .
Anna? ' muttered the poet,  looking round in alarm. ' Hey, what was that you
said . . .? '
     The name ' Anna ' evoked the words ' sunflower-seed oil'  and ' Pontius
Pilate '. Bezdomny rejected 'Pilate' and  began linking together  a chain of
associations starting  with ' Anna'. Very soon the chain was complete and it
led straight back to the mad professor.
     'Of course! He said the meeting  wouldn't take place because  Anna had
spilled the  oil. And, by God, it won't take  place now! And what's more  he
said  Berlioz  would have  his  head  cut  off  by  a woman!!  Yes--and  the
tram-driver was a woman!!! Who the hell is he? '
     There was  no longer a grain of doubt that the mysterious professor had
foreseen every  detail  of Berlioz's  death  before  it  had  occurred.  Two
thoughts struck the poet: firstly--' he's no madman ' and secondly--' did he
arrange the whole thing himself?'
     'But how on earth could he? We've got to look into this! '
     With a  tremendous effort Ivan Nikolayich got up from the bench and ran
back  to where  he  had  been talking to the  professor, who was fortunately
still there.
     The lamps were already  lit  on Bronnaya Street and a  golden  moon was
shining over Patriarch's Ponds. By  the  light of the  moon, deceptive as it
always is, it seemed to Ivan Nikolayich that the thing under the professor's
arm was not a stick but a sword.
     The  ex-choirmaster was sitting on  the  seat  occupied  a  short while
before by Ivan Nikolayich himself. The choirmaster had now clipped on to his
nose an  obviously  useless pince-nez. One  lens  was missing  and the other
rattled in its frame. It made the  check-suited man look even more repulsive
than when  he had  shown Berlioz the  way to  the tramlines. With a chill of
fear  Ivan  walked up  to the  professor. A glance at his face convinced him
that there was not a trace of insanity in it.
     'Confess--who are you? ' asked Ivan grimly.
     The stranger frowned, looked at the poet as if seeing him for the first
time, and answered disagreeably :
     'No understand ... no speak Russian . . . '
     'He doesn't  understand,'  put  in  the  choirmaster from his  bench,
although no one had asked him.
     'Stop pretending! ' said Ivan threateningly, a cold feeling growing in
the pit  of his stomach. ' Just now you spoke Russian perfectly well. You're
no German and you're not a professor! You're a spy  and a murderer!  Show me
your papers! ' cried Ivan angrily.
     The enigmatic professor gave his already  crooked mouth a further twist
and shrugged his shoulders.
     'Look here, citizen,' put in the horrible choirmaster again. ' What do
you  mean by upsetting  this foreign  tourist? You'll have the police  after
you! '
     The  dubious professor put  on  a haughty  look, turned and walked away
from  Ivan,  who felt himself beginning to lose his head. Gasping, he turned
to the choirmaster :
     'Hey, you, help me arrest this criminal! It's your duty! '
     The choirmaster leaped eagerly to his feet and bawled :
     'What criminal?  Where is he?  A foreign  criminal? '  His eyes lit up
joyfully. ' That man? If he's a criminal the first thing to do is to shout "
Stop thief! " Otherwise he'll get away. Come on, let's shout together! ' And
the choirmaster opened his mouth wide.
     The  stupefied  Ivan  obeyed  and shouted  '  Stop  thief!  '  but  the
choirmaster fooled him by not making a sound.
     Ivan's  lonely, hoarse cry was worse  than useless.  A couple  of girls
dodged him and he heard them say ' . .. drunk.'
     'So you're in league with him, are you? ' shouted  Ivan, helpless with
anger. ' Make fun of me, would you? Out of my way!'
     Ivan  set  off towards  his right and the choirmaster did the opposite,
blocking his way. Ivan  moved leftward, the other to his right and  the same
thing happened.
     'Are  you  trying to  get  in  my way  on  purpose?'  screamed  Ivan,
infuriated. ' You're the one I'm going to report to the police!'
     Ivan  tried to grab the  choirmaster  by  the sleeve,  missed and found
himself grasping nothing  : it was as if the  choirmaster had been swallowed
up by the ground.
     With a  groan  Ivan  looked  ahead  and  saw the hated stranger. He had
already  reached the  exit leading  on  to Patriarch's Street  and he was no
longer alone.  The  weird choirmaster had managed to join him. But  that was
not all. The third member of the company was a cat the  size of a pig, black
as soot  and with  luxuriant cavalry officers'  whiskers. The  threesome was
walking towards Patriarch's Street, the cat trotting along on its hind legs.
     As he set off  after  the villains  Ivan  realised at  once that it was
going to be  very  hard to catch them up. In a flash the three of  them were
across the street and on the  Spiridonovka. Ivan quickened his pace, but the
distance  between him  and  his  quarry grew no  less. Before  the poet  had
realised it they had left the quiet Spiridonovka and were approaching Nikita
Gate,  where  his  difficulties  increased.  There  was a  crowd and to make
matters  worse  the evil band  had  decided to use  the favourite  trick  of
bandits on the run and split up.
     With great agility  the choirmaster jumped on board  a moving bus bound
for Arbat Square and vanished. Having lost  one of  them,  Ivan concentrated
his  attention  on  the cat and saw how the strange animal  walked up to the
platform of an ' A ' tram waiting at a stop, cheekily pushed off a screaming
woman, grasped the handrail and offered the conductress a ten-kopeck piece.
     Ivan was so  amazed  by  the  cat's behaviour that  he was frozen  into
immobility beside a street corner grocery. He  was struck with even  greater
amazement  as he  watched the reaction  of the  conductress.  Seeing the cat
board her tram, she yelled, shaking with anger:
     'No cats allowed! I'm not moving with a cat on board! Go on--shoo! Get
off, or I'll call the police! '
     Both conductress and passengers seemed completely oblivious of the most
extraordinary thing of all: not that a cat  had  boarded a tramcar--that was
after  all possible--but the  fact that the animal  was offering to pay  its
     The  cat proved to be not only a fare-paying but a law-abiding  animal.
At  the  first  shriek from the conductress  it  retreated, stepped off  the
platform  and sat down  at  the tram-stop, stroking  its  whiskers with  the
ten-kopeck piece. But no sooner had the conductress yanked the bell-rope and
the car begun to move off, than the  cat acted like anyone else who has been
pushed off a tram and is still determined to get to his destination. Letting
all  three cars draw  past it, the cat jumped on to the coupling-hook of the
last car, latched its  paw round a pipe  sticking  out of one of the windows
and sailed away, having saved itself ten kopecks.
     Fascinated  by the  odious  cat,  Ivan  almost  lost sight of  the most
important of  the three--the  professor. Luckily he had not  managed to slip
away. Ivan spotted his grey beret in the crowd at the top of Herzen  Street.
In a flash Ivan was there too, but in vain. The poet speeded up to a run and
began  shoving  people  aside,  but  it brought  him not  an inch nearer the
     Confused  though  Ivan  was,  he  was  nevertheless  astounded  by  the
supernatural speed of the pursuit.  Less  than  twenty seconds after leaving
Nikita Gate Ivan Nikolayich was dazzled by the lights of Arbat Square. A few
more  seconds and he was in  a  dark alleyway with uneven pavements where he
tripped and  hurt  his knee. Again a well-lit main road--Kropotkin  Street--
another side-street, then Ostozhenka Street, then another  grim,  dirty  and
badly-lit alley. It was here that Ivan Nikolayich finally lost sight  of his
quarry. The professor had disappeared.
     Disconcerted, but not for long, for no  apparent reason Ivan Nikolayich
had a sudden intuition that the professor must be in house No. 13, flat 47.
     Bursting  through the front door, Ivan  Nikolayich flew up  the stairs,
found the right flat and impatiently rang the bell. He did not  have to wait
long. The door  was  opened by  a little  girl of  about  five, who silently
disappeared inside  again.  The hall  was a  vast, incredibly neglected room
feebly  lit  by a tiny  electric light  that dangled  in one  corner  from a
ceiling black  with dirt. On the wall  hung  a  bicycle without  any  tyres,
beneath it  a huge iron-banded trunk. On the  shelf over the coat-rack was a
     fur cap, its long earflaps untied and hanging down. From behind  one of
the doors  a man's  voice  could be heard booming  from  the  radio, angrily
declaiming poetry.
     Not at  all put  out  by these unfamiliar surroundings, Ivan Nikolayich
made straight for the corridor, thinking to himself:
     'He's obviously hiding in the bathroom.' The passage was dark. Bumping
into the walls, Ivan saw  a faint streak of light under a doorway. He groped
for  the handle and gave it  a gentle turn. The door opened  and Ivan  found
himself in luck--it was the bathroom.
     However  it wasn't quite  the sort of luck he had hoped  for.  Amid the
damp steam and  by the light of the coals smouldering in the geyser, he made
out a large basin attached to the wall  and a bath streaked with black where
the enamel  had chipped off.  There in the bath stood a naked woman, covered
in soapsuds and holding a loofah.  She peered  short-sightedly at Ivan as he
came in and  obviously mistaking him for someone else in  the hellish  light
she whispered gaily :
     'Kiryushka! Do stop fooling! You must be crazy . . . Fyodor  Ivanovich
will be back any minute now. Go on--out you go!  ' And she waved her  loofah
at Ivan.
     The mistake was plain  and it was, of course,  Ivan Nikolayich's fault,
but  rather  than admit it he gave a  shocked  cry of ' Brazen  hussy! ' and
suddenly  found himself in the kitchen. It was empty. In the gloom  a silent
row of ten or so Primuses stood on a marble slab. A single ray of moonlight,
struggling through a dirty window that  had not been cleaned for years, cast
a dim  light into one corner where there hung a forgotten ikon, the stubs of
two candles still stuck in its frame. Beneath the big ikon  was another made
of paper and fastened to the wall with tin-tacks.
     Nobody knows what came  over Ivan but before letting himself out by the
back  staircase  he stole  one  of the  candles  and the little  paper ikon.
Clutching  these  objects   he   left   the  strange  apartment,  muttering,
embarrassed  by  his recent experience in the  bathroom.  He  could not help
wondering who the shameless  Kiryushka might be and whether he was the owner
of the nasty fur cap with dangling ear-flaps.
     In the  deserted,  cheerless alleyway Bezdomny  looked  round  for  the
fugitive but there was no sign of him. Ivan said firmly to himself:
     'Of course! He's on the Moscow River! Come on! '
     Somebody should of  course have asked  Ivan  Nikolayich why he imagined
the professor would be  on the Moscow River of all places, but unfortunately
there was no one to ask him--the nasty little alley was completely empty.
     In no time at all Ivan  Nikolayich was to be seen  on the granite steps
of the  Moscow lido. Taking off his clothes, Ivan entrusted them to a kindly
old man with  a beard, dressed in a  torn white Russian blouse and  patched,
unlaced boots. Waving him aside, Ivan  took  a  swallow-dive into the water.
The water was so cold that  it took his breath away and for a moment he even
doubted  whether he would  reach the surface again. But reach it he did, and
puffing  and snorting,  his  eyes round with  terror,  Ivan Nikolayich began
swimming in the black, oily-smelling water towards  the  shimmering zig-zags
of the embankment lights reflected in the water.
     When Ivan clambered damply up  the steps at the place where he had left
his clothes in the care of the bearded man,  not  only his clothes but their
venerable guardian had apparently been spirited away. On the very spot where
the heap of  clothes had been  there was now a  pair of check  underpants, a
torn Russian blouse, a candle, a paper ikon and  a box  of  matches. Shaking
his fist into space with impotent rage, Ivan clambered into what was left.
     As he did so  two thoughts worried him.  To begin with he had now  lost
his MASSOLIT  membership  card; normally he never  went anywhere without it.
Secondly it  occurred to him  that he might be arrested  for walking  around
Moscow in this state. After all, he had practically nothing on but a pair of
underpants. . . .
     Ivan tore the buttons off  the long underpants where they were fastened
at  the ankles,  in  the hope that  people might think  they were a  pair of
lightweight summer  trousers.  He then picked up the  ikon,  the  candle and
matches and set off, saying to himself:
     'I must go to Griboyedov! He's bound  to be there.' Ivan  Nikolayich's
fears were completely justified--passers-by  noticed him and turned round to
stare, so he decided to leave the  main streets and make Us way  through the
side-roads where people were not so inquisitive, where there was less chance
of them stopping a barefoot  man and badgering him with questions about  his
underpants--which obstinately refused to look like trousers.
     Ivan  plunged into a maze of  sidestreets round the  Arbat and began to
sidle  along  the  walls, blinking fearfully,  glancing round,  occasionally
hiding in doorways, avoiding  crossroads with traffic lights and the elegant
porticos of embassy mansions.

     It was an old two-storied  house, painted cream, that stood on the ring
boulevard  behind  a  ragged  garden,  fenced  off  from  the   pavement  by
wrought-iron  railings. In winter the paved front courtyard was usually full
of shovelled snow, whilst in summer, shaded by a  canvas awning, it became a
delightful outdoor extension to the club restaurant.
     The  house was called ' Griboyedov House  ' because it  might once have
belonged  to  an  aunt  of  the  famous  playwright  Alexander   Sergeyevich
Griboyedov. Nobody really knows for sure whether she ever owned  it or  not.
People  even  say  that  Griboyedov  never had an aunt  who  owned  any such
property. . . . Still,  that was its name. What is more, a dubious tale used
to circulate in Moscow of  how in  the round, colonnaded salon on the second
floor the famous  writer had once read  extracts from Woe  From Wit to  that
same aunt as she reclined on a sofa. Perhaps he did ; in any case it doesn't
     It matters much more that this house now  belonged to  MASSOLIT,  which
until  his  excursion  to  Patriarch's Ponds was headed by  the  unfortunate
Mikhail Alexandrovich Berlioz. No one, least of all the members of MASSOLIT,
called the place ' Griboyedov House '. Everyone simply called it' Griboyedov
' :
     'I spent a couple of hours lobbying at Griboyedov yesterday.'
     'Wangled myself a month in Yalta.'
     'Good for you! '
     Or  :  '  Go to Berlioz--he's  seeing people  from  four to  five  this
afternoon at Griboyedov . . .'--and so on.
     MASSOLIT had installed itself in Griboyedov very comfortably indeed. As
you  entered  you  were  first  confronted  with  a   notice-board  full  of
announcements  by the various  sports clubs, then with  the  photographs  of
every individual member of MASSOLIT, who were strung  up (their photographs,
of course) along the walls of the staircase leading to the first floor.
     On the door of the first  room on the upper storey was a large notice :
' Angling and Weekend Cottages ', with a picture of a carp caught on a hook.
     On  the  door  of  the second room  was a slightly  confusing notice: '
Writers' day-return rail warrants. Apply to M.V. Podlozhnaya.'
     The  next door bore a brief and completely incomprehensible  legend:  '
Perelygino'.  From  there  the  chance  visitor's  eye  would  be  caught by
countless  more notices pinned  to the  aunt's walnut doors : ' Waiting List
for Paper--Apply to Poklevkina ';
     'Cashier's Office '; ' Sketch-Writers : Personal Accounts ' . . .
     At  the head of the  longest  queue, which  started  downstairs at  the
porter's desk, was a door under constant siege labelled ' Housing Problem'.
     Past the housing problem hung a gorgeous poster showing  a cliff, along
whose summit rode a man on  a  chestnut  horse with a rifle slung  over  his
shoulder. Below were some palm-trees and a balcony. On it sat a shock-haired
young man gazing upwards with a bold, urgent look and holding a fountain pen
in his  hands. The wording read :  ' All-in Writing Holidays, from two weeks
(short  story,  novella)  to  one  year  (novel, trilogy):  Yalta,  Suuk-Su,
Borovoye, Tsikhidziri,  Makhinjauri, Leningrad (Winter Palace).' There was a
queue at  this door  too,  but not  an excessively long  one--only  about  a
hundred and fifty people.
     Following  the  erratic   twists,  the  steps  up  and  steps  down  of
Griboyedov's corridors,  one found  other notices  :  'MASSOLIT-Management',
'Cashiers Nos.  2,  5,  4,  5,'  'Editorial  Board',  '  MASSOLIT-Chairman',
'Billiard Room',  then  various subsidiary  organisations  and  finally that
colonnaded  salon  where the aunt  had  listened with such  delight  to  the
readings of his comedy by her brilliant nephew.
     Every  visitor  to  Griboyedov,  unless  of course  he were  completely
insensitive, was made immediately aware of how good  life was  for the lucky
members of  MASSOLIT and he would  at  once be consumed  with black envy. At
once, too, he would curse heaven  for having  failed to  endow him at  birth
with literary  talent,  without which, of course, no  one could  so much  as
dream of acquiring a MASSOLIT  membership card--that brown card known to all
Moscow,  smelling of expensive  leather and  embellished  with  a wide  gold
     Who  is prepared to say a word  in defence of envy? It is  a despicable
emotion, but put yourself in the visitor's place : what  he had seen  on the
upper fl was by no means all. The entire ground floor of the aunt's house
was  occupied  by  a  restaurant--  and what  a restaurant! It  was  rightly
considered the  best in Moscow. Not only because it occupied two large rooms
with vaulted  ceilings and lilac-painted horses with flowing manes, not only
because every table had a lamp shaded  with lace, not  only because  it  was
barred  to  the  hoi polloi,  but above  all for the  quality  of  its food.
Griboyedov  could beat  any restaurant in  Moscow you cared  to name and its
prices were extremely moderate.
     There is therefore nothing odd  in the conversation which the author of
these lines actually overheard once outside the iron railings of  Griboyedov
     'Where are you dining today, Ambrose? '
     'What a question!  Here, of  course,  Vanya!  Archibald Archibaldovich
whispered to me this morning that there's filets de perche an naturel on the
menu tonight. Sheer virtuosity! '
     'You do  know how to live, Ambrose! ' sighed Vanya, a thin pinched man
with  a  carbuncle  on  his  neck,  to  Ambrose,  a  strapping,  red-lipped,
golden-haired, ruddy-cheeked poet.
     'It's no special talent,' countered Ambrose. ' Just a perfectly normal
desire to live a decent, human existence. Now I suppose you're going  to say
that you can get perch  at the Coliseum. So you can. But a helping of  perch
at  the Coliseum costs thirty roubles  fifty kopecks  and here it costs five
fifty!  Apart  from that the  perch  at the Coliseum are three days old  and
what's more if you  go  to the Coliseum there's no guarantee you won't get a
bunch of grapes thrown in your face by the first young man to burst in  from
Theatre  Street.  No, I loathe the Coliseum,' shouted Ambrose the gastronome
at the top of his voice. ' Don't try and talk me into liking it, Vanya! '
     'I'm  not trying to talk you into it, Ambrose,' squeaked Vanya. '  You
might have been dining at home.'
     'Thank you very much,' trumpeted Ambrose. '  Just  imagine your  wife
trying to cook filets de perche an naturel in a saucepan, in the kitchen you
share with half a dozen other people! He, he, he! ... Aurevoir, Vanya! ' And
humming to himself Ambrose hurried oft to the verandah under the awning.
     Ha, ha, ha! ...  Yes,  that's how  it used to be!  ... Some  of us  old
inhabitants  of  Moscow  still remember the  famous  Griboyedov. But  boiled
fillets  of  perch was  nothing, my dear Ambrose! What about  the  sturgeon,
sturgeon  in a  silver-plated  pan,  sturgeon  filleted  and  served between
lobsters' tails and fresh caviar? And oeufs  en cocotte with  mushroom puree
in little  bowls? And didn't you  like the thrushes' breasts? With truffles?
The quails alia Genovese? Nine roubles fifty! And  oh, the band,  the polite
waiters!  And  in July when the whole family's  in the  country and pressing
literary business is  keeping you in town--out on the verandah, in the shade
of a climbing vine,  a  plate of potage  printaniere looking like  a  golden
stain on the snow-white table-cloth? Do you remember, Ambrose? But of course
you do--I can see from your lips you remember. Not just your salmon or  your
perch either--what about the snipe,  the woodcock in season,  the quail, the
grouse? And the sparkling wines! But I digress, reader.
     At half past ten on the evening that Berlioz died at Patriarch's Ponds,
only one upstairs  room  at  Griboyedov  was  lit.  In  it sat twelve  weary
authors, gathered for a meeting and still waiting for Mikhail Alexandrovich.
Sitting  on  chairs,  on  tables and  even  on the two  window  ledges,  the
management  committee  of  MASSOLIT was  suffering  badly from  the heat and
stuffiness. Not a single fresh breeze penetrated the open window. Moscow was
The Master and Margarita
     exuding the heat  of  the  day accumulated  in  its  asphalt and it was
obvious that the night was not going to bring; any relief. There was a smell
of  onion coming from the restaurant kitchen in the cellar, everybody wanted
a drink, everybody was nervous and irritable.
     Beskudnikov, a quiet, well-dressed essayist with eyes that were at once
attentive yet shifty, took out his watch. The hands were just creeping up to
eleven.  Beskudnikov tapped the watch face with his finger  and showed it to
his neighbour, the poet  Dvubratsky, who was sitting on the table, bored and
swinging his feet shod in yellow rubber-soled slippers.
     'Well, really . . .' muttered Dvubratsky.
     'I  suppose  the  lad's  got  stuck  out  at Klyazma,'  said Nastasya
Lukinishna  Nepremenova, orphaned daughter of a Moscow business man, who had
turned writer and wrote naval war  stories under  the pseudonym  of ' Bo'sun
George '.
     'Look here! ' burst out Zagrivov, a writer of popular short stories. '
I don't know  about you, but I'd  rather be  drinking tea out on the balcony
right  now instead  of  stewiing in  here.  Was this meeting  called for ten
o'clock or wasn't it? '
     'It must be nice out at Klyazma now,' said IBo'sun George in a tone of
calculated  innocence,  knowing that  the  writers'  summer  colony  out  at
Perelygino near Klyazma  was a sore point.  ' I expect the nightingales  are
singing  there  now.  Somehow  I  always seem to  work  better out  of town,
especially in the spring.'
     'I've been paying my contributions for three years now to send my sick
wife to that paradise but somehow nothing ever appears on the horizon,' said
Hieronymus Poprikhin the novelist, with bitter venom.
     'Some people are  lucky and  others aren't, that's  all,'  boomed  the
critic Ababkov from the window-ledge.
     Bos'un George's little eyes  lit up,  and softening her  contralto rasp
she said:
     'We  mustn't be jealous, comrades. There are  only  twenty-two dachas,
only  seven more are  being built,  and  there are  three  thousand of us in
     'Three thousand one hundred and eleven,' put in someone from a corner.
     'Well, there you  are,'  the  Bo'sun  went  on.  '  What can  one do?
Naturally the dachas are allocated to those with the most talent. . .'
     'They're  allocated to the people at the  top! ' barked Gluk-haryov, a
script writer.
     Beskudnikov, yawning artificially, left the room.
     'One  of them  has five  rooms to himself at  Perelygino,' Glukharyov
shouted after him.
     'Lavrovich  has  six  rooms to himself,' shouted  Deniskin, '  and the
dining-room's panelled in oak! '
     'Well, at  the moment that's  not  the point,' boomed  Ababkov. ' The
point is that it's half past eleven.'
     A  noise began, heralding mutiny. Somebody rang up the hated Perelygino
but got through to the wrong dacha, which turned out to belong to Lavrovich,
where  they were  told that  Lavrovich  was out on the river.  This produced
utter  confusion. Somebody  made a wild telephone call to  the Fine Arts and
Literature Commission, where of course there was no reply.
     'He might have rung up! ' shouted Deniskin, Glukharyov and Quant.
     Alas,  they shouted  in vain.  Mikhail Alexandrovich was in no state to
telephone  anyone.  Far,  far  from  Griboyedov,  in  a  vast  hall  lit  by
thousand-candle-power  lamps, what had recently  been Mikhail  Alexandrovich
was  lying  on  three  zinc-topped  tables.  On  the  first  was the  naked,
blood-caked body with. a fractured arm and smashed  rib-cage,  on the second
the head,  it;s front teeth knocked  in, its vacant open eyes undisturbed by
the  blinding  light, and on  the third--a heap of  mangled rags.  Round the
decapitated  corpse   stood   the  professor  of   forensic   medicine,  the
pathological  anatomist and  his  dissector,  a few detectives  and  Mikhail
Alexandrovich's  deputy  as  chairman of  MASSOLIT,  the  writer  Zheldybin,
summoned by telephone from the bedside of his sick wife.
     A car  had  been  sent  for Zheldybin and  had first  taken him and the
detectives (it was  about midnight) to  the dead man's flat where his papers
were placed under seal, after which they all drove to the morgue.
     The group round the remains of the deceased were conferring on the best
course to  take--should  they sew the severed head back on  to  the  neck or
allow the body to lie  in state  in the main hall of Griboyedov covered by a
black cloth as far as the chin?
     Yes,  Mikhail  Alexandrovich  was  quite incapable  of telephoning  and
Deniskin,  Glukharyov, Quant  and Beskudnikov  were  exciting themselves for
nothing. On the stroke of  midnight all twelve writers left the upper storey
and  went down  to the  restaurant. There they said more unkind things about
Mikhail Alexandrovich :  all the tables on  the  verandah were full and they
were obliged to dine in the beautiful but stifling indoor rooms.
     On the stroke of midnight the first of these rooms suddenly woke up and
leaped into life with a crash and a roar. A thin male voice gave a desperate
shriek  of ' Alleluia!! '  Music. It  was the famous  Griboyedov  jazz  band
striking up.  Sweat-covered faces lit up,  the painted horses on the ceiling
came  to life,  the lamps  seemed  to  shine  brighter.  Suddenly, as though
bursting their chains, everybody in  the two rooms started dancing, followed
by everybody on the verandah.
     Glukharyov  danced  away with the  poetess Tamara  Polumesy-atz.  Quant
danced,  Zhukopov the novelist seized a film actress in a  yellow dress  and
danced. They all  danced--Dragunsky  and  Cherdakchi danced, little Deniskin
danced  with the  gigantic Bo'sun George and  the  beautiful  girl architect
Semeikin-Hall  was  grabbed  by  a  stranger in white straw-cloth  trousers.
Members  and guests, from Moscow and from out of town, they all  danced--the
writer  Johann from  Kronstadt, a producer called  Vitya  Kuftik from Rostov
with  lilac-coloured  eczema all  over his face, the  leading  lights of the
poetry section of MASSOLIT--  Pavianov,  Bogokhulsky, Sladky, Shpichkin  and
Adelfina Buzdyak,  young  men of unknown  occupation  with cropped  hair and
shoulders padded with cotton wool, an old, old man with a chive sticking out
of his beard danced with a thin, anaemic girl in an orange silk dress.
     Pouring sweat,  the waiters  carried  dripping mugs  of  beer  over the
dancers' heads,  yelling hoarsely and venomously ' Sorry, sir! ' Somewhere a
man bellowed through a megaphone:
     'Chops  once! Kebab  twice! Chicken a la King! ' The vocalist  was no
longer  singing--he was  howling. Now and again the crash of  cymbals in the
band drowned the noise of dirty  crockery flung down a  sloping chute to the
scullery. In short--hell.
     At  midnight  there appeared a vision in this hell. On  to the verandah
strode a  handsome, black-eyed man with  a  pointed beard and wearing a tail
coat. With  regal gaze he  surveyed his  domain. According to some romantics
there had once been a time when  this noble figure had worn not  tails but a
broad  leather belt  round  his  waist, stuck with  pistol-butts,  that  his
raven-black hair had been tied up  in a scarlet kerchief and  that  his brig
had sailed the Caribbean under the Jolly Roger.
     But that, of  course, is pure fantasy--the Caribbean  doesn't exist, no
desperate  buccaneers sail it,  no  corvette ever chases  them, no  puffs of
cannon-smoke  ever  roll across  the waves.  Pure  invention.  Look  at that
scraggy tree, look at the iron railings, the boulevard. . . . And the ice is
floating in the  wine-bucket and  at  the  next table  there's  a  man  with
ox-like, bloodshot  eyes and it's pandemonium. . . . Oh gods--poison, I need
poison! . . .
     Suddenly  from  one of the tables the  word ' Berlioz!!  ' flew  up and
exploded in the air.  Instantly the band  collapsed  and stopped, as  though
someone had punched it. ' What, what, what--what?!! '
     'Berlioz!!! '
     Everybody began rushing about and screaming.
     A  wave  of  grief  surged  up  at  the  terrible  news  about  Mikhail
Alexandrovich.   Someone   fussed  around   shouting  that  they  must   all
immediately,  here and now,  without delay compose a collective telegram and
send it off.
     But what telegram, you may ask? And why  send  it? Send  it  where? And
what  use is  a telegram to the man whose  battered skull is being mauled by
the  rubber  hands of  a  dissector,  whose neck  is being  pierced  by  the
professor's crooked needles? He's dead, he doesn't want a telegram. It's all
over, let's not overload the post office.
     Yes, he's dead . . . but we are still alive!
     The wave of grief rose, lasted  for a while and then  began  to recede.
Somebody  went  back  to their  table  and--furtively to  begin  with,  then
openly--drank a glass of vodka and took a bite to eat. After all, what's the
point of wasting the  cotelettes de volatile?  What good are we going  to do
Mikhail Alexandrovich by going hungry? We're still alive, aren't we?
     Naturally the piano was shut  and locked, the  band went home and a few
journalists left for their newspaper offices  to write obituaries. The  news
spread  that Zheldybin was back from  the  morgue.  He moved  into Berlioz's
upstairs office and at once  a rumour started that he was going to take over
from Berlioz.  Zheldybin  summoned  all  twelve  members  of the  management
committee  from  the  restaurant and  in  an  emergency session  they  began
discussing such urgent questions  as the preparation of the colonnaded hall,
the transfer of  the body  from the morgue, the times at which members could
attend the lying-in-state and other matters connected with the tragic event.
     Downstairs in the restaurant life had returned to normal and would have
continued on its usual nocturnal course  until closing time at four, had not
something quite abnormal occurred which shocked the diners considerably more
than the news of Berlioz's death.
     The first to be alarmed were the cab drivers  waiting outside the gates
of Griboyedov. Jerking up with a start one of them shouted:
     'Hey! Look at that!' A little glimmer flared up near the iron railings
and started to bob towards the verandah. Some of the diners stood up, stared
and saw that  the nickering light was accompanied  by a white apparition. As
it  approached  the  verandah  trellis  every  diner  froze,  eyes  bulging,
sturgeon-laden forks motionless  in  mid-air.  The  club porter, who at that
moment had just left the restaurant cloakroom  to  go outside  for a  smoke,
stubbed  out his cigarette  and  was just going to advance on the apparition
with  the aim of barring its way into the restaurant when for some reason he
changed his mind, stopped and grinned stupidly.
     The apparition, passing through an  opening in the trellis, mounted the
verandah  unhindered. As it did so  everyone saw that this was no apparition
but the distinguished poet Ivan Nikolayich Bezdomny.
     He was barefoot and wearing a torn, dirty white Russian blouse.  To its
front was safety-pinned  a paper ikon with a picture  of some unknown saint.
He was  wearing long  white underpants with a lighted candle in his hand and
his  right cheek bore a fresh scratch. It would be hard to fathom  the depth
of the silence which reigned on the verandah.  Beer poured  on to the  floor
from a mug held sideways by one of the waiters.
     The poet raised the candle above his head and said in a loud voice :
     'Greetings,  friends!'  He then looked  under  the  nearest table  and
exclaimed with disappointment:
     'No, he's not there.'
     Two voices were heard. A bass voice said pitilessly : ' An obvious case
of D.Ts.'
     The second, a frightened woman's voice enquired nervously :
     'How did the police let him on to the streets in that state? '
     Ivan Nikolayich heard this and replied :
     'They tried to arrest me twice, once in Skatertny Street and once here
on Bronnaya, but  I climbed over the fence  and  that's  how  I scratched my
cheek!  ' Ivan  Nikolayich  lifted  up his  candle  and  shouted:  '  Fellow
artists!' (His squeaky voice grew stronger and more urgent.) ' Listen to me,
all of you! He's come! Catch him at once or he'll do untold harm! '
     'What's that? What? What did  he say? Who's come? ' came the questions
from all sides.
     'A professor,' answered  Ivan, ' and it was  this professor who killed
Misha Berlioz this evening at Patriarch's.'
     By now people were streaming on  to the verandah  from the indoor rooms
and a crowd began milling round Ivan.
     'I beg  your pardon, would you say that again more clearly? ' said  a
low, courteous voice  right beside Ivan Nikolayich's ear. ' Tell me, how was
he killed? Who killed him? '
     'A foreigner--he's a professor  and  a spy,'  replied  Ivan,  looking
     'What's his name? ' said the voice again into his ear.
     'That's just the trouble!' cried Ivan in frustration. ' If only I knew
his name!  I  couldn't read it  properly  on his  visiting card  ...  I only
remember the letter ' W '--the name began  with a ' W  '. What could it have
been? ' Ivan asked himself aloud,  clutching his forehead with his  hand.  '
We, wi,  wa .  . . wo . . . Walter? Wagner?  Weiner?  Wegner? Winter? '  The
hairs on Ivan's head started to stand on end from the effort.
     'Wolff? ' shouted a woman, trying to help him.
     Ivan lost his temper.
     'You fool!' he shouted, looking for the  woman in  the crowd. ' What's
Wolff  got to  do with it? He didn't do it ...  Wo, wa  . . . No, I'll never
remember it like this. Now look,  everybody-- ring up the police at once and
tell them to  send five motorcycles and sidecars with machine-guns to  catch
the professor. And don't forget to say that there are two others with him--a
tall fellow in checks with a wobbly  pince-nez and a  great black cat. . . .
Meanwhile I'm going to search Griboyedov--I can sense that he's here! '
     Ivan was by now in a state  of some  excitement. Pushing the bystanders
aside he began waving his candle about,  pouring wax on himself, and started
to look under the tables. Then somebody said ' Doctor!  ' and a  fat, kindly
face,  clean-shaven,  smelling  of drink  and  with  horn-rimmed spectacles,
appeared in front of Ivan.
     'Comrade Bezdomny,' said  the face solemnly, ' calm down! You're upset
by  the death of our beloved  Mikhail Alexandrovich  . . . no, I  mean plain
Misha  Berlioz.  We all realise how you feel. You need rest. You'll be taken
home to bed in a moment and then you can relax and forget all about it. . .'
     'Don't you realise,'  Ivan interrupted, scowling, ' that we've got to
catch the professor? And all  you can  do is  come creeping up to me talking
all this rubbish! Cretin! '
     'Excuse me. Comrade Bezdomny! ' replied the face, blushing, retreating
and already wishing it had never let itself get involved in this affair.
     'No,  I  don't  care  who  you are--I  won't excuse you,'  said  Ivan
Nikolayich with quiet hatred.
     A  spasm distorted his  face, he rapidly switched the  candle from  his
right to his left hand,  swung his arm and punched the sympathetic  face  on
the ear.
     Several  people  reached  the  same  conclusion  at   once  and  hurled
themselves at Ivan. The candle went out, the horn-rims fell off the face and
were instantly smashed underfoot. Ivan let out a dreadful war-whoop audible,
to  everybody's embarrassment, as far as the boulevard, and began  to defend
himself. There came a tinkle of breaking crockery, women screamed.
     While the waiters tied up the poet with dish-cloths, a conversation was
in progress in the cloakroom between the porter and the captain of the brig.
     'Didn't  you see that he was  wearing underpants? ' asked  the  pirate
     'But  Archibald Archibaldovich--I'm a coward,' replied the porter,  '
how could I stop him from coming in? He's a member!'
     'Didn't you see that he was wearing underpants? ' repeated the pirate.
     'Please, Archibald Archibaldovich,--' said the porter, turning purple,
' what could I do? I know there are ladies on the ver-andah, but...'
     'The ladies  don't matter.  They don't  mind,'  replied  the  pirate,
roasting the  porter with his glare. ' But the police mind! There's only one
way  a man can walk round Moscow in his  underwear--when he's being escorted
by the  police on the way to a police station! And you, if you call yourself
a  porter, ought to  know that if you see a man in that state it's your duty
not to waste a moment but to start blowing your whistle I Do you hear? Can't
you hear what's happening on the verandah? '
     The wretched  porter could hear the sounds of smashing crockery, groans
and women's screams from the verandah only too well.
     'Now what do you propose to do about it? ' enquired the buccaneer.
     The skin on the porter's face took on a leprous shade and his eyes went
blank. It  seemed to him that the other man's black hair, now neatly parted,
was  covered by  a fiery silk  kerchief.  Starched shirtfront  and tail-coat
vanished, a  pistol was  sticking  out of his leather belt.  The porter  saw
himself  dangling from the foretop yard-arm,  his tongue protruding from his
lifeless, drooping head. He could  even hear  the  waves lapping against the
ship's side. The porter's knees trembled. But the buccaneer took pity on him
and switched off his terrifying glare.
     'All right, Nikolai--but mind it  never happens  again! We can't  have
porters  like you  in a restaurant--you'd better go  and be  a  verger  in a
church.' Having said this the captain gave a few rapid, crisp, clear orders:
' Send the barman.  Police. Statement. Car. Mental hospital.' And he added :
     A quarter of an hour later, to  the astonishment  of  the people in the
restaurant, on the  boulevard and at the  windows of the surrounding houses,
the  barman, the  porter, a policeman, a waiter and the poet Ryukhin were to
be seen emerging from  the gates  of Griboyedov dragging a young man trussed
up like a  mummy, who was weeping, spitting,  lashing  out  at  Ryukhin  and
shouting for the whole street to hear :
     'You swine! . . . You swine! . . . '
     A buzzing  crowd collected, discussing  the incredible scene. It was of
course an  abominable,  disgusting, thrilling,  revolting scandal which only
ended when  a  lorry drove  away from the gates  of Griboyedov carrying  the
unfortunate Ivan Nikolayich, the policeman, the barman and Ryukhin.

     At half past one in the morning  a man with a pointed beard and wearing
a  white overall  entered the reception hall of a  famous psychiatric clinic
recently completed in  the  suburbs of Moscow. Three orderlies  and the poet
Ryukhin  stood nervously watching Ivan Nikolayich as he sat on  a divan. The
dish-cloths that had been used to  pinion  Ivan Nikolayich now lay in a heap
on the same divan, leaving his arms and legs free.
     As the man came in Ryukhin turned pale, coughed and said timidly:
     'Good morning, doctor.'
     The  doctor  bowed  to Ryukhin but looked  at Ivan Nikolayich,  who was
sitting completely immobile and  scowling furiously. He  did not  even  move
when the doctor appeared.
     'This,  doctor,' began  Ryukhin  in  a  mysterious  whisper, glancing
anxiously at Ivan Nikolayich,  ' is the  famous  poet  Ivan  Bezdomny. We're
afraid he may have D.Ts.'
     'Has he been drinking heavily? ' enquired the doctor through  clenched
     'No, he's had a few drinks, but not enough . . .'
     'Has he been trying to catch spiders, rats, little devils or dogs? '
     'No,'  replied Ryukhin,  shuddering. '  I saw  him yesterday  and this
morning ... he was perfectly well then.'
     'Why is he in his underpants? Did you have to pull him out of bed?'
     'He came into a restaurant like this, doctor'
     'Aha, aha,' said the doctor in a tone of great satisfaction. ' And why
the scratches? Has he been fighting? '
     'He fell off the fence and then he hit someone in the restaurant , . .
and someone else, too  .  . .' ' I see, I see, I  see,' said the doctor  and
added, turning to Ivan :
     'Good morning! '
     'Hello, you quack! ' said Ivan, loudly and viciously.
     Ryukhin  was so  embarrassed that  he  dared  not  raise  his eyes. The
courteous doctor, however, showed no signs  of offence and with a  practised
gesture took off  his spectacles, lifted the skirt  of his overall, put them
in his hip pocket and then asked Ivan:
     'How old are you? '
     'Go to hell! ' shouted Ivan rudely and turned away.
     'Why are  you being so disagreeable?  Have  I said anything to  upset
     'I'm twenty-three,'  said  Ivan excitedly, ' and I'm  going to lodge a
complaint against all of you--and you in particular, you louse! ' He spat at
     'What will your complaint be? '
     'That you arrested  me, a perfectly healthy man, and forcibly dragged
me off to the madhouse! ' answered Ivan in fury.
     At this  Ryukhin took a  close look at Ivan and felt  a chill  down his
spine  : there was not a trace of insanity in the man's eyes.  They had been
slightly clouded at Griboyedov, but now they were as clear as before.
     'Godfathers! ' thought Ryukhin in  terror. '  He really  is perfectly
normal! What  a ghastly  business!  Why  have  we brought him here?  There's
nothing the matter with him except a few scratches on his face . . .'
     'You are not,' said the doctor calmly, sitting down  on a stool on  a
single chromium-plated stalk, ' in  a madhouse but in a clinic, where nobody
is  going to keep you  if it  isn't necessary.'  Ivan  gave him a suspicious
scowl, but muttered :
     'Thank  God for that!  At last I've found one  normal person among all
these idiots and the worst idiot of the lot is that incompetent fraud Sasha!
     'Who is this incompetent  Sasha? ' enquired  the doctor. ' That's him,
Ryukhin,' replied Ivan, jabbing a dirty finger in
     Ryukhin's direction, who spluttered in protest. ' That's all the thanks
I get,'  he  thought bitterly, ' for  showing  him  some  sympathy!  What  a
miserable swine he is! '
     * A  typical kulak mentality,' said Ivan Nikolayich, who obviously felt
a sudden urge to attack Ryukhin. ' And what's more he's a kulak masquerading
as a proletarian. Look at his mean face and compare it with all that pompous
verse he writes for  May Day ... all that stuff about  "onwards and upwards"
and  "banners  waving  "! If  you could  look inside  him and  see what he's
thinking you'd be sickened! ' And Ivan Nikolayich  gave a hoot  of malicious
     Ryukhin, breathing heavily, turned red. There was  only  one thought in
his mind--that he had nourished a serpent in his bosom, that he had tried to
help someone who when it came to the pinch had treacherously rounded on him.
The worst of it was that  he could not answer back--one  mustn't swear at  a
     'Exactly why have they brought you here?  ' asked the  doctor, who had
listened to Bezdomny's outburst with great attention.
     'God knows, the blockheads! They  grabbed me,  tied  me  up  with some
filthy rags and dumped me in a lorry!'
     'May  I ask  why you  came  into  the restaurant in  nothing but your
     'There's nothing odd about it,' answered Ivan. '  I went for a swim in
the  Moscow  River  and  someone pinched my  clothes  and left me this  junk
instead! I  couldn't  walk round Moscow naked, could I? I had to put on what
there was, because I was in a hurry to get to the Griboyedov restaurant.'
     The doctor glanced questioningly at Ryukhin, who mumbled sulkily:
     'Yes, that's the name of the restaurant.'
     'Aha,' said the doctor, ' but why were you in  such a hurry?  Did  you
have an appointment there? '
     'I  had  to catch the  professor,'  replied  Ivan Nikolayich, glancing
nervously round.
     'What professor? ' ' Do you  know Berlioz? ' asked Ivan with a meaning
     'You mean . . . the composer? '
     Ivan  looked  puzzled. ' What  composer?  Oh,  yes  . . . no,  no.  The
composer just happens to have the same name as Misha Berlioz.'
     Ryukhin was still feeling too offended to speak, but he had to explain:
     'Berlioz,  the  chairman  of  MASSOLIT, was  run over by a  tram  this
evening at Patriarch's.'
     'Don't lie, you--you don't know anything  about it,' Ivan burst out at
Ryukhin. '  I was there,  not you!  He made  him fall  under  that  tram  on
purpose! '
     'Did he push him? '
     'What  are  you  talking  about?'  exclaimed Ivan,  irritated by  his
listener's failure to grasp the situation. ' He didn't have to push  him! He
can do things you'd never believe! He knew in advance that Berlioz was going
to fall under a tram! '
     'Did anybody see this professor apart from you? '
     'No, that's the trouble. Only Berlioz and myself.'
     'I see.  What steps  did  you take  to arrest this murderer?' At this
point the  doctor turned  and threw a glance at a woman  in a  white overall
sitting behind a desk.
     'This is what I did : I took this candle from the kitchen . . .'
     'This  one? ' asked the doctor, pointing to  a broken candle lying  on
the desk beside the ikon.
     'Yes, that's the one, and . . .'
     'Why the ikon? '
     'Well, er, the  ikon. . . .' Ivan blushed. ' You see an ikon frightens
them more than  anything else.' He again pointed at Ryukhin.  ' But the fact
is that the professor is ... well, let's be frank . . . he's  in league with
the powers of evil . . . and it's not so easy to catch someone like him.'
     The orderlies stretched their hands down their trouser-seams and stared
even harder at Ivan.
     'Yes,'  went  on Ivan. ' He's in league with them. There's no arguing
about it.  He once talked to Pontius Pilate. It's no good looking at me like
that,  I'm telling  you  the  truth!  He saw  it all --the balcony, the palm
trees. He was actually with Pontius Pilate, I'll swear it.'
     'Well, now . . .'
     'So, as I was saying, I pinned the ikon to my chest and ran .,.'
     Here the clock struck twice.
     'Oh, my  God!  ' exclaimed Ivan and rose  from the divan.  ' It's two
o'clock  and here am I wasting  time talking to you! Would you mind--where's
the telephone? '
     'Show him the telephone,' the doctor said to the orderlies.
     As Ivan grasped the receiver the woman quietly asked Ryukhin:
     'Is he married? '
     'No, he's a bachelor,' replied Ryukhin, startled.
     'Is he a union member? '
     'Police? ' shouted Ivan into  the  mouthpiece.  ' Police? Is that the
duty  officer?  Sergeant,  please  arrange  to send five  motor  cycles with
sidecars,  armed  with machine-guns  to  arrest the foreign professor. What?
Take me with you, I'll show you where to go. .  . . This is  Bezdomny, I'm a
poet, and I'm speaking from the lunatic asylum. . . . What's your address? '
Bezdomny whispered to the doctor, covering the mouthpiece with his palm, and
then yelled back into the receiver: ' Are you listening? Hullo! . . . Fools!
.  . .' Ivan suddenly roared, hurling  the  receiver at  the  wall. Then  he
turned  round to  the doctor, offered him  his hand, said a curt goodbye and
started to go.
     'Excuse  me, but  where are you  proposing to go?'  said  the doctor,
looking Ivan in the eye. ' At  this hour of night, in your  underwear .  . .
You're not well, stay with us.'
     'Come on, let me through,' said Ivan to the orderlies who had lined up
to  block the doorway. ' Are you  going  to let me go or not?  ' shouted the
poet in a terrible voice.
     Ryukhin  shuddered.  The  woman  pressed  a  button on  the  desk  ;  a
glittering  metal box  and  a  sealed  ampoule  popped out  on to its  glass
     'Ah,  so that's  your game, is  it?  ' said Ivan with  a wild, hunted
glance around. ' All  right then . . . Goodbye!! ' And he threw himself head
first at the shuttered window.
     There was a loud crash, but the glass  did not even crack, and a moment
later  Ivan Nikolayich  was  struggling  in  the arms  of  the orderlies. He
screamed, tried to bite, then shouted :
     'Fine sort of glass you put in your windows! Let me go! Let me go! '
     A hypodermic syringe glittered in the doctor's hand, with one sweep the
woman pushed back the tattered sleeve of  Ivan's blouse  and clamped his arm
in a most  un-feminine  grip.  There  was a  smell of ether,  Ivan  weakened
slightly  in the grasp of the  four men and the  doctor skilfully seized the
moment to  jab the  needle into Ivan's arm. Ivan kept up  the struggle for a
few more seconds, then collapsed on to the divan.
     'Bandits! ' cried Ivan and leaped up, only to be  pushed back. As soon
as they  let him go he jumped up again, but sat down of  his  own accord. He
said nothing, staring  wildly about him, then gave a sudden  unexpected yawn
and smiled malevolently :
     'So you're going to lock me up after all,' he said, yawned again, lay
down with his head on the cushion, his fist under his cheek like a child and
muttered in a sleepy voice but without malice : '  All right, then . . . but
you'll pay for it ... I warned you, but if you want to ... What interests me
most now is Pontius Pilate . . .  Pilate . .  .' And with that he closed his
     'Vanna, put him in No. 117 by himself and with someone to watch him.'
The doctor gave his  instructions and replaced his spectacles. Then  Ryukhin
shuddered again : a pair of white  doors  opened without a sound  and beyond
them stretched  a  corridor lit  by  a row of  blue night-bulbs. Out  of the
corridor rolled a couch on rubber wheels. The sleeping Ivan was lifted on to
it, he was pushed off down the corridor and the doors closed after him.
     'Doctor,' asked the shaken Ryukhin in a whisper, ' is he really ill?'
     'Oh yes,' replied the doctor.
     'Then what's the matter with him?' enquired Rvukhin timidly.
     The exhausted doctor looked at Ryukhin and answered wearily:
     'Overstimulation  of the motor  nerves  and  speech  centres  .  .  .
delirious  illusions. . .  . Obviously a complicated case.  Schizophrenia, I
should think . . . touch of alcoholism, too. . . .'
     Ryukhin  understood  nothing of this, except that Ivan  Nikolayich  was
obviously in poor shape. He sighed and asked :
     'What was that he said about some professor? '
     'I  expect  he  saw  someone  who  gave  a  shock  to  his  disturbed
imagination. Or maybe it was a hallucination. . . .'
     A few  minutes later a lorry  was taking Ryukhin back into Moscow. Dawn
was  breaking  and  the  still-lit  street  lamps   seemed  superfluous  and
unpleasant. The driver, annoyed at missing a night's sleep, pushed his lorry
as hard as it would go, making it skid round the corners.
     The woods fell  away in  the  distance and  the river  wandered off  in
another direction. As the lorry drove on the scenery slowly changed: fences,
a  watchman's  hut,  piles of  logs, dried  and split  telegraph  poles with
bobbins strung  on  the wires  between  them,  heaps of  stones, ditches--in
short, a feeling that Moscow was about to appear round  the  next corner and
would rise up and engulf them at any moment.
     The  log  of  wood on  which  Ryukhin  was sitting  kept  wobbling  and
slithering  about and now and again it  tried to slide away  from  under him
altogether.  The restaurant dish-cloths, which the policeman and the  barman
had  thrown  on  to  the  back  of  the  lorry  before  leaving  earlier  by
trolley-bus, were  being flung about all over the back of the lorry. Ryukhin
started to  try and pick them up, but  with a sudden burst  of ill-temper he
hissed :
     'To hell with them! Why should I crawl around after  them? ' He pushed
them away with his foot and turned away from them.
     Ryukhin was in a state of depression. It was  obvious that his visit to
the asylum had affected him deeply. He tried  to think  what it was that was
disturbing him. Was it the corridor with its blue lamps, which had lodged so
firmly in  his memory? Was  it the  thought that the worst misfortune in the
world was to lose  one's reason? Yes, it was that, of course--but that after
all was a generalisation, it applied to everybody. There was something else,
though.  What was it? The  insult--that  was it. Yes, those insulting  words
that Bezdomny had flung into his face. And the agony of it was not that they
were insulting but that they were true.
     The poet stopped looking about him and  instead stared gloomily at  the
dirty, shaking floor of the lorry in an agony of self-reproach.
     Yes, his poetry . . . He  was thirty-two! And  what were his prospects?
To go on  writing a few poems every year. How long--until he was an old man?
Yes,  until he was an old man.  What would these poems do for  him? Make him
famous? ' What rubbish! Don't fool  yourself.  Nobody ever gets famous  from
writing bad poetry. Why is it bad, though? He was right --he was telling the
truth! '  said  Ryukhin pitilessly to himself. I don't believe in  a  single
word of what I've written . . .! '
     Embittered by  an upsurge  of neurasthenia, the poet swayed. The  floor
beneath had stopped shaking. Ryukhin  lifted his head and saw that he was in
the middle of Moscow, that day had dawned, that  his lorry had stopped in  a
traffic-jam at  a boulevard  intersection  and that right near  him stood  a
metal man on  a plinth, his  head inclined slightly forward, staring blankly
down the street.
     Strange  thoughts  assailed the poet, who was beginning to  feel ill. '
Now  there's an example of pure  luck .'--Ryukhin stood  up  on  the lorry's
platform and raised  his fist in an inexplicable urge to attack the harmless
cast-iron man--'. . .  everything he did in life,  whatever happened to him,
it all went his way, everything conspired  to make him famous! But what  did
he  achieve?  I've  never been able to discover . . . What about that famous
phrase of his that begins " A storm of  mist.  . ."? What  a load of rot! He
was lucky, that's all, just lucky!  '--Ryukhin concluded venomously, feeling
the lorry start to move under him--'  and just  because  that White  officer
shot at him and smashed his hip, he's famous for ever . . .'
     The jam was moving. Less than two minutes later the poet, now  not only
ill but ageing, walked on to the Griboyedov verandah. It was nearly empty.
     Ryukhin, laden  with  dish-cloths,  was  greeted  warmly  by  Archibald
Archibaldovich and immediately relieved of the horrible rags. If Ryukhin had
not been  so exhausted  by the  lorry-ride  and  by  his experiences  at the
clinic,  he would  probably  have  enjoyed describing  everything  that  had
happened  in  the hospital and  would have embellished  the story with  some
invented details. But for the moment he was incapable. Although Ryukhin  was
not an observant man, now, after his  agony on the lorry, for the first time
be looked really hard at  the pirate and  realised that although the man was
asking  questions about Bezdomny and even exclaiming ' Oh, poor fellow! ' he
was in reality totally indifferent to Bezdomny's fate and did not feel sorry
for him at  all. ' Good for him! He's right! ' thought Ryukhin with cynical,
masochistic  relish and breaking  off  his  description of  the  symptoms of
schizophrenia, he asked :
     'Archibald Archibaldovich,  could  I possibly have a glass of vodka. .
.? '
     The pirate put on a sympathetic expression and whispered :
     'Of course, I quite understand . . . right  away .  . .' and signalled
to a waiter.
     A  quarter  of an  hour later Ryukhin  was sitting in absolute solitude
hunched  over  a dish  of sardines, drinking  glass  after  glass  of vodka,
understanding  more  and more about  himself  and admitting  that  there was
nothing in his life that he could put right--he could only try to forget.
     The  poet  had wasted  his night while  others had  spent  it  enjoying
themselves and now he realised that it was lost forever. He only had to lift
his head up from the lamp and look at the sky to see that the night had gone
beyond return. Waiters were hurriedly jerking the cloths off the tables. The
cats pacing the verandah had a morning look about them. Day broke inexorably
over the poet.

     If next day someone had said  to Stepa Likhodeyev  'Stepa! If vou don't
get  up  this minute you're going  to be shot,' he would have  replied  in a
faint, languid  voice : '  All right, shoot me. Do  what you like to me, but
I'm not getting up! '
     The worst of it was  that he could  not  open his eyes, because when he
did  so there would  be a flash of lightning  and his head  would  shiver to
fragments.  A great bell was  tolling in his head, brown  spots  with  livid
green edges  were  swimming around somewhere  between his  eyeballs  and his
closed lids. To cap it all he felt sick and the nausea was somehow connected
with the sound of a gramophone.
     Stepa  tried to remember  what had happened,  but could only recall one
thing--yesterday, somewhere. God  knows  where, he had been holding a  table
napkin  and trying  to kiss a woman,  promising her  that he would  come and
visit her tomorrow at the stroke  of noon. She had refused, saying ' No, no,
I won't  be  at  home,'  but Stepa  had insisted ' I don't  care--I'll  come
     Stepa had now completely  forgotten who  that woman had been,  what the
time  was, what  day  of what month it was, and worst of all  he had no idea
where  he was.  In an effort  to  find  out,  he  unstuck his gummed-up left
eyelid. Something glimmered  in the semi-darkness. At  last Stepa recognised
it as a  mirror. He was lying cross-wise on the bed in his own bedroom. Then
something hit him on the head and he closed his eyes and groaned.
     Stepa Likhodeyev,  manager  of the  Variety Theatre, had woken up thait
morning in the flat that he shared with Berlioz  in a  big six-stoirey block
of  flats on Sadovaya Street. This flat--No. 50--  had a strange reputation.
Two years  before, it had been owned by the widow  of  a  jeweller called de
Fougere, Anna  Frantzevna,  a  respectable and  very  business-like lady  of
fifty, who let  three of  her five  rooms  to lodgers. One  of  them was, it
seems, called Belomut; the other's name has been lost.
     Two  years  ago odd things began happening  in that apartment--  people
started to vanish  from it  without trace.  One Monday afternoon a policeman
called, invited  the  second lodger (the one whose name  is no longer known)
into the hall and asked him to come along to the police station for a minute
or two to sign a document. The lodger told Anfisa, Anna Frantzevna's devoted
servant of many years, to say that if anybody rang  him up he would be  back
in ten minutes. He then went out accompanied  by  the courteous policeman in
white  gloves.  But he not only failed to come back in ten minutes; he never
came back  at all. Odder still, the policeman appeared to have vanished with
     Anfisa, a devout and frankly rather a superstitious woman, informed the
distraught  Anna Frantsevna that it was witchcraft,  that she knew perfectly
well who had enticed  away the lodger and the policeman, only  she dared not
pronounce the name at night-time.
     Witchcraft once started, as  we all know, is virtually unstoppable. The
anonymous lodger disappeared, you will remember, on a Monday ; the following
Wednesday  Belomut, too,  vanished  from  the  face of  the earth,  although
admittedly  in  different  circumstances. He  was fetched as  usual  in  the
morning by the car which took him to work, but it never brought him back and
never called again.
     Words cannot describe the pain and distress which this caused to madame
Belomut,  but  alas for her, she was not  fated  to endure even this unhappy
state for  long.  On returning from her dacha  that evening, whither she had
hastily gone with  Anfisa, Anna Frantzevna found no trace of madame  Belomut
in  the  flat  and what was  more, the doors  of both rooms occupied  by the
Belomuts had been sealed. Two days of  uncertainty and  insomnia passed  for
Anna Frantzevna ; on the third day she made another hasty visit to her dacha
from whence, it need hardly be said, she never returned. Anfisa, left alone,
cried her eye s out and finally went to bed at  two-o'clock in  the morning.
Nobody  knows  what  happened  to  her  after  that,   but  tenants  of  the
neighbouring  flat described having  heard  knocking coming from No. 50  and
having seen lights burning  in the  windows all night. By morning Anfisa too
was gone. Legends of all  kinds about  the mysterious flat and its vanishing
lodgers circulated in the building  for some time. According  to one of them
the devout and spinsteriy Anfisa used to  carry twenty-five large  diamonds,
belonging to Anna Frantzevna, in a chamois-leather bag  between her withered
breasts.  It was  said,  too,  that among other things a priceless  treasure
consisting of those same diamonds  and  a hoard of  tsarist gold  coins were
somehow found  in the  coal-she'd behind Anna  Frantzevna's  dacha.  Lacking
proof, of course, we shall never  know how true these rumours were. However,
the  flat only  remained empty for  a week before Berlioz and  his wife  and
Stepa and his wife moved into it. Naturally as soon as  they took possession
of  the haunted flat the oddest things started happening to them too. Within
a single month  both wives had  disappeared,  although  not  without  trace.
Rumour  had  it  that  Berlioz's  wife had  been  seen  in  Kharkov  with  a
ballet-master,  whilst  Stepa's  wife had  apparently  found  her way to  an
orphanage  where, the  story went, the  manager of the Variety had used  his
connections to get her a room on condition that she never showed her face in
Sadovaya Street again. . . .
     So Stepa groaned. He  wanted to call his maid, Grunya,  and ask her for
an  aspirin but he was conscious enough  to realise that it would be useless
because Grunya most probably  had no aspirin. He tried to call for Berlioz's
help  and  twice  moaned '  Misha . . . Misha  . . .', but as you will  have
guessed, there was no reply. There was complete silence in the flat.
     Wriggling his  toes, Stepa deduced that he  was  lying in his socks. He
ran a trembling hand down his hip to  test whether he had his trousers on or
not and found  that  he had not. At last, realising  that he  was alone  and
abandoned, that there was nobody to help him, he decided to get up, whatever
superhuman effort it might cost him.
     Stepa prised open his  eyelids and  saw  himself  reflected in the long
mirror in the  shape of a man whose hair stuck out in all directions, with a
puffy,  stubble-grown face,  with  watery eyes and wearing a  dirty shirt, a
collar, tie, underpants and socks.
     As he looked at himself in the mirror, he also noticed standing  beside
it a strange man dressed in a black suit and a black beret.
     Stepa sat up on the bed and did his best to focus his bloodshot eyes on
the  stranger.  The  silence was  broken by the unknown  visitor,  who  said
gravely, in a low voice with a foreign accent:
     'Good morning, my dear Stepan Bogdanovich! '
     There was a  pause. Pulling himself  together with fearful effort Stepa
     'What  do you want?' He did not recognise his own voice. He had spoken
the  word ' what' in a treble, ' do you  ' in a bass and ' want' had  simply
not emerged at all.
     The stranger gave an amiable smile,  pulled out a large gold watch with
a diamond triangle on the cover, listened to it strike eleven times and said
     'Eleven. I have been waiting exactly  an hour for you  to wake up. You
gave me an appointment to see you at your flat at ten so here I am!'
     Stepa  fumbled  for  his  trousers  on  the chair  beside his  bed  and
     'Excuse me. . . .' He put on his trousers and asked hoarsely :
     'Please tell me--who are you? '
     He found talking  difficult, as with every word  someone stuck a needle
into his brain, causing him infernal agony.
     'What! Have you forgotten my name too? ' The stranger smiled.
     'Sorry  . .  .'  said  Stepa  huskily.  He  could  feel his  hangover
developing a new symptom : the floor beside his bed seemed to be on the move
and any moment now he was liable to take a dive head first down into hell.
     'My dear  Stepan Bogdanovich,' said the visitor with a shrewd smile. '
Aspirin will do you no good. Follow a  wise old rule--  the hair of the dog.
The only thing that  will bring you back to  life is two measures  of  vodka
with something sharp and peppery to eat.'
     Ill though Stepa was he  had enough sense to realise  that since he had
been found in this state he had better tell all.
     'Frankly . . .' he began, scarcely able to move  his tongue,  ' I did
have a bit too . . .'
     'Say no more! ' interrupted the visitor and pushed the armchair to one
     Stepa's eyes  bulged. There on  a little  table was a  tray, laid  with
slices of white bread  and  butter, pressed caviare in a glass bowl, pickled
mushrooms on a saucer, something in a little saucepan  and  finally vodka in
one of the jeweller's ornate decanters. The decanter was  so chilled that it
was  wet  with condensation  from standing in a  finger-bowl full of cracked
     The stranger cut Stepa's astonishment  short by deftly pouring him  out
half a glass of vodka.
     'What about you? ' croaked Stepa.
     'With pleasure! '
     With  a  shaking  hand  Stepa raised  the  glass to  his  lips  and the
mysterious guest swallowed his at one gulp. As he munched his  caviare Stepa
was able to squeeze out the words :
     'Won't you have a bite to eat too? '
     'Thank you, but I never eat when I'm drinking,' replied the  stranger,
pouring out a second round.  He lifted the lid of the saucepan. It contained
little frankfurters in tomato sauce.
     Slowly  the  awful  green blobs in front of  his eyes  dissolved, words
started to form and most important of all Stepa's memory began to come back.
That  was it--he  had  been  at Khustov's  dacha at Skhodna and  Khustov had
driven Stepa out there by taxi.  He even remembered hailing the taxi outside
the Metropole. There had been another man  with them--an actor ... or was he
an actor? . . . anyhow he  had a portable gramophone. Yes, yes, they had all
gone  to the dacha! And the dogs,  he remembered,  had started  howling when
they played  the gramophone. Only the woman Stepa had tried to kiss remained
a complete blank . . . who the  hell was she? . . .  Didn't she work for the
radio? Or perhaps she didn't. . . .
     Gradually the previous day  came  back into focus, but Stepa  was  much
more interested in  today and in particular  in  this  odd  stranger who had
materialised in his bedroom complete with snacks and vodka.  If only someone
would explain it all!
     'Well, now, I hope, you've remembered my name? '
     Stepa could only grin sheepishly and spread his hands.
     'Well,  really! I suspect you drank port on top of vodka last  night.
What a way to behave!'
     'Please keep this to yourself,' said Stepa imploringly.
     'Oh, of course, of course! But naturally I can't vouch for Khustov.'
     'Do you know Khustov? '
     'I saw that individual  for a moment or two  in your office yesterday,
but one cursory  glance  at his face was enough to convince me that he was a
scheming, quarrelsome, sycophantic swine.'
     'He's absolutely  right! '  thought Stepa, amazed at such  a truthful,
precise and succinct description of Khustov.
     The ruins of yesterday  were piecing themselves  together now,  but the
manager of the Variety still felt vaguely anxious. There was still  a gaping
black void in his memory. He had  absolutely no  recollection of having seen
this stranger in his office the day before.
     'Woland,  professor of black  magic,'  said the  visitor  gravely, and
seeing Stepa was still in difficulties he described their meeting in detail.
     He had arrived in Moscow from abroad yesterday, had  immediately called
on Stepa and offered himself as a  guest artiste at the Variety.  Stepa  had
telephoned the  Moscow  District  Theatrical  Commission, had agreed to  the
proposal (Stepa  turned  pale and  blinked) and  had  signed a contract with
Professor  Woland  for  seven  performances (Stepa's  mouth  dropped  open),
inviting Woland to call on him at  ten o'clock the next morning to  conclude
the  details.  ... So Woland  had come. When  he arrived he had  been met by
Grunya the  maid,  who explained  that she  herself  had  only just  arrived
because she lived out, that Berlioz wasn't at home and that if the gentleman
wanted  to see  Stepan Bogdanovich he  should  go into  the bedroom.. Stepan
Bogdanovich had been sleeping so  soundly  that she had been  unable to wake
him. Seeing the condition that Stepa was in, the artiste had sent Grunya out
to the nearest delicatessen  for some vodka and snacks, to  the chemist  for
some ice and . . .
     'You must  let  me  settle up  with you,'  moaned  Stepa,  thoroughly
crushed, and began hunting for his wallet.
     'Oh, what  nonsense! ' exclaimed the artiste and would hear no more of
     So that explained the vodka  and the  food;  but  Stepa  was  miserably
confused: he could remember absolutely nothing about a contract and he would
die  before admitting to having seen  Woland the  previous day. Khustov  had
been there all right, but not Woland.
     'Would you mind showing me the contract?' asked Stepa gently.
     'Oh, but of course. . . .'
     Stepa looked  at  the sheet of paper and went numb. It  was all there :
his  own  bold signature,  the  backward-sloping  signature  of Rimsky,  the
treasurer,  sanctioning  the payment  to  Woland  of a cash  advance  of ten
thousand roubles against his total  fee of thirty-five thousand roubles  for
seven performances. And what was more--Woland's  receipt  for  ten  thousand
     'What the hell? ' thought the miserable Stepa. His head began to spin.
Was this one of his  lapses of memory? Well, of  course, now that the actual
contract had been produced any  further signs of  disbelief  would merely be
rude.  Stepa  excused  himself for a moment  and ran to the telephone in the
hall,. On the way he shouted towards the kitchen :
     'Grunya! '
     There was no  reply. He glanced at the  door of Berlioz's study,  which
opened off the hall, and stopped, as they  say, dumbfounded. There,  tied to
the door-handle, hung an enormous wax seal.
     'My God!  ' said a voice  in  Stepa's head.  ' If that isn't the last
straw! ' It would be difficult  to  describe Stepa's mental confusion. First
this  diabolical  character  with his black  beret, the iced vodka and  that
incredible contract. . . . And then, if you  please, a seal on the door! Who
could ever imagine Berlioz getting into  any sort of  trouble? No  one.  Yet
there it was--a seal. H'm.
     Stepa was at once assailed by a number of uncomfortable little thoughts
about an  article  which he had  recently talked Mikhail  Alexandrovich into
printing  in  his  magazine.  Frankly the  article  had been  awful--stupid,
politically dubious and badly paid. Hard on the heels of his recollection of
the article came a memory  of  a slightly  equivocal conversation which  had
taken place,  as  far as he  could  remember,  on 24th  April  here  in  the
dining-room when Stepa and Berlioz  had  been  having  supper  together.  Of
course their talk  had not really  been dubious (Stepa would not have joined
in any such conversation) but it had  been on a  rather unnecessary subject.
They could easily have avoided  having it altogether. Before the  appearance
of  this  seal  the  conversation would undoubtedly  have been dismissed  as
utterly trivial, but since the seal . . .
     'Oh, Berlioz, Berlioz,' buzzed the  voice in  Stepa's head.  '  Surely
he'll never mention it!'
     But there was  no time for regrets. Stepa dialled the office of Rimsky,
the  Variety Theatre's treasurer. Stepa was in a  delicate position: for one
thing, the foreigner  might be offended at Stepa ringing up to check  on him
after he had been shown the contract and for another,  the treasurer  was an
extremely  difficult man to deal with. After all he couldn't just say to him
: ' Look  here,  did J  sign  a contract  yesterday for thirty-five thousand
roubles with a professor of black magic? ' It simply wouldn't do!
     'Yes? ' came Rimsky's harsh, unpleasant voice in the earphone.
     'Hello, Grigory Danilovich,' said Stepa gently. ' Likhodeyev speaking.
It's  about  this ...  er ...  this  fellow .  . . this artiste, in my flat,
called, er, Woland  . . .  I  just wanted to ask  you about this evening--is
everything O.K.? '
     'Oh, the black  magician? ' replied Rimsky. ' The posters will be here
any minute now.'
     'Uhuh . . .' said Stepa weakly. ' O.K., so long . . .'
     'Will you be coming over soon? ' asked Rimsky.
     'In half  an  hour,'  answered  Stepa and  replacing  the  receiver he
clasped his feverish head. God, how embarrassing! What an appalling thing to
     As it  would  be rude to  stay  in  the  hall  for  much longer,  Stepa
concocted  a  plan. He had  to use every  possible  means of  concealing his
incredible forgetfulness and begin by cunningly  persuading the foreigner to
tell him exactly what he proposed to do in his act at the Variety.
     With this Stepan turned away from the telephone and in the hall mirror,
which  the  lazy  Grunya  had  not  dusted  for  years,  he  clearly  saw  a
weird-looking man, as  thin as a bean-pole and wearing a pince-nez. Then the
apparition vanished. Stepa peered anxiously down the hallway and immediately
had another shock  as a huge  black  cat  appeared  in  the mirror  and also
     Stepa's heart gave a jump and he staggered back.
     'What in  God's name . . .? ' he thought. ' Am I going out of my mind?
Where  are these  reflections coming from? ' He gave another  look round the
hall and shouted in alarm :
     'Grunya! What's this cat doing,  sneaking in here? Where does it  come
from? And who's this other character? '
     'Don't  worry,  Stepan  Bogdanovich,'  came   a   voice,  though  not
Grunya's--it was the visitor speaking  from  the bedroom. ' The cat is mine.
Don't be nervous.  And Grunya's not  here--I  sent her away to her family in
Voronezh. She complained that you had cheated her out of her leave.'
     These words were  so unexpected and so absurd that Stepa decided he had
not heard them. In utter bewilderment he bounded back  into the bedroom  and
froze on the threshold.  His  hair  rose and a  mild sweat broke out on  his
     The visitor was no longer alone in the bedroom. The second armchair was
now occupied by the creature who had materialised in the hall. He was now to
be seen  quite  plainly--feathery  moustache,  one  lens  of  his  pince-nez
glittering, the  other missing. But  worst of all wa:s the third invader : a
black cat of revolting proportions sprawled in a nonchalant attitude on  the
pouffe, a glass of vodka in one paw and a fork, on which he had just speared
a pickled mushroom, in the other.
     Stepa  felt  the light in  the bedroom,  already  weak enough, begin to
fade. ' This must be  what it's like to go mad .  . .' he thought, clutching
the doorpost.
     'You  seem  slightly astonished,  my dear Stepan  Bogdanovich,'  said
Woland. Stepai's teeth were  chattering. ' But I assure you there is nothing
to be surprised at. These are my assistants.'
     Here  the  cat drank  its  vodka  and Stepa's  hand  dropped  from  the
     'And my assistants need a  place  to stay,' went on  Woland, '  so  it
seems  that  there is  one too many  of us in this flat.  That one, I rather
think, is you.'
     'Yes, that's them! ' said the tall man in a goatish voice, speaking of
Stepa in  the plural. ' They've been  behaving disgustingly  lately. Getting
drunk,  carrying on with women, trading on  their position  and not  doing a
stroke of work--not that they could do  anything even  if they tried because
they're  completely  incompetent.  Pulling  the  wool over  the boss's eyes,
that's what they've been doing! '
     'Drives  around in a free car! ' said the cat slanderously, chewing  a
     Then occurred the  fourth and last phenomenon at which  Stepa collapsed
entirely,  his weakened hand scraping down the doorpost as he  slid  to  the
     Straight  from the  full-length mirror  stepped a short  but  unusually
broad-she uldered man with a  bowler hat on his head. A fang protruding from
his  mouth  disfigured an  already  hideous physiognomy that was topped with
fiery red hair.
     'I cannot,' put  in the new arrival, '  understand how he ever came to
be manager'--his voice grew  more and more nasal-- ' he's as much  a manager
as I am a bishop.'
     'You  don't  look much  like  a bishop,  Azazello,' remarked the  cat,
piling sausages on his plate.
     'That's what I  mean,' snarled the man with red hair  and turning  to
Woland he added  in  a voice of respect:  ' Will  you permit us, messire, to
kick him out of Moscow? '
     'Shoo!! ' suddenly hissed the cat, its hair standing on end.
     The bedroom  began to spin round Stepa, he hit his head on the doorpost
and as he lost consciousness he thought, ' I'm dying . . .'
     But he did not die. Opening  his eyes slightly he found himself sitting
on something made of stone. There was a roaring sound nearby. When he opened
his eyes fully he realised that the roaring was the sea; that the waves were
breaking at his feet, that he was in fact sitting on the very end of a stone
pier,  a shining blue sky above  him and behind him a white town climbing up
the mountainside.
     Not knowing quite what to do  in a case like this, Stepa raised himself
on to his shaking legs and walked down the pier to the shore.
     On the pier stood a man, smoking and spitting into the  sea. He  glared
at Stepa and stopped spitting.
     Stepa then did an odd  thing--he  kneeled down in  front of the unknown
smoker and said :
     'Tell me, please, where am I? '
     'Well, I'm damned! ' said the unsympathetic smoker.
     'I'm not drunk,' said Stepa hoarsely.  ' Something's happened  to me,
I'm ill. . . . Where am I? What town is this? '
     'Yalta, of course. . . .'
     Stepa  gave a gentle sigh, collapsed and fainted  as he struck his head
on the warm stonework of the pier.

     At  about   half  past  eleven  that  morning,  just  as   Stepa   lost
consciousness in  Yalta, Ivan Nikolayich Bezdomny regained it, waking from a
deep and  prolonged sleep. For a while he tried to think why  he was in this
strange  room  with  its white walls,  its  odd little bedside table made of
shiny metal and its white  shutters,  through  which the sun  appeared to be
     Ivan  shook his  head  to  convince himself that it was not  aching and
remembered that he was in a hospital. This in turn reminded him of Berlioz's
death, but today Ivan no longer found  this  very disturbing. After his long
sleep  Ivan Nikolayich  felt  calmer and able to think more  clearly.  After
lying for a while motionless in his spotlessly clean and  comfortably sprung
bed, Ivan noticed  a bell-push  beside  him.  Out  of a habit  of  fingering
anything in sight, Ivan pressed it. He expected a bell to ring  or a  person
to appear, but something quite different happened.
     At the foot of Ivan's bed a frosted-glass cylinder lit up with the word
'DRINK'. After a short  spell in that position, the cylinder  began  turning
until it stopped at another word:
     'NANNY '. Ivan found this clever machine slightly confusing. ' NANNY '
was replaced by ' CALL THE DOCTOR '.
     'H'm . . .' said Ivan, at a loss to know what the machine expected him
to do. Luck came to his rescue. Ivan pressed the button at the  word ' NURSE
'.  In reply the machine gave a faint tinkle, stopped and went out. Into the
room came a kind-looking woman in a clean white overall and said to Ivan :
     'Good morning!'
     Ivan  did  not  reply,  as he  felt the  greeting out of  place  in the
circumstances. They  had,  after all,  dumped  a  perfectly healthy  man  in
hospital  and were making it worse  by pretending it was necessary! With the
same kind  look  the woman  pressed a  button and raised the blind. Sunlight
poured into the room  through a light, wide-mesh grille that extended to the
floor. Beyond the grille was a balcony, beyond that the bank of a meandering
river and on the far side a cheerful pine forest.
     'Bath  time! ' said  the woman invitingly and  pushed  aside a folding
partition to reveal a magnificently equipped bathroom.
     Although  Ivan had  made up his mind not to talk to the  woman, when he
saw a broad stream of water thundering into the  bath from a glittering  tap
he could not help saying sarcastically :
     'Look at that! Just like in the Metropole! '
     'Oh, no,'  replied the  woman  proudly.  '  Much  better.  There's  no
equipment like this  anywhere, even abroad. Professors and doctors come here
specially to inspect our clinic. We have foreign tourists here every day.'
     At the  words ' foreign tourist' Ivan at once remembered the mysterious
professor of the day before. He scowled and said :
     'Foreign tourists  . . . why  do you  all think they're so  wonderful?
There  are some pretty odd  specimens among them,  I can tell you. I met one
yesterday--he was a charmer! '
     He was  just  going  to  start  telling her about Pontius  Pilate,  but
changed his  mind. The  woman would never  understand and  it was useless to
expect any help from her.
     Washed  and  clean,  Ivan  Nikolayich  was  immediately  provided  with
everything a man needs after a bath--a freshly ironed shirt, underpants  and
socks. That was only a beginning : opening the door of a wardrobe, the woman
pointed inside and asked him:
     'What would you like to wear--a dressing gown or pyjamas? '
     Although  he  was a  prisoner in his new home,  Ivan found it  hard  to
resist the woman's easy, friendly manner and he pointed to a pair of crimson
flannelette pyjamas.
     After that Ivan Nikolayich  was led along an empty,  soundless corridor
into a  room of vast dimensions. He had decided  to treat everything in this
wonderfully equipped building with
     sarcasm and  he at  once  mentally  christened this room '  the factory
     And with good reason.  There were  cupboards and glass-fronted cabinets
full  of  gleaming   nickel-plated  instruments.  There  were  armchairs  of
strangely complex  design,  lamps  with  shiny, bulbous  shades,  a  mass of
phials,  bunsen  burners, electric  cables and  various  totally  mysterious
pieces of apparatus.
     Three people came into the room to see Ivan, two women and one man, all
in  white. They began by taking Ivan to a desk  in the corner to interrogate
     Ivan  considered the situation. He  had a choice of  three courses. The
first  was  extremely  tempting--to hurl himself  at these  lamps  and other
ingenious gadgets and smash them  all to  pieces as a  way of expressing his
protest at being locked up for nothing. But today's  Ivan  was significantly
different from the Ivan of yesterday and he found the first course dubious ;
it  would  only make them more convinced that he was a dangerous lunatic, so
he abandoned it. There was a second--to begin at once telling them the story
about the professor and  Pontius  Pilate. However yesterday's experience had
shown  him  that  people either  refused to believe the  story or completely
misunderstood it, so Ivan  rejected that course too,  deciding to  adopt the
third: he would wrap himself in proud silence.
     It  proved  impossible to keep it up, and willy-nilly he  found himself
answering,  albeit curtly and  sulkily, a  whole series  of questions.  They
carefully  extracted from Ivan  everything about his  past life,  down to an
attack of scarlet fever  fifteen years before. Having filled a whole page on
Ivan they turned it  over and  one of the women in white started questioning
him about his  relatives. It was a  lengthy  performance--who had died, when
and  why,  did they  drink, had they suffered  from venereal  disease and so
forth. Finally they asked him  to describe what had happened on the previous
day at Patriarch's Ponds, but they did not pay  much attention to it and the
story about Pontius Pilate left them cold.
     The woman then handed Ivan  over to the man, who  took a different line
with him, this time in silence. He  took  Ivan's temperature, felt his pulse
and looked into his eyes while he  shone a lamp  into them. The other  woman
came to  the  man's  assistance and  they hit Ivan on  the  back  with  some
instrument, though not painfully, traced some signs on the skin of his chest
with  the handle of a  little hammer, hit  him on the knees with more little
hammers, making Ivan's legs jerk, pricked his finger and drew blood from it,
pricked his elbow joint, wrapped rubber bracelets round his arm . . .
     Ivan could  only smile bitterly to himself and ponder on  the absurdity
of it all. He  had  wanted to warn them  all  of the danger threatening them
from  the mysterious  professor,  and had tried to catch him, yet all he had
achieved  was to land up  in this  weird laboratory  just to talk a  lot  of
rubbish about his uncle Fyodor who had died of drink in Vologda.
     At last they let  Ivan  go. He was  led  back to his room where he  was
given a cup  of coffee, two soft-boiled eggs and a slice of white  bread and
butter. When  he  had eaten his breakfast, Ivan made up his mind to wait for
someone  in charge of the clinic to arrive, to  make him listen and to plead
for justice.
     The man came soon after Ivan's  breakfast.  The door  into  Ivan's room
suddenly opened and in swept a crowd of people  in white  overalls. In front
strode a man of about  forty-five, with a  clean-shaven, actorish face, kind
but extremely piercing eyes and a courteous manner. The whole retinue showed
him  signs  of  attention and respect, which  gave  his  entrance  a certain
solemnity. ' Like Pontius Pilate! ' thought Ivan.
     Yes, he  was undoubtedly the man  in  charge. He  sat  down on a stool.
Everybody else remained standing.
     'How do you do. My name is doctor Stravinsky,' he said as he sat down,
looking amiably at Ivan.
     'Here you are, Alexander Nikolayich,'  said a neatly bearded man  and
handed the chief Ivan's filled-in questionnaire.
     'They've got it all sewn up,'  thought Ivan.  The man in charge  ran a
practised eye over the sheet of paper,  muttered' Mm'hh' and exchanged a few
words  with  his colleagues in  a strange  language.  '  And he speaks Latin
too--like Pilate ',  mused Ivan sadly. Suddenly a word made him shudder.  It
was the word  '  schizophrenia ', which the sinister stranger had spoken  at
Patriarch's Ponds.  Now  professor Stravinsky  was  saying it. '  So he knew
about this, too! ' thought Ivan uneasily.
     The chief had adopted the  rule of agreeing with  everybody  and  being
pleased with whatever other  people might say,  expressing  it by the word '
Splendid . . .'
     'Splendid! '  said  Stravinsky, handing back the  sheet  of paper.  He
turned to Ivan.
     'Are you a poet? '
     'Yes, I am,' replied Ivan glumly and for the  first  time he suddenly
felt an inexplicable revulsion to poetry. Remembering some of his own poems,
they struck him as vaguely unpleasant.
     Frowning, he returned Stravinsky's question by asking:
     'Are you a professor? '
     To this Stravinsky, with engaging courtesy, inclined his head.
     'Are you in charge here? ' Ivan went on.
     To this, too, Stravinsky nodded.
     'I must talk to you,' said Ivan Nikolayich in a significant tone.
     'That's why I'm here,' answered Stravinsky.
     'Well  this is the  situation,' Ivan began,  sensing that his hour had
come. ' They say I'm mad and nobody wants to listen to me!'
     'Oh no, we will listen very carefully  to everything you have to say,'
said  Stravinsky seriously and reassuringly, ' and on  no  account shall  we
allow anyone to say you're mad.'
     'All right, then, listen: yesterday evening at Patriarch's Ponds I met
a mysterious person,  who  may or may not have been  a  foreigner, who  knew
about Berlioz's death before it happened, and had met Pontius Pilate.'
     The retinue listened to Ivan, silent and unmoving.
     'Pilate? Is that the Pilate who  lived  at  the time of Jesus Christ?'
enquired Stravinsky, peering at Ivan. ' Yes.'
     'Aha,' said Stravinsky. ' And this Berlioz is the one who died falling
under a tram? '
     'Yes. I was there yesterday evening when the tram killed him, and this
mysterious character was there too .'
     'Pontius  Pilate's friend?  '  asked Stravinsky,  obviously a  man of
exceptional intelligence.
     'Exactly,' said  Ivan, studying  Stravinsky.  '  He told us, before it
happened,  that  Anna had spilt the sunflower-seed oil ... and that  was the
very  spot  where Berlioz slipped!  How d'you  like that?!' Ivan  concluded,
expecting his story to produce a big effect.
     But it produced none. Stravinsky simply asked :
     'And who is this Anna? '
     Slightly disconcerted by the question, Ivan frowned.
     'Anna doesn't matter,' he  said irritably. '  God knows  who  she  is.
Simply some  stupid girl from Sadovaya  Street. What's important,  don't you
see, is that he knew  about the sunflower-seed oil beforehand. Do you follow
me? '
     'Perfectly,' replied Stravinsky seriously. Patting the  poet's knee he
added : ' Relax and go on.'
     'All right,' said Ivan,  trying  to  fall  into Stravinsky's tone and
knowing from bitter experience that only calm would help him. ' So obviously
this terrible  man (he's  lying,  by  the way--he's no  professor)  has some
unusual power .  . . For instance, if  you chase him you can't catch up with
him . . . and there's a couple of others with him, just as peculiar in their
way: a tall  fellow with broken spectacles  and an enormous cat who rides on
the  tram  by  himself. What's  more,'  went on Ivan  with  great  heat  and
conviction, ' he was on the balcony with Pontius Pilate, there's no doubt of
it. What about that, eh? He must be arrested immediately or he'll  do untold
     'So  you think he should be arrested? Have I understood you correctly?
' asked Stravinsky.
       He's  clever,' thought  Ivan, ' I must admit  there are a few bright
ones among the intellectuals,' and he replied :
     'Quite correct. It's  obvious--he must be arrested! And meanwhile I'm
being kept here by force while they flash lamps  at me, bath  me and  ask me
idiotic questions about uncle Fyodor! He's been dead for years! I  demand to
be let out at once! '
     'Splendid,  splendid! ' cried Stravinsky. '  I see it all  now. You're
right--what is the use of keeping a healthy man in hospital? Very well, I'll
discharge you at once if you  tell me you're normal. You don't have to prove
it--just say it. Well, are you normal? '
     There  was complete  silence. The fat woman  who had examined Ivan that
morning glanced reverently at the professor and once again Ivan thought:
     'Extremely clever! '
     The professor's offer pleased him a great deal, but  before replying he
thought hard, frowning, until at last he announced firmly:
     'I am normal.'
     'Splendid,' exclaimed Stravinsky with relief.  ' In that  case let us
reason  logically.  We'll  begin  by  considering  what   happened   to  you
yesterday.' Here  he turned and was immediately handed Ivan's questionnaire.
' Yesterday, while  in search of an unknown man, who had introduced  himself
as  a friend  of Pontius Pilate, you did  the following:  ' Here  Stravinsky
began  ticking  off the points on his long fingers, glancing back and  forth
from the paper to Ivan. ' You pinned an ikon to your chest. Right? '
     'Right,' Ivan agreed sulkily.
     'You fell off a  fence and scratched your face. Right? You appeared in
a restaurant carrying a lighted candle, wearing only underpants, and you hit
somebody in the  restaurant. You were  tied  up and brought  here, where you
rang the police and asked them to send some machine-guns. You then attempted
to throw yourself out of the window. Right? The question--is that the way to
set about  catching or  arresting somebody? If you're normal you're bound to
reply--no, it isn't. You want  to leave here? Very well.  But where,  if you
don't mind my asking, do you propose to go? ' ' To  the police,  of course,'
replied Ivan, although rather less firmly and  slightly disconcerted by  the
professor's stare.
     'Straight from here? '
     'Won't you go home first? ' Stravinsky asked quickly.
     'Why should I go there? While I'm going home he might get away!'
     'I see. And what will you tell the police? '
     'I'll tell them about  Pontius Pilate,'  replied Ivan  Nikolayich, his
eyes clouding.
     'Splendid!  ' exclaimed Stravinsky, defeated, and turning  to the man
with  the  beard he  said: ' Fyodor Vasilievich,  please arrange for citizen
Bezdomny to be discharged. But don't put anybody else in this room and don't
change the bedclothes. Citizen  Bezdomny will  be back  here  again  in  two
hours. Well,' he said to the poet, I won't wish you success  because I  see
no chance  whatever  of your succeeding.  See you soon!' He  got up  and his
retinue started to go.
     'Why will I come back here? ' asked Ivan anxiously.
     'Because  as soon as you  appear at a  police station dressed in  your
underpants  and say  yom've  met a  man  who  knew  Pontius  Pilate,  you'll
immediately be brought back here and put in this room again.'
     'Because of my underpants? '  asked Ivan,  staring  distractedly about
     'Chiefly because of  Pontims Pilate. But the  underpants will help. We
shall have to take a.way your hospital clothes  and give you back your  own.
And you came here wearing  underpants. Incidentally  you said nothing  about
going home first, despite my hint. After that you only have to start talking
about Pontius Pilate . . . and you're done for.'
     At this point something odd happened to Ivan Nikolayich. His will-power
seemed to crumple. He felt himself weak and in need of advice.
     'What should I do, then? ' he asked, timidly this time.
     'Splendid! ' said Stravinsky. ' A most reasonable question.
     Now I'll tell  you what  has really happened to  you. Yesterday someone
gave you a bad fright and upset you with this story about Pontius Pilate and
other things. So  you, worn out and nerve-racked,  wandered  round  the town
talking about Pontius Pilate. Quite naturally people took you for a lunatic.
Your only salvation now is complete rest. And you must stay here.'
     'But somebody must arrest him! ' cried Ivan, imploringly.
     'Certainly,  but  why  should  you have to do it?  Put down  all  your
suspicions  and accusations against  this  man on a piece  of paper. Nothing
could  be simpler than  to send your statement to the proper authorities and
if,  as  you suspect,  the man is  a criminal,  it will come to  light  soon
enough. But on one condition--don't over-exert your  mind and try to think a
bit less about Pontius Pilate. If  you harp on that story I don't think many
people are going to believe you.'
     'Right  you  are!  ' announced Ivan firmly.  ' Please give me  pen and
     'Give him some paper and a  short  pencil,' said Stravinsky to the fat
woman, then turning  to Ivan : '  But I don't  advise  you to  start writing
     'No, no, today! I must do it today! ' cried Ivan excitedly.
     'All right. Only don't overtax  your brain. If you don't get it quite
right today, tomorrow will do.'
     'But he'll get away! '
     'Oh no,' countered  Stravinsky. ' I assure you  he's  not going to get
away.  And remember--we are here to help you  in every way we can and unless
we  do,  nothing will come of your plan. D'you hear? '  Stravinsky  suddenly
asked, seizing Ivan Nikolay-ich by both hands. As he held them in his own he
stared intently into Ivan's eyes, repeating : ' We shall help you ... do you
hear? . .  . We shall help you  .  . . you will be  able to relax . . . it's
quiet here, everything's going to be all right ... all right .  . . we shall
help you . . .'
     Ivan Nikolayich suddenly yawned and his expression softened.
     'Yes, I see,' he said quietly.
     'Splendid!  '  said  Stravinsky, closing  the conversation  in his no
habitual way and getting up. ' Goodbye!' He shook Ivan by the hand and as he
went out he  turned to  the  man with  the beard  and said :  ' Yes, and try
oxygen . . . and baths.'
     A  few moments  later Stravinsky and his retinue were gone. Through the
window and the grille  the gay, springtime wood gleamed  brightly on the far
bank and the river sparkled in the noon sunshine.

     Nikanor Ivanovich Bosoi, chairman of  the tenants'  association  of No.
302A, Sadovaya  Street,  Moscow,  where the  late Berlioz had lived, was  in
trouble. It had all begun on the previous Wednesday night.
     At midnight, as we already know, the police had arrived with Zheldybin,
had  hauled Nikanor Ivanovich out of  bed, told him  of Berlioz's death  and
followed him to flat No. 50. There they had sealed the deceased's papers and
personal effects. Neither Grunya the maid, who lived out,  nor the imprudent
Stepan Bogdanovich were in the flat at the time. The police informed Nikanor
Ivanovich that they would call  later  to collect  Berlioz's manuscripts for
sorting and examination  and that his  accommodation,  consisting  of  three
rooms (the jeweller's study, drawing-room and  dining-room) would  revert to
the  tenants' association for disposal. His  effects were to  be  kept under
seal until the legatees' claims were proved by the court.
     The  news  of  Berlioz's  death   spread  through  the   building  with
supernatural speed and from seven o'clock on Thursday morning  Bosoi started
to get telephone  calls.  After  that people  began  calling in  person with
written pleas of their urgent need of vacant housing space. Within the space
of two hours Nikanor Ivanovich had collected thirty-two such statements.
     They contained entreaties, threats,  intrigue, denunciations,  promises
to redecorate the flat, remarks  about overcrowding and the impossibility of
sharing a flat with bandits. Among them was a description, shattering in its
literary power, of the theft of some meat-balls from someone's jacket pocket
in  flat No.  31,  two  threats  of  suicide  and one  confession  of secret
     Nikanor Ivanovich  was  again  and  again taken aside with  a  wink and
assured in whispers that he would do well on the deal....
     This torture  lasted until one o'clock,  when Nikanor  Ivanovich simply
ran out of his flat by  the  main entrance,  only to run away again  when he
found them lying in  wait for him outside.  Somehow contriving to throw  off
the  people who chased him  across the  asphalt courtyard, Nikanor Ivanovich
took refuge in staircase 6 and climbed to the fatal apartment.
     Panting with exertion, the stout Nikanor Ivanovich rang the bell on the
fifth-floor landing. No  one opened. He  rang again and  again and began  to
swear  quietly. Still no answer. Nikanor  Ivanovich's  patience gave way and
pulling a bunch of duplicate keys from his  pocket he opened the door with a
masterful flourish and walked in.
     'Hello, there! ' shouted  Nikanor Ivanovich in the dim hallway.  ' Are
you there, Grunya? '
     No reply.
     Nikanor Ivanovich then took  a folding ruler out of his pocket, used it
to prise the seal from the  study  door and  strode in. At least he began by
striding in, but stopped in the doorway with a start of amazement.
     Behind Berlioz's  desk sat  a tall,  thin stranger  in a  check jacket,
jockey cap and pince-nez. . . .
     'And who might you be, citizen? ' asked Nikanor Ivanovich.
     'Nikanor Ivanovich!  ' cried  the mysterious  stranger in a  quavering
tenor. He leaped up and greeted the chairman  with an  unexpectedly powerful
handshake which Nikanor Ivanovich found extremely painful.
     'Pardon me,' he said suspiciously, ' but who are you? Are you somebody
official? '
     'Ah, Nikanor Ivanovich!  ' said the stranger in  a man-to-man voice. '
Who  is official and who is unofficial  these days? It  all depends on  your
point of view. It's  all so vague and changeable,  Nikanor Ivanovich.  Today
I'm unofficial, tomorrow, hey presto! I'm official! Or maybe vice-versa--who
knows? '
     None  of  this satisfied the chairman. By nature  a suspicious  man, he
decided that this voluble individual  was  not  only  unofficial  but had no
business to be there.
     'Who are you? What's your name? ' said  the chairman firmly, advancing
on the stranger.
     'My name,' replied the man, quite unmoved by this hostile reception, '
is . . . er . . . let's say . . . Koroviev. Wouldn't you like a bite to eat,
Nikanor Ivanovich? As we're friends? '
     'Look here,' said Nikanor Ivanovich disagreeably, ' what  the hell  do
you  mean--eat?  '  (Sad  though  it  is to admit, Nikanor Ivanovich  had no
manners.) ' You're not allowed to come into a dead man's flat!  What are you
doing here? '
     'Now  just  sit  down,  Nikanor  Ivanovich,'  said the  imperturbable
stranger in a wheedling voice, offering Nikanor Ivanovich a chair.
     Infuriated, Nikanor Ivanovich kicked the chair away and yelled:
     'Who are you? '
     'I am employed  as interpreter to a foreign gentleman residing in this
flat,'  said the self-styled Koroviev by  way of introduction  as he clicked
the heels of his dirty brown boots.
     Nikanor Ivanovich's mouth fell open. A foreigner in this flat, complete
with  interpreter,  was   a  total  surprise  to  him  and  he  demanded  an
     This  the interpreter willingly  supplied. Monsieur Woland, an  artiste
from abroad, had  been kindly invited by the manager of the Variety Theatre,
Stepan Bogdanovich Likhodeyev, to spend his stay as a guest artiste, about a
week, in  his flat. Likhodeyev  had written  to Nikanor  Ivanovich about  it
yesterday,  requesting  him  to register  the  gentlemen  from abroad  as  a
temporary resident while Likhodeyev himself was away in Yalta.
     'But he hasn't written to me,' said the bewildered chairman.
     'Take a look in your briefcase, Nikanor Ivanovich,' suggested Koroviev
     Shrugging  his  shoulders Nikanor Ivanovich  opened  his  briefcase and
found a  letter  from  Likhodeyev. ' Now how could I  have forgotten that? '
mumbled Nikanor Ivanovich, gazing stupidly at the opened envelope.
     'It happens to the best of us, Nikanor Ivanovich! ' cackled Koroviev.
'  Absent-mindedness,  overstrain  and high blood-pressure, my  dear friend!
Why, I'm horribly absent-minded. Some time over a glass or two I'll tell you
a few things that have happened to me--you'll die with laughter! '
     'When is Likhodeyev going to Yalta? '
     'He's already gone,' cried the interpreter. ' He's on his way  there.
God knows  where  he is by now.' And the interpreter  waved  his  arms  like
windmill sails.
     Nikanor Ivanovich announced that he had to see the foreign gentleman in
person, but  this was  refused. It  was quite out of  the question. Monsieur
Woland was busy. Training his cat.
     'You can see the cat if you like,' suggested Koroviev.
     This  Nikanor  Ivanovich declined and the interpreter then made him  an
unexpected  but most  interesting proposal: since Monsieur Woland could  not
bear staying  in  hotels  and was used  to  spacious quarters,  couldn't the
tenants' association lease him the whole flat for his week's stay, including
the dead man's rooms?
     'After  all, what  does he care? He's  dead,'  hissed  Koroviev  in  a
whisper. ' You must admit the flat's no use to him now, is it?'
     In  some  perplexity Nikanor  Ivanovich objected that  foreigners  were
normally supposed to stay at the Metropole and not in private  accommodation
. . .
     'I  tell  you  he's  so fussy,  you'd never  believe  it,'  whispered
Koroviev. ' He simply refuses! He hates  hotels! I can  tell you I'm  fed up
with  these  foreign  tourists,' complained  Koroviev confidentially. ' They
wear me out. They  come here and either they  go spying and snooping or they
send me mad with their whims  and fancies--this isn't right, that isn't just
so! And there'd be  plenty in it  for  your association,  Nikanor Ivanovich.
He's not short of money.' Koroviev  glanced round and then whispered in  the
chairman's ear : ' He's a millionaire!'
     The suggestion  was obviously a sensible  one,  but there was something
ridiculous about his manner,  his clothes and that absurd, useless pince-nez
that  all combined  to make  Nikanor  Ivanovich  vaguely uneasy. However  he
agreed  to  the suggestion. The  tenants' association, alas, was showing  an
enormous  deficit. In the autumn they would  have to buy oil  for the  steam
heating  plant and  there was  not a kopeck  in  the  till,  but  with  this
foreigner's  money they might  just manage  it. Nikanor Ivanovich,  however,
practical and  cautious as ever,  insisted on clearing the  matter with  the
tourist bureau.
     'Of course! ' cried Koroviev. ' It must be done  properly. There's the
telephone, Nikanor Ivanovich, ring them up right away! And don't worry about
money,' he added in a whisper as he led the chairman to the telephone in the
hall, ' if anyone can pay handsomely,  he can. If you could see his villa in
Nice! When you go abroad next  summer you must go there specially and have a
look at it--you'll be amazed! '
     The matter was fixed with  the tourist bureau with astonishing ease and
speed. The  bureau appeared to know all about Monsieur Woland's intention to
stay in Likodeyev's flat and raised no objections.
     'Excellent! ' cried Koroviev.
     Slightly  stupefied  by this  man's  incessant cackling,  the  chairman
announced that the tenants' association was prepared to lease flat No. 50 to
Monsieur Woland the artiste at a rent of ...  Nikanor Ivanovich stammered  a
little and said :
     'Five hundred roubles a day.'
     At this Koroviev  surpassed himself.  Winking  conspiratorially towards
the bedroom  door,  through which they could hear a series of soft thumps as
the cat practised its leaps, he said :
     'So for  a  week  that  would  amount to  three  and a half thousand,
wouldn't it? '
     Nikanor Ivanovich  quite expected the man  to add ' Greedy, aren't you,
Nikanor Ivanovich? ' but instead he said:
     'That's not much. Ask him for five thousand, he'll pay.'
     Grinning with  embarrassment, Nikanor Ivanovich did not even notice how
he suddenly came to be  standing beside Berlioz's  desk and how Koroviev had
managed  with  such incredible  speed and dexterity  to draft a contract  in
duplicate.  This  done, he flew  into the bedroom and returned with  the two
copies signed in the stranger's florid hand. The chairman signed in turn and
Koroviev asked him to make out a receipt for five . . .
     'Write it out in words, Nikanor Ivanovich. " Five thousand roubles ".'
Then with  a  flourish which seemed vaguely  out of place  in such a serious
matter--' Eins! 'yvei! drei! '--he laid five bundles  of brand-new banknotes
on the table.
     Nikanor Ivanovich checked them, to an accompaniment of  witticisms from
Koroviev of the ' better safe than sorry ' variety. Having counted the money
the chairman took the stranger's passport  to be stamped with his  temporary
residence  permit, put contract, passport  and money  into his briefcase and
asked shyly for a free ticket to the show . . .
     'But of course! ' exclaimed Koroviev.  ' How many do you want, Nikanor
Ivanovich--twelve, fifteen? '
     Overwhelmed,  the chairman explained that  he only wanted two, one  for
his wife Pelagea Antonovna and one for himself.
     Koroviev seized a note-pad and dashed  off  an order  to the box office
for two complimentary tickets in the front row. As the interpreter handed it
to Nikanor Ivanovich with his left hand, with his right he gave him a thick,
crackling package. Glancing at it Nikanor Ivanovich blushed hard and started
to push it away.
     'It's not proper . . .'
     'I won't  hear any objection,' Koroviev whispered right in his ear.  '
We don't do this sort of thing but foreigners do. You'll offend him, Nikanor
Ivanovich, and that might be awkward. You've earned it . . .'
     'It's strictly forbidden  . . .' whispered  the  chairman in  a  tiny
voice, with a furtive glance around.
     'Where are the witnesses? ' hissed  Koroviev into his  other ear. ' I
ask you--where are they? Come, now . . .'
     There then happened what the chairman later described as a miracle--the
package jumped  into his briefcase of its own accord,  after which  he found
himself,  feeling weak and battered, on the staircase. A storm  of  thoughts
was whirling round inside his head. Among  them were the villa in Nice,  the
trained cat, relief that there had been no witnesses and his wife's pleasure
at  the complimentary tickets. Yet despite these mostly comforting thoughts,
in the depths of  his soul the chairman still felt the  pricking of a little
needle. It was the needle of unease. Suddenly,  halfway down  the staircase,
something else occurred to him-- how had that interpreter found his way into
the study past a  sealed  door? And why on earth had  he, Nikanor Ivanovich,
forgotten to ask him about it? For a while  the chairman stared at the steps
like a  sheep,  then  decided to  forget it and not  to  bother himself with
imaginary problems . . .
     As soon as the  chairman  had left the  flat a low voice  came from the
     'I don't care for that Nikanor  Ivanovich. He's a sly rogue.  Why  not
fix it so that he doesn't come here again? '
     'Messire, you only have to  give the order . . .' answered Koroviev in
a firm, clear voice that no longer quavered.
     At  once  the diabolical  interpreter  was in the  hall,  had dialled a
number and started to speak in a whining voice :
     'Hullo!  I consider it my  duty to report  that  the  chairman  of our
tenants'  association  at No. 302 Sadovaya Street, Nikanor Ivanovich Bosoi,
is  dealing in  black-market  foreign currency.  He has  just  stuffed  four
hundred dollars  wrapped  in  newspaper  into  the ventilation shaft  of the
lavatory in his flat. No. 3 5. My name is Timothy Kvastsov and I live in the
same block, flat No. 11.  But please keep my name  a  secret.  I'm afraid of
what that man may do if he finds out . . .'
     And with that the scoundrel hung up.
     What happened after that in No. 50 is a mystery, although what happened
to Nikanor  Ivanovich is common knowledge. Locking himself in the  lavatory,
he pulled the package out of his briefcase  and found that it contained four
hundred roubles. He wrapped it up  in a sheet of old newspaper and pushed it
into the ventilation  shaft. Five minutes later he was sitting down at table
in his  little dining-room. From the kitchen his  wife brought in a  pickled
herring,  sliced and thickly  sprinkled  with raw onion.  Nikanor  Ivanovich
poured himself  a wineglassful of vodka, drank it, poured out another, drank
that, speared three  slices of  herring  on his  fork  . .  . and  then  the
doorbell rang. Pelagea Antonovna was just  bringing in a steaming casserole,
one glance at which was enough to  tell  you that in the  midst of  all that
hot, thick  borsch was  one  of the most  delicious  things in the world --a
marrow bone.
     Gulping down his running saliva, Nikanor Ivanovich snarled :
     'Who  the hell is that--at this hour!  They won't even allow  a man to
eat  his  supper. . .  . Don't let anybody in--I'm  not  at home.... If it's
about the  flat  tell them to stop worrying. There'll be a committee meeting
about it in a week's time.'
     His wife ran  into the  hall and Nikanor Ivanovich ladled the quivering
marrow bone out of its steaming lake. At that moment three men came into the
dining-room, followed by a very pale Pelagea Antonovna. At the sight of them
Nikanor Ivanovich turned white and got up.
     'Where's the W.C.?  '  enquired  the first man  urgently. There was  a
crash as Nikanor Ivanovich dropped the ladle on to the oilcloth table-top.
     'Here,  in here,' babbled Pelagea  Antonovna. The visitors  turned and
rushed back into the passage.
     'What's going on? ' asked Nikanor Ivanovich as he followed them. ' You
can't just burst into our flat like that . . . Where's your identity card if
you don't mind? '
     The first man showed  Nikanor Ivanovich  his  identity card  while  the
second clambered  up on to a stool in  the lavatory and thrust his  arm into
the ventilation shaft. Nikanor Ivanovich began to feel faint. They unwrapped
the sheet of newspaper  to  find that the banknotes  in the package were not
roubles  but  some unknown  foreign  money--bluish-green  in colour  with  a
picture  of an  old  man.  Nikanor Ivanovich, however,  saw none of  it very
clearly because spots were swimming in front of his eyes.
     'Dollars  in  the  ventilation  shaft.  . .  .'  said  the  first man
thoughtfully and asked Nikanor Ivanovich  politely :  * Is this your  little
parcel? '
     'No! ' replied Nikanor  Ivanovich  in a terrified voice.  ' It's been
planted on me!'
     'Could be,' agreed the first man, adding as quietly as before :
     'Still, you'd better give up the rest.'
     'There isn't any  more! I  swear to  God I've  never even seen any! '
screamed the  chairman in desperation. He rushed  to a  chest, pulled out  a
drawer and out of that his briefcase, shouting distractedly as he did so :
     'It's all in here . . . the contract . . .  that interpreter must have
planted them on me . . . Koroviev, the man in the pince-nez!'
     He opened the briefcase, looked inside, thrust his hand in, turned blue
in the face and dropped his briefcase  into the borsch. There was nothing in
it--no  letter  from  Stepan,  no contract,  no  passport,  no money  and no
complimentary tickets. Nothing, in short, except a folding ruler.
     *  Comrades!'  screamed  the  chairman frantically. ' Arrest them!  The
forces of evil are in this house!'
     Something odd happened to Pelagea Antonovna at this point. Wringing her
hands she cried :
     'Confess, Nikanor! They'll reduce your sentence if you do! '
     Eyes  bloodshot, Nikanor Ivanovich  raised his  clenched fists over his
wife's head and screamed :
     'Aaah! You stupid bitch! '
     Then he crumpled and fell into a chair, having obviously decided to bow
to the  inevitable.  Meanwhile,  out on  the landing, Timothy  Kondratievich
Kvastsov was  pressing  first his ear then  his  eye to  the keyhole  of the
chairman's front door, burning with curiosity.
     Five  minutes later  the  tenants  saw  the chairman led out  into  the
courtyard  by  two  men.  Nikanor  Ivanovich, so  they said later, had  been
scarcely recognisable--staggering like a drunkard and muttering to himself.
     Another  hour after that a stranger appeared  at flat No. n  just  when
Timothy Kondratievich, gulping with pleasure, was  describing to  some other
tenants  how  the  chairman had  been whisked  away; the  stranger  beckoned
Timothy Kondratievich out  of his kitchen into  the hall, said something and
took him away.

     As disaster overtook Nikanor Ivanovich in Sadovaya Street, not far from
No. 302 two men were sitting in  the office  of Rimsky the treasurer of the
Variety Theatre : Rimsky himself and the house manager, Varenukha.
     From this  large office on  the  second  floor two windows gave  on  to
Sadovaya and  another,  just behind the treasurer's  back  as he sat at  his
desk,  on  to  the  Variety's  garden;  it was  used in summer and contained
several  bars  for  serving cold drinks,  a  shooting gallery  and  an  open
promenade.  The furniture  of the room, apart from the desk,  consisted of a
collection of old  posters hanging on the wall,  a small table with a carafe
of  water,  four  chairs  and  a stand  in one corner  supporting  a  dusty,
long-forgotten model of a stage set. Naturally the  office also  contained a
small, battered fireproof safe standing to the left of Rimsky's desk.
     Rimsky had been in a bad mood all morning. Varenukha, by contrast,  was
extremely cheerful and  lively,  if  somewhat nervous. Today, however, there
was no outlet for his energy.
     Varenukha had just  taken  refuge in  the  treasurer's office  from the
complimentary ticket hounds who made his  life a misery,  especially on  the
days when there  was a change of programme. And today was one of those days.
As soon as the telephone started  to ring Varenukha picked  up the  receiver
and lied into it:
     'Who? Varenukha? He's not here. He's left the theatre.'
     'Please try and ring Likhodeyev once more,' said Rimsky testily.
     'But he's not at home. I've already sent Karpov; the Hat's empty.'
     'I  wish to God  I knew what was going on!  ' hissed Rimsky, fidgeting
with his adding machine.
     The  door opened and a  theatre  usher  dragged  in a  thick package of
newly-printed fly-posters, which announced  in large red letters on a  green
background :
     Tonight and All This Week in the Variety Theatre
     A Special Act
     Black Magic All Mysteries revealed

     As Varenukha stepped back from  the poster, which  he had propped up on
the model, he admired it and ordered the usher to have all the copies posted
     'All right--look sharp,' said Varenukha to the departing usher.
     'I don't care for  this  project at all,' growled Rimsky disagreeably,
staring at the poster through his horn-rims. ' I'm  amazed that  he was ever
     'No, Grigory Danilovich, don't  say that! It's a very smart  move. All
the fun is in showing how it's done--" the mysteries revealed ".'
     'I  don't know, I don't know. I don't  see any fun in that myself. . .
just like him to dream up something of this sort. If only he'd shown us this
magician. Did you see him? God knows where he's dug him up from.'
     It transpired that  Varenukha, like Rimsky,  had not seen the  magician
either. Yesterday Stepa had  rushed (' like a madman ',  in Rimsky's  words)
into  the treasurer's office clutching a draft contract, had  ordered him to
countersign  it  and pay Woland his money. The magician had  vanished and no
one except Stepa himself had seen him.
     Rimsky pulled out his watch, saw that it was five minutes to  three and
was seized with fury.  Really, this  was  too much!  Likhodeyev  had rung at
about eleven o'clock, had said that he would come  in about half an hour and
now he had not only failed to appear but had disappeared from his flat.
     'It's holding  up  all  my  work' snarled Rimsky, tapping  a  pile of
unsigned papers.
     'I suppose he  hasn't  fallen  under  a  tram, like  Berlioz? '  said
Varenukha, holding  the  receiver  to  his  ear  and  hearing nothing but  a
continual, hopeless buzz as Stepa's telephone rang unanswered.
     'It would  be a damned good  thing if he has . . .' said Rimsky softly
between his teeth.
     At that moment in came a woman  in a uniform jacket, peaked  cap, black
skirt and sneakers. She took a square of white paper and a notebook out of a
little pouch on her belt and enquired :
     'Which of you is Variety? Priority telegram for you. Sign here.'
     Varenukha scrawled some  hieroglyphic  in  the woman's notebook  and as
soon as the door  had slammed behind her, opened the envelope.  Having  read
the telegram he blinked and handed it to Rimsky.
     The telegram read as follows: 'yalta  moscow
     'Thanks--and I'm a Dutchman! '  exclaimed Rimsky and added : ' Another
little surprise package! '
     'The False Dimitry! ' said Varenukha and spoke into the telephone :  '
Telegrams, please.  On account.  Variety  Theatre.  Priority. Ready? " Yalta
Police stop Likhodeyev Moscow Rimsky Treasurer."'
     Disregarding the Pretender of Yalta,  Varenukha tried again  to  locate
Stepa by telephone and could not, of course, find him anywhere. While he was
still holding the receiver in his hand and wondering where to ring next, the
same  woman came  in  again and  handed  Varenukha a  new envelope.  Hastily
opening it Varenukha  read the text and whistled. ' What is it now? '  asked
Rimsky, twitching nervously. Varenukha silently passed him  the telegram and
the treasurer read the words :
     Rimsky and Varenukha put their heads together,  read the telegram again
and stared at one another in silence.
     'Come on, come  on! ' said  the woman irritably. ' Sign here. Then you
can sit and stare at  it  as long as  you like. I've got urgent telegrams to
     Without taking his  eyes  off the  telegram Varenukha scribbled  in her
book and the woman disappeared.
     'You  say you spoke to him on the telephone just after  eleven? ' said
the house manager in complete bewilderment.
     'Yes, extraordinary as  it may seem! ' shouted Rimsky. ' But whether I
did or not, he can't be in Yalta now. It's funny.'
     'He's drunk . . .' said Varenukha.
     'Who's drunk? ' asked Rimsky and they stared at each other again.
     There  was   no  doubt  that  some  lunatic   or  practical  joker  was
telegraphing from Yalta.  But  the strange  thing was--how did this  wit  in
Yalta know about  Woland, who had only arrived in Moscow the evening before?
How did he know of the connection between Likhodeyev and Woland?
     '" Hypnosis ",' muttered Varenukha, repeating  one of the words in the
telegram. ' How does he know about Woland? ' He blinked and suddenly shouted
firmly : ' No, of course not. It can't be! Rubbish! '
     'Where the hell has this man Woland got to, damn him? ' asked Rimsky.
     Varenukha at once got in touch with the tourist bureau and announced to
Rimsky's utter astonishment  that Woland was staying in  Likhodeyev's  flat.
Having  then  dialled Likhodeyev's flat yet again, Varenukha listened  for a
long time as the ringing tone buzzed thickly in the earpiece. In between the
buzzes a distant baritone voice could be heard singing and Varenukha decided
that somewhere the telephone system had got its wires crossed with the radio
     'No reply  from his flat,'  said  Varenukha, replacing the receiver on
its rest. ' I'll try once more . . .'
     Before he could  finish in  came the  same  woman and both men rose  to
greet her  as  this time she took out of her pouch not  a white, but a black
sheet of paper.
     'This  is getting interesting,' said Varenukha through  gritted teeth,
watching the woman as she hurried  out. Rimsky was the first to look at  the
     On a dark  sheet of photographic paper the following lines were clearly
visible :
     'As  proof  herewith  specimen  my  handwriting  and  signature  wire
confirmation my identity. Have Woland secretly followed. Likhodeyev.'
     In twenty years of experience in the theatre Varenukha had seen plenty,
but now he felt his mind becoming paralysed and he could find nothing to say
beyond the commonplace and absurd remark:
      It can't be!'
     Rimsky reacted differently.  He  got up,  opened the  door and bellowed
through it to the usher sitting outside on a stool:
     'Don't let anybody in except the telegraph girl,' and locked the door.
     He then pulled a  sheaf of papers out of  his desk drawer  and  began a
careful  comparison  of the thick, backward-sloping letters in the photogram
with  the  writing  in Stepa's  memoranda  and  his signatures,  with  their
typically curly-tailed  script.  Varenukha,  sprawling on the desk, breathed
hotly on Rimsky's cheek.
     'It's  his  handwriting,'  the  treasurer  finally said and  Varenukha
echoed him:
     'It's his all right.'
     Looking at Rimsky's  face the house manager noticed a  change  in it. A
thin man, the treasurer seemed to  have grown even thinner and to have aged.
Behind their hornrims his eyes had lost their usual aggressiveness. Now they
showed only anxiety, even alarm.
     Varenukha  did everything that  people are supposed to do in moments of
great stress.  He  paced  up and down the  office, twice spread  his arms as
though he were  being crucified, drank a whole glass of brackish  water from
the carafe and exclaimed :
     'I  don't understand it! I  don't understand  it! I don't under-stand
     Rimsky stared out of the window, thinking hard. The treasurer was in an
extremely perplexing situation.  He had to find an  immediate,  on-the-spot,
natural solution for a number of very unusual phenomena.
     Frowning, the  treasurer  tried to  imagine  Stepa  in a nightshirt and
without his shoes, climbing that morning at about half past eleven into some
incredibly super-rapid aeroplane and then the same  Stepa, also at half past
eleven, standing on Yalta airport in his socks. ...
     Perhaps it wasn't Stepa who had telephoned him from his flat? No,  that
was Stepa all  right! As if he didn't know Stepa's voice. Even if  it hadn't
been  Stepa talking  to him that morning, he  had actually seen the  man  no
earlier than the evening  before,  when  Stepa  had rushed  in from his  own
office  waving that  idiotic  contract and  had  so  annoyed Rimsky  by  his
irresponsible behaviour.  How could  he  have flown  out  of Moscow  without
saying a word to the theatre? And  if he had flown away yesterday evening he
couldn't have reached Yalta before noon today. Or could he?
     'How far is it to Yalta? ' asked Rimsky.
     Varenukha stopped pacing and cried :
     'I've already  thought  of  that! To  Sebastopol  by  rail it's  about
fifteen  hundred kilometres  and  it's about  another  eighty kilometres  to
Yalta. It's less by air, of course.'  . . . Yes  . . . No question of  his
having gone by train. What then? An Air Force fighter plane? Who'd let Stepa
on board a fighter in his  stockinged feet? And why? Perhaps he'd  taken his
shoes  off when he got to Yalta?  Same problem-- why? Anyhow, the Air Force
wouldn't let him board a  fighter  even with his shoes on! No, a fighter was
out of  the question too.  But the telegram said  that he'd  appeared at the
police station at  half past  eleven in the morning and he'd been in Moscow,
talking  on the telephone,  at ...  Just a moment (his  watch-face  appeared
before Rimsky's eyes) ... He  remembered where the hands had been pointing .
. . Horrors! It had been twenty past eleven!
     So what was  the  answer? Supposing that the moment after his telephone
call  Stepa had rushed to the airport  and  got there in, say, five  minutes
(which was impossible anyway), then  if  the aeroplane had taken off at once
it  must  have  covered  over   a  thousand  kilometres   in  five  minutes.
Consequently  it  had been flying at a  speed of more  than twelve  thousand
kilometres per hour! Impossible, ergo--he wasn't in Yalta!
     What  other  explanation could there be? Hypnosis?  There  was no such
hypnosis which could hurl a man a thousand kilometres. Could he be imagining
that he  was in Yalta? He might, but would the Yalta police imagine it?  No,
no, really, it was absurd! ... But they had telegraphed  from  Yalta, hadn't
     The treasurer's face was  dreadful to see. By  now someone outside  was
twisting  and rattling the door handle and the usher could be heard shouting
desperately :
     'No, you can't! I wouldn't  let you in even if  you  were to kill  me!
They're in conference! '
     Rimsky  pulled  himself together  as well as  he could, picked  up  the
telephone receiver and said into it:
     'I want to put through a priority call to Yalta.'
     'Clever! ' thought Varenukha.
     But the call to Yalta never went through.  Rimsky put back the receiver
and said :
     'The line's out of order--as if on purpose.'
     For some reason the faulty line disturbed him a great deal and made him
reflect. After some thought  he  picked up the receiver again  with one hand
and  with the  other  started writing down what  he was  dictating into  the
telephone :
     'Priority telegram. From Variety. Yes.  To  Yalta police. Yes.  "Today
approximately 1130 Likhodeyev  telephoned me Moscow. Stop. Thereafter failed
appear theatre and unreach-able  telephone. Stop. Confirm handwriting. Stop.
Will take suggested measures observe Woland Rimsky Treasurer." '
     'Very  clever!  ' thought Varenukha, but the  instant  afterwards  he
changed his mind : ' No, it's absurd! He can't be in Yalta! '
     Rimsky  was  meanwhile  otherwise engaged. He  carefully  laid  all the
telegrams into a pile and together with a copy of his own telegram, put them
into an  envelope, sealed  it  up, wrote a few words on it and handed it  to
Varenukha, saying :
     'Take this and deliver it  at once, Ivan Savyelich. Let them puzzle it
     'Now that really is  smart! ' thought Varenukha as he put the envelope
into his briefcase. Then just to be absolutely sure he dialled the number of
Stepa's flat, listened, then  winked  mysteriously  and made a joyful  face.
Rimsky craned his neck to listen.
     'May I speak to Monsieur Woland, please? ' asked Varenukha sweetly.
     'He's busy,' answered the receiver  in a quavering voice.  ' Who wants
him? '
     'Varenukha, house manager of the Variety Theatre.'
     'Ivan Savyelich? ' squeaked the earpiece delightedly. '  How very nice
to hear your voice! How are you? '
     'Merci,' replied Varenukha in some consternation. ' Who's speaking? '
     'This  is  Koroviev,  his  assistant  and interpreter,'  trilled  the
receiver. ' At your service, my dear Ivan Savyelich! Just tell me what I can
do for you. What is it? '
     'I'm sorry ... is Stepan Bogdanovich Likhodeyev at home? '
     'Alas, no, he isn't,' cried the telephone. ' He's gone out.'
     'Where to? '
     'He went out of town for a car-ride.'
     'Wha-at? Car-ride? When is he coming back? '
     'He said he just wanted a breath of fresh air and then he'd be back.'
     'I see . . .' said Varenukha, perplexed. '  Merci.  .  .  please tell
Monsieur Woland that his act this evening starts after the second interval.'
     'Very  good.  Of course.  At  once. Immediately.  Certainly. I'll tell
him,' came the staccato reply from the earpiece.
     'Goodbye,' said Varenukha, in amazement.
     'Please  accept,' said the telephone, ' my warmest  and  most  sincere
good wishes for a brilliant success! It will be a great show--great! '
     'There you are--I  told you  so! ' said the house manager excitedly. '
He hasn't gone to Yalta, he's just gone out of town for a drive.'
     'Well,  if  that's the case,'  said the treasurer, turning pale  with
anger, ' he has behaved like an absolute swine!'
     Here the manager leaped into the air and gave such a shout that  Rimsky
     'I remember!  I remember now! There's a new  Turkish restaurant out at
Pushkino--it's just opened--and it's called the " Yalta "! Don't you see? He
went there, got drunk and he's been sending us telegrams from there!'
     'Well, he really has overdone it this time,' replied Rimsky, his cheek
twitching and real anger flashing  in his eyes. ' This little jaunt is going
to cost him dear.' He  suddenly stopped  and  added uncertainly : ' But what
about those telegrams from the police?'
     'A  lot of  rubbish! More  of  his practical  jokes,'  said  Varenukha
confidently and asked : ' Shall I take this envelope all the same? '
     'You must,' replied Rimsky.
     Again the door opened to admit the same woman.  ' Oh, not her! ' sighed
Rimsky to himself. Both men got up and walked towards her.
     This time the telegram said :
     'He's gone  mad,' said Varenukha weakly. Rimsky rattled his key-chain,
took some money out of the safe,  counted out five hundred roubles, rang the
bell, gave the money to the usher and sent her off to the post office.
     'But Grigory Danilovich,' said Varenukha, unable to believe  his eyes,
' if you ask me you're throwing that money away.'
     'It'll come back,' replied Rimsky quietly, ' and then he'll pay dearly
for this little picnic.' And pointing at Varenukha's briefcase he said :
     'Go on, Ivan Savyelich, don't waste any time.' Varenukha picked up his
briefcase and trotted off. He went down to the ground floor, saw a very long
queue outside  the  box  office and heard  from  the  cashier that  she  was
expecting to have  to put up the ' House Full' notices that evening  because
they  were  being positively  overwhelmed  since the  special  bill had been
posted up.  Varenukha told her  to be sure not to sell the thirty best seats
in the boxes and stalls,  then rushed out of  the box office, fought off the
people  begging for free tickets  and slipped into his own office to pick up
his cap. At that moment the telephone rang. ' Yes? ' he shouted.
     'Ivan Savyelich? ' enquired the receiver in an odious nasal voice.
     'He's not in the theatre! ' Varenukha was just about to shout, but the
telephone cut him short:
     'Don't play the fool, Ivan Savyelich, and listen. You are not  to take
those telegrams anywhere or show them to anybody.'
     'Who's that? ' roared Varenukha. '  Kindly stop  playing these tricks!
You're going to be shown up before long. What's your telephone number? '
     'Varenukha,' insisted the horrible  voice.  '  You understand  Russian
don't you? Don't take those telegrams.'
     'So you refuse to stop this game  do you? ' shouted the  house manager
in a rage.  '  Now listen to me--you're  going to pay for this!'  He went on
shouting threats but  stopped when he  realised that no one was listening to
him on the other end.
     At that moment his office began to  darken. Varenukha ran out,  slammed
the door behind him and went out into the garden through the side door.
     He felt excited and full of energy. After  that last insolent telephone
call he no longer had any doubt that some gang of hooligans was playing some
nasty  practical joke and  that the  joke was  connected  with  Likhodeyev's
disappearance. The house manager felt inspired with  the urge to  unmask the
villains and, strange as it may seem, he had a premonition that he was going
to  enjoy  it.  It  was a  longing  to be in the limelight,  the  bearer  of
sensational news.
     Out in the garden the  wind blew in his face and threw sand in his eyes
as if it were trying to bar his way or warn him. A window-pane on the second
floor slammed shut with  such force that it nearly broke the glass, the tops
of the  maples and poplars rustled alarmingly.  It  grew darker and  colder.
Varenukha  wiped his eyes and noticed that  a yellowish-centred thundercloud
was scudding low over Moscow. From the distance came a low rumble.
     Although Varenukha was in  a hurry, an  irresistible urge made him turn
aside for  a second  into the  open-air men's toilet just to check  that the
electrician had replaced a missing electric lamp.
     Running  past the shooting gallery, he passed  through a thick clump of
lilac which screened the  blue-painted  lavatory. The electrician seemed  to
have done his job : the lamp in the men's  toilet had been  screwed into its
socket and the  protective wire screen replaced, but  the house manager  was
annoyed  to  notice  that  even  in  the dark before  the  thunderstorm  the
pencilled graffiti on the walls were still clearly visible.
     'What a .  .  .' he began, then suddenly heard a purring  voice behind
     'Is that you, Ivan Savyelich? '
     Varenukha  shuddered, turned round and saw  before  him a shortish, fat
creature with what seemed like the face of a cat.
     'Yes . . .' replied Varenukha coldly.
     'Delighted  to  meet you,'  answered the  stout, cat-like  personage.
Suddenly it swung round  and gave  Varenukha such a  box on the ear that his
cap flew off and vanished without trace into one of the lavatory pans.
     For a moment the blow  made the toilet shimmer with a flickering light.
A clap  of  thunder  came from the sky.  Then there was  a second flash  and
another  figure  materialised, short but athletically built, with fiery  red
hair . . . one wall eye, a fang protruding from his mouth ... He appeared to
be  left-handed, as he fetched the house manager a  shattering  clout on his
other  ear. The  sky  rumbled again in reply and rain started  to drench the
wooden roof.
     'Look here, corn .  .  .' whispered Varenukha, staggering. It at  once
occurred to  him that the word ' comrades '  hardly fitted these bandits who
went around assaulting people in public conveniences, so  he groaned instead
'. . . citizens . . . ', realised that they didn't even deserve to be called
that and  got a  third fearful punch. This time he could not see who had hit
him, as blood was spurting from his nose and down his shirt.
     'What have you got in your briefcase, louse? ' shouted the cat-figure.
' Telegrams? Weren't  you warned by telephone not to take them anywhere? I'm
asking you--weren't you warned?'
     'Yes ... I was . . . warned,' panted Varenukha.
     'And you still went? Gimme the briefcase, you skunk!  ' said the other
creature in  the same nasal  voice that had come through the  telephone, and
wrenched the briefcase out of Varenukha's trembling hands.
     Then they both grabbed  the house manager by the arms  and frog-marched
him  out  of the garden and  along  Sadovaya  Street. The storm was  in full
spate, water was roaring and gurgling down the drain-holes in great bubbling
waves, it  poured off the roofs from the  overflowing gutters and out of the
drain pipes in foaming torrents.  Every living person  had vanished from the
street and there was no one to help  Ivan Savyelich. In second, leaping over
muddy  streams and lit by flashes of lightning  the bandits had  dragged the
half-dead Varenukha to No302-A and fled into the doorway, where two barefoot
women stood  pressed against the wall, holding their shoes and  stockings in
their hands. Then  they  rushed across  to staircase  6,  carried the nearly
insane Varenukha up  to the fifth floor  and threw him to  the ground in the
familiar semi-darkness of the hallway of Stepa Likhodeyev's flat.
     The two robbers vanished and in their place appeared a completely naked
girl--a redhead with eyes that burned with a phosphorescent glitter.
     Varenukha  felt  that this  was the most terrible thing that  had  ever
happened to him.  With a groan he turned  and leaned  on the wall.  The girl
came  right up to him and  put her hands on his shoulders. Varenukha's  hair
stood  on end. Even  through the cold, soaking wet  material  of his coat he
could feel that those palms were even colder, that they were as cold as ice.
     'Let me give  you a kiss,' said the girl  tenderly,  her gleaming eyes
close to his. Varenukha lost consciousness before he could feel her kiss.

     The wood on the far bank of the river, which an hour before had  glowed
in the May sunshine, had now grown dim, had blurred and dissolved.
     Outside, water was  pouring down  in solid sheets. Now and  again there
came a rift in the sky, the heavens split and the patient's room was flooded
with a terrifying burst of light.
     Ivan  was  quietly weeping  as he sat on his bed and stared out  at the
boiling,  muddied  river. At every  clap  of  thunder he cried miserably and
covered his face with his hands. Sheets of paper,  covered with his writing,
blew about on the floor.
     The poet's efforts  to compose a report on the  terrible professor  had
come to  nothing. As  soon as  he had been given a stub of a pencil and some
paper by the fat nurse, whose name was  Pras-kovya Fyodorovna, he had rubbed
his hands in a businesslike way and arranged his bedside table for work. The
beginning sounded rather well:
     'To  the Police. From  Ivan Nikolayich Bezdomny,  Member of  massolit.
Statement. Yesterday evening I arrived at Patriarch's Ponds with the late M.
A. Berlioz. . . .'
     Here the  poet stumbled, chiefly  because of the words ' the late '. It
sounded wrong--how could he  have ' arrived' with ' the late  '? Dead people
can't  walk. If he wrote like this they really would think he  was  mad.  So
Ivan Nikolayich made some corrections, which resulted in : '. . . with M. A.
Berlioz,  later deceased.' He did not like  that either, so he wrote a third
version and that was even worse than the previous two:
     '. . . with Berlioz, who fell under a tram  . . .'  Here he  thought of
the composer  of  the same  name  and felt obliged to  add : '  ... not  the
     Struggling with  these two  Berliozes,  Ivan  crossed  it  all out  and
decided  to  begin  straight  away   with  a  striking  phrase  which  would
immediately catch the reader's attention, so he  first described how the cat
had jumped on the  tram and then described the episode of  the severed head.
The head and the professor's forecast reminded him  of Pontius Pilate, so to
sound more convincing Ivan  decided to give the story  of the  Procurator in
full, from the moment when he had emerged in his white, red-lined cloak into
the arcade of Herod's palace.
     Ivan worked hard. He crossed out what he had written, put in new  words
and even tried to  draw a sketch of Pontius Pilate, then one showing the cat
walking on its hind legs.  But his drawings were hopeless and the further he
went the more confused his statement grew.
     By the time the  storm had  begun, Ivan felt  that he was exhausted and
would never be able to write a statement. His windblown sheets of paper were
in  a complete muddle  and he began to weep, quietly and  bitterly. The kind
nurse  Praskovya  Fyodorovna  called on the poet  during  the  storm and was
worried  to find  him crying. She closed  the blinds  so that  the lightning
should not frighten the patient, picked up the sheets of paper and  went off
with them to look for the doctor.
     The doctor appeared, gave Ivan an injection in  his arm and assured him
that he would soon stop crying, that it would pass, everything would  be all
right and he would forget all about it.
     The doctor was  right. Soon  the wood  across  the  river looked as  it
always did. The  weather cleared until every single tree stood out against a
sky which  was as blue as  before and  the  river subsided. His injection at
once made Ivan feel  less depressed. The poet lay quietly down and  gazed at
the rainbow stretched across the sky.
     He  lay  there  until evening  and did  not even notice how the rainbow
dissolved, how the sky faded and saddened, how the wood turned to black.
     When he had drunk his hot milk,  Ivan  lay down again. He was amazed to
notice how  his  mental condition had changed. The  memory of the diabolical
cat had grown indistinct, he was no longer frightened by  the thought of the
decapitated head.  Ivan started to muse on  the fact that  the clinic really
wasn't such a bad place, that Stravinsky was very clever and famous and that
he was an  extremely pleasant man  to deal with. The evening  air,  too, was
sweet and fresh after the storm.
     The  asylum was asleep. The white  frosted-glass  bulbs in  the  silent
corridors  were extinguished  and  in  their  place  glowed  the  weak  blue
night-lights. The  nurses'  cautious  footsteps  were  heard  less and  less
frequently walking the rubber-tiled floor of the corridor.
     Ivan now lay in sweet lassitude ; glancing at his bedside lamp, then at
the dim  ceiling  light and at the moon rising in the  dark,  he  talked  to
     'I wonder why I got so excited about Berlioz  falling under that tram?
'  the poet reasoned.  ' After all he's dead, and we all die some time. It's
not as if I  were a relation or  a really close friend either. When you come
to think of it  I didn't even know the man very well. What did I really know
about  him? Nothing, except that  he was bald  and horribly  talkative.  So,
gentlemen,' went on Ivan, addressing an imaginary audience,' let us consider
the following problem : why, I should like to know, did I get in such a rage
with  that mysterious professor or magician with his empty,  black  eye? Why
did I  chase after him like a fool in those underpants and holding a candle?
Why the ridiculous scene in the restaurant? '
     'Wait a  moment, though! ' said the old  Ivan severely to the new Ivan
in  a voice that was not  exactly inside him and not  quite by his ear. ' He
did know in advance that Berlioz  was going to have his head cut off, didn't
he? Isn't that something to get upset about? '
     'What do you mean? ' objected  the new Ivan. ' I quite agree that it's
a nasty  business--a child could see  that.  But he's a mysterious, superior
being--that's what makes it so  interesting. Think  of it--a  man  who  knew
Pontius Pilate!  Instead of creating  that ridiculous scene  at  Patriarch's
wouldn't it have been
     rather more intelligent  to  ask  him  politely what  happened  next to
Pilate and that prisoner Ha-Notsri? And I had  to behave like  an  idiot! Of
course  it's a  serious  matter  to  kill  the  editor  of  a magazine.  But
still--the magazine won't close down  just because of that,  will it? Man is
mortal and as  the professor so rightly said mortality can come so suddenly.
So God  rest his soul and let's  get ourselves another editor,  perhaps  one
who's even more of a chatterbox than Berlioz!'
     After dozing for a while the new Ivan said spitefully to the old Ivan:
     'And how do I look after this affair? '
     'A fool,' distinctly said a bass voice that belonged to neither of the
Ivans and was extremely like the professor's.
     Ivan,  somehow not offended by  the word  'fool'  but  even  pleasantly
surprised by it, smiled and sank into a half-doze. Sleep crept up on him. He
had a vision of a palm tree on its elephantine leg and  a cat passed by--not
a  terrible cat but a  nice one  and Ivan was just about to fall asleep when
suddenly the grille slid noiselessly  aside. A mysterious figure appeared on
the moonlit balcony and pointed a threatening finger at Ivan.
     Quite  unafraid  Ivan  sat  up  in bed and  saw  a  man on the balcony.
Pressing his finger to his lips the man whispered : ' Shh!'

     A  little  man  with  a crimson  pear-shaped nose, in a battered yellow
bowler hat,  check trousers  and  patent  leather boots  pedalled  on to the
Variety stage on a  bicycle. As  the band played a foxtrot he rode round  in
circles a few times, then gave a triumphant yelp at which the bicycle reared
up  with its front wheel in  the air. After  a  few rounds on the back wheel
alone,  the man stood  on his head, unscrewed  the  front wheel and threw it
into the wings. He  then carried on  with one wheel, turning the pedals with
his hands.
     Next a fat blonde girl, wearing a sweater and a very brief skirt strewn
with sequins, came in riding a long metal pole with a  saddle on the top and
a single wheel at the  bottom. As they met the man gave  a welcoming cry and
doffed his bowler hat with his foot.
     Finally a little boy of about seven with the face of an old man sneaked
in  between  the  two adults  on a  tiny  two-wheeler to which was  fixed an
enormous motor-car horn.
     After a few  figures  of  eight the whole troupe,  to an urgent roll of
drums from the orchestra, rode at  full tilt towards the front of the stage.
The  spectators in the front  rows gasped and  ducked, fully  expecting  all
three to crash, cycles and all,  into the orchestra pit, but they stopped at
the very  second that their front wheels threatened to skid into the  pit on
to the heads of the  musicians. With a loud  cry of' Allez-oop! ' the  three
cyclists leaped from their machines and  bowed, while the blonde blew kisses
to the audience and the little boy played a funny tune on his horn.
     The  auditorium rocked  with applause, the blue curtain  fell  and  the
cyclists vanished. The  lighted green  ' Exit'  signs went out and the white
globes began to  glow brighter and brighter in the web of girders  under the
dome. The second and last interval had begun.
     The  only  man  unaffected by  the Giulli family's  marvels of  cycling
technique was Grigory Danilovich Rimsky.  He sat alone in his office, biting
his  thin lips,  his face  twitching  spasmodically.  First  Likhodeyev  had
vanished in  the  most bizarre circumstances and  now Varenukha had suddenly
disappeared. Rinsky knew where Varenukha had  been going to--but the man had
simply gone and had never come back.  He shrugged his shoulders and muttered
to himself:
      But why?!'
     Nothing  would have  been simpler  for  a  sensible, practical man like
Rimsky  to  have  telephoned the place where Varenukha  had gone and to have
found  out what  had  happened to him, yet it was ten  o'clock that  evening
before he could bring himself to do so.
     At  ten  Rimsky finally  took  a  grip  on  himself and picked  up  the
telephone receiver. The telephone was dead.  An usher  reported that all the
other telephones in the building were out of order. This annoying but hardly
supernatural occurrence seemed to  shock  Rimsky,  although secretly he  was
glad, because it absolved him from the need to telephone.
     As the  little red light above the treasurer's head started flashing to
show that  the interval was beginning, an usher came in  and announced  that
the foreign magician had arrived. Rimsky's expression changed and he scowled
with  a mixture  of anxiety  and  irritation.  As  the only  member  of  the
management  left in the theatre, it was his duty to go backstage and receive
the guest artiste.
     As  the warning bells  rang, inquisitive people were  peeping  into the
star dressing room. Among  them were jugglers in bright robes and turbans, a
roller-skater  in a knitted cardigan, a comedian  with a powdered white face
and a make-up  man. The celebrated  guest  artiste amazed everyone  with his
unusually long, superbly  cut tail coat and by wearing a  black domino. Even
more astounding  were the black  magician's  two  companions : a tall man in
checks with an  unsteady pince-nez and a fat black cat which walked into the
dressing room on its hind legs and casually sat down on  the divan, blinking
in the light of the unshaded lamps round the make-up mirror.
     With  a forced  smile  which only made  him look  acidly  disagreeable,
Rimsky bowed to  the silent magician  sitting  beside the cat  on the divan.
There were no handshakes, but the man in checks introduced  himself smoothly
as ' the assistant'.  This gave the treasurer  an unpleasant shock, as there
had not been a word in the contract about an assistant.
     Grigory  Danilovich  enquired stiffly where the  professor's  equipment
might be.
     'Why, bless you my dear sir,'  replied  the magician's assistant, ' we
have all the equipment we need with us now--look! Eins, zvei, drei!'
     Flourishing his long, knotty fingers in front of  Rimsky's eyes he made
a pass beside  the cat's ear and pulled out  of it Rimsky's  gold watch  and
chain,  which  until  that moment  had  been sitting under  the  treasurer's
buttoned jacket in his  waistcoat pocket with  the chain threaded  through a
     Rimsky involuntarily  clutched his  stomach, the spectators gasped  and
the make-up man, glancing in from the corridor, clucked with approval.
     'Your watch, sir?  There you are,'  said the  man  in  checks. Smiling
nonchalantly, he proffered the watch to its owner on his dirty palm.
     'I  wouldn't  sit  next  to  him  in  a tram,' whispered the  comedian
cheerfully to the make-up man.
     But the cat put the watch trick in the shade.  Suddenly getting up from
the divan  it  walked on its  hind  legs  to the dressing table,  pulled the
stopper out of a carafe with its forepaw, poured out a glass of water, drank
it, replaced the stopper and wiped its whiskers with a make-up cloth.
     Nobody  even  gasped.  Their  mouths  fell  open  and  the make-up  man
whispered admiringly: ' Bravo . ..'
     The last warning bell rang  and everybody, excited by the prospect of a
good act, tumbled out of the dressing room.
     A  minute later  the  house-lights went out, the footlights lit up  the
fringe of  the curtain with a  red glow  and in  the lighted gap between the
tabs the audience saw a fat, jolly, clean-shaven man  in stained tails and a
grubby white dicky. It was Moscow's best known compere, George Bengalsky.
     'And now, ladies and  gentlemen,' said Bengalsky,  smiling his boyish
smile, '  you are about to see .  . .' Here Bengalsky broke  off and started
again in a completely different  tone of voice : ' I see  that  our audience
has increased in numbers since the  interval. Half  Moscow seems  to be here
tonight! D'you know, I met a friend of mine the other  day and I said to him
: " Why didn't you come and  see our  show? Half  the  town  was there  last
night." And he said :  "  I live in the other half! " ' Bengalsky paused for
the  laugh, but none came so he  went on : ' Well,  as I was saying, you are
about  to  see  a  very  famous artiste from abroad, M'sieur  Woland, with a
session of black magic. Of course  we know, don't we . . .' Bengalsky smiled
confidentially,  '   that   there's   no   such  thing   really.   It's  all
superstition--or  rather  Maestro  Woland  is  a past  master  of the art of
conjuring,  as  you  will see from the most interesting part of his  act  in
which  he  reveals  the  mysteries  of  his  technique. And  now, ladies and
gentlemen, since none of us can bear the suspense any longer, I give you . .
. Monsieur Woland! . . .'
     Having said his feeble piece, Bengalsky put his  hands palm to palm and
raised them in  a gesture of  welcome  towards the gap in the curtain, which
then rose with a soft rustle.
     The entry of  the  magician with  his  tall assistant and his  cat, who
trotted on stage on his hind legs, pleased the audience greatly. ' Armchair,
please,' said Woland quietly  and instantly  an armchair  appeared on  stage
from  nowhere.  The  magician  sat down.  ' Tell me, my dear Faggot,' Woland
enquired of the check-clad buffoon,  who apparently had another name besides
' Koroviev,':
     'do you find the people of Moscow much changed? '  The magician nodded
towards  the audience,  still silent with astonishment at seeing an armchair
materialise from nowhere.
     'I do, messire,' replied Faggot-Koroviev in a low voice.
     'You  are  right.  The  Muscovites have  changed considerably  . .  .
outwardly,  I mean ...  as, too,  has  the  city itself. .  .  Not just  the
clothes,  but  now  they have  all  these . . . what  d'you call 'em  .  . .
tramways, cars . . .'
     'Buses,' prompted Faggot respectfully.
     The audience listened intently to this conversation, assuming it to  be
the  prelude  to some magic tricks. The wings  were full of actors and stage
hands and  among their faces could be  seen  the pale,  strained features of
     Bengalsky's face,  lurking in a  corner of the  stage,  began  to  show
consternation. With an imperceptible  raise  of  one  eyebrow he  seized the
opportunity of a pause in the dialogue to interject:
     'Our guest artiste from abroad  is obviously  delighted with Moscow's
technological progress.' This was  accompanied by a smile for the stalls and
a smile for the gallery.
     Woland, Faggot and the cat turned their heads towards the compere.
     'Did I say I was delighted? ' the magician asked Faggot.
     'You said nothing of the kind, messire,' replied the latter.
     'Then what is the man talking about? '
     'He was simply telling lies! ' announced the chequered clown in a loud
voice for  the whole theatre  to hear  and turning to Bengalsky he added : '
D'you hear--you're a liar! '
     There was a burst of laughter from the gallery as Bengalsky spluttered,
his eyes popping with indignation.
     'But naturally I am not so much interested in the buses and telephones
and such like . . .'
     'Apparatus,' prompted Faggot.
     'Precisely, thank you,' drawled the magician in a  deep bass,  ' as in
the much more important question : have the Muscovites changed inwardly? '
     'A vital question indeed, sir.'
     In the wings, glances were exchanged, shoulders shrugged; banker's tape
and marked  '  One Thousand Roubles'. His  neighbours  crowded round  as  he
picked at the  wrapping with his fingernail to find out whether  it was real
money or a stage prop.
     'My God--it's real money!' came a joyful shout from the gallery.
     'I wish you'd  play cards with me if  vou've any  more packs like that
one,' begged a fat man in the middle of the stalls.
     'Avec plaisir!' replied Faggot. ' But why should you  be the only one?
You shall all take part! Everybody look up, please! One! ' A pistol appeared
in his hand. ' Two! ' the pistol was pointed upwards. ' Three! ' There was a
flash, a  bang, and immediately a cascade  of white pieces of paper began to
float down from the dome above the auditorium.
     Turning over and over, some were blown aside and landed in the gallery,
some fell towards the orchestra pit  or the stage.  A few seconds  later the
shower of money reached the stalls and the audience began catching it.
     Hundreds of  hands were raised as the audience held the notes up to the
light from the stage  and found that the watermarks were absolutely genuine.
Their  smell  left  no  doubt:  it  was  the  uniquely  delicious  smell  of
newly-printed money.  First amusement then wonder seized the entire theatre.
From all over the house, amid gasps and delighted laughter, came the words '
money, money! ' One man was already crawling in the aisle and fumbling under
the  seats.  Several more  were  standing up  on  their seats to  catch  the
drifting, twisting banknotes as they fell.
     Gradually a look of perplexity came over the expressions of the police,
and the artistes backstage openly pressed forward  from the  wings. From the
dress circle a voice was heard shouting:
     'Let go! It's mine--I caught it  first! ', followed by another voice :
' Stop pushing and  grabbing  or I'll  punch  your face  in! '  There  was a
muffled crash. A policeman's  helmet  appeared  in  the dress  circle  and a
member of the audience was led away. The excitement rose and might  have got
out of hand if Faggot  had not stopped the rain of money by suddenly blowing
into the air.
     Two  young  men,  grinning  purposefully,  left their  seats  and  made
straight for  the bar.  A loud buzz filled the  theatre  :  the audience was
galvanised  with excitement  and  in  an  effort  to  control  the situation
Bengalsky stirred himself and appeared on stage. With a tremendous effort of
self-mastery he went through his habitual motion of washing his hands and in
his most powerful voice began:
     'We have just  seen, ladies and  gentlemen, a case  of so-called  mass
hypnosis. A purely scientific experiment, demonstrating better than anything
else  that there is  nothing supernatural about magic. We shall  ask Maestro
Woland to  show us how he did  that experiment. You will now see, ladies and
gentlemen,  how those  apparent banknotes will  vanish as  suddenly  as they
     He began to clap, but he was  alone. A confident  smile appeared on his
face, but the look in his eyes was one of entreaty.
     The  audience  did not  care for Bengalsky's speech. Faggot  broke  the
silence :
     'And that was a case of so-called fiddlesticks,' he declared in a loud
goatish bray. ' The banknotes, ladies and gentlemen, are real.'
     'Bravo! ' abruptly roared a bass from high up in the gallery.
     'This man,'  Faggot pointed at Bengalsky, ' is starting to bore me. He
sticks his nose  in everywhere without being asked  and ruins the whole act.
What shall we do with him? '
     'Cut off his head! ' said a stern voice.
     'What did you say, sir? ' was Faggot's instant response to this savage
proposal. ' Cut off his head?  That's an idea! Behemoth! ' he shouted to the
cat. ' Do your stuff! Eins, zvei, drei!! '
     Then the most incredible thing happened. The cat's fur stood on end and
it uttered a harrowing ' miaaow! ' It crouched, then  leaped  like a panther
straight for Bengalsky's chest and from there to his head. Growling, the cat
dug its claws  into the  compere's  glossy hair and with a wild  screech  it
twisted the head clean off the  neck  in  two turns. Two and a half thousand
people screamed as one. Fountains of blood from the severed arteries in  the
neck spurted up and drenched  the  man's shirtfront and tails. The  headless
body waved its legs stupidly and  sat on the ground. Hysterical shrieks rang
out through the auditorium. The cat handed the  head to Faggot who picked it
up by the hair and showed it to the audience. The head moaned desperately :
     'Fetch a doctor!'
     'Will you go on talking so much rubbish?' said Faggot threateningly to
the weeping head.
     'No,  I  promise I won't! '  croaked the head. ' For God's  sake  stop
torturing him! ' a  woman's voice from a  box  suddenly rang out  above  the
turmoil and the magician turned towards the sound.
     'Well, ladies and  gentlemen,  shall we forgive him?  ' asked Faggot,
turning to the audience.
     'Yes, forgive  him, forgive him! ' The cries came  at first from a few
individual voices, mostly women, then merged into a chorus with the men.
     'What is your command, messire? ' Faggot asked the masked professor.
     'Well, now,' replied the magician reflectively.  ' They're people like
any others.  They're over-fond of  money, but then they always  were  .  . .
Humankind loves money,  no  matter if it's made of leather, paper, bronze or
gold. They're thoughtless, of course  . .  . but  then  they sometimes  feel
compassion too .... they're ordinary  people, in  fact they  remind  me very
much of their predecessors, except that the housing shortage has soured them
. . .' And he shouted the order : ' Put back his head.'
     Taking  careful aim the cat popped the  head back on its neck, where it
sat as neatly as if head  and  body  had never been parted. Most amazing  of
all--there was not even a scar  on the neck. The  cat wiped the tailcoat and
shirtfront with its paw and every trace of blood vanished. Faggot lifted the
seated Bengalsky to his feet, shoved a bundle  of money into his coat pocket
and led him off stage, saying :
     'Go on--off you go, it's more fun without you!'
     Gazing round in a daze and staggering, the  compere got no further than
the fire-brigade post and collapsed. He cried miserably:
     'My head, my head . . .'
     Among those who rushed to help him was Rimsky. The compere was weeping,
snatching at something in the air and mumbling :
     'Give me  back my head, my head . . . You can  have  my flat,  you can
have all my pictures, only give me back my head . . .! '
     An usher ran for the doctor.  They tried to lay Bengalsky on a divan in
his  dressing-room, but  he  resisted and  became  violent. An ambulance was
called. When the unfortunate compere had been removed Rimsky ran back to the
stage, where new miracles were in progress. It was then, or perhaps a little
earlier, that the magician and his faded armchair vanished  from  the stage.
The  audience did not notice this at all, as they were absorbed by  Faggot's
wonderful tricks.
     Having  seen  the  compere  off the  stage.  Faggot  announced  to  the
     'Now that we  have disposed of that old bore, we shall open a shop for
the ladies! '
     In a moment half the stage was covered with  Persian carpets, some huge
mirrors and a row of showcases, in which the audience was astounded to see a
collection of Parisian dresses  that  were the  last word in chic.  In other
showcases  were  hundreds of  ladies' hats,  some  with  feathers  and  some
without, hundreds of pairs of shoes--black shoes, white shoes, yellow shoes,
leather  shoes, satin  shoes,  suede shoes,  buckled shoes and shoes studded
with costume jewellery. Beside the shoes there were flacons of  scent, piles
of handbags made of buckskin, satin and silk, and next to them piles of gilt
     A red-haired girl  in  a  black evening dress who had suddenly appeared
from  nowhere, her beauty only marred by a  curious scar on her neck, smiled
from the showcases with a proprietorial smile.  With an engaging leer Faggot
announced  that  the firm would exchange, absolutely  free  of  charge,  any
lady's  old dress and shoes for model  dresses and shoes from Paris,  adding
that the offer included handbags and the odds and ends that go in them.
     The  cat  began  bowing  and  scraping, its  forepaw gesturing  like  a
commissionaire opening a door.
     In a sweet though  slightly hoarse voice the girl made an  announcement
which sounded rather cryptic but which,  judging from the faces of the women
in the stalls, was very enticing :
     'Guerlain,  Chanel,  Mitsouko, Narcisse  Noir,  Chanel  Number  Five,
evening dresses, cocktail dresses . . .'
     Faggot bent double, the cat bowed and the girl opened the glass-fronted
     'Step up, please! ' cried Faggot. ' Don't be shy! '
     The audience began to fidget, but no one dared mount the stage. At last
a brunette emerged from the tenth row of the stalls and smiling nonchalantly
walked up the side stairs on to the stage.
     'Bravo! ' cried Faggot. '  Our first  customer! Behemoth,  a chair for
the lady! Shall we start with the shoes, madam? '
     The  brunette sat down and Faggot at once  spread out a whole  heap  of
shoes on the carpet in front of her. She took off her right shoe, tried on a
lilac one, tested it with a walk on the carpet and inspected the heel.
     'Won't they pinch? ' she enquired thoughtfully.
     Offended, Faggot cried:
     'Oh, come, now!' and the cat gave an insulted miaow.
     'I'll  take them, monsieur,' said the brunette with dignity as she put
on  the other shoe of the pair. Her  old shoes were thrown behind a curtain,
followed by the girl herself, the redhead, and Faggot carrying several model
dresses on coathangers. The cat busied itself  with helping and hung a  tape
measure round its neck for greater effect.
     A minute later the brunette emerged from behind  the curtain in a dress
that sent a gasp through the entire auditorium. The bold girl, now very much
prettier, stopped in front of a mirror, wriggled her bare shoulders,  patted
her hair and twisted round to try and see her back view.
     'The firm begs you to accept this as a souvenir,' said Faggot, handing
the girl an open case containing a flacon of scent.
     'Merci,'  replied the girl haughtily and  walked down the steps to the
stalls.  As  she went  back  to her  seat  people jumped  up  to  touch  her
     The ice was broken. Women from all sides poured on to the stage. In the
general hubbub  of talk,  laughter  and cries a  man's voice was heard,  ' I
won't  let you!  ' followed by a  woman's saying : ' Let go of my  arm,  you
narrow-minded little tyrant! ' Women  were disappearing behind  the curtain,
leaving their old dresses there and emerging in new ones. A row of women was
sitting on gilt-legged  stools trying on new shoes. Faggot was on his knees,
busy with  a  shoe-horn, while the cat, weighed down  by handbags and shoes,
staggered from the showcases to the stools and back again, the girl with the
scarred neck bustled to and fro, entering  so much into the spirit of it all
that  she was soon chattering  away  in nothing but French. Strangely enough
all  the  women understood her at once, even those  who  knew  not a word of
     To  everybody's astonishment, a  lone man climbed on to  the  stage. He
announced  that his wife had a cold and  asked to be given something to take
home  to her. To  prove  that he was  really  married he offered to show his
passport. This  conscientious husband was  greeted with a  roar of laughter.
Faggot  declared that he believed  him even without his passport and  handed
the man  two  pairs of silk stockings. The cat spontaneously  added a pot of
cold cream.
     Latecomers still mounted  the steps as a stream of  happy women in ball
dresses, pyjama suits embroidered with dragons, severe tailor-mades and hats
pranced back into the auditorium.
     Then Faggot  announced  that  because  it  was  so late,  in exactly  a
minute's time the shop would close until to-morrow evening. This produced an
incredible scuffle on stage. Without trying them on, women grabbed any shoes
within reach. One woman hurtled behind the screen, threw off her clothes and
sei2ed the first thing to hand--a silk dress patterned with enormous bunches
of  flowers--grabbed a dressing gown  and for  good measure  scooped  up two
flacons of scent. Exactly a minute later a pistol shot rang out, the mirrors
disappeared, the showcases  and  stools  melted  away,  carpet  and  curtain
vanished into thin  air. Last to disappear was the  mountain  of old dresses
and shoes. The stage was bare and empty again.
     At this point a new character joined the cast. A pleasant and extremely
self-confident baritone was heard from Box No. 2 :
     'It's  high time, sir, that  you showed  the audience how you do your
tricks,  especially  the bank-note  trick.  We should  also like  to see the
compere back on stage. The audience is concerned about him.'
     The baritone voice belonged  to none  other than the evening's guest of
honour, Arkady  Apollonich Sempleyarov,  chairman  of the  Moscow  Theatres'
Acoustics Commission.
     Arkady Apollonich was sharing his box with two ladies--one elderly, who
was expensively and fashionably dressed, the other young and pretty and more
simply dressed. The first, as was later established when the official report
was compiled, was Arkady Apollonich's wife and the  other a distant relative
of  his,  an  aspiring  young   actress  from  Saratov  who  lodged  in  the
Sempleyarovs' flat.
     'I beg your pardon,' replied Faggot. ' I'm sorry, but  there's nothing
to reveal. It's all quite plain.'
     'Excuse me,  but I don't agree. An explanation is essential, otherwise
your brilliant act will leave a painful impression. The  audience demands an
explanation . . .'
     'The audience,' interrupted the insolent mountebank, ' has not, to  my
knowledge,  demanded  anything  of  the  sort.  However,  in  view  of  your
distinguished position,  Arkady Apollonich, I will--since you insist--reveal
something of our technique. To do  so,  will you allow me time  for  another
short number? '
     'Of course,'  replied Arkady Apollonich patronisingly. ' But  you must
show how it's done.'
     'Very  well, sir,  very well. Now--may I ask  where you were yesterday
evening, Arkady Apollonich? '
     At this impertinent question Arkady Apollonich's expression underwent a
complete and violent change.
     'Yesterday evening Arkady Apollonich was at a meeting of the Acoustics
Commission,' said his wife haughtily.  ' Surely  that has nothing to do with
magic? '
     ', madame,' replied Faggot, ' it has, but you naturally do  not know
why.  As for  the  meeting,  you  are  quite  wrong.  When  he went  to  the
meeting--which,   incidentally,   was  never   scheduled   to   take   place
yesterday--Arkady  Apollonich  dismissed  his  chauffeur  at  the  Acoustics
Commission  (a  hush  came  over  the  whole  theatre)  and  took  a  bus to
Yelokhovskaya Street where he called on an actress called Militsa Andreyevna
Pokobatko from the local repertory theatre and spent about four hours in her
     'Oh!' The painful cry rang out from complete silence.
     Suddenly Arkady Apollonich's young cousin burst into  a low,  malicious
     'Of course!' she  exclaimed. ' I've suspected him for a long time. Now
I see why that tenth-rate ham got the part of Luisa!' And with a sudden wave
of  her arm she  hit Arkady Apollonich on the head  with a short, fat, mauve
     The vile Faggot, who was none other than Koroviev, shouted :
     'There, ladies and gentlemen, is your  revelation for you, as requested
so insistently by Arkady Apollonich!'
     'How  dare  you hit Arkady Apollonich, you little baggage? ' said the
wife grimly, rising in the box to her full gigantic height.
     The young girl was seized with another outburst of Satanic laughter.
     'I've as much right,' she  replied laughing, ' to hit him as you have!
'  A second  dull  crack was  heard as  another umbrella  bounced off Arkady
Apollonich's head.
     'Police!  Arrest  her!  ' roared Madame  Sempleyarov  in a terrifying
     Here  the cat bounded  up  to the footlights and  announced in  a human
voice :
     'That  concludes the  evening! Maestro!  Finale, please! ' The  dazed
conductor, scarcely aware  of what he  was  doing,  waved his  baton and the
orchestra struck up, or  rather murdered a disorganised excuse for  a march,
normally  sung to obscene but  very  funny words.  However, it  was  quickly
drowned in  the  ensuing uproar.  The  police ran  to the Sempleyarovs' box,
curious spectators climbed on to the ledge to  watch,  there were explosions
of infernal  laughter and wild cries, drowned by the golden crash of cymbals
from the orchestra.
     Suddenly the stage  was empty. The horrible Faggot and the sinister cat
Behemoth  melted  into  the air  and disappeared, just as the  magician  had
vanished earlier in his shabby armchair.

     Ivan swung his legs off  the bed and stared. A man was standing on  the
balcony, peering cautiously  into the  room. He was aged about thirty-eight,
clean-shaven and  dark,  with a sharp nose, restless eyes and a lock of hair
that tumbled over his forehead.
     The mysterious  visitor  listened awhile  then, satisfied that Ivan was
alone, entered the room. As he came in Ivan noticed that the man was wearing
hospital clothes--pyjamas, slippers and a reddish-brown dressing gown thrown
over his shoulders.
     The  visitor  winked at Ivan, put a  bunch of keys into his pocket  and
asked in  a whisper : ' May I sit down? ' Receiving an affirmative  reply he
settled in the armchair.
     'How did  you get in here? ' Ivan  whispered in obedience to a warning
finger. ' The grilles on the windows are locked, aren't they? '
     'The grilles are  locked,' agreed the visitor.  ' Praskovya Fyodorovna
is a dear  person but alas, terribly absent-minded.  A  month  ago I removed
this  bunch of keys from her, which has given me the freedom of the balcony.
It  stretches  along the  whole  floor, so that  I can call on my neighbours
whenever I feel like it.'
     'If you can get out on to the balcony you can run  away.  Or is it too
high to jump? ' enquired Ivan with interest.
     'No,' answered the  visitor firmly, '  I  can't  escape from here. Not
because  it's too  high but because  I've nowhere to go.' After  a  pause he
added : ' So here we are.'
     'Here we are,' echoed Ivan, gazing into the man's restless brown eyes.
     'Yes . . .' The visitor grew suddenly anxious. ' You're not violent, I
hope? You see, I can't bear noise, disturbance, violence or anything of that
sort.  I particularly  hate the  sound  of people screaming,  whether it's a
scream of pain, anger  or any other kind of scream. Just reassure me--you're
not violent, are you? '
     'Yesterday in a  restaurant  I clouted a fellow across the snout,' the
poet confessed manfully.
     'What for? ' asked the visitor disapprovingly.
     'For no reason at all, I must admit,' replied Ivan, embarrassed.
     'Disgraceful,' said the visitor reproachfully and added:
     'And I don't care for that expression of yours--clouted him across the
snout. .  . . People have  faces,  not  snouts. So  I  suppose you mean  you
punched  him  in  the face. . . . No, you  must give up doing that  sort  of
     After this reprimand the visitor enquired :
     'What's your job? '
     'I'm a poet,' admitted Ivan with slight unwillingness.
     This annoyed the man.
     'Just my  bad luck!  ' he  exclaimed,  but immediately  regretted it,
apologised and asked : ' What's your name? '
     'Oh . . .' said the man frowning.
     'What, don't you like my poetry? ' asked Ivan with curiosity.
     'No, I don't.'
     'Have you read any of it? '
     'I've never read any of your poetry! ' said the visitor tetchily.
     'Then how can you say that? '
     'Why shouldn't I? ' retorted the visitor. ' I've read  plenty of other
poetry.  I don't suppose by some miracle that  yours is any  better, but I'm
ready to take it on trust. Is your poetry good?'
     'Stupendous! ' said Ivan boldly.
     'Don't write any more! ' said the visitor imploringly.
     'I promise not to! ' said Ivan solemnly.
     As they  sealed the  vow with a handshake,  soft footsteps  and  voices
could be heard from the corridor.
     'Sshh! ' whispered  the man.  He bounded  out  on to the  balcony and
closed the grille behind him.
     Praskovya  Fyodorovna looked in, asked Ivan how he felt and  whether he
wanted  to sleep in the dark or the light. Ivan asked her to leave the light
on and Praskovya Fyodorovna departed, wishing him good  night. When  all was
quiet again the visitor returned.
     He told  Ivan in a whisper that a new  patient had been  put  into  No.
119--a fat man  with a purple  face who kept muttering about  dollars in the
ventilation shaft and  swearing  that the  powers of darkness had taken over
their house on Sadovaya. ' He curses Pushkin for all  he's  worth and  keeps
shouting " Encore,  encore! " '  said the visitor, twitching nervously. When
he had grown a little calmer he sat down and said  : ' However, let's forget
about him,' and resumed his  interrupted conversation with Ivan : '  How did
you come to be here? '
     'Because  of  Pontius  Pilate,' replied Ivan,  staring  glumly at  the
     'What?! ' cried the visitor, forgetting  his caution, then clapped his
hand over his mouth.  ' What an extraordinary coincidence!  Do tell me about
it, I beg of you! '
     For some reason  Ivan felt that he could  trust this stranger. Shyly at
first,  then  gaining confidence,  he began to describe  the previous  day's
events at Patriarch's  Ponds. His visitor  treated Ivan as completely  sane,
showed the greatest interest in the story  and  as it developed he reached a
state of near ecstasy. Now and again he interrupted Ivan, exclaiming :
     'Yes, yes! Please go on! For heaven's  sake don't leave  anything out!
'Ivan left out nothing, as it made the story easier to tell and gradually he
approached the  moment when  Pontius Pilate,  in  his white cloak lined with
blood-red, mounted the platform.
     Then the visitor folded his hands as though in prayer and  whispered to
     'Oh, I guessed it! I guessed it all! '
     Listening to the terrible  description of  Berlioz's death, the visitor
made an enigmatic comment, his eyes flashing with malice :
     'I'm only  sorry  that  it wasn't  Latunsky  the critic or  that hack
Mstislav  Lavrovich  instead  of  Berlioz!  ' And  he  mouthed  silently and
ecstatically : ' Go on! '
     The visitor was highly amused by the story of how the cat had paid  the
conductress and  he was choking with suppressed laughter as Ivan, stimulated
by the success of his story-telling, hopped about on his haunches, imitating
the cat stroking his whiskers with a ten-kopeck piece.
     'And  so,'  said  Ivan,  saddening  as  he  described  the  scene  at
Griboyedov, ' here I am.'
     The visitor laid a sympathetic hand on the wretched poet's shoulder and
     'Unhappy poet! But  it's your own fault, my dear fellow. You shouldn't
have treated  him  so carelessly and rudely. Now you're  paying for it.  You
should be thankful that you got off comparatively lightly.'
     'But  who  on  earth  is he?  '  asked Ivan,  clenching  his fists in
     The visitor stared at Ivan and answered with a question :
     'You won't get violent, will you? We're all unstable people here . . .
There  won't be any calls for the doctor,  injections or any disturbances of
that sort, will there? '
     'No, no! ' exclaimed Ivan. ' Tell me, who is he? '
     'Very well,' replied the visitor, and said slowly and gravely :
     'At Patriarch's Ponds yesterday you met Satan.'
     As he had promised, Ivan did not become violent, but  he was powerfully
     'It can't be! He doesn't exist!'
     'Come, come!  Surely  you  of  all people  can't say that.  You  were
apparently one of the first  to suffer from him. Here you are, shut up in  a
psychiatric clinic, and you still say he doesn't exist. How strange! '
     Ivan was reduced to speechlessness.
     'As soon as you started  to describe  him,' the  visitor went  on, ' I
guessed  who  it was that you were  talking to  yesterday.  I  must  say I'm
surprised at Berlioz!  You, of course, are an innocent,'  again  the visitor
apologised for his expression, ' but he, from what I've heard of him, was at
least fairly well read.  The first  remarks that this professor made  to you
dispelled  all  my doubts.  He's unmistakeable, my friend!  You  are ...  do
forgive me  again, but unless I'm wrong, you  are an ignorant person, aren't
you? '
     'I am indeed,' agreed the new Ivan.
     'Well,  you see, even the face  you described,  the different-coloured
eyes, the eyebrows . . . Forgive me, but have you even seen the opera Faust?
     Ivan mumbled an embarrassed excuse.
     'There  you are, it's not surprising!  But, as  I  said  before,  I'm
surprised  at  Berlioz.  He's not  only  well read  but  extremely  cunning.
Although in his defence I  must say that Woland is quite capable of throwing
dust in the eyes of men who are even cleverer than Berlioz.'
     'What? ' shouted Ivan.
     With a sweeping gesture  Ivan smacked  his  forehead with  his palm and
     'I see it now. There was a letter " W " on his visiting card. Well I'm
damned! '  He  sat for  a while in perplexity, staring at the moon  floating
past  the grille and  then  said:  ' So he really might have  known  Pontius
Pilate? He was alive then,  I  suppose? And they call me  mad!  ' he  added,
pointing indignantly towards the door.
     The visitor's mouth set in a fold of bitterness.
     'We  must look the facts in  the face.' The visitor  turned  his face
towards  the moon as it raced through  a cloud. '  Both you and I  are  mad,
there's  no  point in denying it. He gave  you a shock and it  sent you mad,
because you  were temperamentally liable  to react in that way. Nevertheless
what  you  have  described  unquestionably  happened in fact. But it  is  so
unusual that even  Stravinsky,  a psychiatrist of  genius, naturally  didn't
believe you. Has he examined you? (Ivan nodded.) The man you were talking to
was with Pontius Pilate, he did have breakfast with Kant and now he has paid
a call on Moscow.' ' But God knows what he may do here! Shouldn't we try and
catch him  somehow! ' The old  Ivan raised  his head, uncertain but not  yet
quite extinguished.
     'You've  already tried  and look where it's got you,' said the visitor
ironically. ' I don't advise others to try. But he will cause more  trouble,
you may be sure of that. How infuriating, though, that you  met  him and not
I. Although I'm  a burnt-out man and  the  embers have  died  away to ash, I
swear  that I  would have  given up  Praskovya Fyodorovna's bunch of keys in
exchange for that meeting. Those keys are all I have. I am destitute.' ' Why
do you want to see him so badly? ' After a  long, gloomy silence the visitor
said at last:
     'You see,  it's most extraordinary, but  I am in here  for exactly the
same  reason that you are,  I mean because  of  Pontius Pilate.' The visitor
glanced  uneasily round and said  : ' The fact is that a year ago I wrote  a
novel about Pilate.'
     'Are  you a  writer? '  asked  the poet  with interest.  The  visitor
frowned, threatened Ivan with his fist and said:
     'I  am a master.'  His expression  hardened  and he pulled out of  his
dressing gown pocket a greasy black cap with the letter ' M ' embroidered on
it in yellow silk. He put the  cap on and showed himself to Ivan in  profile
and full face to prove that he was a  master. ' She sewed it for me with her
own hands,' he added mysteriously. ' What is your name? '
     'I no longer have a  name,' replied  the  curious  visitor  with grim
contempt.  '  I  have  renounced it, as I have renounced life itself. Let us
forget it.'
     'At least tell me about your novel,' asked  Ivan tactfully. '  If you
wish. I should say that my life has  been a somewhat unusual one,' began the
     A historian by training, two years ago he had, it seemed, been employed
in one of the Moscow museums. He was also a translator.
     'From which language? ' asked Ivan.
     'I know five languages beside my own,' replied the visitor. ' English,
French, German, Latin and Greek. And I read Italian a little.'
     'Phew! ' Ivan whistled with envy.
     This historian lived alone, had no relatives  and knew almost no one in
Moscow. One day he won a hundred thousand roubles.
     'Imagine my astonishment,' whispered the  visitor in his black  cap, '
when  I fished my lottery ticket  out of the laundry basket and  saw that it
had  the same number as the winning  draw printed in the paper! The museum,'
he explained, ' had given me the ticket.'
     Having  won  his hundred thousand,  Ivan's mysterious guest bought some
books, gave up his room on Myasnitskaya Street...
     'Ugh, it was a filthy hole! ' he snarled.
     .  . . and rented two rooms  in the basement of  a small house  with  a
garden  near the  Arbat. He gave up his job  in the museum and began writing
his novel about Pontius Pilate.
     'Ah,  that  was  a  golden  age!  '  whispered the narrator,  his eyes
shining. ' A completely self-contained little  flat and a  hall with a  sink
and running water,'  he emphasised proudly, ' little windows just above  the
level of the path leading from the  garden gate. Only a  few steps away,  by
the garden fence, was  a lilac, a lime tree and a maple. Ah, me! In winter I
rarely saw anyone walking  up the garden  path  or heard the crunch of snow.
And there  was always a blaze in my little stove! But suddenly it was spring
and through the muddied  panes of my  windows I saw first  the bare branches
then  the  green  of the  first leaves.  And then,  last  spring,  something
happened  which  was far  more  delightful than  winning a  hundred thousand
roubles. And that, you must agree, is an enormous sum of money! '
     'It is,' Ivan agreed, listening intently.
     'I had opened the  windows and  was sitting in  the second room, which
was quite tiny.' The visitor made measuring gestures. ' Like this--the divan
here, another divan along the other wall, a beautiful lamp on a little table
between them, a bookcase by the window  and over  here  a little bureau. The
main room was huge--fourteen square  metres!--books, more books and a stove.
It was a marvellous little place. How deliciously the lilac used to smell! I
was growing light-headed with fatigue and Pilate was coming to an end . . .'
     'White cloak, red lining! How I know the feeling! ' exclaimed Ivan.
     'Precisely! Pilate was rushing to a conclusion and I already knew what
the last words of the novel would be--"  the fifth Procurator of Judaea, the
knight Pontius Pilate ". Naturally I used to  go  out for  walks. A  hundred
thousand  is a huge  sum and I had a  handsome suit. Or  I would  go out for
lunch to a restaurant. There used to be a wonderful restaurant in the Arbat,
I don't know whether it's still there.'
     Here his eyes opened wide and as he whispered he gazed at the moon.
     'She was carrying some of those repulsive yellow  flowers.  God knows
what they're called, but  they are somehow always the first  to  come out in
spring.  They  stood out very  sharply  against her  black  dress.  She  was
carrying yellow flowers! It's an ugly colour. She turned off Tverskaya  into
a  side-street and turned round. You  know the  Tverskaya,  don't you? There
must have  been a thousand people on it but I  swear to you that she  saw no
one but me. She had a look of suffering and I was struck less by her  beauty
than by the extraordinary loneliness in her eyes. Obeying that yellow signal
I  too turned into the  side-street and  followed her. We  walked in silence
down that dreary, winding  little  street without saying a  word, she on one
side, I  on the other. There  was not another soul in  the  street. I was in
agony  because I felt I had to speak to her and was worried that I might not
be  able  to  utter a  word, she would disappear and I  should never see her
again. Then, if you can believe it, she said :
     " Do you like my flowers? "
     'I remember exactly how  her voice sounded.  It was pitched fairly low
but with a catch in it  and stupid as it may sound I had the impression that
it echoed  across the street and reverberated from the dirty yellow wall.  I
quickly crossed to her side and going up to her replied : " No '  She looked
at me in surprise and suddenly,  completely unexpectedly, I realised that  I
had  been in  love with this  woman all my  life.  Extraordinary, isn't  it?
You'll say I was mad, I expect.'
     'I say nothing of the sort,' exclaimed Ivan, adding : ' Please, please
go on.'
     The visitor continued:
     'Yes,  she looked at  me in  surprise and then she said  : " Don't you
like flowers at all? "
     'There was, I felt, hostility in her voice. I walked on alongside her,
trying to walk  in step with her and to my amazement I felt completely  free
of shyness.
     '" No, I like flowers, only not these," I said.
     '" Which flowers do you like? "
     '" I love roses."
     'I immediately  regretted having said it, because she smiled  guiltily
and threw her flowers into the gutter.  Slightly embarrassed, I  picked them
up and gave them to her but  she pushed them away  with a smile and I had to
carry them.
     'We walked on in silence for a while until she pulled the flowers out
of my hand and threw them in the roadway, then slipped her black-gloved hand
into mine and we went on.'
     'Go on,' said Ivan, ' and please don't leave anything out! '
     'Well,' said the visitor, ' you can  guess what happened  after that.'
He wiped away a sudden tear with his right sleeve and went on. ' Love leaped
up out at  us like  a murderer  jumping  out of a dark  alley. It shocked us
both--the shock of a stroke of lightning, the  shock of a flick-knife. Later
she said that  this wasn't so, that we had of course been  in love for years
without  knowing  each  other  and never  meeting,  that she had merely been
living with another man and I had been living with . . . that girl, what was
her name . . .? '
     'With whom? ' asked Bezdomny.
     'With  .  .  . er, that girl  . .  . she was called . .  .' said  the
visitor, snapping his fingers in a vain effort to remember.
     'Were you married to her? ' ' Yes, of course I was, that's why it's so
embarrassing to forget  ... I think it was Varya ... or was it  Manya? . . .
no, Varya, that's it ... she wore a striped dress, worked at the museum. . .
. No good, can't  remember. So, she used  to  say,  she  had  gone  out that
morning carrying those yellow flowers for me to find her at last and that if
it hadn't happened she would  have committed  suicide because  her  life was
     'Yes, the shock  of love struck us both at once. I  knew it within the
hour when we  found ourselves, quite unawares, on the embankment  below  the
Kremlin  wall.  We  talked as though we had  only  parted the day before, as
though we had known each other  for years. We agreed to meet the next day at
the same place by the Moscow River and  we did. The  May sun shone on us and
soon that woman became my mistress.
     'She came to  me every day at noon. I began waiting for her from early
morning.  The  strain of waiting gave me hallucinations of seeing  things on
the  table.  After ten  minutes I would sit at my little window and start to
listen for  the creak of that ancient garden gate. It was curious  : until I
met her no one ever came into our little  yard. Now it seemed to me that the
whole town  was crowding in. The gate would  creak, my heart would bound and
outside the window a pair of muddy boots would  appear level with my head. A
knife-grinder. Who  in our house could possibly need  a  knife-grinder? What
was there for him to sharpen? Whose knives?
     'She only came through that gate once a day, but  my  heart would beat
faster from at least ten false alarms every morning. Then when her time came
and the hands were pointing to  noon, my heart went  on  thumping  until her
shoes  with their black patent-leather straps  and steel buckles drew level,
almost soundlessly, with my basement window.
     'Sometimes for fun  she would stop  at the  second window and  tap the
pane with her foot. In a second I would appear at that window but always her
shoe  and  her  black silk dress that blocked  the light had  vanished and I
would turn instead to the hall to let her in.
     'Nobody knew  about our  liaison, I can swear to that, although  as  a
rule  no  one  can keep such affairs a complete secret.  Her  husband didn't
know, our friends didn't know. The other tenants in that forgotten old house
knew, of course, because they could see that a woman called on me every day,
but they never knew her name.'
     'Who was she?' asked Ivan, deeply fascinated by this love story.
     The visitor made a sign which meant  that he would never reveal this to
anyone and went on with his narrative.
     The master and  his unknown mistress loved one another so strongly that
they became utterly inseparable. Ivan could clearly see  for himself the two
basement  rooms, where it was always twilight  from the  shade of  the lilac
bush and the fence : the shabby red furniture, the bureau,  the clock on top
of it which struck the half-hours and books, books from the painted floor to
the smoke-blackened ceiling, and the stove.
     Ivan  learned that from the very first days of their affair the man and
his mistress decided that fate had brought them together on  the  corner  of
the Tverskaya and that side-street and that they were made for each other to
     Ivan  heard his visitor  describe how the lovers spent their  day.  Her
first action on arrival was to put  on an apron and  light an oil stove on a
wooden table in the  cramped  hall, with its tap and sink  that the wretched
patient  had recalled with such pride. There she cooked lunch  and served it
on an oval table in the  living-room. When the May storms blew and the water
slashed noisily  past  the  dim little  windows, threatening  to flood their
home, the lovers stoked up the  stove and baked potatoes in it. Steam poured
out of the potatoes as they cut them open, the charred skins blackened their
fingers. There was laughter in the basement, after the rain the trees in the
garden scattered broken branches and white blossom.
     When the  storms were past and the  heat of  summer  came, the vase was
filled with the long-awaited roses that they both loved so much. The man who
called himself  the master worked feverishly at his novel and the  book cast
its spell over the unknown woman.
     'At  times  I actually felt jealous  of  it,'  the moonlight  visitor
whispered to Ivan.
     Running   her  sharp,  pointed   fingernails  through  her  hair,   she
ceaselessly read and re-read the manuscript,  sewing that same black cap  as
she did so. Sometimes she would squat down by the lower bookshelves or stand
by the topmost ones and wipe the hundreds of dusty spines. Sensing fame, she
drove him on  and started to call him ' the master '. She waited impatiently
for the  promised final words  about the fifth Procurator of Judaea, reading
out in a loud sing-song  random  sentences that  pleased her and saying that
the novel was her life.
     It was finished in August and handed to a typist  who transcribed it in
five  copies. At last came the moment to  leave  the secret refuge and enter
the outside world.
     'When I emerged  into the world clutching my novel, my life came to an
end,' whispered the master. He hung his head and for a long while wagged the
black cap with  its embroidered yellow ' M '. He went on  with his story but
it  grew more disjointed and  Ivan could only gather that  his  visitor  had
suffered some disaster.
     'It was my first sortie into the literary world, but now that it's all
over and I am ruined for everyone to see, it fills  me with horror  to think
of it! '  whispered  the master solemnly,  raising his  hand. ' God,  what a
shock he gave me! '
     'Who?  '  murmured  Ivan,  scarcely  audibly,  afraid to disturb  the
master's inspiration.
     'The editor, of course, the editor!  Oh yes,  he read it. He looked at
me  as if I had  a swollen face,  avoided  my  eyes  and  even giggled  with
embarrassment.   He  had   smudged   and   creased   the  typescript   quite
unnecessarily. He asked me  questions which I thought  were insane.  He said
nothing about the substance of the novel but asked me who I  was and where I
came  from, had I  been  writing for long,  why had nothing been heard of me
before  and finally  asked what struck me  as the most  idiotic question  of
all--who had given me the idea of writing a novel on such a curious subject?
Eventually  I lost  patience with him  and asked him straight out whether he
was going to print my novel or not. This embarrassed him. He  began mumbling
something, then announced that he personally was not competent to decide and
that the other members  of the editorial board would have to study the book,
in  particular the  critics  Latunsky and  Ariman  and  the author  Mstislav
Lavrovich.  He  asked  me to come back a fortnight  later. I did so and  was
received by a  girl who had developed a permanent squint from having to tell
so many lies.'
     'That's  Lapshennikova,  the editor's  secretary,'  said Ivan with  a
smile, knowing the world that his visitor was describing with such rancour.
     'Maybe,' he cut  in.  ' Anyway, she gave  me  back my novel thoroughly
tattered  and covered in  grease-marks. Trying  not to look  at me, the girl
informed me  that the  editors  had  enough material for two years ahead and
therefore  the question  of  printing  my  novel  became,  as  she put it, "
redundant".  What  ^Ise do I remember?'  murmured  the  visitor, wiping  his
forehead. ' Oh yes, the red blobs spattered all over the title page and  the
eyes of my mistress. Yes, I remember those eyes.'
     The story grew more and more confused, full of more and more disjointed
remarks that trailed off unfinished. He  said something about slanting  rain
and despair in their basement home, about going somewhere else. He whispered
urgently that he would never, never blame  her, the  woman who had urged him
on into the struggle.
     After that, as  far  as Ivan could tell,  something strange  and sudden
happened.  One day  he  opened  a  newspaper and saw  an  article by Ariman,
entitled ' The Enemy Makes a Sortie,' where the critic warned all and sundry
that he, that  is to  say our hero had tried to drag into  print an apologia
for Jesus Christ.
     'I  remember that! '  cried Ivan. '  But I've forgotten what your name
was.'  '  I repeat,  let's leave my name  out  of it,  it no longer exists,'
replied  the visitor. ' It's not  important.  A  day or  two  later  another
article appeared in a different paper signed by Mstislav Lavrovich, in which
the writer suggested  striking  and  striking hard at all this pilatism  and
religiosity which I was trying to drag (that damned word again!) into print.
Stunned by  that unheard-of word "  pilatism " I opened the third newspaper.
In it were two articles, one by Latunsky, the other signed with the initials
"  N.E." Believe  me,  Ariman's and  Lavrovich's stuff was  a mere  joke  by
comparison with Latunsky's article. Suffice it to say that it was entitled "
A Militant Old  Believer ". I was  so absorbed in reading the  article about
myself that I did not notice her standing in front of me with a wet umbrella
and  a sodden copy  of the  same newspaper. Her eyes were flashing fire, her
hands cold  and trembling. First she  rushed to kiss me then she  said  in a
strangled voice, thumping the table, that she was going to murder Latunsky.'
     Embarrassed, Ivan gave a groan but said nothing. ' The  joyless  autumn
days came,' the visitor went on, ' the  appalling failure of my novel seemed
to have withered part of my soul. In fact I no longer had anything to do and
I only lived for my meetings with her. Then something began to happen to me.
God  knows  what it was; I  expect Stravinsky has unravelled  it long ago. I
began to  suffer  from  depression  and strange forebodings.  The  articles,
incidentally, did not stop. At first I simply laughed at them, then came the
second  stage : amazement. In literally  every line  of  those articles  one
could detect a sense of falsity, of unease, in spite of  their confident and
threatening tone. I couldn't help  feeling--and the conviction grew stronger
the more I read--that the people writing those articles were not saying what
they had really wanted to say and that this was the cause of their fury. And
then came the third stage--fear. Don't misunderstand me, I was not afraid of
the articles ; I was afraid of something else which had  nothing  to do with
them or with my  novel. I started, for instance, to be afraid of the dark. I
was reaching the stage of mental derangement. I felt, especially just before
going  to  sleep, that  some  very  cold, supple  octopus was fastening  its
tentacles round my heart. I had to sleep with the light on.
     'My  beloved had changed too. I told her nothing about the octopus, of
course, but she saw that something was wrong with me. She lost weight,  grew
paler, stopped laughing and  kept begging  me to have that excerpt from  the
novel printed. She said I should forget everything and go south to the Black
Sea, paying  for  the  journey  with what was  left  of the hundred thousand
     'She  was very insistent, so to avoid arguing with her (something told
me that  I never would  go to the Black Sea)  I promised to arrange the trip
soon. However, she  announced that she would buy me the  ticket  herself.  I
took out all my money, which was about  ten thousand roubles, and gave it to
     '" Why so much? " she said in surprise.
     'I said something about being afraid of burglars and asked her to keep
the money until my departure. She took it,  put it  in her handbag, began to
kiss  me and said that she  would rather die  than  leave  me  alone in this
condition, but  people were expecting her, she had to go but would come back
the next day. She begged me not to be afraid.
     'It was twilight, in mid-October. She went. I lay down on my divan and
fell asleep without putting on the light. I was awakened by the feeling that
the octopus was there. Fumbling in the dark I just  managed to switch on the
lamp. My watch showed two o'clock in the morning. When I had  gone to bed  I
had been  sickening; when I woke up I was an ill man. I had a sudden feeling
that the autumn  murk was about to burst the window-panes, run into the room
and I would  drown  in it as if it were ink. I had lost control of myself. I
screamed,  I  wanted to run somewhere,  if  only  to my  landlord  upstairs.
Wrestling  with myself as  one struggles with a  lunatic, I had  just enough
strength to crawl  to the stove and re-light  it. When I  heard  it begin to
crackle  and the fire-door started rattling in the draught,  I felt slightly
better. I rushed into the hall, switched  on the  light,  found  a bottle of
white wine and began gulping it down from the bottle. This  calmed my fright
a little, at least enough to stop me from running to my landlord. Instead, I
went back to  the stove. I opened  the  fire-door. The heat began to warm my
hands and face and I whispered :
     '" Something terrible has happened to me . . . Come, come, please come
. . .! "
     'But nobody came.  The fire roared in  the stove, rain whipped against
the windows.  Then I took  the heavy typescript copies  of the  novel and my
handwritten drafts out  of the desk drawer and started to burn them. It  was
terribly hard to do because  paper that has been written over in ink doesn't
burn easily. Breaking my fingernails I tore up the manuscript books, stuffed
them down between the  logs  and  stoked  the burning pages  with the poker.
Occasionally  there  was  so  much  ash that it  put  the flames  out, but I
struggled with it until finally the whole novel, resisting fiercely  to  the
end,  was  destroyed.  Familiar words flickered before me, the  yellow crept
inexorably up the  pages yet  I could still read the words through it.  They
only  vanished  when the  paper turned black  and  I  had given  it a savage
beating with the poker.
     'There  was a sound  of someone scratching gently at the  window.  My
heart leaped and  thrusting the last manuscript book into the  fire I rushed
up the brick steps from the basement to the door that opened on to the yard.
Panting, I reached the door and asked softly:
     '" Who's there? "
     'And a voice, her voice, answered :
     '" It's me . . ."
     'I don't remember how I managed the  chain and the key. As soon as she
was  indoors she fell into my  arms, all wet,  cheek wet,  hair  bedraggled,
shivering. I could only say :
     '"  Is  it  really  you? . .  ." then my voice  broke off and we  ran
downstairs into the flat.
     'She  took off her  coat  in  the hall and  we  went straight into the
living-room. Gasping, she pulled the last bundle of  paper out of  the stove
with  her bare hands. The  room at once filled with smoke. I stamped out the
flames  with  my  foot  and  she  collapsed  on the  divan  and  burst  into
convulsive, uncontrollable tears.
     'When she was calm again I said :
     '"  I  suddenly felt I hated  the novel and  I was afraid. I'm sick. I
feel terrible."
     'She sat up and said :
     '" God how ill you look. Why, why?  But I'm going  to save you. What's
the matter? "
     'I  could see her  eyes swollen from smoke and  weeping, felt her cool
hands smoothing my brow.
     '"  I  shall make you better," she  murmured, burying her head  in  my
shoulder.  " You're going to write it  again. Why, oh why  didn't I keep one
copy myself? "
     'She ground her teeth  with fury  and said something indistinct. Then
with clamped lips she started to collect and sort the burnt sheets of paper.
It was a chapter from somewhere  in the  middle of the book, I forget which.
She carefully piled up the sheets, wrapped them up into a parcel and tied it
with string. All her movements  showed that  she was  a determined woman who
was in absolute command of herself. She asked for a glass of wine and having
drunk it said calmly :
     '" This is how one pays for lying," she said, " and I don't want to go
on lying any more.  I would have stayed with you this evening,  but I didn't
want to do it like that. I don't want his last memory of me to be that I ran
out on him in the middle of the night. He has never  done me any harm ... He
was suddenly called out, there's a  fire at his  factory. But he'll  be back
soon. I'll tell him tomorrow  morning, tell him I love someone else and then
come back to you for ever. If you don't want me to do that, tell me."
     '" My poor, poor girl," I said to her.  " I won't allow you to do it.
It will be hell living with me and  I  don't want  you to  perish here as  I
shall perish."
     '" Is that  the only  reason?  "  she asked, putting her eyes close to
mine. ' " That's the only reason."
     'She grew terribly excited, hugged me, embraced my neck and said:
     '" Then I shall die with you. I shall be here tomorrow morning."
     'The last that I remember seeing of her was the patch of light from my
hall and in that patch of light a loose  curl of her hair, her beret and her
determined eyes,  her dark silhouette in the doorway and a parcel wrapped in
white paper.
     '" I'd see you  out, but I don't trust myself to come  back alone, I'm
     '" Don't  be  afraid.  Just wait a  few  hours.  I'll be back  tomorrow
     'Those were the last words that I heard her say.
     'Sshh!  '  The patient  suddenly  interrupted  himself  and  raised Ms
finger. ' It's a restless moonlit  night.' He disappeared on to the balcony.
Ivan heard the sound of wheels along  the corridor, there was a faint  groan
or cry.
     When all  was  quiet again,  the visitor came back and  reported that a
patient had been put  into room No.  120, a man who kept asking for his head
back. Both men relapsed into anxious silence  for a  while, but soon resumed
their interrupted talk. The visitor had just opened his mouth but the night,
as he  had said, was a restless one : voices were heard in the  corridor and
the visitor began to whisper  into  Ivan's ear so  softly that only the poet
could hear what he was saying, with the exception of the first sentence :
     'A quarter  of an  hour after she had left me there came a knock at my
window . . .'
     The  man was obviously very excited by  what  he  was  whispering  into
Ivan's  ear.  Now and  again  a spasm would  cross his face. Fear  and anger
sparkled in  his  eyes. The narrator  pointed in the direction  of the moon,
which had  long ago disappeared from the balcony.  Only when all  the noises
outside had stopped did the visitor move away from Ivan and speak louder :
     'Yes, so there I stood, out in my little yard, one night in the middle
of January, wearing the same overcoat but without any buttons now  and I was
freezing with cold. Behind me the lilac bush was buried in snowdrifts, below
and in front of me were  my feebly lit  windows with  drawn blinds. I  knelt
down to the first of them and listened--a gramophone was playing in my room.
I could hear it but see nothing. After a slight pause I went out of the gate
and  into the street.  A snowstorm  was howling  along it. A  dog which  ran
between  my legs frightened  me,  and to get away from  it I crossed to  the
other side.  Cold and  fear, which had become my inseparable companions, had
driven me to desperation.  I had nowhere to  go and the simplest thing would
have been  to throw myself under a tram then and there where my  side street
joined the main  road. In the distance I could see the approaching tramcars,
looking  like  ice-encrusted lighted  boxes, and hear the fearful scrunch of
their wheels  along the frostbound tracks. But the joke, my dear friend, was
that  every cell of my body was in the grip of fear.  I was as afraid of the
tram as I  had been of the dog. I'm the most hopeless case in this building,
I assure you! '
     'But  you  could  have  let   her  know,  couldn't  you?'  said  Ivan
sympatherically. '  Besides, she had  all your money. I suppose she kept it,
did she? '
     'Don't  worry,  of  course  she  kept  it.  But  you obviously  don't
understand me. Or rather I have lost the powers of description  that  I once
had. I don't  feel very sorry for her, as she is  of no more  use to me. Why
should  I  write  to  her?  She  would  be faced,' said the  visitor  gazing
pensively at the night  sky, ' by a letter from the madhouse. Can one really
write to anyone from  an address like this?  ... I--a  mental  patient?  How
could I make her so unhappy? I ... I couldn't do it.'
     Ivan could only agree. The  poet's silence was eloquent of his sympathy
and  compassion for his visitor, who bowed his head in  pain at his memories
and said :
     'Poor woman ... I can only hope she has forgotten me . . .'
     'But you may recover,' said Ivan timidly.
     'I am incurable,'  said  the visitor calmly. ' Even though  Stravinsky
says that he will send me back to normal life,  I don't believe him. He's  a
humane man and he only wants to comfort me. I won't deny, though, that I'm a
great deal better now than  I was. Now, where was  I? Oh yes. The frost, the
moving tram-cars ...  I  knew that this  clinic had  just been opened  and I
crossed  the  whole town on foot  to  come  here. It  was  madness! I  would
probably  have frozen  to death but for a lucky chance.  A lorry had  broken
down on the  road and I approached the driver.  It was four  kilometres past
the city  limits and to my surprise he took pity  on me. He was driving here
and  he  took me  ... The toes of my left  foot were  frost-bitten, but they
cured them. I've been here four months now. And do you know, I think this is
not  at all a bad place. I shouldn't  bother to make any great plans for the
future if I  were you. I, for example, wanted to  travel all over the world.
Well, it  seems that  I was not fated to have my wish.  I shall only see  an
insignificant little corner of the globe. I don't think it's necessarily the
best bit, but I repeat, it's not so bad. Summer's on the way and the balcony
will be covered in ivy, so Praskovya Fyodorovna  tells me.  These keys  have
enlarged  my radius of action. There'll be a moon at night. Oh,  it has set!
It's freshening. Midnight is on the way. It's time for me to go.'
     'Tell me, what happened afterwards  with Yeshua  and Pilate? ' begged
Ivan. ' Please, I want to know.'
     'Oh no, I couldn't,' replied the visitor, wincing painfully. ' I can't
think about my novel without shuddering. Your  friend from Patriarch's Ponds
could have done it better than I can. Thanks for the talk. Goodbye.'
     Before Ivan had  time to notice it,  the grille had shut with  a gentle
click and the visitor was gone.

     His nerves in  shreds, Rimsky did not stay  for the completion  of  the
police report on the incident but took refuge in his own office. He sat down
at the desk and  with bloodshot eyes stared at the magic rouble notes spread
out  in  front of  him.  The treasurer  felt his  reason slipping. A  steady
rumbling  could be heard  from outside  as the public  streamed out  of  the
theatre on to  the street. Suddenly Rimsky's acute hearing distinctly caught
the screech of a police whistle,  always a  sound of  ill-omen. When it  was
repeated and answered by another, more prolonged and authoritative, followed
by a clearly audible  bellow of laughter and a kind  of ululating noise, the
treasurer  realised at once that something scandalous  was  happening in the
street. However much he might like  to disown it, the noise was  bound to be
closely  connected with the terrible act put on that  evening  by  the black
magician and his assistants.
     The treasurer was right. As he glanced out of the window on to Sadovaya
Street he gave a grimace and hissed :
     'I knew it! '
     In  the bright  light of the street  lamps  he saw  below  him  on  the
pavement a woman wearing nothing but a pair of violet knickers, a hat and an
umbrella.  Round  the  painfully  embarrassed woman,  trying  desperately to
crouch down and run away, surged the crowd laughing in the way that had sent
shivers down  Rimsky's spine. Beside the woman was a man who was ripping off
his coat and getting his arm hopelessly tangled in the sleeve.
     Shouts and roars of laughter were  also coming from the side  entrance,
and  as he turned in that  direction  Grigory Danilovich  saw another woman,
this time  in pink  underwear. She was struggling across  the pavement in an
attempt to hide in the doorway, but the people coming out barred her way and
the wretched victim of her own rashness and vanity, cheated by the  sinister
Faggot, could do nothing but  hope to be  swallowed  up  by  the  ground.  A
policeman  ran towards  the  unfortunate  woman,  splitting the air with his
whistle. He was  closely followed  by some cheerful, cloth-capped young men,
the source of the ribald laughter and wolf-whistles.
     A  thin,  moustached horse-cab  driver drove  up  alongside  the  first
undressed woman and smiling all over his whiskered face, reined in his horse
with a flourish.
     Rimsky punched himself on the head, spat with fury and jumped back from
the window. He sat at his  desk for a while listening  to the  noise  in the
street. The sound of whistles from various  directions rose to  a climax and
then  began  to fade  out.  To  Rimsky's  astonishment  the  uproar subsided
unexpectedly soon.
     The time had come  to  act, to drink the bitter  cup of responsibility.
The telephones had been repaired during the last act and he now had  to ring
up, report  the  incident, ask  for  help,  blame it  all  on Likhodeyev and
exculpate himself.
     Twice Rimsky nervously picked up the  receiver and  twice  put it down.
Suddenly the  deathly  silence  of the  office was broken  by the  telephone
itself  ringing. He  jumped  and went  cold. ' My nerves  are in  a terrible
state,' he thought as he lifted the telephone. Immediately he staggered back
and  turned whiter than paper. A  soft, sensual woman's voice whispered into
the earpiece :
     'Don't ring up, Rimsky, or you'll regret it . . .'
     The  line  went dead.  Feeling gooseflesh spreading over  his skin, the
treasurer replaced the receiver  and glanced round to the window behind  his
back.  Through the sparse leaves of a sycamore  tree he saw  the moon flying
through  a translucent cloud. He seemed to be mesmerised by the  branches of
the tree and  the longer Rimsky stared at them the more strongly he felt the
grip of fear.
     Pulling  himself together  the  treasurer finally  turned away from the
moonlit  window and stood  up.  There was  now  no longer  any  question  of
telephoning and Rimsky could only think of one thing--how to get out  of the
theatre as quickly as possible.
     He listened : the building was silent. He realised that for  some  time
now he had been  the only person  left on the second floor  and a  childish,
uncontrollable fear overcame him at  the thought. He shuddered to think that
he  would  have  to walk  alone  through  the  empty  passages and  down the
staircase.  He feverishly grabbed the magic roubles from  his desk,  stuffed
them into his briefcase and coughed to summon up a little courage. His cough
sounded hoarse and weak.
     At  this  moment  he noticed what seemed to  be a  damp,  evil-smelling
substance oozing under  the door and into  his office. A tremor ran down the
treasurer's spine.  Suddenly a clock began to strike midnight and even  this
made him shudder. But his heart sank completely when he heard the sound of a
latch-key being  softly turned  in  the lock.  Clutching his  briefcase with
damp, cold hands Rimsky felt that if that scraping noise in the keyhole were
to last much longer his nerves would snap and he would scream.
     At last  the door gave  way and Varenukha slipped noiselessly  into the
office. Rimsky  collapsed into an armchair. Gasping for air,  he smiled what
was meant to be an ingratiating smile and whispered :
     'God, what a fright you gave me. . . .'
     Terrifying as  this sudden appearance  was, it had its hopeful side--it
cleared up at least one little mystery in this whole baffling affair.
     'Tell me, tell me,  quickly!  . . .' croaked Rimsky, clutching at his
one straw of certainty in a world gone mad. ' What does this all mean? "
     'I'm  sorry,'  mumbled Varenukha,  closing the door.  '  I thought you
would  have left  by now.' Without  taking  his cap  off  he  crossed to  an
armchair  and sat down beside the desk, facing  Rimsky. There was a trace of
something  odd  in Varenukha's reply, immediately  detected by Rimsky, whose
sensitivity was now on a par with the world's most delicate seismograph. For
one thing, why had Varenukha come to the treasurer's office if he thought he
wasn't there? He had his own office, after all. For another, no matter which
entrance Varenukha might have used to come into the theatre he must have met
one of the night watchmen, who had all been told that Grigory Danilovich was
working  late  in his office. Rimsky, however, did not dwell  long  on these
peculiarities--this was not the moment.
     'Why didn't  you  ring me? And what the  hell was all  that  pantomime
about Yalta? '
     'It was what I thought,' replied the  house manager, making a sucking
noise as though troubled by an aching  tooth. ' They found  him in a bar out
at Pushkino.'
     'Pushkino? But that's just outside Moscow! What  about those telegrams
from Yalta? '
     'Yalta--hell! He got the Pushkino telegraphist drunk and they started
playing  the fool, which included sending us those  telegrams marked " Yalta
     'Aha,  aha  ... I see  now . . .' crooned  Rimsky,  his yellowish eyes
flashing. In his mind's eye he saw Stepa being  solemnly dismissed  from his
job. Freedom! At last Rimsky would be rid  of that idiot Likhodeyev! Perhaps
something even worse than the sack was in store for Stepan Bogdanovich . . .
'  Tell  me  all the  details!  ' cried  Rimsky,  banging  his desk  with  a
     Varenukha began telling the story. As  soon as he  had  arrived  at the
place where the  treasurer had sent  him, he was  immediately  shown  in and
listened to with great attention. No one, of  course, believed for  a moment
that  Stepa  was  in  Yalta.  Everybody  at  once  agreed  with  Varenukha's
suggestion that Likhodeyev was  obviously  at the '  Yalta  '  restaurant in
Pushkino. '  Where is he now? ' Rimsky interrupted excitedly. ' Where do you
think?  ' replied  the  house manager with a twisted smile. ' In  the police
cells, of course, being sobered up! '
     'Ah! Thank God for that! '
     Varenukha  went  on with his story  and  the more  he  said the clearer
Rimsky saw the long chain of Likhodeyev's misdeeds,  each succeeding link in
it  worse than the last. What a price  he was going to pay  for one  drunken
afternoon at  Pushkino!  Dancing with  the telegraphist.  Chasing  terrified
women. Picking a fight with the barman at the '  Yalta'. Throwing  onions on
to the  floor. Breaking eight bottles of white wine. Smashing a cab-driver's
taximeter for refusing to take him.  Threatening to  arrest people who tried
to stop him. . . .
     Stepa was  well known in  the Moscow theatre  world  and everybody knew
that the man was a menace, but  this  story was just a shade too much,  even
for Stepa. . . . Rimsky's sharp  eyes bored into Varenukha's face across the
desk  and the longer the story went  on the  grimmer those eyes became.  The
more  Varenukha  embroidered  his  account with  picturesque  and  revolting
details, the  less Rimsky believed him.  When  Varenukha described how Stepa
was so far gone  that he tried to resist the men who had  been sent to bring
him back to Moscow,  Rimsky  was  quite  certain that  everything the  house
manager was telling him was a lie--a lie from beginning to end.
     Varenukha had never gone to Pushkino, and  Stepa  had never  been there
either. There was  no drunken telegraphist, no broken  glass in  the bar and
Stepa had not been hauled away with ropes-- none of it had ever happened.
     As soon  as Rimsky  felt sure that his  colleague was lying to  him,  a
feeling of terror crawled over his body, beginning with his feet and for the
second time he had the weird feeling that a kind of malarial damp was oozing
across  the  floor.  The  house  manager  was  sitting in a curious  hunched
attitude in the  armchair, trying  constantly to  stay in  the shadow of the
blue-shaded table lamp and ostensibly shading his eyes from the light with a
folded  newspaper. Without  taking his  eyes  off  Varenukha for  a  moment,
Rimsky's mind was working furiously to unravel this new  mystery. Why should
the  man be lying to him at  this late hour in the totally empty  and silent
building?  Slowly  a  consciousness of danger, of  an  unknown  but terrible
danger  took hold of Rimsky. Pretending not to notice Varenukha's  fidgeting
and  tricks  with the  newspaper,  the treasurer concentrated  on  his face,
scarcely  listening  to  what he was  saying. There was something  else that
Rimsky found even more sinister than  this slanderous and  completely  bogus
yarn about the goings-on in Pushkino, and that something was a change in the
house manager's appearance and manner.
     However hard Varenukha tried to pull down the peak of  his cap to shade
his face and however much he waved the  newspaper, Rimsky managed to discern
an enormous bruise that covered most of the right side of his face, starting
at his nose.  What  was more,  this normally ruddy-cheeked  man now  had  an
unhealthy chalky  pallor  and although  the night was hot, he was wearing an
old-fashioned  striped cravat tied round his neck. If one  added to this his
newly acquired and repulsive habit of sucking his teeth, a distinct lowering
and coarsening of  his tone of  voice  and the  furtive, shifty  look in his
eyes, it was safe to say that Ivan Savye-lich Varenukha was unrecognisable.
     Something even more insistent was worrying Rimsky, but he could not put
his finger on it however much he racked his brain or stared at Varenukha. He
was only  sure of one thing--that there was something peculiar and unnatural
in the man's posture in that familiar chair.
     'Well, finally they overpowered him and shoved him into a car,' boomed
Varenukha, peeping from under the newspaper and covering his bruise with his
     Rimsky suddenly stretched out his arm and with an apparently unthinking
gesture  of his palm pressed the button  of an electric  bell, drumming  his
fingers as he did so. His heart  sank. A loud ringing should have been heard
instantly  throughout the building --but nothing happened, and the bell-push
merely  sank  lifelessly  into the desktop. The  warning  system  was out of
     Rimsky's  cunning move  did not escape Varenukha, who scowled and  said
with a clear flicker of hostility in his look :
     'Why did you ring? '
     'Oh, I just pressed it by mistake, without thinking,' mumbled Rimsky,
pulling back his hand and asked in a shaky voice :
     'What's that on your face? '
     'The car braked suddenly and I hit myself on the door-handle,' replied
Varenukha, averting his eyes.
     'He's  lying!' said Rimsky  to himself. Suddenly  his eyes gaped with
utter horror and he pressed himself against the back of his chair.
     On the floor behind Varenukha's chair lay two intersecting shadows, one
thicker and blacker than the  other.  The shadows  cast  by the  back of the
chair and its tapering legs were clearly visible, but above  the  shadow  of
the chairback there was no shadow or' Varenukha's head, just as there was no
shadow of his feet to be seen under the chairlegs.
     'He throws no shadow! ' cried Rimsky in a silent shriek of despair. He
shuddered helplessly.
     Following  Rimsky's horrified stare Varenukha  glanced furtively  round
behind the  chairback  and  realised that  he  had been found out. He got up
(Rimsky  did the same) and took  a  pace away from the  desk,  clutching his
     'You've  guessed, damn you! You always  were clever,' said  Varenukha
smiling evilly right into  Rimsky's face.  Then he  suddenly  leaped for the
door and quickly pushed  down the  latch-button on  the lock. The  treasurer
looked  round  in desperation, retreated towards the  window that gave on to
the garden  and in that moon-flooded window he saw the face of  a naked girl
pressed to the glass,  her  bare  arm reaching through the open top pane and
trying to open the lower casement.
     It seemed to Rimsky that the light of  the  desk-lamp was going out and
that the desk itself  was tilting. A wave  of icy cold washed over him,  but
luckily for him  he  fought it  off  and did not fall. The remnants  of  his
strength were only enough for him to whisper:
     'Help . . .'
     Varenukha, guarding the door, was  jumping  up  and  down beside it. He
hissed and sucked,  signalling to the girl in the  window  and  pointing his
crooked fingers towards Rimsky.
     The  girl increased her efforts,  pushed her auburn  head  through  the
little upper pane, stretched out  her arm as  far as she could and began  to
pluck at the lower catch  with her fingernails and shake the frame. Her arm,
coloured deathly green, started  to  stretch as if it  were  made of rubber.
Finally her green cadaverous  fingers caught  the knob  of the window-catch,
turned it and the casement opened. Rimsky gave a weak  cry,  pressed himself
to  the wall and held his briefcase in front of himself  like a  shield. His
last hour, he knew, had come.
     The window  swung wide  open, but instead of the freshness of the night
and the  scent of lime-blossom the  room was flooded with the stench  of the
grave. The walking  corpse stepped on to the window-sill. Rimsky clearly saw
patches of decay on her breast.
     At that moment the sudden, joyful  sound  of a cock crowing rang out in
the garden from the low building behind the shooting gallery where they kept
the  cage  birds  used on the Variety stage. With his full-throated cry  the
tame cock was announcing the approach of dawn over Moscow from the east.
     Wild fury distorted the girl's face as she swore hoarsely and Varenukha
by the door whimpered and collapsed to the floor.
     The cock crowed again, the girl gnashed  her teeth and  her auburn hair
stood on end. At the third crow she turned and flew out. Behind her,  flying
horizontally  through  the air  like  an oversized cupid,  Varenukha floated
slowly across the desk and out of the window.
     As white as snow,  without a  black hair  left on his head, the old man
who a short while  before had been Rimsky ran to  the door, freed the  latch
and rushed down the  dark corridor. At the top of  the  staircase,  groaning
with terror he fumbled  for the switch and lit the lights on the  staircase.
The shattered, trembling  old  man  fell down on  the stairs, imagining that
Varenukha was gently bearing down on him from above.
     At the bottom Rimsky saw die night-watchman, who had fallen asleep on a
chair in  the foyer  beside  the box  office.  Rimsky tiptoed past  him  and
slipped out of the main door. Once in the street he felt slightly better. He
came  to his senses enough to realise, as he clutched his  head, that he had
left his hat in his office.
     Nothing -would have induced  him to go back for it and he  ran  panting
across  the  wide  street  to  the cinema on the opposite  corner,  where  a
solitary cab  stood on the rank. In a minute he had reached it before anyone
else could snatch it from him.
     'To the Leningrad Station--hurry  and  I'll make it worth  your while/
said the old man, breathing heavily and clutching his heart.
     'I'm only going to the garage,' replied the driver turning away with a
surly face.
     Rimsky unfastened  his  briefcase, pulled out  fifty roubles and thrust
them at the driver through the open window.
     A few moments  later the taxi, shaking  like  a leaf in  a  storm,  was
flying along  the ring boulevard. Bouncing  up and down in his  seat, Rimsky
caught occasional glimpses  of the driver's delighted expression and his own
wild look in the mirror.
     Jumping out of the car at the station, Rimsky shouted  to the first man
he saw, who was wearing a white apron and a numbered metal disc :
     'First class single--here's thirty roubles,' he said as he fumbled for
the  money in his briefcase. ' If  there aren't any seats left in the  first
I'll take second ... if  there aren't  any in  the second,  get me  " Hard "
class! '
     Glancing round at the illuminated clock the man with the apron snatched
the money from Rimsky's hand.
     Five minutes later the express  pulled  out of the glass-roofed station
and steamed into the dark. With it vanished Rimsky.

     It is not hard to guess that the  fat man with the  purple face who was
put into room No. 119 at the clinic was Nikanor Ivanovich Bosoi.
     He had not, however, been put into Professor Stravinsky's care at once,
but  had first spent some  time in another place, of which he could remember
little except a desk, a cupboard and a sofa.
     There some  men had  questioned Nikanor  Ivanovich,  but since his eyes
were  clouded by a flux of blood and extreme  mental anguish,  the interview
was muddled and inconclusive.
     'Are you Nikanor Ivanovich Bosoi,' they began, ' chairman of the house
committee of No. 302a, Sadovaya Street? '
     Nikanor Ivanovich gave a wild peal of laughter and replied:
     'Of course I'm Nikanor! But why call me chairman? '
     'What do you mean? ' they asked, frowning.
     'Well,' he replied,' if I'm a chairman I would have seen at  once that
he was an  evil  spirit, wouldn't I? I should have realised,  what with  his
shaky   pince-nez,  his  tattered  clothes--how  could   he   have  been  an
interpreter? '
     'Who are you talking about? '
     'Koroviev! ' cried  Nikanor Ivanovich. '  The man who's moved into No.
50. Write it  down--Koroviev!  You must  find him  and arrest him  at  once.
Staircase 6--write it down--that's where you'll find him.'
     'Where  did  you   get  the  foreign  currency  from?  '  they  asked
     'As almighty God's my  witness,'  said  Nikanor  Ivanovich, ' I  never
touched any and I never even suspected that  it was  foreign money. God will
punish me for my  sin,' Nikanor Ivanovich went on feelingly, unbuttoning his
shirt, buttoning it  up  again and crossing  himself.  ' I took the money--I
admit  that--but  it was Soviet money. I  even signed a receipt for it.  Our
secretary Prolezhnov is just as bad--frankly  we're all thieves in our house
committee. . . . But I never took any foreign money.'
     On being told to stop playing the fool and to tell them how the dollars
found  their way  into his ventilation  shaft, Nikanor Ivanovich fell on his
knees and rocked backwards and forwards with  his mouth  wide open as though
he were trying to swallow the wooden parquet blocks.
     'I'll do anything  you like,' he groaned, ' that'll make you believe I
didn't take the stuff. That Koroviev's nothing less than a devil!'
     Everyone's patience has its limit; voices were raised behind  the  desk
and  Nikanor  Ivanovich  was  told  that  it  was  time he  stopped  talking
     Suddenly the room was filled with  a savage roar from Nikanor Ivanovich
as he jumped up from his knees:
     'There he is! There--behind the cupboard! There--look at him grinning!
And his pince-nez . . . Stop him! Arrest him! Surround the building! '
     The blood drained from Nikanor Ivanovich's face. Trembling, he made the
sign of the  cross in the air, fled for the door, then back again, intoned a
prayer and then relapsed into complete delirium.
     It   was  plain  that  Nikanor   Ivanovich  was  incapable  of  talking
rationally.  He was  removed and put  in  a room by himself, where he calmed
down slightly and only prayed and sobbed.
     Men  were sent  to the house on Sadovaya Street  and inspected flat No.
50, but they found no Koroviev  and no one  in the building who had seen him
or  heard of him. The flat belonging to Berlioz and Likhodeyev was empty and
the wax seals, quite intact,  hung on all  the cupboards  and drawers in the
study.  The  men left the  building,  taking  with  them the  bewildered and
crushed Prolezhnev, secretary of the house committee.
     That evening Nikanor Ivanovich was  delivered to  Stravinsky's  clinic.
There  he behaved so violently that he had to be  given one  of Stravinsky's
special injections and it  was midnight before Nikanor Ivanovich tell asleep
in room No. 119, uttering an occasional deep, tormented groan.
     But  the longer he  slept  the calmer  he  grew. He stopped tossing and
moaning, his breathing grew light and even,  until finally  the doctors left
him alone.
     Nikanor Ivanovich then had a dream, which was undoubtedly influenced by
his recent  experiences.  It began  with  some  men carrying golden trumpets
leading  him, with great  solemnity, to a pair of huge painted doors,  where
his companions blew  a  fanfare in  Nikanor Ivanovich's honour.  Then a bass
voice boomed at him from the sky :
     'Welcome, Nikanor Ivanovich! Hand over your foreign currency! ' Amazed
beyond  words, Nikanor Ivanovich saw in  front of  him a black  loudspeaker.
Soon he found himself  in an  auditorium lit by crystal candelabra beneath a
gilded ceiling and by sconces on the walls. Everything resembled a small but
luxurious theatre.  There was a stage, closed by a velvet curtain whose dark
cerise background  was  strewn with enlargements of  gold ten-rouble pieces;
there was a prompter's box and even an audience.
     Nikanor Ivanovich  was surprised to  notice  that the  audience  was an
all-male one  and  that its  members all wore beards. An odd feature  of the
auditorium was that it had no seats  and  the entire assembly was sitting on
the beautifully polished and extremely slippery floor.
     Embarrassed  at finding himself in  this large and unexpected  company,
after some hesitation Nikanor Ivanovich followed the general example and sat
down Turkish-fashion  on  the  parquet,  wedging  himself  between  a  stout
redbeard and a pale and extremely hirsute citizen. None of the audience paid
any attention to the newcomer.
     There came the gentle sound  of a bell, the house-lights  went out, the
curtains parted and revealed  a lighted stage set with an armchair,  a small
table on which was a little golden bell, and a heavy black velvet backdrop.
     On to the stage came an actor, dinner-jacketed, clean-shaven, his  hair
parted in the  middle above a young, charming face. The audience grew lively
and  everybody  turned to  look  at the  stage. The  actor  advanced to  the
footlights and rubbed his hands.
     'Are you sitting down? ' he enquired in a soft  baritone and smiled at
the audience.
     'We are, we are,' chorused the tenors and basses.
     'H'mm . . .' said  the actor thoughtfully, ' I realise, of course, how
bored  you  must be. Everybody else is out of  doors now, enjoying  the warm
spring  sunshine, while  you  have  to squat on the  floor  in  this  stuffy
auditorium. Is the  programme  really  worth while?  Ah  well,  chacun a son
gout,' said the actor philosophically.
     At this he changed the tone of his voice and announced gaily :
     'And  the next number  on our programme is--Nikanor Ivanovich  Bosoi,
tenants'  committee chairman and manager of a diabetic  restaurant. This way
please, Nikanor Ivanovich! '
     At the  sound of the friendly applause which greeted his name,  Nikanor
Ivanovich's  eyes bulged with astonishment and the compere, shading his eyes
against the  glare of  the footlights, located  him among the  audience  and
beckoned  him  to  the stage. Without  knowing  how, Nikanor Ivanovich found
himself on stage. His eyes were dazzled from above and below by the glare of
coloured lighting which blotted out the audience from his sight.
     'Now  Nikanor  Ivanovich, set  us an example,' said  the  young  actor
gently and confidingly, ' and hand over your foreign currency.'
     Silence. Nikanor Ivanovich took a deep breath and said in a low voice :
' I swear to God, I . . .'
     Before  he  could finish, the whole audience had  burst into  shouts of
disapproval. Nikanor Ivanovich  relapsed into uncomfortable  silence. ' Am I
right,' said the compere, ' in thinking that you were about to  swear by God
that  you had no  foreign currency?' He gave Nikanov Ivanovich a sympathetic
     'That's right. I haven't any.'
     'I see,' said the actor.  ' But ... if you'll forgive the indelicacy .
. . where did those four hundred  dollars  come from that were  found in the
lavatory of your flat, of which you and your wife are the sole occupants? '
     'They were  magic ones! ' said a sarcastic voice somewhere in the dark
     'That's right, they were  magic ones,' said Nikanor Ivanovich timidly,
addressing  no  one  in  particular but adding :  '  an  evil  spirit,  that
interpreter in a check suit planted them on me.'
     Again the audience roared in protest. When calm was restored, the actor
     'This  is  better  than  Lafontaine's fables!  Planted  four  hundred
dollars!  Listen,  you're all  in the currency  racket--I ask  you  now,  as
experts : is that possible? '
     'We're not currency racketeers,' cried a  number  of offended  voices
from the audience, ' but it's impossible! '
     'I entirely agree,' said the actor firmly, ' and  now I'd  like to ask
you : what sort of things do people plant on other people? '
     'Babies! ' cried someone at the back.
     'Quite  right,'  agreed  the  compere.  ' Babies,  anonymous letters,
manifestos, time bombs and God knows what else,  but no one would ever plant
four  hundred dollars on a  person because  there just  isn't anyone idiotic
enough  to try.' Turning  to  Nikanor Ivanovich  the artist  added sadly and
reproachfully: ' You've disappointed me, Nikanor Ivanovich. I was relying on
you. Well, that number was a flop, I'm afraid.'
     The audience began to boo Nikanor Ivanovich.
     'He's in the currency  black market all right,' came a  shout from the
crowd, ' and innocent people like us have to suffer  because of the likes of
     'Don't  shout at  him,'  said the compere  gently.  '  He'll repent.'
Turning his blue eyes, brimming  with tears,  towards Nikanor Ivanovich,  he
said : ' Go back to your place Nikanor Ivanovich.'
     After this the actor rang the bell and loudly announced:
     'Interval! '
     Shattered by  his involuntary debut in  the theatre, Nikanor  Ivanovich
found  himself back at his  place  on the floor. Then he began dreaming that
the auditorium was plunged into  total  darkness  and fiery red words leaped
out from the walls ' Hand over all foreign cirrency! '
     After a while the curtains opened again and the compere announced:
     'Sergei Gerardovich Dunchill on stage, please! '
     Dunchill was a good-looking though very stout man of about fifty.
     'Sergei Gerardovich,' the compere  addressed  him,  ' you  have  been
sitting here for six  weeks  now, firmly refusing to give up  your remaining
foreign currency, at a time when your country  has desperate need of it. You
are extremely  obstinate. You're an intelligent man, you understand all this
perfectly well, yet you refuse to come forward.'
     'I'm  sorry,  but  how  can  I,  when I  have  no more currency? ' was
Dunchill's calm reply.
     'Not even any diamonds, perhaps? ' asked the actor.
     'No diamonds either.'
     The  actor  hung his  head, reflected for  a moment,  then  clapped his
hands.  From  the wings emerged a fashionably dressed middle-aged woman. The
woman  looked worried as Dunchill stared  at her without the flicker  of  an
     'Who is this lady? ' the compere enquired of Dunchill.
     'She is my wife,' replied Dunchill with dignity, looking  at the woman
with a faint expression of repugnance.
     'We  regret  the inconvenience to  you,  madame  Dunchill,' said  the
compere, ' but we have invited you here to ask  you whether your husband has
surrendered all his foreign currency? '
     'He handed  it all in when he  was told to,' replied  madame  Dunchill
     'I see,' said the actor, ' well, if you say so, it must be true. If he
really has handed  it  all in, we must regretfully deprive ourselves  of the
pleasure  of Sergei Gerardovich's company. You may  leave the theatre if you
wish, Sergei Gerardovich,' announced the compere with a regal gesture.
     Calmly and with dignity Dunchill turned and walked towards the wings.
     'Just a minute! ' The compere stopped him. ' Before you go just let me
show you one more number from our programme.' Again he clapped his hands.
     The dark backdrop parted and  a beautiful young  woman  in a ball  gown
stepped  on stage. She  was holding  a golden salver on  which lay  a  thick
parcel  tied with coloured ribbon, and  round  her neck  she  wore a diamond
necklace that flashed blue, yellow and red fire.
     Dunchill took a  step  back and  his face turned pale. Complete silence
gripped the audience.
     'Eighteen  thousand dollars and  a necklace worth forty thousand gold
roubles,' the compere solemnly  announced, ' belonging to Sergei Gerardovich
and kept  for him in Kharkov in the flat of his  mistress,  Ida Herkulanovna
Vors, whom you have the pleasure of seeing before you now and who has kindly
consented  to help in displaying  these treasures  which, priceless as  they
are, are useless in private hands. Thank you very much, Ida Herkulanovna.'
     The beauty flashed her teeth and fluttered her long eyelashes. ' And as
for  you,' the  actor said to  Dunchill, '  we  now  know that  beneath that
dignified mask lurks a vicious spider, a liar and a disgrace to our society.
For six weeks you have worn us all  out with your stupid obstinacy. Go  home
now  and  may  the  hell which  your  wife  is  preparing  for  you be  your
     Dunchill staggered and was about to collapse when a sympathetic pair of
arms supported him. The curtain then fell and bid the occupants of the stage
from sight.
     Furious applause shook  the auditorium  until Nikanor Ivanovich thought
the lamps were going  to jump out  of the  candelabra. When the curtain rose
again there  was  no one on  stage except the  actor.  To  another salvo  of
applause he bowed and said :
     'We have just shown you a typically  stubborn case.  Only yesterday I
was saying how senseless it was to try and conceal a secret hoard of foreign
currency. No one who has one can make use of  it. Take Dunchill for example.
He is well paid and  never short of anything. He has a splendid flat, a wife
and a beautiful mistress. Yet instead of  acting  like a law-abiding citizen
and handing in his  currency and jewellery, all that this incorrigible rogue
has  achieved is  public exposure and a family scandal. So who wants to hand
in his currency? Nobody? In that case, the next number on our programme will
be  that famous actor Savva  Potapovich Kurolesov  in  excerpts from  "  The
Covetous Knight" by the poet Pushkin.'
     Kurolesov entered, a tall, fleshy, clean-shaven  man in tails and white
tie. Without a word of introduction he scowled, frowned and began, squinting
at the golden bell, to recite in an unnatural voice :
     'Hastening to meet Ills courtesan, the young gallant. . .'
     Kurolesov's  recital  described a  tale  of  evil. He confessed how  an
unhappy widow had knelt weeping before him in the rain, but the actor's hard
heart had remained untouched.
     Until  this dream,  Nikanor  Ivanovich  knew nothing  of  the  works of
Pushkin, although he knew his name well enough and almost every day he  used
to make  remarks like  '  Who's going  to pay the  rent--Pushkin? ',  or ' I
suppose Pushkin stole the light bulb on the staircase', or ' Who's  going to
buy the fuel-oil for  the boilers--Pushkin, I suppose? ' Now as he  listened
to one of Pushkin's dramatic poems for the first time Nikanor Ivanovich felt
miserable, imagining the woman on  her knees in the rain  with her  orphaned
children and he could  not help thinking what a beast this fellow  Kurolesov
must be.
     The  actor  himself,  his  voice  constantly  rising,  poured  out  his
repentance and finally he completely muddled Nikanor Ivanovich by talking to
someone who wasn't on the stage at all, then answered for the invisible man,
all the time calling himself first  ' king ', then  ' baron ', then ' father
',  then '  son  '  until the  confusion was  total.  Nikanor Ivanovich only
managed to  understand that the actor  died a  horrible death shouting  ' My
keys!  My  keys! ',  at which he  fell croaking  to the ground, having first
taken care to pull off his white tie.
     Having died,  Kurolesov  got up, brushed  the  dust from his  trousers,
bowed, smiled an  insincere  smile and walked off  to  faint  applause.  The
compere then said :
     'In Sawa Potapovich's masterly  interpretation we have just  heard the
story of " The Covetous Knight". That knight saw himself as  a Casanova; but
as you saw, nothing came of his efforts, no nymphs threw themselves  at him,
the  muses refused  him  their  tribute, he built  no palaces and instead he
finished miserably  after an attack on his hoard of money and jewels. I warn
you that something of the kind  will happen to you, if not worse, unless you
hand over your foreign currency! '
     It may have  been  Pushkin's  verse  or  it may have been the compere's
prosaic remarks  which had  such an effect; at all  events a timid voice was
heard from the audience :
     'I'll hand over my currency.'
     'Please  come up on stage,' was the compere's welcoming response as he
peered into the dark auditorium.
     A short blond man, three weeks unshaven, appeared on stage.
     'What is your name, please? ' enquired the compere.
     'Nikolai Kanavkin ' was the shy answer.
     'Ah! Delighted, citizen Kanavkin. Well? '
     'I'll hand it over.'
     'How much? '
     'A thousand dollars and twenty gold ten-rouble pieces.'
     'Bravo! Is that all you have? '
     The compere  stared straight into  Kanavkin's  eyes  and it  seemed  to
Nikanor Ivanovich that those eyes  emitted rays  which  saw through Kanavkin
like X-rays. The audience held its breath.
     'I believe you! ' cried the actor at last and extinguished his gaze. '
I believe you! Those eyes are not lying! How many
     times have  I said that your fundamental error is to underestimate  the
significance  of  the human  eye. The tongue  may  hide  the  truth  but the
eyes--never! If somebody springs a question  you may not even  flinch ; in a
second you  are in control of yourself and you know what to say in  order to
conceal the truth. You can be very convincing and not a wrinkle will flicker
in your expression, but alas! The truth will start forth in a flash from the
depths of your soul to your eyes and the game's up! You're caught!'
     Having  made this highly  persuasive speech, the  actor  politely asked
     'Where are they hidden? '
     'At my aunt's, in Prechistenka.'
     'Ah! That  will  be ... wait  . . .  yes,  that's  Claudia Ilyinishna
Porokhovnikova, isn't it? ' ' Yes.'
     'Yes, yes,  of course.  A little bungalow, isn't it?  Opposite a high
fence? Of course, I know it. And where have you put them? '
     'In a box in the cellar.'
     The actor clasped his hands.
     'Oh, no! Really! ' he cried  angrily.  ' Its  so damp  there-- they'll
grow  mouldy!  People like  that aren't  to  be  trusted  with  money!  What
child-like innocence. What will they do next?'
     Kanavkin, realising that he was doubly at fault, hung his curly head.
     'Money,' the actor went on, ' should be kept in the State Bank, in dry
and specially  guarded  strongrooms, but  never  in your aunt's cellar where
apart  from anything else, the rats may  get  at it. Really,  Kanavkin,  you
should be ashamed : you--a grown man! '
     Kanavkin did not know which way to look and could only twist the hem of
his jacket with his finger.
     'All right,'  the artist relented  slightly, ' since you have owned up
we'll be lenient.  . .' Suddenly he added unexpectedly :  ' By the way . . .
we might as well kill two birds  with one stone and  not waste a car journey
... I expect your aunt has some of her own hidden away, hasn't she? '
     Not expecting the conversation to take this turn, Kanavkin gave a start
and silence settled again on the audience.
     'Ah, now, Kanavkin,' said the compere  in a tone of kindly reproach, '
I was just going to say  what  a good boy you were I  And now you have to go
and upset  it all! That  wasn't very clever, Kanavkin! Remember  what I said
just now about  your eyes? Well, I can see from your eyes that your aunt has
something hidden. Come on--don't tantalise us! '
     'Yes, she has! ' shouted Kanavkin boldly.
     'Bravo! ' cried the compere.
     'Bravo! ' roared the audience.
     When the noise had died  down the compere congratulated Kanavkin, shook
him by the hand, offered him a car to take  him home and ordered somebody in
the wings to go and see the aunt in the same car and invite her to appear in
the ladies' section of the programme.
     'Oh yes, I nearly forgot to ask you--did your aunt tell you where she
has hidden hers? ' enquired the compere, offering Kanavkin a cigarette and a
lighted  match. His cigarette lit, the wretched man gave  an apologetic sort
of grin.
     'Of  course, I believe you. You don't know,'  said  the  actor with a
sigh.  ' I suppose the old skinflint wouldn't tell  her  nephew. Ah well, we
shall just have to try and appeal to her better nature. Perhaps we can still
touch a chord in her miserly old heart. Goodbye, Kanavkin--and good luck! '
     Kanavkin departed relieved and happy.  The  actor then enquired whether
anyone else wished  to  surrender  his foreign  currency,  but there  was no
     'Funny, I must say!  ' said the compere with a shrug of his shoulders
and the curtain fell.
     The lights went out, there was darkness for a while, broken only by the
sound of a quavering tenor voice singing :
     'Heaps of gold--and mine, all mine ...'
     After a  burst of applause,  Nikanor  Ivanovich's red-bearded neighbour
suddenly announced :
     'There's  bound to be a  confession  or two in the ladies' programme.'
Then with  a sigh he added: ' oh, if only they don't get  my geese! I have a
flock of geese at  Lianozov, you  see. They're savage birds, but  I'm afraid
they'll die if I'm not there. They need a lot of looking after . . . Oh,  if
only they don't  take my geese! They don't impress me by quoting Pushkin . .
.' and he sighed again.
     The auditorium was suddenly flooded with  light  and  Nikanor Ivanovich
began dreaming that  a gang of cooks  started  pouring through all the doors
into the  auditorium. They wore white  chef's hats, carried ladles and  they
dragged into the theatre a vat  full of  soup  and a  tray of  sliced  black
bread. The audience livened up as the cheerful cooks  pushed their way  down
the aisle pouring the soup into bowls and handing out bread.
     'Eat up,  lads,' shouted the cooks, ' and hand over your currency! Why
waste your time sitting here? Own up and you can all go home! '
     'What  are you doing here,  old  man?' said a fat, red-necked  cook to
Nikanor Ivanovich  as he handed him a bowl of soup with a  lone cabbage leaf
floating in it.
     'I haven't got any! I haven't, I swear it,' shouted Nikanor Ivanovich
in a terrified voice.
     'Haven't you? ' growled the cook in a fierce bass. ' Haven't you? ' he
enquired in  a  feminine  soprano. ' No, I'm sure you  haven't,' he muttered
gently as he turned into the nurse Praskovya Fyodorovna.
     She gently shook Nikanor Ivanovich by the shoulder as he groaned in his
sleep. Cooks, theatre, curtain and stage dissolved. Through the tears in his
eyes Nikanor Ivanovich  stared round at his hospital room  and at two men in
white overalls. They turned out not to be cooks but doctors, standing beside
Praskovya Fyodorovna who instead of a soup-bowl was  holding a gauze-covered
white enamelled dish containing a hypodermic syringe.
     'What are you doing? '  said Nikanor  Ivanovich bitterly  as they gave
him an injection. ' I haven't any I tell you! Why doesn't Pushkin hand  over
his foreign currency? I haven't got any! '
     'No, of course you haven't,' said  kind Praskovya Fyodorovna, ' and no
one is going to take you to court, so you can forget it and relax.'
     After  Ms  injection  Nikanor  Ivanovich  calmed  down  and fell into a
dreamless sleep.
     His  unrest,  however, had  communicated itself to  No. 120  where  the
patient woke  up and began  looking for his head; No. 118 where the nameless
master wrung his hands as he gazed at the moon, remembering that last bitter
autumn night, the patch of light  under  the  door in his  basement  and the
girl's hair blown loose.
     The anxiety  from No. 118 flew along  the balcony to Ivan, who  woke up
and burst into tears.
     The  doctor soon calmed all his distraught patients and  they went back
to sleep.  Last of all was  Ivan, who only dozed off as  dawn began to break
over  the  river.  As the  sedative spread  through his  body,  tranquillity
covered him like a slow wave. His body relaxed and  his head was filled with
the  warm breeze of slumber.  As he fell asleep the last thing that he heard
was the  dawn chorus of  birds in the wood. But they were soon  silent again
and he began dreaming  that the sun had already set over Mount  Golgotha and
that the hill was ringed by a double cordon. ...

     The sun  had already set over Mount Golgotha and the hill was ringed by
a double cordon.
     The  cavalry ala that had held up the  Procurator that morning had left
the  city  at  a  trot by  the Hebron Gate, its  route  cleared ahead of it.
Infantrymen of the Cappadocian cohort pressed back a  crowd of people, mules
and camels, and  the ala, throwing up pillars of white dust, trotted towards
the  crossroads  where  two ways met--one southward to Bethlehem, the  other
northwestward  to Jaffa.  The ala took the north-westward route. More of the
Cappadocians had been posted along the edge of the road in time to clear the
route of all  the  caravans moving  into Jerusalem for  Passover. Crowds  of
pilgrims stood behind the line of troops,  leaving  the temporary shelter of
their  tents pitched on the grass. After  about a kilometre the ala overtook
the  second  cohort  of the  Lightning  legion  and  having  gone  a further
kilometre arrived  first  at the foot of Mount Golgotha. There the commander
hastily  divided  the ala into  troops and cordoned off  the base of the low
hill, leaving only a small gap where a path led from the  Jaffa road  to the
     After a while the second cohort arrived, climbed up and  formed another
cordon round the hill.
     Last on the scene was the century under the command of Mark Muribellum.
It marched in two single files, one along each edge of the road, and between
them, escorted by  a secret service  detachment, drove the cart carrying the
three prisoners.  Each wore a white board hung round his neck  on which were
written the words  ' Robber  &  Rebel'  in  Aramaic  and  Greek. Behind  the
prisoners'  cart   came  others,   loaded   with  freshly  sawn  posts   and
cross-pieces,  ropes,  spades, buckets  and  axes.  They  also  carried  six
executioners. Last in the convoy rode Mark the centurion, the captain of the
temple guard and the same hooded man  with whom Pilate had briefly conferred
in a darkened room of the palace.
     Although the  procession  was  completely enclosed by  troops,  it  was
followed by  about two thousand curious sightseers determined to watch  this
interesting spectacle  despite the infernal  heat. These spectators from the
city were now being joined by crowds of pilgrims, who were allowed to follow
the tail of the  procession unhindered, as it  made  its way  towards  Mount
Golgotha  to  the  bark  of  the heralds' voices as  they repeated  Pilate's
     The ala allowed  them through as  far  as the second cordon,  where the
century admitted  only those concerned  with the execution and  then, with a
brisk manoeuvre, spread the crowd round the hill between the  mounted cordon
below and the upper ring formed by  the infantry, allowing the spectators to
watch the execution through a thin line of soldiery.
     More than three hours had gone by since the procession had  reached the
hill and although the sun over Mount Golgotha had already begun its descent,
the heat was still unbearable.  The troops  in both  cordons were  suffering
from it; stupefied with boredom, they cursed the three robbers and sincerely
wished them a quick death.
     At the gap in the lower cordon the diminutive commander of the ala, his
forehead damp  and  his white  tunic  soaked  with  the sweat of  his  back,
occasionally walked over to  the  leather bucket in No.  I.  Troop's  lines,
scooped up the water in  handfuls, drank and moistened his turban. With this
slight relief  from the heat he  would return and  recommence pacing up  and
down  the dusty  path leading to the top. His long sword bumped against  his
laced leather  boot. As commander he had  to  set an example of endurance to
his men, but he considerately  allowed them  to  stick their lances into the
ground and drape their white cloaks over the tops of the shafts. The Syrians
then  sheltered  from  the  pitiless  sun under these  makeshift tents.  The
buckets emptied quickly and a rota of  troopers was kept busy fetching water
from  a ravine  at the foot of the hill, where a muddy stream flowed  in the
shade of a clump of  gaunt  mulberry trees. There, making the  most  of  the
inadequate shade, the bored grooms lounged beside the horse-lines.
     The  troops  were exhausted  and their resentment of  the  victims  was
understandable.  Fortunately,  however, Pilate's fears that  disorders might
occur in Jerusalem  during the  execution were unjustified. When  the fourth
hour of the execution had passed, against all expectation not a man remained
between the  two  cordons. The sun had scorched the crowd and driven it back
to Jerusalem. Beyond the ring formed by the  two Roman  centuries there were
only a couple of  stray dogs. The heat had exhausted  them too  and they lay
panting with their tongues out,  too weary  even  to chase the  green-backed
lizards,  the only  creatures unafraid of the sun, which  darted between the
broken stones and the spiny, ground-creeping cactus plants.
     No one  had tried to attack the prisoners, neither in Jerusalem,  which
was packed with troops, nor on the cordoned hill. The crowd had drifted back
into  town,  bored  by  this  dull  execution  and  eager  to  join  in  the
preparations for the feast which were already under way in the city.
     The  Roman infantry forming  the second  tier  was  suffering even more
acutely than  the cavalrymen. Centurion  Muribellum's only concession to his
men  was to allow them to take  off their helmets and put on white headbands
soaked in  water, but he kept  them standing,  lance  in hand. The centurion
himself,  also wearing  a  headband though a dry one, walked up and  down  a
short distance from  a group of executioners without even removing his heavy
silver badges of rank, his sword or his dagger. The sun  beat  straight down
on the centurion  without causing  him the least distress  and such was  the
glitter  from  the  silver of his lions' muzzles that a glance  at them  was
almost blinding.
     Muribellum's disfigured face showed  neither exhaustion nor displeasure
and the  giant centurion seemed  strong enough to  keep pacing all  day, all
night and all the next day. For as long as might be necessary he would go on
walking with his  hands on his heavy bronze-studded  belt, he would keep his
stern gaze either on the crucified victims or on the line of troops, or just
kick  at the rubble  on  the  ground  with  the toe of  his rough hide boot,
indifferent to whether it was a whitened human bone or a small flint.
     The hooded  man had placed  himself  a short way from the  gibbets on a
three-legged stool and  sat in calm immobility, occasionally poking the sand
with a stick out of boredom.
     It  was  not quite true that no one was left of  the crowd  between the
cordons. There  was  one man, but he was partly  hidden. He was not near the
path, which was the best place from  which to see the  execution, but on the
northern  side,  where the hill was  not smooth and passable but  rough  and
jagged with gulleys  and  fissures,  at a  spot  where  a  sickly  fig  tree
struggled to keep alive on that arid soil by rooting itself in a crevice.
     Although the fig tree gave no shade, this sole remaining spectator  had
been sitting  beneath it on a stone  since the  very start  of the execution
four  hours before.  He had chosen the worst  place to  watch the execution,
although he had  a direct view  of the gibbets  and could even  see  the two
glittering  badges  on  the  centurion's  chest.  His  vantage  point seemed
adequate, however, for a man who seemed anxious to remain out of sight.
     Yet four hours ago  this man had behaved quite differently and had made
himself all too conspicuous,  which was probably the  reason why he  had now
changed his tactics  and  withdrawn  to  solitude.  When the procession  had
reached the top of the hill he had been the first of the crowd to appear and
he had shown all the signs of a man arriving late. He had run panting up the
hill,  pushing people aside,  and  when halted by the  cordon he  had made a
naive attempt, by pretending not to understand  their angry shouts, to break
through the line of  soldiers and reach  the  place of execution  where  the
prisoners were  already  being led  off the cart.  For this he  had earned a
savage  blow on the  chest with the blunt end of  a lance  and had staggered
back with  a cry, not of pain but of despair. He had stared at the legionary
who had  hit him  with  the bleary, indifferent look of  a man past  feeling
physical pain.
     Gasping  and clutching his chest he had  run round to the northern side
of the hill, trying to find a gap in the cordon where he might slip through.
But it  was too  late,  the  chain had been  closed. And the  man, his  face
contorted  with  grief, had had to give up trying  to break  through to  the
carts,  from  which men were  unloading  the gibbet-posts.  Any such attempt
would have led to his arrest and as his  plans  for that day did not include
being arrested, he had hidden himself  in the  crevice  where he could watch
     Now as he sat on his stone, his eyes festering from heat, dust and lack
of sleep, the black-bearded man felt miserable. First he would sigh, opening
his travel-worn tallith, once blue but  now turned dirty grey, and bare  his
sweating,  bruised chest,  then  he  would raise  his  eyes  to the  sky  in
inexpressible agony, following the three vultures who had long been circling
the hilltop in expectation of a feast, then gaze  hopelessly  at  the yellow
soil where he stared at the half-crushed skull of a dog and the lizards that
scurried around it.
     The man  was in  such distress  that now  and  again he  would  talk to
     'Oh, I am a fool,' he mumbled, rocking back and forth in agony of soul
and scratching his swarthy chest. ' I'm a  fool,  as stupid  as a woman--and
I'm a coward! I'm a lump of carrion, not a man I '
     He hung  his head in silence,  then revived by  a drink of  tepid water
from  his  wooden flask he gripped  the  knife  hidden under his  tallith or
fingered the piece of  parchment lying  on a stone  in front of  him  with a
stylus and a bladder of ink.
     On the parchment were some scribbled notes :
     'Minutes pass while I, Matthew the Levite, sit here  on Mount Golgotha
and still he is not dead!'
     'The sun is setting  and death not yet come.' Hopelessly, Matthew  now
wrote with his sharp stylus :
     'God! Why are you angry with him? Send him death.'
     Having written  this, he  gave a tearless  sob and  again scratched his
     The cause  of  the Levite's despair was his own and  Yeshua's  terrible
failure. He was also tortured by  the fatal mistake  which he,  Matthew, had
committed.  Two days  before, Yeshua and Matthew had  been in Bethphagy near
Jerusalem, where they had been staying with a market gardener who had  taken
pleasure in  Yeshua's preaching.  All that  morning  the two  men had helped
their host at  work in his garden, intending to walk on  to Jerusalem in the
cool of the evening. But for some reason  Yeshua had been in a hurry, saying
that he had something urgent to do in the city, and  had  set  off alone  at
noon. That was Matthew the Levite's first mistake. Why,  why had he  let him
go alone?
     That evening  Matthew had  been unable  to  go to  Jerusalem, as he had
suffered a  sudden and unexpected  attack of sickness. He shivered, his body
felt as if it were on fire and he constantly begged for water.
     To go anywhere was out of the question. He had collapsed on to a rug in
the gardener's  courtyard and had lain  there until dawn on Friday, when the
sickness left Matthew as suddenly as it had struck him. Although still weak,
he  had  felt  oppressed  by a foreboding  of disaster  and bidding his host
farewell had set out for Jerusalem. There he had learned that his foreboding
had not deceived him and that the disaster had occurred. The Levite had been
in the crowd that had heard the Procurator pronounce sentence.
     When  the prisoners  were  taken away  to Mount  Golgotha,  Matthew the
Levite ran alongside the escort amid the crowd of sightseers, trying to give
Yeshua an inconspicuous signal that at  least he, the Levite,  was here with
him, that he had  not  abandoned him on  his  last journey and  that  he was
praying for  Yeshua  to be  granted  a quick death.  But Yeshua, staring far
ahead to where they were taking him, could not see Matthew.
     Then,  when the procession had  covered  half a  mile or so of the way,
Matthew, who  was being pushed  along by the crowd level with the prisoners'
cart, was struck by a  brilliant  and simple idea. In his fervour  he cursed
himself  for not having thought of it before. The soldiers were not marching
in close order, but with a  gap  between each man. With great  dexterity and
very  careful timing it would be possible to bend down  and jump between two
legionaries, reach the cart and  jump on it. Then Yeshua would be saved from
an agonising death. A moment would be enough to stab Yeshua in the back with
a knife,  having  shouted to him: ' Yeshua! I shall save you and depart with
you! I, Matthew, your faithful and only disciple!'
     And if God were  to bless him with one more moment  of freedom he could
stab himself as well and avoid a death on the gallows. Not that Matthew, the
erstwhile tax-collector,  cared  much  how  he  died:  he  wanted  only  one
thing--that Yeshua, who had never done  anyone  the least harm  in his life,
should be spared the torture of crucifixion.
     The plan was a very good one, but it  had a great flaw--the  Levite had
no knife and no money.
     Furious with himself, Matthew pushed his way out of  the  crowd and ran
back to the city. His head burned with the single thought of how he might at
once, by whatever means,  find  a knife  somewhere in town and then catch up
with the procession again.
     He ran as far as the city gate, slipping through the crowd of pilgrims'
caravans pouring into town,  and  saw on his left the open door of a baker's
shop. Breathless from running on  the hot road,  the  Levite pulled  himself
together,  entered the shop very sedately, greeted the baker's wife standing
behind the counter,  asked  her  for  a  loaf  from the top  shelf  which he
affected to  prefer to all the rest and as she turned round, he silently and
quickly snatched off the counter the very  thing he had been looking  for--a
long, ra2or-sharp breadknife--and fled from the shop.
     A few minutes later  he  was back on the Jaffa road, but the procession
was out of sight. He ran. Once or twice he had to drop and lie motionless to
regain his breath,  to  the astonishment of all  the  passers-by making  for
Jerusalem on  mule-back or on foot. As he lay he could hear the beat of  his
heart in  his chest, in his head and his ears. Rested, he stood up and began
running again, although his  pace  grew slower  and slower.  When he finally
caught sight again of the long, dusty procession, it had already reached the
foot of the hill.
     'Oh, God! ' groaned the Levite. He knew he was too late.
     With the passing of the fourth hour of the execution Matthew's torments
reached their climax and drove  him to a  frenzy.  Rising from his stone, he
hurled the stolen knife to the ground, crushed his flask with his foot, thus
depriving himself  of water, snatched  the  kefiyeh from his  head, tore his
flowing  hair  and  cursed  himself. As he  cursed  in streams of gibberish,
bellowed  and spat, Matthew slandered his father and  mother  for  begetting
such a fool.
     Since cursing and swearing had no apparent effect  at  all and  changed
nothing in  that sun-scorched inferno, he clenched his  dry fists and raised
them heavenwards to  the sun as it slowly descended, lengthening the shadows
before setting into the Mediterranean. The Levite  begged  God  to perform a
miracle and allow Yeshua to die.
     When he opened his eyes again nothing on  the hill  had changed, except
that the light no longer flashed from the badges  on the  centurion's chest.
The sun was  shining on the victims' backs, as their faces were turned  east
towards Jerusalem. Then the Levite cried out:
     'I curse you. God! '
     In a  hoarse  voice he shouted  that God  was unjust and that he  would
believe in him no more.
     'You are deaf! ' roared Matthew. ' If you were not deaf you would have
heard me and killed him in the instant!'
     His eyes tight shut, the Levite waited for the fire to strike  him from
heaven. Nothing happened. Without opening his eyes, he vented his spite in a
torrent  of insults  to heaven. He  shouted  that his faith was ruined, that
there were other gods and better. No other god would have allowed a man like
Yeshua to be scorched to death on a pole.
     'No--I was wrong! ' screamed the Levite, now quite hoarse. ' You are a
God of evil! Or have your eyes been blinded by the smoke  of sacrifices from
the temple and have your ears grown deaf to everything but the trumpet-calls
of the priests? You are not an almighty  God--you  are an evil God!  I curse
you. God of robbers, their patron and protector! '
     At that  moment  there  was a  puff  of  air in  his face and something
rustled under his feet. Then came another puff and as he opened his eyes the
Levite saw that everything, either  as a result of his  imprecations or from
some other cause, had changed. The sun had been swallowed by a  thundercloud
looming up, threatening and inexorable, from the west. Its edges  were white
and ragged, its rumbling black paunch tinged with sulphur.  White pillars of
dust, raised by the sudden wind, flew  along  the Jaffa road. The Levite was
silent, wondering if the storm which was about to break over Jerusalem might
alter the fate of the  wretched  Yeshua. Watching  the  tongues of lightning
that flickered  round  the  edges of the cloud,  he began to pray for one to
strike Yeshua's gibbet. Glancing penitently up  at the remaining  patches of
blue sky in which the vultures were winging away to avoid the storm, Matthew
knew that he had cursed too soon: God would not listen to him now.
     Turning round to look at the foot of the hill, the Levite stared at the
cavalry lines and saw that they  were on the move. From  his height he had a
good view of  the soldiers'  hasty preparations as they pulled  their lances
out  of the  ground and threw their cloaks over their  shoulders. The grooms
were running towards the path, leading strings of troop horses. The regiment
was moving out. Shielding his face with  his hand and spitting out the  sand
that blew into his mouth, the Levite tried to think  why the  cavalry should
be preparing to go. He shifted his glance higher up  the hill and made out a
figure  in a  purple  military  chlamys  climbing up  towards  the place  of
execution. Matthew's heart leaped : he sensed  a quick end. The man climbing
Mount Golgotha in the victims' fifth  hour  of suffering was the  Tribune of
the Cohort, who had galloped from Jerusalem accompanied by an orderly.  At a
signal from Muribellum the  cordon  of soldiers  opened  and  the  centurion
saluted  the Tribune, who took  Muribellum aside and whispered something  to
him. The centurion saluted again and walked over to the executioners, seated
on stones under the gibbets. The Tribune meanwhile turned towards the man on
the three-legged  stool.  The  seated  man  rose  politely  as  the  Tribune
approached  him.  The officer said something to  him in a low voice and both
walked over to the gallows, where they  were joined  by the  captain of  the
temple guard.
     Muribellum, with  a fastidious grimace  at the filthy rags lying on the
ground near the crosses--the  prisoners' clothes which even the executioners
had spurned--called to two of them and gave an order:
     'Follow me!'
     A  hoarse, incoherent song could just be heard coming from  the nearest
gibbet. Hestas had been driven  out of  his mind two  hours ago by the flies
and  the heat and was  now softly  croaking something  about a vineyard. His
turbaned head still nodded occasionally, sending up  a lazy  cloud of  flies
from his face.
     Dismas  on the second cross  was suffering  more  than  the  other  two
because he was still conscious and shaking his head  regularly from side  to
     Yeshua was luckier.  He had begun to faint  during the first hour,  and
had  then  lapsed  into unconsciousness,  his  head  drooping in  its ragged
turban. As a result the  mosquitoes and horse-flies  had settled on  him  so
thickly that his face was entirely hidden by a black, heaving mask. All over
his groin, his stomach and under his armpits sat bloated horseflies, sucking
at the yellowing naked body.
     At a gesture from the man in the hood one of the executioners picked up
a lance and the other carried a bucket and sponge to the  gibbet.  The first
executioner raised the lance and used it to hit Yeshua first on one extended
arm and then on the other.
     The emaciated body gave a twitch. The executioner  then poked Yeshua in
the stomach with the handle of the  lance. At  this Yeshua  raised his head,
the flies rose with a buzz and the  victim's face was revealed, swollen with
bites, puff-eyed, unrecognisable.
     Forcing open his eyelids, Ha-Notsri looked down. His usually clear eyes
were now dim and glazed.
     'Ha-Notsri!' said the executioner.
     Ha-Notsri moved his swollen lips and answered in a hoarse croak:
     'What do you want? Why have you come? '
     'Drink! ' said the executioner and a water-soaked sponge was raised to
Yeshua's lips on the point of a lance. Joy lit up his eyes, he put his mouth
to the sponge and greedily sucked its moisture.  From  the next  gibbet came
the voice of Dismas :
     'It's unjust! He's as much a crook as me! '
     Dismas strained ineffectually, his  arms being lashed to the  cross-bar
in three places. He arched his stomach, clawed the end of the crossbeam with
his  nails  and  tried  to  turn his eyes,  full of envy and hatred, towards
Yeshua's cross.
     'Silence on the second gibbet! '
     Dismas was  silent.  Yeshua turned aside  from  the sponge. He tried to
make his voice  sound kind and persuasive,  but failed and could only  croak
huskily :
     'Give him a drink too.'
     It was growing darker.  The cloud now  filled half the sky as it surged
towards  Jerusalem;  smaller  white  clouds  fled before  the black  monster
charged  with fire and water.  There was a flash and a  thunderclap directly
over the hill. The executioner took the sponge from the lance.
     'Hail to the  merciful  hegemon!  '  he whispered solemnly and gently
pierced Yeshua through the heart. Yeshua shuddered and whispered:
     'Hegemon . . .'
     Blood ran down his stomach, his lower jaw twitched convulsively and his
head dropped. At  the  second thunderclap the executioner gave the sponge to
Dismas with the same words :
     'Hail, hegemon . . .' and killed him.
     Hestas,  his  reason  gone,  cried  out  in  fear  as  the  executioner
approached him, but when the sponge touched his lips he gave a roar and sank
his teeth into it. A few seconds later his body was hanging as limply as the
ropes would allow.
     The man in the hood  followed the executioner and the centurion; behind
him in  turn came  the captain of  the  temple  guard. Stopping at the first
gibbet  the hooded  man  carefully  inspected  Yeshua's  bloodstained  body,
touched the pole with his white hand and said to his companions :
     The same was repeated at the other two gallows.
     After  this the  Tribune gestured to the  centurion and turned to  walk
down the hill with the captain of the temple guard and the hooded man.
     It was now twilight and lightning was furrowing the black sky. Suddenly
there  was a brilliant  flash and the centurion's  shout of'  Fall out,  the
cordon! '  was  drowned in thunder.  The delighted  soldiers started running
down hill, buckling on their helmets as they went.
     A mist had covered Jerusalem.
     The downpour struck suddenly and caught the centurion  halfway down the
hill. The rain  fell with such force that turbulent streams  began  catching
them up as they ran. The troops slithered and fell on the muddy soil as they
hurried to reach the  main road. Moving fast, now scarcely visible in a veil
of water, the rain-soaked cavalry was already on its  way back to Jerusalem.
After  a  few  minutes  only  one man was left  on  the hill in  the smoking
cauldron of wind, water and fire.
     Brandishing his stolen  knife,  for  which he  now had a use after all,
leaping over  the slippery rocks, grasping whatever  came  to hand, at times
crawling on  his knees, he stumbled towards  the gallows in alternate spells
of complete darkness and flashes of light. When he reached  the  gallows  he
was already ankle-deep  in water  and threw off his soaking tallith. Wearing
only his shirt  Matthew  fell at Yeshua's feet. He cut  the  ropes round his
knees, climbed on to the  lower crossbar, embraced Yeshua and freed his arms
from  their  bonds. Yeshua's wet,  naked  body collapsed on to  Matthew  and
dragged him to the ground.  The Levite was just about to hoist him on to his
shoulders when another thought stopped him. He left the body on  the  watery
ground, its head thrown back and arms outstretched,  and ran, slithering, to
the other gibbet-posts. He  cut their  ropes and the two bodies  fell to the
     A few minutes later only those two water-lashed bodies  and three empty
gibbets remained on Mount Golgotha. Matthew the Levite and Yeshua were gone.

     On Friday morning,  the  day after the  disastrous show, the  permanent
staff of the Variety Theatre--Vassily Stepanovich Lastochkin the accountant,
two   bookkeepers,  three  typists,  the  two  cashiers,  the   ushers,  the
commissionaires and the cleaners-- were not at work but were instead sitting
on the window-ledges looking out on to Sadovaya Street and watching what was
happening outside  the  theatre.  There  beneath  the  theatre walls wound a
double queue of several thousand people whose  tail-end had  already reached
Kudrinskaya Square. At the head  of the queue stood a couple of dozen of the
leading lights of the Moscow theatrical world.
     The queue was in a  state of high excitement,  attracting the attention
of  the  passers-by  and busily  swapping  hair-raising  stories  about  the
previous   evening's  incredible   performance   of  black   magic.  Vassily
Stepanovich  the  accountant,  who had  not been at  yesterday's  show,  was
growing more and more uneasy. The  commissionaires were saying  unbelievable
things, such as how after the show  a  number of ladies had been seen on the
street  in  a  highly  improper  state.  The  shy  and  unassuming   Vassily
Stepanovich could only blink as  he listened to the description of all these
sensations and felt  utterly  unable  to  decide  what  to  do  ;  meanwhile
something had to  be done and it was he who had to do it, as he  was now the
senior remaining member of the Variety's management.
     By ten o'clock the ticket queue  had  swollen to such  a size that  the
police came to hear of it  and rapidly  sent  some detachments of  horse and
foot to  reduce  the queue to order.  Unfortunately the  mere existence of a
mile-long queue was enough to cause a minor riot in spite of all the  police
could do.
     Inside the Variety things were  as confused  as they were  outside. The
telephone had been  ringing  since early morning-- ringing  in  Likhodeyev's
office,  in Rimsky's office, in the  accounts  department, in the box-office
and  in Varenukha's office.  At  first Vassily  Stepanovich had attempted to
answer,  the cashier  had  tried to cope,  the  commissionaires  had mumbled
something into the telephone when it  rang, but soon they  stopped answering
altogether because there was simply  no answer  to  give  the people  asking
where Likhodeyev, Rimsky and Varenukha were. They  had been able to put them
off  the scent for a while by  saying that Likhodeyev was in his  flat,  but
this  only  produced  more angry calls later, declaring that they  had  rung
Likhodeyev's flat and been told that he was at the Variety.
     One  agitated lady rang  up and demanded to  speak  to  Rimsky and  was
advised to ring  his  wife at  home, at which the earpiece, sobbing, replied
that she was Rimsky's wife and he was nowhere to be found. Odd stories began
to  circulate.  One of the charwomen was telling everyone  that when she had
gone to clean the treasurer's office she had found the door ajar, the lights
burning,  the window  on  to the garden smashed,  a chair  overturned on the
floor and no one in the room.
     At  eleven o'clock Madame Rimsky descended on  the Variety, weeping and
wringing  her hands. Vassily  Stepanovich was by  now utterly bewildered and
unable  to  offer  her  any  advice.  Then  at half  past eleven the  police
appeared. Their first and very reasonable question was :
     'What's happening here? What is all this? '
     The staff"  retreated, pushing  forward the pale  and  agitated Vassily
Stepanovich. Describing the situation as it really was, he had to admit that
the entire  management  of the Variety, including the  general  manager, the
treasurer  and the  house manager,  had  vanished without trace,  that  last
night's compere had  been  removed  to a lunatic asylum and that,  in short,
yesterday's show had been a catastrophe.
     Having done their best to calm her, the police sent the sobbing
     Madame Rimsky home, then turned with  interest to the charwoman's story
about the state of the treasurer's office. The staff were told to go and get
on with  their jobs  and after a short  while the detective squad turned up,
leading a sharp-eared  muscular dog, the colour  of cigarette  ash  and with
extremely  intelligent  eyes.  At  once a  rumour spread  among  the Variety
Theatre staff that the dog  was none other  than the famous Ace of Diamonds.
It was. Its behaviour amazed everybody. No sooner had the animal walked into
the treasurer's office than it growled, bared its monstrous yellowish teeth,
then crouched on its stomach and crept towards the broken window with a look
of mingled terror and hostility.  Mastering its fear the dog suddenly leaped
on to  the window  ledge,  raised its great muzzle and gave an eerie, savage
howl.  It refused to leave  the  window, growled,  trembled and crouched  as
though wanting to jump out of the window.
     The dog was led out of the office to the entrance hall, from whence  it
went  out  of the  main  doors into the  street and across the road  to  the
taxi-rank.  There  it lost the  scent.  After that Ace of Diamonds was taken
     The detectives  settled into  Varenukha's office, where  one  after the
other, they called in all the members of the Variety staff who had witnessed
the events of the previous evening. At every step the detectives were  beset
with unforeseen difficulties. The thread kept breaking in their hands.
     Had there been any posters advertising the performance? Yes, there had.
But since last night new ones had been  pasted over them and  now  there was
not a single  one to  be  found anywhere. Where did this magician come from?
Nobody knew. Had a contract been signed?
     'I suppose so,' replied Vassily Stepanovich miserably.
     'And if so it will have gone through the books, won't it? '
     'Certainly,' replied Vassily Stepanovich in growing agitation.
     'Then where is it? '
     'It's not here,' replied  the accountant, turning paler  and spreading
his hands. It  was true  : there was no trace of a contract  in the accounts
department files, the treasurer's office, Likhodeyev's office or Varenukha's
     What was  the  magician's surname? Vassily Stepanovich did not know, he
had  not been  at  yesterday's show. The  commissionaires did not  know, the
box-office  cashier frowned  and frowned, thought  and  thought, and finally
said :
     'Wo ... I think it was Woland. . . .'
     Perhaps it wasn't Woland? Perhaps it wasn't. Perhaps it was Poland.
     The  Aliens'  Bureau,  it appeared, had  never  heard of anyone  called
Woland or Poland or any other black magician. Karpov, an usher, said that as
far as he knew the magician was staying at Likhodeyev's flat. Naturally they
immediately went to the  flat, but there was  no sign of a  magician  living
there.  Likhodeyev  himself  was also missing. The maid Grunya was not there
and  nobody  knew where she  was. Both the house committee chairman, Nikanor
Ivanovich, and the secretary, Prolezhnev, had also vanished.
     The investigation so far appeared to amount to a total  absurdity : the
entire  management  had  vanished,  there  had been  a  scandalous  show the
previous evening--but who had arranged it? Nobody knew.
     Meanwhile it was nearly noon, time for the box office to open. This, of
course, was out of  the question. A large piece of cardboard was hung on the
Variety's doors with the announcement:


     This caused a  stir  in  the  queue,  beginning at  its  head, but  the
excitement subsided and the queue began to disperse. After an hour there was
scarcely  a  trace of it on Sadovaya Street.  The detectives  left to pursue
their  inquiries  elsewhere,  the  staff,  except  for  the  watchmen,  were
dismissed and the doors of the Variety were closed.
     Vassily  Stepanovich  the accountant had  two urgent tasks  to perform.
Firstly  to  go  to  the  Commission  for  Theatrical  Spectacles and  Light
Entertainment with a report on the previous day's events and then to deposit
yesterday's  takings   of  21,711  roubles   at  the   Commission's  finance
     The meticulous and efficient Vassily Stepanovich wrapped  the money  in
newspaper,  tied it up with  string, put it into his briefcase and following
his standing instructions avoided  taking a bus or tram but  went instead to
the nearby taxi-rank.
     As  soon as  the three  cab-drivers on the rank saw a  fare approaching
with a chock-full briefcase under his arm, all three of them instantly drove
off  empty, scowling back as  they went. Amazed, the accountant stood for  a
while  wondering what  this odd  behaviour  could  mean.  After  about three
minutes  an  empty cab drove  up the the  rank,  the  driver grimacing  with
hostility when he saw his fare.
     'Are you free? ' asked Vassily Stepanovich with an anxious cough.
     'Show me your money,' snarled the driver.
     Even more amazed, the accountant clutched his precious briefcase  under
one  arm, pulled a ten-rouble  note  out of his  wallet and showed it to the
     'I'm not taking you,' he said curtly.
     'Excuse me,  but  .  .  .'  The  accountant  began,  but  the  driver
interrupted him:
     'Got a three-rouble note? '
     The  bewildered  accountant  took  out two  three-rouble notes from his
wallet and showed them to the driver.
     'O.K.,  get in,'  he  shouted, slamming down the flag of his meter so
hard that he almost broke it. ' Let's go.'
     'Are you short of change? ' enquired the accountant timidly.
     'Plenty  of change! ' roared the driver  and  his eyes, reddened with
fury, glared  at Vassily Stepanovich  from  the  mirror. '  Third time  it's
happened to me today. Just  the same  with the others.  Some son of  a bitch
gives  me  a  tenner  and  I  give him four-fifty  change. Out he  gets, the
bastard! Five minutes later I look--instead of a tenner there's a  label off
a soda-water bottle!  '  Here the driver  said several unprintable words.  '
Picked up another fare on Zaborskaya. Gives me a  tenner--I give  him  three
roubles change. Gets out. I look in my bag and out flies a bee! Stings me on
the finger!  I'll . .  .'  The driver spat out more unprintable words. ' And
there was  no tenner. There  was a show  on  at  that  (unprintable) Variety
yesterday evening  and some (unprintable) conjurer did  a turn with a lot of
(unprintable) ten-rouble notes . . .'
     The accountant was  dumbstruck. He hunched himself up and tried to look
as if he  was hearing the  very word ' Variety '  for the first time  in his
life as he thought to himself: ' Well I'm damned! '
     Arrived at his destination and paying in proper  money,  the accountant
went into one building and hurried along the corridor to the chief cashier's
office, but even before he  reached it he realised that he had come at a bad
moment. A rumpus was going on in the offices of the Theatrical Commission. A
cleaner ran past him with her headscarf awry and bulging eyes.
     'He's not there!  He's  not  there, dear,' she screamed,  turning  to
another man hurrying along the passage. ' His jacket and trousers  are there
but there's nobody in 'em! '
     She disappeared through a door, from which there at once came the sound
of  smashing crockery. Vassily Stepanovich then  saw the familiar figure  of
the chief cashier come  running out of the  secretaries' office and  vanish,
but  the man  was  in such  a  state  that  he failed to  recognise  Vasilly
     Slightly shaken,  the accountant reached  the door  of the secretaries'
office, which  was the ante-room to the chairman's office, where he had  the
greatest shock of all.
     Through the far door came a terrible  voice, unmistakably  belonging to
Prokhor  Petrovich, the chairman of the Commission. ' I suppose he's telling
somebody  off,'  thought  the  puzzled  accountant.  Looking  round, he  saw
something else--there, in a leather armchair, her head  resting on the back,
sobbing uncontrollably  and clutching a wet handkerchief, her legs stretched
out  to the middle  of the  floor,  lay  Prokhor Petrovich's  secretary, the
beautiful Anna Richardovna.  Her chin  was smeared with lipstick and streaks
of dissolved mascara were running down her peach-skin cheeks.
     Seeing  him come  in,  Anna  Richardovna  jumped  up,  ran  to  Vassily
Stepanovich, clutched his lapels and began to shake him, howling:
     'Thank God! At least there's one of you brave enough!  They've all run
away, they've all let us down! Come and see him, I don't know  what to do! '
Still sobbing she dragged him into the chairman's office.
     Once inside Vassily Stepanovich dropped his briefcase in horror.
     Behind the huge desk with its massive inkwell sat an empty  suit. A dry
pen was hurrying, unheld, across a sheet of paper. The suit had a shirt  and
tie, a fountain  pen was clipped in its breast-pocket,  but above the collar
there was no neck  and no head and there were no wrists protruding from  the
cuffs. The  suit  was hard at work  and oblivious of the uproar round about.
Hearing  someone  come  in,  the  suit  leaned  back in  its chair and  from
somewhere  just  above  the  collar  came  the  familiar  voice  of  Prokhor
     'What is it? There's a  notice on the door saying that I'm not  seeing
     The beautiful secretary moaned and cried, wringing her hands :
     'Don't you see? He's not there! Bring him back, oh bring him back!'
     Someone  peeped round  the door, groaned  and flew out  again.  Vassily
Stepanovich  felt  his  legs  shaking  and  he sat down  on  the  edge of  a
chair--not forgetting, though, to hold on to his briefcase. Anna Richardovna
pranced round Vassily Stepanovich, pulling at his coat and shrieking :
     'I've always, always  stopped him whenever he began swearing! Now he's
sworn once too often!' The girl  ran to the desk and exclaimed  in a tender,
musical voice, slightly nasal from so much weeping: ' Prosha dear, where are
you? '
     'Who are you addressing as " Prosha "? '  enquired the suit haughtily,
drawing further back into the chair.
     'He doesn't  recognise me!  He doesn't recognise me!  Don't you see? '
sobbed the girl.
     'Kindly stop crying in  my  office!' said  the striped suit irritably,
stretching out its sleeve for a fresh pile of paper.
     'No, I can't look, I can't look! ' cried Anna Richardovna and ran back
into her office, followed, like a bullet, by the accountant.
     'Just imagine--I was  sitting  here,' began Anna Richardovna trembling
with  horror and clutching  Vassily  Stepanovich's sleeve, '  when in came a
cat. A great black animal as  big as Behemoth. Naturally I shooed it out and
it  went, but then a fat man came in who also had a face  like a cat, said "
Do you  always  say ' shoo  ' to visitors?"  and went straight in to Prokhor
Petrovich. So I shouted " What  d'you mean by going in there --have you gone
crazy? " But the cheeky brute  marched  straight in to Prokhor Petrovich and
sat down in the chair facing him. Well, Prokhor is the nicest man alive, but
he's nervous. He lost his temper. He works like a trojan, but he's apt to be
nervy  and he  just  flared  up. "  Why have you  come in here without being
announced?  " he said.  And  then,  if  you please,  that impudent  creature
stretched  out in his  chair and said  with a smile : "  I've come to have a
chat with you on a little matter  of business." Prokhor Petrovich snapped at
him again :
     " I'm busy," to which the beast said: " You're not busy at all ..." How
d'you like  that? Well, of course, Prokhor Petrovich lost all patience  then
and shouted: " What is all this?  Damn me if I don't have you thrown  out of
here! " The beast just smiled  and said: " Damn you, I think  you said? Very
well!  " And--bang! Before  I  could even scream,  I looked and cat-face had
gone and there was this . . . suit . . . sitting .  . . Oooooh! ' Stretching
her mouth into a shapeless cavity Anna Richardovna gave a howl. Choking back
her sobs she took a deep breath but could only gulp nonsensically:
     'And  it goes on writing and writing and writing!  I must be going off
my  head!  It talks on the telephone! The suit!  They've  all run  away like
rabbits! '
     Vassily Stepanovich  could  only  stand there, trembling. Fate  rescued
him. Into  the  secretaries' office with  a firm,  regular tread marched two
policemen. Catching sight of  them the lovely girl began sobbing even harder
and pointed towards the office door.
     'Now, now, miss, let's not cry,'  said  the  first man calmly. Vassily
Stepanovich,  deciding that he was superfluous, skipped  away  and a  minute
later was out  in the fresh air. His  head felt  hollow, something inside it
was booming like a  trumpet and the noise  reminded him of the story told by
one of the commissionaires about a cat which  had taken part in  yesterday's
show. ' Aha! Perhaps it's our little pussy up to his tricks again? '
     Having failed to hand in the money at the Commission's head office, the
conscientious Vassily Stepanovich decided  to go to the branch office, which
was in Vagankovsky Street and to calm himself a little he made his way there
on foot.
     The  branch  office  of  the Theatrical  Commission  was quartered in a
peeling old  house at the far  end of a  courtyard, which was famous for the
porphyry  columns in its hallway. That day,  however,  the visitors  to  the
house were not paying much attention to the porphyry columns.
     Several  visitors were standing  numbly  in the hall  and  staring at a
weeping  girl seated behind a desk full of theatrical brochures which it was
her job to sell. The girl seemed to have lost interest in her literature and
only  waved  sympathetic enquirers  away,  whilst  from above, below and all
sides  of the  building  came  the pealing  of  at  least  twenty  desperate
     Weeping, the girl suddenly gave a start and screamed hysterically :
     'There it is again! ' and began singing in a wobbly soprano :
     'Yo-o, heave-ho! Yo-o heave-ho! '

     A messenger,  who  had  appeared  on the staircase, shook  his fist  at
somebody and joined the girl, singing in a rough, tuneless baritone:
     'One more heave, lads, one more heave . . .'
     Distant voices chimed in,  the  choir began to swell until finally  the
song  was  booming out  all over the  building. In nearby room  No.  6,  the
auditor's  department,  a powerful hoarse bass  voice  boomed out an  octave
below the rest. The chorus was  accompanied crescendo by a peal of telephone
     'All day lo-ong we must trudge the sbore,' roared the messenger on the
     Tears poured down the girl's face as she tried to clench her teeth, but
her mouth opened  of  its own  accord  and  she sang  an  octave  above  the
messenger :
     'Work all da-ay and then work more . . .'
     What surprised the dumbfounded visitors was the fact that the  singers,
spread all through the building, were keeping excellent  time, as though the
whole choir were standing together and watching an invisible conductor.
     Passers-by in Vagankovsky  Street  stopped outside the courtyard gates,
amazed to hear such sounds of harmony coming from the Commission.
     As soon as the first verse  was  over, the singing  stopped at once, as
though in obedience to  a conductor's baton. The messenger  swore  under his
breath and ran off.
     The front door opened and in walked a man wearing a  light coat  on top
of a white overall, followed by a policeman.
     'Do something, doctor, please! ' screamed the hysterical girl.
     The secretary  of  the branch  office ran out on to  the staircase  and
obviously burning with embarrassment and shame said between hiccups:
     'Look doctor,  we have a  case of some kind of mass hypnosis, so  you
must. .  .' He  could not  finish  his sentence, stuttered and began singing
'Shilka and Nerchinsk . . .'
     'Fool! ' the  girl managed to shout, but never managed to say who she
meant and instead found  herself  forced into a trill and joined in the song
about Shilka and Nerchinsk.
     'Pull  yourselves together! Stop  singing!'  said the  doctor  to the
     It was  obvious  that the secretary  would have given anything  to stop
singing but could not.
     When the verse was finished  the girl at  the desk received a  dose  of
valerian from the doctor, who hurried off to give the secretary and the rest
the same treatment.
     'Excuse me, miss,' Vassily Stepanovich suddenly asked the girl,  ' has
a black cat been in here? '
     'What  cat? '  cried  the girl angrily.  ' There's  a donkey in  this
office--a  donkey! ' And she went on : 'If you  want to  hear about it  I'll
tell you exactly what's happened.'
     Apparently the director of the branch office had a mania for organising
     'He does it all without permission  from  head office! ' said the girl
     In the course of a year the branch director had succeeded in organising
a  Lermontov Club, a  Chess and Draughts Club, a Ping-Pong Club and a Riding
Club. In summer he threatened to organise a rowing club and a mountaineering
club. And then this morning in came the director at lunch time . . .
     '. . . arm in arm with some villain,' said the girl, ' that he'd picked
up God knows where, wearing check  trousers, with a wobbling pince-nez . . .
and an absolutely impossible face! '
     There and then, according to the girl, he had introduced him to all the
lunchers  in  the dining-room  as a  famous  specialist in organising choral
     The faces of the budding  mountaineers  darkened, but the director told
them to cheer up and the specialist made jokes and assured them  on his oath
that  singing  would take up very  little time  and was a wonderfully useful
     Well, of course, the girl  went on, the first two to jump up were Fanov
and Kosarchuk,  both well-known  toadies,  and announced that they wanted to
join.  The  rest of the staff realised that there was no way  out of  it, so
they  all joined the  choral society too. It was decided to  practise during
the lunch break, because all the rest of their  spare time was already taken
up with Lermontov  and  draughts. To  set an  example the director announced
that he  sang tenor. What happened then was like a bad dream. The check-clad
chorus  master bellowed: ' Do, mi, sol, do!'  He  dragged  some of  the  shy
members  out  from  behind a cupboard where they had  been  trying  to avoid
having to sing, told Kosarchuk that he had perfect pitch, whined, whimpered,
begged them to show him some respect as an old choirmaster, struck  a tuning
fork on his finger and announced  that  they would begin with '  The Song of
the Volga Boatmen '.
     They struck up. And  they sang very  well--the man  in  the  check suit
really did know his job.  They sang to the end of  the first verse. Then the
choirmaster excused himself, saying : ' I'll be back in a moment . . .'--and
vanished. Everybody  expected him back in a minute  or two,  but ten minutes
went by and there was still no sign of him. The staff were delighted--he had
run away!
     Then suddenly, as if to order, they all began singing the second verse,
led by Kosarchuk, who  may  not have had perfect  pitch  but who had quite a
pleasant high tenor. They finished the verse. Still  no conductor. Everybody
started to go back to their tables, but they had no time to eat before quite
against their will they all started singing again. And they  could not stop.
There would  be three minutes' silence and  they  would burst  out into song
again.  Silence--then  more  singing!  Soon  people  began  to  realise that
something terrible was happening. The director locked himself in his  office
out of shame.
     With this the girl's story broke off--even valerian was no use,
     A  quarter of an hour  later  three  lorries drove up to the gateway on
Vagankovsky Street and the entire branch staff,  headed by the director, was
put into them. Just as  the first  lorry drove through the gate and out into
the  street, the staff, standing in the back  of the lorry and holding  each
other round  the shoulders, all opened  their  mouths and deafened the whole
street with a song. The second lorry-load joined in and then  the  third. On
they drove, singing. The passers-by hurrying past on their own business gave
the  lorries no more than a glance and took no notice, thinking  that it was
some works  party going on an  excursion out  of  town. They were  certainly
heading  out of town,  but not  for an outing: they were bound for Professor
Stravinsky's clinic.
     Half  an hour  later  the  distracted  Vassily Stepanovich reached  the
accounts department hoping at last to be able to get rid of his large sum of
money. Having learned from experience, he first  gave a cautious glance into
the long hall, where the cashiers sat behind frosted-glass windows with gilt
markings. He  found no sign of  disturbance or upheaval. All was as quiet as
it should be in such a respectable establishment.
     Vassily Stepanovich stuck his head  through the  window marked ' Paying
In ', said good-day to the clerk and politely asked for a paying-in slip.
     'What do you want? ' asked the clerk behind the window.
     The accountant looked amazed.
     'I want to pay in, of course. I'm from the Variety.'
     'One minute,' replied the clerk and instantly shut his little window.
     'Funny! ' thought Vassily Stepanovich. This was  the first time in his
life that he had been treated like  this. We all  know  how  hard it  is  to
acquire money--the process is  strewn  with obstacles  ; but  in  his thirty
years' experience Vassily Stepanovich had  never  yet found anyone  who  had
made the least objection to taking money when offered it.
     At last  the window was  pushed  open again  and the accountant  leaned
forward again.
     'How much have you got? ' asked the clerk.
     'Twenty-one thousand, seven hundred and eleven roubles.'
     'Oho! ' replied the clerk ironically and handed Vassily  Stepanovich a
green  form. Thoroughly familiar with  it,  he filled it out in a moment and
began untying the string  on his package. As he unpacked it a red  film came
over his eyes and he groaned in  agony. In front of him lay heaps of foreign
money--Canadian dollars,  English  pounds,  Dutch  guilders,  Latvian latts,
Esthonian crowns . . .
     'Here's another of  these jokers from the Variety! ' said a grim voice
behind the accountant.  And  Vassily Stepanovich  was  immediately put under

     Just as Vassily Stepanovich was  taking  a  taxi-ride to  meet the suit
that  wrote  by  itself,  among  the  passengers  from  the Kiev  express  a
respectably  dressed  man carrying  a little fibre suitcase  emerged from  a
first-class sleeper on to the Moscow platform. This passenger was none other
than the uncle of the late Misha Berlioz, Maximilian Andreyevich  Poplavsky,
an  economist who worked in the Planning Commission and lived  in Kiev.  The
cause of his arrival in Moscow was a telegram  that  he had received late in
the evening two days earlier:


     Maximilian Andreyevich was regarded, and rightly so, as one of the most
intelligent  men  in Kiev, but a telegram like this  would  be liable to put
even the brightest of us in a dilemma. If a  man telegraphs that he has been
run over, obviously he  has not been killed. But then why the funeral? Or is
he so desperately ill that he can foresee his own death? It is possible, but
extremely odd to be quite so precise--even if he can predict  his death, how
does he know that he's going to be buried  at three  o'clock on Friday? What
an astonishing telegram!
     Intelligent people, however, become intelligent by solving  complicated
problems.  It  was  very simple. There had been a  mistake and  the wire had
arrived in garbled form. Obviously the word ' have ' belonged to  some other
telegram and had been transmitted in error instead of the  word ' Berlioz ',
which had been put  by mistake at  the  end of the telegram. Thus corrected,
the meaning was quite clear, though, of course, tragic.
     When  his  wife   had  recovered   from  her  first  grief,  Maximilian
Andreyevich at once prepared to go to Moscow.
     Here  I  should  reveal  a  secret  about  Maximilian  Andreyevich.  He
genuinely mourned the death of  his wife's cousin,  cut off in the prime  of
life,  but  at the same time, being a practical  man, he fully realised that
there was no  special need  for  his presence at the funeral. Yet Maximilian
Andreyevich  was  in  a  great hurry to go  to  Moscow.  What  for? For  one
thing--the flat. A flat in Moscow was a serious matter. He did not know why,
but Maximilian  Andreyevich  did not like  Kiev and the thought of moving to
Moscow  had lately begun to nag at  him with  such  insistence that  it  was
affecting his sleep.
     He took no  delight in the spring floods of  the Dnieper  when,  as  it
drowned the islands on  the  lower shore, the water  spread until it  merged
with the  horizon. He found no pleasure in the staggeringly  beautiful  view
from the foot of the monument  to Prince Vladimir.  The  patches of sunlight
that  play in spring over  the  brick pathways  leading  to  the  top  of St
Vladimir's  hill meant nothing  to him. He wanted none of it. He only wanted
to go to Moscow.
     Advertisements  in  the newspapers  offering  to  exchange  a  flat  on
University Street in Kiev for a smaller  flat in Moscow produced no results.
Nobody could be found who wanted to move, except a few  whose  offers turned
out to be fraudulent.
     The telegram came as a shock to Maximilian Andreyevich. It was a chance
that  would be sinful to  miss. Practical  people know that opportunities of
that sort never come twice.
     In short he had to make sure, at no matter what cost, that he inherited
his nephew's flat in Sadovaya Street. It  was going  to be complicated, very
complicated, but come what might these complications  had to be overcome. An
experienced man, Maximilian Andreyevich  knew that the  first and  essential
step was to arrange a temporary residence permit to stay,  for however short
a time, in his late nephew's flat.
     So on Friday morning  Maximilian Andreyevich  walked into the office of
the Tenants' Association of No.  502A, Sadovaya  Street,  Moscow.  In a mean
little room,  its  wall  enlivened  by a poster showing in  several  graphic
diagrams  how to revive a  drowned man, behind a  wooden  desk  there sat  a
lonely, unshaven middle-aged man with a worried look.
     'May I see the chairman, please? '  enquired the  economist  politely,
taking off his hat and placing his attache case on a chair by the door. This
apparently simple  question upset the man behind  the desk  so much  that  a
complete change came over his expression. Squinting with anxiety he muttered
something incoherent about the chairman not being there.
     'Is he  in  his  flat?'  asked Poplavsky. ' I  have  some  very urgent
business with him.'
     The man gave another indistinct  mumble, which meant that he  wasn't in
his flat either. ' When will he be back? '
     To this the seated man gave no reply except to stare glumly out of  the
     'Aha! ' said the intelligent  Poplavsky to himself and enquired after
the secretary.  At this the strange man behind the desk actually went purple
in the face with strain and again muttered vaguely that the secretary wasn't
there either . .  . nobody knew when he'd be back again  . . . the secretary
was ill ...
     'Oho!  ' said Poplavsky to himself. ' Is  there anybody  here from the
Association's management committee? '
     'Me,' said the man in a weak voice.
     'Look,'  said  Poplavsky ingratiatingly, '  I am the  sole heir  of my
nephew Berlioz who as you know  died the other day  at Patriarch's Ponds and
according to law I  have to claim my inheritance. All his  things are in our
flat--No. 50 . . .'
     'I  don't  know  anything  about it,  comrade,'  the  man  interrupted
gloomily.' Excuse me,' said Poplavsky  in his most charming voice, ' you are
a member of the management committee and you must . . .'
     Just then a stranger came into the  room. The  man behind the desk went
     'Are you Pyatnazhko of the management committee? ' said the stranger.
     'Yes, I am,' said the seated man in a tiny voice.
     The stranger  whispered  something  to him and the man behind the desk,
now completely  bewildered, got up and left Poplavsky entirely alone  in the
empty committee room.
     'What a nuisance! I should have  seen the whole committee at once .  .
.' thought Poplavsky with  annoyance as he crossed the courtyard and hurried
towards flat No. 50.
     He  rang  the bell,  the  door  was opened  and Maximilian Andrey-evich
walked into the semi-darkness of the hall. He was slightly surprised not  to
be able to see who had opened the door to him ;
     there  was no one in the hall except an enormous black cat sitting on a
chair. Maximilian  Andreyevich coughed  and  tapped his  foot,  at which the
study door opened and  Koroviev  came into the hall.  Maximilian Andreyevich
gave him a polite but dignified bow and said:
     'My name is Poplavsky. I am the uncle . . .'
     But before he could finish  Koroviev pulled a dirty handkerchief out of
his pocket, blew his nose and burst into tears.
     'Of course, of course! ' said Koroviev, removing the handkerchief from
his face. ' I only had  to see you  to know who you  were!  ' He  shook with
tears  and began sobbing  : ' Oh,  what a tragedy!  How could  such a  thing
happen? '
     'Was he run over by a tram? ' asked Poplavsky in a whisper.
     'Completely!' cried  Koroviev, tears  streaming past his pince-nez, '
Completely!  I  saw it happen.  Can you believe it? Bang--his head  was off,
scrunch--away went his right leg, scrunch--off came his left leg! What these
trams can  do.'  In  his grief,  Koroviev leaned his  nose  against the wall
beside the mirror and shook with sobs.
     Berlioz's  uncle  was genuinely moved by  the  stranger's behaviour.  '
There--and they say people have  no feelings nowadays! ' he thought, feeling
his  own  eyes beginning  to  prick. At the  same time,  however, an  uneasy
thought snaked across  his mind that perhaps this man had already registered
himself in the flat; such things had been known to happen.
     'Excuse me, but were you a  friend  of Misha's? '  he enquired, wiping
his dry left eye  with his sleeve and studying  the grief-stricken  Koroviev
with his right eye. But Koroviev was sobbing so hard  that he  was inaudible
except for  '  Scrunch and  off it came!  ' His weeping-fit  over,  Koroviev
finally unstuck himself from the wall and said :
     'No, I can't  bear it!  I shall go and take  three hundred  drops  of
valerian in ether...' Turning his tear-stained face  to Poplavsky he added :
' Ah, these trams! '
     'I beg your pardon, but did you send me a telegram? ' asked Maximilian
Andreyevich,  racking his brains  to think  who  this extraordinary  weeping
creature might be.
     'He sent it,' replied Koroviev, pointing  to  the cat. Poplavsky, his
eyes bulging, assumed  that  he had  misheard.  ' No,  I  can't face  it any
longer,' went on Koroviev, sniffing. ' When I think of that wheel going over
his  leg . . . each wheel weighs 360 pounds  . . . scrunch! . .  . I must go
and lie down, sleep is the only cure.' And he vanished from the hall.
     The cat jumped down from the chair, stood up on its hind  legs, put its
forelegs akimbo, opened its mouth and said :
     'I sent the telegram. So what? '
     Maximilian Andreyevich's head began to spin, his arms and legs gave way
so that he dropped his case and sat down in a chair facing the cat.
     'Don't you understand Russian?' said  the cat severely. ' What  do you
want to know? ' Poplavsky was speechless.
     'Passport!  '  barked the cat and stretched out a  fat paw. Completely
dumbfounded  and blind  to  everything  except the twin sparks  in the cat's
eyes, Poplavsky pulled his passport out of his pocket like a dagger. The cat
picked up a pair of spectacles in thick black rims from the  table under the
mirror, put  them on  its snout,  which made it look even more imposing, and
took the passport from Poplavsky's shaking hand.
     'I wonder--have  I  fainted  or what? '  thought Poplavsky. From  the
distance  came the sound of Koroviev's blubbering, the hall  was filled with
the smell of ether, valerian and some other nauseating abomination.
     'Which  department issued this passport?' asked the cat. There was no
     'Department four hundred and twenty,' said the  cat to itself, drawing
its paw across the  passport  which  it was holding upside-down.  ' Well, of
course! I know that department, they  issue passports to  anybody who  comes
along. I  wouldn't have given one  to  someone like you. Not on any account.
One look  at your face  and I'd have refused! ' The cat had worked itself up
into such a temper that it threw the passport to  the ground. ' You  may not
attend the funeral,'  went on the cat in an official voice. ' Kindly go home
at once.' And it shouted towards the door : ' Azazello! '
     At this a small, red-haired man limped into the hall. He had one yellow
fang, a  wall eye and  was wearing a black sweater with a knife stuck into a
leather belt. Feeling himself suffocating, Poplavsky stood up and  staggered
back, clutching his heart.
     'See him out, Azazello! ' ordered the cat and went out.
     'Poplavsky,' said the  fanged horror  in a nasal whine, '  I  hope you
     Poplavsky nodded.
     'Go back to Kiev at once,' Azazello went on,  ' stay at  home as quiet
as a mouse and forget that you ever thought of getting a flat in Moscow. Got
it? '
     The little man only came up to Poplavsky's shoulder, but he reduced him
to mortal terror  with his  fang, his knife and his wall-eyed squint and  he
had an air of cool, calculating energy.
     First  he  picked   up  the  passport  and  handed  it   to  Maximilian
Andreyevich, who took  it with a  limp hand. Then Azazello took the suitcase
in  his left  hand,  flung open  the  front door with his  right and  taking
Berlioz's uncle by  the arm led him out on to the landing. Poplavsky  leaned
against the wall. Without a  key  Azazello opened the  little suitcase, took
out  of it  an enormous roast chicken  minus one  leg wrapped in greaseproof
paper and  put  it  on  the  floor.  Then  he pulled out two  sets of  clean
under-wear, a razor-strop, a  book and a leather  case and  kicked  them all
downstairs except the chicken. The empty suitcase followed  it.  It could be
heard crashing downstairs and to judge by the sound, the lid broke off as it
     Then the carrot-haired ruffian picked up the chicken by its leg and hit
Poplavsky a terrible  blow across the  neck with it,  so violently  that the
carcase flew apart  leaving Azazello with the leg in his hand.  ' Everything
was in a mess in the Oblonskys' house  ' as Leo Tolstoy so truly  put  it, a
remark which  applied exactly to the present situation. Everything was  in a
mess for Poplavsky. A long spark of light flashed in front of  him, then  he
had a vision of a  funeral procession on a  May afternoon and Poplavsky fell
     When he reached the  landing he  knocked a pane out of  the window with
his foot and sat  down  on  the  step. A legless chicken  rolled  past  him,
disintegrating  as  it  went. On  the  upper  landing  Azazello devoured the
chicken-leg in a flash,  stuffed the  bone into his pocket, turned back into
the flat and slammed the door behind him.
     From  below  there  came  the sound of  a man's cautious  steps  coming
upstairs. Poplavsky ran down another  flight and sat down on a little wooden
bench on the landing to draw breath.
     A  tiny  little  old  man  with  a  painfully  sad   face,  wearing  an
old-fashioned tussore suit and a straw boater with  a green ribbon, came  up
the stairs and stopped beside Poplavsky.
     'Would you mind telling me, sir,' enquired the man in tussore sadly, '
where No. 50 might be? '
     'Upstairs,' gasped Poplavsky.
     'Thank you very much, sir,' said the little man as gloomily  as before
and plodded upward, whilst Poplavsky stood up and walked on downstairs.
     You may  ask  whether Maximilian  Andreyevich  hurried to the police to
complain about the ruffians who had handled him with  such violence in broad
daylight. He most certainly did not. How could he walk into a police station
and say that a cat had been reading his passport and that a man in a sweater
armed with a  knife .  . .? No,  Maximilian  Andreyevich was altogether  too
intelligent for that.
     He had by now reached the ground floor and noticed just beside the main
door  another little door,  with a broken glass pane, leading into a storage
cupboard.  Poplavsky put his  passport into  his pocket and hunted round for
the scattered contents of his suitcase. There was no  trace of them. He  was
amazed  to notice how little this worried him. Another and rather intriguing
idea now occupied him--to stay and see what happened when the little old man
went  into the sinister flat.  Since he had asked the way to No. 50, he must
be going there for the  first time and was heading straight for the clutches
of the gang  that had moved into the flat. Something told Poplavsky that the
little man was going to come out of that flat again in quick time. Naturally
he  had given  up  any idea of  going to his nephew's  funeral and there was
plenty  of time before the train left for  Kiev. The economist glanced round
and slipped into the cupboard.
     Just then came the sound of a door closing upstairs. ' He's gone in . .
.' thought Poplavsky anxiously. It was damp and cold in  the cupboard and it
smelled of mice and boots. Maximilian Andreyevich sat  down on a log of wood
and decided to  wait.  He was in a good position to watch the staircase  and
the doorway leading on to the courtyard.
     However he had  to wait  longer  than  he  had  expected. The staircase
remained  empty.  At  last the door  on the  fifth floor was heard shutting.
Poplavsky froze. Yes, those were his footsteps. ' He's coming down .  . .' A
door opened  one floor lower.  The footsteps stopped. A woman's voice. A sad
man's voice--yes, that was  him . .  . saying something like ' Stop it,  for
heaven's sake . . .' Poplavsky stuck his ear out through the broken pane and
caught the sound of  a woman's laughter. Quick, bold steps coming downstairs
and a woman flashed past. She was carrying a  green oilcloth bag and hurried
out into the courtyard. Then came the little man's footsteps again. ' That's
odd! He's  going back into the flat again! Surely he's not  one of the gang?
Yes, he's going back. They've  opened the door upstairs  again.  Well, let's
wait a little longer and see . . .'
     This time there was not long to wait. The sound of the door. Footsteps.
The footsteps stopped.  A  despairing cry. A cat miaowing. A patter of quick
footsteps coming down, down, down!
     Poplavsky waited. Crossing himself and  muttering  the  sad little  man
rushed past, hatless, an  insane look on  his face, his bald head covered in
scratches, his  trousers  soaking  wet.  He  began  struggling with the door
handle, so terrified that he  failed to see  whether  it  opened  inwards or
outwards, finally mastered it and flew out into the sunlit courtyard.
     The experiment  over and without a further thought for his dead  nephew
or  for his flat,  trembling to think of  the danger he had been through and
muttering,  '  I  see  it  all,  I see it  all!' Maximilian Andreyevich  ran
outside.  A  few minutes  later  a  trolley-bus was  carrying  the economist
towards the Kiev station.
     While the economist had  been lurking  in the downstairs  cupboard, the
little old man had been through a distressing experience. He was a barman at
the Variety  Theatre and his name was Andrei Fokich Sokov. During the police
investigation at the theatre,  Andrei Fokich had kept  apart from it all and
the only thing noticeable about  him was  that  he grew even  sadder-looking
than usual. He also found out from Karpov, the usher, where the magician was
     So, leaving the economist on the landing, the barman climbed up  to the
fifth floor and rang the bell at No. 50.
     The door was opened immediately, but the barman shuddered and staggered
back without going in. The door had been opened  by a girl, completely naked
except for an indecent little lace  apron,  a white cap and a pair of little
gold slippers. She had a perfect figure and the only flaw in her looks was a
livid scar on her neck.
     'Well,  come  on in, since you rang,' said the girl, giving the barman
an enticing look.
     Andrei Fokich  groaned, blinked  and stepped into the  hall, taking off
his hat. At that moment  the telephone rang. The shameless maid put one foot
on a chair, lifted the receiver and said into it:
     The barman did not know where to look  and shifted from  foot to  foot,
thinking : ' These foreigners and their maids! Really, it's disgusting! ' To
save himself from being disgusted he stared the other way.
     The  large,  dim  hallway  was full  of  strange objects and pieces  of
clothing. A black cloak lined with fiery  red was thrown  over the back of a
chair, while  a long sword with  a shiny gold hilt lay on the console  under
the  mirror. Three swords with silver hilts stood in one corner as naturally
as if they had been  umbrellas  or  walking sticks, and berets  adorned with
eagles' plumes hung on the antlers of a stag's head.
     'Yes,'  said  the girl into the telephone. ' I beg your pardon? Baron
Maigel?  Very  good,  sir.  Yes.  The  professor is in  today. Yes, he'll be
delighted to see you. Yes, it's formal . . . Tails  or dinner jacket.  When?
At midnight.' The conversation over, she put back the receiver and turned to
the barman.
     'What do you want? '
     'I have to see the magician.'
     'What, the professor himself? '
     'Yes,' replied the barman miserably.
     'I'll see,'  said the maid, hesitating, then she opened the door  into
Berlioz's study and announced:  ' Sir, there's a little man here. He says he
has to see messire in person.'
     'Show him in,' said Koroviev's cracked voice from the study.
     'Go in,  please,' said  the girl  as naturally  as  if  she had  been
normally dressed, then opened the door and left the hall.
     As he walked in the barman was so amazed at the furnishing of  the room
that he forgot why he had come. Through the stained-glass windows (a fantasy
of the jeweller's widow) poured a strange ecclesiastical light. Although the
day was hot there was a log fire in the vast old-fashioned fireplace, yet it
gave no heat and instead the visitor felt a wave of  damp and cold as though
he had  walked into a tomb. In  front of the fireplace  sat  a  great  black
tomcat  on a tiger-skin rug  blinking pleasurably at the  fire.  There was a
table, the  sight  of  which  made  the God-fearing barman  shudder--it  was
covered  with   an   altar-cloth  and  on   top   of  it  was  an  army   of
bottles--bulbous, covered in mould and dust. Among the bottles  glittered  a
plate,  obviously of  solid  gold. By the  fireplace a little red-haired man
with a knife in his  belt was roasting a piece of meat on the end of  a long
steel blade. The  fat dripped into the flames  and the  smoke curled up  the
chimney. There was a smell of  roasting meat, another powerful scent and the
odour of incense, which made the barman wonder, as he  had read of Berlioz's
death and  knew that this had been his  flat, whether they  were  performing
some kind of  requiem  for  the dead man, but as soon as it  came  to him he
abandoned the idea as clearly ridiculous.
     Suddenly the stupefied barman heard a deep bass voice :
     'Well sir, and what can I do for you? '
     Andrei Fokich turned round and saw the man he was looking for.
     The black magician was lolling on a vast, low, cushion-strewn divan. As
far  as the barman  could see  the professor was  wearing nothing but  black
underwear and black slippers with pointed toes.
     'I am,' said the little man bitterly, ' the head barman at the Variety
     The professor stretched  out a hand glittering with  precious stones as
though to stop the barman's mouth and interrupted heatedly:
     'No, no, no! Not  another  word! Never, on any account! I  shall never
eat or drink  a  single mouthful at that buffet of  yours! I went  past your
counter  the  other day, my dear  sir, and I shall never forget the sight of
that  smoked sturgeon and that cheese! My dear fellow, cheese isn't supposed
to be green, you know--  someone  must have given  you the wrong idea.  It's
meant to be white. And the tea! It's more like washing-up water. With my own
eyes  I saw a slut of a girl  pouring grey water into your enormous  samovar
while you went on serving tea  from  it. No, my dear fellow,  that's not the
way to do it! '
     'I'm sorry,' said Andrei Fokich, appalled by this sudden attack, ' but
I came about something else, I  don't want to talk about the smoked sturgeon
. . .'
     'But I insist on talking about it--it was stale!'
     'The sturgeon they sent was second-grade-fresh,' said the barman.
     'Really, what nonsense!'
     'Why nonsense? '
     '" Second-grade-fresh "--that's what I call nonsense! There's only one
degree  of  freshness--the first, and  it's the last.  If your sturgeon is "
second-grade-fresh " that means it's stale.'
     'I'm sorry . . .' began the barman, at a loss  to parry this insistent
     'No, it's unforgivable,' said the professor.
     'I didn't come to see  you  about that,' said  the  barman again, now
utterly confused.
     'Didn't you? ' said the magician, astonished. '  What did you come for
then? As  far  as  I  remember I've never  known anybody connected with your
profession,  except for a vivandiere, but  that  was long before your  time.
However, I'm delighted to make your acquaintance.  A2a2ello! A stool for the
head barman! '
     The man who  was  roasting meat turned round, terrifying the barman  at
the  sight  of  his  wall eye, and neatly offered him one of the dark  oaken
stools. There were no other seats in the room.
     The  barman said : '  Thank  you very much,' and sat down on the stool.
One of its back legs immediately  broke with a crash and the  barman, with a
groan, fell painfully backward onto the :floor. As he fell he kicked the leg
of another stool and upset a full glass of red wine all over his trousers.
     The professor exclaimed:
     'Oh! Clumsy!'
     Azazello helped  the barman  to get up and gave him another stool. In a
miserable  voice the  barman  declined  his  host's  offer to  take off  his
trousers  and dry them in front  of the fire. Feeling  unbearably awkward in
his wet trousers and underpants, he took a cautious seat on the other stool.
     'I love a low seat,'  began the  professor.  '  One's not so likely to
fall. Ah,  yes,  we  were  talking  about sturgeon. First  and last, my dear
fellow, it must be fresh,  fresh, fresh! That should  be the  motto of every
man in your trade. Oh yes, would you like to taste . . .'
     In the red glow of the fire  a sword glittered in  front of the barman,
and Azazello laid  a sizzling piece of  meat on  a gold plate,  sprinkled it
with lemon juice and handed the barman a golden two-pronged fork.
     'Thank you, but I . . .'
     'No, do taste it! '
     Out of  politeness  the barman put a little piece  into  his  mouth and
found that he was chewing something really fresh and unusually delicious. As
he ate the succulent meat, however,  he  almost fell off his stool  again. A
huge  dark bird flew in from the next room and softly brushed the top of the
barman's bald head with its  wing. As it perched on the mantelpiece beside a
clock, he saw that  the bird  was  an owl. '  Oh  my  God! ' thought  Andrei
Fokich, nervous as all barmen are, ' what a place!'
     'Glass of wine? White  or red? What sort  of wine do you like at  this
time of day? '
     'Thanks but... I don't drink . . .'
     'You  poor fellow! What about a  game  of dice then? Or do you  prefer
some other game? Dominoes? Cards? '
     'I  don't  play,' replied the  barman,  feeling weak  and  thoroughly
     'How dreadful for  you,' said the host.  '  I always  think,  present
company  excepted of course, that there's something  unpleasant  lurking  in
people  who avoid  drinking, gambling, table-talk and pretty  women.  People
like that are either sick or secretly hate their fellow-men. Of course there
may be exceptions. I have had some  outright scoundrels sitting at my  table
before now! Now tell me what I can do for you.'
     'Yesterday you did some tricks . . .'
     'I did? Tricks?  ' exclaimed  the  magician indignantly. '  I beg your
pardon! What a rude suggestion! '
     'I'm sorry,' said the barman in  consternation. ' I  mean . .  . black
magic ... at the theatre.'
     'Oh, that! Yes, of course. I'll tell you a secret, my dear fellow. I'm
not  really  a magician  at all. I simply  wanted to see some  Muscovites en
masse and the easiest way to do so was in a theatre. So my staff'--he nodded
towards  the cat--'arranged  this little  act  and I  just  sat on stage and
watched the audience. Now,  if that doesn't shock you too much, tell me what
brings you here in connection with my performance? '
     'During your act you made bank-notes float down from the ceiling. .  .
.'  The barman lowered  his voice and looked round in embarrassment. ' Well,
all the audience picked them up and a young man came to my bar and handed me
a ten-rouble  note, so  I gave  him  eight roubles fifty change  . .  . Then
another one came . . .'
     'Another young man? '
     'No, he was older. Then there was a third and a fourth ... I gave them
all change. And today when I came to check the till there was nothing in  it
but a lot of strips of paper. The bar was a hundred and nine roubles short.'
     'Oh  dear,  dear, dear! ' exclaimed  the  professor. '  Don't  tell me
people thought  those notes  were  real?  I  can't  believe  they  did it on
     The barman merely stared miserably round him and said nothing.
     'They weren't swindlers, were they? ' the magician asked in  a worried
voice. ' Surely there aren't any swindlers here in Moscow?'
     The barman  replied  with such a bitter smile  that  there could be  no
doubt about it: there were plenty of swindlers in Moscow.
     'That's mean! ' said Woland indignantly. ' You're a poor man . . . you
are a poor man, aren't you? '
     Andrei Fokich hunched his head into his shoulders to show that he was a
poor man.
     'How much have you managed to save? '
     Although the question was put in a  sympathetic voice, it was tactless.
The barman squirmed.
     'Two hundred and forty nine thousand roubles in five different savings
banks,' said a quavering voice from the  next room, ' and under the floor at
home he's got two hundred gold ten-rouble pieces.'
     Andrei Fokich seemed to sink into his stool.
     'Well,  of  course,  that's  no  great  sum  of  money,'  said Woland
patronisingly. ' All the same, you don't need it. When are you going to die?
     Now it was the barman's turn to be indignant.
     'Nobody knows and it's nobody's business,' he replied.
     'Yes, nobody knows,'  said the same horrible voice from the next room.
'  But by  Newton's  binomial  theorem I predict  that  he will die  in nine
months' time in February of next year of cancer  of the liver, in Ward No. 4
of the First Moscow City Hospital.'
     The barman's face turned yellow.
     'Nine months . . .' Woland calculated thoughtfully. ' Two hundred and
forty-nine thousand . . . that works out at twenty-seven thousand a month in
round  figures . . . not much,  but enough  for a man of modest habits . . .
then there are the gold coins . . .'
     'The  coins will  not be cashed,' said  the same voice, turning Andrei
Fokich's heart  to ice. ' When he dies the house  will be demolished and the
coins will be impounded by the State Bank.'
     'If I were you I  shouldn't bother to go  into hospital,' went on the
professor.  '  What's  the  use of  dying in a ward surrounded by a  lot  of
groaning  and croaking  incurables? Wouldn't  it be much better to  throw  a
party  with that  twenty-seven thousand and  take poison and depart for  the
other world to the sound of  violins, surrounded by lovely drunken girls and
happy friends? '
     The barman sat motionless. He had aged. Black rings encircled his eyes,
his cheeks were sunken, his lower jaw sagged.
     'But we're daydreaming,' exclaimed  the host. '  To business! Show me
those strips of paper.'
     Fumbling, Andrei Fokich took a package out of his pocket, untied it and
sat petrified--the sheet of newspaper was full of ten-rouble notes.
     'My  dear chap,  you really  are sick,'  said Woland,  shrugging  his
     Grinning stupidly, the  barman  got up from his stool. ' B-b-but . . .'
he stammered, hiccupping, ' if they vanish again . . . what then? '
     'H'm,' said the  professor thoughtfully.  ' In that case come back and
see us. Delighted to have met you. . . .'
     At this Koroviev leaped out of the study, clasped the barman's hand and
shook it violently as he begged Andrei Fokich to give his kindest regards to
everybody  at the theatre. Bewildered, Andrei  Fokich stumbled out  into the
hall. ' Hella, see him out! ' shouted Koroviev. The same naked girl appeared
in the hall. The barman staggered out, just able to squeak  ' Goodbye ', and
left  the flat as  though he were  drunk.  Having gone a little way down, he
stopped, sat down on a step, took  out the  package and  checked-- the money
was still there.
     Just then a woman with a green bag came out of one of the flats on that
landing. Seeing a man  sitting on the step and staring dumbly at a packet of
bank-notes, she smiled and said wistfully:
     'What a dump this is ... drunks on the  staircase at this hour of the
morning . . . and they've smashed a window on the staircase again! '
     After a closer look at Andrei Fokich she added :
     'Mind the rats don't  get all that money of yours. . .  . Wouldn't you
like to share some of it with me? '
     'Leave me alone, for Christ's sake! ' said the barman and promptly hid
the money.
     The woman laughed.
     'Oh, go to hell, you old miser! I was only joking. . . .' And she went
on downstairs.
     Andrei Fokich slowly got up, raised his  hand to straighten his hat and
discovered that  it  was not on his head.  He desperately  wanted not  to go
back, but he missed his hat. After some hesitation he made up his mind, went
back and rang the bell.
     'What do you want now? ' asked Hella.
     'I forgot my hat,' whispered the barman, tapping his bald head.  Hella
turned round  and  the little man shut  his  eyes in horror.  When he opened
them, Hella was offering him his hat and a sword with a black hilt.
     'It's not mine.  . . .' whispered  the barman, pushing away the sword
and quickly putting on his hat.
     'Surely you didn't come without a sword?' asked Hella in surprise.
     Andrei Fokich  muttered something and  hurried off downstairs. His head
felt  uncomfortable  and  somehow too hot. He  took off  his hat  and gave a
squeak  of horror--he  was  holding a velvet  beret with a bedraggled cock's
feather.  The  barman crossed himself. At that moment the beret gave a miaou
and changed into a black kitten. It jumped on  to  Andrei Fokich's  head and
dug its  claws into  his bald patch. Letting out a shriek  of  despair,  the
wretched man hurled himself downstairs as the kitten jumped off his head and
flashed back to No. 50.
     Bursting out into the courtyard, the barman trotted out of the gate and
left the diabolical No.50 for ever.
     It was not, however, the end of his  adventures. Once in the street  he
stared wildly round as if looking for something.  A minute later he was in a
chemist's shop on the far side of the road. No sooner had he said :
     'Tell me, please . . .' when the woman behind the counter shrieked:
     'Look! Your head! It's cut to pieces!'
     Within five  minutes Andrei's head was bandaged and he  had  discovered
that  the  two best  specialists  in  diseases of the  liver  were Professor
Bernadsky  and Professor Kuzmin. Enquiring  which  was  the nearest,  he was
overjoyed to learn that Kuzmin  lived literally round the corner in a little
white house and two minutes later he was there.
     It was an  old-fashioned but  very comfortable little house. Afterwards
the barman remembered first meeting a  little old  woman who wanted to  take
his  hat, but since he had  no hat  the old woman hobbled off,  chewing  her
toothless gums. In  her place  appeared a middle-aged woman, who immediately
announced that new  patients could only be registered  on  the  19th of  the
month  and  not before.  Instinct told Andrei Fokich what to  do.  Giving an
expiring glance at the three people in the waiting-room he whispered:
     'I'm dying. . . .'
     The woman  glanced uncertainly  at his bandaged  head, hesitated,  then
     'Very well. . . .' and led the barman through the hall.
     At that moment  a door opened  to  reveal a bright gold pince-nez.  The
woman in the white overall said :
     'Citizens, this patient has priority.'
     Andrei Fokich had not time  to  look  round before  he found himself in
Professor Kuzmin's consulting  room.  It was a  long, well-proportioned room
with nothing frightening, solemn or medical about it.
     'What is your trouble?' enquired Professor Kuzmin in a pleasant voice,
glancing  slightly anxiously at the bandaged head.' I have just learned from
a reliable  source,'  answered the barman, staring wildly at a framed  group
photograph, ' that I am going to die next February from cancer of the liver.
You must do something to stop it.'
     Professor Kuzmin  sat down and leaned  against the tall leather back of
his Gothic chair.
     'I'm sorry  I don't understand you  . .  . You mean  . .  .  you saw a
doctor? Why is your head bandaged? '
     'Him? He's no doctor . . .' replied the  barman and suddenly his teeth
began  to chatter. ' Don't bother  about my head,  that's  got nothing to do
with  it...  I  haven't  come about my  head  . .  . I've got  cancer of the
liver--you must do something about it!'
     'But who told you? '
     'You must believe him! ' Andrei Fokich begged fervently. ' He knows! '
     'I  simply  don't  understand,' said  the  professor,  shrugging  his
shoulders and pushing  his chair back from the desk.  ' How can he know when
you're going to die? Especially as he's not a doctor.'
     'In Ward No. 4,' was all the barman could say. The professor stared at
his patient,  at his head, at his damp trousers, and thought: '  This is the
last straw--some madman . . .' He asked :
     'Do you drink? ' ' Never touch it,' answered the barman.
     In a minute he was undressed and  lying  on a chilly striped couch with
the  professor kneading his stomach.  This cheered the barman  considerably.
The  professor  declared  categorically that at  the present moment at least
there were no signs of cancer, but since . . . since he was worried about it
and some charlatan  had  given him a fright, he had better have  some  tests
     The  professor  scribbled  on  some sheets of  paper,  explaining where
Andrei Fokich was to go and what he should take with him. He also gave him a
note to a colleague, Professor Burye,  the neuropathologist, saying that his
nerves, at any rate, were in a shocking condition.
     'How  much  should  I  pay  you,  professor? ' asked  the barman in  a
trembling voice, pulling out a fat notecase. ' As much as you like,' replied
the professor drily. Andrei Fokich pulled out thirty roubles and put them on
the table, then furtively, as though his hands were cat's paws, put a round,
chinking, newspaper-wrapped pile on top of the ten-rouble notes.
     'What's that?' asked Kuzmin, twirling one end of his moustache.
     'Don't be squeamish, professor,'  whispered the barman. ' You can have
anything you want if you'll stop my cancer.'
     'Take your gold,' said  the professor, feeling proud of himself as  he
said it. ' You'd be putting it to better  use if you spent it on having your
nerves  treated. Produce  a specimen  of urine for analysis tomorrow,  don't
drink too much tea and don't eat any salt in your food.'
     'Can't I  even put  salt in my soup? ' asked the barman. ' Don't  put
salt in anything,' said Kuzmin firmly. ' Oh dear . . .' exclaimed the barman
gloomily,  as he gazed imploringly at the professor, picked up his parcel of
gold coins and shuffled backwards to the door.
     The professor did not have  many patients that  evening and as twilight
began to set  in, the last one was gone.  Taking off his white  overall, the
professor  glanced at the place on the desk where Andrei Fokich had left the
three ten-rouble  notes and  saw that  there were  no longer  any bank-notes
there, but three old champagne bottle labels instead.
     'Well, I'm damned! ' muttered  Kuzmin, trailing the hem of his overall
across the floor and fingering the  pieces  of paper. ' Apparently  he's not
only a schizophrenic but a crook as well. But what can he have wanted out of
me? Surely not a chit for a urine test? Ah!  Perhaps he stole my overcoat! '
The professor  dashed into  the hall,  dragging his overall by one sleeve. '
Xenia Nikitishna! ' he  screamed in the hall. ' Will  you look and see if my
overcoat's in the cupboard? '
     It was.  But  when the  professor returned to his  desk having  finally
taken  off his  overall, he stopped as though rooted to the parquet, staring
at the desk. Where the labels had been there now  sat  a black kitten with a
pathetically unhappy little face, miaowing over a saucer of milk.
     'What is going on here? This is . . .' And Kuzmin felt a chill run up
his spine.
     Hearing the professor's plaintive cry, Xenia Nikitishna came running in
and immediately calmed  him by saying  that the  kitten had  obviously  been
abandoned there by one of the patients, a thing they were sometimes prone to
     'I expect they're poor,' explained Xenia Nikitishna,  ' whereas we . .
     They tried  to  guess who might have left  the animal  there. Suspicion
fell on an old woman with a gastric ulcer.
     'Yes, it must be her,' said Xenia Nikitishna. ' She'll have thought to
herself: I'm going to die anyway, but it's hard on the poor little kitty.'
     'Just a moment! ' cried Kuzmin.  ' What about  the milk? Did she bring
the milk? And the saucer too? '
     'She must have had a saucer and a bottle of milk in her bag and poured
it out here,' explained Xenia Nikitishna.
     'At any rate remove the  kitten and the  saucer, please,'  said Kuzmin
and accompanied Xenia Nikitishna to the door.
     As  he  hung  up his  overall  the professor  heard laughter  from  the
courtyard. He looked round  and hurried over to the window. A woman, wearing
nothing but a shirt, was running across the courtyard to the house opposite.
The  professor  knew  her--  she was called Marya  Alexandrovna. A  boy  was
laughing at her.
     'Really,  what  behaviour,'  said Kuzmin contemptuously. Just then the
sound of a gramophone playing a foxtrot came from his daughter's room and at
the same moment the professor heard the chirp  of a sparrow behind his back.
He turned round and saw a large sparrow hopping about on his desk.
     'H'm . . . steady now! ' thought the professor.  ' It must have flown
in  when  I  walked  over  to the window. I'm  quite all  right! '  said the
professor to himself severely, feeling that he was all wrong, thanks to this
intruding sparrow. As he looked at it closer, the professor at once realised
that it was no ordinary  sparrow. The revolting bird was leaning over on its
left leg, making faces, waving its other leg in syncopation--in short it was
dancing a foxtrot in time to the gramophone,  cavorting like a drunk round a
lamppost and staring cheekily at the professor.
     Kuzmin's hand was on the telephone and he was just about to ring up his
old college friend  Burye and ask him what it meant to start seeing sparrows
at sixty, especially if they made your head spin at the same time.
     Meanwhile the sparrow had perched on his presentation  inkstand, fouled
it, then flew up,  hung  in the  air  and  dived with shattering force  at a
photograph showing  the whole  class of '94 on  graduation day, smashing the
glass  to  smithereens. The  bird  then wheeled smartly and flew out  of the
     The professor  changed his mind and instead of ringing up Burye dialled
the number of the Leech Bureau  and asked  them to send a leech to his house
at  once. Replacing the receiver on the rest, the  professor turned  back to
his desk  and let out a  wail. On  the far side of the  desk sat  a woman in
nurse's uniform with a bag  marked ' Leeches '. The sight  of her mouth made
the professor groan  again--it was a wide, crooked, man's mouth with  a fang
sticking out of it. The nurse's eyes seemed completely dead.
     'I'll take the money,' said the nurse, ' it's no good to you now.' She
grasped the labels with a bird-like claw and began to melt into the air.
     Two hours passed. Professor Kuzmin  was sitting up in bed  with leeches
dangling  from  his  temples,  his  ears and  his neck.  At his  feet on the
buttoned quilt  sat  the grey-haired Professor Burye, gazing sympathetically
at Kuzmin  and  comforting him  by  assuring him  that it was all  nonsense.
Outside it was night.
     We do not know what other marvels happened in Moscow that night and  we
shall not, of course, try to find out--especially as the time is approaching
to move into the second half of this true story. Follow me, reader!

     Follow me,  reader! Who told you that there is no such  thing as  real,
true, eternal love? Cut out his lying tongue!
     Follow me, reader, and only me and I will show you that love!
     The  master was  wrong when  he told Ivan with such bitterness, in  the
hospital  that hour before midnight, that  she  had forgotten  him.  It  was
impossible. Of course she had not forgotten him.
     First let us reveal the secret that the  master  refused  to tell Ivan.
His beloved mistress was called Margarita Nikolayevna. Everything the master
said about her to  the wretched poet was the strict truth. She was beautiful
and clever. It is  also true  that many  women would have given  anything to
change places  with  Margarita Nikolayevna. Thirty years old and  childless,
Margarita was married to a brilliant  scientist, whose work  was of national
importance. Her husband was young, handsome, kind, honest and he  adored his
wife. Margarita Nikolayevna and  her husband lived alone in the whole of the
top floor of a delightful house  in a garden in one of the side streets near
the  Arbat.  It was a  charming place. You can see for yourself whenever you
feel like  having a  look. Just ask me and I'll tell you the address and how
to get there ; the house is standing to this day.
     Margarita Nikolayevna was never short  of money. She could buy whatever
she liked. Her husband  had  plenty of interesting  friends. Margarita never
had  to cook. Margarita knew nothing of  the horrors  of living in a  shared
flat. In short . . .  was she happy? Not  for  a  moment.  Since  the age of
nineteen  when she had married  and moved into her house she  had never been
happy. Ye gods! What more did the woman need? Why  did  her eyes always glow
with a strange fire?  What else did she want, that witch  with a very slight
squint  in  one eye, who always decked herself  with mimosa every  spring? I
don't  know.  Obviously  she  was right  when she said she  needed  him, the
master, instead of  a Gothic house, instead of a private garden, instead  of
money. She was right--she loved him.
     Even I, the truthful narrator, yet a mere onlooker, feel a  pain when I
think what Margarita  went  through  when  she  came back  to  the  master's
basement  the next day (fortunately  she  had  not been able to  talk to her
husband, who  failed  to  come home at the time arranged) and found that the
master  was not  there.  She  did everything  she could to discover where he
might be, but in vain. T'hen she returned home and took up her old life.
     But when  the dirty  snow disappeared from the roads and  pavements, as
soon as the raw, liv.e wind of spring blew  in through  the upper  casement,
Margarita  Nikolayevna  felt even more wa-etched  than in winter. She  often
wept  in secret,  long and bitterly. She had no idea  whether her  lover was
dead or alive.  The  longer  the hopeless  days  marched  on,  the  oftener,
especially at  twilight, she  began to suspect  that her man  was dead. Slie
must  either  forget  him  o:r   die  herself.  Her  present  existence  was
intolerable. She had to forget him  at all costs.  But unfortunately he  was
not a man one could forget.
     'Yes, I made exactly the same mistake,' said Margarita, sitting by the
stove and watching the fire, lit in  memory of  the  fire that  used to burn
while he was writing about Pontius Pilate. ' Why did I leave him that night?
Why?  I imust have  been  mad.  I came back  the' next  day  just as  I  had
promised, but it was  too late. Yes, I ca-me too late like poor  Matthew the
     All this, of course, was nonsense, because what would have been changed
if  she had stayed with the master that night? Would she have saved him? The
idea's absurd . . . but she was a woman- and she was desperate.
     On  the  same day that  witnessed the ridiculous scandal caused  by the
black magician's appearance in Moscow, that Friday when Berlioz's  uncle was
sent packing  back to Kiev,  when the accountant was arrested and a host  of
other  weird  and  improbable  events  took  place, Margarita woke up around
midday in her bedroom, that looked out of an attic window of their top-floor
     Waking, Margarita  did  not burst into  tears, as  she frequently  did,
because she had woken up with  a presentiment that today, at last, something
was going to happen. She kept  the  feeling  warm and  encouraged it, afraid
that it might leave her.
     'I  believe it! ' whispered  Margarita solemnly. ' I believe something
is  going to happen,  must happen, because what  have I done to be  made  to
suffer all my life? I admit I've lied and been unfaithful and lived a secret
life, but even that doesn't deserve such a cruel punishment . . .  something
will happen, because a situation like this can't drag on for  ever. Besides,
my dream was prophetic, that I'll swear. . . .'
     With a sense of unease  Margarita Nikolayevna  dressed  and brushed her
short curly hair in front of her triple dressing-table mirror.
     The dream that Margarita  had dreamed that night had been most unusual.
Throughout her agony of the past winter she had never dreamed of the master.
At  night  he left  her  and it  was only  during  the  day that her  memory
tormented her. And now she had dreamed of him.
     Margarita had dreamed of  a place, mournful, desolate under a dull  sky
of  early spring. The sky was leaden, with tufts of low, scudding grey cloud
and filled with a numberless flock  of rooks. There was a little hump-backed
bridge over a muddy, swollen stream ; joyless, beggarly, half-naked trees. A
lone aspen, and in the distance, past a vegetable garden stood  a  log cabin
that looked like a kind of outhouse. The surroundings looked so lifeless and
miserable that one  might easily  have been tempted  to hang oneself on that
aspen by the little  bridge. Not a breath of wind, not a cloud, not a living
soul. In short--hell. Suddenly the door of this hut was  flung  open  and he
appeared  in it, at a  fair distance but clearly visible.  He was dressed in
some vague,  slightly tattered garment, hair in  untidy tufts, unshaven. His
eyes looked anxious  and sick. He waved and called. Panting in  the lifeless
air, Margarita started running towards him over the uneven, tussocky ground.
At that moment she woke up.
     'That dream  can only mean one of two things,' Margarita  Nikolayevna
reasoned with herself, ' if he  is dead and  beckoned me that means  that he
came  for me and I shall die soon. If so, I'm glad; that means that my agony
will soon be over.  Or if  he's  alive, the  dream can  only mean that he is
reminding me  of himself. He wants to tell me that we shall meet again . . .
yes, we shall meet again--soon.'
     Still in a state of excitement, Margarita dressed, telling herself that
everything was working out very well, that one should know how to seize such
moments and make  use of them.  Her  husband had gone away  on business  for
three whole  days. She was left to  herself for three  days and  no one  was
going to stop her thinking  or dreaming  of  whatever  she wished.  All five
rooms on the top floor of the house, a flat so big that tens of thousands of
people in Moscow would have envied her, was entirely at her disposal.
     Yet  free  as  she  was  for  three  days  in such  luxurious quarters,
Margarita chose the oddest part of it in which to spend  her time.  After  a
cup of tea she went into  their  dark, windowless  attic where they kept the
trunks,  the  lumber and  two large  chests  of  drawers full of  old  junk.
Squatting down  she  opened the  bottom drawer of the first  chest and  from
beneath a pile of odds and ends of material she drew out the one thing which
she valued most of all.  It was an old album bound  in brown  leather, which
contained a photograph of the master, a savings bank book with a  deposit of
ten  thousand roubles  in his name, a few dried rose petals pressed  between
some pieces of cigarette paper and  several sheets of typescript with singed
     Returning to  her  bedroom with  this treasure,  Margarita  Nikolayevna
propped  up the  photograph  against  her dressing-table mirror and sat  for
about  an hour,  the burnt typescript on her  knees,  turning the pages  and
re-reading what the fire had  not destroyed: '. . . The mist that came  from
the Mediterranean
     sea  blotted out the  city  that  Pilate so  detested.  The  suspension
bridges connecting the temple with  the grim fortress  of Antonia  vanished,
the murk  descended  from  the  sky  and drowned the  winged gods above  the
hippodrome,   the   crenellated   Hasmonaean   palace,   the   bazaars,  the
caravanserai, the  alleyways,  the  pools  . . .  Jerusalem, the great city,
vanished as though it had never been. . ..'
     Margarita  wanted to read  on, but  there was nothing  more except  the
charred, uneven edge.
     Wiping  away her  tears, Margarita  Nikolayevna  put  down the  script,
leaned her elbows on the dressing-table and sat for a long rime in  front of
her reflection in the mirror staring at the photograph. After  a  while  she
stopped crying. Margarita  carefully  folded away her hoard, a  few  minutes
later it was buried again under the scraps of silk and the lock shut  with a
click in the dark room.
     Margarita put  on her  overcoat in the hall to go out for a  walk.  Her
pretty maid Natasha enquired what she was to do tomorrow and being told that
she could do what she liked, she started talking to her mistress to pass the
time  and mentioned  something  vague  about  a magician  who  had done such
fantastic tricks in the theatre yesterday that everybody had gasped, that he
had handed out two bottles  of French perfume  and two pairs of stockings to
everybody  for nothing and then, when the show was over and the audience was
coming out--bang!--they were  all  naked! Margarita Nikolayevna collapsed on
to the hall chair and burst out laughing.
     'Natasha,  really! Aren't you ashamed of yourself? ' said Margarita. '
You're a sensible, educated girl . . . and you repeat every bit  of rubbishy
gossip that you pick up in queues! '
     Natasha blushed and objected hotly, saying that she never  listened  to
queue gossip and that she had actually seen a woman that morning come into a
delicatessen on the Arbat  wearing some new shoes and while she was standing
at the cash desk to pay, her shoes had vanished and she was left standing in
her stockinged feet. She looked horrified, because she had  a  hole  in  the
heel of one stocking! The shoes were the magic ones that  she had got at the
     'And she walked out barefoot? '
     'Yes,  she  did! ' cried Natasha, turning even pinker because no  one
would  believe her.  ' And  yesterday evening,  Margarita  Nikolayevna,  the
police arrested a hundred people. Some of the  women  who'd been at the show
were running along the Tver-skaya in nothing but a pair of panties.'
     'That  sounds  to  me like one of your  friend  Darya's stories,' said
Margarita Nikolayevna. ' I've always thought she was a frightful liar.'
     This hilarious conversation ended with a pleasant surprise for Natasha.
Margarita  Nikolayevna went into  her bedroom  and came  out with a  pair of
stockings and a bottle of eau-de-cologne. Saying to  Natasha that she wanted
to do a magic trick too, Margarita gave her the stockings and the scent; she
told her that she could have them on one condition--that she promised not to
run along  the  Tverskaya in nothing  but stockings  and  not to  listen  to
Darya's gossip. With a kiss mistress and maid parted.
     Leaning back  on her comfortable  upholstered seat  in the trolley-bus,
Margarita  Nikolayevna  rolled along the  Arbat, thinking of her own affairs
and half-listening to what two men on the  seat  in  front were  whispering.
Glancing  round occasionally  for fear of being overheard, they seemed to be
talking  complete nonsense.  One,  a plump, hearty  man with sharp  pig-like
eyes,  who  was sitting  by  the  window, was  quietly  telling  his smaller
neighbour  how they had  been forced to cover the open coffin  with  a black
cloth . . .
     'Incredible!  '  whispered  the  little  one  in  amazement.  '  It's
unheard-of! So what did Zheldybin do? '
     Above the steady hum of the trolley-bus came  the reply from the window
     'Police . . . scandal . . . absolute mystery!'
     Somehow  Margarita  Nikolayevna managed to construct  a fairly coherent
story from these snatches of  talk. The men were whispering that someone had
stolen the head of a corpse (they did not mention the dead  man's name) from
a coffin  that  morning.  This,  apparently, was the  cause  of  Zheldybin's
anxiety and  the two men whispering in the trolley-bus also appeared to have
some connection with the victim of this ghoulish burglary.
     'Shall we  have  time to buy some flowers? ' enquired the  smaller man
anxiously. ' You said the cremation was at two o'clock, didn't you? '
     In  the  end  Margarita  Nikolayevna  grew  bored with their mysterious
whispering about the stolen  head and  she was glad when it was time for her
to get out.
     A few minutes later she  was sitting  under the  Kremlin wall on one of
the benches in the  Alexander Gardens facing the Manege.  Margarita squinted
in the bright sunlight, recalling her dream and  she remembered that exactly
a year ago to the hour she had sat on this same bench beside him. Just as it
had then,  her  black handbag lay  on  the  bench at her side.  Although the
master  was  not there this time, Margarita Nikolayevna carried on  a mental
conversation with him : ' If you've  been sent into exile why haven't you at
least written  to tell me? Don't  you love me any more?  No, somehow I don't
believe that. In that  case you have died in exile ...' If you have,  please
release me, let  me go free to  lead  my life like other people! ' Margarita
answered for him : ' You're free . .  . I'm not keeping you by force.'  Then
she replied: ' What sort of an answer is that? I won't be free until I  stop
thinking of you . . .'
     People  were  walking past.  One  man  gave a  sideways glance  at this
well-dressed woman. Attracted by seeing a pretty girl  alone, he coughed and
sat  down on Margarita  Nikolayevna's  half  of the  bench. Plucking  up his
courage he said :
     'What lovely weather it is today . . .'
     Margarita turned and gave him such a  grim look that he got up and went
     'That's  what I mean,' said Margarita silently to her lover. ' Why did
I  chase  that man  away?  I'm  bored, there  was  nothing  wrong  with that
Casanova, except perhaps for his highly unoriginal remark . . . Why do I sit
here alone like an owl? Why am I cut off from life? '
     She  had worked  herself  into  a  state of  complete depression,  when
suddenly the  same wave of urgent expectancy  that she had felt that morning
overcame  her again. ' Yes, something's going to happen!  ' The wave  struck
her again and she then realised that it was a wave of sound. Above the noise
of traffic there  clearly came  the  sound of approaching drum-beats and the
braying of some off-key trumpets.
     First to  pass the park railings was  a  mounted policeman, followed by
three more on foot. Next  came the  band on a lorry, then a slow-moving open
hearse carrying a coffin banked  with wreaths  and a guard of honour of four
people--three men and a woman. Even from a distance Margarita could see that
the  members of the guard of  honour looked  curiously distraught. This  was
particularly noticeable in the woman, who was standing at the left-hand rear
corner of the hearse. Her fat cheeks  seemed to be more than normally puffed
out  by some  secret  joke and  her  protuberant little  eyes shone  with  a
curiously ambiguous sparkle. It was as if the woman was liable at any moment
to wink at the corpse and  say  ' Did you  ever see such a thing? Stealing a
dead man's head .  . .!  ' The three hundred-odd  mourners, who  were slowly
following the cortege on foot, looked equally mystified.
     Margarita watched the cortege go by,  listening to the mournful beat of
the kettle-drum as its monotonous ' boom, boom, boom'  slowly faded away and
she  thought: '  What a strange funeral . . . and how sad that  drum sounds!
I'd sell my soul to the devil to know whether he's alive or not ... I wonder
who that odd-looking crowd is going to bury? '
     'Mikhail  Alexandrovich  Berlioz,' said  a slightly nasal man's  voice
beside her, ' the late chairman of MASSOLIT.'
     Margarita Nikolayevna turned in astonishment and saw a man on her bench
who must have sat  down  noiselessly while she had been watching the funeral
procession.  Presumably  she  had  absentmindedly spoken her  last  question
aloud.  Meanwhile the  procession  had  stopped, apparently held  up  by the
traffic lights.
     1 Yes,'  the stranger went on,  ' it's an odd sort of funeral.  They're
carrying the man off to the cemetery in the usual way but all they can think
about is--what's happened to his head? '
     'Whose head? ' asked  Margarita, glancing at her unexpected neighbour.
He  was  short,  with  fiery  red hair  and one protruding fang,  wearing  a
starched shirt, a good striped suit, patent-leather  shoes and a bowler hat.
His  tie was bright. One  strange feature was his breast pocket:  instead of
the usual handkerchief or fountain pen, it contained a gnawed chicken bone.
     'This  morning,' explained the  red-haired man, '  the head was pulled
off the dead man's body during the lying-in-state at Griboyedov.'
     'How  ever  could that  have happened?  '  asked  Margarita, suddenly
remembering the two whispering men in the trolley-bus.
     'Devil knows how,' said the man vaguely. ' I suspect Behemoth might be
able to tell you. It must have been a neat job,  but  why bother to  steal a
head? After all, who on earth would want it?
     Preoccupied though she was,  Margarita Nikolayevna could not help being
intrigued by this stranger's extraordinary conversation.
     'Just a minute! ' she suddenly exclaimed. '  Who is Berlioz? Is he the
one in the newspapers today who . . .'
     'Yes, yes.'
     'So those were  writers in the guard  of  honour  round  the coffin? '
enquired Margarita, suddenly baring her teeth.
     'Yes, of course . . .'
     'Do you know them by sight? '
     'Every one,' the man replied.
     'Tell me,'  said Margarita,  her voice dropping, ' is one  of them  a
critic by the name of Latunsky? '
     'How  could  he fail to be there? ' answered the man with  red hair. '
That's him, on the far side of the fourth rank.'
     'The one with fair hair? ' asked Margarita, frowning.
     'Ash-blond. Look, he's staring up at the sky.'
     'Looking rather like a Catholic priest? '
     'That's him!'
     Margarita asked no more questions but stared hard at Latunsky.
     'You,  I  see,'  said  the stranger  with  a  smile, ' hate  that man
Latunsky. ' Yes,  and someone else  too,' said  Margarita  between  clenched
teeth, ' but I'd rather not talk about it.'
     Meanwhile  the  procession  had  moved  on  again,  the mourners  being
followed by a number of mostly empty cars.
     'Then we won't discuss it, Margarita Nikolayevna!'
     Astounded, Margarita said:
     'Do you know me? '
     Instead of replying the man took off  his bowler hat and held it in his
outstretched hand.
     'A face like a crook,' thought Margarita, as she stared at him.
     'But I don't know you,' she said frigidly.
     'Why should  you? However,  I have  been sent on a little matter that
concerns you.'
     Margarita  paled and  edged away. ' Why didn't you say so at once,' she
said, ' instead of making up that fairy tale  about a  stolen head? Have you
come to arrest me? '
     'Nothing of the sort! ' exclaimed the man with  red  hair. ' Why does
one  only have to speak to a person for them to imagine  they're going to be
arrested? I simply have a little matter to discuss with you.'
     'I don't understand--what matter? '
     The stranger glanced round and said mysteriously :
     'I have been sent to give you an invitation for this evening.'
     'What are you talking about? What invitation? '
     'You are invited by a  very distinguished foreign gentleman,' said the
red-haired man portentously, with a frown.
     Margarita blazed with anger.
     'I see that pimps work in the streets now! ' she said as she got up to
     'Is that all the  thanks I  get? ' exclaimed the man, offended. And he
growled at Margarita's retreating back :
     'Stupid bitch! '
     'Swine! ' she flung back at him over her shoulder.
     Immediately she heard the stranger's voice behind her:
     'The mist  that came from the Mediterranean  sea  blotted out the city
that Pilate so detested. The suspension bridges  connecting  the temple with
the  grim fortress of Antonia vanished, the murk  descended from the sky and
drowned the winged gods  above the  hippodrome,  the  crenellated Hasmonaean
palace, the  bazaars, the caravansera.1,  the  alleyways,  the  pools. . . .
Jerusalem, the great city, vanished as though it had never been. ... So much
for your charred manuscript and  your dried  rose petals!  Yet  you sit here
alone on  a bench and beg him to let you go, to allow you to  be free and to
forget him! '
     White in  the face,  Margarita turned back to the bench.  The  man  sat
frowning at her.
     'I  don't understand,  it,'  said  Margarita Nikolayevna in  a  hushed
voice. ' You might have found out about  the manuscript . . . you might have
broken in, stolen it, looked at it ... I suppose you bribed Natasha. But how
could you know what  I was thinking? ' She -wrinkled her brow painfully  and
added ' Tell me, who are you? What organisation do you belong to? '
     'Oh, lord, not that. . .' muttered the stranger in exasperation. In  a
louder voice he said : 'I'm  sorry. As I said, I have not come to arrest you
and I don't belong to any " organisation." Please sit down.'
     Margarita  obediently  did as she was told, but  once seated  could not
help asking again :
     'Who are you? '
     'Well if you must know  my name is  Azazello,  although it won't mean
anything to you.'
     'And won't  you tell me how  you knew about the manuscript and how you
read my thoughts? '
     'I will not,' said Azazello curtly.
     'Do you know anything about him? ' whispered Margarita imploringly.
     'Well, let's say I do.'
     'Tell me, I beg of you, just one thing--is he alive? Don't torture me!
     'Yes, he's alive all rig:ht,' said Azazello reluctantly.
     'Oh, God!'
     'No scenes, please,' said Azazello with a frown.
     'I'm sorry, I'm  sorry,' said Margarita humbly. ' I'm sorry I  lost my
temper with you.  But you must  admit that if someone comes up to a woman in
the street and  invites  her  ...  I  have  no  prejudices, I  assure  you.'
Margarita  laughed  mirthlessly. ' But I  never meet foreigners  and  I have
never wanted to ... besides that, my husband  ...  my tragedy is that I live
with a man I don't love . . . but I can't  bring myself to ruin his life ...
he has never shown me anything but kindness . . .'
     Azazello listened to this incoherent confession and said severely:
     'Please be quiet for a moment.'
     Margarita obediently stopped talking.
     'My invitation to this foreigner  is quite harmless.  And not  a soul
will know about it. That I swear.'
     'And what does he want me for? ' asked Margarita insinuatingly.
     'You will discover that later.'
     'I  see  now  ... I  am  to  go  to bed  with  him,'  said  Margarita
     To this Azazello snorted and replied:
     'Any woman  in the world, I can  assure you, would give anything to do
so '--his face twisted with a laugh--' but I must disappoint you. He doesn't
want you for that.'
     'Who is this foreigner? ' exclaimed Margarita in perplexity, so loudly
that several passers-by turned to look at her. ' And why should I want to go
and see him? '
     Azazello leaned towards her and whispered meaningly :
     'For the best possible reason ... you can use the opportunity...'
     'What? ' cried Margarita, her eyes growing round. ' If I've understood
you correctly, you're hinting that I may hear some news of him there? '
     Azazello nodded silently.
     'I'll go!' Margarita burst out and seized Azazello by  the arm. ' I'll
go wherever you  like i ' With a sigh of  relief Azazello leaned against the
back of the bench, covering up the name ' Manya ' carved deep into its wood,
and said ironically : ' Difficult people, these woman! ' He stuck  his hands
into his  pockets and stretched his feet out far in front of him. ' Why  did
he have to send me on this job? Behemoth should have done it, he's  got such
charm . . .'
     W^ith a bitter smile Margarita said :
     'Stop  mystifying me  and talking in riddles.  I'm  happy  and  you're
making  use of  it ... I  may be  about to let  myself in  for some  dubious
adventure,  but  I  swear it's only because you have  enticed  me by talking
about him! All this mystery is making my head spin . . .'
     'Please  don't  make a  drama  out  of it,'  replied  Azazello  with a
grimace. ' Think of what it's like  being in my position. Punch a man on the
nose, kick an old man downstairs, shoot somebody or any old thing like that,
that's my job. But argue  with women in love--no thank you! Look, I've  been
at it with you for half an hour now . . . Are you going or not? '
     'I'll go,' replied Margarita Nikolayevna simply.
     'In  that case  allow me  to  present  you with  this,' said Azazello,
taking a little round gold box out of his pocket and saying as  he handed it
to  Margarita  :  ' Hide it, or people  will see  it. It will  do you  good,
Margarita  Nikolayevna; unhappiness  has  aged you  a  lot  in the last  six
months--' Margarita  bridled but said nothing, and Azazello went on : ' This
evening,  at exactly half past eight, you will  kindly strip  naked  and rub
this ointment all over  your face and your body. After that you can  do what
you like, but  don't go far from the telephone. At nine I shall ring you  up
and  tell you what you  have to  do. You won't have to worry about anything,
you'll be taken to where you're going and nothing will be done to upset you.
Understood? '
     Margarita said nothing for a moment, then replied :
     'I understand. This thing is solid  gold, I  can tell by its weight. I
quite  see  that  I  am  being  seduced  into something shady which I  shall
bitterly regret. . .'
     'What's  that? ' Azazello  almost hissed.  ' You're not having  second
thoughts are you? '
     'No, no, wait!'
     'Give me back the cream! '
     Margarita gripped the box tighter and went on:
     'No, please wait ... I know what I'm letting  myself in for. I'm ready
to go anywhere  and do anything for his sake, only  because I  have  no more
hope left. But  if you are planning to ruin or  destroy  me, you will regret
it. Because if I die for his sake I shall have died out of love.'
     'Give it back!'  shouted Azazello in fury. '  Give it back and to hell
with the whole business. They can send Behemoth! '
     'Oh, no!' cried  Margarita to the astonishment  of the passers-by. ' I
agree to everything, I'll go through the whole pantomime of smearing on  the
ointment, I'll go to the ends of the earth! I won't give it back! '
     'Bah! '  Azazello suddenly roared  and staring at the  park railings,
pointed at something with his finger.
     Margarita turned in the direction that he was pointing, but saw nothing
in particular. Then  she  turned  to Azazello for  some explanation  of  his
absurd  cry of  '  Bah! ', but  there  was  no  one to explain  :  Margarita
Nikolayevna's mysterious companion had vanished.
     Margarita felt in her handbag and made sure that the gold box was still
where she had put it. Then without stopping to reflect she hurried away from
the Alexander Gardens.

     Through the  branches of the maple tree a full  moon hung in  the clear
evening sky. The limes  and acacias  traced  a complex pattern of shadows on
the grass. A triple casement window in the  attic, open but  with  the blind
drawn,  shone  with a glare  of  electric light. Every lamp was  burning  in
Margarita Nikolayevna's bedroom and lighting up the chaotically untidy room.
     On  the bedspread  lay blouses, stockings and  underwear, more crumpled
underwear was piled on the floor beside a packet of cigarettes that had been
squashed in the excitement.  A pair of  slippers was  on the  bedside  table
alongside a cold, unfinished cup of coffee and an ashtray with a smouldering
cigarette  end.  A black  silk  dress hung  across the  chairback. The  room
smelled of perfume and from somewhere there came the reek of a hot iron.
     Margarita Nikolayevna  was sitting in front of a full-length mirror  in
nothing but black velvet slippers,  a bath-wrap thrown over her naked  body.
Her gold wrist-watch lay  in front of her alongside the little box given her
by Azazello, and Margarita was staring at the watch-face.
     At  times she  felt that  the  watch had broken and the  hands were not
moving. They were  moving, but so slowly that they seemed to have stuck.  At
last the minute hand pointed to  twenty nine minutes past eight. Margarita's
heart was thumping so violently that at first  she  could hardly pick up the
box. With  an effort she opened it  and  saw  that  it  contained  a  greasy
yellowish cream. It seemed to smell of swamp mud. With the tip of her finger
Margarita put a little blob of the cream on her palm, which produced an even
stronger smell of marsh and forest, and then she began  to massage the cream
into her forehead and cheeks.
     The  ointment  rubbed  in  easily and  produced  an immediate  tingling
effect. After several rubs Margarita  looked into the mirror and dropped the
box right on to the  watch-glass, which  shivered into a web of fine cracks.
Margarita shut her eyes, then looked again and burst into hoots of laughter.
     Her eyebrows that she  had  so  carefully plucked into  a fine line had
thickened into two regular arcs above her eyes, which had taken  on a deeper
green colour. The fine  vertical furrow between her eyebrows which had first
appeared in October when the master disappeared, had vanished without trace.
Gone too were the yellowish shadows at her temples and two barely detectable
sets of crowsfeet round the corners of her eyes. The  skin of her cheeks was
evenly suffused  with  pink,  her brow  had become white and smooth  and the
frizzy, artificial wave in her hair had straightened out.
     A  dark,  naturally  curly-haired  woman  of twenty,  teeth  bared  and
laughing  uncontrollably,   was   looking   out  of   the  mirror   at   the
thirty-year-old Margarita.
     Laughing, Margarita jumped out of her bath-wrap  with one leap, scooped
out two  large handfuls of the slightly fatty  cream  and  began  rubbing it
vigorously all over her  body. She immediately glowed  and turned  a healthy
pink.  In a  moment her  headache stopped, after having pained  her  all day
since the encounter in the Alexander  Gardens. The  muscles of her arms  and
legs grew firmer and she even lost weight.
     She jumped and stayed suspended in the air just above the carpet,  then
slowly and gently dropped back to the ground.
     'Hurray for the cream! ' cried  Margarita,  throwing herself  into an
     The anointing had not only changed her  appearance.  Joy surged through
every part of her body, she felt as though bubbles were shooting along every
limb.  Margarita  felt  free,  free of everything,  realising with  absolute
clarity  that  what was happening was the  fulfilment of her presentiment of
that morning, that she was going to leave  her house  and her past life  for
ever. But  one thought from  her past life hammered persistently in her mind
and she knew that she  had one last duty to perform before she took off into
the unknown,  into  the air. Naked as she was  she ran out  of  the bedroom,
flying through the air, and into  her husband's study, where  she  turned on
the light and flew to his desk. She tore a sheet off his note-pad and in one
sweep,  erasing  nothing  and  changing  nothing,  she  quickly  and  firmly
pencilled this message :Forgive me and forget me as quickly as you can. I am
leaving  you for  ever. Don't look  for me, it  will be  useless. Misery and
unhappiness  have turned me into a witch. It is time for me to go. Farewell.
     With a sense of absolute relief  Margarita flew  back into the bedroom.
Just then Natasha came in, loaded with clothes and shoes. At  once the whole
pile, dresses on coathangers, lace blouses, blue silk  shoes on  shoe trees,
belts, all fell on to the floor and Natasha clasped her hands.
     'Pretty,  aren't I?' cried Margarita Nikolayevna  in a loud, slightly
husky voice.
     'What's happened?' whispered Natasha, staggering back. ' What have you
done, Margarita Nikolayevna? '
     'It's  the  cream!  The  cream!'  replied Margarita,  pointing to  the
gleaming gold box and twirling round in  front of the mirror. Forgetting the
heap of crumpled clothes on the floor, Natasha ran to the dressing table and
stared,  eyes hot with  longing, at the  remains  of  the ointment. Her lips
whispered a  few  words  in silence. She  turned to Margarita and said  with
something like awe:
     'Oh,  your  skin--look  at  your  skin,  Margarita  Nikolayevna, it's
shining! ' Then she suddenly remembered herself, picked up the dress she had
dropped and started to smooth it out.
     'Leave it, Natasha!  Drop  it! '  Margarita shouted at her. ' To  hell
with it! Throw it all away! No--wait--you can have it all. As a present from
me. You can have everything there is in the room!'
     Dumbfounded, Natasha gazed at Margarita  for a  while then  clasped her
round the neck, kissing her and shouting :
     'You're like satin! Shiny satin! And look at your eyebrows!'
     'Take all these  rags, take all my scent and put it all in your bottom
drawer, you can  keep it,' shouted Margarita, ' but don't take the jewellery
or they'll say you stole it.'
     Natasha rummaged in the heap for whatever she could pick up--stockings,
shoes, dresses and underwear--and ran out of the bedroom.
     At that moment from an open window on the other side of the street came
the loud strains of a waltz and the spluttering of  a car engine  as it drew
up at the gate.
     'Azazello will ring soon! ' cried Margarita, listening to the sound of
the waltz. ' He's going  to ring! And this foreigner is harmless,  I realise
now that he can never harm me!'
     The  car's  engine roared  as it accelerated away. The gate slammed and
footsteps could be heard on the flagged path.
     'It's  Nikolai Ivanovich, I recognise his tread,' thought Margarita. '
I must do something funny as a way of saying goodbye to him!'
     Margarita  flung the  shutters open and sat sideways on the windowsill,
clasping her knees  with  her hands. The moonlight  caressed her right side.
Margarita  raised  her head towards  the  moon  and put on  a reflective and
poetic face. Two more footsteps  were heard and  then they suddenly stopped.
With another  admiring  glance  at the moon and  a  sigh  for fun, Margarita
turned to look down at the garden,  where she saw her neighbour of the floor
below, Nikolai Ivanovich. He was clearly visible  in the  moonlight, sitting
on  a  bench  on  which he had  obviously just  sat  down  with a  bump. His
pince-nez was lop-sided and he was clutching his briefcase in his arms.
     'Hullo,  Nikolai  Ivanovich! ' said Margarita  Nikolayevna  in  a sad
voice. ' Good evening! Have you just come from the office?'
     Nikolai Ivanovich said nothing.
     'And  here am  I,'  Margarita  went on, leaning further  out  into the
garden, ' sitting  all alone as you  can see, bored, looking at the moon and
listening to a waltz . . .'
     Margarita Nikolayevna ran her left hand along her  temple, arranging  a
lock of hair, then said crossly :
     'It's very  impolite of you,  Nikolai  Ivanovich! I  am a woman, after
all! It's rude not to answer when someone speaks to you.'
     Nikolai  Ivanovich, visible in  the bright moonlight down  to the  last
button on his grey waistcoat and the last hair on  his little pointed beard,
suddenly  gave  an  idiotic  grin  and  got  up  from  his bench.  Obviously
half-crazed with  embarrassment, instead of taking off  his hat he waved his
briefcase and flexed his knees as though just  about to break into a Russian
     'Oh how you bore me, Nikolai Ivanovich! ' Margarita went on. ' You all
bore me inexpressibly and I can't tell you how happy I am to be leaving you!
You can all go to hell!'
     Just then the telephone rang  in  Margarita's bedroom. She slipped  off
the  windowsill and forgetting Nikolai Ivanovich completely she snatched  up
the receiver.
     'Azazello speaking,' said a voice.
     'Dear, dear Azazello,' cried Margarita.
     'It's time for you to fly away,' said Azazello and she could hear from
his tone that he was pleased by Margarita's sincere outburst of affection. '
As you fly over  the gate shout  " I'm invisible "--then fly about over  the
town a bit to get used to  it and then turn south, away from Moscow straight
along the river. They're waiting for you! '
     Margarita hung up and at once something wooden in the next room started
bumping  about and tapping on the door. Margarita flung it open and a broom,
bristles upward, danced  into  the  bedroom. Its handle beat a tattoo on the
floor,  tipped itself  up  horizontally  and  pointed  towards  the  window.
Margarita whimpered with  joy and jumped astride  the broomstick.  Only then
did she remember  that in the  excitement  she had forgotten to get dressed.
She galloped over to the bed and picked  up the first  thing  to hand, which
was a blue slip. Waving  it  like a  banner she  flew out of the window. The
waltz rose to a crescendo.
     Margarita dived  down from the window and saw Nikolai Ivanovich sitting
on the bench. He seemed to be frozen to it, listening stunned  to the shouts
and bangs that had been coming from the top-floor bedroom.
     'Goodbye, Nikolai Ivanovich! ' cried Margarita, dancing about in front
of him.
     The wretched man groaned, fidgeted and dropped his briefcase.
     'Farewell  for ever,  Nikolai Ivanovich!  I'm flying away!  '  shouted
Margarita,  drowning the  music  of the  waltz. Realising that  her slip was
useless she  gave  a malicious laugh and threw  it  over Nikolai Ivanovich's
head. Blinded, Nikolai Ivanovich fell off the bench on to  the  flagged path
with a crash.
     Margarita turned round for a last look at the house where she had spent
so many years of unhappiness and saw the astonished face of  Natasha in  the
lighted window.
     'Goodbye,  Natasha!  '  Margarita  shouted,  waving her  broom. ' I'm
invisible! Invisible! ' she shouted at the top of her voice as she flew off,
the maple branches whipping her face, over the gate and out into the street.
Behind her flew the strains of the waltz, rising to a mad crescendo.

     Invisible and free! Reaching the end of her  street,  Margarita  turned
sharp right and flew on down a long, crooked street with its plane trees and
its  patched  roadway,  its  oil-shop  with  a  warped door where they  sold
kerosene by  the jugful and the  bottled  juice of parasites. Here Margarita
discovered that  although  she was  invisible,  free as  air and  thoroughly
enjoying herself, she still had to  take care. Stopping herself by a miracle
she just avoided a lethal  collison with  an  old, crooked lamp-post. As she
swerved away from  it, Margarita gripped her  broomstick harder and flew  on
more slowly, glancing at the passing signboards and electric cables.
     The next street led straight  to the  Arbat. By now  she had thoroughly
mastered the business of steering her broom,  having found that  it answered
to the slightest touch of her hands or legs and that  when flying around the
town  she  had  to be very careful  to avoid collisions. It  was  now  quite
obvious that the people in the street could not see her. Nobody turned their
head, nobody shouted' Look, look! ', nobody  stepped aside, nobody screamed,
fell in a faint or burst into laughter.
     Margarita flew silently and very slowly at about second-storey  height.
Slow as her progress was, however, she made slightly too wide a sweep as she
flew  into  the  blindingly-lit  Arbat  and  hit  her  shoulder  against  an
illuminated glass  traffic sign. This annoyed her. She stopped  the obedient
broomstick, flew back, aimed for the sign and with a sudden flick of the end
of her broom,  smashed  it  to fragments. The pieces  crashed to the ground,
passers-by jumped aside, a whistle blew and Margarita burst into laughter at
her little act of wanton destruction.
     'I shall have to  be even more careful on  the Arbat,' she thought to
herself. ' There  are  so many obstructions, it's  like  a maze.'  She began
weaving between the  cables. Beneath her flowed the  roofs of trolley-buses,
buses  and cars, and rivers  of  hats  surged  along  the  pavements. Little
streams diverged from these rivers  and  trickled into the  lighted caves of
all-night stores.
     'What  a  maze,'  thought  Margarita  crossly. '  There's  no  room to
manoeuvre here! '
     She  crossed  the  Arbat,  climbed  to  fourth-floor  height, past  the
brilliant  neon  tubes  of  a  corner  theatre  and  turned  into  a  narrow
side-street flanked with  tall houses. All their windows were open and radio
music poured out from all sides. Out of curiosity Margarita glanced into one
of  them.  She  saw  a  kitchen. Two Primuses were roaring away  on a marble
ledge, attended  by two women  standing  with  spoons  in  their  hands  and
swearing at each other.
     'You should put the  light out when you come out of the lavatory, I've
told you before, Pelagea Petrovna,' said the woman with a saucepan  of  some
steaming decoction, ' otherwise we'll have you chucked out of here.'
     'You can't talk,' replied the other.
     'You're both as bad as each other,' said  Margarita clearly,  leaning
over the windowsill into the kitchen.
     The two quarrelling women stopped at the sound of  her voice  and stood
petrified,  clutching their dirty spoons.  Margarita carefully stretched out
her  arm between  them and turned off both primuses. The  women  gasped. But
Margarita was already bored with this prank and had flown out again into the
     Her  attention  was  caught  by a  massive  and  obviously  newly-built
eight-storey block of flats  at  the far  end of the street. Margarita  flew
towards it  and as she landed she saw that the building was faced with black
marble, that its doors were wide, that a porter in gold-laced peaked cap and
buttons stood in the hall. Over the doorway was a gold inscription reading '
Dramlit House'.
     Margarita  frowned  at  the  inscription,  wondering  what  the word  '
Dramlit' could mean.  Tucking her broomstick under her arm, Margarita pushed
open the  front door,  to the amazement  of the porter, walked in and saw  a
huge black notice-board that listed the names  and  flat numbers of  all the
residents.  The  inscription  over  the  name-board,  reading  '  Drama  and
Literature  House,'  made  Margarita  give a  suppressed yelp  of  predatory
anticipation. Rising  a little in  the air, she  began  eagerly  to read the
names: Khustov, Dvubratsky, Quant, Beskudnikov, Latunsky . . .
     'Latunsky!'  yelped Margarita. '  Latunsky! He's  the man .  .  . who
ruined the master!'
     The  porter jumped  up in  astonishment and  stared at  the name-board,
wondering why it had suddenly given a shriek.
     Margarita was already flying upstairs, excitedly repeating :
     'Latunsky, eighty-four .  . . Latunsky, eighty-four . . . Here we are,
left--eighty-two, right--eighty-three,  another floor up, left--eighty-four!
Here it is and there's his name--" 0. Latunsky ".'
     Margarita jumped  off  her  broomstick and the cold stone  floor of the
landing felt pleasantly cool to her hot bare feet. She rang once,  twice. No
answer. Margarita pressed  the button harder and heard the bell ringing  far
inside Latunsky's flat. Latunsky should have  been grateful to his dying day
that  the chairman  of  massolit  had fallen under a  tramcar  and  that the
memorial gathering was being held that very evening. Latunsky must have been
born under a lucky star, because the coincidence saved him from an encounter
with Margarita, newly turned witch that Friday.
     No  one  came to  open the door. At full  speed  Margarita  flew  down,
counting  the floors  as she went,  reached the  bottom, flew  out  into the
street and looked up. She counted the floors and tried to guess which of the
windows  belonged to  Latunsky's flat. Without  a  doubt they were the  five
unlighted windows on the eighth floor at the corner of the building. Feeling
sure that she was right, Margarita flew up and a few seconds later found her
way through  an open window into a dark room lit only by  a silver  patch of
moonlight. Margarita  walked across and fumbled for the switch. Soon all the
lights in the flat were burning.  Parking her broom in a  corner  and making
sure that nobody was at home, Margarita opened the  front door and looked at
the nameplate. This was it.
     People  say  that Latunsky  still  turns pale when  he  remembers  that
evening and that  he always pronounces  Berlioz's name with gratitude. If he
had been at home God knows what violence might have been done that night.
     Margarita went into the kitchen and came out with a massive hammer.
     Naked and invisible, unable to restrain  herself, her  hands shook with
impatience. Margarita  took careful aim and hit the keys of the grand piano,
sending a crashing  discord echoing through the flat. The innocent  piano, a
Backer baby grand, howled and sobbed. With the sound of a revolver shot, the
polished sounding-board split under a hammer-blow. Breathing hard, Margarita
smashed and battered the  strings  until she collapsed into  an  armchair to
     An ominous sound of water came  from the kitchen and the bathroom. ' It
must be overflowing by now . . .' thought Margarita and added aloud :
     'But there's no time to sit and gloat.'
     A flood was already pouring from the kitchen into  the passage.  Wading
barefoot, Margarita carried buckets of water into the  critic's  study,  and
emptied  them  into  the  drawers  of his  desk.  Then  having  smashed  the
glass-fronted bookcase with  a few hammer-blows,  she ran  into the bedroom.
There  she  shattered  the  mirror  in the  wardrobe  door, pulled  out  all
Latunsky's  suits and flung them into  the bathtub. She found a large bottle
of  ink in  the  study and poured its contents all  over the huge, luxurious
double bed.
     Although all this destruction was  giving her the deepest pleasure, she
somehow felt  that its total  effect was inadequate and too easily repaired.
She  grew wilder  and more indiscriminate.  In the room with  the piano, she
smashed the flower vases  and the  pots  holding rubber  plants. With savage
delight  she  rushed  into the bedroom with a cook's knife,  slashed all the
sheets and broke the glass in the photograph frames. Far from feeling tired,
she wielded  her weapon  with such ferocity that the sweat poured in streams
down her naked body.
     Meanwhile in No. 82, immediately beneath Latunsky's flat, Quant's  maid
was drinking a cup of tea in the kitchen and wondering vaguely why there was
so much noise and  running about  upstairs.  Looking  up  at the ceiling she
suddenly saw it  change  colour from white to a deathly grey-blue. The patch
spread visibly and it began to spout drops of  water. The maid sat there for
a few  minutes, bewildered at  this phenomenon, until a regular shower began
raining down from  the ceiling and pattering on the floor. She jumped up and
put a bowl under the stream, but it was useless as the shower was  spreading
and was already pouring over the gas stove  and the dresser. With  a  shriek
Quant's maid ran out  of the flat  on to  the staircase and started  ringing
Latunsky's front-door bell.
     'Ah, somebody's ringing . . . time to go,' said Margarita. She mounted
the broom, listening to a woman's voice shouting through the keyhole.
     'Open  up, open up! Open the  door, Dusya!  Your  water's overflowing!
We're being flooded! '
     Margarita flew up a few feet and took  a  swing  at the chandelier. Two
lamps broke and  glass fragments flew everywhere. The shouts  at the keyhole
had  stopped and  there  was a  tramp of  boots  on the staircase. Margarita
floated out of the window, where  she turned and hit the glass a gentle blow
with her  hammer. It  shattered and cascaded in smithereens down  the marble
facade on to  the street below.  Margarita flew  on to the next window.  Far
below people  were  running  about  on the pavement, and  one  of  the  cars
standing outside the entrance started up and drove away.
     Having dealt with all Latunsky's windows, Margarita  floated on towards
the  next flat. The blows became  more  frequent, the street  resounded with
bangs  and  tinkles.  The  porter  ran  out of  the front door,  looked  up,
hesitated for  a moment in  amazement, popped  a whistle into his  mouth and
blew like a maniac. The noise inspired Margarita to even more violent action
on the eighth-floor windows and then to drop down a storey and to start work
on the seventh.
     Bored by his idle job of  hanging  around the entrance hall, the porter
put  all  his pent-up energy  into blowing his whistle,  playing  a woodwind
obbligato in time to Margarita's enthusiastic percussion.  In the  intervals
as  she  moved  from  window  to  window,  he drew breath and  then blew  an
ear-splitting  blast from  distended cheeks  at  each stroke of  Margarita's
hammer. Their combined  efforts produced the most impressive results.  Panic
broke  out in Dramlit House. The remaining unbroken window-panes were  flung
open,  heads were  popped  out and instantly withdrawn, whilst open  windows
were hastily  shut. At the lighted windows of the building opposite appeared
figures, straining forward to try and see why for no  reason all the windows
of Dramlit House were spontaneously exploding.
     All  along the  street people began running  towards  Dramlit House and
inside  it others were pelting  senselessly up and down  the staircase.  The
Quants' maid  shouted to  them that they were being  flooded out and she was
soon  joined by the  Khustovs' maid from  No. 80 which  lay  underneath  the
Quants'. Water was pouring through  the Khustovs'  ceiling into the bathroom
and the  kitchen.  Finally an  enormous chunk of  plaster  crashed down from
Quants'   kitchen  ceiling,  smashing  all   the  dirty  crockery   on   the
draining-board and  letting loose a deluge  as though someone upstairs  were
pouring out buckets of dirty rubbish and lumps of  sodden plaster. Meanwhile
a chorus of shouts came from the staircase.
     Flying past the  last  window  but one  on  the fourth floor, Margarita
glanced  into  it and  saw  a  panic-stricken  man putting  on  a  gas mask.
Terrified  at  the  sound of Margarita's  hammer tapping on  the  window, he
vanished from the  room. Suddenly the uproar stopped. Floating  down  to the
third  floor Margarita looked into the  far window, which  was shaded  by  a
flimsy  blind.  The room  was  lit by a little night-light.  In a  cot  with
basketwork sides sat a little boy of  about four, listening nervously. There
were no grownups in the room and they had obviously all run out of the flat.
     'Windows breaking,' said the little boy and cried : ' Mummy!'
     Nobody answered and he said :
     'Mummy, I'm frightened.'
     Margarita pushed aside the blind and flew in at the window.
     'I'm frightened,' said the little boy again, shivering.
     'Don't  be frightened,  darling,' said Margarita, trying to soften her
now raucous, harsh voice. ' It's only some boys breaking windows.'
     'With a catapult? ' asked the boy, as he stopped shivering.
     'Yes, with a catapult,' agreed Margarita. ' Go to sleep now.'
     'That's Fedya,' said the boy. ' He's got a catapult.'
     'Of course, it must be Fedya.'
     The boy glanced slyly to one side and asked :
     'Where are you, aunty? '
     'I'm nowhere,' replied Margarita. ' You're dreaming about me.
     'I thought so,' said the little boy.
     'Now you lie  down,' said Margarita, ' put your  hand under your cheek
and I'll send you to sleep.'
     'All right,' agreed the boy and lay down at once with his cheek on his
     'I'll tell you a story,'  Margarita began,  laying her hot hand on the
child's cropped head. ' Once upon a time there was  a lady  . . . she had no
children and she was  never happy. At first she just used to  cry, then  one
day she felt very naughty .  . .' Margarita stopped and took away  her hand.
The little boy was asleep.
     Margarita  gently put the hammer on the windowsill and flew out of  the
window. Below,  disorder reigned.  People  were shouting and running up  and
down  the  glass-strewn pavement,  policemen among  them.  Suddenly  a  bell
started clanging and round the corner from the Arbat drove a red fire-engine
with an extending ladder.
     Margarita had already lost interest. Steering  her way past any cables,
she clutched  the broom harder and in a moment was flying high above Dramlit
House.  The street veered sideways and vanished. Beneath her now was only an
expanse of roofs, criss-crossed with brilliantly  lit roads. Suddenly it all
slipped sideways, the strings of light grew blurred and vanished.
     Margarita  gave  another jerk, at  which the  sea of roofs disappeared,
replaced below her by a sea of shimmering electric lights.  Suddenly the sea
of  light swung  round  to  the vertical  and appeared over Margarita's head
whilst  the moon  shone under  her legs.  Realising  that she had looped the
loop,  Margarita  righted  herself, turned round  and saw  that the  sea had
vanished ; behind  her there  was now only a pink  glow on the horizon. In a
second  that  too had disappeared and Margarita  saw that she was alone with
the moon, sailing along above her and to the left. Margarita's hair streamed
out behind her in wisps as the moonlight swished past her body. From the two
lines of widely-spaced lights meeting  at a  point in the  distance and from
the speed  with which they were vanishing  behind her Margarita guessed that
she was flying at prodigious speed and was surprised to discover that it did
not take her breath away.
     After a few seconds' travel, far  below  in the earthbound blackness an
electric sunrise flared up and rolled beneath Margarita's feet, then twisted
round and vanished. Another few seconds, another burst of light.
     'Towns! Towns!' shouted Margarita.
     Two or tliree times she saw beneath her what looked  like dull glinting
bands of steel ribbon that were rivers.
     Glancing upward and to the left she stared at the moon as it  flew past
her, rushing backwards to Moscow, yet strangely appearing to stand still. In
the  moon  she could  clearly see  a mysterious dark  shape--not  exactly  a
dragon,  not  quite  a  little hump-backed  horse, its  sharp muzzle pointed
towards the city she was leaving.
     The thought  then came to Margarita that there was really no reason for
her to drive her broom at such a  speed. She was missing a  unique chance to
see the  world  from a  new viewpoint  and  savour  the  thrill  of  flight.
Something  told her that wherever her  destination might be, her hosts would
wait for her.
     There was no hurry, no reason to  make  herself dizzy with  speed or to
fly  at  such a height,  so  she tilted  the  head other broom downwards and
floated, at a  greatly  reduced speed,  almost  down  to ground  level. This
headlong  dive,  as  though  on  an  aerial  toboggan,  gave her  the utmost
pleasure. The earth rose up to  her and the moonlit landscape, until then an
indistinguishable  blur, was  revealed in exquisite  detail.  Margarita flew
just  above the  veil  of mist over meadow  and pond ; through the wisps  of
vapour she could  hear the  croaking of  frogs, from  the distance came  the
heart-stopping moan of  a train.  Soon Margarita caught sight of it.  It was
moving  slowly, like a  caterpillar blowing sparks from the top of its head.
She overtook it, crossed another lake in which a reflected moon swam beneath
her legs, then flew still lower, nearly brushing the tops of the giant pines
with her feet.
     Suddenly Margarita  caught the sound  of heavy, snorting breath  behind
her and it seemed to be slowly catching her up. Gradually another noise like
a  flying bullet and a  woman's raucous laughter could  be heard.  Margarita
looked round and saw that she was being followed by a dark object of curious
shape. As it drew nearer it began to look like someone flying astride, until
as  it slowed down to draw  alongside her Margarita saw  clearly that it was
     Completely naked too, her  hair streaming behind  her,  she  was flying
along mounted on a fat  pig, clutching  a briefcase in  its front  legs  and
furiously  pounding  the  air with  its  hind trotters.  A pince-nez,  which
occasionally  flashed in the  moonlight,  had fallen  off its  nose and  was
dangling  on a  ribbon, whilst  the pig's hat kept falling  forward over its
eyes. After a careful look Margarita recognised the pig as Nikolai Ivanovich
and her laughter rang out, mingled with Natasha's, over the forest below.
     'Natasha! ' shrieked Margarita. ' Did you rub the cream on yourself?'
     'Darling!' answered Natasha, waking the sleeping pine forests with her
screech. ' I smeared it on his bald head I '
     'My princess! ' grunted the pig miserably.
     'Darling Margarita  Nikolayevna!  ' shouted Natasha  as she  galloped
alongside.  '  I confess--I took the rest of the cream. Why shouldn't  I fly
away  and live, too? Forgive me, but I could never come back to you now--not
for  anything.   This  is  the   life   for   me!   .   ..  He  made   me  a
proposition.'--Natasha poked  her finger  into the back of the pig's neck--'
The old  lecher. I didn't think he had it in him, did you? What did you call
me? ' she yelled, leaning down towards the pig's ear.
     'Goddess! ' howled the animal. ' Slow down, Natasha, please! There are
important papers in my briefcase and I may lose them! '
     'To hell with  your papers,' shouted Natasha, laughing.   Oh,  please
don't shout like that, somebody may hear us!' roared the pig imploringly.
     As  she flew alongside Margarita, Natasha laughingly told her  what had
happened in the house after  Margarita Nikolayevna had flown  away  over the
     Natasha  confessed that without touching any more of the things she had
been given she  had torn her clothes off, rushed to the cream and started to
anoint herself.  The same  transformation  took place. Laughing  aloud  with
delight, she was standing in front of the mirror admiring her magical beauty
when the  door opened and in walked Nikolai Ivanovich. He was highly excited
and was holding Margarita Nikolayevna's slip, his briefcase and his hat.  At
first he was riveted  to the spot with horror, then announced, as  red  as a
lobster, that he thought he should bring the garment back. . . .
     'The  things he  said, the beast!  '  screamed  Natasha, roaring with
laughter. ' The  things he suggested! The money he offered me! Said his wife
would  never find out. It's true, isn't it?' Natasha  shouted  to  the  pig,
which could do nothing but wriggle its snout in embarrassment.
     As  they had romped about in  the bedroom,  Natasha smeared some of the
cream on  Nikolai Ivanovich  and  then  it  was  her  turn  to  freeze  with
astonishment. The face of her respectable neighbour shrank and grew a snout,
whilst his arms and legs sprouted trotters. Looking at himself in the mirror
Nikolai Ivanovich gave a wild, despairing squeal but it was too late. A  few
seconds later, with Natasha astride him, he was flying  through the air away
from Moscow, sobbing with chagrin.
     'I demand  to be  turned  back to my usual shape! ' the pig  suddenly
grunted, half angry, half  begging. ' I refuse  to take part:  in an illegal
assembly! Margarita Nikolayevna, kindly take your maid off my back.'
     'Oh,  so I'm a maid now, am I! What d'you mean--maid!' cried  Natasha,
tweaking the pig's ear. ' I was a goddess just now! What did you call me? '
     'Venus! ' replied the pig miserably,  brushing  a hazel-bush with its
feet as they flew low over a chattering, fast-flowing stream.
     'Venus! Venus! ' screamed Natasha triumphantly, putting one arm akimbo
and waving the other towards the moon.
     'Margarita! Queen Margarita! Ask them to let me stay a witch! You have
the power to ask for whatever you like and they'll do it for you.'
     Margarita replied :
     'Very well, I promise.'
     'Thanks!' screamed Natasha, raising her voice still higher to shout: '
Hey, go on--faster, faster! Faster than that! '
     She  dug her  heels  into  the  pig's  thin flanks, sending  it  flying
forward. In a moment Natasha could only be seen as a dark spot far ahead and
as she vanished altogether  the swish  of  her  passage through the air died
     Margarita  flew  on slowly through the unknown,  deserted  countryside,
over hills strewn with occasional  rocks and  sparsely grown with  giant fir
trees.  She was no longer flying over their tops,  but between their trunks,
silvered  on  one side  by the moonlight.  Her faint shadow flitted ahead of
her, as the moon was now at her back.
     Sensing that she was approaching water, Margarita guessed that her goal
was near. The  fir trees parted and Margarita gently floated through the air
towards a  chalky hillside. Below  it lay a river. A mist was swirling round
the bushes growing on the cliff-face, whilst  the opposite bank  was low and
flat. There under a  lone  clump of trees  was the  flicker of a  camp fire,
surrounded by  moving figures, and Margarita  seemed to  hear the  insistent
beat of  music. Beyond, as far as the eye could see, there was not a sign of
     Margarita bounded down the hillside to the water, which looked tempting
after her chase through the air. Throwing  aside the broom,  she  took a run
and dived head-first  into the water. Her body, as light as air, plunged  in
and threw up a column of spray almost to the moon. The water was  as warm as
a bath and as she glided upwards from the  bottom Margarita revelled in  the
freedom  of swimming  alone in a  river  at  night. There was  no  one  near
Margarita in the water, but further away near some bushes by the shore,  she
could hear splashing and snorting. Someone else was having a bathe.
     Margarita swam ashore and  ran up  the bank. Her body tingled. She felt
no fatigue after her long flight and gave a little  dance of pure joy on the
damp grass. Suddenly she  stopped and  listened.  The  snorting  was  moving
closer and from a clump of reeds there emerged a fat man, naked except for a
dented top hat perched on the back of his head. He had been plodding his way
through sticky mud, which made him seem to  be wearing black boots. To judge
from his breath and his hiccups  he had had a great deal to drink, which was
confirmed by a smell of brandy rising from the water around him.
     Catching sight of Margarita the fat man stared at her, then  cried with
a roar of joy:
     'Surely it can't be! It is--Claudine, the merry widow! What brings you
here? ' He waddled forward  to greet her. Margarita retreated and replied in
a dignified voice :
     'Go to hell! What d'you mean--Claudine? Who d'you think you're  talking
to?'  After  a moment's reflection  she rounded off her retort  with a long,
satisfying  and  unprintable  obscenity.  Its effect  on  the  fat  man  was
instantly sobering.
     'Oh  dear,' he exclaimed, flinching. '  Forgive me--I didn't see you,
your majesty.  Queen Margot.  It's  the fault  of the brandy.'  The fat  man
dropped on to  one knee,  took off his  top hat,  bowed and  in a mixture of
Russian and  French  jabbered some nonsense about  having  just come  from a
wedding in Paris, about brandy  and about  how deeply he apologised for  his
terrible mistake.
     'You might have put your trousers on, you great fool,' said Margarita,
relenting though still pretending to be angry.
     The fat man  grinned with  delight  as  he realised  that Margarita had
forgiven him and he announced cheerfully that he just happened to be without
his trousers  at this particular moment because he had  absent-mindedly left
them on the bank of the river Yenisei where he had been bathing just  before
flying here,  but would go back for them at once. With an effusive volley of
farewells he began bowing  and walking backwards, until he  slipped and fell
headlong into the water. Even as he fell, however,  his  side-whiskered face
kept its smile of cheerful devotion. Then Margarita gave a piercing whistle,
mounted the obedient broomstick and flew across to  the far  bank, which lay
in the full moonlight beyond the shadow cast by the chalk cliff.
     As  soon  as  she  touched  the  wet  grass the music from the clump of
willows grew louder and  the stream of  sparks blazed upwards  with  furious
gaiety. Under the willow  branches, hung with thick catkins, sat two rows of
fat-cheeked  frogs, puffed up  as if  they were made of rubber and playing a
march on wooden pipes. Glow-worms  hung on the willow twigs in front  of the
musicians  to light  their sheets of music whilst a nickering  glow from the
camp fire played over the frogs' faces.
     The march was  being played  in  Margarita's honour as part of a solemn
ceremony  of welcome. Translucent water-sprites stopped their dance to  wave
fronds  at  her  as  their   cries  of  welcome  floated  across  the  broad
water-meadow. Naked  witches jumped down from the  willows  and curtsied  to
her. A goat-legged creature  ran up, kissed her hand and, as he spread out a
silken sheet on the grass, enquired if she had enjoyed her bathe and whether
she would like to lie down and rest.
     As Margarita  lay down the goat-legged  man  brought  her  a  goblet of
champagne, which at once warmed her heart. Asking where Natasha was, she was
told that Natasha  had already bathed. She was already flying back to Moscow
on her  pig to warn them  that Margarita would soon be coming and to help in
preparing her attire.
     Margarita's short stay in the  willow-grove  was marked  by  a  curious
event:  a  whistle  split  the air and a  dark body,  obviously  missing its
intended target,  sailed through the air  and  landed  in the water.  A  few
moments later Margarita was faced by the same fat man with side whiskers who
had so clumsily introduced himself  earlier. He had obviously managed to fly
back to the  Yenisei because  although soaking wet from head to foot, he now
wore full evening  dress. He  had been at the brandy again, which had caused
him to land in the water, but as before  his smile was indestructible and in
his bedraggled state he was permitted to kiss Margarita's hand.
     All  prepared  to  depart.  The  water-sprites  ended  their  dance and
vanished. The goat-man politely  asked  how she had arrived at the river and
on hearing that she had ridden there on a broom he cried:
     'Oh, how uncomfortable! ' In a moment he had twisted two branches into
the shape  of  a  telephone and ordered someone to send a car at once, which
was done in a minute.
     A  brown  open car flew down to the island.  Instead  of  a  driver the
chauffeur's  seat was occupied by  a black, long-beaked crow in a  check cap
and gauntlets. The island emptied as the witches flew away in the moonlight,
the fire burned out and the glowing embers turned to grey ash.
     The goat-man opened the door  for Margarita, who  sprawled on the car's
wide back  seat.  The  car gave a roar,  took  off and climbed almost to the
moon. The island fell away,  the river disappeared and Margarita  was on her
way to Moscow.

     The steady hum of  the  car as  it  flew  high  above  the earth lulled
Margarita to sleep and the moonlight  felt pleasantly warm. Closing her eyes
she  let the  wind play on  her face  and thought wistfully  of that strange
riverbank which she would probably never see again. After  so much magic and
sorcery that evening she had already guessed who her host was to be, but she
felt quite unafraid. The  hope that she might regain  her happiness made her
fearless.  In  any case she was not given much time to loll  in  the car and
dream about happiness. The crow  was a good driver and the car  a  fast one.
When Margarita  opened  her eyes she no longer saw  dark forests beneath her
but the shimmering  jewels of  the  lights  of  Moscow.  The  bird-chauffeur
unscrewed the right-hand front wheel as they flew along, then landed the car
at a deserted cemetery in the Dorogomilov district.
     Opening the  door  to allow  Margarita  and  her broom  to alight on  a
gravestone the  crow gave  the car  a push and sent  it rolling  towards the
ravine beyond the far edge of the cemetery. It crashed over the side and was
shattered  to pieces. The crow saluted politely, mounted  the wheel and flew
away on it.
     At that moment a black cloak appeared  from  behind a headstone. A wall
eye  glistened  in  the  moonlight  and  Margarita  recognised  Azazello. He
gestured to Margarita to  mount her broomstick, leaped  astride his own long
rapier, and  they  both took  off and landed soon afterwards, unnoticed by a
soul, near No. 302A, Sadovaya Street.
     As the  two  companions passed under  the  gateway  into the courtyard,
Margarita noticed  a man  in  cap and  high boots,  apparently  waiting  for
somebody.  Light  as  their footsteps were,  the  lonely man heard  them and
shifted uneasily, unable to see who it was.
     At  the  entrance  to  staircase  6  they  encountered  a  second  man,
astonishingly  similar in appearance to the first, and the  same performance
was repeated.  Footsteps . .  . the  man  turned round uneasily and frowned.
When  the door  opened and  closed he  hurled  himself  in  pursuit  of  the
invisible intruders and peered up  the  staircase but failed, of  course, to
see anything. A third man, an exact  copy of the other two, was  lurking  on
the  third-floor  landing.  He was smoking  a strong cigarette and Margarita
coughed  as she  walked past him.  The  smoker  leaped up from his  bench as
though stung, stared  anxiously around,  walked  over  to the  banisters and
glanced down. Meanwhile Margarita and her companion had reached flat No. 50.
     They did not ring, but Azazello  silently opened the door with his key.
Margarita's first surprise on walking in was the darkness. It was as dark as
a  cellar,  so that she involuntarily clutched Azazello's cloak from fear of
an accident, but soon from high up and far away a lighted lamp flickered and
came closer.  As  they  went  Azazello took  away  Margarita's  broom and it
vanished soundlessly into the darkness.
     They then began to  mount a broad staircase,  so vast that to Margarita
it seemed endless. She was surprised that the hallway of an ordinary  Moscow
flat  could hold  such  an  enormous,  invisible  but  undeniably  real  and
apparently unending staircase. They reached a landing and stopped. The light
drew close and  Margarita saw the face of the tall  man in black holding the
lamp. Anybody unlucky enough to have crossed his path in those last few days
would have recognised him at once. It was Koroviev, alias Faggot.
     His  appearance, it is true, had greatly changed. The  guttering  flame
was no longer  reflected in a shaky pince-nez long due for the dustbin,  but
in  an equally unsteady  monocle.  The moustaches on  his insolent face were
curled and  waxed. He  appeared  black  for the simple  reason  that he  was
wearing tails and black trousers. Only his shirt front was white.
     Magician, choirmaster, wizard,  or the devil knows what, Koroviev bowed
and with a broad sweep of his lamp invited Margarita to follow him. Azazello
     'How strange everything is this evening! ' thought Margarita. ' I  was
ready for anything except this.  Are they trying  to save  current, or what?
The oddest thing of all is the size of this place . . . how  on earth can it
fit into a Moscow flat? It's simply impossible! '
     Despite the  feebleness of  the light from  Koroviev's  lamp, Margarita
realised  that  she  was  in a vast,  colonnaded hall, dark  and  apparently
endless. Stopping beside a small couch, Koroviev put his lamp on a pedestal,
gestured to Margarita to  sit down and then placed himself beside her in  an
artistic pose, one elbow leaned elegantly on the pedestal.
     'Allow me to introduce myself,' said Koroviev in a grating voice. ' My
name  is  Koroviev.  Are  you surprised that there's  no  light? Economy,  I
suppose  you were thinking? Never! May  the first  murderer to fall at  your
feet this evening  cut my throat if that's the reason. It is  simply because
messire doesn't care for electric light and we keep it  turned off until the
last possible  moment.  Then, believe me,  there  will be no lack  of it. It
might even be better if there were not quite so much.'
     Margarita liked  Koroviev  and  she found  his  flow  of  light-hearted
nonsense reassuring.
     'No,'  replied Margarita,  ' what  really puzzles me is where you have
found the space for all this.' With a  wave of her hand Margarita emphasised
the vastness of the hall they were in.
     Koroviev smiled sweetly, wrinkling his nose.
     'Easy!' he replied.  ' For anyone  who knows  how to handle the  fifth
dimension  it's no  problem to expand any place to whatever size you please.
No, dear lady, I will say  more--to  the devil  knows  what size. However, I
have known people,' Koroviev burbled on, '  who though quite  ignorant  have
done  wonders in enlarging their accommodation. One man in this  town,  so I
was  told, was given a three-roomed flat on the Zemlya-noi Rampart  and in a
flash, without  using  the fifth  dimension or anything  like  that, he  had
turned  it into  four  rooms by  dividing one  of the rooms in  half with  a
partition. Then he exchanged it for two separate flats in different parts of
Moscow, one  with three rooms and  the other with two. That, you will agree,
adds up to  five rooms. He exchanged  the three-roomed one for two  separate
frwo-roomers  and thus  became the owner, as you will  have  noticed, of six
rooms altogether, though admittedly scattered  all over Moscow.  He was just
about  to  pull  off  his  last  and  most  brilliant  coup  by  putting  an
advertisement in  the newspaper offering six  rooms  in various districts of
Moscow in  exchange for one five-roomed flat on the Zemlyanoi Rampart,  when
his activities were suddenly  and inexplicably curtailed. He may have a room
somewhere now,  but  not,  I can  assure  you, in Moscow.  There's  a  sharp
operator for you--and you talk of the fifth dimension! '
     Although it  was Koroviev and not Margarita who had  been talking about
the fifth  dimension,  she  could not help laughing at the way  he told  his
story of the ingenious property tycoon. Koroviev went on:
     'But  to come to  the  point, Margarita Nikolayevna.  You  are a very
intelligent woman and have naturally guessed who our host is.'
     Margarita's heart beat faster and she nodded.
     'Very well, then,' said Koroviev. ' I will  tell you more.  We dislike
all mystery  and ambiguity. Every year messire gives a ball. It is known  as
the springtime ball of the full moon, or the ball of the hundred kings.  Ah,
the people who come! . . .'  Here Koroviev clutched his cheek as if he had a
toothache. ' However, you will shortly  be able to see for yourself. Messire
is a bachelor  as you will realise, but there has to be a hostess.' Koroviev
spread his hands : ' You must agree that without a hostess . . .'
     Margarita listened to Koroviev,  trying not to miss a word.  Her  heart
felt  cold  with expectancy,  the thought of  happiness  made  her dizzy.  '
Firstly, it has become a tradition,' Koroviev went on, ' that the hostess of
the ball must be called Margarita and secondly, she must  be a native of the
place where the  ball  is held. We, as you know, are always on the  move and
happen to be in Moscow  at present. We have found  a  hundred and twenty-one
Margaritas in Moscow  and would you believe it . . .'-- Koroviev slapped his
thigh in exasperation--'. . . not one of them was suitable! Then at last, by
a lucky chance . . .'
     Koroviev  grinned  expressively,  bowing  from  the  waist,  and  again
Margarita's heart contracted.
     'Now  to the  point!'  exclaimed  Koroviev. '  To be brief--you won't
decline this responsibility, will you? '
     'I will not,' replied Margarita firmly.
     'Of course,' said Koroviev, raising his lamp, and added:
     'Please follow me.'
     They  passed a row of columns  and finally emerged  into  another  hall
which for some reason smelled strongly of lemons. A rustling noise was heard
and something landed on Margarita's head. She gave a start.
     'Don't be afraid,' Koroviev reassured her, taking her arm. ' Just some
stunt that  Behemoth has dreamed up to amuse the guests tonight, that's all.
Incidentally, if I may be so bold,  Margarita Nikolayevna, my advice  to you
is to be afraid of nothing you may see. There's no cause for fear. The  ball
will be  extravagantly  luxurious, I warn you. We shall  see people  who  in
their  time  wielded enormous power.  But  when one recalls how  microscopic
their influence really was in comparison with the powers of the one in whose
retinue  I  have  the  honour to  serve they  become  quite laughable,  even
pathetic . . . You too, of course, are of royal blood.'
     'How  can I  be of royal  blood?  '  whispered  Margarita, terrified,
pressing herself against Koroviev.
     'Ah,  your majesty,'  Koroviev  teased her, ' the question of blood is
the most complicated problem  in  the world! If  you  were to ask certain of
your great-great-great-grandmothers, especially those  who  had a reputation
for shyness, they might tell you some remarkable secrets,  my dear Margarita
Nikolayevna! To draw a parallel--the most amazing combinations can result if
you  shuffle the  pack  enough. There are  some  matters in which even class
barriers and frontiers are powerless.  I rather think that a certain king of
France of the sixteenth century  would be  most  astonished if somebody told
him that after all these years I should have the pleasure of  walking arm in
arm       round      a      ballroom      in       Moscow      with      his
great-great-great-great-great-grandaughter. Ah--here we are! '
     Koroviev  blew  out his lamp, it  vanished from his  hand and Margarita
noticed a patch of light on  the floor in front of a black doorway. Koroviev
knocked gently. Margarita grew so excited that  her teeth started chattering
and a shiver ran up her spine.
     The door opened into a small room. Margarita saw a wide oak bed covered
in dirty, rumpled  bedclothes and pillows. In front of the  bed was a  table
with carved oaken  legs bearing a candelabra whose  sockets were made in the
shape of birds' claws. Seven fat  wax candles burned in their grasp. On  the
table there was also a large chessboard  set with elaborately carved pieces.
A low  bench stood on the small, worn carpet. There was one more table laden
with golden beakers and another candelabra with arms fashioned  like snakes.
The  room  smelled  of  damp  and  tar. Shadows thrown  by  the  candlelight
criss-crossed on the floor.
     Among the people in the room Margarita at once recognised Azazello, now
also  wearing tails  and standing near the bed-head. Now  that  Azazello was
smartly  dressed  he no longer looked like  the ruffian who had  appeared to
Margarita in the Alexander Gardens and he gave her a most gallant bow.
     The naked  witch,  Hella, who had so upset the  respectable barman from
the  Variety Theatre and  who luckily for  Rimsky  had  been driven  away at
cock-crow, was sitting on the floor by the bed  and stirring some concoction
in  a saucepan which gave off a sulphurous vapour. Besides these, there  was
an enormous black cat sitting  on a stool  in front  of the  chessboard  and
holding a knight in its right paw.
     Hella  stood up  and bowed to  Margarita.  The cat jumped down from its
stool and did likewise, but making a flourish it dropped the knight  and had
to crawl under the bed after it.
     Faint with terror, Margarita blinked  at this candlelit pantomime.  Her
glance was drawn to the bed, on which sat the man whom the wretched Ivan had
recently assured at Patriarch's Ponds that he did not exist.
     Two  eyes bored into Margarita's face. In the depths of the  right  eye
was a golden spark that could pierce any soul to its core;  the left eye was
as empty and black  as a small black diamond, as the  mouth  of a bottomless
well  of  dark  and  shadow.  Woland's  face was tilted  to  one  side,  the
right-hand corner of his mouth pulled downward and deep  furrows  marked his
forehead parallel  to  his eyebrows. The  skin of his  face seemed burned by
timeless sunshine.
     Woland was lying  sprawled on the bed, dressed  only  in a long,  dirty
black nightshirt, patched on the  left shoulder. One bare  leg was tucked up
beneath  him, the other stretched  out on the bench. Hella was massaging his
knees with a steaming ointment.
     On Woland's bare, hairless chest  Margarita noticed a scarab on  a gold
chain, intricately carved out of black stone and  marked on its back with an
arcane script.  Near Woland was  a strange globe, lit from  one side,  which
seemed almost alive.
     The silence lasted for several seconds.  '  He is studying me,' thought
Margarita and by an effort of will tried to stop her legs from trembling.
     At  last Woland  spoke. He  smiled, causing his  one  sparkling eye  to
     'Greetings, my queen. Please excuse my homely garb.'
     Woland's  voice was so  low-pitched that on certain  syllables it faded
off into' a mere growl.
     Woland  picked up a long sword from  the bed, bent over, poked it under
the bed and said :
     'Come out: now. The game's over. Our guest has arrived.'
     'Please ...' Koroviev whispered anxiously into Margarita's  ear like a
     'Please . . "' began Margarita.
     'Messire . . .' breathed Koroviev.
     'Please,  messire,'  Margarita went on quietly but firmly: ' I beg you
not to interrupt your game. I am sure the chess journals would pay a fortune
to be allowed to print it.'
     Azazello  gave a slight croak of approval  and Woland, staring intently
at Margarita, murmured to himself:
     'Yes, Koroviev  was right. The result can  be amazing when you shuffle
the pack. Blood will tell.'
     He stretched out his arm and beckoned Margarita.
     She  walked  up to him,  feeling no  ground under her bare feet. Woland
placed  his hand--as heavy  as stone  and as  hot  as  fire--on  Margarita's
shoulder, pulled her towards him and sat her down on the bed by his side.
     'Since you are  so charming  and kind,'  he said, ' which was  no more
than I expected,  we shan't stand on ceremony.'  He leaned over  the edge of
the bed again and shouted : ' How much longer is this performance  under the
bed going to last? Come on out! '
     'I  can't find the knight,' replied the cat  in a mumed  falsetto from
beneath  the  bed. ' It's galloped off  somewhere and there's  a  frog  here
     'Where  do  you think  you  are--on  a fairground?  '  asked  Woland,
pretending to be  angry. ' There's no  frog under the bed!  Save those cheap
tricks for  the Variety! If you  don't come out at once we'll begin to think
you've gone over to the enemy, you deserter! '
     'Never, messire! ' howled the cat, crawling out with the knight in its
     'Allow me to introduce  to you . . .' Woland  began, then interrupted
himself. ' No, really, he looks too ridiculous! Just look what  he's done to
himself while he was under the bed!'
     The cat, covered in  dust and  standing  on  its  hind legs,  bowed  to
Margarita. Round its neck it  was now  wearing a made-up white bow tie on an
elastic band, with a pair of ladies' mother-of-pearl binoculars hanging on a
cord. It had also gilded its whiskers.
     'What have  you done? ' exclaimed Woland. '  Why have you  gilded your
whiskers? And what on  earth do you want with a white tie  when  you haven't
even got any trousers? '
     'Trousers don't  suit  cats,  messire,'  replied  the cat  with great
dignity. '  Why don't you tell  me to wear boots? Cats always wear  boots in
fairy  tales. But have you ever seen a cat going to a  ball without a tie? I
don't want to make myself look ridiculous. One likes to look as smart as one
can. And that also applies to my opera-glasses, messire i'
     'But your whiskers? . . .'
     'I  don't see  why,' the cat objected coldly, ' Azazello  and Koroviev
are allowed  to cover themselves in powder  and why  powder is  better  than
gilt. I  just powdered my whiskers,  that's  all.  It  would be  a different
matter if I'd shaved myself! A cleanshaven  cat is something monstrous, that
I agree. But I see . . .' --here the cat's voice trembled with pique--'. . .
that this is a conspiracy to be rude about my appearance. Clearly I am faced
with a problem--shall I go to the ball or not? What do you say, messire?'
     Outraged,  the  cat  had so inflated itself  that  it  looked  about to
explode at any second.
     'Ah,  the  rogue,  the  sly rogue,'  said  Woland shaking his  head. '
Whenever he's losing a game he starts a spiel like a quack-doctor at a fair.
Sit down and stop all this hot air.'
     'Very  well,' replied  the cat, sitting down, ' but  I must object. My
remarks are by no means all hot air, as you so vulgarly put it, but a series
of  highly  apposite  syllogisms  which   would  be  appreciated   by   such
connoisseurs  as  Sextus  Empiricus,  Martian  Capella,   even,  who  knows,
Aristotle himself.
     'Check,' said Woland.
     'Check it  is,' rejoined the cat, surveying the chessboard through his
     'So,' Woland turned to Margarita, ' let me introduce my retinue. That
creature who has been playing the fool  is the  cat Behemoth.  A2a2ello  and
Koroviev you have already met; this
     is  my  maid, Hella. She's  prompt, clever, and there's  no service she
cannot perform for you.'
     The beautiful Hella  turned her  green  eyes on Margarita  and  smiled,
continuing to scoop  out the ointment in the palm of her hand and to rub  it
on Woland's knee.
     'Well, there they are,' concluded  Woland, wincing as  Hella massaged
his knee rather too hard.  '  A charming and select little band.' He stopped
and began turning his globe, so cleverly made that the blue sea shimmered in
waves  and the  polar  cap was  of  real  ice  and  snow. On the chessboard,
meanwhile, confusion reigned.  Distraught, the white king was stamping about
on his square  and waving his arms in desperation. Three  white pawns, armed
with halberds, were staring in bewilderment at  a bishop  who was waving his
crozier and pointing forwards to where Woland's black knights sat mounted on
two hot-blooded horses, one pawing the  ground  of a white square, the other
on a black square.
     Margarita  was fascinated  by  the  game  and amazed to  see  that  the
chessmen were alive.
     Dropping its lorgnette, the cat gently nudged his king in the  back, at
which the wretched king covered his face in despair.
     'You're in trouble, my dear  Behemoth,' said  Koroviev  in a voice of
quiet malice.
     'The position is serious but far  from hopeless,' retorted Behemoth. '
What is  more, I am confident of ultimate victory. All it needs is a careful
analysis of the situation.'
     His method  of  analysis took the  peculiar form of pulling  faces  and
winking at his king.
     'That won't do you any good,' said Koroview. ' Oh! ' cried Behemoth, '
all the parrots have flown away, as I said they would.'
     From far  away  came  the  sound  of innumerable  wings.  Koroviev  and
Azazello rushed out of the room.
     'You're  nothing but a pest  with all your arrangements for the ball,'
grumbled  Woland,  preoccupied with  his  globe.  As soon  as  Koroviev  and
Azazella had gone. Behemoth's winking increased  until  at last  the  white
king  guessed what  was required  of him. He suddenly pulled  off his cloak,
dropped it  on his square and walked off the board. The bishop picked up the
royal cloak, threw it round his shoulders and took the king's place.
     Koroviev and Azazello returned.
     'False alarm, as usual,' growled Azazello.
     'Well, I thought I heard something,' said the cat.
     'Come on, how much longer do you need? ' asked Woland. ' Check.'
     'I must have mis-heard you, mon maitre,' replied the cat. ' My king is
not in check and cannot be.'
     'I repeat--check.'
     'Messire,' rejoined the cat in a voice of  mock anxiety, ' you must be
suffering from over-strain. I am not in check! '
     'The king is on square Kz,' said Woland, without looking at the board.
     'Messire, you amaze me,' wailed the cat, putting on an amazed  face, '
there is no king on that square.'
     'What? ' asked Woland,  with a puzzled look at the board. The  bishop,
standing in  the  king's  square,  turned his head away and covered his face
with his hand.
     'Aha, you rogue,' said Woland reflectively.
     'Messire! I  appeal to the laws  of logic!' said the cat, clasping its
paws to its  chest, ' if a player  says check  and there  is  no king on the
board, then the king is not in check! '
     'Do you resign or not? ' shouted Woland in a terrible voice.
     'Give  me time to consider, please,' said  the  cat meekly. It put its
elbows on the  table,  covered its ears  with  its paws and began  to think.
Finally, having considered, it said. ' I resign.'
     'He needs murdering, the obstinate beast,' whispered Azazello.
     'Yes, I resign,' said the cat, ' but only because I find it impossible
to play when I'm distracted  by jealous, hostile  spectators!  ' He stood up
and the chessmen ran back into their box.
     'It's time for you to go, Hella,' said Woland and Hella left the room.
'  My leg has  started, hurting again and now there is this  ball .  . .' he
went on.
     'Allow me,' Margarita suggested gently.
     Woland gave her a searching stare and moved his knee towards her.
     The  ointment, hot as  lava,  burned  her hands  but without  flinching
Margarita massaged it into Woland's knee, trying not to cause him pain.
     'My friends maintain that it's rheumatism,' said Woland, continuing to
stare at Margari.ta, ' but I strongly suspect that the pain is a souvenir of
an encounter with a most beautiful witch  that I had in 1571, on the Brocken
in the Harz Mountains.'
     'Surely not! ' said Margarita.
     'Oh, give it  another three hundred years or so and it  will go.  I've
been  prescribed  all  kinds  of  medicaments,  but  I  prefer  to stick  to
traditional old wives' remedies. I inherited some extraordinary herbal cures
from my  terrible old grandmother. Tell  me, by the way--do you  suffer from
any complaint? Perhaps you have some sorrow which is weighing on your heart?
     'No messire,  I have no such complaint,' replied Margarita astutely. '
In any case, since I have been with you I have never felt better.'
     'As I said--blood will tell . . .' said Woland cheerfully to no one in
particular, adding: ' I see my globe interests you.'
     'I have never seen anything so ingenious.'
     'Yes, it is nice. I confess I never like listening to the news  on the
radio.  It's always read out by some silly girl who can't  pronounce foreign
names  properly.  Besides,  at  least  one  in  three  of the  announcers is
tongue-tied,  as  if  they  chose  them  specially.  My globe  is much  more
convenient, especially as I need  exact information. Do you  see that little
speck of land, for instance, washed by the sea o"n one side? Look, it's just
bursting into flames. War has broken, out there. If you  look  closer you'll
see it in detail.'
     Margarita  leaned towards the globe  and saw that the little  square of
land was growing bigger, emerging in natural colours and turning into a kind
of  relief  map. Then she saw a river and a village beside  it. A  house the
size  of  a  pea  grew  until it  was as large  as a matchbox. Suddenly  and
noiselessly  its roof  flew upwards  in  a  puff of black  smoke,  the walls
collapsed  leaving  nothing  of the two-storey matchbox except a few smoking
heaps of rubble.  Looking  even  closer Margarita  discerned  a  tiny female
figure lying on the  ground  and beside her in a pool of  blood  a baby with
outstretched arms.
     'It's all over now,' said  Woland, smiling. ' He was too young to have
sinned. Abadonna has done his work impeccably.'
     'I  wouldn't  like to be on the side that is against Abadonna,'  said
Margarita. ' Whose side is he on? '
     'The more I  talk to you,' said  Woland kindly, ' the more convinced I
am  that you  are  very  intelligent.  Let me  reassure you.  He is  utterly
impartial and is equally sympathetic to  the people fighting on either side.
Consequently the outcome  is  always the  same  for  both  sides. Abadonna!'
Woland called softly and from the wall appeared the figure of a  man wearing
dark glasses.  These glasses made such a  powerful  impression on  Margarita
that she gave a low cry, turned  away and hit her head against Woland's leg.
' Stop it!  ' cried Woland. ' How nervous  people are nowadays! ' He slapped
Margarita on the back so hard  that her  whole body seemed  to ring. '  He's
only wearing spectacles, that's all.  There never has been and never will be
a case when Abadonna comes to anyone too soon. In any case, I'm here--you're
my guest. I just wanted to show him to you.'
     Abadonna stood motionless.
     'Could  he  take off  his  glasses  for a moment? '  asked Margarita,
pressing against Woland and shuddering, though now with curiosity.
     'No, that is impossible,' replied Woland in a grave tone. At a wave of
his hand, Abadonna vanished. ' What did you want to say, Azazello?'
     'Messire,'  answered  Azazello,  '  two strangers  have  arrived--  a
beautiful girl who  is whining and begging  to be allowed to  stay  with her
mistress, and with her there is, if you'll forgive me, her pig.'
     'What odd behaviour for a girl! ' said Woland.
     'It's Natasha--my Natasha! ' exclaimed Margarita.
     'Very well, she may stay here with her  mistress. Send the  pig to the
     'Are you  going to  kill it?  ' cried  Margarita in fright. ' Please,
messire,  that's  Nikolai Ivanovich, my neighbour. There  was a mistake--she
rubbed the cream on him . . .'
     'Who said anything about killing  him? ' said Woland. '  I merely want
him to sit at the cooks' table, that's all.  I  can't allow a  pig  into the
ballroom, can I? '
     'No, of  course  not,'  said  Azazello,  then announced  :  ' Midnight
approaches, Messire.'
     'Ah,  good.' Woland turned to Margarita.  '  Now let  me  thank you in
advance for your services tonight. Don't lose your head and don't  be afraid
of anything. Drink nothing except  water, otherwise it will sap  your energy
and you will find yourself flagging. Time to go! '
     As Margarita got up from the carpet Koroviev appeared in the doorway.

     Midnight  was  approaching,  time   to  hurry.  Peering  into  the  dim
surroundings, Margarita discerned some candles and an  empty pool carved out
of onyx. As Margarita stood in the pool Hella, assisted by Natasha, poured a
thick,  hot red liquid all  over her.  Margarita tasted salt on her lips and
realised that she was being washed in blood. The  bath of blood was followed
by  another  liquid--dense, translucent and pink,  and Margarita's head swam
with attar of roses. Next she was  laid on a  crystal couch and rubbed  with
large green leaves until she glowed.
     The cat  came in  and began  to help.  It  squatted on its  haunches at
Margarita's feet and began polishing her instep like a shoeblack.
     Margarita never  remembered who it  was who  stitched her shoes out  of
pale rose petals or how those shoes fastened themselves of their own accord.
A  force lifted  her up and placed her in  front  of a mirror:  in  her hair
glittered a diamond crown. Koroviev appeared and hung on  Margarita's breast
a picture  of a black poodle in  a heavy  oval  frame with a massive  chain.
Queen Margarita found this  ornament extremely burdensome, as the chain hurt
her neck and the picture pulled her over forwards. However, the respect with
which  Koroviev and  Behemoth now treated  her was  some recompense  for the
     'There's nothing  for  it,' murmured  Koroviev at the door of the room
with the pool. ' You must wear it round your neck-- you must...  Let me give
you  a last word  of advice, your  majesty. The  guests at the ball  will be
mixed-  -oh, very mixed--but you  must show no favouritism, queen Margot! If
you don't like anybody ... I realise that you won't show it in your face, of
course not--but you  must not even  let  it cross your mind! If you do,  the
guest is  bound to  notice it instantly. You must be sweet and  kind to them
all, your majesty.  For  that, the hostess of the  ball  will be  rewarded a
hundredfold. And  another  thing--  don't neglect  anybody or fail to notice
them.  Just  a smile  if  you haven't time to toss them a word, even just  a
little turn of your head! Anything  you like  except inattention--they can't
bear that. . . .'
     Escorted by Koroviev and Behemoth, Margarita stepped out of the bathing
hall and into total darkness.
     'Me, me,' whispered the cat, ' let me give the signal! '
     'All right, give it,' replied Koroviev from the dark.
     'Let  the ball  commence! '  shrieked  the  cat  in a  piercing voice.
Margarita screamed and  shut her  eyes for  several seconds.  The ball burst
upon her  in an  explosion  of  light,  sound  and  smell. Arm  in arm  with
Koroviev, Margarita  found  herself  in  a tropical forest. Scarlet-breasted
parrots with green tails perched on lianas and hopping from branch to branch
uttered deafening screeches of ' Ecstasy! Ecstasy! ' The forest soon came to
an  end and its hot,  steamy air gave  way to the  cool of  a ballroom  with
columns made of a yellowish, iridescent stone. Like  the forest the ballroom
was completely empty except for some naked Negroes in silver turbans holding
candelabra.  Their  faces  paled with excitement when Margarita floated into
the  ballroom with her suite, to which  Azazello had  now  attached himself.
Here Koroviev released Margarita's arm and whispered :
     'Walk straight towards the tulips! '
     A low wall of white tulips rose up in front of Margarita. Beyond it she
saw countless lights in globes, and rows of men in tails and starched  white
shirts. Margarita  saw then  where  the sound of ball music had  been coming
from. A  roar  of brass  deafened  her and  the soaring  violins that  broke
through it poured over her body  like  blood. The orchestra, all hundred and
fifty of them, were playing a polonaise.
     Seeing  Margarita  the tail-coated conductor turned  pale,  smiled  and
suddenly raised the  whole orchestra to its feet with a  wave  of  his  arm.
Without a moment's  break in  the music  the  orchestra  stood and  engulfed
Margarita in sound. The conductor  turned away  from  the players and gave a
low bow. Smiling, Margarita waved to him.
     'No,  no, that won't do,' whispered Koroviev.  ' He  won't sleep  all
night. Shout to him " Bravo, king of the walt2! " '
     Margarita shouted  as she was told, amazed that her  voice, full  as  a
bell,  rang out over the noise of the  orchestra. The conductor gave a start
of pleasure, placed his left  hand on  his heart and with his  right went on
waving his white baton at the orchestra.
     'Not  enough,'  whispered Koroviev.  ' Look over  there  at  the first
violins and nod to them so  that every one of them  thinks you recognise him
personally.  They  are all  world  famous.  Look,  there  ...  on the  first
desk--that's Joachim! That's right! Very good . . . Now--on we go.'
     'Who is the conductor? ' asked Margarita as she floated away.
     'Johann Strauss!' cried the cat. '  May I be hung from a liana  in the
tropical  forest if any ball has ever had an orchestra like this! I arranged
it! And not one of them was ill or refused to come!'
     There were  no columns in the next hall, but instead  it was flanked by
walls of red,  pink, and milky-white  roses on one side and  on the other by
banks of Japanese double camellias. Fountains  played  between the walls  of
flowers and champagne bubbled in three ornamental basins, the first of which
was a  translucent violet in  colour,  the second  ruby, the third  crystal.
Negroes  in  scarlet turbans  were  busy with silver scoops filling  shallow
goblets with champagne from the  basins. In a gap in the wall of roses was a
man bouncing  up and down on a  stage in a red swallow-tail coat, conducting
an unbearably loud jazz band.  As soon as he saw  Margarita he  bent down in
front of  her until his  hands touched  the floor, then straightened up  and
said in a piercing yell:
     He slapped himself once  on one knee, then twice on the other, snatched
a cymbal from the hands of a nearby musician and struck it against a pillar.
     As  she  floated  away  Margarita  caught  a  glimpse of  the  virtuoso
bandleader, struggling against  the  polonaise  that she  could  still  hear
behind  her, hitting  the bandsmen  on  the head with his cymbal  while they
crouched in comic terror.
     At  last  they  regained  the platform  where  Koroviev  had first  met
Margarita with the lamp. Now her eyes were  blinded with the light streaming
from innumerable bunches of crystal  grapes. Margarita stopped and a  little
amethyst pillar appeared under her left hand.
     'You can rest  your  hand on  it if you  find  it becomes too tiring,'
whispered Koroviev.
     A black-skinned boy  put a cushion embroidered  with  a  golden  poodle
under Margarita's feet. Obeying the pressure of an  invisible hand  she bent
her knee and placed her right foot on the cushion.
     Margarita glanced around. Koroviev and Azazello were standing in formal
attitudes.  Besides Azazello  were  three  young  men, who  vaguely reminded
Margarita of Abadonna. A cold wind blew in her back. Looking round Margarita
saw  that wine was foaming  out of the marble wall into a basin made of ice.
She felt something warm and velvety by her left leg. It was Behemoth.
     Margarita was  standing at  the  head  of  a  vast  carpeted  staircase
stretching  downwards in front  of  her. At the bottom, so far away that she
seemed to be looking at  it through the wrong end of a  telescope, she could
see a vast hall with an absolutely immense fireplace, into whose cold, black
maw  one could  easily  have  driven  a  five-ton  lorry. The hall  and  the
staircase, bathed  in  painfully  bright  light, were  empty. Then Margarita
heard the sound of distant trumpets. For some minutes they stood motionless.
     'Where are the guests? ' Margarita asked Koroviev.
     'They will be here at any moment, your majesty. There  will be no lack
of them. I confess  I'd  rather be sawing logs  than receiving  them here on
this platform.'
     'Sawing  logs?  '   said  the  garrulous  cat.  '  I'd  rather  be  a
tram-conductor and there's no job worse than that.'
     'Everything  must be  prepared  in  advance, your majesty,'  explained
Koroviev, his eye glittering behind the broken lens of  his monocle. ' There
can  be  nothing more embarrassing than for the first guest to  wait  around
uncomfortably, not knowing what to  do, while his lawful  consort curses him
in a whisper for arriving too early. We cannot allow that at our ball, queen
     'I should think not', said the cat.
     'Ten seconds  to  midnight,'  said  Koroviev,  ' it will  begin  in  a
     Those  ten  seconds  seemed  unusually  long  to  Margarita.  They  had
obviously passed but absolutely nothing  seemed to  be happening. Then there
was  a crash from below  in  the enormous  fireplace and out of  it sprang a
gallows  with a  half-decayed corpse bouncing on its arm. The  corpse jerked
itself loose  from the  rope, fell  to the  ground and  stood  up as a dark,
handsome man in tailcoat and lacquered  pumps. A small, rotting coffin  then
slithered out  of the fireplace, its lid flew  off and another corpse jumped
out. The handsome man stepped gallantly towards it and offered his bent arm.
The  second corpse turned  into a nimble little woman in black slippers  and
black feathers  on  her head and then man and  woman together hurried up the
     'The first guests!'  exclaimed  Koroviev.  ' Monsieur Jacques and his
wife. Allow  me to introduce to you, your majesty, a most interesting man. A
confirmed forger,  a  traitor to his country but no  mean alchemist. He  was
famous,' Koroviev whispered  into Margarita's ear, ' for having poisoned the
king's  mistress.  Not  everybody  can  boast  of  that,  can they?  See how
good-looking he is! '
     Turning pale and open-mouthed with shock, Margarita looked down and saw
gallows and coffin disappear through a side door in the hall.
     'We are delighted! ' the  cat roared to Monsieur Jacques as he mounted
the steps.
     Just then a headless, armless skeleton appeared in the fireplace below,
fell down and turned into yet  another man in a  tailcoat. Monsieur Jacques'
wife had by now reached the head of the staircase where she knelt down, pale
with excitement, and kissed Margarita's foot.
     'Your majesty . . .' murmured Madame Jacques.
     'Her majesty is charmed! ' shouted Koroviev. 'Your majesty . . .' said
Monsieur Jacques in a low voice.
     'We  are  charmed! ' intoned the  cat. The young men beside  Azazello,
smiling  lifeless but welcoming  smiles,  were showing Monsieur  and  Madame
Jacques  to one side, wlhere they were offered goblets  of  champagne by the
Negro attendants. The single man in tails came up the staircase at a run.
     'Count  Robert,'  Koroviev  whispered  to  Margarita.  '  An  equally
interesting character. Rather amusing, your majesty-- the case is  reversed:
he was the queen's lover and poisoned his own wife.'
     'We are delighted. Count,' cried Behemoth.
     One  after  another  three  coffins  bounced  out  o.f  the  fireplace,
splitting and breaking open as they  fell, then someone in a black cloak who
was  immediately  stabbed in the back by  the next person to come  down  the
chimney.  There  was a  muffled shriek.  When  an almost  totally decomposed
corpse emerged  from  the  fireplace,  Margarita frowned and a  hand,  which
seemed to be Natasha's, offered her a flacon of sal volatile.
     The staircase began to fill up. Now on almost every step there were men
in tailcoats accompanied by naked women who only  differed in  the colour of
their shoes and the feathers on their heads.
     Margarita noticed  a woman  with the  downcast gaze of  a  nun hobbling
towards her, thin,  shy, hampered by a stsrange wooden boot on  her left leg
and a broad green kerchief round her neck.
     'Who's that woman in green? ' Margarita enquired.
     'A  most charming and respectable lady,' whispered Koroviev. ' Let  me
introduce  you--Signora  Toffana. She was extremely popular among  the young
and attractive ladies of Naples and Palermo, especially among those who were
tired  of  their husbands. Women  do get  bored  with  their  husbands, your
majesty  .  . .'  '  Yes,'  replied Margarita dully, smiling to  two  men in
evening dress who were bowing to kiss her knee and her foot.
     'Well,' Koroviev managed  to whisper to Margarita as he simultaneously
cried  : ' Duke! A glass  of champagne?  We are charmed! . . . Well, Signora
Toffana sympathised  with those  poor women and sold them some liquid  in  a
bladder. The woman poured the  liquid into her  husband's soup, who  ate it,
thanked her for it and felt  splendid.  However, after a few hours he  would
begin to feel a terrible  thirst,  then lay down on his bed and  a day later
another beautiful Neapolitan lady was as free as air.'
     'What's that  on her leg? ' asked  Margarita, without ceasing to offer
her hand to the guests who  had  overtaken Signora  Toffana on the way up. '
And why is she wearing green round her neck? Has she a withered neck? '
     'Charmed, Prince!' shouted Koroviev  as he whispered to  Margarita : '
She has  a  beautiful  neck,  but something unpleasant  happened to  her  in
prison. The thing on  her leg, your majesty, is a Spanish boot and she wears
a  scarf  because  when  her  jailers  found  out  that  about five  hundred
ill-matched husbands had been dispatched from Naples  and Palermo  for ever,
they strangled Signora Toffana in a rage.'
     'How  happy I  am, your  majesty, that I have the  great honour . . .'
whispered  Signora Toffana in a  nun-like voice, trying  to fall on one knee
but  hindered  by the  Spanish  boot. Koroviev and  Behemoth  helped Signora
Toffana to rise.
     'I am delighted,' Margarita answered her as  she gave her  hand to the
next arrival.
     People were  now mounting the staircase in a flood. Margarita ceased to
notice the arrivals in  the  hall.  Mechanically she  raised and lowered her
hand, bared her teeth  in a smile for each new guest. The landing behind her
was buzzing with voices, and  music  like  the waves of the  sea floated out
from the ball-rooms.
     'Now this woman is a  terrible bore.'  Koroviev no longer  bothered to
whisper but shouted it aloud, certain that no one  could hear his voice over
the hubbub. ' She  loves coming to a ball  because  it gives her a chance to
complain about her handkerchief.'
     Among the approaching crowd Margarita's glance  picked out the woman at
whom Koroviev  was pointing. She was  young, about twenty, with a remarkably
beautiful figure but a look of nagging reproach.
     'What handkerchief? ' asked Margarita.
     'A  maid  has  been  assigned to her,' Koroviev  explained, ' who for
thirty years has  been putting a handkerchief  on her bedside table.  It  is
there every morning when she  wakes up. She burns it in the  stove or throws
it in the river but every morning it appears again beside her.'
     'What handkerchief?' whispered  Margarita, continuing  to  lower  and
raise her hand to the guests.
     'A handkerchief with a blue border. One day when she was a waitress in
a  cafe the owner enticed her into the  storeroom and nine  months later she
gave birth to a boy, carried him into the woods, stuffed a handkerchief into
his mouth and then  buried him. At the trial she said she couldn't afford to
feed the child.'
     'And where is the cafe-owner? ' asked Margarita.
     'But  your  majesty,'  the  cat  suddenly  growled,  '  what has  the
cafe-owner  got to  do with it? It wasn't  he who  stifled the baby  in  the
forest, was it? '
     Without ceasing to  smile  and to shake hands  with her right hand, she
dug the  sharp nails of  her  left hand into Behemoth's ear and whispered to
the cat:
     'If you butt into the conversation once more, you little horror . . .'
     Behemoth gave a distinctly unfestive squeak and croaked:
     'Your majesty .  . . you'll make my ear swell . . . why spoil the ball
with a swollen ear? I  was speaking from the legal point of view ... I'll be
quiet, I promise, pretend I'm not a cat, pretend I'm  a fish if you like but
please let go of my ear!'
     Margarita released his ear.
     The woman's grim, importunate eyes looked into Margarita's :
     'I am so happy, your majesty,  to be invited to the great  ball of the
full moon.'
     'And  I am delighted  to see  you,' Margarita  answered her,  ' quite
delighted. Do you like champagne? '
     'Hurry up, your majesty! ' hissed Koroviev quietly but  desperately. '
You're causing a traffic-jam on the staircase.'
     'Yes,  I like champagne,' said the  woman imploringly,  and  began to
repeat  mechanically: ' Frieda,  Frieda, Frieda!  My name  is  Frieda,  your
majesty! '
     'Today you  may get drunk, Frieda, and forget about everything,'  said
     Frieda  stretched  out  both her  arms  to Margarita, but Koroviev  and
Behemoth deftly took an arm each and whisked her off into the crowd.
     By  now  people  were  advancing  from below  like a  phalanx  bent  on
assaulting the  landing  where Margarita stood. The naked women mounting the
staircase  between  the  tail-coated  and white-tied  men floated  up  in  a
spectrum of coloured bodies that ranged from white through olive, copper and
coffee  to quite black.  In hair  that was  red, black, chestnut or  flaxen,
sparks flashed from precious stones. Diamond-studded orders glittered on the
jackets and shirt-fronts of the men. Incessantly Margarita felt the touch of
lips  to her knee, incessantly she offered her hand to  be  kissed, her face
stretched into a rigid mask of welcome.
     'Charmed,' Koroviev would monotonously intone, ' We are  charmed . . .
her majesty is charmed . . .'
     'Her majesty is charmed,'  came a nasal  echo  from Azazello, standing
behind her.
     'I am charmed! ' squeaked the cat.
     'Madame  la marquise,'  murmured Koroviev, ' poisoned her father, her
two  brothers and  two sisters  for the  sake  of an inheritance  . .  . Her
majesty is  delighted, Mme. Minkin! .  . . Ah, how pretty  she  is! A trifle
nervous,  though.  Why  did  she  have to  burn her  maid  with  a  pair  of
curling-tongs? Of course, in the way she used them it was  bound to be fatal
. . . Her majesty is charmed! . . . Look, your majesty--the Emperor Rudolf--
magician and alchemist . .  . Another  alchemist--he  was hanged  . .  . Ah,
there she is! What a magnificent brothel she used to keep in Strasbourg! . .
. We arc  delighted, madame! .  .  . That woman  over  there  was  a  Moscow
dressmaker who  had the brilliantly funny idea  of boring two peep-holes  in
the wall of her fitting-room . . .'
     'And  didn't her lady clients know? enquired  Margarita. ' Of course,
they all knew, your  majesty,' replied Koroviev. ' Charmed! . . . That young
man over there was a dreamer and an eccentric from childhood. A girl fell in
love with him and he sold her to a brothel-keeper . . .
     On  and  on  poured  the  stream   from  below.  Its  source--the  huge
fireplace--showed no  sign  of  drying up.  An  hour passed,  then  another.
Margarita felt her chain weighing more and more. Something odd was happening
to  her hand  : she found she could not lift it  without wincing. Koroviev's
remarks ceased  to interest  her.  She  could no  longer distinguish between
slant-eyed Mongol faces, white faces and black faces. They all merged into a
blur and the air between them  seemed  to be  quivering. A sudden sharp pain
like a needle stabbed at Margarita's right hand, and clenching her teeth she
leaned her elbow on the little pedestal. A sound like the  rustling of wings
came from the rooms behind her as the horde of  guests danced, and Margarita
could feel  the  massive floors  of  marble, crystal  and  mosaic  pulsating
     Margarita showed  as little interest in the emperor  Caius Caligula and
Messalina as she did in the rest of the procession of kings, dukes, knights,
suicides,  poisoners,  gallows-birds,  procuresses, jailers,  card-sharpers,
hangmen, informers, traitors, madmen, detectives and seducers. Her head swam
with  their names, their faces merged  into a  great blur and only  one face
remained  fixed  in her  memory--Malyuta  Skuratov  with  his  fiery  beard.
Margarita's legs were buckling and she was afraid that she n^ight burst into
tears at any moment.  The worst pain came from her right knee, which all the
guests had kissed. It was  swollen, the  skin on it had turned blue in spite
of  Natasha's constant  attention to it  with a  sponge  soaked  in fragrant
ointment. By the end of the  third  hour Margarita glanced wearily  down and
saw with a start of joy that the flood of guests was thinning out.
     'Every ball is the same, your majesty.' whispered Koroviev, ' at about
this time the arrivals  begin to decrease. I promise you that  this  torture
will not last more  than a few minutes longer. Here comes a party of witches
from the Brocken, they're always  the last  to arrive. Yes, there  they are.
And a couple of drunken vampires ... is that all? Oh, no, there's one more .
. . no, two more.'
     The last two guests mounted the staircase.
     'Now this is someone new,' said Koroviev, peering through his monocle.
' Oh, yes, now I remember. Azazello called on him once and advised him, over
a glass of brandy, how to get rid of a man who  was threatening  to denounce
him.  So he  made his friend, who was under an  obligation to him, spray the
other man's office walls with poison.'
     'What's his name? ' asked Margarita.
     'I'm afraid I don't know,' said Koroviev, ' You'd better ask Azazello.
     'And who's that with him? '
     'That's  his friend who did the job. Delighted to welcome you! ' cried
Koroviev to the last two guests.
     The staircase was  empty, and although the reception committee waited a
little longer to make sure, no one else appeared from the fireplace.
     A second  later, half-fainting, Margarita found herself beside the pool
again  where,  bursting  into tears  from the  pain in her arm  and leg, she
collapsed  to  the floo:r. Hella  and Natasha comforted her,  doused her  in
blood and massaged her body until she revived again.
     'Once  more,  queen Margot,'  whispered Koroviev. ' You must make  the
round of the ballrooms  just once more to  show our guests that they are not
being neglected.'
     Again Margarita  floated away from the pool. In place of Johan Strauss'
orchestra the stage behind the wall of  tulips had been taken over by a jazz
band of frenetic apes. An enormous gorilla with shaggy sideburns and holding
a  trumpet was leaping  clumsily up  and down  as  he conducted.  Orang-utan
trumpeters sat in the front row, each with a chimpanzee  accordionist on his
shoulders. Two baboons with manes  like lions' were playing the piano, their
efforts  completely  drowned  by the roaring,  squeaking and banging  of the
saxophones,  violins  and  drums  played by troops  of gibbons, mandrils and
marmosets.  Innumerable  couples circled round the glass floor with  amazing
dexterity, a  mass  of bodies  moving lightly and  gracefully  as one.  Live
butterflies fluttered  over the dancing horde, flowers drifted down from the
ceiling. The electric light had been turned out, the capitals of the pillars
were now lit by myriads of glow-worms, and will-o'-the-wisps danced  through
the air.
     Then Margarita found herself by the side of another pool,  this time of
vast  dimensions and  ringed by  a colonnade. A  gigantic black  Neptune was
pouring a  broad pink  stream from his  great mouth.  Intoxicating  fumes of
champagne rose from  the pool.  Joy  reigned  untrammelled. Women, laughing,
handed their bags to their escorts or to the Negroes who ran along the sides
holding towels,  and dived shrieking  into the  pool. Spray rose in showers.
The crystal bottom of the pool glowed with a faint light which shone through
the  sparkling  wine  to light  up  the  silvery bodies of the swimmers, who
climbed out  of the pool again completely drunk.  Laughter  rang out beneath
the pillars until it drowned even the jazz ba.nd.
     In all  this  debauch  Margarita  distinctly saw  one  totally  drunken
woman's  face  with  eyes   that  were  wild  with  intoxication  yet  still
     Margarita's head  began to  spin with the fumes of the wine and she was
just about to move on when  the cat staged one of his tricks in the swimming
pool.  Behemoth  made  a  few magic passes  in front  of Neptune's  moiath ;
immediately all  the champagne drained out  of the pool, an-d Neptune  began
spewing  forth  a stream of  brown liquid. Shrieking with delight the  women
screamed : '  Brandy! '  In a few seconds the pool  was full. Spinning round
three  times like  a top  the  cat  leaped into  the air and dived into  the
turbulent  sea  of brandy.  It crawled out, spluttering, its tie soaked, the
gilding  gone  from its whiskers,  and minus  its lorgnette.  Only one woman
dared follow Behemoth's example --the  dressmaker--procuress and her escort,
a  handsome young  mulatto. They both dived into the brandy, but before  she
had time to see any more Margarita was led away by Koroviev.
     They seemed to take wing and in their flight Margarita first  saw great
stone tanks  full  of oysters,  then a row of hellish furnaces blazing  away
beneath the glass floor and attended  by a frantic crew of diabolical chefs.
In the  confusion she  remembered a glimpse of dark  caverns lit by  candles
where  girls were serving meat that  sizzled on glowing coals  and revellers
drank Margarita's  health  from  vast mugs  of beer. Then  came polar  bears
playing accordions and  dancing  a  Russian  dance  on a stage, a salamander
doing conjuring tricks unharmed by the flames around it ... And for a second
time Margarita felt her strength beginning to flag.
     'The last round,'  whispered  Koroviev  anxiously, '  and then  we're
     Escorted by  Koroviev, Margarita returned to  the ballroom, but now the
dance had stopped and the guests  were crowded  between the pillars, leaving
an  open space in the  middle of the  room. Margarita could not remember who
helped her up to a platform which  appeared in the empty space. When she had
mounted it, to her amazement she heard a bell  strike midnight,  although by
her reckoning  midnight was long  past. At  the last chime of  the invisible
clock silence fell on the crowd of guests.
     Then  Margarita  saw  Woland.  He approached  surrounded  by  Abadonna,
Azazello and several young men in black resembling Abadonna. She now noticed
another platform beside her own, prepared for Woland.  But he  did not  make
use  of  it.  Margarita was  particularly  surprised to notice  that  Woland
appeared  at the ball in exactly the same state in which he had been in  the
bedroom. The same dirty, patched nightshirt hung from his shoulders  and his
feet were in darned bedroom slippers. Woland was armed with his sword but he
leaned on the naked weapon as though it were a walking stick.
     Limping, Woland stopped beside his platform. At  once Azazello appeared
in front of him bearing a dish. On that dish Margarita  saw the severed head
of a man  with most  of its  front  teeth missing. There was  still absolute
silence, only broken by the distant sound, puzzling in the circumstances, of
a door-bell ringing.
     'Mikhail Alexandrovich,' said Woland quietly to the head, at which its
eyelids opened. With a shudder Margarita saw that the eyes in that dead face
were alive, fully conscious and tortured with pain.
     'It all  came  true, didn't it? ' said Woland,  staring at the eyes of
the  head. ' Your head was cut off by a woman, the meeting didn't take place
and  I  am  living  in your flat. That is  a fact. And a  fact is  the  most
obdurate thing in the  world.  But what interests us  now is the future, not
the facts of  the past.  You have always  been  a fervent proponent  of  the
theory that when a man's  head is  cut off  his life stops, he turns to dust
and he ceases to  exist. I am glad to be able to tell you in front of all my
guests-- despite  the fact that their presence here is proof to the contrary
--that your  theory  is intelligent  and  sound.  Now--one  theory  deserves
another. Among them there is one which maintains that a man will receive his
deserts in accordance with his beliefs. So be it!  You shall depart into the
void and from the  goblet into which your skull is about to be transformed I
shall have the pleasure of drinking to life eternal! '
     Woland raised his sword. Immediately the  skin of the head darkened and
shrank,  then  fell  away in shreds, the eyes  disappeared  and in a  second
Margarita  saw on  the  dish a yellowed skull, with emerald  eyes  and pearl
teeth, mounted on a golden stand. The top of the skull opened with a hinge.
     'In a second, messire,'  said  Koroviev,  noticing Woland's enquiring
glance, ' he will stand  before you. I can  hear the creak of  his shoes and
the tinkle as he puts down the last glass of champagne of his lifetime. Here
he is.'
     A new  guest, quite alone,  entered the ballroom.  Outwardly  he was no
different from the thousands of other male  guests, except  in one thing--he
was  literally staggering with fright. Blotches glowed on his cheeks and his
eyes were swivelling with alarm. The guest  was stunned.  Everything that he
saw shocked him, above all the way Woland was dressed.
     Yet he was greeted with marked courtesy.
     'Ah, my dear Baron Maigel,' Woland  said with a welcoming smile to his
guest, whose eyes  were  starting out of his head. ' I am happy to introduce
to you,' Woland turned towards his guests, ' Baron Maigel, who works for the
Entertainments  Commission as  a  guide  to  the sights  of  the capital for
foreign visitors.'
     Then Margarita  went  numb. She recognised  this  man  Maigel.  She had
noticed him several times in Moscow theatres and restaurants. ' Has  he died
too? ' Margarita wondered. But the matter was soon explained.
     'The  dear Baron,' Woland continued with a broad smile, ' was charming
enough  to ring me  up as soon as I arrived in Moscow and  to  offer me  his
expert  services as a guide to the sights of the city. Naturally I was happy
to invite him to come and see me.'
     Here Margarita noticed that Azazello handed the  dish with the skull to
     'By  the  way. Baron,'  said  Woland,  suddenly  lowering  his  voice
confidentially,  '  rumours  have  been   going  round   that  you  have  an
unquenchable curiosity. This characteristic, people say, together with  your
no  less developed  conversational  gifts,  has  begun  to  attract  general
attention.  What  is  more,  evil  tongues  have  let   slip  the   words  "
eavesdropper" and "  spy." What is more, there is a suggestion that this may
bring you to an unhappy  end in less than  a month from  now. So in order to
save you  from the agonising suspense of waiting, we have decided to come to
your help, making use of the fact that  you invited yourself to see  me with
the aim of spying and eavesdropping as much as you could.'
     The  Baron turned  paler  than  the pallid Abadonna and then  something
terrible happened. Abadonna stepped  in front of the Baron and for a  second
took off his spectacles. At that moment there was  a  flash and a crack from
Azazello's  hand  and the Baron staggered, crimson blood  spurting from  his
chest and  drenching his starched  shirtfront and waistcoat. Koroviev placed
the skull under the pulsating stream  of blood  and when the goblet was full
handed it to Woland. The Baron's lifeless body had meanwhile crumpled to the
     'Your health, ladies and gentlemen,' said Woland and raised the goblet
to his lips.
     An instant metamorphosis took place. The nightshirt and darned slippers
vanished. Woland was wearing a black gown with a sword at his hip. He strode
over to Margarita, offered her the goblet and said in a commanding voice :
     Margarita felt dizzy, but the cup was  already at her lips and a  voice
was whispering in her ears :
     'Don't be afraid, your majesty . .  .  don't  be afraid, your majesty,
the blood has long since drained away  into the earth  and grapes have grown
on the spot.'
     Her eyes shut, Margarita took a sip and the sweet juice ran through her
veins, her ears rang.  She  was  deafened  by  cocks crowing, a distant band
played a  march. The crowd of guests faded--the tailcoated men and the women
withered to  dust and before her eyes the bodies began to rot, the stench of
the tomb  filled the air. The  columns  dissolved, the lights went  out, the
fountains dried up and vanished with the  camellias and the tulips. All that
remained was what had been there before : poor Berlioz's  drawing-room, with
a shaft  of light falling through  its half-open door.  Margarita  opened it
wide and went in.

     Everything in  Woland's bedroom was  as it had  been  before  the ball.
Woland  was sitting  in his nightshirt on the  bed, only this time Hella was
not  rubbing his  knee, and a meal was  laid on the  table in  place of  the
chessboard.  Koroviev and  Azazello  had  removed  their tailcoats  and were
sitting  at table, alongside  them the cat, who  still refused to be  parted
from  his bow-tie even  though  it was by  now reduced  to a  grubby  shred.
Tottering,  Margarita walked  up  to the  table  and  leaned on  it.  Woland
beckoned  her, as before, to sit  beside him on the bed. ' Well, was it very
exhausting? ' enquired Woland. ' Oh  no, messire,'  replied  Margarita in  a
scarcely audible voice. ' Noblesse oblige,' remarked the  cat, pouring out a
glassful of clear liquid for Margarita.
     'Is that  vodka? ' Margarita asked weakly. The  cat jumped up from its
chair  in indignation. '  Excuse me, your  majesty,' he  squeaked, '  do you
think I would give vodka  to a lady? That  is pure spirit!' Margarita smiled
and tried to push away the  glass. ' Drink it up,' said Woland and Margarita
at once picked up the glass.
     'Sit  down, Hella,' ordered Woland, and explained to Margarita : ' The
night of the full moon is a night of celebration,  and I dine in the company
of my close friends and my servants. Well, how do you feel? How did you find
that exhausting ball? '
     'Shattering! '  quavered Koroviev. ' They were all  charmed, they  all
fell in love with her, they  were all crushed! Such tact, such savoir-faire,
such fascination, such charm! '
     Woland silently raised his  glass and  clinked it with Margarita's. She
drank  obediently, expecting the  spirit to  knock her  out.  It had no  ill
effect,  however.  The  reviving warmth flowed through her body,  she felt a
mild shock in the back of her neck, her strength returned as if she had just
woken  from  a  long  refreshing  sleep  and  she  felt  ravenously  hungry.
Remembering that she had not eaten since  the morning of the day before, her
hunger increased and she began wolfing down caviar.
     Behemoth cut himself a slice of pineapple, salted and  peppered it, ate
it and chased it  down  with a second  glass  of spirit with a flourish that
earned a round of applause.
     After Margarita's  second glassful the light in  the  candelabra burned
brighter and the coals in  the fireplace glowed hotter, yet she did not feel
the least drunk. As her white teeth bit into the meat Margarita savoured the
delicious juice that poured from it and watched  Behemoth smearing an oyster
with mustard.
     'If I were you I  should put a grape on top of it,  too,'  said Hella,
digging the cat in the ribs.
     'Kindly don't  teach your grandmother to suck eggs,' Behemoth replied.
' I know how to behave at table, so mind your own business.'
     'Oh, how nice  it is to dine like this, at home,'  tinkled Koro-viev's
voice, ' just among friends . . .'
     'No,  Faggot,' said the cat. '  I  like the ball--it's  so grand  and
     'It's not in the least  exciting and not very grand either, and those
idiotic bears and the tigers in  the bar--they nearly gave me  migraine with
their roaring,' said Woland.
     'Of course,  messire,'  said the cat. '  If you  think it wasn't  very
grand, I immediately find myself agreeing with you.'
     'And so I should think,' replied Woland.
     'I was joking,' said the cat meekly ' and  as  for those tigers,  I'll
have them roasted.'
     'You can't eat tiger-meat' said Hella.
     'Think so?  Well, let me tell you a story,' retorted the cat. Screwing
up its eyes with pleasure it  told a story of how it had once spent nineteen
days wandering in the desert and its only food had been the meat of a  tiger
it had killed. They all listened with fascination and when Behemoth came  to
the end of his story they all chorussed in unison :
     'Liar! '
     'The most  interesting  thing about that  farrago,' said Woland, ' was
that it was a lie from first to last.'
     'Oh, you think  so, do  you? ' exclaimed the cat and everybody thought
that it  was about to  protest again,  but it only said quietly : '  History
will be my judge.'
     'Tell me,' revived by the vodka Margot turned to Azazello :
     'did you shoot that ex-baron? '
     'Of course,' replied Azazello,' why not? He needed shooting.'
     'I  had such  a  shock!  '  exclaimed Margarita,  '  it  happened  so
unexpectedly! '
     'There  was  nothing unexpected  about  it,'  Azazello objected,  and
Koroviev whined :
     'Of course she was shocked. Why, even I was shaking in my shoes! Bang!
Crash! Down went the baron! '
     'I  nearly had hysterics,' added  the cat,  licking a  caviar-smeared
     'But there's something I can't understand,' said Margarita,  her  eyes
sparkling with curiosity. ' Couldn't the music and general noise of the ball
be heard outside? '
     'Of course  not, your majesty,' said Koroviev. ' We saw to that. These
things must be done discreetly.'
     'Yes, I see ... but what about that man on the staircase when Azazello
and I  came up ... and the other one at the foot of the staircase? I had the
impression that they were keeping watch on your flat.'
     'You're right,  you're  right,' cried Koroviev,' you're right, my dear
Margarita  Nikolayevna!  You  have  confirmed my  suspicions.  Yes,  he  was
watching our flat. For a while I thought he was some absent-minded professor
or a lover mooning about on the staircase.  But no!  I  had an uncomfortable
feeling  he  might be watching the flat.  And there  was another  one at the
bottom of the stairs too? And the one at the main entrance-- did he look the
same? ' ' Suppose they come and arrest you? ' asked Margarita.
     'Oh,  they'll  come  all  right, fairest one, they'll come!' answered
Koroviev. ' I feel it in my bones. Not now, of course, but they'll come when
they're ready. But I don't think they'll have much luck.'
     'Oh,  what  a  shock I  had  when the Baron fell! '  said  Margarita,
obviously still feeling the effects of seeing her first murder. '  I suppose
you're a good shot? '
     'Fair,' answered Azazello.
     'At how many paces? '
     'As many as  you  like,'  replied Azazello. '  It's one  thing to hit
Latunsky's windows with a hammer, but it's quite another to hit  him in  the
     'In the heart!  '  exclaimed Margarita, clutching her  own heart. ' In
the heart! ' she repeated grimly.
     'What's this about Latunsky? ' enquired Woland, frowning at Margarita.
     Azazello,  Koroviev  and  Behemoth  looked  down  in embarrassment  and
Margarita replied, blushing :
     'He's a critic. I wrecked his flat this evening.'
     'Did you now! Why?'
     'Because,  messire,'  Margarita explained, ' he  destroyed  a  certain
     'But why did you put yourself to such trouble?' asked Woland.
     'Let me do it, messire!' cried the cat joyfully, jumping to its feet.
     'You sit down,' growled Azazello, rising. ' I'll go at once.'
     'No!' cried Margarita. ' No, I beg you, messire, you mustn't!'
     'As you wish, as you wish,' replied Woland. Azazello sat down again.
     'Where were we, precious queen  Margot?' said Koroviev. ' Ah  yes, his
heart...  He can hit  a man's  heart  all  right,'  Koroviev  pointed a long
.finger  at  Azazello.  '  Anywhere you like. Just name the auricle--or  the
     For a moment Margarita did not grasp the implication of this,  then she
exclaimed in amazement:
     'But they're inside the body--you can't see them! '
     'My dear,' burbled Koroviev,  ' that's the whole point--you can't  see
them! That's the joke! Any fool can hit something you can see!'
     Koroviev took the seven  of spades out of a box, showed it to Margarita
and asked her  to point  at one of the pips. Margarita chose the  one in the
upper right-hand corner. Hella hid the card under a pillow and shouted :
     Azazello, who  was  sitting  with  his back to the pillow, took a black
automatic out of his trouser pocket, aimed the muzzle over his shoulder and,
without turning round towards the  bed, fired, giving Margarita an enjoyable
shock. The  seven  of  spades  was removed  from under the pillow. The upper
right-hand pip was shot through.
     'I  wouldn't like to  meet you  when  you've  got a  revolver,'  said
Margarita with a  coquettish look at Azazello. She had  a passion for people
who did things well.
     'My precious queen,'  squeaked Koroviev,' I don't recommend anybody to
meet him even without  his revolver! I give  you  my word  of honour  as  an
ex-choirmaster that anybody who did would regret it.'
     During  the trial of marksmanship the cat had sat scowling. Suddenly it
     'I bet I can shoot better than that.'
     Azazello  snorted, but Behemoth was insistent  and demanded not one but
two revolvers. Azazello drew another  pistol  from  his left hip pocket  and
with a sarcastic grin handed them both to the cat. Two pips on the card were
selected. The cat took  a long time  to prepare, then turned its back on the
cushion.  Margarita sat down with her fingers in her ears and  stared at the
owl dozing on the mantelpiece.  Behemoth fired from both revolvers, at which
there came a yelp from Hella, the owl fell dead from the mantelpiece and the
clock stopped from a bullet in its vitals. Hella, one finger bleeding,  sank
her nails into the cat's fur. Behemoth in retaliation clawed at her hair and
the pair of them rolled on the  floor in a struggling heap. A glass fell off
the table and broke.
     'Somebody pull this she-devil off me! ' wailed the cat, lashing out at
Hella who had thrown the animal on its back and was sitting  astride it. The
combatants were  separated and  Koroviev  healed Hella's  wounded  finger by
blowing on it.
     'I can't shoot  properly when people are whispering about me behind my
back! ' shouted Behemoth, trying to stick back into place a large handful of
fur that had been torn off his back.
     'I bet you,' said Woland with a smile at Margarita, ' that he did that
on purpose. He can shoot perfectly well.'
     Hella  and the cat  made friends again and  sealed their reconciliation
with a kiss. Someone removed the card  from under the  cushion  and examined
it.  Not a  single  pip,  except the one shot  through  by Azazello had been
     'I don't believe it,' said the  cat, staring through  the hole in  the
card at the light of the candelabra.
     Supper went  gaily on. The  candles  began  to gutter, a warm dry  heat
suffused  the room from the fireplace. Having eaten  her fill, a  feeling of
well-being came  over Margarita. She watched as Azazello blew smoke-rings at
the fireplace and the cat spiked them on the end of his sword.  She  felt no
desire to go, although by  her timing  it was  late--probably,  she thought,
about six o'clock in the morning. During a pause Margarita turned to  Woland
and said timidly :
     'Excuse me, but it's time for me to go ...  it's getting late . . .' '
Where are you going in such a hurry?' enquired  Woland politely but a little
coldly. The others said nothing, pretending to be watching the game with the
     'Yes,  it's  time,' said  Margarita uneasily  and turned  round as if
looking for a cloak or something else to wear.  Her  nakedness was beginning
to embarrass her. She got up from the table. In silence Woland picked up his
greasy dressing-gown  from the bed  and Koroviev  threw  it over Margarita's
     'Thank you, messire,' whispered Margarita with a questioning glance at
Woland. In reply he  gave her a polite but apathetic smile. Black depression
at once swelled  up in Margarita's heart.  She felt herself  cheated. No one
appeared  to be  going to offer her any reward for her  services at the ball
and  nobody made  a  move  to prevent her going. Yet she realised quite well
that she had nowhere to go. A passing thought that she might have to go back
home  brought on an  inner convulsion of despair. Dared  she ask  about  the
master, as Azazello had so temptingly suggested in the Alexander  Gardens? '
No, never!' she said to herself.
     'Goodbye, messire,' she said aloud, thinking : ' If only I can get out
of here, I'll make straight for the river and drown myself! '
     'Sit down,'  Woland  suddenly  commanded  her.  A  change  came  over
Margarita's face and she sat down.
     'Perhaps you'd like to say something in farewell? '
     'Nothing, messire,' replied Margarita proudly, ' however, if you still
need me I am ready to do anything you wish.  I  am  not  at all tired  and I
enjoyed the ball. If it had lasted longer I would have been glad to continue
offering  my  knee   to  be  kissed  by  thousands  more  gallows-birds  and
     Margarita felt she was looking  at Woland through a  veil; her eyes had
filled with tears.
     'Well said! '  boomed Woland  in a terrifying  voice. '  That was the
right answer! '
     'The right  answer! ' echoed Woland's retinue in unison. ' We have put
you to the test,' said  Woland. ' You  should never ask anyone for anything.
Never--and  especially from those who are more  powerful than yourself. They
will make the offer and they will give of their own accord. Sit  down, proud
woman! ' Woland pulled the heavy dressing-gown from Margarita's back and she
again found herself sitting beside him on  the  bed. '  So, Margot,'  Woland
went on,  his voice softening. ' What do you want for having been my hostess
tonight?  What reward  do you want for having  spent  the night  naked? What
price  do you  set on your bruised knee? What damages did you suffer  at the
hands of my guests, whom just now you called gallows-birds? Tell me! You can
speak without constraint now, because it was I who made the offer.'
     Margarita's heart  began to knock, she sighed deeply and tried to think
of something.
     'Come  now,  be  brave!  '  said  Woland  encouragingly.  ' Use  your
imagination! The mere fact of having watched the murder of that worn-out old
rogue of a baron is worth a reward, especially for a woman. Well? '
     Margarita  caught  her breath. She was  about to  utter her secret wish
when she suddenly turned pale, opened her mouth and stared. ' Frieda! . .  .
Frieda, Frieda! ' a sobbing, imploring voice cried in  her ear. ' My name is
Frieda! ' and Margarita said, stuttering:
     'Can I ask . . . for one thing? '
     'Demand, don't ask, madonna mia,' replied Woland with an understanding
smile. ' You may demand one thing.'
     With  careful  emphasis Woland repeated Margarita's own words :  '  one
thing '.
     Margarita sighed again and said :
     'I  want  them to stop giving Frieda back the handkerchief she used to
stifle her baby.'
     The cat looked up at the ceiling and sighed noisily, but said  nothing,
obviously remembering the damage done to his ear.
     'In view of the fact,' said  Woland, smiling,' that the possibility of
your having taken a bribe from that idiot Frieda is, of course, excluded--it
would  in any case have  been  unfitting to your queenly rank--I don't  know
what to do. So there only  remains one thing--to find yourself some rags and
use them to block up all the cracks in my bedroom.'
     'What  do  you mean, messire?  ' said Margarita,  puzzled.  '  I quite
agree,  messire,' interrupted  the cat. '  Rags--that's  it!  '  And the cat
banged its paw on the table in exasperation.
     'I was  speaking of compassion,'  explained  Woland,  the gaze of his
fiery eye fixed on Margarita. ' Sometimes it creeps in through the narrowest
cracks. That is why I suggested using rags to block them up . . .'
     'That's what I meant, too!  '  exclaimed  the cat,  for  safety's sake
edging away from Margarita and covering its pointed  ears with  paws smeared
in pink cream.
     'Get out,' Woland said to the cat.
     'I haven't had my coffee,' replied Behemoth. ' How  can  you expect me
to go yet? Surely you don't divide your guests into two grades on a  festive
night like this, do you--first-grade and second-grade-fresh, in the words of
that miserable cheeseparing barman? '
     'Shut up,' said Woland, then turning to Margarita enquired :
     'To judge  from everything about you, you seem to be a good person. Am
I right? '
     'No,' replied Margarita forcefully. ' I know that I can only be frank
with  you and I  tell  you frankly--I am headstrong. I only  asked you about
Frieda because  I was rash  enough to give her a firm  hope.  She's waiting,
messire, she believes  in  my  power. And if she's cheated  I shall be in  a
terrible  position. I  shall have no peace for the rest of my life.  I can't
help it--it just happened.'
     'That's quite understandable,' said Woland.
     'So will you do it? ' Margarita asked quietly.
     'Out of the question,' replied Woland. ' The fact is,  my dear  queen,
that there has been a slight misunderstanding. Each department must stick to
its own business. I admit that our  scope is fairly wide, in fact it is much
wider than a number of very sharp-eyed people imagine . . .'
     'Yes,  much  wider,'  said the  cat,  unable  to restrain  itself and
obviously proud of its interjections.
     'Shut  up,  damn you!  ' said Woland,  and  he turned  and went on to
Margarita. ' But what sense is there, I ask you, in doing something which is
the business of another department, as  I call it? So you see I can't do it;
you must do it yourself.'
     'But can I do it? '
     Azazello squinted at Margarita, gave an imperceptible flick  of his red
mop and sneered.
     'That's just the trouble--to do it,' murmured Woland. He
     had been turning the  globe, staring at some detail  on it,  apparently
absorbed in something else while Margarita  had  been talking. ' Well, as to
Frieda  . .  .' Koroviev  prompted her.  ' Frieda!  ' cried  Margarita in  a
piercing voice. The door burst open  and a naked, dishevelled but completely
sober woman with ecstatic  eyes ran into the room and stretched out her arms
towards Margarita, who said majestically :
     'You are forgiven. You will never be given the handkerchief again.'
     Frieda gave a shriek and fell spreadeagled, face downward  on the floor
in front of Margarita. Woland waved his hand and Frieda vanished.
     'Thank you. Goodbye,' said Margarita and rose to go. ' Now, Behemoth,'
said Woland, ' as tonight is a holiday we  shan't  take advantage of her for
being  so impractical, shall we? ' He turned to Margarita. ' All right, that
didn't count, because I did nothing. What do you want for yourself? '
     There was silence, broken by Koroviev whispering to Margarita:
     'Madonna bellissima, this  time I  advise you to be more  sensible. Or
your luck may run out.'
     'I want  you to give me back  instantly,  this minute, my lover --the
master,' said Margarita, her face contorted.
     A gust  of wind burst into  the room, flattening the candle flames. The
heavy  curtain  billowed  out,  the  window was flung  open. and high  above
appeared  a  full  moon--not a  setting moon, but the  midnight moon. A dark
green cloth stretched from the wind-ow-sill to the  floor and down it walked
Ivan's night  visitor, the man who called himself the master. He was wearing
his hospital clothes--dressing-gown,  slippers  and the black cap from which
he was never parted. His  unshaven face twitched  in a grimace, he  squinted
with fear at the candle flames and a flood of moonlight boiled around him.
     Margarita recognised him at once,  groaned,  clasped her hands  and ran
towards him. She  kissed him on the forehead, the lips, pressed  her face to
his prickly cheek and  her long-suppressed tears streamed down her face. She
could only say, repeating it like a senseless refrain :
     'It's you . . . it's you . . . it's you . . .'
     The master pushed her away and said huskily :
     'Don't cry, Margot, don't torment me, I'm very ill,' and he
     grasped the windowsill as though preparing to jump out and
     run away again. Staring round at the figures seated in the room
     he cried : ' I'm frightened, Margot! I'm getting hallucinations
     again . . .'
     Stifled with sobbing, Margarita whispered, stammering :
     'No, no ... don't be  afraid  . .  . I'm  here  . .  . I'm here . . .'
Deftly and unobtrusively Koroviev slipped a chair behind the
     master. He collapsed into it and Margarita fell on her knees at
     his side, where she grew calmer. In her excitement she had not
     noticed that she was no longer naked and that she was now
     wearing a black silk gown. The master's head nodded forward
     and he stared gloomily at the floor.
     'Yes,' said Woland after a pause, ' they have almost broken
     him.' He gave an order to Koroviev :
     'Now, sir, give this man something to drink.'
     In a trembling voice Margarita begged the master :
     'Drink it, drink it! Are you afraid? No, no, believe me,
     they want to help you! '
     The sick man took the glass and drank it, but his hand trembled,
     he dropped the glass and it shattered on the floor.
     'Ma^el tov!' Koroviev whispered to Margarita. ' Look, he's
     coming to himself already.'
     It was true. The patient's stare was less wild and distraught.
     'Is it really you, Margot? asked the midnight visitor.
     'Yes, it really is,' replied Margarita.
     'More! ' ordered Woland.
     When the master had drained the second glass his eyes were
     fully  alive and conscious. ' That's better,' said Woland with a slight
frown. ' Now we can talk. Who are you? '
     'I am no one,' replied the master with a lopsided smile.
     'Where have you just come from? '
     'From the madhouse. I am a mental patient,' replied the visitor.
     Margarita could not bear to hear this and burst  into tears again. Then
she wiped her eyes and cried :
     'It's  terrible--terrible! He  is a master, messire, I warn you! Cure
him--he's worth it! '
     'You realise who I am, don't you? ' Woland asked. ' Do you know  where
you are? '
     'I know,' answered the  master. 'My next-door neighbour in the madhouse
is that boy, Ivan Bezdomny. He told me about you.'
     'Did he now!  ' replied Woland. ' I  had the pleasure  of meeting that
young man at Patriarch's Ponds. He nearly drove me mad, trying to prove that
I didn't exist. But you believe in me, I hope? '
     'I must,'  said the  visitor, ' although I  would much prefer it if  I
could regard  you as  a figment of  my own hallucination. Forgive me,' added
the master, recollecting himself.
     'By all  means regard  me as  such if that  makes  you any  happier,'
replied Woland politely.
     'No,  no!  ' said Margarita  with anxiety, shaking the  master by  the
shoulder. ' Think again! It really is him! '
     'But  I  really  am like a hallucination.  Look  at my  profile in the
moonlight,' said Behemoth. The cat  moved into a shaft of moonlight and  was
going to say something else, but was told to shut up and only said :
     'All right, all right, I'll be quiet. I'll be a silent hallucination.'
     'Tell me, why does Margarita call you the master? ' enquired Woland.
     The man laughed and said :
     'An understandable weakness of hers. She has  too high an opinion of a
novel that I've written.'  Which novel? '
     'A novel about Pontius Pilate.'
     Again the candle  flames flickered and  jumped and the crockery rattled
on the table as Woland  gave a laugh like  a clap of thunder. Yet no one was
frightened or shocked by the laughter; Behemoth even applauded.
     'About what? About whom?' said  Woland, ceasing to laugh. ' But that's
extraordinary!  In this  day  and  age?  Couldn't  you have  chosen  another
subject? Let me have a look.' Woland stretched out his hand palm uppermost.
     'Unfortunately I cannot show it to you,' replied the master, ' because
I burned it in my stove.'
     'I'm sorry  but I don't believe you,'  said Woland.  ' You can't have
done. Manuscripts don't burn.' He turned to Behemoth and said : '  Come  on.
Behemoth, give me the novel.'
     The cat jumped down from its chair and wh.ere he had been sitting was a
pile of  manuscripts.  With  a bow  the cat handed  the top copy to  Woland.
Margarita shuddered and cried out, moved to tears :
     'There's the manuscript! There it is! '
     She flung herself at Woland's feet and cried ecstatically:
     'You are all-powerful! '
     Woland took it, turned it over,  put it aside and turned, unsmiling, to
stare at the master. Without apparent cause the master had suddenly relapsed
into  uneasy gloom  ; he got  up from his chair, wrung his hands and turning
towards the distant moon he started to tremble, muttering :
     'Even by moonlight there's  no peace for me at  night. . . Why do they
torment me? Oh, ye gods . . .'
     Margarita clutched his hospital dressing-gown, embraced him  and moaned
tearfully :
     'Oh God, why didn't that medicine do you any good? '
     'Don't be upset,' whispered  Koroviev,  edging  up to  the master,  '
another little glassful and I'll have one myself to keep you company . . .'
     A glass winked in the moonlight. It began to work. The master  sat down
again and his expression grew calmer.
     'Well, that  makes everything quite  clear,' said Woland,  tapping the
manuscript with his long finger.
     'Quite  clear,' agreed the cat, forgetting its promise to  be a silent
hallucination.  ' I see the gist of this great opus quite  plainly now. What
do you say, Azazello? '
     'I say,' drawled Azazello, ' that you ought to be drowned.'
     'Be merciful,  Azazello', the  cat  replied,  '  and  don't  put  such
thoughts into  my  master's  head. I'd come and  haunt you every  night  and
beckon you to follow me. How would you like that, Azazello? '
     'Now Margarita,' said Woland, ' say whatever you wish to say.'
     Margarita's eyes shone and she said imploringly to Woland :
     'May I whisper to him? '
     Woland nodded and Margarita leaned over the  master's ear and whispered
something into it. Aloud, he replied :
     'No, it's too late. I want nothing more out of life except to see you.
But take my advice and leave me, otherwise you will be destroyed with me.'
     'No, I won't leave you,' replied Margarita, and to  Woland she said: '
Please send us back to his basement in that street near the Arbat, light the
lamp again and make everything as it was before.'
     The master laughed, and clasping Margarita's dishevelled head he said:
     'Don't listen to this poor woman, messire! Somebody else  is living in
that basement now and no one can turn back the clock.' He laid his  cheek on
his mistress's head, embraced Margarita and murmured:
     'My poor darling . . .'
     'No one can  turn the clock back,  did you say? ' said Woland ' That's
true. But we can always try. Azazello! '
     Immediately  a bewildered man  in his  underclothes crashed through the
ceiling to the floor, with a suitcase in his hand and wearing a cap. Shaking
with fear, the man bowed.
     'Is your name Mogarych? ' Azazello asked him.
     'Aloysius Mogarych,' said the new arrival, trembling.
     'Are you the man who lodged a complaint against this man ' --pointing
to the  master--' after you had read an article  about him by  Latunsky, and
denounced him for harbouring illegal literature? ' asked Azazello.
     The man turned blue and burst into tears of penitence.
     'You did it because you wanted  to  get  his flat, didn't you? ' said
Azazello in a confiding, nasal whine.
     The cat gave a hiss of fury and Margarita, with a howl of:
     'I'll teach  you to  thwart  a witch! ' dug her  nails  into Aloysius
Mogarych's face.
     There was a brisk scuffle.
     'Stop it!  '  cried  the master in an agonised voice.  ' Shame on you,
Margot! '
     'I protest! There's nothing shameful in it! ' squeaked the cat.
     Koroviev pulled Margarita away.
     'I put in a bathroom . . .'  cried Mogarych, his face streaming blood.
His teeth were chattering and he was babbling with fright. '  I  gave  it  a
coat of whitewash . . .'
     'What a  good  thing  that you put  in  a  bathroom,'  said  Azazello
approvingly. ' He'll be able  to have baths now.' And he shouted at Mogarych
: ' Get out! '
     The man turned head  over  heels and sailed out of  the open window  of
Woland's bedroom.
     His eyes starting from his head, the master whispered :
     'This beats Ivan's story! ' He  stared round in amazement then said to
the cat:  ' Excuse me,  but are you  . . .'  he hesitated, not sure  how one
talked to a cat: ' Are you the same cat who boarded the tramcar? '
     'I  am,'  said the cat,  flattered, and  added : '  It's nice to  hear
someone speak so politely to a  cat. People usually address cats as "  pussy
", which I regard as an infernal liberty.'
     'It  seems to me that you're  not entirely  a cat . . .'  replied  the
master hesitantly. ' The hospital people  are bound to  catch  me again, you
know,' he added to Woland resignedly.
     'Why should  they?' said Koroviev reassuringly. Some papers and books
appeared in his hand : ' Is this your case-history? '
     'Yes.. .'
     Koroviev  threw   the   case-history  into  the  fire.  '  Remove   the
document--and you remove the man,' said Koroviev with satisfaction.
     'And is this your landlord's rent-book? '
     'What is  the tenant's name? Aloysius Mogarych? ' Koroviev blew on the
page. '  Hey presto! He's gone and, please note, he was never there. If  the
landlord  is surprised, tell him  he was dreaming  about Aloysius. Mogarych?
What Mogarych? Never heard of him! ' At  this  the rent-book evaporated from
Koro-viev's hands. ' Now it's back on the landlord's desk.'
     'You were right,' said the master, amazed at Koroviev's  efficiency, '
when you said that once you remove the document, you remove the man as well.
I no longer exist now--I have no papers.'
     'Oh no, I beg your pardon,' exclaimed Koroviev. ' That is just another
hallucination. Here are your papers! ' He  handed the master some documents,
then said with a wink to Margarita:
     'And here is  your property, Margarita  Nikolayevna.'  Koroviev handed
Margarita a manuscript-book  with  burnt edges,  a dried  rose, a photograph
and, with special care, a savings-bank book :
     'The ten thousand  that you deposited,  Margarita Nikolayevna. We have
no use for other people's money.'
     'May my paws drop off before I touch other people's  money,' exclaimed
the cat,  bouncing  up and down on a suitcase to flatten  the copies of  the
ill-fated novel that were inside it.
     'And a little document of yours,' Koroviev went on, handing Margarita
a piece  of paper. Then turning to Woland he announced respectfully : ' That
is everything, messire.'
     'No, it's  not everything,' answered  Woland,  turning  away from  the
globe. ' What would you like  me to do with your retinue, Madonna? I have no
need of them myself.' Natasha, stark naked, flew  in at the open window  and
cried to
     Margarita : ' I hope you'll  be  very happy, Margarita  Nikolay-evna! '
She nodded towards the master and went on : ' You see, I knew  about it  all
the time.'
     'Servants know everything,' remarked the  cat, wagging its paw sagely.
' It's a mistake to think they're blind.'
     'What do you want, Natasha? ' asked Margarita. ' Go back home.'
     'Dear Margarita Nikolayevna,' said Natasha imploringly and fell on her
knees, ' ask him,' she nodded towards  Woland,  ' to let me stay a witch.  I
don't want to go back to that house! Last night at the ball Monsieur Jacques
made me an offer.' Natasha unclenched her fist and showed some gold coins.
     Margarita  looked enquiringly at  Woland, who nodded. Natasha  embraced
Margarita,  kissed her noisily  and with a triumphant cry  flew  out  of the
     Natasha was followed by Nikolai Ivanovich. He  had regained human form,
but was extremely glum and rather cross.
     'Now here's  someone  I  shall  be especially glad  to release,' said
Woland, looking at Nikolai Ivanovich  with repulsion. ' I shall be delighted
to see the last of him.'
     'Whatever  you  do,  please  give  me a  certificate,'  said  Nikolai
Ivanovich, anxiously but with great insistence,  ' to prove where I was last
     'What for? ' asked the cat sternly.
     'To show to my wife and to the police,' said Nikolai Ivanovich firmly.
     'We don't usually give certificates,' replied  the cat frowning, ' but
as it's for you we'll make an exception.'
     Before Nikolai Ivanovich  knew what was happening, the naked Hella  was
sitting behind a typewriter and the cat dictating to her.
     'This  is to certify  that the Bearer,  Nikolai  Ivanovich,  spent the
night in question at Satan's Ball, having been enticed there in  a vehicular
capacity  .   .   .  Hella,   put  in  brackets  after   that  "  (pig)   ".
     'What about the date? ' squeaked Nikolai Ivanovich.
     'We  don't  mention  the date, the  document becomes  invalid if it's
dated,' replied the cat, waving the piece of paper. Then the animal produced
a rubber stamp, breathed on  it in the approved fashion, stamped ' Paid ' on
the paper and handed the document to Nikolai Ivanovich. He vanished  without
trace, to be unexpectedly replaced by another man.
     'Now who's this? ' asked  Woland contemptuously,  shielding  his  eyes
from the candlelight.
     Varenukha hung his head, sighed and said in a low voice :
     'Send me back, I'm no good as a vampire. Hella and I nearly frightened
Rimsky to death, but  I'll never make a vampire--I'm just not  bloodthirsty.
Please let me go.'
     'What  is he babbling  about?' asked  Woland, frowning. ' Who  is  this
Rimsky? What is all this nonsense? '
     'Nothing  to worry  about, messire,'  said Azazello and he turned  to
Varenukha :  ' Don't play the fool  or tell lies on the telephone any  more.
Understand? You're not going to, are you?.-
     Overcome with relief, Varenukha beamed and stammered :
     'Thank Go ... I mean . . . your  may ... as soon as I've had my supper
. . .' He pressed his hand to his heart and gazed imploringly at Azazello.
     'All right.  Off you go  home!  ' said  Azazello and Varenukha melted
     'Now  all of  you  leave me alone with  these two,'  ordered  Woland,
pointing to the master and Margarita.
     Woland's  command was obeyed instantly. After a  silence he said to the
master :
     'So you're going back to  your basement near the Arbat. How will you be
able to write now? Where are your dreams, your inspiration? '
     'I  have  no  more dreams and  my  inspiration is  dead,'  replied the
master,  ' nobody interests me any longer  except  her  '--he laid his  hand
again on Margarita's head--' I'm finished. My only wish is to return to that
     'And what about your novel? What about Pilate? '
     'I hate  that  novel,' replied  the master. ' I  have been through too
much because of it.'
     'Please,' begged  Margarita piteously, ' don't talk like that. Whv are
you  torturing me? You know I've put  my whole life into your work,' and she
added,  turning to Woland : ' Don't  listen to him, messire, he has suffered
too much.'
     'But won't you need to  re-write some of it?  ' asked Woland. ' Or if
you've exhausted  your Procurator,  why not write  about somebody else--that
Aloysius, for instance . . .'
     The master smiled.
     'Lapshennikova  would never print  it  and in  any case that  doesn't
interest me.'
     'How will you earn your living, then? Won't you mind being poor? '
     'Not a bit,' said the master, drawing  Margarita to him. Embracing her
round the  shoulders  he  added:  '  She'll leave me when she  comes to  her
     'I doubt it,'  said  Woland, teeth  clenched.  He went on  : 'So  the
creator of Pontius Pilate proposes to go and starve in a basement? '
     Margarita unlinked her arms from the master's and said passionately :
     'I've done  all I can. I whispered  to  him the most tempting thing of
all. And he refused.'
     'I  know what you whispered to him,'  said Woland, '  but that is  not
what tempts him most. Believe me,' he turned  with a smile to  the master, '
your novel has some more surprises in store for you.'
     'What a grim prospect,' answered the master.
     'No, it is not grim at all,' said Woland. ' Nothing terrible will come
of  it,  I  assure  you.  Well  now,  Margarita  Nikolayevna, everything  is
arranged. Have you any further claims on me?'
     'How can I, messire? '
     'Then take this as a souvenir,'  said Woland and took a  small golden,
diamond-studded horseshoe from under a cushion.
     'No--I couldn't take  it. Haven't you done enough for  me? ' ' Are you
arguing with me? ' asked Woland, smiling.
     As Margarita had no  pocket in her gown  she wrapped the horseshoe in a
napkin and knotted it. Then something seemed to worry her. She looked out of
the window at the moon and said :
     'One  thing  I  don't understand--it  still  seems  to  be  midnight.
Shouldn't it be morning? '
     'It's pleasant  to stop the clock on  a  festive  night such as this,'
replied Woland. ' And now--good luck!'
     Margarita stretched  both hands  to Woland in  entreaty,  but found she
could come no nearer to him.
     'Goodbye! Goodbye!'
     'Au revoir,' said Woland.
     Margarita  in  her  black  cloak  and  the   master  in  his   hospital
dressing-gown walked  out into the corridor  of Berlioz's  flat,  where  the
light was burning and Woland's retinue was waiting for them. As they  passed
along  the corridor Hella, helped  by the cat, carried the suitcase with the
novel and Margarita Nikolayev-na's few belongings.
     At the door of the flat  Koroviev bowed and vanished, while the  others
escorted them down the staircase. It was  empty.  As  they  passed the third
floor landing a faint bump was heard, but no  one paid it  any attention. At
the front door of staircase 6 Azazello blew into the air and as they entered
the dark courtyard they saw a man  in boots and peaked cap sound  asleep  on
the doorstep  and a  large,  black car  standing by the entrance with dimmed
lights. Barely visible in the driver's seat was the outline of a crow.
     Margarita  was just  about to sit  down when she gave a stifled  cry of
     'Oh God, I've lost the horseshoe.'
     'Get into the car,' said Azazello, ' and  wait for me. I'll be back in
a moment  as  soon as I've  looked into this.' He  walked back  through  the
     What had happened was this: shortly  before Margarita,  the  master and
their escort had left No. 50, a shrivelled  woman carrying a bag  and  a tin
can had emerged  from No. 48,  the flat immediately below.  It was Anna--the
same Anna who the previous Wednesday had spilt the sunflower-seed  oil  near
the turnstile with such disastrous consequences for Berlioz.
     Nobody  knew and no  one probably ever will  know  what this  woman was
doing in Moscow or what she lived on. She was  to be seen  every  day either
with her tin can or her bag or both, sometimes at the oil-shop, sometimes at
the market,  sometimes  outside the block of flats or  on the staircase, but
mostly in the kitchen of flat No. 48, where she lived. She was notorious for
being a harbinger of disaster wherever she went and she was nicknamed ' Anna
the Plague '.
     Anna the Plague usually got up  very  early in the  morning,  but  this
morning something  roused her long before dawn, soon after midnight. Her key
turned in the door, her nose poked through and was followed by Anna herself,
who slammed  the door behind  her.  She  was just about to set  off  on some
errand when the  door banged on  the  upstairs landing, a man came  bounding
downstairs, crashed into Anna and knocked her sideways so hard  that she hit
the back of her head against the wall.
     'Where  the  hell  do  you  think  you're  going  like  that--in  your
underpants? ' whined Anna, rubbing the back of her head.
     The  man,  who was wearing  underclothes  and  a  cap  and  carrying  a
suitcase, answered in a sleepy voice with his eyes closed:
     'Bath . . . whitewash . . . cost me a fortune . . .' and bursting into
tears he bellowed : ' I've been kicked out! '
     Then he dashed  off--not  downstairs  but upstairs  again to  where the
windowpane  had been broken by  Poplavsky's foot, and  through it  he glided
feet first out into the  courtyard. Forgetting about  her  aching head, Anna
gasped and rushed up to the broken window. She lay flat on the landing floor
and stuck her head out in the courtyard, expecting to see the mortal remains
of the man with the suitcase  lit  up  by the courtyard lamp. But  there was
absolutely nothing to be seen on the courtyard pavement.
     As far as Anna could tell, this weird  sleepwalker had flown out of the
house like a bird,  leaving not a trace. She crossed herself  and thought: '
It's that No. 50! No wonder people say it's haunted . . .'
     The thought  had  hardly  crossed  her mind  before  the  door upstairs
slammed  again and someone else came running  down.  Anna pressed herself to
the wall and saw a respectable looking gentleman with a little beard and, so
it seemed to her, a slightly piggish face, who slipped past her and like the
first man left the building  through  the  window, also without  hitting the
ground  below. Anna had long since forgotten her original reason for  coming
out,  and stayed on the staircase, crossing herself, moaning and talking  to
herself. After a  short  while a third man, with  no  beard but with a round
clean-shaven face and wearing a shirt,  emerged and  shot through the window
in turn.
     To give Anna her due  she  was of  an enquiring  turn  of mind  and she
decided to wait  and  see  if  there  were to  be  any further marvels.  The
upstairs door opened again and a whole crowd started coming downstairs, this
time not running but  walking  like ordinary people. Anna ran  down from the
window back to her own front door, quickly opened it, hid behind it and kept
her eye, wild with curiosity, fixed to the crack which she left open.
     An  odd sick-looking man, pale with a stubbly beard, in a black cap and
dressing-gown, was walking unsteadily downstairs, carefully helped by a lady
wearing what looked to Anna in the gloom like a black cassock. The lady  was
wearing  some transparent  slippers, obviously  foreign,  but  so  torn  and
shredded that she was almost barefoot. It was indecent--bedroom slippers and
quite obviously naked except for a black gown billowing out as she walked! '
That No. 50!' Anna's mind was  already savouring the story she was going  to
tell the neighbours tomorrow.
     After this lady came a naked  girl carrying a suitcase and helped by an
enormous black cat. Rubbing her eyes, Anna could barely help bursting into a
shriek  of  pure amazement. Last  in  the  procession was a  short,  limping
foreigner with a wall eye, no  jacket, a white evening-dress waistcoat and a
bow  tie. Just as  the whole  party had  filed downstairs  past Anna's door,
something fell on to the landing with a gentle thump.
     When the  sound  of footsteps had died  away, Anna wriggled out  of her
doorway like a snake,  put  down her tin can, dropped on  to her stomach and
started groping  about  on  the landing  floor. Suddenly she  found  herself
holding something heavy wrapped in a table-napkin. Her eyes started from her
head as she untied the napkin and lifted the jewel close to eyes that burned
with a wolfish greed. A storm of thoughts whirled round her mind:
     'See no sights and  tell no  tales! Shall I take it  to my nephew? Or
split it up into pieces? I could  ease the stones out  and sell them off one
at a time. . . .'
     Anna hid her find in the front of her blouse, picked up her tin can and
was  just about  to abandon  her errand and slip back indoors when  she  was
suddenly  confronted  by the  coatless  man with  the white  shirtfront, who
whispered to her in a soft voice :
     'Give me that horseshoe wrapped in a serviette! '
     'What serviette? What horseshoe? ' said Anna, prevaricating with great
skill. ' Never seen a serviette. What's the matter with you--drunk? '
     Without another word but with fingers  as  hard  and  as  cold  as  the
handrail of a bus,  the man in the white shirtfront gripped Anna's throat so
tightly that he prevented all air from entering her lungs. The tin  can fell
from  her  hand.  Having  stopped  Anna  from  breathing  for  a  while, the
jacketless stranger removed his fingers from her neck.  Gasping  for breath,
Anna smiled.
     'Oh,  you mean the little horseshoe? ' she said.  ' Of course!  Is it
yours? I looked and there  it was wrapped in a serviette, I picked  it up on
purpose in case anybody else might find it and vanish with it! '
     With the  horseshoe in his possession again, the stranger  began bowing
and scraping to  Anna, shook her  by  the hand and  thanked her  warmly in a
thick foreign accent:
     'I  am most deeply grateful to you, madame. This horseshoe  is dear to
me  as a memory. Please allow me to give you two  hundred roubles for saving
it.' At which  he pulled the money from his  waistcoat pocket and gave it to
Anna, who could only exclaim with a bewildered grin :
     'Oh, thank you so much! Merci!'
     In one leap the generous stranger had  jumped  down  a whole flight  of
stairs,  but before  vanishing altogether he  shouted up at  her,  this time
without a trace of an accent:
     'Next time you find someone else's things,  you old witch, hand it  in
to the police instead of stuffing it down your front! '
     Utterly confused by  events and by the singing  in her ears, Anna could
do nothing for a long time  but  stand  on the staircase  and croak: '  Mem!
Merci! ' until long after the stranger had vanished.
     Having returned Woland's present to Margarita, Azazello said goodbye to
her, enquiring  if she was comfortably  seated ;  Hella  gave her a smacking
kiss and the cat pressed  itself affectionately  to her hand. With a wave to
the master as he  lowered himself awkwardly into his seat and a wave  to the
crow, the party vanished into thin air,  without bothering to return indoors
and walk up the staircase. The crow switched on the headlights and drove out
of the courtyard past the man asleep at the entrance. Finally  the lights of
the big  black car were lost as they  merged into the rows of streetlamps on
silent, empty Sadovaya Street.
     An  hour later Margarita  was sitting,  softly weeping from  shock  and
happiness, in the basement of the little house in one of the sidestreets off
the Arbat. In the master's study all was as it had been before that terrible
autumn night of the year  before. On the table, covered with a velvet cloth,
stood  a  vase  of   lily-of-the-valley  and  a  shaded  lamp.  The  charred
manuscript-book  lay in front of her, beside  it a pile of undamaged copies.
The  house  was  silent.  Next door  on  a divan, covered  by  his  hospital
dressing-gown,  the  master  lay  in  a deep sleep,  his  regular  breathing
inaudible from the next room.
     Drying her tears, Margarita picked  up one  of the unharmed  folios and
found  the  place that  she  had  been  reading  before she had met Azazello
beneath  the  Kremlin  wall.  She  had no wish  to sleep. She  smoothed  the
manuscript tenderly as one strokes  a favourite cat and  turning it  over in
her hands she inspected it from every angle, stopping now on the title page,
now at  the  end.  A fearful thought  passed  through  her mind that  it was
nothing  more than  a piece  of wizardry,  that the folio  might vanish from
sight, that she would wake up and  find that she was in her bedroom  at home
and  it  was time to get up and  stoke the boiler. But this was only  a last
terrible fantasy,  the echo  of long-borne suffering. Nothing  vanished, the
all-powerful Woland  really was all-powerful and Margarita was able  to leaf
through the manuscript to her heart's  content, till dawn  if she wanted to,
stare at it, kiss it and re-read the words :
     'The mist that came  from the Mediterranean sea blotted out the  city
that Pilate so detested . . .'

     The mist that came from the Mediterranean sea blotted out the city that
Pilate so detested. The  suspension bridges connecting  the  temple with the
grim  fortress  of Antonia  vanished,  the murk descended  from  the sky and
drowned  the winged gods above  the hippodrome,  the crenellated  Hasmonaean
palace,  the bazaars,  the  caravanserai,  the  alleyways, the pools .  .  .
Jerusalem, the great city,  vanished  as though it had never been. The  mist
devoured everything, frightening every  living creature in Jerusalem and its
surroundings. The  city was engulfed by a strange cloud which had crept over
it from the sea towards the end of that day, the  fourteenth of the month of
     It  had emptied  its belly over Mount  Golgotha, where the executioners
had  hurriedly  despatched their victims, it had flowed over the  temple  of
Jerusalem, pouring down in smoky cascades from the mound  of the  temple and
invading  the  Lower City. It  had rolled  through open  windows  and driven
people indoors from the winding  streets. At first it held back its rain and
only spat lightning, the flame  cleaving through the  smoking  black vapour,
lighting up the great pile of the temple and its glittering, scaly roof. But
the  flash passed in a moment and the temple was plunged again into an abyss
of darkness. Several times it loomed through the  murk  to vanish again  and
each time  its disappearance  was accompanied by  a noise  like the crack of
     Other shimmering flashes lit up  the palace of Herod the  Great  facing
the temple on the western  hill; as they did so  the golden statues, eyeless
and fearful, seemed  to leap up into the black  sky  and stretch  their arms
towards it. Then  the fire from heaven would be quenched  again and  a great
thunderclap would banish the gilded idols into the mist.
     The rainstorm burst suddenly and the  storm turned into a hurricane. On
the  very spot near  a marble bench in  the garden,  where that  morning the
Procurator had spoken to the High Priest, a thunderbolt snapped the trunk of
a cypress as though it had been a twig. With  the water vapour and the hail,
the balcony  under the  arcade  was  swept with  torn  rose-heads,  magnolia
leaves, small branches and sand as the hurricane scourged the garden.
     At the moment when the storm broke only the Procurator was left beneath
the arcade.
     He was no longer sitting in a chair but lying on a couch beside a small
low table laid with  food and jugs  of wine.  Another, empty, couch stood on
the far side of the table. An untidy, blood-red puddle lay spread out at the
Procurator's feet amid the sherds of a broken jug.  The servant who had laid
the  Procurator's table had been so terrified  by his look and so nervous at
his apparent  displeasure that the Procurator had lost  his temper  with him
and smashed the jug on the mosaic floor, saying:
     'Why don't you look me in the  eyes when you serve me? Have you stolen
something? '
     The African's black face turned grey,  mortal terror came into his eyes
and he trembled so much that he almost broke another jug, but the Procurator
waved him away and the slave ran off, leaving the pool of spilt wine.
     As the hurricane  struck,  the African hid himself in a niche beside  a
statue of a white, naked woman with bowed  head, afraid to  show himself too
soon yet frightened of missing the call should the Procurator summon him.
     Lying  on  his couch  in the half-darkness of the  storm the Procurator
poured out his own wine, drank it  in long gulps, stretching out his arm for
an occasional piece of bread which he crumbled and ate in little pieces. Now
and again he would swallow an oyster, chew a slice of lemon and drink again.
Without the  roar of water, without  the claps of thunder which seemed to be
about to  smash the palace roof, without the crash of hail that hammered  on
the  steps leading  up  to  the  balcony,  a listener might have  heard  the
Procurator muttering as he talked to himself. And if the  momentary  flashes
of lightning  had shone with a steady  light an observer might have  noticed
that the Procurator's face, the eyes inflamed with insomnia and wine, showed
impatience ; that the  Procurator's  glance was not only taken up by the two
yellow roses drowning  in the red puddle, but that he was constantly turning
his face towards the garden, towards the  water-lashed sand and mud; that he
was expecting someone, waiting impatiently.
     A little time  passed and the veil of  water in front of the Procurator
began to thin  out. The storm, though  still furious,  was abating.  No more
branches creaked and fell. The lightning  and thunder grew  more infrequent.
The cloud hovering over Jerusalem was no  longer violet edged with white but
a  normal  grey,  the rearguard  of the  storm that was  now moving  onwards
towards the Dead Sea.
     Soon the  sound of  the rain could  be  distinguished from the noise of
water running  down  the gutters and on  to  the staircase  down  which  the
Procurator had walked to the square to pronounce sentence. At last even  the
tinkle of the fountain,  drowned until now, could be heard. It grew lighter.
Windows of blue began to appear in the grey veil as it fled eastward.
     Then from far away, above the weak patter of rain, the Procurator heard
faint trumpet-calls and the tattoo of several score  of horses' hooves.  The
sound caused the Procurator to stir and his expression to liven. The ala was
returning from  Mount Golgotha. To  judge  from the  sound, they  were  just
crossing the hippodrome square.
     At last the Procurator heard the long-awaited footsteps and the slap of
shoe-leather on the staircase leading to the upper terrace  of the garden in
front of  the balcony.  The Procurator craned his neck and  his  eyes  shone
     Between the two marble lions there appeared first the cowled
     head, then  the  figure of a  man  closely wrapped  in his soaking  wet
cloak.  It  was  the  same man with whom the Procurator,  before pronouncing
sentence, had held a whispered conference in a darkened room of the  palace,
and  who had  watched  the execution as he played  with  a stick seated on a
three-legged stool.
     Walking straight  through  the  puddles,  the  cowled  man crossed  the
terrace, crossed  the mosaic floor of the balcony, and raising his hand said
in a pleasant, high-pitched voice :
     'Hail, Procurator! ' The visitor spoke in Latin.
     'Gods! ' exclaimed Pilate. ' There's not a dry stitch  on you!' What a
storm! Please go to my room at once and change.'
     The man pushed back his cowl, revealing a  completely wet head with the
hair  plastered  down  over  his  forehead.  With  a  polite  smile  on  his
clean-shaven  face he  declined the offer of a change of clothing,  assuring
the Procurator that a little rain would do him no harm.
     'I won't hear of it,' replied Pilate. He clapped his  hands, summoning
his cowering servant, and ordered him to help the visitor to change and then
to bring him some hot food.
     The Procurator's visitor needed  only a  short while to  dry his  hair,
change  his  clothes,  his  footgear,  and  tidy himself  up,  and  he  soon
reappeared  on the  balcony in dry sandals,  in a purple army cloak and with
his hair combed.
     At that moment the sun returned to Jerusalem and before  setting in the
Mediterranean it sent its parting rays over the Procurator's hated city  and
gilded the balcony  steps.  The fountain  was  now  playing  again  at  full
strength, pigeons had landed  on the terrace, cooing and hopping between the
broken  twigs and pecking at  the  sand. The  red puddle was  mopped up, the
fragments removed, a steaming plateful of meat was set on the table.
     'I await the Procurator's orders,' said the visitor  as he  approached
the table.
     'Forget about  my orders until you have sat down and drunk your wine,'
answered Pilate kindly, pointing to the other couch.
     The man reclined, the servant poured some thick red wine  into his cup.
Another servant,  bending  cautiously  over  Pilate's shoulder,  filled  the
Procurator's cup, after which he dismissed them both with a gesture.
     While the visitor ate and  drank Pilate sipped his wine and watched his
guest through  narrowed  eyes.  The man was middle-aged with very  pleasant,
neat, round  features  and a fleshy nose. The colour of his  hair was vague,
though  its colour  lightened as it dried  out. His nationality  was hard to
guess. His main feature was a  look of good nature, which was belied  by his
eyes --or rather not so much by his eyes as by a peculiar way of looking  at
the person  facing him. Usually the man kept his small eyes  shielded  under
eyelids that were curiously  enlarged,  even  swollen. At these  moments the
chinks in his eyelids  showed nothing but mild cunning,  the look of  a  man
with a sense of humour. But there were times when the man  who  was  now the
Procurator's guest  opened  his eyelids  wide and gave  a  person  a sudden,
unwavering stare as though to search out an inconspicuous spot on  his nose.
It only lasted  a  moment, after which the  lids  dropped, the eyes narrowed
again and they shone with goodwill and sly intelligence.
     The visitor accepted a second cup of wine, swallowed a few oysters with
obvious relish, tasted the boiled vegetables  and ate  a piece of meat. When
he had eaten his fill he praised the wine :
     'An excellent vintage. Procurator--is it Falernian? '
     'Cecuba--thirty years old,' replied the Procurator amiably.
     The visitor placed his hand on his heart and declined the offer of more
to  eat, saying that he had had enough. Pilate refilled his  own cup and his
guest did the same. The two men each poured a libation into the dish of meat
and the Procurator, raising his cup, said in a loud voice :
     'To thee,  0  Caesar, father  of thy people, best and most beloved of
     Both drank their wine to its  dregs and the Africans cleared the dishes
from the table, leaving fruit and jugs of wine. The Procurator dismissed the
servants, and was left alone with his visitor under the arcade.
     'So,' began Pilate quietly, ' what  have you to tell me of the mood of
the city? ' Involuntarily he turned his glance downwards to  where, past the
terraces  of the garden, the colonnades and flat roofs glowed  in the golden
rays of the setting sun.
     'I  believe,  Procurator,'  said  his visitor,  '  that the  mood  of
Jerusalem can now be regarded as satisfactory.'
     'So I can rely on there being no further disorders? '
     'One can only rely,' Arthanius replied with a reassuring glance at the
Procurator, ' on one thing in this world--on the power of great Caesar.'
     'May  the  gods send  him long life! ' Pilate said fervently,  '  And
universal peace! ' He was silent for a moment then went on : ' What  do  you
think--can we withdraw the troops now? '
     'I think the  cohort from the Lightning can be sent away,' replied the
visitor, and added : ' It would be a good  idea if it were to parade through
the city before leaving.'
     'A very good idea,'  said the Procurator approvingly.  ' I shall order
it away the  day  after tomorrow. I shall also go myself and--I swear to you
by the feast of the twelve gods, I swear by the Lares--I  would have given a
lot to have been able to do so today!'
     'Does  the  Procurator  not  like  Jerusalem?'  enquired  the visitor
     'Merciful  heavens!  ' exclaimed the Procurator,  smiling. ' It's the
most  unsettling place on earth. It isn't only the climate--  I'm ill  every
time I have to come here--that's only half the trouble. But these festivals!
Magicians,  sorcerers, wizards,  the hordes  of pilgrims.  Fanatics--all  of
them. And what price this  messiah of  theirs,  which they're expecting this
year?  Every moment there's likely to be some act of gratuitous bloodshed. I
spend  all my time shuffling the troops about  or reading  denunciations and
complaints, half of which are directed  at you. You  must admit it's boring.
Oh, if only I weren't in the imperial service! '
     'Yes, the festivals here are trying times,' agreed the visitor.
     'I  wish  with  all  my  heart that this  one was  over,' said  Pilate
forcibly.  '  Then  I can go back  to  Caesarea.  Do you know,  this lunatic
building of  Herod's'--the Procurator  waved  at the  arcade, embracing  the
whole palace  in a  gesture--'  is positively  driving me  out of my mind. I
can't  bear  sleeping  in  it.  It  is  the  most  extraordinary   piece  of
architecture in the world . . . However, to  business. First of all--is that
cursed Bar-Abba giving you any trouble? '
     At this  the visitor directed his peculiar stare at the Procurator, but
Pilate was gazing  wearily into the  distance,  frowning with  distaste  and
contemplating the quarter of the city which lay at his feet, fading into the
dusk. The visitor's glance also faded and his eyelids lowered again.
     'I think that Bar is now as harmless as a lamb,' said the visitor, his
round face wrinkling. ' He is hardly in a position to make trouble now.'
     'Too busy? ' asked Pilate, smiling.
     'The Procurator, as usual, has put the point with great finesse.'
     'But at  all events,' remarked  the Procurator anxiously and  raised a
long, thin finger adorned with a black stone,' we must...'
     'The Procurator may rest assured that  as  long as  I am in Judaea Bar
will not move a step without my being on his heels.'
     'That is comforting. I am always comforted when you are here.'
     'The Procurator is too kind.'
     'Now tell me about the execution,' said Pilate.
     'What interests the Procurator in particular? '
     'Chiefly,  whether there were  any  attempts at insurrection  from the
     'None,' answered the visitor.
     'Good. Did you personally confirm that they were dead? '
     'Of that the Procurator may be sure.'
     'And tell me ... were they given a drink before being gibbeted?'
     'Yes.  But he '--the visitor closed his eyes--'  refused  to drink.' '
Who did? ' asked Pilate.
     'I beg your pardon, hegemon! ' exclaimed the  visitor. ' Didn't I say?
Ha-Notsri! '
     'Madman! ' said Pilate, grimacing. A vein twitched under his left eye.
' To die  of  sunstroke!  Why refuse  what the law  provides for? How did he
refuse? '
     'He said,' replied the guest, shutting his  eyes again, '  that he was
grateful and blamed no one for taking his life.'
     'Whom did he thank? ' asked Pilate in a low voice.
     'He did not say, hegemon . . .'
     'He didn't try to preach to the soldiers, did he? '
     'No, hegemon, he was not very loquacious  on this occasion.  His  only
words were that he regarded cowardice as one of the worst human sins.'
     'What made him say that? ' The Procurator's voice suddenly trembled.
     'I have no idea. His behaviour was in  any case strange, as  it always
has been.'
     'In what way strange? '
     'He kept staring  at individuals among the people standing around him,
and always with that curiously vague smile on his face.'
     'Nothing more? ' asked the husky voice.
     'Nothing more.'
     The jug clattered against his cup as the Procurator poured himself some
more wine. Having drained it he said :
     'My conclusion  is as  follows  :  although we  have not been able--at
least  not  at  present--to  find  any  followers  or disciples  of his,  we
nevertheless cannot be certain that he had none,'
     The visitor nodded, listening intently.
     'Therefore  to avoid  any  untoward consequences,' the Procurator went
on, '  please remove the three victims' bodies  from  the face of the earth,
rapidly and without attracting attention. Bury them secretly and silently so
that nothing more is heard of them.'
     'Very good,  hegemon,' said  the visitor. He stood up  and  said: ' As
this matter  is important and  will present certain difficulties, may I have
your permission to go at once? '
     'No,  sit down  again,' said  Pilate,  restraining his  visitor with a
gesture.  '  I have  a  couple  more questions to  ask you.  Firstly--  your
remarkable diligence  in  carrying out your  task as  chief  of  the  secret
service to the Procurator  makes it my  pleasant duty  to  mention  it in  a
report to Rome.'
     The visitor blushed as he rose, bowed to the Procurator and said:
     'I am only doing my duty as a member of the imperial service.'
     'But,' said the hegemon,  ' if you are  offered promotion and transfer
to another post, I should like to ask  you to refuse  it and stay here. I do
not wish to  be parted from you on any account. I shall  see to it  that you
are rewarded in other ways.'
     'I am happy to serve under you, hegemon.'
     'I am  very glad to hear it. Now for the second  question. It concerns
that man . . . what's his name? . . . Judas of Karioth.'
     At this the visitor again  gave  the Procurator  his  open-eyed glance,
then, as was fitting, hooded his eyes again.
     'They say,'  the Procurator went on, lowering his voice, ' that  he is
supposed to have been paid for  the way he took that idiot home and made him
so welcome.'
     'Will be paid,' corrected the visitor gently.
     'How much? '
     'No one can tell, hegemon.'
     'Not even you? ' said the hegemon, praising the man by his surprise.
     'Alas, not even I,' replied the visitor calmly. '  But I do know  that
he  will be  paid  this evening. He  has been  summoned to  Caiaphas' palace
     'Ah,  he must  be  greedy, that  old man  from Karioth!  '  said  the
Procurator with a smile. ' I suppose he is an old man, isn't he?'
     'The Procurator is never  mistaken,  but on this occasion  he has been
misinformed,' replied the man  kindly. '  This man from Karioth  is a  young
     'Really? Can you describe him? Is he a fanatic? '
     'Oh no, Procurator.'
     'I see. What else do you know about him? '
     'He is very good-looking.'
     'What else? Has he perhaps a special passion? '
     'It  is  hard to  know  so  much  with  certainty  in this huge  city,
     'Come now, Arthanius! You underestimate yourself.'
     'He has one passion. Procurator.' The visitor  made a tiny pause. ' He
has a passion for money.'
     'What is his occupation? '
     Arthanius looked up, reflected and answered :
     'He works for one of his relatives who has a money-changer's booth.'
     'I see,  I see.' The Procurator was silent, looked round to  make sure
that  there was  no one on the  balcony and then said in a low voice : ' The
fact is--I have received information that he is to be murdered tonight.'
     At  this the visitor not only turned  his glance on the Procurator  but
held it for a while and then replied :
     'You have  nattered me. Procurator, but  I fear I have not earned your
commendation. I have no such information.'
     'You deserve  the highest possible praise,' replied the Procurator, '
but there is no doubting this information.'
     'May I ask its source? '
     'You must allow me not  to divulge that for the  present, particularly
as it  is casual, vague and unreliable. But it is my duty to allow for every
eventuality. I place great reliance on my instinct in these matters, because
it has never  failed  me  yet. The information is  that one  of  Ha-Notsri's
secret followers, revolted  by this money-changer's monstrous treachery, has
plotted  with  his confederates to kill  the man tonight  and to  return his
blood-money to the High Priest with a note reading :
     " Take back your accursed money! " ' The chief  of  the  secret service
gave the hegemon no more of his startling glances and listened, frowning, as
Pilate continued :
     'Do  you think  the  High  Priest  will be pleased at  such a gift on
Passover night? '
     'Not only will he not be pleased,' replied the visitor with a smile, '
but I think. Procurator, that it will create a major scandal.'
     'I think so  too. That is why I am asking you to look after the affair
and take all possible steps to protect Judas of Karioth.'
     'The hegemon's orders will be carried out,'  said  Arthanius, ' but I
can assure  the  hegemon  that these  villains  have  set  themselves a very
difficult task. After  all, only think '--the  visitor  glanced round  as he
spoke--' they have to trace the man, kill him, then find out how much  money
he  received and return it to  Caiaphas  by stealth. All that in  one night?
Today? '
     'Nevertheless he will be murdered tonight,' Pilate repeated  firmly. '
I have a presentiment, I tell you! And it  has never yet played me false.' A
spasm crossed the Procurator's face and he rubbed his hands.
     'Very well,' said the visitor obediently. He rose, straightened up and
suddenly said coldly :
     'You say he will be murdered, hegemon? '
     'Yes,'  answered  Pilate,  '  and  our  only  hope  is  your  extreme
     The visitor adjusted the heavy belt under his cloak and said:
     'Hail and farewell, Procurator! '
     'Ah, yes,' cried Pilate, ' I almost forgot. I owe you some money.'
     The visitor looked surprised.
     'I am sure you do not. Procurator.'
     'Don't you remember? When I arrived in Jerusalem there was  a crowd of
beggars, I wanted  to throw  them  some money, I had none  and borrowed from
     'But Procurator, that was a trifle! '
     'One should remember trifles.' Pilate turned, lifted a cloak lying on
a chair behind him, picked up a leather purse from
     beneath it and handed  it to Arthanius.  The  man bowed, took the purse
and put it under his cloak.
     'I expect,' said Pilate, ' a report on the burial and on the matter of
Judas of Karioth tonight, do you hear, Arthanius,  tonight.  The guards will
be given  orders to wake  me as soon as you  appear. I shall  be waiting for
     'Very well,' said the chief of the secret service and walked out on to
the balcony. For a while Pilate could hear the sound of  wet  sand under his
feet, then the  clatter of his sandals on  the marble paving between the two
stone lions. Then legs, torso and finally  cowl  disappeared. Only then  did
the Procurator notice that the sun had set and twilight had come.

     It may have been the twilight which seemed to cause such a sharp change
in the Procurator's  appearance. He  appeared  to have aged  visibly  and he
looked hunched and worried. Once he glanced  round and shuddered, staring at
the empty chair  with his cloak thrown over its back. The night of the feast
was approaching, the evening shadows were  playing tricks and  the exhausted
Procurator may have thought he  had seen someone  sitting in the chair. In a
moment  of superstitious  fear  the Procurator  shook the cloak, then walked
away and  began pacing the balcony, occasionally rubbing his hands, drinking
from the  goblet on the  table, or halting to stare unseeingly at the mosaic
floor as though trying to decipher some writing in it.
     For the second time that day a brooding depression overcame him. Wiping
his  brow, where he felt only a faintly nagging memory  of  the hellish pain
from that morning, the Procurator racked  his brain  in an attempt to define
the cause of his mental agony. He  soon realised what it  was, but unable to
face it, he tried to deceive himself.  It was clear to him that this morning
he had irretrievably lost something  and now he was striving  to  compensate
for that loss with  a  trivial substitute, which took  the form  of  belated
action. His self-deception consisted in trying to persuade himself  that his
actions this evening were no less significant than the sentence which he had
passed  earlier in the day. But  in  this attempt the Procurator  had little
     At one of  his turns he stopped abruptly and whistled. In  reply  there
came a  low bark  from the twilight shadows and a  gigantic grey-coated  dog
with pointed ears bounded in from the garden, wearing a gold-studded collar.
     'Banga, Banga,' cried the Procurator weakly.
     The  dog stood  up on its  hind legs, put its forepaws  on its master's
shoulders, almost knocking him  over, and  licked his cheek. The  Procurator
sat down in a chair. Banga, tongue hanging out and panting fast, lay down at
Pilate's feet with an expression of delight that the thunderstorm was  over,
the  only thing in the world that frightened this otherwise fearless animal;
delighted, too, because it was back again with  the  man it loved, respected
and  regarded  as the most  powerful being on  earth, the  ruler of all men,
thanks to whom the dog too felt itself a specially privileged  and  superior
creature. But lying  at  his feet and gazing into the twilit  garden without
even looking at Pilate the dog knew at once that its master was troubled. It
moved, got up, went round to Pilate's side and laid its forepaws and head on
the Procurator's knees, smearing the hem of his cloak with wet sand. Banga's
action  seemed to mean that he wanted to comfort his master and was prepared
to face misfortune with him. This he tried to express in his eyes and in the
forward set of his ears. These two, dog and man who loved each other, sat in
vigil together on the balcony that night of the feast.
     Meanwhile Arthanius was busy. Leaving the upper terrace  of the garden,
he  walked down the steps to the next terrace  and turned right towards  the
barracks inside the  palace grounds. These quarters housed the two centuries
who had accompanied the Procurator to Jerusalem for the feast-days, together
with  the Procurator's  secret bodyguard commanded  by Arthanius. He spent a
little while in the barracks,  no  longer than  ten minutes, but immediately
afterwards three carts drove out of the barrack yard loaded with entrenching
tools and  a vat  of water, and escorted by a section of fifteen mounted men
wearing grey  cloaks.  Carts  and  escort  left  the  palace  grounds  by  a
side-gate, set off westward, passed through  a  gateway in the city wall and
first took the Bethlehem road northward; they reached the crossroads  by the
Hebron gate and there turned on to the Jaffa road, along the  route taken by
the execution  party that morning. By now it was dark and the moon had risen
on the horizon.
     Soon after the  carts and their escort section had set off,  Ar-thanius
also  left  the  palace on  horseback, having changed into  a  shabby  black
chiton, and rode into the city. After a while he could have been seen riding
towards  the fortress  of Antonia, situated immediately north of  the  great
temple. The visitor spent an equally short time in the fortress, after which
his route took him to the winding, crooked streets of the Lower City. He had
now changed his mount to a mule.
     Thoroughly at home in the city, the man easily found the street he  was
looking for. It was known as  the street  of the Greeks, as  it  contained a
number of  Greek  shops,  including  one  that  sold  carpets. There the man
stopped his mule, dismounted and tethered it to a ring outside the gate. The
shop was shut. The guest passed through a wicket gate in the wall beside the
shop  door  and  entered  a small  rectangular  courtyard, fitted out  as  a
stables. Turning the  corner of the yard the  visitor reached the  ivy-grown
verandah of the  owner's house and looked round him. House  and stables were
dark, the lamps not yet lit. He called softly:
     At the sound  of his voice a door  creaked  and a young woman, her head
uncovered, appeared on the verandah in the evening dusk. She leaned over the
railings, looking anxiously to see who had arrived. Recognising the visitor,
she gave him a welcoming smile, nodded and waved.
     'Are  you alone?  '  asked  Arthanius softly in  Greek. ' Yes, I am,'
whispered  the  woman on the verandah. '  My husband  went to Caesarea  this
morning '--here the woman glanced at the door and added in a whisper--'  but
the servant is here.' Then she beckoned him to come in.
     Arthanius glanced round, mounted the stone  steps and went indoors with
the woman. Here he spent no more than five minutes, after  which he left the
house, pulled his cowl lower over his eyes  and went out into the street. By
now  candles were  being lit in all the houses,  there was a large feast-day
crowd in the  streets,  and Arthanius on his mule was lost in the  stream of
riders and people on foot. Where he went from there is unknown.
     When Arthanius had left her, the woman called Niza began to change in a
great hurry, though despite  the difficulty of finding the things she needed
in her dark room she lit  no candle and  did not call her servant. Only when
she was ready, with a black shawl over her head, did she say :
     'If anybody asks for me tell them that I've gone to see Enanta.'
     Out of the dark her old serving-woman grumbled in reply :
     'Enanta? Thait  woman! You know  your husband's forbidden you to  see
her.  She's nothing but a  procuress,  that Enanta of  yours. I'll tell your
husband . . .'
     'Now, now, now, be quiet,' retorted Niza and slipped out of doors like
a  shadow,  her  sandals  clattering  across  the  paved  courtyard.   Still
grumbling, the servant shut the verandah door and Niza left her house.
     At the  same time a young man  left a tumbledown little  house with its
blind  side  to the  street and whose only windows gave on to the courtyard,
and  passed through the wicket into an unpaved alley that descended in steps
to  one of  the  city's  pools.  He  wore a  white kefiyeh  falling  to  his
shoulders, a new dark-blue fringed tallith fo:r the feast-day,  and creaking
new sandals. Dressed up for the occasion, the handsome, hook-nosed young man
set off  boldly, overtaking passers-by  as he hurried  home  to  the  solemn
Passover-night table, watching  the candles as they were lit in  house after
house.  The  young man  took  the  road  leading past the bazaar towards the
palace of Caiaphas the High Priest at the foot of the temple hill.
     After a while he entered the gates of Caiaphas' palace and  left  it  a
short time later.
     Leaving the palace, already bright with candles and torches and festive
bustle,, the young man returned, with an even bolder and more cheerful step,
to the Lower City.  At the corner where the street joined the bazaar square,
he was passed in the seething crowd by a woman walking with the hip-swinging
gait of a prostitute  and wearing a black shawl low  over her  eyes.  As she
overtook him the woman raised her shawl slightly and flashed a glance in the
young man's  direction,  but instead of  slowing  down she  walked faster as
though trying to run away from him.
     The young  man not only noticed the woman but recognised her. He gave a
start, halted, stared perplexedly at her back  and at once set  off to catch
her up.  Almost knocking over a man carrying a jug, the young man drew level
with the woman and panting with agitation called out to her :
     'Niza! '
     The woman turned, frowned with a look of chilling irritation and coldly
replied in Greek :
     'Oh, it's you, Judas. I didn't  recognise you. Still,  it's  lucky. We
have a saying that if you  don't recognise a person he's going to be rich. .
. .'
     So  excited  that  his heart began  to leap like a wild bird in a cage,
Judas asked in a jerky whisper, afraid that the passers-by might hear:
     'Where are you going, Niza? '
     'Why do you want  to know? '  answered  Niza, slackening  her pace and
staring haughtily at Judas.
     In a childish, pleading voice Judas whispered distractedly :
     'But Niza ...  we agreed ...  I was to come to see you, you said you'd
be at home all evening . . .'
     'Oh no,' replied  Niza, pouting capriciously, which to  Judas made her
face, the most beautiful he had ever seen in the world, even prettier, ' I'm
bored. It's a  feast-day for you, but  what do you  expect me to do? Sit and
listen to you  sighing on the verandah? And always frightened of the servant
telling  my  husband? No, I've decided to go  out of town  and listen to the
     'Out  of town?  '  asked Judas, bewildered. ' What--alone? ' ' Yes, of
course,' replied Niza.
     'Let me  go  with  you,' whispered Judas with  a  sigh. His  mind  was
confused, he had forgotten  about everything  and he  gazed  pleadingly into
Niza's blue  eyes that now  seemed black in the darkness. Niza  said nothing
but walked faster.
     'Why don't you say something, Niza? ' asked Judas miserably, hastening
to keep pace with her.
     'Won't I be bored with you?  ' Ni2a asked suddenly and stopped.  Judas
now felt utterly hopeless.
     'All right,' said Niza, relenting at last. ' Come on!'
     'Where to? '
     'Wait. . . let's go into this courtyard and arrange it,  otherwise I'm
afraid of someone seeing  me and  then telling  my husband that I was out on
the streets with my lover.'
     Niza and Judas vanished from the bazaar and  began whispering under the
gateway of a courtyard.
     'Go to the  olive-grove,'  whispered Niza, pulling her shawl down over
her eyes  and turning away from a man who came into the courtyard carrying a
bucket, ' in Gethsemane, over Kedron, do you know where I mean? '
     'Yes, yes . . .'
     'I'll go first,' Niza went  on, ' but don't follow close behind me, go
separately.  I'll go ahead. . . . When you've crossed the stream  ... do you
know where the grotto is? '
     'Yes, I know, I know . . .'
     'Go on through the olive grove on the hill and then turn right towards
the grotto. I'll be there. But whatever you do, don't follow me  at once, be
patient, wait a  while here.' With  these  words  Niza slipped  out  of  the
gateway as though she had never spoken to Judas.
     Judas  stood  alone  for some  time, trying  to  collect  his  whirling
thoughts.  Among other  things  he tried  to think how he would  explain his
absence from the Passover table to his  parents. He stood and tried to  work
out some  lie, but  in his excitement his mind refused to function properly,
and still lacking an excuse he slowly walked out of the gateway.
     Now he  took another direction and instead of making for the Lower City
he turned back  towards the palace of Caiaphas. The celebrations had already
begun. From windows  on all sides came  the murmur of the Passover ceremony.
Latecomers hastening home urged on their donkeys, whipping them and shouting
at them. On  foot Judas hurried on, not noticing the menacing turrets of the
fortress  of  Antonia,  deaf to the  call  of  trumpets from  the  fortress,
oblivious  of the Roman  mounted  patrol with their torches  that  threw  an
alarming glare across his path.
     As  he  turned  past  the  fortress   Judas  saw   that   two  gigantic
seven-branched candlesticks had been lit at a dizzy height above the temple.
But he only saw them in a blur. They seemed like dozens of lamps that burned
over  Jerusalem  in rivalry  with the single  lamp  climbing high above  the
city--the moon.
     Judas had no thought for anything now but his urgent haste to leave the
city as quickly as possible  by the Gethsemane gate. Occasionally he thought
he  could see, among the backs  and  faces of the people in front of  him, a
figure dancing along and drawing him after it. But it was an illusion. Judas
realised that  Niza  must  be  well  ahead  of  him.  He  passed  a  row  of
moneychangers' shops and at last reached the Gethsemane  gate. Here, burning
with impatience,  he was forced to wait. A camel caravan was coming into the
city, followed  by a mounted Syrian patrol, which Judas mentally cursed. . .
     But the  delay was short and  the impatient Judas was soon  outside the
city wall. To his left was a small cemetery,  beside it the striped tents of
a  band  of pilgrims.  Crossing the  dusty,  moonlit road  Judas  hurried on
towards the stream Kedron and crossed  it, the water bubbling  softly  under
his feet as he leaped from stone to stone. Finally he reached the Gethsemane
bank  and saw with joy that the road ahead was deserted. Not far away  could
be seen the half-ruined gateway of the olive grove.
     After the stifling city Judas  was struck by the intoxicating freshness
of  the spring night. Across  a garden fence the scent of myrtles and acacia
was blown from the fields of Gethsemane.
     The gateway  was unguarded and  a few  minutes later Judas was far into
the olive grove  and running  beneath  the mysterious shadows of the  great,
branching  olive  trees.  The  way  led  uphill.  Judas  climbed,   panting,
occasionally  emerging  from  darkness into chequered  carpets  of moonlight
which  reminded  him  of  the  carpets in the  shop kept  by  Niza's jealous

     Soon an oil-press came in sight in a clearing to Judas'  left, with its
heavy  stone crushing-wheel and a pile of barrels. There was no  one in  the
olive grove--work  had  stopped at sunset  and choirs  of nightingales  were
singing above Judas' head.
     He was near his goal. He knew that in a moment from the darkness to his
right  he would  hear the quiet  whisper of running water  from the  grotto.
There was the sound now and the  air was cooler  near the grotto. He checked
his pace and called:
     'Niza! '
     But instead  of  Niza slipping out from behind a thick olive trunk, the
stocky  figure of a  man jumped out  on  to the  path.  Something  glittered
momentarily in his hand. With a faint cry Judas started  running back, but a
second man blocked his way.
     The first man asked Judas:
     'How much did you get? Talk, if you want to save your life.'
     Hope welled up in Judas' heart and he cried desperately :
     'Thirty  tetradrachms! Thirty tetradrachms!  I  have  it  all on  me.
There's the money! Take it, but don't kill me! '
     The man snatched the purse from Judas' hand. At the same moment a knife
was  rammed into Judas' back under his shoulder-blade. He  pitched  forward,
throwing up his hands, fingers clutching. The man  in front caught Judas  on
his knife and thrust it up to the hilt into Judas' heart.
     'Ni . . .  2a . .  .' said Judas, in  a low, reproachful growl  quite
unlike his own, youthful, high-pitched voice and made not another sound. His
body hit the ground so  hard  that the air whistled as it was knocked out of
his lungs.
     Then a third figure stepped out on to the path, wearing a hooded cloak,
     'Don't waste any time,' he ordered. The cowled man  gave the murderers
a note and they wrapped purse  and note  into a piece of leather  which they
bound criss-cross  with  twine.  The  hooded  man put  the  bundle down  his
shirt-front, then the two assassins ran off the  path and were  swallowed by
the darkness between the olive trees.
     The third man squatted down  beside the body  and looked into his face.
It seemed as white as chalk, with an expression not unlike spiritual beauty.
     A  few seconds later there  was not a  living  soul on  the  path.  The
lifeless body  lay with  arms outstretched. Its left  foot was in a patch of
moonlight that showed up every strap and lace of the man's sandal. The whole
of Gethsemane rang with the song of nightingales.
     The  man with the hood left the path and plunged deep through the olive
grove,  heading  southward.  He  climbed over the wall  at the  southernmost
corner of the olive grove where the upper course of masonry jutted out. Soon
he reached the bank of  Kedron,  where he waded in  and waited in  midstream
until he saw the distant outlines of two horses and  a man beside them, also
standing in the  stream. Water flowed past,  washing their hooves. The groom
mounted one of the horses, the cowled man the other and both set off walking
down the bed  of the stream,  pebbles  crunching beneath the horses' hooves.
The riders left the water, climbed up the bank and followed the  line of the
city  walls at  a walk. Then the groom galloped  ahead and disappeared  from
sight while the man  in  the cowl stopped his horse, dismounted on the empty
road, took off his cloak, turned it inside out, and producing a flat-topped,
uncrested  helmet  from the folds, put it on. The  rider was now in military
uniform with a  short sword at his hip. He flicked the  reins and the  fiery
cavalry charger broke into a trot. He had not far to go before he rode up to
the southern gate of Jerusalem.
     Torch-flames danced and flickered restlessly under the arch of the gate
where the sentries from the  second cohort  of the Lightning  legion  sat on
stone benches  playing dice. As the mounted officer approached the  soldiers
jumped up, the officer waved to them and rode into the city.
     The town  was  lit up for the festival.  Candle  flames played at every
window and from each one came the sound of sing-song incantations.  Glancing
occasionally  into the  windows that opened on to  the street the  rider saw
people  at their  tables set  with  kid's meat and cups  of wine between the
dishes  of bitter  herbs. Whistling  softly  the rider  made  his way  at  a
leisurely trot  through the  deserted streets  of  the Lower  City,  heading
towards the  fortress of  Antonia  and  looking  up  now  and  then  at vast
seven-branched candlesticks flaring over  the  temple  or at the moon  above
     The palace of Herod the Great had no part in the ceremonies of Passover
night. Lights  were burning in the outbuildings on the south side where  the
officers of the Roman cohort  and the Legate  of the Legion were  quartered,
and there were signs of movement and life. The frontal wings, with their one
involuntary occupant--the Procurator--with their arcades and gilded statues,
seemed  blinded by  the  brilliance of the moonlight. Inside the palace  was
darkness and silence.
     The  Procurator, as he had told Arthanius, preferred  not to go inside.
He had ordered a  bed to be prepared  on the balcony where he  had dined and
where  he  had conducted the interrogation that morning. The Procurator  lay
down on the couch, but he could not sleep. The naked moon hung far up in the
clear sky and for several hours the Procurator lay staring at it.
     Sleep  at  last took  pity on  the  hegemon towards  midnight.  Yawning
spasmodically,  the Procurator unfastened  his cloak and threw it  off, took
off the strap that belted his tunic  with  its steel sheath-knife, put it on
the  chair beside the bed, took off his  sandals and stretched out. Banga at
once jumped up beside him on the bed and lay down, head to head. Putting his
arm round the dog's neck  the Procurator at last closed his eyes.  Only then
did the dog go to sleep.
     The couch  stood in half darkness,  shaded from  the moon by  a pillar,
though a long ribbon of  moonlight  stretched from the staircase to the bed.
As the Procurator drifted away from reality he  set  off along  that path of
light, straight up  towards the  moon.  In his sleep he  even  laughed  from
happiness  at the unique beauty of  that  transparent blue  pathway. He  was
walking with Banga and the vagrant philosopher beside him. They were arguing
about a weighty and complex problem over which  neither could gain the upper
hand.  They disagreed entirely, which made their argument the more absorbing
and interminable. The execution, of course, had been a pure misunderstanding
:  after all this same man, with his ridiculous philosophy that all men were
good, was walking  beside  him--consequently he was alive.  Indeed the  very
thought of executing such a man was absurd. There had been no execution I It
had never taken place! This  thought  comforted  him as  he strode along the
moonlight pathway.
     They had as  much  time to spare  as  they  wanted, the storm would not
break until evening. Cowardice was  undoubtedly one  of  the  most  terrible
sins.  Thus spake Yeshua Ha-Notsri. No, philosopher, I disagree--it  is  the
most terrible sin of all!
     Had  he not shown  cowardice, the man who was  now Procurator of Judaea
but who had once been a Tribune  of  the legion on that day in the Valley of
the Virgins when the wild Germans had so nearly clubbed Muribellum the Giant
to death? Have pity on me,  philosopher! Do you, a man of your intelligence,
imagine that the Procurator of Judaea would ruin his career for the sake  of
a man who had committed a crime against Caesar?
     'Yes, yes . . .' Pilate groaned and sobbed in his sleep.
     Of course he  would risk ruining  his career.  This morning he had  not
been ready to, but now at  night, having thoroughly weighed  the matter,  he
was prepared to ruin himself if need be. He would do  anything to save  this
crazy, innocent dreamer, this miraculous healer, from execution.
     'You and I will always be together,' said the ragged tramp-philosopher
who had so mysteriously become the travelling companion of the Knight of the
Golden  Lance. '  Where one of us  goes, the  other shall go  too.  Whenever
people think of me they  will think  of you--me, an orphan  child of unknown
parents and you the son of an  astrologer-king  and a miller's daughter, the
beautiful Pila! '
     'Remember to pray for me, the astrologer's son,'  begged Pilate in his
dream. And reassured by  a  nod from  the pauper from Ein-Sarid  who was his
companion,  the cruel Procurator of Judaea wept with joy and  laughed in his
     The hegemon's  awakening was all the more fearful after the euphoria of
his  dream. Banga  started  to  growl  at the  moon, and  the  blue pathway,
slippery as butter, collapsed in front of the Procurator. He opened his eyes
and the first  thing he remembered was that the execution  had  taken place.
Then the Procurator  groped mechanically for Banga's collar, then turned his
aching eyes in  search of the moon and noticed that it had moved slightly to
one side and was silver in colour. Competing with its light was another more
unpleasant  and disturbing  light that  nickered in front of  him. Holding a
naming, crackling  torch,  Muribellum  scowled with fear and dislike at  the
dangerous beast, poised to spring.
     'Lie down, Banga,' said the Procurator in a suffering voice, coughing.
Shielding his eyes from the torch-flame, he went on:
     'Even by moonlight there's no  peace for  me  at  night.  . . . Oh, ye
gods! You too have a harsh duty. Mark. You have to cripple men. . . .'
     Startled,  Mark stared at  the Procurator, who recollected  himself. To
excuse  his   pointless  remark,  spoken  while  still   half-dreaming,  the
Procurator said :
     'Don't be  offended,  centurion. My duty is even worse, I  assure you.
What do you want? '
     'The  chief of  the  secret service has  come to  see you,' said Mark
     'Send him in, send  him in,' said the Procurator, clearing  his throat
and fumbling  for his  sandals with bare feet.  The  flame danced  along the
arcade, the centurion's  caligae rang out on the mosaic as he went  out into
the garden.
     'Even  by moonlight there's no  peace for me,' said the Procurator  to
himself, grinding his teeth.
     The centurion was replaced by the man in the cowl.
     'Lie down,  Banga,' said the Procurator quietly, pressing down  on the
dog's head.
     Before speaking Arthanius gave his habitual glance round and moved into
a shadow.  Having ensured  that apart from Banga there  were no strangers on
the balcony, he said :
     'You may  charge  me with negligence,  Procurator. You were  right.  I
could not  save  Judas  of  Karioth  from being  murdered.  I  deserve to be
court-martialled and discharged.'
     Arthanius felt that of the  two pairs of eyes  watching  him; one was a
dog's, the other a wolf's. From under his tunic  he  took out a bloodstained
purse that was sealed with two seals.
     'The murderers threw this purseful of money into the house of the High
Priest. There is blood on it--Judas of Kariodh's blood.'
     'How much money is there in it? ' asked  Pilate,  noddling towards the
     'Thirty tetradrachms.'
     The Procurator smiled and said :
     'Not much.'
     Arthanius did not reply.
     'Where is the body? '
     'I do not  know,' replied the cowled man with dignity. '  This morning
we will start the investigation.'
     The  Procurator shuddered and gave up trying to lace his sandal,  which
refused to tie.
     'But are you certain he was killed? '
     To this the Procurator received the cool reply :
     'I have been working in Judaea for fifteen years. Procurator. I began
my service  under Valerius Gratus. I don't have to see a body to be able  to
say that a man is dead and I am stating that the man called Judas of Karioth
was murdered several hours ago.'
     'Forgive me, Arthanius,' replied Pilate. ' I made that remaa-k because
I haven't quite woken up yet. I sleep badly,' the Procurator smiled, ' I was
dreaming of a moonbeam. It  was funny, because I seemed to be walking  along
it. ... Now, I want your suggestions for dealing with this affair. Where are
you going to look for him? Sit down.'
     Arthanius  bowed, moved  a chair  closer to the bed  and sat  down, his
sword clinking.
     'I shall  look for him not  far from the oil-press in the  Geth-semane
     'I see. Why there? '
     'I believe, hegemon, that Judas was killed neither in Jerusalem itself
nor far from the city, but somewhere in its vicinity.'
     'You are an expert at your job. I don't know about Rome itself, but in
the colonies there's not a man to touch you. Why do you think that? '
     'I cannot believe for one moment,' said Arthanius  in a low voice,  '
that Judas would  have allowed  himself to  be caught by any ruffians within
the city limits. The street is no place for a  clandestine murder. Therefore
he must  have been  enticed into  some cellar  or courtyard. But the  secret
service has already made a thorough search of the Lower City and if he  were
there they would have found him by  now.  They  have not found him  and I am
therefore convinced that he is not in the city. If he had been killed a long
way from Jerusalem, then the packet of money could not have been thrown into
the  High Priest's palace so soon. He  was murdered near the city after they
had lured him out.'
     'How did they manage to do that? '
     'That, Procurator, is the most difficult problem of  all and I  am not
even sure that I shall ever be able to solve it.'
     'Most puzzling, I  agree. A believing Jew leaves the city to go heaven
knows where on the eve of Passover and is killed. Who could have enticed him
and  how?  Might  it  have been done by a woman? ' enquired  the Procurator,
making a sudden inspired guess.
     Arthanius replied gravely :
     'Impossible,  Procurator. Out of the question. Consider it  logically:
who  wanted  Judas  done  away with?  A band of  vagrant cranks,  a group of
visionaries which, above all, contains no women. To marry and start a family
needs  money, Procurator.  But to  kill  a man  with a  woman  as  decoy  or
accomplice needs  a  very  great deal  of  money  indeed and  these men  are
tramps-- homeless and destitute. There was no woman involved in this affair,
Procurator. What is more,  to theorise on those lines  may even throw us off
the scent and hinder  the  investigation.' ' I see,  Arthanius, that you are
quite right,' said Pilate. ' I was merely putting forward a hypothesis.'
     'It is, alas, a faulty one, Procurator.'
     'Well then--what  is your theory? ' exclaimed the Procurator, staring
at Arthanius with avid curiosity.
     'I still think that the bait was money.'
     'Remarkable! Who,  might I  ask, would be likely to entice him  out of
the city limits in the middle of the night to offer him money? '
     'No one, of course,  Procurator. No, I  can only make one guess and if
it  is  wrong, then I confess I am  at  a loss.' Arthanius  leaned closer to
Pilate and  whispered : ' Judas intended to  hide his money in a safe  place
known only to himself.'
     'A very shrewd explanation. That must be the answer. I see it now : he
was not lured out of town--he went of his own accord. Yes, yes, that must be
     'Precisely. Judas trusted nobody. He wanted to hide his money.'
     'You  said Gethsemane  .  . . Why  there?  That, I confess,  I  don't
     'That, Procurator, is the simplest  deduction of all. No one is going
to  hide money in the road or out in the open. Therefore Judas  did not take
the  road to Hebron  or to  Bethany. He will have gone to  somewhere hidden,
somewhere where there are trees. It's obvious--there is no place round about
Jerusalem that answers to that description except Gethsemane. He cannot have
gone far.'
     'You have completely convinced me. What is your next move? '
     'I shall  Immediately start searching for the  murderers who  followed
Judas out  of the  city and meanwhile, as I  have already proposed to you, I
shall submit myself to be court-martialled.'
     'What for? '
     'My men lost track of Judas  this evening in  the bazaar after  he had
left Caiaphas' palace. How it occurred, I don't know. It has never  happened
to me before. He was put under obser-vation immediately after our  talk, but
somewhere an  the  bazaar area  he gave  us the slip and disappeared without
     'I  see. You will be glad to hear that I do not  consider it necessary
for you to  be court-martialled. You did all you  could  and  no one  in the
world,'--the  Procurator smiled--' could possibly have done  more. Reprimand
the men  who lost  Judas. But let  me warn  you  that  I do  not  wish  your
reprimand to  be a  severe one. After all,  we did  our best to protect tlhe
scoundrel.  Oh yes--I forgot to ask '--the Procurator wiped his forehead-- '
how did they manage to return the money to Caiaphas? '
     'That  was  not particularly  difficult. Procurator. The avengers went
behind   Caiaphas'  palace,  where  that  back  street  overlooks  the  rear
courtyard. Then they threw the packet over the fence.'
     'With a note? '
     'Yes, just as you said they  would. Procurator. Oh, by the way .  . .'
Arthanius broke the seals on the packet and showed its contents to Pilate.
     'Arthanius! Take care what you're doing. Tho se are temple seals.'
     'The Procurator  need have  no fear on that sicore,' replied Arthanius
as he wrapped up the bag of money.
     'Do you mean to say that you have  copies of  all their seals? ' asked
Pilate, laughing.
     'Naturally, Procurator,' was Arthanius' curt, unsmiling reply.
     'I can just imagine how Caiaphas must have felt! '
     'Yes, Procurator, it caused a great stir. They sent for me at
     Even in the dark Pilate's eyes could be seen glittering.
     'Interesting . . .'
     'If  you'll  forgive  my  contradicting,   Procurator,  it  was  most
uninteresting.  A  boring and  time-wasting  case.  When I enquired  whether
anybody in Caiaphas' palace had paid out this money I was told categorically
that no one had.'
     'Really? Well,  if they say so, I suppose they didn't. That will  make
it all the harder to find the murderers.' ' Quite so, Procurator.'
     'Arthanius, it  has  just  occurred to  me--might  he not have killed
     'Oh no. Procurator,' replied Arthanius,  leaning back in his chair and
staring in astonishment, ' that, if you will forgive me, is most unlikely! '
     'Ah, in this city anything is likely. I am prepared to bet that before
long the city will be full of rumours about his suicide.'
     Here  Arthanius gave  Pilate  his peculiar stare, thought a moment, and
     'That may be, Procurator.'
     Pilate was obviously obsessed with the problem of  the murder of  Judas
of Karioth, although it had been fully explained,
     He said reflectively:
     'I should have liked to have seen how they killed him.'
     'He  was killed with great artistry. Procurator,'  replied  Arthanius,
giving Pilate an ironic look.
     'How do you know? '
     'If you will kindly inspect the bag, Procurator,' Arthanius replied, '
I  can  guarantee from its condition that Judas' blood flowed freely. I have
seen some murdered men in my time.'
     'So he will not rise again? '
     'No,  Procurator.  He  will rise again,'  answered Arthanius,  smiling
philosophically, '  when the trumpet-call  of their  messiah sounds for him.
But not before.'
     'All  right, Arthanius, that case is  dealt with. Now what  about  the
burial? '
     'The executed prisoners have been buried. Procurator.'
     'Arthanius, it would be a crime to  court-martial you. You deserve the
highest praise. What happened? '
     While Arthanius had been engaged on the Judas case,  a  secret  service
squad under the  command  of Arthanius' deputy  had reached the hill shortly
before  dark. At the hilltop one body was missing. Pilate shuddered and said
hoarsely :
     'Ah, now why didn't I foresee that? '
     'There is no cause for worry. Procurator,' said Arthanius and went on
: ' The bodies of Dismas and Hestas, their eyes picked out by carrion crows,
were loaded  on  to  a cart. The men at once set  off to look for the  third
body. It was soon found. A man called . . .'
     'Matthew  the  Levite,' said  Pilate. It  was  not  a  question but an
     'Yes, Procurator . . . Matthew the Levite  was hidden in a cave on the
northern  slope  of  Mount  Golgotha, waiting  for darkness.  With  him  was
Ha-Notsri's  naked  body. When the guard entered the cave with a torch,  the
Levite fell into a fit. He shouted that he had committed no crime  and  that
according to  the law every man had a right to  bury the body of an executed
criminal if he wished to. Matthew  the Levite  refused to leave the body. He
was excited, almost delirious, begging, threatening, cursing . . .'
     'Did they have to arrest him? ' asked Pilate glumly.
     'No, Procurator,'  replied  Arthanius reassuringly. '  They managed to
humour the lunatic by telling him that the body would be  buried. The Levite
calmed down but announced that he still refused to leave the body and wanted
to assist in the burial. He said he refused to go even if they threatened to
kill him and even offered them a bread knife to kill him with.'
     'Did they send him away? ' enquired Pilate in a stifled voice.
     'No, Procurator. My deputy allowed him to take part in the burial.'
     'Which of your assistants was in charge of this detail? '
     'Tolmai,' replied Arthanius, adding anxiously : ' Did I do wrong? '
     'Go on,'  replied Pilate. '  You  did right. I  am beginning to think,
Arthanius, that I am dealing with  a  man  who never makes a mistake--I mean
     'Matthew the Levite was taken away by cart, together  with the bodies,
and about  two hours later  they reached  a deserted  cave to the  north  of
Jerusalem. After an hour working in shifts  the squad had dug a deep pit  in
which they buried the bodies of the three victims.'
     'Naked?' ' No, Procurator, the squad had taken  chitons  with them for
the purpose.  Rings were put  on the bodies' fingers : Yeshua's ring had one
incised  stroke,  Dismas'  two  and Hestas' three.  The  pit was filled  and
covered with stones. Tolmai knows the recognition mark.'
     'Ah, if  only I could have  known! ' said Pilate, frowning. ' I wanted
to see that man Matthew the Levite.' ' He is here, Procurator.'
     Pilate stared at Arthanius for a moment with wide-open eyes, then said:
     'Thank you  for everything you have done on this case. Tomorrow please
send Tolmai to see me and before  he comes tell him  that I am pleased  with
him. And you, Arthanius,'--  the Procurator  took out a ring from the pocket
of his  belt and handed it to the chief  of secret service--'  please accept
this as a token of my gratitude.'
     With a bow Arthanius said :
     'You do me a great honour,  Procurator.' ' Please give my commendation
to  the  squad that carried out the burial and  a  reprimand  to the men who
failed  to protect Judas.  And send Matthew the Levite to me at once. I need
certain details from him on the case of Yeshua.'
     'Very good. Procurator,' replied Arthanius and  bowed himself out. The
Procurator clapped his hands and shouted:
     'Bring me candles in the arcade! '
     Arthanius had not even reached the garden when servants began to appear
bearing  lights. Three candlesticks were placed on the table in front of the
Procurator and instantly the moonlit night retreated to the garden as though
Arthanius had taken it with him. In his place a small, thin stranger mounted
to the balcony  accompanied  by  the giant  centurion. At  a  nod  from  the
Procurator Muribellum turned and marched out.
     Pilate studied the new arrival with an eager, slightly fearful look, in
the way people look at someone of whom they have heard a great deal, who has
been in their thoughts and whom they finally meet.
     The  man who  now appeared was  about  forty, dark, ragged,  covered in
dried mud,  with a suspicious,  wolfish stare. In a  word  he was  extremely
unsightly and looked most of all like one of the city beggars who were to be
found in crowds on the terraces of the temple or in the bazaars of the noisy
and dirty Lower City.
     The silence was  long and made awkward by  the man's strange behaviour.
His face worked, he staggered and he would have fallen if he had not put out
a dirty hand to grasp the edge of the table.
     'What's the matter with you? ' Pilate asked him.
     'Nothing,' replied Matthew the  Levite, making a movement as though he
were  swallowing something.  His  thin, bare, grey neck bulged and  subsided
     'What is it--answer me,' Pilate repeated.
     'I am tired,' answered the Levite and stared dully at the floor.
     'Sit down,' said Pilate, pointing to a chair.
     Matthew gazed mistrustfully at the Procurator, took a  step towards the
chair, gave  a frightened look at its gilded armrests and  sat  down on  the
floor beside it.
     'Why didn't you sit in the chair? ' asked Pilate.
     'I'm dirty, I would make it dirty too,' said the Levite staring at the
     'You will be given something to eat shortly.'
     'I don't want to eat.'
     'Why  tell lies? ' Pilate asked  quietly. ' You haven't eaten  all day
and probably longer. All right, don't eat. I called you here to show me your
     'The soldiers took it away from me when they brought me here,' replied
the Levite and added dismally: ' You must give it back to me, because I have
to return it to its owner. I stole it.'
     'To cut the ropes.'
     'Mark!'  shouted the  Procurator and the  centurion stepped  into  the
arcade. ' Give me his knife.'
     The  centurion  pulled a dirty breadknife out of one of the two leather
sheaths on his belt, handed it to the Procurator and withdrew.
     'Where did you steal the knife? '
     'In a baker's shop just inside the Hcbron gate, on the left.'
     Pilate inspected the  wide blade  and tested the edge with his  finger.
Then he said :
     'Don't worry about the knife, it will be returned to  the shop.  Now I
want something else--show  me the parchment you carry with you  on which you
have written what Yeshua has said.'
     The  Levite looked  at Pilate with  hatred and smiled  a smile  of such
ill-will that his face was completely distorted.
     'Are you going to take it away from me? The last thing I possess? '
     'I didn't say  " give it ",' answered Pilate.  ' I  said " show  it to
     The Levite  fumbled  in  his shirt-front  and  pulled  out  a  roll  of
parchment. Pilate took  it, unrolled it, spread it out in the  light  of two
candles and with a frown began to study the barely decipherable script.  The
uneven strokes were hard to understand and Pilate  frowned and bent over the
parchment, tracing  the lines  with his finger.  He  nevertheless managed to
discern that the  writings  were  a  disjointed sequence of sayings,  dates,
household notes and snatches of poetry. Pilate managed to read:
     'there is no death . . . yesterday we ate sweet cakes . . .'
     Grimacing with strain, Pilate squinted and read:  '...  we  shall see a
pure river of  the water of life . . . mankind will look at the sun  through
transparent crystal. . .'
     Pilate shuddered. In  the last few lines of the parchment he deciphered
the words: '. . . greatest sin ... cowardice . . .'
     Pilate rolled up the parchment  and  with a brusque movement handed  it
back to the Levite.
     'There, take it,' he said, and after a short silence he added:
     'I see you are a man of learning and there is  no need for you, living
alone, to walk around in  such wretched clothes and without a home. I have a
large library at Caesarea, I am  very  rich and I would like you to come and
work for  me. You would catalogue and look after the papyruses, you would be
fed and clothed.'
     The Levite stood up and replied :
     'No, I don't want to.'
     'Why  not?  '  asked the Procurator, his expression darkening.  '  You
don't like me ...are you afraid of me? '
     The same evil smile twisted Matthew's face and he said :
     'No, because you  would be afraid  of  me.  You would not find it very
easy to look me in the face after having killed him.'
     'Silence,' Pilate cut him off. ' Take this money.'
     The Levite shook his head and the Procurator went on :
     'You, I  know, consider yourself a disciple of Yeshua, but  I tell you
that you  have acquired nothing of what he taught you. For  if you  had, you
would have certainly accepted something from me. Remember--before he died he
said that he blamed no one--' Pilate raised his finger significantly and his
face twitched --' and I know  that he would have accepted something. You are
hard. He was not a hard man. Where will you go? '
     Matthew suddenly walked over to Pilate's table, leaned on  it with both
hands and staring at the Procurator with burning eyes he whispered to him :
     'Know,  hegemon, that there is one man in Jerusalem whom I shall kill.
I want to tell you this so that you are warned-- there will be more blood.'
     'I know that there  will be more  blood,'  answered Pilate. ' What you
have said does not surprise me. You want to murder me,I suppose?'
     'I shall not be able  to  murder you,' replied the  Levite, baring his
teeth in a smile. ' I am not so stupid as to count on that. But I shall kill
Judas of Karioth if it takes the rest of my life.'
     At this  the Procurator's eyes gleamed with pleasure. Beckoning Matthew
the Levite closer he said :
     'You  will  not succeed,  but  it  will not  be necessary.  Judas was
murdered tonight.'
     The Levite jumped back from the table, stared wildly round and cried:
     'Who did it? '
     Pilate a.nswered him :
      I did it.
     'You must not be jealous,' said Pilate, baring his teeth  mirthlessly
and  rubbing his  hands,  ' but I'm  afraid he  had other  admirers  Ibeside
     'Who did it? ' repeated the Levite in a whisper.
     Matthew  opened  his  mouth and  stared  at  the Procurator,  who  said
     'It is mot  much, but I did it.' And he added : ' Now will you accept
something? '
     The Levite thought for a moment, relented and finally said :
     'Order them to give me a clean piece of parchment.'
     An  hour had  passed since the  Levite had  left  the palace. The  dawn
silence was only disturbed by the quiet tread of the sentries in the garden.
The  moon  was  fading and on  the other edge of heaven there  appeared  the
whitish speck  of the morning star.  The candles  had long been put out. The
Procurator lay on  his couch. He was sleeping with his hand under his  cheek
and breathing noiselessly. Beside him slept Banga.
     Thus  Pontius Pilate, fifth Procurator of  Judaea,  met the dawn of the
fifteenth of Nisan.

     Day was breaking as Margarita read the last words of the chapter '. . .
Thus  Pontius Pilate,  fifth  Procurator  of Judaea,  met the  dawn  of  the
fifteenth of Nisan.'
     From the yard she could hear the lively, cheerful early morning chatter
of sparrows in the branches of the willow and the lime tree.
     Margarita got up from her chair,  stretched  and only then realised how
physically exhausted  she felt  and how much she wanted to  sleep. Mentally,
though,  Margarita was  in  perfect  form. Her mind was clear  and  she  was
completely  unmoved  by  the  fact  that  she  had  spent  a  night  in  the
supernatural. It caused her  no  distress  to  think  that she  had  been at
Satan's ball, that by some miracle the master had been restored to her, that
the novel had risen from the ashes, that everything was back in its place in
the basement flat after the expulsion of the wretched Aloysius  Mogarych. In
a word,  her  encounter  with  Woland  had done her no  psychological  harm.
Everything was as it should be.
     She  went into the next  room,  made  sure  that  the master was  sound
asleep, put out the unnecessary light on the bedside table and stretched out
on the other  little divan,  covering herself with an  old, torn  blanket. A
minute  later she was in a dreamless sleep. Silence reigned  in the basement
rooms and in the whole house, silence filled the little street.
     But on that early Saturday morning there was no sleep for a whole floor
of a certain Moscow office which was busy investigating the Woland case ; in
nine offices  the lamps had  been burning all night. Their  windows, looking
out on to a large asphalted square which was being cleaned by slow, whirring
vehicles with revolving brushes, competed with the rising sun in brightness.
     Although the  outlines of the case  had been quite  clear since the day
before, when they had closed the Variety as a result of the disappearance of
its management and the scandalous performance of black magic, everything was
complicated by the incessant flow of new evidence.
     The  department in charge of  this  strange  case  now had the  task of
drawing  together  all the  strands of  the  varied  and  confusing  events,
occurring  all  over  Moscow, which included an  apparent  mixture of  sheer
devilry, hypnotic conjuring tricks and barefaced crime.
     The  first person  summoned  to  the  glaring  electric  light of  that
unsleeping floor was  Arkady  Apollonich Sempleyarov,  the  chairman of  the
Acoustics Commission.
     On  Friday  evening after  dinner, the telephone rang  in his  flat  on
Kamenny  Most and  a  man's voice asked to speak to  Arkady  Apollonich. His
wife, who had answered the call, announced grimly that Arkady Apollonich was
unwell,  had  gone  to  lie  down  and  could  not  come  to the  telephone.
Nevertheless Arkady  Apollonich was obliged to come  when the voice said who
was calling.
     'Of  course ... at once . . . right away,' stammered Arkady's  usually
arrogant spouse and she flew like an arrow to  rouse Arkady Appollonich from
the couch where he had lain down to  recover from the horrific scenes caused
by the theatre  incident and the stormy  expulsion  from  their  flat of his
young cousin from Saratov. In a quarter of a minute, in underclothes and one
slipper, Arkady Apollonich was babbling into the telephone :
     'Yes, it's me. Yes, I will. . .'
     His  wife,  all thought  of Arkady  Apollonich's  infidelity  instantly
forgotten,  put her terrified face round the  door,  waving a slipper in the
air and whispering :
     'Put your other slipper on ... you'll catch cold . . .' At this Arkady
Apollonich,  waving his wife away  with  a  bare leg and rolling his eyes at
her, muttered into the receiver :
     'Yes, yes, yes, of course ... I understand . . . I'll come at once . .
     Arkady Apollonich spent the rest of the evening with the investigators.
     The ensuing conversation was painful and unpleasant in the extreme ; he
was not only made to give a completely frank account of that odious show and
the  fight  in the  box,  but  was obliged to tell everything about  Militsa
Andreyevna Pokobatko  from  Yelokhovskaya Street, as  well as  all about his
cousin  from  Saratov  and much more besides, the  telling of  which  caused
Arkady Apollonich inexpressible pain.
     Naturally  the  evidence given by Arkady Apollonich--an intelligent and
cultured man who had been an eyewitness of the show and who as an articulate
and informed observer was not  only able to give an excellent description of
the mysterious  masked  magician and his  two rascally  assistants  but  who
actually remembered that the magician's name was Woland--helped considerably
to advance the enquiry. When Arkady Apollonich's evidence was  compared with
the  evidence  of  the  others, among them  several of the  ladies  who  had
suffered such embarrassment  after the  show (including the woman  in violet
knickers who had so shocked Rimsky)  and Karpov  the usher who had been sent
to Flat No. 50 at 302a, Sadovaya Street--it became immediately obvious where
the culprit was to be found.
     They went to No.  50 more  than  once  and not only  searched  it  with
extreme thoroughness but tapped on the walls, examined the chimney-flues and
looked for  secret  doors. None of this,  however, produced any results  and
nothing was found during the visits  to the flat. Yet someone was  living in
the flat, despite the fact that every official body in Moscow concerned with
visiting foreigners stated firmly  and categorically that  there was not and
could  not be  a magician  called Woland in  Moscow. He  had definitely  not
registered on  entry,  he  had  shown no  one  his  passport  or  any  other
documents,  contracts or agreements  and no one had so much as heard of him.
Kitaitsev,  the  director  of  the  programmes department of  the Theatrical
Commission, swore  by all  the saints that the  missing Stepa Likhodeyev had
never  sent  him   a  programme  schedule  for  anyone  called   Woland  for
confirmation  and  had  never  telephoned  Kitaitsev a  word  about Woland's
arrival. Therefore  he, Kitaitsev, failed completely to understand how Stepa
could have allowed a show  of this sort to be put on at the Variety. When he
was told that Arkady Apollonich had seen the performance  with his own eyes,
Kitaitsev could only  spread his hands and  raise  his eyes to heaven.  From
those eyes alone it was obvious that Kitaitsev was as pure as crystal.
     Prokhor Petrovich, the chairman of the Entertainments Commission . . .
     He, incidentally, had re-entered his suit as soon as the police reached
his  office, to the  ecstatic joy of  Anna  Richardovna  and  to  the  great
annoyance of the police, who had been alerted for nothing. As soon as he was
back at  his post and wearing his striped grey suit, Prokhor Petrovich fully
approved all the minutes that his suit had drafted during his short absence.
     So Prokhor Petrovich obviously knew nothing about Woland either.
     The  sum total of  their enquiries amounted to a  conclusion  which was
little short of farcical:  thousands of spectators, plus the Variety Theatre
staff  plus, finally, Arkady Apollonich,  that highly  intelligent  man, had
seen this magician and his thrice-cursed assistants, yet in the meantime all
four had  completely vanished. What could it mean? Had Woland been swallowed
up by the earth or had he, as some claimed, never come to Moscow  at all? If
one accepted the first alternative, then he had apparently spirited away the
entire Variety management  with him; if you believed the second alternative,
it  meant  that  the theatre  management itself, having first indulged in  a
minor orgy of destruction had decamped from Moscow leaving no trace.
     The officer in charge of the case was,  to give him his due, a  man who
knew  his job. Rimsky, for instance, was tracked down with astounding speed.
Merely by  linking the Ace of Diamonds' behaviour at the taxi-rank  near the
cinema with certain timings, such as the time of the end of the show and the
time  at  which Rimsky  could  have vanished,  they  were  able  to  send an
immediate telegram to Leningrad. An hour later (on Friday evening) the reply
came back that  Rimsky had been found in room 412 at the Astoria  Hotel,  on
the fourth floor next to the room containing the repertory manager of one of
the Moscow theatres then on  tour in Leningrad, in that famous room with the
blue-grey furniture and the luxurious bathroom.
     Rimsky,  found hiding in  the wardrobe  of his room at the Astoria, was
immediately arrested and interrogated  in Leningrad, after  which a telegram
reached Moscow stating  that treasurer Rimsky was  an irresponsible  witness
who had proved unwilling or  incapable of replying  coherently to  questions
and had done nothing  but beg  to be  put into  an  armourplated strong-room
under armed  guard. An  order was telegraphed to Leningrad for Rimsky to  be
escorted back to Moscow, and he  returned under  guard by the Friday evening
     By Friday evening, too, they were on the track of Likhodeyev. Telegrams
asking for information on Likhodeyev had been sent to every town and a reply
came from Yalta that Likhodeyev was there but  about to leave for Moscow  by
     The only person whose trail they failed to  pick up was Varenukha. This
man, known to the entire theatrical world of Moscow, seemed to have vanished
without trace.
     Meanwhile  investigations  were in hand  on related incidents  in other
parts of  Moscow. An explanation was needed,  for instance, of  the baffling
case  of  the  office  staff  who  had  sung  the  '  Volga Boatmen  '  song
(Stravinsky,  incidentally, cured them  all within two hours by subcutaneous
injections)  and  of  other  cases of people (and  their  victims)  who  had
proffered  various  pieces  of rubbish  under  the illusion  that  they were
banknotes.  The  nastiest, the most scandalous and the most insoluble of all
these episodes was, of course,  the theft,  in broad  daylight, of Berlioz's
head from the open coffin at Griboyedov.
     The job of the team of twelve men assigned to the  case was rather like
that of  someone with a knitting-needle trying to pick  up  stitches dropped
all over Moscow.
     One of  the  detectives called  on Profes sor Stravinsky's  clinic  and
began by asking  for  a list  of all patients admitted during the past three
days.  By  this  means they  discovered  Nikanor  Ivano-vich  Bosoi and  the
unfortunate compere whose head had been wrenched off, although they were not
greatly interested  in  these two. It  was  obvious now that  they had  both
merely been victimised by the gang  headed by  this  weird magician. In Ivan
Nikolayich  Bezdomny,  however,  the  detective  showed  the  very  greatest
     Early  on Friday evening the  door  of  Ivan's room opened  to  admit a
polite, fresh-faced  young man- He looked quite unlike a detective,  yet  he
was one  of  the  best in the  Moscow  force.  He saw lying  in bed a  pale,
pinched-looking young man with lack-lustre, wandering eyes. The detective, a
man of considerable charm and tact, said that he had come to see Ivan for  a
talk about the incident at Patriarch's Ponds two days previously.
     The poet would  have  been  triumphant  if  the  detective  had  called
earlier, on Thursday  for  instance when Ivan had  been trying so loudly and
passionately  to induce  someone  to listen  to his story  about Patriarch's
Ponds.  Now  people  were  at  last  coming  to  hear  his  version  of  the
affair--just when his urge to help capture Professor Woland  had  completely
     For Ivan,  alas, had altogether changed  since  the night of  Berlioz's
death. He  was quite prepared to answer the detective's  questions politely,
but his voice and his expression betrayed his utter disinterest. The poet no
longer cared about Berlioz's fate.
     While Ivan had been dozing before the detective's arrival, a succession
of  images  had  passed before his mind's  eye.  He  saw a strange,  unreal,
vanished city with great arcaded marble piles ;
     with  roofs that  flashed in  the  sunlight; with the  grim,  black and
pitiless tower of Antonia ; with a palace on the western hill plunged almost
to roof-level in a garden of  tropical greenery, and above the garden bronze
statues  that glowed  in the setting sun ;  with Roman  legionaries clad  in
armour marching beneath the city walls.
     In his half-waking dream Ivan saw a man sitting  motionless in a chair,
a clean-shaven  man with taut, yellowing skin  who wore a white cloak  lined
with red, who sat and stared with loathing at  this alien, luxuriant garden.
Ivan saw, too, a treeless ochre-coloured hill  with three empty cross-barred
     The events at Patriarch's Ponds no longer interested Ivan  Bezdomny the
     'Tell  me,  Ivan Nikolayich, how  far were you from the turnstile when
Berlioz fell under the tram? '
     A barely detectable smile of irony crossed Ivan's Ups as he replied:
     'I was far away.'
     'And was the man in checks standing beside the turnstile? '
     'No, he was on a bench nearby.'
     'You  distinctly  remember,  do  you,  that he did  not  approach the
turnstile at the moment when Berlioz fell? '
     'I  do remember. He didn't  move.  He was on the bench and he  stayed
     These were the detective's last  questions. He got up, shook hands with
Ivan, wished him a speedy  recovery and said that he soon hoped to read some
new poetry of his.
     'No,' said Ivan quietly. ' I shall not write any more poetry.'
     The detective smiled  politely  and assured the  poet that although  he
might be in a slight state of depression at the moment, it would soon pass.
     'No,' said  Ivan, staring  not  at the  detective but at the  distant
twilit horizon, ' it will never pass. The poetry I wrote was  bad p.oetry. I
see that now.'
     The  detective left Ivan,  having  gathered  some  extremely  important
evidence. Following the thread of events  backwards from  end to  beginning,
they could now pinpoint the source of the  whole episode. The detective  had
no  doubt that  the events in  question had  all  begun  with the murder  at
Patriarch's  Ponds. Neither Ivan, of course, nor the  man  in the check suit
had pushed the unfortunate chairman of massolit under the tramcar;
     n"o one  had  physically caused him  to fall under the  wheels, but the
detective  was convinced  that  Berlioz had  thrown himself (or  had fallen)
beneath the tram while under hypnosis.
     Although there was  plenty  of evidence  and  it was obvious  whom they
should  arrest and  where, it proved impossible to lay hands on them.  There
was no doubt that someone  was  in  flat Nib. 50. Occasionally the telephone
was  answered by a quavering or a nasal  voice, occasionally  someone in the
flat opened a window and the sound of a gramophone  could be  heard floating
out.  Yet  whenever  they went  there  the place was  completely empty. They
searched it at various  hours of the  day,  each time going  over it  with a
fine-tooth comb. The flat had been under suspicion for some time and a watch
had been placed on both the main stairs and the back stairs ; men  were even
posted on  the roof among the chimney pots. The flat was  playing tricks and
there was nothing that anyone could do about it.
     The case dragged on in this way until midnight on  Friday,  wlien Baron
Maigel, wearing evening dress and patent-leather pumps, entered flat  No. 50
as  a  guest.  He was heard  being  let in. Exactly  ten  minutes later  the
authorities  entered the flat without  a sound.  It  was not  only  empty of
tenants, but worse, there was not even a trace of Baron Maigel.
     There things rested until dawn on Saturday, when some new anid valuable
information came  to light  as a  six-seater  passenger  aeroplane landed at
Moscow airport  having flown  from the Crimea. Among  its passengers was one
extremely odd young man. He had  heavy stubble on  his face,  had not washed
for three days, his eyes were red  with exhaustion  and fright,  he  had  no
luggage and was somewhat eccentrically  dressed. He wore a  sheepskin hat, a
felt cloak over a nightshirt and brand-new blue leather bedroom slippers. As
he stepped off the gangway from the aircraft cabin, a group of expectant men
approached him. A short while later the one and only manager of the  Variety
Theatre, Stepan Bogdanovich Likhodeyev,  was facing the detectives. He added
some  new information.  They  were now able  to  establish  that  Woland had
tricked his way into the Variety after hypnotising Stepa Likhodeyev  and had
then spirited  Stepa  God knows how many kilometres away from  Moscow.  This
gave the authorities more evidence, but far from making their job any easier
it made it if  anything rather harder, because it was obviously not going to
be  so simple to arrest a person capable of the kind  of  sleight-of-hand to
which  Stepan Bogdanovich had fallen victim. Likhodeyev, at his own request,
was locked up in a strong-room.
     The next witness was Varenukha,  arrested at home where he had returned
after an  unexplained absence lasting nearly forty-eight  hours. In spite of
his promise  to Azazello, the house manager began  by lying. He should  not,
however,  be  judged too  harshly for this--Azazello had,  after  all,  only
forbidden him  to  lie on the telephone and  in  this instance Varenukha was
talking without the help of  a telephone. With a shifty look Ivan Savye-lich
announced that on  Thursday he had shut himself up in his office and had got
drunk, after which he  had gone somewhere-- he couldn't remember where; then
somewhere else and  drunk  some  loo-proof  vodka  ; had  collapsed  under a
hedge--again he couldn't  remember  where. He was  then told that his stupid
and irrational  behaviour was prejudicial to the course of justice and  that
he would  be held responsible for it. At this Varenukha broke down, sobbing,
and whispered in a  trembling  voice, glancing round fearfully,  that he was
only telling lies out of fear of Woland's gang, who had already roughed  him
up once and that he begged, prayed, longed  to be locked up in  an  armoured
     'There soon won't be room for them  all in that strong-room! ' growled
one of the investigators.
     'These villains have certainly  put  the fear  of God into them,' said
the detective who had questioned Ivan.
     They calmed Varenukha as well as they could, assuring him that he would
be  given  protection without having  to resort  to a  strong-room. He  then
admitted  that he had never drunk any loo-proof vodka but had been beaten up
by two characters, one with a wall eye and the other a stout man . . .
     'Looking like a cat? '
     'Yes,  yes,'  whispered  Varenukha,  almost  swooning  with  fear and
glancing  round every  moment, adding  further  details of  how he had spent
nearly two days in flat  No. 50 as  a vampire's decoy and  had nearly caused
Rimsky's death . . .
     Just then Rimsky himself was  brought  in from the Leningrad train, but
this  grey-haired,  terror-stricken,  psychologically  disturbed  old   man,
scarcely  recognisable  as the  treasurer of the Variety Theatre, stubbornly
refused to speak the truth. Rimsky claimed that  he had never  seen Hella at
his office window that night, nor had he seen Varenukha;  he had simply felt
ill and had  taken the train to Leningrad in  a fit  of amnesia. Needless to
say the ailing treasurer concluded  his evidence by begging  to be locked up
in a strong-room.
     Anna was arrested while trying to pay a store cashier with a ten-dollar
bill.  Her  story  about people flying out  of the  landing window  and  the
horseshoe, which she claimed to have picked up in  order to hand  it over to
the police, was listened to attentively.
     'Was the horseshoe really gold and studded with diamonds? ' they asked
     'Think I don't know diamonds when I see them? ' replied Anna.
     'And did he really give you ten-rouble notes? '
     'Think I don't know a tenner when I see one? '
     'When did they turn into dollars? '
     'I don't know what dollars are and I never saw any! ' whined Anna. ' I
know  my rights! I  was given the  money  as a  reward  and went to buy some
material with it.' Then she started raving about  the whole thing being  the
fault  of the  house management  committee which had allowed evil  forces to
move in on the fifth floor and made life impossible for everybody else.
     Mere a detective  waved a pen at Anna to shut up because she was boring
them,  and  signed  her release on a green  form with which, to the  general
satisfaction, she left the building.
     There followed a  succession  of others, among  them Nikolai Ivanovich,
who had been arrested thanks to the stupidity of his jealous wife in telling
the  police  that  her  husband  was  missing.   The   detectives  were  not
particularly surprised when Nikolai Ivanovich  produced the joke certificate
testifying that he  had  spent  his time at Satan's ball. Nikolai  Ivanovich
departed  slightly  from  the  truth, however, when he described how  he had
carried Margarita Nikolayevna's naked maid  through  the air to bathe in the
river  at  some  unknown  spot and  how  Margarita Nikolay-evna herself  had
appeared  naked at the  window.  He  thought  it  unnecessary to recall, for
instance, that he had appeared in the bedroom carrying Margarita's abandoned
slip or that he had  called Natasha ' Venus.' According to him, Natasha  had
flown out of the window, mounted him and made him fly away from Moscow . . .
     'I was forced to obey under duress,' said Nikolai Ivanovich, finishing
his  tale with a request not  to tell  a word  of  it to his wife, which was
     Nikolai  Ivanovich's evidence established the fact that  both Margarita
Nikolayevna  and  her maid Natasha had vanished  without  trace.  Steps were
taken to find them.
     So the investigation progressed without a moment's break until Saturday
morning. Meanwhile the city was  seething with the most  incredible rumours,
in  which a tiny grain of  truth was embellished with  a luxuriant growth of
fantasy.  People  were  saying  that after the show at the Variety  all  two
thousand spectators had rushed out into  the street as naked as the day they
were  born ;  that the  police  had  uncovered a  magic  printing-press  for
counterfeiting money  on Sadovaya Street; that a gang had kidnapped the five
leading impresarios in Moscow but  that the police had found them all again,
and much more that was unrepeatable.
     As  it grew near lunchtime  a telephone bell rang in the investigators'
office.  It was a report  from  Sadovaya  Street that  the haunted  flat was
showing  signs of  life again.  Someone  inside  had apparently  opened  the
windows, sounds  of piano music  and singing had  been heard coming from it,
and a black cat had been observed sunning itself on a windowsill.
     At about four o'clock  on that warm afternoon a  large squad  of men in
plain clothes climbed out of three  cars that had stopped a little way short
of No. 302a, Sadovaya  Street. Here the large squad divided into two smaller
ones, one of which entered the courtyard through the main gateway and headed
straight for staircase  6,  while the other  opened a small  door,  normally
locked, leading to the back staircase  and both began converging on flat No.
50 by different stairways.
     While this was going on Koroviev and Azazello, in their  normal clothes
instead  of  festive  tailcoats,  were sitting in the  dining-room finishing
their lunch.  Woland, as was his  habit, was  in the bedroom and no one knew
where the  cat  was, but to judge from the clatter of  saucepans coming from
the kitchen Behemoth was presumably there, playing the fool as usual.
     'What are those footsteps on the staircase? ' asked Koroviev, twirling
his spoon in a cup of black coffee.
     'They're coming to arrest us,' replied Azazello and drained a glass of
     'Well, well . . .' was Koroviev's answer.
     The men  coming  up  the  front  staircase  had  by  then  reached  the
third-floor landing,  where  a couple of  plumbers  were fiddling  with  the
radiator. The party exchanged meaning looks with the plumbers.
     'They're all at home,' whispered one of the plumbers, tapping the pipe
with his hammer.
     At  this the leader  of  the squad drew a  black Mauser  from under his
overcoat  and the man beside him produced, a skeleton key.  All the men were
suitably  armed. Two of  them had  thin, easily unfurled silk nets  in their
pockets, another had.  a  lasso  and the sixth  man was equipped with  gauze
masks and an ampoule of chloroform.
     In a second the front door  of  No. 50 swung  open and the party was in
the  hall,  whilst  the knocking on the  door  from the  kitchen to the back
staircase showed that the second squad had also arrived on time.
     This  time at least partial success seemed to be in their grasp. Men at
once fanned out  to all the rooms and found  no one, but on  the dining-room
table were  the remains of  an obviously recently finished meal  and in  the
drawing-room, alongside a crystal jug, a  huge black cat was perched on  the
mantelpiece, holding a Primus in its front paws.
     There was a long pause as the men gazed at the cat.
     'H'm, yes ... that's him . . .' whispered one 'of them.
     'I'm  doing no harm--I'm not playing games, I'm mending  the Primus,'
said the  cat  with a hostile scowl, ' and I'd better warn you that a cat is
an ancient and inviolable animal.'
     'Brilliant  performance,'  whispered a man and another said loudly and
     'All right, you inviolable ventriloquist's dummy, come here! '
     The net whistled across the room but the man missed his target and only
caught the crystal jug, which broke with a loud crash.
     'Missed!' howled the cat. ' Hurrah! ' Putting aside the Primus the cat
whipped a Browning automatic from behind its back. In a flash it took aim at
the nearest man, but the detective beat the cat to the draw and fired first.
The cat flopped  head first from  the mantelpiece, dropping the Browning and
upsetting the Primus.
     'It's all over,' said the cat in a weak voice, stretched out in a pool
of blood.  ' Leave me  for  a  moment, let  me  say  goodbye.  Oh  my friend
Azazello,' groaned the cat, streaming  blood, '  where are you? ' The animal
turned its expiring gaze towards the door into the dining-room. ' You didn't
come  to my help  when  I was  outnumbered  .  . . you  left poor  Behemoth,
betraying him for a glass of  brandy--though it  was very good brandy! Well,
my death will be on your conscience but I'll bequeath you my Browning . . .'
     'The net, the net,' whispered the men urgently round the cat. But  the
net somehow got tangled up in the man's pocket and would not come out.
     'The only thing that can save a mortally wounded cat,' said  Behemoth,
' is  a  drink of  paraffin.' Taking  advantage of the confusion it put  its
mouth  to the round filler-hole of the Primus and  drank some  paraffin.  At
once the  blood stopped pouring from above its left  forepaw. The cat jumped
up bold  and full of life, tucked the Primus under its foreleg,  leaped back
with it on to the mantelpiece and from there, tearing the wallpaper, crawled
along the wall and in two seconds it was high above the invaders, sitting on
a metal pelmet.
     In  a  moment  hands were  grabbing the curtains and pulling them  down
together with the pelmet, bringing the  sunlight flooding into  the darkened
room. But neither the  cat nor the  Primus fell. Without dropping the Primus
the cat  managed  to  leap through the  air  and jump  on to  the chandelier
hanging in the middle of the room.
     'Step-ladder! ' came the cry from below. ' I challenge you to a duel!
' screamed the cat, sailing over their heads on the swinging chandelier. The
Browning appeared in its paw again and it lodged the Primus between the arms
of the chandelier. The cat  took aim and, as it  swung like a  pendulum over
the detectives' heads, opened  fire on them. The sound of gunfire rocked the
flat. Fragments of crystal strewed the floor,  the mirror over the fireplace
was  starred  with  bullet  holes,  plaster  dust  flew  everywhere, ejected
cartridge cases pattered to the floor, window panes  shattered and  paraffin
began  to spurt  from  the punctured tank of  the Primus.  There  was now no
question  of  taking the cat alive and the men were aiming hard at its head,
stomach,  breast  and  back.  The  sound  of  gunfire started  panic  in the
courtyard below.
     But this fusillade did not last long and soon died down. It had not, in
fact, caused either the  men or the cat any  harm. There were no dead and no
wounded. No  one, including the cat, had been hit.  As a final test one  man
fired five rounds into the beastly animal's stomach  and the cat  retaliated
with a whole volley that had the same result--not  a scratch. As it swung on
the chandelier, whose motion was gradually shortening all the time,  it blew
into the muzzle of the Browning and spat on its paw.
     The faces of the silent  men below  showed total bewilderment. This was
the only case, or one of the only cases,  in which gunfire had proved to  be
completely ineffectual. Of course the  cat's Browning might have been a toy,
but this was certainly not true of the detectives' Mausers.  The cat's first
wound, which had undoubtedly occurred, had been nothing  but  a trick and  a
villainous piece of deception, as was its paraffin-drinking act.
     One more attempt  was made  to  seize the cat. The lasso was thrown, it
looped itself round one of the candles and  the whole chandelier crashed  to
the floor. Its fall shook  the whole building, but  it did not help matters.
The men were showered  with splinters while the cat flew through the air and
landed high up under the ceiling  on the gilded frame of the mirror over the
mantelpiece. It made no attempt to  bolt  but from its relatively safe perch
     'I completely fail to understand the reason for this rough treatment .
. .'
     Here the cat's  speech was  interrupted  by a  low rumbling  voice that
seemed to come from nowhere :
     'What's happening in this flat? It's disturbing my work . . .'
     Another voice, ugly and nasal, cried :
     'It's Behemoth, of course, damn him!'
     A third, quavering voice said :
     'Messire! Saturday. The sun is setting. We must go.'
     'Excuse me, I've no more time to spare talking,' said the cat from the
mirror.  ' We must  go.' It  threw  away  its Browning, smashing  two window
panes, then poured the paraffin on to the floor where it burst spontaneously
into a great flame as high as the ceiling.
     It burned  fast and  hard, with  even more violence than is usual  with
paraffin.  At once the wallpaper started to smoke,  the torn curtain  caught
alight  and the frames of the broken  windowpanes began to smoulder. The cat
crouched,  gave  a  miaow,  jumped  from  the mirror to  the windowsill  and
disappeared,  clutching the Primus. Shots  were heard  from  outside.  A man
sitting on an iron fire-escape on the level of No. 50's windows fired at the
cat as it sprang from windowsill to windowsill heading for the  drainpipe on
the corner of the building. The cat scrambled up the drainpipe to  the roof.
There it  came under equally ineffective fire  from  the  men  covering  the
chimney-pots and the cat faded  into the westering sunlight that flooded the
     Inside the flat the parquet was already crackling  under the men's feet
and in  the  fireplace, where  the  cat had shammed  dead,  there  gradually
materialised the corpse of Baron  Maigel, his little  beard jutting upwards,
his eyes glassy. The body was impossible to move.
     Hopping  across the  burning  blocks  of  parquet,  beating  out  their
smouldering clothes, the men in the drawing-room retreated to  the study and
the  hall. The men who had been  in the  dining-room and the bedroom ran out
into  the passage.  The  drawing-room  was  already full of smoke and  fire.
Someone managed to dial the fire brigade and barked into the receiver :
     'Sadovaya, 302a! '
     They  could stay no longer. Flame was lashing  into the hallway  and it
was becoming difficult to breathe.
     As  soon  as the  first wisps of smoke appeared  through  the shattered
windows of the haunted flat, desperate cries were heard from the courtyard :
     'Fire! Fire! Help! We're on fire!'
     In several flats people were shouting into the telephone :
     'Sadovaya! Sadovaya, 302a! '
     Just as the heart-stopping  sound of bells was heard  from the long red
fire-engines  racing towards  Sadovaya  Street  from all over  the city, the
crowd in the courtyard saw three dark figures, apparently men, and one naked
woman, float out of the smoking windows on the fifth floor.

     No one,  of course, can say for certain whether those figures were real
or merely imagined  by the frightened inhabitants of that ill-fated block on
Sadovaya  Street. If  they  were real, no one knows exactly where they  were
going; but we  do know that about a quarter of an hour after the outbreak of
fire  on Sadovaya Street, a tall man in a check  suit and a  large black cat
appeared outside the glass doors of the Torgsin Store in Smolensk Market.
     Slipping dexterously between  the passers-by,  the man opened the outer
door of the  store only to be met  by  a  small, bony and  extremely hostile
porter who barred his way and said disagreeably :
     'No cats allowed!'
     'I beg your pardon,' quavered the tall man, cupping his knotty hand to
his ear as though hard of hearing,' no cats, did you say? What cats?'
     The porter's eyes  bulged,  and with reason:  there was  no cat  by the
man's side, but instead  a  large fat man  in a tattered  cap,  with vaguely
feline looks and holding a Primus, was pushing his way into the shop.
     For  some reason the misanthropic porter did  not care for  the look of
this couple.
     'You can only buy with foreign currency here,' he croaked, glaring at
them from beneath ragged, moth-eaten eyebrows.
     'My dear fellow,' warbled the  tall man, one  eye glinting through his
broken  pince-nez,' how do you know that I haven't got any? Are  you judging
by my  suit?  Never do  that, my good man. You may make a terrible  mistake.
Read the story of the  famous caliph  Haroun-al-Rashid and you'll see what I
mean. But for the present,  leaving history aside for a moment, I warn you I
shall complain to the manager and I shall tell him such tales about you that
you'll wish you had never opened your mouth!'
     'This  Primus of  mine may be  full  of foreign currency for all  you
know,'  said the stout cat-like  figure. An angry crowd  was  forming behind
them.  With  a look of hatred and suspicion at the dubious  pair, the porter
stepped aside  and our friends Koroviev and Behemoth found themselves in the
store. First they looked around and then Koroviev announced in a penetrating
voice, audible everywhere :
     'What a splendid store! A very, very good. store indeed! '
     The customers  turned round  from the counters to stare  at Koroviev in
amazement, although there  was every reason to praise the store. Hundreds of
different bolts of  richly coloured  poplins  stood in holders on the floor,
whilst behind them  the shelves were piled with calico, chiffon amd worsted.
Racks  full  of shoes stretched  into the distance where  several women were
sitting on low chairs, a worn old shoe on their right foot, a  gleaming  new
one on their left.  From somewhere out of sight  came the sound of  song and
gramophone music.
     Spurning all these delights Koroviev and Behemoth went straight  to the
delicatessen and  confectionery departments. These were  spaciously laid out
and full  of  women in headscarves  and berets. A short, completely  square,
blue-jowled  little man  wearing horn-rims,  a pristine  hat with  unstained
ribbon, dressed in  a fawn  overcoat and  tan kid gloves, was standing  at a
counter and  booming away  in  an authoritative voice at: an  assistant in a
clean white  overall  and blue cap. With  a long sharp knife,  very like the
knife Matthew the Levite stole, he was easing the snake-like skin away  from
the fat, juicy flesh of a pink salmon.
     'This department is  excellent, too,'  Koroviev  solemnly pronounced '
and  that foreigner looks a nice man.' He  pointed  approvingly at the  fawn
     'No, Faggot, no' answered Behemoth thoughtfully. ' You're
     wrong. I think there is something missing in that gentleman's face.'
     The fawn back quivered, but it was probably coincidence, because he was
after  all a foreigner and could not  have  understood what Koroviev and his
companion had been saying in Russian.
     'Is goot? ' enquired the fawn customer in a stern voice.
     'First class! ' replied the assistant, showing off his blade-work with
a flourish that lifted a whole side of skin from the salmon.
     'Is goot--I like, is bad--I not like,' added the foreigner.
     'But of course! ' rejoined the salesman.
     At  this  point our friends left the foreigner to his salmon  and moved
over to the cakes and pastries.
     'Hot today,' said Koroviev to a pretty,  red-cheeked young salesgirl,
to which he got no reply.
     'How much are the tangerines? ' Koroviev then asked her.
     'Thirty kopeks the kilo,' replied the salesgirl.
     'They look delicious,' said  Koroviev with a sigh, ' Oh, dear ' . . .
He  thought  for a  while longer,  then  turned  to  his  friend. ' Try one.
     The  stout  cat-person  tucked  his  Primus  under  his arm,  took  the
uppermost tangerine  off the pyramid, ate it whole, skin and  all,  and took
     The salesgirl was appalled.
     'Hey--are you crazy?  '  she  screamed, the colour vanishing from her
cheeks. '  Where  are your travellers'  cheques or foreign  currency?  ' She
threw down her pastry-tongs.
     'My dear,  sweet  girl,'  cooed Koroviev, leaning  right  across  the
counter and winking at the assistant,' I can't help it but we're just out of
currency today.  I promise  you  I'll pay you it all  cash down  next  time,
definitely  not  later than Monday! We live  nearby  on  Sadovaya, where the
house caught fire . . .'
     Having  demolished  a third tangerine. Behemoth thrust his  paw into an
ingenious structure built  of  chocolate bars, pulled  out  the bottom  one,
which brought the whole thing down with a crash, and swallowed the chocolate
complete with its gold wrapper.
     The assistant  at the fish counter stood  petrified, knife in hand, the
fawn-coated  foreigner  turned  round  towards  the  looters, revealing that
Behemoth was wrong:  far from his  face lacking something it was if anything
over-endowed--huge pendulous cheeks and bright, shifty eyes.
     The salesgirl, now pale yellow, wailed miserably.
     'Palosich! Palosich!'
     The  sound  brought  customers  running  from  the drapery  department.
Meanwhile  Behemoth   had   wandered  away   from  the  temptations  of  the
confectionery counter  and thrust his paw into  a barrel labelled ' Selected
Kerch Salted Herrings,'  pulled out a  couple of herrings,  gulped them both
down and spat out the tails.
     'Palosich! '  came another  despairing shriek from  the  confectionery
counter and the man at the fish counter,  his goatee wagging in fury, barked
     'Hey, you--what d'you think you're doing!'
     Pavel Yosifovich (reduced to ' Palosich' in the excitement) was already
hurrying to  the scene of  action.  He was an  imposing man in a clean white
overall like  a surgeon, with a pencil sticking out of his breast pocket. He
was  clearly  a man of great experience. Catching sight of a  herring's tail
protruding from Behemoth's  mouth he summed up the situation in a moment and
refusing  to join in a shouting  match with the two villains,  waved his arm
and gave the order :
      Whistle! '
     The porter shot out into Smolensk Market and relieved his feelings with
a furious  whistle-blast.  As  customers  began  edging up to the rogues and
surrounding them, Koroviev went into action.
     'Citizens!  ' he cried in  a vibrant ringing voice,'  What's  going on
here? Eh? I appeal to you! This  poor man '--Koroviev put a tremor  into his
voice and  pointed  at  Behemoth,  who  had  immediately assumed  a pathetic
expression--' this poor man has been mending a Primus all day. He's hungry .
. . where could he get any foreign currency? '
     Pavel Yosifovich, usually calm and reserved, shouted grimly:
     'Shut up, you! ' and gave another impatient wave of his arm. Just then
the  automatic  bell on the  door  gave a cheerful tinkle.  Koroviev,  quite
undisturbed by the manager's remark, went on:
     'I  ask you--where? He's racked with  hunger and  thirst, he's hot. So
the  poor  fellow tried a tangerine. It's only worth  three  kopecks at  the
most,  but  they have to  start whistling  like nightingales  in springtime,
bothering the police and stopping them from doing their proper job. But it's
all right for him isn't it?! '
     Koroviev pointed at the fat man in the fawn coat, who exhibited violent
alarm. ' Who is  he? Mm?  Where's he from? Why is he here? Were we dying  of
boredom  without  him?  Did we  invite  him?  Of  course  not! '  roared the
ex-choirmaster, his  mouth twisted into a sarcastic leer.  ' Look at him--in
his smart fawn coat, bloated with good Russian salmon, pockets bulging  with
currency, and what about our poor comrade here? What about him, I ask you? '
wailed Koroviev, completely overcome by his own oratory.
     This ridiculous, tactless  and doubtless politically  dangerous  speech
made Pavel Yosifovich shake with  rage, but strangely  enough  it was  clear
from the looks of the  customers that  many of them approved of it. And when
Behemoth, wiping his eyes with a ragged cuff, cried tragically: ' Thank you,
friend,  for  speaking  up  for  a  poor man,' a miracle happened.  A quiet,
dignified, little old man,  shabbily but neatly dressed, who had been buying
three macaroons at the pastry  counter,  was suddenly transformed.  His eyes
flashed fire, he turned  purple, threw his bagfull of macaroons  on  to  the
floor and shouted in a thin, childish voice : ' He's right! ' Then he picked
up  a tray, threw away the  remains of the chocolate-bar  Eiffel Tower  that
Behemoth had ruined, waved it about, pulled off the foreigner's hat with his
left hand, swung the tray with his right and brought it down with a crash on
the fawn man's balding  head. There was a noise  of the kind  you hear  when
sheet steel is thrown down from a lorry. Turning pale, the fat man staggered
and fell backwards into the barrel of salted herrings, sending up a fountain
of brine and fish-scales. This produced  a second miracle.  As the fawn  man
fell into the barrel of fish he screamed in  perfect Russian without a trace
of an accent:
     'Help! Murder! They're  trying to kill me! ' The  shock had  obviously
given him sudden command of a hitherto unknown language.
     The  porter had by  now  stopped  whistling and  through  the crowd  of
excited customers could be seen the approach of two police helmets. But  the
cunning Behemoth  poured paraffin from  the Primus on to the counter  and it
burst spontaneously  into  flame. It  flared up and ran  along  the counter,
devouring  the beautiful paper ribbons decorating the  baskets of fruit. The
salesgirls leaped  over  the  counter and  ran away  screaming as the flames
caught  the  blinds on the windows  and more paraffin caught  alight on  the
     With  a  shriek   of  horror  the  customers   shuffled  out   of   the
confectionery, sweeping  aside the helpless Pavel Yosifovich, while the fish
salesmen galloped away  towards the staff  door, clutching their razor-sharp
     Heaving himself out of the barrel the fawn man, covered in salt-herring
juice, staggered past the salmon counter and followed the crowd. There was a
tinkling and  crashing of  glass at the doorway as  the public fought to get
out,  whilst  the  two  villains,  Koroviev  and  the  gluttonous  Behemoth,
disappeared, no  one knew where. Later, witnesses described having seen them
float up to the ceiling and then burst like a couple of balloons. This story
sounds  too dubious for belief and we shall  probably never know what really
     We  do know however  that exactly a minute later Behemoth and  Koroviev
were seen on the boulevard pavement  just outside Griboyedov House. Koroviev
stopped by the railings and said:
     'Look, there's the writers' club. You know. Behemoth, that house has a
great reputation. Look  at it, my friend.  How lovely to  think  of  so much
talent ripening under that roof.'
     'Like pineapples in a hothouse,' said Behemoth, climbing up  on to the
concrete  plinth of the railings for a better look at the yellow, colonnaded
     'Quite so,' agreed his  inseparable companion Koroviev, '  and  what a
delicious thrill one gets, doesn't one, to think that at this moment in that
house there  may  be  the future author of a Don Quixote, or a Faust  or who
knows--Dead Souls? '
     'It could easily happen,' said Behemoth.
     'Yes,' Koroviev went on, wagging a warning finger, ' but-- but, I say,
and I repeat--but! . . provided that those hothouse growths are not attacked
by some microorganism, provided they're not nipped in the bud, provided they
don't rot!  And  it can happen with  pineapples, you know! Ah,  yes,  it can
     'Frightening thought,' said Behemoth.
     'Yes,' Koroviev went on, ' think  what astonishing growths may  sprout
from the seedbeds of  that house and its thousands of devotees of Melpomene,
Polyhymnia and Thalia. Just  imagine  the  furore if  one  of them  were  to
present  the reading public with a Government Inspector or at least a Eugene
     'By the way,' enquired the cat poking its round head through a  gap in
the railings. ' what are they doing on the verandah? '
     'Eating,'  explained Koroviev. '  I should add  that  this place has a
very decent, cheap restaurant. And now that I  think of it, like any tourist
starting on  a long  journey I wouldn't mind  a snack and large mug  of iced
     'Nor would I,' said Behemoth and the two rogues set off under the lime
trees and up the asphalt path towards the unsuspecting restaurant.
     A pale, bored  woman in white ankle-socks and  a white  tasselled beret
was sitting on a bentwood  chair  at  the  corner  entrance to the verandah,
where there was an opening in the creeper-grown trellis. In front  of her on
a plain kitchen table lay a large book like a  ledger, in which for no known
reason the  woman wrote the names of the people entering the restaurant. She
stopped Koroviev and Behemoth.
     'Your membership cards?' she said,  staring in surprise  at Koroviev's
pince-nez, at Behemoth's Primus and grazed elbow.
     'A  thousand apologies, madam, but  what membership  cards?  '  asked
Koroviev in astonishment.
     'Are you writers? ' asked the woman in return.
     'Indubitably,' replied Koroviev with dignity.
     'Where are your membership cards? ' the woman repeated.
     'Dear lady . . .' Koroviev began tenderly.
     'I'm not a dear lady,' interrupted the woman.
     'Oh, what a shame,' said Koroviev in a disappointed  voice and went on
:  '  Well,  if you  don't  want to be  a dear  lady, which  would have been
delightful, you have every right not to be.  But look here--if you wanted to
make  sure that Dostoyevsky was  a writer,  would you really ask him for his
membership  card? Why, you  only have to take  any five pages of  one of his
novels and you won't need a membership card to convince you that the man's a
writer. I don't suppose he ever had a membership card,  anyway I What do you
think?' said Koroviev, turning to Behemoth.
     'I'll bet he never  had one,'  replied the cat, putting the  Primus on
the table and wiping the sweat from its brow with its paw.
      You're not Dostoyevsky,' said the woman to Koroviev.
      How do you know? '
     'Dostoyevsky's dead,' said the woman, though not very confidently.
     'I protest! ' exclaimed Behemoth warmly. ' Dostoyevsky is immortal!'
     'Your membership cards, please,' said the woman.
     'This is really  all  rather funny! ' said  Koroviev, refusing to give
up. 'A writer isn't a writer because he has a membership card but because he
writes. How do you know what bright ideas may not be swarming in my head? Or
in his head? ' And he pointed at Behemoth's head. The cat removed its cap to
give the woman a better look at its head. '  Stand back,  please,' she said,
     Koroviev  and Behemoth stood aside and made way  for a writer in a grey
suit  and a white summer shirt  with  the  collar turned out over his jacket
collar, no tie and a newspaper under his arm. The writer nodded to the woman
and scribbled a flourish in the book as he passed through to the verandah.
     'We can't,' said  Koroviev sadly,' but he can have  that  mug  of cold
beer which  you and I,  poor  wanderers, were so longing for. We  are  in an
unhappy position and I see no way out.'
     Behemoth only spread  his  paws bitterly  and put  his  cap back on his
thick head of hair that much resembled cat's fur.
     At that moment a quiet but authoritative voice said to the woman :
     'Let them in, Sofia Pavlovna.'
     The woman with  the ledger looked up  in astonishment. From  behind the
trellis foliage  loomed  the  pirate's  white  shirt-front  and wedge-shaped
beard. He greeted the two ruffians with a  welcoming look  and even  went so
far as to beckon them  on. Archibald Archibaldovich made his  authority felt
in this restaurant and Sofia Pavlovna obediently asked Koroviev :
     'What is your name? '
     'Panayev,'  was the polite  reply. The woman wrote down  the name and
raised her questioning glance to Behemoth.
     'Skabichevsky,'  squeaked  the cat,  for some  reason pointing to his
Primus. Sofia Pavlovna inscribed this name too and pushed the ledger forward
for the two visitors to sign.  Koroviev wrote ' Skabichevsky'  opposite  the
name ' Panayev' and Behemoth wrote ' Panayev ' opposite ' Skabichevsky '.
     To Sofia Pavlovna's utter  surprise Archibald Archibaldovich gave her a
seductive  smile, led  his guests to the best table on  the far  side of the
verandah where there was the most shade, where the sunlight danced round the
table  through one of the gaps  in the  trellis.  Blinking with  perplexity,
Sofia Pavlovna stared for a long time at the two curious signatures.
     The waiters were no less surprised. Archibald Archibaldovich personally
moved the chairs back from the table, invited Koroviev to be seated,  winked
at  one, whispered  to the other,  while two  waiters fussed around  the new
arrivals, one of  whom  put his Primus on the floor beside his reddish-brown
     The  old  stained  tabledoth  vanished  instantly  from the  table  and
another, whiter than  a bedouin's  burnous,  flashed through  the  air in  a
crackle of starch as  Archibald Archibaldovich  whispered,  softly, but most
expressively, into Koroviev's ear :
     'What can I offer you? I've a rather special fillet of smoked sturgeon
... I managed to save it from the architectural congress banquet...'
     'Er . . .  just bring us some hors  d'oeuvres . .  .' boomed Koroviev
patronisingly, sprawling in his chair.
     'Of  course,' replied  Archibald  Archibaldovich,  closing his eyes in
exquisite comprehension.
     Seeing how the maitre  d'hotel was  treating these two dubious  guests,
the waiters abandoned  their suspicions and  set about their work seriously.
One offered a match to  Behemoth, who had taken a butt-end out of his pocket
and  stuck it in his mouth, another advanced in a tinkle  of green glass and
laid out tumblers,  claret-glasses and those tall-stemmed white wine glasses
which are so perfect  for drinking  a sparkling  wine under the  awning-- or
rather,  moving  on  in  time,  which  used to  be so  perfect  for drinking
sparkling wine under the verandah awning at Griboyedov.
     'A little breast of grouse,  perhaps? ' said Archibald Archibaldovich
in  a musical purr. The guest in the shaky pince-nez thoroughly approved the
pirate captain's suggestion and beamed at him through his one useless lens.
     Petrakov-Sukhovei, the  essayist, was dining at the next table with his
wife  and  had  just  finished  eating a  pork chop.  With typical  writer's
curiosity  he had noticed the  fuss that Archibald Archibaldovich was making
and was  extremely surprised. His  wife, a most dignified lady, felt jealous
of the pirate's attention to Koroviev and tapped her glass with a spoon as a
sign  of impatience .  .  .  where's my ice-cream? What's  happened  to  the
service?   With   a   flattering   smile  at  Madame   Petrakov,   Archibald
Archibaldovich sent  a  waiter  to her  and  stayed  with  his  two  special
customers. Archibald Archibaldovich was not only intelligent;
     he was at least as observant as any writer. He knew all  about the show
at the Variety and much else besides ; he  had heard, and unlike most people
he  had  not  forgotten,  the   words'  checks  '  and  '  cat'.   Archibald
Archibaldovich had immediately  guessed who his  clients  were and realising
this,  he was  not  going to  risk having an  argument with  them. And Sofia
Pavlovna had tried to stop them coming on  to the verandah! Still, what else
could you expect from her. . . .
     Haughtily  spooning up her  melting  ice-cream, Madame Petrakov watched
disagreeably as the table,  occupied by  what appeared  to be  a  couple  of
scarecrows,  was loaded with food  as  if by magic. A  bowl of fresh caviar,
garnished with sparkling  lettuce leaves  . . . another moment, and a silver
ice-bucket appeared on a special little side-table . . .
     Only when  he had made sure that all  was properly in hand and when the
waiters had brought a simmering chafing-dish,  did  Archibald Archibaldovich
allow himself to  leave  his  two mysterious  guests,  and then  only  after
whispering to them:
     'Please excuse me--I must go and attend to the grouse!'
     He fled from the table and disappeared inside the restaurant. If anyone
had observed what Archibald Archibaldovich did next, they might have thought
it rather strange.
     The  maitre  d'hotel  did  not make for  the kitchen  to attend  to the
grouse, but instead went straight to the larder. Opening it with his key, he
locked  himself in, lifted two  heavy fillets  of smoked sturgeon out of the
ice  box,  taking  care  not  to  dirty  his  shirt-cuffs, wrapped  them  in
newspaper, carefully tied them up with string and put them to one side. Then
he  went  next  door to check whether his silk-lined  overcoat and  hat were
there, and only  then did  he pass on to  the  kitchen, where  the  chef was
carefully slicing the breast of grouse.
     Odd though  Archibald Archibaldovich's movements  may have seemed, they
were  not,  and  would only have  seemed so to  a superficial  observer. His
actions were really  quite logical. His knowledge of recent events and above
all  his  phenomenal sixth  sense  told  the Griboyedov  maitre d'hotel that
although his two guests' meal would be plentiful and delicious, it would  be
extremely  short.  And this ex-buccaneer's sixth sense, which had  never yet
played him false, did not let him down this time, either.
     Just  as Koroviev  and  Behemoth were  clinking their second  glass  of
delicious, chilled,  double-filtered Moscow vodka, a journalist called  Boba
Kaudalupsky, famous  in  Moscow for  knowing  everything that was going  on,
arrived on the verandah sweating with excitement and immediately sat down at
the  Petrakovs' table. Dropping his bulging briefcase on the table, Boba put
his lips to Petrakov's ear and whispered some obviously fascinating piece of
news. Dying with curiosity, madame Petra-kov leaned her ear  towards  Boba's
thick, fleshy lips. With furtive glances the journalist whispered on and on,
just loud enough for occasional words to be heard :
     'I promise you! . . . Here,  on Sadovaya Street.  . .!  ' Boba lowered
his  voice again. '  . . . the  bullets couldn't hit  it  ... bullets . .  .
paraffin . . . fire . . . bullets . . .'
     'Well,  as  for  liars  who  spread rumours like that,'  came  madame
Petrakov's contralto boom, a shade too loud for Boba's liking, ' they're the
ones who should be shot!  And they would be if  I had my way. What a lot  of
dangerous rubbish! '
     'It's not rubbish Antonia Porfiryevna,' exclaimed Boba, piqued  at her
disbelief. He began hissing again: ' I tell you, bullets couldn't  touch it!
...  And now the building's on fire  . . . they floated out  through the air
... through the air!' whispered  Boba, never  suspecting that  the people he
was talking about were sitting  alongside  him and  thoroughly  enjoying the
     However, their enjoyment was soon cut short. Three men, tightly belted,
booted and armed with revolvers, dashed out of  the indoor restaurant and on
to the verandah. The man in front roared:
       Don't move!' and  instantly all three  opened  fire at the heads  of
Koroviev  and Behemoth. The two victims melted into  the air and a  sheet of
flame leaped up from the  Primus to the  awning. A gaping mouth with burning
edges appeared in the awning and began spreading in all directions. The fire
raced across it and reached the  roof of Griboyedov  House.  Some bundles of
paper lying on the second-floor windowsill of the editor's office burst into
flame,  which spread to a blind and then, as though someone had blown on it,
the fire was sucked, roaring, into the house.
     A  few  seconds  later  the  writers,  their  suppers  abandoned,  were
streaming along  the asphalted paths  leading to the iron railings along the
boulevard,  where on Wednesday  evening Ivan  had climbed  over to bring the
first incomprehensible news of disaster.
     Having  left  in  good time by  a side door, without running and  in no
hurry, like a captain  forced  to be  the  last to leave  his  flaming brig,
Archibald  Archibaldovich  calmly  stood and  watched  it all. He  wore  his
silk-lined overcoat and two fillets of smoked sturgeon were tucked under his

     At sunset,  high above the town, on the stone roof  of one  of the most
beautiful buildings in Moscow, built about a  century and a  half ago, stood
two figures--Woland and Azazello. They were invisible from the street below,
hidden from  the vulgar  gaze by a balustrade adorned with stucco flowers in
stucco urns, although they could see almost to the limits of the city.
     Woland was sitting on a  folding stool, dressed in  his  black soutane.
His long,  broad-bladed  sword  had  been rammed  vertically into  the cleft
between two  flagstones,  making a sundial. Slowly and inexorably the shadow
of the  sword  was lengthening,  creeping  towards  Satan's  black slippers.
Resting  his sharp  chin  on his fist,  hunched  on  the stool with one  leg
crossed over the other, Woland  stared unwaveringly  at the vast panorama of
palaces, huge blocks of flats and condemned slum cottages.
     Azazello, without  his usual garb of jacket,  bowler and patent-leather
shoes and dressed instead like Woland in black, stood motionless at  a short
distance from his master, also staring at the city.
     Woland remarked:
     'An interesting city, Moscow, don't you think? '
     Azazello stirred and answered respectfully :
     'I prefer Rome, messire.'
     'Yes, it's a matter of taste,' replied Woland.
     After a while his voice rang out again:
     'What  is that  smoke  over there--on  the  boulevard? '  '  That  is
Griboyedov burning,' said Azazello.
     'I suppose that inseparable couple, Koroviev and  Behemoth, have been
there? '
     'Without a doubt, messire.'
     There was silence again and both figures on the roof stood watching the
setting sun  reflected  in  all  the westward-facing windows.  Woland's eyes
shone with the same fire, even though he sat with his back to the sunset.
     Then something made  Woland turn his attention to a round  tower behind
him  on the roof. From its walls appeared a grim,  ragged, mud-spattered man
with a beard, dressed in a chiton and home-made sandals.
     'Ha! ' exclaimed Wolaud, with a sneer at the approaching figure. ' You
are the  last person  I expected to see here. What  brings  you here, of all
people? '
     'I have come to see you, spirit of evil and lord of the  shadows,' the
man replied with a hostile glare at Woland.
     'Well, tax-gatherer, if  you've come to see me, why don't you wish me
well? '
     'Because I have no wish to see you well,' said the man impudently.
     'Then  I  am afraid  you will  have to reconcile yourself to my  good
health,' retorted Woland, his mouth twisted into a  grin.  ' As  soon as you
appeared  on  this roof  you made yourself ridiculous. It was  your tone  of
voice.  You spoke your words as though you denied  the very existence of the
shadows  or of evil. Think, now : where would your good be if there  were no
evil  and what would the world look  like without shadow? Shadows are thrown
by people and  things.  There's  the shadow  of my  sword, for instance. But
shadows are also cast by trees and  living things. Do you want  to strip the
whole  globe  by  removing every  tree  and every  creature  to satisfy your
fantasy of a bare world? You're stupid.'
     'I won't argue with you, old sophist,' replied Matthew the Levite.
     'You  are incapable of arguing  with  me for the reason I  have  just
mentioned--you are too stupid,' answered Woland and enquired: '  Now tell me
briefly and without boring me why you are here? '
     'He has sent me.'
     'What message did he give you, slave? '
     'I am not a slave,' replied Matthew the Levite, growing angrier,  '  I
am his disciple.'
     'You and I are speaking different  languages, as always,' said Woland,
' but that does not alter the things we are talking about. Well?'
     'He has read the master's  writings,' said  Matthew the Levite, '  and
asks you to take the master  with you and  reward him by granting him peace.
Would that be hard for you to do, spirit of evil?'
     'Nothing is  hard for me to do,' replied Woland, ' as  you well know.'
He paused for a while and then added : ' Why don't you take him yourself, to
the light? '
     'He has not earned light, he has earned rest,' said the Levite sadly.
     'Tell him it shall be done,' said Woland, adding  with a flash in his
eye : ' And leave me this instant.'
     'He asks you also to take the woman who loved him and who has suffered
for him,' Matthew said to  Woland, a note  of entreaty in his voice  for the
first time.
     'Do you think that we needed you to make us think of that? Go away.'
     Matthew the Levite vanished and Woland called to Azazello :
     'Go and see them and arrange it.'
     Azazello flew off, leaving Woland alone.
     He  was  not,  however, alone  for  long. The  sound of  footsteps  and
animated  voices  were  heard  along the  roof, and  Koroviev  and  Behemoth
appeared. This time the cat had no  Primus but was loaded with other things.
It  was carrying a small gold-framed landscape under one arm, a  half-burned
cook's apron in its paw, and  on  its  other arm was a whole salmon complete
with  skin  and  tail.  Both  Koroviev  and  Behemoth  smclled  of  burning.
Behemoth's face was covered in soot and his cap was badly burned.
     'Greetings, messire,' cried the tireless pair, and  Behemoth waved his
     'You're a fine couple,' said Woland.
     'Imagine, messire! ' cried  Behemoth excitedly : ' they thought I  was
looting! '
     'Judging by that stuff,' replied Woland with a glance at the painting,
' they were right.'
     'Believe me, messire .  . .'  the  cat began in an  urgently  sincere
     'No, I don't believe you,' was Woland's short answer.
     'Messire, I  swear I  made heroic efforts to save everything I  could,
but this was all that was left.'
      It would be more  interesting  if  you were to explain why Griboyedov
caught fire in the first place.'
     Simultaneously  Koroviev and  Behemoth  spread  their hands  and raised
their eyes to heaven. Behemoth  exclaimed: '  It's a complete mystery! There
we  were, harming  no one, sitting  quietly having a drink and a bite to eat
when . . .'
     '. .  . Suddenly--bang, bang, bang! We  were being shot at! Crazed with
fright Behemoth  and I  started running for the street, our pursuers  behind
us, and we made for Timiryazev! '
     'But a sense of duty,' put in Behemoth,  ' overcame  our cowardice and
we went back.'
     'Ah, you went back  did you? ' said Woland.  ' By then, of course, the
whole house was burnt to a cinder.'
     'To a cinder! ' Koroviev nodded sadly. ' Literally to a cinder, as you
so accurately put it. Nothing but smouldering ashes.'
     'I rushed  into the assembly hall,' said  Behemoth, '--the col-onnaded
room, messire--in case I could  save something  valuable. Ah,  messire, if I
had a wife she would have been nearly widowed at least twenty times! Luckily
I'm not  married and  believe me I'm glad. Who'd exchange a  bachelor's life
for a yoke round his neck?'
     'More of his rubbish,' muttered Woland with a resigned glance upwards.
     'Messire,  I promise to keep  to the  point,' said the cat. ' As I was
saying--I  could only  save  this  little landscape.  There was  no  time to
salvage anything else, the  flames were singeing my fur. I ran to the larder
and  rescued this salmon, and  into  the kitchen where  I found  this chef's
overall. I consider I  did  everything  I  could,  messire,  and  I  fail to
understand the sceptical expression on your face.'
     'And  what was  Koroviev  doing  while you  were  looting? ' enquired
     'I was helping the fire brigade, messire,' answered Koroviev, pointing
to his torn trousers.
     'In that case I suppose it was totally destroyed and they will have to
put up a new building.'
     'It will  be built,  messire,' said Koroviev, ' I  can assure you  of
     'Well, let  us  hope  it will be better than  the old  one,'  remarked
     'It will, messire,' said Koroviev.
     'Believe me, it will,' added the cat. ' My sixth sense tells me
     'Nevertheless here we are, messire,' Koroviev reported, ' and we await
your instructions.'
     Woland rose from his stool, walked  over to the  balustrade and turning
his back on  his retinue  stared  for a  long  time over the city  in lonely
silence. Then he turned back, sat down on his stool again and said :
     'I have no instructions. You have done all  you could and for the time
being  I no longer require your services. You may rest.  A  thunderstorm  is
coming and then we must be on our way.'
      Very good, messire,' replied the two buffoons and vanished behind the
round tower in the centre of the roof.
     The thunderstorm that Woland bad predicted was already gathering on the
horizon. A black cloud was rising in the west;
     first a half and then all  of  the sun was blotted out. The wind on the
terrace freshened. Soon it was quite dark.
     The cloud from  the west  enveloped the vast city. Bridges,  buildings,
were all swallowed up. Everything  vanished as though it had  never  been. A
single whip-lash of fire  cracked across the sky,  then the city rocked to a
clap of thunder. There came another ; the  storm  had begun.  In the driving
rain Woland was no more to be seen.

     'Do you know,' said Margarita, ' that just as you were going  to sleep
last night I was reading about the mist that  came in from the Mediterranean
. . . and  those idols, ah, those golden idols! Somehow I co'uldn't get them
out of  my mind. I  think it's going  to rain  soon. Can you  feel  how it's
freshening? '
     'That's all very fine,'  replied the  master, smoking  and fanning the
smoke away with his hand. '  loot's forget  about the idols . . . but what's
to become of us now, I'd like to know? '
     This  conversation took place  at sunset, just when Matthew  the Levite
appeared to Woland on the roof. The basement window was open  and if anybody
had looked into  it he  would have been struck  by the odd appearance of the
two people. Margarita had  a plain black  gown over her naked  body and  the
master was in his hospital pyjamas. Margarita had nothing else to wear.  She
had left all her clothes at home and although her top-floor flat was not far
away there was, of  course,  no question of her  going  there to collect her
belongings. As for the master, all of whose suits were back  in the wardrobe
as  though he  had never left, he simply did  not feel like getting  dressed
because, as he explained to Margarita,  he had  a premonition that some more
nonsense  might be on the  way. He had,  however, had his first proper shave
since that  autumn  night, because the hospital staff had done no more  than
trim his beard with electric clippers.
     The room, too, looked strange  and it  was  hard  to  discern any order
beneath the chaos. Manuscripts lay all over the floor and the divan. A Ibook
was  lying, spine upwards,  on the armchair. The  round  table was  laid for
supper, several bottles standing among the plates of food. Margarita and the
master  had  no idea where  all this food  and drink had come  from--it  had
simply been there on the table when they woke up.
     Having slept until  Saturday evening  both the master and his love felt
completely revived and only one symptom reminded them of their adventures of
the  night before--both  of  them  felt a slight  ache  in the  left temple.
Psychologically  both of them had changed considerably, as anyone would have
realised  who overheard their conversation. But there was no one to overhear
them.  The advantage of  the little yard was that  it was  always empty. The
lime tree and the maple, turning greener with every day, exhaled the perfume
of spring and the rising breeze carried it into the basement.
     'The devil! ' the master suddenly exclaimed. ' Just think of it . . .'
He stubbed  out his  cigarette in the  ashtray and clasped  his head in  his
hands. '  Listen--you're intelligent and you haven't been in the madhouse as
I have ... do you seriously believe that we spent last night with Satan? '
     'Quite seriously, I do . . .'
     'Oh,  of  course,  of course,' said the master ironically. ' There are
obviously two lunatics in the family  now--husband and wife!' He  raised his
arms to heaven and shouted : ' No, the devil knows what it was! . . .'
     Instead  of replying Margarita collapsed  onto  the  divan,  burst into
laughter, waved her bare legs in the air and practically shouted :
     'Oh, I can't help  it ... I can't help it  ... If  you  could only see
yourself! '
     When  the  master,  embarrassed,  had  buttoned up his hospital  pants,
Margarita grew serious.
     'Just now you unwittingly spoke the truth,' she said. ' The devil does
know what it  was and  the devil believe me, will  arrange everything! ' Her
eyes suddenly flashed,  she jumped up, danced for joy and  shouted: ' I'm so
happy,  so happy, happy,  that I made  that bargain with him! Hurrah for the
devil!  I'm afraid, my dear, that you're doomed to live  with a witch! ' She
flung herself  at the  master, clasped him round the neck and began  kissing
his lips,  his nose, his  cheeks. Floods of unkempt black hair  caressed the
master's neck and shoulders while his face burned with kisses.
     'You really are like a witch.'
     'I don't deny it,' replied Margarita. ' I'm a witch  and I'm very glad
of it.'
     'All right,'  said  the master,'  so  you're a  witch. Fine, splendid.
They've abducted me from the hospital--equally splendid. And they've brought
us back  here, let us grant them that too. Let's even assume that neither of
us will  be caught  . . .  But what, in the name of all that's holy, are  we
supposed to live  on? Tell me that, will you? You  seem  to  care  so little
about the problem that it really worries me.'
     Just  then a  pair of blunt-toed boots and the lower part of a  pair of
trousers appeared in the  little basement window. Then the  trousers bent at
the knee and the daylight was shut out by a man's ample bottom.
     'Aloysius--are you there, Aloysius? ' asked  a  voice  from  slightly
above the trousers.
     'It's beginning,' said the master.
     'Aloysius? ' asked Margarita,  moving closer to the window.  ' He was
arrested yesterday. Who wants him? What's your name?'
     Instantly the knees and  bottom vanished,  there came the  click of the
gate and everything returned to normal. Again, Margarita collapsed on to the
divan and laughed until tears  started from her eyes. When the fit  was over
her  expression  changed completely, she  grew serious,  slid  down from the
divan  and crawled over  to the master's knees. Staring him in the eyes, she
began to stroke his head.
     'How you've  suffered, my poor  love! I'm the  only one who knows how
much you've suffered. Look,  there are  grey and  white threads in your hair
and  hard lines round your  mouth. My  sweetest  love, forget everything and
stop worrying. You've  had to do too much thinking ; now I'm going to  think
for you. I swear to you that everything is going to be perfect! '  ' I'm not
afraid of anything, Margot,' the master  suddenly replied, raising his  head
and looking  just as he had when he had created that world he had never seen
yet  knew to be true. '  I'm not afraid, simply  because I have been through
everything  that a  man can go through. I've been so frightened that nothing
frightens me any longer. But I feel sorry for you, Margot, that's the point,
that's  why I  keep coming  back to the same question. Think, Margarita--why
ruin your life for a sick pauper? Go back home. I feel sorry for you, that's
why I say this.'
     'Oh, dear, dear, dear,' whispered Margarita, shaking her tousled head,
' you  weak, faithless, stupid man! Why do you  think I  spent the whole  of
last night prancing about naked, why do you think I sold my human nature and
became a witch, why do you think  I  spent months in this dim,  damp  little
hole  thinking of nothing but the  storm over Jerusalem, why do you  think I
cried my  eyes out  when  you  vanished?  You know  why--yet when  happiness
suddenly descends on us and gives us everything, you want  to get rid of me!
All right, I'll go. But you're a cruel, cruel man. You've become  completely
     Bitter tenderness filled the  master's heart and without knowing why he
burst  into tears as he fondled Margarita's hair. Crying too, she  whispered
to him as her fingers caressed his temple :
     'There are  more than  just threads . .  .  your head is turning white
under my eyes . . .  my poor suffering head. Look at your eyes! Empty  . . .
And  your  shoulders,  bent  with  the weight they've borne  .  . .  they've
crippled you . . .' Margarita faded into delirium, sobbing helplessly.
     Then the master  dried his eyes, raised Margarita from her knees, stood
up himself and said firmly :
     'That will do. You've made  me  utterly ashamed. I'll never mention it
again,  I  promise.  I know  that  we are  both suffering  from some  mental
sickness which  you have  probably caught from me . . . Well, we must see it
through together.'
     Margarita put her Ups close to the master's ear and whispered :
     'I swear by your  life, I swear  by  the  astrologer's son you created
that all will be well!'
     'All  right,  I'll  believe yon,'  answered  the  master with a smile,
adding : ' Where else can such wrecks as you and I find help except from the
supernatural? So let's see what we can find in the other world.'
     'There,  now  you're like  you  used  to be,  you're  laughing,'  said
Margarita.  '  To  hell  with all  your  long  words!  Supernatural  or  not
supernatural,  what  do-  I  care? I'm  hungry!' And she dragged the  master
towards the table.
     'I  can't feel  quite sure  that this food  isn't  going to  disappear
through the floor in  a puff of smoke  or fly out of the  window,'  said the
     'I promise you it won't.'
     At that moment a nasal voice was heard at the window :
     'Peace be with you.'
     The master was  startled but Margarita, accustomed  to the  unfamiliar,
      It's Azazello! Oh, how  nice!' And  whispering to  the master: '  You
see--they haven't abandoned us!' she ran to open the door.
     'You  should at least fasten the  front  of  your  dress,' the master
shouted after her.
     'I don't care,' replied Margarita from the passage.
     His  blind eye  glistening,  Azazello came in,  bowed  and greeted  the
master. Margarita cried :
      Oh, how glad I am! I've never been  so  happy in my life! Forgive me,
Azazello, for meeting you naked like this.'
     Azazello begged her not to let it worry her, assuring Margarita that he
had  not  only seen plenty of naked women in his time but even women who had
been  skinned alive. First putting down a bundle wrapped in dark cloith,  he
took a seat at the table.
     Margarita  poured Azazello a  brandy, which  he  drank with relish. The
master, without  staring at him,  gently scratched  his left wrist under the
table, but it had no effect. Azazello did not vanish into thin air and there
was no reason why he should. There was  nothing  terrible  about this stocky
little demon  with red hair, except perhaps  his wall eye, but that afflicts
plenty of quite unmagical people, and except for his slightly  unusual dress
--a kind of cassock or cape--but ordinary people sometimes wear clothes like
that  too. He drank  his brandy like all good  men do, a whole glassful at a
time and on an  empty stomach. The same brandy was already beginning to make
the master's head buzz and he said to himself:
     'No, Margarita's  right... of course  this creature  is an emissary of
the devil.  After all only the day before  yesterday I  was  proving to Ivan
that  he had  met Satan at Patriarch's Ponds, yet now  the thought seems  to
frighten me and I'm inventing excuses like hypnosis and hallucinations . . .
     He studied Azazello's face and was  convinced that there was ai certain
constraint  in his look, some thought  which he was holding back. ' He's not
just here on a  visit, he has been  sent  here  for a  purpose,' thought the
     His powers of observation  had not betrayed him. After his  third glass
of brandy, which had no apparent effect on him, Azazello said:
     'I must say it's comfortable, this little basement of yours, isn't it?
The only question is--what on earth are you going to do with yourselves, now
that you're here? '
     'That is just  what I have  been  wondering,' said the masteir  with a
     'Why do you make me feel uneasy, Azazello?' asked Margarita.
     'Oh,  come now!'  exclaimed  Azazello, '  I  wouldn't  dream  of doing
anything to  upset  you. Oh  yes! I  nearly  forgot . .  . messire sends his
greetings and asks me to invite you to take a little trip with him--if you'd
like to, of course. What do you say to that?'
     Margarita gently kicked the master's foot under the table.
     'With great pleasure,' replied the master, studying Azazello. who went
     'We hope Margarita Nikolayevna won't refuse? '
     'Of course not,' said Margarita, again brushing the master's foot with
her own.
     'Splendid!' cried Azazello. ' That's what I like to see-- one, two and
away! Not like the other day in the Alexander Gardens!'
     'Oh, don't remind me of that, Azazello, I was so stupid  then. But you
can't really blame me--one doesn't meet the devil every day!'
     'More's the pity,' said Azazello. ' Think what fun it would  be if you
     'I love the speed,' said Margarita excitedly, ' I love the speed and I
love being naked . . . just like a bullet from  a gun--bang!  Ah, how he can
shoot!' cried Margarita  turning to  the master. '  He can hit  any pip of a
card--under  a cushion too!'  Margarita was  beginning  to get drunk and her
eyes were sparkling.
     'Oh--I  nearly  torgot  something  else,  too,'  exclaimed  Azazello,
slapping himself on the forehead. ' What a fool I am! Messire has sent you a
present'--here he spoke to the master--' a bottle of wine. Please note  that
it is the same wine that the Procurator of Judaea drank. Falernian.'
     This  rarity aroused great interest  in both  Margarita and the master.
Azazello  drew  a  sealed wine jar, completely  covered in  mildew, out of a
piece of  an old winding-sheet.  They sniffed the wine,  then poured it into
glasses and  looked through it  towards  the window.  The light  was already
fading with the approach of the storm. Filtered through the glass, the light
turned everything to the colour of blood.
     'To Woland! ' exclaimed Margarita, raising her glass.
     All three  put their lips  to the  glasses  and drank a large mouthful.
Immediately the light began  to fade  before  the master's  eyes, his breath
came in  gasps  and  he felt the  end coming.  He  could just see Margarita,
deathly pale, helplessly stretch out her arms towards him,  drop her head on
to the table and then slide to the floor.
     'Poisoner .  . .' the master managed to croak. He tried to snatch the
knife from the table to  stab Azazello, but his  hand  slithered  lifelessly
from the tablecloth,  everything  in  the basement seemed to turn black  and
then vanished altogether. He collapsed sideways, grazing his forehead on the
edge of the bureau as he fell.
     When he was certain that the poison  had taken effect, Azazello started
to  act. First he  flew  out  of the window and in a  few  moments he was in
Margarita's flat. Precise and efficient as ever,  Azazello  wanted to  check
that   everything  necessary  had  been  done.  It  had.   Azazello  saw   a
depressed-looking woman, waiting for her  husband to return, come out of her
bedroom and suddenly turn pale, clutch her heart and gasp helplessly :
     'Natasha . . . somebody . . . help . . .' She fell to the drawing-room
floor before she had time to reach the study.
     'All  in order,'  said Azazello. A moment later he was back  with the
murdered lovers. Margarita lay  face downward  on the carpet.  With his iron
hands  Azazello turned her over like a doll  and looked at her. The  woman's
face changed before his eyes. Even  in the twilight of the oncoming storm he
could see how her  temporary  witch's squint and  her  look  of cruelty  and
violence  disappeared. Her expression relaxed and  softened, her mouth  lost
its predatory  sneer  and simply became the mouth  of a  woman in  her  last
agony. Then Azazello forced her white teeth apart and poured into her  mouth
a few drops of the  same wine that had  poisoned her. Margarita sighed, rose
without Azazello's help, sat down and asked weakly :
     'Why, Azazello, why? What have you done to me? '
     She saw the master lying on the floor, shuddered and whispered:
     'I didn't expect this . . . murderer! '
     'Don't worry,' replied Azazello. ' He'll get up again in a minute. Why
must you be so nervous! '
     He sounded so convincing  that  Margarita  believed him  at  once.  She
jumped up, alive and strong, and helped to give the master some of the wine.
Opening his eyes he gave a stare of grim hatred and repeated his last word :
     'Poisoner . . .'
     'Oh well, insults  are the usual reward for a  job  well  done!'  said
Azazello. ' Are you blind? You'll soon see sense.'
     The master got up, looked round briskly and asked :
     'Now what does all this mean? '
     'It  means,'  replied Azazello, ' that it's  time for us  to  go.  The
thunderstorm has already begun--can  you hear? It's getting dark. The horses
are pawing the ground  and making  your little  garden shudder. You must say
goodbye, quickly.'
     'Ah, I understand,'  said the master, gating round, ' you  have killed
us. We are dead. How clever--and how timely. Now I see it all.'
     'Oh come,' replied  Azazello, ' what did I hear you say?  Your beloved
calls you the master, you're an intelligent being--how can you be dead? It's
ridiculous . . '
     'I understand what you mean,' cried the  master, ' don't go on! You're
right--a thousand times right! '
     'The  great  Woland!  ' Margarita said to  him urgently,  ' the great
Woland! His solution was  much better than mine! But  the novel, the novel!'
she shouted  at  the master,' take the  novel  with you, wherever you may be
going! '
     'No need,' replied the master,' I can remember it all by heart.'
     'But you . . . you  won't forget a word? ' asked Margarita, embracing
her lover and wiping the blood from his bruised forehead.
     'Don't worry. I shall never forget anything again,' he answered.
     'Then the fire! ' cried Azazello. ' The  fire--where it all began and
where we shall end it! '
     'The fire! ' Margarita cried in a terrible voice. The basement windows
were  banging,  the blind was  blown aside by  the wind. There  was a short,
cheerful  clap  of thunder. Azazello  thrust his bony  hand into  the stove,
pulled out a smouldering log and used  it to  light the tablecloth. Then  he
set fire to  a pile of old  newspapers on the divan, then the manuscript and
the curtains.
     The  master, intoxicated in advance by the thought of the ride to come,
threw a book from the bookcase  on to the table, thrust its  leaves into the
burning tablecloth and the book burst merrily into flame. ' Burn away, past!
     'Burn, suffering! ' cried Margarita.
     Crimson pillars of fire were swaying all over  the room, when the three
ran out of  the smoking door, up the stone steps and out into the courtyard.
The first thing  they  saw  was the landlord's cook  sitting  on the  ground
surrounded by potato peelings and bunches of onions. Her position was hardly
surprising--three  black  horses  were  standing  in  the   yard,  snorting,
quivering  and  kicking  up  the ground in fountains.  Margarita mounted the
first,  then  Azazello and the master last. Groaning, the cook was about  to
raise  her  hand  to  make the  sign  of  the  cross  when Azazello  shouted
threateningly from the saddle :
     'If  you  do, I'll cut off  your  arm!  ' He  whistled and the horses,
smashing the branches of the lime tree, whinnied  and plunged upwards into a
low black cloud. From below came the cook's faint, pathetic cry :
     'Fire . . .'
     The horses were already galloping over the roofs of Moscow.
     'I want to  say goodbye to  someone,' shouted the master  to Azazello,
who was cantering  along in front  of him.  Thunder  drowned the  end of the
master's sentence. Azazello nodded and  urged  his horse  into  a  gallop. A
cloud was rushing towards them, though it had not yet begun to spatter rain.
     They flew over the boulevard, watching as the little figures ran in all
directions to shelter from the rain. The first drops were falling. They flew
over a  pillar of smoke--all that was  left of Griboyedov. On they flew over
the  city in the gathering darkness. Lightning flashed above them. Then  the
roofs changed  to treetops. Only  then did  the  rain begin to lash them and
turned them into three great bubbles in the midst of endless water.
     Margarita was already used to the sensation  of flight, but  the master
was  not and he was amazed how quickly they reached their destination, where
he wished to say goodbye to the only other person who meant anything to him.
Through the veil of rain he immediately  recognised Stravinsky's clinic, the
river and the pine-forest on the far bank that he had stared at for so long.
They landed among a clump of trees in a meadow not far from the clinic.
     'I'll wait for you  here,'  shouted Azazello, folding his  arms. For a
moment he was lit up by a flash of lightning then vanished again in the grey
pall. ' You can say goodbye, but hurry!'
     The  master and  Margarita dismounted  and  flew, like  watery shadows,
through the clinic garden.  A moment later the  master was pushing aside the
balcony  grille of No.  117 with  a practised hand. Margarita  followed him.
They walked into Ivan's  room, invisible and unnoticed, as  the storm howled
and thundered. The master stopped by the bed.
     Ivan was lying motionless, as he had been when he had first watched the
storm  from his  enforced rest-home. This time, however,  he was not crying.
After staring for a  while at the dark shape that entered  his room from the
balcony, he sat up, stretched out his arms and said joyfully :
     'Oh, it's you! I've been waiting for you! It's you, my neighbour!'
     To this the master answered :
      Yes, it's me, but I'm afraid I shan't be your neighbour any longer. I
am flying away for ever and I've only come to say goodbye.'
     'I knew, I guessed,' replied Ivan quietly, then asked :
     'Did you meet him? '
     'Yes,' said the master, ' I have come to say  goodbye  to  you because
you're the only person I have been able to talk to in these last days.'
     Ivan beamed and said :
     'I'm so glad you came. You see, I 'm going to keep my  word, I  shan't
write any more stupid poetry. Something else interests me now--' Ivan smiled
and  stared crazily  past  the  figure of  the  master--'  I  want to  write
something quite different. I have come  to understand  a lot of things since
I've been lying here.'
     The master grew excited  at this and said as he sat down on the edge of
Ivan's bed:
     'That's good, that's good. You must write the sequel to it.'
     Ivan's eyes sparkled.
     'But  won't  you  be  writing  it?' Then  he  looked  down  and added
thoughtfully : '  Oh, yes, of course . . . what am I saying.' Ivan stared at
the ground, frightened.
     'No,' said the master, and his voice  seemed to  Ivan unfamiliar  and
hollow. '  I won't write about him  any  more.  I shall be  busy  with other
     The roar of the storm was pierced by a distant whistle.
     'Do you hear? ' asked the master.
     'The noise of the storm . . .'
     'No, they're calling me, it's time for me to go,' explained the master
and got up from the bed.
     'Wait! One more thing,' begged Ivan.  ' Did you find her? Had she been
faithful to you? '
     'Here she  is,'  replied the master, pointing to the  wall.  The  dark
figure of  Margarita materialised from the  wall and moved over to the  bed.
She looked at the young man in the bed and her eyes filled with sorrow.
     'Poor, poor boy . . .' she whispered silently, and bent over the bed.
     'How  beautiful  she  is,' said Ivan,  without  envy  but  sadly  and
touchingly. ' Everything  has  worked  out  wonderfully for you,  you  lucky
fellow.  And here  am  I, sick . . .'  He thought for a  moment, then  added
thoughtfully : ' Or perhaps I'm not so sick after all . . .'
     'That's right,'  whispered  Margarita, bending right down to  Ivan.  '
I'll kiss you  and everything will be as it should be ... believe me, I know
. . .'
     Ivan put his arms round her neck and she kissed him.
     'Farewell, disciple,' said the  master  gently and began  to melt into
the air. He vanished, Margarita with him. The grille closed.
     Ivan felt uneasy. He sat  up in bed,  gazing  round anxiously, groaned,
talked to himself, got up. The storm was raging with increasing violence and
it  was  obviously upsetting  him. It  upset him  so  much that his hearing,
lulled  by the  permanent  silence, caught the sound  of  anxious footsteps,
murmured voices outside his door. Trembling, he called out irritably :
     'Praskovya Fyodorovna!'
     As the nurse  came  into the room, she gave  Ivan a -worried, enquiring
     'What's the matter? ' she asked. ' Is the storm frightening you? Don't
worry--I'll bring you something in a moment . . . I'll call the doctor right
away . . .'
     'No, Praskovya  Fyodorovna, you  needn't call the doctor,'  said Ivan,
staring anxiously not at her but at the wall, ' there's nothing particularly
wrong with me. I'm in my right mind now, don't be afraid. But you might tell
me,' asked  Ivan  confidentially,  ' what has just happened next door in No.
118? '
     'In 118? ' Praskovya Fyodorovna repeated hesitantly. Her eyes flickered
in embarrassment. ' Nothing has happened there.' But her voice betrayed her.
Ivan noticed this at once and said:
     'Oh, Praskovya Fyodorovna! You're such a truthful person . . . Are you
afraid  I'll  get violent? No, Praskovya Fyodorovna, I won't. You had better
tell me, you see I can sense it all through that wall.'
     'Your neighbour has just died,' whispered Praskovya Fyodorovna, unable
to overcome her natural truthfulness and goodness, and she gave a frightened
glance at Ivan, who was suddenly clothed in lightning. But nothing  terrible
happened. He only raised his finger and said :
     'I  knew  it! I  am telling  you,  Praskovya  Fyodorovna, that another
person has just died  in Moscow too.  I even know who  ' --here  Ivan smiled
mysteriously--' it is a woman!'

     The storm had passed and  a rainbow had arched itself  across the  sky,
its foot in  the Moscow River. On top of  a hill between two clumps of trees
could be seen three  dark  silhouettes.  Woland,  Koroviev and Behemoth  sat
mounted on black horses,  looking at  the city spread  out beyond the  river
with fragments of sun glittering  from thousands of west-facing windows, and
at the onion domes of the Novodevichy monastery.
     There was a rustling  in  the  air and Azazello,  followed  in  a black
cavalcade by  the  master  and  Margarita, landed by  the group  of  waiting
     'I'm afraid we had to frighten you  a little, Margarita  Nikolay-evna,
and  you, master,' said Woland after  a pause. ' But I  don't think you will
have cause to complain to  me about it or regret it. Now,' he turned to  the
master, ' say goodbye to this city. It's  time for us to go.' Woland pointed
his hand  in its black  gauntlet  to where  countless  glass suns  glittered
beyond the  river, where  above those suns the city exhaled the  haze, smoke
and steam of the day.
     The master leaped from his saddle,  left his companions and  ran to the
hillside, black cloak flapping over the ground behind him. He  looked at the
city.  For  the first few moments a tremor of sadness  crept over his heart,
but it soon changed to a  delicious excitement,  the  gypsy's thrill of  the
open road.
     'For ever ... I must think what that means,' whispered the master, and
locked his dry, cracked lips. He  began  to listen  to what was happening in
his heart. His excitement, it seemed to him, had given way to a profound and
grievous sense  of hurt. But it was only momentary and gave place  to one of
proud indifference and finally to a presentiment of eternal peace.
     The party of riders waited for the master in silence. They watched the
tall,  black  figure  on the hillside gesticulate,  then raise  his  head as
though trying to cast his glance over the whole city and to look beyond  its
edge ; then he hung his head  as  if  he were studying the sparse,  trampled
grass under his feet.
     Behemoth, who was getting bored, broke the silence :
     'Please, man maitre,' he said, ' let me give a farewell whistle-call.'
     'You might frighten the lady,' replied Woland, ' besides, don't forget
that you have done enough fooling about for one visit. Behave yourself now.'
     'Oh  no,  messire,' cried Margarita, sitting her mount like an Amazon,
one  arm akimbo, her long  black train  reaching to the ground. ' Please let
him whistle. I feel sad at the thought of the  journey. It's quite a natural
feeling, even when you know it  will end  in happiness. If you won't let him
make us laugh, I shall cry, and the journey will be ruined before we start.'
     Woland nodded to Behemoth. Delighted, the cat leaped to the ground, out
its paws in its mouth, filled its cheeks and whistled.
     Margarita's ears sang.  Her  horse roared,  twigs  snapped  off  nearby
trees, a flock of rooks and crows flew up, a  cloud of dust billowed towards
the  river and several passengers  on a  river steamer below  had their hats
blown off.
     The whistle-blast made the master  flinch; he did not  turn  round, but
began gesticulating even more violently, raising his fist skywards as though
threatening the city. Behemoth looked proudly round.
     'You  whistled, I  grant you,' said  Koroviev condescendingly. '  But
frankly it was a very mediocre whistle.'
     'I'm not a choirmaster, though,' said  Behemoth with dignity, puffing
out his chest and suddenly winking at Margarita.
     'Let me have  a try, just for old  time's  sake,' said  Koroviev.  He
rubbed his hands and blew on his fingers.
     'Very well,' said Woland  sternly, ' but  without  endangering life or
limb, please.'
     'Purely for fun, I  promise  you, messire,' Koroviev assured him, hand
on heart. He suddenly  straightened up, seemed  to stretch as though he were
made of rubber, waved the fingers of his right hand, wound himself up like a
spring and then, suddenly uncoiling, he whistled.
     Margarita did not hear this whistle,  but  she felt it,  as she and her
horse were picked up  and thrown  twenty yards sideways. Beside her the bark
was  ripped  off an oak tree and cracks opened in the  ground  as far as the
river. The water in  it boiled and heaved and a river steamer,  with all its
passengers unharmed, was grounded on the far  bank  by the blast. A jackdaw,
killed by Faggot's whistle, fell at the feet of Margarita's snorting horse.
     This time  the master was thoroughly frightened and  ran  back  to  his
waiting companions.
     'Well,' said  Woland to him  from the  saddle,  ' have you  made your
     'Yes, I have,' said the master and boldly returned Woland's stare.
     Then like the blast of  a trumpet the terrible voice of Woland rang out
over the hills :
     'It is time!'
     As an echo  came a  piercing  laugh  and a whistle  from  Behemoth. The
horses leaped into the air  and the riders rose with  them as  they galloped
upwards. Margarita could feel  her fierce  horse  biting and tugging  at the
bit. Woland's  cloak billowed out over the  heads  of the cavalcade  and  as
evening  drew on, his cloak began to cover the whole vault of the  sky. When
the black veil blew aside for a moment, Margarita turned round in flight and
saw  that not  only the many-coloured towers  but the  whole city  had  long
vanished from sight, swallowed by the earth,  leaving  only  mist  and smoke
where it had been.

     How sad,  ye gods, how sad the world is at evening,  how mysterious the
mists  over  the  swamps. You will know it  when vou have wandered astray in
those  mists,  when you have suffered  greatly before dying,  when  you have
walked through the world carrying an unbearable burden. You know it too when
you are weary  and  ready to leave this earth without regret; its mists, its
swamps and its rivers ; ready to give yourself into the arms of death with a
light heart, knowing that death alone can comfort you.
     The magic black  horses were growing tired, carrying their  riders more
slowly as inexorable night began to  overtake them.  Sensing it  behind  him
even the irrepressible Behemoth  was hushed, and digging his claws into  the
saddle he flew on in silence, his tail streaming behind him.
     Night  laid  its black  cloth  over  forest and  meadow,  night  lit  a
scattering of sad little  lights far  away below, lights that  for Margarita
and the master were now meaningless and alien. Night overtook the cavalcade,
spread itself over them  from above and  began to seed the lowering sky with
white specks of stars.
     Night  thickened, flew alongside, seized the riders' cloaks and pulling
them from  their shoulders, unmasked their disguises. When  Margarita opened
her eyes  in the  freshening wind  she saw the features of all the galloping
riders change, and when a full, purple moon rose  towards them over the edge
of a forest, all deception  vanished and fell away into the marsh beneath as
their magical, trumpery clothing faded into the mist.
     It would have been hard  now to recognise  Koroviev-Faggot, self-styled
interpreter to the mysterious professor  who needed none,  in the figure who
now rode immediately alongside Woland at Margarita's right hand. In place of
the  person  who had left Sparrow Hills  in shabby circus clothes  under the
name of  Koroviev-Faggot,  there now galloped, the gold  chain of his bridle
chinking  softly, a  knight clad in dark violet  with  a  grim and unsmiling
face. He leaned  his  chin  on his chest, looked neither at the moon nor the
earth, thinking his own thoughts as he flew along beside Woland.
     'Why has he changed so? ' Margarita asked Woland above the hiss of the
     'That knight once made an ill-timed joke,' replied Woland, turning his
fiery eye on Margarita. ' Once when we were talking of darkness and light he
made a  somewhat unfortunate pun.  As a  penance he  was condemned  to spend
rather more rime as a practical joker than he had bargained for. But tonight
is one  of those moments when accounts are settled. Our  knight has paid his
score and the account is closed.'
     Night  stripped  away, too.  Behemoth's  fluffy tail  and his  fur  and
scattered it in handfuls. The creature who had been the pet of the prince of
darkness  was revealed as  a slim youth, a page-demon, the  greatest  jester
that  there has ever been.  He too was now silent and flew without a  sound,
holding up Us young face towards the light that poured from the moon.
     On  the  flank, gleaming  in  steel armour,  rode  Azazello,  his  face
transformed by  the moon.  Gone was the idiotic wall eye, gone was his false
squint. Both Azazello's eyes were alike, empty and black, his face white and
cold. Azazello was now in his real guise, the demon of the waterless desert,
the murderer-demon.
     Margarita  could not see herself but she  could see the change that had
come ove the master. His hair had whitened in the moonlight and had gathered
behind him into  a mane that flew in the  wind. Whenever  the  wind blew the
master's cloak away from his legs, Margarita could see the spurs that winked
at the  heels of his jackboots. Like the page-demon  the master rode staring
at the moon, though smiling at it as though it were a dear, familiar friend,
and--a habit acquired in room No. 118-- talking to himself.
     Woland, too, rode in his true  aspect. Margarita could not say what the
reins of  his  horse were made of; she thought that they might be strings of
moonlight and the horse itself only a blob of darkness, its mane a cloud and
its rider's spurs glinting stars.
     They rode  for long in  silence  until the  country  beneath  began  to
change. The grim forests slipped  away  into the gloom  below, drawing  with
them the dull curved blades of rivers. The moonlight  was now reflected from
scattered boulders with dark gulleys between them.
     Woland reined  in his horse  on the flat, grim  top of  a hill and  the
riders followed him  at a  walk,  hearing the crunch  of  flints and pebbles
under  the horses' shoes.  The moon  flooded the ground with a  harsh  green
light and soon Margarita noticed on the bare expanse a chair, with the vague
figure of a man seated on it, apparently  deaf or lost in thought. He seemed
not to hear the stony ground shuddering beneath the weight of the horses and
he remained unmoved as the riders approached.
     In the brilliant moonlight, brighter than an arc-light, Margarita could
see the seemingly blind man wringing his hands  and staring at the moon with
unseeing eyes.  Then she  saw that  beside  the massive stone  chair,  which
sparkled fitfully in the moonlight,  there lay a huge, grey dog with pointed
ears, gazing like  his master, at the  moon. At  the  man's  feet  were  the
fragments of a jug and a reddish-black pool of liquid. The riders halted.
     'We have read your novel,' said Woland, turning to the master,' and we
can only say that unfortunately it is not finished. I would like to show you
your hero. He has  been sitting  here and  sleeping for  nearly two thousand
years,  but when  the  full moon  comes he  is  tortured, as you  see,  with
insomnia. It plagues not only him, but his faithful guardian, his dog. If it
is true that cowardice is the worst sin of all, then the dog at least is not
guilty  of  it.  The only thing  that  frightened  this  brave animal  was a
thunderstorm.  But one who loves  must share  the fate of  his loved one.' '
What  is  he saying?' asked Margarita,  and her  calm face was  veiled  with
     'He always says ' said Woland, '  the  same thing. He is  saying that
there is no peace for him by moonlight and  that his duty  is a hard one. He
says it always, whether he is asleep or awake,  and  he always sees the same
thing--a  path of moonlight. He  longs to  walk  along it and  talk  to  his
prisoner, Ha-Notsri, because he  claims  he had more to say  to him on  that
distant fourteenth day of Nisan. But he never succeeds in reaching that path
and no one ever  comes near him. So it  is  not surprising that  he talks to
himself.  For an occasional change  he adds that most of all  he detests his
immortality  and his incredible fame. He claims  that he would gladly change
places with that vagrant, Matthew the Levite.'
     'Twenty-four  thousand moons in penance  for  one moon long ago, isn't
that too much? ' asked Margarita.
     'Are you going to repeat the business with Frieda again?' said Woland.
' But you needn't distress yourself, Margarita. All will be as  it  should ;
that is how the world is made.'
     'Let him go! ' Margarita  suddenly shouted in a piercing voice, as she
had  shouted  when she  was  a witch.  Her  cry  shattered  a  rock  in  the
mountainside, sending  it bouncing  down  into the  abyss  with a  deafening
crash, but Margarita could not tell if  it was the falling rock or the sound
of satanic  laughter. Whether  it was  or not,  Woland laughed  and said  to
Margarita :
     'Shouting at the mountains will do no good. Landslides are common here
and he is used to them by  now. There is no need for you  to plead for  him,
Margarita, because his cause has already been pleaded by the man he longs to
join.' Woland  turned round  to the master and went on: ' Now is your chance
to complete your novel with a single sentence.'
     The  master  seemed  to be expecting this  while  he had been  standing
motionless, watching the seated Procurator. He cupped his hands to a trumpet
and shouted with such force that the echo  sprang back at him from the bare,
treeless hills :
     'You are free! Free! He is waiting for you!'
     The mountains turned  the  master's  voice  to thunder and the  thunder
destroyed them. The  grim  cliffsides crumbled and fell.  Only the  platform
with  the  stone  chair  remained.  Above  the black  abyss into  which  the
mountains had vanished glowed a great city topped  by glittering idols above
a garden  overgrown  with  the  luxuriance  of two thousand years. Into  the
garden  stretched  the Procurator's  long-awaited  path of moonlight and the
first to bound along it was the dog with pointed ears. The man in the  white
cloak with the blood-red lining rose from his chair and shouted something in
a  hoarse, uneven voice. It  was  impossible to tell if  he  was laughing or
crying, or  what he  was shouting.  He could only be seen hurrying along the
moonlight path after his faithful watchdog.
     'Am I to  follow him? ' the master  enquired uneasily, with a touch on
his reins.
     'No,' answered Woland, ' why try to pursue what is completed? '
     'That way, then?' asked the master, turning and pointing back to where
rose  the  city  they  had  just  left,  with  its  onion-domed monasteries,
fragmented sunlight reflected in its windows.
     'No,  not that way either,' replied Woland, his voice rolling down the
hillsides like a dense torrent. ' You are a romantic, master! Your novel has
been read by the  man that your hero Pilate, whom you have just released, so
longs to see.' Here Woland  turned to Margarita : ' Margarita Nikolayevna! I
am convinced  that  you have done  your utmost to  devise  the best possible
future for the master, but  believe me,  what I  am offering  you  and  what
Yeshua has begged to be given to you is even better! Let us leave them alone
with each other,' said Woland, leaning out of  his saddle towards the master
and  pointing  to the departing  Procurator. ' Let's  not disturb  them. Who
knows, perhaps they may agree on something.'
     At this Woland waved his hand towards Jerusalem, which vanished.
     'And there too,' Woland  pointed backwards. ' What good is your little
basement now? ' The  reflected  sun faded from the windows. ' Why go back? '
Woland  continued, quietly and  persuasively. ' 0  thrice  romantic  master,
wouldn't  you like to stroll under the cherry blossom with your l.ove in the
daytime and listen  to Schubert in  the evening? Won't you enjoy writing  by
candlelight with  a goose  quill? Don't you want, like Faust, to  sit over a
retort in the  hope  of fashioning  a new homunculus? That's  where you must
go--where a  house and an old servant are already  waiting  for you  and the
candle;s  are lit--although  they are  soon  to  be put out because you will
arrive at dawn. That is your way, master, that way! Farewell--I must go!'
     'Farewell!  ' cried Margarita and the master  together. Then the black
Woland, taking none of the paths, dived into the abyss, followed with a roar
by  his  retinue.  The  mountains,  the  platform,   the  moonbeam  pathway,
Jerusalem--all were  gone. The black  horses, too, had vanished.  The master
and Margarita saw the promised dawn, which rose in instant succession to the
midnight moon. In the first rays of the  morning the master and  his beloved
crossed a little moss-grown stone bridge. They left the stream  behind  them
and followed a sandy path.
     'Listen  to  the silence,' said  Margarita to  tlhe master, the  sand
rustling under her bare feet. '  Listen to the silence and enjoy it. Here is
the peace that you never knew in your lifetime. Look, there is your home for
eternity,  which  is your reward. I can already see a  Venetian window and a
cllimbing vine which grows right up  to the roof.  It's your home, your home
for  ever. In the  evenings people will come to see you--people who interest
you, people who will never  upset you. They will play to you and sing to you
and you will see  how  beautiful the room is by candlelight. You shall go to
sleep with your dirty old cap on, you shall go to sleep with a smile on your
lips. Sleep will give you strength and make you wise. And you can never send
me away-- I shall watch over your sleep.'
     So  said  Margarita  as  she  walked  with  the  master  towards  their
everlasting  home.  Margarita's  words  seemed  to  him  to  flow  like  the
whispering  stream behind  them, and  the  master's  memory,  his  accursed,
needling memory, began to fade. He had  been freed, just as he had  set free
the character he had created. His  hero had  now vanished irretrievably into
the abyss; on  the night of Sunday, the day of the Resurrection, pardon  had
been granted to the astrologer's son, fifth Procurator of  Judaea, the cruel
Pontius Pilate.


     But what happened in  Moscow after sunset on that Saturday evening when
Woland and his followers left the capital and vanished from Sparrow Hills?
     There  is  no need to  mention  the flood  of  incredible rumours which
buzzed round Moscow  for long afterwards and even  spread to the dimmest and
most  distant reaches of  the provinces. The rumours  are, in any case,  too
nauseating to repeat.
     On a train journey to  Theodosia, the  honest narrator himself  heard a
story of how in Moscow two thousand people had rushed literally naked out of
a theatre and were driven home in taxis.
     The whispered words '  evil spirits ' could be heard in milk queues and
tram  queues,  in  shops,  flats  and  kitchens,   in  commuter  trains  and
long-distance expresses, on  stations and halts, in  weekend cottages and on
     Educated and  cultured people,  of course, took  no  part in  all  this
gossip about  evil spirits  descending on Moscow, and  even laughed at those
who  did,  and tried  to bring them to  reason.  But facts, as they say, are
facts and they could not be brushed aside without some explanation : someone
had come to Moscow. The few charred cinders  which were all that was left of
Griboyedov, and much more besides, were eloquent proof of it.
     Cultured  people  took  the  viewpoint  of  the  police  :  a  gang  of
brilliantly skilful hypnotists and ventriloquists had been at work.
     Immediate and energetic steps; to arrest them in Moscow and beyond were
naturally taken  but unfortunately without the least result. The man calling
himself Woland  and  all his followers  had  vanished from  Moscow never  to
return there or  anywhere else. He was ot course suspected of having escaped
abroad, but there was no sign of his being there either.
     The  investigation of his case lasted for a long time. It was certainly
one of the  strangest on  record. Besides four gutted buildings and hundreds
of people driven  out of their  minds, several people had  been  killed.  At
least, two of them were definitely  known to have been killed--Berlioz,  and
that  wretched guide to the sights  of Moscow, ex-baron Maigel.  His charred
bones  were found in flat No. 50 after the fire  had been put out.  Violence
had been done and violence could not go unchecked.
     But there were other victims  who suffered as a result of Woland's stay
in Moscow and these were, sad to say, black cats.
     A good hundred of these peaceful, devoted  and useful animals were shot
or  otherwise destroyed in various  parts  of the country.  Thirty-odd cats,
some in a cruelly mutilated condition, were handed in to police stations  in
various towns. In Armavir, for instance, one of these innocent creatures was
brought to the police station with its forelegs tied up.
     The man had ambushed the cat just as the animal, wearing a very furtive
expression (how  can  cats help looking furtive? It is  not because they are
depraved but because they are  afraid of being  hurt  by creatures  stronger
than they are,  such  as dogs and people. It is easy enough to hurt them but
it is  not something that anyone need be proud of)--well,  with this furtive
look the cat was just about to jump into some bushes.
     Pouncing  on the  cat and pulling off his tie  to  pinion  it, the  man
snarled threateningly:
     'Aha! So  you've decided to come to Armavir, have  you, you hypnotist?
No good pretending to be dumb! We know all about you!'
     The man took the cat to the police station, dragging the wretched beast
along by its front legs,  which were bound with a green  tie so that it  was
forced to walk on its hind legs.
     'Stop  playing the fool! ' shouted the man, surrounded  by a crowd of
hooting boys, ' No good trying that trick--walk properly! '
     The black cat could only suffer in silence. Deprived  by nature  of the
gift of speech, it had no means of justifying itself. The poor creature owed
its salvation largely  to  the police and  to its mistress, an old widow. As
soon as  the cat  was  delivered to the police station it was found that the
man  smelled  violently  of  spirits, which  made  him  a  dubious  witness.
Meanwhile the old woman, hearing from  her  neighbour that her  cat had been
abducted, ran to  the police station and arrived in time. She gave the cat a
glowing reference, saying that she had had it for five years, since it was a
kitten in fact, would  vouch for it as she would for herself, proved that it
had not  been  caught in any mischief and  had never been to Moscow.  It had
been born in Armavir, had grown up there and learned to catch mice there.
     The cat was untied and returned to  its owner, though having learned by
bitter experience the consequences of error and slander.
     A few other people besides cats suffered  minor inconvenience.  Several
arrests were made. Among those  arrested for a short time were--in Leningrad
one man  called Wollman  and one called Wolper,  three Woldemars in Saratov,
Kiev and Kharkhov, a Wallach in Kazan, and for some obscure reason a chemist
in Penza by the  name  of Vetchinkevich. He was, it is true, a very tall man
with a dark complexion and black hair.
     Apart from  that  nine Korovins, four  Korovkins and two Karavaevs were
picked up in various places. One  man was taken  off the Sebastopol train in
handcuffs   at   Belgorod   station   for   having   tried   to   amuse  his
fellow-passengers with card tricks.
     One lunchtime  at Yaroslavl a man walked  into  a restaurant carrying a
Primus, which he had just  had repaired. As soon as they caught sight of him
the two cloak-room attendants abandoned their post and ran,  followed by all
the customers and  staff. Afterwards the  cashier  found that  all her day's
takings had been stolen.
     There  was more,  much more than anyone  can  remember. A shock-wave of
disquiet ran through the country.
     It cannot be said too often that the police did an admirable job, given
the circumstances.  Everything  possible  was  done,  not only  to catch the
criminals but  to provide explanations for what they had done. A  reason was
found  for  everything  and  one  must  admit  that  the  explanations  were
undeniably sensible.
     Spokesmen  for  the  police and a number of  experienced  psychiatrists
established that the members  of the gang, or perhaps one of them (suspicion
fell  chiefly on Koroviev) were hypnotists of incredible skill,  capable  of
appearing  to be  in  two or more  places  at once.  Furthermore,  they were
frequently able  to  persuade  people that things or people were  where they
weren't, or, vice-versa, they could remove objects  or people from someone's
field of vision that were really there all the time.
     In the  light of this  information everything was explicable, even  the
extraordinary incident of the bullet-proof cat in flat No. 50. There had, of
course,  been no  cat on  the  chandelier,  no one  had  fired  back at  the
detectives ; they had been  firing at nothing  while Koroviev, who had  made
them believe  that there was a  cat  going berserk  on  the chandelier,  had
obviously  been  standing  behind the  detectives'  backs and deploying  his
colossal though criminally  misused powers  of suggestion.  It  was  he,  of
course, who had poured paraffin all over the room and set fire to it.
     Stepa  Likhodeyev, of  course, had never been to Yalta  at all (a trick
like  that was beyond even  Koroviev)  and had sent no  telegram from Yalta.
After fainting in the doorway of his bedroom, frightened by Koroviev's trick
of  producing a cat eating a  pickled mushroom on a  fork, he had lain there
until Koroviev had rammed a sheepskin hat on his head and sent him to Moscow
airport, suggesting to the reception committee of detectives that Stepa  was
really climbing out of an aeroplane that had flown from Sebastopol.
     It is true that the Yalta police claimed to have seen Stepa and to have
sent telegrams about him to Moscow, but not a single copy of these telegrams
was to be found,  which led to  the sad but incontrovertible conclusion that
the band of hypnotists had the power of hypnotising people at vast distances
and then not only individuals but whole groups.
     This being the  case the  criminals  were obviously  capable of sending
even the sanest people mad, so  that trivia like  packs of cards in a  man's
pocket or vanishing ladies' dresses or a  beret that turned into a  cat  and
suchlike were  scarcely worth mentioning. Tricks like that could be done  by
any mediocre  hypnotist  on  any stage, including the old dodge of wrenching
off the  compere's  head.  The  talking cat was child's  play,  too. To show
people  a  talking  cat  one  only  had  to  know the  first  principles  of
ventriloquy,  and  clearly  Koroviev's  abilities  went   far  beyond  basic
     No, packs  of cards and false letters in  Nikanor Ivanovich's briefcase
were mere trifles.  It was he, Koroviev,  who had pushed  Berlioz to certain
death under the  tramcar.  It was he who  had  driven the wretched poet Ivan
Bezdomny  out of  his  mind, he who had given  him nightmares  about ancient
Jerusalem and  parched,  sun-baked Mount Golgotha  with the  three crucified
men. It was he and his gang who  had spirited Margarita Niko-layevna and her
maid away from Moscow. The police,  incidentally, paid  special attention to
this  aspect of  the case, trying to discover  whether these women had  been
kidnapped  by this  gang of  murderers  and  arsonists  or  whether they had
voluntarily run  away with  the  criminals.  Basing  their findings  on  the
ridiculous and confused evidence  provided by Nikolai Ivanovich, taking into
account the insane  note that Margarita Nikolayevna had left for her husband
to say that she was becoming a  witch, and considering the fact that Natasha
had vanished leaving all her movables at home, the investigators came to the
conclusion  that  both  maid and  mistress had  been hypnotised like so many
others  and then  kidnapped by the  gang.  There  was always, of course, the
likely consideration that  the crooks had  been attracted by two such pretty
     However, one thing baffled the police completely--what could  have been
the  gang's  motive for abducting a  mental patient,  who called himself the
master, from a psychiatric clinic? This  completely  eluded them, as did the
abducted patient's real name. He was therefore filed away for ever under the
pseudonym of 'No. 118, Block i.'
     Thus nearly everything was explained away and the investigation, as all
good things must, came to an end.
     Years passed  and people began to forget about Woland, Koroviev and the
rest.  Many things  changed in the lives  of  those who  had suffered at the
hands of Woland and his associates, and however minor these changes may have
been they are still worth following up.
     George  Bengalsky,  for  example,  after  three  months   in  hospital,
recovered and was sent home, but he had to give up his job at the Variety at
the busiest time of the season, when the public was storming the theatre for
tickets  :  the  memory of  the  black magic  and  its  revelations was  too
unbearable. Bengalsky gave up the  Variety because he realised that he could
not stand  the agony  of standing  up in front of two  thousand people every
evening,  being  inevitably recognised  and endlessly  subjected  to jeering
questions about how he preferred to be--with or without his head? Apart from
that  the compere  had lost a lot of the cheerfulness which  is essential in
his job. He developed a nasty, compulsive habit of falling into a depression
every spring at the full moon, of suddenly  grabbing his neck, staring round
in terror and bursting into  tears. These attacks did not last for long, but
nevertheless since he did have them he could hardly go on doing his old job,
and the compere retired and began living on his savings which, by his modest
reckoning, were enough to keep him for fifty years.
     He left and never again saw Varenukha, who had acquired  universal love
and popularity for  his incredible charm and politeness, remarkable even for
a theatre  manager. The  free-ticket  hounds,  for instance, regarded him as
their patron  saint.  At  whatever  hour they rang the Variety, through  the
receiver would always come his  soft, sad: ' Hello,' and if the caller asked
for  Varenukha to  be  brought to the  telephone the same  voice hastened to
reply : '  Speaking--at your  service.' But how  Ivan Savyelich had suffered
for his politeness!
     You  can  no  longer speak to Stepa  Likhodeyev  if you  telephone  the
Variety.   Immediately   after  his  week's  stay  in  hospital,  Stepa  was
transferred to Rostov  where he was made the manager of a large delicatessen
store. There are rumours that he never touches port these days, that he only
drinks vodka distilled from blackcurrants and is much healthier for it. They
say, too, that he is very silent these days and avoids women.
     Stepan Bogdanovich's removal  from the Variety did not bring Rimsky the
joy he  had dreamed  of for  so  many years. After  hospital and a  cure  at
Kislovodsk, the treasurer, now an old, old man with a shaking head, tendered
his resignation. It was Rimsky's wife who brought his letter of  resignation
to the theatre :  Grigory  Danilovich himself could not  find  the strength,
even  in daytime, to  revisit  the  building where he had seen  the  moonlit
windowpane rattling and the long arm reaching down to grasp the catch.
     Having retired from the  Variety,  Rimsky  got a job at the  children's
marionette  theatre on the far side of  the Moscow River. Here he never even
had to deal with  Arkady Apollonich Sempleyarov on the subject of acoustics,
because he in turn had  been transferred to Bryansk and put  in charge of  a
mushroom-canning plant. Now Muscovites eat his  salted chanterelles  and his
pickled  button-mushrooms  and  they  are  so  delicious  that everybody  is
delighted with Arkady Apollonich's  change of job. It is all so long ago now
that  there  is  no  harm in saying that Arkady Appollonich  never  had much
success at improving  the  acoustics of  Moscow's theatres anyway,  and  the
situation is much the same today.
     Apart from Arkady  Apollonich, several  other people  have given up the
theatre for good,  among them Nikanor Ivanovich  Bosoi, even though his only
link  with  the  theatre  was a fondness for  free tickets. Nowadays Nikanor
Ivanovich not  only refuses to accept  free  tickets : he wouldn't set  foot
inside a theatre if you paid him and he even turns pale if the subject crops
up in conversation.  More than the theatre  he now loathes both Pushkin  and
that gifted artiste, Savva Potapovich Kurolesov;
     in fact he detests that actor to such a degree that last year, catching
sight of a black-bordered announcement in the newspaper that Sawa Potapovicb
had been struck  down  in  the prime  of life  by  a  heart attack,  Nikanor
Ivanovich turned such a violent shade of  purple that he almost joined Savva
Potapovich, and he roared:
     'Serve him right! '
     What is  more, the actor's death stirred so  many painful memories  for
Nikanor Ivanovich that  he went out and, with the full moon for company, got
blind drunk.  With  every  glass  that  he drank the  row of  hated  figures
lengthened in front of him-- there  stood Sergei Gerardovich Dunchill, there
stood the beautiful Ida  Herkulanovna, there  stood the  red-bearded man and
his herd of fearsome geese.
     And what  happened to them?  Nothing. Nothing could ever happen to them
because  they never existed, just as the  compere,  the  theatre itself, the
miserly  old aunt hoarding  currency in her cellar and the rude  cooks never
existed  either.  Nikanor  Ivanovich  had  dreamed  it all  under  the  evil
influence of  the  beastly Koroviev. The only real  person in his  dream was
Sawa Potapovich the actor, who got involved merely  because Ivanor Ivanovich
had so often heard him on the radio. Unlike all the others, he was real.
     So  perhaps  Aloysius Mogarych  did not  exist  either?  Far  from  it.
Aloysius  Mogarych  is  still with  us,  in  the very  job that  Rimsky gave
up--treasurer of the Variety Theatre.
     About twenty-four hours after his call on Woland, Aloysius had regained
consciousness  in  a  train somewhere  near  Vyatka.  Finding  that  he  had
absentmindedly  left Moscow without his trousers but had somehow brought his
landlord's rent-book with him,  Aloysius had given the conductor  a colossal
tip, borrowed a  pair  of  filthy old trousers  from him and turned back  to
Moscow from Vyatka. But he failed to find  his landlord's house. The ancient
pile  had  been  burnt  to  the  ground.  Aloysius,  however,  was extremely
ingenious. Within a fortnight he had moved into an excellent room in Bryusov
Street and a few months later  he was installed in Rimsky's office.  Just as
Rimsky had suffered under Stepa,  Varenukha's  life was now made a misery by
Aloysius. Ivan Savyelich's  one and only wish  is for Aloysius to be removed
as far away from  the Variety as possible  because,  as  Varenukha sometimes
whispers among his close  friends, ' he has never met such  a  swine  in his
life as  that Aloysius  and he wouldn't be  surprised  at anything  Aloysius
might do '.
     The house manager is perhaps biased. Aloysius is not known to have done
anything suspicious--indeed he does not appear to have done anything at all,
except of course  to appoint another barman in place of Sokov. Andrei Fokich
died of cancer of the liver nine months after Woland's visit to Moscow.  . .
     More years passed  and the events  described in  this  truthful account
have faded from most people's memories--with a few exceptions.
     Every  year, at  the approach of the vernal full moon,  a man of  about
thirty  or  a  little more  can be seen walking  towards the  lime  trees of
Patriarch's Ponds. A reddish-haired, green-eyed, modestly dressed man. He is
Professor  Ivan  Nikolayich   Poniryov  of  the  Institute  of  History  and
     When he reaches the lime trees he always sits down on the same bench on
which he sat that evening when Berlioz, now long forgotten by everybody, saw
the moon shatter to  fragments for the last time in his life. Now that moon,
whole and in one piece, white in the early evening and later golden with its
outline of  a dragon-horse, floats over the erstwhile poet  Ivan  Nikolayich
while seeming to stand still.
     Ivan Nikolayich now knows and understands everything. He  knows that as
a young man he fell victim to some crooked hypnotists, went to hospital  and
was cured. But  he  knows that there  is still  something that is beyond his
control. He cannot control what happens at the springtime full moon. As soon
as  it  draws  near, as  soon as that heavenly body  begins  to  reach  that
fullness  it  once  had  when  it  hung  in  the  sky  high  above  the  two
seven-branched  candlesticks,  Ivan Nikolayich grows  uneasy  and irritable,
loses his appetite,  cannot sleep and waits for the moon  to wax. When  full
moon comes nothing can  keep  Ivan  Nikolayich  at home.  Towards evening he
leaves home and goes to Patriarch's Ponds.
     As  he  sits  on  the bench  Ivan Nikolayich  openly talks to  himself,
smokes, peers at the moon or at the familiar turnstile.
     Ivan Nikolayich spends an hour or two  there, then  gets up and  walks,
always following the  same  route, across Spiridonovka Street  with unseeing
eyes towards the side-streets near the Arbat.
     He passes an oil-shop, turns by a crooked old gas lamp and creeps up to
some railings through which he can see a garden that is splendid, though not
yet in flower, and in it--lit on one  side by moonlight,  dark on the other,
with  an attic  that has  a  triple-casement  window--a house  in the Gothic
     The professor never knows what draws him to those railings or who lives
in that house, but he knows that it is useless to fight his instinct at full
moon. He  knows,  too,  that  in the  garden beyond  the  railings  he  will
inevitably see the same thing every time.
     He sees a stout, elderly man sitting on a bench, a  man with a beard, a
pince-nez and very, very slightly piggish features.  Ivan  Nikolayich always
finds that tenant of the Gothic house in the same  dreamy attitude, his gaze
turned  towards the moon.  Ivan Nikolayich knows that having stared  at  the
moon the  seated man will turn and look hard at the attic windows, as though
expecting  them to  be  flung open and  something  unusual  to appear on the
     The rest, too, Ivan Nikolayich knows by heart. At this point he  has to
duck down behind the railings, because the man on the  bench begins to twist
his head anxiously,  his wandering  eyes seeking something  in  the  air. He
smiles in triumph,  then suddenly clasps  his  hands in delicious agony  and
mutters quite distinctly:
     'Venus! Venus! Oh, what a fool I was . . .!'
     'Oh God,' Ivan  Nikolayich starts  to whisper as he hides  behind the
railings with his  burning gaze fixed on the mysterious stranger.  ' Another
victim of the moon . . . Another one like me . . .'
     And the man goes on talking :
     'Oh, what a fool I  was! Why, why didn't I fly away with her? What was
I afraid of, stupid old ass that I am? I had to ask for that document! . . .
Well, you must  just put up with it, you old cretin!' So it  goes on until a
window opens  on the dark side of the  house, something white  appears in it
and an unpleasant female voice rings out:
     'Where  are  you, Nikolai Ivanovich? What the  hell are you doing out
there? Do you want to catch malaria? Come and drink your tea! '
     At this the man blinks and says in a lying voice :
     'I'm just having a breath of fresh air,  my dear! The air  out here is
so nice! '
     Then he gets up from his bench, furtively shakes his fist at the window
which has just closed and stumps indoors.
     'He's  lying, he's  lying!  Oh  God, how he's lying! '  mumbles  Ivan
Nikolayich  as he walks from the railings. ' He  doesn't  come  down to  the
garden  for  the  fresh  air--he  sees something  in  that  springtime  sky,
something  high above  the garden!  What  wouldn't  I give to find  out  his
secret, to know  who the Venus is that he lost and now tries vainly to catch
by waving his arms in the air.'
     The  professor returns home a sick man. His wife pretends not to notice
it  and hurries him into bed, but  she stays up and sits by  the lamp with a
book,  watching the sleeping  man with a bitter look. She knows that at dawn
Ivan Nikolayich  will wake up  with  an agonised cry, will start to weep and
rave. That is why  she keeps in front of her on the  tablecloth a hypodermic
syringe  ready in a dish of spirit and  an ampoule of  liquid the  colour of
strong tea.
     Later the poor woman is free to go to  sleep without  misgiving.  After
his  injection  Ivan  Nikolayich  will  sleep  until  morning  with  a  calm
expression and  he  will dream, unknown  to her,  dreams that  are sublimely
     It  is always the same thing that wakens the  scholar  and wrings  that
pitiful cry from him. He sees a  strange, noseless executioner who,  jumping
up  and  uttering a grunt as he  does so, pierces  the heart of the maddened
Hestas, lashed  to a gibbet. But what  makes the dream so horrible is not so
much the executioner as the lurid, unnatural light  that comes from a cloud,
seething and drenching the earth, of the  kind that only accompanies natural
     After his injection the sleeper's vision changes. From the  bed  to the
moon stretches a broad path of  moonlight  and up it is climbing a man in  a
white cloak with a blood-red lining. Beside him walks a young man  in a torn
chiton and with a  disfigured face. The two  are talking heatedly,  arguing,
trying to agree about something.
     'Ye  gods! ' says the man  in the cloak, turning his proud face to his
companion.  ' What  a  disgusting method  of  execution!  But  please,  tell
me,'--here the pride  in his face turns to supplication--'  it did  not take
place, did it? I beg you--tell me that it never took place? '
     'No, of course it  never took place,' answers his companion in a husky
voice. ' It was merely your imagination.'
     'Can you swear to that? ' begged the man in the cloak.
     'I swear it! ' answers his companion, his eyes smiling.
     'That  is  all I need to  know! ' gasps the man in  the  cloak  as  he
strides on towards the moon, beckoning his companion on. Behind them walks a
magnificently calm, gigantic dog with pointed ears.
     Then the moonbeam  begins to  shake, a river of moonlight floods out of
it and pours in all  directions. From  the  flood materialises  a  woman  of
incomparable beauty and leads towards Ivan a man with a  stubble-grown face,
gazing  fearfully round him. Ivan  Nikolayich recognises  him at once. It is
No. 118, his  nocturnal visitor. In  his dream Ivan  stretches  out his arms
towards him and asks greedily :
     'So was that how it ended? '
     'That  is  how it ended,  disciple,'  replies No.  118 as  the  woman
approaches Ivan and says :
     'Of course.  It has ended ;  and everything has an end . . . I'll kiss
you on the forehead and everything will be as it should be . . .'
     She leans  over  Ivan  and kisses him on  the forehead and Ivan strains
towards her to  look into her eyes, but she draws back, draws back and walks
away towards the moon with her companion. . . .
     Then the  moon  goes mad,  deluges Ivan  with streams of light,  sprays
light everywhere,  a  moonlight  flood invades  the room, the  light  sways,
rises, drowns the bed. It is then that Ivan  sleeps with a look of happiness
on his face.
     In the  morning he  wakes silent, but quite calm  and well. His bruised
memory has  subsided again and until the next  full moon no one will trouble
the professor--neither the  noseless  man who killed Hestas  nor  the  cruel
Procurator of Judaea, fifth in that office, the knight Pontius Pilate.

Last-modified: Tue, 26 Nov 2002 08:59:25 GMT