فصل 21

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فصل 21

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CHAPTER 21

Flight

Invisible and free! Invisible and free! … After flying down her own lane, Margarita got into another that crossed the first at right angles. This patched up, darned, crooked and long lane, with the lopsided door of a kerosene shop where they sold paraffin by the cup and liquid against parasites in flacons, she cut across in an instant, and here she realized that, even while completely free and invisible, she still had to be at least somewhat reasonable in her pleasure. Having slowed down only by some miracle, she just missed smashing herself to death against an old lopsided street light at the corner. Dodging it, Margarita clutched the broom tighter and flew more slowly, studying the electric wires and the street signs hanging across the sidewalk.

The third lane led straight to the Arbat. Here Margarita became fully accustomed to controlling the broom, realized that it obeyed the slightest touch of her hands and legs, and that, flying over the city, she had to be very attentive and not act up too much. Besides, in the lane it had already become abundantly clear that passers-by did not see the lady flier. No one threw his head back, shouted ‘Look! look!’ or dashed aside, no one shrieked, swooned or guffawed with wild laughter.

Margarita flew noiselessly, very slowly, and not high up, approximately on second-floor level. But even with this slow flying, just at the entrance to the dazzlingly lit Arbat she misjudged slightly and struck her shoulder against some illuminated disc with an arrow on it. This angered Margarita. She reined in the obedient broom, flew a little aside, and then, suddenly hurling herself at the disc with the butt of the broom, smashed it to smithereens. Bits of glass rained down with a crash, passers-by shied away, a whistle came from somewhere, and Margarita, having accomplished this unnecessary act, burst out laughing.

‘On the Arbat I must be more careful,’ thought Margarita, ‘everything’s in such a snarl here, you can’t figure it out.’ She began dodging between the wires. Beneath Margarita floated the roofs of buses, trams and cars, and along the sidewalks, as it seemed to Margarita from above, floated rivers of caps. From these rivers little streams branched off and flowed into the flaming maws of night-time shops.

‘Eh, what a mess!’ Margarita thought angrily. ‘You can’t even turn around here.’

She crossed the Arbat, rose higher, to fourth-floor level, and, past the dazzlingly bright tubes on the theatre building at the comer, floated into a narrow lane with tall buildings. All the windows in them were open, and everywhere radio music came from the windows. Out of curiosity, Margarita peeked into one of them. She saw a kitchen. Two primuses were roaring on the range, and next to them stood two women with spoons in their hands, squabbling.

‘You should turn the toilet light off after you, that’s what I’m telling you, Pelageya Petrovna,’ said the woman before whom there was a pot with some sort of eatables steaming in it, ‘or else we’ll apply to have you evicted.’

‘You’re a good one yourself,’ the other woman answered.

‘You’re both good ones,’ Margarita said loudly, clambering over the window-sill into the kitchen.

The two quarrelling women turned towards the voice and froze with their dirty spoons in their hands. Margarita carefully reached out between them, turned the knobs of both primuses, and extinguished them. The women gasped and opened their mouths. But Margarita was already bored with the kitchen and flew out into the lane.

Her attention was attracted by the magnificent hulk of an eight-storeyed, obviously just-constructed building at the end of it. Margarita dropped down and, alighting, saw that the façade of the building was covered in black marble, that the doors were wide, that behind their glass could be glimpsed a doorman’s buttons and peaked cap with gold braid, and that over the door there was a gold inscription: ‘Dramlit House’.

Margarita squinted at the inscription, trying to figure out what the word ‘Dramlit’ might mean. Taking her broom under her arm, Margarita walked into the lobby, shoving the surprised doorman with the door, and saw on the wall beside the elevator a huge black board and on it, written in white letters, apartment numbers and tenants’ names. The heading ’House of Dramatists and Literary Workers’ above the list provoked a suppressed predatory scream in Margarita. Rising in the air, she greedily began to read the last names: Khustov, Dvubratsky, Quant, Beskudnikov, Latunsky …

‘Latunsky!’ shrieked Margarita. ‘Latunsky! Why, he’s the one … he’s the one who ruined the master!’

The doorman at the entrance, even hopping with astonishment, his eyes rolled out, gazed at the black board, trying to understand the marvel: why was the list of tenants suddenly shrieking?

But by that time Margarita was already going impetuously up the stairs, repeating in some sort of rapture:

‘Latunsky eighty-four … Latunsky eighty-four …’

Here to the left - 82, to the right - 83, further up, to the left - 84! Here! And the name plate - ‘O. Latunsky’.

Margarita jumped off the broom, and her hot soles felt the pleasant coolness of the stone landing. Margarita rang once, twice. But no one opened. Margarita began to push the button harder and could hear the jangling it set off in Latunsky’s apartment. Yes, to his dying day the inhabitant of apartment no. 84 on the eighth floor should be grateful to the late Berlioz, chairman of Massolit, for having fallen under a tram-car, and that the memorial gathering had been appointed precisely for that evening. The critic Latunsky was born under a lucky star — it saved him from meeting Margarita, who that Friday became a witch.

No one opened the door. Then Margarita raced down at full swing, counting the floors, reached the bottom, burst out the door and, looking up, counted and checked the floors from outside, guessing which precisely were the windows of Latunsky’s apartment. Undoubtedly they were the five dark windows at the comer of the building on the eighth floor. Convinced of it, Margarita rose into the air and in a few seconds was stepping through an open window into an unlit room, where only a narrow path from the moon shone silver. Margarita ran down it, felt for the switch. A moment later the whole apartment was lit up. The broom stood in a comer. After making sure that no one was home, Margarita opened the door to the stairs and checked whether the name plate was there. The name plate was in place. Margarita was where she wanted to be.

Yes, they say that to this day the critic Latunsky turns pale remembering that terrible evening, and to this day he utters the name of Berlioz with veneration. It is totally unknown what dark and vile criminal job would have marked this evening - returning from the kitchen, Margarita had a heavy hammer in her hands.

Naked and invisible, the lady flier tried to control and talk sense into herself; her hands trembled with impatience. Taking careful aim, Margarita struck at the keys of the grand piano, and a first plaintive wail passed all through the apartment. Becker’s drawing-room instrument, not guilty of anything, cried out frenziedly. Its keys caved in, ivory veneer flew in all directions. The instrument howled, wailed, rasped and jangled. With the noise of a pistol shot, the polished upper soundboard split under a hammer blow. Breathing hard, Margarita tore and mangled the strings with the hammer. Finally getting tired, she left off and flopped into an armchair to catch her breath.

Water was roaring terribly in the bathroom, and in the kitchen as well. ‘Seems it’s already overflowing on the floor …’ Margarita thought, and added aloud:

‘No point sitting around, however.’

The stream was already running from the kitchen into the corridor. Splashing barefoot through the water, Margarita carried buckets of water from the kitchen to the critic’s study and emptied them into his desk drawers. Then, after smashing the door of the bookcase in the same study with her hammer, she rushed to the bedroom. Shattering the mirror on the wardrobe, she took out the critic’s dress suit and drowned it in the tub. A large bottle of ink, picked up in the study, she poured over the luxuriously plumped-up double bed.

The devastation she wrought afforded her a burning pleasure, and yet it seemed to her all the while that the results came out somehow meagre. Therefore she started doing whatever came along. She smashed pots of ficus in the room with the grand piano. Before finishing that, she went back to the bedroom, slashed the sheets with a kitchen knife, and broke the glass on the framed photographs. She felt no fatigue, only the sweat poured from her in streams.

Just then, in apartment no. 82, below Latunsky’s apartment, the housekeeper of the dramatist Quant was having tea in the kitchen, perplexed by the clatter, running and jangling coming from above. Raising her head towards the ceiling, she suddenly saw it changing colour before her eyes from white to some deathly blue. The spot was widening right in front of her and drops suddenly swelled out on it. For about two minutes the housekeeper sat marvelling at this phenomenon, until finally a real rain began to fall from the ceiling, drumming on the floor. Here she jumped up, put a bowl under the stream, which did not help at all, because the rain expanded and began pouring down on the gas stove and the table with dishes. Then, crying out, Quant’s housekeeper ran from the apartment to the stairs and at once the bell started ringing in Latunsky’s apartment.

‘Well, they’re ringing … Time to be off,’ said Margarita. She sat on the broom, listening to the female voice shouting through the keyhole:

‘Open up, open up! Dusya, open the door! Is your water overflowing, or what? We’re being flooded!’

Margarita rose up about a metre and hit the chandelier. Two bulbs popped and pendants flew in all directions. The shouting through the keyhole stopped, stomping was heard on the stairs. Margarita floated through the window, found herself outside it, swung lightly and hit the glass with the hammer. The pane sobbed, and splinters went cascading down the marble-faced wall. Margarita flew to the next window. Far below, people began running about on the sidewalk, one of the two cars parked by the entrance honked and drove off. Having finished with Latunsky’s windows, Margarita floated to the neighbour’s apartment. The blows became more frequent, the lane was filled with crashing and jingling. The doorman ran out of the main entrance, looked up, hesitated a moment, evidently not grasping at first what he ought to undertake, put the whistle to his lips, and started whistling furiously. To the sound of this whistle, Margarita, with particular passion, demolished the last window on the eighth floor, dropped down to the seventh, and started smashing the windows there.

Weary of his prolonged idleness behind the glass doors of the entrance, the doorman put his whole soul into his whistling, following Margarita precisely as if he were her accompanist. In the pauses as she flew from window to window, he would draw his breath, and at each of Margarita’s strokes, he would puff out his cheeks and dissolve in whistling, drilling the night air right up to the sky.

His efforts, combined with the efforts of the infuriated Margarita, yielded great results. There was panic in the house. Those windows left intact were flung open, people’s heads appeared in them and hid at once, while the open windows, on the contrary, were being closed. In the buildings across the street, against the lighted background of windows, there appeared the dark silhouettes of people trying to understand why the windows in the new Dramlit building were bursting for no reason at all.

In the lane people ran to Dramlit House, and inside, on all the stairways, there was the stamping of people rushing about with no reason or sense. Quant’s housekeeper shouted to those running up the stairs that they were being flooded, and she was soon joined by Khustov’s housekeeper from apartment no. 80, located just below Quant’s apartment At Khustov’s it was pouring from the ceiling in both the kitchen and the toilet. Finally, in Quant’s kitchen a huge slab of plaster fell from the ceiling, breaking all the dirty dishes, after which came a real downpour, the water gushing from the grid of wet, hanging lath as if from a bucket. Then on the steps of the main entrance shouting began.

Flying past the penultimate window of the fourth floor, Margarita peeked in and saw a man who in panic had pulled on a gas mask. Hitting his window with the hammer, Margarita scared him off, and he disappeared from the room.

And unexpectedly the wild havoc ceased. Slipping down to the third floor, Margarita peeked into the end window, covered by a thin, dark little curtain. In the room a little lamp was burning weakly under a shade. In a small bed with net sides sat a boy of about four, listening timorously. There were no grown-ups in the room, evidently they had all run out of the apartment.

They’re breaking the windows,‘ the boy said and called: ’Mama!‘

No one answered, and then he said:

‘Mama, I’m afraid.’

Margarita drew the little curtain aside and flew in.

‘I’m afraid,’ the boy repeated, and trembled.

‘Don’t be afraid, don’t be afraid, little one,’ said Margarita, trying to soften her criminal voice, grown husky from the wind. ‘It’s some boys breaking windows.’

‘With a slingshot?’ the boy asked, ceasing to tremble.

‘With a slingshot, with a slingshot,’ Margarita confirmed, ‘and you go to sleep.’

‘It’s Sitnik,’ said the boy, ‘he’s got a slingshot.’

‘Well, of course it’s he!’

The boy looked slyly somewhere to the side and asked:

‘And where are you, ma’am?‘

‘I’m nowhere,’ answered Margarita, ‘I’m your dream.’

‘I thought so,’ said the boy.

‘Lie down now,’ Margarita ordered, ‘put your hand under your cheek, and I’ll go on being your dream.’

‘Well, be my dream, then,’ the boy agreed, and at once lay down and put his hand under his cheek.

‘I’ll tell you a story,’ Margarita began, and placed her hot hand on his cropped head. ‘Once there was a certain lady … And she had no children, and generally no happiness either. And so first she cried for a long time, and then she became wicked …’ Margarita fell silent and took away her hand - the boy was asleep.

Margarita quietly placed the hammer on the window-sill and flew out the window. There was turmoil by the building. On the asphalt pavement strewn with broken glass, people were running and shouting something. Policemen were already flashing among them. Suddenly a bell rang, and a red fire-engine with a ladder drove into the lane from the Arbat.

But what followed no longer interested Margarita. Taking aim, so as not to brush against any wires, she clutched her broom more tightly and in a moment was high above the ill-fated house. The lane beneath her went askew and plunged away. In place of it a mass of roofs appeared under Margarita’s feet, criss-crossed at various angles by shining paths. It all unexpectedly went off to one side, and the strings of lights smeared and merged.

Margarita made one more spurt and the whole mass of roofs fell through the earth, and in place of it a lake of quivering electric lights appeared below, and this lake suddenly rose up vertically and then appeared over Margarita’s head, while the moon flashed under her feet. Realizing that she had flipped over, Margarita resumed a normal position and, glancing back, saw that there was no longer any lake, and that there behind her only a pink glow remained on the horizon. That, too, disappeared a second later, and Margarita saw that she was alone with the moon flying above and to the left of her. Margarita’s hair had long been standing up in a shock, and the whistling moonlight bathed her body. Seeing two rows of widespread lights merge into two unbroken fiery lines, seeing how quickly they vanished behind her, Margarita realized that she was flying at an enormous speed and was amazed that she was not out of breath.

After a few seconds, a new glow of electric lights flared up far below in the earthly blackness and hurtled under the flying woman’s feet, but immediately spun away like a whirligig and fell into the earth. A few seconds later — exactly the same phenomenon.

‘Towns! Towns!’ cried Margarita.

Two or three times after that she saw dully gleaming sabres lying in open black sheaths below her and realized that these were rivers.

Turning her head up and to the left, the flying woman admired the way the moon madly raced back over her towards Moscow, and at the same time strangely stayed in its place, so that there could be clearly seen on it something mysterious, dark — a dragon, or a little humpbacked horse, its sharp muzzle turned to the abandoned city.

Here the thought came to Margarita that, in fact, there was no need for her to drive her broom so furiously, that she was depriving herself of the opportunity of seeing anything properly, of revelling properly in her own flight. Something told her that she would be waited for in the place she was flying to, and that there was no need for her to become bored with this insane speed and height.

Margarita turned the broom’s bristles forward, so that its tail rose up, and, slowing way down, headed right for the earth. This downward glide, as on an airy sled, gave her the greatest pleasure. The earth rose to meet her, and in its hitherto formless black density the charms and secrets of the earth on a moonlit night revealed themselves. The earth was coming to her, and Margarita was already enveloped in the scent of greening forests. Margarita was flying just above the mists of a dewy meadow, then over a pond. Under Margarita sang a chorus of frogs, and from somewhere far away, stirring her heart deeply for some reason, came the noise of a train. Soon Margarita saw it. It was crawling slowly along like a caterpillar, spraying sparks into the air. Going ahead of it, Margarita passed over yet another watery mirror, in which a second moon floated under her feet, dropped down lower still and went on, her feet nearly touching the tops of the huge pines.

A heavy noise of ripping air came from behind and began to overtake Margarita. To this noise of something flying like a cannon ball a woman’s guffaw was gradually added, audible for many miles around. Margarita looked back and saw some complex dark object catching up with her. As it drew nearer to Margarita, it became more distinct — a mounted flying person could be seen. And finally it became quite distinct: slowing down, Natasha came abreast of Margarita.

Completely naked, her dishevelled hair flying in the air, she flew astride a fat hog, who was clutching a briefcase in his front hoofs, while his hind hoofs desperately threshed the air. Occasionally gleaming in the moonlight, then fading, the pince-nez that had fallen off his nose flew beside the hog on a string, and the hog’s hat kept sliding down over his eyes. Taking a close look, Margarita recognized the hog as Nikolai Ivanovich, and then her laughter rang out over the forest, mingled with the laughter of Natasha.

‘Natashka!’ Margarita shouted piercingly. ‘You rubbed yourself with the cream?’

‘Darling!!’ Natasha replied, awakening the sleeping pine forest with her shout. ‘My French queen, I smeared it on him, too, on his bald head!’

‘Princess!’ the hog shouted tearfully, galloping along with his rider.

‘Darling! Margarita Nikolaevna!’ cried Natasha, riding beside Margarita, ‘I confess, I took the cream! We, too, want to live and fly! Forgive me, my sovereign lady, I won’t go back, not for anything! Ah, it’s good, Margarita Nikolaevna! … He propositioned me,’ Natasha began jabbing her finger into the neck of the abashedly huffing hog, ‘propositioned me! What was it you called me, eh?’ she shouted, leaning towards the hog’s ear.

‘Goddess!’ howled the hog, ‘I can’t fly so fast! I may lose important papers, Natalya Prokofyevna, I protest!’

‘Ah, devil take you and your papers!’ Natasha shouted with a brazen guffaw.

‘Please, Natalya Prokofyevna, someone may hear us!’ the hog yelled imploringly.

Flying beside Margarita, Natasha laughingly told her what happened in the house after Margarita Nikolaevna flew off over the gates.

Natasha confessed that, without ever touching any of the things she had been given, she threw off her clothes, rushed to the cream, and immediately smeared herself with it. The same thing happened with her as with her mistress. Just as Natasha, laughing with joy, was revelling in her own magical beauty before the mirror, the door opened and Nikolai Ivanovich appeared before her. He was agitated; in his hands he was holding Margarita Nikolaevna’s shift and his own hat and briefcase. Seeing Natasha, Nikolai Ivanovich was dumbfounded. Getting some control of himself, all red as a lobster, he announced that he felt it was his duty to pick up the little shift and bring it personally …

‘The things he said, the blackguard!’ Natasha shrieked and laughed. ‘The things he said, the things he tempted me to do! The money he promised! He said Klavdia Petrovna would never learn of it. Well, speak, am I lying?’ Natasha shouted to the hog, who only turned his muzzle away abashedly.

In the bedroom, carried away with her own mischief, Natasha dabbed some cream on Nikolai Ivanovich and was herself struck dumb with astonishment. The respectable ground-floor tenant’s face shrank to a pig’s snout, and his hands and feet acquired little hoofs. Looking at himself in the mirror, Nikolai Ivanovich let out a wild and desperate howl, but it was already too late. A few seconds later, saddled up, he was flying out of Moscow to devil knows where, sobbing with grief.

‘I demand that my normal appearance be restored to me!’ the hog suddenly grunted hoarsely, somewhere between frenzy and supplication. ‘I’m not going to fly to any illegal gathering! Margarita Nikolaevna, it’s your duty to call your housekeeper to order!’ ‘Ah, so now I’m a housekeeper? A housekeeper?’ Natasha cried, pinching the hog’s ear. ‘And I used to be a goddess? What was it you called me?’

‘Venus!’ the hog replied tearfully, as he flew over a brook bubbling between stones, his little hoofs brushing the hazel bushes.

‘Venus! Venus!’ Natasha cried triumphantly, one hand on her hip, the other stretched out towards the moon. ‘Margarita! Queen! Intercede for me so that I can stay a witch! They’ll do anything for you, you have been granted power!’

And Margarita responded:

‘All right, I promise.’

‘Thank you!’ exclaimed Natasha, and suddenly she cried out sharply and somehow longingly: ‘Hey! Hey! Faster! Faster! Come on, speed it up!’

She dug her heels into the hog’s sides, which had grown thinner during this insane ride, and he tore on, so that the air ripped open again, and a moment later Natasha could be seen only as a black speck in the distance, then vanished completely, and the noise of her flight melted away.

Margarita flew as slowly as before through the deserted and unfamiliar place, over hills strewn with occasional boulders among huge, widely spaced pines. Margarita now flew not over the tops of the pines but between their trunks, silvered on one side by the moon. The light shadow of the flying woman glided over the ground ahead, the moon shining now on Margarita’s back.

Margarita sensed the proximity of water, and guessed that her goal was near. The pines parted and Margarita rode slowly through the air up to a chalk cliff. Beyond this cliff, down in the shadows, lay a river. Mist hung clinging to the bushes on the cliff, but the opposite bank was flat and low. On it, under a solitary group of spreading trees, the light of a bonfire flickered and some small figures could be seen moving about. It seemed to Margarita that some nagging, merry little tune was coming from there. Further off, as far as the eye could see, there was no sign of habitation or people on the silvered plain.

Margarita leaped off the cliff and quickly descended to the water. The water enticed her after her airy race. Casting the broom aside, she ran and threw herself head first into the water. Her light body pierced the water’s surface like an arrow, and the column of water thrown up almost reached the moon. The water turned out to be warm as in a bathhouse, and, emerging from the depths, Margarita swam her fill in the total solitude of night in this river.

There was no one near Margarita, but a little further away, behind the bushes, splashing and grunting could be heard — someone was also having a swim there.

Margarita ran out on to the bank. Her body was on fire after the swim. She felt no fatigue, and was joyfully capering about on the moist grass.

Suddenly she stopped dancing and pricked up her ears. The grunting came closer, and from behind the willow bushes some naked fat man emerged, with a black silk top hat pushed back on his head. His feet were covered with slimy mud, which made it seem that the swimmer was wearing black shoes. Judging by his huffing and hiccuping, he was properly drunk, as was confirmed, incidentally, by the fact that the river suddenly began to smell of cognac.

Seeing Margarita, the fat man peered at her and then shouted joyfully:

‘What’s this? Who is it I see? Claudine, it’s you, the ungrieving widow! You’re here, too?’ and he came at her with his greetings.

Margarita stepped back and replied with dignity:

‘Go to the devil! What sort of Claudine am I to you? Watch out who you’re talking to,’ and, after a moment’s reflection, she added to her words a long, unprintable oath. All this had a sobering effect on the light-minded fat man.

‘Ah!’ he exclaimed softly and gave a start, ‘magnanimously forgive me, bright Queen Margot! I mistook you for someone else. The cognac’s to blame, curse it!’ The fat man lowered himself to one knee, holding the top hat far out, made a bow, and started to prattle, mixing Russian phrases with French, some nonsense about the bloody wedding of his friend Guessard in Paris, and about the cognac, and about being mortified by his sad mistake.

‘Why don’t you put your trousers on, you son of a bitch,’ Margarita said, softening.

The fat man grinned joyfully, seeing that Margarita was not angry, and rapturously declared that he found himself without trousers at the given moment only because in his absent-mindedness he had left them on the Yenisey River, where he had been swimming just before, but that he would presently fly there, since it was close at hand, and then, entrusting himself to her favour and patronage, he began to back away and went on backing away until he slipped and fell backwards into the water. But even as he fell, he kept on his face, framed in small side-whiskers, a smile of rapture and devotion.

Here Margarita gave a piercing whistle and, mounting the broom that flew up to her, crossed to the opposite bank of the river. The shadow of the chalk mountain did not reach that far, and the whole bank was flooded with moonlight.

As soon as Margarita touched the moist grass, the music under the pussy willows struck up louder, and a sheaf of sparks flew up more merrily from the bonfire. Under the pussy-willow branches, strewn with tender, fluffy catkins, visible in the moonlight, sat two rows of fat-faced frogs, puffing up as if they were made of rubber, playing a bravura march on wooden pipes. Glowing marsh-lights hung on willow twigs in front of the musicians, lighting up the music; the restless light of the bonfire danced on the frogs’ faces.

The march was being played in honour of Margarita. She was given a most solemn reception. Transparent naiads stopped their round dance over the river and waved weeds at Margarita, and their far-audible greetings moaned across the deserted, greenish bank. Naked witches, jumping from behind the pussy willows, formed a line and began curtseying and making courtly bows. Someone goat-legged flew up and bent to her hand, spread silk on the grass, inquired whether the queen had had a good swim, and invited her to lie down and rest.

Margarita did just that. The goat-legged one offered her a glass of champagne, she drank it, and her heart became warm at once. Having inquired about Natasha’s whereabouts, she received the reply that Natasha had already taken her swim and had flown ahead to Moscow on her hog, to warn them that Margarita would soon arrive and to help prepare her attire.

Margarita’s short stay under the pussy willows was marked by one episode: there was a whistling in the air, and a black body, obviously missing its mark, dropped into the water. A few moments later there stood before Margarita that same fat side-whiskerist who had so unsuccessfully introduced himself on the other bank. He had apparently managed to get to the Yenisey and back, for he was in full evening dress, though wet from head to foot. The cognac had done him another bad turn: as he came down, he landed in the water after all. But he did not lose his smile even on this lamentable occasion, and the laughing Margarita admitted him to her hand.

Then they all started getting ready. The naiads finished their dance in the moonlight and melted into it. The goat-legged one deferentially inquired of Margarita how she had come to the river. On learning that she had come riding on a broom, he said:

‘Oh, but why, it’s so inconvenient!’ He instantly slapped together some dubious-looking telephone from two twigs, and demanded of someone that a car be sent that very minute, which, that same minute, was actually done. An open, light sorrel car came down on the island, only in the driver’s seat there sat no ordinary-looking driver, but a black, long-beaked rook in an oilcloth cap and gauntlets. The little island was becoming deserted. The witches flew off, melting into the moon-blaze. The bonfire was dying down, and the coals were covering over with hoary ash.

The goat-legged one helped Margarita in, and she sank on to the wide back seat of the sorrel car. The car roared, sprang up, and climbed almost to the moon; the island vanished, the river vanished, Margarita was racing to Moscow.

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