فصل 29

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فصل 29

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CHAPTER 29

The Fate of the Master and Margarita is Decided

At sunset, high over the city, on the stone terrace of one of the most beautiful houses in Moscow, a house built about a hundred and fifty years ago, there were two: Woland and Azazello. They could not be seen from the street below, because they were hidden from unwanted eyes by a balustrade with plaster vases and plaster flowers. But they could see the city almost to its very edges.

Woland was sitting on a folding stool, dressed in his black soutane. His long and broad sword was stuck vertically into a crack between two flags of the terrace so as to make a sundial. The shadow of the sword lengthened slowly and steadily, creeping towards the black shoes on Satan’s feet. Resting his sharp chin on his fist, hunched on the stool with one leg drawn under him, Woland stared fixedly1 at the endless collection of palaces, gigantic buildings and little hovels destined to be pulled down.

Azazello, having parted with his modem attire — that is, jacket, bowler hat and patent-leather shoes — and dressed, like Woland, in black, stood motionless not far from his sovereign, like him with his eyes fixed on the city.

Woland began to speak:

‘Such an interesting city, is it not?’

Azazello stirred and replied respectfully:

‘I like Rome better, Messire.’

‘Yes, it’s a matter of taste,’ replied Woland.

After a while, his voice resounded again:

‘And what is that smoke there on the boulevard?’

‘That is Griboedov’s burning,’ replied Azazello.

‘It must be supposed that that inseparable pair, Koroviev and Behemoth, stopped by there?’

‘Of that there can be no doubt, Messire.’

Again silence fell, and the two on the terrace gazed at the fragmented, dazzling sunlight in the upper-floor windows of the huge buildings facing west. Woland’s eye burned like one of those windows, though Woland had his back to the sunset.

But here something made Woland turn his attention to the round tower behind him on the roof. From its wall stepped a tattered, clay-covered, sullen man in a chiton, in home-made sandals, black-bearded.

‘Hah!’ exclaimed Woland, looking mockingly at the newcomer. ‘Least of all would I expect you here! What have you come with, uninvited guest?’ ‘I have come to see you, spirit of evil and sovereign of shadows,’ the newcomer replied, glowering inimically at Woland.

‘If you’ve come to see me, why didn’t you wish me a good evening, former tax collector?’ Woland said sternly.

‘Because I don’t wish you a good anything,’ the newcomer replied insolently.

‘But you’ll have to reconcile yourself to that,’ Woland objected, and a grin twisted his mouth. ‘You no sooner appear on the roof than you produce an absurdity, and I’ll tell you what it is — it’s your intonation. You uttered your words as if you don’t acknowledge shadows, or evil either. Kindly consider the question: what would your good do if evil did not exist, and what would the earth look like if shadows disappeared from it? Shadows are cast by objects and people. Here is the shadow of my sword. Trees and living beings also have shadows. Do you want to skin the whole earth, tearing all the trees and living things off it, because of your fantasy of enjoying bare light? You’re a fool.’ ‘I won’t argue with you, old sophist,’ replied Matthew Levi.

‘You also cannot argue with me, for the reason I’ve already mentioned: you’re a fool,’ Woland replied and asked: ‘Well, make it short, don’t weary me, why have you appeared?’ ‘He sent me.’

‘What did he tell you to say, slave?’

‘I’m not a slave,’ Matthew Levi replied, growing ever angrier, ‘I’m his disciple.’

‘You and I speak different languages, as usual,’ responded Woland, ‘but the things we say don’t change for all that. And so? …’ ‘He has read the master’s work,’ said Matthew Levi, ‘and asks you to take the master with you and reward him with peace. Is that hard for you to do, spirit of evil?’ ‘Nothing is hard for me to do,’ answered Woland, ‘you know that very well.’ He paused and added: ‘But why don’t you take him with you into the light?’ ‘He does not deserve the light, he deserves peace,’ Levi said in a sorrowful voice.

‘Tell him it will be done,’ Woland replied and added, his eye flashing: ‘And leave me immediately.’

‘He asks that she who loved him and suffered because of him also be taken with him,’ Levi addressed Woland pleadingly for the first time.

‘We would never have thought of it without you. Go.’

Matthew Levi disappeared after that, and Woland called Azazello and ordered him:

‘Fly to them and arrange it all.’

Azazello left the terrace, and Woland remained alone.

But his solitude did not last. Over the flags of the terrace came the sound of footsteps and animated voices, and before Woland stood Koroviev and Behemoth. But now the fat fellow had no primus with him, but was loaded with other things. Thus, under his arm he had a small landscape in a gold frame, from one hand hung a half-burnt cook’s smock, and in the other he held a whole salmon with skin and tail. Koroviev and Behemoth reeked of fire, Behemoth’s mug was all sooty and his cap was badly burnt.

‘Greetings, Messire!’ cried the irrepressible pair, and Behemoth waved the salmon.

‘A fine sight,’ said Woland.

‘Imagine, Messire!’ Behemoth cried excitedly and joyfully, ‘I was taken for a looter!’

‘Judging by the things you’ve brought,’ Woland replied, glancing at the landscape, ‘you are a looter!’

‘Believe me, Messire …’ Behemoth began in a soulful voice.

‘No, I don’t,‘Woland replied curtly.

‘Messire, I swear, I made heroic efforts to save everything I could, and this is all I was able to rescue.’

‘You’d better tell me, why did Griboedov’s catch fire?’ asked Woland.

Both Koroviev and Behemoth spread their arms, raised their eyes to heaven, and Behemoth cried out:

‘I can’t conceive why! We were sitting there peacefully, perfectly quiet, having a bite to eat …’

‘And suddenly - bang, bang!’ Koroviev picked up, ‘gunshots! Crazed with fear, Behemoth and I ran out to the boulevard, our pursuers followed, we rushed to Timiriazev! …’2 ‘But the sense of duty,’ Behemoth put in, ‘overcame our shameful fear and we went back.’

‘Ah, you went back?’ said Woland. ‘Well, then of course the building was reduced to ashes.’

‘To ashes!’ Koroviev ruefully confirmed, ‘that is, Messire, literally to ashes, as you were pleased to put it so aptly. Nothing but embers!’ ‘I hastened,’ Behemoth narrated, ‘to the meeting room, the one with the columns, Messire, hoping to bring out something valuable. Ah, Messire, my wife, if only I had one, was twenty times in danger of being left a widow! But happily, Messire, I’m not married, and, let me tell you, I’m really happy that I’m not. Ah, Messire, how can one trade a bachelor’s freedom for the burdensome yoke …’ ‘Again some gibberish gets going,’ observed Woland.

‘I hear and continue,’ the cat replied. ‘Yes, sir, this landscape here! It was impossible to bring anything more out of the meeting room, the flames were beating in my face. I ran to the pantry and rescued the salmon. I ran to the kitchen and rescued the smock. I think, Messire, that I did everything I could, and I don’t understand how to explain the sceptical expression on your face.’ ‘And what did Koroviev do while you were looting?’ asked Woland.

‘I was helping the firemen, Messire,’ replied Koroviev, pointing to his torn trousers.

‘Ah, if so, then of course a new building will have to be built.’

‘It will be built, Messire,’ Koroviev responded, ‘I venture to assure you of that.’

‘Well, so it remains for us to wish that it be better than the old one,’ observed Woland.

‘It will be, Messire,’ said Koroviev.

‘You can believe me,’ the cat added, ‘I’m a regular prophet.’

‘In any case, we’re here, Messire,’ Koroviev reported, ‘and await your orders.’

Woland got up from his stool, went over to the balustrade, and alone, silently, his back turned to his retinue, gazed into the distance for a long time. Then he stepped away from the edge, lowered himself on to his stool, and said: There will be no orders, you have fulfilled all you could, and for the moment I no longer need your services. You may rest. Right now a storm is coming, the last storm, it will complete all that needs completing, and we’ll be on our way.‘ ‘Very well, Messire,’ the two buffoons replied and disappeared somewhere behind the round central tower, which stood in the middle of the terrace.

The storm of which Woland had spoken was already gathering on the horizon. A black cloud rose in the west and cut off half the sun. Then it covered it entirely. The air became cool on the terrace. A little later it turned dark.

This darkness which came from the west covered the vast city. Bridges and palaces disappeared. Everything vanished as if it had never existed in the world. One fiery thread ran across the whole sky. Then a thunderclap shook the city. It was repeated, and the storm began. Woland could no longer be seen in its gloom.

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