فصل 30

کتاب: مرشد و مارگریتا / فصل 30

فصل 30

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  • زمان مطالعه 13 دقیقه
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It’s Time! It’s Time!

‘You know,’ said Margarita, ‘just as you fell asleep last night, I was reading about the darkness that came from the Mediterranean Sea … and those idols, ah, the golden idols! For some reason they never leave me in peace. I think it’s going to rain now, too. Do you feel how cool it’s getting?’ ‘That’s all well and good,’ replied the master, smoking and breaking up the smoke with his hand, ‘and as for the idols, God be with them … but what will happen further on is decidedly unclear!’ This conversation occurred at sunset, just at the moment when Matthew Levi came to Woland on the terrace. The basement window was open, and if anyone had looked through it, he would have been astonished at how strange the talkers looked. Margarita had a black cloak thrown directly over her naked body, and the master was in his hospital underwear. The reason for this was that Margarita had decidedly nothing to put on, because all her clothes had stayed in her house, and though this house was very near by, there was, of course, no question of going there to take her clothes. And the master, whose clothes were all found in the wardrobe as if he had never gone anywhere, simply did not want to get dressed, developing before Margarita the thought that some perfect nonsense was about to begin at any moment. True, he was clean-shaven for the first time since that autumn night (in the clinic his beard had been cut with clippers).

The room also had a strange look, and it was very hard to make anything out in its chaos. Manuscripts were lying on the rug, and on the sofa as well. A book sat humpbacked on an armchair. And dinner was set out on the round table, with several bottles standing among the dishes of food. Where all this food and drink came from was known neither to Margarita nor to the master. On waking up they found everything already on the table.

Having slept until sunset Saturday, the master and his friend felt themselves thoroughly fortified, and only one thing told of the previous day’s adventure — both had a slight ache in the left temple. But with regard to their minds, there were great changes in both of them, as anyone would have been convinced who was able to eavesdrop on the conversation in the basement. But there was decidedly no one to eavesdrop. That little courtyard was good precisely for being always empty. With each day the greening lindens and the ivy outside the window exuded an ever stronger smell of spring, and the rising breeze carried it into the basement.

‘Pah, the devil!’ exclaimed the master unexpectedly. ‘But, just think, it’s …’ he put out his cigarette butt in the ashtray and pressed his head with his hands. ‘No, listen, you’re an intelligent person and have never been crazy … are you seriously convinced that we were at Satan’s yesterday?’ ‘Quite seriously,’ Margarita replied.

‘Of course, of course,’ the master said ironically, ‘so now instead of one madman there are two - husband and wife!’ He raised his hands to heaven and cried: ‘No, the devil knows what this is! The devil, the devil …’ Instead of answering, Margarita collapsed on the sofa, burst out laughing, waved her bare legs, and only then cried out:

‘Aie, I can’t … I can’t! You should see what you look like! …‘

Having finished laughing, while the master bashfully pulled up his hospital drawers, Margarita became serious.

‘You unwittingly spoke the truth just now,’ she began, ‘the devil knows what it is, and the devil, believe me, will arrange everything!’ Her eyes suddenly flashed, she jumped up and began dancing on the spot, crying out: ‘How happy I am, how happy I am, how happy I am that I struck a bargain with him! Oh, Satan, Satan! … You’ll have to live with a witch, my dear!’ Then she rushed to the master, put her arms around his neck, and began kissing his lips, his nose, his cheeks. Strands of unkempt black hair leaped at the master, and his cheeks and forehead burned under the kisses.

‘And you’ve really come to resemble a witch.’

‘And I don’t deny it,’ answered Margarita, ‘I’m a witch and I’m very glad of it.’

‘Well, all right,’ said the master, ‘so you’re a witch, very nice, splendid! And I’ve been stolen from the hospital … also very nice! I’ve been brought here, let’s grant that, too. Let’s even suppose that we won’t be missed … But tell me, by all that’s holy, how and on what are we going to live? My concern is for you when I say that, believe me!’ At that moment round-toed shoes and the lower part of a pair of pinstriped trousers appeared in the window. Then the trousers bent at the knee and somebody’s hefty backside blocked the daylight.

‘Aloisy, are you home?’ asked a voice somewhere up above the trousers, outside the window.

‘There, it’s beginning,’ said the master.

‘Aloisy?’ asked Margarita, going closer to the window. ‘He was arrested yesterday. Who’s asking for him? What’s your name?’

That instant the knees and backside vanished, there came the bang of the gate, after which everything returned to normal. Margarita collapsed on the sofa and laughed so that tears poured from her eyes. But when she calmed down, her countenance changed greatly, she began speaking seriously, and as she spoke she slipped down from the couch, crept over to the master’s knees, and, looking into his eyes, began to caress his head.

‘How you’ve suffered, how you’ve suffered, my poor one! I’m the only one who knows it. Look, you’ve got white threads in your hair, and an eternal crease by your lips! My only one, my dearest, don’t think about anything! You’ve had to think too much, and now I’ll think for you. And I promise you, I promise, that everything will be dazzlingly well!’ ‘I’m not afraid of anything, Margot,’ the master suddenly answered her and raised his head, and he seemed to her the same as he had been when he was inventing that which he had never seen, but of which he knew for certain that it had been, ‘not afraid, because I’ve already experienced it all. They tried too hard to frighten me, and cannot frighten me with anything any more. But I pity you, Margot, that’s the trick, that’s why I keep saying it over and over. Come to your senses! Why do you have to ruin your life with a sick man and a beggar? Go back! I pity you, that’s why I say it.’ ‘Oh, you, you …’ Margarita whispered, shaking her dishevelled head, ‘oh, you faithless, unfortunate man! … Because of you I spent the whole night yesterday shivering and naked. I lost my nature and replaced it with a new one, I spent several months sitting in a dark closet thinking about one thing, about the storm over Yershalaim, I cried my eyes out, and now, when happiness has befallen us, you drive me away! Well, then I’ll go, I’ll go, but you should know that you are a cruel man! They’ve devastated your soul!’ Bitter tenderness rose up in the master’s heart, and, without knowing why, he began to weep, burying his face in Margarita’s hair. Weeping herself, she whispered to him, and her fingers trembled on the master’s temples.

‘Yes, threads, threads … before my eyes your head is getting covered with snow … ah, my much-suffering head! Look what eyes you’ve got! There’s a desert in them … and the shoulders, the shoulders with their burden … crippled, crippled …’ Margarita’s speech was becoming incoherent, Margarita was shaking with tears.

Then the master wiped his eyes, raised Margarita from her knees, got up himself and said firmly:

‘Enough. You’ve shamed me. Never again will I yield to faint-heartedness, or come back to this question, be reassured. I know that we’re both the victims of our mental illness, which you perhaps got from me … Well, so we’ll bear it together.’ Margarita put her lips close to the master’s ear and whispered:

‘I swear to you by your life, I swear by the astrologer’s son whom you guessed, that all will be well!’

‘Fine, fine,’ responded the master, and he added, laughing: ‘Of course, when people have been robbed of everything, like you and me, they seek salvation from other-worldly powers! Well, so, I agree to seek there.’ ‘Well, there, there, now you’re your old self, you’re laughing,’ replied Margarita, ‘and devil take you with your learned words. Other-worldly or not other-worldly, isn’t it all the same? I want to eat!’ And she dragged the master to the table by the hand.

‘I’m not sure this food isn’t about to fall through the floor or fly out the window,’ he said, now completely calm.

‘It won’t fly out.’

And just then a nasal voice came through the window:

‘Peace be unto you.’1

The master gave a start, but Margarita, already accustomed to the extraordinary, exclaimed:

‘Why, it’s Azazello! Ah, how nice, how good!’ and, whispering to the master: ‘You see, you see, we’re not abandoned!’ - she rushed to open the door.

‘Cover yourself at least,’ the master called after her.

‘Spit on it,’ answered Margarita, already in the corridor.

And there was Azazello bowing, greeting the master, and flashing his blind eye, while Margarita exclaimed:

‘Ah, how glad I am! I’ve never been so glad in my life! But forgive me, Azazello, for being naked!’

Azazello begged her not to worry, assuring her that he had seen not only naked women, but even women with their skin flayed clean off, and willingly sat down at the table, having first placed some package wrapped in dark brocade in the comer by the stove.

Margarita poured Azazello some cognac, and he willingly drank it. The master, not taking his eyes off him, quietly pinched his own left hand under the table. But the pinches did not help. Azazello did not melt into air, and, to tell the truth, there was no need for that. There was nothing terrible in the short, reddish-haired man, unless it was his eye with albugo, but that occurs even without sorcery, or unless his clothes were not quite ordinary - some sort of cassock or cloak — but again, strictly considered, that also happens. He drank his cognac adroitly, too, as all good people do, by the glassful and without nibbling. From this same cognac the master’s head became giddy, and he began to think: ‘No, Margarita’s right … Of course, this is the devil’s messenger sitting before me. No more than two nights ago, I myself tried to prove to Ivan that it was precisely Satan whom he had met at the Patriarch’s Ponds, and now for some reason I got scared of the thought and started babbling something about hypnotists and hallucinations … Devil there’s any hypnotists in it! …’ He began looking at Azazello more closely and became convinced that there was some constraint in his eyes, some thought that he would not reveal before its time. ‘This is not just a visit, he’s come on some errand,’ thought the master.

His powers of observation did not deceive him. After drinking a third glass of cognac, which produced no effect in Azazello, the visitor spoke thus:

‘A cosy little basement, devil take me! Only one question arises - what is there to do in this little basement?’

‘That’s just what I was saying,’ the master answered, laughing.

‘Why do you trouble me, Azazello?’ asked Margarita. ‘We’ll live somehow or other!’

‘Please, please!’ cried Azazello, ‘I never even thought of troubling you. I say the same thing - somehow or other! Ah, yes! I almost forgot … Messire sends his regards and has also asked me to tell you that he invites you to go on a little excursion with him - if you wish, of course. What do you say to that?’ Margarita nudged the master under the table with her leg.

‘With great pleasure,’ replied the master, studying Azazello, who continued:

‘We hope that Margarita Nikolaevna will also not decline the invitation?’

‘I certainly will not,’ said Margarita, and again her leg brushed against the master’s.

‘A wonderful thing!’ exclaimed Azazello. ‘I like that! One, two, and it’s done! Not like that time in the Alexandrovsky Garden!’

‘Ah, don’t remind me, Azazello, I was stupid then. And anyhow you mustn’t blame me too severely for it — you don’t meet unclean powers every day!’

That you don‘t!’ agreed Azazello. ‘Wouldn’t it be pleasant if it was every day!’

‘I like quickness myself,’ Margarita said excitedly, ‘I like quickness and nakedness … Like from a Mauser — bang! Ah, how he shoots!’ Margarita cried, turning to the master. ‘A seven under the pillow — any pip you like! …’ Margarita was getting drunk, and it made her eyes blaze.

‘And again I forgot!’ cried Azazello, slapping himself on the forehead. ‘I’m quite frazzled! Messire sends you a present,’ here he adverted precisely to the master, ‘a bottle of wine. I beg you to note that it’s the same wine the procurator of Judea drank. Falemian wine.’ It was perfectly natural that such a rarity should arouse great attention in both Margarita and the master. Azazello drew from the piece of dark coffin brocade a completely mouldy jug. The wine was sniffed, poured into glasses, held up to the light in the window, which was disappearing before the storm.

‘To Woland’s health!’ exclaimed Margarita, raising her glass.

All three put their glasses to their lips and took big gulps. At once the pre-storm light began to fade in the master’s eyes, his breath failed him, and he felt the end coming. He could still see the deathly pale Margarita, helplessly reaching her arms out to him, drop her head to the table and then slide down on the floor.

‘Poisoner…’ the master managed to cry out. He wanted to snatch the knife from the table and strike Azazello with it, but his hand slid strengthlessly from the tablecloth, everything around the master in the basement took on a black colour and then vanished altogether. He fell backwards and in falling cut the skin of his temple on the comer of his desk.

When the poisoned ones lay still, Azazello began to act. First of all, he rushed out of the window and a few instants later was in the house where Margarita Nikolaevna lived. The ever precise and accurate Azazello wanted to make sure that everything was carried out properly. And everything turned out to be in perfect order. Azazello saw a gloomy woman, who was waiting for her husband’s return, come out of her bedroom, suddenly turn pale, clutch her heart, and cry helplessly: ‘Natasha … somebody … come …’ and fall to the floor in the living room before reaching the study.

‘Everything’s in order,’ said Azazello. A moment later he was beside the fallen lovers. Margarita lay with her face against the little rug. With his iron hands, Azazello turned her over like a doll, face to him, and peered at her. The face of the poisoned woman was changing before his eyes. Even in the gathering dusk of the storm, one could see the temporary witch’s cast in her eyes and the cruelty and violence of her features disappear. The face of the dead woman brightened and finally softened, and the look of her bared teeth was no longer predatory but simply that of a suffering woman. Then Azazello unclenched her white teeth and poured into her mouth several drops of the same wine with which he had poisoned her. Margarita sighed, began to rise without Azazello’s help, sat up and asked weakly: ‘Why, Azazello, why? What have you done to me?’

She saw the outstretched master, shuddered, and whispered:

‘I didn’t expect this … murderer!’

‘Oh, no, no,’ answered Azazello, ‘he’ll rise presently. Ah, why are you so nervous?’

Margarita believed him at once, so convincing was the red-headed demon’s voice. She jumped up, strong and alive, and helped to give the outstretched man a drink of wine. Opening his eyes, he gave a dark look and with hatred repeated his last word: ‘Poisoner …’

‘Ah, insults are the usual reward for a good job!’ replied Azazello. ‘Are you blind? Well, quickly recover your sight!’

Here the master rose, looked around with alive and bright eyes, and asked:

‘What does this new thing mean?’

‘It means,’ replied Azazello, ‘that it’s time for us to go. The storm is already thundering, do you hear? It’s getting dark. The steeds are pawing the ground, your little garden is shuddering. Say farewell, quickly say farewell to your little basement.’ ‘Ah, I understand …’ the master said, glancing around, ‘you’ve killed us, we’re dead. Oh, how intelligent that is! And how timely! Now I understand everything.’

‘Oh, for pity’s sake,’ replied Azazello, ‘is it you I hear talking? Your friend calls you a master, you can think, so how can you be dead? Is it necessary, in order to consider yourself alive, to sit in a basement and dress yourself in a shirt and hospital drawers? It’s ridiculous! …’ ‘I understand everything you’re saying,’ the master cried out, ‘don’t go on! You’re a thousand times right!’

‘Great Woland!’ Margarita began to echo him. ‘Great Woland! He thought it out much better than I did! But the novel, the novel,’ she shouted to the master, ‘take the novel with you wherever you fly!’ ‘No need,’ replied the master, ‘I remember it by heart.’

‘But you won’t … you won’t forget a single word of it?’ Margarita asked, pressing herself to her lover and wiping the blood from his cut temple.

‘Don’t worry. I’ll never forget anything now,’ he replied.

‘Fire, then!’ cried Azazello. ‘Fire, with which all began and with which we end it all.’

‘Fire!’ Margarita cried terribly. The little basement window banged, the curtain was beaten aside by the wind. The sky thundered merrily and briefly. Azazello thrust his clawed hand into the stove, pulled out a smoking brand, and set fire to the tablecloth. Then he set fire to the stack of old newspapers on the sofa, and next to the manuscripts and the window curtain.

The master, already drunk with the impending ride, flung some book from the shelf on to the table, ruffled its pages in the flame of the tablecloth, and the book blazed up merrily.

‘Burn, burn, former life!’

‘Burn, suffering!’ cried Margarita.

The room was already swaying in crimson pillars, and along with the smoke the three ran out of the door, went up the stone steps, and came to the yard. The first thing they saw there was the landlord’s cook sitting on the ground. Beside her lay spilled potatoes and several bunches of onions. The cook’s state was comprehensible. Three black steeds snorted by the shed, twitching, sending up fountains of earth. Margarita mounted first, then Azazello, and last the master. The cook moaned and wanted to raise her hand to make the sign of the cross, but Azazello shouted menacingly from the saddle: ‘I’ll cut your hand off!’ He whistled, and the steeds, breaking through the linden branches, soared up and pierced the low black cloud. Smoke poured at once from the basement window. From below came the weak, pitiful cry of the cook: ‘We’re on fire …’

The steeds were already racing over the rooftops of Moscow.

‘I want to bid farewell to the city,’ the master cried to Azazello, who rode at their head. Thunder ate up the end of the master’s phrase. Azazello nodded and sent his horse into a gallop. The dark cloud flew precipitously to meet the fliers, but as yet gave not a sprinkle of rain.

They flew over the boulevards, they saw little figures of people scatter, running for shelter from the rain. The first drops were falling. They flew over smoke - all that remained of Griboedov House. They flew over the city which was already being flooded by darkness. Over them lightning flashed. Soon the roofs gave place to greenery. Only then did the rain pour down, transforming the fliers into three huge bubbles in the water.

Margarita was already familiar with the sensation of flight, but the master was not, and he marvelled at how quickly they reached their goal, the one to whom he wished to bid farewell, because he had no one else to bid farewell to. He immediately recognized through the veil of rain the building of Stravinsky’s clinic, the river, and the pine woods on the other bank, which he had studied so well. They came down in the clearing of a copse not far from the clinic.

‘I’ll wait for you here,’ cried Azazello, his hands to his mouth, now lit up by lightning, now disappearing behind the grey veil. ‘Say your farewells, but be quick!’

The master and Margarita jumped from their saddles and flew, flickering like watery shadows, through the clinic garden. A moment later the master, with an accustomed hand, was pushing aside the balcony grille of room no. 117. Margarita followed after him. They stepped into Ivanushka’s room, unseen and unnoticed in the rumbling and howling of the storm. The master stopped by the bed.

Ivanushka lay motionless, as before, when for the first time he had watched a storm in the house of his repose. But he was not weeping as he had been then. Once he had taken a good look at the dark silhouette that burst into his room from the balcony, he raised himself, held out his hands, and said joyfully: ‘Ah, it’s you! And I kept waiting and waiting for you! And here you are, my neighbour!’

To this the master replied:

‘I’m here, but unfortunately I cannot be your neighbour any longer. I’m flying away for ever, and I’ve come to you only to say farewell.’

‘I knew that, I guessed it,’ Ivan replied quietly and asked: ‘You met him?’

‘Yes,’ said the master. ‘I’ve come to say farewell to you, because you are the only person I’ve talked with lately.’

Ivanushka brightened up and said:

‘It’s good that you stopped off here. I’ll keep my word, I won’t write any more poems. I’m interested in something else now,’ Ivanushka smiled and with mad eyes looked somewhere past the master. ‘I want to write something else. You know, while I lay here, a lot became clear to me.’ The master was excited by these words and, sitting on the edge of Ivanushka’s bed, said:

‘Ah, but that’s good, that’s good. You’ll write a sequel about him.’

Ivanushka’s eyes lit up.

‘But won’t you do that yourself?’ Here he hung his head and added pensively: ‘Ah, yes … what am I asking?’ Ivanushka looked sidelong at the floor, his eyes fearful.

‘Yes,’ said the master, and his voice seemed unfamiliar and hollow to Ivanushka, ‘I won’t write about him any more now. I’ll be occupied with other things.’

A distant whistle cut through the noise of the storm.

‘Do you hear?’ asked the master.

‘The noise of the storm …’

‘No, I’m being called, it’s time for me to go,’ explained the master, and he got up from the bed.

‘Wait! One word more,’ begged Ivan. ‘Did you find her? Did she remain faithful to you?’

‘Here she is,’ the master replied and pointed to the wall. The dark Margarita separated from the white wall and came up to the bed. She looked at the young man lying there and sorrow could be read in her eyes.

‘Poor boy, poor boy …’ Margarita whispered soundlessly and bent down to the bed.

‘She’s so beautiful,’ Ivan said, without envy, but sadly, and with a certain quiet tenderness. ‘Look how well everything has turned out for you. But not so for me.’ Here he thought a little and added thoughtfully: ‘Or else maybe it is so …’ ‘It is so, it is so,’ whispered Margarita, and she bent closer to him. ‘I’m going to kiss you now, and everything will be as it should be with you … believe me in that, I’ve seen everything, I know everything …’ The young man put his arms around her neck and she kissed him.

‘Farewell, disciple,’ the master said barely audibly and began melting into air. He disappeared, and Margarita disappeared with him. The balcony grille was closed.

Ivanushka fell into anxiety. He sat up in bed, looked around uneasily, even moaned, began talking to himself, got up. The storm raged more and more, and evidently stirred up his soul. He was also upset by the troubling footsteps and muted voices that his ear, accustomed to the constant silence, heard outside the door. He called out, now nervous and trembling: ‘Praskovya Fyodorovna!’

Praskovya Fyodorovna was already coming into the room, looking at Ivanushka questioningly and uneasily.

‘What? What is it?’ she asked. The storm upsets you? Never mind, never mind … we’ll help you now … I’ll call the doctor now …‘

‘No, Praskovya Fyodorovna, you needn’t call the doctor,’ said Ivanushka, looking anxiously not at Praskovya Fyodorovna but into the wall. ‘There’s nothing especially the matter with me. I can sort things out now, don’t worry. But you’d better tell me,’ Ivan begged soulfully, ‘what just happened in room one-eighteen?’ ‘Eighteen?’ Praskovya Fyodorovna repeated, and her eyes became furtive. ‘Why, nothing happened there.’ But her voice was false, Ivanushka noticed it at once and said:

‘Eh, Praskovya Fyodorovna! You’re such a truthful person … You think I’ll get violent? No, Praskovya Fyodorovna, that won’t happen. You’d better speak directly, for I can feel everything through the wall.’ ‘Your neighbour has just passed away,’ whispered Praskovya Fyodorovna, unable to overcome her truthfulness and kindness, and, all clothed in a flash of lightning, she looked fearfully at Ivanushka. But nothing terrible happened to Ivanushka. He only raised his finger significantly and said: ‘I knew it! I assure you, Praskovya Fyodorovna, that yet another person has just passed away in the city. I even know who,’ here Ivanushka smiled mysteriously. ‘It’s a woman!’

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