Time to Go
' 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
' 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
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
' 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
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
' 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
' 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
' 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 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
' 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.
'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!'
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