psna.ru

Magazine for tourists

Table of contents


Kinds of tourism

Excursion (author BV Emelyanov)

introduction

1. Fundamentals Excursion

2. guided technique

3. Professional skills guide

Tunisia (author Danielle shetar Friedrich chum)

In the Sikhote-Alin (author VK Arseniev)

Michail bulgakov. the heart of a dog

Mikhail bulgakov. the master and margarita

 Contents
 1. never talk to strangers
 Pontius pilate
 The seventh proof
 The pursuit
 The affair at griboyedov
 Schizophrenia
 The haunted flat
 A. duel between professor and poet
 Koroviev's tricks
 News from yalta
 The two ivans
 Black magic revealed
 Enter the hero
 Saved by cock-crow
 The dream of nikanor ivanovich
 The execution
 A day of anxiety
 Unwelcome visitors
 Margarita
 Azazello's cream
 The flight
 By candlelight
 Satan's rout
 The master is released
 How the procurator tried to save judas of karioth
 The burial
 The last of flat no.50
 The final adventure of koroviev and behemoth
 The fate of the master and margarita is decided
 Time to go
 On sparrow hills
 Absolution and eternal refuge
 Epilogue
Charlotte bronte. jane eyre

F. scott fitzgerald / the great gatsby

Jerome klapka jerome / three men in a boat


 Home
     Mikhail bulgakov. the master and margarita
          Unwelcome visitors

Unwelcome Visitors

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:

have been run over BY TRAM AT PATRIARCHS FUNERAL THREE O'CLOCK FRIDAY

PLEASE COME BERLIOZ

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

window.

' 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

pale.

' 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

answer.

' 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

understand?'

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

went.

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

downstairs.

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

staying.

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:

' Hullo!'

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

Theatre.'

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

critic.

' 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

muddled.

' 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

purpose.'

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

shoulders.

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

said:

' 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

done.

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

do.

' 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

window.

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!


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