The Master and Margarita 11 страница

"You are right They have changed a great deal... on the outside, I mean, as has the city, by the way. Apart from the obvious changes in dress, there are now these... what are they called... streetcars, automobiles..."

"Buses," Fagot chimed in, respectfully.

The audience listened attentively to this conversation, thinking it was the prelude to the magic tricks. In the crowd of performers and stage hands backstage, Rimsky's pale, tense face could be seen.

Bengalsky, who had moved to the side of the stage, began to look bewildered. He raised his eyebrows slighdy and, taking advantage of The Master and Margarita 11 страница the pause, said, "The foreign artiste is expressing his delight with Moscow, which has advanced technologically, and with its inhabitants as well." Here Bengalsky smiled twice, first at the orchestra, and then at the gallery.

Woland, Fagot, and the cat turned their heads toward the master of ceremonies.

"Did I really express delight?" the magician asked Fagot.

"No, indeed, Messire, you expressed no delight whatsoever," was Fagot's reply.

"So what is this man talking about?"

"He simply lied!" pronounced the assistant in checks, booming out his words to the entire theater, and turning to Bengalsky, he added, "My compliments, citizen, on The Master and Margarita 11 страница your lies."

Laughter broke out in the gallery, and Bengalsky shuddered, his eyes bulging.

"But I, of course, am not so much interested in buses, telephones, and such..."

"Apparatus!" prompted the fellow in checks.

"Exacdy so, thank you," said the magician slowly, in a deep bass. "A much more important question is: have the Muscovites changed on the inside?"

"Indeed, sir, that is a most important question."

Backstage, people began exchanging looks and shrugging their


102 The Master and Margaría

shoulders; Bengalsky stood red-faced, and Rimsky was pale. But at this point the magician seemed to sense the growing The Master and Margarita 11 страница alarm and said, "However, we've gotten carried away, dear Fagot, and the audience is beginning to get bored. Show us something simple for starters."

The audience stirred with relief. Fagot and the cat walked along the footlights to opposite ends of the stage. Fagot snapped his fingers and shouted cavalierly, "Three, four!" He then pulled a deck of cards out of thin air, shuffled it, and tossed it like a ribbon to the cat. The latter caught the ribbon of cards and threw it back. The satin snake gave a snort, Fagot opened his mouth wide The Master and Margarita 11 страница, like a fledgling, and swallowed all of it, card after card.

After that the cat made a bow, shuffled his right hind paw, and received thunderous applause.

"First-class! First-class!" people cried rapturously from backstage.

Fagot pointed his finger at the orchestra section and announced, "The deck of cards is now, my esteemed citizens, in row seven in citizen Parchevsky's possession, that is, lodged just in between a three-ruble note and a summons to appear in court for non-payment of alimony to citizeness Zelkova."

People in the orchestra began to stir and rise from their seats, and The Master and Margarita 11 страница finally a man, whose name was, in fact, Parchevsky, and who had turned red with astonishment, retrieved the deck of cards from his wallet and, not knowing what else to do with it, began poking it in the air.

"Keep it as a souvenir!" yelled Fagot. "You weren't kidding yesterday when you said at supper that if it weren't for poker, your life in Moscow would be totally unbearable."

"That's an old trick," shouted someone from the balcony. "The guy in the orchestra is part of the act."

"You think so?" bellowed Fagot, narrowing The Master and Margarita 11 страница his eyes at the balcony. "In that case, you're part of the act too, because now the deck is in your pocket!"

There was a stir in the balcony, and a joyous voice rang out, "It's true! He does have it! Here, here... but wait! They're ten-ruble notes!"

The spectators in the orchestra turned their heads. In the balcony a perplexed citizen had found a packet of bills in his pocket, wrapped die way they are at the bank, with the words "One Thousand Rubles" written on top.



His neighbors descended upon him, while he, flabbergasted, picked at The Master and Margarita 11 страница the wrapper with his nail, trying to ascertain whether the notes were real or make-believe.

"By God, they're real! Ten-ruble notes!" came joyous shouts from the balcony.

"Play me a game with a pack like that," said a fat man merrily, who was seated in the center of the orchestra.

"Avec plaisir!" replied Fagot, "but why just you? Everyone will take


Black Magic and Its Exposé 103

parti" And he gave a command, "Everybody look up please!" "One!" A pistol appeared in his hand. "Two," he shouted. The pistol jerked upwards. "Three!" he shouted. There was a flash The Master and Margarita 11 страница, a bang, and suddenly white pieces of paper began to rain down onto the hall, falling from the dome ceiling, and diving in between the trapezes.

They whirled all around, scattered off to the sides, pelted the balcony, piled into the orchestra pit and onto the stage. Within seconds, growing thicker as it fell, the rain of bills had reached the seats, and the audience began catching them.

Hundreds of hands went up, people held the bills up to the light from the stage and found watermarks that were perfectly genuine and authentic. The smell of the The Master and Margarita 11 страница bills also left no room for doubt: it was the incomparably delectable smell of newly minted money. First merriment and then astonishment swept the theater. It was all abuzz with the words "ten-ruble notes," "ten-ruble notes," and happy laughter was heard and shouts of "ah, ah!" Some people were already crawling in the aisles, looking under the seats, and many were standing on top of their seats, trying to catch the capriciously twirling bills.

The faces of the policemen began to look more and more bewildered, and performers piled out from backstage.

In the dress circle The Master and Margarita 11 страница a voice was heard saying, "What's that you're grabbing? That's mine! It was coming toward me!" Another voice yelled, "Don't push me or I'll push you back!" And suddenly a slap was heard, whereupon a policeman's helmet appeared in the dress circle and someone was taken away.

The general excitement grew in intensity, and no one knows how it all would have ended if Fagot had not put a stop to the shower of rubles by suddenly blowing into the air.

Two young men exchanged a happy and meaningful glance, got up from their seats The Master and Margarita 11 страница and headed straight for the buffet. The theater was abuzz, and all eyes gleamed with excitement Yes, yes, who knows how it all would have ended if Bengalsky had not summoned up the strength to do something. Making an effort to regain his composure, he rubbed his hands together in his customary way, and his voice resonated loudly, "Citizens, we have just witnessed an example of so-called mass hypnosis. A purely scientific experiment, designed to prove beyond a doubt that there are no miracles and that magic does not exist. Let's ask Maestro Woland to show The Master and Margarita 11 страница us how the experiment was done. Now, citizens, you shall see how these paper bills that seem to be money will disappear as suddenly as they appeared."

Here he began to clap, but no one joined in. As he clapped, a confident smile played on his face, but that same confidence was not reflected in his eyes. They, on the contrary, were full of entreaty.

The audience did not like Bengalsky's speech. A total silence ensued which was then broken by the checked Fagot.


104 The Master and Margarita

"Yet another example of what we call balderdash," he announced in a The Master and Margarita 11 страница loud braying tenor. "The paper bills, citizens, are real money!"

"Bravo!" a bass bellowed out from somewhere on high.

"And by the way," said Fagot, pointing at Bengalsky, "this fellow is getting to be a bore. He keeps butting in when nobody asks him to and spoiling the performance with his bogus comments! What should we do with him?"

"Tear off his head!" came a stem voice from the balcony.

"What did you say? What was that?" said Fagot, responding to the ugly suggestion. "Tear off his head? Now that's an idea! Behemoth!" he screamed to the cat, "Do The Master and Margarita 11 страница it! Eins, zwei, drei!!"

Then an incredible thing happened. The cat's black fur stood on end, and he let out a spine-tingling "meow." Then he shrunk into a ball, and like a panther, lunged straight at Bengalsky's chest, and from there leapt onto his head. With a low growl, the cat stuck his chubby paws into the emcee's greasy hair, and with a savage howl, tore the head off its thick neck in two twists.

The two and a half thousand people in the theater screamed in unison. Fountains of blood spurted from The Master and Margarita 11 страница the severed arteries in the neck and poured down the emcee's shirt front and tailcoat. The headless body's legs buckled absurdly, and it plopped onto the floor. The hysterical screams of women were heard. The cat handed the head to Fagot, who lifted it up by the hair and showed it to the audience, and the head cried out desperately to the whole theater, "Get a doctor!"

"Are you going to keep on talking rubbish?" Fagot inquired of the weeping head in threatening tones.

"I won't anymore!" rasped the head.

"Stop torturing him, for God's sake The Master and Margarita 11 страница!" shouted a woman in the loge. The magician turned in her direction.

"So, ladies and gentlemen, should we forgive him?" asked Fagot, addressing the audience.

"Yes, forgive him, forgive him!" shouted individual and, for the most part, female voices which then joined with male voices to form a single chorus.

"What is your command, Messire?" asked Fagot of the man in the mask.

"Well," the latter replied pensively, "they are like people anywhere. They love money, but that has always been true... People love money, no matter what it is made of, leather, paper, bronze, or gold The Master and Margarita 11 страница. And they are thoughtless... but, then again, sometimes mercy enters their hearts... they are ordinary people... On the whole, they remind me of their predecessors... only the housing shortage has had a bad effect on them..." And in a loud voice he commanded, "Put his head back on."

Taking care to make sure it was on right, the cat plopped the head back in place, and it sat on the neck as if it had never left. And, most im-


Block Magic and Its Exposé 105

portant, not even a scar was left on the neck. The cat swept his paws The Master and Margarita 11 страница over Bengalsky's shirtfront and tailcoat, and the bloodstains vanished. Fagot lifted the seated Bengalsky to his feet, stuck a packet of ten-ruble bills into his coat pocket and directed him off stage with the words, "Get lost! It's more fun without you."

Swaying and looking around in a daze, the emcee made it only as far as the fire extinguisher, and there he got sick. He cried in woe, "My head, my head!''

Rimsky was among those who rushed over to him. The emcee cried, grabbed at the air with his hands, and mumbled, "Give The Master and Margarita 11 страница me back my head) Give me back my head! Take my apartment, take my pictures, only give me back my head!"

A messenger ran for a doctor. People urged Bengalsky to lie down on a couch in the dressing room, but he fought them off and got rowdy. An ambulance had to be called. When the unfortunate emcee had been carted off, Rimsky ran back to the stage, only to find new miracles in progress. And, by the way, it was either then, or a short time before that, that the magician and his faded armchair disappeared from the stage—something The Master and Margarita 11 страница which the audience failed to notice, totally absorbed as it was in the extraordinary things Fagot was doing on stage.

After dispatching the ailing emcee, Fagot made the following announcement, "Now that we've gotten rid ofthat bore, let's open a store for the ladies!"

Suddenly the stage floor was covered with Persian rugs, huge mirrors appeared, illuminated along the sides by elongated green bulbs, and between the mirrors were glass display cases where the audience, in a state of happy bedazzlement, beheld Parisian frocks in various colors and styles. These were in some of the cases The Master and Margarita 11 страница, and in others were hundreds of hats, with feathers and without, and hundreds of shoes, with buckles and without—black, white, yellow, leather, satin, suede, shoes with straps and shoes with gems. Containers of perfume appeared among the shoes, as well as mountains of chamois, satin, and silk handbags with piles of elongated, embossed gold lipstick cases scattered in between them.

The devil only knows where the red-haired girl in the black evening dress came from, who was standing by the display cases with a proprietary smile, her beauty marred only by a strange scar on her The Master and Margarita 11 страница neck.

With a saccharine smile, Fagot announced to the women in the audience that the store would exchange their old clothes and shoes for Parisian styles and Parisian shoes. He added that the same sort of exchange would apply to handbags and the like.

The cat scraped his hind paw and, simultaneously, gestured with his front paw, the way doormen do upon opening the door.

Sweetly, albeit with a touch of throatiness, the redhead began to recite words which were baffling but seductive, judging by the women's faces in the orchestra, "Guerlain, Chanel No. 5, Milsouko, Narcisse Noir, evening


106 The The Master and Margarita 11 страница Master and Margarita

gowns, cocktail dresses..."

Fagot twisted and squirmed, the cat bowed, and the girl opened the glass cases.

"Be our guests!" bellowed Fagot. "No need to be shy or stand on ceremony!"

The audience was excited, but no one, as yet, made any move to go up on stage. Finally, a brunette stepped out of the tenth row of the orchestra and, smiling as if to say she had nothing better to do, came down the aisle and walked up the side stairs to the stage.

"Bravo!" cried Fagot. "Greetings to our first customer! Behemoth, bring the lady a chair! Shall The Master and Margarita 11 страница we begin with shoes, Madame!"

The brunette sat down in the chair, whereupon Fagot laid out a whole pile of shoes on the carpet in front of her. She took off her right shoe, tried on a lilac one, tapped her foot on the carpet, and examined the heel.

"Won't they pinch?" she asked thoughtfully.

"Madame, Madame!" exclaimed Fagot in offended tones, and the cat gave an insulted meow.

"I'll take this pair, Monsieur," said the brunette with dignity as she put on the other shoe.

The brunette's old shoes were thrown behind the The Master and Margarita 11 страница curtain, and she herself headed in that direction, accompanied by the redhead and Fagot, who was carrying hangers draped with an assortment of dresses in different styles. The cat fussed about, offered assistance, and hung a tape measure around his neck in order to look more important.

A minute later the brunette came out from behind the curtain wearing a dress that made the entire orchestra section gasp. The brave woman, whose appearance had improved amazingly, stopped in front of the mirror, straightened her bare shoulders, touched the hair at the back of her neck, and twisted around, trying to get The Master and Margarita 11 страница a look at herself from the rear.

The firm asks you to accept this as a memento," said Fagot, handing her an open box with a bottle of perfume inside.

"Merci, " the brunette answered haughtily, and she went back down to her seat. As she walked up the aisle, people jumped up, trying to touch the box.

And at this point all hell broke loose, women came onto the stage from all directions. Above the general din of excited chatter, laughter and sighs, a man's voice was heard saying, "I won't let you!" and a woman The Master and Margarita 11 страница's voice reposting, "Tyrant, philistine! Don't break my arm!" Women disappeared behind the curtain, left their dresses there and came out wearing new ones. An entire row of ladies sat on gilt-legged stools, energetically tapping the carpet with their newly shod feet. Fagot was down on his knees, assisting with a metal shoehorn; the cat was wearing himself out, trudging back and forth between the display cases and the


Block Magic and lu Exposé 107

stools, weighted down with piles of handbags and shoes; the redhead with the disfigured neck would appear and disappear, and it got The Master and Margarita 11 страница to the point where she was chattering away exclusively in French, and amazingly, the women understood everything she said, even those who did not know a word of French.

There was general astonishment when a man made his way onto the stage and announced that his wife had influenza, and that he was there to ask for something on her behalf. To prove that he was married, the man was ready to show his passport. The declaration of the concerned husband provoked laughter, Fagot yelled that he believed him completely, even without a passport, and handed him two pairs The Master and Margarita 11 страница of silk stockings. The cat, for his part, threw in a lipstick case.

The women who were latecomers rushed onto the stage, while the lucky ones poured off it dressed in ball gowns, lounging pajamas with dragons, severely cut suits, and hats tilted over the eyebrow.

Then Fagot announced that due to the late hour, in exactly one minute the store would be closing until tomorrow evening. There was an incredible uproar on stage. Women snatched up shoes in haste, without even trying them on. One woman swept behind the curtain like a tempest, tore off her clothes and grabbed the first The Master and Margarita 11 страница thing in sight—a silk robe with a huge floral design, and for good measure, she grabbed two bottles of perfume too.

Exactly a minute later a shot rang out, the mirrors disappeared, the display cases and stools vanished, and the carpet melted into thin air along with the curtain. The last thing to disappear was the mountain of old dresses and shoes, and the stage again became stark, empty and bare.

And then a new character got involved in the act.

A pleasant, resonant, and very persistent baritone was heard coming from Box No. 2.

"Just the same, citizen The Master and Margarita 11 страница artiste, it would be much appreciated if you would reveal to the audience the techniques you use in your magic, especially the trick with the paper bills. The return of the emcee to the stage would also be appreciated. The audience is worried about his fate."

The baritone belonged to none other than Arkady Apollonovich Sempleyarov, a guest of honor at that evening's performance, and the chairman of the Acoustics Commission for Moscow Theaters.

Arkady Apollonovich was seated in a box with two ladies: one older, expensively and stylishly dressed, and the other young, pretty, and The Master and Margarita 11 страница dressed more simply. The former was Arkady Apollonovich's wife, as the official report of the proceedings would later reveal, and the latter was a distant relative of his, an aspiring young actress, who had arrived from Saratov, and was staying with Arkady Apollonovich and his wife in their apartment.

"Pardon!" retorted Fagot. "I beg your pardon, but there is nothing to reveal here. Everything is clear."


108 The Master and Margarita

"No, I'm sorry! An exposé is absolutely imperative. Otherwise your brilliant act will leave a painful impression. The audience demands an explanation."

"The audience," said the impudent buffoon, interrupting Sempleya The Master and Margarita 11 страница-rov, "seems to have said nothing, right? But in deference to your wishes, I shall begin the exposé in a moment. However, for that purpose will you allow me to present one final little number?"

"Why not," replied Arkady Apollonovich in a condescending tone, "but make sure it comes with an exposé!"

"Of course, of course. Well then, Arkady Apollonovich, may I ask you where you were yesterday evening?"

Upon hearing this inappropriate and, possibly, even rude question, Arkady Apollonovich's face changed dramatically.

"Yesterday evening Arkady Apollonovich was at a meeting of the Acoustics Commission," declared Arkady The Master and Margarita 11 страница Apollonovich's wife very haughtily, "but I don't understand what this has to do with magic."

"Oui, madame!" confirmed Fagot "Naturally, you don't! As for the meeting, you're completely mistaken. Arkady Apollonovich left for the alleged meeting, which, to set the record straight, was not scheduled for yesterday, and then when he got to Chislye Prudy, where the Acoustics Commission meets, he let his driver go (the whole audience grew hushed) and went by bus to Yelokhovsky Street to pay a visit to Militsa Andreyevna Pokobatko, an actress in a touring regional company, and he stayed The Master and Margarita 11 страница there for about four hours."

"Ohl" came an anguished cry in the hushed silence.

Arkady Apollonovich's young relative suddenly let out a low-pitched, terrifying laugh.

That explains everything!" she exclaimed. "And I've had my suspicions for a long time. Now I know why that third-rater got the part of Luisa!"

And then she suddenly waved her short, stubby, lilac umbrella and hit Arkady Apollonovich over the head.

The vile Fagot, alias Korovyov, cried out, "Here you have, respected citizens, the kind of exposé which Arkady Apollonovich so persistently asked for!"

"You wretched woman, how dare you The Master and Margarita 11 страница lay a hand on Arkady Apollonovich!" threatened his spouse, rising up to her full height in the box.

The young relative was seized with another fit of satanic laughter.

"If anyone can lay a hand on him, I certainly can," she answered through her laughter, and again her umbrella was heard, cracking Arkady Apollonovich over the head.

"Police! Arrest her!" shrieked Madame Sempleyarov in such a terrifying voice that it made many people's blood run cold.

And at this point the cat leapt up to the footlights and roared out to the theater in a human The Master and Margarita 11 страница voice, The show is over! Maestro! Hack out a march!!"


Block Mafic and lu Exposé 109

The half-crazed conductor, only dimly aware of what he was doing, waved his baton, and the orchestra did not so much start to play, burst out in, or even strike up, but rather, to use the cat's repulsive expression, it hacked out an improbable march, so sloppily played that it did not resemble a march at all.

For a moment it seemed as if the half-clear, semi-distinct, yet provocative words of the march had been heard, once upon a The Master and Margarita 11 страница time, in a café-chantant somewhere under southern skies:

His Excellency Had a taste for domestic fowl And was always on the prowl For good-looking chicks!!!

Or maybe those were not the words, and there were other ones to the same music which were also highly indecent. That's not important, what is important is that after this, something like the fall of the Tower of Babel broke out in the Variety Theater. The police rushed to the Sempleyarovs' box, curiosity-seekers climbed onto the railing, hellish bursts of laughter and mad shrieks were heard, which were drowned out by the The Master and Margarita 11 страница golden crash of cymbals coming from the orchestra pit.

And the stage was suddenly empty, and both the trickster Fagot and the huge brazen cat Behemoth had melted into thin air and vanished, just as the magician and his faded armchair had vanished before them.


XIII

Enter the Hero

A

nd so, the stranger pressed a warning finger to his lips and whispered "Shh!" to Ivan. Ivan lowered his feet over the side of the bed and stared. Peering cautiously into the room from the balcony was a clean-shaven, dark-haired man of about thirty-eight; he had The Master and Margarita 11 страница anxious eyes, a sharp nose, and a shock of hair hanging over his forehead.

After making certain that Ivan was alone, the mysterious visitor listened intenüy, then mustered his courage and entered the room. Ivan noticed that he was wearing hospital clothes: underwear, slippers on bare feet, and a dark brown robe thrown over his shoulders.

The newcomer winked at Ivan, stuck a bunch of keys in his pocket and asked in a whisper, "May I sit down?" When he received a nod of assent, he settled into the armchair.

"How did you get in here?" said Ivan in a The Master and Margarita 11 страница whisper, obeying his guest's warning gesture. "Aren't the window grilles locked?"

"They are locked," confirmed the guest, "but Praskovya Fyodorovna is an extremely nice, if, alas, absentminded person. I pinched her keys a month ago, which allows me to go out onto the balcony that encircles the entire floor and thus visit a neighbor on occasion."

"But if you can go out onto the balcony, you can get out of here. Or is it too high up?" queried Ivan.

"No," was the guest's firm reply. "It's not because it's too high that I can The Master and Margarita 11 страница't get out, but because there's nowhere for me to get out to." After a pause he added, "So, we're stuck sitting here?"

"Yes, stuck," replied Ivan, gazing into the newcomer's anxious-looking brown eyes.

"Yes..."—here the guest suddenly became agitated. "I hope you're not violent, are you? Because, you see, I can't tolerate noise, rows, violence, or anything of that sort. And I especially can't stand people screaming, whether in suffering, rage, or for any other reason. Reassure me, tell me—you're not violent, are you?"


Enter the Hero The Master and Margarita 11 страница 111

"Yesterday in a restaurant I smashed some guy in the puss," confessed the transformed poet manfully.

"The reason?" the guest asked sternly.

"None really, I admit," answered Ivan, becoming embarrassed.

"Disgraceful," the guest scolded and added, "And besides, why do you say things like 'smash some guy in the puss'? After all, nobody knows exactly what it is that a man has, a face or a puss. Most likely, it's still a face. So, when it comes to fists... No, you should stop doing that sort of thing once and for all."

After giving Ivan this lecture, the guest inquired The Master and Margarita 11 страница, "Your profession?"

"Poet," Ivan acknowledged somewhat unwillingly.

The newcomer became distressed.

"Oh, how unlucky I am!" he exclaimed, but then caught himself, apologized, and asked, "And what is your name?"

"Bezdomny."

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