Mikhail Bulgakov

Master and Margarita

Manuscripts don't burn!

'Police?' Ivan shouted into the receiver. 'Police? Comrade officer-on-duty, give orders at once for five motor cycles with machine-guns to be sent out to catch the foreign consultant. What? Come and pick me up, I'll go with you ... It's the poet Homeless speaking from the madhouse .. . What's your address?' Homeless asked the doctor in a whisper, covering the receiver with his hand, and then again shouting into it: 'Are you listening? Hello! .. . Outrageous!' Ivan suddenly screamed and hurled the receiver against the wall. Then he turned to the doctor, offered him his hand, said 'Goodbye' drily, and made as if to leave.
     'For pity's sake, where do you intend to go?' the doctor said, peering into Ivan's eyes. 'In the dead of night, in your underwear .. . You're not feeling well, stay with us.'
     'Let me pass,' Ivan said to the orderlies, who closed ranks at the door. 'Will you let me pass or not?' the poet shouted in a terrible voice.
     Riukhin trembled, but the woman pushed a button on the table and a shiny little box with a sealed ampoule popped out on to its glass surface.
     'Ah, so?!' Ivan said, turning around with a wild and hunted look. 'Well, then . . . Goodbye!' And he rushed head first into the window-blind.
     The crash was rather forceful, but the glass behind the blind gave no crack, and in an instant Ivan Nikolaevich was struggling in the hands of the orderlies. He gasped, tried to bite, shouted:
     'So that's the sort of windows you've got here! Let me go! Let me go! . . .'

A quarter of an hour later, Riukhin sat in complete solitude, hunched over his bream, drinking glass after glass, understanding and recognizing that it was no longer possible to set anything right in his life, that it was only possible to forget.

This time there was, if not complete, at least some sort of success. The men instantly dispersed through all the rooms and found no one anywhere, but instead on the table of the dining room they discovered the remains of an apparently just-abandoned breakfast, and in the living room, on the mantelpiece, beside a crystal pitcher, sat an enormous black cat. He was holding a primus in his paws.
     Those who entered the living room contemplated this cat for quite a long time in total silence.
     'Hm, yes . .. that's quite something . ..' one of the men whispered.

'Ain't misbehaving, ain't bothering anybody, just reparating my primus,' said the cat with an unfriendly scowl, 'and I also consider it my duty to warn you that the cat is an ancient and inviolable animal.'

'I challenge you to a duel!' bawled the cat, sailing over their heads on the swinging chandelier, and the Browning was again in his paw, and the primus was lodged among the branches of the chandelier. The cat took aim and, flying like a pendulum over the heads of the visitors, opened fire on them. The din shook the apartment. Crystal shivers poured down from the chandelier, the mantelpiece mirror was cracked into stars, plaster dust flew, spent cartridges bounced over the floor, window-panes shattered, benzene spouted from the bullet-pierced primus. Now there was no question of taking the cat alive, and the visitors fiercely and accurately returned his fire from the Mausers, aiming at his head, stomach, chest and back. The shooting caused panic on the asphalt courtyard.