Chapter 31. On Sparrow Hills
The storm had passed and a rainbow had arched itself across the sky, its foot in the Moscow River. On top of a hill between two clumps of trees could be seen three dark silhouettes. Woland, Koroviev and Behemoth sat mounted on black horses, looking at the city spread out beyond the river with fragments of sun glittering from thousands of west-facing windows, and at the onion domes of the Novodevichy monastery.
There was a rustling in the air and Azazello, followed in a black cavalcade by the master and Margarita, landed by the group of waiting figures.
'I'm afraid we had to frighten you a little, Margarita Nikolay-evna, and you, master,' said Woland after a pause. ' But I don't think you will have cause to complain to me about it or regret it. Now,' he turned to the master, ' say goodbye to this city. It's time for us to go.' Woland pointed his hand in its black gauntlet to where countless glass suns glittered beyond the river, where above those suns the city exhaled the haze, smoke and steam of the day.
The master leaped from his saddle, left his companions and ran to the hillside, black cloak flapping over the ground behind him. He looked at the city. For the first few moments a tremor of sadness crept over his heart, but it soon changed to a delicious excitement, the gypsy's thrill of the open road.
'For ever ... I must think what that means,' whispered the master, and locked his dry, cracked lips. He began to listen to what was happening in his heart. His excitement, it seemed to him, had given way to a profound and grievous sense of hurt. But it was only momentary and gave place to one of proud indifference and finally to a presentiment of eternal peace.
The party of riders waited for the master in silence. They •watched the tall, black figure on the hillside gesticulate, then raise his head as though trying to cast his glance over the whole city and to look beyond its edge ; then he hung his head as if he were studying the sparse, trampled grass under his feet.
Behemoth, who was getting bored, broke the silence :
'Please, man maitre,' he said, ' let me give a farewell whistle-call.'
'You might frighten the lady,' replied Woland, ' besides, don't forget that you have done enough fooling about for one visit. Behave yourself now.'
'Oh no, messire,' cried Margarita, sitting her mount like an Amazon, one arm akimbo, her long black train reaching to the ground. ' Please let him whistle. I feel sad at the thought of the journey. It's quite a natural feeling, even when you know it will end in happiness. If you won't let him make us laugh, I shall cry, and the journey will be ruined before we start.'
Woland nodded to Behemoth. Delighted, the cat leaped to the ground, out its paws in its mouth, filled its cheeks and whistled.
Margarita's ears sang. Her horse roared, twigs snapped off nearby trees, a flock of rooks and crows flew up, a cloud of dust billowed towards the river and several passengers on a river steamer below had their hats blown off.
The whistle-blast made the master flinch; he did not turn round, but began gesticulating even more violently, raising his fist skywards as though threatening the city. Behemoth looked proudly round.
'You whistled, I grant you,' said Koroviev condescendingly. ' But frankly it was a very mediocre whistle.'
'I'm not a choirmaster, though,' said Behemoth with dignity, puffing out his chest and suddenly winking at Margarita.
'Let me have a try, just for old time's sake,' said Koroviev. He rubbed his hands and blew on his fingers.
'Very well,' said Woland sternly, ' but without endangering life or limb, please.'
'Purely for fun, I promise you, messire,' Koroviev assured him, hand on heart. He suddenly straightened up, seemed to stretch as though he were made of rubber, waved the fingers of his right hand, wound himself up like a spring and then, suddenly uncoiling, he whistled.
Margarita did not hear this whistle, but she felt it, as she and her horse were picked up and thrown twenty yards sideways. Beside her the bark was ripped off an oak tree and cracks opened in the ground as far as the river. The water in it boiled and heaved and a river steamer, with all its passengers unharmed, was grounded on the far bank by the blast. A jackdaw, killed by Faggot's whistle, fell at the feet of Margarita's snorting horse.
This time the master was thoroughly frightened and ran back to his waiting companions.
'Well,' said Woland to him from the saddle, ' have you made your farewell?'
'Yes, I have,' said the master and boldly returned Woland's stare.
Then like the blast of a trumpet the terrible voice of Woland rang out over the hills :
'It is time!'
As an echo came a piercing laugh and a whistle from Behemoth. The horses leaped into the air and the riders rose with them as they galloped upwards. Margarita could feel her fierce horse biting and tugging at the bit. Woland's cloak billowed out over the heads of the cavalcade and as evening drew on, his cloak began to cover the whole vault of the sky. When the black veil blew aside for a moment, Margarita turned round in flight and saw that not only the many-coloured towers but the whole city had long vanished from sight, swallowed by the earth, leaving only mist and smoke where it had been.