‘Your story is extremely interesting, Professor, though it does not coincide at all with the Gospel stories.’
‘Good heavens,’ the professor responded, smiling condescendingly, ‘you of all people should know that precisely nothing of what is written in the Gospels ever actually took place, and if we start referring to the Gospels as a historical source…’ he smiled once more, and Berlioz stopped short, because this was literally the same thing he had been saying to Bezdomny as they walked down Bronnaya towards the Patriarch’s Ponds.
‘That’s so,’ Berlioz replied, ‘but I’m afraid no one can confirm that what you’ve just told us actually took place either.’
‘Oh, yes! That there is one who can!’ the professor, beginning to speak in broken language, said with great assurance, and with unexpected mysteriousness he motioned the two friends to move closer.
They leaned towards him from both sides, and he said, but again without any accent, which with him, devil knows why, now appeared, now disappeared:
The thing is…’ here the professor looked around fearfully and spoke in a whisper, `that I was personally present at it all. I was on Pontius Pilate’s balcony, and in the garden when he talked with Kaifa, and on the platform, only secretly, incognito, so to speak, and therefore I beg you – not a word to anyone, total secrecy, shh…’
Silence fell, and Berlioz paled.
‘YOU … how long have you been in Moscow?’ he asked in a quavering voice.
‘I just arrived in Moscow this very minute,’ the professor said perplexedly, and only here did it occur to the friends to take a good look in his eyes, at which they became convinced that his left eye, the green one, was totally insane, while the right one was empty, black and dead.
‘There’s the whole explanation for you!’ Berlioz thought in bewilderment. ‘A mad German has turned up, or just went crazy at the Ponds.
What a story!’
Yes, indeed, that explained the whole thing: the strangest breakfast with the late philosopher Kant, the foolish talk about sunflower oil and Annushka, the predictions about his head being cut off and all the rest – the professor was mad.
Berlioz realized at once what had to be done. Leaning back on the bench, he winked to Bezdomny behind the professor’s back – meaning, don’t contradict him – but the perplexed poet did not understand these signals.
‘Yes, yes, yes,’ Berlioz said excitedly, `incidentally it’s all possible… even very possible, Pontius Pilate, and the balcony, and so
forth… Did you come alone or with your wife?’
‘Alone, alone, I’m always alone,’ the professor replied bitterly.
‘And where are your things, Professor?’ Berlioz asked insinuatingly.
‘At the Metropol?* Where are you staying?’
‘I? … Nowhere,’ the half-witted German answered, his green eye wandering in wild anguish over the Patriarch’s Ponds.
‘How’s that? But … where are you going to live?’
‘In your apartment,’ the madman suddenly said brashly, and winked.
‘I … I’m very glad …’ Berlioz began muttering, ‘but, really, you won’t be comfortable at my place … and they have wonderful rooms at the Metropol, it’s a first-class hotel…’
‘And there’s no devil either?’ the sick man suddenly inquired merrily of Ivan Nikolaevich.
‘Don’t contradict him,’ Berlioz whispered with his lips only, dropping behind the professor’s back and making faces.
There isn’t any devil!’ Ivan Nikolaevich, at a loss from all this balderdash, cried out not what he ought. ‘What a punishment! Stop playing the psycho!’
Here the insane man burst into such laughter that a sparrow flew out of the linden over the seated men’s heads.
‘Well, now that is positively interesting!’ the professor said, shaking with laughter. ‘What is it with you – no matter what one asks for, there isn’t any!’ He suddenly stopped laughing and, quite understandably for a mentally ill person, fell into the opposite extreme after laughing, became vexed and cried sternly: ‘So you mean there just simply isn’t any?’
‘Calm down, calm down, calm down, Professor,’ Berlioz muttered, for fear of agitating the sick man. ‘You sit here for a little minute with comrade Bezdomny, and I’ll just run to the corner to make a phone call, and then we’ll take you wherever you like. You don’t know the city…’
Berlioz’s plan must be acknowledged as correct: he had to run to the nearest public telephone and inform the foreigners’ bureau, thus and so, there’s some consultant from abroad sitting at the Patriarch’s Ponds in an obviously abnormal state. So it was necessary to take measures, lest some unpleasant nonsense result.
To make a call? Well, then make your call,’ the sick man agreed sadly, and suddenly begged passionately: `But I implore you, before you go, at least believe that the devil exists! I no longer ask you for anything more.
Mind you, there exists a seventh proof of it, the surest of all! And it is going to be presented to you right now!’
‘Very good, very good,’ Berlioz said with false tenderness and, winking to the upset poet, who did not relish at all the idea of guarding the mad German, set out for the exit from the Ponds at the corner of Bronnaya and Yermolaevsky Lane.
And the professor seemed to recover his health and brighten up at once.
You know what happens next 😉