Never Talk to Strangers 1.3
Глава 1. Никогда не разговаривайте с неизвестными 1.3
'Kant's proof,' objected the learned editor with a thin smile, ' is also unconvincing.
Not for nothing did Schiller say that Kant's reasoning on this question would only satisfy slaves, and Strauss simply laughed at his proof.'
As Berlioz spoke he thought to himself: ' But who on earth is he? And how does he speak such good Russian? '
'Kant ought to be arrested and given three years in Solovki asylum for that " proof " of his! ' Ivan Nikolayich burst out completely unexpectedly.
'Ivan!' whispered Berlioz, embarrassed.
But the suggestion to pack Kant off to an asylum not only did not surprise the stranger but actually delighted him.
' Exactly, exactly! ' he cried and his green left eye, turned on Berlioz glittered. ' That's exactly the place for him!
I said to him myself that morning at breakfast:
" If you'll forgive me, professor, your theory is no good.
It may be clever but it's horribly incomprehensible.
People will think you're mad." '
Berlioz's eyes bulged. ' At breakfast ... to Kant? What is he rambling about? ' he thought.
'But,' went on the foreigner, unperturbed by Berlioz's amazement and turning to the poet, ' sending him to Solovki is out of the question, because for over a hundred years now he has been somewhere far away from Solovki and I assure you that it is totally impossible to bring him back.'
'What a pity!' said the impetuous poet.
'It is a pity,' agreed the unknown man with a glint in his eye, and went on: ' But this is the question that disturbs me--if there is no God, then who, one wonders, rules the life of man and keeps the world in order? '
'Man rules himself,' said Bezdomny angrily in answer to such an obviously absurd question.
'I beg your pardon,' retorted the stranger quietly,' but to rule one must have a precise plan worked out for some reasonable period ahead.
Allow me to enquire how man can control his own affairs when he is not only incapable of compiling a plan for some laughably short term, such as, say, a thousand years, but cannot even predict what will happen to him tomorrow? '
'In fact,' here the stranger turned to Berlioz, ' imagine what would happen if you, for instance, were to start organising others and yourself, and you developed a taste for it--then suddenly you got. . . he, he ... a slight heart attack . . .
' at this the foreigner smiled sweetly, as though the thought of a heart attack gave him pleasure. . . .
' Yes, a heart attack,' he repeated the word sonorously, grinning like a cat, ' and that's the end of you as an organiser!
No one's fate except your own interests you any longer.
Your relations start lying to you. Sensing that something is amiss you rush to a specialist, then to a charlatan, and even perhaps to a fortune-teller.
Each of them is as useless as the other, as you know perfectly well.
And it all ends in tragedy: the man who thought he was in charge is suddenly reduced to lying prone and motionless in a wooden box and his fellow men, realising that there is no more sense to be had of him, incinerate him.
'Sometimes it can be even worse : a man decides to go to Kislovodsk,'--here the stranger stared at Berlioz--' a trivial matter you may think, but he cannot because for no good reason he suddenly jumps up and falls under a tram!
You're not going to tell me that he arranged to do that himself?
Wouldn't it be nearer the truth to say that someone quite different was directing his fate?' The stranger gave an eerie peal of laughter.
Berlioz had been following the unpleasant story about the heart attack and the tram with great attention and some uncomfortable thoughts had begun to worry him.
' He's not a foreigner . . . he's not a foreigner,' he thought, ' he's a very peculiar character . . . but I ask you, who is he? . . . '
'I see you'd like to smoke,' said the stranger unexpectedly, turning to Bezdomny, ' what sort do you prefer? '
'Do you mean you've got different sorts? ' glumly asked the poet, who had run out of cigarettes.
'Which do you prefer? ' repeated the mysterious stranger.
'Well, then " Our Brand ",' replied Bezdomny, irritated.
The unknown man immediately pulled a cigarette case out of his pocket and offered it to Bezdomny. " Our Brand " . . .'
The editor and the poet were not so much surprised by the fact that the cigarette case actually contained ' Our Brand' as by the cigarette case itself.
It was of enormous dimensions, made of solid gold and on the inside of the cover a triangle of diamonds flashed with blue and white fire.
Their reactions were different. Berlioz thought: ' No, he's a foreigner.' Bezdomny thought: ' What the hell is he . . .? '
The poet and the owner of the case lit their cigarettes and Berlioz, who did not smoke, refused.
'I shall refute his argument by saying' Berlioz decided to himself, ' that of course man is mortal, no one will argue with that. But the fact is that . . .'
However he was not able to pronounce the words before the stranger spoke:
'Of course man is mortal, but that's only half the problem. The trouble is that mortality sometimes comes to him so suddenly!
And he cannot even say what he will be doing this evening.'
'What a stupid way of putting the question. ' thought Berlioz and objected :
'Now there you exaggerate. I know more or less exactly what I'm going to be doing this evening.
Provided of course that a brick doesn't fall on my head in the street. . .'
'A brick is neither here nor there,' the stranger interrupted persuasively. ' A brick never falls on anyone's head.
You in particular, I assure you, are in no danger from that. Your death will be different.'
'Perhaps you know exactly how I am going to die? ' enquired Berlioz with understandable sarcasm at the ridiculous turn that the conversation seemed to be taking. ' Would you like to tell me?'
'Certainly,' rejoined the stranger.
He looked Berlioz up and down as though he were measuring him for a suit and muttered through his teeth something that sounded like : ' One, two . . . Mercury in the second house . . . the moon waning . . . six-- accident . . . evening--seven . . . '
then announced loudly and cheerfully : ' Your 'head will be cut off!'