Dead Souls
by Nikolai Gogol
Hypertext Meanings and Commentaries
from the Encyclopedia of the Self
by Mark Zimmerman

DEAD SOULS

BY

NIKOLAI VASILIEVICH GOGOL

Translated By
D. J. Hogarth

Introduction By
John Cournos

Nikolai Vasilievich Gogol, born at Sorochintsky,
Russia, on 31st March 1809. Obtained government
post at St. Petersburg and later an appointment
at the university. Lived in Rome from 1836 to
1848. Died on 21st February 1852.

PREPARER'S NOTE

The book this was typed from contains a complete Part I, and a
partial Part II, as it seems only part of Part II survived the
adventures described in the introduction. Where the text notes
that pages are missing from the "original", this refers to the
Russian original, not the translation.

All the foreign words were italicised in the original, a style
not preserved here. Accents and diphthongs have also been left
out.

INTRODUCTION

Dead Souls, first published in 1842, is the great prose classic of
Russia. That amazing institution, "the Russian novel," not only began
its career with this unfinished masterpiece by Nikolai Vasil'evich
Gogol, but practically all the Russian masterpieces that have come
since have grown out of it, like the limbs of a single tree.
Dostoieffsky goes so far as to bestow this tribute upon an earlier
work by the same author, a short story entitled The Cloak; this idea
has been wittily expressed by another compatriot, who says: "We have
all issued out of Gogol's Cloak."

Dead Souls, which bears the word "Poem" upon the title page of the
original, has been generally compared to Don Quixote and to the
Pickwick Papers, while E. M. Vogue places its author somewhere
between Cervantes and Le Sage. However considerable the influences of
Cervantes and Dickens may have been--the first in the matter of
structure, the other in background, humour, and detail of
characterisation--the predominating and distinguishing quality of the
work is undeniably something foreign to both and quite peculiar to
itself; something which, for want of a better term, might be called
the quality of the Russian soul. The English reader familiar with the
works of Dostoieffsky, Turgenev, and Tolstoi, need hardly be told what
this implies; it might be defined in the words of the French critic
just named as "a tendency to pity." One might indeed go further and
say that it implies a certain tolerance of one's characters even
though they be, in the conventional sense, knaves, products, as the
case might be, of conditions or circumstance, which after all is the
thing to be criticised and not the man. But pity and tolerance are
rare in satire, even in clash with it, producing in the result a deep
sense of tragic humour. It is this that makes of Dead Souls a unique
work, peculiarly Gogolian, peculiarly Russian, and distinct from its
author's Spanish and English masters.

Still more profound are the contradictions to be seen in the author's
personal character; and unfortunately they prevented him from
completing his work. The trouble is that he made his art out of life,
and when in his final years he carried his struggle, as Tolstoi did
later, back into life, he repented of all he had written, and in the
frenzy of a wakeful night burned all his manuscripts, including the
second part of Dead Souls, only fragments of which were saved. There
was yet a third part to be written. Indeed, the second part had been
written and burned twice. Accounts differ as to why he had burned it
finally. Religious remorse, fury at adverse criticism, and despair at
not reaching ideal perfection are among the reasons given. Again it is
said that he had destroyed the manuscript with the others
inadvertently.

The poet Pushkin, who said of Gogol that "behind his laughter you feel
the unseen tears," was his chief friend and inspirer. It was he who
suggested the plot of Dead Souls as well as the plot of the earlier
work The Revisor, which is almost the only comedy in Russian. The
importance of both is their introduction of the social element in
Russian literature, as Prince Kropotkin points out. Both hold up the
mirror to Russian officialdom and the effects it has produced on the
national character. The plot of Dead Souls is simple enough, and is
said to have been suggested by an actual episode.

It was the day of serfdom in Russia, and a man's standing was often
judged by the numbers of "souls" he possessed. There was a periodical
census of serfs, say once every ten or twenty years. This being the
case, an owner had to pay a tax on every "soul" registered at the last
census, though some of the serfs might have died in the meantime.
Nevertheless, the system had its material advantages, inasmuch as an
owner might borrow money from a bank on the "dead souls" no less than
on the living ones. The plan of Chichikov, Gogol's hero-villain, was
therefore to make a journey through Russia and buy up the "dead
souls," at reduced rates of course, saving their owners the government
tax, and acquiring for himself a list of fictitious serfs, which he
meant to mortgage to a bank for a considerable sum. With this money he
would buy an estate and some real life serfs, and make the beginning
of a fortune.

Obviously, this plot, which is really no plot at all but merely a ruse
to enable Chichikov to go across Russia in a troika, with Selifan
the coachman as a sort of Russian Sancho Panza, gives Gogol a
magnificent opportunity to reveal his genius as a painter of Russian
panorama, peopled with characteristic native types commonplace enough
but drawn in comic relief. "The comic," explained the author yet at
the beginning of his career, "is hidden everywhere, only living in the
midst of it we are not conscious of it; but if the artist brings it
into his art, on the stage say, we shall roll about with laughter and
only wonder we did not notice it before." But the comic in Dead
Souls is merely external. Let us see how Pushkin, who loved to laugh,
regarded the work. As Gogol read it aloud to him from the manuscript
the poet grew more and more gloomy and at last cried out: "God! What a
sad country Russia is!" And later he said of it: "Gogol invents
nothing; it is the simple truth, the terrible truth."

The work on one hand was received as nothing less than an exposure of
all Russia--what would foreigners think of it? The liberal elements,
however, the critical Belinsky among them, welcomed it as a
revelation, as an omen of a freer future. Gogol, who had meant to do a
service to Russia and not to heap ridicule upon her, took the
criticisms of the Slavophiles to heart; and he palliated his critics
by promising to bring about in the succeeding parts of his novel the
redemption of Chichikov and the other "knaves and blockheads." But the
"Westerner" Belinsky and others of the liberal camp were mistrustful.
It was about this time (1847) that Gogol published his Correspondence
with Friends, and aroused a literary controversy that is alive to
this day. Tolstoi is to be found among his apologists.

Opinions as to the actual significance of Gogol's masterpiece differ.
Some consider the author a realist who has drawn with meticulous
detail a picture of Russia; others, Merejkovsky among them, see in him
a great symbolist; the very title Dead Souls is taken to describe
the living of Russia as well as its dead. Chichikov himself is now
generally regarded as a universal character. We find an American
professor, William Lyon Phelps[1], of Yale, holding the opinion that
"no one can travel far in America without meeting scores of
Chichikovs; indeed, he is an accurate portrait of the American
promoter, of the successful commercial traveller whose success depends
entirely not on the real value and usefulness of his stock-in-trade,
but on his knowledge of human nature and of the persuasive power of
his tongue." This is also the opinion held by Prince Kropotkin[2], who
says: "Chichikov may buy dead souls, or railway shares, or he may
collect funds for some charitable institution, or look for a position
in a bank, but he is an immortal international type; we meet him
everywhere; he is of all lands and of all times; he but takes
different forms to suit the requirements of nationality and time."

[1] Essays on Russian Novelists. Macmillan.

[2] Ideals and Realities in Russian Literature. Duckworth and Co.

Again, the work bears an interesting relation to Gogol himself. A
romantic, writing of realities, he was appalled at the commonplaces of
life, at finding no outlet for his love of colour derived from his
Cossack ancestry. He realised that he had drawn a host of "heroes,"
"one more commonplace than another, that there was not a single
palliating circumstance, that there was not a single place where the
reader might find pause to rest and to console himself, and that when
he had finished the book it was as though he had walked out of an
oppressive cellar into the open air." He felt perhaps inward need to
redeem Chichikov; in Merejkovsky's opinion he really wanted to save
his own soul, but had succeeded only in losing it. His last years were
spent morbidly; he suffered torments and ran from place to place like
one hunted; but really always running from himself. Rome was his
favourite refuge, and he returned to it again and again. In 1848, he
made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, but he could find no peace for his
soul. Something of this mood had reflected itself even much earlier in
the Memoirs of a Madman: "Oh, little mother, save your poor son!
Look how they are tormenting him. . . . There's no place for him on
earth! He's being driven! . . . Oh, little mother, take pity on thy
poor child."

All the contradictions of Gogol's character are not to be disposed of
in a brief essay. Such a strange combination of the tragic and the
comic was truly seldom seen in one man. He, for one, realised that "it
is dangerous to jest with laughter." "Everything that I laughed at
became sad." "And terrible," adds Merejkovsky. But earlier his humour
was lighter, less tinged with the tragic; in those days Pushkin never
failed to be amused by what Gogol had brought to read to him. Even
Revizor (1835), with its tragic undercurrent, was a trifle compared
to Dead Souls, so that one is not astonished to hear that not only
did the Tsar, Nicholas I, give permission to have it acted, in spite
of its being a criticism of official rottenness, but laughed
uproariously, and led the applause. Moreover, he gave Gogol a grant of
money, and asked that its source should not be revealed to the author
lest "he might feel obliged to write from the official point of view."

Gogol was born at Sorotchinetz, Little Russia, in March 1809. He left
college at nineteen and went to St. Petersburg, where he secured a
position as copying clerk in a government department. He did not keep
his position long, yet long enough to store away in his mind a number
of bureaucratic types which proved useful later. He quite suddenly
started for America with money given to him by his mother for another
purpose, but when he got as far as Lubeck he turned back. He then
wanted to become an actor, but his voice proved not strong enough.
Later he wrote a poem which was unkindly received. As the copies
remained unsold, he gathered them all up at the various shops and
burned them in his room.

His next effort, Evenings at the Farm of Dikanka (1831) was more
successful. It was a series of gay and colourful pictures of Ukraine,
the land he knew and loved, and if he is occasionally a little over
romantic here and there, he also achieves some beautifully lyrical
passages. Then came another even finer series called Mirgorod, which
won the admiration of Pushkin. Next he planned a "History of Little
Russia" and a "History of the Middle Ages," this last work to be in
eight or nine volumes. The result of all this study was a beautiful
and short Homeric epic in prose, called Taras Bulba. His appointment
to a professorship in history was a ridiculous episode in his life.
After a brilliant first lecture, in which he had evidently said all he
had to say, he settled to a life of boredom for himself and his
pupils. When he resigned he said joyously: "I am once more a free
Cossack." Between 1834 and 1835 he produced a new series of stories,
including his famous Cloak, which may be regarded as the legitimate
beginning of the Russian novel.

Gogol knew little about women, who played an equally minor role in his
life and in his books. This may be partly because his personal
appearance was not prepossessing. He is described by a contemporary as
"a little man with legs too short for his body. He walked crookedly;
he was clumsy, ill-dressed, and rather ridiculous-looking, with his
long lock of hair flapping on his forehead, and his large prominent
nose."

From 1835 Gogol spent almost his entire time abroad; some strange
unrest--possibly his Cossack blood--possessed him like a demon, and he
never stopped anywhere very long. After his pilgrimage in 1848 to
Jerusalem, he returned to Moscow, his entire possessions in a little
bag; these consisted of pamphlets, critiques, and newspaper articles
mostly inimical to himself. He wandered about with these from house to
house. Everything he had of value he gave away to the poor. He ceased
work entirely. According to all accounts he spent his last days in
praying and fasting. Visions came to him. His death, which came in
1852, was extremely fantastic. His last words, uttered in a loud
frenzy, were: "A ladder! Quick, a ladder!" This call for a ladder--"a
spiritual ladder," in the words of Merejkovsky--had been made on an
earlier occasion by a certain Russian saint, who used almost the same
language. "I shall laugh my bitter laugh"[3] was the inscription
placed on Gogol's grave.

                                                          JOHN COURNOS

[3] This is generally referred to in the Russian criticisms of Gogol
    as a quotation from Jeremiah. It appears upon investigation,
    however, that it actually occurs only in the Slavonic version from
    the Greek, and not in the Russian translation made direct from the
    Hebrew.

Evenings on the Farm near the Dikanka, 1829-31; Mirgorod, 1831-33;
Taras Bulba, 1834; Arabesques (includes tales, The Portrait and A
Madman's Diary), 1831-35; The Cloak, 1835; The Revizor (The Inspector-
General), 1836; Dead Souls, 1842; Correspondence with Friends, 1847.

ENGLISH TRANSLATIONS: Cossack Tales (The Night of Christmas Eve,
Tarass Boolba), trans. by G. Tolstoy, 1860; St. John's Eve and Other
Stories, trans. by Isabel F. Hapgood, New York, Crowell, 1886; Taras
Bulba: Also St. John's Eve and Other Stories, London, Vizetelly, 1887;
Taras Bulba, trans. by B. C. Baskerville, London, Scott, 1907; The
Inspector: a Comedy, Calcutta, 1890; The Inspector-General, trans. by
A. A. Sykes, London, Scott, 1892; Revizor, trans. for the Yale
Dramatic Association by Max S. Mandell, New Haven, Conn., 1908; Home
Life in Russia (adaptation of Dead Souls), London, Hurst, 1854;
Tchitchikoff's Journey's; or Dead Souls, trans. by Isabel F. Hapgood,
New York, Crowell, 1886; Dead Souls, London, Vizetelly, 1887; Dead
Souls, London, Maxwell 1887; Meditations on the Divine Liturgy, trans.
by L. Alexeieff, London, A. R. Mowbray and Co., 1913.

LIVES, etc.: (Russian) Kotlyarevsky (N. A.), 1903; Shenrok (V. I.),
Materials for a Biography, 1892; (French) Leger (L.), Nicholas Gogol,
1914.

AUTHOR'S PREFACE
TO THE FIRST PORTION OF THIS WORK

Second Edition published in 1846

From the Author to the Reader

Reader, whosoever or wheresoever you be, and whatsoever be your
station--whether that of a member of the higher ranks of society or
that of a member of the plainer walks of life--I beg of you, if God
shall have given you any skill in letters, and my book shall fall into
your hands, to extend to me your assistance.

For in the book which lies before you, and which, probably, you have
read in its first edition, there is portrayed a man who is a type
taken from our Russian Empire. This man travels about the Russian land
and meets with folk of every condition--from the nobly-born to the
humble toiler. Him I have taken as a type to show forth the vices and
the failings, rather than the merits and the virtues, of the
commonplace Russian individual; and the characters which revolve
around him have also been selected for the purpose of demonstrating
our national weaknesses and shortcomings. As for men and women of the
better sort, I propose to portray them in subsequent volumes. Probably
much of what I have described is improbable and does not happen as
things customarily happen in Russia; and the reason for that is that
for me to learn all that I have wished to do has been impossible, in
that human life is not sufficiently long to become acquainted with
even a hundredth part of what takes place within the borders of the
Russian Empire. Also, carelessness, inexperience, and lack of time
have led to my perpetrating numerous errors and inaccuracies of
detail; with the result that in every line of the book there is
something which calls for correction. For these reasons I beg of you,
my reader, to act also as my corrector. Do not despise the task, for,
however superior be your education, and however lofty your station,
and however insignificant, in your eyes, my book, and however trifling
the apparent labour of correcting and commenting upon that book, I
implore you to do as I have said. And you too, O reader of lowly
education and simple status, I beseech you not to look upon yourself
as too ignorant to be able in some fashion, however small, to help me.
Every man who has lived in the world and mixed with his fellow men
will have remarked something which has remained hidden from the eyes
of others; and therefore I beg of you not to deprive me of your
comments, seeing that it cannot be that, should you read my book with
attention, you will have NOTHING to say at some point therein.

For example, how excellent it would be if some reader who is
sufficiently rich in experience and the knowledge of life to be
acquainted with the sort of characters which I have described herein
would annotate in detail the book, without missing a single page, and
undertake to read it precisely as though, laying pen and paper before
him, he were first to peruse a few pages of the work, and then to
recall his own life, and the lives of folk with whom he has come in
contact, and everything which he has seen with his own eyes or has
heard of from others, and to proceed to annotate, in so far as may
tally with his own experience or otherwise, what is set forth in the
book, and to jot down the whole exactly as it stands pictured to his
memory, and, lastly, to send me the jottings as they may issue from
his pen, and to continue doing so until he has covered the entire
work! Yes, he would indeed do me a vital service! Of style or beauty
of expression he would need to take no account, for the value of a
book lies in its truth and its actuality rather than in its wording.
Nor would he need to consider my feelings if at any point he should
feel minded to blame or to upbraid me, or to demonstrate the harm
rather than the good which has been done through any lack of thought
or verisimilitude of which I have been guilty. In short, for anything
and for everything in the way of criticism I should be thankful.

Also, it would be an excellent thing if some reader in the higher
walks of life, some person who stands remote, both by life and by
education, from the circle of folk which I have pictured in my book,
but who knows the life of the circle in which he himself revolves,
would undertake to read my work in similar fashion, and methodically
to recall to his mind any members of superior social classes whom he
has met, and carefully to observe whether there exists any resemblance
between one such class and another, and whether, at times, there may
not be repeated in a higher sphere what is done in a lower, and
likewise to note any additional fact in the same connection which may
occur to him (that is to say, any fact pertaining to the higher ranks
of society which would seem to confirm or to disprove his
conclusions), and, lastly, to record that fact as it may have occurred
within his own experience, while giving full details of persons (of
individual manners, tendencies, and customs) and also of inanimate
surroundings (of dress, furniture, fittings of houses, and so forth).
For I need knowledge of the classes in question, which are the flower
of our people. In fact, this very reason--the reason that I do not yet
know Russian life in all its aspects, and in the degree to which it is
necessary for me to know it in order to become a successful author--is
what has, until now, prevented me from publishing any subsequent
volumes of this story.

Again, it would be an excellent thing if some one who is endowed with
the faculty of imagining and vividly picturing to himself the various
situations wherein a character may be placed, and of mentally
following up a character's career in one field and another--by this I
mean some one who possesses the power of entering into and developing
the ideas of the author whose work he may be reading--would scan each
character herein portrayed, and tell me how each character ought to
have acted at a given juncture, and what, to judge from the beginnings
of each character, ought to have become of that character later, and
what new circumstances might be devised in connection therewith, and
what new details might advantageously be added to those already
described. Honestly can I say that to consider these points against
the time when a new edition of my book may be published in a different
and a better form would give me the greatest possible pleasure.

One thing in particular would I ask of any reader who may be willing
to give me the benefit of his advice. That is to say, I would beg of
him to suppose, while recording his remarks, that it is for the
benefit of a man in no way his equal in education, or similar to him
in tastes and ideas, or capable of apprehending criticisms without
full explanation appended, that he is doing so. Rather would I ask
such a reader to suppose that before him there stands a man of
incomparably inferior enlightenment and schooling--a rude country
bumpkin whose life, throughout, has been passed in retirement--a
bumpkin to whom it is necessary to explain each circumstance in
detail, while never forgetting to be as simple of speech as though he
were a child, and at every step there were a danger of employing terms
beyond his understanding. Should these precautions be kept constantly
in view by any reader undertaking to annotate my book, that reader's
remarks will exceed in weight and interest even his own expectations,
and will bring me very real advantage.

Thus, provided that my earnest request be heeded by my readers, and
that among them there be found a few kind spirits to do as I desire,
the following is the manner in which I would request them to transmit
their notes for my consideration. Inscribing the package with my name,
let them then enclose that package in a second one addressed either to
the Rector of the University of St. Petersburg or to Professor
Shevirev of the University of Moscow, according as the one or the
other of those two cities may be the nearer to the sender.

Lastly, while thanking all journalists and litterateurs for their
previously published criticisms of my book--criticisms which, in spite
of a spice of that intemperance and prejudice which is common to all
humanity, have proved of the greatest use both to my head and to my
heart--I beg of such writers again to favour me with their reviews.
For in all sincerity I can assure them that whatsoever they may be
pleased to say for my improvement and my instruction will be received
by me with naught but gratitude.

DEAD SOULS

PART I

CHAPTER I

To the door of an inn in the provincial town of N. there drew up a
smart britchka--a light spring-carriage of the sort affected by
bachelors, retired lieutenant-colonels, staff-captains, land-owners
possessed of about a hundred souls, and, in short, all persons who
rank as gentlemen of the intermediate category. In the britchka was
seated such a gentleman--a man who, though not handsome, was not
ill-favoured, not over-fat, and not over-thin. Also, though not
over-elderly, he was not over-young. His arrival produced no stir in
the town, and was accompanied by no particular incident, beyond that a
couple of peasants who happened to be standing at the door of a
dramshop exchanged a few comments with reference to the equipage
rather than to the individual who was seated in it. "Look at that
carriage," one of them said to the other. "Think you it will be going
as far as Moscow?" "I think it will," replied his companion. "But not
as far as Kazan, eh?" "No, not as far as Kazan." With that the
conversation ended. Presently, as the britchka was approaching the
inn, it was met by a young man in a pair of very short, very tight
breeches of white dimity, a quasi-fashionable frockcoat, and a dickey
fastened with a pistol-shaped bronze tie-pin. The young man turned his
head as he passed the britchka and eyed it attentively; after which he
clapped his hand to his cap (which was in danger of being removed by
the wind) and resumed his way. On the vehicle reaching the inn door,
its occupant found standing there to welcome him the polevoi, or
waiter, of the establishment--an individual of such nimble and brisk
movement that even to distinguish the character of his face was
impossible. Running out with a napkin in one hand and his lanky form
clad in a tailcoat, reaching almost to the nape of his neck, he tossed
back his locks, and escorted the gentleman upstairs, along a wooden
gallery, and so to the bedchamber which God had prepared for the
gentleman's reception. The said bedchamber was of quite ordinary
appearance, since the inn belonged to the species to be found in all
provincial towns--the species wherein, for two roubles a day,
travellers may obtain a room swarming with black-beetles, and
communicating by a doorway with the apartment adjoining. True, the
doorway may be blocked up with a wardrobe; yet behind it, in all
probability, there will be standing a silent, motionless neighbour
whose ears are burning to learn every possible detail concerning the
latest arrival. The inn's exterior corresponded with its interior.
Long, and consisting only of two storeys, the building had its lower
half destitute of stucco; with the result that the dark-red bricks,
originally more or less dingy, had grown yet dingier under the
influence of atmospheric changes. As for the upper half of the
building, it was, of course, painted the usual tint of unfading
yellow. Within, on the ground floor, there stood a number of benches
heaped with horse-collars, rope, and sheepskins; while the window-seat
accommodated a sbitentshik[1], cheek by jowl with a samovar[2]--the
latter so closely resembling the former in appearance that, but for
the fact of the samovar possessing a pitch-black lip, the samovar and
the sbitentshik might have been two of a pair.

[1] An urn for brewing honey tea.

[2] An urn for brewing ordinary tea.

During the traveller's inspection of his room his luggage was brought
into the apartment. First came a portmanteau of white leather whose
raggedness indicated that the receptacle had made several previous
journeys. The bearers of the same were the gentleman's coachman,
Selifan (a little man in a large overcoat), and the gentleman's valet,
Petrushka--the latter a fellow of about thirty, clad in a worn,
over-ample jacket which formerly had graced his master's shoulders,
and possessed of a nose and a pair of lips whose coarseness
communicated to his face rather a sullen expression. Behind the
portmanteau came a small dispatch-box of redwood, lined with birch
bark, a boot-case, and (wrapped in blue paper) a roast fowl; all of
which having been deposited, the coachman departed to look after his
horses, and the valet to establish himself in the little dark anteroom
or kennel where already he had stored a cloak, a bagful of livery, and
his own peculiar smell. Pressing the narrow bedstead back against the
wall, he covered it with the tiny remnant of mattress--a remnant as
thin and flat (perhaps also as greasy) as a pancake--which he had
managed to beg of the landlord of the establishment.

While the attendants had been thus setting things straight the
gentleman had repaired to the common parlour. The appearance of common
parlours of the kind is known to every one who travels. Always they
have varnished walls which, grown black in their upper portions with
tobacco smoke, are, in their lower, grown shiny with the friction of
customers' backs--more especially with that of the backs of such local
tradesmen as, on market-days, make it their regular practice to resort
to the local hostelry for a glass of tea. Also, parlours of this kind
invariably contain smutty ceilings, an equally smutty chandelier, a
number of pendent shades which jump and rattle whenever the waiter
scurries across the shabby oilcloth with a trayful of glasses (the
glasses looking like a flock of birds roosting by the seashore), and a
selection of oil paintings. In short, there are certain objects which
one sees in every inn. In the present case the only outstanding
feature of the room was the fact that in one of the paintings a nymph
was portrayed as possessing breasts of a size such as the reader can
never in his life have beheld. A similar caricaturing of nature is to
be noted in the historical pictures (of unknown origin, period, and
creation) which reach us--sometimes through the instrumentality of
Russian magnates who profess to be connoisseurs of art--from Italy;
owing to the said magnates having made such purchases solely on the
advice of the couriers who have escorted them.

To resume, however--our traveller removed his cap, and divested his
neck of a parti-coloured woollen scarf of the kind which a wife makes
for her husband with her own hands, while accompanying the gift with
interminable injunctions as to how best such a garment ought to be
folded. True, bachelors also wear similar gauds, but, in their case,
God alone knows who may have manufactured the articles! For my part, I
cannot endure them. Having unfolded the scarf, the gentleman ordered
dinner, and whilst the various dishes were being got ready--cabbage
soup, a pie several weeks old, a dish of marrow and peas, a dish of
sausages and cabbage, a roast fowl, some salted cucumber, and the
sweet tart which stands perpetually ready for use in such
establishments; whilst, I say, these things were either being warmed
up or brought in cold, the gentleman induced the waiter to retail
certain fragments of tittle-tattle concerning the late landlord of the
hostelry, the amount of income which the hostelry produced, and the
character of its present proprietor. To the last-mentioned inquiry the
waiter returned the answer invariably given in such cases--namely, "My
master is a terribly hard man, sir." Curious that in enlightened
Russia so many people cannot even take a meal at an inn without
chattering to the attendant and making free with him! Nevertheless not
ALL the questions which the gentleman asked were aimless ones, for
he inquired who was Governor of the town, who President of the Local
Council, and who Public Prosecutor. In short, he omitted no single
official of note, while asking also (though with an air of detachment)
the most exact particulars concerning the landowners of the
neighbourhood. Which of them, he inquired, possessed serfs, and how
many of them? How far from the town did those landowners reside? What
was the character of each landowner, and was he in the habit of paying
frequent visits to the town? The gentleman also made searching
inquiries concerning the hygienic condition of the countryside. Was
there, he asked, much sickness about--whether sporadic fever, fatal
forms of ague, smallpox, or what not? Yet, though his solicitude
concerning these matters showed more than ordinary curiosity, his
bearing retained its gravity unimpaired, and from time to time he blew
his nose with portentous fervour. Indeed, the manner in which he
accomplished this latter feat was marvellous in the extreme, for,
though that member emitted sounds equal to those of a trumpet in
intensity, he could yet, with his accompanying air of guileless
dignity, evoke the waiter's undivided respect--so much so that,
whenever the sounds of the nose reached that menial's ears, he would
shake back his locks, straighten himself into a posture of marked
solicitude, and inquire afresh, with head slightly inclined, whether
the gentleman happened to require anything further. After dinner the
guest consumed a cup of coffee, and then, seating himself upon the
sofa, with, behind him, one of those wool-covered cushions which, in
Russian taverns, resemble nothing so much as a cobblestone or a brick,
fell to snoring; whereafter, returning with a start to consciousness,
he ordered himself to be conducted to his room, flung himself at full
length upon the bed, and once more slept soundly for a couple of
hours. Aroused, eventually, by the waiter, he, at the latter's
request, inscribed a fragment of paper with his name, his surname, and
his rank (for communication, in accordance with the law, to the
police): and on that paper the waiter, leaning forward from the
corridor, read, syllable by syllable: "Paul Ivanovitch Chichikov,
Collegiate Councillor--Landowner--Travelling on Private Affairs." The
waiter had just time to accomplish this feat before Paul Ivanovitch
Chichikov set forth to inspect the town. Apparently the place
succeeded in satisfying him, and, to tell the truth, it was at least
up to the usual standard of our provincial capitals. Where the staring
yellow of stone edifices did not greet his eye he found himself
confronted with the more modest grey of wooden ones; which,
consisting, for the most part, of one or two storeys (added to the
range of attics which provincial architects love so well), looked
almost lost amid the expanses of street and intervening medleys of
broken or half-finished partition-walls. At other points evidence of
more life and movement was to be seen, and here the houses stood
crowded together and displayed dilapidated, rain-blurred signboards
whereon boots of cakes or pairs of blue breeches inscribed "Arshavski,
Tailor," and so forth, were depicted. Over a shop containing hats and
caps was written "Vassili Thedorov, Foreigner"; while, at another
spot, a signboard portrayed a billiard table and two players--the
latter clad in frockcoats of the kind usually affected by actors whose
part it is to enter the stage during the closing act of a piece, even
though, with arms sharply crooked and legs slightly bent, the said
billiard players were taking the most careful aim, but succeeding only
in making abortive strokes in the air. Each emporium of the sort had
written over it: "This is the best establishment of its kind in the
town." Also, al fresco in the streets there stood tables heaped with
nuts, soap, and gingerbread (the latter but little distinguishable
from the soap), and at an eating-house there was displayed the sign of
a plump fish transfixed with a gaff. But the sign most frequently to
be discerned was the insignia of the State, the double-headed eagle
(now replaced, in this connection, with the laconic inscription
"Dramshop"). As for the paving of the town, it was uniformly bad.

The gentleman peered also into the municipal gardens, which contained
only a few sorry trees that were poorly selected, requiring to be
propped with oil-painted, triangular green supports, and able to boast
of a height no greater than that of an ordinary walking-stick. Yet
recently the local paper had said (apropos of a gala) that, "Thanks to
the efforts of our Civil Governor, the town has become enriched with a
pleasaunce full of umbrageous, spaciously-branching trees. Even on the
most sultry day they afford agreeable shade, and indeed gratifying was
it to see the hearts of our citizens panting with an impulse of
gratitude as their eyes shed tears in recognition of all that their
Governor has done for them!"

Next, after inquiring of a gendarme as to the best ways and means of
finding the local council, the local law-courts, and the local
Governor, should he (Chichikov) have need of them, the gentleman went
on to inspect the river which ran through the town. En route he tore
off a notice affixed to a post, in order that he might the more
conveniently read it after his return to the inn. Also, he bestowed
upon a lady of pleasant exterior who, escorted by a footman laden with
a bundle, happened to be passing along a wooden sidewalk a prolonged
stare. Lastly, he threw around him a comprehensive glance (as though
to fix in his mind the general topography of the place) and betook
himself home. There, gently aided by the waiter, he ascended the
stairs to his bedroom, drank a glass of tea, and, seating himself at
the table, called for a candle; which having been brought him, he
produced from his pocket the notice, held it close to the flame, and
conned its tenour--slightly contracting his right eye as he did so.
Yet there was little in the notice to call for remark. All that it
said was that shortly one of Kotzebue's[3] plays would be given, and
that one of the parts in the play was to be taken by a certain
Monsieur Poplevin, and another by a certain Mademoiselle Ziablova,
while the remaining parts were to be filled by a number of less
important personages. Nevertheless the gentleman perused the notice
with careful attention, and even jotted down the prices to be asked
for seats for the performance. Also, he remarked that the bill had
been printed in the press of the Provincial Government. Next, he
turned over the paper, in order to see if anything further was to be
read on the reverse side; but, finding nothing there, he refolded the
document, placed it in the box which served him as a receptacle for
odds and ends, and brought the day to a close with a portion of cold
veal, a bottle of pickles, and a sound sleep.

[3] A German dramatist (1761-1819) who also filled sundry posts in the
    service of the Russian Government.

The following day he devoted to paying calls upon the various
municipal officials--a first, and a very respectful, visit being paid
to the Governor. This personage turned out to resemble Chichikov
himself in that he was neither fat nor thin. Also, he wore the riband
of the order of Saint Anna about his neck, and was reported to have
been recommended also for the star. For the rest, he was large and
good-natured, and had a habit of amusing himself with occasional
spells of knitting. Next, Chichikov repaired to the Vice-Governor's,
and thence to the house of the Public Prosecutor, to that of the
President of the Local Council, to that of the Chief of Police, to
that of the Commissioner of Taxes, and to that of the local Director
of State Factories. True, the task of remembering every big-wig in
this world of ours is not a very easy one; but at least our visitor
displayed the greatest activity in his work of paying calls, seeing
that he went so far as to pay his respects also to the Inspector of
the Municipal Department of Medicine and to the City Architect.
Thereafter he sat thoughtfully in his britchka--plunged in meditation
on the subject of whom else it might be well to visit. However, not a
single magnate had been neglected, and in conversation with his hosts
he had contrived to flatter each separate one. For instance to the
Governor he had hinted that a stranger, on arriving in his, the
Governor's province, would conceive that he had reached Paradise, so
velvety were the roads. "Governors who appoint capable subordinates,"
had said Chichikov, "are deserving of the most ample meed of praise."
Again, to the Chief of Police our hero had passed a most gratifying
remark on the subject of the local gendarmery; while in his
conversation with the Vice-Governor and the President of the Local
Council (neither of whom had, as yet, risen above the rank of State
Councillor) he had twice been guilty of the gaucherie of addressing
his interlocutors with the title of "Your Excellency"--a blunder which
had not failed to delight them. In the result the Governor had invited
him to a reception the same evening, and certain other officials had
followed suit by inviting him, one of them to dinner, a second to a
tea-party, and so forth, and so forth.

Of himself, however, the traveller had spoken little; or, if he had
spoken at any length, he had done so in a general sort of way and with
marked modesty. Indeed, at moments of the kind his discourse had
assumed something of a literary vein, in that invariably he had stated
that, being a worm of no account in the world, he was deserving of no
consideration at the hands of his fellows; that in his time he had
undergone many strange experiences; that subsequently he had suffered
much in the cause of Truth; that he had many enemies seeking his life;
and that, being desirous of rest, he was now engaged in searching for
a spot wherein to dwell--wherefore, having stumbled upon the town in
which he now found himself, he had considered it his bounden duty to
evince his respect for the chief authorities of the place. This, and
no more, was all that, for the moment, the town succeeded in learning
about the new arrival. Naturally he lost no time in presenting himself
at the Governor's evening party. First, however, his preparations for
that function occupied a space of over two hours, and necessitated an
attention to his toilet of a kind not commonly seen. That is to say,
after a brief post-grandial nap he called for soap and water, and
spent a considerable period in the task of scrubbing his cheeks
(which, for the purpose, he supported from within with his tongue) and
then of drying his full, round face, from the ears downwards, with a
towel which he took from the waiter's shoulder. Twice he snorted into
the waiter's countenance as he did this, and then he posted himself in
front of the mirror, donned a false shirt-front, plucked out a couple
of hairs which were protruding from his nose, and appeared vested in a
frockcoat of bilberry-coloured check. Thereafter driving through broad
streets sparsely lighted with lanterns, he arrived at the Governor's
residence to find it illuminated as for a ball. Barouches with
gleaming lamps, a couple of gendarmes posted before the doors, a babel
of postillions' cries--nothing of a kind likely to be impressive was
wanting; and, on reaching the salon, the visitor actually found
himself obliged to close his eyes for a moment, so strong was the
mingled sheen of lamps, candles, and feminine apparel. Everything
seemed suffused with light, and everywhere, flitting and flashing,
were to be seen black coats--even as on a hot summer's day flies
revolve around a sugar loaf while the old housekeeper is cutting it
into cubes before the open window, and the children of the house crowd
around her to watch the movements of her rugged hands as those members
ply the smoking pestle; and airy squadrons of flies, borne on the
breeze, enter boldly, as though free of the house, and, taking
advantage of the fact that the glare of the sunshine is troubling the
old lady's sight, disperse themselves over broken and unbroken
fragments alike, even though the lethargy induced by the opulence of
summer and the rich shower of dainties to be encountered at every step
has induced them to enter less for the purpose of eating than for that
of showing themselves in public, of parading up and down the sugar
loaf, of rubbing both their hindquarters and their fore against one
another, of cleaning their bodies under the wings, of extending their
forelegs over their heads and grooming themselves, and of flying out
of the window again to return with other predatory squadrons. Indeed,
so dazed was Chichikov that scarcely did he realise that the Governor
was taking him by the arm and presenting him to his (the Governor's)
lady. Yet the newly-arrived guest kept his head sufficiently to
contrive to murmur some such compliment as might fittingly come from a
middle-aged individual of a rank neither excessively high nor
excessively low. Next, when couples had been formed for dancing and
the remainder of the company found itself pressed back against the
walls, Chichikov folded his arms, and carefully scrutinised the
dancers. Some of the ladies were dressed well and in the fashion,
while the remainder were clad in such garments as God usually bestows
upon a provincial town. Also here, as elsewhere, the men belonged to
two separate and distinct categories; one of which comprised slender
individuals who, flitting around the ladies, were scarcely to be
distinguished from denizens of the metropolis, so carefully, so
artistically, groomed were their whiskers, so presentable their oval,
clean-shaven faces, so easy the manner of their dancing attendance
upon their womenfolk, so glib their French conversation as they
quizzed their female companions. As for the other category, it
comprised individuals who, stout, or of the same build as Chichikov
(that is to say, neither very portly nor very lean), backed and sidled
away from the ladies, and kept peering hither and thither to see
whether the Governor's footmen had set out green tables for whist.
Their features were full and plump, some of them had beards, and in no
case was their hair curled or waved or arranged in what the French
call "the devil-may-care" style. On the contrary, their heads were
either close-cropped or brushed very smooth, and their faces were
round and firm. This category represented the more respectable
officials of the town. In passing, I may say that in business matters
fat men always prove superior to their leaner brethren; which is
probably the reason why the latter are mostly to be found in the
Political Police, or acting as mere ciphers whose existence is a
purely hopeless, airy, trivial one. Again, stout individuals never
take a back seat, but always a front one, and, wheresoever it be, they
sit firmly, and with confidence, and decline to budge even though the
seat crack and bend with their weight. For comeliness of exterior they
care not a rap, and therefore a dress coat sits less easily on their
figures than is the case with figures of leaner individuals. Yet
invariably fat men amass the greater wealth. In three years' time a
thin man will not have a single serf whom he has left unpledged;
whereas--well, pray look at a fat man's fortunes, and what will you
see? First of all a suburban villa, and then a larger suburban villa,
and then a villa close to a town, and lastly a country estate which
comprises every amenity! That is to say, having served both God and
the State, the stout individual has won universal respect, and will
end by retiring from business, reordering his mode of life, and
becoming a Russian landowner--in other words, a fine gentleman who
dispenses hospitality, lives in comfort and luxury, and is destined to
leave his property to heirs who are purposing to squander the same on
foreign travel.

That the foregoing represents pretty much the gist of Chichikov's
reflections as he stood watching the company I will not attempt to
deny. And of those reflections the upshot was that he decided to join
himself to the stouter section of the guests, among whom he had
already recognised several familiar faces--namely, those of the Public
Prosecutor (a man with beetling brows over eyes which seemed to be
saying with a wink, "Come into the next room, my friend, for I have
something to say to you"--though, in the main, their owner was a man
of grave and taciturn habit), of the Postmaster (an
insignificant-looking individual, yet a would-be wit and a
philosopher), and of the President of the Local Council (a man of much
amiability and good sense). These three personages greeted Chichikov
as an old acquaintance, and to their salutations he responded with a
sidelong, yet a sufficiently civil, bow. Also, he became acquainted
with an extremely unctuous and approachable landowner named Manilov,
and with a landowner of more uncouth exterior named Sobakevitch--the
latter of whom began the acquaintance by treading heavily upon
Chichikov's toes, and then begging his pardon. Next, Chichikov
received an offer of a "cut in" at whist, and accepted the same with
his usual courteous inclination of the head. Seating themselves at a
green table, the party did not rise therefrom till supper time; and
during that period all conversation between the players became hushed,
as is the custom when men have given themselves up to a really serious
pursuit. Even the Postmaster--a talkative man by nature--had no sooner
taken the cards into his hands than he assumed an expression of
profound thought, pursed his lips, and retained this attitude
unchanged throughout the game. Only when playing a court card was it
his custom to strike the table with his fist, and to exclaim (if the
card happened to be a queen), "Now, old popadia[4]!" and (if the card
happened to be a king), "Now, peasant of Tambov!" To which
ejaculations invariably the President of the Local Council retorted,
"Ah, I have him by the ears, I have him by the ears!" And from the
neighbourhood of the table other strong ejaculations relative to the
play would arise, interposed with one or another of those nicknames
which participants in a game are apt to apply to members of the
various suits. I need hardly add that, the game over, the players fell
to quarrelling, and that in the dispute our friend joined, though so
artfully as to let every one see that, in spite of the fact that he
was wrangling, he was doing so only in the most amicable fashion
possible. Never did he say outright, "You played the wrong card at
such and such a point." No, he always employed some such phrase as,
"You permitted yourself to make a slip, and thus afforded me the
honour of covering your deuce." Indeed, the better to keep in accord
with his antagonists, he kept offering them his silver-enamelled
snuff-box (at the bottom of which lay a couple of violets, placed
there for the sake of their scent). In particular did the newcomer pay
attention to landowners Manilov and Sobakevitch; so much so that his
haste to arrive on good terms with them led to his leaving the
President and the Postmaster rather in the shade. At the same time,
certain questions which he put to those two landowners evinced not
only curiosity, but also a certain amount of sound intelligence; for
he began by asking how many peasant souls each of them possessed, and
how their affairs happened at present to be situated, and then
proceeded to enlighten himself also as their standing and their
families. Indeed, it was not long before he had succeeded in fairly
enchanting his new friends. In particular did Manilov--a man still in
his prime, and possessed of a pair of eyes which, sweet as sugar,
blinked whenever he laughed--find himself unable to make enough of his
enchanter. Clasping Chichikov long and fervently by the hand, he
besought him to do him, Manilov, the honour of visiting his country
house (which he declared to lie at a distance of not more than fifteen
versts from the boundaries of the town); and in return Chichikov
averred (with an exceedingly affable bow and a most sincere handshake)
that he was prepared not only to fulfil his friend's behest, but also
to look upon the fulfilling of it as a sacred duty. In the same way
Sobakevitch said to him laconically: "And do you pay ME a visit,"
and then proceeded to shuffle a pair of boots of such dimensions that
to find a pair to correspond with them would have been indeed
difficult--more especially at the present day, when the race of epic
heroes is beginning to die out in Russia.

[4] Priest's wife.

Next day Chichikov dined and spent the evening at the house of the
Chief of Police--a residence where, three hours after dinner, every
one sat down to whist, and remained so seated until two o'clock in the
morning. On this occasion Chichikov made the acquaintance of, among
others, a landowner named Nozdrev--a dissipated little fellow of
thirty who had no sooner exchanged three or four words with his new
acquaintance than he began to address him in the second person
singular. Yet although he did the same to the Chief of Police and the
Public Prosecutor, the company had no sooner seated themselves at the
card-table than both the one and the other of these functionaries
started to keep a careful eye upon Nozdrev's tricks, and to watch
practically every card which he played. The following evening
Chichikov spent with the President of the Local Council, who received
his guests--even though the latter included two ladies--in a greasy
dressing-gown. Upon that followed an evening at the Vice-Governor's, a
large dinner party at the house of the Commissioner of Taxes, a
smaller dinner-party at the house of the Public Prosecutor (a very
wealthy man), and a subsequent reception given by the Mayor. In short,
not an hour of the day did Chichikov find himself forced to spend at
home, and his return to the inn became necessary only for the purposes
of sleeping. Somehow or other he had landed on his feet, and
everywhere he figured as an experienced man of the world. No matter
what the conversation chanced to be about, he always contrived to
maintain his part in the same. Did the discourse turn upon
horse-breeding, upon horse-breeding he happened to be peculiarly
well-qualified to speak. Did the company fall to discussing well-bred
dogs, at once he had remarks of the most pertinent kind possible to
offer. Did the company touch upon a prosecution which had recently
been carried out by the Excise Department, instantly he showed that he
too was not wholly unacquainted with legal affairs. Did an opinion
chance to be expressed concerning billiards, on that subject too he
was at least able to avoid committing a blunder. Did a reference occur
to virtue, concerning virtue he hastened to deliver himself in a way
which brought tears to every eye. Did the subject in hand happen to be
the distilling of brandy--well, that was a matter concerning which he
had the soundest of knowledge. Did any one happen to mention Customs
officials and inspectors, from that moment he expatiated as though he
too had been both a minor functionary and a major. Yet a remarkable
fact was the circumstance that he always contrived to temper his
omniscience with a certain readiness to give way, a certain ability so
to keep a rein upon himself that never did his utterances become too
loud or too soft, or transcend what was perfectly befitting. In a
word, he was always a gentleman of excellent manners, and every
official in the place felt pleased when he saw him enter the door.
Thus the Governor gave it as his opinion that Chichikov was a man of
excellent intentions; the Public Prosecutor, that he was a good man of
business; the Chief of Gendarmery, that he was a man of education; the
President of the Local Council, that he was a man of breeding and
refinement; and the wife of the Chief of Gendarmery, that his
politeness of behaviour was equalled only by his affability of
bearing. Nay, even Sobakevitch--who as a rule never spoke well of ANY
ONE--said to his lanky wife when, on returning late from the town, he
undressed and betook himself to bed by her side: "My dear, this
evening, after dining with the Chief of Police, I went on to the
Governor's, and met there, among others, a certain Paul Ivanovitch
Chichikov, who is a Collegiate Councillor and a very pleasant fellow."
To this his spouse replied "Hm!" and then dealt him a hearty kick in
the ribs.

Such were the flattering opinions earned by the newcomer to the town;
and these opinions he retained until the time when a certain
speciality of his, a certain scheme of his (the reader will learn
presently what it was), plunged the majority of the townsfolk into a
sea of perplexity.

CHAPTER II

For more than two weeks the visitor lived amid a round of evening
parties and dinners; wherefore he spent (as the saying goes) a very
pleasant time. Finally he decided to extend his visits beyond the
urban boundaries by going and calling upon landowners Manilov and
Sobakevitch, seeing that he had promised on his honour to do so. Yet
what really incited him to this may have been a more essential cause,
a matter of greater gravity, a purpose which stood nearer to his heart,
than the motive which I have just given; and of that purpose the
reader will learn if only he will have the patience to read this
prefatory narrative (which, lengthy though it be, may yet develop and
expand in proportion as we approach the denouement with which the
present work is destined to be crowned).

One evening, therefore, Selifan the coachman received orders to have
the horses harnessed in good time next morning; while Petrushka
received orders to remain behind, for the purpose of looking after the
portmanteau and the room. In passing, the reader may care to become
more fully acquainted with the two serving-men of whom I have spoken.
Naturally, they were not persons of much note, but merely what folk
call characters of secondary, or even of tertiary, importance. Yet,
despite the fact that the springs and the thread of this romance will
not DEPEND upon them, but only touch upon them, and occasionally
include them, the author has a passion for circumstantiality, and,
like the average Russian, such a desire for accuracy as even a German
could not rival. To what the reader already knows concerning the
personages in hand it is therefore necessary to add that Petrushka
usually wore a cast-off brown jacket of a size too large for him, as
also that he had (according to the custom of individuals of his
calling) a pair of thick lips and a very prominent nose. In
temperament he was taciturn rather than loquacious, and he cherished a
yearning for self-education. That is to say, he loved to read books,
even though their contents came alike to him whether they were books
of heroic adventure or mere grammars or liturgical compendia. As I
say, he perused every book with an equal amount of attention, and, had
he been offered a work on chemistry, would have accepted that also.
Not the words which he read, but the mere solace derived from the act
of reading, was what especially pleased his mind; even though at any
moment there might launch itself from the page some devil-sent word
whereof he could make neither head nor tail. For the most part, his
task of reading was performed in a recumbent position in the anteroom;
which circumstance ended by causing his mattress to become as ragged
and as thin as a wafer. In addition to his love of poring over books,
he could boast of two habits which constituted two other essential
features of his character--namely, a habit of retiring to rest in his
clothes (that is to say, in the brown jacket above-mentioned) and a
habit of everywhere bearing with him his own peculiar atmosphere, his
own peculiar smell--a smell which filled any lodging with such
subtlety that he needed but to make up his bed anywhere, even in a
room hitherto untenanted, and to drag thither his greatcoat and other
impedimenta, for that room at once to assume an air of having been
lived in during the past ten years. Nevertheless, though a fastidious,
and even an irritable, man, Chichikov would merely frown when his nose
caught this smell amid the freshness of the morning, and exclaim with
a toss of his head: "The devil only knows what is up with you! Surely
you sweat a good deal, do you not? The best thing you can do is to go
and take a bath." To this Petrushka would make no reply, but,
approaching, brush in hand, the spot where his master's coat would be
pendent, or starting to arrange one and another article in order,
would strive to seem wholly immersed in his work. Yet of what was he
thinking as he remained thus silent? Perhaps he was saying to himself:
"My master is a good fellow, but for him to keep on saying the same
thing forty times over is a little wearisome." Only God knows and sees
all things; wherefore for a mere human being to know what is in the
mind of a servant while his master is scolding him is wholly
impossible. However, no more need be said about Petrushka. On the
other hand, Coachman Selifan--

But here let me remark that I do not like engaging the reader's
attention in connection with persons of a lower class than himself;
for experience has taught me that we do not willingly familiarise
ourselves with the lower orders--that it is the custom of the average
Russian to yearn exclusively for information concerning persons on the
higher rungs of the social ladder. In fact, even a bowing acquaintance
with a prince or a lord counts, in his eyes, for more than do the most
intimate of relations with ordinary folk. For the same reason the
author feels apprehensive on his hero's account, seeing that he has
made that hero a mere Collegiate Councillor--a mere person with whom
Aulic Councillors might consort, but upon whom persons of the grade of
full General[1] would probably bestow one of those glances proper to a
man who is cringing at their august feet. Worse still, such persons of
the grade of General are likely to treat Chichikov with studied
negligence--and to an author studied negligence spells death.

[1] In this case the term General refers to a civil grade equivalent
    to the military rank of the same title.

However, in spite of the distressfulness of the foregoing
possibilities, it is time that I returned to my hero. After issuing,
overnight, the necessary orders, he awoke early, washed himself,
rubbed himself from head to foot with a wet sponge (a performance
executed only on Sundays--and the day in question happened to be a
Sunday), shaved his face with such care that his cheeks issued of
absolutely satin-like smoothness and polish, donned first his
bilberry-coloured, spotted frockcoat, and then his bearskin overcoat,
descended the staircase (attended, throughout, by the waiter) and
entered his britchka. With a loud rattle the vehicle left the
inn-yard, and issued into the street. A passing priest doffed his cap,
and a few urchins in grimy shirts shouted, "Gentleman, please give a
poor orphan a trifle!" Presently the driver noticed that a sturdy
young rascal was on the point of climbing onto the splashboard;
wherefore he cracked his whip and the britchka leapt forward with
increased speed over the cobblestones. At last, with a feeling of
relief, the travellers caught sight of macadam ahead, which promised
an end both to the cobblestones and to sundry other annoyances. And,
sure enough, after his head had been bumped a few more times against
the boot of the conveyance, Chichikov found himself bowling over
softer ground. On the town receding into the distance, the sides of
the road began to be varied with the usual hillocks, fir trees, clumps
of young pine, trees with old, scarred trunks, bushes of wild juniper,
and so forth, Presently there came into view also strings of country
villas which, with their carved supports and grey roofs (the latter
looking like pendent, embroidered tablecloths), resembled, rather,
bundles of old faggots. Likewise the customary peasants, dressed in
sheepskin jackets, could be seen yawning on benches before their huts,
while their womenfolk, fat of feature and swathed of bosom, gazed out
of upper windows, and the windows below displayed, here a peering
calf, and there the unsightly jaws of a pig. In short, the view was
one of the familiar type. After passing the fifteenth verst-stone
Chichikov suddenly recollected that, according to Manilov, fifteen
versts was the exact distance between his country house and the town;
but the sixteenth verst stone flew by, and the said country house was
still nowhere to be seen. In fact, but for the circumstance that the
travellers happened to encounter a couple of peasants, they would have
come on their errand in vain. To a query as to whether the country
house known as Zamanilovka was anywhere in the neighbourhood the
peasants replied by doffing their caps; after which one of them who
seemed to boast of a little more intelligence than his companion, and
who wore a wedge-shaped beard, made answer:

"Perhaps you mean Manilovka--not ZAmanilovka?"

"Yes, yes--Manilovka."

"Manilovka, eh? Well, you must continue for another verst, and then
you will see it straight before you, on the right."

"On the right?" re-echoed the coachman.

"Yes, on the right," affirmed the peasant. "You are on the proper road
for Manilovka, but ZAmanilovka--well, there is no such place. The
house you mean is called Manilovka because Manilovka is its name; but
no house at all is called ZAmanilovka. The house you mean stands
there, on that hill, and is a stone house in which a gentleman lives,
and its name is Manilovka; but ZAmanilovka does not stand
hereabouts, nor ever has stood."

So the travellers proceeded in search of Manilovka, and, after driving
an additional two versts, arrived at a spot whence there branched off
a by-road. Yet two, three, or four versts of the by-road had been
covered before they saw the least sign of a two-storied stone mansion.
Then it was that Chichikov suddenly recollected that, when a friend
has invited one to visit his country house, and has said that the
distance thereto is fifteen versts, the distance is sure to turn out
to be at least thirty.

Not many people would have admired the situation of Manilov's abode,
for it stood on an isolated rise and was open to every wind that blew.
On the slope of the rise lay closely-mown turf, while, disposed here
and there, after the English fashion, were flower-beds containing
clumps of lilac and yellow acacia. Also, there were a few
insignificant groups of slender-leaved, pointed-tipped birch trees,
with, under two of the latter, an arbour having a shabby green cupola,
some blue-painted wooden supports, and the inscription "This is the
Temple of Solitary Thought." Lower down the slope lay a green-coated
pond--green-coated ponds constitute a frequent spectacle in the
gardens of Russian landowners; and, lastly, from the foot of the
declivity there stretched a line of mouldy, log-built huts which, for
some obscure reason or another, our hero set himself to count. Up to
two hundred or more did he count, but nowhere could he perceive a
single leaf of vegetation or a single stick of timber. The only thing
to greet the eye was the logs of which the huts were constructed.
Nevertheless the scene was to a certain extent enlivened by the
spectacle of two peasant women who, with clothes picturesquely tucked
up, were wading knee-deep in the pond and dragging behind them, with
wooden handles, a ragged fishing-net, in the meshes of which two
crawfish and a roach with glistening scales were entangled. The women
appeared to have cause of dispute between themselves--to be rating one
another about something. In the background, and to one side of the
house, showed a faint, dusky blur of pinewood, and even the weather
was in keeping with the surroundings, since the day was neither clear
nor dull, but of the grey tint which may be noted in uniforms of
garrison soldiers which have seen long service. To complete the
picture, a cock, the recognised harbinger of atmospheric mutations,
was present; and, in spite of the fact that a certain connection with
affairs of gallantry had led to his having had his head pecked bare by
other cocks, he flapped a pair of wings--appendages as bare as two
pieces of bast--and crowed loudly.

As Chichikov approached the courtyard of the mansion he caught sight
of his host (clad in a green frock coat) standing on the verandah and
pressing one hand to his eyes to shield them from the sun and so get a
better view of the approaching carriage. In proportion as the britchka
drew nearer and nearer to the verandah, the host's eyes assumed a more
and more delighted expression, and his smile a broader and broader
sweep.

"Paul Ivanovitch!" he exclaimed when at length Chichikov leapt from
the vehicle. "Never should I have believed that you would have
remembered us!"

The two friends exchanged hearty embraces, and Manilov then conducted
his guest to the drawing-room. During the brief time that they are
traversing the hall, the anteroom, and the dining-room, let me try to
say something concerning the master of the house. But such an
undertaking bristles with difficulties--it promises to be a far less
easy task than the depicting of some outstanding personality which
calls but for a wholesale dashing of colours upon the canvas--the
colours of a pair of dark, burning eyes, a pair of dark, beetling
brows, a forehead seamed with wrinkles, a black, or a fiery-red, cloak
thrown backwards over the shoulder, and so forth, and so forth. Yet,
so numerous are Russian serf owners that, though careful scrutiny
reveals to one's sight a quantity of outre peculiarities, they are, as
a class, exceedingly difficult to portray, and one needs to strain
one's faculties to the utmost before it becomes possible to pick out
their variously subtle, their almost invisible, features. In short,
one needs, before doing this, to carry out a prolonged probing with
the aid of an insight sharpened in the acute school of research.

Only God can say what Manilov's real character was. A class of men
exists whom the proverb has described as "men unto themselves, neither
this nor that--neither Bogdan of the city nor Selifan of the village."
And to that class we had better assign also Manilov. Outwardly he was
presentable enough, for his features were not wanting in amiability,
but that amiability was a quality into which there entered too much of
the sugary element, so that his every gesture, his every attitude,
seemed to connote an excess of eagerness to curry favour and cultivate
a closer acquaintance. On first speaking to the man, his ingratiating
smile, his flaxen hair, and his blue eyes would lead one to say, "What
a pleasant, good-tempered fellow he seems!" yet during the next moment
or two one would feel inclined to say nothing at all, and, during the
third moment, only to say, "The devil alone knows what he is!" And
should, thereafter, one not hasten to depart, one would inevitably
become overpowered with the deadly sense of ennui which comes of the
intuition that nothing in the least interesting is to be looked for,
but only a series of wearisome utterances of the kind which are apt to
fall from the lips of a man whose hobby has once been touched upon.
For every man HAS his hobby. One man's may be sporting dogs; another
man's may be that of believing himself to be a lover of music, and
able to sound the art to its inmost depths; another's may be that of
posing as a connoisseur of recherche cookery; another's may be that of
aspiring to play roles of a kind higher than nature has assigned him;
another's (though this is a more limited ambition) may be that of
getting drunk, and of dreaming that he is edifying both his friends,
his acquaintances, and people with whom he has no connection at all by
walking arm-in-arm with an Imperial aide-de-camp; another's may be
that of possessing a hand able to chip corners off aces and deuces of
diamonds; another's may be that of yearning to set things straight--in
other words, to approximate his personality to that of a stationmaster
or a director of posts. In short, almost every man has his hobby or
his leaning; yet Manilov had none such, for at home he spoke little,
and spent the greater part of his time in meditation--though God only
knows what that meditation comprised! Nor can it be said that he took
much interest in the management of his estate, for he never rode into
the country, and the estate practically managed itself. Whenever the
bailiff said to him, "It might be well to have such-and-such a thing
done," he would reply, "Yes, that is not a bad idea," and then go on
smoking his pipe--a habit which he had acquired during his service in
the army, where he had been looked upon as an officer of modesty,
delicacy, and refinement. "Yes, it is NOT a bad idea," he would
repeat. Again, whenever a peasant approached him and, rubbing the back
of his neck, said "Barin, may I have leave to go and work for myself,
in order that I may earn my obrok[2]?" he would snap out, with pipe in
mouth as usual, "Yes, go!" and never trouble his head as to whether
the peasant's real object might not be to go and get drunk. True, at
intervals he would say, while gazing from the verandah to the
courtyard, and from the courtyard to the pond, that it would be indeed
splendid if a carriage drive could suddenly materialise, and the pond
as suddenly become spanned with a stone bridge, and little shops as
suddenly arise whence pedlars could dispense the petty merchandise of
the kind which peasantry most need. And at such moments his eyes would
grow winning, and his features assume an expression of intense
satisfaction. Yet never did these projects pass beyond the stage of
debate. Likewise there lay in his study a book with the fourteenth
page permanently turned down. It was a book which he had been reading
for the past two years! In general, something seemed to be wanting in
the establishment. For instance, although the drawing-room was filled
with beautiful furniture, and upholstered in some fine silken material
which clearly had cost no inconsiderable sum, two of the chairs lacked
any covering but bast, and for some years past the master had been
accustomed to warn his guests with the words, "Do not sit upon these
chairs; they are not yet ready for use." Another room contained no
furniture at all, although, a few days after the marriage, it had been
said: "My dear, to-morrow let us set about procuring at least some
TEMPORARY furniture for this room." Also, every evening would see
placed upon the drawing-room table a fine bronze candelabrum, a
statuette representative of the Three Graces, a tray inlaid with
mother-of-pearl, and a rickety, lop-sided copper invalide. Yet of the
fact that all four articles were thickly coated with grease neither
the master of the house nor the mistress nor the servants seemed to
entertain the least suspicion. At the same time, Manilov and his wife
were quite satisfied with each other. More than eight years had
elapsed since their marriage, yet one of them was for ever offering
his or her partner a piece of apple or a bonbon or a nut, while
murmuring some tender something which voiced a whole-hearted
affection. "Open your mouth, dearest"--thus ran the formula--"and let
me pop into it this titbit." You may be sure that on such occasions
the "dearest mouth" parted its lips most graciously! For their mutual
birthdays the pair always contrived some "surprise present" in the
shape of a glass receptacle for tooth-powder, or what not; and as they
sat together on the sofa he would suddenly, and for some unknown
reason, lay aside his pipe, and she her work (if at the moment she
happened to be holding it in her hands) and husband and wife would
imprint upon one another's cheeks such a prolonged and languishing
kiss that during its continuance you could have smoked a small cigar.
In short, they were what is known as "a very happy couple." Yet it may
be remarked that a household requires other pursuits to be engaged in
than lengthy embracings and the preparing of cunning "surprises." Yes,
many a function calls for fulfilment. For instance, why should it be
thought foolish or low to superintend the kitchen? Why should care not
be taken that the storeroom never lacks supplies? Why should a
housekeeper be allowed to thieve? Why should slovenly and drunken
servants exist? Why should a domestic staff be suffered in indulge in
bouts of unconscionable debauchery during its leisure time? Yet none
of these things were thought worthy of consideration by Manilov's
wife, for she had been gently brought up, and gentle nurture, as we
all know, is to be acquired only in boarding schools, and boarding
schools, as we know, hold the three principal subjects which
constitute the basis of human virtue to be the French language (a
thing indispensable to the happiness of married life), piano-playing
(a thing wherewith to beguile a husband's leisure moments), and that
particular department of housewifery which is comprised in the
knitting of purses and other "surprises." Nevertheless changes and
improvements have begun to take place, since things now are governed
more by the personal inclinations and idiosyncracies of the keepers of
such establishments. For instance, in some seminaries the regimen
places piano-playing first, and the French language second, and then
the above department of housewifery; while in other seminaries the
knitting of "surprises" heads the list, and then the French language,
and then the playing of pianos--so diverse are the systems in force!
None the less, I may remark that Madame Manilov--

[2] An annual tax upon peasants, payment of which secured to the payer
    the right of removal.

But let me confess that I always shrink from saying too much about
ladies. Moreover, it is time that we returned to our heroes, who,
during the past few minutes, have been standing in front of the
drawing-room door, and engaged in urging one another to enter first.

"Pray be so good as not to inconvenience yourself on my account," said
Chichikov. "_I_ will follow YOU."

"No, Paul Ivanovitch--no! You are my guest." And Manilov pointed
towards the doorway.

"Make no difficulty about it, I pray," urged Chichikov. "I beg of you
to make no difficulty about it, but to pass into the room."

"Pardon me, I will not. Never could I allow so distinguished and so
welcome a guest as yourself to take second place."

"Why call me 'distinguished,' my dear sir? I beg of you to proceed."

"Nay; be YOU pleased to do so."

"And why?"

"For the reason which I have stated." And Manilov smiled his very
pleasantest smile.

Finally the pair entered simultaneously and sideways; with the result
that they jostled one another not a little in the process.

"Allow me to present to you my wife," continued Manilov. "My
dear--Paul Ivanovitch."

Upon that Chichikov caught sight of a lady whom hitherto he had
overlooked, but who, with Manilov, was now bowing to him in the
doorway. Not wholly of unpleasing exterior, she was dressed in a
well-fitting, high-necked morning dress of pale-coloured silk; and as
the visitor entered the room her small white hands threw something
upon the table and clutched her embroidered skirt before rising from
the sofa where she had been seated. Not without a sense of pleasure
did Chichikov take her hand as, lisping a little, she declared that
she and her husband were equally gratified by his coming, and that, of
late, not a day had passed without her husband recalling him to mind.

"Yes," affirmed Manilov; "and every day SHE has said to ME: 'Why
does not your friend put in an appearance?' 'Wait a little dearest,' I
have always replied. ''Twill not be long now before he comes.' And you
HAVE come, you HAVE honoured us with a visit, you HAVE bestowed
upon us a treat--a treat destined to convert this day into a gala day,
a true birthday of the heart."

The intimation that matters had reached the point of the occasion
being destined to constitute a "true birthday of the heart" caused
Chichikov to become a little confused; wherefore he made modest reply
that, as a matter of fact, he was neither of distinguished origin nor
distinguished rank.

"Ah, you ARE so," interrupted Manilov with his fixed and engaging
smile. "You are all that, and more."

"How like you our town?" queried Madame. "Have you spent an agreeable
time in it?"

"Very," replied Chichikov. "The town is an exceedingly nice one, and I
have greatly enjoyed its hospitable society."

"And what do you think of our Governor?"

"Yes; IS he not a most engaging and dignified personage?" added Manilov.

"He is all that," assented Chichikov. "Indeed, he is a man worthy of
the greatest respect. And how thoroughly he performs his duty
according to his lights! Would that we had more like him!"

"And the tactfulness with which he greets every one!" added Manilov,
smiling, and half-closing his eyes, like a cat which is being tickled
behind the ears.

"Quite so," assented Chichikov. "He is a man of the most eminent
civility and approachableness. And what an artist! Never should I have
thought he could have worked the marvellous household samplers which
he has done! Some specimens of his needlework which he showed me could
not well have been surpassed by any lady in the land!"

"And the Vice-Governor, too--he is a nice man, is he not?" inquired
Manilov with renewed blinkings of the eyes.

"Who? The Vice-Governor? Yes, a most worthy fellow!" replied
Chichikov.

"And what of the Chief of Police? Is it not a fact that he too is in
the highest degree agreeable?"

"Very agreeable indeed. And what a clever, well-read individual! With
him and the Public Prosecutor and the President of the Local Council I
played whist until the cocks uttered their last morning crow. He is a
most excellent fellow."

"And what of his wife?" queried Madame Manilov. "Is she not a most
gracious personality?"

"One of the best among my limited acquaintance," agreed Chichikov.

Nor were the President of the Local Council and the Postmaster
overlooked; until the company had run through the whole list of urban
officials. And in every case those officials appeared to be persons of
the highest possible merit.

"Do you devote your time entirely to your estate?" asked Chichikov, in
his turn.

"Well, most of it," replied Manilov; "though also we pay occasional
visits to the town, in order that we may mingle with a little
well-bred society. One grows a trifle rusty if one lives for ever in
retirement."

"Quite so," agreed Chichikov.

"Yes, quite so," capped Manilov. "At the same time, it would be a
different matter if the neighbourhood were a GOOD one--if, for
example, one had a friend with whom one could discuss manners and
polite deportment, or engage in some branch of science, and so
stimulate one's wits. For that sort of thing gives one's intellect an
airing. It, it--" At a loss for further words, he ended by remarking
that his feelings were apt to carry him away; after which he continued
with a gesture: "What I mean is that, were that sort of thing
possible, I, for one, could find the country and an isolated life
possessed of great attractions. But, as matters stand, such a thing is
NOT possible. All that I can manage to do is, occasionally, to read
a little of A Son of the Fatherland."

With these sentiments Chichikov expressed entire agreement: adding
that nothing could be more delightful than to lead a solitary life in
which there should be comprised only the sweet contemplation of nature
and the intermittent perusal of a book.

"Nay, but even THAT were worth nothing had not one a friend with
whom to share one's life," remarked Manilov.

"True, true," agreed Chichikov. "Without a friend, what are all the
treasures in the world? 'Possess not money,' a wise man has said, 'but
rather good friends to whom to turn in case of need.'"

"Yes, Paul Ivanovitch," said Manilov with a glance not merely sweet,
but positively luscious--a glance akin to the mixture which even
clever physicians have to render palatable before they can induce a
hesitant patient to take it. "Consequently you may imagine what
happiness--what PERFECT happiness, so to speak--the present occasion
has brought me, seeing that I am permitted to converse with you and to
enjoy your conversation."

"But WHAT of my conversation?" replied Chichikov. "I am an
insignificant individual, and, beyond that, nothing."

"Oh, Paul Ivanovitch!" cried the other. "Permit me to be frank, and to
say that I would give half my property to possess even a PORTION of
the talents which you possess."

"On the contrary, I should consider it the highest honour in the world if--"

The lengths to which this mutual outpouring of soul would have
proceeded had not a servant entered to announce luncheon must remain a
mystery.

"I humbly invite you to join us at table," said Manilov. "Also, you
will pardon us for the fact that we cannot provide a banquet such as
is to be obtained in our metropolitan cities? We partake of simple
fare, according to Russian custom--we confine ourselves to shtchi[3],
but we do so with a single heart. Come, I humbly beg of you."

[3] Cabbage soup.

After another contest for the honour of yielding precedence, Chichikov
succeeded in making his way (in zigzag fashion) to the dining-room,
where they found awaiting them a couple of youngsters. These were
Manilov's sons, and boys of the age which admits of their presence at
table, but necessitates the continued use of high chairs. Beside them
was their tutor, who bowed politely and smiled; after which the
hostess took her seat before her soup plate, and the guest of honour
found himself esconsed between her and the master of the house, while
the servant tied up the boys' necks in bibs.

"What charming children!" said Chichikov as he gazed at the pair. "And
how old are they?"

"The eldest is eight," replied Manilov, "and the younger one attained
the age of six yesterday."

"Themistocleus," went on the father, turning to his first-born, who
was engaged in striving to free his chin from the bib with which the
footman had encircled it. On hearing this distinctly Greek name (to
which, for some unknown reason, Manilov always appended the
termination "eus"), Chichikov raised his eyebrows a little, but
hastened, the next moment, to restore his face to a more befitting
expression.

"Themistocleus," repeated the father, "tell me which is the finest
city in France."

Upon this the tutor concentrated his attention upon Themistocleus, and
appeared to be trying hard to catch his eye. Only when Themistocleus
had muttered "Paris" did the preceptor grow calmer, and nod his head.

"And which is the finest city in Russia?" continued Manilov.

Again the tutor's attitude became wholly one of concentration.

"St. Petersburg," replied Themistocleus.

"And what other city?"

"Moscow," responded the boy.

"Clever little dear!" burst out Chichikov, turning with an air of
surprise to the father. "Indeed, I feel bound to say that the child
evinces the greatest possible potentialities."

"You do not know him fully," replied the delighted Manilov. "The
amount of sharpness which he possesses is extraordinary. Our younger
one, Alkid, is not so quick; whereas his brother--well, no matter what
he may happen upon (whether upon a cowbug or upon a water-beetle or
upon anything else), his little eyes begin jumping out of his head,
and he runs to catch the thing, and to inspect it. For HIM I am
reserving a diplomatic post. Themistocleus," added the father, again
turning to his son, "do you wish to become an ambassador?"

"Yes, I do," replied Themistocleus, chewing a piece of bread and
wagging his head from side to side.

At this moment the lacquey who had been standing behind the future
ambassador wiped the latter's nose; and well it was that he did so,
since otherwise an inelegant and superfluous drop would have been
added to the soup. After that the conversation turned upon the joys of
a quiet life--though occasionally it was interrupted by remarks from
the hostess on the subject of acting and actors. Meanwhile the tutor
kept his eyes fixed upon the speakers' faces; and whenever he noticed
that they were on the point of laughing he at once opened his mouth,
and laughed with enthusiasm. Probably he was a man of grateful heart
who wished to repay his employers for the good treatment which he had
received. Once, however, his features assumed a look of grimness as,
fixing his eyes upon his vis-a-vis, the boys, he tapped sternly upon
the table. This happened at a juncture when Themistocleus had bitten
Alkid on the ear, and the said Alkid, with frowning eyes and open
mouth, was preparing himself to sob in piteous fashion; until,
recognising that for such a proceeding he might possibly be deprived
of his plate, he hastened to restore his mouth to its original
expression, and fell tearfully to gnawing a mutton bone--the grease
from which had soon covered his cheeks.

Every now and again the hostess would turn to Chichikov with the
words, "You are eating nothing--you have indeed taken little;" but
invariably her guest replied: "Thank you, I have had more than enough.
A pleasant conversation is worth all the dishes in the world."

At length the company rose from table. Manilov was in high spirits,
and, laying his hand upon his guest's shoulder, was on the point of
conducting him to the drawing-room, when suddenly Chichikov intimated
to him, with a meaning look, that he wished to speak to him on a very
important matter.

"That being so," said Manilov, "allow me to invite you into my study."
And he led the way to a small room which faced the blue of the forest.
"This is my sanctum," he added.

"What a pleasant apartment!" remarked Chichikov as he eyed it
carefully. And, indeed, the room did not lack a certain
attractiveness. The walls were painted a sort of blueish-grey colour,
and the furniture consisted of four chairs, a settee, and a table--the
latter of which bore a few sheets of writing-paper and the book of
which I have before had occasion to speak. But the most prominent
feature of the room was tobacco, which appeared in many different
guises--in packets, in a tobacco jar, and in a loose heap strewn about
the table. Likewise, both window sills were studded with little heaps
of ash, arranged, not without artifice, in rows of more or less
tidiness. Clearly smoking afforded the master of the house a frequent
means of passing the time.

"Permit me to offer you a seat on this settee," said Manilov. "Here
you will be quieter than you would be in the drawing-room."

"But I should prefer to sit upon this chair."

"I cannot allow that," objected the smiling Manilov. "The settee is
specially reserved for my guests. Whether you choose or no, upon it
you MUST sit."

Accordingly Chichikov obeyed.

"And also let me hand you a pipe."

"No, I never smoke," answered Chichikov civilly, and with an assumed
air of regret.

"And why?" inquired Manilov--equally civilly, but with a regret that
was wholly genuine.

"Because I fear that I have never quite formed the habit, owing to my
having heard that a pipe exercises a desiccating effect upon the
system."

"Then allow me to tell you that that is mere prejudice. Nay, I would
even go so far as to say that to smoke a pipe is a healthier practice
than to take snuff. Among its members our regiment numbered a
lieutenant--a most excellent, well-educated fellow--who was simply
INCAPABLE of removing his pipe from his mouth, whether at table or
(pardon me) in other places. He is now forty, yet no man could enjoy
better health than he has always done."

Chichikov replied that such cases were common, since nature comprised
many things which even the finest intellect could not compass.

"But allow me to put to you a question," he went on in a tone in which
there was a strange--or, at all events, RATHER a strange--note. For
some unknown reason, also, he glanced over his shoulder. For some
equally unknown reason, Manilov glanced over HIS.

"How long is it," inquired the guest, "since you last rendered a
census return?"

"Oh, a long, long time. In fact, I cannot remember when it was."

"And since then have many of your serfs died?"

"I do not know. To ascertain that I should need to ask my bailiff.
Footman, go and call the bailiff. I think he will be at home to-day."

Before long the bailiff made his appearance. He was a man of under
forty, clean-shaven, clad in a smock, and evidently used to a quiet
life, seeing that his face was of that puffy fullness, and the skin
encircling his slit-like eyes was of that sallow tint, which shows
that the owner of those features is well acquainted with a feather
bed. In a trice it could be seen that he had played his part in life
as all such bailiffs do--that, originally a young serf of elementary
education, he had married some Agashka of a housekeeper or a
mistress's favourite, and then himself become housekeeper, and,
subsequently, bailiff; after which he had proceeded according to the
rules of his tribe--that is to say, he had consorted with and stood in
with the more well-to-do serfs on the estate, and added the poorer
ones to the list of forced payers of obrok, while himself leaving his
bed at nine o'clock in the morning, and, when the samovar had been
brought, drinking his tea at leisure.

"Look here, my good man," said Manilov. "How many of our serfs have
died since the last census revision?"

"How many of them have died? Why, a great many." The bailiff
hiccoughed, and slapped his mouth lightly after doing so.

"Yes, I imagined that to be the case," corroborated Manilov. "In fact,
a VERY great many serfs have died." He turned to Chichikov and
repeated the words.

"How many, for instance?" asked Chichikov.

"Yes; how many?" re-echoed Manilov.

"HOW many?" re-echoed the bailiff. "Well, no one knows the exact
number, for no one has kept any account."

"Quite so," remarked Manilov. "I supposed the death-rate to have been
high, but was ignorant of its precise extent."

"Then would you be so good as to have it computed for me?" said
Chichikov. "And also to have a detailed list of the deaths made out?"

"Yes, I will--a detailed list," agreed Manilov.

"Very well."

The bailiff departed.

"For what purpose do you want it?" inquired Manilov when the bailiff
had gone.

The question seemed to embarrass the guest, for in Chichikov's face
there dawned a sort of tense expression, and it reddened as though its
owner were striving to express something not easy to put into words.
True enough, Manilov was now destined to hear such strange and
unexpected things as never before had greeted human ears.

"You ask me," said Chichikov, "for what purpose I want the list. Well,
my purpose in wanting it is this--that I desire to purchase a few
peasants." And he broke off in a gulp.

"But may I ask HOW you desire to purchase those peasants?" asked
Manilov. "With land, or merely as souls for transferment--that is to
say, by themselves, and without any land?"

"I want the peasants themselves only," replied Chichikov. "And I want
dead ones at that."

"What?--Excuse me, but I am a trifle deaf. Really, your words sound
most strange!"

"All that I am proposing to do," replied Chichikov, "is to purchase
the dead peasants who, at the last census, were returned by you as
alive."

Manilov dropped his pipe on the floor, and sat gaping. Yes, the two
friends who had just been discussing the joys of camaraderie sat
staring at one another like the portraits which, of old, used to hang
on opposite sides of a mirror. At length Manilov picked up his pipe,
and, while doing so, glanced covertly at Chichikov to see whether
there was any trace of a smile to be detected on his lips--whether, in
short, he was joking. But nothing of the sort could be discerned. On
the contrary, Chichikov's face looked graver than usual. Next, Manilov
wondered whether, for some unknown reason, his guest had lost his
wits; wherefore he spent some time in gazing at him with anxious
intentness. But the guest's eyes seemed clear--they contained no spark
of the wild, restless fire which is apt to wander in the eyes of
madmen. All was as it should be. Consequently, in spite of Manilov's
cogitations, he could think of nothing better to do than to sit
letting a stream of tobacco smoke escape from his mouth.

"So," continued Chichikov, "what I desire to know is whether you are
willing to hand over to me--to resign--these actually non-living, but
legally living, peasants; or whether you have any better proposal to
make?"

Manilov felt too confused and confounded to do aught but continue
staring at his interlocutor.

"I think that you are disturbing yourself unnecessarily," was
Chichikov's next remark.

"I? Oh no! Not at all!" stammered Manilov. "Only--pardon me--I do not
quite comprehend you. You see, never has it fallen to my lot to
acquire the brilliant polish which is, so to speak, manifest in your
every movement. Nor have I ever been able to attain the art of
expressing myself well. Consequently, although there is a possibility
that in the--er--utterances which have just fallen from your lips
there may lie something else concealed, it may equally be
that--er--you have been pleased so to express yourself for the sake of
the beauty of the terms wherein that expression found shape?"

"Oh, no," asserted Chichikov. "I mean what I say and no more. My
reference to such of your pleasant souls as are dead was intended to
be taken literally."

Manilov still felt at a loss--though he was conscious that he MUST
do something, he MUST propound some question. But what question? The
devil alone knew! In the end he merely expelled some more tobacco
smoke--this time from his nostrils as well as from his mouth.

"So," went on Chichikov, "if no obstacle stands in the way, we might
as well proceed to the completion of the purchase."

"What? Of the purchase of the dead souls?"

"Of the 'dead' souls? Oh dear no! Let us write them down as LIVING
ones, seeing that that is how they figure in the census returns. Never
do I permit myself to step outside the civil law, great though has
been the harm which that rule has wrought me in my career. In my eyes
an obligation is a sacred thing. In the presence of the law I am
dumb."

These last words reassured Manilov not a little: yet still the meaning
of the affair remained to him a mystery. By way of answer, he fell to
sucking at his pipe with such vehemence that at length the pipe began
to gurgle like a bassoon. It was as though he had been seeking of it
inspiration in the present unheard-of juncture. But the pipe only
gurgled, et praeterea nihil.

"Perhaps you feel doubtful about the proposal?" said Chichikov.

"Not at all," replied Manilov. "But you will, I know, excuse me if I
say (and I say it out of no spirit of prejudice, nor yet as
criticising yourself in any way)--you will, I know, excuse me if I say
that possibly this--er--this, er, SCHEME of yours,
this--er--TRANSACTION of yours, may fail altogether to accord with
the Civil Statutes and Provisions of the Realm?"

And Manilov, with a slight gesture of the head, looked meaningly into
Chichikov's face, while displaying in his every feature, including his
closely-compressed lips, such an expression of profundity as never
before was seen on any human countenance--unless on that of some
particularly sapient Minister of State who is debating some
particularly abstruse problem.

Nevertheless Chichikov rejoined that the kind of scheme or transaction
which he had adumbrated in no way clashed with the Civil Statutes and
Provisions of Russia; to which he added that the Treasury would even
BENEFIT by the enterprise, seeing it would draw therefrom the usual
legal percentage.

"What, then, do you propose?" asked Manilov.

"I propose only what is above-board, and nothing else."

"Then, that being so, it is another matter, and I have nothing to urge
against it," said Manilov, apparently reassured to the full.

"Very well," remarked Chichikov. "Then we need only to agree as to the
price."

"As to the price?" began Manilov, and then stopped. Presently he went
on: "Surely you cannot suppose me capable of taking money for souls
which, in one sense at least, have completed their existence? Seeing
that this fantastic whim of yours (if I may so call it?) has seized
upon you to the extent that it has, I, on my side, shall be ready to
surrender to you those souls UNCONDITIONALLY, and to charge myself
with the whole expenses of the sale."

I should be greatly to blame if I were to omit that, as soon as
Manilov had pronounced these words, the face of his guest became
replete with satisfaction. Indeed, grave and prudent a man though
Chichikov was, he had much ado to refrain from executing a leap that
would have done credit to a goat (an animal which, as we all know,
finds itself moved to such exertions only during moments of the most
ecstatic joy). Nevertheless the guest did at least execute such a
convulsive shuffle that the material with which the cushions of the
chair were covered came apart, and Manilov gazed at him with some
misgiving. Finally Chichikov's gratitude led him to plunge into a
stream of acknowledgement of a vehemence which caused his host to grow
confused, to blush, to shake his head in deprecation, and to end by
declaring that the concession was nothing, and that, his one desire
being to manifest the dictates of his heart and the psychic magnetism
which his friend exercised, he, in short, looked upon the dead souls
as so much worthless rubbish.

"Not at all," replied Chichikov, pressing his hand; after which he
heaved a profound sigh. Indeed, he seemed in the right mood for
outpourings of the heart, for he continued--not without a ring of
emotion in his tone: "If you but knew the service which you have
rendered to an apparently insignificant individual who is devoid both
of family and kindred! For what have I not suffered in my time--I, a
drifting barque amid the tempestuous billows of life? What harryings,
what persecutions, have I not known? Of what grief have I not tasted?
And why? Simply because I have ever kept the truth in view, because
ever I have preserved inviolate an unsullied conscience, because ever
I have stretched out a helping hand to the defenceless widow and the
hapless orphan!" After which outpouring Chichikov pulled out his
handkerchief, and wiped away a brimming tear.

Manilov's heart was moved to the core. Again and again did the two
friends press one another's hands in silence as they gazed into one
another's tear-filled eyes. Indeed, Manilov COULD not let go our
hero's hand, but clasped it with such warmth that the hero in question
began to feel himself at a loss how best to wrench it free: until,
quietly withdrawing it, he observed that to have the purchase
completed as speedily as possible would not be a bad thing; wherefore
he himself would at once return to the town to arrange matters. Taking
up his hat, therefore, he rose to make his adieus.

"What? Are you departing already?" said Manilov, suddenly recovering
himself, and experiencing a sense of misgiving. At that moment his
wife sailed into the room.

"Is Paul Ivanovitch leaving us so soon, dearest Lizanka?" she said
with an air of regret.

"Yes. Surely it must be that we have wearied him?" her spouse replied.

"By no means," asserted Chichikov, pressing his hand to his heart. "In
this breast, madam, will abide for ever the pleasant memory of the
time which I have spent with you. Believe me, I could conceive of no
greater blessing than to reside, if not under the same roof as
yourselves, at all events in your immediate neighbourhood."

"Indeed?" exclaimed Manilov, greatly pleased with the idea. "How
splendid it would be if you DID come to reside under our roof, so
that we could recline under an elm tree together, and talk philosophy,
and delve to the very root of things!"

"Yes, it WOULD be a paradisaical existence!" agreed Chichikov with a
sigh. Nevertheless he shook hands with Madame. "Farewell, sudarina,"
he said. "And farewell to YOU, my esteemed host. Do not forget what
I have requested you to do."

"Rest assured that I will not," responded Manilov. "Only for a couple
of days will you and I be parted from one another."

With that the party moved into the drawing-room.

"Farewell, dearest children," Chichikov went on as he caught sight of
Alkid and Themistocleus, who were playing with a wooden hussar which
lacked both a nose and one arm. "Farewell, dearest pets. Pardon me for
having brought you no presents, but, to tell you the truth, I was not,
until my visit, aware of your existence. However, now that I shall be
coming again, I will not fail to bring you gifts. Themistocleus, to
you I will bring a sword. You would like that, would you not?"

"I should," replied Themistocleus.

"And to you, Alkid, I will bring a drum. That would suit you, would it
not?" And he bowed in Alkid's direction.

"Zeth--a drum," lisped the boy, hanging his head.

"Good! Then a drum it shall be--SUCH a beautiful drum! What a
tur-r-r-ru-ing and a tra-ta-ta-ta-ing you will be able to kick up!
Farewell, my darling." And, kissing the boy's head, he turned to
Manilov and Madame with the slight smile which one assumes before
assuring parents of the guileless merits of their offspring.

"But you had better stay, Paul Ivanovitch," said the father as the
trio stepped out on to the verandah. "See how the clouds are
gathering!"

"They are only small ones," replied Chichikov.

"And you know your way to Sobakevitch's?"

"No, I do not, and should be glad if you would direct me."

"If you like I will tell your coachman." And in very civil fashion
Manilov did so, even going so far as to address the man in the second
person plural. On hearing that he was to pass two turnings, and then
to take a third, Selifan remarked, "We shall get there all right,
sir," and Chichikov departed amid a profound salvo of salutations and
wavings of handkerchiefs on the part of his host and hostess, who
raised themselves on tiptoe in their enthusiasm.

For a long while Manilov stood following the departing britchka with
his eyes. In fact, he continued to smoke his pipe and gaze after the
vehicle even when it had become lost to view. Then he re-entered the
drawing-room, seated himself upon a chair, and surrendered his mind to
the thought that he had shown his guest most excellent entertainment.
Next, his mind passed imperceptibly to other matters, until at last it
lost itself God only knows where. He thought of the amenities of a
life, of friendship, and of how nice it would be to live with a
comrade on, say, the bank of some river, and to span the river with a
bridge of his own, and to build an enormous mansion with a facade
lofty enough even to afford a view to Moscow. On that facade he and
his wife and friend would drink afternoon tea in the open air, and
discuss interesting subjects; after which, in a fine carriage, they
would drive to some reunion or other, where with their pleasant
manners they would so charm the company that the Imperial Government,
on learning of their merits, would raise the pair to the grade of
General or God knows what--that is to say, to heights whereof even
Manilov himself could form no idea. Then suddenly Chichikov's
extraordinary request interrupted the dreamer's reflections, and he
found his brain powerless to digest it, seeing that, turn and turn the
matter about as he might, he could not properly explain its bearing.
Smoking his pipe, he sat where he was until supper time.

CHAPTER III

Meanwhile, Chichikov, seated in his britchka and bowling along the
turnpike, was feeling greatly pleased with himself. From the preceding
chapter the reader will have gathered the principal subject of his
bent and inclinations: wherefore it is no matter for wonder that his
body and his soul had ended by becoming wholly immersed therein. To
all appearances the thoughts, the calculations, and the projects which
were now reflected in his face partook of a pleasant nature, since
momentarily they kept leaving behind them a satisfied smile. Indeed,
so engrossed was he that he never noticed that his coachman, elated
with the hospitality of Manilov's domestics, was making remarks of a
didactic nature to the off horse of the troika[1], a skewbald. This
skewbald was a knowing animal, and made only a show of pulling;
whereas its comrades, the middle horse (a bay, and known as the
Assessor, owing to his having been acquired from a gentleman of that
rank) and the near horse (a roan), would do their work gallantly, and
even evince in their eyes the pleasure which they derived from their
exertions.

[1] Three horses harnessed abreast.

"Ah, you rascal, you rascal! I'll get the better of you!" ejaculated
Selifan as he sat up and gave the lazy one a cut with his whip. "YOU
know your business all right, you German pantaloon! The bay is a good
fellow, and does his duty, and I will give him a bit over his feed,
for he is a horse to be respected; and the Assessor too is a good
horse. But what are YOU shaking your ears for? You are a fool, so
just mind when you're spoken to. 'Tis good advice I'm giving you, you
blockhead. Ah! You CAN travel when you like." And he gave the animal
another cut, and then shouted to the trio, "Gee up, my beauties!" and
drew his whip gently across the backs of the skewbald's comrades--not
as a punishment, but as a sign of his approval. That done, he
addressed himself to the skewbald again.

"Do you think," he cried, "that I don't see what you are doing? You
can behave quite decently when you like, and make a man respect you."

With that he fell to recalling certain reminiscences.

"They were NICE folk, those folk at the gentleman's yonder," he
mused. "I DO love a chat with a man when he is a good sort. With a
man of that kind I am always hail-fellow-well-met, and glad to drink a
glass of tea with him, or to eat a biscuit. One CAN'T help
respecting a decent fellow. For instance, this gentleman of mine--why,
every one looks up to him, for he has been in the Government's
service, and is a Collegiate Councillor."

Thus soliloquising, he passed to more remote abstractions; until, had
Chichikov been listening, he would have learnt a number of interesting
details concerning himself. However, his thoughts were wholly occupied
with his own subject, so much so that not until a loud clap of thunder
awoke him from his reverie did he glance around him. The sky was
completely covered with clouds, and the dusty turnpike beginning to be
sprinkled with drops of rain. At length a second and a nearer and a
louder peal resounded, and the rain descended as from a bucket.
Falling slantwise, it beat upon one side of the basketwork of the tilt
until the splashings began to spurt into his face, and he found
himself forced to draw the curtains (fitted with circular openings
through which to obtain a glimpse of the wayside view), and to shout
to Selifan to quicken his pace. Upon that the coachman, interrupted in
the middle of his harangue, bethought him that no time was to be lost;
wherefore, extracting from under the box-seat a piece of old blanket,
he covered over his sleeves, resumed the reins, and cheered on his
threefold team (which, it may be said, had so completely succumbed to
the influence of the pleasant lassitude induced by Selifan's discourse
that it had taken to scarcely placing one leg before the other).
Unfortunately, Selifan could not clearly remember whether two turnings
had been passed or three. Indeed, on collecting his faculties, and
dimly recalling the lie of the road, he became filled with a shrewd
suspicion that A VERY LARGE NUMBER of turnings had been passed. But
since, at moments which call for a hasty decision, a Russian is quick
to discover what may conceivably be the best course to take, our
coachman put away from him all ulterior reasoning, and, turning to the
right at the next cross-road, shouted, "Hi, my beauties!" and set off
at a gallop. Never for a moment did he stop to think whither the road
might lead him!

It was long before the clouds had discharged their burden, and,
meanwhile, the dust on the road became kneaded into mire, and the
horses' task of pulling the britchka heavier and heavier. Also,
Chichikov had taken alarm at his continued failure to catch sight of
Sobakevitch's country house. According to his calculations, it ought
to have been reached long ago. He gazed about him on every side, but
the darkness was too dense for the eye to pierce.

"Selifan!" he exclaimed, leaning forward in the britchka.

"What is it, barin?" replied the coachman.

"Can you see the country house anywhere?"

"No, barin." After which, with a flourish of the whip, the man broke
into a sort of endless, drawling song. In that song everything had a
place. By "everything" I mean both the various encouraging and
stimulating cries with which Russian folk urge on their horses, and a
random, unpremeditated selection of adjectives.

Meanwhile Chichikov began to notice that the britchka was swaying
violently, and dealing him occasional bumps. Consequently he suspected
that it had left the road and was being dragged over a ploughed field.
Upon Selifan's mind there appeared to have dawned a similar inkling,
for he had ceased to hold forth.

"You rascal, what road are you following?" inquired Chichikov.

"I don't know," retorted the coachman. "What can a man do at a time of
night when the darkness won't let him even see his whip?" And as
Selifan spoke the vehicle tilted to an angle which left Chichikov no
choice but to hang on with hands and teeth. At length he realised the
fact that Selifan was drunk.

"Stop, stop, or you will upset us!" he shouted to the fellow.

"No, no, barin," replied Selifan. "HOW could I upset you? To upset
people is wrong. I know that very well, and should never dream of such
conduct."

Here he started to turn the vehicle round a little--and kept on doing
so until the britchka capsized on to its side, and Chichikov landed in
the mud on his hands and knees. Fortunately Selifan succeeded in
stopping the horses, although they would have stopped of themselves,
seeing that they were utterly worn out. This unforeseen catastrophe
evidently astonished their driver. Slipping from the box, he stood
resting his hands against the side of the britchka, while Chichikov
tumbled and floundered about in the mud, in a vain endeavour to
wriggle clear of the stuff.

"Ah, you!" said Selifan meditatively to the britchka. "To think of
upsetting us like this!"

"You are as drunk as a lord!" exclaimed Chichikov.

"No, no, barin. Drunk, indeed? Why, I know my manners too well. A word
or two with a friend--that is all that I have taken. Any one may talk
with a decent man when he meets him. There is nothing wrong in that.
Also, we had a snack together. There is nothing wrong in a
snack--especially a snack with a decent man."

"What did I say to you when last you got drunk?" asked Chichikov.
"Have you forgotten what I said then?"

"No, no, barin. HOW could I forget it? I know what is what, and know
that it is not right to get drunk. All that I have been having is a
word or two with a decent man, for the reason that--"

"Well, if I lay the whip about you, you'll know then how to talk to a
decent fellow, I'll warrant!"

"As you please, barin," replied the complacent Selifan. "Should you
whip me, you will whip me, and I shall have nothing to complain of.
Why should you not whip me if I deserve it? 'Tis for you to do as you
like. Whippings are necessary sometimes, for a peasant often plays the
fool, and discipline ought to be maintained. If I have deserved it,
beat me. Why should you not?"

This reasoning seemed, at the moment, irrefutable, and Chichikov said
nothing more. Fortunately fate had decided to take pity on the pair,
for from afar their ears caught the barking of a dog. Plucking up
courage, Chichikov gave orders for the britchka to be righted, and the
horses to be urged forward; and since a Russian driver has at least
this merit, that, owing to a keen sense of smell being able to take
the place of eyesight, he can, if necessary, drive at random and yet
reach a destination of some sort, Selifan succeeded, though powerless
to discern a single object, in directing his steeds to a country house
near by, and that with such a certainty of instinct that it was not
until the shafts had collided with a garden wall, and thereby made it
clear that to proceed another pace was impossible, that he stopped.
All that Chichikov could discern through the thick veil of pouring
rain was something which resembled a verandah. So he dispatched
Selifan to search for the entrance gates, and that process would have
lasted indefinitely had it not been shortened by the circumstance
that, in Russia, the place of a Swiss footman is frequently taken by
watchdogs; of which animals a number now proclaimed the travellers'
presence so loudly that Chichikov found himself forced to stop his
ears. Next, a light gleamed in one of the windows, and filtered in a
thin stream to the garden wall--thus revealing the whereabouts of the
entrance gates; whereupon Selifan fell to knocking at the gates until
the bolts of the house door were withdrawn and there issued therefrom
a figure clad in a rough cloak.

"Who is that knocking? What have you come for?" shouted the hoarse
voice of an elderly woman.

"We are travellers, good mother," said Chichikov. "Pray allow us to
spend the night here."

"Out upon you for a pair of gadabouts!" retorted the old woman. "A
fine time of night to be arriving! We don't keep an hotel, mind you.
This is a lady's residence."

"But what are we to do, mother? We have lost our way, and cannot spend
the night out of doors in such weather."

"No, we cannot. The night is dark and cold," added Selifan.

"Hold your tongue, you fool!" exclaimed Chichikov.

"Who ARE you, then?" inquired the old woman.

"A dvorianin[2], good mother."

[2] A member of the gentry class.

Somehow the word dvorianin seemed to give the old woman food for
thought.

"Wait a moment," she said, "and I will tell the mistress."

Two minutes later she returned with a lantern in her hand, the gates
were opened, and a light glimmered in a second window. Entering the
courtyard, the britchka halted before a moderate-sized mansion. The
darkness did not permit of very accurate observation being made, but,
apparently, the windows only of one-half of the building were
illuminated, while a quagmire in front of the door reflected the beams
from the same. Meanwhile the rain continued to beat sonorously down
upon the wooden roof, and could be heard trickling into a water butt;
nor for a single moment did the dogs cease to bark with all the
strength of their lungs. One of them, throwing up its head, kept
venting a howl of such energy and duration that the animal seemed to
be howling for a handsome wager; while another, cutting in between the
yelpings of the first animal, kept restlessly reiterating, like a
postman's bell, the notes of a very young puppy. Finally, an old hound
which appeared to be gifted with a peculiarly robust temperament kept
supplying the part of contrabasso, so that his growls resembled the
rumbling of a bass singer when a chorus is in full cry, and the tenors
are rising on tiptoe in their efforts to compass a particularly high
note, and the whole body of choristers are wagging their heads before
approaching a climax, and this contrabasso alone is tucking his
bearded chin into his collar, and sinking almost to a squatting
posture on the floor, in order to produce a note which shall cause the
windows to shiver and their panes to crack. Naturally, from a canine
chorus of such executants it might reasonably be inferred that the
establishment was one of the utmost respectability. To that, however,
our damp, cold hero gave not a thought, for all his mind was fixed
upon bed. Indeed, the britchka had hardly come to a standstill before
he leapt out upon the doorstep, missed his footing, and came within an
ace of falling. To meet him there issued a female younger than the
first, but very closely resembling her; and on his being conducted to
the parlour, a couple of glances showed him that the room was hung
with old striped curtains, and ornamented with pictures of birds and
small, antique mirrors--the latter set in dark frames which were
carved to resemble scrolls of foliage. Behind each mirror was stuck
either a letter or an old pack of cards or a stocking, while on the
wall hung a clock with a flowered dial. More, however, Chichikov could
not discern, for his eyelids were as heavy as though smeared with
treacle. Presently the lady of the house herself entered--an elderly
woman in a sort of nightcap (hastily put on) and a flannel neck wrap.
She belonged to that class of lady landowners who are for ever
lamenting failures of the harvest and their losses thereby; to the
class who, drooping their heads despondently, are all the while
stuffing money into striped purses, which they keep hoarded in the
drawers of cupboards. Into one purse they will stuff rouble pieces,
into another half roubles, and into a third tchetvertachki[3],
although from their mien you would suppose that the cupboard contained
only linen and nightshirts and skeins of wool and the piece of shabby
material which is destined--should the old gown become scorched during
the baking of holiday cakes and other dainties, or should it fall into
pieces of itself--to become converted into a new dress. But the gown
never does get burnt or wear out, for the reason that the lady is too
careful; wherefore the piece of shabby material reposes in its
unmade-up condition until the priest advises that it be given to the
niece of some widowed sister, together with a quantity of other such
rubbish.

[3] Pieces equal in value to twenty-five kopecks (a quarter of a
    rouble).

Chichikov apologised for having disturbed the household with his
unexpected arrival.

"Not at all, not at all," replied the lady. "But in what dreadful
weather God has brought you hither! What wind and what rain! You could
not help losing your way. Pray excuse us for being unable to make
better preparations for you at this time of night."

Suddenly there broke in upon the hostess' words the sound of a strange
hissing, a sound so loud that the guest started in alarm, and the more
so seeing that it increased until the room seemed filled with adders.
On glancing upwards, however, he recovered his composure, for he
perceived the sound to be emanating from the clock, which appeared to
be in a mind to strike. To the hissing sound there succeeded a
wheezing one, until, putting forth its best efforts, the thing struck
two with as much clatter as though some one had been hitting an iron
pot with a cudgel. That done, the pendulum returned to its right-left,
right-left oscillation.

Chichikov thanked his hostess kindly, and said that he needed nothing,
and she must not put herself about: only for rest was he
longing--though also he should like to know whither he had arrived,
and whether the distance to the country house of land-owner
Sobakevitch was anything very great. To this the lady replied that she
had never so much as heard the name, since no gentleman of the name
resided in the locality.

"But at least you are acquainted with landowner Manilov?" continued
Chichikov.

"No. Who is he?"

"Another landed proprietor, madam."

"Well, neither have I heard of him. No such landowner lives
hereabouts."

"Then who ARE your local landowners?"

"Bobrov, Svinin, Kanapatiev, Khapakin, Trepakin, and Plieshakov."

"Are they rich men?"

"No, none of them. One of them may own twenty souls, and another
thirty, but of gentry who own a hundred there are none."

Chichikov reflected that he had indeed fallen into an aristocratic
wilderness!

"At all events, is the town far away?" he inquired.

"About sixty versts. How sorry I am that I have nothing for you to
eat! Should you care to drink some tea?"

"I thank you, good mother, but I require nothing beyond a bed."

"Well, after such a journey you must indeed be needing rest, so you
shall lie upon this sofa. Fetinia, bring a quilt and some pillows and
sheets. What weather God has sent us! And what dreadful thunder! Ever
since sunset I have had a candle burning before the ikon in my
bedroom. My God! Why, your back and sides are as muddy as a boar's!
However have you managed to get into such a state?"

"That I am nothing worse than muddy is indeed fortunate, since, but
for the Almighty, I should have had my ribs broken."

"Dear, dear! To think of all that you must have been through. Had I
not better wipe your back?"

"I thank you, I thank you, but you need not trouble. Merely be so good
as to tell your maid to dry my clothes."

"Do you hear that, Fetinia?" said the hostess, turning to a woman who
was engaged in dragging in a feather bed and deluging the room with
feathers. "Take this coat and this vest, and, after drying them before
the fire--just as we used to do for your late master--give them a good
rub, and fold them up neatly."

"Very well, mistress," said Fetinia, spreading some sheets over the
bed, and arranging the pillows.

"Now your bed is ready for you," said the hostess to Chichikov.
"Good-night, dear sir. I wish you good-night. Is there anything else
that you require? Perhaps you would like to have your heels tickled
before retiring to rest? Never could my late husband get to sleep
without that having been done."

But the guest declined the proffered heel-tickling, and, on his
hostess taking her departure, hastened to divest himself of his
clothing, both upper and under, and to hand the garments to Fetinia.
She wished him good-night, and removed the wet trappings; after which
he found himself alone. Not without satisfaction did he eye his bed,
which reached almost to the ceiling. Clearly Fetinia was a past
mistress in the art of beating up such a couch, and, as the result, he
had no sooner mounted it with the aid of a chair than it sank
well-nigh to the floor, and the feathers, squeezed out of their proper
confines, flew hither and thither into every corner of the apartment.
Nevertheless he extinguished the candle, covered himself over with the
chintz quilt, snuggled down beneath it, and instantly fell asleep.
Next day it was late in the morning before he awoke. Through the
window the sun was shining into his eyes, and the flies which,
overnight, had been roosting quietly on the walls and ceiling now
turned their attention to the visitor. One settled on his lip, another
on his ear, a third hovered as though intending to lodge in his very
eye, and a fourth had the temerity to alight just under his nostrils.
In his drowsy condition he inhaled the latter insect, sneezed
violently, and so returned to consciousness. He glanced around the
room, and perceived that not all the pictures were representative of
birds, since among them hung also a portrait of Kutuzov[4] and an oil
painting of an old man in a uniform with red facings such as were worn
in the days of the Emperor Paul[5]. At this moment the clock uttered
its usual hissing sound, and struck ten, while a woman's face peered
in at the door, but at once withdrew, for the reason that, with the
object of sleeping as well as possible, Chichikov had removed every
stitch of his clothing. Somehow the face seemed to him familiar, and
he set himself to recall whose it could be. At length he recollected
that it was the face of his hostess. His clothes he found lying, clean
and dry, beside him; so he dressed and approached the mirror,
meanwhile sneezing again with such vehemence that a cock which
happened at the moment to be near the window (which was situated at no
great distance from the ground) chuckled a short, sharp phrase.
Probably it meant, in the bird's alien tongue, "Good morning to you!"
Chichikov retorted by calling the bird a fool, and then himself
approached the window to look at the view. It appeared to comprise a
poulterer's premises. At all events, the narrow yard in front of the
window was full of poultry and other domestic creatures--of game fowls
and barn door fowls, with, among them, a cock which strutted with
measured gait, and kept shaking its comb, and tilting its head as
though it were trying to listen to something. Also, a sow and her
family were helping to grace the scene. First, she rooted among a heap
of litter; then, in passing, she ate up a young pullet; lastly, she
proceeded carelessly to munch some pieces of melon rind. To this small
yard or poultry-run a length of planking served as a fence, while
beyond it lay a kitchen garden containing cabbages, onions, potatoes,
beetroots, and other household vegetables. Also, the garden contained
a few stray fruit trees that were covered with netting to protect them
from the magpies and sparrows; flocks of which were even then wheeling
and darting from one spot to another. For the same reason a number of
scarecrows with outstretched arms stood reared on long poles, with,
surmounting one of the figures, a cast-off cap of the hostess's.
Beyond the garden again there stood a number of peasants' huts. Though
scattered, instead of being arranged in regular rows, these appeared
to Chichikov's eye to comprise well-to-do inhabitants, since all
rotten planks in their roofing had been replaced with new ones, and
none of their doors were askew, and such of their tiltsheds as faced
him evinced evidence of a presence of a spare waggon--in some cases
almost a new one.

[4] A Russian general who, in 1812, stoutly opposed Napoleon at the
    battle of Borodino.

[5] The late eighteenth century.

"This lady owns by no means a poor village," said Chichikov to
himself; wherefore he decided then and there to have a talk with his
hostess, and to cultivate her closer acquaintance. Accordingly he
peeped through the chink of the door whence her head had recently
protruded, and, on seeing her seated at a tea table, entered and
greeted her with a cheerful, kindly smile.

"Good morning, dear sir," she responded as she rose. "How have you
slept?" She was dressed in better style than she had been on the
previous evening. That is to say, she was now wearing a gown of some
dark colour, and lacked her nightcap, and had swathed her neck in
something stiff.

"I have slept exceedingly well," replied Chichikov, seating himself
upon a chair. "And how are YOU, good madam?"

"But poorly, my dear sir."

"And why so?"

"Because I cannot sleep. A pain has taken me in my middle, and my
legs, from the ankles upwards, are aching as though they were broken."

"That will pass, that will pass, good mother. You must pay no
attention to it."

"God grant that it MAY pass. However, I have been rubbing myself
with lard and turpentine. What sort of tea will you take? In this jar
I have some of the scented kind."

"Excellent, good mother! Then I will take that."

Probably the reader will have noticed that, for all his expressions of
solicitude, Chichikov's tone towards his hostess partook of a freer, a
more unceremonious, nature than that which he had adopted towards
Madam Manilov. And here I should like to assert that, howsoever much,
in certain respects, we Russians may be surpassed by foreigners, at
least we surpass them in adroitness of manner. In fact the various
shades and subtleties of our social intercourse defy enumeration. A
Frenchman or a German would be incapable of envisaging and
understanding all its peculiarities and differences, for his tone in
speaking to a millionaire differs but little from that which he
employs towards a small tobacconist--and that in spite of the
circumstance that he is accustomed to cringe before the former. With
us, however, things are different. In Russian society there exist
clever folk who can speak in one manner to a landowner possessed of
two hundred peasant souls, and in another to a landowner possessed of
three hundred, and in another to a landowner possessed of five
hundred. In short, up to the number of a million souls the Russian
will have ready for each landowner a suitable mode of address. For
example, suppose that somewhere there exists a government office, and
that in that office there exists a director. I would beg of you to
contemplate him as he sits among his myrmidons. Sheer nervousness will
prevent you from uttering a word in his presence, so great are the
pride and superiority depicted on his countenance. Also, were you to
sketch him, you would be sketching a veritable Prometheus, for his
glance is as that of an eagle, and he walks with measured, stately
stride. Yet no sooner will the eagle have left the room to seek the
study of his superior officer than he will go scurrying along (papers
held close to his nose) like any partridge. But in society, and at the
evening party (should the rest of those present be of lesser rank than
himself) the Prometheus will once more become Prometheus, and the man
who stands a step below him will treat him in a way never dreamt of by
Ovid, seeing that each fly is of lesser account than its superior fly,
and becomes, in the presence of the latter, even as a grain of sand.
"Surely that is not Ivan Petrovitch?" you will say of such and such a
man as you regard him. "Ivan Petrovitch is tall, whereas this man is
small and spare. Ivan Petrovitch has a loud, deep voice, and never
smiles, whereas this man (whoever he may be) is twittering like a
sparrow, and smiling all the time." Yet approach and take a good look
at the fellow and you will see that is IS Ivan Petrovitch. "Alack,
alack!" will be the only remark you can make.

Let us return to our characters in real life. We have seen that, on
this occasion, Chichikov decided to dispense with ceremony; wherefore,
taking up the teapot, he went on as follows:

"You have a nice little village here, madam. How many souls does it
contain?"

"A little less than eighty, dear sir. But the times are hard, and I
have lost a great deal through last year's harvest having proved a
failure."

"But your peasants look fine, strong fellows. May I enquire your name?
Through arriving so late at night I have quite lost my wits."

"Korobotchka, the widow of a Collegiate Secretary."

"I humbly thank you. And your Christian name and patronymic?"

"Nastasia Petrovna."

"Nastasia Petrovna! Those are excellent names. I have a maternal aunt
named like yourself."

"And YOUR name?" queried the lady. "May I take it that you are a
Government Assessor?"

"No, madam," replied Chichikov with a smile. "I am not an Assessor,
but a traveller on private business."

"Then you must be a buyer of produce? How I regret that I have sold my
honey so cheaply to other buyers! Otherwise YOU might have bought
it, dear sir."

"I never buy honey."

"Then WHAT do you buy, pray? Hemp? I have a little of that by me,
but not more than half a pood[6] or so."

[6] Forty Russian pounds.

"No, madam. It is in other wares that I deal. Tell me, have you, of
late years, lost many of your peasants by death?"

"Yes; no fewer than eighteen," responded the old lady with a sigh.
"Such a fine lot, too--all good workers! True, others have since grown
up, but of what use are THEY? Mere striplings. When the Assessor
last called upon me I could have wept; for, though those workmen of
mine are dead, I have to keep on paying for them as though they were
still alive! And only last week my blacksmith got burnt to death! Such
a clever hand at his trade he was!"

"What? A fire occurred at your place?"

"No, no, God preserve us all! It was not so bad as that. You must
understand that the blacksmith SET HIMSELF on fire--he got set on
fire in his bowels through overdrinking. Yes, all of a sudden there
burst from him a blue flame, and he smouldered and smouldered until he
had turned as black as a piece of charcoal! Yet what a clever
blacksmith he was! And now I have no horses to drive out with, for
there is no one to shoe them."

"In everything the will of God, madam," said Chichikov with a sigh.
"Against the divine wisdom it is not for us to rebel. Pray hand them
over to me, Nastasia Petrovna."

"Hand over whom?"

"The dead peasants."

"But how could I do that?"

"Quite simply. Sell them to me, and I will give you some money in
exchange."

"But how am I to sell them to you? I scarcely understand what you
mean. Am I to dig them up again from the ground?"

Chichikov perceived that the old lady was altogether at sea, and that
he must explain the matter; wherefore in a few words he informed her
that the transfer or purchase of the souls in question would take
place merely on paper--that the said souls would be listed as still
alive.

"And what good would they be to you?" asked his hostess, staring at
him with her eyes distended.

"That is MY affair."

"But they are DEAD souls."

"Who said they were not? The mere fact of their being dead entails
upon you a loss as dead as the souls, for you have to continue paying
tax upon them, whereas MY plan is to relieve you both of the tax and
of the resultant trouble. NOW do you understand? And I will not only
do as I say, but also hand you over fifteen roubles per soul. Is that
clear enough?"

"Yes--but I do not know," said his hostess diffidently. "You see,
never before have I sold dead souls."

"Quite so. It would be a surprising thing if you had. But surely you
do not think that these dead souls are in the least worth keeping?"

"Oh, no, indeed! Why should they be worth keeping? I am sure they are
not so. The only thing which troubles me is the fact that they are
DEAD."

"She seems a truly obstinate old woman!" was Chichikov's inward
comment. "Look here, madam," he added aloud. "You reason well, but you
are simply ruining yourself by continuing to pay the tax upon dead
souls as though they were still alive."

"Oh, good sir, do not speak of it!" the lady exclaimed. "Three weeks
ago I took a hundred and fifty roubles to that Assessor, and buttered
him up, and--"

"Then you see how it is, do you not? Remember that, according to my
plan, you will never again have to butter up the Assessor, seeing that
it will be I who will be paying for those peasants--_I_, not YOU,
for I shall have taken over the dues upon them, and have transferred
them to myself as so many bona fide serfs. Do you understand AT
LAST?"

However, the old lady still communed with herself. She could see that
the transaction would be to her advantage, yet it was one of such a
novel and unprecedented nature that she was beginning to fear lest
this purchaser of souls intended to cheat her. Certainly he had come
from God only knew where, and at the dead of night, too!

"But, sir, I have never in my life sold dead folk--only living ones.
Three years ago I transferred two wenches to Protopopov for a hundred
roubles apiece, and he thanked me kindly, for they turned out splendid
workers--able to make napkins or anything else.

"Yes, but with the living we have nothing to do, damn it! I am asking
you only about DEAD folk."

"Yes, yes, of course. But at first sight I felt afraid lest I should
be incurring a loss--lest you should be wishing to outwit me, good
sir. You see, the dead souls are worth rather more than you have
offered for them."

"See here, madam. (What a woman it is!) HOW could they be worth
more? Think for yourself. They are so much loss to you--so much loss,
do you understand? Take any worthless, rubbishy article you like--a
piece of old rag, for example. That rag will yet fetch its price, for
it can be bought for paper-making. But these dead souls are good for
NOTHING AT ALL. Can you name anything that they ARE good for?"

"True, true--they ARE good for nothing. But what troubles me is the
fact that they are dead."

"What a blockhead of a creature!" said Chichikov to himself, for he
was beginning to lose patience. "Bless her heart, I may as well be
going. She has thrown me into a perfect sweat, the cursed old shrew!"

He took a handkerchief from his pocket, and wiped the perspiration
from his brow. Yet he need not have flown into such a passion. More
than one respected statesman reveals himself, when confronted with a
business matter, to be just such another as Madam Korobotchka, in
that, once he has got an idea into his head, there is no getting it
out of him--you may ply him with daylight-clear arguments, yet they
will rebound from his brain as an india-rubber ball rebounds from a
flagstone. Nevertheless, wiping away the perspiration, Chichikov
resolved to try whether he could not bring her back to the road by
another path.

"Madam," he said, "either you are declining to understand what I say
or you are talking for the mere sake of talking. If I hand you over
some money--fifteen roubles for each soul, do you understand?--it is
MONEY, not something which can be picked up haphazard on the street.
For instance, tell me how much you sold your honey for?"

"For twelve roubles per pood."

"Ah! Then by those words, madam, you have laid a trifling sin upon
your soul; for you did NOT sell the honey for twelve roubles."

"By the Lord God I did!"

"Well, well! Never mind. Honey is only honey. Now, you had collected
that stuff, it may be, for a year, and with infinite care and labour.
You had fussed after it, you had trotted to and fro, you had duly
frozen out the bees, and you had fed them in the cellar throughout the
winter. But these dead souls of which I speak are quite another
matter, for in this case you have put forth no exertions--it was
merely God's will that they should leave the world, and thus decrease
the personnel of your establishment. In the former case you received
(so you allege) twelve roubles per pood for your labour; but in this
case you will receive money for having done nothing at all. Nor will
you receive twelve roubles per item, but FIFTEEN--and roubles not in
silver, but roubles in good paper currency."

That these powerful inducements would certainly cause the old woman to
yield Chichikov had not a doubt.

"True," his hostess replied. "But how strangely business comes to me
as a widow! Perhaps I had better wait a little longer, seeing that
other buyers might come along, and I might be able to compare prices."

"For shame, madam! For shame! Think what you are saying. Who else, I
would ask, would care to buy those souls? What use could they be to
any one?"

"If that is so, they might come in useful to ME," mused the old
woman aloud; after which she sat staring at Chichikov with her mouth
open and a face of nervous expectancy as to his possible rejoinder.

"Dead folk useful in a household!" he exclaimed. "Why, what could you
do with them? Set them up on poles to frighten away the sparrows from
your garden?"

"The Lord save us, but what things you say!" she ejaculated, crossing
herself.

"Well, WHAT could you do with them? By this time they are so much
bones and earth. That is all there is left of them. Their transfer to
myself would be ON PAPER only. Come, come! At least give me an
answer."

Again the old woman communed with herself.

"What are you thinking of, Nastasia Petrovna?" inquired Chichikov.

"I am thinking that I scarcely know what to do. Perhaps I had better
sell you some hemp?"

"What do I want with hemp? Pardon me, but just when I have made to you
a different proposal altogether you begin fussing about hemp! Hemp is
hemp, and though I may want some when I NEXT visit you, I should
like to know what you have to say to the suggestion under discussion."

"Well, I think it a very queer bargain. Never have I heard of such a
thing."

Upon this Chichikov lost all patience, upset his chair, and bid her go
to the devil; of which personage even the mere mention terrified her
extremely.

"Do not speak of him, I beg of you!" she cried, turning pale. "May
God, rather, bless him! Last night was the third night that he has
appeared to me in a dream. You see, after saying my prayers, I
bethought me of telling my fortune by the cards; and God must have
sent him as a punishment. He looked so horrible, and had horns longer
than a bull's!"

"I wonder you don't see SCORES of devils in your dreams! Merely out
of Christian charity he had come to you to say, 'I perceive a poor
widow going to rack and ruin, and likely soon to stand in danger of
want.' Well, go to rack and ruin--yes, you and all your village
together!"

"The insults!" exclaimed the old woman, glancing at her visitor in
terror.

"I should think so!" continued Chichikov. "Indeed, I cannot find words
to describe you. To say no more about it, you are like a dog in a
manger. You don't want to eat the hay yourself, yet you won't let
anyone else touch it. All that I am seeking to do is to purchase
certain domestic products of yours, for the reason that I have certain
Government contracts to fulfil." This last he added in passing, and
without any ulterior motive, save that it came to him as a happy
thought. Nevertheless the mention of Government contracts exercised a
powerful influence upon Nastasia Petrovna, and she hastened to say in
a tone that was almost supplicatory:

"Why should you be so angry with me? Had I known that you were going
to lose your temper in this way, I should never have discussed the
matter."

"No wonder that I lose my temper! An egg too many is no great matter,
yet it may prove exceedingly annoying."

"Well, well, I will let you have the souls for fifteen roubles each.
Also, with regard to those contracts, do not forget me if at any time
you should find yourself in need of rye-meal or buckwheat or groats or
dead meat."

"No, I shall NEVER forget you, madam!" he said, wiping his forehead,
where three separate streams of perspiration were trickling down his
face. Then he asked her whether in the town she had any acquaintance
or agent whom she could empower to complete the transference of the
serfs, and to carry out whatsoever else might be necessary.

"Certainly," replied Madame Korobotchka. "The son of our archpriest,
Father Cyril, himself is a lawyer."

Upon that Chichikov begged her to accord the gentleman in question a
power of attorney, while, to save extra trouble, he himself would then
and there compose the requisite letter.

"It would be a fine thing if he were to buy up all my meal and stock
for the Government," thought Madame to herself. "I must encourage him
a little. There has been some dough standing ready since last night,
so I will go and tell Fetinia to try a few pancakes. Also, it might be
well to try him with an egg pie. We make then nicely here, and they do
not take long in the making."

So she departed to translate her thoughts into action, as well as to
supplement the pie with other products of the domestic cuisine; while,
for his part, Chichikov returned to the drawing-room where he had
spent the night, in order to procure from his dispatch-box the
necessary writing-paper. The room had now been set in order, the
sumptuous feather bed removed, and a table set before the sofa.
Depositing his dispatch-box upon the table, he heaved a gentle sigh on
becoming aware that he was so soaked with perspiration that he might
almost have been dipped in a river. Everything, from his shirt to his
socks, was dripping. "May she starve to death, the cursed old
harridan!" he ejaculated after a moment's rest. Then he opened his
dispatch-box. In passing, I may say that I feel certain that at least
SOME of my readers will be curious to know the contents and the
internal arrangements of that receptacle. Why should I not gratify
their curiosity? To begin with, the centre of the box contained a
soap-dish, with, disposed around it, six or seven compartments for
razors. Next came square partitions for a sand-box[7] and an inkstand,
as well as (scooped out in their midst) a hollow of pens, sealing-wax,
and anything else that required more room. Lastly there were all sorts
of little divisions, both with and without lids, for articles of a
smaller nature, such as visiting cards, memorial cards, theatre
tickets, and things which Chichikov had laid by as souvenirs. This
portion of the box could be taken out, and below it were both a space
for manuscripts and a secret money-box--the latter made to draw out
from the side of the receptacle.

[7] To serve as blotting-paper.

Chichikov set to work to clean a pen, and then to write. Presently his
hostess entered the room.

"What a beautiful box you have got, my dear sir!" she exclaimed as she
took a seat beside him. "Probably you bought it in Moscow?"

"Yes--in Moscow," replied Chichikov without interrupting his writing.

"I thought so. One CAN get good things there. Three years ago my
sister brought me a few pairs of warm shoes for my sons, and they were
such excellent articles! To this day my boys wear them. And what nice
stamped paper you have!" (she had peered into the dispatch-box, where,
sure enough, there lay a further store of the paper in question).
"Would you mind letting me have a sheet of it? I am without any at
all, although I shall soon have to be presenting a plea to the land
court, and possess not a morsel of paper to write it on."

Upon this Chichikov explained that the paper was not the sort proper
for the purpose--that it was meant for serf-indenturing, and not for
the framing of pleas. Nevertheless, to quiet her, he gave her a sheet
stamped to the value of a rouble. Next, he handed her the letter to
sign, and requested, in return, a list of her peasants. Unfortunately,
such a list had never been compiled, let alone any copies of it, and
the only way in which she knew the peasants' names was by heart.
However, he told her to dictate them. Some of the names greatly
astonished our hero, so, still more, did the surnames. Indeed,
frequently, on hearing the latter, he had to pause before writing them
down. Especially did he halt before a certain "Peter Saveliev
Neuvazhai Korito." "What a string of titles!" involuntarily he
ejaculated. To the Christian name of another serf was appended "Korovi
Kirpitch," and to that of a third "Koleso Ivan." However, at length
the list was compiled, and he caught a deep breath; which latter
proceeding caused him to catch also the attractive odour of something
fried in fat.

"I beseech you to have a morsel," murmured his hostess. Chichikov
looked up, and saw that the table was spread with mushrooms, pies, and
other viands.

"Try this freshly-made pie and an egg," continued Madame.

Chichikov did so, and having eaten more than half of what she offered
him, praised the pie highly. Indeed, it was a toothsome dish, and,
after his difficulties and exertions with his hostess, it tasted even
better than it might otherwise have done.

"And also a few pancakes?" suggested Madame.

For answer Chichikov folded three together, and, having dipped them in
melted butter, consigned the lot to his mouth, and then wiped his
mouth with a napkin. Twice more was the process repeated, and then he
requested his hostess to order the britchka to be got ready. In
dispatching Fetinia with the necessary instructions, she ordered her
to return with a second batch of hot pancakes.

"Your pancakes are indeed splendid," said Chichikov, applying himself
to the second consignment of fried dainties when they had arrived.

"Yes, we make them well here," replied Madame. "Yet how unfortunate it
is that the harvest should have proved so poor as to have prevented me
from earning anything on my-- But why should you be in such a hurry to
depart, good sir?" She broke off on seeing Chichikov reach for his
cap. "The britchka is not yet ready."

"Then it is being got so, madam, it is being got so, and I shall need
a moment or two to pack my things."

"As you please, dear sir; but do not forget me in connection with
those Government contracts."

"No, I have said that NEVER shall I forget you," replied Chichikov
as he hurried into the hall.

"And would you like to buy some lard?" continued his hostess, pursuing
him.

"Lard? Oh certainly. Why not? Only, only--I will do so ANOTHER time."

"I shall have some ready at about Christmas."

"Quite so, madam. THEN I will buy anything and everything--the
lard included."

"And perhaps you will be wanting also some feathers? I shall be having
some for sale about St. Philip's Day."

"Very well, very well, madam."

"There you see!" she remarked as they stepped out on to the verandah.
"The britchka is NOT yet ready."

"But it soon will be, it soon will be. Only direct me to the main
road."

"How am I to do that?" said Madame. "'Twould puzzle a wise man to do
so, for in these parts there are so many turnings. However, I will
send a girl to guide you. You could find room for her on the box-seat,
could you not?"

"Yes, of course."

"Then I will send her. She knows the way thoroughly. Only do not carry
her off for good. Already some traders have deprived me of one of my
girls."

Chichikov reassured his hostess on the point, and Madame plucked up
courage enough to scan, first of all, the housekeeper, who happened to
be issuing from the storehouse with a bowl of honey, and, next, a
young peasant who happened to be standing at the gates; and, while
thus engaged, she became wholly absorbed in her domestic pursuits. But
why pay her so much attention? The Widow Korobotchka, Madame Manilov,
domestic life, non-domestic life--away with them all! How strangely
are things compounded! In a trice may joy turn to sorrow, should one
halt long enough over it: in a trice only God can say what ideas may
strike one. You may fall even to thinking: "After all, did Madame
Korobotchka stand so very low in the scale of human perfection? Was
there really such a very great gulf between her and Madame
Manilov--between her and the Madame Manilov whom we have seen
entrenched behind the walls of a genteel mansion in which there were a
fine staircase of wrought metal and a number of rich carpets; the
Madame Manilov who spent most of her time in yawning behind half-read
books, and in hoping for a visit from some socially distinguished
person in order that she might display her wit and carefully rehearsed
thoughts--thoughts which had been de rigeur in town for a week past,
yet which referred, not to what was going on in her household or on
her estate--both of which properties were at odds and ends, owing to
her ignorance of the art of managing them--but to the coming political
revolution in France and the direction in which fashionable
Catholicism was supposed to be moving? But away with such things! Why
need we speak of them? Yet how comes it that suddenly into the midst
of our careless, frivolous, unthinking moments there may enter
another, and a very different, tendency?--that the smile may not have
left a human face before its owner will have radically changed his or
her nature (though not his or her environment) with the result that
the face will suddenly become lit with a radiance never before seen
there? . . .

"Here is the britchka, here is the britchka!" exclaimed Chichikov on
perceiving that vehicle slowly advancing. "Ah, you blockhead!" he went
on to Selifan. "Why have you been loitering about? I suppose last
night's fumes have not yet left your brain?"

To this Selifan returned no reply.

"Good-bye, madam," added the speaker. "But where is the girl whom you
promised me?"

"Here, Pelagea!" called the hostess to a wench of about eleven who was
dressed in home-dyed garments and could boast of a pair of bare feet
which, from a distance, might almost have been mistaken for boots, so
encrusted were they with fresh mire. "Here, Pelagea! Come and show
this gentleman the way."

Selifan helped the girl to ascend to the box-seat. Placing one foot
upon the step by which the gentry mounted, she covered the said step
with mud, and then, ascending higher, attained the desired position
beside the coachman. Chichikov followed in her wake (causing the
britchka to heel over with his weight as he did so), and then settled
himself back into his place with an "All right! Good-bye, madam!" as
the horses moved away at a trot.

Selifan looked gloomy as he drove, but also very attentive to his
business. This was invariably his custom when he had committed the
fault of getting drunk. Also, the horses looked unusually
well-groomed. In particular, the collar on one of them had been neatly
mended, although hitherto its state of dilapidation had been such as
perennially to allow the stuffing to protrude through the leather. The
silence preserved was well-nigh complete. Merely flourishing his whip,
Selifan spoke to the team no word of instruction, although the
skewbald was as ready as usual to listen to conversation of a didactic
nature, seeing that at such times the reins hung loosely in the hands
of the loquacious driver, and the whip wandered merely as a matter of
form over the backs of the troika. This time, however, there could be
heard issuing from Selifan's sullen lips only the uniformly unpleasant
exclamation, "Now then, you brutes! Get on with you, get on with you!"
The bay and the Assessor too felt put out at not hearing themselves
called "my pets" or "good lads"; while, in addition, the skewbald came
in for some nasty cuts across his sleek and ample quarters. "What has
put master out like this?" thought the animal as it shook its head.
"Heaven knows where he does not keep beating me--across the back, and
even where I am tenderer still. Yes, he keeps catching the whip in my
ears, and lashing me under the belly."

"To the right, eh?" snapped Selifan to the girl beside him as he pointed
to a rain-soaked road which trended away through fresh green fields.

"No, no," she replied. "I will show you the road when the time comes."

"Which way, then?" he asked again when they had proceeded a little further.

"This way." And she pointed to the road just mentioned.

"Get along with you!" retorted the coachman. "That DOES go to the
right. You don't know your right hand from your left."

The weather was fine, but the ground so excessively sodden that the
wheels of the britchka collected mire until they had become caked as
with a layer of felt, a circumstance which greatly increased the
weight of the vehicle, and prevented it from clearing the neighbouring
parishes before the afternoon was arrived. Also, without the girl's
help the finding of the way would have been impossible, since roads
wiggled away in every direction, like crabs released from a net, and,
but for the assistance mentioned, Selifan would have found himself
left to his own devices. Presently she pointed to a building ahead,
with the words, "THERE is the main road."

"And what is the building?" asked Selifan.

"A tavern," she said.

"Then we can get along by ourselves," he observed. "Do you get down,
and be off home."

With that he stopped, and helped her to alight--muttering as he did
so: "Ah, you blackfooted creature!"

Chichikov added a copper groat, and she departed well pleased with her
ride in the gentleman's carriage.

CHAPTER IV

On reaching the tavern, Chichikov called a halt. His reasons for this
were twofold--namely, that he wanted to rest the horses, and that he
himself desired some refreshment. In this connection the author feels
bound to confess that the appetite and the capacity of such men are
greatly to be envied. Of those well-to-do folk of St. Petersburg and
Moscow who spend their time in considering what they shall eat on the
morrow, and in composing a dinner for the day following, and who never
sit down to a meal without first of all injecting a pill and then
swallowing oysters and crabs and a quantity of other monsters, while
eternally departing for Karlsbad or the Caucasus, the author has but a
small opinion. Yes, THEY are not the persons to inspire envy.
Rather, it is the folk of the middle classes--folk who at one
posthouse call for bacon, and at another for a sucking pig, and at a
third for a steak of sturgeon or a baked pudding with onions, and who
can sit down to table at any hour, as though they had never had a meal
in their lives, and can devour fish of all sorts, and guzzle and chew
it with a view to provoking further appetite--these, I say, are the
folk who enjoy heaven's most favoured gift. To attain such a celestial
condition the great folk of whom I have spoken would sacrifice half
their serfs and half their mortgaged and non-mortgaged property, with
the foreign and domestic improvements thereon, if thereby they could
compass such a stomach as is possessed by the folk of the middle
class. But, unfortunately, neither money nor real estate, whether
improved or non-improved, can purchase such a stomach.

The little wooden tavern, with its narrow, but hospitable, curtain
suspended from a pair of rough-hewn doorposts like old church
candlesticks, seemed to invite Chichikov to enter. True, the
establishment was only a Russian hut of the ordinary type, but it was
a hut of larger dimensions than usual, and had around its windows and
gables carved and patterned cornices of bright-coloured wood which
threw into relief the darker hue of the walls, and consorted well with
the flowered pitchers painted on the shutters.

Ascending the narrow wooden staircase to the upper floor, and arriving
upon a broad landing, Chichikov found himself confronted with a
creaking door and a stout old woman in a striped print gown. "This
way, if you please," she said. Within the apartment designated
Chichikov encountered the old friends which one invariably finds in
such roadside hostelries--to wit, a heavy samovar, four smooth,
bescratched walls of white pine, a three-cornered press with cups and
teapots, egg-cups of gilded china standing in front of ikons suspended
by blue and red ribands, a cat lately delivered of a family, a mirror
which gives one four eyes instead of two and a pancake for a face,
and, beside the ikons, some bunches of herbs and carnations of such
faded dustiness that, should one attempt to smell them, one is bound
to burst out sneezing.

"Have you a sucking-pig?" Chichikov inquired of the landlady as she
stood expectantly before him.

"Yes."

"And some horse-radish and sour cream?"

"Yes."

"Then serve them."

The landlady departed for the purpose, and returned with a plate, a
napkin (the latter starched to the consistency of dried bark), a knife
with a bone handle beginning to turn yellow, a two-pronged fork as
thin as a wafer, and a salt-cellar incapable of being made to stand
upright.

Following the accepted custom, our hero entered into conversation with
the woman, and inquired whether she herself or a landlord kept the
tavern; how much income the tavern brought in; whether her sons lived
with her; whether the oldest was a bachelor or married; whom the
eldest had taken to wife; whether the dowry had been large; whether
the father-in-law had been satisfied, and whether the said
father-in-law had not complained of receiving too small a present at
the wedding. In short, Chichikov touched on every conceivable point.
Likewise (of course) he displayed some curiosity as to the landowners
of the neighbourhood. Their names, he ascertained, were Blochin,
Potchitaev, Minoi, Cheprakov, and Sobakevitch.

"Then you are acquainted with Sobakevitch?" he said; whereupon the old
woman informed him that she knew not only Sobakevitch, but also
Manilov, and that the latter was the more delicate eater of the two,
since, whereas Manilov always ordered a roast fowl and some veal and
mutton, and then tasted merely a morsel of each, Sobakevitch would
order one dish only, but consume the whole of it, and then demand more
at the same price.

Whilst Chichikov was thus conversing and partaking of the sucking pig
until only a fragment of it seemed likely to remain, the sound of an
approaching vehicle made itself heard. Peering through the window, he
saw draw up to the tavern door a light britchka drawn by three fine
horses. From it there descended two men--one flaxen-haired and tall,
and the other dark-haired and of slighter build. While the
flaxen-haired man was clad in a dark-blue coat, the other one was
wrapped in a coat of striped pattern. Behind the britchka stood a
second, but an empty, turn-out, drawn by four long-coated steeds in
ragged collars and rope harnesses. The flaxen-haired man lost no time
in ascending the staircase, while his darker friend remained below to
fumble at something in the britchka, talking, as he did so, to the
driver of the vehicle which stood hitched behind. Somehow, the
dark-haired man's voice struck Chichikov as familiar; and as he was
taking another look at him the flaxen-haired gentleman entered the
room. The newcomer was a man of lofty stature, with a small red
moustache and a lean, hard-bitten face whose redness made it evident
that its acquaintance, if not with the smoke of gunpowder, at all
events with that of tobacco, was intimate and extensive. Nevertheless
he greeted Chichikov civilly, and the latter returned his bow. Indeed,
the pair would have entered into conversation, and have made one
another's acquaintance (since a beginning was made with their
simultaneously expressing satisfaction at the circumstance that the
previous night's rain had laid the dust on the roads, and thereby
made driving cool and pleasant) when the gentleman's darker-favoured
friend also entered the room, and, throwing his cap upon the table,
pushed back a mass of dishevelled black locks from his brow. The
latest arrival was a man of medium height, but well put together, and
possessed of a pair of full red cheeks, a set of teeth as white as
snow, and coal-black whiskers. Indeed, so fresh was his complexion
that it seemed to have been compounded of blood and milk, while health
danced in his every feature.

"Ha, ha, ha!" he cried with a gesture of astonishment at the sight of
Chichikov. "What chance brings YOU here?"

Upon that Chichikov recognised Nozdrev--the man whom he had met at
dinner at the Public Prosecutor's, and who, within a minute or two of
the introduction, had become so intimate with his fellow guest as to
address him in the second person singular, in spite of the fact that
Chichikov had given him no opportunity for doing so.

"Where have you been to-day?" Nozdrev inquired, and, without waiting
for an answer, went on: "For myself, I am just from the fair, and
completely cleaned out. Actually, I have had to do the journey back
with stage horses! Look out of the window, and see them for yourself."
And he turned Chichikov's head so sharply in the desired direction
that he came very near to bumping it against the window frame. "Did
you ever see such a bag of tricks? The cursed things have only just
managed to get here. In fact, on the way I had to transfer myself to
this fellow's britchka." He indicated his companion with a finger. "By
the way, don't you know one another? He is Mizhuev, my brother-in-law.
He and I were talking of you only this morning. 'Just you see,' said I
to him, 'if we do not fall in with Chichikov before we have done.'
Heavens, how completely cleaned out I am! Not only have I lost four
good horses, but also my watch and chain." Chichikov perceived that in
very truth his interlocutor was minus the articles named, as well as
that one of Nozdrev's whiskers was less bushy in appearance than the
other one. "Had I had another twenty roubles in my pocket," went on
Nozdrev, "I should have won back all that I have lost, as well as have
pouched a further thirty thousand. Yes, I give you my word of honour
on that."

"But you were saying the same thing when last I met you," put in the
flaxen-haired man. "Yet, even though I lent you fifty roubles, you
lost them all."

"But I should not have lost them THIS time. Don't try to make me out
a fool. I should NOT have lost them, I tell you. Had I only played
the right card, I should have broken the bank."

"But you did NOT break the bank," remarked the flaxen-haired man.

"No. That was because I did not play my cards right. But what about
your precious major's play? Is THAT good?"

"Good or not, at least he beat you."

"Splendid of him! Nevertheless I will get my own back. Let him play me
at doubles, and we shall soon see what sort of a player he is! Friend
Chichikov, at first we had a glorious time, for the fair was a
tremendous success. Indeed, the tradesmen said that never yet had
there been such a gathering. I myself managed to sell everything from
my estate at a good price. In fact, we had a magnificent time. I can't
help thinking of it, devil take me! But what a pity YOU were not
there! Three versts from the town there is quartered a regiment of
dragoons, and you would scarcely believe what a lot of officers it
has. Forty at least there are, and they do a fine lot of knocking
about the town and drinking. In particular, Staff-Captain Potsieluev
is a SPLENDID fellow! You should just see his moustache! Why, he
calls good claret 'trash'! 'Bring me some of the usual trash,' is his
way of ordering it. And Lieutenant Kuvshinnikov, too! He is as
delightful as the other man. In fact, I may say that every one of the
lot is a rake. I spent my whole time with them, and you can imagine
that Ponomarev, the wine merchant, did a fine trade indeed! All the
same, he is a rascal, you know, and ought not to be dealt with, for he
puts all sorts of rubbish into his liquor--Indian wood and burnt cork
and elderberry juice, the villain! Nevertheless, get him to produce a
bottle from what he calls his 'special cellar,' and you will fancy
yourself in the seventh heaven of delight. And what quantities of
champagne we drank! Compared with it, provincial stuff is kvass[1].
Try to imagine not merely Clicquot, but a sort of blend of Clicquot
and Matradura--Clicquot of double strength. Also Ponomarev produced a
bottle of French stuff which he calls 'Bonbon.' Had it a bouquet, ask
you? Why, it had the bouquet of a rose garden, of anything else you
like. What times we had, to be sure! Just after we had left Pnomarev's
place, some prince or another arrived in the town, and sent out for
some champagne; but not a bottle was there left, for the officers had
drunk every one! Why, I myself got through seventeen bottles at a sitting."

[1] A liquor distilled from fermented bread crusts or sour fruit.

"Come, come! You CAN'T have got through seventeen," remarked the
flaxen-haired man.

"But I did, I give my word of honour," retorted Nozdrev.

"Imagine what you like, but you didn't drink even TEN bottles at a sitting."

"Will you bet that I did not?"

"No; for what would be the use of betting about it?"

"Then at least wager the gun which you have bought."

"No, I am not going to do anything of the kind."

"Just as an experiment?"

"No."

"It is as well for you that you don't, since, otherwise, you would
have found yourself minus both gun and cap. However, friend Chichikov,
it is a pity you were not there. Had you been there, I feel sure you
would have found yourself unable to part with Lieutenant Kuvshinnikov.
You and he would have hit it off splendidly. You know, he is quite a
different sort from the Public Prosecutor and our other provincial
skinflints--fellows who shiver in their shoes before they will spend a
single kopeck. HE will play faro, or anything else, and at any time.
Why did you not come with us, instead of wasting your time on cattle
breeding or something of the sort? But never mind. Embrace me. I like
you immensely. Mizhuev, see how curiously things have turned out.
Chichikov has nothing to do with me, or I with him, yet here is he
come from God knows where, and landed in the very spot where I happen
to be living! I may tell you that, no matter how many carriages I
possessed, I should gamble the lot away. Recently I went in for a turn
at billiards, and lost two jars of pomade, a china teapot, and a
guitar. Then I staked some more things, and, like a fool, lost them
all, and six roubles in addition. What a dog is that Kuvshinnikov! He
and I attended nearly every ball in the place. In particular, there
was a woman--decolletee, and such a swell! I merely thought to myself,
'The devil take her!' but Kuvshinnikov is such a wag that he sat down
beside her, and began paying her strings of compliments in French.
However, I did not neglect the damsels altogether--although HE calls
that sort of thing 'going in for strawberries.' By the way, I have a
splendid piece of fish and some caviare with me. 'Tis all I HAVE
brought back! In fact it is a lucky chance that I happened to buy the
stuff before my money was gone. Where are you for?"

"I am about to call on a friend."

"On what friend? Let him go to the devil, and come to my place
instead."

"I cannot, I cannot. I have business to do."

"Oh, business again! I thought so!"

"But I HAVE business to do--and pressing business at that."

"I wager that you're lying. If not, tell me whom you're going to call upon."

"Upon Sobakevitch."

Instantly Nozdrev burst into a laugh compassable only by a healthy man
in whose head every tooth still remains as white as sugar. By this I
mean the laugh of quivering cheeks, the laugh which causes a neighbour
who is sleeping behind double doors three rooms away to leap from his
bed and exclaim with distended eyes, "Hullo! Something HAS upset him!"

"What is there to laugh at?" asked Chichikov, a trifle nettled; but
Nozdrev laughed more unrestrainedly than ever, ejaculating: "Oh, spare
us all! The thing is so amusing that I shall die of it!"

"I say that there is nothing to laugh at," repeated Chichikov. "It is
in fulfilment of a promise that I am on my way to Sobakevitch's."

"Then you will scarcely be glad to be alive when you've got there, for
he is the veriest miser in the countryside. Oh, _I_ know you. However,
if you think to find there either faro or a bottle of 'Bonbon' you are
mistaken. Look here, my good friend. Let Sobakevitch go to the
devil, and come to MY place, where at least I shall have a piece of
sturgeon to offer you for dinner. Ponomarev said to me on parting:
'This piece is just the thing for you. Even if you were to search the
whole market, you would never find a better one.' But of course he is
a terrible rogue. I said to him outright: 'You and the Collector of
Taxes are the two greatest skinflints in the town.' But he only
stroked his beard and smiled. Every day I used to breakfast with
Kuvshinnikov in his restaurant. Well, what I was nearly forgetting is
this: that, though I am aware that you can't forgo your engagement, I
am not going to give you up--no, not for ten thousand roubles of
money. I tell you that in advance."

Here he broke off to run to the window and shout to his servant (who
was holding a knife in one hand and a crust of bread and a piece of
sturgeon in the other--he had contrived to filch the latter while
fumbling in the britchka for something else):

"Hi, Porphyri! Bring here that puppy, you rascal! What a puppy it is!
Unfortunately that thief of a landlord has given it nothing to eat,
even though I have promised him the roan filly which, as you may
remember, I swopped from Khvostirev." As a matter of act, Chichikov
had never in his life seen either Khvostirev or the roan filly.

"Barin, do you wish for anything to eat?" inquired the landlady as she
entered.

"No, nothing at all. Ah, friend Chichikov, what times we had! Yes,
give me a glass of vodka, old woman. What sort to you keep?"

"Aniseed."

"Then bring me a glass of it," repeated Nozdrev.

"And one for me as well," added the flaxen-haired man.

"At the theatre," went on Nozdrev, "there was an actress who sang like
a canary. Kuvshinnikov, who happened to be sitting with me, said: 'My
boy, you had better go and gather that strawberry.' As for the booths
at the fair, they numbered, I should say, fifty." At this point he
broke off to take the glass of vodka from the landlady, who bowed low
in acknowledgement of his doing so. At the same moment Porphyri--a
fellow dressed like his master (that is to say, in a greasy, wadded
overcoat)--entered with the puppy.

"Put the brute down here," commanded Nozdrev, "and then fasten it up."

Porphyri deposited the animal upon the floor; whereupon it proceeded
to act after the manner of dogs.

"THERE'S a puppy for you!" cried Nozdrev, catching hold of it by the
back, and lifting it up. The puppy uttered a piteous yelp.

"I can see that you haven't done what I told you to do," he continued
to Porphyri after an inspection of the animal's belly. "You have quite
forgotten to brush him."

"I DID brush him," protested Porphyri.

"Then where did these fleas come from?"

"I cannot think. Perhaps they have leapt into his coat out of the
britchka."

"You liar! As a matter of fact, you have forgotten to brush him.
Nevertheless, look at these ears, Chichikov. Just feel them."

"Why should I? Without doing that, I can see that he is well-bred."

"Nevertheless, catch hold of his ears and feel them."

To humour the fellow Chichikov did as he had requested, remarking:
"Yes, he seems likely to turn out well."

"And feel the coldness of his nose! Just take it in your hand."

Not wishing to offend his interlocutor, Chichikov felt the puppy's
nose, saying: "Some day he will have an excellent scent."

"Yes, will he not? 'Tis the right sort of muzzle for that. I must say
that I have long been wanting such a puppy. Porphyri, take him away
again."

Porphyri lifted up the puppy, and bore it downstairs.

"Look here, Chichikov," resumed Nozdrev. "You MUST come to my place.
It lies only five versts away, and we can go there like the wind, and
you can visit Sobakevitch afterwards."

"Shall I, or shall I not, go to Nozdrev's?" reflected Chichikov. "Is
he likely to prove any more useful than the rest? Well, at least he is
as promising, even though he has lost so much at play. But he has a
head on his shoulders, and therefore I must go carefully if I am to
tackle him concerning my scheme."

With that he added aloud: "Very well, I WILL come with you, but do
not let us be long, for my time is very precious."

"That's right, that's right!" cried Nozdrev. "Splendid, splendid! Let
me embrace you!" And he fell upon Chichikov's neck. "All three of us
will go."

"No, no," put in the flaxen-haired man. "You must excuse me, for I
must be off home."

"Rubbish, rubbish! I am NOT going to excuse you."

"But my wife will be furious with me. You and Monsieur Chichikov must
change into the other britchka."

"Come, come! The thing is not to be thought of."

The flaxen-haired man was one of those people in whose character, at
first sight, there seems to lurk a certain grain of stubbornness--so
much so that, almost before one has begun to speak, they are ready to
dispute one's words, and to disagree with anything that may be opposed
to their peculiar form of opinion. For instance, they will decline to
have folly called wisdom, or any tune danced to but their own. Always,
however, will there become manifest in their character a soft spot,
and in the end they will accept what hitherto they have denied, and
call what is foolish sensible, and even dance--yes, better than any
one else will do--to a tune set by some one else. In short, they
generally begin well, but always end badly.

"Rubbish!" said Nozdrev in answer to a further objection on his
brother-in-law's part. And, sure enough, no sooner had Nozdrev clapped
his cap upon his head than the flaxen-haired man started to follow him
and his companion.

"But the gentleman has not paid for the vodka?" put in the old woman.

"All right, all right, good mother. Look here, brother-in-law. Pay
her, will you, for I have not a kopeck left."

"How much?" inquired the brother-in-law.

"What, sir? Eighty kopecks, if you please," replied the old woman.

"A lie! Give her half a rouble. That will be quite enough."

"No, it will NOT, barin," protested the old woman. However, she took
the money gratefully, and even ran to the door to open it for the
gentlemen. As a matter of fact, she had lost nothing by the
transaction, since she had demanded fully a quarter more than the
vodka was worth.

The travellers then took their seats, and since Chichikov's britchka
kept alongside the britchka wherein Nozdrev and his brother-in-law
were seated, it was possible for all three men to converse together as
they proceeded. Behind them came Nozdrev's smaller buggy, with its
team of lean stage horses and Porphyri and the puppy. But inasmuch as
the conversation which the travellers maintained was not of a kind
likely to interest the reader, I might do worse than say something
concerning Nozdrev himself, seeing that he is destined to play no
small role in our story.

Nozdrev's face will be familiar to the reader, seeing that every one
must have encountered many such. Fellows of the kind are known as "gay
young sparks," and, even in their boyhood and school days, earn a
reputation for being bons camarades (though with it all they come in
for some hard knocks) for the reason that their faces evince an
element of frankness, directness, and enterprise which enables them
soon to make friends, and, almost before you have had time to look
around, to start addressing you in the second person singular. Yet,
while cementing such friendships for all eternity, almost always they
begin quarrelling the same evening, since, throughout, they are a
loquacious, dissipated, high-spirited, over-showy tribe. Indeed, at
thirty-five Nozdrev was just what he had been an eighteen and
twenty--he was just such a lover of fast living. Nor had his marriage
in any way changed him, and the less so since his wife had soon
departed to another world, and left behind her two children, whom he
did not want, and who were therefore placed in the charge of a
good-looking nursemaid. Never at any time could he remain at home for
more than a single day, for his keen scent could range over scores and
scores of versts, and detect any fair which promised balls and crowds.
Consequently in a trice he would be there--quarrelling, and creating
disturbances over the gaming-table (like all men of his type, he had a
perfect passion for cards) yet playing neither a faultless nor an
over-clean game, since he was both a blunderer and able to indulge in
a large number of illicit cuts and other devices. The result was that
the game often ended in another kind of sport altogether. That is to
say, either he received a good kicking, or he had his thick and very
handsome whiskers pulled; with the result that on certain occasions he
returned home with one of those appendages looking decidedly ragged.
Yet his plump, healthy-looking cheeks were so robustly constituted,
and contained such an abundance of recreative vigour, that a new
whisker soon sprouted in place of the old one, and even surpassed its
predecessor. Again (and the following is a phenomenon peculiar to
Russia) a very short time would have elapsed before once more he would
be consorting with the very cronies who had recently cuffed him--and
consorting with them as though nothing whatsoever had happened--no
reference to the subject being made by him, and they too holding their
tongues.

In short, Nozdrev was, as it were, a man of incident. Never was he
present at any gathering without some sort of a fracas occurring
thereat. Either he would require to be expelled from the room by
gendarmes, or his friends would have to kick him out into the street.
At all events, should neither of those occurrences take place, at
least he did something of a nature which would not otherwise have been
witnessed. That is to say, should he not play the fool in a buffet to
such an extent as to make very one smile, you may be sure that he was
engaged in lying to a degree which at times abashed even himself.
Moreover, the man lied without reason. For instance, he would begin
telling a story to the effect that he possessed a blue-coated or a
red-coated horse; until, in the end, his listeners would be forced to
leave him with the remark, "You are giving us some fine stuff, old
fellow!" Also, men like Nozdrev have a passion for insulting their
neighbours without the least excuse afforded. (For that matter, even a
man of good standing and of respectable exterior--a man with a star on
his breast--may unexpectedly press your hand one day, and begin
talking to you on subjects of a nature to give food for serious
thought. Yet just as unexpectedly may that man start abusing you to
your face--and do so in a manner worthy of a collegiate registrar
rather than of a man who wears a star on his breast and aspires to
converse on subjects which merit reflection. All that one can do in
such a case is to stand shrugging one's shoulders in amazement.) Well,
Nozdrev had just such a weakness. The more he became friendly with a
man, the sooner would he insult him, and be ready to spread calumnies
as to his reputation. Yet all the while he would consider himself the
insulted one's friend, and, should he meet him again, would greet him
in the most amicable style possible, and say, "You rascal, why have
you given up coming to see me." Thus, taken all round, Nozdrev was a
person of many aspects and numerous potentialities. In one and the
same breath would he propose to go with you whithersoever you might
choose (even to the very ends of the world should you so require) or
to enter upon any sort of an enterprise with you, or to exchange any
commodity for any other commodity which you might care to name. Guns,
horses, dogs, all were subjects for barter--though not for profit so
far as YOU were concerned. Such traits are mostly the outcome of a
boisterous temperament, as is additionally exemplified by the fact
that if at a fair he chanced to fall in with a simpleton and to fleece
him, he would then proceed to buy a quantity of the very first
articles which came to hand--horse-collars, cigar-lighters, dresses
for his nursemaid, foals, raisins, silver ewers, lengths of holland,
wheatmeal, tobacco, revolvers, dried herrings, pictures, whetstones,
crockery, boots, and so forth, until every atom of his money was
exhausted. Yet seldom were these articles conveyed home, since, as a
rule, the same day saw them lost to some more skilful gambler, in
addition to his pipe, his tobacco-pouch, his mouthpiece, his
four-horsed turn-out, and his coachman: with the result that, stripped
to his very shirt, he would be forced to beg the loan of a vehicle
from a friend.

Such was Nozdrev. Some may say that characters of his type have become
extinct, that Nozdrevs no longer exist. Alas! such as say this will be
wrong; for many a day must pass before the Nozdrevs will have
disappeared from our ken. Everywhere they are to be seen in our
midst--the only difference between the new and the old being a
difference of garments. Persons of superficial observation are apt to
consider that a man clad in a different coat is quite a different
person from what he used to be.

To continue. The three vehicles bowled up to the steps of Nozdrev's
house, and their occupants alighted. But no preparations whatsoever
had been made for the guest's reception, for on some wooden trestles
in the centre of the dining-room a couple of peasants were engaged in
whitewashing the ceiling and drawling out an endless song as they
splashed their stuff about the floor. Hastily bidding peasants and
trestles to be gone, Nozdrev departed to another room with further
instructions. Indeed, so audible was the sound of his voice as he
ordered dinner that Chichikov--who was beginning to feel hungry once
more--was enabled to gather that it would be at least five o'clock
before a meal of any kind would be available. On his return, Nozdrev
invited his companions to inspect his establishment--even though as
early as two o'clock he had to announce that nothing more was to be
seen.

The tour began with a view of the stables, where the party saw two
mares (the one a grey, and the other a roan) and a colt; which latter
animal, though far from showy, Nozdrev declared to have cost him ten
thousand roubles.

"You NEVER paid ten thousand roubles for the brute!" exclaimed the
brother-in-law. "He isn't worth even a thousand."

"By God, I DID pay ten thousand!" asserted Nozdrev.

"You can swear that as much as you like," retorted the other.

"Will you bet that I did not?" asked Nozdrev, but the brother-in-law
declined the offer.

Next, Nozdrev showed his guests some empty stalls where a number of
equally fine animals (so he alleged) had lately stood. Also there was
on view the goat which an old belief still considers to be an
indispensable adjunct to such places, even though its apparent use is
to pace up and down beneath the noses of the horses as though the
place belonged to it. Thereafter the host took his guests to look at a
young wolf which he had got tied to a chain. "He is fed on nothing but
raw meat," he explained, "for I want him to grow up as fierce as
possible." Then the party inspected a pond in which there were "fish
of such a size that it would take two men all their time to lift one
of them out."

This piece of information was received with renewed incredulity on the
part of the brother-in-law.

"Now, Chichikov," went on Nozdrev, "let me show you a truly
magnificent brace of dogs. The hardness of their muscles will surprise
you, and they have jowls as sharp as needles."

So saying, he led the way to a small, but neatly-built, shed
surrounded on every side with a fenced-in run. Entering this run, the
visitors beheld a number of dogs of all sorts and sizes and colours.
In their midst Nozdrev looked like a father lording it over his family
circle. Erecting their tails--their "stems," as dog fanciers call
those members--the animals came bounding to greet the party, and fully
a score of them laid their paws upon Chichikov's shoulders. Indeed,
one dog was moved with such friendliness that, standing on its hind
legs, it licked him on the lips, and so forced him to spit. That done,
the visitors duly inspected the couple already mentioned, and
expressed astonishment at their muscles. True enough, they were fine
animals. Next, the party looked at a Crimean bitch which, though blind
and fast nearing her end, had, two years ago, been a truly magnificent
dog. At all events, so said Nozdrev. Next came another bitch--also
blind; then an inspection of the water-mill, which lacked the
spindle-socket wherein the upper stone ought to have been
revolving--"fluttering," to use the Russian peasant's quaint
expression. "But never mind," said Nozdrev. "Let us proceed to the
blacksmith's shop." So to the blacksmith's shop the party proceeded,
and when the said shop had been viewed, Nozdrev said as he pointed to
a field:

"In this field I have seen such numbers of hares as to render the
ground quite invisible. Indeed, on one occasion I, with my own hands,
caught a hare by the hind legs."

"You never caught a hare by the hind legs with your hands!" remarked
the brother-in-law.

"But I DID" reiterated Nozdrev. "However, let me show you the
boundary where my lands come to an end."

So saying, he started to conduct his guests across a field which
consisted mostly of moleheaps, and in which the party had to pick
their way between strips of ploughed land and of harrowed. Soon
Chichikov began to feel weary, for the terrain was so low-lying that
in many spots water could be heard squelching underfoot, and though
for a while the visitors watched their feet, and stepped carefully,
they soon perceived that such a course availed them nothing, and took
to following their noses, without either selecting or avoiding the
spots where the mire happened to be deeper or the reverse. At length,
when a considerable distance had been covered, they caught sight of a
boundary-post and a narrow ditch.

"That is the boundary," said Nozdrev. "Everything that you see on this
side of the post is mine, as well as the forest on the other side of
it, and what lies beyond the forest."

"WHEN did that forest become yours?" asked the brother-in-law. "It
cannot be long since you purchased it, for it never USED to be yours."

"Yes, it isn't long since I purchased it," said Nozdrev.

"How long?"

"How long? Why, I purchased it three days ago, and gave a pretty sum
for it, as the devil knows!"

"Indeed? Why, three days ago you were at the fair?"

"Wiseacre! Cannot one be at a fair and buy land at the same time? Yes,
I WAS at the fair, and my steward bought the land in my absence."

"Oh, your STEWARD bought it." The brother-in-law seemed doubtful,
and shook his head.

The guests returned by the same route as that by which they had come;
whereafter, on reaching the house, Nozdrev conducted them to his
study, which contained not a trace of the things usually to be found
in such apartments--such things as books and papers. On the contrary,
the only articles to be seen were a sword and a brace of guns--the one
"of them worth three hundred roubles," and the other "about eight
hundred." The brother-in-law inspected the articles in question, and
then shook his head as before. Next, the visitors were shown some
"real Turkish" daggers, of which one bore the inadvertent inscription,
"Saveli Sibiriakov[2], Master Cutler." Then came a barrel-organ, on
which Nozdrev started to play some tune or another. For a while the
sounds were not wholly unpleasing, but suddenly something seemed to go
wrong, for a mazurka started, to be followed by "Marlborough has gone
to the war," and to this, again, there succeeded an antiquated waltz.
Also, long after Nozdrev had ceased to turn the handle, one
particularly shrill-pitched pipe which had, throughout, refused to
harmonise with the rest kept up a protracted whistling on its own
account. Then followed an exhibition of tobacco pipes--pipes of clay,
of wood, of meerschaum, pipes smoked and non-smoked; pipes wrapped in
chamois leather and not so wrapped; an amber-mounted hookah (a stake
won at cards) and a tobacco pouch (worked, it was alleged, by some
countess who had fallen in love with Nozdrev at a posthouse, and whose
handiwork Nozdrev averred to constitute the "sublimity of
superfluity"--a term which, in the Nozdrevian vocabulary, purported to
signify the acme of perfection).

[2] That is to say, a distinctively Russian name.

Finally, after some hors-d'oeuvres of sturgeon's back, they sat down
to table--the time being then nearly five o'clock. But the meal did
not constitute by any means the best of which Chichikov had ever
partaken, seeing that some of the dishes were overcooked, and others
were scarcely cooked at all. Evidently their compounder had trusted
chiefly to inspiration--she had laid hold of the first thing which had
happened to come to hand. For instance, had pepper represented the
nearest article within reach, she had added pepper wholesale. Had a
cabbage chanced to be so encountered, she had pressed it also into the
service. And the same with milk, bacon, and peas. In short, her rule
seemed to have been "Make a hot dish of some sort, and some sort of
taste will result." For the rest, Nozdrev drew heavily upon the wine.
Even before the soup had been served, he had poured out for each guest
a bumper of port and another of "haut" sauterne. (Never in provincial
towns is ordinary, vulgar sauterne even procurable.) Next, he called
for a bottle of madeira--"as fine a tipple as ever a field-marshall
drank"; but the madeira only burnt the mouth, since the dealers,
familiar with the taste of our landed gentry (who love "good" madeira)
invariably doctor the stuff with copious dashes of rum and Imperial
vodka, in the hope that Russian stomachs will thus be enabled to carry
off the lot. After this bottle Nozdrev called for another and "a very
special" brand--a brand which he declared to consist of a blend of
burgundy and champagne, and of which he poured generous measures into
the glasses of Chichikov and the brother-in-law as they sat to right
and left of him. But since Chichikov noticed that, after doing so, he
added only a scanty modicum of the mixture to his own tumbler, our
hero determined to be cautious, and therefore took advantage of a
moment when Nozdrev had again plunged into conversation and was yet a
third time engaged in refilling his brother-in-law's glass, to
contrive to upset his (Chichikov's) glass over his plate. In time
there came also to table a tart of mountain-ashberries--berries which
the host declared to equal, in taste, ripe plums, but which, curiously
enough, smacked more of corn brandy. Next, the company consumed a sort
of pasty of which the precise name has escaped me, but which the host
rendered differently even on the second occasion of its being
mentioned. The meal over, and the whole tale of wines tried, the
guests still retained their seats--a circumstance which embarrassed
Chichikov, seeing that he had no mind to propound his pet scheme in
the presence of Nozdrev's brother-in-law, who was a complete stranger
to him. No, that subject called for amicable and PRIVATE conversation.
Nevertheless, the brother-in-law appeared to bode little danger,
seeing that he had taken on board a full cargo, and was now engaged
in doing nothing of a more menacing nature than picking his nose.
At length he himself noticed that he was not altogether in a
responsible condition; wherefore he rose and began to make excuses for
departing homewards, though in a tone so drowsy and lethargic that, to
quote the Russian proverb, he might almost have been "pulling a collar
on to a horse by the clasps."

"No, no!" cried Nozdrev. "I am NOT going to let you go."

"But I MUST go," replied the brother-in-law. "Don't dry to hinder
me. You are annoying me greatly."

"Rubbish! We are going to play a game of banker."

"No, no. You must play it without me, my friend. My wife is expecting
me at home, and I must go and tell her all about the fair. Yes, I
MUST go if I am to please her. Do not try to detain me."

"Your wife be--! But have you REALLY an important piece of business
with her?"

"No, no, my friend. The real reason is that she is a good and trustful
woman, and that she does a great deal for me. The tears spring to my
eyes as I think of it. Do not detain me. As an honourable man I say
that I must go. Of that I do assure you in all sincerity."

"Oh, let him go," put in Chichikov under his breath. "What use will he
be here?"

"Very well," said Nozdrev, "though, damn it, I do not like fellows who
lose their heads." Then he added to his brother-in-law: "All right,
Thetuk[3]. Off you go to your wife and your woman's talk and may the
devil go with you!"

[3] A jeering appellation which owes its origin to the fact that
    certain Russians cherish a prejudice against the initial character
    of the word--namely, the Greek theta, or TH.

"Do not insult me with the term Thetuk," retorted the brother-in-law.
"To her I owe my life, and she is a dear, good woman, and has shown me
much affection. At the very thought of it I could weep. You see, she
will be asking me what I have seen at the fair, and tell her about it
I must, for she is such a dear, good woman."

"Then off you go to her with your pack of lies. Here is your cap."

"No, good friend, you are not to speak of her like that. By so doing
you offend me greatly--I say that she is a dear, good woman."

"Then run along home to her."

"Yes, I am just going. Excuse me for having been unable to stay.
Gladly would I have stayed, but really I cannot."

The brother-in-law repeated his excuses again and again without
noticing that he had entered the britchka, that it had passed through
the gates, and that he was now in the open country. Permissibly we may
suppose that his wife succeeded in gleaning from him few details of
the fair.

"What a fool!" said Nozdrev as, standing by the window, he watched the
departing vehicle. "Yet his off-horse is not such a bad one. For a
long time past I have been wanting to get hold of it. A man like that
is simply impossible. Yes, he is a Thetuk, a regular Thetuk."

With that they repaired to the parlour, where, on Porphyri bringing
candles, Chichikov perceived that his host had produced a pack of
cards.

"I tell you what," said Nozdrev, pressing the sides of the pack
together, and then slightly bending them, so that the pack cracked and
a card flew out. "How would it be if, to pass the time, I were to make
a bank of three hundred?"

Chichikov pretended not to have heard him, but remarked with an air of
having just recollected a forgotten point:

"By the way, I had omitted to say that I have a request to make of
you."

"What request?"

"First give me your word that you will grant it."

"What is the request, I say?"

"Then you give me your word, do you?"

"Certainly."

"Your word of honour?"

"My word of honour."

"This, then, is my request. I presume that you have a large number of
dead serfs whose names have not yet been removed from the revision
list?"

"I have. But why do you ask?"

"Because I want you to make them over to me."

"Of what use would they be to you?"

"Never mind. I have a purpose in wanting them."

"What purpose?"

"A purpose which is strictly my own affair. In short, I need them."

"You seem to have hatched a very fine scheme. Out with it, now! What
is in the wind?"

"How could I have hatched such a scheme as you say? One could not very
well hatch a scheme out of such a trifle as this."

"Then for what purpose do you want the serfs?"

"Oh, the curiosity of the man! He wants to poke his fingers into and
smell over every detail!"

"Why do you decline to say what is in your mind? At all events, until
you DO say I shall not move in the matter."

"But how would it benefit you to know what my plans are? A whim has
seized me. That is all. Nor are you playing fair. You have given me
your word of honour, yet now you are trying to back out of it."

"No matter what you desire me to do, I decline to do it until you have
told me your purpose."

"What am I to say to the fellow?" thought Chichikov. He reflected for
a moment, and then explained that he wanted the dead souls in order to
acquire a better standing in society, since at present he possessed
little landed property, and only a handful of serfs.

"You are lying," said Nozdrev without even letting him finish. "Yes,
you are lying my good friend."

Chichikov himself perceived that his device had been a clumsy one, and
his pretext weak. "I must tell him straight out," he said to himself as
he pulled his wits together.

"Should I tell you the truth," he added aloud, "I must beg of you not
to repeat it. The truth is that I am thinking of getting married. But,
unfortunately, my betrothed's father and mother are very ambitious
people, and do not want me to marry her, since they desire the
bridegroom to own not less than three hundred souls, whereas I own but
a hundred and fifty, and that number is not sufficient."

"Again you are lying," said Nozdrev.

"Then look here; I have been lying only to this extent." And Chichikov
marked off upon his little finger a minute portion.

"Nevertheless I will bet my head that you have been lying throughout."

"Come, come! That is not very civil of you. Why should I have been
lying?"

"Because I know you, and know that you are a regular skinflint. I say
that in all friendship. If I possessed any power over you I should
hang you to the nearest tree."

This remark hurt Chichikov, for at any time he disliked expressions
gross or offensive to decency, and never allowed any one--no, not even
persons of the highest rank--to behave towards him with an undue
measure of familiarity. Consequently his sense of umbrage on the
present occasion was unbounded.

"By God, I WOULD hang you!" repeated Nozdrev. "I say this frankly,
and not for the purpose of offending you, but simply to communicate to
you my friendly opinion."

"To everything there are limits," retorted Chichikov stiffly. "If you
want to indulge in speeches of that sort you had better return to the
barracks."

However, after a pause he added:

"If you do not care to give me the serfs, why not SELL them?"

"SELL them? _I_ know you, you rascal! You wouldn't give me very much
for them, WOULD you?"

"A nice fellow! Look here. What are they to you? So many diamonds, eh?"

"I thought so! _I_ know you!"

"Pardon me, but I could wish that you were a member of the Jewish
persuasion. You would give them to me fast enough then."

"On the contrary, to show you that I am not a usurer, I will decline
to ask of you a single kopeck for the serfs. All that you need do is
to buy that colt of mine, and then I will throw in the serfs in
addition."

"But what should _I_ want with your colt?" said Chichikov, genuinely
astonished at the proposal.

"What should YOU want with him? Why, I have bought him for ten
thousand roubles, and am ready to let you have him for four."

"I ask you again: of what use could the colt possibly be to me? I am
not the keeper of a breeding establishment."

"Ah! I see that you fail to understand me. Let me suggest that you pay
down at once three thousand roubles of the purchase money, and leave
the other thousand until later."

"But I do not mean to buy the colt, damn him!"

"Then buy the roan mare."

"No, nor the roan mare."

"Then you shall have both the mare and the grey horse which you have
seen in my stables for two thousand roubles."

"I require no horses at all."

"But you would be able to sell them again. You would be able to get
thrice their purchase price at the very first fair that was held."

"Then sell them at that fair yourself, seeing that you are so certain
of making a triple profit."

"Oh, I should make it fast enough, only I want YOU to benefit
by the transaction."

Chichikov duly thanked his interlocutor, but continued to decline
either the grey horse or the roan mare.

"Then buy a few dogs," said Nozdrev. "I can sell you a couple of hides
a-quiver, ears well pricked, coats like quills, ribs barrel-shaped,
and paws so tucked up as scarcely to graze the ground when they run."

"Of what use would those dogs be to me? I am not a sportsman."

"But I WANT you to have the dogs. Listen. If you won't have the
dogs, then buy my barrel-organ. 'Tis a splendid instrument. As a man
of honour I can tell you that, when new, it cost me fifteen hundred
roubles. Well, you shall have it for nine hundred."

"Come, come! What should I want with a barrel-organ? I am not a
German, to go hauling it about the roads and begging for coppers."

"But this is quite a different kind of organ from the one which
Germans take about with them. You see, it is a REAL organ. Look at
it for yourself. It is made of the best wood. I will take you to have
another view of it."

And seizing Chichikov by the hand, Nozdrev drew him towards the other
room, where, in spite of the fact that Chichikov, with his feet
planted firmly on the floor, assured his host, again and again, that
he knew exactly what the organ was like, he was forced once more to
hear how Marlborough went to the war.

"Then, since you don't care to give me any money for it," persisted
Nozdrev, "listen to the following proposal. I will give you the
barrel-organ and all the dead souls which I possess, and in return you
shall give me your britchka, and another three hundred roubles into
the bargain."

"Listen to the man! In that case, what should I have left to drive
in?"

"Oh, I would stand you another britchka. Come to the coach-house, and
I will show you the one I mean. It only needs repainting to look a
perfectly splendid britchka."

"The ramping, incorrigible devil!" thought Chichikov to himself as at
all hazards he resolved to escape from britchkas, organs, and every
species of dog, however marvellously barrel-ribbed and tucked up of
paw.

"And in exchange, you shall have the britchka, the barrel-organ, and
the dead souls," repeated Nozdrev.

"I must decline the offer," said Chichikov.

"And why?"

"Because I don't WANT the things--I am full up already."

"I can see that you don't know how things should be done between good
friends and comrades. Plainly you are a man of two faces."

"What do you mean, you fool? Think for yourself. Why should I acquire
articles which I don't want?"

"Say no more about it, if you please. I have quite taken your measure.
But see here. Should you care to play a game of banker? I am ready to
stake both the dead souls and the barrel-organ at cards."

"No; to leave an issue to cards means to submit oneself to the
unknown," said Chichikov, covertly glancing at the pack which Nozdrev
had got in his hands. Somehow the way in which his companion had cut
that pack seemed to him suspicious.

"Why 'to the unknown'?" asked Nozdrev. "There is no such thing as 'the
unknown.' Should luck be on your side, you may win the devil knows
what a haul. Oh, luck, luck!" he went on, beginning to deal, in the
hope of raising a quarrel. "Here is the cursed nine upon which, the
other night, I lost everything. All along I knew that I should lose my
money. Said I to myself: 'The devil take you, you false, accursed
card!'"

Just as Nozdrev uttered the words Porphyri entered with a fresh bottle
of liquor; but Chichikov declined either to play or to drink.

"Why do you refuse to play?" asked Nozdrev.

"Because I feel indisposed to do so. Moreover, I must confess that I
am no great hand at cards."

"WHY are you no great hand at them?"

Chichikov shrugged his shoulders. "Because I am not," he replied.

"You are no great hand at ANYTHING, I think."

"What does that matter? God has made me so."

"The truth is that you are a Thetuk, and nothing else. Once upon a
time I believed you to be a good fellow, but now I see that you don't
understand civility. One cannot speak to you as one would to an
intimate, for there is no frankness or sincerity about you. You are a
regular Sobakevitch--just such another as he."

"For what reason are you abusing me? Am I in any way at fault for
declining to play cards? Sell me those souls if you are the man to
hesitate over such rubbish."

"The foul fiend take you! I was about to have given them to you for
nothing, but now you shan't have them at all--not if you offer me
three kingdoms in exchange. Henceforth I will have nothing to do with
you, you cobbler, you dirty blacksmith! Porphyri, go and tell the
ostler to give the gentleman's horses no oats, but only hay."

This development Chichikov had hardly expected.

"And do you," added Nozdrev to his guest, "get out of my sight."

Yet in spite of this, host and guest took supper together--even though
on this occasion the table was adorned with no wines of fictitious
nomenclature, but only with a bottle which reared its solitary head
beside a jug of what is usually known as vin ordinaire. When supper
was over Nozdrev said to Chichikov as he conducted him to a side room
where a bed had been made up:

"This is where you are to sleep. I cannot very well wish you
good-night."

Left to himself on Nozdrev's departure, Chichikov felt in a most
unenviable frame of mind. Full of inward vexation, he blamed himself
bitterly for having come to see this man and so wasted valuable time;
but even more did he blame himself for having told him of his
scheme--for having acted as carelessly as a child or a madman. Of a
surety the scheme was not one which ought to have been confided to a
man like Nozdrev, for he was a worthless fellow who might lie about
it, and append additions to it, and spread such stories as would give
rise to God knows what scandals. "This is indeed bad!" Chichikov said
to himself. "I have been an absolute fool." Consequently he spent an
uneasy night--this uneasiness being increased by the fact that a
number of small, but vigorous, insects so feasted upon him that he
could do nothing but scratch the spots and exclaim, "The devil take
you and Nozdrev alike!" Only when morning was approaching did he fall
asleep. On rising, he made it his first business (after donning
dressing-gown and slippers) to cross the courtyard to the stable, for
the purpose of ordering Selifan to harness the britchka. Just as he
was returning from his errand he encountered Nozdrev, clad in a
dressing-gown, and holding a pipe between his teeth.

Host and guest greeted one another in friendly fashion, and Nozdrev
inquired how Chichikov had slept.

"Fairly well," replied Chichikov, but with a touch of dryness in his
tone.

"The same with myself," said Nozdrev. "The truth is that such a lot of
nasty brutes kept crawling over me that even to speak of it gives me
the shudders. Likewise, as the effect of last night's doings, a whole
squadron of soldiers seemed to be camping on my chest, and giving me a
flogging. Ugh! And whom also do you think I saw in a dream? You would
never guess. Why, it was Staff-Captain Potsieluev and Lieutenant
Kuvshinnikov!"

"Yes," though Chichikov to himself, "and I wish that they too would
give you a public thrashing!"

"I felt so ill!" went on Nozdrev. "And just after I had fallen asleep
something DID come and sting me. Probably it was a party of hag
fleas. Now, dress yourself, and I will be with you presently. First of
all I must give that scoundrel of a bailiff a wigging."

Chichikov departed to his own room to wash and dress; which process
completed, he entered the dining-room to find the table laid with
tea-things and a bottle of rum. Clearly no broom had yet touched the
place, for there remained traces of the previous night's dinner and
supper in the shape of crumbs thrown over the floor and tobacco ash on
the tablecloth. The host himself, when he entered, was still clad in a
dressing-gown exposing a hairy chest; and as he sat holding his pipe
in his hand, and drinking tea from a cup, he would have made a model
for the sort of painter who prefers to portray gentlemen of the less
curled and scented order.

"What think you?" he asked of Chichikov after a short silence. "Are
you willing NOW to play me for those souls?"

"I have told you that I never play cards. If the souls are for sale, I
will buy them."

"I decline to sell them. Such would not be the course proper between
friends. But a game of banker would be quite another matter. Let us
deal the cards."

"I have told you that I decline to play."

"And you will not agree to an exchange?"

"No."

"Then look here. Suppose we play a game of chess. If you win, the
souls shall be yours. There are lot which I should like to see crossed
off the revision list. Hi, Porphyri! Bring me the chessboard."

"You are wasting your time. I will play neither chess nor cards."

"But chess is different from playing with a bank. In chess there can
be neither luck nor cheating, for everything depends upon skill. In
fact, I warn you that I cannot possibly play with you unless you allow
me a move or two in advance."

"The same with me," thought Chichikov. "Shall I, or shall I not, play
this fellow? I used not to be a bad chess-player, and it is a sport in
which he would find it more difficult to be up to his tricks."

"Very well," he added aloud. "I WILL play you at chess."

"And stake the souls for a hundred roubles?" asked Nozdrev.

"No. Why for a hundred? Would it not be sufficient to stake them for fifty?"

"No. What would be the use of fifty? Nevertheless, for the hundred
roubles I will throw in a moderately old puppy, or else a gold seal
and watch-chain."

"Very well," assented Chichikov.

"Then how many moves are you going to allow me?"

"Is THAT to be part of the bargain? Why, none, of course."

"At least allow me two."

"No, none. I myself am only a poor player."

"_I_ know you and your poor play," said Nozdrev, moving a chessman.

"In fact, it is a long time since last I had a chessman in my hand,"
replied Chichikov, also moving a piece.

"Ah! _I_ know you and your poor play," repeated Nozdrev, moving a
second chessman.

"I say again that it is a long time since last I had a chessman in my
hand." And Chichikov, in his turn, moved.

"Ah! _I_ know you and your poor play," repeated Nozdrev, for the third
time as he made a third move. At the same moment the cuff of one of
his sleeves happened to dislodge another chessman from its position.

"Again, I say," said Chichikov, "that 'tis a long time since last--But
hi! look here! Put that piece back in its place!"

"What piece?"

"This one." And almost as Chichikov spoke he saw a third chessman
coming into view between the queens. God only knows whence that
chessman had materialised.

"No, no!" shouted Chichikov as he rose from the table. "It is
impossible to play with a man like you. People don't move three pieces
at once."

"How 'three pieces'? All that I have done is to make a mistake--to
move one of my pieces by accident. If you like, I will forfeit it to
you."

"And whence has the third piece come?"

"What third piece?"

"The one now standing between the queens?"

"'Tis one of your own pieces. Surely you are forgetting?"

"No, no, my friend. I have counted every move, and can remember each
one. That piece has only just become added to the board. Put it back
in its place, I say."

"Its place? Which IS its place?" But Nozdrev had reddened a good
deal. "I perceive you to be a strategist at the game."

"No, no, good friend. YOU are the strategist--though an unsuccessful
one, as it happens."

"Then of what are you supposing me capable? Of cheating you?"

"I am not supposing you capable of anything. All that I say is that I
will not play with you any more."

"But you can't refuse to," said Nozdrev, growing heated. "You see, the
game has begun."

"Nevertheless, I have a right not to continue it, seeing that you are
not playing as an honest man should do."

"You are lying--you cannot truthfully say that."

"'Tis you who are lying."

"But I have NOT cheated. Consequently you cannot refuse to play, but
must continue the game to a finish."

"You cannot force me to play," retorted Chichikov coldly as, turning
to the chessboard, he swept the pieces into confusion.

Nozdrev approached Chichikov with a manner so threatening that the
other fell back a couple of paces.

"I WILL force you to play," said Nozdrev. "It is no use you making a
mess of the chessboard, for I can remember every move. We will replace
the chessmen exactly as they were."

"No, no, my friend. The game is over, and I play you no more."

"You say that you will not?"

"Yes. Surely you can see for yourself that such a thing is
impossible?"

"That cock won't fight. Say at once that you refuse to play with me."
And Nozdrev approached a step nearer.

"Very well; I DO say that," replied Chichikov, and at the same
moment raised his hands towards his face, for the dispute was growing
heated. Nor was the act of caution altogether unwarranted, for Nozdrev
also raised his fist, and it may be that one of her hero's plump,
pleasant-looking cheeks would have sustained an indelible insult had
not he (Chichikov) parried the blow and, seizing Nozdrev by his
whirling arms, held them fast.

"Porphyri! Pavlushka!" shouted Nozdrev as madly he strove to free himself.

On hearing the words, Chichikov, both because he wished to avoid
rendering the servants witnesses of the unedifying scene and because
he felt that it would be of no avail to hold Nozdrev any longer, let
go of the latter's arms; but at the same moment Porphyri and Pavlushka
entered the room--a pair of stout rascals with whom it would be unwise
to meddle.

"Do you, or do you not, intend to finish the game?" said Nozdrev.
"Give me a direct answer."

"No; it will not be possible to finish the game," replied Chichikov,
glancing out of the window. He could see his britchka standing ready
for him, and Selifan evidently awaiting orders to draw up to the
entrance steps. But from the room there was no escape, since in the
doorway was posted the couple of well-built serving-men.

"Then it is as I say? You refuse to finish the game?" repeated
Nozdrev, his face as red as fire.

"I would have finished it had you played like a man of honour. But, as
it is, I cannot."

"You cannot, eh, you villain? You find that you cannot as soon as you
find that you are not winning? Thrash him, you fellows!" And as he
spoke Nozdrev grasped the cherrywood shank of his pipe. Chichikov
turned as white as a sheet. He tried to say something, but his
quivering lips emitted no sound. "Thrash him!" again shouted Nozdrev
as he rushed forward in a state of heat and perspiration more proper
to a warrior who is attacking an impregnable fortress. "Thrash him!"
again he shouted in a voice like that of some half-demented lieutenant
whose desperate bravery has acquired such a reputation that orders
have had to be issued that his hands shall be held lest he attempt
deeds of over-presumptuous daring. Seized with the military spirit,
however, the lieutenant's head begins to whirl, and before his eye
there flits the image of Suvorov[4]. He advances to the great
encounter, and impulsively cries, "Forward, my sons!"--cries it
without reflecting that he may be spoiling the plan of the general
attack, that millions of rifles may be protruding their muzzles
through the embrasures of the impregnable, towering walls of the
fortress, that his own impotent assault may be destined to be
dissipated like dust before the wind, and that already there may have
been launched on its whistling career the bullet which is to close for
ever his vociferous throat. However, if Nozdrev resembled the
headstrong, desperate lieutenant whom we have just pictured as
advancing upon a fortress, at least the fortress itself in no way
resembled the impregnable stronghold which I have described. As a
matter of fact, the fortress became seized with a panic which drove
its spirit into its boots. First of all, the chair with which
Chichikov (the fortress in question) sought to defend himself was
wrested from his grasp by the serfs, and then--blinking and neither
alive nor dead--he turned to parry the Circassian pipe-stem of his
host. In fact, God only knows what would have happened had not the
fates been pleased by a miracle to deliver Chichikov's elegant back
and shoulders from the onslaught. Suddenly, and as unexpectedly as
though the sound had come from the clouds, there made itself heard the
tinkling notes of a collar-bell, and then the rumble of wheels
approaching the entrance steps, and, lastly, the snorting and hard
breathing of a team of horses as a vehicle came to a standstill.
Involuntarily all present glanced through the window, and saw a man
clad in a semi-military greatcoat leap from a buggy. After making an
inquiry or two in the hall, he entered the dining-room just at the
juncture when Chichikov, almost swooning with terror, had found
himself placed in about as awkward a situation as could well befall a
mortal man.

[4] The great Russian general who, after winning fame in the Seven
    Years' War, met with disaster when attempting to assist the
    Austrians against the French in 1799.

"Kindly tell me which of you is Monsieur Nozdrev?" said the unknown
with a glance of perplexity both at the person named (who was still
standing with pipe-shank upraised) and at Chichikov (who was just
beginning to recover from his unpleasant predicament).

"Kindly tell ME whom I have the honour of addressing?" retorted
Nozdrev as he approached the official.

"I am the Superintendent of Rural Police."

"And what do you want?"

"I have come to fulfil a commission imposed upon me. That is to say,
I have come to place you under arrest until your case shall have
been decided."

"Rubbish! What case, pray?"

"The case in which you involved yourself when, in a drunken condition,
and through the instrumentality of a walking-stick, you offered grave
offence to the person of Landowner Maksimov."

"You lie! To your face I tell you that never in my life have I set
eyes upon Landowner Maksimov."

"Good sir, allow me to represent to you that I am a Government officer.
Speeches like that you may address to your servants, but not to me."

At this point Chichikov, without waiting for Nozdrev's reply, seized
his cap, slipped behind the Superintendent's back, rushed out on to
the verandah, sprang into his britchka, and ordered Selifan to drive
like the wind.

CHAPTER V

Certainly Chichikov was a thorough coward, for, although the britchka
pursued its headlong course until Nozdrev's establishment had
disappeared behind hillocks and hedgerows, our hero continued to
glance nervously behind him, as though every moment expecting to see a
stern chase begin. His breath came with difficulty, and when he tried
his heart with his hands he could feel it fluttering like a quail
caught in a net.

"What a sweat the fellow has thrown me into!" he thought to himself,
while many a dire and forceful aspiration passed through his mind.
Indeed, the expressions to which he gave vent were most inelegant in
their nature. But what was to be done next? He was a Russian and
thoroughly aroused. The affair had been no joke. "But for the
Superintendent," he reflected, "I might never again have looked upon
God's daylight--I might have vanished like a bubble on a pool, and
left neither trace nor posterity nor property nor an honourable name
for my future offspring to inherit!" (it seemed that our hero was
particularly anxious with regard to his possible issue).

"What a scurvy barin!" mused Selifan as he drove along. "Never have I
seen such a barin. I should like to spit in his face. 'Tis better to
allow a man nothing to eat than to refuse to feed a horse properly. A
horse needs his oats--they are his proper fare. Even if you make a man
procure a meal at his own expense, don't deny a horse his oats, for he
ought always to have them."

An equally poor opinion of Nozdrev seemed to be cherished also by the
steeds, for not only were the bay and the Assessor clearly out of
spirits, but even the skewbald was wearing a dejected air. True, at
home the skewbald got none but the poorer sorts of oats to eat, and
Selifan never filled his trough without having first called him a
villain; but at least they WERE oats, and not hay--they were stuff
which could be chewed with a certain amount of relish. Also, there was
the fact that at intervals he could intrude his long nose into his
companions' troughs (especially when Selifan happened to be absent
from the stable) and ascertain what THEIR provender was like. But at
Nozdrev's there had been nothing but hay! That was not right. All
three horses felt greatly discontented.

But presently the malcontents had their reflections cut short in a
very rude and unexpected manner. That is to say, they were brought
back to practicalities by coming into violent collision with a
six-horsed vehicle, while upon their heads descended both a babel of
cries from the ladies inside and a storm of curses and abuse from the
coachman. "Ah, you damned fool!" he vociferated. "I shouted to you
loud enough! Draw out, you old raven, and keep to the right! Are you
drunk?" Selifan himself felt conscious that he had been careless, but
since a Russian does not care to admit a fault in the presence of
strangers, he retorted with dignity: "Why have you run into US? Did
you leave your eyes behind you at the last tavern that you stopped
at?" With that he started to back the britchka, in the hope that it
might get clear of the other's harness; but this would not do, for the
pair were too hopelessly intertwined. Meanwhile the skewbald snuffed
curiously at his new acquaintances as they stood planted on either
side of him; while the ladies in the vehicle regarded the scene with
an expression of terror. One of them was an old woman, and the other a
damsel of about sixteen. A mass of golden hair fell daintily from a
small head, and the oval of her comely face was as shapely as an egg,
and white with the transparent whiteness seen when the hands of a
housewife hold a new-laid egg to the light to let the sun's rays
filter through its shell. The same tint marked the maiden's ears where
they glowed in the sunshine, and, in short, what with the tears in her
wide-open, arresting eyes, she presented so attractive a picture that
our hero bestowed upon it more than a passing glance before he turned
his attention to the hubbub which was being raised among the horses
and the coachmen.

"Back out, you rook of Nizhni Novgorod!" the strangers' coachman
shouted. Selifan tightened his reins, and the other driver did the
same. The horses stepped back a little, and then came together
again--this time getting a leg or two over the traces. In fact, so
pleased did the skewbald seem with his new friends that he refused to
stir from the melee into which an unforeseen chance had plunged him.
Laying his muzzle lovingly upon the neck of one of his
recently-acquired acquaintances, he seemed to be whispering something
in that acquaintance's ear--and whispering pretty nonsense, too, to
judge from the way in which that confidant kept shaking his ears.

At length peasants from a village which happened to be near the scene
of the accident tackled the mess; and since a spectacle of that kind
is to the Russian muzhik what a newspaper or a club-meeting is to the
German, the vehicles soon became the centre of a crowd, and the
village denuded even of its old women and children. The traces were
disentangled, and a few slaps on the nose forced the skewbald to draw
back a little; after which the teams were straightened out and
separated. Nevertheless, either sheer obstinacy or vexation at being
parted from their new friends caused the strange team absolutely to
refuse to move a leg. Their driver laid the whip about them, but still
they stood as though rooted to the spot. At length the participatory
efforts of the peasants rose to an unprecedented degree of enthusiasm,
and they shouted in an intermittent chorus the advice, "Do you,
Andrusha, take the head of the trace horse on the right, while Uncle
Mitai mounts the shaft horse. Get up, Uncle Mitai." Upon that the
lean, long, and red-bearded Uncle Mitai mounted the shaft horse; in
which position he looked like a village steeple or the winder which is
used to raise water from wells. The coachman whipped up his steeds
afresh, but nothing came of it, and Uncle Mitai had proved useless.
"Hold on, hold on!" shouted the peasants again. "Do you, Uncle Mitai,
mount the trace horse, while Uncle Minai mounts the shaft horse."
Whereupon Uncle Minai--a peasant with a pair of broad shoulders, a
beard as black as charcoal, and a belly like the huge samovar in which
sbiten is brewed for all attending a local market--hastened to seat
himself upon the shaft horse, which almost sank to the ground beneath
his weight. "NOW they will go all right!" the muzhiks exclaimed.
"Lay it on hot, lay it on hot! Give that sorrel horse the whip, and
make him squirm like a koramora[1]." Nevertheless, the affair in no
way progressed; wherefore, seeing that flogging was of no use, Uncles
Mitai and Minai BOTH mounted the sorrel, while Andrusha seated
himself upon the trace horse. Then the coachman himself lost patience,
and sent the two Uncles about their business--and not before it was
time, seeing that the horses were steaming in a way that made it clear
that, unless they were first winded, they would never reach the next
posthouse. So they were given a moment's rest. That done, they moved
off of their own accord!

[1] A kind of large gnat.

Throughout, Chichikov had been gazing at the young unknown with great
attention, and had even made one or two attempts to enter into
conversation with her: but without success. Indeed, when the ladies
departed, it was as in a dream that he saw the girl's comely presence,
the delicate features of her face, and the slender outline of her form
vanish from his sight; it was as in a dream that once more he saw only
the road, the britchka, the three horses, Selifan, and the bare, empty
fields. Everywhere in life--yes, even in the plainest, the dingiest
ranks of society, as much as in those which are uniformly bright and
presentable--a man may happen upon some phenomenon which is so
entirely different from those which have hitherto fallen to his lot.
Everywhere through the web of sorrow of which our lives are woven
there may suddenly break a clear, radiant thread of joy; even as
suddenly along the street of some poor, poverty-stricken village
which, ordinarily, sees nought but a farm waggon there may came
bowling a gorgeous coach with plated harness, picturesque horses, and
a glitter of glass, so that the peasants stand gaping, and do not
resume their caps until long after the strange equipage has become
lost to sight. Thus the golden-haired maiden makes a sudden,
unexpected appearance in our story, and as suddenly, as unexpectedly,
disappears. Indeed, had it not been that the person concerned was
Chichikov, and not some youth of twenty summers--a hussar or a student
or, in general, a man standing on the threshold of life--what thoughts
would not have sprung to birth, and stirred and spoken, within him;
for what a length of time would he not have stood entranced as he
stared into the distance and forgot alike his journey, the business
still to be done, the possibility of incurring loss through
lingering--himself, his vocation, the world, and everything else that
the world contains!

But in the present case the hero was a man of middle-age, and of
cautious and frigid temperament. True, he pondered over the incident,
but in more deliberate fashion than a younger man would have done.
That is to say, his reflections were not so irresponsible and
unsteady. "She was a comely damsel," he said to himself as he opened
his snuff-box and took a pinch. "But the important point is: Is she
also a NICE DAMSEL? One thing she has in her favour--and that is
that she appears only just to have left school, and not to have had
time to become womanly in the worser sense. At present, therefore, she
is like a child. Everything in her is simple, and she says just what
she thinks, and laughs merely when she feels inclined. Such a damsel
might be made into anything--or she might be turned into worthless
rubbish. The latter, I surmise, for trudging after her she will have a
fond mother and a bevy of aunts, and so forth--persons who, within a
year, will have filled her with womanishness to the point where her
own father wouldn't know her. And to that there will be added pride
and affectation, and she will begin to observe established rules, and
to rack her brains as to how, and how much, she ought to talk, and to
whom, and where, and so forth. Every moment will see her growing
timorous and confused lest she be saying too much. Finally, she will
develop into a confirmed prevaricator, and end by marrying the devil
knows whom!" Chichikov paused awhile. Then he went on: "Yet I should
like to know who she is, and who her father is, and whether he is a
rich landowner of good standing, or merely a respectable man who has
acquired a fortune in the service of the Government. Should he allow
her, on marriage, a dowry of, say, two hundred thousand roubles, she
will be a very nice catch indeed. She might even, so to speak, make a
man of good breeding happy."

Indeed, so attractively did the idea of the two hundred thousand
roubles begin to dance before his imagination that he felt a twinge of
self-reproach because, during the hubbub, he had not inquired of the
postillion or the coachman who the travellers might be. But soon the
sight of Sobakevitch's country house dissipated his thoughts, and
forced him to return to his stock subject of reflection.

Sobakevitch's country house and estate were of very fair size, and on
each side of the mansion were expanses of birch and pine forest in two
shades of green. The wooden edifice itself had dark-grey walls and a
red-gabled roof, for it was a mansion of the kind which Russia builds
for her military settlers and for German colonists. A noticeable
circumstance was the fact that the taste of the architect had differed
from that of the proprietor--the former having manifestly been a
pedant and desirous of symmetry, and the latter having wished only for
comfort. Consequently he (the proprietor) had dispensed with all
windows on one side of the mansion, and had caused to be inserted, in
their place, only a small aperture which, doubtless, was intended to
light an otherwise dark lumber-room. Likewise, the architect's best
efforts had failed to cause the pediment to stand in the centre of the
building, since the proprietor had had one of its four original
columns removed. Evidently durability had been considered throughout,
for the courtyard was enclosed by a strong and very high wooden fence,
and both the stables, the coach-house, and the culinary premises were
partially constructed of beams warranted to last for centuries. Nay,
even the wooden huts of the peasantry were wonderful in the solidity
of their construction, and not a clay wall or a carved pattern or
other device was to be seen. Everything fitted exactly into its right
place, and even the draw-well of the mansion was fashioned of the
oakwood usually thought suitable only for mills or ships. In short,
wherever Chichikov's eye turned he saw nothing that was not free from
shoddy make and well and skilfully arranged. As he approached the
entrance steps he caught sight of two faces peering from a window. One
of them was that of a woman in a mobcap with features as long and as
narrow as a cucumber, and the other that of a man with features as
broad and as short as the Moldavian pumpkins (known as gorlianki)
whereof balallaiki--the species of light, two-stringed instrument
which constitutes the pride and the joy of the gay young fellow of
twenty as he sits winking and smiling at the white-necked,
white-bosomed maidens who have gathered to listen to his low-pitched
tinkling--are fashioned. This scrutiny made, both faces withdrew, and
there came out on to the entrance steps a lacquey clad in a grey
jacket and a stiff blue collar. This functionary conducted Chichikov
into the hall, where he was met by the master of the house himself,
who requested his guest to enter, and then led him into the inner part
of the mansion.

A covert glance at Sobakevitch showed our hero that his host exactly
resembled a moderate-sized bear. To complete the resemblance,
Sobakevitch's long frockcoat and baggy trousers were of the precise
colour of a bear's hide, while, when shuffling across the floor, he
made a criss-cross motion of the legs, and had, in addition, a
constant habit of treading upon his companion's toes. As for his face,
it was of the warm, ardent tint of a piatok[2]. Persons of this
kind--persons to whose designing nature has devoted not much thought,
and in the fashioning of whose frames she has used no instruments so
delicate as a file or a gimlet and so forth--are not uncommon. Such
persons she merely roughhews. One cut with a hatchet, and there
results a nose; another such cut with a hatchet, and there
materialises a pair of lips; two thrusts with a drill, and there
issues a pair of eyes. Lastly, scorning to plane down the roughness,
she sends out that person into the world, saying: "There is another
live creature." Sobakevitch was just such a ragged, curiously put
together figure--though the above model would seem to have been
followed more in his upper portion than in his lower. One result was
that he seldom turned his head to look at the person with whom he was
speaking, but, rather, directed his eyes towards, say, the stove
corner or the doorway. As host and guest crossed the dining-room
Chichikov directed a second glance at his companion. "He is a bear,
and nothing but a bear," he thought to himself. And, indeed, the
strange comparison was inevitable. Incidentally, Sobakevitch's
Christian name and patronymic were Michael Semenovitch. Of his habit
of treading upon other people's toes Chichikov had become fully aware;
wherefore he stepped cautiously, and, throughout, allowed his host to
take the lead. As a matter of fact, Sobakevitch himself seemed
conscious of his failing, for at intervals he would inquire: "I hope I
have not hurt you?" and Chichikov, with a word of thanks, would reply
that as yet he had sustained no injury.

[2] A copper coin worth five kopecks.

At length they reached the drawing-room, where Sobakevitch pointed to
an armchair, and invited his guest to be seated. Chichikov gazed with
interest at the walls and the pictures. In every such picture there
were portrayed either young men or Greek generals of the type of
Movrogordato (clad in a red uniform and breaches), Kanaris, and
others; and all these heroes were depicted with a solidity of thigh
and a wealth of moustache which made the beholder simply shudder with
awe. Among them there were placed also, according to some unknown
system, and for some unknown reason, firstly, Bagration[3]--tall and
thin, and with a cluster of small flags and cannon beneath him, and
the whole set in the narrowest of frames--and, secondly, the Greek
heroine, Bobelina, whose legs looked larger than do the whole bodies
of the drawing-room dandies of the present day. Apparently the master
of the house was himself a man of health and strength, and therefore
liked to have his apartments adorned with none but folk of equal
vigour and robustness. Lastly, in the window, and suspected cheek by
jowl with Bobelina, there hung a cage whence at intervals there peered
forth a white-spotted blackbird. Like everything else in the
apartment, it bore a strong resemblance to Sobakevitch. When host and
guest had been conversing for two minutes or so the door opened, and
there entered the hostess--a tall lady in a cap adorned with ribands
of domestic colouring and manufacture. She entered deliberately, and
held her head as erect as a palm.

[3] A Russian general who fought against Napoleon, and was mortally
    wounded at Borodino.

"This is my wife, Theodulia Ivanovna," said Sobakevitch.

Chichikov approached and took her hand. The fact that she raised it
nearly to the level of his lips apprised him of the circumstance that
it had just been rinsed in cucumber oil.

"My dear, allow me to introduce Paul Ivanovitch Chichikov," added
Sobakevitch. "He has the honour of being acquainted both with our
Governor and with our Postmaster."

Upon this Theodulia Ivanovna requested her guest to be seated, and
accompanied the invitation with the kind of bow usually employed only
by actresses who are playing the role of queens. Next, she took a seat
upon the sofa, drew around her her merino gown, and sat thereafter
without moving an eyelid or an eyebrow. As for Chichikov, he glanced
upwards, and once more caught sight of Kanaris with his fat thighs and
interminable moustache, and of Bobelina and the blackbird. For fully
five minutes all present preserved a complete silence--the only sound
audible being that of the blackbird's beak against the wooden floor of
the cage as the creature fished for grains of corn. Meanwhile
Chichikov again surveyed the room, and saw that everything in it was
massive and clumsy in the highest degree; as also that everything was
curiously in keeping with the master of the house. For example, in one
corner of the apartment there stood a hazelwood bureau with a bulging
body on four grotesque legs--the perfect image of a bear. Also, the
tables and the chairs were of the same ponderous, unrestful order, and
every single article in the room appeared to be saying either, "I,
too, am a Sobakevitch," or "I am exactly like Sobakevitch."

"I heard speak of you one day when I was visiting the President of the
Council," said Chichikov, on perceiving that no one else had a mind to
begin a conversation. "That was on Thursday last. We had a very
pleasant evening."

"Yes, on that occasion I was not there," replied Sobakevitch.

"What a nice man he is!"

"Who is?" inquired Sobakevitch, gazing into the corner by the stove.

"The President of the Local Council."

"Did he seem so to you? True, he is a mason, but he is also the
greatest fool that the world ever saw."

Chichikov started a little at this mordant criticism, but soon pulled
himself together again, and continued:

"Of course, every man has his weakness. Yet the President seems to be
an excellent fellow."

"And do you think the same of the Governor?"

"Yes. Why not?"

"Because there exists no greater rogue than he."

"What? The Governor a rogue?" ejaculated Chichikov, at a loss to
understand how the official in question could come to be numbered with
thieves. "Let me say that I should never have guessed it. Permit me
also to remark that his conduct would hardly seem to bear out your
opinion--he seems so gentle a man." And in proof of this Chichikov
cited the purses which the Governor knitted, and also expatiated on
the mildness of his features.

"He has the face of a robber," said Sobakevitch. "Were you to give him
a knife, and to turn him loose on a turnpike, he would cut your throat
for two kopecks. And the same with the Vice-Governor. The pair are
just Gog and Magog."

"Evidently he is not on good terms with them," thought Chichikov to
himself. "I had better pass to the Chief of Police, which whom he
DOES seem to be friendly." Accordingly he added aloud: "For my own
part, I should give the preference to the Head of the Gendarmery. What
a frank, outspoken nature he has! And what an element of simplicity
does his expression contain!"

"He is mean to the core," remarked Sobakevitch coldly. "He will sell
you and cheat you, and then dine at your table. Yes, I know them all,
and every one of them is a swindler, and the town a nest of rascals
engaged in robbing one another. Not a man of the lot is there but
would sell Christ. Yet stay: ONE decent fellow there is--the Public
Prosecutor; though even HE, if the truth be told, is little better
than a pig."

After these eulogia Chichikov saw that it would be useless to continue
running through the list of officials--more especially since suddenly
he had remembered that Sobakevitch was not at any time given to
commending his fellow man.

"Let us go to luncheon, my dear," put in Theodulia Ivanovna to her
spouse.

"Yes; pray come to table," said Sobakevitch to his guest; whereupon
they consumed the customary glass of vodka (accompanied by sundry
snacks of salted cucumber and other dainties) with which Russians,
both in town and country, preface a meal. Then they filed into the
dining-room in the wake of the hostess, who sailed on ahead like a
goose swimming across a pond. The small dining-table was found to be
laid for four persons--the fourth place being occupied by a lady or a
young girl (it would have been difficult to say which exactly) who
might have been either a relative, the housekeeper, or a casual
visitor. Certain persons in the world exist, not as personalities in
themselves, but as spots or specks on the personalities of others.
Always they are to be seen sitting in the same place, and holding
their heads at exactly the same angle, so that one comes within an ace
of mistaking them for furniture, and thinks to oneself that never
since the day of their birth can they have spoken a single word.

"My dear," said Sobakevitch, "the cabbage soup is excellent." With
that he finished his portion, and helped himself to a generous measure
of niania[4]--the dish which follows shtchi and consists of a sheep's
stomach stuffed with black porridge, brains, and other things. "What
niania this is!" he added to Chichikov. "Never would you get such
stuff in a town, where one is given the devil knows what."

[4] Literally, "nursemaid."

"Nevertheless the Governor keeps a fair table," said Chichikov.

"Yes, but do you know what all the stuff is MADE OF?" retorted
Sobakevitch. "If you DID know you would never touch it."

"Of course I am not in a position to say how it is prepared, but at
least the pork cutlets and the boiled fish seemed excellent."

"Ah, it might have been thought so; yet I know the way in which such
things are bought in the market-place. They are bought by some rascal
of a cook whom a Frenchman has taught how to skin a tomcat and then
serve it up as hare."

"Ugh! What horrible things you say!" put in Madame.

"Well, my dear, that is how things are done, and it is no fault of
mine that it is so. Moreover, everything that is left over--everything
that WE (pardon me for mentioning it) cast into the slop-pail--is
used by such folk for making soup."

"Always at table you begin talking like this!" objected his helpmeet.

"And why not?" said Sobakevitch. "I tell you straight that I would not
eat such nastiness, even had I made it myself. Sugar a frog as much as
you like, but never shall it pass MY lips. Nor would I swallow an
oyster, for I know only too well what an oyster may resemble. But have
some mutton, friend Chichikov. It is shoulder of mutton, and very
different stuff from the mutton which they cook in noble
kitchens--mutton which has been kicking about the market-place four
days or more. All that sort of cookery has been invented by French and
German doctors, and I should like to hang them for having done so.
They go and prescribe diets and a hunger cure as though what suits
their flaccid German systems will agree with a Russian stomach! Such
devices are no good at all." Sobakevitch shook his head wrathfully.
"Fellows like those are for ever talking of civilisation. As if THAT
sort of thing was civilisation! Phew!" (Perhaps the speaker's
concluding exclamation would have been even stronger had he not been
seated at table.) "For myself, I will have none of it. When I eat pork
at a meal, give me the WHOLE pig; when mutton, the WHOLE sheep;
when goose, the WHOLE of the bird. Two dishes are better than a
thousand, provided that one can eat of them as much as one wants."

And he proceeded to put precept into practice by taking half the
shoulder of mutton on to his plate, and then devouring it down to the
last morsel of gristle and bone.

"My word!" reflected Chichikov. "The fellow has a pretty good holding
capacity!"

"None of it for me," repeated Sobakevitch as he wiped his hands on his
napkin. "I don't intend to be like a fellow named Plushkin, who owns
eight hundred souls, yet dines worse than does my shepherd."

"Who is Plushkin?" asked Chichikov.

"A miser," replied Sobakevitch. "Such a miser as never you could
imagine. Even convicts in prison live better than he does. And he
starves his servants as well."

"Really?" ejaculated Chichikov, greatly interested. "Should you, then,
say that he has lost many peasants by death?"

"Certainly. They keep dying like flies."

"Then how far from here does he reside?"

"About five versts."

"Only five versts?" exclaimed Chichikov, feeling his heart beating
joyously. "Ought one, when leaving your gates, to turn to the right or
to the left?"

"I should be sorry to tell you the way to the house of such a cur,"
said Sobakevitch. "A man had far better go to hell than to
Plushkin's."

"Quite so," responded Chichikov. "My only reason for asking you is
that it interests me to become acquainted with any and every sort of
locality."

To the shoulder of mutton there succeeded, in turn, cutlets (each one
larger than a plate), a turkey of about the size of a calf, eggs,
rice, pastry, and every conceivable thing which could possibly be put
into a stomach. There the meal ended. When he rose from table
Chichikov felt as though a pood's weight were inside him. In the
drawing-room the company found dessert awaiting them in the shape of
pears, plums, and apples; but since neither host nor guest could
tackle these particular dainties the hostess removed them to another
room. Taking advantage of her absence, Chichikov turned to Sobakevitch
(who, prone in an armchair, seemed, after his ponderous meal, to be
capable of doing little beyond belching and grunting--each such grunt
or belch necessitating a subsequent signing of the cross over the
mouth), and intimated to him a desire to have a little private
conversation concerning a certain matter. At this moment the hostess
returned.

"Here is more dessert," she said. "Pray have a few radishes stewed in
honey."

"Later, later," replied Sobakevitch. "Do you go to your room, and Paul
Ivanovitch and I will take off our coats and have a nap."

Upon this the good lady expressed her readiness to send for feather
beds and cushions, but her husband expressed a preference for
slumbering in an armchair, and she therefore departed. When she had
gone Sobakevitch inclined his head in an attitude of willingness to
listen to Chichikov's business. Our hero began in a sort of detached
manner--touching lightly upon the subject of the Russian Empire, and
expatiating upon the immensity of the same, and saying that even the
Empire of Ancient Rome had been of considerably smaller dimensions.
Meanwhile Sobakevitch sat with his head drooping.

From that Chichikov went on to remark that, according to the statutes
of the said Russian Empire (which yielded to none in glory--so much so
that foreigners marvelled at it), peasants on the census lists who had
ended their earthly careers were nevertheless, on the rendering of new
lists, returned equally with the living, to the end that the courts
might be relieved of a multitude of trifling, useless emendations
which might complicate the already sufficiently complex mechanism of
the State. Nevertheless, said Chichikov, the general equity of this
measure did not obviate a certain amount of annoyance to landowners,
since it forced them to pay upon a non-living article the tax due upon
a living. Hence (our hero concluded) he (Chichikov) was prepared,
owing to the personal respect which he felt for Sobakevitch, to
relieve him, in part, of the irksome obligation referred to (in
passing, it may be said that Chichikov referred to his principal point
only guardedly, for he called the souls which he was seeking not
"dead," but "non-existent").

Meanwhile Sobakevitch listened with bent head; though something like a
trace of expression dawned in his face as he did so. Ordinarily his
body lacked a soul--or, if he did posses a soul, he seemed to keep it
elsewhere than where it ought to have been; so that, buried beneath
mountains (as it were) or enclosed within a massive shell, its
movements produced no sort of agitation on the surface.

"Well?" said Chichikov--though not without a certain tremor of
diffidence as to the possible response.

"You are after dead souls?" were Sobakevitch's perfectly simple words.
He spoke without the least surprise in his tone, and much as though
the conversation had been turning on grain.

"Yes," replied Chichikov, and then, as before, softened down the
expression "dead souls."

"They are to be found," said Sobakevitch. "Why should they not be?"

"Then of course you will be glad to get rid of any that you may chance
to have?"

"Yes, I shall have no objection to SELLING them." At this point the
speaker raised his head a little, for it had struck him that surely
the would-be buyer must have some advantage in view.

"The devil!" thought Chichikov to himself. "Here is he selling the
goods before I have even had time to utter a word!"

"And what about the price?" he added aloud. "Of course, the articles
are not of a kind very easy to appraise."

"I should be sorry to ask too much," said Sobakevitch. "How would a
hundred roubles per head suit you?"

"What, a hundred roubles per head?" Chichikov stared open-mouthed at
his host--doubting whether he had heard aright, or whether his host's
slow-moving tongue might not have inadvertently substituted one word
for another.

"Yes. Is that too much for you?" said Sobakevitch. Then he added:
"What is your own price?"

"My own price? I think that we cannot properly have understood one
another--that you must have forgotten of what the goods consist. With
my hand on my heart do I submit that eight grivni per soul would be a
handsome, a VERY handsome, offer."

"What? Eight grivni?"

"In my opinion, a higher offer would be impossible."

"But I am not a seller of boots."

"No; yet you, for your part, will agree that these souls are not live
human beings?"

"I suppose you hope to find fools ready to sell you souls on the
census list for a couple of groats apiece?"

"Pardon me, but why do you use the term 'on the census list'? The
souls themselves have long since passed away, and have left behind
them only their names. Not to trouble you with any further discussion
of the subject, I can offer you a rouble and a half per head, but no
more."

"You should be ashamed even to mention such a sum! Since you deal in
articles of this kind, quote me a genuine price."

"I cannot, Michael Semenovitch. Believe me, I cannot. What a man
cannot do, that he cannot do." The speaker ended by advancing another
half-rouble per head.

"But why hang back with your money?" said Sobakevitch. "Of a truth I
am not asking much of you. Any other rascal than myself would have
cheated you by selling you old rubbish instead of good, genuine souls,
whereas I should be ready to give you of my best, even were you buying
only nut-kernels. For instance, look at wheelwright Michiev. Never was
there such a one to build spring carts! And his handiwork was not like
your Moscow handiwork--good only for an hour. No, he did it all
himself, even down to the varnishing."

Chichikov opened his mouth to remark that, nevertheless, the said
Michiev had long since departed this world; but Sobakevitch's
eloquence had got too thoroughly into its stride to admit of any
interruption.

"And look, too, at Probka Stepan, the carpenter," his host went on. "I
will wager my head that nowhere else would you find such a workman.
What a strong fellow he was! He had served in the Guards, and the Lord
only knows what they had given for him, seeing that he was over three
arshins in height."

Again Chichikov tried to remark that Probka was dead, but
Sobakevitch's tongue was borne on the torrent of its own verbiage, and
the only thing to be done was to listen.

"And Milushkin, the bricklayer! He could build a stove in any house
you liked! And Maksim Teliatnikov, the bootmaker! Anything that he
drove his awl into became a pair of boots--and boots for which you
would be thankful, although he WAS a bit foul of the mouth. And
Eremi Sorokoplechin, too! He was the best of the lot, and used to work
at his trade in Moscow, where he paid a tax of five hundred roubles.
Well, THERE'S an assortment of serfs for you!--a very different
assortment from what Plushkin would sell you!"

"But permit me," at length put in Chichikov, astounded at this flood
of eloquence to which there appeared to be no end. "Permit me, I say,
to inquire why you enumerate the talents of the deceased, seeing that
they are all of them dead, and that therefore there can be no sense in
doing so. 'A dead body is only good to prop a fence with,' says the
proverb."

"Of course they are dead," replied Sobakevitch, but rather as though
the idea had only just occurred to him, and was giving him food for
thought. "But tell me, now: what is the use of listing them as still
alive? And what is the use of them themselves? They are flies, not
human beings."

"Well," said Chichikov, "they exist, though only in idea."

"But no--NOT only in idea. I tell you that nowhere else would you
find such a fellow for working heavy tools as was Michiev. He had the
strength of a horse in his shoulders." And, with the words,
Sobakevitch turned, as though for corroboration, to the portrait of
Bagration, as is frequently done by one of the parties in a dispute
when he purports to appeal to an extraneous individual who is not only
unknown to him, but wholly unconnected with the subject in hand; with
the result that the individual is left in doubt whether to make a
reply, or whether to betake himself elsewhere.

"Nevertheless, I CANNOT give you more than two roubles per head,"
said Chichikov.

"Well, as I don't want you to swear that I have asked too much of you
and won't meet you halfway, suppose, for friendship's sake, that you
pay me seventy-five roubles in assignats?"

"Good heavens!" thought Chichikov to himself. "Does the man take me
for a fool?" Then he added aloud: "The situation seems to me a strange
one, for it is as though we were performing a stage comedy. No other
explanation would meet the case. Yet you appear to be a man of sense,
and possessed of some education. The matter is a very simple one. The
question is: what is a dead soul worth, and is it of any use to any
one?"

"It is of use to YOU, or you would not be buying such articles."

Chichikov bit his lip, and stood at a loss for a retort. He tried to
saying something about "family and domestic circumstances," but
Sobakevitch cut him short with:

"I don't want to know your private affairs, for I never poke my nose
into such things. You need the souls, and I am ready to sell them.
Should you not buy them, I think you will repent it."

"Two roubles is my price," repeated Chichikov.

"Come, come! As you have named that sum, I can understand your not
liking to go back upon it; but quote me a bona fide figure."

"The devil fly away with him!" mused Chichikov. "However, I will add
another half-rouble." And he did so.

"Indeed?" said Sobakevitch. "Well, my last word upon it is--fifty
roubles in assignats. That will mean a sheer loss to me, for nowhere
else in the world could you buy better souls than mine."

"The old skinflint!" muttered Chichikov. Then he added aloud, with
irritation in his tone: "See here. This is a serious matter. Any one
but you would be thankful to get rid of the souls. Only a fool would
stick to them, and continue to pay the tax."

"Yes, but remember (and I say it wholly in a friendly way) that
transactions of this kind are not generally allowed, and that any one
would say that a man who engages in them must have some rather
doubtful advantage in view."

"Have it your own away," said Chichikov, with assumed indifference.
"As a matter of fact, I am not purchasing for profit, as you suppose,
but to humour a certain whim of mine. Two and a half roubles is the
most that I can offer."

"Bless your heart!" retorted the host. "At least give me thirty
roubles in assignats, and take the lot."

"No, for I see that you are unwilling to sell. I must say good-day to
you."

"Hold on, hold on!" exclaimed Sobakevitch, retaining his guest's hand,
and at the same moment treading heavily upon his toes--so heavily,
indeed, that Chichikov gasped and danced with the pain.

"I BEG your pardon!" said Sobakevitch hastily. "Evidently I have
hurt you. Pray sit down again."

"No," retorted Chichikov. "I am merely wasting my time, and must be
off."

"Oh, sit down just for a moment. I have something more agreeable to
say." And, drawing closer to his guest, Sobakevitch whispered in his
ear, as though communicating to him a secret: "How about twenty-five
roubles?"

"No, no, no!" exclaimed Chichikov. "I won't give you even a QUARTER
of that. I won't advance another kopeck."

For a while Sobakevitch remained silent, and Chichikov did the same.
This lasted for a couple of minutes, and, meanwhile, the
aquiline-nosed Bagration gazed from the wall as though much interested
in the bargaining.

"What is your outside price?" at length said Sobakevitch.

"Two and a half roubles."

"Then you seem to rate a human soul at about the same value as a
boiled turnip. At least give me THREE roubles."

"No, I cannot."

"Pardon me, but you are an impossible man to deal with. However, even
though it will mean a dead loss to me, and you have not shown a very
nice spirit about it, I cannot well refuse to please a friend. I
suppose a purchase deed had better be made out in order to have
everything in order?"

"Of course."

"Then for that purpose let us repair to the town."

The affair ended in their deciding to do this on the morrow, and to
arrange for the signing of a deed of purchase. Next, Chichikov
requested a list of the peasants; to which Sobakevitch readily agreed.
Indeed, he went to his writing-desk then and there, and started to
indite a list which gave not only the peasants' names, but also their
late qualifications.

Meanwhile Chichikov, having nothing else to do, stood looking at the
spacious form of his host; and as he gazed at his back as broad as
that of a cart horse, and at the legs as massive as the iron standards
which adorn a street, he could not help inwardly ejaculating:

"Truly God has endowed you with much! Though not adjusted with nicety,
at least you are strongly built. I wonder whether you were born a bear
or whether you have come to it through your rustic life, with its
tilling of crops and its trading with peasants? Yet no; I believe
that, even if you had received a fashionable education, and had mixed
with society, and had lived in St. Petersburg, you would still have
been just the kulak[5] that you are. The only difference is that
circumstances, as they stand, permit of your polishing off a stuffed
shoulder of mutton at a meal; whereas in St. Petersburg you would have
been unable to do so. Also, as circumstances stand, you have under you
a number of peasants, whom you treat well for the reason that they are
your property; whereas, otherwise, you would have had under you
tchinovniks[6]: whom you would have bullied because they were NOT
your property. Also, you would have robbed the Treasury, since a kulak
always remains a money-grubber."

[5] Village factor or usurer.

[6] Subordinate government officials.

"The list is ready," said Sobakevitch, turning round.

"Indeed? Then please let me look at it." Chichikov ran his eye over
the document, and could not but marvel at its neatness and accuracy.
Not only were there set forth in it the trade, the age, and the
pedigree of every serf, but on the margin of the sheet were jotted
remarks concerning each serf's conduct and sobriety. Truly it was a
pleasure to look at it.

"And do you mind handing me the earnest money?" said Sobakevitch?

"Yes, I do. Why need that be done? You can receive the money in a lump
sum as soon as we visit the town."

"But it is always the custom, you know," asserted Sobakevitch.

"Then I cannot follow it, for I have no money with me. However, here
are ten roubles."

"Ten roubles, indeed? You might as well hand me fifty while you are
about it."

Once more Chichikov started to deny that he had any money upon him,
but Sobakevitch insisted so strongly that this was not so that at
length the guest pulled out another fifteen roubles, and added them to
the ten already produced.

"Kindly give me a receipt for the money," he added.

"A receipt? Why should I give you a receipt?"

"Because it is better to do so, in order to guard against mistakes."

"Very well; but first hand me over the money."

"The money? I have it here. Do you write out the receipt, and then the
money shall be yours."

"Pardon me, but how am I to write out the receipt before I have seen
the cash?"

Chichikov placed the notes in Sobakevitch's hand; whereupon the host
moved nearer to the table, and added to the list of serfs a note that
he had received for the peasants, therewith sold, the sum of
twenty-five roubles, as earnest money. This done, he counted the notes
once more.

"This is a very OLD note," he remarked, holding one up to the light.
"Also, it is a trifle torn. However, in a friendly transaction one
must not be too particular."

"What a kulak!" thought Chichikov to himself. "And what a brute
beast!"

"Then you do not want any WOMEN souls?" queried Sobakevitch.

"I thank you, no."

"I could let you have some cheap--say, as between friends, at a rouble
a head?"

"No, I should have no use for them."

"Then, that being so, there is no more to be said. There is no
accounting for tastes. 'One man loves the priest, and another the
priest's wife,' says the proverb."

Chichikov rose to take his leave. "Once more I would request of you,"
he said, "that the bargain be left as it is."

"Of course, of course. What is done between friends holds good because
of their mutual friendship. Good-bye, and thank you for your visit. In
advance I would beg that, whenever you should have an hour or two to
spare, you will come and lunch with us again. Perhaps we might be able
to do one another further service?"

"Not if I know it!" reflected Chichikov as he mounted his britchka.
"Not I, seeing that I have had two and a half roubles per soul
squeezed out of me by a brute of a kulak!"

Altogether he felt dissatisfied with Sobakevitch's behaviour. In spite
of the man being a friend of the Governor and the Chief of Police, he
had acted like an outsider in taking money for what was worthless
rubbish. As the britchka left the courtyard Chichikov glanced back and
saw Sobakevitch still standing on the verandah--apparently for the
purpose of watching to see which way the guest's carriage would turn.

"The old villain, to be still standing there!" muttered Chichikov
through his teeth; after which he ordered Selifan to proceed so that
the vehicle's progress should be invisible from the mansion--the truth
being that he had a mind next to visit Plushkin (whose serfs, to quote
Sobakevitch, had a habit of dying like flies), but not to let his late
host learn of his intention. Accordingly, on reaching the further end
of the village, he hailed the first peasant whom he saw--a man who was
in the act of hoisting a ponderous beam on to his shoulder before
setting off with it, ant-like, to his hut.

"Hi!" shouted Chichikov. "How can I reach landowner Plushkin's place
without first going past the mansion here?"

The peasant seemed nonplussed by the question.

"Don't you know?" queried Chichikov.

"No, barin," replied the peasant.

"What? You don't know skinflint Plushkin who feeds his people so
badly?"

"Of course I do!" exclaimed the fellow, and added thereto an
uncomplimentary expression of a species not ordinarily employed in
polite society. We may guess that it was a pretty apt expression,
since long after the man had become lost to view Chichikov was still
laughing in his britchka. And, indeed, the language of the Russian
populace is always forcible in its phraseology.

CHAPTER VI

Chichikov's amusement at the peasant's outburst prevented him from
noticing that he had reached the centre of a large and populous
village; but, presently, a violent jolt aroused him to the fact that
he was driving over wooden pavements of a kind compared with which the
cobblestones of the town had been as nothing. Like the keys of a
piano, the planks kept rising and falling, and unguarded passage over
them entailed either a bump on the back of the neck or a bruise on the
forehead or a bite on the tip of one's tongue. At the same time
Chichikov noticed a look of decay about the buildings of the village.
The beams of the huts had grown dark with age, many of their roofs
were riddled with holes, others had but a tile of the roof remaining,
and yet others were reduced to the rib-like framework of the same. It
would seem as though the inhabitants themselves had removed the laths
and traverses, on the very natural plea that the huts were no
protection against the rain, and therefore, since the latter entered
in bucketfuls, there was no particular object to be gained by sitting
in such huts when all the time there was the tavern and the highroad
and other places to resort to.

Suddenly a woman appeared from an outbuilding--apparently the
housekeeper of the mansion, but so roughly and dirtily dressed as
almost to seem indistinguishable from a man. Chichikov inquired for
the master of the place.

"He is not at home," she replied, almost before her interlocutor had
had time to finish. Then she added: "What do you want with him?"

"I have some business to do," said Chichikov.

"Then pray walk into the house," the woman advised. Then she turned
upon him a back that was smeared with flour and had a long slit in the
lower portion of its covering. Entering a large, dark hall which
reeked like a tomb, he passed into an equally dark parlour that was
lighted only by such rays as contrived to filter through a crack under
the door. When Chichikov opened the door in question, the spectacle of
the untidiness within struck him almost with amazement. It would seem
that the floor was never washed, and that the room was used as a
receptacle for every conceivable kind of furniture. On a table stood a
ragged chair, with, beside it, a clock minus a pendulum and covered
all over with cobwebs. Against a wall leant a cupboard, full of old
silver, glassware, and china. On a writing table, inlaid with
mother-of-pearl which, in places, had broken away and left behind it a
number of yellow grooves (stuffed with putty), lay a pile of finely
written manuscript, an overturned marble press (turning green), an
ancient book in a leather cover with red edges, a lemon dried and
shrunken to the dimensions of a hazelnut, the broken arm of a chair, a
tumbler containing the dregs of some liquid and three flies (the whole
covered over with a sheet of notepaper), a pile of rags, two
ink-encrusted pens, and a yellow toothpick with which the master of
the house had picked his teeth (apparently) at least before the coming
of the French to Moscow. As for the walls, they were hung with a
medley of pictures. Among the latter was a long engraving of a battle
scene, wherein soldiers in three-cornered hats were brandishing huge
drums and slender lances. It lacked a glass, and was set in a frame
ornamented with bronze fretwork and bronze corner rings. Beside it
hung a huge, grimy oil painting representative of some flowers and
fruit, half a water melon, a boar's head, and the pendent form of a
dead wild duck. Attached to the ceiling there was a chandelier in a
holland covering--the covering so dusty as closely to resemble a huge
cocoon enclosing a caterpillar. Lastly, in one corner of the room lay
a pile of articles which had evidently been adjudged unworthy of a
place on the table. Yet what the pile consisted of it would have been
difficult to say, seeing that the dust on the same was so thick that
any hand which touched it would have at once resembled a glove.
Prominently protruding from the pile was the shaft of a wooden spade
and the antiquated sole of a shoe. Never would one have supposed that
a living creature had tenanted the room, were it not that the presence
of such a creature was betrayed by the spectacle of an old nightcap
resting on the table.

Whilst Chichikov was gazing at this extraordinary mess, a side door
opened and there entered the housekeeper who had met him near the
outbuildings. But now Chichikov perceived this person to be a man
rather than a woman, since a female housekeeper would have had no
beard to shave, whereas the chin of the newcomer, with the lower
portion of his cheeks, strongly resembled the curry-comb which is used
for grooming horses. Chichikov assumed a questioning air, and waited
to hear what the housekeeper might have to say. The housekeeper did
the same. At length, surprised at the misunderstanding, Chichikov
decided to ask the first question.

"Is the master at home?" he inquired.

"Yes," replied the person addressed.

"Then were is he?" continued Chichikov.

"Are you blind, my good sir?" retorted the other. "_I_ am the master."

Involuntarily our hero started and stared. During his travels it had
befallen him to meet various types of men--some of them, it may be,
types which you and I have never encountered; but even to Chichikov
this particular species was new. In the old man's face there was
nothing very special--it was much like the wizened face of many
another dotard, save that the chin was so greatly projected that
whenever he spoke he was forced to wipe it with a handkerchief to
avoid dribbling, and that his small eyes were not yet grown dull, but
twinkled under their overhanging brows like the eyes of mice when,
with attentive ears and sensitive whiskers, they snuff the air and
peer forth from their holes to see whether a cat or a boy may not be
in the vicinity. No, the most noticeable feature about the man was his
clothes. In no way could it have been guessed of what his coat was
made, for both its sleeves and its skirts were so ragged and filthy as
to defy description, while instead of two posterior tails, there
dangled four of those appendages, with, projecting from them, a torn
newspaper. Also, around his neck there was wrapped something which
might have been a stocking, a garter, or a stomacher, but was
certainly not a tie. In short, had Chichikov chanced to encounter him
at a church door, he would have bestowed upon him a copper or two
(for, to do our hero justice, he had a sympathetic heart and never
refrained from presenting a beggar with alms), but in the present case
there was standing before him, not a mendicant, but a landowner--and a
landowner possessed of fully a thousand serfs, the superior of all his
neighbours in wealth of flour and grain, and the owner of storehouses,
and so forth, that were crammed with homespun cloth and linen, tanned
and undressed sheepskins, dried fish, and every conceivable species of
produce. Nevertheless, such a phenomenon is rare in Russia, where the
tendency is rather to prodigality than to parsimony.

For several minutes Plushkin stood mute, while Chichikov remained so
dazed with the appearance of the host and everything else in the room,
that he too, could not begin a conversation, but stood wondering how
best to find words in which to explain the object of his visit. For a
while he thought of expressing himself to the effect that, having
heard so much of his host's benevolence and other rare qualities of
spirit, he had considered it his duty to come and pay a tribute of
respect; but presently even HE came to the conclusion that this
would be overdoing the thing, and, after another glance round the
room, decided that the phrase "benevolence and other rare qualities of
spirit" might to advantage give place to "economy and genius for
method." Accordingly, the speech mentally composed, he said aloud
that, having heard of Plushkin's talents for thrifty and systematic
management, he had considered himself bound to make the acquaintance
of his host, and to present him with his personal compliments (I need
hardly say that Chichikov could easily have alleged a better reason,
had any better one happened, at the moment, to have come into his
head).

With toothless gums Plushkin murmured something in reply, but nothing
is known as to its precise terms beyond that it included a statement
that the devil was at liberty to fly away with Chichikov's sentiments.
However, the laws of Russian hospitality do not permit even of a miser
infringing their rules; wherefore Plushkin added to the foregoing a
more civil invitation to be seated.

"It is long since I last received a visitor," he went on. "Also, I
feel bound to say that I can see little good in their coming. Once
introduce the abominable custom of folk paying calls, and forthwith
there will ensue such ruin to the management of estates that
landowners will be forced to feed their horses on hay. Not for a long,
long time have I eaten a meal away from home--although my own kitchen
is a poor one, and has its chimney in such a state that, were it to
become overheated, it would instantly catch fire."

"What a brute!" thought Chichikov. "I am lucky to have got through so
much pastry and stuffed shoulder of mutton at Sobakevitch's!"

"Also," went on Plushkin, "I am ashamed to say that hardly a wisp of
fodder does the place contain. But how can I get fodder? My lands are
small, and the peasantry lazy fellows who hate work and think of
nothing but the tavern. In the end, therefore, I shall be forced to go
and spend my old age in roaming about the world."

"But I have been told that you possess over a thousand serfs?" said
Chichikov.

"Who told you that? No matter who it was, you would have been
justified in giving him the lie. He must have been a jester who wanted
to make a fool of you. A thousand souls, indeed! Why, just reckon the
taxes on them, and see what there would be left! For these three years
that accursed fever has been killing off my serfs wholesale."

"Wholesale, you say?" echoed Chichikov, greatly interested.

"Yes, wholesale," replied the old man.

"Then might I ask you the exact number?"

"Fully eighty."

"Surely not?"

"But it is so."

"Then might I also ask whether it is from the date of the last census
revision that you are reckoning these souls?"

"Yes, damn it! And since that date I have been bled for taxes upon a
hundred and twenty souls in all."

"Indeed? Upon a hundred and twenty souls in all!" And Chichikov's
surprise and elation were such that, this said, he remained sitting
open-mouthed.

"Yes, good sir," replied Plushkin. "I am too old to tell you lies, for
I have passed my seventieth year."

Somehow he seemed to have taken offence at Chichikov's almost joyous
exclamation; wherefore the guest hastened to heave a profound sigh,
and to observe that he sympathised to the full with his host's
misfortunes.

"But sympathy does not put anything into one's pocket," retorted
Plushkin. "For instance, I have a kinsman who is constantly plaguing
me. He is a captain in the army, damn him, and all day he does nothing
but call me 'dear uncle,' and kiss my hand, and express sympathy until
I am forced to stop my ears. You see, he has squandered all his money
upon his brother-officers, as well as made a fool of himself with an
actress; so now he spends his time in telling me that he has a
sympathetic heart!"

Chichikov hastened to explain that HIS sympathy had nothing in
common with the captain's, since he dealt, not in empty words alone,
but in actual deeds; in proof of which he was ready then and there
(for the purpose of cutting the matter short, and of dispensing with
circumlocution) to transfer to himself the obligation of paying the
taxes due upon such serfs as Plushkin's as had, in the unfortunate
manner just described, departed this world. The proposal seemed to
astonish Plushkin, for he sat staring open-eyed. At length he
inquired:

"My dear sir, have you seen military service?"

"No," replied the other warily, "but I have been a member of the
CIVIL Service."

"Oh! Of the CIVIL Service?" And Plushkin sat moving his lips as
though he were chewing something. "Well, what of your proposal?" he
added presently. "Are you prepared to lose by it?"

"Yes, certainly, if thereby I can please you."

"My dear sir! My good benefactor!" In his delight Plushkin lost sight
of the fact that his nose was caked with snuff of the consistency of
thick coffee, and that his coat had parted in front and was disclosing
some very unseemly underclothing. "What comfort you have brought to an
old man! Yes, as God is my witness!"

For the moment he could say no more. Yet barely a minute had elapsed
before this instantaneously aroused emotion had, as instantaneously,
disappeared from his wooden features. Once more they assumed a
careworn expression, and he even wiped his face with his handkerchief,
then rolled it into a ball, and rubbed it to and fro against his upper
lip.

"If it will not annoy you again to state the proposal," he went on,
"what you undertake to do is to pay the annual tax upon these souls,
and to remit the money either to me or to the Treasury?"

"Yes, that is how it shall be done. We will draw up a deed of purchase
as though the souls were still alive and you had sold them to myself."

"Quite so--a deed of purchase," echoed Plushkin, once more relapsing
into thought and the chewing motion of the lips. "But a deed of such a
kind will entail certain expenses, and lawyers are so devoid of
conscience! In fact, so extortionate is their avarice that they will
charge one half a rouble, and then a sack of flour, and then a whole
waggon-load of meal. I wonder that no one has yet called attention to
the system."

Upon that Chichikov intimated that, out of respect for his host, he
himself would bear the cost of the transfer of souls. This led
Plushkin to conclude that his guest must be the kind of unconscionable
fool who, while pretending to have been a member of the Civil Service,
has in reality served in the army and run after actresses; wherefore
the old man no longer disguised his delight, but called down blessings
alike upon Chichikov's head and upon those of his children (he had
never even inquired whether Chichikov possessed a family). Next, he
shuffled to the window, and, tapping one of its panes, shouted the
name of "Proshka." Immediately some one ran quickly into the hall,
and, after much stamping of feet, burst into the room. This was
Proshka--a thirteen-year-old youngster who was shod with boots of such
dimensions as almost to engulf his legs as he walked. The reason why
he had entered thus shod was that Plushkin only kept one pair of boots
for the whole of his domestic staff. This universal pair was stationed
in the hall of the mansion, so that any servant who was summoned to
the house might don the said boots after wading barefooted through the
mud of the courtyard, and enter the parlour dry-shod--subsequently
leaving the boots where he had found them, and departing in his former
barefooted condition. Indeed, had any one, on a slushy winter's
morning, glanced from a window into the said courtyard, he would have
seen Plushkin's servitors performing saltatory feats worthy of the
most vigorous of stage-dancers.

"Look at that boy's face!" said Plushkin to Chichikov as he pointed to
Proshka. "It is stupid enough, yet, lay anything aside, and in a trice
he will have stolen it. Well, my lad, what do you want?"

He paused a moment or two, but Proshka made no reply.

"Come, come!" went on the old man. "Set out the samovar, and then give
Mavra the key of the store-room--here it is--and tell her to get out
some loaf sugar for tea. Here! Wait another moment, fool! Is the devil
in your legs that they itch so to be off? Listen to what more I have
to tell you. Tell Mavra that the sugar on the outside of the loaf has
gone bad, so that she must scrape it off with a knife, and NOT throw
away the scrapings, but give them to the poultry. Also, see that you
yourself don't go into the storeroom, or I will give you a birching
that you won't care for. Your appetite is good enough already, but a
better one won't hurt you. Don't even TRY to go into the storeroom,
for I shall be watching you from this window."

"You see," the old man added to Chichikov, "one can never trust these
fellows." Presently, when Proshka and the boots had departed, he fell
to gazing at his guest with an equally distrustful air, since certain
features in Chichikov's benevolence now struck him as a little open to
question, and he had begin to think to himself: "After all, the devil
only knows who he is--whether a braggart, like most of these
spendthrifts, or a fellow who is lying merely in order to get some tea
out of me." Finally, his circumspection, combined with a desire to
test his guest, led him to remark that it might be well to complete
the transaction IMMEDIATELY, since he had not overmuch confidence in
humanity, seeing that a man might be alive to-day and dead to-morrow.

To this Chichikov assented readily enough--merely adding that he
should like first of all to be furnished with a list of the dead
souls. This reassured Plushkin as to his guest's intention of doing
business, so he got out his keys, approached a cupboard, and, having
pulled back the door, rummaged among the cups and glasses with which
it was filled. At length he said:

"I cannot find it now, but I used to possess a splendid bottle of
liquor. Probably the servants have drunk it all, for they are such
thieves. Oh no: perhaps this is it!"

Looking up, Chichikov saw that Plushkin had extracted a decanter
coated with dust.

"My late wife made the stuff," went on the old man, "but that rascal
of a housekeeper went and threw away a lot of it, and never even
replaced the stopper. Consequently bugs and other nasty creatures got
into the decanter, but I cleaned it out, and now beg to offer you a
glassful."

The idea of a drink from such a receptacle was too much for Chichikov,
so he excused himself on the ground that he had just had luncheon.

"You have just had luncheon?" re-echoed Plushkin. "Now, THAT shows
how invariably one can tell a man of good society, wheresoever one may
be. A man of that kind never eats anything--he always says that he has
had enough. Very different that from the ways of a rogue, whom one can
never satisfy, however much one may give him. For instance, that
captain of mine is constantly begging me to let him have a
meal--though he is about as much my nephew as I am his grandfather. As
it happens, there is never a bite of anything in the house, so he has
to go away empty. But about the list of those good-for-nothing
souls--I happen to possess such a list, since I have drawn one up in
readiness for the next revision."

With that Plushkin donned his spectacles, and once more started to
rummage in the cupboard, and to smother his guest with dust as he
untied successive packages of papers--so much so that his victim burst
out sneezing. Finally he extracted a much-scribbled document in which
the names of the deceased peasants lay as close-packed as a cloud of
midges, for there were a hundred and twenty of them in all. Chichikov
grinned with joy at the sight of the multitude. Stuffing the list into
his pocket, he remarked that, to complete the transaction, it would be
necessary to return to the town.

"To the town?" repeated Plushkin. "But why? Moreover, how could I
leave the house, seeing that every one of my servants is either a
thief or a rogue? Day by day they pilfer things, until soon I shall
have not a single coat to hang on my back."

"Then you possess acquaintances in the town?"

"Acquaintances? No. Every acquaintance whom I ever possessed has
either left me or is dead. But stop a moment. I DO know the
President of the Council. Even in my old age he has once or twice come
to visit me, for he and I used to be schoolfellows, and to go climbing
walls together. Yes, him I do know. Shall I write him a letter?"

"By all means."

"Yes, him I know well, for we were friends together at school."

Over Plushkin's wooden features there had gleamed a ray of warmth--a
ray which expressed, if not feeling, at all events feeling's pale
reflection. Just such a phenomenon may be witnessed when, for a brief
moment, a drowning man makes a last re-appearance on the surface of a
river, and there rises from the crowd lining the banks a cry of hope
that even yet the exhausted hands may clutch the rope which has been
thrown him--may clutch it before the surface of the unstable element
shall have resumed for ever its calm, dread vacuity. But the hope is
short-lived, and the hands disappear. Even so did Plushkin's face,
after its momentary manifestation of feeling, become meaner and more
insensible than ever.

"There used to be a sheet of clean writing paper lying on the table,"
he went on. "But where it is now I cannot think. That comes of my
servants being such rascals."

Whit that he fell to looking also under the table, as well as to
hurrying about with cries of "Mavra, Mavra!" At length the call was
answered by a woman with a plateful of the sugar of which mention has
been made; whereupon there ensued the following conversation.

"What have you done with my piece of writing paper, you pilferer?"

"I swear that I have seen no paper except the bit with which you
covered the glass."

"Your very face tells me that you have made off with it."

"Why should I make off with it? 'Twould be of no use to me, for I can
neither read nor write."

"You lie! You have taken it away for the sexton to scribble upon."

"Well, if the sexton wanted paper he could get some for himself.
Neither he nor I have set eyes upon your piece."

"Ah! Wait a bit, for on the Judgment Day you will be roasted by devils
on iron spits. Just see if you are not!"

"But why should I be roasted when I have never even TOUCHED the
paper? You might accuse me of any other fault than theft."

"Nay, devils shall roast you, sure enough. They will say to you, 'Bad
woman, we are doing this because you robbed your master,' and then
stoke up the fire still hotter."

"Nevertheless _I_ shall continue to say, 'You are roasting me for
nothing, for I never stole anything at all.' Why, THERE it is, lying
on the table! You have been accusing me for no reason whatever!"

And, sure enough, the sheet of paper was lying before Plushkin's very
eyes. For a moment or two he chewed silently. Then he went on:

"Well, and what are you making such a noise about? If one says a
single word to you, you answer back with ten. Go and fetch me a candle
to seal a letter with. And mind you bring a TALLOW candle, for it
will not cost so much as the other sort. And bring me a match too."

Mavra departed, and Plushkin, seating himself, and taking up a pen,
sat turning the sheet of paper over and over, as though in doubt
whether to tear from it yet another morsel. At length he came to the
conclusion that it was impossible to do so, and therefore, dipping the
pen into the mixture of mouldy fluid and dead flies which the ink
bottle contained, started to indite the letter in characters as bold
as the notes of a music score, while momentarily checking the speed of
his hand, lest it should meander too much over the paper, and crawling
from line to line as though he regretted that there was so little
vacant space left on the sheet.

"And do you happen to know any one to whom a few runaway serfs would
be of use?" he asked as subsequently he folded the letter.

"What? You have some runaways as well?" exclaimed Chichikov, again
greatly interested.

"Certainly I have. My son-in-law has laid the necessary information
against them, but says that their tracks have grown cold. However, he
is only a military man--that is to say, good at clinking a pair of
spurs, but of no use for laying a plea before a court."

"And how many runaways have you?"

"About seventy."

"Surely not?"

"Alas, yes. Never does a year pass without a certain number of them
making off. Yet so gluttonous and idle are my serfs that they are
simply bursting with food, whereas I scarcely get enough to eat. I
will take any price for them that you may care to offer. Tell your
friends about it, and, should they find even a score of the runaways,
it will repay them handsomely, seeing that a living serf on the census
list is at present worth five hundred roubles."

"Perhaps so, but I am not going to let any one but myself have a
finger in this," thought Chichikov to himself; after which he
explained to Plushkin that a friend of the kind mentioned would be
impossible to discover, since the legal expenses of the enterprise
would lead to the said friend having to cut the very tail from his
coat before he would get clear of the lawyers.

"Nevertheless," added Chichikov, "seeing that you are so hard pressed
for money, and that I am so interested in the matter, I feel moved to
advance you--well, to advance you such a trifle as would scarcely be
worth mentioning."

"But how much is it?" asked Plushkin eagerly, and with his hands
trembling like quicksilver.

"Twenty-five kopecks per soul."

"What? In ready money?"

"Yes--in money down."

"Nevertheless, consider my poverty, dear friend, and make it FORTY
kopecks per soul."

"Venerable sir, would that I could pay you not merely forty kopecks,
but five hundred roubles. I should be only too delighted if that were
possible, since I perceive that you, an aged and respected gentleman,
are suffering for your own goodness of heart."

"By God, that is true, that is true." Plushkin hung his head, and
wagged it feebly from side to side. "Yes, all that I have done I have
done purely out of kindness."

"See how instantaneously I have divined your nature! By now it will
have become clear to you why it is impossible for me to pay you five
hundred roubles per runaway soul: for by now you will have gathered
the fact that I am not sufficiently rich. Nevertheless, I am ready to
add another five kopecks, and so to make it that each runaway serf
shall cost me, in all, thirty kopecks."

"As you please, dear sir. Yet stretch another point, and throw in
another two kopecks."

"Pardon me, but I cannot. How many runaway serfs did you say that you
possess? Seventy?"

"No; seventy-eight."

"Seventy-eight souls at thirty kopecks each will amount to--to--" only
for a moment did our hero halt, since he was strong in his arithmetic,
"--will amount to twenty-four roubles, ninety-six kopecks."[1]

[1] Nevertheless Chichikov would appear to have erred, since most
    people would make the sum amount to twenty-three roubles, forty
    kopecks. If so, Chichikov cheated himself of one rouble, fifty-six
    kopecks.

With that he requested Plushkin to make out the receipt, and then
handed him the money. Plushkin took it in both hands, bore it to a
bureau with as much caution as though he were carrying a liquid which
might at any moment splash him in the face, and, arrived at the
bureau, and glancing round once more, carefully packed the cash in one
of his money bags, where, doubtless, it was destined to lie buried
until, to the intense joy of his daughters and his son-in-law (and,
perhaps, of the captain who claimed kinship with him), he should
himself receive burial at the hands of Fathers Carp and Polycarp, the
two priests attached to his village. Lastly, the money concealed,
Plushkin re-seated himself in the armchair, and seemed at a loss for
further material for conversation.

"Are you thinking of starting?" at length he inquired, on seeing
Chichikov making a trifling movement, though the movement was only to
extract from his pocket a handkerchief. Nevertheless the question
reminded Chichikov that there was no further excuse for lingering.

"Yes, I must be going," he said as he took his hat.

"Then what about the tea?"

"Thank you, I will have some on my next visit."

"What? Even though I have just ordered the samovar to be got ready?
Well, well! I myself do not greatly care for tea, for I think it an
expensive beverage. Moreover, the price of sugar has risen terribly."

"Proshka!" he then shouted. "The samovar will not be needed. Return
the sugar to Mavra, and tell her to put it back again. But no. Bring
the sugar here, and _I_ will put it back."

"Good-bye, dear sir," finally he added to Chichikov. "May the Lord
bless you! Hand that letter to the President of the Council, and let
him read it. Yes, he is an old friend of mine. We knew one another as
schoolfellows."

With that this strange phenomenon, this withered old man, escorted his
guest to the gates of the courtyard, and, after the guest had
departed, ordered the gates to be closed, made the round of the
outbuildings for the purpose of ascertaining whether the numerous
watchmen were at their posts, peered into the kitchen (where, under
the pretence of seeing whether his servants were being properly fed,
he made a light meal of cabbage soup and gruel), rated the said
servants soundly for their thievishness and general bad behaviour, and
then returned to his room. Meditating in solitude, he fell to thinking
how best he could contrive to recompense his guest for the latter's
measureless benevolence. "I will present him," he thought to himself,
"with a watch. It is a good silver article--not one of those cheap
metal affairs; and though it has suffered some damage, he can easily
get that put right. A young man always needs to give a watch to his
betrothed."

"No," he added after further thought. "I will leave him the watch in
my will, as a keepsake."

Meanwhile our hero was bowling along in high spirit. Such an
unexpected acquisition both of dead souls and of runaway serfs had
come as a windfall. Even before reaching Plushkin's village he had had
a presentiment that he would do successful business there, but not
business of such pre-eminent profitableness as had actually resulted.
As he proceeded he whistled, hummed with hand placed trumpetwise to
his mouth, and ended by bursting into a burst of melody so striking
that Selifan, after listening for a while, nodded his head and
exclaimed, "My word, but the master CAN sing!"

By the time they reached the town darkness had fallen, and changed the
character of the scene. The britchka bounded over the cobblestones,
and at length turned into the hostelry's courtyard, where the
travellers were met by Petrushka. With one hand holding back the tails
of his coat (which he never liked to see fly apart), the valet
assisted his master to alight. The waiter ran out with candle in hand
and napkin on shoulder. Whether or not Petrushka was glad to see the
barin return it is impossible to say, but at all events he exchanged a
wink with Selifan, and his ordinarily morose exterior seemed
momentarily to brighten.

"Then you have been travelling far, sir?" said the waiter, as he lit
the way upstarts.

"Yes," said Chichikov. "What has happened here in the meanwhile?"

"Nothing, sir," replied the waiter, bowing, "except that last night
there arrived a military lieutenant. He has got room number sixteen."

"A lieutenant?"

"Yes. He came from Riazan, driving three grey horses."

On entering his room, Chichikov clapped his hand to his nose, and
asked his valet why he had never had the windows opened.

"But I did have them opened," replied Petrushka. Nevertheless this was
a lie, as Chichikov well knew, though he was too tired to contest the
point. After ordering and consuming a light supper of sucking pig, he
undressed, plunged beneath the bedclothes, and sank into the profound
slumber which comes only to such fortunate folk as are troubled
neither with mosquitoes nor fleas nor excessive activity of brain.

CHAPTER VII

When Chichikov awoke he stretched himself and realised that he had
slept well. For a moment or two he lay on his back, and then suddenly
clapped his hands at the recollection that he was now owner of nearly
four hundred souls. At once he leapt out of bed without so much as
glancing at his face in the mirror, though, as a rule, he had much
solicitude for his features, and especially for his chin, of which he
would make the most when in company with friends, and more
particularly should any one happen to enter while he was engaged in
the process of shaving. "Look how round my chin is!" was his usual
formula. On the present occasion, however, he looked neither at chin
nor at any other feature, but at once donned his flower-embroidered
slippers of morroco leather (the kind of slippers in which, thanks to
the Russian love for a dressing-gowned existence, the town of Torzhok
does such a huge trade), and, clad only in a meagre shirt, so far
forgot his elderliness and dignity as to cut a couple of capers after
the fashion of a Scottish highlander--alighting neatly, each time, on
the flat of his heels. Only when he had done that did he proceed to
business. Planting himself before his dispatch-box, he rubbed his
hands with a satisfaction worthy of an incorruptible rural magistrate
when adjourning for luncheon; after which he extracted from the
receptacle a bundle of papers. These he had decided not to deposit
with a lawyer, for the reason that he would hasten matters, as well as
save expense, by himself framing and fair-copying the necessary deeds
of indenture; and since he was thoroughly acquainted with the
necessary terminology, he proceeded to inscribe in large characters
the date, and then in smaller ones, his name and rank. By two o'clock
the whole was finished, and as he looked at the sheets of names
representing bygone peasants who had ploughed, worked at handicrafts,
cheated their masters, fetched, carried, and got drunk (though SOME
of them may have behaved well), there came over him a strange,
unaccountable sensation. To his eye each list of names seemed to
possess a character of its own; and even individual peasants therein
seemed to have taken on certain qualities peculiar to themselves. For
instance, to the majority of Madame Korobotchka's serfs there were
appended nicknames and other additions; Plushkin's list was
distinguished by a conciseness of exposition which had led to certain
of the items being represented merely by Christian name, patronymic,
and a couple of dots; and Sobakevitch's list was remarkable for its
amplitude and circumstantiality, in that not a single peasant had such
of his peculiar characteristics omitted as that the deceased had been
"excellent at joinery," or "sober and ready to pay attention to his
work." Also, in Sobakevitch's list there was recorded who had been the
father and the mother of each of the deceased, and how those parents
had behaved themselves. Only against the name of a certain Thedotov
was there inscribed: "Father unknown, Mother the maidservant
Kapitolina, Morals and Honesty good." These details communicated to
the document a certain air of freshness, they seemed to connote that
the peasants in question had lived but yesterday. As Chichikov scanned
the list he felt softened in spirit, and said with a sigh:

"My friends, what a concourse of you is here! How did you all pass
your lives, my brethren? And how did you all come to depart hence?"

As he spoke his eyes halted at one name in particular--that of the
same Peter Saveliev Neuvazhai Korito who had once been the property of
the window Korobotchka. Once more he could not help exclaiming:

"What a series of titles! They occupy a whole line! Peter Saveliev, I
wonder whether you were an artisan or a plain muzhik. Also, I wonder
how you came to meet your end; whether in a tavern, or whether through
going to sleep in the middle of the road and being run over by a train
of waggons. Again, I see the name, 'Probka Stepan, carpenter, very
sober.' That must be the hero of whom the Guards would have been so
glad to get hold. How well I can imagine him tramping the country with
an axe in his belt and his boots on his shoulder, and living on a few
groats'-worth of bread and dried fish per day, and taking home a
couple of half-rouble pieces in his purse, and sewing the notes into
his breeches, or stuffing them into his boots! In what manner came you
by your end, Probka Stepan? Did you, for good wages, mount a scaffold
around the cupola of the village church, and, climbing thence to the
cross above, miss your footing on a beam, and fall headlong with none
at hand but Uncle Michai--the good uncle who, scratching the back of
his neck, and muttering, 'Ah, Vania, for once you have been too
clever!' straightway lashed himself to a rope, and took your place?
'Maksim Teliatnikov, shoemaker.' A shoemaker, indeed? 'As drunk as a
shoemaker,' says the proverb. _I_ know what you were like, my friend.
If you wish, I will tell you your whole history. You were apprenticed
to a German, who fed you and your fellows at a common table, thrashed
you with a strap, kept you indoors whenever you had made a mistake,
and spoke of you in uncomplimentary terms to his wife and friends. At
length, when your apprenticeship was over, you said to yourself, 'I am
going to set up on my own account, and not just to scrape together a
kopeck here and a kopeck there, as the Germans do, but to grow rich
quick.' Hence you took a shop at a high rent, bespoke a few orders,
and set to work to buy up some rotten leather out of which you could
make, on each pair of boots, a double profit. But those boots split
within a fortnight, and brought down upon your head dire showers of
maledictions; with the result that gradually your shop grew empty of
customers, and you fell to roaming the streets and exclaiming, 'The
world is a very poor place indeed! A Russian cannot make a living for
German competition.' Well, well! 'Elizabeta Vorobei!' But that is a
WOMAN'S name! How comes SHE to be on the list? That villain
Sobakevitch must have sneaked her in without my knowing it."

"'Grigori Goiezhai-ne-Doiedesh,'" he went on. "What sort of a man were
YOU, I wonder? Were you a carrier who, having set up a team of three
horses and a tilt waggon, left your home, your native hovel, for ever,
and departed to cart merchandise to market? Was it on the highway that
you surrendered your soul to God, or did your friends first marry you
to some fat, red-faced soldier's daughter; after which your harness
and team of rough, but sturdy, horses caught a highwayman's fancy, and
you, lying on your pallet, thought things over until, willy-nilly, you
felt that you must get up and make for the tavern, thereafter
blundering into an icehole? Ah, our peasant of Russia! Never do you
welcome death when it comes!"

"And you, my friends?" continued Chichikov, turning to the sheet
whereon were inscribed the names of Plushkin's absconded serfs.
"Although you are still alive, what is the good of you? You are
practically dead. Whither, I wonder, have your fugitive feet carried
you? Did you fare hardly at Plushkin's, or was it that your natural
inclinations led you to prefer roaming the wilds and plundering
travellers? Are you, by this time, in gaol, or have you taken service
with other masters for the tillage of their lands? 'Eremei Kariakin,
Nikita Volokita and Anton Volokita (son of the foregoing).' To judge
from your surnames, you would seem to have been born gadabouts[1].
'Popov, household serf.' Probably you are an educated man, good Popov,
and go in for polite thieving, as distinguished from the more vulgar
cut-throat sort. In my mind's eye I seem to see a Captain of Rural
Police challenging you for being without a passport; whereupon you
stake your all upon a single throw. 'To whom do you belong?' asks the
Captain, probably adding to his question a forcible expletive. 'To
such and such a landowner,' stoutly you reply. 'And what are you doing
here?' continues the Captain. 'I have just received permission to go
and earn my obrok,' is your fluent explanation. 'Then where is your
passport?' 'At Miestchanin[2] Pimenov's.' 'Pimenov's? Then are you
Pimenov himself?' 'Yes, I am Pimenov himself.' 'He has given you his
passport?' 'No, he has not given me his passport.' 'Come, come!'
shouts the Captain with another forcible expletive. 'You are lying!'
'No, I am not,' is your dogged reply. 'It is only that last night I
could not return him his passport, because I came home late; so I
handed it to Antip Prochorov, the bell-ringer, for him to take care
of.' 'Bell-ringer, indeed! Then HE gave you a passport?' 'No; I did
not receive a passport from him either.' 'What?'--and here the Captain
shouts another expletive--'How dare you keep on lying? Where is YOUR
OWN passport?' 'I had one all right,' you reply cunningly, 'but must
have dropped it somewhere on the road as I came along.' 'And what
about that soldier's coat?' asks the Captain with an impolite
addition. 'Whence did you get it? And what of the priest's cashbox and
copper money?'' 'About them I know nothing,' you reply doggedly.
'Never at any time have I committed a theft.' 'Then how is it that the
coat was found at your place?' 'I do not know. Probably some one else
put it there.' 'You rascal, you rascal!' shouts the Captain, shaking
his head, and closing in upon you. 'Put the leg-irons upon him, and
off with him to prison!' 'With pleasure,' you reply as, taking a
snuff-box from your pocket, you offer a pinch to each of the two
gendarmes who are manacling you, while also inquiring how long they
have been discharged from the army, and in what wars they may have
served. And in prison you remain until your case comes on, when the
justice orders you to be removed from Tsarev-Kokshaika to such and
such another prison, and a second justice orders you to be transferred
thence to Vesiegonsk or somewhere else, and you go flitting from gaol
to gaol, and saying each time, as you eye your new habitation, 'The
last place was a good deal cleaner than this one is, and one could
play babki[3] there, and stretch one's legs, and see a little
society.'"

[1] The names Kariakin and Volokita might, perhaps, be translated as
    "Gallant" and "Loafer."

[2] Tradesman or citizen.

[3] The game of knucklebones.

"'Abakum Thirov,'" Chichikov went on after a pause. "What of YOU,
brother? Where, and in what capacity, are YOU disporting yourself?
Have you gone to the Volga country, and become bitten with the life of
freedom, and joined the fishermen of the river?"

Here, breaking off, Chichikov relapsed into silent meditation. Of what
was he thinking as he sat there? Was he thinking of the fortunes of
Abakum Thirov, or was he meditating as meditates every Russian when
his thoughts once turn to the joys of an emancipated existence?

"Ah, well!" he sighed, looking at his watch. "It has now gone twelve
o'clock. Why have I so forgotten myself? There is still much to be
done, yet I go shutting myself up and letting my thoughts wander! What
a fool I am!"

So saying, he exchanged his Scottish costume (of a shirt and nothing
else) for attire of a more European nature; after which he pulled
tight the waistcoat over his ample stomach, sprinkled himself with
eau-de-Cologne, tucked his papers under his arm, took his fur cap, and
set out for the municipal offices, for the purpose of completing the
transfer of souls. The fact that he hurried along was not due to a
fear of being late (seeing that the President of the Local Council was
an intimate acquaintance of his, as well as a functionary who could
shorten or prolong an interview at will, even as Homer's Zeus was able
to shorten or to prolong a night or a day, whenever it became
necessary to put an end to the fighting of his favourite heroes, or to
enable them to join battle), but rather to a feeling that he would
like to have the affair concluded as quickly as possible, seeing that,
throughout, it had been an anxious and difficult business. Also, he
could not get rid of the idea that his souls were unsubstantial
things, and that therefore, under the circumstances, his shoulders had
better be relieved of their load with the least possible delay.
Pulling on his cinnamon-coloured, bear-lined overcoat as he went, he
had just stepped thoughtfully into the street when he collided with a
gentleman dressed in a similar coat and an ear-lappeted fur cap. Upon
that the gentleman uttered an exclamation. Behold, it was Manilov! At
once the friends became folded in a strenuous embrace, and remained so
locked for fully five minutes. Indeed, the kisses exchanged were so
vigorous that both suffered from toothache for the greater portion of
the day. Also, Manilov's delight was such that only his nose and lips
remained visible--the eyes completely disappeared. Afterwards he spent
about a quarter of an hour in holding Chichikov's hand and chafing it
vigorously. Lastly, he, in the most pleasant and exquisite terms
possible, intimated to his friend that he had just been on his way to
embrace Paul Ivanovitch; and upon this followed a compliment of the
kind which would more fittingly have been addressed to a lady who was
being asked to accord a partner the favour of a dance. Chichikov had
opened his mouth to reply--though even HE felt at a loss how to
acknowledge what had just been said--when Manilov cut him short by
producing from under his coat a roll of paper tied with red riband.

"What have you there?" asked Chichikov.

"The list of my souls."

"Ah!" And as Chichikov unrolled the document and ran his eye over it
he could not but marvel at the elegant neatness with which it had been
inscribed.

"It is a beautiful piece of writing," he said. "In fact, there will be
no need to make a copy of it. Also, it has a border around its edge!
Who worked that exquisite border?"

"Do not ask me," said Manilov.

"Did YOU do it?"

"No; my wife."

"Dear, dear!" Chichikov cried. "To think that I should have put her to
so much trouble!"

"NOTHING could be too much trouble where Paul Ivanovitch is concerned.

Chichikov bowed his acknowledgements. Next, on learning that he was on
his way to the municipal offices for the purpose of completing the
transfer, Manilov expressed his readiness to accompany him; wherefore
the pair linked arm in arm and proceeded together. Whenever they
encountered a slight rise in the ground--even the smallest unevenness
or difference of level--Manilov supported Chichikov with such energy
as almost to lift him off his feet, while accompanying the service
with a smiling implication that not if HE could help it should Paul
Ivanovitch slip or fall. Nevertheless this conduct appeared to
embarrass Chichikov, either because he could not find any fitting
words of gratitude or because he considered the proceeding tiresome;
and it was with a sense of relief that he debouched upon the square
where the municipal offices--a large, three-storied building of a
chalky whiteness which probably symbolised the purity of the souls
engaged within--were situated. No other building in the square could
vie with them in size, seeing that the remaining edifices consisted
only of a sentry-box, a shelter for two or three cabmen, and a long
hoarding--the latter adorned with the usual bills, posters, and
scrawls in chalk and charcoal. At intervals, from the windows of the
second and third stories of the municipal offices, the incorruptible
heads of certain of the attendant priests of Themis would peer quickly
forth, and as quickly disappear again--probably for the reason that a
superior official had just entered the room. Meanwhile the two friends
ascended the staircase--nay, almost flew up it, since, longing to get
rid of Manilov's ever-supporting arm, Chichikov hastened his steps,
and Manilov kept darting forward to anticipate any possible failure on
the part of his companion's legs. Consequently the pair were
breathless when they reached the first corridor. In passing it may be
remarked that neither corridors nor rooms evinced any of that
cleanliness and purity which marked the exterior of the building, for
such attributes were not troubled about within, and anything that was
dirty remained so, and donned no meritricious, purely external,
disguise. It was as though Themis received her visitors in neglige and
a dressing-gown. The author would also give a description of the
various offices through which our hero passed, were it not that he
(the author) stands in awe of such legal haunts.

Approaching the first desk which he happened to encounter, Chichikov
inquired of the two young officials who were seated at it whether they
would kindly tell him where business relating to serf-indenture was
transacted.

"Of what nature, precisely, IS your business?" countered one of the
youthful officials as he turned himself round.

"I desire to make an application."

"In connection with a purchase?"

"Yes. But, as I say, I should like first to know where I can find the
desk devoted to such business. Is it here or elsewhere?"

"You must state what it is you have bought, and for how much. THEN
we shall be happy to give you the information."

Chichikov perceived that the officials' motive was merely one of
curiosity, as often happens when young tchinovniks desire to cut a
more important and imposing figure than is rightfully theirs.

"Look here, young sirs," he said. "I know for a fact that all serf
business, no matter to what value, is transacted at one desk alone.
Consequently I again request you to direct me to that desk. Of course,
if you do not know your business I can easily ask some one else."

To this the tchinovniks made no reply beyond pointing towards a corner
of the room where an elderly man appeared to be engaged in sorting
some papers. Accordingly Chichikov and Manilov threaded their way in
his direction through the desks; whereupon the elderly man became
violently busy.

"Would you mind telling me," said Chichikov, bowing, "whether this is
the desk for serf affairs?"

The elderly man raised his eyes, and said stiffly:

"This is NOT the desk for serf affairs."

"Where is it, then?"

"In the Serf Department."

"And where might the Serf Department be?"

"In charge of Ivan Antonovitch."

"And where is Ivan Antonovitch?"

The elderly man pointed to another corner of the room; whither
Chichikov and Manilov next directed their steps. As they advanced,
Ivan Antonovitch cast an eye backwards and viewed them askance. Then,
with renewed ardour, he resumed his work of writing.

"Would you mind telling me," said Chichikov, bowing, "whether this is
the desk for serf affairs?"

It appeared as though Ivan Antonovitch had not heard, so completely
did he bury himself in his papers and return no reply. Instantly it
became plain that HE at least was of an age of discretion, and not
one of your jejune chatterboxes and harum-scarums; for, although his
hair was still thick and black, he had long ago passed his fortieth
year. His whole face tended towards the nose--it was what, in common
parlance, is known as a "pitcher-mug."

"Would you mind telling me," repeated Chichikov, "whether this is the
desk for serf affairs?"

"It is that," said Ivan Antonovitch, again lowering his jug-shaped
jowl, and resuming his writing.

"Then I should like to transact the following business. From various
landowners in this canton I have purchased a number of peasants for
transfer. Here is the purchase list, and it needs but to be
registered."

"Have you also the vendors here?"

"Some of them, and from the rest I have obtained powers of attorney."

"And have you your statement of application?"

"Yes. I desire--indeed, it is necessary for me so to do--to hasten
matters a little. Could the affair, therefore, be carried through
to-day?"

"To-day? Oh, dear no!" said Ivan Antonovitch. "Before that can be done
you must furnish me with further proofs that no impediments exist."

"Then, to expedite matters, let me say that Ivan Grigorievitch, the
President of the Council, is a very intimate friend of mine."

"Possibly," said Ivan Antonovitch without enthusiasm. "But Ivan
Grigorievitch alone will not do--it is customary to have others as
well."

"Yes, but the absence of others will not altogether invalidate the
transaction. I too have been in the service, and know how things can
be done."

"You had better go and see Ivan Grigorievitch," said Ivan Antonovitch
more mildly. "Should he give you an order addressed to whom it may
concern, we shall soon be able to settle the matter."

Upon that Chichikov pulled from his pocket a paper, and laid it before
Ivan Antonovitch. At once the latter covered it with a book. Chichikov
again attempted to show it to him, but, with a movement of his head,
Ivan Antonovitch signified that that was unnecessary.

"A clerk," he added, "will now conduct you to Ivan Grigorievitch's
room."

Upon that one of the toilers in the service of Themis--a zealot who
had offered her such heartfelt sacrifice that his coat had burst at
the elbows and lacked a lining--escorted our friends (even as Virgil
had once escorted Dante) to the apartment of the Presence. In this
sanctum were some massive armchairs, a table laden with two or three
fat books, and a large looking-glass. Lastly, in (apparently) sunlike
isolation, there was seated at the table the President. On arriving at
the door of the apartment, our modern Virgil seemed to have become so
overwhelmed with awe that, without daring even to intrude a foot, he
turned back, and, in so doing, once more exhibited a back as shiny as
a mat, and having adhering to it, in one spot, a chicken's feather. As
soon as the two friends had entered the hall of the Presence they
perceived that the President was NOT alone, but, on the contrary,
had seated by his side Sobakevitch, whose form had hitherto been
concealed by the intervening mirror. The newcomers' entry evoked
sundry exclamations and the pushing back of a pair of Government
chairs as the voluminous-sleeved Sobakevitch rose into view from
behind the looking-glass. Chichikov the President received with an
embrace, and for a while the hall of the Presence resounded with
osculatory salutations as mutually the pair inquired after one
another's health. It seemed that both had lately had a touch of that
pain under the waistband which comes of a sedentary life. Also, it
seemed that the President had just been conversing with Sobakevitch on
the subject of sales of souls, since he now proceeded to congratulate
Chichikov on the same--a proceeding which rather embarrassed our hero,
seeing that Manilov and Sobakevitch, two of the vendors, and persons
with whom he had bargained in the strictest privacy, were now
confronting one another direct. However, Chichikov duly thanked the
President, and then, turning to Sobakevitch, inquired after HIS health.

"Thank God, I have nothing to complain of," replied Sobakevitch: which
was true enough, seeing that a piece of iron would have caught cold
and taken to sneezing sooner than would that uncouthly fashioned
landowner.

"Ah, yes; you have always had good health, have you not?" put in the
President. "Your late father was equally strong."

"Yes, he even went out bear hunting alone," replied Sobakevitch.

"I should think that you too could worst a bear if you were to try a
tussle with him," rejoined the President.

"Oh no," said Sobakevitch. "My father was a stronger man than I am."
Then with a sigh the speaker added: "But nowadays there are no such
men as he. What is even a life like mine worth?"

"Then you do not have a comfortable time of it?" exclaimed the
President.

"No; far from it," rejoined Sobakevitch, shaking his head. "Judge for
yourself, Ivan Grigorievitch. I am fifty years old, yet never in my
life had been ill, except for an occasional carbuncle or boil. That is
not a good sign. Sooner or later I shall have to pay for it." And he
relapsed into melancholy.

"Just listen to the fellow!" was Chichikov's and the President's joint
inward comment. "What on earth has HE to complain of?"

"I have a letter for you, Ivan Grigorievitch," went on Chichikov aloud
as he produced from his pocket Plushkin's epistle.

"From whom?" inquired the President. Having broken the seal, he
exclaimed: "Why, it is from Plushkin! To think that HE is still
alive! What a strange world it is! He used to be such a nice fellow,
and now--"

"And now he is a cur," concluded Sobakevitch, "as well as a miser who
starves his serfs to death."

"Allow me a moment," said the President. Then he read the letter
through. When he had finished he added: "Yes, I am quite ready to act
as Plushkin's attorney. When do you wish the purchase deeds to be
registered, Monsieur Chichikov--now or later?"

"Now, if you please," replied Chichikov. "Indeed, I beg that, if
possible, the affair may be concluded to-day, since to-morrow I wish
to leave the town. I have brought with me both the forms of indenture
and my statement of application."

"Very well. Nevertheless we cannot let you depart so soon. The
indentures shall be completed to-day, but you must continue your
sojourn in our midst. I will issue the necessary orders at once."

So saying, he opened the door into the general office, where the
clerks looked like a swarm of bees around a honeycomb (if I may liken
affairs of Government to such an article?).

"Is Ivan Antonovitch here?" asked the President.

"Yes," replied a voice from within.

"Then send him here."

Upon that the pitcher-faced Ivan Antonovitch made his appearance in
the doorway, and bowed.

"Take these indentures, Ivan Antonovitch," said the President, "and
see that they--"

"But first I would ask you to remember," put in Sobakevitch, "that
witnesses ought to be in attendance--not less than two on behalf of
either party. Let us, therefore, send for the Public Prosecutor, who
has little to do, and has even that little done for him by his chief
clerk, Zolotucha. The Inspector of the Medical Department is also a
man of leisure, and likely to be at home--if he has not gone out to a
card party. Others also there are--all men who cumber the ground for
nothing."

"Quite so, quite so," agreed the President, and at once dispatched a
clerk to fetch the persons named.

"Also," requested Chichikov, "I should be glad if you would send for
the accredited representative of a certain lady landowner with whom I
have done business. He is the son of a Father Cyril, and a clerk in
your offices."

"Certainly we shall call him here," replied the President. "Everything
shall be done to meet your convenience, and I forbid you to present
any of our officials with a gratuity. That is a special request on my
part. No friend of mine ever pays a copper."

With that he gave Ivan Antonovitch the necessary instructions; and
though they scarcely seemed to meet with that functionary's approval,
upon the President the purchase deeds had evidently produced an
excellent impression, more especially since the moment when he had
perceived the sum total to amount to nearly a hundred thousand
roubles. For a moment or two he gazed into Chichikov's eyes with an
expression of profound satisfaction. Then he said:

"Well done, Paul Ivanovitch! You have indeed made a nice haul!"

"That is so," replied Chichikov.

"Excellent business! Yes, excellent business!"

"I, too, conceive that I could not well have done better. The truth is
that never until a man has driven home the piles of his life's
structure upon a lasting bottom, instead of upon the wayward chimeras
of youth, will his aims in life assume a definite end." And, that
said, Chichikov went on to deliver himself of a very telling
indictment of Liberalism and our modern young men. Yet in his words
there seemed to lurk a certain lack of conviction. Somehow he seemed
secretly to be saying to himself, "My good sir, you are talking the
most absolute rubbish, and nothing but rubbish." Nor did he even throw
a glance at Sobakevitch and Manilov. It was as though he were
uncertain what he might not encounter in their expression. Yet he need
not have been afraid. Never once did Sobakevitch's face move a muscle,
and, as for Manilov, he was too much under the spell of Chichikov's
eloquence to do aught beyond nod his approval at intervals, and strike
the kind of attitude which is assumed by lovers of music when a lady
singer has, in rivalry of an accompanying violin, produced a note
whereof the shrillness would exceed even the capacity of a bird's
throstle.

"But why not tell Ivan Grigorievitch precisely what you have bought?"
inquired Sobakevitch of Chichikov. "And why, Ivan Grigorievitch, do
YOU not ask Monsieur Chichikov precisely what his purchases have
consisted of? What a splendid lot of serfs, to be sure! I myself have
sold him my wheelwright, Michiev."

"What? You have sold him Michiev?" exclaimed the President. "I know
the man well. He is a splendid craftsman, and, on one occasion, made
me a drozhki[4]. Only, only--well, lately didn't you tell me that he
is dead?"

[4] A sort of low, four-wheeled carriage.

"That Michiev is dead?" re-echoed Sobakevitch, coming perilously near
to laughing. "Oh dear no! That was his brother. Michiev himself is
very much alive, and in even better health than he used to be. Any day
he could knock you up a britchka such as you could not procure even in
Moscow. However, he is now bound to work for only one master."

"Indeed a splendid craftsman!" repeated the President. "My only wonder
is that you can have brought yourself to part with him."

"Then think you that Michiev is the ONLY serf with whom I have
parted? Nay, for I have parted also with Probka Stepan, my carpenter,
with Milushkin, my bricklayer, and with Teliatnikov, my bootmaker.
Yes, the whole lot I have sold."

And to the President's inquiry why he had so acted, seeing that the
serfs named were all skilled workers and indispensable to a household,
Sobakevitch replied that a mere whim had led him to do so, and thus
the sale had owed its origin to a piece of folly. Then he hung his
head as though already repenting of his rash act, and added:

"Although a man of grey hairs, I have not yet learned wisdom."

"But," inquired the President further, "how comes it about, Paul
Ivanovitch, that you have purchased peasants apart from land? Is it
for transferment elsewhere that you need them?"

"Yes."

"Very well, then. That is quite another matter. To what province of
the country?"

"To the province of Kherson."

"Indeed? That region contains some splendid land," said the President;
whereupon he proceeded to expatiate on the fertility of the Kherson
pastures.

"And have you MUCH land there?" he continued.

"Yes; quite sufficient to accommodate the serfs whom I have purchased."

"And is there a river on the estate or a lake?"

"Both."

After this reply Chichikov involuntarily threw a glance at
Sobakevitch; and though that landowner's face was as motionless as
every, the other seemed to detect in it: "You liar! Don't tell ME
that you own both a river and a lake, as well as the land which you
say you do."

Whilst the foregoing conversation had been in progress, various
witnesses had been arriving on the scene. They consisted of the
constantly blinking Public Prosecutor, the Inspector of the Medical
Department, and others--all, to quote Sobakevitch, "men who cumbered
the ground for nothing." With some of them, however, Chichikov was
altogether unacquainted, since certain substitutes and supernumeraries
had to be pressed into the service from among the ranks of the
subordinate staff. There also arrived, in answer to the summons, not
only the son of Father Cyril before mentioned, but also Father Cyril
himself. Each such witness appended to his signature a full list of
his dignities and qualifications: one man in printed characters,
another in a flowing hand, a third in topsy-turvy characters of a kind
never before seen in the Russian alphabet, and so forth. Meanwhile our
friend Ivan Antonovitch comported himself with not a little address;
and after the indentures had been signed, docketed, and registered,
Chichikov found himself called upon to pay only the merest trifle in
the way of Government percentage and fees for publishing the
transaction in the Official Gazette. The reason of this was that the
President had given orders that only half the usual charges were to be
exacted from the present purchaser--the remaining half being somehow
debited to the account of another applicant for serf registration.

"And now," said Ivan Grigorievitch when all was completed, "we need
only to wet the bargain."

"For that too I am ready," said Chichikov. "Do you but name the hour.
If, in return for your most agreeable company, I were not to set a few
champagne corks flying, I should be indeed in default."

"But we are not going to let you charge yourself with anything
whatsoever. WE must provide the champagne, for you are our guest,
and it is for us--it is our duty, it is our bounden obligation--to
entertain you. Look here, gentlemen. Let us adjourn to the house of
the Chief of Police. He is the magician who needs but to wink when
passing a fishmonger's or a wine merchant's. Not only shall we fare
well at his place, but also we shall get a game of whist."

To this proposal no one had any objection to offer, for the mere
mention of the fish shop aroused the witnesses' appetite.
Consequently, the ceremony being over, there was a general reaching
for hats and caps. As the party were passing through the general
office, Ivan Antonovitch whispered in Chichikov's ear, with a
courteous inclination of his jug-shaped physiognomy:

"You have given a hundred thousand roubles for the serfs, but have
paid ME only a trifle for my trouble."

"Yes," replied Chichikov with a similar whisper, "but what sort of
serfs do you suppose them to be? They are a poor, useless lot, and not
worth even half the purchase money."

This gave Ivan Antonovitch to understand that the visitor was a man of
strong character--a man from whom nothing more was to be expected.

"Why have you gone and purchased souls from Plushkin?" whispered
Sobakevitch in Chichikov's other ear.

"Why did YOU go and add the woman Vorobei to your list?" retorted Chichikov.

"Vorobei? Who is Vorobei?"

"The woman 'Elizabet' Vorobei--'Elizabet,' not 'Elizabeta?'"

"I added no such name," replied Sobakevitch, and straightway joined
the other guests.

At length the party arrived at the residence of the Chief of Police.
The latter proved indeed a man of spells, for no sooner had he learnt
what was afoot than he summoned a brisk young constable, whispered in
his ear, adding laconically, "You understand, do you not?" and brought
it about that, during the time that the guests were cutting for
partners at whist in an adjoining room, the dining-table became laden
with sturgeon, caviare, salmon, herrings, cheese, smoked tongue, fresh
roe, and a potted variety of the same--all procured from the local
fish market, and reinforced with additions from the host's own
kitchen. The fact was that the worthy Chief of Police filled the
office of a sort of father and general benefactor to the town, and
that he moved among the citizens as though they constituted part and
parcel of his own family, and watched over their shops and markets as
though those establishments were merely his own private larder.
Indeed, it would be difficult to say--so thoroughly did he perform his
duties in this respect--whether the post most fitted him, or he the
post. Matters were also so arranged that though his income more than
doubled that of his predecessors, he had never lost the affection of
his fellow townsmen. In particular did the tradesmen love him, since
he was never above standing godfather to their children or dining at
their tables. True, he had differences of opinion with them, and
serious differences at that; but always these were skilfully adjusted
by his slapping the offended ones jovially on the shoulder, drinking a
glass of tea with them, promising to call at their houses and play a
game of chess, asking after their belongings, and, should he learn
that a child of theirs was ill, prescribing the proper medicine. In
short, he bore the reputation of being a very good fellow.

On perceiving the feast to be ready, the host proposed that his guests
should finish their whist after luncheon; whereupon all proceeded to
the room whence for some time past an agreeable odour had been
tickling the nostrils of those present, and towards the door of which
Sobakevitch in particular had been glancing since the moment when he
had caught sight of a huge sturgeon reposing on the sideboard. After a
glassful of warm, olive-coloured vodka apiece--vodka of the tint to be
seen only in the species of Siberian stone whereof seals are cut--the
company applied themselves to knife-and-fork work, and, in so doing,
evinced their several characteristics and tastes. For instance,
Sobakevitch, disdaining lesser trifles, tackled the large sturgeon,
and, during the time that his fellow guests were eating minor
comestibles, and drinking and talking, contrived to consume more than
a quarter of the whole fish; so that, on the host remembering the
creature, and, with fork in hand, leading the way in its direction and
saying, "What, gentlemen, think you of this striking product of
nature?" there ensued the discovery that of the said product of nature
there remained little beyond the tail, while Sobakevitch, with an air
as though at least HE had not eaten it, was engaged in plunging his
fork into a much more diminutive piece of fish which happened to be
resting on an adjacent platter. After his divorce from the sturgeon,
Sobakevitch ate and drank no more, but sat frowning and blinking in an
armchair.

Apparently the host was not a man who believed in sparing the wine,
for the toasts drunk were innumerable. The first toast (as the reader
may guess) was quaffed to the health of the new landowner of Kherson;
the second to the prosperity of his peasants and their safe
transferment; and the third to the beauty of his future wife--a
compliment which brought to our hero's lips a flickering smile.
Lastly, he received from the company a pressing, as well as an
unanimous, invitation to extend his stay in town for at least another
fortnight, and, in the meanwhile, to allow a wife to be found for him.

"Quite so," agreed the President. "Fight us tooth and nail though you
may, we intend to have you married. You have happened upon us by
chance, and you shall have no reason to repent of it. We are in
earnest on this subject."

"But why should I fight you tooth and nail?" said Chichikov, smiling.
"Marriage would not come amiss to me, were I but provided with a
betrothed."

"Then a betrothed you shall have. Why not? We will do as you wish."

"Very well," assented Chichikov.

"Bravo, bravo!" the company shouted. "Long live Paul Ivanovitch!
Hurrah! Hurrah!" And with that every one approached to clink glasses
with him, and he readily accepted the compliment, and accepted it many
times in succession. Indeed, as the hours passed on, the hilarity of
the company increased yet further, and more than once the President (a
man of great urbanity when thoroughly in his cups) embraced the chief
guest of the day with the heartfelt words, "My dearest fellow! My own
most precious of friends!" Nay, he even started to crack his fingers,
to dance around Chichikov's chair, and to sing snatches of a popular
song. To the champagne succeeded Hungarian wine, which had the effect
of still further heartening and enlivening the company. By this time
every one had forgotten about whist, and given himself up to shouting
and disputing. Every conceivable subject was discussed, including
politics and military affairs; and in this connection guests voiced
jejune opinions for the expression of which they would, at any other
time, have soundly spanked their offspring. Chichikov, like the rest,
had never before felt so gay, and, imagining himself really and truly
to be a landowner of Kherson, spoke of various improvements in
agriculture, of the three-field system of tillage[5], and of the
beatific felicity of a union between two kindred souls. Also, he
started to recite poetry to Sobakevitch, who blinked as he listened,
for he greatly desired to go to sleep. At length the guest of the
evening realised that matters had gone far enough, so begged to be
given a lift home, and was accommodated with the Public Prosecutor's
drozhki. Luckily the driver of the vehicle was a practised man at his
work, for, while driving with one hand, he succeeded in leaning
backwards and, with the other, holding Chichikov securely in his
place. Arrived at the inn, our hero continued babbling awhile about a
flaxen-haired damsel with rosy lips and a dimple in her right cheek,
about villages of his in Kherson, and about the amount of his capital.
Nay, he even issued seignorial instructions that Selifan should go and
muster the peasants about to be transferred, and make a complete and
detailed inventory of them. For a while Selifan listened in silence;
then he left the room, and instructed Petrushka to help the barin to
undress. As it happened, Chichikov's boots had no sooner been removed
than he managed to perform the rest of his toilet without assistance,
to roll on to the bed (which creaked terribly as he did so), and to
sink into a sleep in every way worthy of a landowner of Kherson.
Meanwhile Petrushka had taken his master's coat and trousers of
bilberry-coloured check into the corridor; where, spreading them over
a clothes' horse, he started to flick and to brush them, and to fill
the whole corridor with dust. Just as he was about to replace them in
his master's room he happened to glance over the railing of the
gallery, and saw Selifan returning from the stable. Glances were
exchanged, and in an instant the pair had arrived at an instinctive
understanding--an understanding to the effect that the barin was sound
asleep, and that therefore one might consider one's own pleasure a
little. Accordingly Petrushka proceeded to restore the coat and
trousers to their appointed places, and then descended the stairs;
whereafter he and Selifan left the house together. Not a word passed
between them as to the object of their expedition. On the contrary,
they talked solely of extraneous subjects. Yet their walk did not take
them far; it took them only to the other side of the street, and
thence into an establishment which immediately confronted the inn.
Entering a mean, dirty courtyard covered with glass, they passed
thence into a cellar where a number of customers were seated around
small wooden tables. What thereafter was done by Selifan and Petrushka
God alone knows. At all events, within an hour's time they issued, arm
in arm, and in profound silence, yet remaining markedly assiduous to
one another, and ever ready to help one another around an awkward
corner. Still linked together--never once releasing their mutual
hold--they spent the next quarter of an hour in attempting to
negotiate the stairs of the inn; but at length even that ascent had
been mastered, and they proceeded further on their way. Halting before
his mean little pallet, Petrushka stood awhile in thought. His
difficulty was how best to assume a recumbent position. Eventually he
lay down on his face, with his legs trailing over the floor; after
which Selifan also stretched himself upon the pallet, with his head
resting upon Petrushka's stomach, and his mind wholly oblivious of the
fact that he ought not to have been sleeping there at all, but in the
servant's quarters, or in the stable beside his horses. Scarcely a
moment had passed before the pair were plunged in slumber and emitting
the most raucous snores; to which their master (next door) responded
with snores of a whistling and nasal order. Indeed, before long every
one in the inn had followed their soothing example, and the hostelry
lay plunged in complete restfulness. Only in the window of the room of
the newly-arrived lieutenant from Riazan did a light remain burning.
Evidently he was a devotee of boots, for he had purchased four pairs,
and was now trying on a fifth. Several times he approached the bed
with a view to taking off the boots and retiring to rest; but each
time he failed, for the reason that the boots were so alluring in
their make that he had no choice but to lift up first one foot, and
then the other, for the purpose of scanning their elegant welts.

[5] The system by which, in annual rotation, two-thirds of a given
    area are cultivated, while the remaining third is left fallow.

CHAPTER VIII

It was not long before Chichikov's purchases had become the talk of
the town; and various were the opinions expressed as to whether or not
it was expedient to procure peasants for transferment. Indeed such was
the interest taken by certain citizens in the matter that they advised
the purchaser to provide himself and his convoy with an escort, in
order to ensure their safe arrival at the appointed destination; but
though Chichikov thanked the donors of this advice for the same, and
declared that he should be very glad, in case of need, to avail
himself of it, he declared also that there was no real need for an
escort, seeing that the peasants whom he had purchased were
exceptionally peace-loving folk, and that, being themselves consenting
parties to the transferment, they would undoubtedly prove in every way
tractable.

One particularly good result of this advertisement of his scheme was
that he came to rank as neither more nor less than a millionaire.
Consequently, much as the inhabitants had liked our hero in the first
instance (as seen in Chapter I.), they now liked him more than ever.
As a matter of fact, they were citizens of an exceptionally quiet,
good-natured, easy-going disposition; and some of them were even
well-educated. For instance, the President of the Local Council could
recite the whole of Zhukovski's LUDMILLA by heart, and give such an
impressive rendering of the passage "The pine forest was asleep and
the valley at rest" (as well as of the exclamation "Phew!") that one
felt, as he did so, that the pine forest and the valley really WERE
as he described them. The effect was also further heightened by the
manner in which, at such moments, he assumed the most portentous
frown. For his part, the Postmaster went in more for philosophy, and
diligently perused such works as Young's Night Thoughts, and
Eckharthausen's A Key to the Mysteries of Nature; of which latter
work he would make copious extracts, though no one had the slightest
notion what they referred to. For the rest, he was a witty, florid
little individual, and much addicted to a practice of what he called
"embellishing" whatsoever he had to say--a feat which he performed
with the aid of such by-the-way phrases as "my dear sir," "my good
So-and-So," "you know," "you understand," "you may imagine,"
"relatively speaking," "for instance," and "et cetera"; of which
phrases he would add sackfuls to his speech. He could also "embellish"
his words by the simple expedient of half-closing, half-winking one
eye; which trick communicated to some of his satirical utterances
quite a mordant effect. Nor were his colleagues a wit inferior to him
in enlightenment. For instance, one of them made a regular practice of
reading Karamzin, another of conning the Moscow Gazette, and a
third of never looking at a book at all. Likewise, although they were
the sort of men to whom, in their more intimate movements, their wives
would very naturally address such nicknames as "Toby Jug," "Marmot,"
"Fatty," "Pot Belly," "Smutty," "Kiki," and "Buzz-Buzz," they were men
also of good heart, and very ready to extend their hospitality and
their friendship when once a guest had eaten of their bread and salt,
or spent an evening in their company. Particularly, therefore, did
Chichikov earn these good folk's approval with his taking methods and
qualities--so much so that the expression of that approval bid fair to
make it difficult for him to quit the town, seeing that, wherever he
went, the one phrase dinned into his ears was "Stay another week with
us, Paul Ivanovitch." In short, he ceased to be a free agent. But
incomparably more striking was the impression (a matter for unbounded
surprise!) which he produced upon the ladies. Properly to explain this
phenomenon I should need to say a great deal about the ladies
themselves, and to describe in the most vivid of colours their social
intercourse and spiritual qualities. Yet this would be a difficult
thing for me to do, since, on the one hand, I should be hampered by my
boundless respect for the womenfolk of all Civil Service officials,
and, on the other hand--well, simply by the innate arduousness of the
task. The ladies of N. were--But no, I cannot do it; my heart has
already failed me. Come, come! The ladies of N. were distinguished
for--But it is of no use; somehow my pen seems to refuse to move over
the paper--it seems to be weighted as with a plummet of lead. Very
well. That being so, I will merely say a word or two concerning the
most prominent tints on the feminine palette of N.--merely a word or
two concerning the outward appearance of its ladies, and a word or two
concerning their more superficial characteristics. The ladies of N.
were pre-eminently what is known as "presentable." Indeed, in that
respect they might have served as a model to the ladies of many
another town. That is to say, in whatever pertained to "tone,"
etiquette, the intricacies of decorum, and strict observance of the
prevailing mode, they surpassed even the ladies of Moscow and St.
Petersburg, seeing that they dressed with taste, drove about in
carriages in the latest fashions, and never went out without the
escort of a footman in gold-laced livery. Again, they looked upon a
visiting card--even upon a make-shift affair consisting of an ace of
diamonds or a two of clubs--as a sacred thing; so sacred that on one
occasion two closely related ladies who had also been closely attached
friends were known to fall out with one another over the mere fact of
an omission to return a social call! Yes, in spite of the best efforts
of husbands and kinsfolk to reconcile the antagonists, it became clear
that, though all else in the world might conceivably be possible,
never could the hatchet be buried between ladies who had quarrelled
over a neglected visit. Likewise strenuous scenes used to take place
over questions of precedence--scenes of a kind which had the effect of
inspiring husbands to great and knightly ideas on the subject of
protecting the fair. True, never did a duel actually take place, since
all the husbands were officials belonging to the Civil Service; but at
least a given combatant would strive to heap contumely upon his rival,
and, as we all know, that is a resource which may prove even more
effectual than a duel. As regards morality, the ladies of N. were
nothing if not censorious, and would at once be fired with virtuous
indignation when they heard of a case of vice or seduction. Nay, even
to mere frailty they would award the lash without mercy. On the other
hand, should any instance of what they called "third personism" occur
among THEIR OWN circle, it was always kept dark--not a hint of what
was going on being allowed to transpire, and even the wronged husband
holding himself ready, should he meet with, or hear of, the "third
person," to quote, in a mild and rational manner, the proverb, "Whom
concerns it that a friend should consort with friend?" In addition, I
may say that, like most of the female world of St. Petersburg, the
ladies of N. were pre-eminently careful and refined in their choice of
words and phrases. Never did a lady say, "I blew my nose," or "I
perspired," or "I spat." No, it had to be, "I relieved my nose through
the expedient of wiping it with my handkerchief," and so forth. Again,
to say, "This glass, or this plate, smells badly," was forbidden. No,
not even a hint to such an effect was to be dropped. Rather, the
proper phrase, in such a case, was "This glass, or this plate, is not
behaving very well,"--or some such formula.

In fact, to refine the Russian tongue the more thoroughly, something
like half the words in it were cut out: which circumstance
necessitated very frequent recourse to the tongue of France, since the
same words, if spoken in French, were another matter altogether, and
one could use even blunter ones than the ones originally objected to.

So much for the ladies of N., provided that one confines one's
observations to the surface; yet hardly need it be said that, should
one penetrate deeper than that, a great deal more would come to light.
At the same time, it is never a very safe proceeding to peer deeply
into the hearts of ladies; wherefore, restricting ourselves to the
foregoing superficialities, let us proceed further on our way.

Hitherto the ladies had paid Chichikov no particular attention, though
giving him full credit for his gentlemanly and urbane demeanour; but
from the moment that there arose rumours of his being a millionaire
other qualities of his began to be canvassed. Nevertheless, not ALL
the ladies were governed by interested motives, since it is due to the
term "millionaire" rather than to the character of the person who
bears it, that the mere sound of the word exercises upon rascals, upon
decent folk, and upon folk who are neither the one nor the other, an
undeniable influence. A millionaire suffers from the disadvantage of
everywhere having to behold meanness, including the sort of meanness
which, though not actually based upon calculations of self-interest,
yet runs after the wealthy man with smiles, and doffs his hat, and
begs for invitations to houses where the millionaire is known to be
going to dine. That a similar inclination to meanness seized upon the
ladies of N. goes without saying; with the result that many a
drawing-room heard it whispered that, if Chichikov was not exactly a
beauty, at least he was sufficiently good-looking to serve for a
husband, though he could have borne to have been a little more rotund
and stout. To that there would be added scornful references to lean
husbands, and hints that they resembled tooth-brushes rather than
men--with many other feminine additions. Also, such crowds of feminine
shoppers began to repair to the Bazaar as almost to constitute a
crush, and something like a procession of carriages ensued, so long
grew the rank of vehicles. For their part, the tradesmen had the joy
of seeing highly priced dress materials which they had brought at
fairs, and then been unable to dispose of, now suddenly become
tradeable, and go off with a rush. For instance, on one occasion a
lady appeared at Mass in a bustle which filled the church to an extent
which led the verger on duty to bid the commoner folk withdraw to the
porch, lest the lady's toilet should be soiled in the crush. Even
Chichikov could not help privately remarking the attention which he
aroused. On one occasion, when he returned to the inn, he found on his
table a note addressed to himself. Whence it had come, and who had
delivered it, he failed to discover, for the waiter declared that the
person who had brought it had omitted to leave the name of the writer.
Beginning abruptly with the words "I MUST write to you," the letter
went on to say that between a certain pair of souls there existed a
bond of sympathy; and this verity the epistle further confirmed with
rows of full stops to the extent of nearly half a page. Next there
followed a few reflections of a correctitude so remarkable that I have
no choice but to quote them. "What, I would ask, is this life of
ours?" inquired the writer. "'Tis nought but a vale of woe. And what,
I would ask, is the world? 'Tis nought but a mob of unthinking
humanity." Thereafter, incidentally remarking that she had just
dropped a tear to the memory of her dear mother, who had departed this
life twenty-five years ago, the (presumably) lady writer invited
Chichikov to come forth into the wilds, and to leave for ever the city
where, penned in noisome haunts, folk could not even draw their
breath. In conclusion, the writer gave way to unconcealed despair, and
wound up with the following verses:

    "Two turtle doves to thee, one day,
    My dust will show, congealed in death;
    And, cooing wearily, they'll say:
    'In grief and loneliness she drew her closing breath.'"

True, the last line did not scan, but that was a trifle, since the
quatrain at least conformed to the mode then prevalent. Neither
signature nor date were appended to the document, but only a
postscript expressing a conjecture that Chichikov's own heart would
tell him who the writer was, and stating, in addition, that the said
writer would be present at the Governor's ball on the following night.

This greatly interested Chichikov. Indeed, there was so much that was
alluring and provocative of curiosity in the anonymous missive that he
read it through a second time, and then a third, and finally said to
himself: "I SHOULD like to know who sent it!" In short, he took the
thing seriously, and spent over an hour in considering the same. At
length, muttering a comment upon the epistle's efflorescent style, he
refolded the document, and committed it to his dispatch-box in company
with a play-bill and an invitation to a wedding--the latter of which
had for the last seven years reposed in the self-same receptacle and
in the self-same position. Shortly afterwards there arrived a card of
invitation to the Governor's ball already referred to. In passing, it
may be said that such festivities are not infrequent phenomena in
county towns, for the reason that where Governors exist there must
take place balls if from the local gentry there is to be evoked that
respectful affection which is every Governor's due.

Thenceforth all extraneous thoughts and considerations were laid aside
in favour of preparing for the coming function. Indeed, this
conjunction of exciting and provocative motives led to Chichikov
devoting to his toilet an amount of time never witnessed since the
creation of the world. Merely in the contemplation of his features in
the mirror, as he tried to communicate to them a succession of varying
expressions, was an hour spent. First of all he strove to make his
features assume an air of dignity and importance, and then an air of
humble, but faintly satirical, respect, and then an air of respect
guiltless of any alloy whatsoever. Next, he practised performing a
series of bows to his reflection, accompanied with certain murmurs
intended to bear a resemblance to a French phrase (though Chichikov
knew not a single word of the Gallic tongue). Lastly came the
performing of a series of what I might call "agreeable surprises," in
the shape of twitchings of the brow and lips and certain motions of
the tongue. In short, he did all that a man is apt to do when he is
not only alone, but also certain that he is handsome and that no one
is regarding him through a chink. Finally he tapped himself lightly on
the chin, and said, "Ah, good old face!" In the same way, when he
started to dress himself for the ceremony, the level of his high
spirits remained unimpaired throughout the process. That is to say,
while adjusting his braces and tying his tie, he shuffled his feet in
what was not exactly a dance, but might be called the entr'acte of a
dance: which performance had the not very serious result of setting a
wardrobe a-rattle, and causing a brush to slide from the table to the
floor.

Later, his entry into the ballroom produced an extraordinary effect.
Every one present came forward to meet him, some with cards in their
hands, and one man even breaking off a conversation at the most
interesting point--namely, the point that "the Inferior Land Court
must be made responsible for everything." Yes, in spite of the
responsibility of the Inferior Land Court, the speaker cast all
thoughts of it to the winds as he hurried to greet our hero. From
every side resounded acclamations of welcome, and Chichikov felt
himself engulfed in a sea of embraces. Thus, scarcely had he
extricated himself from the arms of the President of the Local Council
when he found himself just as firmly clasped in the arms of the Chief
of Police, who, in turn, surrendered him to the Inspector of the
Medical Department, who, in turn, handed him over to the Commissioner
of Taxes, who, again, committed him to the charge of the Town
Architect. Even the Governor, who hitherto had been standing among his
womenfolk with a box of sweets in one hand and a lap-dog in the other,
now threw down both sweets and lap-dog (the lap-dog giving vent to a
yelp as he did so) and added his greeting to those of the rest of the
company. Indeed, not a face was there to be seen on which ecstatic
delight--or, at all events, the reflection of other people's ecstatic
delight--was not painted. The same expression may be discerned on the
faces of subordinate officials when, the newly arrived Director having
made his inspection, the said officials are beginning to get over
their first sense of awe on perceiving that he has found much to
commend, and that he can even go so far as to jest and utter a few
words of smiling approval. Thereupon every tchinovnik responds with a
smile of double strength, and those who (it may be) have not heard a
single word of the Director's speech smile out of sympathy with the
rest, and even the gendarme who is posted at the distant door--a man,
perhaps, who has never before compassed a smile, but is more
accustomed to dealing out blows to the populace--summons up a kind of
grin, even though the grin resembles the grimace of a man who is about
to sneeze after inadvertently taking an over-large pinch of snuff. To
all and sundry Chichikov responded with a bow, and felt
extraordinarily at his ease as he did so. To right and left did he
incline his head in the sidelong, yet unconstrained, manner that was
his wont and never failed to charm the beholder. As for the ladies,
they clustered around him in a shining bevy that was redolent of every
species of perfume--of roses, of spring violets, and of mignonette; so
much so that instinctively Chichikov raised his nose to snuff the air.
Likewise the ladies' dresses displayed an endless profusion of taste
and variety; and though the majority of their wearers evinced a
tendency to embonpoint, those wearers knew how to call upon art for
the concealment of the fact. Confronting them, Chichikov thought to
himself: "Which of these beauties is the writer of the letter?" Then
again he snuffed the air. When the ladies had, to a certain extent,
returned to their seats, he resumed his attempts to discern (from
glances and expressions) which of them could possibly be the unknown
authoress. Yet, though those glances and expressions were too subtle,
too insufficiently open, the difficulty in no way diminished his high
spirits. Easily and gracefully did he exchange agreeable bandinage
with one lady, and then approach another one with the short, mincing
steps usually affected by young-old dandies who are fluttering around
the fair. As he turned, not without dexterity, to right and left, he
kept one leg slightly dragging behind the other, like a short tail or
comma. This trick the ladies particularly admired. In short, they not
only discovered in him a host of recommendations and attractions, but
also began to see in his face a sort of grand, Mars-like, military
expression--a thing which, as we know, never fails to please the
feminine eye. Certain of the ladies even took to bickering over him,
and, on perceiving that he spent most of his time standing near the
door, some of their number hastened to occupy chairs nearer to his
post of vantage. In fact, when a certain dame chanced to have the good
fortune to anticipate a hated rival in the race there very nearly
ensued a most lamentable scene--which, to many of those who had been
desirous of doing exactly the same thing, seemed a peculiarly horrible
instance of brazen-faced audacity.

So deeply did Chichikov become plunged in conversation with his fair
pursuers--or rather, so deeply did those fair pursuers enmesh him in
the toils of small talk (which they accomplished through the expedient
of asking him endless subtle riddles which brought the sweat to his
brow in his attempts to guess them)--that he forgot the claims of
courtesy which required him first of all to greet his hostess. In
fact, he remembered those claims only on hearing the Governor's wife
herself addressing him. She had been standing before him for several
minutes, and now greeted him with suave expressement and the words,
"So HERE you are, Paul Ivanovitch!" But what she said next I am not
in a position to report, for she spoke in the ultra-refined tone and
vein wherein ladies and gentlemen customarily express themselves in
high-class novels which have been written by experts more qualified
than I am to describe salons, and able to boast of some acquaintance
with good society. In effect, what the Governor's wife said was that
she hoped--she greatly hoped--that Monsieur Chichikov's heart still
contained a corner--even the smallest possible corner--for those whom
he had so cruelly forgotten. Upon that Chichikov turned to her, and
was on the point of returning a reply at least no worse than that
which would have been returned, under similar circumstances, by the
hero of a fashionable novelette, when he stopped short, as though
thunderstruck.

Before him there was standing not only Madame, but also a young girl
whom she was holding by the hand. The golden hair, the fine-drawn,
delicate contours, the face with its bewitching oval--a face which
might have served as a model for the countenance of the Madonna, since
it was of a type rarely to be met with in Russia, where nearly
everything, from plains to human feet, is, rather, on the gigantic
scale; these features, I say, were those of the identical maiden whom
Chichikov had encountered on the road when he had been fleeing from
Nozdrev's. His emotion was such that he could not formulate a single
intelligible syllable; he could merely murmur the devil only knows
what, though certainly nothing of the kind which would have risen to
the lips of the hero of a fashionable novel.

"I think that you have not met my daughter before?" said Madame. "She
is just fresh from school."

He replied that he HAD had the happiness of meeting Mademoiselle
before, and under rather unexpected circumstances; but on his trying
to say something further his tongue completely failed him. The
Governor's wife added a word or two, and then carried off her daughter
to speak to some of the other guests.

Chichikov stood rooted to the spot, like a man who, after issuing into
the street for a pleasant walk, has suddenly come to a halt on
remembering that something has been left behind him. In a moment, as
he struggles to recall what that something is, the mien of careless
expectancy disappears from his face, and he no longer sees a single
person or a single object in his vicinity. In the same way did
Chichikov suddenly become oblivious to the scene around him. Yet all
the while the melodious tongues of ladies were plying him with
multitudinous hints and questions--hints and questions inspired with a
desire to captivate. "Might we poor cumberers of the ground make so
bold as to ask you what you are thinking of?" "Pray tell us where lie
the happy regions in which your thoughts are wandering?" "Might we be
informed of the name of her who has plunged you into this sweet
abandonment of meditation?"--such were the phrases thrown at him. But
to everything he turned a dead ear, and the phrases in question might
as well have been stones dropped into a pool. Indeed, his rudeness
soon reached the pitch of his walking away altogether, in order that
he might go and reconnoitre wither the Governor's wife and daughter
had retreated. But the ladies were not going to let him off so easily.
Every one of them had made up her mind to use upon him her every
weapon, and to exhibit whatsoever might chance to constitute her best
point. Yet the ladies' wiles proved useless, for Chichikov paid not
the smallest attention to them, even when the dancing had begun, but
kept raising himself on tiptoe to peer over people's heads and
ascertain in which direction the bewitching maiden with the golden
hair had gone. Also, when seated, he continued to peep between his
neighbours' backs and shoulders, until at last he discovered her
sitting beside her mother, who was wearing a sort of Oriental turban
and feather. Upon that one would have thought that his purpose was to
carry the position by storm; for, whether moved by the influence of
spring, or whether moved by a push from behind, he pressed forward
with such desperate resolution that his elbow caused the Commissioner
of Taxes to stagger on his feet, and would have caused him to lose his
balance altogether but for the supporting row of guests in the rear.
Likewise the Postmaster was made to give ground; whereupon he turned
and eyed Chichikov with mingled astonishment and subtle irony. But
Chichikov never even noticed him; he saw in the distance only the
golden-haired beauty. At that moment she was drawing on a long glove
and, doubtless, pining to be flying over the dancing-floor, where,
with clicking heels, four couples had now begun to thread the mazes of
the mazurka. In particular was a military staff-captain working body
and soul and arms and legs to compass such a series of steps as were
never before performed, even in a dream. However, Chichikov slipped
past the mazurka dancers, and, almost treading on their heels, made
his way towards the spot where Madame and her daughter were seated.
Yet he approached them with great diffidence and none of his late
mincing and prancing. Nay, he even faltered as he walked; his every
movement had about it an air of awkwardness.

It is difficult to say whether or not the feeling which had awakened
in our hero's breast was the feeling of love; for it is problematical
whether or not men who are neither stout nor thin are capable of any
such sentiment. Nevertheless, something strange, something which he
could not altogether explain, had come upon him. It seemed as though
the ball, with its talk and its clatter, had suddenly become a thing
remote--that the orchestra had withdrawn behind a hill, and the scene
grown misty, like the carelessly painted-in background of a picture.
And from that misty void there could be seen glimmering only the
delicate outlines of the bewitching maiden. Somehow her exquisite
shape reminded him of an ivory toy, in such fair, white, transparent
relief did it stand out against the dull blur of the surrounding
throng.

Herein we see a phenomenon not infrequently observed--the phenomenon
of the Chichikovs of this world becoming temporarily poets. At all
events, for a moment or two our Chichikov felt that he was a young man
again, if not exactly a military officer. On perceiving an empty chair
beside the mother and daughter, he hastened to occupy it, and though
conversation at first hung fire, things gradually improved, and he
acquired more confidence.

At this point I must reluctantly deviate to say that men of weight and
high office are always a trifle ponderous when conversing with ladies.
Young lieutenants--or, at all events, officers not above the rank of
captain--are far more successful at the game. How they contrive to be
so God only knows. Let them but make the most inane of remarks, and at
once the maiden by their side will be rocking with laughter; whereas,
should a State Councillor enter into conversation with a damsel, and
remark that the Russian Empire is one of vast extent, or utter a
compliment which he has elaborated not without a certain measure of
intelligence (however strongly the said compliment may smack of a
book), of a surety the thing will fall flat. Even a witticism from him
will be laughed at far more by him himself than it will by the lady
who may happen to be listening to his remarks.

These comments I have interposed for the purpose of explaining to the
reader why, as our hero conversed, the maiden began to yawn. Blind to
this, however, he continued to relate to her sundry adventures which
had befallen him in different parts of the world. Meanwhile (as need
hardly be said) the rest of the ladies had taken umbrage at his
behaviour. One of them purposely stalked past him to intimate to him
the fact, as well as to jostle the Governor's daughter, and let the
flying end of a scarf flick her face; while from a lady seated behind
the pair came both a whiff of violets and a very venomous and
sarcastic remark. Nevertheless, either he did not hear the remark or
he PRETENDED not to hear it. This was unwise of him, since it never
does to disregard ladies' opinions. Later-but too late--he was
destined to learn this to his cost.

In short, dissatisfaction began to display itself on every feminine
face. No matter how high Chichikov might stand in society, and no
matter how much he might be a millionaire and include in his
expression of countenance an indefinable element of grandness and
martial ardour, there are certain things which no lady will pardon,
whosoever be the person concerned. We know that at Governor's balls it
is customary for the onlookers to compose verses at the expense of the
dancers; and in this case the verses were directed to Chichikov's
address. Briefly, the prevailing dissatisfaction grew until a tacit
edict of proscription had been issued against both him and the poor
young maiden.

But an even more unpleasant surprise was in store for our hero; for
whilst the young lady was still yawning as Chichikov recounted to her
certain of his past adventures and also touched lightly upon the
subject of Greek philosophy, there appeared from an adjoining room the
figure of Nozdrev. Whether he had come from the buffet, or whether he
had issued from a little green retreat where a game more strenuous
than whist had been in progress, or whether he had left the latter
resort unaided, or whether he had been expelled therefrom, is unknown;
but at all events when he entered the ballroom, he was in an elevated
condition, and leading by the arm the Public Prosecutor, whom he
seemed to have been dragging about for a long while past, seeing that
the poor man was glancing from side to side as though seeking a means
of putting an end to this personally conducted tour. Certainly he must
have found the situation almost unbearable, in view of the fact that,
after deriving inspiration from two glasses of tea not wholly
undiluted with rum, Nozdrev was engaged in lying unmercifully. On
sighting him in the distance, Chichikov at once decided to sacrifice
himself. That is to say, he decided to vacate his present enviable
position and make off with all possible speed, since he could see that
an encounter with the newcomer would do him no good. Unfortunately at
that moment the Governor buttonholed him with a request that he would
come and act as arbiter between him (the Governor) and two ladies--the
subject of dispute being the question as to whether or not woman's
love is lasting. Simultaneously Nozdrev descried our hero and bore
down upon him.

"Ah, my fine landowner of Kherson!" he cried with a smile which set
his fresh, spring-rose-pink cheeks a-quiver. "Have you been doing much
trade in departed souls lately?" With that he turned to the Governor.
"I suppose your Excellency knows that this man traffics in dead
peasants?" he bawled. "Look here, Chichikov. I tell you in the most
friendly way possible that every one here likes you--yes, including
even the Governor. Nevertheless, had I my way, I would hang you! Yes,
by God I would!"

Chichikov's discomfiture was complete.

"And, would you believe it, your Excellency," went on Nozdrev, "but
this fellow actually said to me, 'Sell me your dead souls!' Why, I
laughed till I nearly became as dead as the souls. And, behold, no
sooner do I arrive here than I am told that he has bought three
million roubles' worth of peasants for transferment! For transferment,
indeed! And he wanted to bargain with me for my DEAD ones! Look
here, Chichikov. You are a swine! Yes, by God, you are an utter swine!
Is not that so, your Excellency? Is not that so, friend Prokurator[1]?"

[1] Public Prosecutor.

But both his Excellency, the Public Prosecutor, and Chichikov were too
taken aback to reply. The half-tipsy Nozdrev, without noticing them,
continued his harangue as before.

"Ah, my fine sir!" he cried. "THIS time I don't mean to let you go.
No, not until I have learnt what all this purchasing of dead peasants
means. Look here. You ought to be ashamed of yourself. Yes, _I_ say
that--_I_ who am one of your best friends." Here he turned to the
Governor again. "Your Excellency," he continued, "you would never
believe what inseperables this man and I have been. Indeed, if you had
stood there and said to me, 'Nozdrev, tell me on your honour which of
the two you love best--your father or Chichikov?' I should have
replied, 'Chichikov, by God!'" With that he tackled our hero again,
"Come, come, my friend!" he urged. "Let me imprint upon your cheeks a
baiser or two. You will excuse me if I kiss him, will you not, your
Excellency? No, do not resist me, Chichikov, but allow me to imprint
at least one baiser upon your lily-white cheek." And in his efforts to
force upon Chichikov what he termed his "baisers" he came near to
measuring his length upon the floor.

Every one now edged away, and turned a deaf ear to his further
babblings; but his words on the subject of the purchase of dead souls
had none the less been uttered at the top of his voice, and been
accompanied with such uproarious laughter that the curiosity even of
those who had happened to be sitting or standing in the remoter
corners of the room had been aroused. So strange and novel seemed the
idea that the company stood with faces expressive of nothing but a
dumb, dull wonder. Only some of the ladies (as Chichikov did not fail
to remark) exchanged meaning, ill-natured winks and a series of
sarcastic smiles: which circumstance still further increased his
confusion. That Nozdrev was a notorious liar every one, of course,
knew, and that he should have given vent to an idiotic outburst of
this sort had surprised no one; but a dead soul--well, what was one to
make of Nozdrev's reference to such a commodity?

Naturally this unseemly contretemps had greatly upset our hero; for,
however foolish be a madman's words, they may yet prove sufficient to
sow doubt in the minds of saner individuals. He felt much as does a
man who, shod with well-polished boots, has just stepped into a dirty,
stinking puddle. He tried to put away from him the occurrence, and to
expand, and to enjoy himself once more. Nay, he even took a hand at
whist. But all was of no avail--matters kept going as awry as a
badly-bent hoop. Twice he blundered in his play, and the President of
the Council was at a loss to understand how his friend, Paul
Ivanovitch, lately so good and so circumspect a player, could
perpetrate such a mauvais pas as to throw away a particular king of
spades which the President has been "trusting" as (to quote his own
expression) "he would have trusted God." At supper, too, matters felt
uncomfortable, even though the society at Chichikov's table was
exceedingly agreeable and Nozdrev had been removed, owing to the fact
that the ladies had found his conduct too scandalous to be borne, now
that the delinquent had taken to seating himself on the floor and
plucking at the skirts of passing lady dancers. As I say, therefore,
Chichikov found the situation not a little awkward, and eventually put
an end to it by leaving the supper room before the meal was over, and
long before the hour when usually he returned to the inn.

In his little room, with its door of communication blocked with a
wardrobe, his frame of mind remained as uncomfortable as the chair in
which he was seated. His heart ached with a dull, unpleasant
sensation, with a sort of oppressive emptiness.

"The devil take those who first invented balls!" was his reflection.
"Who derives any real pleasure from them? In this province there exist
want and scarcity everywhere: yet folk go in for balls! How absurd,
too, were those overdressed women! One of them must have had a
thousand roubles on her back, and all acquired at the expense of the
overtaxed peasant, or, worse still, at that of the conscience of her
neighbour. Yes, we all know why bribes are accepted, and why men
become crooked in soul. It is all done to provide wives--yes, may the
pit swallow them up!--with fal-lals. And for what purpose? That some
woman may not have to reproach her husband with the fact that, say,
the Postmaster's wife is wearing a better dress than she is--a dress
which has cost a thousand roubles! 'Balls and gaiety, balls and
gaiety' is the constant cry. Yet what folly balls are! They do not
consort with the Russian spirit and genius, and the devil only knows
why we have them. A grown, middle-aged man--a man dressed in black,
and looking as stiff as a poker--suddenly takes the floor and begins
shuffling his feet about, while another man, even though conversing
with a companion on important business, will, the while, keep capering
to right and left like a billy-goat! Mimicry, sheer mimicry! The fact
that the Frenchman is at forty precisely what he was at fifteen leads
us to imagine that we too, forsooth, ought to be the same. No; a ball
leaves one feeling that one has done a wrong thing--so much so that
one does not care even to think of it. It also leaves one's head
perfectly empty, even as does the exertion of talking to a man of the
world. A man of that kind chatters away, and touches lightly upon
every conceivable subject, and talks in smooth, fluent phrases which
he has culled from books without grazing their substance; whereas go
and have a chat with a tradesman who knows at least ONE thing
thoroughly, and through the medium of experience, and see whether his
conversation will not be worth more than the prattle of a thousand
chatterboxes. For what good does one get out of balls? Suppose that a
competent writer were to describe such a scene exactly as it stands?
Why, even in a book it would seem senseless, even as it certainly is
in life. Are, therefore, such functions right or wrong? One would
answer that the devil alone knows, and then spit and close the book."

Such were the unfavourable comments which Chichikov passed upon balls
in general. With it all, however, there went a second source of
dissatisfaction. That is to say, his principal grudge was not so much
against balls as against the fact that at this particular one he had
been exposed, he had been made to disclose the circumstance that he
had been playing a strange, an ambiguous part. Of course, when he
reviewed the contretemps in the light of pure reason, he could not but
see that it mattered nothing, and that a few rude words were of no
account now that the chief point had been attained; yet man is an odd
creature, and Chichikov actually felt pained by the could-shouldering
administered to him by persons for whom he had not an atom of respect,
and whose vanity and love of display he had only that moment been
censuring. Still more, on viewing the matter clearly, he felt vexed to
think that he himself had been so largely the cause of the
catastrophe.

Yet he was not angry with HIMSELF--of that you may be sure, seeing
that all of us have a slight weakness for sparing our own faults, and
always do our best to find some fellow-creature upon whom to vent our
displeasure--whether that fellow-creature be a servant, a subordinate
official, or a wife. In the same way Chichikov sought a scapegoat upon
whose shoulders he could lay the blame for all that had annoyed him.
He found one in Nozdrev, and you may be sure that the scapegoat in
question received a good drubbing from every side, even as an
experienced captain or chief of police will give a knavish starosta or
postboy a rating not only in the terms become classical, but also in
such terms as the said captain or chief of police may invent for
himself. In short, Nozdrev's whole lineage was passed in review; and
many of its members in the ascending line fared badly in the process.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the town there was in progress an event
which was destined to augment still further the unpleasantness of our
hero's position. That is to say, through the outlying streets and
alleys of the town there was clattering a vehicle to which it would be
difficult precisely to assign a name, seeing that, though it was of a
species peculiar to itself, it most nearly resembled a large, rickety
water melon on wheels. Eventually this monstrosity drew up at the
gates of a house where the archpriest of one of the churches resided,
and from its doors there leapt a damsel clad in a jerkin and wearing a
scarf over her head. For a while she thumped the gates so vigorously
as to set all the dogs barking; then the gates stiffly opened, and
admitted this unwieldy phenomenon of the road. Lastly, the barinia
herself alighted, and stood revealed as Madame Korobotchka, widow of a
Collegiate Secretary! The reason of her sudden arrival was that she
had felt so uneasy about the possible outcome of Chichikov's whim,
that during the three nights following his departure she had been
unable to sleep a wink; whereafter, in spite of the fact that her
horses were not shod, she had set off for the town, in order to learn
at first hand how the dead souls were faring, and whether (which might
God forfend!) she had not sold them at something like a third of their
true value. The consequences of her venture the reader will learn from
a conversation between two ladies. We will reserve it for the ensuing
chapter.

CHAPTER IX

Next morning, before the usual hour for paying calls, there tripped
from the portals of an orange-coloured wooden house with an attic
storey and a row of blue pillars a lady in an elegant plaid cloak.
With her came a footman in a many-caped greatcoat and a polished top
hat with a gold band. Hastily, but gracefully, the lady ascended the
steps let down from a koliaska which was standing before the entrance,
and as soon as she had done so the footman shut her in, put up the
steps again, and, catching hold of the strap behind the vehicle,
shouted to the coachman, "Right away!" The reason of all this was that
the lady was the possessor of a piece of intelligence that she was
burning to communicate to a fellow-creature. Every moment she kept
looking out of the carriage window, and perceiving, with almost
speechless vexation, that, as yet, she was but half-way on her
journey. The fronts of the houses appeared to her longer than usual,
and in particular did the front of the white stone hospital, with its
rows of narrow windows, seem interminable to a degree which at length
forced her to ejaculate: "Oh, the cursed building! Positively there is
no end to it!" Also, she twice adjured the coachman with the words,
"Go quicker, Andrusha! You are a horribly long time over the journey
this morning." But at length the goal was reached, and the koliaska
stopped before a one-storied wooden mansion, dark grey in colour, and
having white carvings over the windows, a tall wooden fence and narrow
garden in front of the latter, and a few meagre trees looming white
with an incongruous coating of road dust. In the windows of the
building were also a few flower pots and a parrot that kept
alternately dancing on the floor of its cage and hanging on to the
ring of the same with its beak. Also, in the sunshine before the door
two pet dogs were sleeping. Here there lived the lady's bosom friend.
As soon as the bosom friend in question learnt of the newcomer's
arrival, she ran down into the hall, and the two ladies kissed and
embraced one another. Then they adjourned to the drawing-room.

"How glad I am to see you!" said the bosom friend. "When I heard some
one arriving I wondered who could possibly be calling so early.
Parasha declared that it must be the Vice-Governor's wife, so, as I
did not want to be bored with her, I gave orders that I was to be
reported 'not at home.'"

For her part, the guest would have liked to have proceeded to business
by communicating her tidings, but a sudden exclamation from the
hostess imparted (temporarily) a new direction to the conversation.

"What a pretty chintz!" she cried, gazing at the other's gown.

"Yes, it IS pretty," agreed the visitor. "On the other hand,
Praskovia Thedorovna thinks that--"

In other words, the ladies proceeded to indulge in a conversation on
the subject of dress; and only after this had lasted for a
considerable while did the visitor let fall a remark which led her
entertainer to inquire:

"And how is the universal charmer?"

"My God!" replied the other. "There has been SUCH a business! In
fact, do you know why I am here at all?" And the visitor's breathing
became more hurried, and further words seemed to be hovering between
her lips like hawks preparing to stoop upon their prey. Only a person
of the unhumanity of a "true friend" would have had the heart to
interrupt her; but the hostess was just such a friend, and at once
interposed with:

"I wonder how any one can see anything in the man to praise or to
admire. For my own part, I think--and I would say the same thing
straight to his face--that he is a perfect rascal."

"Yes, but do listen to what I have got to tell you."

"Oh, I know that some people think him handsome," continued the
hostess, unmoved; "but _I_ say that he is nothing of the kind--that,
in particular, his nose is perfectly odious."

"Yes, but let me finish what I was saying." The guest's tone was
almost piteous in its appeal.

"What is it, then?"

"You cannot imagine my state of mind! You see, this morning I received
a visit from Father Cyril's wife--the Archpriest's wife--you know
her, don't you? Well, whom do you suppose that fine gentleman visitor
of ours has turned out to be?"

"The man who has built the Archpriest a poultry-run?"

"Oh dear no! Had that been all, it would have been nothing. No. Listen
to what Father Cyril's wife had to tell me. She said that, last night,
a lady landowner named Madame Korobotchka arrived at the Archpriest's
house--arrived all pale and trembling--and told her, oh, such things!
They sound like a piece out of a book. That is to say, at dead of
night, just when every one had retired to rest, there came the most
dreadful knocking imaginable, and some one screamed out, 'Open the
gates, or we will break them down!' Just think! After this, how any
one can say that the man is charming I cannot imagine."

"Well, what of Madame Korobotchka? Is she a young woman or good
looking?"

"Oh dear no! Quite an old woman."

"Splendid indeed! So he is actually engaged to a person like that? One
may heartily commend the taste of our ladies for having fallen in love
with him!"

"Nevertheless, it is not as you suppose. Think, now! Armed with
weapons from head to foot, he called upon this old woman, and said:
'Sell me any souls of yours which have lately died.' Of course, Madame
Korobotchka answered, reasonably enough: 'I cannot sell you those
souls, seeing that they have departed this world;' but he replied:
'No, no! They are NOT dead. 'Tis I who tell you that--I who ought to
know the truth of the matter. I swear that they are still alive.' In
short, he made such a scene that the whole village came running to the
house, and children screamed, and men shouted, and no one could tell
what it was all about. The affair seemed to me so horrible, so utterly
horrible, that I trembled beyond belief as I listened to the story.
'My dearest madam,' said my maid, Mashka, 'pray look at yourself in
the mirror, and see how white you are.' 'But I have no time for that,'
I replied, 'as I must be off to tell my friend, Anna Grigorievna, the
news.' Nor did I lose a moment in ordering the koliaska. Yet when my
coachman, Andrusha, asked me for directions I could not get a word
out--I just stood staring at him like a fool, until I thought he must
think me mad. Oh, Anna Grigorievna, if you but knew how upset I am!"

"What a strange affair!" commented the hostess. "What on earth can the
man have meant by 'dead souls'? I confess that the words pass my
understanding. Curiously enough, this is the second time I have heard
speak of those souls. True, my husband avers that Nozdrev was lying;
yet in his lies there seems to have been a grain of truth."

"Well, just think of my state when I heard all this! 'And now,'
apparently said Korobotchka to the Archpriest's wife, 'I am altogether
at a loss what to do, for, throwing me fifteen roubles, the man forced
me to sign a worthless paper--yes, me, an inexperienced, defenceless
widow who knows nothing of business.' That such things should happen!
TRY and imagine my feelings!"

"In my opinion, there is in this more than the dead souls which meet
the eye."

"I think so too," agreed the other. As a matter of fact, her friend's
remark had struck her with complete surprise, as well as filled her
with curiosity to know what the word "more" might possibly signify. In
fact, she felt driven to inquire: "What do YOU suppose to be hidden
beneath it all?"

"No; tell me what YOU suppose?"

"What _I_ suppose? I am at a loss to conjecture."

"Yes, but tell me what is in your mind?"

Upon this the visitor had to confess herself nonplussed; for, though
capable of growing hysterical, she was incapable of propounding any
rational theory. Consequently she felt the more that she needed tender
comfort and advice.

"Then THIS is what I think about the dead souls," said the hostess.
Instantly the guest pricked up her ears (or, rather, they pricked
themselves up) and straightened herself and became, somehow, more
modish, and, despite her not inconsiderable weight, posed herself to
look like a piece of thistledown floating on the breeze.

"The dead souls," began the hostess.

"Are what, are what?" inquired the guest in great excitement.

"Are, are--"

"Tell me, tell me, for heaven's sake!"

"They are an invention to conceal something else. The man's real
object is, is--TO ABDUCT THE GOVERNOR'S DAUGHTER."

So startling and unexpected was this conclusion that the guest sat
reduced to a state of pale, petrified, genuine amazement.

"My God!" she cried, clapping her hands, "I should NEVER have guessed it!"

"Well, to tell you the truth, I guessed it as soon as ever you opened
your mouth."

"So much, then, for educating girls like the Governor's daughter at
school! Just see what comes of it!"

"Yes, indeed! And they tell me that she says things which I hesitate
even to repeat."

"Truly it wrings one's heart to see to what lengths immorality has come."

"Some of the men have quite lost their heads about her, but for my
part I think her not worth noticing."

"Of course. And her manners are unbearable. But what puzzles me most
is how a travelled man like Chichikov could come to let himself in for
such an affair. Surely he must have accomplices?"

"Yes; and I should say that one of those accomplices is Nozdrev."

"Surely not?"

"CERTAINLY I should say so. Why, I have known him even try to sell
his own father! At all events he staked him at cards."

"Indeed? You interest me. I should never had thought him capable of
such things."

"I always guessed him to be so."

The two ladies were still discussing the matter with acumen and
success when there walked into the room the Public Prosecutor--bushy
eyebrows, motionless features, blinking eyes, and all. At once the
ladies hastened to inform him of the events related, adducing
therewith full details both as to the purchase of dead souls and as to
the scheme to abduct the Governor's daughter; after which they
departed in different directions, for the purpose of raising the rest
of the town. For the execution of this undertaking not more than half
an hour was required. So thoroughly did they succeed in throwing dust
in the public's eyes that for a while every one--more especially the
army of public officials--was placed in the position of a schoolboy
who, while still asleep, has had a bag of pepper thrown in his face by
a party of more early-rising comrades. The questions now to be debated
resolved themselves into two--namely, the question of the dead souls
and the question of the Governor's daughter. To this end two parties
were formed--the men's party and the feminine section. The men's
party--the more absolutely senseless of the two--devoted its attention
to the dead souls: the women's party occupied itself exclusively with
the alleged abduction of the Governor's daughter. And here it may be
said (to the ladies' credit) that the women's party displayed far more
method and caution than did its rival faction, probably because the
function in life of its members had always been that of managing and
administering a household. With the ladies, therefore, matters soon
assumed vivid and definite shape; they became clearly and irrefutably
materialised; they stood stripped of all doubt and other impedimenta.
Said some of the ladies in question, Chichikov had long been in love
with the maiden, and the pair had kept tryst by the light of the moon,
while the Governor would have given his consent (seeing that Chichikov
was as rich as a Jew) but for the obstacle that Chichikov had deserted
a wife already (how the worthy dames came to know that he was married
remains a mystery), and the said deserted wife, pining with love for
her faithless husband, had sent the Governor a letter of the most
touching kind, so that Chichikov, on perceiving that the father and
mother would never give their consent, had decided to abduct the girl.
In other circles the matter was stated in a different way. That is to
say, this section averred that Chichikov did NOT possess a wife, but
that, as a man of subtlety and experience, he had bethought him of
obtaining the daughter's hand through the expedient of first tackling
the mother and carrying on with her an ardent liaison, and that,
thereafter, he had made an application for the desired hand, but that
the mother, fearing to commit a sin against religion, and feeling in
her heart certain gnawings of conscience, had returned a blank refusal
to Chichikov's request; whereupon Chichikov had decided to carry out
the abduction alleged. To the foregoing, of course, there became
appended various additional proofs and items of evidence, in
proportion as the sensation spread to more remote corners of the town.
At length, with these perfectings, the affair reached the ears of the
Governor's wife herself. Naturally, as the mother of a family, and as
the first lady in the town, and as a matron who had never before been
suspected of things of the kind, she was highly offended when she
heard the stories, and very justly so: with the result that her poor
young daughter, though innocent, had to endure about as unpleasant a
tete-a-tete as ever befell a maiden of sixteen, while, for his part,
the Swiss footman received orders never at any time to admit Chichikov
to the house.

Having done their business with the Governor's wife, the ladies' party
descended upon the male section, with a view to influencing it to
their own side by asserting that the dead souls were an invention used
solely for the purpose of diverting suspicion and successfully
affecting the abduction. And, indeed, more than one man was converted,
and joined the feminine camp, in spite of the fact that thereby such
seceders incurred strong names from their late comrades--names such as
"old women," "petticoats," and others of a nature peculiarly offensive
to the male sex.

Also, however much they might arm themselves and take the field, the
men could not compass such orderliness within their ranks as could the
women. With the former everything was of the antiquated and rough-hewn
and ill-fitting and unsuitable and badly-adapted and inferior kind;
their heads were full of nothing but discord and triviality and
confusion and slovenliness of thought. In brief, they displayed
everywhere the male bent, the rude, ponderous nature which is
incapable either of managing a household or of jumping to a
conclusion, as well as remains always distrustful and lazy and full of
constant doubt and everlasting timidity. For instance, the men's party
declared that the whole story was rubbish--that the alleged abduction
of the Governor's daughter was the work rather of a military than of a
civilian culprit; that the ladies were lying when they accused
Chichikov of the deed; that a woman was like a money-bag--whatsoever
you put into her she thenceforth retained; that the subject which
really demanded attention was the dead souls, of which the devil only
knew the meaning, but in which there certainly lurked something that
was contrary to good order and discipline. One reason why the men's
party was so certain that the dead souls connoted something contrary
to good order and discipline, was that there had just been appointed
to the province a new Governor-General--an event which, of course, had
thrown the whole army of provincial tchinovniks into a state of great
excitement, seeing that they knew that before long there would ensue
transferments and sentences of censure, as well as the series of
official dinners with which a Governor-General is accustomed to
entertain his subordinates. "Alas," thought the army of tchinovniks,
"it is probable that, should he learn of the gross reports at present
afloat in our town, he will make such a fuss that we shall never hear
the last of them." In particular did the Director of the Medical
Department turn pale at the thought that possibly the new
Governor-General would surmise the term "dead folk" to connote
patients in the local hospitals who, for want of proper preventative
measures, had died of sporadic fever. Indeed, might it not be that
Chichikov was neither more nor less than an emissary of the said
Governor-General, sent to conduct a secret inquiry? Accordingly he
(the Director of the Medical Department) communicated this last
supposition to the President of the Council, who, though at first
inclined to ejaculate "Rubbish!" suddenly turned pale on propounding
to himself the theory. "What if the souls purchased by Chichikov
should REALLY be dead ones?"--a terrible thought considering that
he, the President, had permitted their transferment to be registered,
and had himself acted as Plushkin's representative! What if these
things should reach the Governor-General's ears? He mentioned the
matter to one friend and another, and they, in their turn, went white
to the lips, for panic spreads faster and is even more destructive,
than the dreaded black death. Also, to add to the tchinovniks'
troubles, it so befell that just at this juncture there came into the
local Governor's hands two documents of great importance. The first of
them contained advices that, according to received evidence and
reports, there was operating in the province a forger of rouble-notes
who had been passing under various aliases and must therefore be
sought for with the utmost diligence; while the second document was a
letter from the Governor of a neighbouring province with regard to a
malefactor who had there evaded apprehension--a letter conveying also
a warning that, if in the province of the town of N. there should
appear any suspicious individual who could produce neither references
nor passports, he was to be arrested forthwith. These two documents
left every one thunderstruck, for they knocked on the head all
previous conceptions and theories. Not for a moment could it be
supposed that the former document referred to Chichikov; yet, as each
man pondered the position from his own point of view, he remembered
that no one REALLY knew who Chichikov was; as also that his vague
references to himself had--yes!--included statements that his career
in the service had suffered much to the cause of Truth, and that he
possessed a number of enemies who were seeking his life. This gave the
tchinovniks further food for thought. Perhaps his life really DID
stand in danger? Perhaps he really WAS being sought for by some one?
Perhaps he really HAD done something of the kind above referred to?
As a matter of fact, who was he?--not that it could actually be
supposed that he was a forger of notes, still less a brigand, seeing
that his exterior was respectable in the highest degree. Yet who was
he? At length the tchinovniks decided to make enquiries among those of
whom he had purchased souls, in order that at least it might be learnt
what the purchases had consisted of, and what exactly underlay them,
and whether, in passing, he had explained to any one his real
intentions, or revealed to any one his identity. In the first
instance, therefore, resort was had to Korobotchka. Yet little was
gleaned from that source--merely a statement that he had bought of her
some souls for fifteen roubles apiece, and also a quantity of
feathers, while promising also to buy some other commodities in the
future, seeing that, in particular, he had entered into a contract
with the Treasury for lard, a fact constituting fairly presumptive
proof that the man was a rogue, seeing that just such another fellow
had bought a quantity of feathers, yet had cheated folk all round,
and, in particular, had done the Archpriest out of over a hundred
roubles. Thus the net result of Madame's cross-examination was to
convince the tchinovniks that she was a garrulous, silly old woman.
With regard to Manilov, he replied that he would answer for Chichikov
as he would for himself, and that he would gladly sacrifice his
property in toto if thereby he could attain even a tithe of the
qualities which Paul Ivanovitch possessed. Finally, he delivered on
Chichikov, with acutely-knitted brows, a eulogy couched in the most
charming of terms, and coupled with sundry sentiments on the subject
of friendship and affection in general. True, these remarks sufficed
to indicate the tender impulses of the speaker's heart, but also they
did nothing to enlighten his examiners concerning the business that
was actually at hand. As for Sobakevitch, that landowner replied that
he considered Chichikov an excellent fellow, as well as that the souls
whom he had sold to his visitor had been in the truest sense of the
word alive, but that he could not answer for anything which might
occur in the future, seeing that any difficulties which might arise in
the course of the actual transferment of souls would not be HIS fault,
in view of the fact that God was lord of all, and that fevers and other
mortal complaints were so numerous in the world, and that instances
of whole villages perishing through the same could be found on record.

Finally, our friends the tchinovniks found themselves compelled to
resort to an expedient which, though not particularly savoury, is not
infrequently employed--namely, the expedient of getting lacqueys
quietly to approach the servants of the person concerning whom
information is desired, and to ascertain from them (the servants)
certain details with regard to their master's life and antecedents.
Yet even from this source very little was obtained, since Petrushka
provided his interrogators merely with a taste of the smell of his
living-room, and Selifan confined his replies to a statement that the
barin had "been in the employment of the State, and also had served in
the Customs."

In short, the sum total of the results gathered by the tchinovniks was
that they still stood in ignorance of Chichikov's identity, but that
he MUST be some one; wherefore it was decided to hold a final debate
on the subject on what ought to be done, and who Chichikov could
possibly be, and whether or not he was a man who ought to be
apprehended and detained as not respectable, or whether he was a man
who might himself be able to apprehend and detain THEM as persons
lacking in respectability. The debate in question, it was proposed,
should be held at the residence of the Chief of Police, who is known
to our readers as the father and the general benefactor of the town.

CHAPTER X

On assembling at the residence indicated, the tchinovniks had occasion
to remark that, owing to all these cares and excitements, every one of
their number had grown thinner. Yes, the appointment of a new
Governor-General, coupled with the rumours described and the reception
of the two serious documents above-mentioned, had left manifest traces
upon the features of every one present. More than one frockcoat had
come to look too large for its wearer, and more than one frame had
fallen away, including the frames of the President of the Council, the
Director of the Medical Department, and the Public Prosecutor. Even a
certain Semen Ivanovitch, who, for some reason or another, was never
alluded to by his family name, but who wore on his index finger a ring
with which he was accustomed to dazzle his lady friends, had
diminished in bulk. Yet, as always happens at such junctures, there
were also present a score of brazen individuals who had succeeded in
NOT losing their presence of mind, even though they constituted a
mere sprinkling. Of them the Postmaster formed one, since he was a man
of equable temperament who could always say: "WE know you,
Governor-Generals! We have seen three or four of you come and go,
whereas WE have been sitting on the same stools these thirty years."
Nevertheless a prominent feature of the gathering was the total
absence of what is vulgarly known as "common sense." In general, we
Russians do not make a good show at representative assemblies, for the
reason that, unless there be in authority a leading spirit to control
the rest, the affair always develops into confusion. Why this should
be so one could hardly say, but at all events a success is scored only
by such gatherings as have for their object dining and festivity--to
wit, gatherings at clubs or in German-run restaurants. However, on the
present occasion, the meeting was NOT one of this kind; it was a
meeting convoked of necessity, and likely in view of the threatened
calamity to affect every tchinovnik in the place. Also, in addition to
the great divergency of views expressed thereat, there was visible in
all the speakers an invincible tendency to indecision which led them
at one moment to make assertions, and at the next to contradict the
same. But on at least one point all seemed to agree--namely, that
Chichikov's appearance and conversation were too respectable for him
to be a forger or a disguised brigand. That is to say, all SEEMED to
agree on the point; until a sudden shout arose from the direction of
the Postmaster, who for some time past had been sitting plunged in thought.

"_I_ can tell you," he cried, "who Chichikov is!"

"Who, then?" replied the crowd in great excitement.

"He is none other than Captain Kopeikin."

"And who may Captain Kopeikin be?"

Taking a pinch of snuff (which he did with the lid of his snuff-box
half-open, lest some extraneous person should contrive to insert a not
over-clean finger into the stuff), the Postmaster related the
following story[1].

[1] To reproduce this story with a raciness worthy of the Russian
    original is practically impossible. The translator has not
    attempted the task.

"After fighting in the campaign of 1812, there was sent home, wounded,
a certain Captain Kopeikin--a headstrong, lively blade who, whether on
duty or under arrest, made things lively for everybody. Now, since at
Krasni or at Leipzig (it matters not which) he had lost an arm and a
leg, and in those days no provision was made for wounded soldiers, and
he could not work with his left arm alone, he set out to see his
father. Unfortunately his father could only just support himself, and
was forced to tell his son so; wherefore the Captain decided to go and
apply for help in St. Petersburg, seeing that he had risked his life
for his country, and had lost much blood in its service. You can
imagine him arriving in the capital on a baggage waggon--in the
capital which is like no other city in the world! Before him there lay
spread out the whole field of life, like a sort of Arabian Nights--a
picture made up of the Nevski Prospect, Gorokhovaia Street, countless
tapering spires, and a number of bridges apparently supported on
nothing--in fact, a regular second Nineveh. Well, he made shift to
hire a lodging, but found everything so wonderfully furnished with
blinds and Persian carpets and so forth that he saw it would mean
throwing away a lot of money. True, as one walks the streets of St.
Petersburg one seems to smell money by the thousand roubles, but our
friend Kopeikin's bank was limited to a few score coppers and a little
silver--not enough to buy a village with! At length, at the price of a
rouble a day, he obtained a lodging in the sort of tavern where the
daily ration is a bowl of cabbage soup and a crust of bread; and as he
felt that he could not manage to live very long on fare of that kind
he asked folk what he had better do. 'What you had better do?' they
said. 'Well the Government is not here--it is in Paris, and the troops
have not yet returned from the war; but there is a TEMPORARY
Commission sitting, and you had better go and see what IT can do for
you.' 'All right!' he said. 'I will go and tell the Commission that I
have shed my blood, and sacrificed my life, for my country.' And he
got up early one morning, and shaved himself with his left hand (since
the expense of a barber was not worth while), and set out, wooden leg
and all, to see the President of the Commission. But first he asked
where the President lived, and was told that his house was in
Naberezhnaia Street. And you may be sure that it was no peasant's hut,
with its glazed windows and great mirrors and statues and lacqueys and
brass door handles! Rather, it was the sort of place which you would
enter only after you had bought a cheap cake of soap and indulged in a
two hours' wash. Also, at the entrance there was posted a grand Swiss
footman with a baton and an embroidered collar--a fellow looking like
a fat, over-fed pug dog. However, friend Kopeikin managed to get
himself and his wooden leg into the reception room, and there squeezed
himself away into a corner, for fear lest he should knock down the
gilded china with his elbow. And he stood waiting in great
satisfaction at having arrived before the President had so much as
left his bed and been served with his silver wash-basin. Nevertheless,
it was only when Kopeikin had been waiting four hours that a breakfast
waiter entered to say, 'The President will soon be here.' By now the
room was as full of people as a plate is of beans, and when the
President left the breakfast-room he brought with him, oh, such
dignity and refinement, and such an air of the metropolis! First he
walked up to one person, and then up to another, saying: 'What do
YOU want? And what do YOU want? What can I do for YOU? What is
YOUR business?' And at length he stopped before Kopeikin, and
Kopeikin said to him: 'I have shed my blood, and lost both an arm and
a leg, for my country, and am unable to work. Might I therefore dare
to ask you for a little help, if the regulations should permit of it,
or for a gratuity, or for a pension, or something of the kind?' Then
the President looked at him, and saw that one of his legs was indeed a
wooden one, and that an empty right sleeve was pinned to his uniform.
'Very well,' he said. 'Come to me again in a few days' time.' Upon
this friend Kopeikin felt delighted. 'NOW I have done my job!' he
thought to himself; and you may imagine how gaily he trotted along the
pavement, and how he dropped into a tavern for a glass of vodka, and
how he ordered a cutlet and some caper sauce and some other things for
luncheon, and how he called for a bottle of wine, and how he went to
the theatre in the evening! In short, he did himself thoroughly well.
Next, he saw in the street a young English lady, as graceful as a
swan, and set off after her on his wooden leg. 'But no,' he thought to
himself. 'To the devil with that sort of thing just now! I will wait
until I have drawn my pension. For the present I have spent enough.'
(And I may tell you that by now he had got through fully half his
money.) Two or three days later he went to see the President of the
Commission again. 'I should be glad to know,' he said, 'whether by now
you can do anything for me in return for my having shed my blood and
suffered sickness and wounds on military service.' 'First of all,'
said the President, 'I must tell you that nothing can be decided in
your case without the authority of the Supreme Government. Without
that sanction we cannot move in the matter. Surely you see how things
stand until the army shall have returned from the war? All that I can
advise you to do is wait for the Minister to return, and, in the
meanwhile, to have patience. Rest assured that then you will not be
overlooked. And if for the moment you have nothing to live upon, this
is the best that I can do for you.' With that he handed Kopeikin a
trifle until his case should have been decided. However, that was not
what Kopeikin wanted. He had supposed that he would be given a
gratuity of a thousand roubles straight away; whereas, instead of
'Drink and be merry,' it was 'Wait, for the time is not yet.' Thus,
though his head had been full of soup plates and cutlets and English
girls, he now descended the steps with his ears and his tail
down--looking, in fact, like a poodle over which the cook has poured a
bucketful of water. You see, St. Petersburg life had changed him not a
little since first he had got a taste of it, and, now that the devil
only knew how he was going to live, it came all the harder to him that
he should have no more sweets to look forward to. Remember that a man
in the prime of years has an appetite like a wolf; and as he passed a
restaurant he could see a round-faced, holland-shirted, snow-white
aproned fellow of a French chef preparing a dish delicious enough to
make it turn to and eat itself; while, again, as he passed a fruit
shop he could see delicacies looking out of a window for fools to come
and buy them at a hundred roubles apiece. Imagine, therefore, his
position! On the one hand, so to speak, were salmon and water-melons,
while on the other hand was the bitter fare which passed at a tavern
for luncheon. 'Well,' he thought to himself, 'let them do what they
like with me at the Commission, but I intend to go and raise the whole
place, and to tell every blessed functionary there that I have a mind
to do as I choose.' And in truth this bold impertinence of a man did
have the hardihood to return to the Commission. 'What do you want?'
said the President. 'Why are you here for the third time? You have had
your orders given you.' 'I daresay I have,' he retorted, 'but I am not
going to be put off with THEM. I want some cutlets to eat, and a
bottle of French wine, and a chance to go and amuse myself at the
theatre.' 'Pardon me,' said the President. 'What you really need (if I
may venture to mention it) is a little patience. You have been given
something for food until the Military Committee shall have met, and
then, doubtless, you will receive your proper reward, seeing that it
would not be seemly that a man who has served his country should be
left destitute. On the other hand, if, in the meanwhile, you desire to
indulge in cutlets and theatre-going, please understand that we cannot
help you, but you must make your own resources, and try as best you
can to help yourself.' You can imagine that this went in at one of
Kopeikin's ears, and out at the other; that it was like shooting peas
at a stone wall. Accordingly he raised a turmoil which sent the staff
flying. One by one, he gave the mob of secretaries and clerks a real
good hammering. 'You, and you, and you,' he said, 'do not even know
your duties. You are law-breakers.' Yes, he trod every man of them
under foot. At length the General himself arrived from another office,
and sounded the alarm. What was to be done with a fellow like
Kopeikin? The President saw that strong measures were imperative.
'Very well,' he said. 'Since you decline to rest satisfied with what
has been given you, and quietly to await the decision of your case in
St. Petersburg, I must find you a lodging. Here, constable, remove the
man to gaol.' Then a constable who had been called to the door--a
constable three ells in height, and armed with a carbine--a man well
fitted to guard a bank--placed our friend in a police waggon. 'Well,'
reflected Kopeikin, 'at least I shan't have to pay my fare for THIS
ride. That's one comfort.' Again, after he had ridden a little way, he
said to himself: 'they told me at the Commission to go and make my own
means of enjoying myself. Very good. I'll do so.' However, what became
of Kopeikin, and whither he went, is known to no one. He sank, to use
the poet's expression, into the waters of Lethe, and his doings now
lie buried in oblivion. But allow me, gentlemen, to piece together the
further threads of the story. Not two months later there appeared in
the forests of Riazan a band of robbers: and of that band the
chieftain was none other than--"

"Allow me," put in the Head of the Police Department. "You have said
that Kopeikin had lost an arm and a leg; whereas Chichikov--"

To say anything more was unnecessary. The Postmaster clapped his hand
to his forehead, and publicly called himself a fool, though, later, he
tried to excuse his mistake by saying that in England the science of
mechanics had reached such a pitch that wooden legs were manufactured
which would enable the wearer, on touching a spring, to vanish
instantaneously from sight.

Various other theories were then propounded, among them a theory that
Chichikov was Napoleon, escaped from St. Helena and travelling about
the world in disguise. And if it should be supposed that no such
notion could possibly have been broached, let the reader remember that
these events took place not many years after the French had been
driven out of Russia, and that various prophets had since declared
that Napoleon was Antichrist, and would one day escape from his island
prison to exercise universal sway on earth. Nay, some good folk had
even declared the letters of Napoleon's name to constitute the
Apocalyptic cipher!

As a last resort, the tchinovniks decided to question Nozdrev, since
not only had the latter been the first to mention the dead souls, but
also he was supposed to stand on terms of intimacy with Chichikov.
Accordingly the Chief of Police dispatched a note by the hand of a
commissionaire. At the time Nozdrev was engaged on some very important
business--so much so that he had not left his room for four days, and
was receiving his meals through the window, and no visitors at all.
The business referred to consisted of the marking of several dozen
selected cards in such a way as to permit of his relying upon them as
upon his bosom friend. Naturally he did not like having his retirement
invaded, and at first consigned the commissionaire to the devil; but
as soon as he learnt from the note that, since a novice at cards was
to be the guest of the Chief of Police that evening, a call at the
latter's house might prove not wholly unprofitable he relented,
unlocked the door of his room, threw on the first garments that came
to hand, and set forth. To every question put to him by the
tchinovniks he answered firmly and with assurance. Chichikov, he
averred, had indeed purchased dead souls, and to the tune of several
thousand roubles. In fact, he (Nozdrev) had himself sold him some, and
still saw no reason why he should not have done so. Next, to the
question of whether or not he considered Chichikov to be a spy, he
replied in the affirmative, and added that, as long ago as his and
Chichikov's joint schooldays, the said Chichikov had been known as
"The Informer," and repeatedly been thrashed by his companions on that
account. Again, to the question of whether or not Chichikov was a
forger of currency notes the deponent, as before, responded in the
affirmative, and appended thereto an anecdote illustrative of
Chichikov's extraordinary dexterity of hand--namely, an anecdote to
that effect that, once upon a time, on learning that two million
roubles worth of counterfeit notes were lying in Chichikov's house,
the authorities had placed seals upon the building, and had surrounded
it on every side with an armed guard; whereupon Chichikov had, during
the night, changed each of these seals for a new one, and also so
arranged matters that, when the house was searched, the forged notes
were found to be genuine ones!

Again, to the question of whether or not Chichikov had schemed to
abduct the Governor's daughter, and also whether it was true that he,
Nozdrev, had undertaken to aid and abet him in the act, the witness
replied that, had he not undertaken to do so, the affair would never
have come off. At this point the witness pulled himself up, on
realising that he had told a lie which might get him into trouble; but
his tongue was not to be denied--the details trembling on its tip were
too alluring, and he even went on to cite the name of the village
church where the pair had arranged to be married, that of the priest
who had performed the ceremony, the amount of the fees paid for the
same (seventy-five roubles), and statements (1) that the priest had
refused to solemnise the wedding until Chichikov had frightened him by
threatening to expose the fact that he (the priest) had married
Mikhail, a local corn dealer, to his paramour, and (2) that Chichikov
had ordered both a koliaska for the couple's conveyance and relays of
horses from the post-houses on the road. Nay, the narrative, as
detailed by Nozdrev, even reached the point of his mentioning certain
of the postillions by name! Next, the tchinovniks sounded him on the
question of Chichikov's possible identity with Napoleon; but before
long they had reason to regret the step, for Nozdrev responded with a
rambling rigmarole such as bore no resemblance to anything possibly
conceivable. Finally, the majority of the audience left the room, and
only the Chief of Police remained to listen (in the hope of gathering
something more); but at last even he found himself forced to disclaim
the speaker with a gesture which said: "The devil only knows what the
fellow is talking about!" and so voiced the general opinion that it
was no use trying to gather figs of thistles.

Meanwhile Chichikov knew nothing of these events; for, having
contracted a slight chill, coupled with a sore throat, he had decided
to keep his room for three days; during which time he gargled his
throat with milk and fig juice, consumed the fruit from which the
juice had been extracted, and wore around his neck a poultice of
camomile and camphor. Also, to while away the hours, he made new and
more detailed lists of the souls which he had bought, perused a work
by the Duchesse de la Valliere[2], rummaged in his portmanteau, looked
through various articles and papers which he discovered in his
dispatch-box, and found every one of these occupations tedious. Nor
could he understand why none of his official friends had come to see
him and inquire after his health, seeing that, not long since, there
had been standing in front of the inn the drozhkis both of the
Postmaster, the Public Prosecutor, and the President of the Council.
He wondered and wondered, and then, with a shrug of his shoulders,
fell to pacing the room. At length he felt better, and his spirits
rose at the prospect of once more going out into the fresh air;
wherefore, having shaved a plentiful growth of hair from his face, he
dressed with such alacrity as almost to cause a split in his trousers,
sprinkled himself with eau-de-Cologne, and wrapping himself in warm
clothes, and turning up the collar of his coat, sallied forth into the
street. His first destination was intended to be the Governor's
mansion, and, as he walked along, certain thoughts concerning the
Governor's daughter would keep whirling through his head, so that
almost he forgot where he was, and took to smiling and cracking jokes
to himself.

[2] One of the mistresses of Louis XIV. of France. In 1680 she wrote a
    book called Reflexions sur la Misericorde de Dieu, par une Dame
    Penitente.

Arrived at the Governor's entrance, he was about to divest himself of
his scarf when a Swiss footman greeted him with the words, "I am
forbidden to admit you."

"What?" he exclaimed. "You do not know me? Look at me again, and see
if you do not recognise me."

"Of course I recognise you," the footman replied. "I have seen you
before, but have been ordered to admit any one else rather than
Monsieur Chichikov."

"Indeed? And why so?"

"Those are my orders, and they must be obeyed," said the footman,
confronting Chichikov with none of that politeness with which, on
former occasions, he had hastened to divest our hero of his wrappings.
Evidently he was of opinion that, since the gentry declined to receive
the visitor, the latter must certainly be a rogue.

"I cannot understand it," said Chichikov to himself. Then he departed,
and made his way to the house of the President of the Council. But so
put about was that official by Chichikov's entry that he could not
utter two consecutive words--he could only murmur some rubbish which
left both his visitor and himself out of countenance. Chichikov
wondered, as he left the house, what the President's muttered words
could have meant, but failed to make head or tail of them. Next, he
visited, in turn, the Chief of Police, the Vice-Governor, the
Postmaster, and others; but in each case he either failed to be
accorded admittance or was received so strangely, and with such a
measure of constraint and conversational awkwardness and absence of
mind and embarrassment, that he began to fear for the sanity of his
hosts. Again and again did he strive to divine the cause, but could
not do so; so he went wandering aimlessly about the town, without
succeeding in making up his mind whether he or the officials had gone
crazy. At length, in a state bordering upon bewilderment, he returned
to the inn--to the establishment whence, that every afternoon, he had
set forth in such exuberance of spirits. Feeling the need of something
to do, he ordered tea, and, still marvelling at the strangeness of his
position, was about to pour out the beverage when the door opened and
Nozdrev made his appearance.

"What says the proverb?" he began. "'To see a friend, seven versts is
not too long a round to make.' I happened to be passing the house, saw
a light in your window, and thought to myself: 'Now, suppose I were to
run up and pay him a visit? It is unlikely that he will be asleep.'
Ah, ha! I see tea on your table! Good! Then I will drink a cup with
you, for I had wretched stuff for dinner, and it is beginning to lie
heavy on my stomach. Also, tell your man to fill me a pipe. Where is
your own pipe?"

"I never smoke," rejoined Chichikov drily.

"Rubbish! As if I did not know what a chimney-pot you are! What is
your man's name? Hi, Vakhramei! Come here!"

"Petrushka is his name, not Vakhramei."

"Indeed? But you USED to have a man called Vakhramei, didn't you?"

"No, never."

"Oh, well. Then it must be Derebin's man I am thinking of. What a
lucky fellow that Derebin is! An aunt of his has gone and quarrelled
with her son for marrying a serf woman, and has left all her property
to HIM, to Derebin. Would that _I_ had an aunt of that kind to
provide against future contingencies! But why have you been hiding
yourself away? I suppose the reason has been that you go in for
abstruse subjects and are fond of reading" (why Nozdrev should have
drawn these conclusions no one could possibly have said--least of all
Chichikov himself). "By the way, I can tell you of something that
would have found you scope for your satirical vein" (the conclusion as
to Chichikov's "satirical vein" was, as before, altogether unwarranted
on Nozdrev's part). "That is to say, you would have seen merchant
Likhachev losing a pile of money at play. My word, you would have
laughed! A fellow with me named Perependev said: 'Would that Chichikov
had been here! It would have been the very thing for him!'" (As a
matter of fact, never since the day of his birth had Nozdrev met any
one of the name of Perependev.) "However, my friend, you must admit
that you treated me rather badly the day that we played that game of
chess; but, as I won the game, I bear you no malice. A propos, I am
just from the President's, and ought to tell you that the feeling
against you in the town is very strong, for every one believes you to
be a forger of currency notes. I myself was sent for and questioned
about you, but I stuck up for you through thick and thin, and told the
tchinovniks that I had been at school with you, and had known your
father. In fact, I gave the fellows a knock or two for themselves."

"You say that I am believed to be a forger?" said Chichikov, starting
from his seat.

"Yes," said Nozdrev. "Why have you gone and frightened everybody as
you have done? Some of our folk are almost out of their minds about
it, and declare you to be either a brigand in disguise or a spy.
Yesterday the Public Prosecutor even died of it, and is to be buried
to-morrow" (this was true in so far as that, on the previous day, the
official in question had had a fatal stroke--probably induced by the
excitement of the public meeting). "Of course, _I_ don't suppose you
to be anything of the kind, but, you see, these fellows are in a blue
funk about the new Governor-General, for they think he will make
trouble for them over your affair. A propos, he is believed to be a
man who puts on airs, and turns up his nose at everything; and if so,
he will get on badly with the dvoriane, seeing that fellows of that
sort need to be humoured a bit. Yes, my word! Should the new
Governor-General shut himself up in his study, and give no balls,
there will be the very devil to pay! By the way, Chichikov, that is a
risky scheme of yours."

"What scheme to you mean?" Chichikov asked uneasily.

"Why, that scheme of carrying off the Governor's daughter. However, to
tell the truth, I was expecting something of the kind. No sooner did I
see you and her together at the ball than I said to myself: 'Ah, ha!
Chichikov is not here for nothing!' For my own part, I think you have
made a poor choice, for I can see nothing in her at all. On the other
hand, the niece of a friend of mine named Bikusov--she IS a girl,
and no mistake! A regular what you might call 'miracle in muslin!'"

"What on earth are you talking about?" asked Chichikov with his eyes
distended. "HOW could I carry off the Governor's daughter? What on
earth do you mean?"

"Come, come! What a secretive fellow you are! My only object in having
come to see you is to lend you a helping hand in the matter. Look
here. On condition that you will lend me three thousand roubles, I
will stand you the cost of the wedding, the koliaska, and the relays
of horses. I must have the money even if I die for it."

Throughout Nozdrev's maunderings Chichikov had been rubbing his eyes
to ascertain whether or not he was dreaming. What with the charge of
being a forger, the accusation of having schemed an abduction, the
death of the Public Prosecutor (whatever might have been its cause),
and the advent of a new Governor-General, he felt utterly dismayed.

"Things having come to their present pass," he reflected, "I had
better not linger here--I had better be off at once."

Getting rid of Nozdrev as soon as he could, he sent for Selifan, and
ordered him to be up at daybreak, in order to clean the britchka and
to have everything ready for a start at six o'clock. Yet, though
Selifan replied, "Very well, Paul Ivanovitch," he hesitated awhile by
the door. Next, Chichikov bid Petrushka get out the dusty portmanteau
from under the bed, and then set to work to cram into it, pell-mell,
socks, shirts, collars (both clean and dirty), boot trees, a calendar,
and a variety of other articles. Everything went into the receptacle
just as it came to hand, since his one object was to obviate any
possible delay in the morning's departure. Meanwhile the reluctant
Selifan slowly, very slowly, left the room, as slowly descended the
staircase (on each separate step of which he left a muddy foot-print),
and, finally, halted to scratch his head. What that scratching may
have meant no one could say; for, with the Russian populace, such a
scratching may mean any one of a hundred things.

CHAPTER XI

Nevertheless events did not turn out as Chichikov had intended they
should. In the first place, he overslept himself. That was check
number one. In the second place, on his rising and inquiring whether
the britchka had been harnessed and everything got ready, he was
informed that neither of those two things had been done. That was
check number two. Beside himself with rage, he prepared to give
Selifan the wigging of his life, and, meanwhile, waited impatiently to
hear what the delinquent had got to say in his defence. It goes
without saying that when Selifan made his appearance in the doorway he
had only the usual excuses to offer--the sort of excuses usually
offered by servants when a hasty departure has become imperatively
necessary.

"Paul Ivanovitch," he said, "the horses require shoeing."

"Blockhead!" exclaimed Chichikov. "Why did you not tell me of that
before, you damned fool? Was there not time enough for them to be
shod?"

"Yes, I suppose there was," agreed Selifan. "Also one of the wheels is
in want of a new tyre, for the roads are so rough that the old tyre is
worn through. Also, the body of the britchka is so rickety that
probably it will not last more than a couple of stages."

"Rascal!" shouted Chichikov, clenching his fists and approaching
Selifan in such a manner that, fearing to receive a blow, the man
backed and dodged aside. "Do you mean to ruin me, and to break all our
bones on the road, you cursed idiot? For these three weeks past you
have been doing nothing at all; yet now, at the last moment, you come
here stammering and playing the fool! Do you think I keep you just to
eat and to drive yourself about? You must have known of this before?
Did you, or did you not, know it? Answer me at once."

"Yes, I did know it," replied Selifan, hanging his head.

"Then why didn't you tell me about it?"

Selifan had no reply immediately ready, so continued to hang his head
while quietly saying to himself: "See how well I have managed things!
I knew what was the matter, yet I did not say."

"And now," continued Chichikov, "go you at once and fetch a
blacksmith. Tell him that everything must be put right within two
hours at the most. Do you hear? If that should not be done, I, I--I
will give you the best flogging that ever you had in your life." Truly
Chichikov was almost beside himself with fury.

Turning towards the door, as though for the purpose of going and
carrying out his orders, Selifan halted and added:

"That skewbald, barin--you might think it well to sell him, seeing
that he is nothing but a rascal? A horse like that is more of a
hindrance than a help."

"What? Do you expect me to go NOW to the market-place and sell him?"

"Well, Paul Ivanovitch, he is good for nothing but show, since by nature
he is a most cunning beast. Never in my life have I seen such a horse."

"Fool! Whenever I may wish to sell him I SHALL sell him. Meanwhile,
don't you trouble your head about what doesn't concern you, but go and
fetch a blacksmith, and see that everything is put right within two
hours. Otherwise I will take the very hair off your head, and beat you
till you haven't a face left. Be off! Hurry!"

Selifan departed, and Chichikov, his ill-humour vented, threw down
upon the floor the poignard which he always took with him as a means
of instilling respect into whomsoever it might concern, and spent the
next quarter of an hour in disputing with a couple of blacksmiths--men
who, as usual, were rascals of the type which, on perceiving that
something is wanted in a hurry, at once multiplies its terms for
providing the same. Indeed, for all Chichikov's storming and raging as
he dubbed the fellows robbers and extortioners and thieves, he could
make no impression upon the pair, since, true to their character, they
declined to abate their prices, and, even when they had begun their
work, spent upon it, not two hours, but five and a half. Meanwhile he
had the satisfaction of experiencing that delightful time with which
all travellers are familiar--namely, the time during which one sits in
a room where, except for a litter of string, waste paper, and so
forth, everything else has been packed. But to all things there comes
an end, and there arrived also the long-awaited moment when the
britchka had received the luggage, the faulty wheel had been fitted
with a new tyre, the horses had been re-shod, and the predatory
blacksmiths had departed with their gains. "Thank God!" thought
Chichikov as the britchka rolled out of the gates of the inn, and the
vehicle began to jolt over the cobblestones. Yet a feeling which he
could not altogether have defined filled his breast as he gazed upon
the houses and the streets and the garden walls which he might never
see again. Presently, on turning a corner, the britchka was brought to
a halt through the fact that along the street there was filing a
seemingly endless funeral procession. Leaning forward in his britchka,
Chichikov asked Petrushka whose obsequies the procession represented,
and was told that they represented those of the Public Prosecutor.
Disagreeably shocked, our hero hastened to raise the hood of the
vehicle, to draw the curtains across the windows, and to lean back
into a corner. While the britchka remained thus halted Selifan and
Petrushka, their caps doffed, sat watching the progress of the
cortege, after they had received strict instructions not to greet any
fellow-servant whom they might recognise. Behind the hearse walked the
whole body of tchinovniks, bare-headed; and though, for a moment or
two, Chichikov feared that some of their number might discern him in
his britchka, he need not have disturbed himself, since their
attention was otherwise engaged. In fact, they were not even
exchanging the small talk customary among members of such processions,
but thinking exclusively of their own affairs, of the advent of the
new Governor-General, and of the probable manner in which he would
take up the reins of administration. Next came a number of carriages,
from the windows of which peered the ladies in mourning toilets. Yet
the movements of their hands and lips made it evident that they were
indulging in animated conversation--probably about the
Governor-General, the balls which he might be expected to give, and
their own eternal fripperies and gewgaws. Lastly came a few empty
drozhkis. As soon as the latter had passed, our hero was able to
continue on his way. Throwing back the hood of the britchka, he said
to himself:

"Ah, good friend, you have lived your life, and now it is over! In the
newspapers they will say of you that you died regretted not only by
your subordinates, but also by humanity at large, as well as that, a
respected citizen, a kind father, and a husband beyond reproach, you
went to your grave amid the tears of your widow and orphans. Yet,
should those journals be put to it to name any particular circumstance
which justified this eulogy of you, they would be forced to fall back
upon the fact that you grew a pair of exceptionally thick eyebrows!"

With that Chichikov bid Selifan quicken his pace, and concluded:
"After all, it is as well that I encountered the procession, for they
say that to meet a funeral is lucky."

Presently the britchka turned into some less frequented streets, lines
of wooden fencing of the kind which mark the outskirts of a town began
to file by, the cobblestones came to an end, the macadam of the
highroad succeeded to them, and once more there began on either side
of the turnpike a procession of verst stones, road menders, and grey
villages; inns with samovars and peasant women and landlords who came
running out of yards with seivefuls of oats; pedestrians in worn shoes
which, it might be, had covered eight hundred versts; little towns,
bright with booths for the sale of flour in barrels, boots, small
loaves, and other trifles; heaps of slag; much repaired bridges;
expanses of field to right and to left; stout landowners; a mounted
soldier bearing a green, iron-clamped box inscribed: "The --th Battery
of Artillery"; long strips of freshly-tilled earth which gleamed
green, yellow, and black on the face of the countryside. With it
mingled long-drawn singing, glimpses of elm-tops amid mist, the
far-off notes of bells, endless clouds of rocks, and the illimitable
line of the horizon.

Ah, Russia, Russia, from my beautiful home in a strange land I can
still see you! In you everything is poor and disordered and unhomely;
in you the eye is neither cheered nor dismayed by temerities of nature
which a yet more temerarious art has conquered; in you one beholds no
cities with lofty, many-windowed mansions, lofty as crags, no
picturesque trees, no ivy-clad ruins, no waterfalls with their
everlasting spray and roar, no beetling precipices which confuse the
brain with their stony immensity, no vistas of vines and ivy and
millions of wild roses and ageless lines of blue hills which look
almost unreal against the clear, silvery background of the sky. In you
everything is flat and open; your towns project like points or signals
from smooth levels of plain, and nothing whatsoever enchants or
deludes the eye. Yet what secret, what invincible force draws me to
you? Why does there ceaselessly echo and re-echo in my ears the sad
song which hovers throughout the length and the breadth of your
borders? What is the burden of that song? Why does it wail and sob and
catch at my heart? What say the notes which thus painfully caress and
embrace my soul, and flit, uttering their lamentations, around me?
What is it you seek of me, O Russia? What is the hidden bond which
subsists between us? Why do you regard me as you do? Why does
everything within you turn upon me eyes full of yearning? Even at this
moment, as I stand dumbly, fixedly, perplexedly contemplating your
vastness, a menacing cloud, charged with gathering rain, seems to
overshadow my head. What is it that your boundless expanses presage?
Do they not presage that one day there will arise in you ideas as
boundless as yourself? Do they not presage that one day you too will
know no limits? Do they not presage that one day, when again you shall
have room for their exploits, there will spring to life the heroes of
old? How the power of your immensity enfolds me, and reverberates
through all my being with a wild, strange spell, and flashes in my
eyes with an almost supernatural radiance! Yes, a strange, brilliant,
unearthly vista indeed do you disclose, O Russia, country of mine!

"Stop, stop, you fool!" shouted Chichikov to Selifan; and even as he
spoke a troika, bound on Government business, came chattering by, and
disappeared in a cloud of dust. To Chichikov's curses at Selifan for
not having drawn out of the way with more alacrity a rural constable
with moustaches of the length of an arshin added his quota.

What a curious and attractive, yet also what an unreal, fascination
the term "highway" connotes! And how interesting for its own sake is a
highway! Should the day be a fine one (though chilly) in mellowing
autumn, press closer your travelling cloak, and draw down your cap
over your ears, and snuggle cosily, comfortably into a corner of the
britchka before a last shiver shall course through your limbs, and the
ensuing warmth shall put to flight the autumnal cold and damp. As the
horses gallop on their way, how delightfully will drowsiness come
stealing upon you, and make your eyelids droop! For a while, through
your somnolence, you will continue to hear the hard breathing of the
team and the rumbling of the wheels; but at length, sinking back into
your corner, you will relapse into the stage of snoring. And when you
awake--behold! you will find that five stages have slipped away, and
that the moon is shining, and that you have reached a strange town of
churches and old wooden cupolas and blackened spires and white,
half-timbered houses! And as the moonlight glints hither and thither,
almost you will believe that the walls and the streets and the
pavements of the place are spread with sheets--sheets shot with
coal-black shadows which make the wooden roofs look all the brighter
under the slanting beams of the pale luminary. Nowhere is a soul to be
seen, for every one is plunged in slumber. Yet no. In a solitary
window a light is flickering where some good burgher is mending his
boots, or a baker drawing a batch of dough. O night and powers of
heaven, how perfect is the blackness of your infinite vault--how
lofty, how remote its inaccessible depths where it lies spread in an
intangible, yet audible, silence! Freshly does the lulling breath of
night blow in your face, until once more you relapse into snoring
oblivion, and your poor neighbour turns angrily in his corner as he
begins to be conscious of your weight. Then again you awake, but this
time to find yourself confronted with only fields and steppes.
Everywhere in the ascendant is the desolation of space. But suddenly
the ciphers on a verst stone leap to the eye! Morning is rising, and
on the chill, gradually paling line of the horizon you can see
gleaming a faint gold streak. The wind freshens and grows keener, and
you snuggle closer in your cloak; yet how glorious is that freshness,
and how marvellous the sleep in which once again you become enfolded!
A jolt!--and for the last time you return to consciousness. By now the
sun is high in the heavens, and you hear a voice cry "gently, gently!"
as a farm waggon issues from a by-road. Below, enclosed within an
ample dike, stretches a sheet of water which glistens like copper in
the sunlight. Beyond, on the side of a slope, lie some scattered
peasants' huts, a manor house, and, flanking the latter, a village
church with its cross flashing like a star. There also comes wafted to
your ear the sound of peasants' laughter, while in your inner man you
are becoming conscious of an appetite which is not to be withstood.

Oh long-drawn highway, how excellent you are! How often have I in
weariness and despondency set forth upon your length, and found in you
salvation and rest! How often, as I followed your leading, have I been
visited with wonderful thoughts and poetic dreams and curious, wild
impressions!

At this moment our friend Chichikov also was experiencing visions of a
not wholly prosaic nature. Let us peep into his soul and share them.
At first he remained unconscious of anything whatsoever, for he was
too much engaged in making sure that he was really clear of the town;
but as soon as he saw that it had completely disappeared, with its
mills and factories and other urban appurtenances, and that even the
steeples of the white stone churches had sunk below the horizon, he
turned his attention to the road, and the town of N. vanished from his
thoughts as completely as though he had not seen it since childhood.
Again, in its turn, the road ceased to interest him, and he began to
close his eyes and to loll his head against the cushions. Of this let
the author take advantage, in order to speak at length concerning his
hero; since hitherto he (the author) has been prevented from so doing
by Nozdrev and balls and ladies and local intrigues--by those thousand
trifles which seem trifles only when they are introduced into a book,
but which, in life, figure as affairs of importance. Let us lay them
aside, and betake ourselves to business.

Whether the character whom I have selected for my hero has pleased my
readers is, of course, exceedingly doubtful. At all events the ladies
will have failed to approve him for the fair sex demands in a hero
perfection, and, should there be the least mental or physical stain on
him--well, woe betide! Yes, no matter how profoundly the author may
probe that hero's soul, no matter how clearly he may portray his
figure as in a mirror, he will be given no credit for the achievement.
Indeed, Chichikov's very stoutness and plenitude of years may have
militated against him, for never is a hero pardoned for the former,
and the majority of ladies will, in such case, turn away, and mutter
to themselves: "Phew! What a beast!" Yes, the author is well aware of
this. Yet, though he could not, to save his life, take a person of
virtue for his principal character, it may be that this story contains
themes never before selected, and that in it there projects the whole
boundless wealth of Russian psychology; that it portrays, as well as
Chichikov, the peasant who is gifted with the virtues which God has
sent him, and the marvellous maiden of Russia who has not her like in
all the world for her beautiful feminine spirituality, the roots of
which lie buried in noble aspirations and boundless self-denial. In
fact, compared with these types, the virtuous of other races seem
lifeless, as does an inanimate volume when compared with the living
word. Yes, each time that there arises in Russia a movement of
thought, it becomes clear that the movement sinks deep into the
Slavonic nature where it would but have skimmed the surface of other
nations.--But why am I talking like this? Whither am I tending? It is
indeed shameful that an author who long ago reached man's estate, and
was brought up to a course of severe introspection and sober, solitary
self-enlightenment, should give way to such jejune wandering from the
point. To everything its proper time and place and turn. As I was
saying, it does not lie in me to take a virtuous character for my
hero: and I will tell you why. It is because it is high time that a
rest were given to the "poor, but virtuous" individual; it is because
the phrase "a man of worth" has grown into a by-word; it is because
the "man of worth" has become converted into a horse, and there is not
a writer but rides him and flogs him, in and out of season; it is
because the "man of worth" has been starved until he has not a shred
of his virtue left, and all that remains of his body is but the ribs
and the hide; it is because the "man of worth" is for ever being
smuggled upon the scene; it is because the "man of worth" has at
length forfeited every one's respect. For these reasons do I reaffirm
that it is high time to yoke a rascal to the shafts. Let us yoke that
rascal.

Our hero's beginnings were both modest and obscure. True, his parents
were dvoriane, but he in no way resembled them. At all events, a
short, squab female relative who was present at his birth exclaimed as
she lifted up the baby: "He is altogether different from what I had
expected him to be. He ought to have taken after his maternal
grandmother, whereas he has been born, as the proverb has it, 'like
not father nor mother, but like a chance passer-by.'" Thus from the
first life regarded the little Chichikov with sour distaste, and as
through a dim, frost-encrusted window. A tiny room with diminutive
casements which were never opened, summer or winter; an invalid father
in a dressing-gown lined with lambskin, and with an ailing foot
swathed in bandages--a man who was continually drawing deep breaths,
and walking up and down the room, and spitting into a sandbox; a
period of perpetually sitting on a bench with pen in hand and ink on
lips and fingers; a period of being eternally confronted with the
copy-book maxim, "Never tell a lie, but obey your superiors, and
cherish virtue in your heart;" an everlasting scraping and shuffling
of slippers up and down the room; a period of continually hearing a
well-known, strident voice exclaim: "So you have been playing the fool
again!" at times when the child, weary of the mortal monotony of his
task, had added a superfluous embellishment to his copy; a period of
experiencing the ever-familiar, but ever-unpleasant, sensation which
ensued upon those words as the boy's ear was painfully twisted between
two long fingers bent backwards at the tips--such is the miserable
picture of that youth of which, in later life, Chichikov preserved but
the faintest of memories! But in this world everything is liable to
swift and sudden change; and, one day in early spring, when the rivers
had melted, the father set forth with his little son in a
teliezshka[1] drawn by a sorrel steed of the kind known to horsy folk
as a soroka, and having as coachman the diminutive hunchback who,
father of the only serf family belonging to the elder Chichikov,
served as general factotum in the Chichikov establishment. For a day
and a half the soroka conveyed them on their way; during which time
they spent the night at a roadside inn, crossed a river, dined off
cold pie and roast mutton, and eventually arrived at the county town.
To the lad the streets presented a spectacle of unwonted brilliancy,
and he gaped with amazement. Turning into a side alley wherein the
mire necessitated both the most strenuous exertions on the soroka's
part and the most vigorous castigation on the part of the driver and
the barin, the conveyance eventually reached the gates of a courtyard
which, combined with a small fruit garden containing various bushes, a
couple of apple-trees in blossom, and a mean, dirty little shed,
constituted the premises attached to an antiquated-looking villa. Here
there lived a relative of the Chichikovs, a wizened old lady who went
to market in person and dried her stockings at the samovar. On seeing
the boy, she patted his cheek and expressed satisfaction at his
physique; whereupon the fact became disclosed that here he was to
abide for a while, for the purpose of attending a local school. After
a night's rest his father prepared to betake himself homeward again;
but no tears marked the parting between him and his son, he merely
gave the lad a copper or two and (a far more important thing) the
following injunctions. "See here, my boy. Do your lessons well, do not
idle or play the fool, and above all things, see that you please your
teachers. So long as you observe these rules you will make progress,
and surpass your fellows, even if God shall have denied you brains,
and you should fail in your studies. Also, do not consort overmuch
with your comrades, for they will do you no good; but, should you do
so, then make friends with the richer of them, since one day they may
be useful to you. Also, never entertain or treat any one, but see that
every one entertains and treats YOU. Lastly, and above all else,
keep and save your every kopeck. To save money is the most important
thing in life. Always a friend or a comrade may fail you, and be the
first to desert you in a time of adversity; but never will a KOPECK
fail you, whatever may be your plight. Nothing in the world cannot be
done, cannot be attained, with the aid of money." These injunctions
given, the father embraced his son, and set forth on his return; and
though the son never again beheld his parent, the latter's words and
precepts sank deep into the little Chichikov's soul.

[1] Four-wheeled open carriage.

The next day young Pavlushka made his first attendance at school. But
no special aptitude in any branch of learning did he display. Rather,
his distinguishing characteristics were diligence and neatness. On the
other hand, he developed great intelligence as regards the PRACTICAL
aspect of life. In a trice he divined and comprehended how things
ought to be worked, and, from that time forth, bore himself towards
his school-fellows in such a way that, though they frequently gave him
presents, he not only never returned the compliment, but even on
occasions pocketed the gifts for the mere purpose of selling them
again. Also, boy though he was, he acquired the art of self-denial. Of
the trifle which his father had given him on parting he spent not a
kopeck, but, the same year, actually added to his little store by
fashioning a bullfinch of wax, painting it, and selling the same at a
handsome profit. Next, as time went on, he engaged in other
speculations--in particular, in the scheme of buying up eatables,
taking his seat in class beside boys who had plenty of pocket-money,
and, as soon as such opulent individuals showed signs of failing
attention (and, therefore, of growing appetite), tendering them, from
beneath the desk, a roll of pudding or a piece of gingerbread, and
charging according to degree of appetite and size of portion. He also
spent a couple of months in training a mouse, which he kept confined
in a little wooden cage in his bedroom. At length, when the training
had reached the point that, at the several words of command, the mouse
would stand upon its hind legs, lie down, and get up again, he sold
the creature for a respectable sum. Thus, in time, his gains attained
the amount of five roubles; whereupon he made himself a purse and then
started to fill a second receptacle of the kind. Still more studied
was his attitude towards the authorities. No one could sit more
quietly in his place on the bench than he. In the same connection it
may be remarked that his teacher was a man who, above all things,
loved peace and good behaviour, and simply could not abide clever,
witty boys, since he suspected them of laughing at him. Consequently
any lad who had once attracted the master's attention with a
manifestation of intelligence needed but to shuffle in his place, or
unintentionally to twitch an eyebrow, for the said master at once to
burst into a rage, to turn the supposed offender out of the room, and
to visit him with unmerciful punishment. "Ah, my fine fellow," he
would say, "I'LL cure you of your impudence and want of respect! I
know you through and through far better than you know yourself, and
will take good care that you have to go down upon your knees and curb
your appetite." Whereupon the wretched lad would, for no cause of
which he was aware, be forced to wear out his breeches on the floor
and go hungry for days. "Talents and gifts," the schoolmaster would
declare, "are so much rubbish. I respect only good behaviour, and
shall award full marks to those who conduct themselves properly, even
if they fail to learn a single letter of their alphabet: whereas to
those in whom I may perceive a tendency to jocularity I shall award
nothing, even though they should outdo Solon himself." For the same
reason he had no great love of the author Krylov, in that the latter
says in one of his Fables: "In my opinion, the more one sings, the
better one works;" and often the pedagogue would relate how, in a
former school of his, the silence had been such that a fly could be
heard buzzing on the wing, and for the space of a whole year not a
single pupil sneezed or coughed in class, and so complete was the
absence of all sound that no one could have told that there was a soul
in the place. Of this mentor young Chichikov speedily appraised the
mentality; wherefore he fashioned his behaviour to correspond with it.
Not an eyelid, not an eyebrow, would he stir during school hours,
howsoever many pinches he might receive from behind; and only when the
bell rang would he run to anticipate his fellows in handing the master
the three-cornered cap which that dignitary customarily sported, and
then to be the first to leave the class-room, and contrive to meet the
master not less than two or three times as the latter walked homeward,
in order that, on each occasion, he might doff his cap. And the scheme
proved entirely successful. Throughout the period of his attendance at
school he was held in high favour, and, on leaving the establishment,
received full marks for every subject, as well as a diploma and a book
inscribed (in gilt letters) "For Exemplary Diligence and the
Perfection of Good Conduct." By this time he had grown into a fairly
good-looking youth of the age when the chin first calls for a razor;
and at about the same period his father died, leaving behind him, as
his estate, four waistcoats completely worn out, two ancient
frockcoats, and a small sum of money. Apparently he had been skilled
only in RECOMMENDING the saving of kopecks--not in ACTUALLY
PRACTISING the art. Upon that Chichikov sold the old house and its
little parcel of land for a thousand roubles, and removed, with his
one serf and the serf's family, to the capital, where he set about
organising a new establishment and entering the Civil Service.
Simultaneously with his doing so, his old schoolmaster lost (through
stupidity or otherwise) the establishment over which he had hitherto
presided, and in which he had set so much store by silence and good
behaviour. Grief drove him to drink, and when nothing was left, even
for that purpose, he retired--ill, helpless, and starving--into a
broken-down, cheerless hovel. But certain of his former pupils--the
same clever, witty lads whom he had once been wont to accuse of
impertinence and evil conduct generally--heard of his pitiable plight,
and collected for him what money they could, even to the point of
selling their own necessaries. Only Chichikov, when appealed to,
pleaded inability, and compromised with a contribution of a single
piatak[2]: which his old schoolfellows straightway returned him--full
in the face, and accompanied with a shout of "Oh, you skinflint!" As
for the poor schoolmaster, when he heard what his former pupils had
done, he buried his face in his hands, and the tears gushed from his
failing eyes as from those of a helpless infant. "God has brought you
but to weep over my death-bed," he murmured feebly; and added with a
profound sigh, on hearing of Chichikov's conduct: "Ah, Pavlushka, how
a human being may become changed! Once you were a good lad, and gave
me no trouble; but now you are become proud indeed!"

[2] Silver five kopeck piece.

Yet let it not be inferred from this that our hero's character had
grown so blase and hard, or his conscience so blunted, as to preclude
his experiencing a particle of sympathy or compassion. As a matter of
fact, he was capable both of the one and the other, and would have
been glad to assist his old teacher had no great sum been required, or
had he not been called upon to touch the fund which he had decided
should remain intact. In other words, the father's injunction, "Guard
and save every kopeck," had become a hard and fast rule of the son's.
Yet the youth had no particular attachment to money for money's sake;
he was not possessed with the true instinct for hoarding and
niggardliness. Rather, before his eyes there floated ever a vision of
life and its amenities and advantages--a vision of carriages and an
elegantly furnished house and recherche dinners; and it was in the
hope that some day he might attain these things that he saved every
kopeck and, meanwhile, stinted both himself and others. Whenever a
rich man passed him by in a splendid drozhki drawn by swift and
handsomely-caparisoned horses, he would halt as though deep in
thought, and say to himself, like a man awakening from a long sleep:
"That gentleman must have been a financier, he has so little hair on
his brow." In short, everything connected with wealth and plenty
produced upon him an ineffaceable impression. Even when he left school
he took no holiday, so strong in him was the desire to get to work and
enter the Civil Service. Yet, for all the encomiums contained in his
diploma, he had much ado to procure a nomination to a Government
Department; and only after a long time was a minor post found for him,
at a salary of thirty or fourty roubles a year. Nevertheless, wretched
though this appointment was, he determined, by strict attention to
business, to overcome all obstacles, and to win success. And, indeed,
the self-denial, the patience, and the economy which he displayed were
remarkable. From early morn until late at night he would, with
indefatigable zeal of body and mind, remain immersed in his sordid
task of copying official documents--never going home, snatching what
sleep he could on tables in the building, and dining with the watchman
on duty. Yet all the while he contrived to remain clean and neat, to
preserve a cheerful expression of countenance, and even to cultivate a
certain elegance of movement. In passing, it may be remarked that his
fellow tchinovniks were a peculiarly plain, unsightly lot, some of
them having faces like badly baked bread, swollen cheeks, receding
chins, and cracked and blistered upper lips. Indeed, not a man of them
was handsome. Also, their tone of voice always contained a note of
sullenness, as though they had a mind to knock some one on the head;
and by their frequent sacrifices to Bacchus they showed that even yet
there remains in the Slavonic nature a certain element of paganism.
Nay, the Director's room itself they would invade while still licking
their lips, and since their breath was not over-aromatic, the
atmosphere of the room grew not over-pleasant. Naturally, among such
an official staff a man like Chichikov could not fail to attract
attention and remark, since in everything--in cheerfulness of
demeanour, in suavity of voice, and in complete neglect of the use of
strong potions--he was the absolute antithesis of his companions. Yet
his path was not an easy one to tread, for over him he had the
misfortune to have placed in authority a Chief Clerk who was a graven
image of elderly insensibility and inertia. Always the same, always
unapproachable, this functionary could never in his life have smiled
or asked civilly after an acquaintance's health. Nor had any one ever
seen him a whit different in the street or at his own home from what
he was in the office, or showing the least interest in anything
whatever, or getting drunk and relapsing into jollity in his cups, or
indulging in that species of wild gaiety which, when intoxicated, even
a burglar affects. No, not a particle of this was there in him. Nor,
for that matter, was there in him a particle of anything at all,
whether good or bad: which complete negativeness of character produced
rather a strange effect. In the same way, his wizened, marble-like
features reminded one of nothing in particular, so primly proportioned
were they. Only the numerous pockmarks and dimples with which they
were pitted placed him among the number of those over whose faces, to
quote the popular saying, "The Devil has walked by night to grind
peas." In short, it would seem that no human agency could have
approached such a man and gained his goodwill. Yet Chichikov made the
effort. As a first step, he took to consulting the other's convenience
in all manner of insignificant trifles--to cleaning his pens
carefully, and, when they had been prepared exactly to the Chief
Clerk's liking, laying them ready at his elbow; to dusting and
sweeping from his table all superfluous sand and tobacco ash; to
procuring a new mat for his inkstand; to looking for his hat--the
meanest-looking hat that ever the world beheld--and having it ready
for him at the exact moment when business came to an end; to brushing
his back if it happened to become smeared with whitewash from a wall.
Yet all this passed as unnoticed as though it had never been done.
Finally, Chichikov sniffed into his superior's family and domestic
life, and learnt that he possessed a grown-up daughter on whose face
also there had taken place a nocturnal, diabolical grinding of peas.
HERE was a quarter whence a fresh attack might be delivered! After
ascertaining what church the daughter attended on Sundays, our hero
took to contriving to meet her in a neat suit and a well-starched
dickey: and soon the scheme began to work. The surly Chief Clerk
wavered for a while; then ended by inviting Chichikov to tea. Nor
could any man in the office have told you how it came about that
before long Chichikov had removed to the Chief Clerk's house, and
become a person necessary--indeed indispensable--to the household,
seeing that he bought the flour and the sugar, treated the daughter as
his betrothed, called the Chief Clerk "Papenka," and occasionally
kissed "Papenka's" hand. In fact, every one at the office supposed
that, at the end of February (i.e. before the beginning of Lent) there
would take place a wedding. Nay, the surly father even began to
agitate with the authorities on Chichikov's behalf, and so enabled our
hero, on a vacancy occurring, to attain the stool of a Chief Clerk.
Apparently this marked the consummation of Chichikov's relations with
his host, for he hastened stealthily to pack his trunk and, the next
day, figured in a fresh lodging. Also, he ceased to call the Chief
Clerk "Papenka," or to kiss his hand; and the matter of the wedding
came to as abrupt a termination as though it had never been mooted.
Yet also he never failed to press his late host's hand, whenever he
met him, and to invite him to tea; while, on the other hand, for all
his immobility and dry indifference, the Chief Clerk never failed to
shake his head with a muttered, "Ah, my fine fellow, you have grown
too proud, you have grown too proud."

The foregoing constituted the most difficult step that our hero had to
negotiate. Thereafter things came with greater ease and swifter
success. Everywhere he attracted notice, for he developed within
himself everything necessary for this world--namely, charm of manner
and bearing, and great diligence in business matters. Armed with these
resources, he next obtained promotion to what is known as "a fat
post," and used it to the best advantage; and even though, at that
period, strict inquiry had begun to be made into the whole subject of
bribes, such inquiry failed to alarm him--nay, he actually turned it
to account and thereby manifested the Russian resourcefulness which
never fails to attain its zenith where extortion is concerned. His
method of working was the following. As soon as a petitioner or a
suitor put his hand into his pocket, to extract thence the necessary
letters of recommendation for signature, Chichikov would smilingly
exclaim as he detained his interlocutor's hand: "No, no! Surely you do
not think that I--? But no, no! It is our duty, it is our obligation,
and we do not require rewards for doing our work properly. So far as
YOUR matter is concerned, you may rest easy. Everything shall be
carried through to-morrow. But may I have your address? There is no
need to trouble yourself, seeing that the documents can easily be
brought to you at your residence." Upon which the delighted suitor
would return home in raptures, thinking: "Here, at long last, is the
sort of man so badly needed. A man of that kind is a jewel beyond
price." Yet for a day, for two days--nay, even for three--the suitor
would wait in vain so far as any messengers with documents were
concerned. Then he would repair to the office--to find that his
business had not so much as been entered upon! Lastly, he would
confront the "jewel beyond price." "Oh, pardon me, pardon me!"
Chichikov would exclaim in the politest of tones as he seized and
grasped the visitor's hands. "The truth is that we have SUCH a
quantity of business on hand! But the matter shall be put through
to-morrow, and in the meanwhile I am most sorry about it." And with
this would go the most fascinating of gestures. Yet neither on the
morrow, nor on the day following, nor on the third would documents
arrive at the suitor's abode. Upon that he would take thought as to
whether something more ought not to have been done; and, sure enough,
on his making inquiry, he would be informed that "something will have
to be given to the copyists." "Well, there can be no harm in that," he
would reply. "As a matter of fact, I have ready a tchetvertak[3] or
two." "Oh, no, no," the answer would come. "Not a tchetvertak per
copyist, but a rouble, is the fee." "What? A rouble per copyist?"
"Certainly. What is there to grumble at in that? Of the money the
copyists will receive a tchetvertak apiece, and the rest will go to
the Government." Upon that the disillusioned suitor would fly out upon
the new order of things brought about by the inquiry into illicit
fees, and curse both the tchinovniks and their uppish, insolent
behaviour. "Once upon a time," would the suitor lament, "one DID
know what to do. Once one had tipped the Director a bank-note, one's
affair was, so to speak, in the hat. But now one has to pay a rouble
per copyist after waiting a week because otherwise it was impossible
to guess how the wind might set! The devil fly away with all
'disinterested' and 'trustworthy' tchinovniks!" And certainly the
aggrieved suitor had reason to grumble, seeing that, now that
bribe-takers had ceased to exist, and Directors had uniformly become
men of honour and integrity, secretaries and clerks ought not with
impunity to have continued their thievish ways. In time there opened
out to Chichikov a still wider field, for a Commission was appointed
to supervise the erection of a Government building, and, on his being
nominated to that body, he proved himself one of its most active
members. The Commission got to work without delay, but for a space of
six years had some trouble with the building in question. Either the
climate hindered operations or the materials used were of the kind
which prevents official edifices from ever rising higher than the
basement. But, meanwhile, OTHER quarters of the town saw arise, for
each member of the Commission, a handsome house of the NON-official
style of architecture. Clearly the foundation afforded by the soil of
those parts was better than that where the Government building was
still engaged in hanging fire! Likewise the members of the Commission
began to look exceedingly prosperous, and to blossom out into family
life; and, for the first time in his existence, even Chichikov also
departed from the iron laws of his self-imposed restraint and
inexorable self-denial, and so far mitigated his heretofore asceticism
as to show himself a man not averse to those amenities which, during
his youth, he had been capable of renouncing. That is to say, certain
superfluities began to make their appearance in his establishment. He
engaged a good cook, took to wearing linen shirts, bought for himself
cloth of a pattern worn by no one else in the province, figured in
checks shot with the brightest of reds and browns, fitted himself out
with two splendid horses (which he drove with a single pair of reins,
added to a ring attachment for the trace horse), developed a habit of
washing with a sponge dipped in eau-de-Cologne, and invested in soaps
of the most expensive quality, in order to communicate to his skin a
more elegant polish.

[3] A silver quarter rouble.

But suddenly there appeared upon the scene a new Director--a military
man, and a martinet as regarded his hostility to bribe-takers and
anything which might be called irregular. On the very day after his
arrival he struck fear into every breast by calling for accounts,
discovering hosts of deficits and missing sums, and directing his
attention to the aforesaid fine houses of civilian architecture. Upon
that there ensued a complete reshuffling. Tchinovniks were retired
wholesale, and the houses were sequestrated to the Government, or else
converted into various pious institutions and schools for soldiers'
children. Thus the whole fabric, and especially Chichikov, came
crashing to the ground. Particularly did our hero's agreeable face
displease the new Director. Why that was so it is impossible to say,
but frequently, in cases of the kind, no reason exists. However, the
Director conceived a mortal dislike to him, and also extended that
enmity to the whole of Chichikov's colleagues. But inasmuch as the
said Director was a military man, he was not fully acquainted with the
myriad subtleties of the civilian mind; wherefore it was not long
before, by dint of maintaining a discreet exterior, added to a faculty
for humouring all and sundry, a fresh gang of tchinovniks succeeded in
restoring him to mildness, and the General found himself in the hands
of greater thieves than before, but thieves whom he did not even
suspect, seeing that he believed himself to have selected men fit and
proper, and even ventured to boast of possessing a keen eye for
talent. In a trice the tchinovniks concerned appraised his spirit and
character; with the result that the entire sphere over which he ruled
became an agency for the detection of irregularities. Everywhere, and
in every case, were those irregularities pursued as a fisherman
pursues a fat sturgeon with a gaff; and to such an extent did the
sport prove successful that almost in no time each participator in the
hunt was seen to be in possession of several thousand roubles of
capital. Upon that a large number of the former band of tchinovniks
also became converted to paths of rectitude, and were allowed to
re-enter the Service; but not by hook or by crook could Chichikov worm
his way back, even though, incited thereto by sundry items of paper
currency, the General's first secretary and principal bear leader did
all he could on our hero's behalf. It seemed that the General was the
kind of man who, though easily led by the nose (provided it was done
without his knowledge) no sooner got an idea into his head than it
stuck there like a nail, and could not possibly be extracted; and all
that the wily secretary succeeded in procuring was the tearing up of a
certain dirty fragment of paper--even that being effected only by an
appeal to the General's compassion, on the score of the unhappy fate
which, otherwise, would befall Chichikov's wife and children (who,
luckily, had no existence in fact).

"Well," said Chichikov to himself, "I have done my best, and now
everything has failed. Lamenting my misfortune won't help me, but only
action." And with that he decided to begin his career anew, and once
more to arm himself with the weapons of patience and self-denial. The
better to effect this, he had, of course to remove to another town.
Yet somehow, for a while, things miscarried. More than once he found
himself forced to exchange one post for another, and at the briefest
of notice; and all of them were posts of the meanest, the most
wretched, order. Yet, being a man of the utmost nicety of feeling, the
fact that he found himself rubbing shoulders with anything but nice
companions did not prevent him from preserving intact his innate love
of what was decent and seemly, or from cherishing the instinct which
led him to hanker after office fittings of lacquered wood, with
neatness and orderliness everywhere. Nor did he at any time permit a
foul word to creep into his speech, and would feel hurt even if in the
speech of others there occurred a scornful reference to anything which
pertained to rank and dignity. Also, the reader will be pleased to
know that our hero changed his linen every other day, and in summer,
when the weather was very hot, EVERY day, seeing that the very
faintest suspicion of an unpleasant odour offended his fastidiousness.
For the same reason it was his custom, before being valeted by
Petrushka, always to plug his nostrils with a couple of cloves. In
short, there were many occasions when his nerves suffered rackings as
cruel as a young girl's, and so helped to increase his disgust at
having once more to associate with men who set no store by the
decencies of life. Yet, though he braced himself to the task, this
period of adversity told upon his health, and he even grew a trifle
shabby. More than once, on happening to catch sight of himself in the
mirror, he could not forbear exclaiming: "Holy Mother of God, but what
a nasty-looking brute I have become!" and for a long while afterwards
could not with anything like sang-froid contemplate his reflection.
Yet throughout he bore up stoutly and patiently--and ended by being
transferred to the Customs Department. It may be said that the
department had long constituted the secret goal of his ambition, for
he had noted the foreign elegancies with which its officials always
contrived to provide themselves, and had also observed that invariably
they were able to send presents of china and cambric to their sisters
and aunts--well, to their lady friends generally. Yes, more than once
he had said to himself with a sigh: "THAT is the department to which
I ought to belong, for, given a town near the frontier, and a sensible
set of colleagues, I might be able to fit myself out with excellent
linen shirts." Also, it may be said that most frequently of all had
his thoughts turned towards a certain quality of French soap which
imparted a peculiar whiteness to the skin and a peerless freshness to
the cheeks. Its name is known to God alone, but at least it was to be
procured only in the immediate neighbourhood of the frontier. So, as I
say, Chichikov had long felt a leaning towards the Customs, but for a
time had been restrained from applying for the same by the various
current advantages of the Building Commission; since rightly he had
adjudged the latter to constitute a bird in the hand, and the former
to constitute only a bird in the bush. But now he decided that, come
what might, into the Customs he must make his way. And that way he
made, and then applied himself to his new duties with a zeal born of
the fact that he realised that fortune had specially marked him out
for a Customs officer. Indeed, such activity, perspicuity, and
ubiquity as his had never been seen or thought of. Within four weeks
at the most he had so thoroughly got his hand in that he was
conversant with Customs procedure in every detail. Not only could he
weigh and measure, but also he could divine from an invoice how many
arshins of cloth or other material a given piece contained, and then,
taking a roll of the latter in his hand, could specify at once the
number of pounds at which it would tip the scale. As for searchings,
well, even his colleagues had to admit that he possessed the nose of a
veritable bloodhound, and that it was impossible not to marvel at the
patience wherewith he would try every button of the suspected person,
yet preserve, throughout, a deadly politeness and an icy sang-froid
which surpass belief. And while the searched were raging, and foaming
at the mouth, and feeling that they would give worlds to alter his
smiling exterior with a good, resounding slap, he would move not a
muscle of his face, nor abate by a jot the urbanity of his demeanour,
as he murmured, "Do you mind so far incommoding yourself as to stand
up?" or "Pray step into the next room, madam, where the wife of one of
our staff will attend you," or "Pray allow me to slip this penknife of
mine into the lining of your coat" (after which he would extract
thence shawls and towels with as much nonchalance as he would have
done from his own travelling-trunk). Even his superiors acknowledged
him to be a devil at the job, rather than a human being, so perfect
was his instinct for looking into cart-wheels, carriage-poles, horses'
ears, and places whither an author ought not to penetrate even in
thought--places whither only a Customs official is permitted to go.
The result was that the wretched traveller who had just crossed the
frontier would, within a few minutes, become wholly at sea, and,
wiping away the perspiration, and breaking out into body flushes,
would be reduced to crossing himself and muttering, "Well, well,
well!" In fact, such a traveller would feel in the position of a
schoolboy who, having been summoned to the presence of the headmaster
for the ostensible purpose of being give an order, has found that he
receives, instead, a sound flogging. In short, for some time Chichikov
made it impossible for smugglers to earn a living. In particular, he
reduced Polish Jewry almost to despair, so invincible, so almost
unnatural, was the rectitude, the incorruptibility which led him to
refrain from converting himself into a small capitalist with the aid
of confiscated goods and articles which, "to save excessive clerical
labour," had failed to be handed over to the Government. Also, without
saying it goes that such phenomenally zealous and disinterested
service attracted general astonishment, and, eventually, the notice of
the authorities; whereupon he received promotion, and followed that up
by mooting a scheme for the infallible detection of contrabandists,
provided that he could be furnished with the necessary authority for
carrying out the same. At once such authority was accorded him, as
also unlimited power to conduct every species of search and
investigation. And that was all he wanted. It happened that previously
there had been formed a well-found association for smuggling on
regular, carefully prepared lines, and that this daring scheme seemed
to promise profit to the extent of some millions of money: yet, though
he had long had knowledge of it, Chichikov had said to the
association's emissaries, when sent to buy him over, "The time is not
yet." But now that he had got all the reins into his hands, he sent
word of the fact to the gang, and with it the remark, "The time is
NOW." Nor was he wrong in his calculations, for, within the space of
a year, he had acquired what he could not have made during twenty
years of non-fraudulent service. With similar sagacity he had, during
his early days in the department, declined altogether to enter into
relations with the association, for the reason that he had then been a
mere cipher, and would have come in for nothing large in the way of
takings; but now--well, now it was another matter altogether, and he
could dictate what terms he liked. Moreover, that the affair might
progress the more smoothly, he suborned a fellow tchinovnik of the
type which, in spite of grey hairs, stands powerless against
temptation; and, the contract concluded, the association duly
proceeded to business. Certainly business began brilliantly. But
probably most of my readers are familiar with the oft-repeated story
of the passage of Spanish sheep across the frontier in double fleeces
which carried between their outer layers and their inner enough lace
of Brabant to sell to the tune of millions of roubles; wherefore I
will not recount the story again beyond saying that those journeys
took place just when Chichikov had become head of the Customs, and
that, had he not a hand in the enterprise, not all the Jews in the
world could have brought it to success. By the time that three or four
of these ovine invasions had taken place, Chichikov and his accomplice
had come to be the possessors of four hundred thousand roubles apiece;
while some even aver that the former's gains totalled half a million,
owing to the greater industry which he had displayed in the matter.
Nor can any one but God say to what a figure the fortunes of the pair
might not eventually have attained, had not an awkward contretemps cut
right across their arrangements. That is to say, for some reason or
another the devil so far deprived these tchinovnik-conspirators of
sense as to make them come to words with one another, and then to
engage in a quarrel. Beginning with a heated argument, this quarrel
reached the point of Chichikov--who was, possibly, a trifle
tipsy--calling his colleague a priest's son; and though that
description of the person so addressed was perfectly accurate, he
chose to take offence, and to answer Chichikov with the words (loudly
and incisively uttered), "It is YOU who have a priest for your
father," and to add to that (the more to incense his companion), "Yes,
mark you! THAT is how it is." Yet, though he had thus turned the
tables upon Chichikov with a tu quoque, and then capped that exploit
with the words last quoted, the offended tchinovnik could not remain
satisfied, but went on to send in an anonymous document to the
authorities. On the other hand, some aver that it was over a woman
that the pair fell out--over a woman who, to quote the phrase then
current among the staff of the Customs Department, was "as fresh and
as strong as the pulp of a turnip," and that night-birds were hired to
assault our hero in a dark alley, and that the scheme miscarried, and
that in any case both Chichikov and his friend had been deceived,
seeing that the person to whom the lady had really accorded her
favours was a certain staff-captain named Shamsharev. However, only
God knows the truth of the matter. Let the inquisitive reader ferret
it out for himself. The fact remains that a complete exposure of the
dealings with the contrabandists followed, and that the two
tchinovniks were put to the question, deprived of their property, and
made to formulate in writing all that they had done. Against this
thunderbolt of fortune the State Councillor could make no headway, and
in some retired spot or another sank into oblivion; but Chichikov put
a brave face upon the matter, for, in spite of the authorities' best
efforts to smell out his gains, he had contrived to conceal a portion
of them, and also resorted to every subtle trick of intellect which
could possibly be employed by an experienced man of the world who has
a wide knowledge of his fellows. Nothing which could be effected by
pleasantness of demeanour, by moving oratory, by clouds of flattery,
and by the occasional insertion of a coin into a palm did he leave
undone; with the result that he was retired with less ignominy than
was his companion, and escaped actual trial on a criminal charge. Yet
he issued stripped of all his capital, stripped of his imported
effects, stripped of everything. That is to say, all that remained to
him consisted of ten thousand roubles which he had stored against a
rainy day, two dozen linen shirts, a small britchka of the type used
by bachelors, and two serving-men named Selifan and Petrushka. Yes,
and an impulse of kindness moved the tchinovniks of the Customs also
to set aside for him a few cakes of the soap which he had found so
excellent for the freshness of the cheeks. Thus once more our hero
found himself stranded. And what an accumulation of misfortunes had
descended upon his head!--though, true, he termed them "suffering in
the Service in the cause of Truth." Certainly one would have thought
that, after these buffetings and trials and changes of fortune--after
this taste of the sorrows of life--he and his precious ten thousand
roubles would have withdrawn to some peaceful corner in a provincial
town, where, clad in a stuff dressing-gown, he could have sat and
listened to the peasants quarrelling on festival days, or (for the
sake of a breath of fresh air) have gone in person to the poulterer's
to finger chickens for soup, and so have spent a quiet, but not wholly
useless, existence; but nothing of the kind took place, and therein we
must do justice to the strength of his character. In other words,
although he had undergone what, to the majority of men, would have
meant ruin and discouragement and a shattering of ideals, he still
preserved his energy. True, downcast and angry, and full of resentment
against the world in general, he felt furious with the injustice of
fate, and dissatisfied with the dealings of men; yet he could not
forbear courting additional experiences. In short, the patience which
he displayed was such as to make the wooden persistency of the
German--a persistency merely due to the slow, lethargic circulation of
the Teuton's blood--seem nothing at all, seeing that by nature
Chichikov's blood flowed strongly, and that he had to employ much
force of will to curb within himself those elements which longed to
burst forth and revel in freedom. He thought things over, and, as he
did so, a certain spice of reason appeared in his reflections.

"How have I come to be what I am?" he said to himself. "Why has
misfortune overtaken me in this way? Never have I wronged a poor
person, or robbed a widow, or turned any one out of doors: I have
always been careful only to take advantage of those who possess more
than their share. Moreover, I have never gleaned anywhere but where
every one else was gleaning; and, had I not done so, others would have
gleaned in my place. Why, then, should those others be prospering, and
I be sunk as low as a worm? What am I? What am I good for? How can I,
in future, hope to look any honest father of a family in the face? How
shall I escape being tortured with the thought that I am cumbering the
ground? What, in the years to come, will my children say, save that
'our father was a brute, for he left us nothing to live upon?'"

Here I may remark that we have seen how much thought Chichikov devoted
to his future descendants. Indeed, had not there been constantly
recurring to his mind the insistent question, "What will my children
say?" he might not have plunged into the affair so deeply.
Nevertheless, like a wary cat which glances hither and thither to see
whether its mistress be not coming before it can make off with
whatsoever first falls to its paw (butter, fat, lard, a duck, or
anything else), so our future founder of a family continued, though
weeping and bewailing his lot, to let not a single detail escape his
eye. That is to say, he retained his wits ever in a state of activity,
and kept his brain constantly working. All that he required was a
plan. Once more he pulled himself together, once more he embarked upon
a life of toil, once more he stinted himself in everything, once more
he left clean and decent surroundings for a dirty, mean existence. In
other words, until something better should turn up, he embraced the
calling of an ordinary attorney--a calling which, not then possessed
of a civic status, was jostled on very side, enjoyed little respect
at the hands of the minor legal fry (or, indeed, at its own), and
perforce met with universal slights and rudeness. But sheer necessity
compelled Chichikov to face these things. Among commissions entrusted
to him was that of placing in the hands of the Public Trustee several
hundred peasants who belonged to a ruined estate. The estate had
reached its parlous condition through cattle disease, through rascally
bailiffs, through failures of the harvest, through such epidemic
diseases that had killed off the best workmen, and, last, but not
least, through the senseless conduct of the owner himself, who had
furnished a house in Moscow in the latest style, and then squandered
his every kopeck, so that nothing was left for his further
maintenance, and it became necessary to mortgage the
remains--including the peasants--of the estate. In those days mortgage
to the Treasury was an innovation looked upon with reserve, and, as
attorney in the matter, Chichikov had first of all to "entertain"
every official concerned (we know that, unless that be previously
done, unless a whole bottle of madeira first be emptied down each
clerical throat, not the smallest legal affair can be carried
through), and to explain, for the barring of future attachments, that
half of the peasants were dead.

"And are they entered on the revision lists?" asked the secretary.
"Yes," replied Chichikov. "Then what are you boggling at?" continued
the Secretary. "Should one soul die, another will be born, and in time
grow up to take the first one's place." Upon that there dawned on our
hero one of the most inspired ideas which ever entered the human
brain. "What a simpleton I am!" he thought to himself. "Here am I
looking about for my mittens when all the time I have got them tucked
into my belt. Why, were I myself to buy up a few souls which are
dead--to buy them before a new revision list shall have been made, the
Council of Public Trust might pay me two hundred roubles apiece for
them, and I might find myself with, say, a capital of two hundred
thousand roubles! The present moment is particularly propitious,
since in various parts of the country there has been an epidemic, and,
glory be to God, a large number of souls have died of it. Nowadays
landowners have taken to card-playing and junketting and wasting their
money, or to joining the Civil Service in St. Petersburg; consequently
their estates are going to rack and ruin, and being managed in any
sort of fashion, and succeeding in paying their dues with greater
difficulty each year. That being so, not a man of the lot but would
gladly surrender to me his dead souls rather than continue paying the
poll-tax; and in this fashion I might make--well, not a few kopecks.
Of course there are difficulties, and, to avoid creating a scandal, I
should need to employ plenty of finesse; but man was given his brain
to USE, not to neglect. One good point about the scheme is that it
will seem so improbable that in case of an accident, no one in the
world will believe in it. True, it is illegal to buy or mortgage
peasants without land, but I can easily pretend to be buying them only
for transferment elsewhere. Land is to be acquired in the provinces of
Taurida and Kherson almost for nothing, provided that one undertakes
subsequently to colonise it; so to Kherson I will 'transfer' them, and
long may they live there! And the removal of my dead souls shall be
carried out in the strictest legal form; and if the authorities should
want confirmation by testimony, I shall produce a letter signed by my
own superintendent of the Khersonian rural police--that is to say, by
myself. Lastly, the supposed village in Kherson shall be called
Chichikovoe--better still Pavlovskoe, according to my Christian name."

In this fashion there germinated in our hero's brain that strange
scheme for which the reader may or may not be grateful, but for which
the author certainly is so, seeing that, had it never occurred to
Chichikov, this story would never have seen the light.

After crossing himself, according to the Russian custom, Chichikov set
about carrying out his enterprise. On pretence of selecting a place
wherein to settle, he started forth to inspect various corners of the
Russian Empire, but more especially those which had suffered from such
unfortunate accidents as failures of the harvest, a high rate of
mortality, or whatsoever else might enable him to purchase souls at
the lowest possible rate. But he did not tackle his landowners
haphazard: he rather selected such of them as seemed more particularly
suited to his taste, or with whom he might with the least possible
trouble conclude identical agreements; though, in the first instance,
he always tried, by getting on terms of acquaintanceship--better
still, of friendship--with them, to acquire the souls for nothing, and
so to avoid purchase at all. In passing, my readers must not blame me
if the characters whom they have encountered in these pages have not
been altogether to their liking. The fault is Chichikov's rather than
mine, for he is the master, and where he leads we must follow. Also,
should my readers gird at me for a certain dimness and want of clarity
in my principal characters and actors, that will be tantamount to
saying that never do the broad tendency and the general scope of a
work become immediately apparent. Similarly does the entry to every
town--the entry even to the Capital itself--convey to the traveller
such an impression of vagueness that at first everything looks grey
and monotonous, and the lines of smoky factories and workshops seem
never to be coming to an end; but in time there will begin also to
stand out the outlines of six-storied mansions, and of shops and
balconies, and wide perspectives of streets, and a medley of steeples,
columns, statues, and turrets--the whole framed in rattle and roar and
the infinite wonders which the hand and the brain of men have
conceived. Of the manner in which Chichikov's first purchases were
made the reader is aware. Subsequently he will see also how the affair
progressed, and with what success or failure our hero met, and how
Chichikov was called upon to decide and to overcome even more
difficult problems than the foregoing, and by what colossal forces the
levers of his far-flung tale are moved, and how eventually the horizon
will become extended until everything assumes a grandiose and a
lyrical tendency. Yes, many a verst of road remains to be travelled by
a party made up of an elderly gentleman, a britchka of the kind
affected by bachelors, a valet named Petrushka, a coachman named
Selifan, and three horses which, from the Assessor to the skewbald,
are known to us individually by name. Again, although I have given a
full description of our hero's exterior (such as it is), I may yet be
asked for an inclusive definition also of his moral personality. That
he is no hero compounded of virtues and perfections must be already
clear. Then WHAT is he? A villain? Why should we call him a villain?
Why should we be so hard upon a fellow man? In these days our villains
have ceased to exist. Rather it would be fairer to call him an
ACQUIRER. The love of acquisition, the love of gain, is a fault
common to many, and gives rise to many and many a transaction of the
kind generally known as "not strictly honourable." True, such a
character contains an element of ugliness, and the same reader who, on
his journey through life, would sit at the board of a character of
this kind, and spend a most agreeable time with him, would be the
first to look at him askance if he should appear in the guise of the
hero of a novel or a play. But wise is the reader who, on meeting such
a character, scans him carefully, and, instead of shrinking from him
with distaste, probes him to the springs of his being. The human
personality contains nothing which may not, in the twinkling of an
eye, become altogether changed--nothing in which, before you can look
round, there may not spring to birth some cankerous worm which is
destined to suck thence the essential juice. Yes, it is a common thing
to see not only an overmastering passion, but also a passion of the
most petty order, arise in a man who was born to better things, and
lead him both to forget his greatest and most sacred obligations, and
to see only in the veriest trifles the Great and the Holy. For human
passions are as numberless as is the sand of the seashore, and go on
to become his most insistent of masters. Happy, therefore, the man who
may choose from among the gamut of human passions one which is noble!
Hour by hour will that instinct grow and multiply in its measureless
beneficence; hour by hour will it sink deeper and deeper into the
infinite paradise of his soul. But there are passions of which a man
cannot rid himself, seeing that they are born with him at his birth,
and he has no power to abjure them. Higher powers govern those
passions, and in them is something which will call to him, and refuse
to be silenced, to the end of his life. Yes, whether in a guise of
darkness, or whether in a guise which will become converted into a
light to lighten the world, they will and must attain their
consummation on life's field: and in either case they have been evoked
for man's good. In the same way may the passion which drew our
Chichikov onwards have been one that was independent of himself; in
the same way may there have lurked even in his cold essence something
which will one day cause men to humble themselves in the dust before
the infinite wisdom of God.

Yet that folk should be dissatisfied with my hero matters nothing.
What matters is the fact that, under different circumstances, their
approval could have been taken as a foregone conclusion. That is to
say, had not the author pried over-deeply into Chichikov's soul, nor
stirred up in its depths what shunned and lay hidden from the light,
nor disclosed those of his hero's thoughts which that hero would have
not have disclosed even to his most intimate friend; had the author,
indeed, exhibited Chichikov just as he exhibited himself to the
townsmen of N. and Manilov and the rest; well, then we may rest
assured that every reader would have been delighted with him, and have
voted him a most interesting person. For it is not nearly so necessary
that Chichikov should figure before the reader as though his form and
person were actually present to the eye as that, on concluding a
perusal of this work, the reader should be able to return, unharrowed
in soul, to that cult of the card-table which is the solace and
delight of all good Russians. Yes, readers of this book, none of you
really care to see humanity revealed in its nakedness. "Why should we
do so?" you say. "What would be the use of it? Do we not know for
ourselves that human life contains much that is gross and
contemptible? Do we not with our own eyes have to look upon much that
is anything but comforting? Far better would it be if you would put
before us what is comely and attractive, so that we might forget
ourselves a little." In the same fashion does a landowner say to his
bailiff: "Why do you come and tell me that the affairs of my estate
are in a bad way? I know that without YOUR help. Have you nothing
else to tell me? Kindly allow me to forget the fact, or else to remain
in ignorance of it, and I shall be much obliged to you." Whereafter
the said landowner probably proceeds to spend on his diversion the
money which ought to have gone towards the rehabilitation of his affairs.

Possibly the author may also incur censure at the hands of those
so-called "patriots" who sit quietly in corners, and become
capitalists through making fortunes at the expense of others. Yes, let
but something which they conceive to be derogatory to their country
occur--for instance, let there be published some book which voices the
bitter truth--and out they will come from their hiding-places like a
spider which perceives a fly to be caught in its web. "Is it well to
proclaim this to the world, and to set folk talking about it?" they
will cry. "What you have described touches US, is OUR affair. Is
conduct of that kind right? What will foreigners say? Does any one
care calmly to sit by and hear himself traduced? Why should you lead
foreigners to suppose that all is not well with us, and that we are
not patriotic?" Well, to these sage remarks no answer can really be
returned, especially to such of the above as refer to foreign opinion.
But see here. There once lived in a remote corner of Russia two
natives of the region indicated. One of those natives was a good man
named Kifa Mokievitch, and a man of kindly disposition; a man who went
through life in a dressing-gown, and paid no heed to his household,
for the reason that his whole being was centred upon the province of
speculation, and that, in particular, he was preoccupied with a
philosophical problem usually stated by him thus: "A beast," he would
say, "is born naked. Now, why should that be? Why should not a beast
be born as a bird is born--that is to say, through the process of
being hatched from an egg? Nature is beyond the understanding, however
much one may probe her." This was the substance of Kifa Mokievitch's
reflections. But herein is not the chief point. The other of the pair
was a fellow named Mofi Kifovitch, and son to the first named. He was
what we Russians call a "hero," and while his father was pondering the
parturition of beasts, his, the son's, lusty, twenty-year-old
temperament was violently struggling for development. Yet that son
could tackle nothing without some accident occurring. At one moment
would he crack some one's fingers in half, and at another would he
raise a bump on somebody's nose; so that both at home and abroad every
one and everything--from the serving-maid to the yard-dog--fled on his
approach, and even the bed in his bedroom became shattered to
splinters. Such was Mofi Kifovitch; and with it all he had a kindly
soul. But herein is not the chief point. "Good sir, good Kifa
Mokievitch," servants and neighbours would come and say to the father,
"what are you going to do about your Moki Kifovitch? We get no rest
from him, he is so above himself." "That is only his play, that is
only his play," the father would reply. "What else can you expect? It
is too late now to start a quarrel with him, and, moreover, every one
would accuse me of harshness. True, he is a little conceited; but,
were I to reprove him in public, the whole thing would become common
talk, and folk would begin giving him a dog's name. And if they did
that, would not their opinion touch me also, seeing that I am his
father? Also, I am busy with philosophy, and have no time for such
things. Lastly, Moki Kifovitch is my son, and very dear to my heart."
And, beating his breast, Kifa Mokievitch again asserted that, even
though his son should elect to continue his pranks, it would not be
for HIM, for the father, to proclaim the fact, or to fall out with
his offspring. And, this expression of paternal feeling uttered, Kifa
Mokievitch left Moki Kifovitch to his heroic exploits, and himself
returned to his beloved subject of speculation, which now included
also the problem, "Suppose elephants were to take to being hatched
from eggs, would not the shell of such eggs be of a thickness proof
against cannonballs, and necessitate the invention of some new type of
firearm?" Thus at the end of this little story we have these two
denizens of a peaceful corner of Russia looking thence, as from a
window, in less terror of doing what was scandalous than of having it
SAID of them that they were acting scandalously. Yes, the feeling
animating our so-called "patriots" is not true patriotism at all.
Something else lies beneath it. Who, if not an author, is to speak
aloud the truth? Men like you, my pseudo-patriots, stand in dread of
the eye which is able to discern, yet shrink from using your own, and
prefer, rather, to glance at everything unheedingly. Yes, after
laughing heartily over Chichikov's misadventures, and perhaps even
commending the author for his dexterity of observation and pretty turn
of wit, you will look at yourselves with redoubled pride and a
self-satisfied smile, and add: "Well, we agree that in certain parts
of the provinces there exists strange and ridiculous individuals, as
well as unconscionable rascals."

Yet which of you, when quiet, and alone, and engaged in solitary
self-communion, would not do well to probe YOUR OWN souls, and to
put to YOURSELVES the solemn question, "Is there not in ME an
element of Chichikov?" For how should there not be? Which of you is
not liable at any moment to be passed in the street by an acquaintance
who, nudging his neighbour, may say of you, with a barely suppressed
sneer: "Look! there goes Chichikov! That is Chichikov who has just
gone by!"

But here are we talking at the top of our voices whilst all the time
our hero lies slumbering in his britchka! Indeed, his name has been
repeated so often during the recital of his life's history that he
must almost have heard us! And at any time he is an irritable,
irascible fellow when spoken of with disrespect. True, to the reader
Chichikov's displeasure cannot matter a jot; but for the author it
would mean ruin to quarrel with his hero, seeing that, arm in arm,
Chichikov and he have yet far to go.

"Tut, tut, tut!" came in a shout from Chichikov. "Hi, Selifan!"

"What is it?" came the reply, uttered with a drawl.

"What is it? Why, how dare you drive like that? Come! Bestir yourself
a little!"

And indeed, Selifan had long been sitting with half-closed eyes, and
hands which bestowed no encouragement upon his somnolent steeds save
an occasional flicking of the reins against their flanks; whilst
Petrushka had lost his cap, and was leaning backwards until his head
had come to rest against Chichikov's knees--a position which
necessitated his being awakened with a cuff. Selifan also roused
himself, and apportioned to the skewbald a few cuts across the back of
a kind which at least had the effect of inciting that animal to trot;
and when, presently, the other two horses followed their companion's
example, the light britchka moved forwards like a piece of
thistledown. Selifan flourished his whip and shouted, "Hi, hi!" as the
inequalities of the road jerked him vertically on his seat; and
meanwhile, reclining against the leather cushions of the vehicle's
interior, Chichikov smiled with gratification at the sensation of
driving fast. For what Russian does not love to drive fast? Which of
us does not at times yearn to give his horses their head, and to let
them go, and to cry, "To the devil with the world!"? At such moments a
great force seems to uplift one as on wings; and one flies, and
everything else flies, but contrariwise--both the verst stones, and
traders riding on the shafts of their waggons, and the forest with
dark lines of spruce and fir amid which may be heard the axe of the
woodcutter and the croaking of the raven. Yes, out of a dim, remote
distance the road comes towards one, and while nothing save the sky
and the light clouds through which the moon is cleaving her way seem
halted, the brief glimpses wherein one can discern nothing clearly
have in them a pervading touch of mystery. Ah, troika, troika, swift
as a bird, who was it first invented you? Only among a hardy race of
folk can you have come to birth--only in a land which, though poor and
rough, lies spread over half the world, and spans versts the counting
whereof would leave one with aching eyes. Nor are you a
modishly-fashioned vehicle of the road--a thing of clamps and iron.
Rather, you are a vehicle but shapen and fitted with the axe or chisel
of some handy peasant of Yaroslav. Nor are you driven by a coachman
clothed in German livery, but by a man bearded and mittened. See him
as he mounts, and flourishes his whip, and breaks into a long-drawn
song! Away like the wind go the horses, and the wheels, with their
spokes, become transparent circles, and the road seems to quiver
beneath them, and a pedestrian, with a cry of astonishment, halts to
watch the vehicle as it flies, flies, flies on its way until it
becomes lost on the ultimate horizon--a speck amid a cloud of dust!

And you, Russia of mine--are not you also speeding like a troika which
nought can overtake? Is not the road smoking beneath your wheels, and
the bridges thundering as you cross them, and everything being left in
the rear, and the spectators, struck with the portent, halting to
wonder whether you be not a thunderbolt launched from heaven? What
does that awe-inspiring progress of yours foretell? What is the
unknown force which lies within your mysterious steeds? Surely the
winds themselves must abide in their manes, and every vein in their
bodies be an ear stretched to catch the celestial message which bids
them, with iron-girded breasts, and hooves which barely touch the
earth as they gallop, fly forward on a mission of God? Whither, then,
are you speeding, O Russia of mine? Whither? Answer me! But no answer
comes--only the weird sound of your collar-bells. Rent into a thousand
shreds, the air roars past you, for you are overtaking the whole
world, and shall one day force all nations, all empires to stand
aside, to give you way!

                                                                 1841.

PART II

CHAPTER I

Why do I so persistently paint the poverty, the imperfections of
Russian life, and delve into the remotest depths, the most retired
holes and corners, of our Empire for my subjects? The answer is that
there is nothing else to be done when an author's idiosyncrasy happens
to incline him that way. So again we find ourselves in a retired spot.
But what a spot!

Imagine, if you can, a mountain range like a gigantic fortress, with
embrasures and bastions which appear to soar a thousand versts towards
the heights of heaven, and, towering grandly over a boundless expanse
of plain, are broken up into precipitous, overhanging limestone
cliffs. Here and there those cliffs are seamed with water-courses and
gullies, while at other points they are rounded off into spurs of
green--spurs now coated with fleece-like tufts of young undergrowth,
now studded with the stumps of felled trees, now covered with timber
which has, by some miracle, escaped the woodman's axe. Also, a river
winds awhile between its banks, then leaves the meadow land, divides
into runlets (all flashing in the sun like fire), plunges, re-united,
into the midst of a thicket of elder, birth, and pine, and, lastly,
speeds triumphantly past bridges and mills and weirs which seem to be
lying in wait for it at every turn.

At one particular spot the steep flank of the mountain range is
covered with billowy verdure of denser growth than the rest; and here
the aid of skilful planting, added to the shelter afforded by a rugged
ravine, has enabled the flora of north and south so to be brought
together that, twined about with sinuous hop-tendrils, the oak, the
spruce fir, the wild pear, the maple, the cherry, the thorn, and the
mountain ash either assist or check one another's growth, and
everywhere cover the declivity with their straggling profusion. Also,
at the edge of the summit there can be seen mingling with the green of
the trees the red roofs of a manorial homestead, while behind the
upper stories of the mansion proper and its carved balcony and a great
semi-circular window there gleam the tiles and gables of some
peasants' huts. Lastly, over this combination of trees and roofs there
rises--overtopping everything with its gilded, sparkling steeple--an
old village church. On each of its pinnacles a cross of carved gilt is
stayed with supports of similar gilding and design; with the result
that from a distance the gilded portions have the effect of hanging
without visible agency in the air. And the whole--the three successive
tiers of woodland, roofs, and crosses whole--lies exquisitely mirrored
in the river below, where hollow willows, grotesquely shaped (some of
them rooted on the river's banks, and some in the water itself, and
all drooping their branches until their leaves have formed a tangle
with the water lilies which float on the surface), seem to be gazing
at the marvellous reflection at their feet.

Thus the view from below is beautiful indeed. But the view from above
is even better. No guest, no visitor, could stand on the balcony of
the mansion and remain indifferent. So boundless is the panorama
revealed that surprise would cause him to catch at his breath, and
exclaim: "Lord of Heaven, but what a prospect!" Beyond meadows studded
with spinneys and water-mills lie forests belted with green; while
beyond, again, there can be seen showing through the slightly misty
air strips of yellow heath, and, again, wide-rolling forests (as blue
as the sea or a cloud), and more heath, paler than the first, but
still yellow. Finally, on the far horizon a range of chalk-topped
hills gleams white, even in dull weather, as though it were lightened
with perpetual sunshine; and here and there on the dazzling whiteness
of its lower slopes some plaster-like, nebulous patches represent
far-off villages which lie too remote for the eye to discern their
details. Indeed, only when the sunlight touches a steeple to gold does
one realise that each such patch is a human settlement. Finally, all
is wrapped in an immensity of silence which even the far, faint echoes
of persons singing in the void of the plain cannot shatter.

Even after gazing at the spectacle for a couple of hours or so, the
visitor would still find nothing to say, save: "Lord of Heaven, but
what a prospect!" Then who is the dweller in, the proprietor of, this
manor--a manor to which, as to an impregnable fortress, entrance
cannot be gained from the side where we have been standing, but only
from the other approach, where a few scattered oaks offer hospitable
welcome to the visitor, and then, spreading above him their spacious
branches (as in friendly embrace), accompany him to the facade of the
mansion whose top we have been regarding from the reverse aspect, but
which now stands frontwise on to us, and has, on one side of it, a row
of peasants' huts with red tiles and carved gables, and, on the other,
the village church, with those glittering golden crosses and gilded
open-work charms which seem to hang suspended in the air? Yes,
indeed!--to what fortunate individual does this corner of the world
belong? It belongs to Andrei Ivanovitch Tientietnikov, landowner of
the canton of Tremalakhan, and, withal, a bachelor of about thirty.

Should my lady readers ask of me what manner of man is Tientietnikov,
and what are his attributes and peculiarities, I should refer them to
his neighbours. Of these, a member of the almost extinct tribe of
intelligent staff officers on the retired list once summed up
Tientietnikov in the phrase, "He is an absolute blockhead;" while a
General who resided ten versts away was heard to remark that "he is a
young man who, though not exactly a fool, has at least too much
crowded into his head. I myself might have been of use to him, for not
only do I maintain certain connections with St. Petersburg, but
also--" And the General left his sentence unfinished. Thirdly, a
captain-superintendent of rural police happened to remark in the
course of conversation: "To-morrow I must go and see Tientietnikov
about his arrears." Lastly, a peasant of Tientietnikov's own village,
when asked what his barin was like, returned no answer at all. All of
which would appear to show that Tientietnikov was not exactly looked
upon with favour.

To speak dispassionately, however, he was not a bad sort of
fellow--merely a star-gazer; and since the world contains many
watchers of the skies, why should Tientietnikov not have been one of
them? However, let me describe in detail a specimen day of his
existence--one that will closely resemble the rest, and then the
reader will be enabled to judge of Tientietnikov's character, and how
far his life corresponded to the beauties of nature with which he
lived surrounded.

On the morning of the specimen day in question he awoke very late,
and, raising himself to a sitting posture, rubbed his eyes. And since
those eyes were small, the process of rubbing them occupied a very
long time, and throughout its continuance there stood waiting by the
door his valet, Mikhailo, armed with a towel and basin. For one hour,
for two hours, did poor Mikhailo stand there: then he departed to the
kitchen, and returned to find his master still rubbing his eyes as he
sat on the bed. At length, however, Tientietnikov rose, washed
himself, donned a dressing-gown, and moved into the drawing-room for
morning tea, coffee, cocoa, and warm milk; of all of which he partook
but sparingly, while munching a piece of bread, and scattering tobacco
ash with complete insouciance. Two hours did he sit over this meal,
then poured himself out another cup of the rapidly cooling tea, and
walked to the window. This faced the courtyard, and outside it, as
usual, there took place the following daily altercation between a serf
named Grigory (who purported to act as butler) and the housekeeper,
Perfilievna.

Grigory. Ah, you nuisance, you good-for-nothing, you had better hold
your stupid tongue.

Perfilievna. Yes; and don't you wish that I would?

Grigory. What? You so thick with that bailiff of yours, you
housekeeping jade!

Perfilievna. Nay, he is as big a thief as you are. Do you think the
barin doesn't know you? And there he is! He must have heard
everything!

Grigory. Where?

Perfilievna. There--sitting by the window, and looking at us!

Next, to complete the hubbub, a serf child which had been clouted by
its mother broke out into a bawl, while a borzoi puppy which had
happened to get splashed with boiling water by the cook fell to
yelping vociferously. In short, the place soon became a babel of
shouts and squeals, and, after watching and listening for a time, the
barin found it so impossible to concentrate his mind upon anything
that he sent out word that the noise would have to be abated.

The next item was that, a couple of hours before luncheon time, he
withdrew to his study, to set about employing himself upon a weighty
work which was to consider Russia from every point of view: from the
political, from the philosophical, and from the religious, as well as
to resolve various problems which had arisen to confront the Empire,
and to define clearly the great future to which the country stood
ordained. In short, it was to be the species of compilation in which
the man of the day so much delights. Yet the colossal undertaking had
progressed but little beyond the sphere of projection, since, after a
pen had been gnawed awhile, and a few strokes had been committed to
paper, the whole would be laid aside in favour of the reading of some
book; and that reading would continue also during luncheon and be
followed by the lighting of a pipe, the playing of a solitary game of
chess, and the doing of more or less nothing for the rest of the day.

The foregoing will give the reader a pretty clear idea of the manner
in which it was possible for this man of thirty-three to waste his
time. Clad constantly in slippers and a dressing-gown, Tientietnikov
never went out, never indulged in any form of dissipation, and never
walked upstairs. Nothing did he care for fresh air, and would bestow
not a passing glance upon all those beauties of the countryside which
moved visitors to such ecstatic admiration. From this the reader will
see that Andrei Ivanovitch Tientietnikov belonged to that band of
sluggards whom we always have with us, and who, whatever be their
present appellation, used to be known by the nicknames of "lollopers,"
"bed pressers," and "marmots." Whether the type is a type originating
at birth, or a type resulting from untoward circumstances in later
life, it is impossible to say. A better course than to attempt to
answer that question would be to recount the story of Tientietnikov's
boyhood and upbringing.

Everything connected with the latter seemed to promise success, for at
twelve years of age the boy--keen-witted, but dreamy of temperament,
and inclined to delicacy--was sent to an educational establishment
presided over by an exceptional type of master. The idol of his
pupils, and the admiration of his assistants, Alexander Petrovitch
was gifted with an extraordinary measure of good sense. How thoroughly
he knew the peculiarities of the Russian of his day! How well he
understood boys! How capable he was of drawing them out! Not a
practical joker in the school but, after perpetrating a prank, would
voluntarily approach his preceptor and make to him free confession.
True, the preceptor would put a stern face upon the matter, yet the
culprit would depart with head held higher, not lower, than before,
since in Alexander Petrovitch there was something which
heartened--something which seemed to say to a delinquent: "Forward
you! Rise to your feet again, even though you have fallen!" Not
lectures on good behaviour was it, therefore, that fell from his lips,
but rather the injunction, "I want to see intelligence, and nothing
else. The boy who devotes his attention to becoming clever will never
play the fool, for under such circumstances, folly disappears of
itself." And so folly did, for the boy who failed to strive in the
desired direction incurred the contempt of all his comrades, and even
dunces and fools of senior standing did not dare to raise a finger
when saluted by their juniors with opprobrious epithets. Yet "This is
too much," certain folk would say to Alexander. "The result will be
that your students will turn out prigs." "But no," he would reply.
"Not at all. You see, I make it my principle to keep the incapables
for a single term only, since that is enough for them; but to the
clever ones I allot a double course of instruction." And, true enough,
any lad of brains was retained for this finishing course. Yet he did
not repress all boyish playfulness, since he declared it to be as
necessary as a rash to a doctor, inasmuch as it enabled him to
diagnose what lay hidden within.

Consequently, how the boys loved him! Never was there such an
attachment between master and pupils. And even later, during the
foolish years, when foolish things attract, the measure of affection
which Alexander Petrovitch retained was extraordinary. In fact, to the
day of his death, every former pupil would celebrate the birthday of
his late master by raising his glass in gratitude to the mentor dead
and buried--then close his eyelids upon the tears which would come
trickling through them. Even the slightest word of encouragement from
Alexander Petrovitch could throw a lad into a transport of tremulous
joy, and arouse in him an honourable emulation of his fellows. Boys of
small capacity he did not long retain in his establishment; whereas
those who possessed exceptional talent he put through an extra course
of schooling. This senior class--a class composed of
specially-selected pupils--was a very different affair from what
usually obtains in other colleges. Only when a boy had attained its
ranks did Alexander demand of him what other masters indiscreetly
require of mere infants--namely the superior frame of mind which,
while never indulging in mockery, can itself bear ridicule, and
disregard the fool, and keep its temper, and repress itself, and
eschew revenge, and calmly, proudly retain its tranquillity of soul.
In short, whatever avails to form a boy into a man of assured
character, that did Alexander Petrovitch employ during the pupil's
youth, as well as constantly put him to the test. How well he
understood the art of life!

Of assistant tutors he kept but few, since most of the necessary
instruction he imparted in person, and, without pedantic terminology
and inflated diction and views, could so transmit to his listeners the
inmost spirit of a lesson that even the youngest present absorbed its
essential elements. Also, of studies he selected none but those which
may help a boy to become a good citizen; and therefore most of the
lectures which he delivered consisted of discourses on what may be
awaiting a youth, as well as of such demarcations of life's field that
the pupil, though seated, as yet, only at the desk, could beforehand
bear his part in that field both in thought and spirit. Nor did the
master CONCEAL anything. That is to say, without mincing words, he
invariably set before his hearers the sorrows and the difficulties
which may confront a man, the trials and the temptations which may
beset him. And this he did in terms as though, in every possible
calling and capacity, he himself had experienced the same.
Consequently, either the vigorous development of self-respect or the
constant stimulus of the master's eye (which seemed to say to the
pupil, "Forward!"--that word which has become so familiar to the
contemporary Russian, that word which has worked such wonders upon his
sensitive temperament); one or the other, I repeat, would from the
first cause the pupil to tackle difficulties, and only difficulties,
and to hunger for prowess only where the path was arduous, and
obstacles were many, and it was necessary to display the utmost
strength of mind. Indeed, few completed the course of which I have
spoken without issuing therefrom reliable, seasoned fighters who could
keep their heads in the most embarrassing of official positions, and
at times when older and wiser men, distracted with the annoyances of
life, had either abandoned everything or, grown slack and indifferent,
had surrendered to the bribe-takers and the rascals. In short, no
ex-pupil of Alexander Petrovitch ever wavered from the right road,
but, familiar with life and with men, armed with the weapons of
prudence, exerted a powerful influence upon wrongdoers.

For a long time past the ardent young Tientietnikov's excitable heart
had also beat at the thought that one day he might attain the senior
class described. And, indeed, what better teacher could he have had
befall him than its preceptor? Yet just at the moment when he had been
transferred thereto, just at the moment when he had reached the
coveted position, did his instructor come suddenly by his death! This
was indeed a blow for the boy--indeed a terrible initial loss! In his
eyes everything connected with the school seemed to undergo a
change--the chief reason being the fact that to the place of the
deceased headmaster there succeeded a certain Thedor Ivanovitch, who
at once began to insist upon certain external rules, and to demand of
the boys what ought rightly to have been demanded only of adults. That
is to say, since the lads' frank and open demeanour savoured to him
only of lack of discipline, he announced (as though in deliberate
spite of his predecessor) that he cared nothing for progress and
intellect, but that heed was to be paid only to good behaviour. Yet,
curiously enough, good behaviour was just what he never obtained, for
every kind of secret prank became the rule; and while, by day, there
reigned restraint and conspiracy, by night there began to take place
chambering and wantonness.

Also, certain changes in the curriculum of studies came about, for
there were engaged new teachers who held new views and opinions, and
confused their hearers with a multitude of new terms and phrases, and
displayed in their exposition of things both logical sequence and a
zest for modern discovery and much warmth of individual bias. Yet
their instruction, alas! contained no LIFE--in the mouths of those
teachers a dead language savoured merely of carrion. Thus everything
connected with the school underwent a radical alteration, and respect
for authority and the authorities waned, and tutors and ushers came to
be dubbed "Old Thedor," "Crusty," and the like. And sundry other
things began to take place--things which necessitated many a penalty
and expulsion; until, within a couple of years, no one who had known
the school in former days would now have recognised it.

Nevertheless Tientietnikov, a youth of retiring disposition,
experienced no leanings towards the nocturnal orgies of his
companions, orgies during which the latter used to flirt with damsels
before the very windows of the headmaster's rooms, nor yet towards
their mockery of all that was sacred, simply because fate had cast in
their way an injudicious priest. No, despite its dreaminess, his soul
ever remembered its celestial origin, and could not be diverted from
the path of virtue. Yet still he hung his head, for, while his
ambition had come to life, it could find no sort of outlet. Truly
'twere well if it had NOT come to life, for throughout the time that
he was listening to professors who gesticulated on their chairs he
could not help remembering the old preceptor who, invariably cool and
calm, had yet known how to make himself understood. To what subjects,
to what lectures, did the boy not have to listen!--to lectures on
medicine, and on philosophy, and on law, and on a version of general
history so enlarged that even three years failed to enable the
professor to do more than finish the introduction thereto, and also
the account of the development of some self-governing towns in
Germany. None of the stuff remained fixed in Tientietnikov's brain
save as shapeless clots; for though his native intellect could not
tell him how instruction ought to be imparted, it at least told him
that THIS was not the way. And frequently, at such moments he would
recall Alexander Petrovitch, and give way to such grief that scarcely
did he know what he was doing.

But youth is fortunate in the fact that always before it there lies a
future; and in proportion as the time for his leaving school drew
nigh, Tientietnikov's heart began to beat higher and higher, and he
said to himself: "This is not life, but only a preparation for life.
True life is to be found in the Public Service. There at least will
there be scope for activity." So, bestowing not a glance upon that
beautiful corner of the world which never failed to strike the guest
or chance visitor with amazement, and reverencing not a whit the dust
of his ancestors, he followed the example of most ambitious men of his
class by repairing to St. Petersburg (whither, as we know, the more
spirited youth of Russia from every quarter gravitates--there to enter
the Public Service, to shine, to obtain promotion, and, in a word, to
scale the topmost peaks of that pale, cold, deceptive elevation which
is known as society). But the real starting-point of Tientietnikov's
ambition was the moment when his uncle (one State Councillor Onifri
Ivanovitch) instilled into him the maxim that the only means to
success in the Service lay in good handwriting, and that, without that
accomplishment, no one could ever hope to become a Minister or
Statesman. Thus, with great difficulty, and also with the help of his
uncle's influence, young Tientietnikov at length succeeded in being
posted to a Department. On the day that he was conducted into a
splendid, shining hall--a hall fitted with inlaid floors and lacquered
desks as fine as though this were actually the place where the great
ones of the Empire met for discussion of the fortunes of the State; on
the day that he saw legions of handsome gentlemen of the quill-driving
profession making loud scratchings with pens, and cocking their heads
to one side; lastly on the day that he saw himself also allotted a
desk, and requested to copy a document which appeared purposely to be
one of the pettiest possible order (as a matter of fact it related to
a sum of three roubles, and had taken half a year to produce)--well,
at that moment a curious, an unwonted sensation seized upon the
inexperienced youth, for the gentlemen around him appeared so exactly
like a lot of college students. And, the further to complete the
resemblance, some of them were engaged in reading trashy translated
novels, which they kept hurriedly thrusting between the sheets of
their apportioned work whenever the Director appeared, as though to
convey the impression that it was to that work alone that they were
applying themselves. In short, the scene seemed to Tientietnikov
strange, and his former pursuits more important than his present, and
his preparation for the Service preferable to the Service itself. Yes,
suddenly he felt a longing for his old school; and as suddenly, and
with all the vividness of life, there appeared before his vision the
figure of Alexander Petrovitch. He almost burst into tears as he
beheld his old master, and the room seemed to swim before his eyes,
and the tchinovniks and the desks to become a blur, and his sight to
grow dim. Then he thought to himself with an effort: "No, no! I WILL
apply myself to my work, however petty it be at first." And hardening
his heart and recovering his spirit, he determined then and there to
perform his duties in such a manner as should be an example to the rest.

But where are compensations to be found? Even in St. Petersburg,
despite its grim and murky exterior, they exist. Yes, even though
thirty degrees of keen, cracking frost may have bound the streets, and
the family of the North Wind be wailing there, and the Snowstorm Witch
have heaped high the pavements, and be blinding the eyes, and
powdering beards and fur collars and the shaggy manes of horses--even
THEN there will be shining hospitably through the swirling
snowflakes a fourth-floor window where, in a cosy room, and by the
light of modest candles, and to the hiss of the samovar, there will be
in progress a discussion which warms the heart and soul, or else a
reading aloud of a brilliant page of one of those inspired Russian
poets with whom God has dowered us, while the breast of each member of
the company is heaving with a rapture unknown under a noontide sky.

Gradually, therefore, Tientietnikov grew more at home in the Service.
Yet never did it become, for him, the main pursuit, the main object in
life, which he had expected. No, it remained but one of a secondary
kind. That is to say, it served merely to divide up his time, and
enable him the more to value his hours of leisure. Nevertheless, just
when his uncle was beginning to flatter himself that his nephew was
destined to succeed in the profession, the said nephew elected to ruin
his every hope. Thus it befell. Tientietnikov's friends (he had many)
included among their number a couple of fellows of the species known
as "embittered." That is to say, though good-natured souls of that
curiously restless type which cannot endure injustice, nor anything
which it conceives to be such, they were thoroughly unbalanced of
conduct themselves, and, while demanding general agreement with their
views, treated those of others with the scantiest of ceremony.
Nevertheless these two associates exercised upon Tientietnikov--both
by the fire of their eloquence and by the form of their noble
dissatisfaction with society--a very strong influence; with the result
that, through arousing in him an innate tendency to nervous
resentment, they led him also to notice trifles which before had
escaped his attention. An instance of this is seen in the fact that he
conceived against Thedor Thedorovitch Lienitsin, Director of one of
the Departments which was quartered in the splendid range of offices
before mentioned, a dislike which proved the cause of his discerning n
the man a host of hitherto unmarked imperfections. Above all things
did Tientietnikov take it into his head that, when conversing with his
superiors, Lienitsin became, of the moment, a stick of luscious
sweetmeat, but that, when conversing with his inferiors, he
approximated more to a vinegar cruet. Certain it is that, like all
petty-minded individuals, Lienitsin made a note of any one who failed
to offer him a greeting on festival days, and that he revenged himself
upon any one whose visiting-card had not been handed to his butler.
Eventually the youth's aversion almost attained the point of hysteria;
until he felt that, come what might, he MUST insult the fellow in
some fashion. To that task he applied himself con amore; and so
thoroughly that he met with complete success. That is to say, he
seized on an occasion to address Lienitsin in such fashion that the
delinquent received notice either to apologies or to leave the
Service; and when of these alternatives he chose the latter his uncle
came to him, and made a terrified appeal. "For God's sake remember
what you are doing!" he cried. "To think that, after beginning your
career so well, you should abandon it merely for the reason that you
have not fallen in with the sort of Director whom you prefer! What do
you mean by it, what do you mean by it? Were others to regard things
in the same way, the Service would find itself without a single
individual. Reconsider your conduct--forego your pride and conceit,
and make Lienitsin amends."

"But, dear Uncle," the nephew replied, "that is not the point. The
point is, not that I should find an apology difficult to offer, seeing
that, since Lienitsin is my superior, and I ought not to have
addressed him as I did, I am clearly in the wrong. Rather, the point
is the following. To my charge there has been committed the
performance of another kind of service. That is to say, I am the owner
of three hundred peasant souls, a badly administered estate, and a
fool of a bailiff. That being so, whereas the State will lose little
by having to fill my stool with another copyist, it will lose very
much by causing three hundred peasant souls to fail in the payment of
their taxes. As I say (how am I to put it?), I am a landowner who has
preferred to enter the Public Service. Now, should I employ myself
henceforth in conserving, restoring, and improving the fortunes of the
souls whom God has entrusted to my care, and thereby provide the State
with three hundred law-abiding, sober, hard-working taxpayers, how
will that service of mine rank as inferior to the service of a
department-directing fool like Lienitsin?"

On hearing this speech, the State Councillor could only gape, for he
had not expected Tientietnikov's torrent of words. He reflected a few
moments, and then murmured:

"Yes, but, but--but how can a man like you retire to rustication in
the country? What society will you get there? Here one meets at least
a general or a prince sometimes; indeed, no matter whom you pass in
the street, that person represents gas lamps and European
civilisation; but in the country, no matter what part of it you are
in, not a soul is to be encountered save muzhiks and their women. Why
should you go and condemn yourself to a state of vegetation like
that?"

Nevertheless the uncle's expostulations fell upon deaf ears, for
already the nephew was beginning to think of his estate as a retreat
of a type more likely to nourish the intellectual faculties and afford
the only profitable field of activity. After unearthing one or two
modern works on agriculture, therefore, he, two weeks later, found
himself in the neighbourhood of the home where his boyhood had been
spent, and approaching the spot which never failed to enthral the
visitor or guest. And in the young man's breast there was beginning to
palpitate a new feeling--in the young man's soul there were
reawakening old, long-concealed impressions; with the result that many
a spot which had long been faded from his memory now filled him with
interest, and the beautiful views on the estate found him gazing at
them like a newcomer, and with a beating heart. Yes, as the road wound
through a narrow ravine, and became engulfed in a forest where, both
above and below, he saw three-centuries-old oaks which three men could
not have spanned, and where Siberian firs and elms overtopped even the
poplars, and as he asked the peasants to tell him to whom the forest
belonged, and they replied, "To Tientietnikov," and he issued from the
forest, and proceeded on his way through meadows, and past spinneys of
elder, and of old and young willows, and arrived in sight of the
distant range of hills, and, crossing by two different bridges the
winding river (which he left successively to right and to left of him
as he did so), he again questioned some peasants concerning the
ownership of the meadows and the flooded lands, and was again informed
that they all belonged to Tientietnikov, and then, ascending a rise,
reached a tableland where, on one side, lay ungarnered fields of wheat
and rye and barley, and, on the other, the country already traversed
(but which now showed in shortened perspective), and then plunged
into the shade of some forked, umbrageous trees which stood scattered
over turf and extended to the manor-house itself, and caught glimpses
of the carved huts of the peasants, and of the red roofs of the stone
manorial outbuildings, and of the glittering pinnacles of the church,
and felt his heart beating, and knew, without being told by any one,
whither he had at length arrived--well, then the feeling which had
been growing within his soul burst forth, and he cried in ecstasy:

"Why have I been a fool so long? Why, seeing that fate has appointed
me to be ruler of an earthly paradise, did I prefer to bind myself in
servitude as a scribe of lifeless documents? To think that, after I
had been nurtured and schooled and stored with all the knowledge
necessary for the diffusion of good among those under me, and for the
improvement of my domain, and for the fulfilment of the manifold
duties of a landowner who is at once judge, administrator, and
constable of his people, I should have entrusted my estate to an
ignorant bailiff, and sought to maintain an absentee guardianship over
the affairs of serfs whom I have never met, and of whose capabilities
and characters I am yet ignorant! To think that I should have deemed
true estate-management inferior to a documentary, fantastical
management of provinces which lie a thousand versts away, and which my
foot has never trod, and where I could never have effected aught but
blunders and irregularities!"

Meanwhile another spectacle was being prepared for him. On learning
that the barin was approaching the mansion, the muzhiks collected on
the verandah in very variety of picturesque dress and tonsure; and
when these good folk surrounded him, and there arose a resounding
shout of "Here is our Foster Father! He has remembered us!" and, in
spite of themselves, some of the older men and women began weeping as
they recalled his grandfather and great-grandfather, he himself could
not restrain his tears, but reflected: "How much affection! And in
return for what? In return for my never having come to see them--in
return for my never having taken the least interest in their affairs!"
And then and there he registered a mental vow to share their every
task and occupation.

So he applied himself to supervising and administering. He reduced the
amount of the barstchina[1], he decreased the number of working-days
for the owner, and he augmented the sum of the peasants' leisure-time.
He also dismissed the fool of a bailiff, and took to bearing a
personal hand in everything--to being present in the fields, at the
threshing-floor, at the kilns, at the wharf, at the freighting of
barges and rafts, and at their conveyance down the river: wherefore
even the lazy hands began to look to themselves. But this did not last
long. The peasant is an observant individual, and Tientietnikov's
muzhiks soon scented the fact that, though energetic and desirous of
doing much, the barin had no notion how to do it, nor even how to set
about it--that, in short, he spoke by the book rather than out of his
personal knowledge. Consequently things resulted, not in master and
men failing to understand one another, but in their not singing
together, in their not producing the very same note.

[1] In the days of serfdom, the rate of forced labour--so many hours
    or so many days per week--which the serf had to perform for his
    proprietor.

That is to say, it was not long before Tientietnikov noticed that on
the manorial lands, nothing prospered to the extent that it did on the
peasants'. The manorial crops were sown in good time, and came up
well, and every one appeared to work his best, so much so that
Tientietnikov, who supervised the whole, frequently ordered mugs of
vodka to be served out as a reward for the excellence of the labour
performed. Yet the rye on the peasants' land had formed into ear, and
the oats had begun to shoot their grain, and the millet had filled
before, on the manorial lands, the corn had so much as grown to stalk,
or the ears had sprouted in embryo. In short, gradually the barin
realised that, in spite of favours conferred, the peasants were
playing the rogue with him. Next he resorted to remonstrance, but was
met with the reply, "How could we not do our best for our barin? You
yourself saw how well we laboured at the ploughing and the sowing, for
you gave us mugs of vodka for our pains."

"Then why have things turned out so badly?" the barin persisted.

"Who can say? It must be that a grub has eaten the crop from below.
Besides, what a summer has it been--never a drop of rain!"

Nevertheless, the barin noted that no grub had eaten the PEASANTS'
crops, as well as that the rain had fallen in the most curious
fashion--namely, in patches. It had obliged the muzhiks, but had shed
a mere sprinkling for the barin.

Still more difficult did he find it to deal with the peasant women.
Ever and anon they would beg to be excused from work, or start making
complaints of the severity of the barstchina. Indeed, they were
terrible folk! However, Tientietnikov abolished the majority of the
tithes of linen, hedge fruit, mushrooms, and nuts, and also reduced by
one-half other tasks proper to the women, in the hope that they would
devote their spare time to their own domestic concerns--namely, to
sewing and mending, and to making clothes for their husbands, and to
increasing the area of their kitchen gardens. Yet no such result came
about. On the contrary, such a pitch did the idleness, the
quarrelsomeness, and the intriguing and caballing of the fair sex
attain that their helpmeets were for ever coming to the barin with a
request that he would rid one or another of his wife, since she had
become a nuisance, and to live with her was impossible.

Next, hardening his heart, the barin attempted severity. But of what
avail was severity? The peasant woman remained always the peasant
woman, and would come and whine that she was sick and ailing, and keep
pitifully hugging to herself the mean and filthy rags which she had
donned for the occasion. And when poor Tientietnikov found himself
unable to say more to her than just, "Get out of my sight, and may the
Lord go with you!" the next item in the comedy would be that he would
see her, even as she was leaving his gates, fall to contending with a
neighbour for, say, the possession of a turnip, and dealing out slaps
in the face such as even a strong, healthy man could scarcely have
compassed!

Again, amongst other things, Tientietnikov conceived the idea of
establishing a school for his people; but the scheme resulted in a
farce which left him in sackcloth and ashes. In the same way he found
that, when it came to a question of dispensing justice and of
adjusting disputes, the host of juridical subtleties with which the
professors had provided him proved absolutely useless. That is to say,
the one party lied, and the other party lied, and only the devil could
have decided between them. Consequently he himself perceived that a
knowledge of mankind would have availed him more than all the legal
refinements and philosophical maxims in the world could do. He lacked
something; and though he could not divine what it was, the situation
brought about was the common one of the barin failing to understand
the peasant, and the peasant failing to understand the barin, and both
becoming disaffected. In the end, these difficulties so chilled
Tientietnikov's enthusiasm that he took to supervising the labours of
the field with greatly diminished attention. That is to say, no matter
whether the scythes were softly swishing through the grass, or ricks
were being built, or rafts were being loaded, he would allow his eyes
to wander from his men, and to fall to gazing at, say, a red-billed,
red-legged heron which, after strutting along the bank of a stream,
would have caught a fish in its beak, and be holding it awhile, as
though in doubt whether to swallow it. Next he would glance towards
the spot where a similar bird, but one not yet in possession of a
fish, was engaged in watching the doings of its mate. Lastly, with
eyebrows knitted, and face turned to scan the zenith, he would drink
in the smell of the fields, and fall to listening to the winged
population of the air as from earth and sky alike the manifold music
of winged creatures combined in a single harmonious chorus. In the rye
the quail would be calling, and, in the grass, the corncrake, and over
them would be wheeling flocks of twittering linnets. Also, the
jacksnipe would be uttering its croak, and the lark executing its
roulades where it had become lost in the sunshine, and cranes sending
forth their trumpet-like challenge as they deployed towards the zenith
in triangle-shaped flocks. In fact, the neighbourhood would seem to
have become converted into one great concert of melody. O Creator, how
fair is Thy world where, in remote, rural seclusion, it lies apart
from cities and from highways!

But soon even this began to pall upon Tientietnikov, and he ceased
altogether to visit his fields, or to do aught but shut himself up in
his rooms, where he refused to receive even the bailiff when that
functionary called with his reports. Again, although, until now, he
had to a certain extent associated with a retired colonel of
hussars--a man saturated with tobacco smoke--and also with a student
of pronounced, but immature, opinions who culled the bulk of his
wisdom from contemporary newspapers and pamphlets, he found, as time
went on, that these companions proved as tedious as the rest, and came
to think their conversation superficial, and their European method of
comporting themselves--that is to say, the method of conversing with
much slapping of knees and a great deal of bowing and
gesticulation--too direct and unadorned. So these and every one else
he decided to "drop," and carried this resolution into effect with a
certain amount of rudeness. On the next occasion that Varvar
Nikolaievitch Vishnepokromov called to indulge in a free-and-easy
symposium on politics, philosophy, literature, morals, and the state
of financial affairs in England (he was, in all matters which admit of
superficial discussion, the pleasantest fellow alive, seeing that he
was a typical representative both of the retired fire-eater and of the
school of thought which is now becoming the rage)--when, I say, this
next happened, Tientietnikov merely sent out to say that he was not at
home, and then carefully showed himself at the window. Host and guest
exchanged glances, and, while the one muttered through his teeth "The
cur!" the other relieved his feelings with a remark or two on swine.
Thus the acquaintance came to an abrupt end, and from that time forth
no visitor called at the mansion.

Tientietnikov in no way regretted this, for he could now devote
himself wholly to the projection of a great work on Russia. Of the
scale on which this composition was conceived the reader is already
aware. The reader also knows how strange, how unsystematic, was the
system employed in it. Yet to say that Tientietnikov never awoke from
his lethargy would not be altogether true. On the contrary, when the
post brought him newspapers and reviews, and he saw in their printed
pages, perhaps, the well-known name of some former comrade who had
succeeded in the great field of Public Service, or had conferred upon
science and the world's work some notable contribution, he would
succumb to secret and suppressed grief, and involuntarily there would
burst from his soul an expression of aching, voiceless regret that he
himself had done so little. And at these times his existence would
seem to him odious and repellent; at these times there would uprise
before him the memory of his school days, and the figure of Alexander
Petrovitch, as vivid as in life. And, slowly welling, the tears would
course over Tientietnikov's cheeks.

What meant these repinings? Was there not disclosed in them the secret
of his galling spiritual pain--the fact that he had failed to order
his life aright, to confirm the lofty aims with which he had started
his course; the fact that, always poorly equipped with experience, he
had failed to attain the better and the higher state, and there to
strengthen himself for the overcoming of hindrances and obstacles; the
fact that, dissolving like overheated metal, his bounteous store of
superior instincts had failed to take the final tempering; the fact
that the tutor of his boyhood, a man in a thousand, had prematurely
died, and left to Tientietnikov no one who could restore to him the
moral strength shattered by vacillation and the will power weakened by
want of virility--no one, in short, who could cry hearteningly to his
soul "Forward!"--the word for which the Russian of every degree, of
every class, of every occupation, of every school of thought, is for
ever hungering.

Indeed, WHERE is the man who can cry aloud for any of us, in the
Russian tongue dear to our soul, the all-compelling command
"Forward!"? Who is there who, knowing the strength and the nature and
the inmost depths of the Russian genius, can by a single magic
incantation divert our ideals to the higher life? Were there such a
man, with what tears, with what affection, would not the grateful sons
of Russia repay him! Yet age succeeds to age, and our callow youth
still lies wrapped in shameful sloth, or strives and struggles to no
purpose. God has not yet given us the man able to sound the call.

One circumstance which almost aroused Tientietnikov, which almost
brought about a revolution in his character, was the fact that he came
very near to falling in love. Yet even this resulted in nothing. Ten
versts away there lived the general whom we have heard expressing
himself in highly uncomplimentary terms concerning Tientietnikov. He
maintained a General-like establishment, dispensed hospitality (that
is to say, was glad when his neighbours came to pay him their
respects, though he himself never went out), spoke always in a hoarse
voice, read a certain number of books, and had a daughter--a curious,
unfamiliar type, but full of life as life itself. This maiden's name
was Ulinka, and she had been strangely brought up, for, losing her
mother in early childhood, she had subsequently received instruction
at the hands of an English governess who knew not a single word of
Russian. Moreover her father, though excessively fond of her, treated
her always as a toy; with the result that, as she grew to years of
discretion, she became wholly wayward and spoilt. Indeed, had any one
seen the sudden rage which would gather on her beautiful young
forehead when she was engaged in a heated dispute with her father, he
would have thought her one of the most capricious beings in the world.
Yet that rage gathered only when she had heard of injustice or harsh
treatment, and never because she desired to argue on her own behalf,
or to attempt to justify her own conduct. Also, that anger would
disappear as soon as ever she saw any one whom she had formerly
disliked fall upon evil times, and, at his first request for alms
would, without consideration or subsequent regret, hand him her purse
and its whole contents. Yes, her every act was strenuous, and when she
spoke her whole personality seemed to be following hot-foot upon her
thought--both her expression of face and her diction and the movements
of her hands. Nay, the very folds of her frock had a similar
appearance of striving; until one would have thought that all her self
were flying in pursuit of her words. Nor did she know reticence:
before any one she would disclose her mind, and no force could compel
her to maintain silence when she desired to speak. Also, her
enchanting, peculiar gait--a gait which belonged to her alone--was so
absolutely free and unfettered that every one involuntarily gave her
way. Lastly, in her presence churls seemed to become confused and fall
to silence, and even the roughest and most outspoken would lose their
heads, and have not a word to say; whereas the shy man would find
himself able to converse as never in his life before, and would feel,
from the first, as though he had seen her and known her at some
previous period--during the days of some unremembered childhood, when
he was at home, and spending a merry evening among a crowd of romping
children. And for long afterwards he would feel as though his man's
intellect and estate were a burden.

This was what now befell Tientietnikov; and as it did so a new feeling
entered into his soul, and his dreamy life lightened for a moment.

At first the General used to receive him with hospitable civility, but
permanent concord between them proved impossible; their conversation
always merged into dissension and soreness, seeing that, while the
General could not bear to be contradicted or worsted in an argument,
Tientietnikov was a man of extreme sensitiveness. True, for the
daughter's sake, the father was for a while deferred to, and thus
peace was maintained; but this lasted only until the time when there
arrived, on a visit to the General, two kinswomen of his--the Countess
Bordirev and the Princess Uziakin, retired Court dames, but ladies who
still kept up a certain connection with Court circles, and therefore
were much fawned upon by their host. No sooner had they appeared on
the scene than (so it seemed to Tientietnikov) the General's attitude
towards the young man became colder--either he ceased to notice him at
all or he spoke to him familiarly, and as to a person having no
standing in society. This offended Tientietnikov deeply, and though,
when at length he spoke out on the subject, he retained sufficient
presence of mind to compress his lips, and to preserve a gentle and
courteous tone, his face flushed and his inner man was boiling.

"General," he said, "I thank you for your condescension. By addressing
me in the second person singular, you have admitted me to the circle
of your most intimate friends. Indeed, were it not that a difference
of years forbids any familiarity on my part, I should answer you in
similar fashion."

The General sat aghast. At length, rallying his tongue and his
faculties, he replied that, though he had spoken with a lack of
ceremony, he had used the term "thou" merely as an elderly man
naturally employs it towards a junior (he made no reference to
difference of rank).

Nevertheless, the acquaintance broke off here, and with it any
possibility of love-making. The light which had shed a momentary gleam
before Tientietnikov's eyes had become extinguished for ever, and upon
it there followed a darkness denser than before. Henceforth everything
conduced to evolve the regime which the reader has noted--that regime
of sloth and inaction which converted Tientietnikov's residence into a
place of dirt and neglect. For days at a time would a broom and a heap
of dust be left lying in the middle of a room, and trousers tossing
about the salon, and pairs of worn-out braces adorning the what-not
near the sofa. In short, so mean and untidy did Tientietnikov's mode
of life become, that not only his servants, but even his very poultry
ceased to treat him with respect. Taking up a pen, he would spend
hours in idly sketching houses, huts, waggons, troikas, and flourishes
on a piece of paper; while at other times, when he had sunk into a
reverie, the pen would, all unknowingly, sketch a small head which had
delicate features, a pair of quick, penetrating eyes, and a raised
coiffure. Then suddenly the dreamer would perceive, to his surprise,
that the pen had executed the portrait of a maiden whose picture no
artist could adequately have painted; and therewith his despondency
would become greater than ever, and, believing that happiness did not
exist on earth, he would relapse into increased ennui, increased
neglect of his responsibilities.

But one morning he noticed, on moving to the window after breakfast,
that not a word was proceeding either from the butler or the
housekeeper, but that, on the contrary, the courtyard seemed to smack
of a certain bustle and excitement. This was because through the
entrance gates (which the kitchen maid and the scullion had run to
open) there were appearing the noses of three horses--one to the
right, one in the middle, and one to the left, after the fashion of
triumphal groups of statuary. Above them, on the box seat, were seated
a coachman and a valet, while behind, again, there could be discerned
a gentleman in a scarf and a fur cap. Only when the equipage had
entered the courtyard did it stand revealed as a light spring
britchka. And as it came to a halt, there leapt on to the verandah of
the mansion an individual of respectable exterior, and possessed of
the art of moving with the neatness and alertness of a military man.

Upon this Tientietnikov's heart stood still. He was unused to
receiving visitors, and for the moment conceived the new arrival to be
a Government official, sent to question him concerning an abortive
society to which he had formerly belonged. (Here the author may
interpolate the fact that, in Tientietnikov's early days, the young
man had become mixed up in a very absurd affair. That is to say, a
couple of philosophers belonging to a regiment of hussars had,
together with an aesthete who had not yet completed his student's
course and a gambler who had squandered his all, formed a secret
society of philanthropic aims under the presidency of a certain old
rascal of a freemason and the ruined gambler aforesaid. The scope of
the society's work was to be extensive: it was to bring lasting
happiness to humanity at large, from the banks of the Thames to the
shores of Kamtchatka. But for this much money was needed: wherefore
from the noble-minded members of the society generous contributions
were demanded, and then forwarded to a destination known only to the
supreme authorities of the concern. As for Tientietnikov's adhesion,
it was brought about by the two friends already alluded to as
"embittered"--good-hearted souls whom the wear and tear of their
efforts on behalf of science, civilisation, and the future
emancipation of mankind had ended by converting into confirmed
drunkards. Perhaps it need hardly be said that Tientietnikov soon
discovered how things stood, and withdrew from the association; but,
meanwhile, the latter had had the misfortune so to have engaged in
dealings not wholly creditable to gentlemen of noble origin as
likewise to have become entangled in dealings with the police.
Consequently, it is not to be wondered at that, though Tientietnikov
had long severed his connection with the society and its policy, he
still remained uneasy in his mind as to what might even yet be the
result.)

However, his fears vanished the instant that the guest saluted him
with marked politeness and explained, with many deferential poises of
the head, and in terms at once civil and concise, that for some time
past he (the newcomer) had been touring the Russian Empire on business
and in the pursuit of knowledge, that the Empire abounded in objects
of interest--not to mention a plenitude of manufactures and a great
diversity of soil, and that, in spite of the fact that he was greatly
struck with the amenities of his host's domain, he would certainly not
have presumed to intrude at such an inconvenient hour but for the
circumstance that the inclement spring weather, added to the state of
the roads, had necessitated sundry repairs to his carriage at the
hands of wheelwrights and blacksmiths. Finally he declared that, even
if this last had NOT happened, he would still have felt unable to
deny himself the pleasure of offering to his host that meed of homage
which was the latter's due.

This speech--a speech of fascinating bonhomie--delivered, the guest
executed a sort of shuffle with a half-boot of patent leather studded
with buttons of mother-of-pearl, and followed that up by (in spite of
his pronounced rotundity of figure) stepping backwards with all the
elan of an india-rubber ball.

From this the somewhat reassured Tientietnikov concluded that his
visitor must be a literary, knowledge-seeking professor who was
engaged in roaming the country in search of botanical specimens and
fossils; wherefore he hastened to express both his readiness to
further the visitor's objects (whatever they might be) and his
personal willingness to provide him with the requisite wheelwrights
and blacksmiths. Meanwhile he begged his guest to consider himself at
home, and, after seating him in an armchair, made preparations to
listen to the newcomer's discourse on natural history.

But the newcomer applied himself, rather, to phenomena of the internal
world, saying that his life might be likened to a barque tossed on the
crests of perfidious billows, that in his time he had been fated to
play many parts, and that on more than one occasion his life had stood
in danger at the hands of foes. At the same time, these tidings were
communicated in a manner calculated to show that the speaker was also
a man of PRACTICAL capabilities. In conclusion, the visitor took out
a cambric pocket-handkerchief, and sneezed into it with a vehemence
wholly new to Tientietnikov's experience. In fact, the sneeze rather
resembled the note which, at times, the trombone of an orchestra
appears to utter not so much from its proper place on the platform as
from the immediate neighbourhood of the listener's ear. And as the
echoes of the drowsy mansion resounded to the report of the explosion
there followed upon the same a wave of perfume, skilfully wafted
abroad with a flourish of the eau-de-Cologne-scented handkerchief.

By this time the reader will have guessed that the visitor was none
other than our old and respected friend Paul Ivanovitch Chichikov.
Naturally, time had not spared him his share of anxieties and alarms;
wherefore his exterior had come to look a trifle more elderly, his
frockcoat had taken on a suggestion of shabbiness, and britchka,
coachman, valet, horses, and harness alike had about them a sort of
second-hand, worse-for-wear effect. Evidently the Chichikovian
finances were not in the most flourishing of conditions. Nevertheless,
the old expression of face, the old air of breeding and refinement,
remained unimpaired, and our hero had even improved in the art of
walking and turning with grace, and of dexterously crossing one leg
over the other when taking a seat. Also, his mildness of diction, his
discreet moderation of word and phrase, survived in, if anything,
increased measure, and he bore himself with a skill which caused his
tactfulness to surpass itself in sureness of aplomb. And all these
accomplishments had their effect further heightened by a snowy
immaculateness of collar and dickey, and an absence of dust from his
frockcoat, as complete as though he had just arrived to attend a
nameday festival. Lastly, his cheeks and chin were of such neat
clean-shavenness that no one but a blind man could have failed to
admire their rounded contours.

From that moment onwards great changes took place in Tientietnikov's
establishment, and certain of its rooms assumed an unwonted air of
cleanliness and order. The rooms in question were those assigned to
Chichikov, while one other apartment--a little front chamber opening
into the hall--became permeated with Petrushka's own peculiar smell.
But this lasted only for a little while, for presently Petrushka was
transferred to the servants' quarters, a course which ought to have
been adopted in the first instance.

During the initial days of Chichikov's sojourn, Tientietnikov feared
rather to lose his independence, inasmuch as he thought that his guest
might hamper his movements, and bring about alterations in the
established routine of the place. But these fears proved groundless,
for Paul Ivanovitch displayed an extraordinary aptitude for
accommodating himself to his new position. To begin with, he
encouraged his host in his philosophical inertia by saying that the
latter would help Tientietnikov to become a centenarian. Next, in the
matter of a life of isolation, he hit things off exactly by remarking
that such a life bred in a man a capacity for high thinking. Lastly,
as he inspected the library and dilated on books in general, he
contrived an opportunity to observe that literature safeguarded a man
from a tendency to waste his time. In short, the few words of which he
delivered himself were brief, but invariably to the point. And this
discretion of speech was outdone by his discretion of conduct. That is
to say, whether entering or leaving the room, he never wearied his
host with a question if Tientietnikov had the air of being disinclined
to talk; and with equal satisfaction the guest could either play chess
or hold his tongue. Consequently Tientietnikov said to himself:

"For the first time in my life I have met with a man with whom it is
possible to live. In general, not many of the type exist in Russia,
and, though clever, good-humoured, well-educated men abound, one would
be hard put to it to find an individual of equable temperament with
whom one could share a roof for centuries without a quarrel arising.
Anyway, Chichikov is the first of his sort that I have met."

For his part, Chichikov was only too delighted to reside with a person
so quiet and agreeable as his host. Of a wandering life he was
temporarily weary, and to rest, even for a month, in such a beautiful
spot, and in sight of green fields and the slow flowering of spring,
was likely to benefit him also from the hygienic point of view. And,
indeed, a more delightful retreat in which to recuperate could not
possibly have been found. The spring, long retarded by previous cold,
had now begun in all its comeliness, and life was rampant. Already,
over the first emerald of the grass, the dandelion was showing yellow,
and the red-pink anemone was hanging its tender head; while the
surface of every pond was a swarm of dancing gnats and midges, and the
water-spider was being joined in their pursuit by birds which gathered
from every quarter to the vantage-ground of the dry reeds. Every
species of creature also seemed to be assembling in concourse, and
taking stock of one another. Suddenly the earth became populous, the
forest had opened its eyes, and the meadows were lifting up their
voice in song. In the same way had choral dances begun to be weaved in
the village, and everywhere that the eye turned there was merriment.
What brightness in the green of nature, what freshness in the air,
what singing of birds in the gardens of the mansion, what general joy
and rapture and exaltation! Particularly in the village might the
shouting and singing have been in honour of a wedding!

Chichikov walked hither, thither, and everywhere--a pursuit for which
there was ample choice and facility. At one time he would direct his
steps along the edge of the flat tableland, and contemplate the depths
below, where still there lay sheets of water left by the floods of
winter, and where the island-like patches of forest showed leafless
boughs; while at another time he would plunge into the thicket and
ravine country, where nests of birds weighted branches almost to the
ground, and the sky was darkened with the criss-cross flight of cawing
rooks. Again, the drier portions of the meadows could be crossed to
the river wharves, whence the first barges were just beginning to set
forth with pea-meal and barley and wheat, while at the same time one's
ear would be caught with the sound of some mill resuming its functions
as once more the water turned the wheel. Chichikov would also walk
afield to watch the early tillage operations of the season, and
observe how the blackness of a new furrow would make its way across
the expanse of green, and how the sower, rhythmically striking his
hand against the pannier slung across his breast, would scatter his
fistfuls of seed with equal distribution, apportioning not a grain too
much to one side or to the other.

In fact, Chichikov went everywhere. He chatted and talked, now with
the bailiff, now with a peasant, now with a miller, and inquired into
the manner and nature of everything, and sought information as to how
an estate was managed, and at what price corn was selling, and what
species of grain was best for spring and autumn grinding, and what was
the name of each peasant, and who were his kinsfolk, and where he had
bought his cow, and what he fed his pigs on. Chichikov also made
inquiry concerning the number of peasants who had lately died: but of
these there appeared to be few. And suddenly his quick eye discerned
that Tientietnikov's estate was not being worked as it might have
been--that much neglect and listlessness and pilfering and drunkenness
was abroad; and on perceiving this, he thought to himself: "What a
fool is that Tientietnikov! To think of letting a property like this
decay when he might be drawing from it an income of fifty thousand
roubles a year!"

Also, more than once, while taking these walks, our hero pondered the
idea of himself becoming a landowner--not now, of course, but later,
when his chief aim should have been achieved, and he had got into his
hands the necessary means for living the quiet life of the proprietor
of an estate. Yes, and at these times there would include itself in
his castle-building the figure of a young, fresh, fair-faced maiden of
the mercantile or other rich grade of society, a woman who could both
play and sing. He also dreamed of little descendants who should
perpetuate the name of Chichikov; perhaps a frolicsome little boy and
a fair young daughter, or possibly, two boys and quite two or three
daughters; so that all should know that he had really lived and had
his being, that he had not merely roamed the world like a spectre or a
shadow; so that for him and his the country should never be put to
shame. And from that he would go on to fancy that a title appended to
his rank would not be a bad thing--the title of State Councillor, for
instance, which was deserving of all honour and respect. Ah, it is a
common thing for a man who is taking a solitary walk so to detach
himself from the irksome realities of the present that he is able to
stir and to excite and to provoke his imagination to the conception of
things he knows can never really come to pass!

Chichikov's servants also found the mansion to their taste, and, like
their master, speedily made themselves at home in it. In particular
did Petrushka make friends with Grigory the butler, although at first
the pair showed a tendency to outbrag one another--Petrushka beginning
by throwing dust in Grigory's eyes on the score of his (Petrushka's)
travels, and Grigory taking him down a peg or two by referring to St.
Petersburg (a city which Petrushka had never visited), and Petrushka
seeking to recover lost ground by dilating on towns which he HAD
visited, and Grigory capping this by naming some town which is not to
be found on any map in existence, and then estimating the journey
thither as at least thirty thousand versts--a statement which would so
completely flabbergast the henchman of Chichikov's suite that he would
be left staring open-mouthed, amid the general laughter of the
domestic staff. However, as I say, the pair ended by swearing eternal
friendship with one another, and making a practice of resorting to the
village tavern in company.

For Selifan, however, the place had a charm of a different kind. That
is to say, each evening there would take place in the village a
singing of songs and a weaving of country dances; and so shapely and
buxom were the maidens--maidens of a type hard to find in our
present-day villages on large estates--that he would stand for hours
wondering which of them was the best. White-necked and white-bosomed,
all had great roving eyes, the gait of peacocks, and hair reaching to
the waist. And as, with his hands clasping theirs, he glided hither
and thither in the dance, or retired backwards towards a wall with a
row of other young fellows, and then, with them, returned to meet the
damsels--all singing in chorus (and laughing as they sang it),
"Boyars, show me my bridegroom!" and dusk was falling gently, and from
the other side of the river there kept coming far, faint, plaintive
echoes of the melody--well, then our Selifan hardly knew whether he
were standing upon his head or his heels. Later, when sleeping and
when waking, both at noon and at twilight, he would seem still to be
holding a pair of white hands, and moving in the dance.

Chichikov's horses also found nothing of which to disapprove. Yes,
both the bay, the Assessor, and the skewbald accounted residence at
Tientietnikov's a most comfortable affair, and voted the oats
excellent, and the arrangement of the stables beyond all cavil. True,
on this occasion each horse had a stall to himself; yet, by looking
over the intervening partition, it was possible always to see one's
fellows, and, should a neighbour take it into his head to utter a
neigh, to answer it at once.

As for the errand which had hitherto led Chichikov to travel about
Russia, he had now decided to move very cautiously and secretly in the
matter. In fact, on noticing that Tientietnikov went in absorbedly for
reading and for talking philosophy, the visitor said to himself,
"No--I had better begin at the other end," and proceeded first to feel
his way among the servants of the establishment. From them he learnt
several things, and, in particular, that the barin had been wont to go
and call upon a certain General in the neighbourhood, and that the
General possessed a daughter, and that she and Tientietnikov had had
an affair of some sort, but that the pair had subsequently parted, and
gone their several ways. For that matter, Chichikov himself had
noticed that Tientietnikov was in the habit of drawing heads of which
each representation exactly resembled the rest.

Once, as he sat tapping his silver snuff-box after luncheon, Chichikov
remarked:

"One thing you lack, and only one, Andrei Ivanovitch."

"What is that?" asked his host.

"A female friend or two," replied Chichikov.

Tientietnikov made no rejoinder, and the conversation came temporarily
to an end.

But Chichikov was not to be discouraged; wherefore, while waiting for
supper and talking on different subjects, he seized an opportunity to
interject:

"Do you know, it would do you no harm to marry."

As before, Tientietnikov did not reply, and the renewed mention of the
subject seemed to have annoyed him.

For the third time--it was after supper--Chichikov returned to the
charge by remarking:

"To-day, as I was walking round your property, I could not help
thinking that marriage would do you a great deal of good. Otherwise
you will develop into a hypochondriac."

Whether Chichikov's words now voiced sufficiently the note of
persuasion, or whether Tientietnikov happened, at the moment, to be
unusually disposed to frankness, at all events the young landowner
sighed, and then responded as he expelled a puff of tobacco smoke:

"To attain anything, Paul Ivanovitch, one needs to have been born
under a lucky star."

And he related to his guest the whole history of his acquaintanceship
and subsequent rupture with the General.

As Chichikov listened to the recital, and gradually realised that the
affair had arisen merely out of a chance word on the General's part,
he was astounded beyond measure, and gazed at Tientietnikov without
knowing what to make of him.

"Andrei Ivanovitch," he said at length, "what was there to take
offence at?"

"Nothing, as regards the actual words spoken," replied the other. "The
offence lay, rather, in the insult conveyed in the General's tone."
Tientietnikov was a kindly and peaceable man, yet his eyes flashed as
he said this, and his voice vibrated with wounded feeling.

"Yet, even then, need you have taken it so much amiss?"

"What? Could I have gone on visiting him as before?"

"Certainly. No great harm had been done?"

"I disagree with you. Had he been an old man in a humble station of
life, instead of a proud and swaggering officer, I should not have
minded so much. But, as it was, I could not, and would not, brook his
words."

"A curious fellow, this Tientietnikov!" thought Chichikov to himself.

"A curious fellow, this Chichikov!" was Tientietnikov's inward
reflection.

"I tell you what," resumed Chichikov. "To-morrow I myself will go and
see the General."

"To what purpose?" asked Tientietnikov, with astonishment and distrust
in his eyes.

"To offer him an assurance of my personal respect."

"A strange fellow, this Chichikov!" reflected Tientietnikov.

"A strange fellow, this Tientietnikov!" thought Chichikov, and then
added aloud: "Yes, I will go and see him at ten o'clock to-morrow; but
since my britchka is not yet altogether in travelling order, would you
be so good as to lend me your koliaska for the purpose?"

CHAPTER II

Tientietnikov's good horses covered the ten versts to the General's
house in a little over half an hour. Descending from the koliaska with
features attuned to deference, Chichikov inquired for the master of
the house, and was at once ushered into his presence. Bowing with head
held respectfully on one side and hands extended like those of a
waiter carrying a trayful of teacups, the visitor inclined his whole
body forward, and said:

"I have deemed it my duty to present myself to your Excellency. I have
deemed it my duty because in my heart I cherish a most profound
respect for the valiant men who, on the field of battle, have proved
the saviours of their country."

That this preliminary attack did not wholly displease the General was
proved by the fact that, responding with a gracious inclination of the
head, he replied:

"I am glad to make your acquaintance. Pray be so good as to take a
seat. In what capacity or capacities have you yourself seen service?"

"Of my service," said Chichikov, depositing his form, not exactly in
the centre of the chair, but rather on one side of it, and resting a
hand upon one of its arms, "--of my service the scene was laid, in the
first instance, in the Treasury; while its further course bore me
successively into the employ of the Public Buildings Commission, of
the Customs Board, and of other Government Offices. But, throughout,
my life has resembled a barque tossed on the crests of perfidious
billows. In suffering I have been swathed and wrapped until I have
come to be, as it were, suffering personified; while of the extent to
which my life has been sought by foes, no words, no colouring, no (if
I may so express it?) painter's brush could ever convey to you an
adequate idea. And now, at length, in my declining years, I am seeking
a corner in which to eke out the remainder of my miserable existence,
while at the present moment I am enjoying the hospitality of a
neighbour of your acquaintance."

"And who is that?"

"Your neighbour Tientietnikov, your Excellency."

Upon that the General frowned.

"Led me add," put in Chichikov hastily, "that he greatly regrets that
on a former occasion he should have failed to show a proper respect
for--for--"

"For what?" asked the General.

"For the services to the public which your Excellency has rendered.
Indeed, he cannot find words to express his sorrow, but keeps
repeating to himself: 'Would that I had valued at their true worth the
men who have saved our fatherland!'"

"And why should he say that?" asked the mollified General. "I bear him
no grudge. In fact, I have never cherished aught but a sincere liking
for him, a sincere esteem, and do not doubt but that, in time, he may
become a useful member of society."

"In the words which you have been good enough to utter," said
Chichikov with a bow, "there is embodied much justice. Yes,
Tientietnikov is in very truth a man of worth. Not only does he
possess the gift of eloquence, but also he is a master of the pen."

"Ah, yes; he DOES write rubbish of some sort, doesn't he? Verses, or
something of the kind?"

"Not rubbish, your Excellency, but practical stuff. In short, he is
inditing a history."

"A HISTORY? But a history of what?"

"A history of, of--" For a moment or two Chichikov hesitated. Then,
whether because it was a General that was seated in front of him, or
because he desired to impart greater importance to the subject which
he was about to invent, he concluded: "A history of Generals, your
Excellency."

"Of Generals? Of WHAT Generals?"

"Of Generals generally--of Generals at large. That is to say, and to
be more precise, a history of the Generals of our fatherland."

By this time Chichikov was floundering badly. Mentally he spat upon
himself and reflected: "Gracious heavens! What rubbish I am talking!"

"Pardon me," went on his interlocutor, "but I do not quite understand
you. Is Tientietnikov producing a history of a given period, or only a
history made up of a series of biographies? Also, is he including
ALL our Generals, or only those who took part in the campaign of 1812?"

"The latter, your Excellency--only the Generals of 1812," replied
Chichikov. Then he added beneath his breath: "Were I to be killed for
it, I could not say what that may be supposed to mean."

"Then why should he not come and see me in person?" went on his host.
"Possibly I might be able to furnish him with much interesting
material?"

"He is afraid to come, your Excellency."

"Nonsense! Just because of a hasty word or two! I am not that sort of
man at all. In fact, I should be very happy to call upon HIM."

"Never would he permit that, your Excellency. He would greatly prefer
to be the first to make advances." And Chichikov added to himself:
"What a stroke of luck those Generals were! Otherwise, the Lord knows
where my tongue might have landed me!"

At this moment the door into the adjoining room opened, and there
appeared in the doorway a girl as fair as a ray of the sun--so fair,
indeed, that Chichikov stared at her in amazement. Apparently she had
come to speak to her father for a moment, but had stopped short on
perceiving that there was some one with him. The only fault to be
found in her appearance was the fact that she was too thin and
fragile-looking.

"May I introduce you to my little pet?" said the General to Chichikov.
"To tell you the truth, I do not know your name."

"That you should be unacquainted with the name of one who has never
distinguished himself in the manner of which you yourself can boast is
scarcely to be wondered at." And Chichikov executed one of his
sidelong, deferential bows.

"Well, I should be delighted to know it."

"It is Paul Ivanovitch Chichikov, your Excellency." With that went the
easy bow of a military man and the agile backward movement of an
india-rubber ball.

"Ulinka, this is Paul Ivanovitch," said the General, turning to his
daughter. "He has just told me some interesting news--namely, that our
neighbour Tientietnikov is not altogether the fool we had at first
thought him. On the contrary, he is engaged upon a very important
work--upon a history of the Russian Generals of 1812."

"But who ever supposed him to be a fool?" asked the girl quickly.
"What happened was that you took Vishnepokromov's word--the word of a
man who is himself both a fool and a good-for-nothing."

"Well, well," said the father after further good-natured dispute on
the subject of Vishnepokromov. "Do you now run away, for I wish to
dress for luncheon. And you, sir," he added to Chichikov, "will you
not join us at table?"

Chichikov bowed so low and so long that, by the time that his eyes had
ceased to see nothing but his own boots, the General's daughter had
disappeared, and in her place was standing a bewhiskered butler, armed
with a silver soap-dish and a hand-basin.

"Do you mind if I wash in your presence?" asked the host.

"By no means," replied Chichikov. "Pray do whatsoever you please in
that respect."

Upon that the General fell to scrubbing himself--incidentally, to
sending soapsuds flying in every direction. Meanwhile he seemed so
favourably disposed that Chichikov decided to sound him then and
there, more especially since the butler had left the room.

"May I put to you a problem?" he asked.

"Certainly," replied the General. "What is it?"

"It is this, your Excellency. I have a decrepit old uncle who owns
three hundred souls and two thousand roubles-worth of other property.
Also, except for myself, he possesses not a single heir. Now, although
his infirm state of health will not permit of his managing his
property in person, he will not allow me either to manage it. And the
reason for his conduct--his very strange conduct--he states as
follows: 'I do not know my nephew, and very likely he is a
spendthrift. If he wishes to show me that he is good for anything, let
him go and acquire as many souls as _I_ have acquired; and when he has
done that I will transfer to him my three hundred souls as well."

"The man must be an absolute fool," commented the General.

"Possibly. And were that all, things would not be as bad as they are.
But, unfortunately, my uncle has gone and taken up with his
housekeeper, and has had children by her. Consequently, everything
will now pass to THEM."

"The old man must have taken leave of his senses," remarked the
General. "Yet how _I_ can help you I fail to see."

"Well, I have thought of a plan. If you will hand me over all the dead
souls on your estate--hand them over to me exactly as though they were
still alive, and were purchasable property--I will offer them to the
old man, and then he will leave me his fortune."

At this point the General burst into a roar of laughter such as few
can ever have heard. Half-dressed, he subsided into a chair, threw
back his head, and guffawed until he came near to choking. In fact,
the house shook with his merriment, so much so that the butler and his
daughter came running into the room in alarm.

It was long before he could produce a single articulate word; and even
when he did so (to reassure his daughter and the butler) he kept
momentarily relapsing into spluttering chuckles which made the house
ring and ring again.

Chichikov was greatly taken aback.

"Oh, that uncle!" bellowed the General in paroxysms of mirth. "Oh,
that blessed uncle! WHAT a fool he'll look! Ha, ha, ha! Dead souls
offered him instead of live ones! Oh, my goodness!"

"I suppose I've put my foot in it again," ruefully reflected
Chichikov. "But, good Lord, what a man the fellow is to laugh! Heaven
send that he doesn't burst of it!"

"Ha, ha, ha!" broke out the General afresh. "WHAT a donkey the old
man must be! To think of his saying to you: 'You go and fit yourself
out with three hundred souls, and I'll cap them with my own lot'! My
word! What a jackass!"

"A jackass, your Excellency?"

"Yes, indeed! And to think of the jest of putting him off with dead
souls! Ha, ha, ha! WHAT wouldn't I give to see you handing him the
title deeds? Who is he? What is he like? Is he very old?"

"He is eighty, your Excellency."

"But still brisk and able to move about, eh? Surely he must be pretty
strong to go on living with his housekeeper like that?"

"Yes. But what does such strength mean? Sand runs away, your
Excellency."

"The old fool! But is he really such a fool?"

"Yes, your Excellency."

"And does he go out at all? Does he see company? Can he still hold
himself upright?"

"Yes, but with great difficulty."

"And has he any teeth left?"

"No more than two at the most."

"The old jackass! Don't be angry with me, but I must say that, though
your uncle, he is also a jackass."

"Quite so, your Excellency. And though it grieves ME to have to
confess that he is my uncle, what am I to do with him?"

Yet this was not altogether the truth. What would have been a far
harder thing for Chichikov to have confessed was the fact that he
possessed no uncles at all.

"I beg of you, your Excellency," he went on, "to hand me over those,
those--"

"Those dead souls, eh? Why, in return for the jest I will give you
some land as well. Yes, you can take the whole graveyard if you like.
Ha, ha, ha! The old man! Ha, ha, ha! WHAT a fool he'll look! Ha, ha,
ha!"

And once more the General's guffaws went ringing through the house.

       [At this point there is a long hiatus in the original.]

CHAPTER III

"If Colonel Koshkarev should turn out to be as mad as the last one it
is a bad look-out," said Chichikov to himself on opening his eyes amid
fields and open country--everything else having disappeared save the
vault of heaven and a couple of low-lying clouds.

"Selifan," he went on, "did you ask how to get to Colonel
Koshkarev's?"

"Yes, Paul Ivanovitch. At least, there was such a clatter around the
koliaska that I could not; but Petrushka asked the coachman."

"You fool! How often have I told you not to rely on Petrushka?
Petrushka is a blockhead, an idiot. Besides, at the present moment I
believe him to be drunk."

"No, you are wrong, barin," put in the person referred to, turning his
head with a sidelong glance. "After we get down the next hill we shall
need but to keep bending round it. That is all."

"Yes, and I suppose you'll tell me that sivnkha is the only thing that
has passed your lips? Well, the view at least is beautiful. In fact,
when one has seen this place one may say that one has seen one of the
beauty spots of Europe." This said, Chichikov added to himself,
smoothing his chin: "What a difference between the features of a
civilised man of the world and those of a common lacquey!"

Meanwhile the koliaska quickened its pace, and Chichikov once more
caught sight of Tientietnikov's aspen-studded meadows. Undulating
gently on elastic springs, the vehicle cautiously descended the steep
incline, and then proceeded past water-mills, rumbled over a bridge or
two, and jolted easily along the rough-set road which traversed the
flats. Not a molehill, not a mound jarred the spine. The vehicle was
comfort itself.

Swiftly there flew by clumps of osiers, slender elder trees, and
silver-leaved poplars, their branches brushing against Selifan and
Petrushka, and at intervals depriving the valet of his cap. Each time
that this happened, the sullen-faced servitor fell to cursing both the
tree responsible for the occurrence and the landowner responsible for
the tree being in existence; yet nothing would induce him thereafter
either to tie on the cap or to steady it with his hand, so complete
was his assurance that the accident would never be repeated. Soon to
the foregoing trees there became added an occasional birch or spruce
fir, while in the dense undergrowth around their roots could be seen
the blue iris and the yellow wood-tulip. Gradually the forest grew
darker, as though eventually the obscurity would become complete. Then
through the trunks and the boughs there began to gleam points of light
like glittering mirrors, and as the number of trees lessened, these
points grew larger, until the travellers debouched upon the shore of a
lake four versts or so in circumference, and having on its further
margin the grey, scattered log huts of a peasant village. In the water
a great commotion was in progress. In the first place, some twenty
men, immersed to the knee, to the breast, or to the neck, were
dragging a large fishing-net inshore, while, in the second place,
there was entangled in the same, in addition to some fish, a stout man
shaped precisely like a melon or a hogshead. Greatly excited, he was
shouting at the top of his voice: "Let Kosma manage it, you lout of a
Denis! Kosma, take the end of the rope from Denis! Don't bear so hard
on it, Thoma Bolshoy[1]! Go where Thoma Menshov[2] is! Damn it, bring
the net to land, will you!" From this it became clear that it was not
on his own account that the stout man was worrying. Indeed, he had no
need to do so, since his fat would in any case have prevented him from
sinking. Yes, even if he had turned head over heels in an effort to
dive, the water would persistently have borne him up; and the same if,
say, a couple of men had jumped on his back--the only result would
have been that he would have become a trifle deeper submerged, and
forced to draw breath by spouting bubbles through his nose. No, the
cause of his agitation was lest the net should break, and the fish
escape: wherefore he was urging some additional peasants who were
standing on the bank to lay hold of and to pull at, an extra rope or
two.

[1] The Elder.

[2] The Younger.

"That must be the barin--Colonel Koshkarev," said Selifan.

"Why?" asked Chichikov.

"Because, if you please, his skin is whiter than the rest, and he has
the respectable paunch of a gentleman."

Meanwhile good progress was being made with the hauling in of the
barin; until, feeling the ground with his feet, he rose to an upright
position, and at the same moment caught sight of the koliaska, with
Chichikov seated therein, descending the declivity.

"Have you dined yet?" shouted the barin as, still entangled in the
net, he approached the shore with a huge fish on his back. With one
hand shading his eyes from the sun, and the other thrown backwards, he
looked, in point of pose, like the Medici Venus emerging from her
bath.

"No," replied Chichikov, raising his cap, and executing a series of
bows.

"Then thank God for that," rejoined the gentleman.

"Why?" asked Chichikov with no little curiosity, and still holding his
cap over his head.

"Because of THIS. Cast off the net, Thoma Menshov, and pick up that
sturgeon for the gentleman to see. Go and help him, Telepen Kuzma."

With that the peasants indicated picked up by the head what was a
veritable monster of a fish.

"Isn't it a beauty--a sturgeon fresh run from the river?" exclaimed
the stout barin. "And now let us be off home. Coachman, you can take
the lower road through the kitchen garden. Run, you lout of a Thoma
Bolshoy, and open the gate for him. He will guide you to the house,
and I myself shall be along presently."

Thereupon the barelegged Thoma Bolshoy, clad in nothing but a shirt,
ran ahead of the koliaska through the village, every hut of which had
hanging in front of it a variety of nets, for the reason that every
inhabitant of the place was a fisherman. Next, he opened a gate into a
large vegetable enclosure, and thence the koliaska emerged into a
square near a wooden church, with, showing beyond the latter, the
roofs of the manorial homestead.

"A queer fellow, that Koshkarev!" said Chichikov to himself.

"Well, whatever I may be, at least I'm here," said a voice by his
side. Chichikov looked round, and perceived that, in the meanwhile,
the barin had dressed himself and overtaken the carriage. With a pair
of yellow trousers he was wearing a grass-green jacket, and his neck
was as guiltless of a collar as Cupid's. Also, as he sat sideways in
his drozhki, his bulk was such that he completely filled the vehicle.
Chichikov was about to make some remark or another when the stout
gentleman disappeared; and presently his drozhki re-emerged into view
at the spot where the fish had been drawn to land, and his voice could
be heard reiterating exhortations to his serfs. Yet when Chichikov
reached the verandah of the house he found, to his intense surprise,
the stout gentleman waiting to welcome the visitor. How he had
contrived to convey himself thither passed Chichikov's comprehension.
Host and guest embraced three times, according to a bygone custom of
Russia. Evidently the barin was one of the old school.

"I bring you," said Chichikov, "a greeting from his Excellency."

"From whom?"

"From your relative General Alexander Dmitrievitch."

"Who is Alexander Dmitrievitch?"

"What? You do not know General Alexander Dmitrievitch Betrishev?"
exclaimed Chichikov with a touch of surprise.

"No, I do not," replied the gentleman.

Chichikov's surprise grew to absolute astonishment.

"How comes that about?" he ejaculated. "I hope that I have the honour
of addressing Colonel Koshkarev?"

"Your hopes are vain. It is to my house, not to his, that you have
come; and I am Peter Petrovitch Pietukh--yes, Peter Petrovitch
Pietukh."

Chichikov, dumbfounded, turned to Selifan and Petrushka.

"What do you mean?" he exclaimed. "I told you to drive to the house of
Colonel Koshkarev, whereas you have brought me to that of Peter
Petrovitch Pietukh."

"All the same, your fellows have done quite right," put in the
gentleman referred to. "Do you" (this to Selifan and Petrushka) "go to
the kitchen, where they will give you a glassful of vodka apiece. Then
put up the horses, and be off to the servants' quarters."

"I regret the mistake extremely," said Chichikov.

"But it is not a mistake. When you have tried the dinner which I have
in store for you, just see whether you think IT a mistake. Enter, I
beg of you." And, taking Chichikov by the arm, the host conducted him
within, where they were met by a couple of youths.

"Let me introduce my two sons, home for their holidays from the
Gymnasium[3]," said Pietukh. "Nikolasha, come and entertain our good
visitor, while you, Aleksasha, follow me." And with that the host
disappeared.

[3] Secondary School.

Chichikov turned to Nikolasha, whom he found to be a budding man about
town, since at first he opened a conversation by stating that, as no
good was to be derived from studying at a provincial institution, he
and his brother desired to remove, rather, to St. Petersburg, the
provinces not being worth living in.

"I quite understand," Chichikov thought to himself. "The end of the
chapter will be confectioners' assistants and the boulevards."

"Tell me," he added aloud, "how does your father's property at present
stand?"

"It is all mortgaged," put in the father himself as he re-entered the
room. "Yes, it is all mortgaged, every bit of it."

"What a pity!" thought Chichikov. "At this rate it will not be long
before this man has no property at all left. I must hurry my
departure." Aloud he said with an air of sympathy: "That you have
mortgaged the estate seems to me a matter of regret."

"No, not at all," replied Pietukh. "In fact, they tell me that it is a
good thing to do, and that every one else is doing it. Why should I
act differently from my neighbours? Moreover, I have had enough of
living here, and should like to try Moscow--more especially since my
sons are always begging me to give them a metropolitan education."

"Oh, the fool, the fool!" reflected Chichikov. "He is for throwing up
everything and making spendthrifts of his sons. Yet this is a nice
property, and it is clear that the local peasants are doing well, and
that the family, too, is comfortably off. On the other hand, as soon
as ever these lads begin their education in restaurants and theatres,
the devil will away with every stick of their substance. For my own
part, I could desire nothing better than this quiet life in the
country."

"Let me guess what is in your mind," said Pietukh.

"What, then?" asked Chichikov, rather taken aback.

"You are thinking to yourself: 'That fool of a Pietukh has asked me to
dinner, yet not a bite of dinner do I see.' But wait a little. It will
be ready presently, for it is being cooked as fast as a maiden who has
had her hair cut off plaits herself a new set of tresses."

"Here comes Platon Mikhalitch, father!" exclaimed Aleksasha, who had
been peeping out of the window.

"Yes, and on a grey horse," added his brother.

"Who is Platon Mikhalitch?" inquired Chichikov.

"A neighbour of ours, and an excellent fellow."

The next moment Platon Mikhalitch himself entered the room,
accompanied by a sporting dog named Yarb. He was a tall, handsome man,
with extremely red hair. As for his companion, it was of the
keen-muzzled species used for shooting.

"Have you dined yet?" asked the host.

"Yes," replied Platon.

"Indeed? What do you mean by coming here to laugh at us all? Do I ever
go to YOUR place after dinner?"

The newcomer smiled. "Well, if it can bring you any comfort," he said,
"let me tell you that I ate nothing at the meal, for I had no
appetite."

"But you should see what I have caught--what sort of a sturgeon fate
has brought my way! Yes, and what crucians and carp!"

"Really it tires one to hear you. How come you always to be so cheerful?"

"And how come YOU always to be so gloomy?" retorted the host.

"How, you ask? Simply because I am so."

"The truth is you don't eat enough. Try the plan of making a good
dinner. Weariness of everything is a modern invention. Once upon a
time one never heard of it."

"Well, boast away, but have you yourself never been tired of things?"

"Never in my life. I do not so much as know whether I should find time
to be tired. In the morning, when one awakes, the cook is waiting, and
the dinner has to be ordered. Then one drinks one's morning tea, and
then the bailiff arrives for HIS orders, and then there is fishing
to be done, and then one's dinner has to be eaten. Next, before one
has even had a chance to utter a snore, there enters once again the
cook, and one has to order supper; and when she has departed, behold,
back she comes with a request for the following day's dinner! What
time does THAT leave one to be weary of things?"

Throughout this conversation, Chichikov had been taking stock of the
newcomer, who astonished him with his good looks, his upright,
picturesque figure, his appearance of fresh, unwasted youthfulness,
and the boyish purity, innocence, and clarity of his features. Neither
passion nor care nor aught of the nature of agitation or anxiety of
mind had ventured to touch his unsullied face, or to lay a single
wrinkle thereon. Yet the touch of life which those emotions might have
imparted was wanting. The face was, as it were, dreaming, even though
from time to time an ironical smile disturbed it.

"I, too, cannot understand," remarked Chichikov, "how a man of your
appearance can find things wearisome. Of course, if a man is hard
pressed for money, or if he has enemies who are lying in wait for his
life (as have certain folk of whom I know), well, then--"

"Believe me when I say," interrupted the handsome guest, "that, for
the sake of a diversion, I should be glad of ANY sort of an anxiety.
Would that some enemy would conceive a grudge against me! But no one
does so. Everything remains eternally dull."

"But perhaps you lack a sufficiency of land or souls?"

"Not at all. I and my brother own ten thousand desiatins[4] of land,
and over a thousand souls."

[4] The desiatin = 2.86 English acres.

"Curious! I do not understand it. But perhaps the harvest has failed,
or you have sickness about, and many of your male peasants have died
of it?"

"On the contrary, everything is in splendid order, for my brother is
the best of managers."

"Then to find things wearisome!" exclaimed Chichikov. "It passes my
comprehension." And he shrugged his shoulders.

"Well, we will soon put weariness to flight," interrupted the host.
"Aleksasha, do you run helter-skelter to the kitchen, and there tell
the cook to serve the fish pasties. Yes, and where have that gawk of
an Emelian and that thief of an Antoshka got to? Why have they not
handed round the zakuski?"

At this moment the door opened, and the "gawk" and the "thief" in
question made their appearance with napkins and a tray--the latter
bearing six decanters of variously-coloured beverages. These they
placed upon the table, and then ringed them about with glasses and
platefuls of every conceivable kind of appetiser. That done, the
servants applied themselves to bringing in various comestibles under
covers, through which could be heard the hissing of hot roast viands.
In particular did the "gawk" and the "thief" work hard at their tasks.
As a matter of fact, their appellations had been given them merely to
spur them to greater activity, for, in general, the barin was no lover
of abuse, but, rather, a kind-hearted man who, like most Russians,
could not get on without a sharp word or two. That is to say, he
needed them for his tongue as he need a glass of vodka for his
digestion. What else could you expect? It was his nature to care for
nothing mild.

To the zakuski succeeded the meal itself, and the host became a
perfect glutton on his guests' behalf. Should he notice that a guest
had taken but a single piece of a comestible, he added thereto another
one, saying: "Without a mate, neither man nor bird can live in this
world." Should any one take two pieces, he added thereto a third,
saying: "What is the good of the number 2? God loves a trinity."
Should any one take three pieces, he would say: "Where do you see a
waggon with three wheels? Who builds a three-cornered hut?" Lastly,
should any one take four pieces, he would cap them with a fifth, and
add thereto the punning quip, "Na piat opiat[5]". After devouring at
least twelve steaks of sturgeon, Chichikov ventured to think to
himself, "My host cannot possibly add to THEM," but found that he
was mistaken, for, without a word, Pietukh heaped upon his plate an
enormous portion of spit-roasted veal, and also some kidneys. And what
veal it was!

[5] "One more makes five."

"That calf was fed two years on milk," he explained. "I cared for it
like my own son."

"Nevertheless I can eat no more," said Chichikov.

"Do you try the veal before you say that you can eat no more."

"But I could not get it down my throat. There is no room left."

"If there be no room in a church for a newcomer, the beadle is sent
for, and room is very soon made--yes, even though before there was
such a crush that an apple couldn't have been dropped between the
people. Do you try the veal, I say. That piece is the titbit of all."

So Chichikov made the attempt; and in very truth the veal was beyond
all praise, and room was found for it, even though one would have
supposed the feat impossible.

"Fancy this good fellow removing to St. Petersburg or Moscow!" said
the guest to himself. "Why, with a scale of living like this, he would
be ruined in three years." For that matter, Pietukh might well have
been ruined already, for hospitality can dissipate a fortune in three
months as easily as it can in three years.

The host also dispensed the wine with a lavish hand, and what the
guests did not drink he gave to his sons, who thus swallowed glass
after glass. Indeed, even before coming to table, it was possible to
discern to what department of human accomplishment their bent was
turned. When the meal was over, however, the guests had no mind for
further drinking. Indeed, it was all that they could do to drag
themselves on to the balcony, and there to relapse into easy chairs.
Indeed, the moment that the host subsided into his seat--it was large
enough for four--he fell asleep, and his portly presence, converting
itself into a sort of blacksmith's bellows, started to vent, through
open mouth and distended nostrils, such sounds as can have greeted
the reader's ear but seldom--sounds as of a drum being beaten in
combination with the whistling of a flute and the strident howling of
a dog.

"Listen to him!" said Platon.

Chichikov smiled.

"Naturally, on such dinners as that," continued the other, "our host
does NOT find the time dull. And as soon as dinner is ended there
can ensue sleep."

"Yes, but, pardon me, I still fail to understand why you should find
life wearisome. There are so many resources against ennui!"

"As for instance?"

"For a young man, dancing, the playing of one or another musical
instrument, and--well, yes, marriage."

"Marriage to whom?"

"To some maiden who is both charming and rich. Are there none in these
parts?"

"No."

"Then, were I you, I should travel, and seek a maiden elsewhere." And
a brilliant idea therewith entered Chichikov's head. "This last
resource," he added, "is the best of all resources against ennui."

"What resource are you speaking of?"

"Of travel."

"But whither?"

"Well, should it so please you, you might join me as my companion."
This said, the speaker added to himself as he eyed Platon: "Yes, that
would suit me exactly, for then I should have half my expenses paid,
and could charge him also with the cost of mending the koliaska."

"And whither should we go?"

"In that respect I am not wholly my own master, as I have business to
do for others as well as for myself. For instance, General
Betristchev--an intimate friend and, I might add, a generous
benefactor of mine--has charged me with commissions to certain of his
relatives. However, though relatives are relatives, I am travelling
likewise on my own account, since I wish to see the world and the
whirligig of humanity--which, in spite of what people may say, is as
good as a living book or a second education." As a matter of fact,
Chichikov was reflecting, "Yes, the plan is an excellent one. I might
even contrive that he should have to bear the whole of our expenses,
and that his horses should be used while my own should be put out to
graze on his farm."

"Well, why should I not adopt the suggestion?" was Platon's thought.
"There is nothing for me to do at home, since the management of the
estate is in my brother's hands, and my going would cause him no
inconvenience. Yes, why should I not do as Chichikov has suggested?"

Then he added aloud:

"Would you come and stay with my brother for a couple of days?
Otherwise he might refuse me his consent."

"With great pleasure," said Chichikov. "Or even for three days."

"Then here is my hand on it. Let us be off at once." Platon seemed
suddenly to have come to life again.

"Where are you off to?" put in their host unexpectedly as he roused
himself and stared in astonishment at the pair. "No, no, my good sirs.
I have had the wheels removed from your koliaska, Monsieur Chichikov,
and have sent your horse, Platon Mikhalitch, to a grazing ground
fifteen versts away. Consequently you must spend the night here, and
depart to-morrow morning after breakfast."

What could be done with a man like Pietukh? There was no help for it
but to remain. In return, the guests were rewarded with a beautiful
spring evening, for, to spend the time, the host organised a boating
expedition on the river, and a dozen rowers, with a dozen pairs of
oars, conveyed the party (to the accompaniment of song) across the
smooth surface of the lake and up a great river with towering banks.
From time to time the boat would pass under ropes, stretched across
for purposes of fishing, and at each turn of the rippling current new
vistas unfolded themselves as tier upon tier of woodland delighted the
eye with a diversity of timber and foliage. In unison did the rowers
ply their sculls, yet it was though of itself that the skiff shot
forward, bird-like, over the glassy surface of the water; while at
intervals the broad-shouldered young oarsman who was seated third from
the bow would raise, as from a nightingale's throat, the opening
staves of a boat song, and then be joined by five or six more, until
the melody had come to pour forth in a volume as free and boundless as
Russia herself. And Pietukh, too, would give himself a shake, and help
lustily to support the chorus; and even Chichikov felt acutely
conscious of the fact that he was a Russian. Only Platon reflected:
"What is there so splendid in these melancholy songs? They do but
increase one's depression of spirits."

The journey homeward was made in the gathering dusk. Rhythmically the
oars smote a surface which no longer reflected the sky, and darkness
had fallen when they reached the shore, along which lights were
twinkling where the fisherfolk were boiling live eels for soup.
Everything had now wended its way homeward for the night; the cattle
and poultry had been housed, and the herdsmen, standing at the gates
of the village cattle-pens, amid the trailing dust lately raised by
their charges, were awaiting the milk-pails and a summons to partake
of the eel-broth. Through the dusk came the hum of humankind, and the
barking of dogs in other and more distant villages; while, over all,
the moon was rising, and the darkened countryside was beginning to
glimmer to light again under her beams. What a glorious picture! Yet
no one thought of admiring it. Instead of galloping over the
countryside on frisky cobs, Nikolasha and Aleksasha were engaged in
dreaming of Moscow, with its confectioners' shops and the theatres of
which a cadet, newly arrived on a visit from the capital, had just
been telling them; while their father had his mind full of how best to
stuff his guests with yet more food, and Platon was given up to
yawning. Only in Chichikov was a spice of animation visible. "Yes," he
reflected, "some day I, too, will become lord of such a country
place." And before his mind's eye there arose also a helpmeet and some
little Chichikovs.

By the time that supper was finished the party had again over-eaten
themselves, and when Chichikov entered the room allotted him for the
night, he lay down upon the bed, and prodded his stomach. "It is as
tight as a drum," he said to himself. "Not another titbit of veal
could now get into it." Also, circumstances had so brought it about
that next door to him there was situated his host's apartment; and
since the intervening wall was thin, Chichikov could hear every word
that was said there. At the present moment the master of the house was
engaged in giving the cook orders for what, under the guise of an
early breakfast, promised to constitute a veritable dinner. You should
have heard Pietukh's behests! They would have excited the appetite of
a corpse.

"Yes," he said, sucking his lips, and drawing a deep breath, "in the
first place, make a pasty in four divisions. Into one of the divisions
put the sturgeon's cheeks and some viaziga[6], and into another
division some buckwheat porridge, young mushrooms and onions, sweet
milk, calves' brains, and anything else that you may find
suitable--anything else that you may have got handy. Also, bake the
pastry to a nice brown on one side, and but lightly on the other. Yes,
and, as to the under side, bake it so that it will be all juicy and
flaky, so that it shall not crumble into bits, but melt in the mouth
like the softest snow that ever you heard of." And as he said this
Pietukh fairly smacked his lips.

[6] Dried spinal marrow of the sturgeon.

"The devil take him!" muttered Chichikov, thrusting his head beneath
the bedclothes to avoid hearing more. "The fellow won't give one a
chance to sleep."

Nevertheless he heard through the blankets:

"And garnish the sturgeon with beetroot, smelts, peppered mushrooms,
young radishes, carrots, beans, and anything else you like, so as to
have plenty of trimmings. Yes, and put a lump of ice into the pig's
bladder, so as to swell it up."

Many other dishes did Pietukh order, and nothing was to be heard but
his talk of boiling, roasting, and stewing. Finally, just as mention
was being made of a turkey cock, Chichikov fell asleep.

Next morning the guest's state of repletion had reached the point of
Platon being unable to mount his horse; wherefore the latter was
dispatched homeward with one of Pietukh's grooms, and the two guests
entered Chichikov's koliaska. Even the dog trotted lazily in the rear;
for he, too, had over-eaten himself.

"It has been rather too much of a good thing," remarked Chichikov as
the vehicle issued from the courtyard.

"Yes, and it vexes me to see the fellow never tire of it," replied
Platon.

"Ah," thought Chichikov to himself, "if _I_ had an income of seventy
thousand roubles, as you have, I'd very soon give tiredness one in the
eye! Take Murazov, the tax-farmer--he, again, must be worth ten
millions. What a fortune!"

"Do you mind where we drive?" asked Platon. "I should like first to go
and take leave of my sister and my brother-in-law."

"With pleasure," said Chichikov.

"My brother-in-law is the leading landowner hereabouts. At the present
moment he is drawing an income of two hundred thousand roubles from a
property which, eight years ago, was producing a bare twenty
thousand."

"Truly a man worthy of the utmost respect! I shall be most interested
to make his acquaintance. To think of it! And what may his family name
be?"

"Kostanzhoglo."

"And his Christian name and patronymic?"

"Constantine Thedorovitch."

"Constantine Thedorovitch Kostanzhoglo. Yes, it will be a most
interesting event to make his acquaintance. To know such a man must be
a whole education."

Here Platon set himself to give Selifan some directions as to the way,
a necessary proceeding in view of the fact that Selifan could hardly
maintain his seat on the box. Twice Petrushka, too, had fallen
headlong, and this necessitated being tied to his perch with a piece
of rope. "What a clown!" had been Chichikov's only comment.

"This is where my brother-in-law's land begins," said Platon.

"They give one a change of view."

And, indeed, from this point the countryside became planted with
timber; the rows of trees running as straight as pistol-shots, and
having beyond them, and on higher ground, a second expanse of forest,
newly planted like the first; while beyond it, again, loomed a third
plantation of older trees. Next there succeeded a flat piece of the
same nature.

"All this timber," said Platon, "has grown up within eight or ten
years at the most; whereas on another man's land it would have taken
twenty to attain the same growth."

"And how has your brother-in-law effected this?"

"You must ask him yourself. He is so excellent a husbandman that
nothing ever fails with him. You see, he knows the soil, and also
knows what ought to be planted beside what, and what kinds of timber
are the best neighbourhood for grain. Again, everything on his estate
is made to perform at least three or four different functions. For
instance, he makes his timber not only serve as timber, but also serve
as a provider of moisture and shade to a given stretch of land, and
then as a fertiliser with its fallen leaves. Consequently, when
everywhere else there is drought, he still has water, and when
everywhere else there has been a failure of the harvest, on his lands
it will have proved a success. But it is a pity that I know so little
about it all as to be unable to explain to you his many expedients.
Folk call him a wizard, for he produces so much. Nevertheless,
personally I find what he does uninteresting."

"Truly an astonishing fellow!" reflected Chichikov with a glance at
his companion. "It is sad indeed to see a man so superficial as to be
unable to explain matters of this kind."

At length the manor appeared in sight--an establishment looking almost
like a town, so numerous were the huts where they stood arranged in
three tiers, crowned with three churches, and surrounded with huge
ricks and barns. "Yes," thought Chichikov to himself, "one can see
what a jewel of a landowner lives here." The huts in question were
stoutly built and the intervening alleys well laid-out; while,
wherever a waggon was visible, it looked serviceable and more or less
new. Also, the local peasants bore an intelligent look on their faces,
the cattle were of the best possible breed, and even the peasants'
pigs belonged to the porcine aristocracy. Clearly there dwelt here
peasants who, to quote the song, were accustomed to "pick up silver by
the shovelful." Nor were Englishified gardens and parterres and other
conceits in evidence, but, on the contrary, there ran an open view
from the manor house to the farm buildings and the workmen's cots, so
that, after the old Russian fashion, the barin should be able to keep
an eye upon all that was going on around him. For the same purpose,
the mansion was topped with a tall lantern and a superstructure--a
device designed, not for ornament, nor for a vantage-spot for the
contemplation of the view, but for supervision of the labourers
engaged in distant fields. Lastly, the brisk, active servants who
received the visitors on the verandah were very different menials from
the drunken Petrushka, even though they did not wear swallow-tailed
coats, but only Cossack tchekmenu[7] of blue homespun cloth.

[7] Long, belted Tartar blouses.

The lady of the house also issued on to the verandah. With her face of
the freshness of "blood and milk" and the brightness of God's
daylight, she as nearly resembled Platon as one pea resembles another,
save that, whereas he was languid, she was cheerful and full of talk.

"Good day, brother!" she cried. "How glad I am to see you! Constantine
is not at home, but will be back presently."

"Where is he?"

"Doing business in the village with a party of factors," replied the
lady as she conducted her guests to the drawing-room.

With no little curiosity did Chichikov gaze at the interior of the
mansion inhabited by the man who received an annual income of two
hundred thousand roubles; for he thought to discern therefrom the
nature of its proprietor, even as from a shell one may deduce the
species of oyster or snail which has been its tenant, and has left
therein its impression. But no such conclusions were to be drawn. The
rooms were simple, and even bare. Not a fresco nor a picture nor a
bronze nor a flower nor a china what-not nor a book was there to be
seen. In short, everything appeared to show that the proprietor of
this abode spent the greater part of his time, not between four walls,
but in the field, and that he thought out his plans, not in sybaritic
fashion by the fireside, nor in an easy chair beside the stove, but on
the spot where work was actually in progress--that, in a word, where
those plans were conceived, there they were put into execution. Nor in
these rooms could Chichikov detect the least trace of a feminine hand,
beyond the fact that certain tables and chairs bore drying-boards
whereon were arranged some sprinklings of flower petals.

"What is all this rubbish for?" asked Platon.

"It is not rubbish," replied the lady of the house. "On the contrary,
it is the best possible remedy for fever. Last year we cured every one
of our sick peasants with it. Some of the petals I am going to make
into an ointment, and some into an infusion. You may laugh as much as
you like at my potting and preserving, yet you yourself will be glad
of things of the kind when you set out on your travels."

Platon moved to the piano, and began to pick out a note or two.

"Good Lord, what an ancient instrument!" he exclaimed. "Are you not
ashamed of it, sister?"

"Well, the truth is that I get no time to practice my music. You see,"
she added to Chichikov, "I have an eight-year-old daughter to educate;
and to hand her over to a foreign governess in order that I may have
leisure for my own piano-playing--well, that is a thing which I could
never bring myself to do."

"You have become a wearisome sort of person," commented Platon, and
walked away to the window. "Ah, here comes Constantine," presently he
added.

Chichikov also glanced out of the window, and saw approaching the
verandah a brisk, swarthy-complexioned man of about forty, a man clad
in a rough cloth jacket and a velveteen cap. Evidently he was one of
those who care little for the niceties of dress. With him, bareheaded,
there came a couple of men of a somewhat lower station in life, and
all three were engaged in an animated discussion. One of the barin's
two companions was a plain peasant, and the other (clad in a blue
Siberian smock) a travelling factor. The fact that the party halted
awhile by the entrance steps made it possible to overhear a portion of
their conversation from within.

"This is what you peasants had better do," the barin was saying.
"Purchase your release from your present master. I will lend you the
necessary money, and afterwards you can work for me."

"No, Constantine Thedorovitch," replied the peasant. "Why should we do
that? Remove us just as we are. You will know how to arrange it, for a
cleverer gentleman than you is nowhere to be found. The misfortune of
us muzhiks is that we cannot protect ourselves properly. The
tavern-keepers sell us such liquor that, before a man knows where he
is, a glassful of it has eaten a hole through his stomach, and made
him feel as though he could drink a pail of water. Yes, it knocks a
man over before he can look around. Everywhere temptation lies in wait
for the peasant, and he needs to be cunning if he is to get through
the world at all. In fact, things seem to be contrived for nothing but
to make us peasants lose our wits, even to the tobacco which they sell
us. What are folk like ourselves to do, Constantine Thedorovitch? I
tell you it is terribly difficult for a muzhik to look after himself."

"Listen to me. This is how things are done here. When I take on a
serf, I fit him out with a cow and a horse. On the other hand, I
demand of him thereafter more than is demanded of a peasant anywhere
else. That is to say, first and foremost I make him work. Whether a
peasant be working for himself or for me, never do I let him waste
time. I myself toil like a bullock, and I force my peasants to do the
same, for experience has taught me that that is the only way to get
through life. All the mischief in the world comes through lack of
employment. Now, do you go and consider the matter, and talk it over
with your mir[8]."

[8] Village commune.

"We have done that already, Constantine Thedorovitch, and our elders'
opinion is: 'There is no need for further talk. Every peasant
belonging to Constantine Thedorovitch is well off, and hasn't to work
for nothing. The priests of his village, too, are men of good heart,
whereas ours have been taken away, and there is no one to bury us.'"

"Nevertheless, do you go and talk the matter over again."

"We will, barin."

Here the factor who had been walking on the barin's other side put in
a word.

"Constantine Thedorovitch," he said, "I beg of you to do as I have
requested."

"I have told you before," replied the barin, "that I do not care to
play the huckster. I am not one of those landowners whom fellows of
your sort visit on the very day that the interest on a mortgage is
due. Ah, I know your fraternity thoroughly, and know that you keep
lists of all who have mortgages to repay. But what is there so clever
about that? Any man, if you pinch him sufficiently, will surrender you
a mortgage at half-price,--any man, that is to say, except myself, who
care nothing for your money. Were a loan of mine to remain out three
years, I should never demand a kopeck of interest on it."

"Quite so, Constantine Thedorovitch," replied the factor. "But I am
asking this of you more for the purpose of establishing us on a
business footing than because I desire to win your favour. Prey,
therefore, accept this earnest money of three thousand roubles." And
the man drew from his breast pocket a dirty roll of bank-notes, which,
carelessly receiving, Kostanzhoglo thrust, uncounted, into the back
pocket of his overcoat.

"Hm!" thought Chichikov. "For all he cares, the notes might have been
a handkerchief."

When Kostanzhoglo appeared at closer quarters--that is to say, in the
doorway of the drawing-room--he struck Chichikov more than ever with
the swarthiness of his complexion, the dishevelment of his black,
slightly grizzled locks, the alertness of his eye, and the impression
of fiery southern origin which his whole personality diffused. For he
was not wholly a Russian, nor could he himself say precisely who his
forefathers had been. Yet, inasmuch as he accounted genealogical
research no part of the science of estate-management, but a mere
superfluity, he looked upon himself as, to all intents and purposes, a
native of Russia, and the more so since the Russian language was the
only tongue he knew.

Platon presented Chichikov, and the pair exchanged greetings.

"To get rid of my depression, Constantine," continued Platon, "I am
thinking of accompanying our guest on a tour through a few of the
provinces."

"An excellent idea," said Kostanzhoglo. "But precisely whither?" he
added, turning hospitably to Chichikov.

"To tell you the truth," replied that personage with an affable
inclination of the head as he smoothed the arm of his chair with his
hand, "I am travelling less on my own affairs than on the affairs of
others. That is to say, General Betristchev, an intimate friend, and,
I might add, a generous benefactor, of mine, has charged me with
commissions to some of his relatives. Nevertheless, though relatives
are relatives, I may say that I am travelling on my own account as
well, in that, in addition to possible benefit to my health, I desire
to see the world and the whirligig of humanity, which constitute, so
to speak, a living book, a second course of education."

"Yes, there is no harm in looking at other corners of the world
besides one's own."

"You speak truly. There IS no harm in such a proceeding. Thereby one
may see things which one has not before encountered, one may meet men
with whom one has not before come in contact. And with some men of
that kind a conversation is as precious a benefit as has been
conferred upon me by the present occasion. I come to you, most worthy
Constantine Thedorovitch, for instruction, and again for instruction,
and beg of you to assuage my thirst with an exposition of the truth as
it is. I hunger for the favour of your words as for manna."

"But how so? What can _I_ teach you?" exclaimed Kostanzhoglo in
confusion. "I myself was given but the plainest of educations."

"Nay, most worthy sir, you possess wisdom, and again wisdom. Wisdom
only can direct the management of a great estate, that can derive a
sound income from the same, that can acquire wealth of a real, not a
fictitious, order while also fulfilling the duties of a citizen and
thereby earning the respect of the Russian public. All this I pray you
to teach me."

"I tell you what," said Kostanzhoglo, looking meditatively at his
guest. "You had better stay with me for a few days, and during that
time I can show you how things are managed here, and explain to you
everything. Then you will see for yourself that no great wisdom is
required for the purpose."

"Yes, certainly you must stay here," put in the lady of the house.
Then, turning to her brother, she added: "And you too must stay. Why
should you be in such a hurry?"

"Very well," he replied. "But what say YOU, Paul Ivanovitch?"

"I say the same as you, and with much pleasure," replied Chichikov.
"But also I ought to tell you this: that there is a relative of
General Betristchev's, a certain Colonel Koshkarev--"

"Yes, we know him; but he is quite mad."

"As you say, he is mad, and I should not have been intending to visit
him, were it not that General Betristchev is an intimate friend of
mine, as well as, I might add, my most generous benefactor."

"Then," said Kostanzhoglo, "do you go and see Colonel Koshkarev NOW.
He lives less than ten versts from here, and I have a gig already
harnessed. Go to him at once, and return here for tea."

"An excellent idea!" cried Chichikov, and with that he seized his cap.

Half an hour's drive sufficed to bring him to the Colonel's
establishment. The village attached to the manor was in a state of
utter confusion, since in every direction building and repairing
operations were in progress, and the alleys were choked with heaps of
lime, bricks, and beams of wood. Also, some of the huts were arranged
to resemble offices, and superscribed in gilt letters "Depot for
Agricultural Implements," "Chief Office of Accounts," "Estate Works
Committee," "Normal School for the Education of Colonists," and so
forth.

Chichikov found the Colonel posted behind a desk and holding a pen
between his teeth. Without an instant's delay the master of the
establishment--who seemed a kindly, approachable man, and accorded to
his visitor a very civil welcome--plunged into a recital of the labour
which it had cost him to bring the property to its present condition
of affluence. Then he went on to lament the fact that he could not
make his peasantry understand the incentives to labour which the
riches of science and art provide; for instance, he had failed to
induce his female serfs to wear corsets, whereas in Germany, where he
had resided for fourteen years, every humble miller's daughter could
play the piano. None the less, he said, he meant to peg away until
every peasant on the estate should, as he walked behind the plough,
indulge in a regular course of reading Franklin's Notes on
Electricity, Virgil's Georgics, or some work on the chemical
properties of soil.

"Good gracious!" mentally exclaimed Chichikov. "Why, I myself have not
had time to finish that book by the Duchesse de la Valliere!"

Much else the Colonel said. In particular did he aver that, provided
the Russian peasant could be induced to array himself in German
costume, science would progress, trade increase, and the Golden Age
dawn in Russia.

For a while Chichikov listened with distended eyes. Then he felt
constrained to intimate that with all that he had nothing to do,
seeing that his business was merely to acquire a few souls, and
thereafter to have their purchase confirmed.

"If I understand you aright," said the Colonel, "you wish to present a
Statement of Plea?"

"Yes, that is so."

"Then kindly put it into writing, and it shall be forwarded to the
Office for the Reception of Reports and Returns. Thereafter that
Office will consider it, and return it to me, who will, in turn,
dispatch it to the Estate Works Committee, who will, in turn, revise
it, and present it to the Administrator, who, jointly with the
Secretary, will--"

"Pardon me," expostulated Chichikov, "but that procedure will take up
a great deal of time. Why need I put the matter into writing at all?
It is simply this. I want a few souls which are--well, which are, so
to speak, dead."

"Very good," commented the Colonel. "Do you write down in your
Statement of Plea that the souls which you desire are, 'so to speak,
dead.'"

"But what would be the use of my doing so? Though the souls are dead,
my purpose requires that they should be represented as alive."

"Very good," again commented the Colonel. "Do you write down in your
Statement that 'it is necessary' (or, should you prefer an alternative
phrase, 'it is requested,' or 'it is desiderated,' or 'it is prayed,')
'that the souls be represented as alive.' At all events, WITHOUT
documentary process of that kind, the matter cannot possibly be
carried through. Also, I will appoint a Commissioner to guide you
round the various Offices."

And he sounded a bell; whereupon there presented himself a man whom,
addressing as "Secretary," the Colonel instructed to summon the
"Commissioner." The latter, on appearing, was seen to have the air,
half of a peasant, half of an official.

"This man," the Colonel said to Chichikov, "will act as your escort."

What could be done with a lunatic like Koshkarev? In the end,
curiosity moved Chichikov to accompany the Commissioner. The Committee
for the Reception of Reports and Returns was discovered to have put up
its shutters, and to have locked its doors, for the reason that the
Director of the Committee had been transferred to the newly-formed
Committee of Estate Management, and his successor had been annexed by
the same Committee. Next, Chichikov and his escort rapped at the doors
of the Department of Estate Affairs; but that Department's quarters
happened to be in a state of repair, and no one could be made to
answer the summons save a drunken peasant from whom not a word of
sense was to be extracted. At length the escort felt himself removed
to remark:

"There is a deal of foolishness going on here. Fellows like that
drunkard lead the barin by the nose, and everything is ruled by the
Committee of Management, which takes men from their proper work, and
sets them to do any other it likes. Indeed, only through the Committee
does ANYTHING get done."

By this time Chichikov felt that he had seen enough; wherefore he
returned to the Colonel, and informed him that the Office for the
Reception of Reports and Returns had ceased to exist. At once the
Colonel flamed to noble rage. Pressing Chichikov's hand in token of
gratitude for the information which the guest had furnished, he took
paper and pen, and noted eight searching questions under three
separate headings: (1) "Why has the Committee of Management presumed
to issue orders to officials not under its jurisdiction?" (2) "Why has
the Chief Manager permitted his predecessor, though still in retention
of his post, to follow him to another Department?" and (3) "Why has
the Committee of Estate Affairs suffered the Office for the Reception
of Reports and Returns to lapse?"

"Now for a row!" thought Chichikov to himself, and turned to depart;
but his host stopped him, saying:

"I cannot let you go, for, in addition to my honour having become
involved, it behoves me to show my people how the regular, the
organised, administration of an estate may be conducted. Herewith I
will hand over the conduct of your affair to a man who is worth all
the rest of the staff put together, and has had a university
education. Also, the better to lose no time, may I humbly beg you to
step into my library, where you will find notebooks, paper, pens, and
everything else that you may require. Of these articles pray make full
use, for you are a gentleman of letters, and it is your and my joint
duty to bring enlightenment to all."

So saying, he ushered his guest into a large room lined from floor to
ceiling with books and stuffed specimens. The books in question were
divided into sections--a section on forestry, a section on
cattle-breeding, a section on the raising of swine, and a section on
horticulture, together with special journals of the type circulated
merely for the purposes of reference, and not for general reading.
Perceiving that these works were scarcely of a kind calculated to
while away an idle hour, Chichikov turned to a second bookcase. But to
do so was to fall out of the frying-pan into the fire, for the
contents of the second bookcase proved to be works on philosophy,
while, in particular, six huge volumes confronted him under a label
inscribed "A Preparatory Course to the Province of Thought, with the
Theory of Community of Effort, Co-operation, and Subsistence, in its
Application to a Right Understanding of the Organic Principles of a
Mutual Division of Social Productivity." Indeed, wheresoever Chichikov
looked, every page presented to his vision some such words as
"phenomenon," "development," "abstract," "contents," and "synopsis."
"This is not the sort of thing for me," he murmured, and turned his
attention to a third bookcase, which contained books on the Arts.
Extracting a huge tome in which some by no means reticent mythological
illustrations were contained, he set himself to examine these
pictures. They were of the kind which pleases mostly middle-aged
bachelors and old men who are accustomed to seek in the ballet and
similar frivolities a further spur to their waning passions. Having
concluded his examination, Chichikov had just extracted another volume
of the same species when Colonel Koshkarev returned with a document of
some sort and a radiant countenance.

"Everything has been carried through in due form!" he cried. "The man
whom I mentioned is a genius indeed, and I intend not only to promote
him over the rest, but also to create for him a special Department.
Herewith shall you hear what a splendid intellect is his, and how in a
few minutes he has put the whole affair in order."

"May the Lord be thanked for that!" thought Chichikov. Then he settled
himself while the Colonel read aloud:

"'After giving full consideration to the Reference which your
Excellency has entrusted to me, I have the honour to report as
follows:

"'(1) In the Statement of Plea presented by one Paul Ivanovitch
Chichikov, Gentleman, Chevalier, and Collegiate Councillor, there
lurks an error, in that an oversight has led the Petitioner to apply
to Revisional Souls the term "Dead." Now, from the context it would
appear that by this term the Petitioner desires to signify Souls
Approaching Death rather than Souls Actually Deceased: wherefore the
term employed betrays such an empirical instruction in letters as
must, beyond doubt, have been confined to the Village School, seeing
that in truth the Soul is Deathless.'

"The rascal!" Koshkarev broke off to exclaim delightedly. "He has got
you there, Monsieur Chichikov. And you will admit that he has a
sufficiently incisive pen?

"'(2) On this Estate there exist no Unmortgaged Souls whatsoever,
whether Approaching Death or Otherwise; for the reason that all Souls
thereon have been pledged not only under a First Deed of Mortgage, but
also (for the sum of One Hundred and Fifty Roubles per Soul) under a
Second,--the village of Gurmailovka alone excepted, in that, in
consequence of a Suit having been brought against Landowner
Priadistchev, and of a caveat having been pronounced by the Land
Court, and of such caveat having been published in No. 42 of the
Gazette of Moscow, the said Village has come within the Jurisdiction
of the Court Above-Mentioned."

"Why did you not tell me all this before?" cried Chichikov furiously.
"Why you have kept me dancing about for nothing?"

"Because it was absolutely necessary that you should view the matter
through forms of documentary process. This is no jest on my part. The
inexperienced may see things subconsciously, yet is imperative that he
should also see them CONSCIOUSLY."

But to Chichikov's patience an end had come. Seizing his cap, and
casting all ceremony to the winds, he fled from the house, and rushed
through the courtyard. As it happened, the man who had driven him
thither had, warned by experience, not troubled even to take out the
horses, since he knew that such a proceeding would have entailed not
only the presentation of a Statement of Plea for fodder, but also a
delay of twenty-four hours until the Resolution granting the same
should have been passed. Nevertheless the Colonel pursued his guest to
the gates, and pressed his hand warmly as he thanked him for having
enabled him (the Colonel) thus to exhibit in operation the proper
management of an estate. Also, he begged to state that, under the
circumstances, it was absolutely necessary to keep things moving and
circulating, since, otherwise, slackness was apt to supervene, and the
working of the machine to grow rusty and feeble; but that, in spite of
all, the present occasion had inspired him with a happy idea--namely,
the idea of instituting a Committee which should be entitled "The
Committee of Supervision of the Committee of Management," and which
should have for its function the detection of backsliders among the
body first mentioned.

It was late when, tired and dissatisfied, Chichikov regained
Kostanzhoglo's mansion. Indeed, the candles had long been lit.

"What has delayed you?" asked the master of the house as Chichikov
entered the drawing-room.

"Yes, what has kept you and the Colonel so long in conversation
together?" added Platon.

"This--the fact that never in my life have I come across such an
imbecile," was Chichikov's reply.

"Never mind," said Kostanzhoglo. "Koshkarev is a most reassuring
phenomenon. He is necessary in that in him we see expressed in
caricature all the more crying follies of our intellectuals--of the
intellectuals who, without first troubling to make themselves
acquainted with their own country, borrow silliness from abroad. Yet
that is how certain of our landowners are now carrying on. They have
set up 'offices' and factories and schools and 'commissions,' and the
devil knows what else besides. A fine lot of wiseacres! After the
French War in 1812 they had to reconstruct their affairs: and see how
they have done it! Yet so much worse have they done it than a
Frenchman would have done that any fool of a Peter Petrovitch Pietukh
now ranks as a good landowner!"

"But he has mortgaged the whole of his estate?" remarked Chichikov.

"Yes, nowadays everything is being mortgaged, or is going to be." This
said, Kostanzhoglo's temper rose still further. "Out upon your
factories of hats and candles!" he cried. "Out upon procuring
candle-makers from London, and then turning landowners into hucksters!
To think of a Russian pomiestchik[9], a member of the noblest of
callings, conducting workshops and cotton mills! Why, it is for the
wenches of towns to handle looms for muslin and lace."

[9] Landowner.

"But you yourself maintain workshops?" remarked Platon.

"I do; but who established them? They established themselves. For
instance, wool had accumulated, and since I had nowhere to store it, I
began to weave it into cloth--but, mark you, only into good, plain
cloth of which I can dispose at a cheap rate in the local markets, and
which is needed by peasants, including my own. Again, for six years on
end did the fish factories keep dumping their offal on my bank of the
river; wherefore, at last, as there was nothing to be done with it, I
took to boiling it into glue, and cleared forty thousand roubles by
the process."

"The devil!" thought Chichikov to himself as he stared at his host.
"What a fist this man has for making money!"

"Another reason why I started those factories," continued
Kostanzhoglo, "is that they might give employment to many peasants who
would otherwise have starved. You see, the year happened to have been
a lean one--thanks to those same industry-mongering landowners, in
that they had neglected to sow their crops; and now my factories keep
growing at the rate of a factory a year, owing to the circumstance
that such quantities of remnants and cuttings become so accumulated
that, if a man looks carefully to his management, he will find every
sort of rubbish to be capable of bringing in a return--yes, to the
point of his having to reject money on the plea that he has no need of
it. Yet I do not find that to do all this I require to build a mansion
with facades and pillars!"

"Marvellous!" exclaimed Chichikov. "Beyond all things does it surprise
me that refuse can be so utilised."

"Yes, and that is what can be done by SIMPLE methods. But nowadays
every one is a mechanic, and wants to open that money chest with an
instrument instead of simply. For that purpose he hies him to England.
Yes, THAT is the thing to do. What folly!" Kostanzhoglo spat and
added: "Yet when he returns from abroad he is a hundred times more
ignorant than when he went."

"Ah, Constantine," put in his wife anxiously, "you know how bad for
you it is to talk like this."

"Yes, but how am I to help losing my temper? The thing touches me too
closely, it vexes me too deeply to think that the Russian character
should be degenerating. For in that character there has dawned a sort
of Quixotism which never used to be there. Yes, no sooner does a man
get a little education into his head than he becomes a Don Quixote,
and establishes schools on his estate such as even a madman would
never have dreamed of. And from that school there issues a workman who
is good for nothing, whether in the country or in the town--a fellow
who drinks and is for ever standing on his dignity. Yet still our
landowners keep taking to philanthropy, to converting themselves into
philanthropic knights-errant, and spending millions upon senseless
hospitals and institutions, and so ruining themselves and turning
their families adrift. Yes, that is all that comes of philanthropy."

Chichikov's business had nothing to do with the spread of
enlightenment, he was but seeking an opportunity to inquire further
concerning the putting of refuse to lucrative uses; but Kostanzhoglo
would not let him get a word in edgeways, so irresistibly did the flow
of sarcastic comment pour from the speaker's lips.

"Yes," went on Kostanzhoglo, "folk are always scheming to educate the
peasant. But first make him well-off and a good farmer. THEN he will
educate himself fast enough. As things are now, the world has grown
stupid to a degree that passes belief. Look at the stuff our
present-day scribblers write! Let any sort of a book be published, and
at once you will see every one making a rush for it. Similarly will
you find folk saying: 'The peasant leads an over-simple life. He ought
to be familiarised with luxuries, and so led to yearn for things above
his station.' And the result of such luxuries will be that the peasant
will become a rag rather than a man, and suffer from the devil only
knows what diseases, until there will remain in the land not a boy of
eighteen who will not have experienced the whole gamut of them, and
found himself left with not a tooth in his jaws or a hair on his pate.
Yes, that is what will come of infecting the peasant with such
rubbish. But, thank God, there is still one healthy class left to
us--a class which has never taken up with the 'advantages' of which I
speak. For that we ought to be grateful. And since, even yet, the
Russian agriculturist remains the most respect-worthy man in the land,
why should he be touched? Would to God every one were an
agriculturist!"

"Then you believe agriculture to be the most profitable of
occupations?" said Chichikov.

"The best, at all events--if not the most profitable. 'In the sweat of
thy brow shalt thou till the land.' To quote that requires no great
wisdom, for the experience of ages has shown us that, in the
agricultural calling, man has ever remained more moral, more pure,
more noble than in any other. Of course I do not mean to imply that no
other calling ought to be practised: simply that the calling in
question lies at the root of all the rest. However much factories
may be established privately or by the law, there will still lie ready
to man's hand all that he needs--he will still require none of those
amenities which are sapping the vitality of our present-day folk, nor
any of those industrial establishments which make their profit, and
keep themselves going, by causing foolish measures to be adopted
which, in the end, are bound to deprave and corrupt our unfortunate
masses. I myself am determined never to establish any manufacture,
however profitable, which will give rise to a demand for 'higher
things,' such as sugar and tobacco--no not if I lose a million by my
refusing to do so. If corruption MUST overtake the MIR, it shall
not be through my hands. And I think that God will justify me in my
resolve. Twenty years have I lived among the common folk, and I know
what will inevitably come of such things."

"But what surprises me most," persisted Chichikov, "is that from
refuse it should be possible, with good management, to make such an
immensity of profit."

"And as for political economy," continued Kostanzhoglo, without
noticing him, and with his face charged with bilious sarcasm, "--as
for political economy, it is a fine thing indeed. Just one fool
sitting on another fool's back, and flogging him along, even though
the rider can see no further than his own nose! Yet into the saddle
will that fool climb--spectacles and all! Oh, the folly, the folly of
such things!" And the speaker spat derisively.

"That may be true," said his wife. "Yet you must not get angry about
it. Surely one can speak on such subjects without losing one's
temper?"

"As I listen to you, most worthy Constantine Thedorovitch," Chichikov
hastened to remark, "it becomes plain to me that you have penetrated
into the meaning of life, and laid your finger upon the essential root
of the matter. Yet supposing, for a moment, we leave the affairs of
humanity in general, and turn our attention to a purely individual
affair, might I ask you how, in the case of a man becoming a
landowner, and having a mind to grow wealthy as quickly as possible
(in order that he may fulfil his bounden obligations as a citizen), he
can best set about it?"

"How he can best set about growing wealthy?" repeated Kostanzhoglo.
"Why,--"

"Let us go to supper," interrupted the lady of the house, rising from
her chair, and moving towards the centre of the room, where she
wrapped her shivering young form in a shawl. Chichikov sprang up with
the alacrity of a military man, offered her his arm, and escorted her,
as on parade, to the dining-room, where awaiting them there was the
soup-toureen. From it the lid had just been removed, and the room was
redolent of the fragrant odour of early spring roots and herbs. The
company took their seats, and at once the servants placed the
remainder of the dishes (under covers) upon the table and withdrew,
for Kostanzhoglo hated to have servants listening to their employers'
conversation, and objected still more to their staring at him all the
while that he was eating.

When the soup had been consumed, and glasses of an excellent vintage
resembling Hungarian wine had been poured out, Chichikov said to his
host:

"Most worthy sir, allow me once more to direct your attention to the
subject of which we were speaking at the point when the conversation
became interrupted. You will remember that I was asking you how best a
man can set about, proceed in, the matter of growing . . ."

           [Here from the original two pages are missing.]

. . . "A property for which, had he asked forty thousand, I should
still have demanded a reduction."

"Hm!" thought Chichikov; then added aloud: "But why do you not
purchase it yourself?"

"Because to everything there must be assigned a limit. Already my
property keeps me sufficiently employed. Moreover, I should cause our
local dvoriane to begin crying out in chorus that I am exploiting
their extremities, their ruined position, for the purpose of acquiring
land for under its value. Of that I am weary."

"How readily folk speak evil!" exclaimed Chichikov.

"Yes, and the amount of evil-speaking in our province surpasses
belief. Never will you hear my name mentioned without my being called
also a miser and a usurer of the worst possible sort; whereas my
accusers justify themselves in everything, and say that, 'though we
have wasted our money, we have started a demand for the higher
amenities of life, and therefore encouraged industry with our
wastefulness, a far better way of doing things than that practised by
Kostanzhoglo, who lives like a pig.'"

"Would _I_ could live in your 'piggish' fashion!" ejaculated
Chichikov.

"And so forth, and so forth. Yet what are the 'higher amenities of
life'? What good can they do to any one? Even if a landowner of the
day sets up a library, he never looks at a single book in it, but soon
relapses into card-playing--the usual pursuit. Yet folk call me names
simply because I do not waste my means upon the giving of dinners! One
reason why I do not give such dinners is that they weary me; and
another reason is that I am not used to them. But come you to my house
for the purpose of taking pot luck, and I shall be delighted to see
you. Also, folk foolishly say that I lend money on interest; whereas
the truth is that if you should come to me when you are really in
need, and should explain to me openly how you propose to employ my
money, and I should perceive that you are purposing to use that money
wisely, and that you are really likely to profit thereby--well, in
that case you would find me ready to lend you all that you might ask
without interest at all."

"That is a thing which it is well to know," reflected Chichikov.

"Yes," repeated Kostanzhoglo, "under those circumstances I should
never refuse you my assistance. But I do object to throwing my money
to the winds. Pardon me for expressing myself so plainly. To think of
lending money to a man who is merely devising a dinner for his
mistress, or planning to furnish his house like a lunatic, or thinking
of taking his paramour to a masked ball or a jubilee in honour of some
one who had better never have been born!"

And, spitting, he came near to venting some expression which would
scarcely have been becoming in the presence of his wife. Over his face
the dark shadow of hypochondria had cast a cloud, and furrows had
formed on his brow and temples, and his every gesture bespoke the
influence of a hot, nervous rancour.

"But allow me once more to direct your attention to the subject of our
recently interrupted conversation," persisted Chichikov as he sipped a
glass of excellent raspberry wine. "That is to say, supposing I were
to acquire the property which you have been good enough to bring to my
notice, how long would it take me to grow rich?"

"That would depend on yourself," replied Kostanzhoglo with grim
abruptness and evident ill-humour. "You might either grow rich quickly
or you might never grow rich at all. If you made up your mind to grow
rich, sooner or later you would find yourself a wealthy man."

"Indeed?" ejaculated Chichikov.

"Yes," replied Kostanzhoglo, as sharply as though he were angry with
Chichikov. "You would merely need to be fond of work: otherwise you
would effect nothing. The main thing is to like looking after your
property. Believe me, you would never grow weary of doing so. People
would have it that life in the country is dull; whereas, if I were to
spend a single day as it is spent by some folk, with their stupid
clubs and their restaurants and their theatres, I should die of ennui.
The fools, the idiots, the generations of blind dullards! But a
landowner never finds the days wearisome--he has not the time. In his
life not a moment remains unoccupied; it is full to the brim. And with
it all goes an endless variety of occupations. And what occupations!
Occupations which genuinely uplift the soul, seeing that the landowner
walks with nature and the seasons of the year, and takes part in, and
is intimate with, everything which is evolved by creation. For let us
look at the round of the year's labours. Even before spring has
arrived there will have begun a general watching and a waiting for it,
and a preparing for sowing, and an apportioning of crops, and a
measuring of seed grain by byres, and drying of seed, and a dividing
of the workers into teams. For everything needs to be examined
beforehand, and calculations must be made at the very start. And as
soon as ever the ice shall have melted, and the rivers be flowing, and
the land have dried sufficiently to be workable, the spade will begin
its task in kitchen and flower garden, and the plough and the harrow
their tasks in the field; until everywhere there will be tilling and
sowing and planting. And do you understand what the sum of that labour
will mean? It will mean that the harvest is being sown, that the
welfare of the world is being sown, that the food of millions is being
put into the earth. And thereafter will come summer, the season of
reaping, endless reaping; for suddenly the crops will have ripened,
and rye-sheaf will be lying heaped upon rye-sheaf, with, elsewhere,
stocks of barley, and of oats, and of wheat. And everything will be
teeming with life, and not a moment will there need to be lost, seeing
that, had you even twenty eyes, you would have need for them all. And
after the harvest festivities there will be grain to be carted to byre
or stacked in ricks, and stores to be prepared for the winter, and
storehouses and kilns and cattle-sheds to be cleaned for the same
purpose, and the women to be assigned their tasks, and the totals of
everything to be calculated, so that one may see the value of what has
been done. And lastly will come winter, when in every threshing-floor
the flail will be working, and the grain, when threshed, will need to
be carried from barn to binn, and the mills require to be seen to, and
the estate factories to be inspected, and the workmen's huts to be
visited for the purpose of ascertaining how the muzhik is faring (for,
given a carpenter who is clever with his tools, I, for one, am only
too glad to spend an hour or two in his company, so cheering to me is
labour). And if, in addition, one discerns the end to which everything
is moving, and the manner in which the things of earth are everywhere
multiplying and multiplying, and bringing forth more and more fruit to
one's profiting, I cannot adequately express what takes place in a
man's soul. And that, not because of the growth in his wealth--money
is money and no more--but because he will feel that everything is the
work of his own hands, and that he has been the cause of everything,
and its creator, and that from him, as from a magician, there has
flowed bounty and goodness for all. In what other calling will you
find such delights in prospect?" As he spoke, Kostanzhoglo raised his
face, and it became clear that the wrinkles had fled from it, and
that, like the Tsar on the solemn day of his crowning, Kostanzhoglo's
whole form was diffusing light, and his features had in them a gentle
radiance. "In all the world," he repeated, "you will find no joys like
these, for herein man imitates the God who projected creation as the
supreme happiness, and now demands of man that he, too, should act as
the creator of prosperity. Yet there are folk who call such functions
tedious!"

Kostanzhoglo's mellifluous periods fell upon Chichikov's ear like the
notes of a bird of paradise. From time to time he gulped, and his
softened eyes expressed the pleasure which it gave him to listen.

"Constantine, it is time to leave the table," said the lady of the
house, rising from her seat. Every one followed her example, and
Chichikov once again acted as his hostess's escort--although with less
dexterity of deportment than before, owing to the fact that this time
his thoughts were occupied with more essential matters of procedure.

"In spite of what you say," remarked Platon as he walked behind the
pair, "I, for my part, find these things wearisome."

But the master of the house paid no attention to his remark, for he
was reflecting that his guest was no fool, but a man of serious
thought and speech who did not take things lightly. And, with the
thought, Kostanzhoglo grew lighter in soul, as though he had warmed
himself with his own words, and were exulting in the fact that he had
found some one capable of listening to good advice.

When they had settled themselves in the cosy, candle-lighted
drawing-room, with its balcony and the glass door opening out into the
garden--a door through which the stars could be seen glittering amid
the slumbering tops of the trees--Chichikov felt more comfortable than
he had done for many a day past. It was as though, after long
journeying, his own roof-tree had received him once more--had received
him when his quest had been accomplished, when all that he wished for
had been gained, when his travelling-staff had been laid aside with
the words "It is finished." And of this seductive frame of mind the
true source had been the eloquent discourse of his hospitable host.
Yes, for every man there exist certain things which, instantly that
they are said, seem to touch him more closely, more intimately, than
anything has done before. Nor is it an uncommon occurrence that in the
most unexpected fashion, and in the most retired of retreats, one will
suddenly come face to face with a man whose burning periods will lead
one to forget oneself and the tracklessness of the route and the
discomfort of one's nightly halting-places, and the futility of crazes
and the falseness of tricks by which one human being deceives another.
And at once there will become engraven upon one's memory--vividly, and
for all time--the evening thus spent. And of that evening one's
remembrance will hold true, both as to who was present, and where each
such person sat, and what he or she was wearing, and what the walls
and the stove and other trifling features of the room looked like.

In the same way did Chichikov note each detail that evening--both the
appointments of the agreeable, but not luxuriously furnished, room,
and the good-humoured expression which reigned on the face of the
thoughtful host, and the design of the curtains, and the amber-mounted
pipe smoked by Platon, and the way in which he kept puffing smoke into
the fat jowl of the dog Yarb, and the sneeze which, on each such
occasion, Yarb vented, and the laughter of the pleasant-faced hostess
(though always followed by the words "Pray do not tease him any more")
and the cheerful candle-light, and the cricket chirping in a corner,
and the glass door, and the spring night which, laying its elbows upon
the tree-tops, and spangled with stars, and vocal with the
nightingales which were pouring forth warbled ditties from the
recesses of the foliage, kept glancing through the door, and regarding
the company within.

"How it delights me to hear your words, good Constantine
Thedorovitch!" said Chichikov. "Indeed, nowhere in Russia have I met
with a man of equal intellect."

Kostanzhoglo smiled, while realising that the compliment was scarcely
deserved.

"If you want a man of GENUINE intellect," he said, "I can tell you
of one. He is a man whose boot soles are worth more than my whole body."

"Who may he be?" asked Chichikov in astonishment.

"Murazov, our local Commissioner of Taxes."

"Ah! I have heard of him before," remarked Chichikov.

"He is a man who, were he not the director of an estate, might well be
a director of the Empire. And were the Empire under my direction, I
should at once appoint him my Minister of Finance."

"I have heard tales beyond belief concerning him--for instance, that
he has acquired ten million roubles."

"Ten? More than forty. Soon half Russia will be in his hands."

"You don't say so?" cried Chichikov in amazement.

"Yes, certainly. The man who has only a hundred thousand roubles to
work with grows rich but slowly, whereas he who has millions at his
disposal can operate over a greater radius, and so back whatsoever he
undertakes with twice or thrice the money which can be brought against
him. Consequently his field becomes so spacious that he ends by having
no rivals. Yes, no one can compete with him, and, whatsoever price he
may fix for a given commodity, at that price it will have to remain,
nor will any man be able to outbid it."

"My God!" muttered Chichikov, crossing himself, and staring at
Kostanzhoglo with his breath catching in his throat. "The mind cannot
grasp it--it petrifies one's thoughts with awe. You see folk
marvelling at what Science has achieved in the matter of investigating
the habits of cowbugs, but to me it is a far more marvellous thing
that in the hands of a single mortal there can become accumulated such
gigantic sums of money. But may I ask whether the great fortune of
which you speak has been acquired through honest means?"

"Yes; through means of the most irreproachable kind--through the most
honourable of methods."

"Yet so improbable does it seem that I can scarcely believe it.
Thousands I could understand, but millions--!"

"On the contrary, to make thousands honestly is a far more difficult
matter than to make millions. Millions are easily come by, for a
millionaire has no need to resort to crooked ways; the way lies
straight before him, and he needs but to annex whatsoever he comes
across. No rival will spring up to oppose him, for no rival will be
sufficiently strong, and since the millionaire can operate over an
extensive radius, he can bring (as I have said) two or three roubles
to bear upon any one else's one. Consequently, what interest will he
derive from a thousand roubles? Why, ten or twenty per cent. at the
least."

"And it is beyond measure marvellous that the whole should have
started from a single kopeck."

"Had it started otherwise, the thing could never have been done at
all. Such is the normal course. He who is born with thousands, and is
brought up to thousands, will never acquire a single kopeck more, for
he will have been set up with the amenities of life in advance, and
so never come to stand in need of anything. It is necessary to begin
from the beginning rather than from the middle; from a kopeck rather
than from a rouble; from the bottom rather than from the top. For only
thus will a man get to know the men and conditions among which his
career will have to be carved. That is to say, through encountering
the rough and the tumble of life, and through learning that every
kopeck has to be beaten out with a three-kopeck nail, and through
worsting knave after knave, he will acquire such a degree of
perspicuity and wariness that he will err in nothing which he may
tackle, and never come to ruin. Believe me, it is so. The beginning,
and not the middle, is the right starting point. No one who comes to
me and says, 'Give me a hundred thousand roubles, and I will grow rich
in no time,' do I believe, for he is likely to meet with failure
rather than with the success of which he is so assured. 'Tis with a
kopeck, and with a kopeck only, that a man must begin."

"If that is so, _I_ shall grow rich," said Chichikov, involuntarily
remembering the dead souls. "For of a surety _I_ began with nothing."

"Constantine, pray allow Paul Ivanovitch to retire to rest," put in
the lady of the house. "It is high time, and I am sure you have talked
enough."

"Yes, beyond a doubt you will grow rich," continued Kostanzhoglo,
without heeding his wife. "For towards you there will run rivers and
rivers of gold, until you will not know what to do with all your
gains."

As though spellbound, Chichikov sat in an aureate world of
ever-growing dreams and fantasies. All his thoughts were in a whirl,
and on a carpet of future wealth his tumultuous imagination was
weaving golden patterns, while ever in his ears were ringing the
words, "towards you there will run rivers and rivers of gold."

"Really, Constantine, DO allow Paul Ivanovitch to go to bed."

"What on earth is the matter?" retorted the master of the household
testily. "Pray go yourself if you wish to." Then he stopped short, for
the snoring of Platon was filling the whole room, and
also--outrivalling it--that of the dog Yarb. This caused Kostanzhoglo
to realise that bedtime really had arrived; wherefore, after he had
shaken Platon out of his slumbers, and bidden Chichikov good night,
all dispersed to their several chambers, and became plunged in sleep.

All, that is to say, except Chichikov, whose thoughts remained
wakeful, and who kept wondering and wondering how best he could become
the owner, not of a fictitious, but of a real, estate. The
conversation with his host had made everything clear, had made the
possibility of his acquiring riches manifest, had made the difficult
art of estate management at once easy and understandable; until it
would seem as though particularly was his nature adapted for mastering
the art in question. All that he would need to do would be to mortgage
the dead souls, and then to set up a genuine establishment. Already he
saw himself acting and administering as Kostanzhoglo had advised
him--energetically, and through personal oversight, and undertaking
nothing new until the old had been thoroughly learned, and viewing
everything with his own eyes, and making himself familiar with each
member of his peasantry, and abjuring all superfluities, and giving
himself up to hard work and husbandry. Yes, already could he taste the
pleasure which would be his when he had built up a complete industrial
organisation, and the springs of the industrial machine were in
vigorous working order, and each had become able to reinforce the
other. Labour should be kept in active operation, and, even as, in a
mill, flour comes flowing from grain, so should cash, and yet more
cash, come flowing from every atom of refuse and remnant. And all the
while he could see before him the landowner who was one of the leading
men in Russia, and for whom he had conceived such an unbounded
respect. Hitherto only for rank or for opulence had Chichikov
respected a man--never for mere intellectual power; but now he made a
first exception in favour of Kostanzhoglo, seeing that he felt that
nothing undertaken by his host could possibly come to naught. And
another project which was occupying Chichikov's mind was the project
of purchasing the estate of a certain landowner named Khlobuev.
Already Chichikov had at his disposal ten thousand roubles, and a
further fifteen thousand he would try and borrow of Kostanzhoglo
(seeing that the latter had himself said that he was prepared to help
any one who really desired to grow rich); while, as for the remainder,
he would either raise the sum by mortgaging the estate or force
Khlobuev to wait for it--just to tell him to resort to the courts if
such might be his pleasure.

Long did our hero ponder the scheme; until at length the slumber which
had, these four hours past, been holding the rest of the household in
its embraces enfolded also Chichikov, and he sank into oblivion.

CHAPTER IV

Next day, with Platon and Constantine, Chichikov set forth to
interview Khlobuev, the owner whose estate Constantine had consented
to help Chichikov to purchase with a non-interest-bearing,
uncovenanted loan of ten thousand roubles. Naturally, our hero was in
the highest of spirits. For the first fifteen versts or so the road
led through forest land and tillage belonging to Platon and his
brother-in-law; but directly the limit of these domains was reached,
forest land began to be replaced with swamp, and tillage with waste.
Also, the village in Khlobuev's estate had about it a deserted air,
and as for the proprietor himself, he was discovered in a state of
drowsy dishevelment, having not long left his bed. A man of about
forty, he had his cravat crooked, his frockcoat adorned with a large
stain, and one of his boots worn through. Nevertheless he seemed
delighted to see his visitors.

"What?" he exclaimed. "Constantine Thedorovitch and Platon Mikhalitch?
Really I must rub my eyes! Never again in this world did I look to see
callers arriving. As a rule, folk avoid me like the devil, for they
cannot disabuse their minds of the idea that I am going to ask them
for a loan. Yes, it is my own fault, I know, but what would you? To
the end will swine cheat swine. Pray excuse my costume. You will
observe that my boots are in holes. But how can I afford to get them
mended?"

"Never mind," said Constantine. "We have come on business only. May I
present to you a possible purchaser of your estate, in the person of
Paul Ivanovitch Chichikov?"

"I am indeed glad to meet you!" was Khlobuev's response. "Pray shake
hands with me, Paul Ivanovitch."

Chichikov offered one hand, but not both.

"I can show you a property worth your attention," went on the master
of the estate. "May I ask if you have yet dined?"

"Yes, we have," put in Constantine, desirous of escaping as soon as
possible. "To save you further trouble, let us go and view the estate
at once."

"Very well," replied Khlobuev. "Pray come and inspect my
irregularities and futilities. You have done well to dine beforehand,
for not so much as a fowl is left in the place, so dire are the
extremities to which you see me reduced."

Sighing deeply, he took Platon by the arm (it was clear that he did
not look for any sympathy from Constantine) and walked ahead, while
Constantine and Chichikov followed.

"Things are going hard with me, Platon Mikhalitch," continued
Khlobuev. "How hard you cannot imagine. No money have I, no food, no
boots. Were I still young and a bachelor, it would have come easy to
me to live on bread and cheese; but when a man is growing old, and has
got a wife and five children, such trials press heavily upon him, and,
in spite of himself, his spirits sink."

"But, should you succeed in selling the estate, that would help to put
you right, would it not?" said Platon.

"How could it do so?" replied Khlobuev with a despairing gesture.
"What I might get for the property would have to go towards
discharging my debts, and I should find myself left with less than a
thousand roubles besides."

"Then what do you intend to do?"

"God knows."

"But is there NOTHING to which you could set your hand in order to
clear yourself of your difficulties?"

"How could there be?"

"Well, you might accept a Government post."

"Become a provincial secretary, you mean? How could I obtain such a
post? They would not offer me one of the meanest possible kind. Even
supposing that they did, how could I live on a salary of five hundred
roubles--I who have a wife and five children?"

"Then try and obtain a bailiff's post."

"Who would entrust their property to a man who has squandered his own
estate?"

"Nevertheless, when death and destitution threaten, a man must either
do something or starve. Shall I ask my brother to use his influence to
procure you a post?"

"No, no, Platon Mikhalitch," sighed Khlobuev, gripping the other's
hand. "I am no longer serviceable--I am grown old before my time, and
find that liver and rheumatism are paying me for the sins of my youth.
Why should the Government be put to a loss on my account?--not to
speak of the fact that for every salaried post there are countless
numbers of applicants. God forbid that, in order to provide me with a
livelihood further burdens should be imposed upon an impoverished
public!"

"Such are the results of improvident management!" thought Platon to
himself. "The disease is even worse than my slothfulness."

Meanwhile Kostanzhoglo, walking by Chichikov's side, was almost taking
leave of his senses.

"Look at it!" he cried with a wave of his hand. "See to what
wretchedness the peasant has become reduced! Should cattle disease
come, Khlobuev will have nothing to fall back upon, but will be forced
to sell his all--to leave the peasant without a horse, and therefore
without the means to labour, even though the loss of a single day's
work may take years of labour to rectify. Meanwhile it is plain that
the local peasant has become a mere dissolute, lazy drunkard. Give a
muzhik enough to live upon for twelve months without working, and you
will corrupt him for ever, so inured to rags and vagrancy will he
grow. And what is the good of that piece of pasture there--of that
piece on the further side of those huts? It is a mere flooded tract.
Were it mine, I should put it under flax, and clear five thousand
roubles, or else sow it with turnips, and clear, perhaps, four
thousand. And see how the rye is drooping, and nearly laid. As for
wheat, I am pretty sure that he has not sown any. Look, too, at those
ravines! Were they mine, they would be standing under timber which
even a rook could not top. To think of wasting such quantities of
land! Where land wouldn't bear corn, I should dig it up, and plant it
with vegetables. What ought to be done is that Khlobuev ought to take
a spade into his own hands, and to set his wife and children and
servants to do the same; and even if they died of the exertion, they
would at least die doing their duty, and not through guzzling at the
dinner table."

This said, Kostanzhoglo spat, and his brow flushed with grim
indignation.

Presently they reached an elevation whence the distant flashing of a
river, with its flood waters and subsidiary streams, caught the eye,
while, further off, a portion of General Betristchev's homestead could
be discerned among the trees, and, over it, a blue, densely wooded
hill which Chichikov guessed to be the spot where Tientietnikov's
mansion was situated.

"This is where I should plant timber," said Chichikov. "And, regarded
as a site for a manor house, the situation could scarcely be beaten
for beauty of view."

"You seem to get great store upon views and beauty," remarked
Kostanzhoglo with reproof in his tone. "Should you pay too much
attention to those things, you might find yourself without crops or
view. Utility should be placed first, not beauty. Beauty will come of
itself. Take, for example, towns. The fairest and most beautiful towns
are those which have built themselves--those in which each man has
built to suit his own exclusive circumstances and needs; whereas towns
which men have constructed on regular, string-taut lines are no better
than collections of barracks. Put beauty aside, and look only to what
is NECESSARY."

"Yes, but to me it would always be irksome to have to wait. All the
time that I was doing so I should be hungering to see in front of the
me the sort of prospect which I prefer."

"Come, come! Are you a man of twenty-five--you who have served as a
tchinovnik in St. Petersburg? Have patience, have patience. For six
years work, and work hard. Plant, sow, and dig the earth without
taking a moment's rest. It will be difficult, I know--yes, difficult
indeed; but at the end of that time, if you have thoroughly stirred
the soil, the land will begin to help you as nothing else can do. That
is to say, over and above your seventy or so pairs of hands, there
will begin to assist in the work seven hundred pairs of hands which
you cannot see. Thus everything will be multiplied tenfold. I myself
have ceased even to have to lift a finger, for whatsoever needs to be
done gets done of itself. Nature loves patience: always remember that.
It is a law given her of God Himself, who has blessed all those who
are strong to endure."

"To hear your words is to be both encouraged and strengthened," said
Chichikov. To this Kostanzhoglo made no reply, but presently went on:

"And see how that piece of land has been ploughed! To stay here longer
is more than I can do. For me, to have to look upon such want of
orderliness and foresight is death. Finish your business with Khlobuev
without me, and whatsoever you do, get this treasure out of that
fool's hands as quickly as possible, for he is dishonouring God's
gifts."

And Kostanzhoglo, his face dark with the rage that was seething in his
excitable soul, left Chichikov, and caught up the owner of the
establishment.

"What, Constantine Thedorovitch?" cried Khlobuev in astonishment.
"Just arrived, you are going already?"

"Yes; I cannot help it; urgent business requires me at home." And
entering his gig, Kostanzhoglo drove rapidly away. Somehow Khlobuev
seemed to divine the cause of his sudden departure.

"It was too much for him," he remarked. "An agriculturist of that kind
does not like to have to look upon the results of such feckless
management as mine. Would you believe it, Paul Ivanovitch, but this
year I have been unable to sow any wheat! Am I not a fine husbandman?
There was no seed for the purpose, nor yet anything with which to
prepare the ground. No, I am not like Constantine Thedorovitch, who, I
hear, is a perfect Napoleon in his particular line. Again and again
the thought occurs to me, 'Why has so much intellect been put into
that head, and only a drop or two into my own dull pate?' Take care of
that puddle, gentlemen. I have told my peasants to lay down planks for
the spring, but they have not done so. Nevertheless my heart aches for
the poor fellows, for they need a good example, and what sort of an
example am I? How am _I_ to give them orders? Pray take them under
your charge, Paul Ivanovitch, for I cannot teach them orderliness and
method when I myself lack both. As a matter of fact, I should have
given them their freedom long ago, had there been any use in my doing
so; for even I can see that peasants must first be afforded the means
of earning a livelihood before they can live. What they need is a
stern, yet just, master who shall live with them, day in, day out, and
set them an example of tireless energy. The present-day Russian--I
know of it myself--is helpless without a driver. Without one he falls
asleep, and the mould grows over him."

"Yet I cannot understand WHY he should fall asleep and grow mouldy
in that fashion," said Platon. "Why should he need continual
surveillance to keep him from degenerating into a drunkard and a
good-for-nothing?"

"The cause is lack of enlightenment," said Chichikov.

"Possibly--only God knows. Yet enlightenment has reached us right
enough. Do we not attend university lectures and everything else that
is befitting? Take my own education. I learnt not only the usual
things, but also the art of spending money upon the latest refinement,
the latest amenity--the art of familiarising oneself with whatsoever
money can buy. How, then, can it be said that I was educated
foolishly? And my comrades' education was the same. A few of them
succeeded in annexing the cream of things, for the reason that they
had the wit to do so, and the rest spent their time in doing their
best to ruin their health and squander their money. Often I think
there is no hope for the present-day Russian. While desiring to do
everything, he accomplishes nothing. One day he will scheme to begin a
new mode of existence, a new dietary; yet before evening he will have
so over-eaten himself as to be unable to speak or do aught but sit
staring like an owl. The same with every one."

"Quite so," agreed Chichikov with a smile. "'Tis everywhere the same
story."

"To tell the truth, we are not born to common sense. I doubt whether
Russia has ever produced a really sensible man. For my own part, if I
see my neighbour living a regular life, and making money, and saving
it, I begin to distrust him, and to feel certain that in old age, if
not before, he too will be led astray by the devil--led astray in a
moment. Yes, whether or not we be educated, there is something we
lack. But what that something is passes my understanding."

On the return journey the prospect was the same as before. Everywhere
the same slovenliness, the same disorder, was displaying itself
unadorned: the only difference being that a fresh puddle had formed in
the middle of the village street. This want and neglect was noticeable
in the peasants' quarters equally with the quarters of the barin. In
the village a furious woman in greasy sackcloth was beating a poor
young wench within an ace of her life, and at the same time devoting
some third person to the care of all the devils in hell; further away
a couple of peasants were stoically contemplating the virago--one
scratching his rump as he did so, and the other yawning. The same yawn
was discernible in the buildings, for not a roof was there but had a
gaping hole in it. As he gazed at the scene Platon himself yawned.
Patch was superimposed upon patch, and, in place of a roof, one hut
had a piece of wooden fencing, while its crumbling window-frames were
stayed with sticks purloined from the barin's barn. Evidently the
system of upkeep in vogue was the system employed in the case of
Trishkin's coat--the system of cutting up the cuffs and the collar
into mendings for the elbows.

"No, I do not admire your way of doing things," was Chichikov's
unspoken comment when the inspection had been concluded and the party
had re-entered the house. Everywhere in the latter the visitors were
struck with the way in which poverty went with glittering, fashionable
profusion. On a writing-table lay a volume of Shakespeare, and, on an
occasional table, a carved ivory back-scratcher. The hostess, too, was
elegantly and fashionably attired, and devoted her whole conversation
to the town and the local theatre. Lastly, the children--bright, merry
little things--were well-dressed both as regards boys and girls. Yet
far better would it have been for them if they had been clad in plain
striped smocks, and running about the courtyard like peasant children.
Presently a visitor arrived in the shape of a chattering, gossiping
woman; whereupon the hostess carried her off to her own portion of the
house, and, the children following them, the men found themselves
alone.

"How much do you want for the property?" asked Chichikov of Khlobuev.
"I am afraid I must request you to name the lowest possible sum, since
I find the estate in a far worse condition than I had expected to do."

"Yes, it IS in a terrible state," agreed Khlobuev. "Nor is that the
whole of the story. That is to say, I will not conceal from you the
fact that, out of a hundred souls registered at the last revision,
only fifty survive, so terrible have been the ravages of cholera. And
of these, again, some have absconded; wherefore they too must be
reckoned as dead, seeing that, were one to enter process against them,
the costs would end in the property having to pass en bloc to the
legal authorities. For these reasons I am asking only thirty-five
thousand roubles for the estate."

Chichikov (it need hardly be said) started to haggle.

"Thirty-five thousand?" he cried. "Come, come! Surely you will accept
TWENTY-five thousand?"

This was too much for Platon's conscience.

"Now, now, Paul Ivanovitch!" he exclaimed. "Take the property at the
price named, and have done with it. The estate is worth at least that
amount--so much so that, should you not be willing to give it, my
brother-in-law and I will club together to effect the purchase."

"That being so," said Chichikov, taken aback, "I beg to agree to the
price in question. At the same time, I must ask you to allow me to
defer payment of one-half of the purchase money until a year from
now."

"No, no, Paul Ivanovitch. Under no circumstances could I do that. Pay
me half now, and the rest in . . .[1] You see, I need the money for
the redemption of the mortgage."

[1] Here, in the original, a word is missing.

"That places me in a difficulty," remarked Chichikov. "Ten thousand
roubles is all that at the moment I have available." As a matter of
fact, this was not true, seeing that, counting also the money which he
had borrowed of Kostanzhoglo, he had at his disposal TWENTY thousand.
His real reason for hesitating was that he disliked the idea of making
so large a payment in a lump sum.

"I must repeat my request, Paul Ivanovitch," said Khlobuev, "--namely,
that you pay me at least fifteen thousand immediately."

"The odd five thousand _I_ will lend you," put in Platon to Chichikov.

"Indeed?" exclaimed Chichikov as he reflected: "So he also lends money!"

In the end Chichikov's dispatch-box was brought from the koliaska, and
Khlobuev received thence ten thousand roubles, together with a promise
that the remaining five thousand should be forthcoming on the morrow;
though the promise was given only after Chichikov had first proposed
that THREE thousand should be brought on the day named, and the rest
be left over for two or three days longer, if not for a still more
protracted period. The truth was that Paul Ivanovitch hated parting
with money. No matter how urgent a situation might have been, he would
still have preferred to pay a sum to-morrow rather than to-day. In
other words, he acted as we all do, for we all like keeping a
petitioner waiting. "Let him rub his back in the hall for a while," we
say. "Surely he can bide his time a little?" Yet of the fact that
every hour may be precious to the poor wretch, and that his business
may suffer from the delay, we take no account. "Good sir," we say,
"pray come again to-morrow. To-day I have no time to spare you."

"Where do you intend henceforth to live?" inquired Platon. "Have you
any other property to which you can retire?"

"No," replied Khlobuev. "I shall remove to the town, where I possess a
small villa. That would have been necessary, in any case, for the
children's sake. You see, they must have instruction in God's word,
and also lessons in music and dancing; and not for love or money can
these things be procured in the country.

"Nothing to eat, yet dancing lessons for his children!" reflected
Chichikov.

"An extraordinary man!" was Platon's unspoken comment.

"However, we must contrive to wet our bargain somehow," continued
Khlobuev. "Hi, Kirushka! Bring that bottle of champagne."

"Nothing to eat, yet champagne to drink!" reflected Chichikov. As for
Platon, he did not know WHAT to think.

In Khlobuev's eyes it was de rigueur that he should provide a guest
with champagne; but, though he had sent to the town for some, he had
been met with a blank refusal to forward even a bottle of kvass on
credit. Only the discovery of a French dealer who had recently
transferred his business from St. Petersburg, and opened a connection
on a system of general credit, saved the situation by placing Khlobuev
under the obligation of patronising him.

The company drank three glassfuls apiece, and so grew more cheerful.
In particular did Khlobuev expand, and wax full of civility and
friendliness, and scatter witticisms and anecdotes to right and left.
What knowledge of men and the world did his utterances display! How
well and accurately could he divine things! With what appositeness did
he sketch the neighbouring landowners! How clearly he exposed their
faults and failings! How thoroughly he knew the story of certain
ruined gentry--the story of how, why, and through what cause they had
fallen upon evil days! With what comic originality could he describe
their little habits and customs!

In short, his guests found themselves charmed with his discourse, and
felt inclined to vote him a man of first-rate intellect.

"What most surprises me," said Chichikov, "is how, in view of your
ability, you come to be so destitute of means or resources."

"But I have plenty of both," said Khlobuev, and with that went on to
deliver himself of a perfect avalanche of projects. Yet those projects
proved to be so uncouth, so clumsy, so little the outcome of a
knowledge of men and things, that his hearers could only shrug their
shoulders and mentally exclaim: "Good Lord! What a difference between
worldly wisdom and the capacity to use it!" In every case the projects
in question were based upon the imperative necessity of at once
procuring from somewhere two hundred--or at least one
hundred--thousand roubles. That done (so Khlobuev averred), everything
would fall into its proper place, the holes in his pockets would
become stopped, his income would be quadrupled, and he would find
himself in a position to liquidate his debts in full. Nevertheless he
ended by saying: "What would you advise me to do? I fear that the
philanthropist who would lend me two hundred thousand roubles or even
a hundred thousand, does not exist. It is not God's will that he
should."

"Good gracious!" inwardly ejaculated Chichikov. "To suppose that God
would send such a fool two hundred thousand roubles!"

"However," went on Khlobuev, "I possess an aunt worth three
millions--a pious old woman who gives freely to churches and
monasteries, but finds a difficulty in helping her neighbour. At the
same time, she is a lady of the old school, and worth having a peep
at. Her canaries alone number four hundred, and, in addition, there is
an army of pug-dogs, hangers-on, and servants. Even the youngest of
the servants is sixty, but she calls them all 'young fellows,' and if
a guest happens to offend her during dinner, she orders them to leave
him out when handing out the dishes. THERE'S a woman for you!"

Platon laughed.

"And what may her family name be?" asked Chichikov. "And where does
she live?"

"She lives in the county town, and her name is Alexandra Ivanovna
Khanasarov."

"Then why do you not apply to her?" asked Platon earnestly. "It seems
to me that, once she realised the position of your family, she could
not possibly refuse you."

"Alas! nothing is to be looked for from that quarter," replied
Khlobuev. "My aunt is of a very stubborn disposition--a perfect stone
of a woman. Moreover, she has around her a sufficient band of
favourites already. In particular is there a fellow who is aiming for
a Governorship, and to that end has managed to insinuate himself into
the circle of her kinsfolk. By the way," the speaker added, turning to
Platon, "would you do me a favour? Next week I am giving a dinner to
the associated guilds of the town."

Platon stared. He had been unaware that both in our capitals and in
our provincial towns there exists a class of men whose lives are an
enigma--men who, though they will seem to have exhausted their
substance, and to have become enmeshed in debt, will suddenly be
reported as in funds, and on the point of giving a dinner! And though,
at this dinner, the guests will declare that the festival is bound to
be their host's last fling, and that for a certainty he will be haled
to prison on the morrow, ten years or more will elapse, and the rascal
will still be at liberty, even though, in the meanwhile, his debts
will have increased!

In the same way did the conduct of Khlobuev's menage afford a curious
phenomenon, for one day the house would be the scene of a solemn Te
Deum, performed by a priest in vestments, and the next of a stage play
performed by a troupe of French actors in theatrical costume. Again,
one day would see not a morsel of bread in the house, and the next day
a banquet and generous largesse given to a party of artists and
sculptors. During these seasons of scarcity (sufficiently severe to
have led any one but Khlobuev to seek suicide by hanging or shooting),
the master of the house would be preserved from rash action by his
strongly religious disposition, which, contriving in some curious way
to conform with his irregular mode of life, enabled him to fall back
upon reading the lives of saints, ascetics, and others of the type
which has risen superior to its misfortunes. And at such times his
spirit would become softened, his thoughts full of gentleness, and his
eyes wet with tears; he would fall to saying his prayers, and
invariably some strange coincidence would bring an answer thereto in
the shape of an unexpected measure of assistance. That is to say, some
former friend of his would remember him, and send him a trifle in the
way of money; or else some female visitor would be moved by his story
to let her impulsive, generous heart proffer him a handsome gift; or
else a suit whereof tidings had never even reached his ears would end
by being decided in his favour. And when that happened he would
reverently acknowledge the immensity of the mercy of Providence,
gratefully tender thanksgiving for the same, and betake himself again
to his irregular mode of existence.

"Somehow I feel sorry for the man," said Platon when he and Chichikov
had taken leave of their host, and left the house.

"Perhaps so, but he is a hopeless prodigal," replied the other.
"Personally I find it impossible to compassionate such fellows."

And with that the pair ceased to devote another thought to Khlobuev.
In the case of Platon, this was because he contemplated the fortunes
of his fellows with the lethargic, half-somnolent eye which he turned
upon all the rest of the world; for though the sight of distress of
others would cause his heart to contract and feel full of sympathy,
the impression thus produced never sank into the depths of his being.
Accordingly, before many minutes were over he had ceased to bestow a
single thought upon his late host. With Chichikov, however, things
were different. Whereas Platon had ceased to think of Khlobuev no more
than he had ceased to think of himself, Chichikov's mind had strayed
elsewhere, for the reason that it had become taken up with grave
meditation on the subject of the purchase just made. Suddenly finding
himself no longer a fictitious proprietor, but the owner of a real, an
actually existing, estate, he became contemplative, and his plans and
ideas assumed such a serious vein as imparted to his features an
unconsciously important air.

"Patience and hard work!" he muttered to himself. "The thing will not
be difficult, for with those two requisites I have been familiar from
the days of my swaddling clothes. Yes, no novelty will they be to me.
Yet, in middle age, shall I be able to compass the patience whereof I
was capable in my youth?"

However, no matter how he regarded the future, and no matter from what
point of view he considered his recent acquisition, he could see
nothing but advantage likely to accrue from the bargain. For one
thing, he might be able to proceed so that, first the whole of the
estate should be mortgaged, and then the better portions of land sold
outright. Or he might so contrive matters as to manage the property
for a while (and thus become a landowner like Kostanzhoglo, whose
advice, as his neighbour and his benefactor, he intended always to
follow), and then to dispose of the property by private treaty
(provided he did not wish to continue his ownership), and still to
retain in his hands the dead and abandoned souls. And another possible
coup occurred to his mind. That is to say, he might contrive to
withdraw from the district without having repaid Kostanzhoglo at all!
Truly a splendid idea! Yet it is only fair to say that the idea was
not one of Chichikov's own conception. Rather, it had presented
itself--mocking, laughing, and winking--unbidden. Yet the impudent,
the wanton thing! Who is the procreator of suddenly born ideas of the
kind? The thought that he was now a real, an actual, proprietor
instead of a fictitious--that he was now a proprietor of real land,
real rights of timber and pasture, and real serfs who existed not
only in the imagination, but also in veritable actuality--greatly
elated our hero. So he took to dancing up and down in his seat, to
rubbing his hands together, to winking at himself, to holding his
fist, trumpet-wise, to his mouth (while making believe to execute a
march), and even to uttering aloud such encouraging nicknames and
phrases as "bulldog" and "little fat capon." Then suddenly
recollecting that he was not alone, he hastened to moderate his
behaviour and endeavoured to stifle the endless flow of his good
spirits; with the result that when Platon, mistaking certain sounds
for utterances addressed to himself, inquired what his companion had
said, the latter retained the presence of mind to reply "Nothing."

Presently, as Chichikov gazed about him, he saw that for some time
past the koliaska had been skirting a beautiful wood, and that on
either side the road was bordered with an edging of birch trees, the
tenderly-green, recently-opened leaves of which caused their tall,
slender trunks to show up with the whiteness of a snowdrift. Likewise
nightingales were warbling from the recesses of the foliage, and some
wood tulips were glowing yellow in the grass. Next (and almost before
Chichikov had realised how he came to be in such a beautiful spot
when, but a moment before, there had been visible only open fields)
there glimmered among the trees the stony whiteness of a church, with,
on the further side of it, the intermittent, foliage-buried line of a
fence; while from the upper end of a village street there was
advancing to meet the vehicle a gentleman with a cap on his head, a
knotted cudgel in his hands, and a slender-limbed English dog by his
side.

"This is my brother," said Platon. "Stop, coachman." And he descended
from the koliaska, while Chichikov followed his example. Yarb and the
strange dog saluted one another, and then the active, thin-legged,
slender-tongued Azor relinquished his licking of Yarb's blunt jowl,
licked Platon's hands instead, and, leaping upon Chichikov, slobbered
right into his ear.

The two brothers embraced.

"Really, Platon," said the gentleman (whose name was Vassili), "what
do you mean by treating me like this?"

"How so?" said Platon indifferently.

"What? For three days past I have seen and heard nothing of you! A
groom from Pietukh's brought your cob home, and told me you had
departed on an expedition with some barin. At least you might have
sent me word as to your destination and the probable length of your
absence. What made you act so? God knows what I have not been
wondering!"

"Does it matter?" rejoined Platon. "I forgot to send you word, and we
have been no further than Constantine's (who, with our sister, sends
you his greeting). By the way, may I introduce Paul Ivanovitch
Chichikov?"

The pair shook hands with one another. Then, doffing their caps, they
embraced.

"What sort of man is this Chichikov?" thought Vassili. "As a rule my
brother Platon is not over-nice in his choice of acquaintances." And,
eyeing our hero as narrowly as civility permitted, he saw that his
appearance was that of a perfectly respectable individual.

Chichikov returned Vassili's scrutiny with a similar observance of the
dictates of civility, and perceived that he was shorter than Platon,
that his hair was of a darker shade, and that his features, though
less handsome, contained far more life, animation, and kindliness than
did his brother's. Clearly he indulged in less dreaming, though that
was an aspect which Chichikov little regarded.

"I have made up my mind to go touring our Holy Russia with Paul
Ivanovitch," said Platon. "Perhaps it will rid me of my melancholy."

"What has made you come to such a sudden decision?" asked the
perplexed Vassili (very nearly he added: "Fancy going travelling with
a man whose acquaintance you have just made, and who may turn out to
be a rascal or the devil knows what!" But, in spite of his distrust,
he contented himself with another covert scrutiny of Chichikov, and
this time came to the conclusion that there was no fault to be found
with his exterior).

The party turned to the right, and entered the gates of an ancient
courtyard attached to an old-fashioned house of a type no longer
built--the type which has huge gables supporting a high-pitched roof.
In the centre of the courtyard two great lime trees covered half the
surrounding space with shade, while beneath them were ranged a number
of wooden benches, and the whole was encircled with a ring of
blossoming lilacs and cherry trees which, like a beaded necklace,
reinforced the wooden fence, and almost buried it beneath their
clusters of leaves and flowers. The house, too, stood almost concealed
by this greenery, except that the front door and the windows peered
pleasantly through the foliage, and that here and there between the
stems of the trees there could be caught glimpses of the kitchen
regions, the storehouses, and the cellar. Lastly, around the whole
stood a grove, from the recesses of which came the echoing songs of
nightingales.

Involuntarily the place communicated to the soul a sort of quiet,
restful feeling, so eloquently did it speak of that care-free period
when every one lived on good terms with his neighbour, and all was
simple and unsophisticated. Vassili invited Chichikov to seat himself,
and the party approached, for that purpose, the benches under the lime
trees; after which a youth of about seventeen, and clad in a red
shirt, brought decanters containing various kinds of kvass (some of
them as thick as syrup, and others hissing like aerated lemonade),
deposited the same upon the table, and, taking up a spade which he had
left leaning against a tree, moved away towards the garden. The reason
of this was that in the brothers' household, as in that of
Kostanzhoglo, no servants were kept, since the whole staff were rated
as gardeners, and performed that duty in rotation--Vassili holding
that domestic service was not a specialised calling, but one to which
any one might contribute a hand, and therefore one which did not
require special menials to be kept for the purpose. Moreover, he held
that the average Russian peasant remains active and willing (rather
than lazy) only so long as he wears a shirt and a peasant's smock; but
that as soon as ever he finds himself put into a German tailcoat, he
becomes awkward, sluggish, indolent, disinclined to change his vest or
take a bath, fond of sleeping in his clothes, and certain to breed
fleas and bugs under the German apparel. And it may be that Vassili
was right. At all events, the brothers' peasantry were exceedingly
well clad--the women, in particular, having their head-dresses
spangled with gold, and the sleeves of their blouses embroidered after
the fashion of a Turkish shawl.

"You see here the species of kvass for which our house has long been
famous," said Vassili to Chichikov. The latter poured himself out a
glassful from the first decanter which he lighted upon, and found the
contents to be linden honey of a kind never tasted by him even in
Poland, seeing that it had a sparkle like that of champagne, and also
an effervescence which sent a pleasant spray from the mouth into the
nose.

"Nectar!" he proclaimed. Then he took some from a second decanter. It
proved to be even better than the first. "A beverage of beverages!" he
exclaimed. "At your respected brother-in-law's I tasted the finest
syrup which has ever come my way, but here I have tasted the very
finest kvass."

"Yet the recipe for the syrup also came from here," said Vassili,
"seeing that my sister took it with her. By the way, to what part of
the country, and to what places, are you thinking of travelling?"

"To tell the truth," replied Chichikov, rocking himself to and fro on
the bench, and smoothing his knee with his hand, and gently inclining
his head, "I am travelling less on my own affairs than on the affairs
of others. That is to say, General Betristchev, an intimate friend,
and, I might add, a generous benefactor of mine, has charged me with
commissions to some of his relatives. Nevertheless, though relatives
are relatives, I may say that I am travelling on my own account as
well, in that, in addition to possible benefit to my health, I desire
to see the world and the whirligig of humanity, which constitute, to
so speak, a living book, a second course of education."

Vassili took thought. "The man speaks floridly," he reflected, "yet
his words contain a certain element of truth." After a moment's
silence he added to Platon: "I am beginning to think that the tour
might help you to bestir yourself. At present you are in a condition
of mental slumber. You have fallen asleep, not so much from weariness
or satiety, as through a lack of vivid perceptions and impressions.
For myself, I